Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Eve at the D. House

New Year's Eve has become a "family" night for us ever since the kids got old enough to want to stay up until midnight. We eat junk food (taquitos anyone? how about some Rotel cheese dip?), play board games and watch movies. Tom and I quaff champagne the whole time ... albeit at a very slow pace. (We're not big drinkers.) Rose has turned down babysitting two years in a row because she doesn't want to miss her New Year's Eve at home.

This year will be different only in venue and some of the people. We're going to be visiting Tom's mom in Houston and are not sure who else will be there. I'm planning on making Mexican food in case there's a crowd. And champagne goes with everything right? We'll certainly find out with that combination! However, we'll be taking our favorite board games (including Risk which may be too involved for that sort of evening) and movies. The moveable party!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

PC or Mac?

The answers to my RSS questions lead me to believe that I am waaaaaaay outnumbered because I am a Mac user. For instance, the extensions info was for Windows, a dead giveaway. Is everyone else on the PC or do I have compatriots out there?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Our Delightful Evening

Last night felt more like a weekend and it was a distinct shock to realize I have to go work this morning and actually think! Tom and I were taken to dinner by a couple who we have known through work for some time. Steve has been a client for many years (10?) and his wife, Cathy, has a jewelry design business for which we have provided web work for maybe a couple of years. Both are very enjoyable people but it never occurred to us to get together socially until this invitation.

I sure am glad that they thought of it! We were taken to a tiny restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Veracruz in the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff (for any Dallasites reading). This place had perhaps eight tables but wonderful decor, service and, most important of all, food. Although it is surprising that I noticed any of that because Cathy and I were so engrossed in conversation that my Pipian Chicken (chicken breast with pumpkin seed sauce) almost went to waste (almost!). As she later said to Steve, "Oh, were you there too?" I don't think the guys suffered because I heard a steady stream of talking and laughing coming from them.

It was especially fun because Cathy and I connected on soooooo many levels. She's the only other person I know who shops weekly at both the Central Market and Kuby's. She goes to a reformed temple ("it's very reformed") and y'all know I'm a staunchly conservative Catholic, but we agreed on so many intersecting areas of the need for education, intellectual curiousity and the application of those things to child rearing. It also was refreshing to talk to someone who has teenagers (hers are 19 and 16 year old girls) as so many of my friends have very young children. We both understood the idea of being the parents providing the gathering place for kids' friends, had similar "clever" stories about our almost grown kids' views, etc. Steve and Tom? Yeah, they were still there somewhere ...

Before and after dinner they showed us a bit of the area. Tom and I were intrigued and, if we can find our way back, want to go during the day with the girls and explore a bit more. One quirky place we explored was ifs ands & butts, which bills itself as "The World's Most Famous SodaPop & Tobacco Shop". I could believe it. I had no idea that so many old brands of soda pop still were being manufactured. Our conversation with the proprietor about Coca Cola from Mexico versus Holland was so fascinating that he almost couldn't quit talking (a passion for his work, don't ya know!).

As I work my way slowly toward New Year's resolutions (that is a whole other post), this reinforces a life style change that Tom and I discussed last year and that I am going to try to force this year ... we must make the time to entertain more. Ok, let's make that, we must make time to entertain at all! It's too easy to let it slide in the middle of a busy life and then discover you never have any of your friends ever come over. It took us several months just to set the date for last night's outing. Certainly we have to have Steve and Cathy over and continue all that talking ... for one thing, I never got to talk to Steve!

Frostie

I Love My Butterbell

Do you? It is one of my kitchen essentials and if you haven't heard of it you might be missing something that makes life a little easier.

Also, Monkey has been back in the kitchen.

All over at Glad Gastronome.

Biblical Prayer Themes, Part II

[continued from Biblical Prayer Themes, Part I]
4. Longing and yearning. In its advancing stages the pursuit of God includes a hungering and thirsting for him as though we were a parched desert in need of a soaking rain, or as a doe longs for the running waters of a stream (Ps 63:1; 42:1-2). At times in life we need quietly and patiently to wait for the Lord, who will fill us in due time (Ps 37:7, 40:1). The psalmist seeks to understand better, to celebrate, to love, and to observe the precepts and plans of the Lord (Ps 119:1-176).

5. Prayerful suffering. Since all of us suffer in one way or another, and in diverse degrees, it is not surprising that the biblical word would teach us how to bear our crosses in life and how to use them to come to a closer communion with the indwelling Trinity. Jesus, of course, leads the way: in the midst of his agony in the garden of olives he shares with the Father his inner pains and expresses his desire that the divine will be done (Mt 26:39). We, too, express our heartaches to this same loving Father and unload our burdens before him (Ps 55:4-5, 16-17, 22; 62:8). We may even cry out in our pains and sufferings (Ps 22; 23:4-6; 27:7).

6. Sorrowing for sin. There is need in any honest heart to join David and the publican in begging pardon of the all-holy God, for we are sinners (many psalms; Lk 18:13). The first step in obtaining forgiveness is to confess humbly that we have sinned. Then we renounce the sin, express sorrow, and return to the Father, firmly resolved to profit from our experience and to be deeply converted (Ps 32:1-5; 51; Lk 15:11-24). Since serious sin wounds the sinner profoundly and issues in bitter guilt, he wisely returns to the only one who can heal him fully and he seeks relief from the divine forgiving love (Ps 38:1-10, 17-18, 21-22).
Prayer Primer, Thomas Dubay, S.M.
[Varieties of biblical prayer themes to be continued...]

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Glorying in the Eternal Investment - Children

My children can have more far reaching implications for society and posterity than anything else I can do. Having babies and training children for Jesus Christ means my life work will last forever. I hurt for you and those sad, misguided souls who would think of prolific motherhood as reducing women to the status of "baby machine." I refuse to accept the minimizing, selfish, materialistic, and limited vision of womanhood dispensed by the apostles of modernity and relevancy in this generation. My dream is far greater. I reject the options which the world offers. I want something bigger.

I loved reading this spirited and glorious defense of the large family by Beall Phillips over at Doug's Blog. Much thanks to Donna at Quiet Life for the heads up.

What Do We Have to Say for God?

To others pondering senseless suffering, read the comments on this post over at Open Book. Some very powerful answers over there.

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Massacre of Holy Innocents

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (front, predella): The Massacre of the Innocents.

Nor must we forget that our greatest happiness and our most authentic good are not always those which we dream of and long for. It is difficult for us to see things in their true perspective: we can only take in a very small part of complete reality. We only see the tiny piece of reality that is here, in front of us. We are inclined to feel that earthly existence is the only real one and often consider our time on earth to be the period in which all our longings for perfect happiness ought to be fulfilled.

There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. for the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whoom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God's life ... (F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus)
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Monday, December 27, 2004

My Christmas by Julie D.

FIRST THINGS FIRST
The church looked gorgeous and really reflected the joyous celebration. We always attend Christmas Day mass. Not only does that make the day itself special but we have learned to avoid those Christmas Eve "crushes" I've seen other St. Blog's folks complaining about (it took a few years of suffering because the girls sang in a children's choir on Christmas Eve before we could get away from those crowds).

UNDER THE TREE
Santa was very good to the Glad Gastronome. I also got many things from my Amazon wish list including Michael (love John Travolta's turn in that movie), The Anvil of the World (some great fantasy s-f by one of my favorite authors), and Thinklers! (I've gotta get material for the weekend puzzlers somhow!). The biggest and most surprising gift was from Tom; a one year subscription to NPR's "Wait, Wait" and "Car Talk" that I can download into my iPod weekly. Woohoo! No more trying to remember to be home to tape it! What a great idea!

Also, this wasn't really "under the tree" as I had pre-ordered it many months ago, but Amazon got The Simpson's 5th season DVD (released on 12/22) to us in one day and it was a great festive start to the holidays. There's no better way to get the excitement level going than watching "forgotten" or little seen episodes of The Simpsons in their prime.

COOL STUFF OTHERS GOT
  • Tom: Postcards from the Boys by Ringo Starr. I never knew that whenever any of the Beatles went anywhere they'd mail postcards to Ringo but here they are collected in this book with Ringo's commentary.

  • Rose: a very cool hat from Urban Outfitters. She always looks fab in hats and this one sets off her looks just perfectly. (Although I also liked her Muse cd a lot more than I thought I would have ... to the point of needing it on my iPod.)

  • Hannah: a toad house. This summer we had a toad living in the bottom of our Earth Box. I didn't even know we had toads in our yard. She is very into nature and this was perfect for her.

WHAT I LEARNED
  • Tom has a real liking for red ribbon ... a REAL LIKING! Practically every package he wrapped had red ribbon all over it.

  • Two graphics people wrapping gifts spend too much time making sure the "color blend" doesn't have too much of one color or another (and why did I wind up with so much blue paper I wonder? never again!).

  • Around St. Blog's people wrote about buying tons of gifts or limiting gifts to a few to better keep their focus on the season. Here's our philosophy, which I found echoed in an interview by Paul McCartney of all people. We don't buy things for the girls the rest of the year but for Christmas and their birthdays we go all out ... or as all out as we can afford at the time. It is a time of generous celebration and the more the better. We have never had a problem remembering that Jesus is the center of everything ... I think that is more of a family focus than a function of how many gifts are given. After all, I always remember that Jesus gave the village in Cana so much wine the entire village was blasted for three days so who am I do pull back in gift giving?

  • Tom's relatives, who we spent Christmas Eve with, tended to be about half Catholic and the other half are either evangelical or Methodist. Occasionally the Catholics would talk about which mass they would attend. Suddenly Tom's Methodist sister-in-law broke into an explanation of why they weren't going to attend any Christmas services at all. It seems the minister whose sermons they enjoy was doing all the services that conflicted with the family's schedule. The services that would have been easy to attend featured a minister whose speaking style is not as good. I know this is not how many Protestants are, simply because of my blogging friends, if for no other reason. However, it stood to point out to us that the Eucharist is the heart of any Catholic mass. That is the point of having all those mass times available. Whether the homily (sermon) will be good is really besides the point. You might internally cheer or sigh when you see who stands up to speak but whatever. As long as you get the Eucharist it's all good.

  • I didn't realize how upset our priest was by the low attendance figures this Sunday. For one thing we were moving pretty slowly and wound up at the 12:30 mass which is usually sparsely attended. It was only when talking with Fr. L. afterwards that we realized how many more usually would have been there ... and this was with the vigil masses not held on Christmas evening. He always is cheerful but made some very pointed comments about how many parishioners he wondered were out at the malls at that very time. We're such terrible consumers that we'd forgotten all about the after-Christmas sales ... so we dropped everything and ran right out of the church (just kidding).

John, Apostle and Evangelist

JohnEvangelist

Correggio. John the Evangelist (detail).

For John, as for everyone else, his vocation gave a new meaning even to the most ordinary things. The whole of life is affected by Our Lord's plans for each one of us ...

John's whole life was centred on His Lord and Master; in his faithfulness to Jesus he found the meaning of his life. He put up no resistance of any kind to His call; he was found on Calvary when all the others had disappeared. This is what our life, too, has to be like, because even though Our Lord calls some people in a special way, all his preaching comprises a vocation, an invitation to follow him into a new life whose secret he possesses: if any man would come after me ... (Matt 16:24)

Our Lord has chosen all of us -- some of us with a specific vocation -- to follow him, to imitate him and to carry on in the world the work of his Redemption. And from all of us he expects a joyful and unshakeable faithfulness like St. John's -- even in the most difficult moments.
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Sunday, December 26, 2004

St. Thomas Aquinas Church

No photos can ever do a place justice but I thought I'd bore everyone anyway with my church in its "holiday" garb.

STAloftview

View from the choir loft



Altar

A closer view of the altar


Altar2

Altar details (the angels only come out for Christmas ... and possibly Easter; they're new so I'm not sure)


Nativity

Nativity scene

St. Stephen - The First Martyr

StStephen

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen, Rembrandt

We have only just celebrated the birth of our Lord and already the liturgy presents us with the feast of the first person to give his life for this Baby who has been born. Yesterday we wrapped Christ in swaddling clothers; today, he clothes Stephen with the garment of immortality. Yesterday, a narrow manger cradled the baby Christ; today, the infinite heaven has received Stephen in triumph. (St. Fulgentius, Sermon 3)

The Church wants to make us realize that the Cross is always very close to Jesus and his followers. As he struggles for perfect righteousness - sanctity - in this world, the Christian will meet perfect situations and attacks by the enemies of God. Our Lord has warned us: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you ... Remember the word that I said to you; a servant is not greater than his master: If they persecuted me they will persecute you. (John 15:18-20) Since the very beginning of the Church this prophecy has been fulfilled. And in our days too, if we really follow Our Lord, we are going to suffer difficulties and persecutions in one way or another and of different kinds. Every age is an age of martyrdom, St. Augustine tells us. Don't say that Christians are not suffering persecution; the Apostle's words are always true ...: All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12) All, he says, with no one being excluded or exempted. If you want to test the truth of this saying, you have only to begin to lead a pious life and you will see what good reason he had for saying this. (St. Augustine, Sermon 6, 2)
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Feast of the Holy Family

HolyFamily

Between Joseph and Mary there existed a holy affection, a spirit of service, and a mutual desire for each other's happiness. This is Jesus' family: sacred, holy, exemplary, a model of human virtues, ready to carry out God's will exactly. A Christian home must be an imitation of the house of Nazareth; a place where there is plenty of room for God so that He can be right at the centre of the love that members of the family have for one another.
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Welcome, Lord Jesus

Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds by François Boucher, 1750

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful,
From David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
By judgment and justice, both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Isaiah 9:5-6

May God bless you richly and may you recognize the blessings He sends you. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Riddles

What do elves learn in school?
[The Elf-abet!]

What was so good about the neurotic doll the girl was given for Christmas?
[It was already wound up.]

Did you hear that one of Santa's reindeer now works for Proctor and Gambel?
[Its true, Comet cleans sinks!]

Mom, can I have a dog for Christmas?
[No, you can have turkey like everyone else.]

What nationality is Santa Claus?
[North Polish.]

What do you call a cat on the beach at Christmastime?
[Sandy Claws!]

What kind of bird can write?
[A PENguin.]

Waiting in Joyful Anticipation

Jerusalem, turn your eyes to the east,
see the joy that is coming to you from God.
Look, the children you watched go away are on their way home;
reassembled from east and west,
they are on their way home at the Holy One's command,
rejoicing in God's glory.

Baruch 4:36-37

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Gospel According to Cats and Dogs

A dog thinks:
This man feeds me, loves me, lets me in and out and cares for me. He must be God.

A cat thinks:
This man feeds me, loves me, lets me in and out and cares for me. I must be God.

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "It's funny because it's true." Thanks to Kim at The Upward Call for reminding me of this one!

Great Study Resources

READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR
My Daily Catholic Bible-RSV: 20-Minute Daily Readings
My Daily Catholic Bible offers the only reading plan that …
  • divides all of Sacred Scripture into 365 segments, one for each day of the year
  • features two small, manageable readings for each day, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament
  • tells you the Catholic saint or feast for each day, and provides an insightful quote from a saint for that day.
There’s never been an easier way to read the Bible. You don’t have to start on January 1. Begin reading on any calendar date and twelve months later you’ll have made your way through all seventy-three books of the biblical canon. And a place for a check mark next to each entry makes it simple to keep track of your progress. Plus, you’ll know exactly where to start in again if you miss a day or two!

CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDIES FOR WOMEN
I found these on an Amazon list by a woman who is Catholic & an aspiring Carmelite. It's pretty hard to find Catholic Bible studies, much less specifically for women, so I thought I'd pass these recommendations along.

Woman of Grace: A Bible Study for Married Women
For married Catholic women. 9 lessons.

Courageous Virtue
For Catholic women. 8 lessons based on the moral and theological virtues

Courageous Women
For Catholic women. 8 lessons on holy women of the Bible.

Courageous Love
For Catholic women. 8 lessons on topics such as holiness, prayer, obedience, dignity, etc.

READ THE CATECHISM
Don't forget that Living Catholicism is taking us through the Catechism a bit at a time. This is the easy, spoon-fed way to read the book that I have heard is second only to the Bible as a "must read" for Catholics.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jesus, Son of Mary

Matthew 1 details the genealogy of Jesus starting with Abraham and showing how Joseph descended from the line of King David (of the house of Judah), hence fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about the lineage of the promised messiah (and explaining why Joseph had to register in Bethlehem).

Here's the twist...Jehoiachin (he has some other aliases I forget), the last surviving king of Israel (reigned shortly before Israel went into Babylonian captivity), was evil and was told by God that none of his descendants would be king. Now we have a little problem. Joseph descended directly from that king, so if Jesus were his son, he couldn't be the promised king.

Marla at Proverbial Wife has some very cool info about Jesus' genealogy and, not incidentally, about Jewish mothers.

Biblical Prayer Themes, Part I

... many people think of prayer mainly as asking for help in our sundry problems and needs. Fewer still think of it as being in love with God and expressing that love in many diverse ways, often in touching and tender terms. But such is the scriptural reality. In order to handle clearly this extraordinary abundance of interpersonal beauty, I think it best to sample these biblical prayer themes under several headings. Your own use of the Bible and participation in the eucharistic liturgy will furnish you with many more examples of these themes.

1. Petitionary prayer. We begin with a type of prayer that is familiar to everyone -- even to the former atheist in the foxhole. We are to ask and it will be given to us, seek and we shall find, knock and the door will be opened (Mt 7;7-8). We are to call on this God who works wonders for those he loves (see Ps 4:3). Just as infants turn with complete trust to their parents for all of their needs, so we also cast our cares on the Lord, because he cares for us tenderly beyond our imagining (1 Pet 5:7).

2. Adoration, praise, blessing. Filled with joy, we worship our Origin and our final Destiny, purest goodness and beauty (Ps 16:5-11). We join with "everything that lives and breathes" in a hymn of praise (Ps 150:6; 96:1-2, 98:4-8). We bless and praise this God, not simply once in a while, but at all times (Ps 34:1). We glorify him as the worker of marvels on our behalf (Ps 31:21), as we celebrate his lasting love in outpourings of tribute and thanksgiving (Ps 136:1-26). All this occurs in an atmosphere of blessing and rejoicing in the tender love of the Creator toward everything he has made (cf. Ps 146:1-2; 150:1-6)

3. Thanksgiving. Closely akin to adoration and praise, and yet with an added dimension, is heartfelt thanksgiving. Repeatedly the psalmist and the Church hearken to our privilege and duty of expressing gratitude to the Father for every good and perfect gift that descends from him (Jas 1:17). All of us are to declare to this God an endless proclamation of thanksgiving (cf. Ps 28;7; Col 3:15).
Prayer Primer, Thomas Dubay, S.M.

[to be continued...]

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

St. Dorothy and Relics

Dorothy was born in Caesarea, where her Christian parents had fled to escape the persecutions taking place in Rome. The Roman emperor Diocletian stepped up his harassment of the Christian communities around the time that Dorothy was a young woman of marriageable age. When marriage to the roman prefect Fabricius was arranged for her, Dorothy refused, saying that she wanted to remain a virgin. To compound her insults to the Roman authorities, she also refused to take part in the ceremonies to the old gods. She was thrown into prison [where she was was tortured]...

Along the route to her place of execution, Dorothy met a young clerk in the legal network, named Theophilus, who made fun of her belief that when she was dead, she would be transported to a heavenly garden filled with flowers and fruit. "Send me fruit and flowers, then, when you are dead," he mocked. In one version, the young man watched Dorothy kneel down before she was executed, and while she was praying there, an angel appeared to him carrying three roses and three apples. In another version, after her death a strange boy appeared at Theophilus's door in the dead of winter, carring a basket with three red roses and three red apples.

Theophilus was converted and later martyred by being beheaded, after which his body was thrown to wild animals...

DEVOTIONAL PRACTICE
During the winter months, place on your altar or in a special area in your home three apples and three roses., See them as reminders of the eternal garden that exists within you even in the dead of winter. Thank God for allowing you to have faith in this vision.
The Way of the Saints by Tom Cowan
St. Dorothy is Rose's patron saint. Her saint day is February 6 but Rose liked the suggested devotional practice. Rather than bear the expense of the roses all through the winter, she has reached a nice compromise of putting three red roses and three red apples on a special table on the first and last days of winter, and on Dorothy's saint day. Today is the winter solstice which is the first day of winter so this is our first day of observing this commemoration.

On the way home from buying the roses and apples, Rose suddenly asked if it would be ok to put it on the "Mary" table. This is an end table in our living room where we have a cross, a statue of Mary, a statue of the holy family, and a little jar containing the dried rose petals from our "miraculous rose." Talking it over we realized that we had both envisioned everything going on the "Mary" table. Why? Because of those dried rose petals. They are our physical evidence of the miraculous. I suddenly connected that with relics and felt I was a little closer to "getting it." No wonder people would want to build churches with relics in them.

After I got home I read this post by Steve Bogner at Catholicism, holiness and spirituality about ... yep, relics. I don't know why relics are suddenly coming to my attention but I definitely am going to read that page in the Catholic Encyclopedia that Steve found.

Her Seed: Resurrection and the Tree of Life

GENESIS STUDY
The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Catholic Scripture Study to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves.

Catholic Scripture Study finishes the look forward with some more amazing revelations. Not only did this keep opening my eyes but it left me with a whole new appreciation for the deeper meaning of Jesus's sacrifice and the cross.

The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
Who was the very first gardener on earth? It was Adam, of course. God planted a garden for Adam and put him in charge of it. Adam, however, failed in his responsibilities. He did not keep that garden safe and had to be sent away from it. For Mary Magdalene to mistake Jesus as "the gardener" is a profound clue to us of what has actually happened in this Garden of Resurrection. He is, in fact, the "Gardener." He is the New Adam, who will not fail to keep His Father’s vineyard safe and make it fruitful. All things have been made new ...

Jesus, as the New Adam, had to re-trace the human steps leading up to the first Adam’s capitulation. For Him, it came down to a choice to obey God and suffer a torturous death or to avoid suffering, putting His own welfare first. We know that Jesus embraced His suffering. He entered fully and without reserve the step that would be the final and unequivocal proof of His love for God. This was the step man was originally designed to take ...

The devil does not have ultimate power of life and death. He is only a creature; God alone has that power.
These verses suggest that the "power" the devil has in death is the fear that it produces in human nature. The fear of death keeps men in bondage to the devil. How? Think of the scene in Garden of Gethsemane. The fear of death in Jesus had the potential to turn Him away from God’s will. In Jesus we are able to see that choosing God over ourselves can be painful. It is a kind of death to ourselves. In the case of Jesus, it eventually led to a physical death as well. Think of Adam in Eden. To resist the temptation of the devil would have required a death in Adam-if not physical, then surely a death to what he wanted to gain by eating the forbidden fruit. For Jesus to die and rise again strips the devil of his most potent weapon against man. If death could not hold Jesus, He is really the One with power over it. He was "bruised" in the process, but in another Great Reversal, the death of Jesus (and the appearance of victory for the devil) turned the world upside down, and the serpent slithers away with a mortal wound (see CCC 635).

The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
We know that the first sacrament appeared in Eden, where men could have eaten fruit and lived forever. If Jesus, the New Adam, has made it possible for men to experience a new birth that restores them to the life Adam and Eve had before the fall, it should not surprise us to find that Jesus offers Himself as food and drink for those seeking eternal life. We have seen many signs in the New Testament that "the woman" and her "seed" came not only to battle the enemy but also to open a way for human creatures to return to the life of Eden. The Tree of Life was a prominent feature of that life; now we discover that the "tree" of the Cross (see Acts 5:30) has born fruit for eternal life. In the Eucharist, we eat that "fruit" and live forever.

All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Old Mass is Found in the New

My thesis is that to understand and enter fully into the spirit of the modern liturgy you must understand the Tridentine liturgy, just as to fully understand the impact of the New Testament you must be intimately familiar with the Old Testament. After all, it was always the intent of the Church that the modern Mass should emerge as an organic development of the old Mass--not as a rejection of centuries of liturgical practice, a liturgical practice that nourished and was central for most of our well-known saints. It is funny that many who love St. Francis of Assissi seem so hostile to and suspicious of the Mass that was central to his life.

Catholic Analysis, insightful as always, discusses the need for a synoptic approach to both liturgical forms. A great point and one that hadn't occurred to me.

Men and Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

That is the subject of an interesting article by Jay at Living Catholicism. I never really thought about it much one way or the other but I don't thing I know any men who are devoted to the Blessed Virgin ... or if they are, then they aren't mentioning it. (Kind of hard to work into conversation for one thing!)

Jay not only gives reasons why it is a good idea but then talks about how to do it ... or at least see if it is right for you. This is well worth it for women to read as well as there are some good insights in general here.

My friend Ron had some interesting comments about Jay's post ... I especially like his insights about Mexican culture.
Interesting. I would never have thought in such broad terms. It seems there are a lot of Men who pray the Rosary and to me that seems to be a true devotion to Mary. Maybe the point is we need more....

I grew up in large part revering the Virgin of Guadalupe. In the Mexican culture it's almost ingrained in you from the beginning and it seems that many men have a special place for her. In fact the culture itself seems for the most part to be a Matriarchal society and revering Mary is just an extension of that (or vice versa). I know most people think that since the word "macho" comes from the Mexican culture that it implies a patriarchal society. My experience just doesn't prove that out, Men are very integral and in some parts very strong but the woman is the glue - the spiritual guide.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I am Gonna Get You So Many Lizards!

Fry: "I said I want the best one! Now which costs more, the parrot or the stinklizards?"

Man: "The lizards are a buck each, the parrot is $500."

Fry: "That's a hell of a good parrot!"

Fry: "Although I could get five hundred lizards for the same price. Girls like swarms of lizards, right?"

Man: "Sir, the store is closing in two minutes."

Fry: "I'll take the five hundred lizards! No...wait...yes. No! Yes! Yes! Yes! The parrot!"

Parrot: "squawk!"

later in episode ....

Leela: "Hi there."

Fry: "Leela! Oh my God, you saved my life! I am gonna get you so many lizards!"
Futurama, Xmas Story


This is the bit of Futurama Christmas show that led to one of our family's private jokes. After we watched this episode for the umpteenth time, I had gotten something at the store that Rose loves but didn't expect (what was it? I have no clue.). She popped out with, "I am gonna get you so many lizards." Cue laughter and a family tradition/joke was born. It didn't take long ... now Hannah's friends have watched that episode and are starting to say it too ...

I Like Tom's Explanation

Checking out at the Central Market today I recognized the checker. That's easy enough to do if you go to any store often. They're always in the same place. We expect to see those familar faces. This fellow wasn't someone I usually go to but the CM is remarkably open at the check out area so looking around while groceries are being bought you get used to the regular faces.

I was surprised though when he looked at me and said, "Weren't you just in here yesterday?" It took me a minute and then I remembered that I ran in for a gallon of milk (ok, and a quart of eggnog on the side, if we must be totally honest). He was my checker in the "10 items or less" line. Now I only bought two unremarkable items and paid in cash (remarkable for me but he didn't know that). Out of all the people he saw yesterday he still remembered me well enough to remark on it?

Ahem. I have had this happen before so I know I look ... well, let's call it "distinctive" enough to have people remember me. Perhaps it's the combination of spiky haircut, glasses and rather spherical profile. I was telling Tom about the incident and he said, "It is the glow of your radiant beauty they recognize." Awwwwwwwww. I am gonna get him soooo many lizards!

Weekend Puzzler

LAST WEEK'S ANSWER
The answer to last week's Puzzler about the boy who had to figure out a way to get his fishing pole on the bus is:
He goes back to the store where he bought the fishing rod and gets a box that's 4 feet by 3 feet and the diagonal is 5 feet.

Congratulations to Gilbert, the only person to guess the right answer last week (including me because I never look at the answer until I post it).


THIS WEEK'S PUZZLER: IGOR AND HIS PRINCESS
Also from Car Talk

The beautiful young princess had a dilemma. She was in love with Igor, the blacksmith's son, and she wanted to marry him. However, she knew that her father, the king, would not approve. Furthermore, if the king knew of their love, he would surely have the young man executed.

They devised a plan. They will elope. Sadly, their plan is foiled, and they are stopped at the castle gates by the guards.

And they are brought before the king. Now the king was indeed furious but decided to offer Igor a sportin' chance, as they say. He said he would write the word princess on one piece of paper and death on another, and the young lad could decide his own fate by selecting one of the slips of paper from a jar. So the two slips are crumbled up, thrown in a jar.

Sadly, the king is a sneak. He writes "death" on both pieces of paper. Despite this. Igor manages to win the princess's hand.

How did he thwart the king?

Friday, December 17, 2004

My Christmas Menu

For my friend Marlene and anyone else who is interested ... my Christmas Menu and a few of the recipes.

Her Seed: Birth of the Church

GENESIS STUDY
The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
Created In God's Likeness - Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 15:53; Eph. 4-22-24; Col. 3:9

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Catholic Scripture Study to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves.

Ok, how many times can I say that these connections make perfect sense yet I had never "seen" them before I was introduced to studying "types?" If you thought the connections between Mary and Eve were amazing, they are nothing to those between Jesus and Adam. You just can't make this stuff up. What an unbelievable plan God works out through Jesus. Hear that sound? That's my mind blowing.

The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
Thorns in Eden were another evidence of God’s curse upon man, the punishment for his sin. They represented the difficulty man would experience in fulfilling his vocation on earth, having lost his supernatural grace. As the story of Genesis unfolds, the crown of thorns we see in this gospel scene will take on more significance (most specifically in chapter 22). For now, we can understand it to be another indication that Jesus is taking upon Himself the curse pronounced on Adam, even though He has retraced Adam’s steps and has not faltered ...

Jesus, having been scourged, stands there in a purple robe and crown of thorns. Pilate’s grand introduction is meant as mockery. The angry crowd is full of contempt for Jesus. And yet, this is a human being in which the image and likeness of God has not been lost. This is man as God always intended him to be-perfectly obedient and faithful to the covenant, no matter what the cost. In this gospel scene, Jesus is the only one with real human dignity. He is the New Adam, and Pilate’s announcement of "Here is the man!" heralds the beginning of a new humanity ...

Pathologists would tell us that a wound like this one, in its place on the body of one who died as Jesus died, would actually produce both blood and water. The Church has always recognized in this detail of Christ’s death a startlingly beautiful symbol of the birth of the Church. The water of baptism initiates believers into union with Christ; the blood of the Eucharist sustains them on their journey to God (see CCC 1225). In Scripture, the Church is frequently described as "the Bride" of Christ. The Lord refers to Himself as "the Bridegroom" (Mark 2:19), and heaven will be the marriage feast of the Lamb (see CCC 796). In Eden, as Adam slept, God opened his side to create Eve, his bride, a true helper for him and one with whom he would form a permanent union in body and spirit. As Jesus slept the sleep of death on the Cross, the wound in His side poured forth the sign of His Bride, the Church. Adam, tempted by the devil, did not protect his wife with his life, but "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her" (Eph. 5:25-26).

All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Her Seed

GENESIS STUDY
The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
Created In God's Likeness - Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 15:53; Eph. 4-22-24; Col. 3:9

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Catholic Scripture Study to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves.

The previous posts about "the woman" made it clear that Mary had innumerable links to Eve. Catholic Scripture Study has this summary that amazes me every time I read it. I mean, how much clearer can you ge? In the immortal words of This is Spinal Tap: none, none more clear.
  • Eve’s conversation with a fallen angel leads to the loss of God’s likeness in human flesh; Mary’s conversation with an angel leads to the Incarnation, God taking on human flesh.
  • Eve, left exposed by her husband, talks herself out of being embarrassingly gullible in believing God’s Word about the forbidden fruit; Mary, full of grace through the work of her Son, chooses God’s will for her life, knowing the potential for embarrassment over her unusual pregnancy.
  • Eve, having broken the covenant she and Adam had with God, hears God’s curse on her life, which will be pain in childbearing; Mary, having accepted God’s plan, hears a voice of blessing on her and her childbearing.
  • Eve, Adam’s helper, assists him in entering the devil’s bondage; Mary, at the wedding in Cana, assists Jesus in showing Himself to be the Messiah Who had come to free Israel.
  • Eve becomes the mother of the dying; Mary, the mother of the living.
  • Eve is expelled from Paradise; Mary appears as the Queen of heaven.

The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
Now we are free to examine Jesus' connection to Adam in fulfilling the promise of "her seed." We see that God performs His surprising renewal through reversal once again. I must say that I felt pretty silly for never noticing all the times Jesus is connected with a garden.
It isn’t just a coincidence that Jesus happens to be in a garden when He has to make His decision to choose God’s will over His own, no matter what the cost. This is the moment when Jesus completes His work as the New Adam. The first Adam was silent and passive in the face of temptation. Jesus, well aware of what it will cost Him to obey God, puts the will of the Father first. The pride of the first Adam is replaced by the humility of the Second Adam. If Adam shrank from the danger in his Garden, giving into disobedience, Jesus rises to the challenge of the danger in His Garden, surrendering Himself perfectly to God’s plan. The undoing of the devil has begun.

In Genesis 3, God tells Adam that his face will be covered with the sweat of his toil as a punishment for his disobedience. Adam’s dominion over the earth, meant to be a source of joy for him, instead will bring him suffering. For Jesus to sweat "like great drops of blood" in His Garden is a vivid picture of Him taking on Himself the curse placed on Adam. The first Adam’s disobedience was punishable by suffering and death. Jesus, the Second Adam, in the agony of the Garden, begins to experience it. The sentence pronounced so long ago is now being executed ...

In these verses, we see a picture of Jesus doing precisely what Adam didn’t do. He was afraid, but His fear led Him to call down help from His Father. This is the test of love that Adam could not endure. Love has to be a real choice, which means that it must be tested. Love of God leads one to continue to trust Him and to seek His help in the midst of the most threatening circumstances. It is a conscious, willful choice to believe in God’s goodness, no matter how contrary the evidence. This anguished cry of Jesus, with tears, fills His Garden with the sound of faith. It was a cry that reached heaven, undoing the silence of the Garden of Eden.

All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Faith of Mary

Take the trusting serenity of the virgin Mary in the secret she kept from Saint Joseph. Mary loved Joseph and she saw him suffer (Matt. 1:18-19). She trusted in God. It is possible that in following our own vocation or in carrying out God's will, we may be afraid of making our loved ones suffer. He knows best how to arrange things. God knows best. She was to understand later. The accomplishment of God's will, which always involves faith, is the greatest good for ourselves and for those with whom we normally come in contact, or have dealings with.

Think of the faith of Our Lady in the difficult moments that preceded the birth of Jesus. St. Joseph knocked on many doors that Christmas eve and Our Lady heard many refusals. Think of her faith in the face of that rapid flight into Egypt, of God fleeing to a foreign land!

Consider too Mary's trust every single day of those thirty years when Jesus led his hidden life in Nazareth, when there were no miraculous signs of her son's divinity, nothing but simple and ordinary work ...

Ponder the faith of Mary on Calvary. This was how the Blessed Virgin made progress on the pilgrimage of faith. She maintained her union with her son right up to the cross. There, by the divine plan, she took her stand, endured bitter grief with her only child, shared with a mother's heart in his sacrifice by giving a loving consent to the offering of the victim who had taken birth from her. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium)

Mary lives with her eyes fixed on God. She has placed all her trust in the Almighty and surrendered herself entirely to him. She asks this for us, too: that we may live with unbreakable trust in Jesus, untroubled amidst all the storms of life and eager to pass on the same attitude to those around us. This is what she wants for us, her children. And, above all, she wants some day to see us in heaven, beside her Son.

(In Conversation with God, Advent and Christmastide)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Dancing Queen

Friday was Hannah's school dance recital and it was mercifully brief compared to last year's. This year there were two different teachers and one of the thing that stood out was what a difference choreography can make to an inexperienced dancer. Luckily, Hannah's teacher was the good one of the two but I really felt for the hapless Intro to Dance students whose teacher had them doing carefully timed moves. They had little chance of being together on most of them so one was left watching the individual students for their own levels of expertise.

Of course, Hannah was the best in her class ... was there any doubt of that? Actually, she always does stand out because somehow she has that perfect ballerina posture and completes every movement with great assurance. She also looks out with a serious composure that reminds one of a prima ballerina. I know I'm the doting mother here, but I have had more than one person comment on this to me. Perhaps she should have been taking dance classes all along ... too bad to think we might have deprived the world of an artist. Or maybe she actually is here to remind us all of the grace possible in just holding ourselves well (as I straighten my back hastily)!

The Woman: "Seeing" Mary

GENESIS STUDY
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Catholic Scripture Study to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves.

This look at Revelation and the Catholic interpretation of it may challenge Protestants the most. Yet, it does answer the common protest that veneration of Mary isn't Scriptural. This shows the basis for Catholic belief in Mary's protection of the Church and of us individually.

A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7
The dragon aimed his earthly wrath at "the woman" first. She was protected from his fury by God. So, being angry with the woman, the dragon then went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, those "who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus," which is the Church. Here we are able to see in dramatic detail just what God meant in Gen. 3:15 when He said He would put "enmity" between the serpent and the woman. In this scene from Revelation, she becomes the direct object of his assault, as he lashes out in anger as his time dwindles away. Who is this "woman"? Certainly she is a figure of Mary and the Church. Apocalyptic literature presents special interpretive challenges, but we can see why Christians throughout the ages have read this passage with Mary in mind. The point to note is how determined an enemy the dragon is of both the woman and her offspring. The woman is safe, but her offspring are terribly vulnerable while the dragon's time lasts. No wonder the Church has, down through the ages, given thanks for the special protection and advocacy which Mary gives to her children. This tender relationship is nurtured in the numerous Marian devotions that characterize Catholic life ...

Objections among Protestants to Marian dogma and devotion are usually rooted in their conviction that the Catholic Church teaches many things about Mary that simply aren't in the Bible. They are convinced that Mary has an exaggerated position in Catholic thought, either from over zealous pagan evangelism in the early centuries of the Church or from sentimentality over women in the Middle Ages or from a faulty understanding of redemption since the Council of Trent.

It was not always this way. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, in the 16th century, Protestants continued the 1500-year old tradition of reading the biblical references to Eve and Mary the way we have in this lesson. Even Martin Luther believed that Scripture accorded Mary a unique place in the human story. As time went by, however, a kind of Christian minimalism set into Protestant thought. Some of that was no doubt provoked by excesses and distortions practiced by some Catholics. Because of some abuses which seemed more like superstition than true Christian faith, Protestants gradually insisted on removing everything and everyone in Christian tradition that was not absolutely necessary to salvation. Jesus, of course, is necessary to salvation, so He is always at the center of the Protestant vision of redemption. Mary, we must remember, is a gift to the Church, as we saw in John 19:23-27. Gifts can be declined or left unopened or stored away and forgotten.

Modern Protestants, perhaps not knowing the history of the Church or even their own early history very well, have not been taught to "see" Mary in the Scripture as the New Eve. They are unaware of the fact that during all the years of Christian history before the Reformation, faithful Christians read the Bible this way. They do not realize that a Mary-less vision of redemption is a historical novelty. Mary appears to them to be an intrusion into an icon that has only Jesus in it.

Catholics can take confidence in the fact that, as we have seen in our lesson, there are strong scriptural reasons for retaining the icon of Mother and Son in our hearts and minds down through the ages. Being good students of Genesis, we would fully expect that when God conquers His enemy and restores man to a life of blessing, that life would be presided over by a New Adam and a New Eve, ordering everything as it was always meant to be.

All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I Now Know More Than Most People Ever Should About Alcatraz

After Tom took Hannah to San Francisco for her 16th birthday trip she returned with insatiable curiousity about Alcatraz and "Birdman" James Stroud. What she found out and reported over the next week was really interesting.

Last night Rose practiced her Speech "final" with me ... over and over and over ... about Alcatraz (what else?). So not only has my memory been refreshed, I got to hear several debates over the fine points as Hannah's sources often differed with Rose's. The battle of Alcatraz, James' Stroud's little anger management problem (let's just call him insane and be done with it), Al Capone's reaction to imprisonment there, and much more are now part of my data base forever.

Now I hear through the grapevine that my good friend, the Happy Capitalist, is complaining because the light from Alcatraz blinks and obscures his fine view of San Francisco. That's one detail I didn't need to hear. Let's all go blow dust off our old records of Joe Walsh's Life's Been Good to Me So Far and sing along ... "I can't complain but sometimes I still do..."

(Now I've just gotta get myself to Oakland so I can complain about that darn light too!)

The Woman: From Jesus' Lips

GENESIS STUDY
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Catholic Scripture Study to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves.

I never really thought anything about how Jesus addressed His mother but the following two snippets of study make it crystal clear. The use of "woman" is a direct connection back to Genesis, the first woman Eve, and the "woman and her seed." For Him to deliberately us that word again when being crucified makes it even more powerful as to how important it was to make this connection.

The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
For Jesus to address His own mother as "woman" in this context takes us right back to Gen. 3:15. We know He could not have meant any disrespect for her, so we must understand that it has special significance. For Him to ask her what she wants of Him is to heighten the dramatic power of the episode, and John doesn't want us to miss any of its meaning. It is clear that Jesus has every intention of granting Mary's request. What follows is a collaboration of the two of them that produces the very first sign of Jesus' Messianic mission in Israel. Mary acts as advocate ("they have no wine") and mediator ("do whatever He tells you"). Jesus changes water to wine, a miracle rich in Messianic overtones. What has John done in this episode? He has given us the grown-up icon of the Woman and her Seed. With language meant to call to mind the Garden of Eden, he has enabled us to see in Jesus and Mary the New Adam and the New Eve. The work of the Messiah has begun. [Note: According to The New Bible Dictionary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1965), one site in Israel thought to be that of ancient Cana is marked by springs of water and groves of fig trees, much like a Garden we know.]

The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
John's gospel is the only one to preserve this scene from the Crucifixion. Is the exchange prompted by sentiment or expediency? Is Jesus worried about what will happen to His mother when He is gone? Or is there deeper spiritual significance in this episode? Actually, the gift of a familial bond between Mary and John rockets us right back to the Garden of Eden. There we remember that the first Eve was called the "mother of all living," but before she had a chance to begin a family, she and Adam were expelled from Paradise. The original family plan for humanity was for Adam and Eve to preside over children who could enjoy the blessedness of the Garden and eat freely of the Tree of Life. Disobedience brought death into the human story, so Eve's motherhood was bittersweet. She became the human mother of the dying. That hope of blessed family life in the Garden was shattered.

Shattered but not lost. When Jesus, as He is dying, establishes this new family between Mary, the New Eve, and John, the only one of the Twelve at the foot of the Cross, He elevates Eve's motherhood to a supernatural fulfillment. Mary's motherhood will extend to all those who are in union with her Son, as John showed himself to be. Just as God becomes the Father of all who are born again into new life in Christ through baptism, Mary becomes their mother, by this gift from Jesus. This new "family," of course, is the Church-all those "who hear the word of God and do it," just as Jesus described it in Luke 8:19-21; see also Rev. 12:17). We can see that it was Jesus' intention to share Mary with His followers. Her motherhood in the Church is a powerful sign of God's plan to recover what was lost in the Garden (see CCC 964).
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Something to Keep in Mind When Buying Christmas Gifts

LITTLE ABIGAIL AND THE BEAUTIFUL PONY

There was a girl named Abigail
Who was taking a drive
Through the country
With her parents
When she spied a beautiful sad-eyed
Grey and white pony.
And next to it was a sign
That said,
FOR SALE -- CHEAP.
"Oh," said Abigail,
"May I have that pony?
May I please?"
And her parents said,
"No you may not."
And Abigail said,
"But I MUST have that pony."
And her parents said,
"Well, you can't have that pony,
but you can have a nice butter pecan
Ice cream cone when we get home."
And Abigail said,
"I don't want a butter pecan
Ice cream cone,
I WANT THAT PONY --
I MUST HAVE THAT PONY."
And her parents said,
"Be quiet and stop nagging --
You're not getting that pony."
And Abigail began to cry and said,
"If I don't get that pony I'll die."
And her parents said, "You won't die.
No child ever died yet from not getting a pony."
And Abigail felt so bad
That when they got homeshe went to bed,
And she couldn't eat,
And she couldn't sleep,
And her heart was broken,
And she DID die --
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn't buy.

(This is a good story
To read to your folks
When they won't buy
You something you want.)

Shel Silverstein, The Light in the Attic

The Woman: Both Blessed and Suffering

GENESIS STUDY
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Catholic Scripture Study to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves. As if these scenes aren't powerful enough on their own, looking at their connection to Genesis adds such depth of meaning that it takes my breath away. This is the sort of thing where I see the "proof" that the Bible is divinely inspired.

The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
Elizabeth "was filled with the Holy Spirit." Her utterance has the power of prophecy. In blessing Mary and the Child in her womb, Elizabeth gives voice to what all creation would want to sing out with "a loud cry" at the coming of the "woman" and her "seed" promised so long ago. Notice that Elizabeth does not separate the Child from His Mother. Her blessing is on both of them together. Her reverence is for both of them when she humbly asks why she should be the glad recipient of a visit from "the mother of my Lord." Even the child in her own womb, John the Baptist, leaps for joy when he hears Mary's voice. So closely are Mother and Child linked in this passage that the sound of Mary's voice is enough to produce rejoicing in the prophet-in-utero. John and his mother, Elizabeth, represent Israel, waiting for Messianic consolation. Jesus and His Mother, Mary, are God's comfort for His people. They are the flesh-and-blood icon of the Woman and her Seed from Genesis.

The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
And now in this passage we learn from Simeon that the Mother will also share in the suffering of the Son ("a sword will pierce through your own soul also"). Were we prepared in Gen. 3:15 for the possibility of suffering?

Yes, we were. We could anticipate a ferocious battle between the serpent and the seed of the woman, both inflicting wounds on the other. The suffering shouldn't surprise us. But how and why would Mary share in this suffering?

We must remember that Jesus opened up to all His followers the possibility of sharing in His suffering for sinners. His call to those who would follow Him to take up their crosses daily represented a call to obedience to God's will, no matter what, AND an invitation to suffer for sinners. That is what the Cross meant to Jesus. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) He intended to make it possible for all who belong to Him to join Him in that redemptive suffering (see CCC 618) ...

Simeon's prophecy to Mary makes it clear that she was the very first Christian to share in His suffering for sinners. Her place in this is unique, of course, because of her unique relationship to Jesus and to God. It was not simply that His suffering would make her sad. Simeon's unusual words somehow place Mary there with Jesus on the Cross when the solider pierced Him through with a sword to make sure He was dead. She was the first one to be joined to Jesus in her suffering, but not the last. Down through the ages, the Church has called her children to join their human sufferings, in whatever form they experience them, to the perfect suffering of the Lamb of God on the Cross, Who takes away the sins of the world. Ever since the fall, suffering is inevitable. Remember that it is the lens that restores spiritual sight. The Cross teaches us not to shrink in fear from suffering but to actually rejoice-rejoice!!-in it. Why? Because through it we see God and ourselves in truth, through it we cry out to Him for mercy, and through it, the world is won back to Him.
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Monday, December 6, 2004

The Reason for the Luminous Mysteries

Back in September, Mary posted the following:
"There are three influences which appear to Us to have the chief place in effecting this downgrade movement of society. These are-first, the distaste for a simple and labourious life; secondly, repugnance to suffering of any kind; thirdly, the forgetfulness of the future life."
Pope Leo XIII
Remedies:
Dislike of Poverty - The Joyful Mysteries
Repugnance to Suffering-The Sorrowful Mysteries
Forgetfulness of the Future - The Glorious Mysteries

She then asked:
"For what ill in society would the Luminous Mysteries be a remedy?"
Alicia at Fructis Ventris has the answer and it's a goooood one! I won't steal her thunder by telling her answer. You need to go read it for yourself. It makes perfect sense to me considering that we were given the Luminous Mysteries in this day and age. The Luminous Mysteries are my favorites and I am going to be even fonder of them when keeping her reflections in mind.

Friday, December 3, 2004

CRHP Central, How May I Help You?

Last night we had a wonderful concentration of CRHP sisters in our lives for about an hour. Arlene called to see about Hannah's availability for babysitting but I didn't surrender the phone until we had a chance to catch up with each other. Tammy dropped by to visit between leaving her office and going to the gym. While we were chatting and she was getting a very sketchy cooking lesson watching me cook dinner, she got a call from Holly. Nothing like shouting "Hello" at a cell phone from across the kitchen is there?

As Tammy was leaving, dear "Veronica" called, ostensibly searching for a babysitter. It also seems that "Veronica is on the Verge" of learning to do sidebars for her blog ... so she'll be dropping by my house Monday evening for a lesson. Actually, "Veronica's" been a very busy bee getting a lot of people excited about scrapbooking (not me) or knitting (YES me!) 'n' praise sessions. She's also getting ready to run our Women's Prayer Meeting on Sunday. I don't know when she's going to have time for blogging ... speaking of which, it is really fun to talk to someone in person about your favorite blogs, which is a luxury I don't have except when Veronica and I chat like that.

Anyway, there's nothing like a flurry of friends to remind me of how blessed I am to have them in my life, all because I joined up for a weekend retreat. Thank you, Lord!

The Woman: Full of Grace

GENESIS STUDY
The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

This is where the Catholic Scripture Study breaks away from what would typically be considered a study of the book of Genesis. They take the time to examine the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to go to this study using the sidebar link and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves.

This section concentrates on Mary as "the woman" and it is perfect timing when you consider that we also are in the count-down to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Veneration of Mary is one of the most Catholic of beliefs and is arguably the one most non-Catholics have problems with. Perhaps these snippets of the Catholic Scripture Study will aid in understanding. Certainly they opened my eyes even further to the fact that God had Mary in His plan from the beginning.

When Catholics study the Bible they recognize that the Old Testament holds truths that lead to the New Testament. This acknowledges that Scripture has many levels of meaning and often "types" of people shown early on are "types" that foreshadow the revelations of the New Testament. Two people who we see "types" of again and again are Mary and Jesus and never more than when studying "the woman and her seed." I found this whole concept really fascinating when I discovered it.

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" shows why Catholics venerate Mary. She gave herself entirely over to God and with her humble obedience made it possible for Our Savior to be born. I remember being astounded by the idea that Mary was the New Eve but the logic made impeccable sense.
Mary's humble obedience in her fiat made possible the Incarnation. No one has described it more beautifully than St. Iraenaeus (c. 140/160-202 A.D.), who was Bishop of Lyons:
Even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin... By disobeying, she became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way, Mary, though she also had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race... The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience. What Eve bound through her unbelief, Mary loosed by her faith. (from Adversus haereses, quoted in Mary and the Fathers of the Church by Luigi Gambero; Ignatius, 1999, pg. 52).
Just as Eve's participation in the fall of man was real, although the sin was charged to Adam, so Mary's participation in our redemption was quite real, although the victory was won by her Son.

It seems entirely logical and reasonable that if God created a male and a female to preside as the first parents over all creation, He would also place a male and female in special roles over re-created humanity. In addition, the very fact that God promised to defeat the serpent through a "woman" and her "seed" proves that He wants a male and female to begin the restoration. To see Mary as the New Eve was a very natural development in early Christianity. In fact, we have evidence of it in the writings of the very first great Christian apologist, Justin Martyr (c. 110-165 A.D.). In his defense of the faith in Dialogue with Trypho, he writes this way:
[The Son of God] became man through a Virgin, so that the disobedience caused by the serpent might be destroyed in the same way it had begun. For Eve, who was virgin and undefiled, gave birth to disobedience and death after listening to the serpent's words. But the Virgin Mary conceived faith and joy; for when the angel Gabriel brought her the glad tidings that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, so that the Holy One born of her would be the Son of God, she answered, "Let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). Thus was born of her the [Child] about whom so many Scriptures speak, as we have shown. Through him, God crushed the serpent, along with those angels and men who had become like serpents. (Quoted from Mary and the Fathers of the Church, by Luigi Gambero, Ignatius, p. 47)

It is important to understand that Justin Martyr was writing a defense of the Christian faith against attacks from the Jews and pagans. He was not developing new theological insight, since he was actually a layman. He was only defending what the Church believed and taught at that early time in her history. The development of Marian thought was as early as the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is another example of a truth which is only implicit in Scripture (since the word "Trinity" never appears) being made explicit over time. Time is not the enemy of truth. The question is not whether a doctrine took time to develop but whether the seed of that doctrine was contained in the gospel preached and taught by the apostles.

All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Christ in Christmas

Don't look for Christ in the abstract or "spiritual"; look for him in the familiar. We don't need to "keep Christ in Christmas," he never left! They can't get rid of him, no matter how hard they try. "Happy Holidays" and "Winter Solstice" concerts can't erase him. Throughout the country secular radio stations are playing songs that sing explicitly of Jesus. On Christmas Day millions of Christians witness to Christ by going to church, where they gather in his name. Be they regular Mass goers or the Christmas and Easter crowd, the ultimate and objective reason for their presence is Jesus Christ. Whether or not they are attentive or feel holy or want to be there, their very presence in the church points to the presence of Jesus ...

If we are attentive, then even the commercialization of Christmas cannot obscure him: when you see a house gaudily lit and decorated, when you eagerly breathe in the smell of pine, when you keep age-old traditions of cooking and baking in absurd abundance, or wrapping presents, both practical and unnecessary, in bright paper and bows, or participating in concerts and caroling in schools and nursing homes and all kinds of places. Why? Why this attack on all of our senses? Because God has entered history; he came to us through our ordinary senses! He is a light in the darkness that can be seen! All these traditions point back to Christ.

Let us not lament what is missing but rejoice in his Presence. The manger left a lot to be desired, but it carried the Desire of Nations. Why don't we recognize him today? Because we don't expect to find him in our imperfect family, in our own weak humanity, and in the crass hubbub that can surround Christmas. But it all points to him! He is here! He has come and is still with us in and through all that is familiar to us. Come, let us recognize him and adore him.
Father Richard Veras, Magnificat magazine

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Microsoft Blogging Software

The Curt Jester was good enough to test Microsoft's new blogging system. No joke, they really are doing one. It actually looks a lot better than I thought it would and he says it's easy to use. Go see what all the fuss is about.

Iraqi Terror Alert System

I don't know how The Onion manages to keep coming up this stuff but I had to laugh out loud.

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What the Bible Says About Marriage

GENESIS STUDY
Right after studying Adam and Eve seems like a good place to take a look at marriage in the Bible. I like the way that the Life Application Bible breaks the subject out and cross references all the things that Scripture teaches us that a good and holy marriage should be. For one thing, I know I never would have gone looking in Malachi for info on marriage!
  • Genesis 2:18-24 Marriage is a good idea

  • Genesis 24:58-60 Commitment is essential to a successful marriage

  • Song of Songs 4:9, 10 Romance is important

  • Malachi 2:14-15 Marriage creates the best environment for raising children

  • Matthew 5:32 Unfaithfulness breaks the bond of trust, the foundation of all relationships

  • Matthew 19:6 Marriage is permanent

  • Romans 7:2, 3 Ideally, only death should dissolve marriage

  • Ephesians 5:21-33 Marriage is based on the principled practice of love, not on feelings

  • Ephesians 5:23, 32 Marriage is a living symbol of Christ and the church

  • Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is good and honorable

See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.