Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Radioheadian Epistemology (veiled references to unveiled hearts)

2/23/11 (look it up, dear!)

Are we all aligned? What time is it? Where are we today? So many questions and so little time, or so it would seem. But enough about me and thee, let's go back to 2/23.....

While you make pretty speeches,
I'm being cut to shreds.
You feed me to the lions,
a delicate balance

When this just feels like spinning plates.
I'm living in cloud cuckoo land.
And this just feels like spinning plates
Our bodies floating down the muddy river.

Before there was a Thom Yorke, someone else was once both cut to shreds (by fire, after the threat of lions, nonetheless!) and yet made beautiful speeches at the same time. But if speeches are speeches, and all things are equal, maybe our lot is simply to fall down a river after the tragedies end at the Colosseum and the drunken Romans leave the party. 2/23, 2/23, 2/23.

Are we all shouting into the cold air at the same volume? Does no one stand at an ambon to elevate their words? Is the phrase axios not axiomatic? I wonder. The emperor of no imperium may be standing with no clothes, in the end. 10/31, 10/31, 10/31...ah, but that is a digression, isn't it?

Thankfully, there are a few other words that come to mind and set one straight from the same muse (and God help you if you think Muse can speak to your heart in a better manner than Yorke et al.), equally set as a stage for a dream or three.

Don't get any big ideas
They're not going to happen

You paint yourself white
And fill up with noise
But there'll be something missing

Now that you've found it, it's gone
Now that you feel it, you don't
You've gone off the rails

So don't get any big ideas
They're not going to happen

You'll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking

There you have it. On second thought, let's hope this angle was flawed from the start. And naturally, I mean that in both ways.

2/23/11 (it will hurt if I swallow...)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

only 8 out of 3142 people got a 100% on this quiz

So i heard about a quiz where atheists and agnostics outperformed "religious people". Apparently American Catholics did the poorest. At any rate, I also heard that only 8/3142 got a 32/32 on the test.

Yours truly also got a 100%. It's sad that such an easy test was aced by so few.......let me know what you got, svp!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Metropolitan Jonah on Stillness, etc.

I sent these notes from a Lenten Retreat Given by Metropolitan Jonah in the form of text messages to my wife. I realize now more than ever that I need them. Presenting them unedited, for better or for worse. Each new paragraph is a new text message:

Dispassion is a major goal of the spiritual life by that non reaction we take control of ourselves.

Resentment gives the ones we resent the power over our lives.

Choosing not to react is on many levels. Not just inaction but keeping quiet but not even thinking negatively about someone. We can choose how to react. It's a matter of having the will to stop those reactions.

Sobriety is not just not being drunk, it's being in control of ourselves so we can be completely present to ourselves and to God.

You know you have resentment when you hear someone's name and feel angry. You have to go to that person and forgive them, to overlook and see the person inside. It is not absolution.

The goal of stillness is the loss of distractions, the loss of our ego to forget ourselves.

If you can sit for twenty minutes in stillness I guarantee you can not respond.

Passions are like the weather and stillness is like a mountain. Just sit down and be quiet remembering that God is present. Start with just one minute without thinking.

More stillness means more mastery of self and the true person will emerge.

The word passion and passive are connected. There is a sense in which they happen to us. But we have the choice to let things pass by or to focus on them.

Provocation, examination, assent. The steps from passion to agreement.

But from agreement one goes to action which has a string of its own to actually sin. His example is seeing a McDonald's ad for a big mac during lent.

You can stop at many points in this chain.

The best practice is to recognize the thought and to say no from the beginning.

Being sober and still allows you to dismiss the thought.

Example--annoying person at the parish. You start thinking about how they bother you.

Chain of judgmental thoughts starting with them offending. You don't have to react to their offense.

Doing this gives peace. You won't miss the service by thinking about this person and you can then love them.

Stillness means no thoughts. No distractions-contemplation vs. mediation. Meditation is thinking but contemplation is silent focused awareness of God.

Best way to prepare for confession. This reflects our maturity. Starts as a laundry list.

Important is not to look at particular instances. Those are usually symptoms. Look for underlying motivations.

Thinking about resentment to objectifying to hate to slander to self justifying. Be as honest with yourself as possible. Priests are tempted to judge people based on them thinking you are hiding, not based on saying things. False shame is an indication you are not willing to let go. Naming it puts you at war with it.

Monasteries have daily confession and thoughts are mentioned. Obsessive thoughts should be confessed even at a non-confession setting.

But thought confession takes too much time for non-monastics.

St. Isaac the Syrian-Salvation is consciousness in God.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Schism, the lack thereof, and a hope for the future by meditating on failures of the past

"Whoever suggested such a thing to you and how did they ever lead your mind astray? ... How, indeed, is the Greek Church to be brought back into ecclesiastical communion and a devotion for this Apostolic See when she has been beset with so many afflictions and persecutions that she sees in Latins only an example of perdition and the works of darkness, so that she now, and with reason, detests the Latins more than dogs?" - Pope Innocent III

Source of the quote:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Helter Skelter Orthodoxy

"The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High." (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I am happy about people becoming Orthodox

(and why our common voice is not an excuse to ignore said common voice)

Read more here

Saturday, February 20, 2010


A Brief Analysis of the Typological Significance of Old Testament Readings for Immovable Feasts of the Byzantine Lectionary
1) Ezekiel 43:27-44:4
27And when these days are over, from the eighth day on, the priests shall offer your holocausts and peace offerings on the altar. Then I will accept you, says the Lord GOD. 1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, facing the east; but it was closed. 2 He said to me: This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed. 3 Only the prince may sit down in it to eat his meal in the presence of the LORD. He must enter by way of the vestibule of the gate, and leave by the same way. 4 Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the facade of the temple, and when I looked I saw the glory of the LORD filling the LORD'S temple, and I fell prone.

Feasts when read: Nativity of Theotokos, Protection of the Theotokos, Annunciation, Entry into the Temple, Dormition

Typological Significance/Reflections:
Ezekiel’s prophecy of a new and holy temple is a message to Israel during a period of oppression and a lack of prominence, where hope is needed. His image that takes place on the 8th day evokes the thought of a new accounting of time on a new week. This new beginning brings an era which tells a story that ends with the glory of the LORD filling the temple, causing the Holy Prophet to fall prostrate. But what of the verses that come before the arrival of glory? We read of a restriction to this new and holy temple. Its gates are closed to all because God Himself has entered it.
Where can we find the key to understanding this prophecy in our Tradition?
This passage is fittingly read during Marian feasts. The bricks and gold of the original Temple rite, though beautiful and the home of the glory of God during the Old Testament era, are overshadowed by the Mother of Our Lord. She, the inviolate One, is the closed gate that gave birth to God the Word. She as the temple of God Himself, brought the Invisible God to our Visible fleshly existence through the “gate” of her birth giving. As such, the manifestation of God’s glory as described in Ezekiel’s words is fully seen through the life of the Theotokos.
2) Isaiah 60:11-16

11 Your gates shall stand open constantly; day and night they shall not be closed But shall admit to you the wealth of nations, and their kings, in the vanguard. 12 For the people or kingdom shall perish that does not serve you; those nations shall be utterly destroyed. 13 The glory of Lebanon shall come to you: the cypress, the plane and the pine, To bring beauty to my sanctuary, and glory to the place where I set my feet. 14 The children of your oppressors shall come, bowing low before you; All those who despised you shall fall prostrate at your feet. They shall call you "City of the LORD," "Zion of the Holy One of Israel." 15 Once you were forsaken, hated and unvisited, Now I will make you the pride of the ages, a joy to generation after generation. 16 You shall suck the milk of nations, and be nursed at royal breasts; You shall know that I, the LORD, am your savior, your redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Feasts when read: Exaltation of the Cross, Great and Holy Saturday includes 1-16

Typological Significance/Reflections:
In Isaiah’s vision, we read of glory and safety coming to God’s people through the unlikely medium of wood. The image of gates standing open throughout day of night produces a powerful image of security. No locks are mentioned, as God’s people dwell in safety and their enemies face destruction. While the cedars of Lebanon receive acclaim in the Psalms, wood tends to be less glorious in our thinking than jewels and precious metals, but here we see that cypress, the plane, and pine bring beauty and glory to God’s sanctuary. The allusion of enemies bowing before God’s formerly forsaken people fits with our liturgical chant, “We Bow to Your Cross Oh Christ Our God, and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection”. It also matches the fulfillment in Church History where the Holy Cross protected the people of Constantinople. That great event of the Protection of the Cross, combined with the period between the Crucifixion and Resurrection where the significance of the wood is found in Our Lord’s Sufferings for our sake (Holy Saturday), takes this typological imagery and gives it a fuller meaning and existence.

3) Isaiah 11:1-10

1 But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. 2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, 3 and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, 4 But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. 5 Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. 6 Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. 7 The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. 8 The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair. 9 There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea. 10 On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Feasts when read: Eve of the Nativity

Typological Significance/Reflections: The springing forth of a new plant from the lineage of Jesse heralds the entry of a Just Judge who is filled with the fear of the Lord and His Spirit. His coming is not one of mere moral instruction-it leads to a change of the entire world, where images of dangerous animals like lions and cobras are seen to be pacified and peace and salvation spread from the mountain of the Lord to the whole land. This spread is connected with the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord. In a time when the Jews and their neighbors were not at peace, Isaiah’s prophecy ends by saying that this root of Jesse will be a signal to the nations, such that even the Gentiles will seek and find this Blessed One. Clearly this passage is a Messianic prophecy that only finds clarity in understanding what Our Lord’s Incarnation means, and thus it is fitting to read on the Eve of His Holy Nativity.

4) Isaiah 12:3-6

3 With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation, 4 and say on that day: Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. 5 Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth. 6 Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!

Feasts when read: Theophany

Typological Significance/Reflections: Water plays a relatively secondary role in the liturgical rituals of the Old Testament. The Pentateuch places a great emphasis upon the offerings that are to be sacrificed, prepared, burned, and the like. Salvation through fountains points to a transition in salvation history that, while prefigured through events such as the Flood and the Crossing of the River Jordan, one could not have predicted without a typological description such as this. St. Paul writes to the Colossians that baptism corresponds to Circumcision of the Old Covenant People of God (Colossians 2:11-12). At the Theophany, the appearance of God to His people through the cleansing waters of the Jordan brings us a vision of who God is and how we can approach His Holiness through Baptism into Christ-that vision is typologically shown by the writings of Isaiah in chapter 12.

5) Isaiah 40:1-3

1 Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Feasts when read: St. John the Baptist-conception and the third finding of the head

Typological Significance/Reflections:
Comfort, expiation, a voice from the desert proclaiming that God is coming to His people-these words tell of a time of preparation. The final Old Testament prophet would be coming, and Isaiah’s words here prepare us for this advent. The Holy Forerunner, Prophet, and Baptist John would come hundreds of years later to prepare the way of the Lord, and this great preparation made the way for forgiveness to stream to God’s people. In one sense, as verse two states, the service of Jerusalem would be an end-the Temple cult would end as its true significance would be manifested in the Paschal Lamb of God who, as the Baptist stated, takes away the sins of the world.

6) Exodus 24:12-18

12 The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments intended for their instruction." 13 So Moses set out with Joshua, his aide, and went up to the mountain of God. 14 The elders, however, had been told by him, "Wait here for us until we return to you. Aaron and Hur are staying with you. If anyone has a complaint, let him refer the matter to them."15 After Moses had gone up, a cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD settled upon Mount Sinai. The cloud covered it for six days, and on the seventh day he called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the mountaintop. 18 But Moses passed into the midst of the cloud as he went up on the mountain; and there he stayed for forty days and forty nights.

Feast when read: Transfiguration

Typological Significance/Reflections:
Moses received the great gift of God’s Presence and Laws for His People to follow Him rightly. As St. Paul reflects in 2 Corinthians, this glory was overwhelming but transitory (2 Cor 3:13). The Law and the Shekinah glory as seen in the cloud and fire were awe-inspiring but did not last beyond those moments. With the coming of Jesus Christ, an abiding presence was established and manifested at His Transfiguration. As Christ Himself said, he would be with us “to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). That God came to His representative (Moses) on a mountain was a message that He is near us, but this magnificent manifestation came and left. At the Incarnation of Christ, God walked among His people, but many times this was something that even His disciples could not grasp. At the Transfiguration, that confusion changed as the glorious event entered the pages of history. Christ showed that the glory of God was not seen most clearly in an inhuman cloud or pillar of fire. Instead, God was manifested to be present as a man-He is someone, instead of an abstract something. Our God became man, and that manifestation of His presence via His blinding glory was fulfilled in His countenance which shone with even greater (and unfading) glory that dwelled in God the Word.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

on capital punishment

I'm currently working through Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. Like many Russian novels, it is full of characters and lineages and names (and nicknames) that can be somewhat confusing, but now that it is going I am enjoying his depth of feeling about life and its meaning. His reflection on capital punishment, as given by Prince Myshkin, has gripped my thoughts for the past few days.

"...I saw an execution in France—at Lyons. Schneider took me over with him to see it."

"What, did they hang the fellow?"

"No, they cut off people's heads in France."

"What did the fellow do?—yell?"

"Oh no—it's the work of an instant. They put a man inside a frame and a sort of broad knife falls by machinery—they call the thing a guillotine-it falls with fearful force and weight-the head springs off so quickly that you can't wink your eye in between. But all the preparations are so dreadful. When they announce the sentence, you know, and prepare the criminal and tie his hands, and cart him off to the scaffold—that's the fearful part of the business. The people all crowd round—even women-though they don't at all approve of women looking on."

"No, it's not a thing for women."

"Of course not—of course not!—bah! The criminal was a fine intelligent fearless man; Le Gros was his name; and I may tell you—believe it or not, as you like—that when that man stepped upon the scaffold he cried, he did indeed,—he was as white as a bit of paper. Isn't it a dreadful idea that he should have cried—cried! Whoever heard of a grown man crying from fear—not a child, but a man who never had cried before—a grown man of forty-five years. Imagine what must have been going on in that man's mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that's what it is. Because it is said 'thou shalt not kill,' is he to be killed because he murdered some one else? No, it is not right, it's an impossible theory. I assure you, I saw the sight a month ago and it's dancing before my eyes to this moment. I dream of it, often."

The prince had grown animated as he spoke, and a tinge of colour suffused his pale face, though his way of talking was as quiet as ever. The servant followed his words with sympathetic interest. Clearly he was not at all anxious to bring the conversation to an end. Who knows? Perhaps he too was a man of imagination and with some capacity for thought.

"Well, at all events it is a good thing that there's no pain when the poor fellow's head flies off," he remarked.

"Do you know, though," cried the prince warmly, "you made that remark now, and everyone says the same thing, and the machine is designed with the purpose of avoiding pain, this guillotine I mean; but a thought came into my head then: what if it be a bad plan after all? You may laugh at my idea, perhaps—but I could not help its occurring to me all the same. Now with the rack and tortures and so on—you suffer terrible pain of course; but then your torture is bodily pain only (although no doubt you have plenty of that) until you die. But here I should imagine the most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all—but the certain knowledge that in an hour,—then in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now—this very instant—your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man—and that this is certain, certain! That's the point—the certainty of it. Just that instant when you place your head on the block and hear the iron grate over your head—then—that quarter of a second is the most awful of all.

"This is not my own fantastical opinion—many people have thought the same; but I feel it so deeply that I'll tell you what I think. I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime. A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed by a criminal. The man who is attacked by robbers at night, in a dark wood, or anywhere, undoubtedly hopes and hopes that he may yet escape until the very moment of his death. There are plenty of instances of a man running away, or imploring for mercy—at all events hoping on in some degree—even after his throat was cut. But in the case of an execution, that last hope—having which it is so immeasurably less dreadful to die,—is taken away from the wretch and certainty substituted in its place! There is his sentence, and with it that terrible certainty that he cannot possibly escape death—which, I consider, must be the most dreadful anguish in the world. You may place a soldier before a cannon's mouth in battle, and fire upon him—and he will still hope. But read to that same soldier his death-sentence, and he will either go mad or burst into tears. Who dares to say that any man can suffer this without going mad? No, no! it is an abuse, a shame, it is unnecessary—why should such a thing exist? Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their feelings afterwards. Our Lord Christ spoke of this anguish and dread. No! no! no! No man should be treated so, no man, no man!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On the Eve of the Nativity, words from Our Holy Father

Found here.

"God’s sign is that he makes himself small, he becomes a child"
"No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness." From Bethlehem erupts the news that changes everything, even the "hearts of stone." The pope's homily for Christmas Eve

by Benedict XVI

Dear brothers and sisters, "a child is born for us, a son is given to us" (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly "God with us". No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). For you the Saviour is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds.

It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?

The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch – they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean? The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His "self" is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one’s own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people. Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world. Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another. Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God.

To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence. There are people who describe themselves as "religiously tone deaf". The gift of a capacity to perceive God seems as if it is withheld from some. And indeed – our way of thinking and acting, the mentality of today’s world, the whole range of our experience is inclined to deaden our receptivity for God, to make us "tone deaf" towards him. And yet in every soul, the desire for God, the capacity to encounter him, is present, whether in a hidden way or overtly. In order to arrive at this vigilance, this awakening to what is essential, we should pray for ourselves and for others, for those who appear "tone deaf" and yet in whom there is a keen desire for God to manifest himself. The great theologian Origen said this: if I had the grace to see as Paul saw, I could even now (during the Liturgy) contemplate a great host of angels (cf. in Lk 23:9). And indeed, in the sacred liturgy, we are surrounded by the angels of God and the saints. The Lord himself is present in our midst. Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may become vigilant and clear-sighted, in this way bringing you close to others as well!

Let us return to the Christmas Gospel. It tells us that after listening to the Angel’s message, the shepherds said one to another: "‘Let us go over to Bethlehem’ … they went at once" (Lk 2:15f.). "They made haste" is literally what the Greek text says. What had been announced to them was so important that they had to go immediately. In fact, what had been said to them was utterly out of the ordinary. It changed the world. The Saviour is born. The long-awaited Son of David has come into the world in his own city. What could be more important? No doubt they were partly driven by curiosity, but first and foremost it was their excitement at the wonderful news that had been conveyed to them, of all people, to the little ones, to the seemingly unimportant. They made haste – they went at once.

In our daily life, it is not like that. For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place – however important they may be – so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time. Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbour is never time lost. It is the time when we are most truly alive, when we live our humanity to the full.

Some commentators point out that the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later. The commentators go on to say: this is quite natural. The shepherds lived nearby. They only needed to "come over" (cf. Lk 2:15), as we do when we go to visit our neighbours. The wise men, however, lived far away. They had to undertake a long and arduous journey in order to arrive in Bethlehem. And they needed guidance and direction.

Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbours and they can easily go to see him. But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell amongst us. We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him. But a path exists for all of us. The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals. He calls each one of us, so that we too can say: "Come on, ‘let us go over’ to Bethlehem – to the God who has come to meet us.

Yes indeed, God has set out towards us. Left to ourselves we could not reach him. The path is too much for our strength. But God has come down. He comes towards us. He has travelled the longer part of the journey. Now he invites us: come and see how much I love you. Come and see that I am here. "Transeamus usque Bethlehem," the Latin Bible says. Let us go there! Let us surpass ourselves! Let us journey towards God in all sorts of ways: along our interior path towards him, but also along very concrete paths – the Liturgy of the Church, the service of our neighbour, in whom Christ awaits us.

Let us once again listen directly to the Gospel. The shepherds tell one another the reason why they are setting off: "Let us see this thing that has happened." Literally the Greek text says: "Let us see this Word that has occurred there." Yes indeed, such is the radical newness of this night: the Word can be seen. For it has become flesh. The God of whom no image may be made – because any image would only diminish, or rather distort him – this God has himself become visible in the One who is his true image, as Saint Paul puts it (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15). In the figure of Jesus Christ, in the whole of his life and ministry, in his dying and rising, we can see the Word of God and hence the mystery of the living God himself.

This is what God is like. The Angel had said to the shepherds: "This will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Lk 2:12; cf. 2:16). God’s sign, the sign given to the shepherds and to us, is not an astonishing miracle. God’s sign is his humility. God’s sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love. How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God’s power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like. He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him.

Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love. Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist’s sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God’s love. Origen says of the pagans: "Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood" (in Lk 22:9). Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the Liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: "Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)" (in Lk 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Benedict XVI and the Christ Child

I read this article here this morning and had to share it.

Benedict XVI and the Christ Child
Leading American Catholic writer Amy Welborn says that the Pope's brilliantly perceptive reflections on the birth of Our Saviour can help us to deepen our appreciation of the truth and promise of Christmas

25 December 2009

Pope Benedict XVI blesses a Nativity scene at the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican (AP Photo)
The sentiment of the secular Christmas season might provoke a few mixed feelings. Although it seems ungrateful not to be, well... grateful that despite the unrelenting merchandising and secularisation, the basic points of love and giving seem to hold. On the other hand, Love who? Why? How? We know how even words about the highest truths can be drained of meaning and manipulated for base or even evil ends.

So we do sense the truth and promise of Christmas. But mired in postmodern vacuity and scepticism, we wonder, indeed, what we really could possibly mean as we sing: "Holy Infant, so tender and mild..."

And what does that long-ago event it have to do with my life, right now?

Enter Pope Benedict and the Child.

The Holy Father, we all know very well, is a brilliant theologian, but that is not as intimidating as it sounds. For with theologian Joseph Ratzinger, whose writing is consistently lucid, humble and even charming, the line between "theology" and "spiritual writing" frequently slips and even disappears.

So in a meditation composed during his time as Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger, beginning as he often does from something quite concrete, reflected on the devotion to an image of the Christ Child still preserved in a tree in Christkindl, placed there in the 17th century by a man suffering from epilepsy or, as the chronicler terms it, "the sickness where one falls down".

A church was eventually built around the tree, and devotion grew. Sweet, but is there anything more than sentimental piety here?

Well, yes. Ratzinger, in just a few words, links this tree with the tree of paradise, with Mary, the life-giving tree who gives us the fruit, Jesus, with the circular shape of the church, recalling the womb and baptism, our call to be born again as children, which is possible because God became a child.

For, as he writes, in a passage that never ceases to prompt me to pause in recognition, "we are all suffering from 'the sickness where one falls down' ".

How true. How very true.

"Again and again, we find ourselves unable interiorly to walk upright and to stand. Again and again, we fall down; we are not masters of our own lives; we are alienated; we are not free."

What is the answer? God's love - and there is nothing vague about this. God's love so very real and concrete that it is enfleshed and God himself comes to earth in the most startling of ways - as a baby. We need not look far for the "tree" holding the baby, Ratzinger says, the One who heals us from the sickness where we fall down: "Jesus, who is himself the fruit of the tree of life, and life itself, has becomes so small that our hands can enclose him", we can know him - and be redeemed.

In another meditation, then-Archbishop Ratzinger highlights St Francis of Assisi's role in shaping Christmas devotion in his creation of the original crèche at Greccio. He points to the radical implications of the Word-Made-Flesh as a Child, that this is not about mere sentiment, but about how we must be: "his existence as a child shows us how we come to God and to deification ... One who has not grasped the mystery of Christmas has failed to grasp the decisive element in Christianity" - that to enter the Kingdom we must become like Him. Like a child.

As we continue to read what the Holy Father writes about the Christ Child in his homilies as Pope, the same idea emerges again and again: if we want to know who God is, look at the Child. If we, in our emptiness, sin and hopelessness, want to know if our lives have meaning and if we are loved, look to the Child. If we want to know how to love, look to the Child. Most important of all, if we want to not just have the right ideas, but to actually live in love now and forever, know and love the Child. At Midnight Mass in 2006, the Holy Father's words bring the Good News about God, us and this broken world:

"God's sign is simplicity. God's sign is the baby. God's sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby - defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will - we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him."

My own favourite object of Christmas meditation is a real, actual baby. Now that I have none of my own, I must seek one out - at a Catholic Mass that is not too hard - and consider the tiny thing, eyes wide open staring at me and the rest of the world, or closed in blissful sleep, nestled against its mother's neck.

"God is so great that he can become small," Pope Benedict said at Midnight Mass in 2005. "God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendour and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: 'You are my son, this day I have begotten you'. God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger: this is how God is. This is how we come to know him."

Real. Concrete. Flesh and blood. In such loving helplessness, helping us walk, because we have, indeed, all fallen down.

Amy Welborn is a freelance writer. She blogs at Her next book is Come Meet Jesus: An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI (Word Among Us Press), to be published in January 2010

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hell is "Safety" (reposted from awhile back, as fitting as ever)

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - Clive Staples Lewis, The Four Loves

what I mean by that small St. Therese quote

I don't know if this translates to those who don't know Spanish, or those who don't understand our affection for the Blessed Virgin. But this celebration in Mexico City is amazing (and if you click on the youtube link it has multiple parts following). It is only idolatrous to the mind who does not see how connected we all are. It makes sense to those who know that our heavenly family is ONE. And she, together with all of the saints, have done so much to keep us from danger. The denial of this, is isolation. It's the world on each person's shoulders. There are many things about by reflections such as the Pilgrim's Progress that bother me, and I think it's the nature of his journey that appears to be so lonely. Overemphasizing who I am as an individual leads to egotism, and makes us forget how many times we have been helped.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What gives me joy

How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I've received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, and whom I shall know only in heaven. St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

cancion du jour


What should I blog about? I have too many ideas to start. I need focus.
The first 3 ideas people mention will receive my undivided attention (as possible as that is in the 21st century) and I'll just GO.

I need motivation, what can I say?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More blogs, less links!

That's my promise to you. I recently reached a milestone at work (1 year anniversary, yadda yadda), and realized that I need to not just link things, but share things with anyone may be interested in my mathoms.

We'll see what I have up my sleeve. My other thought is that I don't want this to be about one thing. At one point I had over 4 blogs that had funneled various thoughts about the world. Well, I think that anything that isn't too private that is worth blogging about (and those are two filters which would shrink the blogosphere in size by at least 100-fold) will make it's way here.

That's a goal that I have, at least.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bulgarian Orthodox Leader Affirms Desire for Unity with the Catholic Church

I'm lifting this directly from Bryan Cross' blog, Principium Unitatis. I had read the print article but hadn't seen the video footage until today. As an Eastern Catholic my heart's strong desire is to see these Orthodox Christians who are so close to communion with Catholics bridge the gap needed for us to share a meal at one common table. What a testimony to those who doubt this would be? There is so much confusion about all of the various groups who call on Christ--and I believe that with each barrier that is broken, the light grows more.

Bulgarian Orthodox Leader Affirms Desire for Unity

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2009 ( A Bulgarian Orthodox prelate told Benedict XVI of his desire for unity, and his commitment to accelerate communion with the Catholic Church.

At the end of Wednesday’s general audience, Bishop Tichon, head of the diocese for Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, stated to the Pope, “We must find unity as soon as possible and finally celebrate together,” L’Osservatore Romano reported.

“People don’t understand our divisions and our discussions,” the bishop stated. He affirmed that he will “not spare any efforts” to work for the quick restoration of “communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”
Bishop Tichon said that “the theological dialogue that is going forward in these days in Cyprus is certainly important, but we should not be afraid to say that we must find as soon as possible the way to celebrate together.”

“A Catholic will not become an Orthodox and vice versa, but we must approach the altar together,” he added.
The prelate told the Pontiff that “this aspiration is a feeling that arose from the works of the assembly” of his diocese, held in Rome, in which all the priests and two delegates from every Bulgarian Orthodox parish took part.

“We have come to the Pope to express our desire for unity and also because he is the Bishop of Rome, the city that hosted our assembly,” he stated.

H/T: Overheard in the Sacristy

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I found this quote from Father Stephen Freeman's Blog, Glory to God for All Things.

Pray for those who make accusations against you. Say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, not ‘have mercy on him’, and your accuser will be embraced in this prayer. Does someone say something to you that upsets you? God knows it. What you have to do is open your arms and say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, and make your accuser one with yourself. And God knows what is torturing your accuser deep inside of him and, seeing your love, he hastens to help. He searches the desires of hearts. What is it that Saint Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans? He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because in accord with God He makes intercession for the saints.

Pray for the purification of each and every person so that you may imitate the prayer of the angels in your life. Yes, the angels don’t pray for themselves. This is how I pray for people, for the Church and for the body of the Church. The moment you pray for the Church, you are released from your passions. The moment you glorify God, your soul is calmed and sanctified by divine grace. This is the art I want you to learn.

The Elder Porphyrios from Wounded by Love.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Does God exist?

This video is awesome. Thanks to Thomas Peters, the American Papist, for this link: