To Do Bible

JMJ

LEARNING OF the death of my friend, Minka, via Facebook sent me on a used book quest to find her out-of-print works. Finally a copy of Praying from the Free Throw Line – For Now was procured from Thriftbooks. Reading it has not only triggered old memories (for I can hear her voice as I read it) but so many other realizations as well. We learn from our teachers and she was my teacher in so many ways. Even things she did not teach me, I see clearly, seem to have grown from seeds we planted together. All that follows is such. What is my process for working with Bible?

When readings the meditations in Praying From the Free Throw Line it’s easy to recognize the genesis of my own voice. But it’s also easy to recognize the fountainhead of my own theological errors. Minka’s knowledge of Biblical Languages (which she taught at two seminaries) does not mean that her final conclusions are safeguarded from error. I was only too happy at one time to hear her conclusions sine they justified my own actions. They were wrong, sinful. The process needs correction, not rejection.

The Christian texts of the Bible, of course, flow from the Jewish texts. This is not only a prophetic or historical claim but also a stylistic one. In its current form, the Jewish scripture is presented as three components: Torah, Prophets, and Writings. In Hebrew, תורה Torah, נביאים Nevi’im, and כתובים Khetuvim. These are abbreviated as תנ”ך Tanach. The Torah is the first five books. This is usually translated law, but law is only a part of the text (and the texts are only part of the law). The word also means instruction. Perhaps it’s best to read it as mainly meaning “instruction”? I don’t know. The guys at Bible Project take that to mean the entire text of the Bible is Meditation Literature – something to chew on, over and over. The Prophets include a few books that many Christians might not consider “prophetic” such as Judges, Samuel and the Kings. However, the Writings include some considered prophetic by Christians (Psalms, Song of Songs and Daniel) as well as some considered “only” history like the Chronicles. The New Testament is also parsed out this way: The Prophet scroll is the Apocalypse. The Writings are Acts and the Epistles. The Torah is the Gospels. This is all meditation literature. Some of it might be history or myth (as we understand those words today), but all of it is God-breathed meditation literature.

So, when we hear Jesus use the imperative and command his Father to “forgive” from the Cross, there’s as much there to meditate on as when Eve uses the Sacred Tetragrammaton to describe God, even though that name has not yet been revealed to Moses. How is that important? Well, the Rabbis who complied the scriptures in Babylon put the Name of God on the lips of our First Mother, so why? Yeshua probably spoke in Aramaic from the Cross. Why did the Greek Authors take the imperative?

For a Christian, a better way to ask is, “Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the authors to do this?”

And we might spend a whole week chewing on it in prayer.

And there begins my method for doing Bible or, in Hebrew, לעשות תנ׳ך l-asot tanach to do tanach: you read in the context of the whole thing – a unified story that leads to Jesus – and you meditate. If something catches your eye, you follow it. Where does it go? This is why the four Gospels are the Torah Scroll in the New Covenant: Jesus is the living word of God, the embodiment not of the Law but the very Giver of the Law himself, not “in human form” but incarnate as a human. Under the Law he himself gave. When he pulls wine out of the Mikveh jars or enters the debate between Hillel and Shammai, when he asks about the Divine Image on the Roman Coin or says “I AM” with enough force to scare people, we need to ask not only “What’s going on here?” but also, “What is the Divine Author saying to us here?” and also, “What is the human writer trying to tell us here?” and also, “How can we communicate this to others?” Each question is equally important for different reasons. When Paul works out his Daddy issues with Timothy, that’s one thing. When a preacher in the pulpit at Mass points out that’s what Paul is doing, that’s another thing. When a listener, working on the same things as Paul, hears the sermon and is moved to tears, that’s a third thing. Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly Digest. And Proclaim. All of these are needed but at different places. This is how to do Bible.

Then it has to be read in the Church. Yes, there are other commentators that do not believe it leads to Jesus. But they are on another track now and God will guide them back as he needs to. A Christian must read the Bible in the Church. So we reference the Fathers and Church teaching not as a supplemental authority but as the final one. It’s possible for some random theologian (such as my teacher that started this post) to take her knowledge way out of the bounds of the Church, but if we draw back to the Fathers and the Magisterium, we can make sure that while we avoid the mistake of being 100% correct and entirely wrong.

A New Project

WHEREIN I try blogging in another language. The tagline says “Now I can make typos in two languages.” It’s very simple sentences and I do use Google Translate to check myself – and for more complex constructions. I don’t promise much by way of exciting content. But I hope to be able to get better at it. Here’s a couple of unsolicited adverts.

I’m learning Hebrew using Citizen Cafe Tel Aviv and iTalki. My iTalki Tutor is Shmuel. He’s awesome.

I just adore weather…

JMJ

AND WE’RE HAVING so much of it this year. We don’t get sleet or hail here very often and, since I got here in 1997, I’ve never seen it accumulate. We’re having thunder and lightening. I’ve only heard the former 4 times since 1997. I’ve never seen the latter at all. And a few moments ago all our cellphones went off with a klaxon and then a verbal warning of flash floods “in this area”. That was just before the skies opened up. Very fun.

St Medard, pray for us!

Actually, it is very fun: I love storms with a passion. The Cantor this AM picked the following hymn with which to open the Morning Service. I caught the pastor’s eye and we laughed.

We’ve been in a real drought since 2000… this is wonderful. Nothing is perfect. But this is wonderful.

Christ is Born!

JMJ

JUST home from celebrating the Vesporal Liturgy of St Basil, marking the Eve of the Nativity on the Julian Calendar, aka Russian Christmas. Two and a half hours of Liturgy and then wine, borscht, pirogis, stuffed cabbage, and more wine. Nerdy conversation ensued. Hell, St Faustina, Seraphim Rose, St Augustine…

There were Dominicans and Jesuits in the congregation, praying together – internet jokes aside. Parishioners from the ByzCath parish, together with more than a few visitors, created a joyful crowd. The choir was lovely, the readers were kept busy with 16+ readings, and the incense is filling my beard.

The celebrant (in the hat with his back to us in the photo), Fr Christopher, is the Godson of my old Episcopal Pastor. Everything is all present here. The church is a big tent. God is good, all the time.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Meat Cookies 2022

JMJ

THIS YEAR I continued my experimentation with Mom’s Sausage and Cheese balls. I think this year is the best I’ve come up with.

  • 20 oz (two packages) Longaniza Sausage (it’s kinda like chorizo but much more firm).
  • 2 lbs shredded cheese (I used a cheddar jack blend)
  • 1 small box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 cup or so of bisquick or other baking mix (I used Jiffy’s mix)
  • Spicy Salsa
  1. In a skillet, brown the meat a little while breaking it up. This causes the meat to release some oils and add a few Maillard reactions to the mix. No need to cook this all the way to crispy. Do not drain.
  2. Transfer the sausage to a mixing bowl and all all other ingredients.
  3. Combine thoroughly. Then refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 425.
  5. Make balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place them on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake for 30 mins.

Makes about 3 dozens.

What is a Week End? # 2

JMJ

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.

Rebyz

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.