Wednesday, March 30

I'm sorry, Dad. I tried. are we all.
I decided this Lenten season that I was going to 'give up' something; and the thing I was going to give up was holding on to those slights, perceived and real, which prevent me for forgiving others.  I have tried very hard to put myself in other people's shoes and to forgive and to let go.  I hit a brick wall this evening with this video which I shouldn't have watched.  Without subjecting you to it, there is nearly 2hrs of a priest in a RC school teaching the NOM/conservative Catholic position regarding homosexuality and marriage.

The moral authority of the RC doctrine, especially in the area of sexuality and marriage, is fatally flawed from the outset.  Those who pronounce dictates are explicitly denied the ability to understand or be affected by the rules.  The only possible sexual activities they can engage in are, by definition illicit and sinful with many being additionally paedophilic and/or homosexual in nature. With that being the only possible worldview, it is unsurprising, nay predictable, that they would project their own sins upon those who are not under the rules of celibate life and condemn homosexuals and degrade married heterosexual relationships as being of a 'second class' to the lifestyle which they chose.  Compound this with the revelations that their own organization has routinely hidden and tacitly approved of these aforementioned sins of abuse and/or rape and the cry goes up "Physician, heal thyself" and yet the organization refuses to admit that there is a widespread problem, let alone any episcopal involvement..  Without admitting their involvement in the errors, there can be no contrition...and thus, no reconciliation.

Ignoring the many factual errors vis a vis modern science AND accepted RC doctrine, I keep coming back to the question 'where is God in this?' does this help those kids learn to love God and their neighbors? 

The message of Christ is one of unity and the brotherhood of mankind, not of division and sectionalism.  It is of love and forgiveness, not judgment  If we are all made in the image and likeness of the Divine, then intrinsically disordered (by any name) falls flat.  If we are to love one another as Christ/God has loved us, then how can you say such things about another person?

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea" (Mk 9.42)

I'm trying to set this aside...I'm trying to truly forgive, but I'm having some real issue here.  A large part of me is angered that the principle message of Christ would be so twisted.  Much of me is heartbroken that such vitriol and bigotry would be pressed upon the impressionable.  There is a small part of me which is hopeful in that at least some of the kids did not seem receptive to the long-winded diatribe.  May their hearts and minds  be open enough to allow love and unity to split apart the walls of division and hate  Prayers for them and all the church (including me)would be greatly appreciated.

Who are you going to or your lying eyes?

Lincoln freeing the slaves, Oct 1862 (via Denver Times-call)
There was a time, seemingly long ago, when there was an objective reality composed of people, places and events separate and distinct from subjective opinion. Nobody questioned that Abraham Lincoln had been president of the US, that the Pyramids in Egypt exist or that the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbour. Pictures and stories (whether it be in the press or familial in nature), were sufficient to convince.

That was then.

Today, our history is 'revisionist', our Christianity 'muscular' and everyone has their own set of 'facts'.  If a lie is repeated often enough, it gains the ring of truth.  Whether it is some yellow-cake or the lavender mafia, the civil war or civil unions...the social reality is by consensus and fiat, not consciousness and fact.  Civil discourse has been replaced with shouting matches, logic with fallacy and reason with rhetoric.

Have we so abandoned our education that we are willing to swallow anything that someone else says, no matter how preposterous it is?  Are we so consumed with self-doubt and indecision that we are unwilling to cry out 'FOUL' when someone baldly lies?  Have we abdicated our own intellectual capabilities that we will not...or cannot...discern between truth and falsehood?

Yes, this relates to the current media, who call themselves 'news' much like a 3rd generation New Yorker will call himself 'italian' because his great-grandfather came from the Old Country.  It also relates to the political situation in the US, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate Amerika. 

More to the point for this blog, it relates to the priestly abuse scandals in the RC, the 'homosexual agenda' tripe in segments of the Anglican community, the ordination issues throughout the greater catholic communion, the Leviticites, the Dominionists, the literalists...etc.

Rather than accepting what [insert prelate name here] has told the sheeple what to believe, I would challenge that folks take a different approach.

What does Scripture actually say about these issues?
What is the unedited and unbiased Tradition have to contribute (if Tradition is important to your faith-system)? 
What insight does Reason give you about these things? 

If these things create cognitive dissonance, then examine both the evidence and the beliefs which do not reconcile with them.  Which is more compelling, which is objectively true? 

Like the Hippy says, "Why don't you decide for yourself what is right?" (Luke 12:57)

Monday, March 28

hearts and minds

Over the past few days, I have had a few conversations regarding a number of theological concepts and read at least two or three more which has brought me to this subject.

There's a lot of religious discussion which is commonly couched in methods most akin to either the academic or forensic arenas.  From the use of specific jargon which is shorthand for entire schools of thought and reliance on formal logic to citations of scholars or scripture as support for arguments, the discourse is lodged squarely between the ears.  For lack of a better term, I will call this the Theology of the Mind.

There is a separate and distinct religious conversation which is mostly devoid of these things.  In this dialogue, the religious experience has an entirely different vocabulary which uses pseudo-psychosocial terminology to describe esoteric and mystical events which can neither be reliably repeated nor explained through reason and logic.  It is the Spirituality of the Heart.

Here's the trouble.  Both are the allegorical blind men standing in front of the elephant, vehemently arguing that the other is a fool.  Without the Spirituality of the Heart, the Theology of the Mind is an exceptionally elaborate set of metaphysical exercises and philosophical constructs which use logic and reason to lead into a blind alley of mental masturbation - personally satisfying but ultimately fruitless.  Without the Theology of Mind, the Spirituality of the Heart floats like so much incense in a haze - sweet smelling and pungent but eventually cloying and directionless.

For a more accurate representation ( for we can never gain a truly complete or accurate understanding of the ineffable Divine), one must unite the two disparate vocabularies and have a discussion of both simultaneously, interchanging one and the other in a harmonious marriage all the while recognizing that both are still only a partial description of what is going on.

Put differently...
For what man knows God's counsel, or who can conceive what our LORD intends?  For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.  For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.  And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?  (Wisdom 9:13-16)

Friday, March 25

Ownership and identity within the RC church

There have been a number of polls released recently that have mutually reinforcing data.  This data demonstrates a pattern that has certain fundamental implications which many haven't really examined. 

In general, the US population has continued it's trend of social acceptance of homosexuality and recently reached the point where a majority of americans support gay marriage.  Of somewhat greater interest, but no great surprize, is that research points to RC laity being stronger in support of gay marriage and, more generally, gay rights, than other religious laity.  This leads me to the recent remarks by Vatican officials doubling down against gay rights.

In short, the leadership and the laity are substantively at variance when it comes to rights based upon sexual orientation, women's rights (including ordination),  just about ANYTHING to do with sex....there's a list.  Andrew Greeley has been making a living off of the statistical analysis of this phenomenon for decades, so it should come as no surprize.  The question comes to me, then...

Who is the church?  Is it the formal structure consisting of theocrats who promulgate doctrine and their local, ordained representatives?  Is it the general mass of parishioners who fill (or empty) the pews?  If there are differences in ideology and practical application thereof, who take precedence? 

Augustine would side with the parishioners as being "the Body of Christ" and there is substantive Tradition from his time forward to support that position.  If that is the case, then I would boldly assert that it is the laity who needs to seize ownership of the Church which is them and spearhead a reform...a correction to re-align the formal structure to be more in keeping with both the precepts of the Deposit of Faith as well as the the sensus fidelium.

Addendum: Much of what I have said here applies to other formal religions, in the broad catholic and protestant communities and in other faiths as well.  I have used the RC church as an example because it is possibly the most egregious example at hand as well as one that is most in my mind at present.

Thursday, March 24

Intent and Action

Blog synthesis and synchronicity can be surprizing and occasionally painful.  Hold on to your skirts.

On multiple blogs today, it was raised that the 'Church' is not interested in attempting to affect, regulate or otherwise constrain thought, but rather is interested in modifying external behaviours.  This is most recently evidenced in the Vatican's address to the UN Human Rights Council on homosexuality, where they simultaneously defend a person's right to think and feel as they choose, but a person's right to act upon those thoughts and feelings should be regulated by the state (or, by extension, the church).

Christ goes on at some length against the pharisees (Mat 5:27-28, 15:18-20, Mk. 7: 20-23, etc.) who argue that this and that action must or must not be done, saying instead that it is the intent behind those actions which matter.

To me, it is most plainly stated in the simple phrase that the sum of all the Law and the Prophets is to love God and love your neighbour.  Love isn't an is a mover, a prime intent.  It's the 'why' behind the 'what' we do (or don't do).  THAT is what religion is about, what the Divine wishes us to examine and hone.  To look after our 'why'...our intent.  If we are clear and honest about that, then the 'what' is far more likely to conform to the 'why', the actions will more naturally follow the intent.

Wednesday, March 23

and a voice said....

"You are a being of light, suffused with the Holy Spirit."

We are in communion with the ineffable Divine who has permitted, in Her infinite grace and mercy to grant us that gift.

"You are a being of light, suffused with the Holy Spirit."

He is with us, She is in us.

"You are a being of light, suffused with the Holy Spirit."

It is only our own lack of vision, doubt and lack of connectedness to ourselves (and, thus, the rest of the Universe) which blinds us to that fact.

We are all Beings of Light, suffused with the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, Dad.

Tuesday, March 22

Honours and titles

This is not really where I was going this morning, but it appears my train of thought has been hijacked.

It appears that the latest tornade du jour is a priest named John Corapi, the millionaire and regular on EWTN who has been described as a manly man hero-priest, accused of drug use and philandering with adult women.  His guilt or innocence is of no matter to me and it's above my pay-grade to judge his actions.  But none of that, honestly, is what I'm on about.

Reading the CNS 'news article' about the issue, something really struck home.  Archbishop X says, Bishop Y replies, Father Z, intimates.  Common journalistic practice is to mention full names and titles once, then go to last name afterwards, but every reference to a person was preceded by their ecclesiastical title, as if to impress upon the reader the piety and apostolic imprimatur inherent in their statements and opinions.  Normally, this would be annoying and a snarky one-liner in the comments of another person's blog.

Normally, but things haven't been 'normal' round these parts in some time.
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."  (Mt 23:1-9)
 There's a lot which I could write (and have but deleted) that is pointed, truthful and would do little to reconcile or educate.  Best if you read the Rabbi's words, not mine.

Monday, March 21


This may not make sense to anyone but myself.  In 5 years, this may not make a lot of sense even to me.

There's a big difference between 'stop wrigglin' and 'taking the pill'.  The first is a tacit acceptance of what is, of being outmatched and submitting to the will of a power greater than yours.  It is a matter of the head, rationalizing where you are and attempting to make sense of the situation.  The second is the open acceptance of an offer which requires trust and is, in many ways, a matter of the heart.

After some lengthy discussions with Dad over the weekend, I have come to some realizations and at least one conclusion.  A lot of the 'head-knowledge' sunk down to my heart.  A good number of things which I have 'known', I now understand.  Lent is all about transformation, they say.  Once you can't go back.

Dad says that no matter how deep the rabbit-hole goes, He'll be there to catch me.  No matter how dark it is in there, She'll light the path.

It's real cherry flavouring, too.  :)

Saturday, March 19

leaves of lent

Lent is about transformation and re-dedication.  The OT reading today is from Ezekiel, which says that a wicked man who turns from evil and does good will not be judged by his past wrongs, but rather by the present good.  Similarly, a righteous man who strays from the path and lives in inequity will pay the price for it...his past good will not mitigate his present evil deeds.

It is never too late to turn back, never too late to fall off the path.  As Sirach says, "Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him.".

All those who come to the Lord do so in their own time, not on our time-tables.  What matters is that they DO turn over that leaf, that they reconcile themselves with the Divine and make the change in their hearts.  By the same token, we are all mortal, fallible creatures who are easily distracted, misguided and deluded. 

We can all fall...if we wish to.

It IS our choice - life or death.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 17

Standing on the threshold

Last night was Vespers backed up by the adult group watching one of the talks from the Emerging Church series. 

In place of a standard homily, the combined liturgy committees decided to invite speakers from the community to share about different social causes being championed in the area.  Last night, it was a social worker who is associated with an NGO that provides a market for products made by Ugandan widows.  One thing she mentioned is how very scary and wonderful her world became when she surrendered control and let the Spirit run things.

From there, I go to Suzanne Stabile, spending an hour talking about 'liminal space'.  I must admit I don't like the term.  Like so much of the Emerging Church stuff, it's couched in modern pseudo-business psycho-babble which clouds the issues far more than they need to be.  'Liminal space' is the threshold, that point when things are in transition.  It is the place of 'becoming', the dawn which is the bridge between night and day.  As Suzanne says, 'betwixt and between'.  That brings me to the image above.

In the historical re-enactment group I was in, some folk had yurts.  A yurt has a cosmological significance, representing all the known world within it and the unknown world without.  Within is comfort, warmth and family.  Outside is the cold, wind and predators.  One of the most disrespectful things you can do is to stand on the threshold, bridging that gap between the known and unknown...the 'kin' and the 'other'.  And yet, that is precisely where Richard Rohr, Stabile (and myself) argue that God wants us to do (metaphorically).

On that edge where we are outside of our comfort zone, beyond the forms and customs which define the 'kin' and on the margins of what we know.  It is there, betwixt the comfortable, if antiquated, past and the brave, new future is the power of transformation.  That is where the Spirit lies and moves.  It is where we are least comfortable, for we have come to grips with 'ye olde ways' not working while not yet understanding what the 'new hotness' is (let alone that it really doesn't exist yet).

There is a great tradition of spiritual leaders going into that go 'outside' and find transformation.  Whether it is Siddhartha's Bodhi tree, Christ's 40 days in the wilderness or Gandhi's time in Natal.  They were all put out of their comfort zone and held there long enough for things to change inside of them.  Then, they came back to 'civilization' and changed what was outside of them.

It is no secret that what has worked in the past, religiously, culturally, economically and politically...none of them are presently inadequate.  Change must and WILL occur, even if that change is catastrophic in nature.  Mayhap by standing on the threshold, we can collectively be changed within so that we can become the change we wish to see in the world.

Wednesday, March 16

Shake n Bake Theology, really.  I'll explain.

I was driving to work and thinking about how the interplay between God's mercy to save and our own responsibilities in the matter and it struck me.

It's Shake 'n Bake!

For those of you who may not know, shake 'n bake is a seasoned bread crumb mix who had this brilliant ad campaign featuring an adorable little girl, aged 3 or so.
"What's for dinner tonight, wifey?"
"It's shake 'n bake"
(and the little girl would chime in) "AND I HELPED!"

No matter how young, small or unskilled, each person has a part to play, a manner in which they can help.  Much of cooking really isn't about the food.  Anyone who has cooked for a family knows that.  You cook to show your love and care for those who sit at table.  That is why, regardless of skill level, what momma puts on the table is better than what you can get in a restaurant.  Of course, those who prepared supper can sit and enjoy it, but the true satisfaction is about the communion shared at the table.

The connection I am making (or trying to make) is how the small child is made an active and vital participant in the process of creation for the benefit of all.  Can mom do it all herself?  Of course, but then the child learns nothing and has no investment in something which is required for the child's health, well-being and survival.

Can God save us entirely ourselves, independent of any action on our part? Of course.  But then, what would we learn, how would we become more spiritually able if everything is handed to us?  That isn't how you raise kids or teach students.  The best way of learning about a thing and it's 'value' is to attempt to do it.

And just like the little girl who 'helps' mommy in the kitchen, we 'help' in the co-creation of the universe because we wish to, because we love God and want to please Him.

Again and comes back to the basics.  If you love God, you will do as She says and not do what He says not to do.  There isn't any of this "...and if you don't listen *thunder crack*" silliness, because that would be works motivated by fear, not by love.

"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love." (1 John 4:18)

P.S. - Now, I'm hungry.  I wonder what's for dinner?

Tuesday, March 15

Choosey prayers choose prayer

We are ploughing through the Sermon on the Mount in the readings and I figured we would get here eventually, where Christ teaches the disciples how to pray.

I won't try and talk about the prayer itself, but I would focus on the verses which bracket it.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Mt. 6:7-8)

This brings back my 'Bennie Situation' discussion.  God knows how powerful, how good and how merciful She is and He doesn't need reminding.  Not unlike my mother when I was in college, She knows why you're 'calling' even before you pick up the spiritual phone.  Do we need to pray at all, then?  Sure...just like I need to call my mother and tell her that I love her (mental note, call mother).   Prayer focuses our mind on matter spiritual, helps us sort things out and express our gratitude for what He has done for us.

The second, trailing bracket is as important.

"If you forgive the failures of others, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you don't forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failures." (Mt 6:14-15)

It's easy to point and damn.  It is MUCH harder to point and forgive.  To acknowledge that a wrong has been done, to recognize the pain and harm that wrong has done and to forgive the perpetrator of this wrong which has caused pain and harm.

To echo yesterday's reading (and Sirach), to forgive or not forgive is a choice which is OURS to make.  God has given us the innate capability, but we must choose to do so.  There are consequences here, as before.  If you wish the forgiveness of God (who knows EVERYTHING you've done), then you need to forgive others.  Note, there aren't conditions, stipulations, provisos, codas or addendums.  Just do it, or don't .  Your choice.

Monday, March 14

bridges, Mr. Shoebat...we build bridges 'round these parts.

My dear Ex, who I am great friends with, sent me a link today and was nigh apoplectic regarding it's contents.  The lecturer is a fellow named Walid Shoebat, a former Muslim/anti-zionist who has become an ardent pro-zionist Christian.

A basic summary of the nearly 7 minute video is that, in the book of Revelations (aka the Apocalypse), the specific part which delineates the number of the beast has been mistranslated.  Instead of being a greek trigram (chi, xi, sigma)  which stands for the number 666 (or, in some interpretations, 616), it instead is an arabic sigil which reads (if you read it backwards and/or sideways) 'in the name of A_h' with an X representing two crossed swords. 

To quote the lecturer, 'why would God put three greek symbols into the text?'.  My immediate reply would be, mayhap foolishly, because the rest of the text is in greek and those 'symbols' are these things we call 'letters'.  Further analysis finds that some of the texts state the number in full 'ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ (six hundred sixty six)'.  I would point out that the greek use of these 'symbols' in the early copies of this text significantly predate the earliest known example of arabic as a language.

This sort of stuff brings to mind the craze back in the 1980's of 'certain Christian' groups playing heavy metal records backwards to try and make out messages from 'teh Debil'.  His talk was well received with many nodding heads as he winds up to his conclusion that those who follow his former religion mark themselves with the sign of the Beast and, thus, must be agents of the Anti-Christ.

Why am I bringing this up?  Why pour energy into a 'angels on a pinhead' argument regarding an obscure bit of dialictic in a book that was considered "dubious at best" by both Luther and Trent that will do naught but cause division and strife?

That's PRECISELY my point.

To echo my Crone - "Where is God in this?"

To put it in my phraseology - "How does this help people to love the Divine and to love our neighbours (who are ALL mankind)?"

To argue about such things sows discord and division, which is antithetical to the teachings of the great teachers of the book, be it Hillel, Jesus or (I would argue) the Prophet.

Love Her, do good and keep your nose clean.  That means we build bridges, not walls.

Sheep and goats

THIS is why they have to be separated
So, today's reading is one of the classics, wherein The Hippie channels some of his Dad's old-skool wrath and explains that actions have consequences.
See, believing isn't enough.  It is vital to the task (one must have proper intent), but there is more to it than that.  One must be doing as well.  "Faith without works is dead", you may recall James saying.  Further, he points out that it is all about doing what needs doing to those who are most in need and least able to repay.  "whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."

This is all (to me, anyways) obvious stuff and old chestnuts.  Do this, please God and there will be awesome and win forever and ever!  And what happens if you don't do this?  You'll wake the OT YHWH and he'll be all angry and hollering in Elizabethan English.

If I may be so bold, I would consider a repackaging of the story.  At the end of days, there will be those who have stood up for Justice, been Prudent in their discernment of good and evil, had the fortitude to do the messy, thankless jobs as easily and willingly as the simple ones and temperance to have the passions of the heart be moderated by the cool reason of the mind.  Those people will be effused with love, bouyed by hope and grounded in faith.There will be a second group who has not embraced these bold tenets, eschewing them for more reasonable, rational and attainable goals.

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which the Lord of all Creation will speak 'forsoothly' to.

Friday, March 11

Thoughts about fasting and sacrifice....

Ceiling cat sez 'Do not want!'
Lent is, by tradition, the 40 day time of preparation for Easter with the time period linked to Christ going into the wilderness to prepare for his ministry, fasting for 40 days and rebuking the devil three times.

Since most of us don't have 40 days a year in vacation time, one of the most visible and traditional aspects of Lent is the forgoing of something of personal value (normally something which you enjoy but may not be 'good' for you).

Now, I recognize and openly affirm the thought of setting time aside to specifically have a re-focusing of priorities with an eye towards the Divine.  They're called 'sabbaticals'.  Further, I recognize the value of using the occasion as a way of breaking old habits and establishing new ones - if that is what you wish to do.  I am not discounting these ideas in the least.

But, all too often, that's not what Lent is about.

All too often, the purpose behind this sacrifice has little to do with the cleansing power of a preparation ritual.  Instead, individuals pantomime the ritual as a public, temporary sacrifice performed (perfectly or not) for the benefit of others.  Cue the OT reading of the day, Isaiah 58:5-7:
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’

I will tell you why!  It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?

No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
Right, then.  This brings to mind Hosea 6:6 (which Christ quotes in Mathew and Mark and others echo elsewhere):
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.
As I've mentioned before, I have serious questions regarding the validity and probative value of ascetism in general.  The idea of performing some temporary, mild form of self-denial/mortification because people think it is culturally appropriate and a defining characteristic being a 'good' christian?  That seems pretty blinkin foolish. 

All of this, all of religion/sprirtuality, it's all about your relationship with the Divine.  It isn't about what is socially approved or expected of you.  Take time and talk to Him.  Cut out the distractions and focus your thoughts towards what She desires.  Prepare the ground for God to plant the seed within you.  Let Her do the rest.

Wednesday, March 9

Reflections on Lent

As we come together for Ash Wednesday, I come to think about what we, as catholics do during Lent.  Much of what constitutes Catholicism is writ in non-liturgical custom and tradition which is highly variable in its direct relationship with Scripture.  Even more of interest is that these things, not the theology, is what most people (catholics and non) associate with the religion.

For myself, Lent is a time to double down on my reflections, do serious self-examination and discard those things which have accumulated over the year which are a hindrance to my looking Godward.  Does that mean I eat meat during lent?  I don't see how a piece of chicken or a steak for supper keeps me from God any more or less than some salmon.  What about the ashes?  Yes, both for myself but also for the church community.  Ignoring any personal significance, communal rites (which are most of our rites) are outward signs of unity and powerful social glue. 

As is my wont, my critical eye looks beyond myself and to the church and society as a whole. How does [X] affect a person's ability to 'Love God and their neighbour'?  Everything which impedes needs to be stripped away, because it's getting between the human (that would be ALL of us, individually and collectively) and the Divine.

For our church, Lent is framed in the language of a pilgrimage or journey.  We do labyrinth walks and hikes (weather permitting) and a lot of contemplative work.  Each of us who has decided to earnestly follow Christ are walking down a road, on that journey.  Some are farther along than others.  Some of us have decided to take the 'scenic route'.  We all walk at our own pace, taking breaks as we need to and doing a bunch of stumbling about in the darkness.  That's OK, though.  We've seen a great light.  We just have to keep focused on that Light.

Thanks be to God. 

Tuesday, March 8

Iacta alea est

One river, roman legion not included.
The phrase 'Crossing the Rubicon' is used with frequency to refer to a decision that, once made, cannot be undone.

The eponymous example involves the Roman law that any general who enters the province of Italy without disbanding his army will be considered raising war against Rome, with the penalty that the general and every member of his army will be put to death.  The Rubicon River was the boundary line between Cisalpine Gaul (which was under Gaius Julius Caesar's governorship) and Italy proper.

Seutonius describes how Caesar underscores the step they were considering taking.  "Even now, we can turn back, but once across that bridge, all will be done by force of arms."  Caesar hesitates and ponders, eventually having a vision which spurs him on to say those famous words. "We take the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out.  The die is cast!" (an alternate translation to this last would be 'The game is afoot').

Not unlike Caesar, I have stood astride my own river, pondering if I should, if I could, if I DARE do this dangerous thing.  I had no vision, but a Still, Small Voice which has lead me to paraphrase Caesar:

"Sequar ostenta quo Deus ostenta audivi. Iacta alea est!"

I will follow the signs by which I have heard God. The game is afoot!

Tonight, the Ministry Council will be informed regarding my candidacy for presbyter ordination and will discuss same with a mind as to how to proceed. May our loving Father grant us all wisdom and clarity.

Thanks be to God

Friday, March 4

Conflating equality with identic

Once again, an insightful blog post from Colkoch has got me thinking.

Cardinal George has written an article in the Catholic New World titled "Why doesn't God love everyone equally?"  This question is penned with the assumption that God loves people in different ratios and some enjoy His favour more than others.  As passing evidence, George mentions that there are 'great saints' and 'little saints' and uses this to support the concept that recognizing the unique character of each person is to accept that people are not equal.  Contra-wise, if one says that all persons are equal, then one risks living divorced 'from real people' - denying the rich diversity of the Gifts of the Spirit.

Ignoring, for a moment, the dozen or so places where it says (both in the OT and NT) that everyone (i.e.- mankind) is made in the image and likeness of God and that we are all alike in that we have sinned.  The message of the New Covenant is one of inclusion, that the invitation to salvation is universal and does not depend on status, ethnicity, or gender (Gal. 3).

This is one of the fundamental, radical notions of Christianity which makes it theologically unique and why it was so dangerous to the Romans.

In specific, Paul speaks at length about the unity of believers...the Body of Christ.  In 1 Cor. 12, he explicitly addresses that different people have different gifts and are called to different tasks, but none are more or less important or worthy of praise than another.  Note that Paul recognizes the diversity of gifts which we have.  He does not deny that in the least, but he points out that they are all equally worthy.  There are no 'great saints' or 'little saints'.  All believers (alive or dead) are saints in communion with God and each other.

The natural world does not have discrete classes or borders.  Those divisions are invented and imposed by man.  The uniquely Christian message is one of unity and wholeness, not division and separation.  WE are the Body of Christ.  Some are hands, some are feet, some are eyes...but we are all equal.

Wednesday, March 2

hmm...of course, I could be wrong (with apologies to MadPriest)

One more handbill and I can afford shoes!
I have frequently referred to myself as a heretic, for the greek base of the word means 'one who chooses or decides' and I like the connotations of that.  Rather than having it all spoon-fed by the pope or the padre, I've done my own digging, praying and reflecting...coming to my own conclusions (whether they be horribly orthodoxical or not).

Then I run into this quote by some old german theologian (no, not the whack-a-doodle, the one named after the civil rights leader).

"I shall never be a heretic; I may err in dispute, but I do not wish to decide anything finally; on the other hand, I am not bound by the opinions of men."   -Martin Luther

I see the wisdom of that, to be sure.  New insights, revelations and circumstances can show the fallacy of what seemed true, the folly of the wise.  For now, I'll settle on heretic, but I could be wrong.

Tuesday, March 1

Religion - You're doing it wrong! (Paul of Tarsus, most of his letters)

What is required to be a Christian?  A Catholic?

Does one need an organ? A choir? Music at all?

Does one need incense or bells? A sacramentary? Special clothes?

Does one need a dedicated sanctuary? A dedicated celebrant?

In the days of Paul, they didn't.  Augustine didn't have most of those things either.  It is part of the Tradition which has built up over time.  That said, there was a religious organization which DID have those things back in Jesus' day....and he didn't really have a lot of good things to say about them.

Now, it's not to say that there is anything intrinsically wrong or evil about those things.  They are reasonable and decent support mechanisms to assist in the worship process.   The trouble is that the priests were consumed with these mechanisms and took their eyes off the purpose of these things - to worship and praise the Divine.  If the letter of the law is more important than its spirit, when custom and tradition act as barriers instead of bridges, we fall into the same sorts of traps that Christ rails against.  This recalls a point from yesterday about the importance of intent.  If we do good because God wishes it and we wish to please Her, then that is all and well.  If we do good because ancient texts and hoary custom demand it, then there's something fundamentally wrong, for we would be in service to texts and custom, not to Him.

For some folk, having the ornaments and trappings of a traditional Catholic mass significantly enhances their worship.  For others, it is a distraction which inhibits their capability of connecting with the Divine.  I will recall the gospel verse from a few days hence.  "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off". (Mk. 9:43).  If the choir or the sanctuary or any of these things causes you to be distracted from God, set them aside. 

Focus on loving God and doing right by your neighbour. 
Focus on the moon (or, perhaps, the Son) and not all those fingers pointing.