Monday, February 25, 2008

SoThat's It!

I should have known that something smelled fishy in this new Illinois ban on smoking in public places. Here I was, having to admit that I was sort of enjoying the fact that since the first of the year I could go into restaurants and places that used to be filled with carbon monoxide, and now, no more. I can have a nice meal, and when I leave the restaurant, go home and not have to wash my clothes.

So I thought, well, I guess I have to admit this is one feature of the nanny state that I rather like.

I should have known better.

The coming government scam is exposed in this article in the American Spectator, which explains that what is already being considered in the state legislature is the granting of special licenses to places where smokers are really serious about wanting to congregate: bars, and perhaps restaurants.

So what's wrong with that, you ask?

Ah, the licenses must be purchased, of course. Can you see it coming now? Restaurants will soon be pressured to get the license by the sheer force of the marketplace. If other restaurants are allowing smokers, they're going to lose customers, so soon they'll have to fork over the cash. Next thing you know, it'll all be just like it was before, except for one thing: one more hidden "tax." You'll still have your smoky bowling alleys, just like before, but now, the government will have succeeded in providing themselves with a clever way of siphoning more cash from the poor merchants (read "the people") and gaining more control over us all.

Hat tip: Mom

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Our Father as Canon

Take a careful look at St. Luke chapter 11, and you'll find some pretty convincing reasons for believing that the Our Father was meant from the start to be the very prayer by which the elements on the altar are consecrated.

First, it is the only prayer Jesus specifically tells His disciples to say (hence, it is called the Lord's Prayer). Then, immediately following this prayer there comes the curious story Jesus tells of the friend at midnight:

"And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth."

Here we have three friends. The journeying friend, the friend to whom he comes, and the friend who is at home with his children at midnight. Why, we must ask, all this detail? Surely, if there were to be nothing more than a simple point of comparison (If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?), then it could have been a much simpler story. Why three friends? Why midnight? Why three loaves? And--most significantly--why does this come immediately after the Lord's Prayer?

There is something latent here which is meant to be uncovered: it's all about Christ. It's all about the Holy Supper.

Midnight, because the midnight hour is when the voice is heard, "The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." Midnight is when "I will rise to give thanks," as the Psalmist says. Midnight is when Christ comes.

Three loaves, because Jesus is the Triune God. He is Himself our daily bread. He is the Bread of Life.

Three friends: one is the journeying church, on the journey of life; she comes to the second, i.e., the pastor, who has nothing of his own to give; so he turns to the third, i.e., the Father, and says, "Our Father who art in heaven . . . give us daily bread, that is, lend me three loaves!"

And the Father gives as much as we need, as Jesus promises here: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." This is about asking that Christ will be given to us; i.e., that the Holy Spirit will do His primary work of bringing Christ to us in the Supper; which is why Jesus says here, "how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

In short, this entire section is about the Mass. If you don't see that, have another look.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

St. Valentine, martyr

We recall today the fidelity of St. Valentine, martyr from the third century, who refused to succumb to his enemies' temptations to renounce Christ; and who remained steadfast also when they beat him; and right up until they beheaded him.

And so there arose in England, from about the time of Chaucer, the custom of announcing betrothals on St. Valentine's Day, and of calling one's betrothed "Valentine," in token of the faithfulness unto death shown by this patron of all who plight to one another their troth.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Heavens Opened and the Angels Rejoiced

The heavens opened and the angels sang with us Sunday morning. Why this jubilation, at the onset of Lent? What caused celestial joy such as earth has scarcely known? What was the grand occasion?

The Baptism of Sarah Ann Eckardt, grandchild of your humble scribe, and now, disciple of Jesus and member of His holy flock.

In glad obedience to Jesus' command, Suffer the little ones to come unto me and forbid them not, the child was brought, and Jesus received her into his kingdom by water and the word, to a life of faith and of following Him who is our Delight and Salvation.

And so these jubilant angels of Christ shall surely follow her all the days of her life.

And so shall we rejoice and be glad, and give thanks for His unspeakable goodness.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"You have to worship right"?

So I'm over at the nursing home this morning, for a service with some people there to give them the Sacrament, and I notice a little group through the window of the room, across the hall. From past experience I know they are two Jehovah's Witnesses and one resident. They often have this little study at the same time.

When we were finished, and I was putting things away, a couple of times I met their eyes, and I got to thinking: I bet they're thinking I'm leading people astray with my ritual and my traditional Christianity; and here I am, thinking that they're leading this poor guy astray with their Jehovah's Witness junk. And I mused, that's pretty much what most religions think about most other religions: they're messed up, and we have it right.

As I was leaving, I overheard one of them say to the captive audience (of one resident), "To get to eternal paradise, you have to worship right." And I thought, as I walked out to my car, H'mmm. Who worships right?

The real answer is: nobody except for Jesus, since only He who is one with the Father was perfectly submissive to His Father's will. The rest of us are sinners. And since this is so; since nobody worships right except for Jesus Himself, therefore there is only one way of salvation: He is Himself the way, as He said.

Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. Whoever, that is, believes in Him and is baptized into Him who alone is the way, who alone worships rightly, shall be saved.

It is sad that people think there is another way.

Monday, February 04, 2008

In Defense of Mother Teresa

I admit to not knowing much about the life of Mother Teresa; at least, not more than people generally know. But I think that people who assail her faith because of the confessions in her diary are doing her a disservice.

It's easy to do that, you know. There she says life was like a living hell, and that her smile was a mask, that she was lost: "In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist."

But let's remember where she wrote this: in her diary. It was a private communication, not meant for public consumption. Good heavens, I wonder what people would think of me if all my private communications were made public.

Her struggle reminds me, actually, of Luther's. Even quite post-Reformation he is known to have had bouts of severe depression, anguish, anfechtungen. So was he a lost soul too, then?

Or are all such struggles indications of a truly lively faith which wrestles with the devil from time to time?

I think that we will do well to look at her public words (and deeds), her confession of faith in Jesus. While I seriously doubt I'd believe everything she wrote (as I said, I'm no Mother Teresa expert), I think we can safely say call her an ardent believer in Christ.

Or do we want to second-guess her in ways none of us would want others to second-guess us?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lent Cometh

The Gospel for Quinquagesima finds a blind man begging, crying out against the multitude that wants him silenced, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! This follows the account of Jesus telling his disciples he must go to Jerusalem and be crucified, and the third day rise again. But they understood none of the things which he said to them. How blind are they, and how much the blind man truly sees!

And this their blindness comes after Sexagesima Sunday, on which Jesus had said in the Gospel, "to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."

Thus let all become circumspect, and warned: we who know the mysteries still so easily become blinded, even as the disciples did!

See how much we need Lent, then; though the flesh does not wish for Lent, the spirit welcomes its approach, for in it we are given a greater opportunity, denying ourselves, to meditate on him who is our salvation, and so, again, to receive our sight; even as the blind man received his sight and followed Jesus.