A Month of Typica


OUR Byzantine Catholic Parish has one priest assigned plus three others who help out from time to time. By an untimely coincidence of schedules, we are in the midst of 3 weeks without a priest to serve the Divine Liturgy. This week, in fact, we had no Deacon as well. There’s a conference in Vienna. There are prayers to say in such a case, known as the Typica. This is, essentially, the Divine Liturgy with the priest’s and deacon’s content removed. What remains is a suitable devotion for the Laity. To this is prepended the 3rd and 6th liturgical Hours from the Daily Office. The resultant service takes about one hour to read, maybe a little more. If there is a Deacon present he can (with a blessing) give out communion from the reserved sacrament. He can also preach as needed.

In the Orthodox Church where (in my experience) such a service can be common – but parishes few and far between – the whole community arrives in a timely manner and prays together. In the Byzantine Catholic Church, it seems that some would rather go to a local Latin-rite parish, even though they are on a different liturgical calendar. In such a situation, there are often multiple options. We rent our chapel from a Latin rite parish and I walk by three other Latin rite parishes (including our Cathedral) to get to this community. Any of these had Mass today – or for the other times we have Typica. Multiple Masses, in fact.

Why would one go to Typica instead? To answer this question highlights the difference between religion and relationship.

Two weeks ago the pastor reminded me of St Mary of Egypt (Late 4th, early 5th Century) who went from a life of libertine indulgence to ascetic struggle and sanctity in the Judean wilderness. She took communion twice – as we have it recorded in her hagiography. Only twice. The rest of her life was prayer and ascetic struggle, pardon the tautology. This is what the Christian life is: struggle for sanctity. Struggle – ascesis in Greek, podvig in Slavonic, Jihad in Arabic – is what it takes to submit the human will to God’s love. That requires a relationship: the human will does not come into its full submission to God’s love (that is, God’s self) until the will is in love with God. This is why God calls the soul his Beloved. This is why there is so much marriage imagery in the Bible. God created us to be his, not as slaves but as deeply intimate friends, in fact, as Sons and Daughters.

But it is very easy to turn that into rules. To turn that into religion.

I spent this last week watching a series of videos from Fr John Behr, an Orthodox Priest, doing a retreat for the Brothers and Sisters of Charity in Arkansas. It’s interesting – and encouraging – to think of an Orthodox Priest doing a retreat for a Roman Catholic Community! But they do miss his points often – and he’s not very familiar with Western liturgy either. So they are sometimes talking at cross purposes. Over nine (or so) sessions with the Community, Fr John points out that the early Church used what we think of today as Eucharistic Language not for the Eucharistic elements, but for humanity in God’s image – especially in the martyrs. At the earliest stages of the tradition the “words of institution” are not even in the Eucharistic prayers. But the martyrs (even women) are described as Christ made visible. Fr John says that for the earliest Christians, the scriptures were only understood in the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. In fact, he says, it’s the Pascha that comes first. Scripture flows out from the Pasch (even backward through history). There is no plan B: the Lamb is slain from before the foundation of the world. This is how God is loving us.

All of human history is us coming to understand this love. That is, all of human history is us entering into this relationship that we cannot consummate until our Death.

But we have a tendency to make rules and to put structures around this relationship. We are terrified of death – which Jesus has destroyed. But still, we don’t want to die. And we will do anything to feel better about things. So maybe I can manipulate God – that is religion. Maybe I can do enough Good Things to get Him to do Good Things (one form of legalism) or maybe I can not-do enough bad things to get Him to not-do a bad thing to me (another form of legalism).

Imagine if you governed your marriage by only positive and negative commands.

Instead of by love.

I think we are much happier stressing over rules than working on relationships. We want to make sure that God is on our side – so we can go do whatever. That is the stereotype of Roman Catholicism, right? Do whatever, go to confession… boom. Yet, that’s not how it works. A priest once called me out (in confession) for using the sacrament like a Car Wash. It’s more like marriage counseling.

And I think we have a tendency to treat the Most Holy Eucharist as if it were rings in Sonic the Hedgehog: Collect, collect, collect, collect, hit something bad (mortal sin) and boom! All the rings fall away.

Ooops. Time to start over.

I think this starts by putting anything – even the Eucharist itself – before the relationship with God. Anything that goes before that relationship can become locked into something other than what God intended it to be. Source and summit does not mean end-all and be-all.

If St Mary of Egypt can do her entire life with only two communions (and one of those was outside of Liturgy) then what about us? Generations of Saintly Catholics and Eastern Orthodox were raised without any form of regular communion. And when we think of “full, conscious, and active participation” but then we see people not singing, not praying… but they get their communion… what are we doing?

And so, Typica.

This is what Christians do on a Sunday: Christian things with other Christians. When there is a priest present, Christian things include the Eucharist. But If there is no priest, the Community still gathers. We worship God, we venerate the living Icons of God in each other and in his saints, and we eat together. Sometimes it’s Eucharist but today it was just some bread and wine, unblessed. This what God’s people does on a Sunday: enter deeper into our relationship with Him by entering deeper into our relationship with each other. The deeper that relationship is, the more we are being saved.

Fr John suggested that much of the Resourcement movement of the last century, both in the East and in the West, engaged in a sort of patristic proof-texting. Instead of reading the Fathers as they wrote, we looked for validation of our beliefs and (at that time) theological conversations. Although I think I understood what he meant, he did not seem to offer something else instead, so I’m not sure where that point should take me. Yet it raises a very valid question. Is Church-as-Communion only a modern reading of the Fathers – is there something else there that we’re missing?

Typica, at least, has me thinking that Church as Communion does not mean Church as Eucharistic Buffet or Sacramental Slot Machine. We can worship God on a Sunday even in the absence of a priest. And it may even be more for our salvation to do so from time to time.

Yes: Time. Again.


EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE my WordPress stats will indicate a very old post (today, from 2015) and I’ll discover that I’m not thinking anything new to me – but rather that I’ve been chewing on the same cud for most of the last 25 years. The whole recent string starting with mists and ending in the most recent post about personhood seems to have been on my mind continually since 2002, at least. Ongoing discussion of how self-identification relates to personhood is also of an equally-long standing. I’m finding, now (literally, this morning) that both of those themes relate to something called personalism. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I know it was Pope St John Paul’s school of philosophy. So I need to keep digging there. Since that school speaks of our relationship to, with, and in God it may also have something to do with my third theme: the incarnation, time, the eucharist, and salvation. It’s here we’ll stay just now.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “Every time the Mass is celebrated, every time Christ makes himself sacramentally present in his Church, the work of our salvation is accomplished.” (13 Sep 2008 Source, ret’vd 12 Apr 23). This phrase is currently in a prayer used on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, quoting from both Lumen Gentium and Sacrosanctum Concilium and previously it was the Secret prayer for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost. How is it possible that each time the Mass is offered our salvation is carried out? The Latin is “opus nostrae redeptionis exercetur” where “exercetur” is variously rendered as “wrought” or “carried out” or even “exercised”.

Meditating and chewing on this, it seems that in some way, though the grace of mediation, the Church is granted to not “time travel to the cross” at Mass, but rather the reverse: Each Mass is the first mass. Each Mass is not just the result of our Lord’s work on the Cross. It is our Lord’s work on the Cross.

In the incarnation the Second Hypostasis of the Trinity, the Divine Son, took upon himself a human nature, uniting it fully to his pre-eternal divine nature. In what way, then, does the God-Man experience time? Is it possible to say that in the Divine-Human Hypostasis there is also a union of Kairos and Chronos? Is there a way in which the Son moves through time while still being in eternity? The prayers of Pascha from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom seem to say this, “In the tomb with the body, in hell with the soul as God, in paradise with the thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, You fill all things, O boundless Christ.” So is there a Chronostasis, if you will, making all things the God-Man has done eternally present? The eternal actions of the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Glorious Second Coming are all commemorated in the Divine Liturgy, even though the latter – for us – has not yet happened. However, for God, it is also eternally present.

Thoughts in development.

Update after 3 hours: a friend reminded me that St Ephraim the Syrian thought it possible that the entire Garden of Eden story occurred outside of time and that our parents only began to experience Kronos after the Fall. I’ve never been a fan of that theological pattern because it seems to make the whole thing too mythological. However if Kronos and Kairos overlap and diverge exactly at the Fall the implications of this post are even stronger. It would be sensible, then, that someone experiencing both Kairos and Kronos in his person would be required to make Atonement, uniting the times again.

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.

Whose Side Are You On?


YOU HAVE TO ADMIT THAT life seems to be polarizing right now: socially, politically, and religiously. Everyone needs to be on a side and you’d better be on the right side as well. Generally, of course, the right side is my side. We are seeing this in all areas: if you don’t agree with me, then you must not only be wrong but you must be filled with hate for me. Anyone so wrong must be hateful.

This is not only a secular issue, for we see it in other religions and in the Church. It’s something I’ve seen for most of my life in every religious tradition in which I’ve participated. People tend not to hold together, but rather spin apart. The more “religious” people get, the more fractious they get. It’s practically a joke among protestants. Well, two jokes actually. Both of those jokes could be told about political parties or social groups and, in some cases, friends or relationships. They run like this in the religious form:

When the man was found on the deserted island, his rescuers found he had built a house and two churches. They asked why. “Well,” he said. “That’s the church I go to. That’s the church I used to go to.”

Many people think the first [denomination name] was [founder name]. In fact the first [denomination]s are mentioned in Genesis. Abram said to Lot, “You go your way, and I’ll go mine.”

It’s a bit of a commonplace to note this about the Anglicans of my youth: lawsuits filed against departing parishes, bishops denied entry to their churches, parishes split over questions of morality and polity, etc. Even before the present moment, there were the liturgy wars and the prayerbook wars. Yet, even before that, there are other bodies which pealed away from the “Anglican mainstream” to become their own things: the Methodists and the Reformed Episcopal Church for two. In these latter days, the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Catholic Church also split away. Fleeing Anglicans and their divisiveness, I was certainly seeking stability, but I was too quick to believe the writings of some converts to Orthodoxy who said all these problems were solved in the Eastern Church. Everything was calm, cool, and kosher in the East as compared to everything in the West where things are falling apart and heretical.

This mythology was false: in the Eastern Churches, as in the West, the person next to you in the liturgy may not believe all the things the Church teaches, may be just as much a liberal, modern American as in Anglicanism. Short of the Parousia, this will always be so. God promised us the True Church, but not a pure church. No matter where you think the True Church is (and I believe her to be only in communion with the Roman Pontiff) you will always find some who are better or worse at being there. The root of the faith is always in your heart and that’s where you need to work on it. It is impossible to work on – or to judge – the faith in the heart of another person.

So, Rome.

The divisiveness of America is here too. There are those who view the movement from Pope John XXIII through Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, to Pope Francis as one of differing political regimes: some good, some bad. They view the popes of their lifetime through a lens of modern politics resulting in a hermeneutic of rupture: things change from one Pope to another. We sometimes get a Pope who does good things – and sometimes a Pope who does bad things. It is we who get to decide if the Pope is good or bad, based on our political and cultural feelings. What makes a Pope “good” is that he does things I like.

This attitude has increased in the current century to where it’s possible to create a personal ecclesial bubble: Catholics who agree (or disagree) in exactly the same way I do are “the Church” and those who disagree (or agree) in other ways are being divisive. So one must pick: is one a Pope Francis man or is one a Benedict XVI guy? Is one a trad or a modernist? Novus Ordo or TLM? Ad Orientem or Versus Populum? Are you on my side or are you wrong?

This all came to mind with the reporting of the recent meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the discussion of the teaching document on the Eucharist. The whole vote was around the question of should we draft a teaching document? Given that nearly 70% of people who say they are Catholic do not believe what the Church teaches on this topic, it seems we need more than just one teaching document. The media (both secular and some Catholic outlets of all flavors) made out that the document was to be about abortion and our Catholic president. However the document hasn’t even yet been drafted. Additionally, the USCCB has no power to tell bishops what to do or to deny (in itself) communion to anyone. So, stories about the non-existent document and the idea that it could be “enforced” are horribly distorted. The reactions to this non-existent document were like the reactions of children to monsters in the dark: silly, and would be cute except they keep the adults from getting a good night’s sleep.

And the whole thing drove us into further divisions.

Sed contra, there is a hermeneutic of continuity or, one might say, a hermeneutic of charity through which we can view the last 60 years as well, a way in which we might understand what the Church teaches about herself: the Holy Spirit guides the Church and she gets the men she needs to lead her in the way she should go. The Popes have all been on the same mission and are doing the same thing in communion with the Holy Spirit as the Vicar of Christ on earth: furthering the Kingdom of God.

A Hermeneutic of Charity claims that there is a spiritual unity in the Church, of Love in Christ. Thereby we may see the Holy Spirit guiding the mystical bride of Christ through the stormy weather of the world via the Magisterium and the faithfulness of the People of God. It’s seems very clear that this reality is contrary to the political opinions of many folks inside the church and outside the church, on social media and in traditional media. The narrative of good-versus-bad inside the Church means the Church is no longer who she says she is. She can thus be ignored as she does what I dislike. I need only follow Popes I like: everyone else is an infiltration of some outside evil. Please note that “everyone else” will change if my political alliances change. The pure Church is only where I say it is. I am now the Pope.

Love forbids this though.

The scriptures and the saints counsel us to believe sin, judgement, and hell can only be assumed in the first person: I am a sinner, under judgement, and will be condemned to Hell in God’s righteousness unless I am saved by his mercy. All others – especially strangers and enemies – should be viewed in love, should be blessed, should be welcomed as angels, and should be treated as living icons (the very presence of) God. That means they are not destroying the Church, but rather I who am in danger of departure. They are not heretics, but rather I whom am at risk of damnation (if not already under it). Anyone who is a them in this picture must be treated with more, not less, love.

Our Hermeneutic of Charity must go further, though, lest it become yet another ideology, another way to create an “us versus them” narrative in the Church.

To this point, here is one of the stories of the desert fathers:

There was a saint in Egypt who dwelt in a desert place. Far away from him there was a Manichean who was a priest (at least what they call a priest). Once, when this man was going to visit one of his confederates, night overtook him in the place where the orthodox saint was living. He was in great distress, fearing to go to him to sleep there, for he knew that he was known as a Manichean, and he was afraid he would not be received. However, finding himself compelled to do so, he knocked; and the old man opened the door to him, recognized him, received him joyfully, constrained him to pray, and after having given him refreshment, he made him sleep. Thinking this over during the night, the Manichean said, “How is it that he is without any suspicions about me? Truly, this man is of God.” And he threw himself at his feet, saying, “Henceforth, I am orthodox,” and he stayed with him.

Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Benedicta Ward

Using the hermeneutic of charity even those not using that hermeneutic are assumed to be more-faithful followers of Christ than I am. It is impossible to love too much, if it is true love. It is impossible to be too hospitable if it is Christ we are welcoming.

So when we look at a “them” in the Church, the first question must not be “why are they on the wrong side?” but rather “Why am I on a side?” Even if it is a matter of morality and I can look at my own life and see that I am in keeping with the Church’s teaching, how can I judge someone? The very same measure I use to judge others is the one with which I will be judged. I know how imperfect a Catholic I am. It’s actually very easy to imagine you to be better at it than I.

It may be a bit late in our division to point this out. We are not at risk of destroying the Church: the Church can’t be destroyed. They can’t kill her – no matter who they are. Even we cannot kill her. She is the very body of Christ, the living and visible presence of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth: society, morals, politics, and culture are judged by her – not the other way around. If someone begins with a political assumption and then compares the Church to that assumption, they are living an ideology rather than a theology.

From Before Time


When next you approach Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, drawing near to the chalice in faith and love, kneeling at the rail, or coming to the front of line; when you receive from the Priest, Deacon, or Eucharistic Minister the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the God-Man, Jesus, born of Mary and descended from David by adultery, gentiles, and loss…

The next time you come to receive Holy Communion, remember: He’s been waiting right there for you from all eternity.

For in that morsel of what was bread, now all the eternity, all the infinity, all the glory and immensity, all the love that sustains the universe is present, right there. Any part of infinity is infinity. You are coming to Him, yes. But before you stood up, before you walked forward, before you entered the Church, before you were conceived, before your parents met, before your furthest ancestors rose unthinking from muck to see the sky, he was waiting for you and this moment. This dawn. This taste. This infinity on the tongue.

Before all else that was or ever shall be, this moment was in God’s heart and he loved you. You. YOU.

Think of all the things you fear, all the things that you’ve done. Think of all the things you had to let go of to be here today. Think of all the angry thoughts you had sitting in the pew a few moments ago, think of all the pain you’ve caused (be honest). Think of the things you’ve never told anyone except maybe to say a whisper inside confession or a therapist. All of them. Think of betrayed friends, of lies that let you escape, think of pride that kept you aloof, of love that you didn’t share, think of used people and loved things, think of your idols. Think of it ALL.

He called you here anyway. He loved you before all that – even knowing that you would do all that.

He is standing before you know with arms outstretched in love, and a heart as big as all of heaven lit with the glow of a love that has done nothing since all of eternity except wait for you here.

And it will be bliss and communion if you will but let it be so for he wills it for you. This love is yours if you will but have it.

Have this love.

Be this love.




We are often told that we should not do so, yet we often think of communion as a series of discrete incidents through the course of our lives. We think of this time I take communion. We think of that particle on the spoon from the sacred chalice, or of that host and this sip of wine. We think of this Tabernacle or that Altar. Yet we are mistaken.

Christ is undivided. In communion Holy Communion it is not Christ who is coming to you but rather you who are coming to Christ. in the Holy Eucharist it is not you who are making Thanksgiving, but rather Christ who is making Thanksgiving to God the Father through you. In the most holy sacrament it is not his life given to you but your life given to him.

Christ is one eternal love, undivided in the most holy sacrament of the altar, on the throne of Glory in heaven, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, in the tomb, on the cross, in the resurrection, and harrowing the Gates of hell there is now only one moment in time. You come to that moment, that one moment in time is united, undivided in the hearts of Christ’s faithful people everywhere.

The Holy Trinity is being itself, ipsum esse subsistens, the action of, the will to, and the existence in one present instant. We cannot will our own existence, we do not sustain our being in a moment by moment continual action of our presence, but we pretend to. In that we do thus pretend, we cut our life from divine Zoe and turn it into mere breath, into soma and pneuma, lost in space and time and meaning. Communion is the action of restoration initiated by Christ, made present on the altar, and opened before us in the divine dance.

When you genuflect before the Tabernacle, when you bow before the presence as you pass, when you kneel in adoration and awe before the exposed monstrance, when you partake of the most sacred body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, the remission of sins, and life everlasting you finally come to yourself, to that one moment that is and forever shall be. With you and around him who receives you, stand all the hosts of heaven and all our beloved departed. They are with you now united forever and ever. Undivided, lost in eternity no more, we stand at the center of all, of you and of all existence, of all history, all time, the entire universe, the entire multiverse in that one point of eternal light.

You cannot come to communion but that you come to this terrifying, dreadful, death-defying love. There is no way to receive only a bit of eternity, only a tiny particle of forever. Infinity is never divided. The smallest piece of infinity is itself infinity. It receives you. You stand with all of us within the undivided. United in God.