Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Christ Assuming Both X and Y

The Christological controversies in the first few centuries of Christianity often centered around ensuring that Christ was both fully divine and fully human. The reason, ostensibly, as to why it was important for Christ to have a complete human nature was the patristic quip, ‘That which is not assumed, is not sanctified.’ Of course, the early Fathers wanted all of humanity to be fully sanctified. Thus, wanted to make sure that Christology claimed that Christ was completely human (and divine).

But what about the female-ness of women? Was that assumed by the seemingly male Christ. Perhaps so. If women are homogametic sex (they have two X chromosomes) then Christ – being male – took on the heterogametic sex (having and X and Y chromosome) and thus women, too, were assumed, truly, as the X chromosome was assumed and thus sanctified in the male Christ.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Eighth Sacrament

Holy Week is an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster. On Palm Sunday Christ is given a king’s welcome into the city of Jerusalem by Friday is he is crucified only then to find him risen again on Sunday!

However, beside the emotional torrent, Holy Week is also sacramental. The supper scene where Christ break bread and shares wine is part of the larger passion narrative. What has constituted a sacrament for the Catholic Church is reflected in its relations to Christ’s work on earth. Though my seminarian friends would contend with me, I agree that specific sacraments extend past Baptism and Eucharist and include Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Ordination, and Marriage (I try in vain to persuade my Protestant friends that if they become Catholic they’ll get three times the sacraments and receive three times the grace!). The sacraments are to be outward signs of inward grace. However, why not an eighth sacrament: Foot-washing?

Usually a sacrament is rooted in the work of Christ. Foot-washing figures prominently in thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. It reads:
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The imperative seems clear, be servants even if lords. Wash feet and be humbled.

For Catholics the rite is timidly embraced on Maundy Thursday services (today) participation is usually voluntary and is in variance depending on the church.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like idea of washing someone else feet. But that’s the point. It is to become humbled. I could think of few things more unpleasant than washing my neighbors’ feet.

Of course, the cross should humble us. It should shake us till we weep, and doesn’t the song, “I was there when they crucified my Lord” do that? And yet, sometimes the cross is too big, its too awing. It sometime seems to perfect, clean, theologized, detached, and abstract. So, while during those times, why not in worship, turn to our neighbors, and wash? It would be a reminder that God in Christ washed the apostles’ feet. The awkward, uncomfortable and tense feelings that would surely swell in both the washer and recipient would not be an emotion to overcome, but wallow in, just as the apostles were aghast at Christ’s action, and then in turn realize that they too would be asked to wash feet, and be humbled.

Should foot-washing really be a sacrament? I do not know, but I think it could have a powerful place in worship for conveying how we should only come to the altar table in humbleness. Surely, how one approaches the altar for Eucharist is how one approaches the Holy Week; humbled.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Augustine: God Is Not the World

A passage by St. Augustine on why pantheism (and Sally McFague's theology) are blasphemy from his book City of God, Book IV Chapter 12.

Chapter 12. The theory that makes God the soul of the world, the body of God.

But here is another point. And it is one which no man of quick intelligence, in fact no man at all (for there is no need here of exceptional ability) can consider unmoved. Putting aside all contentious polemics, let us note carefully that if God is the Soul of the World and the world is to him as the body to the soul, if this God is, as it were in the bosom of nature and contains all things in himself, so that from his soul, which gives life to the whole of that mass, the life and soul of all living things is derived - according to the lot assigned at birth to each; if this is so, then nothing at all remains which is not a part of God. Can anyone fail to see the blasphemous and irreligious consequences? Anything which anyone treads underfoot would be a part of God! In the killing of any living creature, a part of God would be slaugtered! I shrink from uttering all the possibilities which come to mind; it would be impossible to mention them without shame."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nyssa: Your God Is Too Small

A passage by Gregory of Nyssa on the Abundance and Infinit nature of God (or why Process Theology will ontologize evil and make God complicit in suffering) from Life of Moses

II, 236. "He learns form what was said that the Divine is by its very nature infinite, enclosed by no boundary. If the Divine is perceived as though bounded by something, one must by all means consider along with that boundary what is beyond it. For certainly that which is bounded leaves off at some point, as air provides the boundary for all that flies and water for all that live in it. Therefore, fish are surrounded on every side by water, and birds by air. The limits of the boundaries which circumscribe the birds and the fish are obvious: The water is the limit to what swims and the air to what flies. In the same way, God, if he is conceived as bounded, would necessarily be surrounded by something in nature. It is only logical that what encompasses is much larger than what is contained."

II, 237. "Now it is agreed that the Divine is good in nature. But what is different in nature from the Good is surely something outside the Good. What is outside the Good is perceived to be evil in nature. But it was shown that what encompasses is much larger than what is encompassed. It most certainly follows, then, that those who think God is bounded conclude that he is in enclosed in evil.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Peter Pan Discovering the Eucharist

In Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie classic “Hook”, a now grown Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, returns to Neverland. Ensconced in his practical and mature demeanor he tries and fails to rekindle his connection with the Lost Boys.

During dinner, one night, the Lost Boys and Peter sit down to eat supper. Though the plates and baskets on the long table are empty the Lost Boys quickly begin, ostensible, to eat from the empty plates and drink from the empty cups. Peter looks on incredulously. The boys continue to merrily eat and drink. Finally, Peter and another Lost Boy begin to sling school-yard insults at each other; Peter finally begins to embrace a youthful vim and vigor. Peter as an afterthought to particularly pointed jab takes up a spoon and throws an imaginary pile of food onto the other Lost Boy, and to the surprise of Pan, he finds the boy covered in food.

At that moment a Lost Boy exclaims, “You’re doing it, Peter!” “Doing what?” asks Peter. The Lost Boy replies, “Using you imagination!”

The camera pans over the table, its contents are now transformed; no more are the plates and baskets empty, but are now filled with roasts, chesses, breads, pies, and exotic fruits. The empty table is now a royal banquet. A seeming cornucopia has appeared from nothing, and Peter with astonishment and haste begins to sample the many foods. The abundance of the table has no end, and in the excitement of the moment the food is used not just for sustenance, but also a way to express sheer joy, as the children and Peter soon after begin a food-fight.

The Lost Boys’ table is analogous to the Church’s altar at which the Eucharist is consecrated and given to and eaten by the faithful. The faithful are those who can imagine that such simply elements such as bread and wine are transubstantiated into the real and abundant presence of our Lord God. It is to believe that an empty table can become a royal banquet. To faithfully imagine such a possibility is not easy. Just like Peter who had to resign himself from the constraints of the world he so strongly believed in, so too must Christians. The moment of recognition caught him by surprise and with joy, just as it did the disciples who did not recognize that they were traveling with the Risen Christ to Emmaus. Not until the supper feast when the bread was broken did the disciples recognize that their companion was Christ (Luke 24:13-35).

The ecclesial table that seems empty to a passerby is a royal banquet to all Christians and this new sight comes from the faithful imagination of God’s people. Samuel Wells is right when he talks of the importance of Christian imagination. The Eucharist is the moment when Christians proclaim that in the midst of simply bread and wine is the eternal, sovereign and loving God who gave the world His only begotten Son.

And yet, the familial table may be scarce of food and drink. The consequences from famines and droughts are realities whose effects may be mollified, but never completely avoided. The fruits of the spirit are bountiful, but at times the empty stomach will go unfed and the parched tongue will stay dry. The ecclesial altar and the familial table do not hold the same promises. This is only to say we do not live in Neverland. That though the Kingdom of God has grown near it is not fully realized. This does not deny the importance of Christian imagination; instead it makes it even more important. More important because it is how one unlocks the Eucharist for what it truly is; the body and blood of Christ, shed for us and for all so that we may be forgiven of sins. The abundant forgiveness of God is a testament to the abundant love of God.

The foretaste of the Kingdom of God comes through the Eucharist. Just as for Peter Pan the way to find the real banquet was to first imagine it – to think as a child. The theological key to the Eucharist – the full abundance of God on earth – is faithful imagination. Certainly it should remind one of Luke 18:16, “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Political Blogging - End-game

Jonthan Chait at the New Republic wrote the article "Go Already!" He writes:
The morning after Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a memo titled "The Path to the Presidency." I eagerly dug into the paper, figuring it would explain how Clinton would obtain the Democratic nomination despite an enormous deficit in delegates. Instead, the memo offered a series of arguments as to why Clinton should run against John McCain--i.e., "Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done"--but nothing about how she actually could. Is she planning a third-party run? Does she think Obama is going to die? The memo does not say.

Be afriad democrats, be very afraid.

Hillary Clinton is playing to the worst of political ballads. Simultaneously playing victim and victimizer, and throwing down the fear card. Her insistence on seating the Michigan and Florida delegation would be admirable if she has made them months before (in fairness, Obama's political maneuvering in connection to his promise to only use public funds for the general election is also, but not equally as, deplorable). Her now openly negative campaign will hurt Obama in the general election, and her future chances at running again in 2012.

Tuesday she netted nine delegates. On Wednesday three new super-delegates came out to support Obama. The only way she wins the nomination is by forcing the party to implode. If Clinton continues to assert herself there are only two end-games; Obama is nominated, but so haggard from the primary (especially in FL, PA, MI) that the general falls to McCain, or Clinton clinches the nomination, but disillusioned democrats and moderates pick the lesser of two evils and McCain wins in an electoral landslide.

The question is when will Gore, Richardson and Dean tell Clinton to get off the stage?