How wonderful is God among his saints: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise (516 - 546)
He was born in 516 in County Roscommon, Connacht, in Ireland. He studied under St Finian and later under St Enda. On Enda’s advice he founded the monastery of Clonmacnoise in 545. He was a teacher of St Carthage. See the article in Wikipedia
Other saints: Saint Osburg (-1018)
Saint Osburg was the first Abbess of a monastery founded at Coventry by King Canute at the beginning of the eleventh century. She died around 1018. Although nothing else is known about her, there was a strong cult to St Osburg in the City of Coventry during the Middle Ages. In the nineteenth-century revival of Catholicism, Bishop Ullathorne dedicated the first Catholic Church in the city to her. September 9 is the date when Bishop Wiseman consecrated the new Church of St Osburg in Coventry in 1845.
Today's Gospel: "With all your mind"
Sometimes there is a message for us in some words of the Gospel that even the evangelists don’t notice. There is an example here, hidden in words so uninteresting that we can’t even be sure who said them. Matthew and Mark say Jesus, while Luke says the scribe.
Jesus (or the scribe) appears to be quoting from the Old Testament, but one phrase does not exist in any text of the Commandments: that we should love the Lord our God with all our mind.
It is easy not to notice this phrase, and indeed Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t notice it. We know this because normally when Jesus departs from the Old Testament it is noticed, and remarked upon, and made the subject of a whole “But I say to you…” discourse.
There are two aspects to this. One is what it says about the past, the other is what it says to us. The past is straightforward. The Jews have never been “people of the Book” in the sense of believing in the Bible and nothing but the Bible. They have, it is true, had a peculiar reverence for every sacred word, but they have lived not in unthinking obedience to those words alone but in a dialogue, you might even say in a relationship, with the sacred text. So the fact that “all your mind” appears here, without attracting notice or comment, must mean that it had become a part of the generally accepted interpretation of the words of Scripture. When, centuries after the Pentateuch, the Jews came across the new, Greek ways of thinking – as the Wisdom literature shows that they did – they immediately realised that this new thing called “mind” was included, no doubt about it, in the commandment to love.
What this says to us is more important than just a footnote in the history of ideas. It is the foundation and justification of all science. God does not command the impossible. If he is to be loved with the mind, that can only be because he is lovable with the mind, or, to detheologize the language, because Ultimate Being can be related to rationally. The Gospel phrase tells us that things make sense and that we have the equipment to make sense of them.
What does omnipotence mean? Does it mean that the Omnipotent can do anything at all? If that were true, all science would be at an end. If God willed that when I dropped a glass on the floor it would shatter, then even if God had willed the same whenever anyone in the past had ever dropped a glass, that would still not bind God. God would still be free to decide, if I dropped a glass on the floor now, that this particular glass, alone among all the glasses in history, should bounce and not break.
Which is to say: on this interpretation of divine omnipotence, science is impossible. We cannot predict the result of an experiment, because next time God may decide differently. We cannot even lay down laws of nature based on previous experience, because to call a law a “law” is to claim to be able to bind God, which is blasphemy.
This is not merely an academic quibble. When the 11th-century Muslim philosopher al-Ghazāli propounded this very idea, it captured the mainstream of Islamic thinking and led to the virtual suicide of science in Islam and the abandonment of rational thinking about the physical world, as being unnecessary, or sacrilegious, or both.
We are saved from this by this one little phrase in the Gospel, about loving God with all our mind. It is more than mere permission, it is a command to understand, to go out and do science, and it was followed whenever Christians had leisure to think. It led to the dazzling 13th-century renaissance and the birth of modern science, and we are still living through its consequences.
As for divine omnipotence, this is not the place to go into it in detail, but the answer to al-Ghazāli must surely be that God can indeed make the glass bounce, but God cannot make the glass bounce and still be God, since to break the laws and regularities of nature whimsically and without reason would be to abandon lovability-with-the-mind. This is exactly the argument that theologians use against pointless or frivolous miracles, but it applies to science as well, and to the possibility of doing science at all.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Bruno (c.1033 - 1101)
Bruno was born at Cologne and educated partly at Reims. He was head of the episcopal school there for almost 20 years. In 1075 he was appointed chancellor of the church of Reims and had to devote himself to the administration of the diocese. The bishop at that time, Manasses de Gournai, was impious, corrupt, and violent. Through the intervention of Bruno and others, the Council of Autun suspended Manasses, who retaliated by demolishing the houses of his accusers and confiscating their goods. In 1080 a final decision of the Pope, together with a popular uprising, deposed Manasses.
Bruno was the obvious candidate as his successor – nearly 50, known and trusted, and experienced in administration. But in 1077 he and two of his fellow-canons at Reims had made a vow to abandon the world and enter the religious life. It had not been possible to act on that vow at the time. Now it was. Bruno fled.
He went first to join St Robert, who had settled at Molesme and gathered followers round him, who were later to become the Cistercian Order. But this was not his vocation. In 1084, with six of his companions, he presented himself to St Hugh of Châteauneuf, Bishop of Grenoble, who installed them in a wild spot called Chartreuse, not far from Grenoble, among steep rocks and snow-covered mountains. They built a small monastery where they lived in deep retreat and poverty, entirely occupied in prayer and study.
In 1088 one of Bruno’s pupils from Reims became Pope Urban II and resolved to continue the work of reform begun by Gregory VII. In 1090 Urban summoned Bruno to Rome to help. Narrowly avoiding being elected bishop again – of Reggio in Calabria, this time, which he escaped by getting one of his former pupils to be elected instead – Bruno managed to persuade the Pope to let him resume the solitary life. He founded a new monastery in the diocese of Squillace in Calabria, and for the rest of his life led an amphibian existence, being called away from time to time to help the Pope in his project of reform, but always returning.
Bruno pioneered the “mixed” form of religious life, of hermits who live together in a community. He did not plan to found an Order, but the seed he had planted at Chartreuse grew into the Carthusian Order, which continues to this day, with some 24 houses spread across the world.
Liturgical colour: white
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Wisdom 19:22 ©|
Lord, in every way you have made your people great and glorious. You have never disdained them, but stood by them always and everywhere.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Deuteronomy 4:7 ©|
What great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him?
|Afternoon reading (None)||Esther 10:3 ©|
The single nation, mine, is Israel, those who cried out to God and were saved. Yes, the Lord has saved his people, the Lord has delivered us from all these evils, God has worked such signs and great wonders as have never happened among the nations.