20 August 2019

An Infinity of Love

JMJ

Spillway at Fontana Dam, North Carolina

At our monthly meeting, the Dominican Tertiaries were discussing Aquinas' Summa, Part 1, Question 12. How God is known by us. I noted that this was where Aquinas and Palamas parted company. Article 1 states clearly (after ditching a few objections):
Unde simpliciter concedendum est quod beati Dei essentiam videant.
Hence it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God.
But then there are 11 articles of rolling it back and what we discover is that Aquinas says, ok, the blessed can see God's essence but everyone is not equally blessed. This discovery of a hierarchy in heaven stressed our conversation for a while. It was agreed that the Theotokos as "higher than the Cherubim" - a title we do not use for any other saint - indicates a hierarchy; and it was also agreed that to us, here, anyone in that blessed dance is equally blessed because we cannot, from here, even look at the light directly. There was also concurrence with the idea that a humble Christian soul taking her place in that assembly would simply say - without envy or pride - this place and no other by his grace is where I dance to the divine Komos.

But then the conversation ended and we moved on to other topics.

Thomas goes on to explain theosis, and the intellectual process (the learning process) by which grace reveals to us the Divine Essence, first through hints, then through actions and, in the final analysis, through direct contact. Thomas calls theosis deiformitate in Latin, "deiformity," and says we shall grasp the divine essence to the degree of our deiformity.
Hence the intellect which has more of the light of glory will see God the more perfectly; and he will have a fuller participation of the light of glory who has more charity; because where there is the greater charity, there is the more desire; and desire in a certain degree makes the one desiring apt and prepared to receive the object desired. Hence he who possesses the more charity, will see God the more perfectly, and will be the more beatified.
I left it there until today when we came to the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux.  In today's Office of Readings we cite St Bernard, writing 200 years before Aquinas as saying,
The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?
 Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.
  What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love? 
Bernard has us wonder how it is possible that we - mortals as we are, and finite - can Love God, who is infinite and Love himself. How it must this relationship be ordered since it cannot be one of equals. How will she match "stride for stride with her giant" in love? Bernard sees that the bride loves the bridegroom by virtue of his love for her: God's love pouring into us allows us to love God - and others.

This, then is the heavenly hierarchy: CS Lewis and Dante see it extending through Purgatory and Hell. Our capacity to love - possessing more agape - is the degree to which we can be "Deiformed".

The smallest part of infinity is also infinity.

If our heart is open to God's love we can love him with the infinity he pours through us. We can love him as he loves us at least briefly.

The saints love us in the same way: with that infinite love that is not their own - yet is.

It pours out of them more perfectly on to us, for the act of Kenosis is the supreme act of charity. The saints shed on us God's love for us as we, opening, begin to pour it back and on our neighbours like streams of living water rising from within us.

Baptism begins the flow, Eucharist and Confession, prayer and meditation, contemplation and adoration, open and flow out the spillways on to those around us and return it thereby back to God. We cannot love infinitely from here, but we can love infinitely if God loves through us.

Here, in this place and no other, by his grace will I dance.

15 August 2019

The Last Enemy



JMJ

The Readings for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:


I have been having Senior Moments. I'm 55, these are to be expected. Actually, I'll be 55 in two weeks so close enough anyway...

I have been having Senior Moments: by which I mean I forget things. Where's my wallet? It's in my pocket. Where are my glasses? They’re in my hand. Where are my keys? Where are my keys? No really, where are my keys? They're not in my bag they're not in the pocket where they should be. They’re not in the coat. They’re not in the shirt I wore last night. They’re not in the pocket where they shouldn't be. They’re not in the other pocket of the coat. They’re not in the other bag that I haven't used in a week. They’re not in my pants from last night. Wait a minute. They’re in another pocket in the pants that I'm wearing. They are in a different pocket than I've ever put them in before. I have a sign on my door: it reminds me to carry my wallet, my phone, my keys, my rosary, and my teeth.

Senior Moments...

But the other day, I had one that terrified me: I was going to take a shower. Then there I was standing in the kitchen wrapped in a towel. I was dry. The towel was wet. So I knew I had taken a shower but I couldn't remember it. The floor was wet in front of the shower. I open the door the inside of the shower was wet. I could not remember having taken a shower. Still can't. I remembered later that I opened the shower to spray the after-shower cleaning stuff and I noticed that the guy who comes in twice a month to do things around my apartment, had actually scrubbed the chrome inside my shower. I remember noting that. But I don't remember taking a shower. It was terrifying because I’ve not lost a few minutes in time before. At least not that I remember...

And so this morning, I checked with one of my fellow coworkers of advanced age. She said, no: this is normal. Then she and I did an organ recital, let the reader understand.

Senior Moments...

St Paul says, Novissima autem inimica destruetur mors. The last enemy to be conquered is death.

Senior moments: my recent brush with cancer, my teeth falling out, your blood pressure, your eyesight, your liver disease and even - if you’re young enough not to have any of these yet, your very lack (compared to my having) is a sign of mortality.

We will both die. Remember. You too will die.

Mary’s falling asleep in the Lord, and her bodily assumption into heaven means that Senior Moments matter. When like to picture Mary as a young virgin. We think of her as beautiful, calm, loving, tender. We see light radiating from her beautiful peach colored face. If we have a more realistic icon, like the Tilma of Guadalupe, we see light radiating from her brown face. But she's always young. By the time of her death, however, she was old and decrepit. She was frail. She was weak: she needed a doctor all the time and she needed a young man to take care of her. St. John of Damascus teaches us that she freely chose to follow the pattern established by the maker in the fall. She became old, she weekend, and she died. But for Mary, death became something new. In fact for all Christians death is something new. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin teaches us not only Senior Moments matter but matter matters to God. Mary's falling asleep in the Lord and her bodily Assumption into heaven means not that God changes us into Spiritual Beings but that God changes our matter into what it was meant to be.

Let.
There.
Be.
Light.

We know, at this point in time, that light is both particles and waves. Somehow those particles and waves can coalesce into rays of light are matter - yet not - and that somehow those particles and waves form the tiniest quarks of matter, form the atoms and the cells that make up our bodies. Light courses through the chromosomes that make us into men and women, through the cell division and growth that brings us to maturity. Light radiates through the life that we have, and God, the Father of Lights, has entered in and restored what was lost.

Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, as the jar that contained the heavenly Manna, as the temple that held the glory of God, as all of Heaven that contains the Divinity not even a bit; Mary is a sign that you and I are living beings of matter becoming light.

Not some ghostly, fake “spiritual” light but physical light, living and breathing in the presence of God.

The scripture says that at the Transfiguration Jesus’ entire being became light. But it was still Jesus.

So also with you and I: the last enemy to be conquered is death. And when, in God’s time, death comes for you or I, by Mary’s prayers, we will spit in his eye. And he will laugh with us.

The Divine fire will catch us and raise us in glory in ways that we cannot imagine. Let there be light. “Not this body with all of its inconveniences,” said Father Albert, tonight at Mass (the seed for this meditation). Not this body with all its inconvenience and pain. But this body freed of inconvenience!

Mary's Assumption means where Jesus has gone we can go too. Mary's Assumption shows us that life is not ended for God's faithful people: it is only changed. No more senior moments. Only pure joy that we will never have to remember: because it will never end.

10 August 2019

The Luminous Mysteries of the Broken Road (reposted)


Antiphon: God, bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

In your baptism, O Christ, our God, you opened the pathway of initiation for us, into your Mysteries. I thank you for all who have moved me along this path, awkward and jerking though I have been. I've been on my way in for so long. And I have to thank those men who held the door open: the Pastor at the Marietta Baptist Tabernacle that wouldn't know a trinity from a hole in the ground, and did it all wrong... but he taught me how to swim. And Pastor Pinto who gave me communion first. And Jim Lowery who got me wet again - this time in all the right names, and it stuck... Then Paul Moore with Henrician hands, but wait we'll try again. And Bill Swing, who welcomed me back into Christ's flock after I had gone a Paganing. And then Father Victor, who Confessed, Chrismated, and Absolved me into the Church Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. There was another turn unexpected, and Father Michael welcomed me into communion with Peter. God, bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

At the wedding, O Christ, you changed the water into wine. The things we offer are not divine, but what we offer in good faith, you take, and change, and elevate. And all the things I thought I'd have to carry all this way, you let me drop. All the things that were not according to your plan. But each one taught me by not being yours, each one held me in arms that were not love... but so nearly there... that I could not but keep looking, more and more, in the right direction. Do what ever he tells you, and you said, love... and I tried loving and even through I was wrong, you took it - and drew it deeper into yourself, the jars were full, the guests were drunk: and you brought out the best wine last.  God, bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

In preaching and proclaiming the kingdom, O Christ, you laid out in words, in simple human terms, the divine truths of all time. And I would be woefully arrogant if I did not know and see all the places you have taught me. I would not be me if it were not for Pastor Pinto, Pastor Lowery, Jeanette and David, my Sunday School teachers, these people gave me love for the Bible. And Pastor Lowery opened the door to John Wesley's writings - and they, in turn, showed me the Church Fathers. And Mr Witkowsky opened my high school brain to history, and Dr Carlson confirmed the Freshman me in those mysteries. Jim Carse showed me the Tao and Games, and Frank Peters (SJ) showed me the Torah and the Church. Nina and then Starhawk danced me round the spiral for ten years, then Shadwynn called a change and Donald and Rick brought me back to Christ. And then they again opened to me the Fathers as well: and so out again to Fr Victor and Fr Joseph, to a wider Dance with Sare and Cam. In the end, though, stumbling along, it was Steve and Steve and Mom and Dad pointing the way. Then Michael. And again Father Michael, and last, my little brother, Joey... God, bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

On the Mountain, your truth was revealed. All things that are, are yours. Nothing that is isn't yours. Only, without you, nothing alone is strong. Your light is all - and there is naught but darkness where you are not. And by your light, we see light everywhere. And so I can thank you deeply, that I have known the joys of all the wrong places, and I have known those pains as well. I have never once stopped looking, but you were always further along, just a light around the corner. A couple of times I thought, let me rest here... but no, the light was higher up the mountain; further up, and further in. You were in the cloud and I, unknowing, stumbled right into your arms. God, bless the broken road that led me straight to you.

Bread and wine are your body and blood. And Christ, there, is the mystery in sum. The things of this earth are made divine - see it in water, see it in the wedding, see it in the words we use to proclaim you, see it by your light in all light: this broken world, is transubstantiated by your grace. The whole damned thing is lifted up and blessed and broken, and it is you that we receive when we take it up in love. Every fracture, every quake, every tear, every wet eye, sobbing lung, and running nose, is held up in your hands, every broken heart is not healed but rather is iconified by the offering, made into your image which is the only true image there ever was, is, or ever can be. What is not you is not. And under the weaving of failure, runs the water of blessing, changed into the wine of love. Under the waving of the rotted grains of earth is the bread of heaven - and the whiskey of life. You, God, this broken road, is your narrow path destroyed by us in our pride, and damning ourselves to walk the other way, you went behind us and said, "boo". Interception! God, bless the broken road that led me straight to you.


04 August 2019

Mammon of Wickedness

JMJ

Read the Parable of the Crafty Servant
At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: There was a certain rich man who had a steward, who was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear of you? Make an accounting of your stewardship, for you can be steward no longer.’ And the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do, seeing that my master is taking away the stewardship from me? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. I know what I shall do, that when I am removed from my stewardship they may receive me into their houses.’ And he summoned each of his master’s debtors and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bond and sit down at once and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bond and write eighty.’ And the master commended the unjust steward, in that he had acted prudently; for the children of this world, in relation to their own generation, are more prudent than the children of the light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves with the mammon of wickedness, so that when you fail they may receive you into the everlasting dwellings.

Notice that it doesn't start out to by saying "The kingdom is like..." this is less a parable than an illustration in a homily. It has a point. But the point is so confusing! Today when I meditated on it I came to this idea...
At other times Jesus reminds us that "harlots and publicans" will enter the kingdom before the snarky righteous. If that is so... would we not want them praying for us? If we went about the world judging folks for their morality when they were not even yet Christians would we not be doing the same? 

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a rich man from Turin, Italy.  He secretly cared for the poor with his personal income, doing errands, buying needed things, tending the sick and the dying. It is believed that in one such outreach he contracted Polio.  He sickened rather quickly in June of 1925 and then...


Although he was lying on his death bed on July 3rd, he could not forget his closest friends - the poor.  It was Friday, the day he would normally visit them, and he wanted the usual material assistance to be brought to them. He asked his sister to take a small packet from his jacket and, with a semi-paralysed hand, he wrote the following note to Giuseppe Grimaldi: "Here are the injections for Converso. The pawn ticket is Sappa's. I had forgotten it; renew it on my behalf."
When the priest who was attending him asked, "What if your grandmother were to call you to heaven?", he replied, "How happy I would be." But he immediately asked, "What about father and mother?" The priest replied, "Giorgio, you will not abandon them; you will live in spirit with them from heaven. You will give them your faith and your self-denial, you will continue to be one family."  These few words were enough to ease Pier Giorgio's final human concerns and he smiled, nodded his head and said, "Yes."
His earthly suffering ended at seven o'clock in the evening on July 4, 1925. His funeral was a triumph with the sight of hundreds of his poor following the coffin.  Then it became known to everyone, even to his own family, who Pier Giorgio truly was.
Although I believe this man was a Saint, he was made a saint in no small part by his love and charity, and the prayers of those he had affected.

We can't hold the world to a standard of Christian Morality. In fact, I can't expect Christian morality of most folks who call themselves Christian. Why would I try to enforce my understanding of divorce, marriage, and birth control for example, on others? We are not legalists: only following the law will not save anyone. If a country's entire legal code were based on laws tracible to the scriptures and yet no one had faith, that country would be as lost - maybe more so - as any other heathen nation.

The only reason we like "blue" laws is that they make us feel smug and safe.

Should I not rather pray for them, do charity, share generously even with the fallen and - if asked - preach the Kerygma, the basic plan of salvation? 

Once they desire to come into the Church, then we begin forming Disciples who have a moral code, a fasting tradition, and a promise of adherence to the magisterium of the Church. Which is to say that RCIA should be more of this second phase, Didache, rather than the first phase which should happen on the streets, in offices, in parks and shops, in the places where all of us evangelize.

Harlots, publicans, and all sorts of "the fallen" will enter the kingdom before me. Drug addicts, drug dealers, racists, "the other political party" (which ever that is)... I should ask them to pray for me as I dress their wounds, feed them, welcome them, and treat them like the fully-human, image of God that they are. I should welcome legal changes that protect them from abuse, that elevate their status as human persons - and that draw them out (not force them out or punish them out) of their fallen lives. For their work dehumanizes them even so.

But what about the political activism of the Church in areas like social justice? Why should the Church care about - and be politically active around - immigrants, suicide, racism, the death penalty, and abortion, to name a few such areas? Because these laws impact the human person and affect the ability of the Church to even share the Kerygma, to do her job in the public square. She cannot care for the poor, the sick, the outcast, the voiceless if the structures of society are engaged to marginalize them, brush them aside, or kill them. Some levels of dehumanization are final. And to be avoided.

And that - dehumanization in and by the world and rehumanization in the Church by God - is what drew hundreds of thousands into the Church in the Roman world. Slaves and Masters found themselves equally redeemed children of God before the Altar. Plebs, Freedmen, Barbarians, Patricians, men, and women, could kneel and sing together before the God that made them all.

It was entirely destructive of the Culture of Death that Rome had built, denying the equal personhood of everyone around them, sucking their wealth into her yawning maws, paving the wilderness with roads that - yes - helped spread the Gospel, but also ended the cultures that were colonized, destroyed the countrysides to which they came, and carried the Roman army to every corner of the known world. The practice of Rome was to divide and conquer: to fester local rivalries into wars, then to take sides and crush one side whilst fully colonizing the other. 

The Church had to use those same roads to come behind and heal the damage Rome had done - in some places all too well. The Church had to convince the Celts to evangelize the Danes and the Saxons; later she had to convince the Normans that the Saxons and the Celts were Christian people too.

Only humans can enter the Kingdom of God. The world, the flesh, and the devil will do everything to remove that notion from your heart, the Church must work, pray, and love to keep that notion firmly implanted in you, our culture, and our laws. It's possible that at the Last Day, the intercessions of your Divine Image may save me. Even if you never go to Church.

30 July 2019

The Call Came From INSIDE THE HOUSE!


JMJ

Did you ever notice this one? 

"The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin"
Matthew 13:41

I read the Gospel for today and didn't even notice it. Sitting at Mass tonight this verse lept up and punched me hard in the gut.

The Latin and the Greek both say "scandal" there, but the word σκάνδαλον, skadalon, means "bait in a trap" or "trigger of a trap".  It's sometimes rendered as a "Stumbling Block", but the NABRE, with "cause others to sin" catches the meaning full on, I think.

It came to me that at the heart of sexual sin is the desire to lead others astray. They may not be... but it is desired. No one sins alone, and many sins are triggers for other folks, or else bait.  Politics, for example, or liturgics when doctoring up the readings to cover up uncomfortable parts.

The skandalon is inside the kingdom, not outside. They are children of the Evil One, but they are inside the kingdom.

The enemy is us.

We must remember to pray for our brother and sisters, our spiritual Fathers and Mothers, our leaders and fellow pew-sitters.

That we may be free of skandalon inside the Kingdom. And free from the interference of those who practice lawlessness outside the walls.


Domus Dei et Porta Coeli in Cor Civitatem

+JMJ+

There are some seriously beautiful Churches in this Catholic city. Some 25% of the population in the Bay is said to be Roman Catholic. That means there are more Catholics in this Bay Area than there are Episcopalians. Anywhere. Or Orthodox, for that matter. (How many of them go to Church is another thing entirely, as it is for the other groups.) That many folks means there are some Beautiful Churches here. There are some toasters as well, don't get me wrong, as well as some of those cyborg things that use holograms and floating statuary. Still, this one seems the winner.




Built in the late 1920s, just before the Depression hit, just in time to support folks through that dark period, and refurbished and retrofitted in the 1980s, just in time to withstand the Loma Prieta quake, it's a miracle of community in the heart of this city. Doubly so, for the initial funding was from the community and it thrived through the Depression; and then, again, in the 80s, when the Archdiocese wanted it closed, the OP said not just no, but, O Heck No. And the community made the rebuild, and the retrofit and the rebirth happen. I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that nearly 20% of the new Catholics in the Archdiocese come through this RCIA program. There are program events every night, there are multiple masses every day, the Daily Office is said here, weddings, funerals, baptisms, confessions, the food pantry, the homeless services, and open doors from 6AM to (at least) 9PM ever day. The friary hosts the Novitiate for the Dominican Province of the Holy Name. Speakers and clergy come from all over the world to talk about missions, spiritual topics, social justice, and to pray in what was once called, "The most beautiful Church in America". It still is in my book.



More than a Parish Church, this is home to so many folks, including yours truly. While I've felt at home before in other places, and even not at home at all, something here clicked in a way that no other place has. The homeless in the pews, the hippies with their patchouli, the couples, the ethnic diversity, the Spanish Passion Play, the Christmas Messiah Concert, the Old Ladies with their Rosaries, the faithful in the fellowships, the dozens of small groups that spontaneously form to care for each other, the mobs of folks that show up for the daily masses (I'm used to seeing 7 or 9 for a weekday service, not 60 or 70... 30 or more is normal at 6:30 AM) all combine to tell me the Holy Spirit is doing something here, in the Heart of the City, that is making all heaven rejoice.




Numbers are not everything. Growth is not the measure of the Holy and I would rather a tiny, faithful remnant than a stadium full of pretenders. But we're all sinners, and I can't tell anyone's pretending when I'm kneeling in the confessional or reaching out to receive the Body of Christ.



Deacon Jimmy asked in his Homily today how it was that each of us came to be there. I had heard of St Dominic's parish, of all places, from my Orthodox Goddaughter and her husband, he a cradle Catholic from this Parish. When I left the Monastery, my heart firmly fixed on staying in the West, and having arrived back in SF, my question was "Where can I continue the monastic practice of going to Daily Mass easily from my residence and then get to work?" Easily means one bus, and that was the case for me: the 22 Fillmore brought me every day from Potrero Hill to Saint Dominic's for 630 Mass and Morning Prayer. You'd almost think God set it up or something. My apartment now is also one bus away, although I have three buses to pick from now, and four buses coming back! That's how I got there. But what kept me coming back was three moments: talking with Fr Michael about becoming Catholic (when he convinced me that plugging into the community was the important thing); Fr Augustine Hilander racing me out of Morning Prayer one morning to intercept me at the door and invite me to chant the office with the others in Choir; and Michael O'Smith letting me co-lead a small faith group when I had been in the church less than 3 months and wasn't even officially Roman Catholic. These are all community-related if you can't tell.

And now there is a new community in the Dominican Tertiaries, or the Third Order, OP, or the Dominican Laity. (Today at Mass I heard us called the "Order of Preachers, Laity".)  I'm discerning my way yet, but that seems to be my best fit into this place.



I got there on the Second Sunday of Advent 2016. My friend, Tim, says three days later I moved in. How could I not move into my home? If you pay any attention to my social media you know I cannot stop taking pictures of this place. I've seen it in every light and shade, and in as many different sorts of weather as we have here, including smog from wildfires. 


I've watch stars overhead, seen an Iridium Flare from the front steps, hidden from the rain, and knelt as the evening sun blinded me to the elevated Host at Mass. But there is something else, something, pardon the wordplay, Catholic here. Mass is filled with Anglican Hymns. Our Solemn Mass (11:30s on Sunday) is an Anglo Catholic's dream of vested choirs and smells and bells. Our low masses (6:30 and 8:00 AM and 5:30PM week-daily) are motions of high piety and prayer (rather than 15 minute Dine and Dashes) that lead folks to mini coffee-hours at the local bakeries or fellowship meals on the Fillmore. I run into people from this parish all over town. There are folks praying the Rosary and the Jesus Prayer here. There are Latin, English, and Spanish Masses. There's a guitar mass and a Taize mass. There may be more... who knows what God will do here? But everything is here from my past. It's as if God has prepared this place for an oddball on a journey home. 

And, so it is, that God willing, one of these will be mine soon:


A blessed Feast! 





29 July 2019

Face to Face

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 17th week, Tempus per Annum (C1):
Loquebatur autem Dominus ad Moysen facie ad faciem, sicut solet loqui homo ad amicum suum.
The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to his friend.

The Hebrew word used for face in "face to face" is פָנִים panim a plural form. The word is first used in the Scriptures in Genesis 1:2 as the Spirit of God moves over the face of the waters. God and Moses speak in this hovering intimacy, face to face. It is an image that leaves one breathless. Does it not move you to desire the same? To exchange breath with the creator of all life, with the source of all breath! How can this be? How can one know God face to face?

There are hints later in the scriptures when God pours his Spirit out on the elders of Israel and Moses says he wishes it could be given to everyone in Israel. In the Prophets, Joel promises the Spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh.

In the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given in Baptism and sealed in the holy oil at Confirmation or Chrismation.

And in the Holy Eucharist this same Spirit, invoked upon the bread and wine, is communicated to us in the Body and Blood of God the Son, for one member of the Trinity is not present without the others. And we receive all of the Trinity when we partake of the bread and the wine. 

Bishop Barron says that "adore" comes from the Latin meaning "mouth to mouth" or "face to face".  The actual etymology is not quite so intimate as it means only "from the mouth", coming from the Latin meaning "to speak".  If there was such a thing as Proto Indo European, then: from PIE root *or- "to pronounce a ritual formula" (source also of Sanskrit aryanti "they praise," Homeric Greek are, Attic ara "prayer," Hittite ariya- "to ask the oracle," aruwai- "to revere, worship") source. There's not another mouth involved, in the word, but the one mouth, the one face, must speak to another.

And so when we approach the Eucharist in Adoration - and it needn't be "exposed" for the Mystery is no less present in the monstrance on a Latin altar, than in the Tabernacle, behind a veil or an Iconostasis, or at Communion in the Liturgy. Under glass, in brass, or at Mass, it's all God. And we can all address him face to face, as one does to his friend.

The Spirit of God hovers, waits for you to turn to him and open to receive. Come.  Taste and see.





The Leaders they Deserve

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Martha
Monday in the 17th week, Tempus per Annum (C1):
Cui ille respondit : Ne indignetur dominus meus : tu enim nosti populum istum, quod pronus sit ad malum.
And he answered him: Let not my lord be offended: for thou knowest this people, that they are prone to evil.

The people of Israel have lived in slavery for several generations. They know only idolatry. They only know that some God many have never heard of is rescued them... and they are really quite afraid of this one. The other gods never did anything scary - at least not inside human memory. They know what the worship of fakes looks like. This is why God has given them leaders: to raise them up in the way of their ancestors, to worship the True God of all that is, even of the animal forms of gold and rocks the Egyptians worshipped.

So when the people want to worship, they want to keep doing what they've been doing. Moishe and Aharon are there to direct that natural human desire to worship away from the entirely unnatural worship of creation to the Creator Himself. The people want to worship something they can see... Aaron and Moses are there to direct that worship to someone they can know.

Aaron fails in his one job. He not only doesn't direct the folks to right-worship, he participates in their false worship. In fact, he not only participates in it but he also facilitates it.

Then he passes the blame - not to the people... but to the fire and gold: "egressusque est hic vitulus". This calf came out...

Who did this, asks the parent. "Notme" reply all the children in the room standing around the pile of garbage that was formerly something important.

Although the people have sinned and will be punished, Moses puts the blame directly on who is at fault: Moses asks Aaron, What did this people do to you that you would lead them into this sin?

I imagine this question will be asked a lot on Judgement Day of leaders who failed to lead, of teachers who failed to teach, of those who were called to speak and fell prey to that liberal canard falsely attributed to St Francis, "use words when necessary". We "led with beauty" and were "winsome" but we never got around to meat. We dodged questions for fear of causing the weak to stumble, but we never got around to correcting the fallen, to answering them once they were strong.

This is a failure of courage. Until recently (this weekend, really) I thought the vice of cowardice was a failure resulting from some inner weakness. It seems to me, on deeper meditation, to be a species of the sin of pride: I would not anyone see me fail, so I shall simply juggle for a while and slowly back away. If I  sit here quietly no one will see me and, at the right moment, I can vanish. Certainly, introversion can seem like the vice of cowardice, but there is a difference in the heart on this, so don't misread my statement. And the grace we are given to manifest a charism that we have will overcome - and use - our own weaknesses when they are needed.

Cowardice is a failure to use our charism: to rely on our own self to do something that we should let God do through us. To fail to keep someone in your charge away from a grave fall is for the shepherd to run away from his sheep when the wolf shows up.

A teacher was once asked if someone had to accept all the church's doctrine to be Catholic. Rather than answer the question at all 45 mins were involved defining the difference between "doctrine", "dogma", and "tradition" so that, in the end, there was no time to spend answering the question in a way that would offend anyone.

What did the people ever do to you to deserve such a teacher?

I imagine all of us who have been called to be leaders will need to rely on Aaron's excuse: "You know, these people are so evil, that I had to let them get away with their pet sins or else they would have gone away. It's better to have them sin and stay than leave and sin anyway, right?"

"The reality is that we are in danger. This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run away at the first sign of danger. Pray for us." Thus said Blessed Stanley Rother 18 months before he was slain by a rightwing hit squad in Guatemala. It is true of us here too, but in other ways. We are in danger  - if we're not, we're doing it wrong. What have our flocks, our friends, our councils, our families ever done to us to deserve such leaders?

Who will be the Moses that will intercede for us on that day?

23 July 2019

Undivided

JMJ

We are often told that we should not do so, yet we often think of communion as a series of discrete incidents through the course of our lives. We think of this time I take communion. We think of that particle on the spoon from the sacred chalice, or of that host and this sip of wine. We think of this Tabernacle or that Altar. Yet we are mistaken.

Christ is undivided. In communion Holy Communion it is not Christ who is coming to you but rather you who are coming to Christ. in the Holy Eucharist it is not you who are making Thanksgiving, but rather Christ who is making Thanksgiving to God the Father through you. In the most holy sacrament it is not his life given to you but your life given to him.

Christ is one eternal love, undivided in the most holy sacrament of the altar, on the throne of Glory in heaven, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, in the tomb, on the cross, in the resurrection, and harrowing the Gates of hell there is now only one moment in time. You come to that moment, that one moment in time is united, undivided in the hearts of Christ's faithful people everywhere.

The Holy Trinity is being itself, ipsum esse subsistens, the action of, the will to, and the existence in one present instant. We cannot will our own existence, we do not sustain our being in a moment by moment continual action of our presence, but we pretend to. In that we do thus pretend, we cut our life from divine Zoe and turn it into mere breath, into soma and pneuma, lost in space and time and meaning. Communion is the action of restoration initiated by Christ, made present on the altar, and opened before us in the divine dance.

When you genuflect before the Tabernacle, when you bow before the presence as you pass, when you kneel in adoration and awe before the exposed monstrance, when you partake of the most sacred body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, the remission of sins, and life everlasting you finally come to yourself, to that one moment that is and forever shall be. With you and around him who receives you, stand all the hosts of heaven and all our beloved departed. They are with you now united forever and ever. Undivided, lost in eternity no more, we stand at the center of all, of you and of all existence, of all history, all time, the entire universe, the entire multiverse in that one point of eternal light.

You cannot come to communion but that you come to this terrifying, dreadful, death-defying love. There is no way to receive only a bit of eternity, only a tiny particle of forever. Infinity is never divided. The smallest piece of infinity is itself infinity. It receives you. You stand with all of us within the undivided. United in God.

22 July 2019

Looking Trough a Cloud Darkly


JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th week Tempus per Annum (C1)
In the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic.

If you read Gone with the Wind you get a very different image of Scarlet O'Hara than you do if you watch the movie. The movie skipped bits of the book - which was the best selling book in America at the time - for the sake of brevity. And, because some narrative was edited out, bits of the on-screen story had to be changed. Did you know Scarlet had a son by her first husband before he died early in the war? Anyway: these things did not change the meaning of the movie for the audience at the time because they had all read the book. Moviemakers could make assumptions based on the knowledge of their audience.

I had this reading at the Easter Vigil and I was confused by this verse. Here it is again... so time to look into these word choices.

...Cast upon the Egyptian Force a glance... it sounds like a "dirty look", or a sort of curse. And what's with the very off-putting turn of phrase, cast on them a glance that threw? There are no passive verbs in the Hebrew, Greek, or Latin versions of this verse, nor in any English translation.

The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of this text, along with all the English ones based on them, have the Lord looking out and doing something.

The NABRE has the Lord looking out and then - through a really painful grammatical construction - has the Egyptians doing something in reaction to the look.

Are the translators trying to Save God's Reputation? Well, probably not. Evidently, one bias in the modern Roman Catholic world is to eliminate "troubling" passages. In the ancient languages, this verse says God kills the Egyptians. That could, you know, raise questions. We'd end up discussing the book of Job.

Better to dodge that bullet by saying the Egyptians panic of their own free will which accidentally implies that they could see God looking at them.


Skipping passages that may raise questions is not limited to the Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Churches, where the daily offices of Matins and Vespers are often pared down to 30-45 mins of time (instead of the full celebration of same which could take - literally - hours) it's up to the Choirmaster to pick which parts to skip. This results in some interesting choices depending on the biases involved. At a Monastery it's the Father Superior who has that final say, and there, too, interesting choices are made.

The thing about liturgical editing of texts into a lectionary or an evening service is that it should assume literacy and familiarity on the part of the singers, readers, and congregation. All of us should know what was skipped for the sake of brevity or complexity. We should not be confused by the difference between the movie and the book

The real issue is that we do not know what we're missing.

So when a Greek Parish compresses the entire 45 minute recitation (hour-plus if singing it properly) of the Matins Canon into 5-8 minutes, the Congregation begins to think that's normal: it's only the other, strange parishes that make up stuff to extend this. When the Liturgy of the Hours says here is the text for the Psalm, who notices any more when it skips a few verses? Do even the clergy who have to recite it know? When a church that uses the Common Lectionary has someone say, "That's not in the Bible!" Is it because they never bothered to learn, or because someone hid it from them?