Thursday, September 30, 2004

What is the Bible?

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The Bible itself is Tradition. More specifically, the Bible itself is an icon, a holy *and yet graven* image. The fundamentalist veneration of the Bible explodes the related fundamentalist loathing for "graven images" in Christian worship. More on this later.

For now, I'll leave you with G.K. Chesterton, who could say infinitely better what I want to say, and, in fact, basically does so, without my minor additions.

What is any man who has been in the real outer world, for instance, to make of the everlasting cry that Catholic traditions are condemned by the Bible? It indicates a jumble of topsy-turvy tests and tail-foremost [I died with mirth the first time I read this phrase, the Victorian/post-Victorian way of saying "ass-backwards"! -- EBB] arguments, of which I never could at any time see the sense. The ordinary sensible sceptic or pagan is standing in the street (in the supreme character of the man in the street) and he sees a procession go by of the priests of some strange cult, carrying their object of worship under a canopy, some of them wearing high head-dresses and carrying symbolical staffs, others carrying scrolls and sacred records, others carrying sacred images and lighted candles before them, others sacred relics in caskets or cases, and so on.

I can understand the spectator saying, "This is all hocus-pocus"; I can even understand him, in moments of irritation, breaking up the procession, throwing down the images, tearing up the scrolls, dancing on the priests and anything else that might express that general view. I can understand his saying, "Your croziers are bosh, your candles are bosh, your statues and scrolls and relics and all the rest of it are bosh." But in what conceivable frame of mind does he rush in to select one particular scroll of the scriptures of this one particular group (a scroll which had always belonged to them and been a part of their hocus-pocus, if it was hocus-pocus); why in the world should the man in the street say that one particular scroll was not bosh, but was the one and only truth by which all the other things were to be condemned? Why should it not be as superstitious to worship the scrolls as the statues, of that one particular procession? Why should it not be as reasonable to preserve the statues as the scrolls, by the tenets of that particular creed? To say to the priests, "Your statues and scrolls are condemned by our common sense," is sensible. To say, "Your statues are condemned by your scrolls, and we are going to worship one part of your procession and wreck the rest," is not sensible from any standpoint, least of all that of the man in the street.


Augustine Day by Day - September 29 - Helping the Needy

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"Walking by faith, let us do good works. In these let there be a free love of God for his own sake and an active love for our neighbor. For there is nothing we can do for God. But because we have something we can do for our neighbor, we shall by our good offices to the needy gain the favor of him who is the source of all abundance. Let us then do what we can for others; let us freely bestow upon the needy out of our abundance."

-- Sermon 41, 9

Prayer. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord who guides you, and do not look back.

-- Commentary on Psalm 75, 16

The key is not merely to look forward, but to keep doing so, not merely to see, but to gaze. -- Elliam Fakespeare

September 29

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Chrsitian Heriage - September 29 - The Archangels

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"An innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of the just; — we dwell under their shadow; we are baptized into their fellowship; we are allotted their guardianship; we are remembered, as we trust, in their prayers. We dwell in the very presence and court of God himself, and of his eternal Son our Savior, who died for us, and rose again, and now intercedes for us before the throne. We have privileges surely far greater than Elisha's; but of the same kind. Angels are among us, and are powerful to do anything. And they do wonders for the believing, which the world knows nothing about. According to our faith, so it is done unto us. Only believe, and all things are ours. We shall have clear and deeply-seeded convictions in our minds of the reality of the invisible world, though we cannot communicate them to others, or explain how we come to have them."

John Henry Cardinal Newman (AD 1801-1890), Sermons on the Subjects of the Day, pages 170-171

Newman was a famous preacher in the Church of England and after his reception into the Catholic Church he continued preaching and writing and later was made a cardinal.

He is best known probably for his books, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, and The Idea of a University.

Cameo Blogger Day!

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My buddy Anhkhoa posted some pics from the battery of hurricanes Florida has endured this summer. Pretty intense (his forehead-slapping wit included).

Why am I online again?

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The following farewell post from Mark Windsor at Vociferous Yawpings touched me (as well as sent a shiver of gravity through me).

I don’t blog out of ego like some people. Seeing my words on the internet has never really been a motivating factor for my being here. I don’t blog out of need either. I’ve never made one red cent off what I write on the blog and it doesn’t add to my ability to support my family. In short, I don't need this. The harshness I’ve seen, that Sherry Weddell notes above and that Mark Shea has argued against for ages, has become so dominant that I no longer see a valid reason to continue this blog. The rational people may eventually leave out of boredom with the tiresome rage-aholics. St. Blogs could easily become more and more extreme. What good will that do?

I can serve my fellow man far more effectively in my own parish, or in my own home, than I can here; arguing in endless circles with those for whom rage is a staple of life. My home, my parish, and yes, my Church and my faith, may not be perfect, but neither are they the seat of all evil upon Earth or a thing to be derided at every opportunity. There’s far more good that comes from the Church than bad, and it sickens me that a few people are able to skew the debate publicly. It’s true that, as Dom Bettinelli has said, much has been accomplished with the blogs. But I think the jury is very much out on whether or not greater evil has been accomplished than good. I want no part of the former, and it seems that I can do precious little to promote the later. Therefore, adios...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - September 27 & 28

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September 27 - Praying for Bodily Health

"Undoubtedly, it is good that you request bodily health from God. If he knows that it is for your greater good, he will give it to you. If he does not give it, then it was not for your advantage. God knows, therefore, what is better for us. Let us seek only that our heart be free from sin."

-- Sermon on John 7, 12

Prayer. Be a protecting God for me. I will not be saved unless it is in you. Unless you were my rest, my sickness would not be healed.

-- Commentary on Psalm 70 (1), 5

September 28 - God's Correction Is for Our Good

"Manifestly, it is not true that the screams of someone undergoing a painful operation should hold back the hand of the surgeon who is skillfully operating! Is the surgeon cruel for continuing in order to heal the patient?

"Seek nothing but God's help whenever you are corrected by him. See to it that you do not perish, that you do not depart from the Lamb and be devoured by the lion!"

-- Sermon on John 7, 12

Prayer. Lord, you are the virtue dwelling in my mind and the hiding place of my thoughts!

-- Confessions 1, 13

Christian Heritage - September 27 & 28

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The Service of the Poor is to Be Preferred to All Else - September 27

"The service of the poor is to be preferred to all else, and to be performed without delay. If at a time set aside for prayer, medicine or help has to be brought to some poor man, go and do what has to be done with an easy mind, offering it up to God as a prayer. Do not be put out by uneasiness or a sense of sin because of prayers interrupted by the service of the poor: for God is not neglected if prayers are put aside, if God's work is interrupted in order that another such work may be completed.

"Therefore, when you leave prayer to help some poor man, remember this — that the work has been done for God. Charity takes precedence over any rules, everything ought to tend to it above all; since it is itself a great lady, what it orders should be carried out. Let us show our service to the poor, then, with renewed ardor in our hearts, seeking out above all any abandoned people, since they are given to us as lords and patrons."

Vincent de Paul (AD 1580-1660), Letter 2546

St. Vincent worked with prisoners and peasants. He founded the Congregation of the Mission and the Society of Saint Vincent as well as the Daughters of Charity with Saint Louise de Marillac.

He was the patron saint of the hospital in which I was born and enjoyed more than one trip to the ER. His work is truly one of the gems of the Counter-Reformation.

The Martyrs Suffered in Jesus' Presence - September 28

"The martyrs found themselves hard-pressed, beset by danger from violent storms of hatred in this world, a danger not so much to their bodies which, after all, they would have to part with sometime, but rather to their faith. If they were to give way, if they should succumb either to the harsh tortures of their persecutors or to love of this present life, they would forfeit the reward promised them by the God who had taken away all ground for fear. Not only had he said: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; he had also left them his own example. The precept he had enjoined on them he personally carried out, without attempting to evade the hands of those who scourged him, the blows of those who struck him, or the spittle of those who spat on him. Neither the crown of thorns pressed into his head nor the cross to which the soldiers nailed him encountered any resistance from him. None of these torments did he try to avoid. Though he himself was under no obligation to suffer them, he endured them for those who were, making his own person a remedy for the sick. And so the martyrs suffered, but they would certainly have failed the test without the presence of him who said: Know that I am with you always, until the end of time."

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Expositions of the Psalms 69, 1: CCL 39, 930-931

Won't you be my neighbor?

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Day shoes off, house slippers on. It's the end of another day here at FCA Bougis Bloggery, Inc. And it's been a wondrous day. I went to bed late last night (oh, blogging) but got up pretty well rested. I had some nice, albeit not very long, time with God this morning.

Then I headed out for lunch and enjoyed the sunshine. Back at the shack (yeah, click on the pics from last year), I cleaned for a solid two or three hours. Forget dust bunnies; I eradicated entire packs of dust wolverines this afternoon. I removed the floor carpet and beat it up outside on the balcony. While there, I also hung up a new clothes line. (Dynamo!) Then it was out the door and to the curb (metaphorically speaking) for some junk and trash bags. (Yoink!) To top it all, not only did I get two loads of laundry washed and hung up but I ALSO folded and hung up my dry clothes. This was an astounding feat, since, as some of you know, I DESPISE hanging and folding clothes.

Once the cleaning was mostly done, and my floor once again a totally and virtually dustless barefoot-only sanctum, I sat down to write some emails and blog a bit. As KTV time was drawing near, and as I was hungry – I hadn't eaten anything but a small section of grapefruit and some juice since lunch – I took a shower, got dressed and sat reading Dahl as I waited for my friends to come over. We ate at Orchid near the girls’ apartments (Carrie and Terri now live right across from Stephanie, Amanda, Heidi and Enffie, where Carrie, Stephanie and Denise lived last year). I had a very tasty seafood curry pasta dish and enjoyed the special late hours at Orchid due to Moon Festival.

It is the night before Moon Festival and Teacher's Day and my heart is warmed to see the families and neighbors crouched over their little grills. (How I've come to LOVE Taiwanese BBQ!) It was another luxurious night: cool, breezy, clear, not too humid, not too dry.

I'm home again, listening to Cake and, as promised, I wanted to update you with some pictures from my recent travels.

These first pictures are from my Viator trip to Alishan. We actually only reached Mt. Ali at night, but spent the day hiking on another nearby mountain (not Jade Mountain but... the name escapes me).

Here I am! At Jade Mountain! Ready to hike! Rwarrrgh!

No, actually this is a stuffed carcass of a Taiwan bear. They have very broad heads and what looks like a wide afro. I'm not sure if they are limited to Taiwan, but people kept insisting they are Taiwan bears.

It was a cold rainy day (a typhoon was having its way with Taiwan), but I enjoyed the Twin Peaks feel of it all. Of course, that doesn't mean everyone else did.

Taiwan's "tame" hiking trails have their advantages.

Sorry folks, it was a mushy day spent mostly on the bus, so that's all I got from there, other than a hat and some very nice memories. If we'd left ten minutes than we did back to Taichung, we'd have been stuck on the mountain. The authorities closed all exit roads, but we made it out. "!"

Next up we have my trip (with a bunch of total strangers) to Taiwan's luscious and luxurious Green Island.

On the road to Taidung nearly to the harbor. I was invited on this trip by a coworker, even though she was the only person I knew (and that, not well). It was nice to make acquaintances, but I'm pretty sure I'll never see most of them again. I was the only foreigner in our group, which I loved, and I saw only three other foreigners from Friday night until Sunday afternoon, which I also love.

I took this photo after being woken for breakfast from the only good sleep I got -- down in the luggage compartment -- on the bus ride there. I was sick and I can almost never sleep on a vehicle, besides.

Ah, the splendor of nature! Green Island is the epitome of Taiwan's scooter frenzy. EVERYONE gets around by scooter and you'd see whole travel groups cruising in packs wearing the same color helmets. My group had light pink helmets. We had quite a rumble when Mr. Brown showed up. (*Reservoir Dogs*, anyone?)

Like Bach's music, this speaks for itself.

I love the ocean.

A typical strip in Green Island. The little girl (right) had a lot of heart, squeegeeing that window like it was the only thing left on earth to do.

Another kind of typical stretch in Green Island.

A nice walkway at a nice park where were yelled at by a (drunk? brain damaged? merely extroverted?) man. My first Chinese drunken heckling. Score!

Kill whitey!

You are HERE.

This was some treacherous footing to the ocean. My true element. I felt like a hairless, bipedal, anthropoid mountain goat (with sandals), I did!

Whitey asks himself: “How the heapin' helpin's did I end up here?” (Notice the indispensible triumvirate of pens in my shirt pocket. It is one of my best-known idiosyncracies here. "Hey, I need three colors. I'm a teacher.")

No commentary needed.

These two rocks are the sleeping dog (left) and the sleeping beauty (right). Pretty clever. Only the Chinese could get a huge stone dog to sleep so peacably at the head of a massive stone woman sleeping on the beach. (This angle may help you see the dog. Look for the big bloodhound ear and wet doggie snout.)

The day yawns its way to bed.



and this are why you come to Green Island. It was these very images that led me to ponder the Holy Trinity as I hope to tell you more about later.

Green Island harbor. Unfortunately, my private yacht is not visible in this picture. Maybe I can show it to you some other time.

Goodbye -- sniffle! -- Green Island! :snik! snik!:

Hello, Taiwan!

Monday, September 27, 2004

New Quotes Day!

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I updated my quotes but didn't want them to go unnoticed way down yonder on the sidebar.

++ "I wish they [viz., university students] would work as hard at converting these people as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them. This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God's will and his choice." -- St. Francis Xavier, letter to St. Ignatius of Loyola

++ "If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity." -- St. Ignatius Loyola

++ "The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. For the mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness." -- Abba Epiphanius

++ "[O]ur minds are so chained to the things of sense, that we imagine our Lord as instituting the Blessed Sacrament with bread and wine as the remote matter of it because bread and wine reminded him of that grace which he intended the Blessed Sacrament to bestow. But, if you come to think of it, it was just the other way about. When he created the worlds, he gave common bread and wine for our use in order that we might understand what the Blessed Sacrament was when it came to be instituted. He did not design the Sacred Host to be something like bread. He designed bread to be something like the Sacred Host." -- Ronald Knox, _The Window in the Wall_ (London, 1956), p. 80

Accessio ad fidem disputandam

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[Before I got help with the Latin, this post was originally titled "Addendum ad disputatione fidei". I confess my ineptitude, but I also confess I'm kind of partial to lay Latin.]

The genesis of the thread from which I drew in the post below was Mark Shea's tip of the hat to the Pontificator's first rule: "When Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree on something over against Protestantism, Protestantism loses." Tom took issue with this principle, not only because it can be used against a Roman Catholic (such as Mark), but also because, if it were used against RCism (on, say, papal infallibility), a Catholic wouldn't care. A Catholic is convinced of the truth of his religion, regardless whether Orthodoxy AND Protestantism disagree with him. If their combined testimony doesn't matter, why should the agreement of Orthodoxy with Catholicism work against Protestantism? Tom also asked why the Pontificator cares about the "Cathodox" position, since he is a High Anglican.

First, While Ponty (as I like to call him) is indeed a high church Anglican, in fact a priest in the ECUSA, he has, over the past few years, developed grave misgivings about the assumptions and lacunae of his Protestant heritage, regardless how classical and high it might be. He looks to Cathodoxy not so much to bludgeon Protestantism as to find the doctrinal and spiritual support he himself recognizes he needs. He sides with the two crusty old giants because their remarkable consensus on some flatly non-Protestant beliefs is a tocsin to him that he should heed the voice of ancient tradition, something Protestantism has never been very eager or, if eager, never very adept at doing.

Second, the value of what Tom calls the "Meatloaf" principle of doctrinal discernment (“Two outta three ain't bad") is that if you are willing to recognize the value of Tradition, then these two bodies give you some major guideposts. Obviously, they do not agree on the verdict of every issue. But they at least agree on what the pertinent issues *are*. Protestantism, for example, almost wholly rejects ecclesial hierarchy as a part of the deposit of faith. Catholics and Orthodox, by contrast, at least agree bishops, priests and deacons are essential structures for the Body of Christ. They may disagree on the ultimate authority given the hierarchy, but they at least don't reject the sacramental, monarchial hierarchy as such. Protestantism does.

Consider the Eucharist. You (any person) are simply fooling yourself if you think Orthodoxy and Catholicism do not have all but identical doctrines of the Eucharist, especially compared to the basically anti-realist smorgasbord of Eucharistic thought in Protestantism. As I say, if you are willing to listen to ancient ecclesial Tradition, and if you admit the plain fact that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are vastly more ancient than Protestantism, then you would be wise to heed their testimony.

Even on the issue of papal infallibility, about which Orthodoxy and Catholicism do not agree, Tom ignores the fact that while Orthodoxy denies the universal juridical supremacy of the bishop of Rome, it still recognizes the Petrine primacy of Rome. Protestantism, by contrast, sees both episcopal supremacy and primacy, Roman or not, as sheer poppycock. Ponty’s first rule is valuable because it helps us establish on an inductive historical level at the very least what the ancient Body of Christ should dispute or confirm.

The higher and more traditional a Protestant becomes, the more seriously he must reckon with the testimony of Tradition. Ancient Orthodoxy and Catholicism – or, for that matter, contemporary Catholicism and primitive Catholicism – need not agree on every matter, since some matters were, in antiquity, legitimately unsettled. Were there disputes in the second century about the ontological status of Christ? Clearly. But how about after the Council of Nicea (AD 325)? After some ancillary disputes, all was well in Christendom; Christ was true God from true God, and to demur at the claim was to renounce the Faith. Were there disputes in the third century between Eastern and Western theologians about the nature of the incarnated Christ? Certainly. But how about after the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451)? Not a murmur of dissension (except for the Oriental Orthodox, who, it is now recognized on all sides, are in fact basically in agreement with Chalcedonian orthodoxy). Were there disputes in the sixth century between Eastern and Western Fathers about the veneration of icons? Indeed there were. But how about after the Second Council of Nicea (AD 787)? Again, not a murmur. The ambiguities of antiquities are precisely why there must be a living and enduring *principle*, and not merely an established pattern, of orthodoxy. Catholicism claims this principle rests in the episcopal college headed by Peter's successor, the bishop of Rome. (Orthodoxy, I admit, has a much more mysterious answer, which I, as a Westerner, find basically baffling, and need to explore further.)

The ambiguities of antiquity, such as they exist, also deliver us from the anachronistic challenge Tom presents. He uses the veneration of Mary as an example of Catholic and Orthodox anachronism, telling us to “re-read the New Testament epistles and try, with an open mind, to picture St Paul telling his converts, off the record, ‘But everything I have taught you is worthless if you do not devoutly venerate Mary the Mother of our Lord’.”

First, as I said in my previous post, I challenge Tom to re-read any of the Bible imagining Paul or any one else telling us we NEEDN'T honor the mother of God, the mother of the Messiah, the vessel of the Word of God. I reiterate my claim that Tom, like all fundamentalists, is cut off from the voice of Tradition and theo-logic, and therefore relies on the SILENCE of Scripture to sully Mary or any other targeted non-solo-scriptural belief.[1] Given the role of Mary in the *ordo salutis*, and given the lack of a clear biblical mandate not to venerate her as the Mother of my God, what right does Tom or anyone else have to forbid such practices as “unbiblical”? We may as well imagine Paul whispering off the record that all he said was vain unless the Christians believed in the hypostatic union of Christ. We can't hold earlier believers to the standards of orthodoxy God had not yet clarified.

Second, not only was there was never any apostolic testimony NOT to venerate her, or any other saint, there was in fact a basic apostolic injunction to honor heroes of the faith (a.k.a. “saints”). It was then left to the Holy Spirit to develop the Church's understanding of not only the mystical union of the Church, but also Mary's honor in it, such that, by the present day, it really is an affront to the glory of God not to praise Him for the work He did in Mary and the saints, and not to venerate them as masterpieces of His grace. We have every reason to embrace the Marian dimensions of the Faith for the simple reason that our ancestors did, and that we have but what they passed on to us. By analogy, we must embrace the Trinitarian dimensions of the Bible because the early Church had received the Scriptures in a Trinitarian framework. We read the Bible with Nicene, Trinitarian eyes, and rightly so, because the early Church worshiped Christ as God with a Trinitarian voice. Why the hesitancy to listen to that voice when it comes to bishops, the Eucharist, salvation, and Mary?

[1] The exact same charge can and should be leveled against, say, fundamentalists and SDAs. Where does the Bible say Peter was NEVER in Rome? Where does the Bible command us to observe the Jewish Sabbath in Christ? Low-grade *sola scriptura*, as opposed to the much-touted magisterial Reformed understanding of it, forbids us to work from the silence of Scripture to vindicate the ambiguities of Scripture. Tradition, by contrast, enables us to fill in any scriptural gaps based on early Christian testimony and the lived, mystical testimony of the Church worshiping through the centuries.

The magisterial doctrine of *sola criptura* is not much better off, since any reliance we put in Tradition to help us understand the lacunae of Scripture overwhelmingly tightens the net in favor of Cathodoxy. What does Orthodox and Catholic Tradition tell us about Peter? He was martyred in Rome as that city’s first bishop. What does Orthodox and Catholic Tradition tell us about Mary? She is the most highly venerable creature in the redemption Christ wrought, and she deserves our humble respect and supplication. You may disagree with these claims, among others; but then, of course, you shouldn’t go dabbling in Tradition (as Keith Mathison tries do in his defense of magisterial *sola scriptura*).

Back from the grave

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During the past two years or so I've made some online acquaintances, especially at Mark Shea's blog (CAEI). One of my most memorable interlocutors goes by the handle "Tom R." Tom and I have locked horns more than once, and it doesn't help matters that both of us have an affinity for wit bordering on sarcasm. Recently Mark posted about the absurdity of unearthing proto-Reformed theology in the early Church. Tom R was not amused.

I read the linked article "Ancient Baptists and Other Myths" some months ago, when it first appeared. Apart from the fallacy of the excluded middle ("Because they were not 20th-century Baptists, this proves they were Cathodox"), it faces the problem that two can play the "appeal to anachronism" game.

He added a little later:

By the way, where's Eliott gone? I'm still waiting to find out how he made his final shortlist choice between Rome and Constantinople without resorting to private judgment (or casting lots). [Remember, Tom and I both think we're funny. -- EBB]

Then he complained that it's illegitimate to base papal or episcopal infallibility on the teaching of Christ in Matthew 23 to obey the Pharisses because they sit in Moses' seat:

Regarding Moses' seat: So you still submit to the infallible teching authority of the Jewish High Priest? If not -- what happened that caused them to forfeit this God-ordained authority?

To which Mark himself replied:

Who said the Jewish High Priest was infallible? The Old Covenant was flawed and provisional, remember? ... Christ established the New Covenant. There aren't any more covenant changes after that.

"Who said the High Priest was infallible?" Tom asked. His answer:

Every Catholic polemicist who uses the argument "Christ told us to obey the priests because they sit in Moses' seat, even though He also told us not to copy their wicked deeds". Either it's analogous or it isn't.

To which Mark then answered:

Authoritative doesn't mean infallible. The argument is not "The Jewish high priest was infallible and now Peter is". The argument is that an authoritative office in the Old Covenant foreshadows an office of even greater authority (because of the Greater Covenant of Christ) in Peter.

Alas, Tom, true to form, would have none of it:

I am still skeptical: most Catholic argumentation takes the view that it's impossible to imagine God setting up a church without guaranteeing its leaders ongoing infallibility over time. Why would God be so cruel as to leave His people directionless? But then it postulates that in the OT, God did exactly that with the "church" of Israel. An infallible Magisterium expounding unwritten Tradition has been absolutely indispensible ever since 33 AD, but was non-existent before that time. Protestants, on the other hand, at least the non-Dispensationalist ones, tend to more emphasise the unity of the old and the new convenants, and that the greater perfection of the new pertains to Christ rather than to His followers, who remain as fallible (morally and doctrinally) a bunch as ever.

And then as one final jab on a dying thread, Tom added this:

And for a real anachronism, re-read the New Testament epistles and try, with an open mind, to picture St Paul telling his converts, off the record, "But everything I have taught you is worthless if you do not devoutly venerate Mary the Mother of our Lord".

Now, I have been little more than a ghost at CAEI since I stopped blogsitting for Mark in August and September. But this thread caught my eye and I couldn't help but churn out a short reply to Tom. So...

Tom, you asked where I've been. I'm still in Taichung, quite busy, and surprisingly happy offline. See?

As for my "short list," I think you are confusing the epistemic validity of "private" judgment with the Cath-Orth rejection of the unilateral Prot prerogative for it above any ecclesial standard. Tell me one person or ordained body you would actually defer your interpretation of Scripture if push came to shove? You deny God has established a visible, hierarchy for the Church by which he speaks to all the faithful. I don't. Both of us, of course, must answer "privately" to God on the final day. At any rate, my "short list" doesn't matter since your God has seen to it from all eternity that I shall warm His feet in the Hell he made for me and did not die to redeem me from. (Pawdon me, my thungue is thtuck, but only very thlightly, in my cheek.)

You make a good point that one of the key differences between the Old Covenant and the New is the supremacy of Christ. Indeed, the difference between the OT church and the Church today is that IN CHRIST (who, btw, solidified Peter as the Rock) many of the OT longings and bumblings are redeemed. But you go to far by implying this doesn't, or can't, devolve onto the stewards Christ places over His people. One GREATER than Moses and David has come, remember. It just so happens He's placed His apostles in a hierarchical, albeit at times unruly, Petrine college over the Church between now and His return. Appropriately, this college is, like its Lord, greater than the Pharisees in Moses' seat over the Jews. Mark's essentially right and your wriggling skepticism is unconvincing. Don't forget: Matthew 23 comes BEFORE Mth 28. The pattern of deferring to the authority of the Pharisees is but foreshadowing for the Jews, and then the Gentiles, to better underdstand the commission Christ gave to the Apostles headed by Peter.

In any case, you state your case too strongly that God let the Israelites wander BLINDLY. Pardon me, but were Moses and the Prophets mincemeat? It is as G.A. Lindbeck said in _Teaching Authority and the Infallibility Debate_ (as cited in S. Jaki, _The Keys of the Kingdom_, 1986, p. 203), "Catholics -- like the prohets and unlike the Reformers -- do not envision the possibility, if expelled by the authorities, of establishing alternate ecclesiasitical orders or new churches." As Jaki notes, however,

"Lindbeck asserts in the same breath that, unlike Catholics, the Reformers 'shared the prophets' refusal to set any limits to the possible errors of the leadership of the people of God.' No effort was made by Lindbeck to show how the prophets themselves could be exempt from the possibility of erring if the latter had no limits. The problem cries for the Catholic solution of papal infallibility when one considers the case of a Moses, a David, and a Caiaphas, who at the same time and in the same person were both very fallible religious leaders and truly infallible prophets."

OT Israel in need of greater guidance, of course; hence Christ came and sent His Apostles. OT Israel as a complete counterexample to the pattern of God ordaining visible leaders over His people? Come on, Tom, you're trying too hard.

Finally, I challenge you to re-read any of the Bible imagining Paul or any one else telling us we NEEDN'T honor the mother of God, the mother of the Messiah, the vessel of the Word of God. Is it sheer whimsy that Luke places Mary in peculiar prominence among the disciples just before Pentecost breaks? Sheerly trivial that John places her in prominence at the Cross with the beloved disicple to whom Christ gave him (us)? You, like all fundamentalists, no matter how well read or articulate, once again rely on the SILENCE of Scripture to sully Mary or any other of your targeted non-solo-scriptural beliefs because you have cut yourself off from the voice of Tradition and theo-logic.

The thrill is gone (but not the trrrrrill!)

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Midway through this four-day weekend and the sails are sagging. I've been working on consistently getting to bed earlier than my usual 2 or 4 AM. It's been working, and part of the proof lies in the fact that I'm tired now, at 1:15 AM, and have been so for a good thirty or forty minutes.

You'll notice again that the majority of my blogging has been the Christian quotes. No news, no essays, no quodlibetical ramblings from yours truly. Odd, the thrill of obscure self-publishing is gone. For whatever reason, my blogging bug has bitten the dust. Or, at least, has become dormant, ready to spring to bone-crunching, curfew-shattering life without warning!

I finished Dan Brown's _The Da Vinci Load Code_ (DVC). Now I can still renounce its errors and say "yes, in fact, I have read it." For a string of car and plane rides acting as props for prolonged discussions of "symbology and history, _DVC_ was more exciting than I expected, but often predictable. Silas, the hulking Opus Dei albino assassin monk, was a richer character than I expected. There was a smattering of interesting art trivia. But considering Brown's other egregious errors, I'm hesitant to put much stock in even his most trivial trivia.

I kept waiting for the much-discussed scene in which Leigh Teabing tells the "real story" of the Church, including the political elevation of Christ from man to God that occurred at Nicea and the secret sex life of the Messiah. (War makes for strange bedfellows. "Constantine, that dirty pagan Sol Invictus worshipper, corrupted the Church with the Edict of Milan! So much for Matthew 16:18!" Uncanny how anti-Catholic fundies and expressly non-Christian wing nuts end up in ideological bed.) Once I got there, I was glad I hadn't eaten. Brown did little more than embarrass himself with a nauseatingly shallow historical and theological spin job of basic pre- and infra-Nicene Christology. It wasn't offensive; it was too preposterous and blithe even to get a rise out of me. All I could manage were a couple incredulous sighs and groans such banalities were glistening atop the New York Times bestseller list. Ach, my ulcer, let's move past it.

Just tonight I finished Karl Keating's _Catholicism and Fundamentalism_, which is, ounce for ounce, even after 16 years in print amidst the Cath-Prot apologetic wars, still a winner. It's a cornucopia of interesting fundamentalist objections and personalities, complemented by succinct and charitable rebuttals to dozens of anti-Catholic claims. It's a must-read for getting your bearings in these discussions.

I'm currently reading Roald Dahl's _The Umbrella Man_, "a baker's dozen of barbed, witty, obliquely macabre short stories." I just love Dahl's stuff. Now if only I could find "The Pig" in print, or even online.

As for this four-day weekend, Tuesday is Teacher's Day (and Moon Day), and Viator deigned to give us lowly teachers Monday off as well. Score! Not only is it a four-day WEEKEND, but it cuts the WEEK down to three days. Twofer score!

Fr. Ramon needs to go to Taipei tomorrow, so we won't have our RCIA time together. He certainly deserves the break. And hey, on an otherwise free day, I'm not complaning about the break either!

Teacher Elliot has been doing pretty well lately. Saturday was one of the most beautiful days of my life, in fact. I woke up and met friends for lunch to celebrate Terri's birthday and return to Taiwan. Then, at her behest, we drove to the Taichung Metropolitan Park, which was a glorious. It was an otherwise hot bright day made cool by a delicious breeze, especially once we got atop Da Du Mountain to the park. We walked the trail around the park and then played a little Frisbee in the wind. I eventually got back into town at dusk and met some friends for dinner. This was followed by a nice night in the park (the one at the science museum near Caves bookstore). There were few visible stars with the cloud cover, but the air was cool and intoxicating. My allergies have subsided and my spirits are lifted.

This morning I got to Mass a little early and had some very nice time with the Lord before the Mass started. I have, of late, recognized my need to seek God's will about my future. Many very, very important decisions are looming on the horizon. On the one hand, they are not so daunting because they don't require immediate decisions. On the other hand, I face grave forks in the road because what I do now ultimately ties into which path I take down the road.

Tonight, I preached at the Shelter about God’s love. I have no clue how people received it, since I heard no responses from anyone, but for me, it was a powerful and touching message to hear. I preached from the beginnings of chapters 1 and 2 of the Song of Songs, pressing the point that God is not just our Father and Lord, but actually the LOVER of our souls. “At the Cross, God kissed the world,” I said. “Faith and prayer and love are how we kiss Him back.” I tied this, justifiably enough, into the Pauline image of the Church as the Bride of Christ. The two shall become one flesh. It was deep, truly a bit overwhelming, and exactly what I needed to hear.

And now, my dears, I’ll clean my filthy little body and put it to rest for the night. Adieu!

Augustine Day by Day - September 23-26

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Renewal in Christ

"Old age has its many complaints: coughing, shaking, failing eyesight, anxiety, and weariness. The world is old, and it too is full of pressing tribulations. Do not refuse to regain your youth in Christ who says: The world is passing away. Do not fear. Your youth shall be renewed."

-- Sermon 81, 8

Prayer. You, O Lord, who always are, both before we were and before the world was, have become a refuge for us, within which we turn to you.

-- Commentary on Psalm 89, 3

September 23

Putting a Vocation to the Test

"How will you get to know the ones you want to exclude from the monastery? If you want to find out that they are unfit, you must put them to the test. Many have promised themselves that they will generously respond to the holiness of that life. They have been put in the fire, and they have crumbled."

-- Commentary on Psalm 99, 11

Far from a retreat, the vowed life is actually a white-knuckled romp into the fullness of emptiness, the victory of loss. Perhaps the monastic life alone enables us to plunge into the frightening waters, and scorching fire, of unremitting attention to God and our own hearts.

Prayer. Lord, be my helper, and do not abandon me. See, I am on your path. I have asked for only one thing from you, to live in your house all the days of my life.

-- Commentary on Psalm 26 (2), 17

September 24

The Grace of God

"No one of us does anything good unless aided by Christ's grace. What we do badly comes from ourselves; what we do well, we do with the help of God.

Need I mention Augustine is known as the Doctor of Grace?

Therefore, let us give thanks to God who made it possible. And when we do well, let us not insult anyone who does not act in the same way. Let us not extol ourselves above such a person."

-- Commentary on Psalm 93, 15

"Pride comes not in ackowledging, to God, our gifts from Him, but in denying, to ourselves, the gifts of others, from God. Your own are the only gifts you must celebrate less than anyone else's." -- Elliam Fakespeare

Prayer. Lord, I have seen Christ the Bridegroom. Let no one now lure me away from among the members of your Bride. Be not my Head if I fail to be among her members.

-- Commentary on Psalm 147, 18

"Loving Christ means loving Christians; loving God means loving our neighbor, for whom He died." -- Elliam Fakespeare

September 25

You Owe Love

"Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement. In this regard each of you must do what you can. Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker. You owe your conscience to God. But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another. [see Romans 13:8 -- EBB]"

-- Letter 130, 16

Prayer. Let me know you, O you who know me. Let me know you just as I am known to you. Virtue of my soul, come into it and make it over for your own use, that you may possess it without spot.

-- Confessions 10, 1

September 26

Christian Heritage - September 23-26

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Show Generosity to Others - September 23

"Recognize who it is that gave you existence, life, understanding, and what is greater still, knowledge of God, hope of the kingdom of heaven, and the vision of glory, which now is dim, as in a mirror, but which will one day be full and clear. Recognize who it is that made you a child of God, a coheir with Christ, and, if I dare say it, divine yourself. Where have all these blessings come from, who gave them to you?

"Or to speak of lesser things, those you see with your eyes, who gave you the power to behold the beauty of the heavens, the sun in its course, the moon, the myriad of stars with the harmony and order that are theirs like the music of a lyre? Who has blessed you with rain, crops to cultivate, food, arts and crafts, homes, laws, organized society, civilized life with friendship and family ties?

"Was it not God, whose first request to us now is that we should show generosity in return? Having already received so much from him and hoping for so much more, we should surely be ashamed to refuse God the one thing he asks of us, which is to show generosity to others. When he, our Lord and God, is not ashamed to be called our Father, can we repudiate our own kith and kin?"

Gregory Nazianzen (AD 329-389), Oratio 14, De pauperum amore 23-25: PG 35, 887-890

Gregory was one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers whose preaching helped to restore the Nicene faith and led to its final acceptance by the Council of Constantinople in 381.

All Our Love Must Be Fraternal - September 24

"To widen our hearts we need not depend upon ourselves. Ask God to help you love one another — to love everyone without exception, not just your friends but enemies as well; not because they are your brothers and sisters in Christ, but so that they may be. Pray that you may always have a warm fraternal love for other people, both for those who have become your brothers and sisters, and for your enemies that they may become such. Whenever you love brothers or sisters you love friends, for they are already with you, joined to you in Catholic unity. If they live virtuously you love them as people who have been changed from enemies into brothers and sisters. But suppose you love people who do not yet believe in Christ, or if they do, yet believe as the devil believes — they believe in Christ but still do not love him. You must love just the same, you must love even people like that, you must love them as brothers and sisters. They are not such yet, but you must love them so that they become such through your kindness. All our love, then, must be fraternal."

Caesarius of Arles, Sermo 137, 5-6: CCL 103, 1, 568

Caesarius was the archbishop of Arles, was very much influenced by Saint Augustine and combated semi-pelagianism at the Council of Orange in 529.

Rest in Heaven - September 25

"Love brings joy because the more it increases the more generously it gives. Consequently, while their acquisitions impoverish those who desire evil, charitable givers are enriched by their gifts. The greedy are troubled, seeking revenge for injuries inflicted on them; the charitable are at peace, delighting to forgive any harm done to them. The avaricious avoid practicing the works of mercy, while the charitable perform them cheerfully. The object of the avaricious is to injure their neighbors; the charitable do them no harm. By self-exaltation the greedy sink down into hell; by humbling themselves the charitable ascend to heaven.

"But when shall I ever be able fittingly to sing the praises of love, which is not solitary in heaven or bereft on earth? For on earth it is fed by the words of God; in heaven it is filled by the words of God. On earth it has the company of friends, in heaven the fellowship of angels. It toils in the world; it finds rest in heaven."

Fulgentius of Ruspe (AD 468-533), Sermo 5, 6: CCL 91A, 923

Fulgentius was the bishop of Ruspe in northern Africa, was a faithful disciple of Augustine and the best theologian of his time.

Eyes Only For the Sick - September 26

"As soon as Jesus crossed the threshold he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying ill in bed with a fever. On entering the house he immediately saw what he had come for. He was not interested in the comfort the house itself could offer, nor the crowds awaiting his arrival, nor the formal welcome prepared for him, nor the assembled household. Still less did he look for any outward signs of preparation for his reception. All he had eyes for was the spectacle of a sick woman, lying there consumed with a raging fever. At a glance he saw her desperate plight, and at once stretched out his hands to perform their divine work of healing; nor would he sit down to satisfy his human needs before he had made it possible for the stricken woman to rise up and serve her God. So he took her by the hand, and the fever left her. Here you see how fever loosens its grip on a person whose hand is held by Christ's; no sickness can stand its ground in the face of the very source of health. Where the Lord of life has entered, there is no room for death."

Peter Chrysologus, (AD 400-450), bishop of Ravenna, Sermo 18: PL 52, 246-247

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Look out below!

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Yeah, I know, I dropped a ton of quotes on here at once. But, hey, I had to keep the faith, if not the pace.

Looks like I'll be preaching at the Shelter this Sunday. I heard about that today. But the good news is that we have a four-day weekend coming up due to Teacher's Day. (Woot!) Tomorrow I plough through hours 20-25 of my teaching week. Oof. I shall sleep soon. Gotta beat this allergy illness and general fatigue. Perpetually getting back on the hourse, I am.

A quick anecdote from the front classroom:

I've been teaching my kids about memory, one of the pertinent words being "remember." This led to a brief discussion of what "re-" means in English, to wit, "again." The coup de grace came when I told them the infamous Pete and Repete joke. I really have a good time with my last class on Wednesday, and they were truly in delightful form when I announced this joke.

"Hey guys, you wanna hear a joke?" I told my junior 2-9 guys. "I'll tell you a joke,"

"[general mumbling and shuffling and chuckling]", they answered.

"You ready?"

I opened my mouth to speak, but suddenly Richard -- one of those rare kids that are intelligent but not impertinent -- sat up, waved his hand at me and said, "Hold on, wait, wait." He then grabbed his dark blue school jacket, slung it over his head and shoulders, and wrapped it around his head like a nun.

"Okay, now go," he said.

"Ah, you--!" I began, raising my hand in a mock threat.

In Taiwan, you see, bad or silly jokes ("groaners" as we say in English) are called "cold jokes". Richard, you see, had to brace for the cold. And O how I bring the cold! It's the Richards that often make this ESL grindstone less like a kidney stone and more like the precious stone that it can and should be.

Augustine Day by Day - September 17-22

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One Goal

“We know we are traveling together. If our pace is slow, go on ahead of us. We won't envy you but rather will seek to catch up with you. However, if you consider us capable of a quicker pace, run along with us. There is only one goal, and we are all anxious to reach it--some at a slow pace and others at a fast pace.”

-- Sermon on a New Canticle 4, 4

Prayer. Let everyone's sighs be uttered in longing for Christ. He should be the object of our desire since he, he all-beautiful One, loves repulsive people so that he might make them beautiful. Let us run to him and cry out for him.

-- Sermon on John 10, 13

September 18

Removal of Social Evils by Education

“Clearly, it is not by harshness or by severity, or by overbearing methods, that social evils are removed. It is by education rather than by formal commands, by persuasion rather than by threats. This is the way to deal with people in general. Severity, however, should be employed only against the sins of the few.”

-- Letter 22, 5

Prayer. Lord, you are the light of my heart and the bread in the mouth of my soul. You are the virtue dwelling in my mind and the hiding place of my thoughts.

-- Confessions 1, 13

September 19

True Superiors

“Superiors are designated for the purpose of looking out for the good of their subjects. Hence, in the fulfillment of their office they should seek not their own advantage but that of their subjects. There are superiors who delight in being placed over others, seek their own honor, and look out only for their own convenience. These are fattening themselves, not their flocks!”

-- Sermon 46, 1

Prayer. Lord, my own wrongdoing befouls me, and the offenses of others afflict me. Free me from theirs, and pardon me for mine. Take evil thoughts away from my heart, and keep me away from advisers of malice.

-- Commentary on Psalm 18 (2), 13

September 20

Love for Sinners

“Essentially, the distinguishing mark of those who strive after Christian perfection is that they love the sinner and detest only sins. When they must avenge wrongdoing, they do so, not with the cruelty of hatred, but with justice administered with moderation, lest forgiveness without satisfaction do more harm to the sinner than punishment.”

-- Against Adimantus 17

Prayer. Lord, if the persecution of this world rises up against me, let me fix my hope on the prayer in my heart.

-- Commentary on Psalm 16, 3

September 21

The Fast and the Slow

“Let those who are quicker than others in understanding reflect that they are walking along the road together with those who are slower. When one is faster than a companion, it is in the power of the faster to allow the slower to catch up, not vice versa. If the faster walks with all possible speed, the slower will not succeed in following. The faster must slow the pace so as not to abandon the slower companion.”

-- Commentary on Psalm 90 (2), 1

Prayer. I want to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. In it lies something wonderful to see, the delight of the Lord himself awaiting our contemplation.

-- Commentary on Psalm 26 (2), 8

September 21

We All Have One Teacher

“Remembering and bearing in mind the obligations of my servantship – such is my attitude as I teach you. Hence, I speak not as a master but as a minister, not to pupils but to fellow pupils since I speak not to servants but to fellow servants. We all have one Master, whose school is on earth and whose seat is in heaven.

-- Sermon 242, 1

Prayer. To those who love you, O Lord, according to your command, you show yourself and it is enough for them. Thus they do not fall away from you nor back into themselves. This is the house of God, made not of the earth, nor of any physical heavenly body, but it is a spiritual sharing in your eternity.

-- Confessions 12, 15

September 22

Christian Heritage - September 17-22

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Holy Church is Called the Body of Christ - September 17

"It is by analogy with the human body that holy Church, that is, all believers, is called the body of Christ, for it has received the Spirit of Christ whose presence in a person is indicated by the name Christian which Christ has given him. This name designates Christ's members, those who share in the Spirit of Christ, those who are anointed by him who is the anointed one; for the name Christian comes from Christ, and Christ means anointed, anointed with the toil of gladness which he has received in fullness above all his fellows, in order to pour it out on all his companions as the head upon the members of the body: like precious ointment upon the head which runs down from the head to the beard and then to the edge of the garment to flow over all and give life to all. So it is that when you become a Christian, you become a member of Christ, a member of the body of Christ sharing in the Spirit of Christ."

Hugh of Saint Victor (AD 1096-1141), De Sacramentis IIm II, 1-11: PL 176, 415-417

Hugo was an Augustinian canon and became one of the most profound theologians of his time. He wrote many biblical commentaries and other works.

The Wedding Garment - September 18

"What precisely does the parable of the wedding garment mean? Can it be one of the sacraments? Hardly, for these, as we know, are common to good and bad alike. Take baptism for example. It is true that no one comes to God except through baptism, but not every baptized person comes to him. We cannot take this sacrament as the wedding garment, then, for it is a robe worn not only by good people but also by wicked people. Perhaps, then, it is our altar that is meant, or at least what we receive from it. But we know that many who approach the altar eat and drink to their own damnation. Well, then, maybe it is fasting? The wicked can fast too. What about going to church? Some bad people also go to church.

"Whatever can this wedding garment be, then? For an answer we must go to the apostle, who says: The purpose of our command is to arouse the love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. There is your wedding garment. It is not love of just any kind. Many people of bad conscience appear to love one another, but you will not find in them the love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Only that kind of love is the wedding garment."

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), Sermon 90, 1.5-6

Much Greater Was Your Mercy - September 19

“The painter who has painted a very perfect picture may go away to another country, but the picture continues to exist without him; even if he dies, it lasts for many years, because he made it out of something and his own contribution was simply the form. You, however, Lord, bestow everything, and therefore no creature can be conserved unless your mercy that gave it being continues to give it existence at every moment and thus conserves it. In you, Lord, we live and move and have our being. Great was the mercy shown in producing me, for before I existed I was nothing, and no less in giving me so noble a being that is capable of receiving your glory. But much greater was the mercy you showed me, Lord of my soul, by redeeming me at such a cost to you in blood, honor, and life. This was the great mercy which King David had in mind when he said, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. This blessing was an ocean of mercies: blessed be you for your kindness and goodness!”

Alsonso de Oroczo, O.S.A. (AD 1500-1591), Confessions 9

Alonso was an Augustinian friar and great preacher of the court of Spain under Charles V, was author of many spiritual treatises and prominent in the golden age of Spanish literature.

God Protects Us - September 20

After providing a school of virtue in our own nature and in the created world, God gave us the angels to protect us, he raised up the patriarchs and prophets to guide us, he showed us signs and wonders to lead us to faith, and gave us the written law as a supplement to the law of our rational soul and the teaching of the world around us. Then at last, when we had scorned all this in our indolence — how different from his own continuing love and care for us! — he gave himself to us for our salvation. He poured out the wealth of his divinity into our lowly condition; he took our nature and became a human being like us, and was with us as our teacher. He teaches us the greatness of his love and proves it by word and deed, at the same time persuading those who obey him not to be hardhearted, but to imitate his compassion.

“Those who manage worldly affairs have a certain love for them, as do shepherds for their flocks and owners for their personal possessions, but this cannot be compared with the love of those who share the same flesh and blood, and especially the love of parents for their children. Therefore, to make us realize how much he loves us, God called himself our Father; for our sake he became man, and then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism, he caused us to be born anew.

Gregory Palamos (AD 1296-1359), Hom. 3: PG 151, 36

Palamos (I way prefer the Grecian spelling to the more common Western “Palamas”) was the bishop of Thessalonica and stressed the biblical teaching that the human body and soul form a single united whole. His theology has been the center of much controversy between the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church. I also read that understanding his theology is absolutely essential to understanding Eastern theology in general. He is, I suppose, the Eastern Aquinas or Bonaventure; and perhaps St. John Damascene is the Eastern Augustine or Jerome. Ach, but what know I?

Matthew, the Apostle - September 21

“Christ made Matthew not only his disciple but also an apostle, and gave him authority not only to preach but to write a gospel as well, so that, sharing a title with the heavenly spirits, he is called, and is, an evangelist.

“There were three reasons why the almighty and loving God chose to act in this way. The first was to show us how his omnipotence enables him to justify anyone, however, vicious, as quickly as he chooses. The second was to show us the immensity of his mercy, which even the most shameful sins can never exhaust. The third was to offer everyone, no matter how depraved, the hope of forgiveness.

“But sinners, attend to this! It is not as a sinner that Matthew the tax collector's example is set before you, but as a penitent. Take care not to sin, but if you do sin, do not despair; for if you follow Matthew's example and admit your sin, you also can rise again through repentance.

Ralph the Fervent (ca. AD 1101), Hom. de tempore XXXVII: PL 155, 1450-1452

Ralph the Fervent (great handle!) was a conscientious, erudite curé in the diocese of Poiters, who earned the sobriquet "ardens" by the ardor of his parochial sermons.

The Bishop is a Shepherd - September 22

"Today's shepherds watch carefully over income and tithes, and the flock is the least of their concerns. One shepherd spends his time in the court of princes, another is entangled in secular business, another devotes himself to games and the hunt, another goes off to Rome to acquire a higher rank. Meanwhile the flock of Christ is left to mercenaries to despoil and ravage and scatter; care of the sheep is left to wolves. What else will a hungry wolf do but tear and destroy and kill? This is why nowadays knowledge of divine secrets and the light of spiritual revelations has passed from prelates to the least little lambs of the flock.

"Where shall we find today a bishop who is famous for miracles, conspicuous for holiness, fervent in spirit, an explorer of the scriptures, outstanding for doctrine, a searcher of things heavenly, and a despiser of the things of time? Where is the bishop who from unbounded intimacy with God is both aware of God's secrets and able, like a new Moses, to stand like a wall between an angry God and the house of Israel, and who by his extraordinary holiness and outstanding doctrine has become an example to the Lord's flock and a model of virtue?"

Thomas of Villanova, O.S.A. (AD 1486-1555), The Birth of Jesus, sermon 1, 17: Opera Omnia IV, 12

Thomas was an Augustinian friar and archbishop of Valencia. He became known as the Beggar Bishop and father of the poor for his devotion to the poor. His many sermons had an influence on Spanish spiritual literature.

What's more, he poses some very good and timely questions. It's at least, strangely, comforting to know the same problems of episcopal indigence and indulgence) are not new. If God brought us through those dark days He can do it again today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Welcome back, eh?

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Dear readers and friends, it's been quite a week. A great week, in fact. More than I describe right now, at work, in fact. Green Island was well worth the fourteen or so hours of bus time I logged. Some of the beauty I saw there led me to deep thoughts about the Trinity, and the long travel times put me in a very creative stillness. I came up with a few good story ideas. I hope I can develop the thoughts on the Trinity for FCA and work those stories into reading shape.

My first session of RCIA yesterday, with Fr. Ramon, turned out to be one of the most refreshing times I've had in weeks. In fact, it began with one of the most powerful encounters with the Risen Christ that I've ever experienced. No guff. I have been dry and tense for some time now. But yesterday I was filled with an indescribable peace like water rushing over an ancient bone-dry desert. In addition, I learned with almost mystical force the power of icons. It was a golden day, but I still need a lot of watering.

Life offline continues swimmingly. My writing itch is insufferable these days so I hope I can to the keyboard.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - September 15 & 16

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September 15 - Pride -- Beginning of an Evil Will

"People would not have performed an evil work unless an evil will had preceded it. Now what else than pride could be the beginning of an evil will? What is pride but the desire of a height out of proportion to our state?

"It is a height out of proportion to our state to leave God to whom the soul should cling as its basis and to become in some way our own basis. This is what happens when the soul is too pleased with itself."

-- City of God 14, 4

"Prayer. What shall I ask of you, kind Jesus? Through you all things were made, Son of God, yet you are made among all things, Son of Man. Why should we come and learn from you? 'Because I am meek and humble of Heart.'"

-- Holy Virginity 35

September 16 - You Are a Work of God

"If you praise the works of God, then you will also have to praise yourself, for you too are a work of God. Here is how you can praise yourself yet not be proud. Praise not yourself but God in you. Offer praise, not because you are this or that kind of person, but because God made you; not because you are capable of doing this or that, but because he works in you and through you."

-- Commentary on Psalm 144, 7

Prayer. Behold, O Lord, we are your little flock; we belong to you.

-- Confessions 10, 36

Christian Heritage - September 15-16

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[We lost our ADSL last night, again, at the usual time: right before I wanted to finish my bidness online and go to bed. Newman!]

September 15 - Our Lady of Sorrows

"For God's mother, whose love was more intense than that of any other, shared her dying Son's agony so intimately as almost to experience it herself. Her grief was in fact proportionate to the intensity of her love. She loved her Son more than she did herself, and thus she received in her soul, with the keenest sense of spiritual pain, the very wounds he bore upon his body; and in this way Christ's passion was her martyrdom as well.

"For Christ's flesh was in a true sense hers too; it was indeed flesh of her flesh, and she loved the flesh Christ had derived from her more than that which constituted her own body. And the greater her love, the more intense her grief; her mental anguish far exceeded the physical torment of any martyr. Wherefore is she noteworthy for her unique privilege of a glorious if bloodless martyrdom. Other martyrs have borne their witness by laying down their lives, but she provided from her body the flesh that was to suffer and to die for the salvation of the world. And the intensity of her grief at and in Christ's passion so engulfed her soul as virtually to identify her with his actual sufferings, so that, next after Christ himself, she is rightly deemed to have attained the very peak of martyrdom."

Baldwin of Canterbury (ca. AD 1190), Tract. 6 De Verbis Apostoli: Vivus est sermo Dei et efficax: PL 214, 457-458

Baldwin was the archbishop of Canterbury and a member, and later abbot, of the Cistercian monastery at Ford, England. His writings form a bridge between the monastic schools and scholasticism. Rather large shoes to fil after Anselm. I'd like to know more about Baldwin, see how he walked in those shoes.

September 16 - The Heavenly Image Within Us

"We cannot bear the heavenly image within us unless we show a likeness to Christ in the life upon which we have now entered. This means changing from what we used to be and becoming something altogether new, so that our divine birth may be seen in us, so that we may imitate the Father by our holy way of life, and so that our lives may give honor and praise to God and he may be glorified in us. This is what he himself has taught and urged us to do, promising that those who glorify him will be rewarded. I will glorify those who glorify me, he says, and those who despise me shall be despised. To instruct us and prepare us for this glorification and produce in us a likeness to God the Father, our Lord, the Son of God, says in his gospel: You have heard it said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven."

Cyprian of Carthage (ca. AD 285), On Jealousy and Envy 12-13: CSEL 3/1, 427-430

Cyprian was the bishop of Carthage in Northern Africa and had a keen sense of the unity of the Church. Much has been made of his works, especially *De Unitate Ecclesiae*, in Catholic and Orthodox interactions. For the former, Cyprian provides very early, very solid support for the Petrine supremacy of the bishop of Rome. For the latter, he simply enforces the patristic idea of eucharistic ecclesiology, in which each bishop is given the authority of Peter in the eucharistic structure of each local, catholic church. You can find me if you need me mining my way through this discussion.

Taiwan touch my heart

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Well, campers (always wanted to use that), Teacher Elliot is off to bed in preparation for a fullll day tomorrow. I have six hours of class followed by the middle school English club. During the day I need to grade 160 or so quizzes and make a listening quiz due Monday. After work I must go to the Water Tower for Banner's English Corner. For about the past two days I've been fending off a smidgeon of illness and a good night of sleep should do me well.

Some of the added "time crunch" is that I will be out of town all weekend, so I need to finish my work now before I leave. Where will I be, ye ask? Taiwan's beautiful Green Island (check these pics too, if ya lahk). I was invited by someone at my school and I knew it was a golden (or at least verdant) opportunity not to be missed. We (being I and thirty or so Taiwanese folks) plan to leave tomorrow night at 2230 (10:30 PM) by bus to Taidong (Taitung) and then catch a boat out to Green Island. Sweeeeet! I love boats (even despite the fact that I'm almost guaranteed to vomit).

I hope to post more pictures of Taiwan in general over the next few weeks. But, eh, you know me. Life offline is pretty hectic (and not a little alluring[1]). Mmm, and best of all, books never say no. :shudder with eyes askance:

[1] litotes: A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in This is no small problem. Luke, of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, used litotes none too infrequently.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Augustine Day by Day - September 11-14

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Yes, I did completely forget about these. Brainfart remedied!

September 11 - The Way of Correction

"Be assured that abuses are not done away with by harsh or severe or autocratic measures, but by teaching rather than by commanding, by persuasion rather than by threats. This is the way to deal with the people in general, reserving severity for the sins of the few.

"If we make threats, let it be done sorrowfully, in the words of Scripture, and in the terms of the world to come. In this way, it is not we who are feared because of our power, but God because of our words."

-- Letter 22, 5

This, from the man that allegedly infused the Western Church with militance and worldy aggression in his battle with the Donatists. Good grief, can't he keep the story straight?

Prayer. Thanks and praise to you, my God, who sound in my ears and illuminate my heart. Keep me away from every temptation.

-- Confessions 10, 31

September 12 - Love the Creator in the Creature

"Now, may our God be our hope. He who made all things is better than all things. He who made all beautiful things is more beautiful than all of them. He who made all mighty things is more mighty than all of them. He who made all great things is greater than all of them.

"Learn to love the Creator in his creature, and the maker in what he has made."

-- Commentary on Psalm 39, 9

Prayer. O Lord, my God, you alone do I love; you alone do I follow; you alone do I seek. You alone am I prepared to serve, for you alone justly rule, and under your authority I long to be.

-- Soliloquies 1, 1

September 13 - Charity Constitutes Your Roots

"Watch the tree. First it seeks the depths in order to grow high. It drives roots into the depths so that it can raise its top toward the sky. Does it have any other foundation than lowness?

"In the light of this, do you wish to attain to the heights without charity? Without roots do you seek the upper airs?"

-- Sermon 117, 17

Prayer. Alas for me, O Lord, how high you are in the heights, and how deep in the depths! Nowhere do you withdraw, yet we scarcely return to you!

-- Confessions 8, 3

September 14 - Mystery of the Wooden Cross

"Know this: just as the wood of the ark saved the just from drowning, so too, by the mystery of his wooden Cross, does Christ, the Church's God and King, save us from drowning in the sea of this world.

"In the symbol of a thing made of wood he gave human beings a foreshadowing of both the judgment to come and the salvation of the just."

-- Catechetical Instructions 31

Prayer. Lord, you help those who turn to you. Redeem us so that we may come to you.

-- Commentary on Psalm 17, 15

Christian Heritage - September 14 - The Fruit of the Cross

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"How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

"This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom's pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness."

Theodore of Studios (AD 759-826), Oratio in adorationem crucis: PG 99, 693-694

Theodore refounded the monastery of Studios at Constantinople and made it a center of monastic life in the East. He has left a number of letters and treatises.

While I agree that the Cross is instrincally good and pleasant, I think we must also keep in mind the obvious bitterness and horror of it. The Cross is good because of the love God shed upon us from it; it is bad, however, because of the agony we cast upon God at it. The tree in Eden was appealing to eye and tongue, but was lethal and foul as our doom. The Cross was lethal and foul to eye and mind, but is our life and hope for God's glory.

Also, I think it's fruitful to remember the whole cast of Eden. Redemption is mystical reversal along the same existential contours. We fell in Adam when Eve offered him the fruit and he offered his obedience to God to himself; but we were redeemed in Christ when he offered Himself to the Father and his mother to us at the Cross.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

It reely sez sumthing wenn...

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a dictonary webpage misspells its own namesake in the URL.

Ah, the Internet -- giving boundless intellectual security to people that can't even spell it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Christian Heritage - September 12 & 13

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September 12

Natural Illumination

"Wisdom has built her house. The substantive power of God the Father has made his own dwelling-place in both the whole earth, in which he lives in actuality, and in the human race itself, created in the image and likeness of God, composed of visible and invisible nature.

"To human beings themselves, re-created after their rebirth in Christ, while they believe in him and keep his commandment, he has also given the seven gifts of the Spirit. With the help of these, virtue being animated by knowledge, and knowledge in turn embodied in virtue, the spiritual human being is made complete, brought to perfection by perfect faith and participation in supernatural things.

"So Christians attain to natural illumination through the spirit, and have strength to make an eager start in the right direction, led of course by the holy desires by which all things have come into being. They have deliberation to help them distinguish the kind of desires which are entirely good and come from God, being uncreated and immortal, and permissible in thought, speech, and action, from those that are not so. They also have understanding which makes them consent to and delight in one kind and not the other."

Chew, chew, chew...

Procopius of Gaza (AD 475-528), Proverbs: PG 87/1, 1299-1304

Procopius was the foremost member of the school of rhetoric that flourished in Gaza. His major achievement was in the field of scriptural interpretation, specifically the compilor of the catenae for a number of books of the Old Testament.

Not only is this a cool quote, but Procopius is one of the raddest names I've heard in years. Hmmmm, maybe I can name my (hypothetical) kids Dorothy, Cyril AND, now, Procopius....

September 13

Let Us Take Care That We Hate No One

"Two things are required of us, here and now: to acknowledge our sins and to forgive others; the first, so that the second may become easier. For someone properly aware of his own behavior and its shortcomings will be the more forgiving to his fellow humans. And that does not mean forgiveness in words merely, but from the heart, lest in our resentment we turn the sword on ourselves. The more he has injured you, the greater the forgiveness of your own sin, in consequence.

"Let us take care that we hate no one, so that God may still love us; so that even though we may be owing him a thousand talents he may yet be generous and merciful to us. Has someone offended you? Be merciful to him, then; do not hate him. Weep and lament for him, but do not show aversion. For it is not you who have offended God, but he; you will do well to put up with it. Recall how Christ was content to be crucified — and yet shed tears over those who did it. That must be your disposition also: the more you are wronged, the more you must lament for the wrongdoers. For it is we who profit from this — and greatly — but not they."

John Chrysostom (AD 347-407), patriarch of Constantinople, Hom. LXI on Matthew

Bidness as usual...

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Despite a brief burst of pop-science/tech updates and political ramblings, I've been pretty low key on the blog. As I've said, I'm trying to strike out into the frightening frontier of having a life offline. Gulp. I've been reading a good bit, speaking at various ministry meetings, teaching a lot, trying not to get sick and doing a lot emailing.

If you wanted to get a bead on my mind these days, I'm currently reading (along with, of course, the Bible):

+ _Living Tradition_ by Rev. John Meyendorff

+ _The Da Vinci Code_ by Dan Brown (Sigh, "I become all things to all people....")

+ _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ by (the one, the only) James White

+ _Catholicism and Fundamentalism_ by Karl Keating

+ the _Catechism of the Catholic Church_ (CCC)

In addition, I've finally arranged to start RCIA! I will be meeting with a Spanish-, Chinese- and English-speaking priest, Fr. Ramon, at Providence University every Monday afternoon. We'll just be reading through the CCC and discussing various issues. I hope I can brush up on my Spanish too!

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and prayers.

Christian Heritage - September 11 - Knowledge and Love

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"Rather than engaging in futile disputation let us seek to have the love of Christ burning within us. When we give way to unbridled curiosity we cease to savor delights that are eternal. Many nowadays are so consumed with desire of knowledge rather than love that they hardly know what love is, though the whole object of their study should have been to achieve a burning love of God. I say this to their shame: an old woman can be more expert in the love of God, and less worldly as well, than a theologian whose studies are useless because they are undertaken out of vanity in order to win a reputation and obtain stipends and positions of honor. Such a one should be reckoned not a doctor but a fool!"


Richard Rolle (1300-1349), The Fire of Love 5, 157-160

Richard was a hermit and a mystic in England who left us the fruits of his contemplation in writing. I thank him for explaining with these words some of my hesitancy to become immersed in academia.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

"Genius means watching well what God has done in Creation. ...

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Wisdom means avoiding well what sin has done against it." -- Elliam Fakespeare

Robot Spider Walks on Water

Wired News, 08:19 AM Sep. 11, 2004 PT, AP

With inspiration from nature and some help from research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a team led by Carnegie Mellon engineering professor Metin Sitti built a tiny robot that can walk on water, much like the insects known as water skimmers or Jesus bugs.

It's only a prototype, but some researchers imagine the water-skimming robot could have many uses. With a chemical sensor, it could monitor water supplies for toxins; with a camera it could be a spy or an explorer; with a net or a boom, it could skim contaminants off the top of water. ...

Sitti's robot is little more than a half-inch boxy body made from carbon fibers and eight, 2-inch steel-wire legs coated with a water-repelling plastic (technically making it a water spider).

It doesn't have a brain, any sensors or a battery. Its "muscles" are three flat-plate piezoelectric actuators -- pieces of metal that bend when electricity runs through them. Wires run from the actuators to a power supply.

The robot can stand on water -- it doesn't float -- and can skim backward and forward, propelling itself with two legs that act like oars.