Monthly Archives: December 2011

“Murder is murder,” said Ironside

From Yesterday’s feast of the Holy Innocents and todays St Thomas Becket.

Anyone remember the Ironside series with Raymond Burr as the disabled detective in the truly tasteless wheelchair? (It is one of the least enviable wheelchairs I ever saw- and I occasionally prone to a little wheelchair envy).

Anyway, before I digress too far into wheelchair design let me get back to Ironside. In one episode some years ago I remember him saying firmly, “Murder is murder.” I can’t remember which episode it was or even the context exactly, but the words stuck in my head. It might seem like a silly statement from a silly script, but there’s something about the blunt, plain talking detective that is very refreshing in a world saturated in psycho-babble and sheer misuse and fogging of language.

In the beginning words had power. God said “Let there be light,” And there was light. There was power even in names; names meant something. Every word spoken, oath taken, name given held meaning. Abusing language enables people to lie and look “clever” or even wise. If we have to redefine the meaning of words so that we can get something said, then it seems unlikely it is truthful.

I recently read an unplanned debate online between a pro-lifer and a pro-“choice” person. The pro-choicer kept insisting that any clarity of terms used was getting into semantics and he didn’t want to. No, of course not, clarity of language was the last thing he wanted.

There are many ways to legally commit murder these days. The world watched Terri Shiavo being starved and dehydrated to death even though her parents were willing to take her home and care for her.  The media lied outright about her being on “life support” as a way of fudging the fact that she could and did breath without help and was a living human person. Dress it up as you like – she was murdered.

Herod sent the soldiers out to kill the baby boys of Bethlehem. Who cares about a few dead babies? So few cared that it barely gets a mention outside of Matthew’s Gospel.  Herod’s motive was fear over loss of his power and probably all that came with it. Jesus spent a lot of His ministry telling us not to be afraid. It was not a mild suggestion. God’s word has power and when Jesus says “Do not be afraid,” He is not coming up with some platitude He is demanding that we stop being afraid and trust Him.

Herod murdered those children and no one took much notice. Not even enough notice for the contemporary historians to mention it. Herod’s more powerful and wealthier victims get a mention in history. It takes Matthew a Galilean tax collector to mention all those babies, so unimportant that we can turn a blind eye to them.

Today is the feast of St Thomas Becket. Henry II was a good king in many ways but as is too often the case, he was tempted by the power he already had, to grasp at even more power. He grasped at power and authority that was not legitimately his. Thomas, who had been a loyal friend of the king, stood firm against this attack on the Church by Henry. The Church must maintain her independence as it was this that helped curb and balance not only her own power but the secular powers of the day.

Over the medieval period plenty of men of power tried to ditch their faith and the Church with it so they could do whatever they pleased. Invariably this entailed war, power grabs and the death of innocents.

As we kill off quietly those we no longer want to waste our money on, we change the words for this killing to “the right to die” or “dignity” – horribly changing the meaning of that word. We call it “choice” when mothers are forced, heavily persuaded or simply shunted into abortion. We pretend abortion is not killing a baby at all. We talk about “terminating the pregnancy” rather than killing the baby. We say “products of conception” rather than baby and we call those going through the procedure all sorts of words but never  “mother” which is what they are.

12 weeks

It doesn’t matter what Herod said of the babies in Bethlehem; it doesn’t matter what we call the babies in abortion mills; or the old people refused treatment or even water. We can dress up the starvation of seriously disabled people, or the refusal to treat the sick because they are too old, too disabled or life unworthy of life. But in the end as Ironside said – “Murder is murder.” and there if there is no asking for mercy, there will be justice.

8 weeks

Let us remember all the mothers who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth and sickness and the mothers who have lost children by abortion. I reckon most of us who have miscarried little ones still remember them, love them and miss them. We offer their souls to God’s enormous love and mercy.

For a mother cannot forget her baby and He will not forget us (rf Isa 49:15).

Now thanks to Fr John Boyle go and watch this wonderful video about Isaac, whose parents stood firm against the doctors and refused to abort him. It’s a lovely video worth your time.

Hannukah, the eight days and the Light of the World

It is coming to the end of the eight days of Hanukkah.  As Christians we should remember what happened as the Jews who had survived the astonishing evil perpetrated by Antiochus Epiphanes against God and His people. The story is told in full in the two books of Maccabees, with the eight day light in 1 Mac 4 especially.

The Temple always had a Menorah since the days when it was in a tent or tabernacle. It had seven branches that stood up from a golden tree like structure that had lamps of oil in the shape of almond blossoms. The menorah seems to represent the seven days of creation, the Tree of Life and the burning bush through which Moses first encountered God, and received His Name “I AM WHO AM” or “I Am The Being One” YHWH.

The Menorah for Hanukkah has nine branches. eight lamps for each day of the miracle and the ninth lamp is called the Servant from which all the other lamps are lit. While some modern versions of this menorah have the servant light to one side, the traditional place was at the centre.

The miracle of the menorah that is celebrated at Hanukkah is interesting from the Christian point of view. There was just enough holy oil to keep the menorah lit for one day and it would take eight days to produce more oil. In an act of great faith the people who had returned to clean and reconsecrate the Temple lit the oil and set to work to make the new

These lights were continued through to the Church and we still have the Bog Six candles on the high altar or back of the Sanctuary with the Tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament in the middle as the Light of the World, just as Jesus identified Himself.

At Hanukkah which is considered a festival set up by man rather than God, the people show their deep gratitude for the freedom God gave them from the darkness of Antiochus who had persecuted the Jews so viciously. The story of the mother who was forced to watch while her seven sons where tortured to death and how she encouraged them and supported them with her courage and strength, from her great faith in God, is told in Maccabees. From this persecution a remnant returned to Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple. God Himself provided the light for those eight days.

There are two acolyte candles with large brass holders that are carried by altar servers and stand either side of the altar through most of the Mass. They are carried and held either side of the lecturn for the Gospel reading and are carried before the gifts for the presentation of the gifts of bread and wine.

In Scripture Hanukkah is called the Feast of Dedication and takes places about two months after the festival of tabernacles (booths or tents). Jesus celebrated the feast and entered the Temple (John 10:22+) where He faced those who accused Him of working with the devil. Yet again the Temple was defiled by those who refused to see or hear the Truth and Christ entered as a Light who would bring the world out of darkness.

The Hanukkah menorah has nine branches – eight for the eight days God gave light and one as the Servant to light all the others. Christ came as a servant-king washing the feet of the apostles and pouring Himself out for His bride the Church.

There are six days of creation at the end of which Adam fell. The Seventh Day was made the Sabbath for man (“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” Mar 2:27). Jesus died on the eve of the Sabbath that in that year fell on Passover (by one calendar). He was laid in the tomb on the Seventh day and rested. He rose on the First Day which is the Eighth day- for He is the first and the last (ΑΩ). The first day/eighth day then became the Lord’s Day and so Christians gathered for the breaking of Bread, the Mass on the Lord’s Day and have done ever since.

So we are now living in the Eighth day.

Now this bit is pure speculation on my part and as I can find no Church teaching on this you can take it or leave it: but as Novenas seem to have been rooted in the prayers for the dead I was wondering if there might be a Ninth Day in the future linked with the Second Coming. Would this link with the ninth lamp on the Hanukkah menorah? Or is it more likely that the symbolism we are to see is that the Servant King stands outside of time- beyond both the Seven Days and the Eighth Day? I don’t know. But I wonder.

Christmas traditions and book basket

We have some family traditions for Advent and Christmas. There are traditional stories to read and the traditional things to cook.

Food wise we make marmalade, cranberry sauce, Christmas mincemeat and Iona makes chilli jam. I make rich “boiled” Christmas cake. It isn’t really boiled but that seems to be the name for it. Then Iona makes a chocolate log.

This year I am starting a new tradition of making mulled apple juice. (Last year I made mulled berry juice but we didn’t get the fruit in time this year).

Then there’s the great pre-Christmas clear out. It’s astonishing how many bin bags we can fill in this time.

The children all do a clear out of their toys and make sure there is a big bag of things to give to Santa. This is because Saint Nicholas likes to make sure he has enough toys for poorer families and it’s good for the children to give Santa a hand in his work.

An at first glance rather strange family tradition is having the tree in a play pen. We started this tradition when Ronan was little and had tried to pull the tree down on top of himself. Having it in the pen means it can’t be climbed or pulled over and the pressies are safer under it.

One of the other traditions for the older three is to help Father put the Christmas tree up in Church and build the crib scene.

Story time over Christmas for the children there’s a few favourites:

The Legend of Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola 

Some of the stories from Classic Christmas Stories

Tomie dePaola’s Legend of Old Befana

Also I am still reading them The Phoenix and the Carpet by E Nesbit and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from Yesterday’s Classics (Kindle edition)

My reading: I am still reading The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers (but can’t remember where I got it).

Also courtesy if Ignatius Press I am reading Theophilis by Michael O’Brien

And None Other Gods by R H Benson

I have also just received Matron Knows Best by Joan Woodcock the true story of a 1960s NHS nurse.

Wishing you a Blessed and Merry Christmas one and all.

Ronan carried in the baby Jesus for the Vigil Mass last night.

O Rex Gentium – compared to wannabe kings of the world. O Emmanuel, God with us!

I know the Welsh don’t like it, but there is something deeply profound in that line from a A Man For All Seasons when St. Thomas More quotes Scripture at the betrayer Richard Rich saying “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul….but for Wales?”

The cross is a stumbling block to those who want to be kings of the world – or even just Wales. Jesus  as King of the Jews poured every last drop of Himself out for all of us, having washed the feet of the apostles only a few hours earlier.  Real kings sacrifice for others, they don’t sacrifice others for themselves.

Over Christmas we remember good King Wenceslas who ruled with kindness and took care of the poor. The Church has quite a few royal saints who worked hard for the poor and sacrificed for the people they served as King or Queen.

I think this is a good rule of thumb when looking for good religious leaders too. A king, prince, relgious leader who has privalege and doesn’t use it for others, isn’t much of a leader. We do the same in the Church in how we judge our popes. The ones who stood firm for Christ and followed Him closely are saints – and we are blessed to have a lot of saintly and canonised popes; but can also learn from the popes who did things badly. One of the things we learn is that no matter how bad a pope got the Holy Spirit did not allow them to change the teachings of Christ.

There is the story of a pope (I can’t remember which one, but I’m sure many of you know about this) who had written something that would contradict the Church and he was firmly set to promulgate it. On the night before he was to promulgate this document he died.  God protects His Church.

O Emmanuel – God with us. This is from the prophecy Isaiah gave to Ahab who had tried to chicken out of hearing what God had to say. Isaiah said that Ahaz was going to hear what God had to say anyway and made the prophecy  that a virgin shall conceive bear a son and he will be called wonderful, councilor prince of peace and God With Us.

As with many prophecies it has been considered that there was a dual fulfilmet of Isaiah’s words in that Ahaz’s young wife Abijah soon delivered a son whom they named Hezekiah meaning God is Strength.

Ahaz had been a pretty dreadful king and led Israel into the darkness. But Hezekiah was seen as a great kind. He cleaned out the awful pagan gods and brought Israel back under the wing of God. But the sins of the people left a mark and soon Hezekiah found himself facing Sennechorib who rules Assyria after the death of Sargon. Hezekiah had looked to Egypt for help, but none came.

O Oriens – son/sun of justice

When God made the sun I am sure He had in mind that it would be a symbol of the Incarnate Light of the World. I think He was probably well aware of how the moon as it reflects that light into a dark world would symbolise the Mother and Church.

The old pagans who were wiser in many ways that we give them credit, understood the symbols of sun and moon and made a god and godess around them, but they lacked the full truth of how the heavenly objects were types to show us the way to the reality of heavenly persons. We should not be too hard on them, for there were those who through reason and without the benifit of revelation understood something of the nature of a god of the sun or sun-god or even a son-god.

Both Jesus and Mary have been called “morning star” and so has Satan. How can God and Satan have the same symbol?  It does make me a bit uncomfortable at times. But then it’s something that should tell us about what Satan hoped for himself. He, like his friends, wants all the power and glory of God, but without having to do all the sacrificing and love that goes with it.

Isaiah’s words about how the king of Babylon would fall includes calling him the Day Star, Son of the Morning (in Latin Lucifer and in Hebrew Helel). This passage (ch 14) has been considered a prophesy about Satan but also his best minion, the Antichrist.  The King of Babylon was a type of Antichrist and tried to hold a title that was really for God and His Bride.

It is noted at times that the star of the morning is often considered to be the planet Venus. The goddess in her many forms is an Antimarian figure. The corruption of the Queen mothers (gebirah) in Israel’s royal family was also a type of antimarian.

The fall of Satan was bigger than the fall of the other devils because Satan had been one of the brightest angels. The Light Bearer, Star of the Morning – and he fell into darkness.

The darkest gods in the pagan pantheon are opposites of God as He really is. Just as God is Adonai, so the father god of the Canaanites was Ba’al a ruthless father god. Just as Christ is the King of Kings, so many kings arose trying to grasp the Godhead for themselves and fell int he process. (Antiochas Epiphanes has to be the major type of Antichrist, more so even than Solomon after his moral fall).

Christ and His Mother really are the Morning Star,  He is the Son who shines brightly with His own Light as the sun shines at morning. She is the star like Venus who shines her light which is a reflection of His Light.

Just as the sun gives light and life to the world, so the Son gives Light and life to all of us.

O Clavis David – the Key and the Kingdom and Advent and Christmas stories part III

Jesus doesn’t have the keys to the Kingdom, He IS the key of the Kingdom. What He opens, no one shall shut and what He shuts no one shall open.  His sacrifice opens the gates of Heaven, and gives life to His Bride the New Jerusalem.

David had the keys to the Kingdom because he was king. His descendent the great king Hezekiah had, as kings before him, handed the authority to a prime minister. The Prime Minister that had served Hezekiah was a bad one (nothing new under the sun) and so Hezekiah fired him and handed the keys to a new man, and put the cloak of office on this new man. He gave him the keys of authority for the kingdom and said to him “What you open is opened and what you shut is shut,” and gave him the power in the king’s name for binding and loosing.

When Jesus handed His kingly power to Peter, changing his name from Simon as He did so, Jesus echoed the way Hezekiah was doing things. At the moment Jesus was handing this authority to Peter, there was already a Prime Minister in power. The High Priest sat on the seat of Moses and so Jesus had taught that because the priests had the authority handed down to them through Moses and Aaron the people must listen to them – but because they were corrupt, they shouldn’t do as they do.

The rest of the apostles were bishops or overseers. The Church in her development of the hierarchy for the massive changing needs of the Church as she grew, established Cardinals. The word cardinal means “hinge”. So as Peter and his descendents hold the keys of the gate of heaven, the cardinals are the hinges of the gate. They and the bishops work with Peter to serve Jesus and guide us lot.

Rusty cardinals could prevent people from getting to heaven. Jesus wont like that, so we had better be praying for our bishops hadn’t we?

Meanwhile the Anchoress and others have noted that the Holy Father is looking worn out at the moment. He has a huge cross to carry around thanks to the appalling sins of some priests and bishops and the sorry behaviour and attitude of too many of us Catholics.  Let’s not forget to pray for him too.

My Advent and Christmas Stories part III is done. I know it’s a bit late, but there’s not a lot of “work” so much as sit and read together, so some of you might still find it useful. I cover the stories of St. Nicholas,Angels , St Wenceslas, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St Juan Diego, St. John the Baptist and a short lesson on the use of chiaroscoro in religious art. Kalei has it up on her blog so go and get it. There’s not a lot of “work” with it this time, just sofa time reading together.

Wish her a Happy Christmas – she has worked her socks off for us all this year!