We’re gonna have a R’lyeh big shew.

JMJ

The Readings for the Elevation of the Holy Cross

Ut in nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur caelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum, et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Almost every Bible says this as some form of “in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth”. The Greek and the Latin have us looking at classes of beings, things that dwell Caelestium or ἐπουρανίων epouranion “in ouranos – in the heavens” things that dwell terrestrium or ἐπιγείων epigeion “on Gaia – on earth”, and things that dwell Infernorum or καταχθονίων katachthonion “under the ground”. This is where we get our word, “Chthonic” and even Cthulhu! These things hitting their knees at the Holy Name are interesting. R’lyeh interesting.

Things Ouranian, Gaian, and Chthonian are very specific classes in Greco-Roman mystery religions. Paul is making not just a bold claim: he’s making a strident, triumphalistic claim that may get lost in all the humility of the hymn about the Humility of the Second Person of the Trinity.

Ouranian things are not just what Modern Christians think of in heaven – usually Angels and Saints. For the Greeks, Demons live in the heavens as well; and Daemons, that odd class of middle beings that are neither good nor evil, but still kinda scary. And yes, Angels, and the Trinity as well, although the Trinity does not so much dwell in the heavens as vice versa. The stars and planets live here, the Sun and the moon. Also, since the universe is only one huge pattern, the things “in the air” are not divided from the things “in the heavens”. The spirits of the wind and weather live here. Zeus – even though living “on” Olympus – was Ouranian. The powers of the heavens have power over us. Think astrology.

Gaian things are animals and plants, but also spirits that dwell here – of the trees and waterways – but not of the oceans. Think Dionysius and the Dryads in C.S. Lewis. Think bear gods and hunter goddesses, hearth spirits, and fire. Humans are Gaian, in this worldview, but Christians came along and said something else. Paul is saying it in this hymn. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Chthonic things are not things “in hell” though. We’re not talking about demons as Dante would understand them. And remember, the “powers of spiritual darkness” are Ouranian. Chthonic is something else entirely. In the ancient Greek world, Oracles were Chthonic – something dark out of a pre-human past that seemed to control us, and yet could be propitiated. Hades was chthonic, of course, but that wasn’t “hell” – it was just under the earth. Posiden, under the sea, was also chthonic. In Irish folklore, the Faeries that take you away for one night… and bring you back 400 years later… these are chthonic. The Maenads, the Furies, and the legend of the Maiden Kore – all Chthonic.

More importantly every cultus and mystery religion in the Roman Empire was easily classed as one of these three categories. The official 12 deities were worshipped in an Ouraniana manner, but every spring, every breeze carried either a Gaian or Chthonian genus locus or local spirit. Mithras was Chthonic, as was the Magna Mater with her baptism in the blood of bulls.

Paul is saying Jesus is better than all these things and, more importantly, he’s saying this being – so much more important than literally every religious idea of the Romans and the Greeks – was slain as a criminal.

On a Cross. Like a common prisoner.

Now, talk about your mysteries? There is a mystery for you: that’s what this hymn is saying. And Paul is inviting us to partake in this mystery. This is what the Cross makes possible for us: to transverse as mere mortal humans, the Chthonic, Gaian, and Ouranian worlds, and to enter – with and through Christ – into the Glory of God the Father.

The cross is the heavenly bridge, the master key that opens up the way to heaven, having first carried Christ himself there; we can now go as well, having this mind in us which was also in Christ. And while being humble before one another and before God – we now participate in one who is victorious over every evil named or invoked by our neighbors. There is nothing to be feared: for all of these things from the “evil eye” to the many tentacles of doom. All of these not only worship Jesus – but you only have to say his name and they all fall down. We are not only Gaian now – and we’re never condemned to be Chthonic. We bridge all the worlds like our glorious head for where he is so are we.

Christians do not need initiation into any of the “secret pathways” of the mystery cults: for we have our Jesus who was lifted high on the Cross and draws all men to himself now.

AEEEEEEE-LEEEEEEEEE-AAAAAAAAAAA!


JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St John Chrysostom
Friday in the 23rd week Tempus per Annum (C1)

Numquid potest caecus caecum ducere? nonne ambo in foveam cadunt? Non est discipulus super magistrum : perfectus autem omnis erit, si sit sicut magister ejus.
Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.

This is a parable, not a gnomic pronouncement. It the Latin it says, “Dicebat autem illis et similitudinem”, meaning he taught them a similitude. I used to read this passage as a comment on how we can’t be better than Jesus (our only teacher). Today, for some reason, I saw that the teacher/disciple thing was in parallel with the blind/blind thing.

A : B :: C : D
It’s a similitude.

It means we can’t pass on what we don’t have. This is the meaning of Original Sin. The Catechism says:

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (Para 405)

Adam lost his original holiness and justice, therefore, he cannot pass it along to his children. This passage in the Gospel, though, is not about the Fall. It’s about teachers: If I don’t have the fullness of the faith (if I’m not even willing to have it) then I can’t pass it on to you.

I struggle with this in leadership roles: at church, certainly, but also at work. This is not only a religious doctrine, but it’s true across the board. In fact, because it’s true across the board, it is also a religious doctrine. A politician who knows nothing about the law cannot pass along the correct information to his constituents – or refute lobbyists. A president who knows nothing about meteorology cannot draw on maps what he doesn’t have. A priest who rejects the teachings of the Church on human sexuality cannot be expected to pass along those teachings. Worse: having discovered that the teacher doesn’t know one thing, we may expect the teacher doesn’t know other things as well.

There’s another level of complication. Do you know about the humidity in NYC in the hot months? I do, after living there for 13 years. There was a ticker-tape parade for the “Desert Storm” heroes in 1991. I was watching the weather report the night before. The weatherman taped an 80% humidity marker on his blue screen and said, “Tomorrow will be nice, cool, and comfortable for the Parade of Heroes.” In other words, he lied. So, on top of issues with knowledge, the blind can be misled by people feeding them organic, free-range, grass-fed buffalo droppings. And you can fall out of that first paragraph up there into this, less honorable one very easily. A mistake plus wayward pride is the trump card in every hand, lately.

Some are blind because they cannot see and some are blind because they refuse to see.

And when the blind are led away from the truth they become convinced that their blind teacher knows it all.

Today we commemorate John Chrysostom. He fought against the pride and lying of the political leaders of his day – their lack of concern for the poor, their kowtowing to the rich and mighty, their lack of morality, their lack of ethics – that twice he was exiled. We have no such leaders today in the Catholic Church or in the Orthodox Church. The closest is Pope Francis, but even he will not call “cow pellets” on the leaders of the day. And if he dare speak too loudly, the rightists in the church call him a communist and say we can ignore him. His advisors, at least, seem to know more than other folks advisors. Or when he speaks in favor of tradition, the progressivists get all riled up. In the East the Russian Patriarch has been sleeping with the crown of Russia since Peter the Great, and even the mighty “ROCOR” now sleeps with a former KGB agent. The Arabs and the Greeks are wrapped up in their internecine wars and the westerners are along for the ride – buying their way into the hallways of Byzantine power.

We have no such leaders in the Church today. Blind guides of the blind.

I’m thankful we have Jesus. But if we’re not careful the powerful will try to lead us away.

…I met a man with seven wives…

If we are united to Christ and share in the fullness of God-stuff (as we noted yesterday) then it’s all done, right? No. For what we discover if we pay any attention to ourselves is that there are a lot of things present in us that seem to have a certain quality of “B.C.” How do we deal with them?

There are three options, really: ignore them, expunge them, incorporate them. These are the same three options the Church uses when she comes to a new culture – how does she treat the things that are there already? Some local traditions can be ignored, some can be included (we may even say “baptized”), and some have to be done away with. We can look at the three categories in terms of the evangelization of the peoples of the British Isles. The Pope told Augustine of Canterbury that while idols needed to be destroyed, churches should be built where the idols were: the people were already used to coming to those places for worship. The same held true of other cultural artifacts. But the idols had to go. However, whereas the Church had already dealt with monarchies and tribal chieftains, in the British Isles she found a form of distributed (nearly republican) democracy: even the kings were elected. She not only baptized this but supported it for a long while. (William the Conqueror really tried to stop it, but it showed up again and again.)

The same is true in our personal lives: fasting rules aside, if you want to be vegan, paleo, or keto, the Church doesn’t really care. And even if the fasting rules seem to conflict there are pastoral ways to get around that – even in the Byzantine tradition where fasting is very strict. If you want to play Baseball, you’ll find this is baptized into Church Leagues. Although you can’t be a Freemason, you can be a Knight of Columbus. If, however, you want to engage in polygamy or ancestor worship in a way permitted by the culture, the Church will tell you, “No” and in that she will rely on 2,000 years of her conversation plus another 4 – 6,000 years of Jewish conversation prior to that. Even in cultures which were largely polygamous, the church has relied on attrition to end the practice. At the same time, the Church will be generous in letting the old ways pass away.

So what in your life needs to go? What in your life needs to be baptized? What can be ignored as not terribly important? Which parts of you are from the earth? St Paul has a list: Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. This last – to covet something – earns the additional title of idolatry. When you realize how much of our consumer culture is set up to trigger covetousness you begin to see that the other sins may be rooted in this one. The first step in any of these sins is to covet something that is not rightfully yours: your neighbor’s stuff, or spouse, or your neighbor. The fruit or children of idolatry are these other things in the list.

Considering how much of our daily life is spent satisfying ou desires, these words of Jesus from the Gospel will be hard:

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.

Nec laudibus nec timore

Moloch by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra


JMJ

The Readings for the 21st Sunday Tempus per Annum (C1)

Contendite intrare per angustam portam 
Strive to enter by the narrow gate
All these readings tie together: it’s like someone had planned it or something. This morning in the office of readings, we got a passage from Zephaniah (1:1-7, 14-2:3) which left me breathless.

I will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Ba’al and the name of the idolatrous priests;
those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens;
those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom;
those who have turned back from following the LORD,
who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.

Process that:
The Lord’s going to punish… within the Holy City and the Kingdom of Judah
Those who worship Baal and their clergy.
Those who go up on the roof and worship the stars.
Those who worship YHVH and also some other deity.
Those who have left off following YHVH.
And those who never bothered to follow YHVH in the first place – nor even tried to find him.
Again… all of these types of people are found within the walls of Jerusalem and the land of Judah.

If that list of people inside the Church doesn’t scare you, then today’s Gospel will. Listen to what Jesus says to those members of the Church, those who “ate and drank in [his] company,” those he has taught.

I heard this so clearly last night, that the actual homily was lost: “I bet you thought Christianity was all about just being nice and trusting in Jesus. You’re swearing by Jesus, but worshiping Milcom. God’s got a message for you.

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

How many are the folks in churches (not just the Catholic Church, but all churches) who claim the name of Christ, but get lost in Newage Astrology and magic? It’s only just “herbalism” or “crystals”. How many Catholics fall prey to the Ba’als of this world: sex, political ideologies, secularism, abortion, birth control, racism, money. How many, thus, say they are Christian but, in fact, are worshiping another deity they have made up inside their head – or fallen for one that is offered by someone else.

It comes to me that “striving to enter” is not what we’re about today. The heroic attempt to win salvation (take the gate of heaven by violence, Jesus says at one point) is not what we’re about. We feel that we should just do enough, what is the minimum? Going all the way seems a bit much.

I thought of all the times, in fact, I had not striven to enter anything at all: when it was ok to get swept along by the tide – when I actively sought out ways to not-do Christianity. I feared for all the times that I didn’t “Fail” to enter. It was not that I wasn’t “strong enough” to enter. I just didn’t want to.

How many times have we failed, as a people, to stand up?

I learned this week about Blessed Clemens August, Cardinal von Galen. His nickname, “The Lion of Munster,” comes from the way he fought Hitler during the war. (His full name is awesome: Clemens Augustinus Emmanuel Joseph Pius Anthonius Hubertus Marie Graf von Galen.) Blessed Clemens did not pull punches. Hitler wished him dead but was advised that to kill him would result in the loss or rebellion of Catholic Germans. His preaching was bad enough, but to remove him would be worse. The Bishop (later Cardinal) was opposed to racism, the concentration camps, the marauding, the bullying. But he didn’t stop there. After the war, he opposed the mistreatment of Germans by the forces of allied occupation. The British didn’t want him to travel and tried to censor him. The Russians did the same.

This man was hated by Nazis and the allies. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

His motto, which heads up this post, nec laudibus nec timore, means “not for (or because of) praise, not for fear”. Don’t fail to preach the Gospel out of fear of what men will do to you or out of fear of what men might say about you.

In this age, when the right hates Christians for our adherence to moral political ideals about the human person and the left hates us for our adherence to moral sexual ideals about the human person, when the left hates religious tradition because they can’t use it and the right likes religious tradition because they can use it to hide behind, neither of them cares anything about Truth. We will be lost in the shuffle. Or worse. We can, like many “catholic” politicians, cave in and become left/right ideologues, forcing our religion to conform to some secular dogma. Or we can choose to do nothing nec laudibus nec timore. We can choose to make the Gospel and God’s Kingdom the primary – in fact the only – goal of our action.

Or we can worship the Ba’al of sex, the Milcom of politics, the host of heaven. We can even just give up and walk away.

I don’t want to.
I pray I won’t.
I’m afraid that
I might.

Pray.

The Last Enemy

JMJ

The Readings for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

I have been having Senior Moments. I’m 55, these are to be expected. Actually, I’ll be 55 in two weeks so close enough anyway…

I have been having Senior Moments: by which I mean I forget things. Where’s my wallet? It’s in my pocket. Where are my glasses? They’re in my hand. Where are my keys? Where are my keys? No really, where are my keys? They’re not in my bag they’re not in the pocket where they should be. They’re not in the coat. They’re not in the shirt I wore last night. They’re not in the pocket where they shouldn’t be. They’re not in the other pocket of the coat. They’re not in the other bag that I haven’t used in a week. They’re not in my pants from last night. Wait a minute. They’re in another pocket in the pants that I’m wearing. They are in a different pocket than I’ve ever put them in before. I have a sign on my door: it reminds me to carry my wallet, my phone, my keys, my rosary, and my teeth.

Senior Moments…

But the other day, I had one that terrified me: I was going to take a shower. Then there I was standing in the kitchen wrapped in a towel. I was dry. The towel was wet. So I knew I had taken a shower but I couldn’t remember it. The floor was wet in front of the shower. I open the door the inside of the shower was wet. I could not remember having taken a shower. Still can’t. I remembered later that I opened the shower to spray the after-shower cleaning stuff and I noticed that the guy who comes in twice a month to do things around my apartment, had actually scrubbed the chrome inside my shower. I remember noting that. But I don’t remember taking a shower. It was terrifying because I’ve not lost a few minutes in time before. At least not that I remember…

And so this morning, I checked with one of my fellow coworkers of advanced age. She said, no: this is normal. Then she and I did an organ recital, let the reader understand.

Senior Moments…

St Paul says, Novissima autem inimica destruetur mors. The last enemy to be conquered is death.

Senior moments: my recent brush with cancer, my teeth falling out, your blood pressure, your eyesight, your liver disease and even – if you’re young enough not to have any of these yet, your very lack (compared to my having) is a sign of mortality.

We will both die. Remember. You too will die.

Mary’s falling asleep in the Lord, and her bodily assumption into heaven means that Senior Moments matter. When like to picture Mary as a young virgin. We think of her as beautiful, calm, loving, tender. We see light radiating from her beautiful peach colored face. If we have a more realistic icon, like the Tilma of Guadalupe, we see light radiating from her brown face. But she’s always young. By the time of her death, however, she was old and decrepit. She was frail. She was weak: she needed a doctor all the time and she needed a young man to take care of her. St. John of Damascus teaches us that she freely chose to follow the pattern established by the maker in the fall. She became old, she weekend, and she died. But for Mary, death became something new. In fact for all Christians death is something new. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin teaches us not only Senior Moments matter but matter matters to God. Mary’s falling asleep in the Lord and her bodily Assumption into heaven means not that God changes us into Spiritual Beings but that God changes our matter into what it was meant to be.

Let.
There.
Be.
Light.

We know, at this point in time, that light is both particles and waves. Somehow those particles and waves can coalesce into rays of light are matter – yet not – and that somehow those particles and waves form the tiniest quarks of matter, form the atoms and the cells that make up our bodies. Light courses through the chromosomes that make us into men and women, through the cell division and growth that brings us to maturity. Light radiates through the life that we have, and God, the Father of Lights, has entered in and restored what was lost.

Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, as the jar that contained the heavenly Manna, as the temple that held the glory of God, as all of Heaven that contains the Divinity not even a bit; Mary is a sign that you and I are living beings of matter becoming light.

Not some ghostly, fake “spiritual” light but physical light, living and breathing in the presence of God.

The scripture says that at the Transfiguration Jesus’ entire being became light. But it was still Jesus.

So also with you and I: the last enemy to be conquered is death. And when, in God’s time, death comes for you or I, by Mary’s prayers, we will spit in his eye. And he will laugh with us.

The Divine fire will catch us and raise us in glory in ways that we cannot imagine. Let there be light. “Not this body with all of its inconveniences,” said Father Albert, tonight at Mass (the seed for this meditation). Not this body with all its inconvenience and pain. But this body freed of inconvenience!

Mary’s Assumption means where Jesus has gone we can go too. Mary’s Assumption shows us that life is not ended for God’s faithful people: it is only changed. No more senior moments. Only pure joy that we will never have to remember: because it will never end.

Mammon of Wickedness

JMJ

Read the Parable of the Crafty Servant

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: There was a certain rich man who had a steward, who was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear of you? Make an accounting of your stewardship, for you can be steward no longer.’ And the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do, seeing that my master is taking away the stewardship from me? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I shall do, that when I am removed from my stewardship they may receive me into their houses.’ And he summoned each of his master’s debtors and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bond and sit down at once and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bond and write eighty.’ And the master commended the unjust steward, in that he had acted prudently; for the children of this world, in relation to their own generation, are more prudent than the children of the light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves with the mammon of wickedness, so that when you fail they may receive you into the everlasting dwellings.


Notice that it doesn’t start out to by saying “The kingdom is like…” this is less a parable than an illustration in a homily. It has a point. But the point is so confusing! Today when I meditated on it I came to this idea…
At other times Jesus reminds us that “harlots and publicans” will enter the kingdom before the snarky righteous. If that is so… would we not want them praying for us? If we went about the world judging folks for their morality when they were not even yet Christians would we not be doing the same? 

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a rich man from Turin, Italy.  He secretly cared for the poor with his personal income, doing errands, buying needed things, tending the sick and the dying. It is believed that in one such outreach he contracted Polio.  He sickened rather quickly in June of 1925 and then…

Although he was lying on his death bed on July 3rd, he could not forget his closest friends – the poor.  It was Friday, the day he would normally visit them, and he wanted the usual material assistance to be brought to them. He asked his sister to take a small packet from his jacket and, with a semi-paralysed hand, he wrote the following note to Giuseppe Grimaldi: “Here are the injections for Converso. The pawn ticket is Sappa’s. I had forgotten it; renew it on my behalf.”

When the priest who was attending him asked, “What if your grandmother were to call you to heaven?”, he replied, “How happy I would be.” But he immediately asked, “What about father and mother?” The priest replied, “Giorgio, you will not abandon them; you will live in spirit with them from heaven. You will give them your faith and your self-denial, you will continue to be one family.”  These few words were enough to ease Pier Giorgio’s final human concerns and he smiled, nodded his head and said, “Yes.”

His earthly suffering ended at seven o’clock in the evening on July 4, 1925. His funeral was a triumph with the sight of hundreds of his poor following the coffin.  Then it became known to everyone, even to his own family, who Pier Giorgio truly was.

Although I believe this man was a Saint, he was made a saint in no small part by his love and charity, and the prayers of those he had affected.

We can’t hold the world to a standard of Christian Morality. In fact, I can’t expect Christian morality of most folks who call themselves Christian. Why would I try to enforce my understanding of divorce, marriage, and birth control for example, on others? We are not legalists: only following the law will not save anyone. If a country’s entire legal code were based on laws tracible to the scriptures and yet no one had faith, that country would be as lost – maybe more so – as any other heathen nation.

The only reason we like “blue” laws is that they make us feel smug and safe.

Should I not rather pray for them, do charity, share generously even with the fallen and – if asked – preach the Kerygma, the basic plan of salvation? 

Once they desire to come into the Church, then we begin forming Disciples who have a moral code, a fasting tradition, and a promise of adherence to the magisterium of the Church. Which is to say that RCIA should be more of this second phase, Didache, rather than the first phase which should happen on the streets, in offices, in parks and shops, in the places where all of us evangelize.

Harlots, publicans, and all sorts of “the fallen” will enter the kingdom before me. Drug addicts, drug dealers, racists, “the other political party” (which ever that is)… I should ask them to pray for me as I dress their wounds, feed them, welcome them, and treat them like the fully-human, image of God that they are. I should welcome legal changes that protect them from abuse, that elevate their status as human persons – and that draw them out (not force them out or punish them out) of their fallen lives. For their work dehumanizes them even so.

But what about the political activism of the Church in areas like social justice? Why should the Church care about – and be politically active around – immigrants, suicide, racism, the death penalty, and abortion, to name a few such areas? Because these laws impact the human person and affect the ability of the Church to even share the Kerygma, to do her job in the public square. She cannot care for the poor, the sick, the outcast, the voiceless if the structures of society are engaged to marginalize them, brush them aside, or kill them. Some levels of dehumanization are final. And to be avoided.

And that – dehumanization in and by the world and rehumanization in the Church by God – is what drew hundreds of thousands into the Church in the Roman world. Slaves and Masters found themselves equally redeemed children of God before the Altar. Plebs, Freedmen, Barbarians, Patricians, men, and women, could kneel and sing together before the God that made them all.

It was entirely destructive of the Culture of Death that Rome had built, denying the equal personhood of everyone around them, sucking their wealth into her yawning maws, paving the wilderness with roads that – yes – helped spread the Gospel, but also ended the cultures that were colonized, destroyed the countrysides to which they came, and carried the Roman army to every corner of the known world. The practice of Rome was to divide and conquer: to fester local rivalries into wars, then to take sides and crush one side whilst fully colonizing the other. 

The Church had to use those same roads to come behind and heal the damage Rome had done – in some places all too well. The Church had to convince the Celts to evangelize the Danes and the Saxons; later she had to convince the Normans that the Saxons and the Celts were Christian people too.

Only humans can enter the Kingdom of God. The world, the flesh, and the devil will do everything to remove that notion from your heart, the Church must work, pray, and love to keep that notion firmly implanted in you, our culture, and our laws. It’s possible that at the Last Day, the intercessions of your Divine Image may save me. Even if you never go to Church.

    The Call Came From INSIDE THE HOUSE!

    JMJ

    Did you ever notice this one? 

    “The Son of Man will send his angels,
    and they will collect out of his Kingdom
    all who cause others to sin”
    Matthew 13:41

    I read the Gospel for today and didn’t even notice it. Sitting at Mass tonight this verse lept up and punched me hard in the gut.

    The Latin and the Greek both say “scandal” there, but the word σκάνδαλον, skadalon, means “bait in a trap” or “trigger of a trap”.  It’s sometimes rendered as a “Stumbling Block”, but the NABRE, with “cause others to sin” catches the meaning full on, I think.

    It came to me that at the heart of sexual sin is the desire to lead others astray. They may not be… but it is desired. No one sins alone, and many sins are triggers for other folks, or else bait.  Politics, for example, or liturgics when doctoring up the readings to cover up uncomfortable parts.

    The skandalon is inside the kingdom, not outside. They are children of the Evil One, but they are inside the kingdom.

    The enemy is us.

    We must remember to pray for our brother and sisters, our spiritual Fathers and Mothers, our leaders and fellow pew-sitters.

    That we may be free of skandalon inside the Kingdom. And free from the interference of those who practice lawlessness outside the walls.

    Face to Face

    JMJ

    The Readings for Tuesday in the 17th week, Tempus per Annum (C1):

    Loquebatur autem Dominus ad Moysen facie ad faciem, sicut solet loqui homo ad amicum suum.
    The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to his friend.
    The Hebrew word used for face in “face to face” is פָנִים panim a plural form. The word is first used in the Scriptures in Genesis 1:2 as the Spirit of God moves over the face of the waters. God and Moses speak in this hovering intimacy, face to face. It is an image that leaves one breathless. Does it not move you to desire the same? To exchange breath with the creator of all life, with the source of all breath! How can this be? How can one know God face to face?
    There are hints later in the scriptures when God pours his Spirit out on the elders of Israel and Moses says he wishes it could be given to everyone in Israel. In the Prophets, Joel promises the Spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh.
    In the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given in Baptism and sealed in the holy oil at Confirmation or Chrismation.
    And in the Holy Eucharist this same Spirit, invoked upon the bread and wine, is communicated to us in the Body and Blood of God the Son, for one member of the Trinity is not present without the others. And we receive all of the Trinity when we partake of the bread and the wine. 
    Bishop Barron says that “adore” comes from the Latin meaning “mouth to mouth” or “face to face”.  The actual etymology is not quite so intimate as it means only “from the mouth”, coming from the Latin meaning “to speak”.  If there was such a thing as Proto Indo European, then: from PIE root *or- “to pronounce a ritual formula” (source also of Sanskrit aryanti “they praise,” Homeric Greek are, Attic ara “prayer,” Hittite ariya- “to ask the oracle,” aruwai- “to revere, worship”) source. There’s not another mouth involved, in the word, but the one mouth, the one face, must speak to another.
    And so when we approach the Eucharist in Adoration – and it needn’t be “exposed” for the Mystery is no less present in the monstrance on a Latin altar, than in the Tabernacle, behind a veil or an Iconostasis, or at Communion in the Liturgy. Under glass, in brass, or at Mass, it’s all God. And we can all address him face to face, as one does to his friend.
    The Spirit of God hovers, waits for you to turn to him and open to receive. Come.  Taste and see.

    Looking Trough a Cloud Darkly


    JMJ

    The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

    In the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic.

    If you read Gone with the Wind you get a very different image of Scarlet O’Hara than you do if you watch the movie. The movie skipped bits of the book – which was the best selling book in America at the time – for the sake of brevity. And, because some narrative was edited out, bits of the on-screen story had to be changed. Did you know Scarlet had a son by her first husband before he died early in the war? Anyway: these things did not change the meaning of the movie for the audience at the time because they had all read the book. Moviemakers could make assumptions based on the knowledge of their audience.

    I had this reading at the Easter Vigil and I was confused by this verse. Here it is again… so time to look into these word choices.
    …Cast upon the Egyptian Force a glance… it sounds like a “dirty look”, or a sort of curse. And what’s with the very off-putting turn of phrase, cast on them a glance that threw? There are no passive verbs in the Hebrew, Greek, or Latin versions of this verse, nor in any English translation.
    The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of this text, along with all the English ones based on them, have the Lord looking out and doing something.

    The NABRE has the Lord looking out and then – through a really painful grammatical construction – has the Egyptians doing something in reaction to the look.

    Are the translators trying to Save God’s Reputation? Well, probably not. Evidently, one bias in the modern Roman Catholic world is to eliminate “troubling” passages. In the ancient languages, this verse says God kills the Egyptians. That could, you know, raise questions. We’d end up discussing the book of Job.

    Better to dodge that bullet by saying the Egyptians panic of their own free will which accidentally implies that they could see God looking at them.

    Skipping passages that may raise questions is not limited to the Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Churches, where the daily offices of Matins and Vespers are often pared down to 30-45 mins of time (instead of the full celebration of same which could take – literally – hours) it’s up to the Choirmaster to pick which parts to skip. This results in some interesting choices depending on the biases involved. At a Monastery it’s the Father Superior who has that final say, and there, too, interesting choices are made.

    The thing about liturgical editing of texts into a lectionary or an evening service is that it should assume literacy and familiarity on the part of the singers, readers, and congregation. All of us should know what was skipped for the sake of brevity or complexity. We should not be confused by the difference between the movie and the book

    The real issue is that we do not know what we’re missing.

    So when a Greek Parish compresses the entire 45 minute recitation (hour-plus if singing it properly) of the Matins Canon into 5-8 minutes, the Congregation begins to think that’s normal: it’s only the other, strange parishes that make up stuff to extend this. When the Liturgy of the Hours says here is the text for the Psalm, who notices any more when it skips a few verses? Do even the clergy who have to recite it know? When a church that uses the Common Lectionary has someone say, “That’s not in the Bible!” Is it because they never bothered to learn, or because someone hid it from them?

    First Apostle of the Risen Christ


    JMJ

    The Readings for the Feast of St Mary Magdalen
    Monday in the 16th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

    Si qua ergo in Christo nova creatura, vetera transierunt : ecce facta sunt omnia nova.
    So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
    When Franco Zeffirelli cast Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalen in his 1977 made-for-television epic, Jesus of Nazareth did he purposefully pick her in part because of her performance, ten years earlier, as the famous seductress, Mrs Robinson from The Graduate?
    A blessed feast! This question is important – and only seemingly unrelated to the readings.
    Although it drives modern Biblical Scholars batty and upsets more than a few non-Christian political agendas, the Church holds to a tradition that merges this woman (of whom the Evangelists say only that Jesus cast out from her 7 devils) with another woman who has no name in the Gospels who was a prostitute. Mary’s story becomes one of change, of freedom from the past. In picking Bancroft – who complained that Mrs Robinson overshadowed all her work – Zeffirelli seems to have knowingly picked a “woman with a past” as an icon of redemption even in the eyes of his TV viewers.
    This is important for us, in this age of Twitter Shaming and the Right to be Forgotten.
    An artist whose work I admire “broke” on to the internet earlier this year. He doesn’t draw well, to be honest, but he has this amazing grasp of our culture’s contents and can explain them dryly and with just enough humor to make us see them in a new way: interactions like birthday parties and feeding pets become eye-opening teaching moments as the reader sees things through different eyes. This artist was enjoying a rocket-fast rise to prominence when someone discovered a tweet from the distant past (2010?) where he made a rather weak comment that could be construed, if one squinted the right way, as pro-life. Instantly seen as being out of sync with the “modern” world and her morals, the cool kids of the internet began to trash him loudly and fiercely.
    No one is politically pure enough on either the left or the right to survive this atmosphere, really. One must be constantly scrubbing one’s past to white-wash it, make sure it’s in sync with today’s version of you.
    A Christian, however, cannot do this: Mary Magdalen’s life is powerful because of her backstory. She is called the “apostle to the apostles” by the same Church that names her a former prostitute. Both parts of her life are needed for the story to make sense. This person has risen to far different heights than you might have imagined if you knew her “back then”. Our modern culture wants to take away her “away back when”.
    We live in a culture of “self-invention”. When I was a kid our culture idolized the egotism of the “self-made man” because we imagined that to be the height of success.  Frank Sinatra’s My Way is a benchmark of this culture. While egotistical, Frank was, at least, self-reflective. He had a few regrets, but too few to mention. Tellingly, while celebrating a life where he refused to confess any wrongs, he sang that a man is nothing if he only speaks the words of one who kneels. 
    As we came into this century, however, we developed a culture personal instantaneity. I exist as I manifest myself to you now, without history, without backstory. I’ve been surprised at how few jobs any more require actually checking references. While some positions still require a background check, a person who was only a part-time contractor at one company can claim to have been a manager there and get hired as a manager at another. This is not a new problem: near the end of the last century, it became impossible to explain why a former employee was a former employee without risking a lawsuit. So when calling for a reference one knew that one was only going to hear good things – one had to read between the lines or ask very creative questions to trick the HR person on the end of the line to tell the truth: “Would you hire them again?” becomes

    Yes or no: If they were to contact you to ask if you would welcome them to a new position would you be quick to think of any reason why you want to say “no” even if you were to ultimately say “yes”?

    There was a past, there, somewhere. But not any more. We deny the history we have lived, we deny the story arc of our lives.

    God has been working from before we were born, from even before we were conceived to bring the whole universal dance to just where it is now. You’re a part of that and your backstory as well. Your entire future dance is predicated on all that went before. To deny that is to deny the power of God. To deny that is to deny the Resurrection: Jesus had to live before he could die. He had to die to rise again.

    I was born with the name William Earl Bailey. If you’re old enough to remember the song, Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey you may have some grasp of why I changed my name to something, to anything else. There are other reasons, but the first thing my Grandfather said was, “Tired of having people sing to him?” However, my past is just as close as my Facebook and many of my oldest friends as well as my family all still say, “Bill”.  My past is right as close as it’s always been. There’s no way to escape it.

    Mary Magdalen’s past stays with her.

    That seems to be exactly why God uses her to announce the Resurrection: that’s why she is the Apostle to the Apostles. God will use any willing servant to hand to do anything that God wants. Mary’s status as a Fallen Woman raised to Apostle is the earthly parallel to fallen Adam and Eve raised from the depths of Hell. Jesus is not only raising all the dead to life, but he harrows the deepest pits of our cultures to raise us all up.

    At the court the day my name-change was granted, the only question the Judge asked was, “Are you changing this name to avoid any legal or financial claims from your past?” I left the courtroom with my past intact. He could have added, “religious, familial, social, and sexual” to the list I would have agreed just the same. I am a man with a past: sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and that’s just the religious part of my journey. I would be a bad choice for a priest, to be honest – a scandal waiting to happen. But God has something for me, for all of us with a past.

    If we offer ourselves fully, God will use us in his Kingdom. God can’t use “Huw Richardson” without also using “Bill Bailey”. God will use the full offering not in spite of the past but because of the past. Like Zeffirelli using Mrs Robinson to flavor his Magdalen, God will use his servants to do things for which their entire past has prepared them for God was with us even before we knew it, even before we knew the “new us” we would become.

    Today’s feast says there is grace before us – and there is grace behind us. It’s not that we were not sinning back then, but rather God’s grace will take any sacrifice made and transubstantiate it into Life. God will give each of us a Gospel to proclaim to the Church and to the World.

    Christ is RISEN! Look at what he has done! Christ is RISEN!