Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

19 September 2017

The Divine Environment. An Essay on the Lifted Cross. 2017.

Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum ... (Joannes 3:16) For God so loved the world ...

In a previous post, O Friend of God, we dealt with "Holy Cross Day", or as it is sometimes called among us, The Triumph of the Holy Cross.  We saw that the actual name of the day is The Exaltation of the Cross, that exaltation is used in its literal Latin sense of lifting up, and that neither the lifting up nor the cross lifted up refer to the triumph of the cross of Christ as the means of salvation, but to the lifting up of a supposed relic on 14 September 335 A.D in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which still stands.

So we impose good theology over silly legends about scandalous facts to retain the feast.  This is a problem and this post addresses that problem further, not regarding that particular feast, but regarding the actual triumph of the actual cross.  Over particularly recent centuries and continuing in this one, our empirically based human view of the world, and consequently the value of its parts, has yielded an astounding harvest of knowledge, which may seem at odds with traditional Christian belief.

Thus many people who by training or temperament primarily listen to the voices of human knowledge waver regarding Christianity, either hesitating, thinking they would have to be false to themselves to embrace Christianity, or turning away from it altogether, thinking they have gone beyond it.  And some seek a middle ground by recasting Christianity, trying to both go beyond it but nonetheless preserve its veneer.

This problem is not new and not unique to our times.  It will seem so if one ignores history.  From the fall of the Roman Empire in the West in 476, we have been through several such cultural revolutions, each with increased vigour and effect.

Charlemagne's (768-814) establishment of a new social order akin to the former Empire brought a new emphasis on learning in parish schools.  Otto's (936-973) even moreso.  In the Twelfth Century (1100s), what is now traditional Scholastic theology was in its time an attempt to reconcile the Faith with the rediscovery of secular learning from the ancients.  It was hotly contested from within and without the church, yet, as Aquinas pointed out, if God is the source of all knowledge, ultimately there can be no conflict.  Then came the via moderna, the modern way, in the Fourteenth Century (1300s), seeing the previous developments as the via antiqua, the old way.

Toward the end of which another one began, starting in Florence, often dated for convenience to 1396 with the invitation by Coluccio Salutati, chancellor of the Republic of Florence, to the Byzantine scholar Emmanuel Chrysoloras to come there and teach Greek.  The fall of the Roman Empire in the East to the Muslims in 1453 brought a flood of Greek scholars in its wake.  This brought many new texts to awareness, made others known directly rather than through Latin translations, and began a shift away from the scientific orientation of the previous period to the arts as well.    Hence, "humanism", and the idea that the previous age was a "middle" age between antiquity and the rebirth of its learning, hence the term Renaissance.

In all of these, Christian faith was recast into then-current terms, which to those of previously current terms seemed like a departure from the Faith.  And in all of them was a distinct sense of having moved forward from the limitations of the past.  Finally in the 1700s came The Enlightenment, where the dawn of modern knowledge brought this tension to a head.  One side of it, best exemplified by Descartes, Locke and Hume, sought harmony between knowledge and faith, though now not necessarily Christian faith but in a more general supreme being (Deism), and the other side of it, best exemplified by Spinoza, exactly a rejection of Faith, no need to recast what is now surpassed.

And now in our "post modern" age, what may seem a new crisis of faith and empirical knowledge is actually the same problem once again, and once again with increased vigour and effect.

The purpose of this post is to show that traditional Christianity -- Baptism, the Eucharist, and the actual lifting up and actual triumph of the Cross -- does not require any such falsification to oneself or recasting of faith.  An important note, though, as it may seem to some that this post is indeed such a recasting.  This is not the case.  The entire post is about nothing more, nothing else, and nothing less, than grace  --  the free gift of God for our salvation in the lifting up of the cross and the triumph of the cross, historically, and its fruits given to us here and now in Baptism and the Eucharist.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.  Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra omnia traham ad me ipsum.  John 12:32.

What Is Evolution?   

In our time this problem is nowhere more evident than in the supposed conflict between modern scientific knowledge and the account of creation in Genesis.  OK, right here is one of those ironies that this blog finds hilarious.  Wanna know what?  Of course the famous book re evolution is Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) "On the Origin of the Species" (1859).  Guess what, ya know what "genesis" means?  The English word is derived from a Latin word which in turn transliterated into Latin the Greek word for -- origin!  Hey, looks like two contradictory and conflicting accounts of origin, huh?

Well, no.  For starters, Genesis is in the Old Testament and the OT is in Hebrew, right, so why a Greek name?  Because the name in English comes not from the Hebrew Bible but from the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek called the Septuagint, that's why.  The Hebrew name for the book is not "origin" (genesis).  Rather, as is customary in Hebrew, the title is derived from its first words, which are "in beginning", bere syt, or bereshit as it is often written in English.  Nothing about origin.  Hey, isn't the beginning the origin?  Well, sort of, but not necessarily, and, there's something in English that makes the translation a bit different than the Hebrew it translates.  Here's the deal.  There is no definite article -- "the" -- in the Hebrew.  There isn't in Latin either.  In the Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate, the first words are translated in principio, at first.  And the next word is -- God (deus).  In (the) beginning, God.

Genesis/Bereshit starts with God.  Not with "the beginning" or "the origin", with God.  God is not proven, not deduced, not induced, not described, not defined, nothing like that.  God simply is.  It's not that there is a "beginning" or an "origin" and God either did or did not have something to do with it.  Rather, God is, before any beginning or origin, that's the name he gave himself, "I am", and any beginning or origin is an action of God.  So, "the beginning" or "the origin" is not the beginning or origin of everything, it is the beginning of a creative action of God, and that creative action of God is the origin of all things.

The idea of God, of a power greater than ourselves, of something beyond our complete grasp which gives rises to a sense or idea of holy, is a universal sense as ancient as Man.  But that is also problematic.  Man has expressed this sense in a variety of ways.  Sometimes he takes natural forces beyond his control as therefore his gods, and worships them and/or prays to them to control the forces of nature, taken to be gods, in his favour.  Sometimes he posits supra-human beings who control these natural forces, and similarly worships and/or prays to them to the same end.  Sometimes this expression is applied to the totality of the universe, as an impersonal way or law that is operational throughout, within which one can learn to live in harmony.  Sometimes the universe itself is god.

Genesis confirms this universal sense as valid, but contradicts all those expressions of it.  God is not heaven and earth; heaven and earth are creations of God who preexists them and is distinct from them.  Likewise, everything else in the universe, forces like wind and rain, places like rivers, everything, are not gods nor is God the totality of it, but they are creations of God who preexists and is distinct from them all.  Therefore, they are not objects of worship or veneration either.

The next few verses make that quite clear, as the things Man deifies are described as creations of the deity -- heaven and earth, the seas, the sun, the moon, life in any form, life in human form.  For example, the sun that lights our world is not god, not a god, nor is there a sun-god whose function it is to control the sun.

Well fine.  So is Genesis just another order out of chaos myth from antiquity, all of which we should abandon now as we understand the order better and better?  Is not the ancientness of the sense of a higher power, the idea of holy, itself a sign that these are simply the reactions of men with little knowledge of their environment so they create myths of gods to explain it for lack of anything better, but now that we have something better, we no longer need the myths of earlier times?

Notice something?  We didn't even get to the "six day creation" thing before losing our faith!  In other words, the primary thing revealed, and right away, in Genesis and thus the entire Bible, which is that there is a god and everything else proceeds from the creative action of this god, doesn't even need the six-day thing before grounds to abandon it arise, passing it off as the early attempts of man to understand his environment, which we have long since passed.

And we notice something else.  Genesis describes God's creative actions in precisely the order we understand them scientifically -- first the material universe and its unfolding, not static, organisation  by God (let's call it the geosphere), then its inhabitation by biological life and its unfolding, not static, organisation by God (let's call it the biosphere), then the appearance of biological life that is both conscious and self-reflective, having a mind that shares something then of the God who created it (let's call it the noosphere, from the Greek word for mind, nous).

This is nothing other than evolution, literally.  Now before the moaning and groaning starts (is it too late for that?) let's look at what evolution literally means.  The word comes from the Latin evolutio, which does not mean "evolution" with its modern connotations, but rather an act of rolling out or unfolding.  The root is "e volvo" which means "out of the roll" (yeah, Volvo means roll, great name for a great car, let's roll!). The verb is "evolvo" which means "to unroll" or "to unfold", whose perfect passive participle is "evolutus".  Great linguistic Judas what's that?  Relax, a perfect passive participle is verb form denoting the state of something having been subject to an action.  Here, having been rolled or having been unfolded, "evolutus", which as a verb is "evolutio", the act of rolling out or unfolding.

So, Genesis presents evolution.  Therefore, the argument over "evolution" is not over whether it happened, but how it happened.  Specifically, did this rolling out, this unfolding, which both Genesis and current human knowledge agree happened, happen impersonally according to either random or chance events or laws or ways inherent in Nature, or personally, as the creative act of a pre-existent God.

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

So asks God in Job 38:4.  The question not only addresses Job; it can be asked of any of us, and the point is the same as to Job, which is, God's understanding, as a Being or Power greater than ourselves, is not our understanding nor can our understanding comprehend God's.  Which makes sense.  If there is a God who communicates with us, God speaks to us not as an equal since we are not God or a god, but as a part of his creation that has consciousness to receive the communication, which therefore will have its limits.  God speaks to us in terms of our experience.

This is apparent already in the first sentence of Bereshith.  "The heaven and the earth" describes the universe from Man's point of view here on the earth, not from God's point of view as its Creator.  Our point of view now has expanded, and was not available to humans at the time Bereshith was revealed.  We know that the earth and the heavens are not distinct.  Earth is but one planet revolving around one star among many, the number of which we do not know except that it is huge.  It's all heavens, and earth is part of that, but it doesn't look that way when you're on earth.

The rest of the creation account proceeds along these lines, in terms of our, not God's, experience.  Creation is creation, whether viewed as an earthbound creature seeing "heavens" above, or viewed not from earth and seeing earth too as part of the "heavens".  Heaven and earth, then, are relative terms.  In earlier times, the discovery that earth is not the centre of creation, with heavens above it, seemed to cast doubt on everything -- if Scripture is off in its very first words, why should it not also be off in the rest of it too?

What was lost in that controversy, the famous Galileo episode, was any sense of what God was reminding Job in his circumstances.  And this loss is the very same loss that will lead to what is called The Fall  just a little later in Bereshith.  What is this loss?  It is the loss of the fact that God speaks to us in terms of our experience and not his, that God does not reveal to us everything of his experience because we, as created beings, cannot receive or comprehend the experience of our creator.  As Scripture will shortly put it, we are created in the image of God, but we are not created as equals, as other gods, and therefore we cannot elevate our understanding, even that part of it which is an understanding of God, to his level.

In this regard it is significant to note that the noun we translate as "God", singular, in the Hebrew is plural, Elohim, but the verb we translate as "created" IS singular.  Of course we can theologically abstract from this a reference at the outset of Scripture to the Trinity -- a plural God acting in the singular.  But God is not here inviting us to theological abstraction but is revealing to us the nature of our experience as conscious reflective beings.  God is not, in the Bible, providing us a divine textbook, or an algorithm, but a human user's manual, of creation.  And a user's manual is written to convey to the user, in terms his experience will allow him to understand, information he does not have, not about how something was made but about how to work with it.  IOW, it is not a "how I did it", but a "how you use it" book.

Vade mecum.  Go With Me.

So, the revelation of the fact of creation is one thing, and the manner of creation is another, and the two ought not be confused.  God reveals the fact of creation by expressing it in terms of human conscious experience.  Light and dark, heaven and earth. evening and morning, day -- all of them earth bound, not characteristic of the universe.  There is no evening and morning as we experience it here on earth anywhere else but here on earth.  There is no 24 hour day as we experience it here on earth anywhere else but here on earth.  Even in our human speaking these words have "literal" and "figurative" meanings, as in "the evening of life", "shed some light on the subject", and so on.  For that matter, time itself does not flow at the same rate throughout the universe.

Had God revealed the nature of the universe in scientific terms Genesis would have been rejected from the start.  How is a man standing on earth looking up at the heavens to be told that in fact he is not looking up at all, that there is no "up", that "up" is a sense brought about from the fact of his standing in a particular place, and that "beneath" him there is also an "up" he would experience were he standing there?  And how is a man standing on earth looking "up" at the heavens to be told that in fact where he stands is itself part of the heavens, that there are no "heavens" distinct from earth except in his experience of standing in a particular place, and that "above" him there is not a dome holding back water, that the blue he sees above is in fact not there but a visual effect brought about under the conditions of standing where he does to look at it?  And how is a man standing on earth looking "up" at the "heavens" to be told that not only is he looking out, not up, but he is also looking back, that the light he sees from the stars in the heavens is not what is happening there now, but light from events ages ago that is just now making its way to be visible to someone standing where he does?

All of what we now know would have contradicted his experience entirely and therefore been rejected as fantastic, literally -- a fantasy with no relation to reality, ie, his experience.  Which in turn would leave the message God seeks to communicate to Man -- that all of what Man sees, including Man himself, is the creation of the God who seeks him and is subject to the will of God, not Man  --  inaccessible.  The fact of creation is revealed to Man via a manner of creation that makes sense within his experience at the time of its revelation.  Revelation done any other way would reveal nothing!

Fiat voluntas tua.

Thy will be done, is what that means in Latin.  The words are from the so-called "Lord's Prayer".  The Lord, Christ, in giving this prayer, stated a version of the traditional Kaddish, which exists in several related versions.  Jesus gives his version, not a new prayer.   Here in English is the Kaddish Shalem, the "complete kaddish" -- there are longer special versions for rabbis, mourners, and for after a burial.  Then followed by the Lord's version.

Kaddish Shalem, the "complete Kaddish".

May his great name be exalted and sanctified is God's great name in the world which he created according to his will!  May he establish his kingdom and may his salvation blossom and his anointed be near during your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel, speedily and very soon.  And say ye, Amen.
May his great name be blessed forever and to all eternity! Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honoured, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be he, above and beyond all blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world!  And say ye, Amen.
(The Hatzi Kaddish, or "half Kaddish", ends here.  All versions begin with it.)
May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted by their Father who is in heaven.  And say ye, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, life, satisfaction, help, comfort, refuge, healing, redemption, forgiveness, atonement, relief and salvation for us and for all his people Israel.  And say ye, Amen.
May he who makes peace in his high places grant peace upon us and upon all Israel.  And say ye, Amen.

Jesus' Kaddish, the Our Father.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Now, Jesus gave his version of the Kaddish when his followers asked him to give them a special prayer like all the other great teachers seem to do.  He didn't give them a new, special prayer.  He gave them a succinct version of what they already had!  His point being, besides the prayer itself, that no such carryings-on are needed before God.  And, this being from the anointed who is prayed for -- that is what "Christ" means, the anointed one of God -- who better to refine and focus it for our use!

Our point here though is the prayer itself and the matter of will, and whose will, ours or God's.  Voluntas, the Latin word for will, is the basis of the English word voluntary.  Voluntary means according to one's will, willing.  Which means there is a choice involved, it is a matter that is neither inevitable nor compelled.  This is exactly what Genesis reveals to us about everything, the universe.  It exists not by some historical inevitability or by an inherent following of impersonal laws, but by the will of a being, God.

In all its stages, the act of creation is spoken of as an act of will, voluntary -- let there be, etc.  Except, and this is key, in the last stage, Man.  This is not spoken of as "Let there be Man", but rather, "let us make Man in our own image".  The creation of Man as a being in the image of God, then, is related differently than all the creation before it.  This voluntary, willed, creation culminates in the emergence of a being who himself is endowed with the capacity for voluntary, willed action.  This being, the human being, marks the entry into the unfolding of creation of a created being who himself creates, not out of nature or instinct, but voluntarily, willed, like his creator.  Man is conscious.

Which is both our glory, and our problem.  Our consciousness contains, unlike anything else in creation, the capacity for acts of will that are conscious, which is to say, self-conscious, not in the usual conversational sense, but in the sense that we are conscious of our capacity and the choices we can make.  Which is why it is not until this point in the evolution, the unfolding, of creation that God gives a commandment.  Up until this point he doesn't need to, since nothing in creation until this point has this capacity for willed action that is conscious of itself.  But Man, which the text makes clear is comprised of both male and female, is in the image of God, but is not God.  Or, if you will, this creature is in the image of the creator but is not the creator.  Therefore, the creator, or, if you will, God, gives this creature directions.

Be fruitful and multiply.  This is the first commandment (mitzvah) given to Man; the first of the 613 mitzvoth in the Law (id est, the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible).  This is more than a commandment to reproduce.  The animals reproduce, even care for their young for a time, by nature and instinct, and need no such direction.  So why give it to Man?  Because Man is to make a home, raise a family, and, subdue the earth.  Man is a part of creation, but apart from the rest of creation; no other part of creation  is told to subdue the earth because no other part of creation could be told to subdue the earth.  Only Man, with the divine-like capacity for self-conscious willed action, could be told this.

Who Told Thee Thou Wast Naked?

And what are the results of this command?  What results has this uniquely self-conscious will-endowed creature produced in subduing the creation of which he is both part and its crown?  The results are everywhere to be seen in both the present and in history -- and in the first chapters of Genesis.  The creation of Man is different than the creation of everything else.  We saw that the first creation account (chapter one) it is not "let there be ..." like the earlier parts of creation but "let us make ..."  And in the second creation account (chapter two), this point is made again.  God formed Man, in this chapter the male.  The Hebrew verb, yatzar, as is often commented, relates to a potter forming clay.  What is not so often commented is that this verb is written differently regarding the formation of Man than the formation of prior creation.  With animals it is written with one yod, but for the formation of Man it is written with two.

Which fits exactly.  This creature, Man, has something the others do not,  namely the image of God, which means a capacity for acts of self-conscious will.  But this is still a creature, not another god.  Therefore the formation is written with two yods, because Man is torn within himself and needs "commandments", needs direction from his creator.  Of himself, his will may not be God's will.  He has a Yetzer tob, a good inclination, and a Yetzer ra, a bad inclination.  And this condition is dealt with, as God directs Man not to be his own arbiter of good and bad, good and evil.

This is the essence of the human condition -- a being in the divine image who can will acts apart from the will of the Divine who created him.  The man is told, in the figure of tending a garden, which is to say, subduing the earth, that he may do it all, except, decide for himself what is good and what is bad, what is good and what is evil.  This is God's function alone.  For Man to assume that function, to become morally autonomous from God, is the creature assuming the role of the creator.  Which in a word, is pride.  And indeed, pride goeth before the fall.

And that is exactly what happens in the Genesis story.  Once Man assumed moral autonomy from God, ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so to speak, everything falls apart.  When the unfolding, the evolution, described in Genesis, gets to Man, its continuation becomes voluntary, literally, a matter of will, and the will is now Man's, not God's.

Having assumed moral autonomy, acting like God when he is not god, the creature acting as if he were the creator, Man gets it wrong.  Whereas they were not ashamed at their nakedness before each other, in fact did not distinguish nakedness at all, now they find it an issue.  It is not that there is nakedness, and having eaten of the forbidden fruit, now they realise it.  It is that, having claimed moral autonomy, acting like God, they define good from evil, and find something that is in fact good, evil, and devise measures to correct it -- to correct what is already correct.

This changes everything.  Now, when they sense the presence of the Lord, instead of creatures happily welcoming their creator, they hide!  So instead of the creature seeking his creator, the creator now seeks his creature.  "Where art thou?"  And the man starts making excuses -- oh well hey, I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid from you.  Just a sec, lemme put something on.  We don't have any clothing stores yet, but we sewed these fig leaves to-gether.

And God asks them, What's up with that?  Where'd you get this "naked" thing because I didn't say bupkis about it, let alone opening a clothing store.  And the sorry story continues.  Does the man say, Sorry God I blew it.  Hell no, he blames his wife.  So God asks her, and what does she do?  Same thing, does not accept responsibility for her action but blames something else, the serpent, as Genesis puts it, or diminished capacity, as she would put it now.

Genesis describes exactly what is observed in human history down to the present.  It's not that we try to get it right, it's that we decide what is right and try to get that.  And the results are mixed.  For example, as Man begins to live more in cities, he finds he has a pollution problem with all the horses defecating all over town.  Then he invents another work vehicle that doesn't need horses, a horseless carriage.  Problem solved!  Except, problem not solved, as he discovers later on the fuel emissions from his horseless carriage create an even worse pollution.  Or, for example, as he subdues the earth and attains the ability to harness the power of the atom, he finds a limitless source of power, yet, should there be an accident, the results are disastrous, and, he can also use that power to either create weapons in which thousands are killed in an instant or to understand and treat disease at a fundamental level.

And when things go wrong, we do just as Adam and Eve, start blaming someone or something else, rather than recognise our own failure.

Memento mori.

Remember that you will die.  That's what the Latin means.  It comes from the triumphal processions in ancient Rome, where as the conquering general as he rode in his chariot through the throngs of cheers and accolades, his servant behind him would keep saying to him, Remember that you will die.  The idea was to not get carried away with all the pomp and circumstance and remember that even though you have gotten this by your accomplishments, you will die like any other man.

Death.  We know we are going to die, and we don't like to think about it very much, yet we do because it happens to those around us and we know it will happen to us.  Death is first mentioned in the Bible here in Genesis, in connexion with the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In the day you eat of it you will surely die, God says to Man.

No you won't, says the "serpent".  In fact, you will not only not die, you will become like God, he adds.  So Man eats of the fruit, and guess what -- he does not die!  So the "serpent" was right and the Bible even bears that out?  What's up with that?  Or with this -- does the Bible contradict itself even on its own terms right in its first pages, first saying God tells them they will die in the day they eat the fruit, then saying they don't?  If so, why bother with it then?

OK.  Manifestly, physical death did not enter creation with this original sin.  For one thing, to threaten a consequence which does not exist and of which therefore Man has no knowledge would be meaningless to Man.  For another, as we saw Man eats and does not die.  Something else happens instead.  For another, nothing in the preceding text gives any basis for thinking creation was meant to be eternal from creation on.  For yet another, a few verses later God becomes concerned that Man, having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and having become like God -- having declared his moral autonomy and now functioning like a god instead of a creature -- will now eat of the fruit of the tree of eternal life and live forever.  If he were not going to die at some point, it would be meaningless for God to be concerned that he won't.

So, the death spoken of is not physical death, it is the something else that happens.  And what is that something else?  The order of creation is broken.  Man is not going to function as he was created to function.  Since he is going to follow his own will, make his own choices, determine what is good and evil, he will have trouble in fulfilling his commandment.  Subduing the earth will be difficult, and so will being fruitful and multiplying.  Just as Scripture says, Man does not experience physical death from his sin, he experiences the death of the order of creation as it was intended, including the death of his role in it.  IOW, spiritual death, and I don't mean "spiritual" in some vague general "spirituality" but literally; his spirit dies and Man will henceforward have broken that image of God in which he was created.

It's still there, but it is broken, and it cannot repair itself.  Or better, a spirit, being alive, is now dead and cannot bring itself back to life again.  The consequence for assuming moral autonomy from God is -- assuming moral autonomy from God, which shatters the image of God in which he was created and kills his spirit.

Mementohomoquia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.  

Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.  That's what the Latin means.  It is from the service for the beginning of Lent, called Ash Wednesday, from the custom of imposing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful in the shape of a cross.

Hey, when you gonna talk about Adam?  OK, now.  Adam, the word for the creature, comes from the word for the "dust" or soil from which he was formed, adamah.  When "Adam" is first used (1:27) it is not as a name, a proper noun, for one man.  It means Man, both male and female, and not just one male and one female.  It becomes a personal name in the next chapter (2:7).  And Adam names his wife, Eve, Havvah in Hebrew, from hayah, to live, as no human lives who is not born of "woman".  The collective use rather than reference to one person returns in Genesis 5:1-2, where the collective Man is specified by sex, male and female.  Adam is Man.

Huh?  So whaddawe got here, two conflicting accounts?  Sure looks that way, and not just re Adam either.  Looks like in one account a male human was created, then all the animals, not before humans as in the other account, and since none of them was a suitable partner for the male, a female was created from the male.  Biblical scholarship generally posits two sources that were combined by a later editor for the book as we know it now.  So then what?  Dismiss Genesis as a combination of two related but separate creation myths, is that what Past Elder is saying here as his professors taught?  No, and hell no.  It doesn't even matter whether that literary theory is true or not, because it does not change what God is revealing to Man.

Just as with creation itself, the revelation is not a treatise from God on HOW he did it, but a revelation THAT he did it, and communicated in terms comprehensible to Man at the time of its revelation.  Not a textbook, not an algorithm, but a user's manual.

And here again, the creation of Man is different than the creation of everything else.  Not a Let There Be but a Let Us Make.  Unlike everything else, Man is revealed as created from something that already exists, dust.  The crown of creation is himself created from Creation.  This act of creation Genesis calls formation.  Man is related as formed from something that already exists, dust.

O felix culpa.

So, the appearance of a self-conscious being capable of voluntary acts of will marks a fundamental change in the unfolding, the evolution, described in Genesis.  We saw this in four ways:

One, the divine act of will is not "Let there be ..." but "Let us make ...".
Two, the Hebrew verb is written here with two yods instead of one, indicating that this creature's will is his, which may or may not align with God's.
Three, after this creature emerges, commandments are given for the first time, since no other creature needs them.
Four, this creature unfolds not from nothing, but from existing Creation.

And then, this product of a fundamental change fundamentally changes how the unfolding unfolds, so that it is now no longer unfolding according to the will of God, or if you will, so to speak, according to its nature.

What?  What kind of God is this?  Is God then a creator who creates a creature who can fail then says "Here you go, follow the directions"?  And, if this God is all knowing, he knows the creature will fail.  If this God is so great and loving, why didn't he create Man so he could not fail, why not create a creature that is happy and stays that way, including, not die? 

O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem.  O happy fault which gained us such and so great a Redeemer.  Such is the famous verse of the Exultet (more recently given by the ever-changing but oh-no-nothing-really-changed Rome as Exsultet), a sung poem of praise, though not sung by a praise band, at the Easter Vigil after the procession with the Easter Candle.  Though one will search in vain for this verse in the cobbled up version of the Exultet offered in Lutheran Service Book.  Why its most famous phrase was cobbled out of it remains one of the enduring quirks of LSB, but I digress.

It comes down to this.  All the storm and stress about Creation and Evolution etc is just unnecessary, and fuelled by nothing but misunderstanding and fear.  Genesis presents the unfolding of God's creativity and that is evolution. The unfolding is laid out with utter precision in the succession of geosphere, biosphere, then noosphere.  And with the emergence of the noosphere, a new aspect enters creation, a being, Adam, who is distinct from the rest of creation in having the image of the Creator but distinct from the Creator in not being a god himself.  His participation in the continuing unfolding, which is to say, evolution, is literally voluntary, subject to his will, and he blows it, shattering the image of his Creator he bears beyond repair through his own will.

This is exactly what the "creationists" and the "evolutionists" both miss, with opposite yet similar consequences.  The "creationists" assert creation by God, the "evolutionists" assert evolution, and both are right.

The evolutionist misses two things.  One, that evolution is not a push, but a pull, not an impersonal push of natural law or chance, but an intended personal pull exerted by a Being we usually call God.  Two, with the emergence of Man, co-operation and participation in the pull becomes voluntary and is thwarted by Man's own voluntas, will.  The origin of the species is not the origin of life; there is nothing to fear here.

The creationist misses that in Scripture God is not writing a scientific treatise or algorithm of how he did creation, but a revelation that he did creation.  Meaning that our understanding of the "how" of creation is no more to be made into a god, into the basis for our self-understanding, than more obvious forces such as thunder, our sun, etc were to be made into gods in earlier times.  The origin of the species is not the origin of life and not the origin of everything; there is nothing to fear here.

For as in Adam all die so in Christ are all made alive, it says.  And so it is -- in Adam, Man, we men (don't get goofy here, it means male and female) lose the image of our creator and any ability despite our best efforts to successfully co-operate and participate in the unfolding, the evolution, God has begun.  Yet, the emergence of such a being, Man, cannot be otherwise -- an unfolding into increasing complexity, from geosphere to biosphere to noosphere, will with the emergence of the noosphere become voluntary, a matter of will.  The cruel God would be not one who creates it so, if you will, but one who just leaves it so.

But God does not leave it so.  Nor is there a general "theistic evolution".  Rather, this theos, this God, reveals that he turns this fault, this inevitable voluntariness, without which Man would not have the image of God but simply be an android rather than an anthropos, into a happy fault, by himself becoming Man so that the evolution may continue, the pull continues not by the efforts of Man's will but by faith in the assumption by God the Creator of the brokenness of His own image in the creature.  THIS is who dies as a result of assuming willed control over good and evil -- not Man as threatened but God become Man in Christ!

Now that's something to exult -- should we now spell it exsult, Rome? -- about, just as the Exultet says.  The Creator is creation's Redeemer too!  Such and so great a redeemer indeed!  I make all things new, he says.  Not just all people, all creation.  Ich mache alles -- nicht nur alle -- neu.  The pull of evolution revealed in Genesis is restored in the cross of Christ, he who was God made Man, and when lifted up in the cross suffered the death that is our consequence so that we might regain the image of God which was intended, willed, by God.

And not only that.  There's more!  Not something else, but more to this same something.  That sacrifice of God on behalf of Man in Christ, is not just words in a book, or something that happened a long time ago, but it is offered to us here and now!  In the Divine Environment -- which is to say, the universe -- precisely because there is no universal such as a 24 hour day, a disruption in the ordinary operation of matter, such as say a resurrection, also is a disruption in the ordinary operation of time.  Therefore, that one sacrifice, that one lifting up of Christ on the cross drawing all men to himself, which is to God, that sacrifice of his body and blood, is given to us outside the normal operation of time, in, with, and under the elements he instituted of bread and the fruit of the vine (vine being a grapevine).  The sure pledge of our salvation and redemption!

 Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra omnia traham ad me ipsum. 

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.  (In case you forgot.)

The "literal meaning" of Genesis has absolutely nothing, nothing, to do with creation in six twenty-four hour earth days, nor with a single first human named Adam being made from dust.  AND, the fact that creation did not happen in six twenty-four hour earth days and that Man did not descend from two individuals named Adam and Eve in no way, no way, overthrows the literal meaning of Genesis or proves either Genesis specifically or the Bible generally false and/or irrelevant.

In fact, what God revealed to Man in Bereshit (that's Genesis, in case you forgot) in terms of Man's experience at the time and place it was revealed, is confirmed over and over again by the astounding harvest of knowledge resulting from our empirically based view of the world that is now our experience.  The phenomenon of Man, the human phenomenon, is nowhere presented more exactly than Bereshit, as we have discussed above.

Why then fear or repudiate the progress of the world?  Why multiply warnings and prohibitions, as if there were nothing more to venture or to learn?  Nihil intentatum (Nothing unattempted).  All over the world, Man yields an astounding harvest, in laboratories, in studios, in factories, wherever he labours.  Embrace it, since without the sun revealed in Scripture, this astounding harvest disperses wildly into sterile shoots, and this vast crucible would never learn its source and destiny in the crux (cross) of the Creator incarnate in Man who overcomes all and when exalted, that is, lifted up, on the cross draws all to himself.

The divine environment.

12 September 2017

Holy Crap Day. 14 September 2017.

In many places a commemoration we Lutherans usually call Holy Cross Day is observed on 14 September. Its actual name is Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis, which in Latin means "Exaltation of the Holy Cross".  Thing is, exaltatio in Latin does not mean what its derivative exaltation has come to mean in English.  It means raising aloft, so the name actually translates as "Raising Aloft of the Holy Cross" which is pretty close to its Greek name "Raising Aloft of the Precious Cross". I ain't getting into the Greek. I also ain't getting into all the other "Holy Cross Days" on 13 September, 12 October, 6 March, 3 May and 1 August either!

But I am getting into making clear that the literal exaltation, the lifting up, of the cross for which this "feast" was instituted is not a reference to either Christ or the cross of Calvary as the means of salvation or its triumph, but to the lifting up of a supposed relic.  Here's the deal.

So What's a Holy Cross Day?

Glad you asked. But before getting down to that, let me be clear about two things. None of what follows should be construed as knocking the historic liturgy and things related to it.  I consider it one of the great treasures of "Lutheranism" that they are retained except where they contradict, as distinct from are commanded by, Scripture. And, none of what follows should be construed as knocking an ever growing awareness of and reverence for what was accomplished for us by Christ on the cross.

It should be construed as what it is, knocking the retention of this "feast" as in any way aiding either the work of zealously guarding and defending the liturgy or of deepening the awareness of and reverence toward what was accomplished for us by Christ on the cross.

The Origin of Holy Cross Day.

So why a Holy Cross Day on 14 September? Because on 14 September 335 the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was concluded.  The dedication itself was the day before, then on 14 September the "cross" was brought outside for veneration by the people.  And, the Roman Emperor, Constantine, made it a feast day.  That's why. What in all church planting Judas does that mean? And what cross? Why, the "true" cross, discovered by the Emperor's mom Helena on a dig funded by the Imperial treasury, that's what cross! Huh?

So why ain't it called the Church of the Holy Cross then? Well guess what, there was already something standing there, which was another church, well a temple actually, to the goddess Aphrodite, known to the Romans as Venus, she from whom the planet, and also Friday, is named. Some say the place was originally a Christian worship site, for reasons that will presently be clear, and that the temple was later built by Emperor Hadrian in his rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Why Jerusalem Had To Be Rebuilt. Again.

Now why rebuilding? Well, remember, Jerusalem was completely trashed by the Romans in 70 AD. Whyzat? Well it started in 66, when some Greeks started offering pagan sacrifices outside a synagogue in Jerusalem. At first, the Roman soldiers stationed in Jerusalem did not get involved in this local matter.  But next thing you know, the Jewish priests quit offering token sacrifices to the Emperor -- the Roman Empire generally left you alone as long as you paid tribute to the top and didn't rock the boat, which is how its surviving state church still pretty much operates.  And then next thing you know there's protests against Roman taxes, call it an ancient Tea Party, and muggings of Romans living there.  Finally, when some of the boys from duty stations in the area go in to intervene they get their butts kicked by a bunch of Jews (that's the Battle of Beth Horon) which clean pisses off the Roman Emperor, guy named Nero.

Old Nero tells General Vespasian -- who had distinguished himself in the Roman invasion of Mother England (OK Britannia at the time) in 43 as commander of Legio secunda Augusta (Second Augustan Legion), one of the four legions deployed -- to go in and open up a major can of whoop-ass on Judea. Which he commences to do along with the forces of his son, Titus, also a general, in April 67, with total forces of about 60,000. By 68 they had pretty well cleaned house in the north, and in the south the Jews pretty well cleaned house on each other with infighting, so about all that was left was Jerusalem.

But then something else happened back in Rome. Nero was getting too bizarre for even the Romans more about that in the post for 22 February), the Senate and the military went against him, he was declared an enemy of the people, so he bolts and commits suicide in 68. All hell breaks loose and in 69 Rome goes through four emperors! First, the new emperor, guy named Galba, gets assassinated by a guy named Otho who wants to be the new emperor so he bribes the Emperor's bodyguards, the Praetorian Guard, to kill him.  Then a guy named Vitellius, with the best legions in the Roman army on his side, defeats Otho and inspires him to commit suicide, but then Vitellius pisses everybody clean off by having so many feasts and parades that he about bankrupts the Empire. So in July 69 Vespasian gets hailed as emperor by his army and other Roman armies -- Roman armies did that sometimes, that's also how Constantine would later get his start as emperor -- and, thinking maybe that isn't such a bad idea, Vespasian heads to Rome and his allied armies kick the living crap out of Vitellius' forces and kill him, and the Senate proclaims Vespasian emperor 21 December 69. Helluva year.

Vespasian had left crushing the Jewish rebellion to his son Titus, which he bloody well does, so thoroughly destroying Jerusalem that Jospehus, the Roman name of the great Jewish contemporary historian Yosef, says you wouldn't have even thought the place was once inhabited. This includes the destruction of the Temple, which happened on 29/30 July 70. In the Hebrew calendar it was Tisha B'Av, or the 9th of Av (a month in the Hebrew calendar) and guess what, it was on exactly that date that first Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, leading to the Babylonian Captivity (the one of the Jews, not the church) some 656 years earlier.

Why the Destruction of the Second Temple Is a Big Deal.

The destruction of the Second Temple has enormous consequences for both Christianity and Judaism.  To have the centre of one's worship and people's identity destroyed for the second time was catastrophic. And this time there wasn't even a captivity in which to be carried off. Worst of all, with the Temple gone, it would now be impossible to fully follow the Law, with the Temple and its sacrifices gone. How does a religion and people based on the Law continue when observing the Law is no longer fully possible?

There's only two answers: one, the Law could now pass because it had been fulfilled, or two, something else would take the place of the Temple sacrifices until such time as they could be restored. The second answer was forthcoming from Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai. During the siege, he was slipped out in a coffin, and knowing the destruction was coming, and sensing Vespasian would become Emperor, negotiated from him three things: 1) sparing the city Jamnia, 2) sparing its sages, who were students of Rabbi Gamaliel, grandson of the great Hillel, and whom St Peter mentions as having argued against killing the Apostles for their messianic beliefs about Jesus, and among whose students St Paul counts himself, 3) a physician to attend an old rabbi (OK, his name was Tzadok) who had fasted for forty years hoping to ward off any destruction such as has just happened. It was here that Judaism as we know it, in the absence of the Temple, began to take shape. Basing himself on Hosea 6:6, he concluded that our mitzvoth (good works) and prayer would now take the place of the sacrifices commanded in the Law.

The other answer is that the sacrifices had culminated in that to which they pointed, the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary, who is now both priest and victim, and the destruction of the Temple is what was meant when Jesus said some of those living would see the end, meaning the end of things as they knew it -- which some of them did.

Hadrian Rebuilds Jerusalem.

The story goes that, as Hadrian, who had become Emperor on 10 August 117, was rebuilding Jerusalem, which began in 130, there was a site that had been a Christian church reportedly on the site of Jesus' burial, so Hadrian, who hated Christians, ordered dirt brought in to cover the site, then had a temple to Venus (Aphrodite to the Greeks) built on top of the earth on top of the old church site.  So Constantine ordered the temple destroyed and the earth underneath it moved back out!

Makes for a nice story, but the story is pure bull. Hadrian located the forum for the new Jerusalem where Roman fora were always located, which is, at the meeting of the main north-south road through town and the, or one of the, main east-west roads. In Jerusalem it was the latter case, and the forum was located in the space between the two east-west roads and along the north-south road, and the temple to Venus was part of that. So far from being a special action against Christians, it was just a following of standard Roman practice anywhere.

And, that the site is that of Jesus' tomb is so unlikely as to be nearly surely false. The Bible says Jesus' tomb was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, and this site is within the walls of Jerusalem. Oh well, some say, the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus' day were different. Two problems with that. If they were east enough of the current walls to make the site west of them, Jerusalem would have been quite a narrow city. Also, building a tomb west of the city is highly unlikely, as wind in Jerusalem generally blows from west to east, and thus would blow over the tombs bringing ritual impurity, not to mention a possible stench, to the city and in particular to the Temple Mount. So, graves go to the east of the city.

Also, these bogus legends obscure the fact that while Hadrian did see Christianity as an uncouth superstitious cult dangerous to a humane social order, that was nothing compared to his regard for Judaism, of which he wanted to remove all traces altogether.  What Hadrian actually did do has nothing to do with temples to Venus on Christ's crucifixion or burial site.  The rebuilding of Jerusalem was as a new city with no Jews, called Aelia Capitolina, Aelius being Hadrian's clan name (nomen gentile) and Capitolina referring to Jupiter Capitolinus, as in the great temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill (from which comes the English word capitol, btw) in Rome.  He built a temple to Jupiter on the ruins of the Temple site, forbad observance of Jewish law or its calendar, especially circumcision which was held to be utterly barbaric, publicly burned the Torah scrolls, and attached Judaea to Syria and renamed it Syria Palaestina, Philistine Syria, in 135.

Helena.

And, to those unlikely to be true legends, add those about Helena and the finding of the "true" cross. Helena was the mother of Constantine.  His father was Constantius, however, it is unclear if she was a legal wife or a concubine, which then meant an extra-legal wife since the marriage was between social classes (he was noble, she was not), and that was prohibited by Roman law (same problem Augustine had with "the one" who was mother of his son). Helena's unclear status was controversial for both husband and son, and Constantius later dumped her in a power deal to solidify his political position to marry another (Theodora), which he did in Trier, then called Augusta Treverorum and his new capitol. Son Constantine the "Great" would later do the same thing for the same reasons. Once her son became Emperor, Helena returned to public life and was made Augusta Imperatrix, and was given unlimited access to the imperial treasury to locate objects of Christian veneration.

The story is, after the Temple of Venus was torn down and the land removed, excavation found three crosses at what was supposed to be the site of Jesus' burial. So a woman near death was brought, and did not recover on touching the first two crosses but did on touching the third, which Helena proclaimed the cross of Christ. Problem is, for one thing contemporary accounts of the excavation (Eusebius) do not mention Helena being there at all, rather unlikely for the Augusta Imperatrix to not be mentioned if she were there.  For another, the legend about authenticating the true cross appears not only later, but in at least three distinct versions, the one just related, and one where a dead man was touched to each of the three and came back to life at the right one, and that the inscription put on the cross was still on it.

Take Your Pick. Or Not. Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis.

What a wretched mess, most of it legend of the most spurious kind and the rest of it fact of the most disgusting kind. A verifiable total confusion of the Two Kingdoms (left and right hand) surrounded by unverifiable legends that don't even agree with each other. This honours the cross of Christ? Such a miserable excuse for piety should be shovelled out and thrown away just like Constantine shovelled out what Hadrian shovelled in. The object of our veneration is not the cross per se, or toothpicks from it, or legends about finding it, or big fancy churches built at state expense on the supposed site of it, or a feast day established by a Roman Emperor, but Christ and his action on it for our salvation, whose body and blood he gives you right in your own parish in Communion at Divine Service.

The true Raising Aloft of the Holy Cross is not like some empty fiction, for example the story about Dietrich von Bern, or these miserable True Cross legends and imperial-sponsored liftings-up thereof, but as St John says in John 12:32 "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." Et ego si exaltatus fuero a terra omnia traham ad me ipsum. The Alpha and the Omega, and his Omega Point, through whose exaltation, lifting up, we are drawn from the Alpha and raised aloft to the Omega.

05 September 2017

Augustine and Happy Birthday, Western Catholic Church. 6 September 2017.

Huh?

Nah, 6 September is not the birthday of the Catholic Church.  On 6 September 394 the Eastern Emperor Theodosius I defeated the Western Emperor Eugenius at the conclusion of the two-day Battle of The Frigidus.

Judas H Priest, never heard of it and why should I have heard of it, and where and what in the hell is the Frigidus?

The birthday of the "Catholic Church" is 27 February 380. That's when Eastern Roman Emperor Flavius Theodosius Augustus and Western Roman Emperor Flavius Gratianus Augustus and his half-brother Flavius Valentinianus Augustus (the two were senior and junior Augustus, respectively, more or less co-emperors) all jointly issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which defined what is and is not the Catholic Church, made it the official imperial state religion, all others to be suppressed by such measures as the empire deems appropriate.

But, it took 14 years for resistance to this in the Western Empire to be crushed militarily, which happened 6 September 394, so it's kind of like a birthday for the Western Roman Imperial Church. And fits right in with the Feast of St Augustine, 28 August, who in 380 was a pagan and a professor in Carthage, and in 394 was about to be named Bishop of Hippo in the new state church.


About the River and Why the Battle.

OK about the river. The Frigidus is a river, the Latin name means "cold" as its English descendant "frigid" suggests. It is in northeastern Italy and Slovenia and is now called the Vipacco in Italian and the Vipava in Slovene, and of course I gotta tell ya it is called the Wipbach in modern German, or, as b and p get sort of interchangeable in German sometimes, the Wippach.

So why was there a battle there and why should I care to know? Goes like this. On 27 February 380, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius, in concert with his Western co-Emperor counterparts Gratian and Valentinian II, issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Nicene Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire overall, required that all subjects of the Empire must hold this faith as delivered to Rome and preserved by then current Pope Damasus I and then current Bishop of Alexandria Peter, and declared that these alone shall be called "Catholic Christians", the universal faith of the Empire, and all others are heretics and not even churches, subject to such punishment as the Empire should choose to visit upon them.

So, 27 February 380 is the birthday of the "Catholic Church", as distinct from the catholic church. The then-new Imperial state church is still around, and still reflects the divisions between the Eastern and Western Roman Empire as Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. The Eastern version took hold earlier but it was a little more unsettled in the Western Empire. That's why, though both have the same birthday, 6 September 394 is a sort of Western birthday, since that is when resistance to it in the Western Empire was crushed by military power from the Eastern Empire, no co-incidence at all that this was at the hands of Theodosius, who would be the last Emperor both East and West.

A Renowned Professor Get Caught Up In This.

A Roman citizen, from what are now called Berbers, named Augustine is teaching in Carthage in 380, seven years away from being baptised by the state bishop, Ambrose, of the state church in the state's Western capital by then, Milan. Diocletian, the last emperor of an undivided Roman Empire, had made Milan, then called Mediolanum, the Western capitol in 293 and Nicomedia, now Izmit Turkey, the Eastern capitol in 286, and called his new provincial units diocese, after himself. Constantine moved the Eastern capitol to nearby Byzantium, renamed it Constantinople, which is now Istanbul Turkey.  You get to name stuff after yourself when you're really powerful.

The Roman Senate, still in Rome, was not shall we say comfortable with this new state religion in the two new capitols of the Empire, and lots of academic disputes and apologetics on both sides went back and forth, but no violence. During this unsettled time Augustine gets appointed to the most prestigious professorship in his world, at the Western capitol Milan in 384, and is all caught up in the swirling controversy between the old religion and classic philosophy and the new state church.

He also gets caught up in his mother Monica's designs for his career. Now with a prestigious academic position, his longstanding relationship with a woman he never names but called "the one", of some 14 years complete with son, called Adeodatus, meaning "given by God", hasta go according to mom. So he caves and sends her away, she saying she will never be with another man, he finding a new concubine to tide him over until the proper social marriage his mom, "Saint" Monica, arranges with a then-11 year old girl (yeah, really) can happen.

And about concubines. Ain't what you think. A concubine in ancient Rome was simply a wife that Roman law forbade you to marry due to your or her social class. These marriages denied legality by Imperial law were rather common, and the church didn't come down on them since it wasn't the couple's fault they weren't legally married. Something to keep in mind when "the one" gets called concubine in the modern sense, their relationship gets passed off as merely lustful and the son as "illegitimate".

Take, Read -- This Christian Bestseller!

No wonder the dude was confused! His whole world is swirling in unsettled controversy and mom is running his life like a beauty pageant mom. And then, as he's all upset about his life, he has this really weird experience where he hears a kid's voice saying "Take, read" (the famous tolle, lege). Now what he was told to take and read you won't likely find in your local Christian bookstore, but was among the most widely read books, first in the Imperial Christian state church and then through the Middle Ages. It's a Life of St Anthony of the Desert, written by St Athanasius about 360 in Greek, but best known in a Latin translation made about ten or so years later.

Hoo-boy, old Tony. He was a wealthy Egyptian who became Christian at about age 34, so far so good, sold everything and took up with a local hermit. Tony in NO way was the "Founder of Monasticism", as religious hermits of various religions were common on the outskirts of cities; Philo the Jewish-Egyptian writer mentions them all, sharing the Platonic idea of having to get out of the world to get into an ideal. Pure Platonist Idealism. Sure glad Jesus didn't do that or let his Apostles do it either when they wanted to, but went back to Jerusalem where real life had things for them to do.

But old Tony went the other direction, and left even the outskirts for the desert itself to get away from it all to get into it all. But the crowds followed -- everybody loves an exotic "holy man" -- and Tony took on the more advanced cases of this mania and left the rest to his associates, a Christian Oracle of   Delphi, which "guidance" was later variously collected as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, or Apophthegmata, if you want a word to impress somebody in a combox or something.

The Famous Professor Converts.

Anyhoo, Gus reads this in 386, and on the Easter Vigil of 387, Ambrose baptises Gus and his son. The next year, 388, he determines to return home to North Africa. Which he did, but along the way both his mother and his son died, so he arrives alone in the world, and understandably unsure of himself once again. Next he sells the family stuff and gives the money away, except the house which he turns into a sort of lay monastery. I guess that's what you do when you read about dudes in the desert, rather than go through the grief and live on in the world of people. Then he gets ordained presbyter or priest in 391 in Hippo, now Annaba, Algeria.

This mostly academic and political controversy, in which Gus' unsettled life had its context, and of which it is typical, changed when Western Emperor Valentinian II was found hanged in his home on 16 May 392. His half brother and co-Emperor Gratian was already dead, killed 25 August 383 in Lyon France by forces of Roman generals who thought he was losing his grip. The official word was Valentinian was a suicide, but his wife and others though he was done in by his military power behind the throne, a Frank named Arbogastes.  The Imperial Milan court church's bishop, Ambrose, left the question open, suicide being a no-no for a Christian Emperor held up as a hero.

A Digression, but a Damned Important One.

What's a Frank? Not a hot dog, that comes from Frankfurter, and originally meant Frankfurter Würstchen, which means "little sausages from Frankfurt" served on a bun. They originated in the 13th Century and became the peoples' food for coronations of the Holy Roman Emperor starting with Maximilian II, a Habsburg and nephew of Emperor Karl V, he to whom the Augsburg Confession was presented, on 25 July 1564. About 1800 or so, a butcher named Johann Georg Lahner from Coburg, Bavaria, introduced the Frankfurter Würstchen to Vienna. Now Vienna had its own sausages, which were a mixture of pork and beef called Wiener, from Wien, which is "Vienna" in German. Lahner modified his product by mixing the original pork with beef like the Viennese and calling the result simply a Frankfurter. German immigrants brought the product to the US at Coney Island, and at St Louis where the German American owner, Chris von der Ahe, of the St Louis Brown Stockings, now the Cardinals, started selling them at baseball games, and also at a stand in what is now Paul T McCain's back yard. OK just jacking around on that last bit --the inter-relation of hot dogs, Lutheranism, St Louis and the Cards is clear enough without it. There, toldya it was important! The name got shortened to "Frank", they're hot, and the "dog" thing came from rumours that the makers actually used dog meat. Myself, I like kosher beef hot dogs, not at all the original!

Oh yeah, what's a Frank -- comes from the Roman name gens Francorum for these Germanic barbarians who threw their axes (the franks), whose own ethnic history says they were Trojans under Priam who ended up on the Rhein, oh sorry, Rhine, after the fall of Troy in Homeric times.

Back To the Story.

On 22 August 392, Arbogastes, who being a Frank and not Roman could not be Emperor, names a Roman Christian named Eugenius the Western Emperor. Eugenius though Christian was sympathetic to traditional Roman religion and started replacing Western officials sympathetic to the Eastern Empire. The Eastern Empire put off recognition of the new Western regime, and finally in January of 392 Theodosius declared his two-year-old son Honorius as Western Emperor and begins preparing an invasion of the Western Empire, which began in May 394 and concluded in the victory at The Frigidus 6 September 394. Arbogastes commits suicide and Eugenius is beheaded by the Catholic forces of Theodosius.

Later in the same year, 394, the Imperial state Catholic Church, on a real roll -- it had destroyed the Temple of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi in 390, the Serapeum and Great Library in Alexandria in 391, the year Augustine was ordained a priest in the official church, had ended the two great rituals of ancient Greece, the Eleusinian Mysteries in 392 and the Olympic Games after the ones in 393 -- puts out the fire considered essential to Rome's survival at the Temple of Vesta, and disbands the women who were personally selected by the pontifex maximus, when that meant the head of the traditional Roman religion rather than the head of the new state Catholic religion.

The next year, 395, Augustine becomes religious head, which is called bishop, of the Roman Imperial  administrative unit called a diocese, in Hippo. Guess Gus knew on which side his bread is buttered.

It All Comes To-gether, It All Falls Apart.

The Battle of The Frigidus effectively ended any Western resistance to the new state church. But those old Roman families knew a thing or two about survival and before long they were papal families, eventually supplying Pope Gregory, made Pope 3 September 590, who ruled the state church like a real Roman indeed. This enormous civil war though left the Western Empire greatly weakened, and it collapsed a thousand years before the Eastern Empire did, with the Visigoths sacking Rome in 410. So Augustine, by then 56 and still Bishop of Hippo, writes more Platonism to assure the shocked Romans that though the joint was a mess, the real and ideal City of God was the real winner.

Yeah right. Back here in reality the "City of God", Rome, first sacked by the Gauls in 387 BC, after the 410 sack by the Visigoths, got sacked again by the Vandals in 455, but Gus died at 75 on 28 August 430 so he missed it. And Rome would be sacked again by the Ostrogoths in 546, and again by the Arabs in 846, and again by the Normans in 1084, and last by soldiers of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but not on his orders, in 1527.

Anyway, that's the famous book The City of God, which is actually only the first part of its title, which is On The City Of God Against The Pagans (OK it's De civitate Dei contra Paganos, I translated). Pagan is another term reinvented by the new church. It once meant someone from the country, or a civilian, but with the Imperial Catholic Church firmly in the cities, and their faithful thinking they were a church militant, soldiers of Christ, which, the state military having kicked the crap out of the former religion for the state church, I guess kind of fits, pagan came to mean someone adhering to the old religion which hung on more in the countryside.

For all his faults and his immersion in social-political turmoil and change of his time, he was aware that six twenty-four hour periods is not even the "literal" reading of Genesis.  More on that in a later post.

The Aftermath.

That Platonic idealism guided and fuelled the West as it struggled through centuries of chaos and tried to reinvent its former glory with the Holy Roman Empire, which, as has been famously remarked, was not holy, not Roman, and not much of an empire. Hell, it was Frankish, the new Romans! Old Arbogastes would have liked that! And it by God had the Roman state Catholic Church with popes and bishops and diocese and all the Platonism reinvented as Christianity you can shake a stick at, complete with justification as the City of God.

Which wholesale hijacking of the catholic church as the Catholic Church, one might say its Babylonian Captivity, lasted for a thousand years. Then a poor guy in a screwed up world with a screwed up life, and a barbarian to boot, a German named Martin Luther from outside the old Roman boundaries, seeks solace in a religious order modelling itself after Augustine's Platonic idealism turned into Christian monastic asceticism, and discovers none of this crap is gonna save you but simply faith in the Son sent by God to be the sacrifice which takes away our sins, just like Scripture, which is supposed to be the church's book, says.

And so begins the disentanglement of the catholic church from the Catholic Church of the Roman and Holy Roman Empires. They tried like hell to make the catholic church, the pillar and ground of truth, the bride of Christ, into the Whore of Babylon. The vestiges of Theodosius' state Imperial Catholic Church continue in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. That's bad enough, but after the Lutheran reformation began, opposite but equally false reactions to the Babylonian Captivity arose -- several "second" or "another" reformations --  and continue in later churches. The guideline of the Lutheran reformation was, if it contradicts Scripture it must go but what doesn't is retained, since the power of the Gospel and Word and Sacrament is such that not even the Roman Empire could entirely keep it out. But with these later guys the guideline became, if it ain't in Scripture it goes -- depending on whose version of what is in Scripture one buys -- thus losing his Divine Service of his body and blood for our salvation, and in some cases even Baptism as well.

And lately all of these anachronisms, the state churches that survived their original states, seem intoxicated with a Rousseau-like Romantic fiction, which is some sort of resurrection of an imagined pure church of the Apostles and Church Fathers, rediscovered by their scholarship of course, a noble church, sort of an ecclesiastical version of Rousseau's "noble savage". And it must be said some of these anachronisms have the word "Lutheran" in their names. Thus the equal but opposite errors of the old state church and the later Reformers, equally condemned in the Lutheran Confessions, continue as well.

Conclusion.

But while all of this rages about us, and even infects the Lutheran Reformation, thanks be to God for the Lutheran Reformation and its confession of the true teaching of Scripture, the book that is the church's own measure and norm, while yet retaining what does not contradict it.

25 August 2017

St Monica and Vatican II For Lutherans. 27 August 2017.

We Lutherans are about to celebrate the Feast of St Monica on 27 August.  Thing is, the Feast of St Monica is 4 May, has been since there's been such a feast in the 13th Century, and the Lutheran Reformation didn't have an issue with it.  But Vatican II did in the 1960s and moved it, so of course we follow suit as if Vatican II were held in St Louis.

Huh? Who cares?  Who is, and why should I bother about this Monica anyway? The last Monica anyone heard about was Lewinsky or Seles! What difference does any of this make?  I mean, it's all adiaphora, right, so why trample on my Christian Freedom with all this dead weight from the past?

OK, Monica was the mother of St Augustine. Great, whozzat? Well, he is arguably the most influential Christian theologian ever. We'll leave whether that was for better or worse, as well as biographies of Augustine or Monica, aside here.  You can check that out in our next post, for 6 September, or at Section VIII of Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church/Empire, posted on 16 January annually on this blog.

Except for this essential: Augustine was quite non-Christian, anti-Christian really, held the most prestigious professorship in his time, and his conversion was brought about in part by the example and prayers of his Christian mother, Monica, which is why the church honours her.

When the church sets up a day in honour of someone, the traditional practice is to choose the day on which the person died, if known, since faith sees that as the day they were born into eternity. St Augustine's date of death, his heavenly birthday, is 28 August 430, so 28 August is his feast.  Simple.  But St Monica's date of death is not known, and when the person's date of death is not known, some other date of significance about the person's life is chosen.  Here's the story on hers.

St Monica's feast day was not a part of the overall observance of the Western Church for about three-fourths of its elapsed history to date, until about the time of the Council of Trent in the Sixteenth Century. However, it was long observed by the Augustinian Order. Geez, whazzat?

OK, the "Augustinian Order" is a rather motley assortment of religious associations rather than a clear cut single entity, all of them tracing their origin to St Augustine and his rule of life, or regula in Latin. That's what it literally is to be regular -- you live under a regula, or rule. Readers here may have heard of one such Augustinian. Guy named Martin Luther.

Anyway, in the Augustinian Order but not the church as a whole, there was, besides the observance of the feast of St Augustine on 28 August, another observance whose focus was his conversion to Christianity, which conversion in turn influenced the entire later church.

This Augustinian feast, the Feast of the Conversion of St Augustine, was and still is celebrated on 5 May. So they celebrated the single biggest human factor in bringing about that conversion, the example and prayers of his mother, St Monica, on the day before, 4 May. The Conversion feast never did make it into the overall Roman Calendar, but when St Monica's did, since her date of death is not known, the traditional Augustinian date was retained, 4 May. Simple.

And was retained in the Lutheran Reformation for centuries. Until the Revolution, er, Vatican II.

One of the stated aims of the "liturgical reform" at Vatican II was to pare down the historical hodgepodge of stuff into something more straightforward and accessible. So they effectively banned the old order and came up with an entirely new order (novus ordo), sporting four "Eucharistic Prayers", several new options for other key parts of the Mass, a new lectionary of readings spread out over three years, and a new calendar.

Wonderful  --  a new hodgepodge crafted from an even wider spread of historical sources than the old hodgepodge that was supposed to be pared down! Oh well, it was the 1960s after all. I guess you gotta make allowances for that.

One small item in this was relocating the Feast of St Monica to 27 August, the day before the feast of her son. There's a logic to that. And as far as the institution of Christ and fidelity to Scripture goes, you can celebrate the Feast of St Monica on 4 May, 27 August, any other day, or not at all.

However, it's not the 1960s any more. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to learn or be taught that we honour St Monica not because of her physical motherhood of St Augustine but because of her example in the conversion of her pagan son, who went on to be one of the church's greatest saints, and that we do so on 4 May because in the religious order that looks to her son as their patron saint they had long celebrated Monica on 4 May, the day before they celebrated the conversion of their patron on 5 May.

See?  Takes one short paragraph tops, even for me.

Sorry, Roman church dudes. There already was a liturgical reform. It was to pare down all right, but in view of what contradicts Scripture, not in view of our ideas of what makes something more "accessible", and to zealously guard and defend the worship of the church's existing order, not to invent a new one. It's called the Lutheran Reformation. You're a few centuries late to the party. If the Roman hierarchy and associated academics are going to busy themselves with something other than preaching Christ and him crucified, and along the way explain the history of this movement, let them put off the period clothes, get married and raise a family and learn something of real benefit to their fellow man, like heating and air conditioning repair.

Yet, we and other Christian bodies now fall in line with them as if there had been no Reformation! The 1960s Roman novus ordo, with emendations and adaptations, is now the common property of pretty much all other heterodox Christian denominations with liturgical aspirations, rather than the traditional order of the Western Church.

And "our beloved synod" falls into line too, even those parts of it trying to remain true to our Confessions in the Book of Concord. We moan and groan why other parts of our beloved synod seem to be heading off on all sorts of tangents, or rather, variations on the tangent of chasing after the success in attracting numbers of the American suburban "evangelical" megachurches.

We wonder how our people could be taken in by these false hopes and promises.  Yet, why should our people not wonder why these are not also valid options that we can Lutheranise, when we set Lutheranised "options" modelled after 1960s Rome before them as confessional, side by side with our common catholic history -- this historical mass or that Vatican II For Lutherans mass, this historical lectionary or that Vatican II For Lutherans lectionary, this historical calendar or that Vatican II For Lutherans calendar.

Why would they not listen to Willow Creek and Saddleback and Lakewood too with their false hopes and promises when we adopt and adapt the stinking filth of the Whore of Babylon as it toys with our catholic heritage? Having done that why would they not think it's all about options, personal preference, all OK? We let something in through the back door then wonder why it comes knocking at the front!

Even in a small matter like when a saint's day is observed the whole rotten Roman mess in the church is revealed, and its adoption/adaptation by other church bodies!

St Monica gave St Augustine physical birth, but her greatness for which we honour her is not that but in her role in his spiritual birth, his conversion, in this life. Therefore she is better honoured by leaving her day where it is for the reason it is there, or better yet finally inserting the Conversion of St Augustine into the Calendar, rather than moving her feast day from a day which does have inherent reference to her to the day before her son's feast, which does not.

Jacking around with the feast of St Monica is a small example but it's typical of a big issue. Once again, the calendar, lectionary and ordo of Vatican II all miss the mark, even of its own intended reform. They are the products not of the Christian church, but one denomination, and that headed by an office bearing the marks of Anti-Christ -- regardless of its current occupancy by a nice guy of Italian descent from Argentina -- and now are the common property of all heterodox liturgical churches in the West, utterly irrelevant to Christ's Church and therefore should be utterly irrelevant to Lutherans.

Right along with Saddleback, Willow Creek and Lakewood, Rome no less than they offers "contemporary worship" whose forms derive from and express a content that is not ours and rejects ours, which content is derived from an agenda that is not ours and rejects ours, and therefore into which our content does not fit nor should we try to make it fit, and, when we do, we abandon that part of our mission which is to zealously guard and defend the mass, for the most part retaining the ceremonies previously in use, just as our Confessions state.

17 August 2017

On St Bernard, Sacred Heads, ATMs and Other Stuff. 20 August 2017.

Well here comes 19 August and our Commemorations list says it's the Feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux.

Thing is, the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux is actually 20 August.

Whyzat? That's the day he died, and traditionally, the date of a person's death, faith seeing it as the date they were born to eternity, is used as their feast day, if the date is known and not taken by a saint who already died that day or by something of more importance. You die on 20 August, your feast day is 20 August. Pretty simple. It's a Christian version and continuation of Yahrtzeit, meaning "time of year" in Yiddish, when relatives remember a family member on the date of their death.

So what possessed the compilers of our Commemorations list to move it up one day? Hell if I know. I also do not know what possessed them to import several commemorations for Old Testament figures from the Eastern Orthodox calendar, but, they did and one of those is for Samuel on 20 August, so I guess they needed the day and had to boof Bernard. But to the day before, when he was still alive and  not born unto eternity? Scholars. Oy.

Anyway, Bernard has a pretty good rep among notable non-Catholics, including Martin Luther and John Calvin. Which is pretty amazing considering:
1) he was a rip roaring kick-ass let's get serious about this Rule of St Benedict for monasteries type; in 1113, at age 23, he entered monastic life at the abbey at Citeaux, which was a reform movement of Benedictines founded on 21 March (the real feast of St Benedict) 1098, called the Cistercians from the Latin name of Citeaux, Cistercium, and was so into it that two years later he became abbot of a daughter abbey in 1115 at Claire Valee (Clear Valley), Latin clara vallis, later Clairvaux for short, hence his name.
2) he chose the "right" pope when two were elected (hey, what if he got the Innocent/Anacletus thing wrong?).
3) he saw one of his students, Bernardo da Pisa, elected Pope (Eugene III) largely on the basis of Bernardo's connexion to him, though he thought Bernardo too naive for the job, then used that naivete to function as a shadow pope.
4) his student-now-pope proclaimed a Second Crusade in reaction to the County of Edessa, a state established by the First Crusade, getting its butt kicked by the Muslims, then he got Bernard to promote it, whereupon the two main takers, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, got their butts thoroughly kicked, which completely tarnished the rest of Bernard's life though he insisted the failure was due to the Crusaders being a bunch of sinners.
5) at the Council of Troyes in 1129 he championed the Knights Templar, which secured their endorsement by the Roman Catholic Church and their transformation from a poor monastic military order, that provided security for those on pilgrimages to Jerusalem after it was retaken in 1099 in the First Crusade, into a multimillion dollar multinational banking and holding company, the world's first such company.
6) in 1139 Pope Innocent II declared the Knights Templar could go anywhere and be exempt from all authority or taxation except the pope's.
7)  Bernard's pathological asceticism -- a redundancy, as all asceticism is pathological -- gave rise to one of the more extreme forms of Mariolatry; given the mediaeval misconception that milk was blood in processed form, and given the mediaeval custom among the upper classes that breastfeeding was done for them by others ("wetnurses"), the Madonna lactans, which is paintings of Mary/Madonna nursing Jesus, became an analogue to the blood of Christ, and Bernard is said to have been hit by a blast of milk as he prayed before a Madonna lactans, and was given either wisdom or cured or an eye infection, depending on to which legend one listens.
8) his pathological asceticism -- a redundancy, as all asceticism, oh wait, we covered that -- also gave rise to the whole ideal of Christian knighthood, in particular his De laude novae militia (In praise of the new knighthood) of 1129, written for the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Hugues de Payens, which in turn gave rise to the late addition of Sir Galahad to the Arthurian legend, coming from the Old French so-called Vulgate Cycle, which then transformed the existing English legend into a quest for the Holy Grail by the celibate, ascetic, therefore "pure" knight, against the unworthiness of regular knights.

He does, despite all that and more, show some signs of knowing it all comes down to faith in Christ and what he did for us. Well that can happen even in the RCC, and in all fairness I gotta say maybe old Bernard was one of those. And me being a Benedictine never-was, the only thing worse than a has-been, lemme tell ya a little reform wouldn't hurt those guys at all.

Clairvaux was built on a tract of land known as a hangout for robbers, donated by Count Hugh of Champagne.  Apparently the land is well suited to retreat from society, whether said retreat is one's own decision or society's.  Since the French Revolution, Napoleon, etc, the abbey was abolished and made into a high security prison, which it still is.  Hideout to monastery to prison, you know I want to have fun with that, but the utter ironic ridiculousness should be sufficiently obvious with no help from me.  Clairvaux Prison is the current residence of Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez of Venezuela, whom you may know as "Carlos the Jackal".

Bernard is best known among non-Catholics because the hymn "O Sacred Head" is attributed to him. Now, let me be clear, O Sacred Head -- which everybody knows God sings as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden -- is among the greatest hymns ever written by anybody, any time, any where.

Thing is, Bernard didn't have a damn thing to do with it.

The text to the hymn comes from the last part of a long mediaeval poem called Salve mundi salutare (Hail, salvation of the world) which meditates on a number of Christ's body parts as he suffered on the Cross. The last part meditates on his head and is called Salve caput cruentatum. It dates from the 14th Century; Bernard lived in the first half of the 12th Century (1091-1153 to be exact).

The tune is even later. It was written originally as a love song by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). When Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), one of the great contributors to our magnificent Lutheran hymn heritage (no clowning around here, he was great and it is magnificent) translated Salve caput cruentatum into German as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (the aforementioned version God now uses, OK that's clowning around) Hassler's love song got used as the tune (there is no textual reason for this parenthetical comment except to make three in one sentence and thus reflect the perfection of the Trinity; that's a monkish thing and I'm completely clowning around).

So, Bernard had nothing to do with O Sacred Head, and all this "attributed to" stuff is just crap that should be dropped.  What ought to be pointed out instead is that Salve mundi salutare, the source of O Sacred Head, was the basis for the first Lutheran oratorio, Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima.  Don't freak, I'll translate, it means "most holy members (as in limbs) of our suffering Jesus".  It was composed by Dietrich Buxtehude in 1680.

So what to make of this? Bernard had absolutely nothing to do with O Sacred Head, either as tune or text, and for that matter, being thoroughly Roman Catholic as we saw above, makes a hell of a lot better Roman Catholic saint than Lutheran commemoration.  Rather than indulging in dressing up Catholic fantasies in a Lutheran version, just like some dress up megachurch fantasies in a Lutheran version, we make this of it:  the power of the Gospel, well meditated on in O Sacred Head, is such that the hymn does not depend on or even need pious legends and myths about its earthly authorship. And that the power of the Gospel, of which Bernard showed some signs of being aware, is such that it can penetrate even the largely pagan accretions laid over it by the RCC, in which Bernard was deeply involved. Thank God for the Lutheran Reformation, that we no longer live in times like Bernard, where church and state alike were choked by these accretions, and the Gospel can be rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered in our churches openly.

And hey, next time you write a cheque or use a debit card to draw money somewhere else on your bank deposits back home, rather than carry your stash with you and thus make yourself more attractive to thieves and robbers, thank the Knights Templar, who in 1150 created a system of letters of credit based on deposits that is the low tech forerunner of banking as we know it now!

07 August 2017

The Dormitory of Mary, 15 August 2017.

Yeah I know, it's the Dormition of Mary, aka the Assumption.

Dormition, dormitory -- all from the Latin for "to sleep". One of the dormitories where I went to university was called St Mary Hall, formally. It was just "Mary Hall" otherwise. Everyone went there whether they had a room there (I didn't) or friends there (I did) or not. Reason being, St Mary Cafeteria, or "Mary Caf" as we called it (the culture may include tendencies which may strike those unfamiliar with it as unduly familiar, even slightly irreverent). Thing is, it wasn't a cafeteria at all but an on-campus restaurant and gathering place.

What's up with that? Mary Caf was not the regular school cafeteria where those with a meal plan ate, which being a rural campus not in any town was just about everyone. Rather, it was where one ordered burgers and fries and stuff like that on one's own time, and dime. So why is a restaurant called a cafeteria when it really isn't? Well, the regular cafeteria wasn't called a cafeteria either, but a refectory, so the word was available. And the restaurant did have trays and a line.

Holy crap, what's a refectory? Comes from the Latin reficere, to restore, which gave rise to the word refectorium, a room where you get restored, ie eat. It's a monk thing, and being a Benedictine institution we were all about that. Now, in a real refectory, according to the Rule -- yeah I know, what's "the Rule", ok without modifiers that's the Rule of St Benedict for monasteries, geez do I have to explain everything? -- meals are eaten in silence, one guy reads from Scripture or writings of the saints (that's called lectio divina, or divine reading) and no meat from mammals except if you're sick.

However, true to the very heart of the most venerable tradition, Benedictine in particular and Catholic in general, that's how it is but it ain't really like that. As more and more "feasts" came in to the church calendar, the meals got better, and, by the time it took four digits to write the year, aka 1000 AD, the obvious solution was to eat the other, better, food in another room, and keep up appearances in the refectory.  So, not have your cake in one room, then eat it in another. Perfect.

And in a student refectory, where the teaching monks ate too, as distinct from the monking refectory of the monkatorium itself, there ain't no lectio divina, and ain't much of anything done in silence either.

So it don't get no more Benedictine than to have the refectory and Mary Caf, the official restoring room and the other one on the side. Hey, don't laugh, the Eastern Orthodox, as usual, amp it up even more. In their monkeries the refectory is called the Trapeza, always with at least one icon and sometimes a ruddy church unto itself, altar, iconostasis and all.

And they got this Lifting of the Panagia to end the meal too. What in all monking monkery is a Panagia? It's the prosphoron from which you take a chunk in honour of the Theotokos. What the hell izzat? The former is the loaf used in the Eucharist, the latter is Mary. After the service, the refectorian (don't freak, it's the monk who runs the refectory) cuts a triangle out of it, cuts the rest in half, puts it on a tray, the boys go over to the refectory with the tray in the lead.  Then after the meal there is a ceremony in which the refectorian says "Bless me, holy fathers, and pardon me a sinner" and the assembled holy fathers say "May God pardon and have mercy on you" (as if he had not already done so at Calvary, but I digress).  Then he says echoing the liturgy "Great is the name" and the boys chime in with "of the Holy Trinity", then comes "O all-holy Mother of God help us" and the reply "At her prayers, O God, have mercy and save us" (as if he had not already ..., oh well).  Then accompanied by a dude with censer he offers it, each, uh, holy father then taking a piece between thumb and forefinger, running it through the incense, and eating it.

Now that's some serious monking. Judas H Priest OSB, we're a bunch of Bavarians, or at least the joint was founded by them.  Hell, the closest we came to anything like that was to make sure you went back before they ran out for more of the good dark bread they bake. Closest I'm gonna come to any Lifting of the Panagia now is the lifting of the Panera. Besides, Panera's got wi-fi too I think -- for some digital lectio divina of course. I still don't like white bread, though, and will take a wheat or dark bread every time. Every time. And still call a dining room a refectory once in a while too. It's a spiritual thing of course.

So we had our refectory and our "cafeteria" named for Mary. Later, the food service would open a more night oriented spot, Der Keller, which means the cellar or basement in German, in the cellar of the old main building, though it took a new food service director who was a Baptist from Alabama to come up with the idea. Now that's my kind of Baptist! Also my kind of refectorian. Hell, with the secular and ecclesiastical sides of the 1960s both raging, he was more German and Benedictine at heart than the German Benedictines.

And Mary? Just as Gabriel said, full of grace, the Lord was with her; blessed is she among women and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. And if you're looking for an example, if your cost of discipleship is seeming a little high, there is no better example than her submission in faith to God, which she for all she knew at the time ran her the risk of execution as an adulteress, only to survive that only to see her son executed as a criminal. And if you're looking for direction, there is no better direction, rather than quasi-pious speculation about dormitions and assumptions, than she herself gave to those wanting her to sort things out one time at the wedding in Cana -- "Do whatever he tells you".