Category Archives: Roman Catholicism

The one true church of the Apocalypse, or the harlot of Revelation? You decide.

The Creation of Men and Angels: Last singularity of the creation of man in his immortality

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.

We no longer count the admirable singularities of the creation of man, so great are the number. But the last is immortality. O God, what a marvel! All the animals I see beyond me are subject to death; I alone, with a body composed of the same elements, I am immortal by my origin.

I could die, however, since I could sin; I have sinned, and I am dead; But I could not die, because I could not sin, and it was sin alone that deprived me of the use of the tree of life.

What happiness! What perfection of man! Made in the image of God by a particular design of his wisdom, established in a paradise, in a delightful garden, where all the goods abounded, under a sky always pure and always benign. In the midst of the rich waters of four rivers, without having to fear death, free, happy, tranquil, without any deformity or infirmity, either on the side of the mind or on the side of the body, without any need of clothes, with pure and innocent nakedness, having my salvation and my happiness in my hand. The heaven opens before me, to be transported there when God wished, without passing through the dreadful shadows of death! Cry endlessly miserable man, who has lost all his possessions, and console yourself only in Jesus Christ, who has restored them to you, and yet in greater abundance.

Is It Necessary for a Roman Catholic to Agree With Everything the Church Teaches?

One thing that comes up for those of us who “swim the Tiber” is the idea that anyone who becomes a Roman Catholic must agree with “everything” that the Church teaches.  This issue came up when Greg Griffith stunned the Anglican blogosphere with his conversion.   “Does he really agree with all that?” people asked.

The answer to that question is, like so many things in Roman Catholicism, complicated, and it depends upon whom you ask.  That, in turn, depends upon the relative stance of the person you’re talking to with the real teaching of the church.  For many years those with a leftward drift tended to discount that kind of fidelity, while those on the other side (like the #straightouttairondale crowd) enthusiastically proclaim it.

A more thoughtful treatment comes from the conservative side of the church with this post, formally entitled Quaeritur: What is the Status of a Catholic Who Dissents from the Magisterium? It comes from the Ite ad Thomam blog, maintained by one Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, Ph.D.  I hasten to add that my church counts several Carrasquillos (also Puerto Rican) as members; they have not done much for the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but they have brought honour to the family name, as they are fine Christian people.

He starts to answer this question as follows:

It depends on the level of the Magisterial teaching in question. Some teachings have been defined dogmatically, for example, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and many, many others; such that believing in these teachings is part of the definition of what it means to be Catholic. And if someone obstinately denies even the least of these, then they no longer meet the requirements for the definition of what it means to be Catholic. There is no such thing as a Catholic who denies the divinity of Christ—or for that matter a Catholic who denies that the sacramental accidents of the Eucharist continue to exist without a subject in which to inhere.

This is reasonable.  Most conservative Christians would say that there is a core of belief which is essential to being a Christian.  Where differences arise is in what makes up that core, although again there is a great deal of overlap between what the RCC says is the core and what others do.

Dr. Romero also addresses the issue of whether people who do not are really Catholic; he says they are not.  That goes against the idea of some who believe that Roman Catholicism is like flypaper; once it gets on you, you are stuck with it.  On one level that makes sense, but it has always struck me as duplicitous that people loudly proclaim to be X while believing things that are flatly contradictory to that proclamation.

But then he goes on as follows:

On the other hand, if someone denies a teaching that is not dogmatically defined, or especially one that is not directly part of the Deposit of Faith, but is simply a theological conclusion or common teaching of the ordinary Magisterium, then this would be different. You wouldn’t cease being Catholic by denying it.

I’m speaking, for example, of the case of a Catholic who for some reason would deny that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of all Graces—a doctrine that hasn’t yet been defined. The same is true of teachings that are logically or theologically derived from defined dogma, but which are themselves not defined.

Many non-Catholics have the idea that being a Roman Catholic is to throw away the brains and accept the teachings of the church without question.  That’s simply not the case, if for no other reason than the breadth and complexity of the teaching and the intellectual and historical development behind it is far beyond just about anything else in Christianity. It’s true that many Catholics have never investigated that breadth, and it’s also true that the state of things in most parishes doesn’t encourage that kind of inquiry (which is one reason the RCC bleeds members the way it does.)  But it is true that there is a fairly extensive body of belief which the Church has not definitively pronounced on, and in these cases there is room for variance, although Dr. Romero points out that you may be a “bad Catholic” for doing so.

An interesting example comes from Dr. Romero himself: the idea that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of all Graces.  It’s safe to say that the #straightouttairondale bunch would proclaim that to be essentially Catholic, but Dr. Romero points out that this has not been raised to dogma by the Church.  There are many problems with making that step, not the least of which is that it would make a purely created being the conduit of uncreated grace, something that is avoided in Jesus Christ because he is both God and man united, and thus with an uncreated, divine nature.

So the simple answer to this question is “no.”  It depends upon the level a certain dogma holds in the magisterium.  Whether that satisfies Protestant concerns is another matter altogether.  But we cannot have a discussion on the issue unless we understand where everyone is at, and this should clear up an important point.

The Creation of Men and Angels: On the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and on the tree of life

One can understand that God had produced from the earth every tree beautiful to see and agreeable to taste; And in the midst of paradise he also set the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God could annex to plants certain natural virtues in relation to our bodies. And it is easy to believe that the fruit of the tree of life had the virtue of repairing the body by a food so proportioned and so effective that it would never die by using it. But for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as this was an effect which passed the natural virtue of a tree, it might be said that this tree was so called by the event, because Man, by using this tree against the command of God, has learned the unfortunate knowledge which makes him discern from experience the evil which his infidelity attracted to him from the good in which he had been created. Only if he had persevered in innocence.

It may also be thought that the virtue of giving man the knowledge of good and evil was in this tree a supernatural virtue like that which God placed in the sacraments; as in the water, the power of regenerating the interior of man, and spreading life and grace there.

Be that as it may, without inquiring curiously the secret of the work of God, it is sufficient for me to know that God had absolutely forbidden from the beginning the use of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil, and not the use of the tree of life. His words are: Eat the fruit of all the trees of paradise, but do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Only that fruit was forbidden, and that of the tree of life was only after sin, according to this saying: Let us take care that he does not put his hand again on the tree of life, and that he live eternally.

O God! I submit to your prohibition: I renounce all curious knowledge, since you forbid me to use it; I ought to know by experience only good; I was too ill to find out what you did not want to teach me, and I am satisfied with the knowledge you want to give me. For the tree of life you allowed me to use it, and I could be immortal with this help, and now you give it to me by the cross of my Savior. The true fruit of life hangs on this mysterious tree and I eat it in the Eucharist from the cross, celebrating this mystery according to the precept of Jesus Christ, in memory of his death, in accordance with this saying: Do this in memory of me, and this of St. Paul: Whenever ye eat of this heavenly bread, and drink of this holy cup, you shall proclaim, and proclaim, and celebrate the death of the Lord. It is here therefore a fruit of death and a fruit of life; A fruit of life, since Jesus Christ said, “Your fathers have eaten the manna, and they are dead; But whoever eats of the bread I give you will never die.” The Eucharist is therefore a fruit and a bread of life. But, at the same time, it is a death-fruit, since it was necessary, in order to vivify us, that Jesus should taste death for us all, and that, recalled to life by this death, we should continually carry in our bodies the mortification of Jesus, by the death of our passions, and by dying to ourselves and to our own desires, to live only to him who died and rose again for us. Let us weigh these words and live with Jesus Christ, as he was mortified according to the flesh, and vivified according to the spirit, as St. Peter said.

The Creation of Men and Angels: God gives man a commandment and warns him of his free will and all of his subjection

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.

You will eat of all the fruits of heaven, but you will not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day you eat thereof you shall die of death. (Gen. 2:16, 17) Death will be inevitable for you. Eve was present at this commandment, although in anticipation it was reported before her production, or, at any rate, it was repeated in her presence, since she said to the serpent: The Lord has commanded us not to eat this fruit. Perhaps one would like to believe that she learned from Adam the prohibition of God, and that from that time it pleased God to teach us that it is the duty of women to question, as St. Paul says, at home and, in particular, their husbands and to expect from them the orders of God.

Be that as it may, God does two things by this commandment: he teaches man, first, his free will, and, secondly, his subjection.

Free will is one of the places of man where the image of God appears most advantageously. God is free to do or do not do anything external that pleases him, because he needs nothing and is superior to all his work: let him make a hundred thousand worlds; he is no greater. That he should do none, he is none the less. Outside, nothingness or being is equal to him, and he is master, to do nothing or whatever he pleases. That the rational soul can also make of herself or of the body united to her what pleases her, is certainly an admirable feature and an admirable participation of the divine being. I am nothing, but because it pleased God to make me in his image, and to imprint in my being a resemblance, though feeble, of his free will, I want my hand to rise, my arm to spread, my head, my body turns; I cease to want it and I want everything to turn in another direction: it is the same. All this is indifferent to me; I am on one side as well as on another. And of all this there is no reason but my will: that is, because I will; And I will, because I will. And this is one last reason, because God willed to give me this faculty. And yet there is some reason for determining me to one rather than the other, if this reason is not pressing, and it is for me only a matter of convenience more or less great, I can easily give it to myself or not. And I can either give myself or take away great conveniences, and if I wish, inconveniences and pains so grand. And all this, because I want it; and God has subjected this to my will, and I can even use my liberty, even to procure for myself great sufferings, to expose me to death, to give it to me, so much I am master of myself by this trait of divine resemblance which is called free will. And if I return within myself, I can apply my intelligence to an infinity of different objects or to one rather than the other, and to all successively, starting with where I want to go. And I can cease to desire it, and even to want the contrary, and of an infinite number of acts of my will, I can do either this or that, without there being any other reason, except that I want it. Or if there is any other reason, I am the master of this reason to use it or not to use it, as I desire. And by this principle of free will I am capable of virtue and merit; And it is imputed to me for the good I do, and glory belongs to me.

It is true that I can also turn away from evil, and my work is imputed to me. And I commit a sin of which I can either repent or not repent. And this repentance is a very different pain from others than I can suffer; For I may be sorry to have a fever, or be blind, but not repent of these evils when they come to me in spite of myself. But if I lie, if I am unjust or slandering, and I am sorry for it, this grief is repentance which I can have and have not: happy if I repent of evil, and that I voluntarily persevere in good.

There is in my freedom a defective trait, which is to be able to do evil. This trait does not come from God, but it comes to me from the nothingness from which I am drawn. In this defect I degenerate from God who has made me, for God can not want evil, and the Psalmist sings to him: “You are a God who does not want iniquity.” My God, this is the fault and character of the creature. I am not a perfect image and likeness of God; I am only made in the image, I have some features of it, but by what I am, I do not have everything, and I have been turned towards a likeness. But I am not a likeness, since I can sin at last. I fall into the defect in a thousand places: by imperfection, by multiplicity, by the variability of my actions. All this is not in God, and I degenerate through all these places. But the place where I degenerate the most, the weakness, and, so to speak, the shame of my nature, is that I can sin.

God in the beginning gave me a precept, for it was just that I felt that I was a subject. I am a creature to whom it is proper to be subdued. I was born free, God willed it, but my freedom is not an independence: it was necessary to have a subject liberty, or if you prefer to speak thus with a Father, a free servitude under a sovereign Lord: libera servitus. And that is why I needed a precept to make me feel that I had a master. O God, the easy precept that you first gave me! Among so many trees and fruits, was it so difficult to abstain from one? But you only wanted to make me feel, by an easy yoke and with a light hand, that I was under your dominion. O God, after having shaken the yoke, it is only right that I should undergo the work, penance, and death which you have imposed upon me. O God! You are my King; do me what you will with your justice; But do not forget your mercies.

The Creation of Men and Angels: The creation of the second sex

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.

In producing the other animals, God created the two sexes together; And the formation of the second is a singularity of the creation of man.

How useful it was for man to be introduced into this paradise of delights, into a vast land which God had placed in his power, and in the midst of four great rivers, the rich waters of which brought treasures. Moreover, it was under a sky so pure that, without being obscured yet by the thick clouds which cover our own, and produce storms, a mild heat rose from the earth, which was distilled in the dew and which watered the earth and all its plants? Man was alone and the only one of all animals, for he saw all the others shared and paired in two sexes, and, the Scriptures say, there was only the man who did not found help like him. Solitary, without company, without conversation, without sweetness, without hope of posterity; and not knowing to whom to leave or with whom to share this great inheritance and so many good things which God had given him, he lived tranquilly, abandoned to his providence, without asking anything. And God himself, not wanting to leave any fault in his work, said these words: It is not good that man should be alone, let us give him a help who is like him.

Perhaps he will form the second sex as he had formed the first? No; He wants to give the world, in both sexes, the image of the most perfect unity, and the future symbol of the great mystery of Jesus Christ. That is why he draws the woman from the man himself, and the form of a superfluous rib which he had purposely put in his side. But to show that this was a great mystery, and that it was necessary to look with purer eyes than the corporeal, the woman is produced in an ecstasy of Adam. And it was by a spirit of prophecy that he knew the whole design of so fine a work. The Lord God sent Adam a sleep; a sleep, say all the saints, which was a rapture and the most perfect of all ecstasies: and God took Adam’s place, and filled it with flesh. Do not ask God why, wishing to draw from the man the companion he gave him, he took a bone rather than flesh; For if he had taken flesh, one might have asked why he would have taken flesh rather than a bone. Neither do we ask him what he added to the side of Adam, to form a perfect body. Matter is not missing to him, and, however that may be, this bone softens in his hands. It was from this hardness that he wished to form those delicate and tender members, in which, in innocent nature, nothing should be imagined that was as pure as it was beautiful. Women have only to remember their origin, and, without praising their delicacy too much, think, after all, that they come from a supernumerary bone, in which there was no beauty except that which God wished to put there.

My God, what vain speeches I foresee in readers at the account of this mystery! But while I tell them of a great and mysterious work of God, that they enter into a serious mind, and, if possible, in some sentiment of that admirable ecstasy of Adam, during which he built up Adam’s wife, in order to make us see in the woman something grand and magnificent, and as an admirable edifice in which there was grace, majesty, admirable proportions, and as much utility as ornament.

The woman thus formed is presented from the hand of God to the first man who, seeing in his ecstasy what God was doing, said, “This is the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh.” It will be called virago, because it is made of man, and “man will leave his father and mother, and he will be united to his wife.” One can believe by this word that God had formed the woman of a bone clothed in flesh, and that only bone is named as prevalent in this formation. Whatever may be the case, without stopping at any more curious questions, and observing only in one word what appears in the sacred text, let us consider in spirit this mysterious bride, that is, the holy Church drawn up, and as torn from the sacred side of the new Adam during his ecstasy, and formed, so to speak, by this wound, the whole consistency of which is in the bones and flesh of Jesus Christ, which is incorporated by the mystery of the Incarnation and that of the Eucharist, which is an admirable extension of it. He leaves everything in order to be united to him: he leaves his father, whom he had in heaven, and his mother the synagogue from which he came forth after the flesh, in order to attach himself to his wife, gathered from among the Gentiles. It is we who are this bride; It is we who live by the bones and flesh of Jesus Christ, by the two great mysteries we have just seen. It is we who are, as St. Peter says, this spiritual edifice and the living temple of the Lord, built in spirit from the time of the formation of Eve, our mother, and from the beginning of the world. Let us consider in the name of Eve, who signifies the mother of the living, and the Church, the mother of the true rivers, and the blessed Mary, the true mother of the living, who bore us all with Jesus Christ whom she conceived by the law. O man! This is what is shown to you in the creation of woman, in order to prevent by this seriousness all the frivolous thoughts which pass in the minds of men to the remembrance of the two sexes, since only sin has corrupted the institution. Let us return to our origin, let us respect the work of God and his original design; let us take away the thoughts of the flesh and the blood, and do not plunge us into this mud, while in the narrative we have just heard God takes so much care to draw us out of it.

The Creation of Men and Angels: God puts man in paradise, and led to him all of the animals to name them

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.

After forming man, God begins to make him feel what he is in the world by two memorable circumstances. One, he planted with his own hand a delicious garden called Paradise, where he had put together all the beauties of nature, to serve the pleasure of man, and by that raising him to God who filled him with so many good things. The other was to bring him all the animals as to him who is the master, in order to make him see that not only all the plants and all the fruits of the earth were his, but also all the animals which, by the nature of their movements, seemed less subject to his dominion.

For Paradise, God ordained two things to man: one to cultivate it, the other, to keep it, (Genesis 2:15) that is to say, to preserve its beauty, which still belongs to cultivation. Besides, there was no enemy who could invade this tranquil and holy place: ut operaretur et custodiret illum. God taught man, by this figure, to guard himself, and to keep at the same time the place he has in Paradise. For cultivation, it was not this laborious cultivation that was the punishment of our sin, when we had to wrest from the sweat of our forehead, from the bosom of the earth, the fruit necessary for the preservation of our life. This cultivation was given to man for his exercise, it was that curious cultivation which grows fruits and flowers more for pleasure than for necessity. By this means, man ought to be instructed in the nature of lands and the genius of plants, their fruits, or their seeds. And he found at the same time the figure of the cultivation of virtues.

By bringing animals to man, God makes him see that he is the master of them, as a master in his family who appoints his servants for the ease of command. Scripture, substantial and short in its expressions, indicates at the same time the beautiful knowledge given to man: since he could not have named animals without knowing their nature and differences, and then giving them Names according to the primitive roots of the language which God had taught him.

It was then that he knew the marvels of the wisdom of God, in the appearance and shadow of wisdom, which appears in the natural industries of animals. Let us praise God with Adam, and consider for a moment all animal nature, as the object of our reason. Who has formed so many kinds of animals and so many species subordinate to these kinds; all these properties, all these movements, all these environments, all these nourishments, all these various forces, all these images of virtue, penetration, sagacity, and violence? Who made animals walk, crawl, slide? Who gave to birds and fish these natural oars, which make them split the waters and the airs? That which perhaps gave rise to their creator to produce them together, as animals of a similar design. The flight of birds appears to be a type of the ability to swim in a more subtle medium, like the ability of swimming in fishes. It is a type of flight in a thicker medium. The same author has made these conveniences and differences: he who gave the fish their sadness and, so to speak, their gloomy silence, gave the birds their songs so diverse, and put in their stomach and throat a kind of lyre and guitar, to announce, each in their own fashion, the beauties of their creator. Who would not admire the riches of his providence, which finds every animal, even a fly, even a worm, its proper nourishment, so that scarcity is not in any part of his family. But, on the contrary, abundance reigns everywhere, except now among men since sin introduced greed and avarice.

By the second consideration, all animals are for the use of man, since they serve him to know and praise God. But besides this more universal usage, Adam knew peculiar properties in the animals, which gave them the means of helping by their ministry that whom God made their lord. O God! I have considered your works, and I have been frightened. What has become of this dominion which you have given us over animals? We no longer see among us but a small remnant, as a feeble memorial of our ancient power, and an unhappy remnant of our past fortune.

Let us give thanks to God for all the goods he has left us in the aid of animals: let us accustom ourselves to praise him in everything. Let us praise him in the horse that carries us or drags us, in the sheep that dresses and feeds us, in the dog who is our guard and our hunter, in the ox that makes our plowing with us. Let us not forget the birds, since God has brought them to Adam like other animals, and still, tamed by our industry, they come to flatter our ears with their amiable music, untiring and perpetual singers, they seem to deserve the food we give them. If we praise animals in their labor, and, so to speak, in their occupations, let us not live uselessly. Let us earn our bread each in his exercise, since God has put it at this price since sin.

The Creation of Men and Angels: Another admirable singularity of the creation of man: God forms him by His fingers, and The most excellent distinction of man’s creation in that of his 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.

Another admirable singularity of the creation of man: God forms him by His fingers

“Let the earth produce grasses and plants. May the waters produce fish and birds. May the earth produce animals.” All animals are created by command, without saying that God put out his hand. But when he wants to form the human body, “he himself takes mud between his fingers,” and gives him his shape. God has neither fingers nor hands: God has not made the human body more than other animals, but he only shows us in the creation of man a special purpose and attention. This among the animals is the only one who is right: the one turned to the sky: the one which shines by a beautiful and unique situation, the natural inclination of rational nature to high things. It is from there where the singular beauty came to man of the face, eyes, the entire body. The other animals show more strength, more speed, lighter weight, and so forth: the excellence of beauty belongs to man, and that is a wonderful picture of God splashed on His face.

The most excellent distinction of man’s creation in that of his soul

Once more God formed the other animals in this way: “Let the earth, let the waters produce plants and animals,” and thus they received being and life. But God, after taking in his all-powerful hands the mud from which the human body was formed, it is not said that he took his soul from the same place; but it is said “that he breathed on his face a breath of life,” (Genesis 2:7) and that “this is how He was made a living soul.” God made each thing come out according to its principles: he produced from the land grassland and trees with animals who have no other life than a purely earthly and animal one, (Genesis 2:9) but the life of man is taken from another principle, which is God. This is what the breath of life means, which God draws from His mouth to animate the man. This which is made in the likeness of God does not come from material things; and this image is not hidden in these base elements to come out, as does a statue of marble or wood. The man has two principles: according to the body as it comes from the earth, according to the soul as it comes from God alone; and that is why Solomon said “while the body returns to the earth from which it was taken, the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) It comes from God in this way, not that it is in God in substance, and comes from there as some have imagined; because these ideas are too coarse and tangible; but it is in God as his only principle and his sole cause, which is why one says that he gives it. Everything else is derived from the elements; because everything else is corporeal and earthly; that which one calls the spirits in animals, are only detached parts and a vapor of blood. Thus everything comes from the earth; but the rational soul made in the image of God is given to him, and can only come from this divine mouth.

Alas! alas! “The man who has been placed in such a great honor,” so distinguished from animals by his creation, “was equalled to senseless beasts, and made like them.”

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 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.