God is simple

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, Thou Who art infinite simplicity, simplify my mind and my heart, that I may serve Thee in simplicity of spirit.

MEDITATION

God is the unique simple Being because He is one in His essence and in all His perfections. When St. Thomas speaks of God’s simplicity, he presents it as the absence of all that is composite. In God’s simplicity there are not quantitative parts as there are in us who are composed of body and soul. God is simple because in Him there is no matter; He is pure spirit. Angels are also pure spirits; but angels are composite beings because their essence is like ours, distinct from their existence. The angelic essence does not exist by itself but has only the capacity to exist; in fact, no angel, as likewise no man, can exist if God does not call him to life. In God, on the contrary, there is supreme simplicity, infinitely superior to that of the angels: in Him essence and existence are identical. His essence exists of itself; He is the eternally subsistent Being.

Neither do the innumerable perfections of God create in Him any multiplicity: God is not composed of goodness, beauty, wisdom, justice, but He is, at the same time, the infinitely good, beautiful, wise, and just Being. There is no distinction in Him between substance and quality, because all is substance; His infinite perfections are His very substance. God contains in one, unique and most simple perfection, the perfection of His divine Being, all the multiple perfections we find divided among creatures in addition to thousands and thousands of others, somewhat as a million dollars contains the value of many dollars. God’s simplicity is not, then, poverty, but infinite riches, infinite perfections which we ourselves ought to reflect.

Consider how rich God is in innumerable perfections and how He possesses them all in the same degree. Consider, on the other hand, how poor you are in virtues and if you have any at all, how limited they are, how mixed with faults! Moreover, for one virtue which you possess in some slight degree, how many others you lack! God is simple; you, on the contrary, are complicated! Contemplate the divine simplicity and try to imitate it by means of true simplicity of soul.

COLLOQUY

“O most high God, in Your one and simple Being You are all the virtues and grandeurs of Your attributes; for You are omnipotent, wise, good, merciful, just, strong, and loving, and You possess other infinite attributes and virtues of which we have no knowledge. You are all these things in Your simple Being.

O wondrous excellence of God! O abyss of delights, which are the more abundant in proportion as Your riches are all contained in the infinite simplicity and unity of Your sole Being, so that each one is known and experienced in such a way that the perfect knowledge and absorption of the other is not impeded thereby, but rather each grace and virtue that exists in You is light for some other of Your grandeurs, so that through Your purity, O divine Wisdom, many things are seen in You when one thing is seen” (John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love 3, 2.17).

“O divine Essence, bottomless and boundless abyss of wonders! O unfathomable ocean of greatness, O Unity of my God, O Simplicity, O Eternity without beginning and without end, to Whom everything is continually present! O Immensity, which fills all things and contains all things! O Infinity, which embraces all imaginable perfections, O Immutability, O Immortality, O inaccessible Splendor! O incomprehensible Truth, O abyss of Knowledge and Wisdom, O Truth of my God…. O divine Power, creating and sustaining all things! O divine Providence, governing all! O Justice, O Goodness, O Mercy, O Beauty, O Glory, O Fidelity!… O great God, in You I adore all the grandeurs and perfections which I have been contemplating, as well as all the innumerable and inconceivable others which are, and will remain, unknown to me. I adore You, praise You, glorify and love You for all that You are. Oh! how my heart rejoices to see You so great, and so overflowing with every kind of treasure and splendor! Certainly, if I possessed all these grandeurs and You had none of them, I would want to strip myself of them at once and give them to You” (St. John Eudes).

Love,
Matthew

The Form of the Good

The Form of the Good is the greatest thing to learn about, and that it is by their relation to it that just things and [other virtuous things] become useful and beneficial. (Republic, 505a) Plato suggests that justice, truth, equality, beauty, and many others ultimately derive from the Form of the Good.

Republic is firstly an argument about the ideal structure of a city. Notoriously, Plato installs philosopher-kings as a benevolent council. If the rulers of the city are to make themselves, their citizens, and their city good, they must first know Goodness itself. This form is the one that allows a philosopher-in-training to advance to a philosopher-king. It cannot be clearly seen or explained, but once it is recognized, it is the form that allows one to realize all the other forms.  Stephen Hawking famously quipped that we should ask not only what the equations governing the universe are, but also “what breathes fire into the equations?” For Plato, both the equations and the fire are the Form of the Good.

Plato’s was the first major metaphysical system in the West, and it dominated Western thought through the middle of the second millennium. Consider the subject of mathematics and geometry. What is a point? It is a location in space with no dimension. In other words, it is not a real object. Points are ideal entities, not space-time particulars. They take up no space. Likewise, lines have length but no breadth. Mathematics is about ideal entities, and some mathematicians today are still “Platonists” about numbers: they hold the view that numbers or other mathematical objects are immaterial things. And they have to be in order for us to be able to know eternal truths about them.

If we live in a rationally ordered cosmos, this helps underwrite a social order that is rigidly hierarchical. It is no surprise then that through the Middle ages humans organize themselves into strict hierarchies. We find a hierarchical church and a stratified social structure, with serfs serving the king and the king serving God.

Consider Plato’s influence on theology: The Form of the Good is the ground of all being, an immaterial object that exists more perfectly than anything else, a thing responsible for the goodness and rationality in the world. This is something like an interpretation of the Christian view of God developed in the Middle Ages, founded in Platonic and Neo-Platonic metaphysics.

Perhaps most importantly, Plato’s arguments in Republic make possible scientific inquiry. Science is only possible if the natural world is intelligible to our rational faculties. Many people credit Plato’s student Aristotle with the initiation of the scientific project of humanity, and many in turn credit the scientific method as the West’s most profound contribution to humanity.

Aristotle along with other scholars sees the Form of the Good as synonymous with the idea of One. Plato claims that Good is the highest Form, and that all objects aspire to be good. Since Plato does not define good things, interpreting Plato’s Form of the Good through the idea of One allows scholars to explain how Plato’s Form of the Good relates to the physical world. According to this philosophy, in order for an object to belong to the Form of the Good, it must be One and have the proper harmony, uniformity, and order to be in its proper form.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Moral law. Obedience to God.

“Conscience has absolute, exceptionless, binding moral authority over us, demanding unqualified obedience. But only a perfectly good, righteous divine will has this authority and a right to absolute, exceptionless obedience. Therefore conscience is the voice of the will of God“.80

“Man has within his breast a certain commanding dictate, not a mere sentiment, not a mere opinion or impression or view of things, but a law, an authoritative voice, bidding him do certain things and avoid others. What I am insisting on here is this, that it commands; that it praises, blames, it threatens, it implies a future, and it witnesses of the unseen. It is more than a man’s own self. The man himself has no power over it, or only with extreme difficulty; he did not make it, he cannot destroy it.”82

“I cannot escape the stroke of conscience.” -cf Venerable Matt Talbot

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Ps 9:10

“The formidable atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie reflected in The Miracle of Theism that objective, prescriptive moral facts “constitute so odd a cluster of qualities and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events, without an all-powerful god to create them. If, then, there are such intrinsically prescriptive objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them.”63 According to Mackie, the best explanation of objectively binding moral truths is God. But since he is an atheist, he rejects such truths on account of them being too inexplicable and unintelligible in a Godless world.”64

“Our sense of moral values and duties in a Godless world can be grounded in nothing more than our emotions and desires. Ultimately, then, it matters not how one feels about actions like rape or murder; it matters not what one thinks about them: none of our subjective powers are powerful enough to make a moral sentiment objectively binding for one and all. So unless God exists there is no rational ground for believing in objective, mind-independent morality. Skeptics must face this hard-to-swallow fact—and many have. Agreeing with Dostoevsky, the atheist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre admits, “Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn.”65 Or as Alex Rosenberg puts it, if atheism is true then “ANYTHING goes.””66 (emphasis added)

-Nelson, Matt. Just Whatever: How to Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs that Really Matter (Kindle Locations 1015-1022, 1024-1032, 1202-1206, 1210-1215). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & His will, as He gives me the grace to know and to do,
Matthew

63 J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 115-116.
64 See also J.L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong (London: Penguin Books, 1990).
65 Jean Paul Sartre, “Existentialism is a Humanism,” lecture at Club Maintenant in Paris, October 29, 1945.
66 Alexander Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011), 3.
80 Peter Kreeft, “The Argument from Conscience,” in Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 36-41.
82 Cited in Robert Spitzer, The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), 73.

Prayer to St Joseph

I have a very special devotion to St Joseph as a man, a husband, a father, a man of silence, which I am not, unless praying. On my bureau, I recently added:

The idea being when you find it hard to sleep, give your worries and stresses to St Joseph. St Joseph received his communications from God while he slept. Write your worries down on a piece of paper and slip them under sleeping St Joseph and let him and God worry about them. You should go sleep in peace.  If there ever was one time in my life God spoke to me most directly, it was when when I slept Holy Thursday evening to Good Friday morning 1989.  It was powerful.  No words.  Just understanding and conviction.  Never happened before.  Never happened since.

“O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O Saint Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

Saint Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.

At each day’s ending, Joseph,
you could take your rest knowing
Whom you had served, and how faithfully,
however badly things had gone, or however well.
My days’ endings so often bring regret —
for things said or left unsaid,
for things done or left undone,
for opportunities not seized.
In your goodness, pray to Jesus for me
that He would accept
even the marred pattern of my days,
make good the lack in each,
and give me day by day His grace
to do better.”

Love & peace,
Matthew

Ecumenism 2

“Ecumenism is open to two kinds of misunderstanding or abuse. First, it can be misconceived as aiming merely at a modus vivendi and more friendly relations among communities that remain divided. Second, there seems to be a temptation for Catholics to represent Protestant views, formerly rejected by the Church, as not irreconcilable with Catholicism, to thin down Catholic doctrine to aspects that may be compatible with Protestant positions, and to dodge the differentiation between truth and error.

The Second Vatican Council, however, in welcoming the Ecumenical Movement and encouraging its progress, has not sanctioned such confusions. The Decree on Ecumenism repeatedly states that the aim of ecumenism is the restoration of full unity between the now divided communities (see nos. 1, 4, 5, 12). It is with this objective in view that the document readily admits that we can learn from the separated separated Christians (nos. 4, 6), and it urges that we should try to understand better the mind of the separated brethren (no. 9). But the Decree also demands “that it should become clearer what the position of the Catholic Church really is” and “that our faith be more adequately expounded” to the separated Christians (nos. 9, 11 para. 2). It warns that those things which we can learn from the separated Christians “have carefully to be distinguished from the Deposit of Faith” (no. 6). There is no room for a license to blur essential differences. The Decree explicitly cautions against confusion in stating: “Nothing is so alien to ecumenism as that false irenicism by which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers damage and its genuine and plain sense is obscured” (Nil ab oecumenismo tam alienum est quam ille falsus irenismus, quo puritas doctrinae catholicae detrimentum patitur et ejus sensus genuinus et certus obscuratur. No. 11).

True ecumenism is a common quest for the truth and for possibilities of re-establishing real unity. The principal objective of such endeavors is, of course, the discovery of agreements and a rapprochement without detriment to the truth. But since truth is opposed to error, it is also necessary to make distinctions and even to venture criticism. Honest inquiry for the truth does not evade the challenge of serious criticism.

Catholics are at present criticizing their own past and the present condition of their Church with a zeal which to some extent is surely justified and healthy, though it often overshoots the mark. But is it only Catholicism that requires to be criticized? Is it not necessary that the principles underlying the separate existence of Protestant churches should also be critically examined?

The movement that resulted in the division was started by Martin Luther. Crucial to his theology and spirituality, from about 1518 onward, was his new conception of faith. This concept was a seed whose germinative power has remained unimpaired throughout four-and-a-half centuries. It is the inchoate form of anthropocentric theology. Now it is anthropocentric trends which at present are causing considerable confusion in Protestantism and Catholicism alike, and the writings of modern Protestants evidence the impact of Luther’s central idea. A critique of this idea seems therefore requisite for clarifying the situation.

But is it wise to reopen an old wound which has just begun to heal? Should we not be glad that the period dominated by controversy has at last come to an end? Would it not be more helpful to the cause of reconciliation to confine our studies to features in Luther’s thought acceptable to all partners in the dialogue?

There is no one today who denies that there are genuinely Christian values in Luther’s works. The present author is well aware that these can be made fruitful for true ecumenism and he has been anxious not to overlook such values even in writing this critique. However, experience of recent years has come to confirm his conviction that a positive evaluation of Luther’s ideas presupposes criteria, and these can only be gained by critical scrutiny. The present confusion is in a great measure the outcome of a lack of criteria. Today, a critique of Luther’s central concept is not a triumphant assertion of Catholic claims but an attempt to discern one of the origins of dangers that threaten all churches alike.

The thought of pre-Protestant Luther (1509–17) is grand and deep. His passion for the Word of God, his “theology of the cross,” and his spirituality of humility revivified vital elements of Catholic tradition with an originality indicative of charism. Even his anti-philosophical attitude is evidence of his total surrender to the majesty of God. His allegiance to nominalism did not impair his religious originality. On the contrary, he kept a critical attitude toward tenets of that school and succeeded in making its way of thinking subservient to his intention, which was exclusively and passionately religious. All the great impulses of a truly Christian nature that remained even in his later career date from that early period which, though very different from prevailing forms of medieval Catholicism, must be judged as the promise of a Catholic renewal.”

-Hacker, Paul (2017-09-22T23:58:59). Faith in Luther: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion (Kindle Locations 391-428). Emmaus Academic. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Ecumenism

“For Lutherans and Evangelicals must come to terms—for the sake of true ecumenism—with a central question that, as John Henry Newman rightly observed in his Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification, the Reformation theologians never clearly answered: What exactly is justifying faith? Is Luther’s concept of reflexive faith faithful to the testimony and teaching of the New Testament and the earliest tradition of the Church?26 Does Luther’s understanding reflect at all the patristic patrimony about faith? Is it compatible with the consensus of medieval theologians, the teaching of the Council of Trent, the post-Tridentine theological consensus, and the teaching of Vatican I on faith? Last but not least, is it fully compatible with the differentiated consensus formulated in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification?…

True ecumenism will climb patiently and irrevocably the narrow and steep path of the unshakable commitment to the truth, the unity it yields, and the dialogue, encounter, and common inquiry to which the truth beckons and commits. True ecumenism cannot be nudged along by church-diplomatic machinations and various other contraptions but requires common prayer, mutual charity, indeed brotherhood, and long-suffering patience under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in a shared eschatological horizon. In season and out of season, true ecumenism will be committed to one principle and one principle only, a principle in which genuine unity is already inchoately present.

-Hacker, Paul (2017-09-22T23:58:59). Faith in Luther: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion (Kindle Locations 213-220, 222-227). Emmaus Academic. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

26 Over the course of more than one generation, a number of important New Testament scholars have developed a “new perspective” on the theology of the apostle Paul, a perspective that stands in sharp contrast if not contradiction to Luther’s understanding of reflexive faith. The most important voices in a debate over which more ink has been spilled than over virtually any other topic among NT scholars from all ecclesial backgrounds are Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” The Harvard Theological Review 56/3 (1963): 199-215; E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977); James D. G. Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005); and N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God 4 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013). That Luther’s understanding of reflexive faith is rather well alive among Evangelicals is demonstrated amply in a volume that challenges N.T. Wright’s interpretation of Paul on justification: John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007). See N.T. Wright’s response: Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009). Most recently, in his important study Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), John Barclay has steered a via media between the “old perspective on Paul” (deeply informed by Luther’s interpretation of Paul through the conceptual lens of the reflexive faith) and the “new perspective on Paul.” Yet, importantly, in Barclay’s book one will search in vain for traces of Luther’s reflexive faith.

Luther on faith

“Hacker’s reading of Luther on faith is commendably uninfected by postmodern perspectivalism and the consequent skepticism about the attainability of any truth at all—whether theological, philosophical, or moral. His reading is also completely free from the subtle self-censoring encountered not infrequently in those circles that regard ecumenism not as a form of theology but rather as a form of ecclesial diplomacy. In refreshing contrast to the intellectually stifling etiquette of such ecumenical diplomacy, Hacker’s analysis and interrogation of Luther’s thought is motivated by an uncompromising quest for truth, a trait that makes the book refreshingly untimely—simultaneously old-fashioned and avant-garde.

Hacker’s study is penetrating, far-reaching, and unsparing, yet at the same time utterly objective (sachlich). The outcome is not a foreordained conclusion but rather the result of an extraordinary scholar’s penetrating analysis of Luther’s concept of faith. Luther did not embark on his teaching vocation in 1512 as a professor of Holy Scripture at the University of Wittenberg with this understanding of faith.7 Rather, his new concept of reflexive faith comes to form the very heart of what has later been called Luther’s “Reformation break through.” Hacker offers a precise description: “Luther . . . denotes the faith taught by him as ‘apprehensive faith’ in the sense of ‘seizing faith’ (fides apprehensiva). This means that the faith grasps not only the message of salvation but salvation itself or even Christ himself.”8 Why would Hacker designate this understanding of faith as “reflexive faith”? In order to account for his choice of terms, Hacker adduces a characteristic passage from a sermon Luther preached in Leipzig on June 29, 1519, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul: “If a man doubts and is not firmly convinced that he has a merciful God, he does not have him. As he believes, so he has. Therefore nobody can possibly know that he is in God’s grace and that God is propitious to him except through faith. If he believes it, he is blessed; if not, he is condemned. For such assurance and good conscience is the right . . . faith that God’s grace works in us.”9 Based on this and many similar passages in Luther’s sprawling oeuvre Hacker concludes: “According to [Luther], what properly justifies is not simply faith in God or Christ. Only the reflection, qualified by certitude, that God’s salvific deed is meant ‘for me’ works salvation, and this reflection brings about its effect infallibly.”10 Because Luther conceives of the apprehensive faith as something—quite paradoxically—essentially passive, as an undergoing, a suffering, it is only when it becomes reflexive that faith secures God’s gift of salvation to the individual believer. The complete “realization” of this “pro me,” this “for me” of the Gospel’s promissio (Verheissungswort) comes about by way of a “bending back” of the consciousness to the believing self. Without this reflexivity, justifying faith would be indistinguishable from what Luther dismisses as a testimonial belief in the facticity of certain events (fides historica). It is the very reflexive move that, according to Luther, applies the gospel promise effectively to the believer and thereby makes the faith justificatory, that is, salvific. Significantly and problematically, for Luther, reflexive faith and salvation do indeed coincide. Two theses proposed by Luther in a disputation “On Faith” in 1535 give witness to the consistency of Luther’s thought over the years from 1519 to 1535 and beyond on what is for him the absolutely crucial point about the faith that justifies: “It is that ‘For me’ or ‘For us’ which, if believed, constitutes this true faith and distinguishes it from any other sort of faith which only accepts that certain events did happen” (thesis 24). “This is the faith which alone justifies” (thesis 25).11

-Hacker, Paul (2017-09-22T23:58:59). Faith in Luther: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion (Kindle Locations 121-154). Emmaus Academic. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

8 Faith in Luther (Emmaus Academic, 2017), 10.
9 WA 2, p. 249, lines 5–11. (Hacker’s translation from the German, p. 10). It should give theologians pause for reflection that the atheist and materialist philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872), author of the influential The Essence of Christianity (1846), draws upon precisely this understanding of faith in Luther’s thought in order to draw the most radical anthropocentric consequences from it, namely to posit that the true essence of religion is exclusively anthropological. Two passages from his little known, but significant work Das Wesen des Glaubens im Sinne Luthers (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1984) shall suffice as illustration: “Gott ist ein Wort, dessen Sinn nur der Mensch ist. Das Wesen des Glaubens im Sinne Luthers besteht daher in dem Glauben an Gott als ein sich wesentlich auf den Menschen beziehendes Wesen—in dem Glauben, daß Gott nicht ein für sich selbst oder gar wider uns, sondern vielmehr ein für uns seiendes, gutes und zwar uns Menschen gutes Wesen ist” (p.18). “Hierin haben wir den Sinn von den so oft von Luther ausgesprochenen Gedanken: ‘Wie Du glaubst, so geschieht Dir;’ ‘glaubst Du es, so hast Du es, glaubst Du es nicht, so ist es nicht; ‘glaubst Du z.B., daß Dir Gott gut ist, so ist er Dir
10 Faith in Luther (Emmaus Academic, 2017), 10.
11 “Die Thesen für die Promotionsdisputation von Hieronymus Weller und Nikolaus Medler” on the topic “Arbitramur hominem iustificari fide absque operibus legis.” WA 39 I, p. 46, lines 7–10. (Hacker’s translation from the Latin). The original reads: “24. Igitur illud, pro Me, seu pro Nobis, si creditur, facit istam veram fidem et secernit ab omni alia fide, quae res tantum gestas audit. 25. Haec est fides, quae sola nos iustificat sine lege et operibus per misericordiam Dei, in Christo exhibitam.”

.

Dec 14 – “Thy dear Love can slay”


-by Br Philip Nolan, OP

“There is a story about how St. John of the Cross celebrated Christmas: “On Christmas day . . . St. John of the Cross, while at ease with his brethren at recreation, took the image of the Holy Infant from the Crib and danced round the room, singing all the while: “Mi dulce y tierno Jesús/‘My sweet and tender Jesus,/ If Thy dear love can slay,/ It is today’”. The austere Carmelite mystic of the sixteenth century, known for his spiritual writings and his reform of the Carmelite Order, burst out in song and dance like David before the Ark of the Covenant. God’s presence sometimes makes great men childlike, even giddy.

Saint John of the Cross, however, as his name suggests, knew something of the brutality of life as well. Some of his Carmelite brethren went so far as to imprison him and publicly punish him out of opposition to his reforms. And through the sufferings, St. John held fast to Christ. As he exclaims in Counsels of Light and Love, “Thou wilt not take from me, my God, that which once thou gavest me in Thine only Son Jesus Christ, in Whom Thou gavest me all that I desire; wherefore I shall rejoice that Thou wilt not tarry if I wait for Thee” (71–2). The Incarnation fulfills all our desires—if only we will ponder the manger in wonder. The baby Jesus is God’s perfect gift to us—if only we will wait patiently for His greatness to be manifest in our lives.

In watching and waiting in Advent, we wonder at how small the beginnings of our redemption seem. Even now redemption can seem far from our world: “O sweetest love of God that art so little known” (Counsels, 68). The reign of God burst into the world in the meekest of ways: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” Now we prepare to see the babe in the manger, the silent work of God. We know that the Incarnation happened, that our “redemption is drawing near” -Lk 21:28

In the sure promise of redemption, the austerity and the name of St. John of the Cross begins to make sense. In the quiet of Bethlehem, God prepares for the crowds of Jerusalem. We begin with Him at the manger in Bethlehem and follow Him to the hill of Golgotha. God purifies our worldly desires as we take up the cross and follow Him. What begins in love, remains in love, and ends in love: ‘My sweet and tender Jesus,/ If Thy dear love can slay,/ It is today.'”

Love, and the victory of Love,
Matthew

Dec 7 – Veni Redemptor Gentium – St Ambrose of Milan, (337-397 AD), Father & Doctor of the Church


Veni, Redemptor gentium;
Ostende partum virginis;
Miretur omne saeculum.
Talis decet partus Deo.

Non ex virili semine,
Sed mystico spiramine
Verbum Dei tactum est caro,
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit virginis.
Claustrum pudoris permanet;
Vexilla virtutum micant,
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedit e thalamo suo,
Pudoris aulo regia,
Geminae gigans substantiae
Alacris ut currat viam.

Egressus eius a Patre,
Regressus eius ad Patrem ;
Excursus usque ad inferos
Recursus ad sedem Dei.

Aequalis aeterno Patri,
Carnis tropaeo accingere,
Infirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans perpeti.

Praesepe iam fulget tuum,
Lumenque nox spirat novum,
Quad nulla nox interpolet
Fideque iugi luceat.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de virgine,
Cum Patre et saneto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
Come manifest thy virgin birth:
All lands admire, all times applaud:
Such is the birth that fits our God.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

The Virgin’s womb that glory gained,
Its virgin honor is still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
Runs out his course to death and hell,
Returns on God’s high throne to dwell.

O Equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light,
Where endless faith shall shine serene,
And twilight never intervene.

All laud, eternal Son, to Thee
Whose advent sets Thy people free,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore.


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

Non ex virili semine,

sed mystico spiramine

Verbum Dei factum est caro

fructusque ventris floruit.

Literally, this means: “Not from man’s seed / But by the mystic spirit / The Word of God was made man / And the fruit of the womb sprung forth.” Spiramine, “spirit” also means “breath.” The breath of life once breathed into Adam is now breathed upon Mary. The Holy Spirit creates (On the Mysteries, 2.5). Unlike everyone else, Jesus is conceived by an act of God without bodily contact (On Virginity, II.2.7), just as the world was created without pre-existing matter. The incarnation is a sort of re-creation in the world, so that fallen nature may be redeemed. In the original creation, God made man in His own image. In the fullness of time, He created a body for Himself. This meeting of heaven and earth, God’s complete gift of Himself, happens in the womb of Mary.

The Holy Spirit is also the revealer. Ambrose tells us that the same cloud which led the Hebrews out of Egypt came to rest finally upon the Virgin Mary, in whom He conceived His Son. (On the Mysteries, 3.13) This cloud that led the Hebrews over the Red Sea brought them to rest at Mount Sinai, where the law was revealed to Moses. This law was the fullest revelation of God up to that point in history. This is fulfilled in the Word of God, Who is the New Law, conceived in Mary’s womb. The Holy Spirit reveals God to us in history through Mary.

Mary participates in a very special way in both creation and revelation by agreeing to bear the Son of God. Before Mary conceived the God-man in her womb, however, she beheld Him in prayer. In his work, On Virginity, Ambrose presents her as a model for consecrated virgins:

“She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind…humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue.” (On Virginity, II.2.7)

Her soul was given entirely to prayer. When the Angel Gabriel came to announce to her the birth of Jesus, he found her alone, with nothing distracting her from her contemplation (On Virginity, II.2.10). Her contemplation continues after she gives birth. As Luke tells us, “Mary kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:19, On Virginity, II.2.13)

We can learn from Mary’s habit of contemplation. We, too, are called to ponder in our hearts the mysteries revealed to us. During this season of Advent, as we prepare to commemorate the coming of the Redeemer of nations, it is opportune to take on small penances and remove distractions from our lives so that we can give ourselves especially over to prayer. But our contemplation must not only look backward. It prepares us for death, and our entry into our heavenly homeland, where together with Mary and Ambrose and all the angels and saints, we will contemplate the Holy Trinity for eternity.”

Love & Advent,
Matthew

Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis – Jn 1:14


Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

In principio erat Verbum,
et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Love, He comes!!!!!!
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine