30 November 2011

Holy Fear and the Life of Wisdom

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and understanding marks all who attain it."  So says the Psalmist.  This verse, while familiar, is puzzling, and therefore frequently neglected.  In fact, the fear of the Lord has fallen out of fashion and is rarely discussed.  What does fear have to do with wisdom?  And what does wisdom have to do with me?  Wisdom, after all, is the stuff of grizzled old hermits and cloistered contemplatives — deep souls hidden with God in the wilderness.  I, on the other hand, am an incurably pragmatic city-dweller.    Maybe I just want to get to heaven, not become a mystical knight of faith.  And as for fear, doesn't Scripture tell us that "perfect love drives out fear"?  The more we know God, the more we know he loves us, and the less we have to fear from him.  So what place could fear have in the Christian life?

These are strong objections to the words of the Psalmist.  Yet when we survey the words of Scripture, praise for this holy fear recurs constantly.  In the classic text of Isaiah's prophesy concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the prophet says that Christ (and therefore also the Christian) "will delight in the fear of the Lord" (Is 11:3).  When Ben Sira, the chief Old Testament eulogist of Wisdom, sets out to praise its wonders, he refers to the Fear of the Lord dozens of times.  He calls it "glory and exultation, gladness and a festive crown," and promises that those who fear God "will be happy at the end; even on the day of death they will be blessed." (Sir 2:11,13)  The praises of this virtue are sung again and again in the Wisdom of Solomon, the book of Proverbs, the story of Job, and the Psalms.  The scriptural testimony in favor of the fear of the Lord is so overwhelming that, despite our initial reservations, we have to ask: what are we missing?  What's so great about fear?  How does it fit into real life?  A fresh perspective is needed to discover the proper placement of this gift of the Spirit within contemporary Catholic life.

In one of his rare moments of self-disclosure, St. Thomas Aquinas once admitted that he had a mistress: a lady he had pursued his entire career as a priest.  Her company, he said, was free of all tedium, her conversation a perfect delight.  He considered chasing after her throughout his itinerant life more wonderful and more joyful than any other pursuit.  The mistress, he then confessed, was called Wisdom.  

Wisdom occupied the great saint throughout his life, and he loved to talk and write about her.  And what did he say?  He writes repeatedly that wisdom is a gift which allows people to order their lives rightly in thought and action, to see things clearly in terms of their ultimate origins and ends.  Wisdom is a gift from God which draws us to the fountainhead of truth and allows us to know things as they are in the sight of the Creator — to see their ultimate unity, truth and goodness.

This would seem wonderful but impractical — a postcard view from one of those contemplative forests we mentioned earlier — if not for that nagging question in the heart of man, which the philosophers pinpoint as the defining problem of Modernity:  Who am I? Modern man cannot help but fret about the meaning of his existence.  Despite the frequent protestations of many thinkers, human life demands a purpose, and the need for a purpose reveals itself to us as a kind of un-fillable pit hidden in the core of our being.

It follows that wisdom, if we can trust Aquinas to know his beloved, is a supremely practical gift.  Wisdom shows us who we are and helps us to know our purpose.  Without wisdom we are forced to live life blindly, ignorant of who made us or where happiness lies.  But with wisdom we can order all things rightly, according to their true nature and purpose, and we see clearly how every choice and action can help us achieve our ultimate goal.  Wisdom allows us to see ourselves through the eyes of God, to make sense of the world — an increasingly tall order.

If we take a look at the world, it is difficult to deny that most people lack wisdom.  Without a vivid sense of the purpose of life, we frequently try to fill the hole in our hearts with all kinds of things:  money, friends, beauty, health, success...  The list goes on.  But the Christian knows better than this.  The follower of Christ knows from St. Paul that our destiny is to be with God in eternity, and from St. John he knows that we are called to be like God — to see him as he is.

Common Sense chimes in: It's nice that God wants us to be with him and all, but the thought of contemplating God for all eternity could only be made appealing by comparison with a demon-filled fire pit.  With a mild smirk and his characteristic raised index finger, Aquinas answers Common Sense by reminding us of how wonderful life with God is: those who find unity with the Lord of Hosts share in the joy of his divine life.  God is perfectly good, infinitely wise and beautiful, and the goodness of everything we know and love on earth is merely a pale reflection of his glory.  To be with him in eternity is a gift which transcends every natural capacity of our weak human nature.

The Father is waiting eagerly to lift us up in the person of his Son and to make us perfectly happy, but there are some obstacles.  He does not force us to accept the friendship and happiness he offers; he wants us to take it of our own choice.  Choice requires freedom, though, and freedom depends on a right judgment of the truth, without which we cannot pursue what is genuinely good, but will constantly be distracted and led astray.  If the human intellect were flawless and saw things as they are, this would pose no problems. Unfortunately, our minds have been damaged by original sin, and this initial guilt is compounded through concupiscence, which predisposes us to overestimate the value of created goods.  In other words Common Sense has (alas!) suffered a heavy blow to the head and is no longer a sure guide in life.

False judgments arising from concupiscence — that delightfully medieval word for the human being's inborn moral stupidity — harm the intellect, and a corrupt intellect leads the will astray.  A faulty will piles sin upon sin.  It damages the intellect further through the regular affirmation of falsehoods, and reduces the human being from its natural dignity into something closer to a mere animal.  Because the will follows the intellect, the only thing that can stop this cycle is the restoration of its original knowledge of the happiness we were created for.  But since we were created for God, and God's infinite majesty utterly surpasses the capacities of our finite minds, we cannot possibly redeem ourselves.  So, far from even beginning to pay the incredible debt we owe for our sins, we cannot even keep ourselves from sinning more, injuring ourselves and others as we plunge with wicked delight into the depths of despair.

Humanity thus stands in desperate need of three things: a sacrifice to atone for our guilt, a miraculous restoration of our intellect and will, and a guide to lead us down the path to perfection.  These three needs answer St. Anselm's famous question, Cur Deus Homo? Why did God become man?  In his unsearchable providence, the Blessed Trinity has conspired from all eternity to free us from the pit we have dug ourselves.  And how does this plan work?  In Christ we find our atoning sacrifice, in his grace we are restored and perfected, and through his example we are shown the way to happiness.

Christ desires the salvation of all mankind together in one body, so that we can better participate in the perfect unity of the Godhead.  To this end, he employs human ministers to bind us together in his love, so that by serving each other in this life we can more perfectly share in the happiness of the white-robed choirs gathered before his throne.  Through his sacraments, Christ restores the human soul, giving it a supernaturally infused ability to recognize the truth for which it was born.  In the mass we receive the Word in the Eucharist: a perfect sign of Christ's gift, which not only participates in his sacrifice, but also calls us to be crucified with him, and gives us the strength to follow him through death into eternal life.  We also receive the Word by hearing: in listening to the homily and receiving the words of Scripture we are given the opportunity to grow in faith and understanding.  Faith, however, is nothing other than that divine light which re-orients our minds toward God.  It is accompanied by Charity, which rectifies and sanctifies the will, and Hope, which gives us the strength to fight for the joy prepared for us.  These virtues, then, and especially faith, form the essence of the wisdom that so delighted and utterly seduced St. Thomas Aquinas.

Christ has prepared for us this most excellent way to salvation, but while we remain bound to the sinful nature of our birth, obstacles will continue to threaten our progress.  The world is full of genuinely good things, and as long as our knowledge of God is shadowy and imperfect we can be led astray by the illusory promise of an earthly paradise.  In order not to get stuck in the ditches which line the straight and narrow path, we need to learn to avoid them.  The first sin of our parents, according to St. Augustine, was pride — the desire to set oneself above divine providence and become an independent and ultimate lawgiver.  From what we have already said concerning wisdom, it is clear that pride is, by definition, a kind of foolishness.  More than that, pride is diametrically opposed to wisdom.  Since God himself is Truth, and his truth orders all things rightly toward their own perfection, when the proud man removes himself from divine truth, he will immediately and necessarily fall into a pit of ignorance and error.

It follows that we need to avoid pride by pursuing the virtue naturally opposed to it, which will guard our hearts against pride.  Common sense says that this virtue is humility, but humility, as St. Catherine of Siena once explained, follows directly from a sense of the lowliness of our own sinful humanity before the glory of the Ancient of Days.  And this vivid sense, according to St. Gregory the Great, is nothing other than the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord, however, can be understood in more than one way.  Peter Lombard (the great and unfortunately neglected medieval master) speaks of two main ways of fearing God: servile and filial.  Servile fear arises from a concern over the pain and deprivation which may be inflicted as a result of our actions.  Thus a person who is kept from sin because they fear hell acts out of servile fear, which, though good, is imperfect.  The imperfection of servile fear is like the imperfection of attrition, i.e. repentance for sin which comes from fear of "the pains of hell and the loss of heaven."  It keeps a person out of trouble but fails to grasp the heart of the matter.  Filial fear, by contrast, goes right to the heart.

Filial fear is the fear of offending a loved one.  I fear hurting my family or friends, spouse or children, chiefly because I want the best for them and want them to be happy.  When applied to God, filial fear is a fear of transgression which arises from a deep knowledge and love of God's goodness and generosity.  The Christian would rather sacrifice everything than lose his friendship with Jesus, who has created and sanctified him at the cost of his own life, who loves him unconditionally, who is in himself perfect goodness, truth, justice and mercy.

Attempting to see how wisdom relates to the fear of the Lord has thus led us to see how this unlikely virtue solves several extremely relevant problems.  First, it helps us better know who we are and who God is.  Second, by promoting the growth of wisdom, fear of the Lord frees us from that existential angst so common in contemporary intellectual life.  Third, it provides a clue to the genuine meaning of freedom and liberation — freedom from error and liberation from debilitating sinfulness — enabling us to become more perfectly the individuals we were meant to be.  Fourth, and most importantly, it protects us on the path to salvation.  This is why Ben Sira speaks of it so lovingly, when he tells us that "The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, gladness and a festive crown."

28 November 2011


Faith and reason are just different ways of knowing things.
So, when meet Lucinda I see her with my eyes, and I talk to her and hear her voice,
my knowledge of lucinda comes from my five senses.
I don't just see lucinda and know everything there is to know about her
I get to know her better and better as time passes.
That's reason.

Now, there are some things that we can't know from our five senses. There are some people who are so much greater than I could understand that just thinking about them won't get me any closer to knowing who they are.
Angels and God are like that.
But because God loves us and wants us to know him, God gives us a special ability to get to know him without our senses.
He plants knowledge of himself in our hearts,
and if we focus on it, it grows, so that we know him better
That's faith.
Now, the knowledge in our hearts and the knowledge from our eyes are both knowledge.
They both show us real things and help us be familiar with them.
Faith, the knowledge God plants in us, just makes the knowledge of the eyes better  
and they work together, because they're both true

But the knowledge that God gives you is more important 
because it can tell you how to live, 
and what life is all about, 
and what love means
and that's the stuff that makes he knowledge of the eyes meaningful.
Otherwise you just end up living pointlessly
and being an idiot, without realizing
until it's too late.

24 November 2011


The first proclamation of a Thanksgiving Feast Day by the government of the United States (1777):

FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth "in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

23 November 2011


"I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful esthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best: "King Lear," "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet" and "Macbeth," not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium... Several times I read the dramas and the comedies and historical plays, and I invariably underwent the same feelings: repulsion, weariness, and bewilderment. At the present time, before writing this preface, being desirous once more to test myself, I have, as an old man of seventy-five, again read the whole of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, the "Henrys," "Troilus and Cressida," "The Tempest", "Cymbeline", and I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings,—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits,—thereby distorting their esthetic and ethical understanding,—is a great evil, as is every untruth."
—  Leo Tolstoy

22 November 2011


You don't think onions can be delicious my themselves?  Incorrect!


Oh, and then there's this, courtesy of my sister:

Sandra Lee

21 November 2011



"Summary Evaluation of Catholic Theology:
While Roman Catholic theology has a number of doctrines in common with conservative protestant theology (Trinity, deity of Christ, etc.), there are many deviations from orthodox theology.  A fundamental difference is the authority of tradition in addition to the authority of the Bible.  In its outworking, tradition in a sense supercedes the authority of the Bible because tradition and church councils make decrees that countermand and/or add to the explicit teachings of scripture.  The recognition of the Apocrypha is a further deviation.  The place of Mary in Roman Catholic theology removes Christ from his rightful place as sole mediator between God and Men (1 Tim 2:5).  Also the entire system of sacraments is a genuine rejection of the true grace of God and salvation by grace.  Salvation in Roman Catholic theology is not by grace through faith but a complex adherence to the sacraments and rituals as legislated by the church hierarchy."
Taken from Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology: Revised and Expanded
Click here for more.


The very toys of toys, and vanities of vanities, my ancient mistresses,  still held me; they plucked my fleshy garment, and whispered softly,  "Dost thou cast us off? and from that moment shall we no more be with  thee for ever? and from that moment shall not this or that be lawful  for thee for ever?" And what was it which they suggested in that I  said, "this or that," what did they suggest, O my God? Let Thy mercy  turn it away from the soul of Thy servant. What defilements did they  suggest! what shame! And now I much less than half heard them, and  not openly showing themselves and contradicting me, but muttering  as it were behind my back, and privily plucking me, as I was departing,  but to look back on them. Yet they did retard me, so that I hesitated  to burst and shake myself free from them, and to spring over whither  I was called; a violent habit saying to me, "Thinkest thou, thou canst  live without them?"   

But now it spake very faintly. For on that side whither I had  set my face, and whither I trembled to go, there appeared unto me  the chaste dignity of Continency, serene, yet not relaxedly, gay,  honestly alluring me to come and doubt not; and stretching forth to  receive and embrace me, her holy hands full of multitudes of good  examples: there were so many young men and maidens here, a multitude  of youth and every age, grave widows and aged virgins; and Continence  herself in all, not barren, but a fruitful mother of children of joys,  by Thee her Husband, O Lord. And she smiled on me with a persuasive  mockery, as would she say, "Canst not thou what these youths, what  these maidens can? or can they either in themselves, and not rather  in the Lord their God? The Lord their God gave me unto them. Why standest  thou in thyself, and so standest not? cast thyself upon Him, fear  not He will not withdraw Himself that thou shouldest fall; cast thyself  fearlessly upon Him, He will receive, and will heal thee." And I blushed  exceedingly, for that I yet heard the muttering of those toys, and  hung in suspense. And she again seemed to say, "Stop thine ears against  those thy unclean members on the earth, that they may be mortified.  They tell thee of delights, but not as doth the law of the Lord thy  God."

18 November 2011


Chapter 5.— The Opinion Which Devises an Image of the Trinity in the Marriage of Male and Female, and in Their Offspring.

5. Accordingly they do not seem to me to advance a probable opinion, who lay it down that a trinity of the image of God in three persons, so far as regards human nature, can so be discovered as to be completed in themarriage of male and female and in their offspring; in that the man himself, as it were, indicates the person of the Father, but that which has so proceeded from him as to be born, that of the Son; and so the third person as of the Spirit, is, they say, the woman, who has so proceeded from the man as not herself to be either son or daughter, although it was by her conception that the offspring was born. For the Lord has said of the Holy Spiritthat He proceeds from the Father, and yet he is not a son. In this erroneous opinion, then, the only point probably alleged, and indeed sufficiently shown according to the faith of the Holy Scripture, is this—in the account of the original creation of the woman—that what so comes into existence from some person as to make another person, cannot in every case be called a son; since the person of the woman came into existence from the person of the man, and yet she is not called his daughter. All the rest of this opinion is in truth so absurd, nay indeed so false, that it is most easy to refute it. For I pass over such a thing, as to think the Holy Spirit to be the mother of the Son of God, and the wife of the Father; since perhaps it may be answered that these thingsoffend us in carnal things, because we think of bodily conceptions and births. Although these very things themselves are most chastely thought of by the pure, to whom all things are pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving, of whom both the mind and conscience are polluted, nothing is pure; so that even Christ, born of avirgin according to the flesh, is a stumbling-block to some of them. But yet in the case of those supremespiritual things, after the likeness of which those kinds of the inferior creature also are made although most remotely, and where there is nothing that can be injured and nothing corruptible, nothing born in time, nothing formed from that which is formless, or whatever like expressions there may be; yet they ought not to disturb the sober prudence of any one, lest in avoiding empty disgust he run into pernicious error. Let him accustom himself so to find in corporeal things the traces of things spiritual, that when he begins to ascend upwards from thence, under the guidance of reason, in order to attain to the unchangeable truth itself through which these things were made, he may not draw with himself to things above what he despises in things below. For no one ever blushed to choose for himself wisdom as a wife, because the name of wife puts into a man's thoughts the corruptible connection which consists in begetting children; or because in truth wisdom itself is a woman in sex, since it is expressed in both Greek and Latin tongues by a word of the feminine gender.

Chapter 6. — Why This Opinion is to Be Rejected.

6. We do not therefore reject this opinion, because we fear to think of that holy and inviolable and unchangeableLove, as the spouse of God the Father, existing as it does from Him, but not as an offspring in order to beget theWord by which all things are made; but because divine Scripture evidently shows it to be false. For God said,Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and a little after it is said, So God created man in the image of God. Certainly, in that it is of the plural number, the word our would not be rightly used if man were made in the image of one person, whether of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spirit; but because he was made in the image of the Trinity, on that account it is said, After our image. But again, lest we should think that three Gods were to be believed in the Trinity, whereas the same Trinity is one God, it is said, So Godcreated man in the image of God, instead of saying, In His own image.
7. For such expressions are customary in the Scriptures; and yet some persons, while maintaining the Catholicfaith, do not carefully attend to them, in such wise that they think the words, God made man in the image ofGod, to mean that the Father made man after the image of the Son; and they thus desire to assert that the Son also is called God in the divine Scriptures, as if there were not other most true and clear proofs wherein the Son is called not only God, but also the true God. For while they aim at explaining another difficulty in this text, they become so entangled that they cannot extricate themselves. For if the Father made man after the image of theSon, so that he is not the image of the Father, but of the Son, then the Son is unlike the Father. But if a piousfaith teaches us, as it does, that the Son is like the Father after an equality of essence, then that which is made in the likeness of the Son must needs also be made in the likeness of the Father. Further, if the Father made man not in His own image, but in the image of His Son, why does He not say, Let us make man after Your image and likeness, whereas He does say, our; unless it be because the image of the Trinity was made in man, that in this way man should be the image of the one true God, because the Trinity itself is the one trueGod? Such expressions are innumerable in the Scriptures, but it will suffice to have produced these. It is so said in the Psalms, Salvation belongs unto the Lord; Your blessing is upon Your people; as if the words were spoken to some one else, not to Him of whom it had been said, Salvation belongs unto the Lord. And again, For by You, he says, I shall be delivered from temptation, and by hoping in my God I shall leap over the wall; as if he said to some one else, By You I shall be delivered from temptation. And again, In the heart of the king's enemies; whereby the people fall under You; as if he were to say, in the heart of Your enemies. For he had said to that King, that is, to our Lord Jesus Christ, The people fall under You, whom he intended by the word King, when he said, In the heart of the king's enemies. Things of this kind are found more rarely in the New Testament. But yet the apostle says to the Romans, Concerning His Son who was made to Him of the seed ofDavid according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead of Jesus Christ our Lord; as though he were speaking above of some one else. For what is meant by the Son of God declared by the resurrection of the dead of Jesus Christ, except of the same Jesus Christ who was declared to be Son of God with power? And as then in this passage, when we are told, the Son of God with power of Jesus Christ, or the Son of God according to the spirit of holiness of Jesus Christ, or the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead of Jesus Christ, whereas it might have been expressed in the ordinary way, In His own power, or according to the spirit of His own holiness, or by theresurrection of His dead, or of their dead: as, I say, we are not compelled to understand another person, but one and the same, that is, the person of the Son of God our Lord Jesus Christ; so, when we are told that God made man in the image of God, although it might have been more usual to say, after His own image, yet we are not compelled to understand any other person in the Trinity, but the one and selfsame Trinity itself, who is one God, and after whose image man is made.
8. And since the case stands thus, if we are to accept the same image of the Trinity, as not in one, but in threehuman beings, father and mother and son, then the man was not made after the image of God before a wife was made for him, and before they procreated a son; because there was not yet a trinity. Will any one say there was already a trinity, because, although not yet in their proper form, yet in their original nature, both the womanwas already in the side of the man, and the son in the loins of his father? Why then, when Scripture had said,God made man after the image of God, did it go on to say, God created him; male and female created He them: and God blessed them? (Or if it is to be so divided, And God created man, so that thereupon is to be added, in the image of God created He him, and then subjoined in the third place, male and female createdHe them; for some have feared to say, He made him male and female, lest something monstrous, as it were, should be understood, as are those whom they call hermaphrodites, although even so both might be understood not falsely in the singular number, on account of that which is said, Two in one flesh.) Why then, as I began by saying, in regard to the nature of man made after the image of God, does Scripture specify nothing except male and female? Certainly, in order to complete the image of the Trinity, it ought to have added also son, although still placed in the loins of his father, as the woman was in his side. Or was it perhaps that the woman also had been already made, and that Scripture had combined in a short and comprehensive statement, that of which it was going to explain afterwards more carefully, how it was done; and that therefore a son could not be mentioned, because no son was yet born? As if the Holy Spirit could not have comprehended this, too, in thatbrief statement, while about to narrate the birth of the son afterwards in its own place; as it narrated afterwards in its own place, that the woman was taken from the side of the man, and yet has not omitted here to name her.

17 November 2011


5. Everybody knows that those heresies, condemned by the fathers of Trent, which rejected the divine magisterium of the Church and allowed religious questions to be a matter for the judgment of each individual, have gradually collapsed into a multiplicity of sects, either at variance or in agreement with one another; and by this means a good many people have had all faith in Christ destroyed.

6. Indeed even the Holy Bible itself, which they at one time claimed to be the sole source and judge of the Christian faith, is no longer held to be divine, but they begin to assimilate it to the inventions of myth.

7. Thereupon there came into being and spread far and wide throughout the world that doctrine of rationalism or naturalism,—utterly opposed to the Christian religion, since this is of supernatural origin,—which spares no effort to bring it about that Christ, who alone is our lord and savior, is shut out from the minds of people and the moral life of nations. Thus they would establish what they call the rule of simple reason or nature. The abandonment and rejection of the Christian religion, and the denial of God and his Christ, has plunged the minds of many into the abyss of pantheism, materialism and atheism, and the consequence is that they strive to destroy rational nature itself, to deny any criterion of what is right and just, and to overthrow the very foundations of human society.


Ambrose of Milan, St., On the Duties of the Clergy, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 10, Second Series, ed. Schaff and Wace, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).  [For his treatment of the wisdom of God in relation to human wisdom.]
Aquinas, St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, trans. English Dominican Fathers, (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1947). [For the treatment of the human knowledge of God in Ia, and of religious life in IIa IIae.  The discussion of Faith in IIaIIae is also relevant, as is the discussion of Grace, also in IIaIIae.]
Augustine of Hippo, St., “Sermon 179” in Patrologiae Cursus Completus, vol. 38 (vol. 5.1 of Augustine), Ed. Migne, (Paris? 1845)  [For his discussion of the faults with follow in preaching from a failure to study.]
Basil the Great, St., De Spiritu Sancto, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, Second Series, ed. Schaff and Wace, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).  [For his discussion of the necessity of turning from letter to spirit.]
Bedouelle, Guy, O.P.  Saint Dominic: The Grace of the Word, trans. Mary Thomas Noble, O.P., (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995). [For illustration of how Dominic benefited from study in his preaching against error.]
Benedict, St., The Rule of St. Benedict in English, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1981).  [For the discussion of humility, especially the 7th and 9th degrees.]
Bernard of Clairvaux, St., On the Song of Songs, vol. 1, trans. Kilian Walsh, O.C.S.O., (Spencer, MA: Cistercian Publications, 1971).  [On the necessity of Grace in preaching.]
Catherine of Siena, St., Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, trans. Algar Thorold, (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007).  [For her discussion of humility, and as recommended spiritual reading for the brothers.]
Constitutions and Ordinations of the Order of Friars Preachers, (Victoria, Australia: Holy Name Press, 1974).  [For references to the importance of study.]
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, retrieved from Vatican: The Holy See, http://vatican.va on 16 November 2011.  [For the importance of study in preparation for the priesthood.]
Gregory of Nyssa, St. The Life of Moses, trans. Malherbe and Ferguson, (New York: Paulist Press, 1978).  [For general reference but especially the discussion of Moses’s sandals before the burning bush.]
Gregory the Great, St. The Book of Pastoral Rule, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 12, Second Series, ed. Schaff and Wace, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).  [On the danger of pride in over-eagerness to preach.]
Guigo II, The Ladder of Four Rungs, accessed at http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html on 16 November 2011.  [For his discussion of study as foundational to contemplative life.]
Holy Bible: Douay Rheims Version, rev. Challoner, (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 2000). [For the translation of Psalm 67.]
Holy Bible: New American Bible Revised Edition, (Charlotte, NC: Saint Benedict Press, 2011). [For general scriptural references.]
Humbert of Romans, Bl., Treatise on the Formation of Preachers, in Early Dominicans ed. trans. Simon Tugwell, O.P., (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1982). [As a reading recommendation for the novices on preparation for Preaching.  Humbert is excellent.]
Jerome, St., “Letter 125: To the monk Rusticus, on the Solitary Life.” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 6, Second Series, ed. Schaff and Wace, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).  [For his praise of the virtues which come from diligent study.]
John Paul II, Pope Bl., Pastores Dabo Vobis, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, retrieved from Vatican: The Holy See, http://vatican.va on 16 November 2011.  [For the importance of study in preparation for the priesthood.]
Jordan of Saxony, Bl., Jordan of Saxony: On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers, ed. Trans. Simon Tugwell, O.P., (Oak Park, IL: PARABLE, 1982).  [For St. Dominic’s injunctions to humility.]
Midrash Rabbah: Exodus, trans. S.M. Lehrman, (New York: The Soncino Press, 1983).  [For the treatment of Moses before the burning bush, esp. the comment on Exodus 4:10.]
Origen, Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, trans. Ronald Heine, (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1982).  [For homilies II, III, and XII, on the birth, wordlessness, and glow of Moses.]
Philo Judaeus, “On the Life of Moses” in The Essential Philo, ed. Nahum Glatzer, (New York: Schocken Books, 1971).  [For his explanation of the reason for Moses’s profession of wordlessness before God.]
Rites of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons (Second Typical Edition), (Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2003).  [For the reference to Moses in the ordination rite for priests.]
Sayings of the Desert Fathers, trans. Benedicta Ward, (New York: Penguin Books, 2003). [For Hyperichius and John the Short on Humility.]
Septuaginta, Editio altera, ed. Alfred Rahlfs and Robert Hanhart, (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006).  [For the translation of Hagar’s vision of the well in Genesis.]
The Primitive Constitutions of the Order of Friars Preachers, retrieved online from http://www.domcentral.org/trad/domdocs/0011.htm on 16 November 2011.  [For the purpose of the Order as stated in the Prologue.]
The Seven Ecumenical Councils in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 14, Second Series, ed. Schaff and Wace, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).  [For the reference to Moses in Canon I of Nicaea II.]

16 November 2011


From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.

15 November 2011


Wisdom reacheth therefore from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly. Her have I loved, and have sought her out from my youth, and have desired to take her for my spouse, and I became a lover of her beauty. She glorifieth her nobility by being conversant with God: yea and the Lord of all things hath loved her. For it is she that teacheth the knowledge of God, and is the chooser of his works. And if riches be desired in life, what is richer than wisdom, which maketh all things? And if sense do work: who is a more artful worker than she of those things that are? And if a man love justice: her labours have great virtues; for she teacheth temperance, and prudence, anad justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life. And if a man desire much knowledge: she knoweth things past, and judgeth of things to come: she knoweth the subtilties of speeches, and the solutions of arguments: she knoweth signs and wonders before they be done, and the events of times and ages.  I purposed therefore to take her to me to live with me: knowing that she will communicate to me of her good things, and will be a comfort in my cares and grief.

14 November 2011


Write me a haiku on the meaning of life.  E.g.:

The meaning of life
is beatitude with God
in seeing his face.


[Select theses on the will, written about a year ago]

4.  Choice pertains to the ordering of ends: some above others, and one above all.

8.  Because every choice, as an act of will, is oriented toward an end, it follows that every choice is governed in some sense by that which it seeks to attain.

12.  Freedom is bound: by law, by nature, by truth.

17.  The will differs from the intellect.

36.  Man’s last end cannot be chosen but only discovered.  I.e. I cannot “pick” a last end, but it must be revealed to me.

41.  Justification can only be supernaturally accomplished.  This follows from two facts.  First, sin arises properly from (a) ignorance of man’s last end and (b) a perversion in the will by which it prefers some other end to the last end.  Second, the last end and a proper desire thereof can only be introduced externally.  My perverse will cannot correct itself, since it is turned toward its own away and has gone astray.

42.  It follows that contrition is an infused virtue.

45.  The possibility is worth considering, that the human will is most free to the extent that it wills in accordance with the Divine will, which does all that it wills.  For wills are limited to the extent that they cannot do what they will, and the ultimate desire of sin is to achieve beatitude in some good other than the Last End.  Hence the human will encounters limitation and failure to the extent that it acts to achieve these false ends, which it can never achieve, but when it acts to achieve that end for which, by the grace of God, it was created, and which, if it accords with the Omnipotent in its desires, it will necessarily accomplish it.

46.  The human condition testifies to the limitations of human existence already.  We are embodied, weak, appetitive, emotional, temporally located, dependent creatures.  To posit an absolute unbounded freedom in such a state is an act of the most lunatic metaphysical optimism.

53.  Repetition.  We delight to find the same where it is unexpected.

60.  Methodological aporetics.  Agh Agh Agh.

66.  Dmitri is able to reproduce his own narrative throughout the first half of BK.  This implies a certain degree of distance from the narrative, a certain instability.  He knows himself too well.

67.  The truest story we might tell of ourselves is the one we are so immersed in that we could not in fact tell it of ourselves.

13 November 2011


Spring Mending Time

"Spring is the mischief in me," mischief, yes—
The smirking crocus buds peeking their heads
Through fields of white are like frost in the fall:
A sign that something deep's about to change.
And since fresh snowy sheets of white
Once baptized all the barren beds, like giant palls,
So now the melting snow sinks down below,
Its purifying waters warm and thaw
Until they reach the hidden spark whose light's
A likeness in earth's loamy night to Him
Who's never seen. And through some mystery
Life stirs beneath the brown decay and springs,
Reveals itself anew and spreads green sails
To catch the sun and flutter in the breeze—
This is the age you may behold in me.

— Elliot Milco

11 November 2011


A quick florilegium on humility:

"The seventh degree of humility
is that he consider himself lower and of less account
than anyone else,
and this not only in verbal protestation
but also with the most heartfelt inner conviction,
humbling himself and saying with the Prophet,
'But I am a worm and no man,
the scorn of men and the outcast of the people' (Ps. 21[22]:7)."

— Benedict's Rule, Ch. 7

Discretion is the only child of self-knowledge, and, wedding with charity, has indeed many other descendants, as a tree which has many branches; but that which gives life to the tree, to its branches, and its root, is the ground of humility, in which it is planted, which humility is the foster-mother and nurse of charity, by whose means this tree remains in the perpetual calm of discretion. Because otherwise the tree would not produce the virtue of discretion, or any fruit of life, if it were not planted in the virtue of humility, because humility proceeds from self-knowledge.
— St. Catherine, Dialogue

"Abba John said, 'Who sold Joseph?' A brother replied
saying, 'It was his brethren.' The old man said to him, 'No, it
was his humility which sold him, because he could have said,
"I am their brother" and have objected, but, because he kept
silence, he sold himself by his humility. It is also his humility
which set him up as chief in Egypt."

"When Abba Macarius was returning from the marsh
to his cell one day carrying some palm-leaves, he met the
devil on the road with a scythe.  The latter struck at him as
much as he pleased, but in vain, and he said to him, 'What is
your power, Macarius, that makes me powerless against
you?  All that you do, I do, too; you fast, so do I; you keep
vigil, and I do not sleep at all; in one thing only do you beat
me.' Abba Macarius asked what that was.  He said, 'Your
humility.  Because of that I can do nothing against you.'"
— Apophthegmata Patrum

'But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue."'
— Exodus 4:10


Martin knew long in advance the time of his death and he told his brethren that it was near. Meanwhile, he found himself obliged to make a visitation of the parish of Candes. The clergy of that church were quarrelling, and he wished to reconcile them. Although he knew that his days on earth were few, he did not refuse to undertake the journey for such a purpose, for he believed that he would bring his virtuous life to a good end if by his efforts peace was restored in the church.

He spent some time in Candes, or rather in its church, where he stayed. Peace was restored, and he was planning to return to his monastery when suddenly he began to lose his strength. He summoned his brethren and told them he was dying. All who heard this were overcome with grief. In their sorrow they cried to him with one voice: “Father, why are you deserting us? Who will care for us when you are gone? Savage wolves will attack your flock, and who will save us from their bite when our shepherd is struck down? We know you long to be with Christ, but your reward is certain and will not be any less for being delayed. You will do better to show pity for us, rather than forsake us.”

Thereupon he broke into tears, for he was a man in whom the compassion of our Lord was continually revealed. Turning to our Lord, he made this reply to their pleading: “Lord, if your people still need me, I am ready for the task; your will be done.”

Here was a man words cannot describe. Death could not defeat him nor toil dismay him. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live. With eyes and hands always raised to heaven he never withdrew his unconquered spirit from prayer. It happened that some priests who had gathered at his bedside suggested that he should give his poor body some relief by lying on his other side. He answered: “Allow me, brothers, to look toward heaven rather than at the earth, so that my spirit may set on the right course when the time comes for me to go on my journey to the Lord.” As he spoke these words, he saw the devil standing near. “Why do you stand there, you bloodthirsty brute?” he cried. “Murderer, you will not have me for your prey. Abraham is welcoming me into his embrace.”

With these words, he gave up his spirit to heaven. Filled with joy, Martin was welcomed by Abraham. Thus he left this life a poor and lowly man and entered heaven rich in God’s favour.


Fr. Hugh Vincent Dyer on the Friendship of the Saints  (relatively quick reflection, but oh so good).


08 November 2011

06 November 2011


And though only the best of them will be appointed by their predecessors, still they will be unworthy to hold their fathers' places, and when they come into power as guardians, they will soon be found to fall in taking care of us, the Muses, first by under-valuing music; which neglect will soon extend to gymnastic; and hence the young men of your State will be less cultivated. In the succeeding generation rulers will be appointed who have lost the guardian power of testing the metal of your different races, which, like Hesiod's, are of gold and silver and brass and iron. And so iron will be mingled with silver, and brass with gold, and hence there will arise dissimilarity and inequality and irregularity, which always and in all places are causes of hatred and war. This the Muses affirm to be the stock from which discord has sprung, wherever arising; and this is their answer to us.

Yes, and we may assume that they answer truly.
Why, yes, I said, of course they answer truly; how can the Muses speak falsely?

And what do the Muses say next?
When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways: the iron and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses and gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, not wanting money but having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and maintainers, whom they had formerly protected in the condition of freemen, and made of them subjects and servants; and they themselves were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them.

05 November 2011


Historiography is a peculiar field.  Any thoughts?  Reading suggestions?

03 November 2011


Can you tell the diference between professors and hobos?  This is sort of off-color, but anyone who's been around academia long enough can see the point.



The cow is of the bovine ilk
One end is moo, the other milk.

                      — Ogden Nash

02 November 2011


I would like to begin with a word from St Paul: "If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema." Truly, I ought to love the one through whom I have my being, my life, my understanding. If I am ungrateful, I am unworthy too. Lord Jesus, whoever refuses to live for you is clearly worthy of death, and is in fact dead already. Whoever does not know you is a fool. And whoever wants to become something without you, without doubt that man is considered nothing and is just that. For what is man, unless you take notice of him? You have made all things for yourself, O God, and whoever wants to live for himself and not for you, in all that he does, is nothing. "Fear God, and keep his commandments," it is said, "for this is the whole duty of man." So if this is all, without this, man is nothing. Turn toward yourself, O God, this little that you have granted me to be; take from this miserable life, I beg you, the years that remain. In place of all that I lost in my evil way of living, O God, do not refuse a humble and penitent heart. My days have lengthened like a shadow and passed without fruits I cannot bring them back, but let it please you at least if I offer them to you in the bitterness of my soul. As for wisdom -- my every desire and intention is before you -- if there were any in me, I would keep it for you. But, God, you know my stupidity, unless perhaps it is wisdom for me to recognize it, and even this is your gift. Grant me more; not that I am ungrateful for this small gift, but that I am eager for what is lacking. For all these things, and as much as I am able, I love you.

2. But there is something else that moves me, arouses and enflames me even more. Good Jesus, the chalice you drank, the price of our redemption, makes me love you more than all the rest. This alone would be enough to claim our love. This, I say, is what wins our love so sweetly, justly demands it, firmly binds it, deeply affects it. Our Savior had to toil so hard in this, in fact in making the whole world the Creator did not labor so much. Then he spoke and they were made; he commanded and they were created. But in saving us he had to endure men who contradicted his words, criticized his actions, ridiculed his sufferings, and mocked his death. See how much he loved us. Add to this the fact that he was not returning love but freely offering it. For who had given him anything first, that it should be returned to him? As St John said: "Not that we had loved him, but that he first loved us." He loved us even before we existed, and in addition he loved us when we resisted him. According to the witness of St Paul: "Even when we were still his enemies we were reconciled to God through the blood of his Son." If he had not loved his enemies, he could not have had any friends, just as he would have had no one to love if he had not loved those who were not.

3. His love was sweet, and wise, and strong. I call it sweet because he took on a human body, wise because he avoided sin, strong because he endured death. Even though he took a body, his love was never sensual, but always in the wisdom of the Spirit. "A Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord," jealous of us but with the jealousy of God, not man, and certainly not like that of the first man, Adam, for Eve. So those whom he sought after in a body, he loved in the spirit and redeemed in power. How sweet it is to see as man the Creator of humanity. While he carefully protected nature from sin, he forcefully drove death from that nature also. In taking a body he stooped to me, in avoiding sin he took counsel with himself, in accepting death he satisfied the Father. A dear friend, a wise counselor, a strong helper. Should I not willingly entrust myself to the one who had the good will, the wisdom, the strength to save me? He sought me out, he called me through grace; will he refuse me as I come to him? I fear neither force nor fraud which can snatch me from his hand. He is the one who conquered all things, even death, and tricked the serpent, the seducer of the world, with a holy deception. He was more prudent than the one, more powerful than the other. He took to himself a true body but only the likeness of sin, giving a sweet consolation to weak men in the one and in the other hiding a trap to deceive the devil. To reconcile us to the Father he bravely suffered death and conquered it, pouring out his blood as the price of our redemption. His divine majesty would not have sought me in chains unless he had loved me so tenderly, but he added wisdom to his affection by which he deceived the serpent. Then he added patience with which to appease his divine Father who had been offended.

These are the qualities of love of which I promised to tell you. But I have shown them to you first in Christ, to make them so much more acceptable to you.

4. Christian, learn from Christ how you ought to love Christ. Learn a love that is tender, wise, strong; love with tenderness, not passion, wisdom, not foolishness, and strength, lest you become weary and turn away from the love of the Lord. Do not let the glory of the world or the pleasure of the flesh lead you astray; the wisdom of Christ should become sweeter to you than these. The light of Christ should shine so much for you that the spirit of lies and deceit will not seduce you. Finally, Christ as the strength of God should support you so that you may not be worn down by difficulties. Let love enkindle your zeal, let knowledge inform it, let constancy strengthen it. Keep it fervent, discreet, courageous. See it is not tepid, or temerarious, or timid. See for yourself if those three commands are not prescribed in the law when God says: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole strength." It seems to me, if no more suitable meaning for this triple distinction comes to mind, that the love of the heart relates to a certain warmth of affection, the love of the soul to energy or judgment of reason, and the love of strength can refer to constancy and vigor of spirit. So love the Lord your God with the full and deep affection of your heart, love him with your mind wholly awake and discreet, love him with all your strength, so much so that you would not even fear to die for love of him. As it is written: "For love is strong as death, jealousy is bitter as hell." Your affection for your Lord Jesus should be both tender and intimate, to oppose the sweet enticements of sensual life. Sweetness conquers sweetness as one nail drives out another. No less than this keep him as a strong light for your mind and a guide for your intellect, not only to avoid the deceits of heresy and to preserve the purity of your faith from their seductions, but also that you might carefully avoid an indiscreet and excessive vehemence in your conversation. Let your love be strong and constant, neither yielding to fear nor cowering at hard work. Let us love affectionately, discreetly, intensely. We know that the love of the heart, which we have said is affectionate, is sweet indeed, but liable to be led astray if it lacks the love of the soul. And the love of the soul is wise indeed, but fragile without that love which is called the love of strength.

5. See how many examples support what we say. When the disciples were sad at the departure of their Master just before his ascension, after they had heard him talk about this subject, they heard him say: "If you loved me you would rejoice because I am going to the Father." How can he say this? Didn't they love him when his departure made them so sad? In a way they loved him, and in another way they did not. Their love was more tender than prudent, it was sensual but not reasonable; they loved with the whole heart but not with the whole soul. What they loved was not for their own welfare, and so he said to them: "It is good for you that I am going," correcting not their feelings but their foresight. When he was speaking in the same way about his approaching death, Peter who loved him so dearly, tried to stand in the way. When, as you remember, he rebuked him, what was it but his imprudence that he was correcting? Finally what did he mean in saying: "You do not mind the things of God," except: you do not love wisely, you are following your human feeling in opposition to the divine plan. He even called him Satan because although it was in ignorance, he was impeding salvation in trying to prevent the Savior's death. Peter, who had been corrected, later when the sad prophecy was repeated, no longer objected to death but promised he would die with him. But he could not fulfill this promise because he had not yet reached that third degree where he would love with all his strength. Taught to love with his whole soul, Peter was still weak. He was well instructed but not well prepared, aware of the mystery but afraid of bearing witness to it. Obviously that love was not as strong as death which still yielded before it. Later, robed with strength from on high according to the promise of Jesus Christ, Peter began to love with such strength that when forbidden by the Council to proclaim the holy Name, he boldly answered those who gave the order: "We must obey God rather than men." Then finally he attained the fullness of love, when for love's sake he would not spare even his own life. Truly "greater love than this no man has, than that he lay down his life for his friends." Even if Peter did not actually surrender his life then, he did offer it.

So then, to love with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole strength means not being led astray by allurements, or seduced by lies, or broken by injuries.

6. Notice that the love of the heart is, in a certain sense, carnal, because our hearts are attracted most toward the humanity of Christ and the things he did or commanded while in the flesh. The heart that is filled with this love is quickly touched by every word on this subject. Nothing else is as pleasant to listen to, or is read with as much interest, nothing is as frequently in remembrance or as sweet in reflection. The soul prepares the holocausts of its prayers with this love as if they were the fattened offerings of bullocks. The soul at prayer should have before it a sacred image of the God-man, in his birth or infancy or as he was teaching, or dying, or rising, or ascending. Whatever form it takes this image must bind the soul with the love of virtue and expel carnal vices, eliminate temptations and quiet desires. I think this is the principal reason why the invisible God willed to be seen in the flesh and to converse with men as a man. He wanted to recapture the affections of carnal men who were unable to love in any other way, by first drawing them to the salutary love of his own humanity, and then gradually to raise them to a spiritual love. Were they not at just this level when they said: "See, we have left everything and have followed you"? It was only by the love of his physical presence that they had left everything. They could not even bear to hear a word of his approaching passion and death, although this was to be their salvation. Even after it had all happened they could not gaze upon the glory of his ascension without deep sorrow. This is why Christ said to them: "Because I have said this to you sadness has filled your hearts." So it was only by his physical presence that their hearts were detached from carnal loves.

7. Afterwards he showed them a higher degree of love when he said, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing." I think Paul had reached this level when he said: "Even if we once knew Christ in the body, we know him thus no longer." Perhaps this was also true of the Prophet who said: "A Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord." When he adds: "Under his shadow we will live among the heathens," he seems to me to speak on behalf of the beginners, in order that they may at least rest in the shade since they know they are not strong enough to bear the heat of the sun. They may be nourished by the sweetness of his humanity since they are not yet able to perceive the things which are of the Spirit of God. The shade of Christ, I suggest, is his flesh which over shadowed Mary and tempered for her the bright splendor of the Spirit. Therefore in this human devotion there is in the meantime consolation for whomever does not as yet have the Spirit which gives life, at least who do not have him in the same way as those who say: "A Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord," and again: "If we once knew Christ in the flesh we know him thus no longer." For there is no love of Christ at all without the Holy Spirit, even if this love is in the flesh, and without its fullness. The measure of such love is this: its sweetness seizes the whole heart, and draws it completely from the love of all flesh and every sensual pleasure. Really this is what it means to love with the whole heart. If I prefer to the humanity of my Lord someone joined to me by ties of blood, or some sensual pleasure, this would obviously prove that I do not love with my whole heart since it is divided between its own interests and the love of the one who taught me as a man, both by his words and examples. Would I not seem to give my love partly to him and partly to my own? As he once said: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." To put it briefly, to love with the whole heart means to put the love of his sacred humanity before everything that tempts us, from within or without. Among these temptations we must also count the glory of the world, because its glory is that of the flesh, and those who delight in it without a doubt are men of the flesh.

8. Of course this devotion to the humanity of Christ is a gift, a great gift of the Spirit. I have called it carnal with comparison to that other love which does not know the Word as flesh so much as the Word as wisdom, as justice, truth, holiness, loyalty, strength, and whatever else could be said in this manner. Christ is truly all these things. "He became for us the wisdom of God, and justice, and sanctification and redemption." Take as an example two men one of them feels a share in Christ's sufferings, is affected and easily moved at the thought of all that he suffered; he is nourished and strengthened by the sweetness of this devotion to good and honest and worthy actions. But the other is always aflame with zeal for justice, eager for the truth and for wisdom. His life, his habits are saintly, ashamed of boasting, avoiding criticism, never knowing envy, hating pride. He not only flees all human glory but shrinks from it and avoids it, every stain of impurity both in body and soul he loathes and eradicates; finally he spurns every evil as if naturally, and embraces what is good. If you would compare the feelings of these two men would it not appear how the latter was superior in respect to the former, whose love was somehow more carnal?

9. But that carnal love is worthwhile since through it sensual love is excluded, and the world is condemned and conquered. It becomes better when it is rational, and becomes perfect when it is spiritual. Actually it is rational when the reason is so strong in faith that in all things concerning Christ it strays in not even the slightest degree because of any false likeness of truth, nor by any heretical or diabolical deceit does it wander from the integrity of the sense of the Church. In the same way when speaking on its own it exercises such caution as never to exceed the proper limits of discretion by superstition or frivolity or the vehemence of a too eager spirit. This is loving God with the whole soul, as we said before. If, with the help of the Spirit, the soul attains such strength that it remains steadfast no matter what the effort or difficulty, if the fear of death itself cannot make it act unjustly, but even then it loves with the whole strength, this then is spiritual love. I think the name is very fitting for this special love because of the special fullness of the Spirit in which it excels. This is enough for those words of the bride: "Therefore the young maidens love you so much." In those things that are to follow may he open to us the treasure of his mercy, the one who guards them, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon #20 on the Song of Songs

01 November 2011


The will is moved in two ways: first, as to the exercise of its act; secondly, as to the specification of its act, derived from the object. As to the first way, no object moves the will necessarily, for no matter what the object be, it is in man's power not to think of it, and consequently not to will it actually. But as to the second manner of motion, the will is moved by one object necessarily, by another not. For in the movement of a power by its object, we must consider under what aspect the object moves the power. For the visible moves the sight, under the aspect of color actually visible. Wherefore if color be offered to the sight, it moves the sight necessarily: unless one turns one's eyes away; which belongs to the exercise of the act. But if the sight were confronted with something not in all respects colored actually, but only so in some respects, and in other respects not, the sight would not of necessity see such an object: for it might look at that part of the object which is not actually colored, and thus it would not see it. Now just as the actually colored is the object of sight, so is good the object of the will. Wherefore if the will be offered an object which is good universally and from every point of view, the will tends to it of necessity, if it wills anything at all; since it cannot will the opposite. If, on the other hand, the will is offered an object that is not good from every point of view, it will not tend to it of necessity. And since lack of any good whatever, is a non-good, consequently, that good alone which is perfect and lacking in nothing, is such a good that the will cannot not-will it: and this is Happiness. Whereas any other particular goods, in so far as they are lacking in some good, can be regarded as non-goods: and from this point of view, they can be set aside or approved by the will, which can tend to one and the same thing from various points of view.

— St. Thomas, ST Ia IIae q. 10 a. 2