Eva : Ave

Today’s Readings:

  • Genesis 3:9-15, 20
  • Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
  • Luke 1:26-38

In the Douay, the RSV, and the NABRE with other Mass texts.

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin’s name was Mary. 
Luke 1:26-27

Today, in the Western Liturgies (of both the Catholic and Orthodox churches) is celebrated the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tomorrow (the 9th) is the celebration in the Eastern Rites (both for Eastern Orthodox and for Byzantine Catholics). I’d be curious to know when the two feasts separated, or how – but then I’m a Church Geek. The Byzantines insist that Mary’s conception (the 9th) is celebrated on a different day than her birth (September 8th) because Mary is not perfect. But they didn’t make their Western Rite communities celebrate on the 9th. The Catholic Church doesn’t see the calendar as all that important – because they didn’t make their Byzantine communities change their dates either. I suspect that both East and West picked their days for different reasons and, later, decided to make up theological justifications for them. (A given feast is often celebrated on the day a famous church building was consecrated, though without reference to the building which now, often, no longer exists.)

This feast is a stumbling block for many Protestants, for many Orthodox and for some Catholics, who just don’t get it. Mary’s immaculate conception has nothing to do with the Virgin Birth of Jesus; it has everything to do, rather, with the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the East she is called “immaculate,” “pure,” or “spotless” (achrantos in Greek). Some Orthodox state that she was free from actual sin, some say she never sinned, and others just say she died sinless. The title Our All-holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (Greek: Τῆς Παναγίας, ἀχράντου, ὑπερευλογημένης, ἐνδόξου, δεσποίνης ἡμῶν Θεοτόκου καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας) is used in the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.

Yet some object to this feast because they say that it sets Mary apart from the rest of Mankind. I don’t think so: God, in his grace, gave to Mary all that later Christians would have in Baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit. That’s all. One can debate about Augustinian ideas of “Original Sin” but Byzantine Catholics don’t hold to such ideas. They are no less Catholic. Mary is celebrated as being, really, the first and greatest Christian, submitting to God’s will and experiencing his grace. Her other feasts are, as well, manifestations of the life of a Christian: her birth, her presentation in the Temple, her death and assumption, her coronation – these are all events in the life of every Christian. They are writ large and rendered miraculous in Mary’s life, yes, but they are ones we all share: she in her life, by God’s grace, and we in our day by God’s sacraments.

Mary’s willingness to participate in God’s plan for mankind undoes what Eve did, in her decision to step out of that plan. Mary’s choice is to fully glory in her willing submission to as Eve attempted to glory in her willful struggle against God’s command. The one wrecked us all. The other blessed us all.

A blessed feast and may we all, by Mary’s intercession, come to share in her glory!

Not That Song. No!


Today’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 40:25-41
  • Matthew 11:28-30

In the Douay, RSV, or in the NABRE with other Mass Texts

It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not.
Isaiah 40:29

There came this moment in my daily grind where I said, “yeah, I’m not doing this any more.” I was partying hard, and working full time. I was also going to college and balancing a relationship on top of that. There was a lot of other stuff going on in my life: a discernment process, financial struggles, my cat was dying. I was pretty pleased to be holding it all together. But, you know: I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Another time, Job, Church and Chastity all in balance, now, and still, not getting anywhere.

Another time: monastic life spinning out of balance, becoming a really annoying struggle of “Gosh I hope I don’t ever have to do that again.” Followed by “Gosh I should go to confession” and then “Gosh this isn’t my fault”… it’s a terrible cycle that totally plays one out, emotionally and physically, and yet one never gets anywhere.

Before I get to the punch line, I admit: there will be more times like the above. Because it’s a lesson I have not learned even now.

But all of these times ended when I prayed. I don’t mean when I said “O God, help me here” although that sort of praying played a part. I mean, when I doubled down, cut a bunch of stupid time wasters out of my life, cleared swaths of time for God and said, “Here. I’m going to add the following things to my life: this weekly church service, that 20 minute devotion daily, this other thing before bed, which means no TV after 7PM.

Suddenly there was more time in my life than I knew what to do with. I can’t explain it without falling into a sort of prosperity Gospel idea, but when something is important we make time for it. And when God is the thing: he makes time for us and when we let him, it sorts out the other stuff.

Yes I know, no one raises kids like I raise my hypothetical ones. And nothing makes for financial obligations like a family. I don’t have an answer for you except I keep seeing it work. It may be that I’m just a lazy fool who, without kids, debt, or property, doesn’t have much to worry about anyway. Or it may be that because of all that I’m just a hat trick, and God would love to resolve your actually-complex time-sink situations too. If I’m a lazy fool, imagine how much someone with actual labor could benefit from “Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”

My friend and Sunday School teacher, Jeanette, was raising three kids and a husband. She even let me live with her one spring when my parents were moving and I wanted to finish out the school year. What I remember about her is, as she kept house, fed her family, and let me listen to music on the headphones: her prayer life. Her secret was her sewing room. It was tiny – about 3 x 4 feet. It was essentially a closet with a window. Her husband had added a built-in table/desk, and there was a chair. It was warm and sunny. She would go into the room, and shut the door and do her business. The whole family knew not to bother her for that time. And she grew, she raised up her family and friends in prayer, and she had time.

If you give God time, he gives it to you.

To be honest: I know the world does, in fact, fall apart, if I don’t hold on to it very well. What I’ve come to realize is, I was not supposed to be holding it together in the first place. Put your hope on Jesus and do not be distracted by the world, the flesh, or the devil. They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

The Cloud of Witnesses Averts Their Eyes.


Today’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 40:1-11
  • Matthew 18:12-14

In the Douay, RSV or the NABRE with other Mass texts

All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass: The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen: but the word of our Lord endureth for ever.
Isaiah 40:6b-8

One of the most wonderful readings of Stalin’s persecution of the Russian Church was expressed to me thus: “…when because of our sins, God allowed to fall on his church…” To think of the Church withering as the grass in the field, with Stalin being blown through the Church by the Spirit of the Lord is, well, revolutionary. Yet this idea is certainly present in Scriptures, where God uses the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Greeks to punish faithless Israel, to bring him back to the faith of his fathers. We see it too when the invasion of Christian lands by the Muslims results in persecutions for the Church and a rebirth, as in Cordova, or other glorious Martyrdoms, as in our own time under ISIS. Even though the flower (or the Martyrs) has fallen, and even though the grass (of the general Church population) has withered, the Word of Our Lord endureth for ever. The gates of Hell, says Jesus, will not prevail against the Church. What will God use against his withering people in America?

Evangelicals, back in the 70s, following Mr Hal Lindsey, Mr Tim LeHaye, and others, took comfort in this idea of “the Rapture” which would magically suck the “real Christians” out of the way of any real persecution – as if God’s ever done that before. But he certainly won’t teleport the church out of the way of people who don’t want Nativity Scenes on the lawns of court houses. (BTW, seriously, WTF? Unless we’re going to get judges who forgive everyone, even those folks who are not sorry, I don’t want Jesus associated with our legal system in people’s minds.)

Within triple my lifespan, more than 60-75 million Christians have been killed because of their faith. Most of them never saw once a Nativity set on their courthouse lawn or worried what the secular authorities called the holiday on Good Friday. In fact, most of them would not have had a holiday on Good Friday no matter what the name.

To be fair, the Church is only a reflection of the Culture. The people who complain about Target’s bathroom policies are are exactly the same as the people who file lawsuits over non-baking of wedding cakes. The people screaming about ten commandments on walls of courthouses or prayers before football games are carbon copies the same people who demand that women be made priests in the name of “justice”. The people who sell out to a fascism claiming to support one (and only one) Catholic Doctrine are exactly the same as those who sell out to a liberal sexuality whilst keeping their pretty liturgies. If the Great Cloud of Witnesses is still watchings, it’s because they are rubbernecking. We are a whinging people: Americans are rats spoiled rotten on a sinking ship. The Gates of Hell will not ever prevail against Christ’s Church but the whining bastages who call themselves Christians may wreck it from the inside. Then the spirit of God would do well to wither the grass and let the flowers fall, because of our sins, really, if you must know.

When reading about the Martyrs of Cordova, England, Japan, China, or the Soviet Union, I cannot help but wonder what shall become of us here in the USA, when something really bad happens. I don’t mean when our 501(c)3 status gets revoked and we stop groveling to keep our gov’t subsidies. I mean when men with gov’t guns follow us around waiting for a quite interlude. I’m worried that I and many of us will not be strengthened and so will fall in that world. I pray to my ancestor, Blessed William Richardson, the last priest killed by Elizabeth I, that I might have some tiny portion of his courage. But seriously, I can’t even wait for the bus without getting angry at the driver that won’t stop. For my sins, I deserve what I get, as do we all.

Bang. Zoom. Through the roof, Alice.


Today’s readings:

  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Luke 5:17-26

This text in the Douay, the RSV, and the NABRE with Mass texts.

Quorum fidem ut vidit, dixit: Homo, remittuntur tibi peccata tua.
Whose faith when he saw, he said: Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
Luke 5:20

Whose faith did Jesus see? Jesus saw the faith of the men who brought their friend down through the roof. The Greek and the Latin are both plural: Jesus saw their faith and so forgave the sins of the man on the stretcher.

The great Orthodox Saint, Seraphim of Sarov (also venerated by Byzantine Catholics) taught his disciples to “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and thousands around you will be saved.”

We do save those around us. – and they save us If you wish to be made fully mindful of your status as a sinner, of your reliance on the prayers of the Church, sing a Byzantine Rite Panikhida. The texts convey the voice of the departed begging the prayers of the living. I am aware that the only way I can be saved is through the prayers and love of this community around me.

As you see me set before you
Mute and without breath
Weep for me, my brethren, family, and all who know me,
For I spoke with you only yesterday,
And suddenly the fearful hour of death came upon me.
Come all those who love me
And give me the last kiss,
For never again shall I journey or talk with you
Until the end of time.
For I go to a Judge Who is impartial,
Where servant and master stand side by side.
King and soldier, rich and poor, are held in equal esteem.
For each will be glorified by his own deeds
Or will be put to shame.
But I ask and implore you all
To pray without ceasing for me to Christ our God,

That I may not be put into the place of torment because of my sins,
But that He may appoint me
To a place where there is the light of life. 

In addition to the living, the Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox rites are filled with invocations like “Holy Mother of God, Save us!” Save, again, does not mean “avoid hell, go to heaven after you die” but rather it means “healed, made whole”. We ask the living, the dead, the Saints, our neighbors, our families, and the Holy Souls in Purgatory to pray for us as we pray for them: we are not saved alone.

We are, exactly, saving the world around us by living out our Christian Faith. This is such a marked difference from the Evangelical Idea of “pray the sinner’s’ prayer or spend eternity in hell”. We are answering God’s “altar call” every time we approach the altar. We have Jesus with us in the Blessed Sacrament and the praying community of the Church. We can, this Advent, or anytime, drop someone “through the roof” to Jesus. And so, who would you place before Jesus to ask for their salvation? With whom would you join? “If two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:19

Who would you save? Live out your faith. Who would you convert? Live out your faith.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Today’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Romans 15:4-9
  • Matthew 3:1-12

In the Douay, the RSV, and the NABRE with other Mass Texts

Et dicens: Poenitentiam agite: appropinquavit enim regnum caelorum.
Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 3:2

After my notes on the readings for the 29th where I celebrated a confusing choice on the part of St Jerome and the Douay translators, it’s nice that we have today, another odd choice (in fact, we have the same reading from Isaiah as the OT reading today). Today’s is not one, I think, that I like or agree with, but it’s there. Most translations render Matthew 3:2 as some version of “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (RSV), the Douay has John saying “Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It renders the Latin correctly. Jerome said this and in his commentary on Matthew makes no note on this verse only to say that John has the privilege of being the Lord’s forerunner. Although in Mark 1:15, he said poenitemini which is rather better and get’s translated as “repent”. See this article: other Latin writers favored the word resipiscite. The latter gets better into the Greek, which is μετανοέω, metanoeo. It means more like “change your mind” or “change your thinking”.

Change your thinking: the Kingdom of God is here. What is there for us here? How can we find a way around Jerome’s use of “penance”? Do we need to?

In the prayers for the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, the members are asked to pray “For our intellect, that it may be purged of all false beliefs and misunderstandings about human sexuality…” Also members are asked to pray for so many other aspects of our mind to change: our memory, our estimation, our affectivity, our imagination, for our will, and for our conscience. This is only around the area of sexual purity – so very important for us in our world today. Yet how many other parts of our life are, in fact, not so discreet, but rather are spread around our personalities, woven into to so many other parts of our life? My favourite of the 15 intentions in that list is that “no sadness, discouragement, fear, insecurity, or loneliness may afflict us unto sexual sin.” How often are all those items factors in our other, non-sexual sins?

As I noted last week, a key aspect of Advent is our Hope. I find myself constantly praying that I may keep my hope set on God and that nothing of the world, the flesh, or the devil may distract me from that hope. That is the essential temptation, I think: to be distracted from the promises of God, to “turn away from higher, more difficult, and more honorable goods for the sake of sinful self-indulgence.” I’ve recently realized that we can have, as it were, positive hopes, when something lures us, saying, “Place your hope here instead.” Or we can have negative hopes (fears) of things in the world, the White House, or the next Pope’s on a Plane press conference, that invite us to be fearful, or angry. We become negatively attached to hopelessness.

It’s all in your mind. Indeed, “sadness, discouragement, fear, insecurity, or loneliness may afflict us unto” any sort of sin against the hope offered to us in Advent. And we need to move beyond that to get a new mind, then we must repent…

But if that’s how wide the root system is, for sexual sin or for any other sin, how can we destroy it? We may not be able to, fully, in this life, but Jesus gives us a powerful image when he says (In Matthew 5:30) “if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.”

Jesus says over and over throughout the Gospel that no cost is too high to get this new mind; and “cutting off your hand” even metaphorically, sounds to me a lot like doing penance. How many successful actions of “mental reform” are, in fact, strong-willed penances inflicted on the mind? This is why I’m weak in so many areas: because I cannot perform the simple penance of standing up and praying a decade of the Rosary or the 15 Aves of the Confraternity when I feel certain temptations. Penance is an act of hope: a sign that I can do better.

Getting a new mind – in fact, training a new mind by force if needed – is the process of Getting Saved.

In fact, our modern, merely psychological concept of “say you’re sorry” may be the real error, the part that seriously out of step from the historic Christian tradition where saints, to become healed of their sins, ran into the desert and lived for years on roots, locusts and honey. What level of self abasement, of abandonment of political and social ideas of “justice”, of stern and painful penance is needed for ripping through all the layers of defence in which we wrap ourselves to protect us from God?

Are you Equal to the Apostles?

Today is the Feast of St Andrew in both East and West.
Here he is, preaching from his cross before he died.

Today’s Readings:

  • Romans 10:9-18
  • Matthew 4:18-22

RSV, Douay, or NABRE with other Mass Texts

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things?
Romans 10:15b

Who brought you the Gospel? Who first opened the doors for you – even if it was someone who, by your present understanding, could not show you the whole thing – who, at least, parted the curtains a little (or a lot) that first time? Was it a pastor or a preacher, a Sunday School teacher, a youth worker, a choir director? Was it a school teacher who maybe today would get fired, but who answered your questions about the Bible in a way that let you know she wasn’t just teaching literature and you wanted to know more? Was it someone who handed you a tract on the street? Or a preacher who said something as you passed and you felt the Holy Spirit tugging just a little too hard? Did Nuns singing the Salve Regina at a peace rally intrigue you? Maybe it was your mother or father, maybe some other family member who prayed grace one year at Thanksgiving in a way that let you know he was actually thanking Someone.

Who first opened the doors of this relationship with you? Who planted the first seed?

Who watered the seed? Did your parents send you to Catholic school? Were you in crush/love with the boy or girl who seemed to do best in Confirmation Class and you wanted to be like him or her? Did your older sister share how she kept herself safe on dates, or your older brother tell you all about football and the coach who prayed? Did you have a coworker who opened your eyes one day to why his customers left his desk happy? Were you learning the faith accidentally for 20 years next to someone in a factory, until one day someone else invited you to Church and you said yes because it felt finally right? Was it a lover who felt her own pangs of guilt and woke them in you as well?

Who were the folks who tilled your garden, raised you up in this relationship and watch quietly (or not so quietly) as you wondered and wandered, making sure you were never really lost.

How did you come to the Church where you are now? Who invited you – or directed you via twitter or facebook? Did a bunch in incense and icons at the Prolife March draw you in? Did you find them on yelp because of many good reviews? Were you walking by one day and the door was opened? Did you hear singing and wonder why someone was celebrating Easter on 1 May? Did you follow the dancers behind the statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe and discover the Rosary and real love? Did you get a crush on someone at the gym, only to run into them at the juice bar and see them wearing a sacred heart badge? Did you find them feeding the homeless and were shocked to learn they did it for some “religious” reasons?

Are these folks alive or dead? Could you reach out to them and thank them? Should you even? Would they be embarrassed for knowing? Would they even remember? Can you imagine ever being who you are without them? Reach out in prayer for them, at least.

How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of them that bring Good News.

Now, how can you be like them? What in your life are you doing to be the Gospel for others are these folks were for you? What if your life really is the only Gospel someone ever has shared with them? Great Saint, Equal to the Apostles, and Evangelizer of the Whole Foods Breakroom…

Been watching too much Pacino


Today’s Readings:

  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Luke 10:21-24

RSVA, Douay, or NABRE with other Mass texts.

For the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the covering waters of the sea. 
Quia repleta est terra scientia Domini, sicut aquae maris operientes.
Isaiah 11:9

As I was comparing different Bible translations I noticed that the Douay and the Young’s Literal Translation only (of all the ones I had available) have have a very different reading of the concluding sentence in this passage. All other translations put that last sentence in the future tense, following the rest of the prophecy. But Young’s and the Douay have it in the present tense: instead of “the earth shall be filled” we get “the earth is filled.” Douay follows the Latin. St Jerome’s Vulgate text renders it repleta est terra, “full is the earth”. Finally, I looked at the Hebrew. I have to be careful here, because After two years of Hebrew, future tense was not very kind to me. Yet, when I looked, what I found was מָלְאָ֣ה “Maleh” “full”. It’s in the present tense!

The Hebrew and the Latin both say, essentially, “all this stuff shall be when the Rod of Jesse comes,: the Hebrew and the Latin both say, “because the earth is full of the knowledge of God.” I won’t wonder about how we got all these other translations putting it all in the future tense – including the current official RC liturgical text. I’ll just go with it.

In Romans 8:22 Paul says that all creation groans under the weight of the human fall. How is that to be understood? It’s not possible for rocks to sin, or for squid to need redemption. How is this creation left groaning?

Man is the Lord of Creation: man is the priest-king that is to stand offering all of the world to God… and he is fallen. He has become so much less than he should be, than we should be. We are all this fallen man. And so, everything under us groans because it is filled with the knowledge of God, it knows what it should be, it knows what we should be, it knows fully what we are keeping from it. The wolf is begging to dwell with the lamb: and the leopard longs to lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep know that they should be together, led by man as Child of God. The calf and the bear are begging heaven to feed together and they pray for the day their young ones shall rest together: but it is our sins that keep them from their natural place. The world is so disordered that we think all this nature red in tooth and claw is as it should be. We never realize what we’ve done to everything in the wake of our fall.

Pope Francis says “…each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. (Para 84, Laudato Si)

There are many stories of the Saints, from Mary of Egypt and the lion, and Francis of Assisi and the wolf, Seraphim of Sarov and his bear, and more… all of these show that when Man’s unity with God is restored, so is Man’s unity with the natural world – and the natural world is healed itself. “Pacify yourself and heaven and earth will be pacified for you” (Abba Isaac) (Here is a whole page of Orthodox stories of saints and animals.) This world in which we live is waiting to be redeemed, not from its own fallen state, but rather from the fallen state of its divinely appointed rulers.

A common ranting point online is the difference between “being stewards of God’s creation” and “having dominion over God’s creation.” We act as if the fall has never happened, as if we might now – as fallen humans – know what best to do with God’s gifts to us. That is, really, the same sin as Eve grabbing the fruit. We are not yet grown to maturity because we have not let ourselves learn. We cannot treat creation as we would, exploiting it, destroying it.

It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.
(Para 33, Laudato Si

He continues, “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (Para 49) Advent is not just about hope for us… Jesus says, “I say to you that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see and have not seen them…” and all of creation as well, longed to see these things. This, in turn, is care for the poor, is care for all the world.

In the Jewish tradition there is the teaching of Tikkun Olam, the restoration of the world. In the end only God can do it, of course, but he has begun the work in Jesus Christ and it is continued in his Church, even only to be fulfilled in the Last Day. Yet we should be about that work now. The earth is filled with the knowledge of God. All of Creation is of the order to love, says the Pope. It is us who are out of order. I’m out of order, you’re out of order, this whole creation thus is out of order because of us.

Only we are out of step: we’re throwing off the entire dance. Advent calls us to march to the beat of different drummer. All of Creation, filled with the knowledge of God, already hears it.

Wait, I AM worthy…


Today’s readings:
  • Isaiah 4:2-6
  • Matthew 8:5-11

In RSVA, Douay, or NABRE with other Mass texts.

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word…”
Matthew 8:8

In Advent, we are waiting for the coming of Christ, who comes to us, if we will but receive him, every day in the holy Eucharist.

These words, “Lord I am not worthy…”, are said at every western liturgy prior to communion, as the priest holds up the consecrated Bread and Wine, now the Body and Blood of Christ. The Celebrant says, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. (The new Mass adds, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.”) To which the people reply, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.” The translations vary. The Latin in all cases is “Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo…” In the new Mass it is said only once. In the older rites, in either Latin or English, it is said three time.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

If one believes the Holy Communion to be what the Lord, himself, said it is, “my body” and “my blood”, then no one is worthy at all, save by the grace of God, not of ourselves lest anyone should boast. It is not false humility that lays this prayer out there before Communion. In the Byzantine rites, both Orthodox and Catholic, the pre-communion prayers are much in the same mode. The Anglicans (and some WRO) say, in another prayer, “…we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table…”

To modernist ears, this sounds patently foolish. Theologically they might say something like “God loves us so we’re not going to crawl to him like that.” The non-theological might say, “This is why I’m not religious: I refuse to abase myself like that.” These two approaches are essentially the same, one tries only to sound more friendly to the older traditions. Both are essentially humanist rather than theist: man as the measure of all things, rather than God as such. In the latter case, no one can measure up to God, in the former case, God had better measure up to us or get out of our way.

It is sad to see what these two sides of the same coin can do to any religion – not just Christianity. If some part of Buddhism or Christianity, of Judaism or Hinduism, or Islam or any other path make a humanist feel “uncomfortable” it gets ignored. The language used may be something like “I sat in dialog with this text…” or “cultural contexts change” or a more blatant, “This is meaningless to us now.” Yet in all cases, from sex, to life and death, from communion to creedal statements, for the simple reason that I know better now, it gets tossed out. “Not in my church,” we say – in all humility of course before “Teh Unoabulz, amirite? Whoa!”

For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Matthew 8:9

How has our culture taught us to be so arrogant? How have we forgotten to be humble? The Centurion, a man who has every right to be arrogant in his culture: a lifer in the Army, as we would say nowadays, wealthy enough to have servants, to have a house in this arid Judean waste where Caesar has seen fit to send him; the Centurion is humble before Christ. He is humble before this man whom he may see as a miracle worker or even a teacher: but he also sees, certainly, as one of these rural hicks we have enslaved. He’s here to dominate these people on behalf of his Emperor, and yet he says, “Lord, I am not worthy…” A “coastal elite” being humble before a Trump voter.

Even the Centurion’s claim might sound preposterous to us. “I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.” Of whom in our life would we say that? Certainly not our employers, nor our employees. Certainly not of our spiritual elders or those for whom we are responsible. God knows, it’s not our secular authorities… no… we all stand on equal footing and, if someone says, “do” or “do not”, I concede the action of my own free choice… or so we tell ourselves so as to keep our illusions of inflated worth alive.

And yet… and yet… that person there, that Elder, that Employer, that Customer, that (expletive) in the DMV line or behind the DMV counter… is a living icon of God. Whom we claim to receive after this waiting time of Advent, in tears and awe. In in the bread with our curt little nod and “Domine non sum dignus…” But in emotional mushiness before the image of the Nativity. And in rudeness at Wal*Mart.

How can we see him in our arrogance?

The only path that has created equality is our mutual humility before the Terrible Judge, who has condescended to love us. If we take him functionally out of the picture (even if we leave him in by name) then all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others. I’m grabbing my TV at Wal*Mart, stomp anyone in the way.

Once you realize what the Eucharist actually is (said a Meme I read on Sunday) you never want to leave the Church. And yet he’s there all around us. Once you realize what the Eucharist actually is, you never get out of Church, ever.

Blessed, praised, hallowed, and adored be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory in Heaven, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and in the hearts of his faithful people everywhere.

Lord, I am not worthy.

Your I is on the Spero


Today’s Readings:
  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Romans 13:11-14
  • Matthew 24:37-44
RSVA or NABRE with other Mass propers.
For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples.
Isaiah 3b-4a
The “Act of Hope”, said as art of personal (non-liturgical) Morning and Evening devotions in traditional Western piety, both RC and WR Orthodox, is thus:

DEUS meus, cum sis omnipotens, infinite misericors et fidelis, spero Te mihi daturum, ob merita Iesu Christi, vitam aeternam et gratias necessarias ad eam consequendam, quam Tu promisisti iis qui bona opera facient, quemadmodum, Te adiuvante, facere constituo. In hac spe vivere et mori statuo. Amen. 

O MY GOD, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon for my sins, the help of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. In this hope I stand to live and die. Amen.

Spero – “I hope” – is a cardinal Christian virtue, especially in this season of Advent (beginning today for the Liturgical West, although already in full swing for the East). Spero, I hope, is what this Season is about. We commemorate initially the hope for Israel’s long-expected Jesus, the hope with which his all-holy mother and earthly foster father awaited the Divine birth. We also celebrate the hope with which we all live, awaiting his return. These themes of Apocalypse and Fulfillment are carried to full term through the season, culminating in the “Great O Antiphons” which precede the Savior’s birth at Christmas. “I hope” is our watchword.
In his Angelus, for the First Sunday of Advent, 28 November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said:

One could say that man is alive as long as he waits, as long as hope is alive in his heart. And from his expectations man recognizes himself: our moral and spiritual “stature” can be measured by what we wait for, by what we hope for.
Every one of us, therefore, especially in this Season which prepares us for Christmas, can ask himself: What am I waiting for? What, at this moment of my life, does my heart long for? And this same question can be posed at the level of the family, of the community, of the nation. What are we waiting for together? What unites our aspirations, what brings them together? 

The Christian, asked for what he is hoping, should reply “The Advent of My Lord, be that in the next Mass, the next coming before me of his face in need, or the Second and glorious appearing.” We wait expectantly to see Jesus in all those ways: our Lord comes in the sacred Liturgy, in the hearts of those around us, and in his full power to Judge. But, for that second option, in others’ hearts, we have another work to accomplish: for we are to inculcate that same hope in those around us. We cannot, however, ask the poor simply to hope in God when they do not have hope for their next crust of bread, or their next child’s health care. Our sure sign of hope is the freedom with which we give to God, via the hands of the poor, all those things which God has given us.
Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Romans 13:13-14
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh: that is not a political statement nor a social policy: we are not to reply to the poor, “Make no provision for the flesh”. But we are not to worry about our flesh. As we are in Christ, God will take care of us – and we shall take care of others in his name.
Again as I said in the lead up to Advent, this is not about Political actions, but about sedition. We are subverting the system, giving Caesar what his law requires, but giving God everything. We are not here to make Caesar care for the poor: we are to do that. We are not here to invite people, against their political will, to change public laws: we’re here to do the right thing. We will be judged by our deeds – not by the laws that govern our nation. In hac spe vivere et mori statuo. I stand to live and die in this hope… death may well come. If we do it right. We can always hope.