Tag Archives: God

Siphoned Off

It’s been three years since I began a formal program of study in theology.  The longer I have engaged in it, of course, the deeper and more involved the work has become.  It’s not that I’ve written less, rather my concentration and activity have been drawn away from the whimsy and self-expression of this web log to more detailed and directed works.  Some of those I posted here early on, however I have been sparing any followers from the fifteen- and twenty-page theological works of the last couple of years.  The reading for these alone has stretched my mind to limits I didn’t know I had and coming closer to completion (in May ’17, with some hard work) these limits are being pushed back further and further.  All this reading and research precedes that which will accompany an eighty-page thesis.

Sailing ‘Lifeline’ on Alum Creek Lake has also been affected.  Classes have been held on Wednesday evenings at the same time the boat club races are held.  As I’ve been attending school year ’round it has meant missing race night for the second year running.  And this year, I haven’t trailer’d ‘Lifeline’ out of the lake to the larger venue of Lake Erie.

All this to say the experiences that have driven half of my essays on FaithandFlag.Wordpress.com have been siphoned off to other efforts and for the foreseeable future will continue in the same manner.

That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, just posting shorter works on other venues.  If you’re interested, you’ll find professional commentary in a series of fifty essays at www.linkedin.com/in/johnzoll where I’ve been sharing both industrial notes and managerial content.  Also, By-Dawn’s-Early-Light at www.facebook.com/By is a site dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner.  The recent posts there include comments on the controversy of whether our National Anthem is a racist poem, with links to CNN stories concerning the same.

(photo credit to the author.  1812 National Ensign is signed by the National Park Ranger who hoisted it over Ft. McHenry in June 2014.  Signal flags are Charlie Mike and Bravo Zulu, welcoming grandchildren to our annual summer camp)



We ‘Picture’ What We Believe

It works both ways; you know…you probably don’t think on this too often, though.  It’s part of our instinct.  We don’t have to think about it.  Long ago our ancestors began inscribing their feats on the walls of caves.  Our history is preserved by carving onto animal bones, painted on canvas, chiseled into stone, chemically developed onto paper, and digitized into computer memories.  We want to preserve that which has meaning to us.

The purpose, of course, is to honor that which enforces our beliefs, our faiths.  We want to capture moments to remind us of what we have accomplished that we are proud of, that repeatedly tell us and others who visit us what we are and what we are working towards.

Look around your own home.  What pictures have you framed?  Where do they hang?  What signs have you decorated with?  What symbols are represented overtly or are incorporated into your artwork?  Have you looked around lately?  And, when was the last time you took something down and put it or threw it away.  “That’s just not me any longer,” you think.  We celebrate what we believe by those images we keep around us.  They are intended to promote continued actions from us, and help remind us to avoid acting to the contrary.  These images will come to mind away from home as well, when we are pressed for a decision as we prepare to take an action.

We’ve learned to take this further, and we’ve known, as humans, for some time how we can contemplate an idea and ‘visualize’ ourselves taking actions on our beliefs.  Proverbs 4:23 is one source of how ancient this knowledge is; “With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life.”  When the Evangelist Mark recorded Jesus’ words “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours,” he was passing on this gift to us for all posterity.   Even the secularists recognize this Divine gift.  Napoleon Hill wrote in his work “Think and Grow Rich”, “What a man can conceive and believe, he can achieve,” and an entire self-help industry has echoed it for nearly eighty years.  Visualizing is prominent this time of year in our culture.  We are constantly asking the question of graduates, “What do you want to do?” and “What are your plans?”  We are asking them to visualize their futures to the point of articulating them back to us.  It is more than a common courtesy, it is asking them to engage in their Divinely given gift of creation.

If we picture what we believe, then, there is one more idea to consider.  What happens after we leave this time-tied reality?  What is there, if anything, beyond the reality we currently are woven into?  Christians believe in Heaven, Hindus in seven of them.  Spiritualists believe there is something, but what they are necessarily vague on.  Social scientists have recorded the faiths of indigenous peoples, including their prehistory and after-lives.  For secular-humanists, this exercise is non-existent.

I will share as a Catholic, here, what I can know of this ‘after’ life.  The ‘disciple Jesus loved’ was given a vision of heavenly worship.  It is recorded in the Book of Revelation.  Where others look at this book as one of death and destruction and await the wrath of God, Catholics can look at it and see, beginning in Chapter 4, that Heaven is a place of worship and engagement with God.  John describes for us in words what this heavenly worship looked like to him.  Catholic churches reflect this in the designs of the altars where we gather and engage in the action of the New Covenant we’ve received.

If you’d like to see a vision of heaven, of what comes ‘after’, visit your local Catholic church.  Ask someone in the office to give you a tour.  And, if you are Catholic, or even if you are not, create such a picture in your own home to remind you, to internalize within you, memories and ideas that will come to mind for when you are deciding to take action.

High Altar St Mikes Findlay

The High Altar in St. Michael the Archangel Church, Findlay OH.  The components of John’s vision include ‘the Lamb who appears slain’ (crucifix), the torches, and the angelic hosts in white robes. The ‘throne’ is the tabernacle in the center.   Missing from this view is ‘the Book’, which is situated toward the congregation, and the eternal lamp indicating the Presence of God.

full altar at SJN

Full altar at St. John Neuman parish in Sunbury OH.  Components of John’s vision include the “Lamb who appears slain’ in the Eucharist and the cross on the table, the torches (lit candles), and the Book of the Word to the right of the altar, the ‘throne’ is not the Presiders chair, but the tabernacle behind the priest, centered. The heavenly hosts are represented by the paintings and the carved imagery.

They Were All On Stage Because of God’s Inspiration Megyn

Concerning the last segment of the first Republican Presidential debate for 2016, moderated by FoxNews on August 6th, 2015;

Megyn Kelley was one of three ‘moderators’ in what was more a Q & A than a debate between candidates. Before the final break and also introducing the final segment, Ms. Kelley made rather flippant comments concerning whether or not the candidates had received any specific inspiration on what their first actions or priorities should be… from ‘God’, as if to put down anyone with faith in a Supreme Being. It was short comment. It was a curt comment. It rang as loudly as a fire alarm in my ears.

I cannot put words to the candidates’ responses. Some were allowed to comment directly to the question, others were not offered an opportunity. I do have the following to share on this particular topic.

None of the candidates would be on the stage were they not somehow inspired by some higher power. Few would argue that Mr. Trump presents himself from the inspiration of his ego, though I am one who would. All professed some intent to fulfill a patriotic duty to the country. Some invoked their God. Those doing so placed themselves in good company.

You see, our system of laws is built upon a specific Decalogue in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, a Decalogue that is equally respected by our Islamic brothers and sisters. These Ten Commandments provide the foundation for our Constitution and laws of governance and public policies. Social Security and Medicare are largely responses to the 4th of those laws, ‘Honor your father and mother’ through the financial and health support of our elderly citizens. “Thou shalt not kill’ seems a rather pertinent one to this discussion, given the numbers of mass murderers on trial the recent killings so publically promoted by the news media. Baltimore, MD is having a particularly difficult problem this year. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ has been officially ignored by our Supreme Court this past session. ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ goods’ is routinely ignored by thieves and prosecuted not quite as frequently, as thieves are difficult to apprehend.

Our founders thought it important to acknowledge a Supreme Being from our beginnings as a nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who is ‘their Creator’ if not the God that gave us the Decalogue? To this and the rest of the Declaration of Independence, our representatives closed the document with “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” A reliance on God, Divine Providence, saw most of these men die as traitors or in poverty. What survived was country they dedicated to God.

Is our country dedicated to God from its beginning? It is a fair question. Let me answer it with the ways that used to exhibit our faith in such a beginning.

  • From the third stanza of a song sung from the days of the Revolution until only a few years ago in our schools; 3rd stanza of America
  • Our Father’s God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, to Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with Freedom’s holy light. Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King”
  • From the War of 1812, from Baltimore harbor, September 15th, 1815, a young lawyer scribbled these words on an envelope; from the 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner;
  • Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
  • Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
  • Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
  • And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
  • From Lincoln’s 1858 ‘House Divided’ speech to the Illinois Republican Convention. He was discussing the Dread Scott decision concerning equal admission of slave states to non-slavery states;
    • “In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided.” Mr. Lincoln’s quotations are a direct quote from the Christian gospel, words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in Mark 3:25.
  • From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
  • “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
  • In 1895, Katherine Lee Bates wrote another song that was, until recently, sung widely and in our schools as well. This is her 1904 chorus revision;
  • “America! America!
  • God shed his grace on thee
  • And crown thy good with brotherhood
  • From sea to shining sea!”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr, August 28th, 1963, promoting the advancement of equal rights for the Black population of our nation, revived several of these previous examples;
  • I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
  • – AND-
  • “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
  • And finally, Mr. King closed with;
  • ‘And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The threads of the Decalogue, of the dedication of our country by ‘We, the People’, remain evident in what has become our civil as well as faithful religion in these united States. We are a Nation and a People founded on the Liberty found when laws establish boundaries for behavior. For more than the two-hundred-forty-six years since a Declaration was proclaimed we have bound ourselves to a faith in God. That faith has served us well.

Were the men on that stage last night and those presented in the earlier broadcast by Fox, and the others looking forward to presenting themselves as candidates to tend to our country’s business inspired by God? You should know they were, are, and continue to be, either by their own commitment or by their adherence to the civil religion professed in our public proclamations.

So, please, Ms. Kelley, please provide some modicum of respect when you speak about our God, our Divine Providence, our Creator when you broadcast national events. We are all bound to Divine Providence whether we acknowledge the Creator or not.

The Four Loves

This post is a book review I accomplished for my MA Theology course at Ohio Dominican University.  C.S. Lewis is a prolific writer (Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters).  The Four Loves was written in 1960, three years before he passed.  I share this because of a life-long understanding that our modern use of the word ‘love’ has more connotations than we care to consider.  Lewis presents us with other English words we could be using, and by doing so keep from confusing ourselves about our feelings and intentions.  I am very excited to share my new discovery with you.  J.Z.

Lewis, C[live]. S[taples]. The Four Loves An Exploration of the Nature of Love. 1960. New York: First Mariner Books, 2012. Print.

The course of current and recently past events of Western Culture in our world continually insists on the singular use of the work ‘love’ for wide arrays of purposes. We ‘love’ our pets, and we ‘love’ candy, and we ‘love that zombie TV show. We ‘love’ those clothes in the storefront window, the car in the commercial, and the woman shown driving the car. We ‘love’ our friend, our significant other, our mother, and our children. And we ‘love’ God’. How can we love all of these in the same way such that we use the same word to describe our commitments? Lewis takes up the challenge of educating us about our own language and how we fail to understand the need to use different words for the feelings we are working to describe. It is a work, he states in his introduction, wherein he too learned of his own inadequacies of language, thinking at first how easy this should be to accomplish, and found how much more he had to consider while bringing the project to completion.

The posture of the work is that of a parlor conversation one might have with a peer or friend on an afternoon or evening suitable to such an occasion. Some words require defining and Lewis starts this with a discussion of Need-love across several levels. Need-love is that initial love we have to get from God, always existing and always available yet never satisfied. He tells us we are most closely engaging in this when we cry for Divine help. An analogy follows to explain reaching fulfillment, about climbing a hill, reaching the top, and following a dangerous path down. At the top of the hill we are close to the village we are walking to. To reach to village the path follows a circuitous route, one that moves far away from our endpoint before returning us back toward and finally reaching it. Along the course we find love for the sake of love, love of country, and erotic love, all pressing upon us with demands of Need-love, and what precarious turns we may make if these Need-loves become our gods.

Lewis’ first twist away from our village along the path is immediate. He doesn’t discuss love even at a human level, but begins with an examination of sub-human love. The ‘need’ for a drink of water or food to satiate hunger may be temporary. The water received, the food ingested and the need dissipates. This is as opposed to the need of an addict. Lewis describes an alcoholic’s need for the drink, and certainly in his life there were other examples as in our own. The drug addict, sex addict, food addicts all experience the insatiable desire for that which owns their bodies. These ‘needs’ are not satisfied. Likewise Lewis relates basic pleasures as ‘needs’. The pleasure of a flower’s aroma drifting in a window is not a need but an appreciation. Similarly a successful play in a sports game may be appreciated and remembered, but not ‘needed’. Lewis shares his idea of the aroma of breakfast cooking before we’ve eaten, and then the difference after. By the end of the chapter we have a basic structure for the discussion of the four loves. Need-pleasure, gone as soon as satisfied, Need-love, just as transitory, Need-love for God, which never ends, though we are cautioned our sense of it can diminish. Appreciative-love that says ‘thank you’ is compared to a Need-love that says ‘my life rises and falls upon yours’. Upon these simple definitions a hierarchy is constructed that Lewis will build his concepts of four levels or intents of love; Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity. There is a fluidity of use in that we move between them easily and readily. Some combine more readily, but all combine only in Charity.

Affection is the first and lowest of the loves. It may be recognized by its absence, as some demonstration of feeling is nominally required, say a funeral, and is not demonstrated. Affection being a human trait may unite those who otherwise might not be united. It may include a light and polite kiss, the light touch of a hand to another. Affection holds within it Need-love, as we ‘need’ the attention of others. The assumption is that it is instinctual in humans, so much so that it may be expected because we are social creatures. Affection is that love we learn first for our siblings and our parents. It may extend with the closeness of other relatives, the favorite Aunt, the jovial Uncle, those cousins we spend our lives growing up with. Affection is held for that old stuffed bear that graced our childhood bed, for the home of the same period, the tree we climbed with those cousins, and the streets we ran in those summers long past. And Affection holds within its own a measure of common-sense, else it becomes distorted.

Friendship requires some work to develop, according to Lewis, because it is not natural. Affection is well understood as is Eros through experience. Each of these requires those involved to look each other in the eyes. Friendship, though, has the parties involved looking at a common objective. He comments how much more difficult it seems of the time of writing to be less experienced than in previous times.   The cause he proposes is the social view that human life is nothing more than the development of an animal origin. And, Friendship becomes a dangerous component of the social mix when Friends gather to promote a given cause. We can take the current issues of the social questions active in our politics and understand this concern with any one of them apart from the rest, through those ideas which form Friendships around political party platforms of ideas. Friendship brings two or more together in the sharing of ideas about the object. By listening to each involved describe an observation we note the others’ responses and see something in a way we never did before. Our view of the object, and surely and feasibly our view of our lived may be altered.   Lewis cautions against the façade of Friendship and calls this façade ‘Companionship’. This is continued focus on the common object without the sharing of the ideas and the experience of learning about the object from others. Friendship will nominally be between men and men, or women and women. Men and women more likely find each other in Affection and Eros, seldom in Friendship, though finding each other in Friendship may lead to either or both of the other.

Lewis states from the beginning of his description of Eros that it is uniquely human and involves more than engaging in sex and sexuality. There is no love required to engage in the reproductive act and even the animals do this. He begins this way to clear the conversation of moral arguments so as to concentrate only on the discussion of what Eros is. Eros requires commitment between two, the keeping of one’s word, the just treatment of the other. Venus is Lewis’ word for sexual encounters. She may develop because of Eros she may be the impetus for beginning Eros. And to repeat, she may be absent from Eros.   We dare not take Venus too seriously, nor treat her with anything less than respect. Caught up in her we will lose our common-sense required for Affection, and all sense of what brought us to the point of this union from the start. Lewis goes about developing how Eros may come about between two people and provides a fair discussion of the conjugal act of Eros, even a theological overview. Though Eros may make us look beyond ourselves, to ignore our own happiness, and/or completely transport us beyond ourselves, it is dangerous in that it has the power of a god and may pull us in directions not meant for our lives.

Affection is the foundation. Friendship is that which is of human creation. Eros raises each and both to a higher calling of commitment. Lewis gives the Greek for Affection as ‘storge’ and writes ‘Eros’ directly for a higher step. ‘Agape’ is the Greek word for Charity. And Charity is described as beginning and ending in God. The first approach of Charity is a rephrasing and recalling of Eden and God’s relation with the first man and first woman. From this Lewis moves to the negative of the image using St. Augustine’s examples of what drew him away from Charitable love. What are any of the previous loves if they do not have as a foundation the element of the Supreme? Charity then is the Gift love we give back to God in the ways God has expressed to us to love. We give to those God places in our lives, as God gives to us. We give without any expectation of return. We give no matter the pain or the angst returned. As Christ gave all His humanity for the Church, so the husband to the wife, the parents to produce and then raise children, Charity is our fulfilling the Need-love of others as God fills our own Need-love. Charity is ‘Gift-love’. And as Lewis started by quoting John’s Gospel, he ends in the affirmation that “God is Love”.

Lewis challenges us with his style. I wrote at the opening of his professorial conversation in a parlor, whether in one’s living room or in the hallowed halls of Oxford. The comfort with which I emphasize this image is the reason for my engineer’s frustration with his presentation. He runs off on a tangent at the slightest of his own suggestions. He quotes Shakespeare without referencing the play. He quotes King Lear as if we were in the theatre watching it unfold. He speaks of his peers as if we know each personally as well as by reputation. One sentence alone brings no less than six literary names, followed by the cast of The Wind in the Willow. At one point he takes us from Greek mathematicians forming conversation groups through Mr. Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s conversation through Methodism, Reformation, Renaissance, even stopping to comment on Mr. Coleridge’s domination of their conversation. All these and other interruptions make it difficult to discern concept through the prose. An accomplished reader may find this distracting. Those more used to common daily language may be lost. But let this be a caution rather than a deterrent, for certainly any and all can appreciate and come to comprehend the four loves.

Lewis has given us a timeless philosophy to lay in our hearts and minds, in spite of his circuitous mountain path. Schools of English language, classroom lesson plans covering grammar and secondary schools, and tomes of literary wisdom piled on shelves throughout our culture do not come close to the simplicity of division so necessary to our Need-love for it. A comprehension of these need be taught in our schools from the earliest days, and a richer and more sound a culture we will have for it.


A Drop of Water, a Taste of the Divine

March 25, 2015

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… May God prevent me from writing heresy and may His grace protect my readers from the Tempter.

Imagine…a calm, still pond on a warm summer’s morning. The sun has risen above the horizon. The mist is dissipated off the grasses and the mirror that is the surface. No chill on the light air, no breeze disturbs your skin.

From the cloudless sky, a single drop of water falls into the center of the pond. You hear the plunk break the quiet morn. You watch as silent waves move ever outward from the center, ring after ring after ring of small waves grow ever wider and wider and wider. They move into and push the reeds, the cattails, and the grass on the shore. Another drop falls, again in the center.

You know how this happens, this formation of waves. The drop strikes the water. It pushes it aside. The surface rises up around it as it falls through. Then, the surface falls back on itself, closing in some air to make that ‘plunk’ sound. Then, the surface falls back and makes another wave. And on it goes…

The bread is raised, this work of human hands, and with it the sacrifice of our lives.

A drop of water goes into the wine, “as He humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”  It too is raised.

…and in a moment, a flood of Divinity is dropped into both, into the middle of the pond of our lives.

Can you hear it? The ‘plunk’ of the Divine splashing into your life? Can you feel it, the surface of the Divine rolling back over top of you? Are you enveloped by it, the successive waves flowing over and through you? Will you let the energy carry you to the reeds and the cattails, the grasses and the shores?

The wave will reflect off the shore and return. It will cross those coming toward it from center as it returns to center. Sometimes the waves rise together, sometimes they diminish each other but they continue so long as the center is fed by that from above.

Each moment of consecration is a moment of Divine intervention, connecting a timeless heaven to the temporal earth. Each moment of consecration is an overt act of God to redeem us, to touch us, to strengthen us. Accepting this gift is to taste the Divine, to drink in all the Wisdom we can hold and carry it forth into the world, to roll into reeds and cattails and weeds and grass, to strike the shores of our lives and return to the Center to drink again.

May we crawl on humble knees to taste the Divine in the Eucharist in every mass we attend. May we learn to bask in the same in adoration.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…

A First Attempt to Describe the Real Presence

There’s a question I’ve been trying to work out in my head for some time.  It needs to be written down.  One thing I’m certain of is I won’t mash it into intelligible words on my own.  The subject is as old as Christianity is.  How is it the words of Jesus at the his last supper become the Eucharist and how is His presence continue to envelope the Sacrament with each and every consecration.?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…May God prevent me from writing heresy and may His grace protect my readers from the Tempter.

Jesus Christ and His real presence in the Eucharist is a mystery I am unable to deny without suffering death of this temporal body of which I have been given charge. I am fifty-five years old and steeped in the Catholic faith from birth, yet I know that in my heart I was aware of this Truth from my conception. I became conscious of the idea through Catechism for First Communion, I studied some as a teen, I defended it as mystery as an adult in the U.S. Navy. Yet, as I ask more questions and delve further into the theologies and philosophies argued I am nagged by the ‘how’ of this Truth being possible.

I have seen the stories of Eucharistic mysteries throughout Europe and the two millennia of the Christian faith. A fire in a French Church with the Eucharist on the altar, and those fighting the fire see the Eucharist float above a burning table. A Priest in Italy questioned as I do and as he prays the consecration the bread becomes flesh, the wine becomes blood. Both remain so to this day. Another Italian church holds wafers that are hundreds of years old, blessed Eucharist that has not decayed in the centuries since it was raised up. Open to the air this should all be dust, were it simply bread, devoured by insects and rodents, yet it remains intact. Three examples of miracles of the Eucharist. Three reasons to believe in the Divine real presence in the Sacrament.

I have still wondered, and strongly so, for the last year or two if the more real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the continued real presence of those whose faith sustains, whether strongly or weakly, their presence and participation at mass? St. Paul tells us ‘we’ are the body of Christ. Why shouldn’t it be that ‘we’ are the reality that remains when the bread and wine are consecrated? Why shouldn’t it be, then, that our praxis be the sacrament, that in receiving the Eucharist we recommit to the Gospel and become the body and blood of Christ to this temporal world?

This cannot be all. This would make the action completely on our part to carry forward the word of Jesus the Christ, and admit to all observers that we regard the Eucharist something different than Jesus intended. “I am the Bread of Life”, He told us. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life within you.” These words turned many away. It was sacrilege for a Jew to drink the life-blood of an animal. Yet Jesus did not call them back. He did not try to convince them He was speaking in signs or symbols. He even asked His apostles if they would leave too. The image stands.

Jesus consecrated bread and wine during His last supper with his apostles and select disciples. He told them the bread was His body and the wine His blood. Three of four evangelists and St. Paul recorded these words. So, how does this happen? It happened in France in a fire and in Italy at a consecration, twice. Most of the time there is no temporal change, though. What, then, if I consider a non-temporal change? What if at the moment of consecration at a mass the bread and wine become the body and blood even as the raised body of Jesus was transformed?

Consider what we know of our temporal world that we cannot see. Consider the levels of light and electromagnetic energies our eyes will not pick up, but that cameras do, that special scientific instruments do. What we can see is very small compared to what our instruments tell us exist. A child’s science lesson is to put two magnets end to end. In one direction, they pull each other together faster than the child can move to stop them. Place one in the other direction and its counterpart can be pushed across the smooth surface where we observe them. Think about this at the refrigerator, and play a bit. Since this unseen energy is pressed in front of us, cannot a Divine energy be infused into the Eucharist, just as real yet infinitely more powerful; powerful enough to change the hearts of human beings?

I will say ‘inspired’, though doubters will say ‘imagined’. I am inspired to believe that this is so, that at the same level of Divine energy that came in a cloud over Mount Sinai, the same cloud of energy that enveloped the Tabernacle in the desert, the same Divine energy that came down on Jesus at His baptism and on the mountain during the Transfiguration, this same Divine energy envelopes the bread and wine during the consecration at Mass. Heaven meets earth at the altar when our priests raise the gifts of ourselves, our lives, and of the bread and wine and God, Jesus, infuses His Divinity into the same gifts, the food and us. The bread and wine are now His body and blood even as His risen body was flesh and blood.

And, oh, to consume this gift, to let this Divine energy raise our meager humanity to His Divine life… as Jeff Cavins states, “I would crawl on my knees to receive this…” every chance I get. Father John Riccardo stated in a parish mission once, “To be in the presence of the Eucharist is radiation therapy for the soul.” The Divine energy penetrates us completely. Our body, mind, and soul are gifted to have this same energy, if only for a moment before our humanity begins to lose it. Yet we faithful hold on to it while we “go forth in the peace of Christ, to love and serve the world”.

Is this the message of salvation? It is certainly part of it; that we are gifted with His presence until the end of this temporal order, restored by His gift and His sacrifice to be the stewards of all we are individually and collectively charged to be. The many parts of the One Body are to be the light to the world, and the energy to make that light shine is in the real presence of Jesus the Christ in the Eucharist, received at each mass and each communion service we determine to crawl up to Him on reverent knees to receive.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…




Family Theology

No one was more surprised than me when the conversation at the breakfast table in the restaurant began with “Well, who do you think the first Christian was?” You see, the priest asked that question at mass this morning. The mass was dedicated to the Baptism of Jesus on the Church calendar, so naturally the priest talked about the sacrament and the event in the Jordan. He took the conversation one-step further, though, and discussed some possibilities about who the first Christian might have been. He hoped the question would provoke conversation beyond the handshakes at the end of mass. For our family, his question was a success.

Never before have I been able to engage anyone in my family in this kind of discussion. My mother has been engaging in bible study courses for a couple of years now. My sister has been through her own journey of faith with the loss of her husband and our friend two years ago. My wife has been reading and studying scripture for three years come this April. However, no one, and especially not any of these three, would ever attempt to engage with me in any of the simplest conversations I might try to start. Consequently, I started into a Master’s course of study in theology just to satisfy my own curiosity and conversation. OK, Father, how is it you moved this conversation forward? Or, should I just attribute the movement to the Holy Spirit working through you to open curiosity in them?

Now, it’s not about whether there is any theological proof coming out of this conversation that will cause trembling within the earth and result in new insights that will suddenly bring about the apocalypse. The Spirit doesn’t work this way. This conversation is about getting those of us who profess Christians talking again about our faith. At Scrambler Marie’s in Findlay Ohio this Sunday morning, Father Mike Hohenbrink had moved people to talk together after mass. Here are the three theories that came about through the conversation.

My wife spoke first. She states Mary was the first Christian. She was the first one to know Jesus was coming and by her acceptance of her part in Salvation history her faith was placed in God and her commitment made her the first to believe in her Son’s mission. I supported her thoughts, pointing out it was Mary who brought Jesus to the point of producing his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Though He protested, he followed her urging and turned water into the best wine of the feast. My wife was happy with that. Then, I must have crossed a line. I pointed out one could not fully comprehend the decision without having known of the resurrection and ascension. One could not take action to demonstrate faith in Jesus’ message without having witnessed these two events. Her protest was immediate! “If you think giving birth isn’t an action of faith you have another think coming! I stood, rather sat, corrected as I laughed. At a table filled with women, there was nothing else to say… and be safe!

Conversation turned to some of the suggestions Father had received at an earlier mass. Someone suggested Able was the first. Another Abraham. Several of the apostles were mentioned, especially Peter and Paul. John the Baptist figured into the conversation. Jesus’ cousin and the new Elijah, he knew of Jesus’ mission. Acts of the Apostles tells us the word ‘Christian’ was first used in Antioch. I raised the argument Paul makes in Romans that Abraham was the first to act on faith and his action resulted in a covenant that created the nation of Israel. Paul’s argument was to confirm that Israel as a nation was still the chosen people of God, and that the Hellenists he was talking to were grafts onto the vine of the new Chosen People through Jesus Christ. My wife said she would never argue with Paul, but her choice is still Mary.

My thoughts still go with two considerations. Those who were the ‘first’ Christians had to have witnessed or known of the crucifixion and resurrection and then make an act of faith to demonstrate that faith. It was at Pentecost that the first Christians made their profession through action. Peter and the other ten, with Mary and others present, stepped onto a balcony and spoke the words of salvation to thousands of Jews from around the world. That day is the day I think the first Christian were revealed, even if it would be years until the term was used in Antioch.

Today, though, other Christian were talking about salvation history, from the second generation recorded in the Pentateuch through Abraham, our Father-in-Faith, to Mary’s commitment to the Incarnation of the Word, through Paul the Apostle and the bringing of the Word to the Hellenist world, we laughed and talked, oblivious to those around us. Who knows who else overheard our conversation and may have wondered themselves about the events we were discussing. We’ll never know. Just as we’ll never know who the very first Christian was. The Spirit was working through our parish this morning, and now the Spirit is working through you. The new Evangelization has begun.