I. Penance and Ongoing Conversion in the Process of Deification
Presenter: Anastasia Christine Wendlinder
When interwoven with much prayer, soul searching, and opening up to the human community and the Holy Spirit, penance is a transforming and reconciling process. In the film "The Mission," Rodrigo denies redemption and states, "There is no penance hard enough for me." He does severe penance, however, and in the process experiences conversion. His story illustrates that when penance is appropriate to the sin, the potential for true penitence and conversion increases significantly.
There are several issues that arise around conversion. One's anthropology informs the person's innate capacity for conversion and for complex social conversion. One's theology conditions one's thinking about the human-divine relationship for religious conversion. Finally, conversion experienced as deification of the body makes clear the role of supernatural. Deification is synonymous with divinization.
Divinization presumes a very positive anthropology which exists alongside the need for grace. Also, divinization preserves the scriptural warrant of humankind made in God's image. On divinization, St. Athanasius is often cited: "God became man so man could become God."
Deification by grace is a mode of ongoing conversion. According to the theologian D. Gelpi, deification as a growth in grace is a dynamic transvaluation of the converting person. To his statement one may add the eschatological dimension of deification from orthodox theology. To quote C. Ware, "Mystical theology is a theology of glory and of transfiguration, but it is also a theology of penitence."
We conclude that in the person's reconciliation with God (and with others), deification, ongoing conversion, penance, and grace are mutually interrelated.
II. Traditions of Sickness and Healing Prior to the Penitential Psalms
Presenter: Richard Bautch, S.J.
In scripture and related literature of antiquity, one encounters two distinct traditions of sickness and healing -- the divine and the dualist. The divine tradition understands God to permit sickness and subsequently to heal with a minimum of mediation. The dualist understands God as highly transcendent with an intermediate realm of demons and angels who afflict and heal person respectively. In earlier discussions we considered the divine tradition as witnessed in the gospels. Here we consider the dualist tradition independent of Jesus by examining certain of its literary witnesses from the ancient Gentiles and Jews.
Representative of the Gentile wing of the dualist tradition is Simon the magus in Acts 8. A fixture in Samaria with a reputation of greatness on a par with God, he is displaced by the disciple Philip who preaches Christ, casts out demons, and then cures the crippled and paralyzed. Afterwards, the cured receive baptism, and herein lies the critical difference between the divine and dualist traditions. The divine, in a Christian context, opens onto baptism and the experience of reconciliation with God. The dualist tradition has no discernible component of baptism leading to reconciliation and forgiveness.
In Jewish writings, Josephus (Jewish Antiquities VIII, 46-7) depicts an exorcism by one Eleazar at the Roman court of Vespasian. The exorcism is a representative case in that it witnesses to five hallmarks of Jewish exorcism. Solomon's name is invoked; the demon is drawn out; the demon is adjured; an incantation from Solomon is spoken; a visible sign confirms that the demon has left the person. The five elements recur in other Jewish exorcist texts of the time, most notably 11QPsAp-a, a "Davidic Exorcism Handbook" from the covenant community at Qumran. Qumran theology held for dualism and predestination; combined, these beliefs minimize the possibility that healing could be a univocal experience of God leading toward fuller reconciliation and salvation. Thus, the dualist tradition again proves unserviceable to later Christianity in its efforts to draw from the experience of healing the theological categories of forgiveness.