16 June 2019

Arthur Dent and Titus Pullo


JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 11th week of Ordinary Time (C1)
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil...
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

This thing about walking a mile is regarding Roman soldiers. The Roman soldiers were occupying Israel, and in the eyes of all, these greedy, violent, rowdy, armed Gentiles are a chaotic evil force present in God's holy land. A Roman soldier could, at any time, demand that you help him and force you to walk with him for a mile doing X, Y, and Z. Jesus says do it and then go two miles with him instead. Imagine that this must have sounded like. This man who talks to tax collectors is telling you to do this oppressive thing that the occupying Army can order for you to do. More than that he's telling you to go twice as far. To comply with injustice and then to give more.

Who is evil?  It's not about who "does" evil, either - regardless of what the NABRE says.
The Greek here actually says, "Do not resist the Evil One.
The Latin (non resistere malo) "Do not resist evil".

St John Chrysostom says this is an important difference:
Having therefore mentioned the ancient law, and recognized it all, He signifies again, that it is not our brother who hath done these deeds, but the evil one. For this cause he hath also subjoined, “But I say unto you, that ye resist not the evil one.” He did not say, “resist not your brother,” but “the evil one,” signifying that on his motion men dare so to act; and in this way relaxing and secretly removing most of our anger against the aggressor, by transferring the blame to another.
 When someone does something against us in the world, it is not them - as an actor - who is evil; rather the evil is something they are being tempted to do. The one tempting them to act in such a way is the Evil One.  It is against him that we have a fight.

When it comes to our brother or sister who is doing harm to us, however, the struggle is not against them but to liberate them from the clutches of Satan. They are trapped and we must free them. This is why Jesus tells us not to hit them back, but rather to let them hit us again; not only to let them steal our coat but also give them everything else we have; not to let them force us to do something we don't want but also to do things that they don't know they want yet out of the kindness of our heart. St John says to act in this way will let them see we love them. If they see that we love them we may have a chance to free them from the evil one who has his claws in them.

When you think about it nobody has a reason to attack Christians. In fact, the only person with a reason to attack Christians is Satan. That he gets other people to do it on his behalf and gets them to take the blame is a score for him. That he gets other people to do it on his behalf and gets us Christians to blame the other folks is a double score on his behalf for he gets them to sin and gets us to sin as well. Further, he has ruined our witness. Because let's be honest, if we're reacting against their hate we are judging them. And everybody knows that Jesus said judge not lest ye be judged. Reacting in violence - even legal violence - to violence is judgment.

When someone is sitting in the clutches of Satan and a Christian does something that pushes that person farther into those clutches... we have failed.  What Jesus gives us here is a way to subversively do what they want us to do and yet show them Jesus.

If any time someone asked us to do something we said okay and then we did it out of love for them and for Jesus, the world would be a very different place. Imagine no lawsuits about wedding cakes. Imagine no torturous spitting matches in front of abortion clinics. Imagine no Twitter wars. Imagine peaceful loving service leading to salvation.

Look, I understand that we have a legal right to do these things! But just because the law says it's okay does not mean it is salvific for us or for others. Jesus gives us these tools: let them hit you again. Do what they order you to do. Pray for them. Love them. Nowhere in this list does he save file a lawsuit against them. Nowhere in this list as does he say take them to court or take them to jail. Nowhere are we invited to fight them back.

We need to watch ourselves: we may be the last chance to be rescued from Satan these folks have.

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams posits that it's possible to fly if you fall down and while you're falling you forget to finish the fall.
There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. ... Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that presents the difficulties.
So, as you're falling if you suddenly look to the side and say oh look some luggage you might miss the Earth and then begin to fly. That's what Jesus is telling us to do here. Distract someone so they don't do evil. Don't let them finish their fall. Give them love back instead and they may fly.

11 June 2019

Abolish or Fulfill? Abolish or Fulfill?


JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 10th week of Ordinary Time (C1)
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

There are no answers in this blog post. Some of us will hear a sermon today that says this passage means the old law has passed away. Jesus says he did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Oddly that sermon could come from traditionalists or revisionists. Jesus can't fulfill something if he abrogates it. We want to think of fulfill in the same way we think of a card reader or fortune teller. Fulfillment means someone made a prediction and Jesus did it. It's obvious, right? But that's not what it's intended here.

Fulfillment in these terms means the expansion of, the revelation of, the unveiling of the real meaning of something. There are very few prophecies in scripture where somebody says at such and such a time, such and such a thing will happen. Rather we see pictures drawn in the scriptures and then those pictures are flushed out as if they were done in simple pencil sketches and later are fulfilled in 3D video.

In a very famous prophecy Isaiah says that lady over there is going to have a baby and 800 years later it's fulfilled in the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus. The sketch was that woman having a baby. The Fifth Element was the Virgin giving birth to God.

This is called Typology.

Jesus says everything else was an Antetype: he is the type, the thing itself. In my person are all true meanings revealed. He says elsewhere, “I am the way the truth and the life.” He is it. This means also that if the Bible is a unified story that needs to Jesus, even the laws and rules in the Old Testament are there to show us the way to Messiah; again, the rules are a sketch, not a prediction. It's hard to link a forbidden shellfish salad with the coming of Jesus. Does the absence of bacon indicate anything?

How do we differentiate between various rules about food, liturgical instructions, property values, manumission, and sexual morals?

We are so used to thinking of the Torah as if it were a written totality of the Jewish law. We want to imagine 613 individual, discreet, rules and we want to be able to answer the question, Did you follow the rules? But is there any evidence that the code in the first five books of the Bible was the entirety of the law? Or is that a Christian assumption? is there a difference between saying one thing in the Bible and the gradual development of context within the Jewish tradition? Can you begin the rules in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and end up at don't eat Chinese food and cheeseburgers are forbidden? At which point does the development become untenable?

What if the Jewish law is less like our modern codebooks of rules and regulations and more like British common law? What if the documents of the Bible are only a basis, a recording of some conversations, and not the end-all and be-all of the rules? What if the text of the Torah is only a sketch of the Law? What if “the Law” involves taking these sketches and applying them to individual cases, looking for fulfillment?

I come not to abolish but to fulfill. Jesus is part of a rabbinic discussion of the law. That Jesus “fulfills the law in his person” is a legal claim, an elaboration of the Torah. The notion that Jesus doesn’t fulfill the Law is a legal claim as well. Jesus is stating his place in the legal discussion. You can accept or reject that claim but it has nothing to do with shrimp cocktails or the use of mixed fibers in your clothing.

10 June 2019

It only takes a pinch...


JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Barnabas, Apostle
Tuesday in the 10th week of Ordinary Time (C1)

You are the salt of the earth...

We are used to hearing this phrase, "salt of the earth" as it might refer to good, solid farmers, or blue-collar laborers, Midwestern voters, etc, salt of the earth types. But that's not how Jesus uses it here. He's speaking at a time when salt was literally currency in some parts of the world. To control the salt was a mark of cultural control. The Celts, for example, controlling Salzburg - "Salt City" - became quite wealthy selling salt to much of the world. You are the salt of the earth means "something everyone will want to take..."

Salt is one flavor that is most noticed by its absence. In fact, it might better be said that salt is less an option and more of a needed part of everything. It goes in coffee, ice cream, candy, meat, vegetables, tea... but when it's not that we say, "needs salt" very quickly. Jesus uses other images for us as well: yeast, which only takes a pinch to leaven a whole batch of dough, for example. In a few verses, he will compare us to a candle: you only need to light one, and the whole room is lit up propper. Chewing tobacco, too, "only takes a pinch between your cheek and gum..." (I think some readers will be old enough to get that reference.)

We notice too, that the tiny band of twelve men preaching the Gospel has given rise to the ideas of "health care", "liberty", "women owning property", "care for the weakest", "peace activism", "temperance". Later they will give us things like "democracy", "genetics", "the big bang theory", and "the scientific method". It only takes a pinch... Likewise, we notice when it's missing: when things like "turn the other cheek" go out the door and we enter a society of name calling and recrimination from the halls of Washington Power to the aisles of Wal*Mart.

The problem actually is that folks want the results without the work, the freedom without the responsibility. In the story of the Crucifixion, Jesus has a seamless garment which tradition says was woven by his Mother. One traditional reading of this symbol set is that Mary was sinless and she passed a sinless human nature to her Son. To the Roman soldiers, however, it's just a cool shirt and they want it. So they play dice to see who wins it. The goods and graces of the faith are really meaningless in the hands of those who would just want to wear them as cool clothes. A man in a clerical shirt may not be a priest if it's Halloween and even a priest tried to give St Catherine an unconsecrated host for communion. They want to take the consecrated ones for politics, or for art. (The ones who want to take it for desecration at least know the consecrated host is holy.) They want to take buildings for museums and vestments to feed "the poor". In the last case, they want to rob the poor of their existential hope in God and his Church by giving the state the power and funds to distribute charity.)

We are the salt of the world: our purpose is to flavor everything, to take out the bitterness, to make everything better. We don't need to be the most popular religion in the world. That we are and yet fail to make a continuing change, says more about us than about our faith. The world, however, thinks it says something about Jesus and his Gospel. So they want to take the Gospel from us and do it themselves. That makes it worse.

If we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, would we be in this situation?

A Lullaby

JMJ

The Readings for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
Monday in the week after Pentecost (C1)
The 10th week of Ordinary Time
Behold your mother...
The Magnificat is sung every night at Vespers in the western liturgy. It is sung at Matins in the East. This can mean 9AM in a parish church, but properly sung, it is well before dawn in the monastic office so that the monks can sing the last three psalms as the sun rises. So it is a night song in the East as well as the West.

Whenever I read it alone, it's relatively quiet for me: just another part of the office. But when it is sung in community, there is always a sense of presence, of Mary herself hold her arms around us as we all sing together with her. This always feels comforting, overwhelmingly maternal, and intimately present.

Mary is our mother: for we are members of the Church which is the Body of Christ and she is Christ's mother. That is, therefore, a collective reality for all the members of the Church, but it is an individual reality as well. As it is proper to say, "Christ died for me, and he would have done so were I the only person in the world," it is also proper for you to say, "Mary is the mother of the Church and of me. She is my mother and her prayers for the Church are also said for me."

Mary has been praying for the Church since before the day of Pentecost. She was present when the Church was born into the world and she continues to act in concert with the Church the full Gospel of her Son is proclaimed.

This present feast is in its second year, although the steps leading up to this feast go all the way back to Augustine's reading of this passage, "behold your mother". Mary is the Mother of the Church and, equally, of the Dominican Order:

Another vision St. Dominic received was one night after he returned from his vigil in the Priory church, he walked into the friar’s dormitory and saw this beautiful woman passing through the centre of the dormitory sprinkling the beds and sleeping friars with holy water. St. Dominic fell to his knees and asked who she was. She replied, “I am she whom you invoke each night at the Salve Regina, when you sing, turn then most gracious advocate, I prostrate myself before my Son for the preservation of the order.” St. Dominic then turned and saw our Lord seated in majesty with all the orders around him, but not one of his friars, The Lord smiled and said, “I have given your Order to my Mother,” and immediately the Lord turned to the Blessed Virgin who opened her mantle to reveal to Dominic his sons and daughters hidden beneath the folds. (Source.)

Let us cry out to her as she intercedes on our behalf and let us sing with her the nightly song.

09 June 2019

Pancakes!


JMJ

Old cookbooks are a passion of mine - not antique ones, but rather old ones. Something written in 1640 will have lots of silly ingredients that may be of some interest to historians, but if the stuff can't be purchased at Safeway and prepared easily in a modern kitchen, it's not worth my while to learn about it. Cookbooks from the late 1800s on, however, as well as some modern adaptations of early American cookery, are way more my speed. A Victorian cake recipe might be fun! Learning how Lord and Lady Blunderbuss sauced their puddings is how to make the next surprise dessert at the Church Potluck. And Mr & Mrs. Prariedog may know a few things about root veggies that will spice up Lent.

At the Monastery, my pancakes were always greeted with raves: they were light and so very fluffy! They were crispy on the outside and creamy inside. They were perfect. I was told this often enough that I'm reasonably sure it was true. It was gratifying as the recipe was my late maternal grandfather's and was not made from a mix, but they never came out that way anywhere else. It was certainly some effect of cooking at 7,500 feet above sea level: something to do with air pressure and the way water evaporates at lower temperatures that high up. Returning home, the same recipe produces normal pancakes, but it's still Grandpa's and it takes me back to my childhood.

My grandfather was a hobo during the depression, riding the rails around the country. I'm sure his recipe reflects no small number of campfire breakfasts. It's foolproof but it's not fluffy at sea level. It's 1:1:1.  1 egg, 1 cup (butter)milk, 1 cup self-rising flour. To make more or less, you can go as low as 1/3 a cup to 1 egg. As high as 1.5 cups. It gets a little eggy at 1/3, and above 1.5 you want to go ahead and move on to 2 eggs. But use 1:1:1 and make the pancakes with a 1/4 measure of batter and you'll get amazingly predictable results.

I tinkered a bit this morning, combining my cookbooks with Grandpa's recipe. None of the recipes I've found use chemical leavening.  Maybe it was too expensive or else not always predictable? Most use sourdough and a few use yeast. This seems normal: the batter would be allowed to proof overnight, getting nice and bubbly. My late (paternal) grandfather would make buckwheat pancakes this way - with a sourdough batter that sat on the back porch all winter bubbling away. Several recipes use either sourdough or fresh yeast depending on which cookbook is read. In these cases, it should be assumed the normal form was sourdough, which was the norm for all yeast from the earliest times until rather recently.

Today we use "instant" batter that does away with any of these choices. Add water, fry. BORING.

Regardless of the leavening, all these early recipes have one thing going for them that no one does anymore. It was my tinkering this morning. All of these recipes take the batter - made with yokes only, in most cases - and gently fold them into a meringue made from the egg whites!

This morning, using 1:.5:.5 the egg was separated and, after combining the yoke with the other ingredients, I whisked the white of the one egg until it was very dry and very stiff. It was about 2/3 of a cup in volume. Then the rest of the batter was dumped into the center of the meringue and gently folded in.  From there I returned to my grandfather's recipe: heating a thin layer of oil in the pan until it was at "sizzle" and then dropping in the batter by 1/4 of a cup. It was stiffer than normal, it was spread out using the ladle. It took no longer to fry though - it cooked up nicely. When I flipped it over, the pancake was crisper than I expected but ok. The end result was very crispy outside and creamy inside. There were very nice air pockets. The overall experience was of a pancake made like a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Would recommend and will totally to again: also I can't wait to try with my winter buckwheats. These pancakes are not pictured as the shutter on my phone was not fast enough to catch them.

08 June 2019

Standing outside the fire.

The Apostles and St Paul, window at St Dominic's, SF. 
JMJ

The Readings for Pentecost Sunday:
The doors were locked where the disciples were for fear.

This is how I know this is all true: the disciples were locked in a room in fear and in just 30 years they would change the entire world. They said this man died. They said this man rose from the dead. They said they had seen him. They said they had eaten with him. They said he ascended into heaven. One who was even persecuting them had the same vision, and he joined up. He said the same things: This man was killed and is now alive. This man is God. In 30 years they would change the known world. And in less than a hundred and fifty years everything had changed. If they were making it up, if they were delusional, if they were delirious, one of them would have cracked. I know it is an argument from Silence but none of them cracked. Every last one of them died saying the same thing. Eleven of them were killed by various people for saying these things. None of them recanted.

My entire faith rests on the testimony of these 11 men plus one. And they were in a locked room. Hiding in fear.

What changed? What changed at Pentecost?

The image at the head of this post is a stained glass window from my Parish Church in San Francisco. The image shows the 11 Apostles and St Paul standing around looking confused. I think it's perfect. They look like characters from a Jeeves and Wooster novel. They look dazed and confused.  some of them have books because they wrote parts of the Bible. And some of them have symbols so that you can know who they are. But most of them are holding in their hands the methods by which they died. Saint Andrew has a cross. Saint Paul has a sword. Another has a club that looks terribly painful. They went from standing around confused too painful death and to preaching the gospel. What changed was the presence of God in their life. I don't mean some abstract “personal relationship with Jesus” here, but rather the indwelling power of God merging in synergistic union with their lives.

Grace builds on nature. The spirit of God reaches in and grabs ahold of you and set everything on fire. The scripture says our God is a consuming fire. What that means is that those parts of you that align with his purpose are set on fire to go out, to expand, to energize everything around you for the preaching of the truth; and those parts that are not aligned with him are burned up - because they were never you to begin with.

God's spirit reached in and grabbed a hold of these 11 men plus Saint Paul and changed not their purpose, not their modus operandi, but their courage. They were no longer locked in a room in fear: they were unlocked, set free, to be themselves as fully as they could be.

Saint Catherine of Siena says if you are the person whom God has intended you to be you will set the world on fire. That is because the person God intended you to be is not “following your bliss”  nor on “doing what you love and the money follows, but rather you are intended to be a person who is ravished by God. The person you were intended to be is deeply in love with God, simply enraptured in the creative power of God flowing through you and out into the world. No matter who you are, no matter what your job, no matter what your state in life, that is you. Being that person will make you the best Barista, the best bus driver, the best School Book Depository librarian, the best politician, not at those jobs though. Being that person will make you the best librarian for preaching the gospel. Being that person will make you the best nurse for saving souls. Being that person will make you the best customer service agent for Jesus that there ever was. I don't mean you'll get promoted. In fact, you may as like anyone else, fail from time to time.

Remember Jesus when he spoke to the 12 apostles said, “I will make you Fishers of Men.”  I will take your jobs and transform them into preaching the gospel. St Paul continued to make tents to pay his way as he preached the gospel. We in our lives don't have to stop being Librarians and Baristas just to preach the gospel. Rather we have to preach the gospel as Librarians and as Baristas and as DJs and as whatever we are. Pentecost means that some of us are called to ordained Ministry, but all of us are called to spreading the gospel. All of us are sent out from our locked rooms, from our fear, from our hiding to preach the gospel.

I said my faith rested on the testimony of these 12 men. That's true in that these are the foundation stones, but it's not true in that my faith rests on ongoing testimony from many others, including these 12 men, who have seen and heard and met the Risen Jesus. Again, this is not a wishy-washy personal relationship with Jesus moment. This is the indwelling presence of God working in synergistic flow with persons I have met. I have met Jesus in these people. I have met Jesus face to face. This presence cannot be denied nor can it be hidden. This presence can be jailed, but it can never be kept behind locked doors. My faith rests on nothing less than 2000 years of testimony of the Resurrection.

This is Pentecost. Today is Pentecost. The fire descends. Every day is Pentecost. The fire descends continually.

Come inside.


07 June 2019

Before Communion



JMJ

Other than the Domine Non Sum Dignus, the Roman Rite (OF/EF) has few pre-communion devotions in the liturgy itself - although the EF also has the Confiteor recited before Communion. If you haven't any others, the following, taken from Anglican and Eastern Orthodox traditions, are very useful to fill in this gap. There's usually time to get them done after the invitation and before communion. Your mileage may vary. The first two were used, as well, in the Orthodox Western Rite.
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. (From the Book of Common Prayer)
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom.
May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.