January 31, 2012
Sometimes contributor to Whosoever Desires, Paddy Gilger, S.J., is behind a new Jesuit online venture, a new page called The Jesuit Post. Yours truly has an article on the page, in which readers of Whosever Desires might be interested. Here’s how it begins:
If you listened carefully to the new edition of the Roman Missal rolled out this Advent, you might remember hearing mention of a strange menagerie of heavenly creatures.
The Advent Prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayer—the part that begins “It is truly right and just” and ends with us all singing “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts”—invoke the songs of Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, and Powers; other Prefaces throughout the year throw in Virtues and Seraphim for good measure. But what exactly are all these heavenly gizmos the priest is inviting us to join in acclamation?
It is perhaps best to start by pointing out that in this context, thrones are not chairs sat upon by kings; dominions are not regal estates; and virtues have nothing to do with the established habits of decent human beings. All of these words refer to types of angels mentioned in Sacred Scripture.
Now I am no expert in either angelology – though I do like saying the word – or Biblical studies, but you don’t have to be a specialist to notice how thoroughly permeated with spiritual beings the world of the Bible is. We tend to gloss over mention of the heavenly hierarchies these days, not talking about them much because of how foreign the notion of angels is to our own worldview. And we don’t talk about thrones and dominions because, well, we don’t even know how to talk about them.
To continue, check out The Jesuit Post…
September 27, 2011
Today’s Gospel reading happens to correspond to a presentation that I recently made in one of my classes on Luke’s use of Elijah imagery in his Gospel. Luke’s use of Elijah is complex. He does not make a simply one-to-one typological correspondence, but rather seems as concerned to contrast Jesus and Elijah as compare them. Luke contrasts Elijah and Jesus not to criticize Elijah, but rather to show that Jesus is something more than a prophet. Jesus is the Lord, and a Messiah who will bring salvation to all people, not through violence but through the cross.
Jesus explicitly invokes Elijah (and Elisha) in Luke 4:16-30. Here, he reverses the people’s expectations that the Messiah would be a warrior king who would bring God’s blessings on Israel and his wrath on her enemies. Jesus first reads a messianic passage from Isaiah about the blessings the Messiah will bring, and says that this passage is fulfilled in their hearing. This accords with people’s hopes and expectations. But then, he invokes Elijah and Elisha who gave God’s blessings to Gentiles, to say that God’s blessings will be extended outside of Israel. This contradicts the people’s hopes and expectations about membership in the Kingdom of God, and provokes their wrath.
Again in Luke 7:11-17, the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, there are allusions to Elijah raising the son of the widow who fed him during the famine (1 Kings 17:17-24). Here, though, there are notable discontinuities. Elijah uses almost magical efforts to raise the boy–laying upon him and three times breathing upon him (according to the Greek Old Testament which Luke would have used), completed by a powerful plea to the Lord (kyrios in the Greek Old Testament) to raise the boy. By contrast, Jesus simply commands the boy and he is raised. Elijah must beg the Lord for the miracle, whereas Jesus simply commands. Significantly, Luke calls Jesus only “kyrios” in this passage. Elijah must call on the Lord, Jesus is the Lord. Read the rest of this entry »
June 21, 2011
Last week, I argued that Dan Dennett’s Breaking the Spell amounts to an attack on a straw man, “Religion,” an amalgam of what he calls “an unorganized set of dozens or hundreds—or billions—of quite different possible theories.”
Dennett is right in noting that many of these theories are vague and incompatible, and it would be a mistake to treat them all as equally valid. (Another reason believers should be on guard against relativism and syncretism, which result in religious absurdities at which skeptics rightly scoff.)
His straw man stuffed, however, Dennett is determined to beat the hay out of him. His argument is that in weighing up the pluses and minuses of Religion, it turns out that the phenomenon has been a net negative to human progress. There’s nothing even remotely scientific in Dennett’s method here, and he relies on stringing together a series of loaded associations without seriously exploring what his examples actually prove.
Read the rest of this entry »
March 17, 2010
In simple and straightforward terms, the first letter of John captures the essence of one of the most important themes in all of Scripture. The author of this letter does not let us forget that God first loved us before we loved God in return. From the very start, Scripture represents this dynamic in the relationship between God and humanity. Whether it is Adam, Abram, Joseph or David, God makes the first move. God creates, calls, and chooses a people and that people, in response, commit their lives and their destinies to this God. In scripture, being chosen obliges the chosen people to put their trust in God. To contemporary readers of these stories, though, the idea of God selecting one person, one people, one nation over others seems off-putting at the very least and, at worse, a possible rationalization for violence/oppression on behalf of God. When these all the elements of these stories of election are considered, one can see that, far from justifying the basest desires of the elect, these stories emphasize the people’s experience of God’s own desire to liberate all people. The people, in their turn, are moved to place their trust in the Lord. Consequently, all of their actions are colored by their having placed their trust in this God who first loved them. Read the rest of this entry »
November 9, 2009
I’m currently taking a course on the thought of Joseph Ratzinger, so his thoughts tend to show up a lot on these posts. Here’s an interesting quote from him in light of Nathan’s post, in which Ratzinger, as prefect, comments on the relationship between theologians and the Church’s teaching authority:
[Donum Veritatis] states—perhaps for the first time with such candor—that there are magisterial decision which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy. Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction. In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century, especially the decisions of the then Biblical Commission. As warning calls against rash and superficial accommodations, they remain perfectly legitimate: no less a personage than J. B. Metz, for example, has remarked that the anti-Modernist decisions of the Church performed the great service of preserving her from foundering in a bourgeois-liberal world. Nevertheless, with respect to particular aspects of their content, they were superseded after having fulfilled their pastoral function in the situation of the time (The Nature and Mission of Theology, 106).
Given the context of Metz (no magisterial “yes-man”), the “bourgeois-liberal world” would probably have been the milieu of German, Protestant academics, who proved generally accommodating to the Nazi party. Read the rest of this entry »