Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Do You Care About Deep Questions?

 Philosophy is incredibly important and it would take a much longer post to say why, but one thing I've heard when discussing philosophy off the cuff with people is it seems completely impractical to them. I'm not a philosopher in the academic sense, I just have a deep appreciation for the work of philosophy as a laymen and enjoy reading about philosophy in my spare time (and really whenever I can).

There are aspects of philosophy that to the average person seem pointless to talk about. But there are more practical applications of philosophy that are not always immediately realized. One of those practical applications for me is a process of self-reflection that focuses on "knowing myself." I've noticed that I have been self-aware since I was young and found myself asking incredibly deep and sometimes troubling existential questions at a young age. They were only troubling in the sense that I couldn't quite wrap my head around existence. I remember one instance when I was probably about 9 years old give or take a year when I suddenly became hyper-conscious of myself as an individual observer in the world. All of the sudden I was thinking "outside of my self" to the extent that it sparked an existential mini-crisis in me where I simply could not grasp what existence was. I looked at a coffee cup sitting on the table and didn't just see the coffee cup but tried to understand what this coffee cup was if it wasn't for our own definitions of what it was. The question for me was, "was it more than just the cup?" and "does it even make sense to call it a cup if the word cup doesn't really exist?" 

These periods of sudden awareness would subside and I would soon forget them only to return to the question in periods of solitude or when I was having good days.
This lead to a deep appreciation of the things I had even at a very young age. If I was having a particularly good day with family and all things in the world seemed to be perfect for the moment, the heightened state of awareness about the possibility of losing this happiness would hit me and I would immediately become concerned about the good times ending. This made me really savor the moments with family and friends and shaped who became later in life. 

I suppose this was the foundation for my interest in the academic work of philosophy. When I was in 10th grade I read "The Stranger" by Albert Camus and it changed me. I suddenly felt in the right company with the main character in the book who saw the apparent absurdity in life. This led me to a long search for truth and a process of developing my own views as an individual. That was the book that led me to appreciate philosophy.

Though I had always been someone who believed in God, I wasn't particularly religious in high school but would have considered myself loosely in touch with my spiritual upbringing. 

One book that started my craving for the ultimate truth about God was the unlikely book "Bless Me, Ultima". I was the only kid in my class that would actually have deep conversations with my teacher about the book and it sparked yet another search for truth.

Both of these books were instrumental in my approach to life and my love for philosophy, not so much for their own approach to viewing the world but for sparking curiosity in my mind enough to search out the truth for myself.

That brings me to why philosophy, to some extent, is important for everyone. How many people actually think about deep questions about life? How many people go about their mundane day to day lives hoping to find some purpose in what they do without actually thinking about what our purpose truly is? 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mary at Bethany

In reading the book, Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity by Raymond Cardinal Burke, I came across a passage where Cardinal Burke made a beautiful observation about the anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary at Bethany:

Mary, the sister of Lazarus whom Christ had raised from the dead, anointed Jesus with the most precious oil shortly before His passion and Death. Some disciples, most notably Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, objected strongly to her gesture of great reverence and love. Judas and others saw it as a waste of resources which could have been used to car for the poor. 
Our Lord responds to their reaction in what may be for some a surprising way. He teaches that the anointing by Mary is an act fo profound reverence for His body, the instrument by which he has carried out our Redemption.

This thoughtful observation, which is originally attributed to Pope John Paul II, illuminated a beautiful truth to me about the inviolable nature of the Holy Eucharist, where Jesus is present body, blood, soul, and divinity.

First, the sacredness of the Lord's body is clearly demonstrated in Mary's care to bring the most valuable of oils to anoint His feet with. In my days as a Protestant, I always had an inclination to not care much for the "physical" and had a tendency to over spiritualize Christ. This observation shows the truth, perhaps often forgotten, that the Son of God has a body made of flesh and bones. As such, there is a certain sacredness attached to this reality that those with the faith to believe in Him undeniably realize.

For Mary, her actions spoke louder than words. While others, as with Peter, would declare Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Mary spoke the same truth, but with her actions. If Jesus was indeed God in the flesh, would is not be fitting to anoint His feet with the finest of oils?

But those who were blind to the truth about Christ ridiculed her for her actions, saying that it was a waste of resources. But as Cardinal Burke points out, Jesus did not rebuke her but instead welcomes her actions. His body is sacred for it is Divine Love made flesh, God in human form.

It is for this reason that we both revere and adore Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist, who chose to be always present with us in the humble form of bread and wine.

Secondly, the words of Judas and the others who ridiculed Mary reveals the spirit behind the old accusation that the Church spends too much on lavish churches, religious objects, sacred art, and so on. The common cry that all of this wealth "should be given to the poor" echoes that of Judas' words to Mary at Bethany.

Because Mary believed that Jesus was the Son of God, she purchased what surely cost her a great deal of money so that she could anoint Jesus' feet with the precious oil. Jesus did not rebuke her because of the truth she revealed in her actions, namely that Jesus is the Son of God. We can perhaps assume that Judas did not believe this, for if he did he would not have betrayed our Lord, and thus rebuked Mary because he himself did not truly believe that Christ was the Son of God.

In the same way those who tell us that the Church should sell what they have to give to the poor, because they deem it unnecessary, operate from a lack of belief in the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. If they believed this truth then they would see that our reverence for His body justifies our use of fine linens, religious objects and art, and materials to build our churches, which house and surround the very place where Jesus becomes present body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Our respect for the Lords body in the Holy Eucharist always stems from our internal belief about this mystery. There are those who might bow before the Blessed Sacrament as a manner of ritual, but who do not truly consider the reality of what they're about to face. In other words, they do not "discern the body" and therefore eat of the Blessed Sacrament "unworthily" (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).

When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we partake of the Lords body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16) and therefore must express our belief in this truth with our mind, body, and souls. In approaching the altar, where Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice is recapitulated and offered up to God, we must also assent to the truth that Jesus is the Christ and the son of the living God. When His body, blood, soul, and divinity enter into union with our body and souls through the Holy Eucharist, we must also revere this truth with our actions before and after partaking of the blessed bread and cup. We should see Mary's actions as a model for revering the Lords body, realizing that we daily chose to anoint the Lords feet with either the precious oil of our fully devoted love in action or with the left-over time, money, and energy we have to dedicate to Jesus.

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's Time To Come Home!

Post-modern America is being taken over by rampant secularism and spilling over into churches in subtle ways difficult to detect. It operates like a virus, spreading mind to mind, and multiplying itself and mutating to adapt to new Christian reactions to it, the latest of which is evangelical fundamentalism.

The problem is that nothing will work so long as the underlying foundation of the protestant denomination is based on adaptation as well. All denominational and non-denominational churches under the Protestant umbrella mutate, multiply, and adapt the same way the secularist worldview does, thus making both worldviews ripe for osmosis.

Case and point: contraception.

For 2,000 years the Catholic church has been against contraception. Since the Protestant reformation all Protestant denominations were against it up until the 1930's. The Anglican Church was the first to compromise and the rest followed suit.

The Catholic church, however, still speaks out against it as it has for the last 2,000 years, while Protestants see it as a secondary moral issue. To them contraception is permissible since there is no explicit biblical text they can point to that forbids it.

For an unbeliever accustomed to the social norms of our day it is much easier to become a Protestant. And this is where the Trojan horse can be found (no pun intended). It is in these subtle ways that the secular worldview enters Christian religious communities and quietly influences them.

It's a slow process. The frog in the warm to boiling water analogy fits well here. Protestants don't know that in their attempt to become relevant, they are becoming irrelevant. Not because being relevant to the culture isn't important, but because they themselves have no center of balance, no point of reference to see how far they've gone.

How long will it be before the modern music, colorful lights, smoke machines, big screens, and the hip pastor, all become irrelevant?

What then? What if the culture is so backwards that becoming relevant means compromise? The issue of contraception is the precedent for the validity of this problem. Becoming relevant meant compromising what Christians held as true for 2,000 years.

This is what will become of Protestantism in the future. More division, more disagreements, more secularization.

You need a center of balance and a point of reference. This cannot be found anywhere else except in the Catholic church which has been the center of balance for Christianity for 2,000 years, misgivings and all.

Think about it for a second. The Catholic church is an institution (Protestants hate that word) that is despised among secularists and Christians alike! It's too organized, too dogmatic, and so out of touch!

What do you expect for a 2,000 year old institution established by the Son of God himself? Would you not expect that the Church established by Christ Himself would be organized, continue to speak with authority on issues regarding faith and morals, and carry with it a rich tradition?

It is in our Tradition that we will be relevant to the most modern culture. Men and women will walk into our churches with reverence, sensing they are in a holy place, and be taken to heaven with an other worldly experience, unlike anything our modern culture has to offer.

Rather than experiencing a nice hour long talk with concert music and lights, they experience an ancient liturgy with clergy in ancient vestments and prayers as old as the Church itself. The candles, incense  chanting, stained glass windows that tell a story, and beautiful statues of saints we wish to remember, will take them back and away from the shallowness of this culture.

The Catholic church is the answer, for she contains the true Gospel of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. She contains the sacraments given to us by Christ Himself. She contains the fullness of truth.

Come home all of you who desire to know God and His only Son, Jesus Christ. The Catholic church welcomes you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why, Lord?

Why have I been chosen to know your name? How is it that you should come to me? Am I not a wretch? Am I not depraved? What have I done that I should even see the shadow of your presence?

Have I not trespassed against you? Have I not cursed at your name? How is it that you continually seek me, always seeking where I dwell? Do I not carry the appearance of a wicked creature to your eyes?

How is it that I can place your sweet name upon my iniquitous lips without the burning of my soul? Have I not scourged you? Have I not my self accused you only to have you punished? Have I not denied you?

Where is the light in my soul? Where can I find it in such a wicked place? I deserve nothing from you, yet you continually give to me.

Who am I, my Lord, my righteous King? Who am I that I should have you?

I am nobody.

Jesus, son of the Blessed, I am yours.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Lament of My Soul

The peace of my mind is tormented by the ailments of my will. The heart, says the Divine, is desperately wicked. Who can know it? Indeed, who can know the heart except God?

It devises murderous plans against me. It waits until a moment of weakness to breach the walls of my will. My spirit often rebukes the slothfulness of my intellect. What fool keeps the gates of his kingdom open for attack?

So I am left accused in the end, desperately seeking the mercy from God our Savior. Broken, I fall before him. Like a son who lacks wisdom, who is torn with shame. I approach the Father while not daring to look upon his face, otherwise his eyes would set fire to my soul!

Dare I look to the Son, the just judge of the Kingdom? I cannot, for I have betrayed his cross. I have made a mockery of his suffering.

To whom shall I look upon first if not the Mother of the Lord Jesus, who is full of motherly affection and mercy? She desires that all would be drawn to her son and prays unceasingly for it.

"Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one."

Therefore, I shall first approach the Mother of God in my time of need, in my sin, in my filthy garments. She shall first console me and tell me of the many graces given to us through her Immaculate Heart from the Holy One.

Only then will I approach her Son, the Just Judge, and fall prostrate before His throne.
"Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, graciously hear us."
He will remind me of his cross, which he bore for us. He will reveal to me the vastness of His Divine Love. He will show me the ocean of His Divine mercy!

Only then will he allow me to enter into this ocean and be cleansed. Only then will he show me his grace when I have shown my repentance.

"Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us."

Friday, November 2, 2012

THE Reason Why I'm Catholic

The Eucharist.

It is growing to be so incredibly important in my life that I cannont help but exclaim how wonderful it is to know Jesus in this way. Every first friday of a new month we have the opportunity to be in front of Jesus in this sacrament and contemplate this mystery.

That Jesus would allow us to receive Him, body, blood, soul, and divinity is such a priveledge that all other things pale in comparison.

That being said, I'd like to write out my Eucharistic prayer for today.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to come before you in this Blessed Sacrament. Please give me the strength to overcome my weaknesses and allow me to draw strength from your presence to win the battle against my temptations.

My Lord, My God, I worship you. Forgive me for my sins. Forgive the sins of my family and friends. Strengthen them, give them hope, and show them your love.

I pray this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Sprit.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Musings on Doctrinal Development

But first...

Rather than pretend that the knowledge I impart is from a genuine study of the subject I am imparting knowledge about, I'd much rather blog about my musings on the given subject. I'd like to do this mostly because it is more honest in that I'm not simply regurgitating what I found elsewhere, though re-purposing that information is inevitable to discuss any subject.

Everything that I write about could be credited to all of the historians, theologians, philosophers, etc. that I stand on to help me develop my thinking. How else do we learn?

So the primary purpose of this blog is to present it to my readers as a genuine reflection on the given subject  "according to Daniel" and to hopefully provide it in an accessible manner so that the subject is easily understood.

The secondary purpose of this blog is to fulfill my burning desire to write and learn. Having a blog allows me to have conversations about the things I like to have conversations about when "real life" doesn't present those opportunities. I've found that most people simply do not like talking theology, philosophy, history, and like subjects. This blog fills the gap between those occasions where I do find myself in the presence of someone who is intellectually curious and the very long periods of time where I don't encounter those people.

That being said, indulge with me for a moment about a subject I am most unqualified to muse about...

Doctrinal Development

One of the most striking features of Catholicism is their definition of doctrine compared to the rest of the worlds religions. What we find in Catholicism is a "code" with walls and all. Defining what we believe is essential in maintaining what we believe as time goes on and cultures change.

 If there ever was an institutional mainstay in society, the Catholic church is it. This is evident when we consider a controversial topic such as that of contraception. The Catholic church has not changed her position on the subject for 2,000 years and despite getting opposition from non-Catholic Christians and secularists alike, they still won't change their position. 

Interestingly enough, one of the accusations Catholics receive from Protestants about doctrine in general is how certain doctrines developed over time. If I held the "bible alone as the sole rule of faith" presupposition, then I'd probably be suspicious of Catholicism as well. In fact, I was when I was a Protestant, despite having grown up in the Catholic church. But once that presupposition gets called into question, the dominoes fall in order and you start to see why Catholicism makes more sense. 

Cardinal John Henry Newman is the person to look to when it comes to the subject of doctrinal development and you can find a lot of his work online regarding it. For now, all I want to do is point out one particular thought of his regarding development.

In order for anything to "develop" it first needs to be living. I think that makes a lot of sense when thinking about things in nature or even abstract laws or constitutions. From this perspective, one can see that development is not necessarily a bad thing. So the question isn't about whether it is good for something to develop or not, but rather whether something has developed genuinely or fraudulently.

In other words, is this development corrupt or does it derive from its original source? Catholics believe in Sacred Tradition, which is the deposit of faith handed down from the Apostles. The Catholic Encyclopedia says:

"Holy Scripture is therefore not the only theological source of the Revelation made by God to His Church. Side by side with Scripture there is tradition, side by side with the written revelation there is the oral revelation."

That oral revelation combined with the written revelation work hand in hand to make up the sacred deposit of faith. With oral revelation, in order for it to be living, it needs to be handed down from its source, the same way written revelation is handed down. This is where the Living Magisterium of the Church comes in. That is just a fancy way of saying the "teaching authority" of the Church. These teachers are legitimate successors to the Apostles who handed down the deposit of faith to men they chose to be their successors.

Whether we can prove that these teachers, the successors of the Apostles, are truly successors can be addressed in another post. But suffice it to say that there is no other plausible contender for such a position in light of history. It is virtually undeniable.

Now, this is the context in which we can now look at the essence of doctrinal development. It must be understood that the deposit of faith does not comprise of dusty books from the ancient world, but is "living and active" being that it is the Word of God (Heb. 4:12). And as I have mentioned before, anything that develops is assumed to be living.

Now, many non-Catholic Christians take it for granted that they also are a part of a tradition whether they like it or not. Even if you're part of a non-denominational church, there is an inherent connection to some other tradition that ultimately has its origins in the Reformation. Whether these Protestant traditions develop is evident by their various characteristics. For example, evangelical fundamentalism in America looks nothing like the Lutheran churches, though they essentially have their origins in the Reformation. Evangelicalism is largely the fruit of the seed planted during the "Great Awakening" in the 19th century and Lutheranism is closer to what was originally planted during the Reformation.

All of this was a round about way of pointing out that regardless of whether or not you think you're simply a "bible Christian," you're part of a larger theological tradition that has developed, evolved, and grown into something different than what it once was.

This brings me to my thoughts on Primivitism, which in and of itself has many forms within Christendom. Primivistism is the idea that the Church became corrupted at a certain point after the period of the Apostles and the primary goal of Christians should be to restore "pure Christianity." In its extreme form, you get Mormonism. It its more docile form, you get different types of Protestantism.

Protestants believe that the purest form of the deposit of faith from the Apostles is found in the New Testament, not Tradition. Ever since the Reformers planted this seed into peoples minds, protestant Christianity mutated and multiplied exponentially. This was mostly because of the invention of the printing press which essentially allowed more people access to Sacred Scripture.

When it was established in peoples minds that there wasn't a need for a teaching authority and that they now have the purest form of the deposit of faith in their hands, they believed they could legitimately start their own church according to their interpretation of the written word of God.

What Protestants take for granted is their own assumption that the Church was ever corrupted, but it's this view that the Church did become corrupt that drives their suspicious of doctrinal developments in Catholicism.

Going back to what I said earlier, the question isn't whether development is bad, but whether its corrupt or legitimate. Protestants essentially say that most Catholic doctrines are corrupt and they do so on the basis that certain doctrines (such as Marian doctrines) are "un-biblical."

So now we arrive at a point in the discussion that can go either of two ways. We could take the micro-level view and pick each doctrine apart and see whether or not it developed, or we could look at the macro-level and see whether doctrinal development makes any sense in the first place. I'd rather take the macro-level view.

Once we establish that doctrinal development makes sense, then we can see why Catholicism is the best possible option for anyone wanting to experience full Christianity.

The Trinity

There is perhaps no better example of doctrinal development than the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Holy Scripture does not contain any explicit formula for the doctrine of the Trinity and as such has been the source of many heresies.

We can access this concept via philosophy and define it from there, but none of these definitions are found in Scripture, at least explicitly. What the Church received regarding the Trinity contained in it the purest form of its truth, which is that God is one, yet is three distinct persons. There is a certain potentiality that exists in this doctrine that allows itself to be worked on while maintaining its most basic truth, namely that God is a Trinity of Persons - Father, Son, Holy Spirit. 

But how we grow to understand the trinity, though it may seem to have foreign language in its definition when compared to what was originally said about it, is something that cannot help but grow. One can look a car they look and find it very pleasing on the outside and they understand it to an extent. They know what it looks like. But that is all together different than knowing how it drives and once you do know how it drives, you've grown in your understanding of that vehicle. And in understanding how it drives, you don't lose what you previously knew about the vehicle, but you gain more knowledge. 

The purpose of me giving you that measly analogy is simply to point out that one can grow in their knowledge of something that is complete, but at various points not know it completely. The Trinity seems to have that characteristic, as do many other doctrines. We've grown in our understanding of how it would work using our reason and thus can define it more clearly. Defining it more clearly and explicitly only helps us to avoid falling into heresy by not believing what was divinely revealed to us. When we see it from that perspective, doctrinal development is a very good thing.