Sunday, November 27, 2011

Organic Development?

A friend send me this interesting article about a parish in full communion with the Church that has apparently been doing its own sort of improv vernacular liturgy since before Vatican II, and thus has been using an English translation similar to the new new one for longer than the old new one was even around in the first place:

But for one Mass at Corpus Christi, the parish church of Columbia University, little if anything is expected to change. That is because this small church, with its intellectual history and fierce stubborn streak, never fully adopted the more modern version of the Mass that the church’s hierarchy is now ordering replaced.

For example, starting this weekend, all parishes will be saying, “And with your spirit,” as Corpus Christi’s has been saying for decades. And where there are small differences between the new translation and Corpus Christi’s version, which stems from the 1960s, Corpus Christi is expecting to stay with its own words.

“There are a lot of us who feel that the last 35 years of translation has been very banal and pedestrian, and the way that one wants to address God in a liturgy should not be pedestrian,” said Brenda Fairaday, a parishioner here since the 1970s and an ardent defender of the church’s liturgy. The new translation, she said, “is better,” but at times reads as if it was translated by a nonnative English speaker: “It needs severe editing,” she said.

How Corpus Christi has managed to do its own thing in a church that insists, as a general rule, on uniformity in the Mass is steeped in local lore. But most agree it began with the progressive priest who built the current church in the 1930s, the Rev. George Barry Ford, who is perhaps best known for inspiring Thomas Merton, the renowned 20th-century Catholic mystic and writer, to convert to Catholicism when he was a Columbia student.

Long before the Vatican permitted Mass in the vernacular, Father Ford would station a priest in the pews to translate the mass into English as the main priest performed the sacred rites in Latin, parishioners said. The congregation would respond to parts of the Mass in English, highly unusual for the time.

“Elements of our Mass, when we started doing it here, were very progressive at the time,” said Bill Derby, a eucharistic minister at the church. “Then we kept doing them when the tide changed and became way more modern. And now they are going back to what we have been doing all along.

In the 1960s, the parish priest was Msgr. Myles M. Bourke, a liturgist who directed the first English translation of the New American Bible. Informed by his own work, he solidified the mix of Gregorian chant, classical hymns and English-language liturgy that is still in use. The well-worn 1966 hymnals in the pews contain a translation of the Mass close to the one that Rome is unveiling.

In recent years, Corpus Christi’s current pastor, the Rev. Raymond M. Rafferty, switched most of the Masses to the modern, accepted translation, in part, he said, because “I found there was a cacophony at the Masses: some were saying the old and some the new.” But he maintained the traditions of the parish in the 11:15 a.m. Mass on Sundays.

“With the type of music that we do, it fit with the music,” Father Rafferty said. Many chants come from a 1978 Latin text, Liber Cantualis, and they also add some contemporary commissioned pieces. “It’s quite amazing how well the congregation can do these hymns,” he said.

There have been attempts over the years to steer the liturgy more in line with “downtown,” meaning the seat of the archdiocese, at St. Patrick’s, Mr. Derby said. (“Ain’t going to happen,” said Kathy Darling, a Corpus Christi parishioner since 1971.) But in the end, Mr. Derby said, the parishioners say what is in their hearts.

The Rev. Daniel J. Merz, associate director of the secretariat of Divine Worship at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is in charge of putting the new liturgy in place, was surprised this week to hear of the small parish church that was already saying some of it.

“Sometimes,” he said, “it’s more important to have peace in the church than uniformity.”

I wonder if the fact that the books for this idiosyncratic liturgy of theirs apparently come from before the Novus Ordo means that their liturgy is basically a translation of the Old Rite (or at least the 1965 version) into the vernacular? Given that the New Rite wasn't around yet, it must have been like that at some point, even if they Novus Ordo-ized (while keeping their traditional translation) later.

I'm going to look into that, actually, contact them. It would be a huge deal/precedent (even if they are saying "and with your spirit" instead of "and with
thy spirit" and the guy was a translator of the *shudder* NAB.) Either way, it's a fascinating case of local liturgical development shirking hyper-centralization that sounds like it didn't turn out as a complete disaster. The Western Rite Orthodox would be proud.

I've been meaning to do a post on the possibilities of organic development and how a more "hands-off" approach from the Vatican could be prevented from collapsing into total liturgical decadence, trying to find the happy medium between legitimate innovation and adaptation on the one hand and "abuse" that devolves into kumbayah clown Masses and giant puppets on the other (which reminds me: I actually attended a Reggae Mass last night, lol. Not as bad as you might think but, then, my musical tastes and liturgical wet dreams have already been made clear here, so perhaps I'm not entirely objective.)

Basically, I think "restarting" the idea of local tradition and organic development would have to involve an approach that weeded out the bad, but wasn't the sort of textual-positivist liturgical totalitarianism that the "say the black, do the red" crowd proposes; in other words, the governance on the matter would have become proscriptive, not prescriptive. And the example of this parish has given me a lot to think about in that regard.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Holy Dark...

"...was moving too, and every breath we drew was..."

Artificial lighting always impinges upon my sense of the Sacred. Of course, this is "merely" emotionalism, sensualism, aestheticism, what-have-you. Nevertheless, the Sacred in liturgy is in some part emotional, an "altered state of consciousness" induced which touches the very core of our being, and this is why Beauty in liturgy and church architecture is so important.

My most nostalgic memories of "the sacred" in my childhood, before I was really personally religious, were of the deep dark-blue stained glass in my home parish on hot summer mornings when the church was all dark and silent inside. I don't know why I was there, something for religious education ("CCD") perhaps. Also dressing up and going to Mass Easter morning (when Easter fell late enough for the Spring weather to be nice), and they had an "overflow" Mass in the school gym, but the gym's big windows meant the only light they needed was that of the Easter morn. And they'd at least use the "O Filii et Filiae" melody for the Alleluia (..."hallelujah.")

On the other hand, one of the most annoying memories I had was when the power went out at church one Sunday morning (in the Summer!) and they were rushing around to get a generator and to get at least some lights on, as if Mass couldn't proceed without them. I also remember some friends and I being a bit obnoxious giving a hard time to a priest friend during my undergrad about relying on the big overhead lights in our little chapel for the morning Low Masses we served even though the room has literally a whole wall of full length windows.

One of the things the trads are always pushing about the old liturgy is the opportunity for "sacred silence." Of course, they then totally subvert this by "singing over" or playing organ motets over all the inaudible parts as if a little silent respite were the worst thing in the world that could happen. And of course, the Novus Ordo's attempt to reclaim sacred silence (which is not "built into" it) is when that awkward thing happens some places where everyone just sits for a token 20 seconds after one of the lessons to "meditate" on it (even though I'm usually using the time to think about cartoons from the 1990's, which were awesome, or trying to discretely find some eye-candy among the younger congregants).

Oh, and the white-noise of heaters or air-conditioners doesn't help. And if you've got the buzzing of fluorescent lights, that's a double-whammy of profaneness inserted into what's supposed to be sacred space and sacred time. And, while I'm on this "cascading criticism" (a term my dad taught me): wall-to-wall carpeting in churches is vulgar and stupid too; I'm supposed to hear footsteps echoing, dammit!

Is all the artificial lighting so that we can all read along in our missalettes? Wasn't the whole point of putting in English so that we wouldn't have to have our noses buried in books?!?

As I've been attending the daily morning Mass at the Cathedral here lately, I'm happy that it's better than most places inasmuch as it's a big space and the lights are high above and hidden in yellow-glass "lanterns" that make them vaguely less intrusive. Still, I wish churches, especially when there is that beautiful, calming, Sacred morning light of the dawn golden-hour streaming in...would just turn off the lights. There is something so amazing about a darker room naturally lit when it's bright outside, something a bit drowsy, but definitely something Sacred.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Made Me Cry A Little

I saw this a few months ago, it's so true. My own evolution around the teenage years wasn't exactly like this, but the progression idea is certainly spot-on, especially in terms of where it ends up:

An unconventional source for something so genuinely touching.

The Ordering of the Ordinary

I'm currently reading (though stalling in progress) The Sources of the Self by Charles Taylor, a book that I've had on my to-do list for a year and a half now.

I'm really only at the beginning. Frankly, he's taking quite a long time to say a lot of things I already knew and believed. But maybe the sort of "philosophers" who infest our universities today, poisoned with their modern arrogance, take a lot more words to convince, and maybe they're his real intended audience. But, basically, the main point I've gathered so far is that because The Good is only definable relative to human subjectivity, that any attempt to construct an "objective" philosophy of it is incoherent.

This is something I've just always assumed. Specifically, as Catholic Encyclopedia points out, we can only define the good circularly with reference to desire and vice versa; the good is that quality which moves the Will, like magnetism is that which moves a magnet. This is something I discussed on a Vox Nova thread a few months ago and plan to eventually come back on this blog regarding eudemonism and the natural law (which the poster seemed to have some fundamental misunderstandings about).

To me, consciousness clearly must be a "structural" feature of any picture of the universe we have, and the only perspective we can have it from. This was always just intuitive to me since I was a child. I think pure materialism is a delusion that involves defining ones own conscious subjectivity out of existence; it is solipsism, not pure materialism, that is the much more "likely" philosophical extreme for me. After all, all the external matter could all just be a "dream" in my own consciousness, "illusory" sense impressions, whereas my consciousness itself is immediately apparent to me as real (in the only possible definition of "real" I could formulate; something else I've written about before and maybe will come back to again on this blog).

Taylor specifically seems to be framing this truth in the form of an argument that notions of identity don't even make sense without notions of relative valuation, and so that to try to apply an "objective" account onto the realm of human behavior or meaning (and this latter, especially, is the only real job philosophy has) like we do with the material basically a category error, as human beings exist as subjects who do make subjective valuations, but these are no less "real" for the fact of their subjectivity, and any account of moral questions cannot simply dismiss this in a naturalistic way.

Perhaps I just didn't realize how decadent the state of modern philosophy was, as to me all these things go without saying and I find that having to make these points through meticulously revealing the internal contradictions in the naturalistic paradigm to be rather plodding. But then, I am in some sense (it seems so far) a choir being preached to.

Another point he keeps hinting at (and which I'm sure is explicated later) is about the "affirmation of ordinary life" as a feature of modernity. This is a defining feature of the secularity characteristic of our age (secularity, not secularism; secularity in the sense of "in the world," secularity in the sense that diocesan priests are "secular," or at least should be.) In the medieval past, people understood the monastic life of contemplation, religious consecration, and constant prayer and worship to be the clear "standard," whereas today there is a sense that "the good life" is to be found (or, at least, can be found) in the ordinary life of work and family, of production and reproduction. Whether this takes the form of "the American dream" or of Jeffersonian agrarian fantasies or romanticization of the working class (or the "peasants.")

The observation of this contrast is clearly true. But what should it mean for us? I'll be interested to see what Taylor says as I keep reading, but right now I would like to just sort of share some of my own thoughts on the question of "ordinary life" vs. "extraordinary life" (say, of religious consecration or monastic contemplation, etc), and what an affirmation of ordinary life implies (and doesn't imply) philosophically and morally.

It has been noted often before that Christianity, by its very nature, contains something like the seeds of humanism. It is, after all, the story of God becoming Man. However, does this necessarily lead to something like Nietzsche's "death of God"? Does, like Žižek says, Christianity need to abandon real faith, is it "possible today to redeem this core of Christianity only in the gesture of abandoning the shell of institutional organization (and, even more so, its explicit religious experience). The gap here is irreducible: either one drops the religious form, or one maintains the form but loses the essence. That is the ultimate heroic gesture that awaits Christianity: in order to save its treasure, it has to sacrifice itself—like Christ, who had to die so that Christianity could emerge."

After all, isn't the characteristic feature of our society compared to any past analogues that ours is a post-Christian society? That it is one who has seen Christianity's insights, cannibalized them perhaps, but ultimately is what we got something inherent in the values of Christianity from the start? Did or will the valuation of human life that began in the Christ story necessarily play out as man's self-actualization transcending God through escaping self-alienation in the Marxist sense? Was Christianity just "scaffolding" needed to get to a certain point of humanitarian development that now can be discarded?

I don't think so. And I highly doubt that's what Taylor himself is saying. The valuation of ordinary life is, I think, actually highly compatible with the Catholic vision which also recognizes the extraordinary life of the contemplative. This is one of the geniuses of the Catholic notion of The Good: that transcendent meaning is present, that the eschaton breaks into history and confers goodness and meaning here and now.

There was perhaps, mistakenly, a notion in the past something along the lines of "labor and getting married and having children...are only good inasmuch as they are means to an end; labor allows you to keep living so that you can praise God (and materially support those who do so more constantly). Having children is only good because they perpetuate the institutional church (some of your descendents may become priests or monks someday!)" There was perhaps an attitude among some (or, at least, some people misunderstood it that way) that ordinary life was purely functional, "merely" a means to an end (of contemplation). That life was "merely" a test or preparation for heaven with no value or meaning right now, with value or meaning constantly deferred to the Beatific Vision.

However, what this attitude (or, rather, this modern interpretation of past attitudes; I'm not convinced it ever really was the official stance in the past either) fails to understand is the Catholic notion of the value of being ordered or oriented towards the good. I've discussed this regarding NFP and sexual morality. I've also discussed it regarding the use of language and the question of lying.

You see, the real genius of the Catholic notion of morality is that meaning can be dependent on the Absolute, on the transcendent, and yet is also immanent, is here in this moment. Yes, sex (of the natural variety) is good "because of" procreation, that is the only reason that renders that desire intelligible. However, if it is good "because of" procreation, that also means it is good, period. It is ordered towards that goodness, but that ordering towards makes that goodness already inherent, internal to the nature of that act itself (whether it bears fruit or not, or even can). A couple doesn't need to wait for procreation to result (and, indeed, maybe it never even does, or they don't even want it to) for the act itself to be rendered good, as if it only happens "retroactively" in the light of the procreation. Rather, it's goodness with reference to procreation is not conferred externally like that, on account of some subsequent effect to which it was a cause, some subsequent end to which it was a means, but as something that is part of the very "internal logic" of the ordering of the act itself (whereas, you will note, other sorts of [unchaste] sexual acts can only "explain" themselves with reference to that natural act; they contain their own subversion or contradiction).

Many people will object that if a couple positively doesn't want children to result and deliberately takes advantage of natural infertility, there is no way it can tend morally towards procreation (though tend towards is all it has to do.) However, I think there are many examples that prove this untrue. For example, policemen or armies. A state or municipality can have these while still truly saying they don't ever want to use them. A policeman on a street corner, or army training exercises, are only intelligible with reference to crime or war, they only make sense as ordered towards those ends. And yet that doesn't mean a policeman or army is purposeless if there is no crime to stop currently or no war going on. Indeed we can, and usually should, hope there never is! Yet a person would be stupid to say that, for this reason, we should get rid of the police or army, or that a policeman skipping work is equivalent to him going to work in a quiet neighborhood where he knows he won't have to stop any criminals.

Or a hospital. Doctors (should) hope no one is ever sick or injured, and yet hospitals are ordered towards helping the sick and injured, and the doctors still go into work each day prepared to ("open to") helping the sick and injured, even while at the same time they should be hoping there is actually no one to help. As a friend suggested to me, "even when the ER is empty, nurses and docs need to be awake," they can't all go out for beers just because they hope (or even know for sure) that no one is coming. Or just even more simply: you don't run a red light even when you can clearly see there are no cars coming at 3AM, because that's not how Law works, civilization would fall apart if people lived like that. The lack of (or hope of lack of) explicitly fulfilling a purpose, or of actually realizing the Reason that renders something's existence intelligible, its end, does not mean they are not still ordered towards that end (if they do their job correctly), because "realization" is always eschatological. It's always just a "tendency" towards final meaning, the question is whether its "trajectory" is correct in orientation, whether it is connected back up to the transcendent chain of meaning internally (or whether it is curved in on itself and self-contradictory and unintelligible).

Or take language. Language only makes sense in a relational context (and this is something else I remember Taylor mentioning). A solitary creature would have no language, language is by nature communicative, the very concept of "meaning" makes no sense outside the concept of having someone else to receive and understand your words. Language would not have developed with people just speaking to themselves. And yet...we can write meaningful things that we never share with anyone else. I can write a poem and keep it a secret. And yet, my words have meaning because, as language, they are ordered towards communication. Communication is a good contained in the very internal logic of language, and thus even if I never share my poem with anyone, it may be rendered good and meaningful nevertheless, still by communication (even though that good is never externally actualized, nor even desired to be actualized, in this case!)

I think the same idea is essential to our understanding of an "affirmation of ordinary life" or of "Christian humanism" or whatever you want to call these notions. Certainly I think it would be a misunderstanding (both of Christianity and of Taylor) to see an affirmation of ordinary life as necessitating some sort of rejection of the extraordinary life, as saying that ordinary life is "better" than it, or that there is some imperative to be ordinary, secular, ("normal," mediocre, etc, as the case often turns out.) I don't think the message is "no one should be a monk anymore, I shouldn't consider that vocation, it's mere escapism" or that "suburban family life is the real highest calling" (which would be nothing more than bourgeosie capitalist propaganda ala "the apotheosis of the family.")

No, I don't think that's the point. I think the point is that things being ordered towards a good end (ordered, not disordered; the ends can't justify the means) means that they are good even without immediate or explicit reference to that end. I often quote the Catholic Encyclopedia article on gluttony on this point: "it must be noted that there is no obligation to formerly and explicitly have before one's mind a motive which will immediately relate our actions to God. It is enough that such an intention should be implied in the apprehension of the thing as lawful with a consequent virtual submission to Almighty God."

Yes, there is a "chain of meaning" that connects eating back up to the Absolute and makes it good, something along the lines of: eating is ordered to nutrition, which keeps us alive, which allows us to continue living and praising God in soul and body, so that we can be saved and merit and someday get to heaven. However, as I said above, the statement "eating is good because..." implies that eating is good. Period. The "because" doesn't mean that the only thing of real value is at the end of the causal chain and that all the means on the way there are ultimately worthless in themselves, that meaning is "deferred" until we get to heaven, and that if we don't our eating during life was really just meaningless. No, the very nature of this "because" is that the Good at the end of the chain "shines back down upon" all the means on the way there; their ordering towards their Final End makes them, in some sense, also ends in themselves. The final end is contained not merely at the end of the chain when it is actually achieved but, like how the eschaton breaks into history, actually becomes immanent in each and every "step" on the way there.

And so, language is still meaningful as ordered towards truth-communicating even if you write something that you never intend to share with anyone else (as long as you don't disorder it by making it a lie). Natural marital sex is still meaningful, the desire and pleasure still intelligible, as ordered towards procreation even if the couple knows it will be infertile (as long as they don't disorder it by choosing an act without that natural significance). Labor is meaningful as ordered towards sustaining ones life for worship, yes, but that doesn't mean it is in itself meaningless fluff, a practicality that we need to "get through" so that we can "get to the real point of life" which is worship. No, indeed, the very ordering of ordinary life towards the extraordinary confers a meaning on it here and now, before we ever know if that outcome is ever realized! Yes, in some ways we toil (like God) for the whole week to make it to the Sabbath, but if we died in a bus crash on Thursday, that doesn't mean Monday-Wednesday were all just meaningless because we never actually made it to Sunday where the chain of meaning could terminate.

The post-modernists speak about how meaning is always "deferred," about the so called dictionary paradox (where you can only define a word with reference to other words which are then defined only with reference to other words) and yet we know this whole grand relational chain nevertheless does contain immediate meaning when a word is spoken, if only by the very fact of human consciousness perceiving its place in that semantic web. We have the question of "turtles all the way down." Meaning is deferred, and yet we understand here and now in the present!

Likewise, if I became Pope someday, I might be inclined to see this as conferring "meaning," as it were, "back onto" the lives of my Polish peasant ancestors toiling away in the 18th century. However, the wonderful thing about the Christian message is this: I don't ever have to become Pope. Their lives, their having children, were meaningful even then as ordered towards descendents glorifying God. I think something of this notion is symbolized in the fact that St. Thérèse of Lisieux's parents are soon to be canonized. Both of them dreamed of entering religious life, but found married life instead and at first were "disappointed." However, their ordinary life went on to produce five nuns, one of whom is one of the greatest Saints of our times! And this reflects back on and "redeems" even this ordinary life. However, once again it must be emphasized: this is not "conditional" on a family producing a Saint. The meaning that the "openness" of ordinary life towards, say, producing Saints, gives it a meaning in the present, not merely after-the-fact if a Saint actually results.

Life is a preparation for heaven, yes. It is only heaven that gives life meaning. But, it gives meaning to each and every moment even in the here-and-n0w in an "internal" way. This is the genius of Christian eschatology. The Second Coming of Christ is an event at the end of time, yes, but this eschatological reality confers meaning at each and every moment to my life, which is why the Parousia is important spiritually for Christians of every age, why our spirituality must needs be Apocalyptic even if we are not the generation that will see the literal end of the world. I don't need to "wait" for the actual event to have its meaning, I have had meaning here and now with reference to the eschaton, the great chain still hangs on a "hook" even if that hook is in the future. (And, you will note, all this remains true even if fall into sin and die and go to Hell; my life up to that point still had real meaning with reference to God).

So is the contemplative life higher, or at least a more "immediate" fulfillment of the purpose of human life? Yes, there can be no doubt of that. However, this does not denigrate ordinary life, but elevates it, for ordinary life "basks in the glow" of heaven, or of the monastic life, etc, to which it is ordered.

I think this same dynamic is also seen in the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. We know that the Old contains the New in the manner of prophecy, in the manner of typology, etc. Everything in the Old Testament is really about Christ. But this isn't true only after Christ came. We have to assume it was "there all along" in the text. Maybe we only "see it" now, but the Old Testament was rightly revered and held meaningful by the Jews even before Christ came.

Even Christ's descent into hades to redeem the righteous of the Old Testament symbolizes something like this; they weren't just "scaffolding" to be discarded or dismissed once the building was built, as it were, once Christ came. No, rather, the "grounding" in Christ conferred meaning "back onto" their lives. In one sense this is "retroactive," but in another this "retroactivity" was already there in the Old Testament, the meaning was not "deferred" until Christ, but was there in the present (and yet still because of Him).

The danger, of course, is this: that we will forget the absolute that grounds our meaning. This is the threat that faces our age, the reduction of everything to essentially just masturbatory, as it were. Human life was recognized as valuable because of Christ and because of God. But being valuable "because" of something else, also means it is valuable, period. But then once we have the recognition of human life as valuable, period, modern man thinks we can just discard the God and Christ that made it valuable in the first place!

Sex is desirable and pleasurable because of the good of procreation, which means it is good, period. But then people think we can just discard the ordering towards procreation that was the whole reason for its goodness in the first place, the "foundation" which rendered its desire and pleasure intelligible. Language exists to communicate truth, and it remains meaningful even if you are not actually speaking to anyone; symbols carved in a rock remain "meaningful" even if no one is reading them at the moment. But then people use it to communicate lies!

Ordinary secular life is recognized as good because it is ordered towards heaven, and even in some sense towards worship and the contemplative life (whether in the form of descendents someday pursuing that, being able to support it materially with our donations, or just we ourselves making it to Mass again on Sunday, etc), which means, however, that it is good, period (ie, it's goodness does not depend on the "eschatological realization" of the promises it already inherently contains; it is good, because of that, even now, even before that, and thus even if it never happens). And yet, people think the fact that meaning is immanent, is here and now, means we can discard the transcendent, can ignore the eschaton that is the source of meaning. That since "such and such is good because..." means that "such and such is good" here and now, even before the realization of the "because" (and even, thus, if the "because" is never realized)...that we can just discard the "because," that it must be superfluous.

However, we have seen the results of that in our society. That becomes a philosophy of despair. Hope is good in the moment even before the thing hoped for is achieved. And if it is good in the moment, it is thus good, period; it's goodness in the moment cannot be "undone" just because the thing hoped for is never achieved. And yet, "hope" is only intelligible with reference to the thing hoped for. Hope is good because it is ordered toward that hoped for, and that means that it is unintelligible if we "pull the carpet out from under" it and remove the reference to the thing hoped for.

There is a common confusion (and I'm just repeating myself now) that might think that because hope is a good experience in the moment even prior to its fulfillment (and even if it is never fulfilled or we know it can never be fulfilled and yet choose to keep hoping as an end in itself; I think unrequited or unrequitable love is the example par excellence here) that this means that its fulfillment is accidental and thus can be discarded as unnecessary. But obviously, nothing could be farther from the truth. The very concept of hope, its "in itself" goodness in the nevertheless still dependent on its fulfillment, its ordering towards that fulfillment (whether that ever comes or not), because the concept of that fulfillment is already internal to the idea of hope itself, and thus the source even of its "in itself" goodness.

Some people will say the quest for the Holy Grail finds its meaning in the quest itself. That the nobility or adventure or relationships built along the journey are what it's all about, not the "destination." That the Holy Grail is just the "stone" in Stone Soup. And yet, there is no quest if you aren't questing for something, there would have been no stone soup without the stone! Even if it's something I know it is highly unlikely I'll ever find, like the last unicorn, an End like that is necessary for any sense of purposive action. Otherwise it's just wandering around. And, say what you will about wandering around, that certainly has a different dynamic than a quest ordered towards something, that has an end driving it. There can be nobility in a quest, even a failed or impossible quest. There is no nobility in wandering aimlessly.

And we can have an aim (or, rather, our wills can be "aimed") even when we hope not to actually reach the end, mind you. Like my "hospital" example above...take searching around a house for a burglar, for example. You come home, you think someone may be in the house, so you check every possible place a burglar might be, even while positively hoping you won't find someone, and even perhaps speaking loudly to scare him off (if he is there) before you reach him, or coming home only at those times of day when you know that no burglar will be there (even if he may have been there at some other time). And yet, the act of going through the search is clearly ordered towards something (finding a burglar), this action is intelligible and purposive to that end, even when you are hoping and trying NOT to find him. It is very different from just wandering around a house not actually looking (either randomly, or because you're too afraid of what you might find and so deliberately omit searching certain nooks or crannies).

The Absolute may never be reached in this life, and yet it is a sort of limit, it is asymptotic (to get mathematical).
Just because nothing in this world is truly infinite does not mean the concept of Infinity is not structurally important to mathematics; in fact, as it turns out, Infinity is necessary to make sense even of finite things once you start getting to calculus and beyond. God plays a similar role in the cosmos. Even if you think the meaning in the here and now is really "in the tension" of meaning being forever deferred, that tension is still held in place by the hook upon which everything hangs (even if it's a hook "out at infinity") and if you remove that anchoring "hook" (no matter how inaccessible it is)...the present tension of the rubber band in the here and now will "snap."

So let us never lose sight of this, about language, about sex, about hope, and about "ordinary life" in general. A society that removes the eschatological end towards which everything must be ordered, that "cuts the cord" on which all meaning hangs, out of some notion that "because life is good now, even before heaven, why do we need heaven?" or "things are meaningful now, even before terminating in the ever-deferred Absolute, so the Absolute itself must be unnecessary," is like saying "hope is good now, even before its fulfillment, so what's the point of positing a fulfillment?" And yet, of course, hope would not be hope without referencing a fulfillment, and certainly would not be good. And neither would life, ordinary or otherwise.

"Imposing" Morality??

Something I heard today got me thinking again about my basic "pastoral" stance, as it were. During a session with my personal trainer, I overheard some people at the gym saying something about conservative Christians trying to "impose" their morality (I think they were probably talking about sex; it always comes back to sex) on people, and laughing at the idea that you could ever "enforce" our standards on the general population.

And I just had to think: what an odd way to look things.

If practical success or compliance or "enforcibility" were the measure of a moral teaching, all moral systems would be screwed. Morality is about ideals, not the question of whether people are living up to them.

I don't think "ought" necessarily translates into "is" in our fallen world, and any concrete pastoral approach has to realize were dealing with sinful human beings, not pie in the sky models of already-accomplished perfection. (I think, for example Brideshead Revisited, though I wasn't enthralled with it the way some trads are, shows this understanding of grace working subtly and even in or through merely mediocre "results" quite well.)

But, being a "lamb in the confessional" doesn't mean you shouldn't still be a "lion" in the pulpit, and a subjective compassion for human weakness doesn't mean we change the objective standards. Trust me, I know my own weaknesses in various areas, but I also am not going to let them make me "give up."

The language of "imposition" is interesting, because I (at least) am not trying to "impose" anything on anyone. The conservatives in the institutional church, maybe; that sort of politicization of the Gospel (whether through the formal venue of the State, or informally through a mindset that expects to create heaven on earth) is exactly the problem that is in some ways at the heart of what this blog has always critiqued.

To me, a moral norm is just categorically different than that, does not constitute an "imposition" of any sort. It's more like an invitation. I'm not "trying" to "stop" anyone from doing anything, and neither was Christ. We can only live as examples and offer people a message. But hoping for their conversion is different from trying to "make" them change. The latter is not only an exercise in futility, but also in pride; it is not up to us to change people, it is up to God. Any evangelism that sees its goal as arguing or otherwise pressuring or coercing people into submission (intellectually or in other ways) is problematic, which is why I have a certain distaste for "apologetics" as a tool of evangelization; for me, apologetics is mainly useful for those who already believe.

Of course, there's a fine line. I was thinking about this when writing my recent posts on the question of tolerance and respecting people's beliefs in a pluralist society (while still holding our own very firmly) and about whether we must "hide from" the fact that bad things are going on (such as by attending the irregular weddings of those who don't even share our premises to begin with; I conclude it can be okay).

Obviously, there is no way to coerce belief from anyone. But is telling them there is a Hell and that they might be going there an "imposition" in the form of applying the force of fear or guilt? Is any "fire and brimstone" preaching bad, or is a distaste for it merely our modern political correctness showing itself? I tend to think more the latter than the former, though there is a balance. But, ultimately, I have to think, if the threat of Hell does get a rise out of people, then it means that they're conscience isn't quite dead yet. And at that point, how is making them face it an "imposition"? Can it be rude? Maybe. But rude isn't always bad when it came to saving souls. Christ had no problem being a scandal, a controversy, nor was He "nice" by modern standards. The morality of the nice/inoffensive is asinine.


I thought this story was funny following on the heels of my recent post.

When will the Vatican and their counterparts learn that giving a negative reaction is probably the worst thing you can do in a situation like this. In reality, you should either just ignore it (sending a message something like "we're above engaging that") or you react with good humor, laughing at yourself or whatever.

Heck, if I were Pope, I'd see if I couldn't stage a photo-op with that Imam recreating the advertisement! (Kiss of Peace anyone??) If the Imam himself was too stuffy, then we could get an impersonator (and score one against two enemies!) If they're laughing at you, subvert it by laughing with them, even take it up a notch. At least that way you neutralize, through sheer self-deprecating confidence, the "threat" or "challenge" they pose to you (and possibly get some serious "cool" cred). Why don't the old men in Rome (or the slightly younger men in Washington; Obama was also "targeted" in this campaign) realize this yet?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Believe It Not!

Sometimes you come across something in a translation that isn't quite right, whether it is just an unfortunate choice of words by someone who obviously has no sense of English idiom or double entendre, or simply a mistake; the whole phenomenon of the humor found in "Engrish" is about this.

Now, in this case I think it was partially a typo too (as the most salient word is actually supposed to be in the plural, I believe), but I read a quote of the Gospel from today's (Old Rite) Mass, and came across this:

"If therefore they shall say to you: [...] 'Behold he is in the closet,' believe it not!" (Matt 24:26)
And I had to think: isn't that what the institutional church has been telling us about our priests and leaders for centuries now? I guess it goes back to the beginning!

"He's not in the closet; don't believe it!!"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toronto Readers?

I've been seeing a lot of unfamiliar IPs and computers on my Stat Counter originating from Toronto (whither I myself just moved from Chicago in September). I may know who a few of you are already (and they'd know I know) and maybe they're just using all sorts of different computers at different locations for some reason. I know IP may not be fixed even for the same computer, but there is enough variety in the information even beyond that (browser, computer type, screen-size) to suggest that there are probably some locals whom I don't know yet reading the blog with relative frequency. So if there's anyone else I haven't gotten into contact with yet, please email me, it would be great to get in touch:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Suppose Savings Accounts Are Okay

I recently wrote again about Social Credit and how our modern fractional-reserve debt-money system of private credit creation (at interest!) is intrinsically usurious and the cause of all the economic inequality in the world.

This position used to lead me to believe that having a savings account and collecting interest was participation in usury and wrong. However, as I was thinking after Mass today about how the Master/King in the Parable of the Talents says, "why then didst thou not give my money into the bank, that at my coming, I might have exacted it with usury?" and I changed my mind about savings accounts exactly because of the fact that, I remembered: the relation between deposits and loans is illusory! In modern debt-money banking the loans aren't coming from your deposits in the first place. The money is literally loaned into existence. The deposits, at best, serve as a sort of legal benchmark (the "fractional reserve") for how much new money the bank is allowed to loan into existence (a limit increasingly reduced to insignificance).

So too, the "interest" paid to savers is not directly connected to the interest collected on loans (though an illusory connection is suggested to a naive public). The interest paid to savings account holders is not "your share" of the profits the bank makes from lending from its deposits. It's not that this is the share of the interest you get in exchange for letting the bank lend out your money, because the bank doesn't really lend out your money (if that were the case, you wouldn't be able to withdraw your money, or at least not all of it, at once or without prior notice, as it might be "out on loan.") A "run on the bank" is no longer really an issue, or if it is it's for different reasons. All your "gold" is still safely in the vault and available for withdrawl, the loans are not from deposits.

And the corollary to this is that, likewise, your interest in a savings account is really not particularly causally related to the interest the bank collects on the new debt-money it loans into existence. Really, your interest in a saving's account is a token amount that comes from the bank's same money-creating power. And unless you want to argue that spending Federal Reserve money (or any debt-based monetary unit or species of credit) is sinful, neither can merely having a saving's account be accounted as such.

This is sort of like Aquinas's argument that only the lender sinned in usury, I guess. I also thought this article from the Summa about different kinds of consideration for money "lent" are usury and which weren' very interesting. Although he is still clearly making assumptions about the economy that are medieval (and thus not necessarily true in the modern economy), if you read the objections and replies carefully, he actually approves of several things that some people use to argue that usury is okay (but which aren't really usury; such as, for example, expecting a share of the profits if one "lends" to a merchant or craftsman, which is really investment and not lending).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I was looking at a stained glass window at the Cathedral today that portrays one of my favorite Western "iconographic" themes: the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin.

There are many nice images of the type I'm referring to. I couldn't get a great photo of the window in the light with just my phone, but I do want to share the one I have just because I think the color scheme of the robes of the Father, Jesus, and Mary (in rich purple, red, and blue) is so nice. (Before reading the rest of this post, it might help to read or re-read my post regarding Images of the Father in Christian art, where I argue that they're always really images of the Son in some sense):

As you can see, it's the common image of the Father and Christ seated at His Right Hand, with Our Lady kneeling in between and the Holy Spirit as a dove floating over the crown. I find this image sums up the context of the Virgin Mary in my own theological vision/spirituality. Although I may not seem like your "typical" Marian devotee in the "private devotional" sense (who see her in very personal familial terms, but in a manner that treats Mariology as something of a "side-show" to the central questions of the Faith), for me she actually plays a very important "structural" role in my whole Catholic symbolic-system. Specifically, I would say my Marian devotion is subsumed into my conception of divinization and the mystical Ecclesia, and through Her into my Trinitarianism itself (by way of my Pneumatology).

It is specifically this which so appeals to me in the image of the Coronation, and which I was thinking about again today. One of my pet peeves, theologically, is the way Catholics popularly refer to Mary as "Spouse of the Holy Spirit." This is not untrue. However, this title usually is placed at the end of a triad of appellations relating her, in turn, to each of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity ("Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.") The implication of this is that "spouse" is Mary's "specific" relationship to the Spirit in a manner making it equivalent to her relationships as "daughter" and "mother" with the Father and Son.

However, I would argue this is misleading. In reality, Our Lady is in some sense "spouse" of all three persons of the Trinity. The Father, exactly because she is the Mother of His Son, the Son exactly because she embodies His Mystical Bride, and the Holy Spirit because of His most perfect indwelling in her. However, if you are perceptive in following my line of thought, you will notice two interesting points here: the first is that I do not attribute her "spousal" status with the Holy Spirit primarily to the fact that she conceived by the Spirit, and the second is the question of what exactly (if "spouse" is her common relationship to all three persons) should we say is her specific/unique relationship to the Holy Spirit (parsed in human terms).

My preferred answer to this question is something like "Perfect Image" or "Perfect Icon of the Holy Spirit." St. Maximilian Kolbe, probably the greatest Mariologist of our age besides his heroic martyrdom of charity, went so far as to use the term "quasi-incarnation." This formulation may frighten orthodox ears, but I think it reveals a great mystery. There is much here to be unpacked, but I'd like to share a long quote from this article discussing St. Maximilian's thoughts on the matter:

In his writings on the "Immaculata" (the name he used for Mary under the title, Immaculate Conception), he would often ask, "Who are you?" For Our Lady did not say "I was immaculately conceived," but rather identified herself, her very being ("I am") with the "Immaculate Conception." Kolbe says these words of Mary "point up not only the fact that she was conceived without sin, but also the manner in which this privilege belongs to her. It is not something accidental; it is something that belongs to her very nature. For she is Immaculate Conception in person."

The above words are taken from the Polish Martyr's last writing, a few hours before his final arrest by the Nazis on February 17, 1941, when he would be taken to Auschwitz and eventually be killed by lethal injection after offering his life in place of a fellow prisoner. In this same "Final Sketch" Kolbe arrived at a profound insight, an "answer" it seems (at least in part) to his persistent question, "Who are you, Immaculata?": he calls Mary the created Immaculate Conception, created sinless and from conception uniquely filled with an abundance of grace, in order to be made superabundantly fruitful when she would become the Mother of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. As Kolbe says: "He [the Holy Spirit] makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity." Additionally, he calls the Holy Spirit the Uncreated, Eternal Immaculate Conception, who is "conceived" from the love that flows eternally between the Father and the Son; a love so perfect that it is personified. Kolbe explains:

Everything that exists, outside of God himself, since it is from God and depends upon him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator . . . because every created thing is an effect of the Primal Cause.

It is true that the words we use to speak of created realities express the divine perfections only in a halting, limited and analogical manner. They are only a more or less distant echo — as are created realities that they signify — of the properties of God himself.

Would not "conception" be an exception to this rule? No, there is never any exception . . .

And who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine "conception." The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the "uncreated, eternal conception," the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.

In other writings the Polish friar attempts to describe Mary's deep, intimate union with the Third Person of the Trinity from her conception, by calling Mary the "quasi-incarnation" of the Holy Spirit. He is careful to stress that this union "is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ"; for he repeated often that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in Mary in the same way in which the Eternal Word is present in the sacred humanity of Jesus. The notion of the Holy Spirit becoming "in some manner" (quasi) incarnate in Mary may at first seem to be an extreme idea. However, it is somewhat analogous to the statement by St. Louis de Montfort, that "God the Son wishes to form himself, and in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother." Along the same lines, St. Paul says: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).

With the term "quasi-incarnation" Kolbe means that Mary is so much like (quasi) the Holy Spirit, in that she reflects the Third Person of the Trinity especially in two qualities or attributes: receptivity and fruitfulness. The Holy Spirit is the Fruit of the Father and the Son. He was "eternally conceived," if you will, as the Fruit of the all-pure love which has forever flowed between the Father and the Son. He receives the mutual love of the Father and the Son and eternally fructifies it within the inner life of the Trinity. Mary's sinlessness from conception is the fruit of God's love. At Mary's conception the Holy Spirit conformed her to himself. The Blessed Virgin, by reason of the singular grace of her Immaculate Conception, is totally receptive to the love of God. At the Annunciation she receives God's love and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit makes that love fruitful — infinitely so — in conceiving the Incarnate Word.

Mary's receptivity and fruitfulness did not end with the Conception and Birth of Christ. Now in Heaven, Mary remains the living, human conduit for the graces that the Holy Spirit distributes to us. As Kolbe says:

[T]he Holy Spirit manifests his share in the word of Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin who, although she is a person entirely distinct from him, is so intimately associated with him that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the hypostatic union linking the human and divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary's action is the very action of the Holy Spirit.

St. Maximilian sees Mary's ineffable union with the Holy Spirit from the very first instant of her conception as giving her a privileged place in God's saving plan. In keeping with what God has revealed in Scripture and Tradition regarding Mary's intercessory role in the order of grace, he says:

When we reflect on these two truths: that all graces come from the Father by the Son and the Holy Spirit; and that our Holy Mother Mary is, so to speak, one with the Holy Spirit, we are driven to the conclusion that this Most Holy Mother is indeed the intermediary by whom all graces come to us.

All of God's grace comes to us through Mary's intercession. This is the "descending" order of grace. For Kolbe, there is a corresponding "ascending" order, for Mary is our means for going to God: "Have no doubt that her will is entirely united to God's will. It is a matter, then, of uniting our will to hers, and thus we will be united to God through her." The Polish Saint sees uniting oneself to Mary as the means of conquering the world for Christ:

"The Knights of the Immaculata [members of the MI movement] seek to become ever more truly the property of the Immaculata; to belong to her in an ever more perfect way and under every aspect without any exception. They wish to develop their understanding of what it means to belong to her so that they may enlighten, reinvigorate, and set on fire the souls living in their own environment, and make them similar to themselves. They desire to conquer these souls for the Immaculata, so that in their turn they may belong without reserve and may in this manner win an ever greater number of souls to her — may win the entire world, in fact, and do so in the shortest possible time."

Perhaps what most attracted St. Maximilian to Mary is her beauty: the beauty of the deep and unfathomable mystery of her Immaculate Conception, and the beauty of her spotless purity throughout the entirety of her earthly life, which now radiates forth in heaven. St. Bernadette gives witness to this when, describing the apparitions at Lourdes, she says of Our Lady: "She is so beautiful, that one would be willing to die to see her again."

There are a few things I am a bit uncomfortable about in the emphasis here, but for the most part I think this is remarkable insight, and perhaps the greatest theological insight of the past 500 years in how it ties Mariology, Christology, Trinitarianism (and specifically its most neglected branch Pneumatology), Soteriology, and Ecclesiology up into one remarkably integrated and beautiful package!

I mention Ecclesiology at the end there, and that is the one thing that disturbs me a bit about the emphasis: I think that the idea of Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace, or the wonderful symbolism of the St. Louis de Montfort statement "God the Son wishes to form himself, and in a manner of speaking, become incarnate every day in his members through his dear Mother" are both true. But, as I said, my Marian devotion is subsumed into my concept of the mystical Ecclesia, of Mother Church as Christ's Bride and Body, and I think we risk a certain incompleteness or a certain imbalance in our emphasis on Mary personally if we forget, in these contexts, a typological principle something along the lines of "everything that can be said of Mary can be said of Ecclesia, and vice versa."

Mary is simply the perfect Type, the embodiment as it were, of the Church as Bride. Which is also, of course, Mother, and Christ's body. Not just because, as St. Paul says, "The husband is the head of his wife, and the wife the body of her husband," but because Christ becomes incarnate (either literally or mystically) through her/Her. (The symbolic integration of the Church as Body of Christ, and Holy Communion as the Body of Christ is something else I can only briefly note here, but which is likewise incredibly intricate and elegant symbolism).

And, likewise, Mary also represents simply the perfect degree of what all individual souls could be through divinization in the Church, taking Christ as bridegroom of our souls. I think it is important to keep this association or symbolic equivalence between Mary and Ecclesia (and, to more or less perfect degrees, both and the souls of the saints) in order to understand more fully the relation of both to Holy Spirit (whom we go so far as to call the "Soul of the Church.")

My point in emphasizing Ecclesiology at this point is simply that in calling Mary the "Perfect Image of the Holy Spirit" or even "quasi-incarnation"...I do not think we are elevating Mary to some status of her own as some sort of additional independent divine figure, the "Mariology as Side-Show" attitude I expressed concern about earlier. But rather we must think of all this in its broader typological (and specifically Ecclesiological) context, which I fear Marian devotees of the "private devotional" variety sometimes forget (in the same way they can form a cult of personality around the figure of the Pope without remembering his holistic ecclesiological-symbolic context).

In saying these things about the Virgin Mary, we are simply proclaiming a truth that in a broader sense belongs to the whole mystical Ecclesia, the whole Church (and each saint in it), about the process of divinization (in the East "theosis") and the relationship of the Holy Spirit to that (Trinitarian) process. What we say about Mary here does not set her apart from us, but rather should be indicative of a template that applies to our own souls in the Church (which Mary simply had to the perfect degree).

If we say that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Grace, we are saying that the Church is the Mediatrix of All Grace, and also that we can be mediators of grace for each other within it (though not to the perfect "complete" or "total" degree that Mary herself is.) And the reason it is mainly Mary who is the "stereotypical" private apparition, is because it is the Church which instantiates locally in each time and place and culture. That there are so many "local Maries," that each place has its own special Marian Title or Apparition or Image (or "avatar"), is representative of the fact that the universal Church appears as the local church in each given place. "Our Lady of..." is like "The Church of...[Ephesus, Smyrna, Sardis, etc]" as addressed in the Apocalypse of St. John.

I'd like to return now to the specifically Trinitarian/Pneumatological question. The great thing about Catholicism is how all the symbols ultimately "collapse" upwards into each other. This is one of the things that has always made Catholicism feel true to me and like its author must be Divine: the way that these symbolic resonances are inherent to the system in an internally consistent way, and yet have remained "undiscovered" sometimes by man (implying that they were designed into the system deliberately, and yet not designed into it by man; mathematicians call the corresponding trait in their field "elegance.")

I would like to point out a great article by Stratford Caldecott that specifically links the Coronation of Mary (as the final mystery of the Rosary) with Theosis, the Immaculate Conception, and the Holy Spirit. Many of my insights are the same as or similar to its own, especially as regards the need to integrate Mariology back into Ecclesiology and the other branches of theology. It is a truly excellent article. Read it!

Specifically I would like to share the following quote, which begins to get to the very heart of defining not just Mary's relationship to the Holy Spirit, but setting both in the Trinitarian context. About Kolbe's "quasi-incarnation" formulation, Caldecott says:
This formulation remains highly controversial, not least because it does not seem adequate to preserve the distinction between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. The phrase "Uncreated Immaculate Conception" would seem to apply more directly to the Person of the Son as the one "begotten" by the Father than to the Spirit "breathed forth". I would be inclined to defend Kolbe's phrase by arguing that "Conception" here refers rather to the act of conception than to the one conceived or begotten in or through the act. The Holy Spirit is thus the one "in whom" the Son is eternally begotten, the one "in whom" the Father contemplates and loves his Son. The motherhood of the Mother of God then becomes an image of the active conceiving of this Word in the bosom of the eternal Trinity - the Word carried on the breath of the Spirit, the wings of the Dove. She is the earthly image of the "hearing" or "understanding" of the Eternal Word. For the Word generated by the Father is understood by the one in whom it is received perfectly - by that person, in fact, who is the Immaculate Conception. The Mother of God is thus the earthly image not of the Father's generation of the Son, nor of the Son's generation by the Father, but of the Holy Spirit's conception of the Son as a gift for the Father and for the world. This means also that the Mother of God is an image of the way the Son is loved in the eternal Trinity, since in God to understand is to love and to love is to understand.
Of course, to some this might sound like it is getting dangerously close to declaring the Holy Spirit as "Mother" in the Trinity. I do not think this actually follows from what is being said, however I do think it means that notions of the Holy Spirit as feminine (internal to the Trinity, not in His ad extra attribution necessarily) or as maternal may have some merit. After all, if there is a correspondance between Maria and Ecclesia and the Holy Spirit in our symbolic system, this would suggest itself.

The objection to the vision Caldecott presents above, of a maternal interpretation of the procession of the Holy Spirit, is usually to be found in, ironically, a particular form of "familial" interpretation of the Trinity that is another pet peeve of mine.

[Note that what I say in the rest of this article is from an unabashed Filioquist perspective, involving the "relations of opposition" within the Trinity. Nevertheless, remember, I've done a post before (and plan to do another following up on that sometime soon) on the Filioque and believe that the Orthodox and Catholic views are complementary and actually referring to two different "levels" of Trinitarian reality (in the former case to "hypostatic existence," in the latter to "eternal energetic manifestation"). In this case, however, I'm referring to the latter in which sense the Filioque is true, involving the Persons of the Trinity undestood as "relations of opposition."]

The familial interpretation of the Trinity that bugs me is related to the way that emphasizing Mary as specifically "Spouse of the Spirit" (when that is true of all three persons as discussed above) irks me. There is a certain popular (but hopelessly convoluted) explanation of the Trinitarian image within a human family as something along the lines of "Just like the Father's love for the Son overflows as the Holy Spirit, so does the husband's love for his wife overflow in a third person which is the child."

The mixing of metaphors here is grating to anyone with any critical thinking skills. It's not that I deny that there is a Trinitarian image in the human family. There is. In fact, in spite of certain Church Fathers' reluctance to place the Image of God in man in this relational aspect (as opposed to our intellect and will), to me it's pretty obvious that the very Revealed names of "Father" and "Son" imply just such a familial context for interpretation. That's not to say the intellect and will thing isn't true also, but God did not Reveal the Son as "Intellect" primarily or the Holy Spirit as "Will."

However, if the Trinitarian analogy is "Father+Son = Holy Spirit, just like Husband + Wife = Baby"...this is hopelessly confused. As it ends up turning the Son into the Mother, and the Holy Spirit into the Son. This is clearly mixed up. In any familial interpretation of the Holy Trinity, the relationship of Father generating Son can only possibly find its analogue in a father generating a child (duh).

This same sort of mix-up happens with how Catholics sometimes peak of Mary's relationship to the Holy Spirit. Specifically (once again "Spouse of the Spirit" understood improperly causing problems) there is this tendency to speak as if the Holy Spirit played the paternal role in the conception of Jesus. But again, obviously, this is terribly confused. Clearly, it is the Father who is the paternal force. The Father is the father of Christ, not the Holy Spirit.

What to make of the dogma, then, that Mary "conceived of/by the Holy Spirit"? I think both Kolbe and Caldecott suggest the correct solution: the Holy Spirit was not the divine paternal force in the conception of Christ in Mary, but rather was the divine maternal force, which rendered Mary able to conceive the Father's Son, which rendered her receptive to the Father's paternity in such a way that she could enter into a real relationship of Divine Maternity with the Son. And this constituting of Mary as receptive in this manner, this taking her up into divine maternity began not at the Annunciation, but at the Immaculate Conception itself where the Father rendered her a fitting Mother through the (foreseen merits of) the Son.

This clarification, I think, provides the key for how the proper interpretation of the Family as Trinitarian should work, and for how the Holy Spirit may be envisioned as maternal within the Trinity (as a "collapsing" of Mary and the Church "into" the Holy Spirit would likewise imply.) The common objection to this notion by those holding the simplistic analogy (the one that turns the Son into the mother and the Holy Spirit into the son in a family) is that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. If the Spirit was maternal, it would be the Father + the Holy Spirit = the Son. This, however, is the great misunderstanding (and probably only further pushes the Orthodox away by the simplistic and wrong way this understanding invokes the Filioque idea).

We must remember what, in the Western tradition, the persons of the Trinity are. They are relations subsisting. The Father is really "fatherhood," is paternity subsisting, the Son is really "sonship," is filiation subsisting. I think you may be able to see now why mothers should not be conceived of as the "second person" in a family, but rather as the third. Or, rather, why motherhood is the third relation, even if the woman constituted in that relation precedes the child in time. But in the order of logical causation of the relationships, it is "father" that implies "child" first, and only then through the child is a "mother" implied.

When thought of in terms of relations, it becomes rather obvious: what is the first concept immediately implied by the word "father" or "fatherhood." It's not "mother." That's more remote. Obviously, the first thing, the thing logically implied by the very definition of "father" is "child." A father is only a father relative to a child and vice versa. If mother came second in the order of logical implication this would be incoherent (as there can be no father or mother without child!) So it is the generation of son by father, and the oppositional definition of fatherhood and sonship, which are the first two relations in a family. Then, "through the son," a third person is constituted in relationship relative to both of them (namely the mother impregnated).

I have pointed this out to my own father before. He sometimes insists that he "isn't related to" my mother (as he is to his children, or us to both of them). What he means is that they share no common ancestors, no blood, no genes, etc. However, I point out to him, while they may not have common ancestors, they do now have common descendents. Whatever else happens, they are now biologically "related" in an irretrievable sense; she can never not be the mother of his children, he can never not be the father of hers.

This is why procreation is at the heart of the Catholic conception of marriage (if only in the abstract for some couples, like the infertile, etc). Before the child (or, at least, the concept of the child in their promise of sexual exclusivity), the father and mother are just a man and a woman, not "really" related except in a voluntary way. But through a child they become truly related through and in a person. Their relationship is really constituted as generationally irrevocable (ie, there will be a "plus sign" on a family tree forever) through the child. It is the generation of a child by the father, and the establishing of the mother into relationship with both that constitutes, which truly binds up the family in Trintarian relationality.

Just as brief aside (perhaps biased by my own familial experiences) I think this point has relevance for how families should be prioritized. Many people nowadays (and it goes along with the whole incorrect version of Trinitarian analogy for families) tend to think of the love between the husband and wife as the "primary" relationship in a family, as the "foundation." However, once again, the Trinity itself should give us pause. The primary relationship in the universe is between Father and Son, the primary love is of Father for Son. I think that in any family, the love of parents for their children must be placed conceptually before the love of the husband for the wife. That love, that relationship, is not "substantial" until there is a relationship of father to child (from which the relationship of mother to both overflows).

Before a child (or at least the idea of child), they're just two people living together. The relationship of "motherhood" (which is a relation to both child and the father, mind you) is only constituted through the generation of child by the father in her. So, appealing to the Trinitarian fact that the primal relationship of the universe is not a dualistic male/female one, but the like-by-like love of Father for Son, I am inclined think families based on the love of parents for their children (and, most symbolically appropriate, of father for first-born son) are bound to be more stable than those based on the love between husband and wife.

So, does all this mean we should call the Holy Spirit "Mother"?? No. In fact, this is where the familial analogy falls short. While we could imagine a father and son coming into being in the very act of generation of latter by former, we could not really imagine this for a mother. Which is to say, "father" can be abstracted from any pre-existent man and taken just as a relational term. So can "son" especially (as no child pre-exists the act of generation). But the very notion "mother" implies a pre-existent woman "in whom" the father is generating the son, a woman who pre-exists her being constituted as "mother" through that generation.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, does not function like this, obviously. If there is in some sense in which the Son is conceived "in" the Holy Spirit (ala Caldecott's language) this does not mean there was any pre-existent Person (in terms of the order of logical causality) for this to happen "in." It might be more appropriate to say the Son is generated "into" the Holy Spirit, as the procession of the Holy Spirit flows from or through the generation of the Son (in the order of relations of opposition). As Caldecott says, like "the Word carried on the breath of the Spirit," the breath does not precede the word, in fact it proceeds from the speaking.

Some will find resonance with one or the other in the feminine Sophia/Wisdom who appears in the Old Testament. Though often interpreted as an image of the Second Person in His passive relation to the Father (hence the feminine), I think it might make more sense to read Sophia as the Holy Spirit; after all, Wisdom is not Word, but rather proceeds through Word, is what is conveyed by Word (and yet, at the same time, is the "conception" in the intellectual sense in which the Word is spoken). It is notable in this regard that the traditional Roman Liturgy uses all the Wisdom passages in a Marian/Ecclesiological fashion rather than a Christological one.

Either way, while the Holy Spirit is like the relationship of motherhood in some important ways, we cannot speak of the Holy Spirit as "Mother" in the sense of "maternity subsisting," because of how the analogy breaks down in this way: a mother comes before her child (even if she only becomes "mother" because of the child), whereas the Holy Spirit (in the causal order of the divine processions, at least the "eternal energetic" ones) comes only after the Son or dependent on the Son, because of how the divine persons are pure relations subsisting. Furthermore, though I have pointed out here that motherhood actually constitutes a relation to both the child and the father, we do not predicate the word "mother" to her relationship to the father; she does not become her husband's "mother" (though, perhaps, a term like "baby-mama" could, taken in two different senses, connote the relationship constituted to both the child and the father.)

We actually have no word from the natural analogy that would represent the constituting of the third relation through the second (yet without reference a pre-existent subject). Citing "impregnation" or "conception" as a relationship-constituting action referring to the event itself rather than to the fruit of that event (as Caldecott describes) comes close, as does the analogy to the Immaculate Conception (where Mary was constituted a fitting mother only first by referencing the merits of the Son) and Kolbe takes advantage of this with his suggestion of "Uncreated Immaculate Conception," but this is clearly not a proper name in the same sense that Father and Son are.

In reality, the Holy Spirit (and His corresponding spiration/procession) has no proper name like this. Aquinas explains in the Summa:
While there are two processions in God, one of these, the procession of love, has no proper name of its own, as stated above (27, 4, ad 3). Hence the relations also which follow from this procession are without a name (28, 4): for which reason the Person proceeding in that manner has not a proper name. But as some names are accommodated by the usual mode of speaking to signify the aforesaid relations, as when we use the names of procession and spiration, which in the strict sense more fittingly signify the notional acts than the relations; so to signify the divine Person, Who proceeds by way of love, this name "Holy Spirit" is by the use of scriptural speech accommodated to Him. The appropriateness of this name may be shown in two ways.

Firstly, from the fact that the person who is called "Holy Spirit" has something in common with the other Persons. For, as Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 17; v, 11), "Because the Holy Spirit is common to both, He Himself is called that properly which both are called in common. For the Father also is a spirit, and the Son is a spirit; and the Father is holy, and the Son is holy."

Secondly, from the proper signification of the name. For the name spirit in things corporeal seems to signify impulse and motion; for we call the breath and the wind by the term spirit. Now it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved. Further, holiness is attributed to whatever is ordered to God. Therefore because the divine person proceeds by way of the love whereby God is loved, that person is most properly named "The Holy Spirit."

This question of names and what they signify as regards the relations has an interesting implication too that it's fun to point out:
In the name Son we understand that relation only which is of something from a principle, in regard to that principle: but in the name "Father" we understand the relation of principle; and likewise in the name of Spirit inasmuch as it implies a moving power. But to no creature does it belong to be a principle as regards a divine person; but rather the reverse. Therefore we can say "our Father," and "our Spirit"; but we cannot say "our Son."
So, though clarifying the role of maternity in the familial analogy and associating the Holy Spirit with that (especially in Mary and the Church) hopefully will provide a richer and more dynamic understanding of Mariology, Pneumatology, and the Family for people, the Holy Spirit remains without a proper name. Perhaps this is fitting, however, as each of us individually (each with our own proper names) receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at baptism, are incorporated thereby into the Church and, after the pattern of the Blessed Virgin Mary are taken up into the bosom of the Trinity itself through our divinization by grace.