Wednesday, November 25, 2009

4th century quote

Ignoratio enim Scripturarum ignoratio Christi est.

Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

Saint Jerome, commenting on Isaiah 1

16th century quote

Christus Dominus est totius Scripturae Spiritus.

Christ the Lord is the whole spirit of Scripture.

-Jacques Lefevre detaples- early sixteenth century French Humanist

Music Video - C'est Noye - Victoria Vox

A few months back I saw Victoria Vox for the first time at the first annual Milwaukee Ukulele Festival, an event organized by Lil Rev, which brought together musicians of several different styles. I have come to enjoy her music, of which this song is a fine example. Victoria Vox is skilled at song writing in both English and French, and I hope you enjoy this French song, C'est Noye. At the YouTube page for this song, if you click more info at the top right, you will find the text, with English translation. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Little Flower Quote of the Day

Here Therese reflects on an experience in which she was so easily affected by the charms and attentions of the world. It leads up to her First Communion, hence the reference to Jesus' first visit. Her reference to Wisdom is to the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Wisdom, an apocryphal book of the OT, unfortunately kept out of modern Protestant bibles.

God gave me the grace of knowing the
world just enough to despise it and separate myself from it. I can say it was during my stay at Alencon that I made my first entrance into the world. Everything was joy and happiness around me; I was entertained, coddled, and admired; in a word, my life during those two weeks was strewn only with flowers. I must admit this type of life had its charms for me. Wisdom is right in saying: "The bewitching of vanity overturns the innocent mind!" At the age of ten the heart allows itself to be easily dazzled, and I consider it a great grace not to have remained at Alencon. The friends we had there were too worldly; they knew too well how to ally the joys of this earth to the service of God. They didn't think about death enough, and yet death had paid its visit to a great number of those whom I knew, the young, the rich, the happy! I love to return in spirit to the enchanting places where they lived, wondering where these people are, what became of their houses and gardens where I saw them enjoy life's luxuries? And I see that all is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun, that the only good is to love God with all one's heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth.

Perhaps Jesus wanted to show me the world before His first visit to me in order that I may choose freely the way I was to follow.

a deacon's web site

I have created a modest web site, by means of Google Pages, a very simple, user-and-dummy-friendly, and free, web page creator. For a while I just let it sit, but the other day I looked at it again, and touched it up. From time to time I will add content to it, and no doubt its form will evolve somewhat as well.

Danielou on the Sacramental Nature of the Word

The late Jean Cardinal Danielou, S.J., has much to say on the relationship and interplay between Holy Writ and God's gracious work for us in the sacraments. A nice distillation of his thought in this area can be found in his essay, "The Sacraments and the History of Salvation." What follows is one little gem from this article, which helps to remind us once again that it is generally a salutary idea to read the scriptures with the Fathers, in this case Saint Ambrose. I would just add here that Ambrose's reading of Genesis 1 is refreshing, for it shows that the Church, when at its best, recognizes Moses as more than merely a historian; Moses is best understood as a prophet, that is, as a theologian.

Let us go over these analogies. The first is that of the primordial waters sanctified by the Spirit. As the Spirit of God, hovering over these waters, raised up the first creation, so the same Spirit, hovering over the baptismal waters, raises up the new creation, effects our rebirth. The Spirit of God is the creative Spirit.

Christ's word refers to this aspect: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom" (John 3:5). "Why are you immersed in water?" St. Ambrose asks the neophyte. "We read: Let the waters bring forth living things (Gen. 1:20). And things were born. This took place at the beginning of creation. But it was reserved to our own times that water should give you a new birth by grace."

A Sure Sign of Going Rome

Paul T. McCain, executive editor at the Missouri Synod's Concordia Publishing House, out of concern for the Church, one supposes, has issued a warning against Romanist dangers. This warning jumps out at me for any number of reasons, some less important than others. So why not start with one or two of the less important observations to be made.

Jimmy Fallon, as I write this, is interviewing Tommy Lee, and Tommy Lee starts a story by saying that fireworks are illegal in L.A. And as he is saying this, he puts "illegal" in finger quotes. This is a perfect example of an all too common overuse, indeed, abuse, of the quote. McCain, in like manner, is in need of an editor, for at one point in his piece he claims that praising the Tridentine Mass, and frequently quoting the Pope and RC saints are "warning signs" (in quotes) of someone going Rome. This calls into question, logically, whether he thinks that these things are truly warning signs or not. Maybe it is a statement of sarcasm. Maybe he just means that he is not referring to literal physical signs on a street. Yet "warning signs" is used elsewhere in the same blog post without the quotes. Anyway, I found this amusing. I always enjoy a good misuse of quotes. Kind of reminds me of a classic Chris Farley moment from SNL:

That's right, Bennet Brauer here with another commentary. Didn't think the suits would have me back perhaps. Thought they'd have my dairy-air replaced by one of tem store mannequin well maybe I'm not "the norm". I'm not "camera friendly", I don't "wear clothes that fit me", I'm not a "heartbreaker", I haven't had "sex with a woman", I don't know "how that works", I don't "fall in line", I'm not "hygienic", I don't "wipe properly", I lack "style", I don't have "self-esteem", I have no "charisma", I don't "own a toothbrush", I don't "let my scabs heal", I can't "reach all the parts of my body", when I sleep I sweat profusely. But I guess the powers that be will keep signing my pay check until Jack and Jane K. Viewer start to go for the remote so they can get back to commentators who don't "frighten children", who don't "eat their own dandruff", who don't "pop their whiteheads with a compass they used in high school". Thank you, Kevin.

I must observe also, in passing, McCain's use of the term "layperson." Among Confessional Lutherans, the word "layperson" is generally only forgivable when David Scaer uses it. "Layperson" is an offense against the language, and as a brother, I must stand up against such an abuse. Perhaps, though, the Missouri Synod ought to get with the times, and rename its Lutheran Laymen's League the Lutheran Layperson's League.

To be clear, my comments above are essentially humorous, and not all that earnest. But to comment a bit now on the substance of McCain's claims. One of his warning signs that someone is going to Rome is that he quotes Catholic saints. When one man astutely commented that "a Lutheran who is deathly allergic to the writings of anyone the Catholics call a likely headed toward American Evangelicalism," McCain answered with these words, "I suppose it depends on which Catholic "saint" is quoted. Quoting, for instance, "The Little Flower," spouting fluffy speculative nonsense, is not a good example of quoting a person whom the Catholic Church has declared to be a saint." Unless you know of a lot of other Lutherans who are quoting the Little Flower these days online, McCain is now clearly and maliciously claiming that I am about to go Rome. He even calls me a Judas, saying "what you must do, do quickly."

Now I do not mind if someone prefers not to spend time reading Therese. And it is true, to be sure, that we Lutherans do not agree with every aspect of the theological thinking with which Therese was surrounded her whole short life. What I mind, what is truly outrageous, is McCain's innuendo and lies about me and others. Of course, more important than the fact that I mind it is that it is against the mind of Christ.

Little Flower Quote of the Day

I considered that I was born for glory and when I searched out the means of attaining it, God inspired in me the sentiments I have just described. He made me understand my own glory would not be evident to the eyes of mortals, but that it would consist in becoming a great saint! This desire could certainly appear daring if one were to consider how weak and imperfect I was, and how, after seven years in the religious life, I still am weak and imperfect. I always feel, however, the same bold confidence of becoming a great saint because I don't count on my merits since I have none, but I trust in Him who is Virtue and Holiness.
(chapter 4-Histoire d'une Ame)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

replay of a post on reading scripture with Irenaeus

I just noticed this old blog entry which I posted back in the summer of 2007. It is worth repeating here and now, despite the fact that we are nowhere near Saint Irenaeus' Day. Enjoy.

On the feast of Saint Irenaeus, the great second century student of the holy bishop Polycarp, I think I will share here a small passage from Father Stephen Wiest, of blessed memory. In the fourth chapter of his dissertation (a typological study of Acts 6-7), he holds forth on the interpretation of the Stephen section of Acts on the part of the early Fathers. Here is what he writes regarding Irenaeus:

Irenaeus is the first among the Greek fathers to exploit typological correspondences between Stephen and Christ. He employs what I shall call the 'typology of humanity'-figural likeness of the narrative circumstances of Christ and Stephen-for his polemics against the Gnostics of the second century. In Adversus haereses (ca. AD 180-190), Irenaeus attacks the Gnostic disjunction between the God of the OT and the God of the NT.

For his fight Irenaeus drafts Stephen, 'who of all men, was the first to follow the footsteps of the Lord, being the first that was slain for confessing Christ, speaking boldly among the people and teaching them' concerning 'the God of glory' who appeared to Abraham. All of Stephen's words 'announce the same God, who was with Joseph and with the patriarchs, and who spake with Moses.' For Irenaeus, 'the whole range of the doctrine of the apostles proclaimed one and the same God, who removed Abraham, who made to him the promise of inheritance...that He was the Maker of all things, that He was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was the God of glory.' That Stephen was so much like Christ makes it likely that Stephen taught what Christ and all the prophets taught-a 'like unto' argument that remains on the level of the mimetic and deputational views of Stephen.

Irenaeus transcends, however, the typology of humanity to achieve what I shall call the 'typology of divinity.' Stephen turns out to be far more than 'like' Christ in his circumstances. Stephen's perfection of doctrine-held fast until the perfection of Stephen himself by death-attests the integral union of Stephen with 'perfection incarnate' in Christ. This becomes clear in another passage of Adversus haereses. In this section, Irenaeus ties the God of the OT to the God of the NT and binds the church doctrine of his own day to the doctrine of the apostles with an intricate rhetorical knot tucked around Stephen:

'Both the apostles and their disciples thus taught as the Church preaches, and thus teaching were perfected, wherefore also they were called away to that which is perfect-Stephen, teaching these truths, when he was yet on earth, saw the glory of God, and Jesus on his right hand, and exclaimed, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." These words he said, and was stoned; and thus did he fulfill the perfect doctrine, copying in every respect the Leader of martyrdom, and praying for those who were slaying him, in these words: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Thus were they perfected who knew one and the same God, who from beginning to end was present with mankind in the various dispensations...Those, therefore, who delivered up their souls to death for Christ's Gospel-how could they have spoken to men in accordance with old-established opinion? If this had been the course adopted by them, they should not have suffered; but inasmuch as they did preach things contrary to those persons who did not assent to the truth, for that reason they suffered.'

Irenaeus advances his logic by means of word-play. Stephen, preeminent among Christ's disciples, confessed the 'perfect' doctrine and was 'perfected' by his suffering and death for it. Through his martyrdom Stephen both saw and was called away to that which is 'perfect', Christ. The conformity of martyred Stephen to Christ, 'the Leader of martyrdom', the vision of Christ granted Stephen, Stephen's Christ-like final petition for the forgiveness of his enemies and the welcome provided dying Stephen by Christ prove the perfection of perfected Stephen's doctrine about the Perfect One. Stephen's doctrine is identical to that confessed and suffered for by many subsequent Christians made perfect by martyrdom. For Irenaeus, Stephen transcends simple imitation of Christ to partake of Christ's own divine perfection.

Thus far Stephen Wiest, whose whole dissertation is simply outstanding. Christians of the 21st century honor Irenaeus by actually reading and meditating upon what he would teach us in his writings, such as his Adversus haereses. In his battle against the enemies of Christ in his own time, he showed us how to read scripture, as a whole, a christological whole. And just as he 'drafted' St. Stephen in this battle, Stephen Wiest drafted Irenaeus, and can help us do the same.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Little Flower Quote of the Day

This passage I wanted to share because, even though we are not yet up to Therese's First Communion, we already see in this episode the joy of First Communion. For it is a reflection of how she felt the day of her older sister's First Communion. Could a degree of her feeling on this occasion be merely the subjective emotional reaction of a young girl, and of sisterly love? Of course. Let us, however, mark well in some of these types of passages how well prepared a child can be made for his First Holy Communion. It is possible to induce a Christian child to both know what the Sacrament is, and to have a deep hunger for it. It is the work of not only the pastoral ministry, but also teachers, and parents, and deacons too, if you have one.

Note also that, as you will surely pick up from this text, the age of First Communion in that age was not as early as it ought to have been. In the Roman Church, it was Pope Pius X in the early twentieth century who again lowered the age. And when she refers to "going to the Abbey," she is referring to the fact that at a certain age the girls were enrolled in the day school there. Here is Therese:

What gave one joy or pain did exactly the same to the other. Yes, our joys were in common. I felt this especially on the beautiful day when Celine made her First Communion. I wasn't going to the Abbey as yet because I was only seven, but I have preserved a very sweet memory of the preparation you, my dear Mother, had Celine make. You took her, each evening, on your knees and spoke to her of the great action she was about to perform; I listened eagerly in order to prepare myself also, but very often you told me to go away as I was too little. Then my heart was very heavy and I thought four years was not too long to prepare to receive God.

One evening, I heard you say that from the time one received one's First Communion, one had to commence living a new life, and I immediately made the resolution not to wait for that day but to commence the very same time as Celine. Never had I felt I loved her as much as I did during her three-day retreat; for the first time in my life, I was separated from her and I didn't sleep in her bed. The first day, forgetting she was not going to return, I kept a small bunch of cherries that Papa had brought me in order to eat them with her. When I didn't see her returning home, I was really sad. Papa consoled me by saying he would take me the next day to the Abbey to see my Celine and that I would give her another bunch of cherries! The day of Celine's First Communion left me with an impression similar to my own First Communion. When awakening in the morning all alone in the big bed, I felt inundated with joy. "It's today! The great day has arrived." I repeated this over and over again. It seemed it was I who was going to make my First Communion.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lil Rev at Alterra

Lil Rev will again be performing with Frogwater this Christmas season, at Alterra Coffeehouse. For info, please read this post of the Alterra blog. They will be performing four sets:

On Saturday the 19th of December (Ember Saturday & the third day of the O Antiphons) they will be at the Alterra on the Lakefront from 11 am - 1 pm, and then at the Alterra on Humbolt in Riverwest from 2 pm - 4 pm.

Then, on Sunday the 20th, that is, on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, they will be at a couple of locations in the burbs: 11 am in Grafton, and 2 pm in Wauwatosa.

I always recommend seeing Lil Rev. Ruth and I will probably be at the one in Riverwest, unless I end up having to work.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Little Flower Quote of the Day

In this passage from Therese's memoirs, there is a point or two which will seem questionable to many Lutheran ears. Lutherans are taught that in confession there ought never be an exhortation after the absolution, which would confuse God's grace with the burden of the law. It is important to remember that in this case Therese remembers this "exhortation" as an "encouragement." It is also important to balance this with the understanding she expresses of the power of the absolution. Namely, God's absolution does what it says, and there is no talk of conditions. (I hasten to add here that there is in fact something offensive about the Lutheran teaching on confession, namely, that in most parishes it is only theoretical.) Secondly, "devotion" to Mary is foreign to most Lutherans. Certainly tenderness and love of the Virgin Mother of God is in no way offensive in itself. In fact, it is most wholesome, as I will discuss more fully in another blog post.

Oh! dear Mother, with what care you prepared me for my first confession, telling me it was not to a man but to God I was about to tell my sins; I was very much convinced of this truth. I made my confession in a great spirit of faith, even asking you if I had to tell Father Ducellier I loved him with all my heart as it was to God in person I was speaking.

Well instructed in all I had to say and do, I entered the confessional and knelt down. On opening the grating Father Ducellier saw no one. I was so little my head was below the arm-rest. He told me to stand up. Obeying instantly, I stood and faced him directly in order to see him perfectly, and I made my confession like a big girl and received his blessing with great devotion, for you had told me that at the moment he gave me absolution the tears of Jesus were going to purify my soul. I remember the first exhortation directed to me. Father encouraged me to be devout to the Blessed Virgin and I promised myself to redouble my tenderness for her. Coming out of the confessional I was so happy and light-hearted that I had never felt so much joy in my soul. Since then I've gone to confession on all the great feasts, and it was truly a feast for me each time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lulu Alert

Dear readers, potential buyers, and friends of potential buyers:

This weekend is having a sale. 15% off any order this weekend. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saint Martin, Bishop and Confessor

I haven't the time today to explore the great subject of Saint Martin at any length, as I would like, but I would make a couple of observations.

The Missouri Synod, with this feast, continues its refusal to use the term 'saint' for those on its list of commemorations. If Martin of Tours is not a saint, then why commemorate him? Such criticisms will seem nit picky to some, and will feel to some to be getting rather old. Shouldn't we, after all, simply be grateful for all the good things in the new worship resources? What ought to get old, on the other hand, are all the ways in which these resources display shortsightedness, and all too much reflect the limited thinking of our own protestantized culture. They won't "get old," though, unless gadflies who care about their Church keep the issues alive. Another example of this limited, protestantized thinking, is to refer to Saint Martin merely as "Pastor." Of course the mini bio on the Synod's web site admits that he was made bishop of Tours. But why the need to downplay his office as bishop in the title given him in his commemoration? Just as the makers of these lists would, I am sure, agree that Martin is a saint, the real question is not what they think of Martin, but why the need to downplay these truths. Is being a pastor the same as being a bishop? Sure, it is exactly the same, at least if one can think of himself as pastor of a whole city, or even a whole region, filled with several parishes, and a crew of presbyters and deacons. So why do we play these games?

Just as strange is that some apparently think that Martin should be commemorated not only for his episcopal office, but also for the fact that before his conversion he was a soldier. I myself see much rich significance in Martin's military experience. There is great potential, for example, for connecting allegorically the soldier Martin with the Lord who fights for us against sin and the devil, whose office Martin would go on to fill. Yet to commemorate Martin as "soldier, pastor, and bishop," seems a bit much. It fits all too well the militaristic politics of the day.

Martin was a great saint, the renown of whose holiness extended throughout the long history of the Western Church, especially in France. He was a faithful and fearless bishop, and a confessor of Christ, evidenced in both his teaching and life. I would add another thought here. Martin was also a faithful catechumen, who can serve as an example for all catechumens today. Polycarp had his John, Augustine had his Ambrose, and we ought not forget that Martin had Hilary, the great bishop of Poitiers. Hilary recognized in Martin much potential for service in the Church, and even offered Martin diaconal ordination before Martin felt ready for it.

So much to say of Saint Martin. But let me at this point encourage you to do two things, if you can.

1. Go to church. If your church has Mass today, take advantage of that gift, if you are able. If you cannot, at least be sure to thank God for the life He lived in the holy bishop of Tours.

2. Read a good treatment of Saint Martin, such as Regine Pernoud's excellent book, Martin of Tours, published by Ignatius Press.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the theological attitude

The late Cardinal Michele Pellegrino, sometime archbishop of Turin, provided an insightful introduction to Augustine's preaching in Part III, volume I of the new, comprehensive collection of Augustine's works in English, The Works of Saint Augustine, from New City Press. He brings forth many items of interest to students of Augustine and of the church life of fourth century Hippo. What I would highlight here, however, is Saint Augustine's attitude to the preaching of the Word of God.

There are many preachers today in the church, and many theologians in the academy, who take great pride in their expertise of their subject matter. I have witnessed it personally. I am not here to judge them, for they are a product of a certain culture, a certain approach to theology. It is what I would call the academic attitude. It is quite commonplace in the realm of modern biblical scholarship, but it can also be found in the preaching ranks of "conservative" churches. Unfortunately, one even encounters it in the seminary. One might expect that the greatest preacher and theologian of the Western Christian tradition, and a man whose preaching was always in demand, even by pagans and heretics, would have a fairly exalted view of his abilities over against the text of the scriptures. Not so. Instead, he gives us a different example. His is what I would call the theological attitude.

Let us pick up Pellegrino's discussion on page 35:

Precisely because the scriptures speak of God, they surpass human understanding, as Augustine says when commenting on the Prologue of the gospel of John: "And the Word was God. We are talking of God. Is it surprising that you do not understand? If you understood, he would not be God. Devoutly admit your ignorance rather than make a display of a rashly claimed knowledge. To touch God with the mind in even the slightest degree brings great happiness; to comprehend him is utterly impossible." The "mystery" of the scriptures thus urges us to humility.

Further on Augustine is quoted in one of his sermons thus,

That which is clear in the abundant riches of the sacred scriptures feeds us, that which is obscure urges us on; the former satisfies our hunger, the latter keeps us from becoming disgusted.

And then this:

Our attitude, dear brothers and sisters, as we meditate on the sacred scriptures and explain them should be by the indisputable authority of the scriptures themselves. That is, we should explain them with faith so that what is said obscurely will urge us to study.

The more the theologian learns to pray the scriptures, and meditate upon them in faith, that is, by faith in Christ, Whose cross alone is our theology, the more he will ready himself to expound the scriptures, not as one who stands over them, but as one who has learned to submit himself to them. When I make reference to the "theologian," I am assuming a man who studies the theological languages, and is skilled at the whole discipline of theology. I also have in mind someone who knows the liturgy, and makes it his home. His study, meanwhile, must be an extension of his prayer desk. When the theological task is approached in this way, unlike with other learned disciplines, the subject matter is not the object of our manipulations and experiments, but is truly the subject, and the theologian is the object. The Word is the Artist, and He has His way with the theologian and preacher. In this way, theology is best seen as an art, rather than a science.

The Christian, whoever he is, as a hearer, a lector, or a preacher of the Word, benefits from the Word by submitting himself to it in faith. The tradition of the Church has many great teachers and examples of this truth. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the best of them is Augustine, the Bishop, whose preaching vocation he never shied from and never took for granted.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Rights of Woman

A poem by Robert Burns

The Rights of Woman

Spoken by Miss Fontenelle on her benefit night

While Europe's eye is fix'd on mighty things,
The fate of empires and the fall of Kings;
While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

First, in the sexes' intermix'd connexion,
One sacred Right of Woman is Protection:
The tender flower that lifts its head, elate,
Helpless must fall before the blasts of fate,
Sunk on the earth, defac'd its lovely form,
Unless your shelter ward th' impending storm.

Our second Right - but needless here is caution -
To keep that right inviolate's the fashion:
Each man of sense has it so full before him,
He'd die before he'd wrong it - 'tis Decorum!

There was, indeed, in far less polish'd days,
A time, when rough rude Man had naughty ways:
Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot,
Nay, even thus invade a lady's quiet!
Now, thank our stars! these Gothic times are fled;
Now, well-bred men - and you are all well-bred -
Most justly think (and we are much the gainers)
Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.

For Right the third, our last, our best, our dearest:
That right to fluttering female hearts the nearest,
Which even the Rights of Kings, in low prostration,
Most humbly own - 'tis dear, dear Admiration!
In that blest sphere alone we live and move;
There taste that life of life - Immortal Love.
Smiles, glances, sighs, tears, fits, flirtations, airs;
'Gainst such an host what flinty savage dares?
When aweful Beauty joins with all her charms,
Who is so rash as rise in rebel arms?

But truce with kings, and truce with constitutions,
With bloody armaments and revolutions;
Let Majesty your first attention summon,
Ah! ca ira! The Majesty of Woman!!!