Wednesday, June 30, 2010

3 Maccabees 6:5

- Sennacherib also boasted in his countless forces, because this oppressive king of the Assyrians had already taken the whole world under his authority by the spear. Then he was lifted up against Your holy city and spoke grievously with pride and insults. But You shattered him, O Master, and made Your power visible to many nations.

And for Susanne...

4:21 (there's no verse 30...) - This was the activity of God's invincible providence helping the Jews from heaven.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book: The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware

I love this book. I mean, I *really, really* love this book. It's a fairly short book, only 164 pages, but the information in there is just...wonderful.

It's meant, I think, not as a comparison between Orthodox theology and Western theology, but more a simple statement of 'this is what we believe'. This is what was believed from the beginning, that the West has lost in their scientific drive to quantify and explain and bottle everything and label it neatly.

The book itself is what I would term an overview, rather than an in depth exploration of every aspect of Orthodox theology. It'd be impossible to be in depth in the number of pages, but Bishop Ware does an excellent job of touching on all the key subjects, for example, the existence of evil, sin, the Trinity, 'original' sin, the Incarnation, a sacramental world view, our personal relationship with God, God's essence and His energies.

He explains the concepts simply, but not simplistically. It's a good book for everyone, on every level, to get started with. You get a base from which to start. New concepts, new words, new ways of thinking that you can follow from there to learn more. He includes a metric *ton* of quotes from the Bible and the Fathers, which, if I started quoting my 'favorites', I'd just wind up quoting the entire book.

Orthodoxy, to me, feels more *organic* than Catholicism, or Lutheranism, or any other Protestant faith that I've experienced or looked at. It's not about making theology and faith fit into the scientific world, but understanding that the two things are not separate, and have to be experienced as they are. It's the same thing when I attended the Orthodox service. It's a ritual, the Divine Liturgy. Certain words and actions are done at certain points, with great reverence, and they are done essentially the same way, every single time. But it's less...artificial? I think I want to say. People are reverent all the way, but not mechanical about it. People walk it and out, and no one glares. Anyway. That's kind of beside the point, but there you go.

Now, this book covers, as I said, theology. Bishop Ware does have another book, called The Orthodox Church, which is an overview of history. I also recommend that book as well. He has a very personable way of writing that draws you in and makes everything absolutely fascinating.

If you intend to attend a Divine Liturgy, I'd recommend studying up first. Because it's nothing like a Protestant service. Catholic Mass is similar, but not really the same feeling either. I think a Catholic has a better chance of not getting lost than a Protestant, but I'd still say read up first. The two things I found *extremely* helpful in knowing what was going on even if I couldn't understand what was being said were this link to the text for the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (which is the Liturgy most commonly in use). The second thing (which I actually read first) is the book Let Us Attend by Fr. Lawrence Farley. This book goes over each 'section' of the Divine Liturgy, and explains not just what is happening, but some of the historical context for what is happening. For instance, at one point, right before the recitation of the Creed, the deacon or the priest will call for the guarding of the doors. And that seems a little odd, until you remember that for the longest time Christianity was a persecuted faith, and someone did, actually, need to guard the doors to try and safeguard the Christians within.

So, that's about it. Awesome book, everyone should read it. It's available at Amazon here: The Orthodox Way, and is inexpensive as a brand new book, though they do of course have sellers with used ones available. If I had a rating system on these books, this one would get 5 stars. :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Video: And Now You Can See What A Dork I Am

I knew I'd forget things in the video. Apparently they have two priests at the church, and this time it was the younger one. He's a little less heavy on the incense. :)

Anyhow. Things one must adjust to if going to an Orthodox Church from, well, pretty much anywhere else: When you get there, assuming you get there at the time stated in the bulletin, you will think that you're late. There's a pre-Divine Liturgy service that starts an hour before, called Orthos (or Matins). In my limited understanding, it's the preparation for the Divine Liturgy. So yes, you will be walking in on a service 'in progress'. It's okay. People walk around the church more than anywhere else I've ever been. They are constantly walking up to icons and lighting candles. You just have to get used to it. Also, people come 'late'. No one minds.

Personal stuff. Like I said, everyone was super nice! It was so lovely and warm and happy! One couple brought their baby who was, I'm guessing, maybe a few months old. Towards the end of the service she got fussy and cried a little. There was *no* shushing and dirty looks like 'shuffle the kid out!'. The only comment I heard was, 'Isn't that a lovely sound to hear!' *makes gushy faces*

The service is a mix of Greek and English. The hymns are sung in Greek, but the hymnal has the words in both languages so you can follow along. They also use a book of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom with English and Greek. As a matter of fact, here's the book:

Anyway. When I say that the service is split, I mean that sometimes it's Greek one sentence and English the next. Like, during the Petitions. One will be in Greek, along with the response, and the next will be in English. And there are some things, like the Creed and the Our Father, which are said twice. Once in Greek and then again in English. But the homily is only in English.

Also, while Communion was going on, I was looking around at the icons, trying to figure out who was who. I figured out most of them, but, here's the awesome surprise:

This is a picture of the iconostasis of the church from their website. From left to right we have, by my figuring, St. Michael the Archangel, the Last Supper, the Virgin Mary and the Child Christ, the Annunciation (on the doors), Christ, St. John the Forerunner, and, in the last icon on the right....*drum roll* St. Raphael the Archangel! My thrill is because *no one* ever uses Raphael! It's always Michael and Gabriel that get the love! And since Raphael is my patron saint...*grin* I was *so happy* to see him up there!

Hmmm...the grandma's, like I said, abducted me and made me go to coffee hour. They even fed me, though I turned down the baklava. They also managed to find out, in about five seconds, that I am neither married nor in a relationship. I have no idea how, or why this was important information. Even though I kept saying, at first, that I was just visiting, and I made a point of explaining that I was neither Greek nor Orthodox, they insisted on referring to me as the 'new parishioner'. So I eventually just gave up and went with it. *shrug* I also have my 'official' table for coffee hour, with them, and must be back next week.

On the non-church related front, I was in the parking lot at the mall around 4:30 this afternoon, talking with a friend of mine after a movie. We could see there was a storm way off in the distance, but it was clear where we were. And then, all of a sudden, there was the electrical poppoppoppop like light bulbs and electronics blowing, and then the freaking *ground* shook as lightning shot over our heads! It set off car alarms, I'm not even kidding. And that's when we decided we were done talking. :)

This is the second time I've been close to a lightning strike. The last time was years ago. I was weeding, and a storm was coming up, but I just wanted to finish what I was doing. So I kept on weeding and weeding until *boom* when the flash and the thunder come at the same time, you're *under* the lightning, boys and girls. It hit in the empty lot across the street, and I *still* felt like I'd stuck my finger in a socket. My hair stood up, I'm not even kidding. And that's when I figured the weeding was done for the moment. :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book: The Bible: A Biography Last Post

Well, I finished it. I don't have all that much to say about it, to be honest.

Armstrong is a popular author. She's not a historian. What she does is take historians work and repackage it. In her previous works I could see why she was so popular. Her work is easily readable, and not in depth at all. She gives you an overview and makes you feel like you've learned something. She gets her facts right, in so far as they are currently known by the people who actually study these things, I'll give her that. Her interpretations can be outside of the main stream, certainly, and are not in line with what a Christian or a Jewish scholar would say of the events.

I think most of her cachet, though, comes from her personal history. We're in love with getting the 'inside scoop'. The 'real truth'. Just look at the popularity of books like the DaVinci Code. Utter fiction, and yet it makes good reading, so people eat it up. It has a quasi-historical feel to parts of it, and so people think that it's true. The same thing happened years back when another fictional book came out called Pope Joan. It was based on age-old stories about the 'woman who was pope'. None of which were true, but there you go. It was sensational and scandalous and so people believed it.

Ms. Armstrong is popular because she's an ex-nun, an ex-Catholic, and an ex-Christian. She can write at a level that most people find comfortable, and she's opened up this whole 'secret' world to people. That's it.

If you're really that interested in history, in religious history, Biblical history, theological history, I'd recommend going to the historians that Ms. Armstrong repackages.

Susanne, the book she referenced the most was How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel by William M. Schniedewind.

And now I'm on to my next book, The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware. Which I know that I will love, because this is my third or fourth reading of it. And the timing of me pulling The Orthodox Way out of the hat is funny, since tomorrow will be my first visit back to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Book: The Bible: A Bio Ch. 2 - Scripture

Woot. Saturday mornings are for yard work. Yard work is done. Now I shall do laundry and type, so this'll take me to the afternoon to finish...

Right then. So, the returning Jewish exiles (known as the Golah) completed the new temple in Jerusalem around 520 BCE, making Yahwism a temple faith once more. The exiles encountered opposition to their form of Yahwism, since it had developed along different lines from the Yahwism of those Jews who had remained in Judah.

In about 398 BCE the Persian king dispatched Ezra, his minister of Jewish affairs to Jerusalem with the mandate to enforce the torah of Moses as the law of the land. Ezra's fulfilment of his mandate would make the 'miscellaneous teachings' into the Torah, a guide for Jewish life.

At this time the Persian empire was reviewing the legal systems of their various subjects to make certain that all of them were compatible with the laws and security of the empire. Ezra, as an expert in Torah, had probably worked out a satisfactory compromise between the Persian law and Mosaic law that would satisfy both 'masters'.

When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem he was horrified by what he found. The Jews were not maintaining the holy separation that had been developed in exile. For an entire day the inhabitants watched in shock and dismay as the king's envoy sat in a public street in mourning, weeping and tearing his garments. Ezra (presumably after getting ahold of himself), called for a meeting of the entire community - anyone who did not attend would be cast out and have his property confiscated.

Ezra stood at the Water Gate, on a raised dias, and read aloud from the Torah, translating and 'giving sense' so that the people understood what was being read, as Levites circulated among the crowd and supplemented his instruction. Essentially he was teaching the Torah, I suppose. Reading and then offering his commentary on what was said, telling the people how to understand what they were hearing. Whatever it was he read and explained, the people had never heard it before. They fell to weeping in the face of these unfamiliar demands. However, Ezra commanded them not to weep, that they now understood the meaning of the words that they had heard, and could proceed from there.

Ezra was crafting a spiritual discipline based on the sacred text, and for the first time the Torah was elevated above the other writings, and was called the Law of Moses. However, it could not just be read like any other text. It needed to be heard in the context of rituals that separated it from ordinary life, otherwise it could seem demanding and disconcerting. It was less the content of the Torah so much as the way that the people were beginning to treat it that elevated it to sacred scripture.

It's likely that the most important part of this new spirituality was Ezra himself. He must have been a charismatic and forceful man to lead everyone into a new and strange seeming manner of worship. He was not only a priest, but one who had set his entire being to the practice of investigating the Torah and to teaching the law and ordinance of it to Israel. Ezra eventually commanded the removal of the foreign wives from Israel. Membership was now confined to the Golah and those who submitted to the Torah.

Ezra's prophethood marks the beginning of classical Judaism.

At this point there were two established categories of scripture: the Torah and the Prophets (Neviim). After the exile, though, another category was born, the Writings (Kethuvim) which were sometimes merely reinterpretations of older works. Chronicles, for example, was essentially a commentary on the older Deuteronomic works Samuel and Kings. Some of the Writings, though, were distinct from the Law or the Prophets. They were considered the Wisdom (Hokhmah) writings: Proverbs, Ecclesiates, the Song of Songs, Job, and Sirach, for example.

The Hasmodean dynasty (established by the Maccabees in 143 after they threw of Selucid rule), turned out to be cruel and corrupt. They were not descendants of King David, and took on themselves the office of the High Priest in the Temple, even though they were not of priestly descent. During their reign there was a seeming explosion of apocalyptic literature, as the people projected themselves out of the disappointing present and into the future where God would intervene and destroy the present, corrupt order, restoring His true kingdom and will for the people of Israel.

The late second century saw the rise of many sects within Judaism: the Essenes, the Pharisees, and the Saducees being the three major ones.

Until the conquering forces of Rome arrived in 63 BCE, there was no expectation of a human messiah who would come and put things to rights. It was believed that God Himself would simply take care of matters in His own sweet time. However, once under Roman rule, there appeared individual men who attempted to lead the Jewish people in revolt, and a new expectation for one of them to be the messiah cropped up in the people. A prophet Thadeus led four hundred men into the desert, claiming that God would save them there. One known as the 'Egyptian' convinced thousands to follow him on the Mount of Olives to attack a Roman fortress positioned next to the Temple. John the Baptist, while we don't know of any anti-Roman preachings, was executed by them. And, of course, Jesus, whom Ms. Armstrong refers to as a 'Galilean healer and exorcist'. His sect was considered unusual in that it welcomed non-Jewish believers.

After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, only two of the Jewish sects that had proliferated during the Late Second Temple period were able to find a way to move forward. 'The Jesus movement' was the first to do so, inspired by the disaster, they were moved to write an entirely new set of scriptures.


So, I'm not sure if I should finish this chapter by chapter thing, since I'm about 20 pages away from finishing the book, and all I'm really doing is restating historical facts, which Ms. Armstrong herself got from someone else's work. Meh. I'll probably just do one post on the over all book, rather than drawing this out anymore than I already have.

Also, *why* am I watching DragonBall: Evolution? Because it's James Marsters as Piccolo, and I'm an obsessed crazy person, that's why.

Sirach 14

1. Blessed is a man who does not slip and fall because of his mouth,
And is not stung with pain caused by his sin.

2. Blessed is he whose soul does not condemn him,
And who has not fallen away from his hope.+

3. Wealth is not fitting for a small-minded man,
And to what end is wealth for an envious man?+

4. For he who gathers for himself, gathers for others,
And others will live in luxury with his goods.

5. If a man does evil to himself, for whom shall he do good?
And he will not rejoice in his wealth.

*Warnings of Vices*
6. When a man envies himself, there is no one worse off,
And this is the reward for his vice.

7. Even if he does good, he does it unintentionally,
And in the end he reveals his vice.

8. He who envies with his eye is evil;
He turns away his face and despises souls.

9. The eye of a greedy man is not satisfied with his share,
And useless wrongdoing dries up the soul.

10. The evil eye of a man is envious over his bread;
Thus it is lacking at his table.

11. My son, whatever you have, treat yourself well,
And offer sacrifices worthily to the Lord.

12. Remember that death does not delay,
And the covenant of Hades has not been shown to you.+

13. Before you die, do good to a friend,
And reach out and give to him based on your ability.

14. Do not let a day go by without doing something good,
And do not let any of your desire for doing good escape you.

15. Will you not leave all your hard work to another,
And all your hard work to be divided by lot?

16. Give and receive and deprive yourself,
Because in Hades there is nowhere to seek luxury.

17. All flesh becomes old like a garment,
For the covenant from of old is, "You shall die by death."

18. Like flourishing leaves on a thick tree,
Which sheds some leaves and puts forth others,
So also is the generation of flesh and blood;
One dies and another is born.

19. Every work of man decays and fails,
And he who made it will depart with it.

*The Blessings of Wisdom*
20. Blessed is the man who practices wisdom
And discovers with insight.+

21. Whoever ponders the ways of wisdom in his heart,
Will also reflect on her secrets.

22. Pursue wisdom like a tracker
And lie in wait on her paths.

23. He who looks intently through her windows
Will also listen at her doors.

24. He who lodges near her house
Will also fasten his tent peg to her walls.

25. He will establish his home according to her will,
And so lodge in a good dwelling place.

26. He will put his children in her shelter
And lodge under her branches.

27. He will be sheltered by her from the burning heat
And will dwell in her glory.

OSB Notes:

+14:2 - See 1Jn 3:21

+14:3-7 - A small-minded, stingy man is not fit to be wealthy, for he will not help others. Such a person only does good accidentally (v. 7).

+14:12 - Death makes no contract or covenant with anyone to come at the time we might prefer. (See 14:17, and also Gn 2:17, 3:19 for the eternal covenant of death.)

+14:20 - 15:1 - The pursuit of wisdom is portrayed, with many vibrant metaphors, as the primary goal of life - keeping in mind that wisdom is ultimately and fully embodied in Christ.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Has Muscles! & My Brain Hurts

I surprised myself just now. I was sitting here typing and bumped my own upper arm, and guess what?

It was hard! Without me doing the body builder flex! Woot!

And now on to the brain hurty portion of the post:

A Heretic Pope Would Govern Illicitly—but Validly

To sum up then:

1. The traditional and continuing law of the Church, expressed repeatedly in papal constitutions ever since the Middle Ages, allows for a heretical or apostate cardinal to participate fully in a papal conclave and even to be elected pope. If he could validly attain the papacy as a heretic or apostate, he could certainly retain it validly, even while remaining in that unhappy spiritual state.

2. A pope who began his pontificate as an orthodox Catholic but became a formal heretic or apostate during his pontificate would thereby legally incur excommunication. However, even if his heresy or apostasy should become publicly discernible, the absence of any competent authority on earth who could lawfully declare his excommunication would mean that, if he refused to resign and continued to insist on carrying out acts of papal authority, those acts, though illicitly exercised, would still be valid. In other words, he would still be juridically the true pope whom we would have to recognize and obey in all things but sin, even though at the inner level at which grace operates he might well be totally separated from the mystical body of Christ.

The whole article is here: White Smoke, Valid Pope

So, coupled with this:

"This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.” ~ Dogmatic Constitution on the Church #25 (Vat. II Document)

My. Brain. Hurts.

We are supposed to obey the pope's pronouncements, even when he's *not* speaking ex cathedra (infallibly), however, if a pope should go off the rails and become a heretic, if he won't step down, there's no one who can remove him, since a pope is a pope for life. (I mean, it's happened, historically, that pope's have been forced out, (not for heresy, but political reasons) but that involved armies and such, and that's not likely to happen anymore.) I mean, I get that, should a pope become a heretic, and it become clear (but what about if it doesn't become clear? Since doctrine is an evolving creature in Catholicism, if it's not an *obvious* heresy, who's to say?) that we are not to follow him into sin, but why is he still pope? We still have to obey him, but he's a heretic. How does that make sense? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Shouldn't there be a...oh, let's call them a council. A council of Bishops who should be able to censure one another, especially when one of them goes off the rails? Because that's all the pope is, really, is a Bishop. He's the Bishop of Rome.

Tobit Chapter 5

*Tobias Obeys His Father*
1. Tobias answered him and said, "O father, I will do everything you have commanded me. 2. But how will I be able to obtain the silver, for I do not know him?" 3. Then he gave him the record of the debt and said to him, "Find for yourself a man who will travel with you, and I will pay him his wages as long as I remain alive. Now go and obtain the silver.+

4. Then Tobias went to look for a man and found Raphael, who was an angel. But he did not know it. 5. So Tobias said to him, "Can you go with me to Rages of Media? Are you acquainted with those places?" 6. The angel said to him, "I will go with you. I am acquainted with the roadways and I have lodged with our brother Gabael." 7. Tobias said to him, "Wait for me and I will tell my father." 8. He said to him, "Do so, but do not delay."

9. So he went to his father, and said, "Behold, I have found someone who will go with me." But his father said, "Call him to me, that I may know what tribe he belongs to, and if he is trustworthy enough to go with you." 10. So he invited him, and Raphael came in. They greeted one another cordially.

11. Tobit then said to him, "Brother, to what tribe and kindred do you belong?" 12. Raphael responded, "Do you seek a tribe and a family, or a hired man to go with your son?" Tobit replied, "Brother, I wish to know your people and your name. 13. Then he said, "I am Azarias, the son of Ananias the Great, one of your relatives." 14. So Tobit said to him, "You are most welcome, my brother. Do not be angry with me for seeking to learn of your tribe and your family. As it turns out, you are a brother of mine from a good and upright family. For I knew Ananias and Jonthan, the sons of Shemiah the Great, since we would journey in common to Jerusalem to worship and to offer the firstborn and the tenth of our harvest. They were not led astray in the deception of our brothers. My brother, you are from a good root.

15. "But tell me, what shall I give you as wages? A drachma a day and expenses for you and my son? 16. I will even add more to your pay, if you both return in good health." 17. Thus they were well pleased. Then he said to Tobias, "Prepare for the journey and may it be prosperous." So his son prepared the things for the journey. Then his father said to him, "Go with this man, and may the God who dwells in heaven prosper your journey. May His angel journey with you." They both departed and the young man's dog went with them.+

18. But Anna his mother wept and said to Tobit, "Why have you sent our son away, or is he not the staff of our hands when he goes in and out before us? 19. Do not attain silver upon silver, but may it be dirt compared to our son. 20. For he was given to us to live by the Lord, this is sufficient for our existence." 21. Tobit said to her, "My sister, do not be concerned. He shall return in good health, and your eyes will see him. 22. For a good angel will go with him, and his journey shall be prosperous. He will return in good health." 23. So she ceased weeping.

+5:3-6 - Raphael is hired to accompany Tobias on his journey to Rages. But the archangel identifies himself as Azarias (meaning "God helps"), a relative of Tobit (5:13).

+5:17 - May his angel journey with you: Tobit is unaware that his request has already been granted (see also 5:22). Tobias's dog goes with them, and commentators puzzle over its significance.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book: The Bible: A Bio Chapter 1 - Torah

Now, to be clear. I'm not saying that everything said below is true and correct. I'm just recaping what Ms. Armstrong says. Feel free to point out any problems or alternative points of view that you like.

Ms. Armstrong begins in 597 BCE, when Judah rebelled against the Babylonian empire, and was crushed for the trouble. This was the beginning of the Jewish exile in Babylon. While not all Jews were removed, many were, including their king, priests and military leaders. (Solomon's temple was burned to the ground following a second rebellion in 586 BCE.) The belief of the Jews who were taken into exile was that this was a divine punishment for a failure on their part to keep the covenant with God, and so they turned part of the energies to discovering a way to correct this imbalance.

Into this environment came the prophet Ezekiel. (Though Armstrong would never refer to him *as* the prophet Ezekiel. He sparked a prophetic movement among the exiles. An attempt to find reason behind their humiliation and defeat and loss of the homeland that God had promised them.

The displaced Jews had brought a number of scrolls with them, though, according to the author they did not regard them as sacrosanct, and felt free to add to them as they saw fit. Though she offers no explanation as to how she comes to this conclusion. This statement lacks even a simple citation to another work. It's simply something that she states, over and over again. Perhaps in the hope that repetition will make it so? She claims that the story of heavenly tablets gifted to mankind imparting secret, divine knowledge were common in the Middle East, and so the story of Moses and the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai were nothing special.

Then, she goes back to the beginning, as it were. The Jewish people, in 1200 BCE, or thereabouts, were living tribal lives in the Canaanite highlands, and their history, along with religious tales, were all oral. The Jews lived in twelve tribes, bound together by a common ancestry and shared history - they believed that they were the 'family of Yahweh'. They had common stories, but each tribe, each area, had a different focus, a different emphasis to their stories.

'The priests of Dan, in the extreme north, for example, believed that they were descended from Moses; Abraham, the father of the whole nation, had lived in Hebron and was especially popular in the south. At Gilgal, the local tribes celebrated Israel's miraculous entry into the Promised Land, when the waters of the river Jordan had miraculously parted to let them through. The people of Shechem annually renewed the covenant that Joshua had made with Yahweh after his conquest of Canaan.'

The Books of Moses where not, in fact, written by Moses. They had three 'authors', or rather, three texts that were similar, and eventually merged together to form one narrative. They are broken up into 'E' for the Elohim text, 'J' for the Yahweh text, and a later addition 'P' or the priestly texts. Keep in mind, of course, that the E & J 'texts' were oral traditions, not actual written text. They wouldn't be set down until later.

In 622 BCE, during the renovation of the temple, a priest found the lost 'scroll of the Law', and it was 'reintroduced' to the Jewish people. Ms. Armstrong appears to believe that this was, in fact, a largely invented event, with the 'found' scroll being, in fact, a new one that the priests had written themselves. In any case, the 'Deuteronomists' attributed the scroll to Moses, and taught the people that this was the Law from the beginning, and that it was their falling away from it that had led to the enslavement of the Jewish people for so long.

It was this new/old Law that the exiles took with them into Babylon. In Babylon, supposedly, the 'P' layer was added - the books of Numbers and Leviticus were added to the extant texts. The 'P' authors are the ones who suggested that the entire Jewish population observe the purity laws as though they were serving in the temple, as a way to keep themselves separate and holy even while surrounded by the Babylonian idolators.

In 539 Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. Many chose to remain, but those that returned took back with them the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Along with anthologies of the oracles of the prophets and a hymn book. This was the beginning, the seed of the Hebrew Bible. They also took with them a conviction that their Yahwism was the only authentic Jewish faith.

2 Maccabees 6:5

- The altar was filled with disgusting things forbidden by the laws.

And for Susanne, who's playing with 'half a deck':

4:30 - While these things were taking place, it came about that the cities of Tarsus and Mallus revolted because they were given as a gift to Antiochis, the king's concubine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book: The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong

Let's start with the Introduction, which is, thus far, the only section where I *haven't* felt the urge to beat my head against the desk/treadmill/wall.

Righty-o. First off, this book is apparently a part of a series called 'Books That Changed the World', all written by different authors, who, one must assume, are 'experts' in the field they were asked to cover. Or something like that.

Ms. Armstrong starts her introduction out: 'Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures.' To which I reply: duh.

There's some rambling about how language is important to our quest for patterns and meaning in our lives. How we use language to cause changes outside of ourselves, to manipulate the world around us.

I do like this sentence: 'When a word is spoken, the ethereal is made flesh; speech requires incarnation - respiration, muscle control, tongue and teeth.'

Ramble about how believers feel some sort of 'presence' when reading their sacred texts.

And, then a short bit about how scripture is being abused. Muslims terrorists using the Qur'an to justify their actions. Christian fundamentalists trying to suppress the teaching of evolutionary theory because it doesn't match up with the story of creation in the Bible. Jews using oppressive policies against the Palestinians because God promised Canaan to Israel. Those are the examples she gives when speaking of scriptural abuse. I'm...pretty sure that all of these things are not equal in their level of destructiveness. While I would never want evolutionary theory to be suppressed based on a six thousand year old creation story, it's a *skoshe* less diabolical than the other two, yes?

Hmmm...I do agree with her point that the literal interpretation of the Bible is a very recent development, around the 19th Century.

She claims that from the beginning the Bible had no single message. Biblical authors felt free to revise the texts they had inherited from prior generations to give them meanings that applied to their current circumstances. 'The Bible 'proved' that is was holy because people continually discovered fresh ways to interpret it and found that this difficult, ancient set of documents cast light on situations that their authors could never have imagined. Revelation was an ongoing process; it had not been confined to a distant theophany on Mount Sinai; exegetes continued to make the Word of God audible in each generation.'

On a *completely* unrelated note, I *just now*, right this very second, figured out what 'whiskey, tango, foxtrot' stands for. Goes along with 'alpha, mike, foxtrot'. Ah, fandom, you expand my horizons...

ALSO having nothing to do with either above points: Mythbusters, how I love you! If for no other reason than your entirely too amusing quotes: 'Guns are a part of our standard stock and trade on this show, and I gotta say I have some reservations about that. Because. Well, they kill people, and that's to be avoided.' - Jamie Hineman Chances are I shouldn't find this as amusing as I do. And yet.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I officially hit -45 lbs tonight! And thus I celebrate with a bowl of ice cream small dish of frozen yoghurt.

On another note, I'm reading The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong. I want to talk about it, but I can't decide whether or not to start with the fact that I feel like it was written for a five year old, or just skip to the part where she makes claims about changes made to the Bible, without citing where she got this information from. Maybe she's right, but her just stating it doesn't make it so....

Also, Susanne, I keep trying to make your video post, but it keeps not coming out to my satisfaction. Sorry...

Also, wth, Unnatural History. I *realize* that you're a kids show (lets not talk about why I'm watching it, okay?), but if WonderBoy could scale that shaft, why, pray tell, did they waste time looking for a ladder in the first place? When he could have just scaled the shaft and put the ladder back that the bad guy moved and yet conveniently left right there, beside the shaft.

ALSO: One should not watch movies about possession and demons and exorcism when there is a storm, right before one goes to bed. Just for the record. Not that I know anyone who did that and is now debating whether or not to turn off her lights and go to bed...

My Mate List - Because I Am A Lemming

So, Sarah and LK both did this, and it seemed kind of fun. :)

It's just a list of what you're looking for in a spouse, in no particular order of importance...

1. Mature and responsible. I mean, yeah, fun is fun, but I don't need to be babysitting my husband because his brain never got out of puberty, right?

2. Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Though Christian of the Protestant variety would also, I suppose, be acceptable. But not my ideal, by a long shot. Actually, let me be plain: I would prefer, over all my other choices, to marry an Orthodox man.

3. I would need him to be orthodox in his faith. Mainly because chances are that I will never be, much as I want to be. And I need someone who is grounded in their faith, firmly planted with both feet on the ground, to reign me in. So I can go off on my theological tangents, and have a base to be brought back to.

4. Good with a car crisis. One of the few things that absolutely floors me, leaves me unable to do anything with it, is a problem with my car. I have what might be described as a mild panic attack. My battery dies, and it's the end of the world! I'm in *tears* and screaming at people over it. I've got no idea why, but I'm pretty much unable to stop it.

5. Animal lover. I don't expect that we have to have eleven pets and growing like my family does, but you have to at least *like* animals and be willing to have a dog or a cat. A home without a pet is not a home...

6. Children. I want them. He must want them too.

7. Willing to be healthy with me. Meaning, my weight is going to be a life long struggle. That means that certain foods will not be allowed in the house. Exercise must continue, forever. I want this to be a joint point of view, not me with my side of the cupboard, jogging and lifting weights, and him eating cookies and laying on the couch. (An exaggeration, of course.)

8. Have a sense of humour. I do. I don't think I'd go over well with someone who doesn't have a sense of humour. Who isn't willing to laugh at themselves, or me, for that matter.

9. Geekery. It's...kind of necessary to understand me, I think. You don't have to be the same flavor of geek as me, but some scifi love would go a long way.

10. We have to be able to talk, for pete's sake. Meaning, we need to be friends, as well as being married.

11. Willing to try new things with me, and encourage me to try new things. Like, for instance, if I want to try this weird sounding dish on a menu. Try it with me. However, if it suddenly strikes me to try parachuting? Not so much.

12. Intelligent. I think that almost goes with us being able to talk, though.

Hmm....I can't think of any more.

So, sound like anyone anybody knows? *waggles eyebrows*

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sirach 13

*Choosing Colleagues*
1. Whoever touches pitch will be stained,
And whoever associates with an arrogant man will become like him.

2. Do not lift a weight too heavy for you,
Nor associate with a man stronger and richer than you.
What does a clay pot have in common with a copper kettle?
For the clay pot will strike against the kettle and will itself be broken.

3. A rich man does wrong and even proves himself to be the one wronged.
A poor man is wronged, and he must apologize.+

4. If you can be useful to him, a rich man will make use of you;
But if you are in need, he will abandon you.

5. If you own anything, he will live with you,
And he will exhaust you, but will not feel sorry for you.

6. When he needs you, he will deceive you and smile at you;
And he will give you hope and say good things to you.
He will even say, "What do you need?"

7. He will shame you with his foods
Until he exhausts you two or three times.
Then at last he will mock you.
If he should see you after this, he will forsake you
And shake his head over you.

8. Take heed, lest you be led astray
And be humiliated in your folly.

9. When a ruler invites you, be slow to accept,
And he will invite you more often.

10. Do not press upon him, lest you be rejected,
But do not withdraw at a distance, lest you be forgotten.

11. Do not intend to speak to him as an equal,
And do not trust his abundance of words;
For he will test you with a lot of talk,
And while he is smiling, he will scrutinize you.

12. He who does not guard your words is unmerciful,
And he will not hesitate to harm or imprison you.

13. Keep your words to yourself, and be very careful,
For you are walking near your own fall.

*Like Attracts Like*
14. Every living creature loves its like,
And every man his neighbor.+

15. All flesh gathers together by species,
And every man clings to one like himself.

16. What wolf will associate with a lamb?
No more will the sinner with a godly man.

17. What peace is there between a hyena and a dog?
And what peace does a rich man have with a poor man?

18. The prey of lions are wild asses in the wilderness.
Similarly, the pastures of the rich are the poor.

*Rich and Poor*
19. Lowness of stature is an abomination to the arrogant;
Thus a poor man is an abomination to a rich man.

20. When a rich man is shaken, he is strengthened by friends;
But when a humble man falls, he is pushed away by friends.

21. When a rich man falls, there are man to help him;
And when he speaks abominable words, they justify him.
If a humble man falls, they criticize him further;
And when he speaks with intelligence, no place is given to him.

22. When a rich man speaks, everyone is silent,
And they exalt his word to the clouds.
A poor man speaks, and they say, "Who is this man?"
And if he stumbles, they push him down even further.

23. Wealth in which there is no sin is good,
But poverty is evil in the mouth of an ungodly man.

24. The heart of a man changes the expression on his face,
Either for good or for evil.

25. The mark of a heart filled with goodness is a cheerful face,
But the invention of proverbs requires laborious reasoning.

+13:3, 4 - When a rich man falls, he has many helpers. But when a poor man is wronged, often even his friends push him down further.

+13:14-17 - Everything in creation loves its like! Thus, we have nations, tongues, and tribes (see Rev. 5:9), and that is natural. But for Christians, we do not first identify ourselves as Greek or Russian or American. Rather our allegiance is first to "a holy nation" (1Pt 2:9), which is the Kingdom of God.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lightning Capital of the World, Bay-be!

My Dad actually took these with my Mom's camera, which, if not actually professional grade, is darn close.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tobit Chapter 4

*Tobit Instructs Tobias*
1. On that day Tobit remembered the silver he had entrusted to Gabael at Rages of Media. 2. So he said to himself, "I requested death for myself. Why do I not call my son Tobias to make this known to him before I die?"

3. So he summoned him and said, "My son, if I die, bury me, but do not disregard your mother. Honor her all the days of your life. Do what is pleasing to her, but do not grieve her. 4. Remember, my son, that she experienced many dangers for you while you were in the womb. When she dies, bury her beside me in the same grave. 5. My son, remember the Lord our God all your days, and do not desire to sin or disobey His commandment. Do righteousness all the days of your life, and do not walk in the ways of wrongdoing.+ 6. For if you walk in the truth, you will be successful in your works. 7. Do almsgiving from your possessions to all who do righteousness. When you do almsgiving, do not let your eye be envious. Do not turn your face away from any poor man, so the face of God will not be turned away from you.+ 8. Do almsgiving based on the quantity of your possessions. If you possess only a few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. 9. You are storing up a good treasure for yourself in the day of necessity. 10. For almsgiving delivers us from death and prevents us from entering into the darkness. 11. Indeed, almsgiving is a good gift for all who do it before the Most High.

12. "My son, guard yourself from all fornication, and above all take a wife from among the seed of your fathers. Do not take a foreign woman who is not from the tribe of your father, for we are the sons of the prophets. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are our fathers from of old. Remember, my son, that all these took wives from among their brothers and were blessed in their children. Their seed will inherit the land.+ 13. So now, my son, love your brothers and do not be arrogant in your heart against your brothers, the sons and daughters of your people. Take a wife for yourself from them, for arrogance brings destruction and great disorder, and in such worthlessness there is loss and great defect. For worthlessness is the mother of famine.

14. "Do not keep overnight the wages of any man who works for you, but pay him immediately. If you serve God, He will pay you. Give heed to yourself, my son, in all your works, and be disciplined in all your conduct. 15. What you yourself hate, do not do to anyone. Do not drink wine unto a state of drunkenness, and do not let drunkenness become your traveling companion. 16. From your bread, give to him who is hungry, and from your clothing, give to the naked. If you have more than you need, do almsgiving, and do not let your eye envy the almsgiving when you do it. 17. Spread out your bread on the grave of the righteous, but do not give it to sinners.

18. "Seek counsel from every sensible man, and do not treat any useful advice with contempt. 19. At every opportunity bless the Lord God, but more than this ask that your ways may become straight, and that all your paths and purposes may prosper. For not every nation has understanding. But the Lord Himself gives all that is good, and as He desires He humbles whomever He will. Now my son, let none of my commandments be removed from your heart.

20. "Now let me point out to you the ten talents of silver I entrusted to Gabael the son of Gabrias, in Rages of Media.+ 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."

OSB Notes:

+4:5 - A father could not give a son better counsel.

+4:7 - The word almsgiving is used repeatedly throughout the Book of Tobit. It simply means to give of oneself above and beyond what is due (see also 4:16).

+4:12 - In Jewish tradition, to take a foreign woman as a wife was seen as an offence to God (Ezra 10:2).

+4:20 - Tobias is sent by his father to Gabael in Rages (near modern-day Teheran, Iran) to retrieve ten talents of silver held by him for safekeeping. Tobit even has the receipt! (see 5:13)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Adding a Little Chaos to the Confusion

I read a chapter of the Bible daily. Because of this, it's rather slow going, but I notice things and think thoughts that I haven't before. So, yesterday I read 2 Kings 21 (or, for those of us playing with the Protestant Bible, 2 Samuel 21).

1Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, "It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death." 2So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah). 3Thus David said to the Gibeonites, "What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?" 4Then the Gibeonites said to him, "We have no concern of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel." And he said, "I will do for you whatever you say."

5So they said to the king, "The man who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel, 6let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD." And the king said, "I will give them." 7But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the LORD which was between them, between David and Saul's son Jonathan.

8So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had borne to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had borne to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9Then he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the LORD, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put to death in the first days of harvest at the beginning of barley harvest.

Which got me to thinking. How is this any different from the human sacrifices done by pagan cultures to please or appease the gods? How?

Come to that, how is anything that we do different from pagan practice, in essence? We do what we believe God has told us to do, but that's what they did, as well. The older religions were just more bloody. Religion has evolved into a more peaceful, internal thing. But still, the thought remains. How is what we do any different?

We do what we do because we believe that God wants us to do it. We do it, ostensibly, because we believe that God is good, and therefore, what God desires for us to do is good, and gives him glory. But also, we believe that, should we do as we are told, we will be rewarded in the end. And we believe that if we *don't* do as we're told, we'll be punished. So we do what we're told in the expectation that it will give us a positive result.

Religion can be looked at as an attempt to control and explain the environment around us. We're the only animals with self awareness, that we know of. We look around, and we wonder 'why' and 'how' and we want to control the things around us so that they're not so scary and harmful and *random*. People love order and patterns. Even if it looks like chaos to other people, every person has a pattern to their life. And it's comforting. We know that if we do (a), (b) will occur. And we do things in the same order, over and over and over again. We impose artificial order on what looks, to us, to be natures chaos. Which is, of course, not true, since nature has it's own order. It's just not one that we can manipulate and control, so we impose our own on it, whereby we can manipulate and control it, to a certain degree.

Volcano explodes. The people who survive wonder why, and someone has a dream, or an idea, that it's because the gods are angry. And the people are terrified. They can't do anything about volcanoes! You can't build a wall to stop the lava flow, and even if you could, there's the ash and the fumes and everything else! So they want to know what they can do to keep the gods from being angry and setting off the volcano again. And someone tells them to do yadda. Sacrifice x to the gods, and they will be appeased. So the people do, and it seems to work. The volcano doesn't erupt again. And they connect the two, and believe that their sacrifice worked. So they keep doing it. Of course, there is no real cause and effect connection there. Not really. But the people don't understand how volcanoes work, and they feel like now they have some control over the gods. 'As long as we keep them happy, they won't wipe us out!'

Even the concept of an afterlife may only exist because we can't imagine non-existence. You may recall my assertion that words have no meaning without context. We can conceive that we exist, and we know that that state changes, when we die. We understand, conceptually, the difference between alive and dead. What we don't understand is what 'dead' is like. We've never been there, so we can't say, death is like 'this'. When we contemplate what death is, we must come up against the idea that there may simple be nothing. And that is terrifying. On a personal level, how do you cope with the concept that *you*, all your thoughts, all your life, everything that you are, will simply *blip* out the moment you die? It is *horrific*. How do you contemplate your own non-existence?

You don't. Not easily, at any rate. So the after life. Heaven and hell. We paste images of what we think it must be like, cribbed from the physical reality around us on it, idealized, and declare that that will be what is. But we don't really know. We just shy away from the horror of nothingness and declare that there must be something.

Note: I don't want anyone to think I've gone off the rails and lost my faith or anything. I can think thoughts like this and not fall 'off the wagon', as it were. It should be possible for people to contemplate 'what if' scenarios.

1 Maccabees 6:5

5. Then a man came and told him while he was still living in Persia that his army which had invaded the land of Judah was put to flight;

and...Susanne won't have any of the Maccabees. So here's yours:

4:30 - When he saw their mighty camp, he prayed and said, "Blessed are you, O Savior of Israel, who stopped the attack of the giant warrior by the hand of your servant David, and delivered the Philistines' camp into the hands of Jonathan the son of Saul, his armor-bearer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

ToB: Sex is the Root of All Evil Good

Sex is meant to be a good thing. Barring the attitude that has been held about sex throughout many ages, it's not the root of all evil.

Sex was in the Design, you understand. God meant for us to have sex. Not that that means we should be running around boinking everything that'll stand for it, of course. But sex was a part of The Plan. Right? And, since we operate under the assumption that God = Good, and everything that God created was declared good, by God, then the functions of the things He created must, perforce, in their natural places and usage, also be good. I get that the assumption that God = Good is a rather large one, but it's the one we have to work with. After all, if we assume the opposite, then our moral laws are given by an evil entity, and are therefore, in themselves, evil. And it's a whole kerfuffle. You could chase your tail on that one for forever. Not that the assumption that all things are good rules out the misuse of such things. Obviously. Humanity is very good at creating double edged swords.

Anyway. With sex being a part of The Plan, it must have a good purpose. So what's the purpose?

I think the biggest, most important purpose is to bring two solitary people together. We are alone, but we crave to be not alone. We *want*, like we want air, to be with someone on a level that is completely open and trusted and free. We yearn to return to that state of original innocence - the communion of persons in a free exchange. Sex, under the right circumstances, helps us bring ourselves, body and soul, together with another person.

Sex is a gift. It is the gift of ourselves, to another person, even as they are giving that same gift (their self) to us. It is the greatest gift that we, as humans, can give to another person. And that's why it's so special. If you're communing on such an intimate level, do you really think that you can do that with multiple people? Really? During a marriage ceremony, the bride and the groom are the actors. It's a sacrament that they confer upon one another. Yes, the priest is there, but more as a witness than anything else. He isn't 'giving' them one to another. They are each giving themselves to the other.

And, even more, the *potential* contained within the act of sex echoes the Creation itself. God, in an ultimate act of Love, Created. Humans, coming together in a communion of their persons, contain the same creation. In an ultimate act of their joint love, they have the potential to create life.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sirach 12

*Showing Kindness*
1. If you show kindness, know to whom you show it,
And you shall be thanked for your good deeds.+

2. Do good to a godly man, and you will be repaid-
If not by him, then certainly by the Most High.

3. There shall be no good things for him who continues in evil things,
Or for him who does not give alms cheerfully.

4. Give to a godly man, but do not help the sinner.+

5. Do good to a humble man, but do not give to an ungodly man.
Hold back his bread and do not give it to him,
Lest by it he lord it over you.
For you will receive twice as much evil coming back
For all the good you did for him.

6. For the Most High also hates sinners
And will render punishment on the ungodly.

*Never Trust an Enemy*
7. Give to the good man, but do not help the sinner.+

8. A friend will not be revealed when you are prosperous,
Nor will an enemy hide himself when you are in adversity.

9. When a man prospers, his enemies are grieved,
But when he is in adversity, even a friend will separate himself.

10. Never trust your enemy,
For as copper becomes rusty, so is his evil.

11. Even if he acts humble and goes about with a humble posture,
Watch yourself, and be on your guard.
Then you shall be to him like him who wipes off a mirror,
And you will know that it is not corroded continually.

12. Do not let him stand by your side,
Lest he overthrow you and take your place.
Do not seat him on your right,
Lest he seek your seat of honor.
Then at last you will know the truth of my words,
And because of my words you will be pierced with sorrow.

13. Who will pity a snake charmer when he is bitten,
Or those who go near wild animals?

14. So no one will pity one who approaches a sinful man
And gets involved in this sins.

15. He will stay with you for a while,
But if you turn aside from him, he will not put up with you.

16. An enemy speaks sweetly with his lips,
But in his heart he will plan to throw you into a pit.
An enemy will shed tears, but if he finds an opportunity,
He will not be satisfied apart from shedding your blood.

17. If evil comes upon you,
You will find your enemy there ahead of you,
And as he pretends to help you,
He will pull your feet from under you.

18. He will shake his head and applaud with his hands;
And he will whisper many things and alter his expression.

OSB Notes:

+12:1-6 - Christians extend hospitality, but not indiscriminately (see Ps 140:4, 5; 2Ti 3:6). Almsgiving - giving to the needy - has always been a godly virtue. The Wisdom of Sirach teaches when one practices this virtue to wisely choose a godly recipient. The man who does not give alms is classed with those who persist in evil (v. 3).

+12:4-7 - These verses reflect the view of ancient societies, including the Hebrews and Greeks, that one should extend grace or do good mainly to one's family or to one who is godly. Few believed in doing good to one's enemies until Jesus Christ strongly taught us to do so (see Mt 5:38-48; Lk 6:27-36). St. Paul sums up the Christian view of almsgiving: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).

+12:7-8 - In a fallen world the godly will always have enemies - either human or demonic, or both. Ben Sirach warns us of fair-weather friends (vv. 8, 9). An enemy is like rust, which ruins metal (v. 10). Be on guard and never trust your enemy (v. 10).

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Weekend is Like a Flashback

to the 80s. And I am remarkably squeed by this.

First, we have the A-Team. I get giggly happy every time I see a commercial for this one. I know, I know. And yet. Giggly.

Then, Karate Kid remake!

I want these movies, like *burning*. So, guess what I'm doing this weekend?

Also, I have committed another act of macro. I include it here so all may see my geek, and despair!

Why yes, I have been watching Supernatural again. Why do you ask? *innocent face*

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tobit Chapter 3

*Tobit's Prayer*
1. Then I wept in my sorrow, and with pain I prayer, saying:

2. "O Lord, You are righteous. So too are all Your works. All Your ways are mercy and truth. Your judgments are true and just forever.+ 3. Remember me and look upon me with favor. Do not punish me for my sins and my ignorance, nor those sins of my fathers which they committed against You. 4. Because they disobeyed Your commands, so You gave us as spoil, captivity and death. You made us a byword of disgrace among all the nations in which we were scattered. 5. Now Your judgments concerning my sins are many and they are true, because I did them, and so did my fathers. For we did not keep Your commandments. Indeed we did not walk in truth before You. 6. Now do with me as is best before You. Command that my spirit be taken up, so I may be released and become soil, since it is better for me to die than to live. For I have heard false insults, and there is much sorrow within me. Command that I be freed from distress to now enter into the eternal place. Do not turn Your face away from me."+

7. On the same day, in Ecbatana of Media, Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, happened to be insulted by her fathers maids.+ 8. She was married to seven husbands, but before they could be with her as a wife, Asmodeus, the evil demon, killed them. So they said to her, "Do you not recollect that you strangled these husbands? You have already had seven husbands, but you have received no profit from any of them.+ 9. Therefore, why punish us? If they are dead, go with them. May we never see a son or daughter of yours."

10. When she heard this, she was so distressed that she considered hanging herself. But she said, "I am the only one of my father. If I do this, it will be a disgrace to him, and I will bring down his old age with sorrow into Hades." 11. So she prayed by her window and said:

*Sarah's Prayer*
12. Blessed are You, O Lord my God, Blessed is Your holy and precious name unto the ages. May all Your works bless You forever.+ 12. Now, O Lord, I offer myself completely to You. 13. Command that I be released from the land, that I may not hear such disgrace any more. 14. O Lord, You know that I am innocent of any sin with a man. 15. I have not defiled my name nor the name of my father in the land of my captivity. I am my father's only offspring. He has no other child who will be his heir. Neither does he have a brother close at hand, nor an adopted son that I might keep myself as a wife to him. Seven of my husbands have already perished. What should I live for? But if it does not seem good to You to kill me, command that I be looked upon with favor, and that mercy be shown to me, so that I may no longer hear disgrace."

16. The prayer of both was heard in the presence of the great glory of Raphael,+ 17. and he was sent to heal the two of them: to remove the white films from Tobit; to give Sarah of Raguel to Tobias the son of Tobit as a wife; and to bind Asmodeus the evil demon, for it fell upon Tobias to inherit her. At that same time Tobit returned and entered his house, and Sarah of Raguel came down from her upstairs room.

OSB Notes:

+3:2 - Having has his own works judged (2:14), Tobit confesses it is the Lord who is righteous, as are His works.

+3:6 - In his pain, Tobit asks that he might die and enter into the eternal place.

+3:7 - Ecbatana is the capital of Media (see note at 1:14).

+3:8 - Asmodeus means "the destroyer". Jesus said of Satan, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (Jn 10:10).

+3:11 - Blessed are You, O Lord: These are the opening words of numerous Jewish and Christian prayers. Many services in the Orthodox Church being with, "Blessed is the Kingdom" or "Blessed is our God".

3:16, 17 - God answered the prayer of both Tobit and Sarah, sending the Archangel Raphael (meaning "God heals") to heal them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ToB: The Man-Person Becomes a Gift in the Freedom of Love

So, I'm on vacation and have been lazy for the past few days. :)

Some of these sections give me thoughts, some, less so. This is one of those less so moments. It's not that the section isn't interesting and informative, rather, it's that I think because the sections build on one another, some of them are 'bridges'.

In this, the thing that's stuck in my mind is the phrase, 'free with the freedom of the gift'. Pope John Paul II was speaking, of course, of Adam and Eve, before the fall. How, in their original innocence, they were free in a way that we can no longer be. It's all speculation, of course. We have no real way of knowing what things were like, assuming that they were real people, what life was like.

I think, in my mind at least, I imagine they were childlike, in their innocence. Kids don't have a sense of shame until we give it to them. Kids trust and love, all the time. Adults are the ones who teach them that life is hard. That it's dangerous. That we can't be trusted. We lie and say things that we don't ever mean to follow through with. Kids say what they think, when they think it, until we teach them otherwise. So I imagine Adam and Eve would have been a lot like that. Innocent and open.

Can you imagine *walking* with God? I mean, literally, sitting down next to Him? Which raises the question, *if* the Genesis account were literal, what did God look like? We're told later on that no one could look on God's face and live, but maybe that was only because after the fall we had lost that openness and innocence. So could Adam and Eve look on God without dropping dead? Or, because God is outside of time, when they walked and talked with God, were they speaking to Christ in His Incarnate form? These are the things I think about, people.

Anyway. 'Free with the freedom of the gift.' What gift? Life. The Universe. Everything. (The answer to the ultimate question, by the way, is 42. Now you have to figure out what the question is...) But why were we given the gift? Love. So, in essence, the gift, whatever the physical manifestation of it might be, is, in fact, Love. And I capitalize that on purpose. Love vs. love. We love. We love other people, ourselves, our pets. Things, some of us. There are different kinds of love, different shades. But they are all reflections, snippets of the ultimate Love. So it could, alternately be stated that they were 'free with the freedom of Love'. They had it. They knew it, even if they had no words for it - not needing them, of course, since Love was all that there was, at that time. And they were free with it. They reflected that Love at one another, and at God.

Esther 6:5

And the king's servants said, 'Behold, Haman is standing in the courtyard." And the king said, 'Let him come in."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

ToB: The Nuptial Meaning of the Body

I've got to say, these are really less about what is actually being said in each section than what what is being said makes me think. Just for the record.

Right then. We're all aware that man is made up of two 'things'. We are both body and soul. I believe that everything has a soul, but that there are different kinds of souls. There's plants, animal, and human. So for 'soul' one might use 'life force'. The thing that animates us, that moves us.

If you've ever been around a person that dies, you know that you can tell. One second they're there, and the next they're not. Sometimes you can feel it even before their body has stopped breathing. Something vital has left. That's the soul.

I know that some people feel that the soul is the important thing about a person. It's the part of us that is eternal, after all. The body dies and is destroyed. Cremated, embalmed, buried, whatever your tradition, the body is not eternal. Our soul is what continues after our death. Our soul is what goes to heaven.

However, that's ignoring the reality. While yes, our soul does ascend to heaven (we pray), our body is not this unimportant vehicle that we're stuck with for 80, 90 years until we die. God designed us to be *both* flesh and spirit. And, much as I don't understand the reasoning behind everything, I do believe that there is a reason. God does not do things just for the hell of it. We were given flesh for a reason. We have been told that we will be given glorified bodies. So, not only our souls will be in heaven, but some form of our bodies as well. If the physical is just a vehicle, something to be left behind, why give us new ones later on?

We were created, purposefully, out of Love, as a combined beast. Flesh and soul. I don't think that either aspect of humanity is more or less important. If the flesh is weak, our souls can be weakened, and vise versa. (Which is not to say that this is always the case, of course. Many of the best, holiest people have been afflicted in the flesh. But the state of one can affect the state of the other, imho.)

Now, we know that each human is a solitude. However, we also crave union. Perhaps, in the beginning, there was a deeper communion between man and woman? When we were innocent, could we feel each other on another level? Was there something *more* between us than what we have now? Is that what we're looking for when we get close to another person?

Whatever it is, because we are *both* flesh and soul, it's not merely an intellectual exercise when we join together with another person. It involves our bodies as well. The flesh helps us to give expression to the longing of our soul. In a way, we crawl into one another, becoming one entity, and then separating again, changed. But craving that closeness again and again. It's our echo, our image of the Love that created us. Love is a creative force, a generative force, and, for humans, sex is one way that we express that most basic emotion.

Sirach 11

1. The wisdom of a humble man will exalt his head,
And he will take his seat among the great,

*Outward Appearances*
2. Do not praise a man for his good looks,
And do not detest one because of his appearance.+

3. The bee is small among winged creatures,
But her fruit is first among sweet things.

4. Do not boast about your fine clothes,
Nor magnify yourself in the day you are honored;
Because the works of the Lord are wondrous,
And His works are hidden from men.

5. Many tyrants have sat on the ground,
But one never thought of has worn a crown.

6. Many rulers have suffered exceeding disgrace,
And honored men have been betrayed into the hands of others.

*Slow Down!*
7. Do not find fault before you examine a situation.
First, understand it, and then make your judgment.

8. Do not answer before you have listened,
And do not interrupt someone while he is talking.

9. Do not argue about a matter that does not concern you,
And do not sit together with sinners when they judge a case.

10. My son, do not let your business involve too many things.
If you multiply them, you will not remain unpunished,
And if you pursue them, you will not overtake them;
And you will not escape by running away.+

11. There is a man who works and works
And keeps on working, but is in much more poverty.

12. There is another who is sluggish and in need of help;
And he lacks strength and abounds in poverty.
But the eyes of the Lord look upon him for his good
And restores his well-being from his humble state.

13. He raises up his head,
And many are amazed at this.

*Handling Riches*
14. Good and bad, life and death, poverty and wealth -
These are from the Lord.

15. The gift of the Lord remains with the godly,
And His approval brings prosperity forever.

16. There is a man who grows rich
Because of his attention and restraint;
And this is the portion of his reward:+

17. When he says, "I have found rest,
And now I will partake of my good things."
Yet he does not know how much time will pass until he will die
And leave them behind to others.

18. Stand by your covenant and attend to it,
And grow old in your work.

19. Do not be amazed at the works of a sinner,
But trust in the Lord and remain at your work;
Because it is easy in the sight of the Lord
To make a poor man rich quickly and unexpectedly.

20. The blessing of the Lord is in the reward of a godly man,
And in an instant He makes his blessings flourish.

21. Do not say, "What do I need,
And what good things will be mine in the future?"

22. Do not say, "I am independent.
From now on, what will harm me?"+

23. In the day of good things,
There is forgetfulness of bad things,
And in the day of bad things,
There is no remembrance of good things.

24. For it is easy in the judgment of the Lord
To reward a man on the day of his death according to his ways.+

25. The ill-treatment of an hour makes one forget luxury,
And at the end of a man's life,
There shall be a revelation of his works.

26. Consider no man happy before his death,
And a man will be known in his children.

*Beware of Evildoers*
27. Do not bring every man into your home,
For the plots of the deceitful are many.

28. The heart of an arrogant man is like a decoy partridge in a cage,
And like a spy he watches for your fall.

29. For he lies in wait and turns good into evil,
And he will attach blame to the good one chooses.

30. From a spark of fire a charcoal fire is kindled,
And a sinful man lies in wait for bloodshed.

31. Beware of an evildoer and his schemes,
Lest he bring lasting blame upon you.

32. Receive a stranger into your home
And he will upset you with troubles.
And alienate your family from you.

+11:2-9 - This section deals with the age-old tendency to judge matters merely by external appearance. Woven in are warnings about boasting of a present possession or position.

+11:10 - We are to work faithfully and devotedly, but if we become involved in too many things they can overwhelm us. Rushing about to fulfill our obligations, we will keep falling further behind.

+11:16, 17 - As with 10:28, 29, one wonders if our Lord did not have this passage in mind when He spoke the parable in Lk 12:16-21.

+11:22 - Being independent in terms of freedom from dictatorship or oppression is a blessing. Here, however, is a spirit of independence from God, the "I've-got-it-made" syndrome.

+11:24, 25 - At the end of our life we will be judged for the whole of it. And those who remain watch for the revelation of the works of the departed. This helps explain why the Church waits long to glorify her saints.

Friday, June 4, 2010

'Old Age' and Settling Into My Own Skin

In less than 24 hours, I will be 28.

And I don't care.

I can tell you that, two years ago, around this time, I was panicking. 26! No boyfriend, no husband, no kids! Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I was going to alone *forever*! This was also about the time I was re-finding religion and it all got mixed up together, let me tell you. I was *convinced* that if I found the right faith, if I did the right things, essentially, if I held my mouth right, the sun and the moon and the stars would align and God would finally chuck a husband at me.

Two years later. I'm happier with myself. I'm not perfect, and I by no means have everything figured out. If I ever tell you I do, please feel free to slap me upside the head, repeatedly. And while I do still want to have a husband, and children, it's hardly the driving force in my life. I'm happy by myself - but I'm never alone. I have my family.

I think that people really do need to be settled into themselves before they can contemplate being with someone else. And that comes at different ages and times for different people. Looking back, I know that I was never ready before. Hell, I may not be ready now. But at least I recognize that fact, and it doesn't scare me.

I love where I live. I *love* the state of Florida, and *everything* about it. I love the heat, I love the sun, I love the rain, and the lightning, and the wildlife! I love being able to walk out into my front yard and find snakes and gators! I love living near wildlife preserves and wetlands, and swamps. I love that I can take a weekend down to the Keys, or Miami, or St. Augustine (though technically St. Augustine is up, not down). I like (not love) my job, and the people I work with. For the most part. Do I want to go back to school? Sure. But I have no idea what for, so I won't. It's a waste of money (to me) otherwise. I'm getting healthy. I'm slowly figuring out my faith, but I don't feel rushed about it. Schools out, so I'll start going to the Orthodox church now.

What will be, will be. There is a path, even though I can't see it, or what lies on it. And I'm happy with that. Life'd be boring if I knew what was coming.

And while this may seem a total non sequitur, I've also stopped covering my hair. Just like when I knew that I needed to cover, I now have the same feeling, the same certainty, that I can stop. Maybe I'll have to take it up again at some point. I don't know. I really have nothing to say about it at this point.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

ToB: Creation as a Fundamental and Original Gift

Under the heading of excellent cosmic timing, after my post about why did God create, this was the next subsection of the Theology of the Body.

So. Creation is a gift. A gift to whom, you might ask? Well, humanity, basically. As we are the only beings created in the image of God, as we are the only flesh and blood creatures with will and self awareness, we are the only beings that can appreciate the beauty and the wonder of the creation around us. God gave us the gift of, well, *everything*.

Why did God create? I think the best answer(s) is because God is love. It is His nature to create. And why is it His nature? Because God is love. When we love another person, we want to give them things. Not just things, but pieces of ourselves. We share our secrets with them. We trust them. We give them everything that we can.

And this is just a pale comparison to the perfect Love that God has for us. God literally *did* give us everything. Even knowing what depths of depravity humanity could sink into, He expressed His love by giving us existence.

Tobit Chapter 2

*The Charitable Tobit Becomes Blind*

1. When I arrived at my house, my wife Anna and my son Tobias were given back to me. It was the Feast of Pentecost, which is the holy feast of the seven weeks. A good dinner was prepared for me, so I sat down at the table to eat.+ 2. When I saw the abundance of meat, I said to my son, "Go and bring whomever you may find of our needy brethren who are mindful of the Lord. Behold, I will wait for you." 3. But he came back and said, "O father, one of our people was strangled and thrown into the marketplace." 4. So before I even tasted anything, I jumped up and carried the corpse into a room until sunset. 5. Then I returned, bathed myself, and ate my bread in sorrow. 6. Then I remembered the prophecy of Amos, how he said,

"Your feasts will be turned into mourning,
And all your gladness into a song of grief."

So I wept.+ 7. When the sun went down, I departed, and after digging a grave, I buried him. 8. My neighbors laughed at me and said, "He is no longer afraid to be put to death for doing such a thing. He ran away before, and now, behold, he is burying the dead again."

9. On the same night that I buried him, I returned home. But since I was defiled, I slept by the wall of the courtyard with my face uncovered. 10. However, I did not see the sparrows on the wall, for while my eyes were open the sparrows discharged their droppings into my eyes, and they became white films in my eyes. I went to physicians, but they could not help me. Then Ahikar supported me until he left for Elymais.

11. Then my wife Anna worked for hire at what women do.+ 12. She would send her work to the owners and they would pay her. On one occasion they paid her wages and also gave her a small goat. 13. But when she returned to me, it began to bleat. So I said to her, "Where is this goat from? Is it not stolen? Return it to the owners, for it is unlawful to eat what is stolen." 14. But she replied, "It was given to me as a gift. It was in addition to my wages." But I did not believe her, telling her to return it to its owners. I blushed in embarrassment for her sake. So she answered and said to me, "Are your acts of charity and righteous deeds lawful? Behold, you are a know-it-all!"+

OSB Notes:

+2:1 - The Jewish Feast of Pentecost (lit. "fifty") comes seven weeks or fifty days after Passover. These events are fulfilled (1) in the death, burial, and Resurrection of "Christ our Passover" (1 Cor 5:7) and (2) at the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

+2:6 - See Amos 8:10

+2:11 - Some scholars speculate Anna was a weaver.

+2:14 - Anna reproaches Tobit, suggesting his acts of charity and his righteous deeds have failed him. This is similar to the rebuke by Job's wife (Job 2:9).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Judith 6:5

"But you, O Achior, and your mercenaries of Ammon who spoke these words in the day of your wrongdoing, you will not see my face from this day forth until the time I will punish these people who came up out of Egypt.

Susanne, you're also apparently missing Judith from your Old Testament. There's no verse 30 in chapter 4, so this is the last verse:

With ashes on their turbans, with all their strength they cried out to the Lord to look with favor upon all the house of Israel.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ToB: The Meaning of Original Human Experiences

The first chapters of Genesis force us to reconstruct the elements of man and his original experiences, if we're to get anything out of them except for another set of ancient myths. Looking at the original experiences we can begin to gauge their basic significance and perhaps applicability to man throughout the ages. They are archetypal, and being so, are so bound up in the fabric of ordinary life that we fail to see them being extraordinary at all.

We've come now to the comparison between man before the fall and man after the fall, and his nakedness. *Woowoo!*

Prior to the fall, man is described as being naked and not ashamed. What makes us feel shame? When we're kids, we run around buck naked any chance we get. Or at least all the kids that I know do. Clothing is something that the adults force us into, and as we get older, we accept that clothing is necessary as a part of the culture, and adapt what we wear accordingly. For the most part, of course. There are always those who go outside of the accepted norms of society. But that's neither here nor there, for the moment.

But shame is, I think, subjective. From culture to culture, things which are 'shameful' vary. They even vary within a culture, and on down to the family unit. So, talking about actions that are shameful is, I think, less than helpful, in this case.

If the story of Adam and Eve is meant to be universal, then their 'nakedness' and 'shame' or lack thereof, has to have a more universal meaning.

I'm thinking, when, poetically, a person stands 'naked' before another, they are baring their all. Not their physical nakedness, but their soul. They have no secrets. They are out there, in the open. So, perhaps, when the Bible says that they were naked, does it refer to a simpler time, when man and woman had no secrets between themselves and God? The relationship was purer then. A matter as simple as existing. And, since they had no secrets, since all was known about each other, there was no 'shame'.

Once they had disobeyed, however, they knew that they were naked, and they felt ashamed. I think it's important that the phrasing is 'Then the eyes of the two were opened, and they knew they were naked.' (Gn 3:7) It was the knowledge that changed things. They now had a secret. When they looked at each other, they knew that they had done wrong. They knew that when God saw them, He would know. Which is why they hid when the heard Him in the Garden.

It's like, when you've done something wrong, and you're trying to hide it from another person, everything takes on this extra level of meaning. You know that you've done this thing, and your fear that the other will find out makes you think that they already know, and so you view them suspiciously. And your suspicious behavior makes them *actually* suspicious, which feeds your know what I mean.

Of course that metaphor doesn't really work with God, since He does, in fact, already know. But that's what comes to mind, anyway.

It's not about the nakedness of the body, but the whole hearted nakedness of the soul to one another which is only possible in original innocence. Which we don't possess, which makes it impossible for us to ever 100% bare ourselves to another. We *want* to, but we have so much trouble trusting, because we know how untrustworthy we ourselves are, and can't imagine that another will be any better than us, or that they would love us despite our flaws.

And, wow. Sometimes, these posts go nowhere near where I thought they were going.

I feel I should add that I have done something to my neck which means I can't turn it to the left, and have taken muscle relaxers to correct this painful and annoying development. So any lack of coherency will be blamed on the fact that I am, in fact, drugged.

Why Bother With Creation?

This is a thought I've had before, and I'll likely have it again, because I don't think that anyone knows the answer.

Why did God create humans? Or, really, anything at all, but specifically, people. Knowing how it would all go down, why bother?

p.s. I've gotten the answer, before, 'so we could worship Him'. I find this answer unacceptable, because we're still left with why. Why did God create us to worship Him? Does He require our worship for some reason? If so, He's not self-sustaining, and therefore, not God, but a god. So.

Book: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Right, this is the first in a series, actually. And this series is might be my favorite series of all time. Now, I have deep and abiding love for Jim Butcher and both the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera. And a bunch of other series. Don't get me wrong. But these books are just...epic. They are epic, and heartbreaking, and my love for them is *pure*.

They're also a bit hard to categorize, apparently. I have, throughout the years, found them shelved under romance, horror, fantasy, history, and just plain fiction. The best general category they can be placed under is historical fiction. But even that isn't quite right, because of the time travel. :)

So, the book starts out in 1945 with Claire and Frank Randall. World War II has just ended, and the couple are on a 'second' honeymoon, because the War interrupted their first one. They're honeymooning in Inverness, Scotland, near a hill called Craigh na Dun. The hill features a small stone circle, a sort of 'miniature' Stonehenge.

Claire, having an interest in botany and the medicinal uses of various plants (she's a nurse) returns to the stone circle to try and get a sample of a plant that she had seen up there and wanted to identify. As she's walking around the circle, looking, she feels and hears this humming sound, coming from one of the rocks that is actually split in two. She approaches this rock, and touches it. Suddenly, it's as though she can hear screaming, and then the sounds of battle all around her. She stumbles through the split in the rock, and when she comes to, it's night.

She assumes that she hit her head, and, after checking herself for signs of a concussion, heads back down to the car. Which isn't there anymore. Tired and unhappy, she sets off across the woods, heading back for town. While she's making her way through the dense forest, she suddenly finds herself in the middle of what she at first believes to be a reenactment of a battle between Scottish Highlanders and Red Coats.

Turns out, it's not a reenactment at all, of course. She has, somehow, been transported back in time about two hundred years, to 1743. One of the Red Coats, a Captain by the name of Jack Randall (who is, in fact, an ancestor of her husband, Frank), captures her, and given her state of 'undress' (she was dressed perfectly fine in 1945, but in 1743 her dress looks like an underthing, basically) assumes that she's a whore. Claire takes exception to this, Randall tries to press the point, and is jumped and knocked out by one of the Highlanders (Murtaugh). Who proceeds to 'rescue' her from the rest of the Red Coats by kidnapping her and taking her with him.

Claire winds up on the run with this group of Scottish 'bandits'. They can't let her go because they suspect she's an English spy, so they're taking her back to Castle MacKenzie (which is not what it's call in the book, but I can't remember the Gaelic for it, atm) to go before Colum MacKenzie, their laird. On the way Claire begins to figure out what happened, and she also proves herself to be useful in patching up their wounds. Especially the wounds of a young Mr. Jamie MacTavish. ;)

Through plot twists which I won't give away, Jamie and Claire wind up marrying to keep her from having to be turned over to Captain Jack Randall, who believes that she is a Scottish spy, and intends to torture her to get the truth out of her. And, let me tell you, the man is a sadist, in the true sense of the term. He's *evil*, which is proved out through the book.

Anyway. Claire and Jamie do, of course, fall in love, even as Claire is still trying to sneak off back to the circle so that she can get back to her own time. After an incident where Claire is 'accidentally' taken up in a sweep to capture a 'witch' (it's not based on any belief that the woman is a witch, really, but on matters of politics and clan succession), and Jamie manages to rescue her, Claire finally confesses to him the truth of who she is and why she's so strange.

Jamie, who is insanely in love with Claire, to be honest, finally takes her back to Craigh na Dun, so that she can return. He leaves here there, informing her that he'll stay at the base of the hill until the next morning, to make sure that she makes it. Claire, having finally admitted to herself that she does, in fact, love Jamie, has to decide whether or not to go back to Frank, whom she is married to, in the future, but who she doesn't really feel like she knows anymore, or stay with Jamie, who she is currently married to, in the past, and who she has been through hell with.

Happily, she chooses Jamie. Who is *clearly* the superior man. Just trust me on this one. There's *so much* in this book that I don't want to give away.

There're currently seven books in the main series, with three books that are a sort of off shoot series with a recurring character from the main series, with book eight in the main series in the works, and possibilities for a 'prequel' series, featuring Jaime's parents and *their* story, which is also epic. Look, this woman writes novels that are 700+ pages, and that you can't put down. Epic is the only word that works.

Anyway. *This* book ends, after much fighting and stress and death, with Jaime and Claire recuperating in a monastery in France, planning to go to Rome and the Court of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
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