Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Benedict on Wednesdays

This week's selection from Pope Benedict is from one of his weekly audience, this time concerning on St. Jerome, dated to the 7th of November 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we turn our attention to St Jerome, a Church Father who centred his life on the Bible: he translated it into Latin, commented on it in his works, and above all, strove to live it in practice throughout his long earthly life, despite the well-known difficult, hot-tempered character with which nature had endowed him.
Jerome was born into a Christian family in about 347 A.D. in Stridon. He was given a good education and was even sent to Rome to fine-tune his studies. As a young man he was attracted by the worldly life (cf. Ep 22, 7), but his desire for and interest in the Christian religion prevailed. 

He received Baptism in about 366 and opted for the ascetic life. He went to Aquileia and joined a group of fervent Christians that had formed around Bishop Valerian and which he described as almost "a choir of blesseds" (Chron. ad ann. 374). He then left for the East and lived as a hermit in the Desert of Chalcis, south of Aleppo (Ep 14, 10), devoting himself assiduously to study. He perfected his knowledge of Greek, began learning Hebrew (cf. Ep 125, 12), and transcribed codices and Patristic writings (cf. Ep 5, 2). Meditation, solitude and contact with the Word of God helped his Christian sensibility to mature. He bitterly regretted the indiscretions of his youth (cf. Ep.22, 7) and was keenly aware of the contrast between the pagan mentality and the Christian life: a contrast made famous by the dramatic and lively "vision" - of which he has left us an account - in which it seemed to him that he was being scourged before God because he was "Ciceronian rather than Christian" (cf. Ep. 22, 30).

In 382 he moved to Rome: here, acquainted with his fame as an ascetic and his ability as a scholar, Pope Damasus engaged him as secretary and counsellor; the Pope encouraged him, for pastoral and cultural reasons, to embark on a new Latin translation of the Biblical texts. Several members of the Roman aristocracy, especially noblewomen such as Paula, Marcella, Asella, Lea and others, desirous of committing themselves to the way of Christian perfection and of deepening their knowledge of the Word of God, chose him as their spiritual guide and teacher in the methodical approach to the sacred texts. These noblewomen also learned Greek and Hebrew.

After the death of Pope Damasus, Jerome left Rome in 385 and went on pilgrimage, first to the Holy Land, a silent witness of Christ's earthly life, and then to Egypt, the favourite country of numerous monks (cf. Contra Rufinum, 3, 22; Ep. 108, 6-14). In 386 he stopped in Bethlehem, where male and female monasteries were built through the generosity of the noblewoman, Paula, as well as a hospice for pilgrims bound for the Holy Land, "remembering Mary and Joseph who had found no room there" (Ep. 108, 14). He stayed in Bethlehem until he died, continuing to do a prodigious amount of work: he commented on the Word of God; he defended the faith, vigorously opposing various heresies; he urged the monks on to perfection; he taught classical and Christian culture to young students; he welcomed with a pastor's heart pilgrims who were visiting the Holy Land. He died in his cell close to the Grotto of the Nativity on 30 September 419-420.
Jerome's literary studies and vast erudition enabled him to revise and translate many biblical texts: an invaluable undertaking for the Latin Church and for Western culture. On the basis of the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and thanks to the comparison with previous versions, he revised the four Gospels in Latin, then the Psalter and a large part of the Old Testament. Taking into account the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Septuagint, the classical Greek version of the Old Testament that dates back to pre-Christian times, as well as the earlier Latin versions, Jerome was able, with the assistance later of other collaborators, to produce a better translation: this constitutes the so-called "Vulgate", the "official" text of the Latin Church which was recognized as such by the Council of Trent and which, after the recent revision, continues to be the "official" Latin text of the Church. It is interesting to point out the criteria which the great biblicist abided by in his work as a translator. He himself reveals them when he says that he respects even the order of the words of the Sacred Scriptures, for in them, he says, "the order of the words is also a mystery" (Ep. 57, 5), that is, a revelation. Furthermore, he reaffirms the need to refer to the original texts: "Should an argument on the New Testament arise between Latins because of interpretations of the manuscripts that fail to agree, let us turn to the original, that is, to the Greek text in which the New Testament was written. "Likewise, with regard to the Old Testament, if there are divergences between the Greek and Latin texts we should have recourse to the original Hebrew text; thus, we shall be able to find in the streams all that flows from the source" (Ep. 106, 2). Jerome also commented on many biblical texts. For him the commentaries had to offer multiple opinions "so that the shrewd reader, after reading the different explanations and hearing many opinions - to be accepted or rejected - may judge which is the most reliable, and, like an expert moneychanger, may reject the false coin" (Contra Rufinum 1, 16).

Jerome refuted with energy and liveliness the heretics who contested the tradition and faith of the Church. He also demonstrated the importance and validity of Christian literature, which had by then become a real culture that deserved to be compared with classical literature: he did so by composing his De Viris Illustribus, a work in which Jerome presents the biographies of more than a hundred Christian authors. Further, he wrote biographies of monks, comparing among other things their spiritual itineraries as well as monastic ideal. In addition, he translated various works by Greek authors. Lastly, in the important Epistulae, a masterpiece of Latin literature, Jerome emerges with the profile of a man of culture, an ascetic and a guide of souls.

What can we learn from St Jerome? It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture. This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one. We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God. Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church. The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ's Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us. We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life.

I thus conclude with a word St Jerome once addressed to St Paulinus of Nola. In it the great exegete expressed this very reality, that is, in the Word of God we receive eternity, eternal life. St Jerome said: "Seek to learn on earth those truths which will remain ever valid in Heaven" (Ep. 53, 10).

Monday, April 28, 2014

Guest Post: Bible Hunting

Thanks to reader Eric for this fun essay.

The perfect Bible translation.  Like the famed jackalope, it is a truly elusive thing.  Some people say that it exists, but when you look at it for yourself, you leave with a different impression.

Doing a Bible safari can be a very expensive thing.  Even if you order through Amazon or, there is no guarantee you're going to like the next translation.  It's either consigned to the dark corners of your bookshelf and pulled out to be read once in awhile, donated to Goodwill or the church library, or you could try to sell it and recoup some of your costs.  No matter which route you go, it's a drain on the wallet, and if it's sitting in a dark corner rarely read, it's a waste of a copy of God's word (which is meant to be read, not hold up the sides of the bookshelf).

Now, this may not be a problem if you are either a well-paid medical professional, Hollywood movie star, or lottery winner.  And, it is not a consideration if you are a Pokemon-esque Bible reader (gotta catch 'em all!).  But, for the rest of us who have spouses who would rather spend that money to get something nice for the kids or for themselves, rather than another copy of the Bible, this can be what I like to call, "a problem."

So, how to do a successful safari in search of the elusive best translation (which will always be subjective depending on the tastes of the reader) is the key to keeping the Bibles on your shelf well-read, as well as money in your spouse's wallet or purse (which makes for happier spouses).  I'd like to offer an overlooked place to go:  your local public library.

Your local library may have a wide variety of Bibles that you can check out and spend several weeks with.  If they don't have it, they can frequently get it through an inter-library loan.  Have you heard people on Tim's blog recommending the Catholic Study Bible?  A little bit of time with your local librarian or online catalog can get you several weeks with the CSB (and maybe more, depending on if there's no wait list or your library's renewal policy).

Or, have you heard of something called the Douay-Westminster, and wondered what it's all about?  Good luck finding that one in your local Catholic or secular bookstore, or likely even in any used book source (hint:  it was last printed in the 1960's, so the odds of it still being on the shelf are pretty much nil).  I was able to spend a very nice 4 weeks with a beautiful red-bound copy, that was apparently one of the first run, which was limited.  I spent more time reading the articles included than the translation itself.  Oh well, I can get it again this summer.
You may even be curious about the art of Salvatore Dali and want to see what happens when it's combined with the Jerusalem Bible.  $100+ off E-Bay?  I sense an unhappy spouse (you spent HOW MUCH on ANOTHER Bible?).  A two-week wait after reserving this copy was all it took to learn a few important things:  1) This thing is HUGE.  2)  The art wasn't the type of Dali art I was used to.  3)It's a reader's edition, so the famed intros and notes of the Jerusalem Bible are severely lacking.  Yeah, my wife's happy I didn't sent a Ben Franklin through Paypal.

I went on such a safari last summer.  At the time all I had was my Douay-Rheims and my 1991 NAB.  I started ordering in early June, and by the time I was done, I had tried all of the following translations:

Jerusalem Bible 1966
Jerusalem Bible with Salvatore Dali illustrationsqqq
New Jerusalem Bible regular edition
New Jerusalem Bible reader's edition
New Jerusalem Bible standard edition (1999)
New Jerusalem Bible Saints Devotional Edition
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
Revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic Edition
1952 CBPC Confraternity Bible
1950 PJ Kennedy Confraternity Bible
Catholic Study Bible
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV
Spencer New Testament
Kleist-Lilly New Testament
Christian Community Bible
Knox Bible
English Standard Version
Orthodox Study Bible

All for the whopping price of $0.  No shipping charges.  Just a few trips to the library.

I made some discoveries on this safari.  Even though I had zero interest in the Knox Bible initially (other than curiosity), it's become one of my favorite translations.  I also learned that no matter what version of the New Jerusalem Bible I check out, I still prefer the original 1966 Jerusalem Bible.

Is the safari over? Heck no!  I still have my wife asking just how many different copies of scripture I need.  To which, I reply, "probably just one more."  I'll probably be saying that until I've reached the Pokemon level of Bible collecting.

Happy hunting!

Easter Contest Winner

Again, this is totally random. The winner is Dragan K. Dragan, please send me an email with your full name and address by the end of the week and I'll get your prize out to you. My email is mccorm45(at)yahoo(dot)com. Congrats!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Catholic Biblical Quarterly Vol. 76, No. 2 for April 2014

Tithes for the Clergy and Taxes for the King: State and Temple Contributions in Nehemiah
Peter Altmann

The Integrity of Job 1 and 42:11-17
Paul Kang-Kul Cho

Ezekiel's Image Problem: The Mesopotamian Cult Statue Induction Ritual and the Imago Dei Anthropology in the Book of Ezekiel
C.A. Strine

A Buried Pentateuchal Allusion to the Resurrection in Mark 12:25
Matthew Thiessen

Burning Questions in Romans 12:20: What is the Meaning and Purpose of "Coals of Fire"?
John W. Martens

"Noah, the Preacher of (God's) Righteousness": The Argument from Scripture in 2 Peter 2:5 and 9
Scott Hafemann

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Contest

A blessed Easter to all of you!  In celebration of Easter, and the upcoming canonizations of John XXIII and JPII, I am happy to offer this contest.  The winner will receive the deluxe edition of The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lection Divina Edition from Paulist Press, a copy of Peter Kreeft's Jesus Shock!, and Cardinal Ratzinger's Daughter Zion.

The rules:
1) If you have a website or blog or are active on Facebook, please announce this contest.   If you don't, that is OK.  You can still enter the contest. 

2) Please enter your name in the comment section of this blog post.  I will randomly draw one winner at the conclusion of the contest, which will be on Sunday April 27th at 11:59 PM.   

3) I will announce the winners on Monday April 28th.  The winners must contact me, via email, within a week with their full name and address.

4) One entry per person.

5) Contest is only available to those who live in the United States

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Theandric- My Peace I Leave You

Lamentations 1

From our friends at the Ronald Knox Society of North America:

The First Lessons of Matins on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are taken from the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremias. They are among the saddest and most beautiful readings of the Liturgical Year.

Here is Knox's translation of Chapter 1:

When Israel was brought into captivity, and Jerusalem left deserted, the prophet Jeremias sat down and wept, with this mournful lamentation following. And as he spoke, ever he sighed and moaned in the bitterness of his heart.

1. Alone she dwells, the city erewhile so populous; a widow now, once a queen among the nations; tributary now, that once had provinces at her command.
2. Be sure she weeps; there in the darkness her cheeks are wet with tears; of all that courted her, none left to console her, all those lovers grown weary of her, and turned to enemies.
3. Cruel the suffering and the bondage of Juda's exile; that she must needs dwell among the heathen! Nor respite can she find; close at her heels the pursuit, and peril on either hand.
4. Desolate, the streets of Sion; no flocking, now, to the assembly; the gateways lie deserted. Sighs priest, and the maidens go in mourning, so bitter the grief that hangs over all.
5. Exultant, now, her invaders; with her enemies nothing goes amiss. For her many sins, the Lord has brought doom on her, and all her children have gone into exile, driven before the oppressor.
6. Fled is her beauty, the Sion that was once so fair; her chieftains have yielded their ground before the pursuer, strength-less as rams that can find no pasture.
7. Grievous the memories she holds, of the hour when all her ancient glories passed from her, when her people fell defenceless before the invader, unresisting before an enemy that derided them.
8. Heinously Jerusalem sinned; what wonder if she became an outlaw? How they fell to despising her when they saw her shame, that once flattered her! Deeply she sighed, and turned away her head.
9. Ill might skirts of her robe the defilement conceal; alas, so reckless of her doom, alas, fallen so low, with none to comfort her! Mark it well, Lord; see how humbled I, how exultant my adversary!
10. Jealous hands were laid on all she treasured; so it was that she must see Gentiles profane her sanctuary, Gentiles, by thy ordinance from the assembly debarred.
11. Kindred was none but went sighing for lack of bread, offered its precious heirlooms for food to revive men's hearts. Mark it well, Lord, and see my pride abased!
12. Look well, you that pass by, and say if there was ever grief like this grief of mine; never a grape on the vineyard left to glean, when the Lord's threat of vengeance is fulfilled.
13. Must fire from heaven waste my whole being, ere I can learn my lesson? Must he catch me in a net, to drag me back from my course? Desolate he leaves me, to pine away all the day long with grief.
14. No respite it gives me, the yoke of guilt I bear, by his hand fastened down upon my neck; see, I faint under it! The Lord has given me up a prisoner to duress there is no escaping.
15. Of all I had, the Lord has taken away the noblest; lost to me, all the flower of my chivalry, under his strict audit; Sion, poor maid, here was a wine-press well trodden down!
16. Pray you, should I not weep? Fountains these eyes are, that needs must flow; comforter there is none at hand, that should revive my spirits. Lost to me, all those sons of mine, outmatched by their enemy.
17. Quest for consolation is vain, let her plead where she will; neighbors of Jacob, so the Lord decrees, are Jacob's enemies, and all around they shrink from her, as from a thing unclean.
18. Right the Lord has in his quarrel; I have set his commands at defiance. O world, take warning; see what pangs I suffer, all my folk gone into exile, both man and maid.
19. So false the friends that were once my suitors! And now the city lacks priests and elders both, that went begging their bread, to revive the heart in them.
20. Take note, Lord, of my anguish, how my bosom burns, and my heart melts within me, in bitter ruth. And all the while, swords threatens without, and death not less cruel within.
21. Uncomforted my sorrow, but not unheard; my enemies hear it, and rejoice that my miseries are of thy contriving. Ah, but when thy promise comes true, they shall feel my pangs!
22. Vintager who didst leave my boughs so bare, for my much offending, mark well their cruelty, and strip these to in their turn; here be sighs a many, and a sad heart to claim it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Knox: Palm Sunday Edition (Matthew 21:1-11)

When they were near Jerusalem, and had reached Bethphage, which is close to mount Olivet, Jesus sent two of his disciples on an errand; Go into the village that faces you, he told them, and the first thing you will find there will be a she-ass tethered, and a foal at her side; untie them and bring them to me.  And if anyone speaks to you about it, tell him, The Lord has need of them, and he will let you have them without more ado.  All this was so ordained, to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet: Tell the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy king is coming to thee, humbly, riding on an ass, on a colt whose mother has borne the yoke.  The disciples went and did as Jesus told them;  they brought the she-ass and its colt, and saddled them with their garments, and bade Jesus mount.  Most of the multitude spread their garments along the way, while others strewed the way with branches cut down from the trees. And the multitudes that went before him and that followed after him cried aloud, Hosanna for the son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in heaven above.  When he reached Jerusalem, the whole city was in a stir; Who is this? they asked.  And the multitude answered, This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth, in Galilee.

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once.” This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.  They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;hosanna in the highest.”,And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds replied,  “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

NABRE OT Textual Notes are Now Available Online

Via the Catholic Biblical Association. They were compiled from the work of the original revisers and arranged by Joseph Jensen, O.S.B.

From the CBA:
Please note: To search these notes, two steps are needed: first search for the Old Testament book, then for the particular verse (colon between chapter and verse). Be sure you are at the text you are searching for, because there are many cross-references in these notes.  We hope to have soon a more sophisticated program provided by the USCCB.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Benedict on Wednesday

Today we conclude our reading of Biblical Interpretation in Crisis.  We will be taking a week off due to Holy Week being next week.

The Basic Elements of a New Synthesis
Certainly texts must first of all be traced back to their historical origins and interpreted in their proper historical context. But then, in a second exegetical operation, one must look at them also in light of the total movement of history and in light of history's central event, Jesus Christ. Only the combination of both these methods will yield understanding of the Bible. If the first exegetical operation by the Fathers and in the Middle Ages is found to be lacking, so too is the second, since it easily falls into arbitrariness. Thus, the first was fruitless, but the rejection of any coherence of meaning leads to an opinionated methodology.
To recognize the inner self-transcendence of the historical word, and thus the inner correctness of subsequent re-readings in which event and meaning are gradually interwoven, is the task of interpretation properly so-called, for which appropriate methods can and must be found. In this connection, the exegetical maxim of Thomas Aquinas is quite to the point: "The duty of every good interpreter is to contemplate not the words, but the sense of the words."30

In the last hundred years, exegesis has had many great achievements, but it has brought forth great errors as well. These latter, moreover, have in some measure grown to the stature of academic dogmas. To criticize them at all would be taken by many as tantamount to sacrilege, especially if it were to be done by a non-exegete. Nevertheless, so prominent an exegete as Heinrich Schlier previously warned his colleagues: "Do not squander your time on trivialities."31 Johann Gnilka gave concrete expression to this warning when he reacted against an exaggerated emphasis by the history-of-traditions school.32

Along the same lines, I would like to express the following hopes:
a.) The time seems to have arrived for a new and thorough reflection on exegetical method. Scientific exegesis must recognize the philosophic element present in a great number of its ground rules, and it must then reconsider the results which are based on these rules.

b.) Exegesis can no longer be studied in a unilinear, synchronic fashion, as is the case with scientific findings which do not depend upon their history, but only upon the precision of their data. Exegesis must recognize itself as an historical discipline. Its history belongs to itself. In a critical arrangement of its respective positions within the totality of its own history, it will be able, on one hand, to recognize the relativity of its own judgments (where, for example, errors may have crept in). On the other hand, it will be in a better position to achieve an insight into our real, if always imperfect, comprehension of the biblical word.

c.) Philological and scientific literary methods are and will remain critically important for a proper exegesis. But for their actual application to the work of criticism — just as for an examination of their claims — an understanding of the philosophic implications of the interpretative process is required. The self-critical study of its own history must also imply an examination of the essential philosophic alternatives for human thought. Thus, it is not sufficient to scan simply the last one hundred and fifty years. The great outlines of patristic and medieval thought must also be brought into the discussion. It is equally indispensable to reflect on the fundamental judgments made by the Reformers and the critical importance they have had in the history of exegesis.

d.) What we need now are not new hypotheses on the Sitz im Leben, on possible sources or on the subsequent process of handing down the material. What we do need is a critical look at the exegetical landscape we now have, so that we may return to the text and distinguish between those hypotheses which are helpful and those which are not. Only under these conditions can a new and fruitful collaboration between exegesis and systematic theology begin. And only in this way will exegesis be of real help in understanding the Bible.

e.) Finally, the exegete must realize that he, does not stand in some neutral area, above or outside history and the Church. Such a presumed immediacy regarding the purely historical can only lead to dead ends. The first presupposition of all exegesis is that it accepts the Bible as a book. In so doing, it has already chosen a place for itself which does not simply follow from the study of literature. It has identified this particular literature as the product of a coherent history, and this history as the proper space for coming to understanding. If it wishes to be theology, it must take a further step. It must recognize that the faith of the Church is that form of "sympathia" without which the Bible remains a closed book. It must come to acknowledge this faith as a hermeneutic, the space for understanding, which does not do dogmatic violence to the Bible, but precisely allows the solitary possibility for the Bible to be itself.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Opening: Oxford NRSV w/ Apocrypha Compact Genuine Leather

I love this compact!  I really do!  It just may be my favorite.  It came out among the first offerings of the NRSV by Oxford.  It is officially known as the New Revised Standard Bible, Pocket Edition, No 9614A, Black With Apocrypha.  The leather is indeed genuine leather.  It has a nice soft feel.  It is not as soft and supple as Oxford's NOAB NRSV 4th Edition, but it has a real nice feel to it. I purchased this edition from a helpful used bookstore.  As you will see, it came in its original box, wrapped in paper, and was accompanied by an old-school pamphlet about caring for your Bible.  The print is darker than some of the later compact editions of the NRSV.  The pages correspond to all other NRSV edition published by Oxford at that time.  In addition, it comes with 5 color New Oxford Maps.  There is also a nice presentation page.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Catholicism Blog Tour: Chapter 7 "Word Made Flesh, True Bread from Heaven"

In celebration of the paperback release of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, I am happy to participate in the Image Books Blog Tour.  I was allowed to pick my favorite chapter in the book, which for me was chapter 7: "Word Make Flesh, True Bread from Heaven: The Mystery of the Church's Sacrament and Worship."  I should say upfront that I am very familiar with the Catholicism Film Series, which I use regularly in my high school classes.  The visuals in the series are often stunning, and I have always appreciated the fact that Fr. Barron took the effort to film at various locations throughout the world.  I know growing up in medium-sized suburban parish outside Detroit, I never really grasped the "catholicity" of the Church until I had an opportunity to study abroad in Rome in 2000.  In many ways, the experience of seeing people from all throughout the world on pilgrimage in Rome during that great Jubilee Year marked a profound moment of conversion in my life.  In hopes of kindling that same inspiration in my students is one of the main reasons why I show the series in my classes.

Now, any one who has seen the series and read the book knows that they share quite a bit in common. However, I have found that slowly reading through the book has helped me grasp some elements that I had missed while watching the series.  I hope to be able to share a couple of those elements in this post.  It goes without saying that I think this book is wonderful, even if you haven't seen the series.  Along with the wonderful insight from Fr. Barron, there are numerous photos and full color pages that help to illuminate the beauty of our Catholic heritage.  When one reads through this book, one feels a healthy pride in being Catholic and a desire to serve this Church established by Christ.  

Chapter 7 was particularly helpful because it coincided with the implementation of the New Roman Missal back in 2011.  Being a high school teacher, this provided a great opportunity to re-catechize my students on the importance of the Mass, along with, of course, the new responses that were to be said at Mass.  This chapter, as well as the episode in the series, provided some wonderful insights into the importance of the Mass.  It is organized in a deliberate movement, from beginning to end, through the Mass, which Fr. Barron refers to as "this supremely serious form of play" in reference to the liturgical theologian Romano Guardini. Fr. Barron guides you along the main parts of the Mass providing both theological and liturgical background to what Vatican II called the "source and summit of the Christian life."  

Fr. Barron has an amazing gift in finding the best quote to use at the right moment.  When speaking about the penitential rite, he quotes Chesterton who says: "There are saints in my religion, but that just means men who know they are sinners (176)."  That is why when we begin Mass, after making the Sign of the Cross, by acknowledging our sins before Almighty God.  I know from my own experience that I have sometimes not taken the time to prepare myself for that important moment in Mass.  Perhaps I am too quickly oriented towards hearing the readings proclaimed.  While there are various forms of the penitential rite, I do appreciate when we say the confiteor at Mass because it forces me to focus on the areas of my life where I have failed the Lord, but always within the understanding that He is merciful.  This is so very important in today's society, where as Fr. Barron observes, we are all to willing to tell ourselves that "I'm okay, you're okay (176)."  Yet, we need to remind ourselves that its not about being "okay," it's about recognizing that we are sinners before a God who is so willing to embrace us and forgive us our sins.  As Fr. Barron puts it: "He wants to forgive, but it is imperative that we realize that there is something in us that needs forgiving (176)."  Going back to the Chesterton quote reminds me, at least, that that is the proper disposition of a saint, one who knows himself and appeals to an all-loving Father who earnestly desires our reconciliation with Him.

My other favorite part of chapter 7 is his "Excursus on the Real Presence" which provides an important apologetic on the Eucharist.  Fr. Barron begins this excursus by examining John 6 and its important Eucharistic themes.  He points out that all important change in Greek verbs from phagein, which can simply mean  "eat," to trogein, which "is customarily employed to describe an animal's manner of eating, something along the lines of 'gnaw' or 'munch.'"  Of course, this is often lost in most Bible translations, particularly English ones.  Here, Fr. Barron shows that instead of backing down from the objections of the crowd, many of whom would leave him after this discourse, Jesus "actually emphasizes the very physicality to which the crowd was objecting (187)."  His whole examination of John 6 is quite marvelous, and I use it often in my classes.

Yet, my favorite part of this excursus is not his section on John 6, but rather his concluding story about Catholic author Flannery O'Connor. I am embarrassed to say that I know very little about her, outside of what I have read about her in online articles or the occasional reference to her when discussing Catholic literature.  Yet, I found the story of her encounter at a dinner of New York intellectuals to be very much to the point of the entire chapter.  One of those at dinner, a former Catholic, pointed out how the Eucharist was a "powerful symbol."  Barron then quotes O'Connor who replies: "Well, if it's only a symbol, I say to hell with it (192)."  There are many reasons why I am Catholic, but there is no question that the main reason is the Eucharist.  In my mind, if the Eucharist is only a symbol, why be Catholic?  There are thousands of other churches out there that indeed have a lot of good to offer, but in the end nothing can compare to adoring and receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord.  The Eucharist is the answer to the question: "Why be Catholic?"

Fr. Barron concludes with an exhortation to go forth from the Mass as a renewed people.  I cannot help but connect this to the call of the New Evangelization.  We are not meant to keep what we receive to ourselves, but rather to go out and share it with the world around us.  We need to allow ourselves to be transformed by this great "play" in order to become instruments of change in the world.  Fr. Barron is right when he says: "Those who participate in it (the Mass) never leave unchanged; they never go back the same way the came (194)."

So, in conclusion, I would say that if you haven't read this book before, I highly recommend it.  Now that it is in paperback, consider purchasing it for a friend.  I think this is an excellent book for someone who is contemplating coming into the Church or perhaps even for a relative who might need motivating!  We all have plenty of them in our families.  For more on the book, you can follow the links below.  Thanks again to Katie from Image Books for including me in this blog tour.

Also, make sure to check out the amazing sweepstakes contest that the fine folks at Image Catholic are running, where the grand prize is a trip to Paris and Rome.  The sweepstakes runs through May 2nd.  

Catholicism Blog Tour

March 31 – Chapter 1: Stuart’s Study
April 1 – Chapter 2: Seasons of Grace
April 2 – Chapter 3: A Good Measure
April 3 – Chapter 4: Snoring Scholar
April 4 – Chapter 5: The Catholic Book Blogger
April 5 – Chapter 6: Prints of Grace
April 6 – Chapter 7: Catholic Bibles
April 7 – Chapter 8: Team Whitaker
April 8 – Chapter 9: Single Catholic Girl
April 9 – Chapter 10: The Curt Jester

Saturday, April 5, 2014

RSV-2CE Rebind

Sunday Knox: Ezekiel 37:12-14

"It is for thee to prophesy, giving them this message from the Lord God: I mean to open your graves and revive you, my people; I mean to bring you home to the land of Israel.  Will you doubt, then, the Lord’s power, when I open your graves and revive you?  When I breathe my spirit into you, to give you life again, and bid you dwell at peace in your own land? What the Lord promises, the Lord performs; you will know that, he tells you, at last."

”Thus says the Lord GOD: 'O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!  I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD.  I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.'"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Benedict on Wednesday

We continue our reading of Biblical Interpretation in Crisis:

The Basic Elements of a New Synthesis
After these remarks on the challenge of a self-critique of the historical method, we now find ourselves confronted with the positive side of the problem, how to join its tools with a better philosophy which would entail fewer drawbacks foreign to the text which would be less arbitrary, and which would offer greater possibilities for a true listening to the text itself. The positive task is without a doubt even more difficult than the critical one. I can only try to conclude these remarks by trying to carve out a few narrow footpaths in the thicket, which may perhaps point out where the main road lies and how it is to be found.
In the midst of the theological, methodological debate of his day, Gregory of Nyssa called upon the rationalist Eunomius not to confuse theology with the science of nature. (Theologein is not physiologein.)23 "The mystery of theology is one thing," he said, "the scientific investigation of nature is quite another." One cannot then "encompass the unembraceable nature of God in the palm of a child's hand." Gregory was here alluding to one of the famous sayings of Zeno: "The open hand is perception, the clapping hand is the agreement of the intellect, the hand fully closed upon something is the recording of judgment, the one hand clasped by the other is systematic science."24

Modern exegesis, as we have seen, completely relegated God to the incomprehensible, the otherworldly and the inexpressible in order to be able to treat the biblical text itself as an entirely worldly reality according to natural-scientific methods.

Contrary to the text itself, physiologein is practiced. As a "critical science," it claims an exactness and certitude similar to natural science. This is a false claim because it is based upon a misunderstanding of the depth and dynamism of the word. Only when one takes from the word its own proper character as word and then stretches it onto the screen of some basic hypothesis can one subject it to such exact rules. Romano Guardini commented in this regard on the false certainty of modern exegesis, which he said "has produced very significant individual results, but has lost sight of its own particular object and generally has ceased being theology."25 The sublime thought of Gregory of Nyssa remains a true guidepost today: "these gliding and glittering lights of God's word which sparkle over the eyes of the soul . . . but now let what we hear from Elijah rise up to our soul and would that our thoughts, too, might be snatched up into the fiery chariot . . . so we would not have to abandon hope of drawing close to these stars, by which I mean the thoughts of God . . . "26

Thus the word should not be submitted to just any kind of enthusiasm. Rather, preparation is required to open us up to the inner dynamism of the word. This is possible only when there is a certain "sympathia" or understanding, a readiness to learn something new, to allow oneself to be taken along a new road. It is not the closed hand which is required, but the opened eye . . .
Thus the exegete should not approach the text with a ready-made philosophy, nor in accordance with the dictates of a so-called modern or "scientific" worldview, which determines in advance what may or may not be. He may not exclude a priori that (almighty) God could speak in human words in the world, He may not exclude that God himself could enter into and work in human history, however improbable such a thing might at first appear.

He must be ready to learn from the extraordinary. He must be ready to accept that the truly original may occur in history, something which cannot be derived from precedents, but which opens up out of itself.27 He may not deny to humanity the ability to be responsive beyond the categories of pure reason, and to reach beyond ourselves towards the open and endless truth of being.

We must likewise reexamine the relationship between event and word. For Dibelius, Bultmann, and the mainstream of modern exegesis, the event is the irrational element. It lies in the realm of mere facticity, which is a mixture of accident and necessity. The fact as such, therefore, cannot be a bearer of meaning. Meaning lies only in the word, and where events might seem to bear meaning, they are to be considered as illustrations of the word to which they have to be referred. Judgments which derive from such a point of view are certainly persuasive for people of today, since they fit nicely into their own patterns of expectations. There is, however, no evidence in reality to support them. Such evidence is admissible only under the presupposition that the principle of scientific method, namely that every effort which occurs can be explained in terms of purely immanent relationships within the operation itself, is not only valid methodologically but is true in and of itself. Thus, in reality there would be only "accident and necessity," nothing else, and one may only look upon these elements as brute facts.

But, what is useful as a methodological principle for the natural sciences is a foregone banality as a philosophical principle; and as a theological principle it is a contradiction. (How can any or all of God's activity be considered either as accidental or necessary?) It is here, for the sake of scientific curiosity, too, that we must experiment with the precise contrary of this principle, namely, that things can indeed be otherwise.

To put it another way: the event itself can be a "word," in accord with the biblical word terminology itself.28 From this flow two important rules for interpretation.

a) First, both word and event have to be considered equally original, if one wishes to remain true to the biblical perspective. The dualism which banishes the event into wordlessness, that is meaninglessness, would rob the word of its power to convey meaning as well, for it would then stand in a world without meaning.
It also leads to a docetic Christology in which the reality, that is the concrete fleshly existence of Christ and especially of man, is removed from the realm of meaning. Thus the essence of the biblical witness fails of its purpose.

b) Secondly, such a dualism splits the biblical word off from creation and would substitute the principle of discontinuity for the organic continuity of meaning which exists between the Old and New Testaments. When the continuity between word and event is allowed to disappear, there can no longer be any unity within the Scripture itself. A New Testament cut off from the Old is automatically abolished since it exists, as its very title suggests, because of the unity of both. Therefore the principle of discontinuity must be counterbalanced by the interior claim of the biblical text itself, according to the principle of the analogia scripturae: the mechanical principle must be balanced by the teleological principle.29

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Favorite Bible 3.0

Over the years, in 2009 and 2012 to be precise, I have posted an article which discusses my favorite edition of the Bible.  When I speak (or write) of my favorite "edition" of the Bible, I am speaking primarily of its physical make-up, not so much the translation.  More often as I evaluate many of the Bibles on the market that a Catholic could utilize, I focus on its binding, cover material, page-layout, size, as well as the extras that come along with the translation itself.  Over the years, there has been no doubt in my mind that the best Bible to fit this criteria is the Cambridge NRSV Reference Bible with Apocrypha.  This edition comes in a French Morocco leather cover, with sewn binding, center-column cross-references, a helpful glossary of terms, and one of my favorite sets of Bible maps.  While not a Catholic edition, it has all the books of the Catholic Old Testament and the translation itself was done with Catholic participation.  In addition, it is also the Bible translation used in the Canadian lectionary.

So, since it has been a couple years since my last "Favorite Bible" post, has there been anything published that could compete?  The answer, which many of my loyal readers know, is yes and the edition I am referring to is the Baronius Press Knox Bible. This leather hardcover edition is a real beauty.  As I mentioned in my review from 2012:

What immediately stands out is the craftsmanship involved in producing this volume.  (I have experienced this type of quality production before with their Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Maryvolume.) The quality of the binding, the paper, ribbon markers, and endpapers make this Bible standout from all of the other ones I own.  This Bible is sturdy, yet very comfortable to read both by placing it flat on a table or by holding it in your hand or lap.  This is the case no matter where in the text you are reading, from Genesis to Revelation (the Apocalypse).  While this is not a portable, compact Bible, it can easily be brought to study and prayer groups, even Holy Mass.  It is simply a standard sized Bible.  I wonder if Baronius Press will eventually make different editions of the Knox Bible, like in a compact form or flexible leather, similar to what they have done with their Douay-Rheims editions.

For me, the highlight of this Bible is its single-column page layout.  It is very easy on the eyes, and the quality cream colored Bible paper minimizes any issues with ghosted print image from the reverse of the page.  That being said, I am not sure if I will ever write in this Bible.  It is just too pretty!  While having the verse numbers on the side can be a bit tricky at first, it becomes quite easy to use after only a few minutes.  The many notes, both textual and commentary, from Msgr. Knox are clearly visible at the bottom of each page.  I should mention that while there are not a ton of cross-references in this Bible, the notes in the New Testament do indicate where there are direct quotes from the Old Testament, as well as referencing similar passages found in the among the four Gospels.  In addition, there are cross-references in the notes in the Old Testament as well, but not as many as are found in the New Testament.  

I was so impressed with this Bible that I even gave it a bit of an upgrade by sending it off to Leonard's Book Restoration to be rebound in goatskin.  It was a tough decision, since I really liked the leather hardcover.  I prefer, however, to have a premium leather cover on my Bibles, so it ended up being the right decision. While it truly is a great Bible edition, with or without the upgrade, the question is whether or not it surpass the two-time champ in my opinion?

The answer is no.  There are two main reasons for this which, in the end, tip the scales for the NRSV from Cambridge.  First, I simply use the NRSV in more situations.  While I really like the Knox translation, and use it often for personal reading, I just can't use it when teaching, either to high school students or adults.  The translations are just too different.  The NRSV is a modern translation which is close enough to the RSV and not too distant in style to the NABRE.  Any issues relating to inclusive language or alternate translations are easily figured out in the NRSV's textual notes, which are an integral part of the translation itself.  Secondly, the Cambridge NRSV comes with some truly helpful extras.  Those extras, which I love to have in a reading (or study) Bible, are found in this edition.  I complain a lot on this blog about the lack of cross-references with the NRSV Bibles, well this is one of the few editions that have it.  I also really like the center-column positioning of the cross-references, which I know is not everyone's cup of tea.

This leads me, again, to remark that as Catholics it would be great to have some better options, no matter the translation.  This reminds me of one of my earliest posts (rants) entitled: Catholic Bibles Stink.  While some things have changed since then, there is still a great need to have some premium Catholic Bibles available.  Maybe the problem is that, as Catholics, we are
more willing to buy a leather Missal for Mass, but but happy to settle on a paperback Bible.  I am not sure.

I have read many-an-article or forum post which decries the various translations for Catholics, often arguing that Protestants don't take Catholics seriously in issues related to the Bible because of it.  Well, I wonder if this supposed problem is due to the overall quality of most of our Bibles.  I think we have a number of fine translations to choose from, including the NABRE, RSV, NRSV, and Knox translations.  I hope we will see a time when these translations get the treatment from publishers that they deserve.    

If you are of the same mind, I recommend you contact some of the better Bible publishers out there.  Many of them have Facebook sites, as well as email contacts.  Let them know that Catholics would like some premium Bible options.