Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ralph McInerny: List of Articles and Resources

I can think of no better tribute to the life of Ralph McInerny, who passed away at 7:45 AM Friday morning (Jan 29th), than to collect for you works by and about him that appear online so that you too can be touched by his brilliant mind.

This is a work in progress.

Short bios:Short Autobiography: The Writing Life
Curriculum Vitae
Bibliography: Amazon | Fantastic Fiction

Articles About:Articles By:Books Online: Google Books

Pax Christi,

Monday, January 25, 2010

What Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in Isa 11:2-3. The Douay-Rheims translation reads as follows:

“And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord ...”

They are given to us at our Baptism and strengthened in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Their purpose is to make us docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He works in us through these gifts and each one helps us to progress towards holiness.

It can be difficult to distinguish between the different gifts of the Holy Spirit because they are so much alike. For help, I turn to the Modern Catholic Dictionary, by Fr. John A. Hardon:
  • Wisdom: It makes the soul responsive to God in the contemplation of divine things. It allows our minds to penetrate the very essence of divine truths.

    Understanding: It is given to the mind for grasping revealed truths easily and profoundly. It gives insight into the meaning of what a person believes.

    Counsel: It enables a person to judge promptly and rightly, as by a sort of supernatural intuition, what should be done, especially in difficult situations.

    Fortitude: It gives a person a special strength of will. This gift confers an extraordinary readiness to undergo trials for love of God or in fulfillment of the divine will.

    Knowledge: It gives a person the ability to judge everything from a supernatural viewpoint. The object of this gift is the whole spectrum of created things insofar as they lead one to God. Through infused knowledge the faithful can see the providential purpose of whatever enters their lives.

    Godliness (or “Piety”): It produces an instinctive filial affection for God and devotion toward those who are specially consecrated to God. It is a ready loyalty to God and the things of God.

    Fear of the Lord: A solemn respect for the almighty power and glory of God. It fills us with reverence for Him and dread of offending Him who loves us so completely.

I pray that the Spirit will arouse these gifts within you as you contemplate your role and mission in the Church.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Catechesis: A Team Sport

UPDATE (1/30/2010): Thanks to my incessant whining, Micah changed the blog design. I think it looks a lot better now, which means no bridge-jumping in the immediate future ;)

So, typically I like to fly solo when I'm blogging. That way I get to control everything, and all is right with the world. But, I thought it might do me some good to be a team player, so I joined up with some guys from Phatmass and FUS and we started a group blog called In Layman's Terms: Catechesis from the Vineyard.

I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish so far. I have a few minor complaints about the design and the layout (for example, the background color makes me want to jump off a bridge), but I'm trying to play nice and get along with everyone (haha!). The content is really great though, and in the end I think that's what it's all about. We started this blog because we want to bring Catholics to a greater love and appreciation of Jesus Christ and His Church, and we want to do it in a way that they will understand.

The title is somewhat of a play in words. Our blog is "in layman's terms" both because, well, we are all lay men in the Church, and also because we want to explain things catechetically, in a style adapted to our audience. Check out our blog, leave comments, let us know what you think, and pass it on to your friends via Facebook and Twitter.

I'll still be maintaining phat catholic apologetics, and from time to time you may see a post over at In Layman's Terms that you've seen here before. But, my stuff over at the new blog will be strictly catechetical and theological, whereas my stuff here will continue to be the usual mix of catechesis, apologetics, theology, and links to great Catholic resources.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scripture Passages on the Resurrection of the Body

I present these passages simply as a resource. Undoubtedly, other passages could be added and some even taken off the list. I haven't extensively researched each passage to see if it would hold up in a debate on this topic. But, it seems to me, at least initially, that they could all be used to defend the notion that, at the end of time, every human body will come back to life again, or be reunited with the soul that once animated it. If you have any corrections or additions to suggest, please let me know in the combox.

Pax Christi,

Dan 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Ezek 37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.

Isa 26:19a Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise.

Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; 26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Mt 22:27-32 (cf. Lk 20:32-37) After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, to which of the seven will she be wife? For they all had her." 29 But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living."

Lk 14:13-14 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Lk 20:37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.

Jn 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

Jn 6:39-40 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

Jn 11:23-25 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

Acts 17:18,31-32 Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, "What would this babbler say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" --because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this."

Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sad'ducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.

Acts 24:14-15 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, 15 having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

Acts 26:8 Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Rom 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.

1 Cor 6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.

1 Cor 15 (the entire chapter)

2 Cor 4:13-14 Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believe, and so we speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

2 Cor 5:1-4 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Phil 3:20-21 But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

1 Thes 4:13-17 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Heb 6:1-2 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 4

Part 4 resumes my debate with "Brandon" from the HCR forum. Also see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Brandon's words will be indented and italicized.

  • But your syllogism is not logical. There is nothing in the premise (Jesus was an only child) that is in your conclusion (Mary remained a virgin). This is reasoning...but not logical reasoning.
First of all, I gotta say, you're a soldier, dude. Very thorough and intellectual, I appreciate that. Also, I ask that you please read this entire post before you respond to it, instead of responding to it as you read it.

Now, to respond to the above, I already explained how the premise leads to the conclusion. Good Jews didn't use birth control, and they didn't "spill their seed" like Onan did. Thus, if Mary and Joseph were having sex, then Jesus would have had brothers. But, he doesn't have brothers, so we can conclude that they were not having sex.

  • But haven't you yourself said that her womb was like a "tabernacle" or "holy of holies". Could it be also (assuming that he was an oly child, or his "singularity") that Mary was kept barren afterwards? Is this not also a "reasonable" conclusion?
What do you mean? God made her barren so that they could continue having sex without conceiving? You can pull that remote and highly improbable possibility out of thin air if you like, but there is definitely nothing reasonable about it. You have conjured up the most unlikely of scenarios so that you can continue to hold that Mary and Joseph had sex when there is absolutely no reason to believe that God actually did such a thing. It certainly doesn't follow from the Tabernacle - Temple - Ark imagery, which points to Mary's body as being reserved for God and God alone. That would necessarily exclude the possibility of Mary and Joseph having sex -- miraculous barrenness or otherwise -- because then Mary's body would be put to ordinary use.

  • Weren't "good Jews" told to be fruitful and multiply? Didn't Paul say that couples shouldn't stay away from each other too long? It stimulates my "faculties" to assume that Joseph would atleast "know" his wife, as a good wife she should also, "know" her husband.
I agree that all of this was expected of your typical Jew, but Scripture and the Jews' own understanding of their marriage laws also allows for exceptions.

For example, married rabbis would often abstain from marital relations in order to devote themselves entirely to the study of the Torah. Moses commanded the people to do this in order to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exo 19:14-15). God commanded Jeremiah to refrain from marriage (cf. Jer 16:1-2), and Peter and the apostles forsook their wives in order to follow Jesus (cf. Mt 19:27-29, KJV). Jesus himself was celibate and said that some men choose that life for the sake of the kingdom (cf. Mt 19:12). Paul was celibate and considered it to be the more preferable state for serving the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 7:1,7,38). History tells us that the Essenes, the Zenu'im, and the Therapeutae were all groups of Jewish men and women around the time of Christ who chose celibacy in order to cleave more tightly to God, to His Word, to His Wisdom.

The point is that there were lawful exceptions to the rule to "be fruitful and multiply." It is true that Paul says, "Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control" (1 Cor 7:5). But, he also says, in the very next verse, "I say this by way of concession, not of command." What if there is no lack of self-control? What if there is no "temptation to immorality" (vs. 2). Joseph was "a just man" (Mt 1:19), and I've already shown that Mary's intent was to remain a virgin.

  • Assuming that your exegesis is correct in that "brothers" means cousins or "brothers in the Lord", it does not necessarily follow that because his brothers or sisters are not mentioned in scripture, that he therefore didn't have any. Mine is an argument from silence, but so is yours, therefore invalid.
The argument from silence is not my only argument. I have provided many reasons to believe that Jesus did not have any siblings. Where is your proof that he did?

  • Can you provide any authority from scripture that says that Yeshua MUST give his mother to his brothers?
Well, 1 Tim 5:4 shows the responsibility that children had for the care of their widowed mother. Smith's Bible Dictionary (here) says, "Under the Mosaic dispensation no legal provision was made for the maintenance of widows. They were left dependent partly on the affection of relations, more especially of the eldest son, whose birthright, or extra share of the property, imposed such a duty upon him, and partly on the privileges accorded to other distressed classes, such as a participation in the triennial third tithe (Deut 14:29 ; 26:12), in leasing (Deut 24:19-21), and in religious feasts (Deut 16:11,14 )." Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology shows, with ample Scriptural citation, that once a widow's husband died, she was utterly dependent upon the charity of her own family (see "Widow"). It is just very highly unlikely that Jesus would give Mary into the care of one of his disciples if Mary had other children to care for her.

  • But it's not used, and they appeal to His brothers and sisters in the same verse, Since the crowd is speaking of His humble beginnings, as if they know his beginings, obviously appealing to His mother...why not assume that they are also appealing to his actual brothers and sisters?
They can appeal to his brothers and sisters so as to prove his humble beginnings without these "brothers" and "sisters" being his actual siblings. The use of the word "brother" and "sister" in Jesus' time was not reserved for siblings alone. You are filtering the passage through your own modern understanding of these words, which is causing you to assume that there is only one meaning to the passage.

In fact, it can be proven, by tracing the lineage of the James and Joseph who are called the "brothers" of Jesus in Mk 6:3, and by identifying the four Mary's in the NT, that these "brothers" are not his actual siblings. This is all very involved, so I'd like to direct you to an article instead of trying to get into here. See "The Four Mary's in the Gospels".

  • Why would they consider those who are not his actual brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters? It seems to my faculities that they are mary's children as well, as they are mentioned with them.
Are you mocking me w/ the whole "my faculties" thing? Anyway, in Jesus' time, people of extended relation or of the same tribe were often called "brothers" and "sisters." It was a very common way of speaking. This explains why James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas can be Jesus brothers without actually being his siblings.

  • And you still haven't accounted for the definitive "the" as used in the genealogy. You argued that since he is an only child, "the" is the only appropriate use...but as I've clearly shown "the" does not necessarily mean "only". You have not addressed this crucial fact.
I thought I did, in the quote you are responding to here, but maybe I can say it a different way. A definite article indicates that its noun is a particular one. It speaks specifically instead of generally. That's why definite articles are used in the first place. "The" does mean "only." The fact that the definite article is used in Jesus' genealogy does not mean that it can somehow replace the indefinite article. "The" is used in Jesus' genealogy because the only son that mattered was the one whom the covenants promises of God came through. There was only one of those, thus the definite article was used.

  • How do you know that the first people that they ask is the sibling?
I was utilizing common sense. You're obviously not a parent!

  • You realize that it's an argument from silence and then when questioned you continue to build your argument from silence as if it's just going to be logically consistent by your re-asserting it? How can a silence be awkward? It's either silent or it's not silent...there's no such thing as an awkward silence. If so...can you silently show me?
There's no need for you to be so sarcastic. As soon as we start trying to get our little jabs in, this debate is just going to go downhill.

Now, I realize that arguments of silence, by themselves, don't definitively prove anything. But, I think you can still learn from the silence of Scripture. It forces us to ask, "Well why is Scripture silent on this point?" Then, we use what we do know to come up with an answer. My answer, that the siblings of Jesus are not mentioned because they do not exist, is much more plausible then your answer, that Jesus' had siblings but the author just chose not to mention them. Why would the gospel writer not mention the siblings of Jesus at the very points in which one would most expect him to mention them? Only Jesus, Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt (Mt 2:13-14); only these three return a while later (2:20-21); only these three go up to Jerusalem when Jesus is twelve (Luke 2:41-43); and these three alone are mentioned after that event (Luke 2:51-52). At the wedding feast at Cana, John tells us that Jesus, his mother Mary, and even his disciples were invited. If Jesus had siblings, why wouldn't John say that they were invited too? Were they not invited? That seems doubly odd! Your answer forces us to accept a proposition that is improbable and nonsensical.

  • Now you're arguing that Mary "intended" to remain a virgin! Where in scripture are you shown her "intentions" to remain a virgin? Where do she say in her heart that she will remain a virgin? The intensions are in the show me her heart.
I provided my proof for this in my response to Trey.Dub.

  • How does her remaining a virgin make it christocentric? How in the end does her not consummating her relationship with HER HUSBAND (something which glorifies YHWH) glorify Mashiach? Why would it not be Christocentric if they did have sex?
The perpetual virginity of Mary is Christocentric because it shows that Mary has devoted her entire being to Him. Her body has been consecrated and set apart by Him and for Him. If that doesn't make it Christ-centered, I don't know what does. However, if you assert that Mary and Joseph had sex throughout their life together then you are basically saying that God had no consecrating effect on Mary when He became man in her and through her. Now you're saying that two stones, some bread, and a rod can consecrate the Ark of the Covenant so thoroughly that no one is allowed to even touch it, but when God himself literally, physically, substantially resides within the body of Mary, that body can then be put to ordinary use. That's why I say that the perpetual virginity of Mary glorifies God -- because it acknowledges the radical uniqueness of the presence of God within Mary and the implications that that presence would have on her life.

  • He's already unique by reason of His Virgin reason of His know...GOD! There is nothing in Mary remaining a virgin that somehow makes Yeshua more unique. Are you saying that if she didn't remain a virgin that He would somehow no longer be unique, no longer be "unparralled" in glory?
Jesus' unique sonship within time reflects his unique Sonship outside of time. Christ is the only-begotten Son of the Father, who begets Him eternally without the help of a mother. He is also the only Son of Mary, who conceives Him in time without the help of a man. There are no other brothers or sisters, only Christ, only Him and the parents who raised Him. Whether you like it or not, that emphasizes his singularity.

  • Yet the Holy of Holies and the ark of the covenant was done away with and is no longer needed. Are you a good that venerates Mary...that she has been done away with and is no longer needed?
Of course not! You're using faulty logic here. The Temple was done away with too, does that mean that Jesus shouldn't have referred to his body as a temple? It's a metaphor, homie

  • I'd like to question you about the connection between the two which I'm sure you're prepared to do (you can make another thread to argue that point. For now I will disagree. There is no connection made in scripture.)
Do you mean between the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies? Or, do you mean between the Ark of the Covenant/Holy of Holies and Mary?

  • There is nothing that is the glory of the God-man that requires she be the ark and the holy of holies.
Are you serious? In your zeal for your position you have resorted to making the most ridiculous statements. My question for you is: How could the glory of God NOT transform Mary into a New Ark of the New Covenant? The tablets of stone, and the manna from heaven, and the rod of Aaron were mere symbols of God's presence, yet they were glorious enough to consecrate the Ark to such an extent that no one could touch it, not even if it was about to fall in the mud. Now, in Mary, the REAL THING comes, not the signifiers but the VERY THING BEING SIGNIFIED, and He's not going to have the same effect on Mary? That's just ridiculous.

To anticipate your objection, this is not the same as when a person receives the Holy Spirit or when, through love of Christ, the Father and the Son come to make their home in him (cf. Jn 14:23), or even when Jesus comes to abide in us in the Eucharist (cf. Jn 6:56). What we are speaking of is an entirely different presence. It happened only once, in all of human history, and it's hard to believe that it would not have a life-changing impact on the woman it happened to.

  • Nor would this use be for "ordinary" use...but for the glory of the Lord in being fruitful and multiplying and submitting to her husband, even in sex.
I agree that chaste marital relations in accordance with the will of God gives Him glory. It's not like I think that sex within marriage is dirty or sinful. It's just that, once God took possession of her, it was no longer befitting of Joseph to think that he could know Mary in the typical way. It would be like someone storing their socks in the Ark of the Covenant, or playing hide-and-go-seek in the Holy of Holies, or roasting marshmallows under the Tabernacle (the "tent of meeting"). It's not that these actions are sinful in and of themselves, it's just that they are ordinary and thus inappropriate for something that has been set apart for the extraordinary use of the Lord.

  • Yep! I'd hope they'd mate...I don't care about what you feel a first century Jew would feel. It doesn't make something true...or false. Piety is something subjective...felt is something subjective....sentiments are something subjective. I can make the same case but it doesn't make my conclusions true.
Believe it or not, the historical beliefs and sentiments of the Jewish people are important to understanding the Bible. We can't reasonably ascribe to them actions that would have been contrary to their customs and their piety. It would be like saying that women regularly cussed out their husbands, or that the eldest son deserved no respect within his family.

  • I understand that that's what Catholics believe. How am I to know your sensiblities?
I don't expect you to know. That's why I am telling you, so that you'll be more effective in your conversations with Catholics.

  • Scripture declares that all have sinned...that "the death" passed on to all because of Adam. This is what scripture teaches...have respect for God's Word...I care nothing for how you feel about it.
Look, no one is saying that you have to short-change what you believe. There's a way to speak the truth without being callous or offensive. I think that's just common courtesy.

  • By sense you mean it feels right to your faculties? You trust your senses rather than logically deducing the information to form your conclusions. Your irrationalism does not honor the Logos! How do you know that it gives more glory to Mashiach?
What in the world are you talking about? I said that my position "makes more sense." Do you not know what that phrase means? It means I think it is more logical and reasonable. I think it fits the data better. Yet somehow I'm not "logically deducing the information to form my conclusions." Weird.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 3

In Part 3, I am responding to another HCR forum member by the name of "Trey.Dub". This post provides more arguments in defense of Mary's perpetual virginity, which I will refer to when I pick back up again with Brandon in Part 4 of this debate.

  • I dont believe Mary was a Perpetual Virgin. Okay Jesus may have been Mary's only son but that still doesnt mean she did not have intercourse with Joseph after. Mary and Joseph lived together throughout Jesus' childhood. Mary and Joseph were married too, so I dont see why they woundnt,like any married couple, enjoy the pleasures of marital sex. Mary may have consecrated her entire life to the Lord, but that doesnt not prove she was a Perpetual Virgin.
Your position, that Mary and Joseph had sex, is an inference based on what one would expect from your typical, married couple. But, this is not your typical married couple. Mary is not your typical wife and mother. Her pregnancy was not your typical pregnancy. Her son is not your typical son. This family is not your typical family. Thus, I'm not so sure that we should just automatically assume, as you are doing, that the married life that Mary and Joseph shared with each other was exactly like that of your typical married couple. The extraordinary nature of the entire situation should allow your mind to entertain the possibility of an extraordinary relationship between Mary and Joseph.

There are indications in Scripture that they had such a relationship. I think Lk 1:34 is a clear example. The angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son and Mary's response is, "How can this be, for I do not know man." Mary and Joseph are already betrothed at this point. He has already taken her into his home. Typically, once this happens, the couple begins marital relations with each other. If Mary was planning on having your typical sexual relationship with Joseph, then there is simply no reason why she would ask this question .... unless she didn't know how babies were made! I think the more likely reason is because she never intended to know a man. She said, "I do not know man" just as someone would say, "I do not swim," or "I do not eat meat." It is something that she does not do and does not intend to do in the future.

Secondly, I do not think the Temple - Tabernacle - Ark of the Covenant imagery should be overlooked. She is likened to the Temple in that, once God chose Mary to be the one in whom He would actually dwell, physically and substantially, then her womb becomes a sort of Holy of Holies in which only the great High Priest can enter. There is an interesting passage about the Temple in the Book of Ezekiel that early Christians saw as a prophecy of Mary's perpetual virginity:
  • Ezek 44:1-2 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut. 2 And he said to me, "This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut.
As for the Tabernacle imagery, note that, when John says that the Word became flesh and "dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), the Greek literally means that Jesus "pitched his tent" or "tabernacled" among us. The Spirit overshadowed Mary (cf. Lk 1:35) just as the shekinah cloud "abode upon" (or "overshadowed" in the Septuagint) the Tabernacle (cf. Exo 40:35).

There are also the many parallels between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant. Both Mary (cf. Lk 1:39) and the Ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:2) arise and go to Judah, where they reside for 3 months (cf. 2 Sam 6:11; Lk 1:56). David leaps with joy at the presence of the ark (cf. 2 Same 6:16), just as John leaps at the presence of Mary (cf. Lk 1:41). What David says at the coming of the ark (cf. 2 Sam 6:9) is almost exactly what Elizabeth says upon the coming of Mary (cf. Lk 1:43). Most importantly, just as the ark of the Old Covenant contained the word of God on the stone tablets, the manna from heaven, and the rod of Aaron the great High Priest (cf. Heb 9:4), so did Mary contain Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God (cf. Jn 1:1), the Manna from Heaven (cf. Jn 6:51), and the great High Priest (cf. Heb 5:4-5).

The point is that Mary's body, her womb, has been set apart for a holy purpose. As such, it is not for ordinary use. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was so holy that no one could even touch it, and the Holy of Holies in the Temple was such a sacred place that only the high priest could enter, and even then only once a year, so is the flesh of Mary for God and Him alone. Joseph, being a "righteous man" (cf. Mt 1:19), would have undoubtedly respected that. You have to place yourself in the mindset of the first-century Jew. The Almighty God became man and took on flesh through this woman! He literally dwelt and lived within her for 9 months. There's no way that Joseph would have felt worthy enough to use her body in the ordinary way, even though technically that may have been his "right." This is not to say that sex between two married people is "dirty" or "profane," it's just that Mary has been consecrated for a higher purpose, and if Lk 1:34 is any indication, then Mary had already made the commitment to remain a virgin.

I think that all of this makes my inference that they never had sex much more reasonable and plausible than your inference that Mary and Joseph somehow had your typical married relationship.

Pax Christi,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Can You Tell Me More about the Gospel of John?

The Gospel of John was written by one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. He was the youngest of the 12 and “the one whom Jesus loved” (cf. Jn 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:20,24). With James and Peter, he was part of the “inner circle” of apostles who were closest to Jesus and who alone were privileged to witness important moments in Jesus’ ministry, such as the Transfiguration (cf. Mk 9:2). John was the only apostle who stayed with Jesus at the Crucifixion, and Jesus gave His mother Mary into the care of John shortly before He died. Finally, besides the Gospel, John also wrote three letters and the Book of Revelation, which are found in the New Testament.

Scholars date the composition of the Gospel to around 90 AD. Since the Gospel shows detailed knowledge of Jewish feasts, a familiarity with Palestinian geography, and makes many allusions to the Temple, it was probably written for Jews and Jewish Christians living throughout the Mediterranean world. As for the purpose of the Gospel, John specifically says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31). John is also writing in order to “fill in the blanks” left by the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John informs us of many facts and events that are not found in the other Gospels.

John’s Gospel is a truly beautiful work, rich in meaning and deeply spiritual. John himself is symbolized by an eagle because his Gospel soars to new heights of contemplation upon the divinity of Christ. John proves with certainty that Jesus is God. His Gospel is also very familial: it focuses on God as a family of Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and upon mankind as initiated into that family through faith in Christ. In relation to the other Gospels, the Trinity finds its fullest expression in John’s Gospel. Life, truth, light, glory, and “bearing witness” are common themes found throughout. Faith and love are also very important.

Finally, John’s Gospel is very sacramental. He speaks explicitly of Baptism (cf. Jn 3:3,5), Eucharist (cf. Jn 6), and Confession (cf. Jn 20:21-23). Jesus gives marriage new sanctity with His presence at the wedding feast at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1-11). John speaks indirectly of Confirmation by including Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to the Apostles (cf. Jn 14:26; 16:13). The priesthood is even seen in Jesus’ priestly prayer in Jn 17, where Jesus intercedes as High Priest to the Father on our behalf and offers himself as a holy victim.

This is truly an amazing work, and I hope you will set about reading it and studying it if you haven’t already.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 2

In Part 1, I responded to some questions from "d.hyde" over at HCR. In Part 2, and the remaining parts, I respond to various attempts to refute the dogma in question. I'll start with my responses to "Brandon":

  • There are many people who have only one child that continue to have maritals. Let the example even be a couple that cannot produce children that adopt one child...
    You say that this doctrine cannot be explicitly or unequivocally proven, yet how is it that one has reached the conclusions that they've reached? If it's not necessarily inferred from the text, how do you go about defending it? Secondary sources? This Thomistic reasoning is not very strong.
Accusing me of "Thomistic reasoning" can only be the greatest compliment, as far as I'm concerned, although I don't see how I've utilized it thus far. At any rate, the perpetual virginity of Mary may not be necessarily inferred from Scripture, but I think it can be reasonably inferred. It is the best explanation for why:
  1. Jesus gave his mother to the care of the Apostle John instead of His supposed "brothers"
  2. Jesus is referred to as "the" son of Mary, not "a" son of Mary
  3. at a time when you would most expect to hear of Jesus' brothers -- when Mary and Joseph lose Jesus on the way back from celebrating the Passover -- they are not mentioned.
The dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary also has the effect of being very Christocentric because it emphasizes the singularity of Christ. Mary's womb becomes a sort of tabernacle, a new Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest can enter. There are already many parallels between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, which only reaffirms her status as the unique habitation of the Lord, and Him alone.

  • What do you mean by "reasonably"?
When I say that Mary's perpetual virginity can be reasonably inferred from Scripture, I mean that the inference is agreeable to reason or sound judgment. It is logical, or not exceeding the limit prescribed by reason. There is nothing in Scripture that makes the inference unreasonable. The Scriptural data can rightly cause one's faculty of reason to arrive at my position.

  • 1. So? For arguments sake I'm going to give you that Mary didn't have any more children. Let's see though if this requires that she remained a virgin. How do you infer from the text (reasonably or necessarily) that because Yeshua put Mary in the care of John that therefore she and Joseph never had relations?
Remember, good Jews didn't use birth control, and they didn't "spill their seed" like Onan did. Thus, if Mary and Joseph were having sex, then Jesus would have had brothers, and He would have given His mother to them instead of to John. But, of course, we see that that's not how it happened.

  • 2. So? Where are you referring to? But let's say that this means that because of this that therefore he was the only son. Luke gives an account of the genealogy of his family. I will post it in full:
    Luke 3:23-38
    [. . .]
    Are we to assume that all these are the only sons? But we know that to not be the case don't we. Adam did have other children didn't he?
In genealogies, especially the genealogy of Jesus, the definite article ("the") is appropriate because, even though a person may have several sons, it is only through one of them that the covenants and promises of God are fulfilled. You trace Jesus back to Adam through the sons that received the blessing. But, when the crowd in the synagogue says, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" Jesus' lineage has no real significance to them, and it's actually His humble beginnings that make them doubt what He says and does. If Jesus had brothers, then He would be to them simply one of many sons from a no-name father from a no-name town. The indefinite article "a" almost certainly would have been used. But it wasn't.

  • But again...let's say that He does it necessarily/reasonably follow that she remained a virgin?
As I already explained, Jews did not have sex unless they intended to have children. So, if Jesus doesn't have any brothers, it's because Joseph and Mary never had sex.

  • 3. So? Argument from Silence.
I know it's an argument from silence, but it's a very awkward one. Jesus was 12 when He was lost. If Joseph and Mary were having sex, then He would have almost certainly had siblings by then. One would expect to see them, too. After all, they are traveling back to Nazareth from Jerusalem, where they celebrated the Passover. Jesus siblings, if he had any, would have been with Him. But, there is no mention of them. Suddenly, Jesus goes missing. Now, when a child goes missing, the first thing his parents do is ask his siblings, "Hello?!? Where's your brother!" But they don't, they ask their relatives. When Joseph and Mary decide to go look for Jesus in the Temple, there's no mention of Mary and Joseph leaving their other children with Aunt Mildred so that they could go look for Jesus, and there's no indication that these supposed children went with them either. It's just an awkward silence.

I realize that, by itself, it doesn't prove anything, but other curious facts are already painting the picture that Jesus had no siblings and that Mary intended to remain a virgin, and so this becomes another interesting occurrence that would cause one to reasonably infer that Jesus was indeed the only son of Mary.

  • Define Christocentric.
"Christocentric" means "Christ-centered." At the center of every teaching about Mary is a statement about Christ.

  • Define singularity.
When I say that Mary's perpetual virginity emphasizes the "singularity" of Christ, I mean that it points to his uniqueness. Being the only son of His foster-father Joseph points to Christ as the only Son of the Father. It also points to His unique and unparalleled glory. Remember, it was the presence of God (signified by the tablets, manna, and rod) that made the Ark so holy that no one could touch it. It was the presence of God that made the Holy of Holies so, well, holy that no one could enter except the high priest. Similarly, it is the glory of the God-man that demands that Mary, who is His Ark and His Holy of Holies, be not available for ordinary use.

How can some rocks, some bread, and a piece of wood make the Ark of the Covenant so holy that Uzzah was stuck down by God for simply trying to keep it from falling in the mud, yet our Almighty Lord and Creator of all things can BECOME MAN in the womb of Mary and Joseph can still have sex with her whenever he wants? I think that defies every pious sentiment that every first-century Jew ever felt. As a Catholic, I happen to share that sentiment.

  • I can assure that because of Total Depravity (which clearly you reject), Mary's womb was just as sin stained as ours.
Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without sin, but that's another topic for another day. Also, try to have a little more respect for my sensibilities here. Saying that Mary's womb was "sin-stained" is very insensitive and offensive to most Catholics. You need to know that if you desire to have effective conversations with us.

  • The rest of this post is just pure speculation. It may sound good...but it's findings aren't from scripture and must therefore be rejected.
I think it's a reasonable inference based on the biblical data. You can call that "speculation" if you want, but then again, your position is too. Scripture does not explicitly say whether they had sex or not, so the task is to determine which position best fits with the biblical data. I think my position makes more sense, and it is actually the one that gives more glory to Christ.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Debate on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Part 1

I hadn't been to HCR in a while, so I decided to stop by there the other day and I noticed there was a thread on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. "d.hyde" was asking some honest questions about it, which I appreciate, so I answered them. Part 1 will be my exchanges with him. The remaining parts of the debate will consist of my exchanges with other members of the forum who were intent on trying to refute the doctrine.

  • I say that the notion is false, and baseless. I believe Scripture shows clearly Mary being a mother to other children besides Jesus. Can anyone that believes otherwise show me how I am wrong. Can you show how Mary was perpetually a virgin, when it is not very clear in Scripture, or other sources of the day?
I don't think that it can be explicitly or unequivocally proven from Scripture, but there are many curious facts in Scripture that point to Jesus being the only son of Mary, and the arguments used to prove that He did have brothers can be easily refuted.

Of course, once you include "other sources of the day," which I take to mean the writings of the earliest Christians, then you find that the Christian Church long held that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. This was a popular belief of the Protestant reformers as well.

  • Can you name some of these if you have the time please. Thank you.
Well, there are these words from Francis Turretin. I don't know if he qualifies as a "reformer," but he was definitely influential to the growth of early Calvinism. Besides him, there is also this article by Dave Armstrong, in which he has compiled the testimony of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, and Wesley. For men who were not afraid to subject any element of Catholic teaching to their own interpretation of Scripture, it is peculiar indeed that they all held to the dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity.

  • I discovered this saying from this site:
    "Also "brothers" could have theoretically been Joseph's children from a former marriage that was dissolved by death. However, it is most likely, perhaps most certainly, that Joseph was a virgin, just as were Jesus and Mary. As such, they embodied the true Holy Family, fully consecrated to God."
    Is this a Catholic belief? Either one of these points?
I would categorize that under "pious speculation." The only thing the Church has defined is that Mary remained a virgin her entire life, and thus, Jesus had no blood brothers. There is a tradition found in early works (such as the Protoevangelium of James) that Joseph was an elderly widower when he married Mary, and that the "brothers" of Jesus were Joseph's sons from his previous marriage. But, it's difficult to determine if this is historical fact or hagiography (pious legends about the saints).

I hope that helps. If you would like some articles to read, just let me know.

  • Thank you. I am trying to understand the Catholic position on this topic. And I would like to see any links that you may have on this topic.
Here are some articles that I find most helpful:That should give you more than enough to read!

  • Another question if you don't mind.
    If Mary was a perpetual virgin, how is she to be regarded by the Christian today?
In light of her virginity, Mary is regarded as woman who consecrated her entire self to the Lord. She is someone who handed herself over to Him with singular devotion. She is the Ark of the New Covenant. She is an amazing example to us of what it means to put God above all things and before anyone else, even your own self.

Pax Christi,

Monday, January 04, 2010

Quick Questions on the Liturgy

I received the following questions from a member of my parish. The odds are, your typical parishioner is not concerned with such things, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive these questions.

Is the Communion Rite considered to be part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, or is it a separate rite?

It is part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal divides the Mass into four parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, Concluding Rites.

I've noticed that the silent prayers (e.g. Lord, wash away my iniquity) are no longer used during Mass. When were they omitted?

These have not been omitted. The priest is supposed to say them quietly to himself, so you may not hear him say these silent prayers, but he definitely still says them.

Why is there always a different preface dialogue of the Eucharistic Prayer (i.e. right after everyone says "it is right to give him thanks and praise")?

For Eucharistic Prayers 1 - 3, there are dozens of possible prefaces for the priest to choose from, depending on the Eucharist Prayer he chooses and the particular feast day or liturgical season we are celebrating.

When did the Song of Praise (formerly referred to as the Meditation Song) became part of the Mass?

As far as I know, the “Song of Praise” has always been an option in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 88 says, “When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.” Typically, the choir/liturgy director at a parish will include a Song of Praise on holy days of obligation and during the Christmas and Easter seasons.

I heard that a new English translation of the Mass will be coming out soon. Why is this necessary?

In 2001, the Vatican released the document Liturgiam Authenticam, which outlined rules for translating the liturgy into the vernacular. Once this document was released it became necessary to revise our current translation of the Roman Missal. The texts of the revised translation, which should be finished by the end of 2010, are marked by a heightened style of English speech and a grammatical structure that more closely follows the Latin text. In addition, many biblical and poetic images, such as “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” (Communion Rite) have been restored.

For more information about the new translation, see the helpful website from the USCCB.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What Child Is This?

Set to John Stainer's arrangement of the traditional tune "Greensleeves". Sung by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, 1995.

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