On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mother's Day Idea

Hey if any of my family read this and are looking for an idea for a Mother's Day gift (HUGE HINT!) you might mosey on over to the Kitchen Madonna's blog. She has absolutely gorgeous aprons for sale. I know, I know, I have aprons, and I don't wear aprons all that much, however, these aprons are really something SPECIAL. An apron like this I would wear. They're even reversible (practical white on one side, feminine charm on the other).

If you aren't a member of my family, but you have a mom of your own, you might wander over there as well. Your mom would love one of these aprons. Your wife would love one of these aprons, your sister would love one of these aprons, your grandmother would love one of these aprons. Hey, even your girlfriend might love one of these aprons. However, these are definitely aprons for ladies only. They aren't aprons for guys to wear at the barbecue grill. They are frilly and feminine and altogether lovely.

And oh, Ladies, if no one gets one for you be sure to get one for yourself. Kitchen Madonna is encouraging us to embrace our femininity and wear aprons. She started the campaign before she started making and selling aprons. You won't find any aprons at Wal-Mart like these. Check them out they really are something special.

An Early Witness

Sometimes when I talk with Protestant friends about the Catholic Church they have objections to things that they feel are not part of the earliest teachings of the Church. They have been taught, as I was, that some doctrines were added in the Middle Ages or at least after the Church became the official religion of the empire. One of the things which convinced me of the truth of the Catholic faith was reading some of the earliest witnesses to the faith. These were men taught by the apostles or by people who themselves had been taught directly by the apostles. This week on Sunday the second reading in the daily office came from one such early witness. Justin Martyr was born around the year 100 and wrote this probably around 150. He was scourged and beheaded for the faith in 165 under the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Listen to his description of early worship and teaching.

"No one may share the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The apostles in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: 'Do this in memory of me. This is my body.' In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said:'This is my blood.' The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through the Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or in the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue which we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give their assent by saying, 'Amen.' The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, or in prison, or away from home. In a word, the takes care of all who are in need.

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration." Justin Martyr, First Apology in defense of the Christians 66-67.

So here we have early proof in the Church's teaching on baptism, on the real presence in the Eucharist and on the Church's practice of Sunday worship. These are not medieval changes, they are not changes that happened after the conversion of Constantine. They are the teachings of the Church of the early second century. The skeletal outline of worship which is described here is nearly identical to the outline of worship that you will find in a Catholic Church to this day. There are details missing, some of which are found in other early accounts, but the outline is the same.

Cardinal Newman, writing in the 19th century, said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." So much of what I was taught as a Protestant child, as a Protestant teenager, and even as a Protestant adult bore no relationship to the actual teachings of the early Church. As I have taught English literature in the past few years and have delved into English history I've begun to understand why this was. The Protestant reformation in England was accompanied by a violent suppression of the Catholic faith and a propaganda campaign against Roman Catholicism. As a result even in the twentieth century English Christians who held nearly all the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers, still had an aversion to Rome and the papacy. This English attitude was even more pronounced in the earliest settlers to New England, who found even the Church of England, too papist for their sensibilities. My family, my husband's family, and most of the families of my friends are descended from those early New Englanders. It is no wonder that the Catholic Church was not even on the radar screen for us when we were growing up. It's no wonder that my grandparents, perpetual searchers after the faith of the early Christians, never found it. What is amazing to me is that I, by the grace of God, did.

My challenge to my Protestant friends continues to be, "Read the early fathers. Find out what the early Church really taught. Then compare it to what you've been taught about the early Church. Don't be afraid to examine what you've been taught. Be a truth seeker. There are treasures to be discovered."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ten Years Later

Last night at the Easter Vigil two of my "girls" (my lit class students) were serving at Mass. It suddenly struck me that when I was received into the Church Brigid was only 4 and Cathy only 6. They hadn't even made their first communions yet. Judy (who happened to be sitting next to me) was only 8 and would have been making her first communion in just a few weeks. These girls whom I just think of as teenagers and who have become very, very dear to me, although they are cradle Catholics, have been receiving the Eucharist for a shorter time than I have. They know I'm a convert, but they have never known me as anything but a Catholic. That puts some real perspective on things for me.

So what have the past ten years meant. Have I just been hanging around the door of the Church, just barely inside? Have I wandered a little ways up the aisle, or have I plunked myself down in front of the altar and stayed there? I know I'm further in than the doorway, but I must admit that plunking myself down and resting in front of the altar isn't something I've achieved as yet. I will say that this has been, despite some ups and downs, one of the most productive Lents that I have spent. Thank you, Father La Valley, for some wonderful meditations. Thank you, Father Mattison, for some wise counsel. Thank you St. Augustine, and St. John Chyrsostom, for some powerful words. Thank you, Abby and Jim for some profound insights. And thank you, Jesus, for the unexpected opportunities to carry the cross.

I think I'm finally getting the idea that the Gloria in Excelsis at Easter is even more joyful when you've really entered into Lent. Now if I can just a. remember that next year and b. continue on with some of the good habits I've established... Pray for me please.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Power of Christ's Blood

Listen to the words of St. John Chrysostom 347-407 and you'll begin to understand why the called him "Golden Mouthed."

"If we wish to understand the power of Christ's blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. 'Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,' commanded Moses, 'and sprinkle its blood on your doors.' If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord's blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it rand down from the cross, flowing from the Master's side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord's side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

'There flowed from his side water and blood.' Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought: it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism 'the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the holy eucharist. ' Since the symbols of baptism and the eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: 'Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!' As God then took a rib from Adam's die to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life."

Does that scandalize you? Then read the following passage which also scandalized many of Jesus's followers and caused them to draw back and follow him no longer:

John 6:53-58 "Jesus said to them,'Truly truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me , and I in him. As the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.'"

No medieval invention, simply the teaching of the Church as given to her by the Lord himself.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pange Lingua

I shall praise the Savior's glory,
Of His flesh the mystery sing,
And the blood, all price excelling,
Shed by our immortal King:
God made man for our salvation,
Who from Virgin pure did spring.

Born for us, and for us given,
Born a man like us below,
Christ as man with man residing,
Lived the seed of truth to sow,
Suffered bitter death unflinching,
And immortal love did show.

On the night before He suffered
Seated with His chosen band,
Jesus, when they all had feasted,
Faithful to the law's command,
Far more precious food provided:
Gave Himself with His own hand.

Word made flesh, true bread of heaven,
By His word made flesh to be,
From the wine His blood is taken,
Though our senses cannot see,
Faith alone which is unshaken
Shows pure hearts the mystery.

Therefore, we, before Him falling,
This great sacrament revere;
Ancient forms are now departed,
For new acts of grace are here,
Faith our feeble senses aiding,
Makes the Savior's presence clear.

To the everlasting Father
And His Son who reigns on high,
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be all honor, glory, blessing.
Power and endless majesty

St. Thomas Aquinas - translated by Edward Caswall -adapted by Anthony G. Peti

All I can say is St. Thomas seems to say it as well as can be said.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Skinny Person is Breaking Out

Last May I shared with you the beginnings of a journey. Some of you read my Xanga site and some do not. If you don't you might wonder whether I stalled out after Christmas. Well, I did sort of slow down for a couple of weeks, but Lent has really sped things back up. Today I hit the 50 lb mark. That's a major milestone for me. I now weigh about what I did when my youngest was oh, say 8 (she's now 25). I have only 3 pounds to go to get out of the overweight category completely. My BMI is 25.1 instead of the 34 I started out with. I still have 17 lbs I want to lose, but I'm loving my new energy level, and the fact that I can actually do things I only dreamed of a year ago. Now do you suppose that when I finally hit 127 I will be able to go to the climbing gym with my daughter or is that a really silly pipe dream for a 58 year old??? I'm not sure about that, but it sure is nice to be able to actually hula hoop again (even if it is undignified). It's also nice to be able to run up stairs and climb in and out of sheep pens. Spring is beginning to spring and I'm feeling like this year my mood matches it. Oh BTW for some reason I just had my first winter in years without SADD. Do you suppose what I've eaten all these years had something to do with seasonal depression??? I did slow down a bit in January and February, but it was nothing compared to previous years.

It's so strange to feel so happy about this while still feeling the somberness of Holy Week, but there it is. Of course Holy Week is always a time when somberness mixes with joy. It's always a time when sorrow for sin mixes with gratitude for all that Christ did for us and all that He offers for us day by day.