Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sexual Modesty from a Jewish Perspective
In truth, the real reason for sexual modesty is not shame, but an awareness of how precious we are. Smirk at that statement if you will, but the fact remains: It is a rare dog that desires a candlelit dinner before mating. On the other hand, it is a rare human who can have a one-night stand without feeling at least a twinge of guilt afterward. And, howls of protest from vested interests notwithstanding, most men know that their most intimate relationships should not be with their computer browsers.
Where does our modesty confusion come from? Maybe we had the wrong idea about covering up from the beginning. Most people think that Adam and Eve knew more after they ate from that infamous Tree, and only then realized that they were – yikes! – naked. But early rabbinic commentators on the Bible explain that after the sin, with evil internalized, Adam and Eve actually understood less about the world (Rashi on Genesis 2:25). Eating the Tree’s fruit really introduced subjectivity, so that things that were formerly True or False now seemed merely good or bad.
Whereas before, Adam and Eve’s bodies and faces shone with a light that made it evident that they were spiritual beings, the moral uncertainty created by eating the Tree’s fruit changed their physical appearance. Now only their faces retained a glimmering of the soul’s light. Needless to say, this posed a problem: Bodies could be seen as mere animal bodies, instead of servants of the soul. To make sure they were perceived accurately – to retain their human dignity – Adam and Eve immediately covered up. The world may be superficial, but the right clothing keeps the focus where it should be.
...After all, “the greatness of the daughter of the king is on the inside” (Psalms 45:14). A recurrent biblical theme is protecting the inner self, which is a metaphor for the spiritual realm. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only on Yom Kippur. The holiest of all Jewish prayers is said in a whisper. It was Hanna, the mother of Samuel, who prayed for a child by barely moving her lips. Initially, Eli the High Priest thought she was drunk, but later realized she was onto something. From then on, the Jews mouthed their most important prayers quietly. The most significant moments are always cloaked in hiddenness.
Even God Himself uses the veil of nature to give us the opportunity to find Him (emphasis mine). No wonder, then, that public displays of affection are seen as cheapening. If you want to show everyone, how special can it be?
Read the whole article here.
Labels: Written By Others
Monday, August 25, 2008
God's Boundless Love for Us
From unrequited love, it is said, we learn how God must feel. The truth in that remark is that God is not abstract love, but a Lover, whose love is astonishingly singular; He offers it not only corporately, to His people, but individually, to each heart, as ardently as if He had never created another in the entire universe to love. All the stories in this book are recollections of His courtship.
In times when the Catholic world is healthy, God woos most of us through the institutional channels of family, Church and culture. But even today, when the family is fractured and the Church in turmoil, when little survives of traditional Catholic culture and the object of His love is apt to spurn Him for worldly pleasures, still His quest continues, until either He wins the heart of His beloved or death intervenes. When His courtship is successful and His love returned, He forgives past neglect and pours out His grace unstintingly; repentant sinners are as likely as anyone else to become saints. Blessed Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, urging His followers to welcome a penitent, once advised "Remember that he may yet become an Augustine, while you remain mere mediocrities."
The Second Person of the Triune God demonstrated the depth of His love for us when He became incarnate as the man Jesus. The Church's Morning Prayer for Christmas Day says of His origin: "Your eternal Word leaped down from heaven in the silent watches of the night."  Almighty though He was, He did not come as an imperious king, or as some kind of angelic sorcerer, to stun the world with His power. Instead, He came as an ordinary mortal, subject to the pains and risks of the human condition. Surrendering all majesty and sovereignty, He entrusted His vulnerable infant body to human compassion, appealing for love first with His helplessness.
It was not only to teach us by example how to live that Jesus became man. He came as the Messiah, the long-promised Savior, to suffer and die in order that the scales of ontological order could perfectly balance mercy and justice in judging men. No merely human person could reconcile God's justice with His mercy, only Christ the Son, because He both embraces and surpasses all mankind. 
Some people are troubled to learn that God's perfection demands justice. They want to enjoy His mercy while denying His justice, because they think justice is cruel. But in fact, as Caryll Houselander wrote, justice is compassion:
... justice is a supreme example of His love ... Justice is the defense of the defenseless. It protects the weak, and restores to little ones those things of which they have been robbed by force. 
In so giving His life, Jesus revealed what kind of being God is: a Creator of perfect compassion, whose perfection requires justice but who so loves the persons He made that He sent His only Son to ransom them from the insuperable penalties due in justice for their sins. And He offers us this salvation by inviting each unique soul, individually, to live with Him forever in Heaven.
Christ's Resurrection is both a sign of fulfillment and a promise that even the repentant may attain it, a sign that His love has brought humanity into God's glory,  and a promise that all who live in faithfulness to His covenant can one day share in that glory. 
Jesus describes the purpose of His life in three related parables about the relationship between God and sinners. In the first, He compares God to a devoted shepherd who leaves the main body of His flock to search out a single lost sheep. In the second, He compares Him to a tenacious housewife who stops all other activities to search for one lost coin. Finally, in the third, He compares Him to a desolate father who watches without ceasing for the return of a wastrel son. 
This story of the Prodigal Son is the most fully developed of the parables. In it, he incorporates three familiar models of human behavior: the needy remorse of the bankrupt spendthrift, the jealous, unforgiving rectitude of the elder brother, and the endlessly faithful love of the father, solicitous not for himself but for his beloved lost child. Despite the title, the central character in the story is neither the prodigal son nor his sanctimonious brother, but the father with God's heart, who watches and yearns for the absent sinner with selfless love. When the son, hungry and degraded, turns homeward at last, his father rejoices without recrimination.
So poignantly does Jesus portray him that this father is universally recognized as an icon of God's tenderness toward the sinner. Even people whose perspective is otherwise entirely secular respond to the theme of pure mercy and forgiveness in this parable. If we live our faith well, we hope eventually to come to reflect the Father. In the meantime, whether sons or daughters, most of us can see ourselves in one or another of the characters from this parable at different times in our lives.
Read the rest here.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Series on Spiritual Warfare
And a related article, Satan's Ecumenism.
Another related article, my personal favorite, conspiracy theories.
Labels: Written By Others
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Has the Bible been Corrupted?
Saturday, August 16, 2008
A Catholic Views Nine Inch Nail's CLOSER Video
The song is about using sex to escape from one's self, and finding temporary perfection through the conjugal bond. Interspersed in the video is the theme of Darwinism and Eugenics from the late 19th and early 20th century. Non-white races, misfits, freaks, and mental defectives are paraded for the inspection of the European scientists (although I don't know what the little girl signified--the poor?). So two views of sex are presented, the "scientific" view which is distrustful of sexuality and seeks to control and confine it to the "fit", and the singer's view, which is distorted but somehow recognizes the transcendental nature of the act, a demonic view of sex.
*Sorry, no link because it is extremely graphic and disturbing.
**It may be more a matter of reading Catholic overtones into it (I don't know what the makers intended), although there is some Catholic imagery that would support it.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
More Secrets of the Heavenly Kingdom
Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
Meaning to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you don't have to be the smartest, or the most gifted, or from the best family, or the strongest, or the richest, or the luckiest, or even the nicest, you just have to be what you once were, a child. Anyone can do it if they want to. Can you think of a more even playing field?
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”
Meaning that God did not create any soul for Hell, and the loss of any soul to Hell is a catastrophe. Therefore, take heart, no matter what you've done or how much you've fallen, you can return to God. He is waiting for you.
Monday, August 11, 2008
What's Wrong With Pornography?
I don't have the book with me to thumb through, so this is what I remember. As I recall, it was a difficult read with an unusual writing style. As best as I can explain, the style of the book is somewhat Twilight Zonish, where the spiritual dimension is concrete, kind of like "One Hundred Years of Solitude". (Is this genre called magical realism? I dunno.) The conversations were also weird and stilted, with characters responding to each other's unspoken thoughts rather than the topic at hand.
The book is, like the title says, about a professor's spiritual descent into Hell. What's disturbing is that he is an ordinary person and not particularly evil, and his slide is very gradual and happens in a way that I can't dissociate myself from. Would I want to be the nicest guy in Hell? (shudder...)
This professor likes a girl very much who is a college student, but when a rival boyfriend shows up, rather than have the typical love triangle is when the book takes a horrifyingly weird turn. He creates in his mind his image of her, which then becomes real. He then carries on his affair with her image-in-the-flesh, a succubus if you will. And I found myself wondering, well why not? (And how many people wouldn't buy or "marry" a robot who looked and acted human enough) After all, it looks and feels exactly like her, but is adoring and warm and uncomplaining and has no personal needs that would conflict with his. She is perfect (except oddly, much lighter than her real counterpart when he picks her up, symbolizing I think the superficialness of the "relationship" that does not require heavy lifting). So he holes up with her and spends all his time with her, and finally when he encounters the real girl one day he realizes he doesn't like her and he's no longer attracted to her. And this leads to the weakening of his intellect and his inevitable spiral into Hell.
Basically the question the book poses is, would you rather be happy living a lie or unhappy with the truth? The professor knowingly takes on an image of his own making, but at the cost of his intellect and capacity to love. This is my image for pornography, deliberately choosing to be happy with a lie. But it could be applied to other addictions. Using drugs as a way to experience "happiness" at the expense of truth, for example. Or the way women delve into romance novels and fantasy. And ultimately, all sin is living a lie, because it is a turning away from God who is Truth personified.
A Christian Love Poem
Love Bade Me Welcome
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
"A guest," I answered, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"
"Truth, Lord, but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.
-- George Herbert
Thursday, August 07, 2008
More Bells, Please!
via The Anchoress
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
The Meaning of Life
In the beginning, there was God. He existed in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and they enjoyed perfect communion, perfect intimacy, perfect delight. There was no lack and no need. God did not create out of his loneliness or out of any insufficiency, but out of fullness. In the same way that when a cup is full to its brim it overflows, the joy of God overflowed in creation.
God created the world and man and woman, the apex of His creation, to experience the joy of perfect intimacy with Him and to bring Him glory. Sometimes the notion of God creating something to bring Him glory can sound selfish or arrogant to our ears. After all, if we created something with the ultimate purpose to do nothing more than worship us, it would be arrogant or selfish. But here’s the difference: God is perfect, we are not. He deserves all the praise and glory and honor that this world and we could give; we do not. So when He creates a world and mankind to bring Him glory it is perfectly fitting. And when He creates us to enjoy Him, there is nothing higher or better that we can enjoy. He creates us to know the highest pleasure: perfect intimacy with the source of wisdom, goodness, love, justice, etc.
Read the rest here...
Labels: The Christian Story
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Messiah and Phases of Christian Life