“My Immaculate heart will triumph” … True Purity, and worthiness

Today, is the feast of the Immaculate conception of Mary. Time and the business of life, has added to some of the confusion surrounding this feast day of a profession of dogma (of which… there have only been 2 cases in the Church’s history).

In short, the church solemnly professes that Mary, from the very moment of her conception, was intended for a greater purpose, and as such, she was brought into time and creation with certain specifics.The most important of these, is her absolution from the stain of original sin, one we all carry and is only erased through Baptism and the Cross.

So how did this happen? How can we Catholics say this happened? Does not Christ save all people? Is not Calvary the quintesential event that harkens our salvation, and makes us worthy to be with God in heaven all the days of our lives?

Well, sure it does. However.. the Trinity has always existed, in fullness. The incarnation was the coming of God into time, but in Genesis, it is said “Let US make man in OUR image.”  We need not think of Calvary in linear terms any more then we should think of the Trinity in such terms

The original Ark, was made with specifics – In Exodus we can read

“37 Next Bezalel made the Ark of acacia wood—a sacred chest 45 inches long, 27 inches wide, and 27 inches high.[a] He overlaid it inside and outside with pure gold, and he ran a molding of gold all around it. He cast four gold rings and attached them to its four feet, two rings on each side. Then he made poles from acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. He inserted the poles into the rings at the sides of the Ark to carry it.

Then he made the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—from pure gold. It was 45 inches long and 27 inches wide.[b]He made two cherubim from hammered gold and placed them on the two ends of the atonement cover. He molded the cherubim on each end of the atonement cover, making it all of one piece of gold. The cherubim faced each other and looked down on the atonement cover. With their wings spread above it, they protected it.”

Just like the ark of the old covenant (that by which the People of God were reconciled with him) had specifics, so too did Mary – and, just like the Ark of the covenant was so pure, and so Holy as it Housed the Shekinah Glory of God, so too, Mary, who houses the embodiment of the living God, is also Holy –

This is why at the Council of Ephesus she was declared “Theo Tokos”, or God-Bearer .  To refuse her the title of  “Mother of God” is to deny the homeostatic Union of the incarnation, without which, nothing matters. Surely we wont say it was a lie, so why do we deny the attributes of Mary, held to her from the moment of her creation?

There was no other way for a fallen person to have carried the Holy of Holies, because scripture tells us of the Temple, that nothing unholy can enter it. The Holy spirit overshadowed Mary in such a way, that it remained with her her entire life (which is why we also believe in the Assumption…I digress)

Mary has been said to be the Highest in creation. She is “Blessed among women”, who by nature, hold a higher mystical state then men. Mary by her nature, is the only one worthy even in her life, to approach and petition our Lord. As such it is right and fitting for us to ask her intercession (as a good Jewish boy, Jesus always listens to mom). 

Right now we need that intercession more then ever. She is the only person who we in our imperfect state can even dare to intercede for us. We need that right now – Man is in an evil state… we need someone truly worthy to speak on our behalf – If nothing else, the purity of her voice only adds to our help.

St Nicholas Dec 6th

Today we celebrated (on the Julian Calendar…and new calendrists alike) the feast of St Nicholas. Nicholas was a bishop in the 4th century, and his extreme acts of charity helped to mold the eventual myth (I say myth as St Nicholas was very much a real man,, from turkey  (Dont tell the greeks that part) of Santa Claus.

However there is more to Nicholas then a lot of people realize. Among students of patristics (that is… the roots of our Sacred Traditions), We know him to have been a Bishop who with others, attended the first eccumenical counil, at Nicea. Nicea specifically dealt with the first challenge to Christ’s nature, the Arian Heresy. Arius, a Bishop from Alexandria, held that while Christ was more then a Man, he was less then God. This was contradictory not only to sacred tradition, but also to the deposit of faith found in Holy Scripture. It is said that the debate got so very heated, that “Jolly old Saint Nick” reached over and struck Arius for his heresy, of which Nicholas quickly found himself imprissoned. Now, eventually the council came to its senses, deposed of Arius, exhonerated Nicholas, and formulated the Nicene Creed… which above all says that

“God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, Begotten, Not MADE, Consubstantial with the Father …….  By the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became MAN”

This is the absolute core to Christology, and leads us to Theosis. As St Thomas Aquinas said ” God Became man, so that man could become like God”  (ironically… alot of orthodox dont like Thomas… ‘cus scholasticism… I digress) – If there is nothing else to know about the Man..its that He is God..and he loved us so much that he lowered himself to be with us…so that we could be raised to Him.

The bigger lesson here, and is most relevant to today, is the courage of Nicholas. He wasnt concerned (or perhaps in his angst didnt think) that he would have consequences for defending the faith. He was vocal, and strong about it  – We might not have a church today, had it not been for St Nicholas. 

I think someone who has the “power” should have declared him a Patron of Bishops a long time ago. Perhaps this is why he very much is a super patron to many orthodox flavors. There probably isnt a better embodiment of the Eastern orthodox mind then St Nicholas. 

So, today as you recollect on the shoes, and chocolate coins, and so forth, perhaps also reflect on where the man himself came from, and what he did. Implore his intercession, and pray to have the courage that St Nicholas had, who despite all odds, stood for what was right, and orthodox, even at risk to his own life

The Wait… The Arrival – Renewal

For Latin Rite Catholic Christians, this week marks the beginning of another Advent – a word that quite literally means “The Arrival”. We await the arrival of our King… born in a stable, in all humility and quiet splendor.

Many of us are going through a hard time with our Church right now. Unless you have been under a rock the past year, you know the news, and its not good. For many of us the past year has been met with anger, disappointment, resentment. Once again men we trusted… led many astray, in pursuit of worldly pleasures. While it is epitomized in the sexual abuse crisis, it is equally exhibited in a broader sense in the relaxed characters of many of our clergy, who have opted for popularity out of pride, rather then as a great confessor of mine used to tell me “Following Jesus up the hill”.

Its easy to want to throw your hands up…run away. Some of us have even threatened to “Dox”… (in other words, head east). This isn’t the answer though either. 

Jesus told us the church would never end… that Hell’s gates could never triumph – But he didn’t absolve us of being involved in that… He simply said…it would never end. Its up to us now, more then ever, to defend Holy Mother church. Those of us who are apologists (amateur or professional), need to teach. Those of us who can contribute, need to. Most importantly all of us need to be courageous, and our Bishops, Priests, Deacons need our prayers.. especially the “rotten” ones, but most importantly the pious ones.. who are mighty…but fewer.

Our Lord allowed the enemy 100 years to do his worst, and its easy to say.. that that has occurred… However its superficial.  Even as we speak, rebirth and renewal is occurring. Though they are in small pockets, bastions of Orthodoxy are springing up.

Im truly convinced at this point it is manifest in the renewal of the Liturgy, that you see not in great Orders such as the FSP or the ICKSP – No they only paved the way. The real renewal is coming when the small oratories and parishes embrace the so called “Mass of Ages”. 

How we worship, is how we believe – Ill take it a step further… How OTHERS SEE US WORSHIP… is how they know Who we believe in. When the Mass is completely rooted in sublime worship, our eyes cannot help but be fixated on our God.. who is living before our eyes. 

This Advent.. I know I personally am going to try to make it about renewal, both in a deepening of my understanding of the liturgy, but also doing my part to bring about that renewal, which I again think is happening before us. We all need to take courage. While we can seem overwhelmed by an overwhelming complacency, in the end, all will be restored… All will be right, and all will know HIM in the liturgy. 

 

“Come Lord Jesus, Come Quickly”


Consider the lilies, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these.”  Luke 12:27

Earlier in the week, someone asked on a page I follow, if anyone knew of the music for “Amen”, from the movie “Lilies of the Field” – After some discussion,. we got into a great back and forth about the history of music… performance, and so forth

If you are unfamiliar with the movie, its a simple concept. Homer Smith, a contractor, stops by a Nunnery…that is VERY much in its infancy, comprised of German Immigrant nuns – The Mother Superior, gradually ropes the star (played by Sidney Potier) into more and more tasks, finally roping him into building a church. The locals (Mexican Americans, ) upon watching this one man try to build a church, eventually chip in. Together, through Homer’s leadership – they complete the church for the Nuns. In it, the whole town comes together to build this church. The Men, the women, the elderly – Even the business owner from outside of town.

It reminded me how the great churches of Christendom built in this country, often had VERY little physical involvement from the episcopacy, or the Holy See (even though their first job is to establish the kingdom of God…I digress) – Often, the poor, gave anything they could, because they knew that it was fitting for Almighty God to be worshiped with mind , body and soul.

Right now we have a real struggle, and its rooted in the false concept of the Church being owned and ran by the Bishops – Where its just the opposite.  The Church is Centered on Jesus – The Bishops are there to lead…and to represent Christs Priesthood in its fullest- But its up to us to take ownership

Its up to us to know our faith, and to renew the church. We need to support our leaders…and challenge them to do better, not simply follow them without reservation. We are in spiritual warfare.

What we lost and when we lost it…and why it matters

35 And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread.

36 Now whilst they were speaking these things, Jesus stood in the midst of them, and saith to them: Peace be to you; it is I, fear not.”

Luke 24:34-36

A good friend of mine is a Methodist Elder (at the time, he was a provisional pastor), and when writing his Thesis, he decided to 1 – Do it on sacramental theology and 2 – Decided to hit up the Catholic. I jokingly said it was because we had more sacraments… so I was a likely choice.

That said, we talked, and we both agreed that Sacraments are more then simply symbols, that it is something tangible by which we know the Lord in our midst.

Thats a good middle ground – The classic definition is such 


Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n. 4, ex St. Augustine“De Catechizandis rudibus”)”

Pretty intense stuff. In Short, they are a sure fire way for us to know, and show how God works in our lives.  We have the Sacraments of initiation  (Baptism, Communion, Confirmation)  The Sacraments of Service (Ordination and Matrimony) and the Sacraments of Healing (Penance and anointing of the sick (formally Extreme Unction or Last Rights)

These 7, while different, all exhibit one aspect. We have a God, who is very much present, and works in a rather manifest way, in our lives.  This is why sacraments not only are Trans formative (a difference between Catholic/Orthodox understanding and mainstream Protestantism), but they are also indicative and s sign of God’s grace. Grace transforms us. It can embolden us, it can heal us, and it can very often use us (Marriage and Ordination, being on the same level, do this )

All of this matters because they are the chief conduant of a Living God, one who works through us, with us, and in us. 

Its no surprise then , thats really the first thing that we started seeing go away if we look at things historically – The first thing the reformation contested was Sacraments. They became “Symbolic” for many, and “Ordinances (IE, Rites of Passage) for the more reformed theologians. When you take out the real presence that Sacraments show, you have taken away their effectiveness.

This has been exasperated the last 50 years. Even among us Roman Catholics, frankly, sacraments have become a circus. If its not parents shoving each other out of the way to get the perfect picture of their little one receiving first Holy Communion, Its the Bridezillas taking over churches and running both Pastor and musician crazy so they can have the perfect day. The Parents have no concept who their Children are receiving, and the “Happy Couple” has no idea who they are called to bring  to the world.

We can go deeper and look at ordinations, which have become viewed as some sort of thing that is owed (particularly to a gender that has its own holiness; I digress). Its all the same though, instead of something that should be Christocentric, Its become anthrocentric, and thus has been profaned. Instead of praying for the dead (2 Mac 12), we instead are incredibly sensitive to the loss. So we create a fairy tale of how everyone instantly goes up, and why? Because it makes us feel good.  We don’t realize the incredible spiritual assault that every soul goes through in transition, let alone the ones who actually GET to purgatory (sorry…not everyone even makes it that far).

Its all about US..rather then how WE can get closer to him. This is why every denomination out there is broken right now, and most of all..We Roman Catholics. We tout how we are the original…but we look nothing like we should.

So why shouldn’t we have problems? In order to claim God is with us, we have to first understand he is God, and instead we have made God’s of ourselves through our egos. Sacramental theology, in its purity, says ONE THING. We are helpless, and the only person who CAN help us, is Jesus. 

Seasons Change, Reflections

“7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Tim 4:7-8

As it is, this past Monday marked the end of the Road racing season (for me anyhow), with the completion of Gateway Cup. I Showed up..I gave it everything I could… and didn’t leave anything behind – with few exceptions, in reflection I don’t think it could have happened any other way.

The past year, has been truly dynamic. With getting a year under my feet at a new company, to settling the custody issues with my children, to having not one, but two crisis of faith, its been truly a character building year.  I don’t need to remind folks of the events of the last 4 weeks concerning a certain Cardinal (or several)…and his boss that has been overly quiet..much to the dismay of all the faithful. 

In criterium racing, its very dynamic. You have 20-80 extremely crazy cyclists… all on a closed course… trying desperately to win. Some will try harder then others. Through a 40-60 minute race, you will have attacks, pacing. You could have crashes, rain, obstacles (people), and other things that can over all kill your mental resolve. I myself had a few. With a race restart Friday, a flat Saturday, and avoiding 3 crashes on Monday, it truly was an effort among efforts.

I tend to go through a depression after big races. In retrospect…I have since high school. You push and push and push..only to suddenly be done with everything. It got me thinking that our faith journey, is very much like a race. You start off optimistic. You might come off the line as hard as you can. You will follow someone who you think is a “good wheel”.. only to find another to pull you through.  In an instant.. your dreams of grandeur can be completely crushed, only to see that faint chance, and a strong surge at the end.

Faith is like this, especially in light of the latest scandal. Those of us who try (and none of us have it right).. will have our own race dynamics… and I certainly have been dealing with that on a larger scale myself. If anything,  the Mccarrick scandal was losing the pack, and the Pope’s lack of leadership.. is that jerk in the pack who instead of helping you out… goes off and does his own thing. 

Its only at the point…that inside… the Source, the One, speaks to us…tells us to hang on a little longer, and to surge with everything we got. Then at the end we can enjoy the reward…not one of Tin, Gold, Money (or even beer), but the words we all hope to hear someday  “Well done, good and faithful servant, Enter into the Joy, of your Master’s Kingdom”

To my friends (and myself) , who are struggling right now – Hold your line. Ride your race. reach down… and eventually our race will be done, and we will have the joy and peace of having done all we could to get to the real prize, Him.

Image and likeness

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/1co.6.19.NIV”

This verse above is why I try to take care of myself, and why the master teaches us it is better not to look all glum and frumpy when we are penitent.

As the body is a temple, it needs upkeep, support, maintenance just like any other structure. We are temples of the spirit… so we cant overdue our diligence in that (provided we don’t make an idol out of it)

That said… the summer always makes me think of the true nature of this verse, which to me, greatly speaks to being made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. That said, there are other things that can play into respecting the temple, namely modesty and how we carry ourselves.

This doesnt just come down to what we wear (though..that’s a big part of it), but rather, how we present ourselves.

Guys and gals alike…need to ask themselves… am I presenting myself in a Godly manner? Does what I wear… or put on my body show that I keep sacred that image and likeness of God, or do I desecrate my own temple?

This doesnt mean I cant dress in a way that’s appropriate style or form for the weather, but rather… did I get an inch….and take a mile, as it were.

Does what I put on…or put into my body encourage sanctity.. or does it feed vanity .. or gluttony… or narcism??

Does my style scream…..look at me.. does what I eat…build me up? Have I embraced gluttony, and written it off as ok because I’m older… or not athletic? Have I done my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle… both spiritually…and physically?

All of these things can either build up or tear down our temple. So, something to think about as we get into swimsuit and cookout season.

Switching the light back on

Finally managed to figure out my blog with my new CenturyLink internet. (Sort of)

If you aren’t aware… I’m all nerdy and host it myself of a Raspberry Pi.

For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.
St John 3:20‭-‬21 DRC1752
https://bible.com/bible/55/jhn.3.20-21.DRC1752

Today’s scripture is striking in that it’s incredibly illuminating as to the current secularist mentalities towards people of faith. Even shows on the history channel…when they talk about faith history, are very tongue and cheek about how gullible people who believe in God are.

I think this is a mechanization. There is power and shielding in calling on Gods name. If you can get people to believe there is no God, then all sorts of other doors are opened wide, and you are an easy conquest for the enemy.

We truly are in the onslaughts of battle and would do well to remember that…not only for our own sake, but for those around us as well.

There are far deeper reasons people abandon faith then we or they let on, and there is a reason militant atheism is on the rise more then ever.

The Contradiction of Liturgy in today’s anthro-centric world

Today I went to the Solemn Mass organized by Juventutem St Louis, at the Church of St Anselm. If you don’t know who Juventutem is, read more about them Here . In short they are a young adults group, who is dedicated to the traditional mass.

Mass. That’s the one word that describes Catholics to most people – Those are the people who have mass. Get up. Sit down. Kneel. Repeat.

On my way home I realized I’m very much a contradiction. I’m 38, and have spent my life very much involved in the liturgy in some form – I was an Altar Server, and then involved in Choir and Music ministry. I grew up during the Pontificate of St John Paul II, a time of frankly bismal catechism, and people over all not knowing their faith. My First Holy communion was more akin to an assembly line than the conferment of a Sacrament, but I digress.

In 1969 the so called “Novus Ordo” or “New Order” of mass was promulgated. This mass was meant to shorten and make the Liturgy of the Latin Rite more relevant and accessible. However, the baby was definitely thrown out with the bath water,  and along with the Latin, smells and bells, we lost a lot of who we were as Latin Rite Catholics. Chiefly, How we worshiped was how we believed.

The Traditional mass, wasn’t just celebrated “Ad Orientem” or facing east… but was also celebrated  “Ad Deum” – Facing God.  This posture  alone reminded the believer who mass was intended for.

Along with the new mass, came a shift in posture – Now it was celebrated  “Versus Populum”. The concept of “Meal” was emphasized over “Sacrifice”, and suddenly mass, along with our faith, became more about “US” rather than Him. Music focused in on the We, and less about our God.

Growing up as a child.. like a lot of young boys, I wanted to play mass – Ironically though…I played Tridentine mass I had an  Alb, and my own Amice. My “High altar” was on a cedar Chest.. and I think I had at least 20 candles I didn’t actually light.   I would listen to my grand parents tell stories about how it was.. and find myself confused at how it is in front of me.

As I got older, I became more complacent, and found myself valuing the Church in Community. I thought the parish, being the center of the community, was vital, and that ANY way we could reach people… WE needed to. There’s that We word again.

That’s when a a lot of the “contradictions” started.  I am trained classically in music  (voice) , and have always loved Gregorian Chant.  However, we seemed to only chant when we wanted to be “extra holy” during Holy week, even though the Novus Ordo, has a plethora of chants arranged.

We hardly did bells – Why?  “Because bells went out with Vatican 2”.  Then there was the rather casual nature that not only people showed up for mass, but how they carried themselves during mass.

All of this points back to us losing an understanding of who we are encountering – and Holy Mass IS an encounter. In thinking on this, it very much reminded me of the Apostles who were walking on Emmaus Road (which just so happens to be the readings for this upcoming week), And they encountered a stranger. They had no idea who this man was, until the Breaking of the Bread, “for they knew him in the breaking of the Bread” ..  

Sometimes it takes us a moment to realize Jesus present in the mass , especially in our state of being and in this world. We, like the apostles, are more concerned about our worries and “Current Events”, rather than who we are, and where we are going, and who is there with us.

This is where I am the contradiction. Given my age, I have an affinity for traditional things that is uncharacteristic of my generation. At the same time, I still firmly believe in modern approaches to evangelization, however the mass is for God alone. I can go to a traditional mass, and then on the way home listen to Crowder or Maher. I wish more of the “Catholicsphere”  could get that.  Maybe then there would be more people at church, because they would realize that their faith life is dynamic, and can be expressed in a modern world, and the Timelessness of the liturgy,  is the summit of our faith. It is there that we know him in the breaking of the bread.

Thoughts on Low Sunday/Divine Mercy Sunday ..or whatever

Today marks the 1st Sunday after Easter. In modern times, its referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday. In ancient times, it was known as “Low, or  “Whit Sunday”, as this was the final day that the recently baptized would wear their white garments.

The Modern annotation, comes from the visions of one St Faustina, who gave to us the divine mercy chaplet. The novena of such, began on good Friday, at the hour of mercy, and completed today – in short, it is repeated over and over again, like a rosary or Jesus prayer

+Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, soul and divinity, of your Dearly beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world

For the Sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy immortal one, have mercy on us, and on the whole world. +

 

Orthodox and those who are of the old form of Liturgy will recognize this as the text of the Thrice Holy, or in the east, know as the Trisagion. There are special graces attained with the recitation of this chaplet, most notably at the time of death.

To me, it all denotes the immensity of calvary. Mercy flowed from the Cross that day, and gave us all a second chance, but it is NOT without cost. His only Son, laid down his life.

We need to be careful that we dont treat this act as something disposable, as in something that we are simply owed. None of us are owed this, and it is only by grace that we receive it. It should NOT be taken for granted or with a sense of casualness.

 

I wandered into orthodoxy a year or so ago.. and quickly learned what I was moving towards, that being a more deep understanding of liturgy, and an acknowledgement of the immensity of the Godhead. That itself demands a certain purposefulness in our Worship. Where its true…we should find ways to engage the world through modern measure, the liturgy engages God himself, who is otherworldly.

Kneeling at the rail today.. taking in the incense.. and the beauty, reminded me of what we enter when we go to mass. We enter heaven, and from that, comes the mercy of forgiveness, if we approach with a contrite heart, and a comprehension of where we are, and what we are doing.