03 January 2017

The Real Thing, Baby.


Today's readings - 

  • 1 John 2:29-3:6
  • John 1:29-34

In the Douay, the RSV, and the NABRE with other mass texts.

Videte qualem caritatem dedit nobis Pater, ut filii Dei nominemur et simus. Propter hoc mundus non novit nos: quia non novit eum.
Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knew not him. 
1 John 3:1

Today is the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. This feast was of great importance to the English Church before the Henrician destruction of popular piety. The prayers of the feast became a sort of go-to for English Catholics. Many English parishes had a specific altar commemorating the Holy Name. There is a litany, still said daily. Msgr Benson (RIP) has left us his wonderful "Book of the Love of Jesus" which documents this piety.

Benson says "There are certain characteristics of medieval English devotion which are easy to trace in this collection. They spring, for the most part, from an intense and passionate love for the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ." He notes this as an "intimate familiarity" with the Saviour. And - as with any friend - it is because we know his Name. God, when he was asked his name by Moses, replied with the cryptic, "I am that I am". The name "YHVH" is not revealed as such, it just happens along at the same time. It is not a personal name. (I suspect it is, in fact, a contraction of the Hebrew phrase "I am, etc". And might better be written Y"HVH) and even so, quickly gets replaced in popular piety with the word "Adonai" and, that becomes "HaShem", these meaning "Lord" and "The Name" respectively. And these, even, get replaced for use outside of the praying community with the "Kado'Shem" which contraction means "Holy Name". Apart from mysticism, there is anything but an intimate relationship with this name. It's relationship of awe and reverence, yes, but not one on the level of familiarity we're about to see.

Jesus, is a person's name. Or, better, "Yashuah" or "Yeshua" as it is sometimes rendered - this name was not given him by mortals: this name was commanded by God in revelation to his parents. And in knowing, now, God's name, we have intimacy that was never there before. This intimacy is not limited to Mystics but rather shared out with all (anyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved). Now, yes, in some ways it thus becomes pro forma as any relationship might, but all in all, it is friendship with Jesus that does this.

Take for your meditation the prayers of the Litany of the Holy Name or the Jesus Psalter (my favourite) which was so important to the English Catholics undergoing the Crown's persecution and martyrdom. At the end of the entire Jesus Psalter, one will have said the name of Jesus in excess of 465 times! In the East it's the "Jesus Prayer" where in the course of the day's praying, one might say Jesus name 10,000 times or more. This was not limited to Catholics or Orthodox. Benson shares this prayer, written by a Protestant:
O my Jesus! I am not worthy to love thee! Yet because thou biddest me love thee, and hast told me that my Soul was created on purpose to love thee, I cheerfully resign my Love and Affection to thee! I desire to love thee! I wish for nothing more than that I may passionately love thee. Whom have I in Heaven to love but thee? And there is none on Earth that I desire to love more than thyself. For thou art altogether lovely, and thy Love surpasses all the Love of Friends, and the dearest Relations I have. O my blessed Redeemer I I desire to love thee with all my Heart, and with all my Strength: Thou gavest me this Heart and this Strength: And on whom can I bestow it better, than on thee, the Author of it? Oh, that all that is within me might be turned into Desires, and Inclinations, and Sighs, and Languishings, and Breathings after thee!
The world does not know us because it would not know him. The world is quite happy with their projections of "Good Teacher" or "Wise Man" on Jesus - despite the fact that to get there they have to edit out all the good stuff where he says that's not what he is. But once you make up your own Jesus, you don't get to know him. It's like a porno-Jesus which they vainly imagine to be so much better than the real thing - because they can command him to be what you want. They do to Revelation & Theology what CS Lewis notes about this "Harem of imaginary brides..."
For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides.
And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman.
For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.
Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.
In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. . . . After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”
Personal Letter From Lewis to Keith Masson (found in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3)
But we've been offered the real thing, intimacy with God. Who needs a porno Jesus? Pray the Jesus Prayer, say the Jesus Psalter or the Litany of the Holy Name. Get it out of your head and into your heart.

(That's gonna be fun for the Search Engines)