Tag Archives: creation

Waters of the Jordan and the Sea

The land where Jesus lived spoke to him and inspired so many of the parables he taught. Did the water speak to him too? Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized Mark’s Gospel says, and he heard his Father’s voice and the Spirit rested on him. His ministry continued around the Sea of Galilee. The towns he visited were there; he taught on its shores. He traveled its waters and encountered its storms. He called disciples there.

Pilgrims today still look quietly on those waters when they visit this holy place. From the mountains above, the Sea of Galilee becomes a stage for gospel stories heard before. The waters of the Jordan flowing into it and out on their way to the Dead Sea remind them how realistic the mysteries of faith are. Fishermen, along with cormorants and herons, still fish the waters. At night, a stillness centuries old, takes over.

.Jesus began his ministry here. This land and its waters spoke to him.

The Jordan River figures in many of scriptures’ sacred stories and it’s still vital to this land today. It winds almost 200 miles from its sources at the base of the Golan mountains in the north into the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea in the south. The direct distance from one end to the other is only about 60 miles. The river falls almost 3,000 feet on its way to the Dead Sea,.

The Jordan is sacred to Jews from the time they miraculously crossed it on their way to the Promised Land. The great Jewish prophet Elijah came from a town near the river’s banks. Later he found safety from his enemies there.

Elijah’s successor, the Prophet Elisha, also from the Jordan area, told Naaman a Syrian general to bathe in the river to be cured of his leprosy, and he was cured. Ancient hot springs near Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee fostered the river’s curative reputation then. They’re still used today.

At the time of Jesus, the river’s fresh flowing waters were the life-blood of the land, making the Sea of Galilee teem with fish and the plains along its banks fertile for agriculture. Pilgrims from Galilee were guided by the Jordan on their way to Jericho and then to Jerusalem and its temple.

The Jordan Today

The river is still essential to the region. Lake Kineret, as the Israelis call the Sea of Galilee, is the primary source of drinking water for the region and crucial for its agriculture. The use of water from the Jordan is a major point of controversy between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

cf: “The Disputed Waters of the Jordan” by C. G. Smith Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers No. 40 (Dec., 1966), pp. 111-128 Oxford, England.

Nourishing Prophets

The Jordan nourished prophets in the past.  Somewhere near Jericho where people forded the river John the Baptist preached to and baptized pilgrims going to the Holy City. The place where John baptized was hardly a desert as we think of it. It was a deserted place that offered sufficient food for survival, like the “ grass-hoppers and wild honey” John ate, but this uncultivated place taught you to depend on what God provided.

Jesus taught this too. “I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Mt 6, 25 ff) The desert was a place to put worry aside and trust in the goodness of God.

When Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan to be baptized, he acknowledged his heavenly Father as the ultimate Source of Life, the creator of all things. Water, as it always is,  was a holy sign of life.  Like the prophets Elijah and John the Baptist, Jesus remained in this wilderness near the water for forty days to prepare for his divine mission. He readied himself to depend on God for everything.

The Jordan after Jesus

Later, when the Roman empire turned Christian in the 4th century, Christians came to the Jordan River in great numbers on Easter and on the Feast of the Epiphany to remember the One who was baptized there. They went into the sacred waters, and many took some of it home in small containers.

Early Christian pilgrims like Egeria, a nun from Gaul who came to the Holy Land around the year 415 AD, left an account of her visit to the Jordan where she looked for the place of Jesus’ baptism.  Monks who had already settled near the river brought her to a place called Salim, near Jericho. The town, associated with the priest Melchisedech, was surrounded by fertile land which had a revered spring that flowed into the Jordan close by. Here’s how she described it:

“We came to a very beautiful fruit orchard, in the center of which the priest showed us a spring of the very purest and best water, which gives rise to a real stream. In front of the spring there is a sort of pool where it seems that St. John the Baptist administered baptism. Then the saintly priest said to us: ‘To this day this garden is known as the garden of St. John.’ There are many other brothers, holy monks coming from various places, who come to wash in that spring.

“The saintly priest also told us that even today all those who are to be baptized in this village, that is in the church of Melchisedech, are always baptized in this very spring at Easter; they return very early by candlelight with the clergy and the monks, singing psalms and antiphons; and all who have been baptized are led back early from the spring to the church of Melchisedech.” p 73

A 19th Century Pilgrim at the Jordan

Christians in great numbers have visited the Jordan River since Egeria. Towards the end of the 19th century, an English vicar, Cunningham Geikie, described  Christian pilgrims following the venerable tradition of visiting its waters.

“Holy water is traditionally carried away by ship masters visiting the river as pilgrims to sprinkle their ships before a voyage; and we are told that all pilgrims alike went into the water wearing a linen garment, which they sacredly preserved  as a winding sheet to be wrapped around them at their death.

“The scene of the yearly bathing of pilgrims now is near the ford, about two miles above the Dead Sea, each sect having its own particular spot, which it fondly believes to be exactly where our Savior was baptized…

“Each Easter Monday thousands of pilgrims start, in a great caravan, from Jerusalem, under the protection of the Turkish government; a white flag and loud music going before them, while Turkish soldiers, with the green standard of the prophet, close the long procession. On the Greek Easter Monday, the same spectacle is repeated, four or five thousand pilgrims joining in the second caravan. Formerly the numbers going to the Jordan each year was much greater, from fifteen to twenty thousand….”(Cunningham Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible,Vol 2, New York, 1890 pp 404-405)

The Jordan and Christian Baptism

Today, every Catholic parish church at its baptistery celebrates the mystery of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan as new believers receive new life and regular believers remember their own baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some eastern Christian churches prefer calling their baptisteries simply “the Jordan.”

Today the most authentic site of Jesus’ Baptism, according to archeologists, is in Jordanian territory at el-Maghtas, where a large church and pilgrim center has been built following excavations begun in 1996 by Jordanian archeologists. It is probably the  “Bethany beyond the Jordan” mentioned in the New Testament where Jesus was baptized and John the Baptist preached.

http://www.lpj.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=599%3Achurch-of-the-baptism-of-jesus-christ-maghtas-project-jordan&catid=81&Itemid=113&lang=en

The Jordan River offers a commentary on the mystery of death and resurrection of Jesus, expressed in his baptism.  At one end of the river is the Sea of Galilee brimming with life, and at the other end is the Dead Sea a symbol of death. The river holds these two realities together, and if we reverse its course we can see the gift God gives us through Jesus Christ.

Like him, we pass through the waters of baptism from death to life.

One, Two, Three… Return to Trinity!

“One, two, three… Return to Trinity!”
A reflection on Matthew 19:3-12
Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

Matthew 19:3-12

The Trinity is present in the second line of the couplet as breath (Holy Spirit), the Word (Son), and God the Father.

Beneath the discussion about marriage lies a primordial metaphysical truth: the essential unity of the human race in Adam/Christ beyond the division of the sexes. The virginity of Christ mirrors Adam’s original virginity stamped in the image of the Virgin Father, Virgin Son, and Virgin Holy Spirit. See the related post: Marriage, Christ and the Trinity.

Marriage on earth is a sign of the union between Christ and the Church, divinity and humanity in the second person of the Trinity. In the person of Christ, male and female, Jew and Gentile (individuating characteristics belonging to general classes) are integrated in the Body of Christ. Unlike monism, however, ultimate reality is simultaneously one and many due to unique, unclassifiable persons.

Jesus’ final words about eunuchs for the kingdom of God establishes the vocation of virginity/celibacy as an eschatological sign of the multi-personal unity of the human race in the communion of the Trinity.

Saint Irenaeus

Tagbha carol roth

“We are all called to be holy. ‘Each in his or her own way,’” Pope Francis says in his exhortation “ Gaudete et exultate”.  We’re all different; saints are different too.

Today, the church remembers St. Irenaeus,  yesterday we remembered St. Cyril of Alexandria. Two different people, two different saints.. Cyril was a forceful, confrontative bishop of Alexandria; Irenaeus, as his name suggests, was a fair man and a peacemaker.

I learned about Irenaeus many years ago in a course on Gnosticism in Rome under Fr. Antonio Orbe, SJ, an expert on the subject. Gnosticism threatened Christianity in the 2nd century; afterwards most of its writings were destroyed. A large cache of its writings buried in the sands of Egypt had been recently unearthed and Father Orbe was just back after studying them. Until then, the Gnostic teachings  were known mostly through the writings of St. Irenaeus, whom we honor today.,

Fr. Orbe observed that as he compared the gnostic writings to Irenaeus’ reports of them he was struck how accurately and fairly Irenaeus described them,, not distorting anything they said or omitting their ideas. He was fair and respectful.  Irenaeus was fair minded and respectful to friend and foe alike. He was a peace-maker. Cyril of Alexandria was different. He would have left those writings buried in the sands of Egypt.

Irenaeus is not a bad example for today when hot words and smear attacks, distortions and lies dominate so much communication.  Peace makers like him don’t destroy, they heal and unite. That’s why they’re called blessed.

Irenaeus also had a deep respect for creation. Some scholars today insist that the ancient gnostics were broadminded, creative people–rather like themselves–  more progressive than the plodding, conservative people of the “great church”– a term Irenaeus used..

In fact, the gnostics made the world smaller than it is, because they made much of the world evil, only some of it meant anything at all. Forget about the rest of it.

All creation is God’s, Irenaeus wrote. “With God, there is nothing without purpose, nothing without its meaning or reason.” All creation is charged with the glory of God.

Irenaeus saw the Eucharist as a sign of this. Bread and wine represent all creation. God comes to us through these earthly signs. We go to God through them.

“God keeps calling us to what is primary by what is secondary, that is, through things of time to things of eternity, through things of the flesh to things of the spirit, through earthly things to heavenly things.”

We should not demean creation, Ireneaus taught. That’s also the message of Pope Francis in “Laudato si.”

Wine, Woman and Wakening

Wedding Feast at Cana

Fourth Week of Lent, Monday

John 4:43-54 

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

John 4:46

The Gospel of John calls special attention to Cana, the location of the first and second “signs” (sémeion) revealing Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the wedding feast at Cana (first sign), and the healing of the royal official’s son (second sign) are all connected in the Gospel.

In the light of the protological account of Genesis, the three episodes can be seen as the renewal of the primordial waters of creation, the transformation and divinization of all flesh in Christ (water into wine), and the restoration of a son to a father (Abel to Adam). 

Cana and Cain are etymologically related, and it is in this town that Jesus revealed his glory at the instigation of “Woman.” Jesus and Mary, the new Adam and new Eve, are the archetypes of Man and Woman (Ish and Ishshah in Hebrew) at the dawn of creation. 

Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman” twice in John’s Gospel—at the wedding feast at Cana and at the foot of the Cross (John 2:4; John 19:26). The appellation recalls Adam’s acclamation when presented with Eve: 

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”

Genesis 2:23

In the recreation of the world, Ish is taken out of Ishshah in the Virgin birth of Christ. Jesus and Mary redeemed the world as “one flesh,” the former as God and the latter as the Mother of God chosen by grace. 

The following poem expresses these ideas. 

The First Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 2:1-11

Water churning and bubbling 
In the beginning of time… 
Hovering was the Spirit 
Over dark and oozing slime.1

Speaking, breathing and molding
In six days of creation…
Ish and Ishshah God made flesh—
A wedding celebration!2

Churning and bubbling water
Of the Jordan near Cana…
Ish from heaven purified
For the wedding fiesta.3

On the third day his mother
Came to the marriage banquet.
Mercy moved her heart to solve
A problem unexpected. 

“They have no wine,” Mary said.
“What is that to us, Ishshah?”4
“Do whatever he tells you.”5
The servants obeyed Ima.6

Bubbling and churning water
In six ceremonial jars…
Hovering was the Spirit,
Making yayin for the bars.7

“You saved the best wine for last!”
Cheered the master of the feast.
Thus the Bridegroom was revealed:
King of glory, the High Priest.

The Second Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 4:43-54

The first father mourned his son,
The first victim of the curse;
Christ’s second sign at Cana
Cain’s calamity reversed.

Like Adam, the little king8
Ached to have his son restored.
Seeking Jesus with faint faith,
A home visit he implored.

“Your son lives,” said Christ, “Go home!”
“Yes, he lives!” servants confirmed.
At the seventh hour he revived,9
In the instant Christ affirmed.

God changed water into wine,
And gave life back to a son,
Infused flesh with breath divine—
Signs of earth’s recreation.

-GMC

1 Genesis 1:1-2; 2:1-7.

2 Ish and Ishshah are man and woman in Hebrew, from Genesis 2:23. The two are “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Click phonetics for the pronunciation of ish and ishshah

3 Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan: Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34. In Middle Eastern culture, the bride and bridegroom prepare for the wedding with a special bath.

4 John 2:4 in Greek: “What [is that] to me and to you, Woman?”

5 John 2:5.

6 Ima is mom in Aramaic/Hebrew. Click here for the pronunciation of Ima.

7 Yayin is wine in Hebrew. Click phonetics for the pronunciation of yayin

8 The “royal official” (basilikos) in John 4:46, literally translated from the Greek, is “little king.” In the story of Genesis, Adam (a type of Christ) is also a little king. 

9 The Gospel writer specifies the “seventh” hour as the time when the fever left the boy (John 4:52). According to HELPS Word-studies, hébdomos (seventh) is a figure of God’s perfect, finished work. The New American Bible (Revised Edition) loses the religious significance by translating it, “one in the afternoon.”

Praying with Creation During Lent

 Father John O’Brien, a liturgist from my community, wrote an essay in 2004 entitled: “Thomas Berry, the Easter Vigil and the Greening of the Liturgy” 

“This essay”, he wrote, “ argues that the next horizon of liturgical development will require a paradigm shift in understanding and spirituality. This is a shift from a present anthropocentrism to a new role and placement for creation. Although the liturgy has used the stuff of creation to celebrate the magnalia Dei, it has emphasized that water and food, bread and wine, soil and oil, rocks and rivers are at the service of the human community. Creation exists for human use and the promotion of human redemption. If this redemptive motif prevails, humankind may flourish into the immediate future. But the earth that sustains human life will be diminished and destroyed.”

The liturgy can help us acquire this new vision, John suggested, and the Easter Vigil might be a good place to start. The play of light and darkness in the vigil, the fire in the dark, the Genesis readings, the waters of baptism and blessing are reminders of creation in the Easter story.  But in his essay John recognized that people weren’t exactly flocking to the Easter Vigil then. They’re not now.   

Better to start with our daily liturgy, our daily prayer? Should we look more closely at what our prayers say and how we pray every day? 

Daily prayer, particularly the psalms, can help us bond with creation. The reading from Isaiah this Tuesday says God’s word comes down from heaven like rain and snow, watering the earth and providing for the human family as well. Rain and snow are more than figures of speech, they’re messengers from God, beyond human control. Created by God they lead us to God, bestowing his gifts on us. God speaks daily through created things like these, the psalms say: 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.

Day unto day pours forth speech;

night unto night whispers knowledge.  (Psalm 19,2-4)

Morning with the rising sun, evening with the promise of new light, with a voice not heard, without speech or words, creation speaks for God and is promised a place in the new creation with us. 

The Holy Spirit, the “Lord and Giver of Life”, “God adored and glorified along with the Father and the Son” sustains creation, Elizabeth Johnson writes in her book “Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love” (2014). Key biblical images, powerful natural forces like blowing wind, flowing water, and blazing fire expand the notion of the active presence of the Spirit in the world God made.

At morning Mass candles are lit. Tongues of fire come upon us now. The fire that created the Big Bang billions of years ago is with us now, as the bread and wine, and water enter our cosmic prayer.

Can daily prayer, if we let it, give us eyes to see creation as our partner in praising God. Our readings this 1st week of Lent are about prayer. They begin Monday with the final judgment from Matthew’s gospel. Those judged ask “when did we see you” in the “the least.”

Can we say “the least” also includes creation, which today we have reduced to the least? Can prayer be a way of seeing it?

God Beyond Words

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

…then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7

On Ash Wednesday, we remember our origins—that we are dust of the ground. In Hebrew, adam (humankind) and adamah (ground, land) are cognate. No preposition links adam (humankind) and aphar (dry earth, dust) min-hā·’ă·ḏā·māh (of the ground), indicating the closest affinity between humankind and dust of the ground. 

Like a mother, the Lord God blew into the nostrils of adam the breath of life. The word for breath (neshamah) is derived from the Hebrew verb nasham (to pant or gasp like a woman in labor). Since labor pains were pronounced a penalty after the transgression, postlapsarian language strains to express the inexpressible. 

God who is beyond thought and speech “clothed Himself in our language, so that He might clothe us in His mode of life,” writes St. Ephrem the Syrian.1

It is our metaphors that He put on—
though He did not literally do so;
He then took them off—without actually doing so:
when wearing them, He was at the same time stripped of them.
He puts on one when it is beneficial,
then strips it off in exchange for another;
the fact that He strips off
and puts on all sorts of metaphors
tells us that the metaphor
does not apply to His true Being:
because that Being is hidden,
He has depicted it by means of what is visible.2

Language that developed “east of Eden” now serves as a bridge over the chasm between creation and its Creator.

Mystics testify that the journey into God eventually leaves words and thoughts behind. The Dominican mystic John Tauler (c. 1300-1361) writes of this divine abyss:

No one can imagine the solitude which reigns in this wilderness, no one at all. No thought can enter here, not a word of all the learned treatises on the Holy Trinity with which people busy themselves so much. Not a single word. So inward is it, so infinitely remote, and so untouched by time and space. This ground is simple and without differentiation, and when one enters here, it will seem as if one has been here from all eternity and as if united to God, be it only for an instant. This experience sheds light and bears witness that man was everlasting in God, before his creation in time. When he was in Him, he was God in God.3

The language of the mystic can be misinterpreted as denying the distinction between God and creation, but it is actually pointing to an experience beyond words. Trying to express in words a wordless reality is like trying to produce a whole sheet of paper using a pair of scissors. Language is a scissor.

Jesus calls us to return to oneness with God. When Eve’s mind turned to the question of the serpent, her thoughts scattered and dispersed from one-pointed union. Adam became distracted along with his wife. Ever since the exile, humans have been looking to their left and right for approval rather than living directly in the Light of God.

“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Matthew 6:1-4

Looking left and right is not only an external phenomenon but an internal one as well, in self-congratulation and self-righteousness. When the left hand knows not what the right hand is up to, the person is single and simple: 

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light.”

Matthew 6:22

“The Father and I are one,” Jesus said (John 10:30). The “I” of the Son of God includes adam, all humankind, which he assumed. Hidden prayer draws us into that original intimacy and communion with the Father:

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Matthew 6:6

Words enfleshed God till
God became flesh.
When the Word enfleshed
Stripped flesh of words,
Flesh became God.

-GMC

1 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Faith, no. 31. From The Harp of the Spirit: Poems of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, trans. Sebastian Brock (Cambridge: Aquila Books, 2013), 85-6.

2 Ibid.

3 Sermon 44 from Johannes Tauler, Sermons, trans. Maria Shrady, Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1985), 148.

God Made All Things Good

Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals, from Acts 10; illustration from Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894.

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year I)

Genesis 1:20—2:4a; Mark 7:1-13

Then God said: Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: tame animals, crawling things, and every kind of wild animal. And so it happened: God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. Clean and unclean he created them. God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:24-25

Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

Mark 7:1-5

God’s orderly and functional arrangement of the cosmos into day and night (time), sea, sky, and dry land (space), filled with heavenly lights, animals, plants, and humankind was pronounced “good” seven times.

The universe of the scribes and Pharisees, however, was contaminated and polluted, filled with categories of clean/unclean and pure/impure that were foreign to the creation story.

So where did the distinction of clean and unclean come from? Jesus, who fearlessly interacted with centurions, lepers, “tax collectors and sinners,” walked in Gentile territory and breathed Gentile air, made no division in the created world between clean and unclean. Look within the heart, he said, and root out the true source of defilement.

Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them… For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.

Mark 7:15, 21-23

A centuries-old religious consciousness that developed out of the purification laws and rituals of the Mosaic covenant was hard to challenge. Many heroes of Israel were celebrated as martyrs in defense of their laws and customs. The prophet Daniel admirably withstood pressure from the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to partake of the royal food and wine, receiving only kosher vegetables and water (Daniel 1:8-17). In consequence, the Lord filled him with prophetic insight. The scribe Eleazar of Maccabean fame was martyred for refusing to eat pork as a sign of assimilation to Hellenistic culture (2 Maccabees 6:18-31).

Jesus alone could not transform religious consciousness. He left that work to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and enlightener of hearts. It was not to Daniel or Eleazar, whose witness preserved the Hebrew faith, that the following vision was given, but to Peter the apostle:

The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime. He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.” The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into the sky.

Acts 10:9-161

The vision stunned Peter. The Holy Spirit who gave him the vision also prompted the Roman centurion Cornelius to summon Peter to his house. The shocking actions of Jesus now became Peter’s own as he opened his speech with this revelation:

You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean.

Acts 10:28

The division between Jew and Gentile was not created “in the beginning,” but developed out of the covenant between God and Abraham, “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4). The final goal of the divine-human covenant is oneness in Christ, as expressed by Paul:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

With the Son’s revelation of the Father and the Holy Spirit, humanity is now destined for a life even beyond that of Eden. For with Paul’s inclusion of “male and female” among the divisions overcome by Christ, Adam is transfigured to the Trinitarian fullness of the divine image as persons transcending individuals:

St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:

Scripture says in the first place, “God made man; in the image of God, he made him.” Only after that is it added, “He made them male and female,” a division foreign to the divine attributes.2

Human persons in the image of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the whole theandric nature by grace through Jesus Christ. As the person of the Son of God is neither male nor female, Trinitarian fullness integrates the gender division into the oneness of deified human nature.

Pentecostal baptism by the descent of tongues of fire upon unique persons crowned the work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Body of Christ is thus One Many, mirroring the One Three Trinity. 

Peter did not break with Abraham and Moses, but finally saw the Light guiding Israel down the centuries:

In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.

Acts 10:34

The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.

Acts 10:45-46

In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, all creation is moving towards its fulfillment in the glory of the Blessed Trinity. 

God made all things good.
Knowledge of good and evil
Marked clean and unclean spaces,
Birds, beasts, persons and races—
A world un-paradisal—
Till Christ died on wood.

-GMC

1 According to the New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote, “The vision is intended to prepare Peter to share the food of Cornelius’ household without qualms of conscience.” It is not a prescription for food culture. 

In Genesis 1:29-30, God actually intended vegetarianism for humans and animals. See NABRE footnote: “According to the Priestly tradition, the human race was originally intended to live on plants and fruits as were the animals (see v. 30), an arrangement that God will later change (9:3) in view of the human inclination to violence.”

2 St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Creation of Man 16. From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Genesis 1-11, Andrew Louth and Marco Conti, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 35.

See the related post: Mary, the Church and the Trinity

Fingerprint of God

Christina DeMichele, Christ Enthroned in His Creation (Used with permission)

5th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year I)

Genesis 1:1-19; Mark 6:53-56

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth—and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters

Genesis 1:1-2

About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.

Mark 6:48-51

The God who brought order out of the pure, primordial chaos in the beginning walked upon the surface of the sea as if it was dry land (still indistinct, prior to separation). Walking between the two waters (Genesis 1:6-8) crashing and terrorizing the disciples, the Creator of heaven and earth silenced the watery chaos, calmed the waves, and hushed thunder and lightning. Jesus approached the storm-tossed boat like a beacon of light in the midst of pitch darkness.

I am the light of the world.

John 8:12
Amédée Varin (1818-1883), Le Christ marchant sur la mer

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

Mark 6:53-56

After quelling the sea and sky, Jesus restored order to bodies that had fallen into disorder and defective chaos. From the cosmos (universe) to the microcosmos (Adam), broken strings were repaired and harmony orchestrated out of cacophony. 

All creation bears
The fingerprint of God.
The finger of God in Christ
Touched Adam, son of God,
Healing his co-heirs.1

-GMC

1 Romans 8:17.

Seeds of the Logos

Vincent van Gogh, Sower, 1888

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 10:32-39; Mark 4:26-34

The Word through whom the world came to be knew his creation intimately (John 1:3). Earth, air, soil, and water that composed his own body were fashioned in the beginning by the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). That same life-giving Spirit keeps the world continually in being and becoming like a never-ending song.

He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29

Seeds of the Logos waft through the universe by the Breath of the Sower and grow by the mysterious life-giving energy of the Spirit. In the language of science, organic life emerged from inorganic matter though it knows not how. Spirit has not entered the vocabulary of science, but without it life’s mystery eludes empiricism. Spirit and matter interpenetrate, according to Genesis.

In Adam, organic life becomes conscious of itself as a person in communion with other persons and all living beings. Homo sapiens (“wise human being”) is matter awake. 

The Light, which enlightens everyone, scattered seeds of truth throughout the universe in preparation for his coming (John 1:9). All truth in the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament and in pagan philosophy originated from the Logos and dispersed by the Spirit. Knowledge of divinity and the natural law are accessible to all (Romans 1:20; 2:14-15).

He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

Mark 4:30-32

The mustard seed is the personal cosmos in the image of the Logos. Sown “in the beginning,” it grew inorganically, organically, and spiritually by the Breath of God. Seeds of wisdom (sapientia) prepared homo sapiens to receive the Word made flesh. 

Those who received the Word and became one with the Word followed the pattern of his life. 

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

John 12:24

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering.

Hebrews 10:32

The seed of the Logos, growing into the theandric organism of the Blessed Trinity, must break to release the deifying energy of grace.

We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.

Hebrews 10:39

-GMC

Mary, Mother of a New Genealogy

Icon of the Theotokos

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Matthew 1:1-16; 18-23

Happy Birthday, Mother Mary!
Happy Birthday, Mother Earth!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).

The images in the Book of Genesis reappear with fresh life in the opening lines of the New Testament—a second Genesis and re-creation of the earth. 

The birth of the cosmos and the birth of Christ issued forth by the same primeval Wind, Breath and Spirit beyond all worlds. 

In the first Genesis, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the earth (Genesis 1:2) and brought forth life of every kind. In the second Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of Mary’s womb and brought forth Emmanuel, “God with us.”

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” and Light from Light became flesh in her womb (Luke 1:38).

Mary Immaculate, like Adam Immaculate, was born stainless and pristine, but unlike Adam and Eve, she gave birth to a deified humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit. Person begot person wholly without passion, beyond the union of male and female. In the image of the Virgin Father, the Virgin Mother begot the Word in the mysterious spiration of the eternal Breath. The formless void of Mary’s earthly womb pulsated with the energetic radiance of the Logos enfleshed. 

Mary’s immaculate conception and perpetual virginity introduced an absolute break in the line of biological descent ending with Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. From henceforth, the co-heirs of Christ, born of the Spirit, have God as their Father, Origin and End. Mary, the Mother of God, is the mother of all of Christ’s brethren in their journey back to the Father.

The genealogy of persons born in the Womb of the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit begins with the Blessed Virgin Mary and continues with St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. Andrew, St. James, St. John, St. Philip, St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas, St. Matthew, St. James (son of Alphaeus), St. Jude, St. Simon, St. Matthias, St. Stephen, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary of Bethany, St. Mary of Clopas, St. Priscilla, St. Aquila, St. Veronica, and all the saints throughout the centuries. 

The second Genesis will see the return of the cosmos back to the Source who is Three One/One Three, and the reintegration of all divisions. Persons born again in the Spirit join the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son in the upswing back to the Trinity—the multi-personal festival of eternal love and glory.

-GMC