Thursday, September 14, 2017

Typology - the authentic Christian approach to the Old Testament



Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have always been a devotee of the typological approach to the Old Testament. Go HERE for my remarks on this by way of introducing the work of Methodist scholar, Margaret Barker.

Today, in his blog post on lamentable modern paraphrases that nudge out of a particular Marian devotion some well-known Old Testament imagery and expressions, the redoubtable Fr John Hunwicke makes some important points about how the Old Testament was understood in the early centuries of the Church.  

In my opinion, he firmly hits the nail on the head when he says: 

... My next reservation is more substantial: a form of Litany of our Lady is offered, clearly designed to be be more ‘modern’ than the traditional Litany (“of Loretto”). You know what I mean: instead of (ex.gr.) “Turris Davidica”, one might invoke “Woman of Faith”; instead of “Ora pro nobis”, one might pray “Keep us in mind”.

I mention this not for the rather cheap motive of inviting you to groan at the inept ‘modernity’ of such things, but because what we are losing here is in fact something extremely important: the typological character of the old Litany. The titles of our Lady in that Litany include many of the  typological titles which Christian devotion, since at least the time of the Council of Ephesus, has discovered in the Old Testament as pointers to the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

Typology is discerning in the Old Testament the Figure of Christ and his Mother and the events of their lives, so that the Old Testament passage is the Type and the New Testament Figure or event is the Antitype. Typology is the central way in which the Great Tradition of both East and West has appropriated the Old Testament. It goes back to the New Testament texts themselves: Christ as the New Adam ... and see I Corinthians 10:1-11 ... and look at I Peter 3:20-21 ... etc.etc.. Typology is part of the fundamental Grammar of the Faith; something even deeper than dogma.

Today ... the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ... liturgical texts reminded us that the Lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross is the Antitype of which the Lifting up of the serpent in the desert was the Type (Numbers 21:4-9; S John 3:13-17; S John 12:32). 

I know that most laity have not been taught about Typology; because the Clergy weren’t taught it either; because there were so much more important things for them to be taught in seminary (the Synoptic Problem... the inauthenticity of most of S Paul’s letters ...). But seeing the Lorettan Litany displaced by a modernist ‘relevant’ formula devoid of Typology brought home to me again the radical impoverishment of current Catholic culture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

St John Chrysostom: The Eucharist "makes earth become to you a heaven".



From St John Chrysostom's Sermon on the Gospel of St Matthew 82, 4

St John Chrysostom was born of Christian parents, about the year 344, in the city of Antioch. His mother, at the age of 20, was a praised for her holiness and faith. John studied rhetoric under Libanius, a pagan, the most famous orator of the age.

In 374, John began to lead the life of an anchorite (or hermit) in the mountains near Antioch, but in 386 the poor state of his health forced him to return to the city, where he was ordained a priest.

In 398, he was made Bishop of Constantinople and became one of the greatest teachers the Church has known. But because he did not hold back from denouncing the abuses of authority and wealth he witnessed both in the Church and in the Empire, he had enemies in high places, not least of all Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria (who repented of this before he died), and the empress Eudoxia. Several false accusations were brought against him in a pseudo-council, and he was sent into exile.

In the midst of his pain, suffering, and rejection, like the apostle, St Paul, whom he so greatly admired, he knew the peace and happiness of the Lord. It reassured him, too, that the Pope remained supportive of him and did what he could. But Chrysostom’s enemies were not satisfied with the sufferings they had already caused him; they exiled him still further away, to Pythius, at the extremity of the Empire. He died on his way there on September 14, 407. 

It was after his death that he was called Chrysostom, which comes from the Greek for “golden-mouthed.” Today is his commemoration in the Church's calendar.

The following passage is from St John Chrysostom’s sermon on 1 Corinthians 10. It speaks of the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and our need to be prepared for Holy Communion. It also speaks of the merging of earth and heaven together in the celebration of the Eucharist.  


This Body, even lying in a manger, Magi reverenced. Yea, men profane and barbarous, leaving their country and their home, both set out on a long journey, and when they came, with fear and great trembling worshipped him. Let us, then, at least imitate those Barbarians, we who are citizens of heaven. For they indeed when they saw him but in a manger, and in a hut, and no such thing was in sight as you behold now, drew near with great awe. 

But you behold him not in the manger but on the altar, not a woman holding him in her arms, but the priest standing by, and the Spirit with exceeding bounty hovering over the gifts set before us. You do not see merely this Body itself as they did, but you know also its power, and the whole economy, and are ignorant of none of the holy things which are brought to pass by it, having been exactly initiated into all.

Let us therefore rouse ourselves up and be filled with awe, and let us show forth a reverence far beyond that of those Barbarians; that we may not by random and careless approaches heap fire upon our own heads.  But these things I say, not to keep us from approaching, but to keep us from approaching without preparation. For as the approaching at random is dangerous, so the not communicating in those mystical suppers is famine and death. For this Table is the sinews of our soul, the bond of our mind, the foundation of our confidence, our hope, our salvation, our light, our life. When with this sacrifice we depart into the outer world, with much confidence we shall tread the sacred threshold, fenced round on every side as with a kind of golden armor.

And why do I speak of the world to come? Since here this mystery makes earth become to you a heaven. Open only for once the gates of heaven and look in; nay, rather not of heaven, but of the heaven of heavens; and then you will behold what I have been speaking of. For what is there most precious of all, this will I show you lying upon the earth. For as in royal palaces, what is most glorious of all is not walls, nor golden roofs, but the person of the king sitting on the throne; so likewise in heaven the Body of the King. But this, you are now permitted to see upon earth. For it is not angels, nor archangels, nor heavens and heavens of heavens, that I show you, but the very Lord and Owner of these. Do you perceive how that which is more precious than all things is seen by you on earth; and not seen only, but also touched; and not only touched, but likewise eaten; and after receiving it you go home?

Make your soul clean then, prepare your mind for the reception of these mysteries. For if you were entrusted to carry a king’s child with the robes, the purple, and the diadem, you would cast away all things which are upon the earth. But now that it is no child of man how royal soever, but the only-begotten Son of God himself, whom you received, do you not thrill with awe, tell me, and cast away all the love of all worldly things, and have no bravery but that wherewith to adorn yourself? Or do you still look towards earth, and love money, and pant after gold? What pardon then can you have? What excuse? Do you not know that all this worldly luxury is loathsome to your Lord? Was it not for this that on his birth he was laid in a manger, and took to himself a mother of low estate? Did he not for this say to him that was looking after gain, “But the Son of Man has not where to lay his head?” Matthew 8:20

And what did the disciples? Did they not observe the same law, being taken to houses of the poor and lodged, one with a tanner, another with a tent-maker, and with the seller of purple? For they inquired not after the splendour of the house, but for the virtues of men’s souls.

These therefore let us also emulate, hastening by the beauty of pillars and of marbles, and seeking the mansions which are above; and let us tread under foot all the pride here below with all love of money, and acquire a lofty mind. For if we be sober-minded, not even this whole world is worthy of us, much less porticoes and arcades. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us adorn our souls, let us fit up this house which we are also to have with us when we depart; that we may attain even to the eternal blessings.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Our Lady's Birthday



Most of what we know about Our Lady's birthday is from the Protoevangelium of James which has been dated by historians to the early second century. The earliest reference to the feast day itself comes from the sixth century. Most scholars believe that the feast originated in Jerusalem because of the existence of a church dedicated to St Anne dating from in the fifth century and considered to be the location of Mary's birth. Historians generally accept that September 8 was chosen for this feast day on account of the beginning of the civil year in Constantinople on September 1, emphasising that the birthday of Mary is the "beginning" of the work of salvation.

This feast day was introduced in Rome from the Eastern Church in the seventh century. It became a holy day of obligation throughout the west by the year 1007.

I share with you today two very different readings. The first, by John Mason Neale (1818-1866), is from his well known sermon for this feast. The second, a poem by Thomas Merton (1915-1968) explores the symbolic significance of our Lord's genealogy (the Gospel reading for today). 


JOHN MASON NEALE PREACHING ON 
OUR LADY'S BIRTHDAY

“THE LORD, WHOM YE SEEK, SHALL SUDDENLY COME TO HIS TEMPLE.” - MALACHI III. 1.

THERE is no festival of S. Mary which has not also to do with our LORD. How should it be otherwise? She who was so closely and so wonderfully connected with Him as Man, so that He was bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, she cannot be divided in our thoughts from Him now. He is still Man, as truly as He ever was; He still has the flesh which He took of her; the same in which He suffered, the same in which He died, the same in which He rose again from the dead.

This text has, then, to do both with our LORD and with His Blessed Mother; and we may also apply it to ourselves, and say that it has to do with us.

“The LORD, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple.” First of all, this prophecy was fulfilled when the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth with the most wonderful message that was ever heard on earth. “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with GOD. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His Name JESUS.” The womb of S. Mary was the temple into which our LORD at that moment entered. There it was that He, Who was the Desire of all nations, -He, Who even then might have said, “The earth is weak, and all the inhabiters thereof: I bear up the pillars of it,”- He, Whom the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain,-there He lay hid for all those long months, until the fulness of the time came, and GOD was born into the world. David, in the Psalms, represents our LORD as anxious to find out this temple for Himself: “I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, neither shall the temples of my head take any rest: until I find out a place for the temple of the LORD, an habitation for the mighty GOD of Jacob.” This place, this habitation, He did find out, when the HOLY GHOST came upon S. Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and the Word of the FATHER took flesh in her womb.

“The LORD, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” And this promise was fulfilled the second time when our LORD was presented in the temple, at the Purification of His Blessed Mother,--in memory of which we keep Candlemas-day. It was His temple, though the Jews little knew it: He, then an infant six weeks old, was the one true Priest, though the High Priest little thought it; He was LORD of the countless armies of angels, and of all the tribes of men, though He had so few that were truly waiting for Him. “The LORD, Whom ye seek.” How many were those that sought Him then? If I count rightly, four only. See if I am wrong. S. Luke tells us that Anna the prophetess “coming in that instant, gave thanks likewise to the LORD, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” All, then, that looked for redemption in Jerusalem were at that moment in the temple--there were none others besides; and for all that appears, they were only S. Anna herself, S. Mary, and S. Joseph, and Simeon. Pour courtiers to wait on such a King!

“The LORD, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” This Scripture is fulfilled before us every day; for every day the HOLY GHOST comes down into His temples, the bodies of those who are baptized: He comes suddenly, He comes without preparation,--a few words, a little water,--and His temple is consecrated to Him for ever. As S. Paul tells us, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the HOLY GHOST?” and again, “Know ye not, that ye are the temple of GOD, and that the Spirit of GOD dwelleth in you?”

But those temples must, little by little, day by day, fall to pieces and perish. “This earthly house of our tabernacle must be dissolved,” says S. Paul. And when it shall have been,--when earth shall have returned to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,--then also this text shall be fulfilled; “The LORD, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” He shall come to it, to raise it up again from the earth, and--if it has been His true temple--to make it His glorious dwelling for ever. And this shall be suddenly, too, as S. Paul also tells us: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

That will be the last time that our LORD will come to His temple; for afterwards He shall abide in it for ever. The LORD GOD Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of that Holy City, New Jerusalem, which S. John saw, and which we also some day hope to see: according to that saying, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My GOD, and he shall go no more out.”

Now, what we are to notice in all these comings of our LORD to His temple, is their suddenness. “The LORD, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple.” In one moment He was conceived in the womb of S. Mary; in one moment He turns the heart of an infant, from being the abode and the den of Satan, into His own holy temple; in one moment He will raise up these bodies of ours, turning them from mortal to immortal, from corruptible to incorruptible. GOD does not stand in need of time to do His wonderful works. One day is with the LORD as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

But we may take this verse in yet one more sense. “The LORD shall suddenly come to His temple,” when He comes to each of you at death. Long or short as your last illness may be, still the LORD’S coming will be sudden. There is one point, one moment of time, at which you will leave the world and go to Him. Then all our happiness depends on whether the first part of the verse be true: “the LORD, Whom ye seek.” If so, all is well. Then His Coming, though it must be dreadful, will also be glorious; then we may make answer with S. John, “He Which testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen: even so come, LORD JESUS.”

But suppose the LORD, Whom ye do not seek, should suddenly come to His temple?

And now to GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY GHOST, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.


RAHAB'S HOUSE
by Thomas Merton

Now the lean children of the God of armies 
(Their feet command the quaking earth)
Rise in the desert, and divide old Jordan 
To crown this city with a ring of drums. 
(But see this signal, like a crimson scar
Bleeding on Rahab's window-sill, 
Spelling her safety with the red of our Redemption.)

The trumpets scare the valley with their sudden anger,
And thunderheads lean down to understand the nodding ark, 
While Joshua's friend, the frowning sun, 
Rises to burn the drunken houses with his look. 
(But far more red upon the wall 
Is Rahab's rescue than his scarlet threat.)

The clarions bind the bastions with their silver treble, 
Shiver the city with their golden shout: 
(Wells dry up, and stars fly back, 
The eyes of Jericho go out,)
The drums around the reeling ark 
Shatter the ramparts with a ring of thunder.

The kings that sat
On gilded chairs, 
The princes and the great 
Are dead. 
Only a harlot and her fearful kindred 
Fly like sparrows from that sudden grin of fire.

It is the flowers that will one day rise from Rahab's earth,
That have redeemed them from the hell of Jericho.
A rod will grow 
From Jesse's tree, 
Among her sons, the lords of Bethlehem, 
And flower into Paradise.

Look at the gentle irises admiring one another by the water, 
Under the leafy shadows of the Virgin's mercy, 
And all the primroses and laughing flags 
Bowing before Our Lady Mary in the Eden of her intercession, 
And praising her, because they see the generations 
Fly like a hundred thousand swallows into heaven, 
Out of the jaws of Jericho, 
Because it was the Son of God 
Whose crimson signal wounded Rahab's wall, 
Uttered our rescue in a figure of His Blood.