Non Nisi Te, Domine / None Other Than Thyself, Lord (I)

St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274)

It is said that in 1273, while visiting a monastery in Naples, St. Thomas Aquinas was in the chapel, in ecstasy, praying intensely, prostrated on the floor. One of Dominican brothers claims to have witnessed how Our Lord Jesus Christ, from the Crucifix in the center of the altar, told the saintly theologian: Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have? To which Thomas replied, Non nisi te, Domine / None other than Thyself, Lord.

In December of that same year of 1273, merely months away from dying, with his monumental Summa Theologiæ still incomplete, Father Reginald claims that Thomas laid aside his pen and would write no more, despite urgings to continue his work: the high point in mediaeval scholastic theology.

One day Thomas experienced an unusually long ecstasy during Mass. What was revealed to him by Our Lord must have moved him so much so as to say: I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value. The Summa Theologiæ had been completed only as far as the ninetieth question of the Third Part (De partibus pænitentiæ).

Naturally, for those who by grace profess the holy Catholic faith, spiritual consolations abound, as St. Ignatius of Loyola would relate from his own personal experiences in his insightful Ejercicios Espirituales / Spiritual Exercises some three centuries later. And those who by grace live a particularly saintly life, even more so.

Take St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, the youngest of the Twelve and Beloved Disciple of the Lord, who had the most sublime grace of reclining his head upon the Lord’s bosom during the Last Supper, and partook of celestial revelations as the liturgy for his feast day, 27 December, sings within the Octave of Christmas.

Take Saul of Tarsus, avid persecutor of the nascent Church, who was specifically chosen by Our Lord to announce the Gospel to the Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire, and who, once converted in the Apostle Paul, wept at his past sins of incredulity.

Take St. Augustine, a young, intense man, whose saintly and pious mother, St. Monica, wept so for his conversion, lived a worldly life of philosophical pursuit of the truth, only to not find it where he sought in vain, but rather discovered it when the Truth—Christ Himself—found him. And through St. Ambrose of Milan, found a perfect spiritual father who baptized him into the Catholic faith.

And take the Apostle St. Peter, who would not only weep bitterly upon denying his Lord thrice during the Passion, but who would most probably weep later on as well—being mercifully rehabilitated by the Resurrected Lord—upon thrice professing his by then more mature love.

St. Peter is of special interest to us for the purpose of this article. We know that in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Our Lord asked his apostles who they thought He was. And we know that Peter replied correctly, with “good theology” in a matter of saying:

And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in Heaven.

And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven (Mt 16: 13-19).

And yet, with all his level-headed good theology and indeed correct response—inspired as he was by grace—this very same Peter would deny the Lord no less than three times. Much as it is absolutely decisive to comprehend good, sound theology, it is not enough, for our human weakness may well succumb to the temptation of abandoning the Lord and the Catholic faith, when things get rough.

No, the necessary and indeed indispensable compliment to good theology is a sincere love for the Lord. This is not to say that Peter did not already love the Lord before and during the Passion, but it was a frail, merely human love, affection, sympathy—not sufficient to prevent his triple denial.

The sincere love for the Lord is likewise a work of grace. St. Peter of course, would be graced with such love, as we know from the Gospel of St. John:

When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me more than the others? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, Thou knowest everything: Thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.

Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me  (Joh 21: 15-19).

It is most interesting to highlight, however, the original Greek text of the Gospel according to St. John, which utterly loses its nuance in English.

In Greek, the word fileo means the love of friendship, but not total or all-encompassing. Whereas the word agapao means love without any reserve, total and unconditional. So Jesus asks Peter the first time: “Simon, lovest thou me (agapas-me) more than the others”, that is, with this total and unconditional love I ask of you (Jn 21: 15)?

Before his betrayal, Peter simply responded “I lovest Thee (agapo-se) {unconditionally}”. And he meant it. But it was not so, it would prove vain due to his human weakness. But now, after experiencing the bitter sadness of his infidelity, Peter responds with more humility: “Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee (filo-se)”, that is, “I love you {with my poor human love}.”

The Lord insists: “Simon, lovest thou me {with this total love that I want of you?}” And Peter repeats the response of his more humble and imperfect human love: “Kyrie, filo-se”, “Lord, I love Thee {as I am able to love you}”.

But the third time, Jesus—as the counterpart to his third denial during the Passion—only says to Peter: “Fileis-me?”, that is “Lovest thou me?”, this time not specifically asking for a total, unconditional love.

Only now does Peter understand that his poor, inadequate human love, utterly unworthy during the Passion, is now sufficient for the Risen Lord. It’s the only love of which he is capable, and yet nonetheless he is saddened that the Lord should recall this to him. He therefore replies: “Lord, Thou knowest everything, Thou knowest that I love Thee (filo-se).”

This time—ironically—the poor human love he bears towards Christ is not enough for Peter… but now is enough for the Lord. The Lord will see to it that Peter’s humble love will indeed prove most worthy. That’s the sublime manner in which grace operates.

So, good theology—that is, knowing who Our Lord really is, i.e, the Eternal Word of God made Flesh, for us and for our salvation—in addition to a sincere love for Him, that’s the Catholic way of life.

But we all know from experience—do we not?—that what is not truly known cannot be loved nor appreciated. None can love what they ignore. In other words, what we don’t know, we don’t love.

So, let us consider that if Peter, with all his good theology, still denied the Lord during the Passion because of his human weakness, dare we imagine the scope of denial of those who don’t even have good theology to go on?

More to the point, that part of Catholic theology that refers to the identity of Jesus Christ is called, appropriately enough, Christology, and not Jesusology.

For a theology on “Christ”—more specifically the “Christ of the faith”—takes into account one of the titles by which Our Lord, recognized as God Himself made Man, is known in Holy Scripture, i.e, the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed par excellence, whereas a theology on “Jesus”—more specifically the “historical Jesus”—would likely take into consideration only his human nature, at the expense of his divine nature.

True enough, in the Apostolic era the discussion over Jesus Christ was not one of formally distinguishing the concepts of person and nature. It was a more a matter of understanding the intrinsic relationship of these two concepts, without going into detail.

And yet, even during Apostolic times, already St. John had to defend the true faith—and the Word or Logos (i.e., the Reason of God) was made Flesh, denouncing those who denied that the Son of God really came in the Flesh—against the heretical Docetists, who held that the historical reality of Christ, his bodily existence and the human form of Jesus, were nothing more than appearance, without any reality.

It just so happens that there are many Docetists in our day, still. Curiously, these are those in the hierarchy and theologians who avidly defend an incarnational pastoral approach, i.e., bidding ordained clergy and laity to incarnate themselves in the social realities, usually from a left-wing political orientation. Oh, not to redeem material realities, no, just to dirty one’s hands in them.

And yet, paradoxically, these “incarnationists” are the very same ones who either deny or eschew the material reality of the Lord’s empty tomb, because they do not believe in the glorified Lord’s bodily resurrection.

Naturally, these Incarnationist-Docetists—a contradiction in terms—are nothing more than Modernists, of course, which is the “synthesis of all heresies,” as Pope St. Pius X warned us about with his magnificent encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (08-IX-1907).

Closely related to the Docetists of the I century are the Gnostics, whose various heretical beliefs flourished in the Mediterranean world during the II century. Gnostics fundamentally sustain that the material world is bad creation—so much for all of God’s creation, the invisible and the visible, being good as the Book of Genesis says—which traps the divine spark within the confines of a human body. And that this divine spark could be liberated from the body through a superior, esoteric knowledge… or gnosis. Gnostics are by nature elitists.

Yes, they think they are privy to a superior knowledge that eludes the less-formed of the faithful. Gnostics think the Church really begins with them, since they’re smarter and know better than others deemed less mature in their faith. They generally look down upon faithful who, according to the Gnostics, stick to their old ways of doing things in the Church, criticizing them for their “it’s always been done that way” (sic) mentality. They frown on these faithful for not being open to the spirit and to God’s surprises, and so on.

So it follows that Gnostics could care less about Catholic dogma, even less do they care about any kind of doctrines that are derived from dogma—which they deem are too rigid—no, Gnostics only care about pastoral endeavors, but devoid of authentic Catholic teaching. They will astutely manipulate language, be calculating and ambiguous, and invent straw-man arguments to garner support for their agenda.

Alas, the Gnostics of our times. They think themselves very mature in their faith. In fact, so mature in their faith that it’s actually rotten, as rotten are their fruits in the Church, by which Our Lord says they will be known.

Sadly, however, a sort of vale covers the eyes and ears of many Catholics, who simply refuse to acknowledge the sheer depths of the crisis in the Church today, some fifty-odd years after Vatican II. Many seem to be imbued with what the psalmist accurately describes for these ecclesial times: They have eyes, but see not; they have ears, but hear not… (psalm 113).

But God has always provides true champions of the faith. St. Irenaeus of Lyon, a great defender of Apostolic Tradition and author of the invaluable treatise Adversus Haereses / Against the Heretics, would be admirable in his refutation of all the Gnostic errors, essentially by affirming that what the Word’s Flesh did not assume, could not be redeemed.

Particularly brilliant is his famous assertion: Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself… Gnostic heresies are the delusions of those who think they’ve discovered something beyond Truth.

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St. Irenaeus of Lyon (+202)

Well, like daring to reinterpret, or “make more clear” (sic) the Lord’s gesture of the washing of feet on Holy Thursday. Or when thinking that one can outdo the Lord in the exercise of mercy. Or by proposing pastoral reflections, raised to the level of “authentic Magisterium,” mind you!, such as affirming that God Himself may want us to persist in mortal sin because it may be the best response we can offer Him in our unique, concrete and complex circumstances.

And that this is even preferable than to cease being in mortal sin, lest we complicate things. You get the idea…

So much for St. Paul, who says the exact opposite. So much for God’s grace to avoid sin… But what did he know, right? Pure Pelagianism, I’d say. Well, what do you know, another heresy adopted by the Modernists! What would St. Augustine say to all this?

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St. Augustine of Hippo Regius (+430)

Ah, we are today much more sophisticated in our beliefs, thanks to the new springtime and new Pentecost that was Vatican II. What ever would we do without you, oh great Ecumenical Council, more important (sic) than even the First Council of Nicaea, as Paul VI claimed?

But all those who, graced with faith, recognized Christ as God made Man, knew well with whom they related to: God Himself with a real human body and a real human soul, even if not expressed exactly in such terms early on. In this sense, it was in a way, a simpler though no-less profound Christology: And the Word was made Flesh (Joh 1: 14).

The formal distinction between the notions of person and nature would be these same Greek philosophical concepts that would come into play in Catholic theology around the IV century onward, when, responding to the various Trinitarian and Christological heresies arisen in those early times of the Church, clarified the true identity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in those terms. Person discusses who, nature discusses what.

So when in the IV century Arius, a priest from Alexandria, while correctly believing that Jesus Christ was the Word made Flesh, and indeed the Son of God, erred all the same by not believing that the Word was eternal.

Consequently, if the Word, who was indeed Jesus, was not eternal, that would necessarily mean that the Word was not Creator, but rather created or made by God the Father. In other words, the Word—and the Word made Flesh—would be God’s first and most excellent of all his creatures.

In the Arian understanding, it matters not if God the Father would still have created everything through His Word—which paradoxically is a Catholic truth—if the Word is merely a creature because the Word is not eternal, then the Word made Flesh—Jesus Christ—could only be a creature and not God the Creator.

This would mean therefore, that since no dimension in Jesus was eternal, Jesus could not possibly partake of the exact same eternal, divine nature of the Father.

Hence, Jesus could not really be God, and this despite Arius considering him Son of God and even calling him “God.” The Most Holy Trinity would also be affected since insofar that Jesus was not really God, how could the Catholic belief in the One and Triune God be understood? In the end, the Arian belief was not only a Christological error, it was also, by necessity, a Trinitarian error, essentially the same as the pagan Greek concept of the semi-god, very popular in those times.

In the IV century, in response to the philosophically appealing and ever widespread Arian heresy, Saints Alexander and Athanasius, Patriarchs of Alexandria, took up the defense of the true faith. St. Athanasius, who was deacon and then succeeded Alexander as Patriarch of Alexandria, was exiled five times in seventeen years by four Roman Emperors. He became known as Athanasius contra Mundum / Athanasius against the World.

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St. Athanasius of Alexandria (+373)

Then, the Roman Emperor Constantine I convened the First Council of Nicaea in 325 which dogmatically defined the eternal and divine nature of the Word, and therefore the eternal and divine nature of Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, by teaching that He is of the exact same nature—that He is homooúsios, that is, consubstantial, that He is One in being, of single substance, with God the Father.

Furthermore, that the Word-Son was eternally begotten of the Father, not created nor made. This would be the only philosophical and theological comprehension that could possibly explain recognizing Jesus Christ truly and really the Word-Son of God, and Himself God, made Man for our sake: his being consubstantial with God the Father, his oneness in being with God the Father, his being eternal as God the Father.

It would likewise be the only explanation of how God can be Father from all eternity, and referred to as “Eternal Father” in the prayers of the Church’s sacred liturgy: because he has an eternally begotten Son.

So the IV century Arian heresy fundamentally dealt with a heretical comprehension of the nature of the Word, and the Word made Flesh, without going into the particulars of the person Jesus Christ.

This would come into being with two schools of theology that would develop in this time: the Christology of Logos-sarx / Word-flesh, maintained by the school of Alexandria, and the Christology of Logos-anthropos / Word-Man, maintained by the school of Antioch.

But we will leave that fascinating discussion for the second part of this article…

Still, it’s very interesting to take note of the fact that Arius, for all his errors, was ironically was much more reverent than his disciples of today. He at least actually believed in Christ’s miracles as related in the Gospels, which is more than modern-day Arians can say.

To be sure, modern-day Arians share in the same fundamental error—that of denying Christ’s divinity—but they do so with many more nuances… and, of course, with far less piety than Arius. Today’s Arians are also Docetists and Gnostics, naturally, because they are Modernists.

They begin with their alleged superior knowledge of the faith, which they make in their own image and likeness. They are much too proud to elaborate a theological discourse based on Divine Revelation and Apostolic Faith. No, they start with their own preconceived options of what is and what is not, of what can be and what cannot be.

So, for example, modern-day Arians establish the fact that miracles cannot exist, well, because they say so. Therefore, miracles do not exist, obviously. Simple, really, isn’t it? Hence, all of the miracles recounted in Holy Scripture, including of course, the miracles of Christ in the Gospels, such as extraordinary healing of the sick and the multiplication of loaves and fish, did not really take place as historical events.

Oh no. You see, the Arians of today are Rationalists, too. So, in order to make much more believable certain biblical events to people today, they must twist the meaning of such events to fit in with their rationalist narrative. Their main problem? Today’s Arians are notorious non-believers of Catholic truth, much more so than the original Arians.

In fact, the Arians of today seem to outdo themselves at every opportunity, ever finding new ways to distort Catholic doctrine.

They also obsessively worship “newness,” “novelty,” and “today,” the “present-day,” elevating the much touted conciliar and postconciliar “signs of the times” to a virtual idol of sorts. Thus, their theology is based on ideology, “new paradigms,” if you will, not divinely revealed truths.

Rather smugly do they think themselves so creative, so innovative in their thought, and yet the Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us: What is it that hath been? The same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? The same that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us (Eccl 1: 9-10).

The so-called “miracle” of Christ multiplying the bread and fish for the thousands to eat? Well, typically they will claim that the “miracle” was in fact that the people shared amongst themselves, thanks to Christ’s rousing speech! Imagine! Christ, a rabble-rouser! So Christ did not actually multiply the loaves and fish? Why no! And why not? Well, because Christ is not really God, it’s just a matter of saying, etc.

But what about Christ’s miraculous healings as told in the Gospels? Well, today’s Arians of course deny the historicity of the Gospels, something that Holy Mother Church has always defended. So, this means that these “events”, as written in the Gospels, since they are not historical, did not really take place, after all. Well, at least, not in the way they are written…

The Arians of today will explain away the so-called “miraculous healings” in the Gospels, with their superior Gnostic intellect. Besides, they even go so far as to assert that God Himself cannot (not will not, but cannot, mind you) heal beyond the advances in medicine.

And they will correspondingly change (always changing things!) the Collect prayers in the Novus Ordo Missæ which speak of God’s omnipotence, since this implies, of course, that God is not omnipotent, only merciful. God’s mercy seems to be previously unknown and a fairly recent discovery for them, particularly of late.

And besides, when God created the universe, it turned out… defective in its origins, because God didn’t get it totally right from the start. And when Jesus preached, well, he didn’t get it quite right either, you see, because instead of getting the Kingdom of God, he got—and we got—only the Church, alas…

The implication being that, for them, the Holy Catholic Church—that is, Apostolic Tradition, Creed, Sacred Liturgy, Dogma, Doctrine—has nothing or very little to do with, having hardly anything in common with, the Kingdom of God.

I can assure the readers that these delirious and ludicrous claims my very own ears have heard… I mean, if it was not already quite bad enough denying Christ’s divinity, these very disoriented Arians of today deny the divinity of even God the Father!

So yes, those sick people in the Gospels ended up healing, alright, but… how so? Well it turns out that Christ, moved by his compassion for the sick, “accompanied” (ah, accompaniment!) the sick and, again, gave them some inspiring, rousing words… and lo!, the sick, feeling a heretofore unknown energy within themselves, ended up… wait for it… healing themselves!

My goodness, even the Force in the Star Wars saga was not so efficacious! These Arian-Gnostics would do well to give pointers to the authors of Self-Help books. Their input would be invaluable…

In the end, Christ only heals the sick very indirectly, not directly, not personally. The sick get healed, yes, but they heal themselves, because since miracles cannot exist, miracles do not exist. So, all Christ does is merely potentiate the natural, untapped human resources to effect the healing. Why? Being the good Arians that they are, Christ is not divine, of course.

By this time, the kind readers will have surmised that today’s Arians are most anthropocentric, too. As is their Novus Ordo liturgy, with untold number of examples…

Most notably, of course, celebrating a meal on a table facing the people, instead of a Holy Sacrifice on an altar facing all in the same direction towards the Crucifix in the center. As well as being theologically Protestant in inspiration, it certainly does not do much to instill belief in Christ’s divine nature.

After all, according to today’s Arians, Christ’s Last Supper—which is NOT the Catholic Mass—in spite of what nº 27 of the General Instruction of the 2002 Roman Missal says—was the setting for Him to say farewell to all his disciples (and female disciples). But being Gnostics as they are, too, with their esoteric knowledge, these same will claim that it was not John who reclined his head on the Lord’s bosom, but rather that it was Mary Magdalene.

Well now, what a subtle way to insinuate some sort of sexual relationship between Christ, the man, and Mary Magdalene, the woman. Oh yes, I was forgetting… even those Arian Gnostics who maintain that it was John the Apostle who reclined his head at the Last Supper, these will insinuate some sort of a homosexual relationship… Honestly, there is nothing the Modernists will leave untouched.

Not to mention Mary Magdalene being the perfect candidate for the female priesthood. Her feast day of 22 July was recently elevated, in the Novus Ordo, from a mere “Obligatory Memorial” to “Feast”, with a new proper Preface:

Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutare, nos te, Pater omnipotens, cuius non minor est misericordia quam potestas, in omnibus prædicare per Christum Dominum nostrum. Qui in hortu manifestus apparuit Mariæ Magdelenæ, quippe quæ eum dilexerat viventem, in cruce viderat morientem, quæsierat in sepulcro iacentem, ac prima adoravit a mortis resurgentem, et eam apostolatus officio coram apostolis honoravit ut bonum novæ vitæ nuntium ad mundi fines pervenieret…

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Almighty Father, whose mercy is no less than your power, through Christ our Lord, who appeared in the garden and showed himself to Mary Magdalene, since she had loved Him while he lived, had seen him dying on the cross, had sought him lying in the tomb, and first adored him when he rose from the dead, and having sent her out, he honored her with the office of Apostleship, so that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth…

While it is true that St. Mary Magdalene was honored by St. Thomas Aquinas, and others, of being “Apostle of the Apostles”—insofar as she was the first in bringing the tidings of the Resurrection—the inclusion of the problematic word “office” in the Preface, implies an official duty conferred upon her by Christ, identical to the apostleship of the Apostles themselves. Which of course, is not true.

In the end, Christ is stripped of his divine nature so as to conform his merely human actions to modern rationalist thought, and to the politically correct agenda that today’s Arian Gnostics impose relentlessly upon the Church.

Sound familiar?

{To be continued…}

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