Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the July AD 2009
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin


The Great Depression



    Question:  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.

● What 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:

Christ our Lord ... was lifted up into heaven, so that He might make us partakers of His Godhead And therefore with angels and archangels.... [Emphasis supplied]

    Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us in his Compendium of Theology (§1-2) that:

All 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:

Nothing 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 supplied]

In the Office for Corpus Christi we again hear from Saint Thomas:

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]

● How 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 hereafter.

● 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.

    Some Modernist 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.

● What 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.


The Great Depression (X)


[Continued from last month]

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 happening again?

● Franklin 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.

    Nonetheless, FDR 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 nation.

    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.

    Perhaps the 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 government.

    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]



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