May 5, 2015
May 3, 2015
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It’s a day late for the feast, but perhaps some of our small yet select readership might be interested in this poem to St Athanasius that I recently came acros. Despite the archaizing style, it seems from the content to be reasonably contemporary.
‘At Alexandria, the birthday of St Athanasius, bishop of that city, most celebrated for sanctity and learning. Amost all the world had formed a conspiracy to persecute him’ (from the Roman Martyrology for 2nd May)
Athanasius! Thou art living at this hour
Though night has seized and manned each strongest tower
Where sons of light in opium’s pleasant power
Lie sleeping still, or ‘wake but speechless cower;
As once across the Alexandrine main
Thou gazed’st and saw’st the world dissolve again
In weakness, whom the true Son’s blessed pain
Had scarce delivered from the unclean reign.
For Him thou wander’dst then in every land.
The Gallic snows thou felt’st upon thy face
And lay’st concealed amid the pious sand
While Caesar’s thundering armies sought thy trace.
Five times a beggar, six times thou held’st the throne.
Father, but once, restore us to our own.
May 1, 2015
In the twenty-fourth objection to the fifth article of the eleventh question of the Disputed Questions on the Power of God ‘Are There Several Persons in God?’ St Thomas suggests that,
…the fullness of joy requires the companionship of several in the divine nature, because there is no pleasure in possessing a thing unless we share it with a companion, according to Boethius. Moreover perfect love is to love another as oneself.
No one seems to have found where it is that Boethius says this, but St Thomas seems to have been convinced that he did because he attributes the same argument to St Severinus in the Commentary on the Sentences 1.50.4 ad 4 where he applies it to the question of a plurality of angels in one species. In De Potentia he provides a counter argument against the plurality of persons in God as part of the same objection.
to depend on another for the fullness of one’s joy and love is an indication of insufficient goodness in oneself. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 4) that the wicked through finding no pleasure in their own company seek the companionship of others: whereas the good seek to commune with themselves through finding pleasure in so doing. Now the divine nature cannot lack a sufficiency of goodness. Wherefore since one supposit of the divine nature has in himself all fullness of joy and love, there is no need to put several supposits, or persons in God.
The essence of St Thomas’s objection to this argument is contained in the body of the article “we must attribute to God every perfection that is in creatures, as regards the essence of the perfection absolutely but not as regards the way in which it is in this or that one.” So far as reason can discover the need of man to befriend his neighbour is merely a reflection of his insufficiency. Friendship, reciprocally willing the good of the other for the other’s own sake, is not, according to St Thomas, a pure perfection. It is a perfection for creatures on account of their limitations. Except, St Thomas is not precisely committed to this, he may just hold that friendship cannot be known to be a pure perfection by natural reason. Could it not be that the doctrine of the Trinity reveals to us that friendship is a pure perfection but that we could never know this unless we are the recipients of the Triune God’s self revelation? The argument St Thomas considers here is most famously associated with Book 3 of Richard of St Victor’s De Trinitate. Richard argues that, being supremely good, God must be supremely loving and perfect love requires the love of the other and perfect love is unselfish. Thus God must have coequal consubstantial second person to love from all eternity and these must share their love with a third person also coequal and consubstantial. Some people (not Richard) try to rescue Richard’s argument from the charge that it seeks to prove by natural reason the doctrine of the Trinity by saying that it pertains to the nature of charity not to natural friendship. If this were the case then the knowledge that friendship is a pure perfection would be indirectly derived from revelation rather than from reason.
It seems to me there may be something to this rescue attempt and it would explain the necessity of faith in the Trinity for salvation. It is clear that we need to accept as a gratuitous offer, God’s offer of friendship in order to accept that offer. It must be revealed to us and we must accept it qua revelation. It is also clear that after sin we need to accept as a gratuitous offer, God’s offer of redemption in order to accept that offer.It must be revealed to us and we must accept it qua revelation. But why do we need to know that friendship itself describes the inner life of God? Certainly we need to know that Jesus is God in order to believe in Him. It would be difficult to explain the Gospels unless we knew that there are two persons in God but that does not tell us why it is necessary for salvation to know this, or to know that God is three persons in one substance. But if the possession of charity inherently entails an implicit knowledge that God is three persons in one substance, then it is easier to understand why faith in Christ as a divine person necessarily renders explicit the implicit knowledge of the Trinity inherent in supernatural charity in any order of providence.
Of course, there is a form of knowledge directly dependant on charity, the connatural knowledge of God consequent upon charity: wisdom. Everyone who is in a state of grace possesses the gift of wisdom. “Although wisdom is distinct from charity, it presupposes it, and for that very reason divides the children of perdition from the children of the kingdom.” This wisdom, I suggest, bestows upon all those who possess it the implicit knowledge of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, a knowledge which is necessarily rendered explicit by the explicit faith in Christ the Redeemer through which we appropriate the satisfaction He offered on the Cross. “The Uncreated Wisdom, which in the first place unites itself to us by the gift of charity … reveals to us the mysteries the knowledge of which is infused wisdom. Hence, the infused wisdom which is a gift, is not the cause but the effect of charity.”
April 28, 2015
“Then if any man shall say to you: Lo here is Christ, or there, do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand.”
Whence comes the thirst to ascribe justifying efficacy to implicit faith, even in the era of the New Covenant, that has caused such havoc in the Church for the last five hundred years? Surely it is a desire to flee the scandal of the Cross. The scandal of the cross is above all its particularity. This particularity expresses the gratuity of salvation. God ‘hath mercy on whom he will; and whom he will, he hardeneth’ and ‘How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?’. These words shock us only because we will not relinquish the idea that some would stand in the judgement of God, above all ourselves. We admit that we need God’s help because the facts speak for themselves, but in our hearts we tell ourselves that God is obliged to help us. The particularity of the proclamation ‘Christ and Him crucified’ offends against this cherished lie. It rubs our noses in the fact that if God were fair all would be damned. God is not fair, He is merciful. We must ask nicely and say thank you. Divinisation is not a thing to be grasped.
God is charity, and he who abides in charity abides in God. Charity is friendship with God. But we cannot love God as our friend unless we know that He wills us to know and love Him as He knows and loves Himself. For friendship is the reciprocal willing of the good of another for the other’s own sake. Unless God Himself tells us that He loves us thus, we have no warrant to believe it, for nothing in His nature compels Him to love us thus. To hold that He does without revelation is not faith but presumption. For faith it is necessary that we believe on account of the authority of God revealing and for this we must be certain that it is God revealing, thus only an infallible authority can bear the faith to us unless it is infused directly.
In article eleven of the fourteenth Disputed Question on Truth ‘Is it necessary to believe explicitly?’, St Thomas teaches that in every age all men were obliged to believe two things explicitly (one knowable by reason the other only knowable by revelation) “’For he that comes to God must believe that He is, and is the rewarder to them that love Him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, everyone in every age is bound explicitly to believe that God exists and exercises providence over human affairs.”
Nevertheless, after sin the simple belief that God wills our good for its own sake was not enough, because man knows that he is a sinner and has offended God. Man cannot, without presumption, believe after sin in God’s friendship without believing in a redeemer for “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But to believe in a redeemer requires specificity. We must point to the one who has satisfied for our sins if He is here and deny all others and trust in Him when He has yet to come. ‘For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God.’ That He has not come yet, or, when He has come, Who He is, is irreducibly particular, scandalously particular because it is God’s gift and no right of ours.
Accordingly, before sin came into the world, it was not necessary to believe explicitly the matters concerning the Redeemer, since there was then no need of the Redeemer. Nevertheless, this was implicit in their belief in divine providence, in so far as they believed that God would provide everything necessary for the salvation of those who love Him. Before and after the fall, the leaders in every age had to have explicit faith in the Trinity. Between the fall and the age of grace, however, the ordinary people did not have to have such explicit belief. Perhaps before the fall there was not such a distinction of persons that some had to be taught the faith by others. Likewise, between the fall and the age of grace, the leading men had to have explicit faith in the Redeemer, and the ordinary people only implicit faith. This was contained either in their belief in the faith of the patriarchs and prophets or in their belief in divine providence.
However, in the time of grace, everybody, the leaders and the ordinary people, have to have explicit faith in the Trinity and in the Redeemer. However, only the leaders, and not the ordinary people, are bound to believe explicitly all the matters of faith concerning the Trinity and the Redeemer. The ordinary people must, however, believe explicitly the general articles, such as that God is triune, that the Son of God was made flesh, died, and rose from the dead, and other like matters which the Church commemorates in her feasts.
Prior to the Incarnation, by what authority was this faith (that God would provide for our ransoming) promulgated? I would suggest that it was promulgated (as grace was originally to have been transmitted) by natural generation, that is by the family. And every generation, for all their distortions and accretions, has not failed to promulgate this faith in a redeemer.
I heard a voice, that cried,
“Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!”
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes.
Why does St Thomas teach that Adamic faith is of no avail when it fixes on a false messiah or when the true redeemer is come? He answers this question in the following article “Is there one faith for moderns and ancients?”
We must firmly hold that there is one faith for ancients and moderns; otherwise, there would not be one Church. To support this position some have said that the proposition about the past which we believe and the one about the future which the ancients believed is the same proposition. But it does not seem right that the proposition should remain the same when its essential parts are changed. For we see that propositions are changed by reason of changes in the subject and verb.
For this reason, others have said that the propositions which we believe and which they believed are different, but that faith does not concern propositions but things. The thing, however, is the same, although the propositions are different. For they say that it belongs intrinsically to faith to believe in the resurrection of Christ, but only accidentally to faith to believe that it is or was. But this is obviously false, for, since belief is called assent, it can only be about a proposition, in which truth or falsity is found. Thus, when I say: “I believe in the resurrection,” I must understand some union [of subject and predicate]. And I must do this with reference to some time which the soul always adds in affirmative and negative propositions, as is said in The Soul. Accordingly, the sense of “I believe in the resurrection” is this: “I believe that the resurrection is, was, or will be.”
Therefore, we must say that the object of faith can be considered in two ways. First, we have the object in itself as it exists outside the soul. And it is properly in this sense that it has the character of object and is the reason why habits are one or many. Second, we have the object as it exists in the knower as participated by him. Accordingly, we have to say that, if we take as the object of faith the thing believed as it exists outside the soul, it is in this way that each thing is related to us and to the ancients. And faith gets its unity from the oneness of the object. However, if we consider faith as it is in our perception of it, it is multiplied according to different propositions. But faith is not differentiated by this diversity. From this it is evident that faith is one in every way.
This is the reason the Church solemnly defined at the Council of Florence that, with the coming of the Redeemer, the efficacy of the rites of the old law (which expressed this faith in the future redeemer) ceased. From the instant of Christ’s death no one could anymore pass from the state of mortal or original sin to that of life in God without explicit faith in Jesus Christ the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. ‘On the Cross the old law died soon to be buried and become the bearer of death’. The ascription of justifying power to implicit faith after the Passion is a denial of the gratuity of salvation and grace. It is an expression of the primeval sin of seeking to make oneself like the Most High. It is Modernism distilled to its essence, because It denies the propositional character of faith and reduces faith to a sentiment inherent to man’s nature.
April 27, 2015
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The Servile State, properly understood, is not something that may come if somebody does something. It is something that is only too likely to come if nobody does anything. It is almost a negative thing, in the sense of being an unconscious drift of modern society. . . . The unconscious combination of our general desire to provide work and food for the poor, with our increasing impatience with strikes and labour quarrels, may lead to a compromise by which the working classes will be fed even when they are not working on condition that they are always ready to work. And if that compromise is enforced by law, it will be slavery, though it will not be called slavery. It will be the old pagan condition in which men are forced to serve certain masters and masters are expected to support certain men. . . . I am treating slavery as a bad thing; but I am not necessarily treating it as a brutal or abominably cruel thing. The temptation to it is human, and the use of it can often be humane. I know of only one real objection to slavery; and that is that it is not freedom (from ‘The Illustrated London News’, 1st September, 1923).
April 25, 2015
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“Vivi missi sunt hi duo in stagnum ignis ardentis sulphure … Nullus enim mortalium durius peccat haereticis, qui Christum postquam cognoverint, negant.”
“These two were thrown alive into the pool of fire burning with sulphur …. No mortal sins more greviously than do the heretics who deny Christ after they have known Him.”
April 25, 2015
Who is right about immigration? Personally, I don’t think immigration is a problem. I think it is a red herring. The reason people come to Britain is because there are jobs and opportunities for a more prosperous life. If there were people to do these jobs here then the jobs would be taken and immigrants would not come. The reason the jobs are not taken is because either Britons do not want the jobs or because the minimum wage is not being enforced. If the minimum wage were enforced then the only reason remaining jobs would be available would be because Britons don’t want to do the jobs. Why don’t they want to do them? Either because welfare provision is generous enough to constitute a superior alternative or because there are enough (higher paid or less onerous) alternative jobs on offer for the existing population. Why is this? Because the existing population are not having enough children. The immigration question, like many other questions in British politics is merely a side effect of the catastrophic demographic crisis consequent upon living at the geo-political epicentre of the culture of death. If Britons were not contracepting and aborting themselves out of existence then a reasonable number of immigrants would come and enrich their new homeland with their cultures and their fruitful labour with no danger of unsustainable waves of migration. Nor is welfare unconnected to this question. By itself providing the basic material requirements normally supplied by the nuclear and extended families the welfare state has brought about a withering away of society. This in turn creates the social problems which demand the expansion of the welfare state, which in turn worsens those problems. The contraceptive culture and mentality is a consequence of a statism which has prised apart the unitive and procreative functions of marriage and the family, and turned children from a God-given blessing into the ultimate consumer items. This statism is a natural consequence of the rejection of the true religion. Man’s reason tells him to seek to honour God in the manner which He has appointed. Once he has ceased to do so, man naturally transfers his worship to the state as the next highest reality certainly knowable by human reason. The Leviathan thus created immediately seeks to destroy its principle natural rival, the family, by legalising divorce and so setting in train the process which ends in the welfare state.