anna and the fulfillment of promises

Posted By on Dec 31, 2014

I love the figure of Anna, the prophetess in the temple in the Gospel of Luke (2:36-40). She usually is paired with Simeon, whose story we heard yesterday and last Sunday and will her again on the feast of the Presentation on February 2nd. But today (December 30th) she gets a whole day to herself. You’ll recall that especially the infancy narratives in the Gospel of Luke are all about the fulfillment of promises, and especially the canticles of Mary, Zechariah and Simeon from the Gospel of Luke are chock full of images from the Hebrew Scriptures that are brought to their completion, their fulfillment in this story of Jesus’ birth.

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obsessed with incarnation

Posted By on Dec 25, 2014

For the longest time theologically I was sort of obsessed with the Spirit, both the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God––the spirit that is power, the spirit that pervades the universe, the spirit that is the source and the summit in whom we live and move and have our being, and also that indefinable part of ourselves that we sometimes call our spirit, the deepest part of our own being beyond all name and form, the cave of the heart. But that has slowly shifted. Now I seem to be totally obsessed with the Incarnation. And that of course is what we celebrate at Christmas––yes, the birth of Jesus, but really the Incarnation of God. Or maybe I should make that more specific: What I’ve been fascinated with is the Word-made-flesh.

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the true myth

Posted By on Dec 20, 2014

From today on (December 19th) we’re going to hear nothing but the Gospel of Luke until Christmas. As you know, Mark and John don’t even tell the story of Jesus’ birth. All of the images that we have around Jesus’ birth (which, one must admit, contradict each other sometimes) are from Matthew or Luke. I spent a lot of time with the infancy narratives of Luke, so it’s the one I like the best because it’s the one I know the best.

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Love, the guest, is on the way

Posted By on Dec 18, 2014

We had our Advent Communal Penance Service here at the Hermitage Tuesday night. Besides the fact that our Constitutions call for us to do those twice a year, I just love the fact that we do it. We do one on the Wednesday before Holy Thursday as we are about to enter the “strongest” liturgical days of the year, the Triduum. And we do it on December 16th, the evening before we begin that last strong period of Advent with the singing of the O Antiphons. They are like that little moment before the Sprinkling Rite each evening when we pause and do an examination of our conscience: I think it is good that we take seriously the call to conversion, ongoing conversion.

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on authority

Posted By on Dec 16, 2014

Both of the readings that we had today (Monday of the 3rd week in Advent) cause us to reflect on the nature of authority, especially, of course, on the nature of spiritual authority, religious authority. Suddenly out of nowhere we get this reading from the Book of Numbers (24:2-7, 15-17a) and the prophet Barlaam gets held up to us as an example, as a prefiguring even of both John the Baptist and Jesus. All of them in their own way––Barlaam, John the Baptist and Jesus––are challenging legitimate authority figures, challenging those who have been given positions of authority, rank and privilege within their communities. All of them are challenging the status quo, the accepted way of seeing things and the normal way of ordering life.

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I had a theology professor who used to call this feast the “Innacurate Misconception,” not because he didn’t believe in it, but because most people don’t understand what we celebrate in it. Of course it is about Mary’s own sinlessness. Lumen Gentium says that we celebrate Mary as free “from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature,” and the Catechism teaches that by “the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” The words “by the grace of God” are very, very important there.

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the rock which is christ

Posted By on Dec 9, 2014

Today’s gospel reading (Mt 7:21, 24-27) was perfect for us in Big Sur, but we have to add some words: The rains fell, the floods came, and the winds blew… then the rocks fell and the road closed! But the road we are really trying to open and keep open is the road to the heart, to the ground of our being. Jesus says that ‘It is not everyone who cries “Lord, Lord” who will enter the reign of God’ but only those who do the will of God. And then he associates that will of God with listening to his words, and we need to build our house upon a rock, and that rock is his words, his Word, the Word, the Logos.

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the end and the beginning

Posted By on Dec 1, 2014

I had to preach last Saturday, the last day of the liturgical year. I find it sort of ironic in a calendar year such as this one that right after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, when the world sort of encourages gluttony and greed, that we get led up to the end of the church year with all these sober warnings to be alert and watchful, and not to engage in drunkenness and carousing. It’s kind of like Mardi Gras! Actually, if we hadn’t started singing different songs and antiphons that evening and changed the color of our vestments the next day, you would hardly have noticed us ending one liturgical year and beginning a new one with a new season, because we started Advent right where we left off––talking about sobriety and the end times. I’ve been attracted to the idea that we’re not really talking about the end of the world; we’re just talking about the end of time, or perhaps even more accurately, the fullness of time. “World without end, Amen!” we pray; our proper end, as I keep being fascinated with, is a new heaven and a new earth. The Holy Father spoke about this the other day in a way that corroborated this way of thinking. Yes, he said, the Earth is deformed by sin and this world shall pass away. “However, God promised a new dwelling place and a new Earth is being prepared,” as a matter of fact, a new heaven and a new earth! Then he quoted Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium: “In this new world, justice will abide and God shall answer and quench humans’ longing for peace. And so this end of the world is not actually a destruction of the world but rather a transformation to a new truthful and beautiful universe… not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us, rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.” Not destruction but transformation; not annihilation but fullness, fulfillment! That’s quite a vision filled with hope, and I think the Christian mystical vision at its most refined.

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