Saturday, 30 October 2010

A Necessary Incarnation?

I have continued to think about this issue recently and I am growing increasingly opposed to the position of the Faith Movement that the Logos would have descended even if man had not sinned. The end of man is to rest in God, his source and purpose, and the Incarnation as the result of the Fall occurs as the necessary and efficient cause for this blessedness to occur. Out of His boundless mercy, the Divine Father sent His Son to assume human nature in the womb of the Holy Virgin and offer up a Sacrifice to the glory and praise of the One Who begot Him, in the Spirit. God may have pardoned man by numerous other ways, but knew that this particular course of action would be the most fitting - showing the seriousness of the offense committed and the great pity of God. It may seem pious to assert that Christ, through Whom all things are made and Who contains the logoi of all creation would have united Himself to a human nature, but I firmly believe this notion to be erroneous. I would not go so far as to regard this position as 'blasphemous', but I worry that this view may represent man for the sake of man, as opposed to man for God.

Furthermore, contrary to what I have heard, in the position of original justice, man would not require baptism (to make us sons of God) or Communion (to nourish us).

1) In baptism we descend into the tomb of Christ. Yet the Logos as pure spirit would not have been able to die, or if He did Descend even if man had not sinned, no cleansing would be required as the grace of sanctification would have been present anyway (if not, man would not have been in any form of union with God). Without these essential aspects, this 'baptism' would not be such.

2) In Communion, which is consecrated at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, without would not be able to occur if the Son of the Father did not assume our nature. And even if He did, there would be no sin for the Sacrifice to be offered up for, and without this element, it would not be the Mass. However, it would have been necessary for man to receive grace to persevere in the primordial union with the Holy Trinity.

Next theoretical question, would the propagation of the human species occur through sexual relations if man had not sinned....?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Latin Doctor Quote Of The Day

Saint Augustine of Hippo:

'The blessed life should be sought, and requested from God. The nature of blessedness has been much discussed by many people; but why should we go to many people and much explanation? In the Scripture of God it is put briefly and truly: 'Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord'. In order that we may be of that people, and attain to contemplation of Him, and to everlasting life with him, 'The end of the commandment is charity from a pure heart, and good conscience and unfeigned faith'. In the same Trinity, hope is put in place of good conscience. Faith, then, and hope and charity lead to God the man that prays, the man, that is, who believes, hopes and desires, and gives heed to what he is requesting from the Lord in the Lord's prayer'.

Comment: Through the divine light of the Holy Spirit, man who is inflamed with true charity which urges him on to a intimate union with the Trinitarian communion of life. Our blessedness in this can only find fulfilment in everlasting life, yet even today, our salvation is being realised as that same Paraclete Who descended on Peter and the others in the Cenacle, continues to animate man in sanctity and transforms the Sacred Gifts at the Holy Oblation. Our salvation is not a past event, so let us through prayer come to the communion of love that Christ shed His Precious Blood for.

...of the Greek Variety

Saint Mark the Ascetic:

'To recall past sins in detail inflicts injury on the man who hopes in God. For when such recollection brings remorse it deprives him of hope; but if he pictures the sins to himself without remorse, they pollute him again with the old defilement'.


When I read this a few days ago in the Philokalia, I was astounded. I had regarded the frequent recollection of past sins as a pre-requisite for growing in the love of the Lord. Yet, such a practice requires a great deal of vigilance and discrimination, as the conjuring up of past sins may not be for the purpose of cleansing the soul and bringing a man to true repentance, but as some 'acceptable' method of delighting in previous offenses. And when man returns mentally to the 'scene of the crime', Satan will utilise such an opportunity to inflame in man the passions that led to the fault. Let us practice frequent examination of conscience - this is necessary - but we must do so with prudence and fear of God.

'A New Creation'

We must guard constantly against the notion that baptism is merely a rite of initiation, or passage through which one has to go. It is not a formal 'declaration' that one is a Christian nor does it simply represent the cleansing of sins that have already been forgiven. So what actually occurs in the person who approaches this laver of regeneration?

Alan Brown commenting on the thought of John Zizioulas writes:

'Within the mode of fallen existence, says Zizioulas, human beings come to exist through the communion of erotic love, a generative communion through which the human being constituted thereby suffers from the two 'passions' of 'ontological necessity' and 'individualism'. According to the first passion, man is 'inevitably tied to natural instinct', and so is bound by the necessities of nature and as such is not ontologically free. According to the second passion, men 'affirm their identity as separation from (and hence opposition to) other unities'; it is because men are atomized from each other in this way that they express their freedom over and against each other in a war of all against all. Thus the inabilities of human beings to attain true personhood to which the existentialists point have, says Zizioulas, their root in the situation of fallen human existence - not in human existence per se. And insofar as their analyses of fallen human existence, says Zizioulas, they are entirely correct: inasmuch as man remains constituted ontologically by the 'biological hypostasis', he is unable to attain the true ontological freedom (in the existentialists' sense). But what the patristic location of such analyses within the mode of being of fallen existence shows is that these inabilities of man to attain true personhood stem from the mode of his birth. As such, what man needs to attain true personhood is a 'new birth', a birth 'from on high'.
This 'new birth', says Zizioulas, is attained precisely in baptism, where God 'hypostasises' the person according to God's way of being'. In baptism, says Zizioulas, man is hypostasized with a different hypostasis from that of biological existence. He is hypostasized with 'the hypostasis of ecclesial existence'

As all in summed up in Christ, the Son of the Father, man being baptised into His Death, overcomes such a division. Only in Him is found true personhood and relationality, the uniquely beloved of the Father. The Logos containing the logoi of all creation, allows man to return to his source and rejoice in God's invitation to love and communion with the divine life. On such a view, man is unable to be opposed to the 'other' as an impediment to his 'liberty', but he comes to acknowledge the unrepeatable neighbour as a child of the Eternal Father. Through his cleansing in the font, man arrives at a new mode of being, a new creation is relation to God and to man in the Body of Christ. He truly becomes free by becoming a child of the Father, Who brought forth His beloved Son and all through his own freedom, which man becomes to participate in his 'ecclesial existence'.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Some Thoughts for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

From the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, 22:15-21.

It is interesting how this passage from Sacred Writ is often used and frequently abused. Contrary to common perception, the the Catholic Faith does not teach the separation of Church and state. Such is a masonic belief and does not belong to the Church at all. As is recorded in Scripture, all that has been created comes from the Father through the Logos and by the power of the Holy Spirit, and exists for the glory of God. Man is invited to share in that communion of freedom and love, overcoming the 'biological necessities' of life belonging to our fallen condition. Since all has been created through Christ and for Christ, there should remain no inch, no state of experience that remains unconsecrated to His majesty. He reigns over every institution, nation and grouping, which must glorify Him in accordance with His will as revealed to the Church.

''The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature." His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures. But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. Would that they who forget what they have cost their Savior might recall the words: "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled." We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"; our very bodies are the "members of Christ.'' (Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI, 13)

Accordingly, as Catholic Christians, such a great gratitude must arise in our hearts, pierced by the nails that held Him fast to the Cross, that no offering can possibly be considered 'excessive'. Man can claim no true merit before God and owes his whole being to the freely willed creation of God.
The commandments of Christ are not burdensome. They may, and must, fly in the face of the conventions of the secular sphere, but this can never allow us to conjure up excuses for our service to Christ. The Christian may attend the offering of the Holy Oblation on Sunday, yet every moment of his day, each day, must be consecrated to God. A self-willed impediment and a contraction to our service of the Lord is not merely in-authentic or inconsistent, but a fundamental ingratitude for the spilling of the Precious Blood. In his covenant relationship with the Father through Christ, man is in no position to offer compromises or conditions to his worship. Too often when one is asked about one's religion, if 'Catholic' is the answer, instantly the inquirer assumes that such is the case simply as they were baptised as an infant and their Catholic identity barely surpasses certain idiosyncratic hand motions, peculiar devotions and an embarrassment over the prohibition of contraception. But what is actually offered in union with Christ through His Body, the Holy Church? What we are given is a new mode of being, to become a co-heir with Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit and a priest in fallen creation. How many of realise the dignity of the Christian?
This may be considered acceptable in the 'private' sphere, in the home and the family. Yet what about when one departs from the bosom of the household? Particularly in the political arena, we often leave our faith in the hall. A refusal to offer God His due in all creation will automatically result in a depreciation in the honour given on a Sunday. God cannot be manipulated for our own 'ends', but must be adored in simplicity and humility. Our politicians, although they may become unpopular for it or lose vital votes, must adhere to the law of God. Our voting must also be conditioned by our Catholic Faith as through our baptism and confirmation, so are called to serve Christ in the world and witness to His redeeming work. Let no aspect of society remain soiled and separate from Christ our Master and Lord. Our salvation depends on it.
We must remember that the whole hypostasis of the Logos descended by the power of the Paraclete to the womb of the glorious and immaculate Virgin. What are we willing to give back to Him?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Tropos of the Human Person

I would like to think a great deal more about this, but I wish to present a passage from Met. John of Pergamon from his 'Being and Communion':

''The essential thing about a person lies precisely in his being a revelation of truth, not as 'substance' or 'nature' but as a 'mode of existence'. This profound perception of the Cappadocian Fathers shows that true knowledge is not a knowledge of the essence or the nature of things, but of how they are connected within the communion-event. While ekstasis signifies that a person is a revelation of truth by the fact of being in communion, hypostasis signifies that in and through this communion a person affirms his own identity and his particularity; he supports his own nature in a unique way. The person is the horizon within which the truth of existence is revealed, not as simple nature subject to individualisation and recombination but as a unique image of the whole and the ''catholicity' of a being. In this way, if one sees a being as a person, one sees in him the whole of human nature. Thus to destroy a human person is to commit an act of murder against all humanity...The mystery of being a person lies in the fact that here otherness and communion are not in contradiction but coincide. Truth as communion does not lead to the dissolving of the diversity of beings into one vast ocean of being, but to the affirmation of otherness in and through love. The difference between this truth and that of 'nature in itself' lies in the following: while the latter is subject to fragmentation, individualisation, conceptualisation, comprehension etc, the person is not. So in the context of personhood, otherness is incompatible with division'.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Liberty through Conformity

Recently I have been troubled by a number of assertions concerning the Christian's motivation to love and serve the Lord, simply as a path to avoid fiery torment where the worm does not die. Once Christianity is reduced to mere ethical imperatives, all force and coherence have been lost. It becomes one system of morality amongst many -less strenuous - forms that fails to offer the human person anything other than the vague hope of security and happiness beyond present experience.
We must recognise that our obedience to the commandments of Christ, does not enslave man, binding him to a foreign and unbearable set of rules, but offers the hope that man become one with Christ in His Holy Church. Our allegiance to Him, Who loved us first, should never be seen as a threat to true human progress, but the actualisation of authentic personhood in Christ, the 'catholic man' of the Father. The outward adherence to the 'dictates' of the Church is not enough, as it is written, 'These people honour Me with their lips but theirs hearts are far from me', a fundamental change - a metanoia - must occur in the depths of the human existence and relationality. With the Incarnate Logos, baptised into His Death, man encounters the marvellous nature of communion with the Blessed Trinity, the Source and Spring of all Life and Goodness. What is offered is not simply a way out of Hell, as our rather negative term 'salvation' implies, but the opportunity by the divine grace and the Precious Blood of communing with God in love, whereby one finds the fulfillment of all desire.
We must rid ourselves of the notion of Heaven as a place of rolling green hills, cloud-like sheep, white cottages and country gardens, where the sun sheds pleasant rays in the morning. Such a concept of Heaven is frankly ridiculous and will fail to impel man to come to Christ and His Church. Man, by the Spirit Who constitutes this Holy Assembly, becomes animated by love, which is his true fundamental orientation, and is made open towards the God Who created all out of love, and to his fellow man who is no longer seen as a threat by the 'other' in union. By this blessed state, man comes to know in some manner the depths of the love of God which passes all understanding and rejoices in a way that the world cannot give. The reward of love in this life in Love Himself. It is erroneous to say that God 'loves' man for the sake of Heaven (or to circumvent the burning sulphur), when it is God Who is Heaven. To Him be glory and praise in His Holy Church now and forever. Amen

Saturday, 16 October 2010

News From The Middle East Synod

From John L. Allen:

''Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, which has a large community of Christians belonging to various Eastern churches from the Middle East, said he would not be opposed if those Eastern churches decided to ordain more married priests in North America.Both Vigneron and Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto also said, however, that bishops from Eastern churches do not seem to have a consensus on such a move.

The comments came during a press conference today organized by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Canadian Catholic media network “Salt and Light.”

Yesterday, Archbishop Antonios Aziz Mina, a Coptic prelate from Egypt, argued in favor of extending the practice of married priests in the Eastern churches during the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.

“Since the 1930s there has been a ban on the ordination of and the practice of the ministry by married priests outside the territories of the Patriarchy and the ‘Historically Eastern regions,’ Mina said.

“I think, in line with whatever the Holy Father decides, that the time has come to take this step in favor of the pastoral care of the Eastern faithful throughout the diaspora,” he said.

Asked what he thinks about that, Vigneron said he would be inclined to defer to what the bishops of the Eastern churches recommend.

“The question is what will help the bishops, priests and the members of the Eastern churches in the expansion,” Vigneron said, adding that some Eastern Catholics prefer the term “expansion” to “diaspora.”

“If it helps them, it would be fine,” Vigneron said, referring to the ordination of married priests for the Eastern churches. “If they feel it’s not helpful, I would pay most attention to that.”

Since the issue arose in the synod, Vigneron said he’s talked to several Eastern bishops about it, and “they don’t all have the same view.”
Asked directly if he would worry that more married priests in the Eastern churches might call into question the obligation of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests, Vigneron said, “I would not.”

Collins said that it’s a “complex issue” and that “there’s not a common view” among the Eastern bishops.

Vigneron added that he’s not sure the ordination of married priests for the Eastern churches in America and elsewhere would require special papal permission, since, he said, the bishops of those churches often say “they already have that authority under the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern churches.”

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Canada, who’s not participating in the synod but who took part in today’s press conference, said that in some cases, exposure to married Eastern priests can cause confusion among Roman Catholics in the West.

“We have some chaplains in our Catholic high schools who are married priests from the Ukranian church,” Prendergast said, speaking of Ottawa. “The children obviously know that, and it can become a difficulty or a tension point.”

Vigneron and Collins took much the same position on another idea floated yesterday in the synod, which is allowing the Patriarchs of the Eastern churches to exercise jurisdiction over communities outside their traditional territory. Both said the Eastern bishops themselves appear to be divided on the issue.

Monsignor Robert Stern, secretary general of the CNEWA, who’s also participating in the Synod for Bishops, said he’s picked up a variety of opinions during the coffee breaks.

“Some say it’s good that the authority [of the patriarchs] is restricted, because their culture is in the Middle East, and they wouldn’t understand the Canadian or American point of view,” he said.

“Others argue that if they’re never exposed to those points of view, how will they ever broaden their perspective?” Stern said.

Yet another proposal floated yesterday was for a “bank” of priests willing to serve for three months to a year in the Middle East, as a partial remedy to chronic shortages of clergy. Both Vigneron and Collins said they’re in favor of allowing their priests to serve, but expressed doubt that a “bank” is the best way to go about it.

Collins said a priest’s decision to serve on an overseas mission is always "deeply personal,” and perhaps can’t be organized or structured in terms of a “bank” available to go anytime and anyplace. Vigneron expressed skepticism that three months to a year would really allow a priest enough time to absorb the culture and the language in order to be effective.

Vigneron said that a joining a religious order such as the Franciscans, which already has a significant presence in the region, would be a “more well understood and easier way” for a priest wanting to serve in the Middle East.

On the broader question of whether the synod can do anything to arrest the emigration of Christians out of the Middle East, Stern said that the issue “isn’t in the hands of the church.”

The decisions by Christians to stay or go, he said, depend on “politics, peace and justice, class and social discrimination, [and] extremism,” all of which aren’t really in the power of the church to control.

Vigneron suggested that the synod may nevertheless be able to make a contribution at the level of raising consciousness, and not just on behalf of Christians but all the peoples of the region.

“The pastors of the church can speak to people of good will to invite them to take a stance on behalf of human rights,” he said. “The truth of human dignity doesn’t belong just to the Christian community. It’s vital and important for all people of the Middle East.”

“The Christian community,” Vigneron said, “can invite others to stand with us on the basis of the truth of the dignity of the human person.”''

Comment: On the question of removing an obligation to celibacy for priest belonging to the Eastern sui iuris Churches within 'Latin territory', I am generally divided. I understand that in the East, there is a tradition of married parish clergy, but I do not believe that this should be more than a matter of toleration, rather than promotion. Of course, it is legitimate to adhere to one's traditions and this issue requires serious consideration...and much prayer.
As marriage must be entered into prior to Holy Orders, one has to wonder whether many Western women will be willing to marry a candidate for the priesthood, considering the wide use of contraception and immoral sexual practices in our lands?

The Quest For Human Unity

Even though modern man stumbles throughout life, latching onto one desire after another in a pursuit with an unknown destination, from the depths of his being he sighs for a true communion. The moral life and the ontological uniqueness of man cannot simply be reduced to a mere deliberation between prudential self-interest, but must refer to the very relational nature that constitutes his being. The men and women one passes on the street have to be recognised as existing as images of God, not as loose arbitrary bundles of social interactions and ephemeral connections to serve some economic or convenient purpose.
For a true union to be actualised, an ekstasis must occur when the 'same' reaches out and embraces the other as a unique and unrepeatable person, upon which no value can be placed. As soon as a price is placed upon your neighbour as a tag, a definition and an objectification occurs. This attitude results in a relativisation of man who may be manipulated and exploited to serve a higher goal, or to reap a harvest of perishable goods. The human person is unable to be saved through such behaviour. God came to redeem personally, and the ascent to God only develops through a personal approach which is constituted by freedom and love. The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, 'the bond of peace' unites man in the one Church, which is nothing other than the redeemed human race in union with our Mediator and High Priest through charity, and any attempt to cultivate growth outwith of this vine is doomed to fail.

October 15 - Santa Teresa de Avila - 3 Cl.

Virgin, Doctor.
The seraphic St. Teresa, born at Avila (Spain) at the age of 18 entered the convent of St. Mary of Mount Carmel. As the Reformer of the Carmelites, she re-established the primitive observance of their ancient Rule. On account of her invaluable works on mystical theology, she may be considered one of the greatest Doctors of the Church. She died A.D. 1582.


Graciously hear us, O God our Saviour, and grant that as we rejoice in the festival of blessed Teresa, Thy Virgin, so we may be nourished by her heavenly teaching, and grow in loving devotion towards Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity...

Nada turbe,
Nada te espante,
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
la paciencia
todo lo alcanza;
quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta:
Sólo Dios basta

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

...of the Greek Variety

Saint Basil of Caesarea:

'I have not known a woman and yet I am not a virgin'

Comment: It is often not through lack of ill will that we refrain from a particular offense against God, but most likely it is as a result of lack of opportunity or courage. It is not sufficient for a man to abstain from an external sinful act but exist in an impure state. Christ wishes for each part of us, that is, all of us, to be consecrated to His honour and He is not to be fooled.

The True Nature of Man and his Communion - Some Thoughts

This year I am following another course in moral philosophy at university and I have been quite troubled by a number of hesitations in proclaiming a moral truth unambiguously. We may often baulk at a particular manifestation of what we in civil society commonly title 'wrongdoing' yet we are hard-pressed to justify our insistence coherently and efficaciously. There seems to be no safe passage from the uncertain atheistic secular mindset that rejects objective value while at the same time projecting the vague transcendental principles of Liberty, Equality and Choice. As Catholic Christians, we are able to assert heartily to these three yet we are not without a foundation, a concrete basis. We may contemplate value in the cosmos as a reflection of the intra-Trinitarian glory and communion of love and as priests through our baptism, gather up the fragments of a broken world and offer them through Christ to the adoration of the Blessed Trinity.
On the other hand, a world produced randomly, a matter of chance (however 'fortuitous it may appear) possesses no intrinsic worth and is therefore ripe for manipulation, exploitation and deformation. Man in his angst, struggles to 'define' himself in the midst of uncertainty, arbitrariness without purpose, and finishes up consuming himself in his fight for survival. He views the other as his 'original sin' to utilise a phrase from Sartre, his 'hell', the Other is reduced to a threat to his liberty and preservation. Difference is viewed suspiciously and results in division. Such a state of affairs leads us directly to a confrontation between an individual's 'self-interest' and his 'duty/obligation' to those who inhabit the space around him that he must endure.
We have but one end, and that is in the beatific vision of God, our Origin and Hope. Human society must exist in a mode of being reflective of this intra-Trinitarian communion of life and love, of distinct Persons but Who are constituted by unique relations. The Father, the Source of the Godhead brings forth willingly the hypostasis of the Son and breaths forth the Spirit, yet one cannot be imagined without the other. Such must be our attitude and behaviour on a created level, and a failure to actualise this will harm ourselves irreparably. In the Person of the Son, Who comes to us willingly and in obedience to the Father's decree, man becomes capable of finding the other in this one divine hypostasis, realising authentic communion and brotherhood. As we all know, movements which fail to be centered on the Descent of the Logos and His Supreme Oblation are destined to failure. They often degrade man and consider him as a product of the market place, an economic unit, or at best, an individual with biological requirements that must be attained. Only in Christ, does man find his truth, his nature, his personhood.

For this I am indebted to Met. John D. Zizioulas.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

...A Month Later

I have had in the past month a few difficulties in using this site, first of all, the tendency of my internet router to overheat and make a strange squealing sound, and my ever-present inertia. I have returned to university since then which has even further limited my time, but I hope to resume blogging this week. I have had much time to reflect on a few issues so, Deo volente, something worthwhile may appear.

Pax Vobis,