The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for February, 2009

Forum: The Passion According To Mark 14:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2009


Note #1:  This post was previously published and is now offered as a forum for discussion.  It is  the first in a series focusing on the Passion according to St Mark.  Please feel free to leave comments, insights, questions, critiques, ect.  You can access these discussions by clicking on the “St Mark’s Forum” page listed above in the link field under this blog’s title.

Note #2:   I’m using the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible because it is not under copyright.  Some readers may find the translation a bit archaic, and for this reason I have provided links (see “RSV Text”) to the quoted passage in the RSV translation.

14:1 (RSV Text) Now the feast of the pasch and of the Azymes was after two days: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.

Passover (pasch) and unleavened bread (Azymes) were two feast which were closely connected.  Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan  (March/April) according to the Jewish calender.  The reason and ritual of the feast are described in Exodus 12:1-14 (See RSV Text)

Exo 12:1  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
Exo 12:2  This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first in the months of the year.
Exo 12:3  Speak ye to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses.
Exo 12:4  But if the number be less than may suffice to eat the lamb, he shall take unto him his neighbour that joineth to his house, according to the number of souls which may be enough to eat the lamb.
Exo 12:5  And it shall be a lamb without blemish, a male, of one year; according to which rite also you shall take a kid.
Exo 12:6  And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening.
Exo 12:7  And they shall take of the blood thereof, and put it upon both the side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
Exo 12:8  And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread with wild lettuce.
Exo 12:9  You shall not eat thereof any thing raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire; you shall eat the head with the feet and entrails thereof.
Exo 12:10  Neither shall there remain any thing of it until morning. If there be any thing left, you shall burn it with fire.
Exo 12:11  And thus you shall eat it: you shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat in haste; for it is the Phase (that is the Passage) of the Lord.
Exo 12:12  And I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast: and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the Lord.
Exo 12:13  And the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be; and I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you; and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt.
Exo 12:14  And this day shall be for a memorial to you; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord in your generations, with an everlasting observance.

The feast of unleavened bread began on the same day as Passover, but it continued for a total of seven days.  Here is what we read in Exodus 12:15-39 (See RSV Text) concerning this feast and the Israelites fulfillment of both ceremonies:

Exo 12:15  Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread: in the first day there shall be no leaven in your houses; whosoever shall eat any thing leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall perish out of Israel.
Exo 12:16  The first day shall be holy and solemn, and the seventh day shall be kept with the like solemnity: you shall do no work in them, except those things that belong to eating.
Exo 12:17  And you shall observe the feast of the unleavened bread: for in this same day I will bring forth your army out of the land of Egypt, and you shall keep this day in your generations by a perpetual observance.
Exo 12:18  The first month, the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the same month, in the evening.
Exo 12:19  Seven days there shall not be found any leaven in your houses: he that shall eat leavened bread, his soul shall perish out of the assembly of Israel, whether he be a stranger or born in the land.
Exo 12:20  You shall not eat any thing leavened: in all your habitations you shall eat unleavened bread.
Exo 12:21  And Moses called all the ancients of the children of Israel, and said to them: Go take a lamb by your families, and sacrifice the Phase.
Exo 12:22  And dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood that is at the door, and sprinkle the transom of the door therewith, and both the door cheeks: let none of you go out of the door of his house till morning.
Exo 12:23  For the Lord will pass through striking the Egyptians: and when he shall see the blood on the transom, and on both the posts, he will pass over the door of the house, and not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses and to hurt you.
Exo 12:24  Thou shalt keep this thing as a law for thee and thy children for ever.
Exo 12:25  And when you have entered into the land which the Lord will give you, as he hath promised, you shall observe these ceremonies.
Exo 12:26  And when your children shall say to you: What is the meaning of this service?
Exo 12:27  You shall say to them: It is the victim of the passage of the Lord, when he passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, striking the Egyptians, and saving our houses. And the people bowing themselves, adored.
Exo 12:28  And the children of Israel going forth, did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.
Exo 12:29  And it came to pass at midnight, the Lord slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharao, who sat on his throne, unto the firstborn of the captive woman that was in the prison, and all the firstborn of cattle.
Exo 12:30  And Pharao arose in the night, and all his servants, and all Egypt: and there arose a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house wherein there lay not one dead.
Exo 12:31  And Pharao calling Moses and Aaron, in the night, said: Arise and go forth from among my people, you and the children of Israel: go, sacrifice to the Lord as you say.
Exo 12:32  Your sheep and herds take along with you, as you demanded, and departing bless me.
Exo 12:33  And the Egyptians pressed the people to go forth out of the land speedily, saying: We shall all die.
Exo 12:34  The people therefore took dough before it was leavened; and tying it in their cloaks, put it on their shoulders.
Exo 12:35  And the children of Israel did as Moses had commanded: and they asked of the Egyptians vessels of silver and gold, and very much raiment.
Exo 12:36  And the Lord gave favour to the people in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them: and they stripped the Egyptians.
Exo 12:37  And the children of Israel set forward from Ramesse to Socoth, being about six hundred thousand men on foot, beside children.
Exo 12:38  And a mixed multitude, without number, went up also with them, sheep and herds, and beasts of divers kinds, exceeding many.
Exo 12:39  And they baked the meal, which a little before they had brought out of Egypt in dough: and they made hearth cakes unleavened: for it could not be leavened, the Egyptians pressing them to depart, and not suffering them to make any stay; neither did they think of preparing any meat.

Because the two days were so closely linked it was not uncommon to refer to them as one feast, as St Mark does here.

According to Exodus 12:19 the Jews were to rid their house of all traces of Leaven.  It was required that they do this on the day before the 14th of Nisan, but devout Jews then as now usually began cleaning the house of leaven up to a week before this.  The Exodus marked a new beginning in the relationship between the people and God, and leaven, which is a corrupting influence, came to symbolize that which adversely effected the relationship with God and the covenant.  For this reason the meticulous removal of leaven from the home came to symbolize the need for moral renewal.

At a time when devout Jews were engaging in such devotion, the chief priests and scribes were seeking to do evil by wiles.  The feast of Passover was a celebration of  God as the God of freedom and life, but as it approached we read that the chief priests and scribes were plotting how they might lay hold (i.e., arrest) our blessed Lord and put him to death.

This information lends poignancy to the literary connection St Mark has established between the opening of his Passion narrative and the end time discourse of chapter 13. Now the feast of the pasch and of the Azymes was after two days: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.

Now is a translation of the Greek de, which is what one may call an adversative conjunctive.  As a conjunctive it links up what is about to be written with what has just been written.  As an adversative it alerts the reader to some intended contrast between the conjoined texts.

In the opening verse of the passion narrative quoted above St Mark writes (literal Greek)And the chief priests and scribes kept on looking how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.  St Mark, by employing a site verb (zeteo) in the imperfect tense is emphasizing the intensity and commitment  the enemies of our Lord have toward gaining the end they have in view, namely, his death.  Now, as we will see (I do not want to get ahead of myself) the passion of our Lord inaugurates the end time, a period which, as the Lord made clear in his end time discourse, will include the attempt to delude and persecute his followers, hence the emphasis on watching and seeing:

Take heed (literally, “look out”) lest any man deceive you…(13:5 See RSV Text).   But look to yourselves. For they shall deliver you Up to councils: and in the synagogues you shall be beaten: and you shall stand before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony unto them (13:9 See RSV).  And when you shall see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not (he that readeth let him understand): then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains (13:14 See RSV).  And then if any man shall say to you: Lo (see, behold), here is Christ. Lo, he is here: do not believe.  For there will rise up false Christs and false prophets: and they shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce (if it were possible) even the elect.  Take you heed (look out) therefore: behold (see), I have foretold you all things (13:21-23 See RSV).  Now of the fig tree learn ye a parable. When the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves are come forth, you know that summer is very near.  So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know ye that it is very nigh, even at the doors.  Amen, I say to you that this generation shall not pass until all these things be done.  Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my word shall not pass away.  But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father.  Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is.  Even as a man who, going into a far country, left his house and gave authority to his servants over every work and commanded the porter to watchWatch ye therefore (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning): Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch (13:28-37 See RSV).

As the end time winds down the enemies of Christ and the Gospel will only become more zealous in their animosity.  Christians must be aware of what is going on around them and equally committed to holding fast to the faith and defending it.  Mark wrote his Gospel as persecution loomed, and it seems he was afraid many would succumb, and go the way of Judas.

Chief Priests and Scribes.  The animosity of the scribes began early in Jesus ministry, when at Capernuam Our Lord healed a paralytic and forgave him his sins.  “Who,” They asked, “can forgive sins but God alone?” and they accuse him of blasphemy.  This is in chapter 2.  Latter, in this same chapter, some scribes, along with some Pharisees, object to our Lord’s associating with sinners at a meal.  Latter still, in chapter 7, we see some scribes come to Jesus from Jerusalem itself and they are incensed by seeing His disciples eating food without having ritually purified themselves.  Only after this event with the Jerusalem scribes do we get an indication that Jesus will have trouble with the Chief priests.  This indication comes in his first passion prediction in chapter 8, where Jesus teaches that the elders, the chief priests and scribes will put him to death.  Apparently, the Jerusalem scribes brought back to the chief priests a report concerning our Lord which did not sit well with them.  So when Jesus entered Jerusalem and cleared the money changers-who, incidentally, belonged to the priestly families-when he cleared them from the temple the chief priests were probably already less than well-disposed towards him.  In fact, at the end of the account of the temple cleansing and the reasons for it in chapter 11, St Mark tells us that the chief priests and scribes sought to destroy him.

Mar 14:2 (See RSVBut they said: Not on the festival day, lest there should be a tumult among the people.  Jesus’ popularity among the people led the authorities to fear the crowd.  Any public move against Jesus would have been difficult as the leaders had already come to realize (11:18; 12:12), thus the necessity of wile (14:1).  For all their careful seeking and planning their desire will be thwarted, Jesus will die during the festival, for he and His Father are on their own time schedule, not that of their enemies.   Prophecy, not the will of man will be fulfilled.  Even their desire to put him to death will be thwarted, for he will rise again.

Posted in Bible, Notes on Mark, Passion of Mark | 2 Comments »

Lenten Meditation: The Grain of Wheat

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2009

Unless the grain of wheat falling into the earth die, itself remains alone.-John 12:24

1. We use the grain of wheat in two ways, for bread and for seed.  Here the word is to be taken in the second sense, grain of wheat meaning seed and not the matter out of which we make bread.  For in this sense it never increases so as to bear fruit.  When it is said that the grain of wheat must die, this does not mean it loses its value as seed, but that it is changed into anothr kind of thing.  So St Paul (1 Cor 15:36) says, That which thou then sowest is not quickened, except it die first.

The Word of God is a seed in the soul of man, in so far as it is a thing introduced into man’s soul, by the words spoken and heard, in order to produce the fruit of good works, The seed is the Word of God (Lk 8:11). So also the Word of God garbed in flesh is a seed placed in the world, a seed from which great crops should grow, whence it is compared in St Matthew’s Gospel (13:31-32) to a grain of mustard seed.

Our Lord therefore says to us, “I came as seed, something meant to bear fruit and therefore I say to you, Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone,” which is as much as to say, “Unless I die the fruit of the conversion of the Gentiles will not follow.”  He compares himself to a grain of wheat, because he came to nourish and to sustain the minds of men, and to noursih and sustain are precisely what wheaten bread does for men.  In the Psalms it is written, That bread may strengthen man’s heart (Ps 103:15), and in St John, The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:52).

2. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit (Jn 12:25).  What is here explained is the usefulness of the Passion.  It is as though the gospel said, Unless the grain fall into the earth through the humiliation of the Passion, no useful result will follow, for the grain itself remaineth alone.  But if it shall die, done to death and slain by the Jews, it bringeth forth much fruit, for example:

(i) The remission of sin.  This is the whole fruit, that the sin thereby should be taken away (Isaiah 27:9).  And this is the fruit of the Passion of Christ as is declared by St Peter, Christ died once for our sins, the just for the unjust that he might offer us to God 1 Pet 3:18).

(ii) The conversion of the Gentiles to God.  I have appointed you that you shall go forth and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain Jn 15:16).  This fruit the Passion of Christ bore, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself (Jn 12:32).

(iii) The fruit of Glory.  The fruit of good labor is glorious (Wis 3:15).  And this fruit also the Passion of Christ brought forth; We have therefore a confidence in the entering into the Holies by the blood of Christ: a new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh (Heb 10:19).-St Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John.

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On The Way of the Cross (Opening Meditation and Prayer)

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2009

2006_0627picture0005.JPG And behold Thy time wa the time of lovers…And Thou wast made exceedingly beautiful-Ezek 16:8, 13.  How deeply are we Christians indebted to the Lord, in that he has caused us to be born after the coming of Jesus Christ!  Our time is no longer a time of fear, as was that of the Old Law, but a time of love; having seen a God dead for our salvation, and in order to gain our love.  It is of faith that Jesus has loved us, and for love of us has given himself over unto death: Christ hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself up for us (Eph 5:2).  And where would ever have been the power to make an omnipotent God die, had not he himself voluntarily willed to give his life for us?  I give my life…no one taketh it from me; but I lay it down of Myself (Jn 10:17).  Wherefore St John observes that Jesus, by his death, gave us the greatest possible proof that he could have given us of His love: Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end (Jn 13:1).  Jesus, by his death, says a devout writer, gave us the greatest possible sign of his love, beyond which there remained for him nothing that he could do in order to show how much he loved us: “The highest proof of love was that which he showed forth at the end of his life upon the cross”

Omy beloved Redeemer, Thou hast for love given Thyself wholly unto me; for love I give myself wholly unto Thee.  Thou for my salvation hast given Thy life; I for Thy glory wish to die, when as Thou dost please.  There was nothing more that Thou couldst do in order to gain my love; but I have ungratefully exchanged Thee away for nothing.  I repent of it, O my Jesus, with all my heart.  Pardon me through Thy Passion; and in token of pardon, help me to love Thee.  Through Thy grace I feel within myself a great desire of loving Thee, and I resolve o be all thine; but I see my languidness and the betrayals of which I have been guilty.  Thou alone canst help me and render me happy.  Help me, then, O my love.  Make me love Thee: I ask Thee for nothing more.

Dear Jesus, Thou dost go to die
For very love of me:
Ah! let me bear Thee company,
I wish to die with Thee.

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Aquinas On The Crown Of Thorns

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 27, 2009

Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see king Solomon in the diadem, wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day ofthe joy of his heart.-Cant. 3:11

This is the voice of the Church inviting souls of the faithful to behold the marvellous beauty of her spouse.  For the daughters of Sion, who are they but the daughters of Jerusalem, holy souls, the citizens of that city which is above, who with the angels enjoy the peace that knows no end, and in consequence, look upon the glory of the Lord?

1. Go forth, shake off the disturbing commerce of this world so that, with minds set free, you may be able to contemplate him whom you love.  And see king Solomon, their true peacemaker, that is to say, Christ Our Lord.

In the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him, as though the Church said, “Look on Christ garbed with flesh for us, the flesh He took from the flesh of his mother.”  For it is his flesh that is here called a diadem, the flesh which Christ assumed for us, the flesh in which he died and destroyed the reign of death, the flesh in which, rising once again, he brought to us the hope of resurrection.

This is the diadem of which St Paul speaks, We see Jesus for thesuffering of death crowned with glory and honor (Heb 2:9).  His mother is spoken of as crowning him because Mary the Virgin it was who from her own flesh gave him flesh.

In the day of his espousals, that is, in the hour of his Incarnation, when he took to himself the Church not having spot or wrinkle (Eph 5:27), the hour again when God was joined with man.  And in the day of the joy of his heart. For the joy and the gaiety of Christ is for the human race salvation and redemption.  And coming home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, Rejoice with me because I have found my sheep that was lost (Lk 15:6).

2. We can however refer the whole of this text simply and literally to the Passion of Christ.  For Solomon, forseeing through the centuries the Passion of Christ, was uttering a warning for the daughters of Sion, that is, for the Jewish people.

Go foth and see king Solomon, that is, Christ, in his diadem, that is to say, the crown of thorns with which his mother the Synagogue has crowned him; in the day of his espousals, the day when he joined to himself the Church; and in the day of the joy of his heart, the day in which he rejoiced that by his Passion he was delivering the world from the power of the devil.  Go forth, therefore, and leave behind the darkness of unbelief, and see, understand with your minds that he who suffers as man is really God.

Go forth, beyond the gates of your city, that you may see him, on Mount Calvary, crucified.-Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles.

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Aquinas On Why We Fast

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2009

1.  We fast for three reasons.

(a) To check the desires of the flesh:
First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore
the Apostle says (2 Cor. 6:5, 6): “In fasting, in chastity,” since
fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome
[*Contra Jov. ii.] “Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not
there,” that is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and
(b)we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind
may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence
it is related (Dan. 10) of Daniel that he received a revelation from
God after fasting for three weeks.
(c)Thirdly, in order to satisfy for
sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): “Be converted to Me with
all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.” The same
is declared by Augustine in a sermon (De orat. et Jejun. [*Serm.
lxxii] (ccxxx, de Tempore)): “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the
mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite
and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire
of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.”

2.  There is a command laid upon us:

Now it has been stated above (A. 1) that fasting is useful as atoning
for and preventing sin, and as raising the mind to spiritual things.
And everyone is bound by the natural dictate of reason to practice
fasting as far as it is necessary for these purposes. Wherefore
fasting in general is a matter of precept of the natural law, while
the fixing of the time and manner of fasting as becoming and
profitable to the Christian people, is a matter of precept of
positive law established by ecclesiastical authority: the latter is
the Church fast, the former is the fast prescribed by nature.

3.  fasting is directed to two things:

the deletion of sin, and the raising of the mind to
heavenly things. Wherefore fasting ought to be appointed specially
for those times, when it behooves man to be cleansed from sin, and
the minds of the faithful to be raised to God by devotion: and these
things are particularly requisite before the feast of Easter, when
sins are loosed by baptism, which is solemnly conferred on
Easter-eve, on which day our Lord’s burial is commemorated, because
“we are buried together with Christ by baptism unto death” (Rom.
6:4). Moreover at the Easter festival the mind of man ought to be
devoutly raised to the glory of eternity, which Christ restored by
rising from the dead, and so the Church ordered a fast to be observed
immediately before the Paschal feast; and for the same reason, on the
eve of the chief festivals, because it is then that one ought to make
ready to keep the coming feast devoutly.-From the Summa Theologica, II, Q.147, art., 1, 3, 5,

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New Addtions To My Blogroll

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2009

When it comes to updating my blogroll I am more than a little slothful, for that I apologize.  I would like to thank everyone linked to my sight and ask that if you do not see your site among my links to please leave a note in the combox.

Luminous Mysteries.

Opinionated Catholic.

Christus Vincit.

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With the Devil in the Desert

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2009

1st Sunday of Lent 2006: Gen 9.8-15; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Mark 1.12-15
SOURCE: Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

Hear it! (A link to Fr. Powell’s podcast)
I find him sitting with his back against a rock, staring at the heat waving above the dry-cracked river bed. He smells of hot cedar smoke, burnt bees’ wax, and drying sweat. When my shadow touches his bare feet, he moves them away and turns as if to look at me, then stops and stares again at the blistering sand. I wave my hand to greet him, my shadow again touching his feet and legs. This time he doesn’t move. It’s always the same with him. He knows I’m here. Right here with him. But he stubbornly ignores me or moves away at my dark touch. I take a deep breath, gather my silk robes around my legs to sit, and as I fall into place in front of him, he sighs and begins to pray aloud. Scratchy, mumbling nonsense. Groveling little bits of spontaneous poetry and half-remembered words and phrases stolen from thin, crumbling scrolls. I just listen and wait. Most days we sit together in silence like this, waiting on one another.

When the sun touches the tallest mountain, he stops muttering. The dry burn of the desert wind eases a bit. There’s a promise of wet air, of moisture from somewhere out of the north. I clear my throat. I see a small smile on his lips. Just as I open my mouth to argue again, wild beasts begin to gather near us. This happens every night about this time. And I am surprised again, always surprised, by the fierce brilliance of the crown of angels that seems to float miles away behind his head. Tensed to fight, they just hold there radiating His glory—a sky crowded with angelic mirrors flashing His beauty. How very servile of them to pose so. How very grand it all is. A perfect waste of power.

I catch him watching me watch his ministers. You see, he knows that I know that he won’t call them. He could. No doubt. But he won’t. It’s a matter to pride with him. That’s my secret weapon: his pride. He’s the favored Son. I’m the fallen Daystar. He’s the Anointed One. I’m the Marked One. He is Righteousness and I am Rebellion. And I’m here, again, to show him the error of his Way, to offer him something far better than a life wasted on dumb humility, unrequited love, and pointless sacrifice. I am here to tempt him away from his self-destructive path, away from the terrible, bloody death that those dirty little apes he loves so much will give him. I will show him riches, power, and his own pride. I will tempt him to resist me on his own, without those shiny angels coming to his rescue!

I gather myself for the show, for the theatre of the absurd that will surely wake him up to his desperate folly. But before I can collect myself fully, he starts to chuckle. Just a small laugh at first. Then he burst out with a deep guffaw! A belly laugh from the Son of God. I just stare at him. Surely the heat has driven him mad. He stops. And he opens his eyes, looking at me, through me, right to the center of the goodness that is my very existence. I fumble for an excuse, some reason to protest the invasion of my privacy, but I can only stare back at the fullness of beauty, goodness, and truth that He Is.

Without moving he says, “Perdition, you are here again to lie to me, to put between me and our Father a temptation. Do it then.” I swallow hard and plead, “My Lord, can’t you see that the course laid out for you is disastrous? Can’t you see the possibilities for us, the potential of our rule if you would turn to me for help? Can’t you see your ignominious end? The scandal of it!” He chuckles again, “You are worried about scandal? Try another one, Deceiver. Put yourself behind me so that I may go forward. You are dust and wind.” He gently waves his hand toward the cooling desert. I grow angry at his dismissal, “Wow! You really are stupidity itself, aren’t you. Wasted power, wasted opportunities.”

I sputter for a while longer, hoping that my indignity at his rudeness will move him to talk to me again. Nothing. I conjure images of wealth—jewels, fine horses, palaces. Nothing. I conjure images of power—a throne for the worlds, slaves, armies. Nothing. Finally, I conjure images of personal dignity—his freedom from the trails ahead, the esteem of his rabbinical colleagues, the love of the crowds cheering him. Nothing. Again, nothing.

I gird my silk robes, bracing myself for one final assault on this mulish Nazarene. I shout at him: “You’re proud! It’s pride that makes you think you are better than my gifts, too good to pick up what I give you. Pride!” He shifts his feet under him, rises to stand before me. He looks over my head as if reading a text behind me, “You are nothing, brother. Shapes, shadows, quick glimpses, and shallow sighs.” My indignity is unmatchable! “I am Lucifer, Morning Light! I am First Chosen of the Angels! I know who I am!” His eyes move to focus on mine. He squints against a finally setting sun, “I will teach you who you are. Fallen creature. Sinner. Liar. Killer of Hope. Tempter. I know your true names: Perdition. Chaos. Betrayal. You cannot win with me because I am driven here by the Spirit of our Father to fast and pray and to prepare myself for what I am about.”

Panicked, I reach for what I have, anything at all, and say, “They won’t love you for your sacrifice, you know? They will not come to you after you are betrayed and convicted, and sent into the dead ground. They will deny you. They will run and hide and waste time pointing fingers and accusing one another. I will make sure that they forget you.” If anything he looked calmer, “Yes, I suppose you will. But they like me will have their forty days in the desert, their time and place apart to burn away the excess, to trim the burdensome and ridiculous, to pray and serve, and to remember that they are dust—dust given life by our Father’s breath and made holy in His love for them.”

What arrogance! The man is insane. I have to ask, “You came into this dead waste to pray and serve and to remember that you are dust? You? The favored Son? The Messiah? You fled to this place? Why? Why would you do such a stupid thing?” Again, he smiles slightly at me, at my vehemence, and says, “I will teach you again, Satan. I am in this desert for forty days to remember the journey of Moses and his people out of slavery. I am in this desert for forty days to teach those to come how to live with our Father. I am here to survive with Him alone, to live stripped of pretense, theatre, guile, and luxurious want. I am here so that those whom you will tempt tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will know that they need only to call upon the Father’s mercy, to repent, believe the gospel, and then know that they are free of you forever.” His eyes blaze for a moment, then calm again.

I give up! My time with him is up anyway. My time with him is wasted breath. You, you however, well, you’re just beginning, aren’t you? What, day five or six, now, of the forty? Come, let me show you to my favorite rock and the riches I can offer you. Let me show you my toys, my little inventions, and help you choose a Way more to my…I mean…your liking.

So tell me, little ones, what tempts you?

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Notes on Jeremiah 1:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 24, 2009

The Superscription:  Jeremiah 1:1-3

Jer 1:1  Words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who are in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin,
Jer 1:2  unto whom the word of Jehovah hath been in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign,
Jer 1:3  and it is in the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, till the completion of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah, king of Judah, till the removal of Jerusalem in the fifth month. 

Notes on Jer 1:1 

Jeremiah. The meaning of the name is uncertain, however some scholars speculate that it means “one raised up by the Lord.”  If this is the case it calls to mind the prophecy of Moses in Deut 18:15-18: “The Lord thy God will raise up for you a prophet…I (God) will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers, and will put my words into his mouth.”  The ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy is found in our Lord (see Acts 3:19-23), whom many mistook for Jeremiah, raised from the dead (Matt 16:14). 

Hilkiah. The name of Jeremiah’s father.  A high priest with this name found the book of the Law in the temple during repairs undertaken by the reform of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:4 ff).  Some have speculated that this was Jeremiah’s father, however, the fact that the prophet’s father is referred to in general terms as “(one” of the priests that were in Anathoth” rather than high priest militates against this. 

Anathoth. A priestly town in the region of the Tribe of Benjamin (Josh 21:18; 1 Ch 6:45).  According to Isaiah 10:30 it was just a few miles north of Jerusalem.  Just as our Lord’s own townspeople opposed him (Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30), so too, the people of Anathoth opposed Jeremiah (Jer 11:21-23). 

Notes on Jer 1:2

Commenting on verse 1 the Protestant commentator Albert Barnes writes:
The usual title of the prophetic books is “the Word of the Lord,” but the two books of Amos and Jeremiah are called the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely prophecies, but also the record of much which belongs to the personal history of the writers. This title might therefore be translated the “life of Jeremiah” or “acts of Jeremiah,” though some understand by it a collection of the prophecies of Jeremiah.

But this explanation fails to account for what is said in 1:9 And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth. Also, can one really describe Amos as “the record of much which belongs the personal history of” Amos?  

In the days of Josiah, king of Judah…in the thirteenth year of his reign. Jeremiah describes himself a youth in 1:6, suggesting a date of birth circa 650-645 B.C.  The thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign was circa 626.  Josiah was one of the greatest kings of the Davidic line.  He instituted a widespread reform of the covenant (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Ch 33-34). 

Notes on Jer 1:3 

till the removal of Jerusalem in the fifth month. A reference to the Babylonian exile of 587 B.C.  In fact, Jeremiah’s ministry lasted beyond this time.  For an explanation see footnote 2 of the NAB. 

The Call of Jeremiah (part 1) 1:4-10

Jer 1:4  And there is a word of Jehovah unto me, saying,
Jer 1:5  `Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.’
Jer 1:6  And I say, `Ah, Lord Jehovah! lo, I have not known–to speak, for I am a youth.’
Jer 1:7  And Jehovah saith unto me, `Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest.
Jer 1:8  Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, –an affirmation of Jehovah.’
Jer 1:9  And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth.
Jer 1:10  I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant.

Notes on Jer 1:4 

And there is a word of Jehovah unto me.  A stock prophetic phrase found throughout the prophetic books. 

Notes on Jer 1:5 

`Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.’ Note the contrast in tenses: “Before I form thee…”, “before thou comest forth.”  Using the present tense of future events is typical of prophetic literature.  It commuicates the idea that what is being prophecied will come to pass (except when a prophecy is conditional, i.e., wont come to apss if the people repent).  Here, the contrast in tenses seems to emphasize the certainty of God’s foreknowledge of the prophet.  St Paul tells us that God chose him before his birth to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (i.e., poeple of the nations) in Gal 1:15:16. See also Luke 1:13-17. 

Notes on Jer 1:6 

And I say, `Ah, Lord Jehovah! lo, I have not known (how) to speak, for I am a youth.’ This reminds one of Moses’ initial response to his call in Exodus 4:10.  There Moses claimed to be a poor speaker, here Jeremiah appeals to his youth or inexperience in speaking to men concerning important subjects. 

Notes on Jer 1:7 

Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest. His youth and inexperience are irrelevant where God’s power is concerned.  The authority of the word, and, consequently the authority of the one preaching it, comes from the source of the word and the mission, namely God. 

Notes on Jer 1:8 

Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, –an affirmation of Jehovah.’ “Face” is Hebrew idiom for presence: “Be not afraid in their presence.”  “With thee I am” is not merely a statement of the divine presence.  The promise of the divine presence when given in the context of a mission is a promise and guarrantee of divine help and power in the performance of that mission.  See God’s promise to deliver St Paul in Acts 26:17. 

Notes on Jer 1:9 

And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth. God’s striking the mouth of the prophet calls to mind the fact that the angel touched Isaiah’s lips with an ember in Isaiah 6:7.  the words “I have put my words into thy mouth” recalls the commissioning of Moses in Exodus 4:10-17.

Words and themes found in verse 7-9 are typical of prophetic call narratives (see Ezek 3:1-10; Matt 28:18-20; ect). 

Notes on Jer 1:10 

I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant.  Jeremiah’s mission is for both Jew and Gentile; and his message is one of both weal and woe.  See Jer 18:7-9; 25:15-38; Jer 30-31Jer 46-51; ect.

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The Grace and Duties of Lent by St Thomas Aquinas

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 24, 2009

As a member of the Order of Preachers (i.e. the Dominicans) one of St Thomas’ chief duties was preaching.  Unfortunately, ver few of his complete sermons (like this one) have come down to us in full.  It appears that Aquinas preferred (like any good preacher) to work from notes rather than from a fully written text.  What follows are his notes for a sermon on the First Sunday of Lent

The Grace And Duties Of Lent

Behold now is the acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation-2 Cor 6:2

Two subjects for consideration are indicated in these words-firstly, a commendation of the present time, “Behold now is the acceptable time;” secondly, the cause of this commendation is added, “Behold now is the day of salvation.”

I. On the first point it is to be noted, that the present time is called an “acceptable time,” for eight reasons-(1) Because it is the time for seeking the Lord: Hos 10:12, “It is time to seek the Lord till He come and rain rightousness upon you.”  (2) Because it is time for reconciling with the Lord: Ps 69:13, “My prayer is unto Thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time.”  (3) Because it is a time for correcting our ways: Heb 9:10, “Until the time of reformation.”  (4) Because it is time for restraining superfluities and vices: Cant 2:12 (Vulgate), “The time of pruining has come.”  (5) Because it is the time of receiving the Divine compassion: Ps 102:13, “For the time to favor her, yea the set time, is come.”  (6) Because it is the time for suffering tribulations: Jer 30:7, “It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”  (7) Because it is the time for acquiring salvation: Ecclus 4:28, “Refrain not to speak in the time of salvation.”   (8) Because it is the time for doing good: Ps 119:126, “It is the time for Thee, Lord, to work”

II. On the second point it is to be noted, that this “day of salvation” exhorts and invites us by eight ways to holiness-(1) The Holy Scriptures, which are read at this time.  The Gospels and Epistles which are read invite us to prayer, to fasting, to almsgiving, to just dealing, to repentance, and to other things of this sort, so that he must be indeed insensible who does not now do good.  (2) The Creator invites us, Who is believed at this time to have made the world; so that he would be greatly neglectful who did not perform some good act for God, when He has made so many good things for us.  (3) The creature (creeation? created things?) invites us to this, which in the time of winter ceased from work, and now begins to be active again, as in the herbs, plants, and animals: Jer 8:7, The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed time”-i.e., for building, &c.  (4) The example of Christ invites us to well-doing, Who at this time wrought many good things for us: St Bernard: “Who made me altogether and at once by a word, in regenerating me; Who said many things, and did many miracles, and endured hardship.”  (5) The ordination of the Church invites us all to confession, and fasting, and frequenting of the church; whence he who does not do these things breaks the precepts of Mother Church: Prov 1:8, “Forsake not the law of thy Mother.”  (6) The incitement and habits of many, for now many begin to perform good works, so that a man ought to be shamed to remain alone with the few: Heb 12:1, “Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (7) The abundant forming, out of Divine grace; for it is to be believed that God, Who bestowed so many good things upon us, in these days pours out more abundantly His grace upon us: whence it is read in the Epistle, “that ye recieve not the grace of God in vain.”  (8) The expectation of the great Easter ought to exhort us to good, for he who expects a great festival ought to make a great vigil, wherefore the Church now sings, “It is not for nought that we rise in the morning before the light, because the Lord promised the Crown to the watchers;” and again, We expect to receive the Body of Christ, which none ought to receive unless purged: ‘Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup.’  Whence by so worthily celebrating  the Lenten fast at the present time we shall come to Horeb, the Mount of God-to the heavenly Supper of the Gospel- to which,” &c.”  (Apparently St Thomas is here quoting from a song or prayer which includes the text of 1 Cor 11:28).

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Ash Wednesday Meditation

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2009

Note: I’m quoting from the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible.  Readers may wish to consult a more modern translation such as the RSV.

The Text:

Mat 6:16  And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.
Mat 6:17  But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face;
Mat 6:18  That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee.
Mat 6:19  Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal.
Mat 6:20  But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.
Mat 6:21  For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

The Meditation:

Christian Soul!  The holy gospel teaches you that you should not gather treasures for this world.  All earthly goods, joys and honors do not bring you true happiness; on the contrary, they expose you to the danger of neglecting to gather treasures for heaven, of neglecting to enrich yourself with the merit of good works which would procure for you everlasting peace, imperisahble joy, the glory of God,-yes, God Himself with all His blessings for all eternity.

Fasting, alms, penance and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are the best means to employ during the forty days of Lent to gather heavenly treasures.  For this purpose, O Christian, God Himself summons you today, while through His Church He earnestly cries out to you: “Remember man that thou art dust, and into dust thou silt return.”

Let the bitter passion and death of Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, be the subject matter of your daily meditation during this holy season.  Humility and contrition will be blessed fruit thereof.

Resolve to attend daily, if possible, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which the passion and death of your Savior is actually renewed, and rest assured that God will not despise a humble and contrite heart.  P. Alvarez truly says: “The cause of all unholiness among Christians is that they do not know what treasures are hidden in the passion of Jesus.”

Let us pray:

“Grant to Thy faithful, O Lord, that they may begin the venerable solemnity of Lent with becoming piety, and perform it with undisturbed devotion.”

O God of mercy and compassion, have pity on us poor sinners.  As Thou invitest us today to the practice of penance, so grand us the necessary strength to conquer our sensuality.  We are but dust and ashes; therefore have compassion and bestow on us the spirit of penance, through the merits of the bitter passion, and death of Jesus; that we, through the good works of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, may obtain the everlasting and imperishable treasures of heaven, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.-The Gospel for Lent and the Passion of Christ, by Carl J. Eisenring.

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