May 13, 2015

Was Man Vegetarian Before Noah?

Always ask yourself two questions when reading scripture; "How does this teach me about my own salvation?" and "How does this point to Christ?"
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.  (Genesis 9:3)
One of the fundamental attributes of God is that He is a creator. Creation is part of God's nature and the story of Noah is a third creation story. The narrative isn't about diet but about restoration of the correct order in God's creation and a hint at the future eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Christ.

The first creation story is Genesis 1. The order in which God creates things tells us about the right ordering of creation. Plants are first, then fish and birds, then the beasts. Man is created last. Those created first serve those created later. Those created later are stewards of those created earlier.

The second creation story is Genesis 3. In this creation story God names man and permits man to name the beasts. This tell us the order God intended in creation. Those who are named get their identity and purpose from the one who names them. Those who name something become their caretakers.
God names man: God cares for man and man serves God.
Man names the beasts: Man cares for the beasts and the beasts serve man.
It is true that the God neither explicitly prohibited nor allowed consumption of meat prior to Noah and the flood. Arguing whether man had a vegetarian diet prior to the flood however, completely misses the point. The point is creation, and re-creation. The story of Noah and the flood is the third creation account. The language used in this third creation account is almost identical to that used in the first account.
And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; (Genesis 1:28)

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. (Genesis 9:1)
Man had become no better than the beasts, and this is why God sent the flood. In telling man that he may eat the beasts, God is elevating man, restoring him to a more dignified place in creation and re-ordering man above the beasts which he had become like. Who eats whom tells us about the order God intended for his creation.

Notice that God gives flesh to man but not blood... yet.
Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:4)
The complete restoration of man to his proper place - in the image and likeness of God - would take place later, when man was permitted to drink the blood of Jesus.
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; (John 6:53)
We eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus so that we might live the life of Jesus. Those who understood the story of Noah as a creation story would have understood Jesus words as a fulfillment. Christians today who understand the story of Noah as a creation story properly see the Eucharist as that very same fulfillment.

And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


March 05, 2015

Converts and Cradle Catholics: A False Division

The idea of Cradle Catholic vs. Converts is a false division.

God invites every Christian to become a convert every morning. Every Catholic is called to conversion of life on a daily basis.

We can't change the past. All we can do is change our mind about what we did in the past and how we will act in the future. That is the meaning of conversion. God invites us to do it moment by moment and that is the meaning of ongoing conversion

I was baptized 29 days after birth. Every morning I wake up, fall to my knees and pray, "God, come to my assistance. Lord make haste to help me." Then I ask God for the strength to do his will and promise to try my best cooperate with his grace and do better than I did yesterday.

The search for Gospel simplicity requires continual examination, that is, the effort "to do the truth", by constantly returning to the initial gift of the divine call which is at the root of one's own religious experience.
- St. Pope John Paul II,
Message to Abbot Dom Mauro Meacci on the occasion of the 1500th anniversary of the foundation of St Benedict's first monastery at Subiaco, Italy.

It goes by many names... repentance, metanoia, conversio, change... 

Every single one of us was born into original sin. Greed, self-loathing, fear and pride all cover the divine image. The divine image is washed clean at baptism so that we can move from the image of God to the likeness of God. God converts every single one of us at Baptism. We are all converts. We are called to conversion after our baptism as much as we are prior.

When we decide to change we are a covert just as much as the person who is baptized into Christ's Body at the Easter Vigil. In fact, baptism is the main reason why I go to the Easter Vigil. It is where all Catholics "return to the initial gift of the divine call", renew their baptismal promises and commit to ongoing conversion. 


February 18, 2015

The Four Pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Knowing the basic structure of the Catechism helps us understand the context of what we are reading. Like the Bible, it helps to know the context, and so I like to post this from time to time.

The Catechism is divided into four sections or "Pillars" of our faith.

Pillar 1: The Profession of Faith
  • What we believe
  • Paragraphs 26 through 1065
  • Covers the Nicene Creed line-by-line
  • St. Augustine said that the creed is God’s plan of salvation in “Tightly wound form”.
  • The Nicene Creed is at
  • The first pillar is based on Scripture. The other three pillars depend on knowing the plan for our salvation as laid out in scripture. Scripture tells us God's plan for our salvation, and the Profession of Faith (creed) is a highly condensed summary of God's plan for our salvation.
Pillar 2: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
  • How we worship
  • Paragraphs 1066 through 1698
  • Covers sacraments and liturgy
  • How we get into the story of salvation.
  • How we take part in God’s plan through the sacraments
  • How we fit into God's Kingdom on Earth, his Church.
Pillar 3: Our Life in Christ
  • How we live our lives as Christians
  • Paragraphs 1691 through 2550
  • Moral theology
  • How we interact with Christians, non-Christians and all of God’s creation.
  • How we live out God's plan for our salvation and advance his Kingdom on Earth for the salvation of others.
Pillar 4: Christian Prayer
  • How we pray
  • Paragraphs 2558 through 2865
  • Covers the most sublime and most perfect prayer, the "Our Father" line by line.
  • Prayer is intimate communication with our Creator and the Lover of our Souls.
  • Prayer ensures the first three pillars.

Try to be conscious of which of the four pillars you are reading so that you know the context. The four contexts are belief, worship, behavior and prayer. The Catechism references scripture more than any other work so remember to read the Catechism with Scripture. It helps to have a Bible nearby to reference back the footnotes.


February 08, 2015

Ritual Edition Roman Missal from Liturgical Training Publications

Shown is a Ritual Edition Roman Missal from Liturgical Training Publications.

This is obviously not a pew missal but the actual missal that a priest will use at the altar to pray the Mass. Few get to see the Roman Missal up close and so I thought I'd share some pictures for those who have never seen one.

There are several publishers of chapel edition (smaller) and ritual edition (larger) Roman Missals. This particular Missal was on clearance sale for a very attractive price. It was suggested that the sale might be an effort by the publisher to clear out the stock of old Missals which do not include St. Joseph's name in Eucharistic Prayers II-IV as was recently required by Rome. Most priests with older missals include the name of St. Joseph by memory or have a reminder note hand-written in the margin and some publishers are including stickers to be placed on the relevant portions of the text.

This book originally sold for $189 and with or without St. Joseph, $60 is a bargain and so I present it for your viewing and discussing pleasure. Pictures are clickable with commentary in the captions.

Cover Page

These are the tabs used by the priest or emcee to quickly find the appropriate parts of the book - Order of Mass, Eucharistic Prayers I-IV, Prefaces, Masses for Various Needs, Communion Rite, Solemn Blessings and so forth. The priest or emcee does not want to be fumbling with pages so every page for Eucharistic Prayers I-IV are tabbed, not just the first page.

This is a typical page for a Sunday showing the opening antiphon, collect and prayer over the offerings. This particular Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, has a proper preface before the Eucharistic prayer which is included with chant notation. The word proper means that something specific is required for that day. Since this is Lent, the priest has to say that particular Preface prayer and cannot choose his own.

This is an example of a prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayers which may be used at the priest's discretion during ordinary time. Each preface has a theme. This particular preface's theme is "The Mystery of Salvation."

Smyth sewn binding and ribbons. This particular book is brand new and some of the ribbons have yet to be disturbed.

The words of institution for Eucharistic Prayer I. EPI is also called "The Roman Canon". Holding this book in my hands and reading the actual words said by the priest takes my breath away.

Two color artwork before EPII.
Another look at the tabs.

Entrance antiphon, collect, prayers over the offeringas, communion antiphon and prayer after communion for the first Sunday in Advent. 
 A sung Mass is called a Missa Cantata. Appendix I has chant notation for almost the entire Mass. 
An idea of the heft and size of this book. Very young altar servers often cannot hold the book for the priest. I have seen the priest grab the book and plop it on the altar server's head!

That's enough pictures for now and I'm sure I'm dangerously close to violating copyright laws. It is amazing to hold such a book and ponder all the Masses that will be prayed with it.

And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD. (2 Kings 23:2)


February 04, 2015

Pre-Lent Contest at Tim's Catholic Bibles Blog

I am a fan of Tim's Catholic Bibles blog. Tim is a scholar of scripture and lover of all things Bible related. He is running a pre-Lent contest, the subject of which is, "What does Lent mean to you?"
The number 40 in the Bible often represented a time of testing. Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years, recapitulated in the life of Christ during his 40 days in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. Lent to me means a time of testing. Much like Israel, and unlike Christ, I will probably fail along the way.  At the end of that number 40 however, is the promised land and the resurrection. At the end of that number 40 is the risen, glorified Jesus who I long for with all my heart. You have to go through the tomb to get to the resurrection. You have to go through 40 days of Lent to get to the tomb. It is the way of the Cross and is the way of the Resurrection.

That is what Lent means to me.


February 03, 2015

Thinline "Go Anywhere" NRSV-CE Bible by Harper Collins

Shown is the New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE) Thinline "Go Anywhere" Bible by Harper Collins in bonded leather with sewn binding. 

Catholic Douay-Rheims onlyist's complaints aside, the NRSV continues to be the most widely used Bible in academia. This post is not an in depth analysis of the pros and cons of the translation.  Head over to Catholic Answers if you feel compelled to complain.  Tim's Catholic Bibles blog has some excellent scholarly analysis and comparisons of various translations worth reading as does Mark D. Given from Missouri State University. I prefer a more readable translation and this is about as good as it gets. 

It is always nice when traditionally non-Catholic publishers produce Catholic editions of the Bible. Including the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation and a picture of the Pope doesn't make a Bible Catholic and this includes neither. It does however, have all 73 books and orders them correctly. Also included is a 32 page concordance and several line drawn maps. Footnotes are extremely sparse. This is not a study Bible but meant to be carried and read.

Parchment paper, lack of footnotes and larger than usual height and width (6.5" x 9.5") contribute to this Bible's efficient use of shelf space - less than one inch when stood upright. There is a single brown ribbon and the page edges are more silver than gold. The bonded leather cover feel less like plastic than some others I have seen and the front cover is completely bare. The choice of modern 9pt sans-serif font surprised me and is very easy on the eyes given the large page size. .

Harper Collins has produced a very nice package given the price. Very thin and light, NRSV lovers who travel will surely enjoy this Bible. Savvy interwebz shoppers should be able to land it for around $20. The Harper Collins page for this Bible is here.

NRSV-CE "Go Anywhere" Bible by Harper Collins
NRSV-CE "Go Anywhere" Bible by Harper Collins
NRSV-CE "Go Anywhere" Bible by Harper Collins
NRSV-CE "Go Anywhere" Bible by Harper Collins


January 30, 2015

The Circumlocution of Seeing Your Father's Nakedness

What does it mean when Scripture says that Ham saw his father Noah's nakedness?
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. (Genesis 9:22)
In a word, incest.
The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:11)
Biblical authors often used evasive synonyms. The author evaded having to write God's name by writing "The Name" instead. The author would not write the actual words for male and female genitalia but would substitute another body part such as thigh, leg or belly. The technical term for using an evasive synonym is circumlocution.
So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter. (Genesis 24:9)
The servant actually put his hand on Abraham's testicles. It was a way to swear an oath - another way of saying that if you broke the oath your testicles would be cut off. Thigh is an evasive synonym for testicles. "Seeing your father's nakedness" was an evasive synonym for having sex with his wife. The Bible is full of such curcumlocutions.

Noah was going to have sex with his wife but got drunk. Noah's drunkeness gave his son Ham opportunity to defile Noah's wife (Ham's stepmother). Noah could not curse his son Ham because Noah and his three sons had already been blessed by God - you cannot curse what God has already blessed. Noah instead cursed Ham's son Canaan. 

God had sent the flood because the entire world was corrupt. One thing we take away from the story is that Noah and his family were saved through the flood but the whole ordeal really accomplished nothing for mankind. Ham went right back to the sins of his ancestors.

The events immediately after the flood are in many ways a new creation story, a third creation story after the first two creation stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3. Like the first and second creation stories, man fell. Man couldn't do it alone. Israel couldn't do it alone. We couldn't do it on our own. We all need Jesus.


January 29, 2015

Sons of the Prophets and Miraculous Feeding

The prophet Elisha was brought food to feed the sons of the prophets. The food is miraculously multiplied and there was some left over.

A man came from Ba'al-shal'ishah, bringing the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley, and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Eli'sha said, "Give to the men, that they may eat." But his servant said, "How am I to set this before a hundred men?" So he repeated, "Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, `They shall eat and have some left.'" So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.(2 Kings 4:42-44)

The phrase "Sons of the prophets" is significant. This was a guild or grouping of prophets over which Elisha presided. He erected a common dwelling for the prophets, presided over meals and dispatched the prophets to perform errands. Here Elisha feeds them with miraculous food.

Several centuries later, Jesus asks for food to feed the Israelites. Again the food is miraculously multiplied and there is much left over.

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me." Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  (Matthew 14:15-20)

One chapter later Jesus does the same thing for the Gentiles, feeding them food and having much left over. What does this all mean to us?

Matthew is portraying Jesus as the greatest prophet and fulfillment of all prophecy. His miraculous feeding of the Jews makes them "Sons of the prophets." Even more surprising to the ancient Jewish reader was the miraculous feeding of the Gentiles who were now able to lay claim to the same title. We share the title "Sons of the prophets" today. 

Jesus is the new prophet who has erected the Church as a dwelling for himself and for us, presides over our Eucharistic meals and sends us on our missions to bring his message to all the Earth.