Deny. Take. Follow.

Jerusalem Cross: Representing the Five Holy Wounds

JMJ

The Readings for the 18th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Our Lady of the Snows

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16:24

THERE IS A PHRASE in the Catechism that gets bandied about, that drives me bonkers. In the English there is a mistranslation. That seems important. Here’s the paragraph in Latin:

Gloria Dei est ut haec manifestatio et haec communicatio Suae bonitatis, propter quas mundus creatus est, in rem ducantur. « Praedestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Iesum Christum in Ipsum, secundum beneplacitum voluntatis Suae in laudem gloriae gratiae Suae » (Eph 1,5-6). « Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei. Si enim quae est per condicionem ostensio Dei vitam praestat omnibus in terra viventibus, multo magis ea quae est per Verbum manifestatio Patris vitam praestat his qui vident Deum ». Finis ultimus creationis est ut Deus, « qui conditor est omnium, tandem fiat “omnia in omnibus” (1 Cor 15,28), gloriam Suam simul et beatitudinem nostram procurando ».

¶294

Right here: Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei. It’s a quote from St Irenaeus of Lyon. Even though I quote it in Latin, the Latin is only the Catechism: St Irenaeus wrote in Greek. I’m searching for – but cannot find – a copy of the Greek. I realize at the top of this post that all that follows may be overturned by one Greek quote with a reference link.

Anyway, in the official English translation, it gets rendered as the oft-quoted “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God.” Please note there is no superlative in the Latin. Nor is there in any of the other European Languages:

French: Car la gloire de Dieu, c’est l’homme vivant, et la vie de l’homme, c’est la vision de Dieu.
German: Denn Gottes Ruhm ist der lebendige Mensch; das Leben des Menschen aber ist die Anschauung Gottes.
Italian: Infatti la gloria di Dio è l’uomo vivente e la vita dell’uomo è la visione di Dio.
Spanish: Porque la gloria de Dios es que el hombre viva, y la vida del hombre es la visión de Dios.
Portoguese: Porque a glória de Deus é o homem vivo, e a vida do homem é a visão de Deus.

Each of these translations says that the Glory of God is “the life of man” or “a living man”. But there is no superlative. No “fully alive” in any of these things.

The reason it makes me bonkers is that “fully alive” sounds so much like “follow your bliss” and in the hands of the nefarious it turns into permission to out, loud, and proud, and in the hands of the misled it becomes pablum.

Glory though… let’s look at glory. In Greek, the word “glory” usually means radiance and shining light. The word itself, “Doxa” comes from a root meaning to “appear” and it has more to do with the visual experience of something. The Glory of God, therefore, is a “bright shining light” and it’s something that can blind us or reflect on our faces (as with Moses).

In Hebrew, the word is “Kavod” and it has little to do with a shining light. It means “weight”. It’s something felt rather than seen. God’s presence is, as it were, pressing down on us from above. The head covering traditional for Jewish males can be seen as the hand of the Holy One pressing down.

This weight – this reality – is felt in the presence of the pillar of fire pressing down from heaven. Here is something more real than the reality we have or see. This reality is our life. Turn in contemplation: this glory is the life of man. To rest in this light, to rest under the intense weight of this Presence is to become real. To dodge it is to miss the mark, to fall into oblivion.

In Yeshua this reality becomes both present to us and one of us. The Glory of God, the weight, the more-real-than-any-of-us, the Existing One, the One-Who-is, the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and the Tav, enters our world as one of us.

Jesus the God-man.

Although I don’t think the line from St Ignatius bears this weight fully, I have heard one Orthodox priest say that the proper translation is “The Glory of God is the life of a man” with the man in question being Jesus. I’m ok with that reading as long as it is not the only meaning. It leads us to where I want to go:

Jesus’ act of self-emptying led from the Trinity, to the silence of the Womb of the All-Holy Virgin. God unable to speak, the word of God with only a baby’s cries. God with dirty diapers. God with daily chores. God with acne. Deny yourself. God with favorite foods and, most likely, not favorite ones. (“Young man, eat your auntie’s sweet potato surprise, and don’t forget to say ‘todah’“). God with stage fright on the day of his Bar Mitzvah. God taking up his daily life daily.

Just as we are all called to do. God making a sacrament out of every action man can make. Taking out the garbage? God has done this. Dozing off. God’s been there. God is so in love with you that he has done this. The life of man. It is God’s glory.

But that is not all: for on the Cross he was lifted up – it called it his glorification. It is his throne. And so daily we must walk in the way Yeshua walked: because he, in his person, is God walking among us. As the Cross was the Glory of Messiah it must be our Glory as well. As the cross bore the weight of Messiah it must bear our weight as well.

The Glory of God is the Life of Man.

See?

Seduxisti me Domine 

JMJ

The Readings for the Feast of St Mary Magdalen
16th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

I have found him whom my soul loveth.

Song of Songs 3:4

THIS VERSE SOUNDS like romance – and it is, certainly. I have seen it on a wedding ring. But that’s not what the Song of Songs is about. Or, rather, that’s not why it’s included in the Bible. I have also seen this verse embroidered on a tallit, that is, on a Jewish prayer shawl. It is how one feels about God, is it not? I have found him? Although, you know… it was not you who were seeking him. We have to dance with God, but God dances the lead. As the title of this post says, “You seduced me, Lord.” The text from Jeremiah 20:7 continues, “But I let myself be seduced”. It’s both-and. This line runs from the very beginning of scripture: God calls the world into being. God calls Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. God calls to Cain. God calls to Noah, to Abram, to Moses, God is always calling. It is we who reply. Yet somehow even that reply is him calling us. The love of Christ, as St Paul says, impels us. It is always God’s love that comes back to him.

This hymn by Jean Inglow is often sung by the friars at my parish:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true,
no, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold,
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea.
‘Twas not so much that I on thee took hold
as thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but, oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
always thou lovedst me.

This is the right melody but not the friars

Mary Magdalen is conflated by Church tradition with several women in the Gospels including the woman who washed and anointed Jesus in the house of Simon. There she is said to be forgiven much because she loved much (Luke 7:47). In later legends she is also conflated in the West with St Mary of Egypt, another person who can be said to have loved too much. When we love in that way, too much, we burn out. Things that are not ours to love in proper order become idols when we loved them. Disordered love is always idolatry. But God can put it back again into the right orientation. God can give things their proper perspective and function: that is to say, when God becomes the center, all the things move into the right places. Yet it is him moving them.

God’s love is properly envisioned as the love of a husband for his bride: we’re ever in the passive role when it comes to God. Yet his passion is for us: his consuming fire is the love of us. As marriage is a mystery “of Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32), so God used the image of an unfaithful wife in Hosea to convey his love for Israel.

“It was then that Hosea understood what had never been understood before him, the secret motives of God’s jealousy. This jealousy was in fact the very reverse; it was the touchstone of a sentiment that one would never have imagined the Creator could have for his creation: God is in love with his creature, in love with something that draws its very life from him, was made by him, but has nothing to give him. However, it is not merely a matter of pity, compassion, or an inclination to save, but rather of loving. Now there is no love without admiration. I think that what distinguished pity from love most strikingly is that with pity there is an awareness that one is better placed than the other; in the case of pity one bends down to another because the heart has been touched by the other’s misery, whereas with real love there is always wonder, always admiration. And when God says that he loves, it is a very serious matter and means that he has wonder and admiration for the beloved. It seems almost blasphemous to say that God can love his creature. How could such a crazy idea ever come forth from a human brain – that God loves his creature? We can imagine that his mercy should be poured out without limit, but that he loves…?”

Fr Dominique Barthelemey, OP
God and His Image” p 166-167

Israel and the Church serve as this sign for all humanity. God loves us all in this way. And what he does for us, he has done for all. All are loved that way if only everyone would open our eyes.

Mary’s eyes were opened first. She is called the Apostle to the Apostles – she who was sent to those who are sent. She is also the Especial Protectress of the Dominicans and so your host as well. She clung to the Lord, he called her name, and gave her a mission. Mary went to the garden – but Jesus was waiting for her. Jesus was planing their dinner long before Zacchaeus ever put foot to branch to climb. Before – and mark well that before – God formed you in the womb, he knew you. He has known you and loved you from all eternity. You.

The Magdalen – and all of us – only love what we imagine to be good, as St Thomas noted. No one loves evil because it is evil. We love only what we imagine to be good. While we are sometimes wrong in that imagining – the Byzantines pray for us to be delivered from our “evil imaginations” and from the “slavery to my own reasonings” – we seek the truth and love for any (even disordered) truth can lead us to the Real Thing if we love much and honestly. It is a matter of tearing off the masks to see the real evil beneath our bad love choices, and then seeing the Real Good where our love leads us – for it is his love at all.

So it is a romance: God is romancing us.

The same verse from the Song of Songs is pressed on my breviary cover. As strange as it sounds, it is his love I pour back to him as I pray the words of David and the Prophets in the Daily Office. I have nothing to offer here. I have nothing to share. I have nothing worthy of him (even playing on my drum). I have no love like his. And he knows. We can imagine that is mercy should be poured out without limit, but that he loves…? If it were possible, this makes him love us the more. Yet his love is infinite. There is no room in infinity for more: all I have is his already, and I pour it out on him and on those whom he sends to me: this is not my love. It is his. As the woman at the well said, “He told me everything I ever did.” Yet he loved me all the more, not in spite, but through it all until finally I found him whom my soul loves.

Sure I was seduced. But I let myself be seduced.

The Liberal One.

JMJ

The Readings for the 15th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Saint Bonaventure, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.

Matthew 12:6

NASTY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE in today’s Gospel are trying to make the Disciples follow their mean nasty rules. Americans – and the west in general – don’t like rules. So we read this passage in our favor and along comes the Liberal Jesus to tear up all their rules and say, “Begone! You have no power here!” And we’re thankful for that, right? It’s a good fund raiser and you may hear it from a few pulpits today.

In his Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI takes issue with those who would imagine the Good Jesus of the West as fighting against the Old Religious Baddies. In the context provided by the whole chapter, instead of tiny little snippets, the Pope Emeritus shows that Jesus is not being liberal here, at all. He’s being God. (I had posted a paper about this passage a while ago, along with a follow-up on the image of a yoke.)

Today, what can we learn about the Apostles in this passage? What can we draw into our own life?

The Apostles are doing what any poor person is allowed to do: walk through a field and pull the grains off the stalks, rubbing them together in hand to get the chaff off before chewing the grains. To do this on the Sabbath, though, is not allowed. Jesus then has some back and forth with the religious leaders. Yet it was his comment on the Temple that spun my brain out into lectio land.

What is the Temple? Well, yes, the house of God. But it is the meeting-place of heaven and earth. It is a new Eden in typology: surrounding the fiery presence of God (that is, the Tree of Life) there are sculptures and woven curtains depicting cherubim, plants, and animals. All of the Temple liturgy represented bringing all of Creation before God for a continual act of renewal, even the individual offering were intended to sanctify daily life, bringing all things in Israel within the Divine Sphere.

But wait, there’s more.

As the Holy of Holies was the center of the Temple, and as the Temple was the center of Israel, so also was Israel the center of the world. Israel was not only “being holy”, if you will, but also modeling holiness to the world. Israel’s mission was to be a holy people set apart for the Lord of Hosts for the purpose, as God promises Abraham, of being a blessing to all nations.

When Jesus says he is more important than the Temple, this is his claim. He is mindful of all of this. As the God-Man he is the place where heaven and earth meet. In his person all of creation is continually presented to God the Father in a continual act of renewal and thanksgiving. In his person blessings are showered down on Israel and the world.

But wait: there’s more.

In John 2:21, we hear of the “temple of his (Jesus’) body”. Paul says that we are “members of his body” (Ephesians 5:30). Then, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, we are reminded that our bodies are the temple as well. What is true of Jesus in his person is intended to be true of us in his grace.

This is, certainly, something Greater Than the Temple. And it’s not at all related to Jesus throwing dishwater on the nasty religious laws.

Xanadu

JMJ

The Readings for the 14th Friday, Tempus per Annum

Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Matthew 10:19-20

AS OUR CLASS WAS wrapping up the Book of Acts, our professor, Dr Wendy Biale, noted that the Holy Spirit seems like a very real presence to the Apostles. He tells them things, he sends dreams, he gives instructions. In his book, You Can Understand the Bible, which we used in class, Peter Kreeft gives a list of things (in sum):

  1. The spirit is her personally, directly, and concretely as a person.
  2. Miracles are done so powerfully through Paul that even his handkerchiefs are an agency for healing.
  3. Demonic activity appears and exorcism is needed.
  4. Confession, repentance, and turning away from sin or clear and strong.
  5. The faith is so strong that the unbelievers are offended.
  6. Worship is such a joy that long church services are common.
  7. Christians are ready to die as martyrs.
  8. The good news is preached as a historical fact not just as values.
  9. The faith is not politicized: all powers are subject to Christ.
  10. The church is bold, brave, and even brazon.
  11. Prophecy abounds.
  12. Angels interact with humans, not as myths or symbols but as real persons.
  13. Though very tiny the church is Infamous. They have turned the world upside down

Compare this to where we are today.

In the movie Xanadu a muse comes to earth to inspire an artist to live his dream. She gives ideas, moves things around, makes connections… for him. It’s like magic. But she falls in love with her artist and so must become mortal. And thus give up her power to inspire. Yet in her love she becomes so much more for the artist.

It’s a very shallow parallel, but I think it’s a better parallel for the Holy Spirit than “the Force” from Star Wars. God really does love us like that. God really does inspire us like that. God really does move into our lives like that. Jesus seems to assume we will have an ongoing part in this conversation: all of us. Not just clergy, not just monastics, but all of us, in all walks of our life.

The Church assumes this as well.

2558 “Great is the mystery of the faith!” The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles’ Creed and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy, so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.

This mystery then…

Requires that the faithful believe in it, this means that we must assent to it and that we must act in our lives according to the reality it describes. If we only assent to it, with no action in our lives, faith with out works is dead.

...that they celebrate it that is liturgically, and even in the calendar on the feasts of the Church. We’re called to ritually partake in the actions of God.

that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. an ongoing relationship… not something that we pull out on Sundays or when we need it for help here and there, but continually. You don’t wake up one day and pretend you’re not married. Your spouse is always with you, bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh. Forever. God is closer and even closer still. Why are you not talking to him now?

This relationship is prayer. Please note that while some devotions can be prayers, prayer is not devotions. While some liturgy can be done in prayer, prayer is not the liturgy.

Prayer is the relationship itself.

So, possibly, the reason that we don’t move in the world of the Apostles is not because things have changed, but because we have changed. The reason we do not feel the presence all the time is that we have no relationship to speak of.

Possibly.

Water

JMJ

The Readings for the 13th Friday, Tempus per Annum
– Memorial of Junipero Serra

Learn the meaning of the saying, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Matthew 9:13 (NABRE)

THE JESUS PSALTER has become my favorite devotion. There are many editions of it online and off although the first one I found was this one. I have an as-yet incomplete series of posts on this prayer which begins with this introduction. Arising from Mediaeval devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus, it flourished in England during the anti-Church persecutions under Henry and his family and became one of the main pillars of English Catholic Piety. It’s not very popular now, although it should be: a devotion that supported a generation of Martyrs is perfect for us now. It centers around multiple repetitions of Our Lord Name, together with a series of 15 petitions. Most of them begin with “give me the grace”: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, give me the grace to call for help to Thee. …give me the grace to fix my mind on Thee, …to fly evil company… persevere in virtue… to love Thee.”

We ask our Lord constantly for the grace we need to follow him. We should do this more and more in these latter days. Without that grace, how else do you go from being a Tax Collector to being a disciple?

In The Miracle Worker (1962) you can watch Anne Sullivan teach Hellen Keller. Hellen is deaf, dumb, blind… she has no words, no language. We know now enough about brain science to realize that having no words at all means there are no synapses in her brain to connect concepts with things. The world without words literally does not exist. Anne Sullivan has to physically form the words in Hellen’s hands whilst somehow also planting them in her brain. The internal dialogue is not there. But through patience (and a lot of pain) Anne and Hellen together bring it to be. And then, in the most moving scene, suddenly Hellen knows. “She KNOWS!” cries Anne Sullivan. “She Knows!”

That’s how Our Lord called Matthew. The tax collector had no words or concepts, and no synapses ready to connect them. Then, in one moment – Follow Me – he knows.

This is called grace.

And this is the actual meaning of what Our Lord says. Learn the meaning of I desire mercy, not sacrifice. The line in Hosea 6:6 actually uses the word for lovingkindness or grace, Hesed. “I desire Hesed.” The whole verse is a parallel construction:

I desire hesed not sacrifice
knowledge of God, not Olah.

Sacrifice and Olah are things that go up: smoke rising, incense, etc, sent by us upwards to God. Hesed and Knowledge (Da’at) of God are things that come down from heaven to us. Hesed is grace.

We need the grace mentioned in the Jesus Psalter at every turn. Some of the prayers, “help me”, “strengthen me”, “make me constant” are all variations on the prayer for Mercy (that is, Hesed, grace). We need the thing that pours down on us like water, freely and without measure.

I desire grace (a gift from God) not sacrifice: in other words there’s nothing you can do to win God’s love. God’s love is given freely (while we were yet sinners).

You are already infinitely loved.

Do you continue to struggle like Hellen Keller because you have no synapses, no words, no concepts to connect, or will you let God spell the words out on your fingers.

And follow him?

Validate Me (pt 2)

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Friday, Tempus per Annum

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Matthew 6:21 (NABRE)

HEART IS ONE Of the most important words in the Bible. Especially in the Hebrew Scriptures – and therefore in the teachings of Jesus – it is the equivalent with the self or soul. The heart in Christian thinking is the seat of the being.

The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶2563

The heart is – as the Place of Covenant – the Holy of Holies within the temple of our person. Ideally it is the throne of God, the seat of Christ reigning in us. As the place where “I am” it is also the place where we engage with the core of our being – which springs from God’s beingness. The Holy Trinity is always there – always the fire at the core of our beingness. Only the Spirit of God can know it fully for He dwells there and – if we are graced to know Him – we can begin to know our real selves.

God is always there. But sometimes, I’m not.

Earlier this week I wrote about the constant quest for validation and how that leads to seeking the praises of other people. God is our source and our validation. God is the core of everything that provides meaning in our lives and in the world. If we value the praises of others above the praise of God, we will not be entering our Holy of Holies, our inner core, to seek communion. Instead, we will create a false heart, a false identity somewhere else in our “psychic drives”. That’s where we imagine our heart. But it’s not a real heart. It’s the “heart of stone” that God says we have in Ezekiel 36:26. It’s a stony idol we have created. We can’t enter it, but we can worship it. And we do.

Remember the Golden Calf? Israel danced around the idol and Aaron said this metal calf was the one that brought Israel out of Egypt. He even said the idol was YHVH by name! (Exodus 32:5) We worship at the altar of our false heart, but it’s not God there. We even name it God. Whatever passion or psychic drive we pick we say, “God made me this way.” Just like a real heart we revolve our entire life around this fake heart. We pretend it is in ourselves that we “live and move and have our being”. All the while we are only a shell of a person, ignoring our self. But, Gosh darn it, people like us.

On Thursday I read this quote from Pope Benedict:

Since the heart is the place of decision and the place of communion, if we create a false heart, a false identity – insisting that really is me – then our communion is off, our worship is off, and our decision-making (our conscience) is off. This false heart becomes the place where we rest in indecision, waiting for others to think highly of us, and unable to make any choices without others: for there is no real heart here. It’s just a rock, an idol. So evil finds a voice.

Where your treasure is, there is your heart: even if it’s a false heart. We worship there, just like Israel dancing around the Golden Calf. And evil takes us into its dance and we fall from grace.

Turn back to your real heart: let the false one(s) fall away. When you enter the Holy of Holies, you will find the Glory of God waiting for you, to give you peace, even in the midst of trial. The choices you make will be real choices, and the light that you see will be the light of the Transfiguration of your life.

Jesus’ bloody feet we track

Memorial of St Charles Lwanga & Companions, Martyrs

Readings for 7th Friday after Easter (C2)

He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:19

OUR LORD SAYS TO St Peter, “Follow me.” It can sound like a repetition of the initial call three years earlier at the boat. Each of the apostles received such a call. All of us do.

We are all called to follow Jesus. It is a call, and a performative reality: we cannot do it unless God calls us, but to hear it is to obey. Think of how all the Apostles jumped up and followed, leaving all behind. We are called in exactly the same way in our lives. Yet there is something more than the initial call here.

It may seem like something connected to the earlier commands to feed and shepherd Christ’s flock. That came to Peter, indeed. The others also get the command in the same way and we do too. We are all commanded to feed and to shepherd Christ’s people. The act of love is one of kenosis, of self-pouring out. We’re not Christians unless everything God gives us is given away for others. We feed and shepherd by teaching, by sharing our faith and our material goods, by living moral lives in keeping with God’s commands. We do so by performing all the works of mercy – both spiritual and corporeal:

To feed the hungry.
To give water to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.
To bury the dead.
To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish the sinners.
To bear patiently those who wrong us.
To forgive offenses.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.

You can see “feed and shepherd” all over that list! But it’s not what we’re here for today. Yet there is something more. There’s one other way we follow Jesus – and he calls Peter to it.

St Charles Lwanga was such a shepherd to his companions, urging them to resist the sexual advances of a predator seeking to humiliate them exactly because of their faith. Let me have my way with you because it will violate your faith: has there ever been a more evil temptation? We know that sexual sins can make us feel literally unclean. Even though confessors have heard it all, sexual sins can leave us wondering has anyone ever been this evil? Sexual sins always involves at least two souls falling – even consuming adult content involves the other parties souls. St Charles and other saints who wrestled with such sins and such temptations call us to stand strong – but they know the world will hate us.

Jesus prophesies about how Peter will die, being led away by people to a place he doesn’t want to go. Jesus says “let me tell you how you’re going to die… Follow me.”

Because of God’s incarnation into this life, this world, this time everything in our life – including our death – has become a way to follow Jesus. What we do now as humans (except for sin) God himself has done. Think about it: drinking, eating, sleeping, chores, even going to the bathroom… God has done it. It becomes a way for us to draw close to God. Death itself is our greatest enemy, but God has gone through death, ripping out the evil of it and turning it inside out. What was the end is now the beginning and can thus continue to follow him.

Charles Lwanga and his companions followed Jesus to their death rather than give in to lust – their own or the King’s. Today we celebrate giving in to lust or even becoming identified with it. May St Charles pray that we can turn back from it and even lead others away from it. Even when it marks us as enemies of the reigning king or the entire world.

If you feed and shepherd God’s people (because of love) the world will not like you. You will die. Follow Jesus.

Of Masks, Statues, and Jehoshaphat

JMJ

FRIDAY IN THE 15th WEEK, Tempus per Annum, the readings in the Daily Office all conspire as if someone had set up it on purpose. In the Office of Readings, David and the story of Jehoshaphat, in Morning Prayer, David again, Jeremiah and St Paul all come together in one great story.

In the Office of Readings we say Psalm 69, split into 3 parts. The says that he feels betrayed by his friends and all those around him. He prays to never be a cause of shame to those who love the Lord. But then he says that even in his poverty and pain he will bless the Lord.

I will praise God’s name with a song;
I will glorify him with thanksgiving,
a gift pleasing God more than oxen,
more than beasts prepared for sacrifice.
The poor when they see it will be glad
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise,
the sea and all its living creatures.

In this praise, the writer knows

For God will bring help to Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah
and men shall dwell there in possession.
The sons of his servants shall inherit it;
those who love his name shall dwell there.

Then comes the reading about King Jehoshaphat. A whole bunch of Gentiles – from several nations – came together to slay the people of Judah. The King was very afraid, called a day of fasting and prayer and sought help from God. The whole nation gathered in Jerusalem at the Temple and prayed. And God spoke through the mouth of one of the men of the Tribe of Levi saying:

Do not fear or lose heart at the sight of this vast multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Go down against them tomorrow. You will see them coming up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will come upon them at the end of the wadi which opens on the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not have to fight in this encounter. Take your places, stand firm, and see how the Lord will be with you to deliver you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or lose heart. Tomorrow go out to meet them, and the Lord will be with you.

So Jehoshaphat organizes the Army and, instead of spears or chariots, he put singers in front. They sang: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.” The second half of that verse, כִּ֥י לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּֽוֹ ke l’olam khasdo, is the refrain to many of the Psalms, especially Psalm 136 where it is repeated in each verse, celebrating God’s victories on behalf of Israel. I would like to imagine it was this Psalm the singers were chanting as they went. No sooner did they start to sing – no doubt the song echoing off the mountainsides – than the army of the enemy was put to confusion and began killing each other! This is like the three Trolls in The Hobbit, great terrors easily made silly by their own greed and some crafty voices.

When Judah arrives on the scene, the only thing left is to step over the bodies and get their loot. Judah was three days gathering the spoils from the army that they conquered by singing.

Today (the 17th as I write) is also the feast of the Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne: 16 Carmelite nuns executed by French revolutionaries on this day in 1794, for refusing to accept state control over the Catholic Church. They were beheading singing the Te Deum.

In today’s Morning Prayer, after confessing our sins with Psalm 51, we sing this mournful Canticle from the Prophet Jeremiah:

Let my eyes stream with tears
day and night, without rest,
over the great destruction which overwhelms
the virgin daughter of my people,
over her incurable wound.

If I walk out into the field,
look! those slain by the sword;
if I enter the city,
look! those consumed by hunger.
Even the prophet and the priest
forage in a land they know not.

Have you cast Judah off completely?
Is Zion loathsome to you?
Why have you struck us a blow
that cannot be healed?

We wait for peace, to no avail;
for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.
We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness,
the guilt of our fathers;
that we have sinned against you.

For your name’s sake spurn us not,
disgrace not the throne of your glory;
remember your covenant with us, and break it not.

While this comes up every four weeks or so, I remember singing it last year in the smokes of wild fires and weeping as I felt like precious things were passing away. This time, it stirred up memories of violent mobs and parties that cannot be repeated, of being at Church with a rejoicing throng or even going to the Rosary Rally last year or my Birthday Party in Dolores Park. These things will not be again this Summer. What will happen? I had forgotten all about Jehoshaphat, from only a few pages ago. So St Paul had to remind me.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Corinthians 12:7-10 (AV)

And so were tied together Jehoshaphat, Jeremiah, David, the Carmelites, and St Paul: it is when we are weak that God is strongest. Always he is saying to us, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

My Mom’s friends worship with a Baptist community where the preacher keeps a gun with him in the pulpit. He has done so since the first Obama administration and that says something. But his attitude is spreading. Recently I heard of a priest inviting men of his parish to get ready to defend the place in case of attack. It struck me then that something was off, that we are missing an opportunity to evangelize here. Friday morning’s office underscored this to me. God never once asked all the Christian to Man-UpTM in case the Romans would arrive. No. In fact, the Christians then tended to look like the Carmelites in Paris:

And yet we chafe at masks and mourn our statues. God’s strength will be seen in our weakness. In fear, though, we arm ourselves.

When we should be singing.

A Devotion on the Symbols of the Passion

JMJ

From A Book of the Love of Jesus, A Collection of Ancient English Devotions in Prose and Verse, compiled and Edited by Fr Robert Hugh Benson (1915). Retrieved from the Archive, here. I’ve not edited the text at all so some of the words may include off-puttings, odd-spellings, or punctuations.

O VERNACLE I honour him and thee,
That thee made through his privity;
The cloth he set upon his ſace,
The print he left there, of his grace,
His mouth, his nose, his eyen too,
His beard, his hair, he did also ;
Shield me for all that in my life
That I have sinned with senses five,
Namely, with mouth of slandering,
Of false oaths and of backbiting,
And made boast with tongue also,
Of all the sins committed too,
Lord of heaven, forgive them me,
Through sight of the figure that I here see.

This knife betokeneth circumcision;
Thus he destroyed sin, all and some,
Of our forefather old Adam
Through whom we nature took of man.
From temptation of lechery
Be my succour when I shall die.

The pelican his blood did bleed
Therewith his nestlings for to feed :
This betokeneth on the rood
How our Lord fed us with his blood,
When he us ransomed out of hell
In joy and bliss with him to dwell,
And be our father and our food,
And we his children meek and good.

The pence also that Judas told,
For which Lord Jesu Christ was sold,
Shield us from treason and avarice
Therein to perish in no wise.

The lantern where they bare the light
When Christ was taken in the night ;
May it light me from nightly sin
That I never be seized therein.

Swords and staven that they bare
Jesu Christ therewith to fear;
From fiends, good Lord, do thou keep me,
Of them afraid that I not be.

Christ was stricken with a reed,
With it the Jews did break his head ;
With good cheer and mildest mood,
All he suffered and still he stood.
When I wrong any, or any me,
Be it forgiven for that pity !

The hand, O Lord, that tare thy hair,
And the hand that clapped thee on the ear,
May that pain be my succour there
That I have sinned with pride of ear ;
And of all other sins also
That with mine ears have I hearkened to !

The Jew that spat in God’s own face;
For that he suffered, give us grace,
What I have reviled, or any me,
For that despite, forgiven it be !

The cloth before thine eyen too
To buffet thee they knit it so;
May it preserve me from vengeance,
Of childhood and of ignorance
And of other sins also,
That I have with mine eyes done too,
And with my nostrils sins of smell
That I have done when sick or well !

The garment white that had seam none,
The purple they laid lot upon,
Be they my succour and my keeping,
For my body’s use of soft clothing !

With great reeds thou wert sorely dashed,
With scourges painful sorely lashed;
May that pain rid me of sins these,
Namely, of sloth and idleness !

The crown of thorn, on thine head thrust,
That tare thine hair, and thy skin buist,
Shield me from hell-pit’s agony
That I deserve through my folly !

To the pillar, Lord, also
With a rope they bound thee too;
The sinews from the bones did burst
So hard ’twas drawn and strainéd fast;
That bond release me and unbind
Of that I’ve trespassed and been unkind. !

The cross behind on his backbone,
That he suffered death upon,
Give me grace while yet I live
Clean of sin me for to shrive,
And thereto give true penitence,
And to fulfil here my penance !

Thou bare the cross and took thy gait
Out of Jerusalem’s city-gate;
All thy footsteps sweet and good
Were seen through shedding of thy blood;
Thou met with women of Bethlehem
And also of Jerusalem,
And all wept for thine agony;
To them thou saidest openly :
Now weep ye not for this my woe,
But for your children weep also ;
For them ye may lament full sore.
And your salt tears for them down pour;
For they shall have great torment hard
An hundred winters here-afterward.
Those steps of thine give us pardon
When forth we go with devotion
On pilgrimage on horse or foot,
Of all our sins be they our boot* !

*help

The nails through feet and hands also,
Help they me out of sin and woe
That I have here in my life done,
With hands handled, or on feet gone !

The hammer, Lord, both stern and great,
That drove the nails through hands and feet,
Be it my succour in my life
If any smite me with staff or knife !

The vessel with vinegar and gall
May it keep me from the sins all
That to the soul are venom dread,
That thereby I be not poisoned !

Though thou thirsted sore withal
They gave thee vinegar and gall;
From what I have drunken in gluttony
May it save me when I shall die;
That, Lord, now I pray to thee
For that grievance thou suffered for me !

Lord, that spear so sharply ground,
Within thy heart which made a wound,
Quench the sin that I have wrought,
Or in my heart have evil thought,
And of my stout pride thereto,
And mine unbuxomness also !

The ladder set up by occasion
When thou wert dead to be taken down,
When I am dead in any sin
Take me that I die not therein !

The tongs that drew the sharp nails out
Of feet and hands and all about,
And loosed thy body from the tree,
Of all my sins may they loose me !

The sepulchre wherein was laid H
is blessed body all be-bled,
May he send me ere that I die
Sorrow of heart and tear or eye,
Clear and cleanséd that I be,
Ere to my grave I betake me !
So that I may on the Doomsday
To judgment come without dismay,
And wend to bliss in company
Wherein a man shall never die,
But dwell in joy with our Lord right;
There is aye day and never night,
That ever lasts withouten end :—
Now jesu Christ us thither send ! Amen.

AEEEEEEE-LEEEEEEEEE-AAAAAAAAAAA!


JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St John Chrysostom
Friday in the 23rd week Tempus per Annum (C1)

Numquid potest caecus caecum ducere? nonne ambo in foveam cadunt? Non est discipulus super magistrum : perfectus autem omnis erit, si sit sicut magister ejus.
Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.

This is a parable, not a gnomic pronouncement. It the Latin it says, “Dicebat autem illis et similitudinem”, meaning he taught them a similitude. I used to read this passage as a comment on how we can’t be better than Jesus (our only teacher). Today, for some reason, I saw that the teacher/disciple thing was in parallel with the blind/blind thing.

A : B :: C : D
It’s a similitude.

It means we can’t pass on what we don’t have. This is the meaning of Original Sin. The Catechism says:

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (Para 405)

Adam lost his original holiness and justice, therefore, he cannot pass it along to his children. This passage in the Gospel, though, is not about the Fall. It’s about teachers: If I don’t have the fullness of the faith (if I’m not even willing to have it) then I can’t pass it on to you.

I struggle with this in leadership roles: at church, certainly, but also at work. This is not only a religious doctrine, but it’s true across the board. In fact, because it’s true across the board, it is also a religious doctrine. A politician who knows nothing about the law cannot pass along the correct information to his constituents – or refute lobbyists. A president who knows nothing about meteorology cannot draw on maps what he doesn’t have. A priest who rejects the teachings of the Church on human sexuality cannot be expected to pass along those teachings. Worse: having discovered that the teacher doesn’t know one thing, we may expect the teacher doesn’t know other things as well.

There’s another level of complication. Do you know about the humidity in NYC in the hot months? I do, after living there for 13 years. There was a ticker-tape parade for the “Desert Storm” heroes in 1991. I was watching the weather report the night before. The weatherman taped an 80% humidity marker on his blue screen and said, “Tomorrow will be nice, cool, and comfortable for the Parade of Heroes.” In other words, he lied. So, on top of issues with knowledge, the blind can be misled by people feeding them organic, free-range, grass-fed buffalo droppings. And you can fall out of that first paragraph up there into this, less honorable one very easily. A mistake plus wayward pride is the trump card in every hand, lately.

Some are blind because they cannot see and some are blind because they refuse to see.

And when the blind are led away from the truth they become convinced that their blind teacher knows it all.

Today we commemorate John Chrysostom. He fought against the pride and lying of the political leaders of his day – their lack of concern for the poor, their kowtowing to the rich and mighty, their lack of morality, their lack of ethics – that twice he was exiled. We have no such leaders today in the Catholic Church or in the Orthodox Church. The closest is Pope Francis, but even he will not call “cow pellets” on the leaders of the day. And if he dare speak too loudly, the rightists in the church call him a communist and say we can ignore him. His advisors, at least, seem to know more than other folks advisors. Or when he speaks in favor of tradition, the progressivists get all riled up. In the East the Russian Patriarch has been sleeping with the crown of Russia since Peter the Great, and even the mighty “ROCOR” now sleeps with a former KGB agent. The Arabs and the Greeks are wrapped up in their internecine wars and the westerners are along for the ride – buying their way into the hallways of Byzantine power.

We have no such leaders in the Church today. Blind guides of the blind.

I’m thankful we have Jesus. But if we’re not careful the powerful will try to lead us away.