A random.random() Joseph Wilbrand Weblog

A random.random() Joseph Wilbrand Weblog

Category: Religious Studies

Religious Studies

25 December 2022

Christmas, The Birth of Jesus Christ

The Gospel of Luke is dedicated to “Theophilus” or friend of God.  

Mary followed Jewish Law in Chapter 2:21-22 (See Leviticus 12)

The birth of Jesus is likely one of the most deceptively familiar stories in modernity.  Perhaps it is because it is considered familiar that most are content with merely looking at images and recreations of nativity, a manger, and wise men.  One of the most interesting, and hidden, aspects of the birth of Jesus, is the parallel between The Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant.  This parallel makes the story of Mary an extremely Jewish story.  For December 25th, the Harvard Classics reading guide suggests reading the first and second chapter of Luke.  A simultaneous reading of the 6th Chapter of 2nd Samuel is required to draw parallels between the Virgin Mary and the Ark of the Covenant.

Ark of the Covenant

The glory of the Lord and the cloud cover the Tabernacle (which contained the ark) and overshadow them.

Exodus 40:34-35

David arose and went to the hill country of Judah to bring up the ark of God.

2 Samuel 6:2

David admits unworthiness to receive the Ark by exclaiming, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”                                                                           

2 Samuel 6:9

David danced (leaped) before the Ark as it was brought with shouting

2 Samuel 6:15-16

The Ark remained in the hill country, in the house of Obed-Edom for three months.

2 Samuel 6:11

The Virgin Mary

The Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and the power of the Most High overshadows her.

Luke 1:35

Mary arose and went into the hill country of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Luke 1:39

Elizabeth admits her unworthiness to receive Mary by exclaiming “And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:41-42

John leaped at the sound of Mary’s voice and Elizabeth cried with a shout.

Luke 1:41-42

Mary remained in the hill country in Elizabeth’s house for three months.

Luke 1:56

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Religious Studies

A Canticle

ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית
Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, maker of the works of creation
As it is written: In the beginning was the Word In the beginning God created
The Word that created spoke to those who listened
In a still small voice
All creatures were created by him, and for him, the same source
A living Word and message sent
Yet time passed the voice ignored
Sisters and brothers once family, now estranged
Ones and zeroes, zeroes and ones,
Façade after façade hastily browsed by finger and screen
Interlinked, interlinked, all are interlinked,
Before to the last Adam, the digital world now
Science!™ is now the source to explain
Spread the word! Close the churches! Slow the spread! (of the Gospel that is)
God can’t save you, he is dead
The Divine creature with voluntary humility and poverty saved all
Yet, if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet
“Nothing yet,” but perhaps eventually
Through the Mystery of Faith, A Eucharistic Acclamation science can’t explain
A mystery that created Theotokos, blessed “Virgin Mother, daughter of thy son”
In the fire,
In the wind,
In the earthquake,
The Word speaking through Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and Mother Earth
Dominion a delegated responsibility
A responsibility not to be ignored without consequence
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth,
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe
All glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever
Omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum, Amen.

Religious Studies

A Reflection on Rose of Viterbo

The life of Rose of Viterbo was incredibly impactful to me, given in only a few days, I will be assisting my local parish with a confirmation series for the young people. To some degree, the opening line of Rose’s story may describe the potential of all young people: “she was unusually sensitive with regard to things of the Spirit.” (24). On the other hand, it seems adults can be afraid of children’s faith because faith can either be something that we “grow out of” or something that has been a source of a letdown, given the inevitability of life to lead all adults to ask the question, “where was God?” Additionally, because of their ego or societal expectations, adults may believe that age in and of itself places them on a higher plane than children in every aspect, and anything to the contrary would be a challenge. The challenge for adults is accepting that faith is a spiritual gift that can be given to anyone. Another challenge is realizing any cognitive dissonance felt when confronted by a child of faith could very well be due to the adult observer’s lack of it. Rose of Viterbo chose to live a “life of religious devotion in the most traditional and respectable means possible.” (26). Similarly, the young people beginning their confirmation series will follow a tradition many others before have followed. Although some may be in the classroom because their parents gave them no other option, others are likely to be there because they desire to learn about their faith. Regardless of the motivation, each either will have or will have the potential for great faith, similar to Rose’s.

Religious Studies

Icon of Nativity

On the outskirts of otherwise urban Orange County is a small unincorporated, relatively undeveloped canyon called Silverado Canyon. It is within this undeveloped rural canyon that Saint Michael’s Abbey finds its home. While the church, with its high concrete walls and stained glass windows, is an icon in and of itself, the interior contains six side chapels along the nave. These side chapels correspond with various days of creation and also include their own unique painted icons. One of these icons depicts the nativity scene. At the center of the icon is baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling and sitting in a manger. Mother Mary is depicted sitting behind Jesus with her arm at his side. Mary and Jesus are shown looking at a cow and a horse, which in turn, are looking back at Jesus. Finally, saint Joseph is depicted outside the manger looking at his family and the animals while motioning with his hands.

In this icon, Jesus Christ is depicted as a baby, although having just had a newborn myself, I realize the baby in the icon is much older and more capable than a typical newborn. A Franciscan idea that came into my head about this icon is how Jesus Christ is sitting at eye level with the animals. The animals shown are looking back, seemingly in an acknowledging type of fashion. I get a sense Jesus is conveying, in not so many words, “I love you,” and the animals are acknowledging that “they know.” (Think Star Wars Princess Leia and Han Solo exchange). Although God had just arrived on earth, he was, as Clare identified, “wrapped in poor swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.” Yet, despite this poverty, his birth seems appropriate, ordered, and exactly how things needed to be. I smile thinking about this icon because of the Franciscan ideology of brother and sister creatures, which adds a layer of interpretation to the nativity scene I never thought about before.

As I consider the image, I realize it doesn’t convey the livestock areas I saw when I was living in the middle east and southwest Asia. Those areas are typically dirty, unsanitary, filled with feces, and not meant for human habitation. Additionally, as I mentioned, Jesus in the icon appears more like a 6-month-old plus than a newborn; however, given that icons are meant to be “read,” I can understand why things were drawn the way they were.

Religious Studies

Anonymous Influence

Each Sunday, approximately 30 minutes before mass, a small group of women enter the parish, quietly kneel before the altar, and begin prayer. After a few moments of quiet contemplation and personal prayer, they subsequently pray the rosary on behalf of the larger community. Then, like clockwork, they finish only minutes before the rush of parishioners, unaware of any intercessory efforts, who quickly take their seats just before the procession of the celebrant. The beauty of these women’s actions is the conveyance of leadership by private action and the desire to interact with God presently. What if, though, these women were to stop their routine? What would happen if they stopped praying?

The life story of Margaret of Cortona involves a drastic change in circumstances in which she was forced into poverty. Immediately following her transition in social status, Margaret moved with her son to Cortona. In Cortona, Margaret interacted with devout noblewomen who offered a helping hand. In the book Women of the Streets: Early Franciscan Women and their Mendicant Vocation, author Darleen Pryds suggests these noblewomen likely extended housing, food, clothing, and much-needed emotional and spiritual support.   

Margaret’s later life appears to mirror the anonymous noblewomen’s selfless service, following a path that involved healthcare, helping the poor, extraordinary sacramental ministry, and as a spiritual director to friars. In her book, Women of the Streets, Pryds clearly describes Margaret’s leadership: “she offered what others needed,” and her actions were “not public per se but certainly not private.” Yet, ironically it wasn’t until Margaret lived a life of poverty, or a life without grasping, that she was able to offer what was needed to others.   

Offering what is needed implies a kind of flexibility on behalf of the giver. When spontaneous needs arise, adaptation is required to meet those needs. Margaret expresses her ability to adapt through her actions and ministry, which encompassed both the active and solitary. Margaret expressed her ultimate motivation as sourced in a love of God by saying, “I would still love God the Almighty even if I were to spend all my life in a great desert.”  

Pope Francis’s speeches routinely echo the words of Paul the Apostle when he says, “we are all called to become saints.” While it is only conjecture, Margaret may have led a different life should she have never met the anonymous noblewomen who provided her with what she needed. These unknown women, although not canonized themselves, probably influenced the life trajectory of Margaret from someone disenfranchised to one seeking God and ultimately attaining sainthood.   

For Margaret, poverty was a privilege that allowed her to lead those around her. If God is perpetually calling us to become saints, we should respond similarly to the way Eli told Samuel, “if he calls you, that you shall say, Speak, LORD; for your servant hears.” This call, though, may be different from what we expect. The Franciscan charism of poverty, charity, and contemplation might differ from the typical flamboyant public leadership we are used to reading about and seeing. We may instead be asked to conduct silent meditative reflection and prayer weekly before the Sunday mass, which could influence and make all the difference in someone else’s life trajectory. 

Religious Studies

A Franciscan Open Letter: Adoration

How Saint Clare’s approach to prayer can guide and inspire us during Adoration 

If you haven’t done Eucharistic adoration, you should.  It seems self-evident that you can’t love those who you don’t know, and loving someone makes us desire to know them more.  Nothing is more quintessentially Clare than the aspirational vision to be in a loving relationship with Jesus, and following in his footsteps.  How though, do we practice Eucharistic adoration?  What do we do at adoration?  Clare’s prayer formula can provide an inspirational roadmap: Gaze, Consider, Contemplate, Imitate.[1]

Gaze

Begin adoration by looking at God.  In Genesis, “in the beginning,”[2] after God created light, God saw that the light was good.  Subsequently when “God created humankind”[3] God saw it was very good.  God began his relationship with us by gazing and observing.  It is only appropriate we reciprocate by “gazing upon that mirror each day.”[4]

Consider

Consider your relationship to God.  What happens when you sit before him?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2628) states, “adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that is a creature before his Creator.”[5]  Clare takes this idea further by pointing out “the soul of a faithful person, the most worthy of all creatures, because of the grace of God, is greater than heaven itself, since the heavens and the rest of creation cannot contain their Creator; only  a faithful soul is His dwelling place and throne, and this only through the charity that the wicked lack.”[6] 

Contemplate

Contemplate the relationship of charity, poverty, and grace, all of which are central to Clare’s philosophy.  Clare states clearly, “Finally contemplate, in the depth of this same mirror, the ineffable charity that He chose to suffer on the tree of the Cross and to die there in the most shameful kind of death.”[7]  Although modernity has come to interpret Charity with donating unwanted goods, the example of Charity for Clare was God’s ineffable love for humanity which caused him to voluntarily sacrifice himself for our salvation.

Imitate

Imitatio Christi – Imitate Christ.  In Clare’s first letter to Agnes of Prague, Clare beautifully presents poverty as one way we can imitate Christ.  “O blessed poverty, who bestows eternal riches,” “O holy poverty, God promises the kingdom of heaven,” “O God-centered poverty whom the Lord Jesus Christ Who ruled and still rules heaven and earth, Who spoke and things were made, came down to embrace before all else!”[8]  Clare continues this comparison in her second letter, “If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.”[9]

To new Catholics, and even to those veterans who are unfamiliar with the practice, Eucharistic adoration, at first glance, may seem complicated, confusing, or even dull; however, nothing could be further from the truth.  “The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the Eucharistic celebration, does not exclude but rather, in a complementary way, calls forth the various devotions of the People of God, especially adoration and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.”[10]  Clare’s prayer formula can serve as inspiration to diverge from corporate ecclesial devotion to personal relationship building with our God.  Clare argues that only through the imitation of Christ to we receive the necessary grace and charity required to “reign with Him.”  Imitation, though, requires that we first gaze upon God, consider our relationship with him, and contemplate “in the depth of this same mirror” as well as “throughout the entire mirror […] suspended on the wood of the Cross.”[11] So the next time you wonder what to do during adoration, take a seat in front of God and begin by opening your eyes. 


[1] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 49.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version Nashville, TN: Catholic Bible Press, 2020, 1.

[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 55.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications from the Editio Typica New York: Doubleday, 2003, 693.

[6] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 53.

[7] Ibid., 57.

[8] Ibid., 45.

[9] Ibid., 49.

[10] Catechism of the Catholic Church: With Modifications from the Editio Typica New York: Doubleday, 2003, 334.

[11] Clare and Regis J. Armstrong, The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2006, 56.

Religious Studies

A Canticle

Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, maker of the works of creation
ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם עושה מעשה בראשית
As it is written: In the beginning was the Word In the beginning God created
The Word that created spoke to those who listened
In a still small voice
All creatures were created by him, and for him, the same source
A living Word and message sent
Yet time passed the voice ignored
Sisters and brothers once family, now estranged
Ones and zeroes, zeroes and ones,
Façade after façade hastily browsed by finger and screen
Interlinked, interlinked, all are interlinked,
Before to the last Adam, the digital iCloud now
Science!™ is now the source to explain
Spread the word! Close the churches! Slow the spread! (of the Gospel that is)
God can’t save you, he is dead
The Divine creature with voluntary humility and poverty saved all
Yet, if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet
“Nothing yet,” but perhaps eventually
Through the Mystery of Faith, A Eucharistic Acclamation science can’t explain
A mystery that created Theotokos, blessed “Virgin Mother, daughter of thy son ”
In the fire,
In the wind,
In the earthquake,
The Word speaking through Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and Mother Earth
Dominion a delegated responsibility
A responsibility not to be ignored without consequence
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth ,
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, who has sustained us, and who has brought us to this day
רוך אתה יהוה, אלֹהינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו וקימנו והגיענו למן הזה
All glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever
Omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum
Amen.

Religious Studies

Poverty and Saint Francis

It wasn’t until a few chapters into reading “Poverty and Joy” that I realized St. Francis’s definition of poverty was likely different than the colloquial definition.  Webster’s Dictionary defines poverty as either a “lack of socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions” or “renunciation as a member of a religious order to the right as an individual to own property.” While the life of Saint Francis encapsulates this, William Short’s interpretation of St. Francis’s life defines poverty as “living without grasping.” This definition was further expanded later in Short’s argument that “to understand poverty primarily as a matter of having fewer of these, or less of that, counting and measuring with the eye of a spiritual accountant, makes a caricature out of Francis’ vision.” Lastly, Leonardo Boff saw Francis’ life as one “not only ‘with’ the poor or ‘for’ them” but “as the poor.”

Given the above, it seems likely the second definition provided in Webster’s Dictionary wouldn’t exist without either Saint Francis or Saint Clare the latter of which went so far as to petition the Pope for the right to renounce property; however, the definition does not fully describe the motivation for voluntary poverty in that scenario.  For me, the best explanation of motive was described by Dr. William Cook in his series “Francis of Assisi” when he said Saint Francis’ actions could best be viewed under the lens of a person in love.

Before reading the material for this week, I always associated poverty with Gospel teachings like that of Matthew 19:21, in which Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me” or Luke 6:20 “‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Bonaventure accurately describes the example of Saint Francis as “an example of perfect contemplation.” Jesus explained how to be perfect, and Bonaventure described Saint Francis as such.  After this week’s readings, I more fully understand poverty as a mirror of the life of God and Jesus Christ, particularly his incarnation.  

The life of Jesus Christ is a story that involves the voluntary relinquishment of divinity.  Short summarizes this, “In Jesus God gives up all ‘property’, even divine status, relying on alms and the care of others: in his birth among the poor, his life and travel among people considered of no account, in his suffering and dying, naked and shunned, even by close friends and relatives.” For Saint Francis, a person who taught “by word and example” and as a person who “had become prayer” the only way to follow, get to know, and love Jesus was to choose to be as much like him as possible voluntarily.  

 A point made early in Short’s book is that tradition implies the life of several people “otherwise we would have only the spirituality of an individual.” Considering this, I appreciated commentary on Franciscan life from individuals like Ubertino da Casale who said poverty is a “defense against distraction, idleness, greed, and worldliness.” The effectiveness of this voluntary choice was echoed by Pope Francis’s wish that the church would be “poor and for the poor.”  

I wanted to share the full fresco “Allegory of Poverty” by Giotto Di Bondone.  I had to look it up given the lecture showed only a section of it.  I found the children antagonizing lady poverty and the guest reactions on the left and right very telling of the spectrum of acceptance Saint Francis must have felt (possible rejection or confusion on the lower right vs mirroring on the lower left).  

Poverty in the sense of “living without grasping” influenced spiritual practice for Saint Francis and Saint Clare.   To begin with, their motivation was not “for philosophical reasons nor for practical ones,” but instead, they embraced poverty “because it was embraced by their Beloved,” who was Jesus Christ.  Saint Clare viewed poverty as a “privilege,” and her life was to be a “mirror.”  A pivotal point to Franciscan poverty is in its voluntariness.  For Saint Francis, Jesus voluntarily chose to become incarnate as man, or “a creature,” and not just any man but a poor one whose life was dedicated to service.  This choice continued to manifest itself in the eucharist, where Jesus is present in the simple form of bread.  For Saint Francis, a life of poverty allowed for a change in perspective of the poor in health and creation.

The perspective changed from someone living on a different plane to equality.  This is most evident in the “Canticle of the Creatures,” where Saint Francis refers to “Brother Wind” and “Sister Moon” and blesses those who “bear infirmity and tribulation.”  The reference to non-human creation as “brothers and sisters” was sourced in the idea that because all creatures come from God, and all things were made “through him, for him, and in him,” they were essentially peers to himself.  This viewpoint could not have been made by someone “grasping” for something.  The change in viewpoint was expressed in the migration of Saint Francis’ description of lepers from distasteful to sweetness. 

The viewpoint that all creatures were brothers and sisters to Saint Francis may seem extreme; however, this viewpoint is explained with the understanding that the creatures were created through Christ, for Christ, and were “messages from Francis’ lover,” the practice in spirituality becomes clearer.  That these creatures were additionally commanded to “be fruitful and multiply” carried additional weight for Saint Francis, as evidenced by the story of his saving doves and befriending wolves in “The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions.” 

Voluntary poverty requires self-discipline.  Unlike those who for any reason, are forced into poverty, the freedom to choose poverty indicates the ability to revert to a life of grasping or the ability to revert to a life of wealth.  Voluntary poverty in Franciscan spirituality is a life modeled after the voluntary poverty of Jesus Christ and seeing the created world through a modified viewpoint.  If creation, including inanimate objects like rocks and planets, are messages from God and created for God with a delegated mandate at creation, they would have to be viewed as family.  Moreso, individuals created with souls but living in an involuntary position of disadvantage would automatically become sweet to someone loving them as they were intended – images of God.  When considering the idea that “The humanity of Jesus, even more emphatically the body of Jesus, is the point of God’s creating everything,” living with grasping is futile and the opposite of what would be considered productive in forming a relationship with God.  Only through the relinquishment of wealth in every sense is it possible to obtain the viewpoint that every person, creature, and the created thing is indeed a brother and sister worthy of the care demanded by God.  

Reference:

Short, William J. Poverty and Joy: The Franciscan Tradition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999.

Religious Studies

Litany of the Most Precious Blood

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
God our Father in heaven
God the Son, Redeemer of the world
God the Holy Spirit
Holy Trinity, one God
Blood of Christ, only Son of the Father
Blood of Christ, incarnate Word
Blood of Christ, of the new and eternal covenant
Blood of Christ, that spilled to the ground
Blood of Christ, that flowed at the scourging
Blood of Christ, dripping from the thorns
Blood of Christ, shed on the cross
Blood of Christ, the price of our redemption
Blood of Christ, our only claim to pardon
Blood of Christ, our blessing cup
Blood of Christ, in which we are washed
Blood of Christ, torrent of mercy
Blood of Christ, that overcomes evil
Blood of Christ, strength of the martyrs
Blood of Christ, endurance of the saints
Blood of Christ, that makes the barren fruitful
Blood of Christ, protection of the threatened
Blood of Christ, comfort of the weary
Blood of Christ, solace of the mourner
Blood of Christ, hope of the repentant
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying
Blood of Christ, our peace and refreshment
Blood of Christ, our pledge of life
Blood of Christ, by which we pass to glory
Blood of Christ, most worthy of honor
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
Lord, you redeemed us by your blood.

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
have mercy on us
have mercy on us
have mercy on us
have mercy on us
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
be our salvation
have mercy on us
have mercy on us
have mercy on us
You have made us a kingdom to serve our God.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the Precious Blood of your Only Begotten Son
have redeemed the whole world,
preserve in us the work of your mercy,
so that, ever honoring the mystery of our salvation,
we may merit to obtain its fruits.
Through Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen.

Religious Studies

The Eucharist – Chapter 2, The Sacrament of the Kingdom

Chapter 2 – I

Matthew 13: 24 – Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed in his field:

Luke 22:29 – And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me;
30 – That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Assembling = beginning of eucharistic celebration / End and completion = Church’s entrance into heaven

There is no self contained “piece” of the mass

Chapter 2 – II

Symbol ceased to designate something real and became in fact the antithesis of reality – belief that where one is concerned with reality there is not need for a symbol, and conversely where there is a symbol there is no reality

Chapter 2 – III

Sacraments a kind of spiritual medicine

No need for sacraments prior to the fall