The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘Year of St Paul’ Category

Feast Of The Conversion Of St Paul

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2010


A more extensive list of resources can be found here.

Rabbi Saul Becomes Apostle PaulPodcast.

The Life Of St Paul: Podcasts

Pope Benedict XVI: From his catechesis on the Apostles (text)

Pope Benedict XVI. From his Year of St Paul Catechesis.

Posted in Audio/Video Lectures, Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Year of St Paul | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Notes On Ephesians 1:15-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 18, 2009

I’ve made these notes from Father Bertrand Wilberforce, O.P. available in PDF: Ephesians 1, 15-23

Posted in Bible, Books, Catechetical Resources, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, Notes on Ephesians, Quotes, St Thomas Aquinas, Year of St Paul | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Brief Life Of St Paul and an Account Of His Conversion

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 25, 2009

This post contains two talks y Pope Benedict XVI which he gave during his Wednesday Audiences for the year of St Paul.



Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Saint Paul (2)

Life of Saint Paul before and after Damascus.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last Catechesis before the holidays – two months ago, at the beginning of July – I began a new series of topics on the occasion of the Pauline Year, examining the world in which St Paul lived. Today I would like to resume and continue the reflection on the Apostle to the Gentiles, presenting a brief biography of him. Since we shall be dedicating next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Paul’s conversion, a fundamental turning point in his life subsequent to his encounter with Christ, let us briefly pause today on his life as a whole. We find Paul’s biographical details respectively in the Letter to Philemon, in which he says he is “an old man” (Phm_1:9: presbytes) and in the Acts of the Apostles in which, at the time of the stoning of Stephen, he is described as “a young man” (Act_7:58: neanías). Both these expressions are obviously generic but, according to ancient calculations, a man of about 30 was described as “young” whereas he would be called “old” by the time he had reached the age of about 60. The date of Paul’s birth depends largely on the dating of the Letter to Philemon. He is traditionally supposed to have written it during his imprisonment in Rome in the mid-60s. Paul would have been born in approximately the year 8. He would therefore have been about 30 at the time of the stoning of Stephen. This ought to be the correct chronology and we are celebrating the Pauline Year in accordance with precisely this chronology. The year 2008 was chosen with a date of birth of about the year 8 in mind. In any case, Paul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia (cf. Act_3:1). The town was the administrative capital of the region and in 51 B.C. had had as Proconsul no less than Marcus Tullius Cicero himself, while 10 years later, in 41, Tarsus was the place where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra met for the first time. A Jew from the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although his name was of Latin origin. Moreover, it derived by assonance from the original Jewish Saul/Saulos, and he was a Roman citizen (cf. Act_25:1-28). Paul thus appears to be at the intersection between three different cultures – Roman, Greek and Jewish – and perhaps partly because of this was disposed for fruitful universalistic openness, for a mediation between cultures, for true universality. He also learned a manual trade, perhaps from his father, that of “tentmaker” (Act_3:1: skenopoios). This should probably be understood as a worker of uncarded goat wool or linen fibres who made them into mats or tents (cf. Act_20:33-35). At about the age of 12 to 13, the age in which a Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah (“son of the commandment”), Paul left Tarsus and moved to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, a nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, in accordance with the strictest Pharisaic norms and acquiring great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cf. Gal_1:14; Php_3:5-6; Act_22:3; Act_23:6; Act_26:5).

On the basis of this profound Orthodoxy that he learned at the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw the new movement that referred to Jesus of Nazareth as a risk, a threat to the Jewish identity, to the true Orthodoxy of the fathers. This explains the fact that he proudly “persecuted the Church of God” as he was to admit three times in his Letters (1Co_15:9; Gal_1:13; Php_3:6). Although it is not easy to imagine in what this persecution actually consisted, his attitude was intolerant. It is here that the event of Damascus fits in; we shall return to it at our next Catechesis. It is certain that from this time Paul’s life changed and he became a tireless apostle of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul passed into history for what he did as a Christian, indeed as an Apostle, rather than as a Pharisee. Traditionally his apostolic activity is divided on the basis of his three missionary journeys, to which can be added a fourth, his voyage to Rome as a prisoner. They are all recounted by Luke in the Acts. With regard to the three missionary journeys, however, the first must be distinguished from the other two.

In fact, Paul was not directly responsible for the first (cf. Acts 13-14), which was instead entrusted to the Cypriot, Barnabas. They sailed together from Antioch on the Orontes River, sent out by that Church (cf. Act_13:1-3) and having sailed from the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, crossed the island of Cyprus from Salamis to Paphos; from here they reached the southern coasts of Anatolia, today Turkey, and passed through the cities of Attalia, Perga in Pamphylia, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they returned to their starting point. Thus was born the Church of the people, the Church of the Gentiles. And in the meantime, especially in Jerusalem, a discussion had been sparked, lasting until, in order to participate truly in the promises of the prophets and enter effectively into the heritage of Israel, these Christians who came from paganism were obliged to adhere to the life and laws of Israel (various observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world). To resolve this fundamental problem for the birth of the future Church the so-called Council of the Apostles met in Jerusalem to settle on a solution, on which the effective birth of a universal Church depended. And it was decided that the observance of Mosaic Law should not be imposed upon converted pagans (cf. Act_15:6-30): that is, they were not to be bound by the rules of Judaism; the only thing necessary was to belong to Christ, to live with Christ and to abide by his words. Thus, in belonging to Christ, they also belonged to Abraham and to God, and were sharers in all the promises. After this decisive event Paul separated from Barnabas, chose Silas and set out on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22). Having gone beyond Syria and Cilicia, he saw once again the city of Lystra where he was joined by Timothy (a very important figure in the nascent Church, the son of a Jewish woman and a pagan), whom he had circumcised; he crossed Central Anatolia and reached the city of Troas on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. And here another important event happened: in a dream he saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, that is, in Europe, who was saying: “Come and help us!”. It was the Europe of the future that was asking for the light and help of the Gospel. On the impetus of this vision he set sail for Macedonia and thus entered Europe. Having disembarked at Neapolis, he arrived at Philippi, where he founded a beautiful community. He then travelled to Thessalonica. Having left this place because of the problems the Jews created for him, he passed through Beroea to Athens. In this capital of ancient Greek culture, he preached to pagans and Greeks, first in the Agora and then on the Areopagus. And the discourse of the Areopagus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, is the model of how to translate the Gospel into Greek culture, of how to make Greeks understand that this God of the Christians and Jews was not a God foreign to their culture but the unknown God they were awaiting, the true answer to the deepest questions of their culture. Then from Athens he arrived in Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. And here we have an event that is chronologically very reliable. It is the most reliable date in the whole of his biography because, during this first stay in Corinth he was obliged to appear before the Governor of the Senatorial Province of Achaia, the Proconsul Gallio, who accused him of illegitimate worship. In Corinth there is an ancient inscription, found in Delphi, which mentions this Gallio and that epoch. It says that Gallio was Proconsul in Corinth between the years 51 and 53. Thus we have one absolutely certain date. Paul stayed in Corinth in those years. We may therefore suppose that he arrived there in about the year 50 and stayed until 52. Then from Corinth, passing through Cenchreae, the port on the eastern side of the city, he set sail for Palestine and arrived in Caesarea Marittima. From here he sailed for Jerusalem, before returning to Antioch on the Orontes.

The third missionary journey (cf. Acts 18: 23-21: 16), began, like all his journeys, in Antioch, which had become the original core of the Church of the Gentiles, of the mission to the Gentiles, and was also the place where the term “Christian” was coined. It was here, St Luke tells us, that Jesus’ followers were called “Christians” for the first time. From Antioch Paul started out for Ephesus, the capital of the Province of Asia where he stayed two years, carrying out a ministry whose fruitful effects were felt throughout the region. It was from Ephesus that Paul wrote the Letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. The population of the town, however, was set against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminishing with the reduction in the number of those who worshipped Artemis (the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemysion, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world); Paul was thus forced to flee north. He crossed Macedonia once again and went back to Greece, probably to Corinth, where he remained for three months and wrote his famous Letter to the Romans.

From here he retraced his steps: he went back through Macedonia, reaching Troas by boat, and then, staying very briefly on the islands of Mitylene, Chios and Samos, arrived at Miletus where he delivered an important discourse to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, outlining a portrait of a true Pastor of the Church (cf. Acts 20). From here he set sail for Tyre from whence he came to Caesarea Marittima, on his return journey to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested on the basis of a misunderstanding. Certain Jews had mistaken other Jews of Greek origin for Gentiles, whom Paul had taken into the temple precinct reserved for Israelites. He was spared the inevitable death sentence by the intervention of the Roman tribune on guard in the Temple area (cf. Act_21:27-36); this happened while the imperial Procurator in Judea was Antonius Felix. After a spell in prison (the duration of which is debated), and since Paul as a Roman citizen was an appellee of Caesar (at that time Nero), the subsequent Procurator, Porcius Festus, sent him to Rome under military escort.

The voyage to Rome involved putting in at the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the cities of Syracuse, Rhegium Calabria and Puteoli. The Roman Christians went down the Appian Way to meet him at the Appii Forum (about 70 km from the capital), and others went as far as Three Taverns (c. 40 km). In Rome he met the delegates of the Jewish community, whom he told that it was for “the hope of Israel” that he was in chains (Act_28:20). However, Luke’s account ends with the mention of two years spent in Rome under mild military surveillance. Luke mentions neither a sentence of Caesar (Nero) nor, even less, the death of the accused. Later traditions speak of his liberation which would have been propitious for either a missionary journey to Spain or a subsequent episode in the East, and specifically in Crete, Ephesus and Nicopolis in Epirus. Still on a hypothetical basis, another arrest is conjectured and a second imprisonment in Rome (where he is supposed to have written the three so-called Pastoral Letters, that is, the two to Timothy and the Letter to Titus), with a second trial that would have proven unfavourable to him. Yet a series of reasons induce many scholars of St Paul to end his biography with Luke’s narrative in the Acts.

We shall return to his martyrdom later in the cycle of our Catecheses. For the time being, in this brief list of Paul’s journeys it suffices to note how dedicated he was to proclaiming the Gospel, sparing no energy, confronting a series of grave trials, of which he left us a list in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 2Co_11:21-28). Moreover, it is he who writes: “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel” (1Co_9:23), exercising with unreserved generosity what he called “anxiety for the Churches” (2Co_11:28). We see a commitment that can only be explained by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, in love with Christ, a soul sustained by profound conviction; it is necessary to bring Christ’s light to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all of us. This seems to me to be what remains for us from this brief review of St Paul’s journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel and thereby grasp the greatness, the beauty, indeed the deep need of the Gospel for all of us. Let us pray the Lord who caused St Paul to see his light, who made him hear his word and profoundly moved his heart, that we may also see his light, so that our hearts too may be moved by his Word and thus that we too may give the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ to today’s world which thirsts for it.



Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Saint Paul (3)

St Paul’s “Conversion”.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Catechesis is dedicated to the experience that Paul had on his way to Damascus, and therefore on what is commonly known as his conversion. It was precisely on the road to Damascus, at the beginning of the 30s in the first century and after a period in which he had persecuted the Church that the decisive moment in Paul’s life occurred. Much has been written about it and naturally from different points of view. It is certain that he reached a turning point there, indeed a reversal of perspective. And so he began, unexpectedly, to consider as “loss” and “refuse” all that had earlier constituted his greatest ideal, as it were the raison d’être of his life (cf. Php_3:7-8). What had happened?

In this regard we have two types of source. The first kind, the best known, consists of the accounts we owe to the pen of Luke, who tells of the event at least three times in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Act_9:1-19; Act_22:3-21;Act_26:4-23). The average reader may be tempted to linger too long on certain details, such as the light in the sky, falling to the ground, the voice that called him, his new condition of blindness, his healing like scales falling from his eyes and the fast that he made. But all these details refer to the heart of the event: the Risen Christ appears as a brilliant light and speaks to Saul, transforms his thinking and his entire life. The dazzling radiance of the Risen Christ blinds him; thus what was his inner reality is also outwardly apparent, his blindness to the truth, to the light that is Christ. And then his definitive “yes” to Christ in Baptism restores his sight and makes him really see.

In the ancient Church Baptism was also called “illumination”, because this Sacrament gives light; it truly makes one see. In Paul what is pointed out theologically was also brought about physically: healed of his inner blindness, he sees clearly. Thus St Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One whom subsequently he would never be able to doubt, so powerful had been the evidence of the event, of this encounter. It radically changed Paul’s life in a fundamental way; in this sense one can and must speak of a conversion. This encounter is the centre St Luke’s account for which it is very probable that he used an account that may well have originated in the community of Damascus. This is suggested by the local colour, provided by Ananias’ presence and by the names, of both the street and the owner of the house in which Paul stayed (Acts 9: 11).

The second type of source concerning the conversion consists in St Paul’s actual Letters. He never spoke of this event in detail, I think because he presumed that everyone knew the essentials of his story: everyone knew that from being a persecutor he had been transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ. And this had not happened after his own reflection, but after a powerful event, an encounter with the Risen One. Even without speaking in detail, he speaks on various occasions of this most important event, that, in other words he too is a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus, the revelation of which he received directly from Jesus, together with his apostolic mission. The clearest text found is in his narrative of what constitutes the centre of salvation history: the death and Resurrection of Jesus and his appearances to witnesses (cf. 1 Cor 15). In the words of the ancient tradition, which he too received from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus died on the Cross, was buried and after the Resurrection appeared risen first to Cephas, that is Peter, then to the Twelve, then to 500 brethren, most of whom were still alive at Paul’s time, then to James and then to all the Apostles. And to this account handed down by tradition he adds, “Last of all… he appeared also to me” (1 Cor 15: 8). Thus he makes it clear that this is the foundation of his apostolate and of his new life. There are also other texts in which the same thing appears: “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship” (cf. Rm 1: 4-5); and further: “Have I not seen Jesus Our Lord?” (1 Cor 9: 1), words with which he alludes to something that everyone knows. And lastly, the most widely known text is read in Galatians: “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus” (1: 15-17). In this “self-apology” he definitely stresses that he is a true witness of the Risen One, that he has received his own mission directly from the Risen One.

Thus we can see that the two sources, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St Paul, converge and agree on the fundamental point: the Risen One spoke to Paul, called him to the apostolate and made him a true Apostle, a witness of the Resurrection, with the specific task of proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles, to the Greco-Roman world. And at the same time, Paul learned that despite the immediacy of his relationship with the Risen One, he had to enter into communion with the Church, he himself had to be baptized, he had to live in harmony with the other Apostles. Only in such communion with everyone could he have been a true apostle, as he wrote explicitly in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (15: 11). There is only one proclamation of the Risen One, because Christ is only one.

As can be seen, in all these passages Paul never once interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many hypotheses, but for me the reason is very clear. This turning point in his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the fruit of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral development. Rather it came from the outside: it was not the fruit of his thought but of his encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a development of his “ego”, but rather a death and a resurrection for Paul himself. One existence died and another, new one was born with the Risen Christ. There is no other way in which to explain this renewal of Paul. None of the psychological analyses can clarify or solve the problem. This event alone, this powerful encounter with Christ, is the key to understanding what had happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of the One who had shown himself and had spoken to him. In this deeper sense we can and we must speak of conversion. This encounter is a real renewal that changed all his parameters. Now he could say that what had been essential and fundamental for him earlier had become “refuse” for him; it was no longer “gain” but loss, because henceforth the only thing that counted for him was life in Christ.

Nevertheless we must not think that Paul was thus closed in a blind event. The contrary is true because the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This expanded his heart and made it open to all. At this moment he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but he understood wisdom, truth, the depth of the law and of the prophets in a new way and in a new way made them his own. At the same time, his reasoning was open to pagan wisdom. Being open to Christ with all his heart, he had become capable of an ample dialogue with everyone, he had become capable of making himself everything to everyone. Thus he could truly be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Turning now to ourselves, let us ask what this means for us. It means that for us too Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us in this overwhelming, luminous way, as he did to Paul to make him the Apostle to all peoples. But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ’s Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we truly become Christians. And in this way our reason opens, all Christ’s wisdom opens as do all the riches of truth.
Therefore let us pray the Lord to illumine us, to grant us an encounter with his presence in our world, and thus to grant us a lively faith, an open heart and great love for all, which is capable of renewing the world.

Posted in BENEDICT XVI CATECHESIS, Bible, St Paul's life, Year of St Paul | Leave a Comment »

Year of St Paul Links

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 13, 2008


Our Sunday Visitor. Good online stuff. Resources for purchase.

Catholic Culture.

Recommended Reading. Of in-print books, provided by the Diocese of Harrisburg. Some fine suggestions.


EWTN Live. Online audio of Father Mitch Pacwa and Dr. Scott Hahn discussing the Year of St Paul

The Gospel According To St Paul. An online six week Scripture study by Dr. Scott Hahn. The audio for week one is a bit “soft” but don’t let this stop you.

Online Books:

My Biblical Commentaries Page. You can find many links to online books relating to St Paul’s writing

My Year of St Paul PageA page of this blog (see the link below blog title).  There may be some overlap of content between this post and the contents of that page.

Posted in Bible, Year of St Paul | 1 Comment »

Podcast on St Paul

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 16, 2008

From Ignatius Insight comes this podcast: an interview of Steven Ray by Carl Olsen.

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#4 Resources For the Year of St Paul

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2008

Some insights from Cardinal Kasper

St Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary of Romans Links to his other commentaries on Paul HERE

On Paul’s World and Time by Pope Benedict XVI.  This begins a new catechesis for his Wednesday Audiences.

An Audio Documentary on Paul’s Life  a 6 part series.  Rather liberal, but some useful stuff

Paul, Who Are You?  By Pauline Books and Media.  Brief, check out the links at the end to more brief articles.

See additional links on my Year of St Paul PageA permanent link to this page is listed under this blogs titleThat page will be updated periodically.  If anyone comes across news items or blog posts of interest,please let me know.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homilies On the Epistles Of St Paul

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 2, 2008


1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians




1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy 




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My Talk On St Paul (Updated)

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 2, 2008

I’m supposed to deliver it tonight. Part of me hopes I don’t get hit by a bus on the walk over to the convent.

UPDATE:  No bus was in sight (sigh).  The hand out sheet I had intended on distributing (see below) was a bust, the copying machine was on jamming.  In addition, I said I wouldn’t whine about this, but I’m a liar.  On Sunday night, at about 9:30 PM my computer crashed as I was doing my third and last re-write of my talk.  Needless to say, I lost everything except my original rough draft, so the talk was very unpolished.  Most people said they were pleased with the talk, but I’m thinking they were just being polite.
Here are the handout sheets which will help people identify the cities and regions associated with St Paul. They come from the website of Father Felix Just, S.J.

Here are some of the resources I used in preparing the talk:

McKenzie’s Dictionary of the Bible by Father John McKenzie, S.J.

The Jerome Biblical Commentary

The New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture

New World Dictionary-Concordance to the New American Bible

According To Paul by Father Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J.

Acts of Apostles, Sacra Pagina Series, by Luke Timothy Johnson

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Pope Begins New Catechesis On St Paul

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 2, 2008

Apparently, during the year of St Paul, the Pope will devote his Wednesday catechesis to St Paul’s teaching and influence.

Check out the resources I’ve gathered on St Paul HERE and HERE.  I’ll be adding more throughout the year.  Soon I’ll have a page dedicated to the Year of St Paul.  The link will be located under my blog’s title.

Posted in BENEDICT XVI CATECHESIS, Bible, Year of St Paul | Leave a Comment »

More Resources For The Year Of St Paul

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 1, 2008


See the previous list of resources HERE.

1 Corinthians Commentary by Father Cornelius a Lapide
2 Corinthians & Galatians by Father Lapide

1 Thessalonians by St Thomas Aquinas
1 Corinthians Aquinas
2 Corinthians Aquinas
Galatians Aquinas
Romans Aquinas
Philippians Aquinas
Colossians Aquinas
Ephesians Aquinas
Philemon Aquinas

William of St. Thierry’s Reception of Origen’s Exegesis of Romans by Thomas Scheck

Haydock Bible Commentary

Posted in Bible, Uncategorized, Year of St Paul | 2 Comments »

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