Sunday, February 25, 2007

Matthew the Poor on Fasting

If we eat of a sacrificed body and do not sacrifice our own selves, how can we claim that a union takes place?
--Abouna Matta al-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)

Fr. Matthew the Poor was a Coptic monk who affected the lives of many, both Coptic and non-Coptic Christians, especially Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, who writes that Father Matthew the Poor is "[o]ne of the great spiritual masters of our time." (201)

Well, one of the first writings I read from him is on fasting and it is in his book Communion of Love. This chapter, "The Deep Meaning of Fasting," can also be found here. Some selections from throughout the chapter:

Fasting, in the life and works of Christ, ranks as the first response to the act of unction and of being filled with the Holy Spirit. It represents the first battle in which Christ did away with His adversary, the prince of hte world. [...] For when a person enters into prayerful fasting, Satan departs from the flesh.

Fasting was to elevate the flesh to the level of war with the spirits of evil, those powers that hold sway over our weaker part, the flesh.

[B]aptism, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and fasting form a fundamental and inseparable series of acts in Christ’s life that culminated in perfect victory over Satan in preparation for his total annihilation by the cross.

The ultimate aim of [...] fasting is that Christ Himself may dwell in us: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Ga. 2:20).

[F]asting is a divine act of life.

[F]asting is an extremely important stage between baptism and crucifixion. [...] He [Christ] thus raised the flesh to the stage of the cross.

He invites us to a total communion with Him in suffering and glory alike. We thus have to prove our communion with Him in faith by having communion with Him in His works; only works testify to the genuineness of our faith. Yet He, as a true Bridegroom, did not leave us to invent works for ourselves but laid down the course of our works and life: ‘I am the way.”

Fasting is a test in which the personality defies the self. [...] Fasting may therefore be considered an act of love of the highest order, a physical way of entering into the experience of the cross.

You know that the effort of fasting is felt primarily by the body, which is the physical area that contains the self where it reveals its nature and desires. Thus, when we fast we exhaust the body, and so, indirectly, subdue the self.(3) If we subdue the self through the subjugation of the body, we have in fact come close to the destruction of the self, at least partially. So it is that by fasting we fulfill the word of the Lord: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk. 9:24).

As for the Lord Jesus, He fasted not to receive something but to make a free offering of Himself in an act of will and to manifest the coming sacrifice of the cross.

As for us, we fast not to receive anything or to offer anything, for we have received Christ, and in Him we have already received everything before we fast. In Him we receive everything even before we are born. No offering of ours, even if we go to our death, is of any avail in removing a single sin.

We fast and offer our bodies as a sacrifice; the outward form of this is bearing fatigue, but its essence is the intentional acceptance of death, that we may be counted fit to be mystically united in the flesh and blood of Christ. It is then that we become, in Christ’s sacrifice, a pure sacrifice, capable of interceding and redeeming.

Fasting [...] has to be consummated in Communion, partaking in the pure body and blood, to become a perfect sacrifice, efficacious in prayer and intercession. Every Holy Communion Has to be preceded by fasting, and every fast has to end with Holy Communion.

If we eat of a sacrificed body and do not sacrifice our own selves, how can we claim that a union takes place?

Whenever we eat of the body and drink of the blood, we are mystically prepared for preaching the death of the Lord and confessing His resurrection. Every testimony to the death and resurrection of the Lord carries with it a readiness for martyrdom. And every martyrdom carries with it a resurrection.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Global Warming, Gore's Scare Tactics, and Carter as the Worst Ex-President

In this article on (liberal) Penn professor of earth and environmental science Bob Giegengack, can it be true that "Al Gore Is a Greenhouse Gasbag"? And yes, Giegengack did vote for Al Gore.

On that note, in one of the most devasting articles I have read in some time, Joshua Muravchik strongly and clearly argues that President Jimmy Carter is "Our Worst Ex-President":

Ever since his presidency, there has been a wide gap between Carter’s estimation of himself and the esteem in which other Americans hold him. This has manifestly embittered him. For all his talk of “love,” the driving motives behind his post-presidential ventures seem, in fact, to be bitterness together with narcissism (as it happens, two prime ingredients of a martyr complex). But he has worked hard to earn the reputation he enjoys. In contravention of the elementary responsibilities of loyalty for one in his position, he has denigrated American policies and leaders in his public and private discussions in foreign lands. He has undertaken personal diplomacy to thwart the policies of the men elected to succeed him. And in doing so he has, at least in the case of North Korea, actively damaged our security.

Read the whole article.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Schall Phenomenology and Mahfouz

What a day! My book orders finally came in. Fr. Schall's long-awaited (for me) The Sum Total of Human Happiness is here along with Phenomenology and the Theological Turn: The French Debate by Dominique Janicaud, Jean-Francois Courtine, Jean-Louis Chretien, Michel Henry, Jean-Luc Marion, Paul Ricoeur. The two both look like very rewarding reads.

In glancing at the latter, I was struck by the title of an essay from Jean-Louis Chrétien: "The Wounded Word: Phenomenology of Prayer." I will be reading this one tonight, then onto Jean-Luc Marion's "The Saturated Phenomenon" for my phenomenology class.

A word about Fr. Schall's book. The book begins with six citations which, according to Fr. Schall, express the "spirit of this book." They are from Augustine, Tolkien, Aquinas, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Chesterton, and Plato. The citations are all worth reading and doing so pensively, for they are pregnant with so much that should lead one to the greater view of The Sum Total of Human Happiness.

The citation from Ratzinger is taken from his interview published in English as Salt of the Earth:

History as a whole is the struggle between love and the inability to love, between love and the refusal to love. This is also, in fact, something we are experiencing again today, when man’s independence is pushed to the point where he says: I don’t want to love at all because then I make myself dependent and that contradicts my freedom. Indeed, love means being dependant on something that perhaps can be taken away from me, and it therefore introduces a huge risk of suffering into my life.

And lastly, yes, that was Mahfouz up above. I also received his book, The Dreams, which Amazon describes as:

In this new collection of his shortest short stories, the Egyptian Nobel laureate has reduced fictional form to its most essential level, while retaining his justifiably famous mastery of the storytelling art.

A man finds that all the streets in this neighborhood have turned into a circus - but his joy at the sight changes to anger when he sees he cannot escape it anywhere, even in his own home. A group of lifelong friends meet to trade jokes in a familiar alley - only to face a sudden, deadly flood that echoes the revenge taken by an ancient Egyptian queen upon the men who murdered her husband. A girl from the dreamer’s childhood flies with him from his native land on a cart drawn by a winged horse, to become a star in the firmament above the Great Pyramid.

Such is the stuff of Naguib Mahfouz’s The Dreams - his first major work since a knife attack by a religious fanatic in 1994 left him unable to write for several years. First serialized in a Cairo magazine, The Dreams is a unique and haunting mixture of the deceptively quotidian, the seductively lyrical, and the savagely nightmarish - the richly condensed sum of more than nine decades of artistic genius and everyday experience.

From the few "Dreams" I have read already, this should live up to the expectations, the high ones, I had when I purchased the book. And just in case you are interested, most of his works are worth reading. Very glad (and increasingly intrigued) with this ongoing quest of mine to read Arabic- and/or Islamic-based texts, both fiction and non-fiction.

Faith and Reason : Schall on Benedict and John Paul and a Little Aquinas Too

I finally made the time to sit down and read the reflective essay by Fr. James V. Schall, SJ, on the synthesis of faith and reason: "Benedict on Aquinas: 'Faith Implies Reason.'" The occasion for the essay was Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus message for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The read is worth printing out, sitting down with a nice cup/glass/mug of something, and taking a pen to many lines.

Relying upon both Benedict and John Paul II, Fr. Schall has written another gem. Tolle lege:

[P]hilosophy is not philosophy if it is only philosophy, and theology is not theology if it is only theology. To be what they are at their best, both need the other, and more, both need in those who hold them the full experience of human living itself. [...] Revelation addresses itself to a reason that has its own unanswered philosophical questions. Philosophy, when it knows what it knows, realizes that it is but a "quest." Only the gods are wholly wise.