Come, let us adore the Lord, for he is our God.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: Green.
|Other saints: Blessed James Berthieu (1838 - 1896)|
James Berthieu was born in 1838 in France. He was ordained a priest in 1864. At the age of 35 he joined the Society of Jesus and in 1875 left for Madagascar where he spent the rest of his life. The local people started fighting in order to chase away the French Colonialists and to destroy the Christian faith. The colonial authority managed to suppress the rebellion. But, in 1896, during another rebellion, Fr Berthieu was taken prisoner, beaten and put into prison. He was asked to reject his faith in order to save his life, but he said he preferred death to apostasy. On the night of 8 June 1896, while he was praying, he was shot dead and his body thrown in the river Mananara.
|Other saints: St William of York (-1154)|
Hallam, Hexham & Newcastle, Leeds, Middlesbrough
William Fitzherbert was born at the end of the eleventh century into a position of favour and wealth, and was a nephew of the future King Stephen. In his early days he received a good education and when he took holy orders, he became the treasurer of the cathedral church of York. Even if he received this office through patronage, it was generally agreed that he carried it out with wisdom and charity.
This was the time of the accession of King Stephen and the civil war with Queen Maud, with all the disastrous effects that it was bound to have on the government of the Church in England. When William was elected to the archbishopric of York in 1140, his election was challenged by supporters of the Queen because of his family relationship with the King. So began a dispute over his position as archbishop that was to continue almost until the time of William’s own death. Some accounts would suggest that he was ill-served by his advisers and suffered the disadvantages of having too many politically minded relatives in positions of authority. But he himself would seem to have lived an exemplary life and was even careless of his own interests. Although Pope Innocent II upheld the appointment, the next Pope Eugenius III suspended him from his duties on the advice of no less than St Bernard of Clairvaux and another candidate was appointed to the See of York.
William retired for seven years to Winchester where his uncle was bishop and papal legate and lived there quietly without complaint. It was only when his successor at York died and he was again elected to the archbishopric that he travelled to Rome and received the pallium from Pope Anastasius IV. On his return to England, William was mild and conciliatory towards his former enemies and well-liked by his flock. But he had hardly begun work in the city of York when he was taken ill and died in 1154. He was buried in his cathedral and the solemn translation of his relics took place in 1283.
Sometimes there is a message for us in some words of the Gospel that even the evangelists don’t notice. There is an example here, hidden in words so uninteresting that we can’t even be sure who said them. Matthew and Mark say Jesus, while Luke says the scribe.
Jesus (or the scribe) appears to be quoting from the Old Testament, but one phrase does not exist in any text of the Commandments: that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind.
It is easy not to notice this phrase, and indeed Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t notice it. We know this because normally when Jesus departs from the Old Testament it is noticed, and remarked upon, and made the subject of a whole “But I say to you…” discourse.
There are two aspects to this. One is what it says about the past, the other is what it says to us. The past is straightforward. The Jews have never been “people of the Book” in the sense of believing in the Bible and nothing but the Bible. They have, it is true, had a peculiar reverence for every sacred word, but they have lived not in unthinking obedience to those words alone but in a dialogue, you might even say in a relationship, with the sacred text. So the fact that “all your mind” appears here, without attracting notice or comment, must mean that it had become a part of the generally accepted interpretation of the words of Scripture. When, centuries after the Pentateuch, the Jews came across the new, Greek ways of thinking – as the Wisdom literature shows that they did – they immediately realised that this new thing called “mind” was included, no doubt about it, in the commandment to love.
What this says to us is more important than just a footnote in the history of ideas. It is the foundation and justification of all science. God does not command the impossible. If he is to be loved with the mind, that can only be because he is lovable with the mind, or, to detheologize the language, because Ultimate Being can be related to rationally. The Gospel phrase tells us that things make sense and that we have the equipment to make sense of them.
What does omnipotence mean? Does it mean that the Omnipotent can do anything at all? If that were true, all science would be at an end. If God willed that when I dropped a glass on the floor it would shatter, then even if God had willed the same whenever anyone in the past had ever dropped a glass, that would still not bind God. God would still be free to decide, if I dropped a glass on the floor now, that this particular glass, alone among all the glasses in history, should bounce and not break.
Which is to say: on this interpretation of divine omnipotence, science is impossible. We cannot predict the result of an experiment, because next time God may decide differently. We cannot even lay down laws of nature based on previous experience, because to call a law a “law” is to claim to be able to bind God, which is blasphemy.
This is not merely an academic quibble. When the 11th-century Muslim philosopher al-Ghazāli propounded this very idea, it captured the mainstream of Islamic thinking and led to the virtual suicide of science in Islam and the abandonment of rational thinking about the physical world, as being unnecessary, or sacrilegious, or both.
We are saved from this by this one little phrase in the Gospel, about loving God with all our mind. It is more than mere permission, it is a command to understand, to go out and do science, and it was followed whenever Christians had leisure to think. It led to the dazzling 13th-century renaissance and the birth of modern science, and we are still living through its consequences.
As for divine omnipotence, this is not the place to go into it in detail, but the answer to al-Ghazāli must surely be that God can indeed make the glass bounce, but God cannot make the glass bounce and still be God, since to break the laws and regularities of nature whimsically and without reason would be to abandon lovability-with-the-mind. This is exactly the argument that theologians use against pointless or frivolous miracles, but it applies to science as well, and to the possibility of doing science at all.
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the season in which we are being neither especially penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Amos 4:13 ©|
He it was who formed the mountains, created the wind, reveals his mind to man, makes both dawn and dark, and walks on the top of the heights of the world; the Lord, the God of Hosts, is his name.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Amos 5:8 ©|
He made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the dusk to dawn and day to darkest night. He summons the waters of the sea and pours them over the land. ‘The Lord’ is his name.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Amos 9:6 ©|
He has built his high dwelling place in the heavens and supported his vault on the earth; he summons the waters of the sea and pours them over the land. ‘The Lord’ is his name.
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Office of Readings for Thursday of week 9
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