A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Etiam Nunc

Some years ago, I attended a lecture by Fordham's noted patristics scholar, Joseph Lienhard, S.J. He spoke on the early Church father, Origen. As I recall, the leitmotif of the presentation was that Origen, in his homilies, stressed to the congregation: "etiam nunc," today also! The Scripture readings were not merely "once upon a time" "in illo tempore" but today!Richard Smith, a fellow priest of the New York Archdiocese, still fresh from defending his doctoral dissertation on Origen under Lienhard, kindly provided me with this example in Lienhard's own translation. Origen is preaching on Luke 4, the gospel for this Sunday's Eucharist, and exclaims:

But when Jesus had read the passage, he rolled up "the scroll, gave it to the servant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him." Now too, if you want it, your eyes can be fixed on the Savior in this synagogue, here in this assembly. For, when you direct the principal power of seeing in your heart to wisdom and truth, and to contemplating God's Only-Begotten, your eyes gaze on Jesus. Blessed is that congregation of which Scripture testifies that "the eyes of all were fixed on him"! How much would I wish that this assembly gave such testimony. I wish that the eyes of all (of catechumens and faithful, of women, men and children) not the eyes of the body but the eyes of the soul would gaze upon Jesus. For, when you look to him, your faces will be shining from the light of his gaze. You will be able to say, "The light of your face, O Lord, has made its mark upon us." To him is glory and power for ages of ages. Amen.

About the Author

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



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

And in the Church, the Lord always remains our contemporary. Scripture is not something of the past. The Lord does not speak in the past but speaks in the present, he speaks to us today, he enlightens us, he shows us the way through life, he gives us communion and thus he prepares us and opens us to peace. . Benedict XVI audience 29 March 2006

Jim,Thank you for a most apposite comment.

For, when you look to him, your faces will be shining from the light of his gaze.Heard somewhere, think in a homily, that Mary was like the moon, reflecting to man the face of the Son.

This made me remember a thing from Leon Bloy: "You do not enter into paradise tomorrow or the day after or in ten years: you enter it today when you are poor and crucified."

Just "stole" this for my homily tomorrow. Thanks Joe L., Richard S, and Bob I.

Anthony,"et hi tres concurrunt in unum" (1 John 5:8)-- you're welcome!

"Blessed is that congregation of which scripture testifies that 'the eyes of all were fixed on him'"? The "assembly" in Luke 4 soon asked themselves: " isn't this the son of Joseph?" and they quickly turned on him, became furious with him, and were quite ready to hurl him headlong down the hill on which Nazareth was built. That precious moment of positive attention was brief, indeed. I wonder how many congregants tomorrow when they hear this Gospel read would find Origen's take on it much to the point.

Susan,They/we might ask: "do we see with 'eyes' of the body or 'eyes' of the soul?"As you know, in the gospels physical blindness, while terrible, is not the worst kind.

Can't etiam also be translated "even"? I like "even" in this context, because it suggests the tension between past and present, whereas also is rather bland. Those who know Latin better than I do may have grammatical reasons for preferring to translate etiam as "also." Just a thought.

Rita,With no pretense to special competence in Latin, I think you're right that "etiam" can be translated "even." Your insight that "even" better preserves the tension between past and present may well be correct. We concur that the sense is: not only then, but now as well.

Ok, I admit, it made me think of this: he's not on my i-pod. He's really not.

Susan might well be on point as the central theme of the ministry of Jesus is to free the captives. Francis of Assisi showed how deceptive the claim of spiritual poverty can be if one bathes in material comforts. As Susan noted those who gazed upon Jesus condemned him as those monarchs in the church still do. The widespread practice in the church of sending Indian and African priests here and to other prosperous countries while most of their people are still captives living in squalor and domination is a living denial of Luke 4. Spiritual poverty and enlightenment are suspect when the physical aspects are not embraced.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment