The Echo Here is Amazing


YOUR HOST HAS NOTED elsewhere that in studying Hebrew at CitizenCafe Tel Aviv, he gets exposed to a lot of Israeli pop culture. Listening to modern, secular folks discuss Hebrew – or speak or sing in Hebrew – carries with it these echoes of the Tanakh. It cannot but just as much modern English carries echoes of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. However it’s rare that a pop song will explain a passage in King Lear or the Acts of the Apostles just by virtue of being in the same language. Even listening to the news broadcast in Hebrew, one can hear “Judea” and “Samaria” and have some strange flashbacks. But today’s email for the American’s in the crowd – talking about “Thanksgiving” – blew my mind. And then the mind of several people at work today.

The email offered to teach me:

Fun facts about “todah” which means “thanks” or, in Modern Israeli Hebrew, it’s used for “Thank you”. It linked to a blog post but here’s the mind blowing part:

Some of you may know the word Jewish or יהודים (yeh-huh-deem) comes from the name Judha or יהודה (ye-huh-dah). It is told in the book of Genesis, that after Leah gave birth to Judah, she gave thanks to God and praised him for her good fortune. The name comes from the verb לֵהוֹדוֹת (leh-hoh-doht) which means – to thank. However, it also means to confess or to admit something. It seems like in the bible, these two verbs were strongly related and sometimes even interchangeable.

You will not notice, perhaps, if you are not a Christian reading this, but “giving thanks” and “confessing” are two different Sacraments in the Christian tradition. To “Give Thanks” is the Eucharist or Mass, to confess one’s sins is the Sacrament of Confession. To read (even in this off-handed way) that they are the same word in Hebrew is quite the surprise. Not, mind you, that this was unknown to others, only to the present writer and everyone he’s spoken to so far. Yet here it is in the Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, #3034:

yadah: to throw, cast
Original Word: יָדָה
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: yadah
Phonetic Spelling: (yaw-daw’)
Definition: to throw, cast

confess (10), confessed (3), confesses (1), confessing (2), gave (1), gave praise (1), give you thanks (5), give thanks (59), giving praise (1), giving thanks (3), glorify (1), hymns of thanksgiving (1), making confession (1), placed (1), praise (17), shoot (1), thank (5), thanksgiving (1), throw down (1).

A primitive root; used only as denominative from yad; literally, to use (i.e. Hold out) the hand; physically, to throw (a stone, an arrow) at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands); intensively, to bemoan (by wringing the hands) — cast (out), (make) confess(-ion), praise, shoot, (give) thank(-ful, -s, -sgiving).

The linking of worship with extended hands and bemoaning with wringing of hands even adds the proper physical gestures for the two sacraments.

There’s so much more to go into between the “offering of thanks and praise” in the Mass and the Thanksgiving offering in the Temple; the Rite of Yom Kippur and the Sacrament of Confession…. there’s so much more. One random line in a blog post from my Hebrew School opened the Bible in an entirely new way for me today. Every word is an echo of the language used by the prophets.

I started my second semester on Monday.

What is a Week End? # 2


SORRY TO BE LIGHT in posts recently. I’ve three weeks of Deacon classes in a row, along with all the reading that would normally come over 6 weeks of classes. It’s sacramental theology which is, really, the most un-Orthodox of Western theology. So I’m having to lean in here. That’s just made the weeks really tight. We even had a class on the Saturday after Thanksgiving! But I have more than a few half-baked thoughts for posts running around in my head so it seemed like a good time for an update. This is a lot of different things…

Bible Nerding

There are two ways to say “have mercy on me” in Hebrew: racham na רחם נא and channeni חנני. The latter means something like “have grace on me”. We can imagine asking God to pour down from the heavens. More interestingly, the former speaks of the uterus. This is where the King James Version talks about the “bowels of mercy”. We can imagine asking God to let one curl up in a fetal position and be comforted. “Hold me while I cry, God.” What came to me as I was just looking into these two words – not really looking for anything in specific – was the passage from John 3 where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about being “born from above”. In John 3:4, Nakdimon said to him, “How can a grown man be ‘born’? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?” And Yeshua’s reply includes the eventual rebuke, “You hold the office of teacher in Isra’el, and you don’t know this?” (John 3:10) and it came to me that perhaps the Elder from the Sanhedrin was making a comment about God’s mercy (racham) with the Son’s “born from above” reply indicating God’s grace (chanan). Are we seeing humorous wordplay between the two rabbis?

A second bit of this nerdery on another topic: Marc, my formation classmate called out Genesis 22:8 where most translations saying something like, “God, himself, will provide a lamb” or even “provide a lamb himself” but the Hebrew actually says “God will provide to himself a lamb”. The echos of God the Son as Atonement increasing here.

Related but not, my second semester in Hebrew started tonight. My teacher is Avigail.

Meat Pumpkin

My Savory Side Dish came out quite tasty but I’m not quite blind enough to imagine the taste was for everyone. The spices were very Victorian. Which is to say strong. I think next time I might try it with my stuffing rather than a Victorian Christmas theme. Only one person at the Thanksgiving Party said “Three Cheers for the Meat Pumpkin!” I felt like Great Aunt Cecilia. (St Dom’s inside joke.)

I have tried the Figgy Pudding Spam. It’s very tasty. I can’t think of a single thing to do with it. It’s not right for crackers or breakfast. It would not be a thing for a sandwich at all. Maybe whizzed up with some Duke’s and used as a spread? I don’t know. I’m going to leave it alone. It’s Advent as of today on the Julian calendar.


Working at a Byzantine Catholic Church I’m re-exploring Eastern Christian spirituality. My first thought is God has brought me to where I am through where I’ve been. The things that didn’t feed me at one time now do. The things that drew me on, now push me forward. I’ve been hearing the Orthodox theologians “of my youth” (by which I mean my early middle-age) coming out of the mouths of the teachers of my old age. When a Catholic quotes an Orthodox are we breathing with two lungs?

I never was Old Calendar as an Orthodox. Here I am, Old Calendar Catholic. How does that happen?

God’s sense of humor.

Shout out to my friends. All the love. These were taken at my birthday party in September, but I have some amazing friends and stumbling across these made me smile all over again.

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