Savory Side Dish

  • 2lbs of hamburger (85/15 or even 80/20)
  • two sour apples, peeled and diced
  • two persimmons, peeled and diced
  • a bag of cranberries, boiled in a 50/50 mix of red wine and pineapple juice until popped and tender
  • 1/2 C golden raisins
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground nuteg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt

Combine everything like a meatloaf and then stuff in two or three small pumpkins that have been beheaded and gutted.

Roast at 350 degrees until a thermometer inserted in the meat registers 160 degrees. That took about 1.5 hours for me, but it depends on your oven and the size of the pumpkins. I used two small cast iron skillets, but any baking pan you use needs high sides as the meat renders the fat.

Put them in the fridge overnight. Meatloaf is way better the next day. Warm them in the oven. Serve sliced. Each one might make about ten servings. This is only a side, but it could be a main dish. Might be a bit much spice for a main, though.

This reminds me of Spiced Beef without need to cure it for a week – that was the source of my idea, along with this video. Also, I had started out with an additional pound of meat. Totally did not need it. But it was ground pork. May do that next time, or 50/50 beef and pork. Or, perhaps, sausage.

A better nog


I called this “English Christmas” in its first incarnation – which was only the gin and some chocolate bitters. Last time I wanted to share it with someone I couldn’t find the bitters at all. On to the Creme which is kinda gross, but it did so mething different. It’s taken a while to get someplace where I liked it… still gonna stick with that name – because gin, orange, and chocolate = English Christmas – but going to call it a nog. So, here is:

English Christmas Nog

  • 1 egg separated
  • 2 shots of Tanqueray Sevilla Orange
  • .5 shot of Creme de Cacao
  • 1/4 C of heavy cream
  • 2 tbl sweetener (I used Allulose)
  • Ice if you’re an American…

This sounds complicated but, in the order presented you can do every thing with an immersion blender in just a few moments in one measuring cup and one serving goblet.

Method: In the goblet, whip the egg white until there are stiff peaks. This is ok because we’re going to add so very much liquid to it. When you reach dry peaks, slowly drizzle in the gin. In the measuring cup, whip the egg yoke with the sweetener until you reach a light yellow goop. Then drizzle in the Creme de Cacao. Pour this into the goblet. Finally, whip the cream in the measuring cup, until you have nice, solid cream and, while whipping, add in the egg white and last the egg yoke (from the goblet). Pour all back into the goblet. Serve over ice if you must.

Legal Disclaimer: something about raw eggs.

Red in the Morning

Dawn over a foggy golden gate
The Readings for the 33rd Sunday, Tempus Per Annum (c2)

Before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to rule the earth,
he will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98:9 (Responsorial)

FUN FACT: what the NABRE calls “Malachi 3:19” other translations call Malachi 4:1. NABRE has all the words, but only 3 chapters… Not really sure what that’s about. Makes it real hard to link to other translations. Anyway, furnace. We know the whole thing. The day of the Lord will hit the sinners like a fiery furnace. But wait, there’s more: the Just will see the Sun of Justice Rise.

So, for both Just and Unjust, the Day of the Lord means a fiery sunrise. The fire will burn for everyone. How will that day dawn for you?

We often make justice to mean “punishment” and mercy to mean “letting me off the hook”. These definitions are neither of them true, and they make God to be as petty as we are.

Mercy is God’s divine and infinite condescension to us in kindness and love. The first instance of this mercy, personally and for each of us, is the creation of the entire world. The second instance is the creation of your individual soul, an act of infinite love and creation in time that took place at the moment of your conception. All things – all blessings, all punishments, all teachings, all correction, all salvation, all purgation, all joys, and all sorrows – arise from this original mercy, or original blessing, as the former Dominican, Matthew Fox, called it. This is an act of Mercy because God has no need of you, no need of the universe, no need of creation at all. God’s love did this.

Then we want to think of human sin and its punishment. Yet we do not think of, even then, God’s constant mercy. For we know that sin is death. We know that we are cut off from the divine life by mortal sin (that’s why it’s called “mortal”) yet, in God’s mercy, we do not die, we are not “smote”. God lets us go on with an eye towards our repentance and restoration. Almost all of life, then, is a mercy. We cannot escape the consequences of our actions for that is part of the way the world functions: if you kill someone, they are really dead. You will grieve that action even if you are absolved. If you spread hate, you will suffer the social blowback from your actions even if you are able to grow towards love. If you commit sexual sin, there’s the possibility of a child, of disease, of re-writing the reward pathways in your brain towards an addiction. These are parts of the world in which we live and each sin means that we must deal with the actions. That’s not justice, though. It’s only the natural consequence. in some case the “really dead” or the “accidental child” my turn out to be a blessing or a curse, or even a cross, but it’s still not justice. No retribution is, of itself, justice. Eye for eye is not justice nor is, ironically, dropping things, walking away, forgetting…

God’s justice is a restoration of right relationship.

Imagine you are building a building as a contractor. The floor should be perfectly level. From that floor, at perfect 90° angles, should rise each of the walls – they are square. They stay straight, square with the floor all the way up, this means the walls are “plumb”. However, let us say that one wall begins to sag inwards. This wall will – eventually – make the adjoining walls weaker. They may begin to sag. And the roof could possibly collapse. So the owner calls you back and asks you to fix it – to make the wall square again. The process of returning the building to level, square, and plumb when projected on human relationships, is justice.

We want to think of Justice and Mercy in opposition, but, in fact, they are part and parcel of each other. Justice demands a right relationship. Mercy makes it mutually possible. Justice demands I share my surplus with the poor – not store it up in my new barns. Mercy (God’s kindness) allows me to have the grace to do it. It is not justice for the rich to hoard their wealth unless it is in order to more easily serve the poor. It is not mercy for us to say, “He can do whatever he wants with his stuff” for that leaves him in wrong relationship, leaves him in his sins. When we remind the rich man of his duty to justice and move him (through God’s grace) to restore a right relationship with the poor, that is mercy. When we use love to show someone walking away from God the right path, we are merciful: and that restores right relationship to God and others, that is justice.

They do not kiss together: they are the component parts of the same thing. Justice is the form of mercy. Mercy is the substance of justice.

Likewise the Sun of Justice and the Fiery Furnace. They are the same thing: it’s how we stand, if we’re level, square, and plumb. Or are are we sagging inwards, pulling down the whole structure? Do we want fixing or propping up? Do we need tearing down so that something good can be raised up instead? If we are falling apart, the fire will burn, but if we are solidly built in the faith, resting on the solid rock, rising like a tower, then the sunrise will show forth in the inviting colors of a new day.

God is a consuming fire. The only choice we have is shall we be consumed willingly or not.

Many Sons had Father Abraham


GOD CALLS Abram to himself, then some things happen. He lies about his wife, God promises him a son, he lies about his wife again, there’s a son, finally, but not the promised one, and then some other things happen. The Wiki resources on this parashah are amazing. Here are some more. And yet more. God calls Abram to himself and then some things happen, among them are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: things 1, two, and III. The sons of Abram (later, Abraham) are, as the camp song said, “many”. A blessing for all nations, indeed.

Clicking through some of the resources, it’s interesting that fabricated backstories (outside of the Biblical material) look for reasons that Abram was qualified for this calling. He was righteous, or he was already worshipping God, or his family were all doing so. (For how many generations?) But God calls whom he will – righteous or not.

לֶךְ-לְךָ‎ Lech Lecha tells the beginning of Abram’s story, called out of Ur of the Chaldees to be a blessing for all people. Lech Lecha is a sort of verbal one-two punch because repeating the same word twice it means GO! YOU GO! But, as the Rabbis point out, it also means “go to yourself“. Abram had to find himself in order to understand God or, more to the point, had to come to God in order to find his true self. Yet as noted in an earlier post, this is remarkably echoed in Jesus story of the Prodigal Son who “comes to himself” (Luke 15:17) in a far distant land and has to come home to his Father.

I’m not suggesting that Jesus used the name of a Torah Portion as part of his teaching (although I wouldn’t put it past him) nor does Luke use the same Greek Phrase as the LXX. Luke 15:17: Εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθὼν. LXX Genesis 12:1 ἔξελθε ἐκ τῆς γῆς σου. These phrases don’t overlap at all except (possibly) in meaning. Is the Dominical Saying perhaps intended as an echo of the Torah though? Would Jesus have been trying to get his audience to say, “Hey… wait a minute. That makes me think of something else!”

Ambrose, Augustine, Bede, and others say the Elder Brother is the people of Israel while the prodigal is the Gentiles. Cyril of Alexandria disagrees but for markedly antisemitic reasons. I want to take the Elder as the Jewish People, but I want to note other implications.

God called Abram to come to himself – and through him all his children. Meaning that, by Meditation on God’s Teachings (including the later Torah), it was possible for the Jews to live structured lives according to God’s wisdom and thus to be a light to the Gentiles. A week before he was just another Pagan worshipping fire or whatever they did in Ur. Then God calls Abram out of the Chaos of the Pagan World into the light of the Divine Logos. This logos, though, is not limited. He is also spread throughout the world. There is no corner of being where the Divine Beingness is unknown, but only more or less hidden. To find your true self, your own logos, in its fullness you must go through God. To go on the quest for yourself is to – ultimately – go on a quest for God. You have to be called on that journey (like Abram) for it to go deep, but you can start out (by Grace) on your own.

The prodigal “coming to himself” in a distant is the Gentile Version of the Call of God to Abram. Then some things happen. His journey of repentance, the embrace of his father, the gift of his true identity (robe, sandals, and a ring) all happen after he is called to himself.

Mystical Evolution


The Daily Office Propers for the Dominican Order contain some very interesting texts, indeed. Yesterday was the feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers. I found this reading as the 4th or 5th alternate for the Office of Readings:

From the Mystical Evolution of our brother, John Arintero.

“Through new saints and prophets in the Spirit the holiness of the Church increases.”

Mystical progress is the only true and integral progress. It is the only one in which nature really attains the fullness of its perfections at the same time that it is enriched with divine splendors. It is a continual increase in life and energies in which, growing in all things according to the true Exemplar, we can arrive at that stature of the perfect person.

Nevertheless there are some who think that, although all the members of the Church should increase in life, or what is the same, in virtue and sanctity, the Church itself cannot increase or mystically evolve, for it was holy from the very beginning and it is not to be supposed that now it would have greater saints or more abundant charisms than it had before. But then, neither can the Church be said to grow in unity and catholicity, for it was always, at least virtually, one and catholic. Nevertheless the Church does increase as she is extended and propagated and as, through great organic development, she fastens and secures the bonds of solidarity of all the members among themselves and with the Head.

This building up is effected principally in charity and, therefore, in sanctity and justice. The Christian ideal is not a limited perfection but the true deification or the greatest possible assimilation and union with God. To achieve this we must strive to be identified in a certain manner with God’s infinite sanctity, letting ourselves fully possess his Spirit of sanctification and be configured in all things to the incarnate Word.

As a greater number of the faithful are truly sanctified by realizing this sublime ideal, it is clear that the integral life and therefore the true sanctity of the whole mystical body are increased. During this development the perfection of the saints is effected more and more in the works of their ministry, and new and precious fruits of sanctification are continually appearing and ripening on this tree of life. In each new saint we can say that there appears a new form of sanctity, and in all of them together is manifested more and more clearly the treasures of virtue and life which are buried in Jesus Christ. Thus the feast of All Saints stands out in a glorious manner in as much as it manifests outwardly the hidden life of Jesus who is within. This excellence of perfection is nothing else than the overflowing of his Spirit which is poured out in them.

So it is that the entire organism of the Church is able to “grow up in him who is the head, even Christ.” It is not true to say, then, that there will never be greater saints than the early saints, and it is not enough to say that no saint can compare with Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the apostles, and the early disciples, in order to prove that the Church does not progress in holiness nor evolve mystically. This would be to reduce the whole edifice to its most solid foundations. The numerous flocks of christ, adorned with the blood of Martyrs and the virtues of so many confessors and virgins would be reduced to the little flock of the primitive Church and the whole brilliant mystical body of the Church, adult and robust, possessing various organs and a diversity of functions, would he reduced to its simple embryonic members.

Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church, was and is always the head of this mystical body which he directs and governs and keeps united. He distributes to it energies and graces; he watches over its prosperity; and with his Spirit he animates it and impels it to develop and grow in all things. He is with us today as yesterday and he will remain with us always, according to his promise: I am with you always even to the end of the world. He gave solidity to the firm cement of the apostles, but these are not the entire tower or holy house of the Lord nor even its entire foundation. Aiding them, upon the cornerstone, are all the new apostles and prophets in the Spirit.

Until this happens, the Church will ever increase and progress, strictly-speaking even more than did Jesus, in wisdom and age and grace before God day by day. He himself will direct our feet along the paths of peace, of holiness, and of perfection. In these paths we shall have no other norm, no other light, and no other power but that of the divine Master who is the way, the truth, and the life. No fixed limit will he set to our progress other than the perfection of the heavenly Father incarnate in that Exemplar who is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, whose glory we have seen, the glory of the Only-begotten, full of grace and truth and from his fullness we have all received, until the perfection of the saints is consummated in the works of their ministry and the entire body is well organized or built up in charity.

Weekend Update


AN EMAIL Arrives reminding me that today, the First Saturday of November, is the Antiochian feast for my Patron Saint, Raphael of Brooklyn. His feast is in February in the Russian use, I usually miss this one. Raphael is considered the patron of all the Lost Sheep of North America. I figure I still fit that bill. So I rely on his prayers, no matter how I stray.

By coincidence – which is a pagan word – a book arrives also today, Praying from the Free-Throw Line – for Now, by the late Minka Sura Sprague. I started reading it at dinner tonight, sitting in GyroXpress on Castro. It’s good to hear her voice again in my head. She served as my Spiritual Director, although we never used such language in those days, and she counseled me through a number of things including breakups and my first three semesters of Hebrew at NYU. In the earliest pages of the book I learned the origin of the line she shared with me, In the Old Creation people said “no” unless there was a good reason to say “yes.” In the new creation, we say “yes” unless there is a good reason to say “no.” I also learned, in those same pages, that she suffered from panic attacks. Sometimes debilitating her for days. I never knew that. She used the yes/no mantra in part to avoid making choices out of panic, to lean into her faith in God for strength to do things she could not otherwise do. Since “panic attack” was not a phrase we used in those days, did she impart that mantra to me because she saw that I, too, had the same debilitating fear? In this book she refers to the “divine-design”, a hyphenated phrase just like that. There is no coincidence: luck is for pagans. I have Minka’s wise guidance just when I need her.

I had my final preaching assignment today. I preached what I posted earlier. I left out of that homily the seed that planted it all in my head. Not ten seconds after I was assigned Holy Family Sunday for a homily, this story popped into my head:

Just out of college I took a job as Assistant Manager at the Episcopal Bookstore in NYC. There were two 2nd Avenue storefronts to deck out through the year, especially, of course, at Christmas. 

Once I painted the Blessed Virgin on foam core. 

Her hands were upraised in prayer and the infant king occupied an oval place in her womb like our window up here above the Creche. 

It was a style the Orthodox call “the virgin of the sign”.  

I invited customers, coworkers, and neighbors to donate pictures to the window display. All of us defining family in any way – pets, children, spouses, partners – were welcome to participate. 

“Let us all be the holy family”, I said.

I got an anonymous letter – remember letters? – from someone complaining that my invitation was too condescending to people who didn’t have “normal” families. They were offended and felt excluded. They had no family. Not even pets. They would never come back to my store.

30 years later I still worry about them.

Minka pulled me into her family as surly as did my Brother Knights mentioned in the homily. Minka’s kids all made comments (conveyed to me by herself) that helped me fine-tune my journey. When I walk, I have my brother Webb and my sister Caroline by my side (they may have other names now… they did when I first met them as well, as did I). We all walk in the New Creation together with their mother and my friend, and St Raphael. He is considered the Patron of the Lost Sheep of America, as I mentioned, and I certainly fit that name!

By the divine-design it’s the 3rd Shabbat of the Annual Cycle. This week’s Torah Reading is called לֶךְ-לְךָ‎ Lech Lecha. It tells the beginning of Abram’s story, called out of Ur of the Chaldees to be a blessing for all people. Lech Lecha is sort of a one-two punch because it means GO YOU GO! But, as the Rabbis point out, it also means “go to yourself“. Abram had to find himself in order to understand God or, more to the point, had to come to God in order to find his true self.

Suddenly I’m hearing the story of the Prodigal Son differently. Luke 15:17 says that the Prodigal “Came To Himself“. We have to come to God to know ourselves fully. We have to wait, trusting in God, to even begin to know who we are. The Lost Sheep of America do not know themselves. They think they do, they demand their “rights” and their identities, but they don’t even know who they are.

Because they are without God and reject his gift to them of their very selves.

We have been saying no no no, when we should say yes yes yes yes yes.


It’s like a tap-dance
Or a new pink dress,
A shit-naive feeling
Saying yes.

Some say Good morning
Some say God bless –
Some say Possibly
Some say yes.

Some say Never
Some say Unless
It’s stupid and lovely
To rush into Yes.

What can it mean?
It’s just like life,
One thing to you
One thing to your wife.

Some go local
Some go express
Some can’t wait
To answer yes.

Some complain
Of strain and stress
The answer may be
No for Yes.

Some like failure
Some like success
Some like Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes.

Open your eyes,
Dream but don’t guess.
Your biggest surprise
Comes after Yes.

Muriel Rukeyser

The Holy Family

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!


The assignment was a 7 minute homily on a specific feast in the Advent/Christmas cycle. My assigned day is Holy Family Sunday (which is actually a Friday this year).

Be available to be someone’s chosen family.

WHAT IS THE MOST INTIMATE thing you can do with someone in public? Any guesses? 

It’s eating together. Sharing food is the most intimate thing you can do.

We eat together with our families and our most intimate friends. Yes, we might also eat together at work – team building is important! Dates. Proposals. Business deals. We do these all over food (and drinks, of course).

We see this every day, downstairs, at the Lima Center where guests need not only food but also love, social interaction, and simple human decency.  Come for our famous Chicken Adobo and showers, but stay for the feeling of being one of the family.

As a devotion, the Holy Family enters the Church recently: Showing up in France in the 18th Century. It doesn’t catch on for nearly 200 years, becoming a feast for the whole church only in 1921. 

It’s one of those curious feasts that does not mark an event or date, but rather an idea. The devotion was intended to show families how to be.

Paul calls the steps here:

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, Bearing with and forgiving one another…  in love… and the peace of Christ

This does describe Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but Paul is actually telling us how to live in our own families. 

Who would not want to gather around a table with a family like this? 

 The Holy Family devotion arose at a time when the family as we knew it had been destroyed by the industrial revolution. Gone were the days when multiple generations lived and ate together, caring for each other. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would not have known themselves as a “nukular family” but as part of an extended tribe of support. They become a good aspirational image for how the family could be – despite the changes of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

But what of now? 

San Francisco is a city of broken families. Not only divorce – although certainly that. From the Gold Rush to the Tech Booms, people are called to the City by the siren song of the Petshop Boys.

Go West! 

Everyone goes west. 

Not always happily: sexual choices or drug issues cause families kick out their children. Wives leave their husbands. 

Families crash and break up on one rock or another and the flotsam and jetsom end up here, eating alone. 

Walking away from the past, hopes are high. 

Yet, the dark side is here, too: when things don’t work here, the westernmost city, where else is there to look for  “​​compassion, kindness, and patience”?  

San Francisco had at one time the highest suicide rate in the country (today it’s Las Vegas).

Sociologists see two types of families: “Birth Families” and “families of choice”. San Francisco author, Armistead Maupin, calls them “Biological Families” and “Logical Families”. He suggests folks come to this city – mostly alone – and weave new, Logical Families together to replace the Biological ones back east, in the past. 

What shall we – the Church that dines weekly (or daily) with the Holy Family – do about the flotsam and jetsom? Not just at homeless ministries, but in our homes.

When Christ calls us to welcome the stranger do we imagine them at our family table? 

My Catholic faith has been blessed and strengthened by two Brothers in the Knights of Columbus. Their families have welcomed me into their homes, especially at holidays and family events, helping me at difficult times, and making me feel included. I’m honored their children call me Uncle Huw! 

Is there someone in the pews for you to invite home? Do you have room around your table for a new aunt or uncle from St Dominic’s?

Let me and my Catholic extended family invite you to see the Holy Family as a model for us to be someone’s family in this city of singles. Try weaving Maupin’s phrase, “Logical Family” with one of the Greek titles for Jesus, “The Logos” the word. That’s where “logical” comes from, anyway.  Mary and Joseph are – literally – a family of Jesus’ sovereign choice, the Logos family. 

In the Holy Family we have a beautiful family of choice to emulate. 

Joseph embodies the virtues of strength, family support, and courage, Mary, full of grace, is courageous as well, and loving: a Jewish woman who keeps her home orderly so her husband can raise their son in the faith and traditions of Israel. Jesus is a stranger, not theirs and yet fully their own. And Jesus, one of us in all ways except sin, is almighty God living in humble obedience to his chosen parents. 

When making me part of their Logical Families, my Brother Knights model the Holy Family for me – for all of us.  

We can, through the Holy Family’s intercession, consecrate ourselves as new Logos families gathered around larger tables. Not only at Christmas but year-round. Our Holy Families of Choice can become the places described in the psalm:

Where we can eat the fruit of our handiwork and be blessed.

Extend an invite. Go blessed!

We can choose to build huge, intimate families of uncles and aunts for our children, including us all in the arms of faith and love around our dining tables and around this table where the God of all Love, of all community, of all family, gives himself to us, body, blood, soul, and divinity. 

Let us eat together with God, inviting all the world with us around this Eucharistic Table. 

There’s plenty of room here.

Let us all be the Holy Family!

This is Not a Paid Advert


YOUR HOST JUST FINISHED his first semester studying Hebrew with Citizen Cafe Tel Aviv. I wanted to take a moment (ie, a Blog Post) to endorse, recommend, and otherwise invite. Citizen Cafe promises to get you to fluency in local, spoken Hebrew. They do not focus on reading or writing (at least in the early levels – I know in advanced classes they do read papers and stories). One semester is NOT enough, of course, but I feel a lot more fluent that I did 4 months ago.

The goal is to free the Hebrew in your head so that you have the courage to speak it. They use a very rapid-fire conversational technique combined with pop culture references. (Earlier, I posted a playlist of songs from class.) Some things that did not happen in my earlier Hebrew classes (or other language classes, for that matter): learning slang, learning to “listen fast” – hearing conversation and singing without having to say, “slow down…” – and learning to argue!

Why? You may ask.

When I studied Modern Hebrew at NYU – after failing other languages – I took to Hebrew rather well. It’s still the only other language that comes up in my dreams. What I said during the intake interview was that 35 years later (after NYU) I have a lot of Hebrew floating around in my brain. I wanted it to find a home. Citizen Cafe has helped a lot! Again, #NotAnAd (I get no referral credits here… this is just a love letter.)

Although I can recite prayers in Latin and, sometimes, in Irish and (briefly) in Welsh, I can actually pray in Hebrew. By that I mean I can put enough of my conscious mind forward in the words I’m saying to leave my deeper mind free for contemplation. Mind you, this is for words that I know, of course. However, my ability to read prayers out of the sidur or out of the scriptures has also improved.

Additionally, I’ve been writing my own spiritual texts, but I don’t know if they hold up grammatically.

שוע, קח הכל. כל מה ששלך רומם. כל מה שלא שלך האבד. כל מה שחסר יושלם בך.

Jesus, take it all: All that is yours, exalt. All that is not yours, destroy. Everything that is lacking will be completed in you.

The last line is from a song by Shilo Ben Hod. The first line too, although that’s a more common line in many worship songs and meditations from the saints. The whole prayer began meditating on that last line. I say it at communion time and any other time when we need to make an offering of what we are doing.

Anyway, I had so much fun in this semester’s Hebrew class that I signed up again for next semester. And I am happy to suggest others should try Citizen Cafe Tel Aviv. You may not be lucky enough to get my teacher, Lior, who is quite perfect, but they have a LOT of teachers. Anyone you get will be awesome!

I’ve moved up from Orange to Pink. Can you help me buy a copy of שר הטבעות (Lord of the Rings)?

יאללה ביי

No Longer Strangers


THIS READING CAME UP a week or so ago on the Feast of St Simon and his buddy. It’s been a bit of a wrestling match since then. Getting along with Christians who disagree with us is part of this (that’s where our preacher took it last Friday). But it’s the relationship between our elder brothers, the Jews who follow Messiah, that interests me most here.

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (RSVCE)

St Paul wrote this in 60 or 62 AD. And here we are nearly 2000 years later. So, by way of reminder: Paul is writing to a community made of of Jews and Gentiles who, together, have come to believe the Jesus is the Messiah long promised to the people of Israel. In this belief, they (Jews and Gentiles together) are worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These two groups feud a bit, ok. But here’s the rub. I think we hear it backwards today.

The issue with Jews and Gentiles was not only “should Gentiles become Jewish first…” (ie, get circumcised, etc). We can read it in Galatians as if it’s Gentiles doing Jewish things because they don’t feel on equal footing to be actually following the Jewish Messiah. Paul calls them, “You Foolish Galatians” for this. Who bewitched you? So some (at least – more? all?) of what Paul is writing is to Gentiles who do not need the courage to face off against the “Judaizers” but rather they need to be assured – in their own faith – that they are worthy to stand why they are. Remember, last week (hyperbolically) these Gentiles were killing bulls for the Magna Mater and offering incense to Caesar. Now they are following YHVH. What do they need to do? Nothing other than believe in Jesus. Paul says he used to persecute the Church and now he’s an apostle! How are we good enough?

In other words, what if Judaizing was the “pastoral accompanying” of the 1st century? You don’t feel good enough? We can make things easier for you: let me get my knife, and give up your bacon and sausage as well…

Paul assures the Gentiles that they, “are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God”. This must refer to the covenanted household of Israel. There’s only a handful of Gentile believers in the world. There’s not even one generation of dead Christians yet. There’s about 2000-3000 of them (Gentiles and Jews together) at this point, honestly. Unless Paul means to limit that “household of God” to those 2500 people, then he’s reassuring his Gentile flock that they have been united to something much bigger than themselves. In Romans he will remind Gentiles that they have been grafted into Israel. It’s we (I’m a gentile, too) who are outsiders here, strangers, aliens. And Paul is telling us that through Jesus, we’re good enough to be here.

A lot of times when I hear these verses expounded they usually get read to be about the Jews trying to make us do things “like them”. It never gets around to the possibility it was Gentiles were not feeling included from our side; because of our own insecurity. Paul seems to be saying, Look, in Yeshua we’re all in this together. Gentiles have been united to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are no longer strangers in Israel. Mind you, I know that Jews would disagree with this reading soundly. But some good part of this is based on 2000 years of Gentile bully of Jews. Romans, for example, reads more as if Gentiles were trying to bully Jews into eating bacon. And Paul has to remind his Gentile followers that they have been grafted in and they can be cut out again, too.

Personally, it feels as if sometimes a fascination with “Jewish Roots” can be a type of envy: I have no history, no tribe, no culture other than that of a white, middle class, American male. Because of the chaos of the last few decades, I’m not really tied to “American” except by a reference to a common mythology about cherry trees and fireworks. What my grandparents fought for as “freedom” is deemed nearly-fascist oppression now. Persons born in the last 20 years would feel overly burdened by even my parents’ generational ideas of “gender roles”. And, even embedded in the culture, some are honest enough to admit it’s only about marketing. So, being disconnected from the past by our current world – but rejecting the present as hopelessly silly – I have no culture. From the 90s on, I’ve sought one: ancient religions, ancient languages, even ancient clothing. Gentiles of the 1st and 2nd Century AD would have been in the same boat: entirely cut off from their pagan past and their pagan present, they tried latching on to Judaism as a cultural home. It makes perfect sense. Here, at last, was a culture, traditions, language, and a people of which God fully approved. Heck, he (God) even spoke in Hebrew at the Creation of the World.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר׃

And God said, “yhee ohr”. See? He spoke Hebrew.

So why not convert to this culture as well as this religion?

But to retreat into this culture is to miss the boat entirely. God set up Israel, by Covenant, as a sacrament for the whole world; a sign and a reminder of the Eden that was – and was lost – and the Eden that will be in the World to Come. In Messiah, we Gentiles partake fully of that sacrament. We become not the sacrament but the presence itself. You are what you eat, but when we take communion we don’t become only more bread, but rather Jesus. And more ourselves as God intends.

Israel was the Host in the Monstrance. Now we eat, partake, and go out into the world to do the Gospel. The temple is no longer only in Jerusalem but in all the world.

We are grafted in. And in the grafting, the whole tree is changed.

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1-6:8


THIS PAST SABBATH (that is, Sat 22 Oct) marked the beginning of the annual reading of the Torah, the 1st Five Books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jewish tradition is to cycle through the whole Torah in a year in very predictable ways. Last Saturday was Shabbat Bereshit. This Saturday, the 29th, is Shabbat Noach. I’m no Torah Scholar, nor even an Old Testament expert, but I wanted to mark the passing this Sabbath by highlighting what seems a major difference between the way Christians read this passage and the way it is read in Synagogues. It’s something I’ve wrestled with a bit since a lot of Christians seem not even to recognize the difference exists.

The difference is at the point of Eve and Adam’s Sin. What happened?

First, I want to point out that where we are today in our discussions of Sin is only built on where they were in the days of Jesus, St Paul, and even Augustine. The Catechism of the Church calls original sin a mystery that we cannot fully understand (¶404) and it’s not something that can be parsed out fully, even in a blog post. But neither is it easily sorted out in internet soundbites: it’s not a mere legal issue. We’re not all guilty of the sin of our first parents- only Adam and Eve committed their sins. Yet we are all born somehow implicated in those sins.

Coincidently, I was wrestling with this nearly a year ago as well.

I prefer to think of it as a sort of Spiritual DNA: the human (spiritual) genome was mutated by our first parents. They cannot pass on what they do not have – everyone gets the mutated genes. These genes incline us toward sin the same way a psychological disorder inclines one to kleptomania or disordered sexuality. Likewise, each succeeding generation of humans cannot pass on anything they don’t have: in fact, it gets worse as we go on.

Yet even this genetic idea fails at several points: we are baptized “for the remission of sin” as if we have each committed some action that makes us guilty, even as babies. Each of us is somehow guilty at this point. Of what, though? I don’t know. Even so, we’re not taught the doctrine of Original Sin as if part of a system of plus and minus points. Rather we start out in an infinite deficit repairable only by Sacramental Grace.

Reading God and His Image by Fr Dominique Barthelemey, OP, I’ve come to a different sense of our First Parents and our Spiritual DNA.

The issue is not that we’re broken and keep sinning: it’s that we’re broken and can’t see God.

Adam and Eve experienced an intimacy with God that we’ll never know. Do you remember the old line, “Don’t do that to your face or it may freeze that way”? Barthelemey says that, basically: Eve and Adam imagined a different god (not the Creator God of Love) and their spirits froze that way. The act of hiding from God in the garden is the first fruit of this new and evil imagining. (My essay from last year has more on this.) Cain killing Abel is the next fruit. Humanity is created in God’s image but with the fall the mirror is distorted. Until we can see him at all, this isn’t going to work. God spends the next several millennia bringing humanity to a collective place where they can image him correctly. It’s not just with the Jews, either. As the Church Fathers say, God was preparing everyone: Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, and Lao Tzu. All cultures have seeds of the Logos in them, waiting for the Real Thing to arrive in Jesus and unfold the hidden meanings. But Israel gets the most (and the most direct) revelation pre-loaded. They are to be a light for the gentiles in their relationship with God. We are to follow them and younger brothers follow their elders’ lead to the Father.

Rabbinic Judaism as we see it now has no conception of this brokenness.

Yet it was somewhere present in the 2nd Temple Period: Paul comes up with “as in Adam all die” and “all creation groans” with nary even a hint of an apology. The problem arises for us now projecting our current Judaism (or our current Christianity) back on the 1st Century AD. There were multiple Judaisms at that time, one of which evolved into Christianity as we know it today in all its various forms. Another evolved into the Judaism we know today in all its various forms.

That said, there are multiple readings of the stories in the Bible and even the site I linked above says they are concerned with fundamentalist readings. Catholicism hardly qualifies, but I’m sure some would disagree. The Dominican Essay above is a Catholic reading of the Bible, it’s not the Catholic one. Former Evangelicals have a reading that, while Catholic, still sounds kinda Evangelical. The clergy over at Catholic Stuff podcast have another reading which I rather like.

No resolution is offered here, only noting that we do not read these passages the same way. It’s important to note that in deciding on the right reading (or family of readings) there’s no way to reconcile what now must become the wrong family of readings.