The Wholly Name

JMJ

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

Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Luke 6:19 (NABRE)

WHEN THE ANGEL Spoke to Mary (in Luke 1:32) she was told she would have a Son and she should call him Jesus. Later, that same angel shared with Joseph, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) The linkage of the name “Jesus” to “Joshua” is usually emphasized, the latter meaning “the LORD saves” and “Iesus” is the Greek form of Joshua. But there is something deeper. Much deeper. Jesus was not named in Greek. And while “Iesus” is the Greek form of his name, in Hebrew the name is Yeshua. However, add a silent “h” sound and change the accent and we get ‘yeshuah’ which means Salvation.

It’s not that “Jesus Saves” as the bumper sticker has it, but rather that Jesus is Salvation in his person. What is “Salvation” though? What is the meaning or the content, if you will, of being saved? The Gospel today points it out: There’s calling, there’s accepting the call, there’s the renaming. There’s hearing the teaching and there’s healing.

Please note that everything in this is a sort of dialogue. Jesus calls, we accept the call and Jesus renames us. Jesus teaches and we accept the teaching then Jesus heals us. The whole Gospel is encapsulated in one pericope of 7 verses if we but use our eyes to see it. But salvation is a dance in which God leads, but we follow, in which God heals, but only what we offer him for healing, in which God loves us and gives us the grace to love him in return.

When we open our ears to the call of Jesus and allow ourselves to be drawn into the dance, our entire identity is changed: we go from being trapped in worldly ideas about who we are to entering into a right relationship with God. When I was Chrismated into the Orthodox Church, as the priest was wiping off the sacred oils from my face and eyes, he said to me – quoting St Paul – “you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This was my new identity and I was even given a new name – for St Raphael, the Bishop of Brooklyn. As a saint stands in right relationship to God, so – by the prayers of many – I may one day grow into the fullness of that right relationship. But I have to forego all the things that hold me to the world.

There is no part of me (or perceived part of me) that I can point at and say, “But that one thing I will keep.” I can no longer base my identity on anything that is mine – only on Jesus, who is not Mine save that I am his. And to be his I have to let go of all the brokenness I value, all the things that I think make up “who I really am”. I must let Yeshua be my yeshuah. I must let Jesus be Jesus to me.

Otherwise all this is in vain. Jesus will make me whole but only when and as I let him. If I hold back he will not force his way in – but then I will not be saved.

In the end the things that I thought of as I, me, and mine that are not part of Jesus were never mind in the first place. And the things that are missing from the fallen me, will be found in him and will be mine for all eternity as our love deepens to infinity in contemplation of the Father.

Everything That Is Missing | כל מה שחסר
Shilo Ben Hod

Lyrics in Translation:

Verse 1
I won’t seek what is missing
But I will search for the One who fills
In a dry or fertile land
More than anything, I need You only
Even life is not good
If at the end people die without knowing You
If I could choose anything, I’ll choose You

Chorus
It’s better to lose everything, just to gain You
And to pay the price, in the end everything is Yours
To go all they way until the end, because only in the end I’ll meet You
And then everything that is missing, will be completed in You

Verse 2
I’m not searching for all the answers
But I’m asking for the truth that is in You
When confusion rules or there is clarity
Above all, let me know You
All of the miracles won’t help
If people never experience Your love
If I could choose anything, I’ll choose You

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St Mary in the Sabbath

Inset from the icon, “Captive Daughter of Zion” by Robert Lentz, OFM,
in the author’s icon corner and available here.

JMJ

IN THE WESTERN DAILY OFFICE and Mass there is a tradition of commemorating the Blessed Virgin on Saturdays outside of Lent. There are propers for the office as well as for votive Masses offered on these days. In the older Western Rite, this commemoration began with Vespers on Friday night with a special hymn and prayer, it included readings in the Night Office, and then special hymnody and prayer at Lauds on Saturday morning. This tradition dates back to at least the Tenth Century, but it may be earlier. A form of this may be familiar to the reader as the First Saturdays Devotion. There are a number of ideas about why Marian Saturdays might have happened and also a number of ideas about “What it means”. You can read some of them here or here. This post is only a meditation on the fittingness of the idea: I’m not being a historian here but rather meditating on Mary and the Sabbath together. BY way of warning, I’m crossing the streams again: today it’s Byzantine and Western liturgy plus the Jewishness of Mary and Jesus. (I love the icon of the Captive Daughter of Zion that heads this post: the artist has created a visual map of this meditation.)

First, it’s important to see the Sabbath clearly: it’s not just a negative prohibition against work. God rested on the Sabbath Day. The invitation is not to “don’t do that” but rather to “be like God”. In fact, if you read the Genesis account carefully Man and Woman are created on the 6th Day, God says, “your job will be as gardeners” and then Day 1 of their job is the Sabbath! Your job starts today so take a break… In very real ways, the Sabbath is not “the Weekend” for man: rather it’s the beginning. (Yes, it’s Day Seven for God.)

Far from being prohibited to “do anything”, Adam and Eve are starting from a place of trust. Humanity’s assigned place at the pinnacle of Creation begins with a resting moment of contemplation which they share with God. God is Father who provides: man needs to trust in God, not in the labor of his own hands. Yes, we have work to do but in due time, not now. Sit. Breath. Trust.

In the Liturgical East, the Great Sabbath is the day before Pascha. This also comes from Judaism where the Great Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat HaGadol) is the Sabbath that occurs before Passover (Hebrew: Pesach). On this day is commemorated the descent of Jesus into Hell as Jesus’ body rests in the tomb of St Joseph. It’s this resting in the tomb that’s seen as a typological fulfilment of the Sabbath.

Using the same typological reading of Sabbath rest, let’s spin the clock backward: as God-Made-Man, Jesus must recapitulate all of humanity’s journey and so – as with Adam and Eve – Jesus begins his “job” as redeemer resting in the womb of Mary for nine months. Mary is – in her very self as Mother of God – a type of the Sabbath. To commemorate Mary on the Sabbath is to commemorate the Sabbath on Sabbath! As was mentioned at the top of the post, the devotion used to begin on Friday night at Vespers (that is, sunset). It makes each “Weekend” a beginning: for to start with the Divine Rest, and then to celebrate the Resurrection on the First Day was a real beginning. As my pastor says, “I can’t think of a better way to start the week…”

Shabbat Shalom!

Secundum Legem Moysi

JMJ

The Readings Feast of the Purification of the BVM

Postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis ejus secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino et ut darent hostiam secundum quod dictum est in lege Domini, par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum.
After the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; and to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

In becoming Man, God had to enter Time and Space at one point, and be like us, born of a woman, born between blood and filth. 

O admirábile commércium: Creátor géneris humáni, animátum corpus sumens, de Vírgine nasci dignátus est; et procédens homo sine sémine, largítus est nobis suam Deitátem.
O wondrous interchange! * the Creator of mankind, taking upon him a living body, vouchsafed to be born of a pure Virgin: and by his Humanity, which was begotten in no earthly wise, hath made us partakers of his Divinity.

There are two ways Jesus fulfills the law of Moses: as a pious Jew he – together with his parents – performs the requirements. (Worth noting, in Jesus’ time, the Rabbis had not decided that Cheeseburgers were bad. Jesus could have had a cheeseburger. Bacon, though, and shrimp: right out.) Later in his life he takes on the duties of an adult male Jew, taking sides in rabbinic debates, and offering his own interpretations (you have heard said… but I say to you…) Make of his failures in this context what you will, but you can read Jesus as a faithful Jew, trying his best to fulfill the Legem Moysi and nothing else.


Rubum, quem víderat Móyses incombústum, conservátam agnóvimus tuam laudábilem virginitátem: Dei Génetrix, intercéde pro nobis.
In the bush which Moses saw unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy glorious virginity: holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

But there is another way to fulfill the Law of Moses: If you take an expensive, cut crystal decanter and fill it up with a rare cognac, then you have not only used the bottle for its intended purpose, but you have enriched it, made more than it was set to be. It is fulfilled by having it’s real purpose enhanced. The cognac and the decanter are made together more beautiful.  The Law of Moses was made by God to prepare the world for Jesus the Messiah. The entire tradition (from Abraham forward) of Offering the First Born Son as sacred to God was a foreshadow of Christ. The Exodus people makes the real exodus not leaving Egypt but leaving Sin. The patterns of worship, of culture, even, that laid the foundation for the teachings of Messiah, were put there by God for that very purpose. If the Messiah is a fine diamond, freshly cut and many faceted, the entirety of the world in which he was raised is the setting. He is the cognac in the decanter but he decanter is very needed.

Worth noting: the Seder that we have today in even the most traditional Passover rites, performed in the home evolved into their current form between 500 and 800 AD. The rite many Churches perform in Holy Week would look alien to Jesus and his friends.

Germinávit radix Jesse, orta est stella ex Jacob: Virgo péperit Salvatórem; te laudámus, Deus noster.
The Root of Jesse hath budded,  the Star hath come out of Jacob, the Virgin hath borne the Saviour: we praise thee, O our God.

Christ, the Paschal Lamb, slain from the foundations of the world: meaning that everything that looks like Jesus is, in fact, and echo of the archetype in eternity. Jesus, the light of the world, is not hid under a bushel, but he is placed on the lampstand of Moses and the Prophets. Jesus submits to the yoke of the law which he himself wrote so that he can make its real meaning known even as a voiceless baby, living in the world he created.

Senex Púerum portábat, Puer autem senem regébat: quem virgo péperit, et post partum virgo permánsit: ipsum quem génuit, adorávit.
The old man held his Lord in his arms in the form of a little child, but the Child was the old man’s King even that Child whom a virgin bore, and remained a virgin as before the fruit of her womb, and the God of her soul.

(These antiphons come from the traditional office for the feast…)