"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

April 20, 2020

Who are the Church?

Filed under: Foundations in Ecclesiology — komonchak @ 12:09 pm

In 2008 I was given the high honor of being asked to deliver the Père Marquette Lecture in Theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I decided to devote my talk to an exploration of the claim that anyone who makes a statement about the Church–what it is, what it is saying, what it is doing–should be prepared to say of whom the statement is true, in whom it is true. In this, as I indicate in the lecture, I am asking what St. Augustine asked when explaining the blessing the Psalmist says will come to those who walk in the ways of the Lord: “Your wife a fruitful vine on he sides of the house” (Ps 127[128]:3).  In whom, Augustine wanted to know, is the Church “a fruitful vine”?  It is the question that Yves Congar asked several times in his writings:  “To what, or to whom, does the word ‘Church’ refer?” The question may seem obvious, but I have found that many theologians seem not to have asked it, content to leave the subject of their statements about the Church and the subject of the actions they attribute to the Church unspecified,

JAK – Who are the Church

April 9, 2020

Triduum Homilies – 1972-1977

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 11:40 am

These are Holy Week homilies delivered while I was on the faculty at Dunwoodie and serving as chaplain to the Ursulines at the College of New Rochelle:

Triduum homilies – 1972-1977

March 24, 2020

The Early Work of John Courtney Murray

Around 1990 I was given access to the diaries of Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton one-time professor and chair of the School of Theology at Catholic University. In the 1964 volume I found four propositions that, he wrote, were found to be erroneous. They concerned matters of Church and State and religious freedom, and I almost immediately surmised that they were the propositions that the Holy Office attributed to John Courtney Murray and condemned. To verify that this was the case, I embarked on a lengthy inquiry, which I can tell elsewhere, that led me into extensive research into the thought of the American Jesuit, some of which found its way into print.

I discovered that much of the secondary literature on Murray had been based upon his published work. Even most of the scholars who did some archival work confined that to Murray’s papers held at Georgetown University. Teaching at the time at Catholic University, I was able to expand my inquiry to include the CUA archives, the archives of the USCCB, the archives of the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists, and later I visited archives of the archdioceses of New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati. I discovered that there was a great deal of material that could be used to tell in much more precise detail the story of the development of Murray’s thought.

The result was a whole set of essays that were supposed to become a very large book on Murray. For a variety of reasons, I have not been able to assemble them into a grand narrative–the first publisher whom I approached about the project asked me, “What is your story? Which left me almost speechless, because I had not imagined that I needed a story with a plot, but that it would be enough to set out individual pieces. In any case, it is now unlikely that I am going to be able to turn all this into a book, and so I have decided to send it out on the Internet to be of whatever interest it may be in general and of whatever help it can be to other scholars.

Please note that much of this research was done some twenty to thirty years ago and that in the meantime I have not kept as close a track of recent scholarship as I would have liked to. Here and there, as I would come upon some relevant books or articles, I would include them in a footnote, but I do not have time now to do the updating that may be required.

A few readers who looked at my stuff said that I had too many quotes and especially too many long quotations; but that is how I have worked, preferring to put too many original sources in my text than too few, and thinking some day I might prune them. But I set out many things that have not been adverted to before, and perhaps the essays could be considered as a mine of information. (I remember fondly that the publisher Michael Glazier, of beloved memory, read it all and said that, if he were still publishing, he’d publish every word of it. He thought it would be an indispensable reference-work.) In any case, here it goes.

The first batch of essays tells of the early writings of John Courtney Murray soon after he returned from Europe after having completed his doctoral studies in Rome. He was already intensely interested in what he would come to call “the spiritual crisis in the temporal order.” This is evident in two sets of lectures he gave in the early 1940s in which he lay out the doctrinal and theological grounds for the Church’s mission and activity in society and culture. The crisis was rendered more acute by the outbreak of the Second World War, and Murray was among those who thought it possible, indeed necessary, for Catholics to engage in inter-religious cooperation for believers to meet the crisis and to be able to take part in the restoration of order once the War was over. This proposal was not welcomed by many Catholic churchmen and theologians, and Murray had to engage in lengthy conversations, in published articles and in private conversations, to defend his position against the charge that it would lead to religious indifferentism. Many Protestants also were reluctant to cooperate with Roman Catholics who were, as they believed, ready, should they become a majority, to deprive them of their religious freedom.

From both sides, then, Catholic and Protestant, the issue of religious freedom became critical, and this explains why, beginning in the mid-1940’s, Murray turned his attention to that subject and began the series of publications that would lead him again into controversy, make him subject to high Roman censure, and end with his vindication at the Second Vatican Council. Whereupon, as he put it right after the Council, Catholics could “get on to the deeper issue of the effective presence of the Church in the world today”–which was, of course, the passion that first inspired him.

So here are five “chapters” as well as the transcribed text of the two set of lectures that Murray gave early In his career.

Comments, corrections, etc. are, of couse, very welcome.

1 – JCM -Early texts

2 – Initial Debate

3 – Theological Debate

4 – US Bishops Respond

5-LaterDebates

JCM – Loyola Lectures 1940

Jewish Theological Seminary Lectures – 1942

November 14, 2019

Culture and history in a theology of the local Church

I have been working on the theology of the local Church since at least 1981.  When I first approached the question, I took local cultures to be the decisive element in defining the local character of a local Church.  For reasons set out in the first of the essays found here, I began to move away from culture to history, or historical moment and challenge, as better identifying what makes a local Church local.  The two essays, you will find, have whole sections that are identical.

JAK – Culture and history as conditions

JAK – Catholicity & Redemption

September 8, 2019

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Five homilies, with essentially the same theme…

Sunday 23 – 1992

Sunday 23 – 1995

Sunday 23 – 2001

Sunday 23 – 2007

Sunday 23 – 2010

August 31, 2019

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 3 homilies

Sunday 22 – 1992

Sunday 22 – 2004

Sunday 22 – 2007

August 30, 2019

Episcopal conferences

Filed under: Essays, Foundations in Ecclesiology, Uncategorized — Tags: , — komonchak @ 5:04 pm

The Final Report of the 1985 Synod of Bishops called for a clarification of the theological and canonical nature of episcopal conferences. Even though the Report could be taken to be calling for theologians and canon lawyers to undertake that task, the Vatican took this to mean that they should appoint a committee to do the clarifying.  The result of this was an “Instrumentum laboris” (working paper) sent out to the bishops of the world.  It would receive severe criticisms from many episcopates, including that of the USA for which I wrote a lengthy critique which was adopted by the bishops.

A symposium on episcopal conferences was held at Georgetown University, the results of which were published in a book. I was asked to write an introduction explaining what the controversies were that surrounded the institution and then to offer a theological assessment of the working paper. Both essays are available here: JAK – Two essays on episcopal conferences .

The official text that came out of the Vatican effort is entitled Apostolos suos. It will be seen that the critiques of the draft had little effect, and this text presented a very narrow vision of the conferences which are basically seen as threats to the pope or to diocesan bishops, or to both.

Pope Francis has asked that the question of the role and authority of episcopal conferences be re-opened. These essays, then, if of little effect forty years ago, may have some pertinence today.

April 21, 2019

What is “the day the Lord has made”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — komonchak @ 10:33 am

This is the Easter Alleluia which used to be sung by the celebrant just before reading the Easter Gospel. It was sung at three different registers, from low to high.

This is from one of Augustine’s Easter sermons. In the fourth paragraph below, the “infants” were not babies but those who had been baptized at the Easter Vigil, just beginning their Christian lives.

You have heard Christ the Lord preached in these words: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). This is Christ the Lord, who if he had not lowered himself but had wished to remain so forever, we would have perished. We acknowledge the Word as God with God; we acknowledge the only Son equal to the Father; we acknowledge the light from light, the Day from Day. The Day who made the day was not himself made by the Day but begotten from it.

If, then, the Day from Day was not made but begotten, then what is the day the Lord has made? Why is it called day? Because it is light. “And God called the light day.” Let us ask, then, which day the Lord has made that we may rejoice and be glad in it.

At the very beginning of the world’s creation, it is read that “darkness was over the abyss, and the Spirit of God moved over the water. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and light was made. And God divided the light from the darkness, and he called the light day and the darkness he called night” (Gen 1:2-5). This is a day the Lord has made. But is it the day in which we are to rejoice and be glad? There is another day the Lord has made which we should instead acknowledge, and rejoice and be glad in it.

It was said to believers in Christ: “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). If a light, then a day, because “God called the light day.” Yesterday God’s Spirit moved over the water here too. There had been darkness over the abyss, because these infants were still bearing their sins. But when through the Spirit their sins were forgiven them, then did the Lord say: “Let there be light, and light was made.” Here is “the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 117[118], 24).

We are addressing you this day with the words of the Apostle: O day which the Lord has made, “you once were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8). “Once, he says, “you were darkness.” Were you darkness, or not? Recall your deeds, and see if you weren’t. Look at the your consciences. Because you once were darkness, but now are light, not in yourselves, but in the Lord, “walk as children of the light.” (Augustine, Sermon 226; PL 38, 1009)

April 20, 2019

Our daily baptism

Several of Augustine’s sermons have survived in which he prepared people to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. A few of them were given for the ceremony at which the Creed was given and explained to them–the traditio Symboli)–as he went through the Creed phrase by phrase. Here “the forgiveness of sins” is related not only to their upcoming baptism but to their daily prayer afterwards.

“The forgiveness of sins.” If this did not exist in the Church, there would be no hope. If there were no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of a future life and an eternal liberation. Thanks be to God who gave his Church this gift. You are about to come to the holy fountain; you will be washed by baptism; you will be renewed by the bath of regeneration; and you will be without sin when you come up out of that bath. All those past things that were pursuing you will be destroyed there. Your sins were like the Egyptians following, pursuing, the Israelites, but only up to the Red Sea. What does that mean: up to the Red Sea? Up to the fountain of Christ consecrated by the cross and blood of Christ. What is red makes red…. If you see the cross, notice the blood, too. If you see what is hanging there, notice what is flowing. The side of Christ was pierced by a lance and our price flowed out. Baptism is marked with the mark of Christ, that is, the water by which you were dyed and as it were passed through the Red Sea. Your sins are your enemies. They follow you, but only up to the sea. When you will enter that sea, you will escape and those sins will be destroyed, just as while the Israelites were escaping on to dry land, water covered the Egyptians. And what does Scripture say? “Not one of them remained” (Ps 105[106]: 11). Whether you sinned many times or sinned few times, whether you sinned greatly or sinned slightly: not even the least of them remains.

But because our victory is in this world, where no one lives without sin, the forgiveness of sins does not consist only in the washing of sacred Baptism, but also in the daily Lord’s Prayer that you will receive in eight days. In that prayer you will find as it were your daily baptism, and you will give thanks to God who gave this gift to his Church, the one we confess in the Symbol when, after saying “holy Church,” we add: ‘the forgiveness of sins.” (Augustine, Sermon 215, 8, PL 38, 1065)

April 19, 2019

Redefining ugliness and beauty

People occasionally ask me why this Friday is called “Good”. The answer lies in the simple, quiet liturgy of this day which does not give way to grief much less indulge in morose lingering over the pains Christ endured, but instead celebrates the fruit the tree of the Cross produced, as in the antiphon that may be sung while the Cross is being venerated: “We adore your Cross, O Lord, and we bless and praise your holy resurrection, for, behold, because of this tree joy has come to the whole world!” To know this joy, of course, requires that one find wisdom and power where others see only folly and weakness (1 Cor 1:22-25). In the two passages below, Augustine echoes the Apostle’s theme in terms of beauty and ugliness.

That “the Word was made flesh” is very beautiful to people who understand. “Far be it from me to glory,” said one of the friends of the Bridegroom,” except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14) It’s not enough that you are not ashamed by the cross; you must glory in it.

Why, then, is the Bridegroom said not to have any beauty or fairness (see Is 53:2-3)? Because Christ was crucified, a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But why did he have beauty on the cross? Because the folly of God is wiser than men, the weakness of God is stronger than men.

May the Bridegroom who is beauty wherever he is come to meet us who have come to believe. Beautiful as God, as the Word who is with God; beautiful in the womb of the Virgin, where he did not lose his divinity but assumed our humanity; beautiful when born, a Word who could not speak, because while he was still unable to speak, while he was being held and suckled, the heavens spoke, the Angels sang his praises, a star guided the Magi, he was adored in the manger, he who is food for the meek.

Beautiful, then, in heaven, beautiful on earth, beautiful in the womb, beautiful in the arms of his parents, beautiful when performing miracles; beautiful when being scourged; beautiful in his invitation to life; beautiful in his scorn of death; beautiful in surrendering his life and in taking it up again; beautiful on the cross, beautiful in the tomb, beautiful in heaven. (Augustine, En. in Ps. 44, 3)

 

Whoever loves me keeps my commandments, and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him.” And what will he give him? “And I will show myself to him” (Jn 14:21). This is what will be seen when he does what he said: “And I will show myself to him.” There you will see Gods justice; there, without a book, you will read it in the Word. When you will see him as he is, our wandering will be over, and we will rejoice with the joy of the angels.

And what is the way there? It is faith. For the sake of your faith, Christ became ugly, though Christ remains beautiful. The one more beautiful than the children of men will be seen after our wandering. But how is he seen now by faith? And we have seen him, and he had no beauty or comeliness; his face was abject, and his position ugly (that is, his power), despised and ugly was his position, a man considered a leper, and knowing how to bear infirmities (Is 53:2-3). Christ’s ugliness makes you beautiful. [Deformitas Christi te format]. For if he had not been willing to be ugly, you would not have regained the beauty which you had lost. He hung ugly on the cross, but his ugliness was our beauty. [deformitas illius pulchritudo nostra erat]

In this life, then, let us hold on to the ugly Christ. What does “ugly Christ” mean? “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). This is Christ’s ugliness…. This is the way: to believe in the one crucified. We bear the sign of this ugliness on our foreheads; let us not be ashamed at Christ’s ugliness. (Augustine, Sermon 27, 5-6; PL 38, 181)

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: