Friday, June 30, 2006

Up, Up and Away - Part 2

Remember the debates we had as kids (I suppose this was more a boy thing. Ladies?) "Who could beat who in a contest... Batman or Spiderman, Torch or Iceman, Aqua Man or Green Lantern?" Who the heck is Green Lantern anyway? Invariably, some kid would bring up Superman and the debate was over. Come on, no fair! He's SUPERMAN! Well, fine. He is super, but here's where the Gospel has these guys beat. It's the true fairy tale. God really steps into Our Story, and beyond our wildest dreams, he becomes one of us. Jesus is not a Man of Steel, but a Man of Flesh! A Man of Sorrows... and this is exactly how he saves us, not by deflecting bullets off of his chest, but by taking them right into his heart. He is the Pierced One, and as St. Bernard says "The piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself… Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love…" - St. Bernard Throughout history, many have fallen into the trap of seeing Jesus as a kind of superman, impervious to suffering. Sure, he died for us to save us, but he was GOD. How could he feel pain? For the answer to that one, let's read Isaiah 53: He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

UP, Up and Away! Come on, America, you know you love Superman. You know you want to fly, be impervious to pain, have the strength of will to always seek the Good. I love the fact that the Man in Blue is back, and however the film turns out (we'll see it in 46 hours and 19 minutes, or... Saturday), I'm sure the iconic qualities about the son of Jor-El will be clear as crystal. He's Christological! No denying it! How 'bout this line from the new film's teaser trailer: The voice of Marlon Brando, Superman's father from the 1978 film: "Even though you've been raised as a human being you are not one of them. They can be a great people Kal-El. They wish to be, they only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son." Wow. Now, this rather explicit typology is stirring up the anger of a few people in the secular press. They are upset that this comic icon is being morphed with "religion." To which I respond, how could it not? We are a fallen race, a wounded band of travellers in a world that is dying, and we long for redemption. We seek Truth though all we see here is mingled with lies. We want the Good, though all we see here is compromised with evil. We pant after a Beauty that is infinite, though all we taste here is destined to decay. So we create myths and stories and fairy tales with superhuman characters that can lift us up out of our own weakness. But the Gospel is the true fairy tale. Here God steps into Our Story, and beyond our wildest dreams, he becomes one of us. And this is the best part! Jesus is not a Man of Steel, but a Man of Flesh.... a Man of Sorrows.... part 2 tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's All About the Body

Caro cardo salutis - these three words contain the whole of the gospel, the whole of salvation history and the entire plan of God! They are from Tertullian, written in the year 208, and they translate as saying the flesh is the hinge of salvation. Hold up... wass'at? The flesh? The body? This weak, fragile, and faltering thing that needs so much care and attention. THIS is the hinge of salvation? We're accustomed to hearing that the soul is what's saved, and that the very act of saving is a spiritual thing. What's the body got to do with it? "A body you have prepared for me," says Psalm 40, and echoed in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews. In the fullness of time the Infinite, All Knowing, All Powerful Word descended into time and space and took on our flesh. And so the body became a theology - a Word of God. The Word of God! But why? Why should the flesh be the hinge of salvation? Why couldn't God just say all's well. "I forgive you, come on home." Because we are our bodies! And we need saving. Our bodies are not like bags holding us, or decorations dressing the soul, like tinsel on a Christmas tree. Our bodies are not like pieces of luggage that allow us to carry our souls around, and once we reach Heaven we can empty out the suitcase. We are our bodies! We are embodied spirits, or ensouled flesh... a harmony, a unity of the material and the spiritual, unique in all creation! And when our First Father and Mother sinned in the Garden of Eden, the shockwaves of that act of disobedience rippled throughout the material world as well as the spiritual. We needed the Word to become Flesh, the Obedient One to come into our time and space - to walk and breathe and sweat and suffer for us who are so often disobedient. In His Body, He takes the bullet for us, dies, sleeps, wakes and rises again! We are saved in and through His Body. A real Body! So the flesh is truly the hinge of salvation, on which the door to Life swings open wide that was once shut tight. Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine! Hail, true Body, truly born of the Virgin Mary mild. Truly offered, wracked and torn, on the Cross for all defiled, from Whose love-pierced, sacred side flowed Thy true Blood's saving tide: be a foretaste sweet to me in my death's great agony.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

HERE WE GO... Captain's Log, Stardate - June 27, 2006 - 11:13am: Beginning the work of writing my first book today. My hope is to have a solid draft by the end of the year. I've had a few things in mind in the last year or so, and I've decided to go where the fire of inspiration is burning brightest.... the EUCHARIST and JPII!! So, into the deep we go! St. Peter Julian Eymard, pray for us!

Monday, June 26, 2006

St. Joan of Arc - A Masterpiece

MASTERPIECE MONDAY #1 Been away from 'da BLOG for over a week now... thought I'd kickstart it with a new weekly spot. Behold.... Masterpiece Monday! It's a little tour of a great work of art, posted every Monday (I hope). This first official MM is one of my favorites: Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage. Drifting in prayerful contemplation, a hand outstretched and caressing a branch of leaves, Joan is hearing the voices of saints and angels. If you look closely at the house behind her, floating above her loom, you can see the saints with whom she speaks. I love the liquid gaze of her eyes (you'll have to see it in person to really dive in!) and the fact that Joan was doing her daily work when the voices came to her. The canvas is crammed with life; vegetative, human and angelic. The entire Heirarchy of Being is here present, from the pale flowers at her feet to the very Voice of God streaming through the Holy Ones above her. And the young Joan stands dramatically in the gap, and in this mission moment she makes her choice: to follow the inspiration and alter the course of history for France, or to turn away and remain at the loom, spinning.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

ON IRISH MUSIC Listening to the music of the Clancy Brothers just now as we begin the first day of a short vacation "down the shore." The Irish! What a gift they've given us through music. Irish music can lift us to the heights of beauty in an air or lament on the pipe or the piercing moans of the tinwhistle, or send us into a mad dance on the pub floor with a dizzying jig or reel to the fiddle and bodhran. What lies behind each song, I think, is courage. The courage of the Irish to go there. To go into the sadness of love lost or to the oppression and starvation of their people. To enter into the reality of life and to dance in it. Some say the Irish can tend toward escapism in their drink and their song. Perhaps at times it's true. But I think the greater gift of the Irish is their ability to face life's hardships with this courage! Indeed, the Irish are the lords of the dance and when we hear their delirious jigs and reels formed in the midst of all of life's crosses, we dance with them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Now available in stores somewhere! The song I've been looking for oh round about 6 years! Dave Wilcox has a knack for nailing me right where I need to be nailed. It's the moment of committment that he loves to contemplate, those dynamic few moments wherein a path is set, a new note sounds the beginning of the soundtrack of your life and you are the one who must decide to sing it. Dave got me long ago with Hold it up to the Light, and finally Get On has been published in the new CD Vista. Here's a wee taste of the refrain.... GET ON And my heart says, "C'mon let's go" And my mind's saying, "I don't know" And the train is at the station But I'm lost in contemplation And this ticket's only good for just so long I can think about it 'til that train is gone or just get on...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No School Like the Old School

Our front and back yards combined are roughly 3'x6' tops. So when the time came to trim the 14 blades of grass & weeds that punched through and found themselves alone, I said to myself, "Let's go purchase a grass cutting machine." That's when I found her; nestled behind a $129 little gas guzzler. An old dusty box with a fire engine red spin blade mower! No fuss, no noise (relatively speaking) and no gas. That's what I'm talking about. But the best part was the store I bought "The Slice" in... a True Value Hardware that was packed to the gills with STUFF and smelled like a train set wrapped in an old flannel shirt (I hope that did it for you). It reminded me of a classic Dave Wilcox song (check it here), and the Browns Mills Supply we used to run to when we were kids; for galvinized nails, spackle, crescent wrenches, whatever... The good ole boys knew where EVERYTHING was, and EVERYTHING was in that musty old store. Then came the day when we creaked in and found Zeek in his faded flannel leaning over a "computer", picking at it like it was a fragment of something that had just fallen from space and recently cooled. That was the day our Browns Mills Supply was modernized. Now it took 15 minutes to find stuff, first on the computer, then on the shelf, then back to the computer to log it in... they closed up shop just a few years later. Let's let Mr. Wilcox wrap this thought up... East Asheville Hardware ...He said, You go first to that age-old place To that old wooden door that you have to close behind you To the wide-board wooden floor worn down soft To the real thing Good advice, quality at a fair price And know that they know how deep the frost goes here. Sure there's stuff you'll have to find at Paty's, Lowe's or Sears But go to East Asheville Hardware..... Before it disappears.

Let's face it: It's pretty shallow out there. You could go for days without being confronted with a single "deep" question by co-workers, friends or family on the meaning of our lives, on death, on God and what it's "all about." How often are we invited by the culture to just take just the opposite path, the quick and easy, what feels good, what's safe and "non-threatening."

LET'S DIVE DEEPER! What mysteries lie below the surface of our everyday encounters? What stories could each of us tell, of the questions about life, death, the universe, our own experiences and how they have shaped and formed us; those secrets we have heard whispered in the quiet shadows of our thoughts. Maybe we are called to share them in the daylight? Our culture, of course, will always herd us into the shallows. "Oh it's not safe out there in your own thoughts... you could get swept away in some undercurrent, drawn out to the deep sea and who knows what could happen to you then?!" Exactly....

Let's allow the Mystery to draw us deeper in and further out. Let's ask the BIG questions.
Who am I? Who are you? Where are we going in such a hurry? And what lies beyond the rim of 80 or 90 years?

For inspiration, check out St. Peter above in Duccio's famous painting. Peter hears the call to "come" and he goes.... wow. What trembling, billowing, fearfully unstable waters are we being called even now to tread upon in faith? Can we step out in trust, into the deep?

"It is life nearest the bone where it is sweetest."
- Henry David Thoreau

Monday, June 12, 2006

On Faith and Reason So much of the war on faith today seems to come from a lack of understanding that faith and reason are meant to be a unity. They complement each other, as Pope John Paul the Great once said: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth - in a word, to know Himself..." (Fides et Ratio) Just as two eyes and two ears allow us the necessary balance we need to arrive at the fullest picture of a thing, in sight or sound, so these "two wings" of faith and reason can lift us up to the Fullness of Who God is and who we are meant to be. Cut off the wing of reason and you are forever flying in circles. Cut off the wing of faith and you are forever grounded, never rising, always falling, spinning on the ground, unable to get up out of yourself to see the Big Picture! The harmony of faith and reason is what gives us light. Act as if you only need one, sole fide or sole ratio, and you are incomplete! The great mysteries of God and your own heart will always lie just beyond your reach. So rest in the reality of the two, use the great powers of faith and reason "so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves." (Fides et Ratio)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Starting Off on this Feast of the Holy Trinity How are ya? So this is my very first "blog." Sort of thrilling, isn't it? A strip of words, typed in the dim light of my computer on a Sunday night in June. Anyhoo, let me see how this uploads and stuff. I'll be back with more profound blogs soon, I hope...

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...