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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Reflection for Trinity Sunday

Reflection for Trinity Sunday

By Jim J. McCrea

Although the Trinity is a mystery, I would not say that it is true that there is no way we can know how three persons can exist in one God. The key is given by the early Church Fathers. According to them, the persons are distinguished by their relations of origin.

The only difference between the Father and the Son is that the Father begets and the Son is begotten. In all other respects they are the same. This is unlike human fatherhood in which there are a whole host of differences between father and son besides the fact that the father begets his son. God is absolute simplicity in that He has no composition of parts or attributes. In the Trinity, Father and Son have this absolute simplicity in distinction in simply that one is the Father and the other is the Son (they are not physical bodies related by space and position which would introduce complexity). Similarly, the only difference between the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Son is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not the other way around.

As a result, the persons are distinguished not by what they are but by where they come from. What they are is one and the same, therefore, they are one God. But there is a real distinction in their relations which are the individual persons. When the Father begets the Son, He is not generating another thing or another being (or another substance), but is generating His own being in the relation of being begotten. Similarly, when the Holy Spirit proceeds it is not another being proceeding, but is the same being in the relation of proceeding. God is one being in three relations.

When I was younger, I strained to understand how three persons can exist in one God. My Father (unfamiliar with the explanation of the Church Fathers), said that only in heaven will we know how that is possible. I thought we were being asked to accept a contradiction. Many years ago I first read the explanation in St. Augustine's "The Trinity." It was a huge "Ah Ha" moment for me. It was Gregory of Nyssa who first came up with the explanation shortly before St. Augustine. From what I read, he received it in private revelation from the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Apostle. It seems as if the explanation is too simple and profound for man to come up with unaided.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Four Principles of Providence

Four Principles of Providence

Taken from
Holy Abandonment
By: Dom Vitalis Lehodey

The Lord tells us by the Prophet Isaias that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and that as the heavens are exalted above the earth so are His ways above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts (Is. 55, 8-9). Hence it comes about that Providence is very often misunderstood by the man of weak faith and imperfect mortification. We now proceed to specify four immediate causes of such misunderstandings.

1. Providence remains in the shadow so as to give us the opportunity and the merit of exercising our faith, whereas we want to see. God hides Himself behind secondary causes; the more these become manifest, the less does He appear. Without Him they can do nothing, they could not even exist. We know this well enough. And nevertheless, instead of ascending to Him, we make the mistake of confining our attention to the external phenomenon, agreeable or otherwise, and more or less enveloped in mystery. He does not enlighten us as to the particular end He pursues, the paths whereby He is conducting us thither, or the way already traversed. And we, far from putting blind confidence in Him, are anxious for this knowledge, and almost venture to ask Him for explanations. Would a little child be impatient to know where its mother is taking it, or why she chooses one road rather than another? Does not the patient go so far as to entrust his health, his life, the integrity of his members, to his physician or surgeon? This latter is only a man, but we have confidence in him on account of his devotion to his science and his professional skill. Should we not, then, impose infinitely more confidence in God, the almighty Physician, the incomparable Saviour? But at least when all is dark around us and we know not where we are, how we should welcome a ray of light! Ah, if we had even the assurance that this is in truth the operation of grace, and that so far all goes well! As a rule, however, it is only when the Divine Artist has completed His work that we are in a position to appreciate it. God wills us to be content with pure faith and, putting our trust in Him, to preserve our hearts in peace, despite the enveloping darkness. And this is the first cause of our misunderstandings.

2. Providence has views very different from ours regarding both the end to be pursued and the means of attaining it. So long as we have not entirely renounced the spirit of the world, we desire to discover a heaven here below, or at least a path of roses conducting us to paradise. Therefore we become unduly attached to the esteem of good people, to the love of our relatives and friends, to the consolations of piety, to tranquility of soul, etc. Therefore also we feel such a repugnance for humiliations, contradictions, sicknesses, and trials of every description. Consolation and success seem to us, at least in some degree, the reward of virtue; aridity and adversity the chastisement of vice. We are astonished when we behold the sinner often prospering in this life, and the just man undone. God, on the other hand, has no intention of giving us a heaven on earth; He desires that we should merit our heaven, and as beautiful a one as possible. If the sinner is obstinately determined to ruin himself for eternity, it is necessary that he should receive in time the recompense of whatever little good he may do. With regard to the elect, their reward is reserved for them in paradise. Meanwhile, the essential thing is that they be purified and sanctified ever more and more, and made richer and richer in merits. Tribulation serves admirably as a means to these ends. God, therefore, deaf to everything but the voice of His austere and wise affection, labours to reproduce in us Jesus crucified, so that hereafter we may reign with Jesus glorified. Who does not know the Beatitudes enumerated by the Divine Master? The cross, accordingly, is the present He most willingly offers to His friends. "Look at My whole life, full of suffering," He said to St. Theresa the Elder, "and be persuaded that they whom My Father loves most dearly shall receive from Him the heaviest crosses. The measure of His love is also the measure of the suffering He sends. How could I better prove My affection for you than by desiring for you that which I desired for Myself?" Language supremely wise, yet how little understood! Here we have the second cause of our misunderstandings.

3. Providence smites us severely, and poor nature complains. Our passions boil over, our pride seduces us, our wills allow themselves to be carried away. Grievously wounded by sin, we resemble one afflicted by a gangrened member. We realise clearly enough that nothing but an amputation can save us. Yet we have not the courage to carry out the operation ourselves. Therefore God, Whose love has no weakness in it, determines to render us this painful service. As a consequence, He sends us these unforeseen difficulties, this destitution, this contempt, these humiliations, this loss of external goods, this illness which is wasting our strength. All are the instruments wherewith He binds and squeezes the diseased member, strikes on the sound part, wounds and cuts to the quick. Nature cries out in pain. But God pays no heed, because this severe treatment is necessary for our cure and the preservation of our lives. Those tribulations which come to us from outside are sent as a remedy for the evil within us: to restrain our liberty that is so apt to wander, and to bridle the passions that carry us away. We have here the reason why God permits obstacles to our designs to appear from every quarter, why He ordains that our employments should be so full of troubles, that we can never enjoy the peace we so long for, that our superiors are so often opposed to our desires. This also explains why our nature is subject to so many infirmities, why our occupations are so tiresome, why men seem so unjust and so annoyingly variable in temper. We have to endure assaults on every side from a thousand different opponents, so that our wills, only too free, being thus exercised, harassed, and exhausted, may at last detach themselves from themselves, and for the future have no other desire except to be conformed to the will of God. But our wills refuse so to die to themselves, and this is the third cause of our misunderstandings.

4. Providence sometimes employs means which disconcert us. The judgments of God are incomprehensible. We can neither penetrate their motives nor recognise the ways whereby He chooses to bring them to effect. "God begins by annihilating those whom He entrusts with any enterprise. Death is the ordinary way by which He leads to life. Nobody understands the road on which he is travelling." Neither do we understand how the divine action will turn to the advantage of souls. It seems to us not seldom to tend in the opposite way. But let us adore the sovereign wisdom which has disposed all things most perfectly. Let us be convinced that even what appear to be obstacles shall serve it as means, and that from the evils it permits it will be able to draw the good it has invariably in view, viz., the glory of God through the progress of the Church and the salvation and sanctification of souls.

Consequently, if we look at the question in the light of God we shall be forced to the conclusion that very often in this world what are called evils are not really such, nor is everything good which appears so to us. There are failures wherewith Providence blesses us, and there are successes which it sends us in punishment of our faults.

Of the countless examples on record, let us cite just a few. God promised to make Abraham the father of a great people, and that all nations should be blest in his seed. And then He commanded him to immolate the son through whom this promise would have to be fulfilled! Had He forgotten His word? Certainly not. But He willed to put to the test the faith of His servant, designing at the proper moment to stay his hand. He purposes to make the kingdom of the Pharaos subject to Joseph, and begins by abandoning him to the malice of his brethren. The poor boy was thrown into a well, led into Egypt, sold as a slave, then languished many years in prison. His career seemed to be ruined beyond hope. And yet it was through this series of calamities that God conducted him to his glorious destiny. Gideon was miraculously chosen to deliver his country from the yoke of the Madianites. He assembled a hastily levied army, which scarcely amounted to a fourth of the opposing force. But instead of increasing the numbers, the Lord dismissed nearly all. He retained only three hundred, and arming these with trumpets and lamps in earthen pitchers, He led them forth to what seemed more likely to be a butchery than a battle. And yet with this unpromising host He won for His people an astonishing and decisive victory. But let us leave the Old Testament.

After the triumph on Palm Sunday, Our Lord was betrayed, arrested, abandoned, denied, judged, condemned, buffeted, scourged, crucified, robbed of His reputation. Was it thus God the Father secured to His Son the nations of the earth as His inheritance? Hell was triumphant and all seemed lost. Nevertheless, it was precisely through this apparent defeat that Christ victoriously achieved our salvation. Again, He chose what was weak to confound the strong. With a dozen fishermen, ignorant and unknown, He went forth to conquer the world. They could do nothing of themselves, but He was with them. During three centuries He permitted His Church to be exposed to violent persecution, which indeed, according to the prophetic word, shall never wholly cease; but so far from being destroyed by the rage of her enemies, she was rather invigorated. The blood of martyrs has always been the seed of Christians, and it is so still, even in our own times. In vain the impiety of philosophers and the sophistries of heresiarchs endeavoured to extinguish the lights of heaven: their efforts only served to render the faith more definite and luminous. The kings and nations of the earth raged "against the Lord and against His Christ" (Acts 4:26), Who neverthelesss was their real support; but in His own good time the Son of the Carpenter, the Galilean, always victorious, has brought His persecutors down to the dust and cited their souls to His judgment seat. Whilst a never-ceasing succession of revolutions shake and convulse the world, the cross alone remains standing, luminous and indestructible, above the ruins of thrones and empires.

There are still other means, unlikely means, which God chooses to save a people, or to stir the multitudes, or to establish religious institutes. He once exercised in this way wonderful mercy in favour of the kingdom of France: in order to save it from total and imminent ruin, He raised up, not powerful armies, but an innocent child, a poor shepherdess, and it was by means of this feeble instrument He delivered Orleans, and brought the king in triumph to Rheims, where he was to be crowned. In quite recent times, He aroused whole nations by the voice of the Cure of Ars, a humble country priest, with but little resources apart from his sanctity.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Most People Don't Understand about Economics

What Most People Don't Understand about Economics

By Jim J. McCrea

Generally, the "left" is concerned about social programs that help the disadvantage, and the "right" is concerned that the free market makes business thrive.

I believe that the government should step in to help those who cannot help themselves and where private charity is not capable of the task. However, the free market economy is necessary to make this happen.

Dollars in circulation only represent a given quantity of goods and services available in the system. Dollars do not have an intrinsic value on their own.

With the free market, businesses if not unduly hindered, create jobs to produce goods and services in the system. The money that these jobs pay, allow employees to buy other goods and services, expanding other businesses, creating more jobs, creating more pay, to buy additional goods and services, creating more demand, and producing more goods and services, and so on. This is how the economy grows, and material wealth is created in the system.

If the free market is hurt unduly, jobs are reduced, demand is reduced, and goods and services are reduced in the system, overall. When this happens, the available dollars are worth less because they are backed by less goods and services, thus creating inflation - or - to avoid inflation, the number of dollars in the system have to be reduced.

With this, we can look at the irony of many on the left who unduly hurt business (perhaps through unnecessary regulation and high corporate taxes), and take a "soak the rich" stance (the rich are often the ones who provide the capital to start and expand business). Then these people on the left wonder why there is never enough money for needed social programs and infrastructure.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reconciling Man's Free Will with God's Sovereignty

Reconciling Man's Free Will with God's Sovereignty

By Jim J. McCrea

God's sovereignty means that God is omnipotent and has control over every detail of creation and does in fact control every detail of creation.

Now Calvinism generally claims that this rules out man's free will, for if man were free to decide this or that, it would take away from God's controlling power since it would be a human being deciding in a given situation rather than God.

Is there a way to reconcile the free will of man with God's sovereignty so that there is no conflict between the two, in which a human being can decide a given thing yet God is in total control?

I would say yes.

One thing that we have to know is that God is not simply another being along side of us (much greater than us of course) in a kind of competition with us, in the flow of time with us, where one player takes away from the action of the other.

Rather, God is the infinite ground of being itself - the sheer act of being - outside of time - from which all other beings derive their own existence.

God being outside of time is crucial to this. He is present to all times and to all things of all time, all at once. Everything in existence, for all time, is simply "now" for Him.

Another thing that is necessary to this thesis of reconciling man's free will with God's sovereignty is a given idea of His omniscience. This goes beyond God knowing all things that are actual. It is God knowing all that is possible - that is, knowing all that could possibly happen or exist, and all that would happen under all possible circumstances.

Of course God knows the free-will choices of all creatures for all time, but one of the deepest mysteries of God's omniscience, that theologians discuss, is that God knows how a given rational creature (created personal being) would choose even if a situation that would elicit a choice were not presented to that creature, and even how any creature that could possibly exist but was not created would choose in any given situation. For example, God would have known that Satan would have rebelled even if Satan were not created. For Satan's fall is part of the *concept* of Satan that exists even if he never had real existence. And God knows the concepts of all possible beings.

Now with God knowing all possible choices of all creatures, for all time, in all possible situations, this allows Him to bring into existence a history of creation down to the finest detail, without Him first having to create anything to find out what would happen.

His will to make things happen precedes anything happening at all (not in the order of time, but logically).

Out of all the infinite possibilities with its infinite branchings, God selects one logically consistent possibility and gives it real existence (logically consistent mean that a given created possibility does not have an event and its contradictory, such as an angel falling and not falling at the same time).

The free will choices of all possible creatures under all possible circumstances forms the "possibility" space that God has to work with. He selects one self consistent possibility, out of all, and brings it into reality, so that a particular universe and history are created. Another constraint is that that universe must be consistent with God's goodness. He would not have allowed a possible history to come into existence that has gratuitous evil to inflict His creatures. All evil that any creature experiences, in the reality He has brought into being, has a place in God's plan and is consistent with His love, justice, and mercy.

With this, it is not true that a creature makes a choice and then God responds with an afterthought. The creature only makes the choice because God selected that possible history with that choice in it with a view to what would be the consequence of that choice (because the consequence is part of that possible history) - not that God wills or causes the sin directly, for sin comes from the creature alone, but God *permits* the sin because that possibility (out of all) that He brought into existence includes the sin within it. Although God sees all possible sins of all creatures for all possible times, He is not the creator of the sins themselves and strictly forbids them as they are offences against Him.

We have to digress here for a moment and discuss whether God causes evil or brings evil into people's lives.

The book: Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence (by Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and St. Claude de la Colombiere) holds that although God does not will sin, He does will the evils (apart from the act of sin itself) that flow from that sin, and is responsible for bringing them into people's lives with a view to the good that God wishes to bring about.

From this perspective, although God does not will the sin itself (which is defined as a pure choice in the will), He does will the troubles and the tragedies that flow from that sin. This is because God takes an infinitely long view of that possible history that He has brought into actuality (seeing it before-hand). That possible history which contains the sin and the trouble or tragedy also contains the good that will come about in the long run as a result of that trouble or tragedy. Everything that God does is a function of His infinite knowledge and His infinite goodness, and any possible history that He could have brought into existence is compatible with His infinite knowledge and goodness.

It can be argued that if a thing occurs and God only responds as an afterthought, that God's plan could be destroyed or at least severely degraded. That would defeat His omnipotence and sovereignty. We can see that many things that depended upon a certain exercise of free will of creatures were necessary to God's plan. We know that in the time of test of the angels that Michael the Archangel was necessary to lead the good angels to God and salvation as Satan lead other angels to rebellion against God and to hell. And we also know how essential St. Michael is in defending us on earth against Satan and his infernal hoards. The system of St. Thomas Aquinas (died 1274) is a necessary undergirding of all sound philosophy and theology in the Catholic Church today. On the other hand, it was necessary that others choose wrongly for God's plan to be fulfilled. For example, the betrayal of Judas and the cowardice of Pilate were necessary to bring Jesus to the Cross so that He could redeem the world. But what if Michael fell along with Lucifer and what if St. Thomas succumbed to that woman that his brothers sent to tempt him? What if Judas choose to be faithful to the Lord or Pilate choose to exercise courage in refusing to condemn a man whom he knew was innocent? God choose the history out of all possibilities with those particular players (St. Michael, St. Thomas, Judas, and Pilate) and which included the free will actions that they executed which included the good that would flow from them afterwards.

Calvinists claim that God predestines people to heaven or hell. They are right, but not in the way they think. The Church rejects *positive* predestination to hell - it rejects that a person is determined to hell by God and that he could not have chosen otherwise. I would hold that a proper understanding of predestination means that God sees all the journeys of all possible creatures in all possible worlds to their final end, and that God then selects the particular history out of the infinite possibilities which includes all the paths of all the rational creatures contained in that particular history.  This would not be predestination to hell in the sense condemned by the Church, because if a given human's path is to hell, it is necessary that that path include his freely chosen mortal sin and his refusal of repentance before death.


Friday, August 15, 2014

The End of the World

The End of the World

This is a quote from Michael D. Obrien's book: Remembrance of the Future. He affirms the traditional Catholic Christian view that rejects the perfectibility of man - rejecting that man is becoming better and better through a human evolution until perfection is reached in the "Omega Point." - Jim McCrea


Orthodoxy [right believing Christianity] maintains that the eschaton, the culmination of history as a climax of sin and error, will be resolved only by the interjection of the transcendent God intervening in history in an extraordinary manner. By contrast, the new theologians attempt to "immanentise the eschaton," as a purely historical process. In brushing aside consideration of the real meaning of the Book of Revelation, they deny that the New Jerusalem will be given by God after the devastation of the world by human folly. The New Jerusalem of neo-pagan theologians is to be created by man, here and now. This reveals an extremely optimistic view of human nature.

Chesterton, reading the despair in much of modern optimism, frequently argued against pessimism and optimism. They bore no relationship to authentic Christian hope, which must always have the courage to see things as they really are. Christian realism is apocalyptic, for it stands ever waiting and watchful for the hour when the Bridegroom [Jesus] will arrive.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church


675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.573 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth574 will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. the supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.575
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. the Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,576 especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.577
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.578 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.579 God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.580  
Note ** There is a conceit in Western society that holds that man is evolving and that this generation is wiser than generations past, in throwing off traditional religious and moral principles, and as a result man is fulfilling his true potential. But the reality is that he has fallen into a great darkness, with the chastisements of God which are coming which necessarily follow such apostasy.
Note ** The rise of satanic evil, such as ISIS, in this present day, belies the idea of the perfectibility of man.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Meaning of Art

The Meaning of Art

By Jim J. McCrea

Being (or that which exists) has transcendental properties. The transcendental properties of being are so much identified with being, they are literally other names for being.

Some of these are *unity,* *truth,* *goodness,* and *beauty.*

Unity means that a thing, insofar as it has being, is one thing. It is not a disjointed multiplicity. Truth means that it is intelligible. Goodness means that it supplies for the good of other beings. And being as being is beautiful.

Any uncoordinated multiplicity, unintelligibility, evil, or ugliness means that something is lacking what it should have. Those things are not other forms of being.

Now this idea is connected with proper art.

With proper art we have purposeful "distortions" in form, texture, colour, and so forth, so it does not look like a "realistic" photograph.

Why is this done?

This does not to reduce the perception of the reality of the object, person, or situation, but to enhance it.

This purposeful "distortion" in legitimate art enhances one or more of the transcendental properties of being, so these transcendentals shine forth with a brilliance that they would not in a photograph or by looking at it with the plain eyes.

With this, the legitimate purpose of art is to, directly or indirectly, glorify God who has the transcendental properties of being to an infinite degree.

God is infinite unity, truth, goodness, and beauty.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Doctrine of the Antichrist

The Doctrine of the Antichrist

By Jim J. McCrea

The doctrine of Antichrist is not so much a set of dogmas that we would find in a religion, but is more a philosophical world-view.

The spirit of Antichrist is now alive and well, as this philosophy has taken hold of much of Western society, to the extent that it constitutes a kind of tyranny.

Several decades past, when traditional Judeo-Christian morality was dominant in Western society concepts had clear meanings. Now, this is no longer the case. It is considered now that one concept bleeds into another - that nothing is stable and certain, and that traditional distinctions no longer hold.

For example, it is considered that there is no solid distinction between polarities such as God and creation, spirit and matter, human and animal, intelligible and sensible, subjective and objective, male and female, marriage and cohabitation, etc.. In the religious sphere it is considered that there is no proper distinction between sacred and secular, supernatural and natural, and priest and laity

As far as blurring the distinction between God and creation, it is considered that there is no transcendent God who is radically distinct from creation and almighty over it. That is considered childish, and the "enlightened" stance is to hold that God is nothing but the positive energies exhibited by nature and our own inner power. God is thus to be found within by tapping our interior potentials.

There is no distinction held between body and soul and matter and spirit. Thus, training the body and the neurons is the key to spiritual enlightenment, as spirit is considered nothing but the more subtle workings of matter.

The lack of recognized distinction between human and animal allows animals an exaggerated importance to the detriment of human interests. This is connected with the perceived lack of distinction between the sensible and intelligible, as the cleverness of animals to make associations between various sense objects is considered intelligence, and it is not recognized that humans have a cognitive ability different in kind from animals in their capacity to understand abstract concepts.

The lack of recognition between male and female gives rise to the emasculation of males in society and radical feminism. This feeds the tendency to not rightfully recognized homosexuality as a perversion and a deviation, but as a legitimate alternative, as it is seen that a male being drawn to a female is not essential to proper romantic or sexual attraction, but is merely incidental or accidental and such a male could just as properly be attracted to another male.

In the religious sphere, the lack of recognition between the natural and the supernatural and the secular and the sacred, has dumbed down religious services and Masses in the Catholic Church to simply a party - and human relations, pop psychology, sociology, and political activism are preached instead of sacred doctrine and morals.

This is all done in the name of freedom and progress, as the traditional categories are seen as "static" and "rigid" and as limitations on freedom.

However, true freedom and progress require stable and absolute principles that only the traditional categories can provide - it requires the classical polarities.

The necessity for limits and absolutes is explained in Msgr. Pope's article here

** End Note 1 - it is true that there are subtleties, paradoxes, and ambiguities in things and situations, but these are governed by absolute rules on a higher level.

** End Note 2 - The obliteration of the traditional polarities is done in the name of freedom. But it is not free. In reality, it is the opposite. It is close and oppressive.