O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When A Monastery is Also a Barracks

Icon of Our Lady of the Wedding Ring
Over at The Anchoress, Fr. Longenecker has a piece about running a family based on monastic values. As an Anglican convert, Fr. Longenecker has a family of his own. To most Latins, that seems too out of place, but to my semi-hellenized brain, a married priest isn't too big of a deal. Just as long as a married man includes temporary continence as part of the Communion fast (from midnight according to the practice of the Greeks) he can be a priest as much as he wants. I'll save the "can married men be ordained" debate for a day with more than 24 hours and skip to the only thing I'll engage in the comments: the marital vocation.

Running a family in a semi-monastic style is something I've wanted to do for many years. My family would pray together as a community daily (you can bet your behind that there will be an abundance of home altars and incense), eat as a community, and work as a community: the boys would be pressed into doing yard work and the girls into doing housework. The older children would help take care of their younger siblings. Various monastic values would be instilled in the children. Obedience: as monks must obey their superiors, so too must children obey their parents. Poverty: just as each monk must share with the other monks, so too children must share with each other. Things belong to the family more than they belong to individuals. Chastity: I have much respect for the chastity belt and am infatuated with medieval weapons. The kids will also learn, upon reaching a certain age, that sex is not an act done desiring physical or emotional pleasure, but rather sex is the giving of your entire self, even your very body, to your beloved, for her(his) own sanctification, carried out not in natural emotions, but in supernatural love. This whole system makes life a heck of a lot easier than doing it any other way because the kids help take care of each other and cooperate together, not running off each in his own direction like scattered sheep. To those who think that children would be to uncooperative to live in this system, we are all called by God to develop self-control over our natural passions and to pass this virtue on to our children.

The modernist notion that “You can be just as holy being married as being a priest, monk or nun." is hogwash that (wrongly) presupposes that worldly things are good, therefore you can be just as holy living a worldly life as you can a detached life and worldly things can be included in liturgy and worldly ideas can be included in morality with mutual enrichment the result. Back in reality, attachment to the world is detachment from God, so you can't be living in the world according to the world's ways and at the same time be holy. Inclusion of worldly elements in liturgy is sacrilegious and inclusion of worldly ideas in morality is false teaching that easily leads to heresy.

However, there is a stumbling block on the other side. Sure it's much smaller of a problem, but it's still there. It's the idea that just because the married are in the world, that automatically makes them less holy, as if they are somehow inferior to the monastic and priestly states. What's lacking here is a distinction between "detachment" and "separation". All Catholics are called to be detached from the world regardless of individual vocation; to reject the world in favor of God, which we call "conversion". We are all called to be great saints and it doesn't matter if God wants you to be married or a monk. He wants you to be a great saint wherever He puts you.

However, most Catholics are not called to be separated from the world. Hermits and cloistered religious are called to be the most separated from the world. Other monastics and clergy are separate to a lesser degree. Those called to marriage, as well as the other laity, are called to be living among the world, right on the front lines of the Church Militant. We are still called to be completely detached from the world (we might be on the front lines among the enemy, but we cannot join the enemy-we are trying to convert them, not be converted by them). The analogy of monasticism being the direct route and marriage being the scenic route to Heaven is true to a certain degree. It would be better to say that monasticism is the easier route because of the limited exposure to the world, whereas marriage is the more difficult route because of the greater exposure to the world. It's as if the married are the foot-soldiers on the front lines mixed with enemy soldiers and monastics are the archers further back in a safer position. Both are equally called to be detached from the world (both being in the same army opposing the world), but they are not called to be separate from the world to the same degree, as they have different roles in the Church Militant and thus they each require different kinds and amounts of strength to win. Laity are, as the old saying goes, "in the world, but not of it", whereas monastics are neither in the world nor of it. Both are equally called to reject the world in favor of God, but one is in an easier position to do so.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Let God Arise, Let His Enemies Flee Before His Face

From Matins in the Byzantine Divine Office (Ps. 117):

R. God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us, blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.

V. O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His love endures forever.
V. They encircled me, compassed me about; in the name of the Lord I crushed them.
V. I shall not die, I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.
V. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the work of Lord, a marvel in our eyes.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Finding Humility After You Have Degraded Yourself

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

In the Greek Rites, today is the first of the Pre-Lenten Sundays. In the Latin Rite, Septuagesima isn't until next Sunday. The Season of Septuagesima is observed in the Eastern Rites, but the Latin name obviously isn't used. Simply called "Pre-Lent", it lasts four Sundays (as opposed to the Roman three), with Great Lent beginning the day after the fourth Sunday (Clean Monday). For those who are wondering, Eastern Catholics typically use the Gregorian calendar, so the Greek liturgical calendar is super-imposed on the same civil calendar we use, thus Pascha is on the same date as us. Whereas Orthodox Christians typically use the Julian calendar, so for them the Sunday of the Publican & the Pharisee isn't for another two weeks.

Today we have the juxtaposition of the self-righteous pharisee concerned with external appearances and not internal sanctity with the corrupt publican, considered more vile than an adulterous whore, who humbled himself by admitting that God is all-holy while he is wicked and doesn't deserve anything because of his sinfulness. This shows us that those who make excuses for sins, claiming that they aren't that bad or that God understands, are repeating the arrogance of the pharisee, who felt it was acceptable to do as he pleased as long as he went to temple and observed what the law commanded. Whereas those who regret their sins, admitting that they degraded themselves by running off into sin, are repeating the humility of the publican, who desired that union with God replace his sinfulness while admitting that he does not deserve union with God because he ran away from God into sin. This reality about sin is something to think about and constantly keep in mind during the 40 days of the Great Fast.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Bride of Christ Does an About Face

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul - III Class

I written on conversions before. I have a strong devotions to penitents (female saints who were neither virgins nor married). I've written on St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Pelagia of Antioch. I need to do something soon on St. Mary of Egypt after recently reading her life. St. Paul's conversion was not the result of sexual sins, but it is still great cause for us to take heart today with so many of our loved ones living as fallen away Catholics or just outright persecutors of the faith. We all know these people. It hurts all of us to see someone we love degrade themselves through a sinful lifestyle. God created for a certain dignity, but they run away into a fake man-made life. St. Paul was the greatest persecutor of the early Church and he was converted into the greatest evangelizer of the early Church. This did not happen slowly over time with gradual reform. No, this was all at once when St. Paul had the reality of God and His Love revealed to Him. The conversions of Sts. Margaret, Pelagia, and Mary were all sudden and all at once. St. Margaret had the death of her lover. St. Pelagia had the sermon of St. Nonnus. St. Mary had her inability to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The devil is powerless when God blitzes him. God is still trying to work such conversions today, because He wills that all men be saved. We need to do our part by making known the truth of the love of Christ the Bridegroom, who so loves His Bride the Church, that He destroyed Himself to wash away Her sins in His own Blood. He has been waiting for Her to return to Him for a long time. Let us pray that Bridegroom and Bride are reunited.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Simultaneously Proud & Embarrassed to Be a Bruins Fan.

Earlier today, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins (it still feels great to write that) visited the White House as a part of the American tradition where the national champion in each sport has it's turn to be received by the president. With the Bruins in town to play the Capitals tomorrow, today was the Bruins' turn. Super-star goaltender Tim Thomas refused to show. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs and won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender and is a major star in the sport. His is also the first-choice goaltender for the US National Team, having led the US to silver in the last Olympics. His refusal to be received by Obama in what is a major event for any championship team certainly creates a lot of waves.

Tim Thomas & the Stanley Cup
He released the following statement explaining his protest:
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"
I was beaming with pride as I read that. That makes me so proud to be a Bruins fan. He is dead on accurate. He is right about the indefensible tyranny of the Obama administration and he is right that both parties have their share of the blame. He is setting such great example. He, someone in such prominent position, is speaking up against the leftist extremism. This is something in which we can take heart and something we should emulate. Bruins President Cam Neely followed with this statement:
"As an organization we were honored by President Obama's invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team's achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject."
I wanted to pelt Cam Neely with eggs for making such a disgraceful and embarrassing statement. To defend the current administration is to defend all the sin they force on the public, calling the ability to degrade human beings a "right". They claim it is a "right" to degrade the act of mutual self-sacrifice between bridegroom and bride, where they pour out everything to each other, even their very bodies, providing the environment for God to create new life, to a mere act of physical or emotional pleasure through legalized sodomy and legalized contraception. Then they make sure that the marital sacrifice remains degraded to physical & emotional pleasure by defending the "right" to legalized murder-that a child must be put to death for the "comfort" of the mother. All of this is forced on the public-and using the public's own money.

It is a sad day and you know there is no moral fiber or self-control when passions and emotions are defended as "rights". God did not create us to live according to our emotions and what we feel is right. God created us to live in the love in which He dwells. It is a love that is self-sacrificial, where the lover willingly completely destroys himself to get the beloved to the dignity for which she was created by God, which is to dwell in that same self-giving love. It is with this love that Christ loves His Bride, the Church, and we are to love with this same love. To paraphrase St. John Chrysostom, love does not seek the favor of the beloved, but rather her benefit.

I suppose this makes me a typical New England sports fan: love the players, hate the front office. Also, it should not be lost that this comes at the same time as the March for Life, which was happening simultaneously across the street.

We Pray for the Children Condemned to Death

Rogation Day for the Victims of Abortion
This day should be put on the Church calendar in each country on the anniversary of the legalizaton of murder in that country. In the United States, it's today.

If I had a copy of the Akathist of Repentance for One Who Has Aborted a Child, I would post an excerpt of that since it is such a powerful prayer, but I'll make due with a tropar (antiphon) from the Office for the Victims of Abortion:
Again we pray for the children of God condemned to death by the unjust judgement of men: that the Lord our God would soften the hearts of those who seek their violent destruction, and rescue those who are being led forth to the slaughter, we diligently pray Thee, O Lord, hearken and have mercy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Lamb of The Lamb

Feast of St. Agnes - III Class
Union with Christ in and of itself destroys all sin and gives strength against all temptation:
"If I love Him I shall be chaste, if I touch Him I shall be clean, if I embrace Him I shall be a virgin indeed."-2nd responsory at Matins

God does not think as men do:
"According to tradition, it was in her thirteenth year that she suffered martyrdom. How despicable the cruelty that sparred not even this tender age! But how great the power of faith that found even that age its witness"-St. Ambrose

On the lips of children and of babes...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What a Good Priest Does as the Ship Goes Down

From the Catholic Herald via iPadre:
“A Catholic chaplain aboard the sinking Costa Concordia rushed to consume the Eucharist in an attempt to protect it as the cruise liner began to sink on Friday night.

Fr Rafaeli Mallena, 70, described his ordeal to Fr Giacomo Martino, director of the Apostolate of the Sea for the Italian bishops’ conference.

He said as he realised the ship was in serious peril he had two things at the forefront of his mind: protecting the valuables, which the staff had entrusted to him, and protecting the Blessed Sacrament.”
In the Byzantine Rite of Ordination, shortly before Communion, the Bishop takes a Lamb (Host) and gives it to the newly ordained saying, "Take this gage, and guard it until the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are going to be asked for it back by Him." The priest then returns to his place with the Lamb and says "Lord have mercy" and Psalm 50 in full. He then gives the Lamb back and not long thereafter, when the clergy receive Communion, he receives first.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A General Keeping His Commanders in Line

From RCTV, comes (very welcome) news that Abp. Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis has threatened to suspend any priest or deacon of his archdiocese that dissents from Church Teaching on homosexuality in the lead-up to a vote on a constitutional amendment in the state of Minnesota defining marriage as between one man and one woman-and Abp. Nienstedt has always been one of the greatest champions for this amendment. It is always a great scandal when any cleric publicly opposes Church teaching and such disobedience in the run-up to such a critical vote would have devastating effects for the Church. We need priests to be brave and defend the Catholic Faith in the face of persecution. We need bishops to defend such priests and knock the disobedient leftist priests back into line (not create scandal themselves by doing the reverse). Abp. Nienstedt is certainly setting an excellent example for his brother bishops by enduring individual persecution for years for his support Church Teaching on marriage in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. He has made himself one of the model bishops in the US just on his handling of this issue. Let us pray that he continues his work and that God strengthens other bishops to likewise defend Church Teaching from the wolves in their dioceses.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Lesson About Marriage

Giotto, The Wedding Feast at Cana, 1304-1306, Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua.
II Sunday after Epiphany - II Class

I find it hilarious that Giotto decided to make the head-waiter so fat. I'm curious as to who the guy with the white beard is, since he has a halo, but there aren't any holy characters in this story other than Our Lord & Our Lady. One of the apostles perhaps?

Anyway, this event teaches us (amidst many other lessons) that Our Lord will always provide for couples during hard times, no matter how outwardly humiliating the situation might be. They just need to let Him be in charge and decide what will happen to them; to "do whatever He tells them", instead of trying to fix it themselves on their own efforts.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Eye Candy: A Faithful Bishop in a Majestic Liturgy

Via Rorate comes this video of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy (Pontifical Mass) for the Solemn Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. This Liturgy was served by Bishop Milan Šašik, Eparch of Mukachevo, in the Ruthenian-Greek Rite. This was only last week as Dec. 25th on the Julian Calendar (used by many Eastern Rites) coincides with Jan 7th on the Gregorian Calendar.

I present this for two reasons. First there is the liturgical eye candy of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic (the liturgical and historical equivalent of Latin in Slavic lands), which is every bit as awe-inspiring and beautiful as a Latin Rite Pontifical High Mass. Second, the Latin Rite con-celebrant is Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, who himself is a blogger and ardent supporter of the Traditional Latin Rite and has called out his brother-bishops for not promoting it, back when he was stationed in the Caribbean.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bells and Smells-Together!

I can't resist posting this video (h/t to NLM) of Vespers for the Feast of the Theophany (Baptism) of the Lord, which on the Byzantine Calendar is on January 6 (so this is taking place the evening of January 5, since all liturgical days in the Eastern Rites go from sunset to sunset). One of the things that makes this interesting is that this is the Russian Rite, which is among the smallest Eastern Rites, so it is good to see them represented. Their size is a stark contrast to their Orthodox counterpart, as the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest of the Orthodox Churches. Similarly, the Ukrainian Rite is the largest of the Eastern Rites.

The video, at St. Michael's Church in New York City, shows the incensation of the tetrapod (a large icon stand outside the sanctuary where many ceremonies other than the Divine Liturgy are held) surrounded by acolytes with the cross, candles, and ripidia (fans). If you're wondering "What's with the bells on the thurible?", each part of the censer (to use it's Greek name) has its proper symbolism. The bowl of the censer symbolizes the earth. The coal symbolizes us. The hardness and blackness of the coal symbolizes our sinfulness. The fire symbolizes the grace of the Holy Ghost. The fire turning the coals white and soft symbolizes the Holy Ghost purifying us by fire and suffering. The incense symbolizes prayer. The smoke rising symbolizes our prayers rising to Heaven. The lid symbolizes Heaven. The three main chains represent the Holy Trinity. The convergence of the chains at one handle represents the One-ness of the Trinity. The bells represent the 12 apostles (there are 3 bells on each of the 4 chains). The ringing of the bells represents the teaching of the 12 apostles. Ergo, one must be at least a deacon (and thus able to deliver homilies) to swing the censer. Acolytes (and lay men substituting for them) may carry the censer, but not swing it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Glory to Christ Jesus! Glory For Ever!

"Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: Emptied himself: exinanivit, made himself as of no account. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:6-11)

The Nymphios decked in glory
This is how the Divine Bridegroom loves His Bride. He does not seek any pleasure, happiness, or good times for himself, but instead emptied Himself, sacrificed and immolated Himself, offering Himself up to the Father for the good of His Bride the Church. Receiving Him, God joins the Nymphios to His Eccelsial Bride and He gives His entire self to Her, even His very body, which she receives in the Eucharist. For this reason, in the Latin tradition, altars are supposed to have canopies over them, imitating a four post marriage bed, as the altar is the marriage bed of the Church. Christ and the Church each desire nothing for themselves, but rather each completely sacrifices himself up to God for the sake of the other. They give themselves entirely to each other through the Heavenly Father and because of this mutual sacrifice for each other, God greatly exalts them, giving them supreme glory, honor, and victory over their every adversary. Because of His sacrifice, Christ is given all honor, and if His Bride offers Herself to Him in all submission, eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, she shall join Him in the same heavenly glory.

An Eastern Wedding Crown. This one (with
its icon of the Theotokos) is for the bride.
The bridegroom's crown has an icon of Christ.

This is the reality of marriage. This is how bridegroom and bride are to love each other. A wedding is a liturgy of the Church where a man and a woman sacrifice themselves completely to God for the sake of each other, and having received them, God joins them together. They give themselves to completely to each other through God. Because of their self-sacrifice for each other, God crowns them each with glory. Victory and honor is achieved only through sacrifice. In the Eastern Churches, the bridegroom and bride each receive crowns. Wreaths (ancient symbols of victory and fertility) may be used in place of crowns. Because the have sacrificed themselves completely to God for the sake of each other, God crowns them with glory. They are, as the rite says, crowned for each other. In the West, the Latin tradition is different. We use rings in place of crowns, with the two being bound into one. Now, in North America, rings are symbols of victory and honor and are given to sports teams when they win a championship and to students when they complete a degree, so rings actually do fit into this theology of being crowned with glory by God because of the complete sacrifice of yourself for the sake of your beloved.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

You Can't Understand Marriage Without Understanding Love.

I found this homily via Facebook and what I want to say is too long for a Fb comment and I want more people to see it anyway.

The homily is good and much of it can be considered great, but I have one and a half gripes about the priest's understanding of marriage, which seems rather limited and basic. It's understandable because he's celibate so no one is expecting him to be an expert about marriage, but still. I can't hear this and not say something about love and marriage.

Now, he is looking at what marriage really is, but he is looking at it backwards. It proves to be a flawed and selfish view of marriage. He evaluates a (potential) spouse on the basis of what the other person does to get you to Heaven, as if that is the bottom line and all that matters. That is still selfish and you are still thinking about yourself. That is not love. Your vocation is not to have someone lug your fat behind to Heaven, but to get up and get her to Heaven, even if it kills you. If it is true love, then you will evaluate the person based on what you do to get that person to Heaven. It is not the value that they have to offer you that counts, but rather the value they have plus the value you can impart to them that matters. You see the salvation of the other person is the only determining factor of the success/failure of your life, not just the relationship, but your life. That person's salvation becomes an all-consuming obsession. Zelus domus tuae comedit me. (Ps 68:10)

Speaking of Psalm 68 (read it; it's good for you), you are willing to bear any amount of pain and suffering to get your beloved to Heaven, no matter how many people hate you for what you are doing to her/him or to yourself by being with her/him, or even if the person herself is mad at you for hating her sins. If it means converting a bad Catholic or non-Catholic, then that's what it means. Period. She has to get to heaven. She has to be holy. That's it. If the person is a bad person, then love will push you to convert the person into a good person, even if no one likes it. Their soul is all that matters. Your soul is completely forgotten, because it is spent on theirs. Marriage is not supposed to be comfortable where you marry someone holier than you so she can get you to Heaven. That's slothful and selfish. Marriage is a cross, where you pour yourself out for the sanctification of your spouse. You give everything to her, even your very body.

That leads me to my half-gripe. He acts as if the priesthood and the religious life is far superior to marriage, arrogantly calling it "a much higher calling", as if it's a different and higher reality. Marriage is a mutual self-sacrifice made as a mirror image of the sacrifice of Christ. The love of bridegroom and bride is not a natural emotion; it is a supernatural grace that has the sanctification of the other as its all consuming obsession. In marriage (properly so called), the love that unites bridegroom and bride is the same self-sacrificial Divine Love that unites God the Father and God the Son, as well as Christ the Nymphios (Bridegroom) and His Bride the Church.

God the Son, the Divine Nymphios, sacrificed Himself for His Bride to the Father for Her sanctification, giving His entire self to Her, even His very Body, which She receives in the Eucharist, which is His intimacy with Her. He did not seek any physical or spiritual good for Himself, but humbled Himself unto death, (Phil 2:6-10) seeking only the salvation of His Bride. That is all that mattered. It was an all-consuming obsession and He endured every kind of pain to attain that end. It is with that Love that bridegroom and bride are called to love each other, to accomplish the exact same end, living the same life, albeit on a smaller scale. That is their obligation, to get each other to Heaven by sacrificing themselves for each other's sanctification without any regard for themselves. When marriage is lived properly, we can see that same sacrifice of the Divine Nymphios reflected on the small scale of a man and a woman. The more clearly the Love of the Nymphios is reflected, the better the condition of marriage. Period. There is no room for debate or discussion. It's all or nothing. The only way to live it is to the extreme. No exceptions. Speaking of "extreme", the Icon of the Nymphios is also called "Extreme Humility".

Being a priest or a nun is not greater in terms of what is lived (for the same reality is lived), it is greater in terms of the scale on which it is lived. However, in comparison to a secular notion of marriage, then the priesthood and religious life are greater in terms of both what is lived and the scale on which it is lived. His comparison of marriage vs. the priesthood and religious life holds true in terms of a God-less, pleasure-seeking "marriage" based on human emotion. However, when you define marriage properly as the self-sacrificial Love of God for mutual sanctification and procreation, then his comparison is arrogant and displays an amateurish lack of knowledge about marriage.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

That the Fire of the Holy Ghost Descends Upon Us This Year

Come Creator Spirit,
and visit the hearts of Your faithful:
fill with heavenly grace,
our hearts which you created.

You who are called the Paraclete,
Gift of God most high,
fount of life, fire of love,
and spiritual anointing.

You sevenfold gift,
Finger of the Father’s right hand,
promise of the Father,
enriching our lips with speech.

Kindle light in our senses,
infuse love in our hearts,
confirm the weakness of our
bodies with power perpetually.

Repel the enemy afar,
And give us peace at once:
with you our leader before us,
we shall avoid all harm.

Through you we know the Father,
and likewise know the Son,
and of You both the Spirit,
may we believe for all time.

Glory to God the Father,
And the Son who rose
from the dead and to the Paraclete
forever through all the ages.