hic et ille natus est in ea

Almost anything that can be said of the Church can be said of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she is the pattern and exemplar of the Church (and therefore of the whole universe), as De Koninck argues in Ego SapientiaThis is why St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort can apply to Mary the patristic saying that no one can have God for his father who does not have the Church as his mother:

Just as in natural and bodily generation there is a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there is a father who is God and a mother who is Mary. All true children of God have God for their father and Mary for their mother; anyone who does not have Mary for his mother, does not have God for his father. This is why the reprobate, such as heretics and schismatics, who hate, despise or ignore the Blessed Virgin, do not have God for their father though they arrogantly claim they have, because they do not have Mary for their mother. Indeed if they had her for their mother they would love and honour her as good and true children naturally love and honour the mother who gave them life. […]  ‘This man and that man is bom in her,’ says the Holy Ghost, Homo et homo natus est in ea (Ps. Ixxxvi. 5). According to the explanation of some of the Fathers, the first man born of Mary is the God-man, Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ, the head of mankind, is born of her, the predestinate, who are members of this head, must also as a necessary consequence be born of her. One and the same mother does not give birth to the head without the members nor to the members without the head, for these would be monsters in the order of nature. In the order of grace likewise the head and the members are born of the same mother. If a member of the mystical body of Christ, that is, one of the predestinate, were born of a mother other than Mary who gave birth to the head, he would not be one of the predestinate, nor a member of Jesus Christ, but a monster in the order of grace. (True Devotion)

 

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Don’t Even Try (Again)

On the General calendar tomorrow’s Mass has the Epistle to Philemon and the Gospel of the man who tries to build a tower without calculating the costs (on the Cistercian calendar we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lady as a Solemnity). So I thought I would revise some thoughts that I posted on this Sunday three years ago.

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S. Paul’s tone in the epistle is remarkably peaceful and  joyful. An old man alone in prison, it seems that Onesimus has been sent to him as a consolation. He says that Onesimus has become a son to him, and is as dear to him as his own heart, “whom I would have retained with me.” But he sends him away quite joyfully. In his place I would have found plenty of excuses to keep him with me. After all, I am in prison, I need Onesimus far more than Philemon. Moreover, it is hardly fitting that Philemon, a Christian, should keep another Christian as a slave; he ought not to return. I think it is often the case that while fooling myself into thinking that I am giving everything to God, I am in fact finding excuses to retain some little consolation for myself. (“Lord, I give everything to you, I shall even forgive so-and-so, but not till tomorrow, today I need to savor my anger… This little consolation I must have..”)

Perhaps we do not have the same tranquil joy in the faith that Paul has, because we are always trying to retain something for ourselves. I think this is the key to the Gospel: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” We must “hate” everything in which we are tempted to seek our consolation apart from the Lord. The two parables that our Lord gives in explanation have puzzled me for a long time. In the usual interpretation the tower refers Christian perfection. Thus Cornelius a Lapide concludes that it is better not to become Christian at all if one is not willing to give up everything. Although I was taken in by this initially, I now think that this cannot possibly be right. For if it was no one could become a Christian. Who looking at his resources can really says that he has enough to build that tower? And we don’t have a choice; we are commanded to become Christian. (As Notburga points out.)

S. Thomas gives a somewhat more subtle interpretation than a Lapide in the very last article of the IIa IIae. It is the magnificent article in which he argues that one ought not to deliberate long before entering the religious life. Objection 3 brings up the tower parable, taking the tower to refer to religious life. S. Thomas does not disagree that the tower refers to the religious life, but he gives a different interpretation of what calculating means:

Again it need not be a matter of deliberation whether one ought to renounce all that one has, or whether by so doing one may be able to attain to perfection; whereas it is a matter of deliberation whether that which one is doing amounts to the renunciation of all that he has, since unless he does renounce (which is to have the wherewithal) he cannot, as the text goes on to state, be Christ’s disciple, and this is to build the tower.

But I am still not convinced. It seems like the whole point of the parable is “don’t even try,” don’t build the tower. And the next parable seems to reinforce this, “don’t fight the war.” Therefore I propose a different interpretation of the tower. The tower is the attempt to retain something as our own. Towers were, in fact, often used as look-out points to watch over one’s possessions. It seems to me that our Lord is saying, “don’t even try; you don’t have the resources to keep something for yourself.” Whenever we try to hold on to something as our own, and to find our consolation in that rather than in God, then God becomes suddenly our enemy, threatening our stuff; we seem like a king with ten thousand facing twenty thousand. So our Lord says “don’t even try; give up all your possessions.” “Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple.”

So I think S. Paul’s tranquility is the result of having really given up everything, and experienced that everything which we give up we receive again transformed. And this is what he tries to teach Philemon:

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season from thee, that thou mightest receive him again for ever: Not now as a slave, but instead of a slave, a most dear brother

Everything which we give up we receive again a hundredfold; not as a slave (ordered to us) but as a brother (ordered together with us to God).

Reminds Me of Another Jesuit of the Same Name…

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And he that will be first among you shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a redemption for many. S. Francis Xavier furnished a rare example of this humility of Christ, and recalled it to this age when it had, as it were, gone out of fashion. For when he was appointed by the Pope Apostolic Legate of India, he would have no servant, although the Viceroy of the King of Portugal offered him several, and urged him to accept them; but he ministered to all, both in bodily and spiritual services. He used himself to hear the confessions of the sick, and comfort the sorrowful; he used to administer medicines to the sick, and cleanse their bodies and wash their bandages, and catechise the ignorant and children; and besides he used to attend to and feed the horses of his companions. and when some one said that these things were unworthy of an Apostolic Legate, he answered that there was nothing more worthy than Christian charity and humility which became all things to all men that it may gain all: which Christ through His whole life continually enjoined by word and deed. So that by this conduct he did not lose, but increased his authority. Moreover Christ himself while on earth had not even one servant, but made himself the servant of all.  S Chrysostom (Hom. 40, the Epis. to the Cors.) says, “Listen to Paul; these hands, he says, have ministered to my necessities and to them that were with me. That teacher of the world, and man worthy of heaven, scrupled not to serve innumerable mortals; while you think it a disgrace unless you have your herds of servants in your train: not seeing that this is a great disgrace to you. God gave us hands and feet that we might do without servants. What is the use of crowds of servants?” (Cornelius a Lapide on Matthew 20)

Our Lady as the Pearl of Great Price

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A virtuous Woman who can find? Her price is far beyond pearls. – Proverbs 31:10

Again, the kingdom of heaven is as if a merchant were looking for rare pearls: and now he has found one pearl of great price, and has sold all that he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:45-46

Cornelius a Lapide mentions that one can take the pearl of great price to mean Our Lady. But in that case who is the merchant? The merchant is God Himself Who searched through all generations till He found the “virtuous woman” who was to be the Mother of His Son. And He was willing to pay all He had for her. In an earlier post I looked at how the Our Lady can be seen as the final cause of the entire universe; she is more than all other purely created things the end and motive that God had in mind when He created the world. And it was above all for Her that the Divine Son paid the ultimate price on the Cross. There is a beautiful meditation on this in Fr. Antonio Maria Sicari’s Way of the Cross for the Jubilee of Priests: Continue reading

Elaboration on the Foregoing: the Predestination of Christ and Our Lady as the Final Cause of Everything

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WordPress automatically linked my last post to a post in which a Greek Orthodox blogger (Perry Robinson) argues, in typical Orthodox fashion, that the Son would have become incarnate even if the Fall had never occurred. Following S. Maximus Confesor, the Robinson, argues that God willed the Incarnation “at all times”, and that the Fall rather than being the reason for the Incarnation, is Lucifer’s envious attempt to frustrate it:

Since God eternally wills his incarnation, to prevent its occurrence would be to frustrate the divine will and demonstrate the devil’s superiority. So the temptation and the Fall are a response to the Incarnation.

Robinson sees the advantage of this in that it gives God a less reactive role: “Looking at the Incarnation this way puts God back in the driver’s seat.” But this a rather superficial way of looking at things. He seems to be envisioning the two possibilities as follows: Continue reading

Don’t Even Try

In yesterday’s reading from Philemon I was struck by S. Paul’s peaceful and  joyful tone. An old man alone in prison, it seems that Onesimus has been sent to him as a consolation. He says that Onesimus has become a son to him, and is as dear to him as his own heart, “whom I would have retained with me.” But he sends him away quite joyfully. In his place I would have found plenty of excuses to keep him with me. After all, I am in prison, I need Onesimus far more than Philemon. Moreover, it is hardly fitting that Philemon, a Christian, should keep another Christian as a slave; he ought not to return. I think it is often the case that while fooling myself into thinking that I am giving everything to God, I am in fact finding excuses to retain some little consolation for myself. (“Lord, I give everything to you, I shall even forgive so-and-so, but not till tomorrow, today I need to savor my anger… This little consolation I must have..”)

Perhaps we do not have the same tranquil joy in the faith that Paul has, because we are always trying to retain something for ourselves. I think this is the key to yesterdays Gospel: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” We must “hate” everything in which we are tempted to seek our consolation apart from the Lord. The two parables that our Lord gives in explanation have puzzled me for a long time. Preaching on them yesterday, I departed from the consensus of the Fathers in my interpretation. The Fathers all interpret the tower as Christian perfection. Thus Cornelius a Lapide, after summarizing the Fathers concludes that it is better not to become Christian at all if one is not willing to give up everything. Although I was taken in by this initially, I now think that this cannot possibly be right. For if it was no-one could become a Christian. Who looking at his resources can really says that he has enough to build that tower? And we don’t have a choice; we are commanded to become Christian. (As Notburga points out.)

S. Thomas gives a somewhat more subtle interpretation than a Lapide in the very last article of the IIa IIae. It is the magnificent article in which he argues that one ought not to deliberate long before entering the religious life. Objection 3 brings up the tower parable, taking the tower to refer to religious life. S. Thomas does not disagree that the tower refers to the religious life, but he gives a different interpretation of what calculating means:

Again it need not be a matter of deliberation whether one ought to renounce all that one has, or whether by so doing one may be able to attain to perfection; whereas it is a matter of deliberation whether that which one is doing amounts to the renunciation of all that he has, since unless he does renounce (which is to have the wherewithal) he cannot, as the text goes on to state, be Christ’s disciple, and this is to build the tower.

But I am still not convinced. It seems like the whole point of the parable is “don’t even try,” don’t build the tower. And the next parable seems to reinforce this, “don’t fight the war.” Therefore I propose a different interpretation of the tower. The tower is the attempt to retain something as our own. Towers were, in fact, often used as look-out points to watch over one’s possessions. It seems to me that our Lord is saying, “don’t even try; you don’t have the resources to keep something for yourself.” Whenever we try to hold on to something as our own, and to find our consolation in that rather than in God, then God becomes suddenly our enemy, threatening our stuff; we seem like a king with ten thousand facing twenty thousand. So our Lord says “don’t even try; give up all your possessions.” “Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple.” (I would be interested to see what Berenike thinks of this attempt at an answer to her question).

So I think S. Paul’s tranquility is the result of having really given up everything, and experienced that everything which we give up we receive again transformed. And this is what he tries to teach Philemon:

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season from thee, that thou mightest receive him again for ever: Not now as a slave, but instead of a slave, a most dear brother

Everything which we give up we recieve again a hundred fold; not as a slave (ordered to us) but as a brother (ordered together with us to God).