Friday, 31 December 2010

The Grace to Pray

I wish to write a short clarification about a matter that annoys me terribly that I have heard or read recently a few times. I would be unwilling to attribute this grave error to heresy, but simply as laxity in theology or lack of due diligence in speech and word.
Too often people will state that God would grant man grace if he were to will it, or that you should pray and God will then come and assist you. The first part is erroneous and the second is ambiguous.
No man can will or do anything truly good without the grace enabling him to carry it out, which as the term 'grace' signifies, is freely given without any consideration of our merits. The divine will is not forced into acting because we have done something worthy of reward independent of His vital assistance. As Saint Augustine states in the Perseverance of the Saints, such a case would be not be 'grace', but the due bestowal of a reward for a work.

Saint Thomas elaborates on this matter in considering the meritorious nature of true prayer:

'' any other virtuous act, is efficacious in meriting, because it proceeds from charity as its root, the proper object of which is the eternal good that we merit to enjoy. Yet prayer proceeds from charity....As to its efficacy in impetrating, prayer derives this from the grace of God to Whom we pray, and Who instigates us to pray. Wherefore Augustine says, He would not urge us to ask, unless He were willing to give; and Chrysostom (Thomas attributes this text to him, not found in his corpus currently) says: He never refuses to grant our prayers since in His loving-kindness He urged us not to faint in praying. Neither prayer nor any other virtuous act is meritorious without sanctifying grace. And yet even that prayer which impetrates sanctifying grace proceeds from some grace, as from a gratuitous gift, since the very act of praying is a gift of God, as Augustine states.'' II-II Q83, A16.

In addition as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange at pains to emphasis in his wonderful work, 'Providence', states, the principle of merit is not itself merited. Sanctifying grace is normally infused at Baptism, where we are plunged into the death of Christ and made a new creation, both of which we have no natural right to. All is of grace and mercy.

''Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us.'' (I John 4:19)

Random Thought

I have never known a man to have more Gods than an atheist.

Against the Faith Movement 1

I believed erroneously that this fanciful theory of the Scotists and supported by the Faith Movement would play no more part on this blog, concerning the Incarnation of the Logos irrespective if man had sinned or not. Having been 'assured' that their position is more than pure unjustified speculation about a hypothetical situation, but rather concerns the eternal plan of God, which they dare to presume to have knowledge of even thought it has not been publicly revealed to man, I must write more. It is my plan now to critique some articles written by the Faith Movement's founder, Fr. Edward Holloway to highlight certain fallacies and mistakes in his thinking on this question, yet extracting what is truly good about some of his beliefs.
I take the first article titled, 'The Son of Man: A Meditation Upon Psalm 8' which was the editorial in their magazine for July/August 1983.

In a recent discussion, where my interlocutor was visibly annoyed by my intransigence, it was mentioned that matter was not superfluous in the plan of God, and Holloway states, 'for matter is not meaningless if it too can be brought near to the Divine through the flesh of the Word made flesh'. After all 'Christ, the Eternal Word of the Father, holds the primacy over all things, because in Him they were all decreed and created. In Him they all cohere together in unity like a great equation of life and being'. However pious this sounds, and it certainly comes from the Sacred Scriptures, especially from Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians, yet there is a fundamental problem with his application of it. In Hebrews 1:2, it is stated that through Jesus Christ, God created the universe. Now, we know that the initial act of creation must occur with time and not in time, consequently there is no before or after with God, Who abides in eternal bliss in the ever-present now Who sees all things at a glance. Therefore when it states that the cosmos was created through Jesus Christ, it can only mean through the Word (Who before the Incarnation in time, was pure spirit), who is the same Person Who descended to earth as Jesus Christ according to His assumed humanity. It refers to the hypostasis, the subsistent reality of the Second Person, as through Whom all things were made. Furthermore, as God the Eternal Father knows Himself and accordingly His effects through the Word, it is through that same Word that man comes to know God. As this eternally existing Logos, along with the Father and the Spirit, He Who Is, man can come to know God intimately, passing to the stage of perfection steadily. If man had overcome the trial of Satan in the Garden, man's love for God would have been manifested, even though in a wonderful condition, he would have joyfully and gratefully accepted his state under God in justice. I believe it was 'necessary' for a trial to be placed before man. This was certainly fitting and God the Just One permitted Satan, who exists still under the sway of the Logos to tempt our first parents. It is according to the nature of man to be man.
Along with Saint Anselm of Canterbury, I state that the only barrier to entry into Heaven and the Blessed Vision of the divine essence is our state of sin. He writes, 'The remission of sins, therefore, is something absolutely necessary for man, so that he may arrive at blessed happiness'. Anything else that the Christ came for such as to teach, or to rule concern our absolution from sin, while correcting our waywardness, illuminating our darkened intellect, and healing our vitiated will, is connected with our fall from the original position of union (yet short of that hoped for in eternity) with God.
Let us return to his statement that matter is not trivial in the creation of God, as he rightly notes that man is a substantial unity of body and soul. It is of the Faith that man's corporal nature will not simply be discarded as a mistake or an irretrievable or failed experiment on the part of God. At the end of time, the same flesh will take on a spiritual quality to reflect and mirror the soul which will shine through in an unspeakable fashion and at the same time, the flesh will find its fulfilment.
To a priest yesterday evening I stated that the Incarnation without sin, although a lovely thought, would be unnecessary, as there nothing inadequate in the creation of the first man. Certainly a movement is required with respect to man, a progress in union with God, but that is according to his nature although a divine gift. When I say 'according to his nature', I refer not to the inherent capability of man who has a right to it, but rather as God is His only end and fulfilment, for Whom he was only created. Even though the Word became flesh to save that which was lost, no ontological change can occur on the part of man. The real dialectic that Father emphasised is not between matter and spirit (or matter/spirit versus pure spirit, in the case of man and the angels) but rather between created and uncreated. However, this is, I believe, a further problem for their position, as it would place, rightly, the angels on the side of man. Would it not be necessary for God, to unite Himself with an angelic nature in order to divinise it? To raise it up further into the life of God? Man may be unique on earth as being made in the image of God, although his likeness to the divine has been defaced, however it is the angels that contain the most affinity to God, with vastly superior intelligences to man. Holloway and his current followers would have further difficulty if they were to accept the Thomist view that the each angel must be its own species as there can no be material differences between them. Even though the angels are most like God, there was an opportunity for them to undergo a movement or the will, some instance of decision to be made before experiences the Beatific Vision, which is incomprehensible for us in this valley of tears. The angel is on the side of creation. Although pure spirit, there is a insurmountable gulf between it and God, therefore it follows that it would be 'fitting' for the divine to unite Himself in some way with the angelic nature. Yet, Holloway states that they 'are divinised by the communion with their totally spiritual natures of the knowledge of God and love of God. The totality of God's gift of being, God's spiritual being , is poured upon the angels directly', this I can consent to. However, next he writes, 'Pure Spirit upon pure spirits. There is no matter in between to hinder the direct work of God, so to say', and this is another area where his errors lie. As I have previously noted, the angels have a closer affinity to God as spirits, yet and crucially so, the divine nature of God is of a fundamentally different 'quality' to that of these creatures. Before God, they are not even worth a grain of sand.
So what is the purpose of matter if it did not need to be 'divinised'? Simply for it to be matter created good in essence by the good God, it in fact remains so, as created, even when assumed by the Descent of the Logos. There is no confusion as Chalcedon states in the hypostatic union. It is not swallowed up or consumed, but remains matter and in that sense, infinitely inferior to the divine nature that assumes it.
On a side note, with Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, I must note that the matter and spirit chosen from all eternity to be the flesh and soul of the Incarnate Christ was elected without on claim on their part. It was according to the mercy and goodness of God, Who had no obligation to elect man to salvation by sending His Son, that this particular matter and spirit, before the ages was chosen for the Deity to dwell bodily.
Matter was created through the Logos Who is the Archtype of all creation, visible and invisible. Matter is not at the far end of an emanation of the One which has no likeness whatsoever to the pure spirit of God. Our corporal nature is the physical manifestation of the interior and essential goodness and beauty of God. It is through this condition that we are capable of relating to others and approaching them. Through the harmony of soul and flesh if man had not fallen, it would have been taken up with the latter to the divine communion of life and love of the Holy Trinity.

*In a later article I wish to develop this point, by further considering their arguments*

To be continued.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

A Christmas Meditation 1

''Misit verbum suum, et sanavit eos, et eripuit eos de interitionibus eorum.'' (Ps 107:20)

There is much one can write concerning this sacred time in our liturgical calender, yet I was unable to fix my mind on anything in particular to sketch a meditation upon. No clear idea entered my mind until this afternoon, when I came across a passage from an Eastern Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky, and this opened up a series of thoughts in my mind, so I have decided to type some out, more or less at random, take whatever is good in it and ascribe honour to God, Who is blessed forever.

In the English language, it is very unfortunate that our term 'salvation' denotes a negative concept. One may often imply 'salvation from something', or have some idea of this. Unlike German (das Heil) or the Latin tongue (salus), English will force the unreflective to adopt this notion. In those other two languages, the term 'salvation' includes a 'wholeness', or 'health', a completion. In our case, it is salvation from hell, we preach.
Our salvation has to consist of more than a Descent of the Logos so that man who be prevented from degrading himself more fully, irrevocably (although, this certainly plays some role). In fact, the katabasis of the Second Person of the most merciful Trinity, enable mans to enter into the divine life of trinitarian love by grace and participation. The kenosis of Jesus our Lord, leads to our fullness. As the Servant of God, Archbishop Sheen used to say, while we came to live, He came to die. This was the purpose of the Incarnation so that we may be absolved from sin, and enter into our Master's joy.
By the assumption of the Sacred Humanity, elected from all eternity by a gratuitous decree of mercy, through and only through the Holy Virgin, the process of man's healing and restoration commences. As Saint Irenaeus wonderful describes, Christ, the Second and true Adam, recapitulates the life of the first, binding up the bounds through His humble obedience to the Father's decree, where Adam strayed.
This salvation is applied to our souls through the laver of regeneration, and the continual renewal of the inner man by the Paraclete, so that we may come to the lot of the saints in light. God in no way simply wishes to declare us just in His Sight, without us truly becoming conformed to the likeness of His Son through Whom we are adopted. Through humility and piety, the soul is stregthened by His graces and blessings, while the Holy Trinity dwells within man freely.
Humility shown, par excellence, in the Incarnation of God, was a favourite theme in the preaching and writings of Saint Augustine of Hippo, and through our frequent meditations on the Descent, let us practice this with ever-increasing ferver. No man can enter heaven unless he be cleansed of all arrogance, which brought the Light Bearer low. By recognising the need for a Saviour, this is the first step.
What we have in the Nativity Scene, is not merely a sentimental image, which allows us to experience a glow within our breast, rather one for which we must have an unbounded gratitude. God although merciful, was in no way, obligated to send His Son to die on behalf of sinful men. The clay that rose up against its Potter, deserved nothing more than to be tossed aside in His just anger. Yet He chose to do so for us.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Random Thought

The lover of self does not love himself enough.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Random Thought

Christ offers us a way through suffering, not around it.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Latin Doctor Quote Of The Day

Saint Ambrose:

''As the modesty of Mary is a pattern for the imitation of all maidens, so also is her humility. She went to see Elizabeth, like one cousin going to visit another, and as the younger to the elder. Not only did she first go, but she first saluted Elizabeth. Now, the purer a virgin is, the humbler ought she to be. She will know how to submit herself to her elders. She that professeth chastity ought to be a very mistress of humility. Lowly-mindedness is at once the very ground in which devotion groweth, and the first and principal rule of its teaching. In this act of the Virgin then we see the greater going to visit and to succour the lesser Mary to Elizabeth, Christ to John.''

Random Thought

Could there be anything more foolish than to declare on the basis of 'reason' that the intelligence of man is produced arbitrarily?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Definition of the Soul

According to Joseph Ratzinger:

''Soul is nothing other than man's capacity for relatedness with truth, with love eternal' (Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Random Thought

There would be no surer sign of reprobation than passing through this life without trial.

Quick Reflection

Tonight in reciting Vespers, I came across a particular line that seems to me to be very apt for our era:

''Quia non relínquet Dóminus virgam peccatórum super sortem justórum: * ut non exténdant justi ad iniquitátem manus suas.''- (Or) ''For the Lord will not leave the rod of sinners upon the lot of the just: * that the just may not stretch forth their hands to iniquity.''

It is important that we recognise the fact that our surrounding culture is not without import. Man, and most especially his children, can not simply refrain from being influenced by trends in society, by pretending it does not exist. The effect on 'public opinion', or more correctly, those who decree with greater force and 'certainty' than any Pope could, what the populace believe or should believe in order to truly exist as a civilised nation can not be understated. The language that they use often has the intention to shut down all possible rebuttal to their claims to truth, through labelling dissenters as irrational or acting contrary to progress. Yet, when pressed, they are unable to state unequivocally of what this so-called 'amelioratisation' of the human condition consists They only utter with fury, vague transcendental values of 'justice', 'equality' and 'liberty'. Which begs the simple question, 'What the heck do you do with them?' Liberty to do what? Equality of what? These implicitly contain philosophical criteria which the world is often suspicious of, whereas these positions they hold dear are completely unfounded on the basis of atheistic secularism. Let us not be deputed by their falsehoods.
The disastrous attempt to mechanicalise humanity has resulted in a de-humanization and objectification of the person. The sceptre of the wicked has been exalted over man who blindly embraces their pretensions of 'hope'. I believe that the worse thing is not for man to be fallen, but for man to think himself upright, while he actually crawls on his knees in the dirt.
Through Filioque , I do not wish to engage in political theory, but we as Catholics must acknowledge the fundamental animosity of the 'world' to our Faith. A simple attempt to situate Christianity within the dominant worldview (which has been tried constantly since the Council) will merely prove futile and will dilute the Church of her force and destroy the salvation she offers by the Precious Blood of Christ.
May the good Lord protect us from falling into their traps and modes of thinking. Let us present the true Faith of our Saviour with great joy, offering up prayers at all times for sinners, so that as many as possible may enter into our Master's joy.

Random Thought

What prevents us from committing graver sins, is often not lack of malice, but lack of opportunity or courage.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Urgent Prayer Request

I ask with gratitude in advance, for prayers for the cousin of a dear friend of mine, who has attempted to commit suicide. Her condition seems to be stable at the moment, although the next day will be crucial. May she recover soon and taste the sweet mercy of our God.

Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Refuge of Sinners, pray for her.

A Question for the Faith Movement and Their Adherents.

If the chief end of man is to rest in God, what profit will it be for God to become man if our deification is not applied, but remains in principle? If grace can be resisted (in whatever mode), the effects of the Cross may possibly remain fruitless, and any incarnation would be in vain. After all, you would end up with God as man, and man as a beast...

In itself, the gracious mercy of God in descending the womb of the Theotokos in order to die is not enough.

REPOST: Saint Augustine on Divine Election

The great Doctor's doctrine of predestination is often unpalatable to our modern era where a vague, superficial hope of salvation for all men without even the necessary metanoia on man's part dominates Catholic thought. The Augustinian scholar, Gerald Bonner regarded the last period of the Bishop of Hippo's life as having been a terrible mistake, preferring for him to have toned down his ever-increasing 'harshness' against the heretic Julian, in favour of a more balanced and 'compassionate' theory on such a mystery.
However uncompromising it may seem to some, the Saint's position is, for the most part at least, compatible with the Catholic Faith, regardless of the horror some may have in likening it to Calvin's.

First of all, we must state that God is under no obligation to save any man whatsoever. In creating us as Lord, He does not assume a 'moral responsibility' to man in the same sense that we have to each other. He is Lord of life and death, the Holy One in our midst. Especially as a consequence of man falling from his state of union with God, we find ourselves in a perilous situation, where hearts are hardened, evil is openly promoted and defended, and man is left with an aberrant attachment to his foul misery. The true mystery is that He elects to save even a remnant of sinful man:

'There was one lump of perdition out of Adam to which only punishment was due; from this same lump, vessels were made which are destined for honour. For the potter has authority over the same lump of clay (Romans 9:21). What lump? The lump that had already perished, and whose just damnation was already assured. So be thankful that you have escaped! You have escaped the death certainly due to you, and found life, which was not due to you. The potter has authority over the clay from the same lump to make one vessel for honour and another for contempt...(They) have deserved nothing good; but the potter has authority over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel for honour, and the other for contempt'

As we heard from the divine Paul on Sunday, let us rejoice for the hope to which we have been called. As so chosen, He called them, so called, He justified them, so justified, He glorified them.

Even though, as blessed Augustine states the Lord is supreme and no one may argue with his just decree, 'Who are you who argues with God?' (Romans 11:33), man's condition is far more complex than the seemingly capriciousness of God's will Who (arbitrarily) elects one man (on no basis of foreseen merit) while passivly opting out of decreeing eternal glory for another. Man possesses a will that is free in some sense, yet severely subject to the effects of our initial apostasy from justice. But it is of Catholic Faith that we acknowledge the presence of a free will in man, which is inalienable to his constitution. Contrary to Calvin, who wrote, 'For not all are created in equal condition; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any person has been directed to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him or her as predestined to life or to death'. The later aspect of this quotation is where the error lies. God predestines no one to eternal shame. If He truly wishes for the salvation of all, His 'desire' must exceed a 'pious hope' or sentimentality.
Yet why does He elect one man to grace, while passing over another, who like the first is in no more need of eternal damnation. Both are sinners and deserving of punishment. It may be, that God could be said to love one man more than other. We should not understand this in the sense that God comes to 'appreciate' a value of a person's actions, enticing Him to grant bliss.After all, the goodness of man only consists in the fact that He has been brought forth from nothing by the lavish mercy and goodness of God, sharing in some way in His life. If the former were true, salvation would not be considered a grace or a mercy, but a debt due to the performance of a worthy deed. If we say that God loves one more than another, we must understand by this that He, justly and without any whim in volition, elects for one to a higher and more fitting (to a rational being) end than another. He hates nothing of His own making. However, if we wish not to err, a judgement on our part must be withheld out of reverence for His most holy decrees.
I truly believe that if God willed to bring about the salvation of man, He would do so. Surely, Stuart, you must posit the pivotal element in man, his will, for consideration? God can drag no man to heaven, His love would burn rather than console.
Certainly I consent to this interjection. Yet, as He foresees all conditions of men, their free decisions as efficient causes, the situation He places them in, the fact that nothing happens on the face of the earth that His will does not permit (or least His permissive will), we must assert that all could have been saved. Whether you assent to the position of the Thomists, Molinists or any other school, one must approbate the truth that God is sole master of the cosmos, His will being unfrustrated. The 'mode' of His salvation remains the mystery. For the Molinist, one may say that grace becomes efficacious simply as the free will consents. We see the transition from sufficient to efficacious by the approval of the will of man. Such a view seems to have 'common sense' behind it, yet it is no more 'compassionate' in bringing more men to salvation than does, Thomism (or Augustinianism). Or for the Thomist, the free will consents as the grace is intrinsically efficacious.
We are left with the conundrum however why God does not organise events in such a way that a person be more disposed to accepting the grace? A child brought up in the fear of the Lord, with saintly parents, a devout holy parish priest, the reception of baptism and living in a time without utter scandal in the Church, is more likely to endure faithfully to the end than the average person.
Lastly, I will insert an extract from Augustine on the issue of the so-called 'irrestible grace', which I prefer to call efficacious for the sake of not been misunderstood, or as being labelled a Calvinist. Although I have read the term 'assault' used for God's activity in approaching man, converting the will to Himself (operating grace), we must do away with any notion of 'unjustified violence' which destroys the liberty of man. On a side note, our free will is only given so that man may freely love and choose to serve the Good. Saint Thomas Aquinas states rightly, that the souls of the elect in paradise do not turn from their bliss, (unlike in Origenism, before falling to earth) as they have achieved the end they long for. The intellect was created purely for coming to know God with a joy that even surpasses all expectation.

The Doctor of Grace continues:

'Now two kinds of assistance are to be distinguished. On the one hand, there is an assistance without which something does not come about, and on the other there is the assistance by which something does come. We cannot live without food, but the fact that food is available will not keep people alive if they want to die. But in the case of blessedness, when it is bestowed on people who are without it they become perpetually blessed. Now Adam was created upright, in a state of good; he was given the possibility of not sinning, the possibility of not dying, the possibility of not losing that state of good: and in addition, he was given the assistance of perseverence, not so that by this assistance it might come about that he should in fact persevere, but because without it he could not persevere through his own will. Now in the case of the saints who are predestined to the kingdom of God by the grace of God, the assistance of perseverence which is given is not that (granted to the first man), but that kind which brings the gift of actual preseverence. It is not just that they cannot persevere without this gift; once they have received this gift, they can do nothing except persevere.'.

Yet, one must recognise the truth that one man may come to 'salvation' temporally, then fade from the Faith and an upright life, as Ezechial says, he will die for his sins. As noted here, sufficient grace was given to Adam yet he denied himself the fruits of it. This, I believe, is given to all men by God Who wills the salvation of all. Such is the mystery of the will and providence of God, to Whom be power and glory for ever in the Holy Church.