Friday, June 15, 2012

New Media; Old Documents; Origen isn't Origenism

Before sharing my take on the week's news, here's something important:
It's a link list of resources for Fortnight for Freedom (June 21-July 4), bulletin inserts, and fact sheets.

Change and Old Documents

My take on this week's news:
  1. Goodbye VIS, Hello Changes
  2. Origen, Reputations, and Manuscripts

Religious Freedom and Citizenship

First, two articles that I'd intended to use in this post:
Putting together that 'Fortnight for Freedom' resource list took the time I'd have used to write up the 'defend religious freedom' and 'charitable giving' pieces.

Like I've said before: I think religious freedom is important. Since I'm a practicing Catholic, I have to do what I can to defend everybody's religious freedom.
  • Basic rules
  • Catholics are expected to
    • Support religious freedom
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)
      • For everybody
        (Catechism, 2106)
    • Take an active part in public life
      (Catechism, 1915)
    • contribute to the good of society
      • In a spirit of
      • Truth
      • Justice
      • Solidarity
      • Freedom
      (Catechism, 2239)
    • Submit to legitimate authorities
      (Catechism, 2239)


I'm part of the Knights of Columbus. Every year I spend two hours calling numbers at the 'Bingo booth' at the Stearns County Fair. It's a major fundraiser for the local council. We pass the money along to several charities.

That's not a big deal: charity is part of the 'job description' for a Catholic: and two hours a year is - not big fraction of my time. At all.

A few thoughts about charity, Catholic style:
  • Because charity in truth is a gift received by everyone, it
    • Is a force that builds community
    • Brings all people together
      • Without imposing barriers or limits
  • The human community that we build by ourselves can
    • Never be a fully fraternal community
      • purely by its own strength
    • It can not
      • Overcome every division
      • Become a truly universal community
  • God-who-is-Love calls into being
    • The unity of the human race
    • A fraternal communion
  • Economic, social, and political development
    • The logic of gift does not
      • Exclude justice
      • Merely sit alongside justice
        • As a second element
        • Added from without
    • Must make room for the principle of gratuitousness
      • As an expression of fraternity
      • If it is to be authentically human
    (See "Caritas in Veritate," 34)
    (May 21, 2012)
Now, finally, my take on some changes at the Vatican; and why a few old documents are such a big deal.

1. Goodbye VIS, Hello Changes

Folks who don't like change probably won't like this. As for me, I've gotten used to a world where folks wear business suits instead of togas, and telephones aren't wall-mounted cabinets. Change happens.
"Changes in Vatican Media"
"And a Bid for the .catholic Domain" (June 13, 2012)

"On Tuesday the Vatican announced that as of this July 31, the Vatican Information Service (VIS) will cease to exist as a separate office providing information distinct from the Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office.

"There will, however, be a Press Office Bulletin. Some of the VIS staff will be transferred to work on the multilingual portal, which was established a year ago. Others will be employed in the multilingual development of the Press Office Bulletin.

"The Vatican news portal provides a daily service in Italian, English, Spanish and French. Up to now the Press Office Bulletin has mainly been published principally in Italian, unless the original texts were in other languages, while VIS has published not only in Italian but also in English, French and Spanish.

"The archive of more than 85,000 articles in various languages, produced by VIS in more than twenty years of activity, will be available on the Web site of the Press Office.

"Vatican Radio also announced changes. In the words of its director-general, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, from July 1 there will be: 'A new chapter in the history of Vatican Radio.'..."
Part of that "new chapter" will be more Vatican Radio on the Web. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with that.

The other big change discussed in the ZENIT article is the Vatican's bid for the .catholic domain.

".catholic" - Maybe

"...A further development came today when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) revealed who has applied for which generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) names in what is expected to become the largest expansion in the history of the Internet's Domain Name System.

"A total of 1,930 new gTLD applications were received during the application period of the new generic Top-Level Domain program.

"The publication of the applications for new suffixes to Web addresses is a look at potential rivals to .com and other endings....

"...The Vatican has also put in a claim on the .catholic domain and its equivalents in other languages and alphabets.

"ICANN began accepting proposals for the new domains names in January. Each proposal cost $185,000 to submit."
"And a Bid for the .catholic Domain"
My guess is that someone's going to get upset about the Vatican's bidding for the .catholic domain. Depending on personal taste, trying to get the right to use .catholic might be just simply awful because:
  • It's 'commercial'
  • Anything the Vatican does is bad
  • It's new
I wouldn't spend $185,000 for one of the new domain names: partly because I have no practical use for one; partly because that's far beyond my household's annual income. I simply can't afford it.

On the other hand, spreading that $185,000 over all living Catholics: my share is a little less than 2/100 of one cent. That sort of extravagance I can afford.

The Church, Money, and All That

I've posted about odd notions folks have about wealth, religion, and living in the real world, before:

2. Origen, Reputations, and Manuscripts

"Origen Rediscovered"
"L'Osservatore Romano Reports Unpublished Homilies Found" (June 13, 2012)

"An Italian philologist has found unpublished sermons of Origen in the library of Monaco of Bavaria. The discovery was announced Tuesday by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek....

"...In the first half of the 3rd century, Origen wrote on the Psalter and had an important impact on biblical exegesis.

"The homilies do not bear the author's name, perhaps because of the condemnation of errors by some of his followers at the Council of Constantinople in 553.

"The discovery of these lost manuscripts is of great importance given that much of Origen's writings, especially the exegetical ones, was lost following the condemnation in 553....

"...Origen had an important influence on Christian literature in the ancient world, whether in doctrine or spirituality in general, both in the East and in the West.

"In 2007, as part of a series of addresses on the Fathers of the Church, Benedict XVI spoke about Origen in two of his Wednesday audiences. Coincidentally the discovery of this manuscript of Origen happened precisely in the home region of the Pope."
I was fascinated by the short description Marina Molin Pradel's academic detective work: how she decided that a set of unsigned documents had been written by Origen of Alexandria. But then, one of my daughters called me a 'scholar and philosopher.' What I find fascinating, others often see as being about as exciting as watching paint peel. Which is, when you think about it, a fascinating process. Or, not.

Where was I? Dusty manuscripts. Some dude with an odd name. More dusty manuscripts. Right.

Origen - Condemned?

I'm a fan of the Stargate television series, so the "Book of Origin" sounded like "Book or Origen" to me. I was a little put out, since the cult of Origin was run by 'bad guys.' Then I found out that it was "Book of Origin:" which sounds the same in my dialect of English.

There's an obvious lesson there, about jumping to conclusions: but that's not the point I wanted to make.

Origen was responsible for a heresy. Sort of.

Origen of Alexandria was born in 185 and died around 253 or 254. What he wrote had a major influence on Catholic thought: and still does.

The influence hasn't been entirely positive. Around the year 400, some folks got over-enthusiastic about their opinion about Origen. Apparently, he'd written quite a bit about creation, spirit, matter, and rational beings: so they had a lot of material to work with.

Never mind what Origen actually wrote: the Bishop of Salamis got concerned about the 'dangers of Origenism.' Some folks defended Origenism, others denounced it, and some were accused Origenism.

Sounds like quite a bit of today's 'religion news,' actually.

Origen, Origenism, and the Liturgical Two-Step

I'm quite willing to believe that "Origenism" didn't have much to do with what Origen thought or wrote.

During my lifetime, the clerical weirdness committed 'in the spirit of Vatican II' here in America shows what sort of bats-in-the-belfry, wackadoo, things can happen when enthusiasm gets mistaken for inspiration. That's assuming that liturgical two-step was the result of sincere mistakes. And that's another topic.

One Origenist Crisis After Another

During that 'first Origenist crisis, nobody could ask Origen what he actually meant. He'd been dead for about a century and a half.

Then in 514, about a quarter of a millennium after Origen died, Stephen Bar-Sudaili and some other imaginative folks picked up Origen's writings and ran off in the general direction of pantheism. That's what the Council of Constantinople condemned in 553.

Origen, Assumptions, and Decisions

I don't know this, but I think it's likely that one of the reasons we're missing part of Origen's work today is that folks who maintain archives tend to be careful.

In the two dozen or so centuries since the 'Origenist crisis' of the 500s, someone could easily have read that "Origen" had been involved in some sort of heresy: and decided to throw out documents with that name on them, making room for more reliable material. Regrettable, but I think understandable.

Remember: Brother Andrew, or whoever was responsible for that hypothetical archive, couldn't Google "Origen," or go to and research the controversy. Good grief, today we've got the Internet: and folks still make daft assumptions. Yet more topics.

I put a bit of what Benedict XVI had to say about Origen at the end of this post. The excerpts are taken from two General Audiences during 2007. More about Origen and his legacy:
I think it's important to note that "the condemnation in 553" was of Origenism - not so much of Origen and his writings. Pope Benedict XVI's occasional references to Origen show that, seventeen centuries after his death, what Origen wrote is still worth remembering.

I think it's also an indication that, although cultures and technology change: human nature hasn't shifted all that much. And that's yet again another topic.

Related posts:

Excerpts from Benedict XVI's General Audiences, 2007:
"Origen of Alexandria: life and work (1)

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"In our meditations on the great figures of the early Church, today we become acquainted with one of the most remarkable. Origen of Alexandria truly was a figure crucial to the whole development of Christian thought. He gathered up the legacy of Clement of Alexandria, on whom we meditated last Wednesday, and launched it for the future in a way so innovative that he impressed an irreversible turning point on the development of Christian thought.

"He was a true 'maestro', and so it was that his pupils remembered him with nostalgia and emotion: he was not only a brilliant theologian but also an exemplary witness of the doctrine he passed on. Eusebius of Caesarea, his enthusiastic biographer, said 'his manner of life was as his doctrine, and his doctrine as his life. Therefore, by the divine power working with him he aroused a great many to his own zeal' (cf. Church History, 6, 3, 7).

"His whole life was pervaded by a ceaseless longing for martyrdom. He was 17 years old when, in the 10th year of the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, the persecution against Christians was unleashed in Alexandria. Clement, his teacher, fled the city, and Origen's father, Leonides, was thrown into prison. His son longed ardently for martyrdom but was unable to realize his desire. So he wrote to his father, urging him not to shrink from the supreme witness of faith. And when Leonides was beheaded, the young Origen felt bound to welcome the example of his father's life.

"Forty years later, while preaching in Caesarea, he confessed: 'It is of no use to me to have a martyr father if I do not behave well and honour the nobility of my ancestors, that is, the martyrdom of my father and the witness that made him illustrious in Christ' (Hom. Ez 4, 8). In a later homily—when, thanks to the extreme tolerance of the Emperor, Philip the Arab, the possibility of bearing witness by shedding one's blood seemed no longer to exist—Origen exclaims: 'If God were to grant me to be washed in my blood so as to receive the second Baptism after accepting death for Christ, I would depart this world with assurance.... But those who deserve such things are blessed' (Hom. Iud. 7, 12). These words reveal the full force of Origen's longing for Baptism with blood.

"And finally, this irresistible yearning was granted to him, at least in part. In the year 250, during Decius' persecution, Origen was arrested and cruelly tortured. Weakened by the suffering to which he had been subjected, he died a few years later. He was not yet 70.

"We have mentioned the 'irreversible turning point' that Origen impressed upon the history of theology and Christian thought. But of what did this turning point, this innovation so pregnant with consequences, consist? It corresponds in substance to theology's foundation in the explanation of the Scriptures.

"Theology to him was essentially explaining, understanding Scripture; or we might also say that his theology was a perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. In fact, the proper hallmark of Origen's doctrine seems to lie precisely in the constant invitation to move from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in knowledge of God. Furthermore, this so-called 'allegorism', as von Balthasar wrote, coincides exactly 'with the development of Christian dogma, effected by the teaching of the Church Doctors', who in one way or another accepted Origen's 'lessons'.

"Thus, Tradition and the Magisterium, the foundation and guarantee of theological research, come to take the form of 'scripture in action' (cf. Origene: Il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa, Milan, 1972, p. 43). We can therefore say that the central nucleus of Origen's immense literary opus consists in his 'threefold interpretation' of the Bible.

"But before describing this 'interpretation' it would be right to take an overall look at the Alexandrian's literary production.

"St Jerome, in his Epistle 33, lists the titles of 320 books and 310 homilies by Origen. Unfortunately, most of these works have been lost, but even the few that remain make him the most prolific author of Christianity's first three centuries. His field of interest extended from exegesis to dogma, to philosophy, apologetics, ascetical theology and mystical theology. It was a fundamental and global vision of Christian life.

"The inspiring nucleus of this work, as we have said, was the 'threefold interpretation' of the Scriptures that Origen developed in his lifetime. By this phrase, we wish to allude to the three most important ways in which Origen devoted himself to studying the Scriptures: they are not in sequence; on the contrary, more often than not they overlap.

"First of all, he read the Bible, determined to do his utmost to ascertain the biblical text and offer the most reliable version of it. This, for example, was the first step: to know truly what is written and what a specific scriptural passage intentionally and principally meant.

"He studied extensively for this purpose and drafted an edition of the Bible with six parallel columns, from left to right, with the Hebrew text in Hebrew characters - he was even in touch with rabbis to make sure he properly understood the Bible's original Hebrew text -, then the Hebrew text transliterated into Greek characters, and then four different translations in Greek that enabled....

"...Secondly, Origen read the Bible systematically with his famous Commentaries. They reproduced faithfully the explanations that the teacher offered during his lessons at Alexandria and Caesarea.

"Origen proceeded verse by verse with a detailed, broad and analytical approach, with philological and doctrinal notes. He worked with great precision in order to know completely what the sacred authors meant.

"Lastly, even before his ordination to the priesthood, Origen was deeply dedicated to preaching the Bible and adapted himself to a varied public. In any case, the teacher can also be perceived in his Homilies, wholly dedicated as he was to the systematic interpretation of the passage under examination, which he analyzed step by step in the sequence of the verses.

"Also in his Homilies, Origen took every opportunity to recall the different dimensions of the sense of Sacred Scripture that encourage or express a process of growth in the faith: there is the 'literal' sense, but this conceals depths that are not immediately apparent.

"The second dimension is the 'moral' sense: what we must do in living the word; and finally, the 'spiritual' sense, the unity of Scripture which throughout its development speaks of Christ.

"It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand the Christological content, hence, the unity in diversity of Scripture. It would be interesting to demonstrate this. I have made a humble attempt in my book, Jesus of Nazareth, to show in today's context these multiple dimensions of the Word, of Sacred Scripture, whose historical meaning must in the first place be respected.

"But this sense transcends us, moving us towards God in the light of the Holy Spirit, and shows us the way, shows us how to live. Mention of it is found, for example, in the ninth Homily on Numbers, where Origen likens Scripture to [fresh] walnuts....

"...I invite you - and so I conclude - to welcome into your hearts the teaching of this great master of faith. He reminds us with deep delight that in the prayerful reading of Scripture and in consistent commitment to life, the Church is ever renewed and rejuvenated. The Word of God, which never ages and is never exhausted, is a privileged means to this end. Indeed, it is the Word of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, which always guides us to the whole truth (cf. Benedict XVI, Address at the International Congress for the 50th Anniversary of Dei Verbum, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 September 2005, p. 7).

"And let us pray to the Lord that he will give us thinkers, theologians and exegetes who discover this multifaceted dimension, this ongoing timeliness of Sacred Scripture, its newness for today. Let us pray that the Lord will help us to read Sacred Scripture in a prayerful way, to be truly nourished with the true Bread of Life, with his Word. ..."
(April 25, 2007)

"Origen of Alexandria: The Thought (2)

"...two aspects of Origenian doctrine which I consider among the most important and timely: I intend to speak of his teachings on prayer and the Church.

"In fact, Origen - author of an important and ever timely treatise On Prayer - constantly interweaves his exegetical and theological writings with experiences and suggestions connected with prayer.

"Notwithstanding all the theological richness of his thought, his is never a purely academic approach; it is always founded on the experience of prayer, of contact with God. Indeed, to his mind, knowledge of the Scriptures requires prayer and intimacy with Christ even more than study.

"He was convinced that the best way to become acquainted with God is through love, and that there is no authentic scientia Christi without falling in love with him.

"In his Letter to Gregory, Origen recommends: 'Study first of all the lectio of the divine Scriptures. Study them, I say. For we need to study the divine writings deeply... and while you study these divine works with a believing and God-pleasing intention, knock at that which is closed in them and it shall be opened to you by the porter, of whom Jesus says, "To him the gatekeeper opens".

" 'While you attend to this lectio divina, seek aright and with unwavering faith in God the hidden sense which is present in most passages of the divine Scriptures. And do not be content with knocking and seeking, for what is absolutely necessary for understanding divine things is oratio, and in urging us to this the Saviour says not only "knock and it will be opened to you", and "seek and you will find", but also "ask and it will be given you" ' (Ep. Gr. 4).

"The 'primordial role' played by Origen in the history of lectio divina instantly flashes before one's eyes. Bishop Ambrose of Milan, who learned from Origen's works to interpret the Scriptures, later introduced them into the West to hand them on to Augustine and to the monastic tradition that followed....

"...This tireless journey to perfection 'concerns us all', in order that 'the gaze of our hearts' may turn to contemplate Wisdom and Truth, which are Jesus Christ. Preaching on Jesus' discourse in Nazareth - when 'the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him' (cf. Lk 4: 16-30) - Origen seems to be addressing us: 'Today, too, if you so wished, in this assembly your eyes can be fixed on the Saviour.

" 'In fact, it is when you turn the deepest gaze of your heart to the contemplation of Wisdom, Truth and the only Son of God that your eyes will see God. Happy the assembly of which Scripture attests that the eyes of all were fixed upon him!

"How I would like this assembly here to receive a similar testimony, and the eyes of all - the non-baptized and the faithful, women, men and children - to look at Jesus, not the eyes of the body but those of the soul!
" 'Impress upon us the light of your face, O Lord, to whom be the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen!' (Hom. in Lk 32: 6)."
("May 2, 2007)


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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.