Saturday, August 26, 2017

"The condition of the place has been so sad, that I persuade myself it did exceed all history and example."

Unauthenticated source
     "Eyam plague was not, of course, a romantic interlude in village life: the bloody weight of the epidemic is unavoidably asserted by the death roll of the parish register, whether it was over three-quarters or under one half of the inhabitants who died. The villagers, Mompesson, Stanley and their neighbours may or may not have saved the area from further infection, but that this question remains unresolved hardly diminishes the horror of the events they experienced. This very extremity of experience which gives the story its enduring interest must also give us greatest pause for thought when seeking to understand such events or to interpret the heroic or romantic narratives that continue to permeate accounts of epidemics, even in the more recent inversions where the old heroes are dethroned and bravery reinterpreted as tragic ignorance. It is salutary to contrast the empathetic freedom felt by interpreters of such distant epidemics, and their willingness to judge individuals' failings or heroism, with the more recent recognition by historians and others of the difficulties of addressing and representing traumatic events such as genocide, which constantly escape our attempt to grasp and describe them. As William Mompesson noted after the epidemic had drawn to a close: 'The condition of the place has been so sad, that I persuade myself it did exceed all history and example.'"

    Patrick Wallis, "A dreadful heritage:  interpreting epidemic disease at Eyam, 1666-2000," History workshop journal no. 61 (2006):  50 (31-56).  Cf. Philip Jenkins, "The plague village," Anxious Bench, 27 March 2020.

"The real city produces only criminals; the imaginary city produces the gangster."

     Robert Warshow, as quoted by Oliver Harris in "LA confidential," Times literary supplement no. ____ (August 11, 2017):  26.

"Is it wrong to take the minority position on the grounds that so many people can't be right?"

     Barton Swain, "Intellectual honesty," Times literary supplement no. ____ (August 11, 2017):  17.
This is where intellectual honesty comes into it.  I find it hard to dislike a public figure whom the vast majority of writers and intellectuals detest and fear and expend enormous amounts of energy denouncing and ridiculing.  Maybe they're right.  Maybe [Trump] is all the things his despisers say.  But there's just not much fun in joining the parade.  Writers don't write what everyone else is writing, because if they do no one will care enough to read them.  My instinct is to distrust, or at least to be bored by, what everyone agrees is the true and right view of things—not because I'm so high-minded and independent, but because I'm afflicted with that writerly perversity that can't quite be happy in any overwhelming majority.  It's not so much contrarianism—the desire to contradict for its own sake—as a suspicion of consensus. 
     Is it intellectually dishonest, though, to hold a view in part because you regard those who hold the opposite view to be silly or off-putting or distracted?  Or to ask a related question:  Is it wrong to take the minority position on the grounds that so many people can't be right?"

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sententia semper reformanda

On the rather astonishing history of the saying Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda, my summary of a comment by Theodor Mahlmann:

These, the concept's rather innovative and elemental roots in late 17th-century Dutch proto-Pietism (rather than the 16th-century Reformers) aside, it was in fact the 20th-century Reformed theologian Karl Barth who from 1947 both crystallized (Mahlmann (2010), 384 ff.) and popularized the saying we tend to think of as so ancient today.

Yet within a decade or so, Barth himself had forgotten that 
he had been the one to assemble it into an aphorism, and was asking the Catholic theologian Hans Küng—who, following Barth, had called the Catholic Church, too, an "Ecclesia reformanda" in an unpublished lecture delivered at Barth's invitation in January of 1959, and was later instrumental in getting the phrases "Ecclesia . . . semper purificanda" and "perennem reformationem" inserted into the documents of Vatican II (Mahlmann (2010), 391n43)—if he (Küng) could perchance shed any light on its presumably ancient origins (since by that time Barth had apparently accepted that the formula, too, was owed to ancient tradition (in the German of Mahlman (2010) at 388, "scheint Karl Barth . . . gar angenommen zu haben, diese verdanke sich alter Überlieferung").  It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that Peter Vogelsanger, editor-in-chief of the journal Reformatio, was calling it "th[at] ancient [(alt)] Reformed formula of the ecclesia semper reformanda" as early as 1961 (Mahlmann (2010), 394)!

Etc.  Sententia semper reformanda!

See Theodor Mahlmann, "'Ecclesia semper reformanda': eine historische Aufklärung: neue Bearbeitung," in Hermeneutica sacra: Studien zur Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert:  Bengt Hägglund zum 90. Geburtstag, ed. Torbjörn Johansson, Robert Kolb, and Johann Anselm Steiger, Historia hermeneutica:  Series studia 9 (Berlin:  Walter de Gruyter, 2010), 381-442.

For much more, go here.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"whether the human body—the sexually differentiated bodies of men and women—has any inherent meaning prior to the arbitrary imposition of one by an act of will"

"the deepest theological meaning of the Reformation. . . . turns not on whether the Son assumed human nature—most communities that identify themselves as Christian still agree on that—but rather, ultimately, on whether there really is such a thing as nature, including human nature, for the Son to assume.  Of course the answer to this question determines not only the meaning of the Incarnation and every other theological question, but whether we can any longer mount a coherent and comprehensive defense of the humanum.
     "It is around this question of fundamental anthropology and the salvation of the humanum that the New Reformation is likely to take place, even if that too is not always fully clear to the people and communities that take part in it.  For it is ultimately this question that is dividing Protestant communities internally, and it is ultimately the Church’s various attempts to maintain and even deepen the understanding of the human person as a per se unum, a meaningful body called in love to a gift that is comprehensive, complete, and fruitful, that has provoked the most vociferous opposition from the world, from other Christian communities, and from within the Church itself.  These facts suggest that the Catholic Church, though battered and bruised from without and humiliated by scandal within, will remain for all that the last bastion of a complete and genuine humanism capable of comprehending the incomprehensible mystery of the person in its totality.  As those who find themselves stranded have this question forced upon them, they may find, like Peter himself, that there is nowhere else to turn."

Insofar as the Reformation is not sustained by theology, or rather insofar as the real theological stakes of the Reformation remain misidentified [(cf. 567.2)], none of the factors currently upholding it is sufficient to prevent it from succumbing to the ravages of contemporary culture or is capable of preserving those traditions in their distinction from that culture [(568)].
Cf. this, which strikes me as problematic for those "conservative" groups operating on the margins of the mainline:  "few Protestant denominations maintain their separation from Rome out of commitment to the same theological convictions that prompted their separation in the first place" (567).
     There is much more of value here.
     The heading comes from p. 570.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Not a Spiritual presence only, but a Christological one as well

"the Lord was not satisfied with sending the Holy Spirit to abide with us; he has himself promised to be with us, even unto the end of the world.  The Paraclete is present unseen because he has not taken human form, but by means of the great and holy mysteries [[1a] we offer] [1b] the Lord submits himself to our sight and touch and through the dread and holy mysteries, because he has taken our nature upon him and bears it eternally.
     "Such is the power of the priesthood, such is the Priest.  For after [2] once offering himself, and being made a sacrifice he did not end his priesthood, but [3] is continually offering the sacrifice for us (leitourgei tēn leitourgian hēmin), by virtue of which he is our advocate before God for ever."

     Nicholas Cabasilas, A commentary on the divine liturgy 28.3-4, as trans. Hussey & McNulty (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1977), 71, as reproduced in David Bentley Hart, The hidden and the manifest:  essays in theology and metaphysics (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2017), 195.  Greek:  Explication de la divine liturgie, trans. Salaville, ed. Bornert, Gouillard, and Périchon (Paris:  Cerf, 1967), 178.  The numbers I've inserted draw attention to the "threefold sense" in which the Eucharist is, for the Orthodox (and of course Catholic) tradition, a sacrifice (193- ).  "[we offer]" has been inserted into the words of Nicholas to bring them into line with the schema as presented on p. 193, where the stress is on [1a] our "offering of bread and wine and so of ourselves (our substance)," though there is no question of [1b] the Lord's not "submitting himself to our sight and touch" and taste in the form of the Real Presence (that being indeed the burden of the entire essay, despite the purely obligatory excursus on the Orthodox hesitancy with respect to unleavened bread and transubstantiation (200.1-203.1).

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church"

". . . ne respicias peccata nostra, sed fidem Ecclesiae tuae. . . ."

     The peace, Communion rite, Roman Missal.
     Marie-Thérèse Nadeau, on pp. 103-106 of Foi de l’église:  évolution et sens d’une formule, Théologie historique 78 (Paris:  Beauchesne, 1988), follows the scholarship back into early 11th-century Germany, or, more specifically, "an ordinary of the Mass of Minden c. 1030," Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 1151 Helmst. (105).  In the 1570 Missal of Pius V (and probably earlier) it was one of three prayers said by the priest in private just before communion (104):
. . . ne respicias peccata mea sed fides Ecclesiae tuae. . . .

The commandments as "the first and indispensable condition for having eternal life"

"the young man's commitment to respect all the moral demands of the commandments represents the absolutely essential ground in which the desire for perfection can take root and mature, the desire, that is, for the meaning of the commandments to be completely fulfilled in following Christ."

     John Paul II, Veritatis splendor (6 August 1993) 17.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Soul or flesh?

     "Someone will say to me, 'But the sin of Adam deservedly passed on to his posterity, because they were born of him.  Can it be said then that we are born of Christ, that we can be saved because of him?'  Do not think of these things in a carnal manner and then you will see how we are born of Christ, our parent.  In these last times Christ certainly received a soul together with the flesh [(animam . . . cum carne)] from Mary.  It is this flesh [(hanc)] which he has come to save.  It is this flesh [(hanc)] which he has freed from sin.  It is this flesh [(hanc)] which he did not abandon in hell.  It is this flesh [(hanc)] which he joined to his spirit and made his own.  And this represents the marriage of the Lord, joined together in one flesh, so that according to 'that great mystery' they might become 'two in one flesh, Christ and the Church.'  From this marriage is born the Christian people, with the Spirit of the Lord coming from above.  And at once, with the heavenly seed being spread upon and mingled with the substance of our souls, we develop in the womb of our [spiritual] mother, and once we come forth from her womb, we are made alive in Christ.  And so the Apostle says, 'The first Adam [became] a living soul; the last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit.'
     "Thus Christ engenders life in the Church through his priests, as the same Apostle states, 'And indeed, in Christ I have begotten you.'  And so the seed of Christ, that is, the Spirit of God, produces through the hands of the priests the new man. . . ."

     Pacian of Barcelona, On baptism 6.1-2, trans. Craig L. Hanson, FC 99 =Iberian Fathers 3 (1999), 91-92.  =CCSL 69B (2012) =SC 410 (1995) =PL 13, cols. 1093D-1094A.  Cf. LF, trans. E. B. Pusey (1894), 382, where this is sec. 7, and where the ambiguity of the Latin demonstrative hanc (which, all considerations of context aside, could refer back to either animam or carne) is preserved:
In these last days Christ took a soul with the flesh from Mary.  This He came to save.  This He left not in hell.  This He joined to His Spirit and made His own.  And this is the marriage of the Lord, joined together to one flesh. . . .
Cf., however, this sermon as reproduced in the Liturgy of the hours (Office of Readings for Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time, vol. 4, p. 111), citing PL 13 (not one of the modern critical editions) above:
In these times of salvation, Christ received body and soul from Mary.  He came to save this soul, not to leave it in hell.  He united it with his spirit and made it his own.  And this is the marriage of the Lord, the union of two in one flesh. . . .
With this translation (of whose origin I am unsure, though it can be found on Universalis) we return to the sound non-literalness of Hanson:
It is this flesh that he came to save, that he did not abandon to the underworld: he united it with his own spirit and made it his own. This is the marriage of the Lord, united with the flesh of man. . . .
I suppose that by "this soul" the Liturgy of the hours (and indeed the original hanc) could be referring to the whole, i.e. (in Pusey's translation) the "soul with the flesh from Mary" (animam . . . cum carne . . . ex Maria).  Unfortunately, "body and soul" (rather than "a soul with the flesh from Mary") doesn't lend itself well to this interpretation.

participes > conformes > consortes

"Made partakers of Christ through these Sacraments, we humbly implore your mercy, Lord, that, conformed to his image on earth, we may merit also to be his coheirs in heaven.  Who lives and reigns."

"Per haec sacramenta, Domine, Christi participes effecti, clementiam tuam humiliter imploramus, ut, eius imaginis conformes in terris, et eius consortes in caelis fieri mereamur.  Qui vivit et regnat."

     Post communion, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Roman missal.  Though consors appears several times in Bruylants, this prayer is not present.  Corpus orationum traces it back to no. 4470 of the Missale Parisiense of 1738, which it says derives from

  • Heb 3:14:  "participes enim Christi effecti sumus si tamen initium substantiae usque ad finem firmum retineamus", "For we are made partakers of Christ: yet so, if we hold the beginning of his substance firm unto the end" (Douay-Rheims).
  • Rom 8:29:  "nam quos praescivit et praedestinavit conformes fieri imaginis Filii eius ut sit ipse primogenitus in multis fratribus", "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren" (Douay-Rheims).
  • 2 Pet 1:4:  "per quae maxima et pretiosa nobis promissa donavit ut per haec efficiamini divinae consortes naturae fugientes eius quae in mundo est concupiscientiae corruptionem", "By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world" (Douay-Rheims).