I continue to read and study Origen and I was recently impressed with his spiritual interpretation of the words of Saint John the Baptist regarding Christ:
“I baptize with water, but in the midst of you stands one whom you know not, even He who comes after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn 1:26)
According to Origen, John the Baptist is here confessing his amazement over the incarnation of the Divine Logos. Origen interprets:
…he goes on: The latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. By which he conveys, as in a riddle, that he is not fit to solve and to explain the argument about Christ’s assuming a human body, an argument tied up and hidden (like a shoe-tie) to those who do not understand it—so as to say anything worthy of such an advent, compressed, as it was, into so short a space. (Origen, Commentary on John, Book 6, Ch. 15)
Origen holds that John the Baptist indicates that he can cannot untie the mysterious knot that the Logos can possess a physical body by which to fill a shoe or sandal.
How wonderful and mysterious that the eternal Son of God became man? He came not only to wear a simple shoe on his incarnate foot, but also to receive the cleansing baptism of water in the Jordan River upon his anointed body. And even more to die on a cross and rise again.
John the Baptist is stunned. It is as if John the Baptist might say: “Look guys. I’m the last prophet of the Old Testament and I’m not worthy to untie the mystery of His incarnation. I’ll leave that the next seven Ecumenical Councils to untie over time.
While Origen is not a saint and not a doctor of the Church (and has some theological oddities), his exegesis is fascinating and helpful. Even in something in small as the shoe-latchet saying of John, he has something beautiful to draw out. As we say in Texas: That’ll preach.
Did you know that 25% of people give up on their New Year’s Resolution within the first seven days of January? A majority will not see their resolutions past February 1!
God made humans to be goal-oriented. Our ultimate goal is Heaven, but there are sub-goals along the way. Today I’ll share how I attain goals using the “S.M.A.R.T.” (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound) system of goal making. When I learned this system, it literally changed my life. I will also share how making these kind of goals for the New Year can lead to a breakthrough in any category with which you struggle: spiritual, marital, familial, economic, health, etc.
How to Make S.M.A.R.T. Goals for the New Year
Please watch the video below as explain how you can make goals for the New Year and make this next year the most productive of your life:
I was at a coffee shop yesterday and I got pulled into a conversation with a stranger about metaphysical nature of the soul.
This man emphasized that we are not simply a soul and body, but that we are spirit, soul, and body.
So what is the Catholic to say?
This the bipartite vs. tripartite debate on human anthropology. The majority position in the Catholic Church is that we have a physical element (body headed by the brain) and a metaphysical element (soul headed by the spirit). The spirit is the highest intellectual faculty of the soul.
The locus classicus on this topic is Hebrews 4:12
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Tripartite advocates point here showing that “soul and spirit” are distinguished and thus separate. The problem here is that if soul and spirit are different entities then our body is also twofold with different entities, namely joins and marrow.
Soul Vocab in Scripture
Let’s review the terminology in Hebrew and Greek:
Basar: flesh or body. In Genesis, this comes from dirt, mud, or grime. It is the lowest basest element of man.
Nephesh: soul or life force. In Genesis this is the life of a living thing. It can be said that animals and perhaps plants have nephesh or a living force within them.
Ruach: spirit or breath. In Genesis, God breathes this into Adam and it is what makes human unique from all other animals. It is something we share with God – the intellectual and voluntary faculty that makes us rational animals or human.
Sarx: flesh. In Greek it is the body but also includes the animal passions of the body for nutrition and sex. Saint Paul typically uses sarx to include the effects of original sin in all humans. Hence sarx has a somewhat pejorative meaning in the New Testament as in the sinful “law of the flesh.”
Soma: body. This is a physical body and doesn’t necessarily include the passionate elements of sarx above, but it can. Used 129 times in NT.
Psyche: soul or life force. The Greeks explicitly stated that all living things have a “soul” or psyche, including plants, animals, and humans. Some speculated whether each star and planet had a psyche since they also had an interior principle of motion similar to life. Used 105 times.
Nous: mind. In Greek this refers to the highest intellectual faculty of the human.
Pneuma: spirit or breath. This is a spiritual or supernatural element in man. Used 385 times, but about 80 times for the human spirit, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.
The Church Father Origen (who spoke Greek) speculated that “nous” referred to the human mind, but “pneuma” referred to the human mind redeemed and filled with grace. I rather like Origen’s suggestion. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Early Gnostics (drawing from Paul in 1 Corinthians, esp. chs. 2 and 15) spoke of three kinds of people:
sarkic or fleshly people. He relates this to Jews and unsaved people who have not the ability to see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior. They live according to sight and according to the flesh. For Paul, the Jewish preoccupation with circumcision is an example of them living “by the flesh.”
pscyhic or soulish people. Common people in the mainstream church who have not been initiated into the deeper knowledge of the Gnostic teachers.
pneumatic or spiritual people. Those who have acquired the secret teachings passed along by visions or by secret traditions allegedly derived from the Paul or the Apostles.
Church Fathers on Bipartite vs. Tripartite
The Eastern Orthodox Church tends toward a tripartite anthropology and this likely derives from the distinctions of Saint Paul, but especially from the writings of Origen and, through his influence, the writings of the three Cappadocian Fathers Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. If you are interested in learning more about Origen and these three sainted teachers and their theology, please watch the NSTI video lessons on them in our Historical Theology Modules.
In the West, the Pelagian heretics wrongly taught that the soul and body were corrupted by sin, but that the human spirit remained unaffected by sin and remained righteous and good. Consequently, Saint Augustine and others blew a hole in the Pelagian tripartite anthropology showing that the moral state of the soul was the same as the moral state of the human spirit. The strict tripartite arrangement was associated with Pelagianism and was thus held suspect in the Latin West.
What and How Can We Speak of “Spirit and Soul”?
When speak of the soul by the Hebrews (nephesh) and by the Greeks (psyche), they spoke chiefly of life and motion. Oak trees, weeds, crabs, fish, squirrels, and gorillas possess this “life force” or “soul.” The Jews by divine revelation and the Greeks through philosophy were speaking of the same thing.
Even more, both understand that within the human person, there was something beyond the life force. Beyond our motion across earth. Beyond our pursuit for food and sex. It was something that set us apart. Something that made us religious and reflective. It is what made us homo liturgicus. It was the rational spirit they sparks within us the questions of “Why am I alive? What is the purpose of life? Who made us? What are we supposed to be doing? Where are we headed? What happens after all this?”
In the Latin West, we call this the “rational soul” or the “intellectus.” Those terms work, but I rather like the poetic distinction between the “soul” and the “spirit” in Scripture. As Saint Paul said, Adam had for us a soul. But Christ became for us a “life giving spirit.” Here Paul doesn’t mean that Christ was a docetic or solely spiritual phantasm. Rather, he is capturing that Christ becomes for us the means by which we find the answers to the spiritual questions that I’ve listed above.
And as Origen (though not a saint and somewhat dangerous) observed, his suggestion that “mind/intellect” and “spirit” are simply two ways of referring to the same thing but from different points of view – with the spirit being the way to refer to the illuminated and redeemed mind.
It seems that the presence of the divine Holy Spirit in our soul transforms our intellect into a spiritual intellect or into a spirit. My guess is that the liturgical response “and with your spirit” is an acknowledgment of this reality in the communal life of the Church. When we respond that way, we aren’t just saying “and also with you,” but we are acknowledging the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within the celebrant.
Has the Catholic Church been factually incorrect by celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25? Did we borrow the date from pagans? Doesn’t the Bible say that Christ was born in Spring?
It’s time for the 2016 Manly Christmas Gift Guide!
For the 7th year in a row, I am featuring the Top Ten Manly Christmas Gifts for Men – stuff that men want but don’t ask for.
* If you received this post by email, you’ll want to click “Always Display Images” in your email client so that you can see the manly gift images.
Every year you’ve come to expect it, and every year I get ready for angry liberals complaining about my advocacy for pocket knives, guns, scotch, pipes, and leather.
After doing this list for 7 years, I now get stopped by wives who say, “Thanks for your annual Men’s Christmas Gift Guide. My husband loved the thermos and knife that you recommended.” Recently, a Catholic dad related to me, “My wife followed your Christmas manly gift guide. Thanks for recommending the scotch decanter. I love it.” 2 year ago we even caused Amazon to sell out of pocket Douay Rheims Bibles.
Like last year I have an improved list with more information on knives and how a lady can choose the right knife for the men in her life.
Men, it’s not bad taste to forward this post to your wife’s email account.
When your man gets back to work after Christmas and someone asks, “So what did you get for Christmas?” let him say something more than “Oh you know, a couple of new shirts and a tie.”
Top Ten Manly Christmas Gifts for Men (drumroll…)
Below is a guide for Manly Christmas Gifts: your husband, brother, or grandpa. Seriously, you can’t wrong with the following ten gifts. They’re all winners. So here we go:
How Our Lady of Guadalupe can help you in our secular society!
How she can help you bring family and friends back to the Catholic Church:
The Webinar is free but you must register to claim your spot and have access to the Webinar. You can do so by clicking here:
We hosted 980 live attendees in last week’s Webinar on Catholic Advent. We are hoping to have over 1,000 attendees in this week’s Guadalupe Webinar. Join us for the global Catholic seminar about Our Lady!
3 Ways to Defend the Immaculate Conception from Scripture:
Is the Immaculate Conception Biblical?
Yes, but only if you accept typology as a valid interpretation of Scriptural texts (i.e. a method used by the Apostles and Fathers to interpret Old Testament people, things, and events as types foreshadowing New Covenant realities).
Below are three common arguments used by the early Church Fathers, the Popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to justify Mary’s title as the Panagia or “All-Holy.” The first is straight-forward, the latter two rely on typology.
Argument #1 Mary is Full of Grace
Luke 1:28: “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!'”
The term traditionally translated “full of grace” or “highly favored” is κεχαριτωμένη or kecharitomene. This “perfect passive participle form” (Even if you never study Greek, memorize what I have placed into quotes. Burn it into your memory) denotes something that happened in the past and continues into the present. She was perfectly graced in the past and continues in that state. Luke 1:28 has served as the locus classicus for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.
When a Protestant fronts you on this, just keep the broken record approach by repeating “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene” until the Protestant grabs your Rosary beads and start praying it aloud. Works every time.
Argument #2 Mary as New Eve Having Enmity with Satan
Gen 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”
In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.
In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation.
Rev 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.
The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.
The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.
Luke 1:28 “perfect passive participle of kecharitomene,” rinse and repeat
Gen 3:15 “Why does Satan have a perfect “enmity” with a woman and who is she?
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And now for something more advanced: Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception:
Did Saint Thomas Aquinas deny the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
In the theological video below I’ll share how Thomas Aquinas changed his position over time on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and share some of the nuances. Thomas may have reverted back to a belief in the Immaculate Conception after he wrote about the Immaculate Conception in the Summa theologiae. See the video below for details.
If you are not yet a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute and you want to study with us, our General Advent Enrollment just opened up. Here’s a free sample our theology classes: Did Thomas Aquinas Deny the Immaculate Conception?
We are the biggest global Catholic Institute (in 50+nations) and we have the lowest tuition rates on the planet (98% lower than nearly every Catholic college). We just finished enrolling our waiting list of 200 people and have opened enrollment to the general public.