Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book & Blood

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Tonight we finished Revelations: Alpha & Omega, New Jerusalem, Wedding Feast of the Lamb; and jumped into the Mass. I start by drawing the Synagogue and the Temple. We review what happens in each place, their history, and who is in charge. In prior years, I'd say the Synagogue is for Reading, the Temple is for Offering, and a Catholic church is for Both. It's a good intro to the Mass, but hardly memorable.

But tonight after drawing the Temple, I impulsively added red-marker-blood out front to emphasize its sacrificial raison d'être. In doing so I careened into a pithier, catchier way of putting things:

Synagogue for Book.
Temple for Blood.
Church for Both.

Or as we'd say once the concepts were learned:

One for Book.
One for Blood.
One for Both.

I like that.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Babies & Metaphysics

This post links to Convert Journal

not appreciating the cosmicness of it all

I was at lunch with my father earlier this week, we were discussing a favorite subject: God. Somehow we got around to contraception, and that in neither of our marriages was there any contraception, natural or artificial. We reflected on how much less our marriages would be if we had contracepted, and why that was so. This led to me pinpointing when in my life I embraced the idea that God was completely interested in, and aware of, every hair on my head. That God loved me personally, infinitely and uniquely. Such that now, decades later, I accept it like I accept gravity: a done deal.

I was in my early 30s when my understanding of God-stuff and Science-stuff merged into just Stuff, my own Grand Unified Theory. That is, it seemed to me as though all knowledge pointed toward God, and that lumping it all together worked better than keeping it in separate boxes. On the science-side I was especially prodded by Einstein's wonderful equation E = mc². It essentially says that Energy and Mass are interchangeable. Einstein said Energy and Mass are "manifestations of the same thing," sort of like 1 gallon = 4 quarts; or 1 kilo of ice = 1 kilo of water. That fit in well with something I read (I think it was in Hawking's A Brief history of Time) about the first instant of the Big Bang: the universe was a small (40' dia.) hot, dense, churning continuum of matter and energy, both and neither at the same time. What is colloquially referred to as massergy.

So matter is a manifestation of energy; and I believe the source of that energy is God. And that God created the physical universe through some energy manifesting the characteristics of matter. That's why there was Light before there was the Sun or the Moon: first the Energy, then the Matter. Which reminds me on the religion side that Dante described the energy of the Universe as "L'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle/ the love that moves the sun and the other stars."

You may also recall that at every step of Creation, God saw that it was good, at least until He noticed Adam lacked a wife. Why was it all good? Like Dante, I believe it's because the energy of the Universe is Love. That is, the Universe is 100% composed of God's love. Not love as how one feels, but love as a force; the generative force that sustains the Universe; the force that we may also understand as gravity or magnetism or light. Or as a rock. Or a drop of water. Or a hair on my head.

God is typically described as omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent; and in that order. I'm more inclined to put all-benevolent/ all-good/ all-loving first. Why? Because God could have the first 3 qualities and not be moved to create a single thing. God's all-loving nature manifested itself as Creation; that is, God "thought" love, and Creation resulted. Why, I bet Einstein would agree with me that Love and Creation are "manifestations of the same thing."  Put in Catechism class terms, Love Creates. Where there is Love, there is Creation. And where there isn't, there isn't. Think of Satan. He hates being made of, and sustained by, God's love. And he doesn't create a single good thing.

We also know from Genesis, and from simply being alive, that God shares with us humans the ability to love, so we create too. He gave Eve to Adam, and our quintessential creativity channels through married love: babies. So for us to contracept is to profoundly push against the entire loving-creative raison d'être of the Universe, its very fabric; and our own loving-creative natures, which we among all creatures uniquely share with God.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kids Wanna Know

The next few posts link to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Too Catechetical for Words

We had 28 class meetings on this year's Wednesday Night Sunday School schedule. Since New Year's we've lost two days to snow, plus about another 1/2 class to other events. The later in the year I lose classtime, the harder it is to compensate. I don't talk faster because we already move at the Speed of Comprehension. What I do instead is prioritize and eliminate, like Frederick the Great.

Two evenings ago we covered the Resurrection through the Ascension.  We use a handout showing an image of the Anastasis, and a Supper at Emmaus by Rembrandt. In covering the Anastasis, for reasons of time I didn't translate a couple of Greek abbreviations in the picture, although I did explain the Greek word Anastasis, and show the kids how to pronounce the letters. Then we moved on.

After class one of the kids asks, what do these two things mean, i.e., the IC and XC.

See, what I leave out is exactly what someone wants to know. I go over the squiggies and the letters. In moments like this when a child wants to know something particular, I always want to answer the question directly, but than add a bit that points to the bigger picture. So I say a bit about words on ikons, and also write on the board similar squiggied-letters that often appear in Mary-ikons: MP and ThY, which abbreviate Μητηρ Θεού MITIR ThEOU, Mother [of] God. It was a nice little lesson.

Now, this isn't just a chance to for a child to take away something extra; it's also a chance to involve the parents. Next week I'll give her a prayer card like this one:

Is has MR-ThY and also IC-XC. Thanks to reader Moonshadow, I understand that to the left and right are the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Greek says O AP M  (The ARchangel Michael) and O AP G (The ARchangel Gabriel). I'll write the translations on the back. I'll also get her to tell me what the angels are holding, and why they matter (they're a few of the Instruments of the Passion). I'm confident she'll know the cross and the spear. But what's that other thing? I blew it up for a closer look, and I think it's the sponge on the hyssop stick. She already knows what it is, it's just not easy to recognize. I expect to give her hints, e.g. "I thirst." I'll conclude by saying she oughta show her parents what she's learned and impress the heck out of them.

In this business you never know when or where stuff will grow. Just throw the seeds, you won't run out.

If I had all the time in the world, a whole class could be spent on this single image: its visual catechesis, Queen of Heaven, King of Heaven, Mother of God, Fully God, Fully Man, Immaculate Conception, Crucifixion, angels, the Greek words, all of which allude to Scripture and of course the Big Catholic Picture.

For those who want to know more about cryptic Greek on ikons, here's an old post about John the Baptist.

Book Review 8: Fr. Ryland's Memoir

I wrote this review about 6 weeks ago, then kind of forgot about it. Fr. Ryland died yesterday; it's up now.

Monday, March 17, 2014


I suppose y'all periodically run into the "Jesus had brothers so Mary and Joseph were sexually intimate" idea. This is partly based on how Hebrew was translated into Greek; and how both Hebrew and Greek were/are translated into English, which IMNSHO is a terrible language in which to translate the Bible. English is a cataclysmic collision of Romance and Germanic tongues; an oil-and-water jumble of vocabulary, spelling, grammar, syntax, culture, worldview, history, and religion. A glorious language. In my opinion, the most glorious; but still, not an ideal language in which to translate other languages.

Anyway, the Brothers of Jesus Thing hinges on the Greek word αδελφός-adelphos-brother; and whether its meaning extends to relationships for which English has other, specific words...such as cousin. Or nephew. Or relative. 

In the Gospels we read:

"While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him."

"Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."

So... are those brethren Jesus' brothers in the strict genetic sense of being male children of Mary? Or at least sons of Joseph from a previous marriage? I believe the Church is correct, that Mary is ever-virgin; and that Jesus was her only child. So the arguments don't much interest me. But I'm keen on the language aspects. I was curious: how often do languages have one word for brother; and a completely different word to express what we mean by cousin? Well....not often, and most of them use the same French word that we "English" speakers use.

I have Maronite Rite friends from the Levant who refer in English to their cousins as "brothers" unless they are being careful when making an introduction. Their first language is Arabic. In Arabic, cousin is expressed as uncle-son; but informally they are brothers.

In Hebrew, cousin is uncle-son.

In Hungarian, cousin is unoka-testvére, uncle-son.

In modern Greek, cousin is εξάδελφος, ex-adelphos, out-brother.

In Russian, cousin is двоюродный брат, dvayu-rodniy brat, second-born brother.

In Serbian, cousin is either bratranec or sestrična, based on the words for brother/ brat; and sister/ sestra.

In Hindi and Bengali, cousin is a two-part noun ?-brother, I can't figure out the prefixes.

So it's typical in most other languages for the English concept of "cousin" to be understood in terms of brother or son; especially in non-formal, traditional contexts, and where extended families are the norm.

And some languages have no native phrasing for cousin at all:

Turkish borrows from French: kuzen.

German borrows from French: Cousin

Polish borrows from French: kuzyn.

Swedish borrows from French: kusin.

And French imposed itself on English: cousin.

So- does "brother" in an English Bible necessarily mean "a male offspring having both parents in common with another offspring"? Not at all. And if English expressed "cousin" with phrasing that involved the word "brother" or "son" as many languages do, I doubt we'd even be having this discussion.  

More Nice

Between Sports and the Party: When Teaching the Faith Feels Like Babysitting

A fired-up catechist shares successful lessons with a frustrated volunteer.

Friday, March 14, 2014


The next few posts link to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

I like this.

This too:

DIY card via Vistaprint. It was too easy.