Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sex and Salvation

No man who loves can be a materialist. The materialist can only lust and use others because every beautiful young virgin with time and wear will become disproportionate and old. Love is the deep dedication to the person, who, though bodily real is not just or even primarily flesh but much more, infinitely more, which only the true lover can see, in selfless unlimited commitment. The Little Prince makes this point which the Holy Father emphasized in both of his encyclicals, that the deepest and most important aspect of reality cannot be measured, controlled or possessed[1]. One must use the heart in addition to the mind to measure the greatest realities: love, goodness, truth, eternity.

"Men cultivate five thousand flowers in one garden and they do not find what they seek...Meanwhile what they seek might be found with just one rose...But the eyes are blind. It is necessary to search with the heart."

(Les hommes de chez toi, dit le petit prince, cultivent cinq mille roses dans un meme ils n'y trouvent pas ce qu'ils cherchent...Et cependant ce qu'ils cherchent pourrait etere trouve dans une seule rose ou un peu d'eau...Mais les yeux sont aveugles. Il faut chercher avec le coeur.) Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, chapt. 25

The most important things are not accessible to the eyes--not material but metaphysical. This was the same point made by the Greeks as in the gradual relief of a dual material deception in Plato's "Analogy of the Cave", book VII of the Republic.

"...[I]n the region of the known the last thing to be seen and hardly seen is the idea of good, and that when seen it must needs point us to the conclusion that this is indeed the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful, giving birth in the visible world to light, and the author of light and itself in the intelligible world being the authentic source of truth and reason, and that anyone who is to act wisely in private or public must have caught sight of this." (par. 517c)

First was the relief of the deception of the images projected on the wall, finally revealed as mere shadows cast by the fire behind the activity behind the fetter bound deceived; then the far greater relief going out of the cave to the brilliant sun and the world under its brilliance. In Pope Benedict's terms the first level is the discovery of "little hopes", the second that of real hope, a hope in the possibility of fulfilling all of man's worthy desires endlessly.

The material world involves a dual deception: 1) It poses as the whole of reality and as larger than its true worth and is therefore not as fulfilling as it appears because in itself it offers much less than it pretends. 2) It is the image (sign) of--it indicates--a reality many times (infinitely) greater than itself, than what it pretends to offer. Thus, it is both less and more that it seems.

For example, a beautiful adolescent girl gives us a glimmer of immortal beauty to indicate the profound, unfathomable worth of the girl herself prescinding from all physical beauty (all glimmers). Nor is she as perfect as she seems even on the material level for she, like every mortal man, has corruption (at least physical waste) within her viscera. That is why it (the superficial) is so ephemeral, because it is only a reflection. The deception is to think that this is all there is. It might lead to an overestimation of the sign. It is also analogous to a general deception of the beauty of the entire visible world and everything it has to offer (which also always includes corruption [man's capacity for evil and the consequent negative effects] in its viscera) vis-a-vis the eternal Beauty. That is the deeper level of this first deception which brings in the second deception which tends to an underestimation of the goods of this world.

Taking the calculable benefits as the whole of reality (this world as the only world) can produce contempt, not valuing it as a part of a greater whole. In that case one would never find the rose one seeks even with a garden full of roses. In fact the girl and the world is not unimportant precisely because she and it are not the whole of reality.

The passing nature of things is not worthless but is essentially united to the whole of reality (time is part of eternity in the Person of Christ), like the body is essential to the girl; the sign and the reality are inseparable, so this life and the after-life are inseparable--we will live forever as we have lived on earth; each man dies as he lives! Thus life on earth, personal dedication, far deeper than the pursuits of the flesh, even through the greatest suffering, for true love and for the constant purification of love, has eternal significance. "...[T]he way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion" Spe salvi, 47

This theme of the greater love of heaven as being the impetus and the meaning and the hope of the loves of the earth was the theme of Deus caritas est (the very nature of eros being agape directed) and is found in the heart of the encyclical on hope. The Holy Father makes this statement after showing the limits of human reason and human freedom and therefore the limits to hope in human progress.

"It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world. When someone has the experience of a great love in his life, this is a moment of 'redemption' which gives a new meaning to his life. But soon he will also realize that the love bestowed upon him cannot by itself resolve the question of his life. It is a love that remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: 'neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom 8:38-39). If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then--only then--is man 'redeemed', whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances. This is what it means to say: Jesus Christ has 'redeemed' us. Through him we have become certain of God, a God who is not a remote 'first cause' of the world, because his only-begotten Son has become man and of him everyone can say: 'I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me' (Gal 2:20).

"In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf Eph 2:12). Man's great , true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God--God who has loved us and who ontinues to love us 'to the end.' until all 'is accomplished' (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30). Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what 'life' really is...Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we 'live'." SS, 26-27

Only the man who has the love of Christ has a reason to live beyond adolescent enthusiasm. And only the man who can live beyond lust (be it lust of the flesh, lust after things or vain pride of life) has a reason to live at all, because otherwise he will never be satisfied even with all of the roses in the world. Christ is our satisfying sweet Rose: "eat my Flesh and drink my Blood and live!" says the Lord. Only His Flesh will satisfy and He gives the proper value to all of our human relationships which are neither to be worshipped nor despised but nobly pursued in His love.



[1] In Truth and Tolerance Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized that reason (e.g. science) is always in need of love, the love of God, which in its true form is one with the Truth, He is the Truth and therefore the guide also for man's understanding and for the meaning of his life and activity in the world.

"The attempt, in this crisis for mankind, to give back an obvious meaning and significance to the concept of Christianity as the religio vera, must, so to speak, be based in equal measure upon orthopraxy and orthodoxy. At the most profound level its content will necessarily consist--in the final analysis, just as it did [in early Christianity's indissolubly linking the concepts of nature, man, God, ethics, and religion]--in love and reason coming together as the two pillars of reality: the true reason is love, and love is the true reason. They are in their unity the true basis and the goal of reality." p. 183

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our Latin Roots

New York Times

December 3, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
A Vote for Latin

London - At first glance, it doesn't seem tragic that our leaders don't study Latin anymore. But it is no coincidence that the professionalization of politics — which encourages budding politicians to think of education as mere career preparation — has occurred during an age of weak rhetoric, shifting moral values, clumsy grammar and a terror of historical references and eternal values that the Romans could teach us a thing or two about. As they themselves might have said, "Roma urbs aeterna; Latina lingua aeterna."*

None of the leading presidential candidates majored in Latin. Hillary Clinton studied political science at Wellesley, as did Barack Obama at Columbia. Rudy Giuliani had a minor brush with the language during four years of theology at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn when he toyed with becoming a priest. But then he went on to major in guess what? Political science.

How things have changed since the founding fathers.

Of the 7,000 books originally in Thomas Jefferson's library, only a couple of dozen are still at Monticello. The rest were sold off by his descendants, and eventually bought back by the Library of Congress. The best-thumbed of those remaining — on a glassed-in
shelf in Jefferson's study — is a copy of Virgil's "Aeneid."

Jefferson started learning Latin and Greek at age 9 at a school in Virginia run by a Scottish clergyman. When he was at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, a Greek grammar book was always by his side. Tacitus and Homer were his favorites.

High school, Jefferson thought, should center on Latin, Greek and French, with grammar and reading exercises, translations into English and the memorizing of famous passages. In 1819, when Jefferson opened the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (built according to classical rules of architecture), he employed only classically trained professors to teach Greek and Roman history.

This pattern of Latin learning continued for more than 150 years. Of the 40 presidents since Jefferson, 31 have studied Latin, many at a high level. James Polk graduated from the University of North Carolina, in 1818, with top honors in math and classics. James
Garfield taught Greek and Latin from 1856 to 1857 at what is now Hiram College in Ohio. Teddy Roosevelt studied classics at Harvard.

John F. Kennedy had Latin instruction at not one, but three prep schools. Richard Nixon showed a great aptitude for the language, coming second in the subject at Whittier High School in California in 1930.

And George H. W. Bush, a Latin student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., was a member of the fraternity Auctoritas, Unitas, Veritas (Authority, Unity, Truth).

A particular favorite for Bill Clinton during his four years of Latin at Hot Springs High School in Arkansas was Caesar's "Gallic War."

Following in his father's footsteps, George W. Bush studied Latin at Phillips Academy (the school's mottoes: "Non Sibi" or not for self, and "Finis Origine Pendet," the end depends on the beginning).

But then President Bush was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the American classical tradition. Soon after he left Andover in 1964, the study of Latin in America collapsed. In 1905, 56 percent of American high school students studied Latin. By 1977, a mere
6,000 students took the National Latin Exam.

Recently there have been signs of a revival. The number taking the National Latin Exam in 2005, for instance, shot up to 134,873.

Why is this a good thing? Not all Romans were models of virtue — Caligula's Latin was pretty good. And not all 134,873 of those Latin students are going to turn into Jeffersons.

But what they gain is a glimpse into the past that provides a fuller, richer view of the present. Know Latin and you discern the Roman layer that lies beneath the skin of the Western world. And you open up 500 years of Western literature (plus an additional
thousand years of Latin prose and poetry).

Why not just study all this in English? What do you get from reading the "Aeneid" in the original that you wouldn't get from Robert Fagles's fine translation, which came out just last year?

Well, no translation, however fine, can ever sound the way Latin was written to sound. To hear Latin poetry spoken smoothly and quickly is to hear a mellifluous, rat-a-tat-tat language, the rich, distilled, romantic, pure, heady blueprint of its close descendant,

But also, learning to translate Latin into English and vice versa is a tremendous way to train the mind. I think of translating concise, precise Latin into more expansive, discursive English as like opening up a concertina; you are allowed to inject all sorts of
original thought and interpretation.

As much as opening the concertina enlarges your imagination, squeezing it shut — translating English into Latin — sharpens your prose. Because Latin is a dead language, not in a constant state of flux as living languages are, there's no wriggle room in
translating. If you haven't understood exactly what a particular word means or how a grammatical rule works, you are likely to be, not off, but just plain wrong. There's nothing like this challenge to teach you how to navigate the reefs and whirlpools of English prose.

With a little Roman history and Latin under your belt, you end up seeing more everywhere, not only in literature and language, but in the classical roots of Federal architecture; the spread of Christianity throughout Western Europe and, in turn, America; and in the American system of senatorial government. The novelist Alan Hollinghurst describes people who know history's turning points as being able to look at the
world as a sequence of roots: Greece gives way to Rome, Rome to the Byzantine Empire, to the Renaissance, to the British Empire, to America.

You can gain this advantage at any age. Alfred the Great, the ninth-century king of England, who knew how crucial it was to learn Latin to become a civilized leader, took it up in his 30s. Here's hoping that a new generation of students — and presidents — will
likewise recognize that "if Rome is the eternal city, Latin is the eternal language."

Harry Mount is the author of "Carpe Diem: Put a Little Latin in Your Life." New York Times

Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Spe Salvi' at a glance

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Here at a glance are the main points of Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical, "Spe Salvi" (on Christian hope), released Nov. 30:

-- Jesus Christ brought humanity the gift of a "trustworthy hope" in salvation and eternal life, a hope that is directly connected with faith.

-- In the contemporary world, however, religious faith has been replaced with faith in progress and technology, provoking a "crisis of Christian hope."

-- Ideologies like Marxism tried to do without religion and create a perfect society through political structures. Instead, this led to the "greatest forms of cruelty," proving that "a world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope."

-- Some have placed their hope in the mistaken belief that man could be redeemed through science -- but science can destroy the world unless it is guided by religious values.

-- Experience shows that anyone who does not know God "is ultimately without hope," the great hope that sustains life.

-- Christianity cannot limit its attention to the individual and his salvation; Christianity's transforming role includes the wider society.

-- Prayer is an effective "school of hope," as demonstrated by the saints through the centuries. Prayer should not isolate Christians, but make them more responsive to others.

-- Suffering cannot be eliminated in this world but can be transformed by Christian hope. The measure of humanity, for individuals and society, lies in compassion for the suffering.

-- The prospect of divine judgment also offers hope, because it promises God's grace and justice.

Spe Salvi
Benedict XVI put out his newest encyclical on November 30, and it's well worth reading.

Brief summary of the encyclical:

Paul says, "In hope we are saved" (Rm. 8:24). What can justify that?

The Christian faith is not merely informative but performative; it doesn't merely make things known, it makes things happen, because Christian faith involves hope, and the one with hope lives differently, with a new life.

The hope that is redemption is life with God; a good example is St. Josephine Bakhita of Darfur, and this experience is discovered as well in the early Church.

Human beings live lives in a sort of paradox; we want life to continue, for us and for our loved ones, but we don't want merely to live indefinitely. We know and yet do not know what we want, and reach out for something out of our reach. We use the term 'eternal life' to describe this 'unknown' that we want, something that would not merely be interminable but life in its fullest and most proper sense.

Christian hope is not individualistic but social; the known unknown that we seek is to be numbered among a people. But there is an idea that hope is selfish rather than social. We find the reason for this in the foundations of the modern age, in which the disturbing step is taken of trying to find salvation in a union of science and technological practice. Faith became faith in progress, and hope, which is intimately tied to faith, became perverse.

Technological progress must be matched by ethical progress; calculating reason must look beyond itself and direct the will along the right path; fully human freedom requires the convergence, based on something else, of various kinds of freedom. The point put simply: man needs hope, so man needs God.

Institutions, however important, cannot guarantee the moral well-being of the world; even the best ones can only function when people are motivated as a community to assent freely to the social order. Thus we cannot definitively establish the world of good will; free assent must be constantly won over to the cause of good, so every generation in a sense begins anew. Yet it is also the case that ever generation must make its own contribution to those institutions for good and for freedom that can serve as a guideline to the next generation.

We are redeemed by love; in Jesus Christ we can say, "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). This love is life, and it is communal life, for it is union with the one who gave Himself for all. Loving God, we participate in His justice and love for others. We see an example of this in the life of St. Augustine.

How, then, may we learn and practice hope? First, through prayer, prayer that is both personal and guided and illuminated by the great prayers of the Church and the saints in the liturgy. Second, in contexts of action and suffering, we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to good, and courageously place ourselves on the side of good even when it is difficult to do so. St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh provides a useful example of this; and perhaps it would be judicious to revive, moderately and reasonably, the practice of 'offering up' the hardships we experience. Third, by faith in the Last Judgment, which is a faith in the ultimate justice of the order of the world; God's judgment is hope because it is both justice and grace. And fourth, by taking Mary as our sea-star (stella maris) of hope in our journey of faith.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Spe salvi: Jesus Christ is the Remedy to False Hopes

In the previous post we outlined the false hopes presented in the encyclical. Now we shall give the Pope's answer to each of those false hopes. Before we begin though please note that all of the major ideas of this encyclical are found in a small book by Josef Pieper, Hope and History, Munich[1]: 1967, which I have had on the shelf for some time and yesterday read in light of this encyclical. The two works are organized differently, and the philosophical climate has changed in our post-Soviet era with the crises of the Islam/ Judeao-Christian civilization clash, and the demographic suicide of the "enlightened" nations. The major difference in these two works is that the previous optimism of the materialists is gone, the blind faith in progress has been shattered by the failures and disasters and impending disasters caused by the atheistic empires. Today the world has lost all real hope. There are negative indications on all sides: from the destruction of the family, licentiousness, abortion, to war, terror, increased crime, immigration crises, environmental concerns, etc. The Holy Father, being a good father to all humanity, representing Christ, who represents and is one with the heavenly Father, seizes this moment of general despondent disorientation to show the Way. Christ is the Way. God is the purpose of our life and the sure source of Hope. We (believers and non-believers) shall not be discouraged by our failures. We need to renew our hope in the mercy of God, in goodness, in justice, in lasting peace, by looking to the Prince of Peace. This message is particularly apropos during Advent, as we await the coming of Christ at Christmas 2007.

The topics on the "false hopes" are 1) false religions, 2) subjectivist Christianity, 3) misunderstanding of "eternal life" and 4) artificial "redemption". We shall present the Holy Father's answer to each in turn.

1) False religions are saved from meaninglessness and ultimate despair by the personal knowledge of and relationship with the living and true God who fulfills all of their noble traditions and aspirations. "Spe salvi facti sumus--in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom. 8:24)." 1 In this all of us are the same, believer and non-believer (i.e. non-Christian). The Holy Father here shows that all men are in need of hope. No one is born a believer. Coming to faith is the actual beginning of hope: "To come to know God--the true God--means to receive hope...that there is a 'paron' above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person...[The African slave convert Saint Josephine Bakhita] came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her--that he acutally loved her. She too was loved, and by none other thatn the supreme 'Paron', before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her 'at the Father's right hand'. Now she had 'hope'--no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: 'I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me--I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.' Through the knowledge of this hope she was 'redeemed', no longer a slave, but a free child of God." The Holy Father uses this example of how faith in the one true God is also the blessed assurance that changes one's life. That the true God is the one Who is Love and above all worldly power and dominion and above all the cosmic powers too. 3

"The Roman state religion had become fossilized into simply ceremony,...merely a 'political religion'. Philosophical rationalism had confined the gods within the realm of unreality. The divine was seen in various ways in cosmic forces, but a God to whom one could pray did not exist. (cf. Col 2:8)...Gregory of Nazianzen...says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the univers, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and manking, but a personal God governs the strars, that is the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love--a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. Inancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealied himself as Love". 5 (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817-1821)

2) Subjectivist Christianity needs to re-evaluate itself and realize that true Christianity is no human invention but "hypostasis" (substance), real. Christian hope is based on the fact that God, who is love, has loved us and does love us, thus life is worthwhile and possible.

In this section of the encyclical (nos. 24-31) entitled "The true shape of Christian hope", the Holy Father addresses the secularized Christians who tend to displace their hope in God and Jesus Christ, His Way and His Life onto smaller temporal hopes. Christians have an obligation to work for progress in the material sphere, but with the keen awareness that mastery of nature does not necessary lead to mastery over man, because of the problem of human freedom. "...In the field of ethical awareness and moral decision-making, there is no similar possibility of accumulation for the simple reason that man's freedom is always new ans he must always make his decisions anew. These decisions can never simply be made for us in advance by others--if that were the case, we would no longer be free. Freedom presupposes that in fundamental decisions, every person and every generation is a new beginning...The moral treasury of humanity is present as an appeal to freedom and a possibility for it (...not readily at hand like tools that we use)...Even the best structures function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order. Freedom requires conviction; conviction does not exist on its own, but must always be gained anew by the community...24 What this means is that every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs; this task is never simply completed...[G]ood structures help, but of themselves they are not enough. Man can never be redeemed simply from the outside. 25 Here there is an allusion to religious freedom inherent in each human person.

"It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world." And not just any love, only God's love will do! "When someone has the experience of a great love in his life, this is a moment of 'redemption' which gives a new meaning to his life. But soon he will also realize that the love bestowed upon him cannot by itself resolve the question of his life. It is a love that remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: 'neither death, nor life, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separated us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom 8:38-39). If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then--only then--is man 'redeemed', whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances."26 Thus the Christian task in the world is largely social in transmitting the much needed love of God to others. In this regard Saint Augustine described his daily life, "'The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be loberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved.' 'The Gospel terrifies me'--producing that healthy fear which prevents us from living for ourselves alone and compels us to pass on the hope we hold in common."29 Here the Holy Father shows the indispensible task of the Christian in the world in His responsibility to bring God to it, to others! It is not enough to be good or to do good, the Christian has to bring them God in Jesus, he is the true love of God.[2]

"[Unconditional love] what it means to say: Jesus Christ has 'redeemed' us. Through him we have become certain of God, a God who is not a remote 'first cause' of the world, because his only-begotten Son has become man and of him everyone can say: 'I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me' (Gal 2:20). In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope,without the great hope that sustains the whole of live (cf. Eph 2:12). Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God--God who has loved us and who continues to love us 'to the end,' until all 'is accomplished'" (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30). 26-27 Prayer is a major source of that God given hope, as explained in following passage from the Holy Father's first encyclical.

"When we consider the immensity of other's needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what god's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man...It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God's plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeanded and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitiude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty anf failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?" (Deus caritas est, 36-37) Prayer is one of the necessary contexts of true hope. cf. 32-34 Thus our hope is not simply "informative" but "performative"--changing our lives and our world. cf. 4

3. Misunderstanding of "eternal life"

"...[W]e need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loves us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is 'truly' life."31

To have knowledge of and hope in the eternal life promised by God in Christ we need the three "settings" mentioned in the last section of the encyclical, a life of faith. Prayer in communion with the prayer of the Church, Christian action and patient enduring of the suffering which may come, and meditation on the Last Judgement are all essential to Christian hope. Regarding the Last Judgement (the last section of the document, before the concluding prayer to Our Lady) the Holy Father says "I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life." 43 This point needs to be considered in light of this entire document and the particular doubts and anxieties of our age and in light of the constant teaching of the Church. In the encyclical on hope the only allusion to heaven is through the prism of suffering and judgment, in other words, the arduousness of the task, that heaven must be striven for and it is a demanding achievement only possible with God's purifying help: Purgatory (here and hereafter). Suffering is necessary to get to heaven. The deepest suffering of man is relieved only through the merits of Christ's blood, His grace. Therefore, man needs Christ and the assistance of heaven to live. Living for Christ and for heaven gives true meaning to this life and to the suffering of this life.

There is no justice without God, without the Last Judgment. If there were not Judgment (no ultimate Judge) then there would be no rights nor corresponding duties because there would be no permanent guarantee, no truth, and ultimately, no right and wrong. The Judgment is necessary for the defence of reason and freedom which are based in the pursuit of what is good (for man). The very hope that all will be set aright comes from the Ultimate Divine reality. Every idea of goodness is founded in God, in Christ. Thus, "To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope. Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility...God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things--justice and grace--must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right the fire which both burns and saves...It is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears throug us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continuted to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love...grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our 'advocate', or parakletos"(cf. 1Jn 2:1). 47

4) Pope Benedict answers the attempts at artificial "redemption" that modern man too needs God in Jesus Christ to enable him to properly use his freedom and to humbly use reason under His wisdom. Structures in every time and place, according to the particular needs, are necessary to assist in educating man, every man in the proper use of his freedom: for goodness and truth, but with the assistance of the wisdom and law of God. "...[T]echnical progress [must be] matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth..." (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16) [in order to be real progress]. 22 Yes indeed, reason is God's great gift to man, and the victory of reason over unreason is also a goal of Christian life. But when does reason truly triumph? When it is detached from God? When it has become blind to God? Is the reason behind action and capacity for action the whole of reason? If progress, in order to be progress, needs moral growth on the part of humanity, then the reason behind action and capacity for action is likewise urgently in need of integration through reason's openness to the saving forces of faith, to the differentiation between good and evil. Only thus does reason become truly human. It becomes human only if it is capable of directing the will along the right path, and it is capable of this only if it looks beyond itself. Otherwise, man's situation, in view of the imbalance between his material capacity and the lack of judgment in his heart, becomes a threat for him and for creation. Thus where freeedom is concerned, we must remeber that juman freedom always requires a convergence of various freedoms. Yet this convergence cannot succeed unless it is determined by a common intrinsic criterion of measurement, which is the foundation and goal of our freedom. Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope. Given the developments of the modern age, the quotation from Saint Paul with which I began (Eph 2:12) proves to be thoroughly realistic and plainly true. There is no doubt, therefore, that a 'Kingdom of God' accomplished without God--a kingdom therefore of man alone--inevitably ends up as the 'perverse end' of all things as described by Kant (19): we have seen it, and we see it over and over again. Yet neither is there any doubt that God truly enters into human affairs only when, rather than being present merely in our thinking, he himself comes towards us and speaks to us. Reason therefore needs faith if it is to be completely itself: reason and faith need one another in order to fulfill their true nature and mission." 23


[1] It should be interestion to investigate the connection between Ratzinger, Pieper and Munich, especially during the 50's-70's.

[2] Man's constant need for unconditional love never goes away. Man Always needs Jesus. "Love--caritas--will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminated love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable." (Deus caritas est, 29)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spe salvi: Hope and false hope

Pope Benedict's new encyclical is a masterful presentation of Jesus Christ, the only true light for man in the world, in the past and for the future, therefore our Hope, the only true Hope for everyone. The alternative sources of hope in the world are false and inadequate in that, being less than God With Us they are limited by the limitations of men. If our hope is in history and in humanity, then our hope shall be materialistic and lack a soul because material progress alone does not supply good and happy men. For good and truly happy men we need to assist men inwardly to pursue justice and truth and goodness; for that we need divine grace. "[Marx's] real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment. [Marx] forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil." 21 The goal of an earthly utopia is not possible because of the problem of sin. Man needs a supernatural orientation to know how to live and to have the capacity (grace) to live accordingly. And, given the widespread evil in the world, true social justice must be final eternal justice for any real hope in the world, viz. hope that all will be set aright. Christ, our final Judge, who shows us the way of Truth and Justice and Merciful Love for the sake of Goodness, for love of the Father, is therefore the blueprint and the source of our hope. By way of a more detailed summary of the new encyclical I shall present a list of the false hopes and the answers in the one true Hope of Christ, God in the Flesh.

False Hopes

1. False religions: " [W]hen we compare the Christian life with life prior to faith, or with the situation of the followers of other religions...we see [that]...the followers of other religions were 'without hope and without God in the world' (Eph 2:12)...[T]hey had had gods,...they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were 'without God' and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future. (2)

2. Subjectivist Christianity: "Faith is not merely a personal reaching out toward things to come that are still totally absent, [merely] '...standing firm in what one hopes, being convinced of what one does not see'" (Heb. 11:1 German translation) (7) There is a prevalent idea (rooted in the Protestant and later Enlightenment privatization of faith) that "...Jesus' message is narrowly individualistic and aimed only at each person singly." (16)
"[M]odern Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation. In so doing it has limited the horizon of his hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task--even if it has continued to achieve great things in the formation of man and in care for the weak and the suffering." (25) True missionary conviction and zeal have suffered with indifferentism setting in. [2]

3. Misunderstanding of the meaning of "eternal life."
A. "Life": "There is a contradiction in our attitude, which points to an inner contradiction in our very existence. On the one hand, we do not want to die,...on the other hand, neither do we want to continue living indefinitely, nor was the earth created with that in view...Our paradoxical attitude gives rise to a deeper question: what in fact is 'life'?[1]...There are moments when it suddenly seems clear to us; yes, this is what true 'life' is--this is what it should be like. Besides, what we call 'life' in our everyday language is not real 'life' at all." (11)
B. "Eternal"...suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; 'life' makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it." (12)

C. "Eternal life" "Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever--endlessly--appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end--this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable. (10)

4. Artificial "redemption"
A. The critique of Heaven/of theology: e.g. Francis Bacon
"There arose the new correlation of experiment and method that enables man to arrive at an interpretation of nature in conformity with its laws and thus finally to achieve 'the triumph of art over nature (victoria cursus artis super naturam) a new correlation between science and praxis. [The] theological application [being that] the dominion over creation--given to man by God and lost through original sin--would be reestablished." (17) Faith becomes irrelevant in this hope in the unlimited capacity of man to right all of the evil in the world by the capacity of reason and in the exaltation of man and his unrestricted freedom. Reason and freedom become the central categories as the force of good, thereby replacing the Church.(18) "The Kingdom of God arrives where 'ecclesiastical faith' is vanquished and superseded by 'religious faith', that is to say, by simple rational faith." (19)
B. The critique of earth/of politics: e.g. The French Revolution and Karl Marx
"The critique of Heaven is transformed into the critique of earth, the critique of theology into the critique of politics. Progress towards the better, towards the definitively good world, no longer comes simply from science fut from politics--from a scientifically conceived politics that recognizes the structure of history and society and thus points out the road toward revolution--all encompassing change." [Marx] presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized...His error [was] that he forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment." (21)
"Theodore W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb." (22) When man without God makes the rules for the world, then there is no moral compass for the rulers of the world.
C. Salvation in Structures
"[G]ood structures help, but of themselves they are not enough.[3] Man can never be redeemed simply from the outside...It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love...Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God."

True Hope

The Holy Father later indicates the "Settings" for learning and practicing hope. I will simply list them here and elaborate on them later with my next post with his responses to each of these false hopes in the one true hope for man: Jesus Christ. One learns and exercises hope in Prayer, in Action and Suffering (all serious and upright human conduct) and in the Last Judgement (by the realization of the fact that death is immanent and after death comes the Judgement when each man will be repaid according to his deeds).

[1] cf. Benedict XVI address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2006 in which he explained why Europe does not want to have children: There is the problem of time, the problem of definitive decisions in binding oneself for ever and the problem of morality: "The modern spirit has lost its bearings...[W]hat rules should we apply to ensure that the child follows the right path and in so doing, how should we respect his or her freedom?...[W]e are no longer sure of the norms to transmit; because we no longer know what the correct use of freedom is, what is the correct way to live, what is morally correct and what is instead inadmissible...This lack of bearings prevents us from being indicators of the right way to others...Contemporary man is insecure about the future. Is it permissible to send someone into this uncertain future?...[I]s it a good thing to be a person? This deep lack of self assurance--plus the wish to have one's whole life for oneself--is perhaps the deepest reason why the risk of having children appears to many to be almost unsustainable. In fact, we can transmit life in a responsible way only if we are able to pass on something more than mere biological life, and that is, a meaning that prevails even in the crises of history to come and a certainty in the hope that is stronger than the clouds that obscure the future. Unless we learn anew the foundations of life--unless we discover in a new way the certainty of faith--it will be less and less possible for us to entrust to others the gift of life and the task of an unknown future."

[2] cf. Dominus Jesus on the Unicity of Salvation from Jesus Christ and the consequent urgent need to bring Him and His saving message to the world that without Him is lost and without hope; and Truth and Tolerance, Ratzinger "Can one, in any circumstances, simply allow religions to remain as they are, stopping history right there, so to speak? It is obvious that one cannot declare some people to be living in a kind of 'nature conservation park' for religious and cultural history, into which the modern age would not be allowed to come. Any such attempts are not merely undignified and, ultimately, lacking in respect for people, they are also completely unrealistic. The meeting of cultures and the gradual growing together of the separate geographical areas of history into one common history of mankind are grounded in the nature of man himself. Likewise, one cannot make use oneself of the possibilities offered by technological civilization, while at the same time forcing upon other people one's own dream of a pretechnological is a question of justice." pp.75-76
Speaking on the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the prayer for the conversion of the Jews, Pat Buchanan stated that we should continue to pray for the Jews, since, being convinced of the necessity of Jesus Christ for the well-being and fulfillment of life in holiness of every man, it would indeed be anti-semitic to exclude the Jews from our prayers for the conversion of all men to the Way, the Truth and the Life.

[3] That is because man as man must always ultimately determine himself. That is why even religious structures are not enough. True faith, though helped by true religion, must reach the interior of man in his freedom of self-gift.
It is because of man's radical freedom and his essential goodness that the Church never declares a person to be a "homosexual" but rather a person with a tendency who can and must always choose to do good and avoid evil. We cannot say that any person is automatically programmed to do evil or is evil, it is of the nature of man to be able to choose between good and evil: the evil will always harm him while the good will always benefit (even if the results are not readily apparent in this life as in the case of martyrdom).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Significance of This Papacy

"This Pope will go down in history as the Pope of the ecumenical change." The Patriarch of Moscow made this remark regarding Pope Benedict shortly after his election. I have often wondered what exactly he meant and why he should have that type of hope invested in the present Holy Father. Perhaps he feels more comfortable with a German than with a Pole. Perhaps Benedict's style is more appealing to him. Below I shall give why I think this Pope is poised for the reunification of all of Christianity with the Roman See.

He is the first German Pope since the protestant revolt, which began in Germany. Five centuries after that catastrophic division in Christianity and two and a half centuries of "enlightenment" anti-religious propaganda, the only significant Christian sentiment in present day Germany is focused on the Vatican. Naturally the Germans have, as any nation, a pride in one of their own representing the whole world, even if it is from the Vatican. With the renewed prosperity of Europe and the proximity of Germany to Italy, there is a great increase of Germans travelling to Rome over these past couple of years. Consider this. The Polish Pope returned to communist Poland a couple of times and the Soviet bloc collapsed. The German Pope returns to secular humanist Germany a couple of times, something is bound to happen. This Pope is calling for the recovery of the Christian identity of Europe, and for all men to find themselves by looking at Jesus (cf.Jesus of Nazareth). He is the only world leader who is proposing Jesus to Europe and to the world as our only hope. Someone in Germany is bound to respond, and many are already responding, e.g. Peter Seewald.

This is not a nationalistic or ethnic argument although race is a factor here as it is in every culture and cultural change. The main strength of this Pope is the apostolic office and mission. He is a true successor of the Galilean fisherman who is an effective fisher of men. He strives to bring all men to the knowledge of salvation in Christ our only Lord. In England and America we have been witnessing over the past decades a great increase in the number of prominant non-Catholics becoming Catholic, e.g. Tony Blair's upcoming conversion and that of the Irish Anglican federation, as the most recent examples. That only leaves one to wonder what is happening in the East. Are their leaders also being wooed into Catholicism? With the Regensburg Address (the thesis that the major present day heresies are various forms of the error of DeHellenization), the visit to Turkey, the General Audiences on the Apostles and Fathers of the Church (East and West, last Wednesday on Saint Ephream of Syria, and last week on a Persian Father) and the Motu Proprio (reinstating the ancient Latin liturgy, in Europe's ancient unifying tongue and the tongue through which it recieved the Gospel) and the upcoming Pauline Year. Because of these factors I foresee (with the Patriarch of Moscow) something grand on the horizon for Christianity, through the work of Pope Benedict XVI. We shall see. I have to go now for Mass, more on this later...
My theme on this site shall be the fundamental teaching of the Magisterium, presently, and everything I write shall be presenting and interpreting the words and actions of the Roman Pontiff. Basically I propose to give a commentary on the infallible teaching of the Church today. I will strive to magnify the Pope! in the simplest possible terms, and I welcome all who should like to assist in this task, because attaining Jesus is only possible with Peter and through Mary: Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam.
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