Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Speaking of Modesty

I was walking through Walmart, usually the bastion of American Protestant Respectability, when I saw, right next to the Sponge-Bob pajamas, panties with the words "I'm a Flirt/Just Can't Help It" written right across the front.

Now, first of all, no underwear with writing on it should be sold to any unmarried person, since the only reason to have underwear with writing is so that someone can read it.

Second, what is it doing in the kids' section? I note that next to it was a Snoopy thong, which I hope Charles Schulz is spared a vision of in heaven.

Aquinas argues in the beginning of the Prima Secundae that one proof that no created good can satifsy human longing is that we are never satisfied with it. Perhaps selling thong underwear with cartoon characters on it is a sign that we are looking in the wrong place?

Monday, July 26, 2004

Preliminary Palamas Perusal

I just finished reading the Paulist Press edition of St. Gregory Palamas, and I have a few preliminary thoughts:

1) This guy was really smart--we should read him more.

2) It would be useful to recover the theology of the Byzantine Empire, especially since their method seems to have stayed very close to the actual Greek text of the New Testament. It was, after all, their spoken language, and so they take their terminology largely from the text itself.

3) When St. Gregory Palamas talks about a distinction between the essence and energies of God, he means by "essence" something very different than what St. Thomas Aquinas means by "essence." I think much of the apparent disagreement between the two theologies could be minimized by taking the time to translate the one metaphysics into the other. Here's my attempt: Aquinas means essence as that by which something has being (thus God's essence is his existence), but Palamas seems to mean essence as something like substance. Thus we can talk with Palamas of distinctions between the hidden substance of God and the visible, eternal, and divine actions of God, whereas it doesn't make sense for the Thomist to speak of divisions in "that by which God has being." Palamas speaks with the focus on Divine Action, Thomas speaks with the focus on Divine Being.

Maybe more later. I'm still thinking through it.

Why you should always dress well for Liturgy

You never know when you might have to step in as a proxy-godfather.

Sunday some friends of ours were scheduled to get their new child Nicholas baptized, confirmed, and eucharisted. Unfortunately, the godfather couldn't attend due to illness, and was in the hospital. I was honored to be able to stand in, and glad that I was dressed well-enough for such a joyous occasion.

Being a proxy-godfather is neat, since I had all the fun at the ceremony, but don't have to buy any presents.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

If you are considering a priestly vocation

May I recommend you consider the Canons Regular of St. Augustine? That is, of course, if you aren't going to be ordained to serve the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma.

The canons, in a nutshell, work to present the faithful with a robust and beautiful liturgical life on the parish level, while living a common life according to the rule of St. Augustine. Plus you get to wear cool vestments. Take a look at the picture:

I happen to know the guy on the right--he was a classmate of mine. His parents only had two children, both sons, both of whom are now priests. What a blessing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A tidbit from The Theology of the Body

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ gave his own interpretation of the cmmandment, "You shall not commit adultery." This interpretation constitutes a new ethos. With the same lapidary words [If you look at a woman with lust, you have made her an adulteress in your heart] he assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman. (p. 346)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I just read the infamous "selective reduction" article at the NYTimes

I don't know what to say. I remember my reaction when first I saw the sonogram of my little Macrina (not her real name). This woman's reaction to seeing her three children in the sonogram was "Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?"

Jesus wept.

Low Blogging

I've been busy with some projects, one of which is reading all the way through The Theology of the Body. The other was responding to all the comments on the Sunday obligation. Which leads me to two requests:

1) Could anyone figure out why it is that Mozilla and Firebird see a different set of comments than Internet Explorer?

2) Could you continue to pray for a Very Special Intention, something big, which I'll tell you about as soon as it develops?


Friday, July 16, 2004

There ain't no justice

In the previous post, there are 33 comments (at last count) arguing about whether or not it would be just for someone to be damned for missing Mass on Sunday. I and a few commentors think that it is, another intrepid commentor thinks not. Actually, I think he feels that it isn't just more than he thinks it isn't just, since if we think about what justice is and what God is, we will see that to accuse God of injustice is irrational.
Justice refers to the state of affairs where each gets what he or she deserves. In order to determine, then, if someone has been treated unjustly, one must know what he deserves. This isn't a simple thing to do, since most human societies have gradations--certain people deserve more than others. Now, consider your relationship to God. For God to be unjust to you, he must fail to give you something that you deserve. What do you deserve from God?
What do you have that isn't grace? Do you have a right to exist? To be healthy? To be saved? To say that you have such rights is to say that God is not God. We have obligations to God, but he has none to us.
God may choose to bind obligations to himself by means of covenants and promises, but absent such a promise, we don't have any claims at all. Thus any argument with the sinfulness of missing one's Sunday obligation that works from a claim of justice is a priori a failure.
We might feel that it is unjust, but that doesn't make it so. 
Of course, this whole discussion is a little bit wrongly-directed. It isn't God who puts people in hell--it's people who choose to go there, by preferring anything to God. One shouldn't blame God for putting the man who goes fishing rather than to Church in hell, because God didn't do it--that man did. He's made it clear he loves fish more than God, and God has chosen not to force anyone's free will. 
I never thought I'd get 30+ comments. That's Sheavian territory! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Sunday Obligations and Mortal Sin

A commentor asked how God could damn someone to hell for not going to church on Sunday. I liked my response so much I'm stealing it for the blog. Here it is:

The question:

What kind of God damns people to everlasting pain and torment because they missed mass on Sunday?

And what decent person would want to spend eternity with such a God?

The answer:

What kind of person would miss Mass on Sunday except someone who's ok with spending eternity apart from God? Such a person is obviously OK with spending time apart from God.

Do you know what happens at Mass? You can, if you are so disposed, receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ! God commands that you attend at least once a week, for the sake of your soul. If you don't go, clearly you aren't too concerned about your soul.

Let's do a little balancing here: how much trouble is it to make it to Mass? No trouble at all. How much benefit do you get? Infinite. Who commands you to go? God. Now let's say you sleep in. That means that you value sleeping in, or watching football, or whatever else it is, more than the infinite benefits of God.

Well, God isn't going to give you what you clearly don't want. Damnation for missing Mass? Hell yeah, if you miss on purpose.

If you don't go to Mass, why would you be upset at going to Hell? One avoids God on earth, the other avoids God after death.

(Note to my Eastern Catholic brethren--substitute "Divine Liturgy" for "Mass.")

Monday, July 12, 2004

King Elessar Foretold in the Book of Sirach!

Film at 11.

Just kidding. But at Saturday Vespers in the Byzantine Church, one of the readings was Sirach 11:1-14. As I chanted it, I noticed two things: 1) that it just happens to be Tolkienesque, and 2) that it is a particularly clear prophecy about the Messiah. Here's the first five verses:

Sir 11:1 The wisdom of a humble man will lift up his head, and will seat him among the great.
Sir 11:2 Do not praise a man for his good looks, nor loathe a man because of his appearance.
Sir 11:3 The bee is small among flying creatures, but her product is the best of sweet things.
Sir 11:4 Do not boast about wearing fine clothes, nor exalt yourself in the day that you are honored; for the works of the Lord are wonderful, and his works are concealed from men.
Sir 11:5 Many kings have had to sit on the ground, but one who was never thought of has worn a crown.

Jesus, the King, returned, but was not known, just like Sirach says.

I love reading the old testament Christologically--a waterfall of insights invariably come.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The real argument for abortion rights

I think this is it:

1) If abortion really is a species of murder, then I/we/our nation is/are very evil.
2) I/we/our nation can't be really evil. We're the good guys!
3) Therefore, abortion must be ok.

By the way, this form of argument works for other things as well:

1) If contraception is a mortal sin, then I and my wife have been living without santifying grace for years.
2) I and my wife aren't bad people--it's not like we murdered anyone.
3) Therefore, contraception must be ok.

1) If missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, I'd be in danger of hell.
2) I'm a nice guy, and so can't go to hell.
3) Therefore, missing Mass on Sunday isn't a mortal sin.

What do you think? Have I figured it out?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

If you miss Swimming the Tiber,

be sure to check out the website for Holy Resurrection Monastery, which is the work of our own Sean Roberts. The website looks much better.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Another aphorism

If you don't want people to look at your chest or your rear end, make sure the clothing covering those areas doesn't have writing on it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

I visited my first Maronite liturgy today

Well, actually my second, but the first was a daily liturgy at the shrine in Ohio. I liked it, especially the closing prayer of the priest where he gives humble thanks for the privilege of serving at the altar, and reminds himself that he may not ever get the opportunity to do that again. It's a memento mori written into the liturgy.

I also learned that Syriac really isn't much like Arabic. I know a few words of liturgical Arabic, but I couldn't follow the Syriac at all.