23 January 2017

Well, A Huge Percentage of Men...


Today's readings

  • Hebrews 9:15, 24-28
  • Psalm 98:1-6 (Responsorial)
  • 2 Timothy 1:10  (Alleluia)
  • Mark 3:22-30

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE

How can it be Satan who casts Satan out? Why, if a kingdom is at war with itself, that kingdom cannot stand firm, and if a household is at war with itself, that household cannot stand firm; if Satan, then, has risen up in arms against Satan, he is at war with himself; he cannot stand firm; his end has come.
Mark 3:23b-26

I want to return today, to the 15 Petitions of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.  I think the next two go together in a way, and they also address a pattern I'm seeing.
For our five senses, that the things we see, the music we hear, the food and drink we eat, and the encounters we have through touch may all be pure and holy.
For our sensuality, that our impulses may not be captivated by base pleasures, but freed by wisdom and inflamed for what is good. 
These prayer intentions ask for the same quality of purity, just one is external (physical senses) and the other is internal (impulses). Our culture is designed to undermine the first - so that the second falls away unnoticed.

I like to cook - in fact, I love to cook. The more I learn, the more want to whip up stuff and share it. That's the virtue of hospitality, I know, but it makes me a foodie of sorts - I indulge in food. And, really, I lead others to such indulgences, too. During the essentially vegan fasting periods of the Byzantine tradition, I got to be quite good at whipping up amazing vegan indulgences: mainstays of my cooking repertoire that were so good, I'd cooking in the other parts of the year as well.

When I joined the Orthodox Western Rite I was to adhere to the Western tradition of fasting: actually abstaining from food. In the West, throughout all of Lent (Sundays excepted), the tradition was for one meal a day - no meat, of course (fish is ok) but that meal, itself, should be smaller than a normal meal. And then another meal was allowed, called "a collation". Think of this as a salad. A small house salad. This rule obtains on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in Advent. As well as a few other places in the Western Calendar. I'm sorry, but: one meal a day - smaller than normal - and a salad... does not lend itself, too easily, to flight of fancy cookery. To be honest, at the monastery, I was allowed to whip up stuff for guests. Yet, over all, I found my sense of "abstinence" to be heightened in this pattern, as compared to what our Archbishop referred to as "Fasting Sumptuously" during Lent at my home parish.

Fasting is supposed to be about saying "no" to our bodies. This was not something I was able to do very well on a three-vegan-meals-a-day pattern. That was not the fault of the rules: just my own weakness. To break my own habitual weakness, I had to stop eating. This is the pattern in our culture. We over indulge. And we do it in all areas.

What has any of this to do with the Bible verses above about a house divided against itself? It is related in two very different ways.

As far as our struggle goes for chaste purity goes in the context of the Angelic Warfare prayers, as well as in places like S.A. and Courage, being mindful of our physical actions - food, music, and touch, as well as things we see - and our mental actions (our impulses) is very important. Learning to say no to the desire for a specific tasty treat, or to just deal with the cold instead of adding a few extra layers, to go hungry for a meal, to skip, even, a shower now and then... these are all ways to work against our bodies' desires. Aleister Crowley, the infamous occultist of the early 20th century, knew that to deny the body was to train one to chastity. So - contra - he taught that one should "do what thou wilt" and wrote, "Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed...there shall ye find them." I feel that I am such a hermit, buying nice clothes and new shoes being stingy with my money when someone needs it way more than I do, indulging my "not really sinful" desires all the time, but finding myself unable to say no to the "really sinful" ones when push comes to shove.

Saying no to our impulses, saying no to our body: this is the way of the saints. We cut off half of the evil one's house when we turn our body and our mind against him.

There is, however, another way that these prayers touch on these Gospel verses.

Sunday there was a huge protest all over the world against the new President of the US. It was sort of the Mirror Anti-image of the Dancing in the Streets and the Nobel Prize that happened after the last President was first elected. I've read several disclaimers on FB about how the new president is not at all like all men and that such crudity and lewdness is not part of the life of every man. And I am reasonably sure that folks are honest and believe what they write.

Contrariwise, there are these interesting graphics clipped from a Canadian website about Tech Addiction:



And the big one:

This - especially this last one - is how a lewd, crude person got elected to the White House. Protests aside, the culture that celebrates sexual experimentation, untrammeled libertinism, and abortion is the same culture that would elect such a man. (I read somewhere that 1/3rd of the Millennial Generation is missing because of Abortion. Yup: their parents are perfectly set up for this Administration.) In other words: the recent protests were impotent because a house divided against itself cannot stand. Since they come from the same source, culturally, they are, ultimately, promoting the same ends.

I'm no fan of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave; and yet, near as I can tell, the main differences between him and me are 1) that I don't live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and 2) he's had 20 more years than I to perfect his game. He mirrors our passions perfectly. He fails only in that he fails to mask them. He not only unmasks America politically, he also unmasks us morally. If he frequented the same bars that I did and had the same attraction to members of his own sex, his sexually predatory language would be the stuff of fantasy recordings. He could write for most adult companies (gay and straight) that I won't link to. And if any member of any AltSex community denies it, they are using alternative facts. Please, don't get me started on consensuality, sexual trafficking, and internet porn.

Look: I know I helped build this culture. I am all too aware of every action I took - political action, financial choice, cultural preferences - of every brick I cemented into place. I am surprised by the outcome, but I am neither shocked nor morally indignant about it. Dominos fall, if they are set up right, until none are left standing. You pull one string out of the moral tapestry and the rest are sure to follow. This is why I left my liberal, mainline churches who teach now much the same as Crowley.

The best way to avoid all the scary stuff people were protesting against this weekend, is to avoid all the scary stuff that people were protesting for this weekend. All of it. The only way forward (cuz we can keep going backwards easily) is to say no to our impulses, to deny our physical and mental addictions to pleasure and to strive to build a culture that is both honest about its problems and working to fix them rather than denying that they are problems at all.

Here's this Vid as a closing meditation.