Reason and the Development of the Will

In the very beginnings of sacred scripture we read of the Lord creating.  Each step of creation ended a similar way with the words by describing their goodness.  In Genesis 1:31 God had just finished creating man and commanded them to procreate and exercise dominion over the Earth.  Genesis 1:31 states, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (NRSV).

Humanity was created uniquely different than the rest of creation.  God created humans with the ability to reason, with five senses to help us learn, and free will.  The combination of these work together to help us live in harmony with each other, in harmony with our creator, and assist us finding true happiness.  The intellect we were blessed with helps us rationalize.  Our intellectual knowledge originates in the five senses and internal sensory powers of common sense, estimation, memory, and imagination.

This intellectual knowledge that develops helps us form our will.  The purpose of the will is to direct action and direct the concupiscible and irascible appetites.  The concupiscible appetites are things like love, joy, desire, and sadness.  They work together to help us seek what is good and reject evil.  The irascible are attributes such as hope, courage, despair, and fear.  These attributes assist us in avoiding evils in which we may find compelling.  Together the concupiscible and irascible appetites are known as the sense appetites, and work to help us understand what is good and what is evil.  They help us establish the parameters in which we exercise the freedom which God has given us.  Regarding this freedom Servais Pinckaers writes, “It is the power to engage in excellent actions, actions that are true and good, even though the agent may in fact fail and do evil” (Pinckaers 68).

Looking back on my life I can see how these senses led me in the right direction.  How they allowed me to see what was right, what was the right path, and how I ignored it.  I think of an incident from my childhood in which I wanted a piece of candy at a store and was told no.  I wanted the candy and ate it in the middle of the store without paying.  I knew it was wrong and the senses mentioned above were telling me it was wrong.  However, I ignored them and partook in larceny to have that which I longed for.

This ignoring of what was supposed to be done made matters worse.  This is the effect of sin on the individual.  Every sin wounds the communion that we have with our creator.  Mortal sin goes a step further in that it ruptures the relationship completely.  For something to be a mortal sin it must meet the following three criteria:  It must involve grave matter, the individual must have full knowledge that it is sin, and there must be a deliberate consent to the act.  This is obviously not God’s will, and it is by doing God’s will that we find the happiness that we long for.  This is what James Keenan means when he writes, “Not only does love look for union, it also moves us toward freedom and truth.  Love then makes possible our search for a freedom for greater love and a truth to love rightly” (Ostrowski 27).

 

Works Cited

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed.  Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Saint Mary’s Press.  Winona, MN:  2008.  Print

Pinckaers, Servais.  Morality:  The Catholic View.  St. Augustine’s Press.  South Bend, IN:  201.  Print.

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The Incarnation and the New Law of Grace

In sacred scripture we read that man was created he had a perfect relationship with God.  Man is the pinnacle of creation, and God gave man everything.  In return the Lord asked man not to each of one tree in the garden.  Man did not listen, rebelled, and had to face the consequences of sin for the first time.  The sin of our first parents also applies to us.  We all have sinned, and the penalty for that sin is death.  Saint Paul had the same opinion in Romans 6:23 which states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NRSV).  However, the second person of the blessed Trinity, Jesus himself became incarnate to atone and redeem us from our sin.

The incarnation was needed because we could not atone for our sin on our own.  Only someone who was perfect, and without sin could do that.  This perfect sacrifice, Jesus, would also show us the new law of grace.  A way of living, or new law of grace, shows us a deeper understanding of the law.  It shows us how it was supposed to be lived from the beginning, and the divine Son of God, showed us how to live it.  The new law is an interior, infused reality consisting in the grace of the Holy Spirit, received through faith in Jesus Christ and operating through charity.  These virtues, which are also taught in 1 Corinthians 13, are faith, hope, and charity.

Since becoming a catholic these three virtues have been instrumental in my life.  Faith is at the forefront, and the will of Christ is sought in everything that I do.  Faith is the starting point for the New Law, and “the starting point for Christian morality” (Pinckaers 85).  As a father of four, a husband, and one income life throws many curve balls.  Things have not been easy, but my wife and I maintain our hope in Christ.  It is this hope, through faith, that help us persevere and see the good even in the roughest circumstance.  No matter how tight things are we see that there are those who are having much larger problems than ourselves.  We strive to be good disciples, by not only having faith in Christ, but by also having charity.  We trust God for our needs but realize that we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and strive to help whenever possible.  We have found that the practice of the infused virtues has deepened our faith and love for our fellow man.

Image result for incarnation

Works Cited

Pinckaers, Servais.  Morality:  The Catholic View.  St. Augustine’s Press.  South Bend, IN:  2001.  Print.

Lonergan and The Law of the Cross

Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit priest and one of the most influential Catholic thinkers in the twentieth century.  In an effort help others understand the redemption he proposes a theory called the Law of the Cross.  Lonergan looked to the development of western culture and developed his theology to include human science and degradation of human value.  Regarding this William Loewe writes, “it invites theology to enrich itself with the discoveries of the empirical and human sciences and of historical consciousness; more grimly, it presents the cultural crisis engendered by the deterioration of the objective status of meaning and value” (Loewe 162).  Lonergan proposes that Christian faith is the example that changed the world.

The goal of humanity is to make the world a better place.  In short, we want to humanize everything.  This does not mean that are seeking to get rid of God, but that we are seeking the greater good.  However, we are human and we get greedy, try to pump up our ego, and look to satisfy self.  Individual bias, group bias, and common-sense bias distort our humanity and development.  In our individual bias we do what is best for ourselves at all costs.  We make a God of ourselves and our satisfaction reigns supreme.  In our individual bias we look to the good of our group instead of the good of the whole of humanity.  The benefit of the group is what is important even it hurts someone else.  This is an individual bias that is taken to the next level.  The result is two groups that have a hatred for each other and the criticism of the group is not heard because it is not in their interest to hear it.  The only way to maintain “happiness” in the group is with more money and power.  Common sense bias states that one can solve all problems.  It is cocky and thinks too much of itself.  In short, this bias leads to over confidence and pride.  This bias can lead to a way of thinking that leads to a complacency in the way things are.  Since it has always been that way then it must stay that way.  This line of thinking has led to many evil and destructive acts in the world.

The solution to these three biases, or reign of sin as Lonergan puts it, is the Law of the Cross.  This view offers a fresh perspective on Christian identity and it s implications in the world (Loewe 163).  The Christian faith looks to the example of Christ, and the belief that he changed the world.  Through his work on the cross he gave the world a whole new meaning.

The three-bias mentioned above are counteracted by the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.  Charity, or love as we call it now, counteracts these acts of evil.  It is through charity that we let go of our egos and recognize the image of God in other people.  It is through charity that groups look out for the welfare of others to make the world better.  It is through charity that we look past our own common-sense views to see if there is a better way.  We hope that others see the sufficiency of Charity, and faith holds the other two together because it helps us grasp the truth of who God is.

 

Works Cited

Loewe, William P. “Lonergan and the Law of the Cross”. Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977) 162-74

Mission of Divine Persons

When discussing the Trinity, we can see that the three persons are of the same essence and One God.  In the Nicean creed we profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  This mission of divine persons can be seen directly in their processions.  Through this mission of procession, we can see their unity and equality.  Through this unity and equality is their ultimate end of the redemption of mankind (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XVII).

Mission involves the sending of someone from another and is made up of being send from a specific destination, to a specific destination, and a link between the two.  To process in mission from one is an implication of equality.  In the military troops are sent forth to another region.  They do not represent themselves, but the nation to whom they belong.  If they do something wrong, it is as if the whole nation has done something wrong.  Though this may not be the best example, especially regarding the Trinity, it makes the point that the procession of divine persons is equal to the sender.  They are worth no less than the one doing the sending.

In the persons of the Trinity the Father is not able to be sent, but the Son and the Holy Spirit can be.  The divine persons being sent do not cease to be where they are or where they are going.  They have always existed and will continue to be.  They are God and thus are omnipresent and omniscient.  This procession in mission is done for the purpose of our very sanctification.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#00, accessed December 12, 2018

Book Review: The Beauty of the Mass

One of the things I had trouble with during my journey to the Catholic Church was what went on at Mass.  I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I would get as everyone sat and kneeled while I was left wondering what was going on.  As I started to understand the theology behind the Mass, I started to see a whole other issue entirely.  I started to notice how some who have been immersed their whole lives have no idea about the beauty and majesty that they are partaking in.

In his book The Beauty of the Mass:  Exploring the Central Act of Worship author Charles S. Johnston takes an in depth look at the Mass.  The book is brilliantly laid out and describes exactly what is happening with every aspect of Mass.  From the initial sign of the cross, to the final blessing, and everything in between the author lays out the reasons why we do what we do.  Even ore importantly, at least to me, is that the Biblical basis is given for it.  There is so much scripture in the Mass!  As if having all the scriptural backup wasn’t enough, the author strengthens his research using church documents and writing from the early church fathers.

Would I recommend that you check out this book?  Absolutely!  It is solid and is good for those who are coming into the church because it gives a great explanation of the Mass.  It is also good of those of us who have been around and I’m sure you will discover something that you didn’t know.  The book is well written and is written in a style that everyone will be able to understand it.  Check it out!

Please visit the author’s website at Nowthatimcatholic.com to learn more about his work.

You purchase the book here.

[Note:  This book was provided by the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.]

Filioque: Why The Disagreement?

The Orthodox and Catholic churches are the oldest in Christendom.  They have many things in common, and there are some things that are disagreed on.  The churches both have valid Apostolic Succession and valid sacraments.  In fact, both observe the seven sacraments instituted by Christ, and carried on by the Apostles.  A couple items that are disagreed on are the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff, and a phrase in the Nicean creed that is known as the filioque clause.  What is the filioque, and what is the objection to it by the Orthodox church?  In this paper these questions will be answered along with the Catholic response.

The western church (i.e. Catholic) uses a phrase in the creed that contains the words “and the Son” (Catholic Answers).  These three words have been one of the causes of schism between the Orthodox and Catholic churches.  This differs from the Orthodox usage that states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son (Catholic Answers).  The Orthodox position is that the filioque was an invention of the 9th century and was erroneously added to the historic creed that was ratified in Constantinople in 381 A.D. (Tim Staples).  Matthew 10:20 is also used as justification against the filioque.  That passage of scripture states, “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:20 NRSV).  The Orthodox position also states that the filioque denies that the Father is first principle among all things.  Denying that the Father is the first principle of life is to confuse the persons of the Trinity (Tim Staples).

This is a controversy that has brewed since 1054 when the first schism between the Eastern and Western churches occurred.  The schism was briefly reconciled in 1439 at the Council of Florence but was brief (William Saunders).  The Catholic church today, as it did back then, answered the question of the filioque in several ways.  The first objection is that the filioque was erroneously added to the creed in the ninth century.  To answer this, we must look at the creed as promulgated at the Council of Constantinople in 381.  In the Greek the Creed states, “who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified” (William Saunders).  This is the Orthodox position, and coincidentally is also what we say in the creed at every mass.  When the creed was translated into Latin the filioque was added.  Church Fathers at the time stated that the two said the same thing.  Though the wording may be different, both uphold Trinitarian dogma and many theologians, on both sides, now say the two is a matter of semantics.

Another objection raised was regarding Matthew 10:20 which says the Spirit proceeds from the Father.  The Catholic church agrees with this verse wholeheartedly, but also considers other verses in holy writ.  There are many verses such as Galatians 4:6 uphold the filioque.  This passage states, “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6 NRSV).  One verse says that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and another states that He proceeds from the Son.  All three Trinitarian persons are distinctly mentioned, and The Father and the Son are described as sending the paraclete (Preuss 104) Which one is it?  When we take all passages into account, we see the answer in the wording of the filioque.  Affirming that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in no way undermines the first principle nature of the Father.  It simply affirms scripture and reaffirms this principle.

Works Cited

Catholic Answers.  Filioquehttps://www.catholic.com/tract/filioque, accessed December 1, 2018.

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#00, accessed November 27, 2018.

Preuss, David.  The Divine Trinity:  A Dogmatic Treatise, https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog/page/n114, accessed November 28, 2018.

Saunders, William.  The Wording of the Nicene Creed.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/FILIOQUE.HTM, accessed November 30, 2018.

Staples, Tim.  The Filioque Controversy.  https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9277, accessed November 29, 2018.

St. Paul and the Eucharist

One of the central themes in all of Christendom is that of unity.  Though there are many denominations Christians everywhere consider themselves to be in the family of God.  However within the Catholic Church we have something that the other denominations do not.  We have the body, soul, and divinity of Christ present with us in the Eucharist.  In the Catholic Church we are a family, and in that family there are disagreements.  However when we receive the Eucharist we are submitting to our Lord and we become one with Him and with each other.  This unity is important in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  This is a nice introduction.

During the course of St. Paul’s missionary journeys he founded the church in Corinth.  The community seemed to have a problem with individuality, but it is not what we think individuality to be.  This was not someone expressing their personality, but individuals who were selfish and put themselves before the welfare of the community.  Laurance states “Many of the Corinthian Christians believe that all that is important is to know the fact of their salvation, and that this fact liberates them from duties of love to their fellow Christians or even to Christ (Laurence, Page 71). There was an individual who was fornicating with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  This is bad enough, but the church did nothing to correct the issue.  This vital issue had the potential of ending the young church.  They were taking each other to court instead of working things out internally (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).  How does this look to the unbelievers around them?  They were not setting themselves about and living the example of Christ and their beloved Apostle Paul.  There were many other things wrong with the church, but when it came to the Eucharist.  Many within the church strayed from what they believed and received in an unworthy manner.

Paul is begins his lesson by reminding the Corinthians of Christ.  Laurance states “Contrary to all worldly wisdom and all expectations, God’s power is manifested in Christ’s humbling of himself and finally acceptance of death (Laurance, page 71).”  As previously stated the Corinthians were worrying about their own desires and seemed to forget about the fundamentals of the Gospel.  We are to act like Christ, and they were doing everything but that.

Christ loved us so much that He humbled himself and died for our sin.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians of this and the duty to love others more than yourself.  This is important in preparation to receive the Eucharist.  In mass we offer each other a sign of peace and we pray for each other.  It is in these prayers and offerings of peace that we humble ourselves and place ourselves at the service of others.  Paul was trying to emphasize the importance of this in proper Christian living.

To go along with this the Corinthians were not coming together properly to celebrate the Eucharist.  1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 says “When you meet in one place, then it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”  Those that were well off in the world were flaunting it in the faces of those that had nothing.  This had the effect of making those less fortunate feel ashamed and it brought disgrace on the Church (1 Corinthians 11:22).  Paul, as a disappointed father, tells them he is ashamed.  Laurence states in plainly “To celebrate it (Eucharist) in a context of selfishness and division is to violate its very nature, to reject Christ who at the Last Supper and in his death shared himself completely.  Such a violation results in condemnation rather than blessing (Laurance, page 72).”

One could get the feeling from reading Paul’s letter that the community was in peril.  Someone was concerned enough to leak this information to Paul, and he swiftly wrote this epistle condemning their behavior.  Paul does this is a way that a father corrects a child.  He does it with love and he is trying to teach them by example.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, and us, that the Eucharistic meal is one which is firmly rooted in family.  In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul writes “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  After performing the first mass at the Last supper our Lord was betrayed.  He was whipped, beaten, and had nails driven through His hands and feet.  To take this lightly one may as well be at the scene of the crucifixion with a hammer in hand.  We gather to remember that the Lord gave Himself for us and we are to follow His example by giving ourselves to each other.  If a member of the church lost a loved one then we all did.  If a member of the church is sick we are to all pray.  We are to help each other get to heaven, not step all over each other so we can get there first.

Paul reiterates the point of the Eucharist as a means of bringing the community together in 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34.  These verses read “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so your meetings may not result in judgment.  The other matters I shall set in order when I come.”  Remember that there were certain members of the congregation that were using the church meeting as their own personal buffet.  This passage is not saying that one should not feed someone who is hungry, but is saying that everyone should get a portion of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the high point of the church meeting.  We recall how unworthy we are to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God to forgive us of our shortcoming and fill us with His grace.  We ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they ask the same of us.  Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that we are in this race together, and is beneficial and necessary that we help each other as a family.

Image result for st paul

Reference

1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:26 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 New American Bible

Laurance, John D., S.J., ED.  Introduction to Theology. (Revised Second Edition)  Boston:  Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.

The Three Theological Virtues

The three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are given by God to those who are in a state of grace.  Regarding the theological virtues St. Thomas Aquinas states, “the theological virtues direct man to supernatural happiness in the same way as by the natural inclination man is directed to his connatural end”  (STII, Q62, A3).  The three virtues are different, but linked together in purpose, function, and motive.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews described faith as something hoped for.  We see this in Hebrews 11:1 where the author states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV).  Faith is the basis on which our hopes are founded and is the basis of merit (Hardon Ch. 10).  Through faith we do not believe in fanciful myths or new theologies because we know what has been revealed, and to whom it has been entrusted.

Hope is related to faith because faith spurs hope.  Furthermore, hope looks to the object of our faith.  The object of our faith is supernatural, and hope helps us to attain supernatural truth.  It shows us what to strive for and implies a modicum of pursuit.  Are we pursuing the truth of God, or are we pursuing temporal things?  If temporal, then we hope to attain them through our own efforts.  If supernatural, thee is no way possible to attain them on our own.  This is the error of Pelagianism that was condemned in the early days of the church.  It is only through the revelation and assistance of God that we may achieve this end.

Charity, as is hope, is something that is directed to and fulfilled by the Almighty (Hardon Ch. 10).  Hope is self-serving in a way because it is and end that we hope for ourselves, but charity is different.  Charity comes about when we love God for who he is instead of what we can attain through Him.  When we love God with everything we have we then seek to love him the way he wishes to be loved.

Faith, hope, and charity have their beginning and end in God.  Faith is the substance of things hope for.  Hope looks to God who is the object of our faith.  In Charity we seek to love God the way he wishes us to love, and that includes loving him above all things and loving our neighbor.  It is in this way that the three are distinct but intrinsically connected.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed September 15, 2018.

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

Relationships And The Four Last Things

When studying grace, we see that it is not only a free gift from God, but that it has a strong relationship with other aspects of soteriology.  What is the relationship between freedom, grace, divine foreknowledge, predestination, and perseverance as they pertain to the Four Last Things?  The relationship between all aspects are intertwined, but it starts with grace.  This understanding is important when it comes to the four last things which are death, judgment, heaven, and hell.

As previously stated grace is a free gift from God.  As with any gift we can either accept it or we can reject it.  When we make the choice to accept grace we then have true freedom.  The supernatural grace given to us leads us to even greater freedom.  Regarding this Charles Journet writes, “It is not only God and man, grace and freedom, but God through man, grace through freedom, that does the good act” (Journet 2.5).  Grace and human freedom are furthermore related of divine foreknowledge.  1 Timothy 2:4 states that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (NRSV).  Though God desired it, not everyone will be saved in the end.  God knows, through divine foreknowledge, who with use their freedom and accept his grace.

Though one may accept grace, one must remain steadfast and ask God for the gift of perseverance (STII, Q109, A10).  Some Protestants would say that those who persevere are predestined, but predestination has a different meaning in Catholic theology.  According to Fr. John Hardon, “only the elect or predestined are members of the Church” (Hardon Ch. 3).  Thus, we can see the fullness of the relationship of freedom, grace, divine foreknowledge, perseverance, and predestination regarding the four last things.  Grace is at the forefront of them all, and grace is given from God through the church and her sacraments.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed August 10, 2018.

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

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

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