Saturday, December 27, 2008

Politically Incorrect, OCP and where the rubber meets the road

Before last night's Friday meeting, I promised to choose the most politically incorrect readings for the coming Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family. If you follow the link to the USCCB site you'll see that the readings for the first and second readings are Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 and Colossians 3:12-21, and the optional first and second readings were Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3 and Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19.

When we opened the missals for the coming Sunday's readings, we found that OCP had deliberately only printed the optional readings, with only a passing mention of the other readings. From a courageous start of opposing the KKK, OCP comes to the present by deliberately choosing to be spineless.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the "offensive" words are in Colossians 3:18-21

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.

The first reading in Sirach reflected the same order, that children obey and honor their parents. Although I playfully suggested that the pitchforks would come out on the line that wives be subordinate to husbands, the fact is that we really didn't dwell on this. Experience has shown that, except for the most bitter of feminists, most women think that the pair "Wives be subordinate to your husbands/ Husbands love your wives" is a fair deal if the husbands truly love their wives as Christ and the Church commands them to.

The conversation was very rich, and centered about the modern thinking of children as property that which leads to the abuse of children. Any summary I make here is not going to be fair to the actual comments made at the meeting, but I'll do my best to highlight the comments here in what I see to be a logical progression, and not how the conversation chronologically unfolded.

Seriously, this is where the rubber meets the road, and the lay people in America are starving for the Truth guarded within the Magisterium. It does no good to avoid controversial readings for the sake of those who really aren't interested in what the Church has to teach. As Jesus commanded Peter, "feed my lambs."

The Holy Family is an icon of the Holy Trinity, and as such, so are families icons of the Trinity as well. We live in a secular society where that model is broken. Catholic families are using contraceptives, they're aborting their children, and they're bringing children into the world through illicit means such IVF.

Having children (or not) is viewed as a right, and the consequence of this is that children are viewed as property, and an extension of the parents, not as individual persons. It's not a coincidence that parents demand their children be perfect, and that 80-90% of suspected Downs Syndrome children are aborted. Mother Teresa said that a society which aborts their children is a society which is abusive toward children.

Someone suggested that this couldn't be right. That today, perhaps parents love too much. Parents are now expected to fawn over their children, and no way be negative such imposing their values and rules upon their children. Give them toys and a roof, but skip the stuff which would ruin their self-esteem. But all this fawning is an abuse too. It's not love in any proper sense. Children need the love that structure and rules provide. Children yearn for that sort of love.

So we've gone full circle. Order in the family is the order of love. Liberation from that order, is a liberation from that love which is so necessary for a family to survive. If the family is the domestic church, it would be great if our local pastors would show us this love by teaching what the Church Universal teaches.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What Christmas is all about.

Charles M. Schultz provided an answer in that Christmas classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

It's refreshing to hear the the Gospel of Luke amid all that commercialism. Indeed, since it was first produced in 1965 and well before, commercialization of Christmas has been seen a threat to the core message of the Gospel.

For instance, with all the hype, some people might think that Christmas is the most important holiday on the Christian calendar. It's not. Some may think that the birth of Jesus represented some sort of beginning for Jesus. It's true that the nativity of Jesus is a sort of beginning, but it's not the beginning of Jesus' material life. Rather, the beginning of Jesus' material life was at the moment of conception.

It might be a teaching moment. Some pro-abortion wags point out that birth has always been the marker of choice for the new person. How terrible they say, to make the time of conception the legal moment of personhood. They point out the frightful problems of managing all the paperwork for those conceived, and they have a technical point while studiously ignoring the forest for the trees.

For most human beings, with the exception of those more recent test-tube babies or IVF babies, it's been frightfully difficult to determine the moment of conception. A certain number of parents can pick out the particular sex act which was the cause of conception, yet still, the moment of conjugal love is not quite the moment of conception; they are two different events separated by time.

Unique for ancient times, however, there was one moment of conception that was known. It was the moment of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary, that she was chosen by God to bear the Christ child. In that moment, Mary gave her consent, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). In that moment, Mary's "yes" contradicted Eve's "no," and the Incarnation, the Son of God took on human flesh and entered into the material world.

As Mark Shea points out, it was the moment of Incarnation which was important to those early Christians. They thought that March 25 was the date of the first Good Friday, the Crucifixion, and it only made sense to them that March 25 also be the moment of the Incarnation and Annunciation. As even the most primitive humans know, a mother typically bears a child nine months from the moment of conception to the moment of birth. And so that's why Christmas falls on December 25.

But until birth, every mother-child relationship is predominantly a private relationship. The child listens to the mother's heart beat, and the mother feels her child's squirming and kicking. But at birth, a rite of passage for every human being's life, the gift of child is revealed to the entire world.

And so it was for the Christ child. For nine months, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, was known only to Mary, the living tabernacle, the Ark of the New Covenant. On the day of Christ's birth, the private revelation (*) became a public one. On this day, the Eternal Word made of flesh left the living tabernacle made of flesh. To the whole world, the Christ is now visible.

There are several Eucharistic themes found at his birth. Jesus, known as the Bread of Life, is born in the City of David, Bethlehem, which means "house of bread." Jesus was "laid in a manger" (Luke 2:7). A manger is a feed trough for livestock. The root of the word manger comes from the Latin word to eat. Of course, we were meant to eat the Bread of Life. And finally, the angels first revealed the birth of Jesus to local shepherds. Jesus often compared his ministry to that as a shepherd over his flock, but most significantly, Lamb of God has a Passover allusion. The bread and wine of Passover have become the Eucharistic Bread and Wine of the New Passover. As the Lamb of God, the Passover meal, according to the reckoning of the Jews of the time, ended on the same day as the Last Supper (or Passover meal). That is, days were reckoned from sunset to sunset. On the cross, Christ cries out, "It is finished" (John 19:30). The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Lamb of God who is the Bread of Life. It is a joyful mystery. :-)

So of course, let's not forget the Christ in Christmas, but also let us not forget the Mass in Christmas.

And so like all the angels in Heaven, as the story goes, let us sing in praise,

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).

And that's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

(*) Note: in the Catholic world, private revelation and public revelation are technical terms. Public revelation ended in the Apostolic era, and public revelation is always the standard at which private revelation, such as the apparition of Mary at Lourdes, will be judged against. In my paragraph above, I do not mean to use private and public revelation in that technical sense. Rather, Jesus was privately known to Mary, his mother, and to Joseph, his stepfather, but Jesus had not yet been made public to the open world.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Ice Storm of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Yesterday's feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe was one to remember. Throughout the chaotic hodge-podge of power outages and downed power lines, there was an island of peace at Our Lady of Good Counsel in West Boylston.

At nearby I-190, the wall of iced trees along highway were strikingly beautiful. Beautiful and dangerous.

For those who made it, we had some discussions about Elijah (to be continued, by a proper report of the subcommittee investigating flying chariots) and the old TV show, Lost in Space (someone brought up Pigs in Space,... tres gauche). It was also a night of terrible puns (you know who you are!).

For those on the e-mail list, here's a gentle reminder about the Christmas Carols being sung at Chez Pauls tonight. Bring your Christmas cheer (as well as snacks and beverage of choice).