Retreat Notes, pt. 2

Continuing the trend from yesterday, I’m starting the blog out with some notes I wrote in a journal during a silent retreat I went on in mid-February in glorious Boston, VA:

There is a tendency among those who think about the Faith to imagine that they must be in the Faith, and must have that Faith, by default. (ed.: if memory serves, this entry was started in part by me remembering a quip someone made once, about how the only believers in Calvinist election happen to think of themselves as elect — you never hear someone say, “I think God chooses the elect based on no merit of their own, and darn it, I just wasn’t lucky!”). I think that this a trap easy to stumble into, and which must be avoided.

Shockingly, the first proponent we know of for Christ’s role in substitutionary atonement (with the possible exception of Isaiah) was the Jewish High Priest.* His relationship and familiarity with Old Testament texts afforded him great insight into the person of Christ. As Bp. Fulton Sheen pointed out, it was these same Jewish religious leaders who understood the Resurrection, and (assuming that the Disciples has pieced this together, and would fake prophetic fulfillment) posted sentry at the Tomb.

The reality of Christ got lost in thinking about him logically. Lord, let this not happen to me. [Karl] Keating suggests of [Hilarie] Belloc that he cared more about Catholicism as a system than about Christ.** I think I disagree. I think it’s more masculine to speak of Catholicism and shy away from telling everyone of your Beloved. But I understand his point, and need to be on guard for this. If I proclaim “God is Love,” and do not love, what does it profit me? Thomas à Kempis said, “I would sooner know what contrition feels like than how to define it.”

Interestingly, Jesus Christ upon the Cross pleads, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (cf. Luke 23:34).*** St. Peter says to the assembled Jews, “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, as your leaders did.” (Acts 3:17). Amazingly, Jesus and the Holy Spirit-inspired St. Peter don’t consider that level of theoretical knowledge (knowledge of substitutionary atonement and the impending prophesied date of the Resurrection) as anything more than ignorance. It is at once insulting and inspiring.

*ed. John 18:12-14: Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.

** ed. This is an oversimplification, and perhaps a somewhat unfair one, of what Keating said in a footnote to his mostly excellent book Controversies. His actual comment was:

He [Arnold Lunn] said, for example, “The Trouble with [Msgr.Ronald] Knox is that he is a Catholic, but only nominally a Christian. He is much more interested in the Church than in the founder of that Church” – a complaint that was not entirely untrue but that could have been lodged more effectively against Hilaire Belloc, who wrote much on the Church but hardly a word on Christ.

*** The late Richard John Neuhaus, in his typical brilliant fashion, wrote movingly on this topic for his journal First Things.

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