Author’s Corner: Catholic University of America Press
Each week on Credo we welcome you to join us in the Author’s Corner where we will meet a set of authors whose recent books deserve your attention and might even help you grow in your knowledge of theology, history, philosophy, and the scriptures. We hope the Author’s Corner can keep you up-to-date on the most important books published today and where you can find them.
On today’s Author’s Corner we present you with a selection of recent works from the Catholic University of America Press.
The Trinity: On the Nature and Mystery of the One God (2022) by Thomas Joseph White, OP
The Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith. What can we say about the divine nature, and what does it mean to say that God is Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three persons who are one in being? In this book, best selling author Thomas Joseph White, OP, examines the development of early Christian reflection on the Trinity, arguing that essential contributions of Patristic theology are preserved and expanded in the thought of Thomas Aquinas.
By focusing on Aquinas’ theology of the divine nature as well as his treatment of divine personhood, White explores in depth the mystery of Trinitarian monotheism. The Trinity: On the Nature and Mystery of the One God also engages with influential proposals of modern theologians on major topics such as Trinitarian creation, Incarnation and crucifixion, and presents creative engagements with these topics. Ultimately any theology of the cross is also a theology of the Trinity, and this book seeks to illustrate how the human life, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveal the inner life of God as Trinity.
Homilies on Isaiah by Origen
Hans Urs von Balthasar places Origen of Alexandria “in rank… beside Augustine and Thomas” in “importance for the history of Christian thought,” explaining that his “brilliance” has captivated theologians throughout history (Spirit and Fire, 1984, 1). This brilliance shines forth in his nine extant homilies on Isaiah, in which he employs his theology of the Trinity and Christ to exhort his audience to play their crucial role in salvation history.
Origen reads Isaiah’s vision of the Lord and two seraphim in Isaiah 6 allegorically as representing the Trinity, and this theme runs throughout the nine homilies. His representation of the seraphim as the Son and Holy Spirit around the throne of the Father brought early accusations that Origen was a proto-Arian subordinationist, followed by a pointed condemnation by Emperor Justinian in 553. These homilies, originally delivered between 245 and 248, are extant only in a fourth-century Latin translation. Though St. Jerome, likely because of these controversies, does not identify himself as the Latin translator, the evidence overwhelmingly points to his pen, and his reliability in conveying Origen’s authentic meaning is well documented.
If one sets aside the questionable charges of subordinationism, these homilies, expounding on passages from Judges 6-10, come alive with Origen’s legacy of presenting Christ as the central figure of the soul’s ascent to God. Reading allegorically the two seraphim to be Jesus and the Holy Spirit around the Father’s throne, Origen draws a picture of the Trinity as a tightly knit whole in which the Son and the Holy Spirit eternally sing the Trisagion (“Holy, holy, holy”) to each other and the Father about the divine truths of God’s nature, allowing the part of their song that conveys the “middle things” of salvation history to be heard by creation. The “second seraph” is the Son, or Jesus, who descends holding a hot coal, or Scripture, from the altar of the throne, with which he cleanses Isaiah’s lips, or the believer’s soul. Origen employs his signature exegetical method of allegory and typology through the lens of the threefold meaning of Scripture to emphasize to his hearers that Christ is the deliverer, the content, and the reward of the healing Word. He repeatedly assures them that those who submit to Scripture will enter into salvation history’s cycle of cleansing from sin, growth in virtue, and ever-deepening knowledge of God. As a result, they will become like Christ and thus will be prepared to join the Trinity for all eternity at the heavenly wedding feast.
On the Six Days of Creation by Gregory of Nyssa
The first volume of our new series, Fathers of the Church: Shorter Works, will be available in the summer of 2021. This series, to be printed only in paperback format, will offer English translations of treatises, homilies, poems, and letters of the Church Fathers in slim, easily affordable volumes. In this way a multitude of important writings will become accessible to scholars and students as well as the reading public.
This is the first complete English translation of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s treatise On the Six Days of Creation (In Hexaemeron). It was probably written in 380-381, and is designed as both a defense and a critique of his recently deceased brother St. Basil’s better known homilies on the creation story as set out in the first chapter of Genesis. At the same time it incorporates Gregory’s own observations on the Genesis text, which reflect his desire to show the consistency between Scripture and the philosophy and natural science of his day
A notable feature is Gregory’s presentation of God’s creation of the world as what has been called a “substantification” of God’s own will, creatio ex Deo rather than creatio ex nihilo. Other ideas of his seem interestingly to foreshadow those of modern science, notably his challenge to the idea that matter is a primary ontological category and his theory that the world as we know it developed through a process of “sequence” ( akolouthia) from an originally simultaneous creation of everything.
Gregory differs from Basil in maintaining that the “waters above the firmament” in Genesis 1 are spiritual rather than physical in nature. He uses a modified form of Aristotle’s theory of elements, together with some interesting observations on geography and meteorology, to construct a detailed and ingenious account of the “water cycle.” This description enables him to refute Basil’s notion that there needs to be an extra supply of physical water above the firmament so that the water lost from earthly seas and rivers through evaporation can be “topped up.”