Monday, February 27, 2012

The Lutheran Aquinas.

I recently ran across this quote from Saint Thomas on justifying grace. I think it sums up really well the catholic understanding of grace, which does not overwhelm or destroy our nature, but raises and perfects it.
God does not justify us without ourselves, because while we are being justified we consent to God’s justification by a movement of our free will. Nevertheless this movement is not the cause of grace, but the effect; hence the whole operation pertains to grace. (Summa,I-II, q. 111, a.2, ad.2)
Catholic Christianity rejects both the Pelagian idea of an autonomous will, and determinism. For Aquinas, just as much as for Luther, salvation is grace through and through, but while Luther seems (at least at times) to have believed that any human cooperation meant a diminishment of grace, Aquinas believed that the human will moved by God, could genuinely cooperate. Not to use Luther's words against him, but I think in this case "his thoughts of God were too human," and he seems to have placed God's causality on the same level as ours. I think St. Thomas helps us out of many of the knottier problems of Protestant theology on this point.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Recent Aesthetic Encounters

Two artistic projects have recently caught my attention, and I feel like sharing them with all y'all here at the blog. The first of these, is Dappled Things.
Dappled Things is a relatively new journal of Catholic art and writing including essays, poetry and short fiction. I am saving up my meager student income for a subscription, but for now much of the content is available on the website. I highly recommend it, if you have any interest in the intersection between faith and art, whether you are Catholic or not. Roman Catholics, I find, are particularly good at creating art that deals with religious themes without being "religious fiction" in the sense of thumping a heavy hand on a bible every few sentences. For an example, see any piece of fiction by Miss Flannery O'Connor; judging by the content of Dappled Things, she seems to be their unofficial patron saint, which is a good sign. I also note that their definition of what makes a piece of art "Catholic" is not at all narrow, although they ask that it engage in some way with the Catholic tradition, even if only in a very subtle way.

The second glorious artistic discovery for me has been Spark.
Spark is a collaborative effort between artists working in different media. The 15th round just finished, and the art is going up on the online gallery over the next week. Two artists, say a writer and a photographer, are randomly paired. Each sends the the other an "Inspiration piece," some work in their medium, and each takes about 10 days to come up with a response inspired by what they were sent. The idea is to stretch yourself by both the time constraint and by trying to get inspiration from a new sort of subject.

I was introduced to Spark by the Wonderful Author of Without a Map, who has been participating for a few years. Despite my intense reserve about sharing my creative work others I decided to go ahead and participate in this round and you can read my short story, inspired by a lovely photograph from Mr. Brian MacDonald, here. At some point, my inspiration piece (a poem) should also be up, with Mr. MacDonald's response. While I am not terribly happy with my story, I think it had good elements, and it was worth writing just to know I could write a piece given the constraints.
I highly encourage those creative types who happen to read the blog to think about participating in the next round of Spark!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The collect for Ash Wednesday is one of my favorites for the whole year. I long to have that secound clause written on my heart: God who hatest nothing that thou hast made...
Lent is really one of my favorite times of year, because it is, above all, a time to reflect on the mercy of God.
While it is hardly traditional, here is a little musical reflection on that theme, from one of my all time favorites, Mr. Tom Waits.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Society of the Holy Cross, take 2

Well, I am happy to say that our little chapter of the Pusey Guild has hit its second year (roughly). We had two new inductees this year. Fr. Ralph Walker, Master of the SSC in the Americas celebrated low mass this past Wednesday, and gave us many words of encouragement. My hope is that the guild will continue to grow and thrive at Trinity. It continues to be a great blessing to me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is the Ordinariate Anglican?

That's a question I have had on my mind ever since the Apostolic constitution appeared. I have been thinking about it again in the last couple months with the appointment of Msgr. Steenson as Ordinary in this country. Back a couple year ago I would have answered the question in the fashion of Herr Professor Barth: "NEIN!"

Having had a little time to cool down and watch the progress of my brothers and sisters in the Ordinariate, I have moderated my position significantly. I am not, and have never been, an Anglo-Papalist. I am a classical Anglo-Catholic, a Tractarian and an unapologetic Ritualist, but I believe in Episcopal and conciliar government of the Church. I do think the Pope has a special role of authority in the Church, but I do not accept the doctrines of infallibility or (even less) universal jurisdiction. Hence, my total lack of interest in the Ordinarite when it was first announced. I still have no plans to move in that direction, for the same reasons.

I have been to one Ordinariate mass so far, at St. Luke's in Bladensburg, MD, and what was amazing to me was how much I felt at home. The worst part of the service was not receiving the Eucharist, because I felt very much that these were my people, these were Anglicans and Catholics in the senses that mattered. I sensed no bitterness or anger from the congregation, or the preacher, Msgr. Keith Newton; only joy and gratitude.

Now there are a lot of reasons why you could claim that the Ordinariate is not really Anglican, but most of the criticisms I have heard come down to this: You can't be an Anglican and be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. But if a Church defines itself by being not in communion with another church, I have to say I think it has crossed the line into being a sect. Christ's call is for unity, and a Church that has ceased pursuing unity is in grave sin and needs to repent.

There are more sophisticated theological critiques of the Ordinariate. Obviously, I don't agree with all of their theology. But I have equally strong or stronger disagreements with Anglicans in, oh, say Sydney Australia, who are officially part of the Anglican Communion. So until some one comes up with a really clear definition of Anglicanism, I think the Ordinariate is Anglican.

Sorry, readers, if this is a debate you are not part of and find boring. It's the sort of thing that comes up in my world though, so I figured I would throw my hat in the ring in defense of the Ordinariate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

(almost) Turkish Coffee

I am afraid the blog is getting a little random as I find myself occupied elsewhere. I suppose I will have to accept that for the time being, and tell my perfectionist side to take a hike. But anyway, Coffee is one of my little obsessions. I am working on getting to the point where I can roast my own coffee beans.
So here is a little recipe for Pseudo-Turkish Coffee.
Ideally, you should obtain the Special Turkish grinder, and an ibrik, the lovely little copper pot for making Turkish and Greek Coffee. If you can afford to buy these things, so much the better. I can't.
So My recipe is simple. When you grind your coffee, add one pod of Cardamom. Cardamom can be expensive, so I recommend buying it from an Indian grocery, or possibly from Penzey's Spices. I also recommend black Cardamom, which has a smoky sweet flavor that I think goes better with the coffee. Again, the only place I know to obtain Black Cardamom is Penzy's. Seriously, Penzy's is awesome.

Put the grounds in your French press, with water that is just below boiling. Then let it all steep for about four minutes. If you don't have a french press, I really, really recommend one. They make coffee that is so much better than anything you will get from an auto drip brewer.
Pour into a small cup, and add sugar and milk to taste. Extra sugar, of course, is good for "Turkish" style coffee.