Sunday 31 March 2013

He is Risen, as He said: Alleluia

Happy Easter!

Today is the day of the new creation: all is made new in Christ.

And we sing with joy to His Blessed Mother, given to us as our Mother from the Cross: for the next forty days, instead of the Angelus, which honours the Incarnation, we will sing and pray the Regina Caeli, celebrating the Resurrection.

The Regina Caeli: first the Gregorian Chant, then the arrangement by Gregor Aichinger.

Regina caeli
V. Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia.
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
V. Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
V. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Oremus. Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus; ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

O Queen of Heaven rejoice, Alleluia: 
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, Alleluia,  
Has risen as He said, Alleluia. 
Pray for us to God, Alleluia. 
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleluia. 
For the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia. 

Let us pray: O God, who gave joy to the whole world by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of eternal life.  Through the same Christ our Lord.   Amen.  

For those who pray #twitterangelus, the Regina Caeli in tweetable format is here.

Christ makes all things new, and the joy of the reality of Easter far outweighs any problems in the Church or beyond.

May all my readers have a very happy and blessed Eastertide.

Saturday 30 March 2013

The Harrowing of Hell

Death is the separation of the soul and the body.  The soul is what animates the body, and when the soul leaves the body, the body dies.  The human soul is immortal, and does not die.

So where did Christ's soul go between his death on the Cross and His Resurrection?  The Creed tells us: He descended into Hell.

Not that part of Hell that is the irredeemable abode of Satan; but rather the place where the just who died before his coming were awaiting the opening of Heaven to humanity, which would be accomplished by His Death, Resurrection and Ascension.

Why he went there was to preach to the dead (as St Peter tells us [1 Peter,  3.20 and 4:6]) - to Evangelise them, that is bring them the Good News that their time of waiting was nearly at an end.

Traditionally, this has been called the Harrowing of Hell.

For more on the Harrowing of Hell, here is a link to the Catholic Encyclopedia. (and see Update, below).

In the meantime, here are some wonderful medieval images of the Harrowing of Hell...

For more pictures of the Harrowing of Hell, try a google search of images for this term. There are many, and fascinating! 

UPDATE: And there is this beautiful reading, the 2nd Reading from Office of Readings (Matins) from an ancient Homily. (H/T @TJTM_25 on Twitter)

Friday 29 March 2013

The Redemption - in brief

Why did Our Lord have to suffer and die to redeem us?

It's a big question.  A commenter on Mark Lambert's blog suggested that: 'The Father, in demanding that Jesus submit to such an evil and cruel scheme (and what the Father willed to go forward there was cruel and evil, make no mistake) renders whatever nobility there was in Jesus' grand submission absurd and repellent.' 

Whilst that is a strong statement of it, I can sympathise with the sentiment behind it.  So how are we to understand the need of Christ's suffering?  Mark, as one would expect, has posted a very well-read approach to this both in his initial post, and in a further one answering the commenter's points.

Here I offer a few personal reflections, really responding to Mark's challenge: How would you answer this? A chance to practise your apologetics.  

Of course, ultimately, it is a mystery, something that we cannot fully comprehend due to the limitations of our intellects as created beings, and what's more, fallen created beings.  However, to recognise that fact does not absolve us from looking as deep into the mystery as we are able to.  So, as so often, I will leap in, in the hope and expectation that anyone who reads this and spots error or heresy will let me know.  And so, I may learn something.

I think that to understand the Redemption, one has to understand the Fall, and to understand the Fall, one has to understand the nature of Men and Angels, and indeed God, and His plan for creation.  So a short snappy answer is pretty well impossible.  But here goes. 

In essence, I think the redemptive act had to be a few things: it had to be love-in-action and it had to be truth-in-action and it had to be justice-in-action

It also had to accomplish a few things: to forgive Adam's Original Sin and all our actual sins, to restore to humanity the capacity to enter heaven, to conquer death, and break the Devil's domination.

One could argue that the Father could have done all of this merely by Divine Fiat.  But would that have met the criteria of love, truth, and justice?

I would argue that it would not have done.

What we see in Our Lord's passion, death, and resurrection is:

Love: Christ's willingness to suffer and die for us, 
Truth: sin is deadly; but both death and sin have been conquered
Justice: the enormity of man's offence (from Adam via Stalin to me...) is offset by the enormity of Christ's sacrifice.

It also confronted precisely those areas in which we are damaged and prone to sin: pride is confronted by Christ's humility and humiliation; power is confronted by his powerlessness; the flesh is confronted by his choosing to suffer; and so on.

Of course there is much more to be said, but I think this is a start. As ever,I'm interested in comments and corrections.

Hot Cross Buns

This is the way to break one's fast after the Good Friday Liturgy.  Mrs T's home-made hot cross buns. On this day only...

The Widow's Mite

There has been some noise about the Holy Father, and the Church generally, selling off all its riches and giving the money raised to the poor. (See William Oddie's article here for context).

I have a few reflections on this.

One is this: when my mother died, we gave her Parish Church a Ciborium (having consulted, and been told that would be useful).  The PP assured us that he would remember her at the Masses at which it was used.  If he sells it off and gives the money to the poor, we, who gave it to the Church on trust, would feel (and rightly I think) aggrieved.  Much of the Church's rich heritage has been acquired in the same way.  It is not accumulated wealth that can be disposed of at will, but rather the gifts of the faithful, given to the Church for the greater glory of God.

A second is this: when Our Lord commended the widow for giving her last mite, she was not giving it to the poor, but to the temple funds: the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our hearts.  Our Lord endorses that this includes giving our money for the worship of God.  And we remember Judas' outrage at the 'waste' of rich ointment...

Curiously, those who are so keen to do this are rather less keen when other preferential options for the poor are suggested.  For example, when I suggest that we do without Communion under both kinds for the laity, and give the money saved on altar wine to the poor, that is met with outraged incredulity.

Of course we should give to the poor - and of course the Church does.

Of course we should give more to the poor: but to be inspired to do that, perhaps we need to enrich our faith; and it is just possible that there is a correlation between worthy worship and strength of Faith.

The poor are clearly going to be at the centre of our new Holy Father's pontificate, which is wonderful. However, this will only bear radical fruits if it leads individuals - you and me - to give more; not if it only results in people calling on others ('the Vatican', 'government' etc) to do more. There is no metanoia there.

Good Friday

Improperia: Good Friday Reproaches

Here is Victoria's magnificent setting of the Good Friday Improperia, or Reproaches (incidentally, the other place in our liturgy where we retain some Greek, along with the Kyrie).

Cantor 1: Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo constristavi te? Responde mihi.
Cantor 2: Quia eduxi te de terra Ægypti: parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo.
Choir A: Hagios o Theos.
Choir B: Sanctus Deus.
Choir A: Hagios Ischyros.
Choir B: Sanctus Fortis.
Choir A: Hagios Athanatos, eleison hymas.
Choir B: Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis.
Cantors 3 & 4: Ego propter te flagellavi Ægyptum cum primogenitis suis: et tu me flagellatum tradidisti.
Choirs A & B: Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo constristavi te? Responde mihi.
Cantors 1 & 2: Ego eduxi te de Ægypto, demerso Pharaone in mare rubrum: et tu me tradidisti principibus sacerdotum.
Choirs A & B: Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo constristavi te? Responde mihi.

Oh my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Saviour to the Cross.
Holy is God!
Holy is God!
Holy and strong!
Holy and strong!
Holy immortal One, have mercy on us.
Holy immortal One, have mercy on us 
For your sake I scourged the Egyptians and their firstborn sons: and you brought your scourges down on me.
Oh my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I led you from Egypt and drowned Pharaoh in the sea: and you handed me over to your high priests.
Oh my people . . . 


Listen and weep - and pray.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Maundy Thursday

For Maundy Thursday, here is the Ubi Caritas;

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages.

NB In the version sung on the video above, they sing Ubi caritas est vera, (where there is true love...) rather than amor.  I gather this is the version in the new (1975) typical edition of the Roman Missal, and have heard that that is an older version of the text; I would be interested in any information on that.

And here is Duruflé's superb setting of it.

I love the way that Duruflé (in this and his other motets and Requiem Mass) takes plainchant themes, and then develops them in a way that is at once sympathetic, but also distinctly 20th Century French...

Somewhat reluctantly, I have agreed to have my feet washed this evening, with others of both sexes, in a number almost certainly not totalling 12....

More enthusiastically, I have also signed up to watch and pray at the Altar of Repose.

Watch and pray!

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Annunciation in Holy Week

I thought it fitting that the celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation be moved out of Holy Week (and Easter Week) to the Monday after Low Sunday.

However, I learned from Edward C. Yong (@infernoxv on twitter) that they do not transfer the feast in the Byzantine calendar.  Indeed, he said: 'we Byzantines always combine! most fun is combining Easter w Annun, next is Good Fri w Annun.' and he went on:  'the lore is that DNJC will return on such a easter+annun combi. Julian dating, of course ;)'

I found that fascinating, and opined that whilst I could see the joy of celebrating the Annunciation on Easter Day, I questioned celebrating it on Good Friday. Rosamundi (@rosamundi) joined in the conversation, pointing out the Lily Cross, beautiful symbolism when the Annunciation falls on Good Friday, and linking to this wonderful picture of it in a church on the Isle of Wight: 

Better still she linked to this glorious poem by John Donne, for exactly that eventuality:

Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day. 1608

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;
She sees Him nothing twice at once, who’s all;
She sees a Cedar plant itself and fall,
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive yet dead;
She sees at once the virgin mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy;
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angels’ Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these!
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the other is and which we say
(Because it strays not far) doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to Him, we know
And stand firm, if we by her motion go;
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud, to one end both.
This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one:
Or ‘twas in Him the same humility
That He would be a man and leave to be:
Or as creation He had made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating Spouse would join in one
Manhood’s extremes: He shall come, He is gone:
Or as though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords;
This treasure then, in gross, my soul uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

John Donne

There are those who decry twitter, but with people like @infernoxv and @rosamundi about, it is a place of great learning and charm!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Whatever happened to the Gadarene Swine?

I know that I am almost unique in my criticism of the new Lectionary.  I have made some comments on it previously, but here I explore something else.

One of the aspects of the new Lectionary that is praised most frequently by (nearly) all and (completely) sundry is that we get all of the Gospels, and so much more of the Bible all together.

Of course we do get more scripture read at Mass, but I have long been intrigued by the 'all of the Gospels' claim, as I have noticed some gaps in the verses shown in my missal.

Having a spare hour or two, I thought that I would sit down and look at the gaps to see if a pattern emerges: is this just editing, (eg avoiding duplicating passages from across the Synoptic Gospels) or is something else going on?

Of course, it took hours to get anywhere (and but for this very helpful site, would have taken even longer.)

So I have only analysed the first half of St Matthew's Gospel so far, (and relevant parallel passages in St Mark's and St Luke's).  I have been looking at Sunday readings, as that is what the vast bulk of Catholics (who attend Mass at all) will hear.

Here are my findings so far: I list the verses of St Matthew's Gospel that are not read out in the cycle of Sunday readings; and then note whether they are covered by a passage read from one of the other synoptics, whether they are unique to St Matthew, or whether the parallel passages are also omitted from the other synoptics read on Sundays.

I have emboldened those passages that I think are cut without a parallel passage being read at another time, (or in a couple of places, where the passage from St Luke is much shorter than St Matthew's).  

I have also assumed that the longer versions of the passages are read, where there are optional shorter versions, though I realise that in practice, the reverse is normative in many parishes.

Missing from St Matthew...

2, 16-18 Massacre of the Innocents [nowhere else]

4, 24 - 25 Curing all the sick, large crowds followed him from various parts [St Luke’s account used]

5, 12b This is how they persecuted the prophets before you [nowhere else]

6, 1-23 Not parading good deeds, praying in private [nowhere else]; 

The Our Father [St Luke’s shorter version used]

If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven [St Mark’s version of this also cut]

Fasting in secret [nowhere else]

Treasures,moths and thieves...eye as lamp of the body [St Luke’s account used]

7, 1- 22 Do not judge  [St Luke’s account used] 

Do not profane sacred things [nowhere else]

Effective prayer [St Luke’s account used]

Golden Rule [St Luke’s account used] 

The Narrow gate [St Luke’s shorter version used]

False prophets [nowhere else]

Know a tree by its fruits  [St Luke’s account used] 

7,28 He taught with authority [St Mark’s account used]

Chapter 8 omitted:


Cure of a leper [St Mark’s account used]

Centurion’s servant [St Luke’s account used] 

Peter’s mother-in-law [St Mark’s account used]

Many others [St Mark’s account used]

Foxes have holes... and leave the dead to bury their dead, [St Luke’s account used]

Calming the storm [St Mark’s account used], 

Gadarene swine [cut from all three!]

9, 1-8 Cure of a paralytic [St Mark’s account used]

9, 14 - 35 Disciples not fasting, cure of woman with issue of blood, official’s daughter raised to life. [St Mark’s account used] 

10, 9 - 25 Disciples to go out, shake the dust [St Mark’s account used]

 Persecution [St Luke’s account used] 

10, 34-36 Not peace but the sword [St Luke’s account used]

11:1  'When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns. [nowhere else]

11, 12 - 24 Kingdom of heaven stormed - corresponding passage from St Luke also cut; 

John the Elijah who was to return - corresponding passage from Matt ch 17 also cut.

Chapter 12 omitted:

Picking corn on the sabbath [St Mark’s account used] 

Cure of the man with a withered hand [St Mark’s account used] 

Pharisees plotting against him; Jesus as Servant of the Lord and quotation from Isaiah [nowhere else]

Miracles ‘by the power of Beelzebul’ [St Mark’s account used] 

A tree known by its fruit [St Luke’s account used] 

The Sign of Jonah (and the reference to Jonah in Ch 16 is also cut)

The return of the Unclean Spirit (and the corresponding passage from St Luke is also cut) 

Our Lord’s family [St Mark’s account used)

14, 1-12 Herod hears of Our Lord and thinks he is St John the Baptist; St John the Baptist beheaded (cut from all three)

14, 34 Cures at Gennesaret (also cut from St Mark)

I find this interesting, and think it important.  Firstly, because we have been told that the new Lectionary means we hear the whole Gospel (see for example the CTS booklet reviewed here), and that is not the case.

Secondly, it seems that someone, somewhere has decided that there are parts of the Gospel which should not be read out on Sundays in our Churches.  I can understand not reading out duplicate (or near duplicate) passages from the Synoptics.  But what is wrong with the Gadarene Swine?  Why is St John the Baptist's execution airbrushed out? Or the Sign of Jonah?  Or the Return of the Unclean Spirit? I am genuinely curious!  Who decided?  And on what grounds?

I will continue with this analysis, if anyone is interested; firstly completing the Gospels, and then looking at the Epistles (time and God willing).  Eventually I will endeavour to see if there is a pattern to what has been omitted: and I will be very interested in any insights others may have into this.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Early reflections on Pope Francis

The Holy Father seems to me to be embodying both continuity and change in his approach so far.

Continuity is essential of course: it is the role of the Holy Father to pass on what we have received from Our Lord and the Apostles.

Change is also essential, as we are a Church comprised of sinners and called to be saints, and thus to sanctify the world.

The continuity I see, for example, in his building upon Pope Emeritus Benedict’s fight with the tyranny of relativism, which he spoke of in his first address to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican. It seems that the political approach of the Holy See, which as the Holy Father points out, is to seek the good of every person upon this earth!’ is unchanged.

The change is in the types of gesture and sign that he uses: the greeting of the disabled man, the inviting of the gardeners and cleaning staff to Mass in his chapel.   Signs and gestures are eloquent and powerful language in our incarnational religion, and the Pope is re-calling us to our duty to see the face of Christ in everyone - particularly the poor, the overlooked, the neglected.  The message is as old as Christianity, of course, but he has a new and very personal way of presenting it afresh.

A photo montage I saw on Facebook  was good: Pope John Paul ll’s photo was captioned: This is what we believe (and one thinks of the Catechism, Veritatis Splendor etc).  Pope Benedict XVl’s photo was captioned: This is why we believe it (and one thinks of practically everything he said and wrote!); and Pope Francis l’s picture was captioned: Now go and do it.

That is the challenge for us all: to continue with the Year of Faith, and engage in the New Evangelisation, inspired by Francis' love of the poor, Benedict's wisdom and understanding, and John Paul's unflinching proclamation of the truth.  Those who try to set this pope against his predecessors are jumping the gun; and whether we agree or disagree with every or any aspect of his approach, our job is not to be his critics, but to obey Our Lord, and make disciples of all nations...

Friday 22 March 2013

The Liebster Award – Helping Blog Communities to Grow and Thrive

Thanks to Ambrose Little of Romish Potpouri for awarding me a Liebster Award.

What is the Liebster Award and how do you get one?

The Liebster Award was started some time ago by a German blogger (possibly here) who wanted to assist others in finding great but, under-subscribed to blogs.  The “award” nomination is granted from one blogger to another and is considered as “awarded” when the nominated blog completes a certain set of requirements.  The current requirements have evolved over time and are as follows:
  1. Post the Liebster award graphic on your site. (Google to find it if needed)
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated the blog for a Liebster Award and link back to their blog.
  3. The blogger then writes 11 facts about himself or herself so people who discover his or her blog through the Liebster post will learn more about him or her.
  4. In addition to posting 11 fun facts about themselves, nominated bloggers should also answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
  5. The nominated blogger will in turn, nominate 9 other blogs with 200 or less followers (I'm guessing for my nominees) for a Liebster award by posting a comment on their blog and linking back to the Liebster post.
  6. The nominated blogger will create 11 questions for his or her nominated blogs to answer in their Liebster post.

That’s it!

Essentially, The Liebster Award is a way to connect smaller blogs to one another.  It promotes the discovery of new blogs and also helps to increase traffic through link exchanges.  While not an “award” in the traditional sense of the word, it is a great way to build up communities and to help other small bloggers to get discovered.

11 Mendacious Facts about Ben Trovato

  1. My name is not Ben Trovato
  2. My wife's name is not Anna
  3. My kids' names are not Antonia, Bernadette, Charlie, or Dominique
  4. My dog is not called Goldie.
  5. I am a traditionally-minded Catholic
  6. I have catholic tastes in music, from Chant to Elvis Costello
  7. I have catholic tastes in reading, from Chansons de Geste to Russell Hoban
  8. My Latin is very poor
  9. My French is passable
  10. I am incorrigibly lazy
  11. My hovercraft is full of eels.
My Answers to Ambrose's Questions
  1. Why do you blog? - I started to keep and share a record of our trying to bring the kids up in a counter-cultural way, with the hope of discussing such issues with other parents; but now I blog more to share a Catholic perspective on whatever crosses my mind - and because I enjoy it.
  2. Did you grow up to be what you thought you wanted to grow up to be? What was it? How do you feel about your answer? - No.  I wanted to be a writer (another reason for blogging).  Still wrestling with that occasionally.
  3. What is your favorite sci fi series? - I don't read much Sci-fi. Seem to remember Dune was pretty good, but the nearest I come to Sci-fi that I know at all well is Hitch-hiker's Guide.
  4. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Feel free to say why. - St John's Gospel, because it is awesome.
  5. Did I guess right that you are "undersubscribed"? - Yes, vastly. Given my genius and erudition, not to  mention my prose style and wit, I should be a blogging superstar.
  6. Do you think I should trim my beard? Why or why not? - Get rid of it: what would Jeeves say!
  7. Are you happy with your parish life? - No, not really. There is little parish activity, and few people in the parish who seem to see Catholicism in the way I do.
  8. What is the most quotable movie ever? Answer with a quote from that movie. - Play it, Sam.
  9. How long did you spend on this nomination thingie? - Not finished yet- maybe 10 mins so far, but haven't done the 'nominate others' bit yet,which will take a while.
  10. Which is better: pecan pie, chocolate pie, or pumpkin pie? Discuss. - Pecan pie, because it tastes nicer.
  11. What is the motto of the Order of Preachers? Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare 
My Nominees
I am not sure how to know how many followers a blog has, so I apologise if I have included you and you have many millions of followers already. If I have not included you, and you think that I should have done so - take that as a compliment: it means I assume vast hordes follow you already!
  1. De Omnibus Dubitandum Est 
  2. The Muniment Room 
  3. Mulier Fortis 
  4. Cum Lazaro 
  5. Bara Brith 
  6. Valle Adurni
  7. Forest Murmurs 
  8. The Sensible Bond 
  9. Porta Caeli 
  10. A Chaplain Abroad 
  11. Eccles and Bosco is Saved 

My Questions
  1. What inspired the title of your blog?
  2. Why should people read your blog?
  3. What is your personal favourite post on your blog?
  4. What has been the most popular (most viewed) post on your blog?
  5. Which post on your blog has attracted most comments?
  6. What other hobbies or interests (beyond blogging) are you prepared to admit to?
  7. What are your hopes for the new pontificate?
  8. Where is your favourite place of pilgrimage, and why?
  9. Who is your favourite spiritual author, and why?
  10. Which of these questions did you fid it most difficult to answer?
  11. Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

Sunday 17 March 2013

Go and sin no more

I have always loved today's Gospel: justice and mercy meet. Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.

I read Mark Lambert's excellent commentary (here) and that got me wondering: Did the woman sin again?

Mark rightly says that considering our own unfinished story is more important than speculating about the end of hers.  Nonetheless, the question has been haunting me.

In particular, I was wondering if anyone in St John's Gospel fails to obey a direct command from Our Lord.

So I have just had a nice nerdy afternoon going through it (the kids are all out, bar Dominique, who is doing some sewing, I think).  Here's my analysis of all (I think) of the direct imperative commands given by Our Lord in St John's Gospel.

1 'Come and see.' (1:39) - and they did.

2 'Follow me.' (1:43) - and Philip did.

3 'Fill the water pots with water...Now draw and give a draught to the master of the feast.' (2:7-8) - and they did.

4 'Take these away: do not turn my Father's house into a place of barter.' (2:16) - and they did, encouraged by His actions as well as his words!

5 'Destroy this temple...' (2:19) - and they did, some time later.

6 'Give me some water to drink.' (4:7) I don't think we are told if the Samaritan woman did or not: I have always assumed that she did, but it is not explicit in the text.

7 'Go home, fetch thy husband, and come back here.' (4:16) -  Given that Our Lord knew she had no husband, this seems to have been a rhetorical teaching device, rather than the imperative it appears.

8 'Go back home: thy son is to live' (4:50) - and he did.

9 'Rise up, take up thy bed, and walk.' (5:8) - and he did!

10 'Do not sin any more.' (5:14) - we are not told.

11 'Gather up the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing may be wasted.' (6:12) - and they did.

12 'It is myself: do not be afraid.' (6:20) - we are not told, but I assume their fear was dissolved..

13 'Go, and do not sin again henceforward.' (8:11) - the case under discussion.

14 'Away with thee, and wash in the pool of Siloe.' (9:7) - and he did.

15 'Take away the stone!' (11:39) - and they did, after brief protestation.

16 'Loose him, and let him go free.' (11:44) - and they did.

17 'Let her alone.' (12:7) - we are not told, but I assume from the context that Judas did.

18 'Let these others go free.' (18:7) - and they did.

19 'Put thy sword back into its sheath.' (18: 11) - we are not told, but I assume from the context that Peter did.

20 'Do not cling to me thus... Return to my brethren, and tell them this' (20:17) - and she did.

21 'Let me have thy finger; see, here are my hands. Let me have thy hand; put it into my side. Cease thy doubting, and believe.' (20:27) - and he did.

22 'Cast to the right of the boat, and you will have a catch. ' (21:6) - and they did.

23 'Bring some of the fish you have just caught' (21: 10) - and they did.

24 'Come and break your fast.' (21:12) - and they did.

25 'Feed my lambs... Tend my shearlings... Feed my sheep.' (21:15-17) - and he did (and still does.)

26 'Follow me.' (21:19) - and he did.

27 'Do thou follow me.' (21:22) - and he did.

In 20 of the 27 cases, it is explicitly affirmed that the command was obeyed.  In four others, I think that a safe inference (6, 12, 17, 19) which leaves three. One of these is the case of the Samaritan woman's husband - which clearly was not a command that could be obeyed, and I therefore treat as a rhetorical teaching device.  The remaining two are the case of the healed cripple at Bethsaida (no. 10), and the woman caught in adultery: both of whom were commanded to sin no more.

I suppose my tentative thesis is that one could not disobey a direct command from the Word Incarnate - even if one were dead, like Lazarus; that is, that God's Word achieves what it (He) sets out to accomplish.

And therefore, that the woman taken in adultery did indeed turn her life around.

There is, of course, an obvious counter-example (though not in St John's Gospel).

And, of course, I could be wholly mistaken in my approach: as ever I am interested in others' views.

Friday 15 March 2013

Pope Francis

Of course, like (almost) every other Catholic in the world, I am delighted that we have a new Holy Father.

I didn't know much about him beforehand (despite being allocated him by adoptacardinal) and I am not feeling a desperate urge to research him now.

My initial impressions are positive: his instinct to pray and to call us to pray were very evident.  I am interested that he is a Jesuit and from Latin America.  But I pay little attention to the allegations that he is unsympathetic to the Traditional Mass, or anything else in his past.

That is for two reasons.  One is that I think the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing: Pope Francis is the man for the job.  And before anyone starts throwing various bad popes at me, I would suggest that each of them was the man for the job on appointment - but some may have chosen to refuse the grace offered  and to take a different pathway than the one God had in mind: just as we all do sometimes.

The second reason is that the Pope who emerges from a Conclave often turns out to be different from the Cardinal who entered it.  It is not only unnecessary, but possibly foolish, to try to predict how Pope Francis will respond to his vocation.

What is much more important, wise and Catholic is to pray for him.  He has taken up a heavy burden in accepting the Pontificate, and deserves the prayers and good wishes of all the Faithful.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Further reflections on Hypocrisy

A few disconnected thoughts have been swimming around what passes for a brain in the pater familias at Trovato Towers, in addition to those I posted here.

One is that if someone subsequently discovered to be a hypocrite has been lauding certain virtues or values, it is wholly irrational to disbelieve the virtues or values.  The rational response is to disbelieve the hypocrite, precisely in his claim to live up them.

The second is that, pace Cardinal O'Brien, I am sure that things look very different from his perspective and from those who have denounced him.

Whilst I am quite prepared to believe that they may have experienced his approaches (if such there were) as an abuse of power (inter alia) I am also sure that it will not have seemed like that to him at the time.  Recognising the multiple subjectivities at work in such a situation is important if we are not to leap into judgemental mode, but rather understand with compassion what has gone wrong.

That is not to say that we may not judge particular actions as wrong; indeed we must, for the sake of justice and truth.  But we are commanded not to judge our brothers, and that for the sake of an even higher law, the law of charity.

The very best thing we can do is to pray for all concerned, and the next thing is to look to ourselves and root out all that is not in accord with the high truths of Faith Hope and Charity to which we are called.

For to reform and heal the Church, we need to reform and heal the members of the Church; and the place to start is with ourselves, not with others.