Friday, April 29, 2011

Is the glorified body of Jesus physical?

2nd Sunday of Easter, John 20:19-31
Jesus came and stood in their midst […] he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
On occasion, various modern theologians will speculate as to the quality of Christ’s risen and glorified body. Some will affirm that – since what was sown in mortality is raised in immortality, and the corruptible is raised incorruptible – the resurrected body of our Savior is not really a physical body. Indeed, this was a question or doubt which has existed since the first apparitions, when the disciples often thought that they were seeing a ghost or spirit.
 This question, whether Christ’s glorified body is a physical body, has great importance for our belief in the general resurrection on the last day. If Christ’s body were not physical, then neither will the glorified bodies of the saints be physical. However, if the glorified body of the Savior is a physical body, then so too will it be for the saints.
In such matters, reason alone can do nothing – we must turn to the witness of Scripture. In particular we consider the accounts of this Sunday’s Gospel as well as the Gospel readings from the rest of the Easter Octave.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

For Divine Mercy Sunday, How to make a good confession

Divine Mercy Sunday, John 20:23
Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.
“See here the commission, stamped by the broad seal of heaven, by virtue of which the pastors of Christ’s Church absolve repenting sinners upon their confession.” (from the Douay-Rheims Bible Commentary)
It is clear that the Sunday of Divine Mercy is a day dedicated in a particular way to the sacrament of reconciliation. Indeed, in many parishes throughout the world, it is customary on this Sunday for the priests to be especially available to hear confessions throughout the day. How great a gift we have in this most precious sacrament, by which the blood of Christ is sacramentally poured out upon us and we are washed clean of our sins. Here the Divine Mercy is most evident – for the good God accepts the prodigal and clothes him as his own son once again! Oh blood and water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you!
However, although we know the necessity and the value of the sacrament, all of us (I dare say) have room for great improvement in making a more worthy confession. We should all continually be asking ourselves, How might I make a good (or better) confession? How might a good confession today, lead me to an even better confession in the future?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In defense of pseudonymous blogging

It happens occasionally that a reader of the New Theological Movement – or more often a one-time visitor with a grudge – will demand to know the identities of the writers of this blog. Rarely is this in any way related to the theology being presented, but more often it is purely out of curiosity (which St. Thomas considers to be a vice). Nor is this phenomenon limited to the New Theological Movement: It seems that just about anyone who consistently maintains a pseudonymous blog (if it is at all popular) will be criticized for this pseudonymity.
In this short post, we will make a defense of pseudonymity, and specifically, of pseudonymous blogging. At the end, we will offer a couple of reasons why the New Theological Movement adopted this pseudonymous approach thus far.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The origins of the Easter egg: The Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene, and the Lenten Fast

St. Mary Magdalene holding a red Easter egg

In the United States, it is common for children (and even adults) to partake in an Easter egg hunt as part of the Easter Sunday celebrations. In other parts of the world, the Easter egg tradition is incorporated not through games but through the blessing of eggs by the parish priest. Indeed, even in the secular world, the Easter egg could be the most prominent symbol used for the “holiday season”. But what is the origin of the Easter egg?
The egg as a symbol of the Resurrection
Probably the most well known explanation of the Easter egg today is the symbolic representation of the Resurrection. As the egg appears to be lifeless, yet holds much life within itself; so too, the tomb appeared to be utterly lifeless, but from it Christ arose. Of course, we mention here that there is a great difference in the way a chick comes forth from the egg and the way Christ came forth from the tomb – for our Savior walked through the walls of the sealed tomb.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who saw Christ rising from the dead?

The Resurrection did not look like this.
In many popular depictions of the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus comes forth from the tomb clothed in glory and splendor, while the guards fall back to the ground. Seeing the Risen Christ, all are terrified and cannot speak. This is the scene: Christ rising from an open tomb, and the Roman guards cowering to the dust.
In two points, however, these artistic depictions of the Resurrection contradict the Scriptures. Last year, we considered that Christ rose from the tomb while it was still closed – in other words: Jesus walked through the walls of the sealed tomb, just as he would enter the locked upper room where the disciples had gathered.
Now, we consider the fact that, when Jesus rose from the dead, none saw him in his rising. He came forth from the tomb by walking through the walls which enclosed him, but the guards did not see this. No one witnessed the Resurrection, no one fell down before the glory of the rising Lord, there was no bright light and no glorious splendor (at least none that was visible to the human eye).
The night alone witnessed the rising of Christ, as the Church sings in her Easter Exultet: “O truly blessed night, which alone has merited to know the time and the hour in which Christ rose from the depths!” O vere beata nox, quae sola meruit scire tempus et horam, in qua Christus ab inferis resurrexit! Neither the guards who were on watch through the entire night, nor the women who came in the morning saw the Resurrection itself. That night alone! That most blessed of all nights! The mystery of the rising of Christ is hidden perhaps even from the angels.

Friday, April 22, 2011

For three days, God was a dead body and a corpse was God

Behold your God

On Holy Saturday we recall that period in which Christ’s body was laid to rest in the tomb, while his soul descended into the hell of the fathers to proclaim the Gospel to those who had died with faith in the Messiah who was to come. The body laid in the tomb was a dead body. The soul of Christ, his human soul, had been given up on the Cross – And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost (Matthew 27:50).
Christ had truly died and, for those days while his body lay in the tomb, God was dead. Not, of course, that God was dead in his divinity – just as Christ did not suffer in his divinity, but only in his humanity, likewise he died only in his humanity – but it is true that a divine person died. God was dead in the person of the Son; the Father, however, did not die (just as the Father did not suffer).
Recognizing the truth that the Eternal Word truly died – that is, his human soul was separated from his human body – by the communication of idioms, we can say that God died (as we can and must say that God became man). Can we go further and say that God was a dead body, and that a corpse was God?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crux fidelis inter omnes. Text, translation, and music of Fulgentius' hymn

Bl. John XXIII venerates the cross
“Of faithful Cross above all other, one and only noble Tree!” These words, from the eighth stanza of Fulgentius’ hymn Pange, lingua, gloriosi direct us to the adoration of the Cross in the Good Friday commemoration of the Lord’s Passion.

The whole hymn is sung during the ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, immediately after the Improperia or "Reproaches", but in a peculiar manner, the hymn being preceded by the eighth stanza (Crux fidelis) while the stanzas are followed alternately by the first four and the last two lines of the (divided) eighth stanza.

Below, we include the text of the hymn (together with Fr. Caswall’s translation). Additionally, we have embedded a recording of a selection from the hymn. For an explanation of whether and why we worship the cross see our previous discussions here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adultery or Murder: Which Is Worse?

It is often said that Saint John Vianney was easier with penitents sins of the flesh than sins of malice. To be sure, a mortal sin is a mortal sin, but the Saint stands on the shoulders of a long theological tradition. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches the following in his magisterial De Malo:

"Homicidium enim dicitur maius peccatum quam adulterium, non quia magis corrumpat bonum naturale animae, sed quia magis removet bonitatem ipsius actus: plus autem contrariantur caritatis bono." [61040] De malo, q. 1 a. 1 ad 13

(For homicide is said to be a greater sin than adultery, not because it more greatly corrupts the natural good of the soul, but because it more greatly removes the good of the act itself.)

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There is no Mass on Good Friday and there is no Mass in heaven

Ecce lignum crucis, in quo salus mundi pependit

Why is there no Mass on Good Friday? We discussed this question last year, but there is still much fruit to be gained from a further study of the issue. First, we must point out that Good Friday is the one day in the entire Church year when Mass may not be celebrated. This should be somewhat surprising, since that day is the commemoration of the central historical event of the Mass – the sacrifice of the Cross. Of all the days to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, one might reasonably presume that Good Friday would be at the top of the list.
In order to understand this question, one must recognize that the Eucharist is a sacrament and, therefore, is a sign and symbol and figure (though it is most certainly not a mere sign or symbol or figure). Precisely because the Eucharist is a sacrament, it is a sacrifice. On this point, we refer readers to our recent article in which we discuss what makes the Mass to be a sacrifice. Our claim in the current article will be that, because the Eucharistic sacrifice is a sacramental sacrifice (and hence is a figure, though not a mere figure), the Mass is not offered on Good Friday.
Moreover, as we will see, it is on account of the sacramental nature of the Mass that the Eucharist will not exist in heaven. There will be no Mass in heaven for the same reason that there is no Mass on Good Friday. However, the mere fact that there will be no Mass in heaven does not mean that there is no liturgy in heaven – indeed, the heavenly liturgy is the most perfect form of worship. Likewise, although the sacrifice of the Mass is not offered on Good Friday, the liturgical commemoration of the Lord’s Passion brings us into an even more perfect participation in the sacrifice of the Cross.

Ask Reginaldus

Reginaldus would be happy to answer your questions

At the New Theological Movement, in the hope of creating a place for theological discussion – we have decided to create an “Ask Reginaldus” page (which you can see in the upper portion of the page, among the tabs just below our headline image). If you have any topics you would like to see covered in an article, you can now ask Reginaldus to do so. Moreover, even if you have just a simple question, feel free to ask Reginaldus for a brief reply. There is no guarantee that Reginaldus will reply directly to your question – but he will at least consider the question and, perhaps, incorporate his reply into a future blog post.
You may either put your question in the comment box of the page, or you can email Reginaldus at his google mail account ([at]gmail[dot]com) – reginaldus[dot]ntm

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holy Thursday: The first concelebrated Mass

Within certain traditional Catholic circles, the practice of priests concelebrating Mass is looked upon with some suspicion. I tend to sympathize, since it is duly noted that the practice of multiple priests celebrating a single Mass is not a regular part of the Roman Catholic liturgical tradition.  However, while one may object to certain practical applications of the rite of concelebration, it is quite certain that the theory or idea of concelebration cannot be rejected. Simply put, it is entirely possible for multiple priests to consecrate one and the same host at a single Mass.
Various abuses of the practice of concelebration have led some priests to adopt a truly disgusting and despicable phraseology regarding concelebration – they tell us that concelebration should be “safe, legal, and rare.” This, of course, is comparing the practice of concelebration to the murder of children through abortion (the phrase “safe, legal, and rare” being the cry of pro-abortion advocates). Rather than adopting such a ghastly catch-phrase, we will attempt to elucidate the ratio of concelebration. This will show why the practice is both valid and, at the same time, ought to be reserved to the most solemn of occasions.

Friday, April 15, 2011

How the Mass is a sacrifice, and why so many deny this doctrine

As Catholics we know and believe as a certain and unshakable truth that the Mass is a sacrifice. Not, of course, that each Mass is a separate sacrifice or that the Mass is a sacrifice other than the one which Christ offered once for all on the Cross; rather, the sacrifice of the Mass is one with that perfect sacrifice of Christ’s flesh, which he offered to his eternal Father.
With utmost clarity, Trent taught that the Mass is a sacrifice, against the protestant heresy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is truly the Catechism of Vatican II, likewise insists that the Mass is a sacrifice and one with the Sacrifice of Calvary.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that many people (and even some Catholics) deny this truth. Either through direct rejection of this doctrine (as in the case of heretics) or through an implicit and indirect rejection manifested by external actions during the Liturgy (as in the case of countless Catholics and even some priests), many people deny that the Mass is a true sacrifice.
However, whatever is at the root of this denial, the problem could perhaps be remedied (at least to a great extent) if more of the faithful knew and understood not merely that the Mass is a sacrifice, but also how the Mass is a sacrifice. For, although a good number of Catholics believe in the sacrificial nature of the Mass, very few indeed are able to explain what makes the Mass to be one with the Cross. Moreover, I would submit that certain prominent ways of understanding the Real Presence (especially among devout Catholics) have led to a serious confusion which has ultimately obscured the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Upon how many donkeys did Christ ride into Jerusalem?, or How Jesus saves both Gentiles and Jews. On the Gospel for the Palm Sunday Procession

Riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

Palm Sunday Procession, Matthew 21:1-11
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.
Some modern so-called biblical “scholars” have noted that, while St. Matthew speaks of both an ass and a colt (that is, both the adult and the foal donkey), the other Gospel writers specify only the colt. These men, considering themselves wiser perhaps than the Spirit who inspired the sacred text, have then proceeded to conclude that St. Matthew (or whosoever wrote this Gospel) erred in his interpretation of the prophecy of Zechariah, BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and savior: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zechariah 9:9).
While it may at first seem (so these scholars claim) that Zechariah refers to two separate animals, the prophet is in fact simply making use of a popular Hebrew literary device according to which a line is repeated in order to emphasize, rather than to duplicate, the meaning. It would seem then that poor St. Matthew was not so keen as Sts. Mark and Luke, who mention only one animal. “Why,” these wise men say, “imagine the sight of Jesus riding into Jerusalem stretched out across two donkeys!”
If, however, one were to approach the text with a spirit of humility and reverence, and with the help of the Catholic commentatorial tradition, much meaning could be mined from St. Matthew’s apparently odd formulation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The final two Stations of the Cross, with St. Alphonsus

In his consideration of these last two Stations (in which Jesus is taken down from the Cross and laid in the tomb), St. Alphonsus’ love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes most evident. And this should be no surprise to us; he is, after all, the “Marian Doctor.”
Having already discussed all of the previous Stations of St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross, here, here, here, here, and here; we now turn to our sixth and final post on the Via Dolorosa. This article on the 13th and 14th Stations will conclude our series.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why veil the cross and other images during Passiontide?

It has been the custom of the Roman Church, at least in modern times (we mean from the 17th Century forward), to veil the crosses and the images of the saints from the 5th Sunday of Lent until Easter. This has been, and ought to continue to be, one of the defining characteristics of the season of Passiontide – a season which, if after the postconciliar liturgical reforms lost in name, need not be lost in spirit.
Still in many churches throughout the West, crosses and statues are veiled now and will remain veiled for two full weeks. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes this custom as follows: “Before Vespers of Saturday preceding Passion Sunday [i.e. the 5th Sunday of Lent] the crosses, statues, and pictures of our Lord and of the saints on the altar and throughout the church, with the sole exception of the crosses and pictures of the Way of the Cross, are to be covered with a violet veil, not translucent, nor in any way ornamented. The crosses remain covered until after the solemn denudation of the principal crucifix on Good Friday. The statues and pictures retain their covering, no matter what feast may occur, until the Gloria in Excelsis of Holy Saturday.” However, it is noted that the statue of St. Joseph may remain uncovered, if outside the sanctuary, during the month of March, which is dedicated to his honor.
Of course, this practice is no longer mandatory in the Novus Ordo, but it is certainly permitted. However, if the custom is to return to popularity, it will be necessary to come to some understanding of the meaning behind the veiling. Why does the Church veil the cross in these final days of Lent, a time when she is most intent on meditating upon the Lord's dolorous passion?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The 10th, 11th and 12th Stations of the Cross, with St. Alphonsus

In these three Stations, we have all the events immediately surrounding the Crucifixion presented to us: Jesus is stripped of his garments, he is nailed to the Cross, and he dies. Certainly, these three Stations, and especially the 12th Station, are the heart of the Way of the Cross. Now, more than ever, we witness the infinite love of our Savior, and we are inspired to make an act of perfect love in return.
In previous articles we considered the first, second, and third sets of three Stations each. It will now be particularly helpful to recall what we said in our introduction to St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross. The Doctor of Morals generally has only a brief meditation in which he does relatively little to “construct the scene” with his imagination, but instead tends to focus upon the affective elements (the internal movements of the will toward love, contrition, compassion, etc.). To this end, St. Alphonsus often gives a tropological or moral interpretation of the Station and then directs us to petition for some grace. Among the graces to plead, the grace of final perseverance (which is the grace of being admitted to heaven) is of highest importance and deserves special prominence.
My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable […] permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to Thee. (From the Preparatory Prayer)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The 7th, 8th and 9th Stations of the Cross, with St. Alphonsus

We now turn our attention to the next three Stations, in which our Savior falls twice and meets the women of Jerusalem. We have already considered St. Alphonsus’ approach in general, his meditations on the first three Stations, and also on the second set of three. Hence, we now turn to the middle three Stations: The second fall, the encounter with the sorrowful women, and the third fall. 
In these Stations we see clearly the humanity of our Lord, insofar as he fell several times on his journey; but also we recognize that his divinity is presented to us as well, since he tells the women to weep not for him but for their children. How great indeed is the love of our Jesus, who in the midst of such terrible suffering directs us not so much to pity for himself, but rather to conversion of heart.
Let us take counsel from the lesson our Savior has delivered us on this Via Dolorosa. In the Passion of Christ we will find instruction in all the virtues. Inspired by the love of our Lord, we are filled with sorrow and we weep for our sins and for those of the whole world.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lazarus' resuscitation compared to Jesus' Resurrection, On the Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent

5th Sunday of Lent, John 11:1-45
I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
In order that his disciples might not despair at his death but instead might have hope in his Resurrection, our Savior manifested his divine power and authority in raising Lazarus with the simple words, Lazarus, come forth. Surely, he who not only healed the blind man and worked many other miracles, but who also raised Lazarus from the dead, surely he would also rise from the dead himself!
Historically, the raising of Lazarus from the dead marked a significant turning point in Jesus’ ministry and earthly sojourn. Coming up to Bethany, which is near Jerusalem, Christ exposed himself to the Jewish authorities who wished to put him to death. What is more, as these wicked men had already desired to murder the Christ, now their rage was transferred over to the disciples of Jesus as well – for this reason St. Thomas the Apostle said, Let us also go [to Bethany], that we may die with him. Finally, it is significant to note that it was this marvelous sign of the raising of Lazarus which led the Pharisees and the priests to take council together. Then, Caiaphas prophesied in the Spirit that Jesus should die for the nation. And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed (John 11:51-52).
While Lazarus’ resuscitation was essential different from the Resurrection of the Christ, it was nevertheless given as a sign and witness of hope. Thus, a comparison of these two events – the raising of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Jesus – will help us to understand how this miracle gives witness to the greatest Miracle. Moreover, we will come to something of an understanding of certain aspects of the Resurrection itself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The 4th, 5th and 6th Stations of the Cross, with St. Alphonsus

Having already considered St. Alphonsus general approach to the Stations of the Cross, as well as the first three Stations of his Way of the Cross in particular, we know turn to the fourth, fifth and sixth Stations.
In these three Stations, we see Jesus interact with three individuals: His Mother, the Cyrenian, and the holy woman Veronica. We too come to meet Christ and accompany him on his sorrowful journey. Let the love which the Savior shows us in this dolorous way, inflame our hearts with a true and holy love in return.
The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his afflicted Mother
Consider, the meeting of the Son and the Mother, which took place on this journey. Jesus and Mary looked at each other, and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What sins lead to spiritual blindness?

If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.

The Pharisees of last Sunday’s Gospel were lost in profound spiritual blindness. Their minds were utterly darkened and they knew not the light of grace, nor even the light of reason – since, reason alone would have at least kept them silent in the presence of the Lord.
Though the one man had been blind from birth, his blindness was only physical. He suffered from blindness of the eyes. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not receive their blindness at birth; but, instead, gave themselves over to blindness through their obstinacy. Their blindness was spiritual and intellectual. They suffered from blindness of the mind.
If the intellectual blindness which the Pharisees suffered was not contracted at birth, but rather was gained through a later perversion of the light of reason; what lead to this blindness? Whence proceeds blindness of the mind? If only we can discover what actions led the Pharisees into this spiritual blindness, we will be more able to remain ever in the light.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The first three Stations of the Cross, with St. Alphonsus

In an earlier article, we have discussed some of the general themes of St. Alphonsus’ approach to the Stations of the Cross and also what makes his spirituality different from others (in particular, from Ignatian prayer). In this article, we will begin our commentary on St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross itself – a project which will extend over at least the next two weeks.
We turn to the preparatory prayer and the first three Stations: Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus is made to bear his Cross, and Jesus falls the first time. Considering each of these in detail, it is our hope that we may all be able to enter more fully into the Way of the Cross and so increase in love for our Savior who has so loved us!
The preparatory prayer
My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned Thee; but now I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I love Thee, I repent sincerely for ever having offended Thee. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to Thee.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The blindness that leads to redemption

4th Sunday of Lent, John 9:1-41
If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, “We see,” so your sin remains.
How shocking it is that Christ our Light should declare, For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, may see; and they who see, may become blind (John 9:39). Blindness! The Light of the World tells us that he came to make blind they who now can see! What might this mean?
Were the Pharisees blind, Christ would have taken away their sin and brought about their salvation; yet, their sin remained insofar as they could see. Shall we say, then, that Christ blinded the Pharisees, while he gave true sight to the man who had been born blind? If blindness leads to redemption, ought we to desire to be blind? Or, rather, should we pray that we might see?
We have here, in this ninth chapter of John’s Gospel, a most eloquent discussion of the mystery of sin and redemption, but all hinges upon the metaphor of blindness.