All posts tagged: Christ

The Light of the Liberal Arts is Different in Light of the Faith

This is the theological continuation of the philosophical beginning in The Resplendent Completion of the Liberal Arts. Catholic Theology and the Beginning In the beginning. Theology begins at a beginning. Well, it begins at more than one beginning, but we will begin with the first. So: in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth . . .[1] God created everything above and everything below, and created even this beginning. There is a “before” creation, a before the beginning, but there is no word for it—it is not a before, not like a time with an after, not at all, since there is only “after” the beginning—and it is not really known in itself, known as it is only through the beginning. There was no beginning, and then there was. God created ex nihilo, out of nothing.[2] All that is “something”: God created that. To put it another way: there is that which does not begin, does not, and there is that which begins beginnings. This is God. God simply is. God has no …

Must Catholics Hate Hegel?

Among the vanishingly few things that command agreement among Catholics is that Hegel is a bad idea. Divergent, even mutually antagonistic, Anglophone Catholic circles such as Concilium, Communio, and paleo-Thomism hate Hegel because they see him as dodgy, corrosive, or just plain heretical. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a figure at once more disdained and less read by Catholics than him.[1] A recent piece by C.C. Pecknold offers a near perfect object lesson.[2] Its title, “The philosopher who poisoned German theology,” blazons its intentions. The German Church’s problems—empty pews, a vocation shortage, administrative tumescence, liberal bishops—are, Pecknold argues, in large part the consequence of a theological decision. German theology summoned the wrong doctor to its bed to dress trauma-wounds inflicted by the Enlightenment: none other than G.W.F. Hegel. But Hegel’s salves only deepened the damage. And German theology’s wounds fester still. To be sure, Pecknold’s not altogether interested in Hegel. He is rather interested in genealogy, in locating the poison tree who bore German Catholicism’s bitter fruit—particularly certain elements of its prelates’ proposal on …

Amor Ergo Sum: Sacramental Personhood

  It wasn’t until I was older that I came to appreciate the caricature of society that was presented in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Augustus Gloop is the first to go, loving chocolate so much that, rather than him drinking the chocolate, it “drinks” him as he falls into the river of chocolate. Then comes Violet Beauregarde, chewing any gum she can find and turning into a violet blueberry after eating one of Wonka’s new gums. Then Veruca Salt’s insatiable desire for the golden egg and other things lead her to end up where all the bad eggs go. Finally Mike Teevee ends up being what he loves the most, “on” TV. In short, all of these characters were identified by what they loved (chocolate, gum, possessions, and television). These character traits, which were so fundamental to their identity, were also the things that were, ironically, their downfall. Luckily, it is not always the case that the things we love will have a detrimental effect on us, but this caricature points to an …

Why the Sacraments?

The sacraments confer and signify the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as efficacious signs of God’s grace.[1] Christ instituted the sacraments. Through them the Holy Spirit gathers the Church into Christ’s Body.[2] The sacraments reveal and restore our created nature as human beings who are related in love and made in the image and likeness of the Trinity.[3] Each sacrament echoes the Incarnation. God reveals his humility in the form of the sacraments, lowering himself into “corporeal and sensible” means to guide humanity toward “spiritual and intelligible” realities.[4] The body[5] is the inescapable site of the sacraments,[6] where Christ speaks in our tongue,[7] perfecting it,[8] so that we might learn to speak in his.[9] A sacrament communicates the Word of God ritually.[10] The reciprocal penetration of the Word and the sacrament hinges on the Church’s faith[11] in God’s unfailing promise of sacramental grace.[12] Fidelity to the divine Word is lived out in sacramental practice. In the sacrament, the Word promises the extension and perpetuation of Christ’s redemptive activity throughout salvation history.[13] Sacraments concretely extend …

Why Must We Go to Church on Sunday?

Why does it matter if we go to church on Sunday rather than praying on our own? We can read the Bible at home, pray, and do good works without ever stepping foot in a church. Nevertheless, liturgy, especially the Eucharistic liturgy—the act of coming together as the Body of Christ to offer praise and prayer to God, to listen to his word, and to be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood—is an essential aspect of our faith. Sacrosanctum concilium states quite clearly why the liturgy is central to our faith: Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper (SC, §10). Liturgy creates a space for the …

The Serious Sacrificial Body

I am embarrassed by the sacrificial body of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. When I teach undergraduates, I am more than happy to address Jesus’s identity as the suffering servant who takes upon himself the sins of the nation. I am pleased to teach how in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the light of the world that conquers the darkness of sin and death. I delight in showing how the Lamb once slain in the book of Revelation is a counter-polis to the Roman Empire (and thus every Empire that follows—including our own). In each case, I seek to lead students beyond a moribund fascination with the death of Christ to its broader location in salvation history, its meaning for humanity hic et nunc. I want students to see Christ’s death as a coherent sign, pointing toward a form of life in which self-giving love is the very meaning of existence. I suspect that I mean well in my approach. But in doing so, I (and thus my students) am too quick to pass over the serious …

The Pornification of Desire

It was nearing the end of my sophomore year. I had a pretty similar life to everyone around me. I’d wake up in the morning way too early than what was healthy so I could get to my 7:30 AM class at my school 30 minutes away. My dad would usually have eggs and bacon ready for me by the time I was out of the shower and my mom always made me a smoothie that tasted exactly how it looked, like slop. I finished up classes for the day, and then came my favorite part of the day, hockey practice. Earlier in the year, I made it onto my school’s hockey team which was the hockey team of my dreams. Playing hockey was the one thing that got me through the school day because I never felt more free than when I was skating. The cold air against my face while my feet glided across a smooth surface of ice. It was all great except for one problem. I was suffering through an abdominal …

Now We Must Dismantle the Tree

  Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree, Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes— Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic. So begins the somewhat bleak conclusion of W. H. Auden’s For the Time Being. Written in 1944, in the thick of what surely must have been difficult series Christmases for war-torn Europe and its American ally, Auden’s Christmas oratorio concludes the story of Christ’s birth with a final statement on the dissatisfaction of the Christmas season. Auden treats on our own failure to live into the vision of love witnessed at the feast, on our desire to distract ourselves from the present moment with tribulation or joy. But, here we are, after the Christmas season ends, with ordinary time, a upsetting juxtaposition with the rich liveliness of the season of the feast. Auden’s portrait of the harsh contrast between the Christmas season and “the time being,” conflicts sharply with most American Christians’ (author included) preferred pictures of the Christmas season, wrapped in the glow of …

Welcoming Stranger Things Without Baptizing Them Too

SPOILER ALERT: This post gives away some plot twists in Stranger Things Seasons 1 and 2. In the past year, many writers in the Catholic blogosphere have commented on the theological richness of Stranger Things. One writer recently went so far as to claim that it is “the most Catholic show on television,” which may be a bit of a stretch. Yes, Eleven is a Christ figure, but I doubt The Duffer Brothers gave her the nickname “El” as a nod to the Hebrew word for God, though, admittedly, stranger things have happened. Sorry. Got that pun out of my system. Moving on. Yes, Eleven refuses to use her powers when asked to kill a cat (an act which this same writer compares to Christ’s refusal to turn stones to bread during his temptation in the desert), but moments later, she kills two guards who threaten her, an utterly un-Christlike action. While I can appreciate and in fact hope to demonstrate here that Stranger Things is a series with deeply Catholic sensibilities, the examples above …

Life After Life After Death

What a way to go! At some point most of us will say it, and when speaking of death usually mean some preferred, or else dreaded, scenario—drowning in a pool of chocolate say, as compared to being drawn and quartered. According to a new Canadian poll though, we are not exactly exhausting ourselves plumbing the metaphysics of the exit. In general, going, happens in one of three ways: Instantaneous, a catastrophic high-impact injury, for example, or a bullet to a so-called kill-zone; Sudden, as when an event results in death moments or hours later, and Delayed.  About this third, we could be glib and say that the leading cause of death is life, but I am talking here about terminal illness, both protracted and brief. I do not think I would be good at any of them, and am in no rush to find out. Unfortunately, over the past year, seven friends have. All “folded their tents early,” and since none lived in a global hot spot, seven seems a startling number. If there was …