a mobius-like meditation on stories and life

Life is a story. Right?

2013-02-28-Heroesjourney

Perhaps, but a story is not life.

We love personal testimonies. We love when someone tells us the story of their life, all the twists and turns, ups and downs, and final “success” or happy ending. We love the “my life was terrible and then I found God and now I’m happy” stories.

Of course we know those stories are, at least in part, spurious. Never completely trust the autobiographer — even if the ending is not so happy. Not merely because life isn’t so neat, and not only because such stories often arise more from some need to believe in a kind of personal mythology, but also because every story is a reduction of reality to a few key, salient, narrative points. Even if true, those points create a false understanding by themselves.

Life is like a story, and stories can tell us a great deal about life, but life is also an infinitude — mysterious, connected to God, an extension of being itself.

All that I wrote above makes a lot of sense to me, but I have issues with it as well.

We rely on the personal testimonies of eye witnesses for much the the knowledge we get about the world — current and historical. Even our entire system of law requires it.

We trust in the Gospel stories of Christ because of eyewitnesses. They told stories and those stories have to be sufficiently accurate and reliable for us to believe with integrity.

But, then God is an infinitude, mysterious, and the source of being itself. Therefore, stories mediate the impossible to us so that we can believe. Stories, by their nature, hide us in the cleft of the rock as God passes by.

The Gospel is a story, but it is also a person: it is the information about Christ and it is Christ in us. Thus the gospel is simultaneously safe and unsafe.

Thus a story can be life itself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Life, Gospel

Turning the Tide of the 20th Century: Restoring Beauty in Sacred Architecture

I believe there is a “movement” afoot within the Church (and perhaps beyond) to return in some way to earlier church building designs. In other words, to return to churches that look like churches and architecturally “speak” the language of the the sacred (and more specifically of Catholic theology).

This talk above speaks to that. Erik Bootsma essentially encapsulates the same message, with many of the same examples, found in Michael Rose’s book Ugly as Sin: Why They Changed our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces — and How We Can Change Them Back Again.

I have to say I am swayed by the arguments. I say this as someone who loves modern art and architecture. In fact, many of the modernist churches Bootsma shows in his presentation I love as architecture. Still, they are not appropriate as churches for the reasons he points out.

And yet, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for us to return to the past in some slavish way. The way forward is to understand what the purpose of Church architecture is all about and what it is (or should be) trying to accomplish. Then to use that knowledge to create appropriate works for our times. However, as Christians we are both of our time and of the age to come. In other words, there is a timeless aspect to Christian experience, and so it should be with its art. So looking to the past is critical in order to move forward.

Related link: Catholic Art Guild

Leave a comment

Filed under Architecture, Art, Beauty, Catholic Church, Church History, Evangelism, Gospel, Language, Liturgy, Sacraments, Theology, Tradition, Video

Fr. Calvin Goodwin, FSSP speaking on the Traditional Latin Mass

This was a few years ago, but it’s very good. He brings a lot of wisdom with his perspective.

I’m sure most Catholics would find such a talk boring and fussy. But I love this kind of thing. I’m a nerd, I know, but I also find history, especially in terms of culture and ways of thinking, fascinating.

Note: I heard Fr.Goodwin was recently seriously ill, perhaps had a stroke, but is recovering(?). May God bless him and keep him well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Catholic Church, Church History, Curious, Liturgy, Sacraments, The Early Church, Tradition

Archbishop Sample’s Bold Remarks on Classical Roman Liturgy

869_francis_ad_orientem_kindlephoto-7684526

Pope Francis facing ad orientem

Whenever speaking of priests and bishops I don’t really want to say, “He’s one of the good ones,” but I feel that way about my archbishop, Alexander K. Sample. I find him level-headed and wise.

Here’s a talk he recently gave on discovering the Traditional Latin Mass, or Tridentine Mass or, as it’s officially known, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

I too have a desire for the Traditional Latin Mass, somewhat out of curiosity, somewhat because I’m sorta studying Latin, but mostly because I want to be holy and I am weak.

That might sound strange, but my thoughts are simple. We are called to be holy. God has given us many gifts and various means to help us become holy. These include prayer and scripture, fellowship and peaching, etc. The Mass is a gift to us. God does not need it, but we do. The Mass was made for us and we are made for Mass. It seems to me, in terms appropriate to reverence before our Lord and Savior, that the more traditional Mass is a better fit with our natures and fundamental human needs than the Novus Ordo Mass, or Ordinary Form. In other words, the more traditional Mass encourages holiness more than the more modern Mass, and I need all the help I can get.

Many will beg to differ.

Those who say they are Christians but not religious are gravely wrong. All humans are religious. Religion, and religious activities, are given to us as gifts. And the religious impulse is part of our DNA, out there by God. Our nature calls out for religion, and for rites, and for reverence. These things really matter. In fact, I think in today’s crazy world reverence is more important than ever. The Traditional Latin Mass seems to have a great deal more inherent reverence than the alternative.

For more of the Archbishop’s thoughts on liturgical reform, here is a two-part discussion he recently did on Mater Dei Radio:
Liturgical Reform Part 1 July 20, 2016
Liturgical Reform Part 2 August 16, 2016

However, the Traditional Latin Mass is not a requirement for the Christian life. It is not a requirement for holiness. And many find the Novus Ordo Mass very encouraging. In fact I do too — I am still in the presence of the Lord, still kneeling, still praying, still receiving His body and blood. But I believe the traditional Mass is a gift that coincides and fits human nature best. I would like to have the regular opportunity to receive such a gift in my area.

I hope the Archbishop’s views continue to get propagated and accepted throughout the archdiocese. But I know he is wise and will not force anything. It is really up to us to discover it and ask for it. Fortunately for me and my family, our parish, which does not do the Tridentine Mass (yet), is generally very reverent and solemn, frequently includes Latin, and the music is often quite beautiful, and the homilies are good. Still, I would love the option.

Leave a comment

Filed under Catholic Church, Christian Life, Liturgy, Religion, Sacraments, Tradition, Video

Facing East: Returning to Ad Orientem

A number of Churches are trying trying celebrating the Mass with the ad orientem orientation. This is the more ancient tradition (for many centuries before Vatican II) of facing the altar when speaking to God, and then to the people when speaking to the people (versus populum). From what I know it does not necessarily mean also speaking Latin but can be, in fact, part of the Novus Ordo Mass as well as the Tridentine Mass.

I find the arguments for ad orientem appealing. My desire is to grow in holiness. The Mass is a tremendous gift to us, with a powerful sacrament in the Eucharist, to help us grow in holiness. Right worship is absolutely critical. I currently get blessed by the Novus Ordo Mass. I do not reject it like some do. However, anything that helps me focus on Christ and seek His face I welcome.

Here are a couple of videos about Churches and priests who have started celebrating Mass ad orientem. I think their testimony speaks for itself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curious, Kingdom of God, Liturgy, Sacraments, Tradition

a milestone

One week ago, on the Easter Vigil, my wife entered the Catholic Church.

I cannot be more overjoyed. Praise be to our Lord!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Judgement and Works

peasants

BTW, our eternal destiny — salvation or damnation — is based on the works we do.

huh?

Growing up in church* I frequently heard teaching that included something like this: “I know it may seem the passage (or verse) says X, but in fact it really means Y.” In other words, although on the surface it looks clear, don’t be fooled. Since we know that such and such doctrine must be true, we therefore know that this passage can’t really mean what it seems to mean. This kind of approach was most evident (to me at least) on the topic of faith versus works. Since, of course, we know we are saved by faith alone (sola fide) then we know passages that say we are saved by works must actually be saying something else.

But do they? A good question to ask is, if the writer (St. Paul, St. John, etc.) of any passage in question meant what one has now figured out it “really” means, then why did he write it the way he did? In other words, if the writers of the New Testament meant to say we are saved by faith alone, then why didn’t they write that way? So many times they wrote we are saved by works, as well as by faith, grace, mercy, baptism, etc., that one wonders how did they get their doctrine so messed up?! But of course their doctrine was correct, and it is we who must correct our thinking.

As an example of what I mean, below are examples where New testament writers (many of the words are from the mouth Christ) point to something other than sola fide.

Anyway, I too feel convicted of often letting myself off the hook thinking it doesn’t ultimately matter how I live my life as long as I have faith. It’s a trap I fall into too often. I think we all do. Perhaps it’s a human tendency, perhaps a product of my Protestant upbringing (though I see it everywhere). And caring to do good is not the same as doing good. Caring may be enough, I mean I’m going to fail again and again, so caring has got to count for something, but I wonder.

Some might say that God doesn’t intend us to actually do good works, only that we try, miserably fail of course, and then turn to Him. That that is the purpose of having good works set before us as a goal; not that we do them but that we try and learn we can’t. I don’t see that teaching clearly articulated in scripture.

Some might say that good works are fine, and of course we should do them, but they are ultimately meaningless, that any work we do is really worthless. Again, I don’t see that teaching clearly articulated in scripture. In fact, clearly the opposite.

What I do see are repeated calls to good works, and that those works are critically tied up in our eternal destiny, and our movement towards becoming one with Christ and holy like our Father is holy. I also see we are utterly sunk without God’s grace and mercy. But still, we are called to be holy, to do good works. Our eternal destiny depends on it.

Judgement and works brothers and sisters. What do we do with this? What do we do with these verses?

Matthew 7:19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. . . .”

Matthew 7:21 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Note: See the next several verses (7:22-27) to get a fuller picture of the implications.

Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of man . . . will repay every man for what he has done.”

Matthew 25:34-36 “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (cf. 25:31-33, 37-46)

Luke 3:9 “. . . every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John 5:29 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Romans 2:5-13 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,  but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-11 . . . inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, . . .

1 Peter 1:17 . . . who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, . . .

Revelation 2:23 . . . I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

Revelation 20:12 . . . And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. (cf. 20:11-13)

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

Revelation 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.

Those are just a few of many passages.

Peasant's Head

darn

*Sometimes I joke that I was moved from the hospital directly to the First Baptist church nursery, such was my experience.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible Study, Christian Life, Ethics, Gospel, Interpretation, Kingdom of God, Theology