Wherein Fr Martin is – Briefly – Right

Orthodox Monastic Building a Bridge



The Readings for Sunday, 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (B2): 

Tu es Simon, filius Jona; tu vocaberis Cephas, quod interpretatur Petrus.
Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.

Did you ever notice how long the first Chapter of St John’s Gospel is? I don’t mean in terms of words. But in terms of concepts it goes from “In the beginning was the Word through John the Baptist all the way up to  naming Peter and the calling of the 12 up to “Angels Ascending and Descending on the Son of Man. I know there are no Chapters in the Greek Text, just a series of stories, but dang that’s a lot of stuff.

For a couple of reasons I have, lately, been reading Fr James Martin’s Building a Bridge. Since I enjoy the luxury of only reviewing books I like I’ll not be reviewing this, um, Jesuitical treatise, but I will give credit: this essay comes from a line in that book. Fr Martin was briefly right. Noting that, before he fell, our first Father was given the authority to name the Animals, Fr Martin goes on to cite a number of places in the scripture where names are important including this scene of the Naming of Peter. Abram and Sarai get new names. Israel gets a new name. Jesus’ name and John’s were foretold by angels. God reveals his own name. From this the Jesuit deduces that names are important and we should call people whatever things they pick for themselves. 

His overlooking of a crucial point must be called out: no one in the Bible picks their own name and when God names something it sticks – regardless of what Mamma named ’em.

God reveals real meaning when he names things. God’s very name means Being. Abraham is the father of many. Jesus will save his people. John is the Gift of God, the Forerunner. Simon bar Jonah is the Rock on which Christ will build his Church. Israel means “Struggles with God” and the Church is the New Israel.  We may vainly imagine that what we say goes… but God wins. When God names something, it sticks. 

Fugite fornicationem. Omne peccatum, quodcumque fecerit homo, extra corpus est: qui autem fornicatur, in corpus suum peccat.
Fly fornication. Every sin that a man doth, is without the body; but he that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body.

Sexual sins, Paul says, are unlike any other sin because that are against one’s own body. Paul uses a greek word that is so recognizable in our society today, porneia. Strong comments on this word, that we learn “from 1 Corinthians 6:12ff how leniently converts from among the heathen regarded this vice and how lightly they indulged in it; accordingly, all other interpretations of the term, such as of marriages within the prohibited degrees and the like, are to be rejected.” But we know that now to be True. Not just of Porn, but of all sorts of sexual sins: from rewiring the pleasure centers of our brain, to blocking endorphins, to creating addictions, from weakening the immune system to sharing diseases and strengthening viruses, the misuse of sex injures us. These sins undo us. They ruin us.

These sins cut us into body parts for consumption – first by each other and then later by the demons. I speak in the first person.

Our culture, today, uses the world, Porn, just mean “dirty pictures” and so creates “Food Porn” and “Apartment Porn”. But, in fact, the reverse is true: it is Porn for the right reasons. Marketing and advertising create lustful passions for food, for furniture, for travel, for clothes… each one incites a different passion, yes, perhaps. But each one also turns what might have been a rather garden variety weakness into a full-on, soul numbing drug.

In our numbed state we may try to name ourselves something new, never God breathed, or never even imagined in scripture. We know so much more know. But this name is not true. It is not indelible. It easily washes away.

Jesus renames us in Baptism. He turns away from fornication of all sorts, away from destroying our own souls to life, to himself. He sets us on the Rock where he builds his whole church. And he gives us a new name that none of us know save he, himself. 

My Favourite


The Readings for Wednesday, 1st Week of Ordinary Time (B2):

Vade, et dormi: et si deinceps vocaverit te, dices: Loquere, Domine, quia audit servus tuus.

Go, and sleep: and if he shall call thee any more, thou shalt say: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

This scene of the Calling of Samuel has a couple of interesting bits. The first is that the boy doesn’t know who’s talking to him because God hasn’t revealed anything to him yet. The second is, not knowing God’s voice, he think it belongs to Eli the Priest. Right there, I should stop, I think. But I’ll be brave.

None of us know the sound of God’s voice until we’ve listened to his priest. 

But what if the priest mispeaks? What if the priest misteaches? What if the priest indulges in petty whims, contrary to the tradition, as a way to cover his own failings? What if the priest is vested in fame and can’t differentiate truth from likes on twitter? What if the priest is just as lost as the rest of us?

Holding the line against Catholic revisionism is nowhere nears as annoying as doing so in ECUSA and the EOC. In ECUSA the revisionists had already won before I got there. People who were in power in the General Convention of 1967 were still in charge of things in 1997 when I left. ECUSA held the moneybags for so much of the Anglican Communion that it was only a matter of time. In the EOC, they are very covert, but they are in power and hold the moneybags for most of the Orthodox world. Much of the Orthodox world (other than Russia) is already under their sway; unwilling to censure anyone who might send another $5,000 to the Motherland – even if the do gave unmarried and same-sex couples in their upscale parish.

They only have sway in parts of the Catholic Church that are already falling apart. American Catholics do not hold the purse strings for anyone. And lo, the Millenials, contrary to all predictions, are coming in more conservative than their forebears.  I shall welcome them in positions of leadership. And men of my generation, largely, are coming off the same. There are three generations of clergy at my Parish, and I have so much hope as I meet the ones younger than I, as I meet couples engaged (or about to be), as I visit other parishes where the same is true. As I surf out on the internet, there are signs of hope everywhere. In numbers alone, there’s hope. 

So, there we are.

What if Eli had said, “Go back to bed, it’s just a bit of undigested mutton.”  We shall see tomorrow. 

Pray for your priest – even if he’s one of the revisionists. God has a plan for him and your prayers are part of it. He’s just come through one of the two busiest times of the year. He’s exhausted, maybe even a little cranky. Pray for him: send him some flowers or a six pack or a gift card for BBQ.  And don’t you go along for the ride either. No work. Just a gift.

Even Jesus needed time alone.

And your priest is not the Divine Logos.