Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Liturgy: Adoremus

Are you Catholic? Do you love the liturgy? Interested in the renewal of sacred liturgy? Please consider reading the articles and documents available at Adoremus. Even better, please sign up and register as a donating supporting member.

In the mean time, consider reading Redemptionis Sacramentum and the General Instruction of the Roman Missale (available here). But beware: along with the knowledge of good and evil (in this case, right and wrong) comes the responsibility to exercise that knowledge (for the good, of course) and not remain silent.

CRC #5: C. S. Lewis and Ecumenism

(This is an entry for the Christian Reconciliation Carnival, #5.)

Have you ever read literature by a Christian of a denomination other than yours... and found yourself agreeing with much of what he or she has written? I have, and it's one of the reasons I hold a hope that there can be a clearer understanding between Christians and even, eventually, a reconciliation. I hope it is God's will that this reconciliation happens this side of Heaven, but I will let His will be done.

In college, in the library of my fraternity house, one finds lots of old -- even ancient -- books. There are old RPI yearbooks, old textbooks, old encyclopedias, and old novels. I found one book titled The Apostle (9780881841671), by Sholem Asch, held my interest last time I visited the house. But the first book I found there that I actually took back to my room to start reading was a book by the famed author of the Narnia series (of which I'd only read the first). The book was mere christianity (9780805420463), the author was C. S. Lewis.

I'm pretty sure I knew that Lewis was not a Catholic before I started reading mere christianity. However, to my 19- or 20-year-old brain, that meant he was "a Protestant", which in turn meant he was "a Baptist or something". (I apologize for the tone of ignorance that will be displayed on occasion in this post, but it is simply indicative of what I knew about other denominations of Christianity at the time.) I was somewhat surprised, then, after reading mere christianity, that his view of core Christianity made so much sense to me.

That was five years ago. Two years ago, after leaving college (not graduating, mind you, just leaving) and moving to the Princeton, NJ area for a job, I had my first apartment, complete with boxes of stuff I didn't want to unpack (and still haven't unpacked!) and a mostly-empty bookcase. I went to Barnes & Noble and bought the "Signature Series", a set of six books by Lewis; I was determined to read as many of his books as I could to understand this Catholic-sounding Christian's point of view. I've since gotten the complete Narnia series as a gift from my fiancée, and purchased two anthologies (comprising seven other works), the space trilogy (I still haven't started the third book), and a few other odds and ends (The Abolition of Man, The Weight of Glory, and Till We Have Faces). I also received a book about Lewis and the Narnia series, as well as a book about Lewis's relationship with J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

But back to Lewis and his appealing take on Christianity.

It was not until I was reading his anonymous work, A Grief Observed, written after the death of his wife, Joy, that I found out what his particular church was. On page 65 (very near the end of the book), he writes (emphasis mine): "Tomorrow morning a priest will give me a little round, thin, cold, tasteless wafer. Is it a disadvantage -- is it not in some ways an advantage -- that it can't pretend the least resemblance to that with which it unites me?" I knew he was not talking about a Catholic priest, so I realized that he meant either an Orthodox priest or an Anglican priest, and since Orthodox Communion is not with wafers, that meant Lewis was an Anglican.

My future studying, which included the book C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church (0898709792), helped me understand Lewis's faith, what he thought of Rome, and what he thought of Christianity in general. Lewis was a liturgically-oriented orthodox Anglican. This put his writings in a fuller context. I finally understood where he was coming from. At that moment, it really did not matter to me that he wasn't Catholic; what mattered to me was that he had been able to explain the core tenets of the Christian faith to a Catholic, and that he had bolstered my belief in God and my faith in Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is why so many Catholics mark Lewis as a signpost on their "road to Rome", or as a buoy as they "cross the Tiber". I have no doubt he has helped Christians of other denominations feel "at home" in their churches either.

Lewis has succeeded in writing an ecumenical work -- several, really -- with which so many Christians can identify, and I believe it is a foundation on which to build more serious, more intelligent, and more charitable dialogue in reconciling the Christians of the world to one another, and ultimately, to God Himself.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Scripture Reflection: The Feast of Pentecost

(This post is an entry for the Catholic Carnival #121.)

Compare the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) with the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).

Why did God confuse the tongues of men at Babel? First, let us understand what the men were doing. We hear from the men themselves: "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:4). I can spot two problems with their plan. First of all, it was God's will that mankind be "scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4): He had already told us to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28)... three times (cf. Genesis 9:1, 7). Why, then, was man afraid of being thus scattered? Second, these men sought to make a name for themselves rather than for God. The city and tower were not for the glory of God, but for the glory of Man, and unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

So God, seeing that mankind put His will beneath their own and sought to elevate their own names rather than the name of the One True God, confused their speech and scattered them abroad. This was a punishment of sorts for not keeping the covenant of filling the whole earth, and for preferring their own glorification over God's.

But on the day of Pentecost, after Jesus the Christ had been crucified, raised, and had ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit filled the Apostles and those with them (including Mary, the mother of Jesus, cf. Acts 1:12-14) and "confused their speech". God granted the same gift (not punishment) to these holy men and women again, so that His will might be fulfilled.

Jesus told his friends to "make disciples of all nations" (cf. Matthew 28:19). But how could they do so without being able to preach to those nations, using words the nations could understand? Here is the beautiful Wisdom of God displayed: yet another foreshadowing of the New Covenant in the Old. Just as the sacrifice of Isaac prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus, just as the ark of Noah prefigured baptism, just as the manna in the desert prefigured the True Bread from Heaven, so to did the confusing of tongues in Babel prefigure the confusing -- and understanding -- of tongues in Jerusalem.

The disciples of Jesus spoke in various tongues -- not the languages they already knew, but the languages of the devout Jews visiting Jerusalem, the men who were "Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians" (Acts 2:9-11). This was for the furthering of the Kingdom and the glorification of God, that all the world might know the saving power of Jesus Christ and believe in him.

Instead of building a city of men, now we are building the city of God.

CRC #5: Topic Announcement

The topic for Christian Reconciliation Carnival #5 is as follows:
Have you read articles, essays, or books by a Christian of a denomination other than yours -- and found yourself agreeing with much of what he or she wrote? How has this changed your understanding of the divisions in Christianity?
I know, for example, many Catholics have read books by C. S. Lewis; some even recognize his literature as being integral in their conversion to the Catholic Church... despite Lewis being an Anglican.

Weekend Fisher has the instructions for post submission on her blog.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Scripture: Why do you read the Bible?

What are some reasons you read the Bible or attend Bible studies? Be as general or specific as you'd like.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tradition: Pope Saint Gregory VII

Amber at This Catholic Journey has a blogger widget from PhatCatholic Apologetics; it's a quote-of-the-day. Today's quote is from Pope Saint Gregory VII († 1085): "Amavi iustiam et odivi iniquitatem; propterea, morior in exilio." ("I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.") He said it on his deathbed, exiled in Salerno by Emperor Henry IV.

Pope Saint Gregory VII did not just die exiled because of the emperor. All Christians die in exile: Heaven is our true home (cf. 2 Cor 5:1; Phil 3:20; 1 Pet 1:4).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Personal: Graduation, Devotion, Wedding

So I "graduated" from RPI on Saturday, in Troy, NY. In the rain. I have a single credit left, which I'm making up this summer at Rutgers, taking a course on the New Testament. By the end of August, then, I will have completed my Computer Science courses and will be receiving my degree.

There are now only 33 days left until my wedding. I've decided to pray a 30-day Novena to Saint Joseph in honor of the years he spent with Jesus and Mary (starting on the 25th of May), in addition to daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. I hope to gain some peace (during what will be a hectic month, I'm sure), discernment, patience, wisdom, in preparation for being the best possible husband for Kristin.

The prayer of the Novena follows:
Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow! You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow. Look kindly on my request. My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness. To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection.

Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.

I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.

I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the holy Virgin, nor a place where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world's Redeemer in a cave.

I ask it by the loveliness and power that sacred, Name Jesus, which you conferred on the adorable Infant.

I ask it by that painful torture you felt at the prophecy of Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His Holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.

I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother into Egypt. I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.

I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country. I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met so many joys and sorrows.

I ask it by your great distress, when the adorable Child was lost to you and His Mother for three days. I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the Temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus. I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.

I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary. I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and Hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.

I ask it through Mary's glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you share with her in the presence of God.

O good father! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

[Here name your petitions]

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Liturgy: Motu Proprio on JP II's birthday?

National Catholic Reporter is reporting (as is their wont) that a top Vatican official, Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission, has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI "intends to extend to the entire church the possibility of celebrating the Mass and the sacraments according to the liturgical books promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962."

Tomorrow is the birthday of Pope John Paul II († 2005); perhaps tomorrow the Motu Proprio will be announced?

For more information, see What Does The Prayer Really Say? by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.

Update (2007-05-20): this is why I'm not a prognosticator.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tradition: Vatican Timeline

I already knew about the Vatican boardgame, but Gretchen pointed out there's a Vatican Timeline as well. I might like to have that.

Scripture: The "cloud of witness" from Hebrews 11-12

The following discourse took place on ccel.org (the Christian Classics Ethereal Library) between micahdaniel and myself.

Submitted by micahdaniel on Mon, 2006-10-23 08:34.
The previous verse: Heb 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Note two groups of people mentioned in this verse, "us" and "they without us." These two groups clearly do not include the dead or dead in Christ. Therefore, the immediate context for the "cloud of witnesses" is not the dead, but the living.
Submitted by japhy on Sun, 2007-02-25 12:39.
I disagree with you; I believe the context shows that the "cloud of witnesses" refers to those who have died in faith. Here is Hebrews 11:32 - 12:2 (RSV), with emphasis by me.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets -- who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated -- of whom the world was not worthy -- wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight
, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Here is what I understand the pronouns represent: And all these who died in faith, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us who live today, that apart from us who live today they who died in faith should not be made perfect.

It seems clear to me that, at the end of Hebrews 11, the author is referring specifically to those who have died without receiving what was promised, because God fulfilled all promises through Jesus Christ (something better), and that by his Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, they (those who had died in faith) were now made perfect. In other words, because of Christ (and Christianity), the faithful departed have been made perfect as we are being made perfect. Therefore, the great ... cloud of witnesses refers to those who have died in faith and are now made perfect in Christ (retroactively, so to speak). We are encouraged to also lay aside every weight and to believe with the faith our predecessors had.

Jesus is the perfecter of our faith, so in him the faithful who died have now been made perfect, and they are witnesses (both to their faith, and of our struggles).
I think micahdaniel was trying to cast "they without us" as the Jewish community, or as the other Christians who were the responsibility of the Hebrews being addressed by this epistle. If the former, then "they without us" wouldn't mean "they need us", it would mean "non-Christians"; if the latter, then the "cloud of witnesses" means "the people who are depending on you, watching you".

But that disregards not only the entirety of chapter 11, but the previous verse, which is part of the same sentence. The pronoun "they" used in verse 40 relate directly to verse 39, the ones well attested by their faith [but] did not receive what was promised.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Retreat: NJYAC Summary

This is the first post about the NJ Young Adult Conference held in Laurence Harbor on May 5, 2007. This is just a summary of the day, with descriptions of all the workshops being held.

We started the day with a skit about "the light". Then we opened in prayer at 10:20 AM. We were led in prayer by five people (myself included). The morning prayer consisted of five prayer meditations, each followed by a song. Next, at 11:00 AM, Fr. John Cusick (priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago and founder of Theology on Tap, as well as the director of his Archdiocese's Young Adult Ministry) gave the Keynote Presentation on Matthew 5:1-16 (the Beatitudes and the "Salt and Light" discourse). This was followed by lunch.

At 1:30 PM, the first workship session started. There were seven workshops being offered in different areas of the church basement and parish hall; they were:
A Light in the Darkness: Bringing the Catholic Social Teaching to Life (Terri Willox) - An overview of the primary themes of Catholic Social Teaching as our response to the call of the Gospel. It will focus specifically on means of advocating justice at both the community and global levels.

Some May Try to Turn Out the Light: Defending the Faith (Marc Hudock) - This workshop will discuss the finer points of living amongst those caustic elements of our culture which can hidner us from truly living our faith. It will focus on truly living a robust Christian life, which inevitably puts us in the position where we may have to "defend the faith" on a daily basis.

Walk, Believe, Become the Light of Discernment (Sister Marilyn Minter, CSSF) - This workshop will focus on discernment: what it is, what it is not, how we do it, and how much we all do walk in it to be the light with Christ.

Rekindling the Light in the Church Today: Beking the Church Jesus Really Intended (Michael Fabien) - This workshop offers a look at the Church through fresh eyes. What are we about? Who are we? What did Jesus ask us to be? It will explore what it means to be, not a Church with a mission, but a mission with a Church.

Turning Your Lights On: Transformed by the Light of the Human Race (Nivi Srinivasa) - This workshop will focus on meditation and prayer as toosl to help us to encounter the Living Christ. Such an encounter dispels fear, so that we can follow the example of the Apostles and evangelize.

Spark It: Building Young Adult Ministry (Margaret Rickard) - This workshop will focus on getting support from parishes, finding leaders, and getting the word out to the young adult population.

Keeping the Lights On: Keeping the Light in Your Relationship (Raphael and Aly Giglio) - This workshop will focus on the similarities of the relationship of husband and wife as is depicted in Scripture as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25). It will also include some focus of doing ministry together as a couple.
After this first session ended, around 2:15 PM, we went back to the parish hall for a question & answer session with the Bishop of the Metuchen Diocese, the Most Reverend Paul Gregory Bootkoski. This lasted for about a half hour, after which we went to our second workshop, at 3:00 PM. We had free time from around 4:00 PM to 4:30 PM. Then we had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament -- with the Sacrament of Reconciliation being offered as well -- until 6:00 PM.

Mass was held in the church at 6:15 PM, celebrated by Fr. Brian Woodrow (from St. Rose of Lima Church in Belmar, NJ), with Fr. Philip and Fr. Giancarlo concelebrating. After Mass, we had a Cinco de Mayo-themed dinner, ending the evening.

Tradition: Icons

Weekend Fisher has a post on her blog about icons. Check it out. The one she included in her article is of the Crucifixion, similar to the one to be printed upon my "business card".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Scripture Reflection: Called by God (on Confirmation names)

Here is the reflection I gave on Holy Saturday, during the morning retreat for the RCIA candidates and catechumens. The names of the Saints selected as Confirmation names were: St. Francis for Francisco, St. Cecelia for Jenna, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for Lindsay, and St. Patrick for John.

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph 3:14-15) writes Saint Paul. Ever since man could speak in words, he has named things, and the names given to things have had meaning. In Genesis, we read that, before man was even created, God, the Creator of all, named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night”, the firmament “Heaven”, the dry land “Earth”, and the waters “Seas” (cf. Gen 1:5-10). When God breathed into the first “Man” His breath of life – the first living soul, the first human in communion with God – God gave to Him the gift of language that man might name the creatures which God had created. The phrase “the Word of God” in Scriptures refers to revelation from God: [T]he word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." (Gen 15:1)

Names, which are made up of words, are important in every culture. A thing is given a name for a reason, and words themselves have origins. The name Adam and the Hebrew word for “man” are one in the same: adamah, which means both “reddish” and “earth” and describes the complexion and substance of man.

My name, Jeffrey, comes from Geoffrey, which comes from the Germanic name Godfrey, meaning “the peace of God”. Francisco, your name comes from the Latin Franciscus, which means “French-man”. Jenna, your name is a variant of Jennifer – a name in use only since the 20th century – which comes from Guinevere, the Old French rendering of the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar, meaning “fair and smooth”. Lindsay, your name is a Scottish surname, from Old English, describing a place called “Lincoln’s marsh”. And John, your name, the most Biblical of the group – with the exception of Sr. Mary, of course – comes from the Latin Iohannes, from the Greek Ioannes, which came from the Hebrew Yochanan, meaning “Yahweh is gracious”. Truly, John the Baptist, born to an aged Zechariah (“Yahweh remembers”) and his barren wife Elizabeth (“God’s promise”), was a sign of the graciousness of God to His people.

Several times in the Bible we read of people being given a new name by God: Abram and Sarai were renamed Abraham and Sarah in light of their covenant with God (cf. Gen 17), Jacob was renamed Israel after contending with a messenger of God (cf. Gen 32:28), the man we know of as Joshua son of Nun – a servant of Moses and the one who led the Israelites into the land promised to them – was born Hoshea and was named Joshua (or Yehoshua, meaning “Yahweh is salvation”) by Moses (cf. Num 13:16). King Solomon was also named Jedidiah (meaning “beloved of Yahweh”) in his infancy (cf. 2 Sam 12). The Apostle Simon was named Peter by Jesus (cf. Matt 16:18; John 1:40-42). The Pharisee Saul was named Paul after his conversion (cf. Acts 13:9).

Jesus – whose Hebrew name was the same as Joshua – was prophesied to have the name Emmanuel, “God with us”, as well as a host of other names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 7:14, 9:6). Those phrases were names in Hebrew: Pele-joez, El-gibbor, Abi-ad, Sar-shalom.

Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). It is in our baptism that we are made new – restored and refreshed – by God, who calls each of us by name. We choose a baptismal name, as well as a confirmation name, as a sign of this rebirth in Jesus Christ. We choose the name of a saint, one who set apart his or her life for God, as a sign of our earnest desire to live a holy life and be a child of God. St. Francis of Assisi, inspired by a vision in a Crucifix, renounced his lineage and all his possessions and founded a religious order, the Franciscans. St. Cecilia, an early martyr of the Church whose name is mentioned in the first Eucharistic Prayer, praised God with her voice and with instruments. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American Saint, endured hardships and loss during her conversion to Catholicism, founded the first religious community of apostolic women in the country, the Sisters of Charity, and helped form a private charity organization – the first in New York City – dedicated to the assistance of widows with children. St. Patrick was a missionary to Ireland in the fifth century, and was recognized as Ireland’s patron only a few centuries after his death.

The first Christian saints – the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles – experienced the early form of baptism and confirmation. Baptism by water in the name the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit cleanses us from our sin; Confirmation seals us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, which manifested itself as tongues of flame at Pentecost. Water and fire, often seen by philosophers as contradictory and opposing, are understood in Christianity as united symbols of cleansing and purification. In being called by the Father, you will pass through the waters of baptism and the fire of the Holy Spirit, welcomed by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1): His Son, His Holy Spirit, His Saints, His Church.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Personal: The Cross Reference Card

I made myself some "business cards" at VistaPrint.com (where a friend of mine will soon be employed) to share my blog with people. They'll arrive in a couple weeks. I think they're pretty nifty.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Theology: The Sacrifice of Christ Made Present to Us

At Mass, the priest takes bread and wine in his hands -- hands he has put at the service of Christ -- and prays for the Holy Spirit to make them the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is an unbloody re-presentation (not representation) of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. It is one and the same; Jesus is not sacrificed over and over again, but the priest offers to God that same sacrifice, that same spotless lamb.

Erin Arlinghausen blogged on something Fr. John Corapi said about the Eucharist. It's not just made present to us in that it is presented to us, it is made present to us, rather than past, just as for the Apostles it was made present to them, although the sacrifice on the cross was still to come in the future.

Theology: The Uniqueness of Jesus's Baptism

Update: My brother, Fr. Charlie, pointed out to me an excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Jesus of Nazareth (978-0385523417), on MSNBC.com; the topic of the excerpt is the meaning behind the baptism of Jesus.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan has been a matter of debate in the past. Why would the sinless Son of God need to be baptized in the manner of the sinners in Israel? Matthew records the meeting between John the Baptist and Jesus (cf. Matthew 3:13-17); John asks Jesus, "you come to me?" to which Jesus replies, "Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." John would not have been hesitant to baptize Jesus if he thought there was any cause for sin in Jesus, so John must have known Jesus's sinless nature.

I have read various speculations about what it meant to "fulfill all righteousness". Some interpret this to mean that Jesus, in being baptized, consecrated all waters for baptism so that this great sacrament of grace, of initiation into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, could be performed anywhere, not just in the Jordan. This makes a lot of sense, and is quite likely to be one of the meanings behind this passage of Scripture.

But there is something even deeper. Jesus's baptism was unlike any other baptism. No other man or woman entering the Jordan had the Holy Spirit alight upon him or her like a dove. No other baptism caused a voice to proclaim from Heaven, "This is my beloved Son". After Jesus, there is no other Messiah. But before Jesus, there were Messiahs. Not false Messiahs, but true ones. "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew, "Christ" comes from the Greek: both mean "Anointed". Truly Jesus is the Anointed One of God, the Christ. It was not the fact that he was anointed that made him the Last Messiah, but a) who he is (God Incarnate), and b) the manner of his anointing.

A survey of anointing in the Old Testament revealed to me that it involved the marking of a person or thing with oil. (In the Catholic Church today, this happens at Baptism and Confirmation, during Holy Orders and Extreme Unction.) The use of oil, it seems, was integral to the anointing. In the area of Luz, Jacob anointed a stone with oil and renamed the place Bethel (in Genesis 28 and again in Genesis 35). The Mosiac Law describes the ordination process for the priests in the line of Aaron (Exodus 28:41-29:9) including the anointing of their heads with oil. Saul and David were anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 9:15-16; 16:12-13). Zadok and Nathan anointed Solomon (1 Kings 1:33-40). Elisha commissioned a prophet to anoint Jehu as king of Israel (2 Kings 9:1-13). The list goes on.

Jesus was anointed in the Jordan by water alone; John the Baptist was a Levite, as was his father before him. The Spirit was already upon him, as he is God the Son, God Incarnate, Word Made Flesh; he was identified as the Lord's Christ by Simeon at his circumcision (cf. Luke 2:25-35), and he manifested his wisdom at the age of 12 in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 2:41-52). The baptism in the Jordan, then, was the public identification of Jesus as Christ, to make him known.

I could be wrong. This isn't a hinge of the faith, just an interpretation to explain why Jesus received water baptism.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

News: President of the Evangelical Theological Society returns to Rome

Dr. Francis Beckwith, the (former) president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has returned home to Rome. Since the ETS seeks to keep Catholics out via its statement of faith (which a Catholic would agree with), Dr. Beckwith will probably not be maintaining his membership much longer.

The responses are varied. Some non-Catholics are furious, disappointed, and regretful. Other non-Catholics are sympathetic and encouraging. All the Catholics are overjoyed -- surprise, surprise. One wonders if some of the non-Catholics are now sure that Dr. Beckwith was never saved to begin with, if he's gone off and joined the "pagan church". There's a fair share of ignorance of the Catholic faith in the comments on Dr. Beckwith's blog article, regarding the history of the Biblical canon, the saving work of Christ on the cross, justification (yes, Catholics believe we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, cf. Eph 2:8), and other topics.

Pray for him and his family. The angels and saints around the throne of God are doing the same; you'll be in good company.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Retreat: New Jersey Young Adult Conference

This Saturday, I will be attending the New Jersey Young Adult Conference, an all-day retreat for young adult Catholics. As usual, I'll have a notebook with me so I can take notes in the two workshop sessions I attend. I should probably also really get an audio recording device of some sort. And probably borrow Kristin's digital camera.