Tag Archives: theology

Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology, NEW book by Father Edward Oakes

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Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology (Eerdmans, 2011) is due to be released in July. If you pre-order now, there is a discount on Amazon.
Father Oakes utilizes a wide range of works taken from Scripture, theology and literature to explore the questions on the lordship of Jesus Christ. He’s attentive to the Magisterium. The concern is to know what the we, as Christians, believe and teach about who Jesus Christ is, and why. In this book the author is wants to answer this question: what does it mean for an infinite God to become man?
The title of this book is taken from a poem of Jesuit Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe.” There the poet says:
“This air, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race.”
Infinity Dwindled to Infancy has three parts: the data, the history and the teaching on the identity and work of Christ. The work carries an Imprimatur from Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago and the Nihil obstat from Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy, theologian for the US Conference of Bishops.

Father Edward T. Oakes, SJ, is a professor of systematic theologian teaching at Mundelein Seminary. He is a member of the some time meeting of the Dulles Colloquium (a theological discussion group that was organized by Father Richard J. Neuhaus and Cardinal Avery Dulles) and he is a member of the ecumenical theological discussion group Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Oakes is a frequent writer for First Things and several other periodicals. Oakes is the author of Pattern of Redemption and a co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs Von Balthasar. There are several translations done by Father Oakes of Balthasar to note.

The Word of God is everything: hearing what the WORD has to say

I am reading Verbum Domini with great eagerness. I am talking my reading seriously and trying to ponder what the Pope has given us as a path to Christ and to live as an authentic Christian today. Let’s recall the extraordinary address of Pope Benedict XVI on October 6, 2008 where he said: 

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“the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent.”

Scott W. Hahn, Covenant and Communion (2009), p. 22.

 

In another place we read: 

You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence.

That is, the believer becomes real insofar as he becomes the Word by hearing such that he does it. That seems to be the only reality that perdures. Revelation is an act in which God shows Himself. Faith is a corresponding act of hearing and doing the Word heard. Outside of that, everything else perishes into nothingness.

J. Ratzinger, God Word: Scripture – Tradtion – Office, Ignatius (2008): 52.

Confronting the Devil– one of the Church’s greatest needs

With last the announcement last week about a study session of the new Rite of Exorcism seemingly many peoples’ interest in the devil and evil soared. But I wonder if we all know the implications of having an interest in the “devil and evil” means. What it means is that we are in a spiritual battle with evil, a fact that is being spoken of more and more.


The Servant of God Pope Paul VI addressed the issue in a General Audience on November 15, 1972. What he said in 1972 remains so very true today:

What are the Church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at Our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil.

The papal address is not long and it covers topics of a Christian’s vision of the universe, the mystery of evil, seeking answers to our questions, the biblical witness to evil and the Devil, the Devil’s ability to tempt us, the peril of ignoring the Devil, the presence of diabolical actions and what our defense against the Devil means. Read what Pope Paul said.

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In his meditation of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents to us “On the Two Standards” telling us we are faced with making a choice: “The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.” Loyola places in front of us the choice of how we are going to live our lives, either for Christ or against Christ, either for good, or for evil. Why sell our soul for money, power and fame when the Lord offers us a life that’s attractive and beautiful through the virtues of spiritual –and possibly in actual poverty, contempt for worldly honor and humility against pride? Poverty, whether spiritual and/or actual, obedience and humility are virtues that lead to all other virtue and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.


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4 Pillars of the Catholic Faith

A question was asked of me about the building blocks of the Catholic faith. Is there such a thing? Do Catholics actually have a structure of belief? Well, yes, there are 4 essential building blocks of our life of faith. These 4 areas are the very same areas by which the Catechism of the Catholic is structured.


The 4 Pillars of the Catholic Faith:

-Creed
-10 Commandments
-7 Sacraments
-The Lord’s Prayer (Christian prayer)

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Catholics believe in revealed
truth. Spirituality needs to be founded on truth otherwise you have nothing.
Hence creed, code & cult are essential aspects of Catholic Faith.

The study of faith needs two distinctions to understand what’s going with the army of words and ideas associated with theological reflection: fides quae and fides
qua.  

Fides quae (“faith which”) is the faith which is held by
the Church through divine revelation or sacred tradition (it is what is considered to be objective, verifiable faith).

Fides qua
(“faith by which”) is the faith by which a person is moved to respond
to God. A person’s understanding of his or her personal relationship
to God is spoken of here; here we usually filter what hear of divine revelation; in some instances personal
revelation is located in this type of faith, e.g., the teachings of the saints would be a distinction of fides qua (we’ll say this is subjective faith, a faith known through concrete experience).

Theologically speaking, a theologian be able to
distinguish between fides quae and fides qua and to always maintain conformity
in study and work with fides quae. Only a few theologian have held a personal
faith that has been enlightened enough to illuminate fides quae. The task of
theology is gain a deeper understanding of faith; it is, as St Anselm said:
faith seeking understanding. Our study of theology is done on our knees; that
is, we study the fact of God and the allied theological sciences from a posture of adoration of
God first, in the sacred Liturgy and second, in personal prayer. 

The student of
theology takes his or her first presupposition from the position of “faith.” Faith is not a gift of God it is also the manner by which we look at
reality, it’s the “starting point for a new way -that is, a true way of
becoming aware of reality itself.” Through faith we have access to truth and through we live truth.  Without faith in the study of theology
we have mere religious studies.

Cremation and the Catholic Church

Resurrection AdelCastagno.jpgCatholics today are choosing cremation over the burial of the body. The numbers are on the increase in recent years due to economic reasons, perceived ecological concerns space limitations in some places. But are these good reasons to chose cremation of the body? The Church’s allowance of cremation is given by exception with a strong preference for the entombment of the body (either in the ground or a masoleum). Why? Principally because cremation does not fully express a Christian’s belief in the Resurrection of the body on the Last Day.

Though permitted by the Catholic Church, cremation is not the preferred way of caring for the deceased (Order of Christian Funerals Appendix, 414). The Church retains the value of imitating Jesus’ own burial prior to His Resurrection. We believe that in death “life has changed, not ended.” Hence, the human body has a dignity and this dignity is expressed liturgically through the funeral rites of the Church. The sacred Liturgy is the expression of what we believe and our hope in God’s promises. Think of the ritual actions of the family and friends gathering for a wake (keeping vigil), prayers, the processions, blessing with holy water, the burning of incense, the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass for the soul of the deceased and then burial. Those who say that they follow Christ and believe in Him as Savior normally imitate what he did as they closely adhere to what He said and how He did things. The further develop this idea an appeal to the reasonableness of Church teaching is necessary. The US Bishops’ document “Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites” (1997) states the following about the body: “This is the Body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. Our identity and self-consciousness as a human person are expressed in and through the body… Thus, the Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person who the Church now commends to the care of God.”

What is cremation? Cremation is the taking of the dead body and reducing it to ash and bone fragments by the application of intense heat (in excess of 1400 degrees) and the pulverization  of what remains. The ash and bone pieces are placed in an urn.
The practice of cremation was normal in the pagan world prior to the Resurrection of Jesus and in the early of Christianity. But because the earlier followers of Christ and belief in bodily resurrection the practice waned. Eventually, it was rejected as an accepted practice by the Church because cremation became a method of rejecting Christian belief in Christ’s resurrection, our own resurrection on the last day and the rejection of the body as sacred. The   presence and popularity of the Masons and their rejection of fundamental Catholic belief, the Church taught that cremation was prohibited. You can trace the clear teaching from the French Revolution.
The Church respects the body, the living and the dead. Regarding the dead, the Church states that “The dying should be given attention and care to help them live the last moments in dignity and peace. They will be helped by the prayer of their relatives , who must see to it that the sick receive at the proper time the sacraments that prepare them to meet the living God. The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy, it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit (Catechism 2299-2300).
With the passage of time, the Church in an effort to recognize the legitimate needs of her children, changed her teaching with the publication of a 1963 decree of Blessed John XXIII relaxing the restrictions if Catholic teaching is maintained. At the Catechism of the Catholic Church the Church said, “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denail of faith in the resurrection of the body” (2301). And the Code of Canon Law (1983) states: “The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (1176).
Some might say the Church has strong “feelings” on cremation. The Church’s teaching has nothing to do with feelings. And the Church’s preference is not one opinion among many nor is it akin to having a preference for a porterhouse steak over hamburger. What happens to the body after death is based on solid sacramental theology and two millennia of experience.
In sum, what is expected (hoped for):
1. the offering of prayer and sacraments for the dying, especially at the time of death
2. the showing of respect for the deceased with regard to preparing the body for a wake
3. the praying of the Office of the Dead and prayers for the dead at the wake
4. the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass in Church in the presence of the body
5. the burial of the body or the cremation of the body and then the burial of the cremains
6. the daily praying for the soul, the periodic offering of Mass for the soul of the deceased and visiting the cemetery, especially during the month of November, the Month of All Souls.

While three members of my family chose cremation as a burial option, my family was attentive to the sacramentality of the body and Catholic burial rituals (wake, Mass with the body present & burial of the ashes in the local Catholic cemetery.

Funny that Net TV posted on this subject and that I am posting about it today given that just the other day my mother told me that a long time family friend distributed the ashes of her parents to her family and friends in zip-lock bags. Honestly, I heard of of such wierd and disrespectful things happening but I thought the stories were fiction. Such actions (distributiing the cremains, making jewlery out of the cremains or placing the cremains on the mantle or in a home closet) clearly show a rejection (subtle as it may be) of the blessedness of the human body and it being a temple of the Holy Spirit. I am, quite frankly, a bit crazed by the practice of doing any but what the Church asks to be done with the cremains.
Watch the news story “The Church on Cremantion

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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