Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jesus The Word Became Flesh

Footprints of God: Peter Keeper of the Keys 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

The first film in a projected 10-video series, The Footprints of God: The Story of Salvation from Abraham to Augustine, join host Stephen Ray, best-selling author and dynamic speaker, on an amazing journey of adventure about Peter, the rugged fisherman Jesus chose to lead His Church. Filmed completely on location in Rome and the Holy Land, you will follow Peter from Galilee to Rome to discover answers about the major role of the Papacy in the saga of salvation.
View Book

  • Footprints of God: Mary the Mother of God 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

    This second film in the the Footprints of God series follows Mary on her extraordinary journey on location in Turkey, Israel and Greece with popular Catholic author and speaker Stephen Ray as guide. Down-to-earth teaching on subjects like Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Assumption into Heaven, and her role of intercessor, and more are offered in an energized, high-impact style that combines the best elements of a travel documentary, biography, Bible study, apologetics course, and church history review.
    View Book

  • Footprints of God: Paul Contending for the Faith 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

    Zealous for the God of Israel, Saul of Tarsus pursued murderous threats against the disciples of Jesus. But Saul’s zeal was turned upside down when he was knocked from his “high horse” and humbled by the hand of God. Join the adventure in this edition of the Footprints of God series as Stephen Ray, best-selling author and popular Bible teacher, takes you on the road with St. Paul through Israel, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Italy. Fall from a horse in the desert and dangle over the Damascus Wall in a basket.
    View Book

  • Footprints of God: Apostolic Fathers 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

    In this Footprints of God film, Apostolic Fathers Handing on the Faith, Steve Ray takes you on an exciting journey to the Roman Empire and the world of the first Christians. You’ll sit at the feet of the apostles, celebrate the Eucharist in hiding, and tremble at the suffering they endured for Jesus Christ. Retrace their steps through Israel, Turkey, France and Italy. All this in a fast-paced, entertaining biography, travel documentary, Bible study, apologetics course and Church history study rolled into one remarkable adventure!
    View Book

  • Footprints of God: Moses Sign Sacrament Salvation 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

    Born a slave, raised a prince, and humbled in exile, Moses returned to confront the mighty Pharaoh with only a staff and the promise of God. Join Steve Ray, best-selling author and popular Bible teacher, in this edition of the Footprints of God series as he takes you on an incredible journey of discovery through Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Together you'll discover how Moses, the Exodus, and the Hebrew experience in the wilderness point to the coming of Christ and our salvation. Gain a deeper appreciation for our Savior, and for the Church and her Sacraments.
    View Book

  • Footprints of God: David and Solomon Expanding the Kingdom 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

    Why is Jesus called the Son of David and why is that important to understanding Our Lord? How did the Kingdom of Israel prefigure and anticipate the Kingdom of God and the Catholic Church? Join Steve Ray in this edition from the Footprints of God series as he takes you on a fast-paced adventure through the mountains and deserts of Israel to discover not only where David and Solomon lived and reigned, but also the meaning of their lives and kingdoms.
    View Book

  • Footprints of God: Jesus The Word Became Flesh 1-DVD + Study Guide (Footprints of God)

    In this edition in the Footprints of God series, join Stephen Ray as he catches fish in the Sea of Galilee, camps along the Jordan, and explores the places Jesus lived and performed his miracles. Follow the incredible journey through the streets of Jerusalem to Calvary and the tomb, to the Resurrection and Pentecost. Gain a deeper appreciation for our Savior and the salvation he purchased for the world. All this in a fast-paced, entertaining biography, travel documentary, Bible study, apologetics course and Church history study rolled into one remarkable adventure!
    View Book

  • Footprints of God: Over Holy Ground- Exploring Sacred Sites 1-DVD (Footprints of God)

    Puts you in the skies above the Holy Land and beyond, giving you a bird’s-eye view of such significant sites as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the pyramids of Egypt, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and many, many more. All complemented by relevant passages of scripture, and backed by a moving musical score. Over Holy Ground takes inspirational filmmaking to new heights! Duration: 30 Mins
    View Book

  • Sunday, July 28, 2013

    Jesus Is the Bridegroom of His People


    General Audience ... December 11, 1991

    "For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the Lord of hosts; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel" (Is 54:5). Once again we quote these words of Isaiah to recall that the prophets of the Old Testament saw God as the spouse of the Chosen People. Israel was depicted as a bride, often an unfaithful one due to her sins, especially her falling into idolatry. However, the Lord of hosts remained faithful to his Chosen People. He continued to be their Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
    On the groundwork laid by the prophets, the New Testament presents Jesus Christ as the spouse of the new People of God. He is that "redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" who was foretold and announced from afar; in him the prophecies were fulfilled. Christ is the bridegroom.
    The first one to present Jesus in this light was John the Baptist, in his preaching on the banks of the Jordan: "I am not the Messiah," he told his listeners, "but I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice" (Jn 3:28-29). As is apparent, the spousal tradition of the Old Testament is reflected in the awareness that this austere messenger of the Lord had of his mission in relationship to Christ's identity. He knew who he was and "what had been given him from heaven." His entire service among the people was directed to the bridegroom who was to come. John presented himself as "the best man," and confessed that his greatest joy was to have been allowed to hear Jesus' voice. Because of this joy he was ready to accept his own "decrease," that is, to make room for him who was to be revealed, who was greater than he, and for whom he was ready to give his life. He knew that according to the divine plan of salvation the bridegroom, the Holy One of Israel, must "increase." "He must increase; I must decrease" (Jn 3:30).
    Therefore, Jesus of Nazareth was brought into the midst of his people as the bridegroom who had been announced by the prophets. He himself confirmed this when, in answer to the question raised by John's disciples, "Why do...your disciples not fast" (Mk 2:18), he said: "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast" (Mk 2:19-20). With this answer Jesus made it clear that the prophetic message about God the Spouse, about the "Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel," was fulfilled in himself. He revealed his awareness of being the bridegroom among his disciples, from whom at the end, however, "the bridegroom will be taken away." He was aware of both his messiahship and the cross on which he accomplished his sacrifice in obedience to the Father, as foretold by the prophets (cf. Is 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53, 12).
    What appears from John's declaration on the banks of the Jordan and from Jesus' answer to the question raised by the Baptist's disciples, namely, that the bridegroom announced by the prophets had already come, is also confirmed by the parables. In them the spousal motif is indirect, but obvious enough. Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son" (Mt 22:2). Everything in the parable makes it clear that Jesus is speaking of himself, but he does so in the third person, which is a feature of his discourse in the parables. In the context of the parable about the king who invites guests to his son's wedding feast, Jesus used the analogy of a wedding banquet to highlight the truth about the kingdom of God, which he himself brings to the world, and God's invitation to the bridegroom's feast. This involves the acceptance of Christ's message in communion with the new people whom the parable presents as being called to a wedding. But he also added a reference to the refusals made to the invitation, which Jesus observed in the situation of many of his listeners. He also added that all those invited in his time and at all times must have an attitude worthy of the calling received, symbolized by the "wedding garment" which is to be worn by those who intend to participate in the banquet. Whoever does not wear it is sent away by the king, that is, by God the Father who invites us to his Son's feast in the Church.
    It seems that in Israel's world on the occasion of great banquets the clothes to be worn were made available to the guests in the banquet hall. This fact makes the meaning of that detail in Jesus' parable even clearer: the responsibility not only of the person who rejects the invitation, but also of those who claim to attend without fulfilling the necessary conditions for being worthy of the banquet. This is the case of those who maintain and profess that they are followers of Christ and members of the Church, without obtaining the "wedding garment" of grace, which engenders a living faith, hope and love. It is true that this "garment"--more internal than external--is given by God himself, the author of grace and of every good which the soul possesses. But the parable emphasizes the responsibility that every guest has, whatever his or her origin, regarding the yes which must be given to the Lord who calls and regarding the acceptance of his law, the total response to the demands of the Christian vocation and an ever greater participation in the life of the Church.
    In the parable of the ten virgins "who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom" (Mt 25:1), Jesus also used the wedding analogy to explain his idea of the kingdom of God and the Church in which this kingdom is made concrete. Here we also find his insistence on the need for that interior disposition without which one cannot attend the wedding banquet. In this parable Jesus calls us to be ready, vigilant and fervently committed in waiting for the bridegroom. Only five of the ten virgins made the effort to see that their lamps would be burning when the bridegroom arrived. The other careless ones lacked oil. "The bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked" (Mt 25:10). This is a discreet but unmistakable reference to the lot of those who lack the interior disposition needed for meeting God, and thus lack fervor and perseverance in waiting. It refers to the threat of seeing the door closed in one's face. Once again we find an appeal being made to one's sense of responsibility concerning the Christian vocation.
    Turning now from the parable to the Gospel account of the facts, we should recall the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus was invited with the disciples (cf. Jn 2:1-11). According to John the evangelist, Jesus performed his first miracle there, the first sign proving his messianic mission. One may interpret his action as an indirect way of making it understood that the bridegroom announced by the prophets was present among his people, Israel. The entire setting of the wedding ceremony takes on special meaning in this case. In particular, we note that Jesus works his first "sign" at his Mother's request. It is pleasant here to recall what we said in the preceding catechesis: Mary is the beginning and the image of the Church as bride of the new covenant.
    We will conclude by rereading those final words of John's text: "Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him" (Jn 2:11). The words "did this" state that the bridegroom was already at work. At his side the figure of the bride of the new covenant was already beginning to take shape: the Church, present in Mary and those disciples at the wedding feast.
    Taken from:

    ‘No, I Don’t Have a Personal Relationship’

    Last Updated Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:15:30 PM

    ‘No, I Don’t Have a Personal Relationship’

    By Father Peter P. Dobrowski - The Priest, 6/1/2011
    “Do you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?” That’s a question that can make a Catholic feel uncomfortable.
    Recently, in a talk by Dr. Brant Pitre, titled “The Bridegroom Messiah and the Eucharist” on a CD published by the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, I came across a different kind of answer:
    “No I don’t have a ‘personal relationship’ with the Lord Jesus Christ because a ‘personal relationship’ isn’t adequate for what Jesus wants with me. I have personal relationships with my neighbors, with my car repairman and the woman who cuts my hair. My relationship with Jesus is more than ‘personal,’ it’s nuptial!”
    In the Old Testament, a nuptial relationship was promised by prophets like Hosea (2:16) and Ezekiel (16:8) and is celebrated in the Song of Songs. The New Testament opens with identifying Jesus as “the bridegroom” who has the bride (Jn 3:29), and it climaxes with a wedding supper and the marriage of the Lamb (Rv 19:7-9).
    A nuptial relationship is exclusive. I can only have one spouse (Gn 2:24). My relationship with Jesus is also exclusive — there can be no others before Him (Ex 20:3).
    A nuptial relationship creates a family. My spouse’s family becomes mine and we can call each other’s parents “Mom” and “Dad.” Jesus’ relationship with me has made His Mother mine (Rv 12:17) and His Father has become “Abba” to me (Gal 4:6).
    A nuptial relationship is for life. No human power can end a marriage (Mt 19:6). My relationship with Jesus is forever, it’ll last even beyond the limits of this life.
    A nuptial relationship is ongoing and requires that rough edges be smoothed out. Jesus left us the sacrament of penance (Jn 20:23) as an ongoing way to get over the rough edges of sin.
    A nuptial relationship is fruitful. It reaches into the next generation through the children it generates (Ps 69:36). My relationship with Jesus is fruitful. The credibility of His message depends on me and my love for others (Jn 17:21) — Catholics are the ones who are concerned enough to ask questions such as “Was Marilyn Monroe Catholic?”
    A nuptial relationship is intimate. It’s sad that modern biblical translations become “dynamic” when translating the biblical word for “knowledge,” depriving modern readers of what might be involved when God declares that He “knows” us as in Jeremiah 1:5. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 indicates that my relationship with Jesus is leading to a “knowledge” which is far deeper than the superficial knowledge sufficient for a “personal relationship.”
    A nuptial relationship is bodily, two people give themselves totally to each other and receive each other totally in return. My relationship with Jesus is bodily. At every Mass He gives His body to me as a bridegroom gives his body to his bride, and, like a bride, I take His body into mine (Jn 6:56).
    St. Paul said marriage “is a great mystery” (Eph 5:32) because it refers to Christ and the Church. “Marriage,” is more accurate and more biblical than “personal relationship,” to express what the Lord Jesus has with me — so, “No, I don’t have a personal relationship.” TP
    FATHER DOBROWSKI is a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix and pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Bullhead City, Ariz.

    Thursday, July 25, 2013

    Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy

    Damien F. Mackey

    “Mount Zion, true pole of the earth …”.

    Psalm 48:2

    “I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece”.
    Zechariah 9:13

    Tertullian: "free Jerusalem from Athens and the church of Christ from the Academy of Plato."
    (Tertullian, De praescriptione, vii).

    This last comment, by Tertullian, will become a kind of mantra for this article, though not properly according to the context of Tertullian, but according to the context of our AMAIC historical revisions.
    For, as one will read as the description of our site,
    “Much of Western culture, mythology and religion has been appropriated from the cultures of the Fertile Crescent region, especially from the Hebrews (Jews)”.
    This is a companion to our site,
    whose description is the same, but with reference to Eastern culture, etc.
    Now this description, as it applies to the west, basically encapsulates the phenomenon that is the history of ancient philosophy, that has been presented to us as being entirely Greco-Roman (Ionian-Italian), but which I intend to argue was actually Hebrew (Israelite/Jewish) and biblical.
    Certainly the Fathers of the Church appreciated at least the seminal impact that the Hebrews had had upon Greco-Roman thinking, though without their having taken the extra step that I intend to take in this article, of actually recognising the most famous early western (supposedly) philosophers as being originally Hebrew.
    To give just a few examples from the Fathers and the early eastern and western legends:
    “According to Clement [of Alexandria], Plato plagiarized revelation from the Hebrews; this gave the Athenian's highest ideas a flavor of divine authority in the estimation of Clement”. (http://www.gospeltruth.net/gkphilo.htm).
    “… Aristoxenus in his book the Life of Pythagoras, as well as Aristarchus and Theopompus say that [Pythagoras] came from Tyre, Neanthes from Syria or Tyre, so the majority agree that Pythagoras was of barbarian origin (Strom. I 62, 2-3).
    Clement of Alexandria even believed that Sirach had influenced the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (Strom. 2.5; Bright 1999:1064).
    Tertullian: "… free Jerusalem from Athens and the church of Christ from the Academy of Plato." (De praescriptione, vii).
    Eusebius of Caesarea believed that Plato had been enlightened by God and was in agreement with Moses. (http://www.gospeltruth.net/gkphilo.htm)
    Aristobulus was among many philosophers of his day who argued that the essentials of Greek philosophy and metaphysics were derived from Jewish sources. Philosopher Numenius of Apamea echoes this position in his well known statement "What is Plato but Moses speaking Attic Greek?" (1.150.4) Aristobulus maintained, 150 years earlier than Philo, that not only the oldest Grecian poets, Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, etc., but also the most celebrated Greek thinkers, especially Plato, had acquired most of their wisdom from Jewish sages and ancient Hebrew texts (Gfrorer i. p. 308, also ii. 111-118) (Eusebius citing Aristobulus and Numenius Ev ix. 6, xi. 10).
    The Arabic-Christian legends identify [the biblical] Baruch with the eastern sage, Zoroaster, and give much information concerning him.
    Saint Ambrose (Ep. 34) “suggested that Plato was educated in Hebraic letters in Egypt by Jeremiah”.
    Bahá'u'lláh states that the Greek philosopher Empedocles "was a contemporary" of King David, "while Pythagoras lived in the days of Solomon" (Cole, p. 31; Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, 145).
    Some of these situations (e.g. Sirach influencing Heraclitus - thought to be centuries before Sirach - and Plato meeting Jeremiah, who presumably lived about a century and a half before Plato) are chronologically impossible, of course, in the present context of ancient history. However, in my revised scheme of historical philosophy, they may not be.
    Sirach is still yet, I believe, to be firmly dated.
    In this article I am going to take four of the key early, supposedly “Ionian” Greek and Italian, philosophers of antiquity, Thales, Heraclitus and Pythagoras (Ionian), and Empedocles (Sicilian), all prior to Socrates (hence ‘pre-Socratics’), and reveal what I believe to be their biblical prototype - of whom I claim these four were merely ghostly replicas, chronologically, ethnically and geographically misplaced.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Neither silver nor gold, but the gift of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis in Brazil.


    Neither Silver Nor Gold, I Bring The Most Precious Thing Given to Me, Jesus Christ: People's Pope in Brazil

    • By Catholic Online

    I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal:


    I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ! I have come in his name, to feed the flame of fraternal love that burns in every heart; and I wish my greeting to reach one and all: The peace of Christ be with you!

    Pope Francis greeting the thousands who gathered upon his arrival in Brazil
    Pope Francis greeting the thousands who gathered upon his arrival in Brazil

    RIO De JANEIRO, Brazil (Catholic Online) - We offer below the full text of the opening remarks of Pope Francis upon his arrival in Brazil for the 2013 World Youth Day:

    Opening Words of Greeting From Pope Francis
    Madam President, Distinguished Authorities,Brethren and Friends!

    In his loving providence, God wished that the first international trip of my pontificate should take me back to my beloved Latin America, specifically to Brazil, a country proud of its links to the Apostolic See and of its deep sentiments of faith and friendship that have always kept it united in a special way to the Successor of Peter. I am grateful for this divine benevolence.
    I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ! I have come in his name, to feed the flame of fraternal love that burns in every heart; and I wish my greeting to reach one and all: The peace of Christ be with you!
    I cordially greet the President and the distinguished members of her government. I thank her for her warm welcome and for the words by which she expressed the joy of all Brazilians at my presence in their country. I also greet the state governor who is hosting us in the government palace, and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the government of Brazil, the other authorities present and all those who worked hard to make my visit here a reality.
    I would like to greet affectionately my brother bishops - to whom falls the serious task of guiding God's flock in this vast country, as well as their beloved local churches. With this visit, I wish to pursue the pastoral mission proper to the Bishop of Rome of confirming my brothers in their faith in Christ, of encouraging them to give an account of the reasons for the hope which comes from him, and of inspiring them to offer everyone the inexhaustible riches of his love.
    As you know, the principal reason for my visit to Brazil goes beyond its borders. I have actually come for World Youth Day. I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal: "Go and make disciples of all nations".
    These young people are from every continent, they speak many languages, they bring with them different cultures, and yet they also find in Christ the answer to their highest aspirations, held in common, and they can satisfy the hunger for a pure truth and an authentic love which binds them together in spite of differences.
    Christ offers them space, knowing that there is no force more powerful than the one released from the hearts of young people when they have been conquered by the experience of friendship with him. Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, "Go and make disciples".
    Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters! And young people have confidence in Christ: they are not afraid to risk for him the only life they have, because they know they will not be disappointed.
    As I begin my visit to Brazil, I am well aware that, in addressing young people, I am also speaking to their families, their local and national church communities, the societies they come from, and the men and women upon whom this new generation largely depends.
    Here it is common for parents to say, "Our children are the apple of our eyes". How beautiful is this expression of Brazilian wisdom, which applies to young people an image, drawn from our eyes, which are the window through which light enters into us, granting us the miracle of sight! What would become of us if we didn't look after our eyes? How could we move forward? I hope that, during this week, each one of us will ask ourselves this thought-provoking question.
    Young people are the window through which the future enters the world, thus presenting us with great challenges. Our generation will show that it can realize the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space; how to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; how to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; how to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; how to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; how to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; how to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and how to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone.
    As I conclude, I ask everyone to show consideration towards each other and, if possible, the sympathy needed to establish friendly dialogue. The arms of the Pope now spread to embrace all of Brazil in its human, cultural and religious complexity and richness.
    From the Amazon Basin to the pampas, from the dry regions to the Pantanal, from the villages to the great cities, no one is excluded from the Pope's affection. In two days' time, God willing, I will remember all of you before Our Lady of Aparecida, invoking her maternal protection on your homes and families. But for now I give all of you my blessing.

    Thank you for your welcome!

    Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
    General Intention:
    The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
    Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.


    Taken from: http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=51813&wf=rsscol

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    St Teresa of Jesus and the Song of Songs -- The Friendship the Bride Desires


    by Fr. Dominic Borg, OCD

    The Hebrew title for the Book which we quite often refer to by the title: Song of Songs, is: Shir Hashirim. Many are those biblical scholars who in these two Hebrew words, are able to see and attest to the greatness of this book.

    Rabbi Akiba declared: "Heaven forbid that any person in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. For the whole world is not worthy of the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies" (Mishnah Yadayim 3.5).

    Many are those biblical scholars who, in their interpretation of the Song of Songs, are not reluctant to adhere to the famous expression used by Hudson Taylor, where he said: "The book of the Song of Songs is a Book of union and communion with Christ. Having said this, I venture to add in saying that the Song of Songs, in its superlative meaning: the Song of Songs, that is, the best of Songs, is a poem of the history of love in an excellent relationship. Yes, it is a romance of the highest standard. In this short reflection, entitled: The friendship the Bride desires: St. Teresa of Jesus and the Song of Songs, I ask you to never lose sight of the fact that the entire Bible is a romance, a love story, of God "falling in love" with man.

    To live the Carmelite way is to be plunged into the mystery of Mary, Our Mother. Mary's reaction in front of the Word of God, which manifests itself in our daily events, ought to be the reaction of every Christian, and in a very particular way, of every Carmelite: "Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2.10). St. Teresa of Jesus has captured very well the meaning of these words. In the Book of the Foundations and in the Book of the Interior Castle, St. Teresa makes it clear that the secret of our communion with God does not lie in thinking much, but in loving much. (F 5.2; Interior:1.7). It does not take much time and energy from the reader of St. Teresa to discover her profound love for the Scriptures. In her writings she quotes the Holy Scriptures more than six hundred times. This alone speaks volumes, especially when we take into consideration the fact that most probably St. Teresa was never in possession of a complete Bible, and for sure she was never in possession of a Bible in the vernacular. In the Book of her Life, she expressed clearly her love for Holy Scripture: "I would die a thousand deaths for the faith or for any truth of Sacred Scripture." (Life 33.5). In the same Book she wrote that it was revealed to her in prayer that "all the harm that comes to the world comes from its not knowing the truths of Scripture in clarity and truth" (Life 40.1)

    In the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation entitled "Dei Verbum", in paragraph 2, we encounter this powerful statement: "the invisible God (cf Col 1.15; 1 Tim 1.17), from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends (cf Ex 33.11; Jn 15.14-15), and moves among them (Bar 3.38), in order to invite and receive them into his company." Again, in the same document of Vatican II (18 November 1965) paragraph 23 we read: "The spouse of the incarnate Word, which is the Church, is taught by the Holy Spirit. She strives to reach day by day a more profound understanding of Sacred Scriptures in order to provide her children with food from the divine words."

    St. Teresa, in her Meditations on the Song of Songs, exactly in paragraph 2 of Chapter 1 tells us: "One word of His will contain within itself a thousand mysteries, and thus our understanding is only very elementary." The reaction of St. Teresa in front the Word of God is clearly stated in paragraph 8 of Chapter 1 of her Meditations: "these words must contain great things and mysteries since they are of such value that when I asked learned men to explain what the Holy Spirit meant by them and what the true meaning was, they answered that the doctors wrote many commentaries and yet never finished explaining the words fully." These words of St. Teresa remind me of the disciple who asked his Rabbi why each volume of the Talmud starts with page 2. All other books start with page 1. The answer of the Rabbi was: My son, each volume of the Talmud starts with page 2 so that each volume will remind you that even if you were to know the whole Talmud by heart, yet you do not know the interpretation of page one of the Bible. It is no wonder, brothers and sisters, that when we come to the interpretation of the Song of Songs we have to be on guard. St. Teresa has this serious exhortation in her book of Meditations: "It will seem to you that there are some words in the Song of Songs that could have been said in another style. In light of our dullness such an opinion doesn't surprise me. I have heard some persons say that they avoid listening to them. Oh, God help me, how great is our misery! Just as poisonous creatures turn everything they eat into poison, so do we ..." "O my Lord, how poorly we profit from the blessing you grant us! You seek ways and means and you devise plans to show your love for us; we inexperienced in loving you, esteem this love so poorly that our minds, little exercised in love go where they always go and cease to think of the great mysteries this language, spoken by the Holy Spirit, contains within itself. What more was necessary than this language in order to enkindle us in His love and make us realize that not without good reason did He choose this style." (Meditations 1.3-4). These words of the Saint remind me of what St. Jerome, a great Biblical Scholar, had to say when he was asked in which order ought we to read the Bible. His response was that we should start with the Book of Psalms and end with the Book of the Song of Songs, because, he said, only after we have trained ourselves in the language of love, will we be in a position to have a glimpse of the great love of God expressed in the Song of Songs! It is by no means a surprise to read what Vatican II has to say when in chapter 6 of the Dei Verbum it says: "In the Sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life." (D.V. 6.21).

    Christian mystics like St. Bernard of Clairvoux in the twelfth century, or St. Teresa of Jesus and the great poet and saint, St. John of the Cross in the sixteenth century, contemplating the love of God and the soul, found in the Song of Songs a source and an inspiration for their ecstatic spirituality. St. Bernard, who wrote eighty-six sermons on the first two chapters of the Song, set the tone: "O strong and burning love, O love urgent and impetuous, which does not allow me to think of anything but you ... You laugh at all considerations of fitness, reason, modesty and prudence, and tread them underfoot." (Sermon 79).

    For twenty centuries, the Song of Songs was almost universally read as a religious or historical allegory. The allegorical interpretation found its first great champion in Rabbi Akiba, who taught that the Song of Songs was about the love of God and the people of Israel, an interpretation elaborated in various ways by Jewish commentators such as Rashi (d. 1105) and Iben Ezra (d. 1168). The Fathers of the Church, following Origen (d. 254), applied this reading to the relations between Christ and his Bride the Church, or as St. Teresa of Jesus indicates, Christ and the soul of the believer. An interesting observation is how St. Teresa, in Chapter 14, paragraph 9 of the Book of her life writes: "It was a great delight for me to consider my soul as a garden, and reflect that the Lord was taking His walk in it. I begged Him to increase the fragrance of the little flowers of virtue that were beginning to bloom, so it seemed, and that they might give Him glory and He might sustain them." (Life 14.9) There is no doubt that the symbolic language of the Song of Songs defies all imagination: we all stand there stupefied in front of words that baffle us with their pregnant meaning. As we stand there in awe, St. Teresa's advice in paragraph one of Chapter 1 of the Meditations is worth a ton of gold. She says: "Thus I highly recommend that when you read some book or hear a sermon or think about the mysteries of our sacred faith you avoid tiring yourselves or wasting your thoughts in subtle reasoning about what you cannot properly understand. Many things are not meant for women to understand, nor even for men." (M. 1.1)

    One of the Fathers of the Church tells us that when we read the Scriptures and do not understand everything that the text in front of us is telling us, we ought not to be discouraged: what we understand is our possession, what we do not understand is our inheritance; with perseverance, our inheritance will become also our possession. I repeat, what we understand is our possession, what we do not understand is our inheritance; with perseverance, our inheritance will become also our possession.

    To continue on the same line of thought, the Saint in her Meditations in paragraph 7 of Chapter one tells us: "I conclude this matter by saying that you should never dwell on what you do not understand in Sacred Scripture or the mysteries of our faith more than I have said, nor should you be startled by the lofty words that take place between God and the Soul." (M1.7). An example of this are the words that come from the mouth of the Lover towards his bride:

    You are altogether beautiful,
    my love;
    there is no flaw in you.
    Come with me from Lebanon,
    my bride;
    come with me from Lebanon.
    Depart from the peak of Amana,
    from the peak of Senir and Hermon
    from the dens of lions,
    from the mountains of leopards.
    You have ravished my heart, my
    sister, my bride,
    you have ravished my heart
    with a glance of your eyes,
    with one jewel of your necklace,
    How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
    How much better is your love
    than wine

    To look at the one who is addressing his bride in these lofty words is to take St. Teresa's advice which we encounter in the Way of Perfection chapter 26: "behold Him on the way to the garden ... Or behold Him bound to the column ... or behold Him burdened with the cross ... He will look at you with those eyes so beautiful and compassionate ... merely because you turn your head to look at Him" (WP 26.5). These words that come forth from the pen of St. Teresa, remind us of what the Saint has to say in the Meditations where she comes forward with an amazing interpretation on the meaning of the symbol of the "apple tree".

    In the Song of Songs, chapter 8, verse 5 we read:

    "Who is she that comes from the desert,
    leaning upon her beloved?
    Under the apple tree I roused you;
    It was there that your mother conceived you,
    There she who bore you conceived you."

    In the Jewish tradition this verse refers to the experience that the Jewish mothers went through in the time when they were in Egypt. Because Pharaoh had ordered that all male babies were to be killed as soon as they were born, the Jewish mothers, when they came to deliver their babies, would go into hiding among the apple trees, the orchards in Egypt, and give birth while hiding under the apple trees. Thus, it could rightly be said that God gave birth to his people Israel under the apple tree. But the Saint, in a very mystical manner, in her Meditations, in chapter 7, paragraph 8 says: "From these flowers comes the fruit, the apples of which the bride then says: Surround me with apples. Give me trials Lord; give me persecutions." In the same paragraph, further down she tells us: "By the 'apple tree', I understand the tree of the Cross because it is said in another verse in the Song of Songs (Song of Songs 8.5): under the apple tree I raised you up. And a soul that is surrounded by crosses, trials, and persecutions has a powerful remedy against often continuing in the delight of contemplation." ( M 7.8). This interpretation is very particular, but not a strange one if we were to take into consideration the Hebrew translation of Chapter 2.5 of the Song of Songs. There we read "Refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love."

    The Saint expressed many times, the delight that she experienced in being in the presence of her beloved. This does not come to us as a surprise! The Talmud tells us that "there is no sadness in God's presence", and in the Gospel of John 15.11 Jesus told us: "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." In writing her Meditations on the Song of Songs (it is worth remembering that she reflected on only very few verses from the Book) apart from telling us twice that she is doing so under obedience from her confessor, in the prologue. She does not hesitate to communicate to us her experience of delight in the following words: "For a number of years now the Lord has given me great delight each time I hear or read some words from Solomon's Song of Songs. The delight is so great that without understanding the vernacular meaning of the Latin, my soul is stirred and recollected more than by devotional books written in the language I understand." (M prologue, paragraph 1). It was the purpose of the Saint to share with her sisters, and with each one of us, a little of the delight she experienced in lingering with the Lord in his words. Speaking about these words, the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians calls them: "the Gospel of peace" (Eph 6.15).

    It is no surprise that the first petition that the Bride utters in the Song is: "Oh, give me of the kisses of your mouth, For your love is more delightful than wine." (Song of Songs 1.1.). Here, brothers and sisters, lies the secret of the friendship that the Bride desires. In paragraph 12 of chapter 1 of the Meditations, the Saint has these words to say: "And my Lord, if the kiss signifies peace and friendship why should not souls ask you for this kiss? What better thing can we ask for than what I ask you for, my Lord; that You give me this peace 'with the kiss of your mouth'? This, daughters, is a lofty petition, as I shall show you afterward." Further on the Saint tells us in unequivocal terms the kind of friendship that the Bride desires:

    "O Holy Bride, let us turn to what you ask for: that holy peace which makes the soul, while remaining itself completely secure and tranquil, venture out to war against all worldly kinds of peace." (M.3.1).

    The Word of God comes to our rescue in our struggle against false kisses, false peace, peace that comes from financial securities, from worldly pleasures, from the flattering of the ego, from lack of war.

    The soul that is in search of the true friendship that the Bride seeks, in its struggles, begins to become conscious that life comes to us only by dying, dying out of love in serving the Lord. In this process of dying, the Bride begins to notice and to discover the meaning of the symbols and signs; looking around, there is the smell of spring, and this season evokes the first stirring of life, the fragrance of the flowers: Flowers are appearing on the earth ... The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance (Song of Songs 2.12-13). Life comes by love, a love that Scripture says about it: "Greater love no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends". In being united with the one who loved us first, we are empowered with the grace to lay down our life in the service for others: following the footsteps of our Lord, we constantly carry his words in our hearts:

    "You call me Teacher and Lord - and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set for you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." (Jn 13.13-15)

    This short reflection would be incomplete if I do not make the prayer of the Bride my own. I do not hesitate to dare to say that the prayer of every follower of St. Teresa, should make her prayer his or her own. The prayer which I am referring to is found in Chapter 3, paragraph 15 of the Meditations. It reads:

    "My Lord, I do not ask You for anything else in life but that You kiss me with the kiss of Your mouth, and that You do so in such a way that although I may want to withdraw from this friendship and union, my will may always, Lord of my life, be subject to Your will and not depart from it; that there be nothing to impede me from being able to say: My God and my Glory, indeed Your breasts are better and more delightful than wine."


    Taken from: http://www.ocds.ca/cl384.shtml

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    AMAIC Philosophy – Areas of Special Interest

    There are perhaps three areas of particular fascination for the AMAIC regarding philosophy – that is, over and above everything else that is right and good in that most important discipline.

    Central to it all is:

    1. The Philosophy of Jesus Christ - restoring Christian philosophy to its biblical roots, with Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, as the focal point. The Fathers of the Church rightly recognised the profound influence of Hebrew wisdom, the Bible, upon the Greco-Roman world. As‘Salvation is of the Jews’, so is Wisdom. “Jesus”, as we read above, “appealed to God’s previous revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures (Matt. 5:17–19; John 10:31) and issued authoritative revelations of His own as God Incarnate. … Jesus reasoned carefully about the things that matter most — a handy definition of philosophy. His teachings, in fact, cover the basic topics of philosophy. …. As an apologist for God’s truth, He defended the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as His own teachings and actions”.

    2. A Re-orientation of the History of Ancient Philosophy. This actually pre-supposes 1.and needs to be viewed in parallel fashion to the way that the ancient Scriptures pre-figure Jesus the Word, but are also brought to perfection in Him.

    Whilst textbooks on the history of philosophy universally commence with the supposed Ionian Greeks, the AMAIC would urge for a complete re-orientation of influence by arguing that certain (if not all) of the key figures labelled ‘Greek’ (or Ionian) philosophers, ostensibly influenced by the Hebrews (as say the Fathers), were in actual fact Hebrew (Jewish) biblical characters who later became distorted and re-cast in Greco-Roman folklore. The Greco-Romans confused the ethnicity, geography and chronology of these original sages, who were essentially prophets and mystics, and down-graded them by turning them purely into natural philosophers.

    It seems imperative that the common mystical element has to be re-considered, contrary to Mark Glouberman’s mistaken (we believe) view of “Western rationality’s trademark mastery over the natural world”, over the “earlier [religious] mode of thought” of the Hebrews. (“Jacob’s Ladder. Personality and Autonomy in the Hebrew Scriptures”, Mentalities/ Mentalités,13, 1-2, 1998, p. 9).

    For studies more astute than Glouberman’s, whose opinion, sadly, the majority might share, would indicate that some of these ancient philosophers – now so cramped to merely natural philosophy andthe elements (earth, fire, water, etc.) – were actually men of great wisdom and enlightenment, religious and mystical. Nicolas Elias Leon Ruiz (Heraclitus and the Work of Awakening) has perceived this mystical quality in the case of the enigmatic but highly significant Heraclitus, supposedly a Greek of Ionian Ephesus. In his Abstract, Ruiz well explains why commentators have invariably found Heraclitus to be an ‘obscure’ thinker (https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache):


    Heraclitus is universally regarded as one of the fathers of western philosophy.

    However, the characterization of the nature of his contribution varies widely. To some he is an early example of rational, empirical, scientific inquiry into the physical world. To others he was primarily a brilliantly innovative metaphysician.

    Still others prefer to see him as the distant ancestor of the great German dialecticians of the 19thcentury. In the 20th century, certain existential phenomenologists all but claimed him as one of their own.

    Behind all of this stands a fundamental set of assumptions that is never questioned. Whatever else may be the case, we know that Heraclitus was, essentially, a rational human being like ourselves. He was a philosopher, concerned with explanation and exposition. He was a thinker, and his fragments encapsulate his thought.

    It is because of this that Heraclitus has been completely misunderstood. We have no idea of who and what he was. We do not understand what he was saying. Perhaps the greatest irony is that Heraclitus himself, at the very outset of what he wrote, explicitly predicted that this would happen.

    Everyone who writes about Heraclitus will make at least passing reference to his legendary obscurity. Some will talk about the oracular character of his writing. A few go so far as to say that his thought bears the traces of revelation, his expression, of prophecy. This is as far as it goes. The problem is that this rather metaphorical way of talking about Heraclitus misses the point entirely. His writing was not just “obscure,” it was esoteric.

    Heraclitus did not merely employ an oracular mode of expression: he was an oracle. What he said was a revelation and he was its prophet. Heraclitus was far from the early rationalist or primitive scientist he has been made out to be. He was what we today would call a mystic.….
    [End of quote]
    Now it seems that Saint “Clement of Alexandria even believed that Sirach had influenced the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (Strom. 2.5; Bright 1999:1064)”. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:ABbefHere occurs that same sort of chronological ‘difficulty’ (in a textbook context) with a Father of the Church as also in the case of Saint Ambrose's conjecture (in De philosophia) that Plato had met Jeremiah in Egypt. Whilst, chronologically, this is an extraordinary statement by Saint Clement, considering that Sirach would be located centuries after Heraclitus, the presumed chronological problem may actually be due to the ignorance of the real identity of the supposedly ‘Greek’philosopher. What if Heraclitus, whose special element was fire, were in fact the same person as the Hebrew Sirach (also known as “Siracides”, hence Heraclitus?), who wrote of fire (Sirach 51:3, 4): “You liberated me … from the stifling heat which hemmed me in, from the heart of a fire which I had not kindled …”. The ancient concept of Divine Wisdom, as written of by Sirach, was supposedly absorbed by Heraclitus, who, we think, may have been but a pale Greek version of the biblical scribe.

    3. The Philosophy of Modern Science. Whilst the real world (physis) was still generally the object of philosophical study for the ancients, modern scientists and philosophers have largely shifted the emphasis on to law and convention (nomos). Our inspiration in this area is Dr. Gavin Ardley, who wrote (“The Physics of Local Motion”, I): “… the system of physics inaugurated by Galileo and Newton is only prima facie physics in the proper sense of that science, namely, an inquiry into the physics or nature of things. According to this contention … physics since Galileo has been progressively detached from the family of the real sciences and no longer has any community with the head of the family, namely, metaphysics”.

    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    A New Elijah A New Jeremiah


    Taken from: www.splendorofthetruth.org/.../Advent_C_2_-_Baptist.338114608.doc

    2ndSunday of Advent, Year C

    The New Jeremiah

    The greatest danger to Christians today is a type of familiarity with our faith that breeds contempt.We know about the miracles that God worked in the past, we know about the prophecies of Christ fulfilled in Scripture, and we know about the workings of the Holy Spirit in us and in the Church today.But sometimes we say “so what?”We grow bored with the drama of salvation history, and we do not see how God affects our lives.Boredom and contempt have led Christians to give up their faith and embrace strange new religions that keep them entertained with lies.
    If we would only read what the Scriptures really say!If we would only study what has really happened in history!We would see the ingenious and awe-inspiring plan of God carried out to the smallest detail in the life of every human being on the planet, including each of us.We would be ecstatic with His plan to transform us into living reflections of his glory and power like the very angels in heaven by sanctifying us with his own Holy Spirit through our sacramental life in the Church.
    And we would appreciate the earth-shattering appearance of St. John the Baptist today.What began almost 900 years earlier with Elijah finishes with John, who is the last and greatest of the prophets.Elijah appeared suddenly from nowhere, wearing rough clothing and rebuking King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel.John the Baptist also appears suddenly in the desert, wearing rough clothing and rebuking King Herod and his wicked wife Herodias.
    But if we look deeper into God’s plan, we will be even more amazed by the similarities between St. John the Baptist and another prophet.Over 600 years before John lived Jeremiah.Jeremiah was a priest of the old covenant, born of a priestly family, though it seems he never served in the Temple.John was also a priest, born of his priestly father Zechariah, though he too never served in the Temple.At the start of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, God tells him “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you and made you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).John was sanctified by Christ in the womb before he was born, which caused him to leap for joy in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, and he became Christ’s own prophet to prepare the way.Both Jeremiah and John never married because of the difficult days ahead, and indeed, both of them were imprisoned by wicked kings and executed by their own people: John by beheading, and Jeremiah by being stoned to death.John is not only a new Elijah come to convert Israel; he is a new Jeremiah.
    And if we look deeper still, we see that John shares more than outward characteristics with Jeremiah.John also completes the final work of Jeremiah.Jeremiah lived at the end of a kingdom.In his last days, Babylon was threatening to destroy the Kingdom of Judah and everything holy to the Chosen people.So Jeremiah commanded the people to hide three sacred items to preserve their bond with God before they fled into Egypt.He commanded them to take the holy fire from the altar in the Temple and to keep it burning secretly, to keep the Law of God hidden within their hearts by refusing to worship idols, and to hide the Arc of the Covenant, the seat of God’s living presence among them (see 2 Maccabees 2:1-7).
    600 years later, St. John the Baptist is living at the beginning of a Kingdom—the Kingdom of God which he is heralding.The time has come to reveal those three sacred items hidden by Jeremiah—to complete his work—so that God can recreate a holy people.The holy fire from the altar consumed all offerings, giving them forever to God.John reveals to the people that the Christ will baptize them with the HolySpirit and fire.The Holy Spirit will consume the faithful, body and soul, like offerings, giving them forever to God through baptism.
    The Law of God taught the people how they ought to live.By his teaching, John reveals to the crowds how they ought to live, and prepares them for the Lawgiver himself, Jesus Christ.Finally, the Arc of the Covenant was literally a seat or throne for God in the Temple.The Holy of Holies was the room that held the Arc, which was God’s living presence among the Chosen people.John reveals to the people the real, living presence of God among them as one of them: the true man and true God, Jesus Christ himself.
    Is this all blind coincidence?Of course not!This is God’s plan from the beginning!St. John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the prophets, the new Elijah, the new Jeremiah, is completing Jeremiah’s final work so the Kingdom of God can begin.
    As Advent continues, we will hear about miracles and prophesies.We will hear about the ingenious and awe-inspiring plan of God which involves each one of us here.Let the Scriptures inspire you!Let human history inspire you!See God’s plan with fresh eyes, and be filled with joy that he has chosen to transform you into a reflection of His own glory—into a son or daughter of God!

    Rev. Eric Culler