God in the Tomb

For most Catholics, Holy Saturday is a kind of blank.  Since there is no liturgy for Saturday itself, we don’t hear homilies explaining it.  Good Friday drives home the passion, and Easter booms with the resurrection, but Holy Saturday has no one to preach it.

And yet the Catechism says startling things about Holy Saturday.  In this post I’ll focus on just one aspect:  Christ’s stay in the tomb.  Here’s what the Catechism says (paragraph 626), echoing an ancient and consistent tradition:

Since the “Author of life” who was killed is the same “living one [who has] risen”, the divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death:

By the fact that at Christ’s death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.

To put that in plain English, we all know that when we walk by Grandpa’s casket, the corpse in the casket is not Grandpa anymore—not really.  But when Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ corpse in the tomb, that corpse was not a man but it was still Jesus—really and truly. Continue reading “God in the Tomb”

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Triduum Screensaver

Last year, I came across St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Passion Clock,” a set of meditations for each hour beginning Holy Thursday and ending Easter morning.  It’s a way of entering into the events of the Gospel.

Handily, Sharyn over on this blog collected public domain artwork to go with each of the meditations.  So my son David and I collaborated to create a Windows screensaver that would display the appropriate artwork and meditation for each hour of the Triduum.  It was pretty neat to wander by at a random point on Good Friday and see a picture of what was happening, Gospel-wise, at that hour.

This year, David updated and improved the screen saver, and with Sharyn’s permission we have decided to make it available to everyone.  Go here to see the artwork and text that will appear.  If you are so inclined, you can get view the source code for the screensaver here.  Or you can just download the screensaver here.  Right-click on the downloaded file and choose “install.”

Sorry, it’s just for Windows.  The system may squawk at you because we didn’t pay the buckos and go through the process to get an official certification, but we’ve run it on our own computers just fine.  Windows 10 will give you a dire warning with no apparent option to install, but if you click on “more information” or whatever then the option appears.

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Reading the magisterium

Although I have not blogged in a while, I have been thinking and creating. While teaching the senior “Life in Christ” course, which requires reading lots of encyclicals, I offered students a series of mini-lectures on the art of reading magisterial texts.  I recorded all the lectures and I hope eventually to turn them into a slender book.

Meanwhile, check out the Wyoming Catholic College podcast featuring yours truly, titled “The Pope, Authority, and Religious Assent”. That will give you a feel for the project.

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The actual status of the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism or The Most Horrible Translation You’ll See This Week

I have puzzled for years over this liturgical note on page 575 of the current English Breviary volume, right after Evening Prayer II for Epiphany:

Where the solemnity of Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8, on the days following the Epiphany, the proper parts are taken from below, unless January 7 or 8 occurs on Sunday in which case Ordinary Time begins on the following day, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord being omitted.

That would mean that this coming Monday is not the Baptism of the Lord.  A sad thought!  The strange thing is, the Roman Missal explicitly says that this coming Monday is the Baptism of the Lord, which feast is never omitted.  Hmmm.  Why do the Breviary and the Roman Missal conflict?

This year, it finally occurred to me to check the editio typica of the Breviary.  Here’s a wooden translation of the Latin:

In regions where the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on a Sunday that occurs anywhere from January 2 through January 8, on the following days the proper parts are taken again from below, 494, unless the Sunday occurs on January 7 or 8, in which case the Office of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the following day as indicated 537-550, with the psalms for the middle hour being taken from Day II of Week I with the antiphons of the feast; the shorter reading, verse and prayer are likewise taken from the feast; but for Compline the psalms are for Day II.  The Day III following ordinary time begins, vol. III.

No conflict.  How on earth our English “translation” came up with that gaff, I’ll never know.  But it was the late sixties / early seventies, so one must make allowances.

UPDATE:  A friend suggested I look at what year the Latin was published.  In fact, the English translation was prepared in 1975 while the Latin edition I have was published in 1985.  Very probably the Latin text of this rubric changed and the English was never updated.

Time to get crackin’ on that updated translation!

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My book as of now

I had dreamed that today, as I turn 40 years old, I would ship out my finished book to a publisher.  But God had other plans.  As I round the pole and head on back toward the finish line of life, I have:

  • a beautiful, snugly baby boy
  • two (close to three!) teenagers who enjoy me and like to talk with me
  • a whole pack of middle kids who want to sing songs and hear stories
  • fifty or so fun and thoughtful students who are committed to learning (except for the day before Thanksgiving Break)
  • a new lead on solving these health issues
  • a wife who is still sane despite everything I just listed.

Oh, and I have a draft of the book.  It’s a theology of Scripture inspired by St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine.  Footnotes need work (bother footnotes), and the last chapter is just a ta-a-ad incomplete, but it’s a book.

What’s in it?  Glad you asked: Continue reading “My book as of now”

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St. Martin’s Lent begins

Today’s feast, St. Martin of Tours, has gradually become a big deal for me.  Devotion to St. Martin was huge in the Middle Ages, with some 3,660 churches dedicated to him in France alone.  St. Martin’s Day or Martinmass was a feast day marking the beginning of winter, a time to drink, celebrate, and lay in the winter’s provisions. Continue reading “St. Martin’s Lent begins”

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A Marian Movement out of Lander, Wyoming

Two Wyoming Catholic College students recently decided to pursue or renew “total consecration to Jesus through Mary” according to the method of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.  They mentioned their plan to some friends, and within a few days the group was 40 students.  A day or so later, it was 70 students.  Faculty members came on board.  The president of the College expressed interest.  Before long, families even outside of Wyoming Catholic College were joining the movement.

This morning a group of twenty or so gathered at the local public library for a kick-off event, and I was asked to give a talk introducing Marian devotion and the “total consecration” in particular:

The goal is to complete preparation for the consecration to Jesus through Mary by December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  It’s not too late to join!  No need to be in Lander, Wyoming.  Just follow this link.

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The color of reading

Emotion colors perception wonderfully.  The same aspen tree, with the same white bark and the same golden leaves fluttering in the same wind, is one tree to the moonstruck lover, another tree to the poet in search of joy, and still a third to the dismal soul doubting whether life has meaning.  The same sensory input offers either a happy companion, or a wistful finger pointing to another realm, or a bleached-out bit of wood. Continue reading “The color of reading”

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The Strange Ending of Mark’s Gospel

[This is the third in a three-part series on Mark’s Gospel.  The other parts are 1. Hearing Mark’s Gospel and 2. The Strange Beginning of Mark’s Gospel.]

While Mark’s beginning is strange to those who think about it carefully, his ending is strange to anyone who reads.  In the oldest and best manuscripts, Mark’s Gospel ends like this:

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

That’s it.  No meeting the resurrected Jesus, no moment of glory, not even a moment when the petrified women actually tell someone what happened.  “They were afraid”—and the curtains drop.

The longer ending printed in our Bibles was written very, very early on, so early that it is canonical and considered an inspired text in its own right.  But the very fact that the longer ending is so ancient demonstrates that even the earliest Church found Mark’s ending strange.  No resurrection scene?  We gotta fix that.

For Mark, however, it made sense.  And I have a theory about how. Continue reading “The Strange Ending of Mark’s Gospel”

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The Strange Beginning of Mark’s Gospel

[This is the second in a three-part series on Mark’s Gospel.  The other parts are 1. Hearing Mark’s Gospel and 3. The Strange Ending of Mark’s Gospel.]

The first verse of Mark’s Gospel poses a question.  “The beginning of the gospel,” it says, “of Jesus Christ the son of God.”  Of course this is the beginning:  it’s the first verse, after all.  But Mark goes out of his way to insist that this right here, this thing he is about to say, is “the beginning of the gospel.”  This is where the story starts.

What is even more curious, Mark then begins his gospel from a point no one else would choose.  Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ conception and infancy, and John takes us back to Jesus’ pre-existence with the Father before time began.  I have asked groups of students to outline what they would put in their ideal gospel, and every group has shown the same inclination to seek out roots:  they want a gospel that tells more about Jesus’ childhood, or more about Mary’s family, or more about Joseph, or more about the eternal life of the Trinity.  Everyone thinks the gospel story should somehow introduce us to Jesus by explaining his background.

But Mark insists that “the beginning of the gospel” is Jesus’ baptism under John the Baptist.  After introducing John the Baptist, Mark has Jesus simply show up, without explanation, and then the heavens are torn open, the Spirit descends, and the voice says, “This is my beloved son.”

Why is this scene so important, so pivotal, that this and no other is “the beginning of the gospel”?  Mark gives us seven clues: Continue reading “The Strange Beginning of Mark’s Gospel”

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