Online Reading Group: Before Church and State

I have been reading— almost devouring— Andrew Willard Jones’s new book new book, Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX.  Having been thinking about the relation of temporal and spiritual power for a long time now, I have found it highly illuminating, and therefore also highly exhilarating and exciting. Jones describes is own exhilaration on discovering John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory, and Before Church and State has had a similar effect on me.  Wanting to go through it again more slowly, I have decided to start an online reading group, with some friends from The Josias, and anyone else who would like to join us. We will go through the book slowly, one chapter a week. The discussion of the introduction will start on Thursday, June 1st. To sign up, fill out the following form:

Ascendit Deus in jubilatione

Sancrucensis

The liturgy of Ascension Thursday puts a tremendous emphasis on joy: ‘Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,’ as a collect puts it. The first reason for joy is the triumph of Our Lord: Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae. ‘God has gone up with shouts of joy, the Lord with a trumpet-blast.’ As the members of His body and the subjects of Kingdom we rejoice that the Lord has gone into His glory. The Exodus of Christ from death to life is not complete until He has left this world of corruption, and returned in triumph to the glory that He had before the beginning. The second reason for joy is that exaltation of our Head gives hope to us the members that we will attain to glory: Christi … ascénsio est nostra provéctio, et quo procéssit glória cápitis, eo spes vocátur et…

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The Five Wounds

Ask Me to hide you in My wounds. There is a place for you in each of My five wounds; each of them represents a refuge against the temptations that threaten you, and the traps set by the devil, who would ensnare you and rejoice to see you fall.

The wound in My right hand is your refuge from sins of disobedience and self-will. Take refuge there when you are tempted to take the path that is easy and broad.

The wound in My left hand is your refuge from sins of selfishness, from directing all things to yourself, and grasping the attention of others by seeking to take to yourself what your right hand has given Me.

The wound in My right foot is your refuge from sins of inconstancy. Take refuge there when you are tempted to be inconsistent, and when you waver in your resolutions to love Me above all things, and to place Me first in your affections and in your desires.

The wound in My left foot is your refuge against sins of sloth and of spiritual lethargy. Take refuge there when you are tempted to give up the struggle and to consent to despair and discouragement.

Finally, the wound in My side is your refuge from every false love and every fleshly deceit promising sweetness, but giving bitterness and death instead. Take refuge in My pierced side when you are tempted to look for love in any creature. I have created you for My love, and My love alone can satisfy the desires of your heart. Enter, then, the wound in My side and, penetrating even into My Heart, drink deeply of the springs of love that will refresh and delight your soul, and wash you in preparation for the wedding of your soul with Me, for I am the Bridegroom of your soul, your Saviour from all that would defile you, and your God who is love and mercy now and unto the ages of ages. (In Sinu Jesup. 162)

“A most fiery sting of yearning”

We have received the commandment to love God: the soul bears the capacity to love implanted within itself by God at its first constitution. Of this we need no proof from without, for each may discover the traces of what we say within himself and from himself. Every human being desires all that is good, and we are drawn by a kind of natural disposition towards all that we think to be good. Indeed, without being taught, we are drawn in love towards blood relatives and those closest to us in the flesh, while we are attached with our whole affection and good services to those from whom we receive benefits.

But what greater good can we have than God? Indeed, what other good is there but God alone (cf. Matt 19:17)? What loveliness, what splendour, what beauty which we are naturally moved to love is of such a kind as is in God and more claims our confidence? What grace is so great, what flame of love which sets alight the secret and inward places of the soul is like to that love of God which ought to inflame the hidden places of the mind, especially if it is cleansed of all defilement, if it is a pure soul which with true affection says: I am wounded by love (Song 2:5)?

The utterly ineffable love of God— as I at any rate experience it— which can be more easily experienced than spoken of, is a certain inexplicable light. Even if speech should cite or compare a lightning flash or a dazzling brilliance, still, the hearing cannot take it in. Invoke if you will the rays of the morning star, the splendours of the moon, or the light of the sun itself— in comparison with that glory they are all more obscure and murkier by far than an ink-black night and the gloom of a dense fog compared with the flawlessly clear light of the noon-day sun.

Such loveliness is not seen by bodily eyes; it is perceived only by the soul and the mind. If perchance this loveliness has grazed the mind and heart of the saints, it left embedded in them a most fiery sting of yearning for it,  till at length, as if languishing in the fires of such love and shuddering at this present life, such as these would say: When shall I come and appear before the face of God? (Ps 41:2), and again, one who is burning in the flames of this ardour would say: My soul has thirsted for the living God (Ps 41:1),  and being insatiable in his desire, would pray that he might see the delight of the Lord and find shelter in his holy temple (Ps 26:4). So therefore we naturally long for and love the good. (The Rule of St Basil)

The Spirit of Burke

In a post on Brexit I had asked the following rhetorical question: “Can much of the spirit of either Burke or Cobbett be found anywhere in practical politics today?” As far as the spirit of Cobbett goes, the question remains rhetorical. But Theresa May’s new Conservative Manifesto has more of the spirit of Burke than one would expect from a successor of Margaret Thatcher. For instance: Continue reading

Julian Green in Klagenfurt

In a moving essay on the great American-French novelist Julien (Julian) Green, Rick Yoder quotes many passages from Green’s autobiographical writings and diaries expressing his deep longing for God, and the insight that it gives him into the beauty and sadness of human life.

German translation of Les Étoiles du Sud

I had only read a little Green up to now. A friend of mine (who has had a struggle similar to Green’s) gave me an autographed copy of a German translation of Green’s late novel Les Étoiles du Sud (The Stars of the South). I found it strange and entrancing; a story of the antebellum South, which Green knew from the stories of his Southern mother, full of nostalgia for a time that never was. But I never finished it— partly because I wanted to read the prequel first, and partly because it seemed to me that German translation is not the best medium for reading historical novels about the American South. And, until now, I had not followed through with my intention of beginning Green again.  But Yoder’s essay has given me a new stimulus. Continue reading

The Object of the Moral Act

The Josias

1. Acts are determined by their objects. The etymology of “object” suggests something thrown against. The object of an act is that against which or on which the act acts. The object of seeing is color. And color determines seeing; it makes seeing into the kind of act that it is. The object of hearing is sound, the object of eating is food, the object of nursing is a baby, the object of killing is a living thing. And in all these cases the object determines the act, makes it to be the kind of act that it is, gives it its nature.

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Maria Theresia

The Studentenverbindung in Heiligenkreuz recently organized a guided tour of the exhibition marking the 300 birthday of the Empress Maria Theresia in the State Hall of the Austrian National Library. Photos of the tour by our Consenior can be found on the Facebook page of the Verbindung. The tour guide was the delightfully amusing and informative Albert Pethö, editor of the Viennese monarchist newspaper Die Weiße Rose Continue reading

Meador, Feil, and Smith on Integralism and Dyarchy

In an intelligent piece on six different Christian responses to political liberalism, Jake Meador,  the energetic editor of Mere Orthodoxyvice-president of The Davenant Trustproper football blogger, and old-fashioned Magisterial Protestant, gives serious attention to Catholic Integralism. He also features Catholic Integralism in an amusing quiz: What Political Theology Are You?

It pleases me that the term “Integralism” has caught on a little in the blogosphere in recent years. The term had fallen somewhat out of use after Vatican II in languages other than French, but its German equivalent was used in an essay of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s, from which David Schindler adopted the English form for his classification of different Catholic responses to political liberalism in Heart of the World, Center of the Church. Balthasar and Schindler had used the term in a pejorative sense, but I adopted it with commendatory sense first in an obituary on Ronald McArthur and then in a long essay in defense of the idea. I have unfolded the idea of Catholic Integralism further with other writers over at The Josias.

One reason that serious, Magisterial Protestants like Meador are glad to see work being done on Catholic Integralism is that they agree with much of the Integralist critique of liberalism. But another reason, I think, is that Protestant political theology was largely developed in polemical Abgrenzung to the Catholic Integralist tradition. Thus, having Catholic Integralist to whom they can point helps them expound their own position.

Predictably, Meador agrees with one of the standard objections that has always been brought against Integralism. Namely, that it does not preserve the distinction between spiritual and temporal power; that it does not render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Integralism, so the objection has gone for centuries, pays lip-service to the dyarchy of powers, but really it is monarchical, striving for a universal monarchy of the Pope over all other powers. JA Feil at The Josias and P.J. Smith at Semiduplex have both posted responses to Meador, defending Integralism against that objection. They both argue that Integralism does really preserve the distinction of the two powers. The temporal end is indeed subordinate to the spiritual end, but the Integralist tradition, even in its strongest formulation by Pope Boniface VIII, never took this to mean that the temporal power is subordinate to the spiritual power the way a lesser officer is subordinate to the general in an army. There is nothing that a lesser officer does that is outside the authority of the general. But Integralists have always accepted the teaching that by the will of Christ, the spiritual power only judges the temporal when the temporal acts directly contrary to the supernatural end. They have always upheld Pope Gelasius’s teaching in Tractate IV that the reason for this limitation is that Christ wanted to give a remedy to human pride:

For Christ, mindful of human frailty, regulated with an excellent disposition what pertained to the salvation of his people. Thus he distinguished between the offices of both powers according to their own proper activities and separate dignities, wanting his people to be saved by healthful humility and not carried away again by human pride, so that Christian emperors would need priests for attaining eternal life, and priests would avail themselves of imperial regulations in the conduct of temporal affairs. In this fashion spiritual activity would be set apart from worldly encroachments and the ‘soldier of God’ (2 Tim 2:4) would not be involved in secular affairs, while on the other hand he who was involved in secular affairs would not seem to preside over divine matters. Thus the humility of each order would be preserved, neither being exalted by the subservience of the other, and each profession would be especially fitted for its appropriate functions.

The actual application of this teaching was the cause of a great deal of tension in the Middle Ages, and in part the Reformation was born out of the desire of doing away with that tension. And what was the result of the Reformation? It was thought by some that a more perfect independence of Christian magistrates would actually make Europe more Christian.  But the “human pride” of the Protestant magistrates, unchecked by a superordinate spiritual power, had free reign. At first many of them tried to promote spiritual ends. But eventually, contrary to their intention, those magistrates (and their Catholic imitators) contributed to the rise of the secular culture of the modern West that only recognizes temporal ends.