Blog Template Theology of the Body: October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Joy of the Surrounded

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every weight that hinders, and let us run… looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

I love how academics like to arrange symposia on the messiest things.

I heard a lecture on friendship last week, and it was beautifully done; the speaker’s remarks were clear, and effective, and structured, like a Scholastic disquisition ought to be- definitions and procedures clearly delineated, the relevant distinctions made, categories bounded. He was going on about whom Christians might be friends with, and how.

To his great credit (I think), the speaker made one of the distinctions that I go nuts over; when prodded by a beautiful question about the depths of the human heart and the paradigm of the outpouring of Jesus, he gestured to the difference between the nature of ontologically functional friendship (we find people who look the same, act the same, and talk the same to be our friends, as though we had been configured for one another) against the more juridical nature of love (it seems to be that we attribute worth freely to the strangers whom we desire for God’s sake, compensating for their defects by bearing their burdens, teaching them to speak our language, calling things that are not as though they were, so that we might find a place to dwell in God, in them).

But when our speaker described reciprocity and symbiotic status- blending as necessary for friendship, I think that he was thinking more about transactive covenants all along; he must have been. He spoke of equity and a kind of calculation in our friendships of a certain kind, but it seems to me that there is something much more spontaneous about Christian friendship. Timid Abraham is called the friend of God long before God endows the little guy with the means to enter into symbolically equitable covenant with the Creator of the universe. The same is true for the ridiculous David. God Incarnate, with the cattle on a thousand hills, calls His friends from the social and economic situations of the illiterate fisherman and the wily tax collector. He, in unapproachable light, is the friend of sinners. Heck, I think God may have called even me to be His friend.

Perhaps it is because Christian friendship is constituted by the one, ever intermediate, and truly free Personal God that Christian friendship cannot be construed in terms of equitable exchange and moderated growth. After all, it’s the gorgeous hint of utterly attractive and unpredictable holiness that the baptized ultimately desire and are drawn to in one another. It’s the wild and crazy Holy Spirit who stirs our hearts to reach out to whomever He likes. It is Him whom in all these we love. If what we believe about the Christian life is true, then each of us has got a Christ-shaped dent within, on which a slow simmering fire is set both to burn and to throw sparks into the slow simmering fires of other hearts, a colloquy not so much of moderated conversation, but of inevitable warmth, and wind, and light. Even in his own measured discussion about the difference between the proper enjoyment of God and the loving use of people, with careful regard as to when, and how, mode and manner, Augustine catches his breath: “moreover, love itself, which binds men together in the bond of unity, (has) means of pouring soul into soul, and, as it were, mingling them one with another. (De Doctrina Christiana Preface vi.)

…Thus, I’ve always thought that the gist of Jesus’ response to The Relevant Query was that we should not ask “what is the correct method for evaluating who my neighbor is?” but rather, “how fast can I get to him?

If this is so, Christian friendship is (it sounds trite) pure gift, particularly in its inequitable freedom. I’m thinking of the communion of saints as a model. We are never alone; Scripture says that the members of the church triumphant watch us rather like star-struck fans, (Hebrews somewhere) eagerly waiting for our reunion with everything that they’ve got- how long, Lord? (Revelation somewhere). We may have very little to do with them. And yet they, with the holy angels, are given to us; and it is by them, through Christ our Lord, that we are ever watched and heard and waited for. There is nothing of equity in this arrangement; we are little people mysteriously mucking through a vale of tears, they are heroes and martyrs who can see the face of God; we are delighted with our current loves and losses and perhaps we don’t spare a thought for loving those invisible strangers who have gone before, though they rejoice to attend to us. This too is the love of God- who did not spare His own Son, and, in freely giving us all things, calls us to fellowship in the perfectly inequitable community of His friends.

Happy Feast of All Saints, to all of you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What is Catholic Anglicanism?

"Now hosts of such hypothesis, treated as certainties by some, have invaded or seek to invade the Anglo-Catholic synthesis: remarriage after divorce, contraception, abortion, intercommoning all around even with the unbaptized, a slippery understanding (the Porvoo Agreement) of apostolic ministerial succession; the priestly/episcopal ordination of women, same-sex blessings and more. Of course, Anglo-Catholicism was never completely uniform, especially when it came to Rome; but there was always an identifiable corpus and its exponents looked if not always leaned in a Roman direction.

So now we come to the contemporary “Catholic Anglicanism” espoused by The Living Church. What is it? What should it be? And where does it stand on these great issues confronting the Church? Once Lord Halifax (1839-1934), the life-long promoter of reunion, was asked what, in addition, he would be believing were he in communion with the See of Rome. He replied (I am paraphrasing), Nothing.

Catholic Anglicanism must mean the faith of the universal Church, East and West, and include the Roman primacy. It must support and promote all that the great Anglo-Catholic leaders collectively stood for and be looking, as they did and ARCIC II does in its recent statements, to reconciliation with the See of Rome."

From the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Daniel S. Hamilton

Read the whole thing


Who's Afraid of Caroline Walker Bynum?

I just finished her most celebrated book. It must be nice to have perfected one's historiography to the point of flippancy. Other than that, I can't figure out her tone or methods. Friend or foe? MM's arch nemesis? A rare specimen of living fossil? Any suggestions?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fr. Jay Scott Newman on being "catholic"

“Both schools are asking themselves what the future of Anglicanism is going to look like. And the return to a biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism isn’t just about our Bishops coming to agreement. It involves the whole Church--including its organs of theological education.

-This was the comment offered by the Reverend Martha Giltinan, Trinity’s Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology. That an ordained woman and seminary professor can talk about the return to a biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism without any irony is an index of how far gone the Anglican communion is from any form of Christianity which is biblically faithful and traditional. Friends, this is the camel’s nose under the tent, and until and unless it is driven back out into the desert, every manner of tempest will sweep in through that gap. To put it most simply: if a woman can be a presbyter, there is no coherent argument left against two men marrying each other. And given that even Nashotah House, the once proud flagship of American Anglo-Catholicism, has accepted this profoundly unbiblical and untraditional distortion of the Church’s sacramental life, there remains no hope (that I can see) of Anglicanism in the States being restored to biblical and traditional Christianity.

My point was not that this effort at reconciliation between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals will fail; my point is that whether this effort succeeds or not has no bearing on an unavoidable fact: the ordination of women was and is a departure from “biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism,” and for this reason, those accept the ordination of women will never be able to offer a coherent reason why other departures from “biblically faithful, traditional Anglicanism” should be considered unacceptable by other Anglicans. And to repeat the example from above: Those who accept women priests cannot finally make a convincing argument against homosexual marriage or the ordination of gay bishops. That Nashatoh and Trinity are seeking common cause against (to take an example) gay revisionism on the Sacrament of Marriage may be praiseworthy, but since they have both already accepted feminist revisionism on the Sacrament of Orders, they stand on theological quicksand and have no base from which to wage this battle."


I think, for the record, that Fr. Newman has his finger on something critical about the difference between the Catholic Church and her separated communities- namely, he is distinguishing neatly between the humble and charitable acknowledgment of ontological realities defined and affirmed by Christ Himself and the veins of conservative meanness that have tended to characterize women and homosexuals by recourse to nothing better than a nebulous ick factor. Fr. Newman has recently been helping this woman (MM) prepare for her first book... he is terrific, and I always enjoy his commentary.

"The Pope did not hesitate to speak"

(...about POLITICS. Gasp)

I've been thinking about this idea a lot this week. Does the Church really have a legitimate voice in the adjudication of political tensions? Should the Church take a stand on voting, child trafficking, and the Iraq War?

So often we Christians seem to think that political crises present opportunity for the Church to engage in internal dispute resolution about social policies and to refine internal dialogue within the parish; it's as though the Church believed that in times of domestic and international crisis there is everything to discern for the Church's internal, intellectual edification... but nothing to say.

Give me a break: “Go ye therefore into all the world and make disciples.”

I think that John Paul II put it best in the encyclical Centesimus Annus, which reflects on the earlier Rerum Novarum of a century prior:

"...It is precisely about (these conflicts), in the very pointed terms in which they then appeared, that the Pope does not hesitate to speak.

In the face of conflicts which set man against man, almost as if they were "wolves," conflicts between the extremes of mere physical survival on the one side and opulence on the other, the (pastor) does not hesitate to intervene by virtue of his "apostolic office," that is, on the basis of the mission received from Jesus Christ himself to "feed his lambs and tend his sheep" (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and to "bind and loose" on earth for the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 16:19).

In this way, Pope Leo XIII, in the footsteps of his Predecessors, created a lasting paradigm for the Church. The Church, in fact, has something to say about specific human situations, both individual and communal, national and international. She formulates a genuine doctrine for these situations, a corpus which enables her to analyze social realities, to make judgments about them and to indicate directions to be taken for the just resolution of the problems involved.

(In Pope Leo XIII's time such a concept of the Church's right and duty was far from being commonly admitted. Indeed, a two-fold approach prevailed: one directed to this world and this life, to which faith ought to remain extraneous; the other directed towards a purely other-worldly salvation, which neither enlightens nor directs existence on earth. The Pope's approach in publishing Rerum Novarum gave the Church "citizenship status" as it were, amid the changing realities of public life, and this standing would be more fully confirmed later on.)

In effect, to teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church's evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour.

...This doctrine is likewise a source of unity and peace in dealing with the conflicts which inevitably arise in social and economic life. Thus it is possible to meet these new situations without degrading the human person's transcendent dignity, either in oneself or in one's adversaries, and to direct those situations towards just solutions...The new evangelization which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasized many times, must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church's social doctrine... Now, as then, we need to repeat that there can be no genuine solution of the "social question" apart from the Gospel, and that the new things can find in the Gospel the context for their correct understanding and the proper moral perspective for judgment on them."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Overheard in mass today

As the priest was presenting the consecrated host, the sanctus bells rang...two rows in front of us a little boy, probably no more than two years old, must have thought it was a phone, because he answered the bells with a "hello?"

Needless to say, a number of us had a hard time keeping a straight face. The dad who was holding the little boy just about fell out of his pew...

Or maybe he was just a precocious theologian, and really just acknowledging the presence of Christ in the mass. Maybe we could learn something from the little boy and our response to the presentation of the body and blood of Christ, as the bells ring, should be to murmur under our breath, "Hello."

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, 1572-1641

"...A cherished method of attaining perfection, which consisted in always keeping one's will united to the Divine will, in taking, so to speak, one's soul, heart, and longings into one's hands, and giving them into God's keeping, and in seeking always to do what is pleasing to Him.."

You can read more about her here.
HT: Real Womanhood

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dealing with the death penalty when one of your congregation is the victim

Several months ago, a woman and her two daughters were brutally murdered in Connecticut. It was an awful crime and a terrible tragedy.

Today the NYTimes updates us on another aspect of the story. The mother was an opponent of the death penalty and the Methodist church to which she belonged has also been opposed to the death penalty. Yet it is unclear if the father, who survived the attack, wants the murderers to receive the death penalty. As he struggles with what he wants, the church is restraining itself and also it appears that some members of the congregation have changed their positions.

It is relatively easy to be opposed to the death penalty theoretically, for many good reasons, but when the victims are personal friends this story shows us how difficult it is to remain affixed to those ideals.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dr. Ray Guarendi Speaking Tomorrow

Dr. Ray Guarendi is a host of the Catholic KATH 910AM radio show "The Doctor Is In," as well as a clinical psychologist, author and father of 10. Tomorrow he will be presenting a lecture on parenting entitled “Parental Survival Course: Turning Trials to Triumphs” at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller. Mass begins at 8am with the presentation following at 9am until 12pm. Tickets can be purchased at the church the day of the event and admission is $10 a piece or $20 per family.

St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Church is located at
2016 Willis Lane in Keller, Texas.

"The Doctor Is In" can be heard on 910AM Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12pm until 1pm.

Can Anyone Find an Appropriate Proportional Issue?... Why Single-Issue Voting Is All We Have Left.

For the record, no church teaches single-issue voting. Single issue voting is the result of moral teaching, not any basis for it. The problem is finding a proportional issue that out-strips abortion as an imperative moral issue. Some contemporary moral theologians seem to think that prescription drug coverage for the elderly or welfare programs or factory closings could potentially fit into this category. Wrong. These issues only concern the quality of life, not life itself. Even severe pain cannot be a higher priority than life itself.

What are the main issues in this year''s (and next year's) campaign? It seems we have health care, the war in Iraq, the environment, energy, and what are termed by most Democrats as "women's issues." Even in the Iraq war - the cost of human life since it began can almost never exceed 500,000. Yet, the yearly toll from abortion is about 1.3 million, with untold numbers falling casualty to destruction of embryos in testing and in clearing out storage facilities. In addition to all of these, we have losses due to oral contraceptives. In this country today, it is perfectly legal for a doctor to reach into the womb and strangle an unborn baby at any stage of pregnancy. But, if he pulls a 20 week old fetus from the womb and strangles it outside of the womb, it is murder. Under U.S. law, the difference between medicine and murder is a matter of location. This logical idiocy is basically ignored, both in politics and in the press. In short, we have a page-four holocaust going on in America while other less important issues cloud the front page.

What happens when a society becomes cruelly narcissistic, butchering the unborn and abusive to women - women who are never named as the victims of abortion? Can it be this cruel in only one arena? No. It will be cruel in other arenas as well. We will have a selfish, self-gratifying culture - and we already do. When we have a culture that cannot love, we are left with only death. Shall we then elect candidates merely because they are electable, or should we vote with our consciences - even if it means looking to only one issue?

As for me, I don't want a candidate who is electable. All incumbents in public office are electable. I want a candidate who has a head on his shoulders and can see what our culture has become, who will strive for justice, and who will steer our nation out of evil. Is abortion a litmus test? No. But there is no issue proportional to it. In this, both "conservatives" and "liberals" seem to have forgotten how to exercise moral reasoning. Neither party seems to be able to put forth a candidate with any integrity, meanwhile both have alienated Christians of all stripes - including me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Behold the Lamb of God

For those of you who have asked for a synopsis of Joe Jones' presentation in Dallas on Monday night, here is the best summary of his remarks (and also one of my favorite sermons of all time). Here is Behold, the Lamb of God which was originally preached at Yale in the Fall of 2005.

"In those heavenly realms in which ultimate matters are decided and justice meted out, there is a throne and through an open door John can see the throne. There is One seated on the throne, surrounded by a rainbow and by wise elders and dancing spirits, and lightning and thunder echo throughout the chamber of the throne. Many are the creatures gathered around the throne, and day and night without ceasing they sing about the One sitting on the throne:

Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.

The Creator of all things is the One on the throne!

But there is a scroll in the right hand of the Creator, and an angel asks:

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth has been able to open the scroll and read what the future holds.

The scroll of the future has been sealed up and unreadable. And John the prophetic seer begins to weep bitterly. Are we not lost in the midst of the travail of tears of this life of persecution and death if we cannot see into the future and know that upon which we can hope? The future is so dark and death so near at hand. Who can assure us about the future?

Then a wise elder says to John: “Do not weep. See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Ah, the Lion of Judah, the strongest among the creatures, who devours all challengers? Surely we can trust in his knowledge and strength.

And just as we are ready to heed the Lion and clutch his mighty mane and praise his ferocious jaws and teeth, John sees a extraordinarily strange sight: “A Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered.” A slaughtered Lamb sits on the throne of the Almighty..."

Does the universe have a purpose?

Here's an interesting forum sponsored by the Templeton Foundation on this question. A variety of answers from a variety of perspectives.

Monday, October 22, 2007

TONIGHT! Dr. Joe Jones at Holy Cross Dallas

For all blogfans and contributors in the DFW area, Fr. WB and I are pleased to announce the chance to spend an evening with the theologian who Stanley Hauerwas has called the best in America. On Monday, October 22, Dr. Joe Jones will present on Following a Crucified Savior in the Midst of a Violent World: Can Violence be Justified, Sanctified, and Perpetuated in the Name of Jesus?

Please join us at Holy Cross Dallas on Monday, Oct 22 at 6:00 in the evening for Dr. Jones' remarks, conversation, and refreshments.

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross
4052 Herschel Avenue, Dallas TX 75219

Solemn Evensong: 6:00 pm
Presentation: 6:30 pm

Hope to see you there!

You can learn more about Dr. Jones at his website,

Friday, October 19, 2007


O Love divine, what has thou done
The immortal God hath died for me
The Father's coeternal Son
bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th' immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified.

...Is crucified for me and you,
to bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true,
ye all are bought with Jesus' blood.

Just for goodness' sake, check out my friend Mrs. J's thoughts for the week...and Texanglican's courageous owning up to being an evangelical Catholic...and this blog's tribute to Catholic praise and worship.

Have a good weekend, all.

Ecumenical Acumen Excursus Cont'd.

A friend of Fr. WB's and mine returned to the Catholic Church in college, and promptly enlisted with the Benedictines. He is wonderful. While chatting with him about the experience of those who are contemplating entering the Church, he had the following to say about Anglicans/Episcopalians in particular. Here are his words from Norcia:

Becoming Catholic always sounds terrifying to Episcopalians but really it's not that bad. You must accept a little bad taste and some liturgical confusion. You get genuine authority, sound doctrine, a valid sacramental system, apostolic succession and a fantastic Pope. That's not such a bad trade is it?

What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Maine Middle School to Begin Offering the Pill

"At King Middle School, birth control prescriptions will be given after a student undergoes a physical exam by a physician or nurse practitioner, said Lisa Belanger, who oversees Portland's student health centers.

Students treated at the centers must first get written parental permission, but under state law such treatment is confidential, and students decide for themselves whether to tell their parents about the services they receive.

Five of the 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland's school health centers."

Read the whole thing.

This is another reason that my daughter will be homeschooled.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Now that's ecclesiology

"My kingdom is invisible, but I want to establish you, my Bride, before the eyes of men so visibly that no one will be able to overlook you."

-Hans Urs Von Balthazar, The Conquest of the Bride- read the whole essay here.

Von Balthasar Index

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anglican Bishop's Wife Converts

Dublin, Oct. 15, 2007 ( - The wife of an Irish Anglican bishop has entered the Roman Catholic Church.

Anita Henderson was received into the Catholic Church by Bishop John Fleming of Killala. Her husband, Bishop Richard Henderson of the Church of Ireland, attended the ceremony.

Nothing New

"The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, "Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don't let your tradition trip you up." He said, "Think this way -- (at Calvary) a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain." And I threw my Bible down... like that. I said, "What?" He said, "A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him." He said, "You are the very image, the very copy of (Jesus)." I said, "Goodness, gracious sakes alive!" And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, "Well now you don't mean, you couldn't dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?" He said, "Oh yeah, if you'd had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing, 'cause you're a reborn man too...the Christian is as much an incarnation of God as was Jesus of Nazareth."

- Kenneth Copeland, Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous, 1979, p. 77

"The Father is the only substance, from whom degrees and personations of God proceed. And they are three: not by virtue of some distinction of beings in God, but through the disposition of God in various forms of Deity. For the same divinity which is in the Father is communicated both to the Son, Jesus Christ, and to our spirits, which are both the temples of the living God; for the Son and our sanctified spirits are both equally sharers in the Substance of the Father... although the kind of deity in them is varying... and this is why the Trinity are called Persons, that is, they are manifold aspects, diverse forms and kinds of deity." -

-Michael Servetus, 1511-1553.

Servetus, who was condemned as a heretic by both Rome and Geneva (he was ultimately burned at the stake by the latter) is described as the forerunnenr of modern "Oneness Pentecostalism," represented by T. D. Jakes and Tommy Tenny, among others.

Real Woman Award

Stacey is a mother to two young children and a wife to Joey, they live in Atlanta. She just found out that she is 18 weeks pregnant. She became pregnant during her chemo and radiation and therefore, the baby has been exposed to these chemicals from day one. She has opted to take a 10 week break from her treatment to allow the baby to reach 28 weeks gestation, when they will deliver the baby via C-section. She has been informed by her baby-related doctors that the chemo is very strong and particularly attacks DNA growth in cells and therefore the baby. They are quite certain that there will be neurologic damage to the baby, although the ultrasounds have thus far showed relatively normal growth. Additionally, her cancer-related doctors have told her that they do not want her to stop her treatment of cancer (even for 10 wks!) because her cancer is so aggressive. They said that if they allowed her to carry the baby to 40 weeks gestation, she would probably not live to deliver the baby.
So, Stacey is choosing to give her child a chance and risk her own life.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Remembrance Day

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance day for all babies who have died. Let's pray today for the little souls whose bodies were lost to abortion, early infant death or miscarriage.

The information website can be found here:

HT Filling the Quiver Full.

Blessed Karl of Austria

"God has given me the grace so that there now remains nothing on this earth that I would not be willing to sacrifice out of my love for Him and for the benefit of the Holy Church.”

Another great thing about the Catholic Church is it's mechanism for recognizing sanctity in the fullness of holy laity life... even among Hapsburg royalty! This is a great consolation for those of us who have few prospects for martyrdom or real suffering on our horizon.

My parish houses one of the few American shrines to Karl of Austria, and we will be celebrating his life with a Solemn Mass and reception on Saturday, October 20, at 10:30 AM. Join us! (more information here)

You can read more about Blessed Karl here.

Worship with Graven Images?

In the late sixteenth century, Roman Catholic Dutch artists responded to their Protestant context with an increasing emphasis on Marian imagery in their work. One particular artist, Gerrit van Honthorst, was fond of depicting Old Testament types of Mary in the Solomonic Temple, looking seriously aggrieved by the pagan idol worship that was creeping in under King Solomon. What is the message behind these pieces?

We get a Marian emphasis in the first place because a sine qua non of Christian doctrine is that God has united Himself fully to humanity in the man Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s son. The total unity of a fully divine nature and a fully human nature in Jesus Christ was affirmed at the Council of Ephesus in 431- this is the same Council at which the popular designation of Mary as Theotokos, Mother of God, was officially dogmatized. In other words, because the two natures (divine and human) are inseparable in Jesus, Mary is properly to be recognized as “Mother of God” in as much as she is the mother of the Man.

The Church’s contemporaneous anathamatizations of the proposals of Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia highlight further the Catholic teaching: whereas the designated heretics proposed that the divine nature “indwelt” or “inhabited” the man Jesus (as God had inhabited the Temple), the Catholics upheld that Jesus was the union of God and man in one Person. Thus, any sense of Jesus as the Temple of God, in whom God merely “dwells” (an heretical idea) is refuted nicely by the image of Mary as the Temple of God. The latter is an orthodox idea because it differentiates between the ontological union of God and man in Christ, which dwelt in Mary’s womb; whereas the Catholics wanted to emphasize the union of two natures in Christ, heretics wanted to emphasize a mere coalesence or “indwelling” between the divine and human in Christ. Thus, you find Mary compared to the Temple or the Ark of the Covenant because it is true to say that God Incarnate, “dwelt” in her- in her womb, to be precise. On the other hand, it is not correct to say that God “dwelt” in Jesus, since Christians believe that God “is” Jesus.

These depictions had very specific and political connotations. Art historicans have suggested that “the depiction of Solomon worshipping false gods may have been intended as a criticism of their Protestant counterparts on the part of royal Catholic patrons.” Here, bear in mind that it would have been (then as now) the Prots who were critiquing the Catholics for their apparent “idol worship” in the veneration of images of the saints, adoration of the consecrated Host, visual depictions of God in Christ, etc; the Protestant accusation against the Catholics is precisely one of idolatry. The Catholics would have responded that their iconography and related practices related directly to the orthodox affirmation of the Incarnation, which had been defined in the seventh century by Theodore of Studios (On the Holy Icons). Theodore insisted, against the iconoclasts of his own time, that in light of the Christian belief in the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, it is right to depict that Person for Christian worship because such iconographic depiction 1) honors the fact of the true Incarnation of God, in His corporeal existence with us in Christ and 2) assists the understanding and piety of the illiterate, who would not have had access to the textual Gospel account of the Person of Christ.

In sum, the debate over the propriety of icons in Christian worship went right to the heart of the Christian faith in terms of whether the (depictable) Incarnation of God was going to be radically affirmed- or not. It is really interesting that Honthorst, as a self-identifying devout Catholic, could very well have been aware of the Protestant iconoclastic sentiments of his own day- I’m thinking particularly of a Prot Reformer named Andreas Karlstadt (1486-1541), On the Removal of Images. In this treatise, Karlstadt explicitly states that the Protestant Church must do away with the apparent “idolatry” of graven images because the flesh of Christ is of no real assistance to Christian redemption (on the contrary, the early Church Fathers had urged that humanity is only saved by the union of God to human flesh in Christ, since “whatever He has not assumed cannot be redeemed” (Gregory Nazianzen).

So the implicit Catholic “critique” could be read as inviting the viewer to consider (in the charged religiopolitical context of the time) that though the Prots might rail against Catholics for their apparent idol worship, it is the Prots who have done much worse by effectively undermining the doctrine of the Incarnation in their disapproval of icons. Honthorst’s emphasis on the Marian image may highlight the nature of the controversy by inviting the viewer to recall that it is the Mother of Christ who most fully understands that God Himself has become incarnate in her womb for the salvation of the world, and that this belief is not to be compromised by the Protestant’s heretical iconoclast propositions.

Augustine on Justification as Healing

It is not, therefore, by the law, nor is it by their own will, that they are justified; but they are justified freely by His grace—not that it is wrought without our will; but our will is by the law shown to be weak, that grace may heal its infirmity; and that our healed will may fulfill the law, not by compact under the law, nor yet in the absence of law. De Spiritu 15.

De Spiritu is Augustine’s reflection on the notion that the regenerate person attains the potential to refrain from sin. This potential involves human agency, combined with the absolutely necessary and gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in the soul, to inspire within it joy and love of goodness, for the regenerate person’s ultimate justification. Augustine concludes that a holy life and ultimate justification are only God’s gifts.

Within this scheme, Augustine is careful to “defend” the grace of God against human boasting in human virtues, and he highlights the deficiencies of the Jewish law operative through fear of punishment, rather than love of righteousness; the moral law inspires and augments desire for sin by highlighting and forbidding those things that are not to be done: “in some strange way the very object which we covet becomes all the more pleasant when it is forbidden.” Augustine thus refutes the Pelagian idea that God is the Author of human righteousness by virtue of being the Author of the instructive law, since the requirements of the law cannot justify, and indeed inspire greater sin. Augustine continuously presses the crucial point of I Corinthians 4:7: what have they, which they have not received? Augustine concludes that “it is not, therefore, by the law, nor is it by their own will, that they are justified; but they are justified freely by His grace.” Augustine insists that God’s grace is the sinner’s only recourse for his justification. Augustine’s rich and multivalent description of this grace includes the elements of the supernatural gift of desiring God and the supernatural capacity to love God as He ought to be loved. In response to the Pelagian proposal that humanity had retained the capacity to love and obey God by means of the natural capacities submitting to the revelation of the divine law, Augustine reminded his readers that no one can be free to exercise any capacity until one is first set free and continuously enabled by the gracious action of God.

Although Augustine does not explicitly define his sense of justification in these texts, he is clear that while our justification is not achieved through our will or works, our justification is not wrought without our will and our free obedience to the law; furthermore, though the law only serves our will by showing to be weak, grace can heal the will’s infirmity, such that “our healed will may fulfill the law.” We are thus left to consider the application of God’s grace to the sinner, in order to better understand how this justification takes place.

Augustine clearly holds that the state of original sin is an intrinsic problem for every human person. The readings considered here can be taken as a rather disconcerting summary of the weakness and tendency to sin ingrained in both the fallen human will and the concupiscent body. Given this dire situation, we are hardly surprised by Augustine’s opening address to Marcellinus in De Spiritu, which seems to reassure us that true victory over human weakness is not really possible any way: “no one in this life seems either to have attained or to be likely to attain to (the perfection of human righteousness) except only the Mediator, who bore humanity.” De Spiritu 1. One might be tempted at this point to settle into a consoled complacency at this seeming reassurance about the futility of human striving, recalling the Protestant Reformation’s penchant for locating descriptions of the Mediator’s imputed righteousness in Augustine, as might be suggested from the language of On Marriage I 36-38:

Even now, says he, when the law in my members keeps up its warfare against the law of my mind, and retains in captivity somewhat in the body of this death, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…How made me free, except by abolishing its sentence of guilt by the remission of all my sins; so that, though it still remains, only daily lessening more and more, it is nevertheless not imputed to me as sin?

Augustine proceeds to describe the conversion of “the wild olive tree” in terms of its “derived” and “contracted” original sin being “remitted,” “covered,” and “not imputed:” Blessed, therefore, is the olive tree whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered…to which the Lord has not imputed sin. Proponents of certain Reformed schemes of justification might particularly rejoice to note that even where Augustine speaks of the “pruning” of the wild olive tree, the process of conversion begins and ends with the juridical language of imputation:

But this, which has received the remission, the covering, and the acquittal, even up to the complete change into an eternal immortality, still retains a secret force which furnishes seed for a wild and bitter olive tree, unless the same tillage of God prunes it also, by remission, covering, and acquittal. On Marriage I 38

It is on the basis of such language that the Augustinian Martin Luther insisted that the hopeless sinner must be “covered” with Christ’s righteousness, “like snow falling on a dung hill.” However, Augustine prevents us from reading Christian justification exclusively in these terms within the first few paragraphs of De Spiritu. Augustine clearly states at the outset of this text that his purpose is to defend the possibility that a regenerate person might live without sin and fulfill God’s commandments. With regard to the remission of sin on the olive tree metaphor, Augustine turns immediately from the language of “covering” and “acquittal” to that of “purging” and “healing.”

The latter reference to healing appears with special emphasis in these texts, in which we find Augustine’s close interweaving of both juridical acquittal and ontological transformation with regard to justification. Although Augustine makes liberal use of forensic terminology in describing God’s determination to forgive the justified and decision to count them in Christ, whereby sins are “covered,” and “remitted,” Augustine presumes a deep connection between the juridical and the transformative elements of justification. For Augustine, God’s covering of human sin is inseperable from the transformed life which God enables the regenerate to live. Thus, whereas at this point a post 16th century audience might insistently ask whether the person’s sin is best described as ultimately “covered” or “healed,” it seems that Augustine would not recognize the apparent dichotomy that is implicit in this question. Augustine constantly interweaves both forensic and medicinal metaphors, such that we might have to conclude that he thinks that both descriptions are simultaneously true in the justification of the sinner: through Christ, God the Judge is properly identified as the One who reaches out to the sinner as the Healer:

Being thus convicted and confounded, he might see not only that he needed a physician, but also God as his helper so to direct his steps that sin should not rule over him, and he might be healed by betaking himself to the help of the divine mercy; and in this way, where sin abounded grace might much more abound—not through the merit of the sinner, but by the intervention of his Helper… Accordingly, the apostle shows that the same medicine was mystically set forth in the passion and resurrection of Christ. De Spiritu 9, 10.

Augustine returns again and again to the notion that God desires a transformed will that delights in holiness by the gifts of the Spirit. Augustine holds that humanity is justified by the gifts of the Spirit of God, who heals the human will, and transforms the heart by inscribing the “New Law” of real piety upon it. Augustine provides an especially vivid example of the tight juxtaposition of justification by imputation and internal transformation in On Marriage:

There is not, to be sure, anything remaining which may be remitted whenever, as the Scripture says, "the Lord forgives all our iniquities." But until that happens which immediately follows in the same passage, "Who heals all your infirmities, who redeems your life from corruption…" On Marriage I 28.

In certain passages of these texts, Augustine does seem to speak in a tone that is primarily forensic, in that he seems to refer to the justified state as a matter of God’s disposition towards the sinner when the sinner has altered his standing before God by the external mechanism of the assent of faith, from which posture good works may follow later: “by faith, conciliating the Justifier, (we) attain, and do, and live in it. For the work in which he who does it shall live, is not done except by one who is justified. His justification, however, is obtained by faith.” De Spiritu 50-51. We find in De Spiritu 22 that “having duly considered and weighed all these circumstances and testimonies, we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by faith in Jesus Christ, —in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by free grace.”

Furthermore, in De Spiritu 30: “from Him accrues to us the justification, whereby we do what He commands. And He commands, in order that, because we lack in ourselves, we may flee to Him for refuge.” Finally, Augustine refers to sin as a matter of merely juridical guilt rather than ontological injury in On Marriage I 29: “for not to have sin means this, not to be deemed guilty of sin.” From such language of “conciliation,” “obtaining by faith,” “not by merit,” and “fleeing to Christ for refuge” it might seem reasonable to conclude that Augustine thinks that human justification occurs when the believer’s faith triggers God’s judicial declaration, whereby the unjust is re-named and then gradually learns to obey God, rather than finding that God simultaneously juridically accepts and ontologically heals the regenerate person.

In the end, however, it becomes impossible to identify a purely juridical emphasis in Augustine’s statements in De Spiritu because Augustine emphasizes the ontologically transformative effects of grace. In De Spiritu 42 we find Augustine denying that God aids us “by externally addressing to our faculties precepts of holiness; for He gives His increase internally, by shedding love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us." Over and over again, Augustine insists that God gives and forms the transformed heart that He requires for justification.

In conclusion, a few considerations: Augustine seems to locate a heavy sense of the merely forensic/juridical nature of justification by imputation under the Old Law, wherein the benefits of circumcision are deemed effective only in relation to practical righteousness; “if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” The appropriate benefits of circumcision are here described as juridically “reckoned” and “counted for” righteousness relative to the dispositional righteousness of the heart and the practical righteousness exercised by the will. In contrast, the real justification effected in the New Law is a matter of the ontological reality of the sinner’s healing and transformation:

There the law was given outwardly, so that the unrighteous might be terrified; here it was given inwardly, so that they might be justified… the one is written without man, that it may alarm him from without; the other within man himself, that it may justify him from within. De Spiritu 29, 30.

In this regard, the Reformation’s suggestion that we might read Augustine as promoting a juridically imputed righteousness appropriated exclusively by the salvific bond of faith in the Gospel, as over and against an infused or created righteousness, might seem to Augustine to involve an implicit revert to the mechanism of the Old Law, since emphasis would fall on an external appropriation by means of the work of the confession of faith:

We must therefore avoid saying, that the way in which God assists us to work righteousness, and "works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure," is by externally addressing to our faculties precepts of holiness; for He gives His increase internally, by shedding love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us. De Spiritu 42.

In sum, if asked whether God justifies us by imputation of external righteousness or by the infusion of healing graces, Augustine might respond in a vein similar to his response to the Pelagians: God is not the Author of our righteousness only in as much as He “instructs” us (as under the Old Law) in the mechanism of the Atonement so that we may believe and cooperate. Instead, God the Healer really makes us whole.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Now that's awesome

DALLAS - In response to a police crackdown on the homeless, a downtown church has opened its parking lot to homeless people, allowing as many as 150 of them to sleep on the pavement while a security guard keeps watch.

More here. Love it.

Our Favorite Atheist II

Washington DC: It's been weeks on the road, and after a grueling swing through Canada I am finally home. I tell the wife and daughter that's it: no more god talk for a bit- let's get lunch in the fashionable cafe' Milano in Georgetown. Signor Franco leads us to a nice table outside and I sit down- right next to the Archbishop of Canterbury. OK then, this must have been meant to happen.

I lean over. "My Lord Archbishop? It's Christopher Hitchens." "Good gracious," he responds, gesturing at his guest- "we were just discussing your book."

The archbishop's church is about to undergo a schism. More than 10 conservative congregations in Virginia have seceded, along with some African bishops, to protest the ordination of a gay bishop in New England.

I ask him how it's going. "Well-" he lowers his voice- "I'm rather trying to keep my head down."

Well, why in that case, I want to reply, did you seek a job that supposedly involves moral leadership? But I let it go. What do I care what some Bronze Age text says about sexuality? And there's something hopelessly innocent about the archbishop: he looks much more like a sheep than a shepherd.

From Vanity Fair, September 2007.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ecumenical Acumen Excursus Cont'd.

Arborial Ecclesiology

From our friends at Wiki: "The Branch Theory is a theological concept of the Anglican Communion and particularly those Anglicans who ascribe to Anglo-Catholic theology. The theory holds that the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion are three branches of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church."

Defend and support this ecclesiological claim from Scripture, from the Fathers, or from whatever source you like, but by any means... defend it, if you can.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

If you want a synopsis...

...of Anglican relations to the Catholic Church, qua Realities and Potentialities, this former Anglican personally thinks that we need look no further than this brief essay, presented last spring by Rev. Msgr Peter J. Elliott at an Anglican Forward in Faith meeting in Australia.

"Let me conclude simply by welcoming you, by daring to welcome you, not with blaring triumphalism or earnest convert challenges, rather by quoting a wise Parish Priest I know. This man of deep ecumenical commitment and experience put the realistic option in this human way and I address his words to you: Brothers and Sisters, the door is open, the table is set and the kettle is on….

And We're Back

Things have been so quiet here lately because the chatterbox of this blog, MM, has been spending the past week with the VP of the Anglican Use Society and family in the little French country town pictured above. It was an amazing time, and there is a lot to report about happenings following the Anglican Use Pilgrimmage, which Andrew so kindly describes below.

Let's just say that the generosity and expansiveness of the Catholic Church's Pastoral Provision for Episcopalians seems to be teetering on the brink of monumental glad tidings. Anglicans, and especially young Anglicans, will do well to keep an eye on Bishop Peter Elliot of Australia and to be formed by the beautiful sentiments of Fr. Steenson. We would all do well to pray with increasing devotion that Christ would move His Church into its true and proper, Rock-founded unity in our time.

And another thing: the Church in France is alive and well, contrary to what we hear from travellers who may not get beyond Paris. In the towns inhabited by real French people, the Church stands at the center of the community in more ways than one. On this past Sunday, I was (closely) flanked in a (packed) Mass by Benedictines, lay orders, teenagers, and children who snuggled next to their daddies in prayer. Praise be.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, AD 50-117

“Try to gather more frequently to celebrate God’s Eucharist and to praise Him. For when you meet with frequency, Satan’s powers are overthrown and his destructiveness is undone by the unanimity of your faith...Where the pastor is, there follow like sheep. For there are many specious wolves who… capture those who run God’s race...If anyone is not inside the sanctuary, he lacks God's bread. Be on your guard; .... inside the sanctuary a man is pure; outside he is impure. Whoever does anything without the bishop... does not have a clear conscience."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Atonement Academy Choir

Here is some video of The Atonement Academy Choir singing in the crypt at Monte Cassino during the Pastoral Provision pilgrimage. You can't see it in the video, but there was a small crowd of tourists who had gathered to listen to our students. This happened in every church we said Mass. It was a very proud moment for our school.

This same setting was sung for the Mass with Archbishop Amato at St. Peter's Basilica.