Monthly Archives: December 2010

Sing A New Song

Mary Kieffer, Loyola University Chicago Institute of Pastoral Studies, MAPS student

In the present age which is filled with rampant consumerism, disputes between nations, and, at least in American society, individualism, it is comforting to study and appreciate the ancient scriptures known as the Old Testament which are comforting in their prophetic vision that remains relevant despite the passing of time. As Walter Brueggemann attests, the Old Testament continues to offer “an alternative to the paths of death” when individuals or nations ignore the covenant relationship between humankind and YHWH. In fact, Brueggemann asserts that it is impossible to be a complete Christian if we feel that we can solely rely on New Testament teachings to guide us to the wholeness for which each of us is called. The Old Testament’s prophetic critique of autonomy, covenantal relationship and the saving power of YHWH are all tools of salvation which make us “human in the world” as well as chosen people of God. (more…)

Uncovering Early Christianity: A Postmodern Spiritual Quest

David Bottorff, Loyola University Chicago Institute of Pastoral Studies | M.A. Pastoral Counseling Student


Early Christianity proved to be a profound pivotal point around which the social, political, economic, and spiritual lives of many people living in the Mediterranean Basin turned. This shift is characterized by a typology of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. At the same time, this pattern of change was mirrored by one of enslavement, freedom, and reverse discrimination. Reconciling the truth of these two concurrent yet contrasting typologies, whether over the course of centuries or mere moments, has proved to be both a great personal challenge and the key to my subjective appreciation of Early Christianity. This essay explores the tension between what Early Christianity was for its seminal proponents and the gravity it exerts in the life of this post-modern author. Further, it attempts to convey my relationship with a monumental and personally challenging question: How could one man, who by all rights should have been lost in the annuls of history, effect such tremendous change in the way we appreciate salvation of the human soul? This subject remains near to the heart of my lifelong spiritual quest.

Uncovering Early Christianity

Early Christianity precipitated catalytic change in the way much of the world relates to the great metaphysical forces shaping our human condition. For many, including myself, the concepts of mystery, hope and meaning were profoundly altered by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as told by his seminal biographers. Biblical scholars use many tools to examine scripture, including historical, political, ideological, psychological, form, and redaction approaches (Pregeant, 2009). The conclusions can be widely divergent. To express my personal take on Early Christianity, I rely not only on these academic findings, but also on the Buddhist epistemological hermeneutic through which I read scripture.

To articulate what Early Christianity was, and what it means to me, I turn to the recurring typologic analogue described by Brueggemann (1984) in his Psalms exegesis—that of orientation, disorientation and reorientation. This organic sine pattern repeats time and again throughout human history, and finds expression at the fulcrum point around which spirituality in the Mediterranean Basin pivoted some two millennia ago—the life and times of Jesus. (more…)

Living the Opposition

Living the Opposition

Katie Davis, Loyola IPS MAPS Student

In contemporary society, we are all bombarded with the temptations of individualism, consumerism, and militarism that inevitably shape our understanding of what it means to be human in the world today.  In the midst of such peril, YHWH as revealed in the Old Testament presents a countercultural path to life through the choosing of the covenant to this day.  Contrary to popular belief, the Old Testament is not merely an antiquated text; rather, it introduces poignant and relevant themes such as God’s saving power, social organization based on covenant as opposed to coercion, and the urgently important notion of “prophetic consciousness” as opposed to “royal consciousness”.

As Christians, we tend to grapple with the role that the Old Testament can or should play in our experiences of faith in the Trinity.  Are the Old Testament and the New Testament so different that Christians can disregard the former?  Is the Old Testament simply a starting point to be read solely through the lens of Christianity?  Walter Brueggemann stresses the importance of continually learning from the Jews and the way they read the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the necessity of honoring our similarities and acknowledging our differences.  For we cannot, he suggests, fully understand the New Testament without having a firm grasp on the Old Testament.  With openness to the graces of these Books, we as Christians can gain access to the interior life of a God with whom we can become acquainted in a totally fresh and more substantive way. (more…)

Christmas Is The Feast Of The Incarnation

Gerard Van Honthorst, Adoration of the Children, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Italy

Heidi Russell, Loyola University Chicago IPS Graduate Program Director, MAPS

Christmas is the feast of the incarnation. In Christmas we do celebrate the nativity or birth of Christ, but what we are celebrating is not simply Jesus’ “birthday,” the way we celebrate our own birthdays. We are celebrating the mystery of Emmanuel, God-with-us, God revealed in time and space. Each week in the creed we say “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man,” and the instructions say we are supposed to bow at those words, but on Christmas, the instructions say to genuflect. Why? Because those words proclaim the incarnation, that God became human. So what is the incarnation all about?

St. Athanasius, one of the great fathers and theologians of the Church, tells us:

The Son of God became human so that we might become God.

Obviously we do not become God in the way that God is God, but we become God-like, we are divinized. The eastern Christian tradition has done a much better job of reminding people of this fact than our western tradition has done, as the west has tended to focus much more on the incarnation as a remedy for sin (it is both). The eastern tradition has a beautiful Greek word, theopoesis or theosis, literally to make divine, to describe this process. The word is usually translated as divinization or deification. We partake in the divine nature. St. Irenaeus puts it another way:

For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God. (more…)