Monday, November 21, 2011

Why did God choose Mary?


"Come my elect, and I will place in you my throne.
And thus in Sion I have been established, and I rested in the sanctified city."

November 21st, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
At Jerusalem, the Presentation in the Temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. (Roman Martyrology)
As the Blessed Virgin, the true Ark of the Covenant, enters the Temple at the age of three, the heavens rejoice and earth is glad – for the long awaited promise of the Messiah is soon to be fulfilled. Let us enter into a period of contemplation together with our Lady in this season of Advent, may we prepare with her for the coming of Christ our God.
And yet, we ponder, why was it that God chose Our Lady?

God loves some more than others
In this short article, I wish to elaborate upon a point made in an earlier article regarding whether (and why) God loves some more than others. It is certainly difficult for the modern man (infected as he is by modernist sentimentality) to understand that God is not obliged to love all equally – indeed, we have lost a true understanding of love, and so we settle for fuzzy sentiment (and inequality upsets our sentiments).
However, we must recognize that God does not love us after the manner in which a father loves his children (though there is a type of analogy, the dissimilarity is much greater). For, a father loves his son on account of something in the son – namely, humans love other men on account of some good pre-existent in the other. The father loves his son because he is his son – it is not the love of the father which makes the son to be his son, but it is the sonship of the son which makes the father to love his son (even in the case of adoption, we must affirm that there is a pre-existent good in the child which leads the father to love him).
With God, however, things are quite different. God does not love us on account of some good within us – we speak now of the absolute love of God. Rather, God’s love itself makes us to be good, and puts good things within us (especially, sanctifying grace). God does not love us because we are good, but we are good because God loves us. Further, God does not love us because we are lovable, but his love makes us to be loveable. Finally, we must admit that we would not even exist unless God created us out of love – and therefore, we affirm that God’s love precedes (causally) even the good of our existence; we only exist because God chose to love us.
Now, as we said earlier in the discussion of the parable of the talents, it is clear that God loves some more than others – insofar as he gives greater graces to some, and calls some to higher degrees of holiness than others. God loves all men more than rocks, but he loves some men more than others.
While this may make us uncomfortable, it is clearly the case that God loves some more than others when we consider ourselves in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary: She most certainly received greater graces and was called to a higher degree of perfection and holiness than any others. No matter how much we co-operate with God’s grace, we will never (and we could never) attain to the level of holiness and exaltation which has been granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the elect daughter, the most beloved creature, the tabernacle of the Most High.
God loves Mary more than any other (excepting, of course, his own Son) – but we ask, Why?
Not for any of her merits
Our Lady could not have been chosen for any merits of her own. The apostolic constitution of Bl. Pius IX, Inefabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, states that Mary was conceived immaculate on account of the foreseen merits of Christ – the document makes no reference whatsoever to our Lady’s merits.
This is extremely important to recall: Mary did not merit her immaculate conception, such would be impossible (metaphysically and theologically). Rather, Our Lady received this special and unique grace by virtue of the merits which Christ would gain through his suffering and death.
Now, the Immaculate Conception – understood within the mystery of the Divine Maternity – is a clear example of the fact that God loves some more than others.
This grace, given to Our Lady, has raised her so far above all the others saints that none can possibly match her in holiness and in grace – if this is not preferential love, nothing is! She has been chosen as Queen of the angels, the Ark of the Covent; she has been sanctified in her conception and protected from every stain of sin. And she did not merit this (absolutely), but it was the free gift of God who chose her as his beloved daughter.
Not because of her special role
Some will claim that our Lady was loved more on account of the special role which she played in the mysteries of our salvation – such a thought is untenable. How could we claim that God’s love was determined by his plan of salvation? Did the plan of salvation precede (causally) the love of God? Was it is plan that made him love us, or did he plan our salvation on account of his tender mercies?
Surely, the love of God comes before the plan of salvation! It’s not that God loves us because he saves us, but he saves us because he loves us! So too with our Lady – it is his special love for her (which is greater than the love he has for any other of the saints) which made him to choose her for the unique role in salvation history as the Mother of God.
It is not because Mary is Mother of God that the Almighty loves her, it is because he loves her that she is the Mother of God.
Not even because she is the Mother of Jesus
Ordinary men love their mothers on account of the fact that they are their mothers. With Christ, however, things are different. It is not that Jesus loved Mary because she was his mother, but rather it was his divine love for her that made her to be his mother.
Here, we consider a beautiful word from St. Thomas Aquinas: “There is this difference between Christ and other men, that, whereas they are born subject to the restrictions of time, Christ, as Lord and Maker of all time, chose a time in which to be born, just has he chose a mother and a birthplace.” (ST III, q.35, a.8)
It was his love as God, which led the Eternal Word to choose Mary as his mother – most certainly, the Maternity of our Lady is no cause of the divine love, but rather God’s love is the cause of her Maternity.
Simply because of his love
In the final analysis, we must admit that God gave our Lady these special graces simply on account of his merciful love. It is not her merits, nor is it through any necessary plan, but solely on account of his ineffable will that God loves Mary more.
Mary is the most easily recognized example of predestination – for she is the special vessel of divine election and love. Neither can any accuse God of being “arbitrary” in choosing Mary from among all women – for there is a great logic in the plan of salvation. While it is true that we cannot understand the source of divine mercy and love, we see that all which proceeds from that love is ordered most wonderfully. The faith is eminently reasonable, even if the central mysteries of the faith (those relating most directly to the Trinity and the divine will) are beyond our comprehension.
Indeed, what we must admit is that the will of God is not arbitrary but is so eminently logical as to be the source and foundation of all logic. It is not so much that God’s mercy and love is shrouded in darkness, as that the brilliance of God’s reason is so bright as to blind our senses. We are the ones in darkness, and we are only slowly becoming accustomed to true light. Part of this process of adjusting somewhat to the divine clarity will be to recognize that God’s ways are not our ways, and that he loves some more than others because of the graciousness of his holy will.
A sequence in honor of this feast
The following prose was used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in certain churches, for the commemoration of our feast:
The Wisdom of God with inscrutable providence, disposeth all things rightly: Joachim and Anne are united in wedlock, but their union is sterile.
With all the heart's affection they together bind themselves by inviolable vow to the Lord: that if He deign to give them offspring, they without delay will consecrate it to Him for ever in the temple.
A bright Angel appears, and tells them their prayers are heard, and by the grace of the most high King, a daughter shall be given them, full of grace.
Holy even in her conception, she is born in a wondrous manner, yet in a way more wondrous still will she give birth, remaining a virgin, to the Son of the most high Father, when He comes to, freely, cancel the guilt of the world.
She is born then, that blessed Virgin, and at the age of three years is presented in the temple; swift and erect, adorned with her beautiful robe, she ascends the fifteen steps, beneath her parents' gaze.
The temple shines with a new glory, when this august Virgin is presented; there she is taught by God, is visited by the Angels from heaven, and rejoices with them.
When the chief priest bids the maidens of adult age prepare for marriage, the Virgin at first refuses; for her parents have devoted her to God, and she herself has vowed to remain a virgin.
God, being consulted, answers that the virgin shall take him for her spouse whom a miraculous flower shall designate; Joseph thus chosen weds the maiden and leads her to his home.
Then Gabriel is sent to her, telling her how she is to become a mother; but the prudent Virgin stands silent, pondering over the strangeness of the message.
But when he explains how this shall be, she believes him; and thus by the Holy Spirit the Word is conceived, and He whom no space can contain is concealed in the Virgin's bosom.
O peerless maiden, how dost thou surpass all praise in thy dazzling glory! Protect us now, that in our fatherland we may enjoy thy fruit, whereby thou art so honored. Amen.

O Mary, conceived without sin, Pray for us who have recourse to thee!

23 comments:

Cunjo said...

How is universal call to holiness compatible with the fact that God doesn't love all men equally(or with predestination)?



Another question/point.
Since we are to love each other as God loves us, are we to love others unequally also? I don't think so because God's love for the least loved of Him is far greater(is it infinitely?) than our love for that person could ever be. Hence, we are to love all equally and maximally possible. It is also important to note the fact that we should love each other as we love ourselves.

Father S. said...

Father,

You wrote that, “It is not so much that God’s mercy and love is [sic] shrouded in darkness, as that the brilliance of God’s reason is so bright as to blind our senses.” The phrase seemed familiar to me, and it reminded me of the decree “Dei Filius” from the First Vatican Council.

In Chapter 4 of that decree, we find the phrase, “Divina enim mysteria suapte natura intellectum creatum sic excedunt, ut etiam revelatione tradita et fide suscepta, ipsius tamen fidei velamine contecta et quadam quasi caligine obvoluta maneant, quamdiu in hac mortali vita peregrinamur a Domino: per fidem enim ambulamus, et non per speciem.” The important part of this is “quasi caligine obvoluta maneant.” The translation here is “…as if they remain shrouded in darkness.” This is speaking of the “Divina…mysteria…” of the first phrase, the “divine mysteries.”

The translation of the paragraph from PapalEncylicals.net is: “For the divine mysteries, by their very nature, so far surpass the created understanding that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith, they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and wrapped, as it were, in a certain obscurity, as long as in this mortal life we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight [33].”

In this way, I think that we can certainly say correctly that God’s love and mercy are shrouded in darkness. It is God’s revelation of Himself that makes enables us to know these things which we could not know by natural reason.

Kind Regards,
Father S.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Father S.,
Thank you for the poignant quote from Dei Filius ... this is exactly what I was trying to say!

It is not that the mysteries themselves are darkness and incomprehensible, but in relation to us they are shrouded in darkness and beyond comprehension.
Of course, God is light and in him there is no darkness ... and the mysteries of the Trinity are perfectly and eminently reasonable and brilliant, but our soul cannot see or know these mysteries fully (because of our limitations, not on account of anything lacking in God).

Consider the excellent poem of St. John of the Cross: "I entered in, not not knowing where, and there remained uncomprehending, all knowledge transcending." (Nine Verse concerning an ecstasy of high contemplation)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Cunjo, Your questions touch upon some of the greatest mysteries of the plan of redemption!

We must hold that all receive sufficient grace to be saved ... hence, the universal call to holiness.
However, we also should hold that not all are predestined -- at the very least, we know that Satan and his angels were not predestined ... since predestination is certain, and all the predestined will most certainly be saved ... therefore, any who are damned to hell, were not predestined.
[this is a huge question ... and I'd rather not get further into it here]

Still, we do know that God loves all ... even though he doesn't love all equally.

Finally, I do think that there is a real sense in which we love unequally also -- we are called to have a particular love for our family, for the poor, for our neighbors, for those to whom we are spiritually indebted, etc.
A father ought to love his son more than a random person loves his son. A priest ought to love his parishioners more than others. And so forth.

Still, you are correct that, when necessity arises (especially spiritual necessity) there is no limit to the love we ought to have for another -- the zeal for salvation of souls has no limit! +

Father S. said...

@Father:

Thank you for your kind comment. I still think that there is something else here at play, too. While it is true that our access to Almighty God is limited by our nature, it is also true that it is limited by God Himself. Among the most wonderful aspects of Our Lord is how He revealed Himself over time. While it is safe to say, for example, that Abraham believed in God, it is unlikely that he had any notion of the Son, even though the Son knew Abraham from all time. The gradual unfolding of the divine plan in the stages of the Old Covenant from Abraham to David is very important here. On the one hand, it is true that we can know God, but never know Him fully—hence the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of our faith, where “mystery” is taken in the classical sense, i.e., something which can be known but never known completely. However, this is not just about the difference between God Who is and contingent being. This is also about His gradual revelation of self.

I do not mean to imply that you rule this out. I only mean to say that our ignorance is as much a part of God’s plan as the limit of our intellect. Put another way, this is not only a question of how we know, but also a question of what we know.

I think that this is particularly important when we consider Our Lady. It is important to know that she was not only able to love God more than all else because she had no fallen nature, but it is also important that the Son was revealed to her in a way that He was not revealed to anyone else. Only she has ever known and will ever know the Lord with the intimacy of a mother and with the intimacy of one who has consumed His Body and Blood.

Kind Regards,
Father S.

Discarded said...

Due to some circumstances of my life I've always felt like a third rate citizen in God's kingdom.
You've just confirmed what I thought.
And now I have no grain of desire to meet Him. Ever.

Kind regards,
Discarded

Taylor Marshall said...

Great post!

We need to work in restoring the meaning of this feast in the hearts and minds of Catholics. It is so beautiful and yet modernists have gutted it of both its historicity and its mystical significance.

ad Jesum per Mariam,
Taylor

Patrick Dunn said...

This image of God, which I believe is largely a construct of Thomistic theological thinking and while probably partially accurate, does little but deaden my heart.

It's important, I believe, to recall the words of St. Therese:

"We know very well that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Queen of Heaven and Earth, but she is more mother than queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all saints in glory just as the sun at its rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children's glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she'll increase the splendor of the elect very much..."

Sue said...

Father Ryan;
You have done a beautiful job in this post. Absolutely beautiful! God has enlightened you!

In your reply to Cunjo, your response triggered the thought that we do not know what graces God has planned for each of us. But it would be awful to not persevere in practicing virtue and fall short of the graces He did have planned for us.

Thank you again Father. I pray for you daily. Keep up the good work.
Sue

Sue said...

To Discarded;
Father explained that you are loved by the meer fact that God created you. You were loved into being. And that you have been given sufficient grace (God's gift of love) to be with Him forever in bliss in Heaven. However, what you do with the grace is your choice. Do not think that just because life deals out rough times, that that equates you are a third class citizen in God's eyes. That is the devil telling you that. Was Christ a third class citizen? Look how He was treated! You or I or anyone else will never be treated as bad as Him. Sufferings come our way as a test of faith to strengthen those God loves much. Read Hebrews 12; and Job; and Tobit; and Paul's letters.
The truth is that suffering is not a sign of God's placement of you in Heaven, but of His desire to show you His deep love. Many Saints have felt as you do. But the difference is they chose to follow Him, because they knew His way was the only True way to joy and peace and love. As a sister in Christ, I ask you to look deeper. You are upset because you want Him to love you in a quanitity fitting to you, but He already loves you more than you can imagine desiring ...you just haven't seen it yet.
I will pray for you. For I know what it is like to feel abandonded by God and alone...oddly enough, later I discovered that was when He was closest to me, when I was being embraced to persevere and come nearer to Him. Don't give up on your path to Him. He will not give up on you.

Sue

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Discarded,
If a consideration of the love which God has for our Lady leads you to despair, then you are in a sad state indeed.
You should go see a priest, quickly!

Thought of our Lady should fill our soul with love and wonder ... only the oppression of the Evil One could lead to such a negative reaction.

Prayers for you. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Taylor,
Thank you for the excellent post you had over at Canterbury Tales!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrick Dunn,
How can it be that the thought of the love which God has for Mary "deadens" your heart?! What a sad thing!

Let us continue that quotation from St. Therese, shall we?
"What the Blessed Virgin has more than we have is the privilege of not being able to sin, she was exempt from the stain of original sin; but on the other hand, she wasn't as fortunate as we are, since she didn't have a Blessed Virgin to love. And this is one more sweetness for us and one less sweetness for her!" (Last Correspondences 161-162 8/21)

This is the Little Flower's point -- thinking of the glory of Mary need not make us fail to recognize the love that God has for each of us. Rather, recognizing the special love which God has for Mary, and her special role in salvation history, should make us love her more! We then recognize that she is God's gift to us, and a great sign of his love for each and every one of us!
Indeed, how blessed we are to be the sons and daughters of so lovely a Queen and Mother!

Let us love Mary! Let us lift her high! Let us enthrone her in our hearts!
For this, as St. Therese says, is our great sweeetness and the one thing we enjoy which Mary does not enjoy -- we are able to praise her and love her as her own children.

How sad it is that so many in the Church today refuse to praise our Lady and give her honor and love ... they say "she is not so different", and they try to dethrone her from our hearts ... but they have no love for the Queen, because they have rejected her as a Mother.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrick Dunn,
To be fair, I should add that this post is not particularly "Thomistic" -- though I would love to give credit for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to the Thomists, that would not be entirely accurate.
In fact, I find it slightly amusing that you credit this post as "Thomistic" - since the most common critique that modern people have against the Thomists is that they did not at first support the pious belief in the Immaculate Conception (which is what this post was all about)! :-)

Rather, the simple point of this article - that God chose Mary and gave her the grace of the Immaculate Conception without any merit (or even foreseen merit) on her part - is a dogmatic teaching of the faith.
It is not "Thomistic", but rather simply "Catholic".

Peace to you! +

Patrick Dunn said...

Thanks, Father.

I hope you could understand how continuing to hammer home the point that "God loves Mary more" (here and in the other post on talents) may not do much for one's confidence in God's love for each of us, not to mention confidence in Our Blessed Mother's tender care for each of us.

That is my point.

While granting that it is possibly theologically accurate - and I am not sure that it is, to say God loves Mary more (another commenter elsewhere noted:While not rejecting that God bestows grace upon some more than others, I don't think it necessarily follows that he loves them fundamentally more) - I doubt that Therese or anyone else looking to use the special selection of Mary to be immaculately conceived as an expression of God's love for everyone else would stress the comparison the way you have. Therese in fact did quote the opposite, as we've both quoted.

There is a quote that I cannot find right now from Therese on her desire to be a priest, so that she could preach on Our Blessed Mother because so many homilies left her heart feeling dead by how people spoke of her. That was my reaction as well when I read this post.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrick Dunn,
Well, I do understand something of your point ... though I guess I'm not really sure how to respond.
At this point you are really only making a subjective claim - you feel dead when I write about the privileges of our Lady. I really can't respond to that ... it is a subjective statement.
Of course, I am very sorry that my writing would have made you love God less (i.e. feel dead) -- that is one of the worst things a priest can do to a soul.

There is an objective side, though, which I will point out.
I think that the real issue here is whether or not it is useful to stress the privileges of our Lady, the special graces which God gave her (and to no one else) simply because of the special love which he has for her.
The graces given our Lady (especially that of the Immaculate Conception) are greater graces than any other human person has received or will receive -- and they are ultimately to be credited to the special love which God has for her ... if we don't call this love "more love", then I don't know what else we call it.

Now, you are hinting that it is not helpful to stress the singularity and privileges of Mary - and you are citing a few passages of St. Therese (somewhat in context, somewhat out of context) to make this point.

I will respond by refering to the greatest spritual and theological writer on our Lady -- St. Alphonsus Liguori.
St. Alphonsus, in addition to being the "Doctor of Morals", is the "Marian Doctor" -- the Church gives him as an example of how we should think and write about Mary.
And his great book is titled: "The Glories of Mary". In that book, he stress all the privileges which God gave to Mary, how she is greater than every other creature (excepting Christ's humanity), how she deserves the special veneration of hyperdoulia.

Then, let's consider other great Marian Saint - St. Loius Marie DeMontfort. He, of course, is famous for his elevated praises of Mary, for lifting her high above all others, for emphasizing her privileges and the special love which God has for her.
St. Louis Marie would read my article and say, "You haven't praised her enough! You haven't elevated her enough! You haven't stressed her privileges enough!" Because, according to DeMontfort, we can never lift Mary high enough.


Well, Alphonsus and DeMontfort are the two saints that inspire my way of writing/speaking about our Lady.
Do you think that this article is in their spirit? (it is a real question)

[And, by the way, Alphonsus was not a Thomist - in fact, he wrote against many of the strict Thomists. Thus, although DeMontfort (as a good 3rd order Dominican) was very Thomistic, you really cannot dismiss this article or this response as merely "Thomistic".]

Sue said...

Father and Patrick Dunn;

Nice response Father.

Pride is why people are responding with a "dead" feeling. They think that God puts the good into Mary, and others, assuming those people are only good and holy because God made them so; like a puppet. This line of thinking is false because it does not keep in mind free will, which must not be forgotten when pondering on matters of grace.
Maybe they too want God to give, but they do not want to take on the responsibility of cooperating with His gift? Yet they say it is unfair for God to give more to others. Yet they do nothing to grow in grace. Have they ever thought, maybe those others have given up much to respond to God's grace and therefore He gave them more "talents?"

I guess the only true way for them to know, is for them to try living by responding to God's grace, firstly by living the Sacraments and Commandments, and much prayer. For the more one responds to Him the more grateful one becomes, no matter how much or how "little" He gives you; the little He gives you or I is much more than you or I deserve.


Sue

Patrick Dunn said...

Sue,

If I am not mistaken, Father's original point here (and in the post on talents) was that God did what He did for Mary (and, by extension, for each of us) gratuitously - He simply chose to do so out of love. No one could merit that love, nor the gifts that God gives.

Cooperation with grace is one thing (I think of the notion, as you note, that to whom much has been given, much is expected), but if we get into this idea of our free will somehow being the determining factor for how much/why God bestows His gifts as He does, I think we're into Pelagianism, which is a heresy.

In the end, it seems to me we do not know why God chose Mary, at least in a sense; we know that He loves her and so chose her by virtue of that love, but that still doesn't explain the fullness of the mystery. Each of our lives has essentially the same dynamic in place (though the degree of grace we receive directly - in comparison to Mary - is not the same): we are always left with a mystery, as Blessed John XXIII said: "This is the mystery of my life. Don't look for other explanations."

Beyond this, in a sense, I don't know that it matters much frankly. The question for each of us really is a matter of humility and gratitude - envy is entirely out of place in heaven. We should receive who we are and what we've been given from God, in total acceptance of our place. Why I say it doesn't matter much is that, so long as we are humble, we will ultimately share in the totality of grace that all the saints share. St. Therese's quote about Mary's maternal love and concern for her children seems to me to suggest this type of "sharing" in the order of grace.

Patrick Dunn said...

Thank you, Father.

I apologize for making a subjective claim. Just to be clear, however, my original point was not about the privileges of our Blessed Mother as such (I accept fully the Church's teaching on this), but rather the image of God that, to me, was being suggested by the manner of the presentation of these privileges in your post ("God loves Mary more"). And also, as I said, I'm not even sure that specific point, as you've framed it ("God loves Mary more"), where the word in question is "love," is theologically accurate. I can't get into this as I don't know the answer, but my first thought was that if God's love is infinite, and if our souls are eternal, then it's isn't possible to quantify God's love - He loved each of us without limit - to His own death - by giving His life.

Some people, when reading that God loves Mary more, may respond with, "Well, I guess God doesn't love me that much at all." It does nothing for them spiritually but discourage them, should they either not understand your underlying theological point and/or should they not yet be able to integrate that point into their own spiritual framework. It isn't the best pastoral approach, in my opinion.

You say that "if we don't call this love "more love", then I don't know what else we call it." Do you have to call it anything? Is it more important, especially as a priest perhaps, to hold the theological trump card and dogmatize about what not is not explicit dogma (I refer to the specific point "God loves Mary more") or is it more important to inspire souls to put their confidence in God's love for each of them?

I have not read much from St. Alphonsus Ligouri, but I have read St. Loius Marie DeMontfort, and I accept what he says about Mary totally - I've made his consecration to her in fact.

Elevating our Blessed Mother as highly as we can is not a bad thing. To that extent, excepting the theological point I referenced that I am not sure about, I think your post is in that spirit.

That being said, as a practical, pastoral application of how we're to integrate our Blessed Mother's privileges into our own consciousness in such a way that these privileges do not push God or her away, I think it would be good to further consider how St. Therese speaks of her. For example:

"You make me feel it’s not impossible
To follow in your footsteps, O Queen of the Elect,
The narrow way to heaven you have made visible
By always practising the humblest virtues,
Close to you, Mary, I like to stay small,
I see the vanity of worldly grandeur …
In Nazareth, Mother full of grace, I know
You live in great poverty, wanting nothing more.
No raptures, no miracles, no ecstasies
Adorn your life, O Queen of the Elect!
The number of little ones on earth is very great;
They can raise their eyes to you without trembling.
It is the common path, incomparable Mother,
You are pleased to tread so you can guide them to Heaven."

Our Blessed Mother would be the last one to hold her privileges above our heads so as to suggest "not you, but me, has God loved more."

As for Thomism, all I can say is that St. Thomas was a genius who made unprecendented contributions to theology and the development of Christian thought. I do not think he should have the final word or anything or everything. Personally, I wonder if there will come a day when the Church as a whole will be able to move past the almost de facto reliance on Thomist thought, whatever the persevering merit may be.

I've been encouraged by the personalist turn that Bl. John Paul II embraced and who thinkers such as Dietrich von Hildebrand popularized.

mkamoski said...

Dear Father --

We are blessed by God to have such a thoughtful post as yours.

Your writing has been the catalyst for some reflection, as noted below, which I pose for the kind consideration of you and others, but I must claim no right of accuracy or significant meaning, as this has been much in haste, but I offer it simply as a shared set of ideas which I hope are not a total waste of time.

:-)

Let us consider a thought experiment. Suppose it is curious to imagine that the the "infinite love of God" can be segmented as the article suggests.

Suppose God loves and every time he loves his love is infinite and perfect.

There is no "more" or "less" to his love. There is only "all". He gives us all his love and does not (cannot by his very nature) hold back anything. Suppose God's love is not a "faucet" turned on "high" or "low". A trickle here, a torrent there.

Suppose God's love simply IS. Suppose there is no degree or magnitude to it. Perhaps it cannot be "measured" at all, and surely not by any human. It is "turned all the way on, forever" because that is who he is. He is the "I AM", as in "I AM LOVE". As such, he cannot be "not love" or "less than infinite and perfect love" at any given time or in eternity. There is toning down such.

Suppose God loves everyone perfectly and completely, as everyone can maximally be loved. Suppose God choose Mary and loved her in that way, (which is indeed special and unique), but suppose that is how God and Mary are and there is no changing it. Alas, however, people are different-- each soul is unique. God's love for each soul is therefore unique.

Now, the expression or appearance of God's love for another may be different, but what proof is there that God does not love that other person infinitely? So, suppose God's love for Person X is infinite and perfect. Now, suppose God's love for Person Y is infinite and perfect as well. Is "infinite love" more or less than "infinite love"? That might not make sense.

Now, what of hell? Enter "free will", which is yet, ANOTHER expression of God's infinite love for humans, (seemingly paradoxically so but not actually so). God loves humans (and angels too) so much that he allows them free will. That is why it can be that some, sadly, do not choose to accept God's infinite love, by choice of free-will. Suppose God did love those in hell infinitely and perfectly, and suppose he still does given God is outside of time. But, the case is that those in hell choose, of their own free will, to reject God's infinite love. But, note that that rejection does not, and cannot, diminish the infinite love of God.

Now, suppose our human response to God's love, which IS a limited and finite response by OUR nature, is nonetheless a quite important in the situation-- we must choose to love God, choose to accept his love, and that choice the Hand of the Almighty has abdicated and reserved to us alone. What a great gift. What a great power. What a great responsibility. Freely given from him to us. God stays his hand at our choice. Truly incomprehensible and yet there it is.

Perhaps it was CS Lewis, or some such other, who said something interesting, something like-- "in the end there may be just 2 kinds of people, the people who say to God 'thy will be done' and people to whom God says 'thy will be done'".

So, suppose maybe God does love every human infinitely and perfectly and suppose that love just "looks" different to our untrained eyes. Perhaps we just do not know why God's love looks like X or Y in any given situation. But, suppose, by faith, we know that God's love is always and forever, perfect and infinite-- or else he would not be God.

What do you think?

Slave To Mary, I am yours...

-- Mark Kamoski

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrick Dunn and Sue,
I think that Sue's comment was fine. True, it did get close to an idea of "foreseen merits" (which is not the case for the Immaculate Conception, at least), but I don't think that there was anything really wrong in what she said.

Further, I would very strongly affirm the basic point that we are not puppets, and that grace not merely "respects" free will but that it elevates, perfects, and frees free will.

Peace to all! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Patrick Dunn,
I just don't think this is going to go anywhere ... at this point.

I will make a final comment ... regarding Thomism again.
You seem to be forgetting that St. Alphonsus wasn't a Thomist. That the Jesuits (like Fr. Cornelius a' Lapide - who was my main source for the article on the talents) was not a Thomist. And that many of the Doctors of the Church are not Thomists.
Now, I do love Thomism and I wouldn't object to everyone being a Thomist -- but when you act as though Thomism has a "strangle hold" on the Church, it is simply not factually accurate.

In any case ... I would be comfortable going with St. Augustine's explanation of grace, predestination, and free will. That would be much more emphatic that even what I wrote in the article!
He is the "Doctor of Grace" - he is really the main theologian in the Church for understanding these mysteries.

But I will have to let our discussion (or my part in it at least) rest here.

Peace! +

sedemsapientiam said...

Father, I really love this post. Thank you so much! I didn't get to read it until just now due to family things all week, but I love to meditate on the mysteries of Our Lady and of grace and predestination (even though I'm blind as a bat to their radiance, I still am blessed with a great sense of their beauty!)

I don't remember where I read this (maybe in Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange somewhere...?), but often we, as humans, have difficulty with this idea because we cannot comprehend the infinity of God's love. In other words, even though God loves me less than the Blessed Virgin Mary, it doesn't mean He doesn't have a vast love of me. It just means He has an even wider and deeper love of Our Lady. (If Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange did write that, he wrote it much more eloquently.) As humans, we often are on the end of the people who worked all day in the Parable of the Talents and we become jealous of the gifts God has given others, because we think we should be the center of attention, but if you turn it on its head, you realize even the grace we do receive is undeserved, and thus is a sign of God's great love for us. And should we not revel in joy if we see any of His creatures receiving great grace? I feel like my words are falling short of what I'm trying to say, so I'll stop. But thank you again, Father!

Joe

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