Monday, January 9, 2017

This Is Amazing Grace

Amazing grace. King of glory. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. A traditional Christian spiritual. The Old Testament. The New Testament. What do these three things have in common? They are all lyrics in the Phil Wickham song "This Is Amazing Grace". This young Christian artist has captured one of the great truths in the Bible: Jesus Christ, the King of glory, died on the cross to save all of us from the bonds of sin. In doing so, Jesus demonstrated to the world the unending mercy of God, a mercy so great that the source of all grace would die for us, none of whom are not worthy of his grace.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Your Name Rules The Atmosphere

Jesus was born to save us from our sins, to bring us hope, and to show us how to love. He is the source of our peace. We look to him for all of these things, and more. What is more fitting than calling on him and recognizing all that he has done for us?

Hillsong United had the opportunity to record their song "Rule" at a site close to the Dead Sea. This video was filmed at night, under the stars, in the open air. The atmosphere must have truly been inspiring, looking across the region where Jesus lived and died some 2000 years ago. The impact of their surroundings fills this performance

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Joy To The World!

"Joy To The World" is a traditional and popular Christmas carol. The lyrics to the carol were first published in 1719. The music is attributed either to George Frideric Handel or Lowell Mason. In either case, the musical origins are likely from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

Current performances of this carol reflect it's musical heritage. It is frequently sung by formal choirs with sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, or informal choirs made up of a group of friends or neighbors. The formal choir performances are often accompanied by orchestras. These performance characteristics expectedly imbue the carol with a 19th century feel. Though quite beautiful and stirring, these renditions are not exciting, in this writer's opinion.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Come, Come, Emmanuel!

The days leading up to Christmas are a time of reflection and anticipation for Christians around the globe.  Christians are looking forward to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In many ways Christians adults become child-like in their excitement. It's not the excitement of getting that new toy you asked Santa for, but an excitement for the joy and hope that Jesus brings into this fallen world. It's a mature excitement. It's a chance to reflect on the errors of the past year and to commit to start again, with a rebirth of Christian faith, hope and love.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Come Let Us Adore Him

Christmas is a time for joy and gifts. It's a time to enjoy the company of relatives and friends, especially if they live far from you. It's a time for a traditional Christmas turkey (or goose, or duck, or ham, or whatever you traditionally eat for Christmas). It's a time a children ripping open the wrappings of their gifts, to see what Santa gave them.

But for Christians, Christmas is oh so much more than that. It is one of the holiest times of the year. It's the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our King. It's a time to reflect on the past year, good and bad. It's a time to look to the future, a rebirth of our commitment to Jesus.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

One Step Away

Temptations take many forms. Some are quite overt, as in viewing people as objects to satisfy our pleasures instead of as children of God, the sin of lust. Or, being so jealous of others and whatever they have, that we wish they would lose their material and/or spiritual gifts, the sin of envy. There is also wrath, flying into an uncontrolled rage to the extent of wishing or imposing physical harm on someone else.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Book Review: One Minute Aquinas

About a year or so ago, I became interested in understanding the writings of Thomas Aquinas. I saw that his seminal work Summa Theologica is a 26-volume set which I chose not to purchase. Instead I bought Shorter Summa. I started reading it maybe three or four times, each time getting a little farther, but soon becoming overwhelmed by the depth of St. Thomas's thoughts.

In one of his Word On Fire podcasts, Bishop Robert Barron discusses Thomas Aquinas. Bishop Barron explained the layout of the Summa Theologica, stating that it was composed of written answers to questions that St. Thomas had received in the many question and answer groups in which he participated. The first part of the Summa deals with Sacred Doctrine and God; the second part is concerned with man, sin and grace; the third part with Jesus's Incarnation and life, and the sacraments. The show notes page for Bishop Barron's podcast also contains links to several books that he recommended to assist in understanding the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. I have not yet read any of those books; however, I have read The One-Minute Aquinas, a book that I received as a present.

The One-Minute Aquinas (Kevin Vost, PsyD, Sophia Institute Press) presents an overview and a simplification of the Summa Theologica. Like the Summa, it is broken down into three parts: God, man, and Jesus Christ. However, it it presented in a different order: man is presented first, then God, and finally Jesus Christ. Dr. Vost states early in the book that read the Summa in the order in his book, not the original order of the Summa. In the author's opinion, this order makes for an easier understanding of this great work.

Each section begins with a theme addressed in the Summa, followed by a listing of the original sections in the Summma where the questions which generated the theme were discussed. Each of these mini-chapters, as it were, are short, generally about three pages (hence the name 'one-minute'). The author distills and summarizes Saint Thomas responses, and discusses interpretations of the response to clarify what was being said. Breaking the Summa into these shorter bites allows one to read one or a few in a sitting, then contemplate their meaning.

As an example, the first question is 'What Do We All Want? Happiness'. Here, St. Thomas has explained that we all want happiness, and that there are two kinds of happiness: imperfect happiness here on earth, and perfect happiness consisting of the beatific vision of God in heaven. This part of the book then continues to discuss the soul and its eleven passions, virtue, vice and sin, and grace.

The second part of The One-Minute Aquinas discusses God. The first question in this second part describes what St. Thomas wrote as to how we should think about God. The book proceeds to clarify that God exists, what God is and is not, and the Blessed Trinity. The final part is about 'Who Is Christ?'. It explains why God became man, Christs' life and what made it perfect, and the sacraments.

Scattered throughout the book are 'Dumb Ox' boxes. St. Thomas was a large man, with a quiet demeanor. This caused the other students in the University of Paris to call him the 'dumb ox' from Sicily. The 'Dumb Ox' boxes are St. Thomas's answers to questions that you may have had regarding life, such as 'Is It A Sin To Love Wine?' (Dumb Ox Box #2).

I found the book to be a great resource. I read it twice, in an effort to better understand Saint Thomas's viewpoint. The One-Minute Aquinas has given me the background to be more confident about reading and understanding The Shorter Summa. From there, I may even tackle the Summa Theologia.