Daily Archives: June 1, 2008

Today’s Liturgy: Domine, non sum dignus

One of the most controversial passages in the translation of the Mass is Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea, whose current, inadequate, English translation is, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

When I was a kid, I heard a homily by a priest which I always remembered, but never understood till I attended my first traditional Latin Mass. He said that, the first time he served at the altar, he was to ring the bells hard when the priest said the “Domine . . .” He wasn’t exactly sure which time the priest meant, so, every time he heard the priest utter, “Domine,” he rang the bells like crazy.

Well, the significance behind that joke, and the awesomeness of those words, struck me my first time Tridentine Mass, which was on my birthday, May 11, 2003. I already knew the Latin version by heart from hearing the Paul VI Mass in Latin, both on EWTN and in person, so I knew what the priest was saying. In both translations of the Novus Ordo, the priest and people say the words together, once.

In the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the phrase is repeated three times in a row. The priest says it *first*, by himself, before his private Communion. Then, the people say it again, three times, just before Communion. Each time, the word “DOMINE” is proclaimed with force and fervor, while the altar server rings the aforementioned bells.

This Sunday has been the 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time, or the Sunday in the Octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Third Sunday After Pentecost). For Year C, the Gospel this week would be Luke 7:1-10, the story of the Centurion, from which that beautiful petition comes: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.”

This year is Year A, meaning that we’re dealing with Matthew, one of my four favorite Gospels. 🙂 And this week’s reading is one of my favorites, especially where Evangelicals are concerned. It’s the Gospel that directly negates the idea that all one has to do is call on the Name of Jesus to be “saved,” Matt 7:21-27: “”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, 10 but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. “

Interestingly, this particular passage does not specify what that “will” is, but it says that preaching, prophesying, doing mighty works and driving out demons are not enough, especially if one does evil. (This is especially apropos to the article I blogged about just below, regarding Medjugorje).

Jesus goes on to tell one of the parables given as an option in the Wedding Mass: the wise man who built his house on Rock (see yesterday’s post on Psalm 127).

In Year B, the Gospel would be Mark 2:23-3:6, two encounters between Jesus and the Pharisees about the Sabbath. The one is when the Apostles pick grain, and Jesus makes reference to David eating the Holy Bread. The Holy Bread, a foretype of the Eucharist, was to be eaten only by the sons of Aaron. But given the special circumstances, the priests allowed David and his men to partake of it, so long as they had been specially consecrated and had been abstaining from sexual relations. In both the incidents in Mark, Jesus explains that the “Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath”; that religious laws can and should be set aside to care for those in need. This is, of course, a far cry from today’s almost complete rejection of the Sabbath.

In the Tridentine Liturgy, today’s Gospel is Luke 15:1-10, the parable of the lost sheep.

Finally, in the Byzantine Liturgy, the Gospel is Matthew 6:22-33, which is highly apropos to last night’s post on Psalm 127. I mean, if this passage isn’t “providentialist,” what is?

22 The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. 23 But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! 24 No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?

26 Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? 27 And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? 28 And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. 29 But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. 30 And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?

31 Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. 33 Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.

There seems to be a connection between these five Gospels, although it ultimately just seems to be the Gospel itself.

The passage from Luke 7 concerns the pure faith of the Centurion. It tells us that, while the physical presence of Jesus, and the physicality of the Sacraments are important, Jesus ultimately answers prayers not because of any formula or “magic touch” but because of the sincerety and humility behind them. Jesus wants humility (“I am not worthy”), faith (“I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me”) and trust (“say the word and my servant shall be healed”).

The Centurion’s prayer has become so important in the Church because his words express the perfect combination of humility and faith. He not only recognizes the authority of Jesus; he takes it for granted. A Roman Centurion is standing before a carpenter-turned-itinerant preacher and comparing *himself* to the preacher. “I, too,” implies that he sees Jesus as a man of great authority. He sees that Jesus is subject to the Father and Jesus has others at His command.

In the Gospel from Matthew 7, we see a slight contrast, in that the “Lord, Lord” is ultimately insufficient. It must be backed up by works.

In Mark 2, we see that the Pharisees, unlike the Centurion, *fail* to recognize Jesus’ divine authority. They also allow their blind adherence to religious regulations to hinder their service of the sick and the hungry, the very works to which Jesus refers in Matthew 7.

Certainly, the Centurion is one of the very Lost Sheep referred to in Luke 15.

But the powerful “Lilies of the Field” passage seems to tie it all together. Both passages from Matthew touch on my reflections about Psalm 127: God must be the foundation of every “house”, whether it’s the “house” of the Church, the “house” of the family or the “house” of the individual soul. God must be all in all. The faith of the Centurion is enough to get you started; it’s enough to get Jesus into you and you into Jesus’ house. But that faith must go somewhere.

It goes somewhere in reaching out to those in need, both physically and spiritually. Both Luke 15 and Matthew 6 call us to abandon all for the Kingdom. The Lost Sheep works both ways: it refers to God reaching out to sinners, and it refers to us abandoning all other goods for God.

And this is the essence of Providentialism. The problem I have with the critique of Providentialism by many Catholics today is that it goes against the message Jesus preaches in passages like Matthew 6. Jesus wants us to be willing to abandon everything–food, shelter, clothing, financial security, and even our very lives–to do His will

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Vatican Bishop: Medjugorje comes from the Devil

Medjugorje is one of those topics you just don’t discuss in polite Catholic company anymore. It’s highly controversial. I’ve heard arguments on all sides: that the bad stuff is manufactured by its enemies; that the bad stuff discredits it. Some of the priests originally involved have been touched by sex scandals–again, some say these are scurrilous rumors. One of Medjugorje’s biggest proponents, Bud Macfarlane, Jr., has fallen from public sight in a scandal of his own shallow faith. I had an internet friend years ago who said his in-laws’ home had become infested when a Medjugorje statue was brought in. Others have profound stories of both physical and spiritual healing there.

In the official EWTN FAQ on Medjugorje, Colin Donovan, STL, explains the concept of the preternatural, and how both angels and demons can be responsible for certain kinds of mystical phenomena. There is little doubt that mystical phenomena are occurring at Medjugorje, and that much of what happens can go beyond a merely human hoax. However, some of that phenomena could very well be God working good in spite of the evil there. And some of the signs and wonders may be works of the Enemy. In that sense, the questionable status of Medjugorje requires even more extreme caution.

Suzanne, a Catholic internet activist from Canada, whom I know from several listservs and forums, has talked about this recent article on her blog, Big Blue Wave. She focuses on the fact that the article says “Vatican,” yet it’s a comment by one bishop, identified as an “important” Church official, but Suzanne says she’s never heard of him before (me either). One critique of Suzanne’s comment, though, is that she says he’s a “former” exorcist–I don’t think episcopal ordination negates exorcism. I think that all bishops are automatically exorcists. However, this bishop is retired, so I guess that makes him a “former” exorcist. Regardless, it negates the article’s claim to his being an important official.

So, who is this Bishop Andrea Gemma? Well, CNN interviewed him in 2005. Here’s a short article about him from 2005. Another article about his exorcism class.

So he’s not “the Vatican,” but he *is* one of the Church’s leading experts on possession, and he says that Medjugorje is a Satanic deception (confirming my reading of Colin Donovan’s article), so that should be taken pretty seriously.

The Moleben: a Beautiful Devotion from the East

The moleben is a special kind of prayer service found in the Eastern Churches. I’m not sure if there’s a direct Roman Church equivalent.

In the Western Church, there is a distinction between “public” and “private” prayer. In the West, the term “Liturgy” is synonymous with “public” prayer, the “prayer of the Church”. Liturgy, in the West, consists of the Mass, the Sacraments, the Divine Office, formal blessings (including exorcism) and certain approved devotions (e.g., the Litany of the Saints) which may be used during those services. All of these services *ought* to have a priest officiating, though deacons can officiate certain sacraments and blessings, and laity may officiate the Divine Office. When one participates in “public” prayer, one prays with the Church. If a priest says a “private” Mass by himself or with a few others, he is still engaging in “public” prayer. If a woman prays the Divine Office alone in her room, she is still engaging in “public” prayer.

By contrast, any other form of prayer is “private.” For example, the Rosary is a private devotion. It is the highest of private devotions, but it is still a devotion. If 1000 people are praying the Rosary together, it is still, in the technical sense, “private.” Then again, there are “private” devotions approved for “public” use (such as the Rosary), but that’s a technicality beyond our purposes here.

In any case, I don’t know if there’s a Western equivalent of the Moleben, and I don’t know how such an equivalent would be understood. The East does not understand these terms—public, private and liturgy—the same way. Only the Eucharist is Liturgy in the East. The services considered “liturgies” in the West—the Sacraments, the Office and formal blessings—are required to have priests officiating in their complete form. All of them have parts that are to be omitted if there is no priest (even a deacon cannot say those parts). The Moleben counts as such a service, and would probably be considered a “liturgical” or “public” devotion in Roman terminology.

In any case, because there’s no equivalent, and because it provides a devotional link to our Eastern brethren, I strongly recommend practicing this powerful devotion. It is based upon the model of the Divine Office. In a full Vigil, one says Molebens and other prayers between Vespers, Compline, and Matins. The moleben is said in honor of Jesus, Mary or a particular saint, usually in front of the Icon of the one being honored. It also involves places to pray for a specific intention, and the closing prayer includes a reference to the saint of the day. So, even if one is saying, say, the Moleben to Jesus, it provides opportunity to honor the saint of the day, particularly on Sunday, when the saints otherwise get superseded.

Here’s a generic model for the moleben.
The Moleben for Mary is usually said in May or on Wednesdays.
The Moleben for Jesus is prayed every day in June. Here’s another text for the Moleben for Jesus.

The Problem with Internet Discussions: "Moderators"

Something just occurred to me. I’ve been involved with a number of listservs and message boards over the years, in addition to blogging for the past few years. Each of these formats has its advantages and disadvantages (as does live chat, but I rarely do chat except in familiar groups).

The advantage of blogging is that the blogger has a certain level of direct control over the content and such, and the blog post, as such, has more of a sense of “text” to it, where the message board post is just the starting volley in a discussion.

OTOH, where a blog has random people coming by and posting comments, a message board discussion usually involves the same people–which can help to make the discussion more nuanced, although, at the same time, it leads to a point where “the same old argument” gets tired and needlessly perpetuated.

In any case, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the main problem that leads to “flame wars” and the kind of antagonism found in online discussions is that the “moderator” is also a participant. In a “real world” debate, the moderator is just that–someone who moderates and facilitates the discussion. Even if the moderator has a position, he or she is supposed to be as neutral as possible, just making sure that everyone is on-topic, doesn’t exceed time limits, etc.

But in an internet debate, especially the blogosphere, the moderator is usually a participant. Often on listservs and message boards, getting into a direct debate with the moderator will get a person banned. I was once on an anti-Catholic Protestant board, and challenging their assumptions. I asked, “What authority do you have to decide your interpretation of Scripture is right, versus anyone elses?”
“I’m the administrator of this board. That’s my authority, and you’re banned.”

There are certain blogs I don’t participate in because the blogger has a “don’t disagree with me [on certain matters]” policy. Again, the logic in this is, “I am the owner of this blog. You are my guest; therefore, I have the right to admit you or not.” That’s fine; then don’t have comments open.

Back when i was more active on message boards than blogs, it always bugged me when the threads where one of the admins was a participant would be shut down–more because the admin was ticked off than anything else. Everyone else was left scratching their heads.

It is nice when message boards and e-mail lists have multiple admins and/or moderators; that way, moderators who are too deeply involved in certain discussions can recuse themselves of moderator duties for those threads, allowing others to do the moderating.

My first experience as a moderator was on a Guiding Light listserv where one particular troll was the main reason moderation existed at all. Every now and then, that person would come back under a new e-mail address and cause trouble. One time, he masked his e-mail address to impersonate one of the moderators, sending an offensive message out to everyone under her name.

When we met to discuss the situation, I suggested that she should not be the one to handle it, since she was the victim of the offense, and I volunteered to write the person (I did, threatening to contact the FBI for Internet Fraud, and he never returned).

Speaking of the NFP Wars

While researching my previous post, I came across some various interesting discussions of NFP. Here’s an interesting post by a Catholic midwife on the three attitudes towards contraception. A couple of the comments raise some interesting points, in general. For example, the Manicheaens apparently practiced some form of the Rhythm Method, which St. Augustine condemns them for (however, he condemns them for their desire not to have children at all).

One of the big issues is what is often called “the contraceptive mentality,” a term which NFP’s stongest advocates reject by explaining the technical differences between Natural Family Planning and artificial contraception. However, rather than a “contraceptive” mentality, it might be better to say something like a “eugenic” mentality.

Mother Angelica once told a story of talking to a woman-it was a woman she was familiar with; possibly an employee of the network (I missed the exact context). Anyway, the woman’s daughter was with her. Mother said, “I didn’t know you had a daughter.” The woman said, “Oh, she was a mistake.” Mother talked about how the daughter’s face became so saddened at those words. Mother talked about how horrible it is to have the attitude that a child is ever a mistake.

Or there’s Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s famous statement: “How can you say there are too many children? That’s like saying there are too many flowers.”

At the time, I presumed the woman was talking about contraception, but she might have just as easily have been talking of an NFP mistake. People who use NFP seriously talk about children the same way contracepting couples do. They *accept* the ideas of population control that Catholic teaching has always explicitly rejected.

Here is a great blog post explaining the difference between NFP-as-a-last-resort and NFP-as-Catholic-Birth-Control.

It is responding to a satirical article in Crisis, which is also discussed in this Jimmy Akin post–with some very good comments all around.

Reflections on Psalm 127(126) and the Full Quiver Philosophy

Those who reject birth control of all sorts are often referred to, condescendingly, as “Providentialists” (although there is no reason the term should be pejorative). They are also known, especially in Protestant circles, as “full quiver” Christians.

Popcak and co. have attempted to build the argument against providentialism by quoting passages from Gaudium et Spes, which was written before Humanae Vitae approved NFP. I don’t know how to get direct links to their posts. But key to the argument against providentialism is the claim that it’s “presumption,” as Robert Gotcher put it in one post on Mind, Heart and Strength. I’ve seen people claim that providentialism is the equivalent of Satan telling Jesus to jump off the wall.

However, the difference, is that God never says, “Jump off the wall.” He says, “I’ll catch you if you stumble.” In this case, God says, repeatedly throughout the Bible, that we should “be fruitful and multiply.” Providentialism is not about saying, “I’m gonna do what I want and expect God to look out for me.” Providentialism is about saying, “I’m going to surrender everything to God’s will and trust Him to take care of the rest.”

This is really the theme of all Scripture, summed up by the discussion of “faith” in Hebrews: the main reason the “saints” of the Old Testament are exalted is that they all trusted God to do what He promised. Jesus teaches this in Matthew 6:28, “consider the lilies of the field.” And this is the problem I have with the whole Charismatic/You Must Use NFP/We Must Vaccinate/The Most important Virtue is Prudence brand of Catholic: too much attachment to the world.
We all have it. I have it. One thing I’ve learned in life, though, is that, the more I surrender to God, the more He really does look out for me. And the more I fall into sin, the more things go wrong.

There are many pertinent documents in the wide-ranging Natural Family Planning/Providentialism/Birth Control debate. However, to answer the “presumption” claim, it is best to turn to the source material of the “Full Quiver” idea, Psalm 127(126 Septuagint) Nisi Dominus. St. Arsenios suggests the Psalm as a prayer “So that God brings peace to a family when there are arguments.” This Psalm is identified as a song of “Solomon,” whose name means “peacemaker.”
Solomon, of course, built the Lord’s literal “House” in Israel. Solomon was only God’s instrument. St. Augustine deals with the typology in this relationship: Solomon as a type of Christ, the true Peacemaker and the true builder of God’s House. He goes on to discuss the Church as the city, and symbolism of sons as being the sons of the Church.
Here’s the Vulgate text:

1 Canticum graduum Salomonis. [Nisi Dominus ædificaverit
domum,in vanum laboraverunt qui ædificant eam.Nisi Dominus custodierit
civitatem,frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
2 Vanum est
vobis ante lucem surgere:surgite postquam sederitis,qui manducatis panem
doloris.Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum,
3 ecce
hæreditas Domini, filii;merces, fructus ventris.
4 Sicut
sagittæ in manu potentis,ita filii excussorum.
5 Beatus
vir qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis:non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis
suis in porta.]

Here’s the Douay-Rheims:

1 Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the
Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it. 2 It is vain for you to
rise before light, rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat the bread of
sorrow. When he shall give sleep to his beloved, 3 Behold the inheritance of the
Lord are children: the reward, the fruit of the womb. 4 As arrows in the hand of
the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken. 5 Blessed is the man
that hath filled the desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall
speak to his enemies in the gate.

Here’s the New American Bible.
Here’s the Grail Psalter.
Here’s the Revised Standard Version.

OK, so God needs to be in charge, or nothing will work. Now, the term “full quiver” comes from most English translations, which say something like the Grail version: “Oh, the happiness of the man who has filled his quiver with these arrows!”
This is it, right here. All through the Bible, one is praised for having as many kids as possible. However, it is noteworthy that a quiver has its limits. Happy the man who has filled his quiver: that means two things: the space is finite (why it may at times be necessary to use NFP) and you need to fill it (why pregnancy avoidance should not be the default).

But what really strikes me is the last verse: “He will have no cause for shame when he disputes with his foes in the gateways.” In the literal sense, we can see this as referring to a man’s sons helping him in battle. According to this website, “the gate” refers to “court,” and it can mean sons helping their father in a lawsuit.

In St. Augustine’s more spiritual reading, the “Man” is—as usual in the Psalms—Christ, and the “sons” are us. “Foes” and “wicked men” in the Psalms are always, spiritually demons. So, if human sons help their father overcome human foes, the members of the Church help God fight the Devil.
But let’s take that partially literally and partially spiritually. We hear frequently in the Scripture that to be childless is a “disgrace” or “shame” (e.g., Luke 1:25). Often, when we read about infertile women in the Bible—Sarah, Hannah, or Elizabeth, for example—we wonder why they’d be “disgraced” for a natural problem of infertility. Of course, we forget that contraception was around for centuries. The Natural Law called for procreation. It still does: in most pagan religions, one is considered shameful if one does not have many children to carry on one’s legacy.
When the TV series Dallas began, the character of J. R. Ewing had been married to his wife, Sue Ellen, for several years. They had no children, and J. R.’s parents desperately wanted a male grandchild (they had a granddaughter) to carry on the Ewing legacy. Sue Ellen was looked upon with shame by the Ewings for what was perceived as her fault. Infertility is a serious medical condition, but, like most serious medical conditions, most people would rather look on the afflicted person as someone responsible for their condition.

In the fictional case of Sue Ellen, while she presented herself as being medically infertile for the sake of propriety, the real reason for her infertility was her husband’s rampant infidelity.

So, when the women in Scripture speak of shame, it’s because people tend to think the worst of childless couples: they’re contracepting (and there have always been methods of artificial contraception) or they’re not having marital relations at all (which means that one or both is probably unfaithful). To be medically infertile is, in the eyes of society, to be “guilty until proven innocent” by having child.

By extension, then, the presence of multiple children provides at least the image of a faithful and happy marriage. So, if the “enemies” in question are the members of society at large, the man with a large family has “no cause for shame” when he “disputes with his foes,” because he can point to his large family as evidence that he’s faithful to his wife.

We also know from Scripture that Satan, the Adversary, is the “accuser of our brothers who night and day accused them before God” (Rev 12:10). He tries, like the Pharisees, to trip people up. “Look at that Jesus: He preaches chastity but He hangs out with prostitutes.”
The ultimate foe is Satan, the ultimate gateway is that which leads to our Judgement, and the ultimate dispute is the one we’ll have before Christ when we are judged.