Thursday, August 2, 2018


"You've got to go into the thing with your eyes shut, lowering your head, kissing the ground, and—for the rest—putting your trust in God, as long as you've decided to do it."

"Il s’y convient mettre à l'aventure, les yeux bandés, baissant la tête, baisant la terre, et se recommandant à Dieu au demeurant, puisqu’une fois l’on s’y veut mettre.  Autre assurance ne vous en saurais-je donner.”

     Pantagruel to Panurge, Gargantua and Pantagruel III.10, trans. Burton Raffel ((New York:  W. W. Norton & Co., 1990), 269).  That at the head of some 30 chapters on the theme (chaps. 9-48 at least).  Trans. Urquhart and Motteux:

It is therefore expedient, seeing you are resolved for once to take a trial of the state of marriage, that, with shut eyes, bowing your head, and kissing the ground, you put the business to a venture, and give it a fair hazard, in recommending the success of the residue to the disposure of Almighty God.

Luther on the importance of the fight at precisely the one position under assault

"Neither is it of any help if someone would say, 'I will gladly confess Christ and His Word in every other article, except that I may keep silence about one or two that my tyrants may not tolerate, such as both species in the Sacrament and the like.' For whoever denies Christ in one article or word has denied the same Christ in that one article who would be denied by [denying] all the articles, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken all together or singly."

"Auch hilft nicht, daß jemand wollt sagen:  'Ich will in allen Stücken sonst gern Christum und sein Wort bekennen, ohn daß ich müge schweigen eines oder zwei, die meine Tyrannen nicht leiden mögen [(or: die mein Tyrann nicht leiden mag)], als die zwo Gestalt des Sacraments oder desgleichen.'  Denn wer in einem Stück oder Wort Christum verleugnet, der hat ebendenselbigen Christum in dem einigen Stück verleugnet, der in allen Stücken verleugnet würde, sintemal es nur ein Christus ist, in allen seinen Worten sämptlich und sonderlich."

     Martin Luther, Letter 619 to Count Albrecht von Mansfeld, dated 3 June 1523.  WA Bw 3, 81 ff., trans. Dr. Christopher Brown (except that I have re-consulted the WA edition of the original German and re-introduced here the two emphases ("einem" and "ein") missing at that link).  Cf. Pseudo-Luther on the importance of the fight at precisely the one position under assault.

"What [w]e mustn't do is say to [ourselves], 'God doesn't mind [the] sins of the flesh'"

Andrea Solario, Wikimedia Commons
     "Sometimes people who commit this sin [(here specifically adultery, but in the passage at large fornication)] treat it lightly out of heaven knows what kind of perversity.  They hunt about for heaven knows what null and worthless proofs in their support, and they say, 'God doesn’t mind the sins of the flesh [(Peccata carnis Deus non curat)].'  Well, what about what we have heard today, Fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb 13:4)?  So there you are, pay attention, any of you afflicted with this sort of disease [(quisquis tali morbo laboras)].  Listen to what God is saying, not to what your own prejudice is saying in favor of your sins [(quod dicit Deus audi:  non quod tibi dicit favens peccatis tuis animus tuus)]. . . .
     "What he [(the one who fears God)] mustn’t do is say to himself, 'God doesn’t mind sins of the flesh.' [(Non dicat in cordo suo, Peccata carnis non curat Deus.)]  Do you not know, says the apostle, that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?  Whoever violates God’s temple, God will destroy him (1 Cor 3:16-17).  Don’t deceive yourselves, any of you[.]  But someone will say, perhaps, 'God’s temple is my mind, not my body,' adding the proof text, All flesh is grass, and all the splendor of the flesh as the flower of grass (Is 40:6).  Miserable interpretation, punishable thought! . . . you can’t make light of bodily sins [(Jam non contemnatis corporalia peccata)]. . . . Your very body is the temple of God’s Spirit in you. . . .
". . . A temple you come in, a temple you go out, and temple you stay at home, a temple you get up [(Templum intras, templum exis, templum in domo tua manes, templum surgis)].  Mind what you do, mind you don’t offend the inhabitant of the temple, or he may abandon you and you will fall into ruin.  Do you not know, he says, that your bodies (and here the apostle was talking about fornication, in case they should make light of bodily sins) is [(sic)] the temple of the Holy Spirit in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you have been bought for a great price."

     St. Augustine, Sermon 82.8.11 and 10.13 (408), trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (WSA III.iii, Sermons III (51-94) on the New Testament (Brooklyn:  New City Press, 1991), 375-377) =PL 38, cols. 511-512 (506-514).
     Cf. St. John the Baptist.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"If you neglect to [reprove him], you are worse than he is."

"But what about those who have suffered an injury, what ought they to do?  What we have heard in today’s gospel:  If your brother has sinned against you, reprove him between yourself and him alone.  If you neglect to do so, you are worse than he is [(Si neglexeris, pejor es)].  He has done wrong, and by doing wrong has inflicted a grave wound on himself; are you going to ignore your brother’s wound?  You see that he’s on the point of being lost, or is already lost, and are you not going to bother?  You’re worse by keeping silent than he was by noisily abusing you."

     St. Augustine, Sermon 82.4.7 (408), trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (WSA III.iii, Sermons III (51-94) on the New Testament (Brooklyn:  New City Press, 1991), 372) =PL 38, cols. 508-509 (506-514).  Cf. the "Si neglexeris corrigere, peior eo factus es qui peccavit" cited by Aquinas at ST II-II.33.2.Sed contra (from, supposedly, the De verbo Dom. xvi.4, but which vol. 34 of the Blackfriars edition, p. 279n5, also traces to Sermon 82).
     St. Augustine goes on to distinguish between the response to private and public sin (10):
Those sins, then, are to be rebuked in front of everybody which are committed in front of everybody.  Those which are committed less publicly are to be rebuked less publicly.  Distinguish between the occasions. . . .
(And do it for the right motives, i.e. the recovery/salvation of the sinner.) 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Thomism as free of Thomas as Thomas himself was

"St. Thomas' doctrine is a doctrine indefinitely progressive, and free of all save the true, free with respect to itself, to its own imperfections which need correcting and its own gaps which need filling, to its formulators and its commentators, and even to the very master who founded it; I mean, free of him as he was himself, and ready, like him, for the changes and remodelings required by a better view of things, and for the enlargings and deepenings demanded by an inquiry that is always going forward."

     Jacques Maritain, The peasant of the Garonne:  an old layman questions himself about the present time, trans. Michael Cuddihy and Elizabeth Hughes (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston), 80 (italics in the first paragraph mine), 130-131, small caps mine.  Maritain had earlier (128 ff.) spoken of Thomas' prodigious humility.

Grace perfects nature by requiring it to die to itself

     "The real does not appear in the same light in both cases.  The theologian declares that grace perfects nature and does not destroy it; the saint declares that grace requires us to make nature die to itself.  They are both telling the truth.  But it would be a shame to reverse their languages by making use in the speculative order of formulas which are true for the practical order, and vice versa."

     Jacques Maritain, The peasant of the Garonne:  an old layman questions himself about the present time, trans. Michael Cuddihy and Elizabeth Hughes (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston), 44, italics mine.  See also p. 240:
it is of course true that grace perfects nature and does not destroy it, but this means in effect that grace perfects nature by going beyond it, and transforms it (according to the law of all transformation) by making it give up that which, in its own order, and not without reason, it holds most dear.
     Cf. this entry on Aquinas.

"beware of those brotherly dialogues in which everyone is in raptures while listening to the heresies, blasphemies, stuff and nonsense of the other"

"But we would be making a mistake at least as serious in the opposite direction if, on the pretext of making this practical agreement more secure, we tried to camouflage the irreducible oppositions that persist in the speculative order between the parties involved, by lying as to what is and by adapting the true to the false in order to make the dialogue more smoothly cordial, and more deceptively fruitful. . . ."
"the more a Christian, or a Catholic, gives an absolute primacy in his heart to a fully liberated brotherly love, and, in dealing with non-Catholics or non-Christians, sees them as they really are, members of Christ, at least potentially, the more firmly he must maintain his positions in the doctrinal order (I don't say he should brandish them at every turn), and must make clear the differences which, in the realm of what is true or false, separate him from those men he loves wholeheartedly.  In acting thus, he will be honoring them.  To do otherwise would be to betray Truth, which is above everything. . . ."
". . . . love and truth should be served with equal fidelity.  (To put it more precisely, brotherly love and the love of the One who is the Truth.)  Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi. . ."

     "Finally, and most importantly, will it not be at the cost of a rather painful overstretching in the very soul of the Christian, and of a vigilance which can rarely permit any slackening, and a struggle against often subtle temptations, and with what renunciations, and sometimes sacrifices, that can be assured, somehow or other, the double and unique fidelity to which he is bound, on one hand, to truth in the order of intelligence and theological faith, and, on the other, to brotherly love (which understands all things, said St. Paul, and forgives all things), when it comes to our relations with our neighbor, and this neighbor himself sets at naught what we most cherish?  All the assistance of grace will be needed.  The love of the Cross will be needed.  To sum up, what I have been attempting to suggest is nothing but the law of the cross. . . ."

     "In the fraternal dialogue, the deeper love is, the more each one feels bound to declare, without diminution or lenitive salve what he holds to be true (otherwise he would wrong, not only truth as he sees it, but also the spiritual dignity of his neighbor)."

"On the other hand, [the inherent delight of the fraternal dialogue] would completely degenerate if the fear of displeasing my brother got the better of my duty to declare the truth. . . .
     "Let us beware of those brotherly dialogues in which everyone is in raptures while listening to the heresies, blasphemies, stuff and nonsense of the other.  They are not loving at all.  It has never been recommended to confuse 'loving' with 'seeking to please.'"

     Jacques Maritain, The peasant of the Garonne:  an old layman questions himself about the present time, trans. Michael Cuddihy and Elizabeth Hughes (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston), 80 (italics in the first paragraph mine), 90, 91.


     "Meanwhile, Europe's old colonizing instinct today confines itself to home territory, where it takes the form of a new elitism wrapped in ideology.  The upper layers adopt pious and amnesiac positions on the role their own progressive ideas played in colonization, while imposing radical social policies on their 'deplorable' fellow citizens at home.  It is as though the colonial muscle, seeking exercise, has decided to reform not foreigners but the recalcitrant populations at home.  Hence gay marriage, gender theory, abortion, secularism, and mass immigration.  Opposition to any of these marks one as a savage."

     John Waters, "Fanon's warning," First things no. 285 (August/September 2018):  58 (56-59).

"when man's words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him"

"What we previously knew only in theory has become for us a practical experience:  the Church stands and falls with the Liturgy.  When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man's words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells.  For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever."

     Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as quoted by Alcuin Reid in "Liturgy and laity," a review of Una voce:  the history of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce, by Leo Darroch, First things no. 285 (August/September 2018):  63 (59-63).  Apparently this appeared first in the Preface Ratzinger contributed to Die Heilige Liturgie:  Referate Der "internationalen Theologischen Sommerakademie 1997" des Linzer Priesterkreises in Aigen/M., ed. Franz Breid (Steyr: Ennsthaler Verlag, 1997).

"The difference between Christianity and the Gnostic spirit"

"A sign that belongs to a proper language, constituted by knowable semantic and syntactic rules, can be replaced in the language by some other sound or mark, following the same semantic rules by which the sign was specified in the first place.  But we are not in a position to do this with such signs as the bath of baptism.  We are not able to create a different ceremony of initiation—say, the giving of a particular lifelong haircut—and declare that this will now mean what baptism has meant.  The reason is that we possess no semantic rules to control the translation.
  "The Supper's loaf and baptism's bath cannot be replaced because we cannot know the rules by which they were 'instituted'—that is, given force as signs.  We can know that they are signs, and even take them as signs into our discourse, with its rules.  Indeed, we can even after the fact sometimes work out how these signs are apt to their purpose—why, for example, bread and cup are apt to mean the crucified Messiah.  But we do not know the rules of these signs' home language; we do not know why God says 'I am with you' by bread and cup instead of by some other signs.  For us, the givenness of the loaf and the bath can be nothing but historical contingencies to which we are bound as we are bound to the contingencies of God's choice of Israel from the nations or of Mary from the maidens of Israel or of Jesus from Mary's many possible children.  Accordingly, we are not able to translate cup and bath into true equivalents; the res themselves are inseparable from their meaning.
  "The language by whose rules bread and cup and bath are instituted can only be the language of God and his saints.  It is the language of a community to which we now belong only across the line of death and new creation; our possession now of some of its signs is mysterious in the strict sense.  For it is identical with the identity across death and resurrection of the sinner that I was with the saint that I will be. . . .
  "The saints in heaven may know God so well as to make new names for him to suit their love; perhaps they do it instant by instant.  But we have membership in their company only across death and resurrection.  How do we know any names for God?  Or that 'The Father begets the Son' is a meaningful and true sentence?  Only if he lets us overhear, across the border of our own non-being and new being, the conversations of heaven. . . . And why he and his saints let us overhear one name instead of another, one phrase instead of another, we do not know at all. . . .
". . . The difference between Christianity and the Gnostic spirit is then simple and straightforward:  for the latter, apophaticism means that we have continuously to make up language in which to speak of God, since all speech fails as soon as it is used; for Christianity, apophaticism means that we are given language that is immune to our manipulating, that is 'sacramental' in its destiny."

  Robert W. Jenson, "'The Father, He . . .'", in Speaking the Christian God: the Holy Trinity and the challenge of feminism, ed. Alvin F. Kimel (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1992), 107-109.