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.

If You’re in Love, Show Me.

Today’s Readings:

  • 1 John 3:11-21
  • John 1:43-51

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE together with other Mass texts.

You were not to be like Cain, who took his character from the evil one, and murdered his brother. Why did he murder him? Because his own life was evil, and his brother’s life was acceptable to God. No, brethren, do not be surprised that the world should hate you.
1 John 3:12-13 (Knox)

Murder for one’s faith is not very common in the USA, especially if one is a Christian. Apart from some social ostracization we’re not likely to experience anything much at all, yet.

Recently there has been a revival of the Sanctuary Movement. As the Wiki notes, “The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. It responded to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.” And, since part of the stated mindsets of the incoming administration as well as its supporters has been opposition to immigration, registering, and deportation, Sanctuary seems perfect for a movement of Churches and Christians concerned about justice. This will, of course, cause them to be reviled by the Administration, but one would imagine this would make them a friend to others.

Yeah, not so much.

A friend (not of the Church-going sort) posted on his Facebook about the revival of the Sanctuaries and instantly he was given a reply: since churches are involved it will only be heterosexual immigrants that they care for. The mainline, liberal denominations are already lumped in with other, more traditional sorts, in the popular mindset, despite 60+ years of caving in to “relevance”. In fact, as the Episcopal Church was moving forward as one of the most gay-friendly of communities, I had a fight with fellow students at NYU when a local parish posted the words of John the Baptist on their reader board, “Make straight in the desert a highway,” etc. This was in 1985 when ECUSA was setting up AIDS ministries and whatall. In NYC where the then-bishop had been most outspoken about his support for gays.  Didn’t matter: once you hate Christians it doesn’t matter what sort of Christians you have.

Today’s verses then should not come as a surprise for us. If you’ve committed to live your life being acceptable to God you will be contrary to social norms. My fear has never been of the political sorts in our country, to be honest, but of the religious sorts who are caving in to societal norms all over the place. I think, at some point, we may see a political power play where the more mainline folks turn over confessing Christians in order to keep their tax exemptions and their access to the corridors of power. It has ever been this way, in Germany, in Communist countries, in other totalitarian dictatorships, so it’s easy to imagine it here. The power may be leftist with Episcopalians, or rightist with Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Either way confessing Christians with their social actions, their sacraments, and their sexual morals won’t fit in.

So the first of the 15 Aves in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity has us pray with this intention:

For our social and cultural climate, that it may be purified of everything contrary to chastity, and that we may have the strength to resist the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

Chastity is about sexual purity, yes, and much of our culture is tuned to the contrary frequency. However chastity is not only pressured by sexual ideologies: educational ones, commercials, political parties, a general cultural opposition to responsibility, a bias toward hedonism, a loss of joy, a philosophical embrace of nihilistic darkness; these all conspire against this virtue. Privatizing religion helps us towards a less chaste culture as well: religion that has no place in the public sphere, that has nothing to say about public ethics. Literature that glorifies sexual “exploration” even within marriage, or ideas about sex that have only the goal of “satisfaction” in mind all pressure us to discard this virtue. Mindful that Chastity includes the virtue of procreation and the proper use of the sexual gift, think of how many ways even married couples are tempted. In our modern culture almost all non-Catholic religions support the use of birth control.  Even traditional ones, like Eastern Orthodoxy, allow it with a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy.

Shielding against this the prayer calls on the Virgin Mother of God for aid that we might resist these challenges, but also that our culture may be purified. And St John adds, Filioli mei, non diligamus verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. (1 John 3:18) Msgr Knox renders this as, “My little children, let us shew our love by the true test of action, not by taking phrases on our lips.”  The “love” there is the verbal form of Agape, that divine love that is God. Here is this love in action on our hands. Let us act-out-love not only in the uttering of phrases.

In a culture so dead set against true love, what is our action? How do we find a way to make real love present in the world?

It starts with prayer and the reformation of our own lives. Let us see where it takes us.

Poetic Justice

Today’s readings:

  • 1 John 3:7-10
  • John 1:35-42

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE with other Mass Texts.

In hoc manifesti sunt filii Dei, et filii diaboli. Omnis qui non est justus, non est ex Deo, et qui non diligit fratrem suum:
This, then, is how God’s children and the devil’s children are known apart. A man cannot trace his origin from God if he does not live right, if he does not love his brethren.
1 John 3:10 (Knox)

St John says he who does not poion dikaiosynen is not of God. He was does not live right is not on the path. The Apostolic epistles of like this idea of “living right”. It is beyond important – it is the center of Christian spirituality. It’s here, I think, in the use of this word ποιέω poieo – do or make.  It’s the same word from whence we get “poet”.  Hold that thought. It’s about doing, about a way of action it is, in some obvious respects, exactly “works righteousness” that so many Protestants want us to avoid. There is something to do here.

(Side note, this “poieo” word occurs 572 times in the NT. There’s a word study worth doing!)

That word δικαιοσύνη dikaiosyne means justice. In the LXX it’s the Greek word used for the Hebrew tzadek צֶדֶק.  It’s how one describes straight paths, just balances, or fair laws. You, my dear Christian heart, are expected to live that way. We are called to do justice (see footnote, re: Micah 6:8), to be Poets of Justice. Justice does not mean, “do whatever you want and we will write laws to defend you in your selfishness.” Justice, rather, means walking along God’s straight and narrow path. If it’s not found there, it’s not justice at all. It maybe what you want, crave, or are addicted to – but it’s not just for you to have it nor for someone else to provide it or permit you.

The other side of that coin – of course – is that the works do not make us righteous. They are the sign of our righteousness, of our walking with God. You can’t just say “I believe” here and let it all pass. You have to be doing something or nothing is happening. But we don’t do these works of ourselves, more on that later.

St John ties living right in with loving our brother. As I posted a few days ago, that’s not philia, it’s not friendship with our brother it’s agape: that divine love that moves us all to perfection. This is not the apathetic, bland tolerance that passes for “non-judgemental love” today, leaving us in our sins and our weaknesses. This love calls, pushes, jabs, and dances us forward. As for this verse to be living right is loving our brother then to be this poet of justice is to move our brothers and sisters into that justice too.

Truly poetic justice semper reformare me est – is always reforming me – but not only me. If this music is singing out it should move all around me into the divine Dance of self-emptying.

Lately I’ve been praying the prayers of The Angelic Warfare Confraternity. Those of you who know me will know this is a needed discipline for me. There are two prayers (one asking for the intercession of St Thomas Aquinas and one written by him) then one says 15 Aves a day for specific intentions. As time and the assigned readings permit over the coming 6 weeks or so prior to Lent I want to look at these prayers and intentions. This is where I find this Poetic Justice singing out in my life just now.

For today, then, a look at the first of the prayers. This one, written by Thomas Aquinas, will give us a hint about the poetic justice of this passage from St John.

Dear Jesus, I know that every perfect gift, and especially that of chastity, depends on the power of Your providence. Without You a mere creature can do nothing. Therefore, I beg You to defend by Your grace the chastity and purity of my body and soul. And if I have ever imagined or felt anything that could stain my chastity and purity, blot it out, Supreme Lord of my powers, that I may advance with a pure heart in Your love and service, offering myself on the most pure altar of Your divinity all the days of my life. Amen.

Every perfect gift depends on the providence of God: we have no virtue of ourselves, without God’s grace. This poetry is not written on themes of our own devising. Forgive me, but there is no Jazz here. There is, however, unfolding, an exploration of themes or leitmotifs as in a great opera. What we here God saying to us we say in our own lives by his grace. The Angelic Warfare Confraternity is about chastity and sexual purity. Yet, the concept applies for all the virtues: they arise and grow within us from God’s gift. We must offer ourselves for it, in order to “advance with a pure heart in God’s love and service.”

We must become poets by learning from the first (and only) Poet. We become just at the very fount of justice. We become chaste praying to the very author of chastity. And as we acquire that salvation, so too those around us will share in it.

By way of footnote: this is not, as I expected, the same phrase that’s used in Micah 6:8 – “do Justice”. there is a translation of the Hebrew implying “make good judgements in court”. That’s a different concept than tzadek or dikaiosyne.