Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nearly Done

I am nearing completion of the last course (aside from my directed research) for the MA in theology program at Holy Apostles. I have a paper to submit this evening (after my wife has a chance to give it a once over), and a final next Friday. Then on to the thesis!

I'm posting some of the papers I've written this semester (but not this week's assignment). I suspect I will be posting a lot more when my reading will call for more personal reflection. I'm looking forward to finishing this program and moving on to the next big thing (diaconal ordination) and then the next big thing after that (Ph.D.).

And someday, I might just be able to teach again.

Relations of Distinction

By human reason, we can come to know God’s existence, can recognize His external acts, and can deduce His attributes. Outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the pagan Greek philosophers had already deduced the oneness of God (in contradistinction to their own pantheon) as well as many of His perfections as the source of all being.[1] The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that it is within mankind’s natural gifts to come to knowledge of God’s existence (CCC 35; also Denizinger 1785, 1806), and our theological traditions attest to this truth. Yet this knowledge of God comes from observation and reflection on this material world. It can only address the effects of God and the necessary powers to induce those effects. What our reflection cannot penetrate is the inner life of God. For that we require a testimony. For that, we require revelation.

Catholic theology tells us that there are three absolute mysteries of our faith: the Trinity, the Incarnation, and divine grace.[2] They are called absolute mysteries because no created intellect can comprehend them, not even the angels or souls in beatitude. We know of these mysteries only because God has chosen, in His goodness, to reveal Himself through scripture, through the words of His prophets, and finally, through the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus Christ. Through the words of Christ as reported by the evangelists and the teachings of the Apostle Paul, we see allusions to the mystery of the Trinity. In the two infancy accounts from Matthew and Luke, each gospel points toward the personal in God in the unusual circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth. However, our first glimpse into the relational life of the Trinity is given to us in the unanimous witness in all four gospels of the account of Jesus’ baptism. In the three synoptic gospels, the evangelists relate that the heavens open, Jesus sees the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove, and He hears the Father speaking the words of affirmation. In the Gospel of John, the evangelist relates what is more of an eyewitness account by John the Baptist:
“I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him, I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and born witness that this is the Son of God.” (1:32–34, RSV).
The final verses of the Gospel according to Matthew also attest to three persons: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19). St. Paul, too, attests to the persons of the Father and the Son (Romans 8:32) and also to the Holy Spirit given to us as gift (Romans 5:5). Scripture, then, gives one sufficient witness of the Persons in God, yet still there is little to explain how One is Three.

Much of the early doctrine on the Trinity comes by way of the works of the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Augustine.[3] The early councils of the Church and their resulting creeds teach two processions within God (Denzinger 86). The work of the early Church Father mentioned above help the faithful to understand that these processions correspond to the two internal activities of God, thinking and willing. In respect to these processions, St. Augustine wrote, “For the mind cannot love itself, except also it know itself; for how can it love what it does not know?” (9, 3, 3) This first procession, that of knowing, is called generation, and the second, that of willing or loving, spiration. The result of each procession is a Person, yet a Person sharing the same Divine nature as the origin and subsisting in that nature. What does this mean for a Person to subsist in the Divine nature?

As St. Thomas notes in Summa Theologica, a person as defined by Boethius is “an individual substance of a rational nature” (I. 29. 1). One typically thinks of an individual substance as a discrete being, and in creatures this identification would be correct. However, in God, being or nature is not discrete but communal and possessed by three Hypostases. Thus,
[B]ecause subsistence in a rational nature is of high dignity, therefore every individual of the rational nature is called a “person.” Now the dignity of the divine nature excels every other dignity; and thus the name “person” pre-eminently belongs to God. (I.29.3)
These persons in the Divine Being are not distinct by nature, but only by way of the relation each has to the origin. Ott explains that relation indicates an ordination or ordering of one thing to another and describes three elements in a relation: principle (origin), aim (term), and the basis of the relation (fundamentum).[4] The Father is the origin. The Son is generated from the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Son. These Persons, then, are said to signify relations in God, or as St. Thomas averred, “Therefore a divine person signifies a relation as subsisting” (I.29.4).

We count three Persons in the Trinity, yet the Church teaches four real relations in the Trinity. To understand this teaching, one must go back to the notion of the processions. Two processions result from the two activities in God. The first is called generation. Fr. Kenneth Baker describes generation as “the origin of a living being from another living being, both having the same nature.”[5] In the Divine generation, the intellect of God knows Itself, and this knowledge of self produces a perfect image, the Word. In this generation, there is a principle, the Father, and a term, the Son. As two Persons result, they exist in relation to one another. As the Father generates the Son, His relation to Son is called paternity. This relation is the action of the principle toward the Son. St. Thomas notes, citing Augustine, that real relation in God can only be based on action because there is no quantity in God (I.28.4). From this action moving from origin to term, two relations result. The first, paternity, identifies the origin as Father. The second relation is referred to as filiation because the term of generation (the Son) is a Person of the same nature as the Father. As the Angelic Doctor explains, “two opposite relations arise; one of which is the relation of the person proceeding from the principle; the other is the relation of the principle Himself” (I.28.4).

The next procession results from an act of will, specifically an act of mutual love between Father and Son.[6] The Father is the origin, but the action takes part on behalf of both Father and Son. The term of the action is the Holy Spirit. While the scriptural basis for this teaching is clear, it was nonetheless a source of controversy in the ninth century, when a patriarch, Photius, rejected the teaching as heretical.[7] Yet scripture states that all that the Father has, He has given the Son (John 16:16) and that the Son (John 15:26, 16:7) sends the Holy Spirit who has proceeded from the Father. If the Father has given the Son everything, then He has given the procession of the Holy Spirit as well. Hence, this action moves from the Father and Son as a single principle,[8] and results in the Holy Spirit as term. Again, as with the first procession, two real relations result. First, is the action of the Father and Son as a single principle, which has come to be known as spiration,[9] as it results in a term, the Holy Spirit. In this process, the action is referred to as the relation of active spiration, while the term or recipient of action is called the relation of passive spiration. All together, we have four real relations in God: Father to Son, Son to Father, Father and Son to Holy Spirit, and Holy Spirit to Father and Son.[10]

At this point, one can acknowledge four relations, but within a single being, how are these relations real rather than just logical relations—that is, actual relations or just a means by which we think about and compare two things? St. Thomas points out that when something proceeds from a principle of the same nature, the relation is not simply logical but real (I.28.1). Thus in the Trinity are four real relations. Yet, if there are four real relations, why is God triune rather than quadruple? The answer to this question lies in the nature of the relations. Relations imply distinction, and in the Godhead, there exist principles and terms in opposition to each other. In the first procession (generation), Father is opposed to Son in that one (the principle) is active, and the other (Son), passive. In the second procession (spiration), the Father and Son are active as one principle, and the passive spiration of the Holy Spirit is opposed to them. Active spiration is opposed to passive spiration but not to the Father and the Son. Thus it is not distinct from them.[11] So while the real relation of active spiration exists, it does not result in a person distinct from the other Persons of the Trinity.

By reason, we can know God, but only through revelation can we know of His internal life. Through the Incarnation, we come to know three Divine Persons, the Unbegotten, the Begotten, and the Love between them: three Persons from four real relations in One Divine Being.

1. “Aristotle,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. October 21, 2005. http://www.iep.utm.edu/
aristotl/ (accessed November 7, 2011); also Carl Huffman, “Pythgoreanism,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2010/entries/pythagoreanism/ (accessed November 7, 2011).

2. Kenneth Baker, Fundamentals of Catholicism, (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1983) 79.

3. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974) 68.

4. Ott, 67–68.

5. Baker, 93.

6. Ott, 66.

7. Ibid., 62–63.

8. Ibid.

9. Baker, 98

10. Ibid., 101.

11. Ibid., 102.


Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. “Summa Theologica, Prima Pars.” New Advent. 2000. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1027.htm (accessed October 6, 2011).

“Aristotle.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. October 21, 2005. http://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/ (accessed November 7, 2011).

Augustine. “On the Trinity.” New Advent. Edited by Phillip Schaff. 1887. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130104.htm (accessed October 7, 2011).

Baker, Kenneth. Fundamentals of Catholicism. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1983.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1997.

Denzinger, Henry. The Sources of Catholic Dogma. Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 1954.

Huffman, Carl. “Pythgoreanism.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Summer 2010. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2010/
entries/pythagoreanism/ (accessed November 7, 2011).

Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974.

Intellect and Will: Two Divine Processions

In 879, a council in Constantinople under the Patriarch Photius rejected the Filioque (the statement concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son) as heretical. The Synod of Toledo in 447 had added the words “and the Son” to the Nicene-Constantinople Creed to signify the procession of the Holy Spirit in one spiration from a single principle, an expression of doctrine that was held or confirmed by councils, synods, doctors, and popes in the four centuries preceding Photius’s condemnation.[1] Did Photius have a point? Did anything in the history of the Church justify a schism on such grounds? Did Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition point to a different expression of the divine processions? What exactly was the perpetual teaching of the Church regarding the processions of Son and Holy Spirit?

The Church has proclaimed the procession of Son and Holy Spirit from the Father in its creeds going back to the Council of Constantinople in 381 (Denzinger 86). As Fr. Kenneth Baker summarizes,
The Church teaches in this matter that in God there are two internal divine processions. By ‘procession’ is meant to origin of one from another…. [C]reatures proceed from God by external procession, but the Son and the Holy Spirit proceed by an immanent act of the Most Holy Trinity, since they belong to the internal life of God.[2]
The Church’s proclamation of this truth, of course, did not stand on a single pronouncement but upon the living tradition of the faith as expressed in its scripture and tradition, and attested to in the liturgy of the Church and the words of the Church Fathers and Doctors. While both processions originate in the Father, they differ in act and relation. While the Son is begotten and proceeds by generation, the Holy Spirit proceeds by spiration. In the developing theology concerning these processions, which both Latin and Greek churches accepted and to which they attested, two different views arose and expressed differing emphases, which were later the seeds of misinterpretation leading to the Photian schism.

The oneness of the Trinity had been long affirmed by the creeds, and the doctrine concerning the procession of the Son had developed during the Christological debates of the fourth century. Specifically, the Nicene-Constantinople Creed states the following concerning the second Person of the Trinity:
[We believe in] one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made…. (Denzinger 86, bracketed content added)
The Son is unique in His relationship with the Father as the only begotten. Begetting is the procession proper to the Son and is also referred to as generation. St. Thomas describes this unique procession in Summa Theologica as that kind of generation which involves “what proceeds by way of similitude in the same specific nature” (I, 27, 2). While there is generation of a kind in which an effect proceeds from a cause, as Arius took Jesus’ procession to be (ST I, 27, 1), such a procession does not necessarily entail a procession by way of similitude. The Council of Nicea ended speculation along such lines by declaring the Son homoousious or consubstantial with the Father. As such, His procession can only be by way of similitude, as St. Thomas describes in Question 27, Article 2.

This generation of similitude is well attested in scripture. First, there is the literal claim of generation of Jesus in the annunciation narrative of Luke: “And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’” (1:35). In the Gospel according to John, Jesus frequently alludes to His relationship with the Father: “But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me” (5:36), or again in 8:54: “Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.” Finally, perhaps the most oft quoted of all gospel passages speaks directly to Jesus as One Who is sent: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:14). In the book of Hebrews, the author interprets Psalm 2:7 in light of Christ’s revelation of Himself as Son: “For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee’?” (1:5).

That He proceeds from the Father, then, is clear in revelation. The question, then, becomes how He proceeds. How does His identity as the Word point to the nature of this procession? We understand His procession to be by way of generation as one like the Father of the same essence. In the Gospel According to John, we hear of the Word being with God and also God (1:1). John employs the Greek word λογος (logos), which carries with it more than the mere notion of the spoken word but of word as concept or idea. In On the Trinity, St. Augustine establishes a foundational notion of Son as the knowledge God (as mind) has of Himself: “For the mind cannot love itself, except also it know itself; for how can it love what it does not know?” (9, 3, 3) St. Thomas develops this idea further, noting that the Son proceeds by way of generation: “He proceeds by way of intelligible action, which is a vital operation:—from a conjoined principle (as above described):—by way of similitude, inasmuch as the concept of the intellect is a likeness of the object conceived” (ST I, 27, A2). The Son’s procession, then, is an act of intellect. He is the thought of God in God’s mind, the perfect Imago Dei possessing all that the Father has.

While the Son proceeds by generation, the Holy Spirit does not. There cannot be two different words of God or two distinct intellectual acts of self recognition in the Father. The Holy Spirit’s name alludes to the form of His procession. The word “spirit” comes from Latin spirare, which means to breathe or blow. In Genesis 1:2 is the first image of the Holy Spirit, the ruah (spirit or breath in Hebrew) that “moves over the face of the waters.” He is the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20) and is spoken of in Matthew 28:19 as equal to the Father. In John 15:26, Jesus speaks of the Spirit as being sent by and proceeding from the Father. Yet He is also the Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6) and the Spirit of God and Christ (Romans 8:9).

Unlike the Word, an act of intellection by the Father, the Spirit proceeds by way of an act of the will. St. Augustine is first credited with the notion of the Spirit's procession as an act of the Divine Will[4] and also as the Love of God.[5] St. Thomas develops this notion of Spirit as an act of will in Summa Theologica: “Thus the procession of the intellect is by way of similitude, and is called generation, because every generator begets its own like; whereas the procession of the will is not by way of similitude, but rather by way of impulse and movement towards an object” (I, 27, 4). This willful impulse is the intense love between Father and Son, which manifests itself in this third Person of the Trinity.

While the procession of the Son is by generation, the Church teaches that the procession of the Holy Spirit occurs by spiration. Described in scripture as both the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, sent also by Father and Son (John 15:26, 16:7), it follows that the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son, the very point disputed by Photius, as mentioned above. St. Augustine notes the visible sign of this procession in John 20:22: “For that bodily breathing, proceeding from the body with the feeling of bodily touching, was not the substance of the Holy Spirit, but a declaration by a fitting sign, that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son” (4, 20, 29). Ott affirms, citing John 16:15, this procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son as from a single principle and a single spiration and notes the testimony of both Greek and Latin Fathers, as well the affirmation in various creeds and by synods and councils from the fifth century and up to the Council of Lyons in 1274.[6] While the Latin Fathers preferred the expression “from the Father and the Son,” the Greek Fathers employed a more subordinating expression, “from the Father through the Son.”[7] Yet these two formulations in no way contradict each other but express different theological understandings of the very same operation.

While the question of the Filioque still stands as one of the primary points of disagreement between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, we can see in the writing of the early Church Fathers a clear understanding of two processions: one by generation and the other by spiration. From the testimony of scripture, we can discern the double procession of Spirit from Father and Son (whether expressed in coordination or subordination). From the works of Augustine and St. Thomas, we come to understand the processions as acts of Divine Intellect and Divine Will: two processions, three Persons, One God.

1. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974), 62–63.

2. Kenneth Baker, Fundamentals of Catholicism (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1983), 90.

3. J. Lebreton, (1910). The Logos. Retrieved October 7, 2011, from The Catholic Encyclopedia: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09328a.htm.

4. George Joyce, “The Blessed Trinity,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm (accessed October 2, 2011).

5. Augustine, “Of Faith and the Creed,” New Advent, Phillip Shaff ed, 1887, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1304.htm (accessed October 8, 2011).

6. Ott, 62–64.

7. Ibid.


Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas. “Summa Theologica, Prima Pars.” New Advent. 2000. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1027.htm (accessed October 6, 2011).

Augustine. “Of Faith and the Creed.” New Advent. Edited by Phillip Shaff. 1887. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1304.htm (accessed October 8, 2011).

—. “On the Trinity.” New Advent. Edited by Phillip Schaff. 1887. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130104.htm (accessed October 7, 2011).

Baker, Kenneth. Fundamentals of Catholicism. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1983.

Denzinger, Henry. The Sources of Catholic Dogma. Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications, 1954.

Joyce, George. “The Blessed Trinity.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1912. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm (accessed October 2, 2011).

Lebreton, Jules. “The Logos.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1910. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09328a.htm (accessed October 7, 2011).

Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Household of God: a Six-Week Bulletin Series

NOTE: I'm still tweaking the layout to mimic the hardcopy. Blogger isn't exactly uniform in its use of CSS. Please forgive the odd spacing and alignment.

INTRODUCTION

How often have you heard the term “Household of God” in sermons or scripture readings? Do you think of a big church with a massive altar and ethereal lighting?



Is this what you think of when you hear the words “Household of God”? It could be much simpler and much greater than that.

Jesus, in the Gospel according to John, says, “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (14:2) We understand the Father’s House to be Heaven. But what if the Household of God isn’t only something we wait to see but also where we live right now?

As Catholic Christians, we believe that we have been adopted into God’s family. St. Paul writes frequently of our status as children of God, “no longer a slave, but a son [or daughter], and if a son, then an heir” (Galatians 4:7). Jesus Himself frequently uses parables about family relationships to explain how God cares for us, forgives us, gives His gifts to us, and gives His own Son to die for us. So we, right now, as God’s adopted children are part of this Household of God—one Divine family.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore what it means to be part of the family of God and how it is expressed in our church, particularly in how the Apostle Paul reveals to us how we are to live as sons and daughters of God the Father, as brothers and sisters of Jesus, and as a truly Christian family.

BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM

Paul talks about the relationship between Jesus and the Church much like the relationship between a man and woman in marriage.



Does our love for Christ seem like the love for a betrothed? Christ’s love for us is like that.



This image is not new in Christianity. The People of Israel were often depicted as the bride of God throughout scripture, most notably in Song of Songs, but also in the works of prophets like Isaiah and Hosea. However, the People of Israel were frequently not a faithful bride, so the image of God as bridegroom was one of constancy in the face of rejection.

Jesus also used the image of a bridegroom in parables to speak of Himself: as one for whom the wise and foolish virgins wait in Matthew 25; as the Son of a king who has prepared a wedding feast in Matthew 22; and as a bridegroom with whom His followers celebrate in Matthew 9:15 and Mark 2:18. However, the letters of Paul really develop this image of Jesus and what His sacrifice means for the faithful.
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of the church of Corinth as if he were a jealous father guarding his betrothed daughter: “I feel a divine jealously for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her husband” (11:2). Paul wanted to give the Corinthian church completely to Christ and wanted their commitment to the gospel to match his fervor.

In Ephesians, Paul compares a husband’s commitment to his wife to that of Christ to His Church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (5:25–26). A husband’s love for his wife is supposed to be self-sacrificial, just as Christ sacrificed Himself for His Church. This, Paul says, is a mystery, that two shall become one (5:31–32).




In Colossians 3:18, we see the often misunderstood exhortation that wives be subject to their husbands. But the same exhortation occurs in Ephesians in a different context. Couples are to submit to each other mutually (Ephesians 6:21). So marriage is not about one having power over another, but of a mutual self giving. The relationship between Christ and Church should be the same. Christ empties Himself out for us, so we should empty ourselves out and be filled by Him.



CHURCH AS GOD’S HOUSE

We talk about the Church as God’s household, and we sometimes refer to our individual chapels as “God’s house.” However, the Greek word ekklesia, which we translate as “church,” actually means “assembly.” Still, Paul talks about the Church as if it were a building project—something we construct as a community together.

As Raymond Collins notes in “The Power of Images in Paul,” Paul writes in both 1 Corinthians and Romans about laying foundations on which others build. “For no other foundation can anyone lay,” Paul writes, “than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). And in Ephesians, Paul writes that those in the Church are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19–21).

Paul’s words allude to passages in Hebrew scripture that prophesy Christ’s coming. In Isaiah, the prophet writes, “therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'He who believes will not be in haste’” (Isaiah 28:16). And again in Zechariah, the prophet writes, “Out of them [the house of Judah] shall come the cornerstone, out of them the tent peg, out of them the battle bow, out of them every ruler” (Zechariah 10:4). The Lord says, of these people, “I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them” (10:6).

Jesus is the cornerstone of the foundation built on the apostles and prophets, and we are the bricks that make up walks, the timbers that support the roof, the tiles that keep out sun and rain. But we’re also the builders, constructing the house where God lives and comes to us.


BROTHERS AND SISTERS

Adelphoi—this Greek word means “brothers” or “brethren” and is usually now translated as “brothers and sisters.” It is hands down one of the most common ways that Paul refers to the faithful throughout his letters. In fact, the word adelphoi occurs 18 times in the “Letter of Paul to the Romans” alone!



Everyone has their place in a family, and each person plays a part in making a home. As Christians and Catholics, we need to value each other as family, each of us playing a different part.

One of the hallmarks of early Christianity was the devotion that members of the community exhibited to each other, as if all were members of an extended family. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His apostles that people will know them by their love for one another (John 13:35). Tertullian, a third-century father of the early Church, made mention of the reactions of the non-Christian gentiles to Christian communities in his writings: “‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another,’ for themselves are animated by mutual hatred”

Raymond Collins notes how often Paul relies on kinship language in his letters to convey the attitude Christians should have toward one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ! We need to act like it and love one another!

Sometimes Catholics and Christians act a little too much like brothers and sisters.



In the opening of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul stresses kinship bonds: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1:10). Paul is saying what should be obvious to all of us. Brothers and sisters should be building each other up and supporting each other, not tearing each other down.

Without love, we are merely noisy gongs or clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1). To Paul, this brotherly love is the essence of Christian life, and the kind of love that our Savior showed for us in life and death.



HOUSE RULES

What would your house look like if it operated with no rules? It would be a bit chaotic, wouldn’t it?



Every home has rules of one kind or another, and Paul most definitely had some opinions about what kinds of rules a Christian home should have. In fact, he has two separate lists of rules that have been given a special name by scripture scholars: Haustafel, which means “household code” in German. (1 Peter 2–3 also has one such list.)

We’ve already talked about some of these rules and how they relate to husbands and wives. Paul stresses mutual self-giving and sacrifice: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Of course, Paul talks about the obligations children: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (6:1). But he also talks about the obligation of fathers to rule the home justly: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord” (6:4). He even adds a word about how slaves and slave owners should act toward one another. (Keep in mind that slavery was very common and accepted in Paul’s time.) Every person in the house has obligations toward every other person. We also have obligations to work as if we’re serving God (Colossians 3:23). Our work should always be an offering to our Lord.
Paul knew, as the Church today knows, that charity begins at home. The Church sees the family as the fundamental place where Christian living is modeled and taught. It even refers to the family as the Ecclesia domestica or “domestic church” (CCC 1655).

Our house rules are one way that we can teach the values that our faith preaches. We learn to act lovingly in a loving home. From there, we need to go out and be Christ’s love to the world.


Our house rules don’t put up barriers between us. They make it so that we can live together in peace and harmony.



IT’S A BIG, BIG HOUSE…

“In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (John 14:2). When we hear this verse, I think many of us often conjure up an image of a sprawling mansion with manicured gardens and lawns. But Jesus was also giving as an image of community and inclusivity.


How do you picture the Father’s house? A castle? A country cottage? What does our image say about what we value?


For Paul, this sense of Christian community was paramount. One of the problems he seems to be responding to in 1 Corinthians 11 is that the people were making distinctions based on wealth or social rank, and that some members of the church weren’t sharing table fellowship with those of other social classes during meals held before the liturgy. “[D]o you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” he writes (11:22). To Paul, such divisions were a desecration of the Eucharistic celebration.

In other letters such as 2 Thessalonians, Paul is concerned with false teachings that set up divisions among Christians, or in factionalism caused by Judaizers (Galatians) or by spiritual elitism (1 Corinthians 1:11–13). Paul frequently reminded the churches he founded that there is only one gospel and one body of Christ. All members need to work together for the good of the whole.

Sadly, internal division hasn’t gone away in our own time. Too often our Church is divided by disagreements about doctrinal orthodoxy, social teaching, or proper liturgical practice. Disagreements may be inevitable, but we need to accept each other where we are and continue to help each other on the road to salvation—like one big family. We should always teach the truth but do so with love.


There’s room for everyone at the table, but we need to mind our manners and act with love.


The word “Catholic” comes from the Greek word katholicos, which means “universal.” That word reflects the many cultures, rites, and expressions found in the Church today. God’s house, the Church, is big and all embracing. There is room for all of us here.



WORKS CITED

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1997.
Collins, Raymond F. The Power of Images in Paul. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Horton, Fred L., Kenneth G. Hoglund and Mary F. Foskett. A Basic Vocabulary of Biblical Studies For Beginning Students: A Work in Progress. 2011. 6 August 2011 .
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.
“Lexical Concordance.” The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. First Edition. Newport: The Apostolic Press, 2006.
Tertullian. “Apologeticum.” 1 June 2005. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 5 August 2011 .


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Galatia: A Celtic Island in the Anatolian Desert

This essay was for an assignment for New Testament Letters. I'm finished with the course work and now just have to take the final. Then two more classes, and all course work will be finished!
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About 13 years after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Paul left Syrian Antioch and began what would be the first of three missionary journeys. To say that Paul’s journey was difficult is an understatement. Driven out of Iconium by a Jewish mob (Acts 13:50) and stoned by another in Lystra (Acts 14: 19), the Apostle certainly had what most of us would consider “enough.” Yet it is during this time that he established some of the first Gentile Christian communities among the cities of Galatia. Paul says very little about the Galatians except in regard to their gracious reception of him and their early acceptance of the faith. In his references to their lack of knowledge of God (Gal. 4:8), one can assume that the Galatians were pagan prior to their conversion. He praises them for their hospitality in receiving him in his illness (Gal. 4:12–14), but very little else is offered of the inhabitants of this region. Acts likewise has very little to say about this intriguing Celtic people who lived in the rough, desolate land of central Anatolia.[i]

During the time of the Roman occupation of Asia Minor and Judea, Galatia extended from the coastal regions of Bithynia and Pontus in the north nearly to the southern Mediterranean coast of Anatolia.[ii] It included parts of Phrygia, Lyconia, Pisidia (including Pisidian Antioch, which was sometimes considered part of Phrygia)[iii], and parts of other surrounding regions. The Galatia of Paul’s time corresponded with this larger political entity and included many of the cities where Paul preached: Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, to name a few (Acts 13–14). The central region of Galatia was bleak and barren, with harsh, cold winters and hot, dry summers. The inhabitants eked out a living producing wool, carving tombstone, and vintaging wine. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor suggests that wine may have made life in such harsh climes a bit more bearable for the Galatians but contributed little to the economy.[iv]

The Roman province of Galatia took its name from the earlier region settled by Gaulish migrants called Galatai[v] or Keltoi by the Greeks or Galli by the Romans,[vi] while in modern parlance, they would be called Celts. The Gauls had been pushing east for some time and had made contact with the empire of Alexander the Great by 335 B.C. but made no serious incursions into Greece until well after his death, sometime around 281, when an army led by Bolgios defeated King Ptolemy Ceraunas of Macedonia.[vii] following this victory, internal squabbles led to the fragmentation of the army. One part, led by leaders Brennus and Acichorios, decided to take their game to Delphi and loot the shrines there, but they were defeated decisively.[viii] The original army led by Bolgios was defeated in Thrace. A third branch led by Leonorius and Lutarius chose a different route, passing through Thrace, but crossing over to Asia Minor at the invitation of Nicomedes of Bithynia.[ix]

One could certainly question the thinking of Nicomedes in this instance. After all, the Galatai had already separated Ptolemy’s kingly head from the rest of him and had also gone on to wreak terror among the Greeks in Delphi. However, Nicomedes had his own concerns. His brother Zipoetes had been causing him problems at home, and his neighbor to the southeast, Antiochus I of Seleucia, also had designs on his territory. Negotiating through Antigonus of Macedonia, he hired 10,000 Galatai mercenaries (with 10,000 additional camp followers).[x] While the Galatai solved Nicomedes’ short-term problem, they also created a long-term headache for all of the surrounding kingdoms in Asia Minor. After they were defeated by Antiochus I, Mithridates of Pontus settled the Galatians on Seleucid land, and the Celts proved very difficult to remove.[xi] As Simon James notes, they had a penchant for wealth, especially when it belonged to others, and also had other less attractive qualities:
They periodically burst out of their territories on plundering raids, bringing back prisoners as well as goods; and in the third century Galatia became a centre for trading slaves and holding prisoners for ransom. Surrounding states raised special taxes to free those taken. The Galatians inspired widespread terror, especially since they had a reputation for sacrificing prisoners.[xii]

The Celts raided cities to the west and demanded tribute from many of them. They would continue to be a thorn in the side of many of the surrounding kingdoms until Attalus I of Pergamum defeated them for good in 232 B.C. The surrounding Hellenist kingdoms recognized the area settled by the Galatians as a state of its own, concentrated around Ancyra and the city of Pessinus, the latter of which would be the location of Paul’s missionary work among the Galatians of the first century A.D.[xiii] Peter Berresford Ellis notes, however, that the Galatai preferred to live in the surrounding areas rather than in the cities, in duns or hill forts.

During this period, Rome began to exert its power over the ever weakening Hellenist states in the region. The Galatians, who seemed to have a penchant for siding with the wrong parties, allied themselves first with Antiochus III, and suffered a devastating loss to the Romans in 190.[xiv] They became vassals to different kingdoms at different times, but all under Roman rule. They managed to push their boundaries to include parts of Phrygia and Lycaonia.[xv] During this period, the Galatai never really unified but were more of a loose confederation of three tribes: the Trocmi, the Tolistobogii, and the Textosages. While they eschewed centralized authority, they were not without some governmental structure, as James notes:
Each tribe was divided into four “septs” or clans, probably with distinct territories. Each sept was ruled by a chief called a tetrarch (from Greek, tetra-, ‘four’; archos, ‘chief’). He was assisted by a general, two deputy generals and a judge.[xvi]

One chieftain, Ortiagon, attempted unsuccessfully to unify the clans into a single nation. Not until a treacherous king of Pontus, Mithridates V, massacred a large delegation of Galatian chiefs did the tribes unify around one remaining chieftain, Deiotaros. After a prolonged struggle, the Galatians managed to secure their land from the threat of Pontus, with the help of a powerful ally. Rome soon recognized Deiotaros as the ruler over all of the Galatians.[xvii] However, the Galatians chose sides poorly again, first with Pompey against Julius Caesar, and later with Mark Antony against Augustus. By 25 B.C., Galatia was firmly under Roman control.[xix]

Culturally, the Galatians appear to have held onto much of their Gaulish heritage. While they spoke Greek and intermarried with the local population,[xx] they still maintained their cultural identity. St. Jerome, in his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, notes that even in the fourth century A.D., the inhabitants of this region spoke Celtic.[xxi] They would have been quite distinct from the local populace in their appearance, with lighter skin and red or blonde hair. By Paul’s time, some mixing of genetic stocks would have occurred, perhaps making the Galatians less physically distinct. However, it seems likely that they would still look considerably different than people of the neighboring regions. They wore bracae or breeches (which the Romans considered effeminate and barbaric) and striped or checked shirts and coats (much like a tartan) that were fastened over the shoulder with a buckle.[xxii] Classical references to the Galatians are not particularly flattering. Livy referred to the Galatians and their Phrygian neighbors as a “degenerate, mongrel race.”[xxiii] Murphy-O’Connor describes the general opinion thus: “The Galatians for their part were considered to be large, unpredictable simpletons, ferocious and highly dangerous when angry, but without stamina and easy to trick.”[xxiv]

However, they were not impervious to the influence of the neighboring peoples. This influence is particularly notable in the area of religion. Simon James notes that the Galatai brought with them their practice of human sacrifice and created a central shrine, Drunemeton (oak-sanctuary), which seems to hint fleetingly at some Druidic practice.[xxv] However, while Sts. Clement and Cyril of Alexandria and Stephanus of Byzantium each claim that the Galatians had a Druidic class,[xxvi] James indicates that there is no firm evidence that the Galatai maintained Druidic practices in Asia Minor.[xxvii] Like the Greeks and Romans, the Galatai were polytheistic, but James indicates that they did not conceive of gods in human shape until late in the Iron Age.[xxviii] In their new homeland, they adopted the gods of their Phrygian neighbors and even became members of the priesthood in Pessinus, which had been the religious center for the Phrygians.[xxix]

Murphy-O’Connor notes that the status of Pessinus as the shrine of Cybele may explain why Paul stayed on after recovering from his illness. As a major center of worship and trade, Pessinus would attract vistors, and Paul’s message could be carried away to other towns in the province.[xxx] Galatia was a unique intersection of cultures, which made it fertile ground for a new message, the good news of our Lord.

Works Cited
"Antioch, of Pisidia." 1915. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. 28 June 2011 .
Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Celtic Empire: The First Millennium of Celtic History, c1000 BC–51 AD. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1990.
"Galatia." 1916. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. 28 June 2011 .
James, Simon. The World of the Celts. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1993.
Jerome. "Galatians." 13 July 2005. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2 July 2011 .
Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome. Paul: A Critical Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Endnotes
i. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, Paul: A Critical Life, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 192.
ii. “Galatia,” 1916, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Ed. James Orr, 28 June 2011 .
iii. “Antioch, of Pisidia,” 1915, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Ed. James Orr, 28 June 2011 .
iv. Murphy-O'Connor, 191.
v. “Galatia.” .
vi. Simon James, The World of the Celts (London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1993), 12.
vii. Ibid., 37.
viii. Ibid., 39.
ix. “Galatia.” .
x. Peter Berresford Ellis, The Celtic Empire: The First Millennium of Celtic History, c1000 BC–51 AD (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1990), 92–93.
xi. James, 40.
xii. Ibid., 41.
xiii. Murphy-O'Connor, 186–189. Also, Ellis, 97.
xiv. Ibid., 94
xv. James, 41.
xvi. Ellis, 102.
xvii. James, 41.
xviii. Ellis, 105.
xix. Ibid., 106.
xx. Murphy-O'Connor, 188.
xxi. Jerome, "Galatians," 13 July 2005, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2 July 2011 .
xxii. James, 65.
xxiii. Murphy-O'Connor, 190.
xxiv. Ibid., 189–190.
xxv. Ibid., 41.
xxvi. Ellis, 95.
xxvii. James, 41.
xxviii. Ibid., 89.
xxix. Ellis, 94.
xxx. Murphy-O'Connor, 193.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dan Lord: A Thug No More

It wasn’t the content of the pledge that was the catalyst, though it is tempting to assume that. The catalyst was that I referred to God at all, that I took a part of my life and said without reserve: “This is yours—you can have it back. Sorry I broke it. I won’t screw with it again, I promise.”


Dan shares the story of how God ruined his life as a punk rocker.

When you're done with that, check out his story on how he made friends with the devil.

Did I mention that these are conversion stories?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Extraordinary Minister of Baptism? Another story from my Catholic youth.

I'm currently working with a team of people at my parish to reform our parish's baptism preparation class. This work started off as an individual effort to develop a more rigorous curriculum but has evolved to included team building and possibly some interparish collaboration. The course is shaping up well, and we have some great people engaging with the program.

One of the points mentioned in the course is the minimal requirements for a valid sacrament. In Catholic sacramental theology courses, we get a framework for sacramental validity. A sacrament must have a valid minister, a valid recipient, proper form, and proper matter. For the Sacrament of Baptism, anyone with any exposure to Christian practices knows that baptism involves water, which is the valid matter required for the sacrament. Fewer know that there is a proper form (the Trinitarian form instituted by Christ in Matthew 28:19) or that the recipient has to consent (or be represented by guardians who consent) and intend to receive what the sacrament confers. And yet fewer know that a valid minister can be anyone who performs the sacrament with the proper intention.

That's right. Anyone who has the proper intention. As the lecturer in my Sacraments class (Marcellino D'Ambrosio) indicated, an atheist who intends to do what the Church requires can validly baptize someone.

Now, of course, we're not talking about the Rite of Baptism but the Sacrament of Baptism (which is part of the rite and the heart and purpose of it). The Rite of Baptism is performed by an ordained minister. However, in an emergency, if someone wishes to receive baptism and only an atheist is on hand but wishes to do what the requester asks, the atheist can baptize. Imagine a doctor delivering a baby who will most not likely survive, and a parent requests baptism. If the atheist doctor desires to confer the sacrament for this child and uses water and the proper formula (I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit), that baptism is considered valid.

We added this information because I believe that all Catholics should know this and be able to perform a valid baptism in an emergency situation. However, during a baptism preparation class, we also have to add that the rite includes more than just the sacrament and that the minimal form is only something to do in emergencies.

Unfortunately (or not), that last part of the norm wasn't really explained to me when I was a child.

When I was young, I was a fervent Catholic and firm believer. My mother had been involved with the charismatic movement, and she instilled in us a sense of the faith as well as she was able. I attended CCD and Mass on Sundays, fulfilled all the obligations of the faith, and otherwise practiced as well as I could at that age. And I got some of that old-time catecheses. We hadn't yet reached the era of kinder, gentler Catholic faith formation (in which the realities of the last things were watered down and the need for a Messiah was largely replaced with the need for a really nice friend). I sometimes like to say that, as a Catholic growing up on a military base, I got all the guilt but little of the culture. (More on my Catholic childhood here and here) Anyway, at eight years old, I probably understood more about the basics of the faith than many adults these days.

And part of that teaching was basic instruction on the sacraments, including the Sacrament of Baptism. Somewhere in all that catecheses must've been the minimal requirements for baptism, and certainly I had witnessed a few baptisms by that time and heard the three-part formula. All of this information was cached away in my memory for use at a later time.

My mother was also very connected with other Christians on base, many of them non-Catholic and very evangelical in spirit. They loved to talk about Jesus, and they held bible studies, and they encouraged their children to do the same. I can honestly say that I knew very few kids on base who did not believe in God and who were not Christian (with the exception of some Mormon neighbors* and one Hindu family). And many of my friends were also Catholic, also not a surpise given that Catholics tend to be overrepresented in the military.

So I wore my faith on my shirtsleeve, so to speak (or on my loincloth, as the case may have been). I was happy to talk about Jesus and my faith. Anti-Catholic sentiment wasn't particularly common on base (although I did experience it more when we moved to nearby Medical Lake). I had no reason not to evangelize, and so I did.

We lived in the officer housing area on Fairchild AFB. That sounds a bit classist, but it was pretty typical of most military bases (and perhaps still is). However, while the housing was intended to be assigned to officers, there were often enlisted people with families who lived there (perhaps noncoms). One year, a family moved in across the street. They were atypical—much younger than the other familes in the neighborhood.

There were two children, a boy and a girl. I don't remember their names. They had blond hair and brown eyes. They mainly kept to themselves, never leaving the yard. They were in trouble and on restriction a lot. And naturally, I was happy to introduce myself to them, being both gregarious and clownish. They looked like they needed cheering up, and I was happy to oblige.

Over the few weeks that I knew them, I got small glimpses of what must have been a pretty horrific life. They couldn't leave the yard, so I always went to them. They sometimes had wounds (gouges) on their arms which they said came from their parents as punishment. I don't remember seeing any other children playing with them, and they certainly didn't wander the neighborhood looking for playmates.

I don't know how the topic arose, how I phrased the question, how I was prompted to ask, but for some reason, I must have asked if they went to church. They didn't. I must've followed up. Do they believe in God? In Jesus? Did they know that Jesus died so they could go to heaven?

I don't recall how we engaged the subject, but what came out was that they had not been baptized, but yes, they wanted to go to heaven. That was good enough for me. And I must have shared with them what Jesus had done, and what He meant, and the means He gave us to come to Him. And I must have retrieved that bit of information from my memory cache.

For some reason, the garden hose in their back yard was on. Just a bit. A trickle. Enough to do the job.

I asked them, "Do you want to be baptized?"

They said, "Yes."

And so, I had both of them lie down, one after the other. And I took the hose in my left hand, pouring the water into my right, and I poured the water over their foreheads and said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Proper participants with proper intent, valid matter, valid form.

I'm actually weeping a little as I finish this post, because I wonder if this small act (but possibly one of infinite grace) may have had an impact on their lives. Every once in a while, when I remember, I pray for these two friends of mine, and I hope that they freed themselves from the cycle of abuse they were in, and I hope that the grace of God touched them and moved them in mysterious ways.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Ironic Catholic: Want to win the new "Felon Blames 1970s Church Arc...

Ironic Catholic has a new ebook out, and I'm her unpaid shill!

The Ironic Catholic: Want to win the new "Felon Blames 1970s Church Arc...: "...All you need to do is become my unpaid advertising agency! Or, to sound slightly less crass and ratchet up the whimsy (thanks for that ..."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Aggie Catholics: Fr. Corapi - Come Back To the Priesthood

Here's video from St. Joseph Communications posted at Aggie Catholics. I have listened to Fr. Corapi since my reversion to the faith. One thing that strikes me is how out of character all of this seems. That's not to say that we always saw the real face of Fr. Corapi, but he certainly seemed to be the real thing. I also can't help but wonder of the many physical ailments and resulting legal issues he's endured over the last few years have also played a part here. In any case, this post is the last I will mention the matter. He's in my daily intercessory requests.

Aggie Catholics: Fr. Corapi - Come Back To the Priesthood: "A passionate call to Fr. Corapi to come back to his vocation of the priesthood. This will be the last post on the Corapi situation, unless ..."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shameless Popery: How the "Robber Council" Establishes the Papacy

Here's an excellent discussion of the dependency of ecumenical councils on the authority of the papacy.

Shameless Popery: How the "Robber Council" Establishes the Papacy: "At least three groups of Christians - Eastern Orthodox, traditional Protestants, and liberal Catholics - assail the papacy by arguing that t..."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost in the Cenacle

I celebrated Pentecost in the Holy Land seven years ago. I posted this reflection 5 years ago.

========



Two years ago today, I sat in the upper room, the Cenacle in Old Jerusalem (pictured above), and prayed my evening hour. I chose to be there specifically because of the day: Pentecost. To say prayers in the Cenacle on Pentecost was, to me, like celebrating a birthday with the whole Church in the place where the Church came to be. To the left and right in the image, you can see stair railings. The one to the left led to an "upper" upper room. On that day, it was open. I was told that the room had not been opened in years. I was blessed to be able to go in and see the additional rooms. It looked out over the courtyard above the traditional Tomb of David (which was actually an early Judeo-Christian synagogue).*

The night before, I had shared a Shabbat meal with a friend and coworker and her family in Rehovot. That evening meal, celebrated after evening prayers in the local synagogue, underscored to me just how much we shared in our heritage with Judaism. I think of all four trips to Israel that I have made, this one was the most special to me because of these small graces.

Pentecost is relevant to both Christians and Jews. For Christians, of course, it is the 50th day (roughly speaking) after Easter and the day on which we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles in the upper room (Acts 2). It is rightly called in the Latin Church, for this reason, the birthday of the Church.**

For Jews, Pentecost (which is Shavuot) is a harvest festival, as commonly noted. The meaning is "Festival of Weeks" (Chag ha-Shavuo't) and occurs seven weeks after Passover. However, aside from the connection with harvest, it marks another important event: the day G-d*** gave the Torah to the People of Israel at Mount Sinai. What does it signify, then, that Christians celebrate this feast on the same day that commemorates the giving of the Law to the people of Israel?

From Deuteronomy 6:4–6 come the words of the Shema, which Christ echoes in Matthew22:37: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart[.]" Of course, Deuteronomy, the second Law, is what was given to the People of Israel after the original Mosaic covenant was made, and some 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant was made (as Paul notes in Galatians 3:17).

Yet, the prophets still comment on the hard-heartedness of the People of Israel. In Jeremiah 31:33, the prophet says of the people in exile, "I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts." This is the day when the Lord will make a new covenant with them (Jer. 31:31). But how do you write upon a hard heart? In Ezekiel 36:26–27, we get our answer: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances."

For Christians, the Feast of Pentecost celebrates the day on which the Law of Freedom was written on the hearts of the faithful by the Holy Spirit. From that day on, the Apostles preached a New Covenant because the Paraclete promised by Christ had come to teach them all things and to dwell in them (John 14:16, 26).

*The original building of the Cenacle was replaced long ago, so the room itself is not the exact same as the upper room of the gospels and Acts. Yet, it is believed to be on the same location.

**The Orthodox Churches consider the Church to be existent before the creation of the world so do not consider Pentecost the birthday of the Church.

***Because I've included the Jewish terms here, I use this convention out of respect for any of our Jewish brethren that happen to come upon this page. See this article for details.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011

Another doc update - prayers requested

My father went in today for his second big round of chemo. He'll have six hours today, then start a 24-30 hour long session tomorrow. They will then be preparing him for a bone-marrow transplant to restore the stem cells damaged during chemo. After surgery, he'll have a couple of weeks in the hospital. Please keep him in your prayers. All of this has to be rather hard on a 75-year old.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What's up (with) Doc?

I recently requested prayers for my father, who has had a recurrence of the cancer he had a few years ago. Given that he's 75, we're all a little concerned. However, the fact that this is a recurrence rather than a new cancer is reassuring. Then there's the plain fact that Doc is not going down without a fight. He's almost annoyingly chipper, and it's only annoying that the treatments he's undergoing would make most of use whimper and whine.

Let's start with his test 10 days ago. They (those people who determine such things) decided that they needed to check Doc's bone marrow to determine if it might be helpful in his upcoming treatment. They took a sample, and ran a number of their tests. Doc went home, took a short nap, and scurried off to work. This week, he had an MRI, a spinal tap, and some other testing. I called him in the evening to see how he was doing. He was not only fine; he was downright perky.

Yesterday I stopped by to see him in the hospital as he started his first round of chemotherapy. He seems to think he's geting a spa treatment: loves the food, thinks he's being pampered, berates the nurses and CNAs (kindly, of course). Doctors don't often know how to be sick, but my dad takes that truism in the opposite direction. He's an ideal patient.

So I'm not posting to tell you that you don't need to pray for him but to tell you to pray all the more. It's obviously working.

Grace and peace to you all.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The cancer is back.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may recall that my father had a bout with cancer a few years ago. Thankfully, he was able to address it with surgery and a round of chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, the cancer seems to be back. He has some more testing to do before his oncologist can determine a course of action. Dad still has a lot of life left in him. After a morning of some fairly invasive testing, he took a short nap, then zipped off to work. However, he's 75 and dealing with diabetes, cancer, and the normal effects of age. Please keep him and all of us in your prayers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Latest Furor

Mark Shea, Elizabeth Scalia, Fr. Z., and others have written sensible words of caution concerning the allegations about Fr. Corapi. (Sadly, a few of the usual suspects have taken the opportunity to slap Fr. Corapi while he's down, but that's how these ugly scenes go.) I will be very sorry if the accusations prove to be true, but it will not affect my faith one iota, for the simple reason that I expect that good people will fall and that some who seem good will be exposed. We need to pray for everyone and do our best not to be stumbling blocks for others.

Anyway, one of the books I'm reading this Lent is The Imitation of Christ. I'm trying to take it in small pieces to avoid overloading and missing something important. Today's reading seems apropos, particularly the last sentence in Book I, chapter 13, section 1: "Nobody can reach to such heights of sanctity that he is never tempted; there is no such thing as being above temptation altogether."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I Done Gone West

I just returned with my friend Patrick from the Go West Catholic Men's Conference in Pendleton, Oregon. This event was the third annual conference, and the last that Bishop Vasa, formerly of the Diocese of Baker, will probably attend. I did have a chance to chat with him briefly and remind him of a gift my wife and I sent to him a few years ago (a ball cap with the message, "My other hat is a biretta."). He's a very engaging person, and we'll miss having him in a neighboring diocese. He gave an excellent talk on courage today.

Also visiting was Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He celebrated to masses with us, and he also chatted briefly with people while he was there. I didn't get a chance to introduce myself, unfortunately. In addition to his two homilies, he spoke on the subject of martyrdom as love in action.

I took some photos from my phone, but they didn't turn out so well, despite the fact that I was only about 20 feet away.



Music was provided by the choir of the Wyoming Catholic College and was fantastic. In addition to the two liturgies of the Eucharist, we said the Stations of the Cross on Friday night, an international rosary on Saturday morning, and had Adoration and Exposition, followed by Benediction on Saturday afternoon.

We met some great people (even some from our own diocese). I'll look forward to attending again next year.

Prayers for Anthony and...

Ironic Catholic has been doing her part to publicize the wonderful efforts of the people at Reece's Rainbow, a foundation that seeks to find homes for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. These children often come from Eastern Europe or China and are considered unadoptable.

IC has been writing a lot lately about this boy, Anthony, who has CP and a number of other secondary medical problems. He is nearing the age where he will be moved from the "baby house" to a mental institution. I have been thinking a lot about Anthony, and praying as well, for God to help us discern how we should respond to this boy's needs. I'm still not certain what that response should be. But this morning, as I was returning from the Y (after leading an early morning fitness class), I was turning over in mind the challenges of raising a child with profound disabilities. I tossed up one of my typical, spontaneous prayers for guidance, adding, "Our lives would be dramatically altered if we adopted this boy."

An answer came back clear as a bell: "So would his."

Please pray for us to discern God's will here, and pray that a family (maybe ours) will step up to adopt Anthony soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Novels and Jobs and Retreats, oh my!

1. I accepted a position working in my career field, as narrow as that niche is. The conditions aren't ideal, but it's a field I love. In this economy, that is gold.

2. My friend Patrick and I are heading to Pendleton, Oregon tomorrow to take part in an annual retreat with Bishop Vasa and Cdnl. Raymond Burke. I'm a long-time fan of Bsp. V. and an admirer of Cdnl. Burke. I don't do retreats often, but I think I really needed this one. The roads are likely to be nasty, so please pray for our safe travel.

3. I have an idea for a series of novels. I have a tendency to think of big ideas and then let them fade away. (For example, I thought of the bark-off 17 years ago. If I had a patent, I'd be rich!) Anyway, please pray for me to persist with these inspirations.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seventeen Years Ago Tonight

We celebrated a special event tonight: my daughter Kellina's seventeenth birthday. It's a somewhat melancholy time for me since it looks more and more like she will be my only child, and my active parenting days will soon be over. Every stage up to now has brought some great and small joys, and there is always a small tug at the heart when I remember those little events and idiosyncrasies of her childhood.

We had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant where we've gone for years. The owners remember us by sight, particularly Kellina, who used to love dumping chili sauce on her tofu and rice. My parents, wife, brother, and aunt were there, along with Kellina's three step siblings and their children, and Kellina's mother and best friend—quite a large party for a Thursday evening in this restaurant. I had been looking forward to this evening for many years and was actually both excited and a little sad that it had already come. I had been holding onto something for seventeen years, and tonight it would be given away.

We all ordered our favorite dishes, which in my case violated all my regular dietary norms. The owners, always very good with young children, plied the two toddlers with broken fortune cookies. Finally, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Kellina and started the ritual gift giving. My family area a generous bunch, so there were some nice items and gift cards (always a favorite for adolescents).

She came to the last two gifts, the ones I had settled on for her. The first came enclosed in a small jewelry carrier.



The carrier itself was a hit, but in it was one small ring. "That ring was your great-grandmother's high-school class ring," I explained. My parents were both rather surprised because neither had ever recalled it. I had found it among my grandmother's things after she had passed away, when we had been told to take any mementos we wanted. The ring was so tiny, and I could barely imagine it fitting her finger. Of course, it fit Kellina perfectly.

In the last gift bag were a set of make-up bags with items tucked inside. One contained a photo of me (with a much more full head of hair) holding a three-week old infant. Everyone enjoyed cooing over the photo.

As she began to pull the item from the second make-up bag, I said, "This will take some explanation."



She looked quizzically at the item, and I went on. "17 years ago almost to the hour, you came into this world. That was the shirt I was wearing at that time." (Her mom jokingly added that one of the sleeves was much longer than the other.)

"It was my favorite shirt. I put it away many years ago with the intention of giving it to you on your seventeenth birthday. I almost gave in early and gave it to you because it seemed like it would be forever. But now that day is here, and it seems far too soon."

Our children have no idea just how much they change our lives merely by their existence. I believe that people must experience parenthood in some form (actual, adopted, or spiritual) before they ever truly become an adult. Granted, there are many parents who even then don't gain maturity, but unless one passes through that stage and learns to step out of one's own experience to recognize and assume responsibility for an other's vulnerability, one never gets out of the center of one's own frame of reference. My daughter changed me forever seventeen years ago, and I am so grateful for it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interviewing

Greetings. Long time no see. I have been job hunting and doing a little contracting since my long-time contract expired two weeks ago. As an XML business analyst, my work is so specialized, I don't even know what I do. (Okay, not true. You can go here for details.) Anyway, while I don't have a lot of opportunities, I have a few very hot ones.

Please keep me in your prayers as I seek new employment. I'm the sole breadwinner for the family right now and am supporting two households. I'm hoping not to be out of work for much longer.