The Eschatological Traditions pt. 1

498405361af95c45eca26c2c02b408d2

The Eschatological traditions of the Catholic faith can seem overwhelming at first glance; however, a fantastic place to begin to understand what Catholics believe is found in an explanation of the faith by Michael Pennock in his book This is Our Faith. Pennock goes over every single element of the end times and explains it in a manner that can be understood by the laity.

Heaven

Heaven, as described by Pennock, is the reward of “eternal life spent in union with God and all those who share in God’s life. (p.156) Those who die in God’s friendship, grace, and purified will share in this eternal life. Pennock explains that “Heaven is the name for this superabundant life in communion with the loving Triune God, the Blessed Mother, the angels, and saints. It is the community of all who fully incorporated into Christ.” As Pennock illustrates it is best described by the book of Revelation 21:4 RSV:

4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

In Heaven, Christians will have the opportunity to experience what is known in Christian theology as beatific vision, a vision that will allow us to view God finally face-to-face. (p.157) Christians are reminded of this opportunity by Moses’ relationship with God in Exodus 34:29-35:

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tables of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 And afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34 but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses would put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Hell

The common belief of fire and brimstone of Hell is a false description of the actual place. However, it does describe the pain of what is truly Hell. Hell is the eternal separation from God, a reward for one who chooses themselves and rejects God’s love. A result that God allows not because he a malevolent dictator as New Atheism would like to portray him, but instead because he “respects human freedom, a freedom that can pridefully refuse God’s grace, love, and mercy…a person is free to reject that invitation through living a selfish, heartless, and unloving life. God respects that choice.” (p.159) In the parable of Lazarus is a very telling explanation of those who have chosen to reject God’s love, Lk 16:29-31 RSV

29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’”

Purgatory

Church Doctrine teaches of the existence of Purgatory, which is the final purification and cleansing of our sins so that we can enter Heaven. Pennock explains, “We pass through the fire of God’s love which enables us to embrace completely the all-holy God with open hearts. Purgatory is necessary because, as the book of Revelation teaches, only a clean person can enter heaven.” (p. 157) The process of purification, or purgatory, is a process that is painful; however, the pain is rooted in a pain of letting go of our selfish attachments when passing into Heaven. (p.158) Furthermore, as explained by Pennock, it may be explained that “persons ‘burn’ with remorse because they are not yet one with God who is infinite goodness and love. This temporary separation from God due to our own actions on earth does bring suffering.” (p. 158)

The best scriptural evidence for purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:41-45, a passage that encourages the living to pray for the dead, so they can be released from their sin. 2 Maccabees is a book that was ripped from the Canon of the Bible by the Protestant reformers due to its evidence of purgatory. In 1st century Judea, all books that were part of the deuterocanonical would have been considered canonical, even by Christ and the Apostles, as those during the era would use the Septuagint, which included the text.

41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

How does the Holy Spirit help us live like Christ?

icon-of-the-holy-paraclete

This post is a continuation of a previous post, I’d suggest you begin here, although you’re welcome to read this post as a stand alone as well.

In Luke Chapter Six, Christ commands us to love the entire world, which means to even love our enemies. Christ in every way has embodied this command by speaking to the women at the well and forgiving those who had just crucified him

Lk 6: 27-36 RSV

27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return;[b] and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

It’s very telling when Christ asks, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” It is, of course, very easy to love those who treat you very well. However, it is difficult to love those who scorn, mock, beat, and even kill you and the ones you love. However, we must pray for these people, we must still do good by them, even if they reject us because they deserve the dignity of everyone in humanity being created in the image of God.

I use to be fairly active politically, my collegiate career was spent studying the Federalist Papers, Case Law, and the Early American Republic. I would quote John Locke, Edmund Burke, et al. However, just recently I took some classes to help change my career and I sat next to a gentleman who was Russian Orthodox. We spent many months talking about politics until I concluded that ultimately my view of the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, the Enlightenment philosophers, and Classical Liberalism was more or less Idol worship and not faithful to my faith in Catholicism. I reviewed my life and saw how politics had grown divisions between friends and even family. So, I decided to pick up my Bible, I ended all of my history/political blogs, and I no longer make political statuses on Facebook, but I share the Word with everyone. One of my old college roommates asked me, “When did you become so Jesusy?” I said, “Well, I always believed in God, I figured, I needed to start acting like it.”

It’s natural to ask, How can we possibly love our enemies? We must ask, through prayer, for the Holy Spirit to intervene in our hearts and minds by providing the fruits and gifts of the Spirit to our soul. The Spirit will provide us with patience and self-control over anger, The Spirit by giving us peace and gentleness will allow our soul to be charitable and generous to those who persecute us. We only have to have faith and ask for the Spirit to intervene as the sanctifier.

Proslogion: Book discussion Ch. 8-11

1-proslogion

I am continuing with my analysis within Fariba’s awesome book discussion on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. In week two, which I am a bit late on supplying my analysis, the chapters that are examined are eight through sixteen. I will be examining chapters eight through eleven as St. Anselm explains how God can be both merciful and impassible.

I do enjoy St. Anselm’s examination on the topic of God being both merciful and impassible more than his examination of the existence of God. I do believe his ontological argument works better when attempting to understand an infinitely omniscient and all powerful being. In chapter eight, St. Anselm really just poses the question, “How can he be both merciful and impassible?” It’s interesting that I find St. Anselm’s response very simple, yet, complex to ponder. St. Anselm answers this question by stating, “ You are [merciful] according to our experience but are not [merciful] according to your experience.”[1] The short answer in explaining St. Anselm’s meaning is that God is simply a divine mystery. A deeper look into the theology of a merciful God that is supremely good is the understanding that humanity not being God cannot understand what is supremely good for humanity operates with the notion of natural rights created by God, but does not confine God. For if something existed that confined God, he would cease to be God. Furthermore, if humanity fully understood the mysteries of God, he would also cease to be God. So again, how is God both merciful and impassible? Many atheists challenge the idea of God because they view the world’s suffering and will not follow a God that allows the free will to commit such atrocities. Overall, this sentiment both St. Anselm’s posed question and the Atheist challenge reminds of the commonly asked question by nonbelievers, “Can an All Powerful God create an immovable rock?” The answer is “Yes, and Yes.” For God can create a rock that he cannot move, and yet, move it all the same because God is not confined to the understandings of humanity.

In chapter 9 of the Proslogion, the reader is met the basic question does a God of infinite goodness do evil by saving those who are evil or allowing evil to exist? St. Anselm writes, “Why, then, good God—good to those who are good to those who are evil—why do You save those who are evil, if [to do] this Is not just and if You do not do anything that is not just?[2] St. Anselm answers the question by stating that “You are also beneficent to those who are evil. For You would be less good if You were beneficent to none of those who are evil.”[3] The logic of St. Anselm here is convincing to me—unlike the logic of his argument for God—because God to be infinitely good must be a state of infinite goodness that is impassible for a supremely good being must good to all or they would be less good, or simply, not God.

In chapter 10-12, St. Anselm continues to develop the idea of how God can be merciful to those who are evil, and if by his will supply what humanity would believe is justice.  St. Anselm explains that in accordance with God’s justice that appears to contradict our own justice that when God spares those who are evil that “You are just in Yourself but are not just from our viewpoint.”[4] A servant of God cannot know His will unless it has been revealed to us through divine revelation, it is a sentiment explained throughout the Book of Job and Job’s conclusion to the events:

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees thee;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”[5]

The servant of God must simply have faith and trust that although there is suffering and that evil has been given mercy when it appears it deserves justice. We do not have the ability to discern what is for the greater good, because if we did have the ability, God would not be God because he would not be greater in this aspect. In this regard, it is perhaps the best to understand St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God as a prerequisite to understanding God’s nature as both merciful and impassible—both good and just towards evil.

[1]  Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 97.

[2] Ibid, 98.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 100.

[5] Job 42:3-6 RSV

Proslogion-Book Discussion Answers-Ch. 1-7

2015042610saint

I invite everyone to participate in this book discussion hosted by Fariba, the author of Incarnational Catholic, She is producing a fine topic for us Catholics to discuss on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. I challenge everyone to challenge the text of St. Anselm’s when answering the questions that are posted by Fariba. Click Here, If you need them. Also, challenge my answers to Fariba’s questions. We’re promoting a discussion for a better understanding. I am certain that Fariba will object to some of my points, but through her objections I will gain a better understanding of St. Anselm’s message, this is the point of having these discussions.

— — ———- ———————————————————

My impressions, so far, of this work of St. Anselm, are negative, but I will admit these feelings are based on a first impression of reading the text. St. Anselm appears to be hiding a rather weak argument for the existence of God in a rather tortuous scholastic maze. The text is filled with an abundant supply of tautologies that for the vast majority of the time spent reading the text, St. Anselm is saying very little. I will agree with Fariba that Anselm does seem to be “frustrated that he does not know God the way he should.” However, although I do agree that he seems influenced by St. Augustine, it appears that Anselm got to only this portion of St. Augustine’s Confession, “You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[1] (Book 1 Ch. 1) This makes me conclude by his famous definition of theology, “But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand that he has failed to understand,”[2] St. Anselm does not have the same understand of the grace and of the mysteries given by God, which is fundamentally understood by St. Augustine throughout his Confessions. St. Anselm, would not make such a point, if he fully had vested belief in Christ’s words, “and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,[a] you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”[3]

However, St. Anselm by way of the text has concluded an existence of God; however, Anslem—as explained by Fariba—does appear to be upset by not understanding this distance from God and himself. He speaks of desolation and famine because of this exile that mankind must suffer away from God in exile. St. Anselm, perhaps, needs to fully reach the point of belief to understand the grace that God provides to properly reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the early part of the text in Chapter 1 of the Proslogion, it’s interesting that Fariba spoke of St. Anselm’s influence from St. Augustine’s On the Trinity because I felt like I was reading an influence from another text, On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. It appears that St. Anselm is really driving home the fact in the early parts of the Proslogion that the existence of God, our exile, and our hunger from him all hinge on the importance of the Creation story. St. Anselm writes, “He lost the happiness for which he was made and found an unhappiness for which he was not made…Man then ate the bread-of-angels for which he now hungers; and now he eats the bread-of-sorrows…while, alas, remaining empty.”[4]

The strange divergence between the two text, and rather I would assert the same divergence that occurs between St. Anselm and St. Augustine, is that Anselm doesn’t appear to be persuaded by the argument that Mankind’s betrayal of sinning against the Father is sufficient for this exile. St. Anselm asks, “Why did he take away from us life and inflict death?”[5] I would say to this question it is answered when St. Athanasius writes, “3. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body. 4. Thus, then, God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption; but men, having despised and rejected the contemplation of God, and devised and contrived evil for themselves.”[6]

 St. Anselm asks, “Why did God take away?” St. Athanasius answers, “Mankind rejected God.”

In Chapter 3-7 of the Proslogion, one discovers St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God after one wades through the tremendous amount of tautology to arrive at the argument. The basic argument is that “O Lord my God, You exist so truly that You cannot even be thought not to exist…For if any mind could think of something better than You, the creature would rise above the Creator and would sit in judgment over the Creator—something which is utterly absurd.”[7]

Frankly, I find Blaise Pascale’s argument of “wager” more convincing. St. Anselm’s argument is already laid on the foundation that a deity does exist, and that ontologically speaking if one were to argue that something is greater than God, that something would be God—and there goes the strawman. Perhaps, I feel this way because I know St. Thomas Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, which St. Anselm did not have the pleasure to read. Fundamentally, one cannot assert the existence of God without proving that God existing is self-evident based on the cosmological argument rather than asserting a mere metaphysical acknowledgment that is ontologically speaking that God already exists and that there can be nothing greater. One must make clear that metaphysically there must be a First Cause before any such argument can be used: “If there is no First Cause, there is no second causes, or simply, nothing can cause itself to be.”[8]

[1] Augustine of Hippo, trans, by John K. Ryan, The Confessions (New York: Image, 2014), 1.

[2] Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 93.

[3] Mt. 18:3 RSV

[4] Anselm of Canterbury, 91.

[5] Ibid.

[6] St. Athanasius On the Incarnation 4

[7] Anselm of Canterbury, 94.

[8] Peter Kreeft, Summa of the Summa ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990). 62.

Sermon or no Sermon on the Mount, does it matter?

Sermon On The Mountwith the Healing of the Leper Cosimo Rosselli, 1481
Sermon On The Mount with the Healing of the Leper Cosimo Rosselli

During my theology class, we studied the sermon on the mount. The essay we were reading on the topic asserted that the sermon on the mount had not occurred, and that most likely Matthew just compiled a collection of saying from Jesus and organized them into what is Chapter 5 of his account. Some of the students were a bit saddened by this revelation by this author, Fr. Daniel Harrington S.J., so I gave them another side to the debate–Pope Benedict XVI.

One thing that has been frustrating to me about the course is the selection of readings that appear to indicate a finality on topics, which have none. As one who has a degree in history, studied oral history, studied written history, etc; I would certainly assert that there is a great possibility that there was certainly a sermon on a mount.

The class that I was out of my mind to be so bold. How could I challenge the opinion of an essay written by a priest?

I said to them, “Well, don’t take my word for it, take Pope Benedict the XVI’s word.” Father Benedict explains,  “The Evangelist does not tell us which of the hills of Galilee it was. But the very fact that it is the scene of Jesus’ preaching makes it simply “the mountain”–the new Sinai. The “mountain” is the place where Jesus prays–where he is face-to-face with the Father. And that is exactly why it is also the place of his teaching, since his teaching comes forth from this most intimate exchange with the Father. The “mountain” then,is by the very nature of the case established as the new and definitive Sinai. “And yet how different this “mountain” is from that imposing rocky mass in the desert! Tradition has identified a hill north of Lake Genesareth as the Mount of the Beatitudes. Anyone who has been there and gazed with the eyes of his soul on the wide prospect of the waters of the lake, the sky and the sun, the trees and the meadows, the flowers and the sound of birdsong can never forget the wonderful atmosphere of peace and the beauty of creation encountered there–in a land unfortunately so lacking in peace. “Wherever the Mount of the Beatitudes actually was, something of this peace and beauty must have characterized it.” (Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth Part One (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 66-67.)

There is a particular point I’d like to highlight from Father Benedict, He indicates that it was most likely a hill and that we may not know the exact location, but from the reading, Father Benedict does indicate that there was truly a hill where Jesus sat and did preach the Beatitudes.

The teacher then replied, “So does it really matter if there was sermon as opposed to a collection of sayings.” As a student of history, I was a bit appalled by the question. I explained that it is a complex answer rather than a simple one. In regards to what Father Benedict is speaking about withChrist giving the Beatitudes on a mount and defining his authority in regards to the Kingdom as the living Torah. It certainly is important to a degree. Of course, from a historical perspective, did Christ give the exact words of Matthew Chapter 5? He most likely did not; however, it is very likely from a historical perspective if Matthew took different teachings and a sermon from a mount and simply paraphrased them from memory.

So why did I object so much to these proposed ideas? It’s simple, Jesus is a historical figure, which is one of the motives of Benedict for writing his three volume set on Jesus of Nazareth. In a world that only values evidence, it does matter for some events to be historical. There is certainly a danger from this half-hazard theology, and the danger is Christological heresy.

Christological heresy! What does he mean! After folks in the class became comfortable with the idea that the only thing that mattered was Christ’s teaching, I asked them how far are you willing to go with that idea? If the message is the only concern when it comes to Jesus and Catholicism, and not the actual actions of Christ, the incarnate Lord. How is this belief different than the Christological Heresies that claimed Christ only to only appear, for example, Docetism? Is this now a concern in the modern church?

Regardless, Christ had to be physically here. He had to be an actor on the historical stage. If it doesn’t matter that the Sacred (God) became Man, (Profane) that God ate on the earth or felt pain and joy on the earth like man, then Christ would be nothing more than a great human philosopher. However, he was the divine that became flesh for our salvation, the savior of the world.

There is a great danger for the souls of the charity of Christ in ‘critiquing’ away historical events by theologians using Biblical criticisms. The danger is allowing the belief that the living and breathing actors actions do not matter within the frameworks of the history of salvation—a sentiment that Pope Benedict XVI would agree with being a danger from his Jesus of Nazareth series, as he explained that its the reason why he wrote his book. (Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth Part One (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2007), xii.) Father Benedict writes, ““The first point is that the historical-critical method—specifically because of the intrinsic nature of theology and faith—is and remains an indispensable dimension of exegetical work. For it is of the very essence of biblical faith to be about real historical events…Et incarnates est—when we say these words, we acknowledge God’s actual entry into real history…“If we push this history aside Christian faith such disappears and is recast as some other religion…then faith must expose itself to the historical method—indeed, faith itself demands this.(Ibid, xv.)

“The historical-critical method—let me repeat—is an indispensable tool, given the structure of Christian faith…but it does not exhaust the interpretative task for someone who sees the biblical writings as a single corpus of Holy Scripture inspired by God.” (Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth Part One (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), xvi.)

A better articulation of this concern is to give an example. So if there are those convinced by the explanation there was no actual sermon of the mount. So What other events can the next theologian claim are not historic? Perhaps, Theologians will “evolve” into claiming the resurrection of the incarnate Lord didn’t really happen– at least, not in the way the Gospel is written. Instead of Christ appearing in the flesh to the Apostles as they walked to Emmaus, they simply “felt” that he was there as if he was resurrected. We’d hope the Church Magisterium would correct this error, but it seems they allow a lot of freedom.

Of course, without the physical crucifixion and resurrection of the body, there would be no salvation.

 

Five reasons to visit College Church in St. Louis

An absolutely beautiful church, I would certainly recommend to anyone if they’re in the St. Louis area to stop by and visit it.

Tucker Redding, SJ

St. Louis is a city with a rich history and religion is part of that history. This year, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, commonly known as “College Church,” is celebrating its 175 year anniversary. One hundred and seventy-five years is a long time to make an impact on a community. Take a moment to find out what makes this church unique and why you need to plan a visit to this St. Louis landmark.

The following video will give you a quick peek at the church and some of its key features as described by the pastor and a few of members of the congregation.

In honor of the anniversary of the church, here are five reasons why College Church is unique and why you should visit.

JESUIT CONNECTION: College Church is one of several Jesuit institutions in the city of St. Louis and one of two Jesuit parishes. This connection to the…

View original post 610 more words