Saturday, February 16, 2013

Its the End of the World As We Know It...

And I feel fine...

So the Pope is quitting & everyone thinks its the end of the world. I have to admit, I was a little shocked when I woke to the news, but I also have to respect his decision. Indeed, as its been said by so many others, it must have taken tremendous courage & humility on his part to know when to say when.

But a lot of folks still think its the end of the world- literally. Hours after Pope Benedict XVI's announcement, a lightening bolt hit the Vatican & a meteor streaked across the Russian sky. The supposed prophecy of St. Malachy is the hot topic in the news & all over various faith forums.  Protestants are crying "rapture!" & multitudes are waiting on pins & needles to see "Peter the Roman" appear. Perhaps the new Pope will be the long foretold anti-christ who comes to power before our eyes. This is it. We are living it. Or are we? What if nothing happens when the new Pope comes to power? What if life just stays normal? Or better yet, what if the new Pope succeeds in reforming the Church & even somehow unifies Christians of all stripes? Well, that would suck, wouldn't it?

I think some people will genuinely be disappointed if the world doesn't end.  The uncertainty many of us feel now (Catholics & Protestants alike) seems to give us a strange sense of hope- hope that maybe we really will see the end of days, hope that our suffering really will end, hope that we really will see God & be done with all the striving. But we can't know the hour or the day- even Jesus doesn't know. But what He did say was that these kinds of things must happen... and then the end will come. Whether current events are portents of Christ's coming or not, we are called to stand firm & pray.

How fitting that we should find ourselves in the season of Lent- a time of reflection, repentance & reconciliation to God... perhaps its no coincidence. Perhaps its no small mercy...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Meaning of Life- Becoming Oriented

LIFE MEANS BECOMING ORIENTED TO WHO WE ARE & WHO WE ARE MEANT TO BE IN LIGHT OF WHO CHRIST IS. 

I heard something on EWTN recently- an old program of Mother Angelica's, called "Mornings With Mother" (which my Catholic radio station plays in the evening for some reason)...  :)

Anyway, I had gotten off work & tuned in just as she was telling someone that "practicing virtue isn't hypocritical". That is, when I feel angry inside but put on a happy face because I am mindful of my need for God & truly desire to change how I feel, that's ok. That's practicing virtue. If I feel angry inside & put on a happy face without acknowledging my need for God or the desire to change, that's hypocritical. It was a small relief to hear, as I had been regularly fighting to be kind in a situation that usually sends me reeling... 

I was reminded that life is primarily about becoming oriented to the realization of what really lurks inside of me. I desire to be kind at times, but I also desire to rage & have my own way. I desire to love at times, but I also desire to hate. This is what really lies inside of me, and I am learning to acknowledge that truth without parading out the negatives for all to see. 

Part of becoming oriented to who I am is also discovering who God wants me to be... Indeed, He desires "truth in my inmost parts". It sometimes means acknowledging that lost feeling inside- I am nowhere near where I should be spiritually. Other times, I simply need to pause to make sure I'm on the right track. Becoming oriented most certainly means acknowledging my need for assistance. It  involves being still to not only contemplate my options, but to observe both my surroundings & internal disposition before moving forward. 
"Lord, I am angry. Help me to be kind & to honour You in spite of that anger. Lord, I feel like I want to hate this person. Please forgive me & help me to love them as You love them." This is what I believe Mother Angelica meant when she spoke of "practicing virtue". As I learn to walk with God, despite the instincts that rage within, I become oriented to be able to discover to who I am & who I am meant to be in light of Who He is.


Song of the Three

Today I was praying through morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours & came across a portion of a canticle from Daniel. Since becoming Catholic, I've become familiar with this passage (It reminds me a lot of Psalm 136). In its entirety, the canticle is called "The Song of the Three" & is considered an Apocryphal work- an addition in the Greek. Because the Apocryphal writings were not found in Hebrew scriptures, they are often not included in Protestant Bibles (& if they are, they're separated out from other scripture like the bad kid in the corner). In a Catholic Bible, the Apocryphal works are not separated, but joined with the rest of scripture- a feature I've come to enjoy very much.

The Song of the Three picks up where Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego are thrown into the furnace, right about where verse 23 of the Protestant versions end. Verse 24 instantly has Nebuchadnezzar jumping up in amazement that the three had not been burned, but this corresponds with verse 91 in a Catholic version. That's 67 verses later. Check out what's missing:

Then the three, as out of one mouth, praised, glorified, 
and blessed God in the furnace, saying:
Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers: 
and to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
And blessed is thy glorious and holy Name: 
and to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the Temple of thine holy glory: 
and to be praised and glorified above all for ever.
Blessed art thou that beholdest the depths, 
and sittest upon the Cherubims, 
and to be praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou on the glorious Throne of thy kingdom: 
and to be praised and glorified above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven: 
and above all to be praised and glorified for ever.
O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye heavens, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye Angels of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye waters that be above the heaven, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye powers of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye Sun and Moon, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye stars of heaven, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O every shower and dew, bless ye the Lord: 
 praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye winds, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye Winter and Summer, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye dews and storms of snow, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye nights and days, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye light and darkness, bless ye the Lord:
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye ice and cold, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye frost and snow, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye lightnings and clouds, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O let the earth bless the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye mountains and little hills, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye things that grow on the earth, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye fountains, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye seas and rivers, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye whales and all that move in the waters, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O Israel bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye priests of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye servants of the Lord, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, bless ye the Lord, 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye holy and humble men of heart, bless ye the Lord: 
praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, bless ye the Lord, 
praise and exalt him above all for ever: 
for he hath delivered us from hell, and saved us from the hand of death, 
and delivered us out of the midst of the furnace, and burning flame: 
even out of the midst of the fire hath he delivered us.
O give thanks unto the Lord, because he is gracious: 
for his mercy endureth for ever.
O all ye that worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, 
praise him, and give him thanks: 
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Daniel 3:51-90

Hmm. Redundant much? Yeah, but think about what its really saying: "Then the three, as out of one mouth, praised, glorified, and blessed God in the furnace..." We're reminded, in light of His mercy, to bless the Lord, to praise, exalt & glorify Him above all temporal, created things, even in the midst of trials & threat of death. This is what confounded Nebuchadnezzar that day & continues to confound the enemy of our soul...