Saturday, October 27, 2012

Original Sin and the Immaculate Conception

Bruno Chérier (1817-1880)
The Immaculate Conception /  La Vierge de l’Immaculée Conception

This is one of sixteen scenes from The Life of the Virgin painted by Chérier for the nave and transept of the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Loos

The Virgin is surrounded by David and Isaac, with the Angels Michael and Gabriel kneeling. Four other angels are throwing flowers: lilies and white roses, the symbols of purity but in the case of the roses, also symbols of future pain

Mary is depicted as the second Eve – Eve before the Fall

In Gn 3:15 God said to the serpent after the Fall of Man: 
"I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed;  she (he) shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her (his) heel"
The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) describes a war in heaven in which Michael, being stronger, defeats Satan

As well as being God`s instrument in The Annunciation, Gabriel is mentioned several times in the Old Testament literature as being one of the chief angels in Paradise, sitting on God`s left hand But it is the angel`s salutation at the Annunciation which we recall in this painting: chaire kecharitomene, Hail, full of grace (Luke 1:28)

Blessed John Newman explained that the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was understandable from the Catholic view of Original Sin which is different from the non-Catholic doctrine of Original Sin:

“but our Lady's case only differs from his ]St John the Baptist] in this respect, that to her the grace of God came, not three months merely before her birth, but from the first moment of her being, as it had been given to Eve.
But it may be said, How does this enable us to say that she[Mary] was conceived without original sin? 
If Anglicans knew what we mean by original sin, they would not ask the question.
Our doctrine of original sin is not the same as the Protestant doctrine. 
"Original {48} sin," with us, cannot be called sin, in the mere ordinary sense of the word "sin;" it is a term denoting Adam's sin as transferred to us, or the state to which Adam's sin reduces his children; but by Protestants it seems to be understood as sin, in much the same sense as actual sin. We, with the Fathers, think of it as something negative, Protestants as something positive.
 Protestants hold that it is a disease, a radical change of nature, an active poison internally corrupting the soul, infecting its primary elements, and disorganizing it; and they fancy that we ascribe a different nature from ours to the Blessed Virgin, different from that of her parents, and from that of fallen Adam. 
We hold nothing of the kind; we consider that in Adam she died, as others; that she was included, together with the whole race, in Adam's sentence; that she incurred his debt, as we do; but that, for the sake of Him who was to redeem her and us upon the Cross, to her the debt was remitted by anticipation, on her the sentence was not carried out, except indeed as regards her natural death, for she died when her time came, as others 
All this we teach, but we deny that she had original sin; for by original sin we mean, as I have already said, something negative, viz., this only, the deprivation of that supernatural unmerited grace which Adam and Eve had on their first formation,—deprivation and the consequences of deprivation. 
Mary could not merit, any more than they, the restoration of that grace; but it was restored to her by God's free bounty, from the {49} very first moment of her existence, and thereby, in fact, she never came under the original curse, which consisted in the loss of it. 
And she had this special privilege, in order to fit her to become the Mother of her and our Redeemer, to fit her mentally, spiritually for it; so that, by the aid of the first grace, she might so grow in grace, that, when the Angel came and her Lord was at hand, she might be "full of grace," prepared as far as a creature could be prepared, to receive Him into her bosom.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Nasty Little -----

Paolo Veronese 1528-1588
The Vision of St Helena 1575-78
Oil on canvas
198 x 116 cm
National Gallery, London

In Arete Magazine, Adam Thirwell said of the work of the Catholic novelist Muriel Spark
"The subject of all Muriel Spark’s novels is Original Sin. And this is not an original subject, not in itself. ... She offers no explanation. She offers no lesson. She simply describes how people behave. Spark’s great achievement is to show how accurate religious descriptions of psychology are – how congruent they are with the facts.  
Before Hannah Arendt, Spark knew about the banality of evil. But Spark goes further. Evil is not just banal, evil is opaque too – flat, simply there.."

The character of Miss Jean Brodie is one of the most powerful iconic characters in twentieth century Scottish literature.

She is an extremely attractive character - especially for some teachers.

She has attitude.

And as Spark herself said of the model for her character "her dazzling non-sequiturs filled [the] heart with joy."

She sees herself as a rebel of her times but she is not

With regard to religion, Miss Brodie "was not in any doubt, she let everyone know she was in no doubt, that God was on her side whatever her course, and so she experienced no difficulty or sense of hypocrisy in worship while at the same time she went to bed with the singing master."

She is the archetypal Justified Sinner

At the beginning of the novel, Brodie appears to be  a character of intense light in a city of grey . She proclaims "Art" and teaches her children about Italian painting (Giotto) and art but in a rather superficial way.

But as the novel progresses this seemingly attractive character gradually shows the dark side of her nature and the disastrous effects of her character and ideas.

All her charges, male and female, do not turn out as Brodie has envisaged and for whom she has planned and engaged in her machinations. Even before her betrayal by her "chief disciple", the portentously named Sandy Stranger, it is clear that she is all surface, shallow and without depth

Filled with the assurance of false pride and egoism, she lacks self knowledge

The setting of the novel is 1930s Edinburgh. 

Due to the First World War, women outnumber men and Brodie is one of the many in ‘war-bereaved spinsterhood’

Edinburgh has always prided itself in being a European city rather than merely a British city.

But the images of Europe which Brodie imports for her charges are the strutting images of Italian Fascism, one of the forms of totalitarianism in inter-war Europe which led to the almost total destruction of the Continent.

We are told that it was  a time of confusion.

For many in that time of Economic Depression, it was a time of seeking to survive in grinding poverty. But Brodie is middle class and comfortably off financially and socially. She has  no dependents,  For her life is not a struggle. There is time to dream.

She is part of that a class of women in their ‘war-bereaved spinsterhood’  that had their own comfortable flat,  took guitar lessons, caravan-holidays, foreign language lessons, and who indulged in spiritualism and advanced  arguments for birth-control

That class are mindful of their privileges and realise that these privileges are precarious.

One of the spinsters says to a grocer in the novel:
 ‘I tell you this, Mr. Geddes, birth control is the only answer to the problem of the working class. A free issue to every household’

It is significant that it is the problem of the working class and the poor and not the problems of the working class and the poor  that birth control is  deemed to be the magic solution

It is the unself-conscious language of fear, envy and jealousy

Arrogance and hypocrisy couch in utilitarian terms a description of a device designed originally for selfish pleasure.

Worse, she presumes  to control life and the very existence for others.

She was heading for the Fall even before Sandy pushed her over the edge.

Why did Sandy betray her ?

The reasons she gives in the novel do not ring true. Brodie was not particularly dangerous. Apart from Mary Macgregor (and then it was not the fault of Miss Brodie)  no one got hurt. They ignored Brodie and got on with their lives.

Perhaps Spark gave the answer in a BBC Radio 4 programme Bookclub in 2004 when she discussed the novel with James Naughtie and an invited audience at The British Library

Spark simply said that Sandy was "a nasty little bitch"

Sandy at the end of the novel is a cloistered nun (Sister Helena of the Transfiguration) having converted to Roman Catholicism, perhaps for her another but necessary form of totalitarianism.

It is a rebellion from Calvinism and from Miss Brodie Of her dedication and vocation, Miss Brodie in her splendid egotism (and ignorance that it is Sandy who has betrayed her) carps:
"That is not the sort of dedication I meant, ...Do you think she has done this to annoy me?"
Sandy`s  change of name is significant. Her name Sandy Stranger becomes Sister Helena of the Transfiguration.  It is in honour of St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine who erected a church on Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration of Christ when Christ, the First of the Elect, revealed himself to his closest Apostles as the bridge between the Divine and Man

St Helena, by legend, was of course also the  finder of the True Cross in Jerusalem, the means of Redemption by Christ for all men`s sins  including Original Sin

But she is not like the other nuns. She has written a famous book.

People visit her in the convent. But she sees them behind bars. She clutches the bars to see her visitors, her admirers, her followers more closely.

Her famous book is on psychology. The title of her book is The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.

The name of her book is not without significance. It is simply the definition of "Art". She has written a psychological treatise on the subject of Art

The early twentieth century was the great age of psychology and psychoanalysis.  Psychoanalysis was in vogue. Freudianism was the great totem which claimed that it could answer any question. It was a new religion. Freud himself wrote on art: his essays on Michelangelo`s statue of Moses and on the dreams of Leonardo da Vinci were regarded as particularly noteworthy.

Now the essays read as the most tremendous claptrap ever published. But then people only believe what they want to believe.

Sandy is simply the daughter of her progenitor, Miss Brodie, smitten with her Sin, the sin of Pride, the original sin. But Sandy is different from her spiritual mother
"Miss Brodie's masterful features becomes clear and sweet to Sandy when viewed in the curious light of the woman's folly, and she never felt more affection for her in the later years than when she thought upon Miss Brodie silly."
In a brilliant review of the novel by Martin Price in The New York Times (January 21, 1962) Splendid by Destructive Egotism, the conclusion of the book is summarised concisely:
"Each of [the Brodie set] has her distinctive promise, but in some it is never realized. Miss Brodie becomes the memory of that restless and imperious spirit which may be buried or split, tamed or transfigured. It is a dangerous and destructive spirit at worst, and it can be "beneficent and enlarging." "
Sandy realises that nasty little bitch that she is, her restless and imperious spirit can only be transfigured if tamed and confined  within  the strictures of the Roman Catholic Church,  the home and refuge of all sinners who cling to the Cross

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paradise Lost Book III

William Blake (1757-1845)
Christ Intercedes on Behalf of Man : 'Father, thy word is past, man shall find grace' (Milton, Paradise Lost III.227)
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

William Blake (1757‑1827) 
The Agony in the Garden 
Tempera on iron 
 270 x 380 mm 
Tate Britain, London

William Blake (1757‑1827) 
The Crucifixion: 'Behold Thy Mother' 
Pen and ink and watercolour on paper 
413 x 300 mm 
Tate Britain, London

William Blake (1757‑1827) 
The Angels hovering over the body of Christ in the Sepulchre; Christ in the sepulchre, guarded by angels
ca. 1805 (painted)
Watercolour, pen and ink
42.2 cm x  31.4 cm
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

William Blake  regarded John Milton with reverence and had done so since his youth. Blake said  that ‘Milton lov’d me in childhood & shew’d me his face’. (Letter to John Flaxman 12 September 1800)

 He considered Milton the greatest of all the poets, greater than Dante, Shakespeare or Chaucer. 

In Book 3 of John Milton`s Paradise Lost, after the defeat of Satan, God the Father sees that Satan will in the future cause the downfall of mankind. Man will succumb to temptation and disobey God`s command. Adam and Eve will eat the fruit of the Tree

There then follows a dialogue between God the Father and God the Son, the First and Second Persons of the Holy Trinity

God the Father requires punishment as divine justice. The Son intercedes and offers himself as Ransom for Man and all mankind

The Father the accepts the offer and pronounces the Son as the highest above all Names in Heaven. 

Blake and Shelley thought that in Books 1 and 2, Milton`s descriptions of Satan and his activities are more absorbing that Book 3 which describes God and the Angels

Blake thought that 'The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it'. 

Shelley thought that God's cold and certain execution of the preordained plan of the devils' (and Man's) destruction made 'Milton's Devil as a moral being ...'far superior to his God'

The same can be said of Dante`s Inferno which is of more interest and much more read than his Paradiso

Below is the dialogue between the Father and the Son in Book 3 It is the interaction of that Mystery we call the Holy Trinity. That God is all and perfect Love outside of Time and Space but also immanent and transcendent in His creation.

We only know God through the Incarnation and as the Father says to the Son it is 
"in thee / Love hath abounded more then Glory abounds"
And it is the Son who acknowledges that from and through  the Father, Grace 
"to all / Comes unprevented, unimplor'd, unsought"
The poetry is truly epic and illustrates why we use the term "Miltonic" to describe his poetry

Some insist on viewing  Paradise Lost  simply as a discourse on the political questions at stake in the English Revolution (1640–1660) and Restoration, 

But, as in the final Cantos of the Paradiso,  in this imagined dialogue between The Father and the Son we read, hear and imagine the Sublime

It is an attempt to explain the Fall and the Redemption. A profound mystery similar to the other questions posed by Milton in Paradise Lost. Who can forget the plaintive question of Adam to Raphael in Book 7:
"what cause / Mov’d the Creator in his holy Rest / Through all Eternitie so late to build /In Chaos" (Paradise Lost, 7.90-3)

Let us ignore the politics and forget the militant Calvinism and reflect simply on the words and the Milton`s religious vision:

Father, thy word is past, man shall find grace;
And shall grace not find means, that finds her way,
The speediest of thy winged messengers,
To visit all thy creatures, and to all [ 230 ]
Comes unprevented, unimplor'd, unsought,
Happie for man, so coming; he her aide
Can never seek, once dead in sins and lost;
Attonement for himself or offering meet,
Indebted and undon, hath none to bring: [ 235 ]
Behold mee then, mee for him, life for life
I offer, on mee let thine anger fall;
Account mee man; I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glorie next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly dye [ 240 ]
Well pleas'd, on me let Death wreck all his rage;
Under his gloomie power I shall not long
Lie vanquisht; thou hast givn me to possess
Life in my self for ever, by thee I live,
Though now to Death I yield, and am his due [ 245 ]
All that of me can die, yet that debt paid,
Thou wilt not leave me in the loathsom grave
His prey, nor suffer my unspotted Soule
For ever with corruption there to dwell;
But I shall rise Victorious, and subdue [ 250 ]
My Vanquisher, spoild of his vanted spoile;
Death his deaths wound shall then receive, and stoop
Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarm'd.
I through the ample Air in Triumph high
Shall lead Hell Captive maugre Hell, and show [ 255 ]
The powers of darkness bound. Thou at the sight
Pleas'd, out of Heaven shalt look down and smile,
While by thee rais'd I ruin all my Foes,
Death last, and with his Carcass glut the Grave:
Then with the multitude of my redeemd [ 260 ]
Shall enter Heaven long absent, and returne,
Father, to see thy face, wherein no cloud
Of anger shall remain, but peace assur'd,
And reconcilement; wrauth shall be no more
Thenceforth, but in thy presence Joy entire. [ 265 ]

His words here ended, but his meek aspect
Silent yet spake, and breath'd immortal love
To mortal men, above which only shon
Filial obedience: as a sacrifice
Glad to be offer'd, he attends the will [ 270 ]
Of his great Father. Admiration seis'd
All Heav'n, what this might mean, and whither tend
Wondring; but soon th' Almighty thus reply'd:

O thou in Heav'n and Earth the only peace
Found out for mankind under wrauth, O thou [ 275 ]
My sole complacence! well thou know'st how dear,
To me are all my works, nor Man the least
Though last created, that for him I spare
Thee from my bosom and right hand, to save,
By loosing thee a while, the whole Race lost. [ 280 ]
Thou therefore whom thou only canst redeem,
Thir Nature also to thy Nature joyn;
And be thy self Man among men on Earth,
Made flesh, when time shall be, of Virgin seed,
By wondrous birth: Be thou in Adams room [ 285 ]
The Head of all mankind, though Adams Son.
As in him perish all men, so in thee
As from a second root shall be restor'd,
As many as are restor'd, without thee none.
His crime makes guiltie all his Sons, thy merit [ 290 ]
Imputed shall absolve them who renounce
Thir own both righteous and unrighteous deeds,
And live in thee transplanted, and from thee
Receive new life. So Man, as is most just,
Shall satisfie for Man, be judg'd and die, [ 295 ]
And dying rise, and rising with him raise
His Brethren, ransomd with his own dear life.
So Heav'nly love shall outdoo Hellish hate,
Giving to death, and dying to redeeme,
So dearly to redeem what Hellish hate [ 300 ]
So easily destroy'd, and still destroyes
In those who, when they may, accept not grace.
Nor shalt thou by descending to assume
Mans Nature, less'n or degrade thine owne.
Because thou hast, though Thron'd in highest bliss [ 305 ]
Equal to God, and equally enjoying
God-like fruition, quitted all to save
A World from utter loss, and hast been found
By Merit more then Birthright Son of God,
Found worthiest to be so by being Good, [ 310 ]
Farr more then Great or High; because in thee
Love hath abounded more then Glory abounds,
Therefore thy Humiliation shall exalt
With thee thy Manhood also to this Throne;
Here shalt thou sit incarnate, here shalt Reign [ 315 ]
Both God and Man, Son both of God and Man,
Anointed universal King, all Power
I give thee, reign for ever, and assume
Thy Merits; under thee as Head Supream 
Thrones, Princedoms, Powers, Dominions I reduce: [ 320 ]
All knees to thee shall bow, of them that bide
In Heaven, or Earth, or under Earth in Hell;
When thou attended gloriously from Heav'n
Shalt in the Sky appeer, and from thee send
The summoning Arch-Angels to proclaime [ 325 ]
Thy dread Tribunal: forthwith from all Windes
The living, and forthwith the cited dead
Of all past Ages to the general Doom
Shall hast'n, such a peal shall rouse thir sleep.
Then all thy Saints assembl'd, thou shalt judge [ 330 ]
Bad men and Angels, they arraignd shall sink
Beneath thy Sentence; Hell her numbers full,
Thenceforth shall be for ever shut. Mean while
The World shall burn, and from her ashes spring
New Heav'n and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell [ 335 ]
And after all thir tribulations long
See golden days, fruitful of golden deeds,
With Joy and Love triumphing, and fair Truth.
Then thou thy regal Scepter shalt lay by,
For regal Scepter then no more shall need, [ 340 ]
God shall be All in All. But all ye Gods,
Adore him, who to compass all this dies,
Adore the Son, and honour him as mee. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Christ's Cross and Adam's Tree

Norman Adams (1927‑2005)
Christ's Cross and Adam's Tree
Oil paint on canvas
1270 x 1526 mm Frame: 1415 x 1670 x 70 mm

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s Cross and Adam’s tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the Last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.  
From Hymn to God my God, in my Sickness   by John Donne (d. 1631)

12 Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned—  
13 for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.  
14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.  
15 But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.  
16 And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.   
17 For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.  
18 In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.  
19 For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.  
20 The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,  
21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, beneath the The Chapel and Altar of the Crucifixion is The Chapel of Adam. It reflects the tradition that Jesus was crucified over the place where Adam's skull was buried.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Original Sin and Redemption

Juan de Mesa (1583–1627) 
Christ on the Cross 
about 1618–1620
Polychromed wood 
100 x 65 x 22 cm (39 3/8 x 25 9/16 x 8 11/16 in.) 
Archicofradía del Santísimo Cristo del Amor, Collegiate Church of El Salvador, Seville

Juan Martínez Montañés (1568–1649) and unknown painter 
Christ on the Cross (Cristo de los Desamparados)  Christ of the Helpless 
Painted wood 350 x 200 x 57.5 cm (137 13/16 x 78 3/4 x 22 5/8 in.) 
Church of the Convent of Santo Ángel, Carmelitas Descalzos, Seville

Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) 
Saint Luke Contemplating the Crucifixion   San Lucas como pintor, ante Cristo en la Cruz
Oil on canvas 105 x 89 cm (41 5/16 x 35 1/16 in.) 
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

The Crucifixion is often visually and symbolically linked to Original Sin and the Fall of Man. 

It was said  that Jesus' cross was made of wood taken from the tree that carried the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve. 

In most depictions, there is a skull at the foot of the cross. 

The skull identifies the hill as Golgotha, the 'place of the skull'. It also represents Adam, since the site of the Crucifixion was believed to be Adam's burial place

These stories and images attempt to demonstrate that the Fall of Man and Original Sin together with the Crucifixion are inextricably linked,

The Catholic concept of "Original Sin" cannot be read as an isolated doctrine about the inherent nature of mankind If it were it would be a doctrine of great pessimism which envisaged Man as a creature of depravity

But the Doctrine has to be read alongside the Revelation that Christ is the second Adam, the Redeemer of all sin . and that all are free to accept or reject Him

Jesus nullifies Adam’s sin, and allow humans once again to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of God`s Paradise. He will restore eternal life on earth for all mankind

The Catechism puts it this way:
389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Saviour of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ, knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ

But the church`s formulation of the concept of Original Sin has to be distinguished from other conceptions of Original Sin promulgated by other Christian denominations such as Pelagianism and Calvinism:
406 The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable

As a result the Church stresses the importance of the grace of God as well as the free will of mankind (as distinct from predestination)

The dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3: 1 - 21 illustrates  the point when Jesus says to Nicodemus: “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert” (John. 3, 14).  In 1988 Blessed Pope John Paul  II reflected on the dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus in a homily in Lesotho . He preached many times on the theme of Original Sin and the Redemption by Christ. 

See also 
Part II, (especially section 4) of Dominum et vivificantem,  18 May 1986
General Audience September 10, 1986
General Audience  September 17, 1986
General Audience September 24, 1986
General Audience  October 1, 1986
General Audience  October 8, 1986
General Audience October 29, 1986

Apart from the Catechism and the exposition of Original Sin and Redemption in a recent report of the International Theological Commission entitled “The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized” (On whether the Doctrine of Limbo is still valid) one of the great expositions of the theme is in one of the last Encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII in 1900 entitled Tametsi Futura Prospicientibus (On Jesus Christ the Redeemer)

For modern mankind it is a profoundly optimistic doctrine and not one of despair and misanthropy

"The human race, exiled and disinherited, had for ages been daily hurrying into ruin, involved in the terrible and numberless ills brought about by the sin of our first parents, nor was there any human hope of salvation, when Christ Our Lord came down as the Saviour from Heaven.  
At the very beginning of the world, God had promised Him as the conqueror of "the Serpent," hence, succeeding ages had eagerly looked forward to His coming. The Prophets had long and clearly declared that all hope was in Him. 
 The varying fortunes, the achievements, customs, laws, ceremonies and sacrifices of the Chosen People had distinctly and lucidly foreshadowed the truth, that the salvation of mankind was to be accomplished in Him who should be the Priest, Victim, Liberator, Prince of Peace, Teacher of all Nations, Founder of an Eternal Kingdom.  
By all these titles, images and prophecies, differing in kind though like in meaning, He alone was designated who "for His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us," gave Himself up for our salvation. And so, when the fullness of time came in God's Divine Providence, the only-begotten Son of God became man, and in behalf of mankind made most abundant satisfaction in His Blood to the outraged majesty of His Father and by this infinite price He redeemed man for His own.  
"You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver . . . but with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb, unspotted and undefiled" (1 Peter i., 18-19).  
Thus all men, though already subject to His Kingly power, inasmuch as He is the Creator and Preserver of all, were over and above made His property by a true and real purchase. "You are not your own: for you are bought with a great price" (2 Corinthians vi, 19-20).  
Hence in Christ all things are made new. "The mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed to Him, in the dispensation of the fullness of times to re-establish all things in Christ" (Ephesians i., 9-10).  
When Jesus Christ had blotted out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, fastening it to the cross, at once God's wrath was appeased, the primeval fetters of slavery were struck off from unhappy and erring man, God's favour was won back, grace restored, the gates of Heaven opened, the right to enter them revived, and the means afforded of doing so.  
Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. 
First of all, he realised that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares.  
He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him.  
From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men's hearts realised the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy.  
Thus men's aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. 
As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilisation.  
The remembrance of these events, Venerable Brethren, is full of infinite joy, but it also teaches us the lesson that we must both feel and render with our whole hearts gratitude to our Divine Saviour. 
4. We are indeed now very far removed in time from the first beginnings of Redemption; but what difference does this make when the benefits thereof are perennial and immortal? He who once bath restored human nature ruined by sin the same preserveth and will preserve it for ever.  
"He gave Himself a redemption for all" (1 Timothy ii., 6)."In Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians xv., 22). "And of His Kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke i., 33).

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Original Sin

Adam and  Eve: The Original Sin
Third Century 

The Original Sin
From The Murals of the Church of Vera Cruz de Maderuelo
12th century
Fresco mural
203 cm x 207 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Paolo Uccello 1397 - 1475
The Creation of Eve and The Original Sin
244 x 478 cm
Green Cloister, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) 
Original Sin and the Banishment from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-13; 3, 22-24)
The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn 1606-1669
Adam and Eve, 1638
Etching on ivory laid paper
162 x 116 mm (plate)
The Art Institute, Chicago

Hendrick Frans Verbruggen (Henricus-Franciscus Verbrugghen), 1654 - 1724
The Expulsion of Adam and Eve  from Paradise (detail of the pulpit)
Gilded oak
Cathedral of Ste Gudule, Brussels

Print made by James Barry 1741 - 1806
The Discovery of Adam and Eve
570 millimetres (trimmed) x  418 millimetres
The British Museum, London

The Original Sin with the Fall of Adam and Eve and their Expulsion from the Garden of Eden  (Genesis 3) has long been one of the most important images in Christian art

Central to the tale of the Fall is Adam`s sin: the Original Sin

It was not a question of eating a piece of fruit from a solitary tree in a garden when told not to

The Catechism explains what this First Sin was and its consequences:
"Man's first sin  
397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.  
398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinised" by God in glory. 
Seduced by the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God"."

But Original sin may be taken to mean pne of two things:
 (1) the sin that Adam committed; or
 (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on       account of our origin or descent from Adam

Catholics are often said to be bedevilled and dominated by the Dogma of Original Sin. It is said to inspire excessive feelings of guilt, the so called "Catholic guilt" - an invention of that alleged old curmudgeon St Augustine,

However the early Reformers held to the Doctrine and if anything in a way to a much more stringent doctrine than that ever put forward by the Roman Catholic Church or the Greek Orthodox Church

See The Augsburg Confession (Article II: Of Original Sin) and the Confutation and Defence

See Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion Book II  especially Chapters One and Two

Unlike the Reformers, the Catholic Church has never accepted that in baptism the whole of what belongs to the essence of sin is not taken away, but is only cancelled or not imputed, and declared the concupiscence that remains after baptism not truly and properly "sin" in the baptized, but only to be called sin in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin.

Unlike the reformers, the Church condemns the identification of original sin with concupiscence (as in its technical theological sense), and approves the view that the unbaptised could have right use of will

In the 1930s, the Doctrine was "the butt of cheap derision" by the secular Dictatorships such as  the Nazi Party in Germany. Pope Pius XI referred to this in Mit Brennender Sorge (March 14, 1937)

"25. "Original sin" is the hereditary but impersonal fault of Adam's descendants, who have sinned in him (Rom. v. 12). It is the loss of grace, and therefore of eternal life, together with a propensity to evil, which everybody must, with the assistance of grace, penance, resistance and moral effort, repress and conquer. The passion and death of the Son of God has redeemed the world from the hereditary curse of sin and death.  
Faith in these truths, which in your country are today the butt of the cheap derision of Christ's enemies, belongs to the inalienable treasury of Christian revelation.

The doctrine lies at the very heart of the traditional Catholic view of Catholic education. In 1929 Pope Pius XI delivered an Encyclical on Christian Education (Divini Illius Magistri) which stressed the centrality of the Doctrine in the theory of Catholic education
"58. In fact it must never be forgotten that the subject of Christian education is man whole and entire, soul united to body in unity of nature, with all his faculties natural and supernatural, such as right reason and revelation show him to be; man, therefore, fallen from his original estate, but redeemed by Christ and restored to the supernatural condition of adopted son of God, though without the preternatural privileges of bodily immortality or perfect control of appetite. There remain therefore, in human nature the effects of original sin, the chief of which are weakness of will and disorderly inclinations. ...
60. Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth, is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child, and which diminish or even suppress the teacher's authority and action, attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of his education."

The Doctrine is still relevant in today`s debates between Religion and Science especially in the field of genetics

Edward Feser has discussed the latest actions on the Doctrine from certain sections of the scientific community who do not appear to know what the Doctrine is.


Monday, October 01, 2012

Encountering the Light

Saint Hildegard von Bingen
Liber Scivias
Cod. Sal. X,16 Folio 111r

Saint Hildegard von Bingen

Saint Hildegard of Bingen, O.S.B.  (1098 – 17 September 1179), is to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church this Sunday 7th October 2012

The announcement seems to have come out of nowhere.

 Its significance is underlined by the fact that it is taking place on Rosary Sunday, and on the opening of forthcoming Synod on Evangelisation. The Pope himself said:
“Especially in light of the project of the New Evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated, and on the vigil of the Year of Faith, these two figures of saints and doctors are of considerable importance and relevance.” 

Unfortunately there have been and there are  attempts to recruit her into a New Age icon See the Wikipedia entry

But the Church has for many years tried to counter this perverted idea of what St Hildegard and others of her ilk

In 1989 the then Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the CDF published his Letter on some aspects of Christian Meditation (15th October 1989) (Orationis formas)

"III. Erroneous Ways of Praying 
8. Even in the first centuries of the Church some incorrect forms of prayer crept in. Some New Testament texts (cf. 1 Jn 4:3; 1 Tim 1:3-7 and 4:3-4) already give hints of their existence. Subsequently, two fundamental deviations came to be identified: Pseudognosticism and Messalianism, both of concern to the Fathers of the Church. 
There is much to be learned from that experience of primitive Christianity and the reaction of the Fathers which can help in tackling the current problem. 
In combating the errors of pseudognosticism the Fathers affirmed that matter is created by God and as such is not evil. Moreover, they maintained that grace, which always has the Holy Spirit as its source is not a good proper to the soul, but must be sought from God as a gift. Consequently, the illumination or superior knowledge of the Spirit ("gnosis"), does not make Christian faith something superfluous. 
Finally, for the Fathers, the authentic sign of a superior knowledge, the fruit of prayer, is always Christian love. 
9. If the perfection of Christian prayer cannot be evaluated using the sublimity of gnostic knowledge as a basis, neither can it be judged by referring to the experience of the divine, as Messalianism proposed. 
These false fourth century charismatics identified the grace of the Holy Spirit with the psychological experience of his presence in the soul. 
In opposing them, the Fathers insisted on the fact that the soul's union with God in prayer is realised in a mysterious way, and in particular through the sacraments of the Church. Moreover, it can even be achieved through experiences of affliction or desolation. 
Contrary to the view of the Messalians, these are not necessarily a sign that the Spirit has abandoned a soul. Rather, as masters of spirituality have always clearly acknowledged, they may be an authentic participation in the state of abandonment experienced on the cross by Our Lord, who always remains the model and mediator of prayer. 
10. Both of these forms of error continue to be a temptation for man the sinner. 
They incite him to try and overcome the distance separating creature from Creator, as though there ought not to be such a distance; to consider the way of Christ on earth, by which he wishes to lead us to the Father, as something now surpassed; to bring down to the level of natural psychology what has been regarded as pure grace, considering it instead as "superior knowledge" or as "experience." 
Such erroneous forms, having reappeared in history from time to time on the fringes of the Church's prayer, seem once more to impress many Christians, appealing to them as a kind of remedy, be it psychological or spiritual, or as a quick way of finding God. 
11. However, these forms of error, wherever they arise, can be diagnosed very simply.  
The meditation of the Christian in prayer seeks to grasp the depths of the divine in the salvific works of God in Christ, the Incarnate Word, and in the gift of his Spirit. These divine depths are always revealed to him through the human-earthly dimension. 
Similar methods of meditation, on the other hand, including those which have their starting-point in the words and deeds of Jesus, try as far as possible to put aside everything that is worldly, sense-perceptible or conceptually limited. It is thus an attempt to ascend to or immerse oneself in the sphere of the divine, which, as such, is neither terrestrial, sense-perceptible nor capable of conceptualization. 
This tendency, already present in the religious sentiments of the later Greek period (especially in "Neoplatonism"), is found deep in the religious inspiration of many peoples, no sooner than they become aware of the precarious character of their representations of the divine and of their attempts to draw close to it. 
12. With the present diffusion of eastern methods of meditation in the Christian world and in ecclesial communities, we find ourselves faced with a pointed renewal of an attempt, which is not free from dangers and errors, to fuse Christian meditation with that which is non-Christian. 
Proposals in this direction are numerous and radical to a greater or lesser extent. Some use eastern methods solely as a psycho-physical preparation for a truly Christian contemplation; others go further and, using different techniques, try to generate spiritual experiences similar to those described in the writings of certain Catholic mystics. 
Still others do not hesitate to place that absolute without image or concepts, which is proper to Buddhist theory, on the same level as the majesty of God revealed in Christ, which towers above finite reality. 
To this end, they make use of a "negative theology," which transcends every affirmation seeking to express what God is and denies that the things of this world can offer traces of the infinity of God. 
Thus they propose abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by the God of the Old and New Covenant, but also the very idea of the One and Triune God, who is Love, in favor of an immersion "in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity." 
These and similar proposals to harmonise Christian meditation with eastern techniques need to have their contents and methods ever subjected to a thorough-going examination so as to avoid the danger of falling into syncretism."

It would seem that Fr John Chandler of St Edmund’s Church, Southampton,was quite right to  cancel the yoga  classes which had been booked for his church hall.