Saturday, October 31

Prayer Beads and Thoughts on Marian Dogmas

The early Church saw Mary in a number of ways: as the New Eve, as the new Ark of the Covenant, and as “The Woman.” As some have pointed out, Mary is not a goddess and should not perceived as such, but nor should she be ignored. Mary played an etremely significant role in the birth, life, and death of Christ. She was present in each. She was also present when the Church began at Pentecost. She lived with the apostle John in Ephesus for several years before she passed on from this world. How, then, did the early Christians - and many Catholics - view Mary?

The New Eve
The early Christians identified Mary as the New Eve. The earliest surviving testimony to this is from Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho (AD 160), which describes conversations that Justin had with a rabbi around AD 135 in Ephesus. It was in that city that Justin had been instructed in the faith and where, according to tradition, Mary lived with John. Justin Martyr wrote, "Christ became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience that proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her..." and so forth.

Here, Justin Martyr both compares and contrasts. From him, we move on to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who compares and contrasts the obedience and disobedience of the virgins. He wrote that "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary opened by her belief." Then later on he wrote, "If the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell in to bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin." Tertullian and many others had this idea. Tertullian once said, "As Eve believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other effaced by believing."

Also, quaint fact - some medieval poets noted that the angel Gabriel's Ave (Latin greeting of “Hail, Mary”) reversed the name of Eva, or Eve. Interesting tidbit. The idea of Mary as the New Eve, some scholars suggest, may have been passed down from St. John the Apostle himself, given his associations and connections with several of these early individuals (Justin was taught in Ephesus, Irenaeus learned from John's disciples Polycarp, etc). It was then handed on by St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, St. Augustine, St. John Damascene, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others. Several of the early authors directly called her "New Eve." But aside from the aforementioned - there's another major reason why she's considered the New Eve.

She's "The Woman." This “Woman” is first mentioned in Genesis 3:15. Of course, the early Christians saw Genesis as being highly christological (foreshadowing Christ), so that Jesus was tested in a garden as Adam was (at Gethsemane); like Adam, Jesus was led to a "tree," where he was stripped naked; so forth. The motif of the New Adam, really, is very much developed in John's gospel. It isn't explicit, but the connections between John and Genesis are fantastic. For example, Genesis and John start off with, “In the beginning...” Now, at the wedding feast in Cana (John 2), Jesus interestingly calls Mary "Woman." He didn't call her Mary, or Mother, just "Woman." He does the same thing in John 19:26 when hanging on the cross, and if Revelation 12 symbolizes Mary, she is called "Woman" multiple times there as well. But Jesus' name of Mary also echoes Genesis - it's the name Adam gives to Eve.

Further, as Eve was the "mother of all the living," when Jesus gave us Mary as our mother (in John 19, “here is your mother”), she became the New Eve as the mother of God's children. But here at Cana, instead of leading "Adam" to evil, she prompts the New Adam - Jesus - to do good. In Genesis 3:15, the Protoevangelion, we see a prophecy of Jesus crushing Satan, or so we interpret it christologically. If, then, Jesus is the "he" then the "woman" is therefore both Eve - and Mary.

The Ark of the New Covenant
Several scholars argue that if St. John did indeed write Revelation, then John does indeed portray Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. Many modern Christians interpret the Woman in Revelation 12 as an image for Israel and/or the Church. Now, given Scripture's multiple levels of meaning, that's entirely possible, and perhaps probable. But not the only meaning.

At the end of Revelation 11 we read, "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen..." Now, the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred and honored object that has not been seen or heard of for six hundred years at that point, pops up. But in the entirety of Revelation, nothing more is said about it. That's a bit odd, given its Jewish prominence. Well, chapter and verse divisions were not added until the Middle Ages. So in the original manuscript, Revelation 11 ended and Revelation 12 began - they flowed into one another. Immediately after the temple is open and the Ark of the Covenant is revealed... "a woman clothed with the sun" appears. Many scholars (and ancient Christians) believe that St. John was revealing the Ark as a woman - and indeed as St. Mary.

Now, there's a lot to this identification, but when we consider that this may not only be Mary in Revelation 12, but that she may also be viewed theologically as the Ark of the New Covenant, this elucidates many things. Consider that the enmity between the serpent, clearly identified here in Revelation 12 as Satan, and the child - which we can assume is Christ - echoes again the words of Genesis 3:15 and the enmity between the serpent and the woman's seed (and again, she is not given a name here, but is called "woman"). St. Ambrose believed that this woman was Mary, as did St. Ephrem of Syria, St. Augustine of Hippo, and several others. It's also interesting that the "other offspring" are likely us - the brothers and sisters, given further credence to seeing Mary as a mother figure. Other Marian elements seem to be present in Revelation 12, such as the flight into the desert being a stylized narrative form of the flight into Egypt by the Holy Family. There are several other curious aspects of identifying Mary as the woman in Revelation 12.

One of the more interesting points about Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant is the literary connections between 2nd Samuel 6 and Luke 1. Dr. Scott Hahn in his book Hail, Holy Queen writes, "The greatest difficulty for interpreters seems to be the apparent uniqueness of John's typological insight in Revelation. Where else, after all, is Mary called the ark of the covenant? Yet closer study of the New Testament shows us that John's insight was not unique - more explicit than others, certainly, but not unique. Along with John's books, the writings of Luke are the Bible's other gold mine of Marian doctrine... Luke was a meticulous literary artist who could claim the additional benefit of having the Holy Spirit as his coauthor. Down through the centuries, scholars have marveled at the way Luke's gospel subtly parallels key texts of the Old Testament. One of the early examples in his narrative is the story of Mary's visitation to Elizabeth.

Luke's language seems to echo the account, in the second book of Samuel, of David's travels as he brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. The story begins as David 'arose and went' (2 Sam 6:2). Luke's account of the visitation begins with the same words: Mary 'arose and went' (1:39). In their journeys, then, both Mary and David proceeded to the hill country of Judah. David acknowledges his unworthiness with the words 'How can the ark of the Lord come to me?' (2 Sam 6:9) - words we find echoed as Mary approaches her kinswoman Elizabeth: 'Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' (Lk 1:43). Note here that the sentence is almost verbatim, except that 'ark' is replaced by 'mother.' We read further that David 'danced' for joy in the presence of the ark (2 Sam 6:14, 16), and we find a similar expression used to describe the leaping of the child within Elizabeth's womb as Mary approached (Lk 1:44). Finally, the ark remained in the hill country for three months (2 Sam 6:11), the same amount of time Mary spent with Elizabeth."

Why, though, would Luke be so coy about this? Why not just come right out and call Mary a fulfillment of the type of the ark? The well-known Cardinal John Newman addressed this question, saying, "It is sometimes asked, Why do not the sacred writers mention our Lady's greatness? I answer, she was, or may have been alive, when the apostles and evangelists wrote; there was just one book of Scripture certainly written after her death and that book [of Revelation] does (so to say) canonize and crown her." Was St. Luke, in his quiet way, showing Mary to be the ark of the new covenant?

Prayer Beads
A final - and perhaps more controversial point - prayer beads. The use of prayer beads is an ancient practice. It's present in all major religious traditions. Ancient Africans used ostrich shell beads to pray. Islam uses prayer beads to recite the 99 names of God or related elements. Some Sikhs use prayer beads. Some Hindus and Buddhists use prayer beads. Some Anglicans, Lutherans Episcopalians and others use prayer beads. In early Christianity, the Desert Fathers would collect pebbles and use these pebbles to count prayers. Some prayer beads were found in the tombs of early Christian martyrs, and tradition attributes initial usage to St. Dominic (AD 1200s).

As for early practices in regard to Mary, Christians from the earliest of times realized that Mary should not be worshiped. However, as the woman who gave birth to and raised God himself, several hymns were made in her honor (the Egyptian Sub Tuum Praesidium is the earliest on record), as well as artwork and other such things. This is when the use of prayer beads came about. Now, when people think of the Rosary, they may think of the repetitious aspect of the Rosary (as with other parts of liturgy), but let us be reminded that Jesus himself prayed the same prayer multiple times (Matthew 26:44), the book of Daniel shows a prayer with "Bless the Lord" repeatedly used, several Psalms - used of course in Jewish liturgies (services) - have repeated phrases. I never tire of telling my Mom "I love you." Christians never seem to tire of repeating "Amen," Alleluia" or "Praise the Lord" in service.

Also, the prayers used in a common Rosary are scriptural in their basis. Jesus himself gave us the Our Father, the Hail Mary is made up of the words of Gabriel and Elizabeth from Dr. Luke's gospel, and the Glory Be is a praise of the Trinity based on early Christian doxologies (including those used by St. Paul in the New Testament). Prayer beads offer those who need such a thing a physical and tangible object to hold as we pray. It engages us sense-wise, in that while we are orally praying, we are also physically holding beads, which help us to stay focused instead of trailing off. Praying with beads is not intended to simply be a way of repeating prayers, but as a way to meditate. For those who know the words - just as when singing a worship song you know the words to, your mind drifts. So too is this purposed in the Rosary. It is not a prayer to Mary per se, but rather a meditation on the life of Christ. Our hands hold the beads, our words pour forth, and our heart and mind contemplate Christ.

Historically, the Hail Mary - as noted - is Scriptural. The first part of the Hail Mary is entirely the words of Gabriel and Elizabeth, and the only real changes or additions are the names of Mary and Jesus. But that is a non-issue. Then comes to second section of the Hail Mary - "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen." This second half was not part of the original Hail Mary, but added later in the sixteenth century. However, its origin is also scriptural. For example, "Mother of God" (Theotokos) sees its root in Elizabeth's proclamation about the "Mother of my Lord" (Luke 2). Also, having a believer pray for another believer is entirely Scriptural. If I ask you to pray for me, I should also be able to ask St. Francis to pray for me, and also Mary, and so forth.

These brief thoughts on Marian theology are ruminations on the doctrinal underpinnings which make up many high liturgical churches, including the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and others. But for any Christian, it is helpful to be mindful and be aware of our heritage, our theological tradition as well as theological insights the Christians throughout history can teach us. Further, the use of sacramentals such as prayer beads helps remind us that as most major religious traditions are connected, so too are we all connected like the beads we hold together in common.

Wednesday, October 28

A Franciscan Perspective on Business, Globalization and Human Trafficking

Earlier this year I attended a talk delivered by Fr. David Couturier, OFM Cap, who spoke on the growing issue of human trafficking within an increasingly globalized world, and his points bear repeating here. Globalization is essentially the notion that our world ought to become – and is becoming – a global community. More to the point, Fr. David defined Globalization as the “ability to transport goods, services, products and people faster and farther is the mega-phenomenon of business with great benefits: cheaper products, more available products and potential to raise standards of living.” But, he noted, “globalization has a downside. If you can transport people, you can traffic people.” In the United States, slavery is commonly held to have ended with the Trans-Atlantic slavery. However, Fr. David notes that he recently spoke to a young girl from Buffalo who was used for sex in human trafficking - Amber. One night she was kidnapped and in a short amount of time, was given drugs and became addicted, and was put into the sex slave business all across Western New York.

Amber spent her days being watched and controlled. Working and living under harsh conditions, she now suffers from PTSD. Amber was in a living hell - “a hell without doors or exits.” She eventually escaped, but it took two weeks for her to get the care she needed. This kind of story is found all across the country. There are more slaves today in the United States than in any time, even more so than in the Trans-Atlantic Slavery of the 19th century. The difference between then and now is in the complexity, in the disguises and in the protection within the US as well as in the complicity of our own lives. We are all, it seems, complicit to some degree. Although globalization can and has led to many good things, it can also lead to modern forms of slavery.

Fr. David explained that human trafficking was the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a human person... through the use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, giving payments or benefits to a person who is in control of the victim... [all] for the purpose of exploitation... to include prostitution of others, forced labor, slavery or similar practices.” One of the major points that stuck out to me the most was the chocolate industry, popular particularly around Halloween, Easter and St. Valentine’s Day. Evidently, much of the chocolate comes from cocoa plants of Ghana and the Ivory Coast of Africa. Many children were used as slave labor, and being beaten, were used to satisfy the sweet tooth of many. Children as young as 10-15 were being forced into this, being paid low wages or no wages at all.

What Fr. David said hit home - “We are the face of human trafficking... Everyday we are eating, wearing, walking and talking slavery. Every one of us, every day, touches and wears and eats products tainted with slavery.” Thinking about where my clothes, my cellular device, my food, my blankets and many other products comes from is revealing. From a cursory look, a few clothing items say “Made in Haiti,” “Made in China,” “Made in Taiwan” and elsewhere. Fr. David asked, “Do we really care as Americans where our goods are coming from as long as it is fast, cheap and available?” One is inclined to think it is because the United States is a very individualistic, hedonistic and minimalistic culture. As a whole, Americans tend to think on a more self-centered, pleasure-based level than in concern for those who are making their products.

The final question, an examination of conscience, is what calls for thought as well as action: how willing am I to make this problem of human trafficking upfront and personal in my own life? How willing am I to work with others to eradicate slave labor from my home and dinner table? That question is a tough question on many levels. It is a convicting question. The Franciscan tradition within Christianity calls for several aspects of response: a respect for human dignity, joy and peace, community, generosity, friendship, solidarity. It calls, essentially, for “compassionate action.” This is not simply an abstract theological concept floating around in the written materials, but a living and active threat to the dignity of the human person that needs to be addressed. If I was asked how I was to make this problem personal in my own life, I would admit not knowing how to fully answer. Awareness would be one way. Human trafficking is such an overwhelming problem, the first question one would ask is “where do I begin?” Being aware of where each of my products comes from is a good start. What to do from there may depend on the company. Do I simply stop shopping somewhere? Do I begin purchasing other products? Would my not-shopping make any difference if the products continue coming?

One of the final points that comes to mind here is the difference between charity and justice. Consider the somewhat graphic image of bodies floating down a river - through charity, the villagers along the river brought the bodies to shore, nursed some to health and had to bury the others. Each day this process would continue, but no one bothered to ask or find out where the bodies were coming from - that would be justice. Social action would be justice. So the question we will have to ask as we now consciously move forward with this information and integrate it into our lives is, “to what extent do we get involved and not simply stop making the purchases, but act out Social Justice for the betterment of our fellow brother and sister?” How do we carry out compassionate action? 

Tuesday, October 27

Luther, Zwingli and Calvin: The Magisterial Reformers

In the 1500s, the Church began to splinter as a result of the Protestant Reformation. There were two primary reformations: the Magisterial Reformation and the Radical Reformation. The Magisterial Reformation was led by figures such as Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. This era is important in understanding today's religious context, where we came from, where we are and where we are going. Ecumenical efforts continue between different Christian denominations, and examining the roots of the Magisterial Reformation is yet another step on the road to ecumenism. What began the Magisterial Reformation? The immediate issue that led Luther to protest was the sale of indulgences. This issue led to Luther’s nailing the 95 Theses to the door of a Catholic Church, and after this point, he began to have more and more issues with the Church, and began calling it to reform. The indulgences began in the Crusade period - if you went to Crusade, you would allegedly have your sins forgiven. If you were a martyr, the belief was that you would go straight to heaven.

Unfortunately, this practice developed into a commerce. Pope Leo X wanted to finish building the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, so there were certain individuals who felt that the sale of indulgences would speed along this process. A Dominican named Johan Tetzel entered the picture, and was famous for saying - “when a coin in the coffer doth ring, a soul from Purgatory shall spring.” Luther heard about Tetzel, and became enraged. On All Hallow’s Eve (October 31, 1517), Luther nailed 95 Theses to be discussed in an academic setting to the church in Wittenberg, declaring that if the Pope had the power to free souls from purgatory, then he should do so freely, and out of love. Further, he felt that the Pope should be using the money gained by the sale of indulgences to feed the poor, even if it meant selling St. Peter’s Basilica.

After a series of back and forth with the Church, Luther was called to the Diet of Worms by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Fifth, to recant. He was accused of renewing the errors of Huss and Wycliffe. But he refused to recant, and had challenged the authority of the emperor and the pope. Frederick - who was the Elector who had gained Luther his position at Wittenberg - helped Luther escape to a castle, where - much like Wycliffe before him - he translated the Bible. But unlike Wycliffe's England, Germany did not have a ban on making Bibles. Despite its origins, it became widely popular. Backed by the elector, Luther’s Bible became common in German churches, and the liturgy was also in German. Wittenberg as a result became a very Protestant area.

Before examining further aspects of the Magisterial Reformation, it is important to know a bit more about Luther. Luther almost fell off a horse once during a thunderstorm, and fearing hell and damnation, called out to St. Anne to save him, and he would serve God. He became a religious in the Observant Augustinians in 1505, and was very much into ascetic practices of the time. Luther took flagellation quite seriously. On a personal level, he could not get over the fact that God was a just God. That is, in Luther's eyes, our sins are so bad, and God’s justice is so just, that we can do nothing about it. In fact, Luther’s confessor actually said, “go and actually do something... Then come back to confess.” He was always at confession, deeply stricken with his own anxiety.

After he began shifting away from the Church, Luther condemned many late Medieval practices. He retained baptism, communion, and for a while - confession. He rejected any practices inconsistent with what his view held - he rejected prayers to saints. He rejected the purchase of indulgences. He rejected the participants in pilgrimage. He also rejected bodily asceticism. Luther’s conception of the clergy robbed monasticism of its worth, and robbed clerical celibacy, because for him, there is no ranking among Christians. He felt that if you are saved by grace alone, this has nothing to do with your celibacy. Thus, he and a former nun, Katharina, had six children. Erasmus and Luther wrote a Dialogue on Free Will. They disagreed on the nature of Christian life and reform. Many Humanists stopped supporting Luther, as he saw a problem with free will.

Now, there was an important Swiss Reformer named Huldrych Zwingli. He was deeply impressed by the writings of Erasmus. Erasmus was really (unwittingly, he remained Catholic) the one who influenced the thoughts of Protestants. He was born in 1484 in a Swiss town. His early education took place in Basil and Burn. Zwingli’s outlook was influenced by the political experience of independence by the Swiss Confederacy. He was deeply influenced by Scripture and reform in Christian Humanism, as well as St. Augustine. Erasmus had encouraged study of the original languages (Greek and Hebrew) as Christian Humanism placed a great deal of emphasis on getting back to the original documents. Zwingli was well-versed in these languages, and he met Erasmus in the 1510s. Zwingli was ordained a priest in the Catholic tradition. When Erasmus had published his Greek New Testament, Zwingli made a copy which he carried with him in order to memorize it. Before coming to Zurch in 1519, he preached directly from Scripture in a humanist vein. Normally, the priest would preach on the text of the day. But Zwingli started his career preaching on a theme, using Christian Humanism as his background and foundation.

From 1506-1516, Zwingli was a priest in the city of Glarus, then went to a pilgrim town which contained a monastery. He declared that he could not find Pilgrimage anywhere in the New Testament. In 1518, due to his fame, he was transferred to Zurich. By this point, he began to go against Catholicism. He later clarified that this happened parallel to Martin Luther, not because of him. Two different reformers were following a similar line of thought. Between 1522-1525, he tried to eliminate Catholicism and institute Protestantism in the city. He went full-on trying to eliminate sacraments. During Lent, he decided to eat sausage - something incredibly sacrilegious. The city council decided that all religious issues were to be decided on the basis of Scripture. This took power out of the hands of the priests and into the hands of the laity.

In October of 1523, the council agreed to abolish Masses at the churches. Zwingli deferred to the magistrates as to the timing of the changes. Those critical of his position included future Anabaptists. In 1525, the council mandated infant baptism. The council also established an evangelical communion service, a marriage institution, and a center for studying languages. But Luther and Zwingli still had no problem reading Latin. You could teach in Latin (that was the “English” or lingua franca of the day). Zwingli wanted every aspect of life to be guided by Christian teaching. The Canton of Bern and Basel accepted Zwingli’s ideas. As early as 1524, five Swiss disagreed with Zwingli and defended the traditional faith, banding together in a Catholic Alliance. This led to war in 1531 - but Zwingli was not a pacifist. He died leading soldiers into the battle of Kappel, on November 11, 1531. Zwingli, during his life, was a priest - but did not observe clerical celibacy.

Lastly, we come to John Calvin. Born in 1509, Calvin was significantly influenced by Humanism. He started out as a Catholic (his father sent him for Law and Theology). He studied at the University of Paris. By the time that Calvin is a student, Christian Humanism had become a standard way of looking at things. Humanism had a deeper influence on Calvin than it did on Luther. In his theology we see a more positive role of the Law than we did with Luther. For Luther, God’s law functioned only to drive souls to Christ and restrain the wicked. The Council of Trent, of course, had issues with that. For Calvin, the Law is a guide to Christian practice. For him, Scripture was God’s last will and testament notarized by Christ (notice the legal language). After his conversion to Protestantism in 1536, he departed and passed through Geneva - and met William Farel. Farel begged Calvin to stay. They tried to establish a perfect Protestant society in Geneva. This did not go over well - the people tried to throw things at Calvin’s house, they named their dogs after Calvin and sent dogs after him - so Farel and Calvin were exiled two years later. There was a kind of religion police, so if you did not believe correctly, you could be executed.

In 1541, Calvin accepted an invitation to return to Geneva as they were having a difficult time and they saw his potential. He remained in Geneva until his death in 1564. During this time, Calvin wrote a large tome: Institutes of the Christian Religion, a six chapter book detailing the ideas of Protestantism. It is comparable to the Catholic Catechism. He was a hyper-Augustinian on certain doctrines. He would emphasize God’s sovereignty, and he argued for Predestination (which also came from Augustine). In Calvinism, you do not ultimately know whether or not you have been predestined to heaven or hell - this creates a great deal of anxiety. In 1541, Calvin wrote the Ecclesiastical Ordinances, in which he organized the ministry of the church into four orders - pastors, teachers, elders and deacons. He felt these represented New Testament organization. Calvin died at the age of 54 from an illness.

Bearing their various backgrounds in mind, where did Luther, Calvin and Zwingli agree and disagree in their views of theology? Zwingli’s theological difference over the Lord’s Supper with Luther was highly influential in the history of Protestantism. They sharply disagreed and refused to compromise. Zwingli taught that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist was only spiritual, whereas Luther affirmed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Luther had a doctorate in Scripture, and was teaching at the Augustinian school (built by Frederick the Elector). When Luther met with Zwingli, there was a particular table they would sit at. Now, Zwingli and Luther vehemently disagreed on the nature of the Eucharist. As a result, before Zwingli arrived, Luther carved on the table “this is my body” so that when Zwingli disagreed, Luther would lift the table cloth and show him the Scripture passage. Various evidences show us that Luther likely never truly meant or wanted to leave Catholicism.

In fact, when Frederick the Elector took him into hiding, there was a man named Karlstadt that came around. He took over Wittenburg theologically and became an iconoclast. He inspired his followers to take the body off the cross, and to tear down statues or the saints and Mary. Luther was vehemently against this - he was not an iconoclast. Luther held on to most Catholic practices, but he had to find a basis in Scripture. Luther felt he could only find baptism and Eucharist in the New Testament, though he Luther believed in the Real Presence, and did not like the word “transubstantiation,” but did believe in “consubstantiation.” Essentially, consubstantiation is the notion that the presence of Christ is there, but there is not a change of substance. Christ is only present in the worshiping assembly, so that once the assembly has completed its worship, the presence is no longer in the elements. Luther held that good works were important as an expression of Christian love - they gained you merits (time off in Purgatory, and so forth). Luther rejected the notion that the Mass was a re-sacrifice of Jesus.

Calvin shared many central Protestant convictions with Luther, such as justification by faith alone. Scripture was the basis of legal precedent. He also rejected many Catholic teachings and practices. A profound sense of reverence for God as Lawgiver is found in Calvinism. Calvin's theology is less apocalyptic than Luther’s, and more optimistic about the future. Zwingli and Luther on the other hand both sought to restore biblical faith and practice, but went about it differently. Although Luther retained all traditions not contradicted by Scripture, Zwingli insisted that all that had no Scriptural support must be rejected. He got rid of organs, for example, as they were not in the Bible. He also banned music and other practices not found in the Bible, so as not to take away from hearing the Word of God. Even communion should not be celebrated too frequently, as it could take away from Scripture. Instead, Zwingli held that the Eucharist should only celebrated four times a year, and that people must remain seated.

It is clear that there was a difference of theological opinion among the Magisterial Reformers, but it was primarily figures such as Luther, Zwingli and Calvin who laid the groundwork for the Protestant movement as it continues today. In today's denominations, although there remain many who prefer to debate, there is a growing number of Christians who seek to dialogue over doctrinal differences and similarities, similar practices and so forth. This can lead to not only fruitful discussion but also a growing sense that although our history as Christians has been varied at best, we all remain branches of one tree rooted in the same soil - that of Christ.

“The Radical Reformation” by R. Emmet McLaughlin.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. Volume I. 407-445. Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Volume II. 7-161. Print.

Monday, October 26

Early Church Reforms Prior to Martin Luther

Often the Protestant Reformation is seen as the first attempt at reform within the Church, but this does not represent historical reality. Although it was the first major movement of those "protesting" the Church, led by such figures as Martin Luther, John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, there were those who loved the Church and sought to reform it from within - including monastic reform, the Franciscans, John Wycliffe, John Hus and Girolama Savonarola. Some of these movements or individuals were intentional reformers, while others varied in theological application and practice leading to a perhaps unintentional reform.

Monastic reform was the first of these. During the Middle Ages, many monasteries had been destroyed by Norseman and Hungarians. Some had become abbots by purchasing the office. Various reform movements may have resulted from an attempt to be reconciled to God as the end of the first millennium approached, as Judgment Day seemed immanent. The Clunaics started out as a group that would follow the Rule of Benedict in its entirety. Their focus, however, shifted from prayer and work (ora et labora) to prayer solely, as they felt that one should not go to prayer soiled from working. But at a time when the papacy was at its darkest hour, Clunaic reform in the Church became ideal even for non-Clunaics. Simony - the buying and selling of ecclesiastical posts - became one of the worst evils that needed to be destroyed.

The Clunaics promoted clerical celibacy as one of the main tenants of their reform. At that time, clerical celibacy was not a universal rule, but usually only observed by monks and nuns. This soon changed. A group called the “Patarines” arose, who held that clerical celibacy must be maintained, and that those priests who were married were actually priests with concubines, or harlots. Obedience also became very important. Just as the monks were obedient to their superiors, so the church would be obedient to the Pope. But when many were inspired by the monks of Cluny and continued to make large financial donations, the movement began to decline. The Cistercian movement, however, came into play shortly after. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the more famous Cistercians. He preached ecclesiastical reform, the Second Crusade, and was discouraged theological innovation. The Cistercians opposed the luxury and learning of the Clunaics and preferred simple buildings, Bible study, and ascetic piety. These reforms within the church and within monasticism had wide-ranging consequences.

Then came the Franciscan movement - my community. Similar to the movement of Peter Waldo, St. Francis of Assisi left his home, his wealth and possessions, and taking on a beggar’s habit, began a mendicant movement - a fraternitas. A mendicant movement is those who lived by begging. Starting out as more of a worker’s movement helping to rebuild churches in the Umbrian valley, the movement progressed into more of a brotherhood. St. Clare of Assisi, companion of St. Francis, began the Order of the Poor Clares. Francis had started the Lesser Brothers (Order of Friars Minor) after securing permission from Pope Innocent III. He placed an emphasis on the sacredness of creation (“Brother Sun”, “Sister Moon”) and on the treatment of the Other. The movement, much to the dismay of Francis, became more organized, and more clericalized. But Francis felt he had heard God's voice calling out to him early on in the broken church of San Damiano, "Francis, go and rebuild my church. As you see, it is falling into ruin." The Franciscan charism to this day continues to be a source of inspiration and a call to radical living. The current Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, took his papal name from St. Francis.

Following the early Franciscans, we find the Conciliar movement. The movement came about as a response to schism in the papacy. The movement held that a universal council, representing the entire church, had more authority than the pope. They sought to put an end to practices such as simony and nepotism without substantially challenging Christian dogma. They sought to heal the schisms. Ever since Constantine called the Council of Nicaea, councils were used to solve different crises. The Conciliarists felt that the problem of two rival popes could be solved, but then the question of who had the authority of calling an ecumenical council. So they had both parties call the council. They got rid of both rival popes, and elected Alexander V. After he died, Pope John XIII (the 23rd) was elected. Neither Alexander or John could heal the schism, so the next council called for John’s resignation. He fled, went into exile, and was never succeeded by another “pope.” The next council after this sought to end the schism and rid the church of heresy and corruption - including the condemnation of John Huss. The council in 1430 ended up in controversy, and the Conciliar movement split into two councils. At the Council of Ferrara, in which the emperor and patriarch of Constantinople accepted the formula for reunion, including papal supremacy. Following this, and the Council of Basel, councils became subject to the Pope - not vice versa.

John Wycliffe (1320-1384) was the next significant player in reforms. He lived during the time of the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Papacy (when the Papacy was in Avignon). Wycliffe sought to reform both the life and the doctrines of the church. For example, Wycliffe denied the Real Presence because he saw in it a denial of Christ’s Incarnation. His followers later also denied the Real Presence, as well as transubstantiation. He and his followers were called Lollards, possibly because they were always uttering prayers under their breath. He lived during the time of the Avignon papacy, and as the English tried to limit papal influence, they welcome Wycliffe’s arguments on the nature and limits of lordship or dominion. However, Wycliffe did not agree with the Church’s authority, claiming that the true church was not the pope and his visible hierarchy, but rather the invisible body of Christ (drawing on St. Augustine). He felt that as all Christians were the body of Christ, not only the hierarchy, all should be able to read the Bible - so he translated printed the Bible into English. The Printing Press had not yet reached England, so every Wycliffe Bible had to be written by hand over a sixth-month period.

But the Church did not like this, not because they did not want a common translation for people - but because it was unauthorized, and most people were illiterate (in fact, literacy only increased because people wanted to learn how to read the Bible). They wanted the people to have an authorized version. So in 1382, the Archbishop summoned a court. Wycliffe’s writings were banned, and an earth tremor ocurred so that each side claimed divine wrath on the other. He died in 1384 of a stroke during Mass, and since he died in the communion of the Church, he was buried on consecrated ground. His followers, the Lollards, believed that pastors should not hold civil offices, that the worship of images should be banned, that clerical celibacy and pilgrimages were an abomination, and they rejected transubstantiation and prayers for the dead. The Lollards, like the Franciscans and Waldensians, had gone out two by two to preach. In many ways, the Lollards were forerunners of the Protestant Reformation.

Following Wycliffe, we come to John Huss (1362-1415). In the early 1390s, Huss was a deeply devout man who spent most of his funds on purchasing indulgences. Wycliff’s teachings had made their way to Bohemia, where Huss was the dean of faculty of philosophy at the university. Unlike Wycliffe, however, he did accept the Real Presence in communion, and held the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation. From the Chapel of Bethlehem, he advocated reform similar to the Conciliarists. At first, he was not trying to change traditional doctrines, but only restore Christian life, including the clergy, to the highest ideals. He called the clergy “the Lord’s fat ones,” and aimed his preaching at the highest ranks of the church - including Archbishop Zbynek. The Pisan Pope Alexander V (elected by the Conciliarists) declared that preaching could only take place in a cathedral, monastery or parish church - and the Chapel of Bethlehem was none of these. This at first silenced Huss, but after some soul-searching he changed his mind, and began openly preaching again. In 1410, Huss was summoned to Rome to answer for that act of disobedience and for others that followed. He refused to go, and was excommunicated in 1411.

The conflict with the Pisan papacy created more radical views for Huss. He did not question papal legitimacy, but rather, their authority when they were clearly acting in their own interest and not the interest of the church. He concluded that the Bible is the ultimate authority that the pope and every Christian is held to, and that any pope who does not obey Scripture did not need to be obeyed. But when Pope John XIII declared a Crusade against Naples, he did not hesitate to speak up in protest. He left the country but was later invited to the Council of Constance. Hopeful, he went, having been promised safe passage by by Sigismund - until he was taken aside and tried before Pope John XIII. He did not recant, was imprisoned, and the Pope later fled. While in prison, his followers began administering to cup to the laity in the Lord’s Supper - an action he supported, as beforehand the laity only received the bread. The Council of Constance later rejected the laymen use of the cup. In 1415, he was charged by the leading officials of Konstanz and was led to his death, saying - “you can burn me as a duck, but after me will come an eagle!” Largely prophetic words, given the upcoming Reformation. Many of the issues that Huss had with the Church are echoed in the Protestant Reformation, specifically, in the life of Martin Luther.

Our final consideration in this article is Girolamo Savonarola (1400s), a Dominican friar. He was invited to preach in Florence in 1490, given his fame for fiery preaching. But what he said about the evils of the time, about the contrast between true Christian life and the love of luxury, offended many among the powerful. The man who had invited him, Lorenzo de Medici, was offended, and hired a preacher to attack Savonarola. After he was elected the prior of the monastery of St. Mark, Savonarola did not go to thank Lorenzo, claiming that he owed his post to God alone. Lorenzo and Savonarola made up their differences on Lorenzo’s deathbed, however. When Pietro de Medici took over, the Florentines did not like him, so instead listened to Savonarola. He believed that study needed to be at the center of the needed Reformation, and he was so convinced that the luxuries of the time were vanity that he actually held public burnings in the main square. Dresses, jewelry, wigs, furniture, and so forth. He recommended that Florence establish a republic, and that gold and silver in churches should be sold for the poor. Eventually the government turned against him, and Pope Alexander VI opposed Savonarola. Those who supported him believed he was a prophet, particularly after one of his prophecies came true. But when he could not perform miracles they demanded of him, they too turned on him. After a mob invaded St. Mark’s Monastery, he was captured, labeled as a “heretic,” and killed, although some kept relics of the Dominican friar.

These different reformers are important insofar as they establish something was unhealthy about the Church of God at that time, and was in need of reform. Indeed, the Protestant Reformation led to what is often termed the Catholic Reformation or the Counter-Reformation, which in turn led to the Church calling together the Council of Trent. The decisions at Trent helped to guide Christians for the last five hundred years up until the Second Vatican Council, which changed many things. Perhaps the important thing to take away from all of this historical backdrop is not so much what went wrong, but how these reformers and reform movements helped us along the way, and where we are today in the Christian tradition. We should not grow comfortable with the way the universal body of Christ is now, across all denominations, but ask ourselves if we continue to need reform, and if so, how do we go about reforming, reshaping and how do we go about it in a way that is loving? Therein lies the true challenge.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. New York: Harper Collins, 2010. Volume I. 407-445. Print.

Mcguire, Brian Patrick. "Monastic and religious orders, c. 1100–c. 1350" in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Christianity in Western Europe c. 1100–c. 1500. Vol. 4. Ed. bu MIRI RUBIN and WALTER SIMONS. 54-72. Print.

Sunday, October 25

Literary Perspectives on Ruth

The book of Ruth tells the story of a quiet, ordinary life in the country - of the woman became the Grandmother of Jesse, Great-Grandmother to King David, and ancestor of Jesus. Ruth is a 4-Chapter Book. Ruth is a perfect idyll in prose. An idyll is a short poem or prose piece depicting a rural or pastoral scene, usually in idealized terms. It can also be considered a novella. The traditional authorship is attributed to the prophet Samuel, but regardless of the author, the pastoral backdrop makes sense given the nature of labor as well as the Hebraic culture at the time this story is set to take place. What follows here is a few brief and cursory thoughts concerning this lovely little book. What insights can we glean if we look at Ruth in a literary context? 
Ruth's introduction begins with “In the days when the judges ruled…” which reminds us of the later stock phrase used after the 1300s, “Once upon a time…”. It also notes “there was a famine in the land.” The previous book, Judges, is set over a couple hundred years with several different judges; when the author states that this is firmly set in the days of the judges it not only roots the story in that period, but tells us from the beginning that a famine is the first cause of narrative trouble that is about to follow. What about the settings? We begin in Bethlehem in Judah, and the country of Moab: the characters are from Judah, and thus have a Jewish background, so we understand that the book will likely have a Jewish worldview or literary understanding. When the men marry Moabite women, a new element is introduced both culturally and religiously within the text – and the return to Bethlehem shows an acceptance of another culture and religion. The road to Judah where Orpah leaves and Ruth stays with Naomi (a crossroads for the three women after a sad end of their husbands) factors into this chapter as well.

Who are the characters? Elimelek is husband of Naomi, he moves his family out of Judah when a famine arrives. He passes away before his sons marry. Naomi is widow of Elimelek and mother of Mahlon and Kilion. Mahlon is the son of Naomi and Elimelek, Mahlon married Orpah. He died ten years after moving to Moab. Kilion is the son of Naomi and Elimelek, Kilion married Ruth. He died ten years after moving to Moab. Orpah was the wife of Mahlon, she was a Moabite. After Mahlon’s death, she leaves Naomi and Ruth afterward and goes back to her people. Ruth is the former wife of Kilion, and a Moabite, Ruth stays with Naomi after her husband’s death to Bethlehem. She also accepts the Jewish God as her god. The townspeople can also be classified this way – when Naomi returns, the people cause a stir. They seem excited at her return, but Naomi acts bitter toward them.
Finally, God - mentioned in passing as “God,” “the Lord,” “the Almighty,” God is the unseen character in the story. Naomi credits him for the bad she has endured (cf. the book of Job).

Now, what insights can we glean theologically from the text? Consider Ruth through the lens of identity: in antiquity your identity was often shaped and given through your town, your nationality and/or the name of your father. For example, in Homer’s epic The Odyssey, after Odysseus has injured the Cyclops he reveals his identity as "Odysseus son of Laertes, King of Ithaca." In antiquity, revealing your name meant that your opponent could have power over you and use your name against you. Ruth’s identity was once tied to her husband and her homeland – Ruth wife of Kilion of Moab – but she becomes by the end of the story someone else – Ruth wife of Boaz of Judah.  Ruth takes on this identity willing, including changing her god, her location and her being (Ruth 1:16-18). We also find several literary themes present, such as the journey or “there and back again” (cf. The Hobbit), kindness, love, compassion, familial bonds.

Another interesting insight is how this book turns on its head the common Hebraic view of the Moabites. Ruth was ridiculed and mocked for being a Moabite. Moab, from who the Moabites come from, was the son of Lot and his daughter. After Sodom was destroyed, Lot's daughters got their father drunk, and both slept with him. Moab was one of the children born to Lot's daughters (Genesis 19:30-36).This was a shameful thing in the eyes of Hebrews - so Ruth was looked down upon. Ruth took her life, which could have been a sad life, and turned it around, making Ruth one of the happiest stories in the entire Hebrew Bible.

It is also interesting to note that Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, setting of the Nativity. Ruth shows us just how "insignificant" this town seems compared to the rest of Israel and Judah. A prophecy, given by the prophet Micah merely a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, says "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans [or rulers] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2) This was a prophecy regarding the birthplace of one "from ancient times," revealed in the New Testament as Jesus. Bethlehem, a mere country-town in Ruth's day, became the birthplace of the Messiah, savior of the world, just short of a millennium later. Significantly, the book also ends by referring to the genealogy of King David, as Ruth is his ancestor, making Ruth the ancestor of Jesus. We are perhaps inclined to believe that one of the purposes in writing Ruth for the people to hear of humble ancestry for King David, furthered by his early years as a shepherd boy, but it also reminds us that sometimes those with the least have the most love to give.

Saturday, October 24

The Eucharist and Real Presence in Early Christianity

One of the common theological discussions between the different Christian denominations today concerns the Eucharist (from the Greek eucharista, meaning "to give thanks") - the celebration of the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, the sharing of bread and wine. It has also been called Communion or the Lord's Supper. The Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine (1971) between Anglicans and Catholics declared that it has also been called "holy mysteries, synaxis, mass, holy communion. The Eucharist has become the most universally accepted term." Over the past few decades, a number of churches have made theological leaps and bounds in coming together in agreement over different points concerning the Eucharist. There has been the aforementioned agreement between Anglicans and Catholics, as well as the Roman Catholic/Methodist Statement on the Eucharist (1976), a joint agreement between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Church (1978) and others. However, disagreement remains concerning the doctrine of the Real Presence. In the medieval period, St. Thomas Aquinas took a cue from the writings of Aristotle and used the word transubstantiation to describe the change in substance - he, along with many others, held that there is a point in which the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ, hence, it becomes the Real Presence. Although discussion continues on how this takes place (transubstantiation vs consubstantiation and so forth), it may be fruitful as we continue ecumenical efforts to return to our early sources and our roots and see how the early Christians celebrated the Eucharist.

Our earliest account of the Eucharist comes from 1st Corinthians 10:16-17, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf." A further reference is found in the following chapter, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." Each of these pieces are used in most churches services and Masses today. The primary section here makes up what is called the Institution Narrative of the Eucharistic Liturgy. Other references to the Eucharist are found in Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:31-34. Another early reference to the Eucharist is found in an early church manual, Didache 9 (AD 50-120).

But perhaps the most common passage that comes up in this discussion is John 6:51-59, "'I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.' Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.' He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum." This understanding of Jesus as the body and blood was tied very early on to the Eucharistic, so much so that the Romans began a rumor that the Christians were cannibalistic. Interestingly, the normal word for “eat” is foge in Greek, but here, John 6 uses troge - which means in English, to gnaw or munch on the flesh and drink his blood. That being said, how did the early Christians understand the Eucharist?

Justin Martyr (AD 155, within 50-60 years of the New Testament) is the earliest Christian apologist. In his work, Apologies, he is surprisingly frank, referring directly to the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He is also the earliest person to describe a full-length Mass, which is easily recognizable in Modern Mass today. Others seemingly believed in the Real Presence, such as St. Irenaeus of Lyons. After talking about the blood and body, he notes that "When the mingled cup and the man-made bread receive the Word of God, they become the Eucharist of the blood and body of Christ. From these things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported." Some heretical groups, such as the Ebionites, offered only water instead of wine and water mixed together (which was done because both blood and water flowed from Jesus in John 19). Hippolytus of Rome also gives us a glimpse of liturgical traditions that vanished long ago - for example, the custom of dispensing a chalice of milk and honey, along with the eucharistic elements, during the Easter liturgy. This symbolized the newly baptized Christian's entrance into the true promised land through the sacraments. The chalice of milk and honey is attested to by many other authors as well, including pseudo-Barnabas, Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome.

When I visited the catacombs of Rome, I noted carvings which evoke the sacraments through symbols. One of the inscriptions in the catacombs, the Inscription of Pectorius, reads "Receive the delicious nourishment of the Savior of the saints. Eat, drink, taking the food with both hands." The apocalyptic Vision of Paul from the early-mid AD 200s criticizes those who say that "the bread and cup of the eucharistic blessing are not the body and blood of Christ." Commenting on the aforementioned passage from John's gospel, St. Origen of Alexandria wrote, "What people are accustomed to drinking blood? In the Gospel, the Jews who follows the Lord heard and were offended, and they said: 'Who can eat flesh and drink blood?' But the Christian people, the faithful people, hear these things and embrace them, and follow him who says: 'Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you; for my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.'"

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the Eucharist was identified with the "daily bread" given in the Lord's Prayer in early Christian literature. It is also worth noting that in Genesis 14:14 we read, "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram..." The Church Fathers believed that this prefigured the Eucharist. They also noted that Bethlehem meant the "house of bread," and made the connection to Jesus as the living bread, having been born there. Tertullian of Carthage (AD 222) spoke of the Real Presence in graphically realistic terms: "The flesh feeds on the body of Christ so that the soul might grow fat on God" (On the Resurrection of the Body 8). St. Cyril of Jerusalem is explicit about the doctrine of the Real Presence and Transubstantiation. He says, "The bread and the wine of the Eucharist, before the invocation of the holy and adorable Trinity, were simple bread and wine,; but, after the invocation, the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine the blood of Christ" (Mystagogical Lecture 1.7).

He later writes, "The bread of the Eucharist, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, is no longer merely bread, but the body of Christ" (Mystagogical Lecture 3.3). Elsewhere he says, "Since he himself has declared of the bread, 'This is my body,' who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since he himself affirmed, 'This is my blood,' who shall ever hesitate, saying that it is not his blood? Once, in Cana of Galilee... he turned water into wine, resembling blood. Is it incredible, then, that he should have turned wine into blood?.... What seems to be bread is not bread, though it tastes like bread, but the body of Christ. And what seems to be wine is not wine, though it tastes like wine, but the blood of Christ" (Mystagogical Lecture 4).

Taken as a whole, the New Testament (Luke, John, 1st Corinthians, Acts, Hebrews and Revelation), the Didache (AD 50-120), St. Clement of Rome (AD 85-95), St. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 100-107), Pliny the Younger (AD 112), St. Justin Martyr (AD 155-165), St. Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 130-202), St. Hippolytus of Rome (AD 215), the Didascalia (AD 200-250), Sts. Abercius and Pectorius (AD 216), the Acts of John (AD 150), the Acts of Thomas (AD 150-225), the Acts of Thaddeus (AD 200s), the Vision of Paul (AD 250), the Acts of Peter (AD 150-200), the Gnostic Gospel of Judas (AD 160-180), pagan rumors of Christians drinking blood and eating flesh, St. Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), Origen of Alexandria (AD 185-254), St. Dionysius the Great (AD 200-265), Tertullian of Carthage (AD 190-222), St. Cyprian of Carthage (AD 200s), St. Cornelius of Rome (AD 200-250), St. Firmilian of Caesarea (AD 200-270), the Liturgy of Addai and Mari (AD 100-300), Eusebius of Caesarea (AD 280-310), the Anaphora of St. Mark (AD 100-200), the texts from the Council of Nicea (AD 325), St. Sarapion of Thmuis (AD 300-370), the Liturgy of St. James (AD 300s), St. Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 300-350), and many other early Christian writers, apocryphal texts and liturgical texts refer to the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

This was a widely held belief in the Christian Church until the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. Martin Luther espoused the notion of Consubstantiation, and later Reformers and Protestant movements continued to get farther away from the Eucharist of early Christians - Anabaptists, Baptists, renewal movements such as Pentecostals, Non-denominational churches, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons (who call it "The Sacrament"), and Jehovah's Witnesses seeing it as more of a sacramental symbol. In fact. in many of today's Protestant churches, the Eucharist (often called Communion) no longer has a literal meaning, but is seen as symbolic. Alcohol is often not used in these services either, but instead, crackers and juice or non-alcoholic wine is offered. In Roman Catholicism, the wine is pure grape wine. It cannot be watermelon, dandelion wine or others. In Europe, grape wine is part of culture - but not in the Orient, they have saké - and neither do the Africans. Mustum is usually used for priests who are alcoholics (mustum being the pure grape juice).

There was a movement during the late 1960s that said that Jesus used elements of his time - bread and wine was part of their meals, and therefore, we ought to use elements of our time. They felt that since the common food in Palestine was bread and wine and Jesus used those to show his presence, now it was chicken wings and beer - hot wings are for those have really bad sins. But within the Christian tradition, this type of relativism limps. While chicken wings and beer or pizza and Coke may be your common meal in college, for example, it will transition when you leave college to steak and eggs, or sushi, or what have you. If you want to have a prayer service, and as a sign of sharing life together you have pizza and sushi - that may be fine, but when it comes to the Universal experience, this is the capital T Tradition. Where did we really experience Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist traditionally? In the bread and the wine.

On the whole, The early church evidently felt that the Eucharist was very important, regardless of how the Real Presence has been viewed, or how the Eucharist has been celebrated. On a spiritual level, it is also important to remember that Christ's words "This is my body, which will be given up for you" is a motto that Christians ought to live by. Service is an integral part - if not the very foundation - of Christian mission, and when a Christian willingly gives themselves to another in service they are essentially repeating the words of Christ. In doing so, when we offer ourselves in service and in love to our friends, our family, and our neighbor we are telling them "This is my body, which will be given up for you." Christ is calling each of us to come to the point where we will be willing to say, "I offer myself in service - this is my being, which will be given up for you and for all. I will serve and love others to the best of my ability." Thus, the doctrine of the Real Presence may here be read as the need for Christians to make manifest the presence of God through our actions - a call to love and to serve as we continue to journey together. 

Comparative Piece on Milton, Blake and Genesis

Within the narrative found in Genesis is a section sometimes referred to as the "Fall of Man," wherein the "original sin" (as St. Augustine of Hippo termed it) transpired. This account has been interpreted and retold by many, many different individuals, including authors John Milton and William Blake. Milton and Blake have both helped to shaped popular belief concerning the text, and expounded upon and re-interpreted the Fall of Satan and the Fall of Man. These differing interpretations are entertaining and allow the reader to examine other views of these events found in the Bible. In what ways did they utilize the Genesis narrative? In what ways did they change or add to it?

Milton was an author and poet who lived in the 17th century - raised in the Church of England, although some of his theological views on the Trinity bordered on Arianism, and he later grew fond of the Quaker tradition. In 1667, Milton wrote the infamous poem, Paradise Lost. The poem is twelve books on the subject of man's original sin and after-effects of the Fall of Satan. Milton portrays Lucifer (Satan) in a bit of a sympathetic way, while portraying God as a sort of tyrant. In this way, Milton forms an image to which his audience may sympathize. Lucifer disobeyed, and was cast out. William Blake, another poet, paid tribute to Milton's Paradise Lost with an account of the Fall of Lucifer in the first part of his poem, "Milton". However, ironically, Blake's portrayal of Lucifer differed from Milton's. Blake pointed out that Milton's interpretation, and the way he seems to create sympathy for him, shows that "Milton was of the devil's party without knowing it."

Put simply, it is easier to determine the differences in interpretations and basis once groundwork can be laid from the original source. The Fall of Man narrative is found in Genesis 3, and it is traditionally taught that the Fall of Lucifer is found in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 - though scholarly dispute remains. Isaiah 14:12-15 says, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." (KJV) If this text refers to Satan, it can be gleaned that he fell from the same Heaven where he believed he could overthrow God and rule the universe himself, but he was cast out of Heaven instead, for his rebellion.

Now, the text of Ezekiel 28:11-17 conveys, "Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee." (TNIV)

If Ezekiel 28 refers to Satan, we can understand that he was once a "guardian cherub" - an angel with authority, with a position, with a rank. Within the Christian tradition, Lucifer was second in power only to God. He was once pure until, with free will given to him, he became proud, gathered many angels, rebelled against God, and was cast out of Heaven. He was henceforth called Satan (meaning "adversary") - so goes the tradition. It is from these two passages that Milton and Blake appear to derive their information, although Blake also drew from Milton.

Finally, Genesis 3 (from the King James Version) reads, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?' The woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' 'You will not certainly die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”

Verses 10-15 continue, "He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.' And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?' The man said, 'The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.' Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.' So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Verses 16-24 conclude, "To the woman He said, 'I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (NIV)

Bearing in mind the Genesis narrative as well as the texts from Isaiah and Ezekiel, Milton begins his poem by starting off directly after the events of Satan's rebellion, and the angels have been cast out into Hell. After devising a plan to “get back” at Heaven, Satan leaves to journey to the edge of the Universe to his final destination: the newly crafted Earth. Satan enters the Garden of Eden but is cast out by angels guarding Adam and Eve, so in the night Satan enters into the body of a sleeping serpent. He tempts Eve, who disobeys God, eating of the fruit, and in turn, Adam also eats, fearing that she would die and he would be left alone. Adam and Eve are overcome by lust and engage in intercourse. Afterwards they are repentant, and Michael the archangel proceeds to show Adam the future: Noah and the Flood, Moses, finally revealing God’s plan of salvation through the Son of God. Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, but not without knowledge of God’s plan of saving all of mankind. Satan has fulfilled his original purpose, and returns to his former state. From early in the Christian tradition, Genesis 3:15 -  “… I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” - most believed that the “he” who is referenced is Jesus, and the serpent was Satan (identified with the serpent in the Apocalypse of John 12). Milton may have used this as a partial influence to the vision shown to Adam.

Blake's portrayal of Satan and the Fall of Man certainly pays tribute to Milton's "Paradise Lost," but in some aspects is radically different. Blake wrote a poem, "Milton", which is a re-imagining of Milton’s work. For example, the Fall of Lucifer and the Fall of Man are portrayed in a different way. Essentially, Blake changes most of these events to fit his poetic narrative. Another of Blake’s works, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” is a poem in which he postulates that the material world and physical desires are part of the divine order, thus, the marriage of heaven and hell. In Blake's The Voice of The Devil (Plate 4), Satan says, "All Bibles or sacred codes, have been the causes of the following Errors. 1. That Man has two real existing principles Vis: a Body & a Soul. 2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul. 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies. But the following Contraries to these are True. 1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. 2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. 3. Energy is Eternal Delight."

Blake notes in Plate 6 of the "Marriage of Heaven and Hell", "The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devils party without knowing it." Blake's perceptive criticism of Paradise Lost clearly illustrates his continuing passion which resulted in his poem, "Milton", one of the most difficult poems of the time, as well as several illustrations of certain occurrences in Paradise Lost. Milton arguably influenced and inspired Blake more than any other author. It is because of this that, though Blake was a prolific writer and inspired poet, he did not derive his material regarding the Fall of Satan from the Genesis narrative directly, but from Milton, who had already made changes to the account.

Blake, in the First Book of Urzien and The Book of Los, describes how the "eternal prophet" Los (who represents creativity) binds Urzien. Urzien is the deity of law and reason. In these works we also find Los' female companion (Enitharmon) and the birth of her children. Unlike Genesis and Paradise Lost, Blake identifies Satan (Lucifer) as Enitharmon's last child. Pre-fall, Satan is called the "Prince of the Starry Wheels." At first, Blake's Satan lacks the pride that caused him to fall, yet he does refuse to "form," instead trying to remain a part of the infinite rather than be a part of the material realm. The Book of Los describes Los' fall, originally having been in a divine state and was identified as Urthona. Milton makes reference to this, but does not expound. Satan's refusal is in vain, as he was created as a material being. Satan is under the impression that there is nothing beyond the material world and the physical senses. Paul Brown conveys, "Los refuses to allow Satan to reply, and denies him eternal life because his 'Work is Eternal Death.' This separation of Satan from the infinite recalls the way Urizen became isolated from eternity in The First Book of Urizen, and Blake draws a closer association between the two figures later in Milton” (Brown).

Los' son, Palamabron, "returnd with labour wearied every evening," and Satan, feeling pity for him, sought to perform his work for him. Los granted Satan one day to take up this work, but Palamabron does not trust him. Satan conveys a false version of events to Los, blaming Palamabron for the issues throughout the day. Los accepts the blame, and Satan kills Thulloh, one of Enitharmon’s children. An assembly is called, and it is determined that Satan is to be judged. Lethua, a female, declares to the assembly that it was her jealousy of Elynittria (Palamabron's lover) that led to her entering Satan's mind and deluding it. Judgment falls upon Rintrah, who inspired Satan’s rage and is now merged with Satan. Satan proclaims himself to be God, creates the seven deadly sins, and begins his goal to “pervert the Divine voice in its entrance to the earth.” Thus falls Satan. Blake presents his view that religion has misinterpreted the voice of God, and that it is actually Satan.

Milton and Blake have many similarities within their views of Satan and the Fall. Both poets cast Satan as the central figure. Blake and Milton refer to God (in Blake’s case, Los) and the Son of God (in Blake’s case, Palamabron). It is evident from a clear reading from each of the texts that Milton drew heavily from sources such as Genesis 3, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, while Blake certainly drew from these sources – but more so from Milton. There are also several differences between Milton and Blake's interpretation. Milton, as aforementioned, drew heavily from the Scriptural corpus, whereas Blake - not as much. In fact, of note, Blake’s version of the Fall of Lucifer contains no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, nor the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. It excluded several major biblical doctrines that involved both the Fall of Satan and the Fall of Man. Milton did not illustrate Satan as having been influenced by a woman nor did he seek to take on the work of the Son of God.

In comparison between Milton, Blake, and the Bible, there are several points to be made. One such similarity is Milton’s usage of the Fall of Lucifer, Satan entering Eden and tempting Eve who in turn tempted Adam, which led to the Fall of Man. Blake includes a god and the son of god, but not necessarily Jesus. Both Milton and Blake place Satan as one of the head creations, with Satan seeking higher power than he has. This desire ultimately leads to his downfall. However, there are various differences between the Biblical texts and the views of Blake and Milton. For example, Milton includes angels in the Garden of Eden. Raphael warns Adam and Eve of Satan, yet in Genesis, there is no such warning. The only canonical book that Raphael appears in is Tobit. Also, in Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve after succumbing to sin are overcome by lust and engage in sexual intercourse, the event of which is not found in Genesis.  Further, as aforementioned, Milton shows Adam an overview of the future, part of this involving the Flood and the redemption of Man via the death and resurrection of the Son of God. In the Genesis narrative, Michael did not show Adam the future.

Blake differs highly from the biblical texts. As noted, Blake excludes the Fall of Man, particularly Adam and Eve. Without the inclusion of the Fall of Man, Blake avoids the corruption and sin of mankind altogether. He also portrays Satan as having fallen not due to pride, but due to pity. In Blake’s version, Satan pities Palamabron, which ultimately leads to his downfall. Both Blake and Milton portray Satan in such a way that while in Heaven, he does not realize his deceptiveness. This is contrary to the biblical texts, as Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 clearly indicate that Satan was well-aware of his deceptive nature. On another note, Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, also derived much of his material from Milton's Paradise Lost. In his trilogy, the girl Lystra represents Eve, Will represents Adam, and Mary Malone represents the serpent. According to Jane Craske, in her work In Conversation with… Philip Pullman, “Many reviewers have noted that one of the things Pullman does is rewrite Milton’s Paradise Lost. In doing that, he [re-imagines]… the early chapters of Genesis, particularly the story of ‘The Fall’” (69).

Christians of various denominations have been up in arms about Pullman's trilogy since its inception, but regardless, it continues to have a large impact upon society, much like Milton and Blake's interpretation of "The Fall." Milton derived his interpretation from the Bible, and both Blake and Pullman derived their material from Milton. Notably, the title of Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, is actually a phrase found in Paradise Lost, referring to God’s creation. Needless to say, there are a myriad of interpretations of the Genesis narrative. In summation, we have determined that there are a number of similarities - as well as differences - between the interpretations of Blake and Milton found in their poetic works. Regardless of how radically different interpretations may deviate from the original, the works of both Milton and Blake will continue to fascinate and entertain for generations to come.

Friday, October 23

Care for Creation: Aldo Leopold and the Land Ethic

The film Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for our Time helpfully lays out the life and times of Aldo Leopold, a forester, scientist, teacher and observer who is responsible for the notion of the “land ethic.” Born in 1887 in Burlington, Iowa, his parents encouraged him to use his youthful imagination, so Leopold borrowed his mother’s binoculars to watch the birds, and his father Carl was a proto-conservationist. He taught Leopold that what you do in the outdoors reflect your personal ethics. This ethic grew into what we now call the “land ethic.” As the conservation movement grew to maturity, he came of age, and got involved - but at that point in history, Forestry was the only related field you could enter into. At the very start of his career, he shot a wolf, and he saw a “fierce, green fire” in its eyes. He came out of the experience not fully understanding this moment for another 35 years. The passing of the wolf later came to symbolize the deep history of the mountain and the fullness of its community of life. The encounter with the wolf was an early turning point and he followed this until it led him to his land ethic.

Leopold began to see the connection between his job and the health of the land. This shift in perspective would make all the difference, as he realized that conservation is also about our own communities and cultures. He developed ideas of ecological restoration - helping to rebuild forests, prairies and such that were destroyed when the Europeans came. Leopold and colleagues worked to heal the land in Coon Valley,Wisconsin. It was here that the conservation movement began. Farmers joined, and together, they created the first watershed project in the nation. Leopold started on the public land but came to realize the importance of private land. In fact, most of the productive land is on private lands. Out of this came the idea that to protect the environment, we would have to do it with the private land owner in order to conserve the public interest. Land to Leopold was more than just soil - it included water, wildlife and humans. It was a community of relational systems.

What does one make of this documentary film? As Leopold once said, we abuse land because we regard it as a commodity to us - but we need to see it as a community. He sought to understand the interrelationships of the natural system. More to the point, you cannot solve any conservation problem if you do not address human relationships and the relationship of people to the land. The science of ecology helped him to bring us back to the notion of community and why community is important. But in order for the community to be concerned for the environment, it must begin with the individual. Thus the film convictingly asks: does one need a lot of material goods to be happy? In other words, is a higher standard of living worth the environmental cost? Further, it asks me, what can I do in my own life to be more eco-friendly and environmentally conscious?

Leopol's seminal work (1949)
The Franciscan ethic would say that we can find absolute happiness with the least amount of things. St. Francis realized this, and what he lacked in possessions he made up for in love. Matthew’s gospel says, “blessed are the poor in spirit,” and Luke’s says, “blessed are the poor.” Francis would fit both of these beatitudes. The care for creation espoused in the Catholic Social Teaching on the environment calls us to protect creation and tend to it, but one way of doing this is living simply and mindfully. In living simply, one can grow into a greater appreciation of the environment around us and be more attentive to the forests, the soil, the wetlands, the rivers, the creatures, and the many other pieces that make up the mosaic of creation. Now, most people live on less than $2 a day. Some of these individuals voluntarily live like this in order to be in solidarity with others, while yet others live in involuntary poverty.

One must also think on how living simply and caring for creation can be done. What are some good real-life examples of how to get involved in this? It begins with awareness, so that the more we become aware of the world around us, its intricacies and complexities, we can also come to have a better understanding of how we fit in and our responsibility to the environment. One step that I intend on taking is to read A Sand County Almanac, Leopold’s seminal work that has essentially become the Bible of the conservationist movement. As many individuals testified in the documentary film, this book helped them to think in new ways and live in new ways. One of the major ways in which we can become more eco-friendly is to recycle. You may recycle batteries in a battery bin, recycle old school papers that otherwise would be thrown into the garbage, recycle plastic bags and paper bags, and by taking steps such as this, we can slowly but steadily help to decrease the amount of pollution and landfill.

Another way we can help is by composting the food we would normally throw in the trash. We often speak of how Americans eat a lot of food, but we rarely talk about how much food we don’t eat. In the United States, we throw out about 40% of our food every year, and the amount of global food waste every year is more than enough to feed the nearly 1 billion hungry people in the world.1 This food usually ends up in landfills, which turns into methane gas. As such, composting food would take up less space in the landfills, and can often be food as fertilizer, because you are giving back to the earth. Yet another point about trash - if I started keeping a weekly log of every item of food I throw into the garbage, I can begin to notice the patterns, and by picking up on these patterns can begin to not only adjust my shopping habits, but use this information to figure out better ways to reuse or cut down on these products.

A few other things some may begin implementing in their lives is recycling old cell phones - which usually gone into landfills. Unfortunately, this introduces toxins into our atmosphere, which will contribute to global warming. However, there exist a good number of programs that allow you to recycle your cell phones, and some of these programs actually help out good causes simply by your donation.2 Two final ways that you could contribute is by recycling unwanted wire hangers and also not using the coffee stirrer. Since many wire hangers are made of steel, recycling programs do not generally accept them. As such, many dry cleaners would be worth looking into - accept these to reuse or recycle on their own.3 As for coffee stirrers, every year Americans “throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers. But skipping the stirrer doesn't mean drinking your coffee black. Simply put your sugar and cream in first, and then pour in the coffee, and it should be well mixed.”4

By being mindful and aware of how we influence the environment and how the environment influences us, we can continue to develop a land ethic. This land ethic can create a mentality of care-taking, of preservation and conservation. This mindfulness - which also may remind us of Buddhist practices of mindfulness and their concern for all beings - is what we need. This increasingly globalized world also continues to become, unfortunately, an increasingly apathetic and individualistic world. In order to break out of this, we need to find ways to contribute to the care of creation, such as those suggested: recycling various items, composting, and so forth. Leopold’s life work was the land ethic. Today, as the film points out, more than one million organizations are working on some aspect of conservation and restoration of the environment. The film concludes by saying that this is “a veritable green fire - Aldo Leopold’s living legacy. He said that the oldest task in human history is to live on a piece of land that is unspoiled. A land ethic is not meant to be doctrine, but a guiding light to find the way forward.” I pray that I can also find the green fire, and join in the grand community of life around me.

[1] 40 Unexpected Ways You Can Help the Environment Right Now
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Gollum/Sméagol: Psychology of a Corrupted Stoor Hobbit

The creature Gollum is featured in several films across two trilogies based on Professor J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series of books, as well is in several of his Unfinished Tales (such as "The Hunt for Gollum"). The character Gollum is famous for his obsession with “The One Ring” created by the Dark Lord Sauron several thousand years prior to Gollum’s birth, and his second personality developed as a result. In order to truly understand Gollum as a character and determine what psychological disorders he can be diagnosed with, it is necessary to provide a bit of in-universe background and story from the Middle Earth saga. According to the prologue from the first Lord of the Rings film, after several rings of power were given to various races to govern Middle Earth, “another ring was made… the Dark Lord Sauron forged in secret a master ring to control all others. And into this ring, he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One ring to rule them all.” The prologue portrays the defeat of Sauron by the cutting of the ring from his finger, destroying his body but not his spirit. This ring passes into the hands of men – a king, who is corrupted by the One Ring, and is ambushed by servants of Sauron. While trying to escape, he goes into a river where he is shot by an arrow. The ring then settles on the bottom of the river for several centuries, until (as the film prologue relays) “when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer… The ring passed to the creature Gollum, who took it deep into the tunnels of the Misty Mountains. And there, it consumed him… The ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years it poisoned his mind. And in the gloom of Gollum’s cave, it waited.”

The prologue to the first Lord of the Rings film – which enables the reader to better understand Gollum and his disorders – continues to convey that Sauron’s presence came back into the world and grew in power, and the ring sensed this and “abandoned Gollum. But something happened then the ring did not intend. It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable. A hobbit – Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.” In-story, Bilbo finds this One Ring by chance during the events of The Hobbit, and once Gollum realizes that it has been taken, vows to always hate “Bagginses.” Sixty years later, the creature leaves his mountain cave and ventures into the world where he is captured by Sauron and tortured for information on the ring. After being released, he hunts down Frodo Baggins (Bilbo’s nephew) and Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s companion. In the The Two Towers, Gollum finally finds Frodo and Sam and is captured and made part of their company, and forced to show them the way to Sauron’s kingdom where they intend to destroy the ring. They go through many obstacles and trials but eventually by The Return of the King, all three characters end up at their destination, where Gollum accidentally falls off the ledge of a volcano with ring in hand – his desire to have it back finally fulfilled, he then dies as he and the ring fall into the lava. Interestingly, even while Gollum dies quickly, he keeps his eyes on the ring in his hand demonstrating his disconnect from reality and complete obsession with the ring – possibly suggesting OCD.

Fictional history-wise, Gollum (named due to the horrid sound made by his throat after many years of corruption) was born as the Stoor Hobbit named Sméagol. He was raised near rivers and thus learned to swim and fish at a young age – useful for his later years of solitude in the caves. It has long been thought that Sméagol (as written by Tolkien) has a psychological disorder. In 2004, BMJ did a psychological study on Gollum in which 30 randomly selected medical students were asked if they thought he had a mental disorder and if so, what he had. According to the researchers, “Sméagol… is a single, 587 year old, hobbit-like male of no fixed abode. He has presented… antisocial behaviour, increasing aggression, and preoccupation with the ‘one ring.’” Gollum as portrayed in the books and films (specifically The Two Towers) is shown to have two distinct personalities created by his isolation in the caves and his corruption by the ring. The researchers note that Gollum “was spiteful to others and had only one friend, Deagol, whom he later murdered after stealing the ring from him [as Deagol found the ring first]. For Sméagol this was an important life event; the ring enabled him to [become invisible] and listen secretly to conversations. His family and community, appalled by his actions and believing he was a thief and murderer, banished him to a solitary life in the misty mountains.”

Researchers continue, “He lived for many years with the ring as his only friend and began to detest the outside world—loathing the sun, moon, and wind… [eating] only live animals or raw fish. Eventually Sméagol created Gollum, the outsider, who had a more violent personality. Since [the ring was taken by Bilbo] Gollum has had obsessional thoughts and has dedicated his life to reacquiring it, sometimes with violence.” Indeed, although Gollum does not show signs of having a depressive disorder he does show anxiety and anger toward himself as well as his obsession with having reacquiring the One Ring. This suggests that Gollum suffers from a disconnect with reality, particularly seen through his death. As aforementioned, as he dies in the volcano he shows no concern for his physical well being, but concern only for his obsession – the ring. The researchers at BMJ noted that “Objectively, he is emotionally labile and becomes jittery and nervous when discussing the ring. His speech is abnormal and he repeats phrases and noises—for example, ‘Yes, yes, yes’ and ‘Gollum, Gollum,’” and usually says things such as “My precious, my love.”

Also, it is worth noting that Gollum speaks in neologisms (a word coined by an often “psychotic” individual), using words such as “triksy,” “pocketses,” “hobbitses,” and so forth. He also speaks in the plural more often than not – “We wants it, it’s ours” yet will then say phrases such as “it came to me, my own” in the singular. This suggests that more than one personality exists in this individual. Research shows that Gollum “is preoccupied with, and deeply desires, the ring. He has obsessive thoughts but no compulsions, though he would do anything for the ring. He is hostile towards Frodo, the current owner of the ring. He has paranoid ideation about Sauron (‘the eye is always watching’) and about Samwise Gamgee (‘the fat hobbit... he knows’). Gollum has difficulty controlling his thoughts and actions, exacerbated by prolonged contact with the ring.” Other characters – Isildur, Bilbo, Gandalf and Frodo all have similar symptoms when the ring is near or touched, so the difficulty in controlling thoughts and actions can be attributed to the One Ring. Concerning his personality, research notes that “There are features of dissociation. Sméagol has separated his personality and is now Gollum as well. He shows no evidence of any cognitive impairment. He has poor insight into his condition but he is aware of the Gollum-Sméagol dissociation.”

With all of this in mind, although there is a large amount of background information on Gollum cut for the sake of relevancy and space, it is pertinent to determine his diagnosis. The BMJ continues, “Several [different] diagnoses need to be considered, and we should exclude organic causes for his symptoms [due to the magic nature of the ring]… Gollum's diet is extremely limited, consisting only of raw fish. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause irritability, delusions, and paranoia. His reduced appetite and loss of hair and weight may be associated with iron deficiency anemia.” His time in the caves is also why his eyes are large and bulbous, since the five centuries of little light strained his eyesight, and his “dislike of sunlight may be due to the photosensitivity of porphyria. Attacks may be induced by starvation and accompanied by paranoid psychosis.” Now, in the study that was done, of the 30 medical students who were interviewed, “Schizophrenia was the most common diagnosis (25 students), followed by multiple personality disorder (three). On initial consideration schizophrenia seems a reasonable diagnosis. However, in the context of the culture at the time it is unlikely. Delusions are false, unshakable beliefs, not in keeping with the patient's culture. In Middle Earth, the power of the ring is a reality. The passivity phenomena Gollum experiences are caused by the ring, and these symptoms occur in all ring bearers. Gollum does not fulfil the ICD-10 criteria for the diagnosis of schizophrenia.”

However, it has often been noted that the two distinct personalities that come out – “Gollum and Sméagol, raises the possibility of multiple personality disorder. In this diagnosis one personality is suppressed by the other and the two personalities are always unaware of each other's existence. In this case, Gollum and Sméagol occur together, have conversations simultaneously, and are aware of each other's existence” (BMJ). It is not always the case with those who have this disorder that the personalities are unaware of each other – they may be informed by another individual, and in Gollum’s case this is possible though unlikely. His frequent usage of “we” and “our,” however, lends further credence to the notion that he has multiple personality disorder. The students who were surveyed said that “He fulfills seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder (ICD F60.1), and, if we must label Gollum's problems, we believe that this is the most likely diagnosis.” However, though these individuals hold this to be true, it is also likely the case that Gollum suffers from some form of multiple personality disorder, as the symptoms will show.

While he can have conversations with himself as evidenced by three of the four films he is in, there are occasions where his stress level becomes too much and the Gollum personality takes over. Also, there is a scene in The Two Towers when Sam and Frodo are sleeping and Gollum is talking to Sméagol. By the end of this conversation, Sméagol successfully (for part of the movie) suppresses or fights off the Gollum personality. The host identity (Sméagol) is suppressed for the majority of the 500 years that he was in the cave while the alter identity (Gollum) took over, but it was briefly shown to come out in his interaction with Bilbo, though he was not named nor recognized himself as a distinct individual in that conversation. It was not until Frodo called Gollum by his birth name that he remembered who he was, and the Sméagol personality become more self-aware and tried to take control.

If we utilize the definition of multiple personality disorder (known now as dissociative identity disorder or DID) from the Abnormal Psychology textbook, “According to DSM-IV-TR, dissociative identity disorder… is a dramatic dissociative disorder in which a patient manifests two or more distinct identities that alternate in some way in taking control of behavior. There is also an inability to recall important personal information that cannot be explained by ordinary forgetting.” Gollum fulfills the DSM-IV criteria. Also, “Additional symptoms of DID include depression, self-mutilation, frequent suicidal ideation and attempts, erratic behavior, headaches, hallucinations, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and other amnesic and fugue symptoms.” Although he does not fulfill all of the additional symptoms, the primary symptoms necessary to be diagnosed with DID are present.

Finally, it is worth noting that although Gollum is a fictional character created by Professor Tolkien, he has indeed become a cultural icon and is also a wonderful test study for psychology students. Although an exact diagnosis may be impossible due to the usage of magic in the tale, it is very likely that Gollum/Sméagol has a combination of Schizophrenia, Dissociative Identity Disorder and possibly a small degree of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This is supported by the various things seen in his personality, his history, his life and death, and the manner in which his life was prolonged as well as the split personalities, disconnect from reality and obsession with the One Ring. Ironically, the thing he desired most was finally his, and it was by his hand that both he and it came to an end.

Associated Newspapers Ltd. Gollum diagnosed with mental illness. (2004, Dec. 17). Mail Online.

Butcher, J., Mineka, S., & Hooley, J. (2013). Abnormal psychology. (15 ed., pp. 285-287). Boston: Pearson Education.

Cunningham, C., Jackson, P., Walsh, F. (Producers) & Jackson, P. (Director). (2013). The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [DVD]. United States: New Line Home Entertainment.

Gollum. (2013, March 11). Retrieved from

Jackson, P., Walsh, F. (Producers) & Jackson, P. (Director). (2002). The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [DVD]. United States: New Line Home Entertainment.

Jackson, P., Walsh, F. (Producers) & Jackson, P. (Director). (2003). The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [DVD]. United States: New Line Home Entertainment.

Jackson, P., Walsh, F. (Producers) & Jackson, P. (Director). (2004). The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [DVD]. United States: New Line Home Entertainment.

Nadia Bashir. BMJ. A precious case from middle earth. 2004 December 18; 329(7480): 1435–1436. Retrieved from