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Saturday 13 June 2015

Remembering Jewish Roots

"...all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text) from Dei Verbum

Our Faith grew out of the Revelation of God to the Hebrew People. This must never be forgotten. The teaching of Christ was primarily for Jews and to Jews. Contrary to some false revisionist historians (tautology),Christ came in the Fullness of Time to the Jewish Nation, as a Jew.

His teaching methods are those of a Jewish Rabbi. The Rabbinic tradition, as I learned in a superb OT class I took many years ago, is rich in stories, analogies, even word games.

Christ, most of the time, spoke plainly to His disciples. His words are clear, indeed.

Today's Gospel from Matthew 5 proves this point. (Some priests chose the Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for today). Notice how Christ puts his words into context, the context of the Old Law. He uses simple, direct words, as well as imagery. He uses theology, referring to Satan.

This is good, solid rabbinic teaching.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.

But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”

Christ used midrash, as my teacher taught us. Midrash involves stories, parables, and exegesis

Christ taught in stories, in parables, which is also what the rabbis still do. He used our own Catholic ideas on the approaches to the Bible which we learn from St. Augustine--but from Christ first.

These are the approaches to the Bible found in PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, one of my favorite encyclicals and highlighted on this blog several times. Another great document helps us approach Scripture as Catholics, with a Catholic mindset, DEI VERBUM. These also can be found in the CCC.

Here are the main approaches we learned from Christ via St Augustine. I break these down into five.

1) Historical or Literal context--we learn and study the history surrounding a passage for clarity, such as the wars of Joshua--and from this we see a literal interpretation, such as in the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

2) The Allegorical approach--the wars of Joshua represents as well spiritual warfare against evil; the Feeding of the Five Thousand is an allegory of Holy Communion, as so on.

3) The Exegetical approach is the looking for the meaning of the text--which could involve many layers of meaning, such as Joshua's obedience, his blessings from God, his gifts, the commands of God to go forth into the Promised Land as a vocation of the Hebrew People being fulfilled and so on; The exegetical meaning of the Feeding of the Five Thousand would involve looking at Christ as the Bread of Life, as the giver of food for the body and the soul, as the Messiah, as God, as Lord, and so on.

4) The Moral context, such as in the Joshua example, those who follow God and are obedient to Him in all things move from strength to strength morally. In the Feeding of the Five Thousand example, we see the moral of total reliance on Christ, and Christ's reliance on the Father, as He said He only does what the Father does, and so on--a lesson in Divine Providence.

5) The Anagogical sense or approach, which always points to the End Times, and is sometimes called the Eschatological approach. Joshua's success at conquering the Holy Land reminds us of the overcoming of sin in order to attain eternal life, and the fact that life on earth is a battle, but the war is won. Thus, at the end of time, we gain heaven through obedience. With the Feeding of the Five Thousand, we see a direct anagogical symbol of heaven, where we will be constantly "fed" by God.

The parables illuminated these five approaches to the Bible. And, as the simplest and most common form of Jewish teaching, allowed for interpretations as well, including the Messianic Secret, or other secrets Christ did not want to share with all until after His Resurrection. In a larger sense, even Christ's actions are parables, teaching, illuminating, paralleling spiritual truths, such as in the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Too many scholars forget the Jewish roots of Scripture and the fact that Jesus comes from the Jewish People. 

A pink one....!

Perfect for hermits with books...

The Force of The Soul

This little book, which I bought many, many years ago at a second-hand bookstore, supplies the wisdom of the great spiritual writers is a succinct manner.

More quotations to share:

from St Teresa  "...we should grow more in virtue (humility) by contemplating the divine Perfections, than by keeping the eyes of our soul fixed on the vile clay of our origin....The best method of acquiring self-knowledge is to apply ourselves to the knowledge of God. His greatness makes us see our lowliness, his purity reveals our stains, and his humility show us how far we are from being humble. We draw to advantages from this practice; one, a clearer vision of our own nothingness in contrast to the divine grandeur...the other, that our intelligence and our will become ennobled and capable of every kind of good."

The Interior Castle, First Manson, Chapter ii.

The Maritains, who were both Benedictine Oblates, wrote this as well:

"The study of the Sacred Doctrine and of Holy Scripture is also a normally necessary means of the attainment of contemplation. This is what the ancients called, with S. Benedict, lectio divina. 'It is no mere cold and abstract speculation, it is not an affair of simply human curiosity or of superficial reading, it is a serious, profound and persevering research into Truth itself. It is informed by prayer and tenderness. It is called lectio, and it is but the first degree of the ascending scale: lectio, cogitation, studium, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio; but S. Benedict knew well that in the case of a loyal and courageous soul he others would in their turn be added...The method of prayer of the ancients was simple and easy: it consisted in self-forgetfulness and living in habitual recollection,  in assiduously steepig their souls in the beauty of the mysterious, in taking an interest in all the aspects of the supernatural economy following the inspiration of that Spirit of God who alone can teach us to pray..." 

Dom Delatte in Commentary on the Rule of S. Benedict 

The Maritains refer to the "dissipation" and feverishness of our modern daily lives. This is why I have written so much here on simplicity. A true Catholic, in order to concentrate more on God and His ways, on Himself, must simplify one's lifestyle.

There are so many things one can omit from a daily schedule. Talking without necessity may be the first way.

Again, the Maritains: "It is probable that may souls deprive themselves of the choice graces of higher states of prayer because they are unable to sacrifice themselves with the  requisite generosity to the exigencies for this heart to heart communion with God."

The writers refer to S. Teresa yet again: "There is but one road which reaches God, and that is prayer; if anyone shows you another, you are being deceived."

And, to S. John of the Cross: "Mental prayer should take precedence of every other occupation; it is the force of the soul."

Great works and activities in the Church will not save us--we are not saved by good works, but by the holiness of those works, which come from a pure heart and pure mind.

Without mental prayer, one thrashes around uselessly, creating things in the world which are not only ephemeral, but not part of the Kingdom of God.

As a parent, I created a quiet house in order to teach solitude and listen for the small, still voice of God at home. Too many activities wear out the soul and the body, taking away energy from the interior life, which takes energy.

Prayer demands attention and energy. The Maritains admit that those of us in the world fall into imperfections and many venial sins because of the lack of contemplation.  Here is a crunch idea--if there are no contemplative houses of prayer in your area, praying for you and interceding for the Church in the area, one is absolutely in need of personal contemplative prayer, as one has no external support.

There is NO orthodox, obedient, contemplative house in this entire diocese. Pray that if God wants me to start this here, the needed benefactors come forth. I found several houses with three bedrooms, with room for a chapel, for three to six women, for under 100,000 USD. That is not a lot for the Heart of Prayer at the center of activity here in this wounded place. I need a benefactor. I have a priest who says the Latin Mass who is encouraging me, although he does not live very close to the location of the houses for sale. However, his moral support has been gratifying.

Pray for this cause. If it does not happen here, God will lead me somewhere else, and this area will keep lacking the Heart of Prayer it needs to survive the coming onslaught of evil. A diocese without a Heart of Prayer cannot endure, as the laity need this backup, this bulwark of prayer power-the force of the soul.

Great Summary of The Entire Perfection Series

"Without contemplation, no great advance will be made in virtue and we shall never be able to help others towards it. Without contemplation we shall never completely abandon our weaknesses and imperfections. We shall always remain attached to the earth and we shall never rise much above the sentiments of human nature. Never shall we be able to give God a perfect service. With contemplation, we shall do more for ourselves and others in one month, than we shall do without it in ten years." (Pere Lallemant. Spiritual Doctrine, from the Maritains' book Prayer and Intelligence.

Fantastic from France

When We Are Individuals

Americans tend to be conformists. One sees this in fashion, architecture, entertainment, clubbing, sports, and beliefs. Why Americans seem to be more conforming than other cultures has to do with the old vision of Manifest Destiny and the American dream.

Both ideals have been killed by a growing multiculturalism which is a good if incorporated into the main culture properly.

But, the main reason why Americans are conformists is that the culture is still in an adolescent stage of development. How odd that the decay of American democracy and culture happen in this adolescent state. America has never had the chance to grow up and be truly responsible in the world. It is fading away quickly as a world power, this happening on purpose, and soon will be part of a globalization of government-the NWO.

But, conformity has its roots in another dangerous ideology-that of the security of group think.

As long as people think alike and conform in that thinking, everything will be OK.

Not OK.

A society is as healthy as each individual. We are created each unique. We each have a specific role to play in society. We meet God individually now and especially after we die, in our own particular judgment.

Americans are afraid to be seen as individuals. Now, it should be no surprise to blog readers that I have never been a conformist. I am a relator, one who builds relationships even for a large community, but I have never been a conformist. All my siblings are non-conformists. Maybe this attitude is genetic. but I think it has something to do with being raised Catholic.

We were raised first to be Catholics, and, second, to be Americans. Loyalties were clear. Church first, State second.

God first, group second.

Those who put society or the group first have difficulty being individuals. I remember long ago teaching two works by St. Augustine, Confessions, and City of God. Some of these ideas I have put on this blog. But, in these courses, what became clear to the students, was the importance of the individual will.

Free will must be freely individual. One must think as an individual and then decide to be part of a larger group. One decides to get married and have a family-that is a group. One decides to be a member of a parish, or a particular Mass group, like the TLM Mass groupings. One decides to homeschool, and be part of a larger support group, and so on.

Conformists cannot think outside the ordinary boxes of society. Sadly, some choose bad company and end up great sinners by following the crowd. We sometimes see teens do this, and good parents intervene.

Conformity cannot be a substitute for individual spiritual responsibility. Some people think being a Sunday Catholic is sufficient for salvation, which this is not. The Sunday Mass goer, who forgets his Faith during the week,  perceives that being part of the group is what will save him.

To be in the "right crowd" does not guarantee salvation.

Perhaps, as the culture, the society of America slides into complete decadence, individuality will emerge again as a value. One will have to stand up to the group, the crowd, the laws of a pagan nation as an individual.

We honor individuals in the Catholic Church--they are called saints. Some are martyrs, who chose their own individual conscience, rightly formed to put on the Mind of Christ, and died for standing up against the crowd.

We are individuals when we choose freely to follow Christ and His Church. Matthew shares Christ's words about being an individual.

Matthew 10:34-40Douay-Rheims 

34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.
35 For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.
40 He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me.

A Lay Manifesto

This a Manifesto demanding obedient priests.

A friend of mine's daughter is having to choose going to another parish as the priest in Illinois, near Chicago, does not follow the Missal for Mass. I have heard this changing of words at more than one Mass in the Midwest in the past four months.

We laity deserve legal (licit) Masses and valid Eucharists. Someone was bemoaning that he says the Thirty Day Mass Novena, and had to start over several times as a priest mucked up the Mass within the novena time. Part of the problem has been that not the same priest says Mass daily in some parishes, which have visiting priests come in, even as often as twice a week.

We laity should not have to play watchdog for priests who insist on making up words which are not in the Missal. Why should I have to search for a parish where the Mass is legal, the Eucharist valid?

And, biggest question of all--why do the bishops let such disobedient priests go on year after year making up words and movements of the hands or body? One priest I heard mess something up this week did so in 2010, as I remember being at his Mass with my son, who moved to England that year. Five years of disobedience....five!

I am weary, as I have been a liturgical abuse spotter for forty years. Abuses began when I was in college, with an infamous "muffin Mass" in 1970, when the priest tried to consecrate baskets full of muffins. Thankfully, as the matter was illegal, Christ was not present in the muffin crumbs all over the floor of the college chapel. Yes, we students, on our hands and knees, picked up every crumb and felt scandalized.

Or the balloon Mass, or having all the children stand around the altar, and so on.

But not saying the words correctly must be the worst abuse, as people are deceived.

Someone told me that she wondered why she could not get over some venial sins in her life even though she went to Mass daily for years--then she found out the priest was not saying the words of Consecration correctly. 

No Jesus, no grace.

Why do not bishops step in when people complain? 

A miasma of disobedience among priests in any particular geographical area results in a weakened laity. Do some priests not understand the meaning of  "ritual"?

We demand better, We demand ordained men to DO THEIR JOB. We cannot say Mass.

If a priest is too old to remember, or to read the Eucharistic Prayer, or the words of Consecration correctly, he should be asked not to say Mass publicly. No priest should be allowed to be saying the NO in the version previous to this one

If that fact means there are less Masses, so be it. The laity deserve the Truth and the True Mass.

Is it so hard to follow directions? Is it so difficult to read what is on the page? 

Humility dictates obedience.

I must say, truly, that I never heard a messed up illicit Mass or invalid Eucharist in Malta or Dublin--never.

I never heard such in England in the south-east.

Why here? Why are some American priests so lax as not to do their job correctly? Or, is there a hidden reason for not saying the Mass correctly?

Remember what Christ told St. Catherine of Siena about mumbling priests.

We laity deserve the Mass as it should be said, not as an individual priest wants to say it.

I beg bishops to stop protecting priests who abuse the Mass, and to stop the effort to cover up liturgical abuses.

Our souls need to be fed with the Bread of Life. We need and deserve obedient priests, who are ordained to be other Christs, and help us get to heaven.