Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The blessed eternity of matter; or, rather, God is still incarnate

"The flesh is redeemed and glorified, for the Lord has risen for ever.  We Christians are, therefore, the most sublime of materialists.  We neither can nor should conceive of any ultimate fulness of the spirit and of reality without thinking too of matter enduring as well in a state of final perfection.  It is true that we cannot picture to ourselves in the concrete how matter would have to appear in this state of final endurance and glorification for all eternity.  But we have so to love our own physicality and the worldly environment appropriate to it that we cannot reconcile ourselves to conceiving of ourselves as existing to all eternity otherwise than with the material side of our natures enduring too in a state of final perfection.  And—one shudders at the 'blasphemy' which such an idea must represent for the Greek mentality—we could not conceive of the divine Logos either in the eternal perfection which belongs to it for ever otherwise than as existing for ever in the state of material incarnation which it has assumed.  As materialists we are more crassly materialist than those who call themselves so.  For among these it would still be possible to imagine that matter as a whole and in its entirety could, so to say, be raised at one blow onto a new plane and undergo a radical qualitative change such that, for purposes of definition, it could no longer be called matter because this future state would be so utterly different from the former one in which it originated.  We can entertain no such theory.  We recognize and believe that this matter will last for ever, and be glorified for ever.  It must be glorified.  It must undergo a transformation the depths of which we can only sense with fear and trembling in that process which we experience as our death.  But it remains.  It continues to perform its function for ever.  It celebrates a festival that lasts for ever.  Already even now it is such that its ultimate nature can survive permanently; and such too that God has assumed it as his own body.  Non horruisti virginis uterum.  Non horruisti materiae beatam aeternitatem."

     Karl Rahner, "The festival of the future of the world" (1961), Theological investigations 7:  further theology of the spiritual life 1, trans. David Bourke (New York:  Seabury, Crossroad, 1971), 183-184 (181-185) =Schriften zur Theologie 7 (Einsiedeln, Zürich, & Köln:  Benziger Verlag, 1966), 180-181 ="Christi Himmelfahrt," Korrespondenzblatt des Collegium Canisianum 96 (1961/1962):  6?-68.  "Non horruisti materiae beatam aeternitatem" is, I think, of Rahnerian coinage, though clearly the appropriate Christian gloss on the "mundi aeternitas" of Aristotle and other ancients.

"real saints are the faithful, who have made light of the beautiful world; we here can't even make light of the ugly one."

"Great are the people, real saints are the faithful, who have made light of the beautiful world; we here can't even make light of the ugly one."

"magni uiri, fideles sancti, qui contempserunt mundum speciosum: nos non possumus contemnere nec foedum."

     St. Augustine, Sermon 80.8, trans. Hill (WSA III/3, 356).  Latin from Opera Omnia CAG.  Cf.the famous lines just above (355-356):  "The times are evil, the times are troubled, that's what people say. Let us live good lives, and the times are good. We ourselves are the times. Whatever we are like, that's what the times are like" (trans. Hill); "Bad times! Troublesome times! This men are saying. Let our lives be good; and the times are good. We make our times; such as we are, such are the times" (trans. Macmullen).

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Just as if standing just beyond a partition

"to suffer divine things and to have experiential knowledge of God [(Pati . . . divina, et experimentalem cognitionem de Deo habere)], does not only pertain to the state of glory, where God is seen intuitively, but also to the state of pilgrimage; where Hierotheus was, there also was God, even if perceived obscurely and by faith, nevertheless, so to speak, known experientially by a kind of touch, although not by sight.  Just as we do not perceive our soul, we, nevertheless, through the very experience of being animated by it, sense it like an object at hand, for the soul really forms us and presents to us the signs of us being thus formed.  Likewise, in a special way by grace, God shows to us his innermost presence (which he himself possesses as the agent and principle of all esse in his immensity) like an object that can be intimately and experientially known [(sic Deus suae intimae presentiae . . . nobis specialiter per gratiam demonstrat tamquam objectum intime et experimentaliter cognoscibile)], on earth obscurely and by way of signs, in the fatherland by way of vision; but even now God is present to us in a particular way, just as if standing behind a partition wall [(sed tamen jam nobis specialiter et realiter praesens, et quasi stans post parietem)]."

     John of St. Thomas on St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II.45.2.Resp., on Pseudo-Dionysius, De divinis nom. cap. 2).  Cursus theologicus I.43.17.3, ed. monks of Solesmes, vol. 4, p. 370, as trans. Reinhard Hütter, "Theological faith enlightening sacred theology:  renewing theology by recovering its unity as sacra doctrina," The Thomist 74 (2010):  399-400n47 (369-405).

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"Spurious quotations aren't . . . spread only on stupid right-wing websites, Facebook, and the street; rather, even well-known professors appear more to simulate a solidarity with the tradition than to know it."

"Falsche Zitate werden also nicht nur auf dümmlichen rechten Webseiten, auf Facebook und auf dem Boulevard verbreitet, sondern auch anerkannte Professoren scheinen ihre Verbundenheit mit unserer Tradition mehr zu simulieren als zu kennen."

     Gerald Krieghofer, "Irrwege einer Metapher," Weiner Zeitung, 10 June 2017.

Pseudo-Mahler on tradition as the transmission of a fire or flame, not ashes

     See Gerald Krieghofer, Zitatforschung, 10 June 2017; "Irrwege einer Metapher," Weiner Zeitung, 10 June 2017.  Krieghofer attributes (the earliest version of) this to Jean Jaurès.

Monday, December 23, 2019

More astonishing, even, than the Incarnation is the fact that God is still—and for all of eternity—incarnate


     "The Ascension is ... at once [1] the seal of the salvific work of mediation effected by Christ in virtue of the hypostatic union, and [2] the commencement of a new mission of the Word incarnate in his relation to the world.  We celebrate 'the most sacred day on which your Only Begotten Son, our Lord, placed at the right hand of your glory our weak human nature, which he had united to himself [(diem sacratissimum celebrantes, quo Dominus noster, Unigenitus Filius tuus, unitam sibi fragilitatis nostrae substantiam in gloriae tuae dextera collocavit)]' (Proper of the Ascension, Eucharistic Prayer I).  That humanity finds itself in [(une humanité se retrouve en; indeed at the right hand of)] God—[a wholly] undreamed-of fact perhaps still more extraordinary than [that of] a God who has become [(se soit fait)] man—has been and is, today and forever, [a] mystery of salvation.  By this fact, the exaltation of the incarnate Word has an incidence necessary to [(une incidence sur)] the transmission of the faith, [to] union with God, and [to] the beatific vision, all three submitted to the 'sublime materialism' of the Christian faith, whose sole and unique law, against every docetist temptation, is that of the Incarnation.  By confessing the Ascension of Christ, Christians proclaim that it is possible for flesh to enter into glory:  [a] scandal to those who hate the flesh, [sheer] folly [to] those who adore it for its own sake."

     Nathalie Requin, "L'ascension du Christ:  le Verbe fait homme pour l'éternité," Nouvelle revue théologique 139, no.2 (2017):  207 (192-208).  What follows is, of course, a concluding reference to the corresponding Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
     "The Word became flesh in a manner irrevocable and definitive, for eternity" (199).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Dear sir, | I am. | Yours, GK Chesterton

"The answer to the question, 'What is Wrong?' is, or should be, 'I am wrong.' Until a man can give that answer his idealism is only a hobby."

     G. K. Chesterton, in response to a 14 August 1905 letter from "A Heretic" entitled "What Is Wrong?," Daily news (London), 16 August 1905, as quoted by Steven Bullivant, who credits an @SosTheRope, in "Continuing the hunt for a fabled GK Chesterton quote," The Catholic herald, 17 December 2019.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The hand as well as the eye


"providence means not that by which God idly observes [(otiosus speculetur)] from heaven what takes place on earth, but that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events.  Thus it pertains no less to his hands than to his eyes [(veluti clavum tenens, eventus omnes moderatur.  Ita non minus ad manus quam ad oculos pertinent)]."

     John Calvin, Institutes I.xvi.4, trans. Battles (who, unlike Beveridge below, reads clavem (claves) for clavum, rudder, helm, or (under "nail") "symbol of immovable firmness"; cf. patron de nauire (skipper/(ship)master/coxswain of [a] boat) in Calvin's French, below) =CO 2, 147.  Thus Beveridge:  "the providence we mean is not one by which the Deity, sitting idly in heaven, looks on at what is taking place in the world, but one by which he, as it were, holds the helm, and overrules all events.  Hence his providence extends not less to the hand than to the eye."  From p. 75 of the French edition published in Geneva in 1560 (note the additional line at the end):
la prouidence de Dieu . . . ne signifie pas qu’estant oisif au ciel il specule ce qui se fait en terre:  mais plustost qu’il est cóme vn patron de nauire, qui tient le gouuernail pour adresser tous euenemés. ainsi ce mot s’estend tant à sa main qu’à ses yeux:  c’est à dire que non seulement il voit, mais aussi ordonne ce qu’il veut estre fait.

Monday, December 9, 2019

God's son, Mary's son


"God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed. . . .  Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself."

"Deus enim genuit illum, per quem omnia sunt facta; et Maria peperit illum, per quem omnia sunt salvata.  Deus genuit illum, sine quo penitus nihil est; et Maria peperit illum, sine quo omnino nihil bene est.  O vere Dominus tecum, cui dedit Dominus, ut omnis natura tantum tibi deberet secum."

     St. Anselm, Oratio 52 =PL 158, col. 956B.  Procure this in the truly critical edition of F. S. Schmitt, 1938/1946-1961.  Note the lacuna in the English of the Liturgy of the hours.  Also, read the whole thing.  I haven't looked into the authenticity of the seal, above.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

God is still incarnate

"in . . . the glory of the Godhead, the Son of God existing before ages, as God and consubstantial with the Father, sits in His conglorified flesh; for, under one adoration the one hypostasis, together with His flesh, is adored by every creature."

"in . . . gloria deitatis, Dei filius existens ante saecula ut Deus et patri consubstantialis sedet, conglorificata ei carne eius. Adoratur enim una hypostasis una adoratione cum carne eius, ab omni creatura."

     St. John Damascene, as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III.58.3.ad 1.

Non possum conubium sancire

"a couple cannot enter into marriage if they share a firm intention not to have children.  Priests and pastors should not officiate at weddings of couples who express this intention.  This does not mean that infertile individuals or women beyond the age of child-bearing cannot marry.  The inability to have children is not the same as taking active measures to prevent their conception.  The former is a physical condition, the latter is a moral choice."

     "The gift of children:  a statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together," First things no. 297 (November 2019):  40 (37-42), italics mine.  Cf. 1983 CIC 1101 §1, italics mine:  "If . . . either or both of the parties by a positive act of the will exclude marriage itself, some essential element of marriage, or some essential property of marriage [(matrimonium ipsum vel matrimonii essentiale aliquod elementum, vel essentialem aliquam proprietatem)], the party contracts invalidly."  Latin from AAS 75.2 (1983), 193 (no corrigenda in the appendix).  1917 CIC 1081 §2:  "Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which each party gives and accepts perpetual and exclusive rights to the body, for those actions that are of themselves suitable for the generation of children" (The 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code of canon law in English translation with extensive scholarly apparatus, ed. Edward N. Peters (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2001), 372, italics mine).

Nein!

Because "'a man without limits is as incapable of satisfaction as a man without hope'", "a culture of permission promises happiness but delivers [only] dissatisfaction.  In such a culture—our culture—the greatest gift we can give our fellow man is the word that limits.  That word is 'No!'"

     [R. R. Reno,] quoting John Waters.  "While we're at it," First things no. 297 (November 2019):  70.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

An Enlightened utilitarianism


"Let one not allow oneself to be moved at all by the air of cruelty that one might think one finds in this.  A man is nothing by comparison with the human species; a criminal is even less than nothing."

"Qu'on ne se laisse point émouvoir par l'air de cruauté qu'on pourroit croire trouver ici.  Un homme n'est rien, comparé à l'espèce humaine; un criminel est encore moins que rien."

     Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, proposing experimentation on the brains of living convicts (for "the good of society" (77), the larger purpose, say, of uncovering the "bonds" that account for the "marvelous union of body and soul"), Lettre sur le progrès des sciences (1752), 83-84 ("Utilités du supplice des criminels").  I was put onto this by William J. Hoye, "Muss man wählen zwischen Frieden oder Wahrheit?  Begründungen der Toleranz bei Ulrich Beck und Thomas von Aquin," Theologie und Philosophie 84 (2009):  376 (374-393).  Moreau de Maupertuis:  one should proceed "sans scrupule", having begun with cadavers and moved up to animals.  Hoye (who thinks Moreau de Maupertuis was serious about this):  "That this, too, was [a] part of the historic Enlightenment is [all too] easily forgotten."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"and some of you they will put to death; . . . But not a hair of your head will perish."

Adam Elsheimer,
The Stoning of Saint Stephen (1603/1604),
Scottish National Gallery
"and some of you they will put to death [(θανατώσουσιν)];… But not a hair of your head will perish [(ἀπόληται)]."

Lk 21:16, 19 RSV. "By your endurance [unto death] you will gain [(κτήσασθε)] your lives [(ψυχὰς)]" (v. 18); "whoever loses [(ἀπολέσῃ)] his life [(ψυχὴν)] for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25); etc.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Attentive stability


"if one's sight is clear and if one stays on and works well, one's love gradually responds to the place as it really is, and one's visions gradually image possibilities that are really in it."

     Wendell Berry, "People, land, and community," In The art of the commonplace:  the agrarian essays of Wendell Berry (Washington, DC:  Counterpoint, 2002), 187, as quoted in Norman Wirzba, "Attention and responsibility:  the work of prayer," in The phenomenology of prayer, ed. Bruce Ellis Benson and Norman Wirzba (New York:  Fordham University Press, 2005), 98 (88-100).

Redeeming the time


"The future of prediction, dreary with anxiety or buoyant with hope, has to be held at bay, so that we may use this moment of time to do something, however modest, that is worthwhile and responsible, something to endure before the throne of judgment."

     Oliver O’Donovan, Self, world, and time (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2013), 17, as quoted in Andrew Errington, "Wakeful communities and digital sociality:  social media and the life of Christian communities," St. Mark’s review no. 233 (October 2015):  43 (42-59).

Saturday, November 9, 2019

True indifference

     "False indifference is the scourge of a domesticated Christianity, tired and worn-out, readily accommodating itself to its culture, bowing to the social pressures of the status quo.  It remains so tame as to fear nothing so much as the disdain of sophisticated unbelief."

     Belden C. Lane, "Desert attentiveness, desert indifference:  countercultural spirituality in the desert fathers and mothers," Cross currents 44, no. 2 (Summer 1995):  201 (193-206).  Lane might take this in one direction, but I would add another.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"the Father, the Father's Name, and the Father's Kingdom"


"the words of the [Lord’s] prayer point out the Father, the Father’s name, and the Father’s kingdom to help us learn from the source himself to honor, to invoke, and to adore the one Trinity.  For the name of God the Father who subsists essentially is the only-begotten Son, and the kingdom of God the Father who subsists essentially is the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, what Matthew here calls the kingdom another evangelist elsewhere calls Holy Spirit:  'May your Holy Spirit come and purify us.'"

     Maximus the Confessor, Commentary on the Our Father, First Petition.  Maximus Confessor:  selected writings, trans. George C. Berthold, Classics of Western spirituality (New York:  Paulist Press, 1985), 106.  The quotation is from the famous variant on the Lord’s Prayer in Luke, ἐλθέτω τὸ πνεῦμά σου τὸ ἅγιον (ἐφ' ἡμᾶς) καὶ καθαρισάτω ἡμας.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"We who are as good as you swear to you who are no better than us, to accept you as our king and sovereign lord, provided you observe all our laws and liberties; but if not, not."

Antonio Pérez, 1534-1611
"Nos, que valemos tanto como vos os hazemos nuestro Rey, y Señor, con tal que nos guardeys nuestros fueros, y libertades, y syno, No."

     The oath of the Aragonese in the famous (Antonio Pérez-ian) version of 1593, as reproduced on p. 25 of Ralph E. Giesey, If not, not:  the Oathe of the Aragonese and the legendary laws of Sobrarbe (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1968).  "For the Aragonese, says Pérez [in 1593], this was 'the ancient manner of swearing to their King.'"  Translation from Neal Ascherson, "The value of independence," The New York review of books 66, no. 7 (April 18, 2019:  34 (33-36).  For alternative versions of the oath printed in some cases earlier, see Giesey, pp. 18 ff.  From leaf (?) 92 of the 1596 printing of the Relaciones by Pérez:

Friday, October 25, 2019

"why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them"

     "If heretics no longer horrify us today, as they once did our forefathers, is it certain that it is because there is more charity in our hearts?  Or would it not too often be, perhaps, without our daring to say so, because the bone of contention, that is to say, the very substance of our faith, no longer interests us?  Men of too familiar and too passive a faith, perhaps for us dogmas are no longer the Mystery on which we live, the Mystery which is to be accomplished in us.  Consequently, then, heresy no longer shocks us; at least, it no longer convulses us like something trying to tear the soul of our souls away from us. . . . And that is why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them.
     "In reality, bias against 'heretics' is felt today just as it used to be.  Many give way to it as much as their forefathers used to do.  Only, they have turned it against political adversaries.  Those are the only ones that horrify them.  Those are the only ones with whom they refuse to mix.  Sectarianism has only changed its object and taken other forms, because the vital interest has shifted.  Should we dare to say that this shifting is progress?
     "It is not always charity, alas, which has grown greater, or which has become more enlightened:  it is often faith, the taste for the things of eternity, which has grown less."

     Henri de Lubac, S.J., Further paradoxes, trans. from Nouveaux paradoxes (1955) by Ernest Beaumont (London:  Longmans, Green; Westminster, MD:  The Newman Press, 1958), 118-119.
     That last paragraph continues and concludes with the words:  "Injustice and violence are still reigning; but they are now in the service of degraded passions."  So were our "forefathers" who "refuse[d] to mix" with heretics, then, guilty of "bias", "Injustice and violence"?  Is that how, contra some, this passage should really be read?  Or is the conservative reading correct after all, since the "passions" of our "forefathers" were apparently not then "degraded"?  I have made no attempt to read around this in context, and am no expert on de Lubac, who, I believe, suffered himself from some censure, and could therefore be saying something somewhat more nuanced here.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

"technology is never merely technology. It reveals man and his aspirations"

"Technology — it is worth emphasizing — is a profoundly human reality, linked to the autonomy and freedom of man. In technology we express and confirm the hegemony of the spirit over matter. 'The human spirit, "increasingly free of its bondage to creatures, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator"'. Technology enables us to exercise dominion over matter, to reduce risks, to save labour, to improve our conditions of life. It touches the heart of the vocation of human labour: in technology, seen as the product of his genius, man recognizes himself and forges his own humanity. Technology is the objective side of human action whose origin and raison d'etre is found in the subjective element: the worker himself. For this reason, technology is never merely technology. It reveals man and his aspirations [(technica ars numquam est tantummodo technica ars. Hominem ipsa ostendit eiusque . . . proclivitatem)] towards development [(ad progressionem)], it expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome material limitations. Technology, in this sense, is a response to God's command to till and to keep the land (cf. Gen 2:15) that he has entrusted to humanity, and it must serve to reinforce the covenant between human beings and the environment, a covenant that should mirror God's creative love."

But "technology can [also] be understood as a manifestation of absolute freedom, the freedom that seeks to prescind from the limits inherent in things. The process of globalization could replace ideologies with technology, allowing the latter to become an ideological power that threatens to confine us within an a priori that holds us back from encountering being and truth. Were that to happen, we would all know, evaluate and make decisions about our life situations from within a technocratic cultural perspective to which we would belong structurally, without ever being able to discover a meaning that is not of our own making."

     Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate (29 June 2009), part 6, secs. 69-70.  But as the Latin makes clear, these "aspirations" are but a single "proclivity," and that towards progress.  So the But of secs. 70 and following has to do with a potential corruption of that rooted in the desire for "absolute freedom".

"I am the resurrection and the life."

"All the efforts of technology [(technicae artis)], however beneficial, cannot allay human anxiety, and the prolongation of biological life [(biologica longaevitas)] cannot assuage the essential longing of the human heart for further life [(ulterioris vitae)]."

     Gaudium et spes 18, as trans. in Tanner.  But shouldn't "ulterioris vitae" have been rendered "the life to come"?  "ulterior" is not an especially biblical term, but 1) the contrast is between "longaevitas" on the one hand, and "vita" on the other, while 2) "ulterior" can mean "that which lies beyond" or "is still to come."

"he raiseth up the soul, and enlighteneth the eyes, and giveth health, and life, and blessing."

Ravenna, Museo Arcivescovile,
Cathedra of Archbishop Maximian
ἀνυψῶν ψυχὴν καὶ φωτίζων ὀφθαλμούς, ἴασιν διδούς, ζωὴν καὶ εὐλογίαν.

     Sir 34:20 DRA (=34:17 RSV).  DR 1610:  "exalting the soule, and illuminating the eies, giuing health, and life, and blessing."  Benjamin G. Wright's New English Translation (of the Septuagint) looks a bit closer to the Vulgate
exaltans animam et inluminans oculos dans sanitatem vitam et benedictionem
in some respects than to the Septuagint:  "one who uplifts the soul and enlightens eyes, gives healing of life and blessing."

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"doxological contrition"

"From my youth, O Saviour, I have rejected Thy commandments.  Ruled by the passions, I have passed my whole life in heedlessness and sloth.  Therefore I cry to Thee, O Saviour, even now at the end:  Save me."

Ἐκ νεότητος Σωτὴρ, τὰς ἐντολάς σου ἐπαρωσάμην, ὅλον ἐμπαθῶς, ἀμελῶν ῥᾳθυμῶν, παρῆλθον τὸν βίον·  διὸ κράζω σοι Σωτήρ·  Κᾂν ἐν τῷ τέλει σῶσόν με.

     St. Andrew of Crete, The Great Canon, Tone six, Canticle one, Mattins, Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent; The Lenten Triodion, trans. Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware (South Canaan, PA:  St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2002), 380.  Greek:  Triōdion katanyktikon, periechon hapasantēn anēkousan autō akolouthian tēs Hagias kai Megalēs Tessarakostēs.  Apo tēs Kyriakēs tou telōnou kai tou Pharisaiou, mechri tou Hagiou kai Megalou Savvatou . . . , 4th ed.(Venice:  Ek tou Hellēnikou typ. ho Phoinix, 1876), 259 (the translators of The Lenton Triodion give their own original at the top of p. 66).  The wonderful phrase "doxological contrition" I have taken from a 7 September 2019 Thomistic Institute lecture by Fr. Khaled Anatolios entitled "Salvation:  a view from the Byzantine liturgy," which also put me onto this passage. 

"Joy to the world"

"from its very beginning Christianity has been the proclamation of joy, of the only possible joy on earth.  It rendered impossible all joy we usually think of as possible.  But within this possibility, at the very bottom of this darkness, it announced and conveyed a new all-embracing joy, and with this joy it transformed the End into a Beginning.  Without the proclamation of this joy Christianity is incomprehensible.  It is only as joy that the Church was victorious in the world, and it lost the world when it lost that joy, and ceased to be a credible witness to it.  Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy."

     Alexander Schmemann, For the life of the world:  sacraments and Orthodoxy, 2nd rev. & expanded ed. (New York:  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1973), 24.  I was reminded of this passage by Fr. Khaled Anatolios, whose 7 September 2019 Thomistic Institute lecture "Salvation:  a view from the Byzantine liturgy," which speaks of (among other things) "doxological contrition", is a helpful attempt to take up the senses in which joy must of course be a Christian experience (summarized from 39:45, or, more specifically, 40:50).

Saturday, October 5, 2019

"A church is a building meant for a purpose served by no building we know."

     Richard Kieckhefer, Theology in stone:  church architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004), 69, on "The Central Paradox:  An Unbloodied Altar".

Thursday, September 26, 2019

"I have often heard of God's house but I never saw his barn before."

     A "new arrival" at the sight of "the first church building in [Chicago]," the Presbyterian meeting house built on Clark Street in 1834, in Edwin O. Gale, Reminiscences of early Chicago and vicinity (Chicago:  Revell, 1902), 361.  I was put onto this by Richard Kieckhefer, Theology in stone:  church architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2004), 201.
     Though I'm certainly no fan of ugly churches, somebody should probably have reminded this wag of a certain manger (φάτνη).

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Were all the kings on earth to show | their greatest pomp and power | the smallest leaf they could not grow, | nor graft it on a flower.


Gik alle konger frem på rad
i deres magt og vælde,
de mægted ej det mindste blad
at sætte på en nælde.

     Hans Adolph Brorson, Salme 15, "Op, al den ting, som Gud har gjort" (1734), trans. Edward Broadbridge, for (supposedly) Hymns in English:  a selection of hymns from The Danish hymnbook (Copenhagen:  Det Kgl. Vajsenhus; [Frederiksberg]:  I samarbejde med Folkekirkens mellemkirkelige Råd, 2009).

The superficiality of the forgiveness of self


"The 'pagans' know the examination of conscience, [which] consists in scrutinizing oneself in the light of norms, [an] exercise that permits, in fact, a correction and a therapy of the passions of the soul (anger, pride, . . .).  But that 'practice of self' is envisaged by Basil of Caesarea through a parable of Scripture, which imparts a new dimension to the examination of conscience:  'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'  The appeal to the divine mercy is unknown in such spiritual exercises among the pagans, the 'me' of whom is, in a sense, the seat of salvation, of self-justification, [the seat] of a pardon that one offers oneself [(pardon auto-addressé)].  One would do well to compare the paragraph from Basil [(above)] with another from Seneca:  'I avail myself of this privilege, and every day I plead my cause before the bar of self.  When the light has been removed from sight, and my wife . . . has become silent, I scan the whole of my day and retrace all my deeds and words.  I conceal nothing from myself, I omit nothing.  For why should I shrink from any of my mistakes, when I may commune thus with myself?  "See that you never do that again; I will pardon you this time"' (De ira III.36.3-4[, trans. Basore]).  The Christian here takes leave of the habits of the [pagan] philosopher, in order to take up those of the publican of the Gospel, who awaits the pardon of a God who transcends the 'self'.  For, for Basil and his coreligionists, the tribunal of conscience is no longer the temporary jurisdiction of this world, which has not in itself the means of salvation.  If the orator [of the Basilean homily on Dt 15:9] is [a] debtor to the culture of the schools, and to its modes of discourse, one cannot for that reason neglect the important inflections imparted by him to this motif of profane origin.  The prosochè is integrated by Basil of Caesarea into a new context, which is no longer at all that of Stoic self-transfiguration.  This effort of the soul to be in conformity with itself, to compel itself [(se laisser)] to be guided by norms, takes on a renewed meaning in [the context of] a life conceived of and experienced henceforth as [one] fought over between God and the devil.  The prosuchè takes the shape of [a] technique of moral survival in fear of the [Last] Judgment and the hope of salvation. . . .  One has therefore to do with an assimilation on many levels:  Deuteronomy is read through profane philosophy to be sure, but profane philosophy is itself recontextualized within the framework of the Christian drama and eschatology.
     ". . . In the ethical order as in the gnoseological, Basil of Caesarea de-centers the prescription of the narrow frame of the little theatre of the 'self' by [means of] a superior comprehension of what the self is:  a creature who owes himself to [(se doit à)] God, whom he can know and love as his Creator and Benefactor, and whom he must fear [(redouter)] as his Judge."

     Arnaud Perrot, "L'attention à soi-même chez Basile de Césarée," Communio:  revue catholique internationale 40, no. 5 (sep-oct 2015):  35-37 (27-37).

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Give me [not] thine hand?

"a catholic spirit is not speculative latitudinarianism.  It is not indifference to all opinions.  This is the spawn of hell, not the offering of heaven.  This unsettledness of thought, this being 'driven to and fro, and tossed about with every wind of doctrine' [(Eph 4:14)], is a great curse, not a blessing; an irreconcilable enemy, not a friend, to true catholicism.  A man of a truly catholic spirit has not now his religion to seek.  He is fixed as the sun in his judgment concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine.  'Tis true he is always ready to hear and weigh whatsoever can be offered against his principles.  But as this does not show any wavering in his own mind, so neither does it occasion any.  He does not halt between two opinions [(1 Kg 18:21)], nor vainly endeavor to blend them into one.  Observe this, you who know not what spirit ye are of [(Lk 9:55 AV)], who call yourselves men of a catholic spirit only because you are of a muddy understanding; because your mind is all in a mist; because you have no settled, consistent principles, but are for jumbling all opinions together.  Be convinced that you have quite missed your way:  you know not where you are.  You think you are got into the very spirit of Christ [(Rom 8:9)], when in truth you are nearer the spirit of antichrist [(1 Jn 4:3)].  Go first and learn [(Mt 9:13)] the first elements of the gospel of Christ [(Heb 5:12)], and then shall you learn to be of a truly catholic spirit."

     John Wesley, "Catholic spirit" (Sermon 39) III.1, underscoring mine.  In III.2 Wesley then moves on to the rejection of "any kind of practical latitudinarianism"; in III.3, to that of "indifference to all congregations"; and so forth.
  • 1 Ki 18:21:  between the Lord and Baal!
  • Lk 9:55 AV, i.e. as present in some manuscripts:  "But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."  Cf. Mk 8:33 on the "Satan"ism of a rebuked Peter, along with the several other passages in which Jesus "rebukes" an ultimately spiritual adversary.
  • Rom 8:9:  "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (AV).
  • 1 John 4:3:  the speculative latitudinarian is here being accused of, in effect, denying "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh", "that Jesus is the Christ", etc.  For "antichrist" language occurs only in 1 (and 2) John, the epistle that, for Rob Wall, constituted Wesley's "canon within the canon" (Robert W. Wall, "John’s John: a Wesleyan theological reading of 1 John," Wesleyan theological journal 46, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 105–41).
  • "spawn of hell":  to cite Mt 23:15 in conjunction with this would be to push things too far, though it would be interesting to know what, more precisely, that phrase served to denominate in Wesley's time.
Thus, the speculative latitudinarian (as here described, to a greater or a lesser extent, of course, also a specifically 18th-century figure) should be understood to be (or so it seems to me) among those to whom Wesley would extend not the hand of a specifically Christian fellowship, but only, at most, the "strong and cordial affection"—the "universal love"—due even to one's "enemies" (III.4, though even there—i.e. in sec. III more generally, but III.4-6 more specifically—the context seems to be still an at least nominally "Christian" one).  Cf. the reference to taking "this word in the strictest sense" at the head of III.5.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

"a metaphysics of conjoined attention"

"the man who strives to attend [(s’efforce à l’attention)] rejoins the harmonious whole of th[ose] other created minds for whom attention is less difficult, indeed spontaneous, and God himself, in the grasp of the one theoretical and practical reality, of the true and the good.  One finds oneself here at the heart of very contemporary questions about attention conjoined or shared [(l'attention conjointe ou partagée)], [a heart] that radically modifies the conceptual terrain of the question of attention, dislodge[s it] from a posture purely egological, or purely dyadic, in order to situate it within the [whole] system of encounters with others and with the world.  In the ethics of Malebranche, . . . attention serves less to grasp the divine will that man must discern in particular situations than to see the general order-of-perfection of things [(l’ordre general de perfection des choses)].  And, in the realm [(temps)] of thought and of reason in every case (outside of faith in a religious revelation), it is from this correct grasp of the ordination of things in accordance with their perfection that the human will is called to rejoin the movements of preference, choice, attachment, and regard as executed by all minds and once again God himself infallibly and uniformly.  One has here then a metaphysics of conjoined attention [(une métaphysique de l'attention conjointe)].  The moral life would be [then] nothing other than the life oriented, like that of God, towards God himself.  Philosophical by consequence on this way of reason, the ethics of Malebranche is, like the whole of his thought, [nevertheless] radically religious, in the precise, trans-Jansenist sense of a rational confidence in the love of a God who guarantees the solidity ([solidité,] a term very frequent in Malebranche), that is to say the maintenance in being, of entities fragile and inconstant, but whose capacity for attention is a finite thread that, by grace, holds them in union with the Infinite."

     Michel Dupuis, "L'attention et l'amour de l'Ordre dans la morale de Malebranche," L'attention au XVIIe siècle:  conceptions et usages =Les études philosophiques 2017, no. 1 (2017):  70-71 (59-71).

Monday, August 26, 2019

The most precious goods must not be sought, but awaited

     "We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.  Man cannot discover them by his own powers and if he sets out to seek for them he will find in their place counterfeits of which he will be unable to discern the falsity."

     Simone Weil, "Reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God," in Waiting on God, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1951), 56-57.

     "Les biens les plus précieux ne doivent pas être cherchés, mais attendus.  Car l'homme ne peut pas les trouver par ses propres forces, et s'il se met à leur recherche, il trouvera à la place des faux biens dont il ne saura pas discerner la fausseté."

     The most precious goods must not be sought, but awaited.  For man cannot find them by his own powers, and if he puts himself onto the search for them, he will find instead only false goods, the falsity of which he will be unable to discern.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

"no unmediated divine actions, no unmediated divine gifts, no unmediated sources of sanctification"


"The sacraments are little Christs.  Just as the Incarnation of the Eternal Word establishes the framework of the Christian religion, so the sacraments define the parameters of sanctified life in the Church.  Once the Eternal Word becomes Incarnate, no unmediated divine actions, no unmediated divine gifts, no unmediated sources of sanctification are recognized by the Church.  Otherwise put, the sacraments have become the indispensable instruments for the communication of God’s love."


Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Marriage" in heaven

"It’s hard for me to think that I could be me and have a relation to everybody else that’s the same as the relation to my wife.  I just don’t see how I’m me.  Not the me that [is] the life I’ve led.  So even if there’s no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven, . . . nevertheless I can’t imagine how I cease to be my . . . [how] that history goes.  I mean, that history seems to be a part of who I am.  There will be a radical openness to all things, but I think I’m still me, and I don’t see how that disappears. . . . I can’t imagine me being me without my history. . . .  So I would think Yes, we will remain who we are, and I think who we are—who we’ve come to be—involves a set of relations.  They may be expanded, but I can’t see them being erased, and we still are particular individuals."

"As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed. In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly-controlled universe"

Communist Party of Ireland
"The art of the future will, because of the very opportunities and materials it will have at its command, need an infinitely stronger formative impulse than it does now.  The cardinal tendency of progress is the replacement of an indifferent chance environment by a deliberately created one.  As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed.  In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly-controlled universe which is nothing more nor less than art."

     J[ohn] D[esmond] Bernal, The world, the flesh and the devil:  an enquiry into the future of the three enemies of the rational soul (London:  Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1929), 78-79 (chap. 5).
     I was put onto this by Rémi Brague, whose The kingdom of man:  genesis and failure of the modern project (trans. Paul Seaton, Catholic ideas for a secular world (Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), 111) sets this powerfully in the context of the whole of the modern "project" (5 and therefore passim).  Bernal was a communist of some sort.  On p. 119, Brague connects "The dream of the indefinite malleability of nature" up with "the Soviet Union, poor in real inventions, armaments excepted," but "the country of regimens of longevity, youth serums, even 'resurrections' (anabiosis) of animals drained of their blood" (most notably, presumably, Lenin himself (on which see, for example, Yuri Slezkin, The house of government:  a saga of the Russian revolution (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2017)).
     Needless to say, by "art" Bernal means not the fine arts but, in the words of Brague, the "domination of external nature, perceived as an object to conquer" (6).  And then, of course, internal nature, too.  For "Where action (praxis) is reduced to making (poiēsis), man loses what he alone was able to do, since he alone 'acts' in the strict meaning of the term", such that "There is therefore no longer any reason for which he could exempt himself from production, and he must himself become its object" (165).  Thus, "A self-destructive dialectic is . . . unleashed.  The project of a radical immanence ends by reversing the project of a domination of nature by man into a domination by nature over man" (197), [à la C. S. Lewis' The abolition of man.]  "A dialectic is put in place by which the ambition of man to total dominance leads to his own effacement" (201).

Friday, August 16, 2019

John Wesley on the British Museum

Wikimedia Commons
"At the desire of some of my friends, I accompanied them to the British Museum.  What an immense field is here for curiosity to range in!  One large room was filled from top to bottom with things brought from Tahiti; two or three more with things dug out of the ruins of Herculaneum!  Seven huge apartments are filled with curious books, five with manuscripts, two with fossils of all sorts, and the rest with various animals!  But what account will a man give to the Judge of quick and dead for a life spent in collecting all these?"

     John Wesley, Journal, Friday, 22 December 1781; BEWJW 23 =Journals and diaries 6 (1776-1786), ed. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1995), 190.  Ward's comment:  "JW's almost automatic recurrence to the theme of the transience of this world's goods, is singularly inappropriate both to the permanent intellectual significance of the collections, and to the instinctive engagement with them of his own intellectual curiosity" (n47), not to mention not only his positive or at least neutral references to the collections of the likes of the British Museum and the Bodleian Library elsewhere, but his own lifelong engagement with books and collections (his own, his Christian library, the Kingswood library, etc.).  Perhaps the operative term here is "curiosity."  But what is a mere "curiosity" to one can be (or become) a source of inestimable value from another point of view.  I was put onto this comment (I trust it was this comment) by Michael Paulus.

Pascal's wager

"Certainties of this kind are experimental [(expérimentales)].  But if we do not believe in them before experiencing them, if at least we do not behave as though we believed in them, we shall never have the experience which leads to such certainties.  There is a kind of contradiction here.  Above a given level this is the case with all useful knowledge concerning spiritual progress.  If we do not regulate our conduct by it before having proved it, if we do not hold on to it for a long time only by faith, a faith at first stormy and without light, we shall never transform it into certainty.  Faith is the indispensable condition.
     "The best support for faith is the guarantee that if we ask our Father for bread, he does not give us a stone."

     Simone Weil, "Reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God," in Waiting on God, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1951), 52.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

"The recognition of human wretchedness [(misère)] is difficult for whoever is rich and powerful because he is almost invincibly led to believe that he is something. It is equally difficult for the man in miserable circumstances [(au misérable)] because he is almost invincibly led to believe that the rich and powerful man is something."


     Simone Weil, "Attention and will," in Gravity and grace, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963 [1952]), 110.  "human wretchedness is as great in the absolutely sinless man as in the sinner", but also an image of God, "who is what we are not", i.e. infinitely blessed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"The amount of creative genius in any period is strictly in proportion to the amount of [prayer] . . . at that period."

"Extreme attention is what constitutes the creative faculty in man and the only extreme attention is religious.  The amount of creative genius in any period is strictly in proportion to the amount of extreme attention and thus of authentic religion at that period."

     Simone Weil, "Attention and will," in Gravity and grace, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan, 1963 [1952]), 106.

Monday, August 12, 2019

"Attention signifies [both] a highly elevated act of knowledge and the most complete renunciation [(dénuement)] in the face of [its] object."

Source
"L’attention signifie un acte très élevé de connaissance et le dénuement le plus complete n face de l’objet."

     Paul Ricœur, "L’attention:  étude phénoménologie de l’attention et de ses connexions philosophiques" (Cercle philosophique de l’Ouest, Rennes, 2 March 1939), Studia phænomenologica 13 (2013):  40 (21-50).  Immediate context:
an act of the mind can be adynamic:  neither active nor passive.  Or, rather, because to know is not to suffer, knowing can be experienced in the passive mode (fascination) or in the active mode (voluntary attention).  There is no contradiction about an act’s being at once receptive and active; or indeed [(bien)] receptive and passive.  Fascination is at once receptivity inasmuch as it knows, and passivity inasmuch as [it is a] duration endured [(durée subie)]; voluntary attention is at once receptivity by its adherence to the object and activity by its inherence in the subject and by its liberty of focus [(orientation)]. 
. . . knowledge can be experienced in the active mode without being productive of its object. . . .  By attention, I place myself actively at the disposal of [(me mets activement au compte de)] the object.