Sacramental Definitions

What is sacramentum tantum?

sacramentum tantum is a Latin word that describes the sacramental elements. They are the physical matter that is presented to be offered up in the sacrament. In the case of the Eucharist it would be bread and wine. The literal translation in English is “matter alone”. In an of themselves they are only elements and not sanctifying.

 

What is res et sacramentum?

The Latin term res et sacramentum contains the whole of the sacrament. It is when the physical properties and the grace of God become one. The grace and the physical elements are united, and this is what makes the sacraments effective. It is this terminology that shows that the sacraments are more than just elements. They are physical elements, infused with God’s grace, that are used to bring us into deeper relationship with him.

 

What is res tantum?

Res tantum is made up of two Latin words that mean “thing alone”.   The “thing” that the phrase speaks of is the grace of God. This is the presence of the Lord God himself. Without this presence the elements of the sacrament remain merely physical. They would have no effect as a sacrament.

What is ex opere operato?

Ex opera operato is a term that refers to the work worked. This term is helpful when understanding how a sacrament is valid even if the one administering it may not be of the highest moral character. If everything is done through the church, and according to the command of Christ then the sacrament is valid. This term was also used in the medieval period to help keep maintain the relationship between the sacraments and faith and reason. The grace flows through the sacrament as long as the criteria mentioned above are met.

 

What is ex opere operantis?

Ex opera operantis is a term that refers to the work of the worker (Lecture Notes). Though a sacrament may be valid the disposition of the recipient must be in good order. We have a responsibility to cooperate with the grace given to us. We can block the grace of the sacrament by not believing what it truly it. Ex opere operantis and ex opera operato must work together as in any relationship.

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Origen on Baptism

The book of Joshua is an interesting book in the Old Testament. Moses has died, and the children of Israel are about to enter the promised land. Before they do so they must cross the Jordan river, but they have no way to cross. It is at this point that we must look at the power of God over nature. In Exodus the Lord parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape Pharaoh. In the book of Joshua God parted the Jordan River.

This can be read in Joshua 3:17 which states, “While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan” (NRSV). Through baptism one parts the waters and is being led by the New Moses, which is Jesus Christ (Origen page 52). It is Christ, through his priesthood, that leads us into the future.

This is important for those of you who are being baptized. God has shown over and over what he can do in the natural realm. He parted the Red Sea, he provided manna from Heaven, and today He begins a new work in you. Through Baptism you step in the water, just as the twelve tribes did in the book of Joshua, and the waters part. You now follow the priests of Christ into the land of our inheritance (Origen page 53).

Through of your baptism you are dying and rising with Christ. This is a great responsibility, and a great honor. Christ is exalted when you come to the baptismal waters, and he is happy that you are here. Follow Christ and keep him close. Do not fall back into sin and be like the Egyptians who were swallowed up by the Red Sea.

WORKS CITED

Origen, et al. Homilies on Joshua. Catholic University of America Press, 2002. The Fathers of the Church.

3 Ways To Live Out Your Baptismal Vows

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest blog on The Simple Catholic.  The post is about three ways the newly baptized can live their vows going forward.  You can read the post here.  Lastly, check out and follow The Simple Catholic for great content.  Matthew is doing great work over there.

3 Quick and Easy Proofs for the Resurrection Anyone Can Understand

Easter is arguably the greatest time of the liturgical year. Though Christmas it wonderful, Easter is like our Super Bowl as Catholics. Not only are we celebrating new people joining the church, but we are celebrating the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The resurrection is so important that St. Paul tells us that if it did not happen that we are still dead in sin (1 Corinthians 15:17). Sometimes there is some apprehension when the resurrection is discussed because we feel a burden of proof, but the evidence for it is out there. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but three proofs for the resurrection of Christ.

You can read the rest of my article on epicpew.com

Trinitarian Reflection

Many say that the Trinity is complex and is some regard they are right. The concept is one that baffles the mind, and some find it unbelievable. The fact that our finite minds are not able to fully grasp it is intriguing. It makes sense really because if we can fully understand the nature of God then there is a problem. Perhaps we have made a god in our own image at that point. One we can fully understand, but in the end is false and has zero ability to save. St. Augustine said that if we understand him then he is not God. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the Trinity is one and that the Father is so because of relation to the Son.

They are still one essence though they are two persons. The same can be said about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is spirated from the Father and proceeds from the Father and the Son. Spiration is to have a relation to the principle. The Father is the first principle of all creation, the Son is begotten, and the Spirit proceeds and is spirated. Spirated is a term of temporality and eternality. Thus, the Holy Spirit is eternal with no beginning or end. This is the same principle when looking at Christ as the only begotten son of God.

Christ was begotten in the temporal sense at the incarnation. In an eternal sense he is begotten because he is the love of God. He is the Word and has always existed. The Greek term for begotten is monogenes and denotes his divinity and eternality. He is the Son of God in a very different sense than a man is a father to a son. Understanding these, not only explains the Trinity in a deeper way, but shows us divine simplicity.

The work of the Trinity is ultimately a work of love. Look around at creation and you can see the beauty and majesty of the Father’s work. Something as simple as a beautiful sunset can make a lasting impression on us. In the Son we see the person of our redemption. It is awe inspiring and hard to fathom. The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, became man. He not only became man, but was born into humble beginnings, was tempted just like us, felt the same emotions as we do, did nothing wrong, and died on the cross for our sins. In his resurrection we see the ultimate representation of hi divinity, because without the resurrection the cross meant nothing. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father ad Son for our help and sanctification. The three work together for one cause. That is the salvation of mankind. This entity that we cannot fully fathom love us so much.

If the Trinity is not able to be fully known is it worth trying to understand? We would not be doing our duty as Christians if we did not try to do so. We do not need minds like Augustine or Aquinas to do this. Some of us may be called to do such things, but there are many things we can do. We can read scripture, pray, and read the work of the great minds in the history of the church. We can also fully surrender ourselves to the Trinity and allow the Trinity to work through us.

Mary the Mother of God?

On my journey into the Catholic church there were three things that had the potential to derail me.  Mary, Mary, and Mary.  One of the objections I had, which sprang from my Baptist days, was the title of Mother of God for Mary.

After all God is eternal and has always existed.  That title, at least in my mind back then, meant that somehow Mary was exalted to a deified state in which she surely didn’t belong. and one she would surely object to herself.  How can a mere mortal be the Mother of God?  Thsi objection is one that is till quite prominent.  If you don’t believe me feel free to visit a Protestant/Catholic discussion forum on Facebook.  Simply ask if Mary is the Mother of God and watch the sparks fly.

This issue was settled by the church in the 400’s at the Council of Ephesus.  Nestorius, the Bishop of Constantinople, objected to the long revered title of Mary known as Theotokos.  This is a Greek term that simply means “God-bearer”.  Nestorius decided to use a different term known as Christokos, or “Christ-bearer”.  This term is problematic for a couple reasons.  First and foremost Nestorius used this term in an attempt to maintain the two natures of Christ, but he failed, because by using this term, he separated the human and divine nature of Christ from the person of Christ.  His attempt to be Orthodox led him into heresy because Jesus had a human and divine nature while in the womb of Mary.

To say that Mary only gave birth the to human Jesus would deny the teaching of scripture that states he is human and divine.  Secondly, if Mary only gave birth to the human Jesus when did his divine nature arrive?  Do you see the Christological dilemma?  Either Jesus had both natures since conception or he did not.  To say he did not is to fall into error.  Adoptionism is one result that can come from this line of thinking, the other is one that denies the hypostatic union.  The latter is what would become known as Nestorianism.

The fact of Jesus having a human and divine nature coexisting in the one person of Jesus was upheld by the Council of Ephesus in 431.  As a result the Greek term for Mary known as Theotokos was upheld.  In short calling Mary the Mother of God has everything to do with understanding Jesus properly, and even less to do with Mary.  Regarding this para 495 of the Catechis states, “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”. In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos)”.

As stated a few sentences ago, Jesus was fully God and fully man from the time of his conception.  Mary gave birth to the second person of the Trinity, not a boy who would latter take on a divine nature.  The divine nature was already there.  Since Mary gave birth to Jesus, who we affirm to be God incarnate, she gave birth to God.  Yes my friends, it really is that simple.  Nestorianism is the logical consequence for those who deny the Theotokos.

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p2.htm

Doctrine Matters

Imagine someone saying that they love Jesus, but they abhor sacred doctrine and theology. As unfortunate as this sounds, it is something that happens on a daily basis within Christendom. There are also those, some through no fault of their own, that do not understand the importance of sacred doctrine. Understanding of sacred doctrine is important in many facets of our lives, not just the spiritual.

Sacred doctrine is important because we are oriented toward God, and this orientation exceeds that which we can describe. These truths are given to us by divine revelation. Some of these may have become known by some, but over time error would creep in (ST 1, Q1, A1). Sacred doctrine is important because it is taught by divine revelation. Furthermore, it is important because it is the study of our creator, and if we truly love him, we would strive to know everything possible to build a stronger relationship.

Sacred doctrine and the use of reason are not at odds. Quite the contrary, reason can lead to some truths of sacred doctrine (ST I, Q1, A1). However, reason can only get us so far and we eventually need to be enlightened by God to other truths. Sacred doctrine includes the philosophical and natural sciences. This is because both have their origins in God, and sacred doctrine is the study of God. As St Thomas Aquinas states, “But in sacred science, all things are treated of under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end” (STI, Q1, A7).

Works Cited

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne. Print.

Life in a State of Grace

When speaking of grace, it is important to remember that we are all sinners. There will be times when we reflect the love of God and live the Christian life well, and there will be times when we err and show our human imperfections. When we are in a state of grace, we are living the deiform life on earth imperfectly but truly. For one to do this sanctifying grace must be received because it provides the theological edifice that supersedes our human nature (Hardon Ch.4)

This deiform life, as John Hardon describes it, starts with the sacrament of Baptism. This sacrament infuses us with sanctifying grace and elevates us to partake in the divine life. In Baptism, we are born again in the way the scriptures speak. We are “born again in a new childhood of true innocence” (Hardon Ch.4). With original sin, and all sin, washed away we now partake in the deiform life imperfectly but truly. How can this be? We still have concupiscence, and though we may not fall into mortal sin we will commit venial sin. This is one of the reasons why Jesus established the sacramental system. Our physical bodies require exercise, sleep, and proper nourishment to grow into healthy adults. It is very similar in our spiritual lives as we need prayer and nourishment through the sacraments to continue in the practice of virtue (Hardon, Ch.4).

There are many saints throughout history that can be used to illustrate the example of the deiform life that living in a state of grace can bring about, but I feel the need to use a personal example. The Director of Religious education of St. Francis De Sales in Tucson, Arizona fits this mold. I am a member of the parish, and Maureen and her husband Deacon Russ, have been mentors. Maureen has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for many years and is often in great pain. However, she never complains and offers up her sufferings for the parish and the children that she is responsible for educating in the faith. Her life is an example of how living the Christian life can inspire someone else to do the same. She is involved in many other ministries, but no matter what is going on has the time to give an encouraging word, pray for someone, and answer questions about the faith. Her zeal to share the Gospel drives her and you can see grace at work in her life. Her life is a great example for those of us under her tutelage.

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

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