Francis’s Radical Realism: Performance v. Ideology

Sam Rocha writing at Ethika Politika makes an interesting point about Pope Francis as the first “American” pope. While Rocha’s argument is not above criticism, I think his central point–that as

…since the pragmatism of William James (and the pragmaticism of C.S. Pierce), there has been a distinct sense of concreteness to the original philosophical ideas produced on this continent. Yet, in a more direct way, the geopolitical situation in Latin America over the past hundred years has produced a sense of the concrete that is more than purely philosophical in nature. The comparative political history of modernity in Europe and the Americas makes this very clear. Whereas the European story is driven by an intellectual progression of ideas (e.g., rationalism, empiricism, idealism, and so on), the Latin American version is a postcolonial response to political situations.

He goes on to argue, as he says in the concluding paragraphs, that the real importance of Pope Francis for the Catholic Church (and indeed the Christian community in general and the wider culture is his “radical realism. What Rocha means by this is the tendency of Francis

…to treat the Word as an incarnate thing, as a reality to be shown more than it is said, to let its proclamation live in the performance of its witness, to be captured in pictures of tenderness, embrace, ordinary living. A kiss. Acts such as these are immune to the ideological trap of Western ideas that has turned so much of the reality of the Gospel into intellectual history, moral theology, and dogmatic ideals. A real Gospel cannot be a philosophy or even a philosophical theology. A philosophical Catholicism is what Francis seems to be avoiding, and for good reason.

This kind of “radical realism,” incarnated especially in ascetical struggle and liturgical worship, is the reason for the surprising success of Eastern Orthodox among not only American Evangelical Protestants but also the unchurched. What Pope Francis brings to the conversation about–or maybe better, the practice of– radical Christian realism is a spontaneous and warm openness to, well, everybody. While this hospitality (xenophilia) is not uncommon among Orthodox Christians, it is too often obscured by the heaviness with which we approach our theological tradition and our ethical cultures (including American). Continue reading

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Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony, Lust…Is Anyone Paying Attention?

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Elise Hilton (Acton PowerBlog):
We cannot simply have everything we want, whenever we want it. It creates chaos, illness, dysfunction; in short, we sin ourselves to death. This isn’t “neutering;” this is health, sanity and salvation. It’s common sense. It’s self-preservation. To lose control of our appetites brings us to the Gates of Hell, as Dante knew:

I am the way into the city of woe,
I am the way into eternal pain,
I am the way to go among the lost.

Justice caused my high architect to move:
Divine omnipotence created me,
The highest wisdom, and the primal love.

Before me there were no created things
But those that last forever–as I do.
Abandon all hope you who enter here.

Dante’s “Inferno”

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What’s Caught My Eye…

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Source VirtueOnline. Some nifty ideas to ponder…

The basic question. The nature of man (i.e. what it means to be human) is arguably the basic political issue of the twentieth century. It is certainly one of the chief points of conflict between Marx and Jesus, and therefore between the East and the West, namely whether human beings have any absolute value because of which they must be respected, or whether their value is only relative to the community, for the sake of which they may be exploited. More simply, are the people the servants of the institution, or is the institution the servant of the people? — John R.W. Stott

Suppose the reformer begins to say that God is like a good woman. Suppose she says that we might just as well pray to Our Mother which art in heaven as to Our Father. Suppose that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female form. Suppose the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called Daughter of God as Son of God. Suppose finally that the mystical marriage betwixt ‘Christ and his Church’ were reversed, that the Church became the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as priest. If all those supposals were ever carried into effect, we should be embarked on a different religion. — Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.

The paradox of humanness. It is part, I think, of the paradoxical nature of our humanness that we are both breath of God and dust of earth, godlike and bestial, created and fallen, noble and ignoble. That seems to be why we both seek God and run away from him, both practise righteousness and suppress the truth in our unrighteousness, both recognize the claims of the moral law upon us and refuse to submit to it, both erect altars in God’s honour and need to repent of our ignorance and sin. — John R.W. Stott

Self-denial and self-discovery. We are the product on the one hand of the fall, and on the other of our creation by God and re-creation in Christ. This theological framework is indispensable to the development of a balanced self-image and self-attitude. It will lead us beyond self-acceptance to something better still, namely self-affirmation. We need to learn both to affirm all the good within us, which is due to God’s creating and re-creating grace, and ruthlessly to deny (i.e. repudiate) all the evil within us, which is due to our fallenness. Then, when we deny our false self in Adam and affirm our true self in Christ, we find that we are free not to love ourselves, but rather to love him who has redeemed us, and our neighbour for his sake. At that point we reach the ultimate paradox of Christian living that when we lose ourselves in the selfless loving of God and neighbour we find ourselves (Mk. 8:35). True self-denial leads to true self-discovery. — John R.W. Stott

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What’s caught my eye…: “Metropolitan Hilarion: Through participation in church sacraments, we partake of the Divine light

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Source: A Russian Orthodox Church Website. On August 19, 2013, the Day of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations, celebrated the Divine Liturgy and the rite of the blessing of fruit at the Moscow Church of Our Lady the Joy to All the Afflicted-at-Bolshaya-Ordynka.

Among his concelebrants were Archimandrite Spiridon (Katramados), secretary of the Greek Orthodox Church’s Synodal department for pilgrims; Archimandrite Philaret (Bulekov), DECR vice-chairman, and other ordained staff members of the Department for External Church Relations; as well as clergy of the Church of Our Lady the Joy to All the Afflicted. Among worshippers in the sanctuary was Metropolitan Athanasios of Kyrenia, head of the Moscow representation of the

Present at the service were Mgr Andrzej Józwowicz, Apostolic Nunsiate councellor, Rev. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Russia, and Rev. Francesco

Deacon Alexey Dikarev, a staff member of the DECR Secretariat for Inter-Christian Relations, was

Hilarion addressed the worshippers with a homily, saying in

“I greet all of you, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, with the patronal feast of our church – the Day of the Transfiguration of our Lord. On this festive and sunny day, we should ask ourselves why the sun is shining so brightly in the sky and what it gives to us. Watching the nature life, we see that the whole cycle of nature depends on the sun, that plants, trees and everything on Earth, including

“When the sky is grey and cloudy, our soul is often mourning, and when the sun comes out, we feel joy and the life seems better. If the sun went out, life on Earth would end in the twinkling of an eye, because everything that lives and moves on our planet, exists due to solar energy.

“The spiritual world has its own Sun – it is the Lord… He is the Giver of Life and nourishes every living thing. Our world will exist because God wants it to. And when He wishes, the history of mankind and the whole universe will roll up like a scroll and will come to its end. Then God will

“His Divine life-giving presence fills our life in the Church. When the Lord Jesus Christ came in the flesh, many people thought He was an ordinary man, and it took time for His disciples to learn the mystery of God, hidden behind the veil of human flesh.

“In order to assure His disciples that He, Lord Jesus Christ, is the Sun of Truth, and in order to strengthen them in faith before His crucifixion, the Saviour took His closest disciples and led them up a high mountain. And there they saw His face transfigure and shine brighter than the sun and his garments become white as light. The disciples were so afraid that they fell to the ground and covered their faces. And then Peter, full of joy, said to the Saviour, “It is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias”, as those two great saints appeared before them and were talking to Jesus about His future passion

“Each of us partakes of the Divine light, first of all, through participation in church sacraments. Sometimes, during the services, we feel that heaven opens wide, clouds disappear and the light directs its Divine beams at our hearts. We feel it when we gather together to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, when we partake of the Eucharist. Then this light comes into us, it begins to shine within us and enlightens our human earthly nature with its Divine energy.

“It is the miracle of the Transfiguration that occurred with the Lord and that occurs with people in the Church. And this miracle comes true thanks to our participation in church sacraments.”

Source: DECR

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What’s caught my eye…

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(Virtue Online) Not obscurantism but faith. We need to learn to face problems relating to the Bible as we face problems surrounding other Christian doctrines. If somebody comes to us with a biblical problem (a discrepancy, for example, between theology and science, or between two gospel accounts, or a moral dilemma), what should we do? We should not (from a mistaken integrity) suspend our belief in the truth of Scripture until we have solved the problem. Nor should we place the problem either on a shelf (indefinitely postponing its challenge) or under a carpet (permanently concealing it, even from ourselves). Instead, we should struggle conscientiously with the problem in thought, discussion and prayer. As we do so, some difficulties will be either wholly or partly cleared up, but then, in spite of those which remain, we should retain our belief about Scripture on the ground that Jesus himself taught and exhibited it. If a critic says to me, ‘You are an obscurantist to believe the Bible to be the Word of God in defiance of the problems,’ I nowadays return the compliment and say, ‘OK, if you like, I am. But then you are an obscurantist to believe in the love of God in defiance of the problems.’ Actually, however, to believe a Christian doctrine in spite of its problems, because of the acknowledged lordship of Jesus Christ, is not obscurantism (preferring darkness to light) but faith (trusting him who said he was the light of the world). It is more than faith; it is the sober, intellectual integrity of confessing Jesus as Lord.

John R.W. Stott

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Degradation and Humility Are Not the Same

From Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland, has a good word about humility:

Sacrament of the Divine Humility
Mother Mectilde speaks often of the anéantissement, the ennothingment of the Son of God in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the divine humility. It is the descent to the altar of the Word made flesh, the crucified Word, the glorious Word, risen and ascended into heaven. There, upon the altar, the substance of a little piece of bread becomes the very substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, leaving only the appearance of bread to serve as veil concealing the awful Mystery.

Raised Up by Grace
There is no fall from grace, no fall into disgrace, no descent into the vile gutters of sin that cannot be reversed by the humility of the Son of God adored, received sacramentally, and appropriated to oneself. It is by the humility of His Son — in His passion and in the sacramental state of lowliness assumed for our sakes in the Most Holy Eucharist — that every soul fallen low into sin can raised up by grace, and restored to communion with the Father in the Holy Ghost.

Read the rest here.

During the fifth week of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church commemorates the life of St Mary of Egypt during the reading of the Great Canon of St Andrew at Compline. According to her vita, Mary engaged in immoral behavior for neither sensual pleasure or love of money. Her motivation was in wickedness for its own sake, her delight in degradation for the sake of degradation. In this see is the antithesis of what we see in Jesus Christ Who in the words of St Paul, humbles Himself to the point of death on the Cross in order that He might raise us up to new life (see Philippians 2).

There is nothing good about degradation, there is nothing good about humiliation and yet God can in His mercy draw goodness from these for us.

Where we often go wrong is imagining that because God can bring a situation to a good end that the situation itself is good. Nothing could be further from the truth however. To make this mistake is to set your foot on the path to perversion, a word that means to subvert or overturn. In the current case what is subverted is our moral sense, our sense of what a wholesome human means concretely.  Yes, it is a good and noble thing to bear patiently with injustice. But the goodness is found in the patient endurance not the injustice.

Moral confusion here is especially damaging in our responsibility to care for others in the weakness. What is laudable (at least potentially) in my personal life is a grievous  even deadly, moral failure when it fosters in me passivity and timidity when I see others being mistreated.

in Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Believe That You Might Understand

treejesse1Developmentally belief—that is, trust—that is the foundation of adult life. The infant must first come to trust his mother, trust that she loves him and that her care for his bodily and emotional needs is constant. Only on the foundation of this trust in response to her love is the infant able to develop psychologically and even physically.

Trust is the response we make to love; love inspires in the beloved trust, confidence, even faith in the one who loves him. We should stop for a moment and reflect on this. We should pause lest we move on too quickly from this point and assume that the beloved is merely the passive object of love. Nothing could be further from the truth! Again, return to the relationship between mother and infant. Continue reading

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