Wednesday, August 31, 2005

There again, back again

Legs are supposed to be mobilating and support structures for a body, not a handy microbial nursery! [MRSA and Group G Strep this time, for those of you as decode medical....]

Home again, but on a strict leg elevation order, so won't be with the computer but maybe an hour a day. New antimicrobials, two pills and, of all things, a _nostril_cream_! And, a small victory --- after two years of campaigning, I've finally won the precious referral to lymphadema clinic; but only after the infections are certified gone and the current bunch of wounds are healed.

Still hope to get a holy person or two profiled every week, but no promises. Keeping Leg elevated comes first......

Thanks for your prayers and support and I'll keep you all in my prayers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Brother Roger's Funeral

The video of Brother Roger of Taize's funeral is here. Click button marked "regardez L'Archive video", it will play in a popup window. It is viewable with a dailup (I did it), but the video portion will appear more like a slideshow.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

We can't let schismatic "traditionalists" steal our saint!

If it wasn't Sunday, today would be the memorial day of Pope Saint Pius X, who was born Giuseppe Sarto --- warrior against spiritual starvation.

Your new bishop, the poorest of all, has but one ambition --- to see all the children under his care united in one large, happy family, in the shelter of which their souls shall be safe. For the well-being of souls I shall consider no sacrifice too great, and have nothing more at heart than your salvation. I know that for the salvation of my little flock, I shall have to bear great difficulties, encounter dangers, bear insults, and struggle against the foe who seeks its ruin. But my people will find me ever at my post, always meek and full of charity.
---Giuseppe Sarto at his installation as Bishop of Mantua

photo of Pope Pius X

Giuseppe Sarto was a man of prayer, a loving and diligent priest and bishop (of Mantua, then of Venice) and eventually pope, and one of that subspecies of fool-for-Christ saints known as "giveaway" saints --- who could not be trusted to not give away everything he touched, the exasperation of his bishop as a priest because he would pawn the candlesticks and thurible, the terror of his valet as bishop and pope because he would give away his last pair of socks.

But his greatest contribution to us who come after him was the final overcoming of a rigorist heresy known as Jansenism, for which we should give thanks every time we receive the Eucharist.

Before Pius X, under Jansenist influence, lay people actually receiving communion was rare. Although first confession was at age 6 or 7, first communion was delayed into the mid-to-late teenaged years, and it would be a full year before second communion. The Church had to have a law to command people to receive communion as often as once a year! (and some pastors resisted the law, not wanting their parishioners to receive that often; dissenters are not a new phenomena.)

But Pius X saw this dire situation and set out to do some things about it. He urged frequent communion for the faithful, communion every week or even every day. He set the requirements to be admitted to communion as the ability to tell the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary food, and the ability to show reverence appropriate to one's age; he regularly admitted children as young as 3 and 4 to first communion. And he issued a regulation that children who were regularly confessing were not to be excluded from communion --- no more confession at 6 or 7 and first communion at 15 or 16 anymore!

So, whenever you go to daily Mass and Father comes to the altar rail or communion station presuming that at least some of you will want to receive communion, thank St. Pius X, the warrior against spiritual starvation.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Yeah, I'm still here

Just very restricted in computer time right now. I'm under strict command from my visiting nurse to elevate my legs as much as possible, because a patch of damaged skin on one leg is weeping, and at my house I can only elevate my legs in bed, far away from this computer.

The next time this beast needs to be replaced, I think I'll find a laptop I can take to bed with me!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Carnivals time again

The Catholic Carnival is up at Deo Omnis Gloria. I contributed my long post on l'affaire d'affaire.

The Christian Carnival is up at all kinds of time. Here I contributed my Dormition Day post.

Lots of good stuff on both of them, as always. But, please, be sure that fron Christian Carnival you visit Minos Tirith and pray for the poor blogger there. He's in grief because folk he loves have found the holy apostolic Faith and are coming Home, and he's afraid that they will be damned.....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Breaking sad news

Brother Roger of Taize was murdered during Vespers at the Taize monastery this evening.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

And, Brother Roger and Father Max, pray for us.

Monday, August 15, 2005

".... to be happy with Him forever in Heaven."

Today is the solemnity of the Dormition, alias the Assumption, of the Mother of God.

Now, as we all know perfectly well, Holy Mother the Church never defines anything about the Blessed Virgin Mary unless it teaches us something about Jesus or something about us. This is why, short of a major new obnoxious heresy arising claiming that we cannot pray for each other, exercizing our universal call in holiness to be co-redeemers of the world with Christ, the Maria Mediatrix Coredemptrix people are going to be greatly disappointed. So, what is Holy Mother Church setting out to teach us by defining the content of this feast as doctrine? What does the Dormition, alias the Assumption, mean for us believers?

First, a proper definition of this feast: Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the end of her life on earth, was taken up to heaven by her Son, both soul and body together. There she lives forever in the glory of the Presence of God in her resurrection body.

Note that she did not not die --- though that would not have been out of line, since Enoch did not die, nor Elijah, and maybe not Moses either, and some even claim not Arthur the King. She did die, and her Son resurrected her, and took her to Heaven.

This is not all that different than what has been promised to each one of us. Dormition, falling asleep in the Lord, will come for each of us. We are made "to be happy with Him forever and ever in Heaven", as the first grade CCD book taught us. And just as His mother Mary has been resurrected to dwell in heaven body and soul together, the time will come when He will raise us up, and our soul will rejoin our resurrection body to the praise and glory of God.

Mary is the first-fruit of the general resurrection. Where and as she is, so shall we come to be, whole people, body and soul together, happy with God our Creator and Father in His eternal presence.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Do you believe in plentious redemption? A Pope and his Antipope

Today's saints, Pontian and Hippolytus, give us a case study of tensions that we see replayed again in our own time.

Pontian was elected bishop of Rome immediately following a period of fierce persecution, and, believing in the plentious redemption, he set to work facilitating the reconciliation and restoration of those poor people who had not remained faithful during the persecution, who ran away or who denied the faith in the trial.

Hippolytus was one of his presbyters, like Pontian a confessor of the faith, and he was utterly opposed to the reconciliation of those who had not stood during the trial, except, maybe, possibly, on their death-beds, if they'd been penitent enough by his lights. Hippolytus believed that Pontian was horribly lax and soft on sinning (not to mention dishonoring the sacrifices of the holy martyrs and courageous confessors!) --- and was so sure of his rightness that he allowed himself to be invalidly elected bishop by the other priests who agreed with him, becoming the Church's first antipope. Yet, in the end, Hippolytus renounced his error and his supposed episcopacy, and when the persecution heated up again, was arrested and exiled to hard labor in the mines along with Pontian, and they died as friends and martyrs together.

With God, all things are possible. All people are capable of redemption. No one, no matter how far fallen, is incapable of restoration. No one can be unworthy of our prayers, we who are also sinners. God can and will remake each one of us, if we only allow Him.

Friday, August 12, 2005

It's tough to keep the serfs in line after they pray Magnificat

It isn't just in Central America and very recent time that supposed Christians murder other Christians for being Christians. For it is very hard to become an oppressor with one's faith intact. And, when one becomes a Christian, one learns about the dignity and honor that accompany being a human being made in the very Image and Likeness, and the responsibility that comes from being buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him to a new everlasting life. "Because the boss/jefe/King says so" is no longer a reason to do evil, or to refuse to share the faith that saves.

Today's the memorial day of Blessed Isidore Bakanja. His actual yahrzeit day is the 15th, but the Church deemed his witness too important to always be covered up by the Dormition, so nudged the celebration a few days.

Bakanja, of the Boanji nation, was born in the town of Bokendela, Belgian Congo, sometime between 1880 and 1890 (not in the 80 census, shows up in the 90 one). From childhood he labored on farms, and he also gained skills as a bricklayer. He converted to Christianity from animism on 1906 and was baptized and given the Christian name Isadore; the baptismal record estimates that he's about 18 years old at that time.

He continued to work as a bricklayer or a general farm laborer on the various plantations in the area, which were owned and managed by colonialists who, although baptized back home in Belgium, were functional atheists who had an animus against the Catholic Church and her missioners due to the Church's defense of the human rights and dignity of the Congolese peoples.

He was working on a plantation in Ikili in 1909 (and teaching his co-workers about the Faith and how to pray) when he asked the boss for some home leave --- he hadn't seen his family for a long time. He was refused, and commanded to throw away his crucifix and rosary and scapular [for my non-Catholic readers, a scapular is a miniaturized garment worn under the shirt as a devotional, in his case a sign of his membership in the Confraternity of OL of Mt. Carmel] and stop teaching other workers to pray. "You'll have them all praying and turn them all into Christians, then they'll want to see their families and stop working, too!" When they caught him continuing to teach his co-workers to pray, he was beaten. He still didn't stop evangelizing his co-workers.

On 22 April 1909 he was caught talking about Jesus and prayer again.That and the sight of Isidore's scapular (farmworkers don't always keep their shirts on) enraged the overseer, who stripped him and beat him with a flesh-tearing whip over 100 blows, tearing him open to the bones, then for weeks after kept him tight-tethered in one place 24 hour a day.

When the government inspectors came, the bosses tried to hide Isidore in another village, but Isidore escaped them to hide in the forest, then dragged himself --- he couldn't walk, and his back was just a bunch of deep infected wounds --- to the inspector who was talking to the overseer. The overseer offered to put "this animal of mon pere" out of its misery, but the inspector would not allow that, and took Isidore to his home to heal. But Isidore knew he was beyond that. "If you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or you meet a priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian." Missioners who spent several days with him while he was dying, and who received his last confession and gave him Communion for the last time, urged Isidore to forgive the overseer, and Isidore answered that he already had done so. "I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much. After six months of prayer and suffering, he died of his wounds on Assumption/Dormition Day, 1909.

Young adult ministry can be hazardous to your health

Today is the memorial of Blessed Karl Leisner, youth minister.

photo of Karl Leisner

Karl was a theology student and youth minister in Germany in the 1930s. As the National Socialist regime rose to power and the oppression of the Church increased, he developed a notable interest in hiking, camping, and natural history --- a cover for getting groups of youth away from prying eavesdropping official eyes and ears to freely speak of the Faith.

He did a stint of forced agricultural labor, during which he continued his theology studies and illicitly oranized Sunday Mass and faith formation for his fellow conscript laborers. During this time, his dwelling got raided by the Gestapo --- who confiscated Karl's spiritual journal and in their meticulous way carefully preserved it (for us!).

He was ordained deacon by Bishop Von Galen (soon to be beatified himself) in 1939, but was quickly imprisoned for his continued criticism of the National Socialist regime. After time in prisons at Freiburg, Mannheim, and Sachsenhausen, he was transferred to Dachau in December 1941. On 17 December 1944 he was ordained a priest while in Dachau by a French bishop finangled into the camp with the help of the local religious authorities. Being too ill to stand, he had to postpone his Mass of Thanksgiving for more than a week.

Still clinging to life in the prison camp when it was captured by the Allied forces in May, 1945, he was immediately transferred to a sanitarium near Munich, where he died on this day in 1945 of tuberculosis and effects of his long-suffering in prison.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

My Bloglines list was too active today

It seems that the Accuser of the Brethren is on the prowl again, looking to get his jollies. There's a new designated pariah, and soon the comment-box denizens will have him gnawed to bare bones (with plenty of tooth marks).

The teaching on these things (As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church):

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty

--- of
rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

--- of
detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

--- of
calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To aviod rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understand it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one's neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

and the tradition, as demonstrated by St. Moses the Ethiopian:

A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you." So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water, and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, "What is this, Father?" The old man said to them, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another." When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

and also:

[Abba Moses said,] "If the monk does not think in his heart that he isa sinner, God will not hear him." The brother said, "What does that mean, to think in his heart that he is a sinner?" Then the old man said, "When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor."

and in the life of St. Isaac the Theban:

One day Abba Isaac went to a monastery. He saw a brother committing a sin and he condemned him. When he returned to the desert, an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, and said, "I will not let you enter." But he persisted, saying, "What is the matter?" and the angel replied, "God has sent me to ask you where you want to throw the guilty brother whom you have condemned." Immediately he repented and said, "I have sinned, forgive me." Then the angel said, "Get up. God has forgiven you. But from now on, be careful not to judge someone before God has done so."

and St. Bessarion:

A brother who had sinned was turned out of the church by the priest; Abba Bessarion got up and went with him, saying, "I, too, am a sinner."

Let's not give the Accuser of our Brethren any jollies at all. We do not need to play his foul games and become ravenous mobs or bickering factions; each of us need only accuse no one but one's own self.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Christian Carnival #82

It's Wednesday, and Carnival Time again, this week at in the outer. I submitted "August Ninth", but it's not posted yet, maybe it'll show up with the corrections later today. As usual, there's a ton of good stuff there, not all from people as history-fixated as me.

All the Riches of Christ's Church

Lawrence the deacon, the last surviving deacon of the Church in Rome ---- the bishop, Sixtus, all the other deacons, and the vast majority of the presbyters having been executed a few days before ---- was ordered to appear before the magistrate of the city at a assigned time and place, bearing all the wealth of the Church.

So he gathered all the Church's wealth and brought it to the appointed place.

He gathered together every widow, every orphan, every beggar and street kid, all the blind and deaf and lame and lunatic ---- all the riches of Christ's Church ---- and presented the riches to the emperor's representative, as he had been commanded.

But the riches of the Church were not the riches that the magistrates were seeking; they were seeking jewels and precious metals and manuscripts of forbidden writings. So Lawrence was condemned to death ---- death by torture, by being cooked on a grill. According to the tradition, Lawrence kept his good humor even in dying. After some time, he informed his executioners that it was time to turn him over, since he was done on that side!

Holy St. Lawrence, help us to remember what and where the Church's riches really are, and pray for us that we may truly cherish them and never ever lose heart.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

August Ninth: the Martyrs, Confessors, and Innocents of World War II

......or, shall we say, the memorial of the Desecration of the Temples? After all, it does coincide with the mourning day Tisha b'Av often enough, and the temple of the Lord which is each one of us is as truly a holy place as the one built of rocks and mortar in Jerusalem.

No human planned it, but this will be the way our grandnieces and grandnephews will recall this day. For three remembrances coincide this day: the memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, nee Edith Stein; the memorial of the Servant of God Franz Jagerstatter, umlauts over both a's in that last name; and the day when the second of two towns of minimal military significance was destroyed and its people murdered in a single instant.

Edith Stein, Teresia Benedicta a Cruce

portrait of Edith Stein, Teresia Benedicta a Cruce

Edith Stein was the atheist daughter of non-practicing Jewish parents. Brilliant and eager to learn, she excelled academically, and eventually became a disciple and protege of one of the most brilliant philosophers of her day. She came to Christianity and the Catholic Church by way of her philosophical explorations and her study of the writings of St Teresa of Avila. She eventually gave up her professorship at the university to enter Carmel.

When the National Socialists came to power in Germany, they began to impose their ideas of "racial purity," and life became more and more difficult. Eventually, her superiors judged that things were getting too dangerous and were only likely to get worse, so they sent Edith out of the country to another Carmel in the Netherlands, where it was believed she'd be safe. Edith had already offered up her life for and with her people, but she wasn't courting death. Then the Nazis conquered the Netherlands.

The Catholic Church in the Netherlands was, from the beginning, in active opposition to the National Socialists and all their pomps and works; the bishops ordered their preists to refuse communion to known Nazi sympathizers, and the Church was very heavily involved in the resistance to the occupation. In June of 1942, the bishops preached the absolute condemnation of National Socialism, with emphasis on its racial policies, and had the condemnation read from every pulpit in the country, published in every Catholic periodical.

In retaliation, the Nazi occupiers arrested every "non-Aryan" Catholic priest and religious in the country, including Edith, first imprisoning them in Holland, then deporting them to extermination camps further east. The Catholics were the first to be taken from the Netherlands. Edith Stein, Sister Teresis Benedicta a Cruce, was killed in Auschwitz on this day in 1942.

Franz Jagerstatter

photo of Franz Jagerstatter

Franz Jagerstatter was a farmer, the child of farmers, in a back-of-beyond part of Austria called St. Radegund, a town too little to have a post office or even appear on a map. He was an extremely rowdy young man, noted in his youth mostly for 1) having gotten a young lady pregnant and not marrying her, for which he was exiled from the village for a few years, and 2) bringing the first motorcycle to the village when he returned. He got married to a seriously Catholic woman, and they went to Rome for their honeymoon, where Franz came to the love of Jesus and the conversion of his life while visiting the holy places.

Franz and his wife returned to St. Radegund, took up the operations of the Jagerstatter family farm, joined the Secular Franciscan Order, and had three daughters. Franz also took the unpaid second job of sexton at the parish church, where he's remembered for turning down the customary gratuities of that job. The other men of the village thought he was "a little too Catholic," but also noticed that his duties to his wife, his children, and the farm were always well fulfilled.

Then came National Socialism. In the supposed vote, he voted "no." His was the only "no" vote in the village; the parish priest deliberately spoiled his ballot, everybody else voted "yes." He wouldn't say "Heil Hitler" to anybody, but maintained the traditional greeting, "Bless God." Although not a teetotaller, he stopped going to the tavern; he was getting in too many fights about Nazism. The only one of the ubiquitous Nazi charitable collections he'd donate to was the police pension fund; he said that he'd made the police work too hard during his wild youth. When he was called up for a few weeks of mandatory reserve training (there's a picture of him in his army reserve uniform), what he saw and heard confirmed in him the need to cooperate no further.

Eventually, the draft came even for married men with children. Franz went to the induction station as ordered, but refused to be inducted; he could not join an army fighting an unjust war to establish evil. He was beheaded for this refusal, this day in 1943.


This is the crucifix of the cathedral in Nagasaki, very near the hypocenter, laying amid the radioactive ruins and the dust of the congregation.

the altar crucifix of the Catholic Cathedral of Nagasaki

Nagasaki was the second of two cities, chosen for their lack of military significance, to be destroyed by a new kind of weapon, where with a single bomb one could wipe out an entire population. That's why cities with minimal military significance were chosen, such cities would have no previous bombing damage to complicate the analysis of the before-and-after pictures. Tens of thousands of civilians killed instantly, more thousands left to die slowly as involuntary human subjects in this new military experimentation and testing. The very image of God destroyed, dishonored, defaced thousands of times.

Twenty-some years later, there would be an Ecumenical Council. That Council would issue only one anathema: Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and against man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation. [Gaudium et spes, 80].

St. Edith, holy Franz, holy innocents of the Church in Nagasaki, pray for us, help us to remember, and give us strength to stand.

Today's Office of Readings reading

from the spiritual writings of St Teresia Benedicta a Cruce [aka Edith Stein]:

"We greet you, Holy Cross, our only hope!" The church puts these words on our lips during the time of the passion which is dedicated to the contemplation of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The world is in flames. The struggle between Christ and antichrist rages openly, and so if you decide for Christ you can even be asked to sacrifice your life.

Contemplate the Lord Who hangs before you on the wood, because He was obedient even to the death of the cross. He came into the world not to do His own will but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.

Before your the Redeemer hangs on the cross stripped and naked, because He chose poverty. Those who would follow Him must renounce every earthly possession.

Stand before the Lord Who hangs from the cross with His heart torn open. He poured out the blood of His heart in order to win your heart. In order to follow Him in holy chastity, your heart must be free from every earthly aspiration. Jesus Crucified must be the object of your every longing, of your every desire, of your every thought.

The world is in flames: the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt. The cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.

The world is in flames: do you wish to put them out? Contemplate the cross: from His open heart the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell. Through the faithful observance of the vows you make your heart free and open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.

Through the power of the cross you can be present wherever there is pain, carried there by your compassionate charity, by that very charity, which you draw from the divine heart. That charity enables you to spread everywhere the most precious blood in order to ease pain, save and redeem.

The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you. They question you and appeal to you. Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with Him? What will your response be? "Lord, where shall I go? You alone have the words of life." Ave Crux, spes unica!


Monday, August 08, 2005

Sometimes it's the Good Guys getting excommunicated

Today is the memorial of Blessed Mary MacKillop, one of that exclusive club of excommunicated saints. Yes, sometimes the Good Guys run afoul of their badly mistaken bishops or a particularly foul glob of church-politics....

picture of Blessed Mary MacKillop

Mary was the eldest child of poor Scottish immigrants to Australia, but she was well-educated, mostly by her father who had been a seminarian back in Scotland. To help support her family, she became a schoolteacher, teaching in the local state school and also running a small private school in the family home. She couldn't answer her call to religious life because her family needed her income. But eventually, a scandal caused by a corrupt school board official gave her an excuse to leave her teaching job in the state school without alienating her family.

Mary moved to a town called Penola; there she met a supportive priest and opened a free Catholic school for the poor. This school was the beginnings of the first religious order in Australia, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with a community charism to educate poor children in remote areas. Her order grew, and soon had 17 free Catholic schools under her care.

Her independence, her preferential care for the poor, and her insistence on the human rights of the Aborigines aggrevated her bishop, who ordered her to turn over the order and the schools to him so he could turn them into proper tuition-paying schools for the deserving well-to-do. She couldn't do that, and was excommunicated in 1871. Mary prayed and patiently put up with the situation, refusing to let it separate her from God or God's beloved poor. About a year and a half later, the bishop repented, apologized, and restored her to communion.

Mary spent the rest of her life travelling from house to house of her growing community, working for the education of the poor and the rights of the Aboriginal people, until her death in 1909.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Day of Transfigurations

Today we remember a Transfiguration in glory

icon of the Transfiguration

when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus as he truly was, glorious with uncreated Light, conversing with Moses and Elijah. Flabbergasted, the threesome said dumb things about pitching tents for them all and staying there always, but were told they all had to go back down the mountain, back to "real life" ---- though what was at the top of the mountain was more real than the "real life" down below.

And we also remember a transfiguration in horror

the Cathedral of Hiroshima after Transfiguration morning

when the first of two cities, chosen because they had minimal military significance (therefore had no previous bomb damage to complicate the before-and-after photos), was utterly destroyed by a single bomb, its people transformed in an instant from living embodied ones to etched shadows on the pavements, and others left to slowly die over weeks and months from radiation-related illnesses unknown before. Those two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were not chosen because they were the heart of Japanese Catholicism; that was accidental.

So, we celebrate this feast of our Lord, and remember our brothers and sisters who were doing the same in the Hiroshima Cathedral when they themselves were transformed in a single instant, to see the Lord for eternity as he truly is.

May the perpetual Light, which we celebrate especially on this day, shine upon them all.

Friday, August 05, 2005

St. Ephrem about the Transfiguration

1. From the land comes the joy of harvest, from the vineyard fruits that give food, and from the Scriptures teaching that gives life. The land has one season for the harvest, and the vineyard has one season for the vintage, but the Scripture when read always overflows with teaching that gives life. The land when it has been harvested lies fallow and the vineyard when the grapes have been picked is unproductive, but when Scripture is harvested the grapes of those who expound it are not lacking in it. It is picked every day and the grape clusters of the hope in it are never exhausted. Let us then draw near to this land and enjoy its life-giving furrows; and let us harvest from it grapes of life, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said to his Disciples, ‘There are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of man coming in his glory’.

2. ‘And after six days he took Simon Peter and James and John his brother to a very high mountain and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white like light’. Men whom he said would not taste death until they saw the image of his coming, are those whom he took and led up the mountain and showed them how he was going to come on the last day in the glory of his divinity and in the body of his humanity.

3. He led them up the mountain to show them who the Son is and whose he is. Because when he asked them, ‘Whom do men say the Son of man is?’ They said to him, some Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. This is why he leads them up the mountain and shows them that he is not Elias, but the God of Elias; again, that he is not Jeremias, but the one who sanctified Jeremias in his mother’s womb; not one of the Prophets, but the Lord of the Prophets, who also sent them. And he shows them that he is the maker of heaven and earth, and that he is Lord of living and dead. For he gave orders to heaven and brought down Elias, and made a sign to the earth and raised up Moses.

4. He led them up the mountain to show them that he is the Son of God, born from the Father before the ages and in the last times incarnate from the Virgin, as he knows how, born ineffably and without seed, preserving her virginity incorrupt; for wherever God wills it, the order of nature is overcome. For God the Word dwelt in the Virgin’s womb, and the fire of his divinity did not consume the members of the Virgin’s body, but protected them carefully by its nine month presence. He dwelt in the Virgin’s womb, not abhorring the unpleasant smell of nature, and God incarnate came forth from her to save us.

5. He led them up the mountain to show them the glory of the godhead and to make known to them that he is the redeemer of Israel, as he had shown through the Prophets, and they should not be scandalized in him when they saw his voluntary sufferings, which as man he was about to suffer for us. For they knew him as a man, but did not know that he was God. They knew him as son of Mary, going about with them in the world, and he made known to them on the mountain that he was Son of God and God. They saw that he ate and drank, toiled and rested, dozed and slept, things which did not accord with his divine nature, but only with his humanity, and so he took them to the mountain that the Father might call him Son and show that he is truly his Son and that he is God.

6. He led them up the mountain and showed them his kingship before his passion, and his power before his death, and his glory before his disgrace, and his honor before his dishonor, so that, when he was arrested and crucified by the Jews, they might know that he was not crucified through weakness, but willingly by his good pleasure for the salvation of the world.

7. He led them up the mountain and showed the glory of his divinity before the resurrection, so that when he rose from the dead in the glory of his divine nature, they might know that it was not because of his harsh toil that he accepted glory, as if he lacked it, but it was his before the ages with the Father and together with the Father, as he said as he was coming to his voluntary passion, ‘Father, glorify me with the glory which I had with you before the world existed’.

8. And so on the mountain he showed his Apostles the glory of his divinity, concealed and hidden by his humanity. For they saw his face bright as lightning and his garments white as light. They saw two suns; one in the sky, as usual, and one unusually; one visible in the firmament and lighting the world, and one, his face, visible to them alone. His garments white as light showed that the glory of his divinity flooded from his whole body, and his light shone from all his members. For his flesh did not shine with splendor from without, like Moses, but the glory of his divinity flooded from him. His light dawned and was drawn together in him. Nor did depart somewhere else and leave him, because it did come from another place and adorn him, nor was it for his use. And he did not display the whole depth of his glory, but only as much as the limits of their eyes could encompass.

9. ‘And there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him’. And the words that they said to him were such as these: they were thanking him that their words and those of all their fellow Prophets had been fulfilled by his coming. They offered him worship for the salvation which he had wrought for the world for the human race; and that he had fulfilled in reality the mystery they had only sketched. There was joy for the Prophets and the Apostles by this ascent of the mountain. The Prophets rejoiced when they saw his humanity, which they had not known. The Apostles also rejoiced when they saw the glory of his divinity, which they had not known, and heard the voice of the Father bearing witness to his Son; and through this they recognized his incarnation, which was concealed from them. And the witness of the three was sealed by the Father’s voice and by Moses and Elias, who stood by him like servants, and they looked to one another: the Prophets to the Apostles and the Apostles to the Prophets. There the authors of the old covenant saw the authors of the new. Holy Moses saw Simon the sanctified; the steward of the Father saw the administrator of the Son. The former divided the sea for the people to walk in the middle of the waves; the latter raised a tent for the building of the Church. The virgin of the old covenant saw the virgin of the new: [Elias and John;] the one who mounted on the chariot of fire and the one who leaned on the breast of the flame. And the mountain became a type of the Church, and on it Jesus united the two covenants, which the Church received, and made known to us that he is the giver of the two. The one received his mysteries; the other revealed the glory of his works.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Prayer Meeting down by the riverside

Today is the memorial day of St. Lydia of Thyatira, widow, trader in purple dye, one of the first hosts of the infant Church. Here is her story.

Paul had been ministering to the Church in the Near East --- Antioch, various towns in Turkey --- when he had a vision directing him to "go west, young man", to the unreached peoples of Macedonia. So he went, sailing to Philippi, the main trade city in Macedonia and a Roman colony. There were some Jews there, but not enough males to make a quorum for a synagogue. So when Sabbath came, Paul and his companions went to the banks of the river, hoping to find a Jewish prayer meeting. Jewish women would go to the river regularly to observe the laws of family purity, and so it became the standard gathering place for prayer in towns without enough males for a synagogue quorum.

Paul and company did indeed find the prayer meeting, and its leader, Lydia, a convert to Judaism and independently wealthy woman --- purple dye was an extraordinarily rare and extremely expensive commodity. Paul sat himself down and spoke to the gathering. Lydia was converted, she and her whole household were baptised, and she took Paul and company home to stay with her. The Church was established at Philippi, and lived its first generation, in Lydia's living room under her guidance.

If anyone rattles on about only men exercising authority in the Church, and how women are so very oppressed, start by pointing them to the strong women who made St. Paul's ministry work, such as Phoebe and Priscilla, and Lydia.