A Lenten Reflection – The Multiplication Table

The website The Catholic Thing has published a Lenten reflection by Gil Bailie entitled, The Multiplication Table. It is a classic piece of Gil’s work. I especially appreciate the play of the title and the text. ‘Multiplication table’ is not mentioned in the article. And it is not until the Chesterton quote at the end that the concept of enlargement (Church bigger on the inside) comes in. Hopefully, this leaves the reader pondering “What does ‘the multiplication table’ have to do with this”. The Eucharistic altar is the table upon which the Church grows out of the grace of our God haunted predecessor’s lived experience into our present lives and the lives of all who come after us.

The Eucharistic liturgy is also where we bind ourselves to our ancestors going all the way back to Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, and to the first Passover in Egypt and beyond. Turning forward, the Mass is the prefiguration and foretaste of the Messianic Banquet we will celebrate when we enter God willing into full communion with the Trinitarian Life of God.


While doing some recent cleaning chores in the Cornerstone Forum office I came across a couple of old cassette tape albums that contained recordings of presentations René Girard made in Sonoma in 1991 and 1994. I hope to make these available on our streaming audio section of this website in the coming weeks. At the beginning of one of the tapes, after Gil Bailie introduces professor Girard to the audience, René Girard takes a few moments to talk about Gil as a preface to his remarks. I’ve prepared a short excerpt of this below:

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A Remedy for Sentimentality

Mother of Sorrows – Vonn Hartung


A decade ago Elizabeth Bailie, Gil Bailie’s wife, was called from this life to the next. Her passing has left those who know her with both a sense of loss and tremendous gratitude for the gift of her life. A few weeks before her passing Gil wrote the following weblog entry.

I’ve often thought, and several times said that those of us who live with all the conveniences would do well to have to do our laundry at a laundromat at least every once in a while. Perhaps it is my blue-collar upbringing, but I feel at home in a laundromat, almost as much as I do in church. In my case, the danger of romanticizing either is not great. But for a graduate course in subjects that can be studied at the undergraduate level in laundromats, an emergency room in an urban hospital late on a Saturday night is hard to beat.

Complications related to Liz’s illness and the numerous medications she is enduring because of it took us to the emergency room on Saturday night. Crowded conditions and the various procedures and diagnostic tests Liz had to undergo kept us at the hospital until 6:30 a.m. Sunday. While Liz was being diagnosed and given an emergency MRI, I sat in her wheelchair in one of the little curtained-off cubicals trying (against impossible odds) to get at least a few minutes of sleep.

The curtain of the cubical where I sat was opened, and I was able to see and hear the choppy segments of the emergency room drama. To the din of blaring televisions (a ubiquitous curse in most places in the typical hospital today), sirens, intercom staff messages, shouts of patients who were in pain, or on drugs, or drunk, or all three, I tried (largely unsuccessfully) to sleep. (Wheelchairs are not made for sleep.)

At one point, two of the patients, males in their 30s who seemed to be high on something or other, went for each other, triggering an avalanche of testosterone, as uniformed security personnel, men in street clothes and surgery scrubs emerged from every corridor. The shouting died down, and, after milling around for a few minutes, most drifted off to resume their assigned roles.

All the while, I was wondering how Liz was handling the exhaustion and the diagnostic tests, and worrying that her tumor might have gotten into her spinal column. (Mercifully, it had not.)

Back home on Sunday morning for a few short hours of sleep and then a day like most other days, quiet and revolving around Liz’s needs. As I may have mentioned in an earlier post, before dinner each night Liz and I have always had a period of prayer and reflection and personal sharing. We call it “port time” because it invariably includes a glass of port or an equivalent libation. Liz isn’t able to read these days, so I have lately been reading a few paragraphs each night from something of spiritual interest to us. For the last couple of weeks or so I have been reading from Romano Guardini’s The Lord.

As it happened, on Sunday night, when I turned to where I had left off the night before, it was at Guardini’s discussion of the Beatitudes, and more precisely the following paragraph, in which the great German theologian reflects on the Beatitudes as Christ’s manifesto for a new order of existence:

To participate in this new order, man must open his heart. He must free himself from the clutches of natural existence and advance to meet the things to come. He must eradicate the old, deeply rooted claim that this world is sufficient unto itself, the essential and only reality; he must admit that earthly existence even at its best is stained and discredited in the eyes of God. Naturally such self-emancipation is particularly difficult for those for whom the world holds the most delights-for the powerful and creative, for all who have a large share in earth’s greatness and beauty. These are the rich, the sated, the laughing, the praised and honored ones-hence, the woe that threatens them. On the other hand, blessings on the poor, the mournful, the hungry and persecuted, not because their condition in itself is blessed, but because it helps them to realize that more than just this world exists. Need teaches them only too well how inadequate existence is, and once taught, they turn more easily from earth to heaven for something better. [The Lord, p. 72]

Fresh from my long vigil at the emergency room, this marvelous paragraph seemed to me to capture the sum and substance of Christian faith. All the more so is this the case, inasmuch as Guardini took pains to warn against sentimentalizing Christ’s transvaluation of all values. “We must guard against one thing only,” he insists, “sentimentality.” (Something that would survive in the emergency room for about 30 seconds.)

Nothing on earth ever, of itself, guarantees heaven. Poverty can make men greedier than wealth. … Hunger can harden; pain can drive to despair; contempt can inwardly destroy. … But on the whole, Jesus’ “Blessed are you” is correct. He spoke from experience: it was the poor, the suffering, the despised publicans, sinners and harlots who at least attempted to believe. The powerful, the learned, the wealthy, the secure were provoked by his message, or laughed at him, or hated him, whom they considered a danger to the political existence of the nation.

The Church is humanity’s emergency room, where the weak and the wounded, the reckless and the raging, the broken and the frightened are thrown together to be ministered to by others only marginally healthier or holier than those to whom they minister.

At this very moment, as I am tying these words, Liz is sitting on the sofa nearby looking intently at an image of the Mother of Sorrows which was carved by our friend Vonn Hartung and which hangs in our living-room. Mary, with her heart pierced by the sword, is the icon of the Church: the Mother of Sorrows, under whose protection we huddle together with all the other needy ones.

How blessed we are to be under her protection and in the care of Mother Church.

(This was originally posted on www.gil-bailie.com in January 2007)

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A Mailbox Full of Valentines for Grace

Thomas Merton’s poem Grace’s House was frequently mentioned in Gil Bailie’s talks from the 1980’s and 90’s. I offer an example from an excerpt of Gil’s series on W. H. Auden’s New Year Letter below. I encourage those coming by this site to take the time to look up Merton’s beautiful short poem which can be found in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Paperbook) (Copyright prevents its being presented here in full.)

There were two lines from the poem that have stayed with me over the years:

‘there is no road to Grace’s house’


      ‘Mailbox number 5 is full of Valentines for Grace’

In the poem Merton says there is a river that runs between our world and Grace’s, a river of “uncrossed Crystal water between our ignorance and her truth”.

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As I have often said from the podium, it helps to clear away the “spirit of the age” clutter to ask: Why are we here? Or: What are humans for?

Now that I’ve violated the one grammatical principle that I still try to uphold — against ending a sentence with a preposition — let me repeat the offense: One way of putting our predicament is this: The challenge and the quintessential human task is to discover — existentially at least, and cognitively as far as possible — what human existence is all about. It remains, after all, an open question. We are, par excellence, the only unfinished creatures. But that does not mean that we are free to fashion ourselves according to our whims. Our existence would then simply been absurd, which is to say incapable of being assessed. A “well-lived life” would be an unintelligible phrase, purely subjective. There must be a pattern, a form, a purpose, and logic, in a “word,” a Logos.

More that merely a synonym for the English “word,” the Logos of John’s Gospel means the reason, the pattern, the (Trinitarian) reality toward which creatures made in the image and likeness of God are inherently ordained. Everyone whose life has any moral or conceptual or existential coherence has a logos at work in the background of his or her existence, that is to say: an operational notion, however vaguely conceptualized, of the meaning and purpose of human existence.

The question is: how true is the logos on which one’s life is based? A Christian, like everyone else, ought to routinely ask: What are humans for? In other words: what is the true pattern, the true nature of human existence? To what are we called by the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of (the Trinitarian) God? The answer is Christ, simply: Christ: the Logos in the flesh, that is to say, the Reason (for human life) embodied in human form.

It would be technically true to say that “what we Christians believe is that Christ is the answer,” but, in the squishy world of multicultural diffidence, that way of expressing it inevitably relativizes it. Imagine a person getting up at an international meeting of scientists and saying: “what we Western scientists believe is that the earth is spherical.” There are people who don’t believe that, but those who do believe it are right and those who don’t are wrong. When is the last time you heard a Muslim say: “What we Muslims believe is that there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is is prophet”? Don’t hold your breath waiting to hear it. Our Islamic brothers and sisters may be religiously mistaken (they are), but at least they believe what they claim to believe.

To make the truth claim unabashedly will seem, again in the present atmosphere, to be an act of pride. In fact it is an act of humility, inasmuch as the one who makes such a statement is precisely not stating his or her personal opinion. One is simply assenting to the truth that has been mediated by centuries of credible Christian witnesses (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”) and, provisionally at least, corroborated by one’s own experience of prayer and the sacraments.

Accounting for one’s creedal affirmation surely requires the summoning of apologetic, theological, and (especially in the case of Christianity) anthropological corroboration, but none of these things will avail if the original affirmation is too diffident, too equivocating, too relativized to be taken seriously.

To say, as Christians always have, that Christ is “Lord,” is to say that He is the true Logos, the unsurpassable pattern of self-sacrificing love to which all humans are called by God. To say that Christ is the “Lord of history,” is to say that history is the drama of Christ’s gentle appeal to his mortal brothers and sisters to come their senses and claim their ontological inheritance by participating, here and now, in the joy of Trinitarian self-donation.

(This was previously posted on gil-bailie.com in February 2007.)

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Filling the Vacuum….

Virgil tells Dante what it was that caused the Assyrian Queen, Semiramis, to be tormented in the region of the Inferno reserved for the lustful. Her sin, however, seems to have been more than just lust, which for Dante is the least deadly sin. Semiramis’ sin seems to have been her attempt to endow her erotic recklessness with social and legal respectability.

Her vice of lust became so customary
that she made license licit in her laws
to free her from the scandal she had caused. — Inferno V

Dante puts sodomites in another, lower place in the Inferno, but it is this tendency to make licentiousness licit that has such a strong contemporary analogue in the push to create the legislative fiction that homoerotic activity and the nuptial embrace are but two equally natural and legitimate forms of the same thing. The homosexual activists are late-comers to this moral coup d’etat. It was heterosexuals who made an art of turning sexuality into a recreational activity not to be unduly hampered by middle-class hangups, much less the sacramental dignity with which traditional Christianity endowed it. But late-coming homosexuals have mastered the art with great aplomb and obvious relish.

They are not, however, the only ones who want to replace key elements of the Western tradition with exotic moral codes more to their own liking. A surprising number of Muslims, especially in Europe, where their numbers are much greater than here, tell pollsters that they favor laws more in keeping with Islam’s Sharia.

I mentioned in an earlier post the odd alliance between Jihadists and Leftists in Europe, where the political Left retains more of its Marxist roots than does the North American Left, which tends today to be a life-style libertine Left — hyper-liberals with illiberal temperaments, content to throw off traditional moral constraints only to impose the new orthodoxy with sanctimonious contempt for those who resist. (In future posts I would like to return to this strange alliance if and when time permits.)

Herbert Marcuse’s amalgamation of these two manifestations of Leftist activism still persists, of course, but the relatively greater weight of Karl Marx in Europe and Alfred Kinsey on this side of the Atlantic can still be detected. (I use Kinsey to personify the sexual revolution his reckless behavior exemplified and his unscientific writings served to exempt from moral scrutiny.) The Alfred Kinsey version of Marxism is not as likely to ally itself as readily with the Jihadists, but stranger things (not many) have happened. The multicultural world, however, is a carnival of such strangeness. There are jurisdictions in Europe today, for instance, where one is more likely to attract the attention of law enforcement agencies by calling into question the morality of homoerotic behavior than by calling Jews pigs and monkeys.

Inasmuch as Dante put Muhammad in the Inferno as a schismatic, he is surely on the Muslim short list of pernicious influences from which the young must be protected once the textbook committees can be made as solicitous of Islamic sensibilities as they have shown themselves to be of today’s Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) pieties. (And solicitude for one is very often accompanied by solicitude for the other — one of the genuine oddities of the multicultural mentality.)

It’s conceivable that the day will come when dropping Dante from the curriculum will be among the few things on which Muslims and the LGBT activists will agree. Like the elimination of Cordelia by her sisters in King Lear, however, or the elimination of Pompey in Antony and Cleopatra, once Dante and everything he represents is set aside, the concordat between those wishing to be rid of these things will collapse into intense hostility. Foreseeing precisely this as the result of the elimination of Pompey, Antony’s lieutenant, Enobarbus remarks:

Then, world, thou hast a pair of chaps, no more;
And throw between them all the food thou hast,
They’ll grind the one the other.

Bruce Bawer, is an American literary critic, translator, poet, living in Europe. He has written about being gay in America. His most recent book is While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within. I would be surprised if Mr. Bawer and I see eye-to-eye on every issue, but I think he’s surely right about this one:

Multiculturalism is deeply, perversely irrational. If you’re a multiculturalist, it’s verboten even to notice, acknowledge, and express concern about murderous hatred directed against you and yours by the officially oppressed. For a multiculturalist, any act or statement by a member of an officially oppressed group, however morally reprehensible, is to be understood either as a legitimate reaction against “our” prejudice (or our forebears’ colonialism) or as a legitimate aspect of an alien culture that we, in our pitiful narrowness, have failed to understand and respect – which is, of course, our obligation.

For a snapshot of how incoherent the world becomes when allowed to arrange itself according to the multicultural logic, there’s this from the ever-quotable Mark Steyn in a December, 2004 London Daily Telegraph piece:

Last year, I was strolling down the boulevard de Maisonneuve in Montreal and saw across the street a Muslim woman, covered from head to toe in black, struggling home with her groceries past a “condom boutique” whose front window was advertising massive discounts on a, er, item of useful gay-sex paraphernalia. I wish I’d had a digital camera: there, in a single image, were the internal contradictions of the multicultural society. It seems highly improbable to me that gay hedonism and creeping sharia can co-exist for long.

The two greatest challenges to Western culture at the moment are from the Koran-quoting fanatics at the gates and the indulgent and irresponsible sexual liberationists within. It is not out of the realm of possibility that, after they beat up on Dante or the Pope for a while — and when they no longer have George Bush around to cement their loopy alliance — they’ll grind the one the other, very likely crushing civility in Europe in the process. Since the sexual revolutionaries haven’t bothered to produce the requisite numbers of offspring to maintain parity, were such a showdown to occur, the demographics would surely favor the jihadists. They would do most of the grinding.

From the ravaged world that would likely result, the Judeo-Christian moral tradition will look like what it has always been: an anthropologically sound summons to human nobility and dignity, a refuge from barbarism and tyranny, and a spur to human flourishing and freedom the likes of which the world has never seen.

(This was originally posted on www.gil-bailie.com in January 2007)

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Roe v. Wade: The Tragedy of Our Age

January is the month in which we remember the 1973 United State Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. This weekend there are marches around the country by those who believe that court ruling was a tragedy. Significantly, the promoters and organizers of the recent Women’s March on Washington refused to allow any pro-life group to participate. (In my on going attempt to incorporate Gil Bailie’s older blog posts into our new website I offer the following):

All those responsible for leading this young woman to this act of shamelessness have a great deal to answer for.

Some years ago, the New York Times’ Bruce Bawer reviewed a biography of Anaïs Nin by Deirdre Bair. Discussing Nin’s marriage to the American banker, Hugh (Hugo) Guiler, Bawer wrote:

Nin, who found Guiler sexually unsatisfactory, did not return his loyalty; after their 1924 removal from New York to Paris, she began a lifelong series of sexual derelictions, flirting shamelessly at Hugo’s business parties . . . coupling with her father . . . sleeping (or so she claimed) with her brother Thorvald, putting moves on her brother Joaquín’s spiritual counselor and seducing most of her psychoanalysts (including an infatuated Otto Rank…)”

In 1931 when Nin met Henry Miller, whom she adopted as lover and disciple. Bawer again:

Impregnated by either Henry or Hugo, she took medication to induce an abortion, had a still-born girl and made diary entries that reveal a chilling inhumanity. (“Here,” she said when Miller visited her in the hospital and announced his forthcoming book, “is a birth which is of greater interest to me.”

In the 1960s, everyone was avidly reading Anaïs Nin. Among the budding feminists of the time, her words were holy writ. In many ways, Nin was the mother (if the metaphor can be forgiven here) of the radical feminists that were soon to emerge, and under whose influence countless young women, like the one pictured above, were catechized and robbed of both their feminity and their dignity.

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Sign of the Times – 10 Years on



In an article published January 6th 2007 in The Washington Post there appeared a story about the latest wrinkle in the eugenics revolution:

A Texas company has started producing batches of ready-made embryos that single women and infertile couples can order after reviewing detailed information about the race, education, appearance, personality and other characteristics of the egg and sperm donors. …

But the embryo brokerage, which calls itself “the world’s first human embryo bank,” raises alarm among some fertility experts and bioethicists, who say the service marks another disturbing step toward commercialization of human reproduction and “designer babies.” …

“We’re increasingly treating children like commodities,” said Mark A. Rothstein, a bioethicist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. “It’s like you’re ordering a computer from Dell: You give them the specs, and they put it in the mail. I don’t think we should consider mail-order computers and other products the same way we consider children.” …

The cost, convenience, prospects of success and ability to vet the donors all are attractive to Ryan’s clients — potentially not only infertile couples and single women but also gay men and lesbian couples. …

“People have long warned we were moving toward a ‘Brave New World,’ ” said Robert P. George of Princeton University, who serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics. “This is just more evidence that we haven’t been able to restrain this move towards treating human life like a commodity. This buying and selling of eggs and sperm and now embryos based on IQ points and PhDs and other traits really moves us in the direction of eugenics.” …

Children are now being fashioned to suit the preferences of their non-biological parents. Imagine a 16-year-old — or, for that matter, a 30-year-old — having to come to grips with the fact that his or her gender, IQ, eye-color, physical characteristics, athletic or musical abilities, and ensemble of genetic traits and predispositions were selected from available options by “parents” who were not , in fact, his or her biological parents after all. Thirty seconds reflection on this is enough to convince one that this dream is a nightmare.

As if this were not bizarre enough, it was later reported — in a study just published in the journal Fertility and Sterility — that some fertility clinics have helped clients select embryos with disabilities or defects — chosen to match the inherited disability of the child’s future parent(s) — such as deafness or dwarfism. It is not the first time those who are deaf or dwarfed or in some other way disabled have been reported to have elected to impose their disability on their offspring.

It may turn out that the greatest problem we face as this Brave New World overtakes us — wearing down our revulsion and taking on an aura of normality — is that the extreme misuses of genetic technology (at least until we grow accustomed to them) will run interference for the routine uses. The moral hideousness of the former will make the latter seem relatively innocuous by comparison.

This is precisely how moral catastrophes ripen. Does anyone think that Auschwitz or Buchenwald just appeared one day on the Polish and German landscape? No. Evil overtakes us in small, seeming innocuous ways, each incremental development merely the logical extension of a state of affairs to which everyone has previously grown accustomed.

(This was originally posted by Gil Bailie in January 2007 on www.gil-bailie.com)

Anyone interested in how this topic has developed over the past ten years should pay attention to the recent discovery of a very inexpensive and very precise method of editing individual genes called CRISPR/CAS9

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Sin & Death – a moebius strip

For a while now I have thought about posting something about one of the most theologically influential verses in the New Testament, Romans 5:12, on which Augustine famously depended for his teaching on original sin. Readings from a recent daily Mass brought me back to it. The passage that caught my eye was this:

Since the children share in blood and Flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life. (Heb 2:14-15)

These verses express perfectly our predicament as fallen creatures and the pivotal importance of Paul’s allusion to it in the fifth chapter of Romans. The Revised Standard translation of that verse is:

Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned.

It was not idle theological curiosity that gave rise to the doctrines of Christian faith. Rather these doctrines were forged in the furnace of often fierce theological controversies, and this is certainly true of Augustine’s interpretation of Romans 5:12. The Bishop of Hippo waged a bitter struggle against Pelagius and the Pelagian teaching which, though it may have been more nuanced than later readers of Augustine are led to believe, nevertheless fostered a rather more optimistic assessment of the human predicament than Augustine and the Catholic tradition that followed him felt warranted. Citing Paul’s “all men have sinned” as a result of the sin of Adam, Augustine insisted that all humans have inherited the guilt of Adam. (There is obviously much to be said on that, sin being necessarily a willful and conscious act, but that is for another day perhaps.)

The Eastern Church, and many of the Eastern Fathers, found in Romans 5:12 another meaning, one not necessarily incompatible with the now standard Augustinian reading, but one that nevertheless gives a significantly different emphasis. Weblogs are not the ideal place for exegetical complexities, nor am I an exegete. Here, however, are the outlines of the matter as I understand them. (I draw on the work of the Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff.)

Meyendorff argues that the Western Church’s Latin translation of the Greek for “because all men have sinned” — in quo omnes peccaverunt — is subject to question. The original Greek is eph ho panes hemarton. “The form eph ho — a contraction of epi with the relative pronoun ho — can be translated as ‘because,'” writes Meyendorff, who then points out that the pronoun can as well be masculine as neuter, and that, if a masculine pronoun, it would refer back, not to sin, but to death. Meyendroff:

The sentence then may have a meaning which seems improbable to a reader trained in Augustine, but which is indeed the meaning most Greek Fathers accepted: “As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men; and because of death, all men have sinned.”

Meyendorff proceeds to quote a number of the Easter Church Fathers in defense of this translation, an example being this from Theodoret of Cyrus: “mortal beings are necessarily subject to passions and fears, to pleasures and sorrows, to anger and hatred.”

But I think we can do better than that. It seems that the upshot of the Eastern Church’s reading, if Meyendorff is accurate here, is that sinfulness is the consequence of death, or perhaps better, the fear of death that suffuses life with a suppressible dread from which mortal creatures flee, and, in doing so, flee from God, from themselves, and from one another — Christ having died to “free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life” (Hebrews 2:15).

What is sin if not the expression of the creature’s deep-seated self-regard and attempt to manipulate circumstances and others for selfish self-preservation and self-aggrandizement? As such, sin is life lived under the fear of self-annihilation, as the author of Hebrews suggests. If this is so, nothing short of the Resurrection could free humanity from the grip of sin and death. Neither the eat, drink and be merry ruse of the shallow worldlings, nor the morbid stoicism of the “realist,” nor the death-romanticism of the nihilist finally avails.

Rather than throw in completely with what Meyendorff argues is the Eastern Church’s position, I would rather want to find common ground, and it is not far to seek. Sin darkens the mind and shrinks the soul; it contracts the horizon, imprisoning the spirit. Sebastian Moore once said that death as the ultimate horizon lets sin make as much sense as sin can make. But then sin has the effect of making death the ultimate horizon. It blinds the sinner to the very eschatological horizon that would, Moore implies, render sin senseless were it to be visible.

So “the power of sin” and “the power of death” form a kind of moebius strip from the mesmerizing tangle of which we humans are incapable of extricating ourselves.

It has long been said, and it is being said more frequently lately, that the Church flies on two wings, constituted by the Eastern and Western traditions. It seems to me that this is exemplified by the two distinct approaches to that crucial passage in Romans, if only we can allow these traditions to mutually enhance one another.

(A version of this was originally posted on gil-bailie.com in January 2007)

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We Saw His Star In The East

Of all the liturgical feasts in the Church calendar the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord seems to me to most reflect the mission of the Cornerstone Forum. For it is on this day the Church celebrates the light of the Gospel that shines forth from the Incarnation into the world; a world of wise men and mass murderers, of poor shepherds and harried inn keepers. The light that manifests this mystery of God in the form of a human being draws some to seek the source of this light, while others seek to snuff it out. Those who follow the light are enjoined to go into the world and make disciples of everyone. (Our friend Vonn Hartung has created a beautiful serigraphic image (above) of the Wise Men following the Star.) The reflection below was first posted by Gil Bailie on our old blog in January 2006.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In the highest heaven, the will of God is simply God. But God is not simply God; rather God is Triune God. In heaven, the will of God is pure unobstructed mutual self-donation. This kenotic selflessness is foreign here on earth, where we fallen and sinful and mortal and willful creatures live. We are deformed by sin and self-regard, by fear. The will of God was done on earth once however; and it was done the only way it could have been: by God, by the Incarnation, by a human manifestation of Trinitiarian self-gift. Christ, “though he was in the form of God,” lived in humble submission to His Father’s will; but He did that preicsely because that’s how the Trinitarian God lives; that’s how we who are made in God’s image are meant to live; that’s what will actually make us happy, however cruciform our happiness might necessarily be.

In Christ the form of God took on human form, and Christians are instructed to con-form to this Christological form. The Epiphany is to continue with Christians themselves, with all our faults and failings, manifesting as best we can some clumsy Christological hint of the mystery of a God-centered life, the Life that is Trinitarian in heaven and Christological here on earth.

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Impatience . . .

“It is better to bear uncertainty than to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence. Genuine readiness already contains the seed of faith; untruth, on the other hand, that self-deception that pretends to views it does not really hold, and the violence with which we force ourselves to a creed which does not root in the heart, already contain the seeds of destruction.” — Romano Guardini

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