A weekend with the monks in Norcia

IMG_0441Between our train and our bus on the way to Norcia, we stopped for a coffee in Spoleto. The bartender was from Mexico and she thought we were German (I think because Americans typically only speak English), but she then asked where we were going. She was surprised when we said Norcia—since the earthquakes there have not been so many visitors. We received similar reactions from police who stopped to check our identification and from the bus driver who picked us up. As we neared the town, we could see buildings with pieces falling off and there was much less activity than I remembered from previous visits. The town itself was surrounded by scaffolding and the walls were damaged in many places, but looking through gates, one could see someone sitting at a café or a few firemen walking around another spot. After we got off, a monk in a car brought us up the hill to worksite where the Benedictines are constructing their new home: San Benedetto in monte.

IMG_0439After a brief tour to see our room, the facilities, the chapel and the refectory, we immediately went to work. While monks were driving machines around and mixing cement, I was assigned to carry tools to the workers installing a new gate and then to help another monk salvage the scaffolding from a construction project begun before the earthquake. About a year ago, I visited the monks, before the earthquake, when they were still situated in the city center. I went walking with one of the monks who was a friend in college, and we walked up the hill where the monks had property, but which contained little more than a completely ruined church. That monk remarked at the time how nice it would be to live up there, away from the noise in the center of town. Little did he know then that his prayer would be answered! And so I was there now, rescuing pieces of scaffolding in hope of a future building project. Most of the monks speak English, but there were a number of Italian workers, which meant a great opportunity to learn a new set of vocabulary! (One of these workers also thought I was German before I told him I’m from the United States. I always think this is a compliment—because of the language thing—but the same ones who think I am German always seem relieved when I say I’m American!)

IMG_0438At 5:45pm, the monks, the workers, and us all gathered for Vespers (evening prayer) in the small chapel, separated from the refectory only by a wooden partition. Given the circumstances, I thought the altar in the center was surprisingly beautiful, in a colorful neo-Gothic style, reminiscent of the St. Matthias Church in Budapest. Despite all of the changes, the monks still prayed the ancient Office in accord with the Rule of St. Benedict, gathering seven times each day to chant the psalms in Latin. We were able to follow along and fulfill our own obligation of prayer. During the prayer at the very end, I heard the name of St. Peter Celestine, whose feast they fell on that day in their calendar. Besides Pope Benedict XVI in our own day, St. Peter Celestine (i.e. Pope Celestine V) is famous for having resigned the papacy in a tumultuous time. This action, which made way for the ascent Pope Boniface VIII, was the reason Dante placed St. Celestine in one of the circles of hell, accusing him of cowardice. And yet, as holy man who found himself in difficult times, he is venerated by these monks as a special patron. Before the earthquakes, these monks were in the process of restoring a basilica built over the birth place of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. One of the most recent steps in that process was the restoration of an altar dedicated to Pope St. Celestine V. This altar was completely demolished by the earthquakes—only the façade of the basilica remains. And yet this saintly pope remains honored by the monks in the hills.

IMG_0440It rained sometime between midnight and 2:30am—I discovered at the same time that our little dormitory has a metal roof. At 3:15am, my alarm went off, and then at 3:30 it was time for Vigils. A psalm, a hymn, six more psalms, a reading, six more psalms, and a closing prayer. Although I have joined the monks for Vigils on previous occasions, its length depends on the time of year, and so one is never quite sure until the end how much longer it will be. Of all the verses, this was the one that stood out: “fiant dies eius pauci et episcopatum eius accipiat alter” (Psalm 108). This is the verse recalled in Acts 1 when the apostles consider how to fill the spot left by Judas, “his office (episcopate, KJV: bishopric) let another take.” I paid more attention to the surrounding verses and noticed that this is one of the so-called “cursing psalms”. This psalm, along with a couple others, are never said in the newer Office, since some might find them disturbing (especially since the new Office is typically said in the vernacular). And yet here, in the early hours of the morning, these monks come before God and express in prayer the full range of human experience, from the exultation of delight to the desire for vengeance on those who commit injustice. We finish Vigils at 4:45 and then drink coffee in silence. The monks now pray lectio divina in private and we join again for Lauds (morning prayer) at 6am.

IMG_0442After working for a number of hours, the bell rings around 10am, and everyone gathers for Mass in the chapel. Again, everything is in Latin and all of the parts chanted. I wasn’t sure what the Italian workers would think of this—today we even had a number of volunteers from ages 10 to 18—and yet they all joined prayerfully. I did not have a Missal, but I heard the Salve sancta parens and knew it was a Mass in honor of Our Lady, as is common on Saturdays. After Mass, we continue working until the Midday prayer around 12:45pm. About halfway through our psalms, the smell of freshly chopped basil comes from the other side of the petition as a couple monks finish preparing lunch. At each meal, instead of conversation, there is a monk assigned to read for those who are eating. I will carry on in another post…

More photos and information on their website.

False Etymology: Holofernes

IMG_0362I recently began reading the Vulgate from the beginning. The reading is not too difficult, but there are words I need to look up every so often. The most recent word was holus, holeris, which means cabbage or vegetable. My mind instantly went to Holofernes. Perhaps his name means cabbage-ferns (as impossible as the Latin origin is, the fern is even more impossible–for it comes from the Old English fearn). This led me to remember the early seasons of Dragon Ball Z, where all of the Saiyans are named after vegatables (Vegeta, Kakarot=carrot, Raditz=radish). And then I remembered that many scholars think the Book of Judith is invented, and then I thought how bizarre that Akira Toriyama and the inspired author of Judith should resort to the same tactic for naming their villains.

Then, seeking out the true etymology of the name, I found a blog post on an Old English poem concerning Judith and Holofernes:
Because the poem is Old English, the author plays on the false Old English meanings of the whole of his name!

(The true etymology goes back to Persian apparently, where pharna means “glorious”.)

One more tidbit: I was surprised to see that reptiles reptant. Apparently repto, reptare means to creep or crawl, and so our word “reptile” means a creature that does just that.

Initial Thoughts on Coccopalmerio

img_0273I was recently asked about Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s recent comments on how to interpret Amoris Laetitia. This gave me an opportunity to spell out some of my thoughts on the possible situations where discernment might lead to the conclusion of permitting someone in an irregular marriage situation to receive the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. The following is all lifted from an email I sent to someone. They are by no means definitive, but just a thinking-out-loud.


I hadn’t been keeping up with news the last couple weeks, so your email was the first I heard about Coccopalmerio’s new little book. One first note is that even though Coccopalmerio is the President of the Council for Legislative Texts, and even though his book is published by the Vatican, he is not publishing it as head of that Council and so it does not function as authentic interpretation of the law.

Looking around a few websites, it sounds like he is basically open to “discerning” situations where it would be possible to give communion to people in irregular marriage situations, just as the bishops in Germany, Malta, etc. What I’ve read from him looks a bit more moderate than these others, inasmuch as he sees certain cases as exceptional. I’ve been trying hard to figure out what these exceptional cases look like. In the case where you have a couple civilly married that is committed to living as brother and sister, there is no objective sin, and (so long as no scandal is involved) I think everyone agrees that such persons could be admitted to the sacraments.

The cases that people are more interested in are those where the irregular couple continue to have sexual relations, since this seems (pretty obviously) to mean that they are objectively in a state of sin. Now Coccopalermio says that all that is necessary is “verification of two essential conditions — that they desire to change that situation, but they cannot act on their desire”. The only cases I can think of where they cannot act on the desire seems to be where there is disagreement between the persons involved with respect to either understanding or will. I will give two scenarios where I think there is reason to consider giving communion to a civilly remarried person.

The first case is disagreeement of will between the spouses: both spouses know they are in an irregular situation (i.e. not actually married), and one spouse wants to abstain from sexual relations, but the other one does not. Both of these people live together perhaps for a number of reasons (financial dependence, children) and so that it would be inconvenient for them to live apart. Here it seems possible to me that one spouse could have a real desire to abstain from relations, but this is impossible while living in the same house with someone who is not committed to living in that manner. Now there is a distinction that St. Raymond of Penyafort makes for dealing with certain odd marriage situations that may be relevant in this case. He distinguishes between requesting the marriage debt and paying the marriage debt, and gives some cases where he thinks it would be morally acceptable to pay the marriage debt but not morally acceptable to ask for it. Now in this case, it is not a true marriage, but I think there may be a difference between to requesting relations and acquiescing to someone seeking sexual relations (especially when to resist could lead to dangerous consequences). I’m not 100% sold on this, but it is the sort of case that I would consider.

The second case is like the first, but with an added element. Let’s say that a woman was married to a man who then left her, and is now civilly married to an unbaptized man with whom she has 3 children. She has been from the Church for years and now is wanting to go to confession and receive communion again. Since she is objectively still married to the man who abandoned her, this means that relations with her irregular spouse would be adulterous, and so she should not have relations with him. From her side, this seems clear enough. But now look at the conscience of the unbaptized man. He is not a man of faith, and so he does not have any sense of anything but civil law governing his marriage situation, and so objectively has no reason to think that he is not legitimately married to this woman who was divorced from her first husband according to civil law. As far as he is concerned, he is not doing anything wrong in having relations with a woman whom he considers in good faith his spouse. Again, it seems this is a case where the woman involved could certainly not ask the marriage debt, but perhaps could acquiesce to the man who asks it in good faith. Again, I’m not completely sure on this, but it is a case I would consider.

Here is another case that comes to mind: Polygamy exists among Muslims. Let’s say there is a Muslim woman who is the third spouse of a Muslim man, and she comes to faith that Jesus is Lord. In societies where Sharia Law reigns, I don’t think she could be expected to separate herself from this man upon whom she depends, especially in a society where the civil law does not give her freedom to leave. In such a case, I would be inclined to admit this woman communion, following the same distinction: so long as she does not ask the marriage debt, but only renders it. This case is similar to the second case, but the lack of freedom involved is more obvious and certain.

So those are the cases where I think it may be possible that the conditions named by Coccopalmerio, “that they desire to change that situation, but they cannot act on their desire”, might actually be met. Looking at his comments, I think he would apply it more widely. But I as far as I understand it, it would only be one-sided situations where there is a disagreement between the irregular spouses that I can even conceive of a moral impossibility. If it was both spouses coming to me, and both Catholic, I can’t imagine “discerning” to give them communion unless they were at least committed to living chastely. “Oh, you’re both Catholic? You both understand the Church’s teaching on marriage, and accept that you are not actually married? But you are going to continue having sexual relations but want me to give you communion?” No, I can’t imagine giving communion in that case. Now, if they were committed to living as brother and sister and occasionally fell (for it is reasonably difficult to live continently with someone to whom you are attracted and with whom you have been in the habit of having relations with), then that would be another matter. Some people have trouble seeing the difference.

Again, I am not completely convinced in the cases I have named for you, but I only think that these sorts of situations are the sort where a debate is actually possible.


If anyone out there has comments, feel free to share! Just today, I purchased Coccopalmerio’s book, so I will be able to take a closer look at what he is actually saying and to think it over. More to come…

Newman on Development: Introduction

The following is no more than a loose paraphrase of the Introduction to Newman’s Development of Christian Doctrine.


“Christianity has been long enough in the world to justify us dealing with it as a fact in the world’s history.” With this line, Newman begins his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and it sets out his task for the essay: showing that there is a historic Christianity.

Ahistorical Hypotheses about Christianity

  • Christianity does not fall within the province of history.
  • It is to each man what he thinks, a mere name for a cluster of religions.
  • Not because of a doctrine which is a common foundation.
  • Or: All existing denominations of Christianity are wrong.
  • None represents what Christan apostles taught.
  • Died out of the world at its birth, and was succeeded by a counterfeit.
  • Or: Christianity historically has no substance of its own.
  • From the first, only an assemblage of doctrine and practice from other sources.
  • Or: True Christianity only has hidden and isolated life in hearts of elect.
  • Or: Christianity is a literature or philosophy, not surely from above, but furnished us by providence.

Newman’s Evaluation: All such views of Christianity imply that there is no sufficient body of historical proof to interfere with [them]. And further, This is not self-evident, and has to be proved.

The more natural hypothesis is that the community left by the Apostles were of the same religion to which the Apostles converted them.

  • Continuity of name, profession, communion argue continuity of doctrine.
  • Has a certain shape and bearing before mankind.
  • A power visible in the world, as prophesied.

It is not a violent assumption to take it for granted that the Christianity from the 2nd to the 16th centuries is in substance the very religion which Christ and His Apostles taught in the 1st.

There is the abstract of possibility of extreme changes. But that a counterfeit Christianity supplanted the original (identity is lost without loss of continuity) is possible, but not assumed.

Difficulty: In history, one sees doctrine variously represent and inconsistently maintained. For this reason, one rejects history as a source falls back on the Bible as the sole source of Revelation, and upon their own personal private judgment as the sole expounder of its doctrine.

Answer: Newman admits this is a fair argument if it can be maintained. Admits apparent variations that need to be explained.

Goal: To explain variations, and show the unity, directness, and consistency of doctrine.

He continues with the incongruity of history and Protestantism. Protestantism, seeing the difficulties in history, will often reject it as a source and rely on the Bible alone with private interpretation. Newman then supplies a number of hypotheses to answer the difficulty of variation over the centuries:

  • First, that Christianity changed from the first and ever accommodates to the times. This is difficult to reconcile with the special idea of revealed truth. Its advocates tend to abandon the supernatural claims of Christianity.
  • Second, more plausible: to cut off what does not have the sanction of primitive times. There is a pure Christianity, and then a corrupt one. The problem then becomes where to draw the line between corrupt and pure.
  • They appeal to the principle of Vincent of Lerins (+445): “What is believed always, everywhere, by all.” This is a promising solution. Since men speak sometimes from themselves and sometimes from tradition, this could sort things out. This gives some reason for accepting the early and rejecting the latter.
  • The difficulty with the rule is applying it in particular cases. It is just as effective against Protestantism as it is against Rome and England.

Newman goes on to consider the consensus of the Ante-nicene Church concerning the Trinity:

  • There is consensus on the Consubstantiality and Coeternity of Christ with the Father. But there is no consensus on the Trinity, so stated. The divinity of the Christ partly implies and partly recommends the doctrine of the Trinity, but this is not the same thing.
  • Moreover, one writer is not the same a whole set. The Catholic truth is made up of a number of propositions which maintained to the exclusion of the rest is a heresy.
  • The Son is God (held by Sabellians and Macedonians)
  • Father is not the Son (held by Arians)
  • Son is equal to the Father (held by Tritheists)
  • There is only one God (held by Unitarians)
  • Some sense of Threefold Power attached to the Almighty (indeed, held by all who accept the NT)

There continues a discussion of difficulties related to the Trinity. Only Tertullian seems to affirm the doctrine plainly, and he is heterodox. And then even Basil (4th cent.) refrains from calling the Third Person of the Holy Spirit by the name of God. He proceeds with several other doctrines:

  • Purgatory and Original Sin. The former is more widely testified.
  • Real Presence and Papal Supremacy. The latter is more widely testified.

This ultimately shows that the solution of Vincent of Lerins is as difficult as the problem it had hoped to solve.

Another hypothesis:

  • Third, the disciplina arcani, that there was no variation, but that some doctrines were hidden early on. That this happened early on is clear. And yet this is no key to the difficulty, for the variations continue beyond the time when it is conceivable that the discipline be in force. Also, the variations do not come abruptly, but by a visible growth which has persevered up to the present time.

And so this Essay is directed to solving the difficulty which lies in the way of using in controversy the testimony of 1800 years of history concerning Christian doctrine and worship.

View on which this Essay is written has probably been adopted implicitly by theologians at all times: the increase and expansion of Christian Creed and Ritual, and variations which attend this process are the necessary attendants on any philosophy or polity which takes possession of the intellect and heart, and has had any wide or extended dominion. That from the nature of the human mind, time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas; the highest and most wonderful truths, communicated to the world once and for all could not be comprehended by the recipients. Being received and transmitted by by minds not inspired, have required longer time and deeper thought for their full elucidation.

This may be called the Theory of the Development of Doctrine.

He affirms that this is merely a hypothesis, and gives examples of such hypotheses in other sciences. Yet he argues for the need of a hypothesis against unbelievers who (without any such hypothesis) interpret the data from their own principles. An argument is needed, unless Christianity is to abandon the province of argument; and those who find fault with the explanation here offered of its historical phenomena will find it their duty to provide one for themselves.

He concludes by saying that such an inquiry does not immediately imply a reception of Roman Catholic doctrine. And yet the explanation might serve as a fair ground for trusting her in parallel cases where the investigation has not been pursued.

Augustine to Pope Innocent

The following passages are taken from letters written to Pope Innocent by St. Augustine on behalf of African councils of bishops. They indicate that the Apostolic See has a special role in matters of Church teaching and discipline. The context is that Pelagius was recently exonerated by bishops in the East who probably misunderstood his teaching on grace. The goal is to have Pope Innocent condemn the errors of Pelagius.

175.2. [from the Council of Carthage] We believed, our lord and brother, that we should inform Your Charity of this action so that the authority of the Apostolic See might be added to the decrees of our humble selves in order to defend the salvation of many and to correct the perversity of some. …

175.6. We have no doubt that, once Your Reverence has seen the episcopal proceedings that are reported to have been held in the East, Your Reverence will pronounce that judgment over which all may rejoice in the mercy of God. Pray for us, most blessed lord and pope.

176.5. [from the Council of Milevis] We think that with the help of the mercy of the Lord our God, who deigns to guide you when you consult him and to hear you when you pray to him, those who hold such perverse and destructive ideas will more easily yield to the authority of Your Holiness, which is derived from the authority of the holy scriptures, so that we may rejoice over their correction rather than be saddened by their destruction.

177.3. [from 5 African bishops] …He should either be summoned to Rome by Your Reverence and carefully questioned about what he means by the grace which he admits… And when he has been found to say what the apostolic truth of the Church teaches, then he should be acquitted without any worry on the part of the Church and without any shadow of ambiguity.

177.15. … Or if he denies that they are his writings or says that the passages which he denies are his own were inserted in his writings by his enemies, let him still anathematize and condemn them thanks to the fatherly exhortation and authority of Your Holiness. … For, if they know that the same book that they either believe or know is his has been anathematized and condemned by the authority of Catholic bishops and especially of Your Holiness, which we do not doubt carries greater weight with him, and by Pelagius himself, we do not think that they will dare to disturb the faithful and simple Christian hearts by speaking against grace…

177.19. … We do not presume that our little stream increases your bountiful spring, but in this great trial of our time, from which we pray that he to whom we say, Bring us not into temptation, may set us free, we want you to test whether our stream, though small, flows from the same headwaters from which yours also flows in abundance, and by your replies we want you to console us concerning our common participation in the one grace.


The following selections are references to the Apostolic See in other letters by Augustine.

186.2. [Augustine to Paulinus of Nola] After we received a letter from the East that aired the same views in full openness, we ought by no means to have failed to help the Church with whatever episcopal authority we had. Reports from two councils in Carthage and in Milevis were sent to the Apostolic See, therefore, before the ecclesiastical proceedings at which Pelagius was said to have been acquitted in the presence of some bishops of the Province of Palestine arrived either in our hands or in Africa. We also wrote to Pope Innocent of blessed memory a personal letter in addition to the reports of the councils, in which we dealt with this issue somewhat more at length. He replied to us on all these points in the way in which it was right and necessary for a bishop of the Apostolic See.

190.22. [Augustine to Optatus of Milevis] By the vigilance of the councils of bishops along with the help of the savior, who watches over his Church, as well as by two venerable bishops of the Apostolic See, Pope Innocent and Pope Zosimus, [the Pelagians] have been condemned throughout the whole world, unless they are corrected and do penance.

190.23. … These words of the Apostolic See contain the Catholic faith that is so ancient and well-founded, so certain and clear, that it is impious for a Christian to doubt it.

194.1. [Augustine to Sixtus, a future pope] But now in your letter the very faith of the Roman church states more openly and more at length what you hold about and in opposition to that teaching along with us. For it was especially to that church that the blessed apostle Paul said many things in many ways about the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25).

194.43. … For they are bound by the authority of the divine Scriptures and by the rite of the Church handed down from of old and held firmly [antiquitus tradito et retento firmo] in the baptism of infants. [Not related to the Pope, but a good text on being bound by Scripture and tradition.]

209.9. [A very sad letter from Augustine to Pope Celestine. Augustine had recommended a certain man for the episcopacy who ended up devastating. It seems to Augustine that only the Apostolic See can set things aright.] … Do not allow this to go on, I beg you by the blood of Christ, by the memory of Peter the apostle, who warned the leaders of Christian peoples not to lord it over brethren with violence. … Both of them deserve your mercy–the people in order that they may not suffer wrongs, Antonius in order that he may not cause them; they in order that they may not hate the Catholic Church if they do not received help from Catholic bishops, especially from the Apostolic See itself, against a Catholic bishop, but he in order that he may not involve himself in such a great crime that he alienates from Christ those whom he wants to make his own against their will.


In a consequent post, I intend to highlight passages from Pope Innocent’s three responses, where he is far more explicit about the purpose of his office. Although these are not from Augustine’s own mouth, they indicate what the Church of Rome taught even in the 4th century concerning the Apostolic See.

One final quote from Augustine. This is from Sermon 131, speaking about the Pelagians: “Concerning this case, two councils were sent to the Apostolic See: whence also the responses came. The case is finished. [Causa finita est.]”

Augustine, Sermon 131, Against Pelagians

[I found this sermon in the course of looking for places where Augustine speaks of Papal authority. The last paragraph refers to the “Apostolic See,” but the whole sermon looked interesting enough that I attempted a translation of the whole.]

Sermon 131 (Sermon 105 on the New Testament)
On the words of the Gospel of John (6:54-66), “Unless ye eat flesh,” etc., and on the words of the Apostle and the Psalms, against Pelganians. Had for the feast of the Martyr Saint Cyprian, 9th Kalends of October [Sep 22?], on the Lord’s Day.

Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.

1. We have heard the true Teacher, divine Redeemer, human Savior, commending to us our reward, his blood. For it was spoken to us about his body and blood; the body he called food, the blood drink. The faithful recognize the sacrament of the faithful. However what do those hearing hear different? Therefore the one commending such food and such drink would say: Unless you eat my flesh, and drink my blood, you will not have life in you (and he would say this about life, who else than life itself? However it will be the death of man, not life, to him who thought life was lying). His disciples were scandalized, not all, but many, saying among themselves: This saying is hard, who is able to hear it? However when the Lord would have himself been aware of this, and would have heard the murmurs of thought from those thinking, he did not respond with his voice to those making noise, that they would know themselves to be heard, and would stop thinking such things. What did he then respond? This scandalizes you? What then if you would see the Son of man rising to where he was before? What he want for himself: The scandalizes you? You think that about this my body which you see, I am to make parts, and chop up my members, and give them to you? What: What then if you would see the Son of man rising to where he was before? Surely who was able to ascend whole, is not able to be consumed. Therefore also from his body and blood he gave us healthy restoration, and so quickly solved a great question about his integrity. And so those who eat would eat, those who drink would drink; they would hunger and thirst: they would eat life and drink life. To eat that is to be rebuilt: but you are rebuilt so that you fail not from where you are rebuilt. What is it to drink that, except to live? Eat life, drink life: you will have life, and it is a whole life. Moreover, this will be, that the body and blood of Christ will be life for each; if what is taken in the Sacrament visibly would itself actually be eaten spiritually and drink spiritually. For we heard the Lord himself saying: It is the Spirit who vivifies, the flesh profits nothing whatsoever. The words which I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. But there are certain ones, he says, who do not believe. They themselves say: This saying is hard, who can hear it? It is hard, but you are hard: this is incredible, but you are incredulous.

Faith a gift of God. The violence of sweet grace.

2. But that he may also teach us to believe him to be gifts, not merits: Just as, he says, I said to you, no one comes to me, except him to whom it is given by my Father. However where the Lord will have said this (if we recall the higher things of the Gospel), we will find him to have said, No one comes to me, unless the Father (who sent me) will have drawn him. He did not say: “will have led”, but “will have drawn”. This becomes violence for the heart, not for the flesh. At what then do you wonder? Believe, and you will come; love, and you will be drawn. Lest you would judge this violence bitter and annoying: it is pleasant, it is sweet; sweetness itself draws you. Is not a sheep drawn, when grass is shown to a hungry sheep? And I think that it is not impelled in the body, but is brought by desire. So you also, come to Christ: do not consider long journeys; where you believe, there you come. For to him who is everywhere, one is come by loving, not by seafaring [navigating]. But even in such a journey, there abound the waves and tempests of diverse temptations; believe in the Crucified One, that your faith may be able to ascend the wood. You will not be sunk, but you will be carried by the wood. Thus and so was he navigating in the waves of this age, he who was saying: Far be it from me to glory, except in the cross of the our Lord Jesus Christ.

Neither faith nor a good life is conferred by one’s own powers.

3. However it is strange that with the foresaid crucified Christ, two hear, one contemns, the other ascends. Who comtemns would ascribe it to himself; who ascends would not confer [arroget] it on himself. For he heard from the teacher: No one comes to me, unless it is given to him by my Father. He would rejoice, because it is given: he would give thanks to the giver with a heart humble, not arrogant; lest what he merited humble, he would lose proud. For even those who now walk in the just path itself, if they were to attribute this to their powers, they would perish from that. And so teaching us humility, Holy Scripture says through the Apostle: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. And lest they attribute something to themselves from this, that he said, work ye out, he immediately added, For it is God who work in you, both to will and to do, by his good will. It is God who works in us; therefore, with fear and trembling, make ye a valley, receive ye the rain. The depths are filled, the high places are dried up. The rain is grace. Why therefore do you wonder, if God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble? Therefore: with fear and trembling; that is, “with humility.” Do not desire to know the height, but be afraid. Be afraid, that you may be filled; do not desire to know the height, lest you be dried up.

It is necessary to be justified by grace, that he may walk in the just path.

4. But now you say, “I walk this path. It was useful that I learn, useful that through the teaching of the Law I would know what I would do: I have free choice of will; who will separate me from this path?” If you read carefully, you will find a certain one who from his abundance (which he had received) began to extol himself; however you will find the Lord took away the mercy he had given him, that he may teach humility; but you will find immediately that he remained poor, and you will find that he confessed by recollection the mercy of God, saying: I said in my abundance: I will not move, forever. I said in my abundance. But I said; I, a man, said: Every man is a liar. I said. Therefore: I said in my abundance; such was the abundance, that I would dare to say this: I will not move, forever. What then? Lord, in your your will you set applied virtue to me honor. However you turned your face from me, and I was made disturbed. You showed me, he says, that that by which I was abounding, was from yours. You showed me from whom I would ask, to whom I would attribute what I had received, to whom I ought to give thanks, to whom I would run thirsting, from whom I would be filled, and by which I would guard that to for which I was filled. For I will guard my strength for you, you great giver, by whom I would be filled, you savior I would not lose. I will guard my strength for you. That you may show this to him: You turned your face from me, I was made disturbed. Disturbed, because dried up; dried up, because exalted. Therefore, dry and arid, say, that you may again be filled: My soul is for you as a land without water. Say: My soul is for you as a land without water. For you had said, not the Lord: I will not move, forever. You said this, presuming about yourself; but it was not from yourself, and you were thinking as if it was from yourself.

One walking in a just path, if he attributed that to himself, perishes from the just path.

5. What therefore says the Lord? Serve the Lord in fear, and exalt him with trembling. So also the Apostle: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you. Therefore, Exalt with trembling. Lest the Lord be angered. I see that you anticipate with shouting. For you know what I am going to say, so you anticipate with shouting. And whence do you have this, except that he taught you, him to whom you came with trusting? Therefore he says this: Hear what you learned; I do not teach, but I recall by preaching: indeed, I neither teach, because you had learned; nor do I recall, because you had remembered; but together we say what you hold with us. The Lord says this: Apprehend teaching, and exalt, but: with trembling, that always humble you may hold that you received. Lest the Lord be angered, with the proud, attributing what they have to themselves, not with those giving thanks to the one from whom they have. Lest the Lord be angered, and you perish from the just way. Is it said: Lest the Lord be angered, and you would not come to the just path? Or is it said: Lest the Lord be angered, and leads you not to the just path, or not admit you to the just path? You now walk in this path, do not be proud, lest even now you would perish from it. And you would perish, he sais, from the just path. When he will have blazed up in his quick wrath upon you. Not taking a long time. Where you are proud, there you have accepted that you will perish. By these things a man will be frightened as if he would say: What then will I do? It follows: Blessed are all who confide in him; not in themselves, but in him. By grace we are saved, not from us, but it is a gift of God.

Against Pelagians. Remission of sins in baptism. Faintness after baptism.

6. Perhaps you will say: What does he want for himself that he often says this? And the again, and the a third time: and he almost never speaks, except when he says this. If only I spoke [not?] with out cause. For there are men ungrateful of grace, many attributing it their blind and weak natures. It is true, a man with great powers of free choice, when he was put together, accepted it; but by sinning he lost it. He lapsed into death, was made infirm, he was left aside on the path by thieves, half-alive; the Samaritan going out to him, lifted him onto his mule (Samaritan is interpreted “Guard”); he led him even to the stable. Who will be lifted up? For this he will be provided. But indeed it suffices, he says, for me to have received in baptism the remission of all sins. But is the infirmity finished because the iniquity is wiped out? To have received the remission of all sins, he says. It is entirely true. All sins were baptized in the sacrament of baptism, certainly all things said, done, thought, were all wiped away. But indeed this was poured out on the path: oil and wine. You retain, most beloved, how he was consoled, the half-alive in the path wounded by thieves, receiving oil and wine for his wounds. Now certain he was dispensed from his errors, and yet his weakness is healed in the stable. If you recognize the stable, it is the Church. Only a stable, because by living we go over: it will be a house, whence we will never depart, when we will come sound to the kingdom of the heavens. Meanwhile may we be freely cared for in the stable, that the weak may not glory about soundness; may we make nothing else so as to be made proud, unless we would never be healed by caring.

Four benefits of grace: remission of sins, treatment of weakness, redemption from every corruption and concupiscience.

7. Bless, my soul, the Lord. Say to your soul, say: You are still in this life, you still carry this fragile flesh, the body which is corrupted still aggravates the soul; even after the wholeness of remission, you received the remedy of prayer; you still certainly say, until your weaknesses are healed: Forgive us our debts. Say then to your soul, humble in the valleys, do not set up in the hills; say to your soul: Bless, my soul, the Lord, and do not forget all his retributions. Which retributions? Say, number them, give thanks. Which retributions? That he comes to be well-disposed to all your iniquities. This was done in baptism. What came to be in this way? He who heals all your weaknesses. This comes to be in this way: I acknowledge. But while I am here, the body which is correupted aggravates the soul. Say therefore also what follows: Who redeems your life from corruption. What remains after redemption from corruption? When this corruptible will be clothed in incorruption, and the mortal will be clothed in immortality, then will come to be the word which is written: death is swallowed up in victory. Where, death, is your contention? Right there: Where, death, is your sting? You seek his place, and you will not find. What is the sting of death? What is it: Where, death, is your sting? Where is sin? You seek, and it is nowhere. For the sting of death is sin. Not my words, but the Apostle’s. Then it is said: Where, death, is your sting? Sin will be nowhere, that it may neither take you, nor attack you, nor titillate your concupiscence. Then it will not be said: Forgive us our debts. But what will be said? Lord our God, give us peace: for you have restored to us all things.

The last benefit of grace, the crown of justice.

8. Finally, after redemption from every corruption, what remains except the crown of justice? This certainly remains that he may receive a crown, but yet in this or under this crown is not an inflated head. Hear, attend to the Psalm, which does not want this crown on an inflated head. When he would have said: Who redeems your life from corruption; he says, Who crowns you. Now you are about say: He crowns you, my merits confess [?], my power did this: a debt is rendered, it is not given. Hear what God would say: Who crowns you in pity and mercy. From mercy he crowns you, from pity he crowns you. For you were not worthy that he would call, and called that he would justify, and justified that he would glorify. The remnants were saved through election of grace. However if by grace, it is not now from works: otherwise grace is not now grace. For to him who works, rewards are not imputed according to grace, but according to debt. The Apostle speaks: Not according to grace, but according to debt. However he crowns you in pity and mercy: and if your merits would go before you, God says to you: Inquire well into your merits, and you will see that they are my gifts.

The justice of God, which is unknown to Jews and Pelagians. Grace hidden in O.T., revealed in N.T.

9. Therefore this is the justice of God. Just as it is said: Salvation of the Lord, not as if the Lord is saved, but that he gives it to those whom he saves: so also the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, is called the justice of God, not as if Lord is just, but that he justifies those whom he makes just from being wicked. [Super long sentence:] But certain ones, as Jews in another time, and wanting themselves to be called Christians, and yet not knowing the justice of God, want to establish their own, even in our times, in times of open grace, in times of grace now revealed but before hidden, in times now in the area of manifest grace, which at sometime was lying hidden in a fleece. I see few to have understood, many to have not understood, those who I will by no means defraud by keeping quiet. A certain Gideon from the ancient just ones asked the from the Lord a sign, and he said: I ask, Lord, that this fleece which I put in this area, that it be rained upon, and that the area be dry. It was done: the fleece was rained upon, the whole area was dry. In the morning, he pressed out the fleece into a shallow bowl; for grace is given to the humble: and in a shallow bowl you learned what the Lord will have done for his disciples. Again he asked another sign: I want, he says, Lord, that the fleece be dry, and the area be rained upon. And it was done. Return to the time of the Old Testament, grace is hidden in a cloud, like fire in a fleece. Attend now to the time of the New Testament, examine the Jewish people, you will find them as a dry fleece; but the whole world (like the area) is full of grace, not hidden, but manifest. Whence we are compelled to lament for many of our brothers who contend, not against hidden grace, but against open and manifest grace. The Jews are pardoned. What, Christians? Why are you enemies of of the grace of Christ? Why are you presuming about yourselves? Why ungrateful? For why did Christ come? Was this not nature? Was it not nature, which by praising you deceive many? Was this not the Law? But the Apostles says: If justice is through the Law, then Christ died for nothing [gratis]. What the Apostle said that about the Law, this you know we say about nature: If justice is through nature, then Christ died for nothing [gratis].

Council against Pelagians.

10. What then is said about the Jews, we see this entirely in these. They have the zeal of God. I will a witness to them, because they have the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. What is it: Not according to science? For not knowing the justice of God, and wanting to build their own, they are not subject to the justice of God. My brothers, suffer with me. Where you find such things, do not hide them, may it not be a perverse mercy in you: by all means, if you find such things, do not hide them. Refute the contradictors, and lead the resistant ones to us. For now about this case, two councils were sent to the Apostolic See: whence also responses came. The case is finished: if only the error were at some point finished! Therefore we warn that they may turn, we teach that they may be instructed, let us pray that they may be changed. Turn to the Lord…

La sapienza e sofferenza

Di recente, sto leggendo Gli Elementi di Teologia di Proclo durante i miei lezioni sulla Litteratura Sapientiale del Testamento Antico. Sembra strano a me che la Bibbia parla molto di sofferenza quando parla di sapienza. Qohelet, Giobbe, e tanti Salmi. Ma in Proclo, non c’è una parola di sofferenza. Forse arriverà? Davvero, lui scrive adesso della cose prime: l’Uno, il Bontà, l’Intelletto, l’Anima, etc. Ma non è una sapienza compieta se lui non ha una dottrina, una considerazione di male e sofferenza. San Tomasso nella Somma Teologica non scrive di male prima la considerazione di bontà. Lui anche parla un po’ di male in un obiezione all’ esistenza di Dio. Leggerò più.

[Una nota: E’ molto difficile a scrivere in italiano questi pensieri! Scriverò più per praticare, ma è molto faticoso.]