Okay, Bible people, help me out. Explain Melchizedek to me please. Why did Abraham pay him tithes? What’s the connection to Jesus?
Great question! The strange thing is, I have never seen anyone really lay out the answer. Of course, the Letter to the Hebrews meditates on Melchizedek, and commentators repeat what Hebrews says, but to my knowledge no one has connected all the dots.
Really to answer the question, I need to connect exactly five dots. Let’s go!
Well, it isn’t my voice on the CD. Some years ago I wrote a poem, “Surgamus et aedificemus,” based on Nehemiah 2:18. Then my good friend Peter Kwasnewski set it to music, and eventually it was recorded by the Scottish choir Cantiones Sacrae for their CD that dropped this past December:
You can hear their performance of Surgamus and see the musical score here, at Peter Kwasniewski’s Youtube channel. For now, here’s the text from the CD booklet:
You can purchase the CD from England here, or if you want to save a few bucks just go to Peter’s website and donate $15, letting him know that you would like the CD. He’ll send you one.
The latest newsletter from the monks of Norcia, Italy, includes a list of everything the monks read aloud during their meals this past year. It is an interesting list in itself, but for this reader there is a pleasant surprise in the left-hand column:
Some time back, an evangelical pastor asked me if I would sit down with him to talk about the things that unite and divide Catholics and Protestants. He filmed the whole thing, and the first segment is now up on his Youtube channel, the 10-Minute Bible Hour.
The conversation came out fine. I didn’t prepare for at all: there was no script, and I was in the car on my way to the filming location five minutes away before I started trying to remember the usual topics and whether I have a response to them. So, I could have expressed some points more clearly, and often my interlocutor raised so many questions at once that I had to ignore this or that disagreement to address just one of them. And I don’t exactly have a Hollywood face. But all in all I think the video shows a Catholic mind at work, for people who may not have seen it before.
A high school textbook taught me the standard line: similes
are comparisons, and metaphors are similes without the word “like” or “as”. So
when I say, “Achilles was a lion,” I mean that Achilles was like a lion. I just
don’t say “like”.
The absurdity bothered me to no end. How could anyone with ears think that “Achilles was a lion” sounds like “Achilles was like a lion”? Is the one sentence that much stronger just because it is one word shorter? On the other hand, how could I hope that anyone else heard the same difference that screamed at me? When you’re in high school, there are certain feelings you just don’t share, like your ambition for glory, or your romantic daydreams, or your ceaseless frustration over the textbook definition of “metaphor”.
Everyone knows that love is central to Christianity, but homilies and devotionals on love are typically cliche and hard to distinguish from secular exhortations to humanitarian justice. This summer I was given the challenge to talking about charity in an original way, a way that would somehow make the distinctions Catholics almost never make between themselves and the world at large.
So, of course, I just rehearsed St. Thomas Aquinas’s 700-year-old account. What is charity? In a nutshell, charity is friendship with God. You can find my lecture here.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently published a response to a question about the liceity of hysterectomy in a very specific case. In popular publications, some responses to the new document have been decidedly negative, while over at the Church Life Journal, thomistic theologian Taylor Patrick O’Neill offered his view that there is, in a way, no news, since “the principles governing this particular ruling are those which have governed previous rulings….” In a scholarly venue, the Linacre Quarterly, Joshua Schulz and William Hamant have argued at length that the CDF’s decision is based on new principles and reaches a false conclusion.
But on the whole, the new decision did not generate a lot of buzz, either in the broader public or (to my knowledge) among scholars. I tend to agree with Schulz and Hamant. I think the new CDF statement should be getting a lot more attention from moral theologians. Let me explain. Continue reading “A novel conclusion from the CDF”
Imagine that you opened the first door of your Advent calendar and found this secret message, put in the calendar long ago especially for you. It would seem strange, would it not? A message in a calendar? But the Advent calendar tells a story that begins long, long ago—and it begins with a message in a calendar.
God does not use a calendar, because God does not use time. He is eternal, which means that he does not live in seconds and minutes and hours and days and months and years. But he wanted to give his life to men, who do live in time, so when he prepared a world for men the first thing he made was a calendar. Continue reading “The Message in the Calendar”
Wyoming Catholic College’s “After Dinner Scholar” podcast has published an interview with me titled: “Getting Wisdom in 2019 with Dr. Jeremy Holmes”. If you are interested in the “wisdom books” of Scripture, have a listen for my two cents’ on the topic.
Looking through the archives, I find that the “After Dinner Scholar” has posted interviews with me quite a few times. I haven’t always noted them as they came out, so here’s a list (in order from most recent to oldest):
“The Splendor of Truth 25 Years Later”. A quick introduction to the fundamental questions and teachings in JPII’s Veritatis Splendor. To date, this is the most-downloaded of all “After Dinner Scholar” podcasts.
“The Philosophical Side of Theology: St. Thomas’s Compendium”. I talk about the relationship between philosophy and theology, and I introduce St. Thomas’s often under-appreciated little overview of theology, the Compendium Theologiae. One person contacted me after this podcast to say he wanted to read the Compendium with his son and wondered if there were anything like a companion or commentary. I’m working on it!
“The Pope, Authority, and ‘Religious Assent'”. A brief discussion of how we should handle cases where the Magisterium teaches something but does not teach it infallibly. Still a hot topic today. I have a very rough manuscript of a book on this subject, and maybe someday I’ll at least turn it into a series of audio posts.
Aleitia.org recently published an excellent article on how lectors are often given bad advice. When lectors receive any training at all, which is rare enough, their preparation is borrowed from the many books on public speaking: Make eye contact, make a personal connection with the audience, etc. But the reality is that lectoring is not in the category of public speaking at all. It is public reading.
The point is well taken, and raises a question: How did we reach a point where people not only lector badly, but can’t even identify what category of action “lectoring” would go in?
Here’s my suggestion: We reached this point because “public reading” is no longer a thing. People do not read out loud to each other anymore. To read at Mass is not mere public reading, of course. It is a sacral action. So one might say that we have not only lost the “species,” i.e., sacred public reading, but we have even lost the “genus,” i.e., public reading itself.
Much of what needs to happen to fix lectoring needs to come from those in authority. But for a lasting difference, the deepest solutions to our problems rarely come from the top down. While we wait for priests or bishops to establish and enforce good practices, we need to take humbler steps at home: we need to read out loud to each other. To our kids, to our spouses, to our friends. Reading out loud in the home needs to become a thing again, a normal pastime.
For both inspiration and realistic, nitty gritty advice, I highly recommend the Read-Aloud Revival blog by Sarah McKenzie. Her book is superb as well. It can take as little as a few minutes once per week to sow the humble seeds of a future liturgical blessing.