November 18, 2010

Yes For Benedict!


The news of the universal prayer for Nascent life on the evening of 27th November was unprecendented in the Church's history. Pope Benedict has asked all dioceses to organise local prayer vigils around the world. How exciting a development this is.

This excellent website allows people to write a letter of thanks to Pope Benedict for organising such a great initiative. It states that without God's help you cannot win this battle and highlights the great need for this initiative. How true, that the author of life will guide us towards victory in defending our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

H/T Love Undefiled

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant


From "Mary the Ark of the New Covenant by Steve Ray


(Editor's note: As explained below, the Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments the sign of the Covenant God made with Moses. The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been compared to a new Ark of the Covenant in carrying Christ in her womb. Just as the Ark of the Covenant bore the Ten Commandments; Mary bears Christ within her. Parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary are found throughout Scripture. Any first century Jew would recognize the similarities.)

God loved his people and wanted to be close to them. He chose to do so in a very special way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The prayer of the people of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, the ark of the covenant and the temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets" (CCC 2594). God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle surrounded by heavy curtains (cf. Ex. 25–27). Within the tabernacle he was to place an ark made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out. Within the Ark of the Covenant was placed a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (cf. Heb. 9:4).

When the ark was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord (the Shekinah Glory) covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35; Num. 9:18, 22). The verb for "to cover" or "to overshadow" and the metaphor of a cloud are used in the Bible to represent the presence and glory of God. The Catechism explains:
In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory—with Moses on Mount Sinai, at the tent of meeting, and during the wandering in the desert, and with Solomon at the dedication of the temple. In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and "overshadows" her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the "cloud came and overshadowed" Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and "a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’" Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his Ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming. The glory of the Lord "overshadowed" the ark and filled the tabernacle (CCC 697).
It’s easy to miss the parallel between the Holy Spirit overshadowing the ark and the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, between the Ark of the Old Covenant as the dwelling place of God and Mary as the new dwelling place of God.
God was very specific about every exact detail of the ark (Ex. 25–30). It was a place where God himself would dwell (Ex. 25:8). God wanted his words—inscribed on stone—housed in a perfect container covered with pure gold within and without. How much more would he want his Word—Jesus—to have a perfect dwelling place! If the only begotten Son were to take up residence in the womb of a human girl, would he not make her flawless?
More on this in the next post installment.

The Ark of the Covenant


The Ark of the Covenant is a container described in the Bible as containing the tablets of stone on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments as well as Aaron’s rod and manna. According to the Pentateuch, the Ark was built at the command of God in accord with Moses’' prophetic vision on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25: 10-16). God communicated with Moses "from between the two cherubim on the Ark's cover (Exodus 25:22). The Ark and its sanctuary were "the beauty of Israel" (Lamentations 2:1).

The Biblical account relates that during the exodus of the Israelites, the Ark was carried by the priests (Numbers 35:5; Joshua 4:5) in advance of the people and their army or host (Num. 4:5-6; 10:33-36; Psalms 68:1; 132:8). When the Ark was borne by priests into the bed of the Jordan, the river was separated, opening a pathway for the whole of the host to pass over (Josh. 3:15-16; 4:7-18). The Ark was borne in a seven-day procession around the wall of Jericho by seven priests sounding seven trumpets of ram’s horns, the city taken with a shout (Josh. 6:4-20). When carried, the Ark was always wrapped in a veil, in tachash skins (the identity of this animal is uncertain), and a blue cloth, and was carefully concealed, even from the eyes of the those who carried it.

Over time, the accounts of the Ark have gathered a number of references in popular culture.

Description

The Bible describes the Ark as made of shittah-tree wood (acacia), known to the Egyptians as the Tree of Life and an important plant in traditional medicine containing in many cases psychoactive alkaloids. It was 1.5 cubits broad and high, and 2.5 cubits long, conforming to the golden ratio. (~130 x 78 x 78 cm or 4.27 x 2.56 x 2.56 ft, using the Egyptian royal cubit). The Ark was covered all over with the purest gold. Its upper surface or lid, the mercy seat (Hebrew: כפורת, Kaporet), was surrounded with a rim of gold.


On each of the two long sides were two gold rings, wherein were placed two wooden poles (with a decorative sheathing of gold), to allow the Ark to be carried (Num. 7:9; 10:21; 4:5,19, 20; 1 Kings 8:3, 6). Over the Ark, at the two extremities, were two cherubim, with their faces turned toward one another (Leviticus 16:2; Num. 7:89). Their outspread wings over the top of the Ark formed the throne of God, while the Ark itself was his footstool (Ex. 25:10-22; 37:1-9). The Ark was placed in the "Holy of Holies," so that one end of the carrying poles touched the veil separating the two compartments of the tabernacle (1 Kings 8:8). The Book of Deuteronomy describes the Ark as a simple wooden container with no mention of ornaments or gold. Similarly, the Quran makes a reference to the Ark as a wooden box with holy relics inside it.

Contents

According to the Bible, the Ten Commandments were kept within the Ark itself. A golden jar containing some of the manna from the Israelites' trek in the wilderness, and the rod of Aaron that budded, were added to the contents of the Ark (Ex. 16:32-34; Heb. 9:4), but apparently were later removed at some point prior to the building of Solomon's temple, as I Kings 8:9 states that there "was nothing in the Ark save the two tablets of stone." While Heb. 9:4 states these items were placed "inside" the Ark, Ex. 16:33-34 and Num. 17:10 use the expression "before" the Ark; some see a contradiction here, as the correct meaning of these phrases is open to interpretation. A Rabbinic tradition states that Moses also put the broken fragments of the first tablets of the Law into the Ark. Some scholars have argued that the plans to the Tabernacle were contained in the Ark.

Sanctity and Consecration

Even Aaron, brother of Moses and the High Priest, was forbidden to enter the place of the Ark, except once a year on a designated day, called The Day of Atonement, when he was to perform certain ceremonies there (Lev. 16). Moses was directed to consecrate the Ark, when completed, with the oil of holy ointment (Ex. 30:23-26); he was also directed to have the Ark made by Bezalel, son of Uri of the tribe of Judah, and by Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan (Ex. 31:2-7). These instructions Moses carried out, calling upon every "wisehearted" one among the people to assist in the work (Ex. 35:10-12). Bezalel the artist made the Ark (Ex. 37:1); and Moses approved the work, put the testimony in the Ark, and installed it.

In Deut. 10:1-5, a different account of the making of the Ark is given. Moses is made to say that he constructed the Ark before going upon Mount Horeb

November 12, 2010


Thought of the Day
If we have any natural defect, either in mind or body, let us not grieve and feel sorry for ourselves. Who can tell whether, if we had been given a larger share of ability or stronger health, or greater wealth, we would have possessed them to the destruction of our soul!

-- St. Alphonsus Liguori

November 5, 2010

The Preferential Option for the Poor

St. Damien of Molokai

Joseph de Veuster was a Belgian missionary priest working among the islanders of Honolulu. His bishop had trouble finding a priest to work in the leper settlement of Molokai. Joseph, better known as Father Damien, volunteered to go and work in the “living graveyard that was Molokai.” His solidarity with the lepers was so complete that he contracted the disease himself and died at the age of forty-nine in service to the poorest and most abandoned. Some of his contemporaries accused him of imprudence and foolhardiness. Today, however, he is recognized worldwide as a hero of the faith: Damien the Leper.

Father Damien made a total life commitment to the poor long before the church recognized the preferential option for the poor as a pillar of the church”s social teaching. The Gospels teach us that as Christians we should give priority to the poor in the way we administer and dispense our resources. This is what we see in today’s gospel reading. Some people see today’s gospel as Jesus teaching table etiquette and good manners in choosing seats when invited to a dinner. But when we try to read it through the eyes of the early Christians whose assembly was mainly to share in the feast of the Eucharist, we begin to see that there is much more than etiquette involved here. Jesus is teaching the basic Christian virtues of humanity and solidarity with the poor. And he does this in two stages using two parables.

The firs parable, on the One Invited to the Wedding Feast (verses 7-11), is addressed to Christians as those who are invited to the feast of the Lord’s Supper. Irrespective of social status and importance we come to the Eucharist as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God. This is the only place where employer and employee relationship, master and servant distinctions dissolve and we recognize one another simply as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as together we call God “Our Father.” The Letter of James reports and condemns a situation where Christians “make distinctions” in the Christian assembly:

If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves? (James 2:2-4).

Jesus is challenging his followers to abolish the rich-poor distinction among them and to recognize and treat one another as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God. “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

The second parable, on the One Giving a Great Dinner (verses 12-14), is addressed to Christians as those who invite others to the feast of the Lord’s supper.

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (verses 12-13).

Does our parish community measure up to the criterion of preferential option for the poor? Do we consider wheel-char access to our churches to serve “the crippled and the lame” a priority? What about providing sign-language translation in our services for the benefit of “the deaf” and Braille Bibles and prayer books for “the blind.” This is what it means to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (Luke 14-13).

November 1, 2010




All SOULS DAY REFLECTION

If you were to collect all the passages about death and the afterlife in the Bible, you would still not have a clear picture about what the experience of death is like or what we can expect life to be like after we have died. Obviously God has had no intention of revealing very much about these two basic experiences, even though humans have speculated and written much about them. Death is an impenetrable wall or abyss that exists between us and the afterlife, at least as our knowledge is concerned.

We are, however, asked to reflect on what precedes and what follows the experience of death itself. With regard to what precedes death, we are encouraged to reflect on God's mercy and goodness, not on our failures, torments, and trials of the past. The prophet Jeremiah rejects the thoughts that bring despair, regret, and depression; instead he fills his heart with the positive qualities of God: "His mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning."

We ought to think these thoughts not just about ourselves but also about the deceased we commemorate. There is an ancient expression that advises us to "have only good thoughts about the dead." The feast of All Souls teaches us to approach death without fear and anxiety, but with confidence and hope for our own life beyond death and for those who have preceded us in death.