Clear Conscience

In a homily he gave on Pentecost, St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The glory of the saints is the testimony of conscience.”

A saint enjoys the vision of God. A saint sees the whole truth—from every angle, every perspective—from the divine perspective. The saint sees it all, and rests in it. No worm gnaws. No pang tugs. No remorse aches. Instead: peace in truth.

Our heavenly Father sees what is hidden. Our heavenly Father supplies all that is needed and asks simply that we be generous with what He has bountifully given. Our heavenly Father wills our good and the good of everyone we know.

And our heavenly Father has given all judgment over to the Son, Who will judge in perfect truth and justice at the divinely appointed time.

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Bow or Kiss?

I do not mean to stereotype. But we can take note of clear cultural differences sometimes. For instance, when you meet a Japanese person, you will likely receive a friendly bow. On the other hand, when you meet an Italian, you might wind up with wet kisses all over both sides of your neck.

As we read in Sacred Scripture, on the first Pentecost, pilgrims from all over had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Weeks.

People traveled to the Holy City seven weeks after Passover both to commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments fifty days after the Exodus and to celebrate the reaping of the first fruits of the wheat harvest.

On this feast, the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the languages of the world, and thousands believed.

…Right before He went into the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday night, the Lord Jesus had prayed aloud, and He said:

Father, this is eternal life: to know you, the one true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

Now, speaking of manners, perhaps it strikes us as a bit odd that the Lord Jesus would refer to Himself in the third person, using His first and last names. But before we accuse Him of pomposity, let us recall that Jesus’ ‘last’ name actually designates the mystery of His identity. Jesus Christ means Jesus the anointed.

Eternal life is to know the only true God and the ambassador upon Whose head the oil of heavenly gladness has been poured.

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John 8:1-11 in Five Acts

In The End of the Affair, Graham Greene makes St. Mary Magdalen live in World-War-II London.

She commits adultery with the novel’s narrator. She spurns him after God answers her prayer for his life–during an air raid. She had vowed to give up the only man she ever really loved, if only God would let him live.

Graham Greene
Shakespeare’s plays are all in five acts, because the primal structure of true drama unfolds in five movements. The narration of The End of the Affair proceeds in five parts.

Book One outlines the current circumstances–the dead of winter, 1946, nineteen months after the air raid that left Bendrix (the narrator) alive, and his love affair over. He sets about learning why it ended.

Book Two paints the picture of the love affair, 1941-44.

Book Three, like all of Shakespeare’s third acts, reveals the mystery; that is, why Mary Magdalen–Sarah–stopped speaking to Bendrix.

But–again like Shakespeare’s plays–the revealed mystery impels action that seeks final resolution. In Book Four, Sarah submits to interior crucifixion by complete abandonment to God. The only thing more loving than going back to Bendrix is NOT going back to him. Then she dies.

In Book Five, all of Sarah’s votaries receive favors from heaven, including Bendrix, who comes to believe in God enough to hate Him.

Reading this masterpiece got me thinking…

1. Reading or listening to a story allows for far deeper penetration into it than watching a story does.

The 1954 movie version of The End of the Affair (I have not seen the 1999 version) simplifies the narration. The movies moves you, sure enough–but, of course, not like the book.

Why? Because a movie simply cannot communicate narrative subtleties like a book can. The original, and far more interesting, story concerns a man who looks back on happy days while he tries to make sense of why they ended. The movie version sees a man through his happy days, and then they end.

2. The skillful narration of a plotline or drama evokes the divine Mind.

To tell a story successfully, the narrator perceives the entire sweep of action in a glance, and then unfolds it in all its precise details. If the narrator has not perceived the whole from the beginning, then the unfolding story feels like a runaway train, and it crashes in a disaster of meaninglessness.

On the other hand, if the details are not outlined meticulously, then the whole business comes off as abstract and boring.

God sees everything in precisely this way. He perceives history in its entirety in a single glance. And yet at every instant, at every nanosecond of a nanosecond, He delineates the entire cosmos in every feature.

Praise Him.

Camden Station

The Most Memorable Moment of baseball history occurred in downtown Baltimore on September 5, 1995.

Cal Ripken, Jr., hit a homerun. He hit a homerun in the 2,131st game in which he had played. He had played in 2,131 consecutive games. (For the newbies, that’s a record of historic proporations, going back to the times when there was no internet.)

It was awesome. I cannot claim to have been inside to hear the crack of the bat. (I stood inside the stadium a month later, when Pope John Paul II occupied center field.)

In fact, when Cal broke Lou Gehrig’s record with style, I was standing outside the ballpark, along with a lot of other Bawlimorons. A small crowd was gathered at the old Camden railway station. Anyone who has been to an Orioles game has seen the railway station building, which stands beyond the right field wall.

Listen:

Did you know that countless northern regiments passed through this edifice between 1861 and 1865? Did you know that this very Camden Station, still standing proudly at the foot of Eutaw Street, provided the crucial link between the nation’s capital and the north?

Back in those days–way before Cal Ripken was even born–Baltimore did not have her august Pennsylvania Station. Instead, there were numerous smaller rail stations.

Baltimore lay under the heel of federal occupation, because many of the city’s people favored the South. A street riot occurred when one northern regiment marched along Pratt Street from the President Street Station to Camden Station.

Christ the Priest’s Prayer

At the end of the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus prayed aloud to the Father.

He prayed for Himself, for His Apostles, and for us. In other words, He prayed as a priest. He offered Himself to the Father, He consecrated Himself, and He invoked divine assistance upon all the people gathered around Him—gathered around Him then and throughout the ages, from St. John and St. Peter down through time to us.

In the eternal Trinity–the blessed communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–there is no need for a priest. The three divine Persons are bound together in perfect, perpetual unity—more inseparable than a ball and its roundness or water and its wetness. A ball doesn’t need a priest to be round; water doesn’t need a priest to be wet; the eternal Son doesn’t need a priest to be consubstantial with the eternal Father.

But then God created. He created something other than Himself. He brought into existence a world with limts.

Don’t get me wrong. The world excites our wonder and esteem. As Woody Allen put it, “The world is the only place where you can get a good steak.” In this lovely world, you can grow blueberries; you can go for a boatride; you can listen to Mozart.

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Reason #4 P!NK

Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?

Thus far three resounding reasons have been offered here as to why the Oughts did not pass through time like a “Lost Decade.”

(Lord of the Rings movies, Foo Fighters, Pope John Paul II)

Now, let us ponder this:

In order to thunder from heaven with a clap of reverberating pop-music genius, it appears to be necessary to have a one-syllable nom de plume that begins with P.

“What part of party don’t you understand?”

Look, she rocks. I don’t care that she throws around f-bombs like petunias at a Jessica-Lange garden party. I don’t care that she takes stupid, predictable pot-shots at Holy Church in her videos. I don’t care that she writes self-righteous letters for dumb, trendy causes. And I don’t even like “Don’t Let Me Get Me.”

But she enchants like a siren.

“Glitter in the Air,” “Raise Your Glass,” and “Sober.” “Who Knew?” and “So What?” “Just Like a Pill” and “Please Don’t Leave Me.” Are you kidding me? One poke-me-cause-Im-dreaming work of excellence after another.

If I could get away with it, I would sing the chorus of “F**king Perfect” to everyone. I cry every time I hear it.

I am not ashamed to admit that I love P!nk and wish her happiness with her newborn baby girl.

91st Street Subway Station of Easter

When you ride the Seventh Avenue-Broadway IRT on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, you roll through the ghost of the 91st Street Station. The train doesn’t stop, because the station has been closed since 1959.

Book of the Holy Gospels
When you pray your way through the Easter season according to the Roman Missal–in most ecclesiastical provinces–you roll through the Seventh Sunday of Easter like a ghost station.

Because now this Sunday is the perpetual home of the Solemnity of the Ascension, transferred from Thursday. The liturgy train doesn’t stop on the pages of the Lectionary marked “Seventh Sunday of Easter” anymore.

The gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is the priestly prayer of Jesus.

I certainly am not competent to judge great things, like how to make decisions about when people have to go to Mass.

But this situation is rather ironic.

According to the Second Vatican Council:

The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.

And yet, because going to Mass on a Thursday is too inconvient for people, we solemnly read the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus–by any estimation, one of the most important texts of Scripture, upon which the entire spiritual life of the Church is based–we read it in church…never.

(Well, only at daily Mass.)

Alas.

Perhaps you will say, ‘Father, we actually hear the priestly prayer of Jesus at EVERY Mass, because the Eucharistic Prayer is the Church’s humble echo of Her Founder’s prayer.’

You would have a fine point. I would grant your penetrating pertinacity. Praise God. You cheered me up.

But, nonetheless, it would be edifying, don’t you think, to hear the original version of the Eucharistic Prayer read from the holy book, at least every once in a while.

On first looking into Kleist’s gospels

Apparently, reading Chapman’s translation of Homer can cause euphoria.

Opening up an unfamiliar translation of the New Testament a week before Pentecost can have this effect:

Somewhat extensive have my studies been
of Koine distilled into English turns.
Heard many plaints a-rattling in a din:
Too hard to catch the tenor of His words.
The worst: a hamhand jumble of the prayer
our Lord spoke heavenward His final speech–
the noblest sounds ever to rend the air–
Perhaps beyond the translator’s short reach.
In supplication, the Christ expressed all:
His place, His Father, and His chosen ones.
But can these words be music on our soil?
Until today I’d never heard it done.
Now it all is real, the Messiah’s dream.
English was made for Kleist’s John 17.

Mortmain + Ascension Homily

First, I have to apologize.

Back in February, I told you an untruth. I claimed that the covered bridge in Philippi, West Virginia, crosses the Buckhannon River.

In fact, the Buckhannon flows into the Tygart Valley upriver from Philippi. The bridge crosses the Tygart Valley River.

Union troops marched across the bridge 150 years ago today. The ‘first land battle’ of the Civil War ensued…

…From the Sister-Death File:

“Mortmain.” Know what it is? This is a legal term for the way in which a community of vowed religious owns property. (The term can also apply to corporations or charities.)

Vowed religious individuals are already civilly dead. The passage of time does not bring the usual legal events in ownership of their property, like wills and estate taxes. The mort main, the ‘dead hand,’ grasps the property forever…

…Not sure when Ascension Day occurs?

Me, neither.

But here is a sermon:

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