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quod pro nobis traditum est

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Word on the Word

The Gospel for Oculi speaks of Jesus casting out a demon, that was mute. Later on Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Jesus says this in response to a woman who heard his teaching on demons and raised her voice to him. Jesus' response to the woman was, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

What did the woman say to Him? "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” The woman praises Mary! Before Jesus was born the angel told Mary that she had found favor with God. Then Elizabeth greeted Mary saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Mary's response to this news and her given place is, "My soul magnifies the Lord . . . For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."

Mary is called the Blessed Virgin because she was blessed of God before, during and after the birth of Jesus. The woman praises Mary for she knows her Son. Jesus does not deny or rebuke the woman for her confession. He does not remind the woman that He is the One who cast out the demon and who taught about the demons. He does not say, "Look at Me, I am the blessed One." He does not have to for the woman already knows who He is. This is why she praises Mary. She praises Mary for being the Mother of God. He is God's Son, His blessing to people.

When He responds, Jesus echoes the words of the woman and adds, "More than that . . ." The Virgin Mary is blessed, she is the Mother of God. So too all those are blessed "who hear the word of God and keep it!”, baptized children of God in Christ who heed and follow His words.

When the angel announced the birth of Christ to Mary she said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, she said to her, "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

When Jesus cast out the demon, the mute spoke. The woman, hearing Jesus' words says,"Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” Blessed is she, the Mother of God, who bore the Word who blessed her with His incarnate birth and who blesses us with His words of life, heard and kept, and His Body and Blood, given and shed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New gospels

In recent years, I have been hearing a plethora of new gospels. This may reveal how I have been out of touch in prior years or it may reveal changes taking place. These trends in theological emphasis come and go. I will try to comment on them from time to time when they come to mind.

For example, we know the failure of "positive thinking" on theology for its denial of sin. This is just simply a denial of life how it is. On the other hand one new gospel I am hearing sounds like the victory of sin and the helpless Christ. This may be an over-reaction to the positive thinking trend, a parallel thought stream within the Church to the New Atheism, or it may be a new gospel.

Simply put, it puts salvation by Christ solely in the next life as a distant promise. The cross and the sacraments are of no real effect in this life. We are under the power of sin and we should just get used to it. One can only imagine how much of Scripture has to be re-interpreted or re-defined or left out so that sin can have its say. And then we have a helpless God. Is He just a mere architect watching from a distance? Christ is powerless to help us in this life, though He may be of help in the next.

This particular new gospel came to mind as I read the Apostle's words to the Thessalonians,"For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness." The Apostle knows he is talking to sinners and he still says this. He is not waiting for a perfect holiness that will come only in the next life. He seems to have confidence that when God calls us to something He can will and work that in us. Holiness is not a denial of sin, it is a divine call toward God in Christ. This means that Christ can and does gives us what we will need to hear and follow the call to holiness, not only in the life to come. We received this call in Holy Baptism and now we are called to the same in the blessed Eucharist. Baptism does not only remind us of our sinfulness and the Eucharist is not only a foretaste of the feast to come.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Changing the Name

"de ecclesia et liturgia" ("on church and liturgy") has been the name of this blog for many years. The church fathers would write on various topics of theology, philosophy, etc. They would title their reflections or thoughts "de ...", or, "on/of ..." I followed that example in naming this blog years ago.

Part of the reason for coming up with the original name came from years of discussing the liturgy online. Originally, and a bit naïvely, hoping for simple discussion that would encourage the learning of and continuation of the liturgy in a church body that was abandoning in practice what I now find in reality is a logical conclusion to things abandoned 500 years ago. The idea was as the Scripture encourages, to pass on the faith to future generations. This is done best in the church's life together in the liturgy through the hearing of the Word and the reception of the blessed Eucharist. The faith is intertwined with the things of God.

As a pastor the liturgy woke me up to the faith. I had been well-versed in my faith. This comes naturally ("my") in today's Christian experience. Saying the Creed in front of people on a regular basis forced me to think more deeply on the content of the faith. Following a discipline, a ritual, as we have in the liturgy helped me to think outside of myself. This is a scary thing, especially when faith has been so internalized that one becomes unable to distinguish between the faith and one's own feelings. Faith in this thinking is seen as one's own. This, is the plight of modern Christianity, an individualized retreat from the faith. It does not happen suddenly but gradually. First the church's worship needs to become more inviting and more entertaining. Then there is no longer a distinction between the church's worship and the entertainment that is desired and received the other six days of the week. This is what I like to call, the "secular church." One loses out more and more of the substance of the faith while individually feeling better about one's own faith, even finding the faith to have value as entertainment.

Today it is no longer the culture, but the Church which has become so close to the culture, that is going on in so many directions. Discussing the liturgy only goes so far. One really cannot explain mystery and reverence and silence and hearing and prayer when the faith becomes dis-associated from the Church and her liturgy and becomes associated with the latest musical and technological trends. Yet, not to despair. The very flight from the traditional liturgy by some has made the liturgy even more distinct and relevant today, the very reason for its existence in the first place. If it is now new and different, this is a tragedy. Yet, on the other hand, it is finally able to speak clearly again.

These thoughts come by way of explanation for a change in name for this blog. A blog is made up of one's own impressions, reflections and thoughts. This reason alone is enough to change the name. I cannot speak for the whole Church on such matters as the Church and the liturgy. These are weighty topics. Yet in my own religious tradition, liturgy and its parts are relativized and dismissed with a simple rationalization of "adiaphora." Passing on the faith and de-constructionism are constantly at heads. A "tradition of reaction" develops which loses sight of the faith that the liturgy is meant to uphold for fear that the liturgy is somehow only Law. While I may have become more distant from the discussion of these matters I still believe that the faith and the liturgy and the Church are inter-connected, that discussing the liturgy in terms of the faith ought not be seen as an affront to either those who specialize in studies of Scripture or those who study dogmatics, church history, theology or any other field. The liturgy is not the only means of passing on the faith but neither is learning the faith separated from the life of the Church. The Creed is very profound but it really focuses on only two major tenets of the Church's faith, the nature of God and that of His Son. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

I no longer find it necessary to weigh on topics that are of greater value when I can use a blog to reflect on a variety of topics. This does not mean I may not address matters of church and liturgy from time to time. It is now more a matter of freeing the blog to expand on a variety of topics, mostly related to theology, philosophy, history, religion and Church.

Also, there will not be confusion with the new name, "May's Blog," that you are simply getting my reflections, impressions, and thoughts, whether they sound esoteric or simple.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The following is excerpted from a Catholic blog and is a succinct and helpful review of the new book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week:

"'One thing is clear to me: in two hundred years of exegetical work, historical-critical exegesis has already yielded its essential fruit.' (Emphasis added)

"I had to read that sentence two and three times before I accepted that the Pope really wrote that. In this statement the Pope is challenging the very foundations of the biblical scholarship world. For two hundred years, there has been a race by academics to come up with the “latest” theory about Jesus, resulting in a plethora of contradictory and often ludicrous ideas about “who Jesus really was.” Yet behind this race is not a desire to really know the identity of Jesus, but to create the latest sensation in the academic world, which leads to book contracts and better jobs. If you write that Jesus is who the Church claims him to be, then your academic career will become sidetracked. But if you write (with scholarly authority) that he was a transvestite Muslim, then you are surely on your way to academic fame.

"The Pope undercuts all of this. He sees the Historical-Critical Method as a tool with limited applications – and those applications have now yielded their “essential fruit.” In other words, the focus of studies of Jesus should no longer be driven by the Historical-Critical Method, but instead should be driven by a desire to know the Jesus confessed and proclaimed by the Church: the eternal Son of God who saves us from our sins.

"And this is the Jesus presented to us in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. He is not a figment of some scholar’s imagination, but instead the God-man who millions throughout history have lived and died for. The pope is urging us to encounter this God-man in our own lives today."

HT: The Divine Life

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Can Tradition be good?

". . . in fastings often . . ." (Epistle for Sexagesima) In his second letter to the Church at Corinth the Apostle glories in his infirmities that God's grace and power in Christ may be his. One of his regular disciplines was that of fasting. Here the body is weakened to give more emphasis on the life of the soul. With Ash Wednesday drawing close we are reminded of the traditional disciplines of Lent of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

I am not good at fasting. I do not say this to prove my sinfulness nor to solicit a program that will help me become successful in fasting. Fasting, like prayer, almsgiving and any other disciplines encouraged in Scripture are good things. They are traditional practices, of a Tradition, and again, this is a good thing, for they lead us away from trusting in ourselves toward trusting in God. During Lent we prepare for the Lord's Resurrection. We strive to live more as we are called to live in Holy Baptism.

That I am not good at fasting does not mean that fasting is not a good discipline or that it is a breach of Christian freedom to even consider the practice. Should we sin more that grace may abound? Are we saved only when we are "chief of sinners"? Christian "freedom" today is often understood and lived out without Christ. Good is called bad and bad is called good. Indeed, that is how life is without Christ. Goodness and badness no longer are defined by divine revelation but by our imaginations and strivings without Christ. These can easily become the real "traditions of men" that Scripture warns us about, living how we want to live, on our own terms.

Jesus not only saves us on the cross, he leads us to the cross. This is so his goodness can have his way with us. If God can bring purification to flesh in the Incarnation of His Son can He not also purify the soul through the shedding of His blood? Lent reminds us to stop what we are doing without Christ and return to where He is there for us and our forgiveness. When we are in Christ and His forgiveness He leads us to all that is good. The good that we do in Christ is not us but Christ's doing. In Christ, disciplines, works, and Tradition are Good.

When Christian freedom becomes all about freedom then it is no longer good, because it becomes all about us and what we desire to do. Rather than follow our own paths let us return to the repentance of Lent and the life of being crucified with Christ, and living in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Lent is a good thing.

"O God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do . . ." (Collect for Sexagesima)