December 27, 2008

2008 Attendance Statistics

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I am sure this is of interest to no one but in 2008, our inaugural year, we had eight sessions averaging exactly 8 in attendance. Interesting coincidence. (click to zoom) Some say statisticians are boring but as you can see from the chart above, we have our moments. (In my defense this is only about 10 seconds of work in case it looks like I spent a lot of time on this!)

At any rate, for 2009 we look forward to some excellent sessions beginning on January 9th led by yours truly on "the Keys to the Kingdom". Father Reid from St. Ann's has also agreed to speak during the summer (date TBA). So merry Christmas to all and happy new year.

December 7, 2008

Seven Gifts of the Spirit - Recap & Video

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For our eighth and final session of Liturgy & Lager for 2008, we were blessed to have Father Ken Parker, a retired priest from the diocese of Raleigh, as a guest speaker. The topic was "the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit" although several other topics were touched on.

Father Parker began by differentiating between "cultural Catholics" and "devout Catholics" challenging us all to internalize the faith. He tied this in with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and encouraged us to be open to God's grace and the working of the Holy Spirit. Below, see a video of some of the highlights of the evening (before the tape ran out).



November 16, 2008

Can Catholics Enjoy Assurance of Salvation? -Recap

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On the occasion of our seventh meeting, eight brave souls disregarded nasty weather in order to obtain the good of intellectual fellowship. The facilitator argued that Catholics can indeed enjoy assurance of personal salvation. Others took umbrage at this affirmation.

A lively discussion ensued. We considered the question of whether the Council of Trent (cf., Session VI, "On Justification") ruled out assurance of personal salvation absolutely, or whether the Council merely ruled that, apart from a special revelation, it is impossible to have the absolute assurance of faith ("in which there can be no possibility of error") that one is in a state of grace or has been predestined to eternal salvation. We also considered the question of whether an assurance (certainty) that is not thus absolute is even deserving of the name.

It was suggested that there is indeed an authentic kind of assurance/certainty that is distinct from indubitable knowledge and that the propositions promulgated at Trent with respect to assurance were carefully qualified such that the Council did not reject assurance of salvation per se.

The facilitator went on to argue that (1) St. Thomas Aquinas provides us with a biblically and theologically compelling account of how one may enjoy certainty with respect to the good of eternal life, and (2) that Aquinas' teaching on this matter is completely consistent with Trent.

In his treatise on the theological virtue of hope (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 17, 18, "Of Hope"; cf., q. 18, a. 4), Aquinas clearly affirms that "the hope of the wayfarer [for the good of eternal life] is certain." He does say, in language echoed by Trent, that one cannot know (with indubitable knowledge) that he is either in a state of grace or among those predestined to glory, that we should fear the possibility of falling away from God, and that many a hopeful wayfarer does indeed fall away. He goes on to argue, however, that certain kinds of fear are not intrinsically evil, that the fear of losing God's friendship is in fact a good kind of fear, and that this fear is completely consistent with the assurance of hope (cf., ST, II-II, q. 19, "Of Fear").

Hope, according to Aquinas, proceeds from faith in the mercy and omnipotence of God, while fear is based upon an awareness of the possibility that we, being endowed with free will, might reject God's friendship. However, the certainty of hope is not opposed to fear, but to despair. Therefore, unless we despair of our own salvation (and to do so is a mortal sin), we can and should live in hope. In hope, we enjoy the assurance that we will receive all the help necessary to attain final salvation.

Thus, hope does not only look to the end to be obtained, in which case it would be indistinguishable from fortitude, but also to the divine help (e.g., the sacraments) by which we are enabled to obtain that end. In other words, there is both an "immediate" as well as a "teleological" aspect to hope. Therefore we are to rejoice in the assurance of eternal life as a work that God has already begun in us and which he will bring to completion upon the Day of Judgment (Philippians 1.6; 2 Timothy 1.12).

November 12, 2008

First Meeting- Recap

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Tim Troutman founded Liturgy & Lager in May of 2008, although he must have conceived of it somewhat earlier. Originally, this thing did not have a name. So the first meeting is only the first meeting of "Liturgy & Lager" in the sense that Pentecost was the first meeting of the "Catholic" Church; which is to say, in the real and true sense. Now, do not think that by selecting that analogy I am implying that our group has a very high opinion of itself. It is just the first thing that came to mind.

Eight or nine men showed up, and we talked about whatever we felt like talking about. Three or four of us spent a lot of time discussing theories of biological evolution and how these might relate to Catholic dogma. The text of Genesis and the relation between body and mind figured prominently in the conversation. We concluded by adopting a broad agenda and an intentionally flexible template for future sessions. Thus, we hoped to ensure that L&L, while remaining quite informal, would not degenerate into a few guys getting together to talk about football and drink beer. Not that we have anything against those fine institutions.

November 11, 2008

The Atonement- Recap

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Sid Cundiff facilitated this session of L&L, which turned out to be one of our finest, at least, if one is judging by how long the participants lingered to talk over the matter at hand. We looked at various theories of the Atonement, that is, the ways in which the Church has understood the meaning of the Passion.

Several views were discussed, in particular those of St. Anselm (satisfaction) and John Calvin (penal substitution). The latter was the subject of much scrutiny and criticism. Calvin's theology of Atonement seems to involve a series of noxious opinions which are incompatible with core Christian dogmas. Calvin drives a wedge between the Father and the Son in claiming that (1) the Father sees his Son as a filthy sinner rather than a pure and spotless Victim and (2) Christ descended into Hell not to proclaim the victory of God but to suffer the punishment of the damned.

Calvin does seem to provide a model of the Atonement which serves as a basis for assurance of salvation, while at the same time making a certain sense of some biblical passages concerning the suffering of Our Lord (cf., the Servant Songs in Isaiah). However, Sid pointed out that to suffer for the sins of another need not imply penal substitution, or suffering "in the place of," since the Greek preposition ὑπέρ is better rendered "on behalf of," which invites a more Anselmian construal (while not logically excluding the Calvinist opinion). No one at this meeting felt inclined to simply plunk for Anselm, though. This writer, for one, prefers Irenaeus and the author of Hebrews (cf., 2.9-18, which passage was discussed).

In any event, Sid suggests that the Catholic Church has throughout the ages, with some notable exceptions, not felt the need to provide an explanation of the Passion because she has been busy participating in the Passion, mystically represented in the Sacrament of the Altar. However, the Church has not completely ignored the speculative question (cf., Irenaeus, Anselm). Catholic theologians, moreover, have not failed to address the intrusion of "penal substitution."

A preference for legal and nominalist paradigms over mystical and ontological (i.e., sacramental) categories has led some theologians to significantly overlook the participatory dimension of the Atonement. Calvin does make much of "union with Christ," particularly in relation to his Protestant communion service. But his repudiation of the Mass, and especially the sacrifice of the Mass, makes it impossible for him to take full account of the Eucharist vis-a-vis the Atonement.

We concluded by talking about the "wrath" of God, which led to deep theological waters.

October 31, 2008

The Priesthood- Recap

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This session was particularly well-attended. We were blessed to have several women present, each of whom contributed to our discussion of priesthood and fatherhood. The Catholic priesthood was discussed from the standpoint of both creation and redemption, all things proceeding from the One Eternal Father.

The principle of headship was proposed as being of the essence of marriage, the state, the local church (diocese), the universal Church, and the Holy Trinity. The Father is the ἀρχή (source, authority, principle of unity) of the Holy Trinity, yet Father, Son and Holy Spirit are consubstantial (΄ομοούσιον), one God, co-equal in power, knowledge, majesty (etc.). Therefore, a relationship involving authority / subordination, as implied by headship, is not necessarily a relationship involving an essential or ontological inequality. From a trinitarian perspective, lawful headship in the home and both the universal and local Church can be understood in terms of fatherhood.

We considered, in light of the Incarnation (Christ being the "express image" of the Father), the relationship between the fatherhood of the Catholic presbyter and the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This inevitably led to a discussion of Calvary, the Eucharist, and the sacramental / onotological dimension of the presbyterate, which is rightly regarded as a sacerdotal office distinct from, though not unrelated to, the priesthood of the believer. From these complementary perspectives of creation-theology (fatherhood) and redemption-theology (priesthood), the Catholic teaching that the sacramental priesthood is reserved to men alone was brought into focus.

October 30, 2008

Transubstantiation - Recap

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This session was a smaller group allowing for more informal dialogue. We drew heavily on Father Kimel's excellent series on the Eucharist. We examined various competing theories including Occasionalism and Consubstantiation.

One of the more memorable questions we discussed was - "In what way does the ubiquity of Transubstantiation not violate the fullness of Christ's corporeality?" Other questions included - In what way do we actually receive Christ during Communion? How does Transubstantiation not result in cannibalism? Is it really possible to believe in "Real Presence" while not assenting to Transubstantiation as defined by Trent? Did Trent needlessly canonize Aristotelian metaphysics?

Active Participation - Recap

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In this session we discussed what was intended when Vatican II called for more active participation of the laity. Some of the questions entertained included - Can we be "actively participating" if we're not singing for example? Does "active participation" necessarily involve visible participation?

Sid Cundiff brought up the excellent point that the Latin phrase is better translated "actual participation".

Following an explanation by Father Reid of St. Anne's in Charlotte who had recently explained the participatory role of laity in the Tridentine mass, we explored how the Blessed Virgin actively participated at the foot of the cross and how our participation in the mass can and should mirror this even if we're not visibly active in the contemporary sense.

The discussion wasn't by any means an afront to any particular rubric in the Novus Ordo and various viewpoints were represented. Towards the end, Thomas Sims, RCIA director for St. Thomas Aquinas parish who is also an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and a lector whose two daughters are altar servers, staged a mock debate with Sid Cundiff. Sid argued that the additional provisions (post Vatican II) for laity were not objectively superior in effecting "actual participation" of the laity while Thomas argued in the affirmative.

October 29, 2008

Vertical versus Horizontal Liturgy- Video

This is a short video with some highlights of our second meeting.

What is Liturgy & Lager?

Liturgy & Lager is a group that started in 2008. We meet one a month in the University Area in Charlotte at Texas Land & Cattle restaurant. We meet to discuss theological and liturgical issues which are of interest to the Catholic Church. The agenda is unapologetically Catholic though non-Catholics are welcome.

If you're interested in attending an upcoming session, please email Tim Troutman at timatroutman {at}gmail{dot}com.