On the love of God

31 03 2010

A spiritual creature can love God more than himself because the relation of a creature to God is the relation of the part to the whole. A part can love the whole on which it depends for its existence more than it loves itself. The hand moves instinctively to sacrifice itself in protecting the body whose part it is. The citizen willingly gives up his life for the community of which he is a member. So the creature can love the God on whom he depends even more than he loves himself- more so indeed than the hand or citizen in the examples cited. For the creature’s relation to God is no ordinary relation of part to whole. It is a relation of participation, the relation of a participant to the Infinite Existence in whose plenitude it shares. The creature depends on God for everything he is and does. God dwells in the creature through His creative action. In a way God is the creature while transcending it because creature and God are one through the unity of participation. As the ever-present creative source of creature’s being, God is the creature’s good more than the creature himself is. If therefore a spiritual creature loves his own good truly, he must love God more than he loves himself.

-Gerald A. McCool, S.J., From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism

On forgiveness

30 03 2010

I recently saw a documentary on Hasidism in America. In that documentary, a Hasidic anecdote was told that went something like this:

A rabbi once asked a lowly blacksmith how he asked for God’s forgiveness on Yom Kippur. The blacksmith told the rabbi the prayer that he prayed to God:

“I am a simple man, and I have a few sins, but You are very powerful, and You do all sorts of horrible things, like taking children away from their mothers. So I’ll forgive You if You forgive me, and with that we will call it even.”

The rabbi responded:

“Why did you let God off so easily? With that prayer, you could have redeemed all of Israel.”

On the woman caught in adultery

29 03 2010

image credit

About a hundred years ago, on March 21st, 1903, a man killed his wife in the place where the current bus station now stands. This episode, which barely occupied three columns of the police record, created, in some bizarre twist of fate, the supreme myth of the city of Salta [Argentina]. It concerns Juana Figueroa, an almost anonymous woman in life, who after her death achieved an almost legendary status.
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Santa Muerte video

28 03 2010

Featuring some of my old haunts

Stabat Mater

26 03 2010

Maya Deren’s Erzulie

25 03 2010

Maya Deren in her book, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, gives a different perspective on the divine feminine than is seen in most cultures. The central goddess of Voudou is not a mother goddess, but a goddess similar to Aphrodite or the Muses in Greek mythology. I speak of course here of Erzulie. As is the case of all loa, she is more archetype than person, and she is the manifestation of “that which distinguishes humans from all other forms: their capacity to conceive beyond reality, to desire beyond adequacy, to create beyond need.” Far from being the divine mother giving birth in the midst of protean chaos, she is the mother of the “myth of man’s life – its meaning…that very principle by which man conceives and creates divinity.”

When she takes possession of someone in a Voudou ceremony, she is the true woman of luxury, often making irrational demands on the surrounding devotees, themselves sunk in dire poverty. She performs an elaborate toilette, using only a new soap, the best combs, the finest jewelry. She also demands the best food and flowers, and displays an elaborate formalism in every gesture. She is a veritably “out of this world” character in the midst of the squalor of her surroundings. This is needed in this system, as Deren writes that:

In her character is reflected all the élan, all the excessive pitch with which the dreams of men soar, when, momentarily, they can shake loose the flat weight, the dreary, reiterative demands of necessity; and the details with which the serviteur has surrounded her image reflect the poignant, fantastic misconceptions of luxury which a man who has only known poverty would cherish.
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The moon inside

24 03 2010

The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.

So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, his works are as naught:
When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then the work of the Lord is done.
For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
When that comes, then work is put away.

The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower withers.
The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself: it wanders in quest of grass.


Faith and violence

23 03 2010

I listened to a recent NPR story about whether the Bible is more violent than the Koran. I am not going to throw my hat in the ring regarding that question. But this did make me wonder why, particularly among contemporary people in the developed world, violence and religion are seen as no longer going together, as if violence is no longer a part of people’s daily lives.

It also strikes me as odd that certain folks are surprised that many criminals are still religious, even the really bad ones. I was reading a recent USA Today story about the cult to Jesus Malverde in Mexico, and he seems to get dubbed the “patron saint of the narcos” on both sides of the border, as if all the drug smugglers only venerate him since they feel that they have “crossed over to the dark side” and can’t ask any other heavenly intercessor for a favor. I would speculate that these people do not “theologize” along such Manichean lines, and they are just as likely to have a medal of St. Jude around their neck as they are one of Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte. Such dichotomies between official religion and what people actually do seem only to comfort a certain sector of the self-proclaimed literati. I never take them seriously.

Secularism and its discontents

22 03 2010

This past March 17th, AG and I went to a talk at Loyola University here in New Orleans given by Fr. Joseph Tetlow S.J. entitled “American Culture, Religion, and Spirituality”. This was part of the Sacred Word / Sacred Music series, and true to its name, the talk was interpolated with verses from popular Protestant hymns sung by the audience. The subject of the talk was the rise of secularism in the American context, and what we can do to defend ourselves from it. While I agreed with many of his arguments, and was surprised by the radical nature of some of his proposed solutions, I found them not convincing since they appealed to a sense of non-confessional “religious decency” that tends to paralyze cultural thought in this country. In my opinion, if any collective action is to be taken against the “secular menace”, its foundation must lie in truth and ideas, not in vague sentiments of “needing a god” to uphold the social order.

Much of Fr. Tetlow’s talk consisted of a catalogue of the attacks by militant secularists against any public manifestation of religion, and the historical background of the role of religion in public life dating to the colonial era. He described how militant atheist groups are striving to strike such phrases as “one nation, under God” and “in God we trust” from use in various places in the public sphere. For him, this has nothing to do with “freedom of religion” or violations of the establishment clause, but is a direct persecution of believing Christians in public discourse. This of course has accompanied the general decline of religious practice in the last fifty years, and Father provided all of the statistics with which all of you I am sure are now familiar.
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St. Joseph’s Altars – New Orleans, 2010

20 03 2010

From St. Dominic’s Church down the street from our New Orleans home, where we found a charming comment to a St. Joseph’s prayer (once posted on this blog):

Say for nine mornings for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.

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