Friday, April 1, 2016

Where in the World is Emmaus?

The Gospel reading for Easter Wednesday was Jesus meeting up with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, one being Cleopas.  Where in the world is Emmaus?  There have been many assumptions as to where Emmaus was exactly located.  It might be more prevalent what “Emmaus” means:  Hot springs; in earnest longing.[1]  The two disciples were in earnest longing of the Messiah, of God.  They were near the hot springs, a nearness to, a yearning for, God.  Fittingly, “Cleopas” means: the whole glory; renowned father; famed of all.[2] The other disciple is not named.  Assumptions have been made as to who the other disciple was; however, it may be, perhaps, more beneficial to us if we put our names for the other disciple.  Then we would be walking and speaking with “Cleopas,” those exuberant for the whole glory of God.  When we are increasingly being transformed, conformed, to the image of the Son, we are famed of all, an image of the renowned father.

Now, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.[3]  Why were they prevented from recognizing Him?  Jesus desires that we believe all of the Scriptures, not only those that gratify us.  We must rejoice in the “bad” times as well as the “good,” just as Jesus, for we are part of the Church, the Body of Christ.  [The Sanhedrin had the apostles] flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.[4]  The Church, the Body of Christ, must be visible; otherwise, it is not a body.  There must be the unity that Jesus prayed for; it must be the visible Christ on earth.  This is what is portrayed by the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus wants us beholden to each other, understanding that we cannot persevere on our own.  Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm? Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.[5]  We can go to hell on our own; however, if we desire heaven, we need the Body—we need each other.  Jesus wants us to see Him in each other, depending upon one another.  He wants us to see Him in the breaking of bread.  The bread is Jesus—body, blood, soul, and divinity—Him giving Himself for us.  However, the bread is also made up of many grains: each of us, because we are in Christ.  We also must be broken; and, in our brokenness, we can see Christ and others will see Christ.  Do we not see Christ in the brokenness of the apostles when they were persecuted and martyred?  Did they not see Christ in their brokenness?  They left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.  They were on the road to Emmaus.

As mentioned previously, “Emmaus” means “hot springs, in earnest longing.”  Because of Jesus’ resurrection and His promises, the apostles had an earnest longing for Christ and for the “hot springs.”  They did not see the “hot springs” as themselves individually, but in the Church.  In the first reading, Acts 3, when the crippled man asked Sts. Peter and John for alms, both of them looked intently at the man, and Peter said, “Look at us”—not “me.”  The man fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.[6]  The “hot springs” was in the name of Jesus Christ, the Church.  The Church was visible in Peter and John.  St. John Chrysostom, in his homily on Acts 3, relates:

“He did not say, I give thee something much better than silver or gold: but what? ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.’  Such was also the way of Christ.  Often He healed by word, often by an act, often also He stretched forth the hand, where men were somewhat weak in faith, that the cure might not appear to be spontaneous. ‘And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.’  This act made manifest the Resurrection, for it was an image of the Resurrection.”[7]

Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”[8]  In saying, “I give you what I have,” St. Peter was not referring to himself individually but what all the apostles had received:  “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”[9]  Now, one might object that Peter did not say anything about forgiving sins.  I answer, “Which is more important to God: forgiving sins or just healing a body?”  All of Jesus’ miracles are a result of forgiving sins; they are to show us what is occurring spiritually.  That is what is occurring in Acts 3.  This man is no longer able to beg for alms; now, he must begin working.  This is why St. John Chrysostom is correct in saying that this healing is manifesting the Resurrection.  Before we are healed from our sins, we are unable to do the works of God, which we are able to do when our sins are washed away in Christ through Baptism. 

The two disciples were on their way to Emmaus, the “hot springs.”  Where in the world do we find Emmaus, the “hot springs”?  Where Jesus dwells Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—the visible Church, the Catholic Church.  Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name; make known among the peoples his deeds!  Sing praise to him, play music; proclaim all his wondrous deeds!  Glory in his holy name; let hearts that seek the Lord rejoice!  Seek out the Lord and his might; constantly seek his face.  Recall the wondrous deeds he has done, his wonders and words of judgment, you descendants of Abraham his servant, offspring of Jacob the chosen one!  He the Lord, is our God whose judgments reach through all the earth.  He remembers forever his covenant, the word he commanded for a thousand generations, which he made with Abraham, and swore to Isaac”…[10]  Yes, let us rejoice, for we have reached Emmaus, with an earnest yearning to come face-to-face with the Messiah, our Lord, becoming the image of Him.

[1] Stelman Smith and Judson Cornwall, The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names, 1998, 68.
[2] Stelman Smith and Judson Cornwall, The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names, 1998, 54.
[3] New American Bible, Revised Edition., (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Lk 24:15–16.
[4] New American Bible, Revised Edition., (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ac5:40–41.
[5] New American Bible, Revised Edition., (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ec 4:9–12.
[6] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Ac 3:5–8.
[7] Chrysostom, St. John (2010-03-19). Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans (Kindle Locations 2139-2142).  Kindle Edition.
[8] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Ac 3:6.
[9] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Jn 20:21–23.
[10] New American Bible, Revised Edition., (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ps 105:1–9.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

God's Ongoing Creation of the Universe, As Verified by Hubble and "Hubble"

When Pope Francis was in America he became engaged in a charming and somewhat humorous conversation with a six-year old boy at the front of a huge crowd, who asked Pope Francis, "Mr. Pope, what did God do before he created the universe?" The boy's mother instantly put her hand over her son's mouth in order to keep him from saying anything else she judged to be scandalous. However, the Pope started to chuckle and patted the boy on the head, as he said, "Do you know, I haven't the slightest idea what God did before He created the universe!" Yet, today, Pope Francis is a staunch supporter of the Church's positive relationship with modern science ("modern" for this article is 1914-2016). This is shown by his backing the 20th Century Church's promotion and full acceptance of a marvelous scientific accomplishment called "The Catholic Astronomer," located at the University of Arizona and supervised by a Jesuit Brother.

The Expanding Universe, Still Being Created, As Announced by Hubble and "Hubble"

This is an article on previously incredible advances in the exploration of the universe led by Professor Edwin Hubble and by the creation of his Super-Telescope, named "Hubble" by the world's scientific community. The second half of this article, then, shows the world's scientists, who were largely, previously opposed to anything religious -- especially including Catholicism -- have started considering God's role in astronomy and astrophysics (defined in Part 2). But before we get to the 25 years of "Hubble's" amazing discoveries (1990-2015), we must first present where the Catholic Church generally stood on scientific discoveries seventy-six years before Edwin Hubble. We cannot discuss "The Church's Relation to Science" without first understanding Catholicism's negative and backward stance on not only science, but on politics and culture before the year 1914.

Pre-1914 Catholicism's Rejection of Modern Science

So let's balance comments about the Church's negative views on scientific progress in the 19th (1800 & up) Century & pre-1914, 20th Century, with science as an independent discipline. Science had sometimes led the world, not just to negativity and backwardness as some 19th Century popes did, but to the most heinous of crimes (these popes, of course, did not commit heinous crimes) resulting in mass murders of large numbers of innocent people. The Nazi regime in Germany for example, was made up of many distinguished scientists and intellectuals, who had no hesitation in carrying out the genocide they practiced against the Jews. We can think, for example, of Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), who earned two Ph.D.'s from the best German universities. Yet, he and his wife murdered their six children before taking their own lives. Intellectual advancement regarding science hardly deterred him from living an absolutely evil and demonic life. Hence scientific progress in the 20th Century, in the western democracies at least, led to great advances in people's lives, especially in the medical and psychological sciences. Nonetheless, science had its charlatans and deceivers that characterized a minority of scientists who contributed to the abuse of human beings.

The principal horror within the mid-20th Century was Fascism and Communism, (1.) Nazi Germany, which was condemned by the Catholic hierarchy in Germany, with a letter written to all German churches by Pope Pius XI (1857-1939), delivered by Eugenio Pacelli, Papal Secretary of State and successor Pope (1939-1958) to Pius XI. The letter was duly read in all German churches on Palm Sunday, 1937. It condemned Nazism in no uncertain terms, thereby causing Hitler to regard Catholicism as anti-Nazi (which of course it was). (2.) Franco's Spain (backed by the Spanish Catholic Church, was largely made up of Catholic bigots against Jews and Moslems in Spain.), Stalin's Russia, led to his murder of all the original Communists, Communism, including all military figures, except for General Zhukov, who led the Russian Army to victory in WWII. In addition, when Russian peasants refused to be "Communized," because for centuries they had always owned their farms independently and as neighbors one to another. This was conduct threatening to Stalin, who interpreted Communism as having only one leader over millions of pawns in a totally unified humanity (contrary to the theories of Marx and Lenin). Stalin then had a huge number of peasants murdered, ranging from 18 million to 20 million.

Why do we say this in an article on science? It is because the 20th Century was the Century of science overtaking so many vestiges of earlier theories of state. However, on the Catholic scene, a new momentum took place that supported scientific achievements, especially as these achievements led the Church to faith in God's creation of the ongoing creation of universe. However, we would be re-writing history if we did not discuss the Church's starchy backwardness in the growth of the coming modern science-- prior to 1914 and earlier for at least three-hundred years. Yet the new science was coming to birth everywhere in the democratic West. The problem of the Church's hostility to and disregard for the growth of positive scientific movements paralleled its consistently negative view toward such things as the new democracies appearing in various countries, which had long been subjected to rule either by monarchs or dictators. This political hardline that the Church took against newly developing democracies and republics even marked Catholicism's negative attacks on the very country in which the Vatican existed: namely, the newly united nation of Italy.

Yet, the Church's rejection of scientific advancements had grown out of the starting point of the Church's threats to the very lives of new scientists, as shown 383 years ago through the terror of the Inquisition. We will discuss these Church-directed threats below with the cases of Copernicus and Galileo in the 16th and 17th Centuries, respectively. Beginning with those two major innovators, the Church took a suspicious position in its relationship to nearly every major scientific achievement. That had tended to cause the Church's hierarchy to question science as a whole when they thought it contradicted the Church's teaching of its dogma. However the Church gradually succeeded in allowing the modernizing of scientific advances, in spite of the fact that the popes during the years 1846 through 1903 (see below) were mainly atavistic Catholic fundamentalists.

Pope Pius IX: "Pio No-No," "Prisoner of the Vatican"

The most reactionary fundamentalist of popes, possibly in the entire history of Catholicism, was Pope Pius IX (pope from 1846 to 1878). He made his pockmarked reign even worse by living as pope for thirty-two years -- the longest papacy in the history of the Church. Only one ruler in all of European history, Queen Victoria of England and Empress of India, reigned longer than Pius IX -- for sixty-four years, doubling Pius IX's reign. Pius IX was as unscientific a man as can possibly be imagined. He prohibited Cardinals, bishops, and all priests in the world from committing the horrible crime of installing electricity or Alexander Graham Bell's newly invented telephone (1875) in any of their buildings, and not to ride on trolley cars or trains, especially those with steam engines. Likewise, Pius feared for his life the lightning rod, and thus had to command that no Churchman would stick one on the roof of a church. He then transferred his fear of "modern" inventions to another enemy -- the newly progressive political and societal realities for which people, including Catholics were voting.

The land in which Pius lived had finally, after centuries of attempts, succeeded in uniting its scattered provinces into a single nation called Italy. But Pius refused to recognize the new nation because it practiced democracy in a new Republic. He did this because he considered the United States as the leading example of "heretical democracy" in the world, which, worse than Communism according to Pius, would outlaw Catholicism in all countries that were democratic republics. This anti-American bias certainly created misgivings and unrest among bishops and other American servants of the Church, mostly in religious congregations, particularly Jesuits and Dominicans. These "surreptitious infidels" started referring to him as Pius "No-No." This was not offensive to him because he was too dim-witted to know that the "No-No" he kept hearing was not a tag on his papacy. He thought he was being called nono in Italian, which meant nine. He thus liked the idea that clergy and religious were adding nono after his name.

Yet, because of the massive number of rejections he placed on people, events and institutions, which in turn were lobbied back against him, he feared leaving his Vatican apartment. He then gave himself a nickname, referring to himself as "The Prisoner of the Vatican." All of this led, in the latter part of the 19th Century, to a movement within the American Church started by Isaac Thomas Hecker (1819-88), who was ordained a priest under Pius' rule in 1849, and who founded a new religious congregation called the "Paulists" Hecker greatly extended Catholicism in America, through his efforts to democratize Catholicism. The Prisoner of the Vatican fumed about Hecker's democratic motives, for the American Church, root and branch, including the activities of Catholic scientists and intellectuals becoming too independent of the Church, when their academic research and publishing turned out to be accurate.

Pius looked again at the now "apostate" American Church and coined a new synonym for heresy which he labelled "Americanism." The American Catholic hierarchy felt deserted by Church leadership in Rome. Notice that none of them was appointed as a Cardinal. The first American theologian to become a Cardinal, and the first Jesuit, would be Avery Dulles, S.J.(Cardinal from 2001 to his death in 2008). He was chosen by his friend and fellow intellectual, Pope St. John Paul II. Dulles wrote a popular book on Catholicism called Models of the Church. In that popular book, which was easy reading, he described the six models or active examples of Catholicism: (1) Institution; (2) Mystical Communion; (3) Herald; (4) Sacrament; (5) Servant; (6) (added later to another publication of the book; (Community of Disciples.)

It is doubtful that anyone could have detested the United States as greatly as Pius IX. He evidently intentionally decided to show American Church leaders who was boss. In 1854, he instituted as a dogma of faith in the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception. This was the first time a pope had ever instituted a major dogmatic belief and devotion all by himself, without first calling a Council to approve his doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. He acted individually again at the First Vatican Council, leading the bishops at that Council to promote him as Infallible.

Vatican I

Pius also convened The First Vatican Council, held at Rome in 1869-70, at which some 700 bishops attended. The major issue of the Council was whether papal infallibility was to be considered and voted upon. On July 13, 1870, the infallibility document was voted on. It passed under the title, Pastor Aeternus. The document stated plainly the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff (not just Pius, but all future popes as well). The doctrine stressed that papal definitions are "irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church." But it restricted this infallibility only to those occasions "when he speaks ex cathedra. That meant, when he speaks in discharge of the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians. He was given this power by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, and, importantly, when he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church."

Finally, and at Last, What has 1914 Meant In All these Discussions?

After Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII served as Pope (1878-1903. Leo had followed many of Pius IX's decrees and commands, and even helped him write some parts of them. However, he was not an enemy of democracy. He praised and favored the Catholic Labor movement, and looked closely at the new political reality on the scene -- Socialism. To address the conditions of the working class and encourage them to support the Church and be paid a living wage, he debunked Socialism, but instead wrote his most famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum. It reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that the family was the basic unit of society. But the encyclical's most daring innovation was its support for workers' associations and collective bargaining. This was not a call for unions, but was a step on the road for the Church eventually to support them.

Following Leo XIII Pius X served as Pope (1903-1914). Like Pius IX before him, Pius X was a thoroughgoing reactionary. Also, he condemned "Modernism" and "Americanism." In 1911 he wrote that "the error spreading these days is much more murderous than that of Luther."

At last, a thaw: Beginning in 1914 there were three popes entering the modern age: Benedict XV (1914-1922), who guided and directed the Church through the worst war of any preceding 1914, WWI. He adopted a policy of strict neutrality, and ministering to the victims.

After Benedict came Pope Pius XI (1922-39), who had to deal carefully with the dictators who were preparing for World War II. We have already discussed Pius XI's letter to be read to all German churches on Palm Sunday, 1937, in order to condemn Nazism. Pius XII (1938-58) succeeded Pius XI. Pius XII wrote two pivotal, important encyclicals: (1) Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), in which he encouraged modern biblical scholarship and (2) Munificentissimus Deus, (1950) in which he taught as a matter of infallible dogma that Jesus' mother, Mary, "having completed her earthly course, was in body and soul assumed into heavenly glory."

Copernicus and Galileo

The first time the Church, by way of the Inquisition three centuries before Pius IX, had tried to stifle two newcomers who were founding geniuses in the world of science. Consider for example, the first two astronomers in history: First was Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543), the founder of modern astronomy, who was born in Poland. He wrote a treatise entitled, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in which he put forward the theory of the Earth rotating daily about its own axis and annually about the Sun. This discovery received a hostile reception from the Church when this treatise was published in the year of his death, 1543, as it challenged the Church's ancient teaching of the Earth as the center of the universe. The Church's conclusion was, of course, inaccurate about the Earth's central location in outer space, and Copernicus' treatise was condemned by the Inquisition. Although his theory was condemned by the Church, his death and his great geographical distance from Rome prevented his punishment by the Inquisition.

On the other hand, consider the unfortunate Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who taught mathematics at the University of Padua. He improved the refracting telescope (1610), and was the first to use it for astronomy. He advanced Copernicus' theory by studying the paths of the heavenly bodies, and developed mathematical calculations of the movements of such bodies as he could see through his telescope. He Nevertheless, he was forced to retract his theories by the Inquisition and was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment, under house arrest. He was ordered to perform no more studies of the heavenly bodies -- which he continued to do secretly anyway -- after being warned of his death. This act of disobedience nonetheless found Galileo colleagues who supported his investigation of the universe.

Thankfully, the Church, although consigning Galileo to the ranks of scientific heretics 383 years after his astonomical findings, the modern Church finally stated that Galileo, a good Catholic, should have been permitted, all during his 383 years of ouster, to practice his Catholic faith. The Holy Office formally recognized Galileo and his scientific conclusions, one of the most important of which was proof of the existence of Jupiter's four moons -- still valid today. His work was then expressly praised by the Church in 1993, when Pope Saint John Paul II, in essence, virtually "apologized" to Galileo posthumously. He then confessed that the Church had erred in its treatment of him by rejecting his great scientific achievements. Saint John Paul II, of course, who held two Ph.D.'s from the finest Polish universities, was much too intelligent and educated to have this anti-intellectual stupidity endorsed any further by the Church. However, the Church as a whole could hardly be praised for keeping Galileo's name in a fallen state of abuse for 383 years, after the Inquisition threatened to kill him for teaching his scientific discoveries in Padua.

This late verification of the Church's revolution in thinking about vastly important scientific discoveries, such as Galileo's, has resulted in the 20th Century Church's promotion and full acceptance of a marvelous scientific accomplishment called "The Catholic Astronomer." The Catholic Astronomer is operated under the management of a "Catholic Scientific Foundation" located at Castle Gandolfo. It oversees operation of "The Vatican Observatory," a 1.8 meter telescope (large for earth-bound telescopes), which is located at and largely staffed by professors of the University of Arizona. However, the leader of the Observatory team is a Jesuit brother. His name is Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. Brother Consolmagno is likewise President of the Catholic Scientific Foundation.

If one were to study the gender of the professors running The Vatican Observatory, one would find that likely a majority of them are women, such as Dr. Brenda Frye, a cosmologist with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics (more about that title below) from the University of California at Berkeley. What a change in the Catholic Church: From Pius IX to Dr. Brenda Frye!

Who and What Has Created The Incredible Probing of the Observable Universe

Actually we can answer both the "who and what" questions above with absolute certainty. And it is a certainty that today's Church has completely withdrawn wholeheartedly from its ancient rejection of science to today's complete acceptance of the best advancement of that discipline. We have pointed out that the first revolution of the study of astronomy was created by both Copernicus and Galileo. Fortunately scientists after Galileo followed his findings, gradually developing what today has grown into the major scientific study ever undertaken of our universe. At this point we need to recount the long and difficult work performed by one of the world's greatest scientists

His name was Edwin Hubble (1889-1953). He first received a law degree, but then shifted his vocation to astronomy. Eventually he got permission to use the Mount Wilson Observatory in California. He spent his entire nights for years peering through Mount Wilson's powerful earth-bound telescope into the distant reaches of space inside of the earth's atmosphere. He would soon push astronomy and astrophysics forward into an exciting, revolutionary new era. Astronomy has to do with attempting to study the universe from earth, using the large number of powerful earth-bound telescopes scattered around the world. Astrophysics has to do with the major innovation in astronomy that Hubble's pioneering, eye-straining, back-stiffening career eventually brought about -- as he looked outward in the eyesight lens of the Mount Wilson Observatory -- .

Let's look first at what Hubble accomplished through his ground-breaking discoveries, as in the future such discoveries had huge ramifications for the role that Christianity was to play in the lives of the greatest astrophysicists in the world. These great scientists for years had little or no place for God in their scientific study of the universe. But by using their backgrounds in engineering and construction of Hubble's recommended powerful instruments to push our observation of outer space farther out than ever before in the earth's history, they would soon open up an era where science and religion meet each other. Hubble's measurements and calculations of the activity of stars and planets, which he discovered existing far beyond visibility by the use of earth-bound telescopes, led to the invention of what many scientists have considered the greatest technological invention in history.

The principle achievement of "Hubble" insofar as Astronomy and Astrophysics are concerned is that Edwin Hubble single-handedly overcame the enormous rejection by mainstream scientists of Hubble's argument for developing "Hubble" -- not called that at first. "Hubble" is the first observatory object to look into the deep university beyond the Earth's atmosphere, which had always kept all Astronomy on earth restricted to peering through a choking gaseous dust from exploding stars. "Hubble's" invention has taken humankind beyond Earth's atmosphere to look at far-distant stars as something of a "neighbor" to them. As a result, the puny efforts of previous Astronomy has now -- with "Hubble" -- ceased straining at star-gazing from earth and instead is discovering, photographing and naming not just trillions of stars, but trillions of galaxies and constellations. (See definitions of "galaxies" and "constellations" in the following paragraph). We human beings as a whole otherwise have absolutely no awareness of the size of the universe in which we live.

Hubble's discoveries also opened up for scientists the concept of the "pillars of creation." That was because Hubble's images showed much of the creation and status of the trillions of stars in the universe to be an enormous stacking of stars and galaxies on top of each other (galaxies are a group of related stars clumped together on top of each other, resembling millions of combinations of elongated pillars.) Groups of these related galaxies are called constellations. We here on earth live in an even smaller unit -- our solar system of nine planets, and then in a grander phenomenon -- the Milky Way Galaxy. Next, our Galaxy is part of the Andromena Constellation, named after the Andromena star, which is the closest star to Earth except of course our Sun, which is an unbelievably close to Earth at a mere 93 million miles.

Incredibly, the ancient Greeks saw all of these pillars with absolutely no observatory, whether Earth-bound, or, of course neither beyond Earth's atmosphere. When astronomers in the past have looked, these pillars were the very foundation that held up the world and all that is in it. "Hubble's" discoveries reverberated significantly with the Christian tradition. William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) in 1906 wrote his The World's Famous Orations in which he included an 1857 sermon by London pastor, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), entitled The Condescension of Christ. In that sermon he wrote a phrase that conveyed not only the physical world but also the force that keeps it all together emanating from the divine with the birth of Chris, as follows:
"And now wonder, ye angels, the Infinite has become an infant; he upon whose shoulders the universe doth hang, hangs at his mother's breast; he who created all things, and bears up the pillars of creation." (Emphasis added).
The redshift is a staggeringly accurate method of calculating both the distance and the velocity of stars. Now we know that the redshift's distance from Earth is useful for calculating the distance of the stars from Earth. If the redshift doubles, the distance to the star has doubled, and so on. This discovery came to be called, "Hubble's Law." What's more, Hubble calculated that the redshift's distance also gives us the velocity of the star as it zips outside of the "dark energy," which pulls the star into "dark matter." "Hubble's Constant" tells us the velocity of the star, as well the velocity of "dark matter" at the outer reaches of the universe, where objects simply leave the universe. Then what happens? Do the stars going into "dark matter" blow up after exiting our universe, creating a "black hole," which Einstein said was just the function of gravity, where the gravitational energy of the black hole even bends light.

Or do they find more dark-matter after they leave the universe? Or here's a real conundrum. What if after they zip out of our universe they get sucked into another universe? And how many universes are there? Even "Hubble” can’t answer that question because it doesn't have a gigantic "Spotlight" to follow a star through dark matter. This "universal" (a pun) question came to be estimated by "Hubble's Constant," These are important means of calculations. Have you ever wondered how an astronomer can say that one star is 2,000 or some other number of "light-years" from Earth, and another one is 1,000 light-years from Earth. Well, "Hubble's Law" and "Hubble's Constant," should teach you how it's done. What is a "light-year?" It's a combination of the speed of light and the passage of time, multiplied together. It's the number of years you'll spend going at the speed of light squared, times your mass. "Mass" means more than weight. Actually to call mass "weight" would drive Einstein bats.

By the way, the heavenly object suggested that only by sending a super-telescope into space beyond the earth's atmosphere, at some 430 miles above that atmosphere, and created to rotate with the earth at the same speed as the earth rotated on its axis, namely 24 hours per day, would let mankind finally study the outer vistas of the universe. Copernicus and Galileo, both good Catholics, would have cheered Hubble's scientific conclusions. Only his solution would allow the possibility for study of the previously considered, infinitely universal outer reaches of the universe, opening up the heretofore absolutely unknown universal boundaries previously theorized -- and guessed at -- by earth-bound scientists. Hubble knew that his namesake the super-telescope, in order actually to study the fringes of the universe, was the only solution to getting observers on earth the observational power to penetrate enormously farther than anything scientists had previously studied, or even considered studying.

Fortunately for astrophysicists, the United State government got in on this movement. In 1958 a new government agency was formed to encompass Hubble's argument for finally seeing the ends of the universe -- if it even had an end. This agency was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA"). Hubble, by 1946, had convinced a leading astrophysicist, Lyman Spitzer, a 75-year old astronomer, to lead the charge for the construction of Hubble's brainchild. Bringing NASA's acceptance of Hubble's founding leadership into the dream of penetrating outer space, instantly overcame one impediment to starting such an enormous super-telescope: money. Before NASA, only the U.S. government could afford the project. After NASA the astrophysicists no longer had any doubts that Hubble's dream could be achieved.

All the scientists involved in this project, like all good Americans, had to give the super-telescope a name. Can you guess what they named it? Of course they unanimously named it "HUBBLE." So the answers to the above questions heading this section, namely, "Who or What Was and Still Is Responsible For the Incredible Probing of the Farthest Limits of the Observable Universe," are as follows. The "Who" was Edwin Hubble. The "What" was "Hubble." And so America had found another Thomas Edison, another Wright Brother(s), another Henry Ford, and like those men of genius, America had embarked on a radically new scientific era, thanks to Professor Hubble. The super-telescope promoted by him through much argument, and through his years of weary eyes staring through the Mount Wilson telescope, and his stiff back, from sitting in a plain brown card-table chair every night for years of his life, allowed Hubble to achieve what he predicted it would -- namely, opening up humanity to the far reaches of a universe that conceivably had life just as planet Earth had.

So, now after all this moaning and complaining about Pius IX and his apartment with no electricity nor telephone in the middle of winter, let us wave good-bye instead to a truly good man who happened to be a very good scientist, of which we need more in this world. Now, speaking of the world, it's time to get back to the main subject of this article, i.e., namely, that God is continually creating the universe/world (call it what you want) with the help of His good servant, Edwin Hubble, and Professor Hubble's masterpiece, the super telescope that has pulled us closer to the end of the universe.

--Tony Gilles

Friday, February 19, 2016

Protector, Deliverer, and God

I have covered Verse 1 in another posting, “I” doesn’t want to be in Christ.  I do not desire to rehash that, but I do desire to touch upon a couple of things.

Some of the astute teachers of our Church that have gone before us have seen this psalm as a dialogue between God and the “just” man, e.g. GOD: “He that dwelleth (constantly dwelling) in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob;” JUST MAN: “He shall say to the Lord: ‘Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust, for he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word’.”[1]  For this reason, I am utilizing the Douay-Rheims (D-R) rather than the NAB or the NRSV.  I believe the D-R makes things more practical to us, and it is more in line with the references that I will be using.  I, of course, am not stating that the NAB, NRSV, or RSV are incorrect; I am just saying that the D-R is more beneficial.  For instance, in Verse 3 (which we will get to in another posting), the D-R has “and from the sharp word,” whereas the NAB has “from the destroying plague” and the NRSV, “from the deadly pestilence.”  Both the NAB and NRSV appear redundant in that a plague is deadly and a pestilence is deadly.  Also, since I don’t at the moment have to dread a plague or pestilence, they are not relevant to me at this time.  However, “the sharp word” is something that occurs frequently.  Therefore, I am utilizing the D-R for this portion.

We have already cover in the previous posting who it is that “dwells in the shelter of the Most High,” or the D-R version, “He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High,” he that “shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.”  I do desire to spend a little more time on Verse 2 to cover something I omitted in the other posting.

In Verse 2, we have the “just” man saying to God, “Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in Him will I trust.”  Where the NAB and NRSV have “my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust,” the D-R has “Though art my protector and my refuge: my God, in Him will I trust.”  In other words, where the NAB has “refuge,” it will be “protector,” and “fortress” in the NAB will “refuge” in the D-R. 

St. Bellarmine tells us: “These words represent three of God’s favors, for which the just man returns thanks; one, a past favor; the second, a present; and the third, a future favor.”[2]  The first favor, protection, St. Bellarmine says, is the mercy of God through which he supports man after falling into mortal sin, e.g. David and Peter.  He says that the just man mentions this favor first because he says to himself, “If God be so good as to protect the enemy who does not confide in him, and to inspire him with penance and confidence, how good and kind must He not be to the friend and child who does confide in Him.”  Although the saint does not say it, I would also think that this includes Baptism because it is God who makes the first move of causing the person to become repentant, including infant Baptism.  In infant Baptism, God is calling the child through the parents, thereby protecting it.  Hence, we are thankful that God calls us through Baptism and when He absolves us during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The second favor, according to St. Bellarmine, is contained in the words “my refuge” because it is present time.  When God protects us through Baptism and the Sacrament of Reconciliation—when we have committed a mortal sin—He does not immediately assume us into heaven, but “places [us] in the line of His soldiers who are fighting here below and, if the individual trusts in the Lord as we discussed in the earlier posting, God will prove to be a “refuge” to the person “in every temptation and difficulty, and a most safe and secure refuge, as the Hebrew word for refuge implies.”1  We see this plainly as God placing us into the Catholic Church for security and for increase of faith.

For the third favor, the saint instructs us: “The third favor is a future one, and the greatest of all, and is contained in the words, ‘my God,’ for God is the supreme good, and God is always God in himself, and, therefore, the supreme good; and he will be peculiarly so ‘when we shall see him as he is,’ for then we shall enjoy the supreme good. The just man, therefore, reflecting and allowing that God was one time his protector, then his refuge, and, after this life, will constitute his happiness, comes to the conclusion, ‘in him will I trust;’ that is, I am firmly determined to put my trust in him, through every danger and temptation, as did holy Job, when he said, ‘Although he should kill me, I will trust in him’.”

To summarize:  When an individual desires to have a thorough trust in the protection of God, where he is abiding in that protection, by going to God in prayer, continuously asking to enter His secret place, the place of protection, “he then who so imitates Christ as to endure all the troubles of this world, with his hopes set upon God, that he falls into no snare, is broken down by no panic fears, he it is "who dwelleth under the defense of the Most High, who shall abide under the protection of God."1  That individual will then say to God, “Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in Him will I trust.  This shall be our prayer at home, during Mass, and while receiving the Eucharist, constantly recalling that He is Protector, Deliverer, God.  We must remember that we can only be delivered when we are actually between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  It is then that He becomes our Fortress, for we do not need a fortress if we are not in danger.  Jesus promised us persecutions, hardships.  Our first pope, Peter, was crucified; St. Paul was beheaded; and we have a myriad of martyrs of the faith.  Nevertheless, they persevered and endured because God was Protector, Deliverer, and God of their souls.

--Tommy Turner

[1] The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), Ps 90:1–3.
[2] Saint Robert Bellarmine (2015-05-11). A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Illustrated) (p. 422). Aeterna Press. Kindle Edition.
1 Saint Robert Bellarmine (2015-05-11). A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Illustrated) (p. 423). Aeterna Press. Kindle Edition.
1 St. Augustine (2010-03-28). St. Augustine: Exposition on the Book of Psalms (Kindle Locations 21558-21559).  . Kindle Edition.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

“I” Doesn’t Want to be in Christ

“I” doesn’t want to be in Christ. You probably caught the improper grammar. It is not that I don’t want to be in Christ—because I do; however, I have a problem: I am not content with Christ; I want to fulfill the desires of the flesh. I can identify with Apostle Paul: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am!”[1] This brings me to the first two verses of Psalm 91.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” Every time I have read passages like 91, I really just ignored them because I did not see them as being true in my life. I knew God did not lie; hence, this must be true. However, I did not see it as applicable to my life. I considered myself as dwelling “in the shelter of [God], but I knew these things were not true for me. Therefore, passage such as this went in one proverbial ear and out the other.

The human being who has been baptized, because of concupiscence, is truly a fickle creature. He is “in Christ;” nevertheless, he does not desire to remain in Christ at all times; he is distracted. He is caught in a revolving door, in-and-out constantly. He wants to stand on the running board of a vehicle, holding onto Christ with one hand while grasping for the world with the other. I am reminded of movies/TV shows in which one character would tell another to stay put or stay out of danger; however, they would get scared or thought they knew better and dart out; and, very often, they would get injured or killed. This is how we are more times than not.

Saint Robert Bellarmine (4 October 1542 – 17 September 1621), in his commentary on Psalm 91, explains: “‘He,’ no matter who he may be, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, patrician or plebeian, young or old, for ‘God is no respecter of persons,’ but he is ‘rich to all that call upon him’—‘that dwelleth,’ to give us to understand that this liberal promise does not apply to those who put only a certain amount of trust in God, but that this trust must be continuous, constant, and firm (emphasis added) so that man may be said to dwell in God, through faith and confidence, and to carry it about with him, like a house, like a turtle, ‘in the aid,’ for God’s aid is not like one of the strongholds of this world, to which people fly for defense, but consists in an invisible and most secret tower that can be found, and entered by faith alone.

However, the expression in the Greek as well as the Latin conveys, that we must place the most entire confidence in God (emphasis added), but still we are not to neglect the ordinary means that man can avail himself of. The husbandman puts his trust in him who gives the rain from heaven, and makes his sun to rise, but in the meantime he will be sure to plough, to sow, and to reap, knowing that God helps those who help themselves…Those in power spend much money on their fortresses and body guards, and yet are often betrayed by them; but here it is not frail and deceitful man, but the Almighty and truthful God that says, ‘Trust in me, and I will protect you,’ and yet scarce can one be found to trust himself to God as he ought.”1

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High is he who “sits in the secret place of the Most High,” trusting God no matter the circumstances, no matter what is occurring around them. The individual understands that, in his life, because he is Baptized, in Christ, there are no coincidences, no “bad” things, for all things are either ordained by the Father or allowed by Him for our good, to mold us more into the likeness of the Beloved, His Son. Jesus lived in the shelter of the Father regardless of the circumstances; He abided in the shadow of the Almighty. Because of Baptism, we too should dwell in the shelter of the Most High; however, we do not—we do not totally, absolutely, trust Him. We know that we should, that He is dependable; nevertheless, we are afraid to be put in the position to trust Him completely. We are fearful of the circumstances we may be put into. In the military, you can prepare your mind for combat, have an idea of what to expect. To dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we go into it blind, not knowing what to expect. However, we must imitate Jesus. St. Augustine puts it in plain words: “He then who so imitates Christ as to endure all the troubles of this world, with his hopes set upon God, that he falls into no snare, is broken down by no panic fears (emphasis added), he it is ‘who dwelleth under the [defense] of the Most High, who shall abide under the protection of God’.” 2

In Old English, the word that is translated as “dwells” for us is translated “dwelleth,” which means a constant, a continuous dwelling. This is consistent with how St. Augustine translates the verse. We are no longer in that revolving door, rotating in and out; we are in the Body of Christ, our will consistent with His will, allowing the Body to carry us where He wills.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I believe most people will recognize these as words contained in the Declaration of Independence. I do not think Thomas Jefferson, in drafting up the Declaration, was thinking of God. All Catholics know that Life, Liberty, and Happiness are all found in Christ. Nevertheless, because of concupiscence, we often look for these things outside of God. We know better; we are “bent.” In order to constantly dwell in the shelter of the Most High, to be one of those who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, to be one of those who will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust,” we must give ourselves over to God, dwelling in His defense. Only then will we be able to say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” We have to stop looking for happiness outside of Christ. Christ gives us all He has, including His life. He suffered all that we may have all. Why do we desire to grasp at straws? Why do we desire to possess straw?

How do we arrive at the state where we able to know we dwell in the shelter of the Most High? We must pray for it, confessing our fear in asking for the petition, but knowing that that is what we need. Then we must brace ourselves for the trials and temptations that will necessarily beset us. This was one reason why Jesus was “driven” into the wilderness to be tempted. In order to enter the dwelling of that secret place, all hindrances must be removed. “Iron sharpens iron.” St. Paul recognized this: Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.1 We do not have the strength to enter on our own; we must ask. Ask (and keep asking), and you shall receive. The question that remains: Do we desire, do we want, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High?

--Tommy Turner

[1] New American Bible, Revised Edition., (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ro 7:14–24.

1 Saint Robert Bellarmine (2015-05-11). A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Illustrated) (p. 422). Aeterna Press. Kindle Edition.

2 Augustine of Hippo, Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, 1888, 8, 446.

1 New American Bible, Revised Edition., (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Ro 7:24–25.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lent and Temptations

I believe that all Catholics (Christians) desire to do good, to do what is pleasing to God, to be molded into the image of the Beloved, His Son, Jesus Christ. As for myself, many times I know what to do but find myself unable to do what I should do. It is not as if I am incapable; it is as if I am mired in a tar pit, everything little thing requiring the utmost of energy. Many times, seeing little to no fruit for my labors, I resignedly think, “What is the use; how is this going to benefit anyone?” For Lent this year, I am reading Michael Aimino’s book, A Journey into the Wilderness: Forty Days of Lent. Included in his meditation for today, the day after Ash Wednesday, he wrote: “…there are times when we wonder if our efforts really make any difference.

On those days when we wonder if our work matters, it helps to remember that it is not so much the results that count, but that we make the effort to work in cooperation with a much greater plan and design, for a much greater purpose than we realize.” It is something that I knew; however, I often let the visual, or perception, inundate truth. We are responsible for the labor when it comes to the Kingdom; we are not responsible for producing the fruit. That is up to the Holy Spirit. As Mr. Aimino surmises, “When we place our work in the context of God’s kingdom, a kingdom of justice and love, then every little effort, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is helping to build something that really, truly matters.”

As an individual, we are not the Church; nonetheless, we are a microcosm of the Catholic Church. Therefore, when we repent of one sin as an individual, it has a tremendous effect upon the universal (redundancy intended) Catholic Church. Although sin is a personal act, it affects more than the individual. Our Catechism defines “sin:”
“Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain gods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law’ (St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas). 
Sin is an offense against God: ‘Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight’ (Ps 51.4). Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become ‘like gods,’ knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus ‘love of oneself even to contempt of God.’ In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.” (Para 1849, 1850)
Therefore, every sin we commit, we are sinning against God, human nature itself, and against the Church. Contrariwise, every act of good (holiness) praises God and helps heal human nature and the Church. We are a functioning part of a living organism, the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ. The Church is not an organization; it is a living organism, the visible Christ on earth.

We are in the second day of Lent. Lent consists of giving up something and doing something good. Some people give up chocolate, candy, soda, etc. When they desire the substance, they should turn their minds to God and pray instead of partaking in the thing they desire. What I would exhort people to do is: Do not only stop partaking during Lent, but completely, because the thing they are doing is fulfilling a desire of the flesh, turning their free will to satisfy themselves instead of God. We cannot honor God by honoring ourselves, which we do by fulfilling our desires. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. “On earth” means our bodies, which come from the earth. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” When we no longer desire the thing we have given up, let us do some introspection and give up another desire of the flesh.

“Desires of the flesh” make me think of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Jesus, after His baptism, was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted, tested. Satan tempted Him. Was Satan visible to Jesus or invisible? Satan is a spirit. He can enter a person, but I do not know whether he is able to assume the likeness of a human body—unless, of course, God granted it. For me, personally, it aids me when I think that Satan tempted Jesus through His mind, His thoughts—remembering that Jesus was also wholly man and was tempted in every way that we are tempted. St. Thomas Aquinas believed, I think, that Satan was physically present to Jesus; however, he says that others believe otherwise. I don’t know; but, because Satan does not appear physically to me but tempts me many times through my mind, my thoughts, it helps me to think of Jesus being tempted in the same fashion.

Now, eating to stay alive is not a sin. When the disciples were walking through the grain fields and eating the grain because they were hungry, Jesus did not rebuke them; He rebuked the religious leaders. He did say to His disciples, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every words that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Likewise, He did not think this when He fed the five thousand. If we went one day without eating, having the power to convert a stone into a pepperoni pizza, what would we do? Turn the stone into a pepperoni pizza. Why was it wrong for Jesus to turn stone into bread? Jesus went without food and water for forty days. It is my understanding that it is impossible for a man to live forty days without water, let alone food—without the intervention of God. Jesus knew His mission; He knew why He was being tested; therefore, He knew His Father would keep Him. Nevertheless, He was starving because He was a man.

Because Jesus knew the Father’s will, that He was sent to redeem mankind, He knew that the Father was not going to let Him die of thirst or starvation. If we tried to go forty days without drinking or eating, we would be tempting God. Jesus needed to undergo severe temptations, more than any single individual would undergo in order that He would understand “firsthand” the temptations that a human being undergoes. He now “knows” how weak we are. He “knows” how to help us, when to actually deliver us and when to just give us grace to endure. We no longer can blame God. We see the Son of God, who is also Son of Man, overcoming the most brutal of temptation in another Garden, the Garden of Gethsemane. Last but not least—really, most importantly—He underwent the temptations as part of our salvation. Humanity had to overcome everything that humanity succumbed to in the Fall.

Where the Head goes, the Body must follow. Jesus forewarns us that because He was persecuted we must also be persecuted. Likewise, if He was severely tempted, at times the Church—and her members—must also be severely tempted. It is only because Jesus persevered through the severest of trials that the martyrs of the Church were able to endure their martyrdom. God will give us the grace to endure and to persevere. Are we not willing to give up one desire of the flesh at a time? The desires of the flesh are burdens that keep us from up the “ladder of Ascent.” The more burdens we relieve ourselves of, the higher and faster we will be able to ascend.
--Tommy Turner

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Psalm 84 and Being Stuck on the Ladder of Ascent

For those of us who have watched the TV series, Monk, during the intro we see a clip of Mr. Monk stuck upon a ladder due to his acrophobia. Although we are not “stuck” due to fear, oftentimes I feel as if I am “stuck” upon the “ladder of ascent” to heaven. It very well could be that, instead of being “stuck,” I am in all actuality descending the “ladder of ascent.” I sincerely hope not for I keep, by the grace of God, my mind upon the heavenly. Be it what it may, the fact of the matter is: I perceive that I am not ascending, that I am “stuck.” For what reason? I am thinking of two. There are, perhaps, many more; but I am thinking of two: 1) desires of the flesh, and 2) contentment. If I am desiring things that are not of God, I am seeking to pacify the flesh, the five senses; therefore, I am unable to ascend. If I have all the corporeal and temporal things that I perceive I need and/or want, it very well may be that I am content, satisfied with the status quo; hence, I do not aggressively seek to ascend, my going to Mass, prayers, and deeds amounting to “fulfilling obligations.” Now, what does this have to do with Psalm 84?

For Tuesday, Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year C, in the responsorial Psalm, Psalm 84, the Church has us focusing upon Verses 1-4 and 9-10. However, in order to receive a clearer understanding, it might help to read the title, “For the leader; ‘upon the gittith;’ a psalm of the Korahites.” “Gittith” means winepresses. St. Augustine, in his Exposition on the Book of Psalms, interprets what the NAB has as “upon the gittith” as “for the winepresses. He correctly ascertains that there is nothing in the text of the Psalm which refers to “any press, or wine-basket, or vat, or of any of the instruments or the building of a winepress.” Therefore, the Saint asserts, “Therefore, let us recall to mind what takes place in these visible winepresses, and see how this takes place spiritually in the Church.” The description St. Augustine gives paints a pretty vivid picture:

“The grape hangs on the vines, and the olive on its trees. For it is for these two fruits that presses are usually made ready; and, as long as they hang on their boughs, they seem to enjoy free air; and neither is the grape wine nor the olive oil before they are pressed. Thus it is with men whom God predestined before the world to be conformed to the image of His only-begotten Son, who has been first and especially pressed in His Passion as the great Cluster. Men of this kind, therefore, before they draw near to the service of God, enjoy in the world a kind of delicious liberty, like hanging grapes or olives: But, as it is said, ‘My son, when thou drawest near to the service of God, stand in judgment and fear, and make thy soul ready for temptation:’ So each, as he draweth near to the service of God, findeth that he is come to the winepress, he shall undergo tribulation, shall be crushed, shall be pressed, not that he may perish in this world but that he may flow down into the storehouses of God. He hath the coverings of carnal desires stripped off from him, like grape skins: for this hath taken place in him in carnal desires, of which the Apostle speaks, ‘Put ye off the old man, and put on the new man.’ All this is not done but by pressure; therefore, the Churches of God [all the parishes of the Catholic Church] of this time are called winepresses.”

Oftentimes, we focus more upon the “pressure” itself more than we do on the purpose of the pressure. It is true that often we do not know the purpose of the trial; however, we must always force ourselves to recall that nothing happens to us without God desiring it to occur or allowing it to occur. All of this is for the purpose of our salvation and sanctification. When we forget to bring this to mind, we very well might be tempted to relieve ourselves of pressures that are needful. Of course, I am not referring to those instances that we have done something wrong and need to correct in order to relieve hardships, nor of not relying upon the advice of professionals, e.g. doctors. Mostly, I am referring to temporal and corporeal things, status, etc. When we fight to hold onto these things, it may impede our progress up the “ladder of ascension.” Just as a rock climber must relieve himself of all nonessentials, likewise must we relieve ourselves of all nonessentials in order to make our ascent. Sometimes this must be a literal relief, for there are many things we rely on subconsciously. This is why it is important for us to be in the “winepress.” Many people get out of the winepress (the Catholic Church) because they find a “church” which tolerates their “beliefs,” which really may be a “pet” sin.

What the NAB interprets as “a psalm of the Korahites,” St. Augustine interprets as “to the sons of [Korah],” which I believe is more meaningful to us. If we understand it only as a “psalm of the Korahites,” who were the gatekeepers of the Tabernacle and the Temple, then it very well be our thought that this is only a song they sang, of how we should feel. However, if as our Saint thinks, the “sons of Korah” are Catholics:

“Being placed under pressure, we are crushed for this purpose, that for our love by which we were borne towards those worldly, secular, temporal, unstable, and perishable things, having suffered in them, in this life, torments, and tribulations of pressures, and abundance of temptations, we may begin to seek that rest which is not of this life, nor of this earth; and the Lord becomes, as is written, ‘a refuge for the poor man.’ What is ‘for the poor man’? For him who is, as it were, destitute, without aid, without help, without anything on which he may rest, in earth. For to such poor men, God is present. For though men abound in money on earth, they are filled more with fear than with enjoyment. For what is so uncertain as a rolling thing? It is not unfitly that money itself is stamped round”—circular—“because it remains not still. Such men, therefore, though they have something, are yet poor. But those who have none of this wealth, but only desire it, are counted also among rich men who will be rejected, for God takes account not of power, but of will. The poor then are destitute of all this world’s substance, for even though it abounds around them, they know how fleeting it is; and crying unto God, having nothing in this world with which they may delight themselves, and be held down, placed in abundant pressures and temptations, as if in winepresses, they flow down, having become oil or wine. What are these latter but good desires? For God remains their only object of desire; now they love not earth. For they love Him who made heaven and earth; they love Him, and are not yet with Him. Their desire is delayed in order that it may increase; it increases in order that it may receive. For it is not any little thing that God will give to him who desires, nor does he need to be little exercised to be made fit to receive so great a good: not anything which He hath made will God give, but Himself who made all things. Exercise thyself to receive God: that which thou shalt have forever, desire thou a long time.”

Very often, God “drives” us into the wilderness, into the desert, in order that we “miss” Him, in order that we yearn for Him. This is one of the purposes of Lent: that we give up something we like in order to recall to mind that we need to yearn Him, Who is All. Our Saint advises us: “Let no one look back, no one delight himself with his former interests, no one turn away from that which is before to that which is behind; let him run until he arrives, for we run not with the feet but with the desire; but let no one in this life say that he hath arrived…’for as long as we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord’.”

How lovely your dwelling,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and flesh cry out
for the living God.

As the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest to settle her young,
My home is by your altars,
Lord of hosts, my king and my God!

Blessed are those who dwell in your house!
They never cease to praise you. Selah.
Better one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere.
Better the threshold of the house of my God
than a home in the tents of the wicked.

It is the winepresses (the Catholic Church) and being in the winepresses that create this desire, this yearning. It is the winepresses that aid us in relieving ourselves of the nonessentials that release our being “stuck” on the “ladder of ascent,” allowing ourselves to desire God more and more, enabling us to continue our ascent up the ladder. In essence, God is freeing us from all desires that are not of Him. One might insist that one does not have to be in the Catholic Church in order to be in the winepresses. This is true; however, there would be no "churches" if it was not for the Catholic Church, for the root of all "churches" lead back to the Catholic Church. Hence, the Catholic Church is the winepresses.
--Tommy Turner

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates!

It was told King David, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.”[1]

“Obed-edom” is defined as “Serving Edom; servant of Edom; a laborer of the earth.”[2] Now, God had blessed him because of the ark, which we see as the Virgin Mary, which in turn points us to the Incarnation of the Son of God. Of course, we cannot separate the Incarnation and our Lord’s Passion, for it is for this that He became incarnate. The laborers of the earth are those that have the Virgin Mary as their Mother, those who are born again in Christ through Baptism. Since the Mother is the image of her Son, her children are also the image of her Son. Because of this blessing, because they are born again of God, they are His “train,” which we see in Psalm 24:7.

We read in Haydock’s commentary that Psalm 24 is a processional hymn, in which one group of singers calls upon the gates of the old city of the Jebusites to lift up their heads in honor, because the King of Glory is to pass through them to his new sanctuary. We read in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture that the Church has constantly understood this passage of Christ’s ascension, and that the saints in his train address the angels, who appear to be filled with astonishment. Because, in the Mass, heaven and earth come together, we see that we are made holy as our Lord is holy and that we ascend with Him. The commentary tells us that the psalmist is contemplating the ascension of Christ, inviting the angels to receive Him. “The angels express their admiration of the glory with which Christ, in our human nature, was environed; and the prophet replies, that he had overcome all his opponents, and again orders the gates to open. The angels were not ignorant, but gave occasion to a further display of the conqueror’s dignity, and expressed their surprise that men should enter heaven.”[3] How well we can sing with the psalmist, “Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and might, the LORD, mighty in battle!” This, of course, is due to our Lord’s Passion, death, and resurrection.

Not only do we shout in exultation, but our Lord praises the Father because of us:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.[4] Looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” [5]

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory![6]

Lord, make us the image of You, through Your Word and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Amen.

--Tommy Turner

[1] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), 2 Sa 6:12.
[2] Stelman Smith and Judson Cornwall, The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names, 1998, 187.
[3] George Leo Haydock, Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary, (New York: Edward Dunigan and Brother, 1859), Ps 23:7–10.
[4] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Mt 11:25
[5] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Mk 3:34–35.
[6] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Ps 24:7–10.