Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mind on the brain

"Religious experience is said to be associated with activity in a particular part of the brain.  For some reason this is supposed to imply that it is delusional.  But all thought and experience can be located in some part of the brain, that brain more replete than the starry heaven God showed to Abraham, and we are not in the habit of assuming that it is all delusional on these grounds.  Nothing could justify this reasoning, which many religious people take as seriously as any atheist could do, except the idea that the physical and the spiritual cannot abide together, that they cannot be one dispensation."

     Marilynne Robinson, "Freedom of thought," in When I was a child I read books (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 10.

Aquinas on the two forms of the infinitude of desire

"The desire for [artificial] riches is infinite in a different way than the desire for the highest good, for the more perfectly the highest good is possessed the more it is loved [(amatur)] and other things contemned because the more it is had, the more it is known [(magis cognoscitur)].  Therefore it is said in Ecclesiasticus 24:29, 'They that eat me shall yet hunger.'  But in the appetite for riches and any other temporal goods it is the reverse, for once they are had, they [(ipsa)] are contemned and other things desired [(appetuntur)], in keeping with what is said in John 4.13:  'Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.'  This is so because their insufficiency is known better [(magis cognoscitur)] when they are had.  But this reveals their imperfection and that the highest good does not consist of them."

"Aliter tamen est infinitum desiderium divitiarum, et desiderium summi boni. Nam summum bonum quanto perfectius possidetur, tanto ipsummet magis amatur, et alia contemnuntur, quia quanto magis habetur, magis cognoscitur. Et ideo dicitur Eccli. XXIV, qui edunt me, adhuc esurient. Sed in appetitu divitiarum, et quorumcumque temporalium bonorum, est e converso, nam quando iam habentur, ipsa contemnuntur, et alia appetuntur; secundum quod significatur Ioan. IV, cum dominus dicit, qui bibit ex hac aqua, per quam temporalia significantur, sitiet iterum. Et hoc ideo, quia eorum insufficientia magis cognoscitur cum habentur. Et ideo hoc ipsum ostendit eorum imperfectionem, et quod in eis summum bonum non consistit."

     Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 3, as trans. Ralph McInerny (Thomas Aquinas:  selected writings, pp. 497-498), italics mine.
     My first reaction to this tends to be that given the alia here, Aquinas gets it wrong.  For the moment I plug (for example) riches into the formula ("once riches are had, they [(ipsa)] are contemned and things other [(alia)] than riches are desired"), I am reminded that the wealthy miser doesn't want something other than riches, but rather more (cf. the "magis . . . magis" in the sentence preceding).  He may want other things, too, but he can't really ever be said to contemn riches in general.  Or, at least, not until he has either 1) become infinitely wealthy or 2) seen his way through to the vanity of it all and embraced the highest good (no member of the universe).  Yet at that point he will have stepped off the merry-go-'round anyway.  I agree that "the more perfectly the highest good is possessed the more it is loved and other things contemned".  It's just that I'm not seeing the neatly reverse dynamic at work on the opposite side of the ledger, except on the whole.
     So what is Aquinas saying?  Is he talking about the way in which we are constantly moving back and forth among finite artificial goods (now riches, now sex, but the next moment riches again, but then human affection, or fame, and so forth), though not in such a way as really ever to contemn any of them definitively?  Or is the important contrast the one between the two occurrences of "magis cognoscitur", i.e. its sufficiency on the one hand, and their insufficiency/imperfection (eorum insufficientia/imperfectionem) on the other?  Certainly he is saying that we must choose between the infinitude of desire and an infinite (which is to say dynamic) satisfaction.
     I must say, by the way, that I am impressed by the fact that Aquinas has balanced John 4:13 with Ecclesiasticus 24:29 Vulgate (has been honest enough to acknowledge the prima facie challenge presented by John 4:14).

Mindszenty on the paralysis that can result from an excessive preoccupation with the failures of the church

“During my years as a parish priest I had become convinced that in apologetic and ideological discussions it was always best to argue on the basis of facts.  I therefore spent much of my free time studying historical references and narratives.  This work proved very worthwhile; the knowledge I obtained served me splendidly in carrying out my tasks and duties.  Moreover, these historical researches taught me that in the struggle of ideas abstract reasoning and dry theory are of little use.  I also realized that uncertain leadership and perpetual weighing of every contingency stood in the way of success.  Especially when dealing with determined Communists, a hesitant, irresolute attitude could prove disastrous.  And I think to this hour that our position is seriously weakened by those Christians whose primary concern seems to be worrying about whether any of the charges brought against the Church may not sometime, someplace have been justified.  The excesses of modern ‘self-criticism’ often serve only the interests of our bitter enemies.  It takes people with carefully trained minds to see the ‘faults and weaknesses’ of the Church in the proper proportions and to fit them into the circumstances of the times.  Even a good many theologians and intellectuals cannot do that, for they lack the historian’s eye.”

     József Cardinal Mindszenty, Memoirs, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, and Jan van Heurck  (New York:  Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974), 62-63.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"The good people died first."

"The good people died first. Those who refused to steal or to prostitute themselves died. Those who gave food to others died. Those who refused to eat corpses died. Those who refused to kill their fellow man died. Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did."

     Timothy Snyder on the Ukrainian famine of 1933.  Bloodlands:  Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York:  Basic Books, 2010), 50.

Concede michi, Concede mihi

"Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy thought can drag downwards; an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know thee, diligence to seek thee, wisdom to find thee, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord."

     Cf. the "Concede michi":

"Concede michi misericors Deus que tibi placita sunt ardenter concupiscere, prudenter inuestigare, ueraciter agnoscere et perfecte implere. Ad laudem et gloriam nominis tui ordina statum meum, et quod a me requiris tribue ut sciam, et da exequi ut oportet et expedit anime mee. Via mea, Domine, ad te tuta sit, recta et consummata, non deficiens inter prospera et aduersa, ut in prosperis tibi gratiam referam et in aduersis seruem patientiam, ut in illis non extollar et in istis non deprimar; de nullo gaudeam nisi quod promoueat me apud te, nec de aliquo doleam nisi quod abducat me a te; nulli placere appetam uel displicere timeam nisi te. Vilescant michi omnia transitoria propter te, et cara sint michi omnia tua et tu Deus super quam omnia. Tedeat me omnis gaudii quod est sine te, nec cupiam aliquid quod est extra te. Delecte me labor qui est pro te, et tediosa sit michi omnis quies que non est in te. Frequenter da me cor meum ad te dirigere, et defectionem meam cum emendationis proposito dolendo pensare. Fac me, Deus meus, humilem sine fictione, ylarem sine dissolutione, tristem sine deiectione, maturum sine grauiture, agilem sine leuitate, ueracem sine duplicitate, te timentem sine desperatione, sperentem sine presumptione, proximum corrigere sine simulatione, ipsum edificare uerbo et exemplo sine elatione, obedientem sine contradictione, patientem sine murmuratione. Da michi, dulcissime Deus, cor peruigil quod nulla abducat a te curiosa cogitatio; da nobile quod nulla deorsum trahat indigna affectio; da inuictum quod nulla fatiget tribulatio; et da liberum quod nulla sibi uendicet uiolenta temptatio; et da rectum quod nulla obliquet sinistra intentio. Largire michi, Domine Deus meus, intellectum te cognoscentem, diligentiam te querentem, sapientiam te inuenientem, conuersationem tibi placentem, perseuerantiam te fideliter expectantem, et fiduciam te finaliter amplectentem; tuis penis configi per penitentiam, tuis beneficiis uti in uia per gratiam, et tuis gaudiis in patria frui per gloriam. Amen."

     Ystoria sancti Thome de Aquino de Guillaume de Tocco (1323):  édition critique, introduction et notes, ed. Claire le Brun-Gouanvic, Studies and texts 127 (Toronto:  Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1996), 156 (chap. 29 of the Ystoria).
     Though this is a "prex authenticitate dubia" (prayer of dubious authenticity) listed by Corpus Thomisticum among the "OPERA DUBIA AUTHENTICITATE" (works of dubious authenticity), Le Brun-Gouanvic (from whose edition of the Ystoria Corpus Thomisticum derives its text) is convinced that the textual tradition behind the two 15th-century manuscripts of the Ystoria in which it is found (Kiel, Universitätsbibliothek, Bord. 27, ff. 1r-65r; and Krakow, Biblioteka Jagiellonska, 5092, ff. 1ra-45vb) goes right back to William of Tocco himself, who added the "Concede michi" to the fourth and final edition of his Ystoria in the months leading up to the canonization of Aquinas on 18 July 1323 (74-75, as preceded from p. 72 by the comments on δ; in her French translation, le Brun-Gouanvic says simply, "Cette dernière partie a été ajoutée dans la quatrième rédaction" (L'histoire de saint Thomas d'Aquin de Guillaume de Tocco:  Traduction française du dernier état du texte (1323), Sagesses chrétiennes (Paris:  Les Éditions du Cerf, 2005), 78n2)).  Le Brun-Gouanvic is, needless to say, an important authority on the Life by William of Tocco. 
     Translations are readily available on the Internet if searched by "Concede mihi".  See, for example, this one, which appears to follow the Latin fairly closely.
     For a fresh translation and recent discussion of the "Concede michi" (considered as one of the four Piae preces and probablyin the light of the work of Le Brun-Gouanvicauthentic, if happily indebted to an epistle from Master of the Order of Preachers Humbert of Romans), see Paul Murray, O.P., Aquinas at prayer:  the Bible, mysticism and poetry (London:  Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 39 ff. (before that point, too).
     For an early translation into English, see pp. 287-288 of vol. 3 of Maskell's Monumenta ritualia ecclesiae Anglicanae.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A jubilation of the mind

Sit laus plena, sit sonora; | sit iucunda, sit decora | mentis iubilatio;

Let [your] praise be plena, let it be sonora; | let it be iucunda, let it be decora[,] jubilation of the mind;

     Or, since there is no comma after decora, "a decorous jubilation of the mind".  Thomas Aquinas, "Lauda Sion," Office for the Feast of Corpus Christi (1264).
     Wielockx calls mens here the Geistseele, rational soul ("Adoro te deuote:  zur Lösung einer alten Crux," Annales theologici:  revista internazionale di teologia 21 (2007):  111 (101-138)).  Nonetheless, I am not unaware of the fact that the connotations of mens extend beyond just "mind", as indeed the tradition of translation makes clear.  E.g.

Then be the anthem clear and strong,
Thy fullest note, thy sweetest song,
The very music of the breast:

Let the praise be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt today in every breast.

Let us form a joyful chorus,
may our lauds ascend sonorous,
bursting from each loving breast.

Sing His praise with voice sonorous;
Every heart shall hear the chorus
Swell in melody sublime:

Let the chant be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;

Full and clear ring out your chanting,
Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting,
From your heart let praises burst:

Therefore let our praise be full and resounding and our soul's rejoicing full of delight and beauty, (Joseph Connelly, Hymns of the Roman liturgy (1957), 124).


"praise signifies that a man offers his mind [(mens)] to God...."

"Praise is a sacrifice to God inasmuch as it is a sign of interior devotion, for praise signifies that a man offers his mind [(mens)] to God...."

"Laus est sacrificium Deo inquantum est signum interioris devotionis, quia laus significat quod homo Deo offert mentem suam...."

     Thomas Aquinas, Super Psalmo 49, no. 7.
     Roy J. Deferrari and M. Inviolata Berry's A lexicon of Saint Thomas Aquinas based on the Summa Theologica and selected passages of his other works (Washington, DC:  Catholic University Press of America, 1948) gives three definitions for mens:  "(1) intellect, mind, spirit, intellectual being, the opposite of corpus, and sensus, (2) intellect, intellectual faculty of perceiving or desiring, (3) remembrance, memory."  The debt to the Thomas-Lexikon of Ludwig Schütz that Deferrari and Barry acknowledge in their Foreward is clear in its comparably tripartite definition of mens.  Nonetheless, it is not clear to me that the use of mens here is encompassed by either lexicon sufficiently.
     Corpus Thomisticum, following the Parma text of 1863 supposedly, has "sacrificium Dei".  But Robert Wielockx, who also claims to be following the Parma text, has "sacrificium Deo" ("Adoro te deuote:  zur Lösung einer alten Crux," Annales theologici:  revista internazionale di teologia 21 (2007):  113 (101-138)).
     For the larger context, see the online translation by Dr. Stephen Loughlin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The crucified God

"'There is not a first saying nor a last one; rather, the first and last word give a single, full, undivided meaning, that Christ is our righteousness there, there, there, in this person and thus where he, God and Human Being, suffers and dies. . . .  Thus our righteousness is not God absolutely but rather the crucified God, as Paul, Jeremiah and Isaiah clearly report. . . .'"

"'ist da kein erster noch letzter Spruch Sondern die ersten vnd letzten wort geben ein einige vollige vnzergentzte meinung das Christus vnser Gerichtigkeit ist do do do der gestalt vnd also do er Gott vnd Mensch leidet vnd stirbet. . . . So is vnsere Gerechtigkeit GOtt nicht absolute, Sondern der gecreutzigte Gott wie Paulus Jeremias vnd Isaias klerlich melden. . . .'"

     Joachim Mörlin, Historia Welcher gestalt sich die Osiandrische schwermerey im lande zu Preussen erhaben, vnd wie dieselbige verhandelt ist, mit allen actis beschrieben (Magdeburg:  Michael Lotter, 1 April 1554), X 1v-X 2r, as trans. Timothy J. Wengert, in Defending faith:  Lutheran theological responses to Andreas Osiander's doctrine of justification, 1551-1559 (Tübingen:  Mohr Siebeck, 2012), 150 and 150n167.

Spenser on a suicide

   But sith this wretched woman ouercome
   Of anguish, rather then of crime hath beene,
   Reserue her cause to her eternall doome,
And in the meane vouchsafe her honorable toombe.

     Sir Guyon of Lady Mortdant (Amavia).  Edmund Spenser, The fairie queene II.i.58.

eternall doome:  the Last Judgment?
honorable toombe:  decent burial, albeit only a pagan one (Spenser encyclopedia, s.v. "Amavia, Mordant, Ruddymane" (at p. 25) and "hair", by Carol V. Kaske).

Does the Holy Spirit make us sons and daughters?

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, quem, docente Spiritu Sancto, paterno nomine invocare præsumimus, perfice in cordibus nostris spiritum adoptionis filiorum, ut promissam hereditatem ingredi mereamur.

     Collect (Collecta) for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Roman missal.
     Daniel McCarthy ("Intimate with a majestic God," The Tablet, 12 August 2006, p. 16) reaches back into the 7th century for the antecedents to this one:
The oldest version of this prayer is found in the Sacramentary of Padua, an adaptation of the papal sacramentary for presbyteral use at St Peter’s Basilica between 670-680. Our version is closest to that in the Sacramentary of Bergamo, a pre-Carolingian, Ambrosian sacramentary.     
     The clause in orange is not present in the Prayer (Oratio) for the Office of Readings, Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Liturgy of the hours (and therefore early editions of the Novus Ordo), but is present in Bruylants I, no. 145 (pre-788 sacramentary of Prague, Bibliothek des Metropolitanskaptiels Cod. 0.83; cf. Bruylants I, no. 116), 
Deus, quem, docente spiritu sancto, paterno . . . per debitam servitutem
Corpus orationum no. 3886 (post-850 sacramentary of Bergamo, Bibl. di S. Alessandro in Colonna; cf. the late-9th-century Ambrosian sacramentary of Milan (Bibl. del Capitolo Metropol., D 3-3)),
Omnipotens sempiterne deus, quem, docente spiritu sancto, paterno nomine invocare praesumimus, effice in nobis filiorum corda fidelium, ut hereditatem promissam mereamur ingredi per debitam servitutem.
and no. 1482 of the 8th/9th century Gelasian sacramentary of Angoulême (Paris, Bibl. Nat. MS Lat. 816),
Deus quem docente Spiritu Sancto, paterno nomine inuocare presumimus, crea in nobis fidelium corda filiorum, ut ad promissam hereditatem adgredi ualeamus per debitam seruitutem
i.e. Corpus orationum no. 1320a (cf. 1320b), which Corpus orationum traces back to the end of the 8th century sacramentaries of Gellone and Rheinau):
Deus, quem, docente spiritu sancto, paterno nomine invocare praesumimus, crea in nobis fidelium corda filiorum, ut ad promissam hereditatem aggredi valeamus per debitam servitutem.
Cf. no. 882 of Concordances et tableaux pour l'étude des grands sacramentaires:
Ds, quem docente spiritu sancto paterno nomine invocare prae sumimus. . . .
     Cf. also Alan Griffiths ("The collect:  a Roman Catholic perspective," in The collect in the churches of the Reformation, ed. Bridget Nichols (London:  SCM Press, 2010), 205), and Fr. Z.

     But in no case does the Latin affirm (as in the pre-2010 translation of the ICEL) that “your Spirit made us your children”:

     Almighty and ever-living God,
     your Spirit made us your children,
     confident to call you Father.
     increase your Spirit within us
     and bring us to our promised inheritance.

What it says is what it says in the new translation of the Missal (except that "we pray" is not there in the Latin):

     Almighty ever-living God,
     whom . . . we dare to call our Father,
     bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
     the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
     that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
     which you have promised.

     Almighty ever-living God,
     whom, taught by the Holy Spirit,
     we dare to call our Father,
     bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
     the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
     that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
     which you have promised.

Or, as I would translate this,

     Almighty ever-living God,
     whom, the Holy Spirit teaching,
     we presume to call by the paternal name,
     bring to completion in our hearts
          the spirit of the adoption of sons
     that we may merit to enter into the promised inheritance.

Fr. Z took this one up on 7 August 2015.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Akrasia in the realm of sexuality (Temperance)

Him so I sought, and so at last I found,
   Where him that witch had thralled to her will,
   In chaines of lust and lewd desires ybound,
   And so transformed from his former skill,
   That me he knew not, neither his own ill; . . .

     Lady Mortdant (Amavia), of Sir Mortdant's enchantment by Acrasia.  Edmund Spenser, The faerie queene II.i.54.
     Yet Amavia, too, is a dupe of passion.

Spenser on passion

Then turning to his Palmer said, Old syre
   Behold the image of mortalitie,
   And feeble nature cloth'd with fleshly tyre,
   When raging passion with fierce tyrannie
   Robs reason of her due regalitie,
   And makes it seruant to her basest part:
   The strong it weakens with infirmitie,
   And with bold furie armes the weakest hart;
   The strong through pleasure soonest falles,
         the weake through smart.

     Sir Guyon, in Edmund Spenser, The faerie queene II.i.57.  This in response to the devastation wreaked upon Sir Mortdant and Amavia both by Acrasia.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"So God ye speed, and send you good successe; | Which we farre off will here abide to vew."

Loe yonder he, cryde Archimage alowd,
   That wrought the shamefull fact, which I did shew;
   And now he doth himselfe in secret shrowd,
   To flie the vengeance for his outrage dew;
   But vaine:  for ye shall dearely do him rew,
   So God ye speed, and send you good successe;
   Which we farre off will here abide to vew.

     Edmund Spenser, The fairie queene II.i.25.