Sunday, October 2, 2022

Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit

"Love alone, properly speaking, proves that the human person is in the image of the Creator, by making his self-determination submit to reason, not bending reason under it, and [by] persuading the inclination to follow nature and not in any way to be at variance with the logos of nature.  In this way we are all, as it were, one nature, so that we are able to have one inclination and one will with God and with one another, not having any discord with God or one another, whenever by the law of grace, through which by our inclination the law of nature is renewed [(whenever by the law of grace, through which we deliberately renew the law of nature)], we choose what is ultimate."

Αὔτη μόνη, κυρίως εἰπεῖν, κατ' εἰκόνα τοῦ Κτίσαντος τὸν ἄνθρωπον ὄντα παρίστησι, τῷ μὲν λόγῳ σοφῶς τὸ ἐφ' ἡμῖν ὑποτάσσουσα· τούτῳ δὲ τὸν λόγον οὐχ ὑποκλίνουσα· καὶ πείθουσα τὴν γνώμην κατὰ τὴν φύσιν πορεύεσθαι, μηδαμῶς πρὸς τὸν λόγον τῆς φύσεως στασιάζουσαν· καθ' ὃν ἄπαντες ὥσπερ μίαν φύσιν, οὕτω δὲ καὶ μίαν γνώμην καὶ θέλημα ἓν, θεῷ καὶ ἀλλήλοις ἔχειν δυνάμεθα, οὐδεμίαν πρὸς θεὸν καὶ ἀλλήλους διάστασιν ἔχοντες, ὅτ' ἂν τῷ νόμῳ τῆς χάριτος, δι' οὗ τὸν νόμον τῆς φύσεως γνωμικῶς ἀνακαινίζομεν, στοικεῖον προαιρούμεθα.

     Maximus the Confessor, Letter to John the Cubicularius On charity dated c. 626, trans. Louth and quoted in the Introduction to On the cosmic mystery of Jesus Christ:  selected writings on St. Maximus the Confessor, trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken, Popular patristics series 25 (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), 43, underscoring mine.  The Greek should be checked for errors-in-transcription against a more crisply printed copy of PG 91, col. 396C-D.  On ἀνακαινίζω see Heb 6:4 on renewal again to repentance, but also ἀνακαινόω at 2 Cor 4:16 and Col 3:10 (there are a few occurrences in the Septuagint as well (e.g. Ps 102 (103):5 and 103 (104):30)).

Monday, September 26, 2022

Hoisted on her own petard?

     "In these terms, the disenchantment of the world is a distinctly Protestant phenomenon.  So says [Peter] Berger:  'The Protestant believer no longer lives in a world ongoingly penetrated by sacred beings and forces' but in a world 'bereft of numinosity.'  By relegating religion from the public sphere of transcendental truths to the private one of voluntary associations, this process of disenchantment transformed religion into a private choice.  What this meant practically speaking was that religion was no longer 'second nature' and part of man's assumed culture.  Rather, it became just another option:  something to choose, or not.  The necessity of religious choice, then, meant that 'the pluralistic situation is, above all, a market situation.'
     "Berger’s is a stunning claim, and it’s worth pausing to consider its implications.  The process of [disenchantment or] secularization transforms religious institutions into what he calls 'marketing agencies' and religious traditions into 'consumer commodities.' . . .  Evacuated of a central teaching office or a shared liturgy, with a phenomenology void of the supernatural, evangelicalism is a religious consciousness that needed to market itself to private individuals who were no longer constrained to participate in religious activities.
     "Evangelicalism, therefore, has adopted private values that would appeal to the widest possible audience.  These values, however, have shifted historically. . . .  The values that are often associated with evangelicalism were not produced by evangelicals out of whole cloth; rather, they presented the best way to market a religion with any hope of surviving. . . . .
     "Although Du Mez’s [Jesus and John Wayne:  how white evangelicals corrupted a faith and fractured a nation] reads as an apt description and indictment of [Evangelicalisms B’s] twists and turns, the private values and cultural norms that were easily marketed in 1990s America are [of course] no longer the ones being marketed today.  A shortcoming of Du Mez’s book is that she does not reflect on whether she, too, has taken part in a process of secularization whereby one’s religious beliefs must square with the concerns of the marketplace and, perhaps unintentionally, has become [herself] just another participant in the process of secularization Peter Berger describes.  Seen from this perspective, Jesus and John Wayne is an example of how quickly values change, and the alacrity with which purveyors of evangelical religion rush to market themselves accordingly.  They did not find the 'God, faith, and family' values problematic in the days of Evangelicalism B because such values weren’t problematic during that cultural period.  Du Mez identifies those religious artifacts marketed most avidly to evangelicals during Evangelicalism B, when religious identity reached the apogee of its mass-market appeal.  But she analyzes them through the lens of what I’m calling Evangelicalism C, the landscape we currently inhabit. . . .
     "When it comes to matters of gender, sexuality, and race, . . . Evangelicalism C stands apart from Evangelicalisms A and B.  Its emerging class of influencers is more affirming of sexual expression, more sensitive to matters of social justice, and at times acutely critical of the stands aging generations of evangelicals have taken on both.  Still, there remains a striking continuity that can be traced across the decades, a parade of salesmanship built on a view of the religious life, conceived through the lens of the home and consumer identities.  As Peter Berger writes, 'A sky empty of angels becomes open to the intervention of the astronomer and, eventually, of the astronaut.'  We are in a moment when sexuality, gender, and race have become the astronauts of the modern religious sphere. . . .
     "Many influencers and leaders prominent in the world of Evangelicalism C tend to reject the 'evangelical' label.  But in seeking to distance themselves from a previous movement and casting around for a new religious identity that better squares with their social concerns—one that correlates broadly with the culture of the day—such religious figures bear an uncanny, if unintended resemblance to their evangelical predecessors.  As inheritors of an increasingly secular religious landscape, they have been left with little choice than to market their religious beliefs and values to whoever will buy them.  The best way to do this is to adopt the preferences, values, and strategies of the surrounding culture.
     ". . . It is not simply that the movement resists easy definition.  It is, rather, that evangelicalism has been so buffeted by the waves of consumer trends, been so malleable and revisable for every cultural moment, that the movement cannot be meaningfully distinguished from a broader American religiosity.  The disturbing conclusion might just be that evangelicalism does not exist."

     Kirsten Sanders, "The evangelical question in the history of American religion," The hedgehog review:  critical reflections on contemporary culture 24, no. 2 (Summer 2022):  59-60, 62-65 (56-65), underscoring mine.  There are some problems with this approach, for there have been profoundly counter-cultural evangelicals in every age of the movement, beginning well before 1904 and what Sanders calls Evangelicalism A.  And there have been and are (say) Catholics (Protestant Catholics) desperate to cut Catholicism down to the size of this very same Procrustean bed.  But Sanders does, in my view, a nice job of taking the likes of Du Mez (for I have not yet read Du Mez herself) to task for being guilty of the very same sorts of conformism for which they excoriate their predecessors.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Roots of the Great Awokening in the supposed anti-intellectualism of the Great Awakening?

Americas quarterly
      "For all of its supposed virtues, the Puritan clergy proved itself pusillanimous before the onslaught of the Great Awakening—the 'first moment of militant success' for American anti-intellectualism.  Hofstadter quotes Timothy Cutler, 'a rather prejudiced Anglican witness' to the ranting of a barnstorming preacher:

[Then] came one Tennent—a monster! impudent and noisy—and told them all they were damned, damned, damned!  This charmed them; and in the most dreadful winter I ever saw, people wallowed in snow, night and day, for the benefit of his beastly braying.

The contemporary inheritors of the legacy of the Puritan clergy—old-guard Ivy League-educated professors and Beltway courtiers—have put up even less of a fight for their brand of liberalism against insurgent moral movements emanating from the university.  The new dispensation ascendant in American political culture has sometimes been tagged with an epithet derived from the religious revival of the eighteenth century:  the 'Great Awokening.'  But today’s movement has no preachers, only consultants—the Elmer Gantrys de nos jours—of the likes of Robin D’Angelo, author of White Fragility.  Americans have clearly not changed much in the interim.  Many continue to take a slightly perverse enjoyment in being told they are damned or—through a kind of secularization of religious categories Hofstadter was always so perspicacious in tracking—racist."

     Nick Burns, “The tragedy of the American political tradition,” The hedgehog review:  critical reflections on contemporary culture 24, no. 2 (Summer 2022):  52 (46-55).  I am of course well aware of the fact that Hofstadter is today somewhat controversial among professional Americanists (as, indeed, Burns himself soon points out), and that it might well be possible to absolve at least some representatives of the Great Awakening of anti-intellectualism.

Friday, September 23, 2022

A relic of a bygone era

Public Diplomacy Council
"these autocracies[, China and Russia,] are advancing in the methods of coercion, combining newfangled digital surveillance with old-fashioned terror and brutality.  Some of these methods require a strong stomach, but these regimes are convinced that with the proper 'narratives,' they will not have to deploy them, except in certain extreme cases.  This confidence rests firmly on the assumption that the narratives are state of the art, persuasive not as propaganda but as 'truth,' because as the world now understands, there is nothing much out there to challenge their 'leadership in the ideological sphere.'  Even the West, with its sentimental attachment to Reason and the Enlightenment, considers objective truth a relic of that bygone era."

Martha Bayles, "Vladimir and Volodymyr:  a pivotal moment in history," The hedgehog review:  critical reflections on contemporary culture 24, no. 2 (Summer 2022):  44 (38-45).


Saturday, September 17, 2022

"the womb of the virginal font"

Peter Trimming
"the heavenly Spirit, by the mysterious infusion of his light, gives fertility to [(fecundat)] the womb of the virginal font [(virginei fontis uterum)]. The Spirit brings forth as men belonging to heaven those whose earthly ancestry brought them forth as men belonging to the earth, and in a condition of wretchedness; he gives them the likeness of their Creator. Now that we are reborn, refashioned in the image of our Creator, we must fulfill what the Apostle commands: So, as we have worn the likeness of the man of earth, let us also wear the likeness of the man of heaven."

     St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 117 on 1 Cor 15:45-50, as trans. Liturgy of the hours.  =CCSL 24a,  =PL 52, col. 521B.  The translation by Gans ((FC 17), 201) is more restrictive because less literal.  For "Mother" is not present precisely here.  Or, at least, not in PL 52:

"the heavenly Spirit by a mysterious injection of His light fecundates [(fecundat)] the womb of the virginal Mother [(virginei fontis uterum)]. He desired to bring forth as heavenly beings those whom an origin from an ancestral stock of earth had brought forth as earthy men, in a wretched state. He wanted to bring them to the likeness of their Creator. So, let us who have already been reborn, and reformed to the image of our Creator, fulfill what the Apostle commands.
     "'Therefore, even as we have borne the likeness of the earthy, let us bear also the likeness of the heavenly.'"

Saturday, September 10, 2022

"God has promised forgiveness to your repentance; He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination."

     Pseudo-St. Augustine, considered as an exact quotation only.  What follows are the relevant passages in which procrastinat* occurs in the text (as distinguished from the indices) of the WSA translation, as reproduced in its Third Release in Past Masters (1989-2022) (procrastin*, by contrast, occurs in the Latin of CAG only once, at De ordine 1.20).  As you will see, the terminology is all there, just not in the condensed form of the bon mot above (yellow highlighting only once, so you'll have to read these passages, and maybe read them also in the larger contexts of the whole sermons and the ennaratio from which I've extracted them, rather closely):

     "'I'm only asking,' he says, 'to be allowed a little more time.' Why? 'Because God has promised [(promisit)] me pardon.' But no one has promised you that you are going to be alive tomorrow. Or else, just as you have read in the prophet, the gospel, the apostle, that when you have turned back to him God will blot out all your iniquities, read out to me where a tomorrow is promised you, and then live in an evil way tomorrow.
     "Though of course, my brother or sister, I shouldn't really have said that to you. Perhaps you have a long life ahead of you. If it's a long one, let it be a good one. Why do you want to have a long, and bad, life? Either it won't be a long one, and you should be taking delight in that other long one which has no end; or else it will be a long one—and what harm will it do you to have lived a long life well? Do you really want to live a long life badly, don't you want to live it well? And for all that, nobody has promised you tomorrow.
     "Put yourself straight, listen to the scripture: Do not be slow to turn to the Lord (Sir 5:8). Those aren't my words—though yes, they are my words too. If I love, they are mine. You try loving too, and they are yours. This sermon I'm now preaching comes from holy scripture. If you ignore it, it becomes your adversary. But now listen to the Lord saying, Come to terms with your adversary quickly (Mt 5:25).
     "Let it be heard by all of you—I'm reciting the words of God's scripture. You in particular, you bad  procrastinator with your bad longing for tomorrow 
[(o male dilator, o crastini male appetitor)], listen to the Lord speaking, listen to holy scripture preaching. I from this place of mine am only playing the part of a look-out. Do not be slow to turn to the Lord, nor put it off from day to day. See if he hasn't marked those people, see if he hasn't observed those people who say, 'Tomorrow I'll live a good life, today let me life a bad one.' And when tomorrow comes, you'll say the same thing again. Do not be slow to turn to the Lord, nor put it off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath will come, and at the time for vengeance he will destroy you (Sir 5:8).
     "Did I write that? Can I cross it out? If I cross it out, I'm afraid of being crossed out myself. I could keep quiet about it; I'm afraid of keeping quiet about it! I'm compelled to preach it. In terror I aim to terrify. Be afraid with me, in order to rejoice with me. Do not be slow to turn to the Lord.
     "Lord, please note that I'm saying it. Lord, you know how you frightened me when your prophet was read. Here I am, saying it: Do not be slow to turn to the Lord, nor put it off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath will come, and at the time for vengeance he will destroy you. But I don't want him to destroy you.
     "Nor do I want you to say to me, 'I want to perish.' Because I, Augustine, don't want it. So my 'I don't want it' is better than your 'I do.' If your old father in your care had gone down with sleeping sickness, and you, a young man, were there with the sick old man, and the doctor said, 'Your father's dangerously ill; this sleepiness is a mortal heaviness. Watch him, don't let him go to sleep. If you see him nodding off, shake him; if shaking's not enough, pinch him, and if even pinching's not enough, poke him, or you father may die.'
     "There you would be, a young man extremely troublesome to the old man. He would be relaxing and sinking into his pleasant disease; his eyes would be heavy with it—and he would close them—and you on the other hand would be shouting at your father, 'Don't sleep!' But he would say, 'Leave me alone. I want to sleep.' And you would tell him, 'But the doctor said, if he wants to sleep, don't let him.' And he would say, 'Please leave me alone, I want to die.' 'But I don't want it,' says the son to his father. To whom? Clearly, to someone choosing to die. And still you want to postpone your father's death, and to live just a little longer with your old father, who is going to die soon anyway.
     "Well, the Lord is shouting at you, 'Don't go to sleep, or you may sleep for ever. Wake up, to live with me, and to have a Father you will never have to carry to the grave.' You hear—and you remain deaf."

     St. Augustine, Sermon 40.5-6 (cf. Sermon 339, below), trans. Edmund Hill, WSA III/2, pp. 222-224.  Latin from Miscellanea Agostiniana 1 (Rome:  Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1930), 198 l. 12-200 l. 6 (189-200), where it is Frangipane II.7-8; it is not present in CAG.

     "'I'm only asking,' he says, 'to be allowed a little more time.'
     "Why?
     "'Because God has promised
[(promisit)] me pardon.'
     "But no one has promised you that you are going to be alive tomorrow. Or else, just as you have read in the prophet, the gospel, the apostle that when you have turned back to him God will blot out all your iniquities, read out to me where a tomorrow is promised you, and then live in an evil way tomorrow. . . .
     "Let it be heard by all of you—I'm reciting the words of God's scripture. You in particular, you bad procrastinator with your bad longing for tomorrow
[(o male dilator, o crastini male appetitor)], listen to the Lord speaking, listen to holy scripture preaching. I from this place of mine am only playing the part of a lookout. Do not be slow to turn to the Lord, nor put it off from day to day. See if he hasn't marked those people, see if he hasn't observed those people who say, 'Tomorrow I'll live a good life, today let me live a bad one.' And when tomorrow comes, you'll say the same thing again. Do not be slow to turn to the Lord, nor put it off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath will come, and at the time for vengeance he will destroy you (Sir 5:7).
     "Did I write that? Can I cross it out? If I cross it out, I'm afraid of being crossed out myself. I could keep quiet about it. I'm afraid of being kept quiet about! I'm compelled to preach it, in terror I aim to terrify. Be afraid with me, in order to rejoice with me. Do not be slow to turn to the Lord.
     "Lord, please note that I'm saying it. Lord, you know how you frightened me when your prophet was read. Here I am, saying it: Do not be slow to turn to the Lord, nor put it off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath will come, and at the time for vengeance he will destroy you. But I don't want him to destroy you. Nor do I want you to say to me, 'I want to perish,' because I, Augustine, don't want it. So my 'I don't want it' is better than your 'I do.'
     "If your old father in your care had gone down with sleeping sickness, and you, a young man, were there with the sick old man, and the doctor said, 'Your father's dangerously ill; this sleepiness is a mortal heaviness. Watch him, don't let him go to sleep. If you see him nodding off, shake him; if shaking's not enough, pinch him; and if even pinching's not enough, poke him, or your father may die.' There you would be, a young man extremely troublesome to the old man. He would be relaxing and sinking into his pleasant disease; his eyes would be heavy with it, and he would close them. And you on the other hand would be shouting at your father, 'Don't sleep!' But he would say, 'Leave me alone. I want to sleep.' And you would tell him, 'But the doctor said, if he wants to sleep, don't let him.' And he would say, 'Please leave me alone; I want to die.' 'But I don't want it,' says the son to his father. To whom? Clearly, to someone choosing to die. And still you want to postpone your father's death, and to live just a little longer with your old father, who is going to die soon anyway.
     "Well, the Lord is shouting at you, 'Don't go to sleep, or you may sleep for ever. Wake up, to live with me, and to have a Father you will never have to carry to the grave.' You hear—and you remain deaf."

     St. Augustine, Sermon 339.7-8 (cf. Sermon 40, above), trans. Edmund Hill, WSA III/9, pp. 287-288.  Latin from CAG.


     "The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and richly merciful. Could there ever be any greater instance of long-suffering? People sin, yet go on living; sins are piled on sins, yet life only increases; God is blasphemed every day, yet he makes his sun rise over good and bad alike. On every side he calls us to amend, from every quarter he summons us to repent. He calls through the blessings of creation, he calls by granting us a prolongation of our lives, he calls through the reader, he calls through the preacher, he calls through our inmost thoughts, he calls through the corrective scourge, he calls through his comforting mercy: he is long-suffering and richly merciful.
     "But be careful not to abuse the long-drawn mercy of God and store up anger for yourself against the day of his wrath, as the apostle warns: Do you despise his generous kindness and forbearance, and his long restraint, not realizing that God is patient only to lead you to repentance? (Rom 2:4) Do you imagine that you are pleasing to him, just because he spares you? Not at all. All this you did, and I was silent; you were wrong to think that I will be like you (Ps 49(50):21), he says. 'Your sins are not acceptable to me; but in my endless patience I look for good actions on your part. If I were to punish sins, I would never find any people confessing their sins.' By sparing you, God in his long-suffering kindness leads you to repentance, yet you keep on saying with every day that passes, 'Today is nearly over, and I can carry on in the same way tomorrow, for tomorrow will not be my last day. And then there will be another....' And suddenly his anger falls on you. My brother, my sister, do not delay in turning back to the Lord (Sir 5:8). There are people who mean to be converted, but keep putting it off; they are for ever crying, 'Cras, cras!' like a raven. A raven was sent out of the ark, and did not return. What God wants is not the procrastination [(dilationem)] of the raven’s cry but the moaning confession of the dove. When the dove was sent forth, she did return. How long will you go on crying, 'Cras, cras'? Watch out for that last 'tomorrow.' You do not know when the last one will be; all that matters is that you have lived as a sinner until today. You have heard the warning, you are accustomed to hearing it frequently and you have heard it again today; but though you hear it daily, you daily neglect to correct yourself. With your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up against yourself anger that will be manifest on the day of God’s just judgment, for he will render to each and all as their deeds deserve (Rom 2:5-6). Do not so misrepresent God’s mercy to yourself as to lose sight of his justice. 'The Lord is compassionate and merciful: I am glad to hear that,' you say. Fine: hear it and rejoice. The psalm went further and added, Long-suffering and richly merciful; but the final words tell you that he is also constant. You find joy in the earlier statements; tremble at the closing phrase. God is merciful and long-suffering in such a way that he is also constant. If you have stored up anger for yourself against the day of wrath, will you not then experience as just the God with whose kindness you have trifled?"

     St. Augustine, Ennaratio in Ps 102 (v. 8, sec. 16), as trans. Maria Boulding, WSA III/19, pp. 98-99.  Latin from CAG.

     "Encourage them, brothers and sisters, and urge them not only in words but also with your way of life, and I too am urging them not to put it off any longer. Some of them, you see, are perhaps thinking and saying, 'Tomorrow I’ll become a Christian.' If it’s a good thing tomorrow, it’s a good thing today. After all, to become a Christian he isn’t going to be seeking an auspicious day from an astrologer. God made every day. That day is a good one for you on which you accomplish anything good. So if it’s good to believe in Christ, so that the heart may be purified by faith (Acts 15:9), and that that eye may be healed which is going to see such a great light, why put it off, why has the crow’s caw remained so popular with human beings? 'Cras, cras, tomorrow, tomorrow,' says the crow, who didn’t return to the ark after being sent out; it was the dove that returned. The crow caws 'cras, tomorrow,' the dove moans every day. So don’t make your own the cawing of procrastination [()], but the moaning of confession."

     St. Augustine, Sermon 360B.27, trans. Edmund Hill, WSA III/11 (Sermons discovered since 1990), pp. 382-383.  Latin from DOL 24 (Mainz 61) or Revue d'études augustiniennes et patristiques 37 (1937):  42-52 eventually.

     With thanks to Fr. Geoffrey Horton of Fauxtations for the diversion.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

"happy the stalk, holy the root, and blessed its fruit"

Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, 391
(late 10th cent.), fol. 114
 "strips beata, radix sancta et benedictus fructus eius."

     Or "her fruit."  "Quando nata est Virgo sacratissima," Antiphon to the Canticle (Dan 3:56-88), Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Liturgia horarum.