Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ad tuendam Fidem: my profession of faith & oath of fidelity

Making my Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity on the
High Altar in St. Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical College
Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio on February 4, 2016.
Twice previously, I have publicly published about my profession of faith: in 2011 and again in 2013. In both instances, I sought to declare, in an explicit way, my adherence to the orthodox, Catholic, and apostolic Faith handed down from the holy apostles from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

On February 4, 2016, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law and the norms of Holy Mother Church, and in anticipation of my receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders as a Deacon, I publicly made the Profession of Faith required by Pope St. John Paul II in his apostolic letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, and, with my hands on the Holy Gospels, made the Oath of Fidelity to adhere to the same.

Having been ordained by His Excellency, the Most Rev. David R. Choby, XI Bishop of Nashville, today at the Cathedral Church of the Incarnation, I hereby renew my commitment to both the Profession of Faith and the Oath of Fidelity, together with the Credo of the People of God, which Pope Bl'd Paul VI promulgated as a summary of the Faith in light of the teaching of the Fathers of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.  So help me God.

THE PROFESSION OF FAITH

I, D. E. Barker, with firm faith believe and profess each and everything that is contained in the Symbol of Faith, namely:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.


THE OATH OF FIDELITY

I, D.E. Barker, in assuming the office of Deacon, promise that in my words and in my actions I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.

With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both universal and particular, in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service.

In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.

I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law.

With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish. I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan Bishops, so that the apostolic activity, exercised in the name and by mandate of the Church, may be carried out in communion with the Church.

So help me God, and God’s Holy Gospels on which I [placed] my hand.

THE CREDO OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD

We believe in one only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels,(3) and creator in each man of  his spiritual and immortal soul.

We believe that this only God is absolutely one in His infinitely holy essence as also in all His perfections, in His omnipotence, His infinite knowledge, His providence, His will and His love. He is He who is, as He revealed to Moses;(4) and He is love, as the apostle John teaches us:(5) so that these two names, being and love, express ineffably the same divine reality of Him who has wished to make Himself known to us, and who, "dwelling in light inaccessible,"(6) is in Himself above every name, above every thing and above every created intellect. God alone can give us right and full knowledge of this reality by revealing Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose eternal life we are by grace called to share, here below in the obscurity of faith and after death in eternal light. The mutual bonds which eternally constitute the Three Persons, who are each one and the same divine being, are the blessed inmost life of God thrice holy, infinitely beyond all that we can conceive in human measure.(7) We give thanks, however, to the divine goodness that very many believers can testify with us before men to the unity of God, even though they know not the mystery of the most holy Trinity.

The Father

We believe then in the Father who eternally begets the Son; in the Son, the Word of God, who is eternally begotten; in the Holy Spirit, the uncreated Person who proceeds from the Father and the Son as their eternal love. Thus in the Three Divine Persons, coaeternae sibi et coaequales,(8) the life and beatitude of God perfectly one superabound and are consummated in the supreme excellence and glory proper to uncreated being, and always "there should be venerated unity in the Trinity and Trinity in the unity."(9)

The Son

We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. He is the Eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, and one in substance with the Father, homoousios to Patri,(10) and through Him all things were made. He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was made man: equal therefore to the Father according to His divinity, and inferior to the Father according to His humanity;(11) and Himself one, not by some impossible confusion of His natures, but by the unity of His person.(12)

He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He proclaimed and established the Kingdom of God and made us know in Himself the Father. He gave us His new commandment to love one another as He loved us. He taught us the way of the beatitudes of the Gospel: poverty in spirit, meekness, suffering borne with patience, thirst after justice, mercy, purity of heart, will for peace, persecution suffered for justice sake. Under Pontius Pilate He suffered—the Lamb of God bearing on Himself the sins of the world, and He died for us on the cross, saving us by His redeeming blood. He was buried, and, of His own power, rose on the third day, raising us by His resurrection to that sharing in the divine life which is the life of grace. He ascended to heaven, and He will come again, this time in glory, to judge the living and the dead: each according to his merits—those who have responded to the love and piety of God going to eternal life, those who have refused them to the end going to the fire that is not extinguished. And His Kingdom will have no end.

The Holy Spirit

We believe in the Holy Spirit, who is Lord and Giver of life, who is adored and glorified together with the Father and the Son. He spoke to us by the prophets; He was sent by Christ after His resurrection and His ascension to the Father; He illuminates, vivifies, protects and guides the Church; He purifies the Church's members if they do not shun His grace. His action, which penetrates to the inmost of the soul, enables man to respond to the call of Jesus: Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).

We believe that Mary is the Mother, who remained ever a Virgin, of the Incarnate Word, our God and Savior Jesus Christ,(13) and that by reason of this singular election, she was, in consideration of the merits of her Son, redeemed in a more eminent manner,(14) preserved from all stain of original sin(15) and filled with the gift of grace more than all other creatures.(16)

Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption,(17) the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory(18) and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church,(19) continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.(20)

Original Offense

We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offense committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offense, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents—established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, "not by imitation, but by propagation" and that it is thus "proper to everyone."(21)

Reborn of the Holy Spirit

We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, by the sacrifice of the cross redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the apostle, "where sin abounded, grace did more abound."(22)

Baptism

We believe in one Baptism instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Baptism should be administered even to little children who have not yet been able to be guilty of any personal sin, in order that, though born deprived of supernatural grace, they may be reborn "of water and the Holy Spirit" to the divine life in Christ Jesus.(23)

The Church

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, built by Jesus Christ on that rock which is Peter. She is the Mystical Body of Christ; at the same time a visible society instituted with hierarchical organs, and a spiritual community; the Church on earth, the pilgrim People of God here below, and the Church filled with heavenly blessings; the germ and the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, through which the work and the sufferings of Redemption are continued throughout human history, and which looks for its perfect accomplishment beyond time in glory.(24) In the course of time, the Lord Jesus forms His Church by means of the sacraments emanating from His plenitude.(25) By these she makes her members participants in the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit who gives her life and movement.(26) She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Word

Heiress of the divine promises and daughter of Abraham according to the Spirit, through that Israel whose scriptures she lovingly guards, and whose patriarchs and prophets she venerates; founded upon the apostles and handing on from century to century their ever-living word and their powers as pastors in the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him; perpetually assisted by the Holy Spirit, [the Church] has the charge of guarding, teaching, explaining and spreading the Truth which God revealed in a then veiled manner by the prophets, and fully by the Lord Jesus. We believe all that is contained in the word of God written or handed down, and that the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed, whether by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal magisterium.(27) We believe in the infallibility enjoyed by the successor of Peter when he teaches ex cathedra as pastor and teacher of all the faithful,(28) and which is assured also to the episcopal body when it exercises with him the supreme magisterium.(29)

We believe that the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for which He prayed is indefectibly one in faith, worship and the bond of hierarchical communion. In the bosom of this Church, the rich variety of liturgical rites and the legitimate diversity of theological and spiritual heritages and special disciplines, far from injuring her unity, make it more manifest.(30)

One Shepherd

Recognizing also the existence, outside the organism of the Church of Christ, of numerous elements of truth and sanctification which belong to her as her own and tend to Catholic unity,(31) and believing in the action of the Holy Spirit who stirs up in the heart of the disciples of Christ love of this unity,(32) we entertain the hope that the Christians who are not yet in the full communion of the one only Church will one day be reunited in one flock with one only shepherd.

We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church.(33) But the divine design of salvation embraces all men; and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.(34)

Sacrifice of Calvary

We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.(35)

Transubstantiation

Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine,(36) as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.(37)

The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

Temporal Concern

We confess that the Kingdom of God begun here below in the Church of Christ is not of this world whose form is passing, and that its proper growth cannot be confounded with the progress of civilization, of science or of human technology, but that it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men. But it is this same love which induces the Church to concern herself constantly about the true temporal welfare of men. Without ceasing to recall to her children that they have not here a lasting dwelling, she also urges them to contribute, each according to his vocation and his means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to give their aid freely to their brothers, especially to the poorest and most unfortunate. The deep solicitude of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, for the needs of men, for their joys and hopes, their griefs and efforts, is therefore nothing other than her great desire to be present to them, in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and to gather them all in Him, their only Savior. This solicitude can never mean that the Church conform herself to the things of this world, or that she lessen the ardor of her expectation of her Lord and of the eternal Kingdom.

We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as He did for the Good Thief are the People of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies.

Prospect of Resurrection

We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in paradise forms the Church of Heaven where in eternal beatitude they see God as He is,(38) and where they also, in different degrees, are associated with the holy angels in the divine rule exercised by Christ in glory, interceding for us and helping our weakness by their brotherly care.(39)

We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are attaining their purification, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion the merciful love of God and His saints is ever listening to our prayers, as Jesus told us: Ask and you will receive.(40) Thus it is with faith and in hope that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Blessed be God thrice holy. Amen.

__________
3. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3002 (1st Council of the Vatican, Dei Filius, ch. 1 (1870)).
4. Cf. Ex. 3:14.
5. Cf. 1 Jn. 4:8.
6. Cf. 1 Tim. 6:16.
7. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 804 (4th Council of the Lateran, ch. 2 (1215)).
8. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 75 (Athanasian Creed, Quicumque vult (ca. 5th cent.)).
9. Cf. ibid.
10. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 150 (Niceno-Constantinopolitan [i.e., Nicene] Creed (381)).
11. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 76 (Athanasian Creed, Quicumque vult (ca. 5th cent.)).
12. Cf. ibid.
13. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 251-252 (St Cyril of Alexandria (430)).
14. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 53.
15. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 2803 (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854)).
16. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 53.
17. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 53, 58, 61.
18. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3903 (Pius XII, Sempiternus Rex (1951)).
19. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 53, 56, 61, 63; cf. Paul VI, Alloc. for the Closing of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council: A.A.S. LVI [1964] 1016; cf. Exhort. Apost. Signum Magnum, Introd.
20. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 62; cf. Paul VI, Exhort. Apost. Signum Magnum, p. 1, n. 1.
21. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1513 (Council of Trent, Decree on Original Sin (1546)).
22. Cf. Rom. 5:20.
23. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1514 (Council of Trent, Decree on Original Sin (1546)).
24. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 8, 5.
25. Cf. Ibid., 7, 11.
26. Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 5, 6; cf. Lumen Gentium, 7, 12, 50.
27. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3011 (1st Council of the Vatican, Dei Filius (1870)).
28. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 3074 (Pius IX, Response from the Holy Office on Baptism).
29. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 25.
30. Cf. ibid., Lumen Gentium, 23; cf. Ibid., Orientalium Ecclesiarum 2, 3, 5, 6.
31. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 8.
32. Cf. ibid., 15.
33. Cf. ibid., 14.
34. Cf. ibid., 16.
35. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1651 (Council of Trent, Decree on the Eucharist (1551)).
36. Cf. Dz.-Sch. 1642, 1651-1654 (Council of Trent, Decree on the Eucharist); Paul VI, Enc. Mysterium Fidei.
37. Cf. S. Th., 111, 73, 3.
38. Cf. 1 Jn. 3:2; Dz.-Sch. 1000 (Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336)).
39. Cf. 2nd Council of the Vatican, Lumen Gentium, 49.
40. Cf. Lk. 10:9-10; Jn. 16:24.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pope's chief liturgist: it's time to listen to the Council!

The man His Holiness the Pope appointed to guard the Church's liturgy throughout the world has written a controversial and insightful call to heed the teaching of the Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. A must read:--

# # #
THE SILENT ACTION OF THE HEART

Cardinal Robert Sarah
L'Osservatore Romano
June 12, 2015
[Exclusive Rorate translation by Contributor Francesca Romana]


Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI will the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council be read? “Sacrosanctum concilium “ is not de facto a simple catalogue of reform “recipes” but a real “magna carta” of every liturgical action.

With it, the ecumenical council gives us a magisterial lesson in method. Indeed, far from being content with a disciplinary and exterior approach, the council wants to make us reflect on what the liturgy is in its essence. The practice of the Church always comes from what She receives and contemplates in Revelation. Pastoral care cannot be disconnected from doctrine.

In the Church, “that which comes from action is ordered to contemplation” (cfr. n. 2). The Council’s Constitution invites us to rediscover the Trinitarian origin of the liturgical action. Indeed, the Council establishes continuity between the mission of Christ the Redeemer and the liturgical mission of the Church. “Just as Christ was sent by His Father, so also He sent the Apostles” so that “by means of sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves” they accomplish ”the work of salvation”. (n.6).

Actuating the liturgy is therefore nothing other than actuating the work of Christ. The liturgy in its essence is “actio Christi”. [It is]the “work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God.” (n.5) It is He who is the great Priest, the true subject, the true actor in the liturgy (n.7). If this vital principle is not accepted in faith, there is the risk of making the liturgy into a human work, a self-celebration of the community.

By contrast, the real work of the Church consists in entering into the action of Christ, in uniting oneself to that work which He received as a mission from the Father. So, “the fullness of divine worship was given to us" since “His humanity, united with the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation” (n.5). The Church, the Body of Christ, must therefore become in Her turn an instrument in the hands of the Word. 

This is the ultimate meaning of the key-concept of the Conciliar Constitution: “participatio actuosa”. Such participation for the Church consists in becoming the instrument of Christ – The Priest, with the aim of sharing in His Trinitarian mission. The Church takes part actively in the liturgical action of Christ in the measure that She is His instrument. In this sense, to speak of “a celebrating community”” is not devoid of ambiguity and requires prudence. (Instruction” Redemptoris sacramentum”, n. 42). “Participatio actuosa” should not then be intended as the need to do something. On this point the Council’s teaching has frequently been deformed. Rather, it is about allowing Christ to take us and associate us with His Sacrifice. 

Liturgical “participatio” must thus be intended as a grace from Christ who “always associates the Church with Himself.”(S.C. n. 7) It is He that has the initiative and the primacy. The Church “calls to Her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father” (n.7). 

The priest must thus become this instrument which allows Christ to shine through. Just as our Pope Francis reminded us recently, that the celebrant is not the presenter of a show; he must not look for popularity from the congregation by placing himself before them as their primary interlocutor. Entering into the spirit of the council means, on the contrary, making oneself disappear – relinquishing the centre-stage.

Contrary to what has at times been sustained, and in conformity with the Conciliar Constitution , it is absolutely fitting that during the Penitential Rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and Eucharistic Prayer, for everyone – the priest and the congregation alike– to face ad orientem together, expressing their will to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of doing things could be fittingly carried out in the cathedrals where the liturgical life must be exemplary (n. 4).
To be very clear, there are other parts of the Mass where the priest, acting “in persona Christi Capitis” enters into nuptial dialogue with the congregation. But this face-to-face has no other end than to lead them to a téte-à-tète with God , who through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will make it ‘a heart to heart’. The council offers other means to favor participation [through] “ the acclamations , responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes.” (n.30).

An excessively quick reading and above all, a far too human one, inferred that the faithful had to be kept constantly busy. Contemporary Western mentality formed by technology and bewitched by the mass media, wanted to make the liturgy into a work of effective and profitable pedagogy. In this spirit, there was the attempt to render the celebrations convivial. The liturgical actors, animated by pastoral motives, try at times to make it into didactic work by introducing secular and spectacular elements. Don’t we see perhaps testimonies, performances and clapping in the increase? They believe that participation is favored in this manner, whereas in fact, the liturgy is being reduced to a human game.

“Silence is not a virtue, nor noise a sin, it is true” says Thomas Merton “but the continuous turmoil, confusion and noise in modern society or in certain African Eucharistic liturgies are an expression of the atmosphere of its most serious sins and its impiety and desperation. A world of propaganda and never-ending argumentations , of invectives, criticisms, or mere chattering, is a world in which life is not worth living. Mass becomes a confused din, the prayers an exterior or interior noise.” (Thomas Merton, “The Sign of Jonah” French edition, Albin Michel, Paris, 1955 – p. 322). 

We run the real risk of leaving no space for God in our celebrations. We risk the temptation of the Hebrews in the desert. They attempted to create worship according to their own stature and measure, [but] let us not forget they ended up prostrate before the idol of the Golden Calf. 

It is time to start listening to the Council. The liturgy is “above all things the worship of the divine Majesty” (n.33). It has pedagogic worth in the measure wherein it is completely ordered to the glorification of God and Divine worship. The Liturgy truly places us in the presence of Divine transcendence. True participation means renewing in ourselves that “wonder” which St. John Paul II held in great consideration (Ecclesia de Eucharistia” n. 6). This holy wonder, this joyful awe, requires our silence before the Divine Majesty. We often forget that holy silence is one of the means indicated by the Council to favor participation. 

If the liturgy is the work of Christ, is it necessary for the celebrant to introduce his own comments? We must remember that, when the Missal authorizes an intervention, this must not turn into a secular and human discourse, a comment more or less subtle on something of topical interest, nor a mundane greeting to the people present, but a very short exhortation so as to enter the Mystery (General Presentation of the Roman Missal, n.50). Regarding the homily, it is in itself a liturgical act which has its own rules. 

“Participatio actuosa” in the work of Christ, presupposes that we leave the secular world so as to enter the “sacred action surpassing all other” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.7). De facto, “we claim, with a certain arrogance, to stay in the human - to enter the divine.” (Robert Sarah, “Dieu ou rien”, p. 178).

In such a sense, it is deplorable that the sanctuary (of the high altar) in our churches is not a place strictly reserved for Divine worship, that secular clothes are worn in it and that the sacred space is not clearly defined by the architecture. Since, as the Council teaches, Christ is present in His Word when this is proclaimed , it is similarly detrimental that the readers do not wear appropriate clothing, indicating that they are not pronouncing human words but the Divine Word. 

The liturgy is fundamentally mystical and contemplative, and consequently beyond our human action; even the “participatio” is a grace from God. Therefore, it presupposes on our part an opening to the mystery being celebrated. Thus, the Constitution recommends full understanding of the rites (n.34) and at the same time prescribes that “the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (n.54).

In reality, the understanding of the rites is not is not an act of reason left to its own devices, which should accept everything, understand everything, master everything. The understanding of the sacred rites is that of “sensus fidei”, which exercises the living faith through symbols and which knows through “harmony” more than concept. This understanding presupposes that one draws close to the Divine Mystery with humility. 

But will we have the courage to follow the Council up to this point? Such a reading, illuminated by faith, is however, fundamental for evangelization. In fact, “to those who are outside as a sign lifted up among the nations under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together “ (n.2). It [the reading of S.C.] must stop being a place of disobedience to the prescriptions of the Church.

More specifically, it cannot be an occasion for laceration among Catholics. The dialectic readings of “Sacrosanctum concilium” i.e. the hermeneutics of rupture in one sense or another, are not the fruit of a spirit of faith. The Council did not want to break with the liturgical forms inherited from Tradition, rather it wanted to deepen them. The Constitution establishes that “any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” (n.23). 

In this sense, it is necessary that those celebrating according to the “usus antiquior” do so without any spirit of opposition, and hence in the spirit of “Sacrosanctum concilium”. In the same way, it would be wrong to consider the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite as deriving from another theology that is not the reformed liturgy. It would also be desirable that the Penitential Rite and the Offertory of the “usus antiquior” be inserted as an enclosure in the next edition of the Missal with the aim of stressing that the two liturgical reforms illuminate one another, in continuity and with no opposition. 

If we live in this spirit, then the liturgy will stop being a place of rivalry and criticisms, ultimately, to allow us to participate actively in that liturgy “which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle.” (n.8).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Men of prayer, ways of prayer: St Francis de Sales & St Josemaria Escriva

Throughout the history of the Church, her saints have led the People of God ever deeper into the mystery of prayer and what it means to be faithful to the Church's teaching on the importance of prayer for deep personal communion with God the Holy Trinity. In addition to their exemplary lives, the saints have left a great heritage of writing, communicating the essentials of their relationship of prayer with the Triune God. The Church has never ceased to encourage the People of God to encounter these teachings of the saints and gain wisdom and insight from the ways in which God chose to communicate himself to them. Indeed, it is an important part of the life of prayer for every Christian to seriously engage the writings of the men and women whom the Church has been given the insight to proclaim saints. In my conversion to the Catholic Faith, I found great solace in the lives of the saints and in their examples of holiness and prayer. Because of my desire to develop, with God's grace, the life of prayer that I had seen in the saints, I began to read as many of the spiritual writings as I could find. Two of the saints whose writings I discovered led me to great growth in the spiritual life. Guided by the experienced hand of my spiritual director, I found two worthy exemplars who have since had a very profound impact on my life. The first is St. Francis de Sales, a French bishop and doctor of the Church who died in 1622. St. Francis was both the Bishop of Geneva and a prolific author on the spiritual life for laypeople and those who were taking the first steps to grow in what he called “the devout life.” It was his work, the Introduction to the Devout Life that had such a great impact on me. The second saint that challenged me in the life of prayer is St. Josemaría Escrivá, a Spanish priest and founder of the personal prelature Opus Dei, who died in 1975. St. Josemaría began as a diocesan priest, but later founded one of the largest lay apostolate programs in the world. Throughout his life he wrote both short pithy sayings on the spiritual life that were collected into topical handbooks, like The Way and The Furrow, and lengthy spiritual growth tools like his The Way of the Cross. Despite these two saints' different backgrounds, nationalities, eras, and emphases, I have found their writings to have great congruence. Both emphasize the importance of personal holiness and conversion premised upon charity. For prayer, both highlight a meditative method of engaging the Lord, with special attention paid to vivid imagery and pious speculation: and thanks to their teachings, my prayer life has shown growth in both reflection and contemplation.

Saint Frances de Sales' work Introduction to the Devout Life is considered to be a classic of the spiritual tradition.1 In Devout Life, St. Francis writes to Philothea, a “soul living in the world” and invites her to follow the “paths of devotion.” 2 His introductory note to Philothea, a pseudonym the saint uses as a stand-in for any God-loving soul, is at the same time moving and an unwitting paen to pastoral charity and zeal:
I have addressed my instructions to Philothea, as adapting what was originally written for an individual to the common good of souls. I have made use of a name suitable to all who seek after the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God. Setting then before me a soul, who through the devout life seeks after the love of God, I have arranged this Introduction in five parts … .” 3
From this auspicious beginning, St. Francis goes on to define the different parts of his Introduction. He describes the divisions as follows: first is conversion, with general confession and frequent reception of holy communion.4 Second is the development of what he calls mental prayer, but which modern spiritual writers might call meditative prayer: using images and considerations to prompt meditation on the things of God and engage in discursive interiority.5 Thirdly, St. Francis encourages his reader with respect to acquiring the virtues.6 Next, Philothea is instructed how to avoid the pitfalls and snares of the enemy and his angels, analogous to other writers' purgative stage.7 Finally, St. Francis teaches what might be called the unitive prayer of resting in the Lord.8

It is St. Francis' approach to prayer in the second part of his Introduction that profoundly influenced my own prayer life. In the second part, St. Francis lays out the necessity of prayer in the life of the Christian disciple, and then he begins a series of meditations that are designed to guide the reader through considerations about God.9 Before proceeding into the substance of the meditations, however, St. Francis outlines his method of meditation: three points of preparation that lead to three parts or steps toward meditation.10 He teaches that before beginning a meditation, the Christian must enter into the presence of God.11 He writes that to enter into this Divine Presence is to have “a lively, earnest realization that [God's] Presence is universal; that is to say, that He is everywhere, and in all, and that there is no place, nothing in the world, devoid of His Most Holy Presence.” 12 Next, the Christian should invoke God's Presence by some short memorized Scripture verse; St. Francis gives several examples from the Psalms.13 The final preparatory step is to bring before one's mind's eye the mystery upon which one will be meditating: the so-called “interior picture.”14 Having completed these preparations, the Christian disciple calls to mind certain considerations; these may be prompted by holy images, Scripture verses, or contemplation of divine realities.15 Earlier in the Introduction, St. Francis supplies ten meditations that can be used to help the reader engage his mind and soul in these considerations.16 The second part, the meditation, is designed to be the lengthiest part of St. Francis' method.17 It is here that the God-loving soul should learn to both listen to God and direct itself toward the Presence of its Creator and Savior, which it has already recognize in the preparation to the meditation.18 After suitable time meditating, the soul at prayer turns to St. Francis' final steps: affections, resolutions, and spiritual bouquet.19 In the affections and resolutions, the soul considers all of the good things that the Spirit has inspired the believer to meditate upon; at the same time, the soul must also face the deficiencies that close exposure to God's Presence has uncovered.20 Having uncovered these blemishes, the soul resolves to pursue some course of action or avoid some vice, asking God's help to do so.21 Finally, the soul gathers up one or two particularly striking affections and collects the resolutions God has granted and arranges them in a memorable way.22 In doing this, Philothea is making herself ready to remember the prayer experience and allow herself to be changed by the encounter with the Lord.23

In my own life, I have found St. Francis' method for meditation incredibly helpful. Coming from a Protestant Christian tradition, I was unfamiliar with the practice of Christian meditative prayer. Of course, I had heard of such things in other religions, but it had never occurred to me that Christians engaged in a similar practice as well. In my Southern Baptist prayer life, I often engaged God in conversation vocally: literally speaking out loud to God with petitions and intercessions for people I cared about or situations about which I was worried. This primitive—if sincere—form of prayer did not leave much room for growth, and there was no real conception of listening to God in the sense that Catholic spiritual writers describe. Certainly, evangelical Protestant Christians will describe listening to God in their heart, but many times, this seems in reality to be a sort of asking God's permission in prayer and then seeing whether He allows a situation to go forward after the prayer has been made. With St. Francis' help, I was able to begin meditative prayer for the first time. After a year or so of using his method, I was even able to guide other beginners toward meditative prayer. Though I have moved toward lectio divina as I have matured as a Christian, I still use much of St. Francis' method to help prepare me for that type of silent, mental prayer.

In the same way that St. Francis de Sales urges the God-fearing soul to turn toward God's Presence while holding in place a firmly place mental image of some heavenly consideration, so does St. Josemaría Escrivá use vivid images to help bring the Christian disciple into a thoughtful contemplation of Almighty God. One of St. Josemaría's most famous works is his little collection of spiritual advice, The Way.24 In this book, he takes up various topics on the spiritual life and addresses them with paragraphs containing his insights. While the whole of The Way is inundated with prayer, the third chapter of the handbook is specifically dedicated to Prayer as such.25 To begin, St. Josemaría describes slowness and deliberateness: “Slowly. Consider what you are saying, to whom it is being said and by whom. For that hurried talk, without time for reflection, is just empty noise.”26 The saint re-emphasizes this point with a reflection on St. Mary of Bethany: “'Mary chose the better part', we read in the holy Gospel. There she is, drinking in the words of the Master. Apparently idle, she is praying and loving. Then she accompanies Jesus in his preaching through towns and villages. Without prayer, how difficult it is to accompany him!”27 St. Josemaría also describes the importance of meditative prayer, indicating that he, like St. Francis de Sales, places a high value on this method of spirituality:
“'Et in meditatione mea exardescit ignis. And in my meditation a fire shall flame out.' That is why you go to pray: to become a bonfire, a living flame giving heat and light. So, when you are not able to go on, when you feel that your fire is dying out, if you cannot throw on it sweet— smelling logs, throw on the branches and twigs of short vocal prayers and ejaculations, to keep the bonfire burning. And you will not have wasted your time.” 28
This passage from St. Josemaría also highlights the saint's penchant for graphic mental images, which he uses over and over to help those to whom he writes find their connection to God.

St. Josemaría's commitment to painting a picture in the mind of those he invites to prayer comes through strongly in his The Way of the Cross.29 Like many spiritual masters before him, St. Josemaría wrote meditations on the traditional Stations of the Cross that could be used by the faithful in following along the actual via Crucis within a church; but he also designed them to be used as prompts for meditative prayer with or without the actual journeying of the station walk.30 St. Josemaría's stations are designed in three parts: first, the presentation of the station, with the opportunity to sing the traditional verses of the Stabat Mater.31 Next, he presents the reader with a vivid re-imagining, interspersed with Scriptural allusions and citations, of the historical event that took place during the station in question.32 For example, in the fourth station, St. Josemaría describes what it must have been like for Jesus to have encountered his blessed mother Mary along the sorrowful way to Calvary:
“No sooner has Jesus risen from his first fall than he meets his Blessed Mother, standing by the wayside where He is passing. With immense love Mary looks at Jesus, and Jesus at his Mother. Their eyes meet, and each heart pours into the other its own deep sorrow. Mary 's soul is steeped in bitter grief, the grief of Jesus Christ. O all you that pass by the way, look and see, was there ever a sorrow to compare with my sorrow! (Lam 1:12). But no one notices, no one pays attention; only Jesus. Simeon's prophecy has been fulfilled: thy own soul a sword shall pierce (Luke 2:35). In the dark loneliness of the Passion, Our Lady offers her Son a comforting balm of tenderness, of union, of faithfulness; a 'yes' to the divine will.” 33
These powerful reflections then lead the reader to consider numerous points of meditation that serve to present the Christian disciple with small points of crisis: opportunities to make a resolution to follow Christ in both specific and general ways.34

I first encountered St. Josemaría's writing in a gift to me of the The Way by a supernumerary of Opus Dei. Later, I discovered the saint's depiction of the Way of the Cross, and found it to be an even more important impact on my prayer life. When I pray with St. Josemaría's meditations, I lose myself in the prayer and find myself walking with Jesus and Mary through the scenes as the saint describes them. I regularly feel the great weight and the great consolation of the mediations after the reflections, leading me to challenge the status quo in my life and continue conversion. I found the shortness of the saint's sayings in The Way to be perfect for brief mediation and silent prayer when praying before the Blessed Sacrament, particularly if I do not have a lot of time available. I have found that with St Josemaría's help, even a small amount of time can be enough to enter into God's presence and entertain the mystery of Christ's redemption.

I have been deeply changed for the good by the approaches to prayer taken by Saints Francis de Sales and Josemaría Escrivá. Not only have I sensed conversion in my life due to the prayer that their methods and approaches have taken, but I have also been able to share the fruits of my growth in prayer that I attribute to these two writers with other Christians, helping them, too, to grow. I hope to continue to follow their example of prayer and holiness to advance my own spiritual life as a seminarian in the short term; in the long term, I hope to be able to recommend both of these writers as, please God, a priest of Jesus Christ.


1Pernin, Raphael. “St. Francis de Sales.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Co., 1909. 28 Nov. 2012 .
2Id.
3De Sales, St. Francis. Introduction to the Devout Life. Trans. Anon., “Library of Spiritual Works for English Catholics.” London: Rivington Pub., 1878. Published online: Grand Rapids, Mich.: Calvin College Dep't of Computer Science's Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2005. 28 Nov. 2012 . Preface .
4Id.
5DeSales, Introduction. Preface.
6Id.
7Id.
8Id.
9DeSales, Introduction. Pt. II, chs. 1 et al.
10Id., Pt. II, chs. 2-7.
11Id., Pt. II, ch. 1.
12Id., Pt. II, ch. 2.
13Id., Pt. II, ch. 3.
14Id., Pt. II, ch. 4.
15Id., Pt. II, ch. 5.
16Cf. DeSales, Introduction. Pt. I, chs. 9-18.
17Id., Pt. II, ch. 5.
18Id., Pt. II, chs. 2, 5.
19Id., Pt. II, chs. 6-7.
20Id., Pt. II, ch. 6.
21Id.
22Id., Pt. II, ch. 7.
23Id.
24Escrivá, St. Josemaría. Camino. Madrid: Rialp, 1939, 1950. Trans. Anon., The Way. London: Scepter, Ltd., 1982. Online ed., “Works of St. Josemaría Escrivá.” The Way. Madrid: Fundación Studium, 2000. 29 Nov. 2012 .
25Escrivá, The Way. Ch. 3. 29 Nov. 2012 .
26The Way, ch. 3, no. 85.
27Id., no. 89.
28Escrivá. The Way, ch. 3, no. 92.
29Esrivá, St. Josemaría. Via Crucis. Madrid: Scriptor, 1950, 1986. Trans. Anon., The Way. London: Scepter, Ltd., 1986. Online ed., “Works of St. Josemaría Escrivá.” Way of the Cross. Madrid: Fundación Studium, 2000. 29 Nov. 2012 .
30Id.
31See, e.g., The Way of the Cross, 1st station.
32Id.
33Way of the Cross, 4th station.
34Id., et al.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Suffering, evil, & St Augustine: the problem of free will

One of the most difficult problems in both philosophy and religion is that of how to deal with evil and suffering in the world while still asserting that God exists, is powerful enough to be creator, and is good.  Both St. Augustine of Hippo, in Book VII of his landmark work The Confessions, and St. Thomas Aquinas, throughout his writings, but particularly in his work On Evil, seek to address this important topic.  Both works provide answers to the difficulty from both reason and revelation, but it is St. Augustine's theory of evil as the privation of the good that is one of the most persuasive offered from the medieval philosophers.

St. Augustine begins his discussion on the topic of evil with an argument against the notion prevalent among the pagan and Manichaen opponents of the Christians whom he was battling.  According to different schools within those two traditions, evil can be accounted as an equal and opposing force to good; it is something to be battled, but never defeated.  Because of this, evil is a necessary contrary to good in the same way that hot and cold, dry and wet, and other such contraries were understood in the Aristotelian and Platonic philosophies of the time.  St. Augustine rejects this understanding and advances the idea that evil is not necessary.  Instead, he argues, evil is not actually a substance or thing, but that it is an absence of good.  St. Augustine posits that being, having been created by God, is inherently good, even despite the corrupting influence of the fall and the subsequent introduction into creation of concupiscence.  Rather than being the opposite of good, evil is, according to St. Augustine, an absence of good—the non-good or privation of the good.  

Since evil is not actually a thing per se, and is rather the absence of the good, St. Augustine argues that God did not cause evil.  When God created the universe, everything was good, because it had being given to it by God in the creatio ex nihilo.  When Satan and his angels rebelled, and then when the progenitors of the human race similarly chose to sin, evil entered into the world in the sense that the free choices of these rational creatures, who share in God's essence for their being because of their radical contingency in God, caused what could be thought of as a “bubble” of non-being to enter into the universe of being.  It need not have been so.  Instead of exercising the free will given to them by the God in whom they have their being, both the angels and men could have chosen to remained in God's will, cooperating with the good.

On the other hand, contra St. Augustine, it could be argued that while God was not directly the cause of evil, since God's creation of the universe out of nothing resulted in being, which St. Augustine defines as good, God's hand in the creation of rational creatures who could choose the not-good, or evil, makes him at least an indirect cause (though not necessarily responsible).  St. Augustine would reject this premise, because he would be loathe to associate God with even the possibility of his being responsible for evil, since in St. Augustine's conception, God is all-good.  But it is difficult to see an acceptable interruption in the chain of causality linking God's necessary instrumentality in the causing (creation) of the universe and the resultant evil which arose due to the God-given free will of the rational creatures that populate the universe.  

If, as St. Augustine asserts, God is not the cause or responsible party for evil, but there exists evil in the world, God would seem to be impotent and not all-powerful, as St. Augustine would posit, evil, or non-being, does exist (which G.K. Chesterton called the one empirically provable aspect of Christian doctrine).  St. Augustine would argue that God does allow evil to exist (or rather, since evil is non-being, God allows pockets or bubbles of non-being to avoid being filled with the fullness of being that is goodness).  As already stated above, God has to allow the possibility of evil in order to grant his creatures true free will: for if a creature could not choose the non-being (which is the non-good, or evil), then they would not have free will.  Thus, the problem of evil can be addressed this way: God created all being, and all being is good. God endowed his rational creatures with essence, existence, and free will.  In order for his creatures to exercise free will, God must allow them to choose to reject the good, which is the non-being of evil.  This is the source of evil in our universe.  God could stop it, but, in his sovereignty, he chooses to allow evil in the short turn to honor the choices of his creatures.  To mitigate this, he promises that even short-term evil will ultimately bring about good, so that in the end, Jesus Christ—God's full, self-revelation—will be all in all.

Essence, existence, & ex nihilo

In comparing the medieval Christian philosophical, human anthropology to the dominant classical philosophers Aristotle and Plato, one of the most important fundamental distinctions between the two schools of thought is their notion of existence or essence.  For St. Thomas Aquinas and his contemporaries, divine revelation led him to posit that the universe and all that is, was created by God out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo.  The Christian understanding of this doctrine leads to an important distinction from the pagan philosophers: unlike Aristotle and Plato, St. Thomas and his contemporaries find there to be two acts of God's “To-Be” involved in the creation from nothing.  The Christians posit that God is the sole necessary being: that all other being is contingent.  It follows then that despite man's being immortal, he is existentially dependent upon God.  As a creational being, man is a complete, ontological unity who needs God.  As St. Thomas writes, “[I]n God, there is no potentiality” so that “in [God] essence does not differ from existence” (Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 3 a. 4).  God's very essence is existence itself.  Thus, man, whose essence is not existence, must be utterly contingent upon God.  Man participates in God's being, and whatever is man is somehow correlated to God who is the only Being that owns his own To-Be.

For man, then, there must also be two acts of To-Be: man's existence, his perfections, and everything else that is encompassed by the term “man” is real, Good, and participating in God's own essence, which is existence itself.  Man is an embodied soul: the pagan Aristotelian materiality is raised up to the intelligibiltiy of St. Thomas' embodiment of the soul.  Man's unique essence is strengthened by a distinction between essence and existence: his essence become actualized and given greater fulfillment as an essence because he recognizes that he can be more than himself.  Man is bound up in God, because only God owns his own To-Be, making Man a participated being.  What looked like materiality cannot affect the soul or essence of man, and so God's second act of To-Be, existence itself, is made manifest: causally rooted in God's own self.

The distinction between existence and essence remains for man, however, because since man is bound up in God's own essence through his participation in God's essential being, God's existence, man cannot bring together, in his own being, the two into one.  Otherwise, man himself would be dissolved into God or become some sort of demigod who possesses both existence and essence.  Of course, this would be impossible, since all being and essence is already God's—God clears the field, as it were, in our creation, making it literally unattainable for one of the beings contingent upon his essence for its existence to then act to combine its essence and existence in the same manner as God's own being.  The distinction is a result of God's choosing to create out of nothing, rather than, as the pagan philosophers Aristotle and Plato suppose, the universe being eternal itself.  The distinction also contradicts the notion that creation occurred as a sort of emanation of God's being: where creation was not a volitional decision of God, but rather a type of necessary overflowing of God's being into a creation separate from, but constituted from, himself.  

According to St. Thomas and his contemporaries, God chose to create out of nothing as an act of pure volition.  There was no requirement for God to create; indeed, God is complete and utterly happy in himself without need for recourse to anything or anyone else.  Nor is God's being so uncontainable that parts of God's being overflow the bounds of his existence to cause creation “by accident.”  As the Christian philosophers of the medieval period argue, God's very nature—one, holy, true, beautiful, and simple—means that God only acts when he wants to and how he wants to.  In the creation of the universe, God chose to create out of nothing because he could and because he wanted creatures who could participate in his essence while not sharing his existence.  At the same time, he wanted creatures who were capable of more than just existence in itself.  Mankind, whom God created ex nihilo with participation in his essence, can also aspire to be more than he is at present.  God's gift to man of that very participation makes it possible for man to hope, by God's grace to be more fully realized.  Man share's God's free will, and as a result, he is eternal but existentially dependent upon God.  Man has the potential for change and growth, leading to his ultimate reunion with God without absorption: the same paradox that marks the Thomist notion that God's creatio ex nihilo leads to man's participation in God's essence while being distinct in his existence.  

Man's ability to share in God's essence without losing his own existence—his participation in the two acts of To-Be by the creator God—means that man is aeviternal: once man is created, because of his sharing in God's essence, he cannot perish.  Because God's essence cannot stop-being, since God is himself Being, man-who-participates in God's essence must needs be everlasting from the point of his creation ex nihilo by God.  This is not to say that because man shares God's essence that man becomes eternal, meaning extant at all times and even outside of time like God is.  Rather, man's aeviternity, a result of God's gift to man of participation in God's essence, means that man has an everlasting existence of one sort or another.  This is radically opposed to the conception of the pagan philosophers.  For Plato, reunion with the forms was not to be seen as a conscious existence, but rather as a return to the source as a glass of water is poured into the sea: the soul would not cease to exist, but it would cease to have individual identity and be freed from the limitations it experienced while embodied (or, in the example here, contained).  The aeviternity of man that is evident from the Thomistic participation in God's two acts of To-Be also contradicts Aristotle's hylomoprhic understanding of the human person which ceases to be when the matter of the body is dead.  While the Christian philosophers were able to grasp the implications of aeviternity from their advantage of divine revelation (through the sacred Scriptures and the magisterial tradition of the apostolic faith), it would not be necessary to hold to divine revelation to come to an understanding of man's aeviternity.  Indeed, if one grasps that God is both essence and existence and that God creates ex nihilo, then aeviternity must, of necessity, follow: those things which are created out of nothingness cannot have being unless they participate in God's being, and to participate in God's essence is to be eternal, forward from the point of creation.  

Theological revelation, as has been stated, gave an advantage to St. Thomas and his contemporaries in understanding the aeviternity of man and in grasping the participation that man enjoys in God's being.  This revelation is God's disclosing of himself and his essence to those he has created to participate in that same essence.  Because God is transcendent as the one, the holy, the true, and the good, he must show himself to his creatures so that they can have understanding of his being as such.  Of course, as St. Paul argues in sacred Scripture, the general revelation of creation itself offers a glimpse into God's reality, but even then, as the name suggests, the uncovering of God through the inanimate creation to his aeviternal creation of rational men still involves God revealing himself in the creation of the environment in which they are attempting to find him.  

The theological revelation of God through his general revelation can be related to human reason and the efforts of men like Plato and Aristotle through the notion that even in their pre-Christian worldview, the only things about which they had to reason were their own lives, experiences, and surroundings.  Since all these were created by God, it could be argued that even though the pagan philosophers were only using their reason, they were nonetheless influenced by God's revelation of himself through that very creation: after all, it was only God's creation—including their own essence and existence—which they could reason about in the first place.  Moreover, the reason which they were using to ascertain truths about the universe is a product of God's gift of his own essence to them as persons.  The person par excellence, as St. Thomas argues, is God in his Trinity.  But even in the aeviternal men which seek after him—either through revelation or reason—there is personhood, which yields to the seekers of truth, both pagan and Christian, those aspects of reality which they were able to find.  This was the essence—that sharing in God's own being—which they, in their individual existences, were able to claim as persons, thus leading them to partake of both reason and theological revelation about their own ontology as contingent beings depending on Being qua Being.  

This grasping of their own contingency, even in their personhood, leads St. Thomas and his contemporaries to understand just how far their existence, even in its ex nihilo creation, is from the nothingness from which they find themselves to be drawn.  For Plato and Aristotle, relying solely on their reason to grope for the truth of their being, such an understanding is not possible.  Positioned as they are with the notion that there is only one To-Be that leads to their actuality—that their essence and existence are the same—their conception of the source of their own being founders from Plato's realm of the forms to Aristotle's hylomorphism.  And though both philosophers come closer to the truth than many, many other thinkers who relied solely on their own human reason and the natural, general revelation available in creation (so much so that St. Thomas is able to rely heavily upon Aristotle, and St. Augustine upon Plato), they still lose the fundamental reality despite their best effort.  As St. Thomas argues, nothingness is infinitely less than somethingness.  In other words, existence is infinity greater than non-existence.  And this existence can only be understood because of its drawing upon God's essence as the pure, necessary Being, in whose essence men partake through participation.  Considering, then, the distance between the infinite superiority of man's existence over against his non-existence, there must also be—and St. Thomas argues that there is—an equally infinite distance between man's own existence as such and God's essence as Being.  

As St. Thomas grasps this reality, he must also come to face the filial fear of the realization that his essence as an actuality is only contingent: that it is God himself who, in effect, holds him and all creation in being.  Upon coming to this truth, though, it is clear that St. Thomas does not shrink from the God whose essence he now understands he shares; instead, St. Thomas—with the whole of the Christian tradition—is drawn toward this self-revelatory, self-existent, self-essential God with a sort of filial fear.  Not fear out of a sense of doom or terror, but, rather, out of a sense of love.  The realization that one's being is contingent upon God's essence, and that one's being is but a share and participation in God's very being, yields a radical reassessment of the whole of creation.  No more is man limited to Plato's or Aristotle's dismal, eternal, and infinitely lonely materialist medium for simple existence.  Now, in light of God's intimate union with his creatures even so far as to hold their bodies, souls, and world in place with the substance of who he is, St. Thomas—again, with all Christendom—cannot but help to bow down in adoration to that Most High God who has made him, in one respect, his brother.