Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ovid on Roe

Ovid, the Latin poet, wrote on abortion. I didn't know that until I read a post from Fr. Z's blog:

Book II Elegy XIII: The Abortion

Corinna lies there exhausted in danger of her life,
after rashly destroying the burden of an unborn child.
I should be angry: she took that great risk
and hid it from me: but anger’s quelled by fear.
All the same it’s me by whom she conceived – or I think so:
I often take things for facts that only might be.
Isis, of Paraetonium, and the joyful fields of Canopus,
you who protect Memphis, and palmy Pharos,
and the land where the swift Nile spreads in its wide delta,
its waters flowing through seven mouths to the sea,
by your sistrum I pray, by the sacred head of Anubis –
so may Osiris love your holy rites for ever,
and the slow serpent glide about your altar,
and the horned Apis follow your procession!
Turn your face towards us, and spare both in one!
Then you will grant life to her, and she to me.
Often she’s taken pains to attend your special days,
when Gallic laurel crowns your worshippers.
And you, Ilythia, who pity girls struggling in labour,
whose hidden child strains their reluctant body,
be gentle with her and hear my prayers!
It’s proper for you to demand gifts for yourself.
I myself, in white, will burn incense on your smoking altars,
I myself will lay at your feet the gifts I vowed.
I’ll add an inscription: ‘Naso, for saving Corinna!’
Make that occasion soon, for the inscription and the gifts.
If it’s still possible to warn you, girl, in such a state of fear,
let it be enough for you to have fought this one battle!

and again...

Book II Elegy XIV: Against Abortion

Where’s the joy in a girl being free from fighting wars,
unwilling to follow the army and their shields,
if without battle she suffers wounds from her own weapons,
and arms unsure hands to her own doom?
Whoever first taught the destruction of a tender foetus,
deserved to die by her own warlike methods.
No doubt you’d chance your arm in that dismal arena
just to keep your belly free of wrinkles with your crime?
If the same practice had pleased mothers of old,
Humanity would have been destroyed by that violation.
and we’d need a creator again for each of our peoples
to throw the stones that made us onto the empty earth.
Who would have shattered the wealth of Priam, if Thetis,
the sea goddess, had refused to carry her rightful burden?
If Ilia had murdered the twins in her swollen womb,
the founder of my mistress’s City would have been lost.
If Venus had desecrated her belly, pregnant with Aeneas,
Earth would have been bereft of future Caesars.
You too, with your beauty still to be born, would have died,
if your mother had tried what you have done:
I myself would be better to die making love
than have been denied the light of day by my mother.
Why rob the loaded vine of burgeoning grapes,
or pluck the unripe apple with cruel hand?
Let things mature themselves – grow without being forced:
life is a prize that’s worth a little waiting.
Why submit your womb to probing instruments,
or give lethal poison to what is not yet born?
Medea is blamed for sprinkling the blood of her children,
and Itys, slain by his mother, is lamented with tears:
both cruel parents, yet both had bitter reason
to shed blood, revenge on a husband.
Say, what Tereus, what Jason incites you
to pierce your troubled body with your hand?
No tiger in its Armenian lair would do it,
no lioness would dare destroy her foetus.
But tender girls do it, though not un-punished:
often she who kills her child, dies herself.
She dies, and is carried to the pyre with loosened hair,
and whoever looks on cries out: ‘She deserved it!’
But let these words vanish on the ethereal breeze,
and let my imprecations have no weight!
You gods, prosper her: let her first sin go, in safety,
and be satisfied: you can punish her second crime!

Please do check out Fr. Z's full post for commentary as well.

My (almost) 6 year old niece plays pictionary

This is what she drew:
The answer: Cat in the Hat.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sauce Reflections

Follow up is always a good thing, unless your pizza is following you around. Regarding the Pope's Mass in the Sistine Chapel, facing east (ad orientem) there are a couple of follow ups, including some pictures.

First, Yahoo! News has some wonderful photos of the Mass. This is my favorite as it shows the magnificence of Michaelangelo's Last Judgment restored. It also highlights a quote from Amy Welborn:
"What I want to point out in relation to today’s Mass is something Liz showed us. There is nothing accidental about the interior decoration of the chapel, including Michelangelo’s Last Judgment fresco on the wall behind the altar. It is purposefully designed to provide a “space” for a large altar cross. The cross is set up to be directly below the figure of the Risen Christ - and these are the images which we - and the celebrant - face during Mass. To set up another altar in front of that and have the focus shift away does, indeed, violate the original intention of the space.

(She also made the point that the prominent and vivid depiction of the Last Judgment was intended to be a reminder to the clerics gathered in the chapel to make their decisions and cast their votes - there are consequences - eternal ones - to what happens here)."

Read her coverage here.

Read Rocco's coverage here.

Or just enjoy one of the wonders of our world. Merry Christmas.

Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

We all look for the finishing touches. Some people think their ice cream sundae isn’t complete until the cherry is on top. Some people think their home isn’t built until they hang their family photo. For others, their day isn’t complete until they’ve visited with their spouse or kissed their children goodnight.

Today the Church offers us the finishing touch on our celebration of Christmas. We remember that day, 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ, now a grown man, takes part in the Baptism of John. Why does Jesus, the Son of God, who is like us in all things except sin, need baptism? How does this complete our celebration of Christmas?

The first question is the same one that John the Baptist asks in today’s Gospel: “I need to be baptized by you and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus answers: “Allow it for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” When He was in the womb of Mary and at the manger of Bethlehem, Jesus took on our human existence, all that it means to be human, except sin. As Jesus begins preaching, healing, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, He does it by an act of solidarity with us. As He approaches the waters of the river Jordan and John the Baptist, Jesus says “Though I am true God and do not know sin, I will join you in the full effects of sin. I begin by joining you who wish to repent of sin, sadness, discord, and death.” Jesus enters the waters of the Jordan to join all of us who long for a life of goodness, peace, and holiness.

Jesus also enters the waters of the Jordan to make all water holy. In our own Baptism, water and the Spirit cleanse our hearts to make us holy. Today, Jesus enters the water to make it holy so it may receive His Spirit for our baptism. Jesus baptizes water so that water may baptize us.

This brings us to our second question: “How does this complete our celebration of Christmas?” Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel- God is with us. Our entire Catholic faith lives this out- God is with us. God is with us in our sorrow, our contrition, our sickness, and even our death.

Jesus baptizes water so that we might be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit. This feast completes Christmas by directing us through the rest of the year. On Christmas, we adored Christ in the manger, where do we find Him now? We are sure to find Christ in the Sacraments: in the Real Presence at Sunday Mass, in our Baptismal promises, in the gifts of the Spirit through Confirmation, in our sorrow for sin in Confession, in His presence in our suffering through the Anointing, in the love and sacrifice of our Priests, and in the faithfulness of Wedding vows. God is with us.

Do not wait until next Christmas to adore Jesus. Do not wait until next Christmas to hear the angelic hymns. The Church gives us the completion, the fullness of Christmas, the “cherry on top.” By living this Sacramental life throughout the year we continue to meet and adore Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Like Sauce on Top of the Pizza

A couple things we normally don't see in our world:

Sauce on TOP of the pizza


The Pope praying Mass ad orientem.

Now remember, from his book "Spirit of the Liturgy," Pope Benedict XVI firmly views Mass facing East (in Latin ad orientem) as Mass where priest and people share a common orientation. He believes that the notion of separation is false, the cliche of "the priest with his back to the people." Pope Benedict understands this to reflect Christianity's identity as a religion of history. He notes that both Judaism and Islam orient themselves to a common direction in the exercise of their faith.

This means that we believe that Christ truly came to us, in history and reality- there is no difference. We live in a time where we await His final and full entrance into history. We Christians and Catholics are always called to shape, direct, and focus our lives on Jesus Christ.

I guess what I am saying is: don't knock until you've tried it and if you try it, make sure you understand "why," first. Chicago-style deep dish is awesome! I've never said a Mass ad orientem, but I am open to the idea.

Amy Welborn reminds us that Orthodox and some Anglicans and Lutherans make use of the ad orientem posture for the priest. She also includes this full quote:

“A decision was made to celebrate on the ancient altar to avoid altering he beauty and harmony of this architectural jewel - the Vatican note explains - preserving its structure, in a celebratory viewpoint, and making use of a possibility foreseen by liturgical legislation. This means that, at some moments, the Pope will be with his back turned to the faithful and facing the Cross, thus guiding the demeanor and the disposition of the entire assembly”

Notice the phrase "guiding the demeanor and the disposition of the entire assembly," leadership isn't always a face-to-face experience. Think of this as leading from the front.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

FYI from other blogs...

Juno is receiving a lot of hype lately, and it has the Box Office #2 to back it up. I never saw any previews but I am now thoroughly intrigued. Amy Welborn says:
If it could be easily labeled, it wouldn’t be art. It would be agitprop and no one would argue about it except to wonder why PBS is funding it.


The camera focuses on their feet - Juno’s clad in her goofy striped socks and Paulie’s in his dirty track shoes - kids. Kids who played a grown-up game, managed to make a decision that brought happiness to another person and left them bittersweet, but - I think it’s clear - whole. Not damaged, destroyed or less, but somehow more.
Read the full review here. Though she does spoil some things.

On the Church front, Rocco of Whispers in the Loggia has a insightful story on Cardinal Bertone, the Papal Secretary of State and good friend of Pope Benedict. Why should we pay know about Cardinal Bertone?
Almost 81, Benedict XVI "realizes he doesn't have the energy to do everything," as one curial hand put it. While the pontiff has devoted much of his time to teaching -- writing his catecheses, letters and homilies, to say nothing of the books -- he's reserved the appointment of bishops and, to a lesser extent, questions of liturgy as his prime ad intra pursuits. The rest is left to Bertone, the 73 year-old Salesian who served as Cardinal Ratzinger's #2 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
You can read the full article here, though I don't agree with Rocco's description of the Curia in terms of Nietzchen politics. I am aware that it happens. Plus this article is too informed to pass. Do follow Rocco's links to Cardinal Bertone's speech to the Knights of Columbus. I've linked them before as well.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Emptiness, who will fill it?

I just got done watching Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal from 1957. It is always fun to see what Netflix will next delivery.

The Seventh Seal is anachronistically set at the end of a crusade coinciding with the Black Death. Obviously, there is much despondency and despair, both from the experience of the Crusade as well as the horror of the black plague. As I watched knight Antonius Block vie with Death over a game of chess, I was struck again and again by Bergman's portrayal of despair of life. Through Block, we find little hope for him or others: we encounter liars, thieves, adulterers, rapists, cheats, manipulative priests, and more. For whom there is no hope, only a pity quite different from mercy.

Towards the end there is an accused witch to be burned at the stake. Block and his squire, Jons, talk with her to find out what she sees, looking at the roaring fire that is her death. Jons afflicts Block with his questions: who will care for her? God? Angels? Saints? Satan? Jons says that only emptiness awaits. "She sees what we see, emptiness, and now our terror is hers."

"She sees what we see, emptiness, and now our terror is hers." There is nothing beyond, no ultimate purpose, no rationale, no hope. For Jons, who admits it, and for Block, who fights it, there seems only despair. Block is different and eventually sees hope in Joseph, Mary, and Michael- the young family, and even cries out at the moment of his own death, searching for a God somewhere to save him, echoing his earlier thoughts on faith. But in the end his prayer is unanswered and he dies.

What inspires this movie? Is it post-war Europe? The despondency of the Holocaust and wasted life? How is it evoked in a Swedish production? How different are they from today? Does hope exist outside of my own two hands, my IRA, or my comforts? We need hope, we need someone, not something, someone to fill that emptiness. We need Jesus Christ.

We need to show others how Jesus Christ is the answer to our emptiness, our own despondency and despair. Otherwise the world will be populated by with Antonius Blocks who say "Faith is a torment. It is like loving someone who is out there in the darkness but never appears, no matter how loudly you call."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Epiphany Homily

Gold, frankincense and myrrh, these are the gifts of the wise men from the East. Gold, frankincense and myrrh, we all remember gold, frankincense and myrrh. St. Matthew doesn’t tell us who the wise men were, their names, their countries, their reasons, St. Matthew only tells us their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We want to dwell on their names, their number (was there really only three?) and tradition gives them names: Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar. But a question arises; why does St. Matthew withhold their number and names?

We must focus on the gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. We must focus on the response given to the greatest gift of all: Jesus the Christ. These wise men may not have fully understood Jesus as we understand Him after His death and resurrection, but they came to honor His birth. The wise men respond, they answer His birth with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold honors a king, frankincense honors God, and myrrh honors the dead.

Gold honors the kingship of the Christ-child. Frankincense honors Jesus who is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. Myrrh honors the infant Jesus who will take the cross for His throne to suffer and die for the sake of our sins.

How can we imitate these Magi? How do we respond to the greatest gift from God: Jesus the Christ. How can we offer our own gold, frankincense and myrrh?

We can offer gold by making sure that our money is not our lord, making sure that our possessions do not possess us. We do this by our participation in the Sunday collection, in supporting the mission of our Catholic Church. We also do this when we give to the poor. We give from our wants so that others’ needs may be met. We say that Jesus is master of our possessions and so we part with them to more closely imitate Him who was born into poverty.

We can offer frankincense in our lives of prayer. We honor God primarily by our attendance at Sunday Mass and Holy days. We honor God when we receive communion in a worthy manner: do I attend regular confession, am I free from serious sin, have I fasted for one hour before Mass- refraining even from chewing gum? How do we go forward to receive communion is it different than the checkout line at Kessler’s? Are we nonchalant; are we forgetful that the same Lord Christ who was born in a manger to rise from the grave, this same Jesus now offers Himself to us in the appearance of bread and wine? Do we receive communion on our tongue or reverently on our hands- being careful to make a throne for our Lord in the Eucharist? Do we then return to our pew to pray as we are able? Do welcome Jesus not only with our actions but also with our whole being?

We can offer myrrh by participating in Jesus’ own sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary. Do we go to Mass even when we don’t feel like going? Do we try to honor our Father and Mother when it is most difficult? Do we pray for our enemies when our emotions would have us lash out? Are we ready to sacrifice our own ideas for the teachings of the Church? When we want to disagree with the Church on abortion, immigration, the death penalty, or contraception, do we offer up our preferences for Christ teaching through His Church? Do we allow ourselves to look foolish in the eyes of the world as we give up our very lives to Jesus Christ?

Which of these is the hardest for us to offer, the gold, the frankincense or the myrrh? Do we find it hard to tithe our income, to offer a fast before Mass, even from our chewing gum, to embrace the cross of Jesus Christ by doing the good we do not want to do? Which of these is hardest for us? God has given us an answer to the problems of life; an answer to sin, discord death, by giving us His true Son, Jesus. How will we respond? Let us begin today to respond to by imitating these wise men from the East, let us offer up what is most precious to us, our possessions, our power, our time, our minds, our very lives.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Pope Benedict's Affirmative Orthodoxy

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has a smart description of Pope Benedict's efforts. This is a MUST for those who want to know in what direction Rome, and hopefully all Catholics, are moving.

John Allen identifies "Affirmative Orthodoxy" as the emerging "interpretive key to Benedict's papacy." What is "Affirmative Orthodoxy?" "A tenacious defense of the core elements of classic Catholic doctrine, but presented in a relentlessly positive key...In effect, Benedict's project is to reintroduce Christianity from the ground up, in terms of what it's for rather than what it's against."

In Benedict's own words, quoted by Allen, "Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look at it again because this ideas has almost completely disappeared today. We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer."

Do please read this article. I think I will for a third time...