Christmette

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O Oriens

The first meaning of “orient” is tied to the verb oriri, that is, “to be born, rise.” The sun is the oriens in the proper sense, because it is the star that rises. The rising of the sun orients the entire world, orients the day with its light. The very nature of the universe symbolically teaches man to orient himself, to begin and live the day knowing the direction of his path. The rising of the sun orients the time and space of the day until sunset. And they day that runs from the rising of the sun to its setting is a symbol of human life, stretched from birth to death. It is between these two poles that life must have its sense, its direction, and therefore it needs to be oriented.

… Before meeting the Lord, the Light of the world, our heart, life, ideas, relationships, all are confused. Let us just think of the confusion of thoughts and feelings in which the disciples of Emmaus found themselves…  All, before meeting Christ, are disoriented, do not know where to go, even and especially when they think they are on the right road, like the Pharisees, like Saul of Tarsus. It is important to recognize that this confusion is present most of all in ourselves, in our communities. But one should not think that this feeling of disorientation is necessarily negative. …Even when everything is going well, it can be positive for a person or a community to pass through moments in which one must reorient oneself, because this means that one is on the path, that one is advancing. One who is always seated or lying down will never feel disoriented, but he does not move, does not walk. In all situations, when we need to escape from confusion, to rediscover the direction of our life’s path, it is important that this take place not through our turning to ourselves, or to worldly guides, but, as we sing every day in the Benedictus, to the “sun that rises to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death,” the one who alone knows how and is able to “direct our steps in the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79). From the first centuries, the orientation of churches eastward taught the faithful to live their prayer as an act of returning to the right direction of life. Christ is to return from the east. From the east Christ has already come, rising like the sun each day, after each night, also after the spiritual nights in which we lose the direction of our life. (Fr. Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori Abbot General O. Cist.)

New Volume on Dignitatis Humanae and Tradition

The Dialogos Institute has published the proceedings of a colloquium held in Norcia on Dignitatis Humanae and tradition. The volume is particularly helpful, because all of the interventions agree that the traditional condemnations of religious liberty as found, say, in Quanta cura, are irreformable, but they give different explanations of the apparent conflict between Dignitatis and previous teaching. This gives the collection more focus and precision than is usual in such discussions. Alan Fimister’s provocative final essay attempts a synthesis of the main positions by a remarkable application of Augustinian ecclesiology. Tolle lege!

Consent and Morose Delectation

Moral theology is a beautiful thing to reflect on when one is reflecting on our happiness and the virtues by which we are ordered to it. But, alas, it is also necessary for moral theology to reflect on the ugliness of sin. This should not take an inordinately important place in moral reflections, but a certain amount is necessary, and actually helpful. I have been getting a number of Curious Cat questions recently on the sin known in moral theology under the fittingly ugly name of ‘morose delectation’. The most recent question dealt more generally with the problem of consent in internal sins:

What is a directly elicited act of the will (a term you’ve used in answering several other questions)? Perhaps relatedly, can you provide any principles for discerning whether one has fully consented to an act which is objectively grave matter? I know that anxiety, sleepiness, and distraction can sometimes vitiate consent but I don’t know how to tell whether one of these or some other factor is present to a sufficient extent in specific cases (in terms of deciding whether I can receive/need to go to Confession).

My response was too long for the Curious Cat format, so I paste it here. The subject is distasteful, but since it is a problem that is often brought up in confession, I hope that the response will none the less be helpful. Continue reading

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself: A Sermon for Children

The Parish Church in Oeynhausen

The following is a reconstruction of my sermon today in Oeynhausen, where I celebrated a so-called “Children’s Mass” (the parish priest being sick).


Dear children, in the Gospel that we just heard Our Lord Jesus tells us the two most important things for us to do: to love God, and to love each-other. And he tells us how we ought to love each-other. Perhaps one of you noticed, He says: “love thy neighbor as _____” As what? Did any of you catch it?

[Children make thinking faces. One little boy pips up: As yourself!]

Yes, exactly! As yourself. You should love other people the way you love yourself. But what does that mean? I remember when I was little boy— a little younger than you, I think— I was fighting with my sister, and I pulled her hair and made her cry, and my mother scolded me and said: “You should love your sister as yourself.” I wondered what that meant, and my mother explained that it meant I should treat my sister the way I would want her to treat me. “Ah,” said I, “then I will play football with her, because I would want her to play football with me.” But my sister did not want to play football.

What does it really mean to love other people the way you love yourself? There are two kinds of love. One kind of love is the love that I have for chocolate. I love chocolate. But this does not mean that I want to make chocolate happy, to give it joy, to give it good things. No, it means I want the chocolate to give me joy; I want to eat the chocolate and taste its sweetness. To love other people the way I love chocolate would not be enough. If I love other people by wanting them to give me good things, give me joy, make me happy, then I do not love them in the right way. But there is a second kind of love. It is the kind of love that I have for myself. I love myself, and this means that I want myself to have joy and happiness and good things. We all love ourselves in this way. All of us want to ourselves to happy and have joy and good things. Or, does one of you want yourself to be sad, and have nothing good? [a shaking of heads]. So this is what it means to love yourself. And so, to love your neighbor as yourself, means to love the other people that you know (your brothers and sisters, your parents, the other children in your school) in this way: to want to make them happy and give them joy and every good thing. Not to make them frown cry, but to make them smile and laugh.

This is the way that God loves you: He wants to give you joy and happiness, and He gives you every good thing that you have. Let us pray to God today, and ask Him to help us to love Him with our whole hearts, and to love each-other the way we love ourselves.

“A man who has no claim to an imperial crown, does not grieve because he is not an Emperor”

Man cannot attain to beatitude without the gift of supernatural grace. Therefore, he who dies in original sin is deprived of eternal life; but he is not, therefore and thereby, subjected to any sorrow or suffering. Not being proportioned to beatitude, he is incapable of enjoying it. He does not, however, suffer from the loss; because God rectifies his will, conforming it to His own, and taking from it the desire of that which is impossible to it. A man who has no claim to an imperial crown, does not grieve because he is not an Emperor. Neither does such a soul suffer any sensible pain. On the contrary, it is endowed with all perfection proper to human nature—such as the knowledge of all natural things, and even the contemplation, by means of creatures, of such as are Divine. It enjoys all the happiness which human nature can enjoy. Furthermore, God confers upon these souls certain supernatural gifts—such as immortality, and impassibility of body—so that they are not subject to human infirmity; nor will they ever suffer sensible pain. And, although we believe that the abode of these souls is Limbo, the place of their habitation signifies but little. My private opinion, (subject to any future pronouncement of the Holy Roman Church), is, that after the resurrection, they will dwell on the purified and glorified earth. (Savonarola)

Against Universalism

Someone sent me the following question via Curious Cat:

What is your view of David Bentley Hart’s argument for a form of universalism in his article God, Creation and Evil (and a lecture of which is available on YouTube)? Relatedly, how can a will teologically oriented to the Good and to the Truth fail to “choose”the Good/Truth/God, for example, in the case of the angels pre-Fall and humans after death?

I want to respond at greater length than is possible through Curious Cat.  I think the whole framework of Hart’s argument is wrong. The difficult question is not “how can God allow anyone not to go to Heaven,” but rather: “how can God elevate any human being so high as to bring them into Heaven, giving them a share of the Divine Life.” Continue reading