Monday, March 2, 2009

Wisdom from…

JOHN CHRYSOSTOMOS (347–407): Gathering the harvest

It was to save the apostles from anxiety that the Lord called the gospel a harvest. It was almost as if he said: Everything is ready, all is prepared. I am sending you to harvest the ripe grain. You will be able to sow and reap on the same day. You must be like the farmer who rejoices when he goes out to gather in his crops. He looks happy and is glad of heart. His hard work and many difficulties forgotten, he hurries out eagerly to reap their reward, hastening to collect his annual returns. Nothing stands in the way, there is no obstacle anywhere, nor any uncertainty regarding the future. There will be no heavy rain, no hail or drought, no devastating legions of locusts. And since the farmer at harvest time fears no such disasters, the reapers set to work dancing and leaping for joy. You must be like them when you go out into the world — indeed your joy must be very much greater. You also are to gather in a harvest — a harvest easily reaped, a harvest already there waiting for you. You have only to speak, not to labor. Lend me your tongue, and you will see the ripe grain gathered into the royal granary.

And with this he sent them out, saying: Remember that I am with you always, until the end of the world.
(Dernières homélies, Hom. 10, 2-3.)

John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, spent a life of preaching and earned the title "the golden-mouthed."

ST. AUGUSTINE: The Lord Builds the House

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain, declares the Psalmist. Who are those who labor to build it? All those who in the Church preach the word of God, the ministers of God's Sacraments. But "unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain." We speak from without; he builds from within. It is he who builds, counsels, inspires fear, opens your minds and directs them to the faith.
-- Commentary on Psalm 126, 1

Prayer. Lord, I have asked for only one thing from you, to live in your house all the days of my life, to gaze upon your delight.
-- Commentary on Psalm 26 (2), 17


[In Scholastic theology, three methods of analogical inquiry were used in discussion of God: the via causalitatis, the via remotionis, and the via eminentiae (or, excellentiae). St. Thomas was treading the via prima (i.e., causality) in the above couple chapters of SCG, where he argued from the effects of the Creator to the existence and nature of the Creator. Since, however, His effects are woefully inadequate to convey God's nature in a fitting way, the other two viae are invoked to balance out the limited gains of the via causalitatis. God is a maker of effects, yes, but He is "remote" from the limitations of makers as we think of them, principally in the way that He creates ex nihilo, whereas lesser makers always have to rely on some medium or tool or model outside themselves. As the IVth Lateran Council stated in 1215, “between the Creator and the creature there cannot be a likeness so great that the unlikeness is not greater [semper maior dissimilitudo in tanta similitudine].” Further, the aspects which we can ascribe to God by analogy with lesser created things (by way of the viae causalitatis et remotionis), we must ascribe to God in an "eminent" or "excellent" way. God is a wise artisan, but eminently and supremely so. God is not simply a rough idea of love, but supereminently love; the Father not simply a paternal pattern, but a supereminently good father, etc.

The methodological "tension" of the
viae tritae occurs and re-occurs through SCG and most Scholastic works, so you should keep an eye open for it.]

[1] We have shown that there exists a first being, whom we call God. We must, accordingly, now investigate the properties of this being.

[2] Now, in considering the divine substance, we should especially make use of the method of remotion. For, by its immensity, the divine substance surpasses every form that our intellect reaches. Thus we are unable to apprehend it by knowing what it is. Yet we are able to have some knowledge of it by knowing what it is not. Furthermore, we approach nearer to a knowledge of God according as through our intellect we are able to remove more and more things from Him. For we know each thing more perfectly the more fully we see its differences from other things; for each thing has within itself its own being, distinct from all other things.

[3] However, in the consideration of the divine substance we cannot take a what as a genus; nor can we derive the distinction of God from things by differences affirmed of God. For this reason, we must derive the distinction of God from other beings by means of negative differences. And just as among affirmative differences one contracts the other, so one negative difference is contracted by another that makes it to differ from many beings. For example, if we say that God is not an accident, we thereby distinguish Him from all accidents. Then, if we add that He is not a body, we shall further distinguish Him from certain substances. And thus, proceeding in order, by such negations God will be distinguished from all that He is not. Finally, there will then be a proper consideration of God’s substance when He will be known as distinct from all things. Yet, this knowledge will not be perfect, since it will not tell us what God is in Himself.

[4] As a principle of procedure in knowing God by way of remotion, therefore, let us adopt the proposition which, from what we have said, is now manifest, namely, that God is absolutely unmoved. The authority of Sacred Scripture also confirms this. For it is written: “I am the Lord and I change not” (Mal. 3:6); ...“with whom there is no change” (James 2:17). Again: “God is not man... that He should be changed (Num. 23:19).
(SCG I, xiv)


How fortunate is that soul who is willing to have a great deal of tribulation before departing from this life! How can one possibly learn how to love deeply and sincerely if not among the spines, the crosses and the feeling of abandonment over a long period? Our dear Savior thus proved his limitless love in the agony of His passion. Learn well how to love Christ on the bed of sorrow; on this bed He formed your heart before creating it, foreseeing it in His divine plan. Yes the Savior has numbered all your sorrows and all your sufferings. He has paid for them with His blood, with all the patience and love that is necessary. Be satisfied, therefore, to accept generously all that God has in store for you.
(Letters 1043; O. XVI, pp. 300-301)


OUR modern mystics make a mistake when they wear long hair or loose ties to attract the spirits. The elves and the old gods when they revisit the earth really go straight for a dull top-hat. For it means simplicity, which the gods love.
('Charles Dickens.')



unBeguiled said...

I never realized Apophatic Theology was so ancient. Of course, no theologian is able to maintain this game for very long. Soon enough, the theologian assures us he has special knowledge about the gods.

the Cogitator said...

Oh yes, apophatic theology well precedes St. Thomas. He draws extensively, for example, from Denys the Areopagite, John Damascene, and Augustine, i.a. Keep in mind that apophaticism is only, so to speak, one half of the story: there is also a place for cataphatic theology (i.e., the other two viae besides remotion).

–– EB, the Tator.