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.

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Why Are There 27 Books In The New Testament?

There are many things that may come to an individual’s mind when it comes to sacred scripture.  Some may ask why there are so many translations.  Some may wonder if the Bible as we know it fell from the sky at Pentecost.  However many have questions on how we have the books we have.  For sure it was long and arduous process, but it was one guided by the Holy Spirit and the church.

One rule that was used to determine inclusion of the twenty seven books was linkage to an Apostle, or apostolic origin.  In the first three centuries after the church started there were many books bearing the name of various Apostles.  As an example there was the Gospel of Thomas, Luke, Peter, and the proto gospel of James.  In addition to these there were several hundred Acts and Apocalypses.  Some of these writings were spurious and contradicted the Gospel being preached by the church.

Apostolic origin does not mean that it has to be written by an apostle, but that an Apostle “stands behind writing in such a way that the essential teaching is preserved within it (Nichols, page 104).”  This would explain why the Gospel of Luke was included in the canon.  Great care was made to ensure that writings had apostolic backing, and if they did not they were denied canonical status.

Another rule that was used in determining if a book was worthy of the canon was its conformity to the faith of the church.  Would a collection of Holy writings from any religion be deemed authoritative if they contradicted each other?  The answer to the question is obvious.  The church used great care in determining that the twenty seven books in the canon were in compliance with what the church taught.

The church was able to do this by utilizing the oral tradition that was handed down from the Apostles.  As a Nichols documents “around 190 a bishop in Antioch stopped people from using the Gospel of Peter on the grounds that its author did not regard the human body of Jesus as real (Nichols, page 104).”  The church teaches that Christ was a real person, divine, and bled on the cross.  This writing taught that Christ was a spirit that entered into a man that was being crucified.  There were many writings like this floating around, and since they did not pass the test of orthodoxy they were not included in the canon.

Thirdly the writing had to be valued by the church that was respected for its own Apostolic origin (Nichols, page 104).  Perfect examples of this are the Epistles of Saint Paul.  There is little doubt that these writings are his for he states at the end of letters that he wrote them with his own hand.  Also he wrote them to churches that he started and they knew him very well.  These churches preserved these letters and read them in their liturgies.

Using these three criteria, the fathers of the church started to develop the New Testament.  The letters of Paul were among the first to be recognized in 90 ad and were being assembled in small collections.  The four Gospels were decided on around the year 200.  There were various canons proposed, but the Pauline letters and the four gospels seemed to have staying power.  Other books such as Revelation and Hebrews were battled over.  Some areas of the church accepted them and others did not.  There were also books with no apostolic link that were considered such as the Shepherd of Hermas and Clements letter to the Corinthians.  However they did not meet the criteria previously discussed and were denied canonical status. Through many debates and hefty quarrels we know that the canon was final by the end of the fourth century (Nichols, Page 105).

 

References

Nichols, Aiden. The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

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.

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Works Cited

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

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

A Challenging Lent

This past Lent was the most challenging ever for me.  My Lenten commitment was to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and seek guidance from the Lord.  For the last couple years I had a successful blog, podcast, and recently landed a radio show…but there was one problem.  Though I am Catholic these mediums tended to take my focus away from spreading the catholic faith.

To be fair I was still spreading Christianity, but I wasn’t focused like I should be.  Towards the end of this past Lent the Lord smacked me upside the head, and told me to get my act together.  The following words kept playing like a broken record in my mind:  “Spread the truth about my church”.  Whoa!  That means starting from scratch.  New blog, new podcast…everything.  That radio show?  Well that is on an evangelical station so that must go as well.  My decision was confirmed when One of the higher ups at the station was spreading anti-Catholic propaganda on his personal page.  I could no longer bring revenue to an entity that was attacking the church.

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I don’t write this to get pity or to portray myself as martyr.  I write it as a challenge to all of us.  Is there something that we are not giving to Jesus?  Are we giving him everything or are we being stubborn and think that we can do it on our own?  This Lent was the most challenging Lent, but it was the best Lent ever.  Prayers were answered as to what I should do with my writing and podcast.  It is to spread and defend the catholic faith.  May the Lord’s will be done.

The Importance of the Resurrection

Every Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  It is the foundation of our faith, and without the resurrection are faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Beyond proving that Jesus is the Christ, what does the resurrection prove?  The resurrection is about much more than the eyewitness accounts of the Apostles seeing the risen Jesus.  It is also about the new life that is present in every believer throughout time.

We have finite minds, and it is hard for us to grasp the miracle that is the resurrection.  Jesus is a divine being, and as a divine being he resurrected from the dead to prove who he was.  Though theologically true, this view leads to a somewhat simplistic understanding of the event.  The resurrection can also be seen in the transformation of the believer.  It is about the new life in Christ and not what the ocular vision of the disciples has perceived.  Saint Paul also echo this sentiment in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (NRSV).

The resurrection is a religious experience of one who has come to faith in Christ, and is much more than something that happened to those who physically encountered the risen Christ.  According to Scholars such as Luke Johnson this is a common theme in the Pauline Corpus.  Regarding this Dr. Johnson writes, “The resurrection experience, in Paul’s letters, is not something that happens to Jesus alone” (Johnson 25).  Every Christian with a genuine faith in Christ experiences the resurrection in a special way through baptism.  Through the sacrament of baptism original sin is wiped away, and we are raised in the newness of life.

Within the context of introducing the resurrection to Christian audience there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  From an apologetics standpoint, it is important to know the reasoning as to why the resurrection is the foundation of the faith.  One can go into the martyrdom of the early church because they were attesting to the resurrection.  People do not die for a lie.

Secondly, it is more important to assist the audience in learning to relate to the resurrection in a deeper way.  A way that is more personal, and something that they can share.  Everyone has something deep in the recesses of their mind that they are ashamed of.  It may be an addiction, adultery, or a gambling problem.  These things are destructive, but when one comes to faith those things are in the past.  They still may struggle, but through Christ they are resurrected and forgiven for those things that they have done.  Those types of experiences are the modern-day equivalent of the disciples physically seeing the resurrected Jesus.  Our former selves are dead and gone, but we were resurrected spiritually into a new creation.  The disciples’ experience of Jesus raised and exalted is the difference between their faith in the gospel.

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Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Johnson, Luke Timothy. “How Jesus Became GodCommonweal. 2/3/2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

 

Called to Communion

Within Christendom Ecclesiology is looked at in a variety of different ways.  Within Protestantism the church may be seen within a synod, a presbytery, or an autonomous unit.  Within Catholicism Ecclesiology revolves round the sacrament of the Eucharist and those who are in union with the Bishop.  This is what is known as communion ecclesiology.  In this paper, the development of communion ecclesiology will be seen from sacred scripture, the church fathers, and councils.

From its humble beginnings, the church has taught the centrality of the Eucharist.  There are those that say that this practice started later within the church’s history, but its roots can be found within the pages of sacred scripture.  Saint Matthew, Saint uke, and Saint Paul both write about the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper.  In Matthew 26:26 Matthew writes, “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body (Douay-Rheims).”  Saint Luke’s account in Luke 22:19 we read very similar language, “And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me (Douay-Rheims).”  In koine Greek, the language of the New Testament these inspired writers use the word esti.  This one word is so significant because reiterates what we read in the english translations.  According to Strong’s concordance this word is translated into English as is, are, consists, and come.

In short, this word contains the whole of communion ecclesiology.  In the original language, our Lord said that the bread and wine are his body.  He did not say that they are like his body, or are symbolic of his body.  Saint Paul takes it a step further in 1 Corinthians to remove any doubt about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  In chapter eleven of 1 Corinthians he writes that he received the words from Christ himself.  The church at Corinth had been treating the Eucharist in a very irreverent manner.  People were feasting, and there were some who were unable to participate.  As if that were not bad enough, there was also a man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  By acting in this manner this individual broke communion and was no longer in union with the church.

The theme of communion ecclesiology is continued in the ministry of the early church fathers.  The patristics have a lot to say about the centrality of the Eucharist and the authority of the bishop.  Saint Ignatius of Antioch paragraph twenty of his letter to the Ephesians writes, “Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.”  Also in his letter to the Philadelphians St. Ignatius states, “Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.”

St. Ignatius makes it clear that it is the Eucharist is of vital importance to the Christian faith.  The Eucharist can only be consecrated by someone who is ordained in Apostolic Succession.  He must be in communion with the bishop and hold that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In regard to this Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “This explains the lively concerns which finds authoritative expression in the work of the Councils and the Popes (Ecclesia de Eucharista, 9).”

Throughout history we can see the role that communion ecclesiology has played in fighting heresy.  In the second century, the Gnostics claimed to have secret teaching that they received directly from the apostles.  The Gnostics believed all matter to be evil, and since the eucharist consisted of matter they opted to abstain.  In his pivotal work, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus outlined what became known as the rule of faith.  St. Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith (Roberts 486).”  To be validly part of the universal church, it was understood that one had to be under the authority of the bishops in apostolic succession.  He goes on to say that although language vary, the traditions and teachings of the church remain the same.

As if this were not enough to deduce that the Gnostics were not in communion he goes to the Eucharist.  Regarding the Eucharist St. Irenaeus writes, “But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit (ccel.org).”  These are only a sampling of Irenaeus’s treatises, but they establish that the church had an understanding of what it meant to be in communion.

Throughout history there have been those who challenged this communion.  As a result, they broke away and developed various ecclesiological systems that were vastly different from what has been passed down in the church.  We are rapidly approaching the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  This development caused a division in the church, and at the heart of this divide was authority.

As previously stated, one of the components of communion ecclesiology is the apostolic succession of the bishopric (CCC, para 1142).  The church is visible institution with validly ordained clergy who administered the sacraments for the faithful.  However, the concept of a visible church was one that did not sit well with the reformers.  In their eyes, the church was an invisible entity and made visible only by the work of its members.  In describing this concept Dr. Christopher McMahon writes, “Although Luther and Calvin, the two patriarchs of the Reformation, disagreed on many issues, including substantial ecclesiological issues, they both agreed with their predecessor, Jan Hus, on the theological emphasis on the primacy of an invisible church (McMahon, 63).

The Council of Trent set out to combat the teachings of the Reformation, and to address certain reforms within the church.  As previously stated, the reformers grew to distrust the established institutional structures of the church.  As a result, they said that the church was made up of believers who were truly converted.  By all accounts to council was successful in its aims, and reiterated the historic teaching of a visible institutional church (McMahon, 66).  One prominent figure during this era was Cardinal Bellarmine, and he addressed the topic of the visible church quite well.  He wrote in his treatise De Controversiis, “Our view is that the church is only one reality, not two, and that this single and true reality is the group linked by profession of the same faith and by communion in the same sacraments (McMahon, 66).”

This concept of communion ecclesiology has been carried on into our own time.  The second Vatican Council addressed this issue in a number of areas, and Saint Pope John Paul II addresses it at length in his great encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.  In that document, the Holy Father discusses how our baptism is renewed whenever we partake of the Eucharist.  By doing so we are entering into sacramental communion with each other (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, para 22).

In the second paragraph of the Council document titled, Unitatis Redintegration, the council fathers state, “In His Church He instituted the wonderful sacrament of the Eucharist by which the unity of the Church is both signified and brought about (Decree on Eucumenism, para 2).  This statement is strengthened by other council documents such as the decree on Ministry and Life of Priests.  In article six of that document the council fathers discuss how no Christian community can be built unless the Eucharist is at the center of it.

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CONCLUSION

            Communion ecclesiology, as Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI states, “is in its inmost nature a Eucharistic Ecclesiology (Ratzinger, Kindle location 1634).”  Throughout its history the church has rallied around the Eucharist as the pinnacle of Christian worship, and has taught that this same Eucharist can only be administered through those in communion with the Bishop.  The Bishop in this case is the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome.  Through this communion we can confidently know what has been taught by the apostles, and how to live the Christian life.

WORKS CITED

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

 

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

 

Pope John Paul II. Encyclical on the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church Ecclesia de Eucharistia

 

Ratzinger, Joseph.  Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith:  The Church As Communion.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 2005.  Ebook.

 

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

 

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 2012.  Print.

 

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