They argue that at the root of the debate there are two different—though I would say not necessarily, opposed—views of marriage: the conjugal and the consent-based. The consent-based or consensual model assumes that what makes a marriage is the emotional bond between partners. While the conjugal would also say love is essential, it also sees marriage as intrinsically directed towards the procreation and raising of children. My own view is that the conjugal view then is the richer, more nuanced, understanding of marriage. Continue reading →
Here’s the conclusion to yesterday’s post on intellectual formation. I hope to have the last post on pastoral formation and the whole essay available by the middle of next week.
The Personal Awareness of Grace. Just as I can’t live a Christian life without the grace of the sacraments, I can’t live this life without at least some subjective awareness of God’s presence in my life. It is here, in my subjective or personal, awareness of God that my intellectual formation becomes important. While not unrelated to academics, intellectual formation prepares me for joy. Undertaken in the right spirit, my studies are a preparation for the enduring experience of happiness that is essential to a wholesome human and holy Christian life. How does this happen? Continue reading →
The Presence of Joy. Other projects have distracted me and kept me from continuing with my earlier series of posts on formation (you can read them here, here and here). I want now to pick up where I left off in July and look briefly with you at the intellectual formation of clergy (and by implication, of the laity).
Recently there has been a series of essays on natural law. What makes these essays especially interesting to me is that the series was inspired by the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart‘s rejection of natural law in an article in First Things (here, with follow-up pieces here and here). While I admire the beauty and elegance of Hart’s language, I find myself agreeing with his critics. There are to be sure various theories of natural law but the Christian (and after reading Levinas’s (1969, 1987) work, I would say the biblical) understanding of natural law is rooted in a careful attention to human experience. Hart, like the Greek Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras (1984), rejects natural law as such but a natural law rooted in ontological abstraction. Natural law in the biblical sense does not seek to draw ethical conclusions from abstract ontology speculation but from human experience.
Attending to my experience I realize that I only want to be happy. Looking a bit more closely at myself I realize that some things make me happier than other but that sometimes even the best things can leave me feeling empty. I also realize some things bring me only a temporary feeling of happiness—they make me happy for the moment—while other things have the ability to bring me a lasting happiness. The Christian tradition calls this latter, lasting happiness, joy. So my experience tells me that not only can I be happy I can be joyful. There are thoughts and actions that bring me a kind of happiness that is not dependent on circumstances event. The paradox of joy is that it transcends the very circumstances that revealed it to me. My thoughts and actions embody what Paul Ricoeur calls a “surplus of meaning” (1976). Sensitivity to this surplus of meaning, to the transcendent dimension of human experience, is essential to a wholesome human life and especially to the Christian life.
First of all, let me say congratulations to President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joseph Biden on their victory in yesterday’s American presidential race. As anyone who has followed the election knows, it was a hard-fought and often contentious campaign. President Obama and Vice-President Biden, as well as their Republican opponents Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan were frequently pointed in their articulations of their philosophical and practical differences.
What I want to point out, and this is my second point, though the election was hard it was also fundamental peaceful. Given this and the history of presidential elections, America will no doubt remain peace even as we, in the coming weeks and months, debate the myriad differences that separate us politically.
If the Medieval period was an era of faith, the Modernity (and post-Modernity) adopts a more ironic tone. This isn’t to say that irony was absent in the Middle Ages or that faith—even Christian faith—is absent from our own. But our age seems to prefer to speak ironically. So it is worth noting, and this is my third point, that the irony of this election is that it highlights for us that what most unites Americans are our differences. E Pluribus Unum, from many, one. Continue reading →
As I said yesterday (here), living a Christian life in a university can be a challenge. Even as a graduate student in a Catholic university (Duquesne), I have met any number of people who were hostile to traditional expressions of Christianity. But in the main it isn’t so much that the university is hostile to religious faith as it is indifferent. The concerns of traditional religious believers are simply not a matter of concern for most in the university. Pluralism in the university, as in the largely society, is rather thin and religious faith simply doesn’t register.
For Orthodox Christian students—and I would imagine this is true for students in other Christian and non-Christian traditions—college is the time in which they come to see the deficiencies of their own faith life. Many Christians—which is to say not just those of college aged or who profess the faith of the Orthodox Church—have a very external experience of the Gospel. Even those Orthodox Christians for whom the sacraments are important and who are active in their parish may fail to develop an inner life. Their faith while sincere and authentic, is often immature, dependent as it is upon the external validation that comes from the sacraments and the parish. Let me be clear, this isn’t wrong, it just isn’t enough.
How it isn’t enough becomes clear when last year’s high school senior becomes this year’s college freshman. Precisely because the external confirmation of faith are absent and her own internal life of faith hasn’t been developed, the university becomes the occasion for the student’s loss of faith. But again while not discounting active hostility the more basic problem is that they have lost the external support that they have understandably come to identify with living a Christian life.
The failure of most campus ministry is that programs assume that what students need is simply more external support. “If we can just get kids to church on Sunday or to a bible study, we can keep ‘em in the Church.”
Well, no. Sunday Liturgy is essential and a bible study, a social event or a service project might all be helpful, but none of these is enough. As will see in our next conversation, something more is needed.
(Source: Acton PowerBlog): On Friday, representatives from the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, including His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus and Metropolitan Josef Michalik, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, signed a joint message committing to further work toward reconciliation between the Russian and Polish peoples and between the two churches.
Anticipating this historic occasion, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said,
The stand taken by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Poland on topical issues of today, such as individual morality and social ethics, bioethics, ethics of scientific research and some others, are very close, which makes it possible for the two Churches to develop cooperation, bearing joint witness to the Christian tradition in Europe. I would say the contemporary situation, which European countries have found themselves as a result of secularization, turns this opportunity into urgent necessity.
Ismael Hernandez has a piece for Crisis Magazine where he argues that the Catholic Church should have never taken federal dollars to support its charitable works. Addressing his own bishops he writes:
With candor and humble submission, I suggest that it is also time for the Church to stop accepting Federal funds to sustain its charitable activities. If it is true that we are in the midst of a momentous historical crossroads for the fate of religious freedom, it is as well the case that for too long the Church in America not only ignored government intrusion but cooperated with it by allowing the role of the state to expand without protest. The assumption seemed to have been that Catholic social teaching places a great burden of responsibility for the common good on government, which justifies an abundance of Federal programs to attend social needs. But was it not obvious that governmental meddling would also be accompanied by the imposition of moral injunctions contrary to faith at some point?
As the Orthodox Church here in America continues to grow and as we become more more involved philanthropic ministries, the Catholic Church’s experience can serve as a lesson here for us.
As Orthodox Christians need to support our own charitable ministries and to do this without relying on federal money. Christ commanded us it is to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit this sick and those in prison. Morally and prudentially we must do this from our own resources and not as independent contractors on behalf of the Federal government.
Remember, he who drinks the king’s wine, sings the king’s song.