Being too holy

“The key to understanding and coming to terms with these attitudes lies in the fact that Jewish tradition made little distinction between things that were unclean because there were dirty or soiled and things that were unclean because they were too holy to touch. Texts of Holy Scripture and dead bodies were both capable of imparting this sense of impurity, but the most significant substance in this regard is almost certainly blood. Even a quick perusal of some of the sections of the Old Testament regarding ritual purity reveals that blood not only has a very interesting symbolism of its own (which for Orthodox Christians finds its highest expression in the words of Jesus at the Mystical Supper), but also connects some major themes that run through Jewish and Christian tradition: life and death, marriage and birth, sacrifice and redemption, sin and forgiveness.

“The notion of impurity in the Jewish sense, which means that something or someone is barred from participation in temple worship, carries no automatic sense of being morally or physically impure. It has context and meaning in terms of temple worship which has been lost in the modern world.

“The state of a woman after childbirth is that she is impure in a ritual sense, not through being dirty or unclean, but becasue she is too holy. She has participated in the co-creation of a human life and has thus worked closely with God during the process of childbirth, from early pregnancy until well after the child is born. This places her in a unique and significant spiritual condition.”

Archimandrite Meletios Webber
Bread & Water, Wine & Oil

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“We’re not aliens, we’re atheists”

H/T: BayNews (here)

Atheists Scrub Away Blessing

Atheists in Polk County symbolically scrubbed away at a major highway leading into the county Saturday.

The were removing a blessing placed there a year ago by a group of religious leaders.

Brooms, mops and water hoses in hand, the atheists gathered at the roadside.

“We come in peace .. now that’s normally what aliens say when they visit a new planet, but we’re not aliens, we’re atheists!” Humanists of Florida director Mark Palmer shouted to the group along Highway 98.

Representatives from various atheist groups in the area scrubbed the road at the Pasco-Polk county line. They were figuratively removing holy oil that had been put on the road last year by a group of area religious leaders. That group was Polk Under Prayer, or PUP.

PUP director Richard Geringswald said his group had been blessing the county line.

“And praying for that entryway in to the city, that God would protect us from evildoers, mainly the drug crowd, that they would be dissuaded to come in to the county,” Geringswald said.

But Humanists of Florida members don’t see it that way. They say it makes them feel unwelcome.

“It sends a very bad signal to everyone in Polk County, and (anyone) who travels through Polk county who doesn’t happen to be Christian,” Palmer said, “This event is not about atheist rights; this is about welcoming everybody into Polk county.”

So they took their “unholy water” and washed the road.

It’s been an ongoing feud between the groups in the county: the atheists are also unhappy with prayer bricks PUP members buried along I-4 and various other roadway leading in to the county, engraved with Psalm 37.

“For the wicked shall be destroyed, but those who trust the Lord shall be given every blessing,” Geringswald said, reading the psalm from his Bible.

Geringswald said PUP is trying to do something positive – to keep crime out and encourage faith. He says they also plan to run TV ads later this year that will say they are trying to send a positive message about criminals turning their lives around.

The humanists say they don’t plan on stopping their protests any time soon.

When to repent

H/T: Fr. Ted’s Blog (here)

St. John Chrysostom commenting on the biblical story of Cain murdering his brother Abel, sees in Cain’s lament of Genesis 4:13-14, Cain belatedly repenting of his misdeed.  Cain only repents when he is confronted with his punishment, but by then it is too late for his repentance to make a difference.   Chrysostom sees in this a lesson for us all: God promises to forgive our sins, but doesn’t promise us a tomorrow on which to repent.

“Cain said: ‘My guilt is too great for me to be forgiven.’ Behold the complete confession. In other words, such is the sin committed by me, he is saying, that I cannot be pardoned. Someone may say, Behold he has confessed, and confessed with great precision – but all to no avail, dearly beloved: the confession comes too late. You see, he should have done this at the right time when he was in a position to find mercy from the Judge. Remember now, I ask you, what I was saying a short time ago, that on that dread day and before that impartial tribunal each of us will repent our sins, seeing before our eyes those fearful punishments and the ineluctable chastisements – but all to no purpose, as we have run out of time. In other words, it is before punishment is imposed that penance is appropriate and is so marvelously efficacious. Hence I beseech you, when this remarkable remedy is able to take effect, let us then take advantage of it, and while we are still in this life let us apply the healing power coming from repentance; and let us learn for sure that it will be of no avail to us to repent after the show is over and the time for the contest has passed. Let us, however, return to our theme. you see, when Cain was asked by the Lord, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ that was the time for him to confess his fault, fall on his knees, pray and ask pardon. At that point, however, he rejected the healing, whereas not, after the sentence, after all was over, after the accusation was leveled at him in a loud voice by the blood that had been shed, he made his confession to gain nothing from it.” (St. John Chrysostom in Homilies on Genesis 18-45, pg. 29)

Like Father, Like Son

So far I’ve spent Lent catching up on my reading. Literally.  That is, I’ve been reading things I never got around to reading before. Hence, currently I’m reading Meletios Webber’s “Bread & Water, Wine & Oil”. Certainly not a new publication but something I’ve been meaning to read nonetheless. Either I’ve been extremely busy or just lazy in getting around to reading some of this stuff. I’m afraid the latter is the case. Anyway, I hope to blog about it.

But just before that I did read something newly published: “The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ” by Patrick Henry Reardon. Surprisingly enough, I’ve seen quite a few Protestant bloggers out there already blog about this book. In place of the standard book review I would, instead like to offer a brief excerpt from this very fine book. By the way, I think it goes without saying that I recommend you go out (or, on Amazon as is the case) and get your copy this Lenten season!

In speaking about the humanity of Jesus, Fr. Patrick has to talk about the people in the life of Jesus and here he writes about his human father, Joseph:

Jesus’ family bore Joseph’s name. Although Matthew and Luke testified that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, it was through him that both Evangelists traced Jesus’ family lineage (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38). Jesus inherited the messianic title “Son of David”, not from Mary but from the man who served him – literally – in loco patris.

Jesus “was supposed” (enomizeto – Luke 3:23) to be “the son of Joseph,” Jeshua Bar Joseph (John 1:45; 6:42. When he first addressed the citizens of Nazareth, those in the synagogue inquired, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22).

Matthew provides an instructive variation on this question: “Is this not the craftsman’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). The underlying Greek noun here, usually translated as “carpenter”, is tekton, a term including any sort of builder, craftsman, or skilled worker – even a blacksmith. A tekton was someone who constructed and fashioned things with his hands.

In short, Joseph taught Jesus those cultivated manual talents summarized by George Eliot as the inheritance bequeathed from a craftsman father: “the mechanical instinct, the keen sensibility to harmony, the unconscious skill of the modeling hand.”

Joseph passed these technical skills on to Jesus, who was also known as a tetkton. A tekton was a man with talented hands, and Jesus’ hands could heal the sick and injured! Mark surely recognized the irony of calling Jesus a tekton in the context of his miracles and teaching: “And what wisdom is this which is given to him, that such mighty works are performed by his hands. Is this not the tekton?” (Mark 6:2-3, emphasis mine).

What more did Jesus learn from Joseph? Let me suggest that he also found in Joseph an ideal son of Abraham – that is to say, a man who lived, as Abraham did, by faith.

Consider the calling of Joseph. Every vocation is unique – in the sense that the Good Shepard calls each of his sheep by its own proper name – but there was something supremely unique in the vocation of Joseph, who was called to be the foster father of God’s Son and the protector of that divine Son’s virgin mother. Joseph’s vocation was not all that difficult; it was impossible! In a sense, Joseph had to figure it out as he went along, simply following God’s call, as best he could, wherever it led. He was obliged to leave the heavy lifting to God.

With so distinctive and demanding a vocation, Joseph might be excused, if, on occasion – the flight into Egypt, for instance – he felt anxious and insecure. The evidence, however, indicates that this was not the case. Joseph was not a person given to anxiety. He appeared, rather, as a man of extraordinary serenity. We find Joseph in five scenes in the gospel of Matthew, and every single time he is sound asleep (Matthew 1:20-24; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). Whatever troubles Joseph endured, they did not include insomnia.

Perhaps we see Joseph’s mark on Jesus – particularly the example of his serenity and simple trust in God – when we contemplate a later New Testament scene:

Now when they had left the multitude, they took Jesus along in the boat as he was. And other little boats were also with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat the boat, so that it was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. (Mark 4:36-38).

Cologne for……popes?

H/T: The Guardian (here)

Pope commissions custom-blended eau de cologne

He is picky about his robes and his red shoes are tailor-made, but Pope Benedict has taken the meaning of bespoke to a whole new level by ordering a custom-blended eau de cologne just for him.

The fragrance, which mixes hints of lime tree, verbena and grass, was concocted by the Italian boutique perfume maker Silvana Casoli, who has previously created scents for customers including Madonna, Sting and King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Casoli said she had a “pact of secrecy” with her most illustrious client to date, and refused to release the full list of ingredients tha had gone into his scent – but she did reveal that she had created a delicate smelling eau de cologne “based on his love of nature”.

Casoli’s scents first came to the attention of Vatican elders when she was commissioned to create fragrances for Catholic pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The two she supplied, Water of Faith and Water of Hope, were liked so much by local priests that they presented samples to the Pope, the Italian daily Il Messaggero reported. Alerted to Casoli’s talents, Benedict put in a request for his own stock of scent. The Vatican has previously played down reports that the 84-year-old pontiff is a snappy dresser, arguing that his unusual hats, including a red panama, reflect his respect for papal tradition rather than an eye for fashion.

And anyone keen to smell like the pope will be disappointed. “I would not ever repeat the same perfume for another customer,” Casoli told the Guardian.

She describes her ready-to-wear perfumes, which are accessible to all, as “made with noble and rare essences which leave an unforgettable olfactory message for him and her”.

The line, which features “sensually elegant” men’s fragrances, also contains a scent named Perfume of Italy, which sums up the smell of Italy’s “seas, mountains and countryside”, and a perfume called Cannabis, which is described as hypnotic.

One that bishops and cardinals might wish to avoid is Nude, a scent inspired “by the smell that only a woman’s skin emanates in a state of ecstasy”.