Some of us remember when the Washington Nationals, newly arrived from Canada, played farther up the Anacostia River–at a dilapidated old multi-use stadium where the ancient Senators had played the last professional baseball game in Washington, in 1971.
I stood outside Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian parish church on East Capitol street before the home games those first couple seasons, to smile at the fans heading from Capitol Hill towards RFK. And invite them inside to say a prayer if they wanted.
Some of us remember when Anthony Rendon came up from the minors because Zimmerman had to go on the DL for a few weeks. Then Rendon got sent back to the minors. (Praise Jesus they brought him back up again later that season.)
And some of us remember when the Nationals couldn’t even spell Nationals.
We’ve come a long way.
May God’s will be done in Houston this evening.
ADDENDUM: They won! Washington Nationals World Champions, 2019!
The big ecclesiastical news of the past month is that Pope Benedict intends to make it easy for Anglicans to come into full communion with the Church.
Entire Anglican parishes–even dioceses–will be able to unite fully with the Pope while retaining some distinctive Anglican practices.
Which brings us to the Book of Common Prayer, the Anglican liturgical prayerbook.
This book was a companion of mine for years, before my reception into the R.C. Church in 1993.
The Book of Common Prayer book was originally published by the Protestant bishops in England in 1549. It has undergone a number of revisions. Different Anglicans use different editions.
The Preface to the edition published by the Episcopal bishops in the new United States in 1789 concludes with an exhortation about the use of the prayerbook:
It is hoped that [this book] will be received and examined by every true member of our Church, and every sincere Christian, with a meek, candid, and charitable frame of mind; without prejudice or prepossessions; seriously considering what Christianity is, and what the truths of the Gospel are; and earnestly beseeching Almighty God to accompany with his blessing every endeavor for promulgating them to mankind in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior.
Granted, this is a thoroughly edifying sentence. But the book contains errors.
The book features only two of the seven sacraments. The prayers in this book do not honor the Blessed Virgin or any of the saints, and the rules prohibit praying for the souls in Purgatory.
The book does not include prayers for the Pope.
The book systematically refuses to express that the Holy Mass is the sacrifice of Christ and that He is truly present–Body, Blood, soul, and divinity–in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. The book requires that the chalice be offered to the people.
The Church embraces many styles of ceremony for the celebration of Her faith. But there is only ONE faith, the Catholic faith.
The faith is expressed in the teaching of the Popes and Councils, including the Council of Trent. Parts of the Book of Common Prayer were originally published precisely to contradict the teachings of the Council of Trent.
The Book of Common Prayer was edited for use as a Catholic liturgical prayerbook in 2003. The errors of doctrine were fixed. The revised book is called the “Book of Divine Worship” (this link takes a long time to load).
Apparently, a few Anglican-use Catholic parishes already use this revised prayerbook. Perhaps this version will be the book used in all Anglican-use churches.
…Last Sunday I published a silly little sermon about miracles. I tried explain that the Lord Jesus worked miracles not for the sake of working miracles, but for the sake of communicating the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In other words, His miracles were signs, as St. John called them in his gospel.
Anyway: St. Augustine explains this much better in the first part of his Sermon 98…
Tough loss for the Caps this evening. Bad news: After a fisticuffs, Ovechkin left the ice with an undisclosed “upper body” injury.
–Keith Urban. Nice song. (Click on the play button on the right of the linked screen to listen. I would have linked to the video, but it is beyond tedious. I almost lost all enthusiasm for the song when I watched 15 seconds of the video. Better just to listen.)
If it were my song, which of course it is not, I would add a phrase to the words “you better start livin’.”
In Christ would fit nicely. “You better start living in Christ.”
Here’s another good DVD to watch. It’s Shakespeare. It’s an extremely clever “modernization.” It is a Leonardo-DiCaprio movie without too much nasty violence. It’s from back when Leo was young and skinny and absolutely to-die-for. It is PG-13, so if you are a child, don’t even think about pressing the play button below.
The preview makes the movie look more violent and racier than it actually is. There is one scene worthy of a serious wince. (Which isn’t even listed on the IMDd.com parents’ advisory page–as if a man dressed as a woman is not something we would want to be advised about.) On the whole, though, it is a refreshingly clean movie, and splendidly done.
The NBA season begins, and the Moses beards are proliferating.
…And, getting back to the subject of “Deus ex machina”…
A good plot should contain all the elements necessary to resolve itself. Introducing characters late in the game, or unknown facts that change the whole situation–this is dramatically unsatisfying. Hence the perjorative phrase, “Deus ex machina,” God coming out of a machine to fix everything. Lame.
But, of course, Deus Himself has the prerogative to come out of the machina. It is not “Deus ex machina” for God Himself to intervene in history. He actually is Deus. He is allowed.
Is this what He has done? Is the salvation of the human race by Jesus Christ a case of “Deus ex machina”?
We had fallen from grace. We were condemned to death. We were living pretty miserable lives, punctuated by occasional glimpses of goodness and beauty. Very occasional.
People seasoned their dried fish with ashes. Other people threw babies into volcanoes or spilled out birds’ innards to foretell the future. There were not many virtues being practiced. And there was no hope for eternal life.
Then the perfect man came, lived the perfect life, offered the perfect sacrifice, and promised the perfect gifts to those who believe in Him.
Seems like a bolt out of the blue. Seems impossible to anticipate. Deus ex machina?
Well…there WERE prophesies. Many of the Jews hoped for the Messiah. Even non-Jews looked for Him. The coming of the Messiah was not completely unexpected.
But we have to try to go deeper, back to God’s original Creation of the world.
It is certainly true that the coming of Christ was by no means inevitable. His coming was a free gift, a total surprise, never earned, never merited–purely gracious. No one could have anticipated that God Himself would become a man.
But the following is also certainly true: His coming is the fulfillment of Creation. Christ did not enter the world as a foreigner. He came to “what was His own.” All of creation is “for Him.” (quoting Sts. John and Paul) He came not to destroy, but to fulfill. This (in my humble opinion) is the great insight that makes St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching so profound and so true.
The coming of God as a man is NOT Deus ex machina. It is the exact opposite: The coming of Christ makes everything else make sense. The plot was jumbled and confused BEFORE. Now it unfolds cleanly; now it fits; now it is beautiful.
…In other news: The Wizards just managed to lose their opener at home to the lowly New Jersey Nets. Good grief!
On the other hand: The Phillies just won the World Series!
I am the proud owner of a small collection of nice vestments to wear for the sacred ceremonies of the Church.
For the past four years, I have also been the custodian of a much larger collection of fine vestments. It is actually TWO collections. Earlier in this unit decade of the twenty-first century, two of our Washington priests decided to resign their pastoral assignments and become monks.
Both of these priests own impressive collections of vestments. Both of them gave their collections to me for safe keeping. I am allowed to use them, and to loan them to other priests to use.
Someday, God forbid, one or both of these priests might decide that they want the vestments back. Please pray that this day never comes.
Both of these brother priests entered an Austrian monastery called Stift Klosterneuberg. Stift is the German word for monastery. Some of us refer to the place as Lobster Newberg.
Anyway, Klosterneuberg is located just outside Vienna.
I would like to do something special in honor of these dear monks, whose vestments I have in my (hopefully perpetual) care. So I am going to give you a profound and captivating essay on Shakespeare’s gripping play Measure for Measure, which is set in Vienna!
The problem is that I do not have time right now to give you the entire essay. These things take hours. Also, I have not yet come up with the profound part or the captivating part.
Let us make a start nonetheless. Just in case you have not recently had a chance to review the play, I will begin by attempting to summarize the plot. Some of the speeches in the play are a little stilted and hard to follow. But the plot is intense–seriously intense.
As the play opens, Vienna has become a city of loose morals. The laws against prostitution have not been enforced for many years.
At this moment, the Duke of Vienna begins a series of strange maneuvers. Throughout the play, he does a number of inexplicable things, as we shall see.
The Duke summons his son Angelo, barely a grown man, and informs him that he is in charge of the city for the foreseeable future. The Duke claims that he MUST go elsewhere. Angelo protests, citing his lack of practical experience, but the Duke insists and leaves the city immediately.
Soon we learn that a much-beloved young man of Vienna, Claudio, has been arrested because his fiancée Julietta is pregnant. The now-reigning Angelo intends to make an example of Claudio. Angelo applies the long-standing but never-enforced law against fornication to the case. Under the law, Claudio is subject to the death penalty. Angelo orders his execution.
Meanwhile, the Duke, continuing his inexplicable behavior, leads everyone to believe that he is in Poland. Secretly he takes the habit of a Franciscan and returns in this disguise to Vienna.
The condemned Claudio has a sister named Isabel, who is a postulant in a cloistered convent. (They were ALL cloistered back then. A postulant is a young woman preparing to enter the order, but who has not yet taken the full habit.) Claudio’s friend runs to her and begs her to go to Angelo to implore mercy for her brother.
Isabel appears before Angelo and entreats him to spare her condemned brother. At first the stern Angelo is adamant and immovable, but then he mellows and tells the lovely Isabel to come back the next day. After Isabel departs, Angelo admits in a private soliloquy that he is consumed with desire for her.
Ahh…is the plot not THICK?
Will the weak yet lovable Claudio be saved? Will the stern Angelo learn mercy? Will he learn to be human? Will Isabel enter the convent? Will she fall in love?
Can justice and mercy co-exist? Can the law prevent vice without crushing human nature?
Coming soon to Preacher and Big Daddy: Answers to all these questions and more! Stay tuned.
P.S. It is hard for me to get too fired-up about this World Series. Is anybody rooting for one of these teams?