Category: comentary


tiger

 

Very often, late at night, looking out at the faint outline of trees, the vast dark skies and eerie moonlight floating above, I think of nature, and God’s wisdom displayed therein. You know the “beasts of earth” and “birds of air” type stuff- and how man was given dominion over them. Too unfortunately, some Christians interpret this as a harsh dominion. Protestant Christian philosophy seems to harbor innate hostility towards nature, a “take and kill what you want” attitude which allows devastation of natural resources. “What use is fussing about the temporary world?” they say “God’s going to destroy it all anyway.”

Now, Catholic philosophy has long said “Let all that lives and breathes bless the Lord.” Some of our great saints, such as Francis of Assisi, Kateri Tekakwitha and Hubert, the patron of hunters, walked amongst nature and saw God’s hand at work in it. We see, on Christmas day, the newborn Jesus adored by lowly ox and ass. We tell stories of mules bowing before the Eucharist and doves landing on popes. To the Catholic Christian, natural things convey supernatural realities. After all, we’re those weirdoes who believe that bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. And I fancy only a Catholic would stop and ponder the deeper, theological meaning of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

Though the character of Mowgli, considered neither man nor wolf, strikes me as a sort of savior-figure, who masters the animals and destroys their chief enemy, there is something perhaps more subtle that catches my eye. It is the jungle’s creation-story, in the second installment which foretells when every animal will fall under one law. During a severe draught, a truce is declared for sake of survival. At the water hole, where animals drink, none of them may kill or hunt another. Here, Mowgli learns that Shere-Khan, the tiger, killed a man, asks why and then hears the jungle creation-story.

It begins with a creator-god…or elephant; who makes all the jungle creatures, all the land, water and food. All animals only eat plants and fruit- they are innocent. It is the Tiger who brings sin into the world. He gets banished and fear takes flesh in the form of hairless, cunning human beings. The tiger returns, admits his crime but then slays the human out of pride. He says: “I killed fear” but because he did so, man, that fearsome creature, learns to kill and deal death. Here we see the motif of creation, paradise and original sin. Interestingly, the Tiger is given one night yearly to venture forth and lawfully kill a man.

Blood begets blood. From first-kill comes first-predator. Man is fearsome, a most-wise enemy of nature who, forgetting his primordial home, builds villages and fires. He holds dominion over the animals, trapping and killing as he pleases. His tools are deadlier than any tooth or claw. Hurt by that first sin, he sets himself against nature. Likewise, Adam and Eve battled animals and forces of nature after expulsion from paradise. In Eden, they never needed fire. Yet, out in the desert, they needed not only fire, but nets, spears and knives. Against the emergent onslaught of sin and death, man devised many tools and deadly strategies. However, his enemy was- and always will be the Tiger, the agent of that first sin. A cunning predator, the Devil has allowance into our homes, a work-permit towards our destruction. Scripture compares this enemy to “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Pride breeds pride. In a vicious cycle, man and Devil ever threaten the world around them.

Here, the story ceases to give further insight. The rest could be guessed. I believe that henceforth, man is given a choice. He can fashion nets to save animals- or to slay them. Whether he kills for food or for pleasure makes the difference. The way he kills speaks volumes about his soul. For if God made man in His own image, ruling over the beasts, his humanness and mercy betray God. When merciless and cruel, he betrays another. By no mistake, we regard a man who loves animals as sensitive and kind but think a man who hates them as heartless and frightening. An animal-lover mirrors God who condescends to lesser beings. Like God, he feeds, tends, looks after the weak and gives shelter. He is fatherly, like a husband. The man who beats, tortures or starves animals echoes the Devil who only undermines and destroys. We would never trust him with our children!

Now, I’m not saying the perfect Christian is a tree-hugging hippie- no, I’m saying that Christian faith obliges us to care for what is beneath us. We act in God’s image whenever we feed a stray dog, scare a possum off the road or knock a bird’s egg back into the nest. A stewardship has been placed in our hands. How should we use it? We’ve all heard the saying: “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” But how, tell me, shall be man? Isn’t he more than tooth or claw? Has he not received a rational mind, ruling over the earth, wielding bow and trowel, both hunter and gardener, modeled in the loving image of God?

 

 

Nature red in tooth and claw,

man beheld natural law.

Creation laden death and glory,

forests ring with man, his story.

 

I twas a gatherer for God first gathered

the starry sky.

I twas gardener for God first planted

the greenest byre.

I twas fisherman for God first schooled

flocks of the sea

And I twas archer for God first plucked

feathered breed.

 

Lo, but after fall,

I gazed upon nature all.

Man the killer, not under law,

held fin, leaf and feather

beneath red claw.

 

Then I twas ever to bleed,

keep from bleeding

and to make bleed.

 

Once, no thing slew,

now we all slay

lest slain.

Image

 

One thing that really fascinated me about the movie “Avatar”, in addition to the great characters, eye-popping action scenes and awesome, prehistoric-looking beasts, was the cosmology. I found it amazing that the native people of Pandora had their own religion. As someone who used to make up fake races and religions, I appreciate the hard work this must have taken. While their faith could be likely described as somewhat animistic, the Pandora natives believed in one supreme, feminine deity.  Eywa (I ask that the blue people forgive me in advance for spelling this name wrong) was something like a Great Spirit crossed with the Christian God. I say this because of the detailed creation narrative and deity’s involvement in the planet’s fate. Also the manner in which the hero, Jake was chosen to save them, is reminiscent of an Old Testament war-saga.

Right away, I noticed that the natives had a representative for their deity, one who discerns her will. Very sensibly, this high-priestess/shaman was also female. Think about it. The supreme deity of Pandora is female; she is a she, called “The Mother”. So the high-priestess assumes a physical presence of “Mother”. In the image of Eywa, she leads and consoles. Now, her husband is not high-priest nor are male priests ever mentioned. Obviously, they do not exist- nor can they. A priest of Eywa, who is the essence of maternity; a warrior in place of the life-giver, would simply be absurd! Why? Because the deity of Pandora is female and only fit to be represented by…wait for it…females.

For a moment, let us travel back to earth with its totally separate human race and separate cosmology. According to Christianity, the supreme deity of this universe is God Almighty: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Naturally, He is the Father-God, the essence of paternity. Who is chosen as His representative to the people? Well, a man of course! A high-priest- not a priestess. In the same way, warrior cannot be mother, mother cannot be warrior. Yet, we silly humans insist on forcing our ways onto natural order by saying that women should be able to stand at the altars, assuming a physical presence of “Father.” This malarkey wouldn’t fly in Pandora…

Why? Because the humble folks of Pandora recognize their gender roles- and are happy with them. Men are great warriors and women to some degree, also. Men however, lead the war-charge. Women do an equal share of hunting but it is they who hold and teach children. It is they who pass on the old stories. The Chief may declare war but the high-priestess tells if it is divine will. There’s no pushing and shoving here. We don’t see the men of Pandora clamoring to be priests or women rallying to be “chief-ettes”. No, the natural order is set and all have made peace, cherishing each of their unique, equally-important roles.

We goofy humans could really take a lesson from the blue people…

Life is like

Life is like your porch light, it draws a whole lot of miskeetas… but every once in awhile you get a purty moth.

 

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The Holy Eucharist is the greatest testament of the love God has for mankind, because it is all the love of Jesus Christ himself.

 

…enough said

         “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.”

–  St Augustine, Confessions.

 

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Every person in the world can recall a moment in their life when they looked upon something utterly beautiful, a painting, a landscape, ornate building, thread of cloth, graceful animal or blooming flower. Maybe it was a multi-hued sunset or a sky full of stars that dazzled like diamonds. I’m also sure everyone can recall a song or piece of music that captured the soul. Still in these modern days of drum & base and synthesizers, the emotive strains of Mozart, Palestrina or Bach cause one to pause in amazement. Why do these things affect us so? Because, beauty is a testimony to divinity, it places us in the presence of God.

I have heard a many atheists affirm this. The austerity of an old cathedral, the poetic meter of a sacred text or the lofty tones of Gregorian chant speak to something deep inside of them. Everything beautiful or awesome in this world bespeaks an ultimate Beauty and Awesomeness. We love beauty because God, who is beauty Himself, created it. We crave beauty because we hunger for God.

Lately, I’ve noticed that people have been talking a lot about the beauty, ritual and “pomp” of Catholicism, how much it ought to be peeled back to reveal a more simple Gospel. Truly, extravagance and luxury in the Church can take grievous heights, becoming a worldly sort of splendor and causing scandal to the outside world. We only need to look far as the excesses of the Renaissance popes only 600 years ago. Easily, we can regard the ecclesiastical affluence that fanned the flames of the Protestant Reformation. Even today, a bishop who drives a fancy car and lives in a spacious mansion causes scandal- and rightly so. There is a such thing as improper extravagance, which makes the church appear like an elitist club, which damages the soul. However, allow me to distinguish this from the proper “extravagance” belonging to our faith and due to God.

Read details of the Jewish Temple described in the Old Testament book of Kings. How it was framed in fine wood, gold and bronze, how purest incense burned there night and day. This was regarded as the place of God, where His Holiness dwelled, a place betwixt heaven and earth- and it was adorned so. Now, we all know Christ gave us a Temple of His body, made not with human hands, a real and true presence of God with us. No one would argue against that. Yet, I think few make the connections here between Jewish worship and Christian liturgy. When Jews worshiped in the Temple, they believed they were imitating the goings on in heaven. And when Christians gathered for liturgy, they believed they were participating in heaven! Man would no longer just imitate God; no, he would become part of God, become one flesh with Him in the Eucharist. What was once a dim shadow has been seen in clear light- Christ, who was crucified and resurrected, calling each one of us to be His flesh, to be His body! I don’t know about you, but this calls for some celebration.

Contrary to popular belief, a priest’s ornate vestments aren’t for his own glory. They instead represent putting on Christ, entering into His heavenly glory, a glory in which we are greatly unworthy to participate! But see how much Christ loves us. He dons His prodigal children in robes, welcomes them into new life and gives us the feast of Himself! While we may deem it rather boring to hear monks chanting for hours on end, consider that all the hymns in the world, sung ceaselessly cannot describe the depths of God’s love!

Splendor in liturgy isn’t something that should be condemned. After all, the priest only wears those gilded vestments once a day at most. He doesn’t wear them when greeting his friends or when preaching on the street. He wears them, as is proper, to partake in the wedding feast of the Lamb Most-High. At Mass, the person and personality of a priest disappears, subsumed in the vesture of Christ. Yes, we could go on over and over about how many unworthy priests stand at the altar but such critique misses the point. Consider us all sinful, stained and unworthy who stand at the altar. Our God is a God of forgiveness, second-chances and decadent love. He gives to us out of gratuitous generosity. Should we not render praise to him gratuitously?

Beauty can be simple, it can be poor and mean just like the stable at Bethlehem. No one is required to adorn their church with materials they cannot afford. No one is exempt from relieving the poor. This is why, the Catholic Church, despite its historical glories, is still the world’s leading charitable organization. With beauty comes responsibility.  To whom much is given, much is expected. A priest who dons splendid vestments while turning blind eye to the poor and suffering, commits insult against Christ. As he is dressed in Christ, so should he act as Christ. Splendor needs to speak of something higher than ourselves, needs to be an unspoken prayer to God and a token of his gratuitous love for us. It must have meaning. Splendor for splendor’s sake is never good.

I firmly believe in a simpler Church that is also a beautiful Church. Mary, Mother of Christ, in all her poverty, radiated pure, godly beauty.  Thus, so should the Church, the Bride of Christ. She should be bedecked as for a wedding-feast, a bride blushing timidly yet fearlessly carrying high the bejeweled cross.

So I say, let her priests wear the spotless, vestments of Christ while at the same time, running to spread His Gospel, to uplift the fallen and impoverished. Let his fluid chant sing a love-song to Christ and His people. Let the vast, stained-glass windows of cathedrals teach a parable, gilded altars declare thanksgiving and clouds of incense herald holy paths. Where there is love, there is an unspoken beauty; ever ancient, ever new but never meaningless.

 

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During a few conversations with fellow Catholics, some of whom are in my own parish, I noticed that some of them say the stupidest things. Their quotes are banal, their insights full of liberal tripe and their knowledge of the faith dismal. Here are a few gems I found especially frustrating. Some are strait from the horse’s mouth while others are paraphrased:

 

–          Did you know that St. Hildegard was the first feminist?

–         I am so glad Vatican II allowed lay-people to finally participate at Mass.

–          It would be so nice if the Church could sell all its nice things and give them to the poor!

–          I don’t believe all those rules about fasting but do I give up sweets every Lent.

–          I think they should get a woman pope in there; after all, women have better morals.

–          Martin Luther was right in getting Catholics to read the Bible more.

–          The musical experiments of the 70’s were such a great thing, they need to make Mass fresh and relevant.

–          I hope the next pope allows gay marriage and birth control- we need to get with the times!

–          What is liturgy?

–          Is Hosanna the name of Jesus’s daughter?

–          Ooh, let’s replace the Exultet at Easter with something by David Haas!

–          I’m glad Benedict XVI stepped down; he was taking the Church backwards.

–          Oh, I take communion at the Anglican church, it’s the same thing as ours.

–          You don’t really have to go to confession, it’s really meant for therapeutic purposes.

–          The reason we don’t have any more vocations is because the Church won’t let go of traditions.

–          I’m so glad Vatican II got rid of Latin, no one can understand it!

–          You don’t really need to believe in purgatory.

–          Back before the 1960’s, the priest used to turn his back on us during Mass, it was so rude.

–          I’m disappointed the Church never elected a black pope.

–          Priests should be able to get married because everyone knows men need to have sex.

–          I’m not raising my kid Catholic… he’s going to choose his own religion, but I’m having him baptized – because it’s my right.

–          The Protestants would join our church if we could just be more like them!

–          I won’t kiss the bishop’s ring, he’s only a man.

–          Gay marriage isn’t a problem as long as it doesn’t affect me.

–           Latin Mass is idiotic.

–          Married couples shouldn’t have any more than two children- it’s irresponsible.

–          Why doesn’t the Church treat women like people?

–          The Catechism has too many rules; it should really be all about love.

 

Jesus Facepalm

No Way!

Conclave

I can’t believe it’s getting around that time again, to lock 115 dudes in a room and see who comes out alive…wait a minute- I meant , wait to see who comes out as pope. There are good spiritual lessons in this as well as good comedy material but I’m still a bit too much in shock and denial to publish a longer comment on this. Just no way!

Women in the priesthood, there are theological reasons why this is not possible and as a woman, I don’t feel slighted in the least. God made men to be priests in order to teach men love and sacrifice which women learn naturally. Because men express the fallen nature so clearly, He wanted to raise them up. We all know women make better counselors, teachers and helpers, but God says “I am doing something different, look what I can do for men who are weaker in these areas for my own glory” The fact a man can be celibate, loyal, faithful and wholeheartedly dedicated to God is an even greater surprise then for women to do so and He is a God of surprises!

What is more likely to make you say “wow” a dog that can play fetch or a cat that can play fetch? You know what I’m saying?

10 Commandments of Logic

Anti-Catholics should have a good look at this.

Protestant: Why do you Catholics worship Mary?
Catholic: We don’t. Catholics honor Mary. We worship God.
Protestant: Why do you honor Mary?
Catholic: We honor her because Jesus honored her.
Protestant: How do you know that Jesus honored her?
Catholic: Because of the fourth commandment. He obeyed perfectly.
Catholic: If Jesus honored His mother then why don’t you?
Protestant: The Bible doesn’t tell us to.
Catholic: But the Bible says that we are to imitate Christ in all things. (1 Corinthians 11).
How do you feel toward someone who loves your mother?
Don’t you love that person in return?

 

 

I would like to add that while the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us to honor Mary, it does say that all generations will call her blessed (Luke 1:48) Ask yourself how you are concerned with this prophecy.