Face to Face

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 17th week, Tempus per Annum (C1):

Loquebatur autem Dominus ad Moysen facie ad faciem, sicut solet loqui homo ad amicum suum.
The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to his friend.
The Hebrew word used for face in “face to face” is פָנִים panim a plural form. The word is first used in the Scriptures in Genesis 1:2 as the Spirit of God moves over the face of the waters. God and Moses speak in this hovering intimacy, face to face. It is an image that leaves one breathless. Does it not move you to desire the same? To exchange breath with the creator of all life, with the source of all breath! How can this be? How can one know God face to face?
There are hints later in the scriptures when God pours his Spirit out on the elders of Israel and Moses says he wishes it could be given to everyone in Israel. In the Prophets, Joel promises the Spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh.
In the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given in Baptism and sealed in the holy oil at Confirmation or Chrismation.
And in the Holy Eucharist this same Spirit, invoked upon the bread and wine, is communicated to us in the Body and Blood of God the Son, for one member of the Trinity is not present without the others. And we receive all of the Trinity when we partake of the bread and the wine. 
Bishop Barron says that “adore” comes from the Latin meaning “mouth to mouth” or “face to face”.  The actual etymology is not quite so intimate as it means only “from the mouth”, coming from the Latin meaning “to speak”.  If there was such a thing as Proto Indo European, then: from PIE root *or- “to pronounce a ritual formula” (source also of Sanskrit aryanti “they praise,” Homeric Greek are, Attic ara “prayer,” Hittite ariya- “to ask the oracle,” aruwai- “to revere, worship”) source. There’s not another mouth involved, in the word, but the one mouth, the one face, must speak to another.
And so when we approach the Eucharist in Adoration – and it needn’t be “exposed” for the Mystery is no less present in the monstrance on a Latin altar, than in the Tabernacle, behind a veil or an Iconostasis, or at Communion in the Liturgy. Under glass, in brass, or at Mass, it’s all God. And we can all address him face to face, as one does to his friend.
The Spirit of God hovers, waits for you to turn to him and open to receive. Come.  Taste and see.

Looking Trough a Cloud Darkly


JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

In the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic.

If you read Gone with the Wind you get a very different image of Scarlet O’Hara than you do if you watch the movie. The movie skipped bits of the book – which was the best selling book in America at the time – for the sake of brevity. And, because some narrative was edited out, bits of the on-screen story had to be changed. Did you know Scarlet had a son by her first husband before he died early in the war? Anyway: these things did not change the meaning of the movie for the audience at the time because they had all read the book. Moviemakers could make assumptions based on the knowledge of their audience.

I had this reading at the Easter Vigil and I was confused by this verse. Here it is again… so time to look into these word choices.
…Cast upon the Egyptian Force a glance… it sounds like a “dirty look”, or a sort of curse. And what’s with the very off-putting turn of phrase, cast on them a glance that threw? There are no passive verbs in the Hebrew, Greek, or Latin versions of this verse, nor in any English translation.
The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of this text, along with all the English ones based on them, have the Lord looking out and doing something.

The NABRE has the Lord looking out and then – through a really painful grammatical construction – has the Egyptians doing something in reaction to the look.

Are the translators trying to Save God’s Reputation? Well, probably not. Evidently, one bias in the modern Roman Catholic world is to eliminate “troubling” passages. In the ancient languages, this verse says God kills the Egyptians. That could, you know, raise questions. We’d end up discussing the book of Job.

Better to dodge that bullet by saying the Egyptians panic of their own free will which accidentally implies that they could see God looking at them.

Skipping passages that may raise questions is not limited to the Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Churches, where the daily offices of Matins and Vespers are often pared down to 30-45 mins of time (instead of the full celebration of same which could take – literally – hours) it’s up to the Choirmaster to pick which parts to skip. This results in some interesting choices depending on the biases involved. At a Monastery it’s the Father Superior who has that final say, and there, too, interesting choices are made.

The thing about liturgical editing of texts into a lectionary or an evening service is that it should assume literacy and familiarity on the part of the singers, readers, and congregation. All of us should know what was skipped for the sake of brevity or complexity. We should not be confused by the difference between the movie and the book

The real issue is that we do not know what we’re missing.

So when a Greek Parish compresses the entire 45 minute recitation (hour-plus if singing it properly) of the Matins Canon into 5-8 minutes, the Congregation begins to think that’s normal: it’s only the other, strange parishes that make up stuff to extend this. When the Liturgy of the Hours says here is the text for the Psalm, who notices any more when it skips a few verses? Do even the clergy who have to recite it know? When a church that uses the Common Lectionary has someone say, “That’s not in the Bible!” Is it because they never bothered to learn, or because someone hid it from them?

Love different


JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 14th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

Nequaquam, inquit, Jacob appellabitur nomen tuum, sed Israel : quoniam si contra Deum fortis fuisti, quanto magis contra homines praevalebis?
Thy name shall not be called Jacob, but Israel: for if thou hast been strong against God, how much more shalt thou prevail against men?

In Sunday’s readings, St Paul called the Church the “Israel of God” so it’s good to get reminded, today, what that means. Israel means one who wrestles with God.

Israel says to Joshua, “As we obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey thee also” (Joshua 1:17) and we know how well they listened to Moses! That’s the Church. If you don’t believe me look at Matthew 28:17 (another verse 17).  The risen Christ shows up, “And seeing him they adored: but some doubted.” Doubting him to his face they are. Here’s Jesus now! Oh, well, I don’t know…

But they don’t let go until Jesus blesses them anyway. That’s an honest picture of the Church. God is with us and sometimes we don’t like it. But may God have mercy on us anyways.

The Church is this wrestling partner and the bride of Christ, forever locked in a grapple, declaiming I will not let you go until you bless me. While we often think of the bride of Christ in romantic, sepia-toned, soft-focused images, the truth is the image we have for the church – for Israel – is often less Ward and June Cleaver and more Ralph and Alice Kramden. Even on her best days, the Church is more like Lucy Ricardo… Ricky, let me in the show! Loooceee!

So what does this mean for us, we who lovingly wrestle with God?

In the RCIA class last year one of the Disciples asked if they needed to accept all of the Catholic Church’s teaching before becoming Catholic at Eastet. It’s a valid question. The Church teaches a lot of things… some of which may draw you, some of which may repulse you. What do we do with that stuff?

If you’re joining the Catholic Church, you’re about to say “I believe everything the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”.  Notice that you don’t “believe everything the church believes.” If you’ve decided to become Catholic or to return to the practice of your faith, I think it’s fair to assume that your goal, your desire, is to be a faithful Catholic – without reservations. But you might have some reservations at the present time. The journey is the thing. Is it your goal to be 100% Catholic 100% of the time, even if you can’t do it exactly, just yet? God doesn’t want perfect disciples and even the Doubters in 28:17 get sent out as Apostles.

The entire story of the Bible is filled with people who do what God didn’t want and yet God brings good out of it. If you’re trying to do what is right… even if you can’t make it yet… you’re much further along than some of the important folks in the Bible! We leave behind, today, the story of Jacob and leap into the story of Joseph tomorrow. God’s beloved is sold into slavery… becomes the leader of the known world. Ah, how can we dance with a God like this and worry?

In my journey through very conservative forms of Christianity, I’ve met a lot of folks who openly reject this or that teaching of the Church. Then they act as if they are the insulted ones in the relationship. I’ve always wondered why they bother to be Catholic or Orthodox. I don’t really know. They’ve stopped struggling. They’ve decided they are more right than the Church. But they are clearly not 100% sure: because if you’ve stopped being Catholic or Orthodox go be Protestant. Be faithful to your inner voice and follow your conscience!

But then there are many faithful others who struggle. They want to be this thing, but they have failures. They want to be Catholic, but really? This thing about sex? Really? This thing about birth control? Really? This thing about the Pope? Really? This thing about… I’m serious, they have trouble. But they admit they are having trouble, they struggle, they wrestle. They know that there is something here. They even know they are wrong. When they stumble, they go to confession, they talk to their priest, they abstain from communion… then they come back.

They don’t want the Church to change to please them. They want to – but they can’t yet – change. It’s just not happening. The issue is not how many times you fall: you have only to get up one more time than you fall. It’s only one more time.

I will NOT let you go until you bless me. One of these days, Alice. One of these days… to heaven.

Come back next week, try again. Even limping away, you win.

Act of Resignation


JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 12th week of Ordinary Time (C1)

Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support them if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. There were quarrels between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s.

We plan… contrary to God’s command… and crap happens. See: if Abram had no heir, then his Nephew would inherit. So Lot is on the journey to watch after Uncle’s stuff. God has told Abram he will be a great nation but Abram’s just covering his bases, making sure the lot falls to him in a favorable way, you’ll pardon the pun. Then Lot gets quite wealthy and begins to squabble with his uncle. They part ways, when we next see him in the story he’s been captured. And, after that, comes the Sodom Story. Lot is not going to do well for tripping up God’s plans.

Those who fail to plan plan to fail. Or so we’re told, but God has other plans for us than the ones that we can make. Our human Free Will serves only one purpose: we can choose to follow God or not. Every question, every choice, every decision, every random act falls under this rubric. We can choose to follow God or not. We are entirely free. God will do what God wants to do anyway. Not to you, not against you. If you choose not to go along, if you choose not to do the mission he has for you, if you decide not to say the word he has you set up to say, he’ll get somebody else. He is God, after all. But what will you miss if you fail to dance to the tune that God has set out for you?

We will never know. That has become a good that God had planned for the world that will not come into the world because you refused to give it birth. You aborted it. God can freely do what God will do but you can freely refuse to cooperate. There is only one choice: we can choose to follow God or not. I used the word aborted on purpose. God can bring new life into the world and we can refuse to cooperate with him. Who knows what great musicians, what wonderful doctors, what magnificent scientists, what world statespersons we’re sacrificing on the altar of our choice? We will never know. But we can do so.

Likewise, when God has a plan laid out, steps to call, a fiddle to play and we decide not to dance; what do we miss? We come along for the ride but when we get wealthy, we go our own way.

I have been thinking lately of two prayers. This one is from St Ignatius:

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me. 

And this one is called the Act of Resignation:

O Lord my God, I now, from this moment do I accept from Thy hands, with burning love and sincere contrition, with a calm and willing disposition, whatsoever death Thou shalt choose to send me, with its pains and griefs. Amen.

These prayers have been in my thoughts because I sensed I might have cancer. I had a lump or two that I could not explain, and there was also a spot. I say these prayers every day, but they were words. Suddenly they had meaning. I kept looking at these prayers wondering if I could pray them any more and mean them. Only vaguely, was I able to pray them. Only vaguely. I haven’t quite decided yet if I need to make confession about that.

It dawned on me as I struggled with them, that these prayers speak of nearly every aspect of our lives: not just death. So many times we think we know what we need and we demand it of God. When we don’t get what we think we need we tell God we will go our own way and we’ll get it ourself. That can be a new job, a new apartment, a new spouse, a new set of shoes, a new diet, a new political party, a different Parish, a better Pastor, a better boss, we go looking for anything that we want instead of struggling with what we have. This is, in a way, libertarianism done up in a personal lifestyle. I’ve come to realize that anyone who uses libertarian memes or thought processes, for any economics, politics, or personal choice is a functional atheist.

We think of libertarianism as being something along the lines of smaller government means fewer laws and so I can do what I want, and most people, left to do what they want, will do what is right. We’re Christians, people. We know that’s a lie. Most people, left to do what they want, will not do what is right. They will do what is good for them. Reagan’s trickle-down economics voodoo economics as it was called or any supply-side dream is exactly that: a dream. We think of Taxation is theft because I should not have to give up my wealth. But it’s not yours its Gods. Libertarianism is functional atheism. We’re saying God step aside we know what to do here.

But this is not just an economic choice. This is any cultural choice. Libertarianism is what gives us our free divorce laws. Libertarianism is what gives us our business structures. Libertarianism is what gives us our bizarre approach to politics, regardless of which political party we say we belong to. We say we live in a country where anyone can grow up to have a political office. We’ve proven that several times in the last 60 years. I don’t want to live in a country where anyone can hold political office. I want to live in a country where only qualified people get elected. People with good schooling, people with good education all the way through their life. People who understand other cultures and want to work for peace. Not anyone.

On the other hand, we rob our people of good education and of culture by the same libertarian shenanigans. The market will not tolerate it, we say. Let the market decide who can afford things. I’d rather a nation where car wash attendants know Shakespear and Sun Tzu, than a nation where people without knowledge of Shakespear and Sun Tzu are allowed to run the country because they are rich. This same choice applies all the way down the line. Any time we say “the market” and we speak of “religious choice” or “educational systems”, any time we appeal to finances to verify ethics, anytime we make a cryptic appeal to a “hidden hand” we are closing the door to structured, ethical choices and opening the door to their opposite. We are pretending God doesn’t get involved (which is the same as “doesn’t exist”) and we’re saying that God doesn’t use human hands and institutions (ie Gov’t) to regulate human evil.

So what about my cancer? Well, I didn’t want to go to the doctor for quite some time. I was terrified of what I might hear. I was terrified of what would happen the day I went in and the doctor said yes this is cancer. Who would I tell take care of my cat? To whom would I give my stuff? I don’t have answers for these and every time I tried to talk about it I would get shut down. I finally realized I had to trust God. Among the tools God has given me are medical professionals. So I finally realized I had to say those two prayers and then go talk to my doctor. So I said them vaguely. I took a deep breath. And I went to the doctor.

In the end, Lot loses everything. And Abram takes him under his wing. God has things for Abram to do, but God wants us to follow our cultural dictates and take care of our family too. Abram disobeyed God, but God still used him.

We have only one choice: to follow God or not. Submitting to God’s will is the right choice. But it’s never the only choice. We can find ourselves moving right along after Decades of having made our own choices. We can come back. The choice is either rules or no rules. Because if God Is Right the other things to one degree or another, to a greater degree or less, are off the mark. They might begin pretty close together, but drawn into eternity, eventually, those lines will diverge greatly.

When the Doctor told me I hadn’t cancer but rather some genetic issue called a “lipoma”, I was greatly relieved. When the Doctor told me that the spot was nothing to worry about and, by the way, for someone with such pale skin, you seem to be impervious to sun issues, I pretty much danced out of the office. These prayers are no longer just words. When God finally, really calls me from my family and friends to a new land flowing with milk and honey, will I be ready to go?

Are you a hacker?

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 7th Week of Easter:

What will happen to me there I do not know, except that in one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.

Have you heard about “hypermiling”? These are folks who learn every possible trick to play with their car to get the most gas mileage possible. They go into neutral (or even turn off the car) when they go down a hill. They ride close behind large trucks on the highway so that they can take advantage of the lowered wind resistance. This was a huge thing in the early part of this century, but it requires a standard transmission and, even better, standard brakes and steering.  Every part of your car that is automated, they say, takes away control from you and prevents you from hacking it for better mileage.  For these folks, it is the mileage that is important rather than the travel. Longer trips are better for mileage, and the drive is important, sorta… but it’s the mileage that is the thing. What’s the data from the tank?

We are all aware that we are going to die. Each of us in varying degrees has this awareness. The degree is not one or presence vrs absence; rather some of us are able to say with more or less certainty, “I’m not going to die soon.” Yet all of us know death is out there somewhere. We may be more or less fatalistic about it: I will die when it comes, so until then I shall do everything I can. I have no control over when I shall day. Or there are those who try to take control and live forever. Jack at Twitter seems to be one of these, “lifehacking” everything from how often he sleeps to how little he eats in an obsessive drive, seemingly, to keep living life more. What could be wrong with that? 

All of Silicon Valley Culture seems to be currently obsessed with this, to be honest. As a people, we’re hung up on data (rather than persons or individuals) and we need to see the highest possible return on the data… we seem rather to not care that there are people involved. We want to approach everything with a “scientific” outlook, by which we mean we don’t care about any subjective content, only quantifiable data that can be plotted (up and to the right, please). Jack’s attempt to plot life using data and hacking the code is only the same drive on a different level. 

This is to be expected of a culture built largely by people who live in code. Trust me on this, we try even to hack religion. I’m quite used to us, even as I need to, daily, deprogram myself, to remind myself that my relationships with persons are not data-based. My conversation with you (even via the written word) is with someone created in the image and likeness of our Father, God.

What has either of these to do with St Paul?

St Paul’s awareness of his mortality is living, active, and present. He knows from day to day that he lives only at God’s pleasure. His desire is not to get every possible thing out of this life, but rather only to finish his course and to finish the ministry God has given to him. Those are the same thing: he’s going to die before God is through with him. God’s not going to “kill him” before he’s done with his work. The work and the life are coterminous. The surest sign that God is not through with him is that he is still breathing. If he were to focus on his life, qua life, instead of on the ministry, it would be like Adam and Eve grabbing for knowledge on their own terms instead of waiting for God to bestow it.

This is our primary choice in the world. I was going to add “in the world today” but the reality is that it has been our choice since the garden. Do we do what  God asks or do we grab things on own terms? Do we hack? Do we try to “get the most” out of things instead of holding them and thanking God for them and letting them go? The signs are probably different for each of us, but recent indications that I have been hacking things have included how I edit these posts for fear that someone might read them for “hate speech” and mess up “my life”. First off, it’s not mine. Secondly, if I’m speaking Truth then it’s not hate but I do have fear like that. I have fear, also, of bad medical news, so I don’t go to the doctor when I don’t want to know. Avoiding pain, avoiding fear: these are signs I’m trying to hack life.

Paul knows God wants him in Jerusalem – and Paul knows that his life is going to change drastically when he gets to Jerusalem. He replies only that he’s going to Jerusalem – although he sets things in order, telling the elders what to do when he leaves. He wants only to finish the race before him. Jerusalem is not the end of the race – in fact Paul will take preaching the Gospel to new levels: reaching even to Nero and his household. Nero’s not sane enough to hear truth, but his people are so over the insanity, that they are willing to hear about this new Kyrios who won’t ruin their souls.

Paul brings to close the quest for “more life” by realizing that as long as he does what God wants he will live as long as God needs him to – not one minute more. We cannot hypermile all the way through this life, holding on to control to get the most out it. Jack’s going to die just like the rest of us. So the question is not “How do I live more?” but rather “What would God have me do now?” If God has something new for me to do then it’s up to him to keep me alive. If God wants me to do or act or say – then it’s up to God to bring out of that “thought, word, or deed” whatever it is he needs. It’s only up to me to do the thing, to say the word. To lifehack and to be fearful are both strange forms of practical atheism.  

With St Ignatius we say:

LORD Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish Thou hast given me. I surrender it all to be guided by Thy will. Thy grace and Thy love are wealth enough for me. Give me these Lord Jesus and I ask for nothing more. Amen.

Even when death comes, that is time only to meet God. We are so fearful of that prospect, that this other prayer seems pure insanity:

O Lord my God, I now, from this moment do I accept from Thy hands, with burning love and sincere contrition, with a calm and willing disposition, whatsoever death Thou shalt choose to send me, with its pains and griefs. Amen.

This is why St Paul says to take all things and make Eucharist (Thanksgiving) with them: as long as we’re not grabbing for more, then each thing that comes our way is what God would have for us at that time. We turn it to heaven and ask that we may make of it the best use God would have us make for his plan.

Authoritay

+J+M+J+

The Readings for Tuesday in the 6th week of Easter (C1)

(Who proceeds from the Father…) I will send him to you.

I’m not going to defend the Filioque clause with this essay except by accident. I’m continually asked why I left Orthodoxy for Catholicism traveling from east to west, so I thought I should finally answer clearly online. I’ve done so in private conversations, but I’ll try to lay it out here.

As has been documented in many places, I left the Episcopal Church because the threads of orthodox, traditional Christianity that I found there were entirely optional. That they were becoming fewer and further between was a sign that I needed to leave. Staying where I could pick and choose doctrine was a sign that I wasn’t under Authority so much as I was in a religious shopping center. It’s important to say that at the top of this essay.

When I left the Episcopal Church, I had it in my mind that Orthodoxy and Catholicism were the only places I could go but the Roman Church was, in 2002, going through the “Boston” sex scandal which was turning into a much wider issue. There were prochoice Nuns arguing for women’s ordination, there were clown masses, and there were Catholic politicians who couldn’t tell doctrine from dog poop.  Having been in the Episcopal Church where all of that had led directly (in less than 20 years) to the “Thing I was Leaving” I didn’t want to do it again. Rome was not going to work for me. So I became Orthodox.

If you’ve followed my blog at all you know everything that happened there, from my crazy convert phase to my ultraliberal “indy” phase. You know I went to a monastery at the end, meeting there the Western Rite Orthodox community of Denver and the surrounding area as well as from other parts of the country. When you’re in a monastery (I was only there for 6 months) you suddenly discover you’re plugged into all the gossip in the church. You hear literally everything going on, even in the furthers corners of the ecclesiosphere.

At the monastery during a long talk with my brother, Nicholas, I wrestled with the idea of being a monastic who lived at 7500 feet above sea level, who never had to “serve” anyone unless they drove 3 hours out from Denver to ask for my help. Nicholas said to me, “You want to be a friar. Orthodoxy doesn’t have friar.” Discernment continues…

What I discovered between 2002 and 2016 was that everything I had run away from in Rome was also present in Orthodoxy: financial scandals (primates who rack up credit card debt, monasteries that get re-possessed, chancellors who steal money, parishes & missions that go into debt because they build for 500 when they have 4 families), political infighting (the OCA and ROCOR basically exist because two wealthy Russian families had a fight in the midwest in the 1920s, currently the Greeks and the Russians are out of communion with each other, and don’t ask how many Bishops engage in simony), and sex scandals (from Bishops molesting women and diddling seminarians to having relationships with clergy, monastics raping each other). There are liturgical messes (between the modernizations of the GOA and the AOCANA, altar girls, and other shenanigans) and high-placed liberals (with all the same sexual and moral collapse that we have come to expect in the west, and politicians who flaunt their faith for votes even as they totally ignore the teachings of the same, and clergy who get all swept up in the awe of knowing senators or mayors). The a la carte nature of the Church is just the same as well: Orthodoxy in America, like the Roman Church, is filled with “conservatives” who get hung up on moral conformity, as long as they can keep their wallets and political choices out of the arena. Vote against gay marriage and abortion, but vote to keep the minimum wage down and taxes low, and whatever you do keep the aliens outside the borders. Libertarian Orthodox are as annoying as Libertarian Catholics. The Racist Orthodox are as evil as Racist Catholics. The hideaway from evangelism Catholics are just as tiresome as the hideaway from evangelism Orthodox.

In short, the main difference between the two bodies was one of size: the media doesn’t care what the Orthodox churches do because they are tiny (at least in America). Not enough readers would care if there was a sex party at an Orthodox seminary. (Orthodox? What are they, Jewish?) For every one Orthodox parish I could reach I could find 20 or so Catholic Churches within spitting distance. I have to walk by three to get to St Dominic’s on Sunday.

There’s a huge mess right here, and an equally huge mess much further away, why waste all that gas?

Rome had the one advantage of insisting that both Orthodoxy and Catholicism are equally the Church, whilst Orthodoxy says she alone is that thing – although the way the Russians treat Catholic Clergy (and Laity) coming into Orthodoxy says rather a bit more.

Both lungs of the Church for all that they are filled with signs of age and too much smoking are also filled with life, pure air, and the circulating Blood of Christ. If I were in Russia, I’d still be Orthodox. Alexy II has expensive watches, political alliances with Putin, imperialist eyeballs on the Ukraine, and no shortage of Russian Neo-Nazis beating folks up with crosses made of 2x4s. But Orthodoxy is the Church there. There are sinners everywhere. I don’t want a pure church: I want the true one.

I’m here, in the West, where the Patriarch of Rome is in charge and all the same problems. I’ll stick with him. Sure, he insists that John 15:26 needs to be linked up with John 16:7. I’m ok with that.

Pro Invicem

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 30th week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Subjecti invicem in timore Christi.
Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ. 

Paul opens up this passage with a command that gets lost in the shuffle of modern political readings of scripture. Focus on the command not on the elucidation. Serving… being subject to one another. How does that seem to us today?

Evidently, when two powerful males are introduced, the games of power mean that whoever extends their hands first means they are being subservient. Also evidently if you let someone go ahead of you on the Highway, you are indicating that you know you are blocking traffic. I’ve read (on twitter) that letting a woman enter a door before me is actually a sign that I am in control: I’m not being polite or subject to the other party.

Silly psycho-political games we play.

And yet, Jesus does say that whoever would lead… must be the servant of all. To use our broken ideas of Psychology, then… while Pope Benedict (above) washes the feet of folks on Maundy Thursday… Pope Francis must be making quite the power play by washing the feet of prisoners:


Or, perhaps, humility is a thing in itself and we should not let modern political babble confuse us.

We are to be servants of each other.  We are to be subject one to another.

This can be harder than it sounds. Social norms are as hard to navigate as white water rafting at night. Trying to figure out who’s in a room is enough for me: placing myself at the service of the least in the room requires figuring out who they are. I blurt out questions when it’s not my turn, don’t know when to jump into a conversation, can’t remember names to save my life, and (to be honest) struggle with other psychological issues that are not commonly acknowledged outside of certain Church documents but arise from the sins with which I struggle. So it’s a safe thing for me to just say to everyone in line, “you go first”. 

Our culture, on the other hand, wants everything to be “fair” by which they mean mostly “as long as I get mine…” Why should I come early and stay late? Others will do that. Why shouldn’t I get promoted at work before others? Why would that poor slob win the lottery when I need it more?

I remember reading a story of a pair of Orthodox nuns visiting a parish. You’ll need to know that in many modern Orthodox places monastics can be viewed with suspicion. This can be helped by some anti-monastic bishops… anyway… these two nuns were visiting a parish and were at coffee hour socializing with everyone else and suddenly a woman pointed at them eating and having a good time and said, “See, they are hypocrites. They come here to ask for charity, but then they take our food like a member of the parish and just laugh.” One nun stood up and and was offended. The other prostrated herself at the feet of her accuser and asked forgiveness. 

The second nun was subjecti invicem in timore Christi.

I love the stories of the Christian Martyrs whose faith was discovered because they were visiting Christians already in prison to bring them food or messages from home. When Christians actually do “Pro Invicem” we get in trouble. Christians get arrested for feeding the homeless, for sheltering Jews, for ignoring unjust laws, for hiding slaves, for helping refugees. We’ve been getting in trouble for this since Paul was hiding escaped slaves, emotionally bullying their masters into manumission and using the Church to subvert cultural paradigms all over the empire. As government and societies today are trying to force us back into slavery to pagan ideals of nationalism, immorality, and racism, I hope we stand firm.

But I hope we do so by subversion, by pro invicem… we must remember to love our enemies… because we don’t have any. Literally every political thing in the world is here to distract us from God, and it is supposed to look like “our enemies” are doing it  – so we blame the other humans – but we forget the only enemies we have are demons? Literally every political or “social justice” thing is a false flag op.

That person over there is not a demon, is a living icon of God. They may be wrong… they may need to be opposed or voted out of office or imprisoned for crimes, but they are also to be served by us. By serving them we will win them for Christ. We will win the world that way.

The Domestics

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 29th week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Quoniam per ipsum habemus accessum ambo in uno Spiritu ad Patrem. Ergo jam non estis hospites, et advenae : sed estis cives sanctorum, et domestici Dei.
For by him we have access both in one Spirit to the Father. Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God.
We’re so very used to our modern “classless” society that we tend to think the idea of class is bad. As we play that assumption we forget to note that class is a very real part of our world: it is only the obligations of class that we have done away with. Rich and poor are treated equally before the law as is proper in things criminal, but in things civil there was a notion of noblesse oblige, the idea that one’s higher position required an assumption of charity, of noble largess to those in a lower station. We still have classes of folks in America, we’ve just done away with the idea of an obligation entailed by participation in that structure.

When the Vanderbilt family moved to Asheville, NC, in the 1880s, they built a huge estate… railroad money, you know… but that was not all that they did: they reforested much of several counties that had been greedily logged after the Civil War and left barren. This actually became the seed (root?) for the first national forest, the Pisgah National Forest. They imported experts to decorate the house… whom they hired to teach the locals how to be artisans. They built housing for their growing family and, in the area known as Biltmore Village, they even built a church.

This is noblesse oblige.

In a similar situation today – if someone owned say a Palace or a Casino, or a Tower with their name on it – these folks would all be thought of as “employees” and may not even get them health insurance or a living wage. It’s not just folks who have the trump card in the economic world, either. At one time a single man of my paygrade would have employed a valet and a cook, quite possibly a maid as well. And these would have invested in my success as much as anyone: for my success was theirs as well. Today I do my own laundry and turn out my own lights.

We’d call that a smart business decision. The Vanderbilts would call it greed, sin, and would think it beneath their station to act is such a way.

Why this lecture of the cultural morals of another time?

Because it was the same in St Paul’s time. Because to be a wealthy member of the society in which Paul lived was to have servants and one could judge the quality of the person by they way they treated their servants or those less fortunate who lived around them. This was true in the Roman world just as a matter of culture, but in the Jewish world it was a matter of God’s law. The latter dictated how the wealthy were to leave the corners of the field for strangers to harvest for free, how temple sacrifices were shared with the poor, how an entire society was built around property and yet sharing at the same time.

All this to explain when St Paul uses one Greek word οἰκεῖος ekeios to describe the position of Gentiles and Jews united together. On the one hand it means “members of the same household”, but on the other hand it’s the same word used for what we would call today, The Family, and The Help. Folks upstairs and down are equally part of the same οἰκεῖος.

Paul is using this word on purpose to show that there is no difference between classes of people in the Household of God, for we are all one people. All one household – no matter what our classes are “in the world”. In this household we are all together and all servants. Even our Lord and God washes our feet. So much so should we to each other. Rich and poor, Jew or Greek, in the household of God we are all there, all with our parts to play, all with our obligations to each other fully in place. None of us can claim to be above the other, for we are all in need in someway, all rich in some way, and all called to share in humility in all ways.

Yes, Virginia, there are Angels. OK, Maryland.

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Tuesday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Videte ne contemnatis unum ex his pusillis : dico enim vobis, quia angeli eorum in caelis semper vident faciem Patris mei, qui in caelis est.
See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 
When I was 2, I wondered away from my grandmother’s front porch. I made it all the way to the corner by the Presbyterian Church in Fort Gaines, GA. This was a full block away. I was standing on the corner watching the traffic – I wasn’t on the sidewalk. I was on the curb – when my grandfather, coming home from work yelled at me out of his car window. 

I ran all the way back to a switching on the porch. God only know what could have happened to me standing on the corner there. But thank God Grandpa showed up! (I didn’t think so at the time, because no one likes a switch…)
That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the “mind of the Church”, as St. Jerome expressed it: “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II). St Basil says, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” And the Catechism, citing St Basil, adds, “Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”
These angels… 
I told this story the other day, about getting caught in a blizzard on the freeway and I had forgotten it entirely. Its never come up since it happened (in January, I think, of 2007). I was driving from Hamilton, Ontario, to Richmond, Virginia. I had stopped at a rest area in Maryland to get a nap. It was a lovely night. When I awoke there were about 3 inches of snow on my car… carefully backing out and moving along the freeway, there were about 8 inches within an hour. I was going about 15 miles an hour and there was no one on the highway but me. Ok, I’m stupid. There are no hotels, no gas stations… nothing.
Anyways…
This 18 wheeler comes along side of me… and then pulls in front of me…  then  slows down to match my speed. It was a lot easier driving in one of his tracks, let me tell you. We’re going down a mountain and the truck turns on a blinker. I’m not stupid by this point I do the same thing. I follow the truck off on a ramp. We get to the intersection at the ramp and he signals a right turn. I do the same. He drives into the intersection, and I turn right… and he goes off through the other ramp back on to the freeway. I look, and there’s a hotel. 
That’s my impression of how guardian angels work. And no, I’m not saying that the Trucker was actually an Angel. Nor my grandfather. But something made that truckdriver act that way, even though I’m sure that he only used his CB to locate a hotel and led me there. Something brought my grandfather home at exactly the right moment – or maybe kept me safe until he go there.
That’s an Angel acting their part.
Mine stays very busy.
Here’s a performance of Britten’s The Company of Heaven. It’s one of my faves…

Poets of the Logos

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Mater mea et fratres mei hi sunt, qui verbum Dei audiunt et faciunt.
My Mother and Brothers are those who are hearing and doing the Word of God.

Jesus, like his brother, James, makes much of those who Hear AND Do. James and Jesus both link up the same Greek words for this (James 1:22 and here in Luke 8:21). Although the English wants a pronoun as an object here, neither the Greek nor the Latin have one: the Latin says “Who the Word of God hear and do” and the Greek says “who the word of God are hearing and doing.” (I Stand to be corrected on the tenses there, but I think I read aright.)

This is important because the Greek word that Luke (and James) picked here for “word” is not the usual one that means “teaching” but rather “Logos” which means far more. One might say the “Mind of God”, or even the “Organizing Principle of God”. The very pattern of God woven into all of Creation. This Logos is so important that it is, in fact, a title of Jesus, who is called the Logos incarnate. Through Luke, Jesus (and also St James) are inviting us to hear-and-do the Logos using a Greek word (poieo) meaning “maker” or “creator”. They are inviting us to become poets of the Logos.

This theme runs through Jesus’s teachings in so many ways: not burying your talents, not hiding your light under a bushel, not stepping out of God’s moral plan for you life. Hearing-and-doing the Logos makes so much more sense than “Following your bliss”. St James said on Sunday, “You ask but you do not receive because you ask to satisfy your passions”. The primary message of the Cross is that your life is not about you. You don’t get to do anything you want. You get to do what you were born to do which is to serve as God served when he lived among us.

We don’t like that. Americans far prefer rebels, as I noted about yesterday’s readings. Even though she spent her entire life in humble obedience to the Church – even kicking out a cofounder who wanted to get married after his divorce – Dorothy Day is remembered as a Rebel. Double Ditto for St Francis. Faithful children of the church are not welcomed models for us today. We don’t like to think of Dorothy as a “supporter of patriarchy” nor Francis of Assisi writing pained letters about sloppy liturgics. We want hippies and uppity women to make our history. Jesus wants poets who can dance within the pattern laid down by God, his Father and ours.


Jesus says that hearing-and-doing makes one his Mother and his Brother. James, his brother, says the same thing. And Mary, his mother (but James’ stepmother) would know full well what dancing with the Logos can mean. But James and Jesus, now, they get this from Mary’s Husband, Joseph the Craftsman. He knew how to work with wood like a poet. He knew how to work with the grain of wood, how to make beauty in tune with nature. And yet, because he worked with his hands, he would have been part of an underclass in both Jewish and Roman cultures.

The true artisan knows that about his craft, bread-baking, wood working, wordsmithing, iron mongery, gardening, child-rearing, music, stained glass… we all participate that way in the Divine Nature as we mirror the Divine Craftsman. Jesus calls us to participate in that ongoing creative process as that image of God in us is our salvation.

Go be poets of the logos. Work out your salvation.