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Breathing As a Moral Act

John Kelleher

This essay "towards" covenantal moral theologies is different. For while in previous essays, we may have made mistakes by drastically misconstruing what Covenantal Theology says and means, in today's essay we go well beyond what Fr. Keefe himself ever dreamt.

Thus we might consider that, in this essay, we have opened a space for the thesis presented herein, that we have made it theoretically possible, but there is no sense in which we are able to prove the thesis proposed here in professional theological detail. The liturgical tradition of the Church does not seem to bar the thesis absolutely, though the theological tradition since the fourteenth century at least, and perhaps well before that, certainly does.

All we can show in defense is that Covenantal Theology proves, in its typical and exemplary professional theological detail, that the theological tradition since at least the fourteenth century, and inchoately well before that, at least in part founds itself on assumptions that are radically incoherent, and thus that applying those assumptions to make a critique of our thesis here is unfounded. The critique fails, but the possibility exists that some other critique of the thesis, made on some other basis, would be devastating and successful.

Caution is thus the order of the day. Proving the radical insufficiency of Thesis "A" (which Fr. Keefe, not we, have accomplished) is noteworthy, and represents a very welcome and profound intellectual achievement, but it says absolutely nothing about the sufficiency of (our own) Thesis "B".

Thus we develop what appear to be some of the details and ramifications of the thesis proposed here, partly in hope that the thesis will blow itself up, before it causes any real harm. We warn in advance, however, that if the thesis does not blow itself up in a way that is detectable to us, that we may well deploy it in future inquiries.

Our investigation concerns the moral capability of creation, from the insensate, to the sensual, to the intellectual and immaterial. We will observe that the moral capability of the entire Good Creation, testified to in Sacred Scripture, was, even very early within the Latin West, becoming an intellectual, theological difficulty, perhaps especially regarding marital sexual intercourse, but not only there.

We will also observe that Covenantal Theology proves that the philosophical and thus theological 'move' to de-blood, or thin, or 'spiritualize' man's 'natural' essence enough to allow a 'natural' relation to the divine fails tout court.

Thus, theologically, particularly perhaps in the Latin West but not only there, at first not comprehensively, but in fits and starts even very early on, it had begun to be taken as a matter of course that the insensate and the sensual was at best amoral, had at best only an extrinsic -- that is, nominal -- moral capability that was assigned 'from the outside', whether by God or man; and by the fourteenth century, the 'move' to 'spiritualize' man enough to allow his 'natural' connection to the divine, was also seen even by some adherents to have failed, collapsed under the weight of an inherent contradiction.

The emergence of these quandaries, as quandaries, within theology leaves all of creation, including man, with moral capability that cannot be justified intellectually, theologically. The existence of moral capability (however one disguises this) now is to be taken on faith, as commanded or given by God -- nominalism. And we argue that none of those theological or philosophical quandaries need be 'quandaries' for covenantal moral theologies.

We begin by noting that the fundamental, quintessential moral act is worship. "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name." [ Ps 103:1 ] Moreover, 'worship' is an under-determined term until it is Eucharistic. The alternatives are either: that worship is not a moral act; or that worship is not the preeminent moral act; or that worship is not radically Eucharistic.

We deal with the objections in reverse order. First, covenantal moral theologies are clear that all worship is radically Eucharistic. There is no 'lonely soul', unmediated path to salvation or even to prayer. Our worship, all worship, is in and through Christ the High Priest's, Christ the Sacred Victim's, One Sacrifice, which causes the One Flesh of the New Covenant with His bride. The Eucharist makes the Church, as CCC 1396 professes; it is practically a theological scandal that we must say out loud that it also makes the praying Church.

Second, the sole alternative to worship as the fundamental moral act is that love is instead, the love referred to in the Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Yet covenantal moral theologies are equally clear that 'love' is not merely an under-determined term apart from Eucharistic worship, but instead is simply undefined apart from Eucharistic worship.

While we live, there is no unmediated, a-sacramental, non-ecclesial path to loving the Lord your God with all one's heart, soul, and mind. Even at the moment of our death, our final decision is to be with Him, the Bridegroom with His bride, or to spit on both and forever remove ourselves from them both equally.

Even in heaven the Great Commandment is inseparable from our personal participation in the only worship of God there is, which is covenantal and in this life is Eucharistic -- in and through the One Sacrifice and the One Flesh of the Bridegroom and His bride.

Third, we dismiss prima facie any contention that worship is not a moral act.

Worship is thus the quintessential moral act. We therefore propose: that it is impossible for anything in a world created within the grace of Christ to be amoral. There are no 'value-free' things, no 'amoral' acts. We may describe some activities as 'vegetative', if we will, but even these cannot be amoral acts. Breathing is a moral act. Sleeping is a moral act. Dying is a moral act.

For it is comprehensively false that we live in a fundamentally amoral world into which (somehow) moral acts occasionally impinge. The surprise of creation in the grace of Christ just is the 'natural world', and there is nothing 'amoral' about it. A rock, or a star, is not a 'neutral' thing, it is not an amoral thing, it is not indifferent to the grace of Christ; it is alive with the grace of Christ which is the gift in which it is created. A rock is a moral thing. A star is a moral thing. Salt is a moral thing.

The Old Rite (that is, the Old Roman Rite) does not prohibit this meaning. In the Old Rite's making of sacramentals, water, salt, oil, are first exorcised -- removed from any servitude to the Prince of this world -- then reserved for the King and His Kingdom with a constitutive blessing.

In fact, it scarcely harms our thesis that in the Old Rite, salt is spoken to directly, not as a mere Thing but as a being who rightly can be addressed by a consecrated priest of Jesus the Lord, and is from the first words of the rite referred to as a creature not of the devil, but of God: "O salt, creature of God...."

Which is to say, in order to account for what the Old Rite does to create a sacramental, it is not necessary, as some theologies do, whether implicitly or explicitly, to make the assumption that salt (for example) has no intrinsic moral capability, is only 'moral' in its use, and therefore, that the combined exorcism/blessing creates something merely like a transfer of ownership of an intrinsically amoral Thing, from the devil to the Lord and His Bride. In point of fact, there is no 'transfer of ownership' whatever; salt is from the first deemed a "creature of God."

That an extrinsically-oriented and quasi-juridical supposition is not necessary to account for the way in which the Old Rite creates sacramentals is a good thing for covenantal moral theologies. For covenantal moral theologies categorically refuse -- and refute -- any assumption that the grace of Christ is extrinsic to 'pure nature,' or is (somehow) imposed on 'pure nature', or is (somehow) an 'accident' of 'pure nature'.

It need not be the case that once a sacramental is created, it now 'belongs' to Christ in a merely extrinsic way, as if that were all that is possible for salt or water or oil. It need not be the case that, in effect, all that is possible for these is for certain documents to have been signed, merely extrinsically transferring the ownership of a thing, which possesses in itself no intrinsic capacity to belong to Christ and His Bride.

Bless the Lord, sun and moon, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, stars of heaven, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all rain and dew, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all winds, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

[ Dan 3:40-44 ]

But by the fourteenth century, the triumph of the New Logic was complete, the philosophical or 'natural' analogy of being had been noticed to be played out, and in sophisticated theological circles, it was no longer possible for sun and moon to bless the Lord, except nominally; that language was even by then, save for "a school loyalty coupled to a religious obedience," implicitly 'nostalgic', or in modern terms, 'naive', 'fundamentalist':

While the influence of Plato's Timaeus was still effective in the Thomist metaphysics, by way of the tradition stemming from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, coloring the notion of the natural with a religious significance and value, this nostalgia was irreconcilable with the dogmatic rationalism of the Aristotelian act-potency analysis. This has the consequence that the usual "Thomist" analogy of being set up a radically contradictory postulate of a transcendent creator who is "naturally" known to be the metaphysical absolute, for it is immediately evident that of the transcendent absolute precisely nothing is or can be known, as a matter of definition: of the ineffable, nothing is said. This had been worked out in the Latin West by the close of the thirteenth century and, since the nominalist triumph of logic over cosmology in the next century, only a school loyalty coupled to a religious obedience, now unavailing, has kept the Thomist "natural" or philosophical analogy in use....

[CT Vol.I, Ch. II, n. 37, p. 278]

Nothing that is qualified, multiple, and therefore relative -- nothing at all that is Not-The-One -- can have any but an antagonistic (that is, illogical, unnecessary, irrational) relationship to the One. But even before the consequences of the "natural" analogy of being had been worked out in the Latin West, the theological air within which even man, even at his summit, could 'naturally' relate to the divine, had become exceedingly thin: only man as immaterial could 'naturally' relate to the divine; and there remained already by then no conceptual room at all for strictly material things to do so.

So perhaps long before the thirteenth century, at least in theological circles it had become impossible to pray, "Sun and moon, bless the Lord," except "poetically" -- nominally. But we may observe a demarcation: by the close of the thirteenth century, something extraordinary had happened in the intellectual life of the Church.

It was still intellectually, theologically, possible to say that the sun could bless the Lord, but now, it was possible to say that only in deference to a "nostalgia" that was now explicitly defunct intellectually and theologically; in all serious theological circles, it was no longer possible to say that the sun 'literally' (as we might say now) could bless the Lord.

That the sun could bless the Lord was no longer a part of the sun's intrinsic capability. That meaning was now only available as imposed extrinsically, whether by God or by man, onto a thing that was part of 'pure nature', void of intrinsic religious significance, fundamentally amoral, save by recourse to a 'natural' analogy of being which was increasingly being seen as, and is, inherently bankrupt, because the radical paradox at its heart is insoluble:

We have already shown that the absolute and unqualified unity of being, the Deus Unus of the natural theology tractates, can have only an antagonistic because irrational relation to what is qualified, multiple, and therefore relative. We have insisted that to assert the reality of such a relation or analogy is to affirm a contradiction, one possessing pride of place since Plotinus: i.e., a rationally necessary, or "natural" continuum between the Absolute and the relative.

The various fautores of the "natural" analogy of being have struggled unavailingly with this false problem, one inherited from the Christian Neoplatonism of the twelfth century.

[ CT II, p. 216 ]

The explicit nominalism of the fourteenth century, then, began its long and enduring triumph at least in part as a recognition of, and a response to, the (deserved) intellectual collapse of the "natural" analogy of being, whose adherents could only propose in response "a school loyalty coupled to a religious obedience," which was generally effective for a long time, but was always going to be just a holding action.

For an intellectual defense of the intellectually indefensible will always be futile. The "natural" analogy of being began to turn in the hands even of its adherents, devolving over the centuries into a multiplicity of conflicting accounts of how it might 'work', and, in lesser hands, into an apologetics of the thing that was mere public relations. Covenantal Theology shows that any possible "natural" analogy of being fails also in principle, but that was merely the coup de grace. The dead horse of a "natural" analogy of being can continue to be whipped by small bands of adherents for as long as they like, but it will not rise and do any further work, no matter what they do.

Thus it was not nominalism, but the prior intellectual collapse of the "natural" analogy of being, which seemed to leave us, now decisively, with a world devoid of intrinsic moral significance. (The philosophical and theological 'move' to make the material world devoid of that significance, as we have observed, must have at least begun long before that). God commanded us to believe that the sun and moon blessed Him -- and that, in the end, was the reason why we now accepted that they did, for our intellectual categories no longer enabled us to acknowledge this -- and this is sheer nominalism.

The "postulatory atheism" of the natural sciences was waiting in the wings; and moreover, the postulate that 'God' at very least no longer had any direct effect on the natural world, proved more salient to science's investigations: The Great Chain of Being might be very good at some things, but it was not very good at uncovering surprises in the fabric of nature.

Perhaps this was so because it implicitly constrained investigations within a 'logic' that was at least in principle already known, and was prior to whatever might be wondered about. Whereas imagining that 'God' had nothing to do with it, left one free to imagine 'logics' that would only reveal themselves after the facts had been given their due. At its best, "postulatory atheism" allowed for surprise; and even at its best, The Great Chain of Being, the distant poor cousin of the "natural" analogy of being, did not.

We note, however, that within both "postulatory atheism" and its alternative, saying that the sun and moon literally bless the Lord, is impossible. "Postulatory atheism" says this explicitly; and, as has been seen, the "natural" analogy of being, by being intellectually bankrupt, says this implicitly.

The quintessential moral act is worship. "Bless the Lord, sun and moon, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever" does not refer to some vague 'religious significance' to the sun and the moon, but to their intrinsic capacity to be moral -- to worship.

We have noted that at least since the fourteenth century, it had become intellectually impossible to take this prayer seriously, even for Catholics. The intellectual and theological categories available to Catholics made the idea that the sun and the moon have an intrinsic moral capacity, an intrinsic capacity for worship, purely 'poetic' (nominal), not real.

We have also noted that covenantal moral theologies need not confine themselves to the same intellectual and philosophical assumptions that made it impossible for us to take the prayer seriously; to the contrary, Covenantal Theology proves that the root assumption, of a "natural" analogy of being, self-generates paradoxes, and thus that the assumption itself cannot be taken seriously.

But the intellectual collapse of any possible "natural" analogy of being neither proves nor disproves that the sun and the moon have intrinsic moral capability -- that they are able to bless the Lord, to worship, as a matter of their intrinsic being.

However, the bright side is that covenantal moral theologies are not confined within an intellectual universe in which there are only two possibilities, both repugnant: (a) the "natural" analogy of being having failed, the Good Creation is intrinsically devoid of moral significance, but possesses a 'religious significance' extrinsically, either as a meaning assigned extrinsically, whether by God or by man, or by 'having' a moral significance by proxy, in its moral use; or (b) creation is devoid of moral capability, period.

In either case, at best. we are able to say that the sun and moon bless the Lord only 'poetically'; that is, nominally. And the same goes for the sexual intercourse even of a sacramentally-married couple:

Against this stands the persuasion, constant from Augustine to St. Thomas, that the sexual intercourse between man and woman, between husband and wife, is without religious significance. Only as in some manner "spiritualized" does it have the value assigned it in the first three chapters of Genesis and by Paul in Eph. 5:23ff.. Short of that "spiritualization," understood in Platonic terms as its ideal separation from carnality, i.e., its dehistoricization, it is considered to be merely natural, the physical commixtio or conjunctio of male and female.

[ CT III n. 285 ]

Here we can notice that in the constant theological tradition from (at least) Augustine to Aquinas, the "natural" analogy of being had already become so rarefied, so thinly related to 'nature', that the concept was at best even then hanging by a thread. So far along had the 'spiritualization' of marital intercourse gone that the actual poetry of the Song of Songs was deemed to require further poeticizing, because whatever the context, sexual intercourse was summarily part of 'nature', and thus intrinsically could have nothing to do with worship.

Fr. Keefe observes that "St. Thomas is very clear" that matrimony is the least of the sacraments, because sexual intercourse, even between a sacramentally-married man and his wife, is, as merely 'natural', exactly as capable of blessing the Lord as the sun and moon: that is, not at all:

[There is] ... a certain quasi-Platonic fastidiousness over the sacramentality of the nuptial union: e.g., for St. Thomas, marriage is the least spiritual of the sacraments, because the most physical. [89]

[ CT III ]

. . .

[89] St. Thomas is very clear on this point:

Ad primum ergo dicendum quod matrimonium, secundum quod ordinatur ad animalem vitam, est naturae officium. Sed secundum quod habet aliquid spritualitatis, est sacramentum. Et quia minimum habet de spiritualitate, ultimo ponitur inter sacramenta. S. T. iiia, q. 65, art. 3, ad 1

[ "{In reply to the first objection I answer that} Matrimony, as ordained to natural life, is a function of nature. But in so far as it has something spiritual, it is a sacrament. And because it has the least amount of spirituality, it is placed last." ]

[ CT III n. 89 ]

We note further in passing that, once the "natural" analogy of being is seen to fail, there is no reason to suppose that the entire edifice of assumptions, logic, and conjectures on which classic moral theology is based, remains unassailable, or even intact. The (putative) "natural" connection of creation and of man to the divine that is assumed by so much of that theological structure, has crumpled into dust; it has collapsed, not from 'attack', but because even adherents worked out that it was finally unable to bear its own weight; it has been rendered forever inconsequential by its own self-generated paradoxes. A substance/accident paradigm of the moral universe cannot be founded on a profoundly defective understanding of "substance."

Nonetheless, a Thomist moral theology is able to be sustained, but only by replacing the "Thomist" (and largely, St. Thomas's as well) notion of substantial reality with the Covenant.

Only the Covenant is able to successfully replace the insufficiently-baptized notions of substance previously available to both Augustinian and Thomist moral theologies, and with that replacement, both are able not only to survive, but also to once again flourish; this is what Covenantal Theology shows.

We have shown here that the intellectual collapse of any possible "natural" analogy of being makes traditional moral theologies unable to account for -- to take seriously -- the idea that the sun and moon possess the quintessential intrinsic moral capability, which is the ability to worship, and therefore, that, within traditional moral theologies, the sun and moon may not seriously be asked to bless the Lord. However, there is in principle no corresponding reason why covenantal moral theologies cannot do so:

The parallel between Incarnation, Resurrection and Eucharist is ancient in the Church; it is explicit in the Johannine Gospel, and the Fathers have seen this parallelism from the second century. While the later Thomist theology did not exploit this insight, preferring to make the philosophy of nature the principle of explaining the reality of grace, it is possible, without detriment to the act-potency analysis, to reject this cosmological postulate and to seek the paradigm of the free Eucharistic Event in the gift of eschatological fullness to creation rather than by an ultimately futile attempt to construct a metaphysics of the supernatural metabole of a supposedly "natural" substance.

[ CT II (Ch. V), p. 415 ]

We have further seen that the Old Rite's method of creating sacramentals does not bar an improved, covenantal, notion of substance. Far rather, it would seem to add to our understanding of the ritual to propose (for example) that salt's intrinsic moral ability to belong to Christ, which it "groans" to accomplish since the Fall, may be seen to be, not imposed extrinsically, but restored, by the Old Rite's exorcism and constitutive blessing.

With a transformation to a covenantal moral theology, we go from a universe which, except for God and man, is at best "naturally" amoral -- moral (at best) only extrinsically, as assigned a moral meaning by God or man, or moral solely by its (moral) use, thus even at its best intrinsically blank, inert, morally incapable -- to a universe that was born to worship, that still "groans" to worship, a universe incalculably imprisoned and degraded by the Fall but yet "full of your glory."

We would be remiss if we did not develop a little further a point just made; for as the discussion of sexual intercourse above shows, in many former and highly influential moral theologies, only 'man' insofar as he is sufficiently 'spiritualized' is a moral being. Anything in man that belongs to 'nature' is just as intrinsically inert and morally incapable as a stone.

Indeed, we need not go far to note that moral theologies have opined that strictly "natural" (that is, strictly material) beings are not simply as morally inert as a stone, for that is the best we can say about them. Material things also can readily become millstones round man's neck and drag him to perdition.

The second observation, that material beings can help to drag us to perdition, is certainly true; but the remedy often proposed -- to become 'ascetic' as de-blooded -- is pagan, and pernicious. As we have previously observed, our Lord's various 'fastings' during His life were in no way an expression of his 'detachment' from or disdain for material things, or even a detachment from those material things from which he fasted. Our Lord's various 'fastings' were strictly His testimony that there are even more important things than the particular material things from which He fasted. For example, in Luke 22:15 He says, "I would gladly have eaten (I have earnestly desired to eat) this passover with you."

To continue our exploration of this point, first we observe that we are directed by the magisterium to take no part of the current Catechism to be superior to that to which it refers.

This is fortunate indeed, for CCC 2351, following the theological tradition "constant from Augustine to St. Thomas" [ CT III n. 285 ], refers to 'Lust' not only unexceptionably as "disordered desire" for sexual pleasure, but also (that is, even within a valid sacramental marriage) as "inordinate enjoyment" of sexual pleasure; which amounts to the idea that the whole business is regrettable, and would more appropriately be accomplished by an exchange of letters.

It is the animalistic, the bestial -- the physical -- in the activity, so patently removed from the 'spiritual', which is so alarming, so suspect -- so 'of nature', and therefore, at best, so inherently devoid of moral capability.

After all, there is no sin called an "inordinate enjoyment" of the beatific vision. St. Peter is not standing at the pearly gates, forbidding entry to all those he thinks might enjoy heaven "inordinately." And St. Peter refuses to disallow the thorough enjoyment of heaven for the same reason that our Lord did not refuse to turn the twenty to thirty gallons of water in each of six stone jars [ Jn 2:6 ] into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, on the grounds that someone, somewhere, was going to enjoy the party 'too much.'

And it is not only the wayward, the dissenting, the dissolute, who might blanch at the specter of innocent consciences formed to accuse themselves in Confession of grave sin, for having "inordinately" -- an "inordinately" which might, according to prominent and saintly theological scholars, mean 'at all' -- enjoyed the marital bed.

Fifty years before Aquinas was born, thus roughly 100 years before the Summa, the later middle ages witnessed the birth of the very curious and, to this day, highly influential anti-theology called "chivalry," that invention of the courtiers and poets, which is the deliberate parody and inversion of Catholic sacramental, sexual love.

In "The Allegory of Love," C.S. Lewis observes that the core texts of "chivalry" could not have been more blatant in their moral reversals. Chrétien de Troyes's "Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart" (Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette), composed around 1177, is seminal (so to speak). Lancelot, the (so called) noblest of knights, not only loves another man's wife, he ennobles himself by doing so, and he is all the more worthy, he is the epitome of chivalric 'virtue', because he will gladly do anything, even repeatedly, publicly, and abjectly humiliate himself, in the service of the adultery.

Here, we observe (thus, not necessarily Lewis) that the chivalric focus on the passionateness of sexual desire, on the feeling of 'love' and on the enthusiasm for it and the willingness to go to any lengths for it, is thus identical to that expressed by the late medieval moral tracts, but with the exact opposite valence.

Chrétien de Troyes absolutely agrees with the Church: sex within a sacramental marriage is meant to be strictly dutiful, inherently boring, unexciting, emotionally inconsequential, and infrequent, not in any way "noble," salutary, or morally worthy. Marital sex is to be tolerated, for the good of society, but certainly, never encouraged. But adultery -- now there is the possibility for real love, for the enduring frisson of danger and passion between a man and a woman.

There is a winding yet evident path from 'chivalry' to the view that (sexual) 'love' is Noble And Good whenever and wherever it accords with 'feelings', rather than with Matrimony, and thus, not only is sex without Matrimony "beautiful" whenever and wherever the 'feeling' is right, but also that sex, even with one's spouse, is 'wrong' when the 'feeling' isn't 'there'; and therefore that sex with one's spouse, as also Matrimony itself, is practically immoral, or at any rate disposable, when it gets in the way of the possibility of 'real love'.

And not only in this way was the new 'chivalry' a perversion, an inversion, of Catholic sacramental realism, while being in an odd way a mirror image of the theological arguments of the time.

For heroic chivalric 'virtue' is expressed not merely by a man's status displays to curry a woman's favor, for that is but the foundation for 'love'. Once he has her attention, he must endlessly and ever-increasingly display his status to her, and he must further express his 'virtue' not merely by immoderate deference to her, nor merely by immoderate deference to her 'feelings', nor even by deference to her merest whims, but by abject emotional slavery to her cruelest and most inconstant whims, and by a willingness to sacrifice entirely one's own honor, even one's life, to spare her from suffering any consequences at all for any of her fornications and infidelities, including but not limited to those that you enjoy with her.

The man would gladly die, to preserve her from the consequences of her actions. In the deliberately sly, inverted, perverted anti-theology of the chivalric tales, one can almost hear a background chorus chanting, "Greater love than this, no man hath...." And once again, Chrétien de Troyes agrees with the popular theological wisdom: of all the creatures on the earth, woman is the most sexually immoderate, the most unfaithful, and the most evil.

Chivalric 'virtue' is the art of becoming a woman's PlayThing, by the simultaneous stroking of all her weakest points: by status displays, by flattering her unduly, by making her merest whims, even her cruelties, feel 'empowering' and 'right', and by convincing her that no consequences at all will ever attach to her becoming as sexually immoderate and unfaithful as she might wish.

But that is far enough afield. The poets and courtiers of 'chivalry' were very well aware -- evilly aware -- of the ironies replete within the efforts of former moral theologies to de-blood man, in the attempt to make him "naturally" 'spiritual'.

However, as Covenantal Theology has shown, even any possible de-blooded version of 'man' collapses utterly with the collapse of the "natural" analogy of being. However distilled and rarefied this version of "man's" essence becomes, and however 'spiritually' it is conceived, even an infinite progression of 'natural' demi-urges does not enable this 'man' to touch the sky.

We have shown that the "natural" analogy of being fails, and therefore, cannot, even in principle, account for the reality of the prayer for sun and moon to bless the Lord, to worship; and we have shown that covenantal moral theologies do not in principle bar accounts within which creation is yet "full of your glory," and within which sacramentals are able to return to covenantal existence not merely extrinsically or nominally, but substantially and intrinsically -- because they were meant to worship, they were born to worship, all along.

Absent the death of the Lord, however, none of that would be true. Apart from the Lord and His bride, apart from the fully historical One Sacrifice continually represented in history, only fallenness as normative is available to us; and that is futile, as the failure of all possible "natural" analogies of being shows.

Put differently, Catholic sacramental realism does not bar us from understanding that sun and moon can truly, really, bless the Lord; it simply bars us from understanding that reality to be a cosmological or dehistoricized meaning, an imposed meaning, a meaning assigned extrinsically.

For the Cross of Christ, in history and not as 'ideal', changes everything; the New Covenant is the linchpin of the entire Good Creation, and not 'poetically' meaning 'nominally', but 'poetically' meaning 'really', substantively, historically, not as 'ideal' or as an abstraction, though in this fallen world, this is evident, and is so, only sacramentally, solely in and through the Eucharist. In Thomistic terms:

There is in view then no immediate participation of creatures in Esse, as the "thin-essence" Thomists have supposed; all that we are, we are in Christ, i.e., in consequence of the mission of the Son. The hominization of the universe of man occurs at the level of its very existence, its creation; only if this radical Christocentrism is accepted can the enslavement of the universe, including the kenosis of the Christ, be seen to have occurred by reason of the fall, and its redemption be seen to be actual by the fact of the Resurrection. The New Covenant is the free immanence of God in man, and includes in its reality the whole of humanity, the whole of the created universe: all that is exists uniquely by reason of the Father's sending of the Son to give the Spirit. We cannot isolate the metaphysics of the Incarnation from the metaphysics of creation: they are mutually implicatory in their contingency. Only when this is realized is Esse understood historically, in the context of a theological metaphysics. Otherwise, viz., as in the context of a propter peccatum sensu negante Christology, existence can add nothing to the meaning of essence, as every nominalist has known; when the covenantal meaning of the Son's Incarnation is not taken seriously, i.e., given systematic standing, Esse has been dehistoricized.

[ CT II (Ch. V), p. 443 ]

We pause here to observe just how radically our thesis departs from the assumptions of classic moral theologies. Because, in the thesis proposed here, the quintessential moral act: worship, is not absolutely dependent on either cognition or volition as we have understood those terms; nor is is the capacity to be moral, to worship, confined simply to men and angels; nor only to animate beings; nor only to those creatures -- men and angels -- whose life, once created, is eternal. Those things created in the grace of Christ that must eventually pass out of existence also possess the root moral capacity, the capacity to worship.

Classic moral theology begins the discussion of the 'moral' not merely with man alone (with of course, a nod to the angels), and not merely with man as moral solely as he is 'naturally' distinct from the rest of creation, but even more, solely with man as moral only as he is sufficiently immaterial, de-blooded, deliquesced, 'spiritualized'. This guaranteed from before the outset that sun and moon could bless the Lord only nominally, if at all.

But there is nothing of the 'prettification' of reality in our radically different starting ground and conclusions. The confident assertion that the Good Creation is in the grace of Christ, and is therefore intrinsically moral and has intrinsic meaning and goodness, though solely within the One Flesh of the One Sacrifice, is essential to confidence per se:

... At the same time, the sacramentality of historical objectivity poses an evident problem: we live and die by the pragmatic objectivity of sticks and stones, the denial of whose objectivity is fatal. However fallen the world may be, we inhabit it and cannot ignore its empirical impact. The assertion of a sacramentally-grounded hermeneutic can be heard by the practical ear as an invitation to phantasize, to avoid encounter with objective reality. Yet the facts are quite otherwise. Any concrete rejection of the transempirical or metaphysical objectivity of those sticks and stones in favor of an empirical objectivity can only proceed to their analytical disintegration, for in history they have no ascertainable empirical unity, thus no empirical objectivity. There remains only a pragmatic assignment of extrinsic value or disvalue to such objects, a finally utilitarian determination, denying them any intrinsic significance or value.

[ CT III n. 285 ]

And more than this: something of the mute, bestial daily this-ness of ordinary faithful human suffering can only be incompletely captured within a moral theology's 'spiritualization' of it, within an idea of plain animalistic suffering as merely an 'example' of A Higher, More Spiritual Truth, or as 'meritorious' only insofar as it is the working-out of one of the dictates of The Eternal Rulebook In The Sky.

If man's actual blood, sweat, and tears are in themselves as morally vacant as gravel, and thus are theologically required to be mere Examples Of A Time-less Truth, something drastically important is lost. The blood of faithful suffering has been poeticized, abstractified, 'prettified'.

The same prettification occurs in popular culture, only this time, Everything Is Pretty because everything Not Exciting is made to vanish. The pseudonymous blogger 'Dymphna' said it well:

There are no poems or pop songs about home nursing. ... [the popular singer] Lady Gaga is not singing about cleaning up your spouse's vomit. [the popular singers] Jay Z and Beyonce are not doing power ballads about standing by your child's grave and being strong for your spouse. Nobody is giving [popularly 'fascinating'] Ted Talks about standing by your spouse when the factory closes or about going from shopping at Macys [a department store] to Shopping at Goodwill [for donated clothing and goods] when times get hard.

Instead, here we propose: everything created in the grace of Christ -- which is everything -- has at least the quintessential inherent, intrinsic moral capacity, which is the capacity to worship.

Therefore, we may say that sun and moon can, and do, bless the Lord, without the least cognition or volition on their part. They make no Morning Offering, even once, to dedicate what they do to the blessing of the Lord; and yet, they bless the Lord, because He created them, He created them in the grace of Christ.

Thus also we may rightly say that every breath we take, is a moral act. If sun and moon bless the Lord, so also may each one of our breaths. Without the least cognition or volition on our part, still we bless the Lord. Within the grace of Christ, within the death of Christ, within the One Sacrifice and the One Flesh of the Bridegroom and His bride, we are able to bless the Lord, just by breathing.

Covenantal moral theologies affirm to their roots that in all of the Good Creation, Man's worship is distinctive, premiere, and of singular importance. But the Fall is not the telling difference between the sun and moon, and us. Not only the worship of men, but also the worship of the entire universe, had been degraded by the Fall, and so severely as to verge on inconsequence -- though not quite: the desire to worship in the grace of Christ remained, in the sun and moon and in us. Our anguish apart from the death of the Lord has its faint echo in the "groan" of the Good Creation to rejoin its Lord and His bride.

But the crucial way that we differ from the rest of the Good Creation, even after our Lord's death, descent into Hell, and Resurrection, even after the New Covenant with His bride has been completed on the Cross, though solely in signo in this fallen world, is that we alone take up the covenantal responsibilities -- and more -- gifted to Adam and Eve.

The emphasis placed by former moral theologies on the cognition and volition of man, is not at all misplaced. Yes, there is no "natural" analogy of being. Apart from the enfolding of man's cognition and volition in the death of the Lord, in the One Flesh of the One Sacrifice, neither of these can touch the sky, neither of these can ever amount to "free will," the ability to worship in spirit and in truth.

Nonetheless, as brothers of the Lord, brothers in the Lord, brothers in the One Flesh of the Bridegroom with His bride, men do have genuine free will; and that makes man's worship critically different from that of any other creature on the earth, and of singular importance.

The sun and moon bless the Lord as long as they exist; but we alone may -- and must -- "complete what is lacking" [ Col 1:24 ] in His afflictions. And the sun and moon bless the Lord as long as they exist; but we can stop. They cannot spit on Him, revile Him, and wish Him dead. But we can. We can turn even our breath against Him. And if we do, then just like Adam and Eve, we make a desolation in the Good Creation.

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