December 13, 2012

A Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items

Glorious was working out on the elliptical with iPad at hand and discovering the obscure (to me) book of Judith, one not found in Protestant bibles. The prompt was saying the Glorious Mysteries and coming across a quote from Judith chapter 15 in which Judith sounds like Mary, a blessed and praised woman in Zion. And so I read a couple chapters and then reveled in the Collegeville commentary. It was especially poignant in laying it all out there, and much was highlight worthy. God is free, she says, to do as He wills. Let us not put God to the test, or in our little boxes.

Some the book of Judith:
But you have no right to demand guarantees where the designs of the Lord our God are concerned. For God is not to be threatened as a human being is, nor is he, like a mere human, to be cajoled. Rather, as we wait patiently for him to save, let us plead with him to help us. He will hear our voice if such is his good pleasure.


Then, her plea for the divine succour ended, Judith rose from the ground where she lay prostrate in the Lord’s presence, called her maidservant to her, and went downstairs into her house. Flung aside, now, the sackcloth, folded away her widow’s weeds; she bathed herself, anointed herself with the finest myrrh, parted and tied her hair. The garments of happier days she donned anew, put on her sandals, took bracelet and anklet, ear-ring and finger-ring; decked herself with every ornament she had. The Lord himself lent grace to her mien; manly resolve, not woman’s wantonness, was the occasion of her finery, and he would enhance her beauty till all beholders should vow there was never woman so fair. A bottle of wine she bade her serving-maid carry, and a phial of oil, parched corn and dry figs, and bread, and cheese, and so she went out on her journey. When they reached the gates, they found Ozias and the elders of the city awaiting them there; and no sooner did these catch sight of her, than they fell into a great wonderment of her beauty...

No sooner did she stand before him, than Holofernes’ eyes made him her prisoner. Meanwhile, his lords were saying to one another, Who shall belittle the Hebrew folk, or doubt they are worth the attacking, when for prize there are such women as this?
From the commentary:
They think that if God is just and yet they are suffering, then they must have been unfaithful...They have made the theory of retribution into an equation that is automatic and interchangeable. If disobedience brings suffering, then all suffering must be the result of disobedience. But the relationship between God and the people is personal rather than mathematical. Just as God is free to send blessing when it is undeserved, so also is God free to send suffering for purposes other than punishment.


They must be grateful to God, even in the midst of distress and even on account of their distress, because their affliction is a proof of God’s love for them (see Prov 3:12). Finally, they must remember God’s dealings with their ancestors so that they will understand God’s fidelity and the meaning of their own suffering.


The second doubt that Judith treats is the people’s lack of faith in their own fidelity to God.


Judith’s second preparation for war is the enhancement of her beauty. After bathing, she uses all the human arts available to her to make herself both beautiful and captivating: perfumed ointment, a fancy hairstyle, festive clothing, and jewelry (10:1–4).

Judith understands the goodness of her body. She knows that her physical beauty is good and that it comes from God. She also knows that the power of her beauty comes from within her, from her holiness, from her faithfulness to God. Since both her exterior and interior beauty come from God, her beauty must be devoted to the service of God. God intends to use her beauty as a weapon to liberate the people. She will wield the weapon to the best of her ability.

The response of others to this second preparation of hers testifies to its effectiveness. The men of her own city are astounded at her beauty (10:7). After she arrives at the enemy camp, the guards of Holofernes gaze at her face in awe because of its wondrous beauty (10:14). The crowd that gathers within the camp at her arrival marvels at her beauty. They say to one another: “Who can despise this people that has such women among them? It is not wise to leave one man of them alive, for if any were to be spared they could beguile the whole world” (10:19).

A coincidence, perhaps, or maybe God telling me something, but it seemed like this morning's theme was the tears of God and the tears unspilt by me. Jesus wept and agonized in the Garden of Gethsamene and a human rendering was that this was due to his fear of what lay ahead. But another view is that of seeing him as agonizing over the sins that we committed as a human race. St. Paul said that Christ became sin for us, took on our sins, and thus was in some sense perhaps not weeping for himself but was repenting on our behalf. In this way we can see why He said on the way of the cross to weep not for him, but for ourselves. Anyway the thoughts about tears were reinforced by my chance reading of Edith Stillwell's winter anthology this very morning:
Drop, drop, slow tears,
   And bathe those beauteous feet
Which brought from Heaven
   The news and Prince of peace:
Cease not, wet eyes,
   His mercies to intreat:
To crie for vengeance
  Sinne doth never cease:
In your deep floods
   Drown all my faults and fears,
Nor let his eye
  See sinne, but through my tears.

The next poem went:

Since Thou didst weep, as many tears
Have flowed like hourglass sand.
Thy tears were all,
And when our secret face
Is blind because of the mysterious
Surging of tears wrung by our most profound
Presentiment of evil in man's fate, our cruellest wounds
Become Thy stigmata. They are Thy tears which fall.

That was an excerpt of a beautiful poem titled "Lachrymae".


Incredibly, reality television has come to a Catlick blogger. Jennifer of "Conversion Diary" fame has her own show on NET network, whatever the NET network is. Fortunately one can view online, and I plan to be watching episode uno on Thursday at 8pm. That Warhol guy was incredibly prescient on the fame thing, about everybody getting their fifteen minutes' worth. And he said that long before the democratization of the Internet, and invention of phone video cameras, YouTube, blogs, etc... I'd love to learn how he arrived at that conclusion because he really seems prophetic.


Well, it seems important to mark yesterday down as the first really cold day since last winter. Twenty-something degrees gets my attention. I suppose it's necessary to notice if only because if God went to all the trouble to create seasons and weather then it seems reasonable to acknowledge his work. Hence, the first day of true warmth or true cold seems worthy of comment. It's certainly a mercy to say that the first really chill-bone of a day comes in December. Really shrinks "winter" if you have as warm an October and November as we've had.

Personally, I don't know how those Floridians feel in a Christmas-y mood given the warm temps down there. It seems almost a farce, like "Christmas in July", but then that's just my own cultural associations talking. I heard Lino Rulli say something similar about Californians. Christmas is certainly awesome no matter where it's celebrated and weather is ultimately a distraction. No snow in Bethlehem I'm guessing.

I'm always surprised by hope, surprised by the optimistic tone of the Advent readings. I'm glad I'm not jaded enough to still be warmed by them. Advent readings are to the liturgical calendar what the late, great Gerard Seraphim was to Catholic blogdom. Pure positivity rushing down.

The first reading from Baruch the other day was nothing short of radiant, the sort of reading that seems to overshadow anything in the supposedly more celebratory season of Easter. Advent readings seem more incandescent than Easter's. Isaiah has passages that radiate joy, such as the verses where all the world's tears will be wiped away and the lion will lie down with the lamb.


Read long today of an absorbing new biography of Joseph Kennedy, 'The Patriarch'. Part of my interest is to see how and where this family, that has had so much of an impact on 20th century America, went astray.

There are many interesting descriptions of East Boston and impressive Boston Latin. So very far away was Boston proper from East Boston that it was as if they were different cities. The money seemed to come in stages: Joe's grandfather Patrick came over during the famine and was skilled enough to work as a barrel-maker and thus become solidly middle class. Patrick's son Joseph P. became a very popular politician, the first of that particular breed and someone who was upper middle class, perhaps. It's interesting reading about the environs of Boston in the late 19th century, of the ward bosses and the reaction of the Yankee Protestants to this political takeover by the Irish. The Prots were especially fearful when the Irish controlled both the city and the school district, fearing there would be money funneled out of the public school fund and towards the parochials. Not too farfetched, perhaps, given that graft was not unknown in Boston politics at that time or even now.


Was constitutionally unable, for whatever reason, to sink into a novel the other night. Instead was wunderkind'd by a transfusion of art on the "magic tablet", the iPad, via tumblr. Then headed over to YouTube to look for videos of Woodstock, for reasons uncertain. That led me to that magical appearance of Grace Slick singing, "White Rabbit". That led me, I'm not sure how, towards videos of news anchors making huge slip-ups by saying things like "penis" on air. That led me to videos of "Fails" where people painfully run into things. That led me to a video of young men and women diving off a cliff into a lake. So as you can see, I got waylaid by a major YouTube time wastage. From the beauties of art to the precincts of anchor flubs and kids hurting themselves. Nicht zu gut when there's a avalanche of beauty waiting to be explored in the form of great film, great spiritual reading, great novels and poetry.


Nice on the vacation to get a good variety of music and how nice to listen before bed, the earbuds full sanctioned.... To start and end the day with music isn't bad though obviously 'twould be best to start and end the day with prayer! So often the truth of John Denver's song comes through: "I'd play Sally Gooden all day if I could / but the Lord and my wife wouldn't take it very good." Truer words were never spake. But there's a middle ground and I hope to find it.


Heard Beethoven's Ninth on the tinny speakers of the iPad and it still sounded good. Great music seems to surmount the limitations of the equipment. I think as tinny as the Catholic Church seems in many ways, tinny in example of her flock (like me), tinny in terms of its response to the priestly scandal, tinny in terms of the watered down music and liturgy, there's still a beauty to her that cannot be hidden, much as Beethoven's music's beauty can't be hidden. And that beauty is, of course, Christ. Shining through it all.


Chuck said...

enjoyed reading this
It is interesting that Judith's beauty inspired her people, but when she went into the enemies camp, it inspired them in a way that made them want to conquer and kill her it probably was not a good thing for her to take her beauty into the enemies camp...

William Luse said...

It seems almost a farce, like "Christmas in July"..

Sometimes it is.