From the July AD 2009
Our Lady of the Rosary
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The Great Depression
[ Q&A ARCHIVES ]
What is “theosis”? Do Catholics accept it? Is
there any connection to “gnosis”?
Answer: Theosis is a Greek word (Θέωσις), which is somewhat
ambiguously translated as “divinization,” or “deification.”
For the moment, let us say that the Catholic understanding of theosis is
the process of becoming God-like. The ambiguity in translation has also
prompted some crackpot theories about men or mankind becoming God or gods—we
will address these briefly after explaining the Catholic understanding.
Probably because of this ambiguity, the Greek term is generally not found in
traditional Western Catholic literature.
Theosis Is ●
We know that in the beginning God decided to “make man to
[His] image and likeness.... And God created man to His own image: to the image
of God He created him: male and female He created them” (Genesis 1: 26-17).
Men and women were intended to live in close proximity to God, becoming more and
more like Him in every way, radically good and holy. But man fell from
grace through original sin, thereby losing the favor of God.
But God did not completely cast off the children of Adam
and Eve. In the familiar first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, read at
the end of most Masses, we hear (John 1: 11-13):
He [Jesus Christ] came unto
His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, He gave
the power of becoming sons of God; to those who believe in His name: who
were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man,
but of God. [Emphasis supplied]
Saint Paul expressed the same idea in Galatians 4:
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God
sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: 5 That he might redeem them
who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because you are sons, God
hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. 7
Therefore now he is not a servant, but a son. And if a son, an heir also
through God. [Emphasis supplied]
and much the same in Romans 8:
For if you
live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the
deeds of the flesh, you shall live. For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God,
they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage
again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby
we cry: Abba (Father). For the
Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of
God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with
Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with
him.... And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of
the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the
adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.
We know that an adopted son often grows to resemble his
adoptive father in many ways, particularly if the relationship is a loving one.
The son might adopt the speech habits, the philosophy, the mannerisms, and other
characteristics of the father. Sometimes the resemblance comes about
accidentally, sometimes it is studied and practiced.. But, no matter how
much a son may resemble his father, the resemblance pales in comparison with the
resemblance of God’s adopted children to Him, for His influence is supernatural.
Those who cooperate with God’s graces are radically transformed to resemble
Him in holiness.
In the Roman Mass, as the priest blesses the water to
mingle with the wine, we learn that
God hast established the
nature of man in wondrous dignity, and even more wondrously hast renewed it ...
through the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of His
divinity, who has deigned to become partaker of our humanity, Jesus Christ,
Thy Son, our Lord.... [Emphasis supplied]
Not only are we being transformed by supernatural grace,
but our very human nature has been taken by God Himself in order to facilitate
our joining with Him. The Preface for the Ascension says the same in
slightly bolder words:
our Lord ... was lifted up into heaven, so that He might make us partakers of
His Godhead And therefore with angels and archangels....
Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us in his Compendium of
Theology (§1-2) that:
the knowledge imparted by faith turns about these two points, the divinity of
the Trinity and the humanity of Christ. This should cause us no surprise: the
humanity of Christ is the way by which we come to the divinity.
and in the Summa Theologica (I-II Q.112 a.1)that:
can act beyond its species, since the cause must always be more powerful than
its effect. Now the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature,
since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which
exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should
cause grace. For it is as necessary that God alone should deify, bestowing a
partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness, as it is
impossible that anything save fire should enkindle. [Emphasis
In the Office for Corpus Christi we again hear from Saint
Among the immeasurable
benefits, which the goodness of God has bestowed on the Christian people, is a
dignity beyond all price. For what nation is there so great, who has God
so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is unto us? The only-begotten Son
of God was pleased to make us partakers of his divine nature ; that is, he took
our nature upon him, being himself made man that he might, as it were, make men
into gods. And this body, which he took from us, he gave wholly unto our
salvation. For, on the Altar of the Cross, he offered up his body to God
the Father, as a sacrifice for our reconciliation, and thereon he shed his own
blood for our redemption ; that is, his blood is the price whereby he redeems us
from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby he cleans us from all
sin. And for a noble and abiding Memorial of this his so great work of
goodness, he hath left unto his faithful ones the same his very Body for Meat,
and the same his very Blood for Drink, with which we are fed under the forms of
Bread and Wine. [Emphasis added]
does Theosis Come About? ●
The Redemption of mankind was brought about through the
Incarnation of our Lord, taking true human flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary by
the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost—and then by the Sacrificial death of our
Lord on the Cross. As God and man, our Lord was able to offer Himself as
an infinite gift to the Father on behalf of mankind who had offended Him but had
nothing of substance to offer in apology.
Individual men and women are incorporated into the Mystical
Body of Christ, the Church, when they receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
Baptism and the other Sacraments confer Sanctifying Grace, making the soul
radically holy, and a fit dwelling place for the Holy Ghost. Assisting at
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—the re‑presentation of the Sacrifice of
the Cross across time and place—and the reception of the Body and Blood of
Christ in Holy Communion are of particular importance, as they join the faithful
to our Lord in His act of our Redemption.
But more is expected of Christians than simply remaining in
the state of grace. We are expected to practice the spiritual and corporal
works of mercy, looking out for the needs or our neighbors as though they were
Christ. “You did these things for Me when you did them for the least of
My brethren” (cf. Matthew 25:31-46) We learn to love God by
learning to love Him in those around us—even the most difficult and seemingly
unlovable also participate in the divine nature through Jesus Christ.
Theologians generally distinguish three stages in the
spiritual life, through which a soul can draw closer to God in Christ-like
perfection. We speak of the Purgative Way, the Illuminative Way, and the
Unitive Way. Ss. Thomas Aquinas, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Ávila
each describe it a little differently, but the underlying structure of a path to
perfection and unity with God is found in all of them, as it is in other great
writers about the spiritual life.
The Purgative Way is characterized by meditation or discursive prayer:
reflection on the life of Christ and its significance for ourselves, reflection
on the last four things (death, judgment, heaven, hell), to stir the will to
acts of faith, hope, and charity. Saint Thomas says: “The principal
effort ... is to quit sin and resist concupiscences which tend to destroy
charity ... charity is to be nourished and fostered lest it be destroyed” (ST
II-II, xxiv, 9).
The Illuminative Way is characterized by acquired contemplation. Affective
Prayer sometimes called the Prayer of Simplicity, replaces reflection. Acts of
faith, hope, and charity are made spontaneously, with little or no need for
reflection. Saint Thomas says: “Man principally aims at progressing in
good, and this endeavor belongs to proficients, who chiefly strive to strengthen
charity by increasing it” (ST II-II, xxiv, 9).
The Unitive Way is characterized by infused or passive contemplation. One
responds to the love of God, finding himself united to Him. Saint Thomas
says: “Principal attention to union with God and enjoyment of God ... desire
to be dissolved and be with Christ” (ST II-II, xxiv, 8).
Saint John of the Cross, in The Dark Night of the Soul,
discusses the often difficult transitions which must be made between the stages
of the spiritual life. Between purgation and illumination there is
a“dark night of the senses”: a transition from meditation to contemplation.
Inability to think or make acts of prayer. Distaste for spiritual “systems.”
Temptations against chastity and faith. Soul must seek God in darkness, without
even interior senses; by faith” (Cf. Donald Attwater, A Catholic Dictionary,
s.v. “Dark Night of the Senses”). Between illumination and unity there
is a “dark night of the soul”: purgative contemplation, apparent
abandonment by God The divine light is so strong it blinds the soul to the
presence of God. Preparation for "Spiritual marriage." Cf.
ibid., s.v. “Dark Night of the Soul”).
Saint Teresa of Ávila writes of seven stages in her Interior
Castle, but it is not difficult to line them up with the descriptions by
Saints Thomas and John of the Cross.
For the Catholic this thing called “theosis” is
a constant growth toward God, making greater and greater use of His graces, so
the one may enjoy unity with Him here in preparation for unity with Him in the
● What Theosis
Is Not ●
Mormonism is a
relatively secret religion, reserving some of its teachings for its members
only. But many claim that the Mormon doctrine of “Eternal Progression”
teaches that some people are capable of such progress as to become the God of
their own world. This is clearly not the Christian notion of theosis.
Catholic theologians question: “should the real man, precisely because he is
wholly and properly such, be God, and God be the real man? Ought it to be
possible for the most radical humanism and faith in the God who reveals himself
to meet and even merge here?” This is the Arian heresy if it means that
Jesus Christ was God’s most favored creature—but only a creature whom God
raised to divine or semi-divine status. Worse, it sounds like a belief
that the optimal man is, or becomes, God. This too is clearly not
the Christian understanding of theosis.
Finally there is
the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist popular with the
Modernists in the 60s. Teilhard was associated with the “Peking Man”
fraud—a find of what paleontologists claimed to be the “missing link”
between ape and man—superb evidence that managed to completely disappear!
His passion for evolution led to the notion that all of mankind was evolving to
the “Omega-point,” a complexity that he identified as God. Once again
this is not the Christian idea of theosis.
Gnosis Is ●
The Greek word “gnosis”
(γνώσις) is usually translated as “knowledge,
but “gnosticism” refers to a sort of “secret knowledge” that is presumed
to give the possessor some advantage over those lacking it. The
“enlightened” claim to be able to change reality with this knowledge,
remaking it along the lines they happen to favor. There have been gnostic
sects since ancient times. They are still with us in Marxism and Modernism
which claim to refashion the world with dialectic materialism and existentialist
dialogue respectively. Changing reality as it is known in the mind of God
is certainly not Christianity.
Great Depression (X)
Question: Were there moral aspects to the Great Depression? A lot of people suffered for well over a decade.
Shouldn’t someone be held responsible? Can we prevent such a thing from
D. Roosevelt ●
Of all the names
associated with the Great Depression none is more familiar than that of Franklin
Delano Roosevelt or FDR as he is often identified. Roosevelt was born to
wealthy Hudson Valley, New York parents in 1882. Educated at Groton;
Harvard where he was president of the student newspaper and where he met his
future wife, Eleanor, niece of Theodore Roosevelt; and a brief stint at the
Columbia University school of law. He passed the New York Bar exam in 1908
and began to practice corporate law. In 1911 he was initiated into
Freemasonry. He served in the State Senate from 1910 until 1913 when he
was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Wilson.
In 1920 he ran and
lost the Vice Presidency, and in 1921 was struck with paralysis from the
waist down, presumed to be polio. He learned to walk short distances with
a cane and leg braces but spent most of his time in a wheel chair.
Roosevelt campaigned for Al Smith in his bid for Governor of New York in 1922,
and in his presidential campaign in 1928, when it was decided that Roosevelt
should replace Smith as Governor.
In 1932 after the
Depression began during the Hoover administration, Roosevelt ran against him,
actually campaigning against the New Deal-like policies Hoover had
mistakenly employed in attempting to salvage the economy. Roosevelt
denounced Hoover’s high taxes and budget deficits, the size of his federal
bureaucracy, and its huge public expenditures. Roosevelt demanded sound
money. In practice Roosevelt would do virtually the opposite of what his
campaign promised, but he was elected with nearly sixty percent of the popular
vote, taking forty-two out of forty-eight States. The economy remained in
a depressed state for all of his time in office, with the unemployment rate
varying from about thirteen percent to highs around twenty-three percent.
Only as the United States mobilized to enter World War II did the
unemployment rate fall below these levels.
enjoyed great popularity, supporting high wage rates for those remaining
employed, and employing many workers in government projects. Some of these
projects added bridges, dams, roads, and power plants to the nation’s
infrastructure (some competed directly with private enterprise, further reducing
the stock of private capital). Other projects were simply an attempt to
make jobs available. Government jobs were the currency of political
patronage, almost as though Roosevelt was the “ward boss” of the entire
FDR made skillful
use of the media, especially the radio, where his voice comforted and reassured
many Americans in a series of “fireside chats.” He delivered more than
thirty such broadcasts, ranging between fifteen and forty five minutes.
The visual media cooperated by not picturing him in his wheel chair.
Roosevelt did have
stiff opposition to some of his policies, some of which were declared
unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (which He would later threaten to
“pack” by adding additional judges favorable to his plans). The most
controversial schemes included the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA),
which not only paid to keep farm produce off of the market, but actually
destroyed produce and animals while Americans starved. The National
Recovery Administration (NRA), micro-managed about five hundred American
industries, setting rates for such things as how much a tailor could charge to
press a pair of pants, and the order in which a butcher was to remove chickens
from their cage. NRA exercised police powers over its coded industries,
and demanded exhaustive paperwork from them.
greatest opposition to FDR arose from the “Great Gold Robbery” of 1933, in
which the government confiscated privately held gold, with ten year and ten
thousand dollar sentences for those who resisted. Where private contracts
agreed to payment in gold, the government nullified the “gold clauses,”
substituting payment in dollars, which of course became worth less after the
U.S. abandoned the gold standard. Roosevelt mistakenly believed that high
prices caused by inflation would somehow improve the economy. Being able
to print money into existence with no backing gave him the ability to tax
everyone holding dollars without passing a formal tax. Nonetheless, taxes
nearly tripled during his administration.
Enormous amounts of
money were pumped into public projects, sometimes competing with the private
sector, and always drawing capital away from it. Eventually things reached
the point where there no more public improvement projects on which to spend
money. A city can only use so many hospitals, bridges, and dams! Although
built with federal funds, such things must be staffed and maintained by the
municipality, representing a liability rather than an asset to the local
Next time we will
begin to look at the Roosevelt policies in a little more detail.
Eventually the New Deal would be terminated by the greatest government spending
exercise known to man—war. But only the post-war return of productive
capacity to the private sector, and the material advantage of the United States
over the war torn countries of Europe and Asia would actually put an end to the
Great Depression. A frightening thought for twenty-first century America,
economically depressed, which has lost most of its productive capacity, has
little chance of avoiding the ravages of a modern war, and whose leaders refuse
to learn from their history.
[To be continued]