Thoughts from a young theologian

Posts tagged “greek

Some things never change

It’s amazing how fast this month and this semester seems to be swinging by!! Already almost the end of the month with Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day just around the corner! So much and yet so little has happened since my last post…

In all honesty, there’s not really anything out of the ordinary seminary life that has happened… Daily life has been marked by regular getting up at 4:30 – 5:00 am (something that I’m already pretty used to nowadays). Whenever I get up at 4:30, I’m usually able to join the monks for their Lauds (morning prayer) at 5, though that hasn’t happened much this year because of my late studying nights… Then, at 5:30, I try and spend some time doing some spiritual reading. Unofficially, on my own time, I’m working through St. Augustine’s Confessions, a masterpiece for anyone interested in reading it… There’s so much that I can relate to in it… Officially, that is, with my spiritual director, I’m also reading Jacques Philippe’s In the School of the Holy Spirit, which is incidentally one of the books highly recommended by Fr. Abbot. Then, we have mass at 6:30, breakfast at 7 and classes begin at 8:30. I’m really loving the classes I’m taking this year. It’s been a ton of fun learning Greek because, although it’s really its own thing, there a lot in it that has been adapted into English too, just like Latin. Plus, we have Fr. Lawrence for our teacher. He’s one of the older Benedictine monks in the community but his mind is still as sharp as razor. The best part about Fr. Lawrence is by far his tangents… Often, when we encounter a word or situation that we’re trying to translate, either in Greek or in Latin, it reminds him of certain experiences he’s had in the past and it’s sooooooo much fun hearing him go into these. We learn a little more about the history of the monastery and a lot about Fr. Lawrence’s life, and quite often, they’re pretty funny. The Latin and especially the Greek classes are by far, my favorite…

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Another class I’ve been caught up in te middle of is Metaphysics… We’re currently working through St. Thomas Aquinas’ De Ente et Essentia and, while it is quite challenging, we have a more than capable teacher of it in Fr. Peter. Trying to wrap our minds around “being”, “substance”, “essence”–what something is and “existence” — that something is, has been a challenge for most of us, but a very welcome one at that… Fr. Peter’s new thing this year (apparently, he always introduces something quite different each year) are powerpoint presentations. The monks are so into this new One Note application, that I honestly have not heard of, nor have not had much experience of, by Microsoft… They’re loving the program to bits and they’ve been designing these pretty intricate powerpoint presentations to help in their teaching… How can you use power points to try and teach metaphysics you may ask? Well, the last class, we had tons of pictures of observatories to illustrate an important point. We’re in the middle of discussing what ideas and thoughts are, and for St. Thomas Aquinas, they’re the means
by which we know things… Contrary to Descartes, the ideas are not what we know when we say we know (otherwise, we’d be stuck in our minds and untrusting of everything else around us) but they’re the means by which we get at reality… So Fr. Peter used these pictures of observatories to show us that when we’re trying to look at the stars, what we know isn’t the telescopes but rather the stars by means of the telescopes which we use as a tool to view them. He goes into a bit more detail on that, but I don’t want to either bore or lose you in this, so I’ll leave it there… Hehehehe… Needless to say, our metaphysics classes have an extra little doohickey (to use the favorite word of Fr. Lawrence) added to them…

So that’s how things have been pretty much the same here in the abbey… Life has been fairly regular with prayer, studies and community time… Hehehehe… at the same time though, amidst the constancy, there has been quite a bit of dynamism too… The environment around us has been changing pretty dramatically… The colors of the trees have been exquisite too lately! There’s one tree in particular, I think it’s a Japanese maple, that’s found on the little walkway between the majors residence and the abbey church that exemplified this really well… It now has a beautiful fire red color that stands out against the dull grey sky behind it…

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Also, we’ve shifted in our Divine Office from the upbeat and “cheerful” summer tone on to the more reserved and soothing winter tone… That’s unfortunately something that I can’t really illustrate… You’d have to come here and experience it for yourself… c”,) Our food has been changing too… We’ve been having a little less corn (which we’d had in abundance just a couple of weeks ago) and more squash… Apparently, we’ll have to really get used to squash because they’ve just harvested a truckload of it from the farm… Hehehehehehe And speaking of food, one interesting thing that I did as well last week was I helped the fraters (younger monks) make some sauerkraut… In a little room underneath the monastery, we basically spent a Saturday afternoon grounding up about 8 boxes of cabbage (trust me… that’s a lot of cabbage) and dumping it all into this huge bin, adding salt and hammering it down until the juices (water) in the cabbage came out… Then we sealed it and are now allowing it to ferment for about a month… Apparently, it gets really hot too as it ferments so periodically, a few of us guys are definitely going to be checking it out to see how it’s going… And that’s been my update for you so far… Have a Happy All Saints Day!!! God bless!!!20111030-094638.jpg

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Packing and unpacking . . . again

So I’m back… After the last month of traveling and spending about a week at home to recover (which was just barely enough time), I’m back in the abbey!!! The return to the seminary this year was a little more reluctant and hesitant than last year after a summer where, after a long time, I once again took a good, hard look at my vocation but didn’t get any of the answers I was hoping to find… Wow, discernment is hard! I am hoping though that throughout this year back, I’ll find some of those answers that I’m seeking out…

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The beginning of a new school year is always marked by change and that was certainly the case this time… It’s interesting that in a place like a Benedictine monastery where, pretty much nothing changes for years, so much can happen in such a short time. The prior (second in command) stepped down from his position and he’s now our rector (meaning we get to call him now Fr. Matthew instead of Fr. Prior after his position). He’s replacing a legend here in the seminary, Fr. Nicholas who was our rector last year and has been the rector here for many many years. Then, in the vacated prior position, Fr. Benedict, one of the younger but super intelligent monks here, has started to take up just this year. New leadership almost always means changes, however minor they are because there’s still a sense of continuity that’s going on even while many of the rules are being looked at again and updated a little bit… It’s interesting being around this time and seeing all this happen because I have the reference point of last year to compare it with.

This year, in the seminary, I’ve changed my goals up quite a bit. Because of my reluctance and the tremendous uncertainty especially regarding what exactly it is God wants me to do, I’ve decided to dedicate much more time to prayer and I’m really, thus far, loving every minute of it… Last year, I would normally have a holy hour in the afternoon, just before vespers… I’d use up that time reading and (accidentally) falling asleep… There were always a few people (monks and seminarians) in the abbey church at the time too… Well, this year, because I feel I need more time alone (work on a little bit of that interior silence I should be cultivating… heheheeehhe), I decided to move that holy hour to the night, at the time when all the monks are off in recreation. It’s hauntingly beautiful being in that darkened corner of the abbey church where there’s no one else but you and Jesus and the only light is coming from the flickering candle of the tabernacle lamp… Sigh… It’s always the perfect way for me to end each and every single day…

Apart from everything slowly starting to get back to normal (hockey season is starting up once again this week and I was voluntold/drafted back into a team, and we even have our student government elections tomorrow night), the big event this week was easily a huge conference held at Regent College over the weekend between Catholic and Protestant theologians of extraordinary caliber… The theology students were all required to go but they gave permission (not to mention money to pay for the conference) to some of us interested arts students too. The conference was on the heated debate among primarily Protestant scholars about the role and usage of one of two different methods of scriptural interpretation. The historical/critical method or, what I often hear as the literal method is the taking of a specific text as it says it is, though also in consideration of the motives of the author, the cultural and religious circumstances he/she lived in and even the intended audience… It’s the method most accepted by Protestant theologians today. Some Protestant theologians though have started discovering in reading the Fathers of the Church (the people around during the late 1st century through to the 4th century and wrote about the church at the time) a different form of interpretation known as the spiritual/allegorical interpretation, which looks at the deeper meaning of the text often from a Christological perspective…. How does this text, for example, reflect certain truths about the arriving Messiah…. The Catholic Church beautifully integrates both methods in its teaching while the Protestants are still debating the validity of the allegorical method, fearing that it puts too much human influence into Sacred Scriptures…

It was a pretty head conference and most of us didn’t understand half the stuff being said… What kept us interested? Scott Hahn being there sure helped… Deacon Pablo’s respect for me (which isn’t that much) jumped up to 30% because I had a camera with me and managed to snap a nice little picture of our whole group with this prolific Catholic author… Scott Hahn was there alongside Mary Healy, a professor from Sacred Heart Major Seminary who gave a stirring talk on the Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews, speaking of how, found in the Old Testament are “shadows” that point to Christ and that need to be interpreted allegorically/spiritually to get to that conclusion. We also had R.R. Reno, the editor of the scholarly journal First Things and Matthew Levering from the University of Dayton there with us. My favorite talk though didn’t come from one of these amazing Catholic theologians… My favorite talk was given by Jason Byasse, a pastor for a United Methodist church… He talked about the use of allegory in reading the book of Job by Pope St. Gregory the Great citing some examples given by St. Gregory that illustrated the absolute beauty of allegorical interpretations…

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It’ll be tougher for me this year to blog as much as I’d like to because of both the number and difficulty of my classes… Alongside my metaphysics class (ouch…), I’m also taking Greek, Latin, Liturgical history, sociology (studying different encyclicals and the compendium of the social doctrine of the Church), drama (debate class) and modern philosophy so I have a ton on my plate… In addition, I’ll also be spending significantly more time in the chapel trying to figure out where it really is I’m called to be so my blogging is going to take a slightly second seat… Hehehehe I hope you’ll be patient with me on this… It’s a critical year for me because next year, if I get as far as next year, will be the start of theology… That step between philosophy and theology is a massive one and really does require a lot of prayer and discernment before it’s made… c”,) God bless and thanks for all your prayers!!!