Sunday, March 27, 2016

Uniqueness of Christ’s resurrection

WE find that many arose from the dead, such as Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44), the son of the widow (Lk 7:11-16), and the daughter of the Ruler of the synagogue (Mk 5:35-43). But the resurrection of Christ differed from the resurrection of these and of all others in four points.

(1) Christ’s resurrection differed from that of all others in its cause. Those others who arose did so not of their own power, but either by the power of Christ or through the prayers of some Saint. Christ, on the contrary, arose by His own power, because He was not only Man but also God, and the Divinity of the Word was at no time separated either from His soul or from His body. Therefore, His body could, whenever He desired, take again the soul, and His soul the body: “I lay down My life, that I may take it again.... And I have power to lay it down; and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:18). Christ truly died, but not because of weakness or of necessity but rather of His own will entirely and by His own power. This is seen in that moment when He yielded up the Spirit; He cried out with a loud voice (Mt 27:50), which could not be true of others at the moment of dying, because they die out of weakness... For this the centurion said: “Indeed, this was the Son of God” (Mt 27:54). By that same power whereby He gave up His soul, He received it again; and hence the Creed says, “He arose again,” because He was not raised up as if by anyone else. “I have slept and have taken My rest; and I have risen up” (Ps 3:6). Nor can this be contrary to these words, “This Jesus God raised again” (Acts 2:32), because both the Father and the Son raised Him up, since one and the same power is of the Father and the Son.

(2) Christ’s resurrection was different as regards the life to which He arose. Christ arose again to a glorious and incorruptible life: “Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom 6:4). The others, however, were raised to that life which they had before, as seen of Lazarus and the others.

(3) Christ’s resurrection was different also in effect and efficacy. In virtue of the resurrection of Christ all shall rise again: “And many bodies of the saints that had slept arose” (Mt 28:52). The Apostle declares that “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep” (1 Cor 15:20). But also note that Christ by His Passion arrived at glory: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?” (Lk 24:26). And this is to teach us how we also may arrive at glory: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21).

(4) Christ’s resurrection was different in point of time. Christ arose on the third day; but the resurrection of the others is put off until the end of the world. The reason for this is that the resurrection and death and nativity of Christ were “for our salvation” (Nicene Creed), and thus He wished to rise again at a time when it would be of profit to us. Now, if He had risen immediately, it would not have been believed that He died; and similarly, if He had put it off until much later, the disciples would not have remained in their belief, and there would have been no benefit from His Passion. He arose again, therefore, on the third day, so that it would be believed that He died, and His disciples would not lose faith in him.


From all this we can take four things for our instruction. Firstly, let us endeavor to arise spiritually, from the death of the soul which we incur by our sins, to that life of justice which is had through penance: “Rise, you who sleep, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten you” (Eph 5:14). This is the first resurrection: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection” (Rev 20:6).

Secondly, let us not delay to rise until our death, but do it at once, since Christ arose on the third day: “Delay not to be converted to the Lord; and defer it not from day to day” (Sir 5:8). You will not be able to consider what pertains to salvation when weighed down by illness, and, moreover, by persevering in sin, you will lose part of all the good which is done in the Church, and you will incur many evils. Indeed, the longer you possess the devil, the harder it is to put him away, as St. Bede tells us.

Thirdly, let us rise up again to an incorruptible life in that we may not die again, but resolve to sin no more: “Knowing that Christ, rising again from the dead, dies now no more. Death shall no more have dominion over Him.... So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead” (Rom 6:9,11-14).

Fourthly, let us rise again to a new and glorious life by avoiding all that which formerly were the occasions and the causes of our death and sin: “As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). This new life is the life of justice which renews the soul and leads it to the life of glory.

~St. Thomas Aquinas: in The Apostles' Creed, Art. 5.

No. 37. Scenes from the Life of Christ: 21. Resurrection (Noli me tangere).
By Giotto di Bondone.
Fresco, 1304-06; Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder

He [Aristotle] points out that perplexity and wonder arise from ignorance. For when we see certain obvious effects whose cause we do not know, we wonder about their cause. And since wonder was the motive which led men to philosophy, it is evident that the philosopher is, in a sense, a philomyth, i.e., a lover of myth, as is characteristic of the poets. Hence the first men to deal with the principles of things in a mythical way, such as Perseus and certain others who were the seven sages, were called the theologizing poets. Now the reason why the philosopher is compared to the poet is that both are concerned with wonders. For the myths with which the poets deal are composed of wonders, and the philosophers themselves were moved to philosophize as a result of wonder. And since wonder stems from ignorance, they were obviously moved to escape from ignorance. It is accordingly evident from all this that “they pursued” knowledge, or diligently sought it, only for itself and not for any utility or usefulness.

Now we must note that, while this science was first designated by the name wisdom, this was later changed to the name philosophy, since they mean the same thing. For while the ancients who pursued the study of wisdom were called sophists, i.e., wise men, Pythagoras, when asked what he professed himself to be, refused to call himself a wise man as his predecessors had done, because he thought this was presumptuous, but called himself a philosopher, i.e., a lover of wisdom. And from that time the name “wise man” was changed to “philosopher,” and “wisdom” to “philosophy.” This name also contributes something to the point under discussion, for that man seems to be a lover of wisdom who seeks wisdom, not for some other reason, but for itself alone. For he who seeks one thing on account of something else, has greater love for that on whose account he seeks than for that which he seeks.

~St. Thomas Aquinas: “Commentary in Aristotle’s Metaphysics,” Book One, Lesson 3, para. 55-56. 

● Commentary available at St. Augustine's Press

Pythagoras (the man in the center with the book) teaching music.
 Fresco by Raphael, The School of Athens.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Adler: Some Questions about Language

Recommended reading:
Some Questions about Language: A Theory of Human Discourse and Its Objects b
y Mortimer Jerome Adler

Some Questions about Language culminates in the author’s lifetime concern with basic problems in the philosophy of language. Initiated fifty years ago at Columbia University, carried forward at the University of Chicago and at St. John’s College in Annapolis, and maturing with investigations and discussions undertaken at the Institute for Philosophical Research, the theory expounded in this book provides solutions to certain problems concerning human language. It does not claim to solve all the problems that have been raised by Philosophers, but it does claim to answer the two or three most fundamental of the philosophical questions.” (Open Court Publishing Co., 1976)

"The case of Muhammad"

"ON the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this. The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning. Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be. seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Contra Gentiles, Bk. I, Chap. 6.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Different Kinds of Rule

"IF, therefore, a multitude of free men is ordered by the ruler towards the common good of the multitude, that rulership will be right and just, as is suitable to free men. If, on the other hand, a rulership aims, not at the common good of the multitude, but at the private good of the ruler, it will be an unjust and perverted rulership. The Lord, therefore, threatens such rulers, saying by the mouth of Ezekiel: “Woe to the shepherds that feed themselves (seeking, that is, their own interest): should not the flocks be fed by the shepherd?” Shepherds indeed should seek the good of their flocks, and every ruler, the good of the multitude subject to him."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: On Kingship (De Regno), Book I, Chap. 2─Different Kinds of Rule.

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