Category Archives: Theology

The Pattern of the Church’s Perfection: Mary Sets the Standard

In a Georgian Hymnal we see a verse of a hymn which reads:

 

You went forth from the world,
O virgin Theotokos,
to the eternal light.

 

The sacred Liturgy bases its Marian Theology on the biblical images of Mary as the “New Eve,” the
Assumption Murrillo.jpg“Beloved of the Bridegroom,” the “Ark of the Covenant,” and the “Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven.” From what we read in sacred Scripture to what we know by sacred Tradition, Mary remains the mother of mystery. Our Catholic belief is that Mary was raised up body and soul and sits in heaven with the Blessed Trinity. But was she raised up like Enoch (Genesis 5:24) or Elijah (2 King 3:11)? When Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary as a dogma of the Faith in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, he deliberately left the question open, saying that Mary was assumed after “having completed the course of her earthly life.” Later, Pope John Paul II said that he believes Mary, like her Son, experienced the “human drama of death.” Perhaps Saint John of Damascus says it best:  “As the Mother of the living God, she goes through death to Him. For if God said: ‘Unless the first man put out his hand to take and taste of the tree of life, he shall live forever,’ how shall she, who received the Life Himself, without beginning or end, or finite vicissitudes, not live forever.”

 

Looking at the consistent teaching and liturgical observance of the fact of the Assumption it is clear that the Church, East and West, has believed from the earliest days that Mary shared in her Son’s dramatic victory over death by conquering death. The Apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah called this fact “the swallowing up of death.” AND this is a reason for our Hope. 

 

Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters reject this feast as idolatry, missing what Pope
dormition.jpgPius said about the divine truth revealed in the Assumption: In Mary, Mothers of God, we know, “to what lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined.” The Church, therefore, prays at Mass this collect:

 

Almighty and Eternal God, You Who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of Your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant, we beseech You, that, always intent on higher things, we may merit to be sharers in her glory.

And the Preface

 

Since today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and pattern of your Church’s perfection
and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people,
For justly you would not allow her
to see the corruption of the tomb,
because from her own flesh she brought forth ineffably
your incarnate Son, the author of all life.

(Draft 2006 I.C.E.L. Translation)

On the Use of the Name of God, Pope Benedict teaches




Thumbnail image for Benedict XVI.gifOn Friday, 8 August 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments communicated to the relevant ecclesial authorities (i.e., Bishops’ Conferences and therefore Diocesan Bishops) that the Holy Father in accord with the same congregation and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the norms for the liturgical use of “…the Divine Name signified in the sacred tetragrammaton….” The document is called “Letter to the Bishops’ Conferences on the ‘Name of God'” (Prot. N. 213/08/L). The directives are clear and concise. The Letter is issued under the signatures of Francis Cardinal Arinze and Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith and dated 29 June 2008. The directives:

 

1.      In liturgical celebrations, in songs and prayers the name of God in the form of the
tetragrammaton.jpgtetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used or pronounced.

2.      For the translation of the Biblical text in modern languages, destined for liturgical usage of the Church, what is already prescribed by n. 41 of the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam is to be followed; that is, the divine tetragrammaton is to be rendered by the equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios: “Lord”, “Signore”, “Seigneur”, “Herr”, “Señor”, etc.

3.      In translating, in the liturgical context, texts in which are present, one after the other, either the Hebrew term Adonai or the tetragrammaton YHWH, Adonai is to be translated “Lord” and the form “God” is to be used for the tetragrammaton YHWH, similar to what happens in the Greek translation of the Septuagint and in the Latin translation of the Vulgate.

 

The cardinal and the archbishop explain in the first part of the letter the value of remaining faithful to the consistent teaching and tradition of the Church. Here one can say that in following this teaching Catholics have continuity of faith: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi (often abbreviated by the bromide of lex orandi, lex crendendi). The implication of this teaching, therefore, has much to do with Christology, liturgical theology, catechetics and interfaith dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters. I think the final paragraph bears prayerful consideration because of the Church’s objectivity:

Avoiding pronouncing the tetragrammaton of the name of God on the part of the Church has therefore its own grounds. Apart from a motive of a purely philological order, there is also that of remaining faithful to the Church’s tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated.

 

As commentary, the teaching presented by the Church was taught to me and my classmates at Notre Dame High School (W. Haven, CT) in Mr. William Parkinson’s Old Testament class in 1983. So, I think we were fortunate to have had the correct catechesis and praxis at that time in our Church’s history. Having said this, I wonder about the arrogance (perhaps mere ignorance?) of Christians using of the Divine Name incorrectly and I wonder how long it will take publishers to change their editorial policy. I am thinking of the dreadful liturgical songs still used in parishes.

A pope and a dirty magazine: Humanae Vitae & our true destiny

 

On the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae last week I observed the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI’s work and the gift it is to the Church and the world. Below I am adding a recently published article on the same subject by a scholar and friend, Don DeMarco.

 

Paul VI versus Playboy

By Donald DeMarco

 

In 1986, Brother Don Fleischhacker of the University of Notre Dame wrote a letter to Playboy protesting that magazine’s fragmented view of human sexuality.

 

Citing “Humanae Vitae,” this intrepid Holy Cross religious reasoned that once “the contraceptive mentality is accepted, there can be no coherent objective ground for opposition to homosexual activity.” If the unitive aspect of sex becomes an end in itself, he went on to explain, “There is no essential reason why sex should be restricted to couples of different sexes.”

 



Paul VI PP.jpgRecent events have proven that Brother Don was as prophetic as was Pope Paul VI when he penned “Humane Vitae” back in 1968. For Playboy, however, the letter was treated as an object of ridicule and its content irreverently dismissed: “Brother, you sound like St. Thomas’ lawyer,” wrote the Playboy editor, who went on to bless “both kinds” of sexual relations.

 

This holier-than-thou posture of Playboy explains why its founder, Hugh Hefner, has declared that he is the most moral human being he has ever met. From the perspective of Playboy, it is far ahead of the church in the sheer number of wonderful things it deems good, including marriage for same-sex partners. Playboy has surpassed Genesis in its generosity, and outdistanced mother church in its magnanimity.

 

Read more ...

Collaborating with God the Father

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), the remarkable encyclical of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. In the 1968 encyclical, the Pope reminds us that “Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” This timeless work is not merely about regulating birth, conception and abortion. It is about the Divine Plan for us, about the beauty of human love between a husband and wife, about loving children and about growing in holiness so that one day we will be united with God in heaven. To think otherwise is selfish and narcissistic. The greatness of the teaching found in Humanae Vitae is there is unequivocally a dignity in collaborating with the Divine Plan on the part of every person. What has become clear to me is that all of what is taught by Pope Paul remains true today: the contraceptive mentality has watered down, even destroyed an integral notion of love in married life, sex, holiness & sacrifice, spiritual fatherhood & motherhood, priesthood, etc.

 

The acceptance of the Pill as a “normal” way to deal with a pregancy (i.e., a real human life) has encouraged Catholics (and other Christians) to reduce their salvation to something they manage rather accept as a gift from God. Since when does one manage God’s gift of salvation? Isn’t salvation freely given? Isn’t faith a supernatural gift? Faith has consequences, just look at the saints and countless others who would not capitulate to society’s demands for insidious compromise. Pope Paul’s teaching stands against the constant degradation of marriage, family life and holiness. In so many ways Humanae Vitae  is “sign of contradiction” in the face of those who denigrate marriage by not seeing marriage as based on authentic love with its origins in the Blessed Trinity that is faithful, exclusive and eternal. If you want to know why our human existence is often “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” to quote Thomas Hobbes, then you have you examine the attitudes about love, sexuality, responsibility and holiness. Taking a Pill will not exempt you from reality, at least not true reality. 

 

The Pope writes:


 
Paul VI.jpg
 
…one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. “Human life is sacred–all men must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. ‘From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.”

 

Through the intercession of Saint James, Mary, Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, may married couples and those considering the vocation of married life remain close to the Lord.

 

Mary Eberstadt’s article “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae” in the August/September 2008 issue of First Things  is worth reading and studying. Eberstadt does a terriffic job in relating the reality of the contraceptive culture and shows how Pope Paul was right all along. Also worth the time is Karol Wojytla’s 1960 book, Love and Responsibility. Later as Pope John Paul II he delivered to the Church what is known as the Theology of the Body.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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