Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I have been visiting family in the Appalachian mountains, staying in a guest cottage, so my access to the Internet has been quite restricted. Whenever I can, however, I have been peeking in at FCA to moderate comments, and to work on an upcoming post about… wait for it… the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I will not be able to return to blogging with my usual regularity until at least January 2. For now, though, I will address two topics.
First, I was pleased by the results of the survey I posted on the 26th. My hunch was that, in light of the recent confusion about the Church’s understanding of Mary’s total sinlessness and utter freedom from concupiscence, most readers would not be able to discern a contemporary Catholic voice from an Eastern Orthodox voice on the topic. More to the point, I wanted to indicate how advocates of the Semimaculate Heart of Mary are merely painting an Orthodox rather than a consistently Catholic picture of Our Lady.
From a 20th-century Catholic catechism 36.51%
From an Eastern Orthodox author 31.75%
From a 16th-century Catholic scholastic manual 23.81%
From the creative keyboard of the Codgitator 2%
While I did not make up the quotation, I did modify it in order to elide “dead giveaway” phrases, and now I will reproduce the quotation with emphases that reinforce my (vindicated) hunch behind the survey. It comes from Michael Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (although I will not be able to explicate which pages until I get back to Florida):
“Christ’s flesh was true human flesh, but not sinful flesh; rather, it was completely pure of every sin and corruption, both of original sin and of voluntary sin. In His earthly life the Lord was free of any sinful desire, of every inward temptation; for the human nature in Him does not exist separately, but is united hypostatically to God. [In other words,] Christ did not assume the corruption of human nature and inclination toward sin that all other people have inherited from Adam. In this sense, Christ remained free from original sin. While passible (that is, subject to suffering), He was completely free of sinful passions and of the disease of sin. As […] writes, ‘[Mary] gave birth to Christ the Victor, for He was the only one [human] neither shapen in iniquity nor conceived in sin (Ps. 50:5), that is to say, in the fleshly pleasure, passion, and unclean thoughts that belong to our nature defiled by transgression.’ … The Most Holy Virgin was born as subject to the sin of Adam together with all mankind, and with him she shared the need for redemption. In other words, the Virgin Mary was born with the inclination toward sin [i.e. concupiscence] which was a consequence of the fall of man. None of the Fathers say that God [perfected] the Virgin Mary while yet in the womb; and many directly indicate that the Virgin Mary, just as all men, endured a battle with sinfulness, but was victorious over temptations and was saved by her divine Son.”
As mentioned, in the next few days, I will be posting another, rather long article about the Church’s magisterial understanding of Mary’s sinlessness, but let me close by addressing the second topic that has been under discussion here of late: the plausibility, in light of the Church’s ordinary magisterium, of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s claims about the hope that all men shall be saved.
In the first place, I am not making any hard claims against Balthasar’s thesis (BT). I was merely presenting an insight I had about how a major prayer of the past century seems entirely at odds with one possible extension of BT (i.e. that even demons will be delivered from Hell). As I admitted, I have not even read Balthasar’s entire book on the topic, so I will not make a rigorous argument against it. For all I care or know, it is a perfectly brilliant development of the Tradition; for now, though, it strikes me as an arcane theologumenon, a sort of theological catnip for debate. It does not, as they say, “move” me.
In the second place, I want to address a claim made about my instinctive resistance to BT, namely, that I am “in the teeth of” outdated Thomism, and therefore subject to a narrowly propitiatory understanding of the Incarnation. I have, apparently, attracted many new readers in the past few months, so my blogging background is important to understand my current reflections on various topics. This blog is effectively a reboot of my previous blog at veniaminov.blogspot.com. As I noted a few weeks ago, one of the topics that I spent a great deal of time on there is the work of Fr. Keefe in Covenantal Theology. My patron saint is St. Francis de Sales, and he subscribed to a more Scotist view of the Incarnation. Indeed, as I just read this morning in one of his sermons on Christmas (Dec. 25, 1622; p. 83):
[God] intended to create [the world] for the Incarnation of His Son, the Eternal Word. The end or goal of His work was thus its beginning, for Divine Wisdom would assume our nature in coming to earth. This was His intent even before Lucifer and the world were created and our first parents sinned.
Despite his Scotist view of the Incarnation, however, St. Francis did not deny the likelihood of Hell for some souls (viz. he mentions Hell at least twice in the same sermon series). My point is that I think it’s facile to say that having qualms about BT is fundamentally due to a rigorist commitment to Thomism, as if a commitment to Thomism were a bad thing, besides. St. Francis was not a “dogmatic” Thomist (i.e. although he was deeply committed to Thomistic principles, he was not averse to drawing upon Augustinian and Scotist perspectives), yet he would have at least balked at BT. Likewise, I am a Thomist by default, as it were, and I am still diffident about BT.
Thanks for your concern, I’m doing fine! Stay tuned!