The other Easter joy:
(once a year)
The other Easter joy:
(once a year)
HAPPY EASTER TO THE WORLD!!!!
What can we say to the God of Love, Our Father, who planned this all along so that it would be possible for us to enter into His Heaven?
It was so unexpected. It is so above our means.
We say this prayer. Repeated throughout this day. Repeated throughout our lives. This prayer of gratitude:
Adoramus Te, Christe, et benedicimus Tibi,
Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum. Amen.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
For by Thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world. Amen.
And to each other:
“Christ is risen.”
“He is risen indeed.”
(At the 9th hour): “It is consummated.” It was.
“By means of men and their actions, God governs the world.”*
.* “What Jesus Saw From the Foot of the Cross”
by A.G. Sertillanges
The “beautiful thing” of this week:
Moon and moon-in-pond.
My camera could not capture its lovely golden color.
The Paschal Moon shines down through my back yard trees.
The first full moon after the first new moon of the first month of the year, Nisan.
The Paschal Moon shines down on all of us this week, because once, 2,000 years ago, it rose over Jerusalem:
And Jesus died.
I wrote yesterday that some “happy, beautiful” things happened to me. Well, here is the “happy” thing and what it showed me:
As humans, there are two realms put before us at each present moment: One of great beauty and life; one of ugliness and death. And so on Wednesday of this week and Thursday we are reminded that these two realms are set before us.
Adherence to Rituals and Rules
I came to my friend’s house yesterday, and this is what greeted me —
It was time for our somewhat regular recorder practice on Wednesday. The “ritual” is that we seat ourselves in front of our music stands, allow a little light conversation while we play our first pieces, and then we get down to some serious musicianship. Then we begin to feel that our session is over, and we proceed to tea.
Always an absolute delight at my friend’s house; beautiful, seasonal, whimsical. A thoughtful table for tea.
My friend served mille-feuilles in honor of a book we’ve both enjoyed.
(Also known as napoleons.) There was a Reality at work here in our friendship and in our music, a beautiful Reality that flows out of one realm and into the other.
We did not mention that yesterday was Spy Wednesday – but it was:
This Wednesday is called “Spy Wednesday” because on this day the Jewish leaders met with riff-raff. They who were the righteous arbiters of Ritual and the Law, had to deal with this common man, Judas Iscariot, who was willing to betray his own Friend with secret reports of His whereabouts. With great distaste, these religious rulers finalized their plans and sealed the deal with the 30 pieces of silver that was foretold so many centuries ago. But one does what one must to achieve a higher goal.
The religious rulers as well as the Romans lived in the one, material realm.
Statues, unquestioned authority, riches, gold and silver, impressive robes and long fringes; in this material realm the use of power of this material world could establish a kind of peace, ruling over all the rest. This is a kingdom not founded in love and friendship, faith and true piety, but on Rules and Rituals to keep people in their proper places.
It is a kingdom, a realm, that is ugly and leads to death.
So the culmination of all this spying and plotting came on a Wednesday, but it is for Thursday to carry it out
Material Reality and Spiritual Reality
Material Reality alone fails. There is a Spiritual Reality which gives beauty and life to our Material Reality, but we can’t”measure the spirit by material means.
Can we measure the material worth of Friendship? of Honor? of Courage? of Love? What is the price, in material goods, of your love for each of family members?
How many miles long is your Truth? What color is the Respect that people have for you? How many pounds does your Faith in God weigh?
But these things exist.
And yet, some things can be seen and weighed and measured and physically compared. We can’t lose sight of the material world that we live in, nor of the spiritual world which give Life to it.
Just as our tea table yesterday contained a tea pot, cups, saucers, hot cross buns and milles-feuilles, and you could have recorded the sound of a lovely music CD, our voices, the telephone ringing, chairs squeaking, footsteps . . . you could not have measured the intangible things of the actual Spiritual Realm (mutual love, friendship, respect, faith) which accompanied us and penetrated all our material “noises.”
Both existed. The material realm and the spiritual realm met and co-existed.
This is not “above” human beings to understand.
Jesus met with His friends at His Last Supper with them, It was a supper determined by Rituals with prophetic meaning. It was a time for the last bit of teaching, last time to show the means of Loving which is self-sacrifice and servitude, last bit of instructive and loving prayers, and one thing more:
With God’s creative and sovereign will, here was the first Transformation of the material aspects of that Supper into an eternal, spiritual union with the Creator – present from now on, any time, any place that this “ritual supper” is recreated.
From the earliest beginnings of Christianity, this Last Supper was not meant to be merely copied by our actions, nor imitated. The Last Supper, within these last 24 hours of Jesus’ life on Earth, was meant to be entered into spiritually, really, actually — and perpetually, until He comes. Matter and Spirit.
These last 24 hours are completed at Calvary.
The Last Supper which then becomes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
“Live deliberately, ” I tell my classes. “Make deliberate, conscious choices.” (So during this Holy Week, I choose to direct my attention more often to the cosmic, eternal events which makes this week so full of opportunity for us.)
This week begins with the familiar story of Palm Sunday.
It had been a pilgrim’s journey to Jerusalem, where observant Jews can be present for Passover. Jesus had been making the journey to this Passover in Jerusalem for a few days, and He made a few stops along the way.
Did you know that once Jesus was scolded for not being “present”?
There is a city along the way to Jerusalem called Bethany. A man named Lazarus lived there with his two sisters. He became very sick and was dying. The sisters sent word to Jesus to come quickly and heal him.
(Here is an aerial view of Bethany’s location, down in the corner):
But Jesus did not arrive quickly; Lazarus was dead by the time He got there.
The sisters scolded and said, “If you had been here sooner, you could have done something for him!” ( If you had been present here, our brother would not have died.) But Jesus had not been present when needed, or so they thought. We know what Jesus did for Lazarus. The sisters are united with their brother.
Then it was time to take care of their Guest, a Guest who is now present. But Martha scurried away to get the food and drink ready. Only her sister Mary remained present at the side of Jesus to hear every word He had to say.
One present at His side, one not; and Jesus said that Mary had chosen the “better part.” I don’t need to point out that being present for Jesus at every moment is indeed the better part. How much you can miss when you’re scurrying about with other duties and other thoughts!!
Then, on the first day of the week, Jesus walked all the way into Jerusalem– and was met by many people who had anticipated that He would be present in the city!
Yes, it’s ironic that the same population who was heralding Him as their Blessed King “who comes in the name of the LORD” is the same population that cried out that they have no king but Herod — so crucify this Man!
But for now, on this Palm Sunday, they rejoiced that He was present in their midst and that they themselves were present to sing highest praises of hosannas in His presence.
And after this day of palms? The next day He made Himself present to the people of the city He loved. He was present and exposed to anyone who wanted to make a case against Him.
He walked around, He talked, He healed, He answered questions, He was out in the open, totally present to anyone who wanted to find out about Him.
Again, present, as He is for us today, without us having to buy a ticket to fly to Jerusalem.
So being present is a two-way phenomenon. Someone is present for you; and you make yourself present to Someone.
Same way it always was.
Sorry I couldn’t get back here right away after the storm. I’ve been “perturbed.”
But we’re still here:
That tall tree that twisted and turned so menacingly in our big storm is still standing. The sky the next day was gloriously blue. Innocently blue: “What? What storm?” The pond level remains high but the raging torrent has returned to a normally high spring-level creek no longer uprooting trees and gouging out the creek bank.
Nature is calmer, but this week becomes one of “perturbations” and turmoil in the spiritual world, during which Christians try to enter into the experience of Holy Week, Jesus’ last week of life on this earth. Try to enter into; try to figure it out; spend time uniting in the experience, the story, the details.
The time approaches.
Next to the photo of the top of the tree is a moon becoming full. Not just any full moon; the Paschal Moon, for it is always full on Passover, and therefore on the Thursday of this particular week. I put up my fist to measure the height of the moon. One fist = 10 degrees. The moon was about 50 degrees high in the sky. As Thursday evening comes, it will be about that high, but it will be just about at its highest point later in Gethsemane, where Jesus had his unspeakable agony, sorrow beyond our understanding.
So, the storm that Mother Nature gave our area is past, but the wind still blows little waves and ripples across the pond to accompany our unsettled feelings during our Holy Week meditations.
And now there is the storm our politicians are giving us in international affairs. “Russia threatens war,” the new headlines say. Well, yes. We attacked a sovereign nation. One which Russia was working with to defeat ISIS. They would be “perturbed.”
And “Perturbations in Egypt.” Palm Sunday today, and 43 Christians were killed in their churches by Islamic bombs. “Innocent children and women should not be killed in that manner” . . . to use the words of the American president commenting on events in Syria. I hope he is not so perturbed that he takes advice to retaliate against Egypt. And if not, why not?
(Maybe an unnamed “chemical gas” is supposed to perturb us more than a more familiar bomb-attack.)
“Perturbations” as Islam advances apace in the Western world.
This week, after a few months of listening to a lecturer from Yale present Late Ancient and Medieval history, he suddenly began giving lectures falsifying (and sanitizing) the history of Islam — I could have thrown fifty books at him that tell a very different history, and consistently different throughout the centuries of experience with Islam, some of these books written long before this man was born. I suppose he has to agree to say these things or else lose his tenure.
But, gee — if you can’t trust a history professor from Yale, who can you trust? (That’s a joke, my friends.)
But again, “Islam advances apace.” Look up that word “apace.”
(Jesus, confrontational and blunt, bearer of bad news. )
“Red sky in morning, sailors take warning” —
There aren’t too many sunrises in my “circadian rhythm” – but I caught one recently! And sure enough, we had about three days of rain following this beautiful sky.
It was Passion Sunday today, a name for this particular Sunday that’s been recognized for centuries as the one in which we begin the steep, inevitable slide downward into the days of the Crucifixion. We carefully reread and then meditate on the events in those last couple of weeks before the death of Christ. There’s lots there for our minds to confront.
None of His friends knew that some very bad times were coming, though. In fact, Jesus thought it weird that mankind can read the signs in the sky, like red skies in mornings, but we can’t read the Signs of the Times. So His last conversations were particularly blunt and to-the-point.
No time left for a kinder, gentler religion of luv and mercy for everyone, everywhere, no matter what they’re doing and no matter what they believe in.
The Reading Appointed for Passion Sunday:
Speaking to the local rulers and religious leaders of His day, Jesus told them right out that if they were of God – if, as they thought they were — then they would understand His words and believe Him, but since they reject Him, they are not of God but of God’s enemy, the Devil.
You’re, a liar, they said. No, you are the liars, He said.
No backing down from the truth.
We’re sons of Abraham, they said.
But, He said, Abraham saw My day, he saw Me come to earth, and he rejoiced to see Me.
You can’t claim that Abraham ever saw You! You’re just nothing but a young, inexperienced nobody.
But — before Abraham ever was — I AM.
That was the statement that did it. Jesus is right-out, plainly, clearly, bluntly stating that He and God, (who had revealed Himself with the name I AM) are one and the same.
Take it or leave it.
Believe it or don’t.
They didn’t believe it – and they didn’t get Him that time. Yet. (“They took up stones, therefore, to cast at Him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”)
But some of them and their children lived to see the destruction of that beautiful, sturdy temple they were in. It took them unawares.
The Signs of the Times: Judgment comes upon all unbelievers.
An almost two thousand year-old practice . . .
. . . in an almost two thousand year old time-tested, time-proven Church.
Why ashes? Because we’re all toast! We’re all already toast anyway. As in burnt toast, burnt-to-ashes toast.
That was our choice, as a human race.
That choice resulted in a cosmic breach between the Creator and all of Creation.
Doesn’t matter if it happened last week or if it happened aeons ago. Each son or daughter is born into an already condemned human race onto a cursed planet.
Ashes. In the wisdom, might, and just judgment of a holy God, we have separated ourselves from Him and He;s given us our wishes, sadly and reluctantly. The resulting “separation” is described in human terms as an agonizing sense of never-ending fire . . . burning . . . ashes. The intense pain of a soul separated from God. Forever.
The Church carries the Means of Healing this separation for me.
But first I must acknowledge that God is right, and I am wrong.
Sure, I’m part of that today, with ashes on my forehead.
The “lesson” today began with a curmudgeonly encounter with sour berries, two gold strips, and a toilet paper roll.
Lesson # 1 – “New” doesn’t always mean better.
In fact, in this benighted century, “new” almost always means worse. Or greatly diminished.
“New” ways of doing things, “new tricks,” almost always means cutting corners, cutting quality — and caring more for the Bottom Line than for people.
My first encounter with the “new” came in the form of many, many pints of berries, raspberries and strawberries. Good price. Good for juicing and freezing in little cups.
I did it. I did all the work. Then I tasted the juice. Ick! Sour, tasteless berry juice. I know berries grow in the summer . . . but if they sell them now in the winter, doesn’t that mean they’ve come from warmer climates? Southern places? Greenhouses? Aren’t they still berries?
It’s “new” to be able to buy berries out of season . . . but what are these? Maybe the “new” way of growing doesn’t give the berries the ability to include their natural sugar.
The second encounter was with the gold strips.
I was putting away Christmas cards – and envelopes – and was delighted to see a couple envelopes made with a heavy gold lining, like the “good” cards we used to send to special people.
Only the gold lining didn’t go all the way through.
Just two little strips on the back and front, inside the envelope, to make it look like the envelope was just as elegant as they always used to be.
Not a really big deal, I guess, but the “little girl” in me felt tricked by this “new” way of saving money. I felt a little sadness at this diminution of quality.
Yeah . . . the “new” toilet paper rolls. The cardboard roll at the right is a sad reminder that the size and thickness of these rolls has also decreased — to the point that my old patterns for using toilet paper rolls in crafts: Brownies, Girl Scouts, first-grade classroom art projects, and those silly little crocheted dress forms that you make to put on a little girl’s bedspread . . . You can’t use these smaller, flimsier imitation rolls in those patterns . . .
And how about having NO rolls at all (like the white thing on the left)? Doesn’t work quite as well as they’d like us to believe.
To those people who thought up these “new” ideas: TREES ARE A RENEWABLE RESOURCE!!!! Making paper products employs American workers of many skills!! Paper companies produce something of worth and add value to our economy. Don’t be afraid to use paper — it adds; it doesn’t waste anything! (Of course, I’m not speaking about thoughtless “wastefulness.”)
Am I being a curmudgeon? Maybe. But sometimes I wonder, how much lower do we have to let the quality of everyday things get? Paying a little bit more for smaller quantities. Buttons and seams that come unthreaded . . . . “Newspapers that have one-tenth of the words newspapers are expected to have. We’ve all had these “encounters.” What will we see ten years down the road?
Lesson # 2 –
Yes, this is about Epiphany – the entire season of Epiphany, the one that has been diminished by the modern “new-improved” version of the Church.
Wherever you find Christendom today, you’ll observe that today is an important day on the Liturgical Calendar. It is the Octave of Epiphany. That is, the Church (the real, actual Church), has given us eight days to learn, relearn, and more deeply learn the lessons of Epiphany.
After all, only a child would want to look at the Three Wise Men and then quickly move on to “something else.” There is much more to Epiphany to the adult mind — and we need at least an octave of days to consider it all.
I didn’t write about the three main points of epiphany this year. Many others have done so, and I wasn’t physically able to do so. But just to point out, though, the three events that Epiphany offers us are
All three events demonstrate to us some aspect of the divinity of Jesus, who was presented to us at the very beginning of the Gospels. All three events have significant meaning for our eternal life, in the next world.
I’m not writing about those events, however; I’m just calling attention to a diminished and weakened presentation of the Gospel story which obscures the splendor and majesty of Jesus, the Son of God. You can’t squish a whole octave into one Sunday morning sermon on the day of Epiphany.
The “new” way of having just one day of Epiphany is not a better way! So much we no longer know!!! So much quality slipping through our hands.
The burden of the effort is on us to recover . . . quality.
(Sorry about that title.)
Yes, it is Epiphany today. I’ve just read a document from about 600 years ago reporting that such-and-such a thing occurred on “Epiphany.”
I know that date! We know that date! From the first third of the first century, the event of the Epiphany and The Wise Men has been known! And loved and celebrated down through the centuries!
We don’t know what they saw in the sky, (probably an actual “star”-looking thing), and we don’t know when they visited the Newborn King, and we don’t know exactly where they came from nor how long it took them to get there nor when exactly they arrived . . . but we do know that some Wise Men visited the Christ Child, shortly after he was born.
We can know for sure that they presented Him with at least three gifts that they chose to represent His three distinct qualities: Royalty, Divinity, and His Unique Death that would be the Blessing promised to the Ancient Patriarch Abraham.
And yet — there were no tape recorders, microphones, cell phones, video-recording devices, no GPS, no existing itinerary that the visitors from “the East” had used. No stenography, human or electronic, to record the visit of the Wise Men.
The sure thing is the eyewitness accounts, the importance and care which the early followers of Jesus placed on this event, the dawning realization that the event occurred not just out of the goodness of the hearts of these three travelers, but it occurred in order to prove the prophecies of the Scriptures that say “even the Gentiles” shall come to Him. And “This Child shall be a Light to enlighten the Gentiles.”
Gentiles! Living in Darkness for so long. Pagans, like my ancestors, worshiping and appeasing Thor and Odin.
And now, I can come to the Manger too – and the Wise Men are a manifestation of this Truth.
It’s not a false story!
How ironic is it that in this day of electronic recording of EVERYTHING , we are deluged with news stories which very often turn out to be false, told only to affect our “attitudes”; and entertainment programs which turn out to be based upon false and harmful human actions, propagated only to break down our moral barriers.
(And both, of course, presented to us in order to make money for the Corporate Rulers.)
So eyewitness testimony of the pre-technological age can be more certainly True than the plethora of electronically-recorded information that we have to pick our way through every day.
It’s mentally exhausting!
But we can Rest – in the Truth of Epiphany.
For my foreign Readers:
Some recent examples of false news stories you may have heard about:
The “Hands Up – Don’t Shoot” slogan — based on something that never happened. It just sounded like a good way to target white people, especially policemen. The petty shoplifter never did put his hands up, several minutes later he was spotted by a policeman, he had a fight with the policeman sitting in his car and tried to wrestle the gun away from the policeman; (the gun went off, the bullet was found inside the car); then he charged the policeman again with intent to harm the officer, upon which he was shot. This young man was NOT shot with his hands up.
That New Year’s Eve in Europe was a “peaceful” one, without incident from your migrant invaders.
That Trump supporters are “violent” and cause violence at political rallies. Easily proven false when you look at every instance and see who is doing what to whom.
That Moslems in America are hated and sometimes attacked. (“Tearing off my hijab,” anyone? – Now she is being prosecuted for having told a false tale.)
That America is racist. (Only on the news stories and in movies and TV programs!) Come to everyday American cities – you’ll see Blacks and Whites living side by side or working together, side by side, or walking down the street together, discussing their work or the weather or whatever. This is the “normal” America. Not often recorded by electronic devices.
That the “Russians” hacked the recent election and somehow affected the outcome. (Absolutely no evidence has been presented, although many times they have restated their claim and called that “evidence.” And then they get really mad and insulting if you don’t accept their statements as “evidence.”) The Russians did not. yet every day, even up to today, the news readers start their stories with “Russian hacking of the election” – and isn’t it terrible that Donald Trump wants evidence!
That Trump didn’t get the popular vote in the last election. The falseness of this statement comes from looking at only ONE state. There are 50 states in our nation; if you look at 49 of them, Trump received the larger share of the popular vote, by millions. Add back in that one state, and Mrs. Clinton received more millions of votes. That one state? It’s the home of millions of illicit, unidentified voters . . . .
And just one more, because I’m getting tired again: There was a shooting today at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport. Terrible. Five dead, so far. Somehow, within minutes, the entertainment-news media in this country were told to give out a name for the shooter: (a Spanish name). They were told to make discussion about “a lone wolf” shooter. “Gun control.”
And then, the Canadian airlines who was supposed to have carried this man to Florida said that No one with that name was a passenger on their flight. In addition, the way the story was told about getting his gun out of his checked-in luggage at the baggage claim area was refuted by several passengers who do carry guns on flights – in checked-in luggage.
And the photo that was released – many think he doesn’t look like a Mexican.
So the entertainment-news media is now allowed to add a terrorist element to their story.
So what is true? Who is this shooter? Who set him up? Who put him up to it? Why? And how will our Rulers use this incident – against us?
(A snapshot of Dec. 10; just keeping a record.)
Yup, we had that snowstorm. I was buried today. Not too bad, I’ve seen worse –
This area had about 9 inches of snow today. That photo is my second round of shoveling the driveway. Still hadn’t made it out as far as the mailbox. I knew I’d have to drive out in the late afternoon, so instead of shoveling all at once, I did it in “shifts.” 12:40 . . . 2:30 . . . 4:15.
You might recognize that as pre-game, half-time, and post-game (or rather between the first and second games.
Now I’m home, I don’t care how much more snow has fallen, and I’m enjoying the effect of the “frosting” on my blue deck lights:
I can NOT get a good picture that shows how soft and beautiful the lights are. I think I’ll go to sleep by that window tonight.
Another view with dramatic lights and shadows, but even less of the blue lights.
I’ll make good use of my insomnia tonight and just enjoy the winter beauty as I “wind down” from all the things that have stirred me up during the past week or so. The usual, of course: holiday cleaning, decorating, gift-buying; good preparation for the last-classes-of-the -year. I can “wind down” on that too because we’re just going to take up where we left off after we begin to meet again. What I didn’t say or didn’t say well I can try again in January.
There was a flurry of party preparations for a while, our Annual Christmas-Movie-Pizza party, but we had a less elaborate party this year. We voted to have actual pizza this year, so all we had to do was eat and enjoy. I was very, very, very nervous about whether or not my guests would like the movie. I wanted them to very much.
They did. In fact, they seemed to enjoy talking about it, mulling over it, letting it sink in, beyond what I had hoped. I can relax now.
I must have begun minimizing things, simplifying, winding down during the party. I worked hard on creating an album of our past parties – that was fun – I’d very much recommend keeping a small album of your own special group of friends… just gather up photos from the past.
Here’s a Rule of Life I discovered: The older you get, the more your past experiences mean to you, so be sure to record good moments for your future reference!! But even so, for some odd reason I didn’t take one picture during this year’s party. Not one.
That’s about all I have left…. some sorry-looking punch. Good friends cleaned up most of the rest. The leftover glögg is outside on the deck, staying cool. It won’t freeze with all that . . . you know, alcohol doesn’t freeze!
So, this is “Random Thoughts in the Spruce Tunnel.” I’m minimizing my Advent activities too. Most of it is internal, for me, anyway. And now I have this to think about: It is Gaudete Sunday. Letting up from fasting and penance a little, we focus for a moment on the Joyful Event that we’re preparing for.
So it’s Pink, not Purple:
Except I had some discordant thoughts today. My first quick peek at the news this morning revealed several groups of killings: Kenya, a chemical gas truck accident killing a couple dozen; in Turkey, an explosion killing about three dozen; in Egypt, an explosion in a church killing a couple dozen or so; and back to Africa, Nigeria, where a church roof collapsed, killing 160 people. Several stabbings, shootings, and rapes were reported this weekend in Europe, courtesy of their “refugee” guests.
Not a good way to begin Gaudete Sunday.
And not a good way to end it either, in the late afternoon, in one of those modernist-awful new-version of the Church churches…. where the new young priest or deacon or whatever continually mispronounced the word “gaudete” (that’s okay, lots of lay people do), gave the wrong meaning to the word “gaudet” and where, after making brief reference to the purple colors used in Advent and Lent, asked us what the color purple means.
“Preparation,” he says. Purple indicates preparation.
I don’t mind mistakes, but what this young man said in the rest of his sermon displayed a shocking lack of education, understanding, and knowledge of Church doctrine. One more generation of this . . . and it won’t even really matter.
I’ll do “purple” in another post soon. Did you know there was a Purple Revolution going on? And I’ll do better on Advent things.
Right now my biorhythms chart shows my Emotional line (the red one) scraping bottom.
It’s a good time to slow down, wind down for a while, without coming to any specific conclusions. After all, snowstorms are for warm quilts, hot cocoa, and a good book in front of the fireplace.
Things can only go up from here!
The movie Indiana Jones . . . had it a l m o s t right.
The real Ark of the Covenant contained the enormous supernatural power of the Holy Almighty One. And no human dare mess with it or take it lightly.
The real ark was made of hard and finely grained precious acacia wood, and then completely covered inside and out and all around with gold.
Of course there were prequels to the Ark, inklings in the pagan world that a real ark would be built some day to hold a divine something. You can find archeological examples all over the Middle East. But one day the real Ark was indeed built, along with gold rings at the corners and two long gold-covered acacia poles to put into the rings so that the Ark could be moved and carried without the touch of human hands.
After the Ark was filled . . . the top was shut . . . and no man – ever – could ever open it again, ever. Nor could the Ark be touched, not only not by profane (common) hands, but neither by ordained, consecrated priestly hands.
The Ark of the Covenant contained a “trinity” of objects*, each representing the holy presence of God-Most-High. Centuries later, when a young virgin was addressed as “blessed,” she then “contained” in her womb the Divine Presence; Mary is like the Ark of the Covenant and her womb “contained” God.
How can this happen to a human girl? How can this be? “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God, ” Gabriel told her.
The “Son” was the Son of God-Most-High, and as such, as “son,” He too was of the same eternal substance as the Father. It didn’t take long before the example of the Ark of the Covenant was understood to have been a foreshadowing of Mary, “Blessed,” called by God for a special purpose, and Ever-Virgin, untouched, never opened by man, never to be opened.
On December 8th we acknowledge and celebrate Mary, created without blemish, just like the Ark of the Covenant, perfectly made, perfectly created by an act of God so that as soon as she was created, she was conceived, and she was conceived without the blemish, the macula, the stain of sin because she was, so to speak, “saved” by her Savior, her Son, from the first moment of her existence.
Yes, she is human, she needs a Savior **, she has a Savior, but in this special, one-time unique act of creation, she was made to be the perfect Ark, the perfect container, the perfect womb to hold the Son of God.
Her human body could “touch” the Holy Son of God without annihilation.
Christians have written about this for many, many centuries, nearly 1,800 years; and then, during a certain crisis in history, the church decided it was time to formally define this doctrine so that people would know what Mary’s “Immaculate conception” meant and also what it didn’t mean.
No new doctrine, just a clear definition – but not many knew what had just been written in Rome. No cell phones in those days. No tweets.
But an affirmation was sent, in the form of a visitation from the Immaculate Conception herself. And to make sure it was a heaven-sent apparition, Mary appeared to an unlikely witness: an illiterate, unschooled, rather ignorant peasant girl who could not have imagined nor understood the new definition, even if she had heard about it.
It’s an interesting story, a lovely story, really, and told very well in the movie “Song of Bernadette.” Though her family, her town, the authorities, her priest and her bishop resisted her testimony, when she reported that the “beautiful lady” in the apparition had called herself “The Immaculate Conception,” they began to listen. Was this an inadvertent confirmation of the Church’s definition of an age-old doctrine?
How could Bernadette have known?
But what is also interesting is what happened to this ignorant, uneducated peasant girl after the visitations.
This is a photo of her, a few years later:
She became a very private person; a nun; holy; humble; serene.
And this is what happened to her after her death-
Oh – how about a close-up —
30 years after her death they wanted to move her body, and, as was the practice, they opened her casket. Beautiful. Her body untouched. She had beheld a holy and heavenly visitor, conversed with her, and it changed her spirit, her personality, and even her physical habitation.
We do not celebrate Bournadette on this day, nor her apparition at Lourdes, but we celebrate the reality of the Immaculate Conception, a young virgin, created to be the perfect, holy vessel for the Incarnated Son of God; the real Ark of the Covenant. (See Revelation 11:19 and 12:1)
.* The three objects are: A sample of the Manna which fell onto the people, from Above, to be their food and sustenance for forty years of wilderness travel.
The second “object” was the stone tablets which contained words given to Moses, which represent the will of God, the Word of God, and since He is God, His word is Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . ”
The third object was the rod, or staff, of Aaron, the brother of Moses, which, though a dead stick, budded to manifest the Affirmation of God’s presence and approval during a crisis among the Israelites.
Three objects, all containing and representing the Presence of the Living God, and more specifically, His Presence among us in the Person of His Son, threefold for emphasis: Life, Word of Life, and Bread of Life.
.** Mary is human, like us, and as such, she is never to be worshiped as God is worshiped. Any goodness in her comes from God, her Savior, just as any goodness in us is the work of God. Mary is receptive to God’s working, just as we must be.
Any honor given to Mary is because of her Son and is due her Son. “Behold, all generations shall call me Blessed . . .” because — not because of her, but because of her Son. (There are some who don’t want to call her Blessed, but this is not biblical.)
I should entitle this posting “Not-So Fun With Insomnia.” Sometimes, even though you do finally get enough sleep, it takes a physical toll on your hoped-for activities. Consequently, I missed posting about the beginning of Advent.
But now I have another consideration to add to my Advent thoughts.
A dear friend, a member of one of my classes who had become “elderly” during all these years she had been a part of us, has died, on this first day of Advent. I just found out a few hours ago.
Advent is a time of anticipating the long-promised coming of the Messiah, the Christ and the great promises that are given to us.
And so Advent is a celebration of the actual Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, True God, mankind’s only Savior. We “anticipate” by making sure we are the kind of people, individually the kind of person, we ought to be in order to worthily welcome His coming.
Advent is because all Promises from God finally do come to an end in their fulfillment. Both the First Coming of the Messiah and (soon?) the Second Coming of the Messiah, our Savior. And because our individual lives will also come to an end.
This could be very bad news. Who wants to think about the reality of his own death? Life is over. Finis. No more second chances; no more do-overs; no more . . . anything. As with our friend today.
This could be very bad news – but for the efficacious saving work of the Messiah on His Cross, pouring out Love and Compassion for us, and offering the possibility of Life Everlasting.
Isn’t Death just a part of Life? Well, not like that. Life comes from the Living Creator of Life. He gives us existence. He gives us Life.
Wisdom 1: 13-15
God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
 For he created all things that they might exist,
and the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them;
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
 For righteousness is immortal.
God did not make Death, according to the Bible, and He’s not happy about it, but He did conquer Death and defeat its power and “sting.”
Our friend knew this. From our point of view, she is dead. But she has Life now: Life from Life. Her Life from His.
My goodness!! On this Advent, this beginning of a whole new Liturgical Year, our friend passed from this life into a whole new LIfe!!
Let’s go back to the Bible, to the book of Wisdom again:
Wisdom 3: 1-3
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
2 They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
3 and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
THAT’S what we’re doing during Advent. Preparing for our End. Preparing for Everlasting Peace from the Prince of Peace.
Only One, for us men, the Messiah, Christ.
I’m beginning to like my fuzzy moon pictures. They have an interesting . . . charm.
“Moon lines.” Looks like a black and white Jupiter on edge.
I’ve got some “end of the year” resolutions to take care of soon. I’ve got to accept my good friend’s offer to teach me something about photography. Then I have to install my new editing software so I can do useful things with the photos.
I’ve got to get serious about getting my summer and fall clothes packed away and my winter clothes out and ready — and sewn!
I need a couple new vests. Here’s fuzzy black velvety one almost made. I had to create the yellow tissue paper pattern so the vest will come out with the right shape and length. The sewing up will go fast but I need to bring this winter wardrobe issue to an end.
I need to do the end-of-the-year holiday planning, company, decorating, parties.
Lots of things are coming to an end now. Autumn chores. NASCAR. Football season.
You can learn a lot about life from football –
After all, the whole game is a series of drives and the goal is getting to the “end” zone. (The Bears made it this time!!)
And today we arrived at another end, the end of the Liturgical Year:
We’ve come full circle, and have finished up the green patch at about 11:00, or 11:30. 11:59, actually. Next Sunday we will be in the blue.
It’s an orderly way of keeping track of time, which at the same time instructs us in keeping track of our journey throughout the year, with Our Savior, as the major events of our Faith unfold, one after the other.
It’s like a circular timeline. And when we reach the end of the year, the 11:59, so to speak, it’s appropriate to think more on those all-important “Four Last Things” which we all will confront, at the “end” of our time on earth.
I’m sure you’ve thought of them throughout the year, perhaps without even realizing that these are “end time considerations” that are common to all. The Four Last Things are: Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell.
Obviously, we’ll be intimately caught up in only three of those Four Last Things.
We all have common experiences with these things.
Death. Perhaps you’ve known someone who has died this past year. Or almost. Or perhaps you had a close brush with death. What might have, could have happened, if you didn’t get lucky.
Judgment. Those twinges of guilt, self-judgment, an “oops, I shouldn’t have done that.” All fundamentally pointing to the existential certainty that we will experience our last and final judgment. Perhaps you think it will be a glorified self-judgment. But, nevertheless, the judgment will result in . . .
Hell. Perhaps. You probably heard Hell referenced at least a few times during this past year without really thinking about it. Someone nearby curses: “Oh, Hell!” “Damn!” It’s a curse word because . . . well, it’s a curse that is a reality. It’s just that we don’t often “think about it.” Why is the entire human race so “fallen”? So damned?
Heaven. A hoped-for glorious End, but one which we’re entirely incapable of producing by ourselves.
Incapable: Remember the miners in South America who were trapped by a massive cave-in? All escape routes solidly blocked. They had little water, very little food, no electricity, no light. 33 men trapped deep below ground. And they were incapable of getting out of there.
They had no way of knowing that a multi-national effort was underway to attempt to reach them.
But weeks went by. Weeks with not enough provisions, not much oxygen.
How do you think they passed that time, knowing they could not help themselves out of that deepest, darkest pit?
69 days later! It took 69 days to reach them, and miraculously all the men were still alive.
Help had come from Above, by means of which the miners did not have, by efforts that the miners were incapable of accomplishing. Can you imagine how beautiful the sunlight must have seemed to them? And they saw the Light and lived again!
The Fourth Last Thing: Heaven. Available for us, by means of the Cross reaching down to us and reaching out wide to all mankind.
Advent, next Sunday, begins that process.
Well, it’s Election Day minus 7 –
Hard to keep that Steam Kettle boiling over at a time like this. Hey! Life goes on. There’s life apart from election news . . . and Chicago has just won the World Series. I’ve spent a little time in Wrigley Field . . . but never a win like this. ( If you know about the Cubs, you’ll get the reference to The Goat. Right now, he’s history!)
As a matter of fact, Son just texted a pretty interesting comment. “A few moments ago, nobody could ever say they saw the Cubs win the World Series.” A few moments later, we live in a whole new world: we are people who can say WE saw The Cubs Win the World Series.
Just like that – the World changes.
But it’s not easy to change our world:
Try try try
Work hard Work hard Work hard
Fight Fight Fight
Hope Hope Hope
And then the moment of proof comes:
You win the World Series.
Or you win the Election.
THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER
Or you die and enter Heaven.
The Church has not forgotten what time of year it is. November has begun and we are directed to remember all those saints in Heaven, designated to be our examples and helpers, as they’ve died in Christ, with Christ in them, and so they remain in communion with us. (That’s what you say in the Creed. “…. I believe in the communion of saints ….”
Remember them! Get to know them!
The very next day we remember all those souls who have died, “All Souls Day,” on their way to Heaven, diamonds in the rough, so to speak, but within the communion of believers.
And so during all of November it is appropriate to remember the dead, especially our dead loved ones. God is outside of Time; our prayers for them matter no matter “when” we pray.
Our dead loved ones are still loved by us. They remind us that one day we will be like they are now. In the blink of an eye, our world will change.
As a matter of fact, the world we exist in will change from this world . . . to the next.
The Rose is red: the grass is green
The days are past which I have seen
As you are now so once was I
But as I am now so shall be ye
Prepare for death and follow me.
This is Topic #3 of my “Interlude” in my angry countdown of days until the election results are in; and though it’s a happy interlude, it has some bearing on our upcoming election.
Today is one of my favorite days in the entire Liturgical calendar –
It’s the day the Church celebrates Christ the King !!
I write often about our “Rulers,” meaning those unelected powerful people who make the important decisions about our nation, our government, and our very lives. They are super rich, super powerful, and they pull the strings of most of the officials that (we think) we elect. They give some elected officials so much money and so much protection that these office holders sometimes seem to be above the Law.
But they themselves, those “Rulers,” are merely players in this world’s human drama and they act only with the authorities and abilities given to them by our Creator and only for His purposes.
It happens like this: The Creator, a Living Being Whom we know is of Love, existed, always. And since “Love is diffusive of itself,” the Creator created. He “thought things up” and then He loved the idea of those things and then He made them to be.
He is outside the created material world; outside of it and independent of it. You’re here because He first loved you, and then you were made to be. It’s complicated, at least for us.
Things are as they are because He is the Designer and Creator and Presider, or Ruler, over everything that is. And then, when His own creation defies Him, He is the Savior of His own creation. No matter how it appears to us in time, it will all be His in the end.
Thus, ultimately, He is the Ruler of all the Rulers; He is their King, and that makes Him King of all the kings of the world.
No one has the ability to affirm this or deny this. No one was there at the beginning.
No one but Christ, the “Son” of God; Christ the Right Hand of God; Christ the King.
Here’s a good, old-fashioned, detailed, instructive picture of the Battle of Lepanto which was won by the Christians in Europe on this date. It was one of those life-changing battles for all Europeans and their “offspring” (us). You would not be thinking and acting as you do today if this battle had been lost.
I had known about this battle since I entered the Church many years ago now, and I’ve written about it here before, but all I had read was the modern “light” versions of the incident, with an emphasis on the lovely miraculous aspect of this story. Now I’m learning more.
Today’s feast is called “Our Lady of the Rosary” and certainly the prayers of the hopeful-faithful “availed much” and certainly participants in this great battle witnessed a miracle. But there’s more, more serious and urgent reasons why we should know “more.”
First, this is one of the last great battles in a greater war with many important battles that had been lost and just about lost by the European Christians. And who were they fighting?
This picture contains a symbol of the enemy:
She is called te coatlaxopeuh. It’s an Aztec title meaning She Who Crushes the Head of The Stone Serpent” which is Quetzalcoatl, of course, whose symbol, one of them, was a crescent. She’s standing on the crescent, showing that she has conquered it and all it stands for. The cruel and vicious Aztec culture was defeated in Mexico.
The Europeans who first saw this image of The Virgin Mary presented (miraculously) on the tilma of Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531 pronounced the name as best they could, “te quatlasupe,” and discovered they were saying, like, “Guadalupe” – a river in their native country of Spain!
This image is Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was carried by a Spanish naval commander into the Battle of Lepanto.
Why this image? Because that crescent also happens to be the main symbol of the enemy that had been attacking year after year, decade after decade – and it was understood that what was happening in these Greek isles in 1571 was going to be a kind of Last Stand – do or die – they had to stop the Moslems or be overrun by them.
The Christians gathered together a fleet as best they could ( a long bitter story of failing to rally against the enemy) and sailed to the Greek islands which the Moslems were conquering one by one. When the fleet arrived they found horrific scenes of villages filled with dead, mutilated bodies, people that had been tortured and raped and left where they had fallen, slaughtered animals, destruction and devastation everywhere they looked.
Then the two armies met. The Moslems arranged their ships in the shape of a crescent; the Christian fleet divided itself into three parts to effect a well thought-out strategy against the highly skilled Moslem warriors and sailors.
The naval battle itself is a thrilling example of skillful maneuvering of battleships of the day. Christian slaves provided the power to move the Moslem galleons as both sides fought with arquebuses, crossbows, spears, and arrows. Tens of thousands of soldiers were carried by tens of thousands of the sailors who knew how to work the ships into advantageous positions.
Ships were rammed, groups of ships were surrounded and cut off and then boarded, close hand-to-hand fighting occurred everywhere. Cannons were fired. Ships were sunk. There are so many stories of individual acts of bravery, but of hideous wounds as well, and of fierce determination to die fighting the enemy.
At last, the winds suddenly and unexpectedly turned direction, and the Moslem ships were unable to maneuver as they needed to. The Christians won.
The leader of the Christian world, the Pope, Pope Pius v, standing at the hub of information and communication, had seen the enemy pushing successfully into the Christian world. He had seen the clueless, disorganized European leaders. And he could see that only Christian prayer could tip the scales towards victory, finally, for the Christians.
He ordered the rosary to be said everywhere, for victory. Many heeded his call. Or enough did, at any rate.
There were months of gathering fighters, preparation, sailing towards Lepanto, and then the battle. No one really knew what was happening during all that time. On October 7th, 1571, the pope was in a business meeting with other men, when he got up suddenly, walked over to a window, and then stated that the battle has been won, we must give thanks to God.
Many days later, confirmation of the victory came. The earnest prayers of the rosary had carried the urgent plea of the people to the heavens. God had seen the sincerity of the faith of His people. And the pope designated this day to honor the prayers of the rosary – and to honor Our Lady who ushers us through the events of the gospel which make up the mysteries of the rosary.
Today, it is just as urgent that we know who is trying to defeat us. Who has declared themselves an enemy of Christianity? Who still calls us “crusaders”?
It’s also just as urgent that we are agreed together about the necessity to resist those who would try to overcome us, or to overtake our culture. And the word “battle” signifies hard work, courage, sacrifice, and focused determination to win.
And it’s urgent to realize that God is still involved, caring, ready and able to stand by us and to fortify us when the battle comes. Let’s hope this remains a spiritual battle, fought with our prayers, and we never have to pick up our lances and arquebuses!
It’s October 7th, all right, 2016.
The Liturgical Calendar has recently brought us through some of the most powerful events that affect Mankind: The mighty Power of the Resurrection, bringing Life from out of death. The incomprehensible Power manifested by the Son of God rising into another dimension. The Power of the Divine Force pulsing down into the inner being of humans.
And today is for the doctrine of the Triune God, evidencing the Power of Revelation, for Mankind’s finite mind could not have conceived of this mystery on his own.
Power. Power. Power. One God of Power and Might. Power to Love and to give Life, Power of Creation, Power to permeate all of Creation.
So today, for Trinity Sunday, I present here a meditation, written many centuries ago, which will richly reward a thoughtful mind and feed the spirit in you.
If you’ve not had an encounter with Christ, the Son of God, this may help you understand those who have. It becomes for some of us . . . a prayer; a prayer that connects us to the Power of the Trinity.
ST. PATRICK’S LORICA
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
It’s 99 years after, which means it happened in the recent modern past.
It’s a remembrance because it still has significance for us and is therefore important – (nay, vital) to remember. Life is like that – full of anniversaries and milestones, some with personal importance, some with significance of universal application.
It’s brief because I’m currently pretty overwhelmed with daily schedules, with matters of health, family thoughts, and the added duties of holding a garage sale – which I’ve never done by myself before, and although I severely doubted my ability, this first day turned out pretty good. But exhausting.
It’s 99th anniversary, which means it happened in 1917, and next year will be a hundred-year span of time which is an interval which reminds us to assess how we’ve done, whether we’ve heeded the Warnings, and what happens next. The hundred years will be up.
So, “It” is the 99th anniversary of the first of the messages given to us through three little children in Portugal, during the height of the horrendous War To End All Wars.
Did you know we had one of those? A War To End All Wars?
This war was also called World War One.
We thought we were too smart, too advanced, to technologically brilliant to have a war like this. The messages we remember have a lot to do with wars – of all kinds.
We’ll deal with these in just a little while here.