Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lenten Reflection - Bread

Ted reflects:

“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, ‘Take this and eat; this is my body.’ (Matthew 26:26)

The greater Indus region was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, South Asia and China. Harappa was a city in the Indus civilization that flourished around 2600 to 1700 BCE in the western part of South Asia, although the Indus civilisation traces its roots back to around 6000 BCE. Indus Valley civilization was mainly an urban culture sustained by surplus agricultural production and commerce, the latter including trade with Sumer in southern Mesopotamia.

Among the archaelogical finds, and what marks Harappa out as an urban civilisation, are the remains of what are taken to be granaries, and wheat was one of the main commodities traded by Harappans among themselves and with other peoples as far away as Mesopotamia.

So we can say, without stretching a point too far, that bread in one form or another was a part of the life of the earliest civilisations, and formed part of the staple diet of peoples among whom Abram and Sara would have lived.

“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre…[Abraham] said ‘My lord if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant… Let me bring a little bread, that you might refresh yourselves.’” (Genesis 18:1,3)

While the Hebrews were wandering in the desert, the Lord sent them a form of bread to eat.

So, when Jesus said “this is my body”, is it possible to interpret this as saying “I have been with mankind since the earliest days, sustaining you”?

Last night, the liberal Rabbi, Mark Solomon, gave a talk to our parish about some of the symbolism of the Seder, the Passover Meal, as it is currently celebrated by Jews. He explained that the Seder was devised by Rabbis in Roman times, around 100 AD, following the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem, and may well be different from the passover meal eaten by Jesus and his disciples.

The Seder commemorates the last meal eaten by the Hebrews before they were liberated by the hand of God from slavery in Egypt, before, in effect, the nation of Israel was born and set off in search of the Promised Land.

During the meal, bread is broken into two unequal parts. The larger part is shared out among all those at the table, while the larger part is wrapped in cloth and, in the course of the meal, is hidden by the president of the meal. The children present are then sent to find the bread and bring it back at the end of the meal. It is then consumed as a final course.

Rabbi Mark was not able to say for sure whether this custom was observed in Jesus’ time, but for me, at least, the symbolism was immense, and on various levels – a true Midrash moment.

The meal, for Jews is not complete until the large part is re-united with the smaller part – just as the Jewish nation will not be complete until the ten lost tribes are found and brought back to the table with the smaller portion of the nation.

For me, as a Christian, the body of Christ is taken away after being broken on the Cross, wrapped in a cloth and hidden from sight. After three days, it is restored and the Passover of the Christians – the liberation from slavery to sin and ignorance – is complete.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Our Father

Questions from a Ewe offers a A Lenten Reflection on Ash Wednesday Readings which makes some interesting points.

At the end the author offers the Lord's Prayer in four translations.

It is good to ponder, and even to quietly pray the translation of the prayer Jesus taught us from the original Aramaic.

 You, from whom the breath of life comes,
Who fill all realms of sound, light and vibration

May your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.

Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

Let Your will come true - in all that vibrates (the universe) just as in all that is material and dense (earth).

Give us understanding, assistance for our daily need,
detach the fetters of faults that bind us, like we let go the guilt of others.

Let us not be lost in superficial things, materialism, common temptations,
but let us be freed from that which keeps us off our true purpose.

From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act, 
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

What is a Secular Catholic?

How many of us would fall into the category of 'Secular Catholic'?

Kunoichi on Get Religion comments “I think it’s fascinating to consider that there are “secular” Catholics. It feels like an oxymoron,” It’s actually not an oxymoron when you know the word is actually religious in origin. The word meant “in the world.” When an aspiring priest, nun, monk, etc. took their vows, they had a choice to live a “religious” life, isolated from the world, or a “secular” life within it. The term extended to include others who worked within the church but did not take vows.

It is only in relatively recent times that the word has come to be used as “not-religious.” So technically, virtually all Catholic priests are “secular” becuase they live and serve “in the world.”

There are further comments

Charlie: "I think it’s fascinating to consider that there are “secular” Catholics. It feels like an oxymoron, but we have long accepted that there are a great many secular Jews who self-identify culturally with Judaism but embrace atheism or Buddhism or… as their primary faith framework.

It would be interesting to find out just what the faith practices of a typical secular Catholic look like. Do they attend mass? Do they have their children baptized? Do they pray? Do they look for support from their church in times of need? It seems like a topic that might interest the folks at the Pew Forum, especially given the stats on the exodus from the church."

Katherine:  "Probably one of the worst things from this ad [in the NY Times] was the number of blogging Catholics who agreed with them. Many of these bloggers are young. As a young Catholic who is a liberal Catholic, It’s incredibly insulting that within the Church we’re viewed as not needed. We’re negotiable. So many “traditional” Catholics would rather us be gone. So why stay where I”m not wanted?

But why do I stay? I’ve asked myself this a lot lately. I stay because of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I stay because I see hope, at least hope in the Social Justice encyclicals. The Church I know and love extols faith, charity/justice, and love. Unfortunately, the broader church has an isolationist view, one that has room ONLY for Catholics who are JUST LIKE THEM.

But I stay. A friend told me I could change the Church from the inside. I pray I love my Church enough to be like St. Mary MacKillop—she loved it so much she was excommunicated by it."

The Secular Catholic blog asks, "Is it to be "a fully orthodox Catholic and a lover of the Tridentine Mass"  who believes that "(t)he Church, as we may know, is the mater et magistra. Much like our very own mothers, the Holy Mother Church warns us about things that would likely lead to error and stuff like that—through its official documents, ex cathedra or no. We must also take into consideration that even non ex cathedra statements are based on the infallible Magisterium; that which we—as orthodox Catholics—have to follow."   

The view of a Theologian:  “Secular Catholics are people who were baptized as Catholics, but they find it impossible to make Catholicism the center of (their) lives, by which I mean Catholicism as defined by the official teachings of the church,"  Associate Professor Tom Beaudoin of Fordham University,New York says.  For these believers, there are “things that they learned about faith from Catholicism. Then there are things they learned from their jobs, from school experiences, from their music and from their favorite movies."

"They are hybrid believers and their faith comes from all over the place."  Quoted in The Salisbury Post

We Are Church (Ireland)

The Tablet reported this week on the Vatican-sponsored review of the Irish Church.

There seems to be confusion over what is meant by dissent.

One view proposes that the "dissident views" are those held about fundamental issues such as the divinity of Christ or the reality of the Resurrection.

An alternative view says that "dissent" refers to those opposed to mandatory celibacy, concern about the top-down governance of the Church and the ordination of women.

We Are Church (Ireland) criticised the call for a more rigid enforcement of existing Church teaching.   Their statement included the observation that there was "a widespread belief among laity and priests that the full participation of women in all ministries, a ban on compulsory celibacy and the involvement of all the baptised in decision-making is necessary for the renewal of the Church."

Saturday, 17 March 2012

How the Fundamentalist Mind Compels Conservative Christians to Force Their Beliefs on You

One of our co-workers shares with our wearechurch discussion group many interesting articles and news reports that he has found on the Web.

Today George has sent us one that deserves careful thought and reflection..  

We give a short quote here but recommend you go to Valerie Tarico's article:
To explain why Christians will sometimes violate their own commitment to compassion or truth in the search for converts, it helps to consider the psychology of fundamentalist religion.
Religion has a set of superpowers—ways it shapes or controls human thinking and behavior. Chief among these is the fact that religions take charge of our moral reasoning and emotions, giving divine sanction to some behaviors and forbidding others.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of "Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light" and "Deas and Other Imaginings." Her articles can be found at

Happy St Patrick's Day

Friday, 16 March 2012

50 years ago at Vatican II, the world's Bishops gave our Church hope

I’m Grieving, You’re Grieving, We’re Grieving!
Fifty Years ago at Vatican II, 
the world’s Bishops gave our Church Hope.

They reaffirmed Freedom/Primacy of Conscience.
Today’s hierarchy says it must conform to their pronouncements.
We grieve.

A church governed in loving Collegiality was promised;
We’ve been dealt a Feudal Monarchy.
We grieve.

The Sharing of Power with local Synods of Bishops Representing the People
was foretold.
Power, instead, has been consolidated in the chief hierarch.
We grieve.

Lay Leadership of and in the Church was mandated.
Rather, the laity have been re-delegated to less-than-clergy.
We grieve.

Ecumenism was seen as essential to the future of
Catholicism, Christianity, Religion.
Instead, the walls have been raised.
We grieve.

We all got excited about Renewed Liturgical Practice
honoring local Artists, Musicians, and Traditions.
In a show of power, the hierarchs imposed
new archaic liturgical language and rituals.
We grieve.

The Council launched Intellectual Debate with Respect for Theologians.
With the silencing of hundreds, Dialogue is Dead.
We grieve.

The Church of Vatican II was to Heed the Signs of the Times.
Rather than a Church of and in the twenty-first century,
we’re told to revert to the Fifteenth (15th).
We grieve.

The Bishops of the world correctly saw the Church as the People of God.
Instead the Pyramid has been preserved with the people of God the base.
We grieve.

A Deeper Spirituality was promised,
seen as the essential mission of Church.
The corporate hierarchy of today has no clue.
We grieve.

True Biblical Scholarship was encouraged.
Today, Fundamentalism pervades.
We grieve.

Respect for and Protection of Young people
was deemed essential to the Future of Church.
Instead, Young people are abused
with their abusers protected.
We grieve the alienation and loss of the Young.

Liberation Theology was valued.
Rather, It has been undermined, squelched, stifled, silenced.
Latin America grieves.

The promise of a Christ-like Church with Christ-like Leadership
excited us all.
Yet, It is nowhere to be found.
We grieve.
We grieve.
We grieve the loss of all that Church is meant to be.

Love, John Chuchman
Pastoral Bereavement Educator and Companion

Thanks (I think) for reminding me, Matthew Fox