Category Archives: Christianity

The Hour Of Victory

Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: “O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world.” Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

(John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
    he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
    thy rod and thy staff,
    they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    for ever.

(Psalm 23)

 

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Guarding The Stone… And Heart

Holy Saturday is a day like no other. Not exactly a day of mourning, and not exactly a day of joy. Rather, the day seems to me to be quite like a rather long instance of holding one’s breath. It is a day of waiting, where Creation itself pauses in anticipation of what is to come.

Interestingly, there is only one short Gospel passage which addresses this day, from Matthew:

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

(Matthew 27:62-66)

It makes sense that Matthew’s Gospel would address this, however. It was written primarily for a Jewish audience, and so those who heard the Gospel would have had questions. They would have heard what the Jewish leaders later said about these events, and so we have this passage here to help explain it. Coupled with the other parts, of course, after the resurrection.

What is important to note, though, is that the Jewish leaders  and Pharisees set a seal on the stone. The stone was not the stone that bound Jesus, however. It was the stone that was their heart. They had closed themselves off to the power and mercy of God. And they let nothing attempt to break through to reach them. Let us not follow in their example.

 

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Lazarus Saturday

Holy Week is about to begin. But before it does, we remember one of the most important events in the ministry of Jesus.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

(John 11:1-45)

John’s Gospel was written last, and it is important to keep that in mind. Nothing ended up in there by accident. John knew of the other Gospels, and so included what he felt was necessary to achieve his purpose with his Gospel. More than a recounting of the life of Jesus, John’s Gospel is highly theological in nature. It is also a response to many of the concerns, questions and difficulties that the early Church had faced.

The Bread of Life discourse was written to make clear the True Presence, the beginning of his Gospel made clear that Jesus was God from all time, and the mention of the piercing of Jesus’s side in the Passion made it clear that Jesus died on the cross, and died of crucifixion. Here John mentions the raising of Lazarus for another clear purpose.

Lazarus hadn’t simply died. He had died and been buried. More than that, enough time had passed, 4 days, that his body would have begun to decompose. This is why there is mention of the stench by Martha. The other people whom Jesus raised from the dead in the Gospels were not dead nearly so long. The young man at Nain had yet to be buried, and the young girl was dead perhaps only minutes, or maybe an hour or two. But this is four days later. Yet, despite the fact that Lazarus’s body was beginning to decay, Jesus commanded he come out of the tomb, and he did just that. Things like early decay mean nothing to God.

This is a message for all of us- not to fear the decay of this world. And to be assured that the resurrection is real, and will happen to those who are faithful. No matter the conditions are bodies may be in, God can and will raise us up. This, I think, is why John included this passage in his Gospel. He was answering the concerns of those who were wondering how a bodily resurrection could work after decay set in. St. Paul had already answered those questions in a letter to the Corinthians, but they would of course have persisted. Hence why John brings us the story of Lazarus, and the other Gospels don’t. We find in this passage a great reassurance for us, and so this is a special day to thank the Lord, and be mindful that death is not the end.

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When Compassion Becomes Divorced From Reality

Reader Michael K alerted me to this this article yesterday, and I thought it was worth remarking on. The tagline is “Beware of false compassion in implementing Amoris Laetitia.” Its not long, but I won’t quote the whole piece. Instead, here is the relevant section:

Maybe my experience is atypical. But I doubt it. Statistically speaking, men are more likely than women to remarry after a divorce. And that’s just one way in which men typically fare better than women after the breakdown of a marriage. Divorced woman are disproportionately likely to have financial problems, health problems, emotional problems. In a word, they are apt to be women in need.

If Catholic pastors adopt a more open attitude toward divorce, along the lines suggested by Amoris Laetitia, will that attitude benefit the people most in need? As a practical matter, if pastors make a special point of welcoming divorced-and-remarried Catholics, will the benefits flow to the spouses who are abandoned, or to those who abandoned them?

Since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, much has been written about women who have been abandoned by one man and subsequently formed a new union with another. For every wife who is cruelly abandoned, there is a husband who cruelly abandoned her. He, too, might feel more comfortable if the Church relaxes her traditional insistence on the permanence of the marriage bond. Should he?

If women typically suffer more than men after a divorce, the children of a broken home often suffer even more. What sort of message do those children receive, when they see their father, who deserted them to live with another woman, sitting in the front pew with his attractive new partner, while they huddle in the back with their mother, all dressed in second-hand clothes?

Anyone notice a possible problem with what he said?

Well, lets start with the fact that the author mentions some statistics about divorce. Specifically, about who does better afterwards. But then he stops there. No further statistics come into play. Which is a pity. Because if they were, it would help show the error in his argument.

Because from there he essentially makes the argument that men are the primary beneficiaries in divorce, and thus are responsible for the problem.  In other words, all the blame falls on them. There is this implicit assumption throughout that men instigate divorce more than women. We know this isn’t true; in fact the complete opposite is the case. Women initiate most divorces.

Furthermore, look at that final sentence. Does anyone else find that, well, questionable? I mean, has the author ever heard of child support? The truth is usually the opposite- it is the mom who enjoying her ex-husbands income, while he is making do with less- living in a smaller apartment, driving an old car and struggling with finances. Of course, not always; but there are always exceptions.

Also consider this: if mom makes the poor decision re: divorce, why shouldn’t we expect her to make other poor decisions? Decisions which end up with her in a bad financial state? Poor decision makers have a habit of making poor decisions. That is common sense- which we all know is anything but common.

This is just another example of a classic white knight in action. [If I was Rollo I would probably insert here some comment about how this Catholic is saying that loosening the  Catholic approach to the divorce should be rejected because it interferes with the feminine imperative.] Compassion is a good thing. But we must not divorce compassion from reality, else wise we end up doing more evil than good. In this case, it would be poisoning the argument against AL by using faulty examples of where it fails Catholic teaching.

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Sins Of The Father

Dalrock’s new  post, Why the blind spot matters, has proven to be fertile ground for a ton of great comments. I would encourage my readers to give it a look if they haven’t already. I have found that his comment threads have been very hit or miss as of late, but that post is definitely in the hit category.

 

Update: Now to present some of my own thoughts.

To begin with, part of the problem with “blaming women” or holding them to account in society right now draws itself from the nature of how men react to women. There are two natural impulses which men have towards women:

  1. Have sex with them
  2. Protect them

The second impulse is the problem here. Men have a natural desire to protect women, and unfortunately absent careful anchoring that protection impulse can go awry. For example, that protection impulse can lead men to protect women from being sad or upset. And guess what can make women sad or upset? If you guessed rebuking them for doing wrong, give yourself a pat on the back.

The key to solving this is to identify what is going on, and to actively work towards replacing unhealthy applications of this impulse with healthy ones. It needs to be drilled into men that rebuking women can in fact be the loving response. The response that actually protects them from the real harm to them- not that which threatens the body, bu the soul. And of course that is sin.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.

(James 1:15)

Next, I want to address the issue of Adam’s responsibility over Eve. As other pointed out in that thread, God does not call Adam out for failing to “protect” or “stop” Eve. You would think that, if that were an issue, God would call him out for it. But He doesn’t. This fact, plus the wording of Genesis 3:16, led at least one Church Father to explain that Adam didn’t have headship before the Fall. Rather, headship came about as a result of the Fall. Assuming that is true (and I don’t believe it has been conclusively settled for either Catholics or Orthodox), then Adam wasn’t responsible for Eve. And thus couldn’t be held responsible for her sin.

But even if Adam had headship before the Fall (and I think there is a strong argument for this, although I’m not certain about it), that doesn’t mean he was responsible. Again, God was calling out sins there. And He didn’t mention that particular sin. Further, nowhere in Scripture is this argument to be found. And none of the Church Fathers mentioned it either. It is wholly a modern invention, a product of our misplaced attitude and understanding of women.

[More to come as I think on it]

 

 

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The High Ground

I came to an epiphany recently, and I lay the blame at Cane Caldo’s feet. Three of his recent posts made something “CLICK” inside my head and I can’t let go of it. The three posts are the following:

Real Men Don’t Impede Her Desires

Her Buck Stops Here

A Caned Response to the Nashville StatementsA Caned Response to the Nashville Statements

Read all three (they aren’t that long) before continuing. The rest will make a lot more sense that way. Each one, in its own way, address the nature of men and women, and how we are to relate to each other. A (very) brief summary of them could be as follows:

  • Men are no longer able to tell women No in any meaningful way
  • Men can no longer enforce male spaces, and in fact none exist in any meaningful way
  • Men in Christian leadership positions (and in general) won’t teach the truth about women in marriage in any meaningful way

The bit in particular which was the “light bulb” moment for me was this:

Where is the article in which they deny that wives should be irreverent, rebellious, or usurpers? Where do they affirm that wives are to be sexually available to their husbands except for agreement of a limited time? What is more important to marriage than that the wife be submissive to her husband? These are serious and timely issues of marriage worthy of writing in these statements; more so than sodomy and transgenderism.

Cane is right, these are more serious issues. And I think I understand why. Perhaps he has already figured this out, or maybe I am going beyond the scope of his original idea. But everything makes sense to me now. You see, you cannot win on issues like “gay marriage” or “transgenderism” after yielding up the high ground in this battle.

Let me explain.

To begin with, high ground often has two different common meanings. The first is a “safe place”, out of the reach of danger. The second is a height which has strategic military value. It is the second meaning I intend. After all, we are in a war- a spiritual war. Now, the war has already been won, thankfully. However, the fighting has yet to stop. In some respects it is like the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. It was fought after the war officially ended. And while it didn’t change the outcome of the war, it was still meaningful to the men who fought in it. And so it is today- we are fighting a battle in a war the enemy has already lost. But he can still inflict casualties- take souls – and so he fights on. No surprise, really- he was a murderer from the beginning.

The strategic high ground in this battle was twofold- the nature of men and women, and the rights, roles and responsibilities of men and women in marriage. Those two things were places to make a last stand- a metaphorical hill to die on. Unfortunately, they were yielded to the enemy generations ago. And when they were, the battle was lost at that point.

Why are they necessary positions to hold? To begin with, they lay the foundations for any defense of everything to come after. Lets start with “transgenderism.”

The whole point of that particular “theory” is that there are no fixed genders. Male and female, man and woman, are social constructs. They exist because society says they exist. Take that away, and people revert to whatever they want.  On an intellectual level, a strong, vigorous defense of the nature of the masculine and the feminine will over course reveal this to be the rubbish it is. But as is the case with so many things in life, personal experiences which shape someone will trump intellectual argument.

For transgenderism to succeed, people need to grow up where man and woman don’t really mean much. And how do you get that? Simple- you create a society with the following:

  • No task or vocations or opportunities, and so on, which are the sole prerogative of men or women.
  • Men and women are interchangeable in the various roles and positions which people occupy in life.
  • You eliminate any spaces which are reserved for men or women.
  • You eliminate any activities which are reserved for men or women.

And on and on.

When this is the society you have- the society we have today- then men and women essentially become interchangeable- fungible even. If that is the case, then the concepts of “man” and “woman” will lose any sense of meaning in the minds of those exposed to it. And this is what everyone is exposed to these days, especially youth. It should come as no surprise that “transgenderism” is on the rise right now. They don’t see any real difference between men and women, save minor biological differences, and those can be changed by surgery. The truth is, “transgenderism” was an inevitable byproduct of this organization of society. It was just a matter of time.

Let’s look now “gay marriage” in the context of the rights, roles and responsibilities of men and women in marriage. In the past they were clearly defined. Now, no one dares to defend any real difference whatsoever. At least, a meaningful difference. What is the end result of this? Well, when men and women have the same rights, roles and responsibilities, they become… you guessed it, fungible. They can be swapped out without changing the fundamental makeup of the marriage unit. After all, husband and wife are both equal, right? And since they are equal, they both can do whatever needs doing, right? And are deserving of equal, well, everything, right? In that context husband and wife are no longer meaningful terms.

Instead husband and wife are replaced in the minds of people with “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” [Update: Reader Lost Patrol suggests Partner 1 and Partner 2 work better, and I agree. I’m going to update the rest of the post to fit that.] And of course if mother and father are also essentially the same- equal- then they are likewise fungible. And so you get “parent 1″ and parent 2.” Well, if spouse/parent replaces husband/father and wife/mother, you get some interesting outcomes. Because, after all, if marriage in the eyes of people is Partner1 + Partner 2, then does it really matter who happens to be Partner 1 and Partner 2? Of course not! It is all about two people who love each other who decide to becomes spouses.

And when you think about it, there isn’t really any reason to restrict it to just two spouses together. After all, love is the important part, right? As long as you have that, the nature and number of spouses doesn’t really matter. Dwell on where that line of thinking will take you.

I could continue at length, but I think I’ve made my point. Without a viable, effective and vocal defense of those two principles, nothing else can be defended. The battle will be lost- guaranteed. And it isn’t merely about logic. In fact, I believe that logic takes a distant backseat compared to the way that people’s common experiences affect their perception of the issues. Those experiences shape their views to a degree that rational argument never does.

If Christians want to have any, and mean any chance of turning this battle around, then those two strategic positions must be re-taken. There is no other recourse.

 

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Resuming Broadcasting

I have returned from my unofficial absence/sabbatical. I originally planned on only being gone for a week or two, but eventually stretched it to over a month. Partially because life kept getting in the way, and partially because I have felt for some time that this blog has become un-anchored.

My suspicion is that much of it is internal- I am trying to orient myself right now because I don’t feel that I am doing what I should. Deep Strength has a recent post where he talks about how you should “Do you job.” I found it timely, because I am less sure than I have been in a long time about what, exactly, my job is. Not my secular job- that is fine. Rather, it is my vocation- my calling to serve the Lord.

So much of my blogging energy will be directed towards examining that, in addition to my usual fare. In the meantime, I hope to get some regular posts up starting in the next few days.

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