Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Will the real Princess Leia please stand up?

This is just too cute, a photo from this year's Dragon*Con showing the popularity of Slave Leia costumes. This costume figured into last night's episode of "Chuck".
Oh. And did I mention that "Chuck" has also become must-see TV for me? Although it's not as innovative as Pushing Daisies, it's more consistently enjoyable. I think the fact that Adam Baldwin plays a secondary character has a lot to do with that.

But really, it's the funnest hour on tv these days. Monday nights at 8:00pm EST on NBC.

The other edge it has over Pushing Daisies (which I still really love) is the lovableness of the schleppy main character. Some critic has observed that this fall on television is Revenge of the Beta Males. Both Pushing Daisies and Chuck star a beta male, but Chuck wins out because the show has more chemistry between the beta male and the alpha female lead.

I've also heard Chuck described as Scarecrow and Mrs. King, but gender-reversed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stephen Colbert is a viral kind of guy...

I joined Facebook so I could join the 1,000,000 Strong for Stephen T. Colbert group. He's almost got his one million:
5,000 Members at 4:59 PM (EST) 10/17/2007
10,000 Members at 10:22 PM (EST) 10/17/2007
20,000 Members at 5:26 AM (EST) 10/18/2007
30,000 Members at 12:41 PM (EST) 10/18/2007
50,000 Members at 4:48 PM (EST) 10/18/2007
75,000 Members at 7:30 PM (EST) 10/18/2007
100,000 Members at 12:54 AM (EST) 10/19/2007
170,000 Members at 4:58 PM (EST) 10/19/2007
200,000 Members at 9:43 PM (EST) 10/19/2007
250,000 Members at 11:58 AM (EST) 10/20/2007
300,000 Members at 7:44 PM (EST) 10/20/2007
350,000 Members at 4:43 AM (EST) 10/21/2007
400,000 members at 5:11 PM (EST) 10/21/2007
450,000 Members at 12:16 PM (EST) 10/22/2007
500,000 Members at 5:11 AM (EST) 10/23/2007
550,000 Members at 3:59 PM (EST) 10/23/2007
600,000 Members at 8:06 PM (EST) 10/23/2007
650,000 Members at 11:24 PM (EST) 10/23/2007
700,000 Members at 11:34 AM (EST) 10/24/2007
750,000 Members at 5:31 PM (EST) 10/24/07
800,000 Members at 9:40 PM (EST) 10/24/07
850,000 members at 4:22 AM (EST) 10/25/2007

The Torah of Messiah

Oh. My. God. My God for real, not taking Your name in vain.

In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI gives a brilliant commentary on Rabbi Jacob Neusner's insightful critique of Jesus in his book A Rabbi Talks With Jesus. Rabbi Neusner has, Benedict writes, done a great service in laying bare the heart of the Jewish dismay at Jesus' treatment of the Sabbath ("the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath") and the Fourth Commandment ("Who is my mother and who are my brothers?")

The Pope, along with Rabbi Neusner, rejects the traditional interpretation that Jesus was voicing a criticism against the Judaism of his time, "a critique of an ossified legalism -- hypocritical to the core and guilty of dragging religion down to the level of a slavish system of unreasonable obligations that hold man back from developing his work and his freedom."

If that was all Jesus was doing, Rabbi Neusner says (and Benedict agrees), he would have been staying well within the boundaries of expected behavior of a Jewish rabbi. The prophets had done no less.

The celebration of the Sabbath and the obedience to parents dictated by the Fourth Commandments are, rather, two of the strongest glues binding together the Jewish people into an "eternal Israel" that remains faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through all time and all history. Jewish social order is built upon strong family loyalty and ties, which the Sabbath rest has been absolutely crucial in maintaining:

"So to keep the Sabbath, one remains at home. It is not enough merely not to work. One also has to rest. And resting means, re-forming one day a week the circle of family and household, everyone at home and in place." - Jacob Neusner, A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, p. 80

The Sabbath is not just a matter of personal piety; it is the core of social order. This day "makes eternal Israel what it is, the people that, like God in creating the world, rest from creation on the Seventh Day."

But, Rabbi Neusner says, Jesus puts himself squarely at the center of the social order when he claims to be Lord of the Sabbath. He has just said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is a highly theological text, Neusner says. "Because it features the motif of rest, and the connected motifs of labor and burden, it belongs thematically with the question of the Sabbath. The rest that is intended here has to do with Jesus.

"No wonder then that the son of man is lord of the Sabbath!" Neusner says. "The reason is not that he interprets the Sabbath restrictions in a liberal manner... Jesus was not just another reforming rabbi, out to make life 'easier' for the people... No, the issue is not that the burden is light... Jesus' claim to authority is at issue... Christ now stands on the mountain, he now takes the place of the Torah...

Is it really so that your master, the son of man, is lord of the Sabbath?... I ask again -- is your master God?" -- Neusner, p. 88
Rabbi Neusner says that Jesus' claim to be lord of the Sabbath undermines the cohesion of "the eternal Israel" and the foundation of Israel's social order in the family.
"We pray to the God we know, to begin with, through the testimony of our family, to the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah and Rachel. So to explain who were are, eternal Israel, sages appeal to the metaphor of geneaology -- to the fleshly connection, the family, as the rationale for Israel's social existence." - Neusner, p. 58
When Jesus teaches that his mother and brothers are not his blood kin but those who do the will of God, Neusner asks, "Does Jesus not teach me to violate one of the two great commandments... that concern the social order?"

It is the tying together of the Torah of Moses and the Torah of Messiah that to me explains the meaning of Jesus' puzzling statement, "I did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, I came to complete them." Pope Benedict writes of this thusly:

"When we read the Torah together with the entire Old Testament canon, the Prophets, the Psalms, and the Wisdom Literature, we realize very clearly a point that is substantially present in the Torah itself. That is, Israel does not exist simply for itself, in order to live according to the 'eternal' dispositions of the Law -- it exists to be a light to the nations.

In the Psalms and the prophetic books we hear more and more clearly the promise that God's salvation will come to all the nations... We hear that the boundaries will fall and that the God of Israel will be acknowledged and revered by all the nations as their God, as the one God.

It is our Jewish interlocutors who, quite rightly, ask again and again: So what has your 'Messiah' Jesus actually brought? He has not brought world peace, and he has not conquered the world's misery... Yes, what has Jesus brought?

We have already encountered this question and we know the answer.

He has brought the God of Israel to the nations, so that all the nations now pray to him and recognize Israel's Scriptures as his word, the word of the living God.

He has brought the gift of universality, which was the one great definitive promise to Israel and the world.

The vehicle of this universalization is the new family, whose only admission requirement is communion with Jesus, communion in God's will. For Jesus' "I" is by no means a self-willed ego revolving around itself alone... Jesus' "I" incarnates the Son's communion of will with the Father... Communion with the Son is filial communion with the Father - it is a yes to the Fourth Commandment on a new level... It is entry into the family of those who call God Father and who can do so because they belong to a 'we' -- formed of those who are united with Jesus nand, by listening to him, united with the will of the Father, thereby attaining to the heart of the obedience intended by the Torah. [emphasis mine- Rae]. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 116-117

What Benedict says next takes this all out of the pietistic, individualistic realm completely. It has great relevance to our current discussions on the relationship between church and state. Although we may get it wrong over and over again, the essential freedom we have in the Torah of the Messiah frees us to create a truly secular social order.
"... what is happening here is an extremely important process whose full scope was not grasped until modern times, even though the moderns first understood it in a one-sided and false way. Concrete juridical and social forms and political arrangements are not longer treated as a sacred law that is fixed ad litteramfor all times and so for all peoples.

The decisive thing is the underlying communion of will with God given by Jesus. It frees men and nations to discover what aspects of political and social order accord with this communion of will and so to work out their own juridical arrangements... The concrete social and political order is released from the directly sacred realm, from theocratic legislation, and is transferred to the freedom of man, whom Jesus has established in God's will and taught thereby to see the right and the good."

... In our day, of course, this freedom has been totally wrenched away from any godly perspective or from communion with Jesus. Freedom for universality and so for the legitimate secularity of the state has been transformed into an absolute secularism." -- Benedict XVI, p. 118-119

This all boggles my mind. Hence the long post. I am thankful for Pope Benedict XVI. His mind is very different from Pope John Paul II's, and I see a wonderfully complementarity between the two that addresses so much of what the successors of Peter need to say to our world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What the world needs now is saints, sweet saints

I've wanted to be a saint ever since I read Therese of Lisieux's autobiography. So imagine my delight when I stumbled across a new blog from someone who is documenting his or her effort to become a saint. Here's an entry that made me laugh out loud at least twice. (I leave the figuring out where as an exercise for the student.):

Four Dead Sins?
When I converted to Catholicism, I suffered from four sins that can be, and normally are, grave matter. Three of them were almost daily occurrences. All four are now dead or severely crippled. I hated them (well, I hated three of them; one of them--intense drunkenness, to the point of losing reason--I kinda miss because I miss the camaraderie that normally came with it). Sin results in existential nervousness, which spills out of the soul and into the conscious, making him noticeably nervous, fearful, agitated. So I'm glad those serious sins are dead or crippled, or appear to be dead or cripple. I've read enough to realize they can come back again so I'm not getting cocky. I give thanks for my victory and move on to lesser sins, realizing the (possibly temporary) conquest of those four sins is merely a first and fundamental step.

Re: The possible temporary victory over those four sins.
It reminds me of the story of a desert father, a man renowned for his holiness. As he was lying on his death bed, the devil appeared in his window and said, "You have defeated me." The holy man replied, "We still don't know yet."

Monday, October 22, 2007

That Catholic Show - Charity and Mercy

I love YouTube. This is a funny video podcast I just ran across with a search on "funny catholic"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Stretched like a dead thing folded in a shroud...

The gospels have a million stories and characters. I ran across this tale, a poem in first person narrative by one of the soldiers guarding Christ's tome, in a book called "Christ and the Fine Arts" , an anthology from 1939 edited by Cynthia Pearl Maus.


I was a Roman soldier in my prime;
Now age is on me and the yoke of time.
I saw your Risen Christ, for I am he
Who reached the hyssop to Him on the tree;
And I am one of two who watched beside
The Sepulcher of Him we crucified.

All that last night I watched with sleepless eyes;
Great stars arose and crept across the skies.
The world was all too still for mortal rest,
For pitiless thoughts were busy in the breast.
The night was long, so long, it seemed at last
I had grown old and a long life had passed.
Far off, the hills of Moab, touched with light,
Were swimming in the hollow of the night.
I saw Jerusalem all wrapped in cloud
Stretched like a dead thing folded in a shroud.

Once in the pauses of our whispered talk
I heard a something on the garden walk.
Perhaps it was a crisp leaf lightly stirred --
Perhaps the dream-note of a waking bird.
Then suddenly an angel burning white
Came down with earthquake in the breaking light,
And rolled the great stone from the Sepulcher,
And lo, the Dead had risen with the day:
The Man of Mystery had gone His way.

Years have I wandered, carrying my shame;
Now let the tooth of time eat out my name.
For we, who all the wonder might have told,
Kept silence, for our mouths were stopt with gold.

-- Edwin Markham

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kneeling in zero gravity; facing Mecca from space

Another little bit of science fiction has come to fruition. Religious folks with a science fiction bent have long discussed the challenges of fulfilling one's religious duties in space. Now, Malaysian cosmonaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor , a practicing Muslim, will be part of a Russian crew heading to the International Space Station next month. getreligion.org has a post on how Dr. Muszaphar will be able to fulfill the duties of an observant Muslim to kneel in prayer, facing Mecca, five times during the day.

“I do agree that I am a Muslim, I am Islamic, but my main priority is more of conducting experiments,” the 35-year-old astronaut said. “As a Muslim, I do hope to do my responsibilities, I do hope to fast in space.”

After months of discussion and two international conferences, the Islamic National Fatwa Council came up with guidelines as to how Muslim astronauts should observe daily rituals. The rules were published in 12-page booklet titled “Muslim Obligations in the International Space Station.”

Observant Muslims are required to turn toward Mecca — located in Saudi Arabia — and kneel and pray five times a day. However, with the space station circling the Earth 16 times a day, kneeling in zero gravity to pray — or facing toward Mecca for that matter — makes fulfilling those religious obligations difficult.

Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council ruled that Muslim astronauts will not be required to kneel to pray if the absence of gravity makes it too hard. Facing Mecca while praying will be left to the “best abilities” of the astronaut, the council said.

Tip of the hat to SF author Donna Farley from the christian-fandom list for this one.

Pushing Daisies -- early Tim Burton crossed with Pete & Pete

I have fallen in love with Pushing Daisies, a new TV show that airs on ABC on Wednesday nights at 8pm EST. If you haven't watched the show because the premise sounds too off-putting -- guy can raise the dead with one touch, put them back dead again with a second -- try it anyway. The premise is not the charm of the show.

I would pitch this as early Tim Burton (ie., the bright colors and dark whimsy of Edwards Scissorhands) meets Pete & Pete (omniscient narrator, larger than life characters)* with relative unknowns Lee Pace and Anna Friel as the leads assisted by yummy helpings of Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, Ellen Greene and Swoosie Kurtz in secondary roles.

The production values are outstanding, the narration is done by Jim Dale (who does the Harry Potter audio books), and after three episodes the whimsy has not overshadowed the comedy and whistling in the dark humor.

I'm including lots of pictures so you can get a feel for the Technicolor-like look of the show.

*Oh, and throw in some Peewee's Playhouse too, the sets all look like they belong in the Playhouse.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I have been hearing good things about both the novel by Catholic author and permanent deacon Ron Hansen, and the film version coming out this weekend. People of the Book-- a blog about book publishing from a Catholic perspective -- has a nice article, including information on authors doing virtual blog tours to publicize new works.

Monday, October 15, 2007

a new springtime of Catholic arts: Pavel Chichikov

I wrote in my last entry about Debra Murphy's plea, "Pray for a Catholic literary revival", which translates so readily into "Pray for a revival of Catholic arts". So I thought I'd start showcasing people who are doing exactly that.

Pavel Chichikov

I met Pavel virtually on bit.listserv.catholic, one of the oldest Catholic forums on the Internet. I first started reading it in 1982.

The listserv was a hotbed of liturgical internecine war back then. This was valuable, because through it I first discovered folks who still prayed the rosary, made novenas, folks who thought the Agnus Dei and the Kyrie Eleison added rather than subtracted from the beauty of the Liturgy. The listserv saved my Catholic life during the early years of my return from atheism. I came back to a parish whose Director of Religious Education purged the parish library of any book with a copyright earlier than 1962, because "that's before Vatican II. It's worthless".*

So internecine wars or not, bit.listserv.catholic was light in the darkness. But it also left a harsh taste in the mouth at times. Tempers flared, arguments disintegrated at times into flame wars.

Into all the heat strode Pavel with little bits of light and calm. With his poems. He would post them without preface or discussion. Poems drifting down like parachutes delivering sustenance to the weary troops.

I later met Pavel in person, and found him to be as strong and gentle in person as in his poems.

This one is from his collection Lion Sun, available now on amazon.

Golgotha's Mary

Not alone to shepherds or in caves
No burning cherub or Creator's slave
But one of us, Mater Creatoris

Not alone to victims or to innocents
You also come to help impenitents
And prisoners. Mater Salvatoris

Not alone to save the faithful weak
But those who crucify you also seek
To hear them, Consolatrix afflictorum

Not alone to heal infected hope
And those condemned to bullet or to rope
But also killers. Salus infirmorum

Gentle and forgiving the unloved
We hear you in the pitying of the doves
And follow you, Regina Angelorum

*And when I say purged, I don't mean that our good-hearted and well-meaning DRE took the old books off the shelf to give to Goodwill or Salvation Army. She put them out in the trash, either because that's how worthless she thought them, or she did not want to contaminate any minds with thought from "the bad old days" of Newman, Chesterton, the Fathers of the Church, St. Francis de Sales, Henri Daniel-Rops, and their ilk. She was honestly perplexed by my request to keep them, but said sure, if I wanted to though she didn't know why I'd want any of them. My Pious Ladies Bookmobile may have had its genesis in those bags of "worthless old books" I rescued from the trash.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

If Eric Genuis comes to your town, GO SEE HIM!!

I am not a huge classical music aficionado like my husband Bill. I like and appreciate what he plays, but aside from CDs of opera arias I rarely buy any classical music myself. I like stories -- my favorite music is folk ballads, and in pop music I'm a sucker for songs like Ode to Billie Joe. Operas are the story music of the classical world, which is probably why they're the ones I listen to and buy, on my own without Bill.

But last night I cried at a classical music concert. Composer and pianist Eric Genuis and violinist Eric Wuest played 10 pieces of Genuis' composition. They were achingly beautiful, like listening to Mozart and Beethoven and those guys, yet distinctly contemporary.

Here's a nice rundown on Genuis from his web site:
Since the age of seven when he played his first tentative notes, music has been more than simple entertainment to Eric Genuis. Years of dedication brought first class performance honors and success in international piano competition and as the young composer matured, he brought to life in words and music his other great passion, the Catholic Faith. From the serene and reflective moods of albums like No Greater Love and Truth Never Changes to the classically influenced instrumental collection Eternity, this gifted young songsmith has crafted a distinctive sound that ranges from majestic to meditative and can be appreciated by all audiences.

The audience started out polite as usual, but as the night wore on became increasingly appreciative. The standing ovation the two musicians received at the end was from the heart.

Genuis spoke on and off between pieces. At the end of the next to the last piece, he gave a rather stirring speech about music, beauty and transcendence. He said we should take our children and our grandchildren to hear good music, we should introduce them to instruments, don't let them hear nothing but Britney Spears. He said how lucky we were to live in a university town, where free concerts were regularly performed. His plea reminded me of other Catholic artists who are consciously creating art that is counter-cultural, if you will, to the materialistic, post-modern, nihilistic, bleak artistic landscape that still dominates in the US.

Things continue to look up. Pray for a Catholic literary revival, Debra Murphy has been saying over at Idyllist Press. Pray for a Catholic revival in all of the arts. The incarnational imagination of Catholicism just may keep us through the cultural darkness of our own day. We are recovering from the double punch of the sexual revolution and the chaos that followed the Second Vatican Council *. Let's start making beautiful art that transcends the times again, as of old. Eric Genuis is doing that. Debra Murphy is doing that. Pavel Chichikov is doing it, Emily Snyder is doing is, Barbara Nicolosi is trying like heck to help people do it in Hollywood. Hurrah!

Go see Eric Genuis if you have a chance. I've never seen a post-concert audience like the one I saw last night. People just hung around in the foyer laughing and talking, and yes buying CDs. It was amazing.

* (I am NOT a Vatican II basher, by the way. I love Vatican II. Its documents excited me when I read them when I was a teenager, before I left the Church for my own period of atheism and nihilism. When I returned, and the implementation of Vatican II was causing violent liturgical, political and social inter-necine wars among Catholics, I read its documents again. And I loved them again.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Television, that mirror of popular culture, keeps surprising me & giving me hope

Last night's episode of "Bones" on FOX, "Death in the Saddle", featured an investigation set at a convention of sexual fetishists who indulge in a form of BDSM where one person role plays being a horse and the other role plays being the rider.

Throughout the episode, FBI agent Seeley Booth is uncomfortable and disgusted by this "pony play", while Temperance "Bones" Brennan chides him for his narrow-mindedness and explains, in scientific and anthropological terms, how this form of sexual satisfaction is perfectly okay, after all it's two consenting adults, doesn't hurt anyone, etc. etc.

So far, it seemed like business as usual on television. Booth, the practicing Catholic, debates with Bones, the scientific materialist, and you can guess who sounds "hip" and who sounds "fuddy-duddy".

But the closing scene plays out in a way that I think would have been impossible even 5 years ago. Booth and Brennan (aka "Bones") are reflecting on the murder and the whole pony play scene:

Booth: Just so they could have crappy sex.

Brennan: How do you know it’s crappy?

Booth: It’s gotta be, Bones.

Brennan: Why?

Booth: Why? I’ll tell you why. Here we are, all of us basically alone, separate creatures, just circling each other, all searching for the slightest hint of a real connection. Some look in the wrong places, some give up hope because in their mind they’re thinking oh there’s just nobody out there for me. But all of us keep on trying over and over again. Why? Because every once in a while, every once in a while, two people meet and there’s that spark. And, yes, Bones, he’s handsome and she’s beautiful, and maybe that’s all they see at first. But making love? Making love … that’s when two people become one.

Brennan: It’s scientifically impossible for two objects to occupy the same space.

Booth: Yeah, but what’s important is we try. And when we do it right … we get close.

Brennan: To what? Breaking the law of physics.

Booth: Yeah, Bones. A miracle.

Booth: Those people, role playing fetishes, and their sex games. It’s crappy sex. Compared to the real thing.

Brennan: You’re right.

Booth: Yeah but - wait a second, I just won that argument?

Brennan: Yeah.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

the second temptation of Christ: putting God to the test

Benedict XVI has a nifty interpretation of the second temptation in the desert. The emphases, indicated by italics, are mine:

"The second temptation has to be interpreted as a sort of vision, which once again represents something real, something that poses a particular threat to the man Jesus and his mission. The first point is the striking fact that the devil cites Holy Scripture... He quotes Psalm 91 [to Jesus]:'For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'

The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the form of a dispute between two Bible scholars, [Christ and the devil]... the devil presents himself here as a theologian.

The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story 'The Antichrist'. The Antichrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tubingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev's portrayal of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certain type of scholarly exegesis... scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself.

[A]... common practice today is to measure the Bible against the so-called modern worldview, whose fundamental dogma is that God cannot act in history - that everything to do with God is to be relegated to the domain of subjectivity.

The point at issue is revealed in Jesus' answer[to Satan] ... :'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test' (Deut 6:16). This passage from Deuteronomy alludes to the story of how Israel almost perished of thirst in the desert. Israel rebels against Moses, and in so doing rebels against God.

God has to prove that he is God. The Bible describes this rebellion against God as follows: 'They put the Lord to the proof by saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?' '

The issue is one we have already encountered: God has to submit to experiment.
He is 'tested', just as products are tested. He must submit to the conditions that we say are necessary if we are to reach certainty. If he doesn't grant us now the protection he promises in Psalm 91, then he is simply not God. He will have shown his own word, and himself too, to be false.

We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves above him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimentally test and grasp.

To think like that is to make oneself God. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself, too. "
So certain modern hermeneutics allow us to fall victim to the second temptation that Christ rejected so long ago: to make God prove that He is God:
"And so the Bible no longer speaks of God, the living God; no, now we alone speak and decide what God can do and what we will and should do. And the Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his type of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times."
I can't help but think about how this state of affairs owes much to our propensity for what I always call "aliveism" -- the prejudice that suggests that the only really smart people are the ones who are alive today; that every human being from the past is automatically not as cool or smart as we are who are alive today.

Jesus advised us elsewhere in the gospels to become like little children if we want to enter the kingdom of God. Little children trust their parents and accept their parents' word for things. We grow up, and we stop taking anybody's word for anything. We practice "aliveism" and know that we are the smartest, bestest folks that ever lived.

And when we think about God or search for God, we find ourselves guilty of discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening.

Friday, October 05, 2007

words of wisdom from Kyle Crocco, Testy Prophet

And since that last entry was so long, here's a pithier one. From Kyle Crocco's
Thought of the day: September 22, 200713 days ago
When God closes one door, that’s my scream of pain you hear as my fingers get caught in the crack.

Jesus' filial existence; the inner life of the Trinity

I have been reading Pope Benedict XVI's book "Jesus of Nazareth". The Holy Father says he wrote this book as a way to advance our knowledge of Jesus past the artificial gulf between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith" that arose out of the last 70 years of biblical scholarship, when the historical-critical method reached its apex of influence and was often used as the sole methodology for shedding light on the biblical Jesus. I devoured that theology in the 70's and 80's, especially the Germans like Bultmann and Jeremias, who are known very well to BXVI. So far I am loving this book.

Benedict does not in any way denigrate the historical-critical method, as some folks have done in reaction to the claims of scholars like the Jesus Seminar. "The historical-critical method - let me repeat - is an indispensable tool, given the structure of Christian faith," he writes. "This method is a fundamental dimension of exegesis, but it does not exhaust the interpretive task for someone who sees the biblical writings as a single corpus of Holy Scripture inspired by God."

But he does discuss its limitations and its complementarity with other methods:
" ' Canonical exegesis' - reading the individual texts of the Bible in the context of the whole - is an essential dimenstion of exegesis. It does not contradict historical-critical interpretation, but carries it forward in an organic way toward becoming theology in the proper sense... Historical-critical interpretation of a text seeks to discover the precise sense the words were intended to convey at their time and place of origin. ... But - aside from the fact that such reconstructions can claim only a relative certainty - it is necessary to keep in mind that any human utterance of a certain weight contains more than the author may have been immediately aware of at the time. When a word transcends the moment in which it is spoken, it carries within itself a 'deeper value'. This 'deeper value' pertains most of all to words that have matured in the course of faith-history. For in this case the author... is speaking from the perspective of a common history that sustains him and that already implicitly contains the possibilities of its future, of the further stages of its journey. The process of continually rereading and drawing out new meanings from words would not have been possible unless the words themselves were already open to it from within."

But all that precedes what I really want to talk about, which is Jesus' filial existence. Benedict starts by focusing on Jesus as prophet. He quotes twice from Deuteronomy:

"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you ... him you shall heed." (Deut 18:15) and then, at Deuteronomy's conclusion, " And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." (Deut 34:10)

As a record of the evolving community, these two passages show that the Jewish faithful were expecting God to raise up a prophet like Moses. Or, possibly, a prophet greater than Moses. Benedict comments on the mysterious text in Exodus in which Moses asks God, "I pray thee, show me thy glory" but God replies, "You cannot see my face... you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen." God then hides Moses in the cleft of a rock, and as He passes by in His glory, covers Moses' eyes with His hand. So although the Lord knew Moses "face to face", Moses was not allowed to see the fulness of God's glory, for his own safety.

Benedict believes Israel expects, from the Deuteronomy verses, that the promised new prophet will be even greater: God will not only converse intimately with him, as with Moses, but He will grant Moses' request to this new prophet, "a prophet like me", and allow him to look upon the face of God unhidden.

Then Benendict writes about how the gospels continually refer to Jesus withdrawing and praying. I reproduce his words below, with extra white space because as anyone who is still with me knows, it takes concentration to read long paragraphs online:

"Again and again the Gospels note that Jesus withdrew 'to the mountain' to spend nights in prayer 'alone' with his Father. These short passages are fundamental for our understanding of Jesus; they lift the veil of mystery just a little; they give us a glimpse into Jesus' filial existence, into the source from which his action and teaching and suffering sprang.

This 'praying' of Jesus is the Son conversing with the Father; Jesus' human consciousness and will, his human soul, is take up into that exchange, and in this way human 'praying' is able to become a participation in this filial communion with the Father.

... Jesus is only able to speak about the Father the way he does because he is the Son, because of his filial communion with the Father. The Christological dimension - in other words, the mystery of the Son as revealer of the Father - is present in everything Jesus says and does.

Another important point appears here: We have said that in Jesus' filial communion with the Father, his human soul is also taken up into the act of praying. He who sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). The disciple who walks with Jesus is thus caught up with him into communion with God.

And that is what redemption means: this stepping beyond the limits of human nature, which had been there as a possibility and an expectation in man, God's image and likeness, since the moment of creation."
--- Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger). pp. 7-8.
What provokes my thought is the attention to the Son's filial relationship to the Father. In the hypostatic union - the union of human and divine nature in the one person of Jesus -- Jesus born in time, human like us in all ways but sin, is drawn up into the relationship between Father and Son that has existed in saecula saeculorum, now and forever.

All roads in theology lead to the Blessed Trinity -- the life of the Persons of God. The more we study, meditate on, and contemplate the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, the more we understand what our human relationships are to be like. The Trinity is the most esoteric of doctrines, but its implications are as nitty-gritty as it comes, for our daily life on this earth.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Please give me your eggs so we can make your sister better with stem cell therapy

Mildred K. Cho and David Magnus, both of Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, have published an article that ought to be a cautionary warning to everyone who watches the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) debates. Note that Dr. Magnus, for one, is not an opponent of hESC. Another Stanford faculty member, cell biologist who is now directing a program in stem cells and society for SCBE, says of Dr. Magnus that "He gives them a hard-core introduction to Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, and arms them with philosophical arguments they can use in the public policy arena," Scott says. 'Then, when they are challenged, they can say, 'I do understand the radical Catholic position, but here's a rebuttal to that.'"

So we would all be well advised to listen to what Cho and Magnus say about Therapeutic Misconception and Stem Cell Research.

Therapeutic misconception is the scientifically observable phenomenon that folks who sign medical consent forms often misunderstand the procedures or tests for which they are signing consent forms to be directly therapeutic when instead they are aimed at general research which increases knowledge but does not directly provide medical benefits to anyone.

Researchers are having a hard time getting egg donors for hESC rather than in-vitro fertilization. Potential egg donors seem not too motivated to go through the painful process of super-ovulation for the sake of producing eggs that will never, ever be babies.

Be on the lookout for what the campaigns for human egg donors begin to look like over the coming years. Look for researchers to woo, as donors, the sisters, mothers, and daughters of patients who suffer from diseases that "might be cured by hESC". Look for the media to tell us we can "help our friends and families who suffer from Alzheimers, Parkinson's" etc. if we altruistically donate our eggs to the cause of "stem cell therapies." At the moment, hESC research is in such infancy that scientists are nowhere near being able to design treatments or collect eggs for directly therapeutic use. Human embryonic stem cell research is still very much in the research phase.

On the other hand, if someone asks you to donate blood marrow or umbilical cords for stem cell therapies... they may very well be going directly to an adult stem cell therapy or treatment. Ask and you shall know.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

From the "I'm not sorry I had an abortion" site

October is Respect Life month. I've been reading stories on http://www.imnotsorry.net

on which women write of their abortions in their own words. Below is a recently posted story.

What struck me particularly, in reading Amber's Story, is how the freedom to choose is truly that , and is an argument against materialism in favor of the reality of free will. It also struck me as a textbook presentation of the skewedness of sin, of its inherent aiming at, and missing, the goal of truth. I say this without assigning blame to Amber (or any other who has chosen abortion), whose culpability is known only to God.

In the Bible hamartia is the Greek word used to denote "sin." Its root is in archery, and literally describes "missing the mark" when shooting an arrow. In Nicomachean Ethics, hamartia is described by Aristotle as one of the three kinds of injuries that man can commit against another man. Hamartia is an injury committed in ignorance (when the person affected or the result are not what the agent supposed they were).

To aim true, you have to have clear sight of the mark. A material grasp of the world, one that is ignorant of "all that is, seen and unseen", provides very poor visibility to an archer engaged in the act of exercising the moral (unseen) faculty of free will. Without a proper education in, grasp of, and cultivation of the virtues (non-material) that are conducive to living daily life mindful of the "eternal verities", your aim is hobbled even in training sessions. How then would you be able to aim true in the thick of battle, when life assaults you with its unexpected turns? Only by the grace of God.

Pro-life folks should understand that they are not exempt from the hamartia that is abortion. Missing the mark is something we all do. Pro-choice folks should understand that opposition to abortion is not opposition to free will. It is the attempt to clear the fog created by one egregious error of materialism, and enlarge our definition of a just society to include all human life. The 21st century is the perfect time to correct the mistakes of the 20th, now that our scientific understanding of life in the womb leaves no doubt as to its essential humanity.
Amber's Story

I had an abortion this week. I never ever thought that I would consider it. I always said that I was pro-choice, but that I could never do it myself. That was until I found out I was pregnant a few weeks ago.

I'm married and have a daughter who is 11 months old. I breastfeed my daughter and plan on practicing baby led weaning and nursing her until she is at least 2. I was one of the "lucky" breastfeeding mothers and didn't get my period right away after she was born. She started to slow down nursing at around 10 months old because she was eating more solid food, so I knew that my period should start soon, but stupidly I didn't do anything about it. I told my husband that the possibility of me getting pregnant was very slim and assured him that I would get on birth control as soon as I got my period (based on what my doctor had told me). Well, I got pregnant on that first ovulation before my first post partum period started.

I was in complete shock. My husband and I had had a very very difficult time with our marriage this last spring and things were finally starting to turn around and get better. When I told him I was pregnant, he was furious. I was terrified too, and so upset with myself for being so negligent and letting it happen. I did not want to have my kids so close together and I was heartbroken at the possibility of being pregnant interfering with nursing my daughter. After a week of arguing and arguing...it was very ugly in our house...I decided that abortion was the right thing to do. I changed my mind at least 6 times though. I made appointments, then didn't go, then kicked myself for not going then made more appointments. I had 2 miscarriages at 10 weeks or so before I had my daughter, and I felt like such a hypocrite for even considering aborting because we had tried so hard to have her and were very upset after the miscarriages.

I was all set to have a surgical abortion this Wednesday, but after reading through what they actually do I was so sick to my stomach and terrified. The procedure seemed so invasive and I just wasn't comfortable with that. So, I opted for the medical abortion. With the pill though, I couldn't breastfeed my daughter for 72 hours and I had just donated the rest of my frozen milk so I didn't have any in the freezer for her. Thankfully one of my best friends is also nursing and she sent me some frozen milk to give to my baby until the medicine had left my system.

I had to drive 2 hours to a clinic that does the pill because nobody in my area will do it. I arrived a bit early, and pumped in my car before going in. The ladies at the clinic were wonderful, and made me feel very much at ease. I was there for about 3 hours doing the bloodwork, ultrasound, physical exam and all of that. I do admit though, it was hard to swallow the pill. Just taking that final step, there was definitely no going back.

The next day, I started to bleed and go through the expulsion process before I had even taken the 2nd pills. I called the doctor and since I was already bleeding she said it was fine to take the cytotec to help the contracting start up. I was extremely dizzy and nauseated for a half hour. I was actually so freaked out that I called the nurse. She told me to drink a coke or something sugary and eat. I did, and it helped immediately. I had about 4-5 hours of really heavy bleeding and very large clots passing. But by midnight that night it was over with.

I really had no idea how I expected myself to react afterwards, but I was surprised that I felt so good. I felt relieved, not sad. The hardest part was bottle-feeding my daughter for a few days. She kept signing for mama milk and it broke my heart. Today was the first day that I was able to let her nurse again, and it was wonderful. My husband has been very supportive through the process and we both felt like this decision was for the best. we plan to have another child someday. I am thankful that this option was available to me because I want each of my children to know that they were wanted and that we were ecstatic when we found out about being pregnant with them.

I had an abortion and I am not sorry. I feel empowered and glad that I took control of my future and didn't let myself fall victim to my own negligence.