In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.
The sixth day of January is the Feast of Epiphany- also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings Day, and Little Christmas. The lyrically odd but wonderful “Cherry Tree Carol” contends that it is Jesus’ birthday, a belief shared by some early Christians and Eastern Churches. It is also the beginning of the Carnival season building up to Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.
Garrison Keillor dedicates most of today’s Writer’s Almanac to the feast. I wrote about Epiphany more extensively three years ago, but it’s worth revisiting that old post today.
I learn a lot everyday and probably forget as much each day as well. As a new feature on Panorama of the Mountains, I’m going to write down some things I’ve learned. Like many things on this blog, I am my own primary audience, but if you find it interesting as well, all the better.
1. I was unable to open files on the USB drive on my work PC and after several frustrating tries I did a “Hail Mary” Google search of “why can’t I open my usb drive?” This lead me to this site, which offered the following instructions:
This was a quick and easy solution that worked for me. Yay for the internet that rewards lazy web searches.
2. Ring shout – this is a feature of the upcoming Revels performance I will participate in. A ringshout is a religious practice of African-American communities where there’s call & response and circular movements to accompany the singing. Crossing one’s feet and legs or even lifting one’s feet are to be avoided since that would be dancing and inappropriate for worship.
3. The Triborough Bridge in New York City is now called the Robert F. Kennedy(RFK) Bridge. This is odd to me both because this very appropriate name for the interlocking bridges connection three boroughs had been in use since it opened in 1936 and because the renaming took place long after Kennedy’s assassination.
Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J. explores the many ideas of God that have emerged in the past century in Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (2007). The book functions as a quick summary of these many “new” theologies of God – albeit rooted in ancient tradition and faithful to scripture. They include:
Each chapter includes a selection of recommended reading on the theology and prominent thinkers in that area. Johnson also makes some interesting, incisive statements about the idolatry of some of the current accepted practices of the Church (such as the concept of God as an old, bearded white man). Johnson’s writing is energetic and positive which adds to its inspirational quality.
First off, a person can no longer be a Christian out of social convention or inherited custom. To be a Christian now requires a personal decision, the kind of decision that brings about a change of heart and sustains long-term commitment. Not cultural Christianity but a diaspora church, scattered among unbelievers and believers of various stripes, becomes the setting for this free act of faith. Furthermore, when a person does come to engage belief in a personal way society makes this difficult to do…. When, nevertheless persons do make a free act of faith, the factors characteristic of the modern world impart a distinctive stamp to their spiritual experience. This is not surprising, since the path to God always winds through the historical circumstances of peoples’ times and places. Inhabiting a secular, pluralistic culture, breathing its atmosphere and conducting their daily lives according to its pragmatic tenets, Christians today have absorbed the concrete pattern of modernity into their very soul. – p. 29
Mystical and practical, Christian life then becomes a passion for God that encompasses the suffering, the passion, of others, committing people to resistance against injustice for the living in hope of universal justice even for the dead. The mystery of iniquity is not thereby resolved. Theological reasoning remains unreconciled to the surd of evil. It keeps on judging: this should not be. But God is love and has promised to prove it. The dangerous memory of the crucified and risen Jesus in solidarity with all the dead keeps the question open while laying down a hopeful, compassionate path for mature discipleship. Thus has Metz proposed that we speak of God with our face rather than our back turned to the terrible event of Auschwitz. – p. 67
A simple thought experiment may bring home he depth of this biblical revelation about the nature of God. Is there a single text where in vigorous “thus says the Lord” fashion people are counseled to oppress the poor, to rob from the widow, to put on a big show of sacrifice at the expense of doing justice? Is there a text where God delights in seeing people — or any creatures — in agony? Suffering happens; indeed some texts interpret war and exile as divine punishment for the sin of the people as a whole, sin that includes precisely the acts of oppressing the poor. But even here, God’s anger lasts for a moment, divine mercy for ten thousand years. Taken from start to finish, as a whole, the Bible reveals God as compassionate lover of justice, on the side of the oppressed to the point where “those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (Prov 14:31). – p. 76
Far from being silly or faddish, the theological approach women are pioneering goes forward with the conviction that only if God is named in this more complete way, only if the full reality of historical women of all races and classes enters into our symbol of the divine, only then will the idolatrous fixation on one image of God be broken, will women be empowered at their deepest core, and will religious and civic communities be converted toward healing justice in the concrete. Along the way, every female naming of the Holy produces one more fragment of the truth of the mystery of divine Sophia’s gracious hospitality toward all human beings and the earth. – p. 110
For many moons of centuries, theology dismissed other religions as pagan inventions or condescended to them as deficient ways people had of stumbling toward the divine. Actual dialogic encounter with other religions leads to a different view. Assuming that the real presence of grace and truth can only have a diving origin, the religions can be sen as God’s handiwork. In them we catch a first glimpse of the overflowing generosity of the God who has left no people abandoned but has bestowed divine love on every culture. This is the grace of our age: encountering multiple religious tradtions widens the horizon wherein we catch sight of God’s loving plenitude. Thus we are enabled to approach the mystery every more deeply. – p. 163
Author : Johnson, Elizabeth A., 1941-
Title : Quest for the living God : mapping frontiers in the theology of God / Elizabeth A. Johnson.
Published : New York : Continuum, 2007.
Description : xiii, 234 p. ; 24 cm.
Contents : Ancient story, new chapter — Gracious mystery, ever greater, ever nearer — The crucified God of compassion — Liberating God of life — God acting womanish — God who breaks chains — Accompanying God of fiesta — Generous God of the religions — Creator spirit in the evolving world — Trinity : the living God of love.
Notes : Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN : 9780826417701 (hardcover : alk. paper)
0826417701 (hardcover : alk. paper)
Consistently Opposing Killing (2008) edited by Rachel M. McNair and Stephen Zunes collects together essays and interviews focused on the Consistent Life Ethic. This is a movement that opposes killing in any form: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and unjust as war as well as promoting economic justice to end poverty, opposing racism, and seeking peaceful solutions to conflict. In addition to the editors, contributors include Mary Meehan, Michael Nagler, and Vasu Murti , Many of the authors refer to the Consistent Life Ethic as the “seamless garment,” a term originating with Cardinal Joseph Bernadin whose work is cited often by the contributor but not included in this book. Bernadin’s lectures A Consistent Ethic of Life (1983, pdf) and A Consistent Ethic of Life: Continuing the Dialogue (1984) can be read online.
This book really hits home with me. When I was younger and developing my political and moral identity I was drawn to liberalism since it focused on standing up for the underdogs and the defenseless and opposing the things that damage and destroy life: civil rights, civil liberties, social safety nets, health care, opposing poverty, rehabilitating prisoners instead of executing them, opposing unnecessary war and nuclear proliferation, and seeking alternatives to violence. You can imagine my surprise that opposing abortion was not a liberal cause. I’ve become something of a political pariah in that liberal people who share many similar views to my own but support of legal abortion seems to be the one non-negotiable issue for acceptance in their ranks. On the other hand I’ve little political common ground with conservatives and often find their rhetoric and strategies for opposing abortion repellent. The authors in this book share similar experiences. Conservatives call them a bunch of peaceniks and commies. Liberals call them misogynist, racist theocrats.
These essays trace the history of the consistent life ethic (did you know that the link of feminism and pro-choice politics is a relatively development) as well as providing studies on Americans views on life issues. Abortion is a central theme of many essays where it’s linked or compared with poverty, racism, the Israel/Palestine conflict and animal rights. The better essays come toward the end of the books where the contributors propose consistent solutions with the essays by Meehan, McNair and Zunes being particularly moving.
One quibble I have with this book is the oft-referenced idea of the slippery slope. Many contributors contend that those who support a legal right to abortion are likely to also support infanticide and euthanasia of the disabled and elderly. This just doesn’t jibe with pro-choice people I know and public figures who are active and compassionate supporters of the needs of children, the disabled, and the elderly.
This book is one that should be read by anyone regardless of their political bent. I’m sure there’s stuff in here that anyone will disagree with and will make them angry, but most of all what I find in this book is hope. Hope that people can go beyond the battle lines of the so-called “culture war” and find common ground and solutions that will bring an end to the killing and degradation of human life.
“Many people with serious moral qualms about abortion but not wanting to unwittingly promote a reactionary social agenda therefore remain silent. This is also a poor strategy. The timidity of many progressives with antiabortion sentiments to speak out has led to much of the movement becoming dominated by right-wing opportunists who oppose abortion for the wrong reasons,” p. 35 – from “Israel/Palestine and Abortion” by Stephen Zunes.
“Even unconscious people, who do not have anything on that list, offer us an extremely valuable service. As long as their lives are protected, people seen as most on the margins, the the rest of us are safe. Those on the edge of the social fabric guard it and keep it from unraveling. The first step on the slippery slope is not taken so there is no slipper slope,” p. 61 – from “When Bigotry Turns Disabilities Deadly.”
“The thread of respect for life, woven among these issues, is not visible in the public forum, where political ideologies dominate the analysis. Traditional liberals favor goverment intervention to “support life” by improving the opportuinities available to the poorest members of society, but oppose legal limits on issues deemed to be matters of private morality. Traditional conservatives attempt to reduce government intervention in the economy, but promote legal restraints to protect vulnerable human life. Each perspective both shares and disuptes some of the policy mandates that flow from the consistent ethic of life,” p. 75 – from “Does the Seamless Garment Fit?” by Edith Bogue.
“Most people, myself included, when you look at a complicated problem start off by seeing where your friends are. Because you trust them. There’s nothing wrong with that. Your friends are honorable and intelligent people, and you consult them to see what they believe in. But that turns into a camp or culture of the Right or a camp and culture of the Left, nor based on real thinking or real dialog — just a desire to move with your particular herd. Us against them, which arouse the most pleasurable, pervasive, and vile passions,” p. 107 – from “Activists Reminisce,” a quote from Juli Loesch Wiley.
While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year. It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America. Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Italian-American, it also helped that there was one day a year where everyone wanted to be Irish. The element of pride was strong.
Things started to change when I moved to Virginia. If people celebrated St. Patrick’s day at all it was at a most superficial and sterotypical levely. Mostly it was just an excuse to get drunk. I thought St. Patrick’s Day would be better when I moved to Boston, but even in this most Irish of American cities I find the magic of my childhood lacking. I still look forward to St. Patrick’s Day but usually end up a little disappointed. Here are some things that contribute to my ambivalence:
Could be I’m just a grump. I’m cheered though that my wife brought home Dubliner cheese and Irish soda bread for supper which we enjoyed with (German) beer and (Italian) pasta. Then we danced to some Irish music with our little boy. I’ll need to find some new traditions to make St. Patrick’s Day as memorable for him as it was for me.
In A Portrait of Jesus(1998), Joseph Girzone uses a similar approach that he uses in his fictional series of Joshua novels to understanding the historical Jesus. That is, to avoid theology, doctrine, and Christology and look at Jesus as a real person who came to earth to spread His message of love and freedom through creating relationships with other people. It’s a simple yet revolutionary approach and proves very enlightening and inspirational, especially in the early chapters. Yet, even as something of a Fr. Girzone fan I have to admit that while full of faith and prayerful contemplation, Fr. Girzone is not the best writer and comes across a bit hokey. In the later chapters he sort of recreates the Gospels in a more common language, but kind of cherry picks stories from all the Gospels into one narrative. Fr. Girzone also depicts Jesus as unique in relationship with the poor, oppressed, and women against a rule-following, monolithic Jewish religious leadership, which is a fallacy according to what I read last Lent in Amy-Jill Levine’s The Misunderstood Jew. Still, for all it’s flaws this is a good inspirational book.
Even though you may be weak, are you focused on God, are you sensitive to the pain and hurt all around you? This is the essence of the person who is pleasing to God. Not that accuracy in belief and disciplining human weakness are not important, but loving the Father in heaven and caring for others is absolutely essential They were the teachings that were critical to Jesus. Jesus realized few people will ever have an accurate understanding of the nature of God and even the identity of the Son of God, but He knew that it was within the heard of everyone to care for others. – p. 32-33
And in telling His followers to love as He loved, it constrains us to continually deepen our intimacy with Him so we can understand Him and what He expects of us as His friends, and grow as love grows, naturally from within, without imposing on ourselves artificial imperatives from outside.
As a result, following Jesus and knowing what is expected will always be confusing, as walking in faith is destined to be, Jesus may have explained things more clearly to the apostles, as the writings of the early Fathers of the Church indicate, but even the apostles did not comprehend everything the way we would have desired. – p. 91
Author : Girzone, Joseph F.
Title : A portrait of Jesus / Joseph F. Grizone.
Edition : 1st ed.
Published : New York : Doubleday, 1998.
Description : 179 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN : 0385482639
Robert McClory puts the Catholic church under the historical lens in Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church (2000) to show instances when individuals have stood up against official Church teachings and hierarchy. These dissenters are sometimes punished in their time, but all have been revealed to be prophetic voices whose ideas are accepted by the Church at large to the Church’s benefit.
The Faithful Dissenters include:
In the conclusion, McClory writes:
In two important respects the dissenters described her are unqualifiedly alike. First, they absolutely refused to leave the Churh in the face of all their difficulties. One could argue that this stubborn fidelity, this standing in place while contradicting authority, was the principal factor in their ultimate success and (sometimes posthumous) vindication. Second, they did not see themselves as disobedient persons. They shared a remarkable awareness that submission to God and submission to Church authority are not always the same thing. Some today might call them “cafeteria Catholics.” In a sense, they were; they maintained that not everything in the cafeteria was edible. Nevertheless, their acknowledgment of Church authority and their gratitude for what the Church offered them over the long haul never left, ” – p. 164
I thought this was a good book as the historical sketches were well-written and informative. Additionally, it is written very respectfully, resisting the temptation to condemn those who tried to quash dissent as history’s losers or turn this into a rallying cry for our times. McClory message is that good people can disagree and some ideas are ahead of their time, but eventually that which is of God will triumph.
Author : McClory, Robert, 1932-
Title : Faithful dissenters : stories of men and women who loved and changed the church / Robert McClory.
Published : New York : Orbis Books 2000.
Description : viii, 180 p. : ports ; 24 cm.
ISBN : 1570753229 (pbk.)
It’s Christmas Eve. As you wrap (or unwrap) gifts, sip eggnog, and/or get ready for Midnight Mass, you’ll want to start off by clicking the youtube link below:
Then you’ll want to click this youtube link, and replay it in a loop for about 3-4 hours.
If you need more music, check out these podcasts. I guarantee that there is good holiday themed stuff here that you’ll never here on that Light Rock station that’s playing holiday music 24/7:
For a more sobering Christmas Eve viewing experience, watch this vintage propaganda film “Christmas Under Fire” about Christmas in England during the Blitz:
Finally, for even more uplifting memories, celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 8’s Journey to the Moon.
Happy Christmas to all!
Last year when I went through a liturgical year with posts on my favorite saints, inspired by Fr. James Martin’s book My Life With the Saints, I failed to make a post for All Saints Day. I spent that day otherwise occupied witnessing the birth of my son Peter (an appropriately saintly name for my now 1-year-old).
To make up for that, I present to you this short Busted Halo feature “The Saints on Halloween” featuring Fr. James Martin. It’s an enjoyable movie about Halloween, All Saints Day, and saints in general.