Lift up your heads, you gates….

[This from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus:]

While Satan and Hades were thus speaking to each other, there was a great voice like thunder, saying: Lift up your gates, O you rulers; and be lifted up, you everlasting gates; and the King of glory shall come in. When Hades heard, he said to Satan: Go forth, if you are able, and withstand him. Satan therefore went forth to the outside. Then Hades says to his demons: Secure well and strongly the gates of brass and the bars of iron, and attend to my bolts, and stand in order, and see to everything; for if he come in here, woe will seize us.

The forefathers having heard this, began all to revile him, saying: O all-devouring and insatiable! Open, that the King of glory may come in. David the prophet says: Do you not know, O blind, that I when living in the world prophesied this saying: Lift up your gates, O you rulers? Hosea said: I, foreseeing this by the Holy Spirit, wrote: The dead shall rise up, and those in their tombs shall be raised, and those in the earth shall rejoice. And where, O death, is your sting? Where, O Hades, is your victory?

There came, then, again a voice saying: Lift up the gates. Hades, hearing the voice the second time, answered as if forsooth he did not know, and says: Who is this King of glory? The angels of the Lord say: The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. And immediately with these words the brazen gates were shattered, and the iron bars broken, and all the dead who had been bound came out of the prisons, and we with them. And the King of glory came in in the form of a man, and all the dark places of Hades were lighted up.

Immediately Hades cried out: We have been conquered: woe to us! But who are you, that have such power and might? And what are you, who come here without sin, who are seen to be small and yet of great power, lowly and exalted, the slave and the master, the soldier and the king, who have power over the dead and the living? You were nailed on the cross, and placed in the tomb; and now you are free, and have destroyed all our power. Are you then the Jesus about whom the chief satrap Satan told us, that through cross and death you are to inherit the whole world?

Then the King of glory seized the chief satrap Satan by the head, and delivered him to His angels, and said: With iron chains bind his hands and his feet, and his neck, and his mouth. Then He delivered him to Hades, and said: Take him, and keep him secure till my second appearing.

[The third Psalm of the Office of Readings today is Psalm 24, long associated with Holy Saturday. Take a look.]

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ST II-II.2.5

Having argued that faith is necessary for salvation, in Article 5 St. Thomas asks whether it is necessary to have explicit faith in something.  Could you just be ready and willing to believe?  To put the question another way, is it enough to embrace the formal object of faith or do you have to have a material object as well?

Either way you put the question, the answer is obvious.  As I observed in an earlier post, you can’t actually separate out the formal and material objects, as though they were actually different objects:  they are formal and material principles of one reality.  You only hear the Voice of Truth when he says something.  And the evidence of Scripture is overwhelming that belief in something concrete is needed.

But St. Thomas uses the occasion of the question to rehearse a distinction he made before.  He says that the object of faith per se is that which makes one blessed.  He hearkens back to ST II-II.1.1, where he first made the formal/material object distinction:  in that Article, he argued that God is not only the formal but also the material object of faith, because all the other things we believe “only fall under faith’s assent insofar as they are ordered to God, namely insofar as certain effects of the divinity aid man in tending toward the enjoyment of God.”  And he made the same distinction again in ST II-II.1.6:  “Faith principally concerns those things which we hope to see in our heavenly home, in accordance with Hebrews 11:1, ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for”; for this reason, those things which directly order us to eternal life pertain per se to faith, such as the three persons of the omnipotent God, the Incarnation of Christ, and things like this.”

Faith, St. Thomas seem to be saying, really is the life of heaven begun here on earth, the beatific vision in seed.  God speaks only to draw us to himself and give himself to us, and anything else is secondary.

With this distinction, St. Thomas lays out a hierarchy in the objects of faith.  The very central object of faith is the Trinity, the vision of which will make us blessed in heaven.  Closely tied to this central object are those things that directly bring us to it, such as the Incarnation.  And then on the periphery are all those things that in some way manifest the central objects of faith, like the fact that Abraham had two sons or that Israel came out of Egypt.

These reflections on faith undergird St. Thomas’s famous claim that theology is a science.  In ST I.1.2, he distinguishes between sciences that proceed from principles known by the light of reason, such as geometry, and sciences that proceed from principles that they get from a higher science, like the way the science of perspective proceeds from principles that it gets from geometry.  He concludes that theology is a science in the second sense, “because it proceeds from the principles known by the light of a higher science, which is the science of God and of the blessed.”  The first principles of theology, which are the revealed mysteries of faith, are a sharing in what the blessed know in heaven.  This is the same claim as the one made in ST II-II.1.2, ST II-II.1.6, and ST II-II.2.5, and it has the same implications about a hierarchy of topics.

 

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Oh, come on….

Migraine Meme 4

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April showers….

AprilShowersNot sure what kind of May flowers this is bringing.

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Here we go again….

Migraine Meme 1

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Tomorrow is June 1

P1020361

Qui videt, intelligat.

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More cerebral observation

Adding to my previous observations about my brain:  I can’t abide sans-serif fonts.  That is, they’re OK for two-word billboards (“Got Milk?”), but for document length reading they are intolerable.  The fact that Microsoft made Calibri the default font in Word seems to me insanity.

But I’ve come to realize that most of the world is OK with sans-serif fonts.  So I begin to wonder whether it is rooted in whatever causes my inability to handle small print.

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Observations about my brain

For a variety of converging reasons, I have been reflecting lately about how my brain works.  And to some degree, I have been coming to terms with long-resisted realities.  For example:

1. I just don’t “do” small print–not even slightly small.  There are countless books on my shelves that I have intended to read and finally realized that I never will, simply because the print is slightly small.  Recently I carried a book around for three days, fooling myself that I would read it, but the print was just slightly small.  The funny thing is that it is not a problem with my vision, because even with a perfectly fresh prescription for my glasses I have trouble with small print; the problem is not that I can’t see the letters.  I can, quite clearly.  Conclusion:  The problem is in the way that my brain processes visual information.  Practical conclusion:  I have given myself permission to buy Kindle books.

2. I can’t remember dates.  I have made a number of attempts in recent years to learn history, but I find that important dates just keep slipping.  In Biblical history, which should be my specialization, I eventually just required two dates of my students, namely the dates of the exiles of the kingdoms of Israel:  587 for the south and, um, 722 or something like that for the north–I can’t even retain both of these important dates, it seems.  I don’t know the birthdays of my siblings; I have to think hard to pull up birthdays of my own kids, and I’m rarely confident about it; just tonight I was wrong about my wife’s birthday.  (She, on the other hand, instantly knew the saint whose feast is celebrated on the day that I wrongly stated as her birthday–and she reminds me about my siblings’ birthdays.)  Conclusion:  The problem is not that I never studied the dates, but that my brain does not handle dates well.  Practical conclusion:  I need to “encode” dates in some other form that I tend to remember better.  (For example, I can remember what people wear, how they sit, their facial expressions, and so on, but my wife can’t remember any of those things.)

3. I don’t handle little details well.  After joining the Board of Directors for my place of employ, I have many times studied a financial spreadsheet, but I can never make sense of it.  In fact, my brain “crashes” and I need to look out a window and breath deeply after even looking at all those numbers in rows and columns.  (That’s not because of how our finances are doing–in case you wondered!)  The multitude of e-mails I receive frequently overwhelms me, because it requires handling lots of small details–including details about dates (see the above).  If I could have a secretary to do one thing, it would be this:  he would look through my e-mails to pull out the agenda items and important dates and put them in lists for me.  I have a wonderful routine that helps me get through it, but even so I can sometimes put it off for days because it is so stressful.  I can never remember what month something happened, even if it was important–when we moved, when a family member died, etc.–I can’t even remember what year things happened.  (I ask my wife.)  I worry about offending people, so I try to hide it.  Conclusion:  My brain works very well in big-picture mode and in seeing causal connections, and even when it comes to details of an argument, but my brain does not handle temporal-spatial detail well.  Practical conclusion:  I rely without guilt on others who do these things well, and I wish I could have more help.

Hypothesis:  Could the above be connected?  Could the central thread be a problem with processing physical detail?

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CTT #3

David the ten-year-old is on track for confirmation this coming April.  As part of the process, he had to choose a confirmation name.  His choice, entirely on his own and without even a hint of a suggestion from anyone else?

Francis.

Given recent events, I call that cool.

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The accidental snipe hunt

Although I wrote into my schedule for Saturdays “blog”, in hopes that I will do so at least once a week, most of the weekend has been lost to migraines.  Nonetheless, God was so kind as to drop a blog post into my lap–or rather, into my front yard, which, inasmuch as my house is like a large version of me, is more or less my lap.

For a couple of hours yesterday, this little guy ran around the yard hunting grasshoppers:

Here’s a view of his distinctive breast:

Although I can’t be sure, it seems to me to be some kind of snipe.  At least, that’s what I arrived at by looking through Sibley’s Guide to get the general kind of bird and then watching the video “Better Bird Watching in Wyoming and Colorado” until something came up like our front yard guest.  Anyone else have an opinion?

Our bird feeder out back has finally attracted a good crowd, but they are all little seed-eaters.  This fellow stood out right away as a runner rather than a flitter and as a hunter rather than a gatherer.

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