"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Receiving the Word of God for Salvation

There is a classic formulation which says the Liturgy should revolve around the Word and Sacrament. The truth this conveys is important, but I believe obscures a reality I would like to make a bit more transparent. By joining the Word and Sacrament with a conjunction, it makes it sound like they are two different things. To that I would voice strong dissension.

When we participate in the Liturgy, we are being saved by the Word of the Father, Jesus Christ. He is the Word, as St. John clearly teaches. But this salvation is wrought through different means in the course of the service. After our opening hymns and prayers, we proceed immediately to the Word of the Father written. Three lessons of varying lengths are read in our hearing. Why? Therefore, get rid of all filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you that is able to save your soul." (James 1:21) Simply hearing the Word of God has a converting power to it. We need as we journey in this process of conversion, to regularly hear the word.

We must also hear it preached. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believed." (I Cor. 1:21) Yes, the Apostle confesses that preaching the divine mysteries can only come out as utter foolishness. But it has pleased God to use this method, this madness, to save people. In our daily walks with Christ, we cannot get away from regularly hearing sermons. Contrary to some opinion, it really doesn't make a difference how long the sermon is. Short and long sermons have their virtues. As long as it is Jesus Christ, and him crucified, that is preached, there the power of conversion exists.

To these points, I don't believe many will object. The Scriptures written and preached are necessary to salvation. Some readers may take exception with the next point. Further, I will depart from the classical formulation given earlier and give a version of it that I think makes clearer the point of the liturgy.

We must not only receive the Word of God written and preached, but the Word of God Incarnate. We need the flesh of Jesus also. Yet, it is not the Word plus his Flesh. Rather, they are different means of receiving the Word. As St. John teaches, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1) This Word becomes flesh in every liturgy. For as Christ himself said "This is my Body." Further, in John 6 Christ proclaims, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life within you." The Sacrament completes our access to the Word that saves us. When we come to church-we are coming to be saved. Some may say, "I'm already saved." Fair enough-you've begun well. But salvation is something in which me must continue-until the end. Attending mass at least once a week is quite necessary to continue. Because it is only there that we can encounter the Word of the Father in all the fulness which has been ordained.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Christian Response to the Death of Osama Bin Laden

"But I tell you; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Mt. 5:44

When thinking about what I would write, the concept of loving your enemy was prominent in my mind. But it wasn't until I looked up the passage cited above that I remembered Christ added the addendum "pray for those who persecute you."

Osama bin Laden is responsible for the deaths of many people in the West and from various statements, we can deduce he would not have minded being responsible for more. I don't know if you want to say that he was the face of evil, but he was a mastermind of terrorism. Bin Laden was a bad man. Calling a spade "a spade" is not something to be feared. Indeed, the concept of justice and its execution ought to be celebrated.

But here a crucial distinction needs to be made. Suitable punishment is different from rejoicing in a human's downfall. I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would say "the only peace we have is that he is definitely not in heaven." I sincerely hope that bin Laden met the Divine Mercy in some moment before his judgement. In fact, I prayed for it. Because as Jesus said, we pray for those who persecute us. Further, any Christian who has read these words of Christ needs to be praying for other Christians who are struggling with hatred. We all have sins with which we struggle-judgement of their small-mindedness is not becoming.

But as we pray, it must be noted that we fail at being Christians the moment we celebrate the death of someone who has done us evil. If the commandment given in the sermon on the mount was not enough to drive us to our knees to beg for mercy on bin Laden's soul, the example Christ set certainly should. For it was on his cross, bleeding and dying for the people who betrayed him, that Christ prayed for those who persecuted him. "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."

Violence never breaks the cycle of violence, nor hatred of hatred. I don't mind saying the terrorist got what he deserved, but it is outside the realm of Christianity to be happy that he is dead. And it is bizzarely inhuman to rejoice at the prospect that he is in Hell.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reason for the Switch

Dear readers,

Hopefully, the change in blog name and appearance hasn't thrown you off terribly. I wanted to give an explanation both theological and personal for the changes you see to this blog.

First, during this Holy Triduum, we rememeber God's love for his people. The sermon I heard last night on this subject was so good. The deacon at St. Mary's preached on "Why like this" as he pointed to the crucifix in the sanctuary. He gave the theological reasons for redemption from sin. But why not another way? His answer was that Jesus wanted to reveal something about himself. So much does God long for us to walk in communion with him that he is willing to the take the utter nastiness and ugliness of human corruption on himself. The crucifixion's severity is directly proportianate to the desire of God that we would again walk with him peacefully in the garden.

To say we are in love with God and God with us has, on the one hand, the sound of flaring teenage hormones. But it isn't that. We are actually in Love; United with the One who embodies love, because he united matter, a body, to his Deity. The Incarnation makes it possible for us to have a true, organic relationship with Jesus. We are grafted into him in a way that cannot be severed as long as we follow him in obedience. We are in Love and Love is in us. Holy Thursday and Good Friday, particularly, drive home the forging of this relationship and God's longing for it to be lasting.

Personally, I've changed the blog name and appearance for several reasons. First and foremost, I hated the layout and coloring of enchantingrelish. I just hadn't had time to change it. Furthermore, I was no longer thrilled with the name. Some of you may have read the post sometime back explaining why I had chosen such a title. But the truth is, while the friend who first introduced me to this quotation from Shakespeare will always be a friend, we are not close. Additionally, I've never been an avid reader of Shakespeare, nor is drama, Medieval English or otherwise, the theme of this blog. The new name reflects better the desire of this blog to help evangelize the web, explore theological, political, and cultural issues, and to provide a stage for conversation about the same.

The name change is also a reminder to myself. Of all the sins that I know afflict me (Lord have mercy) self-pity ranks fairly high. In the Great Divorce, as well as other classics, pity is seen to have two sides. Pity as a weapon and pity as a redemptive force. It was pity to drove Christ to the events we have celebrated and will celebrate in the coming days. It is what should drive Christians to evangelism and social justice. However, the sick beings that we are, we corrupted even this good gift. By "we", in this case, certainly I refer to myself cheifly. We use pity, as C.S. Lewis says, to blackmail the world. We present our own situations as so pitiful that we drag everyone else down to our level. Indeed, we want others to be miserable with us. In a word, we desire Hell and for the world to join us. Too forceful? I don't think so.

I've been particularly upset for a little over a week now (I have gotten over it, by God's grace) about something in my family life. I've not told anyone what-and I won't here. But I felt sympathy and then pity for myself and have refused to let anyone else make me happy. This refusal is participation in what Lewis termed the "passion of pity."

But as Lewis quite ably explains in his book, pity as a weapon can't touch the joy of God's people. "Hell cannot veto Heaven." And so the simple choice is before you and me: either shrink within yourself, wallowing in pity. Or, accept love on God's terms and find true happiness abiding there.

In these holy days, where we are reminded just how great God's love is for us, my choice is to be in love...in Love himself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Drop, Drop, Slow Tears

Drop, Drop, slow tears
and bathe the beautous feet.
Which brought from heaven the news
and Prince of Peace.

Cease not wet eyes
his mercies to entreat.
To cry for vengeance
sin doth never cease.

In your deep floods
drown all my faults and fears.
Nor let his eye see sin,
but through my tears.

This hymn for years confused me. Does verse one say that beautous feet brought the Prince of Peace to earth? Whose eye is referred to in verse three and how is that person's eye covered with my tears? It takes a bit of reflection to understand what Phinneas Fletcher, the hymn's author, had in mind.

First of all, in verse one, we are to understand the "which" at the beginning of line three not to reference the "beautous feet", but the "tears". The gospel or the "news" and the one who personified the gospel are brought down from heaven because the world is broken and in tears. It needs the healing of a spiritual physician. Precisely, what Jesus called himself.

Why is the world broken? Why does it need to be healed? Because of the infection of sin. That is what we find attested in verse two. "To cry for vengeance sin doth never cease." While worded strangely, the simple truth conveyed in these words is that sin cries out for the wrath of God. It must be avenged. The only recourse the sinner has is "his mercies to entreat."

Finally, in the last verse, Fletcher really seizes on the idea of water. In order to be healed, we must be cleaned. There is no better agent in the world than water for this task. Spiritually speaking, Christ ordained water for the washing of sins, and the regeneration of souls. We ask for the water Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well, to drown all those things wrong with us. And, as we come up out of this water, to be made new.
Nevertheless, we all still sin after our Baptisms, sometimes gravely. Thus, the verse concludes, "Nor let his eye see sin but through my tears." In other words, so great should be our guilt and remorse for continually offending the one who came to save us, that our tears should create a pool of water around us. When the Savior looks at us, his piercing and loving gaze will still see sin, but blurred by the tears surrounding the penitent. For all who ask his forgiveness, the briny liquid of our eyes will be replaced by the purest water of Christ, springing up to eternal life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week Hymns

I expect this week to do some commentary on the great hymns of Passiontide, Holy Week, and beginning next week, Easter. If there are any hymns, dear readers, that you would like to see appear on this list, do let me know.

Today's hymn, by the writer Redhead, is called Go To Dark Gethsemane. The title itself is confusing for those who may not remember what Gethsemane is. It is the garden where Jesus went to pray after he instituted the Eucharist. This is critical to understand. Adam and Even, and all we who sinned in them, impugned the goodness of creation with their act of disobedience in Eden. On the night of his betrayal, Christ was healing the world in the same place it had been wounded-a garden. By his act of obedience, "Nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt," (Mt. 26:39) the curse of sin begins to unravel.

The text of the first verse:
Go to dark Gethsemane, ye who feel the tempter's power
Your Redeemer's conflict see, watch with him one bitter hour.
Turn not from his griefs away, learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

The rest of verse one teaches us how to deal with temptation, suffering and a point of doctrine. First, if you are tempted to sin, your best recourse is always prayer. God makes an escape from every temptation. Pray for him to show it to you. In the case of Christ, and this should really move us, the Father showed Jesus the way of escape as he prayed. I'm not saying the Father presented forsaking the cross as a real option. While Jesus may have bulked slightly knowing the amount of suffering that was coming, he knew what he had to do. But undoubtedly, the Father showed him the glory that would come from his crucifixion. And so, suffering is presented to us, not as something to be avoided, but to be embraced. For truly, on this side of heaven, suffering will always accompany the truest acts of love. But those who suffer, in the frailty of our human condition, need compassion. While Adam and Eve represented humanity in Eden, Peter, James, and John represented us in Gethsemane. They did as we would have done. Instead of watching and praying with Jesus, they fell asleep. We are implored by the hymn, not to sleep, but to consider the suffering of others and walk in their shoes with them.
The doctrinal point I mentioned above, is the emphasis on the fact that Christ was indeed human and as such could feel conflict and grief. But this last truth, is illustrated far more clearly in verses two and three.

Follow to the judgement hall, view the Lord of Life arraigned.
O the wormwood and the gall, o the pangs his soul sustained.
Shun not suffering shame or loss, learn from him to bear the cross.

We are beckoned to make the next step of the journey with Christ. From the garden to the praetorium, we watch as the Lord is found guilty of blasphemy and eventually sentenced to brutal flogging and crucifixion. Two things stand out in this verse. First Jesus had a soul-a soul up until now completely devoid of sin. As he begins to feel the weight of the world's sins upon him, what anguish his soul must have endured. The pain we take for granted that we cause ourselves, was all thrust on him at once. It's far from only his body which is hurting.
The last line calls us more poignantly to embrace suffering. Take up your cross and follow Christ carrying his. It is the path of discipleship and it's the way of salvation. Whatever suffering the Lord has given you-it hurts. But it's an opportunity to be united with the suffering Christ. And we are promised, that if we suffer with him, we will also reign with him. (II Tim. 2:12)

Finally, the last verse:

Calvary's mournful mountain climb, there adoring at his feet.
Mark the miracle of time, God's own sacrifice complete.
"It is finished" hear the cry! Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

For the pain and agony he endured, Christ deserves our endless adoration. True, as God, he merited our praise anyway. But now, looking at not only who he is, but what he has done, how can any tongue be silent? How do we do anything less but fall to our knees and thank him for his mercy? For this event, I would argue along with the Incarnation, is the great miracle. Thousands of years of pain and violence wash over the person of Jesus. He takes it all on himself and lets it kill him, for the sake of our salvation. It's an odd thing to say, we must "learn to die". After all, it is something that happens regardless of what we learn. But the point is that we carry our crosses, we are called to crucify our old man and completely to forsake sin. It is death to our old Self and the birth of what we were created to be. Christ endured and embraced death to attain a resurrected body. So too, we must die to ourselves and live for Christ. In so doing, we are united to him and will also at the last day attain resurrected bodies for ourselves, by his mercy.

Today, let us remember suffering is a good thing because it accompanies what St. Paul called the greatest thing: love.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Does It Take to Get Into the Kingdom?

Today's Gospel reading begs the afore mentioned question. From the twelfth chapter of Mark's Gospel comes the account of a lawyer who asked of the Lord a question about which commandment in the law was greatest. We all know the answer was "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength. And love thy neighbor as thyself." The lawyer then affirms with his own mouth that Jesus had rightly answered his question. (Kind of makes you wonder why he bothered asking...) Than Jesus says the following: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." I have to believe this man asked why he didn't make the cut-but Mark doesn't record anymore of the conversation.

A couple of thoughts come to mind when reading this verse. First, while ultimately you are either inside the Kingdom or you are not, there are some who are genuiely closer to entering. Their hearts are likely in the right place, though they are just short of something which they need. I wonder if this what Christ would say to those faithful followers of other monotheistic religions-particularly, Judaism and Islam.

The second thought has to do with what is lacking. What did this scribe need? I think the answer is probably fairly simple. It is not enough to know the will and plan of God. It must be done. We can know all the truth in the world, have an enlightened understanding of who God is and what he has done for humanity, and still not respond to this reality. The grace of the Lord is necessary to prepare us and turn our wills in such a way that we seek to not only hear Christ's words, but do them. As St. James charged us, "be not hearers of the word only, but doers." Did this lawyer wholly lack grace? There is no way of telling. I'd be inclined to say that Christ had already begun working in his heart if he possessed the knowledge of the greatest law. But more grace was needed in order for him to live out this great commandment.

How does one attain this grace? It's a tricky question, since grace by defintion is something given, not earned. However, the Scriptures do point out that the recipient of grace clothes himself in humility.

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (I Pet. 5:5)

Applying this passage to the Gospel for today, I believe we can piece together the answer to the question "What does it take to get into the Kingdom?" A realization that we are unable to fully keep the Great Commandment must be first. Humbly recognizing this prepares our hearts to receive grace. Once this grace is received and Christ himself makes his home within us, the commandments, while still difficult to keep, are quite possible. For, as St. Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strenthens me." (Phil. 4:13) This man seems to come to Jesus with a know-it-all mentality, as noted before. His pride was blocking out the grace necessary to keep the law he knew and probably loved. Our place in the Kingdom is dependant on grace. We do well to remember that it is a danger to participate in any kind of sin that separates us from God's grace.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Penitential Themes

I found myself yesterday mentally hearkening back to a conversation from a few weeks ago on the appointed Gospel for the first Sunday in Advent. In the Anglican tradition, the account of Palm Sunday is read. On first reading, and for me, many subsequent readings over the years, it's confusing. It's Advent! Not Holy Week. What's going on here?

Well, aside from the fact that the Palm Sunday reading is the Triumphal entry of Christ-associated with the resurrection of his dear friend Lazarus, (which lines up well with the themes of Christ returning in glory to raise the dead for judgement), there is another important reason for reading this Gospel. Its ending tells the story of Christ casting out the money-changers from the Temple, saying "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." (Lk. 19:46) This matches the collect for the day which reads in part,

"Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility."

You see the season of Advent is much like the our current liturgical season, Lent. They are both penitential times of the year. It is a time for reflection on where we stand in relationship to Christ. What is getting in our way of full communion with the Lord?

The temple was to be the place where people could come and meet God. His presence abided there. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church that their bodies were now also Temples, temples of the Holy Spirit. Thus, if Jesus on his first triumphal entry in Jerusalem saw fit to clean out the garbage from his holy Temple, so too should we. In preparation for his second coming during Advent, and in this holy season of Lent as we prepare to remember and celebrate the week that changed the world, we have to cast out the money changers that are in our souls. Whatever sin, whatever obstacle may be, by God's grace it must be removed in order for our joy to be full in the coming weeks.

Lsatly, we can be confident in this grace being available to us. Christ needed to sanctify his Temple, he calls us to be Temples, but he also likened himself to one. "Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days." (Jn. 2:19) The Jews laughed him to scorn for such a ridiculous statement. They inquired jestingly and mockingly if Jesus knew how long it had taken to build the temple he saw before him. The point is, that as the temple of the Hebrews had been ravaged by the sins of the money changers, so too would Christ's body. Scourged and crucified the wounds of his body, the temple, make it possible for us to keep temples undefiled by sin.

So while I know this is a reflection based on an Advent reading, I think you can see that both Advent and Lent share common themes of repentance enabled by God's grace in Christ.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Are Funerals for the Living or the Dead?

A friend of mine once said that funerals are only for the living-the implication being that the status of the deceased is fixed. Either they are in heaven, hell, or their soul is sleeping. (This latter option being the theoretical response of a non-Christian.)

Now this, of course, is the position largely of Evangelicals and Protestants. A person has their time on earth to make their decisions and once dead, nothing can be done for them. Roman Catholics believe in the doctrine of Purgatory which says that believers must, and will desire to, endure a period of purification before entering heaven. Because this is the case, in a Roman Requiem, the focus of the mass to pray for the deceased instead of honoring the person's life and legacy. From a Catholic perspective, the verdict is in-at least officially. (Many Catholics would prefer a service at which endless eulogies can be made, much like other Christian churches.)

As an Anglican, what should the response to this be? For whom is the funeral? I want to make two observations. First, the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church-that long prayer that opens the "communion" part of the service and finds its basis in the Didache's example of praying for the whole of Christ's body. In the prayer is written these words: "And we also bless thy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service and to give us grace to follow their good example."
While the 39 Articles forbid the doctrine of Purgatory to be taught, at the least the 16th century Roman one, clearly the Liturgy upholds that their is still maturing to be done by the dead in Christ. With that in mind, it would seem that Anglicans should stand with traditional Catholicism and say that funerals are indeed for the dead.

Furthermore, I would make a point from experience. I recently made a somewhat sarcastic remark to my bishop (an Anglican) about some of the service music that was picked for a funeral we both attended. He mentioned that "it was what brought the "insert name" comfort in this life." (this is not a direct quotation, only the sense of what he said.) In addition, at that same funeral there were some upset that certain hymns were added to the service which were not requested by the deceased. If the funeral is for the living, why should either of these items matter?

My overall view, in line with the Liturgy and luminaries such as C.S. Lewis and Jeremy Taylor, is that the Funeral is an ideal time to pray for all of the dead in Christ, that they would come to full maturity in the Kingdom of God. But I would also say, that within reason, I see no reason that good words made not be said about the person who has died. The Lord shines in his saints. If that be the case, remembering their good example does not distract from Christ but points to him.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the Mystery of the Eucharist

I was a bystander to a conversation today on the "Black Rubric". For uninformed Anglicans and the rest of Christendom, this is the rubric at the end of the Anglican Liturgy which categorically denies a physical or corporeal presence in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. It is a verification of sorts of the 39 Articles which also state that a physical presence is not to be understood. One person in the conversation was upholding and agreeing with the fairly clear understanding of these two "documents". This person is someone whose opinion I hold in very high regard. Therefore, it is with some trepidation that I write this in dissension.

The black rubric teaches that Christ's Body is physically in heaven and that it can't be in two or more places at once, by nature. Christ is omnipresent by the power of his Spirit, not physically. So Anglicans generally hold that Christ is spiritually present in the elements (or in the reception of the elements.) There is a logic to this which I will not deny. But what frustrates me about it is that it attempts to put the Eucharist in a box. (I was tempted to say Tabernacle, but I digress...) Just as Rome will not admit of an understanding which does not involve a substantial change in the consecrated creatures, England will not recognize a view that includes the corporeal presnce of the Lord.

I don't use mystery as an excuse for ignorance or belief in that which violates the divinely ordained rules of nature. But I do think that the Church as a whole would be better off leaving some things unsaid. Jesus said "I am the bread of life". Jesus said "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood there is no life in you." Jesus said "This is my Body." Can this be defined by Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy? What about Protestant Nominalism? Why not just say what Jesus says? In some mysterious fashion, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord make their humble residence in Bread and Wine on Altars around the world.

Brighter minds than mine have and will give their opinion on this matter. England and Rome will not be chaging their positions. But the English view limits some of the mystery while the Roman one tries too hard to expound the exact manner of Christ's presence. The Christian faith is one of mystery and paradox. We should not shy away from that. Rather, it should be embraced in all of its holiness and beauty.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Beginning of Lent

Tommorrow is Ash Wednesday. As with all of the major holy days of the Church, this day is steeped in meaning and has a number of different aspects on which to reflect.

While I certainly have attended a fair number of funerals, none of them quite have the same effect on me that Ash Wednesday does. At both you hear the words, "dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return." But on Ash Wednesday, when the priest utters these words while signing your forehead with the cross in ashes, it becomes very personal. I am going to die. The commination which is read prior to this tells me why. I was born in sin and am an actual sinner.

It is for this reason that Lent exists. For 40 days, Christians are called on to exercise special discipline on themselves, in the hope that a habit of detachment from earthly things/sinful things with be made. This won't change the fact that death will come. But because of the cross with which we are signed, a holy life and death are possible. The power of the grave is overcome. Nevertheless, death is still a door through which we must all pass. As such, it is extremely moving to be reminded in such a poignant way. May we all remember how fragile we are and that we are only supported and held together by the power of God. And may we all take seriously the fact that this world is only the beginning. Growing attached to anything in it is silly. May we find our joy and sufficiency in Christ and in his cross.

Monday, February 28, 2011


One of, if not my favorite, authors is C.S. Lewis, the English professor perhaps somewhat unfortunately known best for the Chronicles of Narnia.

I was reading some of his work today and, if I can be slightly sentimental for a moment, was sincerely touched. I thought I would share this section with you all.

"Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being 'noticed' by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know him, but that they will not be known by Him. (I Cor. 8:3) It is a strange promise. Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully reechoed in another passage of the New Testament. There we are warned that it may happen to any one of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me.' In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside-repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere nerotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache."

-from The Weight of Glory

It reminds me of the words spoken by that knight of the first Crusade in Indiana Jones: "Choose but choose wisely."


Thursday, February 24, 2011


I live not far from an Amish community, roughly 8 miles or so. It's not exactly on my way to anything, so I don't see or interact with the Amish too frequently. However, I do see them on their horse and buggies, have watched them work without electricity, and have generally seen how simple their lives can be. At times, I've been jealous. Sure, they are missing(have rejected) some creature comforts, but it allows them to block so much "noise" from their lives.

While technology needs to be restrained from taking over periods of silence and contemplation, I'm not envious of the Amish, or the monastics for that matter.

Any ninth grade biology student can tell you how complex basic genetic code is, or the various proteins. The human body is not a simple design. The hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth" states it this way:

"For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind's delight
For the mystic harmony, linking sense to sound and sight"

The anatomy of the eye itself is astounding. Even more so, it's power to relay to the brain what it perceives reliably. My point is this, God did not create simply. Our bodies reflect his own mysteriousness. Our world does too, as it should.

For those of us who have a Libertarian-bent politically, it is often a temptation to look at red tape and want to scream for dramatic cuts in government. And while beauracracy is out of control, big government is not a bad government by definition. The complexities of the division of powers can be frustrating at times, but it is necessary.

For those who like simple, packaged answers to deep questions, this is a reminder that some questions don't have "yes" and "no" answers. There are intended to be complicated and mysterious. I was reminded of this again recently when debating with family members the question of whether you can lose your salvation. (for the record, I believe the question is put poorly, and it would be better to ask can any person have something other than the Christian Hope that they will persevere to the end). Verse after verse and argument after argument was raised. My father said simply, our salvation is more complicated than we realize. It is beyond something we can tie neatly in a box. It's complex.

It all comes down to the matter of control. Simple things we can grasp; wrap our minds around. These other matters about which the vast majority of us have little understanding, must simply be accepted and enjoyed as the product of a much more intelligent design than we could have offered.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Terms of Endearment

Ok...for a little levity...

When I was younger, I can remember thinking about the names I might have for my future wife. I don't know that I've settled on one, and it may well be that you just don't know the answser to this question until you've met your future significant other. But there are several which I can rule out and below you will find my reasonsing.

Babe-Growing up watching Saved by the Bell this was the term that was used to somewhat deroggatorily address Kelly and Jessie by Zach and Slater. I know many people who use this in an undemeaning way, but it strikes me as such. Not to mention, it carries with it the baggage of being the name of a talking pig...a talking pig from a movie I simply don't find funny or charming. Nothing says "I love you" like pig.

Darling-This used to be the favorite. It had a 1930's, Golden-Age of Hollywood, sound to it. But thanks to the folk song about a miner's daughter named Clementine, I can only think of Oranges when I hear "darling".

Sugar-obviously, this is out. Aside from the fact that this will subliminally cause me to gain weight, it is clearly derived from "sweetie" and as such, must be inferior to it. My wife shall not go by an inferior name.

My Beloved-It has a nice biblical and liturgical ring-check. But all good terms of endearment have two syllables are fewer. This simply doesn't fit within those parameters.

Anyhow, I'm open to thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eucharist as Marriage

I had an opportunity to have a short conversation with one of the guys at the seminary where I teach today on John Paul II's Theology of the Body. The lectures, delivered over the course of several years, are far too detailed to even summarize in a blog post. But I wanted to record a few thoughts on our conversation.

As marriage is seen as one of (if not the greatest) picture of redemption in the Scriptures, it only makes sense that the Eucharist wherein we participate in Christ's sacrifice, should be seen as a marriage. The liturgy leaves us with these words: "that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us." When the holy gifts are received we become one with Christ, who gives his Body to the Church-to us, the Bride.

This is the language of marriage. It is the reality of which marriage is a picture. The two are becoming one flesh. No, it is not that the Eucharist is necessarily sexual in nature. But Christ gives all of himself to us in the mass, and we in turn are required to give everything back to him. Thus, the liturgy goes on "and here we present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice." In the Eucharist, Christ and the Church our celebrating their pending nuptials, as we receive a foretaste of the marriage which will be consummated in Heaven. We become one with him that as he died and lives again, so too we may at last attain to the glorious Resurrection and spend eternity with the Bridegroom.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Melancholy and February

It's that time of the year when all the schools where I work begin to ask me about making a committment for next year. I love all the places where I teach-and that is not simply lip service. CHA, HFS, Joyful Sounds, and RES, are all great and unique environments. But I can't shake the feeling this year of being in a rut. Mind you, it is a comfortable rut. Nonetheless, I hear the words of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, when he exclaimed to Gandalf "I want to see mountains!"

There is a part of me which is desperate for another adventure...another mountain to climb, another goal to accomplish. I wonder if it is simply Satan making me discontented. Or, is it really time for me to do something different? Something bold? I'm really undecided on this one...