quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nunc scio vere (Introit - Acts 12:11)

Today is the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, Apostles. This feast focuses more on St. Peter because St. Paul is also commemorated tomorrow (June 30). The Lesson speaks of Peter's deliverance from prison by the Angel of the Lord. The Gospel shares Peter's confession, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." Here Jesus promises to build His Church as He gives Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. We also hear the promise, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This building of the Church is the work of Christ, a work that flows from His side on the cross, forming one Church on earth and in heaven.

From the Introit: "Lord, Thou hast proved me, and known me:
Thou hast known my sitting down, and my rising up." (Ps. 139)

Dómine, probásti me, et cognovísti sessiónem meam, et resurrectiónem meam.

Of local interest, today Milwaukee's Catholic Archbishop Jerome Listecki receives the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Smallest Church

On our drive home from vacation we stopped at the smallest church in the 48 states, located in West Virginia. Not a bad place to stumble across.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Luther and Aristotle

This evening I read a scholarly book review discussing Luther's understanding and criticism of Aristotle. Since it is scholarly and heavy with details I could use a re-read (or 2 or 3) but the review does reveal a Luther who, although clearly critical of Aristotle, does on occasion make use of his thought. As one who was taught Luther in line with Paul and Augustine, I found the review helpful. I appreciate learning that Luther actually made use of some of Aristotle's thought so it is more complex than Luther just ranting about him.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Os justi meditábitur sapiéntiam

On the 1962 calendar today is the Feast of St. Basil (330-379) (Orthodox-January 1, Catholic-January 2). Basil is the only one of the three Cappadocian Fathers to be given the title "the Great." In the Eastern Church he is called the "Great Hierarch" and in the Western Church he is a Doctor of the Church, one of the four great doctors of the East. His impact on later Christianity is tremendous, beginning in the East as a father of communal monasticism (which later influenced St. Benedict in the West), with his Divine Liturgy, and primarily in his defense of the orthodox teaching of the Holy Trinity against Arianism, particularly of the divinity and consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit. This is explained in his book De Spiritu Sancto (On the Holy Spirit).

In 2005 I posted on this blog this quote of St. Basil:

"May this tradition restrain you: Thus the Lord taught, the apostles preached,
the fathers preserved, the martyrs confirmed; be content to speak as you have
been taught." (source ?)

Here are some others:

"It is right that any one beginning to narrate the formation of the world should begin with the good order which reigns in visible things. I am about to speak of the creation of heaven and earth, which was not spontaneous, as some have imagined, but drew its origin from God." (Hexaemeron 1 - Homily on the Creation cited by

"It is good and beneficial to communicate every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ. For He distinctly says, 'He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.' (John 6,54)." (cited in Quasten, Vol. 3, p. 233)

". . . but those conscious of the goal of our calling realize that we are to become like God, as far as this is possible for human nature." (On the Holy Spirit, p. 16)

In médio ecclésiae apéruit os ejus. - Introit

Friday, June 04, 2010

Communion is not thinking about God but both faith and reason exist

I stumbled across this excellent post by an Orthodox priest. His argument about Christianity being more than an idea is clear and convincing, Christianity is communion with God. Thinking about God is not the same as God coming in the flesh to save.

This post is excellent for another reason. Read the post and my further response below:

A Secular Eucharist
By fatherstephen

Thinking about God and communion with God are not the same thing.

The modern world is a difficult place for those who believe in God. The reigning culture has relentlessly moved God out of the day-to-day world and relegated Him to various “religious spheres” of existence. And so it is that we live in what I describe as a “two-storey” universe. We dwell in a world defined by nature and its laws, a world of cause and effect, a world in which the presence of God in almost any form presents problems.

Perhaps the one place relatively safe from such exile is the realm of human thought. Modern believers cling to a God whose existence is a matter of intellectual or emotional acceptance – but to bring God into the public realm risks the ire of political opposition, charges of superstition, or simple discomfort.

Without belaboring the history of secularism – at a certain point modern culture began to confuse “thought” with “spiritual,” while anything physical was deemed “of the world” or, in some cases, “empty ritual.” Of course anyone who spends any time with their thoughts quickly discovers that thoughts are very fleeting things. Our minds wander. Our thoughts frequently torment us. Concentration is sporadic, at best.

And so it is that modern man is not a spiritual being – he can barely think about God without blinking.

Of course the modern confusion of thought with spirit is simply nonsense – a theological error born of an over-reaction to Catholic theology during the Reformation and post-Reformation.

We think, but we are not thoughts.

The gospels are decidedly physical in their presentation of God. It is the Word who has become flesh that causes wonder in the writing of St. John. “We handled Him,” he says in his first epistle. The Cross is a story told with virtually no theory: it is blood and nails and a pierced side.

It strikes me as strange, therefore, that modern Christianity has often sought to make of the sacraments, those physical materials and actions given us by Christ, a matter of thought – within much of contemporary Christianity the truth of the sacraments is not to found in their action and substance but in the minds of those who participate. Baptism is a choice; the Eucharist, a remembrance. As such, they become sacraments of the secular world. God is believed in, but not present. Water becomes mere symbol, grape juice and crackers serving first as reminders of wine and bread and secondarily as a remembrance of the absent Lord. “This is not my body…this is not my blood.”

I had an opportunity several years ago to lecture at an evangelical college. In the course of the lecture I quoted from the sixth chapter of St. John’s gospel, without question the most complete commentary on the meaning of the Eucharist to be found in the Scriptures. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you,” Christ says.

After the lecture I was accosted by a freshman who with great passion argued with me. He was certain that the passages had a “spiritual” meaning. Christ could not possibly mean that we should eat His flesh and drink His blood. Sometimes literalism makes for a very inconvenient truth.

We live in a very material world – which is entirely a matter of design. We are not thoughts trapped within bodies. Nor should we imagine the Christian faith as an idea divorced from the material world. It is, perhaps, the most material religion possible. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

That same Word gave us bread and wine with the words, “This is my body. This is my blood…” The remembrance of which is not an act of recollection, but an act in which Christ makes Himself truly present.

Christianity is losing the battle of ideas – if only because Christianity is not an idea. The faith once and for all delivered to the saints is a way of life – a true communion in the life of God. It is God who makes Himself present to us in our world and not just in our heads. It is true that if we allow ourselves to have true communion with Him, He will heal our thoughts as well – given time.

Communion with the secular world is a communion of emptiness. Its ideas are false and its promises are not true. At the end of the secular world lies only death – from which no idea will save us.

But we are not without hope. The God who so loved us as to become flesh and dwell among us is the same God who so loves us that our own flesh can become His abode.

Whosoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him.


This post is also excellent in that it reveals to me why I am orthodox and why I am not. What Fr. Stephen writes here is truly Orthodox. The Eucharist of Jesus' flesh and blood is where Jesus truly abides for us and in us. This is not mere idea or thought.

Although God's thoughts are not our thoughts, He gives us minds to think. This is what minds do. Minds cannot help but have ideas. While ideas have consequences, it is not a question of whether or not Christians have minds, thoughts and ideas but how these relate to divine revelation and how they are disciplined much like the Apostle Paul's attempt to discipline his body to run the race. Concluding that John 6 is not Eucharistic is, in a misguided sense, a work of the mind. Fr. Stephen's post shows clearly why. We cannot trust our thoughts above the words of Christ.

Still, reason, like faith, is a given by the Giver and both relate, the one to the other.