Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Memento homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris

  • "When you fast..." It seems that Christians do penance for two reasons, one, as a kind of training, a toughening up for spiritual combat like boot camp (I think the Christian East favors that interpretation), and two, tied into Western Catholics' idea of temporal punishment, personal responsibility, which our Anglo-American Protestant host culture often misunderstands. When you do wrong, if you are really sorry, the one requirement for God's forgiveness, you want to make things right with the person you've wronged. Suppose Bernie Madoff became a Catholic and thus made a life confession in that sacrament. God forgives him but: "For your penance say 15 decades of the rosary for the rest of your life, and you still have to try to give the $18 billion back." It's kind of like that. Not the works-righteousness the Protestants accuse us of: "You think you earn your way into heaven with your superstitious mumbo-jumbo."
  • Speaking of which, here is Gordon Anderson on Ashes to Go, which seems to have become an Episcopal specialty: The Rev'd Canon Barry E.B. Swain, SSC, wrote a withering critique of this practice in his parish newsletter a year or two ago. It was priceless. He essentially said that it was a bunch of superstition. Without faith and repentance smudging ashes on foreheads does nothing and signifies nothing. Pretty ironic from folks whose original excuse for leaving the church was that we'd become superstitious (which the Protestants whom Henry VIII hired/promoted really believed). Add to that the fact that Cranmer banned ashes early on, and the lady priest on the train platform giving ashes is doubly ironic.
  • A quote from Nadia Bolz-Weber: If our lives were a long piece of fabric with our baptism on one end and our funeral on another, and we don’t know the distance between the two, then Ash Wednesday is a time when that fabric is pinched in the middle and the ends are held up so that our baptism in the past and our funeral in the future meet. The water and words from our baptism plus the earth and words from our funerals have come from the past and future to meet us in the present. And in that meeting we are reminded of the promises of God: That we are God’s, that there is no sin, no darkness, and yes, no grave that God will not come to find us in and love us back to life. Like the Dies Irae, the greatest eschatology lesson. (Versus the maybe implied universalism in her last sentence here, which would violate free will.) Like Bart Gingerich and Rod Dreher, I give the Pastrix due credit. (Lutherans, including ELCA, are our close cousins by historical accident, Luther's inconsistency and his followers trying to reach an understanding with the church. They love Jesus.) That said, much of the time she's dead wrong; not just Protestant but: embarrassing billboard featuring Jesus and a fetus, I totally get why reasonable people would keep their distance. Yeah, really compassionate, lady; killing one's child. Worth mentioning: women share in fallen human nature and thus are capable of great cruelty. I'll stick with the Catholic Church's true seamless garment (which is not pacifist and doesn't necessarily support socialism) instead.

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