May 19, 2006


Today's first reading raises a question that has always been vexing for me. In it the Holy Spirit acts through the apostles to bring about the great theological breakthrough of the primitive church: gentile converts do not have to become Jews to be Christians, but only have to follow a stream-lined version of the Law: they have to abide by marriage as it was set up at creation and keep the Noachic covenant with regard to food. The keeping of the whole Law is left behind.

But what does it mean for us now? Is the attitude toward the Mosaic Law in the New Testament meant to be our theological attitude to the rules and laws of the Catholic church now? Well, many of us certainly act that way, and you can make a strong argument for this position. This is the liberal position that is loose with church law, and it seems Scriptural from a certain perspective.

Or is the Holy Spirit that dispenses the gentile converts from the Jewish Law the same Spirit Who asks us to follow the laws and rules of the Catholic church now?

I have suffered anguish over this question from the day of my baptism, and have not yet come to a satisfying answer.


Br. Chris Gaffrey, ofm said...

I was just reading something recently by Raniero Cantalamessa on the "new law" and the Holy Spirit in his book "Life in Christ." According to his reflection, Pentecost was not just the day when the first fruits were offered, but by Jesus' tie it was also associated with the Mount Sinai experience of Moses receiving the old law, written on tablets of stone by the finger of God (get ready for the tie in with the HS... remember in the Veni Creator Spiritus the HS is digitus dei dexerae). He talks about the Holy Spirit Himself being the new law, saying that it is the Holy Spirit who is to write the law upon our hearts (Jer 31) taking from us our stoney hearts and giving us fleshy hearts (Ez), so that we no longer observe the law exteriorly only, but interiorly, so that we are not obliged exteriorly but drawn by the beauty and goodness of God Himself to do the good (ie the example Augustine gives of the kid reaching out for nuts because he sees them to be good). The whole "law of the spirit" bit Romans gets a whole new meaning.

According to our friend RC, even the new positive commands of the gospel such as the beatitudes and the new command to love one another would only be a replacement of the old law and not bring salvation without the grace given to us by the Holy Spirit to live to follow these thngs interiorly.

If you can get a hold of RC's book, do so 'cause it's worth seeing the original (I've given only a poor replica of the meditation he gives).

friar minor said...

Thanks brother for the effort! Everything I read or hear from our brother RC is great.