12 November 2017

Again! Again!


The 5th of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

We pray for a right ordering of our sensuality. In all of these intentions, this was one of two I had to look up (the other being "Affectivity"). This one is very subtle.

The world around us, we know from Genesis, is created to be good. Something broke in the Fall however. We are in a broken world: and part of that brokenness is not only caused by our own sinfulness, but is exacerbated by it. What feels good to us... we don't know if it actually is good or only feels good because of the fallen world in which we live. We must judge things not on externals, but rather by the teachings of the faith. Take pecan pie, for example.

10 November 2017

Custody of the Senses

The 4th of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

The next intention offered is one for our five senses. That "the things we see and hear, the food and drink we eat and the encounters we have through touch may all be pure and holy." How is that at all possible? This is not even a question of time and place: any time and any place, how is it possible for everything to be "pure and holy"? 

St Paul, in his Epistle to Titus, give us the answer: omnia munda mundis. All things are clean to the clean. When we are praying for our five senses we are not asking that all the world be set right (as it only will be in the Parousia): we're asking that we be purified in our interactions with the world. Again, this isn't about things that happen to us, but an opening out of our prayer that we may interact in agape with the world.

09 November 2017

Allure and Glamour

The 3rd of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

After prayers for the world and for our relationships we turn to the first "me-related" prayer; asking for help in our efforts at modesty. Modesty in our culture is so often discussed as either another word for humility (which it is not, entirely) or a tool of oppression aimed at women (which it often is but shouldn't be). 

For our relationships.


The 2nd of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

After praying for the world around us, we pray that all of our relationships may be "holy, healthy, pure, and honorable at all times." It would be very easy (as with praying for the world) to only worry about sex in this context. I do find you hot, so I'll be your friend. In some parts of our culture we might even sleep together once or twice just to "get that out of the way" and get on with being friends. In other parts of our culture that might ruin the friendship. Yet "holy, healthy, pure, and honorable" is not just about sex. This is about love. 

07 November 2017

The Social & Cultural Climate


NB: 1st of 15 (and my second attempt at this series).  A Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

We pray that our social and cultural climate may be "purified of everything contrary to chastity". That's a big ask! Several other intercessions will touch on this topic either directly or indirectly, but this one confronts the machinery that sets it all up. I just want to focus on how big an ask it really is.

30 October 2017

Continuity and Rupture



In the last two weeks of the Lectionary, Weeks 29 and 30 of year A, we've had this story (in two parts):
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax." Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them,"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." (Matthew 22:15-21, 29th Sunday) 
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"  He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:34-40, 30th Sunday)
There are, in addition, several other moments in the Gospel stories where Jesus is seen in discussion with the religious leaders of the people. It is a homiletical commonplace to use these to say, "Jesus was offering a different vision than the Jews had hitherto." In fact, it can be tempting to do so because so may have done so. That such often arises from a covert Anti-Semitism, especially among the more liberal, is dangerous. The approach is, generally, "The legalistic religious experts were wrong. Love is the Answer". We place a homiletic rupture between the Good Jesus and the bad Jewish elders. Specifically, it's right up there with the Jews killed Christ in terms of misunderstanding what's going on here.

A cursory reading of Jewish Culture will recognize what's going on here: rabbis debate. Rabbis debate with their students to understand the law. Rabbis debate with each other to sharpen their skills. Rabbis debate with each other to correct errors. This debate can be rather calm and contemplative, or it can be heated. We see all types of this discussion in the New Testament: Jesus at dinner parties, Jesus on street corners. Now, to be clear: Jesus is God. To disagree with his point is sin - and it's the trump card for Christians. But on the streets of the Jewish Communities in the Roman Empire of the 1st Century, AD, this was not a thing. Jesus was God using the cultural tools available. Rabbinic Debate was the way to be. Jesus' actions are in continuity with the actions of those around him. We must read the Gospels in this hermeneutic.

Dealing with the second Gospel story first (because it's what made me grumpy) we have to know the history behind Jesus' response. The greatest commandment is one that pious Jews recite three times a day as part of their daily prayers. It is the obvious answer. The second one, like unto the first, though: there's a story behind that one. I've heard two versions of this story - and I will cite the one I don't like first. It's not the first one I read, though, which is the same all the way through except the punch line. It is the one that comes with a citation, though.

One famous account in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) tells about a gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism. This happened not infrequently, and this individual stated that he would accept Judaism only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert, stood on one foot. First he went to Shammai, who, insulted by this ridiculous request, threw him out of the house. The man did not give up and went to Hillel. This gentle sage accepted the challenge, and said:

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this--go and study it!"

(The cited text backs up this version.)

The second version of the story, the one I read first, has Rabbi Hillel respond thus: The main idea of the Torah is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Although the text of this second story is not backed up by the Talmud as such, the Rabbis tie that text with love of neighbor as self throughout Rabbinic debate.

Jesus would know this story about Hillel. Jesus would know this context. Jesus was not putting the Pharisees in their place with a new teaching, but rather taking a side in an existing Rabbinic Debate.

Specifically the question should be heard like this: Rabbi, some of us say that all the laws are equally important. But others say some are more important than others. How say you?

Then Jesus - God in the Flesh - gives a shoutout to Hillel.

That's a much better sermon! In another Gospel passage recounting the same story, the querent responds with "you have answered well..." Jesus is agreeing with a certain party of Pharisees.

The first Gospel Passage, with the Herodians, is beyond funny. Jesus is still debating with others, but in this case, he's debating with Herodians. They are fans of the established political order. They don't rightly care what the religious folks do as long as the Herodians get to stay on top of the secular pecking order. They are, basically, successful, secular Jews in our modern understanding. They are as closely aligned with the political power structure as the pro-Israel lobby is in the US today.

So, on the coin, whose image is this? In Greek Jesus asks, "Whose icon is this?" The answer is correct: it is Caesar. But, brothers and sisters, Whose icon is Caesar? Every human being is created as the icon of God!

When the Herodians, not even thinking religiously, hear "Render to Caesar..." they are pleased.  Yet Jesus says something even more shocking: and much more in keeping with the Hebrew Prophets. Jesus says whatever political authority you have... This is part of God's icon, part of God's plan. This is the root of St Paul saying that all authority is God-given and that the King is God's instrument. This is right in line with the Hebrew Prophets saying God has used Persia to save the Jews (even calling the King of Persia "Messiah" at one point!)

Jesus says, "You're right... but not enough. You're drawing distinctions where there are none to draw."

We, friends, must stop drawing lines of rupture between Jesus and his culture. God in the flesh decided the time and the place of his incarnation. The culture, the people, the politics, the family structure, the class war, these are not accidents. Nor are they necessarily divinely ordained for all time, to be clear. But they are the choices God made for making points.

If we rob the Gospel story of those points, the rest falls apart and becomes a nice story about a hippie with a leftist political agenda... but that's only for us, today. Another party could rob Jesus of his Judaism and make him out as a hatemonger. (Failing to invoke Godwin's law would be an error here: Nazis said there were no real differences between Jesus and Hitler. Right wing hate groups today make Jesus out as a white supremacist. Although conservatives often have Anti-semitism in their works, I say "liberals" because they often drive this point home to toss out all the Jewish Law, including teachings on sex and morality. Also the "Jesus Seminar" and their ilk,  eliminates anything from the sayings of Jesus that other teachers were saying at the time... so that Jesus becomes almost entirely disconnected from his Jewish conversants. This idea that the Jewish Scriptures are so filled with error that we toss them out is a heresy condemned by the Church.


23 October 2017

Albion's Blessed Curse


Henry chose to downfall on his lust
in twain and millions rent the church
twain for where but one claim
was now one and all else
millions for without Peter
each in his own barque now rows his way.

Henry's daughters war and slay
each the other's pawns
until one has won
and she unwed
but not unknown
now stands bestride the altar gate
some new colossus guarding entry
and births a novus ordo saeculorum
the bastard child of fear and hatred
of all who would say her nay
rejecting all but truths approved
and holding none in esteem
for each can change with whispered oath
of crown or judgement granted
so all truths now are judged by men.

Here crowned rises Tyburn's tri-corn'd tree
to hold all the more of those who seek
Truth, unapproved, undimmed, unreformed.
And they to their fate rejoicing go
as gallows swing and are cut down
growing thus a many tentacled beast
bestride the fields and meadows of
perfidious Albion.

But hark how now as homeward wend
the wayward sons of Regina-past,
the light that rises now from this crown.
Become a great Tri-cornered chalice
filled with wine by martyrs new-made
and now the Blood of Christ.
Here where strident heretics did faith break
with fathers and with Christ
now vows remade
and prodigals dance
with words first Cramner prayed.

Here now the feet of she
who Holy Wisdom banned
now perhaps can yeild to prayers of those
she cast aside,
and in their mercy
be forgiven as
Tyburn's Chalice
in Priestly Hands is risen

Let Martyrs and the blessed
and all who bore this cross
prostrate in heaven beg for all that the Church
has lost and can regain
and all the heavenly host
the weak, the hanged, and the shriven
from out of purgatory can win the souls
of those
that would us very damn.

Love your enemies
pray for them that persecute you
bless those who curse
And even more now
that closer to our God you stand
bring us home
pray us in
hold aloft the chalice of Christ's blood
as light to show the way

Arise three cornered Chalice
in hands whose necks you wrung
and open wide
the portals now
that were once jolly decked.
Full tree of fruit that was the best
our own hope we slew
now open heavenly bliss
that we can dance with the angeles
where we once death did kiss

Bells are rung
Mass is said
where heretics on martyrs trod
but over all
and for our good
there works the hand of God.