Saturday, September 28, 2013

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed..."
I was thinking about heaven earlier today, and so I turned to the Gospel of Matthew (which mentions the kingdom most of all) to see what it said. You would expect it to say somewhere, "The kingdom of heaven is this really awesome place with a lot of angels, no pain, everyone is happy, no fighting, your favorite food, and um...yeah! It's pretty awesome!" But it never reads quite like that (though sometimes a banquet is mentioned).

Early on, the kingdom is referenced in the Sermon on the Mount, in the first and last beatitude,
  • "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
  • "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
 When he describes the kingdom itself, it is always in the manner of the parable. Here's some from Matthew 13:
  • 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow." (he says later that this refers to the kingdom)
  • 24 Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field;" (A different parable, still with seeds)
  • 31 Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field;" (Hey look, another seed..)
  • 33 He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." (Not a seed, but growing)
  • 44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
  • 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,"
  • 47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind;" 
All right, so we have 7 distinct parables about the kingdom of heaven all in a single chapter of Matthew. And he doesn't stop the parables there. Here are some more:
  • 18:23, "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants."
  • 20:1, "For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard."
  • 22:2, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son,"
  • 25:1, "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom."
  • 25:14, "For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property;"
 And then other references come by other means than parables. Those like this child will be the greatest. Some make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom. Peter, I give you the keys of the kingdom. And finally (or initially), Matthew 3 and 4 have John the Baptist and Jesus respectively preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

I'm starting to run out of time (yes, I always start a blog post right before I'm supposed to be somewhere), but I would like to go into the parables with some more detail to see what they teach about the kingdom of heaven and why. Jesus himself (thankfully) gives us his interpretation of a couple of them, the one about the sower is interpreted by him, as well as the wheat and the chaff. But things really are never that simple. The devil often shows up in his interpretation. And he compares the kingdom to "10 maidens"; yet we know that only 5 of them actually make it to the wedding feast!

Thy kingdom come! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thoughts on Sacraments as Signs

Typically when considering the sacraments, I think about what they effect and not so much about what they signify, yet these are closely related. Most definitions of sacrament will somehow include sign, whether be "an efficacious sign of grace" or "an outward sign instituted by Christ for giving grace" (Baltimore Catechism) or "a sign of a sacred thing, with determinate words and a determinate matter" (St Thomas).

Lately I've been thinking about the question, "Why not women priests?" I'm thinking more and more that the answer is that a woman (as woman) is not a sufficient sign of Christ the Priest. It seems that it has to be on account of the sign. As far as offering sacrifice (which is the chief act of a priest), this is not something only men do. We are all called to be "a nation of priests" and "offer sacrifice" in all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Yet when people talk about the capacity to become priests, they are referring to the sacramental priesthood, the priesthood which is a sign of the priesthood of Christ.

Now I'm talking about signs a lot and some might think, "If it's just a sign, then doesn't that mean it doesn't really matter?" The answer is no, it really does matter. Think about baptism: the washing with water signifies the washing away of sins--no water, no sacrament. But all the other liquids may complain, "If it's just a sign, can't you use beer or coffee to baptize someone just as well?" Christ, in his wisdom, instituted the sacraments with determinate things and with determinate words so that they might have determinate effects. The tendency to attend only to the effect of the sacrament and not to the sign might be a result of a kind of utilitarian mindset, but without attending to the sign we cannot understand the reality effected by means of the sacrament.

Marriage is another example of a sacramental sign. Why can't two men marry each other in a church? (at all really, but especially not sacramentally.) Because marriage is primarily a sign of the union between Christ and the Church, a union which requires a both diversity in kind and a total self-giving of the one to the other. You do not have this in two men. Perhaps two men can have the holiest of friendships and can even spend a whole of service together (these aren't typically the men that seek such a union...), yet their friendship does not sufficiently signify the union of Christ and the Church, a union which is signified by bride and bridegroom, male and female.

Another example intrigues me in the sacrament of Confirmation. At the Council of Trent, it was declared "If anyone says that the ordinary minister of holy confirmation is not the bishop alone, but any simple priest, let him be anathema." I always thoughts this was an odd canon since it is only about an ordinary minister of a sacrament. Simple priests can administer confirmation, yet the Church declares that bishops are the only ordinary minister. Why? Because the bishop more perfectly signifies the one who sends the Holy Spirit. I will have to read more on this, but St. Ignatius of Antioch (2nd century bishop in Syria) often compares the bishop to God the Father, priests to Christ or the company of Apostles, and deacons to the ministry of the Apostles. Both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit, thus both the bishop and the priest have this capacity, and yet all the Son has he has from the Father (including, if I am not mistaken, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from him), thus it is proper that the bishop be the ordinary minister of the sacrament by which the Holy Spirit is confirmed in souls. (A note: these are just top-of-head thoughts, if I say something that sounds heretical, check the catechism and disregard what I said as needed)

After considering the sacramental priesthood to some extent, there is also the question of other ministers at Mass. Many argue that these should be male whenever possible, citing what appears to be the meaning of Canon Law but also arguing that the other ministries are in some way a participation in the priesthood. There is certainly more leeway here, since these are ministers (besides the priest and deacon) do not receive a sacrament, yet the principle of a significant sign should still apply. Thus, when the Epistles of St Paul or any of the Apostles is read, it does seem fitting that a male should read these so as to signify the Apostle better. Another example of a sign beyond the sacraments: I know a priest who always has the gifts brought up from the congregation (although this is not required) since this better signifies the contribution of man in the divine sacrifice.

Must go to class. Signs--very important.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

1 Corinthians 14, first look with St Thomas

Chapter 14 of First Corinthians is an extended consideration of two charismata in particular: prophecy and speaking in tongues (and a brief mention of interpretation of tongues). Speaking in tongues is the gift most often associated with the "Charismatic Movement", so it will be helpful to understand that better. And also, since prophecy is a better gift and St Paul wants us all to seek it (Desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy), this too is worth considering.

In the commentary on 12, St Thomas said about these gifts:

  • prophecy is the grace to manifest what is known to God alone (such as future contingents)
  • speaking in tongues allows one to overcome the barrier of language
  • interpretation of tongues allows one to understand the difficult words of Scripture
In Chapter 14, however, St Paul talks about speaking in tongues as not understandable by men and as only edifying oneself, rather than the whole community. Let's see what St Thomas has to say about this... An outline is always a good way to start.

  • Prophecy excels the gift of tongues
    • reasons on account of the nonbelievers
      • More useful in exhortation (5-12)
      • More useful in praying (13-17)
    • reasons on account of the believers
  • How the gifts of prophecy and tongues should be used
Early on, St Thomas says "For the explanation of the entire chapter, three things need to be known beforehand: (1) what is prophecy, (2) how many kinds of prophecy are in Scripture, (3) what is speaking in tongues."
  • Prophecy is the sight or manifestation of future contingents or of things transcending human understanding
  • Four things are required for this
    • An image in the imagination which is the likeness of the thing shown
    • Intellectual light which allows the intellect to know beyond natural knowledge
      • Nebuchadnezzar and Pharoah had dreams but were not prophets; Daniel and Joseph interpreted the dreams and were prophets
    • Courage to announce the things revealed
    • Working of miracles which lends certitude for prophecy
  • Prophets differ inasmuch as they possess these four things differently
  • The prophecy referred to in this chapter belongs to one who "has the intellectual light to explain imaginary visions made to himself or someone else"
  • The gift of tongues is the actual speaking of foreign languages
  • As for this chapter, "When the Apostle mentions here about speaking in a tongue, he means an unknown language not interpreted; as when one might speak German to a Frenchman without an interpreter, he is speaking in a tongues. Hence, all speech neither understood nor explained, no matter what it is, is properly called speaking in a tongue." St Thomas says "whatever speech" because any speech that is truly such (and not just noise) has some meaning, whether it is known or not.
What is meant by speaking in tongues becomes more clear when he comments on verse 5 (I'm paraphrasing):
  • He says that men are sometimes moved by the Holy Spirit to speak something mystical, which they do not understand--this person has the gift of tongues
  • One who speaks in tongues and interpret is better than one who is prophet--because to interpret difficult things is what the prophet does (so St Thomas here seems to identify the prophet and the interpreter of tongues); so such a one is both a prophet and has the gift of tongues
In verse 6, St Paul talks about his own gift to speak in tongues:
  • This can mean either foreign languages or any speech (sign) that is not understood
  • Things about which Paul speaks:
    • revelation, by which the mind is enlightened to know divine things
    • knowledge, that is, about earthly things that leads to building up of faith (Thomas interestingly excludes geometry and astronomy...)
    • prophecy, which is about future events (this is more particular than the sense above)
    • doctrine, which is about moral acts
He finishes his account of verse 11 by exhorting us, "Don't be barbarians to one another."

That's all I'm going to do for now. I'll probably write more on this later.

Evagrios Quote

Interesting passage from Evagrios the Solitary On Discrimination:

We have learnt, after much observation, to recognize the difference between angelic thoughts, human thoughts, and thoughts that come from demons.
  • Angelic thought is concerned with the true nature of things and with searching out their logoi. For example, why was gold created and scattered like sand in the lower regions of the earth, to be found only with much toil and effort? And how, when found, is it washed in water and committed to the fire, and then put into the hands of craftsmen who fashion it into the candlestick of the tabernacle and the censers and the vessels from which, by the grace of our Savior, the king of Babylon no longer drinks? A man such as Cleopas brings a heart burning with these mysteries.
  • Demonic thought, on the other hand, neither knows nor can know such things. It can only shamelessly suggest the acquisition of physical gold, looking forward to the wealth and glory that will come from this.
  • Finally, human thought neither seeks to acquire gold nor is concerned to know what it symbolizes, but brings before the mind simply the image of gold, without passion or greed.
[end quote]

He frequently mentions the work of the angels and says that one way to cast out the devil is to consider the angels, what they are, how they work; once the devil is found out, he says, he can no longer work as effectively. That makes sense out of why St. Thomas spent so much time considering the angels...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Charismatic Gifts, Division of 1 Corinthians 12

Recently I've talked with many who associate themselves with the "charismatic" movement in the Church. Seeking clarity in understanding, I go to St. Thomas to see what he has to say... The following is from his commentary on First Corinthians, the place in Scripture that deals most with the charismata. Outlines will now commence.

After the greeting, the main division is:
  • Things pertaining to all: the sacraments (ch. 1-15)
  • Things pertaining to some (ch. 16)
Under that first heading is considered:
  • The sacraments themselves (1-11)
    • Baptism (1-4)
    • Matrimony (5-7)
    • Eucharist (8-11)
  • The thing signified and contained by them: grace (12-14)
    • Charismatic graces (12)
    • Charity, which is prefered above all these (13)
    • Comparison of charismatic graces (14)
  • The thing signified but not contained: glory (15)
All right, things to notice: Whoever would have characterized the sacraments as the main purpose and the ordering principle of this whole letter? This is intersting and worth considering more later. As for our present purposes (which are chapters 12-14), we should probably note one translation detail.

What the translator calls "charismatic graces" are called "gratiis gratis data" by St. Thomas. Graces given by grace? Another translation I found was "gratuitous graces", which means about the same. The word "charismatic" comes from the Greek for gift or grace, so that's probably a good translation too. I'll keep calling them "charismatic graces", since that's easier and more normal sounding than the Latin or the phrase "gratuitous graces". Also, it will hopefully have a connection with what is meant by those in the charismatic movement.

Now the whole commentary on chapter 12 is about 20 pages (really 10, since the pages are Latin/English). First, I'm going to just copy and paste the text, outlining according to St. Thomas. This could be messy. I will provide explanation within it, in brackets. And I'll probably break up the outline as convenience requires.

  • [He states his intention]
    • 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed.  
  • [He follow his intention]
    • [He shows the need for spiritual graces]
      • 2 You know that when you were heathen, you were led astray to dumb idols, however you may have been moved.  
      • 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.  
    • [He presents the distribution of graces, v. 7-31]

[Distribution of graces]
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 
  • [Manifestation of the division of graces]
    • [Division of specific graces]
      • [Lays down condition of charimatic graces]
        • 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  
      • [Distinguishes them, v. 8-10] 
      • [Describes their action, responds to errors]
        • 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
    • [He applies a likeness]
      • 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, 25 that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
  • [Division of operations {ministrationum}]
    • [Assigns order of ministries]
      • [Principal ministries]
        • 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers,
      • [Secondary ministries]
        • helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.
    • [Manifests distinctions among them]
      • 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
    • [Orders their affections for ministries and graces]
      • 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Charismatic graces are ordered to the salvation of men. Only God can work this internally, but men can aid in this only by outwardly persuading.
[Distinction of specific graces, 12:8-10]
  • [Faculty of persuading]
    • [about divine things] 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,
    • [about creatures] and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,
    • [about matters of faith] 9 to another faith by the same Spirit,
  • [Faculty of confirming persuasion through divine signs]
    • [Something only God can do]
      • [with benefit] to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
      • [without benefit] 10 to another the working of miracles,
    • [Something only God can know]
      • [future contingents] to another prophecy,
      • [the human heart] to another the ability to distinguish between spirits,
  • [Faculty of proposing persuasion intelligibly]
      • [to overcome language barrier] to another various kinds of tongues,
      • [to explain what is obscure in Scripture] to another the interpretation of tongues.
Later, I will probably gather together key passages on understanding the charismatic gifts in general. Verses 7-10 in this chapter are probably the most important for understanding the charismatic gifts in themselves, but chapter 13 is most important for understanding their worth--which is subordinate to that of charity. Most of chapter 13 is spent showing that charity (1) avoids all evil and (2) accomplishes much good. And he then considers the vision of God.

Chapter 14 and its commentary is somewhat longer, but goes into detail about two particular charismata: prophecy and speaking in tongues, comparing the two and explaining their proper use.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Karl Barth, Trinity, thoughts

So I'm taking a Trinity class this semester. The text is pretty good (it's St. Thomas!) but the professor is confusing sometimes (he thinks the principle of contradiction doesn't apply to God...), so I have to think harder than usual.

It's clear that the professor doesn't completely agree St. Thomas on every point in his consideration on the Trinity. My difficulty: Where else does one go to find an alternate account? I read a little of St. Gregory Nazianzus (Oratio 31), and in it I saw the doctrine of St. Thomas. I suspect that if I read St. Augustine or Hilary or Basil, I would see accounts that remind me very much of what St. Thomas says. A rejection of his account would seem in some ways to be a rejection of the Fathers, since his thought is really a synthesis of their thought. Walking through the shelves of the library, I saw for the first time Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. I've read about Karl Barth (a Reformed theologian of sorts) but never seen this huge work. I picked it up to look at what he has to say about the Trinity, particularly what he says about Thomas' teaching on it.

Here is the last paragraph of his account:
"The second possibility [for how to explain the Trinity; the first is Sabellianism] has been adopted by Roman Catholic theology, whose doctrine of the Trinity even to this day speaks of the 'persons' as though the modern concept of personality did not exist, as though the definition of Boethius still continued to be relevant and intelligible, and above all as though the meaning of the definition had been so elucidated in the Middle Ages that it is possible with its help to speak profitably of the trinitarian three."

This reminded me of Pope Benedict's article on the definition of person in theology. Certainly, he was familiar with Barth (though I don't think he mentions him). Barth sees Boethius' definition of person as unhelpful and therefore doesn't see St. Thomas as saying the "persons" are really much more than relations. This is probably why Benedict spends time considering how the notion of relation is in the notion of person. Time is running short, but I'm not done thinking about this...I'll have to check out the book...

Something to think about: How do people try to explain the Trinity apart from Thomas' account? Before I knew Thomas' account, I knew what one had to say but not how to explain it. With St. Thomas, I have some way to reckon from two procession to three persons, from the Scripture to the defined dogma. Yet many cannot do this. Many will rightly affirm one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But how do the learned explain it? Are they ultimately Sabellians or Tritheists? Is the difference just where they draw the line of Mystery? Well, I'll at least read this one account.

Here's the quote from Ratzinger's article:
"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)

Whoa, that's heavy. Will definitely consider that more later.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Coredemption thoughts

Today is the birth of Mary, and so it seems fitting to write a little bit about Mary. First of all, this quote from Newman came to mind, "And as containing all created perfection, she has all those attributes, which, as was noticed above, the Arians and other heretics applied to our Lord, and which the Church denied of Him as infinitely below His Supreme Majesty." By studying the Arian (or perhaps the Nestorian) doctrine of Christ, we see how much it is possible to say of a human being, yet still come short of describing a man who is truly God. So the theory Newman puts forth here (and which I've seen in at least one other book is that all the things they attempted to say about Christ could actually be said of Mary, without crossing the line that would falsely attribute to her divinity.

Two works I have read (Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit by H. M. Manteau-Bonamy; Ego Sapientia by DeKoninck) both make the effort of drawing out the universality that belongs to Mary on account of her giving birth to and being the Mother of God. The first title looks at what Our Lady says at Lourdes, I am the Immaculate Conception, and tries to make sense of this, since it takes an attribute of hers (having been immaculately conceived) and makes it into a statement about what/who she is (which sounds very much like God or an angel who is the same its essence). In the second work, DeKoninck looks at verses that the liturgy ascribes to Mary, and noticed the universal character of them. Again, the title of the work refers to a verse that identifies Mary with an attribute: "Ego Sapientia" or "I, Wisdom". I'm not sure what that line of thoughts has to do with the next one, but at least it should establish that Mary is very special.

I was thinking about co-redemption, because I thought about the suffering of Mary and the fact that suffering is never in vain, especially for the holy ones of God. Why is there suffering in the world? (After reading and puzzling over Job, I realize how difficult that question is, and I will probably get this wrong...) One reason is that it is just for the wicked to be punished. This does not apply to Mary, for she was not sinful in the least. (Another reason for the suffering of the wicked, is so that the just can wash their feet in the blood of the wicked, as the Psalmist says...but again, Mary did not suffer on account of wickedness.)

So why does Mary suffer? The only other example of a sinless one suffering is the Christ, and his suffering is wholly for the sake of others. Therefore, by induction it seems we can safely say that Mary suffers for the sake of others. The question remains: In what way does her suffering benefit others? With Christ, it is clear that he is the sacrifice which will take away the sins of the world. Time to look at Scripture:
And a sword will pierce through your own soul also,
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.
(Lk. 2:35)
The sword pierces her soul, because she does not suffer any physical harm, but it is only suffering on account of her Son and on account of all her children who harm him with their sins. But why? So that the thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed? Sometimes, the first part of the verse is in parentheses, so that the latter part is associated with the previous verses, which would then read: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (parentheses), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." And it is certainly true that Christ himself will bring out the thoughts of many hearts (the whole Gospel bears witness). And so the parentheses indicate that Mary's suffering fits within this context somehow.

I must head off quickly now, but I will think about it more later...

Two psalm verses on the heart

I noticed these two verses the other day:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps. 111:10)

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." (Ps. 14:1, 53:1)

The Psalmist in these verses talks about two extremes: folly and wisdom, either a great knowledge or a lack of knowledge. Yet in each verse, they are related to something the affective realm. The fool is not merely one who says or thinks that God does not exist, but the one who says it in his heart, one who has denied God from the very core (Latin of heart: cor) of his being. Definitely not a good idea..

As for wisdom, it is obvious that one needs to know about God (the principle and cause of the order of all things) in order to be wise, yet the Psalmist does not speak about knowledge, but fear, which belongs to the affections. So before one can draw near to the Lord and eventually become wise, there must be some fear of the Lord, some interior disposition by which he can incline toward God and listen to him..

Here's an article on intellectual customs which makes a similar point about the beginning of the intellectual life:

And it's probably good to remember that a significant chunk of I-II of the Summa Theologiae is spent considering the passions/affections/emotions, since these are a integral part of us and the ordering of them (that is, the acquiring of virtue) is essential if we are to attain wisdom.

Blessed the pure of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt. 5)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Procession of Love

I'm now reading the Summa Theologiae on the Trinity again for a class.

I was reading about how there is a procession of love distinct from the procession of the intellect. Then I thought about the way St. Augustine approaches the notion of the interior word. He starts with the most obvious sense of word, the spoken word. From there he moves to the imagined word and then to the concept which comes forth when one thinks, and then says this is the closest we come to understanding God's word.

When we talk about the procession of love, I think it is from an analogy with the procession of the intellect, but we start with the interior/intellectual word as that from which we move to the will. Is there a visible/exterior procession of love that corresponds to the spoken word? It seems that it would be either an exterior action, or perhaps even a loving word. These more obviously have the account of impelling or moving, since by exterior actions you cause other things to move. I want to use the word fruit here for these exterior acts that proceed from love. And just as a word can proceed from truth or falsehood in one's mind, so fruits can proceed from the love of either the good or the bad. You will know them by their fruits.

After making that connection, I started reading the article on whether this procession is generation. Now fruits (in the case of trees) certainly seem to be generated (or at least brought forth..) by the tree. That makes me wonder if it is a good idea to call these fruits... I wonder if, just as St. Thomas was able to state what is essential to generation, it would be possible to consider what is essential in the account of fruit and find out how it fits in the whole picture.

(Unfortunately I'm in a hurry, or I would look at the I-II quaestio on fruits of the Holy Spirit...)

Another note, this consideration is moving from considering the interior procession of love to the exterior procession of love. Yet this exterior procession is more known, and by considering the relation between the two processions, hopefully this will help us to be reminded of God's interior life in every procession of love that we see.

Short update (9/13/13): I was reading a little from the section of the Summa on whether "Gift" is a proper name of the Holy Spirit (it is), and perhaps I ought to look at that more. I'm not sure why I like the word fruit so much...the confusion with birth could happen. Then again, Gift as well as Fruit both imply origin (which is important), and there is relationship between the ideas of one-born and gift that I haven't thought much

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hierarchy of truths, God and creatures

Right now I'm reading Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles, and Criteria for a fundamental theology class. (read it here: ) That will involve writing a paper, so I will probably write more thoughts on it. There was a citation in the section on faith's relationship with reason, and I was glad to see that it adapts very much of what St. Thomas teaches on philosophy. What especially stood out is the way our mind stands to reality, not as something that imposes order on it, but rather as something that is open to reality and approaches it by different methods. I'll think more about that later...

Later on the document talked about an order among truths, citing St. Thomas. In haste, I will just cite II-II, q. 1, a. 7. Go read Thomas. The point that stood out is that all the articles of faith are contained in two: "God exists" and "God is provident". These two truths sum up or contain everything about God's interior life and exterior life. They contain the mystery of the most holy Trinity and the mystery of the Incarnation. What is interesting is that both of these truths fall under those that can be attained by human reason. So at some point I will want to work out the details of how they can be at once truths knowable by unaided reason and yet contain all the other articles of faith virtually, in such a way that God a man who held just those to propositions by faith (rather than reason?) might even be justified on account of that faith. Is it faith that makes the holding of those proposition salutary? Is that because faith is necessarily open to further instruction from another, whereas reason may see itself at a conclusion? Not sure, more thinking will follow.

Also related to this, is the mystery of creation and everything that isn't God. It is interesting that St. Thomas names two propositions rather than one. Earlier in the Summa, it is shown that God is provident, and it seems (I'm pretty sure it is) the case that God's providence is the same with his essence. Yet, why would he single this attribute out? It seems that it is because it has to do with what is not necessary. It is necessary that God exist. It is not necessary that he create, and consequently be provident over such a creation. This reminds me of an argument I had a year ago about whether God's providence is really knowable by human reason. I held that it was...and I still think it is, but I also have a hunch that it's account makes it different from other predicates that pertain to God. The fact that reason must start with creatures in ascending to knowledge of God, means that natural knowledge of God will some how involve his relation to creatures.

Just to draw out what I mean by the mystery of creation (this is all out of order, but apparently so is my mind): God is free in creating the world. He doesn't have to. And yet God does do it. And God's being and activity are not other than each other in re, at least with respect to his interior life (I wish I could state more definitively about all his activity, but this is where my understanding breaks down). If God is the same with his activity, does that mean he is the same with his act of creation? But if his essence is to create the finite world, then isn't it necessary that he do so? If it is necessary, is it contrary to his freedom? If it is not necessary, then is that act really the same with his essence?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Psalm Thoughts: 95 and 58

I've read a lot of Psalms recently and been asking questions about them. Here are some conclusions.

I've been asked several times why Psalm 95 is prayed every morning in the Liturgy of the Hours. The last two stanzas are somewhat frightening:

Today listen to the voice of the Lord
Do not grow stubborn as fathers did in the wilderness
When at Meribah and Massah they challenged me and provoked
Although they had seen all of my works.

Forty years I endured that generation
I said they are a people who hearts go astray 
They do not know my ways
So I swore in my wrath
They shall not enter into my rest.

The answer came in reading Hebrews, I don't know why I never noticed it much before. Read Hebrews 3 and 4. Chapter 3 explains why the Israelites did not enter: unbelief. Chapter 4 concludes that there is still hope for us while it is still today. A very good reminder at the beginning of the day.

Next one is Psalms 58:10:
The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

or 68:23:
That you may bathe your feet in blood.

The first Psalm there is actually excluded from the current Liturgy of the Hours on account of being possibly psychologically disturbing. The literal context would have to do with battle with those persecuting the author. Bathing with blood sounds pretty bizarre, but there is one place in the Books of Kings that talks about harlots bathing in Ahab's blood. Anyway...

St. Augustine in interpreting this passage says that when we see wicked people punished ("bleeding") for doing evil, then we must ourselves learn ("bathe our feet", or hands in Augustine's text) the consequences of such actions so as to more effectively avoid sin. Also, since St. Augustine's text said hands instead of feet, he may not have seen a possible connection with the washing of the feet in the Gospels (both Mary Magdalene of Jesus, and Jesus of the Apostles). I don't see a connection yet, but I'll be thinking about it in the near future...