The Dream

I was sitting in the second seat on a bus taking notes. Someone was in the first seat. The bus was stopped in a parking lot.

The driver got off the bus and the buss started to roll forward. I was not scared: the bus would stop from the little rise in front of us. But it didn’t. It crested the rise and rolled down the hill in front of us. I thought, that guy in the first seat should get up and stop the bus. But he did not.

Near the bottom of the hill was a curb or ledge of stone. I thought the bus will stop at that curb. We should brace for impact.

It broke the curb and left the road we had been on. And kept going. I should get up I thought, and hit the brakes. But I did not: I saw, ahead some train tracks and I thought we’d hit those and lose momentum. So I sat tight. We did not stop: instead we hit the tracks and turned to ride them! Now we were going quite fast. Ahead there was a fork in the track – and I was suddenly aware of a train behind us as well. We took the left fork, as the gold and white metro-liner veered right and sped off into the distance.

The left spur dead-ended in water and we splashed into it… floating down river.

I woke and instantly realized this is how temptations, especially lust, pornography and self-abuse, all work.

Blogistratory Administrivia

Dear Readers – 
Three important things! 
First: the name has changed.  I’ve been Doxos since 1998. I’m done now. In fact, the domain is up for sale (not the server space, just the name).  It’s going to be up for auction. I’ll keep you posted. In the mean while if you want a five letter domain and want to help me buy a bar in Ireland, let me know.
Secondly: the name has changed. Pilgrim’s Egress seems a humorous pun and aptly describes my life. As I wrote on Facebook, I’m as stable as a peripatetic Franciscan. I’ve decided to embrace it. I’m not changing the URL though as that would break all the comments. So we’re stuck with “huwraphael.blogspot” etc.
Thirdly:  the content will continue with a change after a minor delay. The post-Trent missal that is used by the Antiochian Western Rite communities, as well as the pre-Trent one that is used by the ROCOR communities, has an awesome thing in it. The daily office and the mass tie together via the lessons, especially in Lent. In Lent the same Gospel is read at Matins and at Mass. This comes, as well, with a Patristic Homily on the Gospel. This was always a cool thing to me, making the daily office very tight. But it is missing from the Novus Ordo because of the multiplication of readings. Ok, more Bible, good, but less patristics bad. So I’ve decided to try, at least, and produce a daily patristic lesson for the Gospel in Lent.  This will start on Ash Wednesday. My own ruminations may or may not continue through Lent, but will resume later. I don’t expect any new posts between now and Ash Wednesday (1 March), but one never knows, do one?
Oh, one more: just because I keep getting asked it – even though I thought I was very transparent, but I guess not, mea culpa – I am attending classes at the Roman Catholic Church of St Dominic’s here in SF. If God wills, I will be received into the Roman Church on Easter this year. Pilgrim’s Egress make more sense, right?
Much love,

The Ark Option?

Today’s readings:

By faith Noah… with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. 
Hebrews 11:7

We had a baptism at Mass last Sunday, a rejoicing with the family and a chance to renew our vows as adult Christians making our covenant with the the new Child of God, to support her in her faith. What struck me was how Fr M made it explicit what is always implicit in a baby’s baptism: the parents and the Godparents are making their own promises to rear the child in a Christian home. Of course, that’s what they’re doing,  yet it seems to me that in today’s world this is increasingly hard. What is Noah (or Noë, as he’s called in Latin)  supposed to be about for us, today.

We’ve been meditating on Noë for a week. What have we learned?

Noë built an ark for the salvation of his family. The Church traditionally speaks of the family as a “little Church”. For much of history that little Church was the extended family: not just Mom, Dad, Buddy, and Sis. “The Household” in Rome was the Pater Familias and his wife, of course, but there may be generations of family living under the same roof, or on the same estate. Add to that the servants and the slaves, then you get the household. It less like a “Little Church” and more like a “Little Parish” within the larger community: each household an island, if you will, in the archipelago of the parish Church. Given the size of some ancient households, this “little church” might be larger that some parishes today! Into such is baptized the new baby. Is her family not promising to build something of a little ark for her, in which to keep her safe from the rising flood of secularist, anti-Christian culture?

That culture no longer stops at the door, nor is the TV the only source in our house, for it comes in on any device you can us. Most popular media has advertising that, a generation ago, would have been “risque” and four generations ago would have been unthinkable.  We sexualize everything and say we are being “sex positive”. No one wants to risk being called “sex negative.” We refuse to allow critical thinking about “choices” which are moral violations. We defend the rights of those who violate the rights of the Church and we refuse to support those who make us feel uncomfortable by their piety.

What steps should we take for the salvation of our household? Can we build an ark that will help us weather this flood? It’s not enough to hide. Until the flood comes we’ve an obligation to evangelize, to witness to the world, to preach the Gospel. We cannot, therefore, go hide someplace nor can we set up some isolationist Christianistan.

So, how do we in our households – and how do we, the Church – build an ark that will rise above this flood, carrying us and all we love with it? How will we find a place where this new Child of God can come into a full transfiguration of her own?

Tower Crossing.

Today’s Readings:

Take up your cross.

This phrase comes up whenever I meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. As I contemplate the Mystery of Our Lord carrying his Cross for us I hear this reminder that I must carry my cross as well. We don’t do this “for Jesus” as if we could “pay him back”; nor do we do it “in solidarity” with him as if we could help him. We do this as the fullest manifestation of our “working out our salvation in fear and trembling”. This is our faith in action, at least in a first-person way.

What is your cross?

I’m not sure what is the most correct answer any more. St Paul said he is “Crucified with Christ”. St Mary of Egypt repeated threw her self on the ground to overcome the addictive urges she experienced. St Francis threw himself in the briers and in the snow. What is your cross? To parallel closely with Christ here is to fail: firstly, because none of us are called to save the world on our cross. Secondly, Christ’s Cross was an instrument of torture, of capital punishment. Again, I don’t think were called to that, yet; and even so that cannot be the only answer. For generations of Christians didn’t die.

For some, their cross is their marriage: the constant sacrifice of self will for the benefit of the spouse. For some it is their children: the constant sacrifice of self will for the care of their children. For some it may follow on the idea of vocation, or ministry woven with this sacrifice of self-will, for the monastic no less than the parish priest.

Today we live in a world where we dare not sacrifice our self will: in fact, we sacrifice ourselves and those around us to our self will. Driven self will is seen as the height of success. Our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies, etc. are all followed because they “complete us”, make us “more us”. Even our religious choices are imagined to be that way. We should go to a church that we find fulfilling. We look for a church where we might feel free and “accepted,” where were might “be ourselves”. The most common comment people have about my religious journey is “do you feel comfortable there?” I’m so used to such questions that I discuss my own path that way by matter of reflex. Going from ECUSA to Orthodoxy to Catholicism can’t be about “a quest for the real Truth” or even “more truth here than there”.

We are living out Babel: the division of the people at the tower by their languages. Imagine how scary that must have been, to hear someone clearly say they “Wanted a cow” when what they hear themselves say was “this brick is broken”; to hear “wow, look at that cricket” when what was said was “the wife wants to go to Vegas this year.” To say, “Bro, pass me that mortar” and hear, in response, “no, I can’t serve a wedding cake.” Did each person suddenly speak his own language? Did you have to run around looking for the other speakers of proto-Farsi? Or was it just you? Was it hundreds of individuals each speaking their own languages or did it only take five or six languages mixed up with each other to terrify the whole mob?

We are living in Babel now: you don’t understand what your friends are saying on Facebook or Twitter. You’ve known them for years, but suddenly they’re following the wrong “fake news” sites and you have no idea what they’re saying. Or their saying something all to obvious and hateful for you to care. Or maybe, sometimes you get it and it’s not hateful, but your mutual friends rip them apart for saying just a shade too blue, or too red. Babel. I begin to think we’re just re-experiencing the curse of Babel.

What if your cross is to put up with the fact that the Christian standing next to you at Church, or sitting in the pew in front of you, has an entirely different political construct in the world and yet is your brother in Christ? What if your cross is to hear that gobbledygook that she’s speaking, to have no understanding of it, to be afraid of what it might mean, but to love her anyway? What if your cross is to freely give up your political talking-points for the sake of your brother’s weaker faith, knowing full well he’s never going to give up his for you?  Some people what me to imagine my cross is for me and me alone. But Jesus’ cross was for me. My cross can’t be more “self-fulfillment,” it’s got to be a sacrifice of self-will as salvific for our world as Jesus’ was, but in a different way.

What could be more self-willish than the assertion that one is correct politically and judging others for being wrong?

On the Road to Babel

Today’s readings:

Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon all the creatures that move about on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your power they are delivered. 
Genesis 9:2-3

One way to view Genesis is a whole lot of Middle and Near Eastern mythology duct-taped together to account for a pseudo-people wondering around looking for a new home.  Another way to view it is the psychological descent of man from divine creation to starvation and slavery.  Without any regard to sources, the author of Genesis is a brilliant psychologist! He knows us well.

Earlier in the story, coming out of paradise, God had given us all the greasses of the field to eat. And here it it is the beasts themselves. Abel, of course, sacrificed a lamb, so killing animals, as such, was not out of the question even earlier in the story. But here suddenly, we get the whole thing. You might be able to say in this story Mankind is growing up. But we are also falling. We are finding, more and more, that for us to live we need to suck other life into us. We are disconnected from the life of God and plugging in to the life of this world. This is also why the lives of the men get shorter – from a whole age of the world (nearly 1000 years) to just over 100. The further we fall, the less we live – even though God gives us more to eat! Tomorrow the tongues are divided, the Anti-Pentecost, and the fall will be complete.

A passion is, really, a temptation over indulged and turned into an addiction: a self-perpetuating cycle of pleasure and shame well-crafted to manufacture a false sense of self: a “self” that needs the addiction to exist and a self that only exists because of the addiction. We don’t get to choose our temptations, but we do get to pick how we interact with them. What becomes our false self, built on our passions, is our enslavement.

We start out eating only plants (which can be like what we had in Eden, but we have to grow them ourselves – already our sin making us toil). Then we move to eating animals – sustaining our (false) life by consuming the lives of others, being totally detached from the life of God, not even pretending to be in Eden anymore.

It is our stage now – consuming the lives of others just to stay afloat, if you will – that most people will recognize as “high functioning addict”, the “social drunk”. We are able to move through the world, totally imprisoned in our sin. We are able to function not only “normally” but in some cases we are “the life of the party”. We may indulge our additions so much that others with the same passions look up to us. We may find ourselves highly desirable in certain circles because of our sins. (Courtesans are highly desireable, yes?) Those certain circles can be highly placed: some Courtesans only play the Palace. But Courtesans are consumed: men consume them to feel “validated”. Courtesans feel “validated” by leading others into sins and consuming them as well. They, themselves, got to their position also through consuming and being consumed. They find themselves on the lowest rung of a social ladder able to bring down even the highest with one wag of the tongue.

All sins are like this: from sex to telling lies. The point where it begins the sin is nearly like Eden, just outside it really. Even slavery to sexual sins will start out feeling fun. But it ends in Babel tomorrow.

Again: this is not punishment. This is what happens – natural consequences – when one disobeys God especially when everyone else is doing it.  Every sin is the  original sin. Every sin leads to deeper falls, as every good action raises us up.

The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.

It is into this world that Jesus comes, God and Man, to restore us to the upward track. In this world Jesus says to Peter, “You are thinking not as God does, but as men do.” Do you think it’s interesting that Jesus calls Peter “Satan” and compares his thinking to other men? “You’re thinking not like God, Satan-Peter, but you’re thinking like men.” Even the Apostles fall like this. This is how men think. Satan may show us a path as a cool option, but we walk down it. We – with God’s help – can come back.

But first – like all addicts – we hit rock bottom. We must go to Bable.

A Massage, Please Lord.

Today’s Readings:

Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Mark 8:24-25

Once a preacher described this as Jesus committing malpractice. Of course she didn’t actually believe this had happened anyway: Jesus was just a good teacher and all this was just mythology. There were lots of wonky stuff in her preaching. But that phrase stuck with me for a long time: what is going on here?

What’s going on here is a miracle that only we can see, with all of our knowledge. A man born blind has no way to connect what he is seeing to words in his head. We know this now – the difference between etic and emic reality means that, in a very real way, our words shape our brain’s experience and understanding of that experience. Jesus – and the Gospel – are showing us something only moderns can understand to help us know Jesus is God. Jesus not only must heal the organ of sight, but the mind, too, must be set aright.

Today when we perform the sacrament of healing we don’t us spittle, but rather holy oil. We anoint the sick with oil that has been blessed by God in the rites of the Church. And oil is the Mercy of God in symbol.

In the rites of the Church, East and West, we very commonly say, “Lord, have mercy” or, in Greek or Latin, Kyrie Eleison. To our modern minds, for some reason, that has come to mean “stop beating me up” or “please stop hurting me.” We think of a slave being whipped and crying out for mercy. So we project this mistaken image on God: of someone beating us, whom we began for mercy. God’s going to throw us all into hell unless we began his mercy.

That word, Eleison, translated “mercy” or “have mercy” has such a deep meaning and has so much more to say to us than just “stop hurting me”.

The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for ‘Lord, have mercy,’ are ‘Kyrie, eleison’  that is to say, ‘Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.’ Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal  a very Western interpretation  but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray ‘Lord, have mercy,’ with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy.

See the whole article on Mercy here.

The traditional Greek East slam on the Latin West aside it is important to note that the Latin Mass does not use Miserere Nobis – Latin for “Have Mercy on us” – but rather the Greek Eleison when we say, Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. The same word is used in Holy Week, the only time the Western Church traditionally prays “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One: Have mercy on us.” The Traditional liturgy sings that in both Greek and Latin. It is as if the Latin Church is saying, “Forget what you used to think about miserere and let it mean eleison now.” Lord, soothe us, comfort us, take away our pain – give us a massage. Rub it in, good and deep.

This is the mercy of God for which we pray. With it, God can heal not only our bodies, but also – as with the man born blind – our mind, even our souls. We can be made whole again. Kyrie Eleison.

Forty Days and Forty Nights

Today’s Readings:

…Great was man’s wickedness on earth, and… no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil…

We will be reading about Noah (or Noe, as the Latin text calls him – which I like because of Noe Street, here in SF) over the next few days. This whole story scares people. I get it. The entire world is damned except for Noah and his kin (and as we learn later even his kin are wonky). This bothers people. This bothers people a lot. I get it. I’ve also got one piece of advice: get over it.

I had a conversation once with a coworker at the California Institute of Integral Studies. We were drifting in and out of theological murkiness and finally he said, “Huw, you keep talking like truth comes in black and white. Truth is grey.” My reply was, “That’s just your truth, Brian. My truth comes in black and white.” I feel like I successfully turned the Newage Parlance in on itself. Maybe. But I’d spent a whole lifetime by then devoted to the idea that there was truth to find – and I’d kept looking for it in the assumption that the quest, itself, would be a good thing.  But what if there is, really, Truth to find? What if the quest, itself, is supposed to have an end?

The Fathers see Noe as a prophetic foreshadow of the Church. But, repeatedly, they see it as a mark of God’s mercy. God takes care that the life of man will not parish, and he uses it (the Ark) to save mankind – even though many men die. The Church – as the barque of Peter – is the Ark of Salvation. Outside of the Ark there is no salvation. That does not mean that all Non-Christians are going to hell. It does, however, mean that anyone who is saved is in the Church – even those that do not  know it. Who is saved in the ark? It’s Noe and his household. Noah and even the Wonky ones that will get into some serious trouble later. Thy are all included here. And remember later in Genesis when Abraham is going to bargain with God for the life of his family in Sodom. Much later Jesus says the man dropped through the roof has been saved by the faith of his friends. And later again – in Acts – the Apostles tell their Jailer that he and his whole household can be saved if he will believe on Jesus. God hears and responds to the prayers of his people. God is not saving us through some institutional act, but rather through his Body, the Church which is, with us in prayer. You are saved because God’s saints pray for you to be saved. As am I.

For whom will you pay this forward? Who will you pray into the Church?

I’ve been praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It’s a bit of an odd thing to me, as it seems more of a mantra than anything else. But it presents a pray to God, celebrating the priesthood of all believers, to offer to God the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for “our sins and the sins of the whole world.” Each prayer is offered that God will “have mercy on us and on the whole world”.  And at the end, the liturgical Trisagion is sung, begging the “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” At Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin urged prayer for sinners. So too, at Fatima, Our Lady urged the visionaries to “pray much” for sinners.

This, really, is our job as Christians, as the “Worshipping Man” or Homo Adorans created by God. There are priests in the Church, yes, whose job is to offer Mass, but all of us share in the priesthood of Christ, offering himself on the altar of the Cross for the saving of all the world. We can participate in the offering of that sacrifice for everyone. We can pray God’s mercy on all. And I do believe God will hear and will save those for whom we pray.

We will explore “mercy” more tomorrow, when Noah sends out the birds looking for land. But for today: pray God’s salvation on all whom you see – even especially those who are convinced they have no need of it. You are bringing them into the Church – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. You and your whole household.

Mark of Cain

Today’s Readings:

Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.
Genesis 4:6-7

This story of Cain and Abel is so curious. There are a number of things “Wonky” about it. First, how do the brothers know that God has “looked kindly” on the one and not the other? Secondly, is it not odd that the Lord seems to have intimate conversation even with the one who had the “wrong” offering?

The first question was answered rather graphically when I was in grade school. My Children’s Story Bible showed the two brothers praying and fire falling from heaven on Abel’s altar, while Cain “got nothing” for his trouble. I remember that Abel was also blond and very muscly and that always helps with knowing who the good guys are (reversed above – but still white folks). Other teachers as I grew older said that Abel was offering an animal – which sacrificial system God approved. But this whole fruits thing was pagan and not so pleasing to God. Yet that cannot true either: for by the time we get to the Exodus, God asks for and enjoys offerings of just about everything.

Then there’s this curious dialogue where God says “If you do well you can hold up your head. But if not, sin is lurking at the door.” The Fathers read this as a commentary on Cain’s pride: not on his worship, but on his state of mind/heart during worship. That has me thinking today of how we worship God.

All of us are commanded to worship God. None of us are exempt from this command. Some of us decide not to follow the command, avoiding man’s innate sense of God, of being homo adorans, but all of us have the obligation. The how (which liturgy) seems to me very important, but I will not get into liturgy wars in this blog post – that’s too easy. As the Christmas Carol says, “People look east but not the priest”. I won’t turn my back on the rest of the issue though. What I do know is that some of us seem to worship God, and some of us seem to talk about us worshiping God.

We sang this ditty yesterday at Mass (at the recessional) which reads less like a worship song and more like a Choir Recruiting Ad. It talks about God mostly in the 3rd Person. I see nothing wrong with the theology of Music expressed in the song, but it’s not addressed to God – it is addressed to us who are singing. It says, essentially, Don’t we feel good about singing about God? Why yes. Yes, we do! Let’s sing some more about God, OK? Because that feels good! One day, we’ll be able to sing about God all the time. Alleluia! That’s like going to confession and saying, “Mistakes were made. And I feel bad when mistakes are made.” I use this example because even though I’ve been going to confession since 2002, I need help all the time.

I don’t think liturgy, itself, fixes this problem. I’ve known people who can talk in about God in the 3rd person while they perform the Traditional Latin Mass or the Diving Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. Anglo Catholics can get all hung up on the “Anglican Patrimony” and forget the God it’s all about. So can Russians. In the Liturgy of St Basil, in the middle of Lent, once I jumped an octave and perfectly hit a high D near the end of a setting of “All Creation Rejoices in Thee”. A friend gave me a thumbs up… and I still need to go to confession about how prideful that makes me feel. As if I were performing instead of praying. I was – and I wasn’t doing the thing I was supposed to do. Liturgy doesn’t fix this problem.

Are we demanding of God because we have a “right” to stand before him? I think of women who ask for ordination and – being told no – run off and start “WymynChyrch” and get in the paper for being “really ordained Catholic women priests”. I think of me, not getting ordained, and running off and joining an “Indy Orthodox Church” and becoming a bishop. We have all kinds of pride. We demand of God a sign that he likes us. No sign will be given – because it’s already been given in Christ’s blood.

When pride gets the better of us, we are like Cain and his story doesn’t end well at all. Yet, God reaches out to us – to sinners especially. Take comfort in the fact that God may like Abel’s heart, but he loves Cain just as much and wants to fix him. He knows that he has to lure Cain home. He knows that Cain can easily be tripped up by his own pride – tripped up and landing in sin. And yet even in punishment, God has mercy. In the end, Cain may well repent.

But how about us?

Twerk It!

Today’s readings:

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Sirach 15:15-16

The traditional understanding of man’s freedom is set out in today’s readings. Before man is life and death, what you seek is what you get.

There is a great scene in the first volume of the Lord of the Rings, both in the movie and in the book here, the former being quite faithful to the latter at this point. As the Fellowship is fleeing from goblins in the Mines of Moria, they come running down a stair. To one side is a deep chasm filled with fire. To the other side is a deep abyss of nothing crossed by one slender bridge. It is this route that leads to escape and this one that they must take. But they have a choice, if you will: for the goblins are even now building bridges across the fire. They can stand and face them to death. They can despair and fall into either the abyss or the chasm. No, the bridge it is and so they flee to safety (no spoilers).

It’s all rather like that in theology although the chasm and the fire might seem a bit more obscure, we’re asked always to pick. And the way forward, generally, is clearly marked: it’s the only way out, really. It’s when we think we have the freedom to pick anything (and we try to) that we stumble. We are, indeed, free. But there are only two choices: wrong and right. In fact there are rather a lot of the first and only one of the second. Chasm of Fire or Bottomless Abyss? Both lead to death – the only way out is that narrow bridge.

Man’s ontological freedom is only thus: I have sat before you life and death, whichever your choice, that you’ll get. Ben Sira does, however, say that if you make the right choice things will go better for you – and not for you, but for all men. The incoming tide raises all ships. Your actions for or against God, for or against self-will, all trigger that same energy in those around us: as we going. Together we are saved – or damned.

Together – that’s why Jesus’ opening out of the Torah is so important. God came to us to teach us not only the external “rules” but the internal application. Not to undo the Torah, but to help us outgrow it, to see the law “written on our hearts.” We know that Adultery is a breaking of the moral code, but the action starts long before anyone gets to the Super 8 out by the airport. You’re cheating on your wife looking at the “Casual Encounter” ads on Craigslist. Porn is adultery. Anyone who has ever shouted one name/slam/vulgarity in full anger at an opponent and felt the anger shoot out of them as they said it knows that to call someone a “fool” is to murder them. Jesus shows us how the laws of God are a way of connecting us one to another. It’s not enough just to act in a certain way… we must actually love each other.

Traditional theology speaks of the cooperation of Man and God in Man’s salvation. There is a fancy Greek word for it: Synergy. It is a dance we work out between us. God is in the lead and we are in the follow position – all of Creation is Femme to his Masculine. But we dance together. The choice to do so, since man is always free, is continual. The choice to dance is never irrevocable. When we are all swirling around the room you can still stop, or pick another partner, or break into some sexy, egotistical gyration that ties to take the spotlight from your partner. You can even twerk and make a real ass of yourself. The end result, however, is lonely and sad: a dance is a grace-filled joint creation between lovers and the music. The choice to leave the music behind, too, is never irrevocable. In fact, God’s rather like that internet creeper that keeps sending you emails. He looks at your online profile and hums that tune you both love so much, wondering when you’ll come back.

Stretch forth you hand. What is your choice?

Take yer meds, bro.

Today’s Readings:

Adam, where are you?
Genesis 3:9
This is such a scene as no writer could invent. Sure, an all powerful Creator, that’s OK. Paradise is easy to imagine, as is a willful creature who runs away. But what writer (save one who knows this story by intimation or intellect) would send the All-Powerful into Paradise to befriend and then be hurt by his creature? Adam? Where are you?
Grieving for our sins. We are hiding from ourselves.
Many in today’s world – including not a few who would be Christians – see the ensuing dialogue ending this way: YOU ATE THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT! NOW YOU! MUST! DIE! (And the thunder rolls.) This is not what the Church has historically seen here, nor is it what should follow from, “Adam? Where are you?”
The God whose holy name, whose very being is Love, who made us for himself, who desires us to love him and each other fully, needs to be seen as nearly weeping here as he says, “Adam, you’ve eaten that… You’re dying now…” All of salvation history is an undoing of this hurt (even this is not beyond God nor a surprise to him). The Fathers understand this: the Gospel was never plan B. It was always the way love would walk. God’s Love was ready to move. The Gospel was the plan from the beginning, written into the very fabric of a Universe where even atoms release more power when they are broken. And God’s life comes through our brokenness and when we break bread in his name, it is God himself! Jesus looks out over the crowd and sees that we are hungry. In pity He feeds us: this has been the Gospel forever.
We are used to thinking of the words of God here as “curses”: childbearing in pain, sweat of the brow, toil and labour. Submission. But the only curses God gives are against the evil one and the Earth herself. Elsewhere, the Apostle says that all of Creation groans awaiting our redemption. God has hindered (“cursed”) the very fertility of our home, has prevented it from doing its job: giving freely our food. Now we, too, are doing this: raping the world for food and resources as a brute might beat his wife for failing to cook supper on time. Neither Adam nor Eve are cursed in the same way as the Earth and the serpent. We must think different about these things.
God’s punishment, though punishment it is, is never to be seen as merely a cruel gesture of omnipotence offended; as if God were not a Loving Father, but only some days paddle-wielding Authoritarian, upset because the kids are making too much noise during study hall. Since God is exactly our Loving Father, his punishment, whilst awesome in its scope, is also awesome in its magnanimity and intended for our education; an open channel of healing grace if we will but submit in pious humility. The “School of Life” is become exactly that: a path through toil and labor, through pain, submission, and service teaching us our reliance on God; leading us back to the Divine Life that has always been intended for us.
When God does something ups for our healing. These are not “punishments” save in the sense that taking an Alka-seltzer is punishment for having a hangover or having surgery is punishment for having a heart attack. These are not only the natural consequences but they are the remedy. This sweat of our brow, this harvesting, this painful labor, submission, and craving; these are all cures for what ails us. Even death itself, whilst being the last enemy, was the first cure: God did not want us living forever in our sin, getting more and more evil. So everything ends. The hindering of the Earth, the growing of thorns and briars is all for our salvation. All in the way that more advanced students (Creation herself, which has not sinned) must wait while the teacher spends time and needed remedial work with slower students.
What is most insidious in today’s culture is the way that we strive so heartily to find ways around these things that are intended to be our cures. We are like the adicts in the clinic where I work, taking their antibiotics and hiding them in their mouth so that they can snort them later – just because. We will do anything to undo the work God has given us to do for our own saving. Abortion, divorce, medical destruction of human life (by unnatural prolonging or shortening), even the human slavery that brings us tomatoes in winter, these are all attempts to “self medicate” instead of following the Doctor’s orders. We try more and more to be happy the way we are, make do with our mess, anything rather than to take the Bread of Heaven offered us daily. At each away turning instead of becoming more free, we become less human.