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.

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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.

Instruments of Grace

Within the theology of grace, we see a connection between the sacraments as instruments of grace, and Christ who is the instrument of grace. Opponents of the church argue that Christ is the sole mediator and cite 1 Timothy 2:5 as a prooftext. Regarding Christ being the only mediator between God and man the church agrees and has also taught it to be so. However, Christ can mediate in any way he desires since he is the second person of the blessed Trinity. Christ chose to mediate through the sacraments. Charles Journet describes this as, “Christ was to come as Mediator, to teach, to give his grace through the sacraments” (Journet 6.6).

It is important to make the distinction instruments of grace, and the instrument of grace. The two are quite different and the distinction is vital. The sacraments are instruments of grace because they were established by Christ to convey grace. He is the instrument through which the sacraments convey grace. St. Thomas Aquinas sums it up quite nicely when he writes, “The principal cause works by the power of its form, to which form the effect is likened; just as fire by its own heat makes something hot. In this way none but God can cause grace” (STIII, Q62, A1).

This is seen in all sacraments and in a profound way in the sacrament of reconciliation. In John 20:23 Jesus tells the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (NRSV). We go to the priest to confess our sins. We are not confessing our sins to a man, but a man who is acting in the person of Christ. It is not a man that is forgiving our sin, but Jesus is working through the priest to do so.

Reconciliation is a part of repentance, and the sinner shows his intention by word and deed. The absolving of sin done by the priest is the work of God who forgives sin (STIII, Q84, A1). This shows that the sacraments are instruments of grace, and that Christ is the cause. Christ is the instrument as he instituted the sacraments.

 

Works Cited

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

Stevens, P.G. The Life of Grace. New York: Prentice Hall, 1963.

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.

Aquinas and the Concept of Relations

When it comes to the concept of relation there is some clarification that must first take place.  To the everyday person, relation means someone to whom you are related.  At the base level this is correct, but philosophically it goes a little deeper.  This is especially true when discussing relations in connection with the Trinity.  St. Thomas Aquinas’s concept of relations included paternity and filiation (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

Paternity and filiation, of course, ae completely different things.  A man can at the same time be a father and a son.  He is father to a child, and a child, or offspring to someone else.  He is not able to be both to the same person.  The idea here is that paternal relation delineates a distinction between persons.  In the Trinity the Son is not able to be the Father because the Father is paternal.  It shows a distinction between the two, and though they are of the same substance they are separate.  Regarding this concept Aquinas states, “Thus the Father has communicable being, but He is a distinct person by the paternity, which is opposed to filiation; similarly, active spiration is opposed to passive spiration” (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

If paternity denotes the relationship of the Father and Son, then what is filiation?  Paternity is a term that applies to fatherhood and filiation is a term that implies sonship.  This was a key point in Aquinas’s opposition to the Scotists.  The Son is distinguished from the Father through filiation alone, but within God paternity and filiation are personal properties (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  In filiation the Son has all the perfections from all eternity that the Father has.  This is done through generation and it is perfect based on relation.

One objection to the idea of filiation is the fact that Jesus said that the Father was greater than he (John 14:28).  Is not Jesus saying that he is somehow less than the Father?  That is what those wo object to the Trinity would have you believe?  Jesus says this because he lacks the relation of paternity.  This is something that is wholly unique to the Father.  They are the same essence and paternity in the Father in filiation in the Son (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  Divine filiation is not less than, or somehow subordinate, to paternity.  If that were the case then the Son would lack perfection, and that would not make him divine.  To think that way would lead us into many of the Christological heresies that the Church had already dealt with.  Regarding this Aquinas writes, “Thus divine filiation is not less perfect than divine paternity, just as in the triangle either angle at the base is not less perfect than the angle at the apex” (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).

Regarding paternity, Aquinas answered an objection that stated that divine persons were brought about by active and passive origins (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  Generation is active and active generation is something that comes from the Father.  This is a relation of Paternity and the very act refers to the Son.  This does not change the existence of the Son or modify it in some way.  They are still the same essence, but in relation to one another one is paternal.

In Conclusion, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote many things that advanced our understanding of the Trinity.  His explanation from scripture and philosophy helped elaborate on earlier work done on the Trinity by St, Augustine.  It is important to understand the distinctions between paternity and filiation, because to misunderstand can lead to error in discussing the Trinity.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018

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.

The Letter to the Ephesians, Faith, and Marriage

Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  However, there are some books that have been absolutely instrumental in forming Christian doctrine and thought.  One of those books is Ephesians, and the other is Romans.  Raymond Brown writes “Among the Pauline writings only Romans can match Ephesians as a candidate for exercising the most influence on Christian thought and spirituality (Brown, page 620).”

Ephesians is also a source of controversy among various groups in Christendom.  One of the issues being addressed in the letter is that the love for God is not only singular, but requires love of neighbor and thus community.  A way of living faith is intertwined with the love of neighbor.  In is in this regard that one of the most popular passages of scripture is sometimes taken out of context.  Ephesians 2:8-9 states “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”  This is taken by the Sola Fide crowd as meaning that all we need is faith.  Believe Christ has forgiven you and you have nothing else to do.  This contradicts the context in which this passage should be read as the next verse puts it into perspective.  Ephesians 2:10 states “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

We are indeed saved by faith, but there is more to it.  We are a community of believers and we must take care of each other.  We are to take care of the poor, the sick, and intercede in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters.  Our faith is to produce good fruit for the Christian community, because a faith kept to ourselves will ultimately die.

A second issue illustrated in the Epistle to the Ephesians is that marriage is compared to the relationship between Christ and the Church, which is a large development from the earlier letters. Marriage is given a spiritual position.  This is another portion of the Epistle that is taken out of context by some.  Ephesians 5:22 states “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.”  Some take this to mean that wives are to “obey” the husband and be subservient.  However this is not the case as the other verses puts that theory to rest.  Ephesians 5:25 states “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” In a sort of ironic way I like to point out that obeying one’s husband is one thing; dying for one’s wife is another.

Brown states “The obligation for the husband to love is treated more extensively than the obligation of the wife to be subject, and both are rooted in God’s initial plan for union in marriage (Brown, page 624).”  Christ came and died for us because he loved us.  This is the responsibly of the husband, and that is to emulate Christ’s love to his wife.  In this regard we are to care, love, and serve just as Christ did for us.

Image result for ephesians

Works Cited

Brown, Raymond, An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

The Meaning of Sacrament (From a Linguistic View)

In the study of linguistics, it is normal to see that the meaning of words may change over time.  One such word that fits the category is the word “sacrament”.  When we hear that word, we think of the seven sacraments administered by the church.  They are a promise from Christ to show that he is still among us.  To do this properly we look to the Latin term sacramentum.

What does the word sacramentum mean?  To the Roman soldier it is a solemn obligation to carry out one’s duty even to the point of death.  It is similar to the oath that soldiers in the 21st century make in the United States.  They take an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all foreign and domestic enemies.  An oath is made to obey the orders of the President of the United States and those officers appointed over them.  When the Roman soldier enters military service an oath is made to the Senate and the People.  As the American soldier is called to make the ultimate sacrifice, the Roman soldier by virtue of his oath will fulfill his service to the point of death.

In regard to the sacraments it is a solemn pledge from God to us.  We are physical creatures, and sacramentum shows a personal relationship through physical matter.  God gave us an oath at the beginning of salvation history and carried it out to death on the cross.  The sacraments are a continued sign that he is always with us.

The Need For Grace

In the beginning of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he lays out a case about the desire for people to know God.  He says that by nature they can know things about God and God has shown them.  The verse in question is from Romans 1:19 which states, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (NRSV).  We see that there is something else higher than ourselves, and we long to know what it is.  In contrast with this desire to know something higher than ourselves, there is a desire to sin.

The “something higher” that I am referencing is God.  Many of us have heard of God from an early age, and in different Christian assemblies.  Though many have heard of God they fall into the error of thinking that Heaven is within reach simply by doing good.  This is part of the equation.  There is a synergy between us and God.  Our natures are wounded from the fall, not totally destroyed as the Protestant reformers taught (Lubac 122).  We realize in ourselves that we do things that we do not want to do.  This is also echoed by St. Paul in Romans 7:15 where he writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (NRSV).  We know that we are unable to do it on our own and that eventually brings us to the knowledge that we need God.  We need his grace, his mercy, and his forgiveness.  Without his supernatural grace it is impossible to enter the beatific vision.  This grace is a gift that we need from God to enter into eternal life (STII, Q114, A2).

In a way the position I hold follows along with Henri De Lubac.  This position was arrived at through my journey through a few Christian denominations and reinforced through study of church teaching.  Man is not capable of heaven strictly on his own merit.  Man is wounded, not depraved, and able to see that he needs the help of God.  He uses his will to accept the grace needed to get to Heaven and live the Christian life.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed September 28, 2018.

Lubac, Henri De.  A Brief Catechesis on Nature & Grace.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1984.

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