Christian Life/Personal Holiness: September 2004 Archives

Moody's Definitions of Love


from Carmel, Land of the Soul
Carolyn Humphreys

Dwight Moody gives these expressions of love: "Joy is love exalted. Peace is love in repose. Long suffering is love enduring. Gentleness is love in society. Goodness is love in action. Faith is love on the battlefield. Meekness is love in school and temperance is love in training."

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Excerpted from a Sermon by Father John Sullivan, OCD

Quite aware of how adversity can erode one's willingness to be kind to others, he [St. John of the Cross] still was able to write the following piece of advice to a religious, a scant five months before he died four centuries ago: "Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and there you will draw out love." Here one has a reliable recipe for happiness: Instead of waiting for love to happen, put it to work and you will then harvest its fruits.

We can be bitter, suspicious, and dubious. Or we can choose to live the life Jesus has granted us to live.

I found this notion salutary as we enter our season of elections. We do well to bear in mind how our personal preferences affect our view of all parties contending in this election. And "where there is no love, put love," in the substantive form of ardent prayer for all of the people involved and for our nation. "And we will draw love out."

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Becoming One in Christ

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Today I stumbled across one of the few good things I have found in a book by Alan Jones.

from Soulmaking
Alan Jones

The device of the vocal quartet, becoming a quintet, becoming a sextet, and on and on--until everyone is singing is a vivid metaphor for the truth that each of us sings our own unique melody, and all contribute to one great and glorious sound: all sounds mix and rise together to become unending music. It is thus that I find my "home" in harmony with all other creatures. . .

The Christian understanding of God is concerned with holding together unity and diversity. And the belief in God as the Holy and Undivided Trinity speaks directly to our desire to be one without being swallowed up. . . .

The other day I read a blog post--either a post or a comment in which the commenter suggested that our goal as Christians is to all become one and thus lose any individual identity we would have. I had a number of thoughts about this. For example--then why create individuals? Wouldn't it do just as well to create some sort of syncitial organism (with respect to souls) that incorporates all in one? Doesn't God cherish each of us individually, as we love each of our children for their own unique personalities and aspects? Somehow the idea of being blended together in a big grey mass of personality doesn't seem particularly heavenly or delightful. And why would it entail a resurrection of the body? If one were to simply become one in Christ without identity, what point?

But this notion of oneness--the idea of individual voices all singing the individual melodies that blend together to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. This seems (pardon the pun) sound and accurate. The Saints--those whose lives more closer mirror oneness in Christ than does my own--they are each unique, individual, separate. Each one has a distinct personality, each one distinct talents, each one a special mission.

So perhaps becoming one in Christ is harmonizing with all around--singing our own God-given melody in such a way that it unites those around us and corporately moves all of us closer to salvation. In Calvinist theology, salvation is a very lonely, one-on-one business. And to some degree that is truth (I think). My own salvation necessarily impacts others, but it does not necessarily "save" them. And yet I think there are ways of thinking about salvation that are not so lonely, and the Church has long recognized the communal aspect to salvation. Our actions do affect one another (one of the reasons for the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation) and we can be effective instruments of grace to our traveling companions. We harmonize with those around us. We learn our own parts, and coach others in learning their's in such a way as to make the greatest sound of joy to the Lord. Imagine the glorious sound of a octogiga-et, a sound, that ironically could be channeled back to the beginning of time (as suggested by the Ainur at the beginning of The Silmarillion and sing creation into being. A truly wonderful ouroboros.

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Floridians all over the state anxiously check the NOAA site on the web to see where Ivan is heading. If they check with each update they see amazing swings in the five day forecast. Two days ago, Ivan was on a crash-course for Appalachicola Bay; yesterday early morning, he was coming straight up the penisula through the everglades; yesterday mid-morning he was following a Charley-like course; yesterday evening he was back in the gulf. This morning he is crashing into Tampa/St. Pete and heading north.

Why can't they seem to decide what he's doing? This, in large, is the central difficulty with any weather forecasting beyond the most immediate future. Weather, like a great many other natural phenomena is essentially a chaotic system. The truth of this was uncovered by the mathematical models of Edward Lorenz in the 1960s. His work gave rise to the dictum that "The flapping of a butterfly's wings over Peking will change the weather in Washington three days later."

What chaos theory tells us is that most natural situations are weakly deterministic. That is, they are not merely random occurrences, but that what happens today has roots that go back days, months, years, perhaps even to the very beginnings of time. And this is part of what I love about Chaos theory--because whether they recognize it or not, scientists who ascribe to it, ascribe to a reasonable proof of the existence of God.

Chaos theory, in some small part, reflects on the question of free will and determinism. I have not considered deeply enough what the ramifications of such a reflection are, but I find them both intriguing and worthy of consideration. God wishes that all will be saved, there is every possibility that some, perhaps many will be lost, but the driving dynamic of the system is the vector toward salvation. The "unknown" factor in the equation, the variable as it were that introduces the chaotic dynamic, is free will. God may know the outcome, but those of us on Earth see a violent lurching first toward and then away from Home and Heart. These erratic motions make no sense unless we understand them as the motions of free-will on a body already in motion sending it into currents and eddies that are not predictable to the human mind; however, God knows everything. Everything we say can't be known--the famous Heisenberg uncertainty (you cannot know both the velocity and the position of an electron or sub atomic particle)--even the outcome of the day's weather is known and has been known by God from the beginning.

Nothing is uncertain with Him and our hope lies in the fact that He is the dynamic system behind it all. It is His will that is the driving motivation behind all of our motions. Now, we can go with the flow or spin off in any of seven million directions (Strait is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to salvation, but that unto destruction is broad and wide and smooth). Nevertheless, at each stage, at each point along the way, the overriding dynamic comes back into play. And at any point we can choose to abandon our own willfulness and allow the dynamic of Love to carry us Home to Him who drives all things toward salvation.

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Apparently King James himself developed fifteen rules for the translation of the Bible that he ordered. In these rules we see a remarkable wisdom, indeed, in one so vain and so full of himself, we see the light of the Holy Spirit Himself, assuring a translation that would guide His people for a great many years and resonate throughout all of our literature for four centuries and more. Much of what we read after this translation of the Bible was deeply influenced by its cadences and its beauty.

There are two major points of these fifteen precepts I want to touch upon. One serious, and one quite humorous.

from God’s Secretaries
Adam Nicolson

4. When a word hath divers Significations, that to be kept which hath ben most commonly used by the most of the ancient Fathers being agreeable to the propertie of ye place and the analogies of fayth.

The Church of England, like the Church of Rome, but unlike the more fully reformed churches of Europe, relied for its understanding of the often complex texts of scripture on the ancient inherited traditions of Christianity, the statements and resolutions of the councils of the early church and the great body of patristic scholarship, in particular those church fathers—above all Jerome, St John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Origen—of whom sixteenth-century English scholars, including several of the Translators, had made a particular study. This instruction is part of that widespread Reformation phenomenon, the search for primitive authenticity, for avoiding all hint of dreaded ‘innovation,’ looking for true meaning in the most ancient and hence most reliable texts. This too is a mark of the moderate: a historical consciousness and a sense that the world now has fallen away from the more perfect state in which it once existed.

Whether we like the fact or not, the King James Version of the Bible was guided by very “Catholic” understandings of the meaning of Scripture. We tend to think of the times as Puritan, and because the translation was eventually embraced by the Protestant Church, we tend to regard KJV as somehow “sullied” by its Protestant provenance. However, if one were to judge objectively on the base of guiding principles, the notion of interpreting scripture by Tradition is very, very Catholic.

This, coupled with another James’s edicts (7) that there should be no marginal notes beyond those required to clarify linguistic difficulties, actually resulted in a translation that was far from partisan. To quote Nicolson, “ The words of this translation, then, could embrace both gorgeousness and ambiguity, did not have to settle into a single doctrinal mode but could embrace different meanings, either within the text itself or in the margins. This is the heart of the new Bible as an irenicon, an organism that absorbed and integrated difference, that included ambiguity and by doing so established peace. “ The resultant work could reflect both the difficulties of translation and the multiplicity of meanings inherent in written language in such a way as to create both a profound work of literature and a meaningful instance of the Word of God. What is most interesting is that the tension between the Puritan Translators and the Anglican Translators forced the Anglicans into a more “high church” mode resulting in adherence to Catholic Traditions (which, of course, they insisted were “reformed” by the true Church founded by Henry VIII). Whatever the cause, James’s edict for the translation resulted in a deep, meaningful, and fruitful translation that has yet to be equaled in beauty, if not in clarity. (I will point out though, that it was clear enough to my grandfather and his generation—my Grandfather himself having graduated only 8th grade. (This could be likened today to having graduated from a junior college at least.)

Anyway, now for the more amusing point, which was actually a side note to the main body of the text. One of James’s rules stated that the names of persons in the Bible should remain as names and not be translated into what they meant. Thus, Timothy was to remain Timothy and not be translated as “Fear of God.”

Bancroft himself had written about the absurdity of calling your children ‘The Lord-is-near, More-trial, Reformation, More-fruit, Dust and many other such-like.’ These were not invented. Puritan children at Warbleton in Sussex, the heartland of this practice laboured under the names of Eschew-evil, Lament, No-merit, Sorry-for-sin, Learn-wisdom, Faint-not, Give-thanks, and the most popular, Sin-deny, which was landed on ten children baptized between 1586 and 1596. One family, the children of the curate Thomas Hely, would have been introduced by their proud father as Much-mercy Hely, Increased Hely, Sin-deny Hely, Fear-not Hely and sweet little Constance Hely.

Now, would that I had only known this before we had Samuel. Then we could have “The-Lord-is-My-Shepherd” Riddle. Or perhaps If-Thine-Eye-Offend-Thee-Pluck-it-Out Riddle. Can you imagine bubbling THAT name in on those stupid standardized test forms? Maybe we should have a Puritan name-giving contest for our next goldfish or turtle.

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Jaime's comment below provoked my interest and I thought I would scrounge around for more information. The following is an excerpt from an article available at EWTN by John Saward.

from " The Grace of God in Courtesy"
John Saward

Courtesy is not strictly distinct from the other virtues, but rather
a quality to be found in them all. It has something to do with
reverence, humility, and chastity. It is shaped by charity, the form
of all the virtues, into the quality of mercy. It is the beauty of a
brave and generous life.

Courtesy is, first of all, reverence for one's fellow man. In the
Christian knight, it is a habit of seeing made possible by faith and
charity, an eye which sees in every man, great or small, the shining
image of the Trinity, the brother for whom Christ died. The courteous
person has an attitude of "worship" toward his fellows: by small
deeds of kindness, he acknowledges their worth, their dignity, as
human persons. In the Sarum marriage rite, the husband vows reverence
and thus courtesy toward his wife in the very acts of married love.
"With my body I thee worship." Chivalrous respect is of the very
essence of husbandly love.

Secondly, courtesy is closely tied to humility. In fact, Chesterton
defined courtesy as "the wedding of humility with dignity" and gave
us an example of the Black Prince, who waited like a servant on a man
who was his own prisoner (). The courteous
man has dignity, but he does not stand on it. He does not lose his
throne, and yet he is ready to leave it. There is something in
courtesy that deserves to be called self-emptying, the noble refusal
of self-worship. The proud or self-centered man may be polite, but he
can never be courteous, because he refuses to serve. is
the defiant cry of the prince of death and discourtesy.

Thirdly, courtesy is the first cousin of chastity, what the Middle
Ages called "cleanness." A man blinded by lust cannot see his lady as
the fitting recipient of his courtesy. She has become a thing to be
used rather than a person to be served. Malory's Sir Lancelot does
not consort with paramours "for dread of God." The debauched knight
will not only be distracted in the short term, but disappointed in
the long: "Knights that are adventurers should not be adulterers or
lechers, for they would not be happy nor fortunate in wars." (Sir
Thomas Malory, Works.)

The whole article is worth your attention. And I find this notion of courtesy very evolved and quite appealing.

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from God's Secretaries
Adam Nicolson

These were moderate and distinguished men, suggesting moderate changes. But James--and Bancroft who seems to have been in an excitable state at the theatre unfolding around him--was treating them like extreme schismatics from the outer reaches of Anabaptist lunacy. . . .

Reynolds, who had never married, said he didn't like the phrase 'with my body I thee worship,' which formed part of the marriage service. James couldn't resist a vulgarity: 'Many a man speaks of Robin Hood', he said, 'who never shot his bow; if you had a good wife yourself, you would think that all the honor and worship you could do her were well bestowed.'

The picture one gets of King James in reading this book is utterly fascinating. One intimately involved in Church affairs, vain, vulgar, sometimes profance. The times themselves were interesting in their hopes and horrors. But most interesting of all is that providence would lead me to so pointed a passage on the anniversary of my own marriage.

God bestows His blessing when and as He will. We need only keep our eyes open to see them.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Christian Life/Personal Holiness category from September 2004.

Christian Life/Personal Holiness: August 2004 is the previous archive.

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