26 August 2008

The Tetragrammaton

Even as a Protestant I was uncomfortable with the name "Yahweh" as a transliteration of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH - the Hebrew Name of God). Not even the rabbis know how to pronounce the sacred name the Lord gave to Moses. It has always been translated as "Lord", even in the Catholic Church until recently.

In fact, there is no "W" in Hebrew, thus the name "Jehovah", which I have equal distaste for. But there was this trend, especially among Charismatcis and Pentecostals, for spicing up worship services with some Jewish flavor. I do enjoy the modal quartertone scales and upbeat style of "Messianic" music, and don't mind calling Jesus by His given name "Yesh'ua" or even to refer to the Father as "Adonai". But it never made sense to borrow someone's music then offend them by using a name for God that is sacrelige to use.

I bring this up after hearing a discussion today on Al Kresta's radio show about the two-page letter from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, dated June 29 and addressed to episcopal conferences around the world:

"By directive of the Holy Father, in accord with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this congregation... deems it convenient to communicate to the bishops' conferences... as regards the translation and the pronunciation, in a liturgical setting, of the divine name signified in the sacred Tetragrammaton," declared the letter signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, congregation prefect and secretary, respectively.

"As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: 'Adonai,' which means 'Lord,'" the Vatican letter said. Similarly, Greek translations of the Bible used the word "Kyrios" and Latin scholars translated it to "Dominus"; both also mean Lord."

That means that in the reading of Biblical texts taken from the Lectionary, as well as in prayers and hymns, "Yahweh", "Jahweh" and "Jehovah" must not be used. I guess this is another blow to the New American Bible not being used liturgically, and backs up why I use my trusty old RSV Catholic Edition.

Now, if we could only stop using the songs where the congregation sings the "God" parts (think of the popular, "I am the Bread of Life"--I'm still a huge JMT fan)... but that's another discussion...

23 August 2008

Papal Authority Essay - Introduction

Here begins a series of articles explaining how I became convinced that the Pope of Rome IS the universal head of the Church and successor to St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, and the Shepherd of God's flock here on earth. Previously I explained my journey from the Antiochian Orthodox church to Rome, but this particular issue was the biggest one to overcome.

Eastern Orthodox Christians continue their schism from the Holy Catholic Church for many reasons. When I was Orthodox the main points of contention were the "double procession" of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, the doctrine of original sin, purgatory, and the immaculate conception of Mary. It wasn't difficult for me as a thinking Christian to jump these hurdles, especially since they are mostly artificial barriers.

The REAL issue that seperates Orthodox from Catholic is that of Papal authority. Orthodox love their independence and autonomy. Maybe that's why many protestants end up in the east first? If you don't like the liberal Greeks, then go to the stricter Russians, or take the middle ground with some Antiochians. Jurisdiction jumping is very common for converts looking for the right fit.

In contrast, Melkites, Ukranians, Ruthenians, Chaldeans, and other Eastern Catholics celebrate their unique identities within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They don't drift in and out of "communion" with each other based on intrigue or politics. Their unity comes from connection to the Holy See.

Next time: What does the Bible say?

20 August 2008

The Call of Christ - St. Padre Hurtado

Christ came to this world not to do his great work alone but with us, with all of us, to be the head of a great body whose living, active cells we are. We are all called to incorporation in him, this is the fundamental level of Christian life… But for some there are higher calls; a call to surrender oneself to him, to live only for him, to make him the norm of one’s intelligence; to consider him in each of one’s actions, to follow him in his endeavors, even more, to make one’s life Christ’s project, Christ’s venture. For the seaman, his life is the sea; for the soldier, the army; for the nurse, the hospital; for the farmer, his land; for the generous soul, his life is Christ’s venture!

This is the essential part of the call of Christ: Do you wish to consecrate your life to me? The problem is not sin; it is a problem of consecration! Consecration to what? To personal holiness and to the apostolate. Personal holiness or sanctity that is a faithful imitation of the sanctity of Christ.

If he calls you what will you do?… I would like you to think deeply about this because this is what is essential in spiritual retreats. Retreats are a call to our deepest generosity. They do not move us through fear, nor do they try to frighten us. They remind us of the commandments because they can do no less than remind us. The commandments are the foundation, the cement for the whole construction, because we are obliged to obey them by the will of God. But they are little more than the cement and one does not live in the cement, there is little beauty in the cement… Retreats are for souls that wish to go higher, and the higher the better; they are for those who have understood the meaning of Love and that Christianity is love, that the great commandment, par excellence, is that of love.

The proof of faith is love, heroic love and heroism is not of obligation. The priesthood, the missions, works of charity are not of obligation under the pain of sin; nonetheless they are absolutely necessary for the Church and are works of generosity. The day there are no priests there will be no sacraments, yet the priesthood is not obligatory; the day there are no missioners, the faith will not advance, yet the missions are not obligatory; the day there is no one to care for the lepers and the poor the distinctive testimony of Christ will disappear, yet these works are not of obligation… The day there are no saints there will be no Church, yet sanctity is not of obligation. What a splendid idea this is! The Church does not live and thrive because of the fulfillment of obligations but because of the generosity of its faithful!

If he calls you what will you tell him? What are you likely to do? Ask, pray to be in the best of dispositions! St. Ignatius asks that the person who enters upon the Exercises have great courage and generosity with God, our Lord. That he desire to be stirred and motivated and to surrender himself completely.

Lord, if in this tormented twentieth century that has emerged from such horrendous butchery: concentration camps, deportations, bombings, the search for more terrible weapons to kill even more, the destruction to obtain riches, more industry, more comfort, more honors, less pain; if in this twentieth century world a new generation were to understand its mission and desire to give testimony to Christ, a new generation that believes and is not limited only to shouts of Christ, conquers, Christ rules, Christ reigns, phrases that mean little without testimony… Where would we find them? Nowhere else but in the humble, silent offering of their lives to make it possible for Christ to rule in the ways in which he desires to rule: in poverty, meekness, humiliation, in his sufferings, in prayer, in humble and self-sacrificing charity.

If Christ finds this generation. If Christ finds even one… Would you want it to be you? The humblest. The most useless in the eyes of the world could be the most useful in the eyes of God… Lord, I am not worth much… but confused as I am, in fear and trembling I offer you my heart. Our Lord entered Jerusalem on the day of his triumph seated upon an ass and he continues faithful to this practice, he enters the souls of the “donkeys” of good will, poor, meek, and humble. Do you want to be Christ’s donkey? Christ does not wish to deceive me, the great venture compels me… It is difficult, very difficult. It is necessary to fight against one’s own passions that desire the very opposite of Christ’s project. They will not die all at once, forever, but must continue to die a little each day.

It is necessary to struggle against the milieu in which we live: our friends, family, the world, attractions… they will all seem to rise up scandalized before the example, though humble and modest, of those who aspire to point out their errors. If you love me you would want to give me what is really good and take away these ridiculous, old fashioned exaggerations “that do more harm than good.” What are these exaggerations for? Why don’t you do what the rest do? Struggle against the scandal of others… struggle against the discouragement of the enterprise, the weariness of age, dryness of spirit, tedium, fatigue, monotony… Yes, you have to struggle but I am here. Have confidence in me, I have overcome the world. My yoke is sweet and my burden light… Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest… He who thirsts let him come to me and drink. Streams of living water will flow from within him unto eternal life. (Jn 16,33; Mt 11, 30. 29; Jn 7, 37-38.)

I need you… I do not oblige you, but I need you to carry out my plans of love. If you do not come, a work will remain undone because you and only you can do it. No one can take over this work because each has his part in the good that must be realized. Look at the world; how the fields grow yellow, how much hunger and thirst in the world. Look how they search for me even when they persecute me… There is an ardent tormenting hunger for justice, for honor and respect for the human person; a resolved will to make the world jump if necessary to put an end to the shameful exploitation; there are people among those who call themselves my enemies who practice out of hatred what I teach for love… There is a hunger in many for religion, for the spirit, for confidence for a sense of life.

Difficult? Yes! The world will not understand you… It will ridicule you… It will say these are exaggerations, that you have gone crazy. Many said that Jesus was crazy, they dressed him as a fool, accused him of having a devil… and finally crucified him. And if Jesus were to come today to our earth, I am horrified to think about it, he would not be crucified but shot. If he were to come to Chile… they would incite a rebellion against him. What would they say about him in the press, in the universities? Who would do the talking? God willing we would not form part of the chorus of his accusers, nor of those who would shoot him. Difficult? Yes! But only here will we find life. In the great work of Christ each one of us has his place; different for each, but a place in a plan for sanctity, holiness. In the chain of grace that God destines to goodness. I am called to be a link. I can be this link, I can also refuse; what will I do? The answer: I must raise this problem for my consideration in all its depths and respond in all seriousness.
The response of youth

Many will not have the courage to even raise the problem. It will be beyond their capacities but if they would think rather in the strength of Christ…..? If only they would think that they could also be saints with Christ, depending on his strength rather than taking refuge in the cowardice of mere obligation.

Others will give an alms of “something.” Something is better than nothing. But it is not what Christ asks. One mustn’t offer “something” else, insisting that it is as good when Christ asks for something better: nothing but the will of God alone.

The real treasures are the generous ones, those who surrender themselves, and to be sure of doing the will of God, “acting against one’s sensibilities”, they embrace the most difficult in spirit, they ask for it and beg that it will be given them…and they will only abandon that gift of themselves if the Lord shows them their path in other, gentler terrains. But as far as they are concerned, they head right for it!
Meditation on the Kingdom, Holy Week retreat for youth, 1946
Go HERE for more writings by this great saint of Chile

15 August 2008


Happy Feast Day

"O ye apostles,
assembled here
from the
ends of the earth,
bury my body
in Gethsemane:
and Thou,
O my Son and God,
receive my spirit."

The Dormition of Our Most Holy
Lady the Theotokos

aka The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The gates of heaven were opened wide and the angels sang, as Christ recieved the virgin treasure of His own Mother. Cherubim withdrew before thee in exultation, while seraphim glorified thee in thy joy. (Matins Canon 1:4, Tone 1 by St. Cosmas)

07 August 2008

Our Lady of the Sign, Ark of Mercy

Frequent readers know of my years in the Eastern Orthodox church and my continued Eastern Catholic leanings. You also know my devotion to Mary as "Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament" and the Byzantine "Our Lady of the Sign". In addition I regularly go to Eucharistic adoration and spend time with Jesus.

So why does this "monstrance" in Chicago make me uncomfortable? It's beautifully crafted, merging Byzantine, Roman, and Jewish imagery. It reminds us that Mary is the ark of the New Covenant. That she was the first monstrance, the first throne. As she is referred to in the Eastern church "more spacious than the heavens" since she contained the uncontainable God.

But I will admit it's better than the Yoga Christ monstrance.