Tuesday, December 6, 2016

St. Augustine: Thoughts on Advent

St. Augustine and The Fire of Wisdom
As I was doing my nightly reading of  Augustine Day by Day, it struck me how appropriate the readings were for Advent, so I'd like to share them.
(Presumably the editor for this book,
John Rotelle, chose them for this very reason.)

November 28th, "Time of Mercy:"*
"Now is the time of mercy, for us to correct ourselves. The time for judgment has not yet come. There is no need to despair.Because of our human, pardonable, and more trivial sins, God has established in the Church set times for requesting mercy. We have a daily medicine in our saying 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,' so that we may share in the Body and Blood of Christ. Sermon 17,5

November 29th, "Live for the Lord's Coming:"
"My brothers and sisters, believe firmly what you believe--that Christ will return.  What does it matter when?  Prepare yourself for his coming.Live as though He were coming today, and you will not fear His coming.  Sermon 265, 3-4 
December 3rd, "The Final Rest:" 
"Once we are in heaven, we shall be at rest and we shall see.   We shall see and we shall love.   We shall love and we shall praise.The end of our desires will be the One Who can be admired without end, can be loved without our being bored, can be praised without our becoming tired." City of God: 22, 30
December 4th, "The Right Choice:"
"Knowing that the last day is coming is useful to us, and not knowing when it is coming is just as useful.  Thus, we may have no fear of that day, but even love it.  for that day increases the tasks of unbelievers but ends the tasks of believers.It is now in your power to choose which of these possibilities you desire, before that day arrives.   But once it has arrived, this possibility will no longer exist.  [emphasis added]  So make your choice now, while you have time, because God mercifully delays what He conceals."   Commentary on Psalm 36, 1
December 10th, "The Coming of Christ:" 
"The only Son of God was to come to earth, to become a man, and in this nature to be born as man.  He was to die, to rise again, to ascend to heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, and to fulfill His promises among the nations.After that He was to come again to execute His threats against the wicked and to reward the just as He had promised."  Commentary on Psalm 110, 3

NOTE: 

*Remember, there will be a Penance Service during Advent.  Ours is December 12th.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Holy Ghost versus The Holy Spirit, Redux;
Thoughts on the Anglican Usage Liturgy

A Man Praying to the Holy Spirit 
Willem Vrelant (1454-1481)
…the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings”.  Gerard Manley Hopkins
Your soul is the ship, the Holy Spirit is the wind; he blows into your will and your soul goes forward…”  Fr. Francis Libermann, cofounder of the order C.S.Sp (Congregation of the Holy Spirit--Spiritans*).
 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: " John 16:13 (KJV)
"Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me." Psalm 51 (KJV)
"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." John 14:26 (KJV)
 "And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,.." Nicene Creed, Anglican Usage Liturgy.

INTRODUCTION

Two and a half years ago I posted an article "The Holy Ghost vs The Holy Spirit".   The post was prompted by a visit to Holy Ghost Preparatory School, on the occasion of my oldest grandson's graduation*.   I've had some further thoughts since then:  attendance at an Anglican Usage ("Ordinariate") parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania and the almost exclusive use of the term "Holy Ghost", rather than "Holy Spirit" by a priest (order of St. Francis de Sales), who has become Chaplain at a local Catholic Nursing Home and for the large hospital where I live.    I'll copy the pertinent parts of the original post and then focus on the Anglican Usage liturgy usage of "Holy Ghost".

HOLY GHOST / HOLY SPIRIT, OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS

Why "Holy Ghost" rather than "Holy Spirit"?   Does the answer lies in a shunning of the Old Testament (see my earlier post "Should we shun the God of the Old Testament? "and Paul Sumner's Hebrew Streams)?   Or do the two terms actually mean the same, if one does the etymology?   To answer these questions, let's do a dry, academic-type inquiry into Biblical language.

Going first to the original languages, Hebrew and New Testament Greek, we find the following.   The Hebrew word for "spirit" is ruach,  which also can mean breath or wind.    In the Hebrew Old Testament it occurs a number of times, for example in Genesis 1:2, "ruach Elohim (breath of the Lord or wind of the Lord) hovering over the waters", Isaiah 44:3, "I will pour out my ruach (spirit, wind, breath) on thy seed", or Psalm 104:30, "Thou sendest forth thy ruach, they are created and Thou renewest the face of the earth.     In conjunction with the modifier kodesh (holy, as from God) it occurs in Psalm 51:11, "take not thy ruach kodesh (Holy Spirit) from me."  and twice in Isaiah 63.   Note in the quotation  from the King James Version at the beginning, that "holy spirit" is not capitalized.    In the Septuagint, the demotic Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Hebrew ruach is universally translated as the Greek pneuma (breath, wind, spirit).

In the Greek New Testament, only the term "pneuma" (in its various grammatical forms) is used for "Spirit".    The King James Version uses "Holy Ghost" where it is clear that the Third Person of the Trinity is meant, e.g. Matthew 1:18, "ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου" (found [with child] of the Holy Ghost--KJV).    In other contexts, pneuma is translated as Spirit: Matthew 10:20:  "ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ πατρὸς" ([For it is not you who speak] but the Spirit of your Father--KJV).    In some places where spirit, but not the spirit of God or the Holy Spirit is meant,  pneuma is translated as spirit (not capitalized) --see Thayer's Greek Lexicon.

In the Latin Vulgate  "Holy Spirit" is translated as "Spiritus Sanctus",  in French, "the Holy Spirit" is "le Saint-Esprit", and in German, "der Heilige Geist".    The last might be the clue  to the origins of "Holy Ghost".   The King James Version was not the first English Scripture translation to use the term "Holy Ghost" for the Third Person of the Trinity, although it was the first to distinguish various contexts of "spirit" by capitalization.   In the Wycliffe translation (1395) there is  "sche was founde hauynge of the holy goost in the wombe" (Matt 1:18, The Bible Corner).  (Note the lack of capitalization of "holy goost".)

Now certainly "ghost" in the scriptural context does not mean a phantasm, the spirit or appearance of a dead person.   My conjecture is that ghost (or "goost") came from an Anglo-Saxon form for "spirit", related to the German "Geist".   The translators were looking for a way to distinguish the Third Person of the Trinity, from the manifestation of God--his breath, his will--given in the Old Testament.  

I don't see a rejection of the Old Testament in the attempt to distinguish between the Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost.   We should note that it took some time for the Patristic Fathers to work out that the Trinity was three persons, but one God.  The Old Testament foretold the Messiah, but did not name him explicitly as Jesus.    The Old Testament saw the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of God, but did not see Him as a separate person of the one Godhead.    Should we then reject the Old Testament as incomplete?   Of course not.    As Pope Benedict XVI said:  "Christians do not read the Old Testament for its own sake but always with Christ and through Christ", as a voyage to Truth through continuing Revelation.

THE ANGLICAN USAGE LITURGY

My wife and I  occasionally attend Anglican Usage Mass and Evensong at St. Thomas More Parish in Scranton, Pennsylvania.    This Parish is part  of The Ordinariate**,  essentially a diocese (spread through the United States and Canada). established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 to accommodate former Anglicans and Episcopalians who, as individuals, priests and congregations, have swum the Tiber and become Catholic 

The Anglican Usage liturgy is part of the Roman Rite, but has  important differences in language,  being based in part on the  "Book of Common Prayer", written by masters of the English Language from Elizabethan times and later.    I quote from the "Questions and Answers" Ordinariate site linked above
"The mission of the Ordinariate is particularly experienced in the reverence and beauty of our liturgy, [emphasis added] which features Anglican traditions of worship while conforming to Catholic doctrinal, sacramental and liturgical standards. [emphasis added]   Through Divine Worship: The Missal — the liturgy that unites the Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world — we share our distinctive commitment to praising God in the eloquence of the Anglican liturgical patrimony and Prayer Book English. "



The language usage, which includes "thee's" and "thou's" .  is beautiful and a reminder of  our heritage.   (Unlike the prescriptions of some present day Catholic liturgists, there is no attempt to debase the English language by subscribing  to politically correct gender neutrality and inclusiveness.)   There is also frequent and appropriate use of Latin, again as a reminder of the Church's heritage as the Church of Rome.

Now, where does "Holy Ghost" fit here?   The term replaces "Holy Spirit"  in some places where it might occur in non-Ordinariate liturgy, as for example in the introductory "Collect for Purity": "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen".   However, it does not replace Holy Spirit in all uses.    For example, in the Anglican Usage  "Novena to  the Holy Ghost", Holy Spirit is used extensively and interchangeably.    And thus the beauty of the English language is displayed: its magnificent redundancy and subtlety, two ways of saying the same thing,  not altogether equivalent,


FINAL THOUGHTS

Finally, I go back to the catechesis given by a priest when I was learning about Catholicism:  "There is God the Father, God above us;  God the Son, God beside us; and God the Holy Spirit, God within us."   So, the Holy Spirit is at the same time clearly evident and a mystery--God within us.   And the Holy Ghost is part of our mind, which is also a mystery.


NOTES

*Side note:  he received lots of honors at that graduation and has gone on to college and done very well there--grandfathers are entitled to some bragging rights.
**More properly referred to as "The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter".

 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Reason versus Atheism:
A Review of "Faith with Good Reason..." (by Ben Butera)

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."  Fides et Ratio, Pope St. John Paul II.

INTRODUCTION 

A very early post in this blog, "Top Down to Jesus", recounted my path to conversion, which, as the title suggested, was strictly top-down--no visions, no moments of spiritual enlightenment.   I bypassed the road to Damascus and relied solely on the evidence presented in "Who Moved the Stone," that wonderful book by Frank Morison that presented a reluctant convert's evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.

Ben Butera has given a much more general account of the role of reason in buttressing faith in his book, Faith with Good Reason: Finding the Truth through an Analytical Lens.   I can't praise the work too highly--as proof, I purchased a copy even though I had been given a free pdf file for review.  To put it another way, this book should be in the library of every apologist.  However, this post will not be a detailed critique.    Rather I'll summarize Butera's main points, and use the review as spring-board  for a general inquiry:  why is it that rational argument  does not turn atheists into believers?

FAITH WITH GOOD REASON--THE MAIN POINTS.

In the first five chapters Butera draws from his experience in reversion to the faith and as a problem solver for a large corporation (and as a teacher of problem-solving techniques) to inquire into how we know (and don't know), how we determine what is real and true.  An important element in such a process is to ask the proper questions and to make the "possible answers visible."  The exposition is clear and the examples are to the point. I'd add one cautionary note here:  logic and rational argument have their limits, illustrated most strikingly in paradoxes such as that of the Cretan Liar.   William Poundstone has discussed these limits extensively in his fine book, Labryinths of Reason";   I'll have more to say below about when (and whether)  rational arguments might be an appropriate tool for conversion.

In subsequent chapters Butera applies these principles of rational inquiry to the following important articles of Catholic faith:
  • The problem of evil;
  • Creation; 
  • Life from conception to natural death as a right endowed by God;
  • Marriage as a sacred covenant, enabling the family to be an essential foundation for civilization.
I particularly like the clear exposition of Fr. Robert Spitzer's metaphysical proof for the existence of God, and of St. Thomas Aquinas's theological arguments.

REASON?  GRACE?   GRACE + REASON?

"But if this fails to persuade our opponents, let them tell us whether there is any wisdom in created things. If there is none, why does the apostle Paul allege as the cause of men’s sins [emphasis added]      :By God’s wisdom, the world failed to come to a knowledge of God through wisdom?"  St. Athanasius,  A Discourse Against the Arians, (from the Office of Readings, 27th October, 2016) 
From St. Augustine to Pope Benedict XVI  Catholic sages have emphasized the essential mix of faith and reason.   (See here and here for expositions better than I can do.)    In contemporary times we have G.K. Chesterton,  Peter Kreeft,  Edward Feser, to name just a few with whom I'm familiar.   Keith Ward, the English theologian / philosopher, has ably defended Christian faith against the evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins, and has shown that science does NOT disprove the existence  of God, as has Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., of the Magis Reason and Faith Institute.

Given that atheists are intelligent and not evil, why is it that they aren't convinced by rational argument that God exists?    Although many scientists believe in God (or an equivalent--see "Are All Great Scientists Atheists".) , I have to admit that most scientists are non-believers, some vehemently so, like the Nobel Prize physicist Steven Weinberg.    I know of only two atheists who came to believe because of rational argument, Anthony Flew (many atheists contend that he did this as a senile dotard), and C.S. Lewis, "the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

Here is some anecdotal evidence that reason is not always effective in leading atheists to belief.   I follow a blog by the statistician / philosopher William (Matt) Briggs, "Statistician to the Stars".    There are posts in which a theist / Catholic position is taken (for example, here.)    In the comments on these posts several erudite commentors (Ye Olde Statistician, G. Rodrigues, for example) give reasoned, detailed arguments supporting a theist position but they are not accepted by atheists who also comment on the post.   Either the atheist don't accept the premises of the theistic arguments, or they refuse to follow the reasoning (the latter is called "invincible ignorance).   I've had similar experiences while a moderator for the Magis Faith and Reason Facebook site.   The atheistic evangelist trolls who frequented the site refused to read anything or follow any argument that would challenge their position--their minds were frozen.

All this convinces me that grace is the starting point; once grace is given, free will takes over;  we can accept that push that God gives us or reject it.    As the Catechism says,
 "Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason."— Catechism of the Catholic Church 154
It was grace that pushed me to read "Who moved the Stone."   It was grace that gave C.S. Lewis arguments that God did exist and that Jesus Christ was His only begotten son.    And if conversion of an non-believer is to be achieved, we must pray that grace is to be given to that end, just as St. Monica prayed for the conversion of her son St. Augustine.


About Me

My photo

Retired, cranky, old physicist.   Convert to Catholicism in 1995.   Trying to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith.   Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end (see http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/   and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland)

Extraordinary Minister of Communion volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMC.
Sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group.

And, finally, my motivation:
“It is also necessary—may God grant it!—that in providing others with books to read I myself should make progress, and that in trying to answer their questions I myself should find what I am seeking.
Therefore at the command of God our Lord and with his help, I have undertaken not so much to discourse with authority on matters known to me as to know them better by discoursing devoutly of them.”
St. Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity I,8.