Monthly Archives: June 2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor

[The topic here is neither American nor Catholic, so I was originally going to relegate it strictly to my personal blog, but in the end I found it too interesting to avoid sharing.]

Some years ago, I wrote here about Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, a beautifully written travel book about the first stage of the author’s 1933 walk across Europe from from Holland to Constantinople.

The only customer, I unslung my rucksack in a little Gastof. Standing on chairs, the innkeeper’s pretty daughters, who were aged from five to fifteen, were helping their father decorate a Christmas tree; hanging witch-balls, looping tinsel, fixing candles to the branches, and crowning the tip with a wonderful star. They asked me to help and when it was almost done, their father, a tall, thoughtful-looking man, uncorked a slim bottle from the Rudesheim vineyard just over the river. We drank it together and had nearly finished a second by the time the last touches to the tree were complete. Then the family assembled round it and sang. The candles were the only light and the solemn and charming ceremony was made memorable by the candle-lit faces of the girls — and by their beautiful and clear voices. I was rather surprised that they didn’t sing Stille Nacht: it had been much in the air the last few days; but it is a Lutheran hymn and I think this bank of the Rhine is mostly Catholic. Two of the carols they sang have stuck in my memory: O Du Heilige and Es ist ein Reis entsprungen: both were entracing and especially the second, which, they told me, was very old. In the end I went to church with them and stayed the night. When all the inhabitants of Bingen were exchanging greetings with each other outside the church in the small hours, a few flakes began falling. Next morning the household embraced each other, shook hands again, and wished everyone a happy Christmas. The smallest of the daughters gave me a tangerine and a packet of cigarettes wrapped beautifully in tinsel and silver paper. I wished I’d had something to hand her, neatly done up in holly-patterned ribbon — I thought later of my aluminum pencil-case containing a new Venus or Royal Sovereign [pencil] wound in tissue paper, but too late. The time of gifts.

I’ve since read what was intended to be the second volume of a three part narrative of the trip, Between the Woods and the Water. It is similarly a joy to read. Continue reading

Void ab Initio

 

As I am sure most of you know, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision vacated the order of Judge Maryann Sumi enjoining the bill passed by the Wisconsin legislature regarding public employee unions.  The court divided along partisan lines.  The bluntness of the majority opinion is something to behold.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all orders and judgments of the Dane County Circuit Court in Case No. 2011CV1244 are vacated and declared to be void ab initio.  State ex rel. Nader v. Circuit Court for Dane Cnty., No. 2004AP2559-W, unpublished order (Wis. S. Ct. Sept. 30, 2004) (wherein this court vacated the prior orders of the circuit court in the same case). 

Declaring the orders of a trial court void ab initio is an unusual step for an appellate court.  It basically says that the trial court completely misconstrued the relevant law from the beginning, and is not to be trusted by the appellate court simply reversing the trial court and remanding the case back to the trial court.  Instead the Supreme Court ruled on all of  the issues in the case itself, with Judge Sumi now tossed out of the case by the action of the Supreme Court.  

This court has granted the petition for an original action because one of the courts that we are charged with supervising has usurped the legislative power which the Wisconsin Constitution grants exclusively to the legislature.  It is important for all courts to remember that Article IV, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides:  “The legislative power shall be vested in a senate and assembly.”  Article IV, Section 17 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides in relevant part:  “(2) . . . No law shall be in force until published.  (3) The legislature shall provide by law for the speedy publication of all laws.”

You don’t get blunter than that in the law.  Judge Sumi is held by the Court to have usurped the power of the legislature!

The Court then notes that what Judge Sumi attempted to do, enjoin publication of a bill in order to prevent it from becoming law, was in direct defiance of a prior case decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court: Continue reading

Void For Stupidity

Hattip to Ann Althouse.  My hero, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has been guilty of being brilliant again.  Writing in dissent in the case of Sykes v. United States, he took head on what is becoming a huge problem:  almost comically inept legislation passed by Congress:

We face a Congress that puts forth an ever-increasing volume of laws in general, and of criminal laws in particular. It should be no surprise that as the volume increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. And no surprise that our indulgence of imprecisions that violate the Constitution encourages imprecisions that violate the Constitution. Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nittygritty. In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt. I do not think it would be a radical step—indeed, I think it would be highly responsible—to limit ACCA to the named violent crimes. Congress can quickly add what it wishes. Because the majority prefers to let vagueness reign, I respectfully dissent. Continue reading

Dumbing Down the Federalist Papers

I remain fairly ambivalent about Glenn Beck (an ambivalence that got me involved in a heated debate on this very site, but that’s another matter).  His style, especially on television, just doesn’t appeal to me.  He also seems to believe that having the dial turned to 11 is the only way to get his point across.  That said, I am appreciative of his efforts to teach American history to his audience.  He’s had some excellent academic guests like Ronald Pestritto on his show, and he has an appreciation of some of the nuances of American political thought that go over a lot of other heads.

Then I saw this, and I’m ready to grab the pitchforks.  From the product description:

Adapting a selection of these essential essays—pseudonymously authored by the now well-documented triumvirate of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay—for a contemporary audience, Glenn Beck has had them reworked into “modern” English so as to be thoroughly accessible to anyone seeking a better understanding of the Founding Fathers’ intent and meaning when laying the groundwork of our government. Beck provides his own illuminating commentary and annotations and, for a number of the essays, has brought together the viewpoints of both liberal and conservative historians and scholars, making this a fair and insightful perspective on the historical works that remain the primary source for interpreting Constitutional law and the rights of American citizens.

So it’s the New American Bible for the Federalist Papers.  I wonder if Bishop Trautman consulted on this project.

Just as the average person can probably handle such mysterious words as “ineffable,”  I’m sure that most Americans can pretty much figure out what’s going on with the Federalist Papers without Glenn Beck re-translating it for us.  Yes, there are no doubt some tricky words in the 500+ pages and 85 essays, but that’s what footnotes are for.  Annotated versions of the Federalist Papers already exist, and those should suffice for Beck’s purposes.  Besides, part of the joy of the Federalist Papers is reading Madison and Hamilton’s beautiful prose.

Jeff Goldstein elaborates further on why this is problematic.

On the one hand, we’re supposed to believe that anyone can read and understand the Constitution — meaning, we don’t need a special priesthood to interpret the thing (and of course, this is true, assuming a base level of reading comprehension and intelligence, and assuming one can get past the fact that the document itself is like, over a hundred years old!); and yet at the same time, the Federalist Papers, we’re to understand today, are so arcane and abstruse and unintelligible that they aren’t even being taught anymore — a problem happily solved by Beck’s latest offering, a book that rewrites the Federalist Papers using modern language, which can be yours for only however many dollars (through the website, blah blah blah).

I agree with Jeff that this sends a very poorly thought out mixed message.  In fact Beck is playing into the hands of those who criticize the concept of originalism.  He’s conceding that the language of this era is difficult for people to comprehend, so the only way to make these writings more widely accessible is to completely re-write them.  It is a contradiction that I doubt Beck has thoughtfully considered.

Small Amounts Still Matter

One of the oddly persistent mistakes people seem to fall into in a whole host of areas of life is the idea that small amounts don’t matter.

Take, for instance, the illusion that I so often fall into: “This will only take me ten minutes a day. No matter how busy I am, I always spend at least ten minutes just wasting time. Clearly, I can add this one extra activity.”

With sufficient determination, and a low enough starting level of commitments, one can pull this off. But in point of fact the day is made up of a finite number of ten minute increments, and one cannot add an unlimited number of them. Sometimes, adding even one ten minute commitment ends up having more ramifications than one would imagine. And time “wasted” is often curiously hard to stamp out.
Continue reading

Philip Nolan and Flag Day

Today is Flag Day.  Edward Everett Hale, in his short story A Man Without A Country, reminds us that patriotism is a very powerful form of love.  Hale, a great nephew of Nathan Hale who died on a British scaffold and uttered the deathless  “I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country.”, wrote the story in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 to help inspire patriotism.

The story is a simple one.  Philip Nolan was a young artillery lieutenant in the United States Army.  He became involved in the  vague scheme of Aaron Burr to detach some territory from the  United States and form an independent nation.  All the big fish escape conviction, but Lieutenant Nolan does not.  At his courtmartial the following takes place:

One and another of the colonels and majors were tried, and, to fill out the list, little Nolan, against whom, Heaven knows, there was evidence enough,–that he was sick of the service, had been willing to be false to it, and would have obeyed any order to march any-whither with any one who would follow him had the order been signed, “By command of His Exc.A. Burr.” The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped,–rightly for all I know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as I say; yet you and I would never have heard of him, reader, but that, when the president of the court asked him at the close whether he wished to say anything to show that he had always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in a fit of frenzy,–

“Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” Continue reading

Andrew Sullivan is Certifiably Insane

I don’t like to write about Andrew Sullivan.  At this point he should be treated like a troll, meaning it is best to ignore him.  Every now and then it is good to be reminded that Andrew Sullivan has clearly lost his mind.

Most of you have probably read this email that Sarah Palin sent before she gave birth to Trig.  She actually published this in her book, but today it has garenerd wider attention.  It’s a rather touching expression of her faith, and is one of the most beautiful pro-life testimonies you’ll ever read.

One would also think that it’s further proof – not that any is really needed save for disturbed individuals like Sullivan – that Sarah Palin is in fact Trig’s mother.

Oh no.  This is just an opportunity for Sullivan to continue to cast doubts on the official story.

Earlier today there was a replay of the Michael Medved show where he interviewed Jonathan Kay, author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground.  Kay and Medved discussed the nature of the conspiracist mindset, and Kay emphasized that there is really not much point in trying to rebut these folks with facts, because they are impervious to all evidence.  Listening to Kay, and then reading Sullivan’s latest screed one is reminded of the futility of trying to deal with such people.

So can we please shun Andrew Sullivan and stop treating him like he’s even a remotely credible journalist of any kind?  No more linking – not even to rebut the man.  Yeah I know I just spent 250 words on the guy, but I guess I’m still in shock that there are people still willing to give this man a platform.  For as absolutely batty Sullivan is, the Daily Beast should be ashamed of employing him.

H/t: Midwest Conservative Journal.

(On a side note, the critics of Kay’s book as well as Sullivan ought really to read my previous post.)

Update: Andrew Sullivan actually responded to an email that I sent him.  Notice anything about the grammar?

show me some evidence. any evidence. then handle all the evidence i
have assembled.
i’m not insane. but palin sure is. when she produces the medical
records i asked for two and half years ago, i will stop asking
questions.
why not email her to ask her to clear this up? or do you suspect she cannot?

Yes, clearly we are dealing with a very lucid mind.

Borders are for Fascists

I don’t know Klavan on the culture.  If only fascists support the Arizona law, there seems to be a lot of fascism going around since eight states are currently copying the Arizona law, even which that law is still enjoined by a Federal district judge.  Illegal immigration is down about eight percent in recent years however, due mainly to the truly lousy economy.  Obamanomics, it is good for something after all!

2012 TAC GOP Presidential Poll

The American Catholic will be running a periodic poll of the GOP presidential field. We have included candidates that have declared their candidacy as well as other speculative* candidates. As the primaries arrive the field of candidates should narrow down a bit.

* For example even though Chris Christie has denied he is interested in running, he still will be in Iowa for an inexplicable reason. Until then, he will be showing in the poll until we don’t see his name on the actual roll.

How Not to Appear Crazy on the Internet

Frank Fleming is my new hero.  He has written a very useful guide on how to avoid appearing crazy on the Internet.

Caps Lock Is Your Enemy

Look at your keyboard. On the left should be a button labeled “Caps Lock.” Now, there should be a light somewhere indicating whether the Caps Lock key is on. You want that light to be off. If you can’t find the indicator light, try typing on screen. Do you see lower case letters? If not, hit the Caps Lock key and try typing again. When you get your keyboard to the state where it normally types lower case letters, NEVER EVER TOUCH THE CAPS LOCK KEY EVER AGAIN! I can use it because I’m a professional, but you crazy people just need to leave that key alone. This tip by itself will make a lot of you look 100% less crazy.

There are basically two kinds of people who type entire comments with Caps Lock on: stupid people and crazy people. And no one wants to read what either has to say. Now, a stupid person just doesn’t notice or care that his Caps Lock key is on, and someone like that is probably not advanced enough to use the internet. Crazy people, on the other hand, intentionally put the Caps Lock on because they think the reason people haven’t been agreeing with their crazy is that they didn’t say it loud enough. This is crazy person logic, and it is wrong.

And there is another type of Caps Lock user who doesn’t capitalize whole sentences but INSTEAD capitalizes a few SPECIFIC words for EMPHASIS. Now read a sentence like that aloud, shouting every time you come to a capitalized word, and tell me you do not sound like an absolute freakin’ lunatic. This method can turn even basic known facts into crazy-sounding gibberish (“The SQUARE of the HYPOTENUSE of a RIGHT triangle equals the SUM of the squares of the OTHER two sides”).

Similarly, be frugal with your exclamation points! Not every single sentence should end in one! And never use more than one per sentence!!!!11!!eleventy11!1 If you have something useful to say, it should make just as much sense when said in a normal voice.

Bravo!  I would just add that people who do the opposite – meaning people who never capitalize – are even nuttier.  You see that button on the left-hand side of the computer?  The one right below the caps lock?  Yeah, try pressing that while typing out the first word of a sentence, or of a proper pronoun, and always when typing “I.”  Yeah, that’s not so hard now is it?

There’s more.

i can haz proper grammar?

Here’s another pretty basic one: no lolcats speak. Write actual English sentences using real words and proper grammar. Capitalize the first word of each sentence. Use punctuation. there is no reason ur comment 2 a blog or column shud look lik ur a n00b at texting. You’re not writing these things from a old cellphone with just a number pad that lacks auto-complete; there is a big keyboard in front of you.

You save like 0.1 seconds writing “u” instead of “you” at the cost of making yourself look like an absolute idiot. Is there any reason you’re trying to shave off this time? Are there wild dogs bearing down on you as you write why we need another look at Obama’s birth certificate? If so, run from the wild dogs and write your comment later. Your whole sentence shouldn’t scream, “I’m a useless idiot with nothing important to say.” You should never write like that unless you actually are a cat expressing your desire for a cheeseburger.

This drives me up the wall.  I don’t know if it’s the curse of Twitter, texting, or both, but is it really so hard to write in complete sentences with actual words spelled out?  You don’t have character limits on most blogs, and if you do and are actually somehow bumping up against the limit, then you are running afoul of violating this tip:

No Long Screeds

On the other end of the spectrum from the lolcats speak is the guy who apparently has hours to spare writing pages of response as the 200th comment to some blog post. There are people who have long things to say, and they do it by writing columns or writing in their own blogs. But if you can’t get your column published and no one reads your blog, maybe you’re thinking you’ll get exposure by putting the long screed in the comments section of something people actually will read.

Don’t.

Sane people know that the only people who have hours to spend writing pages of text in a comments section are crazy people. And that’s why no will read what they write except other crazy people with way too much time on their hands. So keep it short. Pick one point, and write no more than a couple of sentences. Keeping it short also helps you police your crazy. I’ve seen comments where I’ve read the first paragraph and thought maybe the person was just a little over-enthusiastic, and then I started the second paragraph and realized, “Oh, this is a super crazy person.” So keep it pithy, and avoid the crazy.

The comments on Fleming’s post are a hoot.  Either it’s a collection of the cleverest people on the planet, or a bunch of dunces who would no doubt look blankly at you if you said the word “irony.”

At any rate, there is more at the link.  I think I will now ask Tito to have this permalinked on the right-hand side.

Saint Augustine on Pentecost

 

This is a solemn day for us, because of the Coming of the Holy Ghost on the fiftieth day from the Lord’s Resurrection.

What is the meaning of the Coming of the Holy Ghost?  What did it accomplish?  How did He tell us of His Presence; reveal It to us?  By the fact that all spoke in the tongues of every nation.  What then, did each one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended speak in one of the tongues of each of the nations: to this man one language, to this man another, dividing as it were among themselves the tongues of all the nations?  

No, it was not so: but each man, singly, spoke in the tongue of every nation. One and the same man spoke the tongue of every nation: the unity of the Church amid the tongues of all the nations.  See here how the unity of the Catholic Church spread throughout all nations is set before us.
Continue reading

O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel

Something for the weekend.  O’, I’m a Good Old Rebel by Major James Randolph.  This rendition is sung by Bobby Horton, who has fought a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  It is the most moving rendition I have heard of this song, with Horton conveying well the bitterness and despair felt by almost all Confederates after the conclusion of the War.  The author served on the staff of General J.E.B. Stuart.  The song has always been popular in the South and was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s son, the future Edward VII, who referred to it as “that fine American song with cuss words in it.” Continue reading

In the World

Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

We know this line from John’s Gospel so well that the radicalism of its otherworldliness perhaps escapes us most of the time. We see Christ’s encounter with Pilate while knowing that Christ was about to fulfill the purpose of His incarnation by suffering and dying in reparation for our sins. When Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” one can picture the glories of heaven and raise an eyebrow at Pilate’s belief that he truly stood in power as he “judged” his creator. We know that Christ only suffered at Pilate’s hands because He allowed himself to do so. Had He chosen to end it, in an instant He could have done so.

Yet as followers of Christ we are called to be like Him in being not of this world, but of His Kingdom, and if we think of Christ’s calmness and resignation in the fact of facing torture and death for a nonexistent crime in relation to ourselves, this idea of being of a kingdom not of this world becomes a whole lot scarier. It’s one thing to see Christ, secure in our belief in His divinity, responding to injustice and suffering with the statement that His kingdom is not of this world, but when we are faced with injustice and suffering our instinct is not to think of The Kingdom which is not of this world, but rather to fight back, to demand our rights, and if all else fails to complain and feel sorry for ourselves. Continue reading

June 10, 1861: First Battle of the War: Big Bethel

The first battle of the Civil War, Big Bethel was a classic example of the hazards awaiting untrained troops attempting to take offensive action.  The first of many defeats of Union Major General Benjamin Butler in the War, Big Bethel started off the War in the East with a humiliating little defeat for the Union, an ominous portent of things to come over the next four years.

Placed in charge of Fortress Monroe on the southern tip of the Virginia peninsula on May 23, 1861, Butler began operations to extend Union control into areas near Monroe.  On the night of June 9-10, Butler ordered 3500 Union troops in two columns marching from Hampton and Newport News, to perform a night march,  and launch a surprise attack on Confederate positions at Little Bethel and Big Bethel.  Butler’s plan would have tasked the abilities of well-trained veteran troops, as a coordinated surprise attack by converging columns after a night march is the military equivalent of brain surgery.  Expecting the raw troops he commanded to carry this out was simply absurd and an invitation to disaster.

The disaster ensued.  A friendly fire incident between the two columns gave the Confederates ample warning of the attack.  The 1200 Confederates easily beat off the piecemeal Union attacks.  Union casualties were 18 killed and 51 wounded.  Confederate losses were 1 killed and 7 wounded.  The Confederate press made much of the victory, although it had little meaning other than as the first example of the gross military incompetence of Benjamin Butler that would hamper Union operations for almost the entire war.  Here is Butler’s self-serving report of this fiasco: Continue reading

The Beatitudes from the Gospel According to Luke, Secunda Pars

What follows is the second part of a three-part piece. The first part can be found here.

 

 

3. Patristic Background from the Catena Aurea

Latin for “The Golden Chain,” St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is the Angelic Doctor’s compilation of commentaries by the early Church Fathers on each of the four Gospels. What follows is a gloss of the provided commentaries for Luke 6:20-23.

We begin with Ambrose. While I have not said much about the first part of verse 20 (“And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples”), Ambrose asks, “What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?” Christ is calling his hearers to a deeper understanding of God and His plan for mankind. If I could, allow me to briefly return to the Greek for the word “Behold” (idou). An alternate translation of the imperative is “Look!” or even “See!” While Luke is using a common Greek word, this command to “See!” is reminiscent of Christ’s observation, “they have eyes but cannot see.” The Lord is not simply calling us to pay attention, but rather he is calling us to see with the eyes of faith. He is speaking directly to the heart of man. In a way, he is telling his listeners, “My friends, you have heard the Prophets, you have read the Scriptures, but you know not their fullness. I will, if you let me, show you the fullness of the heavenly mysteries. Everything you think you know is only the beginning. You have heard the ethic in the Ten Commandments, but I call you to the ethos of these Beatitudes.”

Ambrose next observes that Luke mentions only four blessings, while Matthew eight. Nonetheless, “those eight are contained in these four, and in these four those eight.” He ties each of the blessings in a specific way to a particular virtue. Poverty yields temperance because it “seeks not vain delights.” Hunger leads to righteousness in that he who is hungry suffers with the hungry, and this brings righteousness. In weeping, man learns to weep for those things eternal rather than those things of time, which requires the virtue of prudence to distinguish between the two realms. In “Blessed are you when men hate you,” one has fortitude, a fortitude which allows one to suffer persecution for faith. These virtues are then paired with Matthew’s Beatitudes in order to demonstrate continuity between the two Gospels: “temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many.”

In both cases, each evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first. For Ambrose, this is indicative that “it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues.” In other words, the subsequent blessings depend on the condition of being impoverished. If one is overcome by the desires of the world, he “has no power of escape from them.”

In a similar fashion, Eusebius observes, “But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, ‘For yours is the kingdom of heaven.’”

Cyril agrees: “After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty.”

While Basil is consistent in placing the primacy of the blessings with that of poverty, he also warns that the blessing is not automatic but requires the correct disposition. “[N]ot everyone oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us.” Perhaps this is why Cyril notes that in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  I have noted above the textual variants in this regard, but it should be recognized that the Fathers in no way see “poverty of spirit” as mere detachment that can exist even in the absence of actual material poverty. Instead, they see material poverty as a pre-requisite for poverty of spirit, a disposition that must be had to convert the pre-existing material poverty into a blessing.

Each of the Fathers then shows how poverty leads to the other blessings in Christ’s sermon. Cyril says, “It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessities of life, and scarcely to be able to get food.” Continuing, “[P]overty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you that weep.’” Finally, Theophilus indicates, “He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, ‘Blessed are you when men shall hate you.’ For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they cannot injure the heart that is beloved by Christ.”

This gloss of the Catena Aurea is sufficient for examining the portion of the Beatitudes dealing with poverty. It is evident that each of the represented Fathers sees poverty as having a place of primacy among the beatitudes. This is indicated by both Gospel writers in their placement of the virtue first in their respective lists, lists that are renderings of the very words of Christ. However, we must not ignore the second part of the beatitude: “for theirs is the kingdom of God.” For patristic background on this, we depart from the Catena Aurea and take up Origen.

Origen referred to Jesus as the autobasileia, that is, the Kingdom in person. In other words, for Origen, the kingdom is not a geographical location; Jesus himself is the Kingdom, or rather the Kingdom is Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth insists (in light of his reading of Origen) that the phrase “Kingdom of God” is a “veiled Christology.” The Holy Father states, “By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence” (Benedict, 49). Delving deeper into the linguistic nuances of the word “kingdom,” Pope Benedict (quoting Stuhlmacher) says, “The underlying Hebrew word malkut is a nomen actionis [an action word] and means – as does the Greek word basileia [kingdom] – the regal function, the active lordship of the king. What is meant is not an imminent or yet to be established ‘kingdom,’ but God’s actual sovereignty over the world, which is becoming an event in history in a new way” (Benedict, 55).

It should be noted that the Holy Father is not actually speaking of the Sermon on the Mount when he makes these linguistic observations. Instead, he is engaged in exegesis of Matthew 1:14-15, when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Nonetheless, the Greek word basileia that is used in Matthew 1 is the same Greek word found in Luke’s first beatitude. Therefore, not only are the linguistic observations still relevant for the current project, but establishing the connection (both spiritually and linguistically) between Christ’s Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Sermon on the Mount will be of prime importance in the final part. I will have more to say about Pope Benedict’s thoughts in this matter, but this mention of Origen and his interpretation of the phrase “kingdom of God” as the person of Jesus is sufficient for this section on patristic background.

Of Special People and Common Idiots

Hattip to Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal. With one of my sons being autistic, it is little surprise that one of my favorite charities is Special Olympics.  It allows people who too often spend much of life on the sidelines  to compete as athletes and to be admired for what they can accomplish in overcoming the handicaps that life has dealt them.  The whole Special Olympics program is magnificent for special people and their parents, relatives and friends.  One would think that such an organization would be respected by all.  I guess not. Continue reading

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