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Berit Olam: Ruth and Esther

Tod Linafelt and Timothy K. Beal

Some ancient works of literature survive in fragments that appear so simple and complete it's hard to imagine them as being part of a larger narrative. Such is the case with Ruth and Esther. On first reading they appear so simple, so whole, and their meanings so completely self-evident. Yet the closer you look, the more perplexing they become. Ruth and Esther offers that close look, enabling readers to discover the uncertainties of the texts and demonstrating how these uncertainties are not problems to be solved, but rather are integral to the narrative art of these texts.In Ruth, the first part of this volume, Tod Linafelt highlights the most unresolved and perplexing aspects of Ruth. In doing so he offers an interpretation he calls "unsettling." Linafelt states that it is unsettling in the sense that he often refuses to ?settle? on a single, unequivocal meaning of a particular word, phrase, or theme. Rather he prefers to underscore the dual or even multiple meanings that the narrative so often has. Another way Ruth differs from other interpretations is that Linafelt entertains the possibility that there might be complexity or ambiguity with regard to the various characters? motivations, the presentation of God, or the book?s purpose. In this commentary, Linafelt explores the ambiguities of meaning built into the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of the story to discover how these ambiguities carry over to the larger interpretive issues of characterization, theology, and purpose. He also lays forth an argument that the book of Ruth is intended to be read as an interlude between Judges and Samuel.The second part of this volume focuses on Esther, a story of anti-Judaism that raises strikingly contemporary questions concerning relations between sexism, ethnocentrism, and national identity. In Esther Timothy Beal guides readers into the meaning of the story using rhetorical criticism. He asks questions without assuming that there must be answers and allows for complexity, perplexity, and the importance of accidents in the text. In essence, Beal emphasizes the particular over the general and the tentative over the continuous; however, he does not altogether dismiss the importance of broader interpretations of Esther, especially those focusing on narrative structure.Chapters in Ruth are ?The Bond between Ruth and Naomi,? ?Finding Favor in Boaz?s Field,? ?An Ambiguous Encounter in the Night,? and ?Making It All Legal.?Chapters in Esther are ?Beginning with the End of Vashti: Esther 1:1-22,? ?Remembering to Forget: Esther 2:1-4,? ?New Family Dynamics: Esther 2:5-18,? ?Coup: Esther 2:19-23,? ?Politics of Anti-Judaism: Esther 3:1-15,? ?Another Quarter: Esther 4:1-17,? ?Face to Face: Esther 5:1-8,? ?Fifty Cubits for Mordecai: Esther 5:9-14,? ?Sleep Deserts: Esther 6:1-14,? ?Coming Out Party: Esther 7:1- 10,? ?Overwriting: Esther 8:1-17,? and ?Aftermath: Esther 9:1?10:3.?

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Bernard of Clairvaux

Sermons for the Autumn Season

Translated by Irene Edmonds, Edited by Mark Scott, OCSO, Introduction by Wim Verbaal

On the anniversary of the dedication of the monastery church at Clairvaux, Saint Bernard spoke to the community to explain the meaning of the feast: “What sanctity can these stones have that we should celebrate their festival? They do indeed have sanctity, but it is because of your bodies. . . . Your bodies are holy because of your souls, and this house is holy because of your bodies.”The thirty-eight sermons in this volume carry forth this theme, revealing the holiness of the monastic life as monks alternate through the rhythm of the day and the year between the opus Dei and manual labor, journeying faithfully through life to death and the transitus to glory. The twelfth-century Ecclesiastica Officia of the Cistercian Order required abbots to speak formally to their communities in chapter on seventeen fixed days, mostly liturgical feasts. This volume witnesses to Bernard’s fulfillment of this requirement and includes sermons for the Assumption and Nativity of the Virgin and the Feast of All Saints, sermons devoted to the feasts of particular saints celebrated during the autumn months, sermons for the time of harvest, and funeral sermons that look forward to the eternal joy in the communion of saints.

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Between Apocalypse and Eschaton

History and Eternity in Henri de Lubac

by Joseph S. Flipper

Between Apocalypse and Eschaton examines the systematic theology of Henri de Lubac, SJ, one of the most significant Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. While much of the recent work on de Lubac centers on the controversies surrounding his theology of the supernatural, Between Apocalypse and Eschaton argues that eschatology is the key to de Lubac’s theological project and critical to understanding the nouvelle théologie, the group of theologians with whom de Lubac was associated. At the time, intra-Catholic controversies arose around the nouvelle théologie as part of a broader anxiety over the loss of the eternal in twentieth-century Europe. The German occupation of France in World War II was the backdrop for a renewed apocalyptic and eschatological thinking among French Catholics. The nouvelle théologie generated a debate over the meaning of “the end” that was critical to understanding the theological, spiritual, and political fissures in the postwar period. After World War II, de Lubac’s writings increasingly focused on the theology of history and eschatology. The present work returns focus to this often neglected aspect of de Lubac’s work.

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Between Memory and Hope

Readings on the Liturgical Year

Maxwell E. Johnson, Editor

This anthology surveys the development and theology of the liturgical year in the order of its historical evolution: From Sabbath to Sunday"; "From Passover to Pascha" (Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost); and "From Pascha to Parousia" (Epiphany, Christmas, and Advent). In addition, introductory essays on the meaning of the liturgical year and a short concluding section on the sanctoral cycle ("From Parousia to Persons") are also provided.While written as a companion to standard works in the field, beginning with graduate students in liturgy and seminarians, this book is intended for al - pastors, liturgists, catechists, religious educators - who seek to live according to the Church's theology of time as it is reflected in its calendar of feasts and seasons.Through feast and fast, through festival and preparation, the liturgical year celebrates the presence of the already crucified and risen Christ among us today. Between Memory and Hope shows that to live between past and future, between memory and hope, is to remember Christ's passion as we encounter his presence among us now and as we await his coming again in glory.Articles and their contributors are "The Liturgical Year: Studies, Prospects, Reflections," by Robert F. Taft, SJ; "Liturgical Time in the Ancient Church: The State of Research," by Thomas J. Talley; "Day of the Lord: Day of Mystery," by H. Boone Porter; "Sunday: The Heart of the Liturgical Year," by Mark Seale; "The Frequency of the Celebration of the Eucharist Throughout History," by Robert F. Taft, SJ; "History and Eschatology in the Primitive Pascha," by Thomas J. Talley; "The Origins of Easter," by Paul F. Bradshaw; "The Three Days and the Forty Days," by Patrick Regan, OSB; "The Veneration of the Cross," by Patrick Regan, OSB; "Holy Week in the Byzantine Tradition," by Robert F. Taft, SJ; "The Origin of Lent at Alexandria," by Thomas J. Taley; "Preparation for Pascha? Lent in Christian Antiquity," by Maxwell E. Johnson; "The Fifty Days and the Fiftieth Day," by Patrick Regan, OSB; "Making the Most of Trinity Sunday," by Catherine Mowry LaCugna; "Constantine and Christmas," by Thomas J. Taley; "The Origins of Christmas: The State of the Question," by Susan K. Roll; "The Appearance of the Light at the Baptism of Jesus and the Origins of the Feast of Epiphany," by Gabriele Winkler; "The Origins and Evolution of Advent," by Martin J. Connell; "On Feasting the Saints," by John F.Baldovin, SJ; "The Marian Liturgical Tradition," by Kilian McDonnell, OSB; "Forgetting and Remembering the Saints," by James F. White; "The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary: a Lutheran Reflection," by Maxwell E. Johnson; and "The Liturgical Year: Calendar for a Just Community," by John F. Baldovin, SJ.Maxwell E. Johnson, PhD, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and associate professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame. His articles have appeared frequently in Worship. He is the author ofLiving Water, Sealing Spirit and The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation published by The Liturgical Press."

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Beyond Dogmatism and Innocence

Hermeneutics, Critique, and Catholic Theology

Edited by Bradford E. Hinze and Anthony Godzieba

Behind every important development in Catholic doctrine and practice since the beginning of the modern period have been debates about the interpretation of Christianity’s classic texts and traditions and their ideological and practical implications.Over the past century there have been breakthroughs in retrieving the origins of beliefs and practices, recovering the rich, myriad, and multifaceted literary forms, and recognizing the ways these venerable traditions have been received, applied, and negotiated in the lives of reading audiences with their contrasting worldviews.The essays in this volume by leading figures in Catholic theology suggest what might be called a “third naïveté” that blends deeply contextual interpretations with a critical theological analysis of the roles of power and grace in church and society.The abilities and skills to grapple with basic issues in hermeneutics and critical theory remain necessary and fundamental for Catholic theology. At stake is nothing less than how the good news of God’s salvation can be grasped and lived today. This volume provides a trustworthy map and compass for negotiating these debates and options.

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Bible and Science

Longing for God in a Science-Dominated World

Vincent Smiles

Confusing paradox surrounds the Bible.Some look to it as the definition of reality and deny science; others see science alone as the arbiter of truth and deny the Bible. Both extremes are merely symptoms of a still wider debate on the place of ancient spiritual wisdom in a science-dominated world. Following the Reformation and Enlightenment, the Western world gained great power but lost its spiritual bearings. This book draws on numerous sources, ancient and modern, to examine what the missteps were that have brought us to a point of such confusion, and in doing so argues cogently against the modern philosophy of scientific materialism. With the aid of biblical stories and imagery it suggests how we might find our way back to balance, where ancient wisdom and modern science can together shed light on humans and their encompassing reality.Vincent Smiles is professor of theology at Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota.

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Black Robes and Buckskin

A Selection from the Jesuit Relations

Catharine Randall

The Jesuit Relations, written by new world jesuit missionaries from 1632 to 1673 back to their Superior in France, have long been a remarkable source of both historical knowledge and spiritual inspiration. They provide rich information about Jesuit piety and missionary initiatives, Ignatian spirituality, the Old World patrons who financed the venture, women's role as collaborators in the Jesuit project, and the early history of contact between Europeans and Native Americans in what was to become the northeastern United States and Canada.The Jesuits approached the task of converting the native peoples, and the formidable obstacles it implied, in a flexible manner. One of their central values was inculturation,the idea of coming in by their door,to quote a favorite saying of Ignatius, via a creative process of syncretism that blended aspects of native belief with aspects of Christian faith, in order to facilitate understanding and acceptance. The Relations thus abound with examples of the Jesuits' thoughtfully trying to make sense of native-and female-difference, rather than eliding it. The complete text of the Jesuit Relations runs to 73 volumes. Catharine Randall has made selections from the Relations, some of which have never before appeared in print in English. These selections are chosen for their informative nature and for how they illustrate central tenets of Ignatian spirituality. Rather than provide close translations from seventeenth-century French that might sound stilted to modern ears, she offers free translations that provide the substance of the Relations in an idiom immediately accessible to twenty-first-century readers of English.An extensive introduction sets out the basic history of the Jesuit missions in New France and provides insight into the Ignatian tradition and how it informs the composition of the Relations. The volume is illustrated with early woodcuts, depicting scenes from Ignatius's life, moments in the history of the Jesuit missions, Jesuitefforts to master the native languages, and general devotional scenes.

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Black, White, and Catholic

New Orleans Interracialism, 1947-1956

R. Bentley Anderson

Most histories of the Civil Rights Movement start with all the players in place--among them organized groups of African Americans, White Citizens' Councils, nervous politicians, and religious leaders struggling to find the right course. Anderson, however, takes up the historical moment right before that, when small groups of black and white Catholics in the city of New Orleans began efforts to desegregate the archdiocese, and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) began, in fits and starts, to integrate quietly the New Orleans Province. Anderson leads readers through the tumultuous years just after World War II when the Roman Catholic Church in the American South struggled to reconcile its commitment to social justice with the legal and social heritage of Jim Crow society. Though these early efforts at reform, by and large, failed, they did serve to galvanize Catholic supporters and opponents of the Civil Rights Movement and provided a model for more successful efforts at desegregation in the ’60s. As a Jesuit himself, Anderson has access to archives that remain off-limits to other scholars. His deep knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church also allows him to draw connections between this historical period and the present. In the resistance to desegregation, Anderson finds expression of a distinctly American form of Catholicism, in which lay people expect Church authorities to ratify their ideas and beliefs in an almost democratic fashion. The conflict he describes is as much between popular and hierarchical models of the Church as between segregation and integration.

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Bob Drinan

The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress

Raymond A. Schroth

Raymond Schroth's Bob Drinan: The Controversial Life of the First Catholic Priest Elected to Congress shows that the contentious mixture of religion and politics in this country is nothing new. Four decades ago, Father Robert Drinan, the fiery Jesuit priest from Massachusetts, not only demonstrated against the Vietnam War, he ran for Congress as an antiwar candidate and won, going on to serve for 10 years. Schroth has delved through magazine and newspaper articles and various archives (including Drinan's congressional records at Boston College, where he taught and also served as dean of the law school) and has interviewed dozens of those who knew Drinan to bring us a life-sized portrait. The result is a humanistic profile of an intensely private man and a glimpse into the life of a priest-politician who saw advocacy of human rights as his call. Drinan defined himself as a moral architectand was quick to act on his convictions, whether from the bully pulpit of the halls of Congress or from his position in the Church as a priest; to him they were as intricately woven as the clerical garb he continued to wear unapologetically throughout his elected tenure. Drinan's opposition to the Vietnam War and its extension into Cambodia, his call for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon (he served on the House Judiciary Committee, which initiated the charges), his pro-choice stance on abortion (legally, not morally), his passion for civil rights, and his devotion to Jewish people and the well-being of Israel made him one of the most liberal members of Congress and a force to be reckoned with. But his loyalty to the Church was never in question, and when Pope John Paul II demanded that he step down from offi ce, he did so unquestioningly. Afterward, he continued to champion the ideals he thought would make the world a better place. He didn't think of it in terms of left and right; as moral architect, he saw it in terms of right and wrong.This important book doesn't resolve debate about issues of church and state, but it does help us understand how one side can inform the other, if we are listening. It has much to say that is worth hearing.

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