Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

“I sing of the United States, diverse yet altogether, with roots back millennia to Israel, Rome, and Albion.”

The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders For Our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation in addition to the general Catholic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability adapted to a lay context. The Riders strive to promote a conversational culture, proclaiming Christ crucified, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort.  Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas. My booklist, which is in a way deep in history (each Rider, during their novitiate, settles on at most 24 books of primary importance), is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
  • Vergil’s Aeneid; Sarah Ruden translation
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Summa Theologica; St Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Twenty Two Plays;  William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Collected Poetry & Prose; Robert Frost
  • Mansfield Park; by Jane Austen
  • The Golden Bowl; Henry James
  • Age of Innocence;  Edith Wharton
  • Birth of Britain; Winston Churchill
  • The Conservative Mind; Russell Kirk
  • Between Two Millstones; Solzhenitsyn
  • The Concise Oxford English Dictionary
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

The Appalachian Riders For Our Lady have a particular interest in the season of Ascensiontide, which we consider nearly as important as Advent and Lent.  My particular interest is: That ecclesial bodies with very different ecclesiology seem to have very similar Christology.  Emphasis on “seem”. 

wasatch

Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar

Christian Perspectives

The foundation of everything is Christ Jesus, and him crucified. However, beyond the personal aspects of that, what are the implications for our social relationships?

I want to commend the Catholic perspective to you. Of course, that raises several questions:

  • Is it reasonable to speak of THE Catholic perspective?
  • Is my characterization of this perspective warranted?
  • Can one also speak of THE Protestant perspective, especially given the range of protestant ecclesial bodies?

I propose that the protestant perspective is that the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the individual or, at most, the congregation. On the other hand, I commend the Catholic perspective: the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the universal Church, the Bride of Christ, extended in spacetime and militantly subsisting in the Catholic Church whose chief steward is the bishop of Rome. Besides addressing those preliminary questions, I intend to commend the Catholic perspective in three aspects:

  • better able to cope with adversity
  • more resources for spiritual formation
  • closer alignment with the scriptural canon

All these points are controversial; however, I intend not to argue for them but rather to chew on them.  The difference between a primarily individual perspective and a primarily ecclesial perspective also has a significant political component since the State desires no competitor to its hegemony (see, for example, Alan Jacobs biography of The Book of Common Prayer which documents how this worked out in England) and hence is inclined to favor an individual perspective which it can divide and conquer.

I’m also assuming that the more alive an entity, the more applicable the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In addition, whenever possible I’d like to phrase matters sociologically rather than soteriologically. A major advantage of a perspective more social than individual is that one can “check one’s answers”– the boredom of, for example, discussion about end-time scenarios or sectarian doctrine being that one can not check one’s theory in one’s day to day life and interactions with others as one can, on the other hand, regarding ethics and how to live in community.

On a personal level, I think the core of the Protestant error centers on the attempt to place faith above love (see Luther’s commentary on Galatians) contra Saint Paul and the Catholic tradition.

The noted Evangelical scholar Mark Noll, in the book ‘Is the Reformation Over’, argues that Catholic and Protestant disagreements really come down to different understandings of the nature of the Church.  I don’t disagree; however, I very much disagree with the view that “well, maybe so but that’s not important to me..it’s my personal relationship with God that is important.”  The nature of the Church is essentially intertwined with the work of the Holy Spirit, as is reflected in the Nicene creed.  God is able to sustain what was initially established (..I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) and it is wrong-headed to try to start over on one’s own.

Technology is very important and clearly the most important technology is language. The people who know the most about language are not the philosophers but the poets, broadly defined.

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” (Richard Feynman)

“If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.” (John von Neumann)

“Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (William Faulkner)

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

 

Posted in Church, Currents | Tagged | 2 Comments

Dying and the Virtues

In the useful book “Dying and the Virtues”,  Matthew Levering writes:

Underscoring the significance of dying, the Orthodox philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev comments that “a system of ethics which does not make death its central problem has no value and is lacking in depth and earnestness.”  Similarly, Socrates observed that “true philosophers make dying their profession, and … to them of all men death is least alarming.”  Even if this is an exaggeration, as Samuel Johnson insists it is in his novel Rasselas, it remains the case that virtue ethics takes shape around the human journey which culminates in dying.  In a book on the art of dying, the virtue ethicist Christopher Vogt focuses “on three virtues that are essential for a contemporary development of the Christian art of dying well: patience, compassion, and hope.”  Among the many virtues of dying, I will explore the following nine:  love, hope, faith, penitence, gratitude, solidarity, humility, surrender, and courage.

. . .

In the present book, I examine nine virtues of dying, but I explore these virtues by taking up numerous other topics.  These topics are carefully chosen to display some of the most importand sources for Christian understanding of death: the book of Job, Ezekiel 20, the dying of Jesus Christ, the dying of the first martyr (Stephen), Hebrews 11, Gregory of Nyssa’s account of the dying of his sistem Macrina, the tradition of ars moriendi (Robert Bellarmine, Francis de Sales, Jean-Pierre de Caussade), the consolations of philosophy (Josef Pieper), the divine mercy (Faustina Kowalska), the sacrament of anointing of the sick, liberation theology’s emphasis on solidarity with those who are suffering, biblical eschatology, and contemporary medical perspectives — in addition to the fear of annihilation expressed so frequently in elite culture today, and to the New Age spirituality that is popular in less intellectual circles.  My book is therefore a work on the border of virtue ethics and other theological, exegetical, and cultural domains, as required by the effort to retrieve and engage Christian resources on dying.  Balthasar notes that those “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev 14:4) are botyh those who follow him from life into death and those who follow him from death into life….under the law of living and dying for others (for all).  We need to be among those who follow Jesus in this way, because the life of the Lamb — of possessing in order to give away — is the only true and meaningful mode of living, just as it is the only true and meaningful mode of dying.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

The Hundredfold

In the introduction to his poem The Hundredfold, Anthony Esolen writes:

I am a battered old soldier on bad knees, who knows that the hill must be charged and who knows of one or two ways it might be done. He takes up the torn standard of the cross and hobbles up the first reaches of that height, crying out instructions that he himself has not the strength to fulfill, teaching more by audacity and exposure than by success, willing to look like a fool, to be shot down in the first volleys, but knowing that unless he or someone like him does this, the hill will remain always in the fist of the enemy.

Here’s a review of Dr. Esolen’s poem, by Beth Impson.

I’ve been waiting for this poem/book for a while. Whenever I read Tony’s essays I wonder “He’s advocating for something, but when will he write it rather than write about it?”. Now I don’t have to wait.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

God in a Godless Time

From Leszek Kolakowski’s  essay  God in a Godless Time

….

The world in which we live, however, is not a world of people who are fixed in satisfied and contented lives of belief or unbelief. It is much more an era of refugees and exiles, the “eternal Jew” searching for a lost—spiritual or physical—homeland. In this nomadic life nothing is certain, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is finally set in stone, nothing—apart from wandering—is unquestionably given.

A God who once confirmed the well-established order of values, social relations, rules of thought, and the physical cosmos and who was meant to be the dome over this order is no longer there because the order itself is no longer visible. So long as people could trust the durability of this order, the godless also had their place in it (I only have the Christian-European civilization in view). Whether they counted as mistaken, as crazy, or as messengers from hell, their place within the recognized world order was accounted for. Whether they were also persecuted, punished, or sentenced to death, they were in a sense fortunate, because not only was their cause secure, it was also spiritually worry-free.

But along with the self-confidence of belief, the self-confidence of unbelief has also been broken. In contrast to the cozy world of old, protected by the well-intentioned, friendly Nature of the atheistic Enlightenment, the godless world of today is perceived as an afflicted, eternal chaos. It is robbed of all meaning, all direction, all road signs, and all structure. Thus spoke Zarathustra. For over a hundred years, since Nietzsche announced the death of God, one has rarely seen cheerful atheists. A world in which a person is left to his own powers, in which he has declared himself a free lawgiver for any order of good and evil, in which he—freed from the condition of a slave of God—had hoped to recapture his lost worth, this world has transformed itself into a place of endless worry. The absence of God became the ever more open wound of the European spirit, even as it slipped off into oblivion, brought on by an artificial anesthetic. Let us simply compare the godless world of Diderot, Helvétius, and Feuerbach with that of Kafka, Camus, and Sartre. The collapse of Christianity that was so joyfully awaited by the Enlightenment took place almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Enlightenment itself. The new, shining order of anthropocentrism that was built up in place of the fallen God never came. What happened? Why was the fate of atheism in such a strange way tied to that of Christianity, so that the two enemies accompanied one another in their misfortune and in their insecurity?

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

On Atheism

In a wonderful article from First Things entitled “God, Gods, and Fairies” , David Bentley Hart writes regarding atheism:

It is the embrace of an infinite paradox: the universe understood as an “absolute contingency.” It may not amount to a metaphysics in the fullest sense, since strictly speaking it possesses no rational content—it is, after all, a belief that all things rest upon something like an original moment of magic—but it is certainly far more than the mere absence of faith.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

The Unity of Scripture

From Patrick Reardon’s excellent book ‘Christ in the Psalms’ there is this reflection:

In short, the principle of canonical unity — even if we limit our attention just to the Hebrew Bible, or even a section within that Bible — is difficult to discern simply by an examination of the canon taken by itself.  The canon, even the the Old Testament canon, does not adequately explain its own unity.

Among the sundry attempts to address this inquiry I believe the most reasonable is that which searches for the unity of the biblical canon, not in some common trait within its disparate literary components, but in some prior and non-literary principle — namely the objective historical continuity of the chosen people of God. That is to say, the canonical unity of the Hebrew Scriptures is not found in the Scriptures, but in the quid continuum called “Israel”.

What I have in mind to affirm here was expressed succinctly several years ago by Remi Braque: “The unity of the Bible does not reside in the text itself, but in the experience of the people of Israel.  That experience constitutes the common background upon which and in the light of which the texts have continuously been read and reread” (‘The Wisdom of the World‘, p. 44).  Even in the Old Testament, in other words, ecclesiology — the people of God -= is the basis and principle of canonicity.  The congregation precedes the canon.

If this point is granted, what may we say with regard to our original question: the incorporation of the apostolic writings into the same canon ancient Hebrew Scriptures? A form of the same argument, I believe, is warranted in this case too. That is to say, the inclusion of the apostolic writings into the Bible is justified — indeed, it is required — by the historical continuity joining ancient Israel and the Christian Church. The governing principle of the Bible’s table of contents is that single quid continuum which is Israel-and-the-Church.

The historical continuity of Israel and the Church — as a single people of God down through the ages — was described by St. Paul in organic terms.  For him, there was just one Israel, a single quid continuum, where certain branches (the Israelite remnant – Romans 11:2-5) are native to the stock, while others have been engrafted, so that both are fed from the same root (11:17).  Paul did not that the Christian Church “branched off” from Israel. On the contrary, it was “branched in”!

There is one Bible, then, because it cam forth from the one ekklesia, that of the Old Testament and the New. With respect to the Holy Scriptures, it is a matter of historical fact — and should be promoted as a theological principle — the ecclesiology precedes canonicity.  Church comes first, then Scriptures.

And what joins the Church to ancient Israel? Only Christ. Why, after all, should we be interested in those ancient Hebrew writings? What connection do they have with us?   And I answer, those ancient books have no special connection with us except on account of Christ. Christ alone is our link to those writings.

That is to say, we don’t begin with the Old Testament; we begin with Christ. Christ is not only the Mediator between God and man; He is also the Mediator between the Old Testament and the Church.

As Christians, we only go to the Old Testament because it pertains to Jesus..  Otherwise the Old Testament is, for us non-Jews, just another ancient book. We accept it as our Bible only because it is Jesus’ Bible. In truth and strictly speaking, after all, it is only Christ that makes the Old Testament theologically pertinent to us.  Without Christ, the Old Testament is not really our history. We have no continuity with it — it is not part of our memory — except through Christ. But that is more than enough!

The Christ proclaimed in the Gospel brings the Old Testament with Him in the proclamation.  Indeed, the barest preaching of the Gospel includes the Old Testament, in the sense that what Jesus accomplished for our redemption was “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The Christ we proclaim is proclaimed as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. It is in these swaddling clothes that the Messiah is adorned.

Our Spirit-prompted acceptance of the Gospel, then, the saving gift of our faith by which we are joined to Christ, also joins us, through Christ, to the ancient faith of the Hebrews who awaited His coming.

Through Christ, their history becomes our history; we are engrafted into the Bible’s ongoing chronology. The Hebrew Scriptures become our own family narrative.  The history of the Bible and the history of the Church form a single story, of which our lives — and our worship — are an integral part.

 

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Catechism Class

My catechism class, while using standard curriculum, aims to listen to and help each student and will focus on three main questions.

Who is God?

  1. Creator
  2. Father
  3. Incarnate ‘I Am’

What is the Church?

  1. Body of Christ
  2. Catholic
  3. Bride of Christ

How to be a Disciple?

  1. Faithful
  2. Patient
  3. Kind

The curriculum we’ll be using is ‘The Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers”, the first three parts.

Schedule: 2019/2020

  • 9/08 Introduction – Bible, Liturgy of the Hours, Catechism
  • 9/15   – 1. Revelation, Scripture, and Tradition
  • 9/22   – 2. God the Father
  • 9/29   – 3. The Holy Trinity
  • 10/06 – 4. Creation
  • 10/13   Genesis, chapter 1
  • 10/27 – 5. The Human Person
  • 11/03 – 6. God’s Plan for Salvation
  • 11/10 – 7. Faith: Responding to God
  • 11/17 – 8. The Gospels
  • 11/24   Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5
  • 12/08   Gospel of John, chapter 1
  • 12/15 – 9. Jesus Christ, True God and True Man
  • 1/05   – 10. The Birth of Jesus
  • 1/12   – 11. Jesus Teaches
  • 1/26   – 12. Jesus Heals
  • 2/02   – 13. The Death of Jesus
  • 2/09   – 14. The Resurrection of Jesus
  • 2/23   – 15. The Holy Spirit
  • 3/01     Corinthians, chapter 13
  • 3/08   – 16. Grace and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • 3/15   – 17. Pentecost and the Early Church
  • 4/05   – 18. The Mission of the Church
  • 4/19   – 19. The Structure of the Church
  • 4/26   – 20. End Things: Heaven and Hell
  • 5/03   – 21. Saints and Mary

There will also be an emphasis on the Psalms throughout the class year.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

About Autism

I love a good story, a book that maintains dramatic tension across several hundred pages. Recently I came across such a story in an unexpected place.

I work with computers, networks and software systems; nevertheless I’d like to know more about autism and ABA therapy. Such knowledge is hard to come by without becoming a clinician. I even have a now outdated copy of the standard ABA textbook – which is notably lacking in dramatic tension 🙂

In the 1993 book “Let Me Hear Your Voice“, Catherine Maurice (a pseudonym) describes what it was like dealing with autism thirty years ago. It’s a great story, and so, has not become outdated.

As to its current clinical value, I wouldn’t know. However, quoting from the afterword by Dr Ivar Lovaas: “Catherine Maurice presents the clearest description that I have read of the abnormal development of autistic children and the problems one encounters in seeking treatment for autism. By reading this book, students and professionals will gain a better understanding of the problems these children present and the stresses that parents experience. This understanding will enable them to offer more effective help.”

 

Posted in Church | Leave a comment