Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ave Maria: Corporeal Drama

Each Ave Maria suggests the individual journey that each of us must make, from birth to death. It is marked by the biological rhythm of each human life. It mentions the only three moments of our lives which we can know with absolute certainty: that we are born, that we live now, and that we shall die. It starts with the beginning of every human life, a conception in the womb. It situates us now, as we ask for Mary's prayers. It looks forward to death, our death. It is an amazingly physical prayer. It is marked by the inevitable corporeal drama of every human body, which is born and must die.
- Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.

The Making of a Pantokrator

Tip of the wand to Byzantine, TX

The Little Office of St. Dominic

Br. Peter Totleben, OP on the Little Office of St. Dominic:
For centuries, lay people have prayed popularized forms of the Liturgy of the Hours. The most popular of these is the well-known “Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” But there are others. Some years ago, a small booklet of these was published for the use of the Dominican Laity. Br. Thomas More Garrett, O. P. has reproduced the Little Office of St. Dominic. This Little Office is a set of psalms, readings, and classic prayers to St. Dominic, formatted according to the plan of the traditional Divine Office, which is great for growing in devotion to him.
Neat. For those who are interested, you can download the text for the Little Office.

Lay Dominicans make a commitment to pray the Divine Office daily, at least morning and evening prayer. Although my soul yearns for a new English translation, which I most likely will not see before my death to this world, praying the Office is a truly beautiful way in which we are able to frame our day by grounding ourselves in the prayer and liturgical life of the Church. Ideally, this should be combined with daily mass and reception of Holy Communion, as we are able. It helps prayer throughout the day to be dynamic, merged with one's very breath. Speaking for myself, I find that when I do this, including offering the day and my daily work to God, even the most obscure tasks of the day (e.g. developing a compiler toolchain) become intense moments of contemplation.

On Fr. McBrien and the Eucharist

Teófilo at the Vivificat! blog posts a response written by Fr. Al Kimel to Fr. Richard McBrien's feelings on Eucharistic Adoration. I'll just leave it there for the moment.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Absence of God

Every now and then, I find myself taking a detour through the theology and spirituality of Eastern Christianity... I am challenged by its depth, but it also helps me to keep my Western Christian ways of thinking in perspective. Lately, I've been rereading some of the writings of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh. These books were given to me back when I was investigating the Catholic Church by one of my high school teachers who was Eastern Orthodox at the time (and is now in full communion with the Church of Rome).

In the book "Beginning to Pray", Met. Anthony devotes a chapter discussing what he calls "The Absence of God". Of course, what he is suggesting is not that God is absent, but that there are times when our perception would suggest to us that He is absent. We need to take care when we pray not to let even those things or persons for whom we are praying get in the way of the focus of our prayer - the eternal God. Met. Anthony writes:
Let us think of our prayers, yours and mine; think of the warmth, the depth and intensity of your prayer when it concerns someone you love or something which matters to your life. Then your heart is open, all your inner self is recollected in the prayer. Does it mean that God matters to you? No, it does not. It simply means that the subject matter of your prayer matters to you. For when you have made your passionate, deep, intense prayer concerning the person you love or the situation that worries you, and you turn to the next item, which does not matter so much -- if you suddenly grow cold, what has changed? Has God grown cold? Has He gone? No, it means that all the elation, all the intensity in your prayer was not born of God's presence, of your faith in Him, of your longing for Him, of your awareness of Him; it was born of nothing but concern for him or her or it, not For God.
Is God absent? Those times are actually moments when we must recognize most fully our need for Him. Met. Anthony continues:
As long as we ourselves are real, as long as we are truly ourselves, God can be present and do something with us. But the moment we try to be what we are not, there is nothing left to say or have; we become a fictitious personality, an unreal presence, and this unreal presence cannot be approached by God...

In order to be able to pray, we must be within the situation which is defined as the kingdom of God. We must recognize that He is God, that He is King, we must surrender to Him.
Isn't this the basic principle that underlies our own human relationships?

Monday, September 07, 2009

On being rudderless

The commentary in the wake of the ELCA's majority vote granting non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders in the ELCA has been interesting. There are those who celebrate it, and there are those who are using this as an opportunity to truly reflect on the problems inherent in the roots of Lutheranism itself.

Chris Blosser calls our attention to an essay written by ELCA Lutheran Robert Benne, who is director of the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke College. In the essay, Benne seems to recognize the root of their current predicament as something that is thoroughly embedded in what Blosser calls "the very fabric of their tradition". Benne writes:
What was truly chilling about the Assembly's debates was that the revisionists seemed to quote Jesus and the Bible as knowledgeably and persuasively as the orthodox. Passages reinforcing their respective agendas were selected and then brilliantly woven into their arguments. Both sides seemed to have the Bible on their side. The revisionists "contextualized" and relativized the relevant texts. The orthodox claimed a plain sense reading of Scripture. The Lutheran Confessions were utilized effectively by both sides. There was no authoritative interpretation conveyed by any agent or agency in the church. The church was and is rudderless.

Sola Scriptura, a Lutheran principle adopted by evangelicals, did not seem to be sufficient in such circumstances. An authoritative tradition of interpretation of the Bible seemed to be essential. More was needed than the Word alone. Protestants seem to lack such an authoritative tradition so they fight and split. In this situation the option of swimming the Tiber [i.e. becoming Catholic] seems all the more tempting.
Of course, other Protestants are responding to this by inviting folks to join their own particular sects, and based solely on their own interpretations. We can easily see why the Church needs a rudder, lest souls be endlessly thrown about by the waves of the world until they are beaten against the rocks and drowned.


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