The Eastern Orthodox on Divorce and Remarriage

How do the Eastern Orthodox handle divorce and remarriage? It seems that the trajectory of Pope Francis is to move toward the practice of the Patriarch of Constantinople – to say that divorce and remarriage is objectively wrong, but allowable on a case by case basis.

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I’m rather amazed that neither side is currently examining (and boldly appealing to) the Eastern practice. It’s likely only a matter of time, so I thought I’d try to put some things together in the timeline.

Deacon Daniel Gordon Dozier (Eastern Catholic) helped me find some primary sources on this matter.

  • Patriarch Alexius I of Constantinople (Patriarch from 1025-1043) no longer upheld the practice of suspending priests who blessed second marriages after divorce. Patriarch Alexius, however, only allowed second marriages to the innocent party in a separation. That is, if the husband abandoned a wife, she (but not him) could have a second church wedding while that offending husband still lived. And vice versa.
  • Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J. observes that in 1086 (after the schism with Rome), the Byzantine Empire made the Orthodox Church the “only institution with legal competence for the celebration of matrimony…As a consequence the Eastern Church had to conform its practices to State and civil legislation (a regretful consequence of caesaropapism). Then once civil legislation began to allow divorce and successive remarriages, the Eastern Church was obligated to recognize these practices.”
  • It seems to me as the Eastern Church fell away from union with Rome, it inevitably followed the secular practice of the Empire.

It’s notable that the initial changes in practice happened in Constantinople while Rome and Constantinople were in formal union (even if only for a few decades). It was the successor of Alexius I, Michael Cerularius who formally established schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054. The practice was officially changed in 1086. So the entire process seems to have taken about 50 years in Constantinople.

Question: What do you think? Will the Eastern Orthodox practice become part of this debate on divorce and remarriage at Rome? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Do we have spirit, soul, and body or just soul and body?

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?

dante-souls

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:

Hebrew

  • 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.

Greek

  • 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:

  1. 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.”
  2. pscyhic or soulish people. Common people in the mainstream church who have not been initiated into the deeper knowledge of the Gnostic teachers.
  3. 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.

Orthodox Catholic Fiction Novel = #1 Bestseller in Youth Historical/Action

Dear Readers and Listeners,

In 2014, I published a historical fiction novel about the legend of Saint George and the dragon (titled Sword and Serpent) that debuted at #1 on Amazon.com in Young Adult Religious at both Historical and Action!!! I’m grateful to everyone who read it and reviewed it!

Sword and Tenth Region on wood

Yesterday I published the sequel to Sword and Serpent titled The Tenth Region of the Night: Sword and Serpent Book IIIt also has reached #1 Bestseller status in those categories as well as in “Hot New Releases.”

Tenth Region Number 1

The new novel’s cover depicts a Greek ouroboros – a snake eating itself. Evil always turns in on itself – and this is the plot of the novel. Just before daybreak (what the Egyptians call the “Tenth Region of the Night”), evil is thoroughly destroyed by the dawning light – Saint George, the martyrs, and Constantine’s conversion.

If you’d like to immerse yourself into the life of early persecuted Christians (circa AD 299) with the likes of Saint George (Jurian), Saint Nicholas (Nikolaos), Saint Christopher (Menas), Saint Catherine (Aikaterina), Constantine, and Saint Helen, then please explore these novels.

It’s what would happen if you mishmashed stories like The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games with historic truths about relics, miracles, bilocating saints, popes, and self-sacrifice. What if epic adventures didn’t have in a far away fantasy world…but happened in the Roman Empire in AD 299. That’s this story…and it has something like a dragon it!

Just like last time, we are having a Launch Party to get the word out with prizes.

How To Join the Party and Get FREE Books (hashtag: #SwordAndSerpent #TenthRegion)

Here are 8 epic ways you can do epic things and win epic stuff:

1. Take an Epic #Selfie with the Book
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Take a photo with the book The Tenth Region of the Night. Extra points will be awarded for costumes or exotic places. The more epic, the more likely you are to win. Take a photo, post it on Facebook and then send an email to swordandserpent+selfie@gmail.com with a link to your picture.

RULES:

  • This is not a random drawing. This is a performance-based contest that will be judged. Be epic. Get the family to dress up as Jurian, Sabra, Aikaterina, Menas, Helena, et al. and snap a selfie with the book. Or maybe take a photo of yourself holding the book in someplace amazing. If you get a photo of yourself standing next to Pope Francis holding the book, you win hands down!
  • Selfies with any version of the The Tenth Region count (printed, ebook).

2. Create The Tenth Region of the Night Cocktail/Beverage (Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: That’s right mixologists, here’s a contest for you! Using ideas, concepts, locations, items, people, or ingredients mentioned in the book Tenth Region (Saint Anastasia is a pharmacist in the novel!), create the official The Tenth Region of the Night cocktail or beverage. Send an email to swordandserpent+drink@gmail.com and write down the recipe, take a photo of the drink, and the explain how it relates to the book.

RULES:

  • This is not a drawing. It is performance based. The best concotion wins.
  • The drink need not be alcoholic. It could be a kid’s milk shake or soda concoction. Or it could be “Menas Mojito” inspired by dragons, the Aikaterina Sleeper Martini, Constantine, and/or the sword of Saint George. Get epic. Get crazy. Have fun with it. Take pics.

3. Just Get the Book Contest (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Buy just one copy of The Tenth Region of the Night and then send an email to swordandserpent+boughtbook@gmail.com simply stating “I bought a copy.” If you buy more than one copy, please send one email for each copy you bought. *If you already reviewed the novel before today and emailed me about it, you’re already entered into this contest.

You can get a copy of The Tenth Region of the Night by clicking here. 

RULES:

  • You can enter for each copy purchased. (For example, if you buy four copies, send an email saying “I bought 4” in the subject line.)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

4. Christmas Contest (Prize: an iPad Mini mailed to your house! AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Several reviewers on amazon.com said that Sword and Serpent would be a perfect Christmas gift. This contest honors Saint Nicholas who is an important character in the book – it’s also his feast day this week. To win this prize, purchase at least 4 copies (1 for yourself and 3 as gifts to give away at Christmas) and send an email to swordandserpent+gifts@gmail.com. You can order copies by clicking here.

RULES:

  • You must purchase at least 4 copies to enter.
  • If you purchase multiples of 4, you can enter that many times (8 copies = 2 entries; 12 copies = 3 entries; 80 copies = 20 entries – enter how many copies you got in the subject line: “I got 8 copies as Christmas gifts” – that’s 2 entries in this prize)
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24 and will receive an iPad for free.

5. Review the Novel at Amazon.com (Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Read the book and leave a friendly review at amazon.com. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.

RULES:

  • Please leave a review at amazon.com before December 24.
  • Even though GoodReads is not a retailer, we’ll count GoodReads reviews too. So if you review at Amazon and goodreads, that’s two entries. Way to go! Click here for GoodReeds reviews.
  • Send an email to swordandserpent+reviewed@gmail.com with a link to your review.
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

6. Write a Blog Post about Sword and Serpent
(Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card + a promo link to your blog from my blog)

HOW TO ENTER: Write a blog post about The Tenth Region of the Night with the amazon link to the book in your review. Next, send an email to swordandserpent+blog@gmail.com with a link to your review.

RULES:

  • The post does not have to be a “book review.” It can be a theological reflection or an interview with me about the book.
  • Please include the amazon.com link: http://amzn.to/2gOQq3N
  • Winner will be drawn at random on December 24.

7. Facebook The Book (Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card)

HOW TO ENTER: Write an update on your Facebook wall about Sword and Serpent and include a link to the amazon link and the link to the book trailer. Next send an email to swordandserpent+facebook@gmail.com.

Please use this photo and this link to the book: http://amzn.to/2gOQq3N

tenth-region-ebook-with-white-background

RULES:

8. Book Club Contest (Prize $75 Gift Card to Restaurant and Skype Chat with Me and your Group AND a free signed copy of Tenth Region)

HOW TO ENTER: Gather a book group of at least five friends who will read the The Tenth Region of the Night and meet to discuss. The winner will get a $75 restaurant gift certificate to pay for food or drinks for your book club. I will also sit down with you via internet interview in Skype or Google Hangout for 15 minutes to talk about the book and answer group questions. Send an email to swordandserpent+bookclub@gmail.com with a link to an Evite or other online invitation showing four or more attendees.

RULES:

  • The primary purpose of the meeting should be discussion of The Tenth Region of the Night.
  • One entry per group.
  • You can choose the restaurant, but please find one that has gift cards so I can pay for it.
  • Winner will be drawn at random.
  • I will arrange my schedule around the winner’s book club meeting to do the Skype interview. It’ll be fun!

Okay, there are the 8 contests. They all end on Dec 24 2016. Get busy taking epic selfies. By the way the easiest contest to win is #3 – Just Get the Book: The Tenth Region of the Night.

To everyone who already made The Tenth Region of the Night possible and helped it get to #1, THANK YOU!

Happy winnings and Happy Advent!

Saint George, pray for us!
Taylor

Epic Book Trailer for Sword and Serpent, Book I:

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Saint George pray for us,
Taylor Marshall

How St Francis differed from Martin Luther or Catholic Reform vs. Protestant Reform

How did Saint Francis’ reformation of the Catholic Church (“Francis, rebuild my Church”) differ from Martin Luther’s “reformation”?

For Audio Podcast version of: “My True Opinion of Martin Luther” click here.

Essentially, Francis teaches us that we cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. Francis always submitted to the Church, the popes, and the bishops.

Whenever “reformation” begins to the buck against the institutional Church, more heresy arises. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. “Christ has one nature”) was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. “Christ is two persons”). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham’s nominalism and repackaged it). Luther’s “solution” was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can “fix” almost anything – but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ’s Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ’s doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division – there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use “hot-heads” to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble – for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.

Catholic Video: What is the Historical Date of Mary’s Assumption?

In what year did Christ raise and elevate the body of His Blessed Mother into Heaven? Some say in the AD 40s or 50s. I argue based on data in the New Testament that Mary was assumed in AD 63. Please watch the video lesson that I’ve prepared on this topic for NSTI.

[If you don’t see the video in your browser or email, click here to begin watching.]

This is lesson 7 of Church History: Module 2 – Redemptive History: Christ of the Covenants. To sign up and watch the rest of the lessons and modules in this Catholic Church History Course (and earn a Certificate), please visit: New Saint Thomas Institute’s Certificate in Catholic History:

Question: Do you agree that dating the Dormition/Assumption to AD 63 makes the most sense? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

And here are some interesting resources for you as we celebrate Our Lady’s Dormition and Assumption:

  1. Did the Virgin Mary Die? The Answer May Surprise You (The majority tradition in Catholic history is that Our Lady did experience the separation of body and soul.)
  2. Audio: Mary as Assumed in Revelation 12 Podcast: Our Lady of the Apocalypse
  3. Did Christ receive an assumption or ascension or both?
  4. The year of the assumption according to Maria Agreda
  5. The Assumption of Saint Joseph – A forgotten tradition
  6. If you deny the Assumption – You have fallen away!
  7. Saint Gregory of Tours on the Assumption
  8. The Assumption of Mary in the Book of Psalms
  9. Does the Rosary Pre-Date Dominic?
  10. Mary’s Special Role over Purgatory
  11. Mary’s Empty Tomb Information
  12. Did Pope Pius XII Teach that Mary died? Yes he did

Enjoy!

to Jesus through Mary,
Taylor Marshall

St Clare: Virgin Warrior against Islamic Terror!

You may think that a medieval shieldmaiden looked like this:

lagertha

But in reality, she looks like Saint Clare of Assisi:

st clare assisi

St Clare is a Virgin Warrior against Islamic Terror!

In AD 1240, Saint Clare shielded her convent from Muslims through the power of the Eucharist.

The Muslims (and the Vikings) were increasingly aware that Catholic convents contained gold, treasure, and…virgins.

As the Muslims invaded the walls of her convent, Saint Clare of Assisi entered into spiritual battle and she took up the most powerful shield known to men or angels:

“By imperial order, regiments of Saracen soldiers and bowmen were stationed there (the convent of San Damiano in Assisi, Italy), massed like bees, ready to devastate the encampments and seize the cities. Once, during an enemy attack against Assisi, city beloved of the Lord, and while the army was approaching the gates, the fierce Saracens invaded San Damiano, entered the confines of the monastery and even the very cloister of the virgins. The women swooned in terror, their voices trembling with fear as they cried to their Holy Mother Clare.

Saint Clare, with a fearless heart, commanded them to lead her, sick as she was, to the enemy, preceded by a silver and ivory monstrance in which the Body of the Holy of Holies was kept with great devotion. And prostrating herself before the Lord, she spoke tearfully to her Christ:

‘Behold, my Lord, is it possible You want to deliver into the hands of pagans Your defenseless handmaids, whom I have taught out of love for You? I pray You, Lord, protect these Your handmaids whom I cannot now save by myself.’

Suddenly a voice like that of a child resounded in her ears from the tabernacle: ‘I will always protect you!’ ‘My Lord,’ she added, ‘if it is Your wish, protect also this city which is sustained by Your love.’ Christ replied, ‘It will have to undergo trials, but it will be defended by My protection.’

Then the virgin, raising a face bathed in tears, comforted the sisters: ‘I assure you, daughters, that you will suffer no evil; only have faith in Christ.’

Upon seeing the courage of the sisters, the Saracens took flight and fled back over the walls they had scaled, unnerved by the strength of she who prayed. And Clare immediately admonished those who heard the voice I spoke of above, telling them severely: ‘Take care not to tell anyone about that voice while I am still alive, dearest daughters.’” (The History of Saint Clare the Virgin by Tommaso da Celano)

This episode is the reason that Saint Clare is so often depicted holding a Eucharistic monstrance (sometimes against the Muslim invaders in the photo below):

st_clare eucharist

I was recently at the tomb of Saint Clare in Assisi. I have a twin daughter named after Saint Clare and so this 800 year old saint from Assisi holds a special place in my heart. Here’s a photo of my with my twin daughters praying at the tomb of the Saint Clare:

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 11.43.24 AM

And me with my daughter named after Saint Clare still down in the crypt of Saint Clare of Assisi:Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 11.44.40 AM

And with another daughter sneaking in from below:

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 11.44.56 AM

St Clare is the patroness of television, and you can read about how she had a flat screen TV 800 years ago by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall

5 Reasons Why Jewish Prof. Edith Stein Became a Catholic Nun

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (aka Edith Stein, 1891-1942) is a saint, nun, and martyr of the Catholic Church. I have studied her life (see the chapter related to her in my book The Crucified Rabbi) and have since distilled 5 speculative reasons why Professor Judith Stein went from Jewish Prof to Catholic Nun:

Saint_Edith_Stein

Which is MORE Traditional: Mass ad orientem or versus populum?

And the Roman Ciborium in Roman Architecture

Ever since Cardinal Sarah’s ad orientem endorsement, and subsequent slap down by voices in the Holy See, there is debate on both sides favoring ad orientem celebration of the Holy Mass.

My goal here is show that both ad orientem AND versus populum are part of the ancient Roman Rite – and to show how the ciborium/baldacchino is a determining factor in the architecture governing each. Before we get started, let’s define vocab and issue a clarification to the liturgical police on each extreme:

Defining Terms of the Debate

ad orientem: Latin for “to the East.” For those new to the debate, ad orientem refers to the priest celebrating Mass on the same side of the altar as the people. People wrongfully call this “priest with his back to the people.”

versus populum: Latin for “toward the people.” This refers to the priest celebrating Mass on the opposite side of altar so that he is facing the people in the nave.

ad Deum: People wrongfully use ad Deum (Latin for “toward God”) as a synonym for ad orientem. I dislike this usage because it’s confusing and it presumes that versus populum is not ad Deum or “toward God.” When Pope Boniface VIII celebrated Holy Mass in AD 1300 at Old Saint Peter’s Basilica versus populum, he was celebrating Mass ad Deum (to God). It’s blasphemous to say otherwise. A valid Mass is always ad Deum no matter where the priest stands.

ciborium: Usually this refers to the precious vessel that holds the hosts during Mass. It can also roofed baldacchino that stands over the altar.

Showing My Liturgical Preference Cards Up Front

When writing about liturgy, everyone wants to size you up and classify you: Is he trad, is he liberal, is he reform-of-the-reform, whatever. So here is my perspective. I prefer the EF Latin Mass and I’m a member of a FSSP parish. But I attend the so-called Novus Ordo for daily Mass – and I usually attend the Novus Ordo when I travel. I have attended the Novus Ordo in Saint Peter’s Rome. I’ve attended the EF Latin Mass in Saint Peter’s in Rome. I received Jesus Christ and for this I’m grateful.

I can serve the EF. I’m good at Latin and I understand most of it in the Mass. I can listen to the Epistle and Gospel in Latin and understand it.

I love ad orientem. I find priests smiling over the altar as distracting. Personally, I find the priest facing with the congregation more Christocentric. For me, the elevation is more dramatic and devltional ad orientem. Silent canon makes more sense ad orientem, in my opinion. All pluses from my point of view.

Conclusion: I like the Latin Mass, but I never make a stink of it. I’m not exclusivist.

Talking Latin Mass Will Always Get You Judged…

I almost hate writing about anything Latin Mass because it gets me labeled by both extremes in the Church. So let me just issue a clarification:

For liturgical progressives who want to judge me: I don’t believe that attending the EF Latin Mass is a statement or that it means that one is “rad trad” or hates his local bishop or the Pope. Far from it. I love the Ordinary Form of the Mass. I attend it daily. I love my local bishop and pray for him daily. I love the Holy Father and pray for him daily and was even honored to shake his hand recently when he kissed my baby. I know that these hostile elements can exist in the “trad movement” but I’m not into that. So if you want to lump me in with the “mean Latin Mass haters,” you’re wrong.

For Traddies who want to judge me: I don’t think that Latin EF Mass and ad orientem is divinely mandated liturgy, nor do I think it’s always the best. If you think for saying this, I’m a Freemason, heretic, idolator, New World Order-ist, Novus Ordo-ist, Neo-Catholic – you’re incorrect and I’ll ignore your comments.

Both Versus Populum and Ad Orientem in the Roman Tradition

I just got back from Rome. If you’ve been there, you know already that the major churches in Rome have always had the priest facing the people over the altar (photos at the end of the post):

  • St Peter’s
  • St Paul’s outside the Walls
  • St John Lateran
  • St Mary Major
  • St Clement’s
  • St Maria in Trastavere

Why? Because versus populum was part of the ancient Roman tradition. Where there was space and a big budget (as in these important Roman churches), they worked it versus populum. However, this elegant arrangement usually requires the presence of a ciborium (a stone canopy or baldacchino) over the altar.

trastevere

Where there isn’t space to do it right (that is, no ciborium over altar), they worked ad orientem with dignity.

Those that study the issue know that it has to do with whether a Roman ciborium/baldacchino can be built over the altar. Generally speaking, if there is a ciborium, it’s versus populum. If not, there’s ad orientem.

There is a Roman way of doing versus populum and Pope Benedict pointed that out: screens and/or baldacchino, candles on the altar (causing visual disruption), and especially a crucifix in the middle. The silent canon especially balances out versus populum and the attention on the priest.

My personal preference would be that everything should be ad orientem – unless you can install a ciborium/baldacchino over the altar – ideally with a sunken confessio for relics under the altar. If not, it should be ad orientem.

The problem, in my unimportant layman’s point of view, is that parishes in the 1950s-1980s plunged into versus populum altars without understanding the ancient Roman requisites for such people-facing altars. So now we have a churches where the altar lacks dignity and is often dwarfed by “the presiders chair” and the ambo. The ciborium canopy magnified the dignity of the altar within the versus populum context. We need to rediscover this feature of Roman liturgy and architecture. We need to start building a ciborium canopy over the altar.

Photos of Examples of Versus Populum with Proper Ciborium

Here are photos of the churches above showing how the ancient Roman versus populum worked with the ciborium canopy or baldacchino:

Here’s Pope Pius XII celebrating versus populum…but under the baldacchino with candle and crucifix “obstruction.”

saint peter's versus

Here’s the Pope’s cathedral Saint John Lateran. Note the amazing baldacchino which contains the skulls of Saint Paul and Saint Peter behind the gold grating above the altar:

st john lateran versus

Here’s my favorite church Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome. Historic versus populum, but with a baldacchino. This church is so God-honoring. Beauty. Truth. Goodness. I try to attend Sunday Mass here (Ordinary Form) whenever I can:

trastevere

And here’s San Clemente in Rome. Small church with versus populum with a modest baldacchino:

Luminance HDR 2.0.0 tonemapping parameters: Operator: Fattal Parameters: Alpha: 1 Beta: 0.9 Color Saturation: 0.8 Noise Reduction: 0.05 ------ PreGamma: 1

I could also include Saint Mary Major and Saint Paul’s outside the Walls. The point is, if you’re going to do versus populum, you need a baldacchino/ciborium over the altar. If not, ad orientem tends to be the “traditional” way to construct a church.

Comments

Question: I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Do you have a preference? How is your parish set up? Do you like it or not? How could we improve our altars using the Roman churches as models? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Origen’s Solution to the Predestination Debate

It’s time to talk about Origen – the third century priest that allegedly castrated himself and rivaled Saint Thomas Aquinas in writing a great number of biblical commentaries, sermons, and theological books (allegedly thousands of books according to his contemporaries).

NSTI Catholic Video Lesson on the Life and Theology of Origen, student member link here:

Origen of Alex Video

But today we are getting crazy and talking about Origen…and his view of predestination as it relates to pre-existent souls.

Catholics and the Problem of Predestination

We have often discussed the intramural Catholic debate about Predestination over at the New Saint Thomas Institute: Augustine, double predestination, Molinism, Thomas Aquinas, Jansenism, etc.

Most new Catholic students react by saying, “Well we’re Catholics. We don’t believe in predestination.” The problem is that it is in the Bible and so we have to account for what it means. Saint Paul refers to predestination:

Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).

The Greek word is προορίζω (proorizó).

To lay my cards on the table, I float back and forth between Molinism and Thomas Aquinas’s solution. If you are interested in this topic in Catholic theology and history, please use the search function at taylormarshall.com or better yet watch some of our videos on Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the topic of predestination.

Origen and Predestination

One perspective that I’ve avoided entirely is the solution to predestination presented by Origen of Alexandria. This really out there, so hang with me.

Origen, in his book Peri Archon, states repeatedly that all rational creatures were once equally ranked minds prior to the creation of the universe.

According to Origen, God created millions of minds. He then tested these minds and they strayed from God to greater or lesser degrees.

  1. Those that hardly strayed became angels and were arranged in an angelic hierarchy in accord to their fidelity to God.
  2. Those that strayed more were destined to become humans in the future.
  3. Those that strayed far away from God became demons and were arranged in a demonic hierarchy in accord to their hatred for God.

One of Origen’s favorites verses was Jeremiah 1:5:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

For Origen this proves that Jeremiah (and all humans) existed before they were formed in the womb – and some were already consecrated.

Another one from the canonical scriptures would be Wisdom 8:19-20:

“As a child I was naturally gifted, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body.”

This verse seem to hold that “a good soul feel to my lot” and that the soul pre-existed the body and entered into it.

Origen also states that out of the millions of minds, one single mind did not stray at all. This one single soul remained 100% allied with God’s will and so it was immediately united with the Divine Logos – the Second Person of the Trinity. This was the soul that would eventually assume a body in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Now Origen, then claims that it appears entirely unjust for some people to be born as Moses, Abraham, David, or John the Baptist while others are born as heathens. That’s totally unfair and this is often a topic of debate in youth groups and philosophical symposia about God’s justice.

Origen, says: “The answer is easy! Everyone is given a perfectly crafted life in conformity to their fidelity to God in the test prior to creation.”

So if a baby dies early. If a person is born in idolatrous India. If a girls is born in 1873 into the Martin family in Lisieux, France. If a boy is born into the Polish Wojtyła family in 1920…All these scenarios follow from God’s judgment of a soul’s response to God before creation.

Origen states that every person’s life was designed for their salvation based on their previous inclination (or lack thereof) in the test prior to the creation of the galaxy.

Origen says that Taylor Marshall was born into a nominally Christian home in Fort Worth Texas and given all by set backs and privileges based on how my pre-existent mind behaved toward God zillions of years ago.

Assessment of Origen and Predestination

Mormons have taken Origen’s doctrine of pre-existent souls. They hold something similar. Catholics, however, reject these schema. It has, however, been held by Catholics:

  • Origen died in good standing.
  • It’s likely that Clement of Alexandria held to this view of pre-existent souls.
  • Didymus the Blind (a saint in the Oriental Orthodox Churches) held it.
  • Perhaps Saint Gregory of Nyssa held it.
  • The early Saint Basil the Great and the early Saint Gregory of Nazianzus held it. They later reject it.
  • Allegedly, Saint Jerome held to this view in his early priesthood but later condemned it loudly and insistently.
  • And there is no doubt that Evagrius Ponticus held to this view of pre-existence of souls and especially held to the role of the one sinless mind that became the soul of Christ which united to the Logos.
  • The doctrine of pre-existent souls was condemned by the local Synod of Constantinople (AD 543) then again by the Emperor Justinian in his Edict of AD 544.
  • The 5th Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II in 553) allegedly condemned this theology, but modern scholars are divided on whether the Fathers of the Council truly ratified the rulings of the Synod of Constantinople in AD 543.
  • Notably, many of the quotes condemned as “Origenist” actually come from a book written by Evagrius Ponticus.

I don’t see how a Catholic would want to follow this view of predestination by Origen. I can see why a Catholic would be attracted to it. It levels out divine justice. It’s almost like Hindu karma. It allows a Christian to say, “So you don’t like your life? Sorry, but you earned it millions of years ago in a spiritual realm where you tested and apparently you failed. If you had acted better, you’d be Saint Michael the Archangel or a cherub. As it is, you are merely you. God has given you this particular life because it is the best way for you to be saved. Offer it up!”

Despite Jeremiah 1:5 stating “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you,” Sacred Scripture teaches that we come into being in our mother’s womb. We don’t pre-exist. The mystery of why Moses was born Moses and Pharoah was born Pharaoh remains a mystery. The tension I read in Romans 8-10 seems to keep this tension and does nothing to resolve it.

For this reason, the Catholic tradition has sought to find alternate views of predestination. Augustine holding to an unconditional predestination. Molinism holding to foreseen merits. And then various versions of the two systems.

One final strike against pre-existent souls is that none of us remember it. It seems that if we are punished or rewarded, we should know. That alone seems unjust.

Question: The first time I heard, my mind was blown. I’m interested to hear your thoughts and questions on this topic. I look forward to your thoughts. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

In defense of “I am not worthy” in the Roman Mass

The Huffington Post recently published an article titled “Dear Pope Francis, End the Religious Ritual that Devalues Human Life” by Christine Horner.

Ms. Horner writes:

Every single day before communion, millions of Christians verbally declare one of the most destructive phrases in human history.

Stop the press.The tribunal of the Huffington Post’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has made a judgment. According to them, Catholics are daily reciting: “one of the most destructive phrases in human history.” How awful. Catholics are ruining their self-esteem daily by saying these words in public:

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

This statement, a recitation of Matthew 8:8, is one of the most destructive phrases in human history…and it has a long history. Every Roman Catholic Pope, bishop, priest, and pious laymen has been reciting this (biblical) phrase daily for over 1,300 years. Yet according to Ms. Horner this acclamation of “unworthiness” is one of the most destructive things a Christian can say.

domine non sum dignus padre pio

She is incorrect, but I can see where she is coming form. Our American culture is a cult of self-esteem. In the United States, we are taught that depression, theft, rape, murder, racism, war, unemployment, etc. are essentially caused by a lack of self-esteem.

Dignus, Dignity, and the Imago Deo

Since our culture has lost its roots in the virtue tradition of Christendom, we no longer understand human dignity in terms of being conformed to the imago Dei (image of God). Our worth is no longer related to a divine being that loved to create us and loves to redeem us.

True human dignity relies on theism. When we say in Mass “Lord, I am not worthy, the Latin is “Domine, non sum dignus.” You don’t need to know Latin to see that dignus (Latin: “worthy”) is related to our English term “dignity.”

This is where Ms. Horner at the Huffington Post misses the mark. She claims that our saying, “Lord I am not worthy” is a form “negative reinforcement.” For her it confirms the alleged Catholic strategy of drowning people in guilt and unworthiness – which to her translates as fostering low self-esteem.

Self-Esteem or God-Esteem

The Huffington Post lacks the theological foundation to understand that promoting self-esteem without God-esteem is the path to destruction and sorrow. The “You go girl!” culture of self-affirmation and self-esteem trumpeted by secularist outlets like the Huff-Po for the last 30 years attempts to produce “esteem” from a collective. If enough people say, “You are so beautiful” then this will translate to a girl truly believing she is beautiful. If enough people just say, “You are so intelligent,” it will translate into intelligent people.

The problem for them is that this approach to esteem relies on a consistent collective that reinforces the message. This is why “bullies” are such a problem in the modern self-esteem cult. They are destroying the collective affirmation process. And then there is also the inconsistent messaging. Every one is told they are equally special and worthy, but the media outlets quietly suggest that some are more special and worthy. Taylor Swift, Robert Downey Jr, Jennifer Lawrence, Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone seem be more worthy than the rest of us.

So where do we find find esteem or worthiness?

Worthiness, Suffering, and Martyrdom

When we look at Christianity at the turn of the 4th century, we find Christians standing up to the supreme arbitrator and law giver (the Roman Emperor) and the entire political/social collective (the Roman Empire) for the sake of a dignus that was not granted by collective, the media, the culture, or the secular state.

They discovered a divine dignus.

Saint Agnes of Rome cannot be persuaded to abandon Christ, her virginity, her modesty, or her virtue. Why is she so strong? Because the collective is coming together to affirm her?

No, she is so strong because she finds herself unworthy of anything outside of her life in Christo. Her esteem is thousands of times higher than the richest matrons of Rome – even higher than that of the senator or emperor himself. If Christ rose from the dead, and Christ is truly “under her roof,” well then she has it all.

The Huffington Post and the women’s mags at the supermarket checkout line are trying to lift “self-esteem” to empower people to love themselves and value themselves.

They are telling us, “Don’t say ‘I’m unworthy,’ but rather say ‘I am worthy of everything.’ Deep down inside say to yourself, ‘I have a perfect body. I’m rich. I’m popular. I’m basically Leonardo DiCaprio/Taylor Swift,’ and then you will be so!'”

But let’s be honest. That doesn’t work. And even if you are the sexiest or richest person of the year, does that translate to worthiness and happiness? Apparently not.

Liturgical Worthiness

Our liturgical affirmation Domine non sum dignus is not isolated. It is placed in a context. Let’s look at its location within the Roman Rite:

  • Eucharistic Prayer
  • Our Father
  • “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
  • Agnus Dei
  • “Lord I’m not worthy…”
  • Reception of Communion

The acclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29) by Saint John the Baptist is theologically proximate to “I am not worthy,” since John the Baptist also says, “even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27).

The Christian who says, “I am not worthy” has just recited the Our Father, declaring that God is our Father. Not something we are inherently worthy of, but something He grants as a gratuitous gift. Next, the believer hears “The peace of the Lord be with you.” The liturgical context is essential familial, peaceful, and redemptive.

We do say, “I am not worthy,” but the “but” is important. We say, “but only say the word and my soul shall be cleaned.” This statement is an affirmation of hope!

And what is the next phrase that the priest proclaims to the Christian? He proclaims, “The Body of Christ,” and the believer receives the Eucharist. That is the word that makes clean. That is the word that makes worthy.

Conclusion on “Being Worthy”

Ms. Horner does a disservice by isolating one line of liturgical text from the whole of the Eucharistic liturgy. Most non-Catholics have no idea about its placement proximate to the Our Father, the peace, or the climax of Catholic liturgy in the reception of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Most non-Catholic readers do not understand that Christ enters “under the roof” of our mouths and that we become one in Him and He in us. Yet this is where we find our worthiness. When we esteem God, we find our dignity fully. God designed it that way.

Sadly, the cultural self-esteem cult of finding an ever larger and louder voice of affirmation will not transform a man or woman into something beautiful or truly worthy. Only God can do that for us. Without this Eucharistic miracle “under our roofs,” we will continue to be plagued by cultural decline, despair, and violence. With your kindness and love, share the Gospel with others. Invite them to Mass with you this Sunday. Let others see the hope that we have in the Eucharist.

Godspeed,

Taylor Marshall