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Category: Religious Studies

Religious Studies

The Eucharist – Chapter 1, The Sacrament of the Assembly

Notes on “The Eucharist” by Alexander Schmemann

Terms and Definitions

A Priori – relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge which proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience.

Church – from Greek ekklesia (gathered assembly) / dictionary: body or organization of religious believers

Dogma / Dogmatic – something held as an established opinion / characterized by or given to the expression of opinions very strongly or positively as if they were facts

Ecclesiology – theology as applied to the nature and structure of the Christian Church.

Eucharist – from Greek eucharistia (thanksgiving) / dictionary: grace, gratitude, thanksgiving

Iconostasis – a screen bearing icons, separating the sanctuary of many Eastern churches from the nave.

Mentonymies – the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing.

Nave – the central part of a church building, intended to accommodate most of the congregation. In traditional Western churches it is rectangular, separated from the chancel by a step or rail, and from adjacent aisles by pillars.

Chapter 1 - I

Reference to 1 Corinthians 11:18

-Section in 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 discusses “abuses at the Lord’s Supper, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner”

-Commentary: church means the gathering / coming together from separate places in one place for sacred assembly 

Reference to “fifth-century author of the Areopagitica” – John Milton //  Milton derived the figures used in Areopagtica from Catholic and reformation debates about the Eucharist.  Around the Eucharist six other figures are constellated, some metaphors, some metonymies: 1) the book as person; 2) the book as container of divinity; 3) the book as body; 4) the book as food; 5) the truth as body, and 6) reading as communion. 

 

Idea by Calvin:   The Supper was to have been distributed in the public assembly of the church to teach us of the communion by which we all cleave together in Christ Jesus…. The sacrifice of the Mass dissolves and tears apart this community. For after the error prevailed that there ought to be priests to perform sacrifice on the people’s behalf, as if the Supper had been turned over to them, it ceased to be communicated to the believer’s church according to the Lord’s commandment. An opening was made for private masses, which would seem to suggest an excommunication rather than the communion/community established by the Lord.

Idea that the assembly has ceased to be understood as the primary form of the eucharist

Liturgy includes an explanation that the eucharist is to “unite all of us to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and Cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit”

Ordo – structure of the liturgy toward the eucharist / attempt to rectify “novus ordo” vs tridentine (relating to the Council of Trent, especially as the basis of Roman Catholic doctrine.)

Moments cannot be isolated from their liturgical context

In explaining the liturgical tradition of the Church, it is important to start with the ordo (structure of liturgy toward the eucharist)

 

Chapter 1 - II

Ordo is correlated – mutual dependence of the celebrant and the people (co-serving, concelebration)

Professor Nicholas Afanasiev: The notion of “eucharistic assembly” is a key to understanding Afanasiev’s ecclesiology. According to Afanasiev, eucharistic assembly is an assembly of the priestly people gathered together through time and space by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ for the sacred service to God. In Lord’s Supper he singled out three essential features of the eucharistic assembly as it was perceived by the Fathers and the early church: (1) It is an assembly of all, an assembly of the church and not of a selected few. (2) The eucharistic assembly is gathered for the service of God manifested in concelebration of all baptized with the presider. (3) The eucharistic assembly is always an assembly gathered around a bishop’s altar.

An “assembly as the Church” is a necessary condition of liturgy / early evidence suggests the gathering is the first and basic act of the eucharist (gathering of the people preceded the entrance of the celebrant)

Shift in entrance/vesting/washing of hands/preparation of gifts toward a private function – additional shift from priests as extraordinary celebrants (deputy of the bishop) to that of the ordinary celebrant

 

Chapter 1 - III

Celebrant and assembly a type of dialogue – every prayer “sealed” with “amen”

Prayers offered on behalf of “us” / collective participation “our”

Defect of liturgical life consists in that we impart greater significance to the particularities of liturgical offices than to their essence.  Our task is to realize the genuine nature of the eucharist

Chapter 1 - IV & V

Form of the temple as an “organization of space” // dialogic structure

Nave directed toward the altar, but the altar necessarily entails the nave and exists only in relation to it

Clericalism – reduces laity to status of “second class” who do not have the right to enter, touch, or take part in certain activities

Icon – a witness or consequence of unification of the divine and human, of heaven and earth – union of visible and invisible

The Profession of Faith

The Nicene Creed

 

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

 

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only Begotten Son of God,

born of the Father before all ages,

God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,

begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;

through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven:

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and became man.

 

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,

he suffered death and was buried,

and rose again on the third day,

in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

 

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,

who has spoken through the Prophets.

 

I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins

and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

Icons should serve as part of the Ordo and not merely detailed decoration

Holiness of the saints is revelation and realization of sanctification – holiness received at baptism in which we are called to increase

Eucharist is not merely “one of the sacraments” but the very manifestation and fulfilment of the Church

Matthew 18:

19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth concerning anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven.

20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

 

Chapter 1 - VI

Assembly as the Church = image of the body of Christ (man made in the image of G-d), head of the body is the priest

Just as the holiness of the assembly is not that of the people who constitute it but Christ’s, so the priesthood of the priest is not his but Christ’s bestowed on the Church because she is his body

The priest is neither a representative nor a deputy of Christ: in the sacrament he is Christ himself, just as the assembly is his body … the priest’s hands, with which he blesses and performs the service, are no longer his own but the hands of Christ (25)

1 Peter 2:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

10 Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

Other Thoughts

St Thomas Aquinas: The union/unity of mysitcal body – how to you get bread? many grains = one loaf, how do you get wine? many grapes = one chalice.  Principal effect of the eucharist is unity – conformity through unity.  

What is the thing being used (matter?) or acted upon?  What is the form? 

Baptism as a method to participate in Christ’s priesthood

Context of the original eucharistic celebration – passover supper / last supper, in the presence of a community with ritual

Religious Studies

Young Heretics Advent Calendar

Translated and written by Spencer Klavan (Young Heretics) and noted for further study and reference:

Let’s Start with Luke 1:26-27:

26…ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἧ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ 27πρὸς παρθένον ἐμνηστευμένην ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰωσὴφ ἐξ οἴκου Δαυίδ, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ.

Here’s my translation:

“The angel Gabriel was dispatched from God into the city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man. The man’s name was Joseph–he was from the house of David–and the name of the virgin was Mary.”

The word parthenos (virgin) here has long been an object of discussion. In classical Greek a parthenos just means a “maiden”–she’s usually a young, unmarried girl, but she doesn’t necessarily have to be a virgin. This matches up nicely with the Hebrew prophecy in Isaiah 7:14–“behold, a maiden shall conceive.” The Hebrew word for “maiden” there is “almah”–like parthenos, it can mean virgin, but it can also just mean “young girl.”

The New Testament, though, goes further–as we’ll shortly see in further installments. Because a few verses later Mary says that she “has not known a man,” meaning she is in fact a virgin. And thus the doctrine of the virgin birth comes into being.

What I love about this is the way the Greek text quietly acknowledges the ambiguity of the prophecy by using a word–parthenos–which echoes the ambiguity of Isaiah’s Hebrew–almah. But Luke also then goes further to resolve that ambiguity by showing that Mary is specifically the kind of “almah” that has not known man–that the person who fulfill the prophecy is, in fact, a virgin.

The New Testament does this a lot, and we don’t always notice it: the Greek authors have carefully read the Hebrew, but they know the Hebrew can be fulfilled in multiple ways. Jesus’ life represents a specific, concrete fulfillment: it narrows down the ambiguities and makes the prediction something real, in the here and now. Even before his birth, then, Jesus is making the infinite specific and personal, narrowing eternity to a point and embodying it in time.

I hope you enjoy these whether you’re Christian or not–it’s a good time to be learning about the richness of these books and what they mean in their original context. It’s a lot more sophisticated than we give it credit for! More anon.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar: Thursday, 12/2
Every day this season I will translate and comment on a small Bible portion. Here’s Luke 1:28-33:

28καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. 29ἡ δὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος. 30καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ, εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ: 31καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν. 32οὗτος ἔσται μέγας καὶ υἱὸς ὑψίστου κληθήσεται, καὶ δώσει αὐτῷ κύριος ὁ θεὸς τὸν θρόνον Δαυὶδ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, 33καὶ βασιλεύσει ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰακὼβ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.

My translation:

The angel came to her and said: “greetings and grace to you who are graced with the presence of the Lord.” But at that utterance she was alarmed and tried to work out what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel said to her, “don’t be afraid, Mary: you have found grace from God. And see: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you will call him by the name of Jesus. He will be the magnificent one; he will be called the son of the most high, and the lord will give to him the throne of David his father, and he will be king over the house of Jacob for all ages–of his kingdom, there shall be no end.”

The Angel’s greeting to Mary–translated in the traditional Catholic prayer as “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”–contains probably my two favorite words in the Greek Bible. “Chaire, kecharitōmenē”: no translation quite captures the music and the wordplay of it.

“Chaire” is a form of greeting like “hail!” or “God save you!” It means both “hi there” and “be well.” But as you can probably see from the shape of the word, “kecharitōmenē” has the same root as Chaire. Chaire is the imperative form, a command: have grace in your life! Kecharitōmenē is a passive participle, a description: you who are full of grace.

The angel takes a standard human greeting and explodes it out of its normal shape, contorting the usual verb form into something strange, complicated, and divine. From the moment of his utterance the command is already fulfilled–he wishes grace to her who already has grace by virtue of the utterance and its contents. It’s a sublime literary flourish and it’s a shame we can’t do it justice in English.

It’s worth noting, too, that in all the ensuing Annunciation Mary is both A) getting a ton of information and B) not being told certain things which we now take for granted. The description the angel gives conforms pretty well to the prophecies of the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible: he will be the great one, called the son of the most high, to rule on the throne of David.

But the natural assumption for most Jews of this time would have been that this was a supernaturally ordained human king–not God himself but the one God would anoint as ruler: in Hebrew, the Meshiach or Mashiach. The Messiah. That word simply means “one who has been anointed” (with kingly and priestly oil). In Greek, the word that means “anointed” and so translates Mashiach is “Christos”: Christ.

So Mary knows now that she will give birth to God’s anointed ruler. But what kind of ruler? How? Why? All these theological commonplaces are mysteries to her in this moment, as I suppose they are ultimately to us as well–to be pondered as much as proclaimed.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar: Friday, 12/3
Here is today’s passage from Luke (1:34-37), first in Greek, then with my translation:

34εἶπεν δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον, Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω; 35καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ, καὶ δύναμις ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι: διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεοῦ. 36καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνείληφεν υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶν αὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ: 37ὅτι οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα.

My translation:

“Then Mary said to the Angel, ‘how will this be, since I know no man?’ And the angel answered: he said to her, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. And so the one who is born will be called holy, son of God. And see: Elizabeth your kinswoman, even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is already the sixth month for her. And they called her barren! For not one thing is impossible with God.”

My comment today is less about the Greek than about Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist and kinswoman of Mary. Prior to these lines we have heard the story from her perspective, as if she were the main character. Now, she serves as a supporting player and a kind of sign: a symbol to Mary that “not one thing is impossible with God.” What strikes me today is that both are true.

Elizabeth, wrapped up in the drama of her miraculous pregnancy and the misadventures of her husband, is an entire human life unto herself. Mary, too, is living out her calling and discovering how much more strange and adventurous it is than she could have fathomed. These are complete little worlds. But through the angel we also get a glimpse into a mysterious fact: Elizabeth is not only a complete story that God is telling. She is also there to serve as an allegory for Mary.

I think we are all like this: both a complete world unto ourselves, and a sign or symbol of God’s favor in somebody else’s life. In the Space Trilogy, Lewis has the angels say that every particle of dust is equally at the center of the universe: “Where Maleldil [God] is, there is the centre. He is in every place.” The old hymn says, “ever more, from his store, new worlds rise up to adore.” Everything is entirely itself, and every consciousness makes the world entirely new by seeing it in from its own fresh perspective.

I am often struck when someone says that some comment I made offhand had this or that pivotal effect on his or her life: for me, that was an insignificant moment. For him, it was a crucial moment when everything changed, and I was just the stone that happened to fall in just the right place so his path went another way. Who is right? We both are. The question falls to pieces from the point of view of God. Jesus, the true center of the universe, makes of Mary and Elizabeth, Joseph and Zechariah, you and me, a cosmos unto ourselves worth dying for.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/4
Here’s Luke 1:38 in Greek:

38εἶπεν δὲ Μαριάμ, Ἰδοὺ ἡ δούλη κυρίου: γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ ἄγγελος.

And here’s my translation:

“And Mary said, ‘behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it happen to me, as you have said.’ And the angel went away from her.”

There has been much annotation and discussion about the Greek word “doulos,” meaning literally “slave.” That, in female form, is what Mary calls herself here: behold the doulē, the slave-girl, of the Lord.

Of course the human world knows all kinds of slavery, most of them vile and all of them subject to abuse. But slavery in the ancient world could also be a gentler arrangement, even a kind of patronage. The servant lived in the house and was under the protection of the family.

I think this must be what Aristotle means in the Politics when he says that the family is made of three fundamental relationships: husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave. At its noblest, slavery in the ancient world was the economic dimension of the family, the way it extended its protection beyond its own biological limits to include the less fortunate.

No doubt many masters treated slaves very poorly, just as many husbands treat their wives very poorly and many parents mistreat their children. But it stands to reason that servitude to God is the best kind, the kind with no trace of corruption or abuse. In that ideal form, ancient slavery means: “live in my house. Pour out your labor upon me and I will pour out my protection and nourishment upon you. The exchange between us will be too total, too complete to be accountable in mere monetary or numerical terms.”

This is not the relationship we will live in with God forever: Jesus says at the appropriate time that he no longer calls us servants but friends. But at this crucial moment Mary says to God that she will consent to total servitude, to give over even her body. The membership in God’s household which she receives in return will be extended to all humanity.

Modern ethics teaches us to count up everything in terms of dollars, as if even motherhood and housework could be cashed out in financial terms. But Mary’s labor is beyond any wage she could receive, and the relation of loving submission she enters into is answered with a patronage that knows no talk of limits or price.

“They are but beggars that can count their worth,” said Juliet to Romeo at the moment of their marriage. There is no reckoning or settling of accounts between those who offer their very flesh to one another–as wife to husband, as Mary to Christ, as Christ to us.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/5
Luke 1:39-41

39Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα, 40καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ. 41καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ

My translation:

“Mary stood up in those days and went into the hill country eagerly, into the city of Juda. And she came into the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. Then it happened: when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leapt for joy, and Elizabeth was full of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s interesting to me that the word for “greeting” here–aspasmos–is the same as the word used for the Angel’s strange salutation a few lines earlier (“Mary pondered what sort of greeting this could be…”). The word is warmer in Greek than “greeting” in English: literally it can mean “embrace.” These are family members, a young girl and an old matron, falling into one another’s arms. They must have been dying to see each other.

Worth noting, too, that a baby in the womb was the first ever to recognize Jesus: for those who don’t know, the baby Elizabeth has conceived is John the Baptist, prophetic forerunner of Christ’s coming. John knew his savior long before he announced him on the River Jordan–the news that was once brought from the angel to Mary is now brought from womb to womb. From hence forth the content of heavenly utterance is not words but flesh, the very fact of the life inside Mary. What manner of greeting is this, indeed.

The Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/6
Here’s Luke 1:42-45 in Greek:

42καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν, Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. 43καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ; 44ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου. 45καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ κυρίου.

And my translation:

Elizabeth cried out with a great shout and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. How should this be, that the mother of my lord should come to me? See: at the sound of your greeting in my ears, the child in my womb leapt up in rejoicing. And blessed is she who trusts in the completion of all the things said to her by her lord.”

Another untranslatable phrase is “eskirtēsen en agalliasei,” which I’ve rendered here as “leapt up in rejoicing.” But the phrase Elizabeth uses to describe her baby’s motion in the womb is the phrase that epic poets use to describe young men and horses in the prime of their lives, running and tossing their heads in the sheer exaltation of their strength. It’s an intensely male energy, the rambunctious kind that young men show when they’re roughhousing with each other. The baby has a character of its own, the kind that rejoices in the robust abundance of life.

It’s distinct from the shout with which Elizabeth greets Mary–the “kraugē megalē”–which is just a generic phrase for “loud shout,” but which I have always imagined in this case as the kind of delighted squeal that some women who love each other make at an exciting or long-anticipated moment of meeting.

Everyone is brimming with uncontainable glee here, and each in his own way: a profoundly human, and yet totally miraculous, scene of anticipation. A feeling of “here it is, at last, the moment when it all gets going.” For all the trouble and struggle that is to come, I love seeing them this way in this strange tableau of unforced intimacy–the two unborn babies and the mothers old and young, the strangest and most lovely family in the world.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/7
Here’s Luke 1:46-55 in Greek:

46Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον, 47καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, 48ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί: 49ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ

And here’s my translation:

And Mary said, “my soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit has gloried in God my savior. For he looked down from on high upon on the humility of his serving-girl, and see: from from this moment all generations will bless my name. For the mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is a song, a poem, a prophecy. It is called the “magnificat,” because that is the Latin translation of the first word in Greek: “Megalunei.” It means “magnifies” or “calls great”–my soul magnifies the LORD, sings Mary. What comes next is a single flawless composition, but I will divide it roughly here into three parts which I will translate over the course of three days. Mary sings about what God has done for her, for the world, and for the people of Israel.

First, she sings about herself: God has looked upon her “tapeinōsis,” a word referring to abject poverty and lowliness. It’s more than just lacking money: those who are “tapeinoi” lack all social standing, authority, and power. This is what God has looked on and seen in Mary: not just her position in the world but a spiritual sense of total submission and need.

Mary says, in effect, that this is why he has chosen her: he saw not only that she lacked money and social position, but that she considered herself that way in spirit, too. The outer poverty of her life was mirrored by an inward receptivity, a sense that she had nothing to offer God and God had everything to offer her. The irony is that sense of need is her offering: she knows she has nothing to give God, and so God is well pleased to receive her.

In this, as the rest of the song shows, Mary is a stand-in for all of humanity: those who are aware of themselves as beggars can give themselves to God and receive his favor. Those whom the world has taught to think of themselves as great must be brought low before they can have any hope of conversion. Mary’s name will be blessed for all generations because she is the one who knew fully that God’s name alone is blessed of itself.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/8
Here’s Luke 1:50-53 in Greek:

50καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν. 51Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν: 52καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς, 53πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς

And here’s my translation:

“And his mercy endures from generation to generation for those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has tossed the mighty down from their thrones and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

The link between the first part of the Magnificat, which I translated yesterday, and this middle part, which I translate today, is God. Mary considers how God has treated her in her lowliness, and moves from there to reflect on what this reveals about God’s nature more generally, and how he treats the world.

The answer is: he inverts every power relation and thwarts every kind of self-regard to elevate those who think of themselves as little as possible. I love the phrase “dianoia tēs kardias autōn,” which means literally “in the thinking of their heart.” The translation I’ve given is the traditional one: proud rulers have grand designs “in the imagination of their hearts.”

It’s a perfect description of today’s ruling elites, their grand dreams to erase human nature, establish one world government, and rule over a digital world where all the rules are changed. Think of the metaverse, or Klaus Schwab in Davos, or COVID tyranny: these are all examples of “the proud” who imagine that they can remake the world in their own image by sheer force of will.

It’s encouraging to me to find those fantasies of world domination so perfectly described in just a few words from two thousand years ago, with a promise that it will all come to nothing. We may be surprised at how the kings of this world talk, at their arrogance and self-sure dreams of power. God is not.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/9
ΝΟΤΕ: every day during Advent, I am translating a portion of Luke’s gospel and commenting on its meaning in light of the Greek. Most of the installments are only available to Young Heretics VIPs, but I’ve made this one free to all–so you can see what you’re missing!

If you’d like to be a part of this, as well as everything else we do here on Locals (exclusive articles, Q&As, advance episodes, etc.) now is the time to sign up! A year-long membership is only $40 during the Christmas season. Come join us at youngheretics.com/locals.

Luke 1:54-6 in Greek:

54ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, 55καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. 56Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

And my translation:

“‘He has taken the side of his child, Israel, remembering his mercy as he said to their fathers–to Abraham and his seed across every age.’ And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and went back to her house.”

Often translations here will say “his servant Israel.” And it’s true that the Greek “pais” can mean “servant.” But it can also mean “child,” and that is also how God talks about the people of Israel. “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22)–at the moment of ransom from Egypt, God tells his people that he will treat them corporately as a dependent in his household.

I think the connection here between “child” and “servant” underscores what I said earlier about Mary: that if she is a “slave” of the Lord it is in the ancient sense of a member of the household, and one destined to be adopted at that. As God once brought his people out of bondage, now he will bring them out of sin, because they are his and he will ransom them at a high price (compare Isaiah 43).

All of this also makes a connection between the whole nation of Israel and Jesus, both of whom are God’s son: Jesus himself will now do in his own life what Israel as a whole nation did in Egypt. He will go down into bondage, be ransomed by God, and set free. And just as Israel’s exodus from Egypt inaugurated an age of freedom for all those who were born afterward, Jesus’s victory over death will usher in generations and generations of adoption into God’s household.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/10
Here’s Luke 1:57-61 in Greek:

57Τῇ δὲ Ἐλισάβετ ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, καὶ ἐγέννησεν υἱόν. 58καὶ ἤκουσαν οἱ περίοικοι καὶ οἱ συγγενεῖς αὐτῆς ὅτι ἐμεγάλυνεν κύριος τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ μετ’ αὐτῆς, καὶ συνέχαιρον αὐτῇ. 59Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ ὀγδόῃ ἦλθον περιτεμεῖν τὸ παιδίον, καὶ ἐκάλουν αὐτὸ ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ζαχαρίαν. 60καὶ ἀποκριθεῖσα ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν, Οὐχί, ἀλλὰ κληθήσεται Ἰωάννης. 61καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτὴν ὅτι Οὐδείς ἐστιν ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου ὃς καλεῖται τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ.

And my translation:

“For Elizabeth, the time was completed for her to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son. Then those who lived nearby and her kinsmen heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy with her, and they rejoiced with her. And it transpired that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by the name of his father: Zechariah. But in response his mother said, ‘no: call him John.'”

Tomorrow, I will say more about the highly unusual discussion of the baby’s name. For now I just wanted to note something I had never quite seen before: John, whose coming has been foretold as the voice that cries out in the wilderness of Isaiah 40, is “preparing the way of the Lord” even now. Before Jesus will heal the sick or the blind, before he will go to the cross, he will undergo all the rituals that any Jewish newborn son would. He will be circumcised, presented in the temple, and named.

John goes through all that in advance of Jesus, and Luke takes care to tell us so: even in small human matters, John lays the groundwork for what will happen to Jesus. In this way he gathers all human experience up to this point and goes through it one last time before everything changes: there is a kind of poignancy to this passage which is like the poignancy of closing the doors on your old house for the last time.

Maybe you are more than ready to leave the house, maybe it’s too small and the new one is better in every way–better neighborhood, better fit, better bones. But you still feel that catch in your chest as you look on the empty living room where you spent your earlier years. That’s what this scene reminds me of: the basic rituals of human life performed once more before Jesus performs them, and their meaning is forever changed.

Christians believe that many of these rituals take on a character of prophecy now: once they were the law of God, now they are shown as a precursor to redeemed life. But we feel no less affection for them despite all that–it is a heresy to say that the Jewish law was some kind of idolatry or sin. It was, in the Christian view, the house humanity lived in with God until we moved into the mansion of heaven, which Jesus now prepares for us. This scene is like the one last look we take at our first house and the memories we made in it, before closing the door and moving on.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/11-12
First of all, let me apologize for missing the Advent Calendar yesterday! We were throwing a Christmas party and I lost track of the time.

To make up for it, here’s an extra long excerpt to cover the two days. Luke 1:61-66 in Greek:

61καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτὴν ὅτι Οὐδείς ἐστιν ἐκ τῆς συγγενείας σου ὃς καλεῖται τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ. 62ἐνένευον δὲ τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ τὸ τί ἂν θέλοι καλεῖσθαι αὐτό. 63καὶ αἰτήσας πινακίδιον ἔγραψεν λέγων, Ἰωάννης ἐστὶν ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐθαύμασαν πάντες. 64ἀνεῴχθη δὲ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ παραχρῆμα καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐλάλει εὐλογῶν τὸν θεόν. 65καὶ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ πάντας φόβος τοὺς περιοικοῦντας αὐτούς, καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ὀρεινῇ τῆς Ἰουδαίας διελαλεῖτο πάντα τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα, 66καὶ ἔθεντο πάντες οἱ ἀκούσαντες ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν, λέγοντες, Τί ἄρα τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο ἔσται; καὶ γὰρ χεὶρ κυρίου ἦν μετ’ αὐτοῦ.

And my translation:

“They said to Elizabeth, ‘there’s no one of any relation to you who is called by that name.’ They made signs to his father, asking what he wanted the child to be called. So, he sent for a tablet and wrote on it the statement, ‘John is his name.’ And they were all astonished. Then his mouth was opened suddenly and his tongue released, and he spoke in praise of God. And fear fell upon all those living nearby, and in the whole hill country of Judea all these things were discussed, and all those who heard it took it to heart, saying, ‘what will this child be then?’ For the hand of the Lord himself was with him.”

An untranslatable Greek word that needs our close attention is the verb “thaumazō.” In Greek, a “thauma” is a wonder, a mystery, or a portent: it might be a blazing star that lights up the heavens, or a calf born with two heads, or an act of God to turn the tide of a battle. It’s something astonishing and unusual, something that seems charged with meaning but remains difficult to interpret.

So here when Luke says that all the neighbors “ethaumasen,” i.e., “were astonished,” it means not just that the events were unexpected but that they seemed to have an obscure meaning. It means the people saw in these events some symbol of a great and mysterious thing to come.

Zechariah had his speech taken from him by an angel because he questioned the prophecy of John’s birth in Elizabeth’s old age. Now his speech is restored when he affirms, contrary to normal practice and tradition, that the baby will be named John. It is a name that can only come from heaven, because it breaks the usual practice of naming a boy child after another man in the family. Like any miracle, this one shows itself by changing the usual fixed pattern of things.

The miracle of naming is followed by a miracle of speech: in the presence of this John, harbinger of Jesus, the dumb are given voice. It is only a precursor, as Zechariah was not mute from birth but rendered mute through divine intercession. This makes it like a little forecast, a miniature play-acted version of the miraculous healings that will soon follow.

What Zechariah is learning and showing is that the normal course of things–the laws of nature and the laws of custom alike–stands as the background against which extraordinary events and miracles have meaning.

If the Jews hadn’t faithfully maintained the practice of naming babies after relatives, it would not mean anything that this baby is named John. If it were not regularly the case that elderly women don’t give birth and mute men don’t usually gain the power of speech, the fact that it is happening now would not be a thauma, a significant happening which breaks the usual course of event and points to higher meaning.

In this sense Zechariah is learning the difference between grammar and poetry: he loses the power of speech because he must learn the nature of meaning, that it comes not from the regular but against the backdrop of the regular. He thought that nothing could break the law of nature. Now he sees that the laws of nature are there so that when they are suspended, we may recognize the presence of God.

The backdrop of law is what makes miracles meaningful: it is because these occurrences break the usual course of things that the people are not simply astonished by them but enraptured, set thinking what will happen and what it will mean. In a world with no rules all events are meaningless, carrying with them no significance beyond the mere fact of themselves. In this world–the highly structured world of physics and custom–every deviation carries with it thunderous significance.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/13
We are reaching the heart of the season now. This week will be Zechariah’s prophecy (now that his mouth has been opened!) and next week will be the nativity story itself.

I love that our little project has sort of taken its own shape week by week: we had the annunciation, then Mary’s visit to Elizabeth with the Magnificat, now Zechariah, then the birth. Didn’t plan it that way but there you go!

Luke 1:67-68 in Greek:

67Καὶ Ζαχαρίας ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ ἐπροφήτευσεν λέγων, 68Εὐλογητὸς κύριος ὁ θεὸς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτι ἐπεσκέψατο καὶ ἐποίησεν λύτρωσιν τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ

And my translation:

“Then Zechariah his father was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: ‘blessed be the Lord, the god of Israel, he that looked down and made a ransom for his people.'”

This prophetic song, which we’ll be translating together all week, is called the Benedictus–once again, the name comes from the Latin version of the first word. Eulogētos=Benedictus=blessed.

All three of the songs, or canticles, from Luke 1-2 feature prominently in traditional Christian worship services (this is why each is known by its Latin opening, or “incipit”). The first, which we have read already, is the Magnificat. The third is the Nunc Dimittis, a song which the old man Simeon sings when Christ is presented in the temple eight days after his birth.

Both the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis are traditionally recited or sung during evening prayer (in the Anglican Church) or vespers (in the Catholic Church). But This middle song–Zechariah’s “Benedictus”–is a morning song, sung at morning prayer (Anglicans) or Lauds (Catholics).

This is a song of the daybreak, of dawn’s first light. It culminates in a famous line, which I could never translate better than it has already been rendered in English: “in the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.”

That sense of beginning is reflected in this first sentence, about the “lutrōsis,” or ransom, of Israel. Typically God’s “ransom” refers to the extreme lengths to which he will go to save or rescue his people. “I give Egypt as your ransom,” says God at Isaiah 43:3, clearly referring to the exodus or liberation from slavery in Egypt.

Zechariah is reaching back to the very beginning of Israel’s journey, the inaugural story of their formation as a people, and identifying this moment with that one. This is the dawn, he says, of a new age–when God will once again set his people free at enormous cost.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/14
Here are the next few lines of Zechariah’s Benedictus (from Luke 1:69-70) in Greek:

69καὶ ἤγειρεν κέρας σωτηρίας ἡμῖν ἐν οἴκῳ Δαυὶδ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, 70καθὼς ἐλάλησεν διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων ἀπ’ αἰῶνος προφητῶν αὐτοῦ

“He raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his son, as he said through the mouth of his holy prophets from ages past.”

This is the second use of the word “pais,” meaning either “child” or “servant,” that has occurred in Luke 1. The previous one was in Mary’s Magnificat, referring to the nation of Israel as the cherished dependent of God’s household. The next time the word occurs, it will refer to Jesus himself. Now it is David, founder-king of Jerusalem’s monarchy, whose house is the house of Israel and of Christ.

So far as I can tell, no one has yet realized explicitly that the child who is coming will be God himself. What they are discerning, though, is that the whole of God’s relationship to man will be gathered up into this one boy: when God ransomed Israel from Egypt, he claimed the people as his firstborn son. When God anointed David, he set an earthly ruler over the people who would stand in for them all as monarch. Now he is bringing forth another child in the same line, who will be the ultimate embodiment of all that humanity is in relation to God.

The finality of the thing is suggested by the long line of prophets that goes before it: this is what they were all waiting for, what everything was leading up to. The great and mighty savior will be, in a very real sense, the most childlike among us, the one most totally descended from God. Humanity has always been in relation to God like a child in relation to a father: utterly dependent and lavishly adored. Now, though no one yet realizes it, God himself will become in relation to humanity as humanity has been in relation to God: vulnerable, infant, and newborn. The last revelation is that God, who is eternally his people’s father, joins forever in communion with his children as the son.

YOUNG HERETICS ADVENT CALENDAR BONANZA
Hi friends! First of all, I have to apologize–I thought I had posted the latest Young Heretics Advent Calendar, but then I went back and found it half-autosaved in drafts. Sad! I hope you haven’t felt too deprived.

To make up for it, here’s a big chunk with miscellaneous comments. This will get us back up to speed. Luke 1:70-77:

70καθὼς ἐλάλησεν διὰ στόματος τῶν ἁγίων ἀπ’ αἰῶνος προφητῶν αὐτοῦ, 71σωτηρίαν ἐξ ἐχθρῶν ἡμῶν καὶ ἐκ χειρὸς πάντων τῶν μισούντων ἡμᾶς: 72ποιῆσαι ἔλεος μετὰ τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν καὶ μνησθῆναι διαθήκης ἁγίας αὐτοῦ, 73ὅρκον ὃν ὤμοσεν πρὸς Ἀβραὰμ τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν, τοῦ δοῦναι ἡμῖν 74ἀφόβως ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν ῥυσθέντας λατρεύειν αὐτῷ 75ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ πάσαις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἡμῶν. 76Καὶ σὺ δέ, παιδίον, προφήτης ὑψίστου κληθήσῃ, προπορεύσῃ γὰρ ἐνώπιον κυρίου ἑτοιμάσαι ὁδοὺς αὐτοῦ, 77τοῦ δοῦναι γνῶσιν σωτηρίας τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀφέσει ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.

And my translation:

“As he said through the mouth of his holy prophets from ages past: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those that hate us, to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to Abraham our father, to deliver us fearless from the hands of our enemies, rescued, to serve him in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the most high. For you will go before the Lord and prepare his pathways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the erasure of all their sins.”

A curious thing, first of all, about the word “diathēkē”–a word I’ve translated here as “covenant.” It’s a Greek version of the Hebrew word, “b’rit,” which you may have seen in the names of various Synagogues. It means a binding contract or agreement, something two people or parties swear to. In greek the etymology is literally that which you “put between” you and the other party: it’s the relationship that emerges between you in spirit and in law when you swear an oath.

So the Covenant God is remembering here is the promise of God to Abraham, as Zechariah says: this is the vow God made to the Jewish people that salvation would come through them, that they would be his, and he theirs. It’s also why we talk about marriage as a covenant too: in the original meaning of the word, any kind of binding lifelong agreement between two people qualified. So God’s promise to Abraham is a little like a marriage between himself and his chosen people.

That is of course the imagery that is famously revived in the letter to the Ephesians. Because later on in Luke, at the Last Supper, Jesus will say “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (touto to potērion hē kainē diathēkē en tō haimati mou). When Jesus goes to the cross he both renews the old promise and expands it out to the whole world: the blood of Cross is a promissory note, a marriage license, an agreement between God and the whole human race that sins are forgiven and salvation offered to those who repent.

Now here’s the last thing I’ll say: the word diathēkē can also be translated as “testament,” as in “last will and testament.” Because a will is also a binding document, an agreement in which you “testify” to your official desires after your death.

And so our English terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” are actually translations of the Greek titles: palaia diathēkē and kainē diathēkē. The old covenant and the new.

For Christians, the whole Bible is just the sum total of God’s two promissory notes, the description and depiction and realization of all he has promised to us throughout time. In the stories of Israel’s history, in the four narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, in the recorded birth and flourishing of the young Christian church, we find recorded the sum total of what God vows in his marriage with us.

And it is just this: “to deliver us fearless from the hands of our enemies, rescued, to serve him in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. ” As he swore to our father Abraham, and his people after him, and in Christ to every one of us, each day of our lives and until the last syllable of recorded time, world without end, amen.

PS Okay I lied: I have one more thing to say. I’ve translated “forgiveness” (aphesis) as “erasure” here. That’s because the Gospels’ word for forgiveness is a distinct word, “aphiēmi.” It literally means “I send away.”

There is another Greek word for forgiveness which the Gospels do not use: sungignōskō. That word means “I understand with you. I get why you did what you did.”

But aphesis is more total than that: it means you may not understand it at all, but still, you let it go. As far as the east is from the west, so far does aphesis separate sin from sinner. Erasure is my way of capturing the total obliteration of sin that happens when God forgives us, totally and without blemish or stain.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/18
Here are the most famous words in Zechariah’s song, first in Greek:

78διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ἐν οἷς ἐπισκέψεται ἡμᾶς ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψους, 79ἐπιφᾶναι τοῖς ἐν σκότει καὶ σκιᾷ θανάτου καθημένοις, τοῦ κατευθῦναι τοὺς πόδας ἡμῶν εἰς ὁδὸν εἰρήνης.

And in my translation:

“Through the tender mercy of our God, in which the dawn from on high will shine down upon us, giving light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet down the straight road of peace.”

As I said earlier, I could never translate this first sentence better than its glorious liturgical rendering: “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us.” But I do want to make a couple notes about the untranslatable aspects of this passage.

“splangchna” is a wonderful word. It means “guts,” or “innards”–specifically perhaps the kidneys or the lungs–but just like our “gut” it can come to mean “inmost feelings.” Like when we say “I feel it in my gut.”

So the phrase here that is translated as “tender compassion” is actually “the guts of mercy” of our God. It indicates not just an abstract sense of pity but a profound fellow felling, the kind that hits you deep in your heart and belly. That’s why the church calls it “tender”–tender not just in the abstract but as a wound is tender, or an open sore.

Throughout Jesus’ life the gospels use a verb, “splangchizō,” which means to be stricken with compassion in the pit of your gut. Besides the incredibly satisfying and squishy sound of the word, it’s an amazing way the text has of conveying the profoundly felt anguish with which Jesus responded to human sorrow.

And beyond that it’s an acknowledgement of the body as more than matter: we feel things most deeply not when they float in some pure ether, but when they hit us almost bodily, when pity or fear or joy run palpably through our veins or into our guts. In those moments body and soul are in union, the flesh living out what the spirit experiences.

If the incarnation means anything it means spirit is at home in flesh. We talk in modern terms as if our feelings are just chemical reactions–a dopamine hit here, a serotonin rush there. But it’s the opposite way around. The dopamine and the adrenaline and the serotonin, the catch in the chest and the pit of the stomach, the flutter of the heart–these are bodily manifestations of spiritual realities, the soul of us governing our biology.

We are made in God’s image entirely: not merely some disembodied aspect of us but all of us, body and soul, spirit and flesh, mercy and guts. It is what we are because it is what he is.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/19
Just a quick one-liner on this Sabbath day to bring us up to speed and into Luke 2…next week is the nativity story, but today it’s Luke 1:80, in Greek:

80Τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο πνεύματι, καὶ ἦν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις ἕως ἡμέρας ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸν Ἰσραήλ.

And in my translation:

“And the child grew up strong in the spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his revelation to Israel.”

This is probably the last we’ll see John this Advent–waiting in the wilderness until Jesus comes forth for baptism. The first part of the sentence is a stock phrase–we often hear of someone that they “grew up and grew strong”–which speaks to our conversation during office hours about the hero’s journey. That pattern which Campbell recognized in the legends of the world is a recurring theme of traditional stories because it’s a basic pattern of life. The hero comes of age, reaches maturity, and waits for something–he knows not yet

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/20
1 ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ καίσαρος αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην. 2 αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς συρίας κυρηνίου.

“Then it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to have the whole citizenry registered. This first census took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”

The decree went out from Caesar over all the civilized world—over everywhere that was “oikoumenē”—inhabited. The households of the empire were to be registered, and for that they must go to their ancestral home.

We think of this as a command for purpose of taxation, but it was more total than that: Augustus wanted everybody accounted for, known about, controlled. He was looking for the kind of knowledge Facebook gathers about its users: where they’re from, where they are, what they do. The kind of things a god would know about his creation.

And yet the story this season is about what Caesar didn’t know, what he didn’t even think to look for. He would have been concerned about a potential threat to his power, any rival king or local challenger. But all his vast administrative apparatus had no way of accounting for the possibility that the prophecies of a tiny tribal kingdom in the remote East might actually come true.

Every algorithm, every system, every government, becomes complete by shutting out some possibilities. Kings and princes make their power total by closing off avenues of escape, by eliminating outside possibilities. The route God chose into the world was simply to be one such unexpected event, to come in a way Caesar couldn’t see because he simply didn’t conceive of it as the kind of thing that happens.

Christmas is the season of the glitch in the system, the unpredicted outcome, the unlooked for hope. It is the risk that Dr. Fauci can’t prevent, the variable that Zuckerberg won’t calculate, the birth that Caesar hadn’t accounted for. It is the salvation that will come whether you like it or not.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before”: that though he had locked away every predictable sign of the season, “he hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. It came,” bursting like a flood through a dam or a child through the birth canal. You can’t escape this gift, whether you wish you could or fear you already have.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/21
3καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἕκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν. 4Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲθ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλέεμ, διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυίδ, 5ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐγκύῳ.

“Everyone went to be registered, each one to his own city. And Joseph went up from Galilee from the city of David into Judea, into the city of David which is called Bethlehem–on account of his being from the house and lineage of David–to be registered with Mary, who was betrothed to him, while she was pregnant.”

They went from Galilee to Judea, from Nazareth to Bethlehem: a journey south. The Greek says they went “up” (anebē), which must refer to the climb in elevation: the city of David is a mountain city, in the hills of Judea near Jerusalem, where the king was once a shepherd.

The Lord anointed David king through Samuel, who was sent to Bethlehem in search of a ruler for Israel. Samuel found David there among the sheep, handsome and ruddy-faced but young and humble. He did not look to human eyes like a king.

Joseph goes back to his ancestral homeland, the place where the royal line began, because it is where he can be identified as the descendant of that line. The long years of civil war and exile and conquest that have intervened between David’s days and Joseph’s have not erased the record of where he comes from: they have enriched it.

With every passing year the name of David and of Bethlehem takes on more weight and significance. Joseph comes now to gather up all that history and meaning into his own family, his own life, again in a manner invisible to the eyes of men.

We go home too, for the holidays, and for much the same reason: because we think it matters where we came from, and because it matters more, not less, now that we have left. Not for nothing is the Christmas season a season of nostalgia: living in the present as we do, we feel the loss of the past keenly when we are reminded of it.

But in God’s mind the past is not lost: it is only layered underneath the present, hundreds and thousands of years lacquered onto one another until the picture is complete. The experience of year on year reveals to us what the past really meant better than we understood when we lived through it.

When we grieve the mother who once watched us tear presents open under the tree, we see her more fully in our pain than we did as a child. Looking at her with adult eyes through the lens of passing time, we see the whole woman: mortal, chaste, faltering, beloved.

The moment of Jesus’ birth is a position in time from which all history looks uniquely blessed: from the perspective of this moment the fall of Eve is seen for the prelude it was and the cross is seen as the culminating sacrifice it will be. And somewhere back through the distance of a thousand years we see the shepherd boy waiting to be crowned king, father and precursor and symbol of the king who agreed to die for his sheep.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar: John Special
In our reading of Luke we have actually reached the point at which Jesus is to be born. But we still have a few days of Advent contemplation, and so in these days of reverent silence I’m going to add in some of the mysteries in John’s Gospel, Chapter 1. Here are verses 1-5:

1Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων: 5καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

And my translation:

“At the foundation was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. This was at the foundation with God. Everything was coming into being through him, and without him not one thing was coming into being. What came into being in him was life, and the life was the light of mankind: and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Among John’s many achievements as a mystic is his careful manipulation of verb tenses. In the transition between verses 3 and 4 something very profound happens: the continuous past tense (imperfect, egeneto) switches to the completed past tense (aorist, gegonen). In other words we go from “was coming into being” to “came into being.”

In Greek, as in English, we distinguish between events of ongoing duration (I was eating a sandwich) and events of definite duration (I ate a sandwich). Crucially, that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily describing two different actions so much as describing the same action in different ways.

Here John tells us how it was “in the beginning,” that is, at the very foundation of time. As Augustine reminds us in Book 11 of the Confessions, this does not mean that God was somehow living this way “before” time started, since there is no such thing as “before” time. Instead we are talking here about the context within which time takes place: God is, and God creates, at every moment. But God is not circumscribed by the sum total of all moments: he exists in a way not bound by time.

So it is that the divine creativity is eternal and ongoing: “everything was coming into being” through the word, and nothing that was coming into being was anything other than the action of the word. But “what came into being” was life: the creation of life brings a dimension of time into being, so that we can switch from the ongoing past to the definite past.

We live in time, but what is expressing itself in time is timeless: God’s eternal activity of creation finds expression in the finite moments of our lives, and in the concrete here and now where Christ is born. What was in the beginning and beyond all time is also what is here and now, at that moment and in this moment, born again with every passing second because all seconds are contained within it.

In Proverbs chapter 8 Wisdom declares that she was poured forth at the foundation of the world: It is in God’s nature to express, and what he expresses is the excellence of himself. In Christ we have in miniature what is constantly going on across the whole canvas of the heavens, the declaration of the unchanging glory of God whose world is truly without end.

Young Heretics Advent Calendar 12/23
As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m going to go dark for a couple days as I prepare for the holiday with my family. I hope you get a chance to do the same, and I hope that this advent calendar has been useful to you in your preparations–wherever you are at this moment vis-a-vis the church.

I’m enormously grateful for all of you, and I can’t wait for what the new year will bring. I’ll be back after the holiday itself to check in and say hi, and I’ve enjoyed doing these commentaries so much that I might have to keep them up after the 25th. But for now I wanted just to leave you with these few verses on the birth of Christ itself. Luke 2:6-7:

6ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, 7καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον: καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

My translation:

“It happened that while they were there, the time came for her to have her baby. And she gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She swaddled him and laid him in a manger, since there was no lodging or place for them elsewhere.”

It seems almost anticlimactic, after all this time and all this journey we’ve had together, just these two lines. But then I think anticlimax is sort of the point of this season. When something looks inconsequential in the eyes of the world, that is when God is working.

At the crucial moment, Luke uses the perfect verb: “eplēsthēsan.” The days of Mary’s pregnancy “were fulfilled”: her time came, and so did God’s. It is the same verb we use for the fulfillment of prophecy and the fulfillment of the law–the pregnancy has come to its natural conclusion, and history too has come to a moment of ripeness. Now is the time.

I think we often miss things of great consequence because they are “ordinary”: something your child is trying to say to you, or a look your lover gives you, or a casual remark that someone drops about his pain. We forget that when the Bible describes miracles of enormous consequence, it does not always do so with fanfare or explosions. It doesn’t always look like magic, the way we think of it: sometimes the ordinary unfolding of human life and the supernatural fulfillment of God’s plan are one and the same.

These are two ways of looking at the same thing, two kinds of fulfillment in one moment: the natural and normal process of giving birth, the supernatural and world-changing revelation of all prophecy and scripture. They are layered onto one another, they are in union, they are one. Once you see, you can’t unsee: everything is like this.

The small ministry of love you perform in the street for a hungry man; the day you finally break down and pray; the triumph of the heavens and the singing of angels: there is no distinction between these things. For unto us a son is born, quiet and obscure, into poverty, and under his heel death will die, and by his wounds we will be healed.

We may consider most of our days quite ordinary; God does not. He assigns to them such consequence that he himself was born and died, and because of that there are no small moments or ordinary lives. Instead there is this baby, born an outcast and wrapped up in a manger, given to you for the forgiveness of sin. And the life that he brings is from everlasting, a sign of high favor, a thing of wonder even to the angels. Of his kingdom, there will be no end.

Religious Studies

The Magnificat – Luke 1:46-55

Luke 1:46-55

46And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord,For the Virgin, with lofty thoughts and deep penetration, contemplates the boundless mystery, the further she advances, magnifying God; And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.
47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity.
48 For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. In the following words she teaches us how worthless she felt of herself and that she received by the heavenly grace that was lavished on her every sort of good merit that she had. She says, “For he has considered the humility of his handmaid. For behold from this time on all generations will call me blessed.” She demonstrates that in her own judgment she was indeed Christ’s humble handmaid, but with respect to heavenly grace she pronounces herself all at once lifted up and glorified to such a degree that rightly her preeminent blessedness would be marveled at by the voices of all nations.
49 For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul dot magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom hedeigns to do mighty things. For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be; apart from the earth. For in the height of His marvelous power He is far beyond every creature, and is widely removed from all the works of His hands. This is better understood in the Greek tongue, in which the very word which means holy, signifies as it were to be apart from the earth.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. She adds, more clearly, “And his mercy is for generations and generations to those who fear him.” She names “generations and generations,” referring either to both of the two peoples, namely, the Jews and the Gentiles, or alternatively to all the countries throughout the world which she foresaw would believe in Christ. For, as Peter said, “God is not a respecter of persons, but in every nation one who fears him and works justice is acceptable to him.”
51 He has showed strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. Or she says, Has shown, for will show strength; not as long ago by the hand of Moses against the Egyptians, nor as by the Angel, (when he slew many thousand of the rebel Assyrians,) nor by any other instrument save His own power, He openly triumphed, overcoming spiritual enemies. Hence it follows, he has scattered that is to say, every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to His coming He has laid bare, and exposed the wickedness of their proud thoughts. 
52 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. Great used to he the haughtiness of these demons whom He scattered, and of the devil, and of the Greek sages, as I said, and of the Pharisees and Scribes. But He put them down, and exalted those who had humbled themselves under their mighty hand, “having given them authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy:” and made the plots against us of these haughty-minded beings of none effect. The Jews, moreover, once gloried in their empire, but were stripped of it for their unbelief; whereas the Gentiles. who were obscure and of no note, were for their faith’s sake exalted.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. These words regulate our conduct even with respect to sensible things, teaching the uncertainty of all worldly possessions, which are as short lived as the wave which is dashed about to and fro by the violence of the wind. But spiritually all mankind suffered hunger except the Jews; for they possessed the treasures of legal tradition and the teachings of the holy prophets. But because they did not rest humbly on the Incarnate Word they were sent away empty, carrying nothing with them neither faith nor knowledge, and were bereft of the hope of good things, being shut out both of the earthly Jerusalem and the life to come. But those of the Gentiles, who were roughs low by hunger and thirst, because they clung to the Lord, were filled with spiritual goods.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this he did remembering His mercy, for He has fulfilled what he promised to Abraham, saying, For in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spoke to out father Abraham; for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant, that I shall be your God, and the God of your seed after you.
55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his descendants forever. When blessed Mary was making mention of the memory of the fathers, she properly represented them by naming Abraham in particular. Although many of the fathers and holy ones mystically brought forward testimony of the Lord’s incarnation, it was to Abraham that the hidden mysteries of this same Lord’s incarnation and of our redemption were first clearly predicted. Also, to him it was specifically said, “And in you all the tribes of the earth will be blessed.” None of the faithful doubts that this pertains to the Lord and Savior, who in order to give us an everlasting blessing deigned to come to us from the stock of Abraham. However, “the seed of Abraham” does not refer only to those chosen ones who were brought forth physically from Abraham’s lineage, but also to us…. Having been gathered together to Christ from the nations, we are connected by the fellowship of faith to the fathers, from whom we are far separated by the origin of our fleshly bloodline. We too are the seed and children of Abraham since we are reborn by the sacraments of our Redeemer, who assumed his flesh from the race of Abraham. 

Spencer Klavan’s translation and commentary of the Magnificat (originally posted on Young Heretics / Locals)

Here’s Luke 1:46-55 in Greek:

46 Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον,

47 καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,

48 ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί:

49 ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

And Mary said, “my soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit has gloried in God my savior. For he looked down from on high upon on the humility of his serving-girl, and see: from from this moment all generations will bless my name. For the mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is a song, a poem, a prophecy. It is called the “magnificat,” because that is the Latin translation of the first word in Greek: “Megalunei.” It means “magnifies” or “calls great”–my soul magnifies the LORD, sings Mary. What comes next is a single flawless composition, but I will divide it roughly here into three parts which I will translate over the course of three days. Mary sings about what God has done for her, for the world, and for the people of Israel.

First, she sings about herself: God has looked upon her “tapeinōsis,” a word referring to abject poverty and lowliness. It’s more than just lacking money: those who are “tapeinoi” lack all social standing, authority, and power. This is what God has looked on and seen in Mary: not just her position in the world but a spiritual sense of total submission and need.

Mary says, in effect, that this is why he has chosen her: he saw not only that she lacked money and social position, but that she considered herself that way in spirit, too. The outer poverty of her life was mirrored by an inward receptivity, a sense that she had nothing to offer God and God had everything to offer her. The irony is that sense of need is her offering: she knows she has nothing to give God, and so God is well pleased to receive her.

In this, as the rest of the song shows, Mary is a stand-in for all of humanity: those who are aware of themselves as beggars can give themselves to God and receive his favor. Those whom the world has taught to think of themselves as great must be brought low before they can have any hope of conversion. Mary’s name will be blessed for all generations because she is the one who knew fully that God’s name alone is blessed of itself.

Here’s Luke 1:50-53 in Greek:

50 καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν.

51 Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν:

52 καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,

53 πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

“And his mercy endures from generation to generation for those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has tossed the mighty down from their thrones and exalted the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”

The link between the first part of the Magnificat, which I translated yesterday, and this middle part, which I translate today, is God. Mary considers how God has treated her in her lowliness, and moves from there to reflect on what this reveals about God’s nature more generally, and how he treats the world.

The answer is: he inverts every power relation and thwarts every kind of self-regard to elevate those who think of themselves as little as possible. I love the phrase “dianoia tēs kardias autōn,” which means literally “in the thinking of their heart.” The translation I’ve given is the traditional one: proud rulers have grand designs “in the imagination of their hearts.”

It’s a perfect description of today’s ruling elites, their grand dreams to erase human nature, establish one world government, and rule over a digital world where all the rules are changed. Think of the metaverse, or Klaus Schwab in Davos, or COVID tyranny: these are all examples of “the proud” who imagine that they can remake the world in their own image by sheer force of will.

It’s encouraging to me to find those fantasies of world domination so perfectly described in just a few words from two thousand years ago, with a promise that it will all come to nothing. We may be surprised at how the kings of this world talk, at their arrogance and self-sure dreams of power. God is not.

Luke 1:54-6 in Greek:

54 ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,

55 καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

56 Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.

Klavan’s translation and commentary:

“‘He has taken the side of his child, Israel, remembering his mercy as he said to their fathers–to Abraham and his seed across every age.’ And Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and went back to her house.”

Often translations here will say “his servant Israel.” And it’s true that the Greek “pais” can mean “servant.” But it can also mean “child,” and that is also how God talks about the people of Israel. “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22)–at the moment of ransom from Egypt, God tells his people that he will treat them corporately as a dependent in his household.

I think the connection here between “child” and “servant” underscores what I said earlier about Mary: that if she is a “slave” of the Lord it is in the ancient sense of a member of the household, and one destined to be adopted at that. As God once brought his people out of bondage, now he will bring them out of sin, because they are his and he will ransom them at a high price (compare Isaiah 43).

All of this also makes a connection between the whole nation of Israel and Jesus, both of whom are God’s son: Jesus himself will now do in his own life what Israel as a whole nation did in Egypt. He will go down into bondage, be ransomed by God, and set free. And just as Israel’s exodus from Egypt inaugurated an age of freedom for all those who were born afterward, Jesus’s victory over death will usher in generations and generations of adoption into God’s household.

Religious Studies

The Syllabus of Errors

Author: Pope Pius IX

THE SYLLABUS

Pope Pius IX

I. PANTHEISM, NATURALISM AND ABSOLUTE RATIONALISM

1. There exists no Supreme, all-wise, all-provident Divine Being, distinct from the universe, and God is identical with the nature of things, and is, therefore, subject to changes. In effect, God is produced in man and in the world, and all things are God and have the very substance of God, and God is one and the same thing with the world, and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, good with evil, justice with injustice.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

2. All action of God upon man and the world is to be denied.—Ibid.

3. Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil; it is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations.—Ibid.

4. All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason; hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind.—Ibid. and Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, etc.

5. Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason.—Ibid.

6. The faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason and divine revelation not only is not useful, but is even hurtful to the perfection of man.—Ibid.

7. The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth.

II. MODERATE RATIONALISM

8. As human reason is placed on a level with religion itself, so theological must be treated in the same manner as philosophical sciences.—Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854.

9. All the dogmas of the Christian religion are indiscriminately the object of natural science or philosophy, and human reason, enlightened solely in an historical way, is able, by its own natural strength and principles, to attain to the true science of even the most abstruse dogmas; provided only that such dogmas be proposed to reason itself as its object.—Letters to the Archbishop of Munich, “Gravissimas inter,” Dec. 11, 1862, and “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

10. As the philosopher is one thing, and philosophy another, so it is the right and duty of the philosopher to subject himself to the authority which he shall have proved to be true; but philosophy neither can nor ought to submit to any such authority.—Ibid., Dec. 11, 1862.

11. The Church not only ought never to pass judgment on philosophy, but ought to tolerate the errors of philosophy, leaving it to correct itself.—Ibid., Dec. 21, 1863.

12. The decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the true progress of science.—Ibid.

13. The method and principles by which the old scholastic doctors cultivated theology are no longer suitable to the demands of our times and to the progress of the sciences.—Ibid.

14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation.—Ibid.

III. INDIFFERENTISM, LATITUDINARIANISM

15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.

17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ.—Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church.—Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849.

IV. SOCIALISM, COMMUNISM, SECRET SOCIETIES, BIBLICAL SOCIETIES, CLERICO-LIBERAL SOCIETIES

Pests of this kind are frequently reprobated in the severest terms in the Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846, Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, Encyclical “Noscitis et nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849, Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.

V. ERRORS CONCERNING THE CHURCH AND HER RIGHTS

19. The Church is not a true and perfect society, entirely free- nor is she endowed with proper and perpetual rights of her own, conferred upon her by her Divine Founder; but it appertains to the civil power to define what are the rights of the Church, and the limits within which she may exercise those rights.—Allocution “Singulari quadam,” Dec. 9, 1854, etc.

20. The ecclesiastical power ought not to exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government.—Allocution “Meminit unusquisque,” Sept. 30, 1861.

21. The Church has not the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.—Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

25. Besides the power inherent in the episcopate, other temporal power has been attributed to it by the civil authority granted either explicitly or tacitly, which on that account is revocable by the civil authority whenever it thinks fit.—Ibid.

26. The Church has no innate and legitimate right of acquiring and possessing property.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856; Encyclical “Incredibili,” Sept. 7, 1863.

27. The sacred ministers of the Church and the Roman pontiff are to be absolutely excluded from every charge and dominion over temporal affairs.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

28. It is not lawful for bishops to publish even letters Apostolic without the permission of Government.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

29. Favours granted by the Roman pontiff ought to be considered null, unless they have been sought for through the civil government.—Ibid.

30. The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derived its origin from civil law.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

31. The ecclesiastical forum or tribunal for the temporal causes, whether civil or criminal, of clerics, ought by all means to be abolished, even without consulting and against the protest of the Holy See.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

32. The personal immunity by which clerics are exonerated from military conscription and service in the army may be abolished without violation either of natural right or equity. Its abolition is called for by civil progress, especially in a society framed on the model of a liberal government.—Letter to the Bishop of Monreale “Singularis nobisque,” Sept. 29, 1864.

33. It does not appertain exclusively to the power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction by right, proper and innate, to direct the teaching of theological questions.—Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, “Tuas libenter,” Dec. 21, 1863.

34. The teaching of those who compare the Sovereign Pontiff to a prince, free and acting in the universal Church, is a doctrine which prevailed in the Middle Ages.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

35. There is nothing to prevent the decree of a general council, or the act of all peoples, from transferring the supreme pontificate from the bishop and city of Rome to another bishop and another city.—Ibid.

36. The definition of a national council does not admit of any subsequent discussion, and the civil authority car assume this principle as the basis of its acts.—Ibid.

37. National churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established.—Allocution “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860.

38. The Roman pontiffs have, by their too arbitrary conduct, contributed to the division of the Church into Eastern and Western.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

VI. ERRORS ABOUT CIVIL SOCIETY, CONSIDERED BOTH IN ITSELF AND IN ITS RELATION TO THE CHURCH

39. The State, as being the origin and source of all rights, is endowed with a certain right not circumscribed by any limits.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

40. The teaching of the Catholic Church is hostile to the well- being and interests of society.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846; Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.

41. The civil government, even when in the hands of an infidel sovereign, has a right to an indirect negative power over religious affairs. It therefore possesses not only the right called that of “exsequatur,” but also that of appeal, called “appellatio ab abusu.”—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851

42. In the case of conflicting laws enacted by the two powers, the civil law prevails.—Ibid.

43. The secular Dower has authority to rescind, declare and render null, solemn conventions, commonly called concordats, entered into with the Apostolic See, regarding the use of rights appertaining to ecclesiastical immunity, without the consent of the Apostolic See, and even in spite of its protest.—Allocution “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860; Allocution “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850.

44. The civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality and spiritual government: hence, it can pass judgment on the instructions issued for the guidance of consciences, conformably with their mission, by the pastors of the Church. Further, it has the right to make enactments regarding the administration of the divine sacraments, and the dispositions necessary for receiving them.—Allocutions “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850, and “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

45. The entire government of public schools in which the youth- of a Christian state is educated, except (to a certain extent) in the case of episcopal seminaries, may and ought to appertain to the civil power, and belong to it so far that no other authority whatsoever shall be recognized as having any right to interfere in the discipline of the schools, the arrangement of the studies, the conferring of degrees, in the choice or approval of the teachers.—Allocutions “Quibus luctuosissimis,” Sept. 5, 1851, and “In consistoriali,” Nov. 1, 1850.

46. Moreover, even in ecclesiastical seminaries, the method of studies to be adopted is subject to the civil authority.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

47. The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to children of every class of the people, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophical sciences and for carrying on the education of youth, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, control and interference, and should be fully subjected to the civil and political power at the pleasure of the rulers, and according to the standard of the prevalent opinions of the age.—Epistle to the Archbishop of Freiburg, “Cum non sine,” July 14, 1864.

48. Catholics may approve of the system of educating youth unconnected with Catholic faith and the power of the Church, and which regards the knowledge of merely natural things, and only, or at least primarily, the ends of earthly social life.—Ibid.

49. The civil power may prevent the prelates of the Church and the faithful from communicating freely and mutually with the Roman pontiff.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

50. Lay authority possesses of itself the right of presenting bishops, and may require of them to undertake the administration of the diocese before they receive canonical institution, and the Letters Apostolic from the Holy See.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

51. And, further, the lay government has the right of deposing bishops from their pastoral functions, and is not bound to obey the Roman pontiff in those things which relate to the institution of bishoprics and the appointment of bishops.—Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852, Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

52. Government can, by its own right, alter the age prescribed by the Church for the religious profession of women and men; and may require of all religious orders to admit no person to take solemn vows without its permission.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

53. The laws enacted for the protection of religious orders and regarding their rights and duties ought to be abolished; nay, more, civil Government may lend its assistance to all who desire to renounce the obligation which they have undertaken of a religious life, and to break their vows. Government may also suppress the said religious orders, as likewise collegiate churches and simple benefices, even those of advowson and subject their property and revenues to the administration and pleasure of the civil power.—Allocutions “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852; “Probe memineritis,” Jan. 22, 1855; “Cum saepe,” July 26, 1855.

54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from the Church.—Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

VII. ERRORS CONCERNING NATURAL AND CHRISTIAN ETHICS

56. Moral laws do not stand in need of the divine sanction, and it is not at all necessary that human laws should be made conformable to the laws of nature and receive their power of binding from God.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

57. The science of philosophical things and morals and also civil laws may and ought to keep aloof from divine and ecclesiastical authority.—Ibid.

58. No other forces are to be recognized except those which reside in matter, and all the rectitude and excellence of morality ought to be placed in the accumulation and increase of riches by every possible means, and the gratification of pleasure.—Ibid.; Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863.

59. Right consists in the material fact. All human duties are an empty word, and all human facts have the force of right.—Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862.

60. Authority is nothing else but numbers and the sum total of material forces.—Ibid.

61. The injustice of an act when successful inflicts no injury on the sanctity of right.—Allocution “Jamdudum cernimus,” March 18, 1861.

62. The principle of non-intervention, as it is called, ought to be proclaimed and observed.—Allocution “Novos et ante,” Sept. 28, 1860.

63. It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1864; Allocution “Quibusque vestrum,” Oct. 4, 1847; “Noscitis et Nobiscum,” Dec. 8, 1849; Apostolic Letter “Cum Catholica.”

64. The violation of any solemn oath, as well as any wicked and flagitious action repugnant to the eternal law, is not only not blamable but is altogether lawful and worthy of the highest praise when done through love of country.—Allocution “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849.

VIII. ERRORS CONCERNING CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

65. The doctrine that Christ has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament cannot be at all tolerated.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

66. The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract and separate from it, and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial benediction alone.—Ibid.

67. By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble, and in many cases divorce properly so called may be decreed by the civil authority.—Ibid.; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

68. The Church has not the power of establishing diriment impediments of marriage, but such a power belongs to the civil authority by which existing impediments are to be removed.—Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

69. In the dark ages the Church began to establish diriment impediments, not by her own right, but by using a power borrowed from the State.—Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

70. The canons of the Council of Trent, which anathematize those who dare to deny to the Church the right of establishing diriment impediments, either are not dogmatic or must be understood as referring to such borrowed power.—Ibid.

71. The form of solemnizing marriage prescribed by the Council of Trent, under pain of nullity, does not bind in cases where the civil law lays down another form, and declares that when this new form is used the marriage shall be valid.

72. Boniface VIII was the first who declared that the vow of chastity taken at ordination renders marriage void.—Ibid.

73. In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage, and it is false to say either that the marriage contract between Christians is always a sacrament, or that there is no contract if the sacrament be excluded.—Ibid.; Letter to the King of Sardinia, Sept. 9, 1852; Allocutions “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852, “Multis gravibusque,” Dec. 17, 1860.

74. Matrimonial causes and espousals belong by their nature to civil tribunals.—Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9 1846; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851, “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851; Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

IX. ERRORS REGARDING THE CIVIL POWER OF THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF

75. The children of the Christian and Catholic Church are divided amongst themselves about the compatibility of the temporal with the spiritual power.—”Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church.—Allocutions “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, “Si semper antea,” May 20, 1850.

X. ERRORS HAVING REFERENCE TO MODERN LIBERALISM

77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.—Allocution “Nemo vestrum,” July 26, 1855.

78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.—Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.

79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism.—Allocution “Nunquam fore,” Dec. 15, 1856.

80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.—Allocution “Jamdudum cernimus,” March 18, 1861.

__________________________

The following paragraphs, although often appended to TheSyllabus, actually derive from the encyclical of 21 November 1873,  Etsi multa (On the Church in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland), by the same Holy Father, Pope Pius IX.

The faith teaches us and human reason demonstrates that a double order of things exists, and that we must therefore distinguish between the two earthly powers, the one of natural origin which provides for secular affairs and the tranquillity of human society, the other of supernatural origin, which presides over the City of God, that is to say the Church of Christ, which has been divinely instituted for the sake of souls and of eternal salvation…. The duties of this twofold power are most wisely ordered in such a way that to God is given what is God’s (Matt. 22:21), and because of God to Caesar what is Caesar’s, who is great because he is smaller than heaven. Certainly the Church has never disobeyed this divine command, the Church which always and everywhere instructs the faithful to show the respect which they should inviolably have for the supreme authority and its secular rights….

…. Venerable Brethren, you see clearly enough how sad and full of perils is the condition of Catholics in the regions of Europe which We have mentioned. Nor are things any better or circumstances calmer in America, where some regions are so hostile to Catholics that their governments seem to deny by their actions the Catholic faith they claim to profess. In fact, there, for the last few years, a ferocious war on the Church, its institutions and the rights of the Apostolic See has been raging…. Venerable Brothers, it is surprising that in our time such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church. But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects. It is from them that the synagogue of Satan, which gathers its troops against the Church of Christ, takes its strength. In the past Our predecessors, vigilant even from the beginning in Israel, had already denounced them to the kings and the nations, and had condemned them time and time again, and even We have not failed in this duty. If those who would have been able to avert such a deadly scourge had only had more faith in the supreme Pastors of the Church! But this scourge, winding through sinuous caverns, . . . deceiving many with astute frauds, finally has arrived at the point where it comes forth impetuously from its hiding places and triumphs as a powerful master. Since the throng of its propagandists has grown enormously, these wicked groups think that they have already become masters of the world and that they have almost reached their pre-established goal. Having sometimes obtained what they desired, and that is power, in several countries, they boldly turn the help of powers and authorities which they have secured to trying to submit the Church of God to the most cruel servitude, to undermine the foundations on which it rests, to contaminate its splendid qualities; and, moreover, to strike it with frequent blows, to shake it, to overthrow it, and, if possible, to make it disappear completely from the earth. Things being thus, Venerable Brothers, make every effort to defend the faithful which are entrusted to you against the insidious contagion of these sects and to save from perdition those who unfortunately have inscribed themselves in such sects. Make known and attack those who, whether suffering from, or planning, deception, are not afraid to affirm that these shady congregations aim only at the profit of society, at progress and mutual benefit. Explain to them often and impress deeply on their souls the Papal constitutions on this subject and teach, them that the masonic associations are anathematized by them not only in Europe but also in America and wherever they may be in the whole world.

To the Archbishops and Bishops of Prussia concerning the situation of the Catholic Church faced with persecution by that Government….

But although they (the bishops resisting persecution) should be praised rather than pitied, the scorn of episcopal dignity, the violation of the liberty and the rights of the Church, the ill treatment which does not only oppress those dioceses, but also the others of the Kingdom of Prussia, demand that We, owing to the Apostolic office with which God has entrusted us in spite of Our insufficient merit, protest against laws which have produced such great evils and make one fear even greater ones; and as far as we are able to do so with the sacred authority of divine law, We vindicate for the Church the freedom which has been trodden underfoot with sacrilegious violence. That is why by this letter we intend to do Our duty by announcing openly to all those whom this matter concerns and to the whole Catholic world, that these laws are null and void because they are absolutely contrary to the divine constitution of the Church. In fact, with respect to matters which concern the holy ministry, Our Lord did not put the mighty of this century in charge, but Saint Peter, whom he entrusted not only with feeding his sheep, but also the goats; therefore no power in the world, however great it may be, can deprive of the pastoral office those whom the Holy Ghost has made Bishops in order to feed the Church of God.

Religious Studies

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Summary:

James and John go to Jesus and tell Jesus they want him to do whatever they ask. James and John tell Jesus they want to sit at the right and left of him in glory. Jesus tells James and John that they don’t know what they are asking, and he could not grant that wish because it “is not mine to give but for those whom it has been prepared.” The other disciples became indignant at James and John’s request. Jesus then compared gentile rulers to the disciples and told them while gentile rulers “make their authority […] felt” Jesus’s followers who wished to be great would be the biggest servants. Jesus then said, “for the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

Ideas and thoughts:

Jesus question, “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

John Chrysostom (347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople comments: They did not understand what they were asking for when they were talking to him about crowns and rewards and the privilege of the first seats and honors even before the contest had begun. Christ was communicating with them on two levels when he said: “You do not know what you are asking for.” One was that they were talking about an earthly kingdom and he had said nothing about this. There had been no announcement or promise about a visible kingdom on earth. The other was that, when they sought at this time the privilege of the first seats and the honors of heaven, when they wished to be seen as more illustrious and splendid than the others, they were not asking for these things at the right time. The timing was precisely wrong. For this was not the right time for crowns or prizes. It was the time for struggles, contests, toils, sweat, wrestling rings and battles.

Augustine of Hippo comments: They were conferring with him about glory. He intended to precede loftiness with humility and, only through humility, to ready the way for loftiness itself. For, of course, even those disciples who wanted to sit, the one on his right, the other on his left, were looking to glory. They were on the lookout, but did not see by what way. In order that they might come to their homeland in due order, the Lord called them back to the narrow way. For the homeland is on high and the way to it is lowly. The homeland is life in Christ; the way is dying with Christ. The way is suffering with Christ; the goal is abiding with him eternally. Why do you seek the homeland if you are not seeking the way to it?

Theophylact of Ohrid comments: Martyrdom, He is saying, will be yours, and you will die for Truth’s sake. (For bold confession of the Truth James was beheaded in Jerusalem in 45 AD, and John was cruelly tortured in Rome and then exiled to the island of Patmos. Tr.) But to sit at My right hand and at My left is not Mine to give. Two questions may be asked: first, has it been prepared for anyone to sit there? Second, is the Master of all unable to bestow this seat? In answer we say that no one will sit at His right or at His left. Although in many places of Scripture you hear mention of sitting upon a seat in heaven (Mt. 19:28, Lk. 13:29, Eph. 2:6, etc.), understand that this refers to great honor, not a chair. It is not Mine to give has this meaning: it is not for Me, the Just Judge, to bestow this honor as a favor, for that would not be just. Instead, this honor has been prepared for those who have contested and struggled for it. It is as if a just king had set a day for a contest of athletes, and then some of his friends come to him and say, “Give us the crowns.” The king would say, “The crowns are not mine to give; rather, a crown is prepared for that contestant who shall compete and win.” So too with you, 0 sons of Zebedee, you shall be martyrs for My sake; but if there is one who, along with martyrdom, exceeds you in every virtue, he shall precede you in honor.

Religious Studies

10 Commandments

Exodus 20

2 I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 You shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make unto yourself any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day: therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives you.
13 You shall not kill.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor any thing that is your neighbor’s.

Deuteronomy 5

6 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
7 You shall have none other gods before me.
8 You shall not make you any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
9 You shall not bow down yourself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
10 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
11 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD your God has commanded you.
13 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work:
14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.
15 And remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
17 You shall not kill.
18 Neither shall you commit adultery.
19 Neither shall you steal.
20 Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
21 Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s wife, neither shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Religious Studies

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel reading for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time is Mark chapter 10 verses 17 to 30. In this reading, a man runs up to Jesus, kneels before him, addresses him as “Good Teacher,” and asks how he might inherit eternal life. The man expresses that he has followed the commandments. Jesus responds first by stating only God is good, then further responds by “loving him” and subsequently telling the man to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow him. The man leaves sad because he had “great” possessions. Jesus told his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples then wondered, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus finally tells his disciples that with God, all things are possible. Peter reminds Jesus that the disciples have sold everything, and Jesus reassures Peter that any person who leaves behind their worldly life for the sake of God and the Gospel will be rewarded in this life and the next.

A man running and kneeling appears to be both eager and respectful of the one he is approaching and questioning. In addition, the man addresses Jesus as a “Good Teacher,” which may indicate he viewed Jesus as an authority. Finally, the man asks Jesus what he “shall do to inherit eternal life” and suggests he has followed the law since youth. The idea of an individual seemingly living a righteous life yet asking how to inherit eternal life indicates that the man felt he wasn’t doing everything right. Furthermore, his use of “inherit” shows his understanding that eternal life is not necessarily automatic. Inheritance is often assumed but by no means guaranteed.

Jesus’s first reaction to the man stating he had followed the law since youth was a loving reaction – the text says Jesus “loved him.” This love could be the result of Jesus loving everyone or because the man did follow the law during his lifetime. Although Jesus seemed to appreciate the man’s adherence to the law, he ultimately identified the man had not sold what he had and given to the poor, and the man left sad.

Of note, this story does not describe what happened to the man after. The story states the man “left sad” but does not state whether the man ultimately gave to the poor or if he followed Jesus. When Jesus explains the difficulty of a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples themselves ask, “Then who can be saved?” This is an interesting response from individuals who were not rich and were already following Jesus. Even Peter, seemingly needing reassurance, had to point out that the disciples gave up everything and were following Jesus.

Ultimately Jesus indicates that “all things are possible for God,” suggesting wealthy persons can inherit eternal life. Jesus further reassures the disciples that sacrifice for God or the Gospel will pay dividends both now and in the life to come.

The above might suggest lessened importance on adherence to the law; however, the Book of James Chapter 2 verse 14 through 18 states:

14 What use is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
17 In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Furthermore, in Mark 12 verse 31, Jesus provides the greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus loved the man who ran and knelt before him to ask about the requirement to receive an inheritance of eternal life. Works are an essential aspect of a righteous life; however, Jesus told the man to extend himself beyond laws that only affect him and live a life of virtue – a life in which he did not neglect the needs of his neighbor. The commandments Jesus listed are easy. Most people can live an entire lifetime and avoid killing, stealing, defrauding, bearing false witness while honoring their parents. It is possible Jesus was also speaking about the extended mitzvot in Jewish life; however, the text does not explicitly mention these. What Jesus tells the man is to extend himself and give to the poor. If the man loved his neighbor as himself, he would not have left sad – he would willingly share with those who needed it. If the word “rich” were replaced with “those who have excess,” it casts a wider net and might explain the disciple’s surprise and concern for the height of the bar set. Living in this way is difficult but not impossible with God’s help.

Harvard ClassicsRandom ThoughtsReligious Studies

Pascal’s Fundamentals of Religion

Interesting thoughts by Blaise Pascal  

The Christian religion then teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.

For it is not true that all reveals God, and it is not true that all conceals God. But it is at the same time true that He hides Himself from those who tempt Him, and that He reveals Himself to those who seek Him, because men are both unworthy and capable of God; unworthy by their corruption, capable by their original nature.

Religious Studies

September 19 Weekly Reading

Wisdom of Solomon

Chapter 2

12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training.

13 He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord.

14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

15 the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.

16 We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.

17 Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;

18 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

19 Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance.

20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

James

Chapter 3

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 

18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Chapter 4

What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? 

You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Mark

Chapter 9

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; 

31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 

32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.

33 And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 

34 But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. 

35 And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 

36 And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 

37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Religious Studies

Faith Without Works is Dead

Book of James

Faith Without Works is Dead

14 What use is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,

16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

17 In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”