Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From divino afflatu, On psalms

From divino afflatu by St. Pius X:

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.

The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.

Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thoughts on Person, Relation, Family

This post is really just going to be a handful of quotes and thoughts.

Friendship seems to hold states together, and lawgivers apparently devote more attention to it than to justice. For concord seems to be something similar to friendship, and concord is what they most strive to attain, while they do their best to expel faction, the enemy of concord. When people are friends, they have no need of justice, but when they are just, they need friendship in addition. In fact, the just in the fullest sense is regarded as constituting an element of friendship. Friendship is noble as well as necessary: we praise those who love their friends and consider the possession of many friends a noble thing. And further, we believe of our friends that they are good men. (Nicomachean Ethics, 8.1, at the beginning of Aristotle's consideration of friendship)

Relativity toward the other constitutes the human person. The human person is the event or being of relativity. (Joseph Ratzinger, Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology)

"Pope Paul VI noted that “the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking”. He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man's transcendent dignity is to be properly understood." (Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate)

The third reason [against marrying blood relations] is, because this would hinder a man from having many friends: since through a man taking a stranger to wife, all his wife's relations are united to him by a special kind of friendship, as though they were of the same blood as himself. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xv, 16): "The demands of charity are most perfectly satisfied by men uniting together in the bonds that the various ties of friendship require, so that they may live together in a useful and becoming amity; nor should one man have many relationships in one, but each should have one." (Summa, II-II.159.9)

All right, those are all the quotes I wanted to bring together. The one quote from Aristotle has long been on my mind since it sounds odd when first heard: legislators care most about friendship. When we think of lawmakers, this is not the first thing that comes to mind, but giving it a few minutes of thoughts, that certainly seems like the way to go. Laws bring about justice for the sake of this higher good, friendship. If everything were just but nobody had friends, that would be a very poor state. A state with many friendships and strong friendships would seem to be the ideal.

The Ratzinger quote is one that I have puzzled over for sometime. Is he saying that a person is relation, or even that relation is somehow prior to a person being a person? Those statements both seem odd. Yet it is true that every persons is potentially related (to all other persons) and even necessarily actually related to at least two persons upon coming into existence. It is also the case that only persons can have the kinds of relations that are noble (i.e. friendship). So the capacity for friendship (I will call this relation, meaning this limited sense) is a property of the person, in the sense that only persons can be friends and all persons can be friends.

I want to note here that person does not name a nature, so it is interesting that I can point out a property. There are other properties (having intellect and will), so perhaps its not too odd, but I did want it to be noticed that these are not properties of a nature, but of something else.

These relations really seems to be what a person is made for. Aristotle speaks very highly of friendship, saying that life would not be worth living apart from it, yet goes on to say that our happiness consists in a contemplative act. His argument for this is from our nature, to which it is proper to know. That contemplation/seeing is certainly our happiness is beyond doubt. Yet there is more to be said, and what is seen is also to be considered. He says (I'm being vaguer than he) that the object of contemplation must be the highest thing for it to constitute our happiness. Yet in the two preceding books he talked about the glory of a friend and how one reason friends are so great is that one can contemplate the highest things in his friend. So it seems the object of the perfect sight is likely to be a friend.

Toward the end (this is just my memory) he says the object are the gods. Now surely, something divine is the highest object, right? I think so. Yet to see the divine, not only as other or as higher, but as friend is surely a far greater happiness. I do not know what Aristotle could have known about the personality of God, yet I think he would agree that to behold a friend is better than not to behold a friend, and that to behold God is better than not to; therefore, to behold God as friend is the highest of all.

Now it is a person that has a relationship. This is most clearly seen in the Christological disputes that took place. We call Mary the Mother of God because she bore Christ, a person who is divine. She did not beget a nature, but a person. I was not born of "parenthood", but of my mother and my father who became related to me when I was conceived.

(I wish my thinking was more complete and orderly on this. I'm really just writing where my mind goes, but I'm leaving out tons of stuff that I think is worth saying...)

There was a TIME magazine cover recently about how childless couples seem to be happier than those without children. Just about everyone I know was disgusted by this cover. Nope, I haven't read the article, but here is the cover:,16641,20130812,00.html "The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children." Someone seems to be missing something. That most parents would give away everything they have to care for their child should be a sign that a child is something very special, something not entirely understood, but something loved--someone loved. It's a person! And the dignity/worth/awesomeness of this person is most made manifest through relation. It's nice that every child is born within at least two relations (this reminds me of a board game called Catan, where everyone automatically starts with 2 points; and yes, I just gave nature a compliment). A developing person is one that is learning to form and grow in relationships with others. If a child learned to eat, drink, dress himself, sleep, work, pay bills, study and entertain himself, but did not have any relationships with others, it would be safe to say that something went wrong, the child had not yet finished growing.

In the context of a family, one is immediately tied to others by familial bonds. First are the parents already mentioned several times, and then there are the siblings. I have trouble imagining life without siblings. They are persons who have a common origin, common experiences, often common likes and dislikes, common appearances, a common name, and common relatives! Whereas this can take many years to develop with another persons, in the context of the family, one is born into it. How wonderful! Meeting cousins is always wonderful, because there is at once a newness and a familiarity. This kind of relationship is so good that St. Thomas in the quote about talks about how marrying those of another family is wonderful, precisely because it increases the number of relationships like this.

I had a thought regarding the childless. Aristotle says that the ideal state is one that has as its end the common good. Less perfect states are those that aim at less common goods. Another premise, a common good is one's own good. All right, now someone who does not have children (or at least younger relatives or younger friends) will seem to have little or no interest for laws unless they affect someone of their own age group. This would be detrimental to a state which is to last from one generation to the next. On the other hand, those who have descendants (I read of an Israeli woman who recently died--she had 1400 living descendants) will be concerned that laws are framed such that they will benefit not only their own generation, but even those to come.

This makes me want to read The Republic again, paying special attention to the state invented there. Socrates suggests having children and wives in common, and yet by doing this the special relationships among them would be diminished. This is why Marx's plan leads to the destruction of the person. After reading that again, I will want to read book 2 of Aristotle's Politics where he criticizes it. Here is one line from chapter 3: "Each of the citizens comes to have a thousand sons, though not as an individual, but each in a similar fashion the son of any of them; hence all will slight them in similar fashion." And another: "It is better to have a cousin of one's own than to have a son in the sense indicated." Oh, and another! "It is impossible to avoid some who suspect who their brothers, parents, etc. actually are." That is to say, we are provided by such relations by nature.

There's some great stuff here. A quote from chapter 4: "We suppose affection to be the greatest of good things for cities." and "There are two things above all which make human beings cherish and feel affection, what is one's own and what is dear."

Another brief note. Some will say "Why are you looking to Aristotle's Politics for wisdom about political life and family relations? Doesn't he encourage slavery?" Two answers: one, he takes slavery as a given and then tries to understand its place within the whole of political and economic life. (I sometimes want to point out that the tasks done by slaves have not gone away: they still need to be done. Though I will grant that slavery and employed labor are not the same thing. That can be a long conversation for later..) The second encouragement to study the Politics comes from Blessed John Paul II! Here's a quote: "Returning to Aristotle, we should add that, as well as the Nicomachean Ethics, he also left us a work on social ethics. It is entitled Politics. Here, without addressing questions concerning the concrete strategies of political life, Aristotle limits himself to defining the ethical principles on which any just political system should be based. Catholic social teaching owes much to Aristotle’s Politics and has acquired particular prominence in modern times, thanks to the issue of labor." So that's encouraging. Read the whole of that chapter here:

Rereading that chapter just now, I noticed how much the Blessed Pope talks about freedom, which he also defines: "Freedom, for Aristotle, is a property of the will which is realized through truth. It is given to man as a task to be accomplished. There is no freedom without truth." How wonderful! Freedom is often identified with autonomy, being able to do what one wants without anyone's help or burden; the freedom John Paul speaks of is something which is open to others because it is open to truth. The Pope mentions many documents about such freedom and how it stands to human relations, especially noting Gaudium et Spes. I'm putting that at the top of my queue now...

Speaking of relation, my sister coincidentally posted a status on Facebook that seems capture something of what I'm trying to get at:
"While over the summer I was exposed to sickening amounts of profanity and blows of blatant sexism, these same men could become the most sensitive and heartfelt when talking about one subject: thier wives. Like an excited child talking about Christmas, each one would talk about her unique, timeless beauty, often showing me pictures. They would tell of her sweetness, intelligence, her motherly wisdom. Their love was so great for their wives. With overtime there is rejoicing, since they are already away from home and their wives aren't at the hotel. Weekend work? A silence of sorrow. This marvelous sweetness and passion turned an awful day around, restoring a little hope in love. Thank you. And yet, they didn't share for my sake; they just couldn't keep from talking about the one they love."

Yep, that sums it up. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Reminder to write

Reminder to write

I'm reading Isaiah now and am noticing how God relates his role as Creator with his role as Redeemer, and his oneness with his call to all nations. Also, here is a post that is worth reading:

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Father; Thomas on Matthew 24:36

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (John 1:18)

All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  (Matthew 11:27)

The only notion that pertains to the Father is "unbegotten", which is negative. The Son reveals the Father, but the Father is otherwise hidden. The Son and the Holy Spirit proceed and are sent. The Father does not proceed and is not sent. We participate in Christ's sonship by the sending of the Holy Spirit, but is any creature properly said to participate in the Father? A couple verses:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. (Ephesians 3:14-15)

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. (Matthew 23:8-10)

The Ephesians verse says that it is from the Father that every family is named. So it seems every family has some participation in the Father. Yet there is the verse that says to call no man father, as if this name is incommunicable. Yet we do use this name to speak of our earthly and spiritual fathers; even Christ and St. Paul do this.

"The Father, when known by anyone in time, is not said to be sent; for there is no one whence He is, or from whom He proceeds." (St. Augustine, De Trinitate 4:20)

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are present in all of us who possess grace, yet only the Son and the Holy Spirit are said to be sent. For to be sent is to proceed, yet the Father proceeds not. By sending the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Father is present in us.

"The Lord said to my Lord." (Psalm 110) Pope Benedict (following Tertullian and many others) see how this verse points to the Trinity. "The Lord" is the Father and he speaks to "my Lord" who is the Son, and I who sing this Psalm am inspired by the Holy Spirit and on this account am able to bear witness to this eternal conversation.  The Lord said to my Lord. It is by sending the Holy Spirit into words of the prophets, that the speech of the Father is made known. He remains in complete mystery, never coming down from his dwelling place, yet he sends his Spirit on the waters and sends his only Son, and by this he is present without being sent. Present without being sent. Who is he?

"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17)

When he speaks from the heavens, he speaks of his Son. Later, at the scene of the Transfiguration, he says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5)

Listen to the Son and we will hear the Father. The voice that came from heaven: What is it? It is (if I am not mistaken) a creature which bears testimony to the Father, yet the Father is not sent as these words are heard. Rather it is a sound that points to the Christ, the only one who shows us the Father. And here is a puzzle verse:

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matthew 24:36)

Surely he speaks of the Son with respect to his human knowledge? I will seek St. Thomas' commentary on the matter...

Sed est quaestio hic, secundum Hieronymum, quia dicit Marcus XIII, 26: nec etiam filius hominis; ex quo videtur Arius suam haeresim confirmare, quia si pater scit quod nescit filius, ergo maior est eo.
But a question is here, according to Jerome, because Mark 13:26 says "nor even the Son of man", from which Arius seems to confirms his heresy. Because if the Father knows what the Son does not know, there he is greater.
Ideo potest dici quod filius scit, et quod dies iudicii secundum aliquam rationem determinatus est, et quidquid determinatur a Deo, suo verbo aeterno determinatur; ideo impossibile est quin verbum sciat.
Therefore it is able to be said that the Son knows, both that the day of judgment was determined according to some account, and that whatever is determined by God is determined in/by his eternal word. Therefore it is impossible that the Son know not.
Sed quare dicitur nescire? Augustinus et Hieronymus dicunt quod consuetus modus loquendi est dicere nescire aliquid, quando non facit illud scire; sicut dicitur Gen. XXII, v. 12: nunc cognovi quod timeas Deum; idest, cognoscere feci; ideo dicitur filius nescire, quia non facit scire.
But why is he said not to know? Augustine and Jerome says that it is a fit way of speaking to say that he does not know something when he does not make to know it [awkward]. Just as is said in Genesis 22:12, "Now I have known that you fear God," that is, I have made to know; therefore it is said that the Son does not know because he does not make to know.
Alio modo dicit Origenes quod Christus et Ecclesia sunt sicut caput et corpus, quia sicut caput et corpus sunt sicut una persona, ita Christus et Ecclesia. Sed Christus aliquando accipit formam Ecclesiae, ut in illo Ps. XXI, v. 2: Deus, Deus meus, respice in me, unde quod dicitur quod Christus non scit, intelligitur quod Ecclesia non scit: unde dominus, Act. I, 7: non est vestrum scire tempora vel momenta et cetera.
In another way, Origen says that Christ and the Church are just as head and body, because just as the head and the body are one person, so Christ and the Church. But Christ somewhere takes the form of the Church (just as in Psalm 22, "My God, my God, look at me, why have you forsaken me?"). Whence is said that Christ knows not, but it is understood that the Church knows not. Whence the Lord says in Acts 1:7, "It is not yours to know the time or the moment."
Notate quod dicit Augustinus quod ipse volebat ostendere ex quibusdam signis, quod adventus iudicii non possit sciri determinate, quia non determinat quodcumque tempus.
Note that Augustine says that he wants to show from certain signs, that the the coming of judgment is not able to be known determinately, because he does not determine any time. ...[he goes on and talks about the ages of the world]

It is interesting to see how Origen interprets the text. He uses one of the seven rules that St. Augustine lays down toward the end of On Christian Doctrine, about attending to the head and the body. Oh well, more thoughts later.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pope Francis Catechism

"Do not “water down” your faith in Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes: What must we do, Father? Look, read the Beatitudes: that will do you good. If you want to know what you actually have to do, read Matthew Chapter 25, which is the standard by which we will be judged. With these two things you have the action plan: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. You do not need to read anything else. I ask you this with all my heart." (Pope Francis, Thursday 25 July 2013, )

Matthew 5
The Beatitudes
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 25Parable of the Wise and Foolish Maidens 1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' 12 But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  

Parable of the Talents
14 "For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' 21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' 23 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26 But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' 

Judgment of the Nations
31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."