Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recommended Reading

The months following the death of a loved one are an especially difficult time. Thirty-Day Devotions for the Holy Souls offers comfort to those who are grieving and gives them a personal and powerful method of praying for their departed family member or friend. Day by day, here are: Prayers and meditations that console the one who mourns and assist the one who has died Scriptural passages Reflections from Church Fathers, saints, and theologians Answers to the most commonly-asked questions about purgatory.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recommended Reading

There are plenty of great books that I have heard others recommend, but I want to be able to recommend books that I've actually read. Not all of them are theological or religious in nature, as I enjoy reading fiction, humor, and history as well. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have!

In Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition, an international team of theologians offers a different reading of the documents from Vatican II. The Council was indeed putting forth a vision for the future of the Church, but that vision was grounded in two millennia of tradition. Taken together, these essays demonstrate that Vatican II's documents are a development from an established antecedent in the Roman Catholic Church. Each chapter contextualizes Vatican II teachings within that rich tradition. The resulting book is an indispensable and accessible companion to the Council's developments, one that focuses on theology and transcends the mass-media storyline of "liberal" versus "conservative."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Romans

Cosmic Renewal: Exploring Romans 8:18-23

Originally my term paper for Catholic Distance University

With the environment always so prominent in the news and everyday discussions, a Catholic may be curious as to what plans God has in store for his non-human creations after the Final Judgment, and Romans 8:18-23 helps shed some light on this subject. When taken in the context of the whole of scripture, there is reason to believe that the afterlife may not just be people sitting on fluffy clouds like Hollywood and cartoons have often depicted. There are theologians and biblical scholars today who believe in the possibility that the afterlife will have room for all of God’s creation and not just man. Romans 8:18-23 says:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the 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.

We must avoid the mistake made by many in today’s environmentalist movement, where they reject mankind in their embrace of nature; Romans is telling us that both mankind and creation will be relieved of their groaning through the liberty and redemption that comes from Christ. In this biblical view, man and nature share a common destiny, whereas “anti-biblical environmentalism...tends to see the natural world as gentle and benign and the human world (like the world of cities) as broken, damaged, warped.”1 On the contrary, the New Jerusalem will be God’s dwelling place, come down from Heaven to the new earth (Rev 21:2-3). Although it is believed that “the picture of the new heavens and earth [are not] a literal historical description of what things will look like,”2 we can still explore Romans in the context of the entire body of scripture to see if man and nature may indeed share in the same destiny.

Man is intimately associated with creation, starting from the fact that he was formed out of the dust of the earth itself (Gen 2:7). Adam is placed in charge of the Garden to till and keep it (Gen 2:15). When Mankind sins, his relationship with God is severed (Gen 3:23-24), as well as his relationship with woman (Gen 3:16), animals (Gen 3:21), and the entire created world (Gen 3:17-19);3 in effect, “the whole of creation has been cut off from the Creator by the fall of Adam.”4 Because of man’s sin, the ground has been cursed and we must toil in it with great effort in order to live. Storms, earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, tornados – nature’s “labor pains” are ever before us as a reminder of how Original Sin has damaged creation. “The non-human creation as a whole suffers the effects of human sin and God’s judgment on it...the land or earth is said to ‘mourn’ (Jer 4:28, 12:4; Hos 4:3; Joel 1:10-12, 17-20).”5 Therefore it only makes sense that “since creation’s bondage is due to human sin, its liberation must await the cessation of human evil at the end.”6

Although mankind is God’s crowning achievement, since we are made in his image and likeness, nevertheless, the natural world is ever-present throughout the Scriptures; when Israel rests, its animals are to share in this rest. The land itself has a Sabbath every seventh year.7 “Throughout his public ministry, Jesus teaches in parables and points to the realities of creation all around – fish in the sea, crops growing in the fields, flocks of sheep, leaven in dough,” the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Mat 6:25-33). “Thus all of creation speaks about the presence and meaning of the kingdom of God”8 because “ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.”9

We can see in the story of Israel reaching the Promised Land that their relationship with nature and its bounty rested upon Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant, once again showing that the natural world is not forgotten in the background. “If the Israelites are faithful, the heavens will give rain. Crops will be abundant. There will be no dangerous animals threatening them.”10 However, whenever Israel is unfaithful to God, they experience famines, droughts, and the ruination of their land. Creation and mankind are in the same boat, experiencing the same limitations and impurities due to our fallen nature. “Creation, it appears, is the innocent victim of human wrongdoing, since ‘it was subjected to futility, not of its own will’ (v. 20), and must therefore await the liberation of humans before it too can be liberated and participate in the coming glory (v. 21).”11

Is what St. Paul says in Romans about the renewal of creation a completely new idea, or is it the culmination of what has been promised throughout the scriptures? We can see that there is a theme in the Old Testament, especially the Psalms and the prophets, where there are references to a renewed creation. In praising God for his mercy and justice, King David said that God saves both man and beast (Psalm 36:6) and that like clothing, God changes the earth and the heavens (Psalm 102:26-27). In a famous passage from the prophet Isaiah, he writes how there will be peace in creation, that the wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat; the nursing child will play by the cobra and a young child will put his hand in the viper’s den (Isaiah 11:6-8). God also reveals through Isaiah that he will create new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-25, 66:18-24) whose description sounds like a reversal of the curses from Genesis 3. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises that in the new creation there will be no weeping, no loss of infants after birth, no death; crops will produce and people will not toil the land in vain; all animals will have perfect peace and will eat together instead of one another and their fear will be taken away; “ample rain will produce a rich harvest, the mountains will drip with wine; it will be a time of abundance and plenty and peace will reign throughout nature.”12

At the end of time, Jesus’ promise to “renew all things” will be fulfilled (Mat 19:27-29). After the final defeat of Satan and Death, “with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. What we are waiting for…is the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13).” The whole of invisible creation will be renewed through the purifying fire, however there is still a debate on whether or not the living non-human creation will be granted immortality. There are many saints who have argued very logically that the non-human creation cannot merit eternal life since they do not share in being made in God’s image, nor have they rational souls. However, there are still voices of other saints and Catholic scholars who believe the issue hasn’t been settled. St. Anselm wrote of the new creation, “This earth, which sustained and nourished the holy body of the Lord, will be a paradise. Because it has been washed with the blood of martyrs, it will be eternally ornamented with sweet-smelling flowers, violets, and roses that will not wither.”13 William of Paris, who believed that everything of this universe will be destroyed forever by fire, also added, “A large number of learned men among Christians consider that, after the resurrection, the earth will be bedecked with new evergreen species and incorruptible flowers, and that a perpetual springtime and beauty will therein prevail, as in the paradise in which our fathers were placed.”14 In regards to animals, theologian Peter Kreeft adds, “How irrational is the prejudice that would allow plants but not animals into heaven!”15 Because St. Paul also wrote how Christ will be the ruler of “the heavens and everything on earth (Ephesians 1:10),” and how “everything in heaven and everything on earth” will be reconciled to Christ (Colossians 1:19-20), the debate on the salvation (or not) of the non-human natural world continues.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to expand upon Romans 8:18-23 in its discussion of the cosmic renewal at the end of time (1042-1050, 1060). In this section of the Catechism, it teaches how the universe will be renewed after the Final Judgment: “At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ” (CCC1042). In recalling that mankind and creation have a common destiny, the Catechism then quotes Romans 8:18-23 when teaching that the visible universe is “destined to be transformed” (CCC1047). Although we don’t know exactly when or how the universe is to be transformed (GS39), “...the Creator will renew them in a more perfect and harmonious order.”16

This renewal and perfection of the created universe is no better on display than in the Holy Eucharist (CCC1405). “Fruit of the earth...fruit of the vine, the Eucharist represents the ongoing transformation of material reality in anticipation of the future glorification of creation.”17 As God uses the material world (oils, water, bread, wine) to reveal his truths to us, is it hard to believe that the material world will exist in some shape or form after the end of time? “The universe will participate in the resurrection and the Final Judgment by being transformed into the fullness of the Kingdom where Christ the Bridegroom will live with his Bride in the eternal Jerusalem by returning the cosmos to its original state as a New Eden.”18

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love him” (1 Cor 2:9). We can say with certainty that the New Jerusalem, where there are many dwelling places (Jn 14:2), will be a home where there is no sadness, no death or mourning, crying or pain “for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). When St. Paul references the “labor pains” and “groaning” of creation, we are reminded of our common bond; “human bodies are our solidarity with the rest of this material creation, and this solidarity makes it appropriate that the bodily redemption of believers accompanies the renewal of the whole created world.”19 This creation, which was good when the Lord fashioned it for us and became “very good” upon our existence (Gen 1), points us to the future reality of the new creation which awaits us if we persevere in Christ. “Once the Kingdom of God arrives in its fullness at the end of time, there will be a renewal of the universe in Christ”20 so that through him, and with him, and in him, “we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12), judging the angels and the world (1 Cor 6:2-3). Groaning alongside of us through it all, why wouldn’t all of God’s creation be renewed in the next life for his greater glory, honor, and praise? Romans 8:18-23 seems to say that very thing when St. Paul writes, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

Noted
1. George Weigel, “Creation Groans,” (9 March 2005, accessed 10 August 2013); available from http://catholicexchange.com/creation-groans/
2. Michael D. Guinan, “The New Heavens and the New Earth,” (January 2000, accessed 11 August 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
3. Michael D. Guinan, “The New Heavens and the New Earth,” (January 2000, accessed 11 August 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
4. Agape Bible Studies, “Part VIII: The New Creation,” (n.d., accessed 9 August 2013); available from http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/EightLastThings/ELT_New_Creation.htm
5. Richard Bauckham, “The Story of the Earth according to Paul: Romans 8:18-23,” (2011, accessed 25 July 2013); available from Review and Expositor 108 (2011) 91-97.
6. Ibid.
7. Michael D. Guinan, “The New Heavens and the New Earth,” (January 2000, accessed 11 August 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
8. Ibid.
9. First Vatican Council, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 2:1.4,” (24 April 1870, accessed 10 August 2013); available from http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum20.htm#Chapter%201%20On%20God%20the%20creator%20of%20all%20things
10. Michael D. Guinan, “The New Heavens and the New Earth,” (January 2000, accessed 11 August 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
11. Richard Bauckham, “The Story of the Earth according to Paul: Romans 8:18-23,” (2011, accessed 25 July 2013); available from Review and Expositor 108 (2011) 91-97.
12. Michael D. Guinan, “The New Heavens and the New Earth,” (January 2000, accessed 11 August 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
13. Fr. Charles Arminjon, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 2008), 116.
14. Arminjon, Ibid.117.
15. Dr. Peter Kreeft, “Fourteen Questions About Heaven,” (2010, accessed 12 August 2013); available from http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0462.html
16. Fr. Charles Arminjon, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 2008), 113.
17. Michael D. Guinan, “The New Heavens and the New Earth,” (January 2000, accessed 11 August 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
18. Agape Bible Studies, “Part VIII: The New Creation,” (n.d., accessed 9 August 2013); available from http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/EightLastThings/ELT_New_Creation.htm
19. Richard Bauckham, “The Story of the Earth according to Paul: Romans 8:18-23,” (2011, accessed 25 July 2013); available from Review and Expositor 108 (2011) 91-97.
20. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing. 2010), 157.

References
Agape Bible Study. (n.d.). Part VIII: The New Creation. Retrieved from http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/EightLastThings/ELT_New_Creation.htm
Arminjon, C. (2008). The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. 2008).
Catechism of the Catholic Church (2011). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm
First Vatican Council. (1870). Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith. Retrieved from http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum20.htm#Chapter%201%20On%20God%20the%20creator%20of%20all%20things
Guinan, M. (2000). The New Heavens and the New Earth. Retrieved from http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/MM/ap0100.asp
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1966).
Kreeft, P. (2010). Fourteen Questions About Heaven. Retrieved from http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0462.html
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2010). United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. (Washington, DC: USCCB Publishing. 2010).
Weigel, G. (2005). Creation Groans. Retrieved from http://catholicexchange.com/creation-groans/

Church

The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ

Originally my term paper for Catholic Distance University

These days many people believe that Jesus can be taken separately from his Church - that "religion" distracts us from our relationship with the Lord - but this varies drastically from St. Paul's understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is very popular, especially in our modern era, for many Christians to insist that the best way to know Christ is to reject "religion". For instance, a very popular video on the Internet in 2012 showed a young man insisting that he loves Jesus, but hates religion - and much to the approval of those around him. Although I am sure he is being sincere, it is important to understand that this system of thought attempts to create a non-sacramental system devoid of Scriptural and historical backing. To many in the modern era, “religion” - specifically the Church - is a man-made system of rules and traditions that has very little to do with Jesus. Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI acknowledged this attitude when he said, “Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional - rather than as an encounter with Christ - which explains why they don't see it as a source of joy.”1 When the Church is perceived as merely an institution telling us what to do, we can understand the complaints of those who reject “religion”. However, through an examination of the letters of St. Paul we can see that the Apostle to the Gentiles was convinced - starting at the moment of his conversion on the road to Damascus - that the Church is indeed the mystical Body of Christ and that the two cannot be separated.

Before he was St. Paul, the Jewish world knew him as Saul, a zealous Pharisee who spent his time persecuting the followers of Christ, dragging them from their homes, throwing them into prison, and condoning their execution (Acts 7:54-8:3). And yet, when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6) he didn’t ask Saul, “Why are you persecuting my followers?” Jesus asks him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4)” From the beginning Christ was revealing to Saul that the Church and the Messiah were one.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a student of the beloved apostle John, wrote that “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church”.2 St. Paul agrees and explains to us that there is only one Christ, and therefore there is only one Church (1 Cor 12:12-31). He tells us that the People of God are to remain in one body, one faith, one baptism, and one Spirit (Eph 4:1-6). “By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body (LG 7)”. As one Body, we are united with the saints and with the entire household of God (Eph 2:19). Although a human body is made up of many parts, all with different functions, they are still united as one body; likewise, St. Paul tells us that even though we are one body with many parts (Rom 12:4), we should also be of one mind and one voice (Rom 15:5-6) and avoid those who would cause schism (Romans 16:17) by confusing the masses through their trickery and deceitful scheming (Eph 4:14). St. Paul exhorts us to reject the divisions amongst us (1 Cor 1:10-13), imploring us to preserve the unity that Christ prayed for during the Last Supper (John 17:21-23). Being united in the Body of Christ, we should have the same love and care for one another that we have for our Lord, being ready and willing to always show one another the same mercy and forgiveness that the Head shows the Body. We enter into this union with Jesus and with one another through the sacrament of baptism, which St. Paul says is “the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11). We proclaim this unity between the Head and his Body most perfectly through the liturgy in the sharing of the Lord’s body and blood (John 6) in Holy Communion:

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one Bread.” (1 Cor 10:16-17)

Striving for unity, we ask the Lord at every Mass that those “who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.”3 When we receive our Eucharistic Lord in a state of grace (1 Cor 11:27-30), he abides in us and we in him and therefore all with one another: “Abide in me, and I in you (John 15:4). He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:56); if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever (John 6:51).”

When we remove ourselves from this unity of the Body through our sins and divisions, we are no longer proclaiming the Gospel with one voice. Jesus encouraged us to be united – one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16) – and never intended for there to be so many denominations and competing theologies in the Christian faith. “Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature” (UR, 1).

Throughout the writings of St. Paul, the faith is consistently described in a communal manner and not as the private, individualistic interpretation that many people currently adhere to; in fact, St. Paul routinely emphasized that the faith is a public one and that we should be working together as the People of God to evangelize the world, as well as to help one another during our pilgrimage on earth. St. Paul’s writings reject the idea that one person’s sins and trials are their own business and have no effect on the rest of us, telling us that “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor 12:25-26)”. Therefore, as one Body of Christ each member is united to one another in our achievements as well as our failures:

“Thus Christ unites all of us with himself and all of us with one another. In communion we receive Christ. But Christ is likewise united with my neighbor: Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. And thus we are all one bread and one body. A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused. And here we come to the root and, at the same time, the kernel of the doctrine on the Church as the Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ.”4

To reject the reality of a Church is to reject the very purpose for which Christ came to this world – to save all generations from the death of sin. To insist on the divisions of Christianity that exist today is to reject the writings of St. Paul and the priestly prayer of Jesus himself who asked that we all be one, united in one faith, one baptism, one Lord. “The Church, then, is God's only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it: for it serves all mankind through the Gospel of peace as it makes its pilgrim way in hope toward the goal of the fatherland above” (UR 2).

The holiness of the Church does not come from its sinful members, but from Christ himself. “As the nerves extend from the head to all parts of the human body and give them power to feel and to move, in like manner our Savior communicates strength and power to His Church” (MCC, 49). If Jesus wants us to be perfect like his father in heaven (Mat 5:48), the only way we can hope to respond to that commandment is through the graces he gives us, which are most fundamentally distributed by the Holy Spirit through the Church (CCC 1997). Christ established his Church on the rock of St. Peter (Mt 16:18-19), but this does not contradict the fact that Christ is still its Head. “For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ's Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth [the pope] (MCC, 40)”. Devoted to the teachings of the apostles’ (Acts 2:32), Christ assured that whoever hears them hears him (Luke 10:16). In animating his Church through the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), Christ gave his apostles and their successors (CCC 77) the authority to act in his name (Mat 28:18-20): such as to bind and loose (John 20:23), to excommunicate (1 Cor 5:5, 16:22, 1 Tim 1:20, Gal 1:8), to interpret Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20 ), to hear confessions (Jas 5:16), etc. Since we are of one Spirit which guides us in all truth (John 16:13), St. Paul refers to the Church as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and he implores Christians to hold onto the traditions he and the other apostles have passed on “whether by word of mouth or by letter” (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Thess 2:15). In light of all of these things, St. Paul tells us to obey our leaders and submit to them “for they are keeping watch over [our] souls” (Heb 13:17). To insist that we can have Christianity without a Church, sacraments, and hierarchy would therefore contradict the writings of St. Paul.

Many people mistakenly see the Church’s teachings as only a mean, joyless set of rules, but that is a mistaken notion. It is out of love for God and for one another that we must live our lives according to the teachings of the Church. We try our best to live our lives a certain way because we’re no longer our own; as St. Paul writes, our "body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" and we should "therefore glorify God in [our] body" (1 Cor 6:12-20). St. Paul’s writings announce these truths with the call for Christians to conform their lives to Christ so that Jew & Gentile can live united as the holy people of God. “Paul’s description of the people of God confirms that they derive from every nation, that their faith is apostolic, that they are united together in one body, and that the Church is the holy temple of God.”5

Because Christ is holy, all members of his Body are called to be holy (Eph 5:25-27). “Holiness begins from Christ; and Christ is its cause. For no act conducive to salvation can be performed unless it proceeds from Him as from its supernatural source. (MCC, 51).” Since we are his Body, the Church becomes the holy people of God (LG, 12) because the Holy Spirit is her soul (CCC 797). “Christ alone can constitute the Church. Christ is the true giver of the sacraments.”6 It is Christ who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers, and sacrifices (MCC, 54):

“All sacraments are an encounter with Christ, who is himself the original sacrament. Baptism joins us with Christ. Confirmation gives us his Spirit. The Eucharist unites us with him. Confession reconciles us with Christ. Through the Anointing of the Sick, Christ heals, strengthens, and consoles. In the sacrament of Matrimony, Christ promises his love in our love and his fidelity in our fidelity. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests have the privilege of forgiving sins and celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”7

Our ability to love and sacrifice for one another is never through our own merits, but through the generosity and mercy of the Head to his Body. “He continually distributes in His body, that is, in the Church, gifts of ministries in which, by His own power, we serve each other unto salvation (LG 7)”; in this way we can live and die in Christ for one another (Rom 14:7). In doing Christ’s will and lovingly sharing with the entire Church the spiritual gifts he has given us, we unite ourselves to the Head in order to build up the Body (Eph 4:15-16).

Christ and his Church are therefore one and the members of his Body must live lives of holiness as Christ commanded us (Mat 5:48). “It is the will of Jesus Christ that the whole body of the Church, no less than the individual members, should resemble Him” (MCC, 47). As visible members of his Body, St. Paul reminds us how we were created in Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10) so as to serve one another and bring more people to him. If we are truly members of the Body of Christ, then our words and actions should reflect that we belong to him. St. Paul warns us that if we live lives of debauchery through acts such as adultery, fornication, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, heresies, and the like, then we will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal 5:16-26) – this is because sinful acts cut us off from the graces of God. "Recognize, O Christian, your dignity, and being made a sharer of the divine nature go not back to your former worthlessness along the way of unseemly conduct. Keep in mind of what Head and of what Body you are a member" (CCC 1691).

Living a sinful life also damages our relationship with one another, causing us to focus more on ourselves that on loving our neighbor. When we treat one another as either objects for our amusement and pleasure, or as impediments to our success or happiness, we have attempted to destroy the dignity that each person holds as being created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). We sever that unity which Christ prayed for and we choose our own selfishness over serving our brothers and sisters in the faith. Instead of this focus on the self through our sinfulness, as one Body of Christ we are to glorify him by our lives through the faith, love, and unity we share with one another and all mankind. “We really become united with the Risen Body of Christ and thereby are united with one another. The Church is not only a corporation like the State is, she is a body. She is not merely an organization but a real organism.”8 We therefore try to live the moral teachings of the Church, not to tell people what to do, but to reflect to the world a godly love for one another that exists within the Mystical Body of Christ.

The unity of one faith in one Body reunites the human race that was born of our first parents in Eden and separated from God and one another by sin. In following Christ through the Commandments he has entrusted to his Church, we become his brother and sister and mother (Mat. 12:50) because we have become part of him. As one human family, and especially as members of the one Mystical Body of Christ, we should therefore be “seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time…and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”9

After reflecting upon the teachings of St. Paul, we can see that those who believe “religion”, the Church, and the Scriptures can be separated from faith in Jesus are confused and sadly mistaken. It is unfortunate that the letters of St. Paul have been distorted so as to reinforce a rejection of the unity of faith that should be found in the Mystical Body of Christ, just as the first pope had warned us about (2 Peter 3:15-18). It is clear from the writings of St. Paul that he taught that the Church is the one Body of Christ and that our faith should not be divided. We believe that the Lord’s Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic because Christ and his Church can never be separated by mankind. “These four attributes belong only to the one Catholic Church because the existence of a second Church would deny the unity of the one Body of Christ.”10 Our care and love for one another should be our testimony that we belong to Christ and that we live united in him as his body. Through the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church, the same faith that the Apostles taught is passed onto us and all generations until Christ comes again. Through prayerfully studying the writings of St. Paul, we can come to a deeper appreciation for the faith and our duty as Christians to live united as one Body, one Church. All of St. Paul’s theology on the Body of Christ can be summed up by a statement from St. Joan of Arc that she made at her trial: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter” (CCC 795). St. Paul couldn’t have said these words better himself.

Notes
1. Benedict XVI, “The Mystical Body of Christ Comes Alive in the Sacraments” (10 December 2008, accessed 5 April 2013); available from http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/b16stpaul16.htm
2. St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans” (circa 110 AD, accessed 5 April 2013); available from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm
3. Missale Romanum, 3rd Edition, “Epiclesis, Eucharistic Prayer III” (2002, accessed 5 April 2013); available from http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/RM3-EP1-4.htm
4. Benedict XVI. Ibid.
5. Taylor Marshall, The Catholic Perspective on Paul (Dallas, TX: St. John Press. 2010), 45.
6. Benedict XVI, Ibid.
7. Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press. 2011), 193.
8. Benedict XVI, Ibid.
9. Blessed Mother Teresa (A. Bojaxhiu), “In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories, and Prayers”, (16 March 2010, accessed 5 April 2013); available from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/252963-seeking-the-face-of-god-in-everything-everyone-all-the

References
Benedict XVI (2008). The Mystical Body of Christ Comes Alive in the Sacraments. Retrieved from http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/b16stpaul16.htm
Bojaxhiu, A. (2010). In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories, and Prayers. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/252963-seeking-the-face-of-god-in-everything-everyone-all-the
Catechism of the Catholic Church (2011). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm
Decree on Ecumenism (1964). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1966).
Ignatius (110). Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0109.htm
Marshall, T. (2010). The Catholic Perspective on Paul. (Dallas, TX: St. John Press. 2010).
Missale Romanum (2002). Epiclesis, Eucharistic Prayer III. Retrieved from http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/RM3-EP1-4.htm
Pius XII (1943). Mistici Corporis Christi. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi_en.html
Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press. 2011).

Scripture

Reading the Bible Through the Eyes of the Church

Originally my term paper for Catholic Distance University

God’s conversation with mankind through the Scriptures can only be fully realized when we read the Bible through the eyes of the Church. Taking into account the “living tradition of the whole Church” (DV 12), the Bible should be read not as “a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word” (TT 7) of God. If we read the Scriptures as if they were a novel, or if we mistakenly ignore its various literary forms or “the historical character of biblical revelation” (VD 44), we rob ourselves of the great depth and beauty that is found in the Bible. Because the Scriptures are hard to understand and can be confused from their original meaning (2 Pet 3:15-16), St. Peter warned that the Scriptures are “not a matter for private interpretation” (2 Pet 1:20). This is why the Church is needed in order to offer a “faith-filled interpretation of sacred Scripture” (VD 44). As Pope Francis said, “The texts inspired by God were entrusted to the Community of believers…to nourish the faith; respect for this profound nature of Scripture conditions the very validity and effectiveness of biblical [interpretation]”1. Over the past 500 years there has been a great effort to rob the Church of her Scriptures, but we cannot divorce the Bible from the Catholic Church any more than we can divorce them from Christ, the Word of God made flesh, for the Church “carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God” (DV 12).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds Christians that God is the author of Scripture (105), that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God that teaches us the truth without error (107), that the Scriptures should be read and interpreted through the same Spirit that composed them (111), that they must be read within the living Tradition of the Church (113), and that one can distinguish between the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture (115). The Church Fathers demarked three subdivisions of the spiritual sense of Scripture - allegorical, moral, and anagogical: “The literal speaks of deeds, allegory to faith, the moral how to act, anagogy our destiny”2. All of this might seem like we’re overcomplicating things, but these senses exist within the Scriptures and that is why they must be properly interpreted (Acts 8:26-31) in light of the entirety of God’s revelation to mankind (DV 9-10). Otherwise, we’d confuse ourselves with the various idioms, literary genres, language uses, historical backgrounds, symbolism, foreshadowing (types), numbers, phenomenological language, hyperboles, patterns, poetry, etc. that are found throughout Scripture.

For instance, when Jesus tells us, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (Mat 5:30), either Jesus is telling us to amputate parts of our body in order to remain in a state of grace or there must be a deeper meaning to His preaching. The literalist (or fundamentalist) interpretation of Scripture take passages from the Bible at face-value; “That’s what it says, that’s what it means”. The fundamentalist way of reading the Bible “makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself” because “[i]t fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods” (VD 44). Without looking at the Scriptures within the fullness of the faith, the Bible can be easily misinterpreted from person-to-person, culture-to-culture, and generation-to-generation. “The...fundamentalist approach actually represents a betrayal of both the literal and the spiritual sense, and opens the way to various forms of manipulation” by promoting “subjective and arbitrary interpretations” (DV 44). Sadly, these misinterpretations of the Scriptures have helped to contribute to the many divisions currently found in Christianity.

Through the Church’s interpretation of the Scriptures, we can avoid the fundamentalism that pits science against faith; there is a harmony between faith and reason because God is the author of both (VD 36). Therefore, we should avoid using the Scriptures for reasons that they were never intended for. As St. Augustine explained, “One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: ‘I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon,’ for he willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians”.3

The literal (Catholic) interpretation of Scripture looks into the context and meaning that God intended to convey for our salvation through the Bible’s human authors.4 The literal sense of Scripture takes into account “what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words” (DV 12). The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation explains:

For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another (DV 12).

“The allegorical sense of Scripture is one in which we try to discover a deeper, more profound meaning of Scripture, keeping in mind the revelation of Christ”.5 One example of this is when we read the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:1-18); reading this in the allegorical sense, we can see a foreshadowing of Christ. Just as Isaac was Abraham’s only son, Jesus is God’s only son; as Isaac carried the wood of his sacrifice up the mountain, Christ carried the wood of the cross up the mountain, etc. Another example can be seen if we look allegorically at the Passover meal (Ex 12), which is a foreshadowing of the Holy Eucharist (Jn 6, Lk 22:14-23). As St. Augustine wrote, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC 129).

“The moral sense of Scripture enables us to see the result of sin due to God’s infinite holiness and justice”.6 We see throughout the Scriptures the consequences of separating ourselves from God through our sin: the great flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, the Babylonian exile, the division of the kingdom of Israel, the destruction of the Temple. We also see the many examples of God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness for those who do His will. The Scriptures offer us a way to live good, moral lives through things like the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. As we are reminded of the consequences of living a sinful life, we’re also given hope that God will bring us to His kingdom if we follow His commandments: “[N]o eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).

“The anagogical sense of Scripture (also known as the eschatological sense) is looking at Scripture in light of their significance to the final judgment, the end of time”.7 We can see one example of this sense in Matthew 24; although in the literal sense Jesus starts by talking about the destruction of the Jewish Temple, He is also discussing the events at the end of time before His second coming. The anagogical sense of Scripture teaches about the four last things – death, judgment, heaven, hell – but it must be interpreted correctly in order to avoid the same mistakes found in fundamentalist eschatology, such as trying to use the Scriptures to “predict” the end of the world. “Most errors in eschatology proceed from a lack of balance and a failure to appreciate that the final age in which we live is steeped in mysteries and meanings known fully only by God”.8

Since “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ, the Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures” (CCC 133). With how difficult it can be to navigate through the various senses and elements contained within Scripture, the Church’s Magisterium “is charged with giving an authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition” (VD 33). Therefore, the Church advises that only approved translations of the Scriptures are to be used for prayers, Bible study - and most importantly - the liturgy,9 which is the ultimate way that Catholics use Scripture:

Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from Scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the Scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. (SC 24)

Since faith comes through hearing (Rom 10:17), the ultimate way to ‘read’ Scriptures is through the liturgy of the Church because the primary use of the Scriptures has always been liturgical.10 “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God” (DV 24) who is alive and present with us particularly in the sacred liturgy.

The Bible is a single collection of 73 books written over several thousand years, covering the salvation history of mankind. “All divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (CCC 134). Properly interpreted, the Scriptures offer us nourishment and strength for our pilgrimage on earth through this conversation with the Word of God: “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them” (CCC 104). When read faithfully through the eyes of the Church, we can be brought to the truth that “the center of our faith is not only a book, but a history of salvation and especially a Person, Jesus Christ”.11 Exploring this mystery of salvation history revealed to us in the Scriptures can at first seem like a daunting task, but if we read the Bible through the eyes of the Church, we can learn to fully appreciate the depth and beauty of what God is saying to us through the Sacred Scriptures.

Notes
1. Vatican Radio, “The Unbreakable Unity Between Scripture and Tradition” (12 April 2013, accessed 4 May 2013); available from http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-the-unbreakable-unity-between-scripture-and-t
2. Over, Michal, “How to Read the Bible” (n.d., accessed 4 May 2013); available from http://www.mycatholiccds.com/how-to-read-the-bible.php
3. Catholic Answers, “The Galileo Controversy” (2004, accessed 10 May 2013); available from http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy
4. Martinoni, John, “Literal vs Literalistic Interpretation” (n.d., accessed 5 May 2013); available from http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/apologetics/two_minute#7
5. Over, Michal, “How to Read the Bible” (n.d., accessed 5 May 2013); available from http://www.mycatholiccds.com/how-to-read-the-bible.php
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Pope, Msg Charles, “When Will Christ Come? Some Basics of Catholic Eschatology” (27 Mar 2013, accessed 9 May 2013); available from http://blog.adw.org/2012/03/when-will-christ-come-some-basics-of-catholic-eschatology/
9. USCCB, “Approved Translations of the Sacred Scriptures for Private Use and Study by Catholics” (n.d., accessed 9 May 2013); available from http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/
10. Hysell, Michael, “The Bible in the Liturgy” (Dec 2006, accessed 10 May 2013); available from http://www.cuf.org/2006/11/the-bible-in-the-liturgy/
11. Vatican Radio, “The Unbreakable Unity Between Scripture and Tradition” (12 April 2013, accessed 10 May 2013); available from http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-the-unbreakable-unity-between-scripture-and-t

References
Benedict XVI (2010). Verbum Domini. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.html
Catechism of the Catholic Church. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM
Catholic Answers. (2004). The Galileo Controversy. Retrieved from http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1966).
Hysell, M. (2006). The Bible in the Liturgy. Retrieved from http://www.cuf.org/2006/11/the-bible-in-the-liturgy/
Levada, W. (2011). Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles, and Criteria. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_doc_20111129_teologia-oggi_en.html
Martinoni, J. (n.d.). Literal vs Literalistic Interpretation. Retrieved from http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/apologetics/two_minute#7
Over, M. (n.d.). How to Read the Bible. Retrieved from http://www.mycatholiccds.com/how-to-read-the-bible.php
Pope, Msg. Charles (2012). When Will Christ Come? Some Basics of Catholic Eschatology. Retrieved from http://blog.adw.org/2012/03/when-will-christ-come-some-basics-of-catholic-eschatology/
Second Vatican Council (1963). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
Second Vatican Council. (1965). Dogmatic Constitution of Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (n.d.). Approved Translations of the Sacred Scriptures for Private Use and Study by Catholics. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/
Vatican Radio. (2013). The Unbreakable Unity Between Scripture and Tradition. Retrieved from http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-the-unbreakable-unity-between-scripture-and-t

Hagia Sophia

The Marvel of Hagia Sophia

Originally my term paper for Catholic Distance University

There is perhaps no other structure within the history of Christendom that shows the grandeur of the early Church and her reverence for God better than the great cathedral of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia. Ideally, Church architecture is constructed with the heavenly in mind, for “the church herself is like a window, the place where God draws near to us, where He comes towards our world.”1 It is the place where the bloodless sacrifice of the Holy Liturgy takes place, where God comes down to man and raises us up to meet him, where the “heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist”2 and where “the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”3 The liturgy is “the life-giving source from which everything else proceeds,”4 and “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, the font from which all her power flows” (SC 10). It is only fitting that a church building should lift our minds and hearts to God to reflect this heavenly reality. “On crossing the threshold of the sacred building, the faithful [enter] a space and time different from that of their ordinary life.”5 Hagia Sophia was constructed with all of these things in mind, forever changing every soul who has prayed there.

In the year 330, Byzantium (later named Constantinople) was made the capital of the Roman Empire. Desiring to have his new capital rival the beauty and grandeur of ancient Rome, Constantine ordered construction on many projects, including the building of a grand cathedral. Megale Ekklesia (Great Church) was built and dedicated in 360 by Constantine’s son, Constantius.6 It would be destroyed fifty years later in a large fire,7 and then rebuilt under the new name Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). Sadly, it would be destroyed once again by the Nika riots in 532.8 Emperor Justinian I ordered it rebuilt with a grand plan in mind to build the most amazing holy place in Christendom. Employing the services of architects Anthemius of Tralles and Isidoros of Miletos,9 construction on Hagia Sophia began on 23 February 53210 and it was inaugurated five short years later on 27 December 537.11 At its dedication and probably overcome with emotion and wonder, Emperor Justinian exclaimed, "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such work; Solomon, I have surpassed thee!"12 The new church was not without its problems, though; because it sat on a geologic fault line, earthquakes and tremors took their toll on the massive structure. The first dome collapsed in 558 and was rebuilt in 562,13 only to be replaced again in 989.14 Despite all the troubles with maintaining such a massive structure - a church built to accommodate 23,000 worshipers15 - this grand building became the site of all major Byzantine events, secular as well as spiritual. It was the place where officials crowned emperors, where citizens celebrated victories in battle, and where the Church held some of her councils.16 When one stood within its magnificent walls, it was no wonder why Hagia Sophia was the main place to be in Constantinople.

Contemporary witnesses to Hagia Sophia’s spectacular beauty leave modern man with conflicting feelings, the first being of wonder that such a structure dedicated to God could ever be built by man, as well as a feeling of sadness that we were not alive at the time when she was at her grandest. The entire ceiling was overlaid with pure gold.17 There were a total of 104 columns,18 whereupon their capitals, bound with bronze and carved, were overlaid with gold.19 The priests, acting in persona Christi (CCC 1548), “preside[d] on seats resplendent with an untold wealth of silver.”20 The church was filled with some of the greatest relics in Christendom: pieces of the True Cross, the lance that pierced Christ's side, the ram's horn with which Joshua blew down the walls of Jericho, the olive branch carried by Noah's dove, Christ's tunic, the crown of thorns, and some of Christ's blood.21 The eastern arch of the church where the Eucharist is celebrated, the wall signifying where the choir sat, and twelve columns signifying the twelve apostles were “all fenced under a cover of silver - upon them are engraved the figure of the immaculate God; elsewhere it has carved the host of winged angels bowing down their necks.”22 In fact, the entire sanctuary of Hagia Sophia was filled with an astounding forty thousand pounds of silver.23 “Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us…[the Eucharist being] the ultimate purpose of his mission.”24 Therefore, the altar in Hagia Sophia was constructed in order to proclaim to the faithful this solemn truth, that God is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. “On columns of gold is raised the all-gold slab of the holy table, standing on gold foundations, and bright with the glitter of precious stones...Above the all-pure table of gold rises into the ample air an indescribable tower, reared on fourfold arches of silver.”25 Before the Divine Liturgy, the priests would cover the holy table with a purple silk veil adorned with a figure of Christ, as well as Peter and Paul, and along the hem sewn in gold was artwork depicting the emperors, charitable works, Mary, and miracles of Christ.26

The walls and columns of the church were covered in or constructed out of exquisite marble and granite from throughout the known world. “Marble from as far away as Egypt and Italy were cut into decorative panels that covered the walls,”27 and columns of green marble and purple porphyry filled the church.28 The capitals of these columns were carved in such an intricate manner that “they seemed as fragile as lace.”29 The columns would rise far into the heights of the sanctuary, forming great arcs that could withstand the weight of the massive dome, which was 102 feet across30 and 180 feet high,31 making the church roughly 16-stories tall and the world’s largest church until the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome. Carved into the arcs were images of fruit, baskets and leaves, as well as birds perched on boughs.32 Carved designs covered the walls33, as well as mosaics and murals, such as several with the “Mother of Christ, the vessel of eternal life, whose holy womb did nourish its own Maker.”34

The grand dome towered over the sanctuary, drawing everyone’s attention to the large icon of Christ looking down from heaven. At the base of the dome are forty arched windows through which the “rays of fair-haired Dawn are channeled.”35 The dome "does not appear to rest upon a solid foundation, but to cover the place beneath as though it were suspended from heaven by the fabled golden chain.”36 The ceiling of the church was covered with four acres of golden, glass cubes; millions of them.37 In the narthex throughout the night "the psalms of God-fearing David are sung with alternate voice by the sacred ministers.”38 The church was lit up at night by countless lanterns and an ingenious use of glassware. The dome area was lit through fire-wrought glass threaded through silver discs suspended by twisted chains of beaten brass. Upon the backs of the discs were "luminous vessels,” and above that were two smaller circles of lights constructed in the same manner.39 On either side of the many columns were lamps of various heights, which coursed light throughout the whole length of the church,40 as well as countless other lights that hung on twisted chains.41 The beauty and majesty of Hagia Sophia allowed the worshipers to leave the secular world behind, focusing their minds and hearts instead on God and the mysteries of the faith:

“Whenever one goes to this church to pray, one understands immediately that this work has been fashioned not by human power or skill, but by the influence of God. And so the visitor's mind is lifted up to God and floats aloft, thinking that He cannot be far away, but must love to dwell in this place which He himself has chosen.”42

In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Church experienced the iconoclastic controversy, where Christians debated whether or not the veneration of images constituted idolatry. The Church would later decide at the Second Council of Nicaea43 that the veneration was being given to whom the images represented and not the image or statue itself; however, in the meantime many priceless icons, mosaics, and murals were painted over, broken up, and destroyed. Hagia Sophia wasn’t spared this destruction, with its mosaics of gold, silver, glass, terra cotta, and colorful stones44 being chipped away and replaced by whitewash and plain, painted crosses. It would take roughly 116 years before artists repaired and replaced the damaged mosaics and murals.45

In 1054, the Church split between the Greek East and Latin West, with Hagia Sophia becoming the most prominent and important cathedral in the Orthodox world. Relations soured to such a horrible extent that Constantinople was invaded and sacked during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Western Europeans looted Hagia Sophia of its treasures, leaving no gold behind, and sent the relics to churches in the West. Occupying the city for 57 years, Hagia Sophia was used as a Catholic cathedral46 until the Byzantines took their city back. Financially exhausted from the Crusade, plus from all the wars with the Ottoman Turks, the Byzantine Empire was unable to restore Hagia Sophia to her former glory; by the early 1400s, it had fallen into ruin.47 In 1453, the Turks were finally able to overtake Constantinople, taking Hagia Sophia and converting it into a mosque instead of destroying it like they did with other churches.48 The Turkish leaders converted the structure because they were in awe with the beauty and size of Hagia Sophia. Ottoman historian Tursun Beg said, “What a dome that vies in rank with the nine spheres of heaven! In this work a perfect master has displayed the whole of architectural science.”49 Keeping with the iconoclasm of Islam, however, the Muslims painted over all the mosaics, murals, and icons with yellow paint except for a 13-foot tall mosaic of Mary holding the infant Jesus.50 They also hung up around the sanctuary large quotes from the Qur’an, added a mihrab (to pray towards),51 and added four 200-foot tall minarets outside the church.52 For 450 years, Hagia Sophia was a place of Muslim worship until 1934 when the modern secular Republic of Turkey was founded.53 Seeing Hagia Sophia as a historical treasure, the Turkish government decided to open it up as a museum, banning all public worship at the site.54 Because the building would be classified as a museum, the government did not see the harm in removing all the yellow paint from the ancient mosaics and murals and many of the ancient images have been partially or completely exposed for viewing. Thanks to the government opening up Hagia Sophia, archeologists are finally getting a chance to document it for the first time. In the 1990s, ancient Greek graffiti written by tenth-century repairmen was found scrawled on the dome, asking God for his protection as they worked 150 feet above the marble floor.55

Sadly, the future of Hagia Sophia is even more unknown than her past due to the lack of care being given by Turkey. Because one year there is a budget for repairs and the next there isn't, groups such as the Historical Heritage Foundation of Turkey are calling for an international effort to save the church.56 Throughout the structure there are patches of moisture and peeling paint, bricked up windows, grimy marble panels that need restoring, huge sections of ceiling that are peeling and flaking, and many areas covered in water stains.57 There are acres of stucco that need to be replaced, windows and frames that need replacing or repair, and all of the artwork needs cleaning and restoration.58 Lastly, as Turkey becomes more Islamicized there are calls to make Hagia Sophia a mosque once again.59 A parliamentary commission is considering a recent application submitted by citizens requesting this,60 even though there are at least 3,000 active mosques in Istanbul alone.61 One of the many protesters demanding this change said, “As the grandchildren of Mehmet the Conqueror, seeking the re-opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque is our legitimate right.”62 Sadly, many experts from the Middle East are predicting the success of this petition and Hagia Sophia will be lost to Christianity once again.

It is hard to imagine the amazement that a person felt walking into Hagia Sophia for the first time, gazing upon the giant icon of Christ on the dome as they approached the holy altar. Who can imagine the sound of 23,000 worshipers along with a choir singing the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom while the priests and deacons filled the sanctuary with the smell of incense and the ringing of bells? And while all of this was happening, the worshipers were surrounded by murals and icons of the twelve apostles, Jesus and Mary, the choirs of angels, and many saints. Hagia Sophia embodied how architecture plays an essential role in the celebration of the Liturgy, which is literally a meeting and joining with Almighty God in the species of bread and wine, in the person of the priest, in the reading of his Word, and in the gathering of his holy people. Through Hagia Sophia’s design and the majesty with which the emperors adorned her, God’s people offered him our very best, for all things belong to God in the first place. Hagia Sophia’s slow demise through the tragedies of history, earthquakes, and warfare reminds us of our fallen nature and our need for God to heal this wound within Creation. With these sad events happening to such a grand church in the heart of the Orthodox world, there are many who wonder if St. Peter’s or other grand western churches will one day face a similar fate. Others are hoping for the day when Hagia Sophia can once again celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Patriarch of Constantinople standing at the holy altar. Only God knows what the future will bring, but if there’s one thing that’s certain it is that all earth pales in comparison to the Heavenly Liturgy. Therefore, despite Hagia Sophia’s beauty, if “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9), then all of Hagia Sophia’s grandeur and wealth are but a tiny twinkle when compared to the glory of the Altar on High which awaits us.

Notes
1. Benedict XVI, “Excerpt from the Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at a Eucharistic concelebration with the twenty-two new cardinals created in a consistory”, (18 February 2012, accessed 4 July 2013); available from http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/features/quotes_on_architecture_by_pope_benedict_xvi/
2. St. Gregory the Great, “Power of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”, (n.d., accessed 3 July 2013); available from http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/liturgy/masspower.htm
3. St. John Chrysostom, “Power of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”, (n.d., accessed 4 July 2013); available from http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/liturgy/masspower.htm
4. Met. Ware, “A quote from Met. Kallistos Ware”, (n.d., accessed on 2 July 2013); available from http://simplyorthodox.tumblr.com/post/8211459832
5. Benedict XVI, “The Cathedral, from the Romanesque to the Gothic,” (18 November 2009, accessed 5 July 2013); available from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20091118_en.html
6. Emma Wegner, “Hagia Sophia, 532-37,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haso/hd_haso.htm
7. Virginia Ann Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2008/Feature2.asp
8. Virginia Ann Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2008/Feature2.asp
9. Emma Wegner, “Hagia Sophia, 532-37,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haso/hd_haso.htm
10. Hagia Sophia Museum, “History”, (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/tarihce.aspx
11. Wegner, “Hagia Sophia, 532-37”
12. Greek News, “International Campaign for Free Saint Sophia,” (5 June 2006, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.greeknewsonline.com/?p=5028
13. Wegner, “Hagia Sophia, 532-37”
14. Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History”
15. Greek News, “International Campaign for Free Saint Sophia”
16. Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History”
17. Prokopios, “Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople,” (544, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_proko.htm
18. Hagia Sophia Museum, “History”
19. Paulus Silentiarius, “A Description of Hagia Sophia,” (563, accessed 1 July 2013); available from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_essay_paul.htm
20. Ibid.
21. Fergus Bordewich, “A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia,” (December 2008, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/Fading-Glory.html
22. Prokopios, “Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople,” (544, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_proko.htm
23. Ibid.
24. Benedict XVI, “Sacramentum Caritatis,” (22 February 2007, accessed 4 July 2013); available from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html
25. Paulus Silentiarius, “A Description of Hagia Sophia”
26. Ibid.
27. Fergus Bordewich, “A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia,” (December 2008, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/Fading-Glory.html
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid.
30. Virginia Ann Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2008/Feature2.asp
31. Fergus Bordewich, “A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia”
32. Prokopios, “Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople,” (544, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_proko.htm
33. Ibid.
34. Ibid.
35. Ibid.
36. Prokopios, “Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople”
37. Fergus Bordewich, “A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia”
38. Prokopios, “Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople”
39. Prokopios, “Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople,” (544, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_proko.htm
40. Ibid.
41. Ibid.
42. Paulus Silentiarius, “A Description of Hagia Sophia,” (563, accessed 1 July 2013); available from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_essay_paul.htm
43. Second Council of Nicaea, “Council Documents,” (787, accessed 6 July 2013); available from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3819.htm
44. Hagia Sophia Museum, “History”, (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/tarihce.aspx
45. Virginia Ann Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2008/Feature2.asp
46. Virginia Ann Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History,” (n.d., accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2008/Feature2.asp
47. Ibid.
48. Ibid.
49. Owen Jarus, “Hagia Sophia: Facts, History, & Architecture”, (1 March 2013, accessed 3 July 2013); available from http://www.livescience.com/27574-hagia-sophia.html
50. Ibid.
51. Virginia Ann Froehle, “Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History”
52. Owen Jarus, “Hagia Sophia: Facts, History, & Architecture”
53. Ibid.
54. Ibid.
55. Fergus Bordewich, “A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia,” (December 2008, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/Fading-Glory.html
56. Ibid.
57. Fergus Bordewich, “A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia”
58. Ibid.
59. Ibid.
60. Hurriyet Daily News, “Parliament to Discuss Return to Prayers at Hagia Sophia”, (4 February 2013, accessed 3 July 2013); available from http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/parliament-to-discuss-return-to-prayers-at-hagia-sophia.aspx?pageID=238&nID=40412&NewsCatID=341
61. Istanbul Municipality, “Istanbul in Numbers,” (2010, accessed 4 July 2013); accessed from http://www.ibb.gov.tr/sites/ks/en-US/0-Exploring-The-City/Location/Pages/IstanbulinNumbers.aspx
62. Raymond Ibrahim, “Christendom’s Greatest Cathedral to Become a Mosque”, (18 June 2013, accessed 2 July 2013); available from http://pjmedia.com/blog/hagia-sophia-to-become-mosque/

References
Benedict XVI. (2007). Sacramentum Caritatis. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html
Benedict XVI. (2009). The Cathedral, From the Romanesque to the Gothic. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20091118_en.html
Benedict XVI. (2012). Excerpt from the Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at a Eucharistic concelebration with the twenty-two new cardinals created in a consistory. Retrieved from http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/features/quotes_on_architecture_by_pope_benedict_xvi/
Bordewich, F. (2008). A Monumental Struggle to Preserve Hagia Sophia. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/Fading-Glory.html
Froehle, V. (2008). Hagia Sophia: A Rich and Holy History. Retrieved from http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2008/Feature2.asp
Greek News. (2006). International Campaign For Free Saint Sophia. Retrieved from http://www.greeknewsonline.com/?p=5028
Hagia Sophia Museum. (n.d.). History. Retrieved from http://www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/tarihce.aspx
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition. (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1966).
Hurriyet Daily News. (2013). Parliament to Discuss Return to Prayers at Hagia Sophia. Retrieved from http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/parliament-to-discuss-return-to-prayers-at-hagia-sophia.aspx?pageID=238&nID=40412&NewsCatID=341
Ibrahim, R. (2013). Christendom’s Greatest Cathedral to Become a Mosque. Retrieved from http://pjmedia.com/blog/hagia-sophia-to-become-mosque/
Istanbul Municipality (2010). Istanbul in Numbers. Retrieved from http://www.ibb.gov.tr/sites/ks/en-US/0-Exploring-The-City/Location/Pages/IstanbulinNumbers.aspx
Jarus, O. (2013). Hagia Sophia: Facts, History, & Architecture. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/27574-hagia-sophia.html
Our Lady’s Warriors. (n.d.). The Power of the Mass. Retrieved from http://www.ourladyswarriors.org/liturgy/masspower.htm
Prokopios. (544). Description of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Retrieved from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_proko.htm
Second Vatican Council (1963). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
Silentiarius, P. (563). A Description of Hagia Sophia. Retrieved from http://www.learn.columbia.edu/ma/htm/or/ma_or_gloss_essay_paul.htm
Ware, K. (nd). A quote from Met. Kallistos Ware. Retrieved from http://simplyorthodox.tumblr.com/post/8211459832
Wegner, E. (nd). Hagia Sophia, 532-37. Retrieved from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/haso/hd_haso.htm

Schism

The Great Schism of East and West

Originally a writing assignment at Catholic Distance University

The great split between the Greek East and Latin West remains one of the saddest events in Christian history. Although many attribute the year 1054 as when a definitive split occurred, there were centuries of misunderstanding and miscommunication that contributed towards the “Great Schism”. Problems resulted from the differences between Greek and Latin philosophy and theology, or from political divisions, or through bigotry and mistrust. The events that led up to the divisions between East and West are complicated and remain a black eye for the Mystical Body of Christ.

In the year 330, Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to the city of Byzantium (later called Constantinople) in present-day Turkey. In 395, the Empire would be officially split into East and West by Theodosius I. As wealth and power were concentrating in the eastern portion of the Empire, barbarian invaders continued to wreak havoc on the West. The Western Roman Empire would finally collapse in the year 476, while the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist for roughly another 1,000 years. These political changes significantly affected the ways in which East and West viewed the relationship between Church and state. While the Church in the West had to establish itself above the invading forces and warring nations, allowing the papacy to develop into a sort of monarchial role, the Eastern Christians were usually under the thumb of the Roman emperor. Eastern Christians still view the power of the papacy with suspicion, preferring instead a collegial relationship between bishops in the form of synods and councils. The philosophical differences between East and West also contributed to the growing rift. Eastern Christians were speculative and philosophical in dealing with theological issues, while Christians in the West saw themselves as more practical and legal. “The east wanted to know who Christ was and the west wanted to know what Christ wanted them to do.”1 Language was also a barrier; while the lingua franca of the Roman Empire was Greek at one point, Latin gradually overtook it in the West, while the East remained Greek-speaking.2 Mistrust existed from the earliest days; the Church Fathers in the West accused the Greeks of being responsible for many of the early heresies, while the Church Fathers in the East thought the Latins were incapable of lofty, theological discourse.3 There were differences in practices that, although we respect them today, proved to be divisive in the early days of the Church; such as married priests versus celibates and unleavened bread as hosts versus leavened bread.4

Both the East and West hold the tradition that a nation evangelized by a certain church “belongs” to that church. However, the Photian Schism in Bulgaria, which occurred in the ninth century, involved what could be termed today as “sheep stealing”. Bulgaria, evangelized by Constantinople, wanted an autocephalous (independent) bishop and had gotten a Greek one instead. They appealed to Rome, who sent one of their own bishops, which infuriated Patriarch Photius who immediately called a council and excommunicated Pope Nicolas I. Relations continued to be shaky as each side would spitefully close one another’s parish churches and replace the local clergy with their own.5

One of the most famous issues to spring up between East and West was the filioque (Latin for and the Son). The Nicene Creed was written and clarified within the context of ecumenical councils, but the term filioque was added to the Creed locally in Toledo in 589 and in Rome by around 1000, becoming the norm throughout the Western church.6 This outraged the East who rejected the filioque because they saw it as being unlawfully and unilaterally added without the consent of the universal Church. To this day, the East refuses to use the words “and the Son” when reciting the Nicene Creed.

Relations continued to deteriorate between East and West when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the Holy Roman Emperor in 800, since there was already a Roman Emperor ruling in Constantinople. By the time 1054 approached, East and West had drifted apart from one another to the point that they might as well have been on different planets. The final straw came when Rome and Constantinople tried to deal with a problem in southern Italy, which at the time was a Byzantine colony. Being resettled by Norman colonists, the Pope had declared that all Greek churches in Italy needed to use the Roman Rite, including use of unleavened bread and the filioque. Constantinople, in return, forced all Roman churches within its territory to celebrate the Byzantine Rite. After exchanging a few angry rebuttals, an anti-Greek Cardinal traveled to Constantinople with a delegation, entered Hagia Sophia Cathedral right before Divine Liturgy, and tossed a bull of excommunication on the altar (even though he had no permission from Rome to do so). The Patriarch of Constantinople, in return, excommunicated the delegation – one of whom would become Pope Stephen X.7 Spotty communication between Rome and various Eastern churches continued for another 300 years or so, but relations were horribly tarnished after the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade.8

Efforts have been made to heal this wound in the Body of Christ, most significantly when the mutual excommunications were deemed no longer in effect by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1965.9 The Catholic Church still recognizes the Orthodox churches of the East as part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church founded by Christ. “These Churches, although separated from us, possess true sacraments, above all by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are linked with us in closest intimacy” (UR 15). Although the Great Schism between East and West has made our communion imperfect, the Catholic Church believes that “this communion is so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist” (CCC 838). Humility, patience, communication, and understanding might have been able to prevent these horrible and scandalous events from taking place. Since we cannot change the past, perhaps learning these skills in the present day, “in the spirit of love, to the exclusion of all feeling of rivalry or strife,” (UR 18) we might be able to heal our divisions and return to that one flock with one shepherd that our Lord asked us to be.

Notes
1. Fr. John Vidmar, The Catholic Church Through the Ages, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2005), 67-68.
2. Ibid., 98.
3. Ibid., 98-99.
4. Edward Faulk, 101 Questions & Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 29.
5. Ibid., 30.
6. Ibid., 29.
7. Edward Faulk, 101 Questions & Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 31-32.
8. Ibid., 43-44.
9. Paul VI & Athenagoras I, “Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration”, (7 December 1965, accessed 30 June 2013), 4; available from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/speeches/1965/documents/hf_p-vi_spe_19651207_common-declaration_en.html

References
Catechism of the Catholic Church. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM
Faulk, E. (2007). 101 Questions & Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007).
Paul VI & Athenagoras I. (1965). Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of His Holiness Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/speeches/1965/documents/hf_p-vi_spe_19651207_common-declaration_en.html
Second Vatican Council. (1965). Unitatis Redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism). Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html
Vidmar, J. (2005). The Catholic Church Through the Ages (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2005).

Western Civilization

Originally a writing assignment at Catholic Distance University

The Catholic Church played a prominent role in the intellectual and artful flowering of the Middle Ages, so much so that the Church has been referred to as “the builder of Western civilization.”1 Not only did she expand upon church-building in order to erect inordinate and grand Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, but her people were responsible for some of the most memorable poems, stories, and artwork in the Western world. The Church also built universities throughout Christendom, great buildings of higher learning that Pope Innocent IV called, “"rivers of science which water and make fertile the soil of the universal Church.”2

Our modern concept of the university came into existence through the Catholic Church. Although we’re unsure of when the first universities started, they were firmly established throughout Europe by the thirteenth century.3 Great strides in education and science were made thanks to open and lively debate in universities “where scholars could debate and discuss propositions, and in which the utility of human reason was taken for granted.”4 For graduates of certain universities (such as Bologna, Oxford, and Paris), a master’s degree guaranteed the right to teach anywhere in the world.5 Critics of Catholic-run universities will be surprised to learn that the papacy worked tirelessly to ensure their independence in determining courses and studies. Thanks to the work of the Church, universities allowed students to study “not only many of the standard liberal arts disciplines but also civil and canon law, natural philosophy, medicine, and theology.”6

Artists, architects, and writers were greatly influenced by their Catholic faith. Dante’s famous trio of poems The Divine Comedy described a man’s exploration of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven and is regarded as the pinnacle of Medieval Italian writing. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales chronicled a religious pilgrimage through Medieval England. Both The Divine Comedy and Canterbury Tales highlight the transition of religious writing into the vernacular and show that many writers in the Middle Ages wrote in order to evangelize the people and glorify God, all the while evolving poetry and fiction to great new levels. Grand cathedrals sprung up around the cities of Europe, being built higher and larger than ever before thanks to advances in architectural ingenuity. Their windows, massive stained-glass images of Biblical scenes, brought the faith to the illiterate people of Europe. Statues, paintings, and murals were religious in nature and were patronized by the Church, allowing artists to offer their talents to the propagation of the faith and the beauty of the cities and parish churches around the world.

While Christianity in general - and the Catholic Church in particular - are often criticized for being behind-the-times by the modern secular world, the Church was actually at the forefront in science, architecture, and the arts. “The creation of the university, the commitment to reason and rational argument, and the overall spirit of inquiry that characterized medieval intellectual life amounted to a gift from the Latin Middle Ages to the modern world.”7 Artwork, heavily influenced by the Catholic faith of the artists, remains an attraction in museums, churches, and cathedrals around the world. Thanks to the Church’s universality, its reach throughout Christendom, and its financial support the arts and the university system are just two ways in which the Church of the Middle Ages influenced and nurtured the world’s faithful, which it continues to do even to this day.

Notes
1. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” (5 May 2005, accessed 21 July 2013); available from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0101.html
2. Ibid.
3. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “The Catholic Church and the Creation of the University,” (16 May, 2005, accessed 21 July 2013); available from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/education/ed0321.htm
4. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” (5 May 2005, accessed 21 July 2013); available from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0101.html
5. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “The Catholic Church and the Creation of the University,” (16 May, 2005, accessed 21 July 2013); available from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/education/ed0321.htm
6. Ibid.
7. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization,” (5 May 2005, accessed 21 July 2013); available from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0101.html

References
Woods, T. (2005). How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Retrieved from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0101.html
Woods, T. (2005). The Catholic Church and the Creation of the University. Retrieved from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/education/ed0321.htm

Benedict & Monasticism

Originally a writing assignment at Catholic Distance University

The rise of Monasticism was a significant event in the life and growth of the Church and, in particular, the Western world. The origins of the monastic movement are traced back to Egypt in the second half of the third century. St. Anthony of the Desert sold all of his possessions and retreated to the desert for a life of prayer and asceticism. Through St. Anthony’s example, hundreds and men and women flocked to the desert to be hermits in imitation of him. By the fourth century, the hermit Pachomius the Great drew up a Rule and arranged his followers into a community where common meals and spiritual exercises were encouraged, although the harsh asceticism of the hermit’s life was still prevalent. Following the call to live lives of chastity, poverty, and obedience, the monastic life continued to appeal to Christians who were now coming out of the catacombs and shadows to worship freely in the Roman world. The monastic life was encouraged by many of the Church Fathers - including Saints Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome – and along with chastity, poverty, and obedience, could also include the practices of detachment from the world, performing work duties, fraternal charity, prayer as a community, fasting and abstinence, caring for the sick, taking vows of silence, and spiritual reading during meals.

The most significant name in Western monasticism is that of St. Benedict of Nursia. Born around the year 480, he was sent to school in Rome by his parents, but after seeing the lifestyle of many of his fellow students he left Rome to live in the mountains east of the city. After spending some time living in community, he chose to live the life of a hermit in Subiaco, engaging in spiritual exercises in order to purify himself of temptations of the flesh, of pride, and of anger and revenge. After three years living in a cave, he left to found his first monastery. He would die on March 21, 547, but not before he had written his Rule for governing monasteries. Borrowing heavily from the Scriptures, the Rule of St. Benedict is comprised of 73 short chapters that teach the spiritual and administrative ways of living in community. More than half the chapters explain the ways in which to live in humility and obedience, a fourth is dedicated to instruction on the Work of God (Opus Dei), and the final quarter deals with managing a monastery or convent and how an abbot or abbess should live their lives. The Rule divides the day into regular periods of communal and private prayer, sleep, spiritual reading, and manual labor. Communal prayer consists mainly of celebrating the Liturgy and praying the Divine Office, and spiritual reading consisted mainly of the Scriptures. The life of the Benedictine could be summed up by their maxim, “Ora et labora” – prayer and work. Benedict considered his Rule, “minimal, just an initial outline.” Because of its simple, universal instruction, the Rule influenced the formation of future monastic orders throughout Europe.

The influence of monasticism - and in particular the Rule of St. Benedict - in the creation of European culture and the spread of Christianity cannot be overemphasized. Western Europe was living through its greatest crisis, the collapse of Rome. Barbarian hordes were invading from the East, harassing and burning villages and cities across the empire. Poverty, murder, disease, famine, and war were rampant on the heels of the invaders, and government and civil justice virtually disappeared. Even the city of Rome was getting sacked and burned and the Western world seemed to be coming to an end. However, the Church was able to withstand the challenges through the work of her bishops and the monasteries. These provided the people, including the invading barbarians, with Christian instruction and a form of government while the western world seemed to be collapsing into anarchy. Through the work of the various Religious communities of monks and nuns, the Church established orphanages, hospitals, hospices, farms, vineyards, universities, and abbeys throughout Western Europe. The universities and abbeys contained libraries filled with various invaluable parchments and scrolls of antiquity, including handwritten copies of the Holy Scriptures. In fact, many abbeys contained rooms called scriptoriums where monks spent night and day translating and transcribing Bibles by hand via candlelight. The universities developed what became modern science, the study of God and his Creation, and also taught history, philosophy, and theology. Monks carried the faith with them as they evangelized throughout Western Europe, covering her with churches, basilicas, cathedrals, universities, and monasteries. Out of the darkness and chaos of the collapse of the Western Empire, the Church – especially through the work of the monasteries – preserved the faith, brought it to every corner of the continent, catechized its people, and literally formed the cultures of Europe. The monasteries, and in particular the Rule of St. Benedict, were fundamental in the development of European civilization and culture. Benedictines entered England in the 500s, building monasteries in Canterbury and at Westminster Abbey. Even the Anglican patrimony of the post-Reformation era proudly traces itself to the influence of the Benedictine monasteries that used to dot the British landscape prior to Henry VIII’s reign. The Benedictines brought the faith to the lands of Germany, and Charlemagne had the Rule copied and sent throughout Western Europe as a way of encouraging monks how to live and pray. By the ninth century, the Benedictine was the only form of monastic life throughout Western Europe (except for in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales).1 The Roman and Anglican calendars observe St. Benedict’s death on July 11, while the Orthodox celebrate on March 14. His influence is so significant to the origins of post-Roman Europe that St. Benedict is one of the continent’s patron saints.

The Benedictines continue to influence catechesis and liturgy to this day, as people look for stability from the turmoil of the last century and a half. Laity and others continue to apply the Rule to their private lives as third order Benedictines (Oblates), connecting spiritually to an abbey, but not taking religious vows. It is amazing to think that roughly 1,500 years later people continue to read, contemplate, and practice the Rule of St. Benedict. Through his efforts and that of the entire monastic movement, the Western Church withstood the chaos of the barbarian invasion, greatly influencing the European world that would arise from the ashes. As we enter into the next millennium, perhaps the great Rule can continue to guide us through the murky waters and into a deeper relationship with our Lord, the same as it did so many centuries ago.

Notes
Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Benedictine Order” (accessed 8 June 2013); available from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02443a.htm

References
Catholic Encyclopedia, (n.d.). The Benedictine Order. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02443a.htm

St. Paul

Originally a writing assignment at Catholic Distance University

St. Paul is an excellent model for evangelization, a task he embraced from the moment of his conversion. While on his way to persecute the Church in Damascus, St. Paul fell to the ground when he was blinded by a great light (Acts 9:3). Christ asked why Paul was persecuting Him and directed Paul to enter Damascus and wait for further instructions (Acts 9:4-6). Left blind from the experience, Paul was escorted to the city by his co-travelers (Acts 9:7-8). The Lord instructed Ananias to visit Paul, but Ananias was hesitant to do so because of Paul’s notoriety as a persecutor of the Church (Acts 9:10-14). However, Christ insisted by saying, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). So, Ananias traveled to Paul and told him what the Lord said, baptizing him, and Paul regained his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-19).

From that point, Paul left for Arabia (Gal. 1:17) to pray and meditate before returning once again to Damascus. Being a target of angry Jewish leaders and the king, Paul had to escape from the city by being lowered down a wall while hiding in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). He went to Jerusalem to meet with St. Peter and the other Apostles (Acts 9:26). After Barnabas vouched for the sincerity of St. Paul’s conversion, he preached in Jerusalem until it was discovered that the Jews were trying to kill him (Acts 9:28-29). Upon learning of this, the Apostles sent St. Paul to Caesarea and Tarsus (Acts 9:30).

Around the year 45 while in Antioch, the Lord said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul [Paul] for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Paul, Barnabas, and Mark set out on their first major journey, traveling to the island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4). He would make three major journeys throughout Asia Minor and into Europe, preaching and founding communities in places like Athens, Galatia, Corinth, Philadelphia, Thessalonica, Macedonia, Ephesus, and Philippi. After first bringing the faith to Malta due to a shipwreck (Acts 28:1), he would eventually be taken to Rome in order to bring the faith to as many people as he could. While imprisoned in Rome, tradition suggests that he wrote his letters to the Colossians, the Philippians, Philemon, and the Ephesians before venturing out again to Spain and possibly to Syria, Palestine, Asia Minor, Greece, and Crete. Arrested and brought to Rome again, he would be sentenced to death by the Emperor Nero. Brought to the bank of the Tiber outside of the walls of Imperial Rome, St. Paul was executed by beheading. His head is currently entombed within the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and his body is buried beneath the altar within the basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls, both in Rome, Italy.

Throughout St. Paul’s travels, he embraced the challenges and sufferings he was conflicted with because it was for the glory of God and the spread of the Gospel. He described his journeys to the Corinthians: “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor 11:24-27). No one would suffer so much for a falsehood; therefore it was through these hardships that St. Paul showed the truth of the Gospel and the love he had for the church communities he help found. Paul wrote, “It would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one” (1 Cor 9:15). Throughout his letters and travels, he approached the people he met in a way that they could understand, meeting them where they were in their state in life, so that he could “become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (Acts 9:22). As Christians, we could learn a lot from St. Paul on how to live a faithful life for Christ, enduring the hardships that will be given to us by an unbelieving world, bringing the faith to everyone we meet every day so that “for the sake of the gospel [we] may become…fellow partaker[s] of it” (1 Cor 9:23). Perhaps then with our last breath we may share in St. Paul’s words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).