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.

The Rosary: Introduction to the Glorious Mysteries

JMJ

The Glorious Mysteries are the key to the entire Rosary. The rest of the Rosary is meaningless without these Mysteries.  Our Lord’s life and death are in vain without his Resurrection. St Paul, in fact, says the entirety of the Christian teaching is meaningless without this. Calling out again, the Catechism:


516
 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. . . among us”.

517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
– in his word which purifies its hearers;
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.

518 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a “short cut” to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.185 For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.186

The story is told of the filming of the T.V. miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth, that after filming the crucifixion, the cast felt they were finished because that was so powerful a moment. Someone said, “Hey, shouldn’t there be a Resurrection somewhere?”  I think this is apocryphal because most works are not film in a chronological sequence, but rather based on outdoor and indoor shoot schedules and the availability of studio space and special effects resources.  But the story does point out the modern error that the crucifixion, itself, is the focus of the story.

Neither, point of fact, is the Resurrection on it’s own: but rather the Entirety of the Life of Christ from his action in the creation of the world to the the prophetic foreknowledge of the prophets, from his incarnation in the Virgin’s womb to his institution of the Holy Eucharist, from his Crucifixion to the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and finally to his action in the life of the Church, his Body, today. This is the ongoing action of salvation: we can no more point at one point in time as “the event of salvation” than we can point to magical words in the Eucharistic Canon as “the exact moment of consecration.”  As the late Canon Edward West once said of the Eucharist, so it is for the life of the world: “We do not know when Christ enters in and we can not reach in and pull him out again.”

Christ is saving you right now if you are willing to participate in the on-going action of your salvation. What he began in the Garden, continued through the Old Testament, and Crowned in the Mysteries of the Rosary is all laying the foundations for what he is doing right now in your heart.

  1. The Resurrection of Our Lord
  2. The Ascension of our Lord
  3. The Coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost
  4. The Assumption of Our Lady
  5. The Coronation of Our Lady

The Glorious Mysteries show us what should be the crowning glories of our life as Christians: as our Lord Rises, so do we. As our Lord prays the holy Spirit down on the world from his Father, so do the saints continue to pray God’s grace into the world. As the Blessed Virgin is crowned, so are will we, by God’s grace, reign with her in Heaven.

But as with Christ, so with us: it is the entirety of the action of our life that becomes the actualization of Salvation.  We cannot be crowned without being conceived, we cannot rise without dying.  The Rosary of Our Blessed Lady shows us that the entirety of life has been sanctified: and that we are called to live in that on-going sanctification.  The Natural Order of life can be broken by us, yes: but we can also live into it and offer it to God in a great Eucharistic action.

From the Seven Last Words

JMJ

This was a meditation was part of the Good Friday Seven Last Words at St Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco. As a result of the current crisis, the meditations were recorded and posted on YouTube rather than preached from the pulpit. The video is shared at the end of this post.

I thirst.

Many of us as children have woken up at night and asked for a glass of water.

Maybe as a parent our child wakes up and asks: Mommy, can I have a glass of water? 

These words of our Lord, “I thirst” sound like that same cry. 

We wake at night, in the dark, alone, afraid: and we really want Mommy. But “I’m thirsty” is what we say: it makes sense, it’s the feeling we have… dry mouth… must be thirsty. But what causes it, in the middle of the night.

Is fear.

Just as if you were suddenly afraid for your life you would be suddenly dry mouthed. 

But no adult says, at that point, “Mommy, can I have some water?”

I thirst.

The eternal, Triune God, in the Second Person in Human Flesh, is crying out because of a dry mouth, part of the whole Flight or Fight thing that the same God built into us for our protection.

Here… it betrays him: it’s human weakness.

The God who made water. Who made mouths. Who made the nervous system. This God is afraid. This God is thirsty. This God… is about to die.

My heart breaks… this is love.

Was one of the first words ever taught to the Baby, the Word learning words, “yisemeh” – the Aramaic for “Thirsty”?  

His mother, standing there at the foot of the cross, hears her own baby again crying out “yisemeh”.  Can her heart not break remembering everything at that moment: from his first cry, to his first words, to the first time he woke up afraid, depicted in the icon of “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” where his sandal is flopping loose.

Eemma…Mommy… Yisemeh!

Brothers and Sisters. This is love.

In this time of danger.

In this time of death.

In this time of fear.

God knows… we are all thirsty. We cannot have the chalice. We cannot even come to mass. We cannot touch to hug, to hold or shake hands.

Some do this for safety, but we do not do this out of fear: rather it is out of love for our neighbor, for those who are weakest among us, for those who are most vulnerable.

Our priests, our Bishops, our Holy Father also feel this pain as they cannot do for us what they have been ordained and sacramentally ordered to do. 

Our hands are held back, our heart breaks, our love restrains us. Touch – when touch is most needed…

We thirst! We cry out to our mother, the Church who stands by watching and weeping for us.

Our God knows and understands: this is love.

In this time of danger.

In this time of death.

In this time of fear.

Christ our God has been here before us. Become of love, he has faced in mortal flesh, fear and death. 

And Jesus has the victory.

We thirst with him today…

He will make us victorious with him.

A Devotion on the Symbols of the Passion

JMJ

From A Book of the Love of Jesus, A Collection of Ancient English Devotions in Prose and Verse, compiled and Edited by Fr Robert Hugh Benson (1915). Retrieved from the Archive, here. I’ve not edited the text at all so some of the words may include off-puttings, odd-spellings, or punctuations.

O VERNACLE I honour him and thee,
That thee made through his privity;
The cloth he set upon his ſace,
The print he left there, of his grace,
His mouth, his nose, his eyen too,
His beard, his hair, he did also ;
Shield me for all that in my life
That I have sinned with senses five,
Namely, with mouth of slandering,
Of false oaths and of backbiting,
And made boast with tongue also,
Of all the sins committed too,
Lord of heaven, forgive them me,
Through sight of the figure that I here see.

This knife betokeneth circumcision;
Thus he destroyed sin, all and some,
Of our forefather old Adam
Through whom we nature took of man.
From temptation of lechery
Be my succour when I shall die.

The pelican his blood did bleed
Therewith his nestlings for to feed :
This betokeneth on the rood
How our Lord fed us with his blood,
When he us ransomed out of hell
In joy and bliss with him to dwell,
And be our father and our food,
And we his children meek and good.

The pence also that Judas told,
For which Lord Jesu Christ was sold,
Shield us from treason and avarice
Therein to perish in no wise.

The lantern where they bare the light
When Christ was taken in the night ;
May it light me from nightly sin
That I never be seized therein.

Swords and staven that they bare
Jesu Christ therewith to fear;
From fiends, good Lord, do thou keep me,
Of them afraid that I not be.

Christ was stricken with a reed,
With it the Jews did break his head ;
With good cheer and mildest mood,
All he suffered and still he stood.
When I wrong any, or any me,
Be it forgiven for that pity !

The hand, O Lord, that tare thy hair,
And the hand that clapped thee on the ear,
May that pain be my succour there
That I have sinned with pride of ear ;
And of all other sins also
That with mine ears have I hearkened to !

The Jew that spat in God’s own face;
For that he suffered, give us grace,
What I have reviled, or any me,
For that despite, forgiven it be !

The cloth before thine eyen too
To buffet thee they knit it so;
May it preserve me from vengeance,
Of childhood and of ignorance
And of other sins also,
That I have with mine eyes done too,
And with my nostrils sins of smell
That I have done when sick or well !

The garment white that had seam none,
The purple they laid lot upon,
Be they my succour and my keeping,
For my body’s use of soft clothing !

With great reeds thou wert sorely dashed,
With scourges painful sorely lashed;
May that pain rid me of sins these,
Namely, of sloth and idleness !

The crown of thorn, on thine head thrust,
That tare thine hair, and thy skin buist,
Shield me from hell-pit’s agony
That I deserve through my folly !

To the pillar, Lord, also
With a rope they bound thee too;
The sinews from the bones did burst
So hard ’twas drawn and strainéd fast;
That bond release me and unbind
Of that I’ve trespassed and been unkind. !

The cross behind on his backbone,
That he suffered death upon,
Give me grace while yet I live
Clean of sin me for to shrive,
And thereto give true penitence,
And to fulfil here my penance !

Thou bare the cross and took thy gait
Out of Jerusalem’s city-gate;
All thy footsteps sweet and good
Were seen through shedding of thy blood;
Thou met with women of Bethlehem
And also of Jerusalem,
And all wept for thine agony;
To them thou saidest openly :
Now weep ye not for this my woe,
But for your children weep also ;
For them ye may lament full sore.
And your salt tears for them down pour;
For they shall have great torment hard
An hundred winters here-afterward.
Those steps of thine give us pardon
When forth we go with devotion
On pilgrimage on horse or foot,
Of all our sins be they our boot* !

*help

The nails through feet and hands also,
Help they me out of sin and woe
That I have here in my life done,
With hands handled, or on feet gone !

The hammer, Lord, both stern and great,
That drove the nails through hands and feet,
Be it my succour in my life
If any smite me with staff or knife !

The vessel with vinegar and gall
May it keep me from the sins all
That to the soul are venom dread,
That thereby I be not poisoned !

Though thou thirsted sore withal
They gave thee vinegar and gall;
From what I have drunken in gluttony
May it save me when I shall die;
That, Lord, now I pray to thee
For that grievance thou suffered for me !

Lord, that spear so sharply ground,
Within thy heart which made a wound,
Quench the sin that I have wrought,
Or in my heart have evil thought,
And of my stout pride thereto,
And mine unbuxomness also !

The ladder set up by occasion
When thou wert dead to be taken down,
When I am dead in any sin
Take me that I die not therein !

The tongs that drew the sharp nails out
Of feet and hands and all about,
And loosed thy body from the tree,
Of all my sins may they loose me !

The sepulchre wherein was laid H
is blessed body all be-bled,
May he send me ere that I die
Sorrow of heart and tear or eye,
Clear and cleanséd that I be,
Ere to my grave I betake me !
So that I may on the Doomsday
To judgment come without dismay,
And wend to bliss in company
Wherein a man shall never die,
But dwell in joy with our Lord right;
There is aye day and never night,
That ever lasts withouten end :—
Now jesu Christ us thither send ! Amen.

Best Hot Fudge Sauce Ever.

JMJ

This hot fudge sauce is also keto-friendly. I won’t debate if all the ingredients are perfectly keto, but precious few carbs went into this.

Start with 4 strips of bacon:

Sorry, it’s blurry

I put them in a hot pan at about 200F and let them cook slowly, rendering their fatty, salty deliciousness (or “proving” as the old cookbooks say). Then I put the heat up on high and got them brown and crispy.

Next time I need more bacon. Where’s the chocolate, you’re asking.

Leaving the grease in the pan, add a bag of frozen berries – which are keto friendly. Strawbs are the best, but blurbs, rasps, and others are fine too.

It’s ok, Edgar. It’s organic. Nope. No chocolate yet.

As they fry up they will render their sugary goodness to the mix.

At this point, I didn’t like the flavor profile so I added some salt and some Imo Sochu.

That’s certainly not chocolate.

While that continued to simmer I used a Big Knife™ and shaved up 1/2 a block (about 2.5 oz) of this:

Whoo HOO! Chocolate in it’s Keto Friendly Style.

Then I added about 1/3 a cup of this.

Heavy Cream is Very Keto Friendly.

I stirred it all together and threw in the chocolate. It was so saucy looking that I couldn’t turn away even to get a picture.

I turned off the heat at this point. Then I did this (but you guessed it already):

Like I said, next time, more bacon.

It still needed a little more salt, so I dashed it in. And tadah! The best fudge sauce ever!

I didn’t have no ice cream though, so, TADAH! The Best Chocolate Bacon Berry Soup Ever!

Sorry it’s a little burry. I was eating too fast. But that’s where we started anyway. Blurry Bacon gets you blurry soup.

When or Because?

JMJ

Did you ever notice that we called these things stoplights even when they’re green? Did you ever wonder about that? We tend to see these things as a hindrance rather than a conveyance, or help. When I was at NYU my Religion Professor, Dr. James Carse asked us one night if we went when the light turned green or because the light turned green. 35 years later I still wonder about that. We call it a stoplight, even though it is green as often as it is red – and you can also go when it is yellow. The device actually says go a lot more than it says stop. Do you go when the light turns green or because the light turns green?

I think most Americans go when the light turns green. We wait until it says we can go safely without getting a ticket. Late at night, when there’s no one around, on a backcountry road we might go anyway, getting angry at who in tarnation but a stoplight way the heck out here. If we’re in a strange place we might not realize that intersection is considered the most dangerous in the county, 5 deaths last year alone, until a petition got a light there. So we wait, maybe, until the light changes or we zip through not realizing we are risking our lives or someone else’s life, coming the other direction.

I won’t create a strawman in this argument by projecting that in XYZ location they go because the light gives them permission. However, I admit I want to imagine that somewhere there is such a place. I imagine it’s this way most other places, to be honest, with the possible exception of Australia. I say that based on 25 years of customer service (including retail): I know that in America if I forget to charge you sales tax, you’ll be happy and walk away. But for 25 years, customers from almost all other places have all been some version of, “Wait, you’re supposed to charge me a tax on this purchase. I need to pay for roads and schools, healthcare and more with that tax. It’s my obligation to my community. Charge me that tax!” Americans don’t feel that way at all, even though we tend to pay only pennies on the dollar for each item (some countries charge upwards from 20% in sales tax). I want to imagine that these folks who demand the right to pay their sales tax also wait to go because the light has turned green.

You, dear reader, may have already begun to discern the difference. If a driver goes because the light has turned green, then he – the driver – is waiting for the state’s permission to go. The light says “go now” and the driver goes. The driver who goes when the light turns green was probably revving her engine as she saw the light from the other direction turn yellow. Must get away from these other cars. Come on light! Green! Throw it in gear and GO!

So, less a strawman than a projection, nevertheless, a projection I want to use for this post. I am sure that there are folks in both sorts of cultures who fit both of these profiles – who want to pay taxes and who don’t. I know they exist. And I think America has more of the when the light turns green sort of folks. It would make sense to be so as we are very individualistic here. The only question dividing the two American parties is really, “Which of my individual rights will the state let me force on you?” Their answers are not very different. Even our more liberal or lefty sorts tend to be focused on individual liberty rather than community rights. Laws, to these people, are a hindrance rather than a help. At best, the government does something that usually gets in the way. At worst the government stops something that an individual wants to do. There is a reason we call it a stoplight.

What does this mean for us in light of covid-19? I think it explains a lot. Although the Italian people were in the streets partying until about 2 and 1/2 weeks ago once they were put under lockdown they went willingly. They sing opera to each other from their balconies. They make YouTube videos of jets flying overhead blasting Pavarotti. They are in this together not as a bunch of individuals who happen to be together but rather as a culture and a community. When the government does something in Italy – if not in all of Europe – it is perceived as doing something to help. Perhaps it is too little, too late… but generally… let’s try this and see. Looking on YouTube for videos from Italy, what you hear on Twitter, and what you read on Facebook it’s a bunch of people grumbly but aware of their safety and the health of their society. They understand that while this is really annoying. It’s better than everyone dying. It is possible that even in highly secular Europe, this is a result of their Catholic upbringing.

There are other places where this is not the case. America is one of these places. Here when the government is doing something it’s getting in my way. Although from person to person the attitude may change slightly, generally the assumption is if the government’s trying to do something it’s probably wrong. I say this can change slightly from person to person because often times it’s a matter of well, if I happen to agree with it… And those shades of if I agree with it do, in fact, differ from person to person in America. So, for some voters anything the previous president did was right – or most anything – but anything the current president is wrong. For other voters, that’s exactly reversed. This is all a matter of personal opinion, of individual Choice: that’s the American way. This is our Protestant, “Jesus and Me, to hell with thee” roots.

For Catholic, ethics is about the common good: the individual participates society. The individual cannot be considered as a building block of society, but rather as a participant in society. There is no human-alone. Communion is what makes us who we are. The individual is not saved alone, and the individual has an obligation to the community around him. That obligation is not only for the community’s spiritual well-being which is their salvation. It is also for the community’s physical, secular well being as well. It is wrong for the individual to be greedy: but why? My greed is wrong because it robs from you. I have an obligation to see that you have your needs met. In Christian culture, everyone has an obligation to see that everyone’s needs are met. That includes salvation, don’t get me wrong. But it also includes housing, food, and health care. In other words, Christian Society relies upon – and assumes – Christian government. As we are a part of a society our collective action should be to force the government to do its job. That job is to secure the common good: both salvation and well-being. When the government fails to do its job individuals step in.

Yes, all Christians have the personal moral obligation to feed the poor and to clothe the naked. And to defend the health and safety of each other. The government – which is instituted by God – has these same obligations. God gives us our status as the divine image, the right to life, and the pursuit of happiness which means happiness in this world and in the next. This is not about material success, but real happiness. The state is established by God not to “give” us rights, but rather to defend and enforce those rights. These only exist in communion. I have no rights that trump you, as a person. My right to a job, to shopping, to free movement cannot trump your right to life.

I have described this as an American problem. We were not always that way: our American foundation documents, in fact, back me up. Just as the Catholic Church teaches that I owe you all because you are created in the image of God, our Declaration of Independence says that all are created equal and are endowed by their creator with specific rights. Our Constitution assures us that the duty of government is to provide for the common defense and to promote the general welfare’s advance. It’s only as we became modern that we forgot the meaning of endowed by their creator and promote the general welfare.

There are differing political and economic theories about how to accomplish the right way of right governing and economic justice. They come from both the left and the right. I have met Catholics who, individually, hold any one of these points on a spectrum. I am not aware that any one or the other actually is the Catholic position. I do know that the Catholic Church requires we promote the common good and that we weigh the common good above our individual liberties. We are obligated to live and enact justice as individuals. Equally, we are morally obligated to work towards a society and a government that does the same. We cannot, as Catholics, work for amoral governance that does not enforce God’s laws either in terms of actions or economics on the argument that I will be moral anyway. The government’s job is to enforce morality.

In the era of covid-19 this forbids me (and the. government) from acting in the name of “muh freedomz” when those freedoms can endanger others. I raise this because so many of us are treating these enclosures, shelter-in-place orders, and even lockdowns as “stoplights” rather than “traffic lights”. We are posting warnings about “martial law” and “communism” when what we should see is actions in defense of the individuals “endowed by their creator” with the first right listed being “life”. And since, properly, no gov’t can grant a right not granted prior by God (else it is only license, not liberty) then no gov’t can give us the right to endanger the lives of others. To the contrary, a Christian is obligated to support a Gov’t that seeks to take action to prevent us from doing so. No gov’t can use your income as an excuse to let other’s die and call itself Christian. No Christian gov’t can let economics hinder it from doing all things it can to protect its people.

Additionally, when all those actions have occurred, when my mobility is hindered, and when other right actions have resulted in the health of the populace, it is also the government’s responsibility to take economic steps to ensure the continuance of prosperity.

Regardless of what political form or economic theory you name this, it is Christian charity. It is acting because the government says we can, it is waiting until the government says we can go. It is giving up our freedom for the Salvation of those around us. In this we followed Jesus.

In short, covid-19 is bringing us a chance to institute, both from the gov’t and from us as individuals, charity. Don’t struggle with that grace-filled moment claiming “personal freedom”. That’s just the language of Eden’s serpent recapitulated.

When you have to remember the Preamble to the Constitution

NYC 1985. The Doomed.

JMJ

Last week when I told you about NYC in 1983, I titled the post Underground and discussed the active sense of denial that many engaged in. I compared AIDS in NYC, c. 1983, to where we were a week ago in this current crisis. Time is telescoping fast. The next stage in NYC in the 80s took about 2 years, more or less. We’ve gotten there in just about a week.

St Marks Baths closed in December of 1985. The city closed all the sex clubs. The medical establishment had finally convinced everyone in authority that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease. As I mentioned last week there were still some who denied this. But most of us got the message: That was the end of the party. I was still in college. Our on-campus world was not well-connected with the larger community around NYU, as is common in all “college towns”. We had our own events on campus even though some of us ventured out beyond Washington Square. But politically, we experienced this.

There were arguments in meetings about the justification for closing places. Didn’t we have the freedom to do whatever we wanted? Didn’t public health trump personal freedom? Didn’t the Federal Gov’t need to step up support for AIDS patients? Didn’t we need to do something to stop this from killing everyone? Do I have it? Do you? Did that last experience kill us both? Was it my fault? Was it yours?

The frantic arguments, the frenetic do-literally-anything-NOW-DAMNIT attitude covered a deeper experience:

When the party was over… that was a huge downer, even for those of us who had never been to the party. Our elders and teachers… our friends… our guides started to die. The City began to change. People who used to go out all the time discovered other forms of community. We didn’t know what to do or who would be next. In fright, literally, I gave up. I turned to my fraternity brothers at NYU and built a close-knit and safe “family of choice”. I drank a lot, to be honest. Gin and tonic, rum and coke, pints of beer, brandy alexanders, Irish coffees. And I smoked heavily: a pack a day and then some. Only later did I realize I was killing myself on purpose behind everyone’s back (mine too).

Politically the gay community was powerless at this point. Making bars “legal” meant that they couldn’t be run by crime syndicates any more. Rather they needed corporate bank accounts and board members. They didn’t have to pay protection money to NYC Finest, so they didn’t get protected anymore. These syndicates had to find other ways to make income. Folks in the city were just getting used to seeing things like pride parades and same-sex couples who actually identified as couples. But they were “over there” not “here, with me”. They were rarely seen. The conversation still included lots of code words to identify one’s “friend” as someone of importance and often one took an opposite-sex friend to the company party.

Then AIDS became the conversation even out in the “regular” world. What might cause it? What might I do to avoid it? During this time I was involved in something called, I think, “The Columbia Study.” A pair of interviewers came to my home each year and asked me, anonymously, what I did, and who I did it with. Did I have a support network? Did I ever do drugs? They tracked me all over the place. Keeping track of me to see if AIDS had any effect on me as a person. What they found was I stayed home a lot.

During this time I first heard the phrase, “A virus does not have a conscience”. The idea was to counter people who were. saying “AIDS is God’s punishment”. You don’t get sick just because you “did a sin”. That’s not how a virus works. It can’t see you or judge you. That was the argument. It is, as far as we know, true: a virus does not have a conscience. Only 40 years later do I see the lie: the sentence leaves God out of the equation completely. But ok… let’s lay aside theology for a moment.

A virus does not make choices about who to infect based on their actions. That is true. But we learned (mostly by being forced to learn) that a virus can be passed on to others by our actions. Then we discovered we did not have consciences because we still wanted the sex clubs and the discos and the 25¢ theatres and the adult book stores all to stay open. What we began to do was a sort of two-faced dance. “A virus does not have a conscience” means both,”you cannot judge me” and “I can do whatever I want – if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.” Don’t close our party down!

I can go to spring break, to the Lunar New Year Parade, to the St Parick’s Day dance if I want. I demand we get our Public Masses back NOW!

I begin to feel like AIDS in the 1980s was like Prep School for COVID and none of us graduated.

Things were about to change, though. And things are about to change for us too. Not in a good way, I fear.