Saturday, December 28, 2013

2nd & Charles


"Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence..."

I had a great time at the new used bookstore this afternoon. I was browsing the Bible shelves...rolling my eyes at the study notes in them: "Oh wow, that was easy...Jesus couldn't possibly mean what he said." A couple were next to me, the man had a huge book in his hands. He and she were talking about what it was for, how to use it. I turned toward them to go, and they asked me if I knew about the book: Strong's Concordance. Wow, I love Strong's Concordance! Yeah, lemme show ya how it works! If you're wanting to learn more about how the Bible thinks, ya want this book (or the online equivalent). And I asked them some questions like I do my Catechism class kids, such as, "Y'all tell me why Sarah and Abraham were unhappy...yep, and then...uh huh, and what did Sarah do...laughed, that's right..and they named him...Isaac. Yes, so we check Strong's like so and see that Isaac means...and why does that matter? Yes. And so when God wanted Abraham to kill Isaac...yep! See, and without knowing the Hebrew you miss that very human and pro-life part of the story!" And we went through a couple more examples, and how the Concordance shows how similar Hebrew words share a common root, and that sometimes their meanings overlap in ways that matter, but won't show up in English or Greek, like Adam and Ground. Where do I go to church? St. Mary's? That's Catholic right? The man was a former Catholic and now a deacon at his non-denom. We talked about growing up with the Latin Mass, how that alienated him, and how I loved reading the Latin and English out of my father's Missal. Talked some more about faith journeys, other Bible bits, what some other Hebrew names mean, such as Elizabeth. Discussed our decisions to take Jesus seriously. So we had a great time faith sharing without arguing, and without me selling Catholicism the least bit short.

Image from 2nd & Charles in case you were wondering. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pitchers 18: Teach and Draw

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets
Board from the December 11 Class. Click to Enlarge.

Stuff on the board was drawn in more-or-less chronological order. Not everything covered in class was drawn on the board.

1. Christmas. The Nativity. A bit of Spanish: Navidad.

2. Isaiah, the Christmas Prophet: virgin, tidings, star, shepherds, sheep, kings, gold, incense, Dromedaries, ox, ass, manger, and the manger's master. A bit of Old English: tidings. A bit of Luke: myrrh. A bit of French: manger. A bit of Greek: aggelos, evangelion.

3. The Flight to Egypt. Maybe to Alexandria where young Jesus, like you kids, would learn some Greek.

4. Isaiah, Jeremiah, the boy Jesus, and the adult Jesus all at the Temple. A bit more Spanish: escribir.

5. John the Baptist at the Jordan, site of water miracles. The Jordan runs from Galilee to the Dead Sea. More Greek: baptizo. Still more Greek: dromos = run, race. Like a fast camel: a Dromedary. John is the Prodromos, the Forerunner, the herald. As John's father Zechariah prophesied: "you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways." 

Not just words in books. Proclaim. Write. Act. Sing. Draw.

Photo by Guest Bouncer John Biediger

Saturday, December 7, 2013


This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets and Convert Journal

 Size doesn't matter

Up until I was eight years old I belonged to St. Francis de Sales parish in Houma, La., whose church is a lovely Gothic revival structure completed in 1938. My Catholic imagination was well-nurtured by its elegant proportions; the Bible stories vividly presented in the stained glass windows; and a dove whose wings overshadowed the crucifix, tabernacle and altar.  The dove was painted on the green underside of a gracefully arched canopy which was cantilevered from the wall just above the crucifix.

Of course I knew the dove represented the Holy Spirit. But the canopy made the point, not the bird. It emphasized and protected Jesus on the cross; and also in his little house, the Tabernacle. It was clear to a kid: what's under the canopy is more worthy of attention and protection than what's not under it. I didn't understand until decades later that the canopy was yet another expression of Biblical-liturgical overshadowing; and that the little canopy was properly called a baldacchino.

At Mass, I'm frequently reminded of that green canopy during the Epiclesis:

Roman Missal 3rd Edition, Eucharistic Prayer II:  "Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ."

Roman Missal 2nd Edition, Eucharistic Prayer II: "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ."

I remember the canopy not so much because of the words, but because of the gesture which accompanies those words:

Is the priest making a little canopy over the gifts? I think it's implicit in the gesture. More specifically, I think he's overshadowing the gifts. I know, the prayer doesn't say that. I'm conflating "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts..." with this bit of Luke 1: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." That is, at the moment of Mary's overshadowing, God became physically present in her womb. And at the Epiclesis, God becomes physically present in the accidents of bread and wine. So I like the overshadowing gesture; and if I had been in charge of the New Translation, that bit would be something like "Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy; and let your power overshadow them, that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ." But I can't find any Mass in Latin that mentions overshadowing even once; so it'd be going beyond the Latin to include any explicit mention of it.

But Christianity is bigger than the Latin Church. And the Eastern Christians usually embrace mystery with an enthusiasm that often escapes the rational West. Are any of them explicit about overshadowing in their Divine Liturgies?

At least one is, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In the opening prayer of its Divine Liturgy we hear, "How awful is this day and how marvellous this hour wherein the Holy Spirit will descend from heaven and overshadow and hallow this sacrifice. In quietness and in fear, arise and pray that the peace of God be with me and with all of you." I like that.

And at the epiclesis the priest says, "We pray thee and beseech thee Lord, that thou wouldest send the Holy Spirit and power upon this bread and upon this cup." I think the couplet of 'Holy Spirit and power' alludes to Luke 1 as well, but a bit more explicitly than the Latin Masses do.

So in April of next year, when we are discussing the Epiclesis in Catechism class, I'll make the same gesture as the priest. And then I'll get the kids to figure out what it means, and connect it to other overshadowings they're already familiar with. Time permitting, I'll draw the old canopy at St. Francis and a baldacchino; and have the children tell me how they relate to the priest's overshadowing hands.

This material is also covered in this short audio file.