The Creation of Men and Angels: The dominion of God expressed in that of the soul over the body

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

The dominion of God expressed in that of the soul over the body

We spend all our lives in continual miracles that we do not even notice. I have a body, and without knowing any of the organs of movement, I turn, I stir, I go wherever I want, just because I want to. I would stir a straw before me, it does not shake or shake itself in any way: I want to move my hand, my arm, my head, the other heavier parts, which I could hardly carry if they were detached. The whole mass of the body and the movements I command are done like they are on their own, I know nothing of the springs of this wonderful machine. I only know I want to stir myself this way or another, everything follows naturally: I articulate hundreds and hundreds of words heard or not heard, and I do so many known and unknown movements of the lips, tongue, throat, chest, head: I get up, I go down, I turn, I roll my eyes: I dilate and contract my pupils, as I want to see either up close or afar. Without knowing this movement, it happens, whether I want to look negligently or superficially, or determinately and attentively, or stare at some object. Who gave this dominion to my will, and how do I move equally what I know and what I do not know? I breathe without thinking and during sleep: and when I want to, or I hold my breath, or I hurry breathing, it naturally goes alone: it goes as well to my will, and yet I know neither expansion nor contraction of the lungs, or even if I have, I open, I tighten, I inhale, I exhale air with equal facility. To speak in a higher pitch, or louder, or higher, or lower, I still expand or contract another part in the throat, called the arterial trachea, even though I do not know that I have one: it is enough that I want to speak high or low, to the end that all is done by itself: in a moment, I make articulately and distinctly a thousand movements, of which I have no distinct knowledge, neither confusing them more often, since I do not know if I do or if it is done for me. But, O God! You know, and no one other than you can do what only you know. All of this is the result of the secret agreement which you have made between our wills and the movements of our bodies: and you have established this inviolable agreement, when you placed the soul in the body to govern. It is thus, not like a vessel which contains it, or like a house where it’s housed, nor in a place it stays. It is there by his dominion, by His presiding, so to speak, by his action As you are in us, you can not be far away, it is “by you we live, move and are.” (Acts 17:28) And you are of the same kind in the entire universe: above, in ruling; here, by stirring and making to come together in all its parts; below, in ruling, as Moses said, “with your eternal arms there is no God like God.” This divine man adds: “by his dominion, the magnificent winds blow here and there, and the clouds run in the sky.” (Deut. 33:25, 26) He said to the stars, walk; he spoke to the abyss and the whale; make this body submerged; he said to the waves, increase; he told the wind, blow and break into pieces these big masts; and everything follows his word. All naturally depends on the will: bodies and their movements naturally depend on a spirit and an all-powerful intelligence: God can give to the will, which he made in his own image, such dominion that pleases him; and thereby gives us the idea of his will, which moves all and does all.

Let us give him the dominion which he gives us: and “in the place of making our members do iniquity,” because it is God who submits them to us, “let us use them,” as St. Paul says, “to his justice.”

The Similarity Between the Change of an American President and a Roman Emperor

In the midst of the current upheaval, an interesting observation from Peter Salway’s Roman Britain (Oxford History of England).  In his discussion of the relationship between the Roman Emperor and his provincial governors, he says the following:

It is easy to become so absorbed in the career of the hundreds of individuals whose appointments are known in great detail from the thousands of inscriptions surviving throughout the empire, that we assume ‘standard careers’ and forget that there was little to stop a capricious emperor from interfering with the system.  In some ways the death or fall of an emperor or his favourite adviser was not unlike a change of president in the United States, where vastly more appointments are a matter of party and indeed of one man and his personal advisers than in Britain today…Patronage ran through the Roman system from top to bottom, and Rome cannot be understood without grasping the fact.

The Founders’ debt to democracy and Greece is well understood; less understood is their debt to Rome, and especially Republican Rome, which the Empire followed.  OTOH, it has been the Progressive ideal from Woodrow Wilson onward to replace this reality with a more “professional” system, as many countries in Europe (and some working on getting out) have done.  To attempt to superimpose a rule by bureaucrats on a system such as ours is unworkable; not grasping this has been one of the left’s many weaknesses, one which they may rue before too long.

Empower the Laity? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The Church of England takes a crack at it:

A LONG-AWAITED report on lay leadership in the Church of England, published last week, has set out to “empower, liberate and disciple” the laity — not in churches, but in schools, workplaces, gyms, shops, fields, and factories. It is to be presented to the General Synod on 16 February.

The report, Setting God’s People Free, was commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council, and prepared by the members of the Lay Leadership Task Group, as part of the Renewal and Reform vision to increase vocations. It was approved by the Ministry Council in November.

Having actually worked in this field, I must admit I’m taking a “seeing is believing” view of this.  I’ve seen calls for this many times before, but getting results is another matter.  Some of this is generic and some of this is specific to churches like the Church of England.

First problem is in the call itself; the order is wrong.  The first thing to do is to disciple the laity, which liberates them and then they can be empowered.  Making disciples is at the core of the Great Commission, and that (as part of their salvation experience) sets them free, at which point they can be empowered to do God’s work.  Many lay people go through life in a church with only a foggy notion of what they’re there for; proper discipleship addresses this problem.  Without it it’s impossible to get things off of the ground.

The second is that the clergy tends to look at itself as a “trade union,” with certain tasks to be carried out by its members only.  “Scab” labour is considered an intrusion.  There are all kinds of justifications given for this, ranging from the Roman Catholic concept of the priesthood to the Pentecostal assignment of the “anointing” to preachers.  Bossuet, noting that the word “Christ” means anointed, said that Christians were the anointed ones.  And that came from a Catholic bishop!  There is really no New Testament justification for this strict division of labour, but that has never stopped churches from trying to find one.

These are generic to most Christian churches, who labour under them to varying degrees.  There are two which, depending upon what type of Anglicanism is involved, further hobble lay activity in the church.

The first is an over-reliance on the sacraments as transmitters of God’s grace.  This is a bigger deal with the “un-English and unmanly” Anglo-Catholics than the more Reformed types, but both suffer from the effects of infant baptism.  Same turns a declaration of decision and commitment into a cultural event, which is a major reason I don’t support the concept.  (Stuff like the “Contract on the Episcopalians” only makes matters worse.)  The message that this transmits is that, if we go through the process, we’re okay, and that’s simply not the case.

The second is that centralised, episcopal churches tend to centralise everything, including the life of the church.  Although this type of church is advantageous in certain situations, when it comes to lay involvement congregationally centred structures have an advantage.

I hope the Church of England means business about furthering the cause of the laity.  But it’s a path fraught with pitfalls and a lot of “we’ve always done it this way” in the path.  Christian churches, however, are never what God intended them to be without a laity with a meaningful role in the life of the church.

The Creation of Men and Angels: The dominion of man over himself

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

“Let us make man in our image and likeness, so that he orders the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals and all the earth, and everything that moves or crawls above.” The third special aspect of the creation of man: it is an animal born to the commandment: if he controls the animals, even more so he controls himself, and it is in this I see a new feature of the divine likeness shine. The man controls his body, his arms, his hands, his feet, and at the start, we will see how far everything is subject to his dominion. There is still something of absolute command which he had over his passions. He commands his own intelligence, he applies what he pleases, consequently to his own will, because of his free will, as we shall see soon: to his interior and exterior senses, and to his imagination which he holds captive under the authority of reason, and which he uses for higher operations. He moderates the appetites which come from images of the senses, and at the start he was the absolute master of all these things. Because such was the power of the image of God in the soul, she held everything in submission and respect.

Let us work to restore in ourselves the dominion of reason, let us restrict the lively projections of our wandering thoughts; in this way we will order in some way like the birds of the air. Let us prevent our thoughts from always crawling in bodily necessities, as do reptiles on earth; in this way we will dominate these low feelings, and correct in ourselves the baseness. When they are allowed to dominate, always occupied with their health, mortal life, and the needs of their bodies, they are plunged into flesh and blood, and crawl on the earth. That is to say, they have no other movements than those terrestrial and sensual. We would sooner tame lions than to control our impetuous anger. We will dominate poisonous animals when we punish hatreds, jealousies and backbiting. We will put the brakes to the mouth of a spirited horse when we hold back in ourselves pleasure. What need is there to push further the analogy, unless we we apply that of fish? We could only say that their particular character is to be silent, never to breathe the air and still be attached to a heavier element. Such are those who, possessed of “the deaf and dumb demon” do not listen to the preaching of the Gospel and are prevented by deep shame to confess their sins. They are always in coarse feelings, and barely glimpse the sunlight. Let is get out of these carnal movements, where we swim, so to speak, by the pleasure which takes us there. We exercise a kind of low freedom, as we walked from one passion to another, and never leaving either this low sphere, so to speak, or that heavier element. Such as it is, we dominate in all that is an animal, that flies, or crawls. If it is necessary to use our imagination, let it be in purifying all tangible and earthly thoughts, and occupying in a holy way in mysteries of Christ, the examples of the saints, and of all the pious representations that are offered to us by Scripture. We should not stop there, but aim to rise higher, having taken the essence, that is to say the instructions that must feed our souls: for example, the mysteries of the life and passion of our Lord, the spirit of poverty, gentleness, humility and patience.

To correct the abuse and distraction of our wandering and dissipated imagination, it is necessary to fill it with holy images. When our memory fills up, it will only take us to those religious ideas. The water wheel pushed by the flow of a river always goes, but it only matters that water crosses its path. If the waters are pure, it will carry nothing but pure water; but if they are impure, the contrary happens. Thus, if our memory is filled with pure ideas, the turning, so to speak, of our restless imagination will not draw from this well and will only take us to holy thoughts. The wheel of a mill will always turn, but it will grind the grain that is there: if it is barley, we will have ground barley; if it is wheat and pure grain, we will have flour. Let us put in our memory all holy and pure images, and whatever is the agitation of our imagination, it will only return to us, at least generally, in the spirit, as the fine and pure substance of items with which we will be filled.

Let us be filled in Jesus Christ, in his actions, his suffering, his words. To give more than one object to our senses, let us be filled with the holy ideas of Abraham sacrificing his son; of a Jacob pulling from God by a holy battle the blessing he hoped for: from a Joseph leaving His coat in the hands of an immodest person to rescue his chaste body; of a Moses who dared approach the burning bush which the fire does not consume, and take off his shoes out of respect; of an Isaiah, who trembles before God until His lips Were purified; of a Jeremiah, who stutters so humbly before God and dares to announce His word; of the three young men for whom the flame of a burning furnace respects the faith; of a Daniel also saved by faith from the teeth of hungry lions: of a John the Baptist preaching repentance under poverty and the hair shirt; of Saul, who was beaten down by the powerful word of Jesus whom he persecuted; and all the other beautiful images of prophets and apostles. Your memory and imagination, consecrated as a holy temple by these holy images, should not bring you anything that is not worthy of God.

Only take care never to let your imagination heat up too much; because overly heated and agitated, she herself is consumed by her own fire, and blocks the pure light of intelligence. These are those which must shine in your spirit, and only to whom imagination must prepare a throne, as it did to the holy prophet Ezekiel and to other holy prophets, companions inspired by the same spirit.

The Creation of Men and Angels: Second distinction of the creation of man in these words: In our image and likeness, and The image of the Trinity in the rational soul

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

Second distinction of the creation of man in these words: In our image and likeness.

Let us make man in our image and likeness. At these admirable words, raise yourself up above the heavens, and all the heavens of heavens, rational soul, since God teaches you to form you, he has not proposed an alternative model other than himself. It is not the heavens, nor the stars, nor the sun, nor the Angels themselves, nor Archangels, nor Seraphim he wants to make you like. Let us make, he says, in our image: and to instill more: let us make in our likeness: that one may see all our traits in this beautiful creature, to the extent that the condition of the creature can afford it.

If it is necessary to distinguish the image and likeness; or is it, as has just been proposed, to further instill the truth that God uses these two words with almost the same strength, I do not know if one can decide. Such as it is, God expresses here all beauties of reasonable nature, and at the same time all the wealth he has given to him by his grace: understanding, commitment, honesty, innocence, clear knowledge of God, love infused from this first being, assurance of enjoying with him the same satisfaction if we had persevered in righteousness with which we had been created.

Christians, let us rise to our model, and aspire to nothing less than to imitate God. Be merciful, says the Son of God, as your heavenly Father is merciful. God is good; by his nature, he only does good and does not do evil to anyone. So do good to everyone, and the same to our enemies, as God, who makes His sun to shine on the good and the bad, and rains on the field of the just like that of the sinner. God is forgiving and easily appeases towards us, despite our malice: forgive by His example. He is holy: Be holy as I am holy, says the Lord God Almighty. In a word it is perfect, Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Who can attain the perfection of this model? It is thus necessary to always grow and give no rest or no letting go. This is why St. Paul always moves forward in his course: Forgetting what he leaves behind, and never ceasing to stretch forward by new and continual efforts. (Philippians 3:13) Weigh all these words, this forgetfulness, this stretching, this tireless ardor. It is at the end of such a course that one finds the crown and the prize set forth by the divine calling in Jesus Christ. May no Christian imagine himself exempt from this work, or that this perfection is not for him. This way demands, says St. Augustine, people walking without stopping; it does not put up with those who turn aside; finally it does not put up with those who stop, little that it is. For those who stop, it is pride that takes them there, it is laziness that takes them there; they think they have moved forward or accomplished something, and in letting go, their natural heaviness drags them down and there is no longer a resource.

Seventh Elevation. The image of the Trinity in the rational soul.

Let us make man: we have said, in these words, the image of the Trinity began to appear and shines beautifully in the rational creature. Like the Father, she has being: like the Son, she has intelligence; like the Holy Spirit, she has love: like the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit, she has in her being, her intelligence and her love a same happiness and a same life. You can not remove anything without removing everything. Happy creature, and perfectly similar, if she occupies herself only with him. So perfect in His being, in His intelligence, in His Love, she hears all that she is, she loves what she hears: his being and his operations are inseparable: God becomes the perfection of his being, the immortal food of his intelligence and his love. Like God she only said one word, which includes all His wisdom: like God, she only produces one love which surrounds her being; and all that does not die in her. Grace comes over these depths and lifts nature: the glory is shown to her, and adds its complement to grace. Happy creature once again, if she can keep her happiness! Man, you have lost. Where does your mind wander; where will drown your love? Alas! Alas! And without end alas! Come back to your origin.

David Peterman and the Hard Choices of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

In the midst of all the excitement we have these days, I have a few commemorations of my own.  This month is the fortieth anniversary of entering into the full-time workforce, when I started my brief time working at Texas Instruments in Dallas.   (And yes, a new President then, in that case Jimmy Carter, made an impact, especially since I was doing defence work.)  But it was also the time when I made the decision to skip the Catholic Charismatic covenant community route set forth by the Community of God’s Delight.  It was an important decision for me, but the Community ended up making some important decisions of its own.

One of the people I got to know in the process was Dr. David A. Peterman, who worked at TI.  I’ve discussed that relationship here and won’t go through it again.  In 2009 he gave an address at a leaders conference of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships (CFCCCF).  It’s probably as straightforward of an account of at least one community’s experience in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and helps to answer the question I posted earlier about how we got from the folk Mass and praise service days then to #straightouttairondale now.  The highlighting is that of my friend John Flaherty; my interests in this are a little different, as this piece will show.  But I am grateful to him for posting it.

It’s interesting that Peterman starts his talk with making a connection between the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and some of the theological currents before Vatican II, including the French (Henri de Lubac) and Cursillo, along with those of classical Pentecost.  Both of these streams are bêtes noires to the #straightouttairondale people, but both are important.  In the 1970’s Charismatic leaders tended to emphasise the latter over the former; had they taken a more balanced approach, they would have been in better shape to withstand the problems they ran into later.

The Community of God’s Delight was always an important part of the Renewal in the 1970’s, but it was always apart of the “centre” of the movement in Ann Arbor and South Bend.  Part of that was geographical, part of that was cultural, part of that was the size of the community itself.  But make no mistake: the worship, the Life in the Spirit Seminar, everything they did spoke of that kinship.  That included the authoritarian structure of the Community, which was one reason I didn’t join it.

But another problem–and Peterman does touch on it but doesn’t really tackle the issue–is what I call the “ecclesiastically metastable” nature of covenant communities.  The biggest structural weakness in Roman Catholicism is the parish system, which puts its parishioners into an anonymous collection of people who go to Mass every Sunday.  This is in part a product of Roman Catholicism’s sacramental theology; dispensing same is the key function of the priest and receiving same is the key function of the laity.  As long as that was enough–and Catholic parishes were the social club of people from the “old country”–it worked.  (That’s a warning for Pentecostal churches and their large immigrant churches.)

But as American society changed and people longed for a stronger connection with God and each other than the parish system provided, something had to give.  The Renewal’s answer to this was first the prayer groups and then the covenant communities.  Leaving aside the other problems, this dual allegiance was a kludge, and many of us instinctively realised this.  David makes an interesting statement about this, casting it in the Catholicity issue:

Due to their unfamiliarity and misunderstandings, many bishops had grown very suspicious or even antagonistic towards the Renewal in general, and to covenant communities in particular. Some of this was justified, as there were some Catholics who had left the Church due to their confusion between their experience of Christianity in the broad Renewal and in nondenominational communities as compared with what was perceived as a lesser authenticity in their parish life. That is a story for another talk.

Indeed.  There’s no question that what people experienced in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal led them out of the Catholic Church, both in Dallas and elsewhere.  Had the parish system been stronger, some of that might have been alleviated, and the resources put into “bringing Catholics home” might be put to better use.

In any case, David’s account of the split between God’s Delight (and others) and Steven Clark and the Sword of the Spirit people is interesting for aficionados of the subject.  Also interesting is the long process during John Paul II’s pontificate of turning those communities and groups who had split with the Sword of the Spirit into a recognised Catholic organisation.  The critical moment came in 1985, when Bishop Paul Cordes made the Charismatics an offer they couldn’t refuse (and I mean that in a Sicilian way) to form an “authentic Catholic entity” and the rest, as they say, is history.

But in reality that process of forcing the Renewal back into the Church in a full way had been going on for some time.  The favoured device was the use of Marian devotions as a litmus test of true Catholicity, which led to widespread heartburn for many, another bleed of parishioners and the division or dissolution of many prayer groups and some covenant communities.

David always struck me as a level-headed and intelligent person; the choices he and his colleagues made, in a Catholic context, were entirely sensible.  He, as another PhD holder in the sciences used to say, played the cards he was dealt.  But I think, in the context of an American church with such strong, anti-clockwise forces in it, that the Renewal has been subsumed in other agendas that not only seek to banish the non-Catholic roots of the Renewal from the Church, but the Catholic ones too.  And that’s a tragedy both for those who stayed and those of us who left.  Some of that is due to the polarised, binary way Americans do just about everything and have done it since the 1960’s, and that’s certainly relevant for more than just Catholics.

And there’s a warning for us too.  I’ve seen many of my Pentecostal seminary academics and their friends in the pastoral ministry toy with liturgical and sacramental Christianity.  Our pastor even did an “Advent” sermon series, which would have been unheard of twenty years ago.  But I get the impression that neither their concept nor their execution of liturgy or sacrament is very strong.  If that changes, they need to come to grips with whether (or how) a truly Pentecostal, Spirit-led church can survive in a liturgical-sacramental context.  The experience of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is not encouraging in that regard, but perhaps someone will learn from their mistakes.  As David said at the start of his monologue, which deserves a full reading:

Human knowledge passes from generation to generation. Essentially what we know is based on what has been passed on to us as well as what we personally experience. But even our experiences are interpreted in light of what we have learned from history. Without the discoveries and experiences of others, we would still all live like cave men. So we all owe a great debt to our predecessors – who’ve put history’s “lessons” into our hands and minds.

The Creation of Men and Angels: Creation of man, and On the singularity of the creation of man. First singularity in these words: Let us make man

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

Creation of man

“You have lowered him slightly below the angel; you crowned him with glory and honor, and you have appointed to him all the works of your hands.” (Psalm 90:11, Hebrews 2:14) This is what David sang in memory of the creation of man. And it is true that God “has put him a little below the angels:” below, because united to a body it is less than the pure spirits, but only a little below; because like them he has life and intelligence and love, and man is only happy by the participation of the joy of the angels and no other. God is the common happiness for one to another, and from this side, equal to the angels, “their brothers” and not their subjects, we are “a little below them.”

“You have crowned with glory and honor,” according to the soul and the body. You gave him justice, the original righteousness, immortality and dominion over all corporeal creatures. Angels do not need these creatures which are no use to them, having no body. But God introduces man to this sensible and corporeal world to contemplate and enjoy. To contemplate it, as David went on to say by these words: “When I see your heavens which are the work of your fingers; I see the moon and the stars that you have founded,” in the middle of the huge ocean which surrounds it, and you have set the course by a law of inviolable stability. Man should also enjoy the world, according to the uses that God has prescribed: the sun, moon and stars, “to distinguish the days, months, seasons and years.” All the rest of corporeal nature is subject to his dominion: he cultivates the land and makes it fruitful: he uses the seas in its purposes and its trade: they make the communication of both worlds that form the globe of the earth: all the animals recognize his dominion, or because he tames them, or because he employs its various uses. But sin has weakened this dominion and has left us only a few miserable remnants.

As everything had to be put in the power of man, God created him after everything else, and introduced him into the universe, as we entered the banquet hall that which he made for us, after which all is ready and that the meats are served. Man is the complement of the works of God: and when he was made as his masterpiece, he remains at rest.

God honors man: why does he dishonor himself, “by making himself like beasts” on whom dominion is given?

On the singularity of the creation of man. First singularity in these words: Let us make man

Human animal, who lowered himself to “make himself like the beasts,” and often put yourself lower than them so to envy their condition, today it is necessary to understand your dignity by the admirable singularities of your creation. The first is to have been made, unlike other creatures by a command word fiat, but by a council of speech: faciamus, let us make. God takes council in himself, like going to a work of highest perfection, and to say so, of a particular industry, which most excellently highlights the wisdom of its author. God did nothing either on earth or in material nature which could hear the beauties of the world he had built, nor the rules of its admirable architecture; or who could not itself hear by the example of its creator; nor is able by itself to elevate to God and imitate intelligence and love, and like him be happy. For thus to create such a beautiful work, God consults himself, and wanting to produce an animal capable of counsel and reason, he called in some way to his rescue, talking to another self, to whom he said, let us make; who is not a created being, but one thing that is like him and with him, and this thing can only be his Son and his eternal wisdom, eternally generated in his bosom, by which and with which he had made all things to the truth, but he says more specifically in making man.

Let us therefore keep from allowing ourselves to be trapped by the blind ambitions of our passions, neither by that which the world calls luck and fortune. We were made by an obvious counsel, all the wisdom of God, to say so, called. So do not believe that human affairs can move forward one time by chance. Everything is ruled in the world by providence; but especially what concerns men is subject to the provisions of hidden and particular wisdom, because of all the works of God, man is the one from which the worker wants to get the most glory. So let us always be blindly subject to his orders, and place in him all our wisdom. Whatever comes our way unexpected, odd and irregular in appearance, let us remember these words: let us make man, and the particular counsel that gave us being.

The Jewish Club Pans Barack Obama’s Membership

The soon to be former President finds out that a slice of exclusive American history has consequences:

It was founded more than century ago as a refuge for Jewish American golfers being discriminated against, but now a Maryland country club is facing its own exclusion row over whether to admit Barack Obama.

Several members at the exclusive Woodmont Country Club have said an application by the outgoing US president, a keen golfer, to join the historically Jewish club should be rejected because of his Israel policies.

The existence of Jewish and Gentile clubs may seem strange to most Americans, but it remains a feature of the country club scene in many places.  One of those is Palm Beach, where I found this out the hard way growing up there.  Excluded from the Gentile clubs (which were started first,) Jews founded their own clubs.  In the case of the Palm Beach Country Club, support for Israel charities is expected from new members, and I suspect at Woodmont it is the same.

The supreme irony in all of this is that the one person (in Palm Beach at least) who has done more than anyone else to break this Jew-Gentile separation pattern in clubs is none other than Donald Trump, which he did when he made Mar-a-Lago (his Florida White House) a private club.

My advice to well-heeled Evangelicals in the Washington area is to apply for membership at Woodmont.  We’re not Jewish, but after our support for Israel, there should be a reward for that somewhere on this side of eternity.

The Creation of Men and Angels: Perseverance and bliss of the holy angels

This is one in a series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries. The previous post is here. More information on the Bossuet Project is here.

“There was a great war in heaven, Michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels: the dragon and his angels fought, and their strength failed them,” and they fell from the sky, “and their place there was no more.” (Revelation 12, 7-8) What is this fight? What are the weapons of spiritual powers? “We have no fight against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in the heavens and in the dark air which surrounds us.” (Ephesians 6:12, 22)

It is not necessary to visualize oneself in this fight, neither the arm of flesh, nor the material weapons or bloodshed as we do: it is a conflict of thoughts and feelings. The angel of pride which is called the dragon, raised the angels and said: We will be happy in ourselves and we will do our will as God. Michael said the opposite: “Who is like God?” Who is his equal? From where does the name of Michael come, that is to say who is like God? But who is in doubt in this fight, as the name of God prevails? What can you, weak spirits, weak, I say, because of your pride, what can you do against the humble army of the Lord, that rallies to that word: “Who is like God?” You fall from heaven like a flash, and your place which was so large remains empty. O what havoc your desertion has been! What vast spaces remain vacant! They will not always be that way, and God will create man to fill those places that your desertion has left vacant. Flee, unhappy troupe: “Who is like God? “Flee before Michael and his angels.

Now there is purified air: the haughty spirits are banished forever: there will be no revolt, there will be no pride or dissension: this is Jerusalem, a city of peace where the “holy angels” united with God and each other “forever see the face of the Father.” (Matthew 18:10) And their happiness assured, they wait submissively for their orders that will send them to the earth.

Holy and blessed spirits, who gave you strength against this prideful spirit who was one of your first princes, and perhaps the first of all? Who does not see that it is God’s name that you put in your head saying with St. Michael “Who is like God?” But who inspired you with this victorious love for God’s name? We are not allowed to think that God inspired you, as he did to holy men, with this invincible and victorious love which makes you persevere in good; and sing in thanksgiving for your victory, that God told one of his saints, “It is to you that they owe their being: it is to you that they owe their lives: it is to you that they are to live happy. ” They have not made themselves better and more excellent than you have; this degree of good they have acquired in persevering, comes to them from you. And another of your saints has said: “The same grace that has raised fallen man, operated in the holy angels the happiness of not falling: it has not abandoned man in his fall, but did not allow allow that the blessed angels fell.” (St. Bernard, 22 Sermons in Canticles, 6)

I love the mercy that made them happy by perseverance; and called by the testimony of your Apostle of the “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21) as in us I see in them your only election in which they glory. Because if I said that they glorify themselves, as long as they did it in themselves, I fear, Lord, and forgive me if I dare say it, I fear, in placing them with the deserters, that it gives them credit.

But so what? Did he miss something in the evil angels from God’s side? Far be the thought from us! They fell by their free will and when one asks, “Why did Satan rebel against God?,” the answer is ready: it’s because he wanted to. Because he did not fight as we do the bad lust that traps as evil by strength. His will was perfectly free, and desertion is the pure work of his free will. And the holy angels, how did they persevere in the good? By their free will, no doubt, and because they wanted to. Not having the disease of lust, nor the impulsive inclination to evil that bullies us, they had no need to prevent this impulsive attraction, which inclines us towards good, and which is in men inclined to do evil, the medicinal relief of the Savior. In contrast, in a perfect balance, the will of the holy angels gave only, so to speak, the blow of the election; their choice and that grace helped but did not determine, that choice came out of himself by his own sole determination. It is so, my God; and it seems to me that you make me see that liberty in the idea that you give me free will when he was perfectly healthy.

It was such in all the angels; however, this good use of their free will, which is a great good, and attracts a greater one, which is eternal happiness, can not it come from God? I can not believe it; and I think, if I may say so, to please the holy angels, in recognizing that one who gave them to be like us, life as we have, the first grace as to us, freedom like us, by a particular action of his power and goodness, gave them like us, by action of its special goodness, proper use of good. That is to say, the good use of their free will, which was good but ambiguous, with which one could do right and wrong, God still gave them. How much more he gave them the good which can not be used badly, since this property is nothing other than its proper use? Everything comes from God; and the angel, no more than man, “does not need to glorify itself” by the place it’s at, “but all glory is in God.” (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31) He gave her the initial justice, and more so persevering justice that is more perfect as it is happier, since it has as its reward this changeless strengthening of the will in the good, which is the eternal happiness of the righteous.

Yes, holy angels, I join you to tell God that you owe him everything, and want to perform any duty to him, and that is why you have triumphed over your unfortunate companions, because you wanted to do your duty to whom you owe being, life and justice, while the proud, forgetting what they owed him, wanted to owe themselves their own perfection, glory, and bliss.

Be happy, holy angels. Come to our aid; the countless armies of our enemies perish in a night by the hand of one of you. In like fashion, all the firstborn of Egypt perished in one high, an Egypt which persecuted God’s people. Holy angel, whoever you are, whom God has committed to my keeping, push away these great tempters which continue their fight against God. They argued with the man who is their conquest, and you want them removed. O Saint Michael, o holy angel, powerful protector of the holy people, “of which you offer to God the prayers like sweet incense!” With you I can say without end, “Who is like God?” O holy Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, you who announced to Mary the actual coming of Christ, and had foretold to Daniel coming events, inspire us with holy thought to profit from your predictions. O Saint Raphael, whose name means medicine of God, as with the holy man Tobit, heal my soul from a most dangerous blindness; bind the demon of fornication, which attacks the children of Adam even in the sanctity of marriage. Bind him, for you are more powerful than him, and God himself is your strength. Holy angels, such as you are, “who see the face of God,” and to whom “he commanded to keep us in all our ways,” develop on top of our weakness help of all kinds that God has put in your hand for the salvation of his elect,”for which he has ordered to establish yourself as administrator spirits.”

O God, send us your holy angels. Those who served Jesus Christ after his youth; those “who guarded his tomb and announced his resurrection; one who strengthened him in his agony, because Jesus Christ did not need his help for himself, but only because he was clothed in our weakness, and they are infirm members that this consoling angel came to strengthen in the person of their leader.

National Cathedral Doesn’t Really Want to Participate in the Inauguration? Let Bethesda Handle It!

They’re getting nervous over at the National Cathedral:

The Episcopal cathedral is garnering criticism from some Episcopalians – including within the Episcopal Diocese of Washington – for hosting a regular interfaith prayer service as part of festivities marking the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, and for agreeing to send its boys choir to perform at the Inauguration itself.

There’s a lot of Anglo-Episcopal fudge in this piece, from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry down.  I don’t find Anglican fudge very admirable from left or right, so let’s cut to the chase: given the Episcopal Church’s left-wing stand on just about everything, if they don’t really want to be a part in this inauguration, they just need to come out, say it, and pull out of it.  It’s the same re John Lewis and all the Members of Congress boycotting the big event: if they don’t want to be there, it’s fine, don’t even add to the publicity in a response.

Of course, my home church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, gave him a standing ovation last month.  That’s enough from an Episcopal church, and IMHO better than anything National Cathedral could do for him.  Bethesda may get dirty looks from the rest of the church, but given that they send a lot of money “upstairs,” that’s about as far as it will get.