Hildegard of Bingen

hildegard-von-bingen

From the first reading from the Book of Wisdom on the Memorial celebration:

Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the nether world is devotion;
its flames are a blazing fire.
Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away

A very appropriate selection for this Rhineland saint.

Abbess, artist, author, composer, mystic, pharmacist, poet, preacher, theologian—where to begin in describing this remarkable woman? Born into a noble family, she was instructed for ten years by the holy woman Blessed Jutta. When Hildegard was 18, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of Saint Disibodenberg. Ordered by her confessor to write down the visions that she had received since the age of three, Hildegard took ten years to write her Scivias (Know the Ways). Pope Eugene III read it, and in 1147, encouraged her to continue writing. Her Book of the Merits of Life and Book of Divine Works followed. She wrote over 300 letters to people who sought her advice; she also composed short works on medicine and physiology, and sought advice from contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Continue reading

The Stigmata of St. Francis

St. Francis receives the Stigmata (fresco attr...Authorized by Pope Paul V, September 17th is the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, a feast day celebrated within the Franciscan communities.

Stigmata, from the Greek word, generically points to a “brand” or a “mark.” It is the common word to describing branding of cattle. In the Christian context it refers to the bodily marks resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ. St. Francis was the first person, historically recorded, who bore the marks of the crucified Christ in his hands, his feet, and in his side. Continue reading

In God’s eyes

jesus-and-disciplesWe conclude our look into Sunday’s Gospel with some final thoughts about Jesus’ lesson to the disciples. If the first teaching was troublesome, the next would have been downright shocking. In our time we have a different view of children. We hold children to be innocent and precious. This does not seem to have been the view of 1st century. In ancient culture, children had no status. They were subject to the authority of their fathers, viewed as little more than property. In Roman culture adults were adopted, not children. Consider St. Paul’s statement: “I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father.” (Gal 4:1-2) If this is said of the heir, can you imagine the attitude for children in general?

Perkins [p. 637] writes: “… the child in antiquity was a non-person…Children should have been with the women, not hanging around the teacher and his students (cf. 10:13-16). To say that those who receive Jesus receive God does not constitute a problem. A person’s emissary was commonly understood to be like the one who sent him. But to insist that receiving a child might have some value for male disciples is almost inconceivable.”

Perkins echos the text in Matthew 10, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me….” but is pointing out that Jesus is telling the disciples that while there are times you will indeed be my emissary, this is not the problem at hand. The problem is that the Twelve cannot conceive of welcoming the least important people in society, those ranked lowest in human convention. Yet Jesus is saying, “you’ll need to work your way down to the most marginal and lowest (by human convention) in order to find me. I am last of all.”

Remember the recent episode when the disciples were unable to cast out the demon from the child in 9:14-29? The disciples ask Jesus “…in private, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” One wonders if the disciples did not think the child was worthy of their time, effort, or prayer? They were willing to command the demon to come one, but not to pray for the child.

The Kingdom of God involves giving status to those who have none. The disciples are not to be like children, but to be like Jesus who embraces the child, the one held to be least of all in human convention.

A young rabbinical student asked the rabbi, “Rabbi, why don’t people see God today as they did in the olden days?” The wise old man put his hands on the student’s shoulders and said, “The answer, my son, is because no one is willing to stoop so low.”


Source

  • Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 1994) 635-38

Back on submarines, I wish had….

Today is my one day off. I have swum, grocery shopped, done laundry, prepared lunch, and put my feet up to read. …and then I came across an article which described a new 6-story apart complex being developed in the North Hyde Park area of Tampa. Some of the apartments will be 400 sq. ft.! Yikes, that is still larger than my room on the submarine which I shared with 2 other officers, but that is still tiny. The article mentioned that they were going to equip the micro-apartments with robotic furniture from OriLiving, a startup tech company with roots in the design and urban design schools of MIT. The founder, Hassier Larea, has a very interesting video on equipping the micro-apartment. I wonder what they could have done for submarines!

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian

Cornelius-n-CyprianSaint Cornelius was elected Pope in 251 during the persecutions of the Emperor Decius. His first challenge, besides the ever present threat of the Roman authorities, was to bring an end to the schism brought on by the first anti-pope Novatian of Carthage. The great controversy that arose was as a result of the Decian persecution. In the wake of the persecution the question faced by the Church was whether or not the Church could pardon and receive back into the Church those who had apostatized in the face of martyrdom.

Continue reading

Greatest in the Kingdom

jesus-and-disciplesIn next Sunday’s Gospel, we will encounter the disciples wondering about who among them will be the greatest in the Kingdom – and Jesus’ response to their chatter: Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”  (Mark 9:35-37)

Continue reading

Our Lady of Sorrows

Mother-of-SorrowsOur Lady of Sorrows, the Sorrowful Mother or Mother of Sorrows, and Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows are names by which the Virgin Mary is referred to in relation to sorrows in life. For a while there were two feasts in honor of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September. Now the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th in the western Catholic Church. It is a devotion on Mary’s experience of the way in which the prophecy of Simeon came to be:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:  “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment. Saint Ambrose in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed, but offered herself to her persecutors.

In Catholic religious imagery, the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful affect, with seven daggers piercing her heart. These represent the seven traditional sorrows:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:34-45)
  4. Mary meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary (John 19:26-27)
  5. Jesus dying on the cross (John 19:30)
  6. The piercing of the side of Jesus and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
  7. The body of Jesus placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42)

Franciscan Media offers a very nice reflection on the Seven Sorrow that is well done.


Getting Organized?

jesus-and-disciplesWe continue with look into the Gospel reading for the 25th Sunday in Year B of our lectionary cycle. But following the second prediction of the passion there seems to be a non-sequiter in process: 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-34). Again the disciples remain silent. Before they were afraid to ask Jesus about the meaning of his teaching. Here they think they are trying to avoid embarrassment. If before they worried that Jesus would condemn them for not understanding his teaching, now, are they worried that he will condemn them for desiring and talking about greatness? They do not yet fathom Jesus as a gracious savior.

Continue reading

Balanced on the Edge

The opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was one of the most visually stunning and massive choreographed movements of people I think I have ever witnessed. As a kid I used to think it was amazing that the Ohio State marching band could “spell” Ohio in cursive as it played during halftime. But Beijing was light years ahead in complexity of the movement of peoples from one place to another on the field. If only one person had turned the wrong way it is not hard to imagine the chaos that might have resulted. A few months ago I wrote about the same effect that plays out on the sidewalks of NYC or Tokyo during rush hour – it just takes one person to disrupt the entire flow. Continue reading

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Christ on CrossSeptember 14th is the date established for a feast that recognizes the Cross as the instrument upon which our salvation was won by Jesus Christ. This feast is called in Greek Ὕψωσις τοῦ Τιμίου καὶ Ζωοποιοῦ Σταυροῦ (“Raising Aloft of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross”) and in Latin Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis. In English, the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal restored the traditional name, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, replacing the 1972 nomenclature of the Triumph of the Cross. When the feast day falls on a Sunday (e.g. 2014 and 2025) it replaces the Sunday celebration of Ordinary Time. Continue reading