These are to be found at the house of one of those on my “shut-ins” list. As it is, all the best flowers I can get for the Immaculate Conception happen to be at the houses of those on my “shut ins” list. Now, why is that?
These are to be found at the house of one of those on my “shut-ins” list. As it is, all the best flowers I can get for the Immaculate Conception happen to be at the houses of those on my “shut ins” list. Now, why is that?
I hope I don’t get sued. It’s just my opinion. Free speech don’t you know.
Look, I know someone who was the head of security for a casino under the umbrella of Caesars, that is, number two to the owner. That one had been a special operator for the Department of Defense and in intelligence for that person’s branch of military service. A nice person, but even with that resume, simply not capable of the kind of analysis that needs to be done to prevent such attacks.
“What’s it like to be that unfeeling, that evil? Complete disregard for innocent lives. I’ll have to ask a Muslim someday.“
That’s the ignorant comment of someone on a news story about the shooting.
If we cannot admit that we ourselves could commit any sin, any crime, then we cannot admit that we are guilty through original sin and our own sin of the torturing to death of the Son of the Living God, who stood in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, taking in the death we deserve, the worst we can give out, death, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Creating us with free will and then, when we messed up, redeeming us with mercy founded on justice makes the forgiveness credible, majestic. Humility dissipates cynicism, bitterness.
If we do not accept that, we give ourselves a licence to kill. Anyone who says that he’s better than someone else is giving himself a licence to kill. Do you think you’re better than Stephen Paddock? You would never do what he did? Given the life circumstances and being without the grace of God you would. So would we all. There but for the grace of God…
The shooter’s motive? Look in yourself. Look at the wounds on the Son of the Living God who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.
Example One: Before beginning the Genesis project, I made brave and asked my guardian angel if it were possible to figure out the mechanism of the transmission of original sin by propagation instead of by imitation using the most ferociously pedantic scientific historical philological examination of the ancient texts to date, and thus giving honor to the Immaculate Conception, showing how she is that woman, the mother of the redeemer, in Genesis 3:15. There was no verbal answer, but I must say I did take note of the weight of the glory of God in all my darkness, feeling terribly unworthy but that it is possible, but I had better make my number one objective in the present to be the tiniest little child, following Jesus, with the rest falling into place. In other words, the answer wasn’t about the future, it was about what is happening starting now if only I would remain in reverence before Jesus.
Example Two: I’ve told this story many times before, but it is ad rem, to the point. This happened in the Summer of 2010 on Highway 65 between Lebanon and Indianapolis, Indiana, on the way back to the Josephinum from an Extraordinary Form practicum up in Mundelein. As usual, for the hundred millionth time over the space of very many years, I was asking my guardian angel to assist me in having the same reverence before God as he did, it being that he sees the face of God and I don’t. What I was asking was incorrect theologically, impossible in reality, and simply a rejection of the present economy of salvation. He answered me while I was driving. It didn’t cause an accident though I did want to drop to my knees should that have been possible in a car while wearing a seat belt. It’s not that I heard words at all, but the communication was crystal clear, full of irony, full of humility on his part, full of putting me in my place, but with the most tender solicitation for my welfare. John of the Cross may well be annoyed with such events, but they do happen, and he admits that, adding, however, that this is usually done for souls who are so weak and such asses that they need this extra help. This was his answer:
“I’m an angel. You’re not an angel. I see the face of God directly. You don’t. I’m to have the reverence before God that I am to have as an angel. You will never have this kind of reverence before God that I do. I’m an angel. You’re not. [Sounds pretty dire, right? But watch what happens now…] You’re to have the kind of reverence before God that you are supposed to have, and which I will never have, because you are a human being, but I’m not. I see the Most Holy Trinity directly, but right now, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you are to see God the Father, but through, with and in Jesus, for you are a member of His Body of which He is the Head. He sees the Father for you, for you one with Him by grace. This is the kind of reverence you are to have before God, a reverence you can have but I cannot ever have, for you are a human being and I am not.”
As you might imagine, my response, first stunned, then full of joy, then laughing with glee, was this:
“So, O.K. Guardian Angel, therefore, help me to have the kind of reverence before God that I am to have, through, with and in Jesus, for you see the face of God in heaven right now, and I’m so weak in walking with Jesus who sees the Father for me. You are strong and I’m not. Help me to live the reverence I’m to have in humble thanksgiving.”
I’ve told that story to plenty of skeptical theologians, you know, that my guardian angel told me something, and they are eager to hear the story so as to pounce on me for being an idiot visionary. And then as they listen you can see them turn right around and finally say, “Well, yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly what you should do.” What they were impressed with is that it was just so normal. Nothing esoteric, nothing gnostic, no new revelation. Just. Normal. Logical.
Remember Mary’s meeting with Gabriel. Joseph’s meeting with the angel. Zechariah’s meeting with the angel. Remember that Jesus said he could call on more than twelve legions of angels to assist Him in Gethsemane (well over 60,000 angels), but did not. And remember that just one angel can in one night take out 185,000 soldiers. Just one.
You’ll have to excuse me. I didn’t actually talk to much about the angels or archangels today, but rather followed the Gospel, which is always a good idea. I talk about figs, of all things. But you’ll be surprised that this is the key to being open to work of the holy angels in our lives. This is the key to understanding the exclamation of Nathaniel about Jesus and the exclamation of Jesus about Nathaniel. Humility brings us purity of heart and agility of soul. Both are necessary when dealing with the holy angels.
A parishioner brought this to me the other day. The flowers are on the medal, twelve roses, rather significant. It reminds me, for obvious reasons, of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa. More flowers for the Immaculate Conception:
We read about the love of God for the soul in the Book of the Song of Songs 1:5-6:
“I am black and beautiful. […] Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has regarded me.”
Even more, recall the analogy of Saint John of the Cross about the soul looking into brilliance of the Most Holy Trinity, with that vision being dark just as one who looks into the sun will be blind. The sun is still there with warmth and light, God is still there with fiery ardent love.
In these days of non-sense attention given to pigmentation, this Jewish “white boy” Catholic priest says about his own soul — “I am black but beautiful” — which is what anyone whomsoever can say who follows the admonition of Saint Peter (1 Peter 3:15):
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
The Immaculate Conception was always free from both original sin and personal sin, and yet no one knew more deeply and with more gratitude that she herself was redeemed by our Lord Jesus, her Son, so that that would be the case for her. The fiery ardent brightness of God shone upon her and she bears the effect of fiery grace upon her soul, standing transformed in grace from the first instant of her conception.
But we can be humbly thankful as well. Yes. Amen.
There was a question on the blog a while back as to whether we can ever approach Jesus as God and Friend but not keeping in mind so much that He is also our Savior, even while not at all denying in any way that Jesus is objectively God and Friend and Savior. The question is more about, it seems to me, whether or not, subjectively, an emphasis can be put on Jesus as a Divine Friend, fearing that that might be off the rails.
Giving a short answer at the time, I think I said that as a tiny little kid of say two or three years old and just learning how to pray, I might not have been paying too much attention to the redemptive action of God’s Divine Son among us, and more that God was looking down upon me from heaven.
To be more specific – I remember this well – I was directly, immediately aware, as it were, that I was God’s tiny little boy, so that the emphasis is on a filial relationship with God, God in all His majesty, mind you, but God who to whom I belonged as a son, not just His creature, that too, but with a bond of love. From time to time we hear people say that their mom or dad or both are best friends as well. With God, a filial relationship is not not exclusive of friendship but necessitates that friendship: God is interested with and wants to be involved with everything we do so that we walk in His presence.
But even as a tiny little kid, I knew there was more, both in learning how to pray always (not that I have prayed always!), and in my own priestly vocation experience at 2 and a 1/2 years old – as clear to me today as it was then: God needs to work with me and others because we are inadequate in our response to His gracious good and kind love in all truth. As I’ve described at length elsewhere, this was part and parcel of my vocation, with an emphasis on the fact that priests in particular need help. And we do.
As time went on I began to get to know what Saint John speaks about in the Apocalypse, His seeing Jesus as a Lamb with the wounds of slaughter upon Him (so that He should be dead) but standing (and so gloriously risen from the dead). In other words, He is divine, He is our friend (as He Himself called us), but He is always wanting to reveal to us the full extent of His love in all truth to us. This is not a punishment, an incrimination, but always and even in heaven an invitation to rejoice in this love in truth all the more. Think on that. Not an incrimination. Not setting us back on our heals. But rather an invitation to rejoice in goodness and kindness. Remember Thomas reaching his hand into the side of Jesus, in which case it is not possible except to touch the still pierced open Heart of Jesus: “My Lord and my God…” This is not a dumbing down of the divinity and friendship put before us, but a lifting of us into that friendship right into the life of the Most Holy Trinity, always through, with and in Jesus, we made by the Holy Spirit to be members of His Mystical Body.
When we touch the pierced Heart of Jesus, how can we not share the greatest love of our lives with others? I think that humble thanksgiving in all rejoicing is always the Way to go. This is reality. I cannot imagine any other way. All praise to the divine Heart which wrought our Salvation. Amen.
Father, I had dinner with a new […] Priest last night. I asked him what one thing surprised him the most about being a Priest, and he replied “the loneliness.” [Picking that one thing, meaning that it’s among other things and stands out as the most important among all things, and that he’s come to this point so soon, and that he’s telling you, a layman, is rather revelatory, or not. See below]. I felt very saddened by this as I listened. [Since I’m not privy to that, the meaning is wide open.] It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that I could (should?) have asked him what the faithful might do to help dispel hid loneliness. [If they could and would is extremely unlikely. It can happen, but… See later comments.] I had no presence of mind. [See “if they could or would” above, which is not the layman’s fault. Don’t beat yourself up.]
Anyway, I once asked you about approaching a Priest in regard to Confession (his personal practice) and you gave me very good advice on how NOT to go about it – thank you. So I now ask you (and for the benefit of other members of the laity who may read our exchange): What can the laity do to combat/prevent a Priest’s loneliness? [Hmmm….] What might the signs be? [Real loneliness is frustration because of wrongheadedness about expectations, a frustration, even worse, cut off from any hand up, giving up looking for a hand up because… of ever so predictable unrepeatable circumstances when that certain wrongheadedness prevails.]
I have read, somewhere, that this is a common malady [absolutely true among, say, military chaplains who are constantly changing assignments to places where no one speaks any language you could possibly learn with any speed, with no other priests around even for very extended periods of time. Lots of alcoholism], but it did not register as anything I should trouble myself about until I heard the sad words from a Priest’s mouth for myself. Please advise us.
The short answer is one you already know: the harder you try with banalities the more you will fail. I can’t remember if it’s the story of Blessed Charles Eugène de Foucauld, when he was still a knucklehead party boy and not a yet someone who knows Christ, that the more of a party boy he was, the more knuckleheads around him, the more he wanted to go and commit suicide. The answer isn’t smothering someone with attention and company and keeping someone busy and involved blah blah blah. All of that merely intensifies loneliness, reinforcing the impression that the loneliness cannot be escaped through circumstances we can control, doing this or doing that. And that’s when escapes become self-destructive, like the alcoholism thing.
There is a longer answer. But it asks more questions. First of all, I think that most all priests have no idea what they are saying when they say they are lonely:
In other words, we’re pretty complex. Just one other good priest, saintly priest, is a boon in any priests life. I’ve been in dioceses around the world where one would wonder if there is even one good priest who is best friends with Jesus, and then I would meet a saintly fantastic priest suffering there. Great! In the diocese where I am, so very many dozens of priests are really good priests, really good, with some real saints, with others really wanting to make progress (and that’s really really good).
I’m trying to wrack my brains to find a time when I was truly lonely. There have been some very tough times in my life, like hell, truly, like hell, wow, real suffering, and from priests, for years. But nothing that would fit the hopelessness of the worst scenario of real loneliness above. And I guess that’s the key, having hope. Hope isn’t just about the future, it’s about a future which is already tied to one right now. Grace turns to glory, as Saint Paul says. We already have one foot in heaven. We walk at risk of going to hell, and yet walk in the presence of the living God, with an angel guardian who sees the face of God in heaven right now. Of this I am and have always been absolutely convinced, that is, about the angels. Their wit and humor and mirth and love and justice and IRONY is unstoppable and does not in the least tolerate any loneliness. Never! How can one be truly lonely with such love and goodness and kindness and friendship at all times and in non-stop solidarity?
So, a bit of discernment, a bit of spiritual direction from a good fellow priest would be good. Priests themselves speaking to each other about the spiritual realities of being an alter Christus, of acting in the person of Christ, speaking of the experience of the Holy Spirit when preaching, speaking of the dynamics of the family of faith from the point of view of being a priest with Jesus… these are all things that only priests can do together. If the laity were to help out their priests when they see him withdraw, becoming distant, whatever — you’ll know it when you see it — hey! Why not arrange, if it is a big enough parish, for priest get-togethers, which the laity put on for the priests, maybe doing the barbecue or supplying what’s needed and letting them alone? In one diocese there were 40 Hours celebrations, which would be staggered on different weekends, ending Sunday evenings. All priests are invited to the meal after. Really nice. Good priests can get to know each other. This is extremely helpful.
Perhaps this sounds a bit mean, exclusive, you know, “good” priests and all that. What about the liberal ones, who deny doctrines and morals of the Church? Let me be the prophet and say that once those good priests get to know each other and get the plot, as it were, really understand, they will naturally want to invite the liberal crowd so as to bring them over to the side of Christ. This is how it works.
Loneliness, real loneliness, in not acceptable, not for one second, ever. Amen.
Missionary of Mercy Divine Mercy Box donation
For those I see to be in need. To increase amount change times $5.00 is charged.
On the top of the obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square (the obelisk which had in fact marked the spot where Peter himself was crucified), one will find a cross. The cross is placed there to demonstrate that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered the pagan Pelagianesque Promethean idiocy of Satan and his followers. Jesus, having been killed in the battle even as He broke the power of Satan, is now the last one standing, bearing the wounds of slaughter upon Himself, but standing, risen from the dead, as John sees Him in his vision reported in the Apocalypse.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah looks ever so much like Satan, who, like a lion, is ever on the prowl for the destruction of souls. The bronze serpent held up by Moses looked ever so much like the saraph serpents that were killing the children of Israel in the desert. Jesus looks ever so much like the guilty sons of Adam as He hangs on the cross.
But I’ll tell you this, the smirk I see on the face of Jesus below is the same smirk I see in the picture of the lion above. Jesus means to make us conquer with Him. He’ll bring us through it. He sees what “it” is. We don’t. Thank goodness. We just have to look to Him, follow Him as we shoulder that cross without looking at it. I mean, look at that smirk:
We can ask Jesus to get over ourselves, that we not take ourselves and our weakness and darkness and temptation and feeling a million miles away and left behind so seriously. Jesus takes us seriously. He wants us to take HIM seriously. Take up that cross, He commands us, but… but… BUT… Come follow me! He commands us. It’s about Jesus, not about us whimpering about ourselves. When we stop being preoccupied with what we think of ourselves we might just see Him working in our souls; we might just begin to have the joy of the Holy Spirit in seeing that Jesus’ love is stronger than our weakness, stronger that our temptations, stronger than our thinking we’re a million miles away and left behind, stronger than death. All that rubbish is what He came to save us from, which we brought on ourselves in original sin and whatever else we might have done. He forgives. Really, He does. He loves us.
No more mind games of Satan! Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered!
O.K., O.K., I’ll have to start putting up my exorcism series once again…
P.S. I recorded my homily yesterday, but didn’t put it up because, alas, I didn’t actually record it: I’ll have to get to know the recorder a bit better to use it with ease! Maybe today I’ll be able to do it. It makes me try to be better. That’s a good thing I’m sure.
P.S. Oh! Did Saint Helen actually find the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Yes, she did. I did some pretty heavy research and investigation when I lived in Jerusalem. Beyond a shadow of any doubt, yes, she found it, and we have it. Maybe I’ll be able to write on that later today.
It’s not that John, the greatest of prophets, didn’t have to learn anything:
And with that, John, not taking himself seriously, faced his death with joy, dancing for joy as much as he could in his chains, in a dungeon. Perhaps you dance like John?
Meanwhile, we build shrines to the saints (like this post), not to say that we wouldn’t have handed the sword to the soldier of Herod who cut off John’s head, for we would all do that given the circumstances and our own idiocy, but rather to say that, with God’s grace, of which they spoke, we can repent of our celebrations of the ways of this world and learn to rejoice, to dance for joy, to leap for joy at the presence of the Lord Jesus in our lives. Perhaps you dance like this with Jesus…
I dance like a donkey. I admit that we might be a bit dour when we start on this epic spiritual journey, playing the part of the ass of a donkey, so to speak, still taking ourselves a bit too seriously, but then we are introduced little by little to the joy of recognizing the presence of the Lord Jesus with us, and then we also dance for joy, even helping others to do the same. A good friend saw this donkey the other day and couldn’t resist getting it for me, donkey that I am… Ha ha ha…
Meanwhile, I’m sure that Saint John Vianney’s condemnation of the ludicrous dancing in Ars won’t come my way for me being happy to dance for joy in the Lord no matter what. The patron saint of priests, for the dedication of the Baptist’s chapel in his little parish church quipped that “John lost his head for a dance”. Sure. But there are different kinds of dancing. John was also happy to dance with abandon before the Lord, as did David. There’s a long and happy tradition of dancing in Judeo-Catholic life.
It is said by the students of the Tilma that Our Lady of Guadalupe is dancing. Perhaps you dance like Jesus’ good mom:
Even Laudie-dog, Break-dance-dog, demonstrates her joy. Perhaps you dance like Laudie-dog:
Look… Really…. JOY no matter what…
So, there I was, sitting in a chair, head back, eclipse glasses on, staring at the moon crossing the sun, with Laudie-dog trying to get my attention. So, I took a number of pictures of her, including this one. Mind you, she is not blind, this moment was just a millionth of a nano-second in length in which I somehow managed to take the picture just as she also looked up just before totality. She wasn’t just imitating me; she was trying to tell me that something weird was going on, like, um, me sitting and staring at the sun, because, how dumb is that, right?
During totality, Laudie dog was shaking with fear. But the shaking wasn’t, mind you, in fear of the celestial events. Rather, the town of Andrews was playing super weird spooky music even while others were shooting off fire-works. Laudie dog has no liking for that activity. Anyway, here’s the totality to my naked eye (and naked camera):
I loved going to the planetarium in the Twin Cities as a kid. It’s totally different when you see things happening in front of you. When the moon started blocking the sun, the first thought that came into my mind and heart and soul was: “God exists! God is so very wonderful! God loves us!”
But this wasn’t just an intellectual thing. I suppose people will make fun of me for saying this, but this was a spiritual event for me, very very very peaceful. By that I mean something beyond Saint Paul’s chapter one of his letter to the Romans. All creation speaks of the glory of God, yes! But more… It was as if Jesus was with me watching the eclipse, which, although He is creating that eclipse, although He is creating me, He can come in His wonderfully condescending love (in the absolutely best sense) and be in His own creation (He is incarnate!). And, by the way, He can also give a flower to the Immaculate Conception.
Meanwhile, with the crescent sun a thought came to mind about the crescent moon and Islam.
While I was studying the Syrian language I came across a cultural tid-bit well known to every Muslim in that part of the world but not to someone like me from the North woods of Minnesota: the moon is a man, enlightening in difficult circumstances, helpful and kind, never threatening, even while the sun is a woman, always threatening, burning, hurtful, unrelentingly cruel. During a solar eclipse, the moon beats down the sun. The phases of the moon are actually just the sun trying to escape on the other side of the earth. Once in a while the moon hunts down the sun and shows the sun who is boss. The crescent moon is lifted up above every mosque/cultural center. The meteor rock in mecca is part of the moon come to earth, right? In that part of the world, the received mythology treated various celestial bodies as the gods, that is, the sons and daughters of the original deities which progressively became more material as time went on.
Meanwhile, the woman clothed with the sun in the Apocalypse (and our Lady of Guadalupe) has the crescent moon under her feet. Heh heh heh.
When we hear the parable of the pearl of great price, you know, the one that the merchant sees and sells everything he has so that he can purchase it, and that’s like the Kingdom of Heaven, at least I am tempted to think that that’s me, or should be, you know, the merchant who finds the pearl of great price and sells everything he has to get it. But imagine that for a second: sell your car, your house, your computer, everything. Well then, now I know that that’s not me at all. I’m so bad at all this that if I see such a pearl it’s just as likely to be me looking at a dead spider. Then I think I could never be the merchant. Wait a minute….
Jesus is the merchant of the Kingdom of Heaven who buys me, the pearl, at the great price of Himself. He sees who I can be in His grace by redemption and salvation. I may be like the dead spider above, but He makes me who He wants by His grace. Thank you, Jesus.
Ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ (Mt 11:25) – Let’s see… Is that, “I praise you, Father…” No, no. How about “I thank you”? Or “I confess you”? Or “I profess you”? No, no, no. It’s more like “I am intensely in agreement with you, Father.” Quite literally: “I am being one Word with you, Father.” One Word, The Word of the Father, now Incarnate, with the darkness finally grasping at the Light on the Cross (see John’s Prologue) because of His walking among us until we walk Him to the Cross.
“Father, Lord of heaven and earth: you have hidden these things from the sophisticated and the clever and uncovered these things to mere infants.”
Back in 1990 Cardinal Ratzinger gave a conference to the bishops of the United States down in Texas. In my opinion, which I shared with him in our exchange about my thesis back in September of 2008, this was perhaps his most significant theological / anthropological intervention of his life. He spoke of two memories that we carry with us in our souls, weighing upon us with all the glory of God, whether we realize it or not:
The great theologian said that we don’t move from the memory of what is pristine to the memory of what our Lord has done for us, but rather, go in reverse, necessarily, our Lord taking us by the hand and guiding us to be in touch with the Heart that would make what is pristine one with the Most Holy Trinity, through Him, with Him, in Him.
We are all cowardly and nervous before our weakness consequent to original sin. The sophisticated and clever condemned by our Lord reject His Truth and His love and entrench in rationalizing their being of one word, as it were, with the world, the flesh and the devil. Those who are mere infants don’t trust in their own strength they know they don’t have, but rather allow themselves to be drawn to Him while He is lifted up on the Cross (see John 12:32), gaining the memory of what He has done for us at the Last Supper (given for in sacrifice… poured out for you in sacrifice), and thus gaining not only the memory of whatever pristine being renewed, but so much more in being made one with the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception.
On a personal note, today, I don’t know why, but I am utterly blown away by Jesus “being one Word with the Father” and us being one with Jesus… and… oh my… with the Father.
Here’s the statue of Mary in front of Holy Redeemer Church. Colossians 3:3…
The NAB translates: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
That’s nice. But the KJV is better: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
But let’s just go for a more up-to-date utterly troublesome and annoying, jarring literal translation of the without-borders of tense called aorist: “For you are being dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
This is not morbid. And that this life in Christ having us being dead to the world is not morbid is itself a truth that has almost entirely escaped us; the exhilarating life of Christ escapes us because we, without Christ, are just so very much six feet under dead even while we are alive in this world. The life of Christ within us is necessarily hid in all it’s brilliance and glory because this fallen world just has no way of taking in any of the greatness of that most awesome love and goodness and kindness and… and… living Truth.
No one was more alive to God and dead to this world that Mary. I love this little statue of Mary so very hidden among the flowers that Jesus had created for the Immaculate Conception.
Long time readers know that I’ve put up a gabillion Flowers for the Immaculate Conception, flowers that I see here at the rectory, at church, at the hermitage, “picked” wherever I happen to be, always at the ready to pick flowers for Jesus’ good mom.
But that doesn’t mean I know anything about flowers. I certainly don’t have a green thumb. If it were left up to me, all flowers would die with too much or not enough sun, over or under or irregular watering or fertilizing, weeding out the flowers and mystified as to why only weeds grow, you know, that kind of thing.
One gracious reader sent in a bare roots in the box Florabunda Guadalupe Rose which I planted according to instructions after soaking for a few days. After a some months it burst into a zillion roses all at once, and then those disappeared and the leaves stopped growing and I thought that I had done it again, another dead plant.
But, all of a sudden, the other week, I saw new growth in the leaves. Great, thought I, a second life. Then I saw the rose pictured above. I went out to take this picture and saw that the bush had another gatrillion buds ready to explode into flowers next to the little “grotto” of Our Lady. It’s like a lull in between fire works on the 4th of July. All quiet, all dark, and then… Wow!
This is also how things can be in the spiritual life, so much so that we can come to know what Saint Paul means when he says:
I know indeed how (1) to live in humble circumstances; I know also how (2) to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret (2) of being well fed and (1) of going hungry, (2) of living in abundance and (1) of being in need. (Philippians 4:12)
Notice that he throws around the order of the circumstances. We usually say that we know how to put up with good circumstances and even… and even… difficult circumstances. He reverses that order and emphasis: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance.” Outrageous, that.
And then he throws it out the other way, twice, just to make sure that we get the right idea that stability, security, constancy in friendship with our Lord doesn’t depend on some sort of determination we have, but rather depends on the love our Lord holds us in. And that, in itself, is a Flower for the Immaculate Conception, she who stood next to our Lord in bad times and good, and good times and bad, and good times in bad.
Thank you Jesus. Thank you Mary.
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
[[Analysis of the lyrics: It strikes me that there is an analogy with the parable of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish in Matthew 25:1-13, the latter of whom think they can buy that lamp-oil of God’s grace, that idiocy acting as a foil by which to interpret Genesis 2:4–3:24 in view of Jacob’s ladder (see Genesis 11:1-9), etc. Most probably the writer for Led Zeppelin meant something totally different, but I’m happy to have my own imagination. Lighten up. :¬) Anyway, this is a desperately melancholy ballad. And, by the way, the second of the two paintings in the video above (the one you also see before starting the video) is in the exact same style as a mural painted in my Catholic high school back in the day.]]
There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold [[ In other words, a soul totally spaced out narcissistic idiot utterly given over to peripheral, unimportant, sensory overloading. ]]
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven. [[She’s so very special in her own eyes that she’s even her own redeemer. She can buy anything, even a stairway to heaven.]]
When she gets there [[the stairway store!]] she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for. [[Sure she can! Riiiiiiggghhht!]]
Ooh ooh and she’s buying a stairway to heaven. [[Soooo melancholic.]]
There’s a sign on the wall [[Iesu Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum]]
But she wants to be sure [[One can never have certainty when one remains on the level of mind games, which insist that words can have two meanings.]]
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings. [[Satan, a liar and murderer from the beginning brings that about.]]
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings, [[[The Tree of the Living Ones with the fruit of everlasting life, from whom springs living water, see John 4:14, with that songbird of the second creation at the redemption already having been mentioned at the first creation hovering over the waters, see Genesis 1:2.]]
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven. [[But even given that, we are so very weak after original sin and our thoughts become confused with nervous rationalization and attempts at self-redemption.]]
Ooh, it makes me wonder, [[overthinking it, falling into counting on oneself?]]
Ooh, it makes me wonder. [[uh-oh… overthinking it…]]
There’s a feeling I get [[“feeling”]]
When I look to the west, [[Adam and his wife leave from from East of the Garden, in other words, they are looking toward the West in driven out.]]
And my spirit is crying for leaving. [[The Paradise aspect of the Garden.]]
In my thoughts I have seen [[perhaps now for metanoia?]]
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking. [[The cherubim with their sword of fire for our conversion protecting the Tree of the Living Ones amidst the other trees.]]
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder. [[So, still overthinking at this point? Falling into the mind game thing? Ready to fall? We are so weak after original sin.]]
And it’s whispered that soon, [[Adam’s sin and judgment against it.]] If we all call the tune [[We’re in control! We can “call” it! Self-redemption! Here, original sin has paved the way for our own sin.]]
Then the piper will lead us to reason. [[Because – Hey! – the Piper (Pan, the Demon of all demons, the Ancient Dragon, Satan) can have us continue mind games of “reason” by which he was able to deceive Adam and his wife! But, of course, reason over against obedience to God in heaven is not reasonable while love in obedience to God in heaven makes it all reasonable.]]
And a new day will dawn [[the New Adam, the Redeemer promised in Genesis 3:15]]
For those who stand long [[“Stand”, that is, not following after the piper.]]
And the forests will echo with laughter. [[That’s all of us in scriptural symbolism; also, all of creation awaits with eager expectation of the revelation of the sons of God: see Romans 8:19.]]
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, [[the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Virgin Mary.]]
Don’t be alarmed now, [[Saint Gabriel to Mary: Luke 1:29-30]]
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen. [[The Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer.]]
Yes, there are two paths you can go by [[that is, now that the Redeemer has come: that of the Tree of the Living Ones with the gift of enmity over against Satan, or that of the Tree of Knowing good admixed with evil.]]
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on. [[That’s true, avoiding presumption, or also repenting from that presumption. This announces continued belligerent sin, but, also, possibly, final repentance.]]
And it makes me wonder. [[Still overthinking it? Still subject to the consequences of original sin, particularly being subject to the mind games of Satan, still being tempted to those mind games. Thus:]]
Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him, [[As long as we are in the world, the prince of this world, the prince of darkness, Satan is after us, enticing us with his mind games.]]
Dear lady [[not the May queen, not the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer, but the soul still unfortunately looking to redeem itself.]], can you hear the wind blow, [[a wonderful reference to Genesis 3:8 when God approaches to announce judgment against Satan and also the redemption to come.]]
And did you know [[a bit of most wonderful irony is now to be stated:]]
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind. [[Again, Genesis 3:8; and the stairway is the Divine Son of the Mother of the Redeemer (see Jacob’s ladder, Genesis 28:11-22, and, directly in reference to Jesus, John 1:51); however, He is a stairway that cannot be bought.]]
And as we wind on down the road [[uh-oh… which one of the two?]]
Our shadows taller than our soul. [[The road of evil has been chosen, going away from the light, with all becoming darker. Can the soul come back: “In the long run there’s still time to change”?]]
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light [[the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer who provides her Divine Son to us with that enmity, that grace, that “white light.” But, more intense irony here:]] and wants to show
How ev’rything still turns to gold. [[“Still”, that is, not in the same way in which one started, but the redemption turning our sin into an occasion for receiving new life, heaven, as Saint Augustine says: “O felix culpa! Oh happy fault!]]
And if you listen very hard [[That is, receptive, not attempting to redeem oneself, but receiving the new heavenly music.]]
The tune will come to you at last. [[This is in utter contrast with the music of the “piper” which, instead, harasses and is seemingly inescapable: “Your head is humming and it won’t go.” This new tune, starting from that discordant note – as pointed out by Ven. Archbishop Fulton J Sheen – brings all into harmony.]]
When all are one and one is all [[see 1 Corinthians 15:28]]
To be a rock and not to roll. [[see, e.g., Numbers 20:11; Psalm 18:32, 73:26; John 7:37, 19:34; 1 Corinthians 10:4… Christ is the rock (ubiquitous bedrock), we are finally one with Him, so, moving down the wrong path is not the choice to make, though it can still be made.]]
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven. [[Sooo melancholic. Still sin. Still thinking oneself to be in control even of one’s own redemption. This is the temptation of the soul after being tossed from the paradise aspect of the garden, thinking we can simply reach out our hand to grasp at the fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones as we think that then, by our actions, we will redeem ourselves and live forever; see Genesis 3:22. No. Doesn’t work that way. But, in this song there is hope held out to the soul if the soul will listen: “But in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.]]
So, there we have it, my imagination about the lyrics. As I say, I enjoy having an imagination. :¬) One thing, however, which I try to avoid at all costs, is to have any imagination which it comes to the interpretation of Scripture. In that case, no novelty, nothing new, only that which is ever ancient, ever new.
Make the analogy with this ecclesia militans, with each united to the One Warrior, Mary’s Divine Son, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace. Go to Confession. Go to Communion. The Church must win this war. Fight as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on you alone because you are one with the One Warrior. Act in His goodness, His kindness, His Truth. And be close, very close, to your guardian angel, who sees the face of the Most High, the Living God.
In hagiographical lore it is said that there was once a woman renowned far and wide for her captivating beauty and that Jesus appeared to a saint who was acquainted with her and asked him whether he thought that she was beautiful. He said that, yes, she was very beautiful. But our Lord was quick to disagree, and rather sharply, saying that she was quite ugly, she knowing nothing of the faith, she not living in grace, she not being a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. Then, some time later, after her conversion, our Lord again appeared to the same saint and asked the same question, but then answering it Himself, that now, yes, she was radiantly beautiful, for she now enjoyed the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity, it being this which made her beautiful.
“The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Meanwhile, the most beautiful of all, Immaculate Mary, free of all sin, radiant in sanctifying grace, said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49).
She knew that also she needed redemption to enjoy the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity from the first moment of her conception. There was no one more thankful than her. It is good also for us who are conceived in sin to now thank the Lord for the grace He provides to us:
“It is good to give thanks to Yahweh, to sing praise to your name, Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning, your faithfulness in the night” (Psalm 92:2-3).
The fiery Holy Spirit forms us to be members of the Body of Christ, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, so that we might see the Father through, with and in Jesus.
Now, one would think that it would be true that it would be easier for us to take note in some small way of Jesus’ enthusiastic love for us if we didn’t take ourselves so very seriously. And, yes, that will be true, in heaven. And the Holy Spirit may indeed grant that we take note of Jesus’ love for us in this way or that for a short or longer period of time, He knowing how to work with us, He being our spiritual director in all things in view of all the circumstances of our lives. O.K. But…
Here on this earth such outrageously wonderful results of taking better note of Jesus as we take ourselves less seriously may be an occasion for us to think that besides taking note of the power of the love of Jesus that is stronger than our weakness, stronger than our darkness, stronger than death, means also that we will automatically – in this world – be nicer, more balanced, more stable, less weak, less tempted, more whole, you know, nicer… apart from Jesus (thus taking ourselves more seriously than ever).
Instead, here’s how the general trajectory of the spiritual life works: the Holy Spirit opens up our eyes to whence Jesus called us, from hell, so that He might draw us across Calvary to Himself, we seeing while He is doing this all of hell broken out on Calvary, we seeing ever more clearly just how weak, unstable, tempted and shattered we are because of original sin and whatever of our own if we would be without His grace, and this, not so that we beat ourselves up, but so that we can take that knowledge and immediately turn to Jesus to thank Him humbly, we now knowing better what He has done for us, not giving us strength and all such good things apart from Him, but drawn up into His love and strength and goodness and kindness.
Jesus ferociously condemns the “I can see all on my own” attitude, and praises those who say that, without God, they are, of themselves, terribly blind and needy, again, not so as to emphasize themselves and beat themselves up and get depressed and despair, but rather as an occasion to be fired up in humble thanksgiving by the Holy Spirit. This is precisely where we find joy in the Holy Spirit. This is where we find mirth, for we then see that even our weakness and temptation and mind games are no match at all for the love of the Holy Spirit which ardently burns through all such nothingness, revealing to us a bit more how much love there is for us in the midst of the Most Holy Trinity.
From time to time gracious readers remind me of a couple videos of the outdoor Stations of the Cross I had made while living above Elijah’s cave on Mount Carmel. The stations feature quite a lot of grey. Heart wrenching, really…
The music / singing comes from the cave of Elijah, which fairly continuously acts as a stage for choirs both Jewish (often IDF) and Catholic.
Readers of this blog know that I am rather annoyed right now with a certain “Grey”[!] guy: ♬ring♬ His safety isn’t guaranteed. It’s your fault if he dies. Stop him. *click*
So, one reader, not only reminded me of the grey in the videos above, but, for the sake of lightening it up a bit, for the sake of a bit of humor, for the sake of seeing what happens to “Grey”[!] guys when they are subjected to the intercession of the Immaculate Conception, also sent a link into this ultra-cute video. I had to smile, and laugh:
Thanks go that gracious reader.