Thoughts on God as Fire

I was researching something (verifying that I accurately remembered that Seraphim are the highest choir of angels) when I found this attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas regarding the nature of the name "Seraphim":

"The name "Seraphim" does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name "Seraphim" according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.

"First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.

"Secondly, the active force which is "heat," which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.

"Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others."

Since the Seraphim would not be their own source of "Illuminating Fire," it's logical that this property is derived not just merely from God per se but due to their relative spiritual proximity to God. In other words, because they are the highest angels they exhibit more of the qualities of God: in this case the piercing, penetrating, brilliant, radiating fire.  This would correspond with an idea I've had that the Fire of God is everywhere in eternity and that it's the disposition of one's soul which determines whether this penetrating and illuminating fire is glorification or damnation. It sure gives a concreteness to the notion that the souls in hell damn themselves more than God sending them there of His volition.

It would also suggest that the ranks of hell are "geographically inverted" from the way we think of it: that the higher (less severe) levels of hell are mystically farther from God such that the intensity of God's Fire affects them less than those who are closer/at the deeper levels of hell... and that attaining certain Sacramental characters (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders) puts a leash on damned souls, preventing them from fleeing further from the Divine Fire than souls lacking those characters.

Another consideration: the highest of angels, being closest to the source of the illuminating Divine Fire, in communicating this perfection to the other angels... was the Light Bearer (Lucifer). This would also explain why the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts are always pictured as being on fire, and it makes me wonder if martyrdom by fire is the most glorious way to exit this mortal coil.

Lots of food for contemplation here and it makes me wonder if this Truth is why every human being is inexplicably drawn to stare at a campfire... because at a certain level we know we're seeing a glimpse of the most fundamental Truth there is.


Men vs. Women -- FIGHT!

As if the differences God gave us -- and the craziness of our culture and times -- wasn't enough, cordial relations between young Catholic men and women have to suffer the onslaughts of idiots and mouth-breathing cretins from time to time as well.

This morning I saw the following post in my Facebook timeline:

"If girls that come from Traditional Catholic families were as great as they think they are, they'd all be married."

I don't envy the position of young traditional Catholic women today.  For the most part the prospects of those called to marriage suck. There are so few financially established young men who are looking to marry that they pretty much have their run of the field in selecting a potential wife. (Of course a guy in that position is established in more than his finances... he's more selfish and insistent on getting his way than he realizes but marriage will awaken him to this reality in short order.)

I will grant that some -- not all, but SOME -- young Catholic women, if they aren't married by 23, develop a bitter resentfulness that they were made to wait for their man to come along when they "should have been married and having babies" for the last five years. This is a very unattractive attitude and I know of one guy (who was closer to 30 than 25) who dated (and later married) a 19 year old girl "because she didn't have the 'why am I still single?' bitterness that the 25 year old women in the parish have."

That said, there are issues on both sides of this gender debate (because Original Sin, duh!) and any man who has the audacity to blame the women for his plight in not finding the perfect wife is an idiot and a jerk.  And if he has the audacity to say something like the quote above, either on Facebook or in real life, you women should be THANKFUL that he's unmasked himself as an unworthy loser... he just saved you the trouble of having to date/court him (or worse yet, marry him!) before learning his true colors (mostly yellow, but I digress).

If you're still reading this, dear boys and girls, and you get nothing else from this little article, memorize the following: if you do manage to find that elusive "perfect dream spouse" then don't forget that marriage is a vocation undertaken in the shadow of the Cross of Christ Crucified, and it's going to royally suck at times.  Marriage is a VOCATION and it is how worldly idiots like us are purged of our attachments, vanities, and selfishness and converted into Saints.  Make no mistake: even the best marriages are like purgatory on earth at times: seize those opportunities to get your purgatory done now rather than later... and another secret if you're inclined to listen: if you can handle those times with good humor and a smile while helping your spouse during those hard times then your spouse will think all the more highly of you and do their utmost to be their best for you (it's something called a win-win: look it up).

The only other advice I would give dating/courting couples (aside from "courtship is overrated") is to find someone who laughs and can make you laugh, because that will make the hard times so much easier to take.


Please forgive me...

For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. (Matthew 6:14).

For many Catholics, Lent has is already underway. Eastern Catholics refer to today as "Clean Monday". Liturgically, Clean Monday and thus Lent itself, begins on the preceding night with Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present ask one another for forgiveness. The emphasis on forgiveness helps the faithful to go deeper than change of diet and application of ecclesiastical regulation. (The idea is not to avoid these practices, but to avoid hypocrisy.)

Forgiveness, being central to our Faith prepares us to go before our Lord.

With the beginning of Lent upon us, I ask God and you for the forgiveness of all my offenses conscious and unconscious, voluntary and involuntary. I am sorry for all that I did, and all that I did not do, in failing to fulfill my responsibility to holiness and Christ-like behavior in my conversations, friendships, and duties toward God and you.

Please forgive me, I am a sinner.


Angels and Snakes: How they fit in with Divine Providence

It seems that I have earned myself a new label. Not only am I your run of the mill anti-semitic-prudish-rad-trad-chauvinistic-sinning-meat-eating(except on Fridays)-Catholic ... I am also a Providentialist! (I have no idea where to put that in my ever growing hyphenated list of qualifications.)

Why is this label fitting for me? No, I do not I sit around all day expecting God to fill the fridge, and buy my kids their clothing. It is not because I expect my bank account to have enough money in it to pay the bills while I waste away on the social networks. I do not fail to set an alarm expecting God to send His angels to wake me up when He wants me to get up. I do not let snakes bite me and expect... well... that might be some other thing people do.

I am a "Providentialsist" because my wife and I are not in any serious (by our own estimation, or as defined by the Church) situation where we need to postpone the potential for having children, and we thank God for this blessing. This situation is not our doing, but God's.

As far as name-calling is concerned, this one is odd. (I suppose many of them are.) At the root, It suggests one who depends on Divine Providence. (who doesn't?) However. It is used in a way that hints that we are tempting God with our actions. Acting without "prudence" and due care for the future well being of my family.

My wife and I love each other dearly. We love our children. We are not perfect, and don't have it all figured out, but there is nothing wrong or sinful with trusting God and working with Him towards the welfare of our souls, and those of the Children he has given us. The Catholic Church bolsters us in these choices, and I am thankful for that too.


Future Sellout Elected to Lead SSPX "Strict Observance"

Fr. Joe Pfeiffer, leader of the SSPX-SO
Pfeiffer (above) denies he's unpopular
with the priests of the SSPX-SO.
Pfeifferville, KY (TradNewsNetwork) -- According to an SSPX-SO press release, Father Joseph Pfeiffer has been elected as the first leader of the so-called "Society of St. Pius X of the Strict Observance" (SSPX-SO) by his fellow priests, and has announced a Pacific Tour to bring former SSPX priests and laypeople into the organization.  This recruiting tour, however, is already being met with suspicion by fellow SSPX-SO priests.  "We don't trust him -- we are self-sufficient the way we are, we don't need to grow the organization" said one priest who asked we not use his name. "How can we be sure these new recruits aren't spies trying to infiltrate us? This sounds like a complete sell-out of the principles on which we were founded!"   Another priest questioned Pfeiffer's leadership agenda of "growing the SSPX-SO organization" as a failing of the group's core mission to criticize Bernard Fellay and the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Paraphrasing Saint Bernard of Clairvoux, the priest rhetorically asked "What good is the leader of the SSPX-SO if he's not barking at the SSPX?"

Pfeiffer dismisses reports of dissension and is asking for complete transparency at each of his organization's venues. "Communications are to be open, unambiguously antagonistic of [Bishop] Fellay, and our Mass locations are to be made publicly known."  Pfeiffer asserts that Fellay has used "Communist tactics" in attempting to scare the priests and supporters of the SSPX with threats of reprisals should they consider supporting the SSPX-SO.  This message will be at the heart of his Asian tour, which will begin at the end of April 2013 and include appearances in Australia, India, and Singapore. Pfeiffer indicated that other venues will be added as traditional Catholics in other countries request a visit (Catholics interested in a visit from Fr. Pfeiffer are advised to visit the SSPX-SO's MySpace page and leave a comment).

"I'm excited about this tour and hope to greatly expand our organization" Pfeiffer said. He will need to act fast. According to unnamed sources there are already plans afoot to launch a new organization dubbed the "SSPX-SO-SO" whose goal would be the "conservative, non-evangelical preservation of sacred tradition" though all SSPX-SO priests contacted for comment claimed not to know anything about such plans.


Washing the feet, of the gentler sex, on Thursday

Dietrich von Hildebrand asks the question: "Does Catholic orthodoxy and filial submission to the Vicar of Christ require one to hail every practical decision of the Holy Father?" There are Catholics who answer this question with a strong resolved: "Yes, and those who do not hail or praise every practical decision of the Holy Father are acting against orthodoxy." I believe this unfortunate conclusion is founded on a common misunderstanding of papal infallibility and on some well-intentioned but misguided respect of the one who holds this Holy Office.

It is ridiculous to 'hail' or 'praise' some action of the Holy Father only because it is an action of the Holy Father. It is also ridiculous to condemn some action of the Holy Father because it is an action of the Holy Father. It just does not make any sense. It is unreasonable. While I know that examples do exist, I do not believe the later scenario happens nearly as frequent as the former. (That is only my observation, and not something I would argue very strongly on if challenged.)

If the pope were to modify or adapt some legal requirement for this or that, you should not say, that modification is good because the pope did it. Knowing this modification has come from the Holy Father, you might first choose to seek a good reasonable explanation. You might resolve to state that you do not have enough information to understand the decision made. In the end if there is a judgment to be made, you would state that it is good or unfortunate because of something having to do specifically with the change itself. You would not base the judgment simply on the fact that the pope made the modification. (I hope it is clear what I took three paragraphs to say.)

So to the topic. I should confess that while I knew of the foot washing -- of the gentler sex -- by the Holy Father... I have ignored the topic completely -- until today. For whatever reason I choose to read G+ as my first activity after consecrating my day. Much of this post comes from my participation in a discussion on the Holy Thursday washing of feet.

Some facts (by which I mean that I do not think they are debatable):
1) There currently (at least before Thursday) exists a law that directs the washing of feet to take place with men only.
2) This law is an example of such a law that the Holy Father has authority to change.
3) The Holy Father washed women's feet without formally changing the law.

Now, I honestly do not know if this law in this specific circumstance can be changed simply by the action of the Holy Father. I suspect that good canon lawyers might even have some disagreement on the subject. I had an opinion... but I am not a canon lawyer, and I am fairly sure that my opinion was wrong.

What I will say is that I find it unwise that the Holy Father, who as supreme legislator could have formally changed this law -- didn't -- before performing an action (licitly or illicitly) that was contrary to the law as written. I say it is unwise because even if the Holy Father's action is within the law, the fact remains that the contrary is still "on the books" and confusion has resulted. Those who disobediently went against the law, acting as their own pontiffs for years, point to the Holy Father's action to support their disobedience. Many who have defended the law are now set in confusion. The defense of "caritas ante lex" with references to our Lord and the Pharisees only serves to cloud the subject further. All the while... the importance of Holy Thursday seems left the dust.

Please note that I did not say it was "unwise because Pope Francis did it." (I also have not offered judgment on the washing of 'non-viri' feet!) I hope that if one were to explain why they believe it was a good idea to forgo a formal change before the action, that they also provide more than "it is good because Pope Francis did it." For those of you who do not think I can love our Holy Father and find this practical action unwise -- please read Dietrich von Hildebrand's response to the question above: Belief and Obedience: The Critical Difference

If the pope intended to change the law, it seems that it would have been better for him to change law prior to performing the action. He could have done this but from what I know, he did not. To date Fr. Lombardi has given comment, but I think more (read better) explanation could be given. Hopefully more explanation comes long before next Holy Thursday. 

Edit: Fr. Byers provides some thoughts and addresses some commentary that I should have read before writing this post.


Unfinishable Poetic Attempt at Honor: Feast of St. Joseph

This past weekend I started a poem intended to be published today for the Feast of St. Joseph. My aim was to flash moments of Joseph's life and virtue, their relation to our Holy Queen, and Her Son our Lord. I wanted to start with the choosing of Joseph, and move through to the flight into Egypt. Ridiculously, I procrastinated despite the fact I was excited to work on it. The rushed effort started as well as it could have until I got to the Circumcision of our Lord. I could not push past it. One mangled stanza was not enough. (Three where not enough.) My thoughts on previous moments were juvenilely dull, and the evidence matched.

As Christ wished to fulfill the law and to show His descent according to the flesh from Abraham. He, though not bound by the law, was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21), and received the sublime name expressive of His office, Jesus, i.e. Saviour.

A significant amount of art and imagery depicts the sacred event being performed by a priest in the temple, or in synagogue. However there are some paintings, and some Catholic authors who in fact have the event being performed by St. Joseph. It is my opinion, along with some of the Doctors of our Faith, that the later is the accurate. As my dribblings on St. Joseph are inadequate, I instead quote from Edward Healy Thompson's book titled: "The Life and Glories of St. Joseph". Emphasis mine:

But who was the minister of the rite? The Evangelist is silent on this point. Imagination has accordingly allowed itself full scope, and painters have been pleased to introduce into their representations a priest in his sacerdotal vestments; but we have no authority for supposing that any priest came to the stable of Bethlehem to circumcise Jesus. The opinion of those doctors who believe that the minister of the circumcision of Jesus was Joseph appears the most probable. St. Ephrem the Syrian, a most ancient writer and contemporary of St. Basil, one who was well acquainted with the traditions of his native land, and highly esteemed both for his science and his piety, says expressly that it was Joseph who circumcised Jesus. Writing in confutation of those heretics who ascribed to our Lord a phantastic body, he says: "If Jesus Christ had not true flesh, whom did Joseph circumcise?" Thus he refers to it as to an unquestioned fact. St. Bernard, Suarez, and many others also believe that Joseph circumcised Jesus, because he who circumcised an infant was the same also who imposed the name; and it was Joseph who gave Jesus His name. This opinion, then, has been generally adopted. The precept of circumcision was addressed to the heads of families; it was the office of the father, unless a priest took his place.

There is nothing written there that is overly remarkable. It contains evidence and facts or support for something much deeper. (Please pray to the Blessed Virgin before reading this next quote.)

Joseph, then, as Isolano says, circumcised Jesus as his son. On him we may believe devolved this solemn and painful duty. Jesus was circumcised by Joseph on Mary's knees, no other eyes beholding the first drops of the Precious Blood flow except those of the holy angels, and no other ears save theirs hearing the wail of the Divine Infant. In this act Joseph accomplished three sacrifices in one: the sacrifice of Jesus, who began the great work of our redemption by suffering in His innocent members; the sacrifice of Mary, who with indescribable sorrow, but with perfect resignation, offered her Son to the Eternal Father, and held, as it were, the victim bound; and the sacrifice of himself, who had to nerve his hand to perform an act so painful and repugnant to his tender heart. It was an act of heroic obedience and fortitude on his part, greater, St. Bernard says, than was that of Abraham in sacrificing his son Isaac; for Joseph loved Jesus incomparably more than Abraham did his son Isaac, and well knew the difference between the son of any mortal man and the Son of the Eternal God. Thus the knife which cut the flesh of Jesus wounded the heart and pierced the soul of Joseph. Here there was no angel to stay his hand. The act must be accomplished, and in performing it Joseph was, indeed, more than a martyr.

Then, too, was that name pronounced over the Divine Infant at which "every knee," as the Apostle tells us, should bow of those who are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and it was by the lips of Joseph that it was pronounced. St. Luke only says that His name was called Jesus, without specifying by whom; but from St. Matthew it would appear that it was Joseph; for the angel had said to him: "Thou shalt call His name Jesus". It was, indeed, no little glory to Joseph to receive an embassage from Heaven commissioning him to confer this name. Jesus is the Son of the Eternal Father; to the Eternal Father, therefore, it belonged to impose the name; and yet He commissioned St. Joseph to exercise that right in His place. Joseph, says Isidoro Isolano, is the Enos of the New Testament, who first began to invoke the Name of the Lord. That profound theologian, Salmeron, who was present at the Council of Trent, did not scruple to say that in this sole act of giving to Jesus His name was declared the whole paternal office of Joseph, as by the sole act of feeding the sheep of Christ was signified the full power and jurisdiction of Peter over the Church. Whence Isidoro Isolano draws the conclusion that Joseph in God's sight is superior to all the other saints, because no other was exalted to so high a dignity.

St. Joseph, circumcisor of God, Pray for us.
St. Joseph, name conferrer of God, Pray for us.