For His Glory
In Him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will,
so that we might exist for the praise of His glory.
There is an idea, a very old idea, that Aristotle named final causality. It existed before Aristotle gave it a name, and it is different from efficient causality. That the car starts when you turn the key in the ignition switch illustrates efficient causality; that you turn the switch so that the car will start so that you can go to your office is final causality of a not very important kind; final causality being that for the sake of which an action is undertaken. And our lives are like that. We do countless small and expedient things on behalf of larger purposes, and in the end the answer to what is my life for is its final causality.
Unhappily, post modernity runs shy of final causality, or at the least engages it with confusion. In my favorite movie, Isabel Colgate’s The Shooting Party, the master of the house proposes that we are here to leave the world a better place than we found it. The most sympathetic character, a servant wounded in the shoot as he dies, half-shouts the faith of many nineteenth-century Britons: “God save the British Empire!” These, variously vague and trivial as they may be, exude nobility in comparison with what an alien observer might deduce from the common culture of twentieth century America, where reigns the philosophy of Epicurus, the first to say that the purpose of life was to enjoy as much pleasure as might reasonably be possible and to avoid pain, inventing therewith, in the sixth century before Christ, the culture of pleasure and comfort. Epicurus’ idea of the purpose of life was denounced by Aristotelians, Platonists, Academics, and Stoics, but Epicurus had discovered a truth that will endure while time lasts: Pleasure is a good of a kind, and when nothing lifts the eye of the soul above the world of the immediate, pleasure will be the default position of mankind. His principle was that men should seek pleasure reasonably. As it worked out, in the contest between reason and pleasure, it was all too often pleasure six, reason zero. Continue reading “Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time”