Saturday, December 31

Wednesday, December 28

Don't be a rock if you want some bread

I'll have the loaves and fishes, please.
My dear friend Bill was talking about 'pro multis' and the new mass and I commented about 'false ecumencism'.  I replied that John 3 shows that there is nothing false about the universality of Christ's message, which is summed up in John 3:15-17. This comment, specifically regarding πᾶς versus πολλοί (all vs. many), led to a re-reading of Matthew 7 and, through that, a realisation that I should talk about something which I have believed for some time but  I may have not fully articulated, if actually addressed at all.

In John 3, Christ tells Nicodemus that all (πᾶς) who believe in the Son of Man will have life eternal.
In Matthew, Christ tells the crowds at the sermon on the mount that all (πᾶς) who ask, receive.  This resonates with the healing miracles which Christ does.  In every instance, there is an overt act of faith in Christ and his divinity which results in the miracle.Whether it is touching the hem of his garment, washing in Bethesda or as simple as a cripple who tries to stand when he is told to, they are concrete actions which demonstrate the people's trust and belief.

This all ties back into the Mat. 7 reading:

πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγήσεται. ἢ τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος, ὃν αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρτον μὴ λίθον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ; ἢ καὶ ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει μὴ ὄφιν ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ;  For all who ask receive, and all who seek find, and all who knock, it will be opened. Which among you, mankind, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

Two things stand out here.  The first is that God will always give good fruits to his children who ask. The second part is that we have to ask.  To have the eternal life spoken of to Nicodemus, we must believe.  This is neither unilaterally dispensed nor irresistibly thrust down our throats, but rather something we must seek, we must ask for, we must want.  Lip-service won't do and being a lump waiting for Divine salvation doesn't cut it either.  We have to be active participants in the process.

Tuesday, December 27

Hullo...have you seen my bukkit, Mr. Carpenter?

Of all the things which happened this Christmastide, I will speak of something which happened a million miles from the altar.

I spent most of Boxing day with an acquaintance who I would now call a friend.  For the better part of a dozen hours, we spoke of many things...
of gays and God and ex-boyfriends,
of forensics and the King of Kings.

What was brilliant was talking at great length and substantive depth with someone about religious and spiritual matters who has actually put thought and energy into the topic.  What made such a discussion even more of interest and value is that this person has a worldview which is, at the kindest, wildly different from my own.

Part of the conversation set revolved around a number of what I would consider reasonably standard 'gotcha' matters for those who 'just believe'.  Topics like...OT vs. NT understandings of God, the role of the Devil, inconsistencies in scripture, NT canon and canonicity.  What really struck me about this whole exchange was his comment that how refreshing and odd to find someone who had answers.

This, of course, led to further conversations about the infantilization of religion, especially within the context of the US and Christianity.  Upon reflection, though, it is starting to become a more widespread phenomenon within the US.
 
How often is it that we just accept what we are told without question? 
How often is it that the lens of Hooker's Reason is focused on what 'we all believe' to be true?
When did it occur that common sense is neither common nor sensical?

synthesis - Turn, turn turn

"Of what avail is frock, or rosary,
Or clouted garment? Keep thyself but free
From evil deeds, it will not need for thee
To wear the cap of felt: a darwesh be
In heart, and wear the cap of Tartary."
- Sa'di, Gulistan




'Tis the gift to be simple, Its a gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right
- Joseph Brackett, Simple Gifts

...on the feets of Steven

One of the more iconic of the 'second tier' of Christmas carols is that of Good King Wenceslaus, which is based upon the legend of Duke Vaclav I of Bohemia who was martyred for his faith. Unfortunately, most of us don't get past the 'feets of Steven' (well, that's how WE sung it when I was 12) and fewer still grasp the whole of the story which the carol is telling. 

In brief, on the night after Christmas it is bitterly cold and snowy. The king sees a poor man out on such a night gathering sticks for a fire. He finds out where the fellow lives (some three miles, on the edge of the forest), and sets out personally with wood, drink and food to dine with this peasant. The point of this tale is contained in the last verse, which I quote:
Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.
The 'good king' here doesn't invite the peasant into his house, nor to sup at his table amid the splendid finery.  No, he removes himself from his comfort to meet the poor man on his level, where he lives. Of course, that is what God-as-Christ did.  He became flesh to meet us where we are.  He shared the bitter cold and wintry nights, braved the snow and dark to sup with us where we live. That is the core of the Incarnation.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, December 24

Merry Christmas

To all of those who come by my scribblinz (and I know who both of you are), I wish you a most beautiful, peaceful and happy Christmas.

I offer here two of my favourite Christmas songs for your Christmas day.




Thursday, December 22

Reflections on Yule vespers

Last night concluded our advent vesper series and it was marvelous and so very different.  As it was Yule, the theme was about darkness and light. The only light in the sanctuary was provided by the candles which covered the altar and environs (including the advent wreath). It truly was beautiful and the service, simple and unadorned, was very fulfilling.  The light/dark imagery really started to make me think about darkness, the night and other related things.

It is in the light that we believe that see clearly, where things are well known and we are comfortable.  During the day, we are consumed with the business of our lives, our jobs and all of the other 'stuff' which 'demand' our attention.  When darkness falls...real darkness falls.  That's when things change.

"In dark silence, comes whisperings of new beginnings."

It is at night when must we admit (if only to ourselves) we don't see things well, that even the most familiar seems alien and our confidences are shaken.  The rational, logical world of the day turns into some alternate realm where your non-rational mind shows itself.  It is in the darkness that your most basic fig-leaf, belief in your own senses, is ripped away and you are left with the painful discomfort of knowing that you don't know and that, in a very real sense, you can NEVER know.

"In dark silence, comes whisperings of new beginnings."

The Celts believed that nighttime is when the veil that separates this world and the next is thinner and I see that it is in the still of the night that one perceives things and ideas which the day blinded us to. Being shaken out of the rote of the Light allows for change and perceiving things differently affords the opportunity for growth.  If one can sit in that darkness and still the internal mutterings, there is much to learn, to see and to hear in that place which is What is needed to enable that growth and change is to be still, listen and wait.

"In dark silence, comes whisperings of new beginnings."

National Geographic reported some time ago about how our obsession with electric lighting is all but extinguishing the night.  It is becoming enough of an issue in parts of the world that 'dark-sky oases' are being established in first-world nations.  As people who have neither day nor night, we live by arbitrary, artificial, external schedules instead of the clock of the world (or even our own internal body clock). 

To really understand, to truly comprehend, we must go beyond and outside.  Sit in the dark silence and listen to the snow fall.  Accustom your eyes (both inside and out) to the darkness and hear the whispers of new beginnings.

Wednesday, December 21

the reading and the thought which came unbidden

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”


Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”  (Ex. 32:1-5)

The way this nation worships the almighty dollar, I really wonder if we've traded in a golden calf for the brass bull above.

Tuesday, December 20

pebbles

There is an analogy used in Taoism (and Buddhism too, as I recall) that if your mind is clear and calm, it will be like the surface of a still pond.  Contrawise, if your mind is muddled or disturbed, then it is like a choppy lake, full of waves.

When a thought, an idea or some insight is given to you, it is a pebble dropped into the pond.  If you are still, the ripples echo out, affecting much more than the initial pebble. There is this wonderful and sneaky person in my life who wanders past every so often and, when I least expect it, she pitches a pebble and sits back with a gentle smile.

" It (the mystical) is a marvelous journey."  *plunk*

A lot of my personal angst? issue? trouble?....that's a good word....a lot of my personal trouble has been circling around the mystical and esoteric nature of my spiritual development.  The theology and religious stuff...that's written down and easy to understand.  It's reasonable, logical and rational.  But a lot of what's going on right now is flying blind on a moonless night.  There are no maps, no books and no flight plan that YOU can see.  It's you and Him and a whole lot of ignoring everything that's going on between your ears. Can you turn back?

"You can always say no, but you know this is gonna be AWESOME.  Trust me."  Thanks Dad.  :P

Faith is not belief without proof...it is trust without limits. 

With a comment, my friend tosses in another pebble and I recognize her as an agent of Her just as I can hear His chuckle in her laughter.

Blessings upon my dear sister-in-Christ, my crone.

Thanks to her and thanks be to God.

Lessons from the saints - Blessed Charles the Good

This is Charles the good, prince of Denmark, Count of Flanders and related to the Capetian rulers of France through marriage.  He was martyred while at mass, hacked to pieces over the love of money.

You see, Charles, like my beloved St. Homobonus, used his wealth and power for the benefit of the people.  He reformed laws to promote a more equal system of justice, clothed the naked, fed the hungry and distributed alms to the poor.  During the famine of 1124-25, he enacted laws to punish those who were price-gouging as well as established food distribution points, at one juncture giving away 7,800 loaves of bread in a single day.  Despite his exceptional generosity (even for the day), Flanders' coffers were not emptied.

The nobles committing the price-gouging (including one Fr. Bertulf FitzErembald) conspired and sent knights entered the church where Charles was at mass and hacked him to pieces on the spot.  Upon discovering the demise and circumstances surrounding the murder, the Flemish peasantry seized all involved and tortured them to death.

What can we learn from Charles?

That charity (in the general, handing out stuff meaning) does not mean putting yourself in the poorhouse to help those who already live there. 

That those who have means, influence and power have a greater responsibility to use that power for the good of all.

[note: originally written 2 March 2011]

Thoughts about confirmation

This weekend past we celebrated the sacrament of confirmation with four wonderful young men and women being welcomed as adults into our community.  The occasion and the homily attendant thereunto has brought to mind some reflections regarding this sacrament and it's importance in the past and present.

There can be a lot of discussion about 'vertical' component of confirmation and it's most common component which is mentioned, but I find that to be a red herring not unlike that of ordination into holy orders.  The journey to that sacrament is what matters in the spiritual dimension, not the ceremony itself.  That said, the 'horizontal' component of the sacrament is what I want to talk about.

Partly, it is a recognition of the church community that the confirmants are both adults and in the community.  In days past, this was of great significance and we still see this sort of 'coming of age' ceremony in certain cultures (Quinceañera, bar/bat mitzvah, etc.).  In today's western culture, though, I believe that it's significance is of lesser importance, as the general secular culture has far different cues as to a child becoming an adult.  This, btw, is a huge rant on my part, as we have culturally diffused and delayed this adulthood process to the point that it is hard to argue when it fully occurs.  Is it at 16 with the drivers license?  At 18, with voting and (probably) high school graduation? Is it at 21, when they can drink?  Is it at some undefined time when 'schooling' is over and they enter the workforce full time or when they move out of their parent's house?  Additionally, with the general rejection of specific denominations (and, more generally, organized faith systems), the 'seal of the Church' means far less than it did in an age when the church community was (effectively) the whole of the community.

In part, it is a public affirmation by the confirmants that they, after a lengthy education and discernment process, are willingly accepting the values of the church and dedicating themselves to applying said values. I find this to be a far more relevant and powerful portion of the process.  It is a public expression of a personal pledge to embrace the teachings of our faith and, more narrowly, the traditions and culture of the church.  In a time when organized faiths of any stripe are shedding people faster than an oak tree's leaves in October, to have youth affirm the relevancy of the church mission in their lives is heartening.

[note: originally written 14 November 2011]

Ahhh....the good old days

The rally cry of returning to the 'good old days' is one that fills me with deep ambivalence. For most of my life, it's been a code phrase about returning to some parallel universe version of the 1950's and 1960's, where "life was simpler and more carefree". You know...when McCarthy's Red Menace loomed around every corner, women, fags and negros better 'know their place or they'll get what they deserve' and the world was one step away from an atomic nightmare. Ah yes, good times.

In much a same vein, I hear and read a lot about going back to 'the roots' of the church...to the Early Church. What part of that would you like? The part where there isn't a bible yet, but conflicting third-hand accounts of what may or may not have been? How about the whole 'persecution' angle? You could be a martyr for real, then..it's quite fashionable, you know. There's always the whole "If you disagree with my theological positions, I'll slaughter you and your entire family" thing..that was popular.

My point isn't, in either instance, to say that 'those days' were universally bad, but rather we have a nostalgic tendency to consider another place and time to be much better than where and when we are simply because it's somewhere and somewhen else. This sort of nostalgia isn't new, either. Seneca disparages about 'these kids nowadays' over 2000 years ago and Cicero laments over the decline of society as Rome nears the apex of it's glory.

My point is that we should neither vilify nor lionize the past. Examine our history, our heritage. See what is good and bad with equal candor and consider what can be applied most readily for the highest good for the greatest number.

Bringing this back to the Church, there are advantages of a hierarchical structure...and advantages to a congregational structure.

[note: originally written 30 July 2010]

further thoughts about ortho-

The recent discussions regarding the divisions in other churches and the upcoming synod came together in a recent reading from Galatians.

"yet we know that a person is not counted righteous by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be counted righteous by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be counted righteous." (Gal 2:16)

So, it isn't by the cultural conventions or the strict adherence to sub-sub-sub-canons that we are saved? Seems that was a major point of Christ's message. Obeying the forms and minor points of the law are unimportant. What is important is basic belief in a few universal tenets and letting your conscience dictate your actions. Salvation doesn't come by eating fish on Friday, wearing certain clothes, saying 'hail Mary's' or praying [x] times a day in a very specific manner.

To me, that was a strong point of the Gospel lesson (woman with the alabaster jar) that was glossed over. The Pharisee, Simon, was a man who obeyed all the rules and knew all the 'right-thinking', the Orthodoxy. The 'sinful woman' didn't, yet she did what her heart told her was the right thing...she followed the 'right action'. Orthopraxis.

The point behind these practices is the application of specific beliefs, which gets me to the crux of the matter. More often than not, these sorts of practices derive from interpretations of concepts which may or may not apply to the present day. One example which springs to mind is the recitation of the Nicene Creed. The creed was developed in the fourth century and was used as an instrument of doctrinal definition to refute a series of heterodoxies. That's all well and good, but when the parishioners say the creed today, they do so ignorant of the 'heresy' they are refuting and don't really understand the import which the creed implies.

To honour traditions and to defend thoughts/beliefs which have minimal relevance in this day and age is neither right thinking nor right practice, but is a mindless echoing of the ghosts of the past.  In the discussion between the two ortho's, one would like to have both.  If one must choose, though, the good of 'doing' outweighs the good of 'thinking'.

[note: originally written 9 May 2010]

todays reading: you salty dog

"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out." (Mt. 5:13)


The church is good, but if it loses its holiness, how can it be made holy again? It is fit neither for man nor beast; it is thrown out.

[note: originally written 19 November 2011]

inequality

No, actually, this isn't another gay post (despite what the image to the right may suggest).  Not really.  This is about how deep traditions of inequality drill down and how hard it is for good, smart, well-meaning folk to root them out.

I have a good friend who is both a catholic and an ordained pastor.  During a recent conversation, the Assumption was brought up and I mentioned my (admittedly heretical) opinion that I see it as distracting to the central message and that I didn't see the importance of it  and certainly don't see it as  worthy of pulling out the Infallible Stick.  My friend explained to me that it was exceptionally important , nay even vital as it proved that God accepted female flesh into heaven. 

I was gob-smacked. Here was a highly educated, articulate and deeply spiritual pastor telling me that girls needed 'extra proof' of the Divine's acceptance.

"What?  Why wouldn't God accept half of the world? That doesn't make any sense.", I say.

"That's because you weren't raised Catholic", she replied in a tone which explained the finality of the statement. 

Huh?  If you're Catholic, you're supposed to believe that God considers wimminz as second-class?  This would be the same 'Mary as Co-redemptrix' people, yes?  (One of these days, I should write up my Marian heresies, but I don't need that much hate today). Why would anyone need extra proof of Gods acceptance?

The answer appears is to be due to clerical leadership who were taught (and then taught others) a  Vatican I/Victorian model of femininity which is as out of whack with reality as the 'bra-burning feminazis'.  This isn't strictly a spiritual issue, but like so much of tradition, it has some roots in the Spiritual.  The whole 'weaker sex' idea harkens back to a time when you keep the woman barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.  And (in this particular instance), I wouldn't blame Vatican I for this precisely.  That sort of attitude was not out of line for a moderate, God-fearing gentleman of the 1860's.  And that's the trouble, as the Victorian mindset far outlasted the Victorian period.

Vatican II brought the Church from the 1860's to the 1960's and should be lauded for it.  But, since then, the Roman Church has slid back into a 1950's mindset where 'modern women' are allowed to wear shoes, as long as wear heels when they stay in the kitchen and raise the (minimum of 2) kids. Meanwhile, the rest of western society has gone into the 21st century, where a women can wear a T-shirt and jeans (undergarments optional) and sit next to a guy who carries his own purse satchel on the same subway which will take them to the same job which pays each of them the same amount.
 
This reminds me strongly of the reading from Galatians 3 :  "Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

So, when I read about reproductive rights, female ordination, the 'male-female complementary model' or the non-straight 'issue', I keep coming back to this misguided notion that people are supposed to be a certain way (manly men, girly wimmins and obedient kids) or, at the very least, act a certain way which is to be dictated by an ecclesiastical authority composed of old, white guys who have never (officially) had sex (I've heard that altar boys don't count).

[note: post originally written 19 Oct, 2010]

Hints, allegations and things left unsaid

When you start a post, Blogspot saves your musings in a draft until you post.  I had written some of a post the other day and had to leave the thought unfinished.  Going back to it today, I noticed a number of drafts - hints of what I was thinking and things left unsaid.

To help clear out my queue and breathe life into these thoughts, the next few posts are thoughts from the past.  In some cases, I have written about the topic more fully since then.  In some cases, my opinions on the matter have matured a bit since the seed was planted.  Still, this blog is about my journey and observations along the way, so I think it's still valid.


Thursday, December 15

reflections on Advent vespers

aka...the post stream that will not end.

As I mentioned earlier, we share space with the Lutherans and, from time to time, we hold joint services which highlight both our differences and our commonality.  I truly believe that this is the way forward in regards to ecumenicism, to not water down our liturgies to a milque-toast level, but to show what both binds us together and allow it to be a teaching moment showing our unique ways we understand our relationship to the Divine.  Anyways, this year we have been holding advent vespers which highlight the meditative, Taizé tradition. 

I must say that I gain an incredible amount from Wednesday vespers, both during Advent and Lent and the 'non-traditional' aspect of this meditative service is exactly the sort of grounding which I am needing right now. 

With all of the uncertainty in my own life right now, as well as in the world at large, and how dark the future appears (both literally and metaphorically), I believe that our closing song really is appropriate.


thoughts, random and otherwise

There are about 5 posts I could make today....further analysis of the sexual violence report, commentary about the Census data showing half of the US are 'poor', discussion on the reading, my concerns about the uncertainties of employment or even my personal life (or lack thereof). There's a lot there, but I think I want to focus on other things for a moment.

As I may have mentioned before, our parish shares space with an old ELCA church filled with genuinely nice people who seem to honestly understand the thought of ecumenicism. We each worship in our own way and, thanks to working and worshiping together, have come to understand and respect our similarities and differences.

It's funny, but there are little things which I see, I notice, and they sink in and have a certain meaning or symbolism which niggles down into my subconscious. As I mentioned before, we are doing 'catchphrases' for Advent, short phrases which encapsulate the reading's meaning.

The second sunday was 'make ready' and there is a gold/brass latin cross which hangs by wires over the altar such that it appears to float in mid-air.  I recall this because as the homily went on about John giving the old pharisees an ear-ful, I looked up and noticed an errant sunbeam.

There, spotlighted by a shaft of light, was a small cobweb growing on this golden, shiny cross.  The more I gazed at it, the more it made me think of the priests in Jerusalem and Rome and all over.  It made me think about how organized faith enshrines things and laws as inviolate and eternal and how holding those old things in such reverence subverts their purpose and turns us away from God.  Someone during the week must have noticed them too, because the cobwebs weren't there next week...when we talked about 'make straight the way'.  *whistles innocently*

CDC report on sexual violence. We're not listening.

The CDC released a study today about rape and sexual violence which has rather deeply disturbed me.  According to the NISVS report:
  • approximately 45% of women and 22% of men are victims of sexual violence over their lifetimes. 
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men reported severe physical violence.  
  • 1 in 5 women reported having been raped, with 80% being under 25 and 42% under 18 when they were raped for the first time.
  • 1 in 71 men reported having been raped, with 28% of those being under 11 when they were raped for the first time.  
  • Nearly 40% of non-hispanic minority males surveyed reported rape, sexual violence and/or stalking. 

As disturbing as those figures are, here is where things really go pear-shaped.   The focus of this report is sexual crimes perpetrated by intimate partners.  Go back and re-read those numbers, because that is what we, as a society, are doing to those we love.  This isn't some frat party accident or bathroom stall happenstance, these are our husbands, wives, SO's and boy/girlfriends who are doing this.

If this is an indication of how messed up the collective understanding of how to express love and intimacy is, then perhaps some of the pronouncements from the prelates sound no less removed from reality than those to whom they are preaching to.

I can recognize and even rationalise the long-standing disconnect between social justice and capitalism and how we, as a nation, have delved into narcissism. The vilification and demonizing of certain groups (including my own), I can intellectually grasp as a defense mechanism and the age-old conflict of the 'Other' and how that can lead to man's inhumanity to man.

But this?

This?

"This I command you, that you love one another." (Jn. 15:17)

We're not listening.  Kyrie Eleison.

Wednesday, December 14

todays reading

Fr. Michael Judge
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.

"who's next?"
But if that wicked slave says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  (Matt. 24:42-51)

I would like to point out  one should take yesterday's reading in conjunction with the theme of this one.

Tuesday, December 13

not todays reading, what I was told to say.

The word of YWHW came to me, saying:

“Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen,
‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’

If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.

And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right— if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.

Yet your countrymen say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But it is their way that is not just. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. Yet, O house of Israel, you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But I will judge each of you according to his own ways.”(Ezekiel 33:1,12-20)

The word of YHWH.

Monday, December 12

miscellany

Ever since the RC potentates decided to rewrite their liturgy, it got me to thinking and a few things have been bouncing about my head for a while.  I figure I should put them to e-paper before I lose them.

I ask, oh Lord, that as we go about our daily lives, you prick our conscience :
That our thoughts become right thoughts.
That those right thoughts become right words
That those right words become right deeds.
Not for us, the Church or the world....but for you alone be the glory.  Amen.

A Pelagian's Confeitor.
Oh Lord, creator of all, You are the spark of the universe and are in all things, yet we are all too often blind to that spark.  In our deeds, we harm the world and, thus, You as well.  Kyrie Eleison.

Christ Jesus, you showed us that within our brothers and sisters lies the Divine, yet we are short-sighted and sometimes do not see this.  In our words, we harm our brothers and sisters and, thus, You as well..  Christe Eleison.

Holy Wisdom, you dwell within us as guide and counselor, yet we are foolish and sometimes do not listen.  In our thoughts, we harm ourselves and, thus, You as well..  Kyrie Eleison.

P: <sign of cross> May the Lord have mercy upon us, forgive us and lead us to everlasting life.
V: Thanks be to God.

Invitation to Communion
P: <holding aloft the cup and host> IDE! ECCE! VOICI! MIRA! BEHOLD! The Lamb of God! <pause> Happy are we who are called to this supper.

V: Lord, you have made me worthy to receive you. Only say the word and I shall be here.

P:Christ came not for a few, but for all.  This table is not meant for the select, but for everyone.  All are welcome!

Wednesday, December 7

The Synchratic method

I have discussed at some points in the past about synchronicity and how it seems to be a part of things in my life.  I finally understand (at least to an extremely limited part) why.  Socrates used a dialectic method of teaching.  Some Buddhists use koans.  For my beloved Coyote, it is the Synchratic method.   As I have said a thousand times "once is chance, twice is coincidence, thrice denotes a pattern."  So, this is how it works in practice.

"Hey Tim.  Here's something you probably want to see."

"Ya Dad, whatever. Kinda busy here with this unimportant thing"

"Here it is again.  It's kinda cool."

"huh....yah, right."

"Remember this?  you may wanna look at it."

"OHH, Hey there. Look at that!  Wow, that's a brilliant idea.  Thanks!"

"Such a smart kid." *chuckles*


Monday, December 5

If wishes were fishes.....

Reading Colkoch's post about Bishop Eddie Long, it made me come back to something which I've said in person but I don't believe I have ever articulated here.  One of the more common visualization games that I have played (along with 'win the lottery') is 'if you had one wish for others, what would you wish for'?  This sort of imagining game is of value and interest because it reveals much about the person.  Originally, the exercise ignored the phrase 'for others', but I find it more instructive to give a gentle prod so that the questioner is encouraged to see how they would like to see change in the world.

World peace is a common answer, as is a cure for cancer, removal of suffering and an end to hunger.  Of course, I've got to be different (it's never that simple, is it?).  I would desire that everyone know the consequences of their actions. 

Consider this and consider it carefully.

Free will is, in no way, abrogated or restrained.  That said, each person would know what the effect that their thoughts, words and deeds would be and let their conscience (and/or the Spirit, as you determine how that sort of thing works) be their guide. 

Thus, Bishop Long would still have the capability to 'mess around' with male teenagers, but he would know how that sort of chicanery will harm the boys.  Similarly, certain prelates within the RC church would have the free will to decry anyone as 'unworthy', but every person who turns away from God because of their words will be known to said prelates.

So, um...yah.

Advent - words and experience

For advent this year, our parish is using certain word phrases found in the scripture readings.  These phrases are put onto business cards that are handed out to parishioners as well as being scribed on a sign that is attached to the altar.  Last week, the phrase was 'Stay Awake' (from the Gospel), which engendered multiple amusing comments about homiletic style and such. 

This week was 'Make Ready' (from Isaiah) which is echoed in the reading about the coming of John the Baptist. The thrust of the homily was that what we were to make ready for and how that comes about could very well defy our own expectations (as, no doubt, it did Zachariah) and that what God intends quite frequently clashes with our grand designs. Much was also made of talking about the Desert/Wilderness and what that means in the jewish context.  The Wilderness is where the scapegoat is cast out into and where the 'demons' live.  It is the 'beyond' where decent, god-fearing folk never travel.  But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

The first Saturday evening of each month, one of our sister parishes holds a Celtic service and I make sure to put everything aside to go.  They have a wonderful faith community and the liturgy is a very different and quite valid way of worship.  At the conclusion of the mass, each of us were invited to turn to the person beside us, hold their face in our hands and, look into their eyes, saying (among other things) 'you are the face of Christ'.  Though I cognitively recognized what was going on, Dad had different plans, as I was to find out later in the evening. 

A friend of mine invited me out later that evening, as part of the 'get the hermit out of his cave' program.  OK, fine.  So we went to a club (which I don't do) and more specifically, a gay bar (which I've never done) that was holding some big shindig, so all these people he knew were going to be there (do you smell a setup, cause I sorta did).  I have a strong impression of precisely who I am and am not interested in and the sort of person who frequents 'those places' doesn't fall into that impression.  After all, it's one of 'those places', you know.  I'm one of those people who tend to observe rather than actively participate and, being in an unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable setting, that's what I did.  The more I watched, the more my understanding and impressions changed, dropping judgments and preconceptions.  Then, it all clicked. 

The realisation that what I have read and said in the past became what I saw.  The Christ within, the Christ in all - a disparate group of individuals suddenly visualized as a multi-locational unified entity and, for a shining moment, that inner Divine was revealed to me. I must admit I was intermittently giggling for most of the rest of the evening.  Then, the next morning, I hear the homily mentioned at the first, about the Wilderness and making ready and how God's plans are often very much not what we expect.

There, in the 21st century Christian wilderness, the face of Christ.  Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 30

Just....just watch


Quote of the day

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. 

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. 

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. 

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. 

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Gautama Siddharta, the Buddha

Tuesday, November 29

todays reading: You guys don't even read this, do you?

I swear this is the response of
most people today
As the link on the left indicates, I follow two daily lectionaries.  As both of them only cover a (small) portion of scripture and they are on different cycles, I commonly get different viewpoints on things. 

Here's the gospel reading from the USCCB lectionary:

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Lk 10:21-22)

Having read the surrounding areas, concordances and commentaries, you quickly understand that it's not just the 'wise' and the 'children' that Christ is talking about.  He's talking about the pharisees and the people - the clergy and the laity.  The irony that this is the USCCB reading is both delicious and painful.

Do the prelates even read the scriptures any more or is that one of those other 'archaic things' which are no longer needed? Don't the laity read this, or is that another of those Vatican II reforms the RC sheeple are supposed to ignore?  I suppose that's there's a lectionary as opposed to the whole Bible - TL;DR, right? 

I mean, I guess there's really no need for people to read the Word of the Lord, as the prelates have the ability, nay, the responsibilty to rewrite the entire Deposit of Faith to suit their needs.  Be obedient, attend Mass and we may choose to reveal God to you (for a small donation of only 10%/week).

Nah, they don't read this stuff anymore.

Monday, November 28

(Not) keeping up with the Joneses

This Sunday was the first week of Advent and the service was, as expected for non-ordinary times, slightly quirky and very pleasing. The boundless creativity of our liturgy committee to re-imagine the non-ordinary times of the year is heart-warming, even if I don't always 'get it'. The hot topic of discussion in the Narthex wasn't the new wrinkles in our service, but rather what the Joneses Romans are up to. Somehow, I ended up being the Shell Answer Man.

"Did you hear about the new Roman Missal?" I've read the new mass, yes. No, I haven't heard it 'in person' as I'm not really welcome in a Roman church and have no interest in flying under false colours to hear a liturgy which I can't support theologically, morally or scripturally.

"Are we going to do that?" A change like that would require several public meetings and agreement by both laity and clergy. In short, it's more likely we'll be inviting the Arch-bishop to Christmas midnight mass. (Considering that the arch-diocese presently doesn't HAVE an archbishop, the odds are pretty easy to calculate).

There was one off-hand comment that really struck home, though. During these discussions, I mentioned how the new Roman liturgy makes me sad to one of our parishioners. She patted me on the shoulder and said, "They can do anything they like."  She's right and yet....

I guess what bugs me about that is the definition of the word 'they'.  To say 'they' implies an 'us' and indicates an 'other'.  Of course, I realise that she meant 'they' as 'Romans', but my mind went to the prelates and priests as 'they' vs. the 'us' of the laity.  I mean, the changes which the Roman laity want has nothing to do with consubstantial and mea culpa.

In our catholic church, the laity and the clergy decide together how things are to be run, how mass it to be celebrated and whether or not we, as a parish, will accept and abide by what the House of Bishops and the Synod say.  The separation between laity and clergy is a VERY thin line.

I've not been involved with the Roman church, but all accounts say that this is 180 degrees from their modus operandi.  Here's the sticking point, though - the basis of what I've described above came directly from the Roman Church with imprimatur.  The fore-runner of our church was established by Archbishop Casey some 30+ years ago wherein the laity ran just about everything and their was an on-call priest who lived an hour away who came and said mass on Sundays.  The most recent Arch-bishop decided to put a stop to that, so most of the laity left the Roman Church and became the core of our present parish, which joined the already extant Ecumenical Catholic Communion.

This is all a bother to me because, fundamentally, there is no 'they', whether collared or RC.  There are only 'us', the creations of the Divine.What clothes you wear or what job you hold doesn't change that.  What person you love or church you attend doesn't change that.  If the Joneses want to think otherwise, let them.  They can do anything they like.  Then again, so can we.

Tuesday, November 22

words about words

Words have power.  What words we use, their order and the emphasis we place upon them matters to a level that cannot be understated.  So, it seems, I am in need to talk about words and about the new(?) Roman Missal.  The theory is that the 3rd Typical Edition is a more faithful and literal translation of the 'original latin' than that 'hastily penned' 2nd Typical Edition.  I suppose it never dawned on the Roman Church that the 'original' is common Greek and not medieval Latin or that, heaven forfend, there are idioms, phrases and concepts which don't literally translate....but nevermind that.   This is long enough that I'll hide the rest behind a cut.

Friday, November 18

Reimagining Bernardine - a consistant ethic of compassion

Wiki-creep is a fascinating thing.  Through a convoluted chain of links and related topics, I ended up reading Fr. McBrein's article about Cardinal Bernadine and the Seamless Garment (aka consistent life ethic) at NCR.  This got me to thinking...which leads to pondering...which leads to writing.

I believe that Bernadine's underlying premise, which is to construct a universally applicable ethical model regarding life is quite laudable.  Where I find a disagreement with him is to say that said life must be universally preserved.  There ARE fates worse than death for a person and to concentrate solely upon the life of an individual tends towards forgetting that we are all connected and that every action taken by a person has rippling effects that spread out to the ends of the earth.

In general, a person who must make such a choice needs to examine both the person 'at risk' as well as all of those directly affected by the decisions, taking into account the quality of the life, the life circumstances and take a critical look at the intent behind the decision.  They should call upon Holy Wisdom to guide and inform the decision, recognizing that each circumstance is unique and what is right for a certain person at a certain time may not be the right choice at a different time for a different person.

I recognize that these sorts of questions are never simple or easy.  There are no higher stakes and yet we must collectively recall that Primacy of Conscience and Free Will demand that the choice is not ours to make.  Each person must walk that road for themselves.  Our compassion affords us the ability to walk with them, to help and support them without judging as the Spirit walks with us, guiding and comforting, but not condemning.

That is, after all, what we would want in a time of need.  That is the essence of loving our neighbour as ourselves.

Thursday, November 17

Dancing in the Straw

Angels dancing on the head of a pin
So, it has a been a while since I have talked about the formal actions towards ordination. Indeed, I'm not entirely sure if I have spoken about this at all except in the vaguest of terms. A word of warning here, as the following statements could be misread.  I am not antithetical to academics, far from it, but a lack of ready application begs askance towards the intrinsic merit.

As I look more and more at differing programs, it appears so easy to become caught up in a whirlwind of theories, proofs, dogma and -ologies which are all vitally important for any serious candidate for ordination. It seems that anyone who has been called by God must be intimately familar with the ramblings of Rahner, the lectures of Lonergan and the homilies of Heidigger.  One must he hip to the hermeneutics in fashion,  conversant with the Christology du jour and versed in the vocabulary of the devoted elite.

Put in a 14th century context, a postulant must be able to answer (with attendant proofs) the famous question about angels and the head of a pin, as well as give context as to it's importance.  (As an aside, the question deals with the question of perfect, supernal beings existing without form (as pure entities of spirit) or if they have substance.)

Thinking about it brings to mind Aquinas and Dominic.  The first is the Angelic Doctor's famous statement, "All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me."  Why would arguably the greatest theologian of all time say this about the theology which he had written? Because he had had a direct, relevatory experience - a brush with the raw and ineffable Divine so incredibly different from the logics and proofs and counterarguments which comprise the Law.

The second is one of the few quotes we have from Dominic de Guzeman, spoken during his time studying theology. There was a famine which struck his city and he sold everything, including his precious books, to give alms to those in need. When questioned about such a rash and foolish gesture for a scholar, he replied,  "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?"

A theologian is one who studies and ponders. That is my default state and something which comes as natural as breathing to me.  A priest is one who works and prays. That is what Dad has asked me to be.  Both have value and those categories are not mutually exclusive.  But quoting Jerome won't comfort a widow, prepare the greiviously ill for a happy death, feed the hungry or clothe the naked and, despite what I would like to become, this is about what She wants and has asked me to do.

My brass-tacks question to any course of study is if it helps one love God and/or love thy neighbour more fully?  If the answer is no, then mayhap there are better things to be doing.

Monday, November 14

An antidote to the poison (belated)

This post should have gone up about two weeks ago, but I only got the text below today.  Given the poisonous rhetoric which I read coming from the RC church (among others), I figure that I really should post this, as it captures the essence of my Catholic (but not Roman) church and what we're about. 

The following are selections from readings which were interspersed throughout the All Saints Day mass.

Before processional
"Who are you? Are you married with kids, worrying for them and committed to their welfare?  Are you divorced?  Are you married for the second, or even the third time?  Are you a single parent struggling to make ends meet, but also hoping to have love in your life again?  Are you gay or lesbian?   Well if you are, then you belong to us because you belong to Christ.  The Good News is that Christ is the host here today and he welcomes you as part of his body.  The words from the Gospel are addressed to you: Peace be with you."

During Eucharist, after the Words of Institution
"Are you new here? An immigrant maybe?  Are you from another Christan tradition? Are you full of doubt today, like Thomas?  Are you fearful like the disciples were?  Has it been a while since you darkened the doorway of a church?  None of that matters.  You belong to us because you belong to Christ. The Good News is that Christ is the host here today and he welcomes you as part of his body.  The words from the Gospel are addressed to you: Peace be with you."

During Eucharist, after Agnes Dei is sung
"All people of good will are welcome here: That is the Good News!  If you've been away, you can come back; if you've been living in darkness, you can come to the light; if you haven't been able to believe without seeing God, look around you, the Body of Christ has come to Mass today.  Sinners are welcome, saints too.  Everyone is welcome to come to Christ, our God indeed!"

(what is said at the end of the prayers of every Eucharist)
"The meal of God has been prepared for the people of God, which is each and every one of us, so all are welcome to receive."

Thanks be to God for these people.

Tuesday, November 8

Balancing act

As I sit today and ponder things, there are several balancing acts that come to mind.  The first which shows itself is the balance between the spiritual and the religious,  a scale which I consider in the terms of our vertical relationship with the Divine and the horizontal relationship with each other.  It is all well and good for a person to have a strong vertical relationship, but without a healthy horizontal relationship it does little to help the Body of Christ (which is composed our brothers and sisters in Christ) or, in a more general sense, the Family of God (who are all of us).  Contra wise, if we focus entirely upon those around us in physical form, we lose invaluable insight into the nature of the Divine and fail to cultivate a truly vital and special relationship with the Divine.

Another balancing act is between the Heart and the Mind, what may be considered the art and the science of Religion.  Without an understanding of the Heart, the experiential and spiritual aspect of the religious, then the all the words of the Law and the Prophets are but dried ink on dead skins.  Without a grasp of the Mind, the academic and rational aspect of the religious, then our experiences are without context and are incommunicable to others.

Another balancing act which has presented itself recently is the question of Temperance vs. following one's heart.  Temperence lies in moderation and restraint.  And following one's heart lies in doing what is often unrestrained and immoderate.  It is, again, the tension between the logical, rational mind and the emotional, non-rational heart.  Too much of either causes you to burn with ardor or freeze with icy logic.  One could extend it further and say that it is a confluence of structure and creativity, of order and chaos.

All of these balances to maintain...so many wheels in motion....just like the world around us.

Monday, November 7

breaking the cycle

Back a thousand years ago, when I was married, my (now) ex said something to me which has stayed with me.  She said that how you were treated in your last relationship is how you will treat others in your next.  Put into more general terms, unless you actively attempt to break the cycle, how others have treated you forms how you treat others.

This thought came back to me this morning as I was reading an article about Israel and Palestine.  The problem really comes in what I would call a destructive echo chamber or feedback loop.  This is something which anyone with small children knows intimately.

Bobby does X, which means Sally can do X, which encourages Bobby to do X+1, which entitles Sally to reciprocate and and and....I'm stopping this car RIGHT NOW!

That's the point.  We need to stop the car (individually and collectively).  If the internet has taught me anything (other than every cat owner needs a video camera), it is that trolls, like the poor, will always be with us.  There will always be someone in a group who is insensitive, deliberately argumentative and generally irascible.  Do we treat them as they have treated us or do we treat them as we wish to be treated?

Saturday, November 5

The 'root' of the problem

A turnip shaped like a thingie?!
With apologies to any who speak OZ.

After reading Colkoch's reply to my earlier post, I felt the gentle rapping of a ten-ton hammer against my skull as my muse, subtle as ever, wished to gain my attention.

As I commented elsewhere (and my brilliant friend Bill pointed out), Avila's comments are a nuanced version of Manichaeism, an early Persian belief which competed with Christianity during the early church.  In a nutshell, Manichaeism says that 'God' created all of the perfect and eternal things, which are of the spirit.  Additionally, 'God' has an evil countpart called the Demiurge who created all of the imperfect and temporary things which are of the flesh.  Thus, to embrace the natural, physical world is to 'worship' the Demiurge while by denying yourself the things of this world, you revere and worship 'God'.

Obviously, as we are born and raised in the natural, physical world as corporeal beings, we must have a predisposition towards what we know, see and interact with seamlessly - the natural, physical world.  Therefore, we have an inborn disposition to turn from 'God'.  At this point, let us introduce our 'agent'.

Raised as a Christian, this agent defied his mother's faith and became a libertine. Indulging in wine, women and song, he became a Manichaeist.  After over 15 years of a hedonistic lifestyle, he had a conversion experience and returned to the religion of his youth.  Key among the tenets which precipitated the conversion St. Anthony of the Desert's extreme aesthetic lifestyle and Romans 13:13-14.  "Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."  Five years after this conversion, Augustine was made bishop of Hippo.  The rest of the story you probably know.

It is difficult to understate the influence of Augustine on Christian thought.  His views on sin and the material world were the backbone for Thomas' writings on the matter and are the template for Calvin.   How profoundly Augustine's 'personal issues' have affected overall Christian thought can be seen in the concept of concupiscence. Catholic Catechism teaches that concupiscence is the natural desire to sin (which comes as a direct result of the Fall of Man).  One would note that the word itself translates from the Latin: con-, with + cupi, cupid - desire (usually sexual) + -escere - suffix denoting beginning of a process or state) and is most commonly translated as 'ardent, usually sensual, longing or lust'.

Thus, the 'root' of sinful desires is sexual in nature.  To deny sinful desires is, at its core, to deny sex.  This has been said in many ways over the years, but to see how deeply ingrained the thought is and to see how profoundly one man's guilt over his hedonistic past has shaped Christian doctrine is...illuminating.

Yet, we observe in nature and our own Reason informs us that sex is not, in fact, innately sinful.  It  is a natural and powerfully positive force which helps cement the bonds of an intimate personal relationship with another.  At the most profound level, it can provide an emotional and even spiritual experience of two people becoming one (as Christ spoke of in regards to marriage) and, in a more general sense, is an experience which is treasured and revered as good by any who practice it as part of a healthy relationship that also includes attraction and attachment.

Who, then, argues that it is sinful?  A celibate man wracked by guilt over his past? A patristic hierarchy who are forced to refrain from any form of healthy intimate relationship?  I am reminded of those who lived through the psychedelic era talking to their children.  "Don't do drugs or have any of that free love.  We did that and it was great...but, um...we 'know better' now, so don't you do that."

Thursday, November 3

The fundamental disconnect

So, last week the Boston Pilot (the official publication of the Arch-diocese of Boston) published an editorial written by the USCCB associate director for policy and research, Dr. Daniel Avila.  In it, Dr. Avila advanced the notion that same-sex attraction is of the Devil.  And I quote,

"In other words, the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil. Any time natural disasters occur, we as people of faith look back to Scripture's account of those angels who rebelled and fell from grace. In their anger against God, these malcontents prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. They continue to do all they can to mar, distort and destroy God's handiwork.

Therefore, whenever natural causes disturb otherwise typical biological development, leading to the personally unchosen beginnings of same-sex attraction, the ultimate responsibility, on a theological level, is and should be imputed to the evil one, not God."
Daniel Avila, "Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction," The Boston Pilot
Sharp readers will note that the article itself has been pulled with a retraction/apology which says that somehow Dr. Avila's editorial was published without a nihil obstat or imprimatur. I can and have argued on multiple occasions as to why the 'natural law' argument is fundamentally flawed, as well as how the 'intrinsically disordered' position is explicitly contrary to both the Deposit of Faith and the Catechism of the Church. The more I have pondered this, though, the more that it begs 'some fundamental questions', as the article title states.

The most fundamental of these is the understanding of what constitutes an intimate relationship.

The noted anthropologist Helen Fisher defines the parts of a relationship as lust, attraction and attachment, with what she is calling lust being analogous to what Avila is calling 'attraction' - being the only one of the three which has anything to do with sex.  Her research has shown that the drive of lust is the least powerful of the three.  For those of us who have actually been in a long-term relationship, her research 'proves' what we have known all along - that long-term relationships have little to do with sex.  They are about being with the other person, sharing your lives (both in good and bad) and working together. It's chicken soup and fluffed pillows when they're sick, TV on the couch and cooking in the kitchen together. It's putting up with his family (and he putting up with yours), laughing about 'that one time' and conversations with just knowing glances. Can sex be a part of that? Yes, but even then it's about being together, not the quick fix.

And this is the root of the disconnect. These concepts are as foreign to them as the form of celibacy practiced by clerics is to us. There is no frame of reference, no way of understanding.  No class or book can teach you what it really means.  Individually and collectively, the celibate clerical class has no possible way of grasping or understanding these things.  They must be experienced for oneself and those experiences are gender-independent.

And now for something completely different.

In stark contrast to pouring my heart out earlier, I would like to reflect upon something rather different.  The more and more I sit and consider matters of sexuality, sexual orientation, marriage, procreation and how 'some people' view them, the more I am coming to the conclusion that it is not based upon arcane theological opinions, ancient holiness codes or a deep-seated desire to protect society.  Nah...it's far more fundamental than all of that.  I keep coming back to the idea that it is based around the cartoon behind the cut.

Wednesday, November 2

clarifications and authenticity

Be forewarned....this is a deep dive into my brain and heart.  Don't feel bad if you want to skip this and go onto other topics.

To prevent the spam and TL:DR, I have linked the rest of this lengthy post behind the cut.

All Saints Day

Yesterday was the feast of All Saints.  At our parish, there is an exercise we are performing regarding this feast.  The laity was given pen and paper and asked to write down the name of a saint which personally inspires them.  Since I helped out collecting the papers, I got a chance to look at the names and it was more than a bit of a surprize.  In the first, let me tell you who was NOT on the list.

No Mary.  No ancient prelates or popes.  Nobody listed in the Golden Legend or Butler.  In fact, I don't believe there was a single canonized saint in the pile.

The people listed were people, most of them alive.  There are grandparents and cousins, fellow parishioners and neighbours.  Flawed, human beings who are doing their very best to be like the Master and in doing so, accidentally inspiring others to do the same.

Whether consciously and intentionally or not, this is pretty much the exact understanding of the saints which existed in the apostolic and pauline period of Christianity and despite my love of hagiography and history in general, I am comfortable with the the parish's general choice.  For there to be inspiration, the stories must have resonance and relevance to us as people in the here and now.  That's why, in part, I chose Michael Judge over the archangel of the same name.  Who holds more resonance, the general of the Armies of Heaven or a gay cleric who fought against alcoholism?

In the end, though, we should follow their example by following the example of Christ. 

Monday, October 31

It's new years? crap.

This is the vigil of All Saint's Day, commonly known as Halloween (all hallow's eve).  It is also known as Samhain, the Celtic Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur.  This is the night when the veil between worlds is thinnest and when one make peace with what has happened in the last year.

I'm pretty sure I'm not ready for that yet.  I realise how much I need it.  The dead need burying, lest they walk amongst us for another year.  The echoes of the past need to be put to rest, else they shall haunt us.  I so wish to hold on to what was, what I wish would be....but it IS dead and I DO need to bury it.  Begone then, foul spectre, and plague me no further.

The reading - a picture is worth a 1000 words

His Eminence, Cardinal Burke, surrounded by 'Fathers'
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,

"The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.

All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'

As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."   (Mt. 23:1-12)

Friday, October 28

Enough is enough

My good friend posted a rather disturbing story today and my reply morphed into a post of it's own.  The substance of the story is that some punk in high-school beat another kid badly enough to give him a concussion and the need for dental reconstruction.  The attacker was suspended for three days from school.

How do we know this happened?  Oh, because this was during class.  Because somebody made a video of the attack with their mobile and then posted the video on facebook.

Did anyone help?  No.    What about the teacher?  She wasn't even there.  Did anyone speak up, step in or do anything?  No.  The victim gets a trip to the hospital and the bully gets a 3-day suspension (less than if he'd been caught with liquor at school).

This is one of the few instances when I channel the OT, smitin and lightnin g-d.  Every person in that room is complicit.  All of them, sinned by omission.  The teacher, the staff, the principal...all complicit.  There are millstones and a briny deep for each and every one of them.

Enough is enough.

Saying "it gets better" isn't enough, because it won't.  It won't unless we, individually and collectively make it better.

We are called to be the voice for the voiceless, to stand for justice and to help the helpless.  We are the hands of Christ.

We can make it better and with God's help we will make it better.

But we have to do that.  It's on us.

Thursday, October 27

Thoughts about the reading

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Jn. 3:16-18)

"Brothers and sisters:  If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all,  how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn?  It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. What will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom 8:31b-35a)

Ask those who follow Peter's successor for your answer, Paul, for they believe they can judge and deny the love of Christ to those whom they deem unworthy.

Wednesday, October 26

Thoughts about the reading

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’" (Mt. 13:10-13)

Long ago and far away, I studied Tai Chi and, by extension, Taoism from a wise and good man. At one point, we started talking about Zen Buddhism and koans. He told me that the point of a koan is not unlike that of a parable. The conscious mind has it's biases and 'understanding' of the universe and will refuse to see and hear and understand something which does not fit the already prescribed belief.  This is the fundaments behind why people can witness true atrocities and not acknowledge them.

But a parable...a parable engages the conscious brain in a puzzle or story which it can relate to while the underlying message, the truth which would otherwise be blocked by the conscious mind of the listener, sneaks in through the back door.  Safely inside, it sits and waits until the conscious mind is ready to understand and then, like a stroke of lightning, it springs forth from within, granting satori to the listener.

So, let me tell you a story...

Tuesday, October 25

posts to anger and offend - contraception and abortion

Having a distinct lack of plan about the current socio-economic crisis facing the US, some political folk on the far right have dragged out the old chestnut of social conservatism, particularly what is commonly called 'a women's right to choose'.

Having suffered through the slings and arrows of an upbringing exposed to protestant evangelicism, I am well aware of the scriptural underpinnings of the procreation movement as well as the age and context thereof.  There are several verses in the Old Testament (Genesis and Psalms, specifically) which directly or obliquely reference the desire to have a large family.  This is not surprising, considering the audience was a small, warlike nation some 3000 years ago (oops, there I go with that historical/critical stuff).  My thoughts are not centered around arguing the validity of words from three thousand years and miles ago, but rather a different set of arguments which are more rooted in the here and now.

Regarding contraception, the current argument runs that family planning is alternately an assumption of personal responsibility and a contravention of the will of God.  Now the first side I can argue easily.  If men/women (for whatever reason) feel they are not ready, willing, and/or able to bring a child into this world AND are unwilling (for whatever reason) to wholly abstain from sexual congress, then the responsible option is to take safe and effective steps to prevent pregnancy. 

The other position is far more dicey, for it assumes an untenable position - that any mortal may know the designs of the Divine.  It also assumes something which I find laughable, which is that the designs of the aforementioned omnipotent Divine could be so easily thwarted by a pill or a piece of rubber.  Finally, it presumes to override Primacy of Conscience and Free Will, replacing them with a 'one size fits none' approach to an intensely personal and situationally dependent decision.

Regarding abortion, things are much trickier but the bottom line is the same.  When does the soul enter the fetus, transforming a saprophytic polyp into a human being?  What are the ultimate consequences of either keeping or aborting said polyp/human?  What about in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother?  To categorically state that any action is universally good OR evil presumes a level of understanding of the universe and the persons performing the actions that is far beyond the ken of mankind.   It also denies Primacy of Conscience and Free Will.

In both cases, I would point out that it is a personal decision to be considered at length with prayer and thoughtful introspection.  Whether or not I would consider either acceptable does not alter the fact that one must always be permitted to make a choice, whether that choice is right or wrong.  Your definitions of wrong and right may vary (and that's ok).    

Monday, October 24

glasses of the heart

This weekend has been of interest and has brought something into crystal-focus which I believe I have been ignoring.  Without going into the sordid and personal details, let us say that what was is now, unequivocally and irreversibly no more.  I have intellectually known this to be for some time, but my heart held out hope - for naught.

I have been mulling over the possible lessons to be learned from all of this.  Of course, I have been talking with Dad about these things and trying to grasp what's going on.

The reply was thus:  "Before you fill a glass, it must be empty."

Beyond the obvious, personal implication of this profound statement, there is a question posed regarding the wider, collective conscience and scripture/tradition.  How much that is disused, no longer applicable and generally gathering dust do we, as Christians and Catholics, keep around?  How much detritus and debris which we've never bothered to sweep away is left cluttering up the place, making it harder to have space for more current understanding of the Divine and the world around us.

Right.  I need to get out my psychological dustpan and sweep things clean so that when the new stuff arrives (whatever, whoever and whenever that may be), I'll have an uncluttered spot for it.  I think between the comfy couch of non-conformity and the armoire of hopes and dreams.

My, but look at all the dustbunnies.

Friday, October 21

Keep calm and lock the doors

Flipping through my normal news sources, I came across an 'in other news' story about the Occupy London (dubbed by the BBC as 'anti-capitalist protest').  Seems that said protests are large enough that they have accidentally done what the Nazis needed the Blitz to do, they have shuttered St. Paul's Cathedral.

Citing health and safety concerns, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, dean of the cathedral, announced that they will be closing St. Paul's until further notice. As can be seen by the image above, the protest camp is sandwiched between the historic cathedral and the Exchange, filling Paternoster Square.

What struck me about this story most is that I see it as a sad tale of missed opportunity.  Here is a large group of people who are following their conscience and speaking out against economic/social injustice and the Church, rather than providing assistance and showing that they are sensitive to the needs of their neighbour, decide to turn out the lights and lock the doors.

Is that the message that they wish to send?
Is that the message we wish to be sent?
Is that the message that Christ has charged them to preach?
Where is God in this?