I want you. To want me.


The Readings for Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Easter (B2)

Ego sum panis vitae.
I am the bread of life.

In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer 1979 there is a Eucharistic Anaphora that includes the lines: 

Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only and not for strength; for pardon only and not for renewal.

Yesterday, however, I heard a sermon at 6:30 mass which cut me to my quick and added another “for…. only and not for….” to the list. In fact it’s the only thing that should be on the list.

Fr Justin said that Christ is not a “Costco and Kaiser Permanente combined”. I realized that I have been – for several years, really –  been coming to communion for the effects of the sacrament, but not for the reality of it. I’ve not been coming for Christ, himself.

I long for healing from my sins. I crave salvation and eternal life. I want reunion with those gone from me. I’ve a long list of intentions, too: prayers for those dealing with addiction, for friends in family problems, for the homeless, for peace, for the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, etc. But how have I come for solace and renewal, for pardon and strength, and yet not been coming for Christ, himself?

Ego Sum. I am. God’s divine name. I am the Bread of Life. Jesus, himself.

This is the gift of the Eucharist. All those other things may happen but it is Christ, himself, the flesh of God, born of Mary; this is the miracle of Grace that comes to us in the Mass: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Yes, I know that. I never forgot it. But it was not why I was there.

Jesus says qui venit ad me, non esurient. He that cometh to me shall not hunger. But we should not come to him so that we are not hungry. We come to him. Then we are not hungry: Jesus wants us to want him for himself, to love him because of Love. Because he first loved us. We can be gold diggers looking for a sky-bound sugar daddy. 

We have a generous and a gracious God who gives us his very self. 

Why relish the bread of life for the side effects?

According to Hoyle

Today’s readings:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Baseball and Mixed Martial Arts are very different sports. One can play both, of course, but not at the same time and not on the same field. One cannot play baseball by MMA rules, nor vice versa. Neither can one crossweave the two sets of rules into something new and call it by either name. The rules of baseball are the rules of baseball. The rules of football, of America football, of rugby, of hurling, of all sports are each unique and their own thing. You can’t make them up as you go along, and, should someone do so, they are in fact playing another game. Equally fun, perhaps, but it’s not Cricket.

As Easter rolled closer this year I was reminded of how many of my friends do not believe in the Resurrection of Christ and I do not speak of the Atheists or others for whom this is laughable. Rather I am thinking of those who would take the name Christian, even saying that they are “reclaiming” it or defending it from people who believe silly things like Virgin Births and Risings.

What has me mystified is why? What’s the point? I mean, seriously: the Jesus you’re left with is laughable, powerless, and without purpose. In fact you have to make up stuff – politics and social justice – and fill his mouth with words he never said in order to have any religion at all. You have to make palatable myths out of the doctrine, to say “this isn’t really true” even while you profess it. You have to yell “Christ is Risen” while you cross your fingers and say, “well, it’s really just a symbol, or historical artefact…”

I don’t see the point. There are social justice groups that do that, there are political movements that do that, there are even other religions that already do that. Most of these folks strike me as a cross between the Humanist Society of New York and Reconstructionist Judaism, to be honest, but not really either of those, either. It’s better, somehow, to corrupt one that has historical boundaries and turn out from their communities people who are faithful to God whilst making claims against them of “h8” and “bigotry”. It’s better to make up new doctrines and call real Christians “sticks in the mud” and other names less charitable; to make the claim you’re being inclusive whilst undermining and destroying both the structure and the foundation. You cannot say something has evolved when you’ve torn it down; when you’ve jury-rigged a “worship space” in the ruble of your theological deconstructions.

Somehow this is all good, I guess.

Yet, following the Apostles, I shall take my home in Christ who is Way, Truth, and Life; and in the Church he founded. I will rest in his light and eat his bread. Increasingly I find there that I have more in common with the pious and respectful faithful of other religions than I do with those who would destroy my own; with those who follow a different path and name it such rather than with those who follow a different path and masquerade it about as mine. I will pray for his mercies on those within and without his fold and I will not confuse the two in the name of politeness. It is neither mercy or charity to say someone is right when they are wrong. Nor is it grace. But the Truth of the Apostolic Preaching (who is always and only the Risen Christ) can always and only be spoken in love.

In love, therefore, with the very salvation of your soul: baseball is baseball.

All the Dang Time

Today’s readings:

Dixit autem eis Jesus: Ego sum panis vitæ: qui venit ad me, non esuriet, et qui credit in me, non sitiet umquam.
Jesus said, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
John 6:35
We’ve reached that part of the scriptures that Jesus didn’t mean literally. So let’s all take a deep breath and realize he’s speaking figuratively here, or maybe mystically. Perhaps he’s only speaking symbolically. Or, likely, this is interpolated text from some liturgical meditation in the, oh, I don’t know, 3rd century that they made up and read backwards into John. I’m sure the Jesus Seminar can save us here.
You’d best skip the rest of Chapter 6. Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree here. Body and Blood. Not symbol, not sign, not sorta, but actual. Real. Solid. Flesh. And blood.
I asked Catholic Celebrities on Twitter… (ok, sorry… I asked Catholics in my twittersphere anyway) if they had advice for a Catholic n00b such as myself. They all agreed on three points – the first one, ably expressed by @SteveMissionary is where I’ll stop today:

go to mass all the dang time!

This is the secret, I think, of Catholic Piety. In a parish of 1800 like mine, give or take, it’s the 30-50 people at Daily Mass that make or break it. They’re there every day. They know you. They miss you when you’re gone. And each mass has its own style or flavor of community: 6:30 followed by Morning Prayer, 8:00 with a Rosary, 5:30 with its healing prayers and veneration of the relic of St Jude.  There’s probably more than 50 at the 5:30 Mass. I don’t know. But it’s amazing that so many people will stop their day (or start it, as it were) with 30-45 mins or more at Church. At NYU, at the Catholic Center, there were 4 or 5 people who made the Noon Mass their own. St Agnes parish in NYC was the same way – although there they were the office workers on lunch. St Christopher’s Chapel near Grand Central was my favorite. I was not Catholic, but something was there that just wasn’t anywhere else.
Tolkien calls Caras Galadhon, the city at the center of Wood Elves’ realm of Lothlorien, the “heart of Elvendom on earth”. That’s what daily mass is just now in my book: the Heart of Christendom on Earth.
Words fail me. This is God saving us.
I find myself daily praying these prayers from the Anglican Use and also the Byzantine Rite:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. 

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen. 

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom. 

May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.

This is love: God giving himself for us, daily, before us and to us, freely, humbly, meekly. And in silence.
This is love: Body and blood, soul and divinity. Mercy and grace in the forms of bread and wine, the most simplest of foodstuffs. The most holy of foods.
Go all the dang time.
VIII – Eucharist
He wash’d their feet & now would make them free:
a mundane miracle will now combine.
The God-Man bids that man on God will dine
& daily service now makes unity.
These common building blocks of bread & wine
our Saviour takes into his holy hands
& those, around him sat, his love commands
in mystic rites to make all men divine.
The Apostolic preaching in all lands
will be enliven’d by this bread. God gives
to Church her dancing food. She moves & lives
By sacraments now altar’d by Christ’s hands.
Salt, flour, water, grapes, & yeast we see
yet very flesh & blood of God they be.

Who will help us escape?

Today’s readings:

Respondit eis Jesus, et dixit: Amen, amen dico vobis: quæritis me non quia vidistis signa, sed quia manducastis ex panibus et saturati estis.
Jesus answered them, Believe me, if you are looking for me now, it is not because of the miracles you have seen; it is because you were fed with the loaves, and had your fill. (Knox)
John 6:26
You’re looking for me, not because of the things that prove me to be the Messiah, but rather because you got food. In the Golden Chain, the Patristic Commentary on the Gospels compiled by St Thomas Aquinas, we find this:

Augustine. As if He said, you seek Me to satisfy the flesh, not the Spirit. Chrysostom. After the rebuke, however, He proceeds to teach them: Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life; meaning, you seek for temporal food, whereas I only fed your bodies, that you might seek the more diligently for that food, which is not temporary, but contains eternal life. Alcuin. Bodily food only supports the flesh of the outward man, and must be taken not once for all, but daily; whereas spiritual food remains for ever, imparting perpetual fullness, and immortality. Augustine. Under the figure of food He alludes to Himself you seek Me, He said, for the sake of something else; seek Me for My own sake.

Seeking him for his own sake.

We hear a lot about the Prosperity Gospel these days – both in the preaching of it and the preaching against it. Some have even found it in the Catholic Church, noting that the “Jesus has a plan/spouse/job for you” can be read as more of the same.  As an Orthodox priest once said to me: we know God’s will, “That all should come to a saving knowledge of God.” After that it’s all trivia.  My two friends, Steve, have done podcasts and videos about God not having a plan for you or me beyond willing our salvation. (Steves: I love you guys.) Reading this passage, I’m mindful of a thing my friend Pietro said one Easter in a Bible Class on John: Are we running to God or away from Hell? And I am reminded of the Act of Contrition, where we say we “Dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell” but most of all we’re sorry because we’ve offended God who is “all good and deserving of all my love.” We want God not for himself, but because we don’t want to die.

I would venture that it is better to love Jesus for his own sake, because he is the Truth, the very light, the Second Person of the Trinity, he is love, itself… it is far better to love Jesus thus, than to seek him out of “Salvation”.  For the latter is objectification. It’s turning Jesus into a tool.  It’s making Jesus into a Fire Escape, we love the Fire Escape when we’re in a towering inferno. But – to Love Jesus for himself, to Love him as he himself is, is salvation. To fall in love with Love himself, is to become saved, to be heaven here on earth to those around us, to become Salvation to those with whom we journey. As St Seraphim of Sarov rather famously said, “Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved.”

Today is 1 May, the beginning of the Marian Month par excellence. Mary opened her heart to God without equivocation, saying “Yes” to the incarnation without ever knowing what it would mean in full. That is the level of trust needed here. To Love God fully as himself, to know that he wills nothing but your good, and so to follow him, not because “whatever you ask in my name” or “pressed down, over-flowing, full measure”, Name it and Claim it, or “God has a plan for you…” but to walk in his light because he is light, and to love fully because he is love.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love God.


Supper at Emmaus

Today’s Readings:

And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.
Luke 24:25-27
There’s this movie floating around the internet, and I just can’t find it, but it is so very good: searching for the shape of Christ’s story in the Old Testament. It records how from the Messianic Prophecy to Eve, Noah’s ark, the Binding of Isaac, and the story of Joseph, all in Genesis, to the Cleansing of the Temple in the books of the Maccabees, every important thing in the Scriptures finds its fullest Expression in Jesus, and in the Body of Christ, his Church continuing today. That is what Jesus revealed to his disciples and apostles after the Resurrection: he is the Logos, the very logic, the pattern God has woven into the universe. Anything that is true cannot help but speak of him.
Yesterday (Saturday) after Mass as some friends were gathered over coffee, we were discussing how the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous echo Christian spirituality. And that led us on an excursus of how many other movements echo the same. Really, though, how can they not be: after the coming of the incarnate Logos, the pattern which God has woven into everything, we cannot help but make that pattern over and over again. Even non-Christian religions that come after Christ are, functionally, Christian Heresies because they have to make statements about the Person of Jesus.  (Dante puts Mohammed in with the sowers of discord.) Most modern “spiritual movements” are also Christian heresies: usually emphasising “love” and “peace” (at least as they imagine it to be) over the rest of the Tradition. 
He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, says St Peter. The very shape of human spirituality has been irrevocably changed by the incarnation of God as one us.
We know that God spoke his fullness in Jesus, and that Jesus emptied himself to become one of us; Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth… it’s that pouring forth, of the Father into the Son, of the Son back to the Father, of the Spirit from the Son poured out on us. We know it is this self-emptying, this pouring forth that is the most Godlike action we can perform. Not mere self-abnegation, nor self-destruction, but self-emptying: the line from the Gospel of John heard at yesterday’s Mass of St Catherine of Sienna, teaching that streams of living water will flow from each believer (John 7:38) that’s our calling to self-emptying as well.  
This outpouring of Love is the very pattern of God woven into the fabric of the Universe.