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Reasons and Habits of the Heart

I recently met a young man from an Evangelical Christian background who is in an RCIA program, preparing to be received into the Catholic Church. I asked him what attracted him to Catholicism and his response was twofold. First, he found that Catholicism set his relationship to Jesus in the deeper and fuller foundation of Trinitarian theology. Second, he found great sustenance in the sacramental life of the Church, especially, of course, the Eucharist.I was reminded of my conversation with him when I read a review (subscribers only) in the current "Commonweal." The author of the review, Nathaniel Peters, is a doctoral student in theology at Boston College. The book under review is a sympathetic study by a psychologist of the evangelical movement known as the Vineyard churches. This part of the review I thought especially worthy of note. Peters comments:

For Christians who grew up thinking that God was distant and irrelevant to their lives, a Vineyard church may offer a kind of intimacy theyve never experienced. For some Catholics who feel burdened by church doctrines or bored by stale liturgies, this may seem an attractive option. But Vineyard churches also show the danger of do-it-yourself religion, of private religious experience undisciplined by a largerand deepertheological tradition. You cant simply name it and claim it if you take your cues from St. Francis. Yes, both Ignatius of Loyola and the Vineyard stress an affective spirituality that engages the imagination, and both value intimacy with God and a sense of his presence in the little things of life. But Ignatius also believed firmly in sacraments whose efficacy did not depend on emotional response. Faith was not reducible to feeling, and the way to intimacy with God was not by diminishing the role of doctrine, but by rediscovering its source. For Ignatius, it was a mistake to try to tether God to ones own desires; discipleship required radical availability to Gods will.

"Rediscovering its source" -- or, as I've suggested before: a radical re-Sourcement. In this, we can all continue to learn from Dorothy Day (with many thanks to Patrick Jordan for his splendid remembrance). Jordan writes:

For her faith, she had given up friends and what she called a life of natural happiness with the man she loved, Forster Batterham, the father of her daughter. He had refused to marry Dorothy and derided her conversion to Catholicism. Still, years later Dorothy was able to say, It is joy that brought me to the faith, joy at the birth of my child thirty-five years ago; and that joy is constantly renewed as I receive Our Lord at Mass. As a result of her wrenching personal sacrifice, she considered the loss of faith the greatest of disastersthe greatest unhappiness. She found daily Mass to be an antidote to apostasy, calling it the most important work of the day. If I can just remember to do that wellas well as I am ableeverything else will take care of itself, she said. 

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

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Thanks, lots of interesting ideas packed into this post. Certainly Peters' comments are on track with the sort of things I hear at an evangelical church (not Vineyard) where I help out a friend and her church ladies with a charitable activity occasionally. Jesus is truly their personal "friend," and they often talk about their daily devotional time as "crawling up in Jesus' lap" to be comforted and to feel better. Their take on Christian marriage is very interested (and seems to involve the "feel good" rituals of the all-important weekly "date night" on which a couple "ministers" to each other with dinner, a movie, and sex). I wonder if Peters comments on that.

For Christians who grew up thinking that God was distant and irrelevant to their lives, a Vineyard church may offer a kind of intimacy theyve never experienced. For men who want to "lead" women and for women who want to "submit" to men, a Vineyard church could be a place to find validation.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wimber

I poked around over on Vineyard's Web site.Director Phil Strout has a rather rambling two-minute video on "Experiencing God" that might be germane to the discussion here: http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/about/vineyard-values/experiencing-godI don't want to be overly critical (as I have a tendency to do when it comes to these types of Protestant movements). But it seems to me that emphasizing a personal knowledge of God through emotive activities (singing and driving, if Strout is to be taken seriously) engages creates a kind of "high" in worshipers that does not encourage much contemplation that might deepen one's understanding of faith and belief.In the video Strout also rejects conventional liturgical worship (stand up, sit down, put your money in the plate, duty done) without really understanding the meaning of the sacraments.Yes, often Mass does feel arid and uninspired. Yes, often driving around and singing with Mahalia Jackson on the CD player does feel better. But, if I understand one of the points of this post, God's presence transcends feeling. You may not feel forgiven after Confession or feel nourished spiritually after Communion. But you have faith that they've done some good, no matter how you feel. I think this is hard to get your head around, and I think it's something many Catholics do struggle with.

I don't see that an intellectual understanding of the faith, doctrine and tradition needs to compete with the "feeling" element. For me and I suspect many others, I could not have grasped what the Eucharist meant if I hadn't regularly attended Mass. All the Catholic school classes I had in my first 12 years of education would not have been sufficient to provide me with a good reason to go to Mass on the weekend. It clearly wasn't for so many of my peers who couldn't get away from the ritual soon enough. For many years now, I attend Mass because I love it and I find a depth and a truth there that it grounding, not because I fear some medieval Hell like I did when I was a kid. And I think it's a real pity if people attend the Eucharist only to get their ticket punched. When I pray for others, my first prayer is that they will feel the presence of God in their lives. Intellectual assent is okay, but not very nourishing if that's all there is.

For some Catholics who feel burdened by church doctrines or bored by stale liturgies...Faith was not reducible to feeling, and the way to intimacy with God was not by diminishing the role of doctrine, but by rediscovering its sourceThese fragments of Nathaniel Peters' review were, for me very relevant. I've found that by thinking about the meaning of those "boring" parts [of the liturgy], brought that liturgy to life in such a way that it was as if a light had gone on in my head, no longer boring, no longer stale, but incredibly liberating and giving me a significant chunk of gratitude.Lord, we thank thee for the light... T.S. Elliot?

I don't have any arguments with Holloway's comments, but I think faith is larger than feeling.Our current priest is fond of urging people to "feel" their faith in their hearts, and I don't hopefully know how you flog that into someone. As our friend Ann Olivier says, metaphors can be dangerous, but it's like telling someone to "feel love" for their spouse. During those dry periods every marriage goes through, you fake it, to be blunt. And you have faith that choosing to stick with it and hope for the best makes a difference.

Yes, T.S. Eliot, "Choruses from the Rock." Here's the stanza relevant to Bob's post. I'd forgotten what a long poem it is:We thank Thee for the light that we have kindled,The light of altar and of sanctuary;Small lights of those who meditate at midnightAnd lights directed through the coloured panes of windowsAnd light reflected from the polished stone,The gilded carven wood, the coloured fresco.Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upwardAnd see the light that fractures through unquiet water.We see the light but see not whence it comes.O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!The whole poem is here: http://www.tech-samaritan.org/blog/2010/06/16/choruses-from-the-rock-t-s... I think Bob makes a good point that if the liturgy becomes boring and dry, don't we have an obligation to try to renew it through our own meditations?OK, I'm hogging, and should beat it.

Echoing Bob Schwartz's comment, in a recent thread Mollie Wilson O'Reilly wrote: " it always deepens my experience of praying the Mass to learn more about it. " Same here.

I am struck by the answer to Father Imbelli's question. The Eucharist is no surprise. It is the first thing that comes out of the mouth of so many returning Catholics as well. It is unique to Catholicism, and the more you think about it, the more important it gets even if the whole rest of the Catholic Church turns you off. (Incidentally, I think the Pew study that found so many Catholics who said they didn't believe in the Real Presence either has a flaw or has been over-misinterpreted since it came out. They may not know it as "real presence," but they seem to believe in it.)But the Trinity left me gob-smacked. I can't remember anyone getting excited about that since the kid with the bucket of ocean water straightened out St. Augustine (or St. Patrick, depending on who tells the story) about the chances of understanding the Trinity.

I am struck by Fr. John Pilch's explanation of "faith" in the Semitic context, where it is almost a synonym for loyalty. This is an interesting thought. Faith in Jesus means loyalty to Jesus. Faith in the Church means loyalty to the Church. That last point has sustained me during these days with the sex abuse crisis and a Roman hierarchy that is trying to dismantle Vatican II. I am upset, sad, depressed...but my loyalty is to the Church, with its ancient traditions, its sacraments, its saints, its local community. And so I stick around.

Jean --I agree wholeheartedly (whatever that means) about problem with "feeling" and "loving". Very, very muddled concepts. In the first place, "feeling" sometimes seems to mean relatively simple subjective reactions, like anger and lust, to real physical things. These primitive ones are shared with other animals. But there are more complex ones, e.g., revenge and hope, which are about that things that are yet to be, not actual ones. Then there's the big question of "love" and associated yearning. "Love" has so many meanings, and there are so many different kinds of love that although its referents are vast, its sense is often muddy.So where does "faith" fit in with all this? Is it a kind of feeling? A wanting of some kind? Or maybe an approval kind of feeling? Or is it more a *knowing*? Or both a knowing and a feeling? Are all of these problems mere semantic ones? Would defining the terms make the problems go away completely? I doubt it, but how to start unravelling the question? (Contemporary philosophers seem to agree that solving problems need to begin by eliminating whatever semantic problems are involved, no matter how boring a chore that can be. Sigh)What compounds the problems of feeling, faith, and love is that we're talking (I think) about spiritual realities -- things we can't see, hear, touch, taste, smell, etc. They are the most difficult experiences and concepts to grasp clearly. I suspect we should go for help to the poets first. They seem best at describing spiritual experiences. So go I do to George Herbert's "Love bade me welcome" which, I think, reveals by indirection much of the essence of what love of God is. (We could spend a thread on this poem alone.) LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning 5 If I lack'd anything. 'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:' Love said, 'You shall be he.' 'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, I cannot look on Thee.' Love took my hand and smiling did reply, 'Who made the eyes but I?' 'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame Go where it doth deserve.' 'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?' 'My dear, then I will serve.' 'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.' So I did sit and eat.Is there is an equivalent poem about faith, as in "faith, hope and charity"?

Tom ==Don't you think that God the Father is a crucial part of Christian belief? He's 1/3 of the Trinity. As to the Holy Spirit, I agree that not nearly enough attention has been given to Her historically by the official teachers. Maybe that's because the bishops have never really appreciated the female as such. Not their fault -- culture affects them too. But it seem to me that their lack of appreciation of the female has distorted or, rather, impoverished their concept of the Trinity. Any way, get to know the Holy Spirit by your individual prayer. No doubt you will find Her fascinating.Yes, yes, yes, I know that in some sense God is sexless, but in another way He is *all* sexes. (and maybe even a few we don't find reflected in this cosmos? Hmmmm.) Anyway, there should be no problem with viewing the Holy Spirit as female and lots of advantages to doing so.

Ann, I didn't mean to imply disbelief in the Trinity, only that the affective content of that doctrine isn't exactly at white-hot levels most of the time. In our men's group, the question of "Whom do you pray to?" comes up from time to time. Most of us were taught at some point that we should pray to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit. But a plurality of these males, 40s to 80s, pray to Jesus as Lord, Savior or Brother because he is internally the most personal connection.Yeah, yeah, when we say the Our Father, we get it right, but consider the source. When we pray on our own many of us are consciously or unconsciously counting on Romans 8:26 where we are told that if we mess it up the Spirit will intercede with "inexpressible groanings." That's good. And, by the way, if the Wisdom of the Hebrew scriptures is the Holy Spirit, she is better than he, imho.

Thanks, Tom. So often men react in horror or with laughter to the notion that the Holy Spirit is female. Sometimes I think that the reason that there is still a "cult of the Virgin" is because the theological concept of the Holy Spirit has not been developed sufficiently. I think our nature compels us to need a God with the virtues traditionally assigned to women (understanding, gentleness), and so they try to turn Mary into a goddess. Even popes do that sometime. But i they could just see the Holy Spirit as Sophia/the Mother-Who-Understands they might avoid such heresy.

I wonder if Jesus had that same lack of appreciation for the female since He repeated refers to the Holy Spirit as "He" and "Him"?Then again, it is only logical to refer to the Spirit as "He," even though God is neither male nor female, since it was by the Spirit that Mary the female became pregnant and it is by being filled with the Spirit that Mother Church has children.

Ann,As you know, the Herbert poem you quoted was a favorite of Simone Weil who would pray it in the midst of her affliction and find relief.Since much could be considered as relating to "faith," without invoking the term, let me offer another poem by Herbert, "Redemption:"Having been tenant long to a rich lord, Not thriving, I resolvd to be bold, And make a suit unto him, to affordA new small-rented lease, and cancel th old.In heaven at his manor I him sought; They told me there that he was lately gone About some land, which he had dearly boughtLong since on earth, to take possessin.I straight returned, and knowing his great birth, Sought him accordingly in great resorts; In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts;At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied, Who straight, "Your suit is granted," said, and died.

Fr. Imbelli --Beautiful! Indeed, I'd say it's about faith -- how belief takes a certain boldness and a certain rejection of old assumptions, with the third quartrain showing that the tenant finds no solution to his problem in a hedonistic way of life. Last we're shown that the that key is Christ's death and promise, an unlikely and thoroughly bold story.I wonder if this poem inspired the phrase "new lease on life".

I think Peters misrepresents Ignatius. An interesting article on Ignatius and the tension between personal religious experience and church authority .... 'Ignatius and Church Authority', The Way Supplement, 70 (Spring 1990), 76-90 ... you can find it at Fr. Endean's website.If prayer is a personal relationship with Jesus/God (as spiritual director William Barry SJ says) then it does seem to me that it is about feelings. That's what the Spiritual Exercises are about, - fostering a relationship with Jesus and learning to trust your feelings, your desires, so that you can discern.

Crystal,Peters expressly states that Ignatius stresses "an affective spirituality that engages the imagination, and . . . value[s] intimacy with God and a sense of his presence in the little things of life"So he's not denying the place of "feelings" (or as I prefer "affections").You go on to say: "Thats what the Spiritual Exercises are about, fostering a relationship with Jesus and learning to trust your feelings, your desires, so that you can discern."But isn't a crucial task of discernment, during the "Exercises" and beyond, precisely to identify what are the "feelings" which flow from the self being transformed in Christ, and what are the "desires" that truly liberate?As it happens, I'll be having lunch with Philip Endean this week and will raise the question with him.

"... it was a mistake to try to tether God to ones own desires; discipleship required radical availability to Gods will."I have been watching, more than I'd like to admit, the "confession" of Lance Armstrong this week, and I find myself again marveling at the human ability for self-justification and -deception. Deny you're a doper long enough and you a) either believe it or b) persuade yourself that it is justified and it is therefore justified that you lie about it and have reached a moral detente.Moreover, a confession like Armstrong's may be sincere. But, like so many self-deceivers who abuse substances, he may be hoping to cast himself in a new role as "survivor" and "hero" for coming clean. Is he truly trying to change? Or is this new media circus merely his way of seeking more attention, even validation or rewards for his "courage" in coming forth with what he says is the truth?I am skeptical, but charity requires me to assume Armstrong is sincere.In watching this week's clips, it strikes me that the only two feelings you can trust to indicate that God (in any of the Three Persons) is nearest to you are guilt and shame. Catholics believe the Sacraments nourish the soul and mitigate those sins for which we feel true repentance. But do they always "feel" all is forgiven the moment they receive? I doubt it.

Jean,I too "find myself again marveling at the human ability for self-justification and -deception."I probably have mentioned this before, but one of the articles that has had a lasting impression on me was written by Stanley Hauerwas and David Burrell. The title speaks for itself: "Self-Deception and Autobiography: Reflections on Speer's 'Inside the Third Reich'."It can be found in a book of Hauerwas' essays: "Truthfulness and Tragedy."Was it Lionel Trilling who wrote a book: "Sincerity Is Not Enough"?

Ann: It's been noted before that among theologians there seems to be an inverse proportion between emphasis on the Holy Spirit and emphasis on the Blessed Virgin. I noticed it in a book by David Schindler that I reviewed for Commonweal some years ago. Whether this has anything to do with maternal images for the divine I don't know but am inclined to doubt. The great theologians of the Holy Spirit don't emphasize the maternal.I have seen in the tradition maternal images of the divine ascribed to God the Father and to Christ himself. St. Anselm wrote a prayer that addressed Christ and St. Paul as "mother." The great theologians knew enough not to get trapped inside any single image of God.

There's plenty of maternal or otherwise feminine imagery used to describe the Spirit in earlier Syriac theology (Aphrahat and the like), and even in Greek, some like Hippolytus did the same. So I suppose it depends on where/.when you want to locate the "great theologians of the Holy Spirit."

Father Imbelli, are you thinking of "Sincereity and Authenticity" by Trilling? Snip that might be germane to this thread: Our culture tends to regard the mere energy of impulse [as prompted by feeling?] as being in every mental and moral way equivalent and even superior to defined intention. Instead we should consider an idea that once was salient in western culture: the idea of making a life, by which was meant conceiving human existence, one's own or another's, as if it were a work of art upon which one might pass judgment.... This desire to fashion, to shape, a self and a life has all but gone from a contemporary culture whose emphasis, paradoxically enough, is so much on self.

EDIT: Sincerity

This relates to the ancient discussion in the church of which is most important. Do I believe so that I can understand or Do I understand so that I might believe. (For Gene Palumbo: "Credo ut intelligam" or "Intelligo ut credam.") Why not both. The lack of embrace by the faithful for the Trinity shows how this high christology is for those triumphant Catholics. But no one denies the power of the Eucharist and the RCC (tho it blew it with the vernacular)kept the Eucharist in tact. Rightly does Day regard it as her center. At the same time we touch over too lightly Day's acute understanding of helping the downtrodden as being the key to Jesus. Great article by Jordan. How above all, in a church which still pushes the privileges and power of the hierarchy, that we should still "hear the voice of suffering people, starving while billions are being spent for armaments." Day pointed out the vacuity of the bishops before it became fashionable. But they are feeling it now as they push for her canonization. Imitation would be preferable.

I had a high school teacher who said about sincerity: "Oh, they'll say, 'But he's so sincere!' Well, get out the censor and give him three swings of incense, and then hit him over the head with it." A great novel about the evil that can be caused by innocence and sincerity is Graham Green's The Quiet American.

Fr, Imbelli,Peters writes ...[For Ignatius] Faith was not reducible to feeling, and the way to intimacy with God was not by diminishing the role of doctrine, but by rediscovering its source. For Ignatius, it was a mistake to try to tether God to ones own desires; discipleship required radical availability to Gods will.I may be wrong, but it seemed to me that Peters was trying to say with this is that Evangelical Protestantism is all about warm feelings and being friends with Jesus, but that Catholicism, notwithstanding Ignatius, is about doctrine and sacraments and reason, which is better because feelings are all about what *we* selfishly want, but doctrine is all about what God wants.This seems so mixed up in a number of ecumenically challenged ways ;)Maybe I'm wrong, but if I understand Ignatian spirituality correctly, our feelings (consolation, desolation) are like signposts helping us to know if we're going in the right direction - they are not only just coming from us with no connection to God. And while our desires do need to be ordered, what orders them is love (a feeling), not doctrine or reason or even the sacraments. I think the Spiritual Exercises is about getting to know Jesus so we can love him and then that love is what makes us want to follow him. Love is what makes people care enough to do the right thing.Oh at least, that's what I think, but I'd be interested to hear what Fr. Endean has to say.

No one would consider saying "it" for the Holy Spirit?

discipleship required radical availability to Gods willIsn't that the zombie image? We should all let God live within us, emptying ourselves to make room for him, becoming zombies propelled solely by his will. And his will is expressed by the voice of the superior, once suitably decanted. That's the Jesuit ideal of obedience.Two great threads discussing that from 2008:http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=1599http://www.commonwealmagaz..., I am unclear about the relation between the Jesuit idea of obedience and the Jesuit spiritual exercises. I am surely wrong, but I see no connection, and those seem to me to be independent features. As for sincerity, I have not seen it discussed before on dotCommonweal other than as a lens through which to criticize politicians.

Crystal,From the section titled "Prelude for Making an Election" in the Spiritual Exercises:

In every good election, as far as depends on us, the eye of our intention ought to be simple, only looking at what we are created for, namely, the praise of God our Lord and the salvation of our soul. And so I ought to choose whatever I do, that it may help me for the end for which I am created, not ordering or bringing the end to the means, but the means to the end: as it happens that many choose first to marry -- which is a means -- and secondarily to serve God our Lord in the married life -- which service of God is the end. So, too, there are others who first want to have benefices, and then to serve God in them. So that those do not go straight to God, but want God to come straight to their disordered tendencies, and consequently they make a means of the end, and an end of the means. So that what they had to take first, they take last; because first we have to set as our aim the wanting to serve God, -- which is the end, -- and secondarily, to take a benefice, or to marry, if it is more suitable to us, -- which is the means for the end. So, nothing ought to move me to take such means or to deprive myself of them, except only the service and praise of God our Lord and the eternal salvation of my soul.

This method stands in stark contrast to the approach some Evangelicals, including members of the Vineyard churches, refer to as "Name It and Claim It." Our affections are important, yes, but not all of them come from God. Learning to distinguish those that do from those that don't is one of the purposes of the Exercises.

Claire,I don't think the Jesuit idea of trying to discover God's will for us is "obedience" .... we would indeed just be zombies if that were so. The word "will" has some bad connotations modernly, but I think the way Ignatius meant it was more "desire" or "hope" ... I think the idea is that our deepest desires for ourselves and our lives are actually God's desires or hopes for us too. The Spiritual Exercises help people learn discernment - help them figure out how to make good choices and decisions, how to trust their feelings and to trust God wants for them what they truly want for themselves. If the Jesuit idea was that we be obedient zombies then there would be no need for discernment - we wouldn't be moral agents making choices, we'd just go to the CDF every morning to receive our programming - -yikes! ;)At least, this is how I understand Ignatian spirituality.

Matthew,I don't know much about what the Evangelicals believe, but yes, Ignatius was all about discernment, trying to figure out if one's desires are influenced by the good or the bad spirit so one can make a good choice. But you can't even start to discern until you take your feelings, all of them, seriously.

Crystal,I think we are probably coming at the same reality from slightly different perspectives. I appreciate your point when you say:"And while our desires do need to be ordered, what orders them is love (a feeling), not doctrine or reason or even the sacraments. I think the Spiritual Exercises is about getting to know Jesus so we can love him and then that love is what makes us want to follow him. Love is what makes people care enough to do the right thing."One question I would raise concerns your seeming reduction of "love" to a "feeling." For feelings come and go (as they did for Mother Teresa), but commitments can transcend "feeling."It's for this reason I prefer the term "affection" (which is the term Jonathan Edwards used in his treatise on "Religious Affections"). Love and joy are affections that do not depend on (in my understanding of the word) the more superficial feelings. Another issue I would raise is whether you yourself in effect see more of a reciprocal relation between knowledge and love. You speak of "getting to know Jesus so we can love him." But isn't one way we get to know him through the sacraments: hence Day's commitment to daily Eucharist. The Eucharist is, at heart, a school of love.I think John Henry Newman is a good guide in these matters in that he strove to do justice to both the demands of the heart and the head, devotion and doctrine. It's under his inspiration (and, of course, that of Pascal) that I titled the post: "Reasons of the Heart."

Bender --First, the Church does NOT teach that God is neither male nor female, it teaches that God is BOTH male and female, though neither of those concepts exhaust what God is, of course. And, as JAK points out, Jesus is explicitly described in Scripture as "Mother". All this makes it plain that whenever we start to describe God with our poor little limited concepts we get into great trouble. But insofar as creaturely perfections are like God we can use their concepts to analogize what God is. Note: it really gets complicated when we start talking about our likeness to God. Aquinas said that while we are like God, we can't truly say that He is like us.At any rate, God is called "Sophia", a feminine noun. And- ta dah! -- the Holy Spirit is said to be wisdom. So there is an explicit reference even in Scripture suggesting that the Spirit is feminine. If God the Father is both Father and Mother, it would seem quite possible that the Spirit is both female and male with emphasis on the female. We know that they are different, and given Jesus as Son, the pair (Father and Son) strongly suggests that there must be a Mother (Spouse) involved in the Godhead. Though it is true that certain pronouns are generally (not always) used, Maybe the different uses are determined by the kind of action the Person is doing when described as "He" or "She". (I wish I knew the languages so I could check this out.)I would also imagine that the Second Person, the Logos, is both male and female. Why not? Jesus is described as both. In sum, it seems that all three Persons are male-like and female-like but each is preponderately one or the other. The main assumption behind all of this is that when we use any term to describe God we are using it only analogically, metaphorically, and hence deficiently. In other words, there is always something else left to say about Him-Her. (Sorry that this is so painful for your male ego, but you need to broaden your ideas of God.)

Abe Rosenzweig, Thank you very much for the information about the Eastern theologians. Hmmmm. Any more light thrown on this would be appreciated. But I suppose that would require another thread. Won't hold my breath (no pun intended).

Is everyone on the same page re "name it and claim it" theology? I can't quite tell here."Name it and claim it" theology--embraced by no means by all evangelicals--refers to the belief that God made promises to "His" people in the Bible that "His" people are entitled to claim. Eternal life is one such promise. But "name it, claim it" can extend into more material realms. A subset of "name it and claim it" theology is the prosperity gospel, which says that God will "prosper you" (i.e., give you money) to show his approval, an idea that few evangelicals I know subscribe to.

Crystal --For Aquinas and Scotus the will is the rational appetite. That is, it is the spiritual ability which desires and loves on the spiritual level of life, and it causes the self to act to achieve what it desires on both the physical and spiritual levels. Being an "appetite" might tempt us to call it a "feeling", but in everyday use I think that "feeling" is mostly associated with lower level appetites like hunger, sexual feelings, and that affection produced by ocytoxcin. For the Scholastics, intellect and will are separate powers, but they are not independent in their actions. The intellect knows an end and grasps it as being good in some way. The will desires the end, chooses whether to seek and to attain it, and loves the end when achieving it.We also have physical, animal appetites for physical goods, and in man these can be governed by the intellect and will.I think that especially since Neitzsche "will" has gotten bad press because of how he describes its ends and actions. But his concept of it is worlds apart from the classic Christian notion. These words -- "love", "will", "feeling", have been given many meanings in Christian theology, and it seems to me that in any discussion of them we should make an effort to say which meaning is our own in that discussion. Otherwise it's too easy to go round in circles.

I confess that I know little of Vineyard churches, or "name and claim it" or even very much about Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Exercises - I know what they are, but very basically through reading a book or two. I have never "done" the Spiritual Exercises. So the only comment I can make is that I am surprised that a group of people who appear to be both very educated and very literate seem to believe that God has a gender. In what sense? Since as far as we know, God does not possess a human body (the human being named Jesus had a human body but not God), how can God have gender?

Ann -Thank you for your comments on the female identify of the Holy Spirit, something I very much believe is true. Your post is the first place I've ever seen the view expressed, a pleasant surprise. Also appreciate Tom Blackburn's comment that, "if the Wisdom of the Hebrew scriptures is the Holy Spirit, she is better than he, imho."

Fr. Imbelli,I've seen that idea mentioned elsewhere on s not a feeling but something else kind of like duty or committment? For instance, it's mentioned that Jesus commands people to love each other, but how do you command a feeling? You can command acts, though, and I guess some people see love as action. And Ignatius says that love is best shown in deeds. But I can only say that for myself, love is a feeling, not a duty, not an act (per se). My acts that are loving seem to flow from my pre-existing feeling of love. And as Paul said, acts without love are empty (I think?). Maybe the idea that feelings can change and that you cannot rely on them being constant is scary. I'd say yes that's true and maybe that's as it should be. About getting to know Jesus through the sacraments .... I wasn't raised a Catholic and I started going to communion after RCIA class but I didn't know Jesus at all - communion didn't inform me about him. But later I took an Ignatian retreat - the 19th annotation of the Spiritual Exercises - and then I did start to get to know Jesus, through reading the gospel stories, through imaginative prayer, so I guess I come at it from a different place than Day and Newman. I'm not sure how the Eucharist can give a person experience of Jesus in the same way interactive prayer does.

Sorry - that should be "idea mentioned elsewhere that love s not a feeling"

Ann,That's interesting about the will and feelings and desire ... I guess the scholatics borrowed much from Plato and Aristotle on that? I do think that what Ignatius meant by "God's will" is more nuanced than most of us would assume. My past spiritual director said that in Ignatius' time "will" was the aspect of the soul associated with love and desire - he saw God's will as what God desires for us.

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galileeand so revealed his glory,AND HIS DISCIPLES BEGAN TO BELIEVE IN HIM.

Crystal, to get more nourishment from Mass, I bet it helps to be aware of the numerous scriptural echoes embedded in the prayers. For someone who comes from an Ignatian perspective, who knows if it might not also be productive to do Lectio divina on the Eucharistic prayers themselves?

John Page,Indeed . . . intriguing . . . but where do you want to orient the discussion with it?e buona festa di Sant'Agnese!

Ann: You wrote: "At any rate, God is called Sophia, a feminine noun. And- ta dah! the Holy Spirit is said to be wisdom. So there is an explicit reference even in Scripture suggesting that the Spirit is feminine."I think it is a very weak link to base affirmations about sex on grammatical gender. In many instances in many languages there is no correlation. George Tavard's discussion of similar issues is still worth reading: http://www.ts.mu.edu/readers/content/pdf/36/36.4/36.4.7.pdf

I guess I understand the "love is not a feeling" notion through family life. There are some days your kid or spouse can drive you to thinking about getting out a baseball bat. Love stays your hand and allows you to try to work out a reasonable compromise, solution, detente--or to accept that there are some things you cannot change about a person, and you pretty much just have to deal.I think it's pretty common for family members to go through periods when they do not feel the love. Christ expects you to act as if you did for his sake.I have never thought of any member of the Trinity, except Jesus, in gender terms. Having been raised a Unitarian in which God was an abstract, I'm entirely comfortable with "Father" being a metaphor and the Holy Spirit as a kind of holy brain wave from God and Jesus. The Spirit has no more gender than a wireless connection. I realize this may be poor Catholic theology, and I apologize in advance.

Jean's addition to Herbert's poem:LOVE bade me welcomeand love stays your hand!I second both George and Jean.

Crystal --I'd say that development of the idea of the will as a distinct faculty/power/ability with many functions was largely a Scholastic accomplishment, though it incorporates a lot of Greek thinking. Plato, of course, had a great deal to say about "the Good" and various forms of good. He also made a clear distinction between the rational and sensory faculties, and he at least recognized that we are capable of controlling ourselves at least somewhat. See his famed "myth of the charioteer". Aristotle distinguished truth and goodness, and posited cognitive faculties which are concerned with truth and appetitive faculties which are concerned with goodness. He distinguished two types of appetites, sensory ones which produce feelings such as hunger, lust, etc., and the rational appetite, which is the will which seeks all kinds of good, and chooses and enjoys goods on a spiritual level. Sensory feelings can distort and even over-power the operations of the intellect and the will. He rejected Socrates' notion that simply to know good is to be good, that "knowledge is virtue". He saw that willing a good is also necessary if persons are to be virtuous.Aquinas incorporated a lot of Aristotle's faculty theory in his ethics, but he articulated the relationships between intellect and will. Aquinas' theory is very sophisticated in that he clearly sees the many different operations/movements of the will, including desire of both physical and spiritual realities, choice, enjoying an attainment of a good, and willing the good of other beings (loving them). (Note: "loving" can mean either simply being inclined to a good or the enjoyment of a good, or both.) As with Aristotle, sensory feelings can distort and overpower the rational powers, and the will can overpower the intellect at times.which in turn can affect the culpability of evil choices, etc. Scotus' theory is just as elaborate, but for him the will is the most important human power leading to and enjoying happiness, not the intellect. For both Scotus and Aquinas man's own greatest good was to know and love God, with Aquinas saying that knowledge of God was the greatest good and Scotus saying that willing -- loving -- God is the greatest good. But the Beatific Vision is both vision, i.e., knowing, and loving of God.I'm not sure whether Ignatius was a Thomist or not. Jesuits used to be Thomists, but, of course, maybe their founder hadn't established the policy of Jesuits studying Thomas. However, Ignatius did study in Paris, so I'd guess he was at least influenced by Thomas.If you're interested in Aquinas' view of human nature, try George Klubertanz' "The Philosophy of Human Nature". It's very clear but mostly doesn't oversimplify. But it is complex and tries to consider some of the theory in relation to contemporary psychology.Sorry to go on so long about this, but it's all very complex -- like it or not -- people are very complex beings, which explains in part why spiritual directors can be a very big help in analyzing our interior, mental processes. And, sadly, one of the things that contemporary psychologists are discovering is that we humans have a vast capacity for self-deception -- including deception about our own desires, choices, etc., etc. Ain't easy being human.

Father Imbelli:The words "began to believe" at the end of yesterday's Gospel struck me very strongly. They weren't taken up in the homily. Your thread opens with the young man who is preparing to enter the Catholic Church. I thought of him and the journey we are all embarked on, whether at twenty or seventy. It seems to me to be a lifelong process of "beginning to believe." But only THEN, "face to face."

"I think it is a very weak link to base affirmations about sex on grammatical gender. In many instances in many languages there is no correlation."JAK --True, there is no necessary correlation between real gender and grammatical gender, but at times the correlation does happen to be descriptive and helps to convey a meaning. Do you really think that the fact that so many languages have gender based declentions has no relationship at all to reality? Are there any languages in which, for instance, "woman" or "mother" is a masculine noun? I doubt it. Such primitive concepts/words tend to retain the fundamental facts/connotations that they were intended to describe.I don't say that "sophia" being feminine grammatically *proves* that the Holy Spirit is the feminine Person. But it certainly suggests that when the Greeks used the term "sophia" they were thinking of a feminine quality. And we must add to that the fact that sophia was identified with Athena, who was the goddess of wisdom and the chief god of Athens itself. Athens even shares its name with Athena, and we know the value those citizens placed on knowledge and the pursuit of truth. Given the word's meaning and grammatical gender plus the association with Athena, I think an ancient Greek would be very much inclined to think of wisdom as a feminine quality, at least when thinking about gods.So it seems reasonable to me to think that the Greek word "sophia" has retained Greek connotations in the Gospels in the very same way that the Greek word "logos" has retained Greek connotations when it is applied to the Second Person. Surely the Greek meaning of the word "logos" strongly influenced the theological understanding of the Second Person. I don't doubt that the Holy Spirit was at work when She had those who wrote the Gospels used the word "wisdom/sophia" to describe Herself. All I am saying is there is a strong current of identifying wisdom with the female in Greek thought and language, and it would be rash to ignore this undercurrent in reading and interpreting the Greek of the Gospels.

Anne --In Scholastic thinking gender is not a purely physical quality or set of qualities. It includes strong spiritual inclinations to specific virtues. For instance, femininity includes a strong inclination to gentleness. Whether or not the Scholastics were right about which quality mainly belonged to which gender is another question. However, as to gentleness, it does seem that contemporary psychologists have found that on average, anyway, males are more aggressive than females.I for one think it will be many moons before the scientists of either gender can be very objective in such studies. There's too much cultural baggage still operating.

JAK --I read most of the Tavard article. I find it particularly unconvincing because he jumps to conclusions on the basis of half-truths, and he himself says that his whole position hangs on the theory of proper proportionality -- but he totally misunderstands what that that theory is about. At least the way he sees is it not the way I learned it in school and the way have found it confirmed in my reading. A better hypothesis for explaining his conclusions is that the is after all a garden variety sexist in spite of his talk of Aquinas and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein (whom he also doesn't know too well).

Ann: What do you make of the fact that pneuma (spirit) in Greek is neuter in gender? Why would this not be as important as that sophia is feminine? And by the way, in the New Testament, associations with sophia are far closer and more frequent for Christ the logos than for the Spirit. For examples of several other languages and how they relate or don't relate grammatical gender and sexual differentiation, cf. Tavard's article.In German the word for "girl" is neuter. In Latin the word for "sailor" is feminine. Etc., etc.From Wikipedia:

In a few languages, the gender assignation of nouns is solely determined by their meaning or attributes, like biological sex, humanness, animacy. However, in most languages, this semantic division is only partially valid, and many nouns may belong to a gender category that contrasts with their meaning (e.g. the word "manliness" could be of feminine gender). In this case, the gender assignation can also be influenced by the morphology or phonology of the noun, or in some cases, can be completely arbitrary.

For manliness, that is, characteristics of men, see: Spanish (hombra, virilidad, masculinidad), German (Mnnlichkeit, Virilitt), Latin (virtus).

I would point out that Elizabeth Johnson discusses the issue of the feminine and the Spirit in the 3rd chapter of She Who Is, and it is a nuanced overview; she also points out where Congars and Boff discuss the femininity of the Spirit.She also makes the simple but necessary point that the trinity often veers toward a binary in Christian theology, with the Spirit just being too tough for people to keep on a level with the Son and Father.I would like to note that discussion of Greek ideas of wisdom and the feminine seems like a less fruitful path than that provided for the more explicit connection made in the Hebrew Bible, where the spirit is amply described as feminine, and where Wisdom is a woman.I would also note that, from a Pauline perspective, at least, spirit seems more a "stuff" than a "person," so the gender isn't the only lens available.

I think the idea that love should last forever and that God is love is part of why people don't like the idea that love is a feeling .... it's a distrust of human nature (the fear that a feeling can't be sustained) and a belief that God is impassible (and doesn't feel love as a emotion). But I do think love is a feeling, that people can sustain it for a lifetime and beyond, and that God loves us emotionally. You can re-define love as a duty or a choice to try to make it more do-able, but I think that's cheating :)

Abe writes apropos Elizabeth Johnson:"She also makes the simple but necessary point that the trinity often veers toward a binary in Christian theology, with the Spirit just being too tough for people to keep on a level with the Son and Father."I think a considerable part of the challenge is that we tend to think of the "persons" or "hypostases" of the Trinity in a univocal way. Both Rahner and von Balthasar suggest that "person" is precisely what is different in the Trinity. Thus the Spirit is not "person" in the same way that Father and Son are. The Spirit is "person" of "persons." For all the vaunted "superiority" of Orthodoxy in matters pneumatological, I think a robust theology of the Holy Spirit is very much a desideratum in both West and East. The "symbol" has still to give rise to systematic thought.

In French the gender of words is defined by three factors: meaning, spelling, and hearing.Of the 965 words ending in "-it ", only one (karit) is masculine and all others are feminine, for example "virilit" and "masculinit". In that case gender has nothing to do with meaning and everything to do with spelling. (http://french.chass.utoronto.ca/fre180/Genre.html )The Holy Spirit is masculine in French (LE Saint Esprit), but there is no neutral. Since there does not seem to be any reason for it to be masculine - the concrete images that first come to mind for it, dove, breeze, fire, are genderless -, I would naturally make it an "it" in English; but no one does that and I got rebuked for it once, so now I try to remember to say "she". I have a similar problem for Church (UNE glise). I don't have a sense that it has to be feminine - the definition, people of God, is genderless, and the images for it, body of Christ, flock, building of God, holy temple, our mother, bride of Christ, are quite mixed - so I would naturally make it an "it" in English; but no one does that and I got rebuked for it once, so now I try to remember to say "she".

oops. I got rebuked once for saying "it" instead of "she", but can't remember if it was for the Holy Spirit or for the Church!...

Ivan Illich distinguished between the Church as "It" (Bad) and the Church as "She" (Good).

"Ann: What do you make of the fact that pneuma (spirit) in Greek is neuter in gender?"JAK --In this context I'll just point out that "pneuma" is neither is female nor male, so that makes it irrelevant for this discussion.As for sophia being associated with Christ, it seems to me that all the Persons, sharing the Godhead, must be themselves be like as well as different from each other in some way. And that, to me is the great problem of the Trinty: how are the Persons both alike and different? But surely since Scripture speaks of Father and son, it means that there are both likenesses and differences between at least those two, which suggests that there are likenesses and differences amongst all of them, and we might find them if we went looking for them with open minds.I just find it extraordinary that, given the church';s later teaching of the equality of male and female, the theologians don't look for the ways the female aspects of God are revealed in Scripture. The resistance to looking for such likeness is, I don't doubt, part of the ancient prejudice against women, prejudice operating in the culture of Jesus' day too, and, perhaps in the Evangelists and Paul to some extent.Yes, the first part of Tavard's article is quite interesting, but it goes downhill.

Fr K: and you distinguish between the Church as "They" (Bad) and the Church as "We" (Good)! Right?

JAK ==As to the Wikipedia snip, it is no doubt true that very abstract terms like "manliness" are sometimes female. But those are later additions to languages. My point was that of the most primitive, early words in languag, e.g., "woman", "mother", "father", "man", you rarely if ever find them classified as the opposite sex in grammatical structures. Note: even to speak of, say, the 16 grammatical "genders" in an African language is to switch the meaning of "gender" entirely. In reality there are only two gender poles -- male and female with combinations of both and differences of degree -- there isn't male, female, some gender entirely different from those two, and some gender entirely different from those three genders, and . . . . (That's another thing I have against Tavard -- he doesn't seem to see that.)

Ann: Talk about your apodictic statements: "In reality there are only two gender poles male and female with combinations of both and differences of degree there isnt male, female, some gender entirely different from those two." In fact, in Latin and Greek, to name only two of many, there are three genders--you've left out neuter. You appear above to be committing the classic error of petitio principii, taking it for granted that there must be some close link between grammatical gender and sexual differentiation. If you are going to make so much depend on Sophia's being feminine, why do you dismiss the fact that Pneuma is neuter? Why doesn't it count for as much, if the argument is from grammatical gender?And, not so by the way, lots of theologians have looked for and found feminine images of God in the Bible. I guess you're just not familiar with the literature.

"Ann: What do you make of the fact that pneuma (spirit) in Greek is neuter in gender?"JAK --In this context I'll just point out that "pneuma" is neither is female nor male, so that makes it irrelevant for this discussion.As for sophia being associated with Christ, it seems to me that all the Persons, sharing the Godhead, must be themselves be like as well as different from each other in some way. And that, to me is the great problem of the Trinty: how are the Persons both alike and different? But surely since Scripture speaks of Father and son, it means that there are both likenesses and differences between at least those two, which suggests that there are likenesses and differences amongst all of them, and we might find them if we went looking for them with open minds.I just find it extraordinary that, given the church';s later teaching of the equality of male and female, the theologians don't look for the ways the female aspects of God are revealed in Scripture. The resistance to looking for such likeness is, I don't doubt, part of the ancient prejudice against women, prejudice operating in the culture of Jesus' day too, and, perhaps in the Evangelists and Paul to some extent.Yes, the first part of Tavard's article is quite interesting, but it goes downhill.Now: what do you make of Gen. 26-27"2y Then God said, Let us make humankind[c] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,[d] and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.27 So God created humankind[e] in his image, in the image of God he created them;[f] male and female he created them"How com "we", God, made humankind *like* God, i.e. "male and female"? (I'm astonished at this. I never noticed it before myself.)"

JAK --There are as many as 16 "genders" in one of the African languages, but they most have nothing to do with sexual differences. So to speak of "grammatical genders" in linguistics is to use the word equivocally from its use in everyday English classrooms.

I love it when Father K gets catty. Genuinely, I do.

JAK --There are as many as 16 "genders" in one of the African languages (Bantu if I'm not mistaken), but they most have nothing to do with sexual differences. So to speak of "grammatical genders" in linguistics is to use the word equivocally from its use in everyday English classrooms.As to sophia, I am actually NOT arguing simply from grammatical gender: I am arguing from the nature of primitive language as expressing ontological facts, not grammatical ones. As I said, it is highly likely that the grammatical gender of mother and father reflect actual, ontological differences, not contingent classifications based on something other than sexual differences.True, I'm not acquainted with most of the literature. One reason is because so much of what I've tried to read *on both sides of the sexism-in-Catholic-theology issue* is that both, the theologians and the Catholic feminists tend to be so bad a philosophy. Or should I say their prejudices are such that they don't write much worth reading. Take Mary Daly whom Tavard refers to. I did read some of her years ago. I think she was an ideologue, saw what she hoped to see. And others I've tried were not much different. But the sexism is just as strong or stronger on the other side. In fact, the subject of feminism was never a big revelation to me. My mother and my aunt attended a college (as did I) where feminism was new in the early 20th century, and it was very much emphasized there. In fact, the college (Newcomb) was founded in part to teach women how to have professions which would make them self-supporting.. So the feminism of the '60s to me was sort of been there, done that. As I said to Crystal, I think it will be a long time before both sides can be objective about the subject.Sorry to be going on in such length, folks, but I am a feminist of a rather old fashioned sort, and some challenges shouldn't go unanswered.

" Im not sure how the Eucharist can give a person experience of Jesus in the same way interactive prayer does."Crystal,All Jesus is is in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the celebration of the life, death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Eucharist is the quintessential of our faith; the life of being a Christian which the imitation, inasmuch as we can, of the life of Jesus. As far as the Trinity is concerned the literature is not just mildly confused but seriously confused so that the most fair thing to do would be to concentrate on the Eucharist. There were meanderings before Augustine but Augustine just got out of control with his speculation. Which the western world followed. Most likely since Augustine wrote so much. The essence of Christianity is the life, crucifixion, and resurrection. This is why the Sunday celebration is so meaningful. It is where we meet as church and where we live in the life of the Spirit.

Bill, I question how one can concentrate on the eucharist, which is the chief means by which people participate in Christ, while ignoring christological and trinitarian problems, except by willfully embracing the pure acceptance of received doctrine. It's true enough that the theological argumentation concerning these topics is confusing--perhaps hopelessly so--but unless you approach everything through mystification, the problem of how the eucharist actually functions can't really be separated from the problem of how the human relates to the divine in Christ, and how Christ relates to the Trinity. Like I said, the literature covering the topic is a slaughterhouse, but I'm not sure what one is supposed to do should they want to go beyond accepting that "the eucharist is X" and ask, "HOW is the eucharist X?" As convoluted and prone to abuse as such theological inquiries can be, I can also see how there's also room in them for an enriched understanding of the sacrament.

Bill and Abe,The idea of Jesus in a wafer seems reductive to me. I understand that the Eucharist symbolizes Jesus' life, death, resurrection, but it seems to leave out the living Jesus himself ... even given transubstantiation, there's no real-time interaction, it's instead a ritual in which he's there physically but not intentionally. Sorry - don't mean to be disrespectful. I guess that's one part of RCIA that I never really understood.

We do not have to elaborate. We go on faith. The focus is on how Jesus reconciles us with the Father/Mother. This is why Jesus said to become infants. We relive these events in each Eucharist and we recommit ourselves our great and forgiving God. To deviate into how Jesus is present and how is to miss it. This is a celebration of OUR redemption. God forgives and pours out love to us which we return united with each other.

What do you folks on this thread mean by "heart"? (I think that there are enormous semantic problems with the word. Sooo many meanings.)

Crystal, I was looking for information on that question recently and my favorite "explanation" (that does not really explain, but is evocative anyway) was in a short homily by St Augustine. http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/augustine_sermon_272_eucharist.ht... he imagines the people are thinking is very close to what you wrote. What he answers is very close to what Bill wrote, but perhaps more eloquent (no offense meant, Bill!). As you read it you can hear the passion in his voice, from so many centuries ago. I find it powerfully uplifting. He is so eager that you irresistibly follow his train of thoughts along with him, so straightforward that you are never blocked by an obstacle in understanding. He does not hesitate to write that he does not understand something, when he doesn't, but shows how that does not stop his faith, and one is invited to join him in faith. He is so attractive that he makes me wish I could have known him in person. I bet he turned all the people around him into saints.

I guess that makes me a member of the Augustine fan club!

Crystal writes:"The idea of Jesus in a wafer seems reductive to me. I understand that the Eucharist symbolizes Jesus life, death, resurrection, but it seems to leave out the living Jesus himself even given transubstantiation, theres no real-time interaction, its instead a ritual in which hes there physically but not intentionally."Jesus is present sacramentally in the Eucharist. His is a true sacramental presence. He is present sacramentally as the living One with whom we have intense and intentional relations in real time.He is present in this Eucharist and in every Eucharist throughout the world sacramentally and temporally. And he is present non-sacramentally and eternally to the saints in the Kingdom of the Father.So Abe is quite correct that faith seeks understanding, always limited and partial, of the Mystery we celebrate.And with Claire we can turn once again to Augustine, who at the conclusion of his profound, yet humble meditations on the Trinity, writes:"When the wise man spoke of You in his book, which is now called by the special name of Ecclesiasticus, he said: "We speak much, and yet come short; and in sum of words, He is all." When, therefore, we shall have come to You, these very many things that we speak, and yet come short, will cease; and You, as One, will remain "all in all." And we shall say one thing without end, in praising You the One God, ourselves also made one in You. "O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned me both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen."P.S. Abe, any reflection on my comment at 1/21 -- 3:56 p.m.?

In the Episcopal BCP the post-eucharistic prayer has always made sense to me:Eternal God, heavenly Father,you have graciously accepted us as living membersof your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,and you have fed us with spiritual foodin the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.Send us now into the world in peace,and grant us strength and courageto love and serve youwith gladness and singleness of heart;through Christ our Lord. Amen.I have always looked at the sacrament like that: As Jesus feeding you with himself in some real way that brings you into the fold, strengthening you, so you can better go about a life of Christian service and charity. I agree with Crystal that in some RCIA classes, there may be so much talk about how other denominations have got the eucharist wrong--either as a commemoration or because they fall short of whole-hearted endorsement of transubstantiation--that they forget to talk about what it's good for.

Jean,it is a lovely prayer -- and formative of habits of the heart.

Thanks, all of you - I'll check out the Augustine link.

Crystal --Intentionality isn't just a matter of knowing, it's sometimes a matter of turning towards a good and being helped in moving towards that good. It seems to me that this latter sort of intentionality is what reception of the Eucharist is largely about. One comes to me moved in a certain direction (a grace) in a way and with more strength (another grace) that one doesn't have without "going to Communion". This isn't a physical thing, it's spiritual but none the less real. And it's personal, since it is obviously tailored to the needs of the individual recipient. At least that is what usually happens for me.Other people, the holy ones, actually seem to be aware of the presence of the Lord within themselves, spirit to Spirit, or heart to Heart if you prefer that terminology. I can't imagine anything more personal.

Somehow this poem seems appropriate here --Little White Churchby Marilyn Nelson Eaton, NH, 1879Us Free Will Baptists walked a thin tightwire,a springing path out over the abyss.We knew how a sudden April desire to dancecan topple you head over heels into the fire.We knew how warmth exuded by a youthsinging at prayer meeting in a nearby seatand inhaled deeply can inebriateyou to the point of renouncing the truth.We lived repent-now-before-it's-too-late.We didn't believe God forgives you, once and for all.We knew how you can just turn around and fall,of your own free will, how easy it is to doubt.But there's no Free Willers left around this placesince the Phelps boy come back from Harvard talking about Grace.

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