Joy to the World by Scott Hahn – One

unnamedIMAGE Publishing graciously asked me to write a post about Scott Hahn’s latest book, Joy to the World. Partly out of necessity (what with finals falling from on high upon me) I have decided to do another “blogging through a book.” They will, needless to say, be short, but will try and pick out one idea per chapter to meditate on for the week in advent.

In his first chapter, “A Light Goes on Bethlehem,” Dr. Hahn relates the story of his daughter Hannah being in Jerusalem on a family trip. She’s bored to tears by historical sites – even as they’re visiting the site where Jesus was born (which was attested to by the earliest Christian sources). But her encounter with the Holy Land is transformed at a nearby orphanage. There small orphans need to be held and Hannah lights up and eagerly cradles and cares for the orphans. Here the difference between an inherited Christianity and a lived Christianity is seen. The lived Christianity is the fulfillment of the most beautiful theory of Christ, and far more powerful.

Hahn writes, “The family is the key to Christmas. The family is the key to Christianity. Pope Saint John Paul II noted that everything good – history, humanity, salvation – ‘passes by way of the family.’ […] Salvation itself finds meaning only in familial relations.”

Christmas most explicitly is seen in relations of dependence. God is so humble as to make Himself need one of his creations, namely, Mary. Scott Hahn points out, Christ is not the classical hero – he’s not here to win glory or to conquer nations in the conventional manner. “He is visible only because other arms are holding him,” Hahn writes.

What does this mean, that Christ makes Himself need us? It certainly throws most of our ideas about ourselves and God out of balance. God is no longer only a rule-maker and a law-giver. Nor is he simply a lover of mankind. He does something much more unexpected and radical. He gives Himself to us so that we can love Him. Which means that He mysteriously places himself in a position of human need.

One of my friends told me about a family practice of placing a piece of straw under the bed of Jesus in the creche set for every good deed they would perform during Advent. While almost humorous, such a family tradition strikes at a humble Christian truth: God allows Himself to need us and we can therefore minister to Him – through our families. As Mother Teresa said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

The family then becomes where the image of Christ is most clearly seen, and perhaps particularly in how we can give to our family members – in how Christ is made present through their need and through the gift of their presence.

Scott Hahn Livestream Today at 4pm

Scott and Kimberly Hahn will be hosting a livestream discussing Dr. Hahn’s new book Joy to the World. You can watch it here.

Joy to the World is his most recently published book. It is a guided meditation through what Jesus’ familial identity means. What does it mean that Jesus came through the family? What does it mean that Christ was a son of a father?

I’ll be posting a review of the book on the 8th. I may also do a guided reading of it, where we would read a section of it leading up until Christmas. If I did that, would any readers be interested in reading alongside me and discussing it in the comments? Could be fun.

~ Peter


Humanum, a current interfaith conference on marriage and the complementarity of the sexes.

Aristotle on Number Theory

For class on Aristotle’s Categories I was asked to research his theory of numbers. Though preliminary, here are my findings. It’s a fascinating topic.

Part of the difficulty of determining whether Aristotle is talking about abstract numbers or things-as-quantified in the Categories is the phrase τα πεντε. It could be translated as “five” or “five things.” Is he talking about mathematical objects? Ideal numbers? Physical objects? None of these? Physical objects certainly hold some manner of position (θεσις) towards each other – Aristotle denies that number does so he can’t be talking about physical objects qua physical objects. Aristotle seems to say that numbers as mathematical objects has an ordering (ταξις), so is his theory of number about non-ideal mathematical objects?

In Physics 219b5-9, Aristotle distinguishes 2 senses of “number”: (1) what is counted or countable [physical referent] and (2) what we count with [mathematical object]. (Annas, 97)

(1) seems to mean some element of a thing’s, or a group of things’, existence, inhering in the objects themselves and enabling it to be counted. Continue reading

Porn Strangles Our Capacity to Experience Beauty

“[Porn] creates desensitization to beauty, robbing boys of their innocence through the elimination of the mysteries of the heart, severely impairing their ability to be awed or find pleasure in the beautiful. Jaded spirits are not very susceptible to formation. […] Pornography eradicates mystery, and without mystery, boys will lose their ability to wonder, and in a large part, their ability to become wise—which is the work of education.”

Boys, Porn, and Education

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: Part Two – Trust as the Basis of a Life

[Continued] While we flounder between our existential need for love and our desire for certainty, Angelo Roncalli was peacefully submitting his mind, will, and heart to God through the Church. Individual judgment was, for him, a fount of error wherein heresies and error lead people to lose their communion with the Church. Individual judgment, for Roncalli, had to be intimately united with the informing influence of the Church. Did he ignore this tension? Was he simply not aware of it?

No, Roncalli was certainly aware of it, but he also was not a reactionary. If I can venture a bold claim, it seems to me that Roncalli’s primary mode of living was trust. In 1925, when he was made a Bishop in order to go to Bulgaria, he wrote, “I insert in my coat of arms the words Oboedentia et pax […] These words are in a way my own history and my life.” (p. 206) Later, in 1962, while on retreat in Castel Gandolfo, Pope John XXIII wrote,  “The short Psalm 130 has always made, and still makes, a great impression on me.” (p. 312) Psalm 130 reads: Continue reading

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: Part One – The Tension between Faith and Reason

I started my project of blogging through Pope John XXIII wondering whether this biography would explain or suggest why Vatican II was started. Could the Pope’s journals provide a lens through which to see the Council? Yes, but not the type I was expecting. What I discovered I was looking for was a “reason” – some type of argument for why the Church needed a council. But Pope John XXIII does not provide any argument.

Yet not having an argument did not meant it was an arbitrary decision for him. Pope John XXIII said, in his opening speech of the council on October 11, 1962:

“As regards the initiative for the great event which gathers us here, it will suffice to repeat as historical documentation our personal account of the first sudden bringing up in our heart and lips of the simple words, ‘Ecumenical Council.’ […] It was completely unexpected, like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts. And at the same time it gave rise to a great fervor throughout the world in expectation of the holding of the Council.”

He goes on to say that the purpose of the council was not to change or advance doctrine by altering or clarifying confused matters. Continue reading

First Document from the Synod on the Family

For those interested, here is the first (and predictably controversially received) document from the Synod on Marriage and Family at the Vatican:

Peruse away.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

How to Believe in God by 11:00 AM

Humane Pursuits was kind enough to publish my recent essay here.

Also, I am luck enough to be attending a screening of Calvary with Patrick Cassidy, who composed its soundtrack. His music has been used in Tree of Life, he has produced the only symphony in the Irish language, and wrote “Children of Lir” – a Narrative Cantatas based off of the famous Irish legend. He will be frequenting the pub in Mercato with us – what an opportunity.