Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dr. Christine Mohrmann on Language as Expression

Under the influence of positivism [N.B.: a philosophical movement in the early 20th century that, among other things, sought to reduce all language to a pure form of communication as though we were computers feeding each other strips of data; the movement posited that language is merely for the purpose of communicating data; cf. George Orwell's "newspeak" in his Nineteen-Eighty Four for a good example of this "language"], people, especially people in non-professional circles, are still inclined to regard language as pure communication, as a utilitarian instrument, as a means of social intercourse, as language par excellence and as the only real linguistic phenomenon. Or, to put it another way: every linguistic form of expression is examined and judged according to its social utility and the ease with which it can be understood. The colloquial language is the language; the ideals of efficiency and intelligibility, the idea of language as communication, dominate the conception of language as a human phenomenon. People thus tend to forget that language as expression—which in many cases includes language as a literary tool—is certainly just as important a phenomenon, and plays a great role in many spheres in human life. In this latter case, i.e., language as a means of expression, it is not merely a question of the individual element, the personal style of the writer or poet. This phenomenon can also occur as a mode of expression based on a collective tradition. Linguistic form is then no longer chiefly and exclusively a medium of communication but rather the medium of expression of a group living according to a certain tradition. In such cases linguistic usage is often deliberately stylized, and there exist language and style forms, transmitted from generation to generation, in which people deliberately deviate from language as communication, as current in everyday life, in order to obtain a certain artistic, religious, or spiritual effect. Here we have the very opposite of the matter-of-fact development of languages as media of communication as they are so rapidly evolving in our times. This is probably the reason why the man of today, when confronted with the phenomenon of stylized languages as the traditional means of expression of a collectivity, languages not only accepted but maintained in use by countless generations, finds them incomprehensible, peculiar and, therefore, usually to be discarded. Thus we can understand too how the modern Christian, in the liturgical prayer texts, for example, longs first and foremost for intelligibility, clarity and lucidity; we understand also how it was possible for a translation of the Psalms to be made in our generation in which the mystery of the ancient prayer texts has been eliminated at all costs in favour [sic] of a lucidity and clarity dictated by a certain historical positivism [N.B.: the author is speaking of the Pius XII translation of the Psalms]. [...]

[Our concern is] the traditional, stylized use of linguistic elements which have little or no contact any longer with contemporary life, but which continue to survive in another, non-material connection. Whenever this phenomenon occurs in the field of literature, one usually speaks of stylized language. In connection with religion, one commonly speaks of sacral or hieratic languages. [...]

One of the artificial languages about which we know most and from which we can thus most easily gain an idea of the nature of this phenomenon is that of the Homeric poems. Homeric Greek, or rather the artificial language of the Greek epic, as we know it from the Homeric epics, from Hesiod and, in a more or less diluted form, from poetic inscriptions, was never a spoken language and never led an organic life in a civilized community. It is a combination of heterogeneous elements which together form the stylized instrument employed by the epic poets. It consists essentially of a great number of fixed expressions, word combinations, and turns of speech which must have had their origin in a long tradition of poetic oral improvisation, but which are also employed, with great virtuosity, by later poets who committed their works to writing. The epic vocabulary is a remarkable mixture of very early and later elements, of words and word forms taken from different Greek dialects. [...] This heterogeneous combination of various elements, which immediately sufficed to conjure up for the Greeks the world of the epic and which, as the consecrated language of narrative poetry, formed a structural unit, had a very long life. It not only provided the material for two of the greatest works in the history of world literature, but continued to be used for centuries as the language of epic poetry. Generation after generation of Greeks were brought up on it, and this explains its viability. Every generation took the trouble to steep itself in this artificial idiom, and in this way a great national artistic asset was preserved. As late as the fifth century A.D. a Christian poet, Nonnos of Panopolis in the Egyptian Thebaid, wrote a paraphrase of St. John's Gospel in Homeric Greek.


Source: Christine Mohrmann, Liturgical Latin: Its Origins and Character (London: Burns & Oates, 1959), 7-11.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Art of Scholastic Disputation

It seemed best to show beginners the form and procedure of disputation in actual use and practice. It can be briefly described as follows.

In any disputation, the first concern of the one arguing should be to propose an argument entirely reduced to form. That is to say, having stripped away everything superfluous, whether ambiguous words or lengthy declarations, the one arguing should succinctly and distinctly propose a syllogism or an enthymeme. A syllogism contains three propositions, which are called the major premise, the minor premise, and the conclusion or consequent, connected by the sign of illation, which is the particle "therefore." The connection itself, however, is called the illation or consequence. An enthymeme contains two propositions, of which the first is called an antecedent, the second a consequent, also connected by an illation. For example, if I want to prove that one ought not embrace a life of voluptuousness, I form a syllogism thus: "Whatever opposes true human virtue ought not to be embraced; a voluptuous life opposes true human virtue; therefore it ought not to be embraced." Or, if I wish to form an enthymeme of antecedent and consequent, I form it thus: "A voluptuous life is opposed to the arduousness of virtue; therefore it ought not to be embraced."

Hearing the formulation of the argument, the one responding should attend to nothing except to repeat integrally and faithfully the argument proposed, and meanwhile, while he repeats the argument, he should consider carefully whether each premise is true, and to be granted, or false, and to be denied, or doubtful or equivocal, and to be distinguished. He should likewise consider whether the consequence or illation is valid or invalid. Having repeated the argument once without saying anything by way of response, the one responding then should repeat and respond to the propositions of the argument taken singly, in this order: If there were three propositions and he things the first to be true, he should say: "I grant the major premise." If he things it false, he should say: "I deny the major." If he thinks it does not matter for the conclusion that ought to be inferred or drawn, he should say: "Let the major pass," although this formula should be used modestly and rarely, and not unless it is clearly the case that the proposition is irrelevant. If he thinks the major is doubtful or equivocal, he should say: "I distinguish the major," and make the distinction with few and clear words, based on the term in which there is an equivocation. Having made the distinction, he should not immediately explain it, unless either the opponent asks for an explanation, or [he himself sees how] it was not expressed clearly enough, in which case he should explain it as briefly as he can. Especially at the beginning of a disputation he should not use up time explaining distinctions, but should in no wise depart from the form itself of his argument. When the major has been granted or explained under a distinction, he proceeds to the minor premise and observes the same procedures in denying or conceding or distinguishing that we we have set out for the major premise. Then, coming to the conclusion, if it must be conceded, he says: "I grant the consequence." If it must be denied, he says, "I deny the consequence." But if the conclusion must be distinguished, he should not say, "I distinguish the consequence," but rather, "I distinguish the consequent"; for since the consequence consists in the illation itself, but not in an assertion of truth, it can be a valid or an invalid illation, and so can be granted or denied as valid or invalid, but it cannot be distinguished, because a distinction falls upon an equivocation or ambiguity in a proposition so far as the proposition has diverse senses in signifying a truth, not upon the correctness itself of an illation. The consequent, however, is the illated [or inferred] proposition, which can be certain or equivocal or ambiguous; whence, when it is equivocal, it is distinguished, and so one does not say "I distinguish the consequence," but "I distinguish the consequent." Yet if the consequent is to be conceded or denied, since this cannot be done except by conceding or denying the consequence itself, it suffices to say "I deny (or I grant) the consequence," but not to say, "I deny (or I grant) the consequent."

When a distinction has been made respecting some proposition, that same distinction should be applied as many times as the same equivocation occurs. One should not subdistinguish the sense of a distinction once that distinction has been granted unless another equivocation plainly appears which cannot be removed by the prior distinction. It is safer to deny whatever is false and not permit it to pass, unless it is certainly a case of an invalid consequence. If the one responding does not grasp the sense of the proposition, and so is unable to discern truth or falsity or equivocation, he should ask the one propounding the argument to explain its sense, and then he should repeat the explanation.

Finally, the one responding should take care to answer with few words, and to be bound only by the form of the argument. Nor should he give a reason for everything he says, unless a reason is asked of him. He should rather leave to the one arguing the entire burden of proof; for in this way the force of the argument becomes more formally clear, and it is the more quickly dispatched.

It is the part of the task of the one presenting the argument: First, not to lay down many presuppositions, nor to introduce many middle terms, nor to propose excessively long or intricate propositions, but to hold succinctly and stringently to form, not by asking many questions, but rather by setting forth proofs, except when the force of the argument devolves upon this, that he is asked a reason for the things said, or when the state of the disputation and the point of the difficulty have not yet been made sufficiently clear. Second, to proceed always with the same middle term through its causes and principles, or in deducing an inconsistency, but not to switch to another middle term, or to repeat a proof already proposed either in the same or in other words, because both are unduly wordy and tedious. Finally, he should not always use a syllogism, but sometimes an enthymeme, which proceeds more briefly and concisely and manifests less force of hidden illation, and for this reason presents a greater difficulty to the one responding.


Source: John of St. Thomas, Tractatus de Signis, ed. Deely (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's Press, 2005), 1.1, 10-12.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How To Look At The World

How should we look at the world as Christians? A problem immediately presents itself: what is the “world”? St. John taught, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn 2:15-16). St. James wrote, “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). Finally, our Lord Himself declared, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24). Seems straightforward enough so far. But then we read this, from St. John’s Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). And there are these words that the Church has long applied to Christ and His love for the world: “I was daily [the Father’s] delight ... rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the sons of men” (Prv 8:30-31). 

St. Thomas Aquinas in his commentary on the Gospel of St. John gives us light: 
We should know that “world” is taken in three ways in Scripture. Sometimes, from the point of view of its creation, as when the Evangelist says here, “through him the world was made” (v 10). Sometimes, from the point of view of its perfection, which it reaches through Christ, as in “God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). And sometimes it is taken from the point of view of its perversity, as in “The whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1.5.128, trans. Weisheipl)
Sts. John and James warn us against loving the world “from the point of view of its perversity,” being titillated and seduced by its illusory qualities and false joys. The world’s fulfillment, “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), is viewing the world in terms of its final perfection in Christ as St. Paul described: 
Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning with labor pains together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:21-23)
The world as creation was prepared by the Father for His Son and His Son’s Bride, the Church, as the quotation from Proverbs above indicates. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, very beautifully described the world as “a palace for the bride” (“Romances,” stanza 4, trans. K. Kavanaugh and O. Rodriguez) divided into two rooms, one above (heaven) and one below (earth). Earth was “furnished / with infinite variety,” and those who occupied earth would live in the hope that “one day / [God] would exalt them, / and that he would lift them / up from their lowness / so that no one / could mock it any more.” Outside of Scripture, this poem contains perhaps one of the loveliest descriptions of the mystical transformation of creation into Christ’s kingdom at the end of time. Nevertheless, St. John warns us sternly of the tempting allure of created beauty. It truly is beautiful, and that’s why it can be dangerous. 

We know from the creation accounts in Genesis that God created the world good, very good in fact. Yet there also exists the kingdom of this world, ruled by Satan as Christ told us (cf. Luke 4:5-7; John 12:31). Fr. Jordan Aumann, a great Thomistic theologian, notes, “Without denying that created things can be occasions of sin for those who use them evilly, the challenge to Christians today is to ‘have the Gospel spirit permeate and improve the temporal order’ (Apostolicam Actuositatem 2)” (On the Front Lines 167). It remains for me to discuss briefly how creation can be used for sin, as “weapons for wickedness” (Rom 6:13).

When he created man, God gave us the power to name things, and “whatever the man called each living creature was then its name” (Gen 2:19). This passage describes the closed system of language to which humans are bound, a box that can be used for manipulation or for honest self-communication. Regarding manipulation, Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst, said, “There is no Other of the Other” (Écrits: A Selection, trans. Sheridan, 311), meaning that the social demands placed on us by others (the Other) and the values attributed to human constructs end with its own enunciation. That is, if we play out what society tells us is valuable by constantly asking it “why is that valuable? And why is that valuable?”—ultimately, the only thing society can respond with is: “Because I say it is.” Of course, this “I” of society is the “we” of the crowd that accepts its own word as gospel, that drops its own collective preferences as law, that secures its personal tastes by means of secular and civil fatwas. Why must you like these shoes, these TV shows, these songs, and hate (or at least find annoying) those brands, those artists, those actors? “Because we say so.” Why must you look this way, eat that way, spend your time this way, speak that way? “Because we say so,” and you want to fit in, don’t you?

The point of Genesis and Lacan’s insight is that human creation does not have absolute value but is like a game, a process of interaction constructed and maintained by unspoken rules; when the rules of social dynamics are broken, the game ends because any guarantee of contextual significance ends, a potential source of both humor and frustrating miscommunication. An example of this potential source of humorous but frustrating communication would be from a fictional skit where George W. Bush and Tony Blair are discussing their plans for invading Iraq, and Blair mentions as an aside that something President Bush said reminded him of the British rock band The Who. Bush questions, “Who?” To which Blair replies, “The Who.” Bush then asks again, “Yeah, who?” To which Blair answers, “It’s a band.” Bush: “Who is?” Blair: “The Who.” The pun (and any pun) played on the ambiguity of the word “who,” and the skit then toyed with the “rules” of communication in order to create humor. This toying with the rules of communication forms the core of wit.

But ultimately, self-created meaning is illusory. By illusory, I mean something that unconsciously disguises another, more important truth, whatever the truth is in a particular situation. Thus, for example, a “supermarket” is illusory insofar as it presents the image of immediately-purchasable abundance within a well-maintained façade. The customer, by looking at the store itself, will have no way of knowing the truth of global poverty and the extremely unfair distribution of goods in the world, perhaps even among the farmers who produced the food in the market. Yet a supermarket is necessary to survive. Or growing up in a upper-middle-class suburb all one’s life may give the impression that the rest of the world is relatively quiet, safe, and uniform, which it isn’t, but still suburbs are an apparent necessity for modern urban living. Thus, by saying that something is illusory in this psychological sense, I am not a priori ascribing a moral judgment to that thing (by condeming it as bad or praising it as good) but am simply pointing out its psychological function, a necessity due to human rationality and language. Any use of human constructs not in line with the values of creation (i.e. natural law) or redemption (revealed morality) is morally wrong. Thus, for example, social etiquette can either foster comfortable relations (the virtue of affability) or pridefully display one’s social superiority.

Modern cultural life rests on the projection of an illusory image—and with and through that image, a self-constructed identity. The postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard noted, “This is a society that is endlessly concerned to vindicate itself, perpetually seeking to justify its own existence. Everything has to be made public [….] The society’s ‘look’ is a self-publicizing one” (America 93). Interestingly, modernity’s self-projection fits well with St. John’s description of what’s in the world: lust of the eyes, of the flesh, pride of life.

So how is a Christian to react to the world, to look at it? St. John of Avila, following the Gospel teaching, said quite simply, 
The Christian should see that, since the world dishonored the blessed Son of God [by crucifying Him...,] it makes no sense to esteem or believe it in anything. Since the world was deceived in not recognizing such a brilliant light and in not honoring the one who is the truest and most perfect honor, Christians should condemn what the world approves and prize and love what the world hates and despises. With great care they should flee from being prized by that world which despised their Lord. [...] Just as those who belong to the world do not have ears to listen to the truth and the teaching of God, but rather they despise it, so anyone who belongs to the company of Christ has no ears to listen to or believe the lies of the world. For at one time it flatters and at another time persecutes; at one time it promises and at another time threatens; at one time it terrifies and at another appears gentle. But in everything it deceives and intends to deceive. With such eyes we must look upon it.” (Audi, Filia, trans. Gormley, 1.3, 46)
How hard is this saying for modern day Christians! Just look at women, for example, who regardless of their religious beliefs, universally struggle with the problem of self-image, deeply ingrained by the beauty industry. The world tells women that they must look this way and not that way, and everything around us confirms the message, so we believe it to be true: we must look this way. A Christian woman must not only see through the whole lie of society but then consciously reject it, a task that seems absolutely unfathomable to most modern women. 

The world says that abortion is part of proper medical care for independent women who are assumed and even expected to be sexually active outside of marriage. But even from the 1st century, Christians have explicitly condemned abortion as evil: “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant” (Didache). Regardless, what does it matter when the Christian identity itself has vanished? 

The inner sense of hostility towards the fallen world that existed in early Christians­—necessarily so because they were being either threatened to give up their faith or, if they refused, murdered by the Roman Empire—has disappeared since the world “became Christian.” Only in hindsight can we see that the world became Christian in name. We cannot change the course of “Christian” society by stepping in front of it now because it was a battle lost nearly 1700 years ago with the final nail on the head hammered by the year 744, when under the direction of the man who was to become Pope Leo III (r. 795-816), a forged document called the “Donation of Constantine” secured the Church’s political power over the Holy Roman Empire and planted the seed of the Church’s applied political theory for the next milennium, characterized from the beginning by fraud and manipulation (cf. John Deely, Medieval Philosophy Redefined, 38-41). Perhaps we see now the fruit of this seed, all guided providentially: the real division between the holy and the not-yet-holy, between those who accept Christ as their Lord and those who, although they still belong to Him, resist His rule as the theologian Coleman O’Neill put it in his 1968 essay “The Pilgrim Church.”

What can we do? We ourselves must be converted. We cannot tell others (the Other) what to do­­—that’s the Other’s function. We must follow the model of Christ, who “began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), Who first did and then preached, teaching as a good father does his children: “Watch me and imitate.” We must start living a genuine Christian life and only then can we witness our faith to others. What is being witnessed but one’s life, and if that life is not Christ’s, then what can be witnessed other than one’s projected illusions?

Imagine today if all Christians followed the teachings even contained in the Didache, if all Christians were public models of: chastity; respect for the permanence and faithfulness due to marriage (i.e. not divorcing and remarrying like everyone else); respect for life; respect for their bodies through modesty, careful treatment, and good personal grooming; prayer; sober living—not partying, not smoking, using illegal drugs, or becoming intoxicated; true independence by their resistance and rejection of cultural lies, not concerning themselves with competition, glamor, lust, greed, entertainment. What if all Christians refused to buy into the lies of the beauty industry, the entertainment industry, the sports industry? What if all Christians refused to pay for or support in any way TV channels, stations, or programs that depicted anti-Christian behavior? What if all Christians refused to waste their lives playing video games to the destruction of their interior lives for the sole purpose of avoiding a boredom that they don’t really know how to alleviate anyway? What if all Christians refused to waste time chatting, texting, posting all the intimate and useless details of their lives through social networking? What if Christian money actually had any real power, even political power, rather than wallowing in the filth that everyone else indulges? In fact, abortion will not end so long as there is a single baptized woman anywhere in the world who aborts her own children.

No, it’s quite useless to expect anything else from the world. And it’s equally as useless to make demands of a world that simply doesn’t care how you feel or how you’re being mistreated and victimized. Yes, it preys on your pain, your anger. It whispers into your ear, urging you to become upset, to drive yourself insane at the injustice of it all, to protest, to rebel against authority, to “take control,” to be “independent,” “free-thinking,” “self-determined.” You will never get anywhere with that.

The Saints—the real Christians—were the ones who by the grace of God decided to stop playing the game of manipulations and lies, and that’s how they looked at the fallen world: a game of lies.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Christian's Good Name

It is one thing to love honor and human esteem for themselves and to rest in them, which is evil, and it is another thing to love these things for some good end, which is not evil. [...] Not only persons in authority, but Christians in general, should practice what is written: "Take care of a good name" (Sir 41:12). This does not mean to rest in it, but that a Christian has to be such that, whoever hears or sees his life, may glorify God, as we usually do at the sight of a rose or a tree with fruit and shade. This is what the holy gospel commands: that our light might so shine before men that, seeing our good works, they may give glory to the heavenly Father (Mt 5:16) from whom all good proceeds. [...]

It requires a lot of virtue to possess something as if one did not have it. So too, it is extremely difficult to keep the honor others give us from cleaving to our hearts. Very few succeed in doing this.


Source: St. John of Avila, Audi, Filia, trans. by Joan Frances Gormley (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2006), 1.4, 46-47.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

St. John of Avila on the Language of the World

[NB: St. John of Avila, diocesan priest from 16th c. Spain and doctor of the Church, is esteemed for his writings on the spiritual life. By his help and approbation, the Inquisition cleared and approved St. Teresa of Avila's work, especially her autobiography. To his preaching is attributed the conversion of both St. Francis Borgia and St. John of God. He was friends of St. Ignatius of Loyola and many of the first Jesuits. His works on reformation of the clergy and call for more systematic and rigorous formation for seminarians and priests influenced the decrees at the Council of Trent.]


Since the beginning of the spiritual life is faith, which, as St. Paul says, enters the soul "through hearing," [...] it is of little advantage that the voice of divine truth should sound from outside if within there are not ears desirous of hearing it. [...]

It is to be noted that when they were created, Adam and Eve spoke only one language. That language lasted in the world until human pride, desirous of building the tower of confusion, was punished. Then, instead of one language by which all could understand one another, there came about a host of languages through which people could not understand one another (cf. Gen 11:9). We learn from this that, until they rose up against their Creator and broke his commandment with impudent pride, our first parents spoke only one spiritual language in their souls. Because of this, they had perfect concord with one another, within themselves, and with God. They lived in the quiet state of innocence, with their passions obeying reason and reason obeying God. They were at peace with God, within themselves, and with each other. But when, through foolhardy disobedience, they rose up against the Lord of the heavens, they were punished, and we in them. Instead of one excellent language by which they could understand each other exceedingly well, there sprung up innumerable very evil languages, full of such confusion and darkness that people could not agree with one another. Nor could one man be in harmony within himself, and even less with God.

These languages have no order among them, for they are disorder itself. However, in order to speak of them, we may reduce them to the order and number of three: the languages of the world, of the flesh, and of the devil. [...]

We must not listen to the language of the world because it is all lies, exceedingly harmful for those who believe in them. They cause us to turn away from the truth that really is, to follow the lie that exists only in appearance and by convention. So deceived, a person casts God and his holy will behind his back and orders his life by the blind guide of what pleases the world. Thus is engendered a heart desirous of honor and of being esteemed by others. [...] Such people prize their honor so much that they can in no way bear even the slightest word against it, or anything that tastes or smells like contempt, even if it comes from far away. On the contrary, there are such subtleties and trifles in all this that it is a wonder that anyone escapes stumbling on something and offending the sensitive man of the world, often without meaning to do so. But these people, so quick to feel contempt, are hard and slow when it comes to overlooking and pardoning it. Even if they wanted to, what a troop of false friends and relatives will rise up, citing the laws and customs of the world! Thus, the conclusion is drawn that it is better to lose fortune, health, house, wife, and children, and even all this seems little to such people. They say that it is better to lose the life of body and soul and all that is of earth and heaven, and that even God himself and his law must be counted as little and placed underfoot, so that this utterly vain honor might not be lost but be esteemed above all things, even over God himself. [...]

So as not to be despised by human beings, they despise God and are ashamed to follow his laws lest they be ashamed before men.

But let them do as they wish. Let them honor their honor until they can do no more. Yet firm and fixed is the sentence pronounced against them by Jesus Christ, the sovereign judge, who says: "Whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of the Virgin shall be ashamed, when he shall come in his majesty, and that of his Father, and of the holy angels" (Lk 9:26). [...] If this lowly worm is ashamed to follow you, O Lord, the King of Majesty, you who are honor and greatness itself, you should be ashamed that one so vile and so evil should remain in your company and that of those who belong to you. [...] Since this evil affection is powerful enough to make people give up believing in Jesus Christ, what evil can it not do? Who will not make the sign of the cross against it? Because of this, Saint Augustine said that no one knows his strength for overcoming the love of vainglory, except the one who has waged war against it (Sermon 4.2). [...]

The Christian should see that, since the world dishonored the blessed Son of God, eternal truth and highest good, it makes no sense to esteem or believe it in anything. Since the world was deceived in not recognizing such a brilliant light and in not honoring the one who is the truest and most perfect honor, Christians should condemn what the world approves and prize and love what the world hates and despises. With great care they should flee from being prized by that world which despised their Lord. For them, it is a great sign of Christ's love to be despised by the world with and for him.

Just as those who belong to the world do not have ears to listen to the truth and the teaching of God, but rather they despise it, so anyone who belongs to the company of Christ has no ears to listen to or believe the lies of the world. For at one time it flatters and at another time persecutes; at one time it promises and at another time threatens; at one time it terrifies and at another appears gentle. But in everything it deceives and intends to deceive. With such eyes we must look upon it. For it is certain that we have caught the world in such great lies and false promises that, if anyone should have told us even half as many, we would not trust that person again in anything. Even if such a one were to speak the truth, we would find it hard to believe. What the world can do is neither good nor bad, for it cannot give or take away the grace of God. Even where it seems to have power, it can do nothing since, without the will of the Lord, it cannot even reach to a hair of our head (cf. Lk 21:18). If the world wants to tell us otherwise about itself, let us not believe it. Who then will not dare to struggle against an enemy that can do nothing at all?


Source: St. John of Avila, Audi, Filia, trans. by Joan Frances Gormley (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2006), 1.1-3, 41-46.


Cf. also:

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 5: "Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women"

Blessed art thou amongst women

1. Exegesis. These words were pronounced by St. Elizabeth during Mary's visit. St. Luke says that "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a strong voice: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!'" (Lk 1:41-42). Notice the repetition of the word "blessed": the mother and the son follow the same line and the blessing of God falls on both. The phrase "among women" raises the adjective "blessed" even to the supernatural, for it is equivalent to saying "blessed are you among all women," as we translate in the Spanish. It is an eastern mode of speaking that supplies for the lack of superlatives by using the positive degree of comparison ([cf. Jdg 5:24: "Blessed among women be Jahel, the wife of Haber the Cinite, and blessed be she in her tent")].

2. Theology. Listen to St. Thomas [(Expositio salutationis angelicæ, article 1-2: "The Lord is with you"; "Blessed are you among women"; trans. by Joseph B. Collins (New York 1939); available here:]:
[In the third place, t]he Blessed Virgin exceeds the Angels in purity. She is not only pure, but she obtains purity for others. She is purity itself, wholly lacking in every guilt of sin, for she never incurred either mortal or venial sin. So, too, she was free from the penalties of sin. Sinful man, on the contrary, incurs a threefold curse on account of sin. 
The first fell upon woman who conceives in corruption, bears her child with difficulty, and brings it forth in pain. The Blessed Virgin was wholly free from this, since she conceived without corruption, bore her Child in comfort, and brought Him forth in joy: “It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise” [Is 35:2]. 
The second penalty was inflicted upon man in that he shall earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. The Blessed Virgin was also immune from this because, as the Apostle says, virgins are free from the cares of this world and are occupied wholly with the things of the Lord [1 Cor 7:34]. 
The third curse is common both to man and woman in that both shall one day return to dust. The Blessed Virgin was spared this penalty, for her body was raised up into heaven, and so we believe that after her death she was revived and transported into heaven: “Arise, O Lord, into your resting place, You and the ark which You hast sanctified” [Ps 131:8]. 
Because the Blessed Virgin was immune from these punishments, she is “blessed among women.” Moreover, she alone escaped the curse of sin, brought forth the Source of blessing, and opened the gate of heaven. It is surely fitting that her name is “Mary,” which is akin to the Star of the Sea (“Maria—maris stella”), for just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so also Christians are by Mary guided to glory.
In order to explain why we ought to bless Mary among all women, the contemporary author whom we have cited above writes with piety and unction [(Fr. Barcon, S.J.)]:
For being the Mother of God, chosen and preferred above all women.
For being both mother and virgin, utterly unique among all women.
For being conceived without Original Sin, solely among all women.
For being holier than all the women saints of the world.
For being the most sweet Mother of all men.
For being our Advocate, the Refuge of sinners, the Consolation of the afflicted, the Help of Christians, the Queen of peace.
Because God—O Virgin Mary!—was pleased to look upon you, and thus, as you yourself have said, all generations shall call you blessed.
And all mortals shall invoke you and praise you and bless you.
And altars, temples, and hermitages on the heights of the mountains, in the valleys, and through all the earth shall be raised for you, and they shall be offered to you as a testimony of gratitude and love.
And they shall say: Blessed a thousand times, O Virgin of the Pillar!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of the Helpless!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of the Anguished!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of Montserrat!
Blessed a thousand times, Virgin of Begoña, Virgin of the Fields, Virgin of the Remedies of Fuensanta, Virgin of Guadalupe!
Blessed for being more beautiful than Rachel.
Blessed for being purer than Susannah.
Blessed for being more powerful than Esther.
Blessed for being more valiant and stronger than Judith.
Blessed for being more prudent than Abigail.
You are the joy of Israel, the honor and happiness of our people! [Cf. Jdt 15:10]
Help us, O Lady, to praise you, to bless you, and to rejoice in your company in heaven unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 451-453.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 2 Tim. 1.3

"God’s grace is like a fire that, when covered with ashes, no longer shines: in a man, grace is thus covered by laziness and human fear."

Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 2 Tim. 1.3.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 4: "The Lord Is With Thee"

The Lord is with thee

1. Exegesis. Let us listen to a contemporary exegete:
This phrase—writes Fr. Juan Leal—is related to the exhortation to rejoice and with the fullness of grace. Fr. Holzmeister has studied its remote context: 
a) In the Bible, the phrase has been applied only to those exceptional persons during special and outstanding circumstances. It is given by God to indicate a singular and difficult mission, which is being realized or about to be realized. 
b) The presence of the Lord is always active and efficacious in the success of the imposed mission.
The remote context is not enough. Its proximate meaning, which makes concrete its general meaning, has more importance. Here the context immediately speaks to us of the foretold Messianic joy and the fullness of grace. The presence of the Lord, which is the cause of joy and grace, determines its supernatural character. Although there are three phrases that grammatically make up the angel's salutation, there is a logical subordination among each. The Virgin could rejoice with this Messianic joy of the prophets because God was pleased to dwell in her in the fullness of grace and "has done great things for her," which is all proof of the exceptional presence of God with Mary. This presence had already been established, for the angel did not say, "The Lord will be with thee" but "the Lord is with thee," now and after as before. The presence of God here is dynamic on the order of the person and on the order of the mission.
 2. Theology. Let us listen in the first place to the commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas [(Expositio salutationis angelicæ, article 1: "The Lord is with you"; trans. by Joseph B. Collins (New York 1939); available here:]:
[In the second place,] the Blessed Virgin excels the Angels in her closeness to God. The Angel Gabriel indicated this when he said: “The Lord is with you”—as if to say: “I reverence you because you art nearer to God than I, because the Lord is with you.” By the Lord, he means: 
1) the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit, who in like manner are not with any Angel or any other spirit: “The Holy which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God” [Lk 1:35]. 
2) God the Son was in her womb: “Rejoice and praise, O you habitation of Sion; for great is He that is in the midst of you, the Holy One of Israel” [Is 12:6]. The Lord is not with the Angel in the same manner as with the Blessed Virgin; for with her He is as a Son, and with the Angel He is the Lord. 
3) The Lord, the Holy Ghost, is in her as in a temple, so that it is said: “The temple of the Lord, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,” [Benedictus antiphon from the Little Office of Blessed Virgin], because she conceived by the Holy Ghost. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon you” [Lk 1:35]. 
The Blessed Virgin is closer to God than is an Angel, because with her are the Lord the Father, the Lord the Son, and the Lord the Holy Ghost—in a word, the Holy Trinity. Indeed of her we sing: “Noble resting place of the Triune God.” “The Lord is with you” are the most praise-laden words that the Angel could have uttered; and, hence, he so profoundly reverenced the Blessed Virgin because she is the Mother of the Lord and Our Lady. Accordingly she is very well named “Mary,” which in the Syrian tongue means “Lady.”
And now let us listen, following the custom of our exposition, to the mystical commentary of St. Bernard (Hom. 3 in laud. Virg. Mat., n. 3):
The angel did not say: "The Lord is in you," but "the Lord is with you." Although God is equally in all parts in the simplicity of His substance as with all things, He nevertheless exists in a different mode in rational creatures than with others, and even among rational creatures, He exists through His efficacy in a different way, depending on whether He is in the good or the bad. In the above mode, without doubt, He exists in irrational creatures who are unable to comprehend Him. In rational creatures who can know He is there by concepts, nevertheless He can be truly grasped only by the good who love Him. It can be said that the Lord is with them only among the good who by their manner of life are united in harmony with the will of God. When they have subjected their wills to His justice, there is no indecency done to God, for they desire to do simply what He desires, and they do nothing apart from that will, by which they are especially joined to God. If these things may be said of all the saints, more particularly may they be said of Mary, to whom God was joined not only through her will but even through her flesh so that of His substance and that of the Virgin's, He formed one Christ, or put better, He formed one Christ, who was not entirely the substance of God and entirely the substance of the Virgin, despite belonging fully both to God and to the Virgin. And there were not two sons, but one son from One and the other. The angel, therefore, says, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee." Not only is the Lord, the Son, with you, to Whom you gave your flesh, but also the Lord, the Holy Ghost, by Whom you conceived, and the Lord, the Father, who begot the One you conceived. The Father, I repeat, is with you, who has given you His Son as well. The Son is with you, Who in order to work in you an admirable mystery, closed Himself within you in a most marvelous way in the hidden depths of your womb and for you guarded your virginal seal. The Holy Ghost is with you, Who with the Father and the Son sanctifies your womb. The Lord, then, is with you.

Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 449-451.

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 3: "Full of Grace"

Full of Grace

1. Exegesis. The Greek word employed by St. Luke in his Gospel is κεχαριτωμένη, which signifies highly graced [translator's note: one could also translate the Spanish as highly favored], most graceful, or according to Spanish tradition, full of grace, corresponding to the Latin of the Vulgate: gratia plena. The Greek expression employed by St. Luke is very rare in Sacred Scripture. It appears only three times in the Old Testament and twice in the New (cf. Eccl. 9:8; Ps. 17:26 [Vulgate numbering]; Lk. 1:28; Eph. 1:6). The Greek participle expresses three ideas in the Latin "full of grace": 1) the idea of grace; 2) the idea of possession, a permanent and established state of being; c) the idea of abundance. The tradition of the Jerusalem Bible is considered to be the most clear and exact: You, who have been given and are full of grace. [1]

2. Theology. First, let us listen to the magisterial commentary of the Angelic Doctor [(Expositio salutationis angelicæ, article 1: "Full of grace"; trans. by Joseph B. Collins (New York 1939); available here:; for the reader's benefit, I quote more of St. Thomas's commentary here than Fr. Marín originally did)]:
The Blessed Virgin was superior to any of the Angels in the fullness of grace, and as an indication of this the Angel showed reverence to her by saying: “Full of grace.” This is as if he said: “I show you reverence because you dost excel me in the fullness of grace.” 
The Blessed Virgin is said to be full of grace in three ways. First, as regards her soul she was full of grace. The grace of God is given for two chief purposes, namely, to do good and to avoid evil. The Blessed Virgin, then, received grace in the most perfect degree, because she had avoided every sin more than any other Saint after Christ. [For sin is either original, and from this she was cleansed in the womb, or mortal or venial, and from these she was free.] Thus it is said: “You are fair, My beloved, and there is not a spot in you” [Sg 4:7]. St. Augustine says: “If we could bring together all the Saints and ask them if they were entirely without sin, all of them, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin, would say with one voice: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’[1 Jn 1:8]. I except, however, this holy Virgin of whom, because of the honor of God, I wish to omit all mention of sin” [De natura et gratia 36]. For we know that to her was granted grace to overcome every kind of sin by Him whom she merited to conceive and bring forth, and He certainly was wholly without sin. [...]
She exercised the works of all the virtues, whereas the Saints are conspicuous for the exercise of certain special virtues. Thus, one excelled in humility, another in chastity, another in mercy, to the extent that they are the special exemplars of these virtues—as, for example, St. Nicholas is an exemplar of the virtue of mercy. 
The Blessed Virgin is the exemplar of all the virtues. In her is the fullness of the virtue of humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” [Lk 1:38]. And again: “He has looked on the humility of his handmaid” [Lk 1:48]. So she is also exemplar of the virtue of chastity: “Because I know not man” [Lk 1:34]. And thus it is with all the virtues, as is evident. Mary was full of grace not only in the performance of all good, but also in the avoidance of all evil. 
Again, the Blessed Virgin was full of grace in the overflowing effect of this grace upon her flesh or body. For while it is a great thing in the Saints that the abundance of grace sanctified their souls, yet, moreover, the soul of the holy Virgin was so filled with grace that from her soul grace poured into her flesh from which was conceived the Son of God. Hugh of St. Victor says of this: “Because the love of the Holy Spirit so inflamed her soul, He worked a wonder in her flesh, in that from it was born God made Man.” “And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God” [Lk 1:35]. 
[Thirdly, t]he plenitude of grace in Mary was such that its effects overflow upon all men. It is a great thing in a Saint when he has grace to bring about the salvation of many, but it is exceedingly wonderful when grace is of such abundance as to be sufficient for the salvation of all men in the world, and this is true of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin. Thus, “a thousand bucklers,” that is, remedies against dangers, “hang therefrom” [Sg 4:4]. Likewise, in every work of virtue one can have her as one’s helper. Of her it was spoken: “In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue” [Sir 24:25]. Therefore, Mary is full of grace, exceeding the Angels in this fullness and very fittingly is she called “Mary” which means “in herself enlightened”: “The Lord will fill your soul with brightness” [Is 48:11]. And she will illumine others throughout the world for which reason she is compared to the sun and to the moon.
Following this authoritative theological commentary of the Angelic Doctor, let us listen to the mystical commentary of St. Bernard, full of mildness and affection [(Hom. 3 in laud. Vir. Mat., nn. 2-3)]:
We have here, then, what the angel presented to Mary, saying: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee." We read in the Acts of the Apostles of St. Stephen who was "full of grace" (Acts 6:5) and of the apostles who also were "full of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:4), but quite differently from Mary; because, among many other reasons, neither in the former did the fullness of the divinity dwell bodily as it did within Mary, nor did the latter conceive by the Holy Ghost as did Mary. "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee." To what extent was she full of grace if the Lord was with her! What we ought to admire more is how the angel found the One who sent him to the Virgin already present with her. Was God faster than the angel so as to arrive on earth before His messenger? I ought not be surprised because while the King was in his rest, the nard of the Virgin was spreading its scent, and the perfume of its aroma was rising up before the presence of His glory, and in this way she found grace in the eyes of the Lord, while those around Him cried out: "Who is this, rising up from the desert as a column of smoke, formed by the perfumes of myrrh and frankincense?" (Sg 3:6). And at once the King set out from His holy place, rejoiced as a giant to run his course (Ps 18:6), and although He came from the highest height of heaven, He wished with the most ardent desire that He should arrive before His messenger to the Virgin, whom He loved, whom He had chosen for Himself, whose beauty He desired. To Him does the Church, full of rejoicing, say upon seeing Him come from the distance: "Behold how He comes leaping over the mountains, passing over the hills" (Sg 2:8).
With good reason does the King desire the beauty of the Virgin, who was doing what David, her father, said to her from long before: "Listen, daughter, and see: incline your ear and forget your people and your father's house." And if you do this, "The King shall desire your beauty" (Ps 44:11). She heard, then, and saw, not as those who hear but do not listen nor those who see but do not understand, but as one who hears and believes, as one who sees and understands. She inclined her ear to obedience and her heart to teaching, and forgot her people and her father's house. For she did not think of increasing her people through succession, nor did she intend to give the house of her father to an heir, but all the honor which she might have had from her fathers, she abandoned as if it were worthless, so that she might gain Christ (Phil. 3:8). And she did not think falsely, for she attained, without violence to the integrity of her virginity, to bear Christ for her Son. Thus with great reason may we call her "full of grace," for she both maintained the grace of virginity and, more than that, achieved the glory of motherhood.


1. In a well-documented study on the meaning of the expression "full of grace," an excellent contemporary exegete has come to the following conclusion: "The fullness of grace is a thing of "fuller sense" [sensus plenior] pertaining to a second group, and within which are certainly contained all the graces that God has arranged to give to the Virgin Mary in preparation for her divine maternity; and within which probably are also included the same graces which God arranged to give to His Mother in electing her to the divine maternity (cf. Manuel de Tuya, O.P., Exegetical-theological Evaluation of "Hail, full of grace": Ciencia Tomista, Jan-Mar 1965 [translator's note: this year is a typo; the actual year of publication is 1956; volume number is 83], p. 27).


Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 447-449.

"Liking" Isn't "Helping"

From Feature Shoot:
A recent ad campaign for Singapore charity, Crisis Relief Singapore, confronts the idea of ‘Facebook philanthropy,’ reminding us that ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ issues of world crisis on Facebook isn’t nearly enough. The ads show heartbreaking images encircled by a slew of thumbs up signs—the irony here quite powerful—and read, “Liking isn’t helping. Be a volunteer. Change a life.” A refreshing and bold message, these ads are a call to action, encouraging us to get out from behind the screen if we want to make a difference.
Source: Amanda Gorence, "'Liking Isn't Helping': Powerful Ad Campaign Addresses 'Facebook Philanthropy'," Feature Shoot, February 17, 2014, accessed February 18, 2014,

See some of the photographs here:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Becoming an "Elite"—Prudence

In May 2010, Seth Godin wrote,
In the developing world, there's often a sharp dividing line between the elites and everyone else. The elites have money and/or an advanced education. It's not unusual to go to the poorest places on earth and find a small cadre of people who aren't poor at all. Sometimes, this is an unearned position, one that's inherited or acquired in ways that take advantage of others. Regardless, you can't just announce you're an elite and become one. 
In more and more societies, though (including my country and probably yours [and I'm including virtually the entire planet here, except perhaps North Korea] ), I'd argue that there's a different dividing line. This is the line between people who are actively engaged in new ideas, actively seeking out change, actively engaging--and people who accept what's given and slog along. It starts in school, of course, and then the difference accelerates as we get older. Some people make the effort to encounter new challenges or to grapple with things they disagree with. They seek out new people and new opportunities and relish the discomfort that comes from being challenged to grow (and challenging others to do the same). [...] 
[Becoming an elite is] because of a choice, the decision to be aware and engaged, to challenge a status quo of your choice.
Source: Seth Godin, "Are You an Elite?," Seth's Blog, May 11, 2010, accessed February 16, 2014,

In more general terms, Godin indicates the option that is available to all regardless of their financial or living circumstances, the option to take responsibility for their actions, their lives, their orientation—and ultimately it will be either towards God or away from God. What Godin is actually talking about, when translated into the language of the Catholic heritage of moral philosophy and theology, is the difference between those with prudence (combined with a certain magnanimity) and those without it.

The Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan called this reflective self-appropriation, a series of actions by which we examine our experience, form an insight regarding it, make a judgment, and then decide to act on our insights and judgments. This process is, really, a contemporary version of what St. Thomas called the steps for acquiring prudence: reflection, judgment, action. It is a necessary step in order to be both a good human as human (for those who are legitimately ignorant of Christian revelation, wherever they may be) and a good Christian. Prudence shows us our proper goals and the right means to attain them. Magnanimity encourages us on to endeavor towards great things, those things worthy of honor, those things which give glory to God.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Mass in Relation to the Liturgical Year and Salvation History

The Mass considered in its Relations to the Life of Jesus Christ, to the Ecclesiastical Year, and to the Universal History of Religion

By the Rev. Leop. J. Dujardin. C.SS.R.

The civil year is an abridgment of human life in which one natural discerns four seasons; the day is an abridgment of the year. So also, the ecclesiastical year, which begins with Advent, is an abridgment of the principal mysteries of religion; and one may see in the ceremonies of the Mass an abridgment of the ecclesiastical year.

I. Preparation.

The altar is erected, lit up by burning candles, adorned with verdure and flowers, and other decorations; legions of angels range themselves around it: think here of the creation of the world.

Sacred relics are deposited there; the saints descend from heaven and join the angels in order to adore our divine Savior: think of the redemption of the world.

2. The Beginning of the Mass.

The priest arrives at the altar and inclines profoundly: the first man, opening his eyes to the light, pays homage to his Creator.

The priest ascends the altar: man takes possession of the empire that God has prepared for him.

The priest goes to open the Missal, and returns to the middle of the altar, where he again inclines: man receives the law from God and promises to obey him.

The priest descends from the altar: the fall of man.

The priest humbles himself and strikes his breast, then he stands erect, and ascends again the altar while praying: man acknowledges his fault; God has compassion on him and promises him a Savior; he is consoled, hopes, and prays while working. Let us too, with the priest, remember our sins, humble ourselves, and pray with confidence.

3. Kyrie Eleison.

The patriarchs and the prophets sighed for the coming of the Messiah during four thousand years; this is perfectly expressed by the nine-fold repetition of this ardent prayer. Let us enter into the same sentiments, and let us ask Jesus Christ to be born and to grow in our hearts while we say with fervor: Kyrie eleison, etc.

4. Gloria in Excelsis.

It was the angels that intoned this magnificent hymn over the cradle of the Savior, and the poor shepherds of Bethlehem have had the happiness of hearing it. Let us rejoice with them all and repeat this beautiful prayer while meditating on each word.

5. Collect.

Hidden life of Jesus Christ: the Son of God spends thirty years on earth in a most humble condition, in poverty, mortification, labor, patience, sweetness, charity, abnegation, obedience, piety; and before entering public life, he retired to the desert to give himself up to fasting and to prayer during forty days. He gathered from this hidden life a preparation for his public life that would benefit others unto their salvation. What an example!

6. Epistle.

The Epistle is an instruction that our Lord addresses to us through the mouth of the prophets or apostles in order to dispose us to hear him himself. Before appearing in the world, he announced himself through the prophets and his precursor, St. John the Baptist; and before going to preach the Gospel in any place, he made his apostles or disciples precede him in order to prepare men's minds to receive him.

7. Gospel.

Here is our Lord going to instruct us by his own mouth. Let us rise in order to pay to him our respects, to show him that we are ready to obey him; let us make the sign of the cross on our foreheads, on our lips, and on our hearts, to consecrate to him our thoughts, our words, and our affections.

8. Credo.

The Credo is an act of faith in the principal truths that God has revealed to his Church; that which is recited at the Mass is the Symbol of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. Let us say it with faith, love, and thanksgiving for the happiness that we have of being Catholics. Having listened to and seen the revelation of God through the Epistle and Gospel, let us respond accordingly by confessing our faith publicly.

9. Offertory.

The Offertory well represents the Lord's Supper, in which our Lord celebrated for the last time the sacrifice of the Old Law before substituting for it the sacrifice of the New Law, of which the Old Law was the figure. Let us offer with the priest the bread and wine, destined to be changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

10. Lavabo.

The priest washes his hands: our divine Master washes the feet of his disciples, to give us a grand example of humility and charity, and to teach us how pure we should be in order to participate in the adorable mystery that he is about to institute.

11. Orate Fratres.

The priest invites us to pray with more fervor in order that his Sacrifice, which is also ours, may be agreeable to God. Let us answer him with our whole heart: Suscipiat Dominus, etc.

12. Preface.

The Preface is the giving of thanks. Before consecrating bread and wine our divine Savior raised his eyes towards heaven and gave thanks to his Father; this is the reason why the priest in finishing the prayer called Secreta, raises his voice and invites us to thank God through Jesus Christ.

13. Memento of the Living.

Let us here call to mind that Mass has a twofold object: the sacrament of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the cross which it represents and renews. When leaving the supper-room to go to the Garden of Olives, our Lord offered a fervent prayer for himself and for his Church; this is also done by the priest at this moment; let us unite ourselves to him.

14. Hanc Igitur Oblationem.

While saying this prayer the priest holds his two hands extended over the host and the chalice in order to unite himself with the assistants and all the faithful, as in the sacrifices of the Old Law, to the divine Victim who is about to immolate himself for the salvation of all. Let each one unite his intention to that of the celebrant, while saying with him: Hanc igitur, etc.

15. Consecration.

This is the great moment: the miracle of love is wrought; the minister of God receives and adores Jesus Christ in his hands. The elevation of the Host and the Chalice represents the crucifixion, and the separation of the holy species represents the death of our Lord. Let us reanimate our faith and love; let us prostrate ourselves and adore.

16. Memento of the Dead.

When our Lord drew his last breath on the cross, being entirely consumed for our salvation, his holy soul descended in triumph to Limbo and Purgatory in order to console and deliver the just that were expecting his coming. Let us ask him to visit again at this moment the souls of the faithful departed, and let us think of those to whom we should more particularly give our assistance.

17. Pater Noster.

Let us visit in spirit the tomb of our Savior, and while confiding in the merits of his life and death, recite with confidence the admirable prayer that he has taught and left us.

18. Pax Domini.

While pronouncing these words the priest drops a part of the Host into the Chalice; the two species thus reunited represent the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and peace is announced to the world as it was announced at his birth.

19. Agnus Dei.

Preparation for Communion.—If we have not the happiness of communicating sacramentally with the priest, let us not fail to make a spiritual Communion by uniting ourselves interiorly to Jesus Christ, by a sincere desire to receive him and by an act of fervent love: we should therefore always say the prayers before and after Communion, whether sacramental or spiritual. What hinders our union with God is sin; let us then, before all, beg the Victim, who is without stain, to free us from sin, while saying the Agnus Dei, etc., three times with the priest, and striking our breasts as if acknowledging ourselves guilty.

20. Post-Communion.

Jesus is no longer on the altar; he is in heaven, at the right-hand side of God his Father, and on earth in the hearts of those that have piously received him. After the Ascension, the chief disciples retired with the Blessed Virgin to the Cenaculum, to await there in recollection and prayer the divine Consoler whom Jesus Christ promised to his Church; let us imitate them, kneeling in silent adoration and fervent recollection.

21. Blessing.

The Coming Down of the Holy Ghost.—The Holy Ghost bursts into our world with the full might of his light and love, eager to be received by the faithful. Let us ask him to penetrate our minds and our hearts, and to fill us with his gifts, as we devoutly sign ourselves with the sign of the cross.

22. Last Gospel.

The preaching of the Gospel throughout the world; perpetual struggle of light with darkness, of truth with error, of good with evil. Full of the Holy Ghost, let us march forward. He that has fought well shall be crowned.

Praise be Jesus Christ forever!


Source: Included in St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori: vol. 13: The Holy Mass, trans by. Eugene Grimm (New York: Benzinger, 1889), 17-21.

How Not To Take Things Personally

If you are like many, you probably wake up and go through your day expecting that it will go relatively smoothly and predictably. You expect to see the same people, go through the same routines, eat basically the same food. Perhaps you look forward to it or perhaps you don’t. But something everyone inescapably experiences are people who are inconsiderate, impatient, or even downright hostile. These people can treat us in a way that leaves us feeling worthless, helpless, overwhelmed, or even infuriated. Our interactions with these people, whether in a face-to-face encounter, or over the phone, or while driving in traffic, can dampen our spirits and make it difficult to focus for the rest of the day. Some of us will spend much time and energy thinking about things we could have done or said in response. Others will vent with those they are close to, hoping to find some amount of sympathy and appreciation. Others will withdraw silently and sulkily into themselves. Still others will seemingly brush aside the incident, perhaps even appearing happy while they move forward, yet perhaps in fleeting moments of honest self-reflection will wonder why they feel awful inside.

Perhaps you have been told by people to “suck it up” or that you need to develop “thick skin.” Sometimes these pieces of “advice” are given with good intention or in good humor, by friends, relatives, supervisors, or teachers. Their basic point is the same: to get over your feelings in order to stick with the task at hand.

And indeed, some people develop “thick skin,” but not in the way we commonly think of it. Some develop thick skin by becoming fat, their obesity unconsciously representing a thick layer to protect their internal spirit from the hostility of the outside world. Others develop thick skin by covering their skin in tattoos, such images sometimes covering huge portions of the body, turning the body into a piece of exhibitionism. Still others will pierce their skin, others will cut it, others will “cover it” in baggy clothing. There are people who will develop “apathetic attitudes” by which they hardly react to anything so as at least to avoid the possibility of ever experiencing pain again. There are those who use humor to such an extent that they’ll laugh when they should really be expressing concern—”Oh, haha,” they’ll react after they “accidently” bump into you and pour hot coffee all over you, “Did that hurt?” There are those who develop the thick skin of seeking constant emotional thrills, perhaps by drugs, drinking, sex, or other entertainment. There are those who have the thick skin of intellectualizing everything so as to never deal with emotions. And there are others who in a sort of subtle inversion will dress immodestly in order to draw peoples’ attention to their “skin” so as to avoid having to deal with people—or more importantly, themselves—on any meaningful level “beneath the skin,” that is, on the level of the emotions or spirit. After all, eroticism and romantic relationships do not engage the soul in any honest and loving way but only for emotional thrill rides by means of mutual manipulation that can cause emotional scars lasting for years, even lifetimes.

People who suggest that we ought to “suck it up” or develop “thick skin” are simply misinformed about human psychology and perhaps even themselves hold deep, dark emotions hidden in the recesses of their unconscious, an ugliness that is waiting to come out given the right trigger. Nevertheless, there is a way not to take things personally, and it is through a healthy realism.

Realism is a way of looking at things “realistically.” Usually it is opposed to idealism, which filters life through overly-optimistic lenses. In fact, realism if it is true realism includes all the ideals and aspirations of the human heart, but it places them where they ought to be and chooses the appropriate means to attain those ends. Some aspirations are contrary to the hard facts of reality; for example, no matter how much an individual may desire it, he cannot grow wings to fly like a bird. No matter how much we desire it, we cannot control weather, earthquakes, fires, or other natural disasters. No matter how much we dislike it, we cannot control other peoples’ behaviors although we may do certain things that we know often in fact manipulate other people in predictable ways.

Realism accepts the highs and lows of life, and at the end of the day, you are a realist even if you don’t think of yourself that way. We expect realistically a car with gas and working parts to get us from point A to point B. We expect realistically that eating will satisfy our hunger. We expect realistically that if we flip a light switch—if there is no power outage and if the bulb is working and if the circuits are all properly in place—that the lights will go on. No one spends a minute to think about whether or not to jump out of the way of an oncoming car—we just do it because we know that if we don’t, we most certainly will be seriously injured or probably even killed.

So how does realism allow us to take other peoples’ inconsiderate or hostile behavior not in a personal way? It’s quite simple: realism reminds us that we ought to expect most people to act in an inconsiderate manner anyway.

If we expect harsh or unfair treatment, which is all that this broken world can offer, then our hopes for receiving love will never be dashed because we will never seek to satiate those desires by means of turning towards the world. The world cannot give what it doesn’t have, and the world simply doesn’t have love, patience, empathy, consideration, gentleness. All things good come from God, and if we find these beneficial qualities in another human being, it is because God is working through that person, whether consciously or not. When we encounter consideration, justice, and mercy, we rejoice like parched flowers in a dry land when it rains. We then are grateful.

When we remember that in our fallen condition, the normative­—or “normal”—behavior that society expects is greediness, narcissism, an “every-man-for-himself” individualism, then we can take the concrete steps towards making sure that, no matter how we are treated, we will resolve to be virtuous, loving, and considerate. No matter how others treat us, we can always take responsibility for our actions and treat others with the love that they never received, and perhaps in that brief giving of love, that other person’s heart may be cracked open by the grace of God.

When we expect hostile behavior, then we no longer need to defend ourselves. After all, this hostile behavior usually identifies a finite aspect of ourselves that is true—perhaps we were “stupid” for not noticing something (yes, even though we couldn’t have noticed it anyway); perhaps we were “retarded” for not being able to do something so seemingly simple; perhaps we did a “fail” by our mistakes or accidents; perhaps we were “slow” because we couldn’t provide what the other person expected as fast as they expected it (yes, even though we can move only so fast). 

The point in these attacks against our character is not so much that we are being demanded to do something or demeaned for failing to do something that is literally impossible given the concrete circumstances but that the other person perceives a failure regardless of how realistic their expectation is in the first place. Yes, of course, we cannot move or think with the speed of Superman or a computer calculator. Of course, we may sometimes slip, fall, bump into someone, cut someone off, make a Freudian slip, or forget something important. Everyone makes mistakes. But when people treat us “unfairly,” we ought to remember that we forget this simple, realistic fact of life: we are finite creatures who often make mistakes. And we never need to defend our mistakes. All we have to do is admit them in all simplicity, honesty, and perhaps even humor.

“Yes, I am stupid!” It’s sort of funny when we just admit it like that, isn’t it? “Of course I’m dyslexic! Dyslexics are ‘teople poo’!” “Yes, I’m slow!” Or if they demand that we "go faster," we could simply say, "Yes, sir! I'm going as fast as I can," while simply going at the same speed. And if they demand it again, we can simply repeat it again, "Yes, sir! I'm going as fast as I can!" When we admit our mistakes like this, the other person eventually has only one option: to surrender to the hard facts of reality. No matter how much they may press us, make demands of us, or treat us rudely, eventually they will have to face the fact that their expectations cannot change our behavior, cannot get them any closer to their desired goal. We can go only so fast, think so fast, speak so fast, and no more. And it is in this encounter with, this surrender to reality that perhaps the other person will then be able to feel remorse for their behavior. But then again, don’t count on it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 2: "Mary"


This word—Mary—figures in the Gospel text of the Annunciation, but it is not from the mouth of the angel (cf. Lk. 1:27). The Church has included it in the salutation because the angel in fact addressed its greeting to Mary.

Mary! "The most beautiful music which could be formed in [four] letters" (Pemán) [translator's note: four letters in English; five in Spanish: "María"]. It is a most sweet word, the most tender and endearing of a Christian enamored by his Mother: "And the name of the virgin was Mary" (Lk. 1:27). In the brief biography of the Virgin that was included at the beginning of this work, we indicated some of the many meanings which are attributed to the word "Mary" by philologists. Its most probable meaning is that of Lady, which can also signify Beautiful Woman, from the Hebrew root mará. And how we should desire it to have been such—the beauty and majesty of Mary always wins us over, even to the point of causing us to fall into ecstasy, which has been given to some who contemplated her heavenly qualities in this life (St. Bernadette of Lourdes, the shepherds of Fatima...) and shall constitute for us all one of the greatest accidental joys of eternal beatitude.

The eloquence and fervor of St. Bernard come from the summits of his contemplating the sweetness and beauty of the name of Mary. He commented on the significance of the Star of the sea—which is one of the many meanings attributed to the name of Mary—, writing in the inimitable style of the Mellifluous Doctor (Homily 2 on the Virgin[; cf. Second Nocturn of Matins for September 12]):
The evangelist says at the end of the verse: And the virgin's name was Mary. Let us speak a few words upon this name, which signifies Star of the Sea and very well suits the Virgin Mary, who may very appropriately be likened unto a star. A star gives forth her rays without any harm to herself, and the Virgin brought forth her Son without any harm to her virginity. The light of a star takes nothing away from the star itself, and the birth of Mary's offspring took nothing away from the integrity of her virginity. She is that noble star which was to come out of Jacob (cf. Nm. 24:17), whose rays illumine all the earth, whose splendor is most brilliant in heaven and penetrates even unto the abyss of hell, lighting up earth midway and warming souls rather than bodies, strengthening virtues and destroying vices. She, I repeat, is a clear and singular star, brilliant in merits, resplendent in example, needfully set to look down upon the surface of this great and spacious sea.
Oh! Whoever who may be battered by the frequent storms of this life's ocean: keep your eyes fixed upon this star's clear resplendence if you would not be overwhelmed by the tempest. If the hurricanes of temptation rise against you, or if you are running upon the reefs of trouble, look to the star, call on Mary. If the waves of pride, of ambition, of slander, or of envy toss you about, look to the star, call on Mary. If the billows of anger, of avarice, or of the enticements of the flesh beat violently against the little boat of your soul, look to Mary. If the memory of the enormity of your sins troubles you, if the foulness of your conscience confounds you, if the horror of judgment dreads you, and if you begin to slip into the soil of depression, into the abyss of desperation, think of Mary
In dangers, in difficulties, in doubts, think on Mary, invoke Mary. Let her not be apart from your mouth, let her not be far from your heart, and so that you may possess the support of her prayers, do not turn away from the example of her virtue. If you follow her, you will not go astray. If you pray to her, you will not lose hope. If you think of her, you will not perish. If she holds you in her hands, you will not fall. If she protects you, you will not be afraid. If she guides you, you will not grow weary. If she helps you, you will easily come to the door of your home safe and so will you understand in yourself why with reason it is said: And the virgin's name was Mary.
Providing an echo of the sublime thoughts of St. Bernard, the author we previously cited also writes (Cf. Barcon, pp. 91-92):
Mary signifies Star of the sea. Just as a star guides sailors to port, so does Mary guide all men to heaven, to the light of God by means of her intercession.
Just as a star gives a breath of air and hope through the gloom, so Mary gives strength to the soul in the midst of spiritual perils. 
Just as a star consoles in the midst of the tempest, so Mary, in the midst of spiritual torments, cheers and comforts us. 
Just as a star stands in the heights and can be seen by all, so Mary has been given a preferential place in our churches, our shrines and sanctuaries, and on the tops of hills and mountains. 
The Christian people express this notion of consideration towards Mary as Star of the sea when it generously ascribes to her these titles: Virgin of the Star, Virgin Guide, Virgin of Aid, of Refuge, of Hope, of Consolation, of the Helpless, of Perpetual Sorrow... 
She is star of the sea because this life is a sea far more dangerous than other seas. In the sea are gales of wind, storms of waves, and the hidden dangers of the reef. In the sea of life there are demonic temptations, temptations from other men, and temptations from our passions. 
The Virgin Mary is our Star of the sea, which dissipates the clouds of deceit and error by which the devil seduces us, the persecutions and evil example of men and the inclinations and clever seductions of our affections and passions. 
For that reason, we ought frequently to have the name of Mary on our lips and in our hearts. 
Mary signifies Lady. Lady of the angels, of men, and of grace. Lady of her Son, who is Lady of the Lord of lords. Lady, who is mistress and queen of heaven and of earth, to whom all the powers of hell are subject.
The dispenser of all graces, and therefore to whom we ought to go in life, in death, in prosperity, and in adversity. 
Oh my Lady! Oh my mother! I offer all of myself to you!  
Mary signifies bitter sea: bitter sea because of the immensity of her pains during the passion of her Son; for the sorrow of her tears in losing her Child Jesus; for the ingratitude of sinners; for sorrow because of their condemnation. 
Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, defend us from the enemy. 

Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 444-447. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 1: "Hail"

Among all Marian devotions, the first place incontestably belongs to the most beautiful salutation of the Hail Mary, repeated hundreds of times by all those devoted to the Virgin, above all during the recitation of the holy Rosary and which, most importantly, constitutes the Rosary's material aspect [see posts on Fr. Marin's commentary on the Rosary elsewhere]. We are going to explain the meaning of this prayer through exegesis and an examination of its spiritual content.

As is known, the Hail Mary, such as we know and pray it today, consists in two parts. The first part is formed by those words of the angel at the Annunciation: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee (Lk. 1:28), to which have been added the words pronounced by Saint Elizabeth when she was visited by Mary: Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Lk. 1:42). The Church has added the name of Mary at the beginning and the name of Jesus at the end. The first part is a salutation to Mary, very rich in doctrinal content, and in which nothing is asked. It is a sublime hymn of praise, absolutely disinterested.

The second part began to appear in the Church in the 14th century, but its use was not made universal until St. Pius V promulgated the Roman Breviary in 1568, mandating that it be recited at the beginning of each hour of the Divine Office, immediately following the Our Father. This part begins with the salutation to Mary accompanied by her most exalted title: Holy Mary, Mother of God, and immediately it is asked that she pray for us during the present moments of our life and, above all, at the terrible moment of our death: Pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Hardly can there be said more things of such great importance in less words.

We are going to examine now, word for word, this most beautiful prayer.


1. Exegesis. The angel begins by greeting Mary: Hail (Mary). The Latin word Ave is a conventional translation of the Greek χαῖρε, which signifies a greeting that literally means "to be full of cheer" or "well off" [translator's note: Fr. Marin says simply "alégrate," but I've included the expanded definition provided by]. This is a Greek greeting (cf. Mk. 15:18: "And they began to salute him: Hail, king of the Jews"). The angel probably employed a Hebrew formula of salutation: Shalon leka, which can be translated as peace be with you. This is the regular greeting of Jesus in the Gospel, of Saint Paul in his letters, and it has prevailed in the Catholic liturgy: Pax vobis, or peace be with you. In Spanish, the word "Hail" ("Ave") does not have any significance aside from being a greeting. We might think of these first words as saying: Rejoice, Mary, or as it is said in French, I greet you, Mary.

2. Theology. The theological explanation of the angel's salutation to Mary was described by the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas (cf. In salutationem angelicam, [article 1]) [translator's note: I've included the full article for the reader's benefit]:
We must now consider concerning the first part of this prayer that in ancient times it was no small event when Angels appeared to men; and that man should show them reverence was especially praiseworthy. Thus, it is written to the praise of Abraham that he received the Angels with all courtesy and showed them reverence. But that an Angel should show reverence to a man was never heard of until the Angel reverently greeted the Blessed Virgin saying: “Hail.” 
In olden times an Angel would not show reverence to a man, but a man would deeply revere an Angel. This is because Angels are greater than men, and indeed in three ways: 
First, they are greater than men in dignity. This is because the Angel is of a spiritual nature: “You make your angels spirits” [Ps 103:4]. But, on the other hand, man is of a corruptible nature, for Abraham said: “I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes” [Gen 18:27]. It was not fitting, therefore, that a spiritual and incorruptible creature should show reverence to one that is corruptible as is a man. 
Secondly, an Angel is closer to God. The Angel, indeed, is of the family of God, and as it were stands ever by Him: “Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him” [Dan 7:10]. Man, on the other hand, is rather a stranger and afar off from God because of sin: “I have gone afar off” [Ps 44:8]. Therefore, it is fitting that man should reverence an Angel who is an intimate and one of the household of the King. 
Then, thirdly, the Angels far exceed men in the fullness of the splendor of divine grace. For Angels participate in the highest degree in the divine light: “Is there any numbering of His soldiers? And upon whom shall not His light arise?”[Job 25:3]. Hence, the Angels always appear among men clothed in light, but men on the contrary, although they partake somewhat of the light of grace, nevertheless do so in a much slighter degree and with a certain obscurity. It was, therefore, not fitting that an Angel should show reverence to a man until it should come to pass that one would be found in human nature who exceeded the Angels in these three points in which we have seen that they excel over men—and this was the Blessed Virgin. To show that she excelled the Angels in these, the Angel desired to show her reverence, and so he said: “Ave (Hail).” [trans. by Joseph B. Collins (New York 1939); available here:]
From his comments on the first part of the Hail Mary, we shall see with the Angelic Doctor that Mary effectively far exceeded the angels in those three things.

A contemporary author has insisted on the significance of the angelic salutation, writing piously and rightly (Fr. Javier Barcon, S.J., Learn to Pray (Bilbao 1954), p. 91):
It is a salutation similar to the one by which Christ was saluted by His Apostles after His Resurrection. A salutation of love, of confidence, of joy, of veneration. 
"God saves thee," it says: God protects thee, loves thee, sends you His joy and His holy peace. 
"God saves thee" is the salutation with which we invoke the Virgin in the most beautiful prayer of the Salve Regina
It is the salutation with which many still greet each other when they enter Catholic houses: "Hail Mary." 
It is the salutation with which the poor beg for alms from the door of the houses in many regions of Spain: "Hail Mary." 
It is the salutation with which the Virgin is invoked still in many parts for a peaceful night, singing: "Hail Mary, most pure." 
It is the salutation with which in many orders religious greet each other or with which they salute the Virgin at the beginning of the hour or when they begin their work. 
It is a salutation whose spirit the Christian house remembers to keep while conversing: "God bless you; may God grant us a good day, may you go with God, may you remain with God, farewell [Adiós]" [translator's note: most of these translations do not work since there are no English equivalents to more richly religious language]. These words always keep present the idea of God and the desire to do all things relying upon God and to see the providence of God within all things, guiding them. 
This salutation, so beautiful and devout, opposes those greetings and conversations of the purely natural order, which never speak of God.

Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 442-444.

Different Spanish Hail Marys in the 16th c.

Until Pope St. Pius V standardized the Hail Mary for its usage in the Roman Breviary (1568), the prayer had variations. I thought the following Spanish vernacular translations were interesting in their variety. Fr. Antonio Royo Marin explains in his exegesis on "Ave"/"Hail" why the Spanish has translated it as "Dios te salve" or "Alegraos" in one version. There are some people who think the English "Hail" is a more literal translation of "Ave," but in fact the Spanish conveys the original sense of "Ave"/"Salve" far more richly and faithfully, despite using more than one word.

The "é's" signify "en," such as in "vientre," and "ó's" mean "on," like "contigo."

From Domingo de Soto's Summa de la Doctrina Christiana (1552):

Dios te salve María, llena de gracia: el Señor es cótigo. Bendita eres tu entre las mugeres. Y bédito es el fructo de tu viétre Jesus. Virgen madre de Dios, ruega por nos pecadores. Amen.

From Alonso Martinez de Laguna's Summa de Doctrina Christiana (1555):

Alegraos María llena de gracia, el Señor es con vos, Bendita vos sobre todas las mugeres, y bendito el fructo de vuestro vientre Jesus. Sancta María madre de Dios rogad por nos los peccadores.

From the Constituciones synodales del Obispado de Malaga (1573):

Dios te salve María llena de gracia. El Señor es contigo, bendita tu en las mugeres, y bendito el fructo de tu viétre Jesus. Sancta María virgen madre de Dios ruega por nosotros pecadores agora, y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amen.

From the Constituciones Sinodales: Hechas por ... Don Gaspar de Quiroga ... , Primado de las Españas ... , Inquisidor general ... Don Philippe ..., &c. (1583):

Dios te salve María llena de gracia, el Señor es contigo, bendita tu entre todas las mugeres, y bendito el fruto de tu vientre, Jesus Sancta María madre de Dios, rogad por nosotros peccadores, agora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amen.