Day 100. Facie ad Faciem

JMJ

Quarantine first’s terrified panic led to a tedium where days blent together in disordered shades of fog. This, in turn, parted like a curtain on a sort of political theater which allows us to pass the time with a modicum of excitement unrelated to our sickness or death. In my fear at the beginning of this excitement, I did not realize but I was watching political theater. Only as things settled into a new normal did I begin to realize that some of this was merely drama and entirely unnecessary. The Theatre has been (for me) most prevalent in the Church. My friends were not fighting for toilet paper or hand sanitizer, but they were arguing over how “The Rules” (health orders, etc) are “oppressing” the Church. There were some who felt otherwise, and so they fought online. I’ve learned that many who are Catholics and proud of our intellectual tradition become just as keen to deny science when it serves their political (theatrical) ends. Also, as wealthy, mostly-white Americans we have a very distorted view of what “oppression” actually is. This is playing out in our reactions to other cultural moments right now. While oppressed people are actually demanding justice, some – politicians, clergy, and laity – are simply reacting to the demand in a theatrical manner. This political theatre even though it’s inside the church had to be ignored as the worldly distraction it really is. Even the debate about socialism was only more political theatre.

One hundred days into this new cultural pattern things are more than beginning to fray around the edges. First, when I and almost all of my friends who lived through the 80s noticed the parallel with AIDS, it seemed sort of OK but even so, every reaction was fear-driven. Then, for a while, there was a depression that wasn’t letting go. One day I realized I could offer this cross to God – that I should offer it to him – and then things got markedly better. Then I learned that I have one extroverted quality above all others: processing things externally with the help of others. It’s not just being around others that’s important, but rather processing around others. Going to the park is not just fun, but the maddening crowd forms a meditative space where thoughts, feelings, and process all happen.

Additionally, my extroverted self is not just struggling to process things in public, but struggling to be seen from an external point of view: when you see me, I can be. Somehow this seems to be part of my struggles around intimacy, sex, friendship, and love. Being alone means for me non-being: how can there be any being if there is no validation, no interaction? This struggle arises at work as well as when a whole day goes by without any Slack interactions. How can today have gone well? No one spoke to me. In these mental habits living alone means never having time to think. Destructive, sinful patterns that come and go in my life are resurfacing and – like depression – it took forever to realize these are crosses that need to be offered up.

Writing to the Corinthians, in the concluding passages of “The Love Chapter” St Paul turns a curious phrase:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away… For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12 (AV)

We only know in part, he says, starting out, seemingly, with something theological, mystical, but then it suddenly jumps to first-person intimacy: Face to face, I shall know even as I am known.

The Greek here for face-to-face is πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον and yes, it means “Face to Face” but it also means so very much more. Πρόσωπον prosopon is the mask an actor wears in Greek theatre – which theatre was often a religious act. It means not just “face” (as in I put on a mask to look like someone else) but rather it means the entire persona that the actor became when wearing the mask. Prosopon means the intimate personhood of a being. Paul means here, person to person, divine to mortal, God to Man. What that would be like, Paul does not say here, although it is related to love, to charity, to agape. Yet in his next letter he has cause to use prosopon one more time. Saying that God has given us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face (prosopon) of Jesus Christ. In the very person of Jesus the Messiah, we have the very knowledge of the glory of God. In looking into the face of Jesus – the full prosopon of God – we are each revealed as prosopon. We have become ourselves, knowing as we are known. God sees us as subject of his gaze and offers himself as subject for ours as well.

The desire to be known which pretends to offer validation to me is but a corruption of this revelation that each of us – in his fullness – is known (and validated) exactly in this way by God. Not only that, but God does not seek just to see us in an omnidirectional panopticon. He’s not watching: he’s relating. He seeks to reveal himself to us, person to person. God reveals himself in the personhood, the prosopon of Jesus.

That this should be done in the context of an offered cross should come as no surprise since that’s the way God revealed himself to us, stretched out on the beams of a cross, pierced in hands and feet and side. That this should come a personal cost should be no surprise either, vide supra. That this should come as a gift of a very personal weakness, a very personal failing: that’s what we call grace.

Day 75. What Has Been Learned?

JMJ

Very early in this I learned that I can go quite a long time on autopilot without realizing this is not “the new normal” but rather this is the rut I let myself make and it’s only that I’m calling it the New Normal. For a while my two emotions were fear and snark. Sometimes, all up in there, God would manage to punch through with some emotions, like during the Papal Holy Hour. I wept like Tammy Faye in uncontrolled sobs. But mostly I was running on fear and snark. That was not the new normal: that was the rut.

For a while, my entire life was from the apartment, to Grace Cathedral’s Labyrinth, to Nob Hill Market, to back home.

If you had told me in February how important this would become to me, I would have laughed.

Labyrinths are curious. Why bother: it’s a walk in circles. But it forces you to watch your feet, to look down, to not be distracted. It’s perfect for praying a rosary or the Jesus Psalter. It’s a place for zoning out: in broad daylight, people will watch you like you’re a TV show. They will talk to you when you’re done as if you’re a TV star. Then they go on with their day. The first time I looked into the center and saw death, I cried. I’ve since become friends with her by walking into her at least once every other day or so. And praying.

The Market was another trip: do you remember the time before we washed groceries? Then they stopped taking cash. I learned how to make sourdough bread with a half teaspoon of commercial yeast that I’m still using to make things. It bubbles up nicely when I need it to.

Alone on the streets of SF before sunrise.

But there’s also been a slow, painful learning process.

First: I was taking mass for granted. It was a badge of honor that I was going to daily mass – not a daily coming into deeper relationship with God. This was something I did… a box to check off. Not a desire from my heart. Now that I cannot go (or rather, that I can only go on-screen) I’ve learned that you should only eat when you’re hungry.

Second: I’m really afraid of prayer. God teaches us a vocabulary. God gets us going… and then God rocks it. This thing happens when God reaches in and takes over. Grace works your prayer life like this scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (EMI 1977):

We are taking over this conversation… now.

But that’s terrifying. While there are few things as glorious, it’s also one thing as terrfying… even the prophets ran away from it. In a deep relationship of love, why do we hurt each other so? My child you cannot hurt me, but you are wounded by Love because you do not trust me. Light can only hurt if your eyes are not strong enough. But I can heal your eyes: and your heart. Only trust.

Third. We asked God to purify His Church but we didn’t really mean it. This is like the item above on prayer: When God has something to do, he does it. I’ve come to believe that’s what’s happening now. God is fixing things, refocusing things, getting things lined up for a future that may even be worse. These words from 1969 are familiar to some:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so she will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more like a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.

In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship. The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century.

Father Joseph Ratzinger (as he then was) speaking on German Radio

But in the midst of the process it that really sucks, you know? We don’t like it. Worse some of us actually decided – after yelling and screaming about purifying the Church – that we needed to tell God where to get off – especially if he wanted to take out some other things in the process, like ‘Muruka.

Fourth, now that I can’t run away, I’ve realized that all the running away I did in the past was a form of suicide. I would reach a point of disconnect, or dislike, find myself trapped in some way or another, and then I would just go: dropping friends, religions, jobs, lovers, whatever… and reinvent myself. Except the self I’d reinvent was often someone else: a new name, a new religion, a new backstory. The old one was killed.

That’s… not a healthy thing. Not at all. And I’m only learning that now because I can’t escape. Where could I go that’s not here? Or like here? So now I just get out and walk 15 miles. In the past I would drive 400 miles, sleeping in the car, and figure out something to do before coming back (if I came back).

Fifth, American healthcare sucks, and we’ve now shown that to the world. Literally everyone knew this, but no one laughs at the bully until it’s safe to do so. Now it’s safe and we’ve made it clear: millions of people lost healthcare in this crisis, but only in America. Only because their bosses – on whom they depend for health care – were too stingy to care for their workers in times of loss. We need a nationalized – socialized – healthcare system now: from the local pharmacy and privatized “Urgent Care” clinics to the big HMOs and the Pharmaceutical companies. They all need to be torn down, nationalized, and purged. But we will not get it. The next crisis will be worse.

Before this all started in the States, one priest on FB was convinced that the only reason Italy was suffering was because – unlike America – Italy had very few hospital beds to care for the ill. Mostly because of Europe’s socialized Health Care. He didn’t care that per-capita number proved that Italy had more beds than America, or that even our medical experts were saying we didn’t have enough beds. That level of denial is common in America: we know we’re the best so if something bad happens it must be someone else’s fault.

That was before NYC started to bring in refrigerator trucks to hold the dead bodies that they had no other room for. That was before:

The population of China is 1.435 Billion people. They’ve had 4,634 deaths.
The population of the USA is 328.2 Million people. We’ve had 97,647 deaths.
How did we get ~24 times more deaths despite having only a 5th as many people?
We’re NUMBER ONE! USA! USA! USA! (Source).
There are other places with worse stats. We’re not the worst. I get that. But still.. we’re certainly not the best.

Sixth, the American Economy is dysfunctional AF. The cries of “only old people need to stay home”, “let’s risk the deaths…”, “keep our cities open!” and “Meat slaughtering is essential work – even if workers are dying” are, as one person on twitter put it, a sign that America, confronted with the classic Trolley problem elected to save the streetcar named capitalism at all costs. Sorry, wrong answer.

Finally, we really live in a banana republic.

In economics, a banana republic is a country with an economy of state capitalism, whereby the country is operated as a private commercial enterprise for the exclusive profit of the ruling class. Such exploitation is enabled by collusion between the state and favored economic monopolies, in which the profit, derived from the private exploitation of public lands, as private property, while the debts incurred thereby are the financial responsibility of the public treasury. Such an imbalanced economy remains limited by the uneven economic development of town and country, and usually reduces the national currency into devalued banknotes (paper money), rendering the country ineligible for international development credit.

Remember, civilized countries did far more than just give out $1k checks so that people could shop some more – to prop up the economy. All the Feds did was give us more money (as individuals) to give to Jeff Bezos (and some others). And while millions of us sat home unemployed, the stock market had one of its best months ever. That’s where we live. If the Caldera in Yellowstone blew up – because, you know, 2020 – the main loss would be elk, bears, and Old Faithful.

Day 66. Acedia & Depression

JMJ

I am neither a spiritual director nor a psych-anything. This is a meditation.

Two of my favorite podcasters (who do not podcast together), Fr Harrison and Gomer, have been talking about acedia in their podcasts and/or social media. This topic has interested me since before I was Catholic. My first visit to an Orthodox monastery, a priest was reading The Noonday Devil by Dom Jean-Charles Nault, OSB. Although Fr David and I had a brief talk about it at that time and the title stuck with me and I was able to buy it on Amazon. It was my first grasp at understanding that the sin of “sloth” is not really the same thing as being lazy.

Acedia, according to St Thomas, is:

It should be said that acedia, according to Damascene, is a certain oppressive sadness, which so depresses man’s mind that he can do nothing freely, as things which are acidic are also cold. And therefore acedia implies a certain weariness in working, as is evident from what the Gloss says about Psalm 106:8, “their soul abhorred all meat”; and some say that acedia is a torpor of the mind that neglects to begin good things. Now such sadness is always bad, sometimes in itself, sometimes with respect to its effect. For sadness in itself is bad when it concerns that which is apparently bad and truly good, as conversely delight is bad when it concerns that which is apparently good and truly bad. Therefore since spiritual good is truly good, sadness that concerns spiritual good is bad in itself. But also sadness that concerns something truly bad is bad with respect to its effect if it weighs a man down so much as to draw him totally away from good work; hence the Apostle in 2 Cor 2:7, does not want “the penitent to be absorbed by greater sadness” about sin. But since acedia, as we take it here, names sadness regarding spiritual good, it is bad in both ways: in itself, and with respect to its effect. And therefore acedia is a sin, since evil in appetitive movements we call a sin, as is evident from what was said above.

Summa Theologiae, II-II 35:1

St John Cassian has an entire book on the subject, writing of a Monk who, instead of praying, “looks about anxiously this way and that, and sighs that none of the brethren come to see him, and often goes in and out of his cell, and frequently gazes up at the sun, as if it was too slow in setting, and so a kind of unreasonable confusion of mind takes possession of him like some foul darkness.”

Other Fathers have written about this sin. They have something like St Thomas’ description: “a certain oppressive sadness, which so depresses man’s mind”. And yet… does that not sound like what we, today, in psychological terms might call clinical depression?

Remember this Zoloft commercial from 2005 (ish)?

I know a lot of folks who take anti-depression meds, many with the approval of their confessor or spiritual director. So, meds can’t get rid of sins.

What’s the difference between depression and acedia? I’ve asked this on Twitter and in other places… I’ve not gotten an answer at all. Then, early in the Quarantine, my HMO assessed me as living with mild depression which can be managed without meds. My response was something along the lines of, “This is only MILD?!?!?! I don’t even want to know what cross is borne by those who have the sort of depression that needs meds. OMG THIS SUCKS. Or words to that effect. This question of the difference between acedia and depression became personal.

It seems to me that – as with other sins – one must have a tendency or a weakness that needs exploiting. This tendency can be styled, perhaps, a Melancholic temperament, although not always – many folks deal with depression right now. But the tendency, once present, allows for temptations to be triggered.

Depression is not acedia. But the Noonday Devil can use depression for its own ends.

So: sometimes I wake up and don’t feel up to getting out of bed. Sometimes, I’m just too down to get dressed and get on with the day. Sometimes, I’d rather sit and sit, and sit. And I can actually see that happening… I might be able to catch myself, to be able to move away from that… or perhaps, like the gif above, it feels like it follows me anyway. That’s depression.

But I know I can and should get up and pray. I can ask for help: St Catherine of Siena is my go-to intercessor for my mental health, as is my patron, Stanley Rother. But asking for help takes. just. too. much. time. and. I. can. lie. here. for. a. long. time…

But I should ask for help… too… much… work…

It strikes me that’s acedia.

The blog post two weeks ago on NSFW Satanism took me nearly 4 months to write (even from before Covid). It was a struggle. I knew it was important, but I kept avoiding writing it. I would sit down and get up again. That was acedia. This post was about to become hard to write: but I decided to put my foot down. It seemed important to note.

Depression is a cross. Manageable or not, medicated or not, it is a cross to bear – and one to offer to God. It’s ok to ask for help (God has help for us, as solid as St Simon of Cyrene was for Our Lord). But it’s not ok to use any tendency, any psychological state, struggle, or damage to fall into sin. The addict may or may not be spiritually culpable for actions committed in the throes of his passion, but that does not mean those actions are free of harm to himself or others. That harm may be physical, mental, or emotional but it is also, often, spiritual in which latter case, it’s sin. I think acedia can show the same pattern: it can arise where one crosses the line from depression to causing harm (of a spiritual sort) to oneself or to others. I can be depressed: I can pray and go to bed. Or I can sit and not-move until I find myself watching NSFW content… when I should be praying. The process by which I go from depression to triggering my addictive behaviors seems to be where acedia feeds in.

I could be wrong: I am open to correction. As I said at the top, I’m neither a spiritual director nor a psych-anything. I didn’t even take psych 101 in college.

The Rosary: Closing Prayers & Suggestions

When praying the Rosary, it is traditional to do one set of five mysteries (eg, The Joyous Mysteries) – also known as five decades – at a time, although another pious practice is to do three Mysteries a day as a minimum.  My personal practice is five decades a day, although I do not get them all at once (more on that below).  At the end of the last decade, including the concluding Gloria, it is traditional to end your Rosary with these prayers:

The Salve Regina 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send forth our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

℣. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
℟. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, thy Son.

O GOD, Who by the life, death, and resurrection of Thy only-begotten Son, hath purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

℣. May the Divine Help remain with us always,
℟. And with those who are absent from us.

℣. May the souls of the faithful through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
℟. Amen.

In my own practice I end each set of five decades this way, but if I have to stop “in the middle” as it were, I  say instead, only this prayer, which is the oldest known prayer to the Blessed Virgin (dating back at least to 250 AD):

Under thy protection we flee, O Holy Theotokos; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

There are various traditions of how to pray this and on what days to pray what.  You can see various suggestions around the net.  I stick with doing the Glorious Mysteries on Sunday, and starting the Joyous Mysteries on Monday.  However:

The traditional Dominican Rosary, as we have it today, with the three sets of five decades as we have included it in this series, is the method of praying the rosary that survived the Middle Ages.  There were other methods at that time: I’ve heard one scholar say that at one time there were 150 different mysteries, one “Ave” for each.  I don’t know about that… but the point is made that the Rosary went through an evolution before Dominic de Guzman and his Preachers made it popular in a standard form.  It survived that way for nearly 775 years, until Pop John Paul suggested five more mysteries. With these it is the practice to pray this way:

Monday: the Joyous Mysteries
Tuesday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Wednesday: the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday: The Luminous Mysteries
Friday: The Dolorous Mysteries
Saturday: The Joyous Mysteries
Sunday: The Glorious Mysteries

The older format (which I like, I admit) is to use Sundays as sort of a “Seasonal Flavor”:

Monday: the Joyous Mysteries
Tuesday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Wednesday: the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday: The Joyous Mysteries
Friday: The Dolorous Mysteries
Saturday: The Glorious Mysteries
Sunday: The Joyous Mysteries (From Advent until Lent), or the Dolorous Mysteries (in Lent), or the Glorious Mysteries (the rest of the year until Advent).

For me… leaning on both traditions, I like the following:

Monday: the Joyous Mysteries
Tuesday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Wednesday: the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday: the Joyous Mysteries
Friday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Saturday: the Glorious Mysteries
Sunday: The Joyous Mysteries (From Advent until Lent), or the Dolorous Mysteries (in Lent), or the Glorious Mysteries (In Easter), and the Luminous Mysteries during Ordinary Time.

This allows me to add all four traditional Marian Antiphons:
Joyous Mysteries – Alma Redemptoris Mater
Luminous Mysteries – Salve Regina
Dolorous Mysteries – Ave Regina Caelorum
Glorious Mysteries – Regina Coeli

And that’s it. I hope this is useful. Byzantine text is so rich, so meditative. This series was a good thing 5 years ago and seems a good thing now. Do not hesitate to let me know of any feedback.

The Rosary: The Coronation of the Blessed Virigin

JMJ

Our Lady’s coronation by her divine Son as Queen of Heaven is, in fact, the second coronation in the Rosary: the first being that of her Son, himself, by the Romans; but where the Virgin receives a crown of twelve stars from Jesus, he, at the hand of his fellow men, received a crown of thorns.  Jesus entire ministry was taking man into divinity.  Our nature, the stuff of which we are made – each of us, born of woman, born in pain between blood and feces – is raised up to God that we might follow and, here, Mary is the first.

She was the first to carry within her body the God-Man in the flesh: as we do now, after communion, also carry his flesh and blood.  She was the first to open fully her life to the Holy Ghost, as we do (or try to do) daily. She was the first to know the Incarnation, to dance in the new gavotte that God was calling for Adam’s Children.  And so she is the first to be fully divinized, fully en-theosed, to be crowned in heaven.

We too, if we dare, can be filled with the Holy Ghost, bear Christ in our bodies to the world, only fall asleep, never die, and be crowned in heaven. But only if we dare to take God by the hand and dance.  Yet, more than just a prophetic sign for us, Mary is Queen of Heaven and of each of us if we will let her reign.  Her coronation is her confirmation: she is mother of the Church, the untilled field from when sprang the divine wheat, she is the fount of wisdom, the unhewn mountain, the multiplier of wheat, the way-shower, the gate through which the king has passed.  The titles continue for pages and pages.

I’ve taken the verses from the Akathist to the Blessed Virgin which would be a bit long-winded if one were reading these texts as part of a full, five- or fifteen-decade devotional, but as a meditation on this one mystery, they make perfect sense.

The embolism I use for walking or private prayer is: and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, crowning thee Queen of heaven and Queen of my heart.

The Fifth Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven.

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery how the glorious Virgin Mary was, to the great jubilee and exultation of the whole court of heaven, and particular glory of all the Saints, crowned by Her Son with the brightest diadem of glory.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

To Thee, the Champion Leader, we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth: Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease! Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam: Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve! Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thoughts: Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels! Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King: Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him Who beareth all! Rejoice, star that causest the Sun to appear: Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation! Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed: Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, initiate of God’s ineffable will: Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence! Rejoice, beginning of Christ’s miracles: Rejoice, crown of His dogmas! Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down: Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to Heaven! Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad: Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar! Rejoice, Thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light: Rejoice, Thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none! Rejoice, Thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise: Rejoice, Thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout: Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit! Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind: Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life! Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies: Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness! Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight: Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls! Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession: Rejoice, propitiation of all the world! Rejoice, good will of God to men: Rejoice, boldness of men before God! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and the Shepherd: Rejoice, fold of rational sheep! Rejoice, torment of invisible enemies: Rejoice, opening of the gates of Paradise! Rejoice, for the things of Heaven rejoice with the earth: Rejoice, for the things of earth join chorus with the heavens! Rejoice, never-silent mouth of the Apostles: Rejoice, invincible courage of the passion-bearers! Rejoice, firm support of faith: Rejoice, radiant token of Grace! Rejoice, Thou through whom hades was stripped bare:Rejoice, Thou through whom we are clothed with glory! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, Mother of the Unsetting Star: Rejoice, dawn of the mystic day! Rejoice, Thou Who didst extinguish the furnace of error: Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity! Rejoice, Thou Who didst banish from power the inhuman tyrant: Rejoice, Thou Who didst show us Christ the Lord, the Lover of mankind! Rejoice, Thou Who redeemest from pagan worship: Rejoice, Thou Who dost drag us from the works of mire! Rejoice, Thou Who didst quench the worship of fire: Rejoice, Thou Who rescuest from the flame of the passions! Rejoice, guide of the faithful to chastity: Rejoice, gladness of all generations! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, uplifting of men: Rejoice, downfall of demons! Rejoice, Thou who didst trample down the dominion of delusion: Rejoice, Thou who didst unmask the fraud of idols! Rejoice, sea that didst drown the Pharaoh of the mind: Rejoice, rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life! Rejoice, pillar of fire that guideth those in darkness: Rejoice, shelter of the world broader than a cloud! Rejoice, sustenance replacing manna: Rejoice, minister of holy delight! Rejoice, land of promise: Rejoice, Thou from whom floweth milk and honey! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, flower of incorruptibility: Rejoice, crown of continence! Rejoice, Thou from whom shineth the Archetype of the Resurrection: Rejoice, Thou Who revealest the life of the angels! Rejoice, tree of shining fruit, whereby the faithful are nourished: Rejoice, tree of goodly shade by which many are sheltered! Rejoice, Thou that has carried in Thy womb the Redeemer of captivesRejoice, Thou that gavest birth to the Guide of those astray! Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge: Rejoice, forgiveness of many sins! Rejoice, robe of boldness for the naked: Rejoice, love that doth vanquish all desire! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride! Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, container of the Uncontainable God: Rejoice, door of solemn mystery! Rejoice, report doubtful to unbelievers: Rejoice, undoubted boast of the faithful! Rejoice, all-holy chariot of Him Who sitteth upon the Cherubim: Rejoice, all-glorious temple of Him Who is above the Seraphim! Rejoice, Thou Who hast united opposites:Rejoice, Thou Who hast joined virginity and motherhood! Rejoice, Thou through whom transgression hath been absolved: Rejoice, Thou through whom Paradise is opened! Rejoice, key to the kingdom of Christ: Rejoice, hope of eternal good things! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, receptacle of the Wisdom of God: Rejoice, treasury of His Providence! Rejoice, Thou Who showest philosophers to be fools: Rejoice, Thou Who exposest the learned as irrational! Rejoice, for the clever critics have become foolish: Rejoice, for the writers of myths have faded away! Rejoice, Thou Who didst rend the webs of the Athenians:Rejoice, Thou Who didst fill the nets of the fishermen! Rejoice, Thou Who drawest us from the depths of ignorance: Rejoice, Thou Who enlightenest many with knowledge! Rejoice, ship for those who wish to be saved: Rejoice, harbor for sailors on the sea of life! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O GLORIOUS Queen of the heavenly host, we beseech you accept this rosary, which, as a crown of roses, we offer at your feet; and grant, most gracious Lady, that, by your intercession, our souls may be inflamed with so ardent a desire of seeing you so gloriously crowned, that it may never die within us, until it shall be changed into the happy fruition of your blessed sight. Amen.

The Rosary: Our Lady’s Death and Assumption

JMJ

Here, at last, is one place where the Romans and the Orthodox might differ in the Rosary – although as recently as the middle of the last century this was not so. When I was a freshman in High School I found at a used bookstore, a book on the Apparitions of Our Lady. It was certainly Roman Catholic, including the stories of Knock, the Miraculous Medal, Lourdes, etc.  It started with a Vita, a Life of the Blessed Virgin and included the stories of her birth and the Presentation in the Temple, of Joseph’s miraculous rod and the like. And in the end, it told of her death: how the Apostles had been drawn from all the ends of the world to witness her death, and how Thomas was not there. How when he arrived, three days later, John took him to the tomb and it was empty: filled with the scent of roses.

This is, essentially, also the Orthodox story of the Life, Death, and Assumption of the Virgin. The death of the Virgin is painted in many icons and many western paintings including Giotto and others.

For some Romans, today, however, Mary did not die. How could she? Since she had never sinned and was free of “original sin” (not an Orthodox teaching per se) how could she be subject to death? Death is the punishment for sin! This is not the case with all Catholics. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia makes that clear in the articles on Mary and on her Assumption. Both articles refer to her death. So, again, I’m only talking about some Roman Catholics. I’ve even heard one Catholic Priest use the Orthodox Title for this feast (“Dormition” or “Falling Asleep”) as proof that the East doesn’t believe she died either: it’s a “process so unlike death”, he said, that the Orthodox “call it a falling asleep”. Of course, Orthodox Teaching is that for all Christians death is now only Falling Asleep in the Lord. We will all do it: Just as Mary did.

This Mystery is, thus, a meditation on our own death and a realization that the fear of death is needless as death is but a gateway to victory. In his death, Jesus has turned death into only more life. And so for us, if we die in Christ, we are more alive. As the Mass for the Dead says, “Tuis enim fidelibus, Domine, vita mutatur, non tollitur: et dissoluta terrestris hujus incolatus domo, aeterna in coelis habitatio comparatur.” For to thy faithful people, Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and when the home of this earthly sojourn is dissolved, an eternal dwelling is made ready in heaven.

I have chosen verses from the Feast of the Dormition. For an embolism I usually say, “Fruit of thy womb, Jesus assuming thee, body and soul, into heaven.

The Fourth Glorious Mystery:
The Death and Assumption of Our Lady

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery, how the glorious Virgin, twelve years after the resurrection of Her Son, passed out of this world unto Him, and was by Him assumed into heaven, accompanied by the holy Angels.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

It was fitting for the eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Dormition of his Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore him.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

She who is higher than the heavens, more glorious than Cherubim and greater in honour than creation, who through her surpassing purity became the vessel of the eternal one, today places in the hands of her Son her all-holy soul. With her the universe is filled with joy and to us is given his great mercy.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The all-blameless Bride and Mother of the Father’s Good Pleasure, who was foreordained by God as his dwelling in a dwelling in a union without confusion, today delivers her immaculate soul to her Maker and God. The angelic powers receive her in a manner fitting God, and she, who is indeed Mother of life, passes over to life, the lamp of the unapproachable Light, the salvation of the faithful, the hope of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come, all the ends of the earth, let us call blessed the Dormition of the Theotokos. She has placed her unblemished soul in the hands of her Son. Therefore the world, restored to life by her holy Falling Asleep, celebrates the feast with the angelic hosts and the Apostles.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come now, on Zion, the holy and living mountain of the living God, let us be glad as gazing on the Theotokos.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come, you faithful, let us approach the tomb of the Theotokos, and let us embrace it, touching it sincerely with the lips, eyes and brows of the heart; and let us draw abundant gifts of healing, which flow from an ever-owing fount.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Receive from us this burial hymn, O Theotokos; and overshadow us with thy light-bearing and divine grace. Grant victories and peace to the people that love Christ, and to us who sing in thy honour forgiveness and salvation of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At thy glorious Dormition the heavens rejoice and the Angels exult; the whole earth is glad uttering its funeral hymn to thee, Mother of the Master of all things, all-holy Virgin, who knew not wedlock, who have delivered the human race from the ancestral curse.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At a divine command the chief Apostles hastened from the ends of the earth to bury thee, and when they saw thee taken from the earth to heaven they cried out with joy in Gabriel’s words: Hail, chariot of the whole Godhead; hail, who alone by thy childbirth have joined together things on earth with those on high.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Virgin Mother, Bride of God, who gave birth to life, thou hast passed over to immortal life by thy holy Dormition. Angels, Rulers and Powers, Apostles, Prophets and all creation escorted thee, and thy Son received in his immaculate hands thine unblemished soul.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O MOST prudent Virgin who, entering the heavenly palaces, did fill the angels with joy and man with hope; vouchsafe to intercede for us at the hour of our death, that, being delivered from the illusions and temptations of the devil, we may joyfully and securely pass out of this temporal state, to enjoy the happiness of eternal life. Amen.

The Rosary: Pentecost

JMJ

The Mystery of Pentecost, the Out-Pouring of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and all of Creation, is the beginning of the fruits of Christ’s actions among us. The Holy Ghost makes all of us divine if we will but let Him into our lives and reform, reshape, heal, cleanse, make whole what is shattered, make up what is lost, and in our weakness to fill us with strength.

Anyone asking “What should we pray for?” should be responded to with one word: “Revival!” This is what every parish, every Christian everywhere should be doing: holding the heavenly doors open for the continued outpouring of the Holy Ghost on us, on San Francisco, on every city, and on the world around us. It is also what all of us should be doing as Christians.  As we are the Body of Christ and as Christ prays for the Father to send the Spirit so should we be likewise doing.  Not for some sort of Benny Hinnesque back-falling of moaning with our mouths flecked with foam.

But for salvation. Peace. Joy. Holiness. Love.  Against these, the only thing standing is our refusal to pray.

The embolism I use is “sending us the Holy Ghost with his father.

The texts I’ve woven in below come from the Vespers and Matins for Pentecost.

The Third Glorious Mystery:
The Coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost

LET us Contemplate in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, being seated on the right hand of God, sent, as He had promised, the Holy Ghost upon His Apostles, who, after He was ascended, returning to Jerusalem, continued in prayer and supplication with the blessed Virgin Mary, expecting the performance of His promise.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

Marvelous things have all the nations seen this day in the City of David, when the Holy Ghost came down in tongues of fire, as Luke, God’s mouthpiece, declared, saying: When Christ’s Disciples were assembled, there came a sound as of a mighty wind, filling the whole house where they were sitting; and all began to speak with strange words, new doctrines, wondrous teachings of the holy Trinity.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Holy Ghost always was, and is, and ever will be, with neither beginning nor end, but always together with the Father and the Son; life and giver of life; light and bestower of light; goodness itself and source of goodness; through whom the Father is known and the Son glorified and by all is known, one power, one order, one worship of the holy Trinity.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Holy Ghost is light and life a living and spiritual fountain to all. Spirit of wisdom, Spirit of understanding; good, right, spiritual, ruling all, and cleansing faults. God who makest us Divine; fire from fire, speaking, working, distributing the gifts of grace; through whom all the prophets and Apostles of God with the Martyrs have been crowned. Strange tidings, wondrous sight: fire divided in the distribution of gifts.
Hail, Mary, &c.

In sending down thy Spirit, Lord, to the Apostles as they were sitting, then the children of the Hebrews saw it and were beside themselves with amazement; for they were hearing them speaking in other, strange tongues, as the Holy Ghost gave utterance; for though simple, they were made wise; and having caught the nations in thy net, the Apostles preached things divine. We also cry out to thee in joy: Thou hast appeared on earth saving us; Glory to thee, O Lord!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Once tongues were darkened because of the presumption of building the tower; but now tongues are enlightened through the glory of the knowledge of God. There God condemned the impious for their offence; here Christ has enlightened the fishermen with the Holy Ghost. Then discord was wrought as punishment; now concord is renewed for the salvation of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed art thou, Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen to be most wise by sending down to them the Holy Ghost, and through them thou hast drawn the world in thy net: Lover of mankind, glory to thee!
Hail, Mary, &c.

When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he parted the nations; when he divided out the tongues of fire, he called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the All-holy Spirit.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Holy Ghost gives all things: making prophecies flow, perfecting priests, teaching the unlettered wisdom, revealing the fishermen to be theologians, welding together the whole body of the Church. Consubstantial and equal in majesty with the Father and the Son, our Advocate, glory to thee!
Hail, Mary, &c.

We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, who hast saved us.
Hail, Mary, &c.

O Heavenly King, the Comforter and Spirit of Truth! Who art everywhere present and fillest all things. Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, O Good One!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O SACRED Virgin, Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost ! we beseech you obtain, by yours intercession, that this most sweet Comforter, whom your beloved Son sent down upon His Apostles, filling them thereby with spiritual joy, may teach us in this world the true way of salvation, and make us to walk in the path of virtue and good works. Amen.

The Rosary: The Ascension

JMJ

Our Lord’s Ascension is the first evidence that the “key has changed” as I noted in the last mystery: the Eastern liturgical texts speak of how amazed the Angels are at seeing one of our race of men entering into the Heavens.  The Psalm text, “Who is this king of glory?” is read as the angels asking each other (like the guests in Tevye’s dream) “Look! Who is this? Who comes here? Who?”

It’s a mortal man now immortal and a divine being now dead and alive again.

The King of All the Ages, by gift of his Father, is one of us.

And there is no “one of us” there is only “All of Us”.  As in Adam, all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The embolism I use is “the incarnate Word of God ascending to His Father’s throne.”

The Second Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Christ

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, forty days after His resurrection, ascended into heaven, attended by angels, in the sight, and to the great admiration of His most holy Mother, and His holy Apostles and Disciples.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

The choirs of Angels were astounded when they saw Christ, the mediator between God and mankind in the highest with his flesh, while with one voice they sang a hymn of victory. To God, who appeared on mount Sinai and gave the law to Moses, who saw God, and who was taken up in the flesh from the mount of Olives, let us all sing; for gloriously he has been glorified.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

O Christ, Giver of life, lover of humankind, thou wentest up to the Father and exalted our race in thine ineffable compassion. The ranks of Angels, as they saw thy mortal nature going up, O Saviour, were astounded and without ceasing sang thy praise.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The choirs of Angels were amazed, O Christ, as they saw thee being taken up with thy body, and they sang the praise of your holy Ascension. Human nature, which had fallen by corruption, thou didst raise, O Christ, and by thine ascension thou hast exalted and glorified us with thyself.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Lift up the heavenly gates, for see, Christ the King and Lord, wearing his earthly body, is at hand, said the powers below to those above. When thou soughtest Adam, who had been led astray by the deceit of the serpent, O Christ, as thou hadst clothed thyself in him, thou ascendedst and took thy seat as equal sovereign on the Father’s right hand, while the Angels sang thy praise.
Hail, Mary, &c.

As the Saviour had ascended to the Father with his flesh, the hosts of Angels were struck with amazement, and cried out: Glory, O Christ, to thine ascension! The angelic Powers cried out to those above: Lift up the gates for Christ, our King; whose praise we sing, together with the Father and the Spirit.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus the Giver of life, taking those he loved, ascended the mount of Olives and blessed them and, riding on a cloud, he came to the Father’s bosom, which he had never left. The whole world, visible and invisible, keeps the feast with gladness; Angels and humans leap for joy as they glorify without ceasing the Ascension of the One who by his goodness was united to us in the flesh.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou didst fill the universe with gladness, merciful Lord, taking thy place in mortal flesh among the powers on high. The angelic powers, seeing thee thus lifted up, cried out: Lift up the gates for our King!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Strange was thy Birth, strange thy Resurrection, strange and fearful thy divine Ascension from the mount, O Giver of life, of which Elias was an icon when he went up in a four-horse chariot, singing thy praise, O Lover of Mankind.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Angels came and cried out, O Christ, to thy Disciples: In the same way ye have seen Christ going up, he will come in the flesh as just Judge of all.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Appearing in the flesh, thou didst join in one things that were formerly separated, O Lover of mankind; and as thy Disciples watched, O Merciful, thou wert taken up to the heavenly places. Why are the garments red of the One who was united to the solidity of flesh? said the holy Angels, as they saw Christ bearing the divine marks of his precious passion.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O MOTHER Of God, comforter of the afflicted as your beloved Son, when He ascended into heaven, lifted up His hands and blessed His Apostles as He was parted from them; so vouchsafe, most holy Mother, to lift up your pure hands to Him on our behalf, that we may enjoy the benefits of His blessing, and of yours, here on earth, and hereafter in heaven Amen.

The Rosary: The Resurrection

JMJ

As the Funeral Mass says, “For thy faithful people, O Lord, life is not ended, but changed.” This Mystery changes the key signature of the entire work. What went before – both joy and sorrow – now has meaning. What comes after now is possible – for it wasn’t at all possible before. I ascend to my Father and your Father. He wasn’t our Father before: save in the law. Now, if we are in Christ, in the Resurrection, we are a New Creature. The Old Man is passing away: God is our Father. Now we are the very Sons of God in Christ, “buried with him in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life”.

My own words fail me here. So I will resort, in this mystery, to the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom. If these seem wordy, remember: the little extra verses are for reading while you pray. For “on the go” praying (I love the Rosary for walking), just use an embolism.

The embolism I use is the Paschal Troparian:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Recently I found another collection of embolisms for the Rosary on this page.

The First Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Christ

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, triumphing gloriously over death rose again the third day, immortal and impassible.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
Hail, Mary, &c.

You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
Hail, Mary, &c.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into Hades and took Hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted His flesh!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Hell was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and came upon God! It took earth and encountered Ηeaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!
Hail, Mary, &c.

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
Hail, Mary, &c.

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept. To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

GLORIOUS Virgin Mary, by that unspeakable joy which you did receive in the resurrection of your Divine Son, we beseech you obtain for us of Him, that our hearts may never go astray after the false joys of this world, but may be for ever wholly employed in the pursuit of the only true and solid joys of heaven. Amen.

Igotchu Babe.

Seven Deadly Sins, the Gifts of the Spirit, the Evangelical Counsels, Chastity, Catching Foxes, Celibacy and Bachelorhood, AKA, a blog post on sex and religion.

The Mother and Father of Chastity.

JMJ

Two months ago over lunch a friend and I talked about how many clergy we knew who were bachelors, but who were not celibate. These follow the rules but something seems off. Then, using those same words, a Dominican priest posted it on FB. It seems that often it is religious (those in communities, like Dominicans and Franciscans) who are celibates. Often it is diocesan clergy who are not living in community (some are!) who are “only” bachelors. Meditating on the difference between bachelor and celibate has had this topic in my head for seven or eight weeks. I have been wrestling with this topic (Chastity) for a while as there’s been a book in process for a year on same-sex attraction and chastity. (For news and updates about this project, support my writing on my Patreon page.) Of course, the content of that book and of this blog have hovered around the topic of sex and religion since before I even became Orthodox in 2002. In addition to the book, I have an essay to write on clerical celibacy in the Deaconate. And hanging around with Catholics all the time brings it up. What? You don’t talk about Chastity with your friends? Then, last night, Gomer and Luke blew my mind with their Episode on Chastity, the sort of Capstone on this whole topic. What follows is only the meditation on all that: I also had a long talk with Fr Isaiah this morning to help me clarify this.

From: Garrigou-Lagrange’s Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure.
Retrieved from Twitter.

There are seven deadly sins. Most Catholics and some others are familiar with the list: Pride, Lust, Envy, Anger, Acedia, Gluttony, and Avarice. It’s ok to see these sins as a breaking of the rules because they are, but look at the image above. The tree makes it clear that they are all tied together with a whole series of vices, not just sins, per se, but a whole collection of bad habits. Mortal sins, venial sins, practices, bad thoughts, pitfalls we can make. It’s more than breaking the rules. In fact, the spiritual powers that seek to win our souls don’t need you to climb up the tree and eat its seven deadly fruit: it’s enough for you to rest against the trunk of the tree and sleep in the shade.

After the Seven Deadly Sins, what? The same author has given us a Tree of Virtues which I’ve added below, but that does not grow in the same orchard, if you will, as the Tree of Vice. There’s a journey from one to the other. What is this? While there are lists of “seven” virtues floating around, these are not generally given a one-to-one pairing with the vices. That’s because they are thought of differently. The four Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude are shared with all the world. These are the primary state of the human soul, if you will. They are common to all humanity as our tools for fighting against vice. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle brought them into focus for the pagans as the Jewish Prophets brought them into focus for us. Christians inherit them from both sides of our family tree.

To the four cardinal virtues, which may be pictured around us like the four points of the compass, Christians add three Theological Virtues for a total of seven, aligning with the traditional seven directions of ancient cosmology: Hope beneath us, Faith above us, and at the center, Charity, from which all the other arise in their proper ordering for human prosperity.

Notice please that Chastity is not on this list. Why not? Would not you put Chastity opposite Lust? Bishop Barron does and it makes perfect sense if all of this is about rules: Chastity is obeying all the rules of the Church and lust is the temptation to break them, right? What if that is wrong? Gomer and Luke in the podcast above tap dance around this: it’s not about rules, it’s not about rules, it’s not about rules. We beat kids up about “following the rules” but that’s not the real issue. What is it, if it’s not rules? Certainly, there are rules. Clearly we cannot break them. But: it’s not about the keeping of them. We are not made whole by keeping rules.

The virtues as seven points on a sphere (including the center) are the key: properly ordered life, arising from Charity, built on Hope, striving in Faith, and protected by Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude. We move through the world with this spherical map as our guide. The virtues are acquired though, like an ancient warrior on a vision quest, we must seek to blend each of these into our lives. A virtue is a habit of doing good. We know habits! I don’t mean the way you have to touch your hair when you get nervous. I mean the way you put on shoes without thinking or the exact muscle memory that lets you walk forward, raise a hand, grab a doorknob, turn the knob with your hand and push while still walking through the door, open the door, and close (slightly turned) the door behind you while still walking forward. You learned all of that as a child. You don’t think about it normally. It’s not even a process: it just happens. That’s the virtue of opening the door, if you will. The seven virtues must be acquired to the same degree of expertise, the same unthinking level of habit.

But how? We still don’t have chastity listed here.

The Christian has the Holy Spirit for the acquisition of Virtues. The Holy Spirit is God dwelling in us as the Body of Christ. We get the Holy Spirit at Baptism and from this arise (in differing degrees for each of us) the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Counsel
  • Fortitude
  • Knowledge
  • Piety
  • Fear of the Lord

Yes: right there, Fortitude shows up. It’s a gift and a virtue. Courage (aka the virtue of Fortitude) is the power to run into the fire and rescue people. It’s why we honor the First Responders from 9/11. The Holy Spirit brings those same cojones to your religious faith. These are not rules, nor are they indicative of keeping rules. Rather they are about relationship – our relationship with God.

From the fear of the Lord and piety arise all the others: for God imparts them to us as we need. Christians say all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). These come to us as whispers and dreams, as words spoken by our friends, from wise priests laughing in the confessional, and from random posters on the street. These gifts of the Spirit are sealed in us in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

From these arise the nine Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Love (one of the virtues) is a fruit of the Spirit. These, you’ll notice, are about our Relationships with Others. Even that last one – Self-Control – which is the most important, is about how we relate to others. These fruit are how the Gifts of the Spirit and the process of the acquisition of virtues work together in and through us in the Church.

Here is where we sin mostly – if we are honest. Our relationships with each other fail to be holy, healthy, and honorable at all times because we lose track of these fruit of the spirit.

We continue to move through this process, but we’re not “there” yet in that there’s no Chastity. What the heck?

From: Garrigou-Lagrange’s Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure.
Retrieved from Twitter.

All men and women in religious orders make three vows: Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. These are called the Three Evangelical Counsels. Different religious orders understand these differently – according to their own ministries and gifts – but the reason they are common to all religious orders is that they are the common marks of all Christian life, lay, ordained, and vowed religious. All Christians are called to poverty, chastity, and obedience each according to their state in life. Here, suddenly – outside of the vices, virtues, gifts, and fruits, we hit the real thing: the Christian life!

Christain life is about virtues, certainly, and there are rules, yes, but Christian life is primarily (if not only) about manifesting in the world salvation as witnessed by a personal relationship with God in the body of his Son, the Church. See how those Christians love one another? I’m afraid most folks don’t right now. Our lives do not shine like a light on a lampstand, like a city on a hilltop. We hold aloft our rules – even try to make laws to enforce our rules on others – while having none of the virtues. And we forget that laws do not make us virtuous: rather they protect our virtue.

It helps me to know God has a rule about “do not commit adultery”, but I can go through my whole life and never commit adultery without ever reaching God. And yet, if I search for God honestly, faithfully, deeply and truly, I will discover that I should avoid adultery in my love for the God I seek – even if I never find him. The rule does not bring me to him and, ironically, if I get stuck on the rule, get judgy about it, yell and scream to protect the rule it can actually keep me from God.

How we move through the world (on our seven points of the compass) guided by the Spirit’s gifts, manifesting the Spirit’s fruit, creates the presence of the Evangelical Counsels to the world in all their aspects. These are our Good Deeds which will shine before men and they will praise our Father in Heaven.

Now, to the earlier point: Bachelors and Celibates. Celibacy is a Charism, a gift given to the Church for the sharing of her ministry in the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that

There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.”53 Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.

Para 2003


We go from seven to nine to three to more than twenty! 23 of the identified supernatural Christian Charisms are: Administration, Celibacy, Craftsmanship, Discernment of Spirits, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith, Giving, Healing, Helps, Hospitality, Intercessory Prayer, Knowledge, Leadership, Mercy, Missionary, Music, Pastoring, Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Voluntary Poverty, Wisdom, Writing. Celibacy is one of these. The relationship of Charisms to the rest of Christian life is not hierarchical, they are not better one than the other. (This list is alphabetical.) Nor is it lateral: there’s not a line from Love to Chastity and then to Celibacy. They are gifts for the whole church, given to the whole church. They are manifest how and when the Spirit decides. They are relational, of course, in that they deal with the whole body of Christ. But they are not the result of any action or virtue on our part. They are given to us and, in fact, if we ignore them they can trip us up.

Why, I asked the priest, if you say I have the Charism of Celibacy, have I spent so much of my life having sex? The response was that where there is the greatest gift there also can be the greatest fall. These gifts can also be taken away if they are needed for another reason, or if they are misused. But they – also – are not about rules. Having the Charism of Celibacy does not mean you follow all the rules, but you can rely on that Charism – once discovered – to lead you into the acquisition of the virtues, to lead you to manifest chastity as appropriate to your state in life. Again, the follow the rules, yet I think bachelors are only failing to lean in.

I’ll end here… I’m feeling like I’ve said enough right now. In sum:

There are vices that lead to deadly sins but the demons don’t need deadly sins every day to keep us going to hell. They only need to keep us from walking in another direction, using our moral compass of the four cardinal virtues plus the three theological ones. It’s not rules but relationships. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts for relationship to God and in our lives – relating to each other – manifests fruits. In the relational body of the Church, we live and move. God may confer Charisms or not, yet all of us manifest (as the Church) the evangelical counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience that the world may come to the light of Christ and be saved.

Amen?