The Idea of Mysticism

Update:  I have expanded the introduction in a way that I hope will be helpful to understand why I am writing this series.  The addition is between the red brackets.

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With this post I am beginning a series on the notion of mysticism in its true and false senses and the practical implications that flow from both.  The word “mysticism” and its cognates are bandied about a lot without a proportionate amount of understanding, and for that reason we get ourselves into a great deal of trouble.

There are underlying issues around the discussion of mysticism regarding the more general question of the relation of nature and grace that this discussion will help us to think about more clearly.  For example, I believe that the clarifications given here may help us to restore a sense of the sacred while avoid confusing the merely natural with the action of God.  It might also help us clarify the relative value of theological opinions vis a vis the magisterial authority of the Church, as well as discern between true movements of the Holy Spirit and those which are merely human, or even demonic. Continue reading

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This is the Christmas Story…

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This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel!”

Christopher West

Interesting that he never mentions anything relative to the infancy of Christ, or to the nature of filiation in the context of Christmas.  Not that there is any contradiction between the nuptial and filial mysteries in Christianity.  I just thought the primary idea is that the Son of God became the Son of Mary and that our baptism into Christ before anything else was a rebirth.

Did you know that . . .

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Did you know that the Jordan River Valley is actually the deepest valley on earth? In Christ’s Baptism, creation opens at her depths to receive her Creator; the heavenly Bridegroom “espouses” the earth to himself, filling (“impregnating”) her waters with the power to “bring forth sons to a new and immortal life.”

Christopher West pornifies the Baptism of Our Lord.

God help us.

From a Cor Thoughts email via The Cor Project.

A Modest Proposal

I would like to suggest the reason why I believe there may be a discrepancy between the way saints in previous times enforced the norms of modesty, and why the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not seem to promote those standards, at least not explicitly.  This is a follow-up on my previous post, and especially on the comments which were pretty heated.

The catechism states “the forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another.”  By extension, I would say also that these forms can also vary with time.  Even the solutions provided by the saints vary, though clearly they are all very strict, at least the ones presented in the comments from my last post on this subject.  But if St. Pio required eight inches below the knee for skirts, this is more than twice as strict, so to speak, as what was indicated by Pius XII.  This tells me that the solutions are pastoral.  In effect they are contingent applications of an unchanging principle.  Such contingent applications do, in fact, depend on many things, not excluding the person doing the enforcing.  What St. Pio might successfully accomplish by his strictness in an area of Southern Italy prior to or preserved from the sexual revolution, is different from what I might successfully accomplish now in secular England. Continue reading

Marian Modesty

We are not called to be mimics of the Blessed Mother, dressing as would be appropriate for a first-century Palestinian peasant woman (e.g., long veils, skirts to the floor, sandals). We are called to imitate the Blessed Mother in her virtues. In terms of modesty, that might mean dressing in a way that is appropriate to one’s culture and circumstances, not drawing undue attention to oneself either in one’s dress or undress, remaining circumspect about one’s own choices, and not denouncing the reasonable choices of others.

Overall, I agree with this article of Michelle Arnold.  However, what tends to happen in discussions about modesty is that those on one side of the debate tend to present a caricature of the other side or generalize too much about the habits of the other side.  In particular, I disagree with her remark about Fatima.  I believe it is pretty clear what fashions Our Lady was referring to: the ones that lead many souls to hell.  Enough said.

But I believe she is spot on with the last sentence in the quote.  Modesty is both objective and subjective: it has to do both with the manner of dress and behavior of the one who is looked at, and the internal dispositions of the one who looks (or doesn’t look). Continue reading

McGuiness Channels Christopher West

Complete with U2 reference.

Kevin Tierney provides a great summary critique of Matt McGuiness‘ attempt to look give porn a second look.

I guess I am really slow on the take, but a “second look” at porn strikes me a rather sordid metaphor.

Anyway, as I pointed out in my commentary on McGuiness’ first installment, this commentary on the education of desire at best says nothing more than what we were all taught in the Catechism, that sin is the result of deception.  We think we will find happiness in things that appear to be good but really are not.

Anything involving ecstasy and communion in particular way points to the transcendent experience of communion with God.  Even the most depraved behavior is some way is a perversion of something built in by God.  Even so, I think we are pushing the limits of theologizing if we think that pornography as pornography supplies us with any new information.  In fact, the Playboy culture barely gives a nod to personal communion.  Hugh Hefner has been the great reducer of women to the status of nameless paper dolls. The consumer response is not complicated. Really.

In Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Virtue of Purity

Matt McGuiness has posted his second installment of “A Second Look at Porn.”  He was criticized a great deal for part one, by Dawn Eden, Kevin Obrien, Kevin Tierney, and yours truly.  Dawn Eden has already posted her comments on the new piece on her blog at Patheos:  “Confession is Not a Waste of Time.”  An excellent contribution.

I am in agreement with most of what McGuiness says.  However, in the interests of making an argument for something important, he does what apologists too often do, which is to minimize those things which are not the thing he wants to emphasize.  McGuiness wants to emphasize the education of desire and an appreciation for what he calls “elementary experience.”  In the process, however, he caricatures elements of the ascetical life like prayer, penance and the sacraments.

If the multinational corporations have a “wonderful plan” for our lives (and they do), sometimes church people offer us “solutions” that alienate us from ourselves no less than the spinning wheel of production and consumption. Some within the Church will tell us to ignore the infinite need that makes our hearts restless and just plunge into Catholic practices and pious devotions. Never mind the meaning, “Just do it.” Here’s a sample checklist: start going to daily Mass, pray the rosary, make a holy hour, try this novena, frequent confession more often, do some twelve step program, go to a Catholic conference, be virtuous. You get the picture.

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To assume that …

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To assume that “moral evil’ is just a distorted good, and that therefore, there is no such thing as moral evil, its being just an absence (as darkness is lack of light) and claim moreover that moral Evil pure and simple does not exist, is misinterpreting the Divine statement in Genesis: God saw that His creation was very good and extend it to man’s actions. All the beings that God brought into existence are – in Aristotelian terminology “substances” – possessing qualities called accidents. An act of murder, rape, sadism, sodomy are not “substances” but alas, they are fearful facts.

The act itself is a sin, and sins are not distorted goods, but grave offenses of God, which not only separate the sinner from God, but moreover, deeply stain the sinner’s soul, and moreover, in most cases, wound and hurt other beings. This is why sin is a terrible reality. Original sin was so grave that it cut off man from his Creator, and created an abyss between Creator and creature that only God’s infinite goodness could span. It would be strange indeed if God had decided to send His divine Son to earth, have Him incarnated in the womb of a Virgin and destine Him to a shameful and horrendous death, just for mending the harm done by a “distorted” good.

At this point one wishes to have the eloquence of a Cicero, inspired by the writings of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, in which he condemns in the strongest possible words (see Rom.1:18) all the perversions and moral abominations abhorred by the Apostle of the Gentiles, being full fledged realities, and not just distorted goods. Alas, they are fully real acts of revolt. Non serviam. In other words, sexual perversions, immorality, theft, murder, sadism, rape are totally and exclusively man’s doings, and have nothing to do with the goodness of God’s creation. These evils are committed by man alone after creation was completed. The viciousness of these acts is man’s full responsibility and can never be viewed as “an absence or distortion” of something good that God had created.

The very badly needed brilliance of Alice von Hildebrand.

Note to Matt McGuiness: Please read.

H/T William Doino

Deliverance from Pornography

Here we go on to the next phase of the “redemption of desire” pop-spirituality ride.  Matt McGuiness urges us to take “a second look at porn,” so that we can get in touch with the fact that illicit sexual desire is really a misguided attempt at finding happiness.  Did I miss something?  Isn’t that what Catholics have always believed?  Isn’t all sin the choice of an apparent but false good over what is truly good in an attempt to be happy?

Of course, what separates the search for real happiness from that of its counterfeit is a lie.  In his opening, McGuiness treats the lie of sodomy rather glibly with a raunchy pop-reference.  Unfortunately, those things that St. Paul says must not even be named among you (Eph 5:3) are now part of the cultural fabric, so they have to be dealt with. But if it is true that a lie told over and over again gains plausibility just by the retelling, then our casual familiarity with depravity gives the perverse and diabolical an air of normality.  The devil must be given his due:  now we give porn a second look because it teaches us how happy we want to be.  The problem with pornography according to McGuiness: it does not go far enough.  I think McGuiness has taken the bait.

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