Friday, December 17, 2010

St. Ambrose Prayer

My favorite prayer by St. Ambrose.

Teach me O Lord to search for You
Show Yourself to me when I search for You
If You do not teach me first, I cannot seek You
If You do not reveal Yourself to me, I cannot find You
In longing may I search for You, and in searching long for You,
In Love may I find You, and in finding You, Love You.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Quick on Apologetics

This is an email from my friend Millie sent to the Witherspoon Fellows back in 2006 during one of our famous "discussions.." She's brilliant by the way.

Dear Fellows:

Anyone in my class will tell you that I just can't resist this sort of debate, and hence, I offer my humble seven cents:

1) Just so no one delves deep into the annals of history to attempt to answer Matthias Caro's question, I'll go ahead and state it: At no point in history has the Catholic Church changed her official teachings. It simply hasn't happened. She has learned more, and been guided further and further into truth (the Kingdom of Heaven is like the mustard seed that grows into a tree that gives shelter – see Matthew 13), but she has not changed her teachings.

For, perhaps, my favorite example, bear with me as I sum up the story of one of my favorite popes, Vigilius.

Vigilius was a papal representative at Constantinople and, being very ambitious, was courted by the Empress Theodora to implement the Monophysite heresy. She promised to make Vigilius pope and give him much riches, and Vigilius, adhering to the heresy himself, agreed to do as she asked, in addition to reinstating a Monophysite bishop who had been removed from office due to his heresy. As antipope (claiming to rule while he imprisoned the actual pope), Vigilius wrote many letters in support of the Monophysite heresy. Eventually, the pope died, and much to the chagrin of the electoral college, he was duly elected pope himself. Once legitimately in office, Vigilius recanted his promise and wrote vehemently against the Monophysite heresy. He had been changed completely, and found himself unable to do what he had promised he would do: lead the Church into heresy.

The story accurately demonstrates what the Church really believes about infallibility: the overwhelming grace of our God prohibits the rightful leader of his Church from teaching error (note that Vigilius was not protected from promoting error until he was the legitimate pope). But it is that grace which is the focus. Infallibility is not about the man; it's about the office. It's about grace, not arrogance or the goodness of the man.

To me, this seems like a point the average Calvinist would appreciate, if not incorporate into his thinking: the grace of God is so powerful in certain circumstances that it prevents the believer from acting contrary to it. That is how much God loves us; that is how overwhelming his goodness is to his children: he keeps us, protects us, and plants us in a safe place. We can trust our Father, and we can trust his gifts, the greatest of which was his Son, who gave us the cross, the resurrection, and the Church.

No matter how many illegitimate children the pope has, no matter how many unjust wars he may or may not have sanctioned (and I strongly recommend reading good history on this subject -- the Spanish Inquisition, for example, was far less bloody and far more political than your average high-schooler is taught), no matter what heresy a certain pope promised to install, or seemed likely to sanction (i.e. Pope Paul VI's remarkable orthodoxy on the issue of birth control, against all exterior pressure), Jesus Christ himself promised that the Church would not fail.

See Matthew 16 and John 16. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church; the Spirit of God will guide her into all truth.

All of Jesus' words were intentional. There are only three ways to regard what Jesus said of his beloved, the Church:

a) The Church has not always been correct in her teaching. She has taught heresy and error. Therefore, Jesus was lying when he said the gates of Hell would not prevail against her. They did.
b) The Early Church -- the supposed, ahistorical church mentioned in an earlier e-mail, the one "of Jesus and John the Baptist, before those Peter nuts sprang up in Rome " -- knew the truth. Once those Romish sorts got their hands on her, they led her into all sorts of error, from cannibalism to that Marian weirdness to all those darn statues and gold bricks and wars. It took good old Martin Luther and his sort to straighten her out, and thank goodness for their courage! If this is true, then again, Jesus' promise failed. The gates of Hell prevailed against the Church, at least for about 1100 years. (And I'd challenge anyone to maintain that the ridiculous abundance of Protestant denominations is an accurate portrait of hell not prevailing, and being led into all truth.)
c) The pope has the grace to make infallible statements. Jesus Christ led her into truth; he preserved her against all hell. His promises hold weight; he keeps them. We can trust the Church he instituted, as the Sacred Scriptures teach us he did: with authority, with the power to bind and loose, to cast out demons, to cast a shadow and heal the sick, to bring Sapphira to death, the power to forgive sins -- it's all in there. Jesus meant what he said, and he kept his promises.

2) Passages like the aforementioned are almost always ignored as the Protestant seeks to build his case against the Catholic Church. "Where's infallibility in the Bible?" he asks. I respond, "Where's the Bible in the Bible? And what are the Bible's claims about the Church?"

I'll make it simple: I Timothy 3.15 -- The Church is "the pillar and bulwark of truth."

What? Despite all the claims made by our Reformed brothers, the Bible doesn't tell us to look for it as the final source of truth? (Anyways, rhetorically, appealing to one's own authority doesn't exactly begin to build a watertight case. Note: the Church appeals to the authority of Jesus Christ, who in turn gave her authority. The Church does not say, "Listen to us; we're in charge." It says, "Listen to us; Jesus Christ gave us authority to loose and bind, and he guides us.") My own Bible tells me to look to the Church?

But whose Church? The Unity Church ? Martin Luther's? John Calvin's? Full Gospel Eden Road Free Will Missionary Baptist Alliance ? Those house churches cropping up all over the place, with the tongues and the prophecy and stuff?

And furthermore, whose Bible? Someone had to proclaim -- or, if you prefer, "discover" -- what the canon of Holy Scripture was. Do you want the one everyone used until the 1500s, the one still used by 1.5 billion Catholics and Orthodox? Or would you prefer Martin Luther's, which cut out the books of Revelation and James? The modern day evangelicals', which appears not to have those pesky passages in John, where Jesus tells his followers that unless they gnaw on his flesh and slurp his blood (literal translation there), they do not have life within them? And without those irritating stories in Acts, where even a cursory reading clearly demonstrates that Peter is given the most human authority in the early Church?

Mr. Freels, avoiding Rick Barry's legitimate question about how we know what is Scripture by throwing Plato's works into the heap does not begin to answer his challenge. Nor does suggesting that the early Christians individually worked out for themselves a reliable canon. Much confusion surrounded Scripture, and doctrine, and practice. We look to the Church Fathers for guidance on the interpretation of Scripture because they were there. The early Christians continued "In the Apostle's teaching, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers."

No fallible individual is able to determine for himself what accurately belongs in Scripture. Many attempt this; hence, too many Christians avoid the Eucharist, the anointing of the sick, and what the Bible clearly teaches about the authority of the apostles. Yes, you have the luxury of a reliable tradition in what you accept to be Sacred Scripture, but to begin to suggest that either a) the early Christians had the same luxury or b) they were somehow able to work it out amongst themselves is at best, ahistorical; at worst, it is ludicrous.

Whether the Canon was proclaimed or discovered (and I maintain that for the purposes of this discussion, they are one and the same), someone had to tell us what rightly belonged in Holy Scripture. That someone had to have authority, and had to be protected (if God does indeed protect his children) from including, say, the rather Buddhist-seeming Gospel of Thomas. Being and nothingness, indeed.

3) I digress. If you're still with me, thank you. There's really nothing I'm more passionate about than this subject.

We can see from point one that Jesus maintained that the Church would not be given over to the devil, and we can see from point two that the Bible confirms this, though the words of the Great Apostle (that is, Saint Paul).

(My favorite discussion regarding I Timothy 3.15 was with a Witherspoon alumnus, who told me that because the Bible only makes this claim once -- debatable; I think it makes this claim implicitly about fifty times -- it doesn't really count. Given the fact that Holy Scripture has a lot more to say about shellfish than sodomy, I'd question the integrity of this line of reasoning. And no, I won't tell you who it was.)

4) Given the assertions of Jesus Christ and the Bible, it seems that God intended for his children to have a safe place to reside, where they would not be led into lies and error. If Jesus really meant what he said, wouldn't he offer the Church the grace to fulfill his promise? (That seems to be Saint Paul ’s understanding of things, too.)

Americans are terrified of authority. We love to think that we act autonomously and that we can take care of our own salvation. However, without a God-given authority to discuss the issues of today, we are lost. Hence, the overwhelming acceptance of birth control ("The Bible doesn't say it's wrong, so let's get you on the Pill, honey!"), the willful ignorance of what Jesus says regarding remarriage (hint: it has to do with adultery), and the casual disregard of the Eucharist (which, I hasten to add, was the Last Act of our Lord before his crucifixion), it is hard to believe that we can shake ourselves free of our culture in order to find truth. We desperately need guidance and ought to be grateful that our God offers it, not just through Scripture, but through his Church. When you really read the Scriptures, you begin to discover that Jesus came to save his people, and he intended to do so through a Church.

Rejecting authority is not just a silly American ignorance; it is diabolical. We find it easy to say that Jesus is our authority, because he seems far away, and apparently has little to say about whether or not I use a diaphragm. But tell me some group of men is going to guide me, and my knickers are in a twist!

(Which is silly, because if I don't rely on authority, I am my own authority, and many painful, pre-Catholic years have taught me how well that worked.) I repeat myself: for me, for any reader, for any Christian to reject God-inspired human authority is a grave error, and history has demonstrated that it leads to much heartache and sin.

5) We have two choices: to disbelieve the promises of our Lord, or to believe them. We can approach humbly, and in awe, at the overwhelming grace of God, who has sustained his people and continued to maintain them in truth, despite centuries of intellectual dissention, transubstantiation versus consubstantion, and anti-popes.

Catholics disagreeing with one another about clerical dress and giving the Eucharist to Bill Clinton or John Kerry are still unified. Their arguments may not be. There may be tares among the wheat, or bad fish among the good catch, as our Lord calls them. They may be bad Catholics, or heretical ones, but ultimately, they still have to reckon with the fact that they are out of line with the Church. "There's no such thing as a pro-choice Catholic." As Matthias Caro so concisely pointed out, a fundamental unity -- in reality, not in some esoteric "We all believe in Jesus, so who cares?" realm -- remains, no matter what.

In this way, the authority of the Church acts as a safety net, reminding believers of what is true, and what matters, and what Jesus said, and what it means to be his follower.

6) As a former anti-Catholic who was grabbed, hard, by the simple truth of the matter at hand (as well as the truth about birth control, baptism, the Communion of Saints, and the Eucharist), I found in an honest reading of Holy Scripture -- and re-reading, and crying arguments, and anger, and a thousand other hissy fits -- that my Protestant education had been a sort of thin gruel, neatly ignoring the Creeds (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic? who does that sound like? --and, no, redefining "one" "holy" "catholic" and "apostolic" does not make for a legitimate confession of the creed-- one baptism for the remission of sins? the remission?), a great deal of the Bible, and history.

I would humbly urge my Protestant siblings and friends to examine history. Discover what Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of Saint John ) has to say about the Eucharist. Find out how confused the early Christians were about Scripture, and how it would have been impossible for them to build their doctrine on it (given the proliferation of false Gospels and an abundance of heresy, not to mention the fact that the Epistles recommend against it – re-read 1 Timothy 3.15). Read about how every see besides Rome -- Jerusalem , Antioch , Alexandria , and Constantinople -- taught heresy for long periods of time. Consider the fruits of the Reformation: there are over 30,000 Protestant denominations, and new ones form almost daily. Is that the unity Jesus begs of his father in John 17? Think about Francis Schaffer alone saving Protestants from long believing in the gift of abortion, when the Church has always taught against it. What about the history of birth control, when one by one, major Christian denominations loosened their stance, until now no one has anything authoritative and concrete to say about it, besides the Catholic Church? What about divorce, remarriage, and uncertainty about doctrine? What about, I beg you to consider, the Eucharist? What did Jesus say about it? What did everyone believe, including Martin Luther (though he in a complicated, unorthodox way) until the 1500s?

I strongly recommend Stephen Ray's Crossing the Tiber, heavy on the footnotes but clear on the inevitable conclusions that history actually demonstrates.

7) So I can legitimately call this a response to the debate about the initial question of soteriology, I would point out that neither Saints Aquinas nor Augustine teach infallibly. Their arguments are plausible, and often correct, and certainly worth reading, but the Church maintains what she has always maintained: "Are we saved by works or by faith? Neither, you dolt. We're saved by grace." Separating faith and works creates a false dichotomy; hence: Saint James’ words on the subject.

No honest Christian can take credit for his own salvation, and no honest Christian can continue to believe that he bears no responsibility for it. God stretches out his arm across the chasm that separates him from his creation. He does so 100%. And we must respond 100%. True, only grace allows us to respond, but who am I to claim that what I Timothy 4.9-11 says isn't true? ("This is a faithful saying worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.")

When I began to truly read the Holy Scriptures, my life was at a point of crisis. I remained there for three years, struggling over passages about baptism, about Jesus' descent into hell, over the pastoral epistles, over the book of Revelation. The only group of people I discovered who were actually dealing with the entirety of Scripture were the Catholics. There were no “Yeah, but” responses from the Catholic Church when I asked questions about the Bible. They believed it all. And they believed all of it at once.

Most Reformed folks I knew (and my life is still full of them) dealt well with particular passages, say, Romans 8. Yet there was a great blindness to the whole of the faith. Saint Paul 's words about predestination are short passages in long letters which are primarily focused on what it is to be good and faithful and to submit to Jesus Christ, the head of his body the Church, and to love our neighbors. I have often felt that Calvin and his followers are sitting in front of a tapestry, pulling out all the red threads, saying, "See? This one's red, too!" all the while ignoring the picture. For a human being trapped in time to attempt to comprehend the workings of God's mind is simply silly. And with all the assertions Reformed theology makes about the flawed reasoning of men and the absolute brokenness of our nature, it seems a little preposterous to suggest that these men could determine what is Scripture, let alone sum up the work of God in an acronym of five points.

That only the Catholics discussed the whole of Scripture was a bitter pill to swallow, particularly given my penchant for attempting to "rescue" Catholics from their papist, Marian idolatry (what I'd now call "sheep stealing" -- and the reason I'm not impressed with the obscene numbers of folks going to predominately Catholic countries to evangelize those poor, lost souls) and my own ego, but I have finally come. I approach the confessional humbly, knowing that it is not the priest who forgives my sins, but Jesus Christ through the office of the priest. I look to Pope Benedict for leadership (still with my fingers crossed in the hopes that the Holy Spirit won't fail!), knowing that what his office is about isn't really the power or authority of the Church, per se, but about the grace of God and the power and authority of Jesus Christ. And I receive the Eucharist with a timid heart, rejoicing in the fact that the whole Church -- past, present, and future, Militant, Penitent, and Triumphant, on earth, in Purgatory, and at the last supper so beautifully described in Revelation -- eats and drinks our Lord with me. What magnificence.

I am grateful to my Protestant father -- an Anglican rector -- who raised me on the Scriptures, to the Reformed University Fellowship, who challenged me to base my faith on the Bible -- and were horrified at what happened when I did! -- and for the lonely hours I have spent with the prophets major and minor, with Saints John, Peter, and Paul, and later, with a history so powerful and overwhelming I finally had to do what my Catholic husband did so beautifully: submit. Ultimately, I realized that his submission to authority was a thousand times more Christian than my arrogance was.

I rejoiced when I arrived at the Witherspoon Fellowship, realizing I could finally talk about all these things with my peers, and I lamented our disunity, and I confess my own long, repeated moments of unkindness and pride in dealing with the issues, but I am delighted, as always, to be able to listen and share my own journey to find truth.


Millie McGehee Jerome Dasher
Fall 2005

(Yes, Jerome is my confirmation name. And yes, it's because he was the worthy translator of Scriptures and fleer of temptation, and it was nothing short of the Sacred Scriptures that led me into his Church.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Canon of Scripture

This was an email composed by my friend Rick...on his way to becoming a theologian.

Dear Bill,

Okay, I have many thoughts swirling around my head. I hope I can get them all out. First, thank you for a wonderful and thought-provoking email. You bring up some interesting ideas...some I had never heard before (I'm not sure whether that is because these ideas are original to you, or because I have not read as widely as you, but either way it was very interesting).

Let's start with this: can we agree that the index of books we have in the Bible, the canon, is a tradition? It is traditional to include the the book of Revelation. Same with the four Gospels. This tradition has been handed down over the centuries. None of the the books of the Bible lists which books are infallible, but over generations a reliable list was formed and the tradition has been handed down generation after generation. Christians, over time, made a decision about what kinds of books would be in the Scriptures, and what kind will be left out, and we follow the tradition of their criteria. Again, it does not say in the Gospel of John, "Here is how you will know a book is inspired..." but at some point Christians made criteria, decided which books "fit," and have been following that tradition since. True?

Isn't it also true that the tradition of which books would be included was developed and articulated by a group of fallible men. Obviously third and forth century Christians have no claim to infallibility, right? So when they determine the valid secular proofs that will be used to decide, their choice of proofs is fallible. Perhaps they made a mistake, perhaps one of their proofs accidentally excluded certain texts that are infallible. Likewise, perhaps their fallible criteria was too lenient, and some books slipped in that were actually quite wrong (like James with all his talk about faith and works).

Yes, we can all agree that God inspired writers throughout time to write certain infallible books. But how do we, who are quite fallible (I prove myself fallible every day) know which are God-breathed, and which are just really interesting books? Can there be any conclusion other than this: we have a fallible list of infallible books? (this is an assertion that has been attributed to a certain Protestant author, but I can't confirm it so I won't give his name). Is that what we have? A fallible list of infallible books? How could it be otherwise, when fallible Christians many generations after the last apostle died, were the one's making the list?

If you read about the process by which the canon came to be, you cannot avoid the conclusion that many fallible people were voicing an opinion. After all, there was heated debate throughout the Church about which books should be included, and which should be excluded. Many did not want to include Hebrews, or Jude, or (especially) the Revelation of St. John. Others wanted to include the Revelation of St. Peter, or the Didache, or the letters of St. Clement. Different individual churches were reading different books, and excluding other books. There was absolutely no consensus on many books.

So, if you were to be transported back to the third century, how would you know which books were Scripture? After all, many different voices were giving conflicting accounts. And without a clear Bible to which you could refer, how would you know what to do when different heresies arose (and we know that there were dozens of deadly heresies prowling around at the time). What would you do? Who would you trust?

Well, St. Ignatius of Antioch was speaking to people who were mired in a situation just like yours (I'm still pretending you are a third century Christian). He said that if you want to know who is teaching the truth, look for the local bishop. The local bishop, you see, has teaching authority. From where does he get his authority? Well, he received his authority from the authority of another bishop, who received his from another, who, ultimately, received his from one of the Apostles (and, at that point, it really may have been just two or three steps back before you hit an Apostle). And the Apostles received their authority from Christ Jesus. Therefore, if you want to know who is teaching the orthodox, catholic faith, look for the apostolic bishop.

If you did anything else...if you choose to rely on your own understanding, or on your own canon of Scripture (remember, the canon will not be set for about another 200 years), well, then, you may have ended up believing in something resembling the DaVinci Code! Your only hope, if you wanted to maintain the Christian faith, would have been to seek the authority of the bishops, because it was they that maintained the authority of Christ (who gave authority to the Church).

Therefore, when the worldwide Church was confronted with the chaos of different books being read in different churches (and other books excluded), what did the Church do? Well, it called together the bishops--those with apostolic authority--and the bishops put their heads together and said, "Listen, Church, we know there has been lots of confusion out there about which books are infallible. Good news! We, the bishops, whose responsibility it is to shepherd the Church into all Truth, we who have teaching authority, we who have the authority to bind and loose, we've seen the problem, and we have come together. By our authority, granted to us from the Apostles themselves, we present to you...THE CANON." Trumpets blare, the crowd erupts in applause, everyone breaths a sigh of relief. "Glad that debate is over!" All in all, not a bad day for the catholic Church.

Okay, so, all of this, I'm sure, exhibits probably a third grade understanding of how it all went down. This is like learning about how a cell works in grade school. There is no question that by high school one of the teachers will say, "Well, its actually far more complicated than that..." I have no doubt. But that does not mean the picture book version is inaccurate.

My conclusion: the canon depends on the authority of the Church, made up of bishops, who get their authority from the apostles, who get their authority from Christ. We do not have a fallible list of infallible books because the Church has infallibly ruled which books are authoritative. Without the Church, the Bible becomes suspect. Without the Church, each individual would have to see whether the list of books they have is accurate, or just a incorrect tradition of men. Yes, at that point the Bible would indeed be suspect, and if the Bible is suspect, sola scriptura becomes a very hard sell.

Phew! All of this after Katherine McPhee lost. What a night!


Easter Bread

Easter Greek (Orthodox)just kidding Tcheurek:
Say a prayer to Tante Astkhig (Stella) before starting is her own recipe.

5 eggs
1 cup milk
1and 1/2 cup sugar (I add a little more)
2 sticks unsalted butter...must be unsalted.(.some sweet butter have salt).
1 teaspoon mahlab ( I add a little more)
1 teas. Habet Baraka..the black small seed.
now for flavor.
grate(rind) one orange + one Lemon..
Or 2 oranges
or 1 teaspoon..mastica.
For flour...I start with 6 cups..but add more when I knead.
2pks of yeast in 1/2 a cup warm water .remember to add a little sugar to help with the rise of yeast.
(1 pkg yeast is equal to 2teasp and 1/2)
Beat the eggs, the sugar, the milk (I would barely warm the milk just a little to break the cold from it). Beat these then add the melted butter, the orange rind, .....beat by hand or mixer..
Prepare now the yeast wait till it rises a little then add it to these wet ingredients.
Add the raisins, the flour, the habet baraka the mahlab.
Knead and knead. if it is too sticky add flour..knead more add flour till you think it's enough..add a little flour at a time...Dough must be make the sign of the cross on it..cover and keep in a warm place.
Dough will rise ..maybe in 4 to 5 hours depending on the warmth of the place and the power of the yeasts...sometimes I put more yeast so it can rise faster but be careful not to overdue with the yeast ..because it can be bitter..
After the rising of the dough..shape it like a braid...brush them with eggs(after y. beat it)
and sesame seed (optional) and let them rise again it can take again few hours or less.
Bake ..make sure they won't be too brown..because the bottom will be burned..
Good Luck..

Corona Del Mar Beach

When in Southern take...

The 118 East
405 South
Exit Bristol
Make a Right
Make a Right at Jamboree
Drive on Jamboree for a few miles until you hit the
(you'll pass Fashion Island)
Make a Left at the PCH- 1 (if you go straight you'll
be on Balboa Island)

The PCH-1 is what will take you to Corona Del Mar
Make a Right at Marguerite, park and
the water will be straight ahead of you.


Get back on the PCH-1 and continue to Laguna Beach
You'll pass Crystal Cove, which is that private and
pretty beach.

Drive for over 10 minutes and you should see
Laguna. I usually park in some neighborhood and
walk on the main street.

Go to that Gelato place, which is under a garland, secret
garden type nook.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Theology of Grace Notes from Class #1 (Father Pilon)

I've decided to post my notes from this class in case anyone out there is interested in learning more about the Church's teaching on the topic of grace. Understanding grace is essential to understanding the Christian life. It is also highly complex and often misunderstood. The development of theological and doctrinal explication of what is meant by grace has a long history.

The doctrine of grace is central to Catholic doctrine and to who we are as a result of baptism.

The text we are using in this course is John Hardon S.J.'s book History and Theology of Grace: The Catholic Teaching on Divine Grace. My professor Fr. Pilon is coming from a Thomistic background.

Here are some questions we are going to address in this class:

What is grace?
What does it do for us? What is its purpose and final end?
How does grace relate to human freedom?
How does justification take place?
What are the different types of graces?
What is the distinction between grace and nature? And how do they interact?

By nature, we are God's natural image. But this gift, which is grace, elevates human nature. We become the image of God on a supernatural level.

We can not understand the human person without a proper understanding of grace. What is needed to understand this is a theological anthropology of the human person.

For St. Thomas, grace is the beginning of the Beatific Vision.

What is grace?
Is it a thing? Is it a something? Another term for it (I believe according to theologian Henry de Lubac) is supernature. St. Thomas says that grace is not a substance but a quality. It is a dynamic quality that transforms a substance-- specifically the substance of the soul. It is more a form than a substance.
It is not an easy notion to define. ("We talk about grace too casually." -Fr. Pilon)

Is it an accident?

Grace is a supernatural quality greater than all natural substances. What is substantial in God is accidental for humans. It is our greatest gift. Grace is a kind of an dynamic act which God creates in us in order to transform the soul. It is a quality communicated to the soul which is greater than the soul itself. It allows the soul to participate in the divine nature. It enables man to become a child of God. It enables us to live the life of God's child by elevating the powers of the soul. (Grace is somewhat Trinitarian? It is a supernatural reflection of the image of the Trinity.)

Grace is not our human nature. This was the mistake Pelagius made. He believed that graces were only external (not an internal action of the soul) and that man's free-will was a grace. The Pelagian heresy also includes the belief that our free-will choices for the good is what saves us. Christ is only a good example. His example is an external grace but it's just a model to follow. Pelagianism is a sort of naturalism by which we are led to our natural end by virtue of our human nature. Catholicism teaches that God destined us for a SUPERnatural destiny of participation in His very life which is a supernatural end.

Man's true destiny and greatness is made known only by revelation. -Theologian Rudolph Schnackenberg

Grace does not destroy our nature, it perfects our nature. In Colossians 3:10, St. Paul speaks of a "new nature." It is not technically a new nature, but a transformed nature.

(Historical/Theological note: The term "supernatural" although implied does not appear in its final form until the Middle Ages. Very interesting!)

It's God's power that has granted to us the possibility of participating in the divine nature. (Peter 1:4) (The Eastern Fathers of the Church use the term divinization.)Without this grace, we cannot participate in His life.

Meanings of Grace

1. Complex notion: gift totally gratuitous, supernatural (a word the Synoptic gospels don't use at all, we get the word from St. Paul) (What about the above note on the final appearance of the word emerging from the Middle Ages? I'll check on this and get back to you, blog.)

2. God as the giver-source of this gift and as the gift

-Old Testament-

a. divine attitude toward/action toward/ or in creature:

I believe this means grace as a divine disposition toward the creature. The Greek root means to lean toward or incline toward someone.

Terms (Greek or Hebrew?) Hanan/Hen: Hanan means to lean toward/incline toward someone. Hen (from the same root) expresses a result in the person themselves or a quality in a person. This does not work theologically in a Christian perspective in which God is the protagonist. In the OT, God is Hanan toward the poor especially.

The Greek word Caris was chosen. This word means loving-kindness, favor. Thus, God is gracious to us, etc. The Old Testament translation regarding Mary is "Oh highly favored one!"

Whenever God loves, it produces an effect. (Not sure where this fits in, perhaps it means that the grace in us is the effect of God's loving action/loving-kindness.)

The term Hesed implies a kind of act on behalf of God, where God is loving someone.
This word is used in Covenantal language in the Old Testament to emphasize the bond of that faithful love. The grace is the act of granting the gift of love. The closest Latin word is pietas (piety)which is steadfast love/loving kindness. Man should respond in this way to God.

b. Grace as the effect in the creature:

-God's justice in man-

Sedeq/Mishpat-righteousness. The term Mishpat is the judgment itself of justification. (This is discovered in the prophets-God transforms man by making him just, declaring him just.)

(Luther's understanding of justification is a throwback to the declaration of righteousness in the Old Testament. His understanding is closer to the Old Testament concept. This is vastly different from the New Testament concept of justification which is that we are made really just--it's not just a declaration.)

-Communion with God-

Why does God bother make us just? He bothers to make us just because we can't have communion with Him in an unjust state. So he has to make us just. (Not by necessity of course...) The whole point of human life is ultimate communion with God, without that, life is meaningless. (Wisdom prophets?)

Everything we mean by grace is ultimately divine love.

St. Augustine sees grace as a moralist because he sees it as charity infused and transforming the will. Later, in St. Thomas' perspective on grace is that it transforms the very substance of the soul. The soul itself is transformed. (I'm failing to see a distinction...I'll check and get back to you, blog.)

Man, by his nature, is not capable of loving God. His nature has to be elevated. The powers (I'm assuming of his soul...) must be elevated a quantum leap in order to love God. This is what is meant by sanctifying grace.

Grace is fundamentally tied to divine love since it is its origin. Grace and nature are interacting at every moment. It's a cooperative adventure. God is with us and acting in us at all times.

-The Synoptic Gospels-

Grace is a saving gift related to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is itself a saving gift. Membership means son ship.

a. Son ship/Membership into the Kingdom is created through the divine initiative.
b. Metanoia is pre-condition to entering the Kingdom.
c. Filial spirit is the result-this new life requires additional gifts to persevere
d. Two stages: now and the eschaton
e. Our participation in the Kingdom is provisional in this life

-Grace in the Gospel of John-

a. Light, Life, Love, (God is the origin) Sonship
b. The Incarnation is the capital grace
c. Jesus is the manifestation of:

1. Light-which guides man to Life (Father Pilon's favorite book in the Bible--also one of my favorites--is the book of Sirach. Read this book to understand Christ as the Light.)
2. Eternal life which is already now, but not yet
3. Sonship-which makes us God's children now
4. Parable of the Vine: organic gift (???)

Three profound effects of God's love:

1. God's love brings about a change from slavery into son ship.
2. It brings us out of darkness into the light of truth.
3. It resurrects man from death to life.

In St. John, the communication of grace is the communication of light, life, and love which makes us God's sons.

Grace is a supernatural gift communicated to a creature by God out of his benevolence.

1. Divine son ship
2. Children by divine adoption

a. Divine adoption (This is a NT concept, NOT an OT concept!)
b. The Adoption is by grace (which is God's favor upon us...which causes a change.)
c. Grace causes an essential regeneration of nature
d. Baptism is an essential means of this adoption and entrance into the life of grace
e. The critical notion of participation in the divine nature (Greek notion in Augustine and st. Thomas)

Grace according to St. Paul:

St. Paul had to deal with the question of justification contrary to the notion of the Pharisees that one is saved through his works. Thus, for St. Paul we get the word "caris" as the means of Justification.
(Need to check on the root meaning of this word--the word charism means a gift (and further grace) of the Holy Spirit whose root I'm sure is caris...once again, I'll get back to you!)

Grace and Justification: the new vision (No idea what this means...)

1. Justice is a gift of life (which is a power to act justly)
2. Christ is the capital grace. He is the source and exemplar:

a. New Adam: source of a New Humanity
b. Man is reconciled and recreated in Christ through the gift of His grace
c. Grace is participation in His Life and death
d. Faith and Baptism are preconditions to entry into His life and the Kingdom

3. Effects of Justification: negative and positive (?)
-contrast with and continuity with the Law (?)
Effect of divine love-which always is casual (?)


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