Sunday, March 29, 2020

We are all in the boat, a global storm is threatening us and we ask Jesus whether he cares for us!

Pope Francis knows how to rise to the occasion.

I have a few ideas for posting some of my own thoughts about this and that but, really, when such a fine sermon is preached as Pope Francis preached yesterday morning (NZ time), why offer crumbs when a loaf is available?

"“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.
The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.
In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.
The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7)."

Note how biblical, christocentric, cruciform this sermon is - a model for all preachers to aspire to!


Father Ron said...

Pope Francis is a model Pastor. His message is pure Gospel - Good News from a warm heart! Like Jesus!

Anonymous said...

This meditation from the only Jesuit to become Pope is, as + Peter and Ron + say that it is, a model. Its skillful integration of head and heart is that of an Ignatian who knows the Spiritual Exercises from decades of experience.

(1) The most striking thing about these words is that they exist. Calamities happen from time to time, and popes usually pray for those who suffer in them without much commentary. Francis knows that, although societies that try to control everything have forgotten it, the gospel entails a spirituality of catastrophe. Quite apart from the occasion, his interpretation of that spirituality here is strikingly contemporary.

(2) If this sounds somewhat like the first talk given at every serious retreat that you have ever made, it is because the pope has reframed the global lockdown as a global retreat. He has in that way reframed every preacher in the world as a retreatmaster, although the role will be hard for many to fill. Blessed are the ones who have practiced a traditional spiritual discipline, for when we must speak to both head and heart, they will know how. Those not yet so blessed can still do well with the Psalms.

(3) The *Urbi et Orbi*? Down the centuries this blessing has most often been a grandiose exercise in papal triumphalism, but with cranmerian slyness Francis is reinterpreting it here as a gesture of compassion from the *Servus Servorum Dei*. Petrine and marian notes are sounded, of course, but with a subtle humility for the sake of the listeners rather than for that of the institution. The usual benediction could have interrupted or even clashed with the meditation, but this one carries Francis's thought forward to the world. Other pastors have less pomp to set aside, but like the Primate of Italy, they too may be leaders where civic leaders have failed. The health of societies-- in some places the physical health of citizens-- needs models of Christ-like leadership.


Father Ron said...

I hope,dear Bowman, that you are keeping safe and well in this current storm?
'All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well!" (Mother Julian)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for asking, Father Ron. Everything will change, but for the moment, I am a hermit in a hot spot. In touch with many people, but only seeing a few a week. Safer than most here, well enough for now.

Reading the NYT this morning, I realised that I will have to at least double my garden this year. (Even so, I still have no seeds for your excellent hops.) Meanwhile, the lockdown has doubled my reading-- and happily, my time for prayer. If the global economy is still in recession a year hence-- how can it not be?-- the adventurous will have learned a lot about God.

Francis's retreat talk for the world counsels examen, discernment, decision, and action together in Christ. COVID-19 prompted it, but any soul's examen can bring other emergencies into view.

On one hand, we who fear possible exposure to the virus have very often been living foolishly with other hazards, spiritual and corporal, that have always been waiting particularly for us. Might the virus's disruption of all routines disrupt bad faith, self-deception, and procrastination too? It could be the occasion for finally acknowledging our more certain perils to soul and body and acting -- telling the truth, choosing the stairs, forgiving the enemy, rebalancing the diet, answering the call, taking the meds, etc. A good daily examen can start the change before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

And on the other hand, the courageous medical workers that Francis mentions are an edge of the wider network of people still collaborating to sustain our lives with too little help in strange and dangerous circumstances. Before the plague, organizations had their mission statements and individuals their affirmations, but now all of us are having to improvise missionally with what is at hand. I don't mean to disparage careful thinking about purpose, but living out of discernment is what we in Christ are called to do. If we have been discerning when we pray, then it is second nature to do it on the run too. And after the personal risk that they take in doing it, the most harrowing thing about giving care in hospitals that are underequipped and overcrowded is that staff drilled in a certain order of things are having to decide their way through chaos.

But-- no meditating, no discerning either. This is even rhetorically true of Francis's words above, which use the classic *composition of place* ("It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story.") to drive the examen, discernment, decision, and action that follow. But more deeply, it is only as we unpack his image of Jesus sleeping, standing, and reproaching, that his thoughts hang together; without that, a few of them might not make much sense. "[Faith] is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you." If Francis had not first met Jesus in St Mark iv 35 etc, how could we have heard the personal conviction that he voiced in his closing words, the ones attributed to St Peter at I v 7?

So odd as is may sound to others, you know, Father Ron, that meditation on Jesus-- coming to him, trusting in him-- is part of the regimen that lightens the heart for discerning service. Our friend Julian of Norwich prayed for years to have a meditative knowledge of the cross that she was finally given in her thirtieth year. Nowadays, just that aspiration is as astounding as the Revelations of Divine Love that she recorded and revised.

Protestants-- especially those influenced by Anglo-Catholics and certain Puritans, hymnwriters, and missionaries-- used to seek at least a personal connection with Jesus in meditation on the scriptures, but despite some welcome revival of *lectio divina* that is still a rare private devotion. I won't belabor the reasons here-- I do that in my comments on systematics-- but I will say this: meditation to draw nearer to the Lord irrigates every other sort of prayer in him-- praise, colloquy, penitence, thanksgiving, commemoration, petition, intercession, oblation, blessing-- and, as Julian found, the Holy Spirit will teach any soul with patience to do it.

As I was in a hurry when I was quite young, I started with Bede Frost's classic manual--

Take care, Father Ron. As always, let us know what you are thinking, and how things are at SMAA.


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter, for your leadership in our Diocese of Christchurch, here in Aotearoa/New Zealand. As we are all now - to a degree 'solitaries' - it is all the more important, I feel, to support and pray for our diocesan colleagues and their respective congregations, knowing that, when this current crisis is over, we will all have to help in the re-building of resources both spiritual and material for us all to simply survive. However, as God is 'our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble, we need not fear though the earth be moved and the mountains fall into the depths of the sea!'(in an earthquake region we know all about that).

Bowman, I think of you in your own situation. I pray for you and your country; that the current leadership may be more acutely aware of what needs to be done for ALL of your people, not just the wealthy and the privileged. I think all of us are being re-oriented in our priorities at this time of trouble - accepting our need of a more attentive listening to the Word-made-flesh in Christ, through Whom, alone, we are made whole. This present time of the Eucharistic Fast may make us more appreciative of our community solidarity 'en Christo' when we are allowed to gather together again.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week Scriptures will surely give us a return of confidence in the Word of God Incarnate - as The Way, The Truth and The Life of, and for, each one of us. Thanks be to God!

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, your 12:02 is a river of light. Two reflections of it--

"all of us are being re-oriented in our priorities at this time of trouble - accepting our need of a more attentive listening to the Word-made-flesh in Christ, through Whom, alone, we are made whole."

(i) Crises make or break leaders; usually, the leaders who are learners decide the ultimate outcomes. We see it all happening in this story--

In the face of death, one decided, another dithered.

But so far, up here at least, this pandemic seems to be breaking more leaders-- especially politicians-- than it is making. Why? The stories behind their ideologies have been too small for the tsunami of emerging fact; when they cling to those puny plots, they are swept away by the torrent of reality. If as Francis says "[Faith] is coming to You and trusting in You," belief is recognising that the story of the Trinity is the biggest of all, the one of which the lesser ones are details. Just knowing that will not make a politician great, but ignorance of that does leaves the imagination unprepared to run as far in the dark as greatness in a crisis requires.

"This present time of the Eucharistic Fast may make us more appreciative of our community solidarity 'en Christo' when we are allowed to gather together again."

(ii) Fasting from the eucharist itself is usually seen as an Orthodox distinctive, but here we all are. According to tradition and maybe history, it was among the evolved devotions for Holy Week that St Sabbas saw in the Jerusalem pilgrims and monastics of the C5. (If no pope, synod, faculty, etc authorised this ordo, then whence comes its unchallenged authority in half of the Body? On Mount Athos, a Greek monk pointed to the rising sun and told me, "The last liturgy before the Lord returns will be celebrated at Mar Saba.")

So how should we pray a fast from the eucharist? The present absence of the Presence disrupts our routine, and as you say, this does "make us more appreciative of our community solidarity *en Christo*." When communion is postponed indefinitely, we are doubtless more appreciative of all its other benefits as well. And, if one receives with a certain meditative attention to God, then in a more Byzantine way one can also stay in that attention for as long as one can and can pray to be returned to it in any later moment.


Father Ron said...

Thanks, Bowman for your continuing comments on this thread. I thought the 'tiny' blog article very instructive on the merits of 'immediate' and 'detached' forms of leadership under stress. The immediate needs were actually addressed by the person 'in loco parentis'. The sad outcome of this was his dismissal because of his criticism of the way in which his superiors dragged their feet - in a situation demanding an immediate containment of a presenting problem. (There must be an underlying theological issue here, that the Church is not always ready to address - our even notice). Bless you, Bowman, this Holy Week!

Anonymous said...

"There must be an underlying theological issue here, that the Church is not always ready to address - our even notice."

Yes, there is, and Francis alluded to it in the talk above: our true selves are not the ones that we so diligently fashion, but the ones that we become, through the Holy Spirit's work and the Father's will, in Christ. This is a problem for a politician because s/he is expected to be a consistent brand for partisans, yet the inner disciple who continues to learn in Christ may outgrow both a partisan image and a party affiliation as well.

Faith aside, this learning is especially necessary for those in high public office. The work of governing during unprecedented state crises requires one to let go of preconceptions and, as I have said, run far in the dark. Since one can stumble with the gravest consequences doing that, and can in the process lose the reputation one has cultivated for years, mere ego will not give one the courage to put so much at risk. Something beyond the narcissistic self is required.

A disciple I know well-- I cannot be more specific-- took two decisions in office that caused crises for the United States. In hindsight, one decision seems to have been a blunder that caused an historic disaster, whilst the other seems principled and competent albeit with the gravest implications. But whatever is thought after the fact, both situations were too novel for law or policy to offer guidance, and so he could not help but improvise. As he is relatively well-read in biblical studies and ethics, each decision was informed by some theological thought.

In taking the first, he was too self-conscious. Trying to live up to a certain ideal of *the responsible self*, he did not take a large enough view of the moment in which he was acting, and the unforeseen consequences that his decision unleashed could not be called back. But his failure-- even the criticism that he got and the enemies that he made-- liberated him from that self-absorption. It also induced or supported-- changing minds are not tidy-- a shift toward an ethic of virtue and trust.

So in taking the second decision, he brought a lighter heart that trusted the Lord from a deeper place. He was less burdened by what he wanted to believe about himself and was more open to God's providence in his life. This allowed him to be more reflective about the strange reality that emerged in his province. In not trying to be so certain that his action was defensible, he was more virtuous in what he actually did.

You mentioned leaders at 12:02, so I have been talking about them too. In particular, I mentioned one who made a rare shift from the perspective of the brothers Niebuhr to different one close to Stanley Hauerwas. But many disciples who would not consider themselves to be leaders also need to give up self-fashioning for a more trusting becoming in the Lord. As noted, Francis spoke to their condition.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman,
I didn't realise that you are old enough to have known FDR!

Anonymous said...

Why, Peter, I am old enough to remember another alumnus, Thomas Jefferson, who persistently favoured a small Federal government with a relatively weak president when that was George Washington or John Adams, but then when he was POTUS himself, transformed our little republic into something transcontinental by buying from Napoleon all the territory between the coast and the Mississippi River. His theology was only slightly better than the worst, but even that troubled him enough to keep his mind open to the unexpected. The disciple I had in mind above has not been POTUS, although hypothetically he could be; he has never cared for the rationalistic Jefferson Bible, but has long known his way around Mark, M, L, Q etc.


Anonymous said...

"your continuing comments on this thread"

They are penance, Father Ron.

Western theology is missing a discipline. Hagiography ended with the middle ages, and it has never been revived, although there are gestures toward that in the Martyrs Mirror, Walton's Lives, Victorian lives and letters, and some C20 biographies of Christians who were notable writers or canonised saints. Among Protestants, this gap both aggravates and is aggravated by another gap in churchly teaching about sanctification.

So when TEC canonises another thousand souls and writes blurbs on who they were, what we get reads like class notes from an Ivy League alumni magazine. "Episcopalian JS/07M378 lived an unimpeachable life in the upper classes of her day and founded or reformed something in civil society for which those few who use the calendar, see her name, and look her up remember her with pride to this day." Julian of Norwich is on the calendar here, but only, I think, because she is pre-modern. Today, nothing in one's interior life-- certainly not having visions sent by God-- can make you a saint. On the other hand, a committee of the General Convention proposes lists for approval much as the admissions committee at Harvard selects a balanced entering class.

So when we want to say something useful about faith in a well-lived life, how do we do it? We do one of two things, neither good enough.

Anonymous said...

(1) We drive you crazy on other threads by encoding what we really want to say about holiness of life in the discourse of another theological discipline. For easy example, a certain view of the way a Christian should move in society might be presented as liturgics, say a defense of the memorial acclamation in the eucharist. Liturgists will get the point-- you will get the point-- but almost nobody else will.

But it happens that it is usually much easier to encode what we want to say in the story-discourse of the Bible. (This is not a coincidence ;-) For timely example, there is a huge difference between the ways of being a Christian soul in the world suggested by the forensic and participatory readings of St Paul and the NT. The whole point of reading Douglas Campbell's fatter books is that he has offered the least forensic and most participatory reading that any modern Western exegete has proposed. As I have said, if the reading really works, then the usual scriptural support for another way of attempting to be a Christian has been bulldozed off a cliff.

But rather than discuss that difference openly in a language understanded of the people, we are much more likely through habit to exchange signals of our ways of reading. If one says that *eph ho* in Romans v 12 uses *ho* as neuter relative pronoun for *thanatos*, exegetes of every confession on every continent know what one probably thinks about lots of other things. But speaking about holiness in the code of New Testament scholarship is no better than speaking of it by making lists as a synodical committee.

And, as you have often and rightly complained, it gets worse. When the Bible-signals do not work, do we explain them? No, we re-encode them as systematics-signals that are even less likely to be understood by most of + Peter's readers. For example, I just did it in the last paragraph when I contrasted the *forensic* and *participatory* ways of reading St Paul and the New Testament.

I have occasionally tried to decode these signals (eg forensic = Team A, participatory = Team B), but to do that in a concrete way I must refer to souls living somewhere and somewhen. That leads me to yet a third encoding of holiness as church history. Church history is where the souls are. But who knows any history beyond the campfire legends of our tribes?

When the holiness of the Body is in mind, one might try to talk about canons. I myself do that when the superstitious-- those who think of sacraments as a magic, a legality, or a technology-- propose to do impossible things like consecrate a bishop for a non-existent diocese in another country. But this too is an encoding, one that takes the ecclesiology that was self-evident in the sub-apostolic Body as truth rather than as convention, uniform rather than costume. When somebody wants to consecrate a bishop because they just want to do it, telling him that it is not canonical is not quite getting to the point: if we do what cannot be done, the Holy Spirit will just undo it. God is not mocked.

Anonymous said...

So (2), although it is not good enough either, we might just write fiction that shows characters living out the everyday holiness that we want to talk about. Some of the best writers in the language have done this, and those who address concerns of actual Christians through the imagination have sometimes sold a lot of books and movie tickets. Anyway, although we do not quite admit it, much of the thinking that we need and do is just letting the diffuse processing of imagination undo tangles in the narrow processing of stepwise reason. Eg-- yes, we could try to rethink sacramentology as cyberevent in less than a week-- breakthrough excitement for technofools-- but it would be simpler, more holy, and better reformed to just let the faithful take the host home as they did for several centuries.

Even here at ADU it is often more elegant to frame an argument about holiness as a story. This is not just because most stories are more entertaining than most theorems, nor because they rely less on shared memories of the deep past. It is also because a storyteller can reveal what his characters are thinking, and can construct a world in which it makes sense to think and act as they do. And best of all, should anyone object that this fictional world is totally unlike the world that they happen to live in-- it never happens here, but it could someday-- then we get a conversation that we sorely need:

(a) How exactly is the fictional world thought to be unlike the real one?

(b) What makes us so sure, if we are, that the real world is not going to change?

(c) Anyway, are we ourselves being more or less holy than the characters?

We need to have these conversations, about fictions if not about reality, because institutional discourse like those encodings that so rightly infuriate you just cannot handle holiness. If it could, then the Body in the first millennium, which had exegetes, theologians, historians, and canonists, would not also have written so much about the saints and their ways of life.

Cockaigne is the perfect setting for stories provoking such conversations because it is the future. They drive electric cars, neither dread nor expect much of science, inhabit pluralism without self-loathing, and let their religion be what it has always been and will always be. The Church of Cockaigne did not set out to return to the deep past, but after a Long Great Apathy that almost killed it, a purer allegiance to Christ revived it as a simpler church that sounds to us like the Body of the 1M.

So Cockaigne is like every place where the Holy Spirit is pruning dead branches of institutionalism, ideology, partisanship, etc away from the Vine. We expect a movement of the Spirit to make us feel better somehow, and those in Cockaigne do indeed feel much better. They feel the lightness of not carrying so much water for revisions that never worked, have long since expired, or do not make devotional sense. They feel the energy of having a vision of sanctification, of knowing those who are living it, and of remembering those whose lives have been legible signs of Christ. They are holy.


Anonymous said...

"The whole point of reading Douglas Campbell's fatter books is that he has offered the least forensic and most participatory reading that any modern Western exegete has proposed. As I have said, if the reading really works, then the usual scriptural support for another way of attempting to be a Christian has been bulldozed off a cliff."

I did write a detailed reply showing why Campbell's argument is completely off-beam and giving numerous exegetical reasons why his hypothetical explanation of Romans 1.18-3.20 and ch. 4 isn't credible - but for some reason this has never appeared. Why bother?


Peter Carrell said...

Dear James
I am very sorry that that comment has not appeared.
Sometimes comments get lodged in "Awaiting Moderation" and an alert sends me their to check.
I have just checked and cannot see it there (nor, double checking, has it ended in "Spam").
Unfortunately the comment you refer to - which would never be rejected by me as Moderator - appears to be lost.

Anonymous said...


Father Ron, there are eleven ** ways of construing the syntax of Romans v 12, although only three of them are in common use. Glancing back at my 7:25, I see that in my drowsiness I mashed up two of them.

If *eph ho* is referring to a masculine noun, then it is referring to *thanatos* (death). Translated, that yields something like--

"As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men; and because of death, all men have sinned..." (Meyendorff)

Because we in the West are accustomed to hearing Sin ---> Death, it sounds strange to our ears to read that Death ----> Sin.

Nevertheless, both for reasons of context and syntax, and because it resonates with I Corinthians xv 22, most of the Greek fathers read it this way.

The verse has a history. St Augustine of Hippo responded to the teachings of Pelagius with another construal of its syntax that supported his distinctive doctrine of original sin. However from Julian of Eclanum on, no Eastern exegete has agreed with that reading, and Byzantine theology developed without reference to original sin. To an Anglo-Catholic, this is most obvious when one sees the way Rome has revised the Eastern veneration of the Theotokos to accommodate its teaching on original sin (eg Immaculate Conception). More broadly, Catholicism has given an Augustinian colouring to much of the Eastern patristic legacy.

It is much easier than at any time in the past to understand the suppositions and implications of both positions. Thus taking a stance on the best reading of Romans v 12 tends to situate one in this wider West-East conversation.

** The all-but-official count kept by Joseph A Fitzmeyer SJ appears in his commentary on Romans on pp 414-416.


Anonymous said...

The Benedictine nuns at Jouques near Aix-en-Prevence are streaming the Gregorian chants for Holy Week and Easter to those confined because of the pandemic--


Anonymous said...

A poem for Holy Saturday--