Only Two Seasons

FROM THE OFFICE Of Readings for the 5th Saturday after Easter. I’m reminded of a comment made about my old Episcopal Parish. At St Gregory of Nyssa Church it seemed as if there were only two Church seasons: Easter and Easter is Comming. St Augustine appears to agree (emphasis added). Shabbat Shalom!

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
(Ps. 148, 1-2: CCL 40, 2165-2166)

The Easter Alleluia

Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God, because it is in praising God that we shall rejoice for ever in the life to come; and no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains himself for it now. So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we make our petitions to him. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning. We have been promised something we do not yet possess, and because the promise was made by one who keeps his word, we trust him and are glad; but insofar as possession is delayed, we can only long and yearn for it. It is good for us to persevere in longing until we receive what was promised, and yearning is over; then praise alone will remain.

Because there are these two periods of time—the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy—we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing.

Both these periods are represented and demonstrated for us in Christ our head. The Lord’s passion depicts for us our present life of trial—shows how we must suffer and be afflicted and finally die. The Lord’s resurrection and glorification show us the life that will be given to us in the future.

Now therefore, brethren, we urge you to praise God. That is what we are all telling each other when we say Alleluia. You say to your neighbor, “Praise the Lord!” and he says the same to you. We are all urging one another to praise the Lord, and all thereby doing what each of us urges the other to do. But see that your praise comes from your whole being; in other words, see that you praise God not with your lips and voices alone, but with your minds, your lives and all your actions.

We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it seems as if we cease to praise God. But provided we do not cease to live a good life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from justice and from what is pleasing to God. If you never turn aside from the good life, your tongue may be silent but your actions will cry aloud, and God will perceive your intentions; for as our ears hear each other’s voices, so do God’s ears hear our thoughts.

Reading the Signs of Ordinary Times

The cover of The Silver Chair from the boxed set I received in High School (c. 1980)
The Readings for the 1st Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit. As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Hebrews 4:12, Mark 2:14

I‘VE BEEN REREADING THE Chronicles of Narnia in the canonical order. Actually, I’m using a very enjoyable audio series with Michael York, Lynn Redgrave, and Derick Jacobi, among others. It’s easily the best set of recordings out there, but a bit pricy unless you find it on sale. Anyway… I’m on Book Four, The Silver Chair, just now. It’s my least favorite one. I can only handle it for a few (audible) pages at a time. It gets tedious after that.

Don’t get me wrong: the story is good enough. Two children from our world rescue a prince of Narnia from an enchantment and restore him to his throne. Magic and whatall, of course, and talking animals. There are surprises and twists. But everything is so dark and, well, boring. Colorless. Especially when compared to all of the other books, this one is drab.

I suddenly think that’s the point.

There is a discussion in another post about how Lewis plays with Time and what I think that might mean. These are stories for children, yes, but they are not children’s stories. They are very adult stories told for children: there are things you can see only as you meditate on them. The three middle books, Voyage of the Dawntreader, The Silver Chair, and A Horse and His Boy, are conversion stories. The first and the third are painful stories about children going through rather adult conversions: they have to leave behind all they know to understand Narnia. The middle one, which concerns us in this post, is about the interior conversion that a “cradle” must undergo. The “cradle Narnian” is Prince Caspian XI. Eustace is a convert – and indeed Jill as well – but since they are coming to rescue the Prince it’s his story they are a part of. (No one is in a story alone, of course, he is also part of their stories.) The Prince, however, has gone astray in his grief for his dead Mother. He’s been led away by a foreign power, the Green Witch, and needs to come home.

Aslan sends two converted missionaries, Jill and Eustace, to rescue the lost Cradle Narnian. Jesus, calling to Matthew the Tax Collector, the Cradle Jew, who sold himself to the Romans.

Like any Narnian – or Cradle Catholic or Cradle Orthodox – Caspian knows he’s doing things right. The Green Witch has convinced him he’s fine. He’s really a Narnian, everything will be ok. Just trust her and she will get things back in line. And, like any Cultural Orthodox, Cultural Catholic, or even Cultural Jew, or Cultural Whatever, they miss the point of their religion, only getting the barest hints of the echoes from Childhood Memories. Caspian is Narnian in Name Only. He needs rescuing from the vestiges of Narnia in his own life enabling the Witch to continue to hold him back from his true life.

By vestiges I mean those shreds of cultural religion that are on unconnected to any living relationship: they form a sort of innoculation. Billy Graham refered to people who were “innoculated against” any real relationship with Christ by their cultural Christianity. Prince Caspian is in the same boat. The Green Witch has convinced him to stay put and she will make him a True King. Really she is only enslaving him to her more and more each day.

In order to guide these converted Missionaries to penetrate “even between soul and spirit” in the Prince’s life, Aslan gives four Signs. Each one they seemingly mess up – even to their own eyes – and yet each one works out in the course of their lives. In the end, it’s not by following the Signs that they save the Prince, but rather by saving the Prince, they discover they have followed the Signs. It is their growing relationship with Aslan that has drawn them forward.

Most of life plays out that way: one thing in front of another. Do them one after another. And you’ll discover you’re working out your salvation. We make much of the signs, or even the Signs of the Times but they’re not intended as prophetic way-showers, but rather as markers on the way. Prophecy is not about “What comes next?” in the timeline, but rather, “you are here”. The vestiges of religion and cultural laws fall away and you are left with a living relationship to the Word of God, the one and only word that God has spoken through all time and eternity, in text and in life: Jesus.

Before enlightenment, chop wood. Carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood. Carry water.

In the end, you will discover that Jesus has called you out of yourself, and out of your enslavement to the world. Follow him.

Wrong Communion

The Readings for the 23rd Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?l

I Corinthians 10:16 (NABRE)

THIS IS NOT REALLY ABOUT The readings (for Saturday, yes, I’m late…) but more “triggered” by the use of “participation” in this verse. That’s why it’s late: more of a ramble than a homily.

In the text Paul is saying, “Look, you know what we celebrate in the communion service, how we participate in Jesus? (Then he mentions the sacrifice of the Temple – see that’s communion, we’re doing that with Jesus.) You don’t want to accidentally or on purpose do that with idols. You can’t celebrate an idol. There is no “Zeus” or “Hera”. So when you eat food offered to idols, what are you doing? Communing with the demons who are pretending to be gods to get the people to worship them! DON’T DO THAT!” In these ancient cultures, the food offered for sale at the market could have been offered to idols. Or the local temple might celebrate a festival and give away food. You could be communing with demons at your table tonight. This is one reason Judaism has its own butcher system. It makes for a simple rule: if the item is not Kosher, don’t eat it. Paul is saying, not quite that, but more like if it’s purposefully unkoshered by offering to idols, you can’t eat it at all. Thankfully, food at your local Publix, Safeway, or Piggly Wiggly is generally not offered to demons (as far as we know). Yet. But demons are crafty. Paul’s condemnation was not because he thought Christians were getting tricked into Demon Worship by crafty friends, but because he was worried they were “playing along to get along”: getting free food like all their neighbors, shopping where others shopped, not wanting to offend the local community by not-supporting powerful people. It’s this – and not meat, per se– that can lead to “communion with demons”. We know the idols are nothing. But the demons are crafty.

So, on to the meditation “triggered” by this.

What is the communion we share with Jesus? What is the participation? So many people try to tone this down or roll it back to something less than it is.

First, there is this undeniable connection we all share: God is the, if you will, beingness of all being. Any thing in the universe that has being receives its beingness from God. A thing cannot be without God willing it; not just willing it into being, but actively and continually, in God’s love, sustaining it. God’s active will keeps you here, keeps your internet device here, keeps the internet here, keeps my server here, keeps me here, and keeps these pixels here for you to parse them out. God’s love wills your brain to be present and active, and mine as well, this entire act of communion and communication from me to you is one not just permitted, but lovingly carried forward by God. Even those things classed as evil share in this beingness sustained in God’s love.The more evil things actually hate that they are sustained thus.

Christians have another level. Through the grace of Baptism, Jesus now dwells in us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Our heart is made a Temple of the Godhead: he has made his home in us (John 14:23). This is true, following baptism, even if we fall away from the faith and pay no further mind to this presence. The humility of God, ignored in the silent and unadorned tabernacle of such a heart, should inspire us because of his evident love and horrify us for the same reason. We should make reparations not only for infractions against the Blessed Sacrament where Jesus is living and active, but for those Christians who ignore God, no less living and active in their own heart.

On this level of participation, something else happens as well: we enter fully into our anointed function of little Christs, of Sons and Daughters of God in the Son of God.

As God the Son rests in contemplation of the Father, we too, resting in the Son, engage in that contemplation. As the love that is the Holy Spirit is aspirated from the Father and the Son, he is also shared with us. Thus we embody in ourselves the active dance that is the Trinity, infinitely impossible to exhaust but carried by each Christian to its fullness, as each is enable by Grace.

This is the content, then, of our participation. Yet it’s not the full implication. This resting in communion with the Trinity is, as I mentioned, present because of our Baptism. We can ignore it or even reject it. From the first mortal sin to the final rejection of death, the Holy Light of Divine Love becomes an ever more-consumming fire. In the end, like the evil creatures mentioned above, we burn with an intense hatred of the eternal fire at the core of our being and, having created hell for ourselves, we have no other place to rest.

St Seraphim of Sarov counseled that if we “acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved”. By our participation in this communion, if we side with the flame, and elect freely to burn with that love, then we set the whole world on fire. Our holiness (which isn’t ours, but rather God’s) pours out into the world and into the lives of those around us.

Our participation in the Body and Blood of Jesus becomes thus a way to actively advance the Kingdom of God in the world. Conversely, any participation in the un-lives of the idol demons, that is active rejection of God’s gift of communion, is antithetical to that same Kingdom. Unsaying St Seraphim, to promote sin is to damn those same thousands around us. As I mentioned, demons are crafty. Our playing along to get along, our consumption of the “meats” offered to sexual sins and other cultural idols is an easy way to lead astray thousands at one time.

Still Keeping Watch

The Massa Damnata be like…
The Readings for the 21st Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Monica

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.

Matthew 25:19

THE TONE FOR THIS XXIst Week of Ordinary Time was set on Sunday when we heard Jesus answer the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He basically said yes. And he urged us all to “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” All week long it’s been advice for how to enter the narrow gate but, as noted yesterday, we started to get this last week with Matthew’s telling about the wedding banquet. If you don’t have the right clothes, you’re out. Even if you were invited. Matthew is winding down his pre-passion Narrative with Jesus as a hell fire preacher. It climaxes with a reading we don’t get in this thread – the Final Judgement and the division of the sheep and the goats. If only that were this Sunday’s reading (it’s not) it would make Weeks 2o-22 quite a powerful end-of-summer Apocalypse!

There’s a pattern in these stories: each one says, essentially, “this is not enough”. How many people will be saved? Jesus hears the hidden meanings. The question about how many will be saved is really asking, “How little do I have to do to get in?” His reply over multiple parables is simply “Why do so little that you just get in?” Some would have us say everyone will be saved. Some would have us say that nearly no one will be saved. Jesus is saying, “What about you?”

The Fathers underscore that while scripture says we are all sinners, there’s only one sinner each of us is permitted to know: our own soul is in a state of sin. We can know this. We can only know this. We are to see Christ in our neighbor and that same Christ has said everyone is our neighbor (yes, even the politicians you don’t like).

I, myself, am the only sinner I am permitted to know.

Everyone else is Christ.

There is a theme in all of these stories:

  • It’s a narrow gate: it’s possible to miss it.
  • The wedding garment suggests it’s possible to be at the banquet (the Mass) and get kicked out.
  • It’s possible to keep within the boundaries of the faith as rigorously as a Pharisee and still miss the point.
  • It’s possible to be in the Church and take everything for granted.
  • It’s possible to be a vowed religious and not have all your ducks in a row.
  • It’s possible, as we learn today, to squander the gifts God gave you and lose it all.
  • If we add the sheep and the goats, it’s possible to be 100% dead on and still get thrown into the fire. (Sheep and goats are both kosher and can be used interchangeably in many of the OT sacrifice rituals)
  • It’s a narrow gate: it’s possible the load of stuff you carry is too wide to get through.

Do these sins make my butt look big?

Jesus drives home the points several times: it’s not enough to be here. It’s not enough to do some of the things. It’s not enough to be very pious. It’s not enough to be doing all the things and be hyper pious. What you need to do is risk it all repeatedly.

And then do more.

Why would you only want to do “just enough”? Do more, and then more, and then more again! Jesus says we are the light of the world. BE THE LIGHT! Shine as bright as you dare, as bright as you can, burn out early.

Except you won’t: you’ll shine that brightly forever.


The Readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord
(18th Saturday, Tempus per Annum C2)

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Matthew 16:24

BY A STRANGE COINCIDENCE of calendars today’s Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord (on the Gregorian Calendar) is falling on the Hebrew date of the Ninth Day of the month of Av. (This year, since the 9th is a Sabbath, the commemoration is moved to the 10th day of the month.) The 9th Day of the Month of Av is the date on which the Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Bablonians. And it was the day on which the Romans destroyed the second temple. A number of other sad events are commemorated on this day, making it a day of fasting and mourning. Since mourning is forbidden on the Sabbath, this year’s “Ninth” is actually on the Tenth, as noted above. The coincidence of the 9th of Av and the 6th of August strikes me as one worthy of meditation for a number of reasons.

Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, with the follow-up bombing of Nagasaki tomorrow. That’s a transfiguration and destruction of a sort engineered by man. I no longer believe the “number of lives saved vrs number of lives lost” arithmetic that is used to justify the bombings: we can never know what would have been. We can only know the evil that happened, among which was the raising of two whole generations in perpetual fear of nuclear war. That’s the power of the nuclear deterrent.

Another level of meditation is found in the time Jesus said “if you tear down the temple I will raise it up in three days.” As the Gospel adds, “he was speaking of the temple of his body” (John 2:21). Building on that level we are all part of the Body of Messiah (I Corinthians 12:27), each believer is a part of the Temple he raised up. And each one of us has a body that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19).

There is a tradition in Judaism of reading a passage from Isaiah on this Shabbat (before the Fast) that describes what is called “The Third Temple”. This is interesting to me because some protestants view any “third temple” as an act prefiguring their literal reading of the Book of Revelation, so the Tish B’Av has in it some future apocalypse overlap as well. Although the major break between Jews who followed Yeshua and Jews who did not do so would not come until the 13os (when Bar Kochba was given Messianic titles) somehow the destruction of Jerusalem refocused the Church almost entirely on the Parousia: we have no earthly home anywhere.

There’s a mosaic in Ravenna, Italy. Floating over a grassy field filled with sheep, safely grazing, a cross is surrounded by a field of stars and radiant light. It’s indicated (pointed to) by radiant beings. There are trees. It’s beautiful and nothing like a Crucifix as we might see in a Church today. (When a Crucifix was first presented – in a Greek Church – the Latin Bishop thought it might be scandalous.) In the center of the cross there’s the Face of the Crucified, shining in glory. It is, as I mentioned yesterday, an image of the Cross as the glory of the Messiah.

Now, look again. On either side of the floating Cross are symbols of the Torah and the Prophets, Moses to the left and Elijah to the right. There are three sheep, Peter, James, and John. And a hand comes from heaven. This is the Transfiguration depicted as a Crucifixion.


The Apostles who had seen the Transfiguration ran away at the Crucifixion even though the latter was intended to be a comfort to them during the former. If he is God, as he is in the Transfiguration, then all things point to him even the darkest time of his Crucifixion. In fact, the latter, more than the former, is his glorification. Yet, they still ran away.

The meditation arises that things that are good might be seen as bad, and things that are bad might be seen as good. And, furthermore, what we think of as bad and good might not be, really, those things. God’s ways might be as far above us as we can imagine and then more.

Of course, none of this will apply next year, when the calendars do not overlap in the same way. (Next year the Fast is in July.) But this year, seeing Christ Glorified in the Darkness, we must ask:

When things get dark how can we refrain from running away before the light breaks through?

Is Herod Jewish?

The Readings for the 17th Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Peter Chrysologus, bishop & doctor of the Church

It is not lawful for you to have her.

Matthew 14:4

JOHN THE BAPTIST accused Herod Antipas of violating the Law of Moses and urged the Tetrarch to repent, send his wife back to her lawful Husband, and bring his life back into harmony with the Divine pattern. In this, the Baptist has become sort of a pattern for many people who preach against the “powers that be”. Some do so openly and loudly. Some do so quietly, covertly. Many die, becoming martyrs for what they see as the urgent need to save souls.

But let me ask you, was Herod Jewish?

Some say yes, and some say no.

The boundaries at that time were not as strict as they are now. He identified as Jewish, certainly. But his parents were not observant. His mother was a Samaritan. He was cozied up to the Romans and he openly violated the law. His Father’s family were not ethnically Jewish either, but they were cousins, as it were, from Edom. The Idumeans were forcibly converted at the point of a sword – literally: all their men were circumcised thus. Such conversions might be suspect even in the worst of times. Yet, still, he identified as Jewish. So to answer the question of his religion, we have to take his answer as valid – even though there are a lot of reasons to say he was not.

And that’s what seems important for us today: Herod claimed he was Jewish.

John didn’t debate the finer points of the halachic categories of Jewish Law. Instead, John accepted the Tetrarch’s claim and demanded he (Herod) live up to it.

That seems important for us today because there are politicians who do not live up to being Catholic even though they claim to be so.

John the Baptist would – for the saving of their souls – call them to live up to the rules of the game they pretend to be playing.

If they did not claim to be Catholic, the Catholic rules would not apply. But since they insist on making that claim, the correct response is to take them at their word and ask them to adhere to their word as well.

Herod had John the Baptist arrested and, eventually, beheaded simply because John took him at his word: he claimed to be Jewish and so, the Baptist treated him as a Jew gone astray.

The same should be true of any politician claiming to be Catholic today: we should take them at their word and hold them responsible.

I know you are but what am I

The Readings for the 16th Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

He replied, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

Matthew 13:29

ONE MIGHT BE TEMPTED to worry if one is a weed. Likewise, one may be equally tempted to imagine one is wheat. On the internet, at least, the diagnosis is in the second person and they are usually the weeds in question: something like “bogus ordo weeds”. Yet, consider this as the seed is all sown in the field of one heart?

Notice first that the sower sows good seed. After the good seeds start to grow the bad seed also shows up. So the bad seed came in later.

The good seed is the Logos, the Word of God, sown in every human heart by God who is the heart of every heart. If we could but listen to that Word fully and only we would be drawn to God-wards at every moment as assuredly as a comet is drawn back to the sun. But the enemy (more on that in a moment) has sown weeds or, as the more common reading would have it, tares. Tares look like wheat, but most certainly are not wheat! If you feed them to animals the tares are poison. Tares will ruin your flour if you do not get rid of them before grinding the wheat! Imagine losing an entire flour harvest because you missed a few tares on the way to the mill.

This is to suggest that both the wheat and the tares are in one’s own heart and so we need to be careful: careful to discern which is which and careful to not destroy the good. No heart we meet is all wheat nor is any heart all tares.

This applies both in the first person and in the second person. It applies both before and after conversion.

On our way into the Church (especially as adults) we may bring with us many tares from our past or from odd moments on the internet. We may find ourselves one day thinking “this ‘Christian’ thing actually wasn’t very Christian at all…” It could be theological or devotional, it could be moral or political. Just one day the Holy Spirit moved you to see that it was time to let this go. But how would it have been if someone – a few years ago – had reached out and tried to uproot those tares back then before you were ready?

Could it have possibly caused you to give up entirely?

If you were just coming into the Church and someone was pointing out all the tares, would you not have bothered at all? You know the sort: you have to stop that and that and that and that other thing too. You have to stop all this before we’ll even consider letting you into the Church. Or how would you feel if you had to adhere to a dress code before coming to communion? I knew an Orthodox priest who suggested a new convert needed to see a therapist because she had a nose ring. (This was literally the reason I never joined ROCOR nor had anything to do with them.)

As Aquinas says, God’s grace perfects our nature. This is often mistranslated as “Grace builds on nature”. No. Grace perfects. Sometimes grace will tear us down and start over again. The things in us that are of God will grow stronger if we encourage them. Dietrich von Hildebrand begins his wonderful Transformation in Christ with the call to change: “All true Christian life, therefore, must begin with a deep yearning to become a new man in Christ, an inner readiness to ‘put off the old man’ – a readiness to become something fundamentally different.” The things we think we are today become something new in Christ. What if everything we think we know about ourselves is wrong?

Jeremiah makes it clear that God’s concern both moral and theological: deal justly with your neighbor and don’t worship idols. God requires right worship and right action. (St James says this too. We need to be doers of the word, not just hearers, but we do need to be hearers…) If you don’t do the worship right you’re not doing the justice right either – and vice versa. Our God requires of us both a proper love of Him first and then also a love of neighbor.

So the question of wheat and tares becomes important as we navigate through our daily lives. Can we find ourselves in places where an admixture of wheat and tares leaves us wanting to run away? Where would we go? The Word of life is here. How do we treat others on the same path?

Again this is not you wheat me tares. In the end, the final division of what is useful in God’s kingdom and what is not useful at all will be in Purgatory: the good and the bad will flow through the fires of God’s love, the latter to destruction, the former to bread.

What we are called to do right now may be literally nothing but being faithful. Don’t stress when you find a tare, let God’s grace go to work.

What Did We Do?

The Readings for the 15th Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Our Lady of Mt Carmel

On that day a satire shall be sung over you.

Micah 2:4a

AT THE END OF the wonderful Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Mr Wonka reads the riot act to Charlie and his Grandfather. “All offers shall become null and void”. Grandpa says, “We’ve not broken any rules” and Wonka screams out “WRONG!” It’s all there in black and white, clear as crystal. In today’s passage from Micah, the prophet makes it clear as crystal that when things go bad (as they are about to do) it’s Israel’s own fault. In fact, to read the Old Testament from the get-go, when things go bad, it’s your own fault.

Today’s reading is another place where the lectionary is actually different from the text they link to. Not sure what’s going on here. I confess I was kind of excited about “a satire shall be sung” because singing satires a part of the Irish Bardic tradition. (And also part of modern politics that I greatly enjoy.) Other translations, though, make the point a bit more literally (“make a proverb of you”, “mock you”, etc). Imagine, “Yeah, the South was like Israel after God got done with ’em.” But it was all Israel’s fault: not God’s. It’s what you might call natural consequences. There actually is a plan for the universe. When you step outside of that plan things fall apart. God needn’t do anything to “punish” you: it just happens. God opens a way through the sea for his beloved, and you chase after his beloved… you drown. Quid pro quo. He didn’t open that pathway for you. If you are God’s beloved (Israel) and you act like any other pagan nation, then you get the same reaction: “you shall have no one to mark out boundaries by lot in the assembly of the LORD.” You erased the boundaries the Lord set so you don’t need them… and they go away and stay away.

Parents do this: you want to go out until 4 PM the next day? OK… but you still need to do your chores, so get up. Is that punishment or natural consequences? You go to work hung over and you can’t do your job so you lose it. Punishment or the natural consequence of not being able to do the job?

I think of this a lot right now. People “sing a satire” at the Church. Are we like the innocent martyrs of the 1st few centuries, or is there something else going on? I think the Church seems more like Charlie at the end of the Chocolate Factory. There’s actually a lot that has gone on. I’m not talking about the politically correct things that people complain about – specific doctrines being out of step with modern times or actions taken 1000 years ago by people in a different culture (also out of step with modern times). Things like abortion and sex are the excuses that people give for disliking the Church, sure, but is it possible that the boundaries are not there because we erased them in other ways? Can we honestly look at our history even in the last 50 years or so and say there’s nothing that might provoke “natural consequences”?

Again, this has nothing to do with what they say about us. This has nothing to do with what they claim to want to change about the Church. It’s uncomfortable. But is it possible there is something to repent of, something to love us through that might make the Church better, more-healed and more-healing in the long run?

A Psalm on this topic.

Mouth on Fire

The Readings for the 14th Saturday, Tempus per Annum
Memorial of St. John of Cologne, OP, & Companions, martyrs

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

Isaiah 6:6

DURING THE LITURGIES OF St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great (in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches) communion is distributed using a spoon. It is served directly to the communicant by the priest as one might feed a child at table. This has been their tradition since the 9th century and, at some later point, this image from Isaiah was seen as a typological parallel. This writer has heard priests say to communicants, “this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” It’s a beautiful symbol of how the Eucharist moves us away from sin (¶1393) and it also continues the liturgical parallels in this chapter: the “Holy Holy Holy” of the Angels is sung in Mass and most of the Eastern rites. This has been part of the Eucharistic liturgy since the late 1st of early 2nd century! It all arises in this vision of Isaiah.

But on this Saturday (Shabbat Shalom!) I want to call our attention to the next thing that happens after the typology of the Eucharist is received and Isaiah’s sins are absolved: God calls and Isaiah begs to be sent.

There is a way in which the Eucharist, making us ever more part of the Body of Christ, involves us ever more and more in the mission of Christ: in the being-sent-ness of Christ who was sent out from the Father to redeem the world. He, in turn, sends us out to do the same work.

To willingly and worthily participate in the Eucharist is to find oneself purified for mission. That may be in the Church basement feeding the poor or on the streets preaching the Gospel, or it may mean in China (etc) but the Eucharist is never food for couch potatoes. It is always Viaticum: food for the journey.

Preaching at my parish for the Ordination of priests in the Dominican Order, Bishop Robert Barron said what God does to the bread at the Eucharist – He Takes, Blesses, Breaks, and Gives it – God also does to the priest. A priest is taken, blessed, broken, and given to the Church.

Let’s take that one step further: God also does it to us and after we have been broken on the altar, he calls us to give ourselves away in love.

Who will go?


The Readings for the 13th Saturday, Tempus per Annum

The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the vintager, him who sows the seed.

Amos 9:13 (NABRE)

SHABBAT SHALOM! Nerdy side note: in all romance languages, the days are numbered: Day 2, Day 3. Day seven is usually always some form of “Sabbath” (which is from the Hebrew for seven). Sunday is always “Lord’s Day.” So, Shabbat Shalom! ANYWAY…

It’s interesting that Church puts Amos 9 and Matthew 9 side by side, don’t you think? Israel is coming back and is going to rebuild their ruins and Jesus says don’t put new wine in old wineskins. What are ruins but old wineskins?

San Francisco is a city rebuilt from the ruins of an earthquake and a great fire. When calamity struck in the early morning of 18 April 1906 most of the city fell down. Half of it burned. And it was rebuilt. In many places the older bricks were used. If you look closely at the above photo of our Armory, you can see bricks sticking out at irregular intervals.

These are bricks that have been warped by the 1906 fire. You can see these all over the parts of the city that were rebuilt: all the bricks from the tumbled buildings were collected – including the warped ones – and reused in the post-1906 world. They make an interesting artistic statement about our resiliency and pluck. Evidently, in some ways, their irregular shapes make the masonry stronger because there are no uniform seams that run the full length or height of any wall. So they also say something like, “Try to knock me down again. Just try.”

So it is possible to rebuild on some ruins to the improvement of the ruins and the new construction.

On the other hand, much of San Francisco needed to be fully razed to the ground, the foundations remade, and whole neighborhoods flattened before any renewal could begin.

Sometimes you cannot rebuild until you tear down. This is where the wineskins come in, he said, proudly mixing metaphors.

“Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit,” said Aquinas. Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. So there are some things that are part of my nature and some things that are not. We must learn to distinguish. The Church is pretty clear about what is mine versus what is the damage done to mine, the disorder caused by myself and the world.

I started a series of posts on identity a few weeks ago. I have not yet finished it:

I’ve been wondering how to wrap up with Identity IV and these readings came up. See there are some things that can be reused like these bricks. There are somethings that don’t belong: that don’t make the structure stronger. In fact, they will tear it down. They’re not part of the original plan, but rather are brought in by the chiefest and greatest of calamities: sin.

Thus, someone coming to the Church has to explore their heart and be ready to accept things like teachings on sexuality and the person, like teachings on divorce and remarriage, like teachings on abortion. I mention these because their are target issues today, certainly, but they have been hot-button issues for the last 2000 years. The Church’s teachings on sexual purity were one of the things that set her apart from the pagan world around her and made people feel safe, unexploited, and able to reach out to God.

We must learn what the Dominicans teach (sometimes erroneously credited to Aquinas), “Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish.” So it comes to me that the ruins of my past need to be razed. I need to show the deconstruction process in part IV which is now nearly ready to go.

Yes, there may be a few bricks that can be reused, but some may be like the old wineskins: ready to explode if we put in the new wine of Christ’s blood. It’s time to distinguish.

Shabbat Shalom!