Sunday, August 17, 2008

What are Emulations?

Low Mass this Sunday...  a sermon on the vanity and ultimate uselessness of the service paid to the world, versus the peace and true reward that comes from the service of God; while the former appears easier than the latter, the reverse is the case...  feelings of depression at my own failure to serve the Lord, my too eager pursuit of mundane things...  I was struck by the echo of the Gospel in the Communion verse: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all shall be added unto you, saith the Lord (St Matt. vi, 33)...  a confession afterward.  

Father answered a question that has troubled me: what is a firm purpose of amendment? if I fall back into the same old sins, was any purpose of amendment lacking?  He responded by saying that of course people tend to fall prey to the same sins, but this is not evidence of lack of purpose of amendment: a firm purpose of amendment is what you must have at your confession, together with trust in God's grace (and prudent cooperation therewith).  So he relieved my conscience, and bade me say five Ave's to know my predominant fault and for the grace to overcome it.


Fr Rowe had a few days earlier raised the amusing question, What are emulations?  (We had been teasing him about reading out translations of the Epistle and Gospel from a version that didn't exactly elucidate and enlighten!)  Here is the relevant passage from to-day's Epistle, taken from St Paul to the Galatians (v, 16-24):

Brethren: Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh: for the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh: for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would.  But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry [literally "service of idols"], witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. 

[It would seem appropriate to add the next verse (v, 25) in private, since it closes the chiasmus established in the first verse of the pericope (v, 16): If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.]

Now, to establish what exactly are emulations, I have recourse to the Greek New Testament (in the worlds of Mgr Knox, "a useful crib to the Latin Vulgate") - here are the "works of the flesh" as it gives them (Gal. v, 19b-21a):

...πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, [the Vulgate adds another synonym for these: luxuria,εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθείαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, φθόνοι, [some MSS add: φόνοι,] μέθαι, κῶμοι, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις...

According to my dictionary, these translate somewhat as follows:

...sexual immorality, impurity, indecency, idol-worship, witchcraft*, hatreds, strife†, jealousy, rages, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions‡, envies, drunknennesses, [murders,] carousings, and similar things...

So æmulationes ("emulations") means "jealousies"; while in English to emulate someone means to (with zeal) imitate them, in Latin their is a definite bad connotation - the deponent verb æmulari means to envy, not to imitate, and one's æmula is one's rival, but if one is an æmulator, one is a zealous (as opposed to jealous) imitator.  Since in English "jealousy" and "zeal" derive from the same root, one can see how the two concepts have become distinct.

[* Bizarrely, our words pharmacy and pharmacist derive from the Greek for witchcraft and sorcerer!  Magic, or a magic potion, was φάρμακον, and from this comes the eventual idea of non-magical healing remedies...

[† Eris, of course, is the Greek goddess of discord - hence appropriately enough this is the proper name now given to the dwarf planet discovered to be larger and more distant than Pluto, which occasioned the demotion of the latter amidst much strife between astronomers!

[‡ Here we see the earlier meaning of "heresy": an opinion, and by metonymy a faction adhering thereto; the Latin renders this very well as "sects" (sectæ).]

Now I must walk in the Spirit and bear His fruits, trusting in the Lord:

Custodi Domine, quaesumus, Ecclesiam tuam propitiatione perpetua: et quia sine te labitur humana mortalitas, tuis semper auxiliis et abstrahatur a noxiis, et ad salutaria dirigatur. Per...

Keep, Lord, we beseech Thee, Thy Church in Thy perpetual mercy: and because without Thee human mortality fails, always by Thine assistances both draw it away from things hurtful, and direct it to all things profitable to our salvation. Thro'...

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