Hymn at Lauds, common of Pastors

Our holy mother Church has provided hymns for us to sing during the Liturgy of the Hours, hymns which are truly prayer, lifting our hearts and minds to contemplation of God. But the American Liturgy of the Hours by and large provides us with hymns such as "Morning has broken" and "Day is done, but love unfailing". Some of these are nice enough in themselves, but some are wretched. Even those nice in themselves have nothing to do with the text of the hymns which the Church has provided for us.

I've spent a few months trying to find English translations of the hymns in the Liturgia Horarum, and finally found that the Mundelein Psalter has most of them. The ones that it hasn't, I am trying to translate myself. So starting off this project, I have the hymn used at lauds on the common of pastors, when multiple pastors are celebrated.

Hi sacerdotes Domini sacrati,
consecratores Domini fideles
atque pastores populi fuere
impigro amore.

Namque susceptae benedictionis
dona servantes, studere, lumbos
fortiter cincti, manibus coruscas
ferre lucernas.

Sicque suspensi vigilesque, quando
ianuam pulsans Dominus veniret,
obviaverunt properanti alacres
pandere limen.

Gloriae summum decus atque laudis,
rex, tibi, regum, Deitas perennis,
quicquid est rerum celebret per omne
tempus et aevum. Amen.

These holy and sanctified priests of the Lord,

were consecrators of the Lord’s faithful ones,

and they were good shepherds of the Lord’s household

with unwearied love.

For they undertook to give sanctified gifts

to the members of the household, were zealous,

with strongly girded loins and with hands shining

to bear the trimm’d lamps.

And thus raised up and keeping watch, as wise ones,

when the Lord comes knocking upon the house-door,

they have met swiftly and eagerly to lay

open the threshold.

Glory, most-highest honour, and also praise,

to you, king of kings, eternally divine,

who is eminent and celebrated through all

time and forever. Amen.

Metaphysics, part five

This class confirmed that reason can conceded the process of evolution all the way up to the appearance of humans. But the emergence of human beings requires an act of creation on God's part, because we have a spiritual soul which cannot arise from matter.

Each human soul is a new creation, direct and without mediation, by God. So for every human person who exists, God had to create their soul at their conception; God is directly involved in the beginning of every human life. So we know that there is no such thing as an unwanted child: God knows what he's doing, and he has to cooperate for a human to come into being.

Science has found out that most children die in the womb, even before they attach to the mother. So all of us probably have siblings we don't even know of, and I've found it can be very heartening to ask at Mass for their intercession.

The five properties that are characteristic of absolutely every being are that it 1) is one 2) acts 3) is intelligible 4) is good 5) is beautiful. Intelligibility, or truth, relates to our intellect; goodness relates to our will; and beauty relates to both our intellect and will.


Metaphysics, part four

Arguments for the existence of God:

First argument:

1. Given any conditioned being, there must exist at least one self-sufficient being. (This is based on infinite regress. If you look for sufficient reason in conditioned beings, you won't find it. There has to be an unconditioned (self-sufficient, uncaused) being that can cause all other beings.)
2. No being can be self-sufficient unless it is qualitatively infinite in perfection.
3. There can only be one such being infinite in all perfections. (If there were more than one, one would have to lack something the other has, to distinguish them, and would not be infinite in all perfections.)
4. Therefore this being is the unique and ultimate source of all being; this we being we call God.

The beings we observe are all finite, and a finite being cannot be self-sufficient because it would have to pre-exist itself (to determine the essence it would have). And things just can't pre-exist themselves. A self-sufficient being has to be infinite, because it can't possess any perfection in a limited way.

Second argument:

1. When there is intrinsic similarity among beings, there must be a source of that feature; and that source must have the feature infinitely.
2. A beings have existence.
3. Therefore there is a single source for existence, which exists infinitely.

Characteristics of God we can know through reason include: self-sufficiency; infinite fulness of all perfections; unique; eternal; un-composed; immaterial; immutable.

God's motive in creation is to share with us his goodness. His motive can't be to acquire anything or become better: he's infinite; as infinitely perfect, he has no needs. God is the end (purpose) of creation: out of love for his goodness, he had a desire to share it with others, and so he created us and the angels. So, it is our duty to honour God because we can see that he didn't need to make us.

God's omnipotence:
This means that he is the ultimate source of all power (potency), not that he can do anything. He cannot microwave a burrito so hot that even he cannot touch it. Sorry folks.
He doesn't violate the principle of non-contradiction (A is A, not not-A), and can't do anything that implies limitation in his part. So, he can't be run faster than anything else, because running itself is a limitation (because only material beings can move from one location to another).

God's omniscience:
This was probably the most confusing part of the class, and I don't really get it.
But according to the text: there is a difference between saying God "foresees" our free acts and saying he "sees" them. If he foresees our acts, this supposes he sees them in time before they happen in time; if he sees our acts, this indicates he sees them in their presentiality, not before they happen, because he is outside time in an eternal Now: he simply sees them as they are actually taking place. God's omniscience takes place in eternity, not in time. He knows us so well that we knows what we'll do, and this doesn't denigrate our free will. It's just that nothing we do can surprise him. If you've ever known what your spouse or sibling was gonna do when you said something to them, that didn't affect their ability to freely choose what they did. It just means you know them well, and can predict what they'll do. Well, God knows us way way better than we even know ourselves, so he can perfectly know what we'll do. And he wills for us in response to our actions. He has a will for us that is unchanging, and yet contingent on what we choose to do. At every step of the way, even when we screw up, he has a will for us that we can co-operate with. This all is very encouraging, because even when you've turned away from him in sin, he has a will for you, and way for you to cooperate with him and still live a good life. If you make a poor decision, he will work with you, he has a will for you, so you can pick up the pieces in the best way possible. And since we can't surprise him, it makes going to confession a lot easier. He is not surprised that I fell in the same way I always do. He knew I would do it. But he absolved me for it last time, knowing I would do it again. Even the priest himself, in his humanity, I suppose isn't all that surprised when we show up with the same sin in the confessional over and over.


Metaphysics, part three

There are two kinds of changes: accidental and substantial. In an accidental change, there is change in a being, and that being remains what it was from the beginning through the end of the change. A kitty growing into an adult cat, or the colour or amount of my hair changing: I'm different, but I'm still me. A substantial change is a change where the being at the end of the change is no longer the same being, but a different one; here, the essence of the being changes. Just to be provocative, an example of this kind of change is Transubstantiation. The principle of self-identity in a being is its substance, what it is; the principle of change in a being is its accidents. Substance is the being, and accidents are the things predicated of a being.

For angels, since they are pure spirit, the principle of individuation is form, rather than matter. So each angel is its own species: they aren't related to one another, as we are. Each angel is radically distinct from all the other angels. Since only matter individuates human persons, our bodies are, again, a very important part of us, and help form our identities.

The principle of causality states that every being that lacks the sufficient reason for its own existence in itself, must have an efficient cause (ie something which by its action is responsible for the existence of the first being). Other formulations of this statement include:
*Every being that begins to exist needs an efficient cause (because a being that does not exist cannot cause itself to exist). This is used as an argument for God, and is what brought me out of atheism into deism: The universe began at the Big Bang. So there wasn't the universe before the Big Bang. So God must exist, as the cause of the Big Bang/the state of existence of the universe.
*Every being composed of essence-existence or matter-form requires an efficient cause, because there has to be some outside efficient cause that unifies them in composing the being: The co-principles can't exist on their own, so they can't cause each other; the components don't include each other; so something has to bring them both into being.
*Every finite being requires an efficient cause; finite beings participate finitely in existence, and their participation refers back to the being that possesses existence infinitely.

From these formulations (and some I left out) a self-sufficient being has six characteristics: it will be uncaused, eternal, unchanging, simple, not a part of any system, and qualitatively infinite in perfection.

Cause and effect are a single event; they can't be separated from one another in time, or their actual connection to each other is broken.

St Thomas teaches that God's existence can be demonstrated, from those effects of his which are known to us.

Metaphysics, part two

Continuing on with the nuggets of what we learned in metaphysics:

The act of existence is a maximum, and not a minimum; nothing can be added on to it. Anything that isn't does not exist, so existence can't be added on to. So its partner, essence, must not be something added on to existence; rather, the essence of a being limits that being's participation in the act of existence, limiting it to particular modes. For example, as a human person, my participation in the (infinite) act of existence is limited to human modes: I'm not infinite, I have a body, I can't fly, etc.

Four implications we can draw from the relationship between essence and existence are as follows:
1) Every being has a kinship with every other being, because they all share in existence, and are images of God, who is their source.
2) All beings have intrinsic value, because they exist.
3) There is both community and difference between creation and God: God isn't limited by essence, but creating things are similar to God because they participate in existence, which is from him.
4) Material beings are more restricted than spiritual beings--because they are extended in dimensions, they are never fully present to themselves at any given time (as are spiritual beings), but only across the dimensions of space and time.

Our human bond:
There has to be two distinct co-principles in the essence of every member of the human species. Why? Because if there weren't, then the essence that made Carl a human would make every human, Carl. But there are plenty of humans who aren't me, so something has to be in my essence making me both similar to other humans, and distinct from other humans (ie, myself). And the fact that all humans do have a human essence, in common, is what made possible the Incarnation. If there wasn't a common human nature, or essence, then the Second Person of the Trinity could not have assumed our nature: there would be no common human nature to assume. And what is not assumed, is not saved. (I think that's Jerome.)

So what are these two distinct co-principles in the essence of every member of a species? Form and matter. Human form (the human soul) is what makes each of us similar to all other humans: it makes us a human being, and not some other kind of being. Matter is what distinguishes each human from every other person; my body, the fact that I take up this space at this time, is what distinguishes me from all of you.

This shows us why the body is so important. To be human is to be soul and body. We're not just our souls, we are soul and body. Our bodies are important because they have a big role in our formation as person: they tie us to a particular time and place. This is why studying philosophy is so important--it keeps you from going off the deep end. I heard a whole series of sermons at a "Bible church" that were on this topic: "You are a spirit, who has a soul, and lives in a body". Based on the Bible, an elaboration on a verse (5:23) from 1 Thessalonians. But without a grounding in philosophy and the use of reason, people can come up with crazy-a ideas when they read the Bible.

An interesting objection to the form/matter composition is that if my soul is individuated only by being united to my, particular body, then after I die how can my soul be individuated from all the other souls of dead people? The author of our textbook basically said, who knows? Maybe the resurrection of the body takes place immediately after death, in some other dimension we can't correlate with. I wasn't satisfied with that. There's a resurrection of the body, and there are plenty of corpses of people whom we know to be in heaven. But St Thomas had an explanation that pleased me. He pretty much says that after a lifetime of being tied to a particular body, the soul has picked up some individuation, which it retains even after it is separated from its body. The relationship endures, and is so profound that the soul won't be totally comfortable until it is reunited with its body. This goes to show why ghosts and corpses are so weird and unnatural: they're half a person. They're meant to be united, and only united are they a human person.