Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Catholic Q&A: Part 34

This post continues my series of short answers to common (and not so common) questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Before my conversion to Catholicism, I read that God said, "If you love me, keep my precepts." Do you know where in the Bible I can find this? Is "commandments" another word for "precepts"?

You are referring to Jn 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments". Now, "commandments" and "precepts" are two possible translations for the Gk (ἐντολή, entole), but in Jn 14:15, it's almost always "commandments" or "commands". In fact, there isn't a single English translation I'm aware of that uses "precepts" in this verse.

When did folding or joining your hands together become the norm during prayer?

Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI gives us this explanation in his book Spirit of the Liturgy:
A later development was the gesture of praying with hands joined. This comes from the world of feudalism. The recipient of a feudal estate, on taking tenure, placed his joined hands in those of his lord -- a wonderful symbolic act. I lay my hands in yours, allow yours to enclose mine. This is an expression of trust as well as fidelity.
[. . .]
What within feudalism may be questionable -- for all human lordship is questionable and can only be justified if it represents and is faithful to the real Lord -- finds its true meaning in the relationship of the believer to Christ the Lord. This, then, is what is meant when we join our hands to pray: we are placing our hands in his, and with our hands we place in his hands our personal destiny. Trusting in his fidelity, we pledge our fidelity to him. (pg. 204-205)

Theoretically could the church open the canon of the bible and add books if it wanted since she determined the canon in the first place?

No. The canon of the bible constitutes public revelation, which is closed. From the Catechism we read:
66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

Did the devil and Michael really fight for Moses's body or was it a metaphor for something else?

The dispute between Michael and the devil over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9) derives from a Jewish apocryphal work called The Assumption of Moses. Since it is difficult to determine what from an apocryphal work is truth and what is "pious legend", it's difficult to say if this really happened or not.

The historicity of the event is really beside the point. Jude referred to a work that his audience was familiar with in order to prick their conscience. The archangel's prudence in not even cursing the devil serves to highlight the arrogance of the people, who cursed the angels.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catholic Q&A: Part 33

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Did Jesus eat His own Flesh and Blood at the Last Supper?

Since Scripture is not explicit on the matter, and the Church has not defined as doctrine whether Jesus consumed His own Body and Blood, Catholics are free to mull it over and come to their own conclusion. However, that being said, it appears to me from various indications in the Bible that Jesus did consume His own Body and Blood.

He desired to "keep" (cf. Mt 26:18) or "eat" (cf. Mt 26:17, 20; Mk 14:12-14, 17-18; Lk 22:7-11) the Passover meal with his apostles, and this would have included the bread and wine transformed into His Body and Blood. Also, note that St. Thomas Aquinas answered in the affirmative in the Summa (Third Part, Question 81, Article 1), and his arguments, as always, are quite convincing.

Let me step back and say that I can see how this would all seem rather odd at first. But, if you think about it, Jesus consuming Himself is no more abhorrent than us consuming Him. Augustine once said, "Jesus held Himself in His hands", and Jerome, "The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself the guest and banquet, is both the partaker and what is eaten." If Jesus participated fully in the Passover meal, and this included the institution of the Eucharist, then it appears to me to be a logical deduction that Jesus consumed His own Flesh and Blood in a sacramental manner.

I am Catholic, but no matter how much reading I do, I can never seem to end this cycle of doubt that I feel over the truth of the Catholic faith. What do you suggest?

The "endless cycle of doubt" was closed for me once I was convinced that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Christ, and that He gave Her the authority to distinguish truth from error. Once you believe that, then everything else falls into place.

All you have to do to find the Church of Christ is look at what Christians believed in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th centuries and see which Church present today still holds to those beliefs. The Church's teachings cannot change. If they do, then the Church has contradicted Herself and She loses any claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Church with the unchanging faith is the one you want. That Church is the Catholic Church and no other.

Only the Catholic Church has maintained a continuity of faith with the Christians of every age. The Reformers broke away from this continuity. They changed the faith. They are revolutionaries. They contradicted what came before. This is obvious proof that Reformation teaching (and the denominations that sprang from this teaching) is not of the Spirit, for the Spirit does not contradict Himself. There are elements of grace and truth in these denominations, but they have not maintained the fullness of truth that is found in the Catholic Church.

Look at the early Church and you'll see how very Catholic it is. They talk about praying to the saints, the authority of the pope and the bishops, the Marian dogmas, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, statues and icons, going to Confession, mortal and venial sin -- everything that separates Catholics from Protestants.

Speaking of the Real Presence, do you believe that the Eucharist is truly Christ? If you do, how could you possibly leave that for something else? That is a gift and a grace that you can't find anywhere else. The Eucharist means unparalleled intimacy with the Savior of the world. Unparalleled. There is nothing like it. Personally, there is no way I could turn my back on that.

My friend told me that Pope Callistus was a "oneness" and not a Catholic and he based this on the statements made by Hippolytus. How can I answer him?

First of all, we have to keep in mind that Hippolytus is a hostile source for the allegations that Callistus was a modalist. The two are practically arch-enemies. When Callistus became the pope, Hippolytus was so outraged he made himself pope of his own church! In light of this, it is difficult to trust Hippolytus as a reliable source. At any rate, even if Callistus was a modalist, it appears he maintained the orthodox faith once becoming pope. He even excommunicated Sabellius, the intellectual leader of the modalists.

Random "oneness" theologians can be found throughout the history of the Church. It doesn't really prove anything. Modalism was always considered a heresy by the vast majority of Christians, and by every pope and ecumenical council that addressed it. Of course, since Protestants have no connection with this tradition of hammering out the Apostolic faith, it's no surprise that a denomination would spring up in the 20th century and begin spouting the heresies of old. There is nothing new under the sun.

Pax Christi,
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