Monday, July 25, 2016

Genesis Notes — The Woman: Both Blessed and Suffering

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to get this study and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves. As if these scenes aren't powerful enough on their own, looking at their connection to Genesis adds such depth of meaning that it takes my breath away. This is the sort of thing where I see the "proof" that the Bible is divinely inspired.
Jan de Molder, The Visitation

The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
Elizabeth "was filled with the Holy Spirit." Her utterance has the power of prophecy. In blessing Mary and the Child in her womb, Elizabeth gives voice to what all creation would want to sing out with "a loud cry" at the coming of the "woman" and her "seed" promised so long ago. Notice that Elizabeth does not separate the Child from His Mother. Her blessing is on both of them together. Her reverence is for both of them when she humbly asks why she should be the glad recipient of a visit from "the mother of my Lord." Even the child in her own womb, John the Baptist, leaps for joy when he hears Mary's voice. So closely are Mother and Child linked in this passage that the sound of Mary's voice is enough to produce rejoicing in the prophet-in-utero. John and his mother, Elizabeth, represent Israel, waiting for Messianic consolation. Jesus and His Mother, Mary, are God's comfort for His people. They are the flesh-and-blood icon of the Woman and her Seed from Genesis.

Menologion of Basil, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
And now in this passage we learn from Simeon that the Mother will also share in the suffering of the Son ("a sword will pierce through your own soul also"). Were we prepared in Gen. 3:15 for the possibility of suffering?

Yes, we were. We could anticipate a ferocious battle between the serpent and the seed of the woman, both inflicting wounds on the other. The suffering shouldn't surprise us. But how and why would Mary share in this suffering?

We must remember that Jesus opened up to all His followers the possibility of sharing in His suffering for sinners. His call to those who would follow Him to take up their crosses daily represented a call to obedience to God's will, no matter what, AND an invitation to suffer for sinners. That is what the Cross meant to Jesus. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) He intended to make it possible for all who belong to Him to join Him in that redemptive suffering (see CCC 618) ...

Simeon's prophecy to Mary makes it clear that she was the very first Christian to share in His suffering for sinners. Her place in this is unique, of course, because of her unique relationship to Jesus and to God. It was not simply that His suffering would make her sad. Simeon's unusual words somehow place Mary there with Jesus on the Cross when the solider pierced Him through with a sword to make sure He was dead. She was the first one to be joined to Jesus in her suffering, but not the last. Down through the ages, the Church has called her children to join their human sufferings, in whatever form they experience them, to the perfect suffering of the Lamb of God on the Cross, Who takes away the sins of the world. Ever since the fall, suffering is inevitable. Remember that it is the lens that restores spiritual sight. The Cross teaches us not to shrink in fear from suffering but to actually rejoice-rejoice!!-in it. Why? Because through it we see God and ourselves in truth, through it we cry out to Him for mercy, and through it, the world is won back to Him.

Worth a Thousand Words: Statue of Jean Althen

Statue of Jean Althen, Papal Palace Gardens, Avignon, Belinda Del Pesco

Well Said: Next of kin trouble

The young man was maybe in his close family. Nothing cold be worse than next-of-kin trouble. She'd heard that, though secretly she longed for kin of her own. Such trouble must be wonderful. Why did people not know their plights were lovely?
Jonathan Gash, The Year of the Woman

Friday, July 22, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Blue Mountains

Edward B. Gordon, Blue Mountains

Well Said: An infinite number of crucified persons in the world ...

I see an infinite number of crucified persons in the world, but few who are crucified by the love of Jesus. Some are crucified by their self-love and inordinate love of the world. But happy are they who are crucified for the love of Jesus. Happy are they who live and die on the cross with Jesus.

St. John Eudes
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Putti in the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Great Hall. Detail of putti (gardener with a spade and a rake) on the Grand staircase

Well Said: The setting for a pearl

A jewel demands a setting of gold, and a pearl should only be placed in precious necklaces. Be, then, the finest sort of gold! Be a precious necklace, so that the spiritual pearl can be set in you! For Christ the Lord is the pearl that the rich merchant in the gospel hastened to buy.
St. Maximus of Turin
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi

Voting For Someone — Updated

A vote for Hilary is a vote for Hilary. A vote for Trump is a vote for Trump. And a vote for Darrell Castle (WHO?) is a vote for Darrell Castle.

To say that my vote for Darrell Castle (WHO?) is a defacto vote for Hilary Clinton tries to deny me the right to vote for the best person running for president.
And a vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Gary Johnson.

I've been honestly stuck between not voting at all and voting for one of two major candidates who do not reflect at all what I want to see from my beloved country's leadership.

Invariably, when I've said I was in a quandary about who to vote for, someone has always hissed in my ear, "Vote against [this person]."

I voted against in the last couple of elections and see where that got me? Supporting people I was less than crazy about while losing anyway.

Bethune Catholic's comment above realigned my priorities. Yes, vote for someone. They probably aren't perfect. After all, if you are Catholic there is no political party that is going to live up to your goals completely.

But it's a positive action that serves as a witness to the sort of leader I wish we had. And that's the best I can do.

I realized I need to clarify my position.

It's not about voting for either Trump or Johnson. I cannot stand Trump or Clinton and cannot in good conscience vote for either. So it comes down to no vote or voting for Gary Johnson.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: A Fishing Boat at Sea

Vincent Van Gogh, A Fishing Boat at Sea, 1888

Lagniappe: Scram, beat it ...

How do you tell a man to go away in hard language? Scram, beat it, take off, take the air, on your way, dangle, hit the road, and so forth. All good enough. But give me the classic expression actually used by Spike O'Donnell (of the O'Donnell brothers of Chicago, the only small outfit to tell the Capone mob to go to hell and live). What he said was: "Be missing." The restraint of it is deadly.
Raymond Chandler in a letter to his British publisher

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

James Beard's Favorite Meat Loaf

Super easy. Super good. Freezes well.

And ... bacon.

It's at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Q: Why are Catholic bloggers such awful people?

Q: Why are Catholic bloggers such awful people?

Do you listen at Church on Sundays? We public Catholics are just as wretchedly in need of our Lord and Savior as anyone else. Some of us come across as very holy on the Internet, but really we aren’t, I promise you. Some of us splash our sins publicly, and in private are better people than you’d suspect. And there a few public Catholics who really are saints.

The willingness to speak about the faith in public is not a declaration that we are holy, it’s a declaration that God is holy. ...

Jen Fitz's Behind the Scenes in Catholic Blogging is a great piece that answers many questions about writing and reading Catholic blogs. As always with Jen's posts, you get the unvarnished truth, charitably spoken, usually with a great deal of interwoven humor.

I am pleased to a ridiculous level to be included on Jen's short list of must read blogs ... and even more pleased to be the example for her caveat. (Yes, that's how I roll.)
The shortlist isn’t a canonization or a fullproof guarantee. Julie Davis engages the wider culture extensively, and you probably shouldn’t watch every movie she watches. One of the great things about Julie’s blog is that she sifts through the noise to bring you the true, beautiful, and good so that you don’t have to.
Anyway go read it. Good stuff there ...

Worth a Thousand Words: Uma Rua na Favela

Eliseu Visconti, Uma Rua na Favela, c. 1890

Lagniappe: Mr. F's Legacy and Mr. Pancks

A momentary silence that ensued was broken by Mr F.'s Aunt, who had been sitting upright in a cataleptic state since her last public remark. She now underwent a violent twitch, calculated to produce a startling effect on the nerves of the uninitiated, and with the deadliest animosity observed:

"You can't make a head and brains out of a brass knob with nothing in it. You couldn't do it when your Uncle George was living; much less when he's dead."

Mr Pancks was not slow to reply, with his usual calmness, "Indeed, ma'am! Bless my soul! I'm surprised to hear it."
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
Mr. Pancks is one of my favorite characters in Little Dorrit. The first notice we have of his well meaning nature is the way that he knows how to deal with Mr. F.'s Aunt, who clearly is suffering from some form of dementia.

Having known several similarly afflicted elderly people, I applaud his tactics.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Herdsman with Resting Cattle

Herdsman With Resting Cattle, Jacob van Strij

Well Said: All is in Little

I am one of those who believe that all is in little. The child is small, and he includes the man; the brain is narrow, and it harbors thought; the eye is but a point, and it covers leagues.
Alexandre Dumas, Camille

Genesis Study — The Woman: Full of Grace

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

This is where Genesis: God and His Creation breaks away from what would typically be considered a study of the book of Genesis. They take the time to examine the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

This section concentrates on Mary as "the woman" and it is perfect timing when you consider that we also are in the count-down to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Veneration of Mary is one of the most Catholic of beliefs and is arguably the one most non-Catholics have problems with. Perhaps these snippets of the Catholic Scripture Study will aid in understanding. Certainly they opened my eyes even further to the fact that God had Mary in His plan from the beginning.

When Catholics study the Bible they recognize that the Old Testament holds truths that lead to the New Testament. This acknowledges that Scripture has many levels of meaning and often "types" of people shown early on are "types" that foreshadow the revelations of the New Testament. Two people who we see "types" of again and again are Mary and Jesus and never more than when studying "the woman and her seed." I found this whole concept really fascinating when I discovered it.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" shows why Catholics venerate Mary. She gave herself entirely over to God and with her humble obedience made it possible for Our Savior to be born. I remember being astounded by the idea that Mary was the New Eve but the logic made impeccable sense.
Mary's humble obedience in her fiat made possible the Incarnation. No one has described it more beautifully than St. Iraenaeus (c. 140/160-202 A.D.), who was Bishop of Lyons:
Even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin... By disobeying, she became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way, Mary, though she also had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race... The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience. What Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosed by her faith. (from Adversus haereses, quoted in Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero; Ignatius, 1999, pg. 52).
Just as Eve's participation in the fall of man was real, although the sin was charged to Adam, so Mary's participation in our redemption was quite real, although the victory was won by her Son.

It seems entirely logical and reasonable that if God created a male and a female to preside as the first parents over all creation, He would also place a male and female in special roles over re-created humanity. In addition, the very fact that God promised to defeat the serpent through a "woman" and her "seed" proves that He wants a male and female to begin the restoration. To see Mary as the New Eve was a very natural development in early Christianity. In fact, we have evidence of it in the writings of the very first great Christian apologist, Justin Martyr (c. 110-165 A.D.). In his defense of the faith in Dialogue with Trypho, he writes this way:
[The Son of God] became man through a Virgin, so that the disobedience caused by the serpent might be destroyed in the same way it had begun. For Eve, who was virgin and undefiled, gave birth to disobedience and death after listening to the serpent's words. But the Virgin Mary conceived faith and joy; for when the angel Gabriel brought her the glad tidings that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, so that the Holy One born of her would be the Son of God, she answered, "Let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). Thus was born of her the [Child] about whom so many Scriptures speak, as we have shown. Through him, God crushed the serpent, along with those angels and men who had become like serpents. (Quoted from Mary and the Fathers of the Church, by Luigi Gambero, Ignatius, p. 47)
It is important to understand that Justin Martyr was writing a defense of the Christian faith against attacks from the Jews and pagans. He was not developing new theological insight, since he was actually a layman. He was only defending what the Church believed and taught at that early time in her history. The development of Marian thought was as early as the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is another example of a truth which is only implicit in Scripture (since the word "Trinity" never appears) being made explicit over time. Time is not the enemy of truth. The question is not whether a doctrine took time to develop but whether the seed of that doctrine was contained in the gospel preached and taught by the apostles.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Aquilina and Tolkien on the Creation of the Universe

Two of my favorite authors ... together! Mike Aquilina looks at the answer to a question about J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion.
I was a teenager when The Silmarillion appeared in print. I wasn’t much of a reader at the time, but a friend of mine, Ron, was fanatically invested in Middle-Earth. His copy of the book, not yet a week old, was already worn and its cover creased.

Ron was a big guy, and he’d already spent time in juvenile detention. So I complied when he insisted that I sit down, shut up, and listen as he read the entire creation account aloud. He read with more passion than I could muster for anything but food and baseball.

The moment stayed with me. The narrative stayed with me. I remembered my friend’s declamation when, just this year, a reader, deeply moved by the same passage, posted a question in an online forum for Tolkien fans. He asked if Tolkien’s work had been based on any “real creation myths.”
Of course the answer is yes. But it goes deeper than I'd realized. Read it all. Via Brandon Vogt.