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Oopsies II

John Kelleher

It seems time again to take stock of the developments and extensions of Covenantal Theology in these essays. For there is no longer any question that they go beyond what Fr. Keefe wrote.

We now summarize the arguments of the essays written after the last "Oopsies".

There is no non-historical Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is fully and freely obedient to the workings in history of the Lord Jesus and His bride. The Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Father in history except through the continuing daily historical work of the Bridegroom with His bride. They and they alone, as they "breathe" with each other but not as each other, "breathe" the concrete historical substantial Holy Spirit upon the disciples and upon the world.

From thence we proposed a covenantal, an historical, way to deepen our understanding of how substantial human nature -- which is to say, the New Covenant, One Flesh in the One Sacrifice -- Images the Most Holy Trinity, Three in One: the Bridegroom and His bride, in the total daily gift of themselves, with each other but not as each other, continually "breathe" another Person, the Holy Spirit, into history.

We speculated that, one day, we may be able to say, not What is grace? but Who is grace? since the infallible giving of grace in the sacraments is at least coterminous with the Bridegroom's and His bride's 'breathing' of the Holy Spirit into history.

We asserted that a salvific 'natural' or philosophical moral 'law' is not merely a radical contradiction in terms. Rather, the true Natural Law is the law of living hearts, Christ as One Flesh with His bride in the One Sacrifice, who in themselves constitute substantial human nature and Image the Most Holy Trinity. This is the substantial human nature, the Natural Law, that we possess in signo, sacramentally, mediatively, historically, multi-personally, as truth and gift in ecclesia.

We stressed that our share in substantial human nature is not organic, but rather is covenantal and historical. We sing with the Bridegroom and His bride, not as them. We do not 'become' the New Covenant, nor are we -- ever -- in any immediate relationship with either the Bridegroom or His bride; the immediacy of their nuptiality is reserved to them alone.

It is impossible to find an unshakable moral standard in 'pure nature' (fallenness as normative), or in any dehistoricized cosmology, or in a time-less "rationality," or in autonomous 'reason'. As Augustine knew, even the Commandments are not self-proving: love comes first.

The one reliable true eternal standard is bound in no way by Necessity but exists ex nihilo, which means not only "out of nothing" but also "out of no prior possibility," as living, utterly free and utterly responsible acts-in-history.

These continuing eucharistic, ecclesial, sacramental, historical, multi-personal acts-in-history constitute, and are, the New Covenant in the One Sacrifice. That New Covenant establishes a kinship history of free gifts, works, and obligations within which we receive our personal names, meaning, and eternal life. That standard of which we speak is solely covenantal, radically historical: Jesus Christ, One Flesh with His bride in His One Cross and Sacrifice.

We developed a covenantal, hence a radically historical, understanding of temporal punishment. Sin harms the history thus far of the historical free gifts, works, and obligations that is the Event of the Eucharist, the radically historical ordo of "the holy society by which we belong to God."

Forgiveness is the Lord's desire, ever present in history, for the sinner to return to that history thus far, without further harm to it. In the Rite of Penance the priest gifts that forgiveness into your concrete, personal history within the Church: "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Contrition is the sinner's concrete act within his personal history thus far, to acknowledge his sin within the history thus far of the Church, and to seek to do no further harm to that history.

Temporal punishment is a prescribed or recommended gift that the sinner freely and creatively gifts into the history thus far of the Church, something new and beneficial that does genuinely help to "route around" the harm he has done to that history, thereby renewing and repairing it.

Notice: our history within the history of the New Covenant can only be renewed and repaired. It cannot be literally restored. For the ordo of "the holy society by which we belong to God" is radically historical; within that ordo, there is no restoration of a time-less 'Order', there is no stasis to be returned to -- because there are no take-backs to any of our deeds, both good and bad.

What we have done, both good and bad, is ineradicably a part of our history, of our existence, of our personal -- that is, our baptismal -- names.

We argued that covenantal moral theologies cannot ask, "Why be good?" That is either naive foolishness, or the question that Satan put to Eve. In order to do covenantal moral theology, covenantal moral theologians must first answer Our Lord's prior question: "Who do you say that I am?"

In other words, Covenantal moral theologians begin with the recognition that the cause of their particular intellectual quaerens is their personal enfolding within an uncountable, and literally unaccountable (not to be accounted for; free from control), ongoing series of free and responsible historical gifts; that their response to these gifts is free and responsible gifts of their own; and that, like the gift made by Our Lady's juggler, their activity is no gift, no responsibility, at all, unless done for her, and is ever subject to her judgment.

We pointed out something that covenantal moral theologies must refuse unequivocally, as a matter of method:

And we delineated some things that covenantal moral theologies may deploy strictly provisionally, but cannot accept as foundational:

In the same essay, we also observed that "the venerable assumption that the immaterial is immune to the Fall [cannot] be sustained, for the immaterial is part of the Good Creation in the grace of Christ, and thus was subject to Adam and Eve's sin."

Finally, we demonstrated that, insofar as the notion of 'spiritual progress' depends on a dehistoricized Analogy of Being, it is founded on a radical contradiction, and is thus invalid.

We also pointed out that covenantal moral theologies can have nothing to do with a 'contemplation' conceived of as a time-less, static, intellectual, unmediated, individual union with God achieved by means of a perfect understanding of Christ and perfect conformity with Him.

First, no one except His bride has an unmediated relationship with the Lord Jesus. Second, while Christ with His bride is infinitely intelligible, a 'perfect understanding' of Christ is a nonsense term, radically unformulable. Third, similarly unformulable is a Greek, dehistoricized, static, 'conformity' with Him.

We did mark a delightful consequence of a covenantal Analogy of Being -- a fact obvious in the Church's actual worship, but systematically, as a matter of method, rendered theologically unavailable to the dehistoricized speculation of much of the theological tradition -- that Heaven is really present in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as actual and as real as the Lord's Presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

If one day there are more essays than those we have written at present, we will write yet another one like this one.

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