Thursday, May 14, 2015


Brethren, Peace be with you.

Well, after 11 years and two months I've decided to call it quits. It's been a good run and we'd been together throughout many good and bad times and I'd appreciated your company all along this journey.

I think that it's time for me to refocus on various professional and personal goals, as well as retrain my attention upon the Lord and His will for me. This humble work has seen its heyday and there are others who are doing a better job than I anyway. That is as it should be.

I will leave the blog up for a time until the news sink in. I will be turning the lights off slowly, but steadily, as it were. Don't be surprised the day you tune in and don't see it any more.

This is not a good bye, this is more like a "see you later, elsewhere" kind of deal. Please know that there are no absences in God's Love. We're all present to each other in Him.

I thank you all, from the heart, for your patronage and company during all these years.

I finish this final post as I did the very first one over a decade ago: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the + Holy Spirit, Amen. May the Lord bless us all through the intercession of Blessed Mary, the Holy Theotokos. Amen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Another Instance of Post-Resurrection Docetism in the Breviary

Brethren, Peace be with you.

(Please, see the correction at the bottom. This essay has a substantive flaw).

I've been praying the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) - Morning and Evening prayers, mostly - constantly since 2002. I have said it before and say again, the LOH form the "bookends" of my day. It's not that I haven't noted these little erroneous details before, but it seems that as I age, these blunders are beginning to grate a little bit. After all, I want to pray with the Church and pray things in conformity to the faith I have received.  And I will continue to pray the LOH while I pine for a new translation.

I've pointed another discrepancy previously on my post titled Yes, the Liturgy of the Hours in English Needs Updating. It seems that whoever wrote those verses from 1 Peter 3: 18-22 wanted to retroject a belief in docetism (adj. "docetic") into the Bible, that is, the belief that Jesus lacked a physical body, if not during his lifetime and ministry, definitely he lacked a body after his resurrection. In other words, according to this interpretation - and mistranslation - of the central tenet of the Christian faith, Jesus' resurrection was "spiritual", with all the vagueness we ascribe to the word "spiritual" in our day and age.

Well, here's another example of "post-resurrection docetism" that crept into the LOH, this time, in the responsorial prayed during Evening Prayer for Tuesday of the second week of the Psalter:
Jesus, the new Adam and life-giving spirit, transform the dead into your own likeness, — that the fullness of your joy may be theirs. Lord Jesus, you live for ever; hear our prayer.
Referring to Jesus as "spirit" is very confusing, since this is an appellation normally given to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Incarnate Word and He doesn't exist any more in an incorporeal state, but in a fully union with a human nature at the level of being, what we call "the Hypostatic Union". Besides, I can't find any reference to Jesus as "life-giving spirit" in any orthodox liturgical text or standard prayer and I emphasize orthodox because this appellation  did occur some Gnostic texts and is more common among today's Gnostics of the New Age and Ascended Masters belief spectra.

It brings to mind an old memory of an argument I had with an otherwise kind and venerable priest-professor during my first -  and so far, only - graduate class on Christology. He did, in fact, defended or at least held to a confused, vague, spiritualizing view of Christ's risen body. I wonder if during the heyday of liberal Christology from the 70's through the early 80's this docetic subcategory was being considered in all seriousness, to help prepare the faithful for the time that the Jesus Seminar and/or archeologists dug out Jesus' body somewhere in Jerusalem. If his body was found, no harm no foul because the Church could function very well with a docetic faith!

Well, the influence of the Jesus Seminar work has since waned and now passes only as a curiosity biblical scholarly circles. But their influence continued to be felt through the '90s and I posit the docetic idea was felt strongly in 1970, when the LOH in English were first edited. That's why I hope, now more than ever before that the new edition of the LOH in English for the US be published promptly, and that the editors do away with expressions which are, at best, close to heresy.

I leave you with these words from St. Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Trallians:
Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and ate and drank. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life.

It's been brought to my attention by a studious reader that the expression "life-giving spirit" originates from1 Corinthians 15:45b. I've verified that "life-giving spirit" is the normative translation across English and Spanish versions, as well as in the Latin Vulgate.

So, I'm wiping the egg of my face and getting ready to dine on crow.

St. Paul threw me curve here. Good one, St. Paul.

Everything else I wrote is correct, though. :-D

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Holy Spirit: Dove and Water

Fr. Nicolas Schwizer

The most appropriate language for speaking about the Holy Spirit – because of his mysterious nature – is that of symbols and images. The Holy Spirit escapes mathematical definition. It lends itself to the imagination, poetry and metaphor.

The Dove. It is the image most known and most traditional. Why did HE choose the dove as his symbol? The reasons of the theologians are not convincing. It seems to be more a matter of poetry than of theology.

“You are like a dove that hides in the crevice of a rock. Let me see your lovely face and hear your enchanting voice” (SGS 2, 14). The entire book of the Song of Songs is a poem of love, and love likes to express itself in metaphors. And thus the dove becomes tenderness, innocence, simplicity. It is easy to approach her, she is not frightened, she does no harm. Those same traits are spontaneously applied to the Holy Spirit. Thus we idealize the dove so that she may adjust more to the divine model she represents. There are fortunate animals!

The dove appears at the end of the flood. Noah sends her from the ark to see if the earth is dry. The first time she returns without finding a place to alit. On the second attempt, she returns with an olive branch in her beak. And on the third attempt, she no longer returns (GN 8, 8 – 12). The dove was loyal on returning with the green message, and was intelligent in not returning when she saw she could remain in the recovered land. That loyalty and intelligence of the dove applies well to the Holy Spirit. It knows when to come and when to leave.

Since then, the dove with the olive branch has been a symbol of peace between Heaven and earth, confirmed with the rainbow so that there may be no more floods and humanity will no longer be in danger.

Learned Rabbis also see the dove in creation: “the Spirit of God was moving over the water” (GN 1 , 2). They compare the dove which flies over the original waters of creation with the dove that flies over the conquered waters of the flood.

The dove, symbol of the creative Spirit, proclaims after the flood a second beginning, a second creation. And, finally, the dove over the waters of the Jordan (MT 3, 16). It represents the coming of the Spirit of God over Jesus, at the moment of his Baptism, at the beginning of his public life. It evokes the new creation, the new world which Jesus inaugurates in the power of the Divine Spirt. And thus, in humanity’s great moments, the dove is present, reflecting to us something of the Holy Spirit.

Water. Another symbol is water. “Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, ‘Whoever is thirsty should come to me and whoever believes in me should drink. As the scripture says, ‘Streams of life-giving water will pour out from his side.’ Jesus said this about the Spirit which those who believed in him were going to receive” (JN 7, 37- 39).

There can hardly be a most beautiful and most meaningful image for the Spirit of God than living water, clear, free, joyful. The Jewish community which had formed in the desert knew the value of water and considered it a true gift from Heaven. And it is not strange that rivers are sacred in many civilizations. And neither is it strange for the sea to speak to us of God, if we contemplate it in silence.

The Holy Spirit refreshes and gives life, cleans and sanctifies, it carries away and makes fruitful. And baptism is the sacramental sign of the new birth. In that sense, the letter to Titus says (TITUS 3, 5): “He saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us through the Holy Spirit who gives us new birth and new life by washing us.” The last book of the Bible, Revelation, ends with the call of the Spirit to the Spouse, summoning to the prophetic appointment: “Come, whoever is thirsty; accept the water of life as a gift, whoever wants it” (22, 17). The water of the Spirit who quenches the thirst of the soul and gives eternal life. Our daily appointment with the living water must become an appointment with the Spirit who moves the waters of creation and redemption.

Questions for reflection

1. Which is my favorite symbol of the Holy Spirit? Why?
2. Do I relate water with the Holy Spirit?

3. How can I increase my relationship with the Holy Spirit?

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A Prayer for Dawn

O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things, 

Who of Thine inscrutable goodness called me to this life; 

Who bestowed on me the grace of Baptism and the Seal of the Holy Spirit; Who imbued me with the desire to seek Thee, the one true God: Hear my prayer. I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom, no strength except in Thee, O God. Because of my unrighteousness, I dare not raise my eyes to Thee. But Thou said to Thy disciples, ‘Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.’ and ‘Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do.’ Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee. Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit. Teach me to pray aright. Bless this day which Thou givest unto me, Thine unworthy servant. By the power of Thy blessing enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom, aware always of Thy presence.
Of Thine immense goodness, O Lord God, show me the path of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin. 

O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open, Thou knowest what things I have need of. Thou art acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance, Thou knowest mine infirmity and my soul’s corruption; But neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee. Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer and by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me the way wherein I should walk; and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths, spare me not, O Lord, but force me back to Thee. By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good. Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul; from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight and hurtful to my brother-man. Teach me what I should say and how I should speak. If it be Thy will that I make no answer, inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace that causes neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man. Establish me in the path of Thy commandments and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thine ordinances, that Thy commandments may become the sole lawof my being on this earth and all eternity.
Yea, Lord, I pray to Thee, have pity on me. 
Spare me in my affliction and my misery 
and hide not the way of salvation from me.
In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things. 
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness. 

Have mercy upon me. Cast me not away from your presence because of my presumption. Do Thou, rather, increase in me this presumption,and grant unto me, the worst of men, to love Thee as Thou hast commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and with all my strength: With my whole being.
Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me good judgment and knowledge. 
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave. 

Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance. Take me not away in the midst of my days, nor while my mind is still blind. When Thou shalt be pleased to bring my life to an end, forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee. Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour and grant me the joy of salvation.Cleanse me from secret faults, from all iniquity that is hidden in me;and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat—
Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy and immeasurable love for mankind.

Hat-tip to: Eclectic Orthodoxy

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Mathematical Proof for the Existence of the One God

Brothers and Sisters: Peace be with you.

Frequently, Internet atheistic aces challenge me to provide evidence and/or proof for the existence of God. Almost all the time the proof they demand is, on its face, absurd because it is empirical in way or the other and God, if they only knew what the word "God" is, lies beyond any empirical proof. No matter, they keep insisting and the silence of the impossible experiment is proof enough for them.

This post is not address to those narrow, sterile minds because they've closed themselves within and become impermeable to any argument. Their minds already closed to reason present an insurmountable obstacle to sober argument. The only thing left to do for them is to pray.

Instead, this proof, proposed  by the mathematician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978), is a mathematical expression of the ontological proof proposed by St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) and should appeal to the open-minded and logic-bound. Now, St. Anselm's argument goes like this:
God, by definition, is that for which no greater can be conceived. God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist.
It is an argument that really bothers people and has been persistently attacked ever since, yet it keeps surfacing.

The Proof

Gödel utilized modal logic and distinguished between necessary truths and contingent truths.It goes like this:
  • Definition 1: x is God-like if and only if x has as essential properties those and only those properties which are positive
  • Definition 2: A is an essence of x if and only if for every property B, x has B necessarily if and only if A entails B
  • Definition 3: x necessarily exists if and only if every essence of x is necessarily exemplified
  • Axiom 1: Any property entailed by—i.e., strictly implied by—a positive property is positive
  • Axiom 2: A property is positive if and only if its negation is not positive
  • Axiom 3: The property of being God-like is positive
  • Axiom 4: If a property is positive, then it is necessarily positive
  • Axiom 5: Necessary existence is a positive property
Axiom 4 assumes that it is possible to single out positive properties from among all properties. Gödel comments that "Positive means positive in the moral aesthetic sense (independently of the accidental structure of the world)... It may also mean pure attribution as opposed to privation (or containing privation)." (Gödel 1995). Axioms 1, 2 and 3 can be summarized by saying that positive properties form a principal ultrafilter.
From these axioms and definitions and a few other axioms from modal logic, the following theorems can be proved:
  • Theorem 1: If a property is positive, then it is consistent, i.e., possibly exemplified.
  • Theorem 2: The property of being God-like is consistent.
  • Theorem 3: If something is God-like, then the property of being God-like is an essence of that thing.
  • Theorem 4: Necessarily, the property of being God-like is exemplified.
Symbolically, it looks like this:

Now, in English

This is my blurb understanding of this proof in English:
If you understood what is meant by "God" you will instantly understand that he cannot not exist; God; objective, concrete existence is a mandatory predicate of the being "God".


We need to be careful and hones regarding what this proof does and does not do. It would be intellectually dishonest to ascribe to Gödel's proof claims it doesn't make.
1. It does not prove the Triune nature of God as we Christians see Him;

2. It does not prove a Theistic (i.e. Christian, Jewish, or Islamic conceptions of God) conception of God; "God" can still be conceived in Deistic terms;

3. It makes no moral claims; it attaches no specific ethic or moral demands from God toward rational creatures.

4. It doesn't do away with panentheism ("'God' is in everything, but not everything is 'God'" type of belief)

5. It doesn't establish that the one God created the universe out of nothing.
What it does

What does Gödel's proof actually accomplishes?
1. It does away with theoretical atheism - the one embraced and screamed by today's "New Atheists"Atheist is proved to be an abstraction and not an accurate description of objective reality; the affirmation "There is No God" becomes meaningless in the real world, but perhaps meaningful in fictitious or imaginary worlds, confined there along with unicorns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster..

2. It rules out polytheism - belief in many gods.

3. It rules out  pantheism.
In the end...

Look, for reasons I explained above, Gödel's elaboration of St. Anselm's ontological proof will mollify Internet atheists. They will keep living as if God didn't exist, as dwarf versions of Nietzsche's supermen. They will live thus because that's what how they wish to live and admitting the existence of God would be inconvenient. They will go on demanding their empirical evidence without even bothering to understand why, when it comes to God, such evidence can't be had.

Of course, if they would bring themselves to understand what "God" is in the hierarchy of beings, they would understand why, and they would stumble open St. Anselm's and Gödel's proof and start the circle of affirmation and denial again, without bothering to think.

Now for us Christians, Gödel and St. Anselm created a threshold or vestibule to a temple inside which, in its sanctuary, we may find the one God and, in its Holy of Holies, we find God revealed in Jesus Christ.

The Holy of Holies is open for all of us. We must decide if we walk from the lobby into the sanctuary and then, into the Holy of Holies to meet Him in Person. He calls us to Himself, in fact. Will we heed His voice?

Future considerations

I think it might be possible to use this proof as a starting point for expressing St. Thomas Aquinas Five Arguments for the Existence of God, utilizing modal logic . However, that's beyond my capabilities for the moment. Perhaps some of you could do it? 

Source of Gödel's proof: Wikipedia. Read also Gödel's bio here.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Plan B on Marriage: A Proposal to Remove the State from Celebrating Marriages

Brethren, Peace be with you.

Back in 2011 I wrote Do We Need to Use a Different Word for Marriage in the Church? and, Should Catholic Clergy Cease Signing Civil “Marriage” Licenses? I say Aye!, in which I supported the idea of getting the Church out of the business of issuing marriage licenses, an idea originally put forward by Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Today, Father (Protopresbyter) John Whiteford, an Orthodox priest from Houston, TX formulated on his blog a slightly different proposal which has the state, not the churches, get out of the business of licensing marriages altogether and make marriage solely an individual's religious choice. Fr. Whiteford's post is worthy of being quoted in toto:
If, as seems likely, the Supreme Court will shred the Constitution and impose Gay "Marriage" on all 50 states, here is what states could do to nullify that decision. 
I have often argued that the state can't "get out of the marriage business" because the state has an interest in it, but I think I have come up with a way that the state could deal with what it has as a legitimate interest, change some labels, legally, and not have to deal with the question of gay marriage, all in one fell swoop. 
Granted, it is ridiculous that the Supreme Court would force us into this position, but if they want to pretend that their is no difference between a gay relationship and a marriage, we can break it down in the law in a way that would not be able to call discriminatory: 
1. Pass a law that says that going forward, marriage will be treated as a private religious matter, that the state will no longer either license or concern itself with. 
2. Create a state-wide "potential birth registry," that would have the same restrictions that current laws have regarding who can get married: which would include prohibited relationship (incest), age requirements, and limit this to one man and one woman. Children born from a woman in this registry would  be presumed to be the children of the man registered with her, just as it works now in a real marriage. 
3. Create a state-wide "community property partnership registry," that any 2 people, regardless of their sex, or regardless of whether or not they are in any sexual relationship can enter into. 
4. When people registry for the potential birth registry, given them the option of also checking a box to be included in the community property partnership registry. 
5. Instead of divorce, you would terminate your registration from from the above registries; but if you could not agree on the division of property, you would have a court case to decide that matter. And if you had any children, you would have to get a child support order (which would address custody, visitation, etc.). 
6. Any heterosexual marriages prior to these new laws going into effect would automatically be listed in both registries. Any homosexuals that might have happened because the courts forced the state to allow them prior to this law would automatically be added to the community property registry.
Basically, what Monsignor Pope and Fr. Whiteford are proposing, each in his own way, that marriage be privatized while permitting the state to exercise its responsibility in the disposition of private estates and the rearing of children through registries created for that purpose. "Marriage" will then be a thing left to the private conscience of those who seek it.

I like it! This solution can be implemented immediately on those jurisdictions that have recognized same-sex "marriage." The state will become completely neutral before "marriage" however it is defined.

I finish by restating my firm, unwavering conviction that true marriage can only take place between a man and a woman, and that no executive, legislature, or judiciary can redefine it. Nor will I submit to the will of celebrities, academics, even clergymen and women, as well as many others who are intent on convincing me of the reality or desirability of same-sex "marriage", or failing that, expel me from the public arena by means of hatred and vitriol. I will not submit, surrender, or capitulate to them. In God's name, let us go forward.