Since More describes the practice of some of his contemporaries to think they know more than the Fathers or the teaching authority of the Catholic Church to interpret scripture, you may wonder by what authority Thomas More interprets these passages from the four Gospels, if he is doing it on his own or based upon the Fathers and Tradition. This article by Travis Curtright describes More's sources, which are the Fathers via St. Thomas Aquinas and Jean Gerson's harmony of the Gospels:
Monday, March 29, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
And Jesus' control over the events begins when Judas shows up with the cohort, as St. Thomas More, citing the Gospel of John, emphasizes that Jesus stuns the cohort as they seek "Jesus of Nazareth", stating "I am he". They draw back and fall to the ground--and More presumes that since Judas, who has just betrayed Him with a kiss, is standing with the cohort, draws back and falls to the ground too.
It was because the time and the hour had not yet come, the hour fixed not . . . by your cleverness, but rather by the unsearchable plan of my Father, to which I too had given my consent. . . .And so this is your hour and the power of darkness. This is the short hour allotted to you and the power granted to darkness, so that now in the dark you might do what you were not permitted to do in the daylight . . . You are in the dark when you ascribe my death to your strength . . .But this is the hour and the brief power of darkness . . . For you yourselves create your own darkness, you put out the light . . . This is your short hour. . . .But this hour and this power of darkness are not only given to you now against me, but such an hour and such a brief power of darkness will also be given to the governors and other caesars against other disciples of mine. And this too will truly be the power of darkness. (p. 100)
And so this hour of yours and this power of darkness are not long-lasting and enduring but quite as brief as the present moment to which they are limited, an instant of time always caught between a past that is gone and a future that has not arrived. Therefore, lest you should lose any of this hour of yours which is so short . . . be quick about it . . .
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
I have been limiting my blog posting throughout Lent to a few book reviews and the announcements (previews and reminders) of the Son Rise Morning Show series on St. Thomas More's The Sadness of Christ. As we enter Passiontide, however, it seems appropriate for me to let you know about this on-line exhibition on the Blessed and Canonized Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales:In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, this online exhibition will examine the faith stories of these remarkable men and women from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is illustrated with images of their relics and other manuscripts and artefacts in the care of the Jesuits in Britain Archives and Stonyhurst College.
The exhibition has been designed as an immersive visual and audio experience and is best viewed on larger screens. To listen to the exhibition text press the play button under the main image and scroll down to see the accompanying images. You can skip to particular relics or Saints using the index above, but to get the best experience we recommend working your way through from start to finish.
We hope you enjoy discovering these remarkable objects.
A gift of a one of these precious thorns was made to Mary, Queen of Scots on or after the occasion of her marriage to Francois, the oldest son of the King of France, in 1558. Mary’s later misfortunes after Francois’ death, on her return to Scotland as an eighteen year-old widow, are well known. In 1568, following armed rebellion from her government and defeat in battle, she fled Scotland seeking refuge in England and was taken to Carlisle Castle. She was described as a guest but was in fact a prisoner.
Learning of her arrival in Carlisle, Thomas Percy, the Catholic Earl of Northumberland gained entrance to the castle and demanded, unsuccessfully, that the Catholic Queen of Scots be handed into his custody. During the following twelve months, Percy was active in raising opposition to Elizabeth, with the intention of freeing Mary, placing her at the head of an army, and, ultimately, on Elizabeth’s throne. It seems reasonable to assume that Mary passed this most precious relic of the Passion to Percy at Carlisle, or in the months afterwards, as a pledge of her trust in him.
Monday, March 22, 2021
Son Rise Morning Show with Anna Mitchell this morning to talk about St. Thomas More's The Sadness of Christ.
So why do I have a picture of Newman on this post? Because as I read Michael Pakaluk's The Voice of Mary in the Gospel according to John, I discovered a Parochial and Plain Sermon by St. John Henry Newman, "A Particular Providence as Revealed in the Gospel."
In this sermon, Newman writes about the mercies Jesus showed to those He encountered depending upon their needs. Judas needed Jesus too, and as St. Thomas More commented in 1535 on all the mercies and opportunities He'd offered to Judas Iscariot, in 1835 St. John Henry Newman reminded his congregation of the"particular providence[s]" Jesus offered to His traitor:The most winning property of our Saviour's mercy (if it is right so to speak of it), is its dependence on time and place, person and circumstance; in other words, its tender discrimination. It regards and consults for each individual as he comes before it. It is called forth by some as it is not by others, it cannot (if I may say so) manifest itself to every object alike; it has its particular shade and mode of feeling for each; and on some men it so bestows itself, as if He depended for His own happiness on their well-being. This might be illustrated, as is often done, by our Lord's tender behaviour towards Lazarus and his sisters, or His tears over Jerusalem; or by His conduct towards St. Peter, before and after his denial of him, or towards St. Thomas when he doubted, or by His love of His mother, or of St. John. But I will direct your attention rather to His treatment of the traitor Judas; both because it is not so commonly referred to, and, also, because if there was a being in the whole world whom one might suppose to be cast out of His presence as hateful and reprobate, it was he who He foresaw would betray Him. Yet we shall find that even this wretched man was followed and encompassed by His serene though solemn regard till the very hour he betrayed Him.
Judas was in darkness and hated the light, and "went to his own place;" yet he found it, not by the mere force of certain natural principles working out their inevitable results—by some unfeeling fate, which sentences the wicked to hell—but by a Judge who surveys him from head to foot, who searches him through and through, to see if there is any ray of hope, any latent spark of faith; who pleads with him again and again, and, at length abandoning him, mourns over him the while with the wounded affection of a friend rather than the severity of the Judge of the whole earth. For instance, first a startling warning a year before his trial. "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" Then, when the time was come, the lowest act of abasement towards one who was soon to betray Him, and to suffer the unquenchable fire. "He riseth from supper, and ... poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet," [John vi. 70; xiii. 4, 5.] and Judas in the number. Then a second warning at the same time, or rather a sorrowful lament spoken as if to Himself, "Ye are not all clean." Then openly, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me." "The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said it." Lastly, when He was actually betrayed by him, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" "Judas" (He addresses him by name), "betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" [Matt. xxvi. 24, 25, 50. Luke xxii. 48.] I am not attempting to reconcile His divine foreknowledge with this special and prolonged anxiety, this personal feeling towards Judas; but wish you only to dwell upon the latter, in order to observe what is given us by the revelation of Almighty God in the Gospels, viz., an acquaintance with His providential regard for individuals, making His sun to rise on the evil as well as on the good. And, in like manner doubtless, at the last day, the wicked and impenitent shall be condemned, not in a mass, but one by one—one by one, appearing each in his own turn before the righteous Judge, standing under the full glory of His countenance, carefully weighed in the balance and found wanting, dealt with, not indeed with a weak and wavering purpose, where God's justice claims satisfaction, yet, at the same time, with all the circumstantial solicitude and awful care of one who would fain make, if He could, the fruit of His passion more numerous than it is.
This solemn reflection may be further enforced by considering our Lord's behaviour towards strangers who came to Him. Judas was His friend; but we have never seen Him. How will He look, and how does He look upon us? Let His manner in the Gospels towards the multitude of men assure us. . . .
Friday, March 19, 2021
Next, More takes on the third and final visit Jesus made to the disciples and notes the contrast between the sleeping disciples and the active and determined traitor, Judas. It is in this section that More sees "a clear and sharp mirror image (as it were), a sad and terrible view of what has happened through the ages . . . even to our own" especially in regard to the leadership of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century: the bishops.
Monday, March 15, 2021
We certainly won't have time for this during our short segment, but Thomas More pauses in his comments about sleepiness and inattentiveness in prayer--not just by Peter, James and John--among his contemporaries (and now us) in the midst of his explication of the story of Jesus's Agony in the Garden.
He admits that he's been rather hard on his fellow Catholics, "attacking that sort of prayer in which the mind is not attentive but wandering and distracted among many ideas" and then proposes "an emollient from [Jean/John] Gerson to alleviate this sort point, lest [he] seem to be like a harsh surgeon touching this common sore too roughly," and even making the reader feel hopeless about her ability to pray without distraction. (p. 56)
John Gerson (1363–1429) was chancellor of the University of Paris, a defender of St. Joan of Arc's innocence after her execution, and a promoter of devotion to St. Joseph. He worked hard to destroy the Great Schism of 1378 (with the competing anti-popes) and was known as the Doctor Consolatorius--like More's good friend John Colet, he did not use the scholastic method of exploring theological themes, but wrote more simply and directly.
As More concludes, Gerson says it's same with prayer: "once it has been begun attentively it can never afterwards be so interrupted that the virtue of the first intention does not remain and persist continuously--that is, either actually or habitually--so long as it is not relinquished by making a decision to stop not cut off by turning away to mortal sin."
Thus More, calling Jean Gerson "the most learned and virtuous man" offers some respite to his readers, as long as they don't try to use this explanation as an excuse "for those who out of careless laziness make no effort to think about their prayers." (p. 58)
This emollient that More pauses to provide in the midst of his meditation on The Sadness of Christ could be a good pick me up for our mid-Lenten devotions.
Nunc coepi! Now I begin!
Sunday, March 14, 2021
But what explains the difference?
In this new translation and verse-by-verse commentary, Michael Pakaluk suggests an answer and unlocks a two thousand-year-old mystery. Mary’s Voice in the Gospel according to John reveals the subtle but powerful influence of the Mother of Jesus on the fourth Gospel.
In his dying words, Jesus committed his Mother to the care of John, the beloved disciple, who “from that hour . . . took her into his own home.” Pakaluk draws out the implications of that detail, which have been overlooked for centuries.
In Mary’s remaining years on earth, what would she and John have talked about? Surely no subject was as close to their hearts as the words and deeds of Jesus. Mary’s unique perspective and intimate knowledge of her Son must have shaped the account of Jesus’ life that John would eventually compose.
With the same scholarship, imagination, and fidelity that he applied to Mark’s Gospel in The Memoirs of St. Peter, Pakaluk brings out the voice of Mary in John’s, from the famous prologue about the Incarnation of the Word to the Evangelist’s closing avowal of the reliability of his account.
This remarkably fresh translation and commentary will deepen your understanding of the most sublime book of the New Testament.
Proceeding thus, Pakaluk posits four possible modes or causal pathways of Mary's influence: by virtue of John’s deference to her; by his familiarity with her and custom acquired by living with her for so long; by his love for her and attraction to her person and thought; and by the mutual influence and love she shared with Jesus, which beckons discipleship. He posits six types, marks, or forms we might expect her influence to take, each predicated on a particular role that John could not occupy: as Theotokos or God-bearer; as woman; as mother; as perpetual virgin; as spouse; and as handmaiden. How would things look from the perspective of one who conceived and bore God incarnate? How would one expect the roles of “woman” or “handmaiden” to color Mary’s experience and John’s account?
Pakaluk finds what he seeks in several features of John’s Gospel. For example, he points out how it consists mainly of conversations rather than accounts of deeds or teachings—a mode of communication that he argues is especially characteristic of women. Similarly, John’s Gospel is told from the point of view of a sympathetic observer who identifies with Jesus, much as a mother and Theotokos might tell it. Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus clearly and consistently proclaims his divinity by referring to himself in God’s name: “I am.” Mary would have understood from longer and more intimate knowledge of Jesus what the synoptics could only grope at in confusion; this would explain why John highlights Jesus’s startling revelation of his name when the synoptics could not, and did not, mention it in theirs. . . .
Friday, March 12, 2021
Monday, March 8, 2021
. Listen live here or on your local EWTN affiliate at about 6:50 a.m. Central, 7:50 a.m. Eastern.
If we have time, I'd like to highlight an aspect of More's meditation on the Agony in the Garden: he creates speeches by Jesus to explain what His actions in Gethsemane should mean to us.
For example, when More interprets Jesus's Agony in the Garden as an example for those in the Church who may be weak and fearful, advising them to persevere in spite of that weakness, he writes:
To such a person as this Christ wanted His own deed to speak out (as it were) with His own living voice: "O faint of heart, take courage and do not despair. You are afraid, you are sad . . . Trust me. I have conquered the world, and yet I suffered immeasurably more from fear, I was sadder, more afflicted . . . follow my leadership; if you do not trust yourself, place your trust in me . . ."
This is a remarkable device for More to use as he enters "(as it were)" the mind of Christ and to speak in Our Savior's "own living voice"! More weaves phrases and images from Scripture into these speeches: "I have conquered the world" (John 16:33); "have me alone as your shepherd" (Matthew 26:31), etc. More even incorporates passages from St. Paul's letters into this speech: "I will give you together with the temptation a way out that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13) . . . "this light and momentary burden of tribulation will prepare for you a weight of glory which is beyond all measure." (2 Cor 4:17)
St. Thomas More is certainly taking seriously St. Paul's statement to the Corinthians that "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16) in this passage and others that occur throughout the text.
If you want to read more than we can discuss in these brief segments,The Sadness of Christ, with an excellent introduction by Gerard Wegemer, is readily available from Scepter Publishers.
Friday, March 5, 2021
Monday, March 1, 2021
Just a reminder that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning with Matt Swaim this morning to talk about St. Thomas More's The Sadness of Christ. Listen live here or on your local EWTN affiliate at about 6:50 a.m. Central, 7:50 a.m. Eastern.
We'll focus on how St. Thomas More begins his meditation on the Agony in the Garden with comments about the prayers Jesus and the Apostles pray after the Last Supper and how More encourages us to know the meaning of words and what those meanings tell us about these events spiritually as well as literally.
Image Credit: (public domain) Jacques Callot - The Agony in the Garden