25 May 2019

Neither fish nor fowl.

The Heavenly Banquet?

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The Readings for 6th Sunday of Easter (C1)

The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.

If you paid any attention to the passage from Revelation - which probably went uncommented at your Mass so, you had to listen to the readings - there was one sentence that I've never noticed before: "The sea was no more."  It's been there all along, really, but that sentence lept out at me with all its implications: there are no fish, dolphins, etc. in heaven. Now, I have known a long where there are no animals in heaven, but there are those who make a living on the sentimental image of being reunited with all our pets in the afterlife. If heaven is just more of the same, who cares?

But there are no whales in heaven.

Today's passage says there is no sun - which we all knew. But that means there's no wind. So... no birds either.

Look: it's a tough message for a Sunday, but animals don't have rational souls like humans do. They merit neither eternal life nor eternal damnation. I'm not here to argue it: I'm here to point out our emotional investment in a sentimental image of the afterlife. The shenanigans with "When we die we become angels" and "harps" and dogs running through the clouds to meet us... is because we're terrified of what "heaven" really is. It's nothing but God in and through all things in union with us and in union with each other. I don't have other words for it because I'm no mystic, but heaven is unadulterated communion.

I think that terrifies us more than just a little.

In the abstract, God knowing everything about me is conceivable. It's more than a little discomfiting (because I know what happens when the lights go out) but it's conceivable. We say God is omniscient, after all. But you, dear reader, will also know everything about me. And I will know everything about you. Multiply that by billions.

I think heaven makes us a wee bit squeamish, to be honest.

Today's Gospel doesn't help: Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. If you've "received the Lord Jesus into your heart" then you've got the Father and the Holy Spirit in there as well. Jesus says if you love me you will keep... Ok the NABRE has it as "word" and others as "commandments" but in Greek, it's "Logos".  If you agape me (says Jesus) you will guard my logos.  That is, you will hold his very self. His self becomes yourself - as it does in communion. this, more and more, day by day, will make us ready.  God, the Holy Trinity, will come to make a dwelling in us. Communion: infinite, unshielded communion.

Sometimes after Mass, I need to run out and commit a mortal sin just to shut that open door in my heart. What would it be like in eternity with that?

So we picture animals in heaven, and a chance to go fishing. We imagine climbing mountains without danger and no longer needing to sit down and take a breather. This is much more comforting but, already asked: if heaven is just more of the same, why bother? Billy Graham once said that perfect happiness (in heaven) would require his beloved dog to be there... and I think Billy might have been worshipping a different God than the one I hope to find in heaven (and in Church, and in my heart).

We're not yet ready for all that love, not yet ready for eternity.

24 May 2019

It's only a little pinch.


Bl. Stanley Rother, God's Friend.

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The Readings for Saturday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.

Once, a long, long time ago, it seems to me now, in a religious galaxy far, far away I sat in a class on Patristics as an Episcopal priest explained that no one today would go to their death over a pinch of incense. He thought we were, finally much saner now. I think of this event from time to time and wonder if he was right. Would anyone do it now? Did it make any sense, even then? Most Romans knew the Emperor wasn't divine. The priests and cults of the empire had needed to invent stories as Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero ruined one by one all the sacred traditions and offices of the Republic. The people watched one entire mythology end and a whole new one begin. What did they care? It's only a pinch and politically wise. The philosophers since Socrates had long spoken in monotheistic terms and, while it was still largely woven over by polytheistic animism, it was clear that the Divine Augustus (etc) was not this deity. So who cared?

In March of 1935, a farmer and his wife celebrated the birth of their first child, Stanley Rother. Raise in a Catholic home and a student of Catholic schools, he was an Oklahoma Farmer's son, through and through. He did chores, served at the altar, studied well enough in school, danced, and played sports with his friends. And after school was over he thought maybe to go into the priesthood. That was not an easy choice: he failed Latin and his grades were poor. He was asked to leave seminary. But his Bishop saw something in Mr Rother and found another seminary for him. Finally he was ordained to the Catholic Priesthood 55 years ago today on 25 May 1963.

Fr Stanley volunteered to go as a missionary to Guatemala. Pope St John XXIII had called for priests to go and Stanley took that call to his heart. The Bishop who ordained him sent him to Santiago Atitlan as a priest for the tribe named the Tzutuhil, decedents of the Maya. To serve his people this man who had failed to learn Latin became fluent in both Spanish and the Tzutuhil language. He could, after the Council, even celebrate Mass in the native language of the people! The team even gave the Tzutuhil a written language which they had not had until this time.

Meanwhile, in Imperial Rome, Jews were exempted from the pinch of incense by treaty. But Christians were not. They came from every corner of the empire, they were not an ethnicity or a people with a country. They cared deeply and refused to even pretend that the Emperor was divine and in doing so they rejected the politics and the religion of their neighbors. What my former teacher, the Episcopal priest, misunderstood was that the religion of one did not "shape" the politics, it was the politics. To reject the claim of the Emperor to be divine was to insist that humanity could not debase others, that the Roman emperor had no more right to worship than a Roman slave, and - in a world where the pater familias was divine ruler under his own roof, the Christians said, nope: men and women are equal before God and it is God that is ruler. They refused to participate in a system that denied that or to even pretend to participate. When the system said "Caesar is Lord!" the Christians said, "Jesus is Lord." Rome hated them for it.

The Gov't of Guatemala, along with many of the other Gov'ts in Central America, were under pressure to fight off the "Reds" who were trying to "infiltrate" these countries. Infiltrate here means teach, find food for the poor, keep farming tools in working order, bring in fresh, running water, etc. The pressure came from the United States. While in Europe, for much (but not all) of the 20th Century, the political persecution of the Church came from the Left, in the Americas it was from the Center and the Right. In every case from Mexico south, where a right-wing puppet or dictator was persecuting the Catholic Church, it was with American arms up the puppet's backside and American-trained fingers from the School of the Americas on the guns by which that oppression was accomplished.

Christians have, since Rome, been far too liberal for their worldly conservative friends: they welcome immigrants, they feed the poor, they walk among the sick without fear and treat them (we invented the Hospital when the Rich and Powerful of Rome were throwing their sick into gullies to die).  The Christians of Rome pulled together and ignored the world view of the secular traditionalists around them. They shared their food, they cared for the sick, from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs. They built real community around the Church. They refused to even pretend to play along with a system that said one mad idiot was god and everyone else was his slave - even when they daily, faithfully prayed for his salvation and peace. They would not offer incense to him but they willingly offered it for him.

Stanley kept this tradition alive in Santiago Atitlan and when the way to keep out the Reds involved keeping the powerless, poor, and illiterate Tzutuhil exactly powerless, poor, and illiterate, the good shepherd of his people said, "No!" They built real community around the Church. The people learned to farm together (with Stanley's farming skills from Oklahoma) and when the machines broke it was Stanley that helped them fix things.

People began to vanish - catechists, altar servers, Sunday school teachers, language teachers, farmers. When Stanley dared to stand up to the gun squads who were "Disappearing" his people, his fate was sealed - so we might say in the world. But Father's fate was sealed when, as a little baby, the faith of the Church was washed into his soul. To be a friend of God means to lay down one's life for one's friends...

And he did so: on 28 July 1981, three gunmen entered the Rectory that was Stanley's home and shot him. He was venerated as a Martyr from that day forward - first by his own people, the Tzutuhil, then by the Church in Oklahoma, and now - officially - by the entire world. He is known as Blessed Stanley Rother, Priest and Martyr. Although he is not yet a saint that will come in God's time.

The pinch of incense Stanley was asked for was to stand aside while a Gov't, following funds and support from a mad king in the Rome of the modern world, tried to deny the people of his parish their personhood, their divine icon of God. Stanley could have stayed in the States (he was home less than a week before his death) and he could have let the flock be scattered. Everyone would understand. Oklahoma, today, might be celebrating a priest's 56th ordination anniversary.

But Stanley did not offer this pinch of incense. He refused to even pretend to play along. The world - a world that pretended to be "Christian" at the time - hated him for it.

(This man is my patron saint.  I started this essay with nary a clue that today - the readings for Saturday, that is - was the anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. I only knew that after my posts of the last two days about God's friendship meaning our death... I wanted to show what I was intending. This man is what I mean.)

May he pray for us. May it be so with us as well.


23 May 2019

Friendzoned by Jesus.

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The Readings for Friday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

I call you friends...

This gets sentimentalized sometimes. Sometimes overly so. I remember when Jesus calling us (me) his friends used to cause me to wax poetical about Plato, David and Jonathan, and about someone important in my life. When I was at the Monastery, I tried to find some core in here that I could hold on to, to stay centered but that failed. The meat of this passage is not that God calls us friends... Because God calls Israel his beloved wife. Friends seems a bit reserved, to be honest. And later God will call the church his Bride as well. But here, we are all just friends.

So what's going on?

It's a couple of verses before. Greater love hath no man than this, as the KJV puts it, that a man lay down his life for his friends. And I have called you friends. So yes, that means that I will lay my life down for you... But he also expects us to lay our lives down for him and for each other.

We are are the friends of God, not in a Platonic sense, not in a creepy, pseudo-sexual, S.E. Hinton kind of way, not even in a David and Jonathan sense, but in the foxhole death on a grenade to save your buddies kind of way. In a today-is-a-good-day-to-die way.
In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others. - CS Lewis, The Four Loves 
Our friends were picked for us: we know the difference between friends and acquaintances, between coworkers (with whom we may all be close in one degree or another) and honest to goodness friends.

Jesus is such a friend: who has taken (literally) death for us who demands death from us for him and for each other. Jesus is not the bad boy your parents don't want you to hang out with: Jesus is the boy that says, "Let's all enlist. Someone's got to do something about this."

Jesus is that one friend whose opinion matters more than anyone in the whole world. When I am engaged in hypocrisy, it is the opinion of other Christians that most matters to me. And yet, "in the world" those folks might matter least. I didn't manipulate the universe to get these friends. These are not "the popular kids" in school. Jesus is always talking to the wrong sort of folks.
In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together; each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others. Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day's walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it. Ibid
Jesus calls us friends and then, a few years later, St Paul uses this divine, mutually-assured divinization as the model for a real Christian Marriage, too, and that marriage becomes the icon of the love of Christ for his Church. It is this Church, this circle not of cithara strumming band mates and worship leaders but rather of platoonmates, a Band of Brothers, who will screw each other's courage to the sticking place, cheer each other on in the games of the arena - gladiators, lions, crucifixions, bonfires, street lights... this great cloud of fellow witnesses (martyrs) cheers us on to death: COME ON!
Alone among unsympathetic companions, I hold certain views and standards timidly, half ashamed to avow them and half doubtful if they can after all be right. Put me back among my Friends and in half an hour - in ten minutes - these same views and standards become once more indisputable. The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders: as Friendship strengthens, it will do this even when my Friends are far away. For we all wish to be judged by our peers, by the men "after our own heart." Only they really know our mind and only they judge it by standards we fully acknowledge. Theirs is the praise we really covet and the blame we really dread.  
Jesus calls us friends. Don't make this out to be some kind of sexless eros or some pathetic high school ensemble movie: 

God's friends die.

22 May 2019

Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum!

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The Readings for Thursday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

I have told you this so that... your joy might be complete.

Jesus said this just before he went out to die. You know this and I do too, but we often forget it. If you're not happy, some would say, you're doing it wrong. I am too blessed to be stressed. You gotta give up your spirit of heaviness... We forget that "Joy" here means to stay within the commands/love of God the Father by staying within the commands/love of God the Son. Which command was never "do what you love and the money will follow."  It was never "Follow your bliss". It was never, ever, a rose garden. It was ever was and always will the garden of Gethsemane where God sweat blood, or the fair garden of Calvary whereupon the only tree that ever bore life to the world, God died; or the garden just below the crest of the hill, where life conquered death by death died in death's despite and Jesus Christ won the victory for all time.

But no rose garden is or can be involved.

Take up your cross daily and follow me, he commanded. The other thing he commanded was to love as he loved us - by dying. Yup, we're good to go here for some serious Joy. Unless "joy" means something we don't think it means unless the "joy" we think we know is only somehow a pale and useless shadow of the real thing or even a mockery of it.

"Joy" is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The wiki has a rather wonderful entry on these, including this passage on Joy:

The joy referred to here is deeper than mere happiness; it is rooted in God and comes from Him. Since it comes from God, it is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is merely emotional and lasts only for a time. 
According to Strong's Greek Lexicon, the Greek word listed in the verse is χαρά (G5479), meaning 'joy', 'gladness', or 'a source of joy'. The Greek χαρά (chara) occurs 59 times in 57 verses in the Greek concordance of the NASB. 
  • Original Word: χαρά, ᾶς, ἡ From χαίρω (G5463)
  • Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
  • Transliteration: chara
  • Phonetic Spelling: (khar-ah') 
Joy (Noun and Verb), Joyfulness, Joyfully, Joyous: 
"joy, delight" (akin to chairo, "to rejoice"), is found frequently in Matthew and Luke, and especially in John, once in Mark (Mar 4:16, RV, "joy," AV, "gladness"); it is absent from 1 Cor. (though the verb is used three times), but is frequent in 2 Cor., where the noun is used five times (for 2Cr 7:4, RV, see Note below), and the verb eight times, suggestive of the Apostle's relief in comparison with the circumstances of the 1st Epistle; in Col 1:11, AV, "joyfulness," RV, "joy." The word is sometimes used, by metonymy, of the occasion or cause of "joy," Luk 2:10 (lit., "I announce to you a great joy"); in 2Cr 1:15, in some mss., for charis, "benefit;" Phl 4:1, where the readers are called the Apostle's "joy;" so 1Th 2:19, 20; Hbr 12:2, of the object of Christ's "joy;" Jam 1:2, where it is connected with falling into trials; perhaps also in Mat 25:21, 23, where some regard it as signifying, concretely, the circumstances attending cooperation in the authority of the Lord. Note: In Hbr 12:11, "joyous" represents the phrase meta, "with," followed by chara, lit., "with joy." So in Hbr 10:34, "joyfully;" in 2Cr 7:4 the noun is used with the Middle Voice of huperperisseuo, "to abound more exceedingly," and translated "(I overflow) with joy," RV (AV, "I am exceeding joyful").

How does this Joy tie into love, death, and carrying crosses?

We know that the things of this world come from doing whatever we want. Everyone one of us knows that "whatever we want" soon devolves into one or two petty things done over and over... eating the same foods, going to the same sorts of movies, taking the same vacations, having the same arguments, engaging the same vices, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Then we die.

Nearly everything we do in this world, apart from God, results from a fear of pain and quest for pleasure.

Yet Jesus promised real joy... and then silently suffered death in the 1st-century version of an electric chair set on stun.

How we do whine about our crosses even before we get nailed to them: unrequited love, broken homes, lost innocence, missed plans (my personal favorite of late), no one understands me, no one loves me...

me, me, me.

There is no joy in me: it's only in serving others, only in loving others, only in dousing our pride, in offering our hearts, broken and disordered, to the God who offers us his natural heart in exchange for ours made of stone.

Joy.

When we know we're whiners or when we know we don't understand... when we realize that maybe we're wrong...

We're on the path to Joy.





Nothing is strong. Very Strong.

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The Readings for Wednesday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

Without me you can do nothing.

St Thomas Aquinas calls God the root of being, itself. God's being is the very beingness of everything. St John says that God is love. That means the very beingness of the entire Cosmos is rooted in Love. Or, as I tweeted earlier this month:
Ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. (St John) + Deus est ipsum esse per se subsistens. (Aquinas) = Love is all there is (Beatles)
Today, Jesus says "without me you can do nothing". That is literal truth. Nothing at all (of value) is done without Jesus by anyone at all. Even non-Christians can do nothing without Jesus. Jesus is the Logos, the word of God. Each thing has its own logos, its own "word". In that it has a being it is participating in God, in that it has a thingness, a function, a logos of its own that is its own participating in Christ. "At the heart of each thing is its inner principle or logos, implanted within it by the Creator Logos; and so through the logoi we enter into communion with the Logos," said Bishop Kalistos Ware back before he went off the rails. Your action to start the car, to type a blog post, to read a blog post, to whine in the comments is a participation in the Logos or it is of no value, no reality, at all. Even if you're not a Christian, even if you're not a theist.

The beingness of God the Father, from which every being generates, and the indwelling principle of the Logos, the very life of God communicated by his pneuma, his Spirit, makes all things an ongoing participation in the Trinity to the eyes that can see it; and yet this is no less true if you can't or won't see it.

Bishop John Zizioulas sums this up nicely: To be and to be in communion are the same thing.

There is no way to act that is not an active participation in God, even if you are trying to undermine Godly people in the world. And yet to the degree that you manage to close yourself off to God, to reject participation in God, it is entirely possible to achieve the opposite goal. There are only two choices: being and non-being. There is nothing you can do that is not God in Christ working in the world... Unless it's not. Then it is exactly the reverse. There is no way to express love that is not a participation in God - even if you reject the idea that God exists. You may have imperfect or disordered love, but God is love. You may deny the very being of those around you or in your womb, but God's being makes them. You may rip their life - or your own - out of the body, but that life is God's nonetheless. It's only you that are cut off.

Without Jesus you can do nothing. Uncle Screwtape knows this. CS Lewis gives him this amazing text in Letter XII which is even now describing Facebook on your phone, Game of Thrones on your TV, twitter on your computer at work, porn...
As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. 
You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. 
All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.
Porn makes you imagine sins... but you never get to do them. Facebook feels like gossip, even if no one reads your post. Humans are the only being with an ongoing choice, open and active until death, to decide for or against God. To bear fruit, much fruit, good fruit, you must be in Jesus.

Now, some pagans do an awful lot of good: that's all Jesus. Some Christians do an awful lot of evil. That's the non-being swallowing things up.

Without Jesus you can do nothing... and you'll get around to liking nothing, and soon... that's what you'll get. As Magenta says to Dr Frankenfurter,

"I ask for nothing! ...Master."
And he replies, "And you shall receive it. In abundance."




14 April 2019

Second Birthday

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Two years ago today, with the helpful n of my fraternity Brother Joe on my shoulder, Fr Michael officially welcomed me into communion with the Roman Catholic Church. By her own teaching, I've been Catholic since 2002 when Fr Victor gave me the sacrament of Chrismation, but I was "not in full communion". While there are vagueries of theology that may not interest the non-Christian, and while there are similarities in politics that may not let the outsider see any difference at all, yet perhaps to other sheep, all sheep do not look alike.

I still can't put my finger on it.

Two years.

I've made so many friends, found so many locals, both in the spiritual and the physical way. In my rooted, Benedictine desire to be a San Franciscan, I'm not alone. To be clear, I've discovered that Stability and Spiritual growth are somehow connected. My peripatetic past notwithstanding, it seems important to be here now, to be Catholic in the Local, to incarnate in the scandal of particularity the universal truth of the faith.

How's that read?

What I mean is I think I spent 50 years running hither and thither as an Orthoneo-Episcopagan Hedonist just to finally land as a rooted lay monastic in San Francisco. Somehow it's all connected: location, vocation, and salvation. If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there I never really lost it to begin with.

06 April 2019

The Religion of the Incarnation



From Robert Hugh Benson's Confession of a Convert. Wherein he discovers the meaning of the Incarnation. Christ took flesh of his mother, the Church is his body, ergo...

---

§ 3 In Rome I learned one supremely large lesson, among a hundred others. It has been very well said that Gothic architecture represents the soul aspiring to God, and that Renaissance or Romanesque architecture represents God taberna cling with men. Both sides are true, yet neither, in the religion of the Incarnation, is complete without the other. On the one side, it is true that the soul must always be seeking, always gazing up through the darkness to a God who hides Himself, always remembering that the Infinite transcends the finite and that an immense agnosticism must be an element in every creed; the lines of this world, as it were, run up into gloom; the light that glimmers through carved tracery and heavy stains is enough to walk by, but little more. It is in silence that God is known, and through mysteries that He declares Himself. “God is a spirit,” formless, infinite, invisible, and eternal, and “they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Here, then, is mysticism and the darkness of spiritual experience. 

Then, on the other side, God became man – “the Word was made flesh.” The divine, unknowable Nature struck itself into flesh and “tabernacled amongst us, and we beheld His glory.” What was hidden was made known. It is not only we who thirst and knock: it is God Who, thirsting for our love, died upon the cross that He might open the kingdom of heaven to all believers, Who rent the veil of the Temple by His death-groan, and Who still stands knocking at every human heart, that He may come in and sup with man. The round dome of heaven is brought down to earth; the walls of the world are plain to the sight; its limitations are seen in the light of God; the broad sunshine of Revelation streams on all sides through clear windows upon a gorgeous pavement; angels and gods and men riot together in an intoxication of divine love; the high altar stands plain to view in a blaze of gilding and candles; and above it the round brazen and silken tent of God-made-man stands that all alike may see and adore. 

Now, this side of the religion of the Incarnation had hitherto meant almost nothing to me. I was a Northerner pure and simple, educated in Northern ways. I loved twilight and mysterious music and the shadow of deep woods; I hated open spaces of sun and trumpets in unison and the round and square in architecture. I preferred meditation to vocal prayer, Mme. Guyon to Mother Julian, “John Inglesant” to St. Thomas, the thirteenth century — as I imagined it – to the sixteenth. Until towards the end of my Anglican life I should frankly have acknowledged this; then I should have resented the accusation, for I was beginning to understand and, therefore, thought that I entirely understood — that the world was as material as it was spiritual, and that creeds were as necessary as aspirations. But when I came to Rome I acknowledged to myself once more how little I had understood. Here was this city, Renaissance from end to end, set under clear skies and a burning sun; and the religion in it was the soul dwelling in the body. It was the assertion of the reality of the human principle as embodying the divine. Even the exclusive tenets of Christianity were expressed under pagan images. Revelation spoke through forms of natural religion; God dwelt unashamed in the light of day; priests were priests, not aspiring clergymen; they sacrificed, sprinkled lustral water, went in long, rolling processions with incense and lights, and called heaven Olympus. Sacrum Divo Sebastiano, I saw inscribed on a granite altar. I sat under priest-professors who shouted, laughed, and joyously demonstrated before six nations in one lecture room. I saw the picture of the “Father of princes and kings and Lord of the world” exposed in the streets on his name-day, surrounded by flowers and oil lamps, in the manner in which, two centuries ago, other lords of the world were honoured. I went down into the Catacombs on St. Cecilia's Day and St. Valentine's, and smelled the box and the myrtle underfoot that did reverence to the fragrance of their memories, as centuries ago they had done reverence to victors in another kind of contest. In one sentence, I began to understand that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”; that as He took the created substance of a Virgin to fashion for Himself a natural body, so still He takes the created substance of men — their thoughts, their expressions, and their methods — to make for Himself that mystical body by which He is with us always; in short, I perceived that “there is nothing secular but sin.” Catholicism, then, is “materialistic?” Certainly; it is as materialistic as the Creation and the Incarnation, neither more nor less.