Blog Template Theology of the Body: March 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Martyrs of Japan

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed his people ...Holy, Holy, Holy... Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord... From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised."

- these are the last words of one of the 16th century Jesuit missionaries crucified in Japan for their profession. Read more about these heroes, who died in love and forgiveness, here-

Please join me in prayer for the unbinding of the Gospel in this nation in modern times.

Blog Break III: Asia

I am off on a two -week tour of Asia with my mother's friends in Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Ravi is one of the most compassionate and thorough apologists for the Christian faith I've ever met, and I am a great fan of his thoughtful, generous, charitable, ecumenical evangelism.

We will be stopping in Japan, China, and Thailand. We will also be spending some time at the US Embassy in Tokyo, where I hope to regale our ambassador and his wife with tales of The World Youth Alliance... we need a big presence there.

I am taking with me the novel Silence, by Shusaki Endo, an historical novel about the crucified Japanes martyrs depicted above...

Fr. WB all over the place

... In case you have not noticed, Fr. WB has become something of a celebrity of late with his reflections on Lent; Lent and Beyond published his "Peace! Be Still" last week:

Thanks be to God: we know the identity of Him who is in the stern of the boat with us. We ought to recognize the obedience of our very circumstances to his command: “Peace! Be still!” And there was peace; and there was stillness. We know the answer to the question “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” He is the Lord of the wind and the sea, through Whom the wind and the sea, and our own tempestuous ecclesial circumstances and personal lives, were made. The same voice that spoke to the quavering disciples in the boat on Galilee spoke to the nihil at the Beginning, ordering the chaos: “Let there be light!” And there was light. And so he speaks to you and me, here and now.

I commend you all to his excellent devotional guidance for the remainder of Lent- Part I and Part II.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Contemporary Theology

This message recently arrived in my inbox from one of the neatest young women I am privileged to know. I had to include it here- It is inspiring:

Dear friends,

Early one afternoon in Gloucester last August I came in from a morning at the beach, and I found my grandmother knitting and watching the news. I stared at the flickering box in horror as the footage of Katrina's wake filled the room.

I was reminded of the words of Jesus:

"Come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me....Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

"The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

I remember praying at that moment that God would send me.

Tomorrow my fellow FOCUS worker and I will be traveling to Pascagoula, Mississippi with 20 boarding school students to serve there for a week. We will be staying at and serving with the Church on the Rock, partnering with families that need help removing old sheetrock, cleaning water damaged materials, rebuilding basic carpentry, and so on.

Will you please pray for us for the next 8 days while we are there?

Please pray God would fill this time with His Spirit and that we would all find Jesus in Pascagoula in a more life changing way than any of us can ask or imagine. Please pray I would trust Him with my many questions, and hear His voice over my own. Please pray for the continued healing of the people and land in the Gulf Coast, that God would be bringing beauty out of the ashes.

Keeping it Simple

Warren Angel is a Disciples of Christ pastor who has recently authored a little book entitled "Yes, We Can Love One Another!" on the issue of interdenominational reconciliation. I picked it up for a paper I am doing on Protestant/Catholic relations in modern Uganda for Miroslav Volf; though profoundly unhelpful in general (WHY is there not better stuff available on methods of reconciliation?), the author offers this fun and so non hist/crit synopsis of the NT Canon around the Gospel:

"Matthew sees Jesus as a great teacher and a friend of sinners.

Mark proclaims Jesus as the Son of God, great in compassion, who heals bodies, minds, and souls.

Luke loves Him as a friend of women, who brings joy to the world by bringing salvation to people everywhere.

John describes Jesus as the Light of the World and the Bread of Life.

James experiences Him as the Lord of glory.

Peter travels the dusty roads of Palestine with Jesus, yet denies Him three times; then Peter calls Him the Shephard and Guardian of our souls.

Jude serves Christ as the Master and Lord full of love and mercy.

...This is the Christ of the Church."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Archbishop Keen!"

" avoid gay row."

So said on Thursday.

And on went ++ Rowan-

"Despite the levels of bitter controversy over sexuality in the [Anglican] Communion, I do not hear much enthusiasm for revisiting in 2008 the last Lambeth Conference’s resolution on this matter. In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully re-open the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion.”

Read the rest here -

Rowan does not want to re-visit The Issue. On the one hand, it is perhaps a responsible move to preserve a semblance of that familial harmony which allows the Church to show the world how the world was made to live, stick to what's been arrived at, avoid further vitriole.

On the other hand, all that is necessary for scandal and schism to prevail is for a good archbishop to do nothing.

HT: Faith and Theology

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blog Break II

I am off for some much-needed R&R and a working vacation with my family in Costa Rica for the next week.

My dear family, who have always spent a lot of time working with Christian education, trained their children always to consider the "Christian history" of any nation we might visit; thus, as we bake in the sun and hike with the monkeys, I will be reflecting on the life of the poor mestizo woman who was blessed with one of the most celebrated visions of angels in Christendom, at the foot of a hill in Cartago... our sublime angels come to the smallest people in quiet places, sometimes. Viva los angeles. We hope that the Costan Rican angels keep the sharks far away from my fearless little brothers-

Friday, March 10, 2006


"At the heart of the Cross is Christ's stance of not letting the other remain an enemy and of creating space in Himself for the offender to come in.. the Cross says that despite its manifest enmity toward God humanity belongs to God; God will not be without humanity. The Cross is the giving up of God's self in order not to give up on humanity; it is the consequence of God's desire to break the power of human enmity and to receive humanity into divine communion. Forgiveness is therefore not the culmination of Christ's relation to the offending other; it is a passage leading to embrace.

...The arms of the Crucified are open- a sign of space in God's self and an invitation for the enemy to come in."

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

Chains: Unborn Children

We believe that unborn babies are human persons, to whom God calls and whom He thus invests with unspeakable value and dignity, no matter how small their little bodies may be; and yet so many of them suffer unremembered, unprotested abandonment when "excess" embryos (embryonic little children, to be precise), having been fertilized and brought to life for use in modern reproductive technologies, are discarded.

... so imagine my delight when I heard of a beautiful change in the current momentum: while Christian Right interest groups invest, and conservative think tanks think, and lobbyists lobby, and the little man on my corner holds out posters depicting aborted babies, some young couples who follow our Lord have commenced a reasonable service, the kind of quietly decisive action that can change a culture's heart more than its laws.

Janna and Matthew Weiler have "adopted" fourteen discarded embryos to be implanted in Janna's womb. Their first child from this procedure, little Sam, was born in October 2005; you can see his picture and read more about their story here.

This is the kind of thing that will make the jaws of our cultural values drop. The earliest Christians showed their love for the creatures of their Savior by providing decent burials for the poorest of the poor; these modern, true Christians are providing life and a family for the most silent, defenseless, and unknown little people in our universe.

Organizations which sponsor embryo adoption include The National Embryo Donation Center and Nightlight Christian Adoption Center. You might also be interested in Anne Barbeau Gardiner's recent essay on "The Soul of the Embryo."

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A blog break

Fr. WB and I are off to Georgia to visit a near and dear one who hasn't been feeling well...

"For Christians a special gratitude is due to those from whom they have received the gift of faith, the grace of baptism, and life in the Church...."

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2220

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Blatantly borrowing from Mrs. J, borrowing from Stepping Heavenward--

Four steps that lead to peace

1. Be desirous of doing the will of another.

2. Choose always to have less, rather than more.

3. Seek always the lowest place.

4. Wish always, and pray, that the will of God may be wholly fulfilled in thee.

About Those Demons

I cant help it... while hanging out with my Catholic friends in DC last week, the talk was all about Benedict's recent Vatican conference on exorcism, and out it came, so to speak: my Catholic friends say this prayer for themselves and their families all the time. Given that we belong to a people who confess and live as though the unseen were more Real than real itself, I am intrigued by the heavenly battles which Scripture describes. Apparently, this prayer is one way in which the faithful may participate in them (here edited slightly for Protestant inclusion)... Begone, Satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man's salvation!

(I think the idea is that the baptized should only approach this sort of thing with a very clean conscience, just FYI)

for Clergy or Laity

As issued by Leo XIII, May 18th 1890


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Let GOD arise and let His enemies be scattered: and let them that hate Him flee from before His Face!

As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the Presence of GOD (Ps 67:1-2). Judge Thou, O' Lord, them that wrong me: overthrow them that fight against me. Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek after my soul. Let them be turned back and be confounded that devise evil against me. Let them become as dust before the wind: and let the Angel of the Lord straighten them. Let their way become dark and slippery: and let the Angel of the Lord pursue them. For without cause they have hidden their net for me unto destruction: without cause they have upbraided my soul.
Let the snare which he knoweth not, come upon him: and let the net which he hath hidden, catch him: and into that very snare let him fall. But my soul shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall be delighted in His Salvation (Ps 34:1, 4-9).

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

The Most Glorious Prince of the Heavenly Armies, Michael the Archangel, defends us in the battle and in our wrestling against principalities and powers against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places (Epheshians 6:12). He comes to the aid of men, whom GOD created incorruptible, and to the Image of His own Likeness He made him (Wis 2:23); and from the tyranny of the devil He bought him at a great price (Cor 7:23). Michael fights the battles of the Lord today with the Army of the Blessed Angels, as once thou didst fight against Lucifer, the leader of pride, and his apostate angels; and they prevailed not: neither was their place found anymore in Heaven. But that great dragon was cast out, the old serpent, who is called the devil and satan, who seduceth the whole world. And he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Apoc 12:8-9).

Behold the Cross of the Lord, flee away ye hostile forces. The lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David hath conquered. May Thy mercy, O' Lord, be upon us, since we have hoped in Thee. O' Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto Thee.

O' GOD and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we invoke Thy Holy Name, and we humbly implore Thy mercy, that by the intercession of the Mother of GOD, of Blessed Michael the Archangel, of Blessed Joseph the Spouse of the same Blessed Virgin, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and of all the Saints, Thou wouldst deign to afford us help against satan and all the other unclean spirits and against whatever wanders throughout the world to do harm to the human race and to ruin souls, through the same Christ Our Lord, Amen.

We exorcize thee, O' every unclean spirit, satanic power, infernal invader, wicked legion, assembly and sect; in the Name and by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ; may thou be snatched away and driven from the Church of GOD and from the souls made to the Image and Likeness of GOD and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Lamb. Most cunning serpent, thou shalt no more dare to deceive the human race, persecute the Church, torment GOD's elect and sift them as wheat. The Most High GOD commands thee. He with whom in your great insolence, thou still claimest to be equal; He who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim 2:4).

GOD the Father commands thee, GOD the Son commands thee, GOD the Holy Spirit commands thee. The Majesty of Christ, the Eternal Word of GOD made flesh, commands thee (+); He Who to save our race outdone through thy envy, "humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death" (Phil 2:8). He who has built His Church on the firm rock and declared that the gates of hell shall never prevail against Her, because He will dwell with Her "all days even to the end of the world" (Mat 28:20). The Sacred Sign of the Cross commands thee, as does also the power of the Mysteries of the Christian Faith, the Glorious Mother of GOD, the Virgin Mary, commands thee; She who by Her humility crushed thy proud head. The faith of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and of the other Apostles command thee. The Blood of the Martyrs and the pious intercession of all the Saints command thee.

Thus, cursed dragon and thee diabolical legion, we adjure thee by the Living GOD, by the True GOD, by the Holy GOD, by the GOD "who so loved the world that He gave up His Only Son, that every soul believing in Him might not perish but have life everlasting" (John 17:1-3); stop deceiving human creatures and pouring out to them the poison of eternal damnation; stop harming the Church and ensnaring her liberty. BEGONE, satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man's salvation. Give place to Christ in whom thou hast found none of your works; give place to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church acquired by Christ at the price of His Blood. Stoop beneath the powerful Hand of GOD; tremble and flee when we invoke the Holy and terrible Name of Jesus, this Name which cause hell to tremble, this Name to which the Virtues, Powers and Dominations of Heaven are humbly submissive, this Name to which the Virtues, Powers and Dominations of Heaven are humbly submissive, this Name which the Cherubim and Seraphim praise unceasingly repeating: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, the GOD of Armies!

O' Lord, hear my prayer, And let my cry come unto Thee
GOD of Heaven, GOD of Earth, GOD of Angels, GOD of Archangels, GOD of Patriarchs, GOD of Prophets, GOD of Apostles, GOD of Martyrs, GOD of Confessors, GOD of Virgins, GOD Who has power to give life after death and rest after work, because there is no other GOD than Thee and there can be no other, for Thou art the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, of whose Reign there shall be no end. We humbly prostrate ourselves before Thy Glorious Majesty and we beseech Thee to deliver us by Thy Power from all the tyranny of the infernal spirits, from their snares, their lies and their furious wickedness; deign, O' Lord, to grant us Thy powerful protection and to keep us safe and sound. We beseech Thee through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

From the snares of the devil, Deliver us O' Lord. Grant that Thy Church may serve Thee in secure liberty, We beseech Thee, hear us. Deign to crush down the enemies of the Holy Church, We beseech Thee, hear us.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Monday, March 06, 2006


"It is by responding to the call of God contained in the being of things that the person becomes aware of her transcendent dignity. Every individual must give this response, which constitutes the apex of his humanity, and no social mechanism or collective subject can substitute for it. The denial of God deprives the person of his foundation, and consequently leads to a reorganization of the social order without reference to the person's dignity and responsibility."

- John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

Oh Joachim

... Got to ring in the new Oscars last night with two great people, the Rev. Lucas Grubbs (featured below) and his wife M; all very surprised at the nuanced way in which Brokeback ran off with the most precise awards, while the most morally rejuvenating option (at least that was Lucas' opinion) took off with Best Picture.

Nonetheless, a rather wistful nod to that great convert Johnny Cash, whose wonderful biographical piece gave us our new Best Actress, in the words of one of his favorite hymns-

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because Thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Mark: This Is My Beloved Son, Who Went Into The Wilderness

Mark 1:9-13

9And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11And there came a voice from heaven, saying, You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

12And immediately the spirit drove him into the wilderness.

13And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; but the angels ministered unto him.

Our dear friend, the Rev. Lucas Grubbs, up for his priesting this week, preached a beautiful sermon on this text at Christ Church yesterday; it begins with-

I ask you now, where is your Hell…without even blinking you can probably answer that question even faster than where do you find heaven. I speak to you in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost

And continues...

"Today’s Gospel reading from Mark is easily one of the most forgettable of all Gospel readings. At a mere five verses we run the risk of not even noting its subtlety, its power and its profound observation of who the evangelist is showing Jesus to be. We aren’t touched by a miraculous healing, nor are we challenged by the words of Christ, or the growling of John the Baptist as in other descriptions of the Baptism of our Lord. But listen now…as we see how the Spartan writings of Mark reveal a Christ who both is the “up” of the world, and also the “down”. A Christ who is above us and below, and a Christ who walks among us in every direction- How Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee demonstrates to us in a mere handful of versus a blueprint of the human condition, and what we are going to have to do about it if we have any hope for survival.
There is a term I am sure many of you are familiar with in religious imagery and architecture: It is that of the axis mundi. The axis mundi is that which visibly or invisibly connects heaven and earth. In Christianity, perhaps the most common of all axis mundis is the Cross of Christ. Firmly planted upon the Earth yet even in its bloody and agonizing purpose, soaring toward heaving and through its power becoming the perfect link that unites you and I to God in our earthly flesh. Christ himself is the living axis mundi, the man who is God robed in flesh. Here, in Mark’s statement, we are privy to an image of Christ who not only links heaven and earth, but who goes beyond both of them in order to show us how to live.

Here every single realm and state of creation opens up before our eyes, and we stand humbled by this majesty. First, Christ sets forth an example for us in humbling Himself to the earthly ministry of John the Baptist in his Baptism; Christ enters the waters of Baptism here to prefigure his going into the depths of Hell. God’s love is so great, so deep and wide that even the gates of death and Hell cannot triumph over him. If we understand our own Baptism as a dying unto sin when we enter the waters, it is because Christ has already gone before, to sanctify death, to stare it down, to empty out its growling and ugly mouth before it can overcome us with its power. In the waters of death and chaos, Christ becomes our new ark of Salvation; His going down into the waters give us a hint of what must come before. That is his death.

And so here in this brief passage from Mark, Christ has already pulled the rug out from underneath Satan and Hell. The depths of death have dropped out from underneath him in his Baptism and there would appear that there is only one way left to go- Up: And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Here is our axis mundi, here is the Christ who has gone into the depths and now, with the glorious opening of heaven, links both heaven and earth. But you see, because he has gone further in death, the axis mundi has grown much more complete. Not only are heaven and earth connected in Christ, but the depths of Hell and all the cosmos are laid open to his power and love. Nothing will escape the power of God in His Christ. One of the constantly reoccurring answers has been that Jesus indeed decended into Hell to redeem those who had been separated from God for whatever reason, be it in this life or the next. Indeed, we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, he decended into Hell, the third day he rose again from the dead. Our Hell here perhaps, or the Hell beyond…no matter, God’s reach in love spans unto everywhere and eternity.

But lest we get too far ahead in the Gospel story, we must remind ourselves that this is just the beginning of Christ’s ministry. Jesus prefigures his death in Baptism, and his resurrection perhaps in the breaking open of heavens power on earth. But he does not go, no he does not yet go. What comes next in this very Gopel passage is this. “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts.”

Ok, let us pause here for a moment. All this talk of supernatural heaven and hell is well and good. We are Christians and we as a church believe in Hell and hope for heaven. But what about now? We also have an Axis Mundi in Christ that not only fills Hell with Love, and soars to heaven in glory. Again our Axis Mundi is cruciform. The vertical up and down of Christ would not be complete with out the horizontal "X" axis of the arms of the cross and his arms of Love. What value in our lives would this story have if Christ did not go into the wilderness, the flat lands, the ordinary time of our lives? However you conceive of Hell, and whatever you hope for in heaven, these are of lesser importance to what we must ask now. What must we do now, we ask? How are we to live? We can and should draw great strength and inspiration from the cosmic power of Christ in both heaven and Hell, but unless we put this to the test here and now these become mere background stories. Now is the time we must take our part in this. Now is the time we must enter the wilderness with Christ, for fear not he has already gone before and walks with us always. The difficult work of redemption has already been done, but Christ still will not rest. No, he goes into the wilderness, our personal and savage wilderness, to be as intimately close to us as God was intimately close to humanity in Jesus.

I ask you now again, where is you own personal Hell? You know you know where it is without even having to think long and hard I’m sure. You probably know where your personal Hell is more quickly than you personal heaven. Our Hell on earth is caused by the storm winds of our sins and failings, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Our Hell on earth might be caused by the sins of others rendered upon us. Sometimes the innocent suffer the effects of the Hell of others. And let’s be honest about it, sometimes there is no sense whatsoever of fairness in this. There are those among us today who are feeling the effects of sin and sorrow, no doubt about it. Perhaps even every single one of us. There are those in our very neighborhood who suffer for reasons we don’t always understand…how hunger and sickness and poverty can continue to exist even among the learned streets of downtown New haven, I think all of us are at a loss to explain. Lest we even mention the desperation of those beyond our borders.

But there again, we must know that because Christ descended into Hell to redeem its icy grip, and then continued and does continue and will continue to walk among us on this vertical plain of earth, therein lies our Call. Christ is our example, Christ is our hope, Christ is our help. This weary plain we now walk upon indeed resembles Hell from time to time. But take heart. Christ shows us that in love, and with God we might just be able to face this with grace, and help those in need as well. We walk the wilderness, horizontal axis of this world, but we do not do it alone. Christ is our Blueprint. Cling to him. Pray to him. Emulate his love in everything you do. In this, the difficulties we face, and the hells we experience are sanctified. And from him, and in him, we walk ever more closer to Resurrection, and heaven.


Sunday, March 05, 2006


"Witness to the reality of the living triune God is the raison d'etre of the Church and is the most comprehensive context in which to understand her other traits, actions, and images."

- Joe Jones, Grammar of Christian Faith

(a fond nod to my advisor)

Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs of Carthage, AD 202

Two testimonies of the life of the early Church; a wealthy Roman matron and her servant, who had converted and worshipped together ("in Christ there is neither slave nor master," Galatians 3), sent to die together in a Roman amphitheater; legend has it that before their deaths by mauling, these two types of the secular social order publicly exchanged Christ's sign of peace as sisters.

"Perpetua was the first to be thrown down, and she fell prostrate. She got up and, seeing that Felicity was prostrate, went over and reached out her hand to her and lifted her up. Both stood up together...that they might accomplish their martyrdom with the rites of peace..."

More from S. Perpetua's own account of her trial and the events leading to her martyrdom here-

Saturday, March 04, 2006

From a Father

"No man may with impunity violate that human dignity which God himself treats with great reverence."

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum

Friday, March 03, 2006

Need your help again

Dearest readers, the operation of sending young people into nursing homes to provide their own kind of care for the elderly is underway, with your modifications having been duly noted. Now, the question is, given that these young people will be reading to the elderly, What Shall We Put On The Reading List? - any suggestions would be really appreciated.

Heh Heh

...WM just introduced me to the snazzy song, "Me and God" by Josh Turner. Hilarious Lenten Levity. And yes, I really love country music too...

Thou dost feed us with these holy mysteries...

... the way fun news which a friend unloaded from his hard drive this morning is quite intriguing: like it or not, strange things sometimes happen to the communion Hosts following a priest's proper recitation of Christ's Words of Institution (cf Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, or I Corinthians 11) over the Eucharistic bread and wine.

In this instance, a priest has transferred these Hosts, seemingly having been marked with blood during the Eucharistic prayers, to his bishop for consideration. They will then be transferred to a secular chemist for analysis. A miracle?
(... we do believe in them...) ... a bleeding Host...?

Chains: Native Americans

Remember them that are in chains, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in that body.
Hebrews 13:3

American Christians, of all people, need to 'fess up that these innocent and dignified people were oppressed, starved, and in various ways left to die in instances of a most gross injustice. Their struggles with addiction, poverty, and an illiterate culture thus continue today; and it is our fault. We should pray for them with repentance and contrition for ourselves, and where we can, attempt practically to stand with them in hope for a more charitable and promising future in our country.

Hat-tip: DDX's recording of a sermon by lovely Derek Prince.

What I'm Doing for Lent...

A few years ago, I received an 11th century bronze Byzantine cross much like the one pictured above; and ever since, I have taken it from its box at Lent to wear every day until Easter. This symbol is a thousand years old. Over highways and byways and seaways, it made its way from its provenance in Cyprus to a British jewelry shop- and when I wear it, glaring explicitly from my neck to make any instance of sin quite embarrassing, I remember that this is Lent, that Lent is the journey of a pilgrim over highways and byways, to the promised Resurrection of the Crucified Lord, in whose rising I hope for my own.

Lent is the time of pilgrims, who eat pilgrim food, endure a pilgrim's discomforts, think pilgrim thoughts of a soft and familiar home left far behind, of hard climbs ahead for the sake of arriving at the promised Kingdom where the Lord reigns who has conquered our death.

I am a Lenten pilgrim too, with my far-traveled cross around my neck and memories of painful treks on my mind (Kilimanjaro, Pike's Peak, Blackbird Mountain, and some long roads at home). In the journey ahead, I will do what such pilgrims do- I won't be eating the sweet things that those who stay behind in their nice hotels find on their tables. I wont be drinking the wines and spirits which become deadly at high altitudes. I will be far, far away from my daily dose of NPR and CNN, and so I will only have beautiful music to fill my ears and songs to sing to my Savior. Needing to streamline my burden for the journey, I will show up for an honest and thorough confession very soon, I will pay my parking tickets, I will ask frequent forgiveness of my friends and family. Having only the sky to search as I tread my hiking trail, I will meditate on the healing virtues which can be mine through the grace of God. And because I travel this route with a pack of fellow pilgrims, both present and gone before, I will be following their time-honored example; on Fridays I will be eating fish, remembering the Passion of our Lord on my rosary, and staying put for an extra hour of intercessory prayer for the people I love.

...And that will be my journey. Pray for me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Today is Ash Wednesday. In a few moments, I will walk into a peaceful church, kneel, pray, and receive my priest's thumbprint of ashes in the shape of a small cross on my forehead. He will say to me "remember, oh man, that thou art dust, and to dust you shall return." These are grim words. They are also true. And in the context of Lent, they are to me a great relief; they are the quiet reminder that my Lord and my God, in free love and compassion, also took on dust for me.

"The prayer that accompanies the distribution of ashes comes from Genesis 3, where the divine judgment is pronounced over all human beings, who had become sinners. The divine judgment falls dark and hopeless over all: "For out of the earth you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return. This judgment is directed to the whole person: you are dust; the human person, therefore, and not just a part of his essence, is dust.

Dust- truly a splendid symbol. Dust, this is the image of the commonplace. There is always more than enough of it! One fleck is as good as the next, and all are nameless. It is the symbol of indifference; what does it matter whether it is this dust or that dust? It is all the same. Dust is the symbol of nothingness, because it lies around so loosely. Dust is the symbol of coming to nothing; it has no content, no form, no shape, is nowhere at home.

But God speaks to us: you- the whole of you- are dust. We are always in the process of dying. We are the beings who set our course for death, clearly and inexorably. And through our practical experience we come to realize this.

Dust doubtlessly has an inner relationship, if not an essential identity, with another concept of the Old and New Testaments: the concept of "flesh," the concept of the whole human being. It designates the whole person precisely in his basic otherness to God, in his frailty, in his intellectual and moral weakness, in his separation fro God, which is manifested in sin and death..

From this conclusion, however, we must understand the change that the sentence "the human person is dust" undergoes in the Christian economy of salvation. The good news of salvation rings out: "The Word became flesh." Flesh has become the hinge, the pivot of salvation. Since then, flesh designates not only the pivot and hinge of the movement into nothingness and death, but also the pivot and hinge of a movement that passes through death's nothingness and forlorness into life, into eternity, into God.

Ever since that moment, the sentence of terrifying judgment, "dust you are" is changed for the person of faith and love. The old sense is not abolished; the old sense must be endured and experienced in tears, in the bitterness of nothingness and deahth, in evil and dying, in the bitterness of limitations. But the downward motion of the believer, the descent with Christ into the dust of the earth, has become an upward motion, an ascent above the highest heavens. Christianity does not set us free from the flesh and dust, nor does it bypass flesh and dust; it goes right through flesh and dust. And that is why the expression "dust you are" is still applicable to us; rightly understood, it is a complete expression of our life.

When on Ash Wednesday we hear the words "remember you are dust" we are told then that we are brothers and sisters of the incarnate Lord. We are told everything that we are: nothingness that has been filled with eternity; death that teems with life; futility that redeems; dust that is God's life forever."

- Karl Rahner, Dust You Are