Sunday, May 30, 2010

ToB: In the First Chapters of Genesis, Marriage Is One and Indissoluble

The meaning of the original unity of man can only be understood by knowing man in his entire being.

Man and woman are, in a sense, two 'incarnations' of the same metaphysical solitude before God and the world. They are two different ways of being a 'body' (separate physical forms), but at the same time man, and each of these different ways of being completes the other. You know, the whole, puzzle pieces fitting together sort of thing. Each is complete in and of itself, a whole piece, but placed together, the two form a more complete being.

Femininity finds itself in the presence of masculinity, and masculinity is confirmed through femininity. Again, I fall back to my 'you need contrasts to comprehend a thing'. A man is only a man, when contrasted to the woman. Leaving aside the fact that without both sexes our species would have died out before it became a species (or, I suppose we might somehow find a way to reproduce asexually, like worms, but I assume that's less fun than the way we do it. ;) )

'Precisely the function of sex, which is in a sense, "a constituent part of the person" (not just an "attribute of the person"), proves how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the never to be repeated uniqueness of his person, is constituted by the body as "he" or "she". The presence of the feminine element, alongside the male element and together with it, signifies an enrichment for man in the whole perspective of his history, including the history of salvation.'

The unity of which Genesis 2:24 speaks is, undoubtedly, expressed and realized in the conjugal act. 'The biblical formulation, extremely concise and simple, indicates sex, femininity and masculinity, as that characteristic of man - male and female - which permits them, when they become "one flesh", to submit their whole humanity to the blessing of fertility.' However, it is not just the physical that is included in the joining of a couple. While physical intimacy is vital and important to a healthy relationship, it is the spiritual, the mental, that truly brings two people together and keeps them together and happy.

One can have a purely physical relationship, based on the 'animal attraction'. It's fun, and it's satisfying, on a certain level. But those relationships do not last. If you want to fall back on the old fire metaphor, it burns hot and fast. And that means it consumes itself quickly, and burns out. But a relationship based on shared ideals, shared faith, on the mind, on the soul, will burn slowly. Smoulder, if one will. And that means it won't burn out.

But the physical *is* important. Every time man and woman come together, they echo back to the act of creation itself. They participate in an act of life. Through sex, we rediscover our own humanity.

Another interesting idea that was raised was that of the cleaving of a husband and a wife together as an act of choice, rather than nature. A person, given that, in order to exist, we are the product of our parents, belongs, by nature, to them. (Not in the sense of property, of course.) However, that child (as an adult) steps outside of their natural place of belonging, and chooses a mate. They choose to start a new life, with a person of their choice. And yes, I realise that, historically, the children didn't choose their spouses, the parents did, but I think we're meant to be speaking of the ideal here. Where one is free to choose their own mate.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Books & Movies: Horatio Hornblower

Ah, I love this series so very much.

It's an eleven book series written by C.S. Forester. It follows the character of Horatio Hornblower from Midshipman through his naval career up to Rear Admiral. The time is during the Napoleonic Wars.

Hornblower starts his career less than illustriously, as a midshipman who gets seasick on a perfectly calm harbour. The seasickness actually follows him throughout his career. Every time he begins a tour of duty after some time on land, he's horrendously sea sick. He hides it, because the other sea men that he admires are *never* sea sick, and makes it all the way to the position of commodore before he realizes that they've all known all along that he gets sea sick, and have played along with the fiction because they admire him so much, and it endears him to them that he has this one human flaw.

He has a reputation for brilliance in battle, which everyone around him sees, and for pulling off the impossible. But Hornblower himself doubts everything that he does, even if only after the fact. He is convinced that if his men ever knew about how he agonised over his decisions, over every death that one of his plans has caused that they would cease to respect him. What he doesn't ever realise is that this is what makes him the great commander that he is.

The series is brilliant. I have this weird affinity for historical naval series. This one and the Aubrey-Maturin series are utterly brilliant. I tried reading the Sharpe series, but could never really get into it. Well written, but just not my thing. I need my men in wooden ships, apparently. :)

Now, there is also a series of eight movies based on these books. They star Ioan Gruffudd. Of course they had to change some things because they're movies, but they're very, very close to the books, and really excellently done. A long time favorite of mine, for sure. And both the books and the movies do very well at historical accuracy of the ships, the uniforms, and just plain accuracy as to the way to sail a ship. Not that I can sail a ship, of course, well, not a wooden sail ship. I can drive a boat, but that's different. the case of my historical fiction, I like accuracy, dammit! And these succeed.

Sirach 10

1. A wise leader will educate his people,
And the rule of an intelligent man will be well ordered.

2. As goes the leader of a people, so also are his officials,
And all the inhabitants of a city will reflect its ruler.

3. An undisciplined king will ruin his people,
But a city will be made habitable through the wisdom of its rulers.

4. The authority of the earth is in the hand of the Lord,
And He will raise up the right man for an appointed time.+

5. The success of a man is in the hand of the Lord,
And He confers His honor upon the person of the scribe.

6. Do not cherish anger against your neighbor for any injury,
And do nothing by acts of insolence.

*Beware of Arrogance*
7. Arrogance is hateful before God and man,
And wrongdoing is offensive to both.

8. Dominion is transferred from nation to nation
Because of wrongdoing, insolence, and wealth.

9. How can he who is earth and ashes be arrogant?
Because even while living, his insides are decaying.+

10. A physician scoffs at a long illness,
And a king today will also die tomorrow.

11. When a man dies, he will inherit
Reptiles, wild animals, and worms.

12. The beginning of a man's arrogance is to depart from the Lord,
For his heart withdraws from the One who created him.

13. For the beginning of arrogance is sin,
And he who takes hold of it will pour out an abomination.
Therefore the Lord will bring them extraordinary distress
And completely destroy them.

14. The Lord pulls down the thrones of rulers
And seats the gentle in their place.+

15. The Lord plucks out the roots of nations
And plants the humble in their place.

16. The Lord overthrows the lands of the nations
And destroys them to the foundations of the earth.

17. He removes some of them and destroys them,
And puts an end to their memory on the earth.+

18. Arrogance was not created by mankind,
Nor fierce anger by the offspring of women.

*Honor and Dishonor*
19. What kind of seed is honored?
The seed of man.
What kind of seed is honored?
Those who fear the Lord.
What kind of seed is dishonored?
The seed of man.
What kind of seed is dishonored?
Those who transgress the commandments.

20. Among brothers their leader is honored,
And those who fear the Lord are honored in His eyes.+

21. The fear of the Lord goes before the obtaining of authority,
But roughness and pride is the losing thereof.

22. The rich and the honored and the poor alike-
Their boasting is the fear of the Lord.

23. It is not right to dishonor an intelligent poor man,
Nor is it proper to honor a sinful man.

24. The nobleman, the judge, and the ruler will be honored,
But none of them is greater than the one who fears the Lord.

25. Free men will render service to a wise servant,
And an understanding man will not grumble.

26. Do not put your wisdom on display when you do your work,
Nor magnify yourself in the time of your trouble.

27. Better is he who works and has plenty
Than he who magnifies himself but has no bread.

28. My son, honor your soul with gentleness
And give it honor according to its worth.+

29. Who will declare righteous the man who sins against his soul,
And who will honor the man who dishonors his life?

30. A poor man is honored for his knowledge,
While a rich man is honored for his wealth.

31. If a man is honored in poverty,
How much more in wealth,
And if a man is dishonored in wealth,
How much more in poverty?

+10:4,5 - Since the Lord has authority over all, He will raise up rulers for his purposes and in His time.

+10:9 - A very humbling passage. One could almost call it crude, except that God is forcing us to face our utter lack of a basis for personal pride.

+10:14,15 - This theme echoes Pr 3:37 and is repeated by St. Peter (1Pt 5:5, 6).

+10:17 - When the faithful die in Christ, we sing, "Memory eternal!" By contrast, the Lord puts an end to the memory of unworthy rulers (v. 14) and nations (v. 16).

+10:20-23 - All are to fear the Lord - the rich and the poor. A poor man with true godliness and spiritual wisdom must be honored.

+10:28, 29 - All human beings should humbly recognize the immense value and glory of their own soul. The Lord Jesus Christ may have had this passage in mind when He spoke the words of Mt 16:26.

ToB: By the Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God

The 'definitive' creation of man consists in the creation of the unity of two beings. Humans are....dichotomous in their natures. We are solitary beings, by creation. We are always alone in our own skins. Every human is a singular event, never to be duplicated. However, we are never really complete unless we are united with another solitary being like ourselves. We were designed to be two solitary creatures joined together. One might also extend the thought to the fact that we are a unity of two disparate realities: we are soul and body.

In man's original solitude he acquires a personal consciousness. Man must be alone, at first, to understand that he is different from all other beings. He had to recognize that none of the other created beings were like him. None of them were flesh and blood and soul. (Which is not to say that animals don't have souls, but they don't have *human* souls, which is a distinction of importance.) And out of this solitude, man recognizes the 'helper fit for him'. Was it the flesh that he recognized? Certainly man doesn't look like most other animals. And yet, there is some resemblance between man and the apes. (Let's all keep in mind that I don't, actually, take Genesis literally. But we're pretending, for the sake of this narrative.) So it must have been the soul that he recognized. The combination of soul and body that was, until that point, unique to him, he now saw in another being.

The communion of persons can only be created by the double solitude of man and woman. Without each of them being solitary, and thus coming to self-knowledge and self-determination, they could not then come together to form a unity.

Man becomes the 'image of God', as he is referred to in the first narrative, not only through his humanity, through his solitude, but when he enters into the communion of persons. Though, of course, any human reflection of the Trinity is going to fall far short, and have flaws, still, the reflection is there. One may argue that without any single Person of the Trinity, God would not be God. He would be incomplete. And, similarly, without the unity of persons, man would be incomplete in his solitude.

It actually reminds me of the notes from my Bible: 'Gn 5:3 - Seth was begotten from Adam and Eve. This threefold relationship illustrates, to a certain extent, the Holy Trinity. Adam had no human father. He was begotten by no one. Thus, he was unbegotten. Seth was begotten from Adam. Eve was neither unbegotten nor begotten. Instead she proceeded from Adam (2:21). Therefore, Eve and Seth were related to the unbegotten Adam, but each in a unique manner - Eve proceeded from Adam, but Seth was begotten from him. Each person had his or her own distinct and unique properties - unbegotten, begotten and proceeding - but all three possessed the same human nature.

Similarly, the manner in which these three existed images the Holy Trinity. God the Father is Unbegotten; God the Son is Begotten from the Father, and God the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. These distinct and unique properties - unbegotten, begotten, and proceeding - distinguish each of the individual Persons of the Holy Trinity from each other; yet, They are one in nature. (John of Damascus) - Orthodox Study Bible, pg. 10

In humanity's case, it is not only the communion of spirit, but that of flesh. Was man created body and soul to prefigure the Incarnation?

Friday, May 28, 2010

ToB: The Original Unity of Man and Woman

The first account of creation doesn't have the issue of man's original solitude. It's only in the second narrative that man starts out alone and then woman is created as his companion. It's in the second narrative that we find more fodder for thought.

Going back to my last post, you can't appreciate a state of being, unless you have a context for it, but you also need to understand the lack of that state. We know cold because it is a lack of heat. The two terms help to define one another. What's heat really mean, if you've never been without it?

So man's original solitude helps to define the companionship and unity that exists after the creation of the woman. He was alone, and then he was not. The two states define one another.

'Let us add that up to a certain point, the second narrative of the creation of man keeps the form of a dialogue between man and God-Creator. That is manifested above all in that stage in which man ('adam) is definitively created as male and female ('is - 'issah). The creation takes place almost simultaneously in two dimensions: the action of God-Yahweh who creates occurs in correlation with the process of human consciousness.'

God acknowledges that it is not good for man to be alone (Gn 2:18) right before Adam realizes that there is nothing else on the planet similar to himself (Gn 2:20).

Man is then put into 'sleep', and when he awakes he finds that he has a companion. It's almost as though he went to sleep longing for a companion, and woke up with the perfect match. Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone. Did he think, even for a second, that he had dreamt her into being?

Hope & Fear vs. Common Sense

We had a call today from an older gentleman. He was passed on to me because I do the legal advertising, and they thought that it might fall into my jurisdiction. It didn't, but I got the story.

He wanted to keep a marriage license from being published in our paper. Now, it's just a list that we get from the courthouse with all the licenses that were filed in the previous week.

Three weeks ago, this man had met a Russian 'doctor' who had promised him that she could cure a 'male problem' that he had. However, in order for this cure to be effected, he had to marry her. Which he agreed to do. Well, somehow, he's figured out that she can't, actually, cure his problem, and so isn't going to marry her. And he doesn't want to marriage license to run to avoid embarrassment.

I'll admit, after I got done laughing, this reminded me of all the quack doctors and fake cures that used to be so prevalent. 'Doctors' back in the late 1800s, early 1900s (for the most part) would come up with these 'cures' for cancer. Come to this hotspring, or this whatever, take the treatment, and you'll be cured! All for the low, low cost of everything you own.

For one such story, in detail, see here.

These men were charlatans, and they lived high off of the fear of desperate people. These weren't misguided men who thought that they really had a cure. They were con artists. They lured people out into their environment, and then they killed them. Not with a gun, or a knife, but with their 'treatments'. Would the people have died anyway? Most likely. They were severely ill. But many of them were hurried on their way by the 'cure'.

Which leads me to this thought: If someone is desperate enough. If they're afraid enough, you can get them to do really dumb things. Things that they would never do, otherwise. Their common sense would stop them. But fear is enough to drive men mad. Offer them hope? A reprieve from their doom? And they'll willingly walk into the abattoir. And thank you for it in the process.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

ToB: The Alternative Between Death and Immortality Enters the Definition of Man

"It's human nature. Look, Eve walks around the Garden of Eden happy as can be, not even thinking about apples. Then one day God says, 'Oh, by the way, everything here is for you, enjoy, frolic, eat, but whatever you do, stay away from the apples.' Next thing you know, all Eve could think about is those juicy red apples. Which leads me to believe even God didn't understand women." - Marshall Mann, In Plain Sight, Jailbait

The final 'element' of man is death. Man is conscious of himself as a person. He knows that he is separate from the rest of creation, related more closely to the Creator than to the animals he is surrounded with. He is aware that he has a choice. That free will exists.

However, being told that a thing called free will (assuming it was spelled out in such terms, which it really wasn't...) is not the same as comprehending the notion of free will. In the same way, being told that you will die if you perform such and such an action does not confer comprehension of what it means to die.

Up until this point, one assumes, nothing has ever died. I even heard once a theory that Adam and Eve (assuming a literal reading of the text) were vegetarians until after their fall.

Along comes God and says, 'Look around. Look at all the awesome stuff I've made. It's all yours. All of it. *Except* this tree. This one, right here. In the center. Like I put a bullseye on it. Isn't it shiny? The fruit just *glistens*. Right. Well. Don't touch it. I mean it. If you do, you'll die.' To which one expects that Adam and Eve would just nod their heads. 'Of course, Lord. We won't touch it. Why would we even want to?' And then, in 'private', mutter between themselves, if they even thought about it, 'What's 'die'?'

One must have a concept of a word to understand it. Look, pretend, for a second, that I am God. I know it's an extreme stretch, but roll with it for a second. I'm God, and you're the first humans I've created. I show your around the great place, and then I show you a banana tree. And I say, 'If you eat this fruit, you'll glorb. For certain, glorbing will happen the second you eat it.' And, because I am awesome and full of Godliness, you nod and smile, and promise not to eat the banana. However, in the back of your mind (and the front too), you're wondering just what the hell 'glorb' is. Is it bad? Is it good? Perhaps 'glorb' tastes good. You don't know, because you don't know that the state you are currently in is the opposite of 'glorb'.

For a real world example, lets take the breaking of a bone. I was told, over and over again growing up not to do this or that thing because I'd break something. I knew that breaking something was theoretically painful, but I had no context to apply to this thought. When I was about six, my best friend and I wanted to play on her jungle gym. It had just rained, and so we came up with the brilliant plan to throw a blanket over the monkey bars. The idea was that it would absorb the water, and we could play safely. Anyone see the flaw in that?

Well. I tried the monkey bars, and I can't tell you if I missed the bar and got blanket, or if I got the bar and it as just wet and slippery, but down I went like a ton of bricks. Broke my arm near the wrist. And now, when I hear the word 'break', I know exactly what that means. I have contextualized the word and have real life experience to apply to it.

So. God says, 'eat this and you will die.' We hear the word die, and we feel association for the word. We understand, at least in part, the concept of death. The majority of us have had a friend or a family member die. We've experienced the pain of this loss. We comprehend that death is the absence of life. It is the opposite of what we have at this moment. We know that when someone dies, they are gone from us and we cannot see them, touch them, speak to them again. Not until we too experience death.

But at the time, at this very beginning of life, what meaning did 'die' have? They didn't know what it meant. It was a word without context. It could have meant anything.

The important factor, there, was not so much the consequence, but the fact that they were given a choice. Choose to eat or not to eat. God had said not to eat, and had said that something would happen if they did. The act of choosing was when they would have context for the concept of this 'free will' thing. And only later, after that, would the context for 'die' become clear.

Was it the first animal they had to kill for its skin that made the concept of death sink in? The death of their son Abel? Do we even really understand death now? We know what it means to us, from the outside of it. But we have yet to experience it, personally. It is still, partially, an uncontextualized word. And it will remain so until our time comes.

Tobit Intro and Chapter 1

Author: Unknown

Date: Between the fourth and second centuries BCE.

Major Themes: The Book of Tobit is a love story. A father sends his only son into the world so that he may find a bride, save her, and bring her back rejoicing to his parents. The same story is told by the Lord in John 3:16. From the beginning, God has been working in history to bring man out of the darkness of sin and death and into the glorious light of Christ. This is the story of salvation, and the Book of Tobit is an icon of that story. Within Tobit's narrative lies a shadowy outline of God working in history from the beginning to the end of the age, as He makes preparation for the uniting of man and all creation to God in Christ.

Background: The story of Tobit is set against the backdrop of the Assyrian exile in Nineveh. Family tragedy, hope, and divine intervention are interwoven to communicate the presence of God's providence.

The Book of Tobit

*Tobit's Early Years in Israel and Nineveh*
1. This is the book of the words of Tobit, the son of Tobiel, the son of Hananiel, the son of Aduel, the son of Gabael, of the seed of Asiel, from the tribe of Naphtali.+ 2. He was led captive out of Thisbe in the days of Shalmaneser, king of the Assyrians. Thisbe is south of Kedesh Naphtali, in Galilee above Asher.+

3. I, Tobit, walked in the paths of truth and righteousness all the days of my life. I did much almsgiving to my brethren and to the people who journeyed with me as exiles to Nineveh, in the country of the Assyrians.+ 4. In my young days, when I was in my own country, the land of Israel, the entire tribe of my father Naphtali turned away from the house of Jerusalem, which was chosen from all the tribes of Israel, to sacrifice for all the tribes. This temple, the habitation of the Most High God, was sanctified and built for all generations forever.

5. Now all the tribes that joined in the revolt sacrificed the heifer to Baal. The house of Naphtali, the tribe of my father, also revolted. 6. But I alone traveled frequently to Jerusalem for the feast days, as it is written for all of Israel in an everlasting ordinance. I would carry the firstfruits and the tithes of my harvest and the first-shearing.+ 7. These I would give to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar. I would offer the tenth of all the harvest to the sons of Levi who served at Jerusalem. I would also sell off the second tenth and go and spend it at Jerusalem each year. 8. The third tenth I would give to whom it was fitting, as Deborah the mother of my father commanded me, for I was left an orphan by my father. 9. When I became a man, I took Anna for a wife from my own kindred. With her I became the father of Tobias.+

10. When I was taken captive to Nineveh, all my brothers and those from my race ate from the bread of the Gentiles.+ 11. But I protected myself by not eating it. 12. For I remembered God with all my soul. 13. So the Most High gave me grace and comeliness before Shalmaneser, and I became his purchasing agent. 14. I would go into Media. And one time in Rages of Media, I entrusted to Gabael, the brother of Gabrias, ten talents of silver.+

15. When Shalmaneser died and his son Sennacherib reigned in his place, the roads were unstable and I could no longer travel to Media. 16. In the days of Shalmaneser, I did much almsgiving to my brothers. 17. I would give my bread to the hungry and my clothing to the naked. If I saw anyone of my people dead, cast outside the wall of Nineveh, I would bury him.+ 18. If King Sennacherib put someone to death when he came trying to escape from Judea, I buried them secretly. For in his anger, he put many to death, and the bodies were sought by the king; but they were not found. 19. But one of the men of Nineveh went and made known to the king concerning my burying them. So I hid, and when I knew I was being sought to be put to death I was frightened and ran away. 20. All of my possessions were seized and I had nothing left except Anna my wife and Tobias my son.

21. But not even fifty days passed before two of King Sennacherib's sons had killed him and escaped into the mountains of Ararat. Thus Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. He appointed Ahikar, the son of my brother Anael, to be over all the accounts of his kingdom and over the entire government. 22. Ahikar then entreated on my behalf, so I came to Nineveh. Now Ahikar was the wine-pourer, the kepper of the signet ring, the administrator and the accountant. Esarhaddon appointed him second to himself, and he was my nephew.+

OSB Notes:

+1:1 - Tobit means "the Lord is good."

+1:2 - Thisbe is in modern-day Lebanon (ancient Phoenicia), north of the Sea of Galilee. Naphtali (v. 1) was led captive to Assyria under the predecessor of Shalmaneser (4Kg 15:29).

+1:3 - Nineveh is on the east bank of the Tigris River, which is in ancient Babylon and modern-day northern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria.

1:6-8 - Tobit reminds us to be faithful to the Lord even when it is inconvenient. The everlasting ordinance (v. 6) is recorded in Dt. 12:11-14.

+1:9 - Anna means "grace."

+1:10, 11 - The bread of the Gentiles is described in Dt. 14:3-21 as unclean food for the people of God.

+1:14 - Media was an area south of the Caspian Sea, part of modern-day Iran.

+1:17 - Not to bury the dead was seen as a curse, the ultimate in disrespect (4Kg 9:10, Jer 8:2; see also 2:3-8).

+1:22 Ahikar, the nephew of Tobit, carries the name of a hero popular in ancient literature. He becomes second in command under the new king.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ToB: Man's Awareness of Being a Person

I didn't give up on this, I was just house sitting, and there's no time over there to read. She's got more animals than I do, in a much smaller house, so it's kind of insane. Anyway, since Susanne's the only one reading them, I figure no one minded. :)

But we're back! Now, I can't recall that I mentioned this, so I will now. Theology of the Body is made up of the text of general audiences that Pope John Paul II held during his pontificate. So they're fairly short sections that build one on the other. So it doesn't seem like we're getting anywhere fast. I mean, this first chapter is based off of Jesus' response to the Pharisees. A fairly short incident. However, the first chapter, with footnotes, is 102 pages long.

Right then.

When God gives man the orders concerning the trees of the garden of Eden, most especially the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He adds the element of free will. The moment of choice and self-determination becomes a part of the make up of man kind. Building on the previous subjects, we now have a fairly complete anthropological view of mankind. A created being, alone, separated from the rest of creation by his own self awareness, and able, even charged with, the ability to choose. Mankind was given the faculty to decide to take the left or the right path. To follow good or evil. No other created being combines this kind of will and self knowledge with flesh. We are unique among the creation. And that places humanity apart from all the rest of it.

So where can Adam ('adam - mankind), find companionship? In another of his own kind, and nowhere else. Thus, God creates Eve, because no other created being will be able to match Adam.

'That means he, through his own humanity, through what he is, is constituted at the same time in a unique, exclusive and unrepeatable relationship with God himself.'

Does that apply to all humanity? Is the human relationship with God only possible between mankind and God? We know that the animals don't have the free will that we possess. They worship God in their own way, simply by existing, and doing what they were created to do. Does this idea that only humanity can have this sort of relationship with God completely rule out life on other planets? On a less macro level, do you think this means that each persons relationship with God is unique and unrepeatable? We all view the world differently. We have different thoughts, different experiences, different needs. On the human level, no two relationships (of any kind - romantic, familial, work, friendship, what have you) are ever identical. Two personalities coming together form a new, unique framework between the two of them which is unrepeatable if you change even one of the two participants.

Through the process of creation, the naming of the animals, the creation of Eve, and then the laws regarding the trees, man reaches a complete awareness of self. Separate from the world around him, and yet a part of it on a basic level.

Tobit 6:5

The young man did as the angel commanded him. Then they cooked the fish and ate it.

And for Susanne, since you don't have Tobit. There's not verse 30 in the fourth chapter, so this is 4:21:

Do not fear, my son, that we have become poor. For you are very rich if you fear God. Stay away from every sin, and do what is pleasing before Him.

Ah, Tobit is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Naming of the Beasts

As anybody with pets knows, naming them can sometimes be the hardest part. They all have their own personalities, quirks, and you don't want to just give them a generic name.

Right. In the beginning, there was Buddy (R.I.P.). Buddy was a shelter dog, and he came with his name. He had enough trouble adjusting to a new environment, so his name was never changed, but it fit him. He was Dad's best buddy his whole life.

After Buddy came Loki (R.I.P.). Loki was mine. We found her in a garbage can, and brought her home. I'd wanted a cat for *so long*, and I was sick all the time back then, so we bonded right away. At the time we got her, I was big into Norse mythology, and I have this affinity for trickster gods. (and Tricksters who are really Archangels in witness protection, but that's another issue...) She was devilish and a *huge* trouble maker. So I named her Loki.

Then came Yoda. She was a shelter cat, and we decided to call her Yoda because, well, we're all Star Wars fans, and as a kitten, her ears were insanely disproportionate to her head. She grew into them though...

Then came YumYum. She's another shelter cat. At the time, I was reading the Cat Who...series, and YumYum has that Siamese cat yowl. (also, she's a bit of a pig...)

For my sister's birthday one year, we picked up Piglet. Piggy is a chihuahua that we got from a rescue. She was just this little tiny puppy, and because her fur was still puppy thin and translucent, she looked pink! She snorted when she ate, and due to a birth defect, her little stub of a tail kind of corkscrews a bit at the end. So Piglet.

My mom got Chewy that same year. She's a Pomeranian, and her full name is actually Chewbacca. Again, Star Wars fans, and since Yoda is kind of my mothers, Chewy is, obviously, very fluffy and furry. Though we didn't know it until a bit later, Chewy is also a *chewer*, so the name worked that way too.

Baby was my birthday present. He's a Shiba Inu, which is basically a miniaturized Akita. I've long wanted an Akita, but at the time we didn't have a fenced in yard, and it didn't seem fair to have such a big dog and not have room for him to run. So we got Baby, who was only supposed to get to 25 lbs. Turns out he's a bit of a throwback to the Akita side, because he's 35 lbs, and much larger than Shiba Inu's are supposed to get. I figured, since he was mine, that I could name him whatever I wanted to. But every name I came up with was vetoed, and it took so long to name him, and we'd been calling him 'baby dog' in the mean time, that he decided that that was his name. So he's my Baby.

Munchkin is the orange cat in the picture below. He was brought into my work by one of the photographers. Her sister had found him in a ditch. At the time, he was so small that he literally fit into the palm of one hand. I brought him home when everybody else was out, so that they were confronted with his cuteness, they had no choice but to accept him! I named him Munchkin because he was so tiny, but we call him Munchy. He likes to eat paper, and has actually stolen, off of peoples plates, a pop tart, half a sub, and a chicken breast.

Mini is the black cat in the picture. She came with Maxi, from the shelter. We got them both after Hurricane Charley, and at the time we were housing my friends cat Isis because their roof had been torn off. Isis was a pure black cat, and when you put the two of them together, it looked like Mini was Isis's kitten! So we called her Mini Isis, or just Mini.

Maxi, below, is a *huge*, muscular cat. I suspect that he's actually part dog. :) His full name is actually Maximus Rex. (Guess who named him....) Because he was so much bigger than Mini, and he has this attitude that he's the head honcho, and watch out. :)

I believe you're all familiar with Tractor, who came to live with us not that long ago. He's another rescue dog, and he came with the name, but it just fits him somehow...

Next is Rocket, the rooster. Who also came with his name, and really, what else do you call a rooster?

Which brings me to the reason for the post. Meet the newest member of the family:

She doesn't have a name yet. My sister says that someone at her work found her under the hood of their car. She's been to the vet, and is about 6 weeks old, and healthy. We've got a list up on the fridge of name suggestions. My Dad suggested 'Penzoil', with 'Penny' for short. I suggested 'Ripley' and 'Newt' (a million nerd points if you can guess what movie I was watching the night before we got her). 'Penny' is actually growing on us, but we haven't reached a consensus just yet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Under the Heading of Funny and Yet Still Appropriate

A sign on a florists shop I drove by yesterday afternoon.


At which point I dissolved into childish giggles.

Appropriate to the shop, yes.

Unintentionally hilarious? Also yes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Solemnity of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,

they were all in one place together.

And suddenly there came from the sky

a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,

which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues,

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven

staying in Jerusalem.

At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,

but they were confused

because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,

“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?

Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?

We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,

inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,

Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,

Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,

as well as travelers from Rome,

both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,

yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues

of the mighty acts of God.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sirach 9

*Behavior With Women*
1. Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom
And so teach her an evil lesson about yourself.+

2. Do not give your soul to a woman
To let her trample on your strength

3. Do not meet with a woman who is a courtesan,
Lest you fall into her snares.+

4. Do not associate with a dancing-girl,
Lest you be caught in her schemes.

5. Do not gaze at a virgin,
Lest you stumble and pay damages for her.

6. Do not give your soul to prostitutes,
Lest you destroy your inheritance.

7. Do not look around in the streets of a city,
And do not wander about in its deserted sections.

8. Turn your eye away from a woman with a shapely figure,
And do not gaze at beauty belonging to another.
Many have been led astray by the beauty of a woman,
And erotic love is like a burning fire.

9. Never dine with another man's wife,
And do not share in parties with her over wine,
Lest your soul turn aside to her,
And you slip and with your spirit fall into destruction.

*Friends and Neighbors*
10. Do not forsake an old friend,
For a new one is not equal with him.
A new friend is like new wine;
Drink it with pleasure only after it ages.+

11. Do not envy the honor given a sinner,
For you do not know what his end will be.

12. Do not delight in the pleasure of the ungodly;
Remember, they will not be declared righteous even in Hades.

13. Keep far away from a man who has the power to kill,
And you will not be anxious about the fear of death.
But if you come near him, do not offend him,
Lest he take away your life.
Know that you are stepping in the midst of snares
And walking about the battlements of a city.

14. Evaluate your neighbors as best you can
And consult with those who are wise.

15. Let your reasoning be with those who are wise,
And let all your talk be about the law of the Most High.+

16. Let righteous men be your dinner companions,
And let your boasting be in the fear of the Lord.

*Wise Leaders*
17. A work will be praised for the skill of its craftsmen,
And a wise leader of people for the skill of his words.

18. A talkative man is regarded with fear in his city,
And a man who is reckless in his speech will be hated.

9:1 - A warning against marrying a woman and then becoming jealous of her. Instead, lover her and encourage her to use her gifts.

9:3-9 - Up-to-date ancient advice on a man's behavior toward women. A courtesan (v. 3) is a prostitute of noblemen. A wise man is not to gaze at a virgin (v. 5), that is, any young unmarried woman. To do so could tempt the couple to immoral relations, which is Jewish society carried a strong penalty (see Dt. 22:28-29). The beauty of a married woman belongs only to her husband (v. 8). It is especially important for a man to avoid dining and drinking alone with a married woman lest they fall into sin and destruction (v. 9).

9:10 - Loyalty to an old friend is a great virtue. A new friend cannot take his place.

9:15 - The strongest friendships are based on a relationship with the Most High God!

Friday, May 21, 2010

WTM: Wardrobe Malfunction in the Making

I swear, these jeans fit me two days ago.

Now, I don't have to unbutton or unzip them to take them off. They just come off with a slight tug.

I'm having to hike them up when I walk.

And, of course, I'm house sitting through Monday, and *both* pairs of jeans that I brought are having this issue. And I refuse to wear dress pants all weekend. Refuse. The jeans will just have to stay up through sheer will power!

Ah, it's a hell of a problem to have, though, isn't it?

p.s. not for anything, but I'm feeling nautical at the moment. hence the change of theme....

The Devil Inside

"Just when you'd think they were more malignant than ever Hell could be, they could occasionally show more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of. Often the same individual was involved. It was this freewill thing, of course. It was a bugger."

So, I was reading the comments on one of Susanne's posts, and a comment Suroor made about some Muslims believing that Iblis was a metaphor for the evil and proud side of human nature. I know plenty of Christians who believe the same thing, only insert Satan for Iblis. (I know they're kind of the same role, but not at all the same character.)

Anyway. I think, on the one hand, references to the devil *can* be metaphors for human nature's dark side. On the other, I really do believe that there is *a* Devil. Satan, Lucifer, the Morning Star, whatever you want to call him. And that he used to be the best and brightest angel, but that he fell. Now, I'm not sold on the whole, fell because of his desire to *be* God, thing. I mean, I know. It's what we're told, but on a certain level, it doesn't work.

I've made this argument before, but I'll reiterate it here, for the record. Mankind was created with free will. God did not want automatons worshiping Him, He wanted us to *choose*. Otherwise, why bother with free will? But, if God is all that exists, and all the angels are on His side, then what is there to choose between? If you don't know that there's an option, you can't make a choice. So there needs to be someone *offering* the choice. Enter Satan. I think of it more as a job, than anything else. Someone needs to be standing there offering you that other path in order for you to make a choice. Otherwise, free will is pointless.

"He rather liked people. It was a major failing in a demon. Oh, he did his best to make their short lives miserable, because that was his job, but nothing he could think up was half as bad as the stuff they thought up themselves. They seemed to have a talent for it. It was built into the design, somehow. They were born into a world that was against them in a thousand little ways, and then devoted most of their energies to making it worse."

I don't think that the Devil and his minions run around causing all sorts of disasters and evil things. I think, for the most part, it's just us. Sure, they're there to tempt us, to offer the darker path, but we make the choice. *We* do the deed. It's on us.

"There were people who called themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm. It wasn't just the things they did, it was the way they blamed it all on Hell. They'd come up with some stomach-churning idea that no demon could have thought of in a thousand years, some dark and mindless unpleasantness that only a fully-functioning human brain could conceive, then shout "The Devil Made Me Do It" and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn't have to. That was what some humans found hard to understand. Hell wasn't a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley's opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind."

(all quotes from the Best Book Ever Written - Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why I Didn't Choose Islam

I'm not really sure what to say in this post, so it might get a bit rambly. You've been warned.

I was asked why, when I was looking at Christianity and Islam and trying to decide between the two, why I didn't choose Islam. Which isn't as easy to answer as I thought it might be.

Back then, I had prayed to God to let me know if He existed. I know that sounds so simplistic, but that's what happened. I'd been driven from atheism. I was not content with the label of agnostic. I wanted to *know*. And I prayed, one night, 'If you're real, prove it.' Nothing like poking Deity in the eye...But, I mean, literally, the next morning, I woke up, and I *knew*. *holds hands up* It's unspectacular. No lightning from the sky. No Eureka! moment. I went to bed one night doubting, and woke up the next morning, knowing it in a very placid, 'this has always been' sort of way.

I say all this to say that I didn't read any scripture and go, 'aha! This proves it!'. I was reading a steady diet of Karen Armstrong, Bart Ehrman, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Their arguments failed to satisfy, for me.

I eventually, though I can't recall *how*, at this point, settled on the fact that either Islam or Christianity was true. So the problem came down to a choice between one or the other. And I felt that I knew Christianity, after all, I was raised Christian, so the issue was learning about Islam.

Funnily, through a Catholic message board, I came into contact with a Muslim convert who I greatly admired. She was polite, she was respectful, even when she was being attacked, and her answers seemed to make a lot of sense. I followed her every post, eagerly. I discovered she had a blog, and I read that as well. Her Islam was a beautiful and fascinating thing. Through her blog, I came into contact with another convert who actually was a salafi.

It's a truth about myself that I am drawn to strictness and ritual. Whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, since I only like strictness when it suits me. (I know, I know. But it's true.) This sister and her husband started an Islamic message board for themselves and others like them, who were being (apparently) shouted down and/or treated badly on mainstream Islamic boards for being too harsh and extreme in their interpretation of Islam. So I went there, and hung about, speaking with all of them, and learning.

Now, I don't want people to think, 'oh, *salafi*, well *that* explains it. they scared her off.' Not at all. They majority of the people on the board (it was a small community) were kind and helpful and not at all nasty. There was one, it's true, that, well. I did not like him. He *was* extreme, and, in my opinion, likely dangerous. But he was certainly the exception, and not the rule. But I do want you guys to know who I was talking to. Not your average, 'liberal' Muslim 'on the street'.

There were things, at first, that made me go, 'huh?' One, that I recall, was, and I don't know *how* this came up in a conversation, about how a Muslim had to be careful not to praise their neighbors new tree (or the like), to avoid the possibility of giving that neighbor the praise of creating that tree. So, you couldn't go, 'Nice tree!' when they plant a new tree, because they might think that you thought that they had created the tree. And that was just...I mean, *no one* would really think that their neighbor had *created* a tree...

Anyway. I just chalked that sort of disconnect to 'translation' issues. Perhaps we were misunderstanding each other. But as I went on, learning (mainly) from them, there were other things that bothered me.

The focus on Arab culture and language. Why is God restricted to one language? If the revelation is for all people and times, why is the Qur'an only complete and understandable in an (ancient) version of one specific language?

The continuity of the message. I know that Muslims believe that the previous messages were corrupted. However, it is possible to see a connection, a continuance, from Judaism into Christianity. But from Christianity to Islam? Not so much. I know of Muslims who claim that Mohammed was prophesied in the Bible, but I looked at the verses they claim for that, and they were twisting the verses so much that it was unbelievable to me.

The claim that those verses were corrupt, and that's why they don't line up doesn't work either. Because if the message was the same, then God would have ensured that the verses prophesying Mohammed would remain intact, so that when he came, people would be able to discern the truth.

So we're left with a man who suddenly claims to get visions from God (lots of people claim that), and that he is a prophet. The last, best prophet. And I ask, where's your proof? The Qur'an. The Qur'an proves that Mohammed is a prophet. And what makes the Qur'an authoritative? It comes from God. According to who? Mohammed. And what gives Mohammed that authority? He's a prophet. See the circle?

Mohammed's conduct, or, rather, the Muslims view of same. Look, I am not, I hope, one of those people who judges ancient civilizations based on modern morality and ethics. People waged war, pillaged, plundered, married young, killed, and did all sorts of things, as a matter of course, that we consider barbaric and wrong. Prophets, in Judaism and Christianity, made horrible mistakes. They had flashes of temper and did things that make you look at them funny. They were *humans*. Flawed humans being used by God. Their flaws in no way negated their prophetic powers. However, in Islam, Mohammed is considered perfect. The most perfect example of man to ever walk the earth. His every move is copied, as best as can be. Everything that he did is 'good'. So when you see that he did things that, today, are unacceptable, you have a choice. You can be honest and say that these things were done then, but that they are not done now. Or you can cling to the idea of 'prophetic perfection', and fight to justify his behavior, so that he is still 'perfect' even by today's standards. The first is honest, but may make you feel that Mohammed was less than 'perfect'. The second is dishonest, but will allow you to feel that Mohammed was 'perfect'. It also allows for people to fight for their 'right' to wage war against their neighbors; for their 'right' to marry as many women as they want (I know Islam restricts it to four, but too many marry more because they can 'afford' it, it's a status symbol, and Mohammed did it - I know, I know, he had a 'special exemption' from God.); for their 'right' to child brides.

Women in Islam. You can tell me that the Qur'an granted women rights that they did not receive in the West until fairly recently all you want, but the fact remains that, in the West, we have those rights and may exercise them freely. Women under shariah law only have those rights in theory, not practice. When a woman is equal to *half* of a man, under the law, there is something flawed. And I've read explanations for that rule. They're not satisfactory either. 'Men have better memory than women'. *Not*. I have better memory than many men and women that I know. I know others who have better memories than I do. It's specific to people, not gender. A woman being 'unclean' during menstruation. Being unable to pray or *touch* the Qur'an. Sometimes being barred from mosques all together? How is that not insulting? How is that not making women less than the men?

Women being banned from schools! I know that's a matter of 'interpretation', but that, in itself, is a flaw. It's been proven that educated mothers raise more educated children. Do you want to condemn your future generations to ignorance?

The 'explanations' for why Jesus was not *really* crucified. I'm not going to delineate them now, as I'd just be going from memory, and I'm sure I'd forget one or two, but there are plenty. They boil down to the fact that Muslims view the death by crucifixion as 'shameful', and deny that God would allow a prophet to die like that. So He did...'something'. And while, at this point in time, *billions* of people have been deceived by the trick that God played on the people at the time of the crucifixion, it's *our* fault for not being able to see the 'truth'. God *tricked* people into believing it was Christ, crucified. He *lied* to us. God cannot lie. If God is *good*, then He cannot do things which are evil. And lying, bearing false witness (and I don't know how much more false witness-y it can get...) is *evil*. It's *bad*. It's counter to God.

But, finally, I think it was the comparison between Jesus and Mohammed. If Mohammed was supposed to be the last, final prophet. The 'Seal of the prophets', why did God spend miracles on Jesus' birth, but not Mohammed? What was the point there? Why was Mohammed not a better man than Jesus? If Jesus' mission 'failed', as one must assume from the fact that God needed another prophet, why is He given such honors whereas Mohammed, whose mission 'succeeded', is not?

Jesus rose above human expectation. Mohammed did not. Mohammed acted, as far as I can see, like any other man consolidating power and ruling an empire.

Take, for example, the differing reactions to 'threats' to themselves. Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, being arrested, being taken to His torture and death, rebuked Peter for cutting the ear off of a soldier? And then He *healed* the soldier. He restored his ear to him.

On the other hand, what about Mohammed's reaction to poems about him that were unfavorable? The poets were killed by his followers. Now, I've seen people argue that Mohammed didn't *order* the assassinations, but he didn't really have to spell it out, did he? Take Asma bint Marwan. She wrote a poem condemning the assassination of a 100 year old poet (by a follower of Mohammed), and blaming Mohammed for it. He heard of it, and said, 'Who will get rid of that woman for me?' I link this, in my mind, to Henry II of England shouting, 'Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?' in connection to St. Thomas Becket. He wanted Becket dead, and knew that someone would deal with it for him. Henry II had power, and used it, subtly, rather than overtly at that moment.

And even if you argue that Mohammed didn't *mean* it, that he was just frustrated and blowing off steam, how do you reconcile his reaction after learning of the assassination? The assassin, who had killed her in her bed, with an infant still nursing, reported to Mohammed what he had done. Mohammed responded that he had brought victory to Allah and Mohammed. And the assassin asked if anything bad might happen to him because of his deed, if he was going to have to pay for it in some manner, and Mohammed responded that 'two goats won't butt their heads about her'. As means nothing. No one cares. She was nothing. If Mohammed hadn't *really meant it*, and wanted this woman dead, why did he not condemn the assassination? Why did he not tell the man that he had sinned? Why did he reduce this woman to *nothing*?

*sigh* Okay. I'm done. I mean, I could go over the million and one little things that I see as 'wrong' with Islam, but I think this is enough. I'm not even sure if it answers the question, but there you have it. If you want to really, really boil it down, I didn't choose Islam because I don't believe that Mohammed was a prophet. And without Mohammed, there is no Islam.

WTM: 18 Again!


So, I have one pair of size 18 pants that I've never even taken the tags off. They were given as a gift, and I've never been able to fit into them. But, of course, I never got rid of them.

Well, this morning, on a whim, I threw them on real quick.


I mean, they're *tight*. Too tight to be worn in public yet, but they FIT. I can button/zip them up, sit, etc. All without the dreaded holding your breath maneuver.

Now, I know to all you skinny people out there, 18 is still big. But considering the fact that I was a size 24/26 about 4 1/2 months ago? 18 is AWESOME!

Nehemiah 6:5

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, with an open letter in his hand.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ToB: The Meaning of Man's Original Solitude

An interesting section.

First, we have verse 2:18 of Genesis: 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.' The interesting, the important thing I got from this portion was that man did not begin to be referred to as 'male' ('is), *after* the creation of the first woman. Which doesn't happen until verses 2:21-22. Prior to that, 'man' is 'adam - so 'man' in the sense of humankind, not the men of the species.

So we can read that first verse (sort of) as, 'It is not good that people should be alone'. And I think we know that, for the vast majority of people, this is true. We work better, if not in a pair, then in society. It's not good for people to be *alone*.

Interestingly, a connection is drawn between this and the naming of the beasts. John Paul II asserts that, in the act of Adam naming the beasts, of him going through this process in obedience to God's command, it is highlighting and emphasising the fact that man is different from the animals of the world. While man is flesh and blood and matter, he is also something else. Something *above* all other flesh. That is why he could label and define the other creatures, and why no companion was found amongst them for him.

'Man finds himself alone before God mainly to express, through a first self-definition, his own self-knowledge, as the original and fundamental manifestation of mankind. Self-knowledge develops at the same rate as knowledge of the world, of all the visible creatures, of all the living beings to which man has given a name to affirm his own dissimilarity with regard to them. In this way, consciousness reveals man as the one who possesses a cognitive faculty as regards the visible world. With this knowledge which, in a certain way, brings him out of his own being, man at the same time reveals himself to himself in all the peculiarity of his being. He is not only essentially and subjectively alone. Solitude also signifies man's subjectivity, which is constituted through self-knowledge. Man is alone because he is "different" from the visible world, from the world of living beings.'

Monday, May 17, 2010

ToB: The Boundary Between Original Innocence and Redemption

When Christ referred to the 'beginning', He was asking his questioners (and us), to go beyond the boundary between the state of original innocence and sinfulness.

Symbolically this boundary can be linked to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It delimits two diametrically opposed states. These states have a specific dimension in man: in his inner self, in his knowledge, conscience, choice and decision. And all of this is in relation to God the Creator who is also God of the covenant(s). The tree ties the two states together, but also, with Christ instructing us to *before* the 'incident of the tree', He is highlighting the connection between the two states. The continuity of mankind.

Being sinful is a part of mankind. We cannot be rid of it. We have inherited a sinful nature - there is something within us that is inclined to sin. It's easier than being good. We're tarnished, but we are still, at our core, good - or there would be nothing to redeem. Mankind, represented by Adam and Eve, broke the first covenant, but then, they also entered into the second. They participated both in our downfall, and the seeds of our redemption.

'In the same way, therefore, historical man - both Christ's questioner at that time, of whom Matthew 19 speaks, and modern man - participates in this perspective. He participates not only in the history of human sinfulness, as a hereditary and at the same time personal and unique subject of this history; he also participates in the history of salvation, here, too, as its subject and co-creator. Therefore, he is not only closed, because of his sinfulness, with regard to original innocence, but is at the same time open to the mystery of redemption, which was accomplished in Christ and through Christ.'

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ToB: The Second Account of Creation: The Subjective Definition of Man

The second (chronologically the older) account of creation has an especially subjective nature. The second chapter of Genesis constitutes, in a certain manner, the most ancient description and record of man's self-knowledge.

"The myth, in naming Adam, man, makes explicit the concrete universality of human evil; the spirit of penitence is given in the Adamic myth the symbol of this universality. Thus we find again...the universalizing function of the myth. But at the same time, we find two other functions, equally called forth by the penitential experience...The proto-historical myth thus serves not only to make general to mankind of all times and of all places the experience of Israel, but to extend to mankind the great tension of the condemnation and of mercy which the prophets had taught Israel to discern in its own destiny.

"Finally, the last function of the myth, which finds its motive in the faith of Israel; the myth prepares for speculation in exploring the point where the ontological and the historical part company."

The words which describe the unity and indissolubility of marriage are found in the immediate context of the second account of creation, which has as its defining characteristic feature the separate creation of woman (Gn. 2:18-23).

The Bible calls the first human being "man" ('adam), but from the moment of the creation of woman, it begins to call him "man" (ish), in relation to "woman" (ishshah). In referring to Genesis 2:24, Christ not only linked "the beginning" with the mystery of creation, but also led us to the limit of man's primitive innocence and of original sin. In Genesis 2 we have the creation of man and the creation of woman. We have them living in paradise, in blissful innocence. Immediately following this creation and idyllic life, we go into Genesis 3, wherein mankind falls.

"The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the line of demarcation between the two original situations that Genesis speaks of."

The first situation was original innocence, the second was original sinfulness. Fallen humanity, which is what we've all inherited.

"When Christ, referring to the 'beginning', directed his questioners to the words written in Genesis 2:24, he ordered them, in a certain sense, to go beyond the boundary which, in the Yahwist text of Genesis, runs between the first and second situation of man. He did not approve what Moses had permitted 'for their hardness of heart'. He appealed to the words of the first divine regulation, which in this text is expressly linked to man's state of original innocence. This means that this regulation has not lost its force, even though man has lost his primitive innocence."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

ToB: Analysis of the Biblical Account of Creation

Jesus, in Matthew 19, quotes from both of the creation accounts in Genesis. The first quote is found in verse 4: 'male and female he created them.' This is from the first creation story in Genesis. Interestingly, apparently the account that comes first in Genesis is chronologically actually a *later* creation story.

The second story of creation (which will apparently be dealt with in more detail in the next section), is the more ancient. 'This more ancient text is defined as "Yahwist" because the term "Yahweh" is used to name God. It is difficult not to be struck by the fact that the image of God presented there has quite considerable anthropomorphic traits. Among others, we read that "...the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gn 2:7).'

The first, later account is held to be the more theologically mature. Because of the lack of anthropomorphising? It's very straight forward, but highlights the difference between the majority of the created world, and man. God creates man in His own image (Gn 1:27), and gives him dominion over the earth. Man is placed over the world - though he is bound to the physical world, the Bible does no speak of his likeness to the other created beings. Only of his being an image of God.

In the seven day cycle there seems to be a deliberate gradation of procedure. 'Speaking of non-living matter, the biblical author used different predicates, such as "separated", "called", "made", "placed". However, speaking of beings endowed with life, he used the term "created" and "blessed". God ordered them; "Be fruitful and multiply". This order refers both to animals and to man, indicating the corporality is common to both (Gn. 1:22, 28).

'However, in the biblical description, man's creation is essentially distinguished from God's preceding works. Not only is it preceded by a solemn introduction, as if it were a case of God deliberating before this important act, but above all, man's exceptional dignity is set out in relief by the "likeness" to God of whom he is the image.

'Creating non-living matter, God "separated". He gave the order to the animals to be fruitful and multiply, but the difference of sex is underlined only in regard to man ("Male and female he created them") by blessing their fruitfulness at the same time, that is, the bond of the persons (Gn. 1:27, 28).'

Sirach 8

*Kings and Commoners*
1. Do not contend sharply with a powerful man,
Lest you fall into his hands.+

2. Do not quarrel with a rich man,
Lest he resist your force,
For gold has destroyed many
And perverted the hearts of kings.

3. Do not contend sharply with a talkative man,
And do not heap wood on his fire.

4. Do not jest with an uncultivated man,
Lest your forefathers be insulted.

5. Do not insult a man who turns away from sin;
Remember that we are all valuable.

6. Do not dishonor a man in his old age,
For some of us are growing old as well.+

7. Do not rejoice over any dead person;
Remember that we all must die.

8. Do not disregard a saying of the wise,
But be conversant with their proverbs;
Because from them you will gain instruction
And how to serve noble people.

9. Do not miss a saying of the old,
For they themselves learned from their fathers;
Because from them you will gain understanding
And be able to give an answer in time of need.

10. Do not kindle the coals of a sinner,
For you may be burned in the flame.+

11. Do not let the presence of an insolent man
Arouse you from your seat,
Lest he lie in wait as an ambush against your words.

12. Do not lend to a man stronger than you;
But if you do, consider it lost.

13. Do not give surety beyond your ability to pay;
But if you do give surety, be as careful as one who has to pay.

14. Do not go to law against a judge,
For they will decide for him because of his reputation.

15. Do not travel on a journey with a reckless man,
Lest he weigh you down;
For he will do his will,
And you will perish with him in his folly.

16. Do not cause a fight with an angry man,
And do not go into a lonely place with him,
Because murder is as nothing in his eyes,
And where there is no help, he will strike you down.

17. Do not consult with a fool,
For he will not keep a matter confidential.+

18. Do nothing confidential in the presence of a stranger,
For you do not know what he will give birth to.

19. Do not open your heart to everyone,
Lest unkindness be shown to you.

8:1-3 - The application for us is this: Only join battles worth winning.
8:6-9 - Valuable counsel for our youth-oriented culture.
8:10 - To kindle the coals is to arouse the passions.
8:17-19 - Ben Sirach warns us not to reveal our thoughts to just anyone. In the Church, the priest vows that all confessions will be kept confidential.

Friday, May 14, 2010

ToB: In the Beginning

Matthew 19: 3-9
3. Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 4. And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5. and said, 'FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'?

6. "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7. They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?" 8. He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

So, I've started on Theology of the Body. I've only read what serves as the introduction. Pope John Paul II starts off by discussing the indissolubility of marriage.

It's just the introduction, of course, so the themes will be expanded later on, but in this small section the focus was on Jesus' emphasis on the beginning.

That divorce came about later, because of men, not God. God's perfect, intended arrangement, was for man and woman to come together as one. He quotes from Genesis 2:24, directly, stating that 'the two shall become one flesh'. But even more than that, He extends the teaching, 'what therefore God has joined together, let no man separate'.

God intends for a couple to work together. To solve their problems. And I'm by *no* means advocating staying in an abusive relationship. But that falls into the 'hardness of heart' category - because of man's flaws, God has allowed for divorce. But it was not that way in the beginning. It's almost as though allowances have to be made in the perfect plan, because of free will. Because of the seemingly limitless capacity of humans to screw the pooch.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Writer is God!


All hail the Prophet Chuck God.

(also, witness my first poor attempt at macro-ing. Have pity on technologically impaired me. Thx.)

The Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Luke 24: 46-53

46. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47. and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48. And you are witnesses of these things. 49. Behold I send the Promise of my Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."

50. And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53. and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Books: John Adams Take II

Ah, I finished my book. I realized I left the author out of the first post, so just in case you want to know, it's John Adams by David McCullough.

I have a confession, first off.

I'm a history buff, but I usually find American history to be short and boring. *holds up hands* I *know*, I *know*, but in comparison to the rest of the world, where their history can be traced back twice as long as ours, sometimes far, far more, we're a blink! So, while I'm passing familiar with American history, I can't recall esoteric details, like I can with some eras and countries that have struck my particular fancy.

I picked up this book and another by Mr. McCullough, 1776, in a book buying frenzy several years back, and never got around to reading either one.

This book was absolutely *fascinating*. I really got into it, so that I actually finished the second half of the book (about 350 pages) this past weekend, because I couldn't put it down. It's not just the historical events that are taking place - the American Revolution, the birth of America, the French Revolution, and on, but the people that are highlighted. I came away from this book feeling like it was the lives of people set against a background of history, as opposed to the historic events over riding the lives of the people. And that's really how it should be, because history is not some monolithic *thing*, but the story of lives. People caught up together, whether they want to be or not, changing the course of the world.

Some points I really enjoyed:

I got a real sense of the relationship between John and Abigail Adams. They were, though I hate to use the cliche, soul mates. I don't think that either one of them would have worked as well without the other.

And Abigail came across as an incredibly strong and independent woman. I'd love to know more about her on her own. You have to know that during the Revolution, John Adams was sent to France to aide in negotiations for support from a reluctant government there. Abigail was left with their young children, alone on a farm in the middle of a war. And she ran that farm efficiently and well. She kept them all together, and never complained. There was one incident where someone wrote a letter that insulted Adams, and Abigail wrote back, very, very politely telling the other party off. Abigail Adams was *strong*. I cannot emphasize this enough.

This isn't a white washed version of history. While I can see that McCullough has an affection for Adams, or at least it really seems like he does, he doesn't gloss over the man's faults. Adams was proud, vain, and had a heck of a temper. 'Apoplectic' is used quite a lot to describe him. He believed that he knew more than a great deal of the people around him (and to be fair, much of the time he did...), but he was *aware* of these faults, and sought to counteract them as much as one is capable.

We get a view of the infighting and back stabbing and, well, politicking that existed, even back in the 'golden' days of our new republic. I know plenty of people who harken back to the days of the Founding Fathers and the honor and morals of the day, and how we should strive to get back to that point, and that's all well and good, but it's a 'grass is greener' view of the world. There was corruption even then. Members of the government had affairs, were blackmailed, resigned to avoid a scandal, were bribed - all of that in that first generation. They once had a *fight* on the Senate floor with a cane and fire tongs! Our government broke down, almost immediately, into parties: Federalists and Republicans (not the Republican party we have today by any means...). What's the line from Battlestar Galactica? 'All of this has happened before and will happen again.' There's nothing new under the sun. *Especially* not in politics.

Thomas Jefferson: His friendship with Adams was rocky. I don't know how anyone can call it anything else. Jefferson seems to have been all about himself, and his image. The man spent like it was going out of style! When he died they had to sell all of his things to try and pay back his debts.

The contrast I find most interesting between Jefferson and Adams is their view of the French. Adams liked the French. He liked many things about them. But he did not want to be so entwined with the French that they owned our infant country. Jefferson was enamored with the French. They could do no wrong, in his eyes. He *adored* the French Revolution, no matter how bloody it got, and even told off a French friend of his that had lost family to the Revolution, telling him that he was too emotional about it and to never bring it up to Jefferson again.

I'll be honest and say that by the end of the book, while I didn't exactly dislike Jefferson, I liked him far less than I liked Adams.

I mean, this quote from Jefferson really stuck with me: "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ...And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." I come away with the impression of a man who loved war and bloodshed. And I look at it, and I think of what they'd *just* lived through, what they were watching in France, and I wonder how anyone could be so eager for *more* death and destruction.

On the eerie side of things, Jefferson and Adams, who had renewed their friendship in their twilight years, after a good silence caused by Jefferson taking pot shots at Adams' politics, died on the same day: July 4, 1826. *makes eerie Twilight Zone sounds*

Also, Adams was responsible for the formation of the U.S. Navy, in large part. It was a part of his drive for America to be able to defend herself against the French and the British and the pirates out there. Jefferson, and others, didn't see the need for a Navy, but Adams knew that without some form of defense, America was doomed to fall.

Right. So. Much, much love for this book, and now I want to see the HBO miniseries that was based off of it.

My new non-fiction book is The Theology of the Body, so that should be interesting.

2 Ezra 6:5

Susanne, this'd be the Ezra in your Bible.

5. Also let the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God"-

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And Then There Were *Ninjas*...

Okay, there weren't *really* ninjas, but does that actually surprise you?

I've just been wanting to use that phrase somewhere for a while, and oddly enough, it doesn't lend itself well to general conversational use...


I had my weigh in last night, and I have *finally* hit -40 lbs!

Which brings my weight, for the first time in a *long* time, to under mumblty-hundred pounds!


Still a *long* way to go, but I've already had to do one purge of my closet for clothes that were way too big. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

2nd Annual Book Give Away

(By 'annual', I actually mean whenever I feel like it, or my 'books I'm not keeping nook' gets fullish. I feel free to abuse the English language as I see fit. :p)

I have books I no longer want, for one reason or another. I wish to give them away. I could trade them in to a used bookstore, but since the end goal is a tightening and consolidating of my collection, and trading in means getting more books, I think this is the best way.

This is how it works:

1. Comment listing which books you want.

2. Email me which books you want and an address I can mail them to (sadly, my ability to mail outside of the states is on hold at the moment, so if you live anywhere but the US, unless you have someone in the US I can ship to who is willing to pass them on, I can't get the books to you) at akelios @ (remove the spaces). I'm having you comment so that others will know if the books are already taken, since this is a first come, first serve kind of thing.

3. I will email you back confirming the books and then mail them out as soon as possible. No charge, not even for postage, as I still have access to free domestic shipping.

Right then. On to the books:

Horror (this is actually all one series):
The Time of Feasting - Mick Farren
Darklost - Mick Farren
More Than Mortal - Mick Farren
Underland - Mick Farren

Sea Dragon Heir - Storm Constantine

Cravings - Laurell K. Hamilton, MaryJanice Davidson, etc.
Burning Alive - Shannon K. Butcher
The Perfect Murder - Brenda Novak
The Perfect Liar - Brenda Novak
Full Tilt - Janet Evanovich
Full House - Janet Evanovich
Full Speed - Janet Evanovich
Full Blast - Janet Evanovich
Full Bloom - Janet Evanovich
Full Scoop - Janet Evanovich
Manhunt - Janet Evanovich
Smitten - Janet Evanovich
Thanksgiving - Janet Evanovich

James Bond (all by Ian Fleming):
Casino Royale
Live and Let Die
From Russia With Love
Diamonds Are Forever
Dr. No
For Your Eyes Only
The Spy Who Loved Me
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
You Only Live Twice
The Man With the Golden Gun
Octopussy & The Living Daylights

Random Bits of Fiction:
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
White Oleander - Janet Fitch
The Sacred Bones - Michael Byrnes
Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones' Diary: Edge of Reason - Helen Fielding
Jaws - Peter Benchley
White Shark - Peter Benchley

Heart Full of Lies - Ann Rule
Abraham's Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People - Jon Entine
god is not Great - Christopher Hitchens
Reconciliation - Benazir Bhutto

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sirach 7

*Put Away Evil Acts*

1. Do no evil things.
And evil will never overtake you.+

2. Stay away from wrongdoing,
And it will turn away from you.

3. My son, do not sow on the furrows of wrongdoing,
And you will not reap the same things sevenfold.

4. Do not seek authority from a lord
Nor the seat of honor from a king

5. Do not declare yourself righteous before a lord,
Nor play the wise man before a king.

6. Do not try to be a judge
If you will not be strong enough to remove wrongdoing,
Lest you respect the presence of the powerful
And compromise your integrity.

7. Do not sin against the population of a city,
Nor disgrace yourself before the people.

8. Do not repeat your sin,
For you will not be unpunished even for one.

9. Do not say, "He will look upon the multitude of my gifts,
And when I bring an offering to God Most High, He will accept it."

10. Do not be fainthearted in your prayer
And do not neglect to do alms.+

11. Do not laugh at a man who is in bitterness of soul.
For there is One who humbles and exalts.

12. Do not devise a lie against your brother,
Nor do the same against a friend.

13. Do not desire to tell any lie,
For the habit of lying never does any good.

14. Do not talk idly in the assembly of the elders,
And do not repeat yourself in prayer.

*Farm and Family*
15. Do not hate hard work, especially farming,
Which was created by the Most High.

16. Do not number yourself among an assembly of sinners;
Remember that wrath will not tarry long.

17. Humble yourself greatly,
For the punishment of the ungodly is fire and worms.

18. Do not exchange a friend for money,
Nor a genuine brother for the gold of Ophir.+

19. Do not ignore a wise and good wife,
For her grace is worth more than gold.

20. Do not mistreat a servant who does his work in truth
Nor a hired worker who devotes himself to you.+

21. Let your soul love an intelligent servant;
Do not deprive him of his freedom.

22. Do you have cattle? Take care of them;
And if they are profitable to you, keep them.+

23. Do you have children? Correct them,
And make them obey from their youth.

24. Do you have daughters? Watch carefully over their chastity,
And do not be too easy on them.+

25. Give a daughter in marriage
And you will have completed a great work;
But give her to a man of understanding.

26. Do you have a wife after your own heart? Do not reject her.
But do not trust yourself to a wife whom you disregard.

27. Honor your father with all your heart,
And do not forget the birth pangs of your mother.

28. Remember that you were begotten through them,
And what can you give back to them
To the degree they gave to you?

*The Priests and the Poor*
29. Fear the Lord with all your soul
And honor His priests.+

30. Love Him who made you
And do not forsake His ministers.

31. Fear the Lord and honor His priests,
And give them their portion as commanded:
The firstfruits, the trespass offering,
The gift of the shoulder offering,
The sacrifice of sanctification,
And the firstfruits of the holy things.

32. Stretch forth your hand to the poor,
That your blessing may be complete.+

33. Let the kindness of giving be shown
In the presence of all the living,
And do not withhold kindness from the dead.

34. Do not withdraw yourself from those who weep,
And mourn with those who mourn.

35. Do not hesitate to visit a sick man,
For by such visits you will be loved.

36. With all your words, remember the time you will die,
And you will never sin.


+7:1-3 - Wisdom requires we avoid all forms of evil things. For if we participate in wrongdoing, we reap its bitter fruit sevenfold.

+7:10, 11 - Be bold in prayer and alms, or deeds of mercy. The Lord through His Church both humbles and exalts us by providing special seasons of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving to the needy, especially during Lent and Advent.

+7:18 - Ophir, likely in southwestern Arabia, was a famous source for gold in the ancient world. The queen at Christ's right hand (Ps. 44:10), the Theotokos, is arrayed in gold from Ophir.

+7:20, 21 - The wise employer places high value on a worker who is intelligent and devoted to his job. In ancient times this meant repaying the servant with his freedom. In our times it means providing just compensation and job security.

+7:22 - Because they are God's creation, we take care of animals we own.

+7:24, 25 - The father arranged the marriage of his daughter, and until then he protected her chastity.

+7:29-31 - Love for God and honor for His priests go hand in hand. The OT laws required that part of each sacrifice to God be given to the priests for their support. Here, following give them their portion as commanded, the Syriac version of the LXX includes what some believe to be an emendation by an early Christian copyist. It reads, "the bread of oblations and the firstfruits of the hands." Orthodox Christians would understand this to be the prosphora bread to be used in the Eucharist.

+7:32 - God has always promised blessing to those who give to the poor.
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