Blog Template Theology of the Body: December 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The offense of the cross

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul talks about the "offense of the cross." Given how common the cross has become, particularly as an item of jewelry, we often forget how offensive the idea of God being crucified was to the people in the first century. Now, for many non-Christians, the cross does not so much symbolize the crucifixion of Christ as it stands in for all of Christianity and in the process the cross has regained some of its offensiveness. The latest news is that the president at the College of William & Mary has ordered the cross removed from the Wren Chapel. Obviously there are some constitutional issues here, but what is interesting to me is that it is the cross that is the issue. This may sound weird, but I think it is good that the cross has once again become offensive.

As an aside, one of my friends said that her understanding of the history of the cross was that it did not become important symbolically until the Romans stopped crucifying people. I'd be interested to know if anyone knows more about this.

Also, if you are interested, pictures of the Wren Chapel can be found here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Christmas Prayer

Joyful and Rejoicing God,
You who loved first,
Giver of every perfect Gift,
We thank you for your Son.

We rejoice, because by the Incarnation of your Son you have raised every person near to yourself.

We rejoice, because the Savior who is born gives His life for our redemption, and keeps a Kingdom where all is freedom, and all is peace.

We rejoice with those whose memories are alive and well in our midst, and we ask that in your grace, they in their peace may rejoice with us in our hope.

We rejoice on Christmas Day because now we know the extent of your reach to this world that you love; and we ask, bless us, for the sake of Christ, our God with us.


(A friend needed one for a public proclamation pronto, so I put this together. Readers, how did I do...?)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Stronger Episcopal Church?

A self-described "theological liberal" weighs in on the Virginia split. Apparently, with all the "impolite" orthodox gone, the Episcopal garden party can resume as scheduled.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King, Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. By Thine own eternal Spirit Rule in all our hearts alone; By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Soccer and the church

Continuing my interest this week in the intersection of the church and soccer, I ran across this fascinating article in the Guardian about the relationship. It turns out that almost a third of the teams that have played in the English Premiership since its inception in the early 90s had their origins as church organizations in the late 19th century. The details are in this book, which is not yet out in the U.S., but will be added to my Amazon wish list as soon as it is available. The famed Liverpool club, Everton (which currently includes the devout Christian and American goalkeeper, Tim Howard), was started as a Sunday school class at a Methodist church! As the article points out, many of the clubs started off to provide a positive outlet for young men in the very poorest areas of Britain -- and times have certainly changed.

Of course, nothing captures the intersection of soccer and the church (in an unfortunately negative way) than the great Scottish rivalry between the Protestant Rangers and the Catholic Celtic.

Monastic violence

Nothing quite like a few monks bearing crowbars and fire extinguishers to make things interesting on Mount Athos. Mount Athos has always been on my list of places to visit. A couple of summers ago I had the opportunity to meet Bishop Kallistos Ware while I was visiting England. While he serves in England, he is officially attached to one of the monasteries on Mount Athos -- recall that while the Orthodox Church has married priests, all of their bishops come from the monastic ranks. He, of course, had nothing but good things to say about his time(s) on Mount Athos; as I recall he said he gets there a couple of times a year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Santa Lucia, Patroness of the Blind

The martyr Lucy (AD 283-304) was one of hundreds of Christian young women who consecrated their lives to Christ in the third century of the early Church in Rome. Her protests against being forced to marry a pagan man led to her betrayal to the Roman authorities by her betrothed husband; Lucy was tortured to death, as tradition holds, by the gouging of her eyes.

Her feast day is celebrated especially in Sweden, where elements of light and sight, as well as the martyr's crown, are combined in a beautiful family custom appropriate for Advent celebration; the eldest daughter of the household, wearing a white dress with a sash of crimson and a crown of branches set with lighted candles, rises early to serve breakfast to her family...

Relying on your goodness, O God, we humbly ask You, to give perfect vision to our eyes, and to enlighten the souls of your children, that we may serve for Your greater honour and glory. Increase and preserve this light in our souls so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and of sin.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Last Minute Advent II: The Church's Christmas List

...we ought to conform even our gift-giving to the proclamation of Christ. Thus, as Scripture insists that "we give to each his due," here are some helpful guidelines from the Catechism regarding the appropriate distribution of Holiday Cheer.

To God- total self-abandonement, trust, worship, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and love.

To Parents-honor, gratitude, docility, generosity, forgiveness, affection, charity, support in distress.

To the Elderly- honor, affection, gratitude, compansionship in lonliness.

To Siblings and Friends- filial respect for the dignity of the other self, gratitude for encouragement in the faith, chastity, grace, solidarity, self-mastery for the other, spiritual communion.

To the Poor- active assistance as unto Christ, denial of immoderate love of wealth, justice and charity, instruction, advice, consolation, comfort, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned.

To Spouses- the total surrender and gift of self, aiming at a deeply personal unity, indissolubility, and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving.

To Children- education, provision, spiritual formation, respect as human persons and children of God, the provision of a tender, forgiving, respectful, serving home.

I assume that the Jesuits will serve as the hooligans...

The big news of the day is that the Vatican considers forming soccer team. Will they have Barney as their mascot? Actually, if they were serious, they'd figure out a way to naturalize any good Catholic soccer players and then put together an all-star team. Does anyone know what the requirements are to hold a passport from the Vatican?

By the way, the last Pope was a goalkeeper as a young man. It would be kind of fun to put together a fantasy ecclesiastical all-star team. Usually the goalkeeper position is reserved for Jesus, because as we all know...Jesus saves. But I'm sure we could let the late Pope get at least a half in...

An Advent Prayer

"O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the most high, and reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things well: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Even so, come Lord Jesus
O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Even so, come Lord Jesus
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign to the people, before whom kings shall shut their mouths and the nations shall seek: Come and deliver us and do not delay.
Even so, come Lord Jesus
O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no one can shut, who shuts and no one can open: Come and bring the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Even so, come Lord Jesus
O Daystar, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Even so, come Lord Jesus
O King of the nations, and their desire, the corner-stone making both one: Come and save us, whom you formed from the dust.
Even so, come Lord Jesus
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the desire of all nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Even so, come Lord Jesus"

-Author Unknown, 9th century

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Last Minute Advent

He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all.
And His shelter was a stable, and His cradle was a stall.

With the poor, the scorned and lowly

Lived on earth our Savior holy.

- From Once in Royal David's City
Cecil Alexander

In case you might be searching for opportunities to do unto the least as unto our Lord through your gift giving this Christmas, four of my recent favorites-

- An opportunity to gift and mentor the children of inmates while their parents are in prison, both at Christmas and throughout at the year at Angel Tree...

- A great site and initiative, Alternative Gift Giving...

- The Salvation Army for Local Aid...

- And an amazing outreach to Orphans in Rwanda ...

Sermon plagiarism

Preaching on a regular basis is extremely difficult work. The demands of our culture require preachers to provide sermons that are engaging, funny, and fresh. So it is no surprise that some pastors are plagiarizing sermon material that they get from the web. It is interesting to me to see how nonchalant some pastors are about this -- including the ones whose material is being plagiarized. What I wonder about is why it is so difficult to include in the sermon something like "Ed Young tells the story...." or "as Rick Warren wrote..." I'd actually like to hear sermons that reference the thought of other preachers, as I think it shows that the preacher is attempting to connect his or her sermon to a tradition (however recent) of interpretation.

Part of this, as well, is the result of what I think is a move to sermons as entertainment. I remember the first time I read a sermon by Jonathan Edwards and was struck by how dense and theological it was. Likewise with a sermon by John Wesley, Augustine, Aquinas, or Gregory of Nazianzus. When I read their sermons I always wonder how long they'd last in modern pulpit. Most of them would probably last about two months before they'd be run off for being too dull or too dense. My concern is that sermons that are formed by entertainment priorities rather than theological priorities leave parishioners with a superficial understanding of the Christian faith, and thus something that they cannot rely upon during the trials of life.

Hail Mary

She is the Mother of Christ the Lord, and the Third Sunday in Advent is a day for her honor.

"(Let us) rightly and profitably repeat the angelic greeting 'Hail Mary' . . . God esteemed Mary above all creatures, including the saints and angels. It is her purity, innocence and invincible faith that mankind must follow."

-Huldreich Zwingli

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I thought we were over this sort of thing

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of PTL had a son named Jay. He was Frustrated with Church. So, he started a "church" in a bar. The Sundance people got a hold of him, and now we have a sitcom: "One Punk Under God..."

"Tattooed and pierced, Jay's image certainly does not fit anyone's opinion of a religious evangelist. But by fusing together punk and Christian values, he is working to show the world just how hip and welcoming today's churches can be.

ONE PUNK, UNDER GOD is a punk rock religious passage, as we follow Jay on a personal journey to rediscover God and his life--."

More here. HT: Vanity Fair.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Light to Enlighten the Nations

For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, which thou hast given for all the world to see: a light to enlighten the nations, the glory of thy people Israel.

I am obsessed with Christmas lights this season. Last year it was snowflakes (particularly the enormous UNICEF snowflake hanging over Fifth and Madison, which, by the way, is composed entirely of Baccurat crystal) and of course, the garlands at the Yale Club. But this year my THING is neighborhood Christmas lights- homespun works of art that make the magical shapes of the trees stand out in stark celebration against the night sky. I love it.

It seems to me that like all publically displayed Christmas decorations, neighborhood Christmas lights strike a small chord of anxiety in the hearts of a lot of serious Christians. We wonder, do the good people who bedeck their storefronts and homefronts for Christmas know Christ? Do they know that He is "the reason for the season"? And if they do not, why are they parading around as though they did? After all, Christmas is properly our holiday- Christmas is the natal celebration for those who will in a few short months commemorate a Crucifixion, and better yet, bear their Lord's Cross in their own lives in the meantime. I so often get the sense that we Christians want to urge the waiting world at Christmas, "hold on a minute. This is our holiday. It is serious and spiritual, and you clearly do not understand it. Please do not mess with it. Don't commercialize it, exploit it, or dilute it. This is about our Christ, and if you don't know Him, why are you acting as though you did?" In fact, in an effort to avoid the "world's" seemingly cheapened holidays, we Christians may anxiously turn our attention to "reforming" Christmas, asceticizing it, "putting Christ back into Christmas," etc. Does this ring a bell?

But I love the fact that at Christmas all the world rejoices. I do not even mind the universalized "Happy Holidays" so much, though it irks me when Christians cave in. I really love the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry gets caught up in this most accessible of "our" holidays. In fact, it is most right that everyone joins in at the Christian's Christmas, regardless of the state of their present salvation/sanctification/enlightenment.

- Because Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnationof God, Christmas truly is for all people. God Himself, the Creator of the Universe, took on (universal) human flesh and the entirety of human experience at His conception and birth. This event is not only the beginning of the hope that is consummated at Calvary; it is the objective, effective beginning of our salvation. The early Fathers had much to say about the idea that the Incarnation itself is redemptive, in as much as the original intimacy between humanity and God is restored by the simple fact of God uniting our own flesh and reality entirely to Himself in Jesus of Nazareth. Because of the Incarnation, all people are already in some sense "united" with Christ, and are re-created and re-dignified by Him. As Athanasius puts it in De Incarnatione Verbi 54, by God's Incarnation the image of God is already in some way restored to humanity in general: “for He was made man that we might be made God… He descends that we may ascend, without in any way losing His oneness with the Father, He descends to infuse our perishing flesh with Himself… so that we ascend to share in His unity with the Father (as those who do not have this substance by nature.)” Aquinas follows suit: "from the beginning of His conception Christ merited our eternal salvation." ST III.48.1 Thus in the mere reality of Christ's Incarnation all who merely share Christ's human flesh are raised a bit nearer to Heaven and to the heart of God. And as the angels put it, "in the town of Bethlehem is born to you this day a Savior... which shall be to all people."

So let the weary world rejoice, and let the unsaved, unwashed masses bedeck their lawns and let whosoever will drive by and enjoy the implicit celebration of our Savior. In the sheer grace of Christ having assumed our nature, His salvation is in some way already theirs- our's-everyone's.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pax Christi

All of us need to respond to our Lord by making a good confession from time to time.

(Why more Protestants don't regularly obey the command to "confess your sins one to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16) is beyond me; and though lots of us have our "accountability partners" for such purposes, why one would not seek out the Trained and Ordained for this purpose is also beyond me).

The Church exhorts the following about its sacrament/practice of penance and reconciliation:

1. We have sins. Lots of them
2. Only God can forgive sins
3. Jesus Christ came into the world to save all people from the power of Satan, sin, and the consequence of sin, which is death, and thus to reconcile us to His Father
4. Jesus gave to the Apostles the power to forgive sins: "If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you retain anyone's sins, they are retained." (John 20:22-23)
5. In order to receieve Reconciliation worthily, the sinner must be sorry for his sins out of perfect contrition, which is love for God (if the sinner doesnt have this sense, she should ask for it!); the sinner must make a firm purpose of amendment to avoid the sin committed as well as the circumstances which prompted the sin; and the sinner must examine her conscience for direct, conscious and free violations of any of the following-

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember the Lord's Day and keep it holy. Honor your Father and Mother. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not desire your neighbor's spouse or posessions. Etc.

An Act of Contrition from St. Martin de Porres-

"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all loving and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, and to make reconciliation and to amend my life."

Now go find a confessional, please.

Looking for a gift for your devout female friends?

Try this. These guys don't need to dress up in Barney costumes to get attention.

The Three Advents

"Over the past centuries the liturgy of the church has developed a spirituality particularly for Christians during Advent. Both Sunday liturgies and the daily Scripture readings have been designed to direct our journey into the Advent experience of the mystery of Christ. Our parents in the faith have chosen Scriptures that accent three Advents: the Advent of Christ coming into our own lives, the Advent of Christ's physical birth in Bethlehem, and the Advent of his second coming at the end of history. While the liturgies and daily readings of Advent begin with the second coming and move as in a funnel toward the first coming, we are called to a vital personal encounter with Christ through all the readings."

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Santa Claus

The original "Santa Claus" and "Father Christmas" was St. Nicholas, a Turkish bishop of the third century who was present at Nicea and who loved the poor; his characteristic gesture was the anonymous provision of the all-important dowry for three impoverished young women, which enabled their subsequent marriages. Hooray for presents and family! Now everyone stop complaining about Santa Claus and use his image as a vehicle for instruction, especially for kiddos this Christmas. (Thanks to Rev. Grubbs for the friendly reminder about dear St. Nick.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Absolutely the best Christmas cookies ever

... recipe found in an American Way magazine en route to Boston; recipe tested with younger brothers today; huge success. Since we have NO female readers here, this post, like Christmas, is purely gratuitous.

Chocolate Mınt Marvels

¾ cup butter
1½ cups brown sugar
2 cups chocolate chips
2 eggs
2½ cups flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
3 or 4 packages of Andes mints

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter and brown sugar in saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate chips and stir to melt; put mixture into a bowl and let cool. Add eggs, and then mix in flour and baking soda. Chill dough for 1 hour. Roll into balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and place an Andes mint on each one. As the candy melts, spread it across the top of the cookie with a butter knife. Makes 3 dozen.

When Wonders Never Cease: Sr. Helen Prejean in San Antonio and the Death Penalty

"There is and has been a certain sense that even in those cases where serious justifications can be offered for the necessity of taking life, those who are identified in a special way with Christ should refrain from taking life. We believe that this should be taken as an indication of the deeper desires of the Church as it responds to the story of God's redemptive and forgiving love as manifest in the life of his Son..."

Sr. Helen recently arrived at a cocktail party at the San Antonio Country Club (of all places) with various of her author friends and family members of capital punishment victims...I was there. For those in the know, Sr. Helen is the real-life nun turned life advocate for criminals on death row, who was depicted by Susan Sarandon in the excellent film Dead Man Walking.

It was so good to see Sr. Helen again, to recieve one of her famous hugs and slaps on the back, and to hear more about her life ministering to Death Rown inmates, their families, and to our very guilt-ridden, trigger-happy society.

My parents and I have been thinking about her pleas for life in our culture, and of such thorough defenses of the human person as presented in such statements as the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Statement on Capital Punishment approved during the crime tumult of the early 1980's.

I wish that every Christian took the time to read this 13 page Statement; I recently paused to highlight and summmarize some of the highlights:

1. As always, it is particularly necessary that Christians form their views on difficult political matters in a prayerful and reflective way, and that Christians show a respect and concern for the rights of all, rather than merely reacting to spectacular crimes or expediency. We should not expect or seek simple or easy solutions to profound evils, and we should always recall that Christ Himself who died for sinners, is the very "Justice" of God.

2. Allowing for the fact that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime, and that the state may take appropriate measures to protect itself and its citizens from grave harm, nevertheless, the question for judgment and decision today is whether capital punishment is justifiable under present circumstances. The availability of incarceration and means of reform in our present circumstances eradicates the possibility of such justification.

3. Given the validity of deterrence as a legitimate purpose of punishment, we note that while it is certain that capital punishment prevents the convicted individual from committing further crimes, it is far from certain that it actually prevents others. Empirical studies in this area have not given conclusive evidence that would justify the imposition of the death penalty on a few individuals as a means of preventing others from committing crimes. There are strong reasons to doubt that many crimes of violence are undertaken in a spirit of rational calculation which would be influenced by a remote threat of death. The small number of death sentences in relation to the number of murders also makes it seem highly unlikely that the threat will be carried out.

4. It is important to remember that the preservation of order in times of civil disturbance does not depend on the institution of capital punishment, the imposition of which rightly requires a lengthy and complex process in our legal system. Moreover, both in its nature as legal penalty and in its practical consequences, capital punishment is different from the taking of life in legitimate self-defense or in defense of society.

5. Granted that the need for retribution may indeed justify punishment, Christians recall the example of Jesus, who urges upon us a teaching of forbearance in the face of evil (Matthew 5:38-42) and forgiveness of injuries (Matthew 18:21-35). The satisfaction of vindictive desires is not and cannot be an objective of a humane and Christian approach to punishment. We believe that the appropriate forms of punishment must be determined with a view to the protection of society and its members and to the reformation of the criminal and his reintegration into society (which may not be possible in certain cases). In Christ, ours is not the era of retribution; rather, punishments are meant to be corrective by being conducive either to the reform of the sinner or the good of society, which becomes more peaceful through the punishment of criminals.

6. The abolition of the death penalty would promote values important to Christian citizens, requiring us to envisage more humane and more hopeful and effective responses to the growth of violent crime, and to manifest our freedom as moral persons striving for a just society. The abolition of the death penalty would also a challenge us as a people to find ways of dealing with criminals that manifest intelligence and compassion rather than power and vengeance.

7. We believe in the unique worth and dignity of each person from the moment of conception, a creature made in the image and likeness of God; the defense of life is strengthened by eliminating exercise of a judicial authorization to take human life.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Noah Webster and the Expurgated Bible of 1833

"He merely corrected the worst flaws of the text from the standpoint of an (the Bible) there were some expressions 'so offensive... as to create a reluctance in young persons to attend Bible classes and schools, in which they are required to read passages which cannot be repeated without a blush.' "

Oh dear. More here.

The orthodox threw a fit over what was done to personal pronouns in the RSV room at Yale and, but this Bible has "offensive" passages entirely omitted. The Canon which the Church takes to be the Word of God is simply not ours to redact. Please. Once again, friends, if it is not the Church who is authorizing the Scriptures, it will be the incidental ploughman. -Better let the Church do it, I would humbly submit.

Friday, December 08, 2006

My Humble Review: The Nativity Story

... it's simply the most moving, powerful movie I have ever seen. GO SEE IT SOON. Take a friend who needs to believe a little.

The Baptist conflict over speaking in tongues

Because they wouldn't be the Southern Baptist Convention if they didn't have something to fight about, the latest brouhaha is over speaking in tongues. Actually, the real concern isn't over public speaking in tongues (which is basically impossible in Baptist churches), but over speaking in tongues in private prayer. It looks like the controversy has brought a bunch of Baptists who have had speaking in tongue experiences out of the closet. What is interesting to me is how several other denominations have found room for tongue-speakers within their current practices, but Baptists aren't quite able to get there yet.

Best line of the whole article is at the very end. One Baptist evangelist says: “We’re no longer fishers of men, we’re keepers of an aquarium,” Mr. Gage said. “People need to be reached.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Merry Christmas," qua "All Hail King Jesus"

This post was a popular one last December, so I have resurrected it... the allusions and images are more appropos San Antonio de Bexar than New Haven, CT this year... but that's ok.

I have just about had it with Jaded Evangelical Disilusion with Christmas on the one hand, and Flippant Disregard on the other. I heard a bright young person wish his friend "Happy Holidays," in Church, on Sunday; very, very Annoying.

The Town Square outside my apartment has this gorgeous enormous lit Christmas tree in its center; at dusk each night for the last month, it illumines its snowy environs along with the glittering snowflake which hangs on the Charming Intersection of Chapel and College. Starbucks has everything in red, and Hark the Herald Angels playing; The Nation's First of most lovely little boutiques across the Green are bedecked in green. Christians, of all people, should be hilarious with delight at the way our world resounds with the Gospel at this time of the year.... and all without much effort on our part.

These Christmas symbols Mean Something, and they emerge on a ready world each December, to be unveiled along with with the Gospel which they signify- twinkling lights for the Light which shines in darkness; evergreens because God's creation is renewed with the Incarnation, being returned to the One for whom it was made, death is undone, life WILL flourish; red for the precious Life-Blood which accomplished it all. We exchange gifts to commemorate the unqualified grace of the Cross, the proper Christmas Tree. There is even, a poignant story behind Candy Canes, for Pete's Sake. And what are many Christians doing? They sulk about "commercialism," "pagan solstice origins," "seasonal stress," "holiday blues," and "Market Economy Exploitation of the Season." Oh COME ON. In a world where one's children may be slowly put to death for one's mere confession of Christ, we get to rollick in His fame, and our very storefronts do it with us. This is a Winter Wonderland for Jesus' followers. It's amazing.

The Psalmist simply loses it when he describes his vision of his Lord: "My heart is overflowing with a good matter; I speak of the things which I have made for the King. Thou art fairer than all the children of men; grace is poured from thy lips; therefore God has blessed thee forever; in thy majesty ride prosperously... and thy right hand shall accomplish awe-inspiring things. .. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever." (Ps 45) This is the Spirit of Christmas.

Jesus is a Rock Star in the world at this time of year. I say blow it all and celebrate Him extravagantly; feast too much, drink and be merry, stay up way too late, get stressed if you have to, have a ton of fun. Far be it from good Christians to dilute this kind of evangelism. The whole world around us WANTS to celebrate The Savior to this extent, as we can tell by the lights and tinsle and trees and gift giving madness. But we knew that all along. Now more than ever, we know that the weary world wants to rejoice, even though maybe all it can do is decorate.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"May your behavior and your conversation be such that everyone who sees or hears you can say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ."

-St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way
Ht: our friends at Evangelical Catholicism

The Bible as a commodity

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, sales of the Bible have increased by 25% over the last couple of years. Part of this is the result of theme oriented Bibles and part is because young people are using the Bible as a fashion accessory.

I think people forget how important the invention of the printing press was to the history of Christianity. A case could be made that without it, the Reformation could not have happened. The big change, it seems to me, is the Bible moving from something that belonged to the community to something that was an individual possession.

The Barney Mass

Via Rod Dreher's blog, this video of a priest dressing up as Barney during Mass is making the rounds and I am interested in the response of others to it. Apparently this priest dresses up in costume every Halloween -- the script on the video implies that it has been happening for seven years and the priest talks about being dressed up as a six-foot pumpkin one year. It seems to me that this is all out of line.

On the other hand, you get a sense that the person who put this video together has an axe to grind and seems to have a certain masochistic view of Christianity. Or perhaps this is a person who has undergone deep suffering and does not feel like this particular priest is emotionally capable of dealing with it.

Anyway, I'd be interested in your responses.

By the way, for any of you who think that becoming Catholic will somehow insulate you from versions of theological Liberalism, I think this video serves as a nice reminder that a certain amount of theological unseriousness exists throughout the church...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Common Declaration by Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I

The Vatican just published the Common Declaration by His Holiness Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I, which is the end result of their meeting in Turkey. What is interesting to me is what is not mentioned directly -- Islam. Given the pressures the church faces in Turkey, there seem to be some oblique references to Islam, but this is a very carefully worded statement.

The end result of the war against Christmas

This is a very humorous response to the continuing battle against public displays of nativity scenes.

We love our enemies, but...

I wonder if these charming moments of "blessing" the foe are at all acceptable... (probably not)

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
-- Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
-- Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
-- Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
-- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
-- Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
-- Abraham Lincoln

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."<
-- Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
-- Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
-- Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play;
bring a friend.... if you have one."
-- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one."
-- Winston Churchill, in response

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
-- Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
-- John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
-- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
-- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
-- Paul Keating

"He had delusions of adequacy."
-- Walter Kerr

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
-- Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
-- Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum
of human knowledge ."
-- Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but
by diligent hard work, he overcame them."
-- James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
-- Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
-- Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
-- Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
-- Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
-- Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for
support rather than illumination."
-- Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
-- Billy Wilder

"San Fernando is a place where the space LIVES"

- George Weigel, on one of his favorite sanctuarys, San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas.

(Weigel then referred me to an article that he had written on San Fernando, which I cannot find anywhere- any suggestions, readers?)

This amazing and beautiful little church is (rumor has it) the oldest cathedral in the United States. It was erected by the same Jesuit missionaries who built the Alamo over 275 years ago; the remains of Davie Crockett are buried in the narthex. Surely Weigel was referring to the lively devotion of the cathedral's parishioners, which was evident at a Christmas concert which I attended with my parents last night. Glorious.

-Best of all was the Anglican choir imported to do their thing, and the brief homily delivered by the Anglican curate Fr. C before requesting the blessing of the cathedral's rector, Fr. David. Fr. C delivered one of the most concentrated statements o'orthodoxy that I have heard in a long, long time, packing in the Incarnation, the Atonement, and our Lady into four brief minutes; Fr. David nodded his head benignly, warmly accepting his ardently "affirming catholicism" son.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Conditor Alme Siderum

In sorrow that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe
You came, oh Savior, to set free-
Your own in glorious liberty.

From St. Patrick's Cathedral, yesterday ... A blessed Advent to you all!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

Today, as the first Sunday in Advent, marks the beginning of the liturgical year. When I was a child, growing up quasi-Lutheran, we celebrated Advent with a traditional Advent wreath and candles marking each Sunday in the weeks leading up to Christmas. (I seem to recall that each Sunday was given a special designation, but can't find much about this. Does anyone have any firmer ideas on this?) Advent, therefore, has always had a very special place in my heart, and I encourage everyone to observe it with due reverence.

As I understand it, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Advent is regarded as a Lenten fast anticipating the nativity. The penitential nature of Advent in the Western Church is evident in the purple vestments and candles of the Advent wreath, and according to New Advent, Pope Innocent III wished to designate black as the color of Advent, but purple was already to well established. It is incumbent upon us who desire to become like Christ, to use this time to reflect on our year, our selves and affirm our desire to put off the old man and take up the new.

It seems also like a good opportunity to make some spiritual resolutions for the new year. I recently received as a gift from Fr. WB at Whitehall a copy of The Book of Divine Worship, the Anglican rite adapted for Catholic churches, and intend to take up the habit of saying the Daily Office, morning and evening prayer, this year. (Thanks, Father!) How are other readers/contributors to this blog preparing themselves for the Incarnation?