About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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«In the same quarter where he was crucified there was a garden.» (John 19:41) — The word “garden” hinted at Eden and the fall of man, as it also suggested through its flowers in the springtime the Resurrection from the dead.
— Fulton J. Sheen

   Send an E-mail to Dr. Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
Instant Apologetics
published 8 May 2013 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

September 26, 2009 Answer to an e-letter from someone who watched me on Marcus Grodi’s Journey Home.

(This is very long. Just skip over anything you know inside out without reading me!)

Dear W.,

Okay, let me try. Since I am not a theologian or Scripture scholar some of this will just be “my take” and others I will refer you to sources:

Why did Christ have to die to save us? Why was a blood sacrifice required?

It helps me to think that life is more like a story than a syllogism! Did you ever read the Chronicles of Narnia of C. S. Lewis? Well, the sacrifice of Aslan the lion seems somehow “right” even though we would never have invented such a scenario ourselves. Of course it seems right because we have Christian imaginations. He could have saved us some other way. The question is why did he choose to save us this way? If you read St. Augustine’s City of God he has a lot about the evolution of religion without using the word evolution of course. Primitive man seemed to have a huge archetype of sacrifice of beasts
and even humans.

I remember when I was in the process of conversion asking the same question you are asking about why the sacrifice. Somewhere I read that in old Yiddish tradition, women twirled dead chickens around their heads chanting, “let the chicken die instead of me.” Out of some archetypal memory this image from my Jewish background, even though
we were atheists, helped me understand Jesus.

So the evolution was from primitive animal sacrifice, to the prophets insisting that God didn’t want these sacrifices but instead wanted the sacrifice of the heart to Jesus being the unbloody sacrifice. He obviously has a sovereign right to be the author and the main actor in the drama of salvation, no?

What I can see clearly is if one of my kids did a big no-no, and his elder sister begged me not to punish him but that she instead would take the punishment I could hardly fail to forgive the original culprit.

The Catechism is a good reference for all questions such as this. It is beautifully written in a very spiritual way – I mean the big Vatican Catechism published in the 80’s.

Okay, next question: What is the nature of our sacrifice at Mass each week? The Priest says sacrifice be acceptable to God. Why is a sacrifice required and I have never been sure what sacrifice he is referring to?

A little explanation of time and eternity in relationship to the Mass. Most of the peoples of the world have cyclical time – i.e. they think time goes around in a circle, and it doesn’t have a start and an end.

Only monotheism of a creationist type has God starting time and ending historical time. Picture a line from Creation to the end of time. Now picture a dot above this line called eternity. Eternity means either endless time or timelessness. God is timeless, i.e. outside of time. Eternity enters time at certain key moments such as Creation, the Ten Commandments, the Annunciation, etc. This is called sacred time. In religious rituals we enter the sacred time. When the priest consecrates he actually enters into the sacred time of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. We live in that time in a virtual sort of way. Through the priest, Christ gives us His body and blood in Holy Communion. Since Christ died for our sins, we participate in His sacrifice at the Mass.

As G. K. Chesterton shows in a wonderful philosophical book you should get called The Everlasting Man, that pagan religions and fairy tales are pre-figurations of the Truth. John Paul II in The Threshold of Hope describes God as sending beams of light. The big beam comes through Judaism to the Catholic Church, but other religions are seeing light from lesser beams.
Placement of holy days? Church History is not my forte. How do I see it? Just as early Church Fathers baptized Greek philosophy – as in taking Plato’s sense of the immortality of the soul and showing how Catholic belief in the Resurrected Body completes Plato’s dualism, etc. – so the Church baptized holidays in pagan cultures and making them into Catholic feasts. So winter soltice becomes Christmas day. Maybe Christ was actually born on the shortest day of winter…you’d have to look that up on some Catholic Answers web.

Debating the days between Easter and Western Churches – I interpret that to come from political feuds being projected onto Church policies. For example since Constantinople hated Rome for other reasons they would also feud about holiday dates. Like a couple who is on the rocks putting their anger into a debate into which restaurant should we go to
on our anniversary – the one you like or the one I like.

How do you know it is God’s presence you feel and not your imagination? The standard criteria is the fruits – if you feel peaceful and loving that is a good sign, presuming what you are doing or deciding on isn’t contrary to Catholic faith or morals. Since I am
a nervous wreck, I can’t fake peacefulness under any circumstances and
always attribute it to divine grace.

Women’s roles? Did you read my leaflet on Women as Second Class Citizens in the Church? It is on www.rondachervin.com click on books and then e-books and leaflets. Read that first and then ask more. Also read John Paul II’s On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. As to leaders of house Churches try Martimort on Deaconesses.

Slavery in the Bible. I read a few books on this for teaching ethics.The gist: there are many things in Old and New Testament that were tolerated not approved in the sense of saying they are intrinsically good. If you google something like slavery and Catholic Church teaching you can get lots of stuff on things like Popes denouncing slavery and not being followed by Catholic slave holders. I see it as analogous to how the Church teaches social justice but most parishioners tolerate many unjust aspects of our society. The Church teaches that you should live simply and austerely to give to the poor, but how often is that preached! A middle class lifestyle with stuffed closets and enough garbage to feed the whole world is tolerated not approved. It would be better, I think, if every priest raged against injustice at least once a month, but they fear losing all their flock.
Or they themselves tolerate relatively luxurious living.

In NT times slavery was a substitute for just killing prisoners of war. St. Paul hopes that the slave owner will liberate the slave but legally he couldn’t change that.

Basically Jesus came to give us spiritual salvation, not liberation from earthly injustice. That doesn’t mean he approved of injustice.

In answer to this statement of the woman who wrote to me for answers:

“At the end of the day the Priests, Bishops, etc. hold the power and ability to make decisions for the Church and we can’t even be in the club.”

It can seem that way, but if you study Church history from a Catholic feminist point of view you discover other balancing elements – such as saintly women mystics telling the Popes what to do or guiding male members of religious orders. Also Mary trumps all. There she is teaching the whole world at apparitions. As a strong woman, brought
up to be an aggressive woman, of course, I love to order people around, but that is not what the real scenario is about to begin with.There is God Himself, Jesus, accepting to be judged by Pharisees and Pilate.

Isn’t God genderless? God is pure Spirit, but God reveals Himself in the Father role as progenitor, initiator. If you read JPII Dignity and Vocation of Women he says that since Jesus is God and He calls God Father that has to be normative for us.

Mary Magdalene announces the Resurrection and in that way is an apostle, but Jesus chose men to be apostles even though His mother was holier. A seminarian I was teaching this subject to opined that if God did it this way it was because more would be saved – I think women have an easier time following male leaders than men have following
women leaders.

Offering up sufferings? This is based on the famous passage of St. Paul that we are filling in what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. That doesn’t mean that Christ’s redemption wasn’t good enough, but that He willed that we could become close to Him and help others by offering our sufferings to God in prayer. So all day long I mutter “I’m offering the pain of having to wait on line, etc. etc. for the conversion of my adult children, etc. etc.” Heaven is going to be a communal banquet, not the soul alone with God. This praying for one
another in this way bonds us as a foretaste of heaven.

God is everywhere in terms of everything partaking of His being in some way in order to exist. A more specific and special way of God being present is Jesus telling us that He will be with us in the Eucharist. If God is present everywhere why would He reveal Himself in HIs Son in the first place. I guess because we didn’t get it. The idea that God loved us so much as to let His son die for us melts our hard hearts, so He desires to be most present when we take up His invitation. As in a husband is present to his wife over coffee or taking out the garbage but much more thematically present in sexual union. See my free e-book summarized as Signs of Love: About the Sacraments in www.rondachervin.com.