venerdì, dicembre 12, 2014

Advent: Week 2 Day 7

The Prophecy of Malachi

"And suddenly the Lord Whom you seek shall come to the Temple... But who shall be able to stand when He comes? He shall be like the refiner's fire... He shall sit refining the silver, He will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver..."

Elsewhere we saw (in Jacob's Ladder) Jesus as a civil engineer: the Divine Bridge-Builder. Here we see Jesus as the Divine Metallurgist. In that amazing book from the Middle Ages called The Pirotechnia we can read about how such refining was done, in the days before OSHA and chemistry. It's rather horrifying, even if you have actually seen the real modern technologies for doing metal-working - but it worked. Basically they added a lot of lead to the mix, then boiled off the leadand scraped out the impurities. And they repeated this until the precious metal was pure. That is what the psalms mean about "gold, seven times refined". Remember, the tribe of Levi is the hereditary priesthood of the Israelites. Yes, there are still descendants alive (with names like Lewin, Levandowski, etc) who know their heritage in that family! And we know that Jesus, though of the tribe of Judah (and Son of David) was related somehow to them, for his "cousin" John (the Baptist) was son of Zachariah, who was a priest in the Temple.

But Malachi has far more to say. There is also this mystic vision of the world-wide sacrifice:

"For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts."

Here is the announcement of the round-the-clock offering of Holy Mass. Somewhere in the world, Mass is being offered - all the time, everywhere (except, of course, during the Triduum). It's lots better than the INTERNET - you can tap in, even without a modem or a hub/router/switch! Way cool - and unlimited bandwidth, too.

Why are people not connecting Jesus with technology more? He's not just for theologians and philosphers. Indeed - it is not only the theologian or even the philosopher for whom Jesus is the archetype, the exemplar, the model. He inspires the engineer - of all varieties from civil to metallurgical to electronic, the scientist, the laborer (was he not known as the Son of the Carpenter?) and the artist - as well as the writer and the musician. He shows us not only about God, and about truth and thought, but about learning, about doing things well, about making things beautiful AND useful... and, most importantly, about being a good friend - in fact, He exemplifies each and every aspect of being human.


"So, therefore, we beseech Thee, Oh Heavenly Father, command that our voices be admitted among the number of the armies of heaven, as they sing without end..."


"In every place, there is offered to My Name a clean oblation, for My Name is great among the Gentiles..."

giovedì, dicembre 11, 2014

Advent: Week 2 Day 5

Daniel's Vision

Thrones were set up and the Ancient of Days took His place. ... Then I saw One like a Son of Man, coming on the clouds... He came to the Ancient of Days, and was given authority...

Note: as was explained, late Easter afternoon on the road to Emmaus, beginning with Moses and the prophets... so we are trying to use that same plan, which happens to also be the format of the Bible.

So far, we've seen Moses and the great events of the Pentateuch (though one is deferred, as will be explained in its proper place), and we've met David, at the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.

Now we look at the various prophets and see as they predicted details about the coming Messiah. Sometimes these were phrased in what might appear to be sheer fantasy, but each added a particular detail. Here, Daniel sees something which may be still in the future, (so similar to St. John's Apocalypse = "Revelation" are some aspects!) and yet links it together with our Lord's own designation for Himself: the "Son of Man". On this term, GKC has a very moving passage:
We often hear of Jesus of Nazareth as a wandering teacher; and there is a vital truth in that view in so far as it emphasises an attitude towards luxury and convention which most respectable people would still regard as that of a vagabond. It is expressed in his own great saying about the holes of the foxes and the nests of the birds, and, like many of his great sayings, it is felt as less powerful than it is, through lack of appreciation of that great paradox by which he spoke of his own humanity as in some way collectively and representatively human; calling himself simply the Son of Man; that is, in effect, calling himself simply Man. It is fitting that the New Man or the Second Adam should repeat in so ringing a voice and with so arresting a gesture the great fact which came first in the original story: that man differs from the brutes by everything, even by deficiency; that he is in a sense less normal and even less native; a stranger upon the earth. It is well to speak of his wanderings in this sense and in the sense that he shared the drifting life of the most homeless and hopeless of the poor. [GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:337]

And speaking of interesting things, did you ever notice that the prophecy says "thrones"??? Ever wonder about that? Who else are they for? James and John wondered about sitting on the right and the left in the kingdom (and they were reserved, as Jesus told them!) but He also promised that the Twelve (who had left everything to follow Him) would "sit on thrones and judge the Tribes of Israel". Daniel, then, saw the stage managers at work, preparing for that coming Day...

Are we getting ready?

mercoledì, dicembre 10, 2014

Advent: Week 2 Day 4

The Shepherd, King, and Psalmist: David

Moses died just before the Israelites crossed the Jordan and took possession of their Promised Land. Then that country was divided up, each of the 11 tribes got their own portion. (Levi, the priest-tribe, was the Lord's own; they lived throughout Israel.) The tribe of Judah got a rather southern chunk, within which was a mountain city called Jerusalem.

Many years went by. The people demanded a king. The first one was Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin; things didn't go so well for him. There was a war going on with the Philistines (their name lives on in the term Palestine!) and they had some big ogre (orc? droid? battle-mech?) of a warrior named Goliath....

God sent Samuel to a town of Judah, not far to the south of Jerusalem, called Bethlehem, the "House of Bread". (You may have heard the name already in another context. Now yiou will find out why.)

In that town was a man named Jesse. He had some interesting ancestors: on his grandfather's side he descended from Judah; his grandmother was Ruth (one of the books of the Bible!) he had a rather large family: eight boys, if I recall correctly, and Samuel had to meet every one of the seven. Oh, yeah: the youngest was not there just then, as he was out watching the sheep. But Samuel made them get the youngest back home - and sure enough, he was the one God wanted anointed as the king. This young man was named David.

He wrote (or is said to have written) the Psalms, and probably sang them. Certainly the one which makes very many people think of David is the one which starts "the Lord is my Shepherd". I for one think this one clearly demonstrates an awareness of real shepherding, for no authentic shepherd would try to guard a flock without real weapons at his disposal. (Remember: "you are there with your rod and your staff that give me courage") Hey! There are real wolves and other enemies out there! One of the things I learned not very long ago was a remarkable piece of research which studied the various chants used by Jews in some rather divergent and remote places in the Near East: it was discovered that they sang certain psalms with very similar tunes. Other evidence on this (relating to lack of communication among them, etc) leads to the conclusion that these tunes mayactually go back to the tunes used in the Temple! (or perhaps even further back...) the rest of the story is that some of the earliest Christian chants ALSO have melodies like them. Wow, think of it. THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF MUSIC TO THE GLORY OF GOD.

David, as we know, was not exactly the most splendid figure one might want as a king. God told him he would not build the Temple, because he had "bloody hands" - though he did bring peace to Israel. Remember, too, when you hear the genealogy read, that dirty little phrase about "David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. If you don't know that story you need to read it.

Nevertheless: "son of David" was Joseph's "trump card" in his hopeless search for shelter that first Christmas Eve, when he returned to the town of David on Tax Day... And later Jesus would turn quickly, with love, when someone called Him "Son of David!"

Then there is that mysterious symbol, the traditional one from the Jesse Tree, of blue interlocked equilateral triangles, called the "Star of David"... How strange the mathematics of the perfect number six! (But I cannot stop to ponder all that now.) For here, as God promised through the mouth of Nathan, was the next phrase of the great prophesy: From David himself would come forth the ruler whose throne would be established forever. And the symbol reveals the secret: the trinity of earth would be inverted, and combined with the heavenly Trinity, in One who would be David's offspring. Here is GKC, saying it, far better than I can:
If we are not of those who begin by invoking a divine Trinity, we must none the less invoke a human Trinity; and see that triangle repeated everywhere in the pattern of the world. For the highest event in history, to which all history looks forward and leads up, is only something that is at once the reversal and the renewal of that triangle. Or rather it is the one triangle superimposed so as to intersect the other, making a sacred pentacle of which, in a mightier sense than that of the magicians, the fiends are afraid. The old Trinity was of father and mother and child and is called the human family. The new is of child and mother and father and has the name of the Holy Family. It is in no way altered except in being entirely reversed; just as the world which is transformed was not in the least different, except in being turned upside-down.
[GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:186-187]

PS: it is fun and rather easy to make a Star of David with a compass and a ruler.

Before you start, two notes: don't change the compass size while you work. Also, do all the compass work lightly, so you can erase it. (We call that construction work.) The ruler part is the final part, and you can make that in ink when you are done.

1. Draw an outer circle, as big as you want the star to be. (lightly!)
2. Put the point down anywhere on the circle, and swing the pencil so it crosses the circle, marking the two places where it crosses. (do that lightly!) You can mark your starting place #1 (where you put the point down), and the two crossings #2 and #3.
3. Go to each of the places (#2 and #3) you marked, and repeat step 2. If you are watching carefully, you should TWICE mark off the place you labelled #1 - once from each of the two older marks. You will get two NEW marks, which you label #4 and #5.
4. Again go to the the two new markings (#4 and #5), and swing again. If you were careful, they should mark the exact same point, (label it #6) on the opposite side of the circle from your start. When you swing the compass, you will also mark #2 and #3, but you already have done them.
5. Check it - you should now have six points, in pairs at diameters (check with the ruler!) if you want.
6. Now, join the points according to the shape in the above picture. You're going to join 1, 4, 5 together (that's one triangle) and then 2, 3, 6 (that's the other.)

All done.

martedì, dicembre 09, 2014

Advent: Week 2 Day 3

The Burning Bush

What? Obviously, this picture ought to come BEFORE the Passover/Exodus. I must have gotten them out of order. Well, that's OK, we'll fix it when we put them up put next year.

High up on a mountain, Moses sees something very strange: a bush on fire - but the bush is not consumed by the fire! Then he hears the voice:

"Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. ... I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob."

(And in our gospel-tuned minds, we hear that Carpenter's Son, demolishing the famous "seven brothers" riddle of the Sadducees: "And as for the resurrection, He is NOT the God of the dead, but the God of the living! You are very much mistaken.")

Behold! Here is a great revelation: Not "I was the God..." but "I amthe God..." Sure, there's a pun, as God knows exactly what Moses is about to ask ("When they ask, who sent me, what am I to tell them?") And God is setting up the most amazing joke of all, as he blows away all the silly philosophers (like Hamlet) who dabble in the discussion of non-being. ("Tell them, 'I AM' sent you.") And some three thousand years later, there still are philosophers who don't get the joke. Oh, you're bothered by my bringing up jokes at such a serious moment? Too bad. Here's Chesterton on that:
...we shall never understand the French until we understand that this wit of theirs is not mere wit, as we mean the word. In fact, this can be very simply seen by noticing the connotation of the word for wit in the two languages. What we call wit they callesprit - spirit. When they want to call a man witty, they call himspirituel. They actually use the same word for wit which they use for the Holy Ghost.
[GKC Lunacy and Letters 84]
Ahem! To resume:

We should here recall that some other writer (I forget whom) hints that the bush-that-burns-without-being-consumed is a "type" for Mary, who would conceive and bear a son while remaining a virgin. Of course there are other connections which I am sure will not be lost on those who are following our little Jesse-stations through Advent.

First, the one God Himself hints at: Abraham and Isaac! (Go back and look for that picture.) But here, we see the Sacrifice-Who-Is-Also-The-Priest - for the Bush and the Fire are one, as they will be on Calvary.

There is also the prefiguring of the Pillar of Fire (now we see my mixup has been fortuitous!) which will lead the Israelites through the night away from Egypt: here Moses sees, as it were, the flames of all the centuries of Paschal candles: the Light Eternal Who is God (as John wrote in the first chapter of his Gospel, and as we declare in the Creed: "God from God, light from light, true God from true God") yet also physical light (Yes: E = hn - the first of all created beings - see the first of these images!) It was the light of the bush, after all, which beckoned to Moses, demonstrating light as a fundamental means of communication (Shall we not then add: "Fiber optics and lasers, praise the Lord, give glory and eternal praise to Him.")

But we also see the Tree: the wood of man's defeat shall become the Cross of victory. [See the Preface of the Holy Cross] Do you know that the devils in Hell fear the Cross? It was the sign of their defeat. And look! How strange. There it is, on our computer keyboards! Will someone someday protest as they did about its appearance on the soles of hiking boots? Will they also try to depose the ampersand which holds the same allusion (a fancy script of the Latin et = "and"), and perhaps one day the letter "T" itself? But how strange is the mystery alluded to by these symbols, for the plus-sign which unites in addition is indeed a token of the Cross, which links again heaven to earth - that mightiest of all bridges. It was without doubt an inspired wisdom of Pagan Rome that gave their high priest the name "Pontifex Maximus" - the Greatest Bridge-Builder". (And now this is a title of the Pope.)

Finally, with this talk of the bridge (a burning bridge?) it calls to my mind Jacob's Ladder, but seen, as it were, head-on, so that not the passageway, but its destination, is made visible.