Saturday, June 20, 2009

NOTES: The Divine Romance by Fulton J. Sheen

[Sheen, Fulton J. The Divine Romance. (Staten Island, NY, Bandra, Mumbia, India: St. Pauls, 1982, 1996)]

p. 12: Suicide is not so much the desire tat one wants to be annihilated, but rather that one wants to be at ease, which is just another way of saying one wants to have a different life.

p. 12–13: …it is only before strangers that we must speak. Then the love of spouse for spouse is sealed in the bonds of matrimony, and when monotony threatens its sanctity, then there comes a child which makes an earthly Trinity.

p. 13: Successes of life are soon exhausted. Reputations wane and are forgotten .Schemes have their hour and come naught. The science of one age is superseded by that of another. The taste of one age is unintelligible to the next. Poets become silent. Each tick of the clock brings us closer to the tomb; "our hearts are but muffled drums beating a funeral march to the grave." "From hour to hour we ripe and ripe; from hour to hour we rot and rot." Life may be a great torrent outpoured from the inexhaustible chalice of eternity, but we are permitted but a few drops of it in the cup of our own life.

p. 14–15: Where find the author of existence and truth and love that vibrates thoroughout all creation? … They are things that are reasonable and, therefore, must have been intelligently produced. … I must go out to a Life that is not mingled with the shadow, death; I must go out to a Truth which is not mingled with the shadow, error; and I must go out to a Love which is not mingled with the shadow, hate.

p. 17: Since He gave us Truth, are we not in duty bound to know Him? Since He gave us Love, should we not love Him in return? Since He gave us Life, should we not serve Him? If we admit the triple bond, then we admit religion, or commerce between God and man, and such is the first lesson of the penny catechism: "Why did God make us?" "God made us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in heaven."

p. 28–29: Love is not only in the Father. Love is not only in the Son. There is something between them, as it were. … They give themselves in a love so infinite that, like the truth which expresses itself only in the giving of a whole personality, their love can express itself in nothing less than a Person, who is Love… [expressed in a way] which indicates the the very exhaustion of our giving: namely, a sigh, or a breath….

Cf. Richard of St. Victor, De Trinitate, bk. 3, chap. 19 (PL 196.915B-930D):

Strictly speaking, there is shared love when two person love a third in a harmony of affections and a community of love they have for the third…. From this, then, it is evident that shared love would not have a place in the divinity if there were only two persons and not a third.

As cited in George Maloney, SJ, Be Filled with the Fullness of God (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1993), p. 38.

p. 30: Just as I am, I know, and I love, and yet I am one; as the three angles of a triangle do not make three triangles but one….

p. 31: Heaven is a place where we find the fullness of all the fine things we enoy on this earth.

p. 35: The rose is good, and tells its secret in perfume. The sun is good, and tells its secret in light and heat. Man is good, and tells the secret of his goodness in the language of thought. … God could not keep, as it were, the secret of His love, and the telling of it was creation.

p. 36: This is not absolutely the best world that God could have made. But it is the best world for the purpose that He had in mind in making it. … God willed to make a moral universe, and the only condition upon which morality is possible is freedom.

Cf. Fulton J. Sheen, The Life of All Living, p. 23:

The simple words "Thank you" will always stand out as a refutation of determinism, for they imply that something which was done could possibly have been left undone.

p. 38: The only way to try love is in a trial which forces one to declare it. … A double condition was laid upon [Adam and Eve] to test their love. The first part of the condition was obscure; it gave them an opportunity to admit that the added knowledge was a gift of God. The second part was reserved; it allowed them to admit that the added power of the will was a gift of God. … God did not say why they should not––and that was the obscure point on which their intelligence was tried. Man should believe God on this point as on all others. God did say they must abstain from the fruits of that tree. That was the reserved point which was the trial of their will.

p. 40: …what is primary is the respect due to God, the fruit of the tree being the symbol of that respect. …the famous tree in which God summarized all the knowledge of good and evil was a symbol, a moral limit which God imposed on the sovereignty of man to prove his obedience and his love.

p. 41: …man lost nothing which was due to him or to his nature. … He was reduced [by sin] to a state in which God might possibly have created him, with the difference that the loss of the gifts weakened his intellect and will, but did not make his nature intrinsically corrupt.

p. 42: …original sin alone can explain the almost contradictory character of human nature which makes a man aspire to higher things and at the same time succumb to the baser. … By its nature, the evidence of Eden is not something we can find. Ny its nature the evidence of sin is something one cannot help finding. As a matter of personal experience something has happened––we are not what we ought to be.

p. 47: …an offence, an injury, or a sin is always to be measured by the one sinned against.

p. 48: …one can never be merciful unless he is just. Mercy is the overflow of justice. … while injury is in the one injured, honour or reputation is in the one honouring.

p. 49: …in order that the finite and the infinite should not be acting as two distinct personalities, and in order that infinite merit should result from man's suffering, God and man in some way would have to become one.

p. 50: …we attribute the actions of various natures [e.g., a pencil and a human hand whilst writing] to a person and the one thing that characterizes the person is not action, not nature, not direction, but responsibility. That is why I do not say my stomach is hungry, but I am hungry; not my eyes see, bu I see. Actions belong to the person.

Now let the pencil represent poor human nature, of itself unable to pay an infinite debt to God. Imagine now a divine person with a divine nature coming down to that human nature, taking it up and becoming united with it in a far more perfect way than my hand is united with the pencil. If such an act of condescension should ever happen, the action of the human nature and the action of the divine nature would be attributed to either alone, as the action of the pencil would not be attributed to the nature of the pencil or to the nature of the hand alone; it would be attributed to the person.

p. 50: Love tends to become like the one loved….

p. 51: The shepherds found their Shepherd, and the wise men found discovered their Wisdom. … And from that day to this there have been only two classes of people who have heard the cry of Christ and who have found Christ: the very simple and the very learned. … In order to enter the cave, one must stoop….

pp. 53–54: …the superfluity of love. Love which is real loves even to the point of sacrifice, in fact loves even to the end which is the giving of one's own life. … And if you were the only person in the world who ever lived, He would have come down and suffered and died just for you alone. That is how much God loves you. … The fall came through three realities: first, a disobedient man, Adam; second, a proud woman, Eve; third, a tree. The reconciliation and redemption of man came through the same three. For the disobedient man, Adam, was the obedient new Adam of the human race, Christ; for the proud Eve, there was the humble Mary; and for the tree, the cross. … Humanism is impossible because it is too academic; love of humanity is impossible because there is no such thing as humanity……there are only me and women; the religion of progress is impossible because progress means nothing unless we know whither we are progressing.

Cf. G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, chapter 2:

It is as if a man were asked, "What is the use of a hammer?" and answered, "To make hammers"; and when asked, "And of those hammers, what is the use?" answered, "To make hammers again." Just as such a man would be perpetually putting off the question of the ultimate use of carpentry, so Mr. Wells and all the rest of us are by these phrases successfully putting off the question of the ultimate value of the human life.

The case of the general talk of "progress" is, indeed, an extreme one. As enunciated today, "progress" is simply a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative. … Progress, properly understood, has, indeed, a most dignified and legitimate meaning. But as used in opposition to precise moral ideals, it is ludicrous. So far from it being the truth that the ideal of progress is to be set against that of ethical or religious finality, the reverse is the truth. Nobody has any business to use the word "progress" unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almost say that nobody can be progressive without being infallible--at any rate, without believing in some infallibility. For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to use the word "progress" than we. In the Catholic twelfth century, in the philosophic eighteenth century, the direction may have been a good or a bad one, men may have differed more or less about how far they went, and in what direction, but about the direction they did in the main agree, and consequently they had the genuine sensation of progress. But it is precisely about the direction that we disagree. … It is not merely true that the age which has settled least what is progress is this "progressive" age. It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled least what is progress are the most "progressive" people in it. The ordinary mass, the men who have never troubled about progress, might be trusted perhaps to progress. The particular individuals who talk about progress would certainly fly to the four winds of heaven when the pistol-shot started the race. I do not, therefore, say that the word "progress" is unmeaning; I say it is unmeaning without the previous definition of a moral doctrine, and that it can only be applied to groups of persons who hold that doctrine in common. Progress is not an illegitimate word, but it is logically evident that it is illegitimate for us. It is a sacred word, a word which could only rightly be used by rigid believers and in the ages of faith.

p. 62: The Church is Christ and Christ is the Church––such is the divine equation.

p. 63: …He lives today His mystical life in a new body taken from humanity but likewise overshadowed with the Pentecostal Spirit, which we call the Church.

p. 64: Just as His own physical body had a visible head, so, too, His mystical body has a visible head. …the truth which communicated to the body through its visible head, the Vicar of Christ, is not a spiritual truth distinct from the truth existing in the invisible head of the Church, which is Christ Himself, any more than the spiritual truth of the teacher became another truth when articulated. …the truth will be necessarily infallible, or free from error, for it is essentially the truth of Christ….

p. 65: Each sacrament is a kiss of God….

p. 66: The Gospel therefore is being relived by the presence of Christ in His new body, which is the Church.

p. 67: [When I hear the Church criticized] for being too undogmatic… too dogmatic … too worldly and unpatriotic… too unworldly and refusing to compromise… I recall that they are contradictory charges and that the only fitting punishment for one condemned on contradictory charges is the sign of contradiction: the cross on which one bar is at variance and in contradiction with the other.

Cf. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 6:

For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it was much too far to the west. No sooner had my indignation died down at its angular and aggressive squareness than I was called up again to notice and condemn its enervating and sensual roundness. …

Thus, for instance, I was much moved by the eloquent attack on Christianity as a thing of inhuman gloom; for I thought (and still think) sincere pessimism the unpardonable sin. Insincere pessimism is a social accomplishment, rather agreeable than otherwise; and fortunately nearly all pessimism is insincere. But if Christianity was, as these people said, a thing purely pessimistic and opposed to life, then I was quite prepared to blow up St. Paul's Cathedral. But the extraordinary thing is this. They did prove to me in Chapter I. (to my complete satisfaction) that Christianity was too pessimistic; and then, in Chapter II., they began to prove to me that it was a great deal too optimistic. One accusation against Christianity was that it prevented men, by morbid tears and terrors, from seeking joy and liberty in the bosom of Nature. But another accusation was that it comforted men with a fictitious providence, and put them in a pink-and-white nursery. One great agnostic asked why Nature was not beautiful enough, and why it was hard to be free. Another great agnostic objected that Christian optimism, "the garment of make-believe woven by pious hands," hid from us the fact that Nature was ugly, and that it was impossible to be free. One rationalist had hardly done calling Christianity a nightmare before another began to call it a fool's paradise. This puzzled me; the charges seemed inconsistent. Christianity could not at once be the black mask on a white world, and also the white mask on a black world. The state of the Christian could not be at once so comfortable that he was a coward to cling to it, and so uncomfortable that he was a fool to stand it. If it falsified human vision it must falsify it one way or another; it could not wear both green and rose-coloured spectacles. …

It must be understood that I did not conclude hastily that the accusations were false or the accusers fools. I simply deduced that Christianity must be something even weirder and wickeder than they made out. A thing might have these two opposite vices; but it must be a rather queer thing if it did. A man might be too fat in one place and too thin in another; but he would be an odd shape. At this point my thoughts were only of the odd shape of the Christian religion; I did not allege any odd shape in the rationalistic mind.

… I turned the next page in my agnostic manual, and my brain turned up-side down. Now I found that I was to hate Christianity not for fighting too little, but for fighting too much. Christianity, it seemed, was the mother of wars. Christianity had deluged the world with blood. I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he never was angry. And now I was told to be angry with him because his anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history; because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun. The very people who reproached Christianity with the meekness and non-resistance of the monasteries were the very people who reproached it also with the violence and valour of the Crusades. It was the fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Leon did. The Quakers (we were told) were the only characteristic Christians; and yet the massacres of Cromwell and Alva were characteristic Christian crimes. What could it all mean? What was this Christianity which always forbade war and always produced wars? What could be the nature of the thing which one could abuse first because it would not fight, and second because it was always fighting? In what world of riddles was born this monstrous murder and this monstrous meekness? The shape of Christianity grew a queerer shape every instant.

… The one real objection to the Christian religion is simply that it is one religion. The world is a big place, full of very different kinds of people. Christianity (it may reasonably be said) is one thing confined to one kind of people; it began in Palestine, it has practically stopped with Europe. I was duly impressed with this argument in my youth, and … I was thoroughly annoyed with Christianity for suggesting (as I supposed) that whole ages and empires of men had utterly escaped this light of justice and reason. But then I found an astonishing thing. I found that the very people who said that mankind was one church from Plato to Emerson were the very people who said that morality had changed altogether, and that what was right in one age was wrong in another. If I asked, say, for an altar, I was told that we needed none, for men our brothers gave us clear oracles and one creed in their universal customs and ideals. But if I mildly pointed out that one of men's universal customs was to have an altar, then my agnostic teachers turned clean round and told me that men had always been in darkness and the superstitions of savages. I found it was their daily taunt against Christianity that it was the light of one people and had left all others to die in the dark. But I also found that it was their special boast for themselves that science and progress were the discovery of one people, and that all other peoples had died in the dark. Their chief insult to Christianity was actually their chief compliment to themselves, and there seemed to be a strange unfairness about all their relative insistence on the two things. …

This began to be alarming. It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with. What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves? I saw the same thing on every side. …

I wished to be quite fair then, and I wish to be quite fair now; and I did not conclude that the attack on Christianity was all wrong. I only concluded that if Christianity was wrong, it was very wrong indeed. Such hostile horrors might be combined in one thing, but that thing must be very strange and solitary. … But if this mass of mad contradictions really existed, quakerish and bloodthirsty, too gorgeous and too thread-bare, austere, yet pandering preposterously to the lust of the eye, the enemy of women and their foolish refuge, a solemn pessimist and a silly optimist, if this evil existed, then there was in this evil something quite supreme and unique. For I found in my rationalist teachers no explanation of such exceptional corruption. Christianity (theoretically speaking) was in their eyes only one of the ordinary myths and errors of mortals. They gave me no key to this twisted and unnatural badness. Such a paradox of evil rose to the stature of the supernatural. It was, indeed, almost as supernatural as the infallibility of the Pope. An historic institution, which never went right, is really quite as much of a miracle as an institution that cannot go wrong. The only explanation which immediately occurred to my mind was that Christianity did not come from heaven, but from hell. Really, if Jesus of Nazareth was not Christ, He must have been Antichrist.

And then in a quiet hour a strange thought struck me like a still thunderbolt. There had suddenly come into my mind another explanation. Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. Old bucks who are growing stout might consider him insufficiently filled out; old beaux who were growing thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance. Perhaps Swedes (who have pale hair like tow) called him a dark man, while negroes considered him distinctly blonde. Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the centre. Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad -- in various ways. …

Nevertheless it could not, I felt, be quite true that Christianity was merely sensible and stood in the middle. … Now, it was just at this point of the speculation that I remembered my thoughts about the martyr and the suicide. In that matter there had been this combination between two almost insane positions which yet somehow amounted to sanity. This was just such another contradiction; and this I had already found to be true. … The idea was that which I had outlined touching the optimist and the pessimist; that we want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning. Here I shall only trace it in relation to ethics. But I need not remind the reader that the idea of this combination is indeed central in orthodox theology. For orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God. …

All sane men can see that sanity is some kind of equilibrium; that one may be mad and eat too much, or mad and eat too little. …

Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. … Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. …

He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. … No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a disdain of life.

And now I began to find that this duplex passion was the Christian key to ethics everywhere. Everywhere the creed made a moderation out of the still crash of two impetuous emotions. …

Christianity thus held a thought of the dignity of man that could only be expressed in crowns rayed like the sun and fans of peacock plumage. Yet at the same time it could hold a thought about the abject smallness of man that could only be expressed in fasting and fantastic submission, in the gray ashes of St. Dominic and the white snows of St. Bernard. …

Thus, the double charges of the secularists, though throwing nothing but darkness and confusion on themselves, throw a real light on the faith. It is true that the historic Church has at once emphasised celibacy and emphasised the family; has at once (if one may put it so) been fiercely for having children and fiercely for not having children. It has kept them side by side like two strong colours, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates that combination of two colours which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. It hates that evolution of black into white which is tantamount to a dirty gray. In fact, the whole theory of the Church on virginity might be symbolized in the statement that white is a colour: not merely the absence of a colour. All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these cases to keep two colours coexistent but pure. It is not a mixture like russet or purple; it is rather like a shot silk, for a shot silk is always at right angles, and is in the pattern of the cross.

So it is also, of course, with the contradictory charges of the anti-Christians about submission and slaughter. It is true that the Church told some men to fight and others not to fight; and it is true that those who fought were like thunderbolts and those who did not fight were like statues. All this simply means that the Church preferred to use its Supermen and to use its Tolstoyans. There must be some good in the life of battle, for so many good men have enjoyed being soldiers. There must be some good in the idea of non-resistance, for so many good men seem to enjoy being Quakers. All that the Church did (so far as that goes) was to prevent either of these good things from ousting the other. They existed side by side. …

Christian doctrine detected the oddities of life. It not only discovered the law, but it foresaw the exceptions. … Any one might say, "Neither swagger nor grovel"; and it would have been a limit. But to say, "Here you can swagger and there you can grovel" -- that was an emancipation.

This was the big fact about Christian ethics; the discovery of the new balance. Paganism had been like a pillar of marble, upright because proportioned with symmetry. Christianity was like a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because its exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years. In a Gothic cathedral the columns were all different, but they were all necessary. Every support seemed an accidental and fantastic support; every buttress was a flying buttress. So in Christendom apparent accidents balanced. …

Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. …

pp. 67–69: The Church… must be condemned in three languages, in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, in the cultures of Jerusalem, Rome, and Athens, in the name of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Now as then the representatives of these three cultures pass beneath the cross and ask that the Church give up and come down. … It is human to come down, but it is divine to hang there. It would be easy for the Church to come down…. It is always easy t let the age have its head, but it is difficult to keep one's own. It is always easy to fall; there are a thousand angles at which a thing will fall but only one at which it stands, and that is the angle at which the Church is poised between heaven and earth.

Cf. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 6:

This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. … It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom -- that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.

p. 74: In itself the cross is a sermon.

[The Incarnation of the Word is itself, in word and deed, one Word spoken to humanity by divinity.]

p. 75: [When Christ said "I thirst" Sheen glosses it as "I thirst for love."]

p. 76: Love, as the world understands it, is symbolized by a circle which is always circumscribed by self. Love, as our Lord understands it, is symbolized by the cross with its arms outstretched even unto infinity to embrace all of humanity with its grasp. … Love did not keep the secret of its goodness––that was creation. Love became one with the one loved, and that was the Incarnation. … If divine Love stopped merely by appearing among us, man might say that God could never understand the sufferings of the loneliness of a human heart; that God could not love as men do, namely, to the point of sacrifice.

pp. 78–79: Christ is still on the cross. … Because of sin… "we crucify again to ourselves the Son of God." The scars are still open. "earth's pain still stands deified." … every sin is another act by which Barabbas is preferred to Christ. … we begin to say in our own heart of hearts that after all He could not be God, for if He were God how could we have crucified Him?

p. 80: And if we are to undo the harm that we have done, we must make our way up the penitential slope of Calvary, up to the chalice of all common miseries, and cast ourselves at the foot of the cross.

p. 84: Has not all death within itself the germ of life? Does not the "falling rain bud the greenery"? Does not the falling acorn bud the tree? Why should all creation rise from the dead and not the Redeemer of creation?

p. 85: She [the Church] is in love with death as a condition of birth, and with her, as with Christ, unless there is a Good Friday in her life, there will never be an Easter Sunday…. In other words, every now and then the Church must be crucified by an unbelieving world and buried as dead, only to rise again. She never does anything but die, and for that particular reason she never does anything but live.

Cf. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, part 2, chapter 6

p. 87: It is a strange fact that the Church is never so weak as when she is powerful with the world….

p. 88: What may be weak is her discipline…, whereas he faith is of God.

p. 89–90: The world should profit by experience and give up expecting the Church to die. …she is constantly finding her way out of the grave because she has a Captain who found His way out of the grave. … The Church has put to bed all the errors of the past, for she knows that to marry the passing fads of any age is to be a widow in the next.

5 comments:

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