Monday, January 28, 2008

flesh and blood has not revealed this to you

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Dominican theologian, Doctor of the Church
Summa theologiae

The Prince of this world has been cast out

Christ’s miracles were ordained to manifest his divinity. However, this had to remain hidden from the demons, otherwise the mystery of the passion would have been hindered by them: “If they had known the Lord of glory, They would not have crucified him,” (1Cor 2,8). It would seem, then, that Christ should not work miracles over the demons… Yet the prophet Zechariah
predicted these wonders when he cried out: “I will take away the spirit of uncleanness,” (Zec 13,2). Indeed, Christ’s miracles were proofs demonstrating the faith he taught. Now, through the power of his divinity, was it not fitting for him to do away with the demons’ power in those who would believe in him, according to Saint John’s words: “Now the ruler of this world is driven out”? (Jn 12,31). Thus it was fitting that, among his other miracles, Christ should deliver from demons those men who were possessed by them… Besides, Saint Augustine writes: “Christ made himself known to the demons for as long as he wished to do so, and he wished to do so for as long as it was necessary… through certain material consequences of his power.” At the sight of his miracles the devil came to believe through conjecture that Christ was the Son of God: “the demons… knew he was the Christ” says Saint Luke (Lc 4,41). If they confessed he was Son of God, “it was by way of conjecture rather than by way of knowledge,” Saint Bede comments. As for the miracles Christ accomplished when he cast out demons, he did not do these for their own usefulness but for that of men, so that they might give glory to God. That is why he prevented the demons from speaking about anything affecting his praise.
Saint John Chrysostom observes: “It was not fitting that the demons should take to themselves the glory proper to the function of the apostles, nor that lying tongues should preach the mystery of Christ.”

This underscores the truth of how God is revealed to us. Christ said that no one can know the Father but those to whom He is revealed by the Son. The reasoning abilities of created beings (whether human or pure spirit) are insufficient to "know" God. God has to be revealed to us, and we have to accept this revelation through the faith that is also given from God. It makes sense that Satan did not truly know who Jesus was when tempting him in the desert. It's also apparent that the demon in Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34 is limited in knowledge of Christ since it refers to Jesus as "the Holy One of God" - which is truth, but not the whole truth. Christ IS God. In a similar way, Peter reaches that peak of human capacity to understand when in John 6:68-69 he too calls Jesus "the Holy One of God". But Peter's admission is one of total abandonment to Jesus in humility towards the mystery of the Eucharist that just caused so many disciples to leave Jesus in disgust. This humility in asking for and receiving the gift of Faith is the foundation (the Rock) on which the Father places the highest revelation of Truth in Matthew 16:

[13] Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, he asked
his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" [14] And they said,
"Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli'jah, and others Jeremiah or one of
the prophets." [15] He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" [16] Simon
Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." [17] And Jesus
answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not
revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I tell you, you
are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death
shall not prevail against it. [19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of
heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

When the demons claim knowledge of Jesus it is out of self-interest and with hatred - almost an attempt to control their enemy by showing off their special knowledge of who Christ is. This is an easy sin for intellectuals in the Church to fall into, as B16 has pointed out.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

mounted on an ass. on a colt, the foal of an ass.

Compare the following:

"We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world – and actually reintroduce America to ourselves," Sen. Leahy said in the conference call endorsing Barack Obama.
22. The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery
of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to
come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown. (Gaudium et Spes)
If I didn't know any better...

Friday, January 11, 2008

master/slave dichotomy

I had to swipe this from Carl Olsen . This is the Catholic left in a nutshell. Most of them aren't aware of just how locked in they are to a Marxist perspective on the Church and society as a whole. It's hard to "dialogue" on specifics when the structures are built on such disparate foundations.

Cardinal Ratzinger, from Salt of the Earth (Ignatius, 1997):

There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to
power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the
Church. Here is a very concrete example: If I see the Church only under the
aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is
ipso facto oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination,
as an issue of power, becomes imperative, for everyone has to be able to have
power. I think that this ideology, which suspects that everywhere and always
what's at stake is basically power, destroys the feeling of solidarity not only
in the Church but also in human life as such. It also produces a totally false
point of view, as if power in the Church were an ultimate goal. As if power were
the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it.
After all, we are not in the Church to exercise power as if we were in some kind
of association. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the
meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life, hence, real life, true life
as such. Everything else is secondary. If that isn't true, then all "power" in
the Church - which then sinks to the level of a mere association - is nothing
more than an absurd "spectacle". I think we have to escape from this theology of
power and this reduction that derives from Marxist suspicion

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

gaudium et spes, baby!

I'm glad Jesse brought up Revelation (not plural). When one is depressed about how screwy the world is, it helps to read Ch 21 and remember that Jesus Christ will come again to establish the new creation - the octave of our chronotope, if you will. Islam's rise is a logical outcome in many ways to the failure of the West to truly embrace the Gospel and see our salvation in the person of Jesus. Israel had a covenant relationship with God that aspired to the personal but did not fully accept this as a true possibility. Read the Psalms or Song of Songs for a better picture of the dual love (eros and agape) that the Jews yearned for and knew existed in potential. However, the separation between man and Yahweh was bridged by the Law of Moses - the Word on paper. When we put word on paper, there is an immediate separation between author and work. And when someone reads what you write, there's an effort to know the author, but there is still a vast space separating him from you.

Islam took up the Word-based theology of Judaism, but expanded the covenant from with a people, to with the individual. That was and is it's primary draw, for it says that the God of Abraham is now asking the same level of sacrifice from all people. However, though Allah is a "personal God", he is even more distant than Yahweh because he demand pure submission without the hint of dual love characterized by Jewish yearnings.

Why do Muslims reject the Christ of Christianity? Because he called God "Father", declared himself one with the father and thereby brought the divinity down to the level of man and - what's more drastic - in SERVICE of man in a spirit of pure eros and pure agape.

Why did the Jews reject Christ? Jesus sums up the whole conflict of His mission to the Jews and the ultimate reason for the Crucifixion in Matthew 19:

And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to
have eternal life?" [17] And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is
good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
[18] He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not
commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, [19]
Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
[20] The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still
lack?" [21] Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you
possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come,
follow me."

When Jesus says "follow me" he inserts himself into the relationship between God and man. Not just as a judge or King (which the Jews had) but as the human Son of the Father, placing himself as the living fulfillment and purpose of both the Law of Moses and the yearnings for intimacy expressed by David and the prophets. Jesus is the living Word, so when we read Scripture from the heart of the new covenant we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit who allows us to share in the divine life through experiencing the trifecta of faith, hope and love. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians ch 1, "but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, " - and I would add "idolatry to the Muslims."

But worship of God is an ontological need. People can suppress it and dismiss it, but all creation MUST ultimately bow down before the Lord. In Christ we have the opportunity to embrace the Love we're offered now, in our sinfulness, as Mercy. We also have the template for understanding the universe, the purpose of existence, and the nature and destiny of the human body. But we have to humble ourselves before the man Pilate presented as a scourged and humiliated worm and profess him to be the one, true God. This is something Eastern religions have no common reference point with. It is something Jews found to be blasphemous, and something Muslims view as disgusting weakness.

So I say to Nate: have HOPE! Not the Obama kind, but the Revelation kind. No injustice today is greater than that which Christ himself endured. When he comes again we must be of John's mind and know that "every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen." Even when what we have done is shown to us on a mirror we say Amen, because we have faith in Rev 21:

Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.

Monday, January 07, 2008

the violent bear it away

Flannery O'Connor named her second novel after Matthew 11:12, and I found her understanding of its meaning in The Habit of Being.

One thing I observe about the title is that the general reaction is to
think that it has an Old Testament flavor. Even when they read the quotation,
the fact that these are Christ's words makes no great impression. That this is
the violence of love, of giving more than the law demands, of an asceticism like
John the Baptist's, but in the face of which even John is less than the least in
the kingdom - all this is overlooked.

It's a little different than Origen and Ireneus, but it sort of completes my understanding.