Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Liturgy, Kenosis, and NFP

One of the dimensions frequently overlooked in discussions of NFP and birth control is that of askesis or self-discipline. This is odd, because it figures prominently in Humanae Vitae.

21. The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings. For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.

Yet most discussions of NFP and birth control quickly devolve into questions of why NFP is allowed to Catholics and contraceptives are not, as if all that mattered was implementation of a technique. While the question can certainly be answered on that level (natural law, etc.), it implies a thorough misunderstanding of what Christian life is to be.

The Christian life is about coming to participate, through Church and Sacrament, in the inner life of the Most Blessed Trinity.

And NFP, unlike its contraceptive alternatives, proposes a way consistent and complementary to way of fast and feast which the Church sets forward in her liturgical year. Indeed, in a certain sense, one can say that NFP is liturgical, for in its principle of self-denial it gives us the opportunity to enter into the kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ.

Friday, July 14, 2006


This is a drawing of mine from almost a year ago. It is, obviously, a study of Michelangelo's Pieta. It seemed appropriate given the title of this blog.

Why the title? If it is true that theology arises from doxology, then given the radical embodiedness implied by Christ's incarnation, theology cannot remain purely abstract but must express itself in tangible things like statues or icons. This isn't free of danger, but neither was the incarnation, as the Pieta itself makes quite clear.

Five Theses on Scripture

Thesis 1: The composition of the canon of scripture (what books belong in the Bible) cannot be determined by recourse to scripture both because of the circular nature of the argument and (even ignoring the circularity) because none of the proposed canons address the issue of canonicity in sufficient detail.

Thesis 2: The composition of the canon cannot reliably be determined by recourse to an "inner witness" because of its radical subjectivity. (Even the LDS church claims an "inner witness" for its canon, as do many Protestants for their canon, etc.)

Thesis 3: The question of the canon can therefore only be answered by recourse to the authority of the Church as expressed in magisterial rulings and patristic sources.

Thesis 4: The Protestant canon was not supported by any Church council or ecclesiastical ruling prior to the Reformation. (I'm 99% sure of this, but if I'm mistaken, please correct me.)

Thesis 5: The Protestant canon can only claim one Church Father (Jerome) as support, but even that isn't unambiguous, as his Latin translation of the Bible does include the deuterocanonicals.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Being Love

"I am that I am." That is the name which God announced to Moses from the burning bush. God is He whose existence is absolute. Pair this with the description of God from St. John, that "God is love." Taken together, these revelations of God's identity also reveal the identity of man. Man can only truly exist insofar as he loves and participates in the love of God. That is why the two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. For only in so doing can man fully become a "being" before God, who is Being itself.