Tag Archives: Catholicism

Feast of St. Dominic, Founder of the Order of Preachers

St. Dominic, historically speaking, is an interesting figure. Or, rather, the lack of history surrounding him is interesting. Unlike many religious orders which seek to emulate their founder, the Dominicans are less interested in becoming an alter Dominicus. He was born, gave us the Order of Preachers, poured his life out for the sake of others, and went on to his eternal reward.  Nevertheless, we do know a few things. He was born in Castilian territory around 1171 (though possibly as late as 1173). Before his birth, his mother received a vision of a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth, setting the world on fire. This signified that St. Dominic would go out and set the world on fire with his preaching. He was brought up to be a priest – his education having been the responsibility of his uncle, an archpriest. He first founded a community of women (who had converted from being Cathars to Catholics and were thus distanced from their families) in Prouille in 1206, and finally the Order of Preachers in 1216. He was known to spend long nights in the chapel, weeping and asking God, “What will become of sinners?” He died on August 6th, 1221. His feast on the traditional calendar is August 4th and on the new calendar is today, the 8th. So this week is doubly blessed by St. Dominic’s presence.

Fanjeaux Dominic

My favorite story about St. Dominic comes from Jordan of Saxony’s Libellus de principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum (Book on the beginning of the Order of Preachers). Dominic had traveled to Fanjeaux, a town in France which was a known Cathar stronghold. Public disputations with the Cathars were common.  Jordan writes:

 

24. One day a famous disputation was being held at Fanjeaux and a large number
of the faithful and unbelievers had gathered. Many of the former had written their
own books containing arguments and authorities in support of the faith. After
these books had been inspected, the one written by Blessed Dominic was
commended above the others and unanimously accepted. Accordingly, his book
and that produced by the heretics were presented to three judges chosen with the
assent of both sides, with the understanding that the side whose book was chosen
as the more reasonable defense should be regarded as having the superior faith.

25. After much wrangling, the judges came to no decision. Then they decided to
cast both books into a fire and, if either of them was not burned, it would be held
as containing the true faith. So they built a huge fire and cast the books therein.
The heretical book was immediately consumed by the fire, but the one written by
the man of God, Dominic, not only escaped burning, but, in the sight of all, leaped
far from the fire. For a second and a third time, it was cast into the fire, but each
time it leaped back and thereby openly testified to the truth of its doctrine and
the holiness of the person who had written it.

 

A humorous addition: https://thejesuitpost.org/2014/04/whether-the-society-of-jesus-is-greater-than-the-order-of-preachers/ 

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2 Peter and the Transfiguration

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ.Transfiguration_by_Feofan_Grek_from_Spaso-Preobrazhensky_Cathedral_in_Pereslavl-Zalessky_(15th_c,_Tretyakov_gallery).jpeg

Οὐ γὰρ σεσοφισμένοις μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες ἐγνωρίσαμεν ὑμῖν τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δύναμιν καὶ παρουσίαν ἀλλ’ ἐπόπται γενηθέντες τῆς ἐκείνου μεγαλειότητος. λαβὼν γὰρ παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς τιμὴν καὶ δόξαν φωνῆς ἐνεχθείσης αὐτῷ τοιᾶσδε ὑπὸ τῆς μεγαλοπρεποῦς δόξης, Ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός μου οὗτός ἐστιν εἰς ὅν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα, καὶ ταύτην τὴν φωνὴν ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμεν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἐνεχθεῖσαν σὺν αὐτῷ ὄντες ἐν τῷ ἁγίῳ ὄρει.

For we followed not craftily devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were made eyewitnesses of his greatness. Receiving from God the Father the honor and glory, such a voice was brought upon him by the majestic glory, “This is my beloved Son – this is the one in whom I am well-pleased.” And we heard this voice borne from Heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1.16-18)

 

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Trinitarian Questions and Mormon Accounts of the “Great Apostasy”

I’m currently reading some essays from a book titled Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy.  Each essay is written by a different author and covers a different subject. I have long been interested in the Latter Day Saints and particularly their concept of the “Great Apostasy” – i.e., the idea that early Christianity fell almost immediately into decline and (as it typically goes), with the death of the last Apostle, Christianity ceased to have a priesthood or authority. This decline narrative isn’t unique to the LDS, but the way they employ it is interesting.standing-apart

One of the essays I have read is by Lincoln Blumell, a professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. He notes in his essay that:

it may be noted that the term Trinity (Grk. τριάς; Lat. trinitas) is not used with any technical meaning, as it would be in subsequent centuries, to define and circumscribe the relationship existing among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (“Rereading the Council of Nicaea and Its Creed,” p. 197)

He points to Clement of Alexandria in the footnote and admits that Clement does use the phrase ἁγία τριάς  in Book IV of the Stromateis, but there it refers to the trinity of “faith, hope, and love” from 1 Cor 13.13. This is true indeed. However, Clement also uses the phrase in Book V of the very same book to discuss the actual Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The opening of the 14th chapter of the 5th book indicates that Clement is going to demonstrate how the Greeks borrowed heavily from and misinterpreted Hebrew wisdom. He writes,

τὰ δ’ ἑξῆς <προσ>αποδοτέον καὶ τὴν ἐκ τῆς βαρβάρου φιλοσοφίας Ἑλληνικὴν κλοπὴν σαφὲστερον ἤδη παραστατὲον.
Now it must be shown with greater clarity the Greek plagiarism of the philosophy of the Barbarians (Hebrews).
Then, in 5.14.103, Clement writes:
οὑκ ἄλλως ἔγωγε ἐξακούω ἤ τὴν ἁγίαν τριάδα μηνύεσθαι. τρίτον μὲν γὰρ εἶναι τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, τὸν υἱὸν δὲ δεύτερον, δι’ οὗ “πάντα ἐγένετο” κατὰ βούλησιν τοῦ πατρός.
I understand it [the subject of the passage from Plato] to be nothing other than the Holy Trinity, for the third is the Holy Spirit, the second the Son, the one through whom “all things came to be” according to the will of the Father.
Dr. Blumell’s footnote, quoted in part below, seems misleading:
Similarly, Clement of Alexandria is the first to use the phrase “holy trinity/triad” (ἁγία τριάς) but has it refer to the attributes of “faith, hope, and love” when discussing 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Clement indeed does use it to refer to the triad found in 1 Cor 13, but the footnote seems to imply this is the only time he uses it. This is clearly wrong, as demonstrated here. Perhaps this isn’t the sort of “technical language” Blumell is discussing, but I’m not sure exactly what he means by the phrase. Clement refers to the Word being God repeatedly throughout his works, though he does distinguish Him from the Father. However, every good Trinitarian does. Blumell makes another point here that seems unclear – he says that many of the Fathers in the second and third centuries “regarded Jesus as subordinate to and distinct from the Father.” (p. 197). With respect to subordinationism, it is true among some, though not as many, I think, as often stated (e.g. I think Origen’s “subordinationism” is totally overblown in the secondary literature). But as said above – every Trinitarian today thinks the Word is not the Father.
At any rate,  I’m not trying to impose a post-4th century Trinitarianism on the 2nd century, but it’s not as dire as Blumell is making it out to be. There is reference to the Trinity long before Nicaea and the word is used to discuss the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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The Agnus Dei Explained

Though the majority of Catholics in America attend Masses almost entirely in English, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) is something that is often sung in Latin. If you have ever wondered what each word means in the song, here you go:

Agnus     Dei           qui                        tollis                        peccata             mundi

Lamb   of God      (you)who            takes away                   the sins           of the world

miserere                        nobis

have mercy                    on us                          (x 2)

Agnus     Dei           qui                        tollis                        peccata             mundi

Lamb   of God      (you)who            takes away                   the sins           of the world

dona             nobis                pacem

grant             to us                 peace

The initial line comes from John 1.29 where John the Baptizer says, “Ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἀμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου” – Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

A few grammatical notes, for those interested:

qui is a relative pronoun and it means “who”. It is most often used with 3rd singular verbs, just like in English. “I saw a man who loves ice cream.” However, Latin will sometimes use it with a 2nd singular verb, which here is tollis (you take away/lift up/raise/destroy). So it’s “you who takes away the sins”.

miserere is an imperative, a command. “Have mercy”.

dona likewise is an imperative. “grant” or “give.” You can see it is related to the word “donation.”

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