Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pomplun on the high medievals on Hilary

"the beatific vision is thus the sole instance in which an act of the will is wholly free and wholly subject to its own natural necessity. . . . in stark contrast to modern voluntarism . . . the soul enjoys such delightful spontaneity only because she has been created with a natural desire for supernatural fulfillment.
"This conception of the beatific vision is an important bulwark against the misleading objection that Hilary's teaching implies that the Word did not suffer 'naturally' or 'spontaneously.' . . . The beatific act that perfects human nature cannot make us less human. . . . Christ's impassibilitythe unique integrity of his body and soulis precisely what allows him to experience pain more vehemently and so identify with those who suffer in a way that we cannot. . . . Christ's freedom from pain's tyranny cannot make him less free. . . .
"Just as perfect impassibility ensures that Christ feels suffering and sorrow all the more vehemently, the perfect love the beatific vision enables Christ to accept that suffering and sorrow with a perfectly natural spontaneity.  Christ's possession of the beatific vision not only guarantees that his humanity is a perfect instrument (in the properly Thomistic sense of the phrase), it also ensures that his sacred body suffers in the mystical proportion necessary to reconcile the world to himself.  His saving atonement, the consummation of love and spontaneity, requires nothing less than perfect impassibility.  More importantly, the two are theologically inseparable:  The suffering that Christ obediently undertook as a necessary component of his mission'He learned obedience from what He suffered' (Heb. 5:8)becomes true passion by dint of the perfect and total cooperation afforded by the beatific vision that Christ possessed from the moment of his conception'For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world' (John 18:37).
"And so it remains that Christ felt the force of his suffering without its sorrow, for his suffering was made all the greater by the impassible nature he had from the Father, coursing into the soul that bore his body across the waters, that shook his sacred body with tears for his friend Lazarus, that blazed in his transfiguration like fire flashing from an alabaster jar.  That Hilary saw no need to trisect Christ into deity, soul, and body is his strength.  But if we must import the later categories of divine and human nature, considered abstractly, into his meditations, we can see that the medieval and early modern treatments of Hilary largely make more sense than most of our contemporary historical treatments.  Knowing full well the difficulties that surrounded Hilary's peculiar vocabulary, these theologians confronted the difficult passages of De Trinitate with the the same ardor, but without the same perplexity, as many of their modern successors.  Having never forgotten the spiritual importance of impassibility, they applied the necessary distinctions in the serenity afforded by their common tradition.  They maximilized the Patristic tradition, to be sure, but they also humanized Christ, and their joint contribution to Christology shows us that impassibilityproperly understoodallows Christ to suffer more, not less; allows him to do so with greater freedom, not less; allows him to embody the maximal love (John 15:12) and nothing less.  It allows, in sum, God's power to be made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), and so overcome weakness once and for all."

Trent Pomplun, "Impassibility in St. Hilary of Poitier's De Trinitate," in Divine impassibility and the mystery of human suffering, ed. James F. Keating and Thomas Joseph White, O.P. (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 211-213 (187-213).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Nor are we expected to forgive the unrepentant sinner."

"no reconciliation, no forgiveness and no negotiations are possible without repentance. The Biblical teaching on reconciliation and forgiveness makes it quite clear that nobody can be forgiven and reconciled with God unless he or she repents of their sins. Nor are we expected to forgive the unrepentant sinner. When he or she repents we must be willing to forgive seventy times seven times but before that, we are expected to preach repentance to those who sin against us or against anyone. Reconciliation, forgiveness and negotiations will become our Christian duty in South Africa only when the apartheid regime shows signs of genuine repentance."

     Challenge to the church:  a theological comment on the political crisis in South Africa (The KAIROS document, 25 September 1985), 3.1 (Reconciliation).  I have not read this through.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Schweitzer on service: "the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

"And when I answer such letters I add something else:  'Seek a humble sort of thing.'  Our hearts often look for something very big, something wanting a lot of sacrifice, and often our heart does not see the humble things.  At first you must learn to do the humble things and often they are the most difficult to do.  In those humble things, be busy about helping someone who has need of you.  You see somebody alonetry and be with him, try to give him some of the hours which you might take for yourself and in that way learn to serve:  and then only will you begin to find true happiness.  I don't know what your destiny will be.  Some of you will perhaps occupy remarkable positions.  Perhaps some of you will become famous by your pens, or as artists.  But I know one thing:  the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

Albert Schweitzer, in a speech to the students of Silcoates School, Wakefield (along with "a number of boys and girls from Ackworth School"), on "The Meaning of Ideals in Life," at approximately 3:40 p.m. on 3 December 1935.  "Visit of Dr. Albert Schweitzer" (as translated from the French of the address by Dr. Schweitzer's interpreter), The Silcoatian, New Series No. 25 (December, 1935):  784-785 (781-786 with 771-772 ("Things in General")).  I have mounted the scan of the entire address so kindly supplied by Louise Leach, Administrative Assistant to the Silcoates School Foundation, on 3 November 2010, with her permission, granted on 7 February 2011.