Sunday, March 30, 2003

On dying and rising; from the only "modern" work in my Lenten reading this year.

Lord Jesus, you had to die. In becoming a human being like us you did not exempt yourself from that event that is most human --- that is, dying.

Yet, in the Gospel narrative by St. John, you are always Lord of death. You lay down your life in response to your Father's will. Death, according to John, is that sinful state which separates from God, which drags us down, which leaves us a prey to the flesh, to the powers of evil. By meeting this kind of sinful death head-on you robbed death of its power, Lord. By emptying yourself for others you made death a way of life. But emptying yourself was done through love. It is love which conquers death. Death is sin and hatred and selfishness. Life is goodness and kindness. This you taught us, Jesus, by example.

You told us, too, dear Lord, if we would come after you, that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow you. How unromantic this is, Jesus! But if your cross is to die to hate and to learn to love as you did, then I see how your yoke could be sweet!

Just as we move daily toward physical death, so, dear Lord, should we be dying to sin. In that way our physical death will be, as in your case, the result of and the sign of an interior dying to self. You taught us, however, Lord, that dying with you means rising with you. Baptism is a cycle; it is entering into your cycle of dying to sin and rising to new life. Our life is not a journey on a continuous path toward inevitable death, but a daily dying and rising. The seed of our dying, Jesus, is creative of new life. When sin and selfishness die, there is room for goodness and joy. When hate dies, there is room for love.

Again, your disciple John wrote: "That we have passed from death to life we know because we love each other. One who does not love is among the living dead." (1 Jn 3:14) The way we came to understand love was that you laid down your life, Jesus, for us; we, too, must lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

A Benedictine friend of mine from Arkansas told me the following story, Jesus. You will like it. It took place in the mid-1960's......A young college graduate was spending his first year out of school working for voter registration among the blacks of eastern Arkansas. It was dangerous work. The monks asked him one day if he had suffered violence because of his efforts. He quietly told of the times he had been beaten with chains, kicked, and spat upon. "Why didn't you fight back?" the monks asked him. "At first I did," he responded. "But then I realized that hate must die. If I respond to hate in kind, it bounces off me back into the world. It continues to arch out and harm people. Somewhere this hate has to come to rest. I know now that I must let it die in my body."

Jesus, let hate die in all our bodies, so that slowly this world can be transformed. Love is born of hate that dies.

Suffering and sadness, morbidity and pessimism are not the story of Good Friday, Lord. Nor is bubbly, flighty giddiness the story of Easter Sunday. Our vibrant joy of Easter will come, Lord, when we have died to violence, hatred, dishonesty, greed, and passion. Teach us the meaning of Good Friday, Jesus, so that we can rise with you each day in Easter joy. Teach us each time we join with others at the Eucharist that it is our Good Friday and Easter Sunday, too. It is our dying and rising. Each sacrament, Lord Jesus, we know is our insertion into your paschal mystery. Keep us aware of you as we bring our daily crosses to be transformed and resurrected.

Amen.


[Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., All God's People, Paulist Press, 1985, pp. 134-136]
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Friday, March 28, 2003

on steadfastness and unscandalizability, from the desert Christians....

An old man was asked, "How can a fervent brother not be shocked when he sees others returning to the world?" And the elder replied, "Watch the dogs who chase rabbits. When one of them has seen a rabbit, he pursues it until he catches it, without being concerned with anything else. The others, seeing the dog launched in pursuit, run with it for a short time and soon come back. Only the one who has seen the rabbit follows it till he catches it, not letting himself be turned from his course by those who go back, and not caring about the ravines, rocks, and undergrowth. So it is with him who seeks Christ as Master; ever mindful of the Cross, he cares nothing about any of the scandals that occur, till he reaches the Crucified One."
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Thursday, March 27, 2003

a prayer from St. Symeon the New Theologian, who was new in the late 900's. Seems that St Ephrem and St Symeon are monopolizing my Lenten praying this year ....

Come, O true light!
Come, O eternal life!
Come, O hidden mystery!
Come, O indescribable treasure!
Come, O ineffable thing!
Come, O inconceivable person!
Come, O endless delight!
Come, O unsetting light!
Come, O true and fervent expectation
of all those who will be saved!
Come, O rising of those who lie down!
Come, O resurrection of the dead!
Come, O powerful one,
who always creates and re-creates and transforms
by your will alone!
Come, O invisible and totally intangible and untouchable!
Come, O you who always remain immobile
and at each moment move all,
and come to us, who lie in hades,
you who are above all heavens.
Come, O desirable and legendary name,
which is completely impossible for us
to express what you are or to know your nature.
Come, O eternal joy!
Come, O unwithering wreath!
Come, O purple of the great king our God!
Come, O crystalline cincture, studded with precious stones!
Come, O inaccessible sandal!
Come, O royal robe and truly imperial right hand!
Come, you whom my wretched soul has desired and does desire!
Come, you who alone go to the lonely
for as you see I am lonely!
Come, you who have separated me from everything
and made me solitary in this world!
Come, you who have become yourself desire in me,
who have made me desire you,
the absolutely inaccessible one!
Come, O my breath and life!
Come, O consolation of my humble soul!
Come, O my joy, my glory, and my endless delight!
I thank you that you have become one spirit with me,
without confusion, without mutation,
without transformation, you the God of all;
and that you have become everything for me,
inexpressible and perfectly gratuitous nourishment,
which ever flows to the lips of my soul
and gushes out into the fountain of my heart,
dazzling garment which burns the demons,
purification which bathes me
with these imperishable and holy tears,
that your presence brings to those whom you visit.
I give you thanks
that for me you have become unsetting light and non-declining sun;
for you who fill the universe with your glory
have nowhere to hide yourself.
No, you have never hidden yourself from anyone
but we are the ones who always hide from you,
by refusing to go to you;
but then, where would you hide,
you who nowhere find the place of your repose?
Why would you hide,
you who do not turn away from a single creature,
who do not reject a single one?
Today, then, O Master,
come pitch your tent with me;
until the end, make your home
and live continually, inseparably within me,
your slave, O most-kind one,
that I also may find myself again in you,
at my departure from this world
and after my departure may I reign with you,
O God who are above everything.
O Master, stay and do not leave me alone,
so that my enemies, arriving unexpectedly,
they who are always seeking to devour my soul,
may find you living within me
and that they may take flight,
in defeat, powerless against me,
seeing you, O more powerful than everything,
installed interiorly in the home of my poor soul.
Yea, O Master, just as you remembered me,
when I was in the world
and, in the midst of my ignorance,
you chose me and separated me from this world
and set me before your glorious face,
so now keep me interiorly,
by your dwelling within me,
forever upright, resolute;
that by perpetually seeing you,
I, the corpse, may live;
that by possessing you,
I, the beggar, may always be rich, richer than kings;
that by eating you and by drinking you,
by putting you on at each moment,
I go from delight to delight in inexpressible blessings;
for it is you,
who are all good and all glory and all delight
and it is to you,
holy, consubstantial, and life-creating Trinity
that the glory belongs,
you whom all faithful venerate, confess, adore, and serve
in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Happy Annunciation Day!

I've mostly been taking it easy, doing what needs doing to take care of myself, and not much else. For the sake of both my swollen legs, I'm treating myself to a nap every afternoon --- and so far, my eighty stitches are healing as well as can be expected, says the nurse who comes to look at them twice a week. Keep on praying that I heal up right. Also for Dad, who needs artery bypasses in his legs but needs to pass a stress test first, and for my eldest younger brother Tom, who's going to surgery on the 2nd to remove a "suspicious lesion" from his colon..... Is this the special season for Knapps being laid up?
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Sunday, March 23, 2003

more words from St. Ephrem the Syrian

Make me whole, O Lord, and I will become whole! O only wise and merciful Physician, I beseech Thy benevolence: heal the wounds of my soul and enlighten the eyes of my mind that I may understand my place in Thine eternal design! And inasmuch as my heart and mind have been disfigured, may Thy grace repair them, for it is as true salt.

What shall I say to Thee, O Knower of the heart who searchest the heart and the inner workings of men? Indeed, Thou knowest that, like a waterless land, my soul thirsts after Thee and my heart longs for Thee. And Thy grace has always sated those that love Thee.

Thus, as Thou hast always heard me, so now do not scorn my prayer. For Thou seest that my mind, like a prisoner, seeks Thee, the
Only true Savior.

Send Thy grace, that it may satisfy my hunger and quench my thirst. For insatiably do I desire Thee, O my Master! And who can have enough of Thee if he truly loves Thee and thirsts for Thy truth?

O Giver of light! Fulfill my supplications and grant me Thy gifts according to my prayer; impart to my heart just one drop of Thy grace, that the flame of Thy love may begin to burn in my heart; and, like a fire, may it consume evil thoughts like thorns and thistles!

Give me all this in abundance; grant it to me as God unto man, as the King to His subjects, and increase it as a kind Father.
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Friday, March 21, 2003

Tertullian on being victorious in battle

Is the laurel crown of military triumph made of leaves, or of corpses?
Is it adorned with ribbons, or with tombs?
Is it wet with ointments, or with the tears of wives and mothers?
It may be made of some Christians too.
For Christ is also believed among the barbarians.
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St. John Chrysostom on fasting

Do you fast?
Give me proof of it by your works.

If you see someone who is poor, take pity on that person.
If you see a friend being honored, do not be envious.
Do not let only your mouth fast, but also the eyes, and the feet, and the hands and all the member of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is sinful.
Let the ears by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.

For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes,
but bite and devour our brothers and sisters?
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Thursday, March 20, 2003

from the Akathist Hymn to the Divine Passion of Christ

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the Living God,
Creator of Heaven and earth,
Saviour of the world,

Behold I who am unworthy and of all men most sinful,
humbly bow the knee of my heart before the glory of Thy majesty
and praise Thy Cross and Passion,
and offer thanksgiving to Thee,
the King and God of all,
that Thou wast pleased to bear as man all labours and hardships,
all temptations and tortures,
that Thou mightest be our Fellow-sufferer and Helper,
and a Saviour to all of us in all our sorrows, needs, and sufferings.

I know, O all-powerful Lord,
that all these things were not necessary for Thee,
but for us men and for our salvation
Thou didst endure Thy Cross and Passion
that Thou mightest redeem us from all cruel bondage to the enemy.

What, then, shall I give in return to Thee, O Lover of mankind,
for all that Thou hast suffered for me, a sinner?
I cannot say,
for soul and body and all blessings come from Thee,
and all that I have is Thine,
and I am Thine.
Yet I know that love is repaid only by love.
Teach me, then, to love and praise Thee.

Trusting solely in Thine infinite compassion and mercy, O Lord,
I praise Thine unspeakable patience,
I magnify Thine unutterable exhaustion,
I glorify Thy boundless mercy,
I adore Thy purest Passion,
and most lovingly kissing Thy wounds, I cry:
Have mercy on me a sinner,
and cause that Thy holy Cross may not be fruitless in me,
that I may participate here with faith in Thy sufferings
and be vouchsafed to behold also the glory of Thy Kingdom in Heaven.

Amen.
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A bishop stands with and shepherds his people

The Lenten statement of the bishop of the Romanian Eparchy of St. George in Canton:

March 7, 2003

Beloved brothers and sisters in our Lord, Jesus Christ,

Great Lent, which we now begin, is traditionally a time in which we take stock of ourselves, our lives, and the direction in which we are headed. In the common language of the Catholic Church, it is a time for a deep "examination of conscience" as we fast, pray, and otherwise attend to the call for repentance issued by the Church for the forty days before we celebrate the Resurrection of her savior, Jesus Christ.

A serious examination of conscience requires that we recognize that there are times in the life of each Christian when one's faith is seriously and urgently challenged by the events taking place around him or her. Like it or not, these challenges show us just how seriously --- or not --- we are living our baptismal commitment to Christ. Most of us, most of the time, would prefer to keep our heads in the sand, ostrich-like, than to face truths about ourselves. This is why the Church has found it so vitally necessary to have seasons, such as Lent, during which we must pull our heads out of the sand and take a good, hard look at the world around us and how we are living in it.

We cannot fail, as we examine our consciences, to take into account the most critical challenge presented to our faith in our day: the fact that the United States government is about to initiate a war against the people of Iraq. For Romanian Catholics who are also United States citizens, this raises an immediate and unavoidable moral issue of major importance. Specifically stated the issue is this: does the killing of human beings in this war constitute murder?

The Holy Gospels reveal our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ to be nonviolent. In them, Jesus teaches a Way of life that his disciples are to follow, a Way of nonviolent love of friends and enemies. However, since the latter half of the fourth century the Church has proposed standards that, if met, would make it morally permissible for Christians to depart from that way in order to engage in war. These standards have come to be known in popular language as the "Catholic Just War Theory."

According to this theory, if all of the conditions it specifies are adhered to, the killing that is done in fighting a war may be justifiable and therefore morally allowable. This theory also teaches that if any one of the standards is not met, then the killing that occurs is unjust and therefore morally impermissible. Unjust killing is by definition murder. Murder is intrinsically evil and therefore absolutely forbidden, no matter what good may seem to come of it.

The Church teaches that good ends do not justify the use of evil means. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this principle succinctly: "One may never do evil so that good may result from it." (1789) One contemporary example of this would be abortion. Abortion is intrinsically evil; hence regardless of the good that may seem to issue from it, a Catholic may never participate in it.

Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy" (emphasis added). Since war is about the mass infliction of death and suffering on children of God, Christians can enter into it and fight in it only if the war in question strictly meets all the criteria of the just war theory, and only if these same standards are likewise meticulously observed in the course of fighting the war. Vague, loose, freewheeling, conniving, relaxed interpretations of Catholic just war theory and its application are morally illegitimate because of "the gravity of such a decision." "The evaluation of these conditions of the just war theory for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good," states the Catechism. (2309) However, the nation-state is never the final arbiter or authority for the Catholic of what is moral or for what is good for the salvation of his or her soul. What is legal can be evil and often has been. Jesus Christ and his Church, not the state, are the ultimate informers of conscience for the Catholic.

This is why the Church teaches as a norm of conscience the following: "If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order such arrangements would not be binding in conscience." (Catechism 1903). She also warns "Blind obedience [to immoral laws] does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out" (Catechism 2313). When a moral conflict arises between Church teaching and secular morality, when contradictory moral demands are made upon a Catholic's conscience, he or she "must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29).

Because such a moment of moral crisis has arisen for us, beloved Romanian Catholics, I must now speak to you as your bishop. Please be aware that I am not speaking to you as a theologian or as a private Christian voicing his opinion, nor by any means am I speaking to you as a political partisan. I am speaking to you solely as your bishop with the authority and responsibility I, though a sinner, have been given as a successor to the apostles on your behalf. I am speaking to you from the deepest chambers of my conscience as your bishop, appointed by Jesus Christ in his Body, the Church, to help shepherd you to sanctity and to heaven. Never before have I spoken to you in this manner, explicitly exercising the fullness of authority Jesus Christ has given his Apostles
"to bind and to loose," (cf. John 20:23), but now "the love of Christ compels" me to do so (2 Corinthians 5:14). My love for you makes it a moral imperative that I not allow you, by my silence, to fall into grave evil and its incalculable temporal and eternal consequences.

Humanly speaking, I would much prefer to keep silent. It would be far, far easier for me and my family simply to let events unfold as they will, without commentary or warning on my part. But what kind of shepherd would I be if I, seeing the approach of the wolf, ran away from the sheep (cf. John 10:12-14)? My silence would be cowardly and, indeed, sinful. I believe that Christ, whose flock you are, expects more than silence from me on behalf of the souls committed to my protection and guidance.

Therefore I, by the grace of God and the favor of the Apostolic See Bishop of the Eparchy of St. George in Canton, must declare to you, my people, for the sake of your salvation as well as my own, that any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory.

Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. For the Catholics of the Eparchy of St. George, I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore absolutely forbidden.

My people, it is an incontestable Biblical truth that a sin left unnamed will propagate itself with lavish zeal. We must call murder by its right name: murder. God and conscience require nothing less if the face of the earth is to be renewed and if the salvation offered by Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is to reach all people, including us. We have no choice before the face of God but to speak unambiguously to the moral situation with which we are confronted and to live according to the Will of Him who gazes at us from the Cross (Catechism 1785).

Let us pray for each other and take care of each other in this spiritually trying time. To this end our Church is wholeheartedly
committed to the support of any of our members in the military or government service who may be confronted with situations of legal jeopardy due to their need to be conscientious objectors to this war. Let us also pray in earnest with the Mother of God, who knows what it is to have her Child destroyed before her eyes, that the destruction of families, lives, minds and bodies that war unleashes will not take place.

Finally, my brothers and sisters in Christ, be assured that Our Lord is aware that our "No" to murder and our prayers for peace are our faithful response to his desires. He will remember this forever and ever, and so it is to him we must now turn, in him we must now trust.

Amen.

Sincerely in Christ-God,

(Most Reverend) John Michael Botean
a sinner, bishop



There are many great and important things that are worth dying for; but what can be so great and important that it is worth killing for?
The war has begun. Pray for the dead and the dying and for all the innocents who will suffer, especially the children.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Home Sweet Anchor Hold!

I was discharged to _home_ this afternoon; have just finished killing about 4500 backed-up emails and can now send. Thanks for your diligent prayer, and special thanks to Mark S and Gerard and my siblings Christine and Michael for getting the word to you. The flowers and cards were especially appreciated [I've a ton of thank-you notes to write!]

This isn't the first time that I went to my normal 3-month's doctor's appointment and ended up in the hospital. A chronic open wound I've had for many years, known to family and close friends as "the notorious spot with no skin," was acting up again, getting deeper and leaking more and fouler, so I was going to ask the doctor for a new referral to outpatient wound care (for the half-a dozenth time). He took one look and one sniff and told me I wasn't getting my referral and I wasn't going home.

Instead, I got admitted to the hospital, attached to a IV of antibiotics, and surrounded by contact isolation posters while they cultured my blood and my wound drippage and every other thing they could get --- making sure any exotic bugs I might have had didn't escape to the rest of the hospital. On Monday 3/3 the isolation was lifted, the cultures came back from the lab with only garden variety germs, no exotic-and-deadlies.

And my doctor spoke to some specialists (infectious disease specialist, surgeon) and to me and to my HMO; and it was agreed that yet another round of wound care nurses was likely to be futile, and the real solution was to get rid of the piece of unusual anatomy that the wound was on, called an abdominal apron. So on 3/6, after a lot of antibiotics and transfusions (eventually 8 units of red cells and 4 of plasma), I had a "removal of infected panniculae," which is what they call an abdominoplasty when it isn't cosmetic.

Thanks to all the prayers, I am recovering surprisingly well, though I've still got two long rows of stitches all the way across my tummy left to right that need to stay in at least two more weeks, and other recovering to do since my balance has changed radically and my hips move in ways they haven't done for decades (I need to practice moving; in hospital I was on twice-a day physical therapy....) And, as a bonus, my tummy now stops at the pelvic bone like everybody else's!

It's going to take me a few days to get caught up with things and back to regular posting, please be patient and the hiatus will end very shortly. Thanks again for all your prayers, and keep them up; now the incisions have to heal properly!
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Saturday, March 08, 2003

I am off ventilator keep on praying

The doctor took me off the ventilator Yesterday and say I am looking very good better than they hoped . But I am still in ICU. I appreciate all your prayers keep it up I hope to be back with you soon. Happy Lent!
{Transcribed by Mike Knapp bro. not a Typist}