St Francis Q&A

Friday, September 01, 2006

Christian vocabulary

Anon, I appreciate your comment about my use of the word “instrument” from Wednesday's post. It is interesting, as one blogger pointed out, that you focused on how this term is demeaning to women and didn’t mention anything about men, even though I had referred to Moses and Aaron as “instruments”. Nevertheless, I have realized that I need to be careful with what words I use because there are many people who aren’t familiar with the spiritual vocabulary of Christians.

But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us” (1 Cor 4:7). The notes from NAB (New American Bible) for this verse read as follows: ‘this treasure: the glory that he preaches and into which they are being transformed. In earthen vessels: the instruments God uses are human and fragile; some imagine small terracotta lamps in which light is carried’. As early as 57 A.D., then, the word ‘vessels’ or ‘instruments’ were employed to describe human beings in relation to God.

St. Paul is probably focusing on the body (natural) more than the soul (supernatural) when he talks about ‘earthen vessels’, but the point is still there. Everything is about the Grace of God coming through us who are living in the natural world. Either we are open to His Grace or we are not. God is calling us to be open vessels of his life. To say ‘yes’ to God is to open ourselves to Him; Mary did this every minute of her life. His Grace does the rest. We cooperate WITH Grace when we are open to it; then the Grace of God comes THROUGH us to others.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God”. We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin” (# 1420). Terms like ‘tent’, ‘vessel’, and ‘instrument’ are descriptive terms; the Church uses them so that we can understand the Gospel better. They are not to be taken literally only; they have spiritual meanings that transcend gender, race, nationality, etc.

Finally, two more side notes: 1) I have found it interesting that the Church is constantly accused of ‘worshiping Mary’ while, at the same time, accused of being ‘sexist’ and ‘anti-woman’. 2) Here are some of the titles the Church uses for the Blessed Virgin Mary which I hope you (and others) don’t find offensive: Mirror of Justice, Seat of Wisdom, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of Honor, Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star.


  • I truly believe we are instruments of God to help the Poor.

    St. Martin's Pantry is in dire need of food please be generous with your donations.

    Thank you!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:24 AM  

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