Today marks the end of another semester's worth - in fact another year's worth - of classes here for us. The next few days are free for last minute cramming before exams begin on Friday, and then continue on into next week. It was a productive and enjoyable semester. In case you missed it, and in no particular order, I've been studying:
1. The History of Byzantium - A romp through the final 1200 years of Roman history, from the transference of the capital of the Empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 to the fall of New Rome to the Turks in 1453 (the anniversary of which was yesterday, by the way). Especially interesting here, of course, is the insight which one can gain into the beliefs and practices of our separated brethren of the Eastern dissident churches. I wrote a paper on the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope St. Leo III, which occurred in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Christmas Day, 800. A terribly Western topic, I know, but it had some relation to Byzantium, or at least so I feebly tried to argue.
2. Pastoral Aspects of Marriage and the Family - This was the obligatory course for all Licentiate students, and it was basically just a summation of the basics, based on Blessed John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (1981). Basically, we need good marriage preparation programs, contraception is bad, so is divorce, fornication, adultery, etc., etc. In this one I wrote a paper on why people should be denied Communion or even formally excommunicated way more often than they are. Dietrich von Hildebrand called it the Charitable Anathema.
3. Theology of the 20th Century: Nature and Grace - We began with St. Thomas and the school of Thomists which followed him and interpreted his thought up until the early twentieth century, looking at the precise question of man's natural desire to see the essence of God (i.e. for the beatific vision). St. Thomas basically says that there is such a thing, that every natural potency for something is able to be fulfilled by a natural cause, and that the beatific vision is (obviously) not able to be fulfilled by any natural cause, but only a supernatural one - God. Thus did he kick off eight centuries of argument, kicked off anew in the early twentieth century by historian / theologian Henri De Lubac, S.J. This topic thus became the main theological debate of the whole twentieth century. Perhaps unsurprisingly to many of you, I regard De Lubac's position, which is the one that by now dominates almost the entire field, to be in error both as regards the interpretation of Aquinas and as regards the truth of the matter. No paper here, but a comprehensive examination next week.
4. Jesus of Nazareth - Here we read both volumes of Papa Ratzinger's recent private publications, the second volume of which conveniently came out midway through the semester. Ratzinger's treatment is by and large very good and certainly an important contribution to the field of biblical studies. If you haven't read any of the present Holy Father's private writings, these are good ones to begin with: challenging, to be sure, but more accessible than many of his works. We had our full share of criticisms in class, though, both of his methods and conclusions in some places, and my paper was written disputing his dating of the Last Supper, which he thinks was not a Passover Meal at all, or at least was not held on the feast day of the Passover. I still prefer to think otherwise.
5. Latin Liturgy - A particular interest of mine, of course. This was an intensive course packed into about two and a half weeks just after Easter. We dug into some of the historical sources from the earliest times to see what can be known about how the liturgy was being celebrated in various times and places. The Roman Rite in particular was the focus, though, and we traced its development from the point of its emergence from the mists of time in the fourth and fifth centuries right up through the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century to the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century. We looked briefly at the New Order of Mass which replaced it in 1970. There was an interesting comparison at the end between Romano Guardini's book The Spirit of the Liturgy (1918), which served as something of a charter for the Liturgical Movement, and Joseph Ratzinger's book by the same name (2000), which is already being looked upon as something of a charter for a New Liturgical Movement.