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?