All posts tagged: theology

The Sacraments of Love and Death

Marriage Marriage exalts a husband and wife through the humble, transparent, and irrevocable gift of self[1] to the other, “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”[2] In marriage, the husband and wife pour out themselves to live for the salvation of one another in Christ, through the fidelity, continence, and permanence[3] of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of marriage lifts the natural union[4] between man and woman into the divine love of the Paschal mystery, Christ and the Church,[5] and the Trinity. The transcendence of marriage originates in God’s act of creating man and woman[6]—in His bestowal of the vocation of complete companionship.[7] God fashioned Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, commissioning them a role in His creative work.[8] Marriage commemorates God’s faithfulness to humanity as expressed throughout salvation history[9] and fulfilled in Christ. Marriage impresses the “indelible character of God’s creative love”[10] and bears witness to the eschatological love of the communion of saints in Christ.[11] By His incarnation, Christ assumes and purifies human love, marking it with …

Why the Eucharist?

The Eucharist invokes God’s memory. Christ entered into time, therefore all of time has become salvation history.[1] God’s memory is the window through which the whole Body of Christ gazes upon all of salvation history: past, present, and future. The Church is the continuation of Christ through history, speaking the Word time and again in the Eucharist.[2] As many grains are joined together in bread,[3] the Eucharist gathers us into Christ’s Body.[4] The Eucharist celebrates Jesus Christ as he existed, before time, in time, and outside of time. The Eucharist is never a divine escape from this world, but rather the Eucharist reforms creation[5] in the image and likeness of God as it was originally made: in and for love.[6] In the Eucharist, God’s pure and perfect Word bends down to speak our language of symbols and rituals, so that one day we might speak God’s Word.[7] The Eucharist humbles itself to be dependent upon the work of human hands.[8] The self-emptying of Christ’s body and blood into the sacrament[9] recapitulates the perfect sacrifice of …

Why Baptism and Confession?

Baptism Baptism regenerates humans in the image and likeness of God, created in and for love.[1] In baptism, the Father adopts us, the sacrificial love of the Son conforms us to his Body, and the Spirit transfigures us into witnesses of the Good News. The progression of the rites, from the reception of the child to the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, propagates the continual revelation of the Trinity in both the child and the assembly of believers.[2] In baptism, the Church praises God as the source of the love between parents and children.[3] In the reception of the child, parents surrender their natural authority, yielding to the divine authority of God.[4] Through this sacrificial dis-appropriation of earthly entitlement, the Spirit transfigures the assembly of witnesses into the kenotic Body of Christ.[5] As the Body offers the child’s name up for adoption, God claims it as His own. [6] By immersing the child’s name into God’s triune name,[7] the Spirit immerses the child into the entire ecclesial community. The child does not dissolve into the …

The Liturgical Critique of Technological Culture

  Over the past twenty years, rapid technological developments have completely transformed our social environment, leaving no doubt about the adequacy of Jacques Ellul’s earlier prognostications: ours is surely a “technological society.”[1] Such widespread integration of technology into culture raises a number of important questions for Christians and their calling to be “in the world, but not of the world” (See: John 17:14-17; Rom. 12:2).  I am specifically concerned with the following: how does Christian participation in technological culture affect our perception of, and participation in, the sacramental life of the church? Vice versa: how does our participation in the liturgy and the sacraments affect our perception of the technological society in which we are more and more involved? Such questions can be tackled by turning to the research of Walter Ong (d. 2003) and Yves Congar (d. 1995). By extending and synthesizing Ong’s sociological approach to technology along with Congar’s theological interpretation of Church and culture, I will argue: the liturgy of the Eucharist intrinsically orders the relative goods of all human technologies, for …

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 …

The “Gift” of Modernity

It takes just a little education, perhaps an education that involves a nod to Plato and perhaps a wink in the direction of modern French philosophy, to realize there are at least two senses of “gift” currently in operation. There is the ordinary straightforward sense of gift being something good, so that when someone uses the phrase “the gift of modernity” we have good reason to believe that modernity is being construed positively as an unqualified good bringing benefits to us that are plausibly different in extent to what was provided in the pre-modern world and perhaps also different in kind. The referendum would then be on: you could either accept or reject the claim. Acceptance or rejection might simply be an index of personality: you are a sunny type and well-disposed to the commonplace diktats of how wonderful it is for us to enjoy such material comfort and to have such a fabulous menu of choice in and through which to construct a life. Or, you are more brooding and choleric (which may or …

Could Dialogue Between Science and Religion Be the Disease Rather Than the Cure?

During the past year I had the privilege of working with the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Science & Religion Initiative at the University of Notre Dame. Recognizing that polling data consistently indicates that the apparent conflict between “science” and “religion” is the leading cause of young people leaving the Catholic Church, the McGrath Institute developed this initiative with the goal of aiding high school teachers in both fields re-imagine curricula that would explore the relationship between science and religion and challenge the notion that the two are fundamentally opposed. In the course of my interactions with the participants, I was amazed at their expertise in their given field, their willingness to thoughtfully engage core concepts and thought patterns from different fields, and their commitment to their vocation as educators. I am sure that I learned far more from them than they did from me in the course of our time together. Perhaps the most important insight I gained from the experience of facilitating the online forum, in which participants reflected on various attempts to …

Bestowing Charity Hastily

Mary of Nazareth is at once the Mother of God and the first, perfect disciple of her son. In her willingness to patiently await the arrival of God’s word in her life, and her subsequent haste in acting upon God’s word, Mary enfolds the pattern of receiving and responding to the Lord within her hidden life of grace. Those who devote themselves to Mary discover the beauty of this hidden life, learning to receive as she receives and respond as she responds. Two of the most beloved modern saints discovered their own sanctity in this Marian rhythm: Thérèse of Lisieux and Teresa of Calcutta. Childhood devotions to the Blessed Mother shaped the religious imaginations of both Thérèse and Teresa, resulting in a vivid comprehension of Mary as a living mother whose beauty calls for a response of the body and soul. Both proceeded to pattern their lives after Mary, maintaining a posture of generosity to the Lord, participating in the “hasty” bestowal of charity, and thereby experiencing a foretaste of the eternal joy of divine …

The Saint for a Troubled Church

With so many issues troubling the Church and world at large, it can often be a difficult to get a grasp on these problems and identify practical solutions. But there is a Saint who faced similar challenges in his own time who can help us realize the grace and peace that God has given us. Saint Bonaventure joined the Franciscan order and was an academic by training, but he was also a great preacher and confessor. Recognized as a man of wisdom and talent, at the age of 36, he was elevated to the post of Minister General of the Order, a position he held for nearly 17 years, before being named Cardinal. One of the Doctors of the Church, Bonaventure is an remarkable spiritual master and theologian, but also a fantastic administrator and leader, who can help us chart a path that both clings to the Gospel ideals of Jesus, but also recognizes the importance of moving in the direction of the current times of the world. He is a great exemplar for us …

The TOP 25 Church Life Journal Reads of 2017

Church Life Journal is back from its Christmas hibernation. We promise that plenty of reading adventures await you on these pages in 2018. But before that starts in full force, take a meditative glance back at Church Life Journal’s most popular posts of 2017. The rankings are based on pageviews. The titles of the pieces are linked, just in case you missed these pieces, or, would like to revisit them. A Happy 2018 to you and yours! Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity by David Bentley Hart Editorial Musings: The Charism of Infertility by Timothy O’Malley The Perfect Family is an Idol by Anna Keating The Sex Life of Joseph and Mary by John Cavadini Life After Life After Death by Timothy Kelleher 97 Aphorisms Adduced from the Thought of Benedict XVI by Cyril O’Regan Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Cultivating the Christian Imagination of the Child by Jessica Keating Black Bodies, Kneeling, and the Liturgy by Eric Styles Single Life Is More Fundamental for Christianity than both Married and Religious Life by Michael …