Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

7/22/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Bringing the insights of the Roman Catechism, Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Hans Urs von Balthasar together, we can see that Christians are graced to have their own picture of Dorian Gray.  The Crucifix.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/22/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: crucifix, sin, Dorian Gray, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Oscar Wilde, Repentance, Sense of Sin, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Our sins, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "affect Christ himself."  The "Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus."  CCC 598.

In support of this teaching, the current Catechism refers to the teaching of the Roman Catechism published after the Council of Trent.  The Roman Catechism points out that "sinners," which is to say all of us, "were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured."  It further states that "those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt . . . . and when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him."

What this teaching means is that when we contemplate Jesus in agony, or Jesus scourged, or Jesus crowned with thorns, or Jesus mocked, or Jesus on his via crucis, or Jesus crucified, or Jesus deposed and dead, we are contemplating the real ugliness of our sin.  Christ's sufferings reveal the real-though-unseen hideousness of our sins.

The spiritual horror of our sin is hidden from us.  We have no eyes by which we can see the interior state of our soul.  We cannot see or smell the difference between our soul in sanctifying grace and our soul in a state of mortal sin.  The face of a man in a state of mortal sin looks like the face of a man in a state of grace.  The hideousness of sin is veiled.  The hideousness of sin is something that must therefore be revealed by God.

A conscience properly formed develops a sense of sin, and so, based upon revelation and the use of reason, and prompted by the Holy Spirit, can have some understanding of sin's horror. 

Moderns, however, have misconstrued, and so entirely corrupted, the meaning of conscience.  "In this age," wrote Cardinal Newman in the 19th century, "with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of [false] conscience to dispense with [authentic] conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations."  Authentic conscience "has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of . . . . It is the right of self-will." 

In their self-will, moderns have also rejected God, and this has exacerbated the problem.  If God is dead, wrote Dostoevsky, then everything is possible and nothing is sin.

With man's increasing rejection of God and misunderstanding of conscience, what Blessed John Henry Newman saw as frequent in the 19th century has become even more blatant in the 20th and 21st centuries.  The blindness to the hidden horror of sin continues unabated, and if anything has increased manyfold.  As Pope Pius XII observed in the 1940s, and as has been repeated by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the archetypical modern sin is "the loss of the sense of sin."

What else explains our society's inability to see the viciousness, and indeed to label as goods, the intrinsic evils of contraception, divorce and remarriage, abortion, homosexual activity, same-sex "marriage," and a whole host of other sins?

The state of our souls and our refusal to recognize the effect of sin on it can be compared to the portrait of Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.  In that Victorian Gothic novel, the artist Basil Hallward paints a beautiful portrait of the handsome young protagonist, the youth named Dorian Gray.  Dorian Gray falls under the spell of the amoral and vicious hedonist Lord Henry Wotton, and begins a life of self-indulgence, which leads to moral dissipation, sexual libertinism, and substance abuse. 

As a result of a Faustian bargain, however, Gray remains externally unaffected by his debauchery: he seems to stay in a state of eternal youth.  He hides the portrait from public view, but though hidden it becomes more and more disfigured with each of Dorian Gray's sins.  The portrait bears the consequence of Dorian Gray's sins. 

The portrait represents the soul of Dorian Gray.  The portrait also may be said to represent Christ, who, though entirely innocent, becomes disfigured as he suffers the effect of human sins. 

Modern man speaks loudly about self-determination, autonomy, freedom, but has not a clue on what it all means.  The words self-determination, autonomy, and freedom are frequently used to justify--even legally protect--sin.  But there is no self-determination, autonomy, or freedom in sin. 

Sin is exactly the opposite of self-determination, autonomy, and freedom.  Sin is not only hideous, but is the shackle of slavery.  "Truly, truly I say to you, that everyone who commits a sin is a slave of sin."  (John 8:34)  Christ frees us from our slavery to sin.  (Rom. 6:15-18)  "It is Christ who sets [our freedom] free: he 'has set us free for freedom' (cf. Gal. 5:1)," wrote Blessed Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor.

In his work The Glory of the Lord, Hans Urs von Balthasar reflects on the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins's notion of "selving," an insight regarding self-determination surely based upon Hopkins' intensely personal Jesuit spirituality of the Spiritual Exercises coupled with his deep commitment to the philosophy of the Franciscan scholastic Duns Scotus, which lays particular stress on the individual aspect of reality.  Hopkins's notion of self-determination or "selving" is a far cry from modern autonomy.

As Hopkins expressed it in his poem "As Kingfishers Catch Fire":

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves--goes itself; myself it speaks and spells;
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame," so

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -
Chríst - for Christ plays in ten thousand places . . .

Von Balthasar ties the Hopkinsian notion of "selving" or self-determination to the Church's teaching that our sins--which act against our authentic self-determination, and so make us foul and anti-Christ of soul--also strike against the body of the Redeemer and so are seen on the body of the crucified Christ himself.  They can be seen as contributing to the death of the Lord.

"[B]ecause the refusal of self-determination, which is present in every sin, is potentially a refusal to choose the archetype of the self, conceived and chosen by God, (which rests in God and ultimately is God himself)," von Balthasar points out, "there is hidden in every sin a manifest tendency to develop into the murder of God: whence sin receives its meaning and structure, and to which it is in fact related by the Cross of Christ."

In Gerard Manley Hopkins's words, the "just man justices," which is to say, doesn't sin, but "keeps grace," the sanctifying grace which "keeps all his going graces."  The "being indoors," our soul, "speaks and spells," in other words determines itself, through its external acts.  "What I do is me." 

As a human person, I am meant to act out "in God's eye what in God's eye" I am.  And that which God sees me to be, which is an imitation of Christ (the ideal human), for "Christ plays in ten thousand places."  Sin, therefore, is the very opposite of this.  It is one's unselving, the killing of Christ in our soul, and the victimization even murder of the Jesus Christ of history.

Dorian Gray's moral dissipation finally results in an act of murder: the murder of the painter of the portrait, Basil Hallward who discovers how foul the portrait has become and so realizes the hideousness of Gray's life.  "Does it not say somewhere," the artists pleads before his murder as he recollects the words of the "Fifth Gospel," the Book of Isaiah, "'Come now let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.  Though they are red as crimson, they shall be as white as wool?'"  (Cf. Isaiah 1:18)

In an act of final impenitence, Dorian Gray sees the hideous portrait and recognizes the foulness of his life and the falsity of his external beauty.  Instead of repenting, however, he strikes out at the portrait with a knife.  When faced with the truth of how ugly is his sin (which should have been an epiphany, an actual, prevenient grace to conversion), he fights the truth with a poignard.  But the effort is in vain, as in his effort to destroy the painting to hide the evidence of his sin, he slays and finally disfigures himself, undone by his own Faustian bargain.

Bringing the insights of the Roman Catechism, Oscar Wilde, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Hans Urs von Balthasar together, we can see that Christians are graced to have their own picture of Dorian Gray.  The Crucifix.

Every crucifix or painting of Christ crucified--the more realistic the better--shows us the hideousness of our sins and beckons us to repentance and to healing.  We cannot do much better than contemplate the various crucifixion scenes by Matthias Grünewald to realize the horror of our sins.  It will do us well, not to lash at Christ on the Cross with the knife of self-justification, but to let it pierce our own hearts, and, if we allow, the very Spirit of God will bring out the tears of sorrow and the words of prayer wherein all healing and reconciliation must begin:

Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci. 

Against you only have I sinned, and done evil in your sight.  (Ps. 51:4 [50:6])  I am sorry, Lord, for what I've done to you.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Living Faith

Tough Lessons for Real Life from the Book of Job Watch

Image of Job was right. He was living in the heart of God's will. When Job was stripped of what his fair-weather friends believed were the -proofs- of Gods favor, he found the greatest treasure of all, the beautiful poverty of purified Love. He found the richness reserved for those who love God for God's sake. Jobs fair-weather friends told him that his loss and difficulties were his fault, but Job knew better. In his unwavering hope in God's love and mercy we find the example of purified, living faith.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

When Job was stripped of what his fair-weather friends believed were the -proofs- of Gods favor, he found the greatest treasure of all, the beautiful poverty of purified Love. He found the richness reserved for those who love God for God's sake, for Love's ... continue reading


Interesting facts about the 400 years old Bom Jesus Church in India, the final resting place of St. Francis Xavier Watch

Image of The Basilica of Bom Jesus Church is more than 400 years old.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Located in Old Goa, India, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The foundation stone was laid on 24th November 1594, and completed on 15th May 1605. It was raised to the status of a minor Basilica in 1946 and is considered to be one of the ... continue reading


Bombing Islamic State is fueling the violence

Image of Civilians inspect the rubble of a building destroyed by Allied airstrikes in Syria. We cannot bomb our way into the hearts of people.

By Tony Magliano

We need to do something! With the barbaric Islamic State now controlling large portions of Iraq and Syria, and inflicting rape, torture and even beheading on those who do not conform to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, it is imperative that they must be ... continue reading


Pope Francis to try case of pedophile archbishop in Vatican court Watch

Image of Former archbishop and ambassador Josef Wesolowski is under  arrest at the Vatican.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican will try one of its own for child abuse. After decades, possibly centuries of abuse and cover up, the use of the Church has a cover for pedophiles has finally ended. Former ambassador, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski will now face trial for abusing boys he met ... continue reading


Pope Francis says to listen to God's word and put it into practice Watch

Image of During his homily at daily, the Pope urged Christians to read God's word faithfully and to truly listen with our hearts to what He has to say.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to Pope Francis, living the Christian life is simple: listen to God's word and put it into practice. "These are the two conditions in order to follow Jesus, hear the word of God and put it into practice. This is the Christian life, nothing more," the ... continue reading


Pope Francis appoints five women to major theological council Watch

Image of Pope Francis, who has been critical on the Catholic Church's failures to adequately include women in theological discourse, has appointed five to a major theological council that is charged with aiding the pope and others with theological policy.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The International Theological Commission, established in 1969 to study doctrinal issues faced by the Catholic Church and to help the pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has just received five new female members, raising the number of female ... continue reading


Pope Francis asks new bishops to avoid self-promotion, to love their congregations instead Watch

Image of Pope Francis meets with bishops for an audience. The Holy Father had important advice for a group of new bishops yesterday.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has admonished a new generation of bishops against seeking promotion and instead asked them to look after and love their congregations. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During an address at the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis spoke to 138 ... continue reading


POPE IN ALBANIA: Pope Francis denounces religious militants during one-day trip Watch

Image of On his first trip as pope to a European country outside of Italy, Pope Francis made no direct reference to Islamic State militants who have seized territory in Syria and Iraq.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In his one-day trip to the chiefly Muslim nation of Albania, Pope Francis soundly denounced religious militants, declaring that no one act as the "armor of God." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Let no one consider themselves the 'armor' of God while planning ... continue reading


If Christ Has Not Been Raised Our Preaching and Our Faith is Empty Watch

Image of We too,you and me, will be raised from the dead. Only then will our redemption be complete. We are works in progress. However, that new life can begin even now for those with eyes of living faith, hearts filled with His presence, and minds renewed by the Light of the Truth which Jesus has fully revealed and imparts to those who love and follow Him.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When we learn to embrace the implications of that empty tomb, and allow grace to work within us, we are made ready for eternity - by living differently every day. The Resurrection provides a framework, a hermeneutic, a lens of meaning, for everything that happens ... continue reading


You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Christian Has a Vocation Watch

Image of Priesthood, Diaconate in Christ,consecrated or religious life,lay ecclesial movements, consecrated Christian marriage - every Baptized Christian has a vocation. We just have to learn to live it!

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23
1 In the end it was Job who broke the silence and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8
2 may my prayer reach your presence, hear my cry for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:51-56
51 Now it happened that as the time drew near for him ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 30th, 2014 Image

St. Jerome
September 30: St. Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter