March 10, 2017

Eating in a Hurry

Yesterday there came around in the Office of Readings the instructions for the Passover in Exodus chapter 12.

This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you will eat it in a hurry. It is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:11)

The Passover is eaten like those in flight,  fleeing from the oppression and slavery of Egypt, reeling with God's plagues, into the long journey that will one day bring God's people into the Promised Land.

And so it for us who have been grafted into the covenants God made with his people, with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, in the new and eternal covenant sealed in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, who has passed over--through the suffering, alienation, and death our first parents earned for us by their disobedience and we ourselves continue to provide for ourselves with our sins each day--to the Let there be light of the First Day of the new creation revealed in his Resurrection.

In this saving passing-over, Jesus Christ has given to us as our spiritual food the same Body in which he makes this journey, so that the movement of his passing from death to life might come to live in our bodies and become the operating principle of our lives, drawing us each day from the futility of the old creation into the hope and promise of the New.

And we receive this Holy Communion, eating like those in flight. We flee from all the futile conduct handed on to us by our ancestors (cf. 1 Peter 1:18), all the tendencies to sin, to maladaptive and destructive ways of thinking, to selfishness that only turns back to harm us--all these orientations to our own misery that we learned before we knew any better (and this is the handing on of original sin in its practical consequences). When all of these injuries and legacies of sin living in each one of us mix together and form structures and embedded injustices, they become the bundle of passions and sufferings that the spiritual life has traditionally called the world. And our spiritual life, our life in the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is in part the daily effort to nudge ourselves into this flight from the world. This effort is called ascesis.

But just as we are fleeing from something in Holy Communion, we are also fleeing towards something. We orient and reorient ourselves each day to the new creation of which we have been made citizens by baptism. We run toward the discovery of who we are in God's eyes, our true personhood and identity hidden under all the layers of illusion and all the 'fake news' we have been taught about ourselves by the world. We learn to love with the very love of Christ that has condescended joyfully to make a home in our heart, to love others (and indeed every created thing) more and more as God sees them in their unique and unrepeatable God-given dignity, and less and less according to our own selfish wants, prejudices, conveniences, and worldly ideologies.

This is the journey on which we are in a hurry when we eat the Passover, when we receive Holy Communion, until finally we receive Holy Communion for the last time, as viaticum, knowingly or not, as our provision for the last step of the journey for which we have been (hopefully) preparing well, our own passing over, in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, from this world to the Father.

February 25, 2017

On Judging Others (and God)

"Such is the lowliness of our condition in this life; for we think others are like ourselves and we judge others according to what we ourselves are, since our judgment arises from within us and not outside us. Thus the thief thinks others also steal; and the lustful think others are lustful too; and the malicious think others also bear malice, their judgment stemming from their own malice; and the good think well of others, for their judgment flows from the goodness of their own thoughts; and to those who are careless and asleep, it seems that others are too.

"Hence it is that when we are careless and asleep in God's presence, it seems to us it is God who is asleep and neglectful of us, as is seen in psalm 43 were David calls to him: Arise, Lord, why do you sleep? Arise (Ps. 44:23). He attributed to God what is characteristic of humans, for since they are the ones who are fallen and asleep, he tells God to arise and awaken; although he who watches over Israel never sleeps (Ps. 121:4)."

(John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, 4,8)

February 13, 2017

The Many Patron Saints of Europe

One of the things you notice living the liturgy here in Europe is that they have a lot of patron saints. Six, in fact. And so their feast days come around with some regularity:
  • Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop, February 14
  • Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor, April 29
  • Benedict, abbot, July 11
  • Bridget of Sweden, founder (and mother of a saint, Catherine of Sweden), July 23
  • Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, virgin and martyr (Edith Stein), August 9
Seeing that tomorrow is one of these feast days, I did a little looking around and discovered that all of this heavenly patronage is of fairly recent articulation.

February 3, 2017

Friday Ramble

Recently I was in an email thread with some friars on the 'Lent of Benediction,' one the fasts described in the Rule. It begins after Epiphany. It's called 'of benediction' because it's optional according to the Rule and those who keep it are 'blessed.'

The conversation inspired me to reread, or perhaps read properly for the first time, Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini (1966) on fast and abstinence. This led me also to read, I'm sure for the first time (to my shame) the United States Bishops' Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence, issued later the same year.

I admit that I was surprised and struck by this section in Paenitemini:
The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday ... Their substantial observance binds gravely. (II. 1)
(my emphasis)

January 28, 2017

Dom Chautard on Losing Youth

Recently I read some alarming thing about how people are abandoning the faith younger and younger. I was reminded of one of the times some poor bird got into the church in Yonkers and everyone was discussing how to help it escape. 

"Give it the sacrament of Confirmation," offered one sardonic soul.

January 19, 2017

Macarius the Great

According the Roman Martyrology, today is the feast of Macarius the Great.
A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, 'Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.' So the old man said, 'Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.' The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, 'Didn't they say anything to you?' He replied, 'No.' The old man said, 'Go back tomorrow and praise them.' So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, 'Apostles, saints and righteous men.' He returned to the old man and said to him, ‘ I have complimented them’. And the old man said to him, 'Did they not answer you?' The brother said no. The old man said to him, 'You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.'
(Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

All Things To All

"I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" said St. Paul. (1 Cor 9:22) And so the saints who followed.

In that spirit, Mother Teresa now available in happy, pensive, disapproving, motherly, frozen in carbonite, and mermaid.

(click to enlarge)