I have an entire series on the Doctors of the Church, so use the tags.
However, if we ever needed such a stalwart warrior of the Faith as Athanasius, it is now.
His clarity of mind and spirit are needed in the current members of the Synod. The truth is that we had an Athanasius speaking to us clearly on the definition of marriage as ordained by Christ, and this was St. John Paul II, who is still with us in the Church Triumphant.
I want to quote some short bits from Familiaris Consortio, which need to be considered seriously by the Synod fathers this year.
Illuminated by the faith that gives her an understanding of all the truth concerning the great value of marriage and the family and their deepest meaning, the church once again feels the pressing need to proclaim the Gospel, that is the "good news," to all people without exception, in particular to all those who are called to marriage and are preparing for it, to all married couples and parents in the world.
The church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the Gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in marriage and in the family capable of being fulfilled.
Willed by God in the very act of creation, marriage and the family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ and have need of his graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin and restored to their "beginning," that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God's plan.
At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the people of God.
Notice that marriage between a man and a woman has been willed by God from the very beginning of the creation of humans. Only in Christ can marriages be sustained and healed. Not by changing the definition of marriage as that special relationship, as seen both in natural and revealed law, as the union between a man and a woman for the procreation of children and for their mutual contentment.
The Papal Saint saw the horrible evils besetting marriage, and now, some false leaders in the Church, just like Arius, want to change the Church's teaching in order to accommodate their own desires
We all have the graces we need to be holy and get to heaven. The Pope actually in this encyclical, which is infallible and supports over 2,000 years of teaching, comes against gradualism, which has so many people confused.
Let us look together at a few of his paragraphs. It is clear that this saint understands the stresses of the times.
Since God's plan for marriage and the family touches men and women in the concreteness of their daily existence in specific social and cultural situations, the church ought to apply herself to understanding the situations within which marriage and the family are lived today, in order to fulfill her task of serving.
This understanding is therefore an inescapable requirement of the work of evangelization. It is, in fact, to the families of our times that the church must bring the unchangeable and ever new gospel of Jesus Christ, just as it is the families involved in the present conditions of the world that are called to accept and to live the plan of God that pertains to them. Moreover, the call and demands of the spirit resound in the very events of history, and so the church can also be guided to a more profound understanding of the inexhaustible mystery of marriage and the family by the circumstances, the questions and the anxieties and hopes of the young people, married couples and parents of today...
Before getting into gradualism, the Pope states clearly that the Church is not a democracy and does not follow the ideals of the majority. God's Word has always been accepted by the remnant.
The "supernatural sense of faith," however, does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. Following Christ, the church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion. She listens to conscience and not to power, and in this way she defends the poor and the downtrodden. The church values sociological and statistical research when it proves helpful in understanding the historical context in which pastoral action has to be developed and when it leads to a better understanding of the truth. Such research alone, however, is not to be considered in itself an expression of the sense of faith.
Because it is the task of the apostolic ministry to ensure that the church remains in the truth of Christ and to lead her ever more deeply into that truth, the pastors must promote the sense of faith in all the faithful, examine and authoritatively judge the genuineness of its expressions and educate the faithful in an ever more mature evangelical discernment.
And St. John Paul II tells us that the world undermines God's teaching in many ways.
...signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values: a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.
At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one's own selfish well-being.
And, we are not moving towards progress in this world, but devolution, the falling into more and more darkness. Here is JPII's take on this briefly:
This shows that history is not simply a fixed progression toward what is better, but rather an event of freedom, and even a struggle between freedoms that are in mutual conflict, that is, according to the wellknown expression of St. Augustine, a conflict between two loves: the love of God to the point of disregarding self, and the love of self to the point of disregarding God.
We are called to love God first, in complete freedom, to the point of self-denial.
OK, now the first blow against gradualism is the constant call of each of us to conversion:
What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of his definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary in order that individual believers, families and peoples, even civilization itself, by beginning from what they have already received of the mystery of Christ, may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives.
What the Pope means here by gradual is not letting a person remain in sin and receive the sacraments, but the gradual learning of the life of virtue when one is in sanctifying grace. JPII assumes that one in grace will grow holier by appropriating "interior detachment". Detachment from the consolation of this world would be an exterior sign of the growing detachment interiorly.
One cannot grow in faith, hope and love while in adultery, or same-sex relationships, as one has removed one's self from the event of conversion to God's Will, preferring one's own version of truth, choosing to be a little god one's self and determine right from wrong, which is relativism.
In this next section, the saint explains the greatness of love, in sacrificial love, as true love, demanded from all of us in each one of our situations.
God created man in his own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, he called him at the same time for love.
God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image and continually keeping it in being. God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.
As an incarnate spirit, that is, a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love.
Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person, in its entirety, to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy. Either one is in its own proper form an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being "created in the image of God."
Consequently sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: If the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.
How beautiful that the standard of God for marriage demands of us that we are truly most human when we are called to love until death, in a great decision, yes, in the will, of sacrificial love.
Such total giving is not possible when one wants one's own way, one's own temporary comfort, outside the natural and revealed laws of God.
The only "place" in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God himself, which only in this light manifests its true meaning. The institution of marriage is not an undue interference by society or authority, nor the extrinsic imposition of a form. Rather, it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the creator. A person's freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative wisdom.
True conjugal love, even in suffering, reveals something way beyond the couple. This covenant reveals God's Bridal Love for His People, the Church.
Those cardinals and bishops who want to undermine God's perfect plan for marriage also want to undermine God's Love for His Church.
Is it possible that these men, and I could name several, have never experienced this Bridal Love themselves, and, therefore, cannot believe that God calls us all to this?
to be continued tomorrow..