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Happy Easter!!!

“… dying he has destroyed our death, and rising her has restored our life.”

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There is no human life on earth that is not subject to sin and death.  Sin fractures relationships with others and indeed fragments our very self.  Death is “that ubiquitous reaper.”  But Christ changes that default setting that bedevils man and woman, child and adult.

Christ on the Cross redeems each of us from sin and neuters the dread of death, the pain of this mortal exodus.  In Christ we are upright in soul and being – sin does not imprison and death does not threaten.

In Christ we have a whole new existence – human wholeness, spiritual expanse, contentment, strength, truth, humility, certainty amid the unknown, community, friendship everlasting.  In Christ, all troubles teach and insight and wisdom abounds, patience too.

In Christ, love prevails as love is practiced in all manner of life’s encounters.

Imagine a culture in which consciousness of Christ was for each of us – the substance of each daily transaction, each moment, each idle hour, each day month after month, year after year.  Imagine Western Civilization restored to its formative reality – Imagine America and Americans at their historic best – humble, compassionate, brave, sacrificial, honorable, hardworking, strong, independent, dignified, sober, gentle, just, forgiving, confident, grateful for each day and each breath, faithful and kind.

The worm, Friends, is turning.  We have gone too long divided, disgruntled, angry, joyless, self-serving and without Christ.

The truth of the matter is quite simple – we need not “fundamentally alter America.”  Those who think this are mistaken, ignorant of many things – and in need of faith.  For them we might pray.

Shalom.

 

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Holy Saturday

” … You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been risen; he is not here.  Behold the place where he laid.”

Mark 16:6

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Jesus was plunged into sorrow, but triumphed over this world and all its vices and deceits.  This said, as a Judeo-Christian culture – how can so many who say they are Christians act as if what Jesus did does not matter today?

Is it not true that if we actually believed would we put so much trust in politics, government, in seeking power, and focus all our efforts on material goods, or destructive pleasures and addictive vices?

Western Culture and this nation will rise or fall in direct proportion to our belief in God and, as Christians, our relationship with Christ Jesus.

Today our faith and traditions and founding propositions are under attack … and for Christians it will be our relation to Christ which will decide the day.  One of our two major political parties and our once reliable press advances perspectives and policies that are hostile to what the West is and the place of God in our lives and public our affairs.

Speak not and act not and you will have assumed the posture of Judas.

Dear God, help us to see the glory of the empty tomb and to act upon that glory each and every day.

Shalom.

Good Friday

… aware that everything was now finished, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

John 19:28

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Take a moment today to stop and let your mind feed your heart, as on this Holy Day it most surely will.  When the heart is in play the soul is touched … on this Holy Day even more so than on most others.

Make a few minutes for this silent retreat – from the head, to the heart, to the soul.

In silence now, I come to this question: What did Jesus do?  And to this recitation – He entered mortal life as the incarnation of Our Father and all that Our Father is and enkindled in us.  He healed those who suffered.  He befriended the friendless.  He called others to the Father.  He taught others including the religious scholars he encountered.  He made the sinful clean.  He suffered and was rejected.  He hung on the Cross and was taunted and ridiculed.  He redeemed us by His death … and was resurrected!

I ask this question and provide the above answer in the hopes that you might look around you and particularly look at those who appear prominently in our mass culture – those whose images, voices, opinions and criticisms we see and hear all to frequently.  Indeed I ask in this – what have they done to justify our attention?  And I mean people in politics, the intellectuals, elites, princes of the tech industry, those in media with unrestrained opinions about all things, and the endless “advocates” of self-serving (destructive) politically (in)correct views.

Who is worth your attention?  Jesus or the talking heads of present day American mass communication culture?

I’ll take Christ … and proclaim that no one who seeks our attention warrants our time or consideration who does not show he or she has lived a life representative of the selfless nature of the Son of God.

Shalom.

It is living in the naked moment, the “sacrament of the present moment,” that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us.  Words by themselves will invariably divide the moment; pure present lets it be what it is, as it is.

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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There are many things in our present culture that day by day, hour by hour keep us from the full experience of the human experience.  Yes, words can distract and the voices of ideologues always do damage – as do the torrent of visual images present in our lives and relentless intrusion of technology and all things digital taken to extremes.

Life is far simpler.  Not all meals need be excessive indulgences that morph us into shapes and sizes heretofore not known in human history.

Fix you eye, and heart and mind on the experience of human experience as known throughout the ages by mystics and peasants alike.  Stay in the moment, beware of all the yesterdays in your life and in time that hath come before us … yes, those moments long before your mortal birth and all that awaits you beyond this mortal life … be at peace – angelic peace prevails and sits above all that is digression and divisive, alienating and destructive of self and others.

Shalom.

3:03 a.m. – how nice it is to awake in the full night of silence to think about faith

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Faith is a backward-looking virtue.  It concerns who we are … “the mystical chords of memory.”

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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In faith you are connected with those who have come before you – with a stream of being that reaches to the very distant past, the sacrifice of others, their fidelity.  Their story is our story.

In faith we belong to others – to Saint Peter and Saint John – to Abraham and Martha and Mary and Lazarus … to Aquinas, St. Augustine, to Simon of Cyrene, the men on the road to Emmaus – to centuries of faithful Jews and Christians.

In faith we have identity … a place in a long story that has no end.

In a world too often focused on the immediate, the immaterial, on desire, immersed in anxiety, loneliness, doubt and worry – we have in faith: certainty, confidence, cause, connection, and a call to life.

In faith we have as Aristotle says “another self,” – in faith is solidarity and union with one another now, in the past and in what is to come.  In faith we know love – a love that runs to what has come before, what is now, and what will be in all the tomorrows yet to come.

In faith, particular differences do not matter for the faith others possess is the faith we possess.  Ethnicity, race, age, social status, wealth and such do not matter to those who share a faith.

The broad identity of faith is the union of belief.  We are, in faith, what we believe.  Therein is our solace, our identity, our purpose, our meaning, our stability and our happiness.

Shalom.

They came to a place named Gethsemane … And he took … Peter, James and John … He said to them … “keep watch.”

Mark 14: 32, 33, 34

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“Keep watch.”

These are the words of Jesus when, knowing His trial was near, he entered Gethsemane to pray, to seek time with Our Father.  Yes, in His distress, Jesus sought time with God.  Ought we do any different?

We face gravely troubling times today.  Like our Jewish brothers and sisters in their flight from captivity in Egypt there is much discontent, grumbling among our neighbors, those in public life.  Anger, immorality, division and corruption abound – indeed in high places this is so.

Think for a moment what Jesus asked of Peter, James and John.  He asked that they might “keep watch.”  Is that not our job too?  Are we not to watch for evildoers, those who wish to deny God and destroy His intentions for us to humbly live well caring less for self than for others?  Are we not to trust in Him, carry His mission?

Ah, but do we?  Look about.  Could corruption flourish if we really “keep watch?”  Could immortality be “protected” if we were to really “keep watch?”  Would babies be killed if this were so?  Would there be justice for some, but excuse for others – if we were to “keep watch?”  Would evil be excused?  Responsibilities abandoned?  Anger be prevalent?  Division created?

You know the answers to these questions.  Keep watch.  Do nothing less than what Jesus asked.  Ah, yes – in this mission you must stand in opposition to that which is evil and not of God.  Who among you does this?

Shalom.

The Seduction of Unreason is a wide-ranging yet subtle consideration of the intellectual’s abiding fascination with absolutism, and as such it is a perceptive, compelling and invaluable document.  His (Author Richard Wolin’s) indignation at the folly and perversity of so many major European thinkers is wholly justified and peculiarly invigorating.  (Emphasis added.)

John Banville, in The Irish Times

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This is unusual.  For the first time in eight years of writing this blog, I begin with a quote from a book review … a review of Richard Wolin’s The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism.

Why would I do this?  There are several reasons.  First, we live in times in which the Left calls the Right fascist and the Right calls the Left fascists … and no public commentators seem to have any insight reflective of Wolin’s keen observations that history shows us that intellectuals in the West over the last century or so have flirted with fascism.

Secondly, in contemporary America very few have come to the justifiable conclusion that it is the post-modern American leftists who, across a very broad range, have manifest an alarming fascist orientation.  (We saw an example of this just yesterday when Members of the House of Representatives could not resolve that a Member of that body displayed a rather plain hatred of Jews.  And we see routinely on college campuses how the exercise of responsible speech is under assault.)

What Wolin (a Professor on Intellectual History) is telling us is that modern liberals show contempt for the values held dear by classical liberals who favored protection of individual freedoms and limited governmental power.

We see, for example, just this year the Democrats dismantle, in the Kavanaugh Hearings, the presumption of “innocence” until proven guilty.  Likewise we see the implicit tones of fascism in identity politics which divides us and beckon displays of hatred.

We see attacks on freedoms in the U.S. Constitution and preposterous notions like the Green New Deal which is destined to destroy wealth, explode our nation’s debt, and abandon our uniquely free market economy.  And we see more of Wolin’s observations confirmed in the careless morphing abortions into infanticide, and the astonishing corruption in the federal justice system with its selective prosecutions and politically motivated inquiries.

So why bring this up?  Wolin is a student of intellectual history – of the ideas that govern us and challenge us … and at present we see a multitude of destructive ideas and “causes” advanced by the Democrat Left and virtually no informed analysis of the nature or consequences of what is being proposed or pursued.  This is NOT a good sign.

Applying Wolin’s critique to today would be helpful.  Alas we have few so well read or informed.

Shalom.

Postscript – The Congresswoman who stirred Congress up with her anti-Jewish comments is Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. Ms Omar is a Muslim native of Somalia.  Members of Ms. Omar’s extended family held positions in the former Somali government that blended Marxism with Islam.  She and her family members fled that country and ended up gaining admission to the United States.  Ms. Omar brings a blend of Marxism and her Muslim faith to her politics.  It is little wonder that she is anti-Israel, hostile to Jews and a Leftist.  This is the Democrat Party of the Left today.

 

… narcissistic orientation is one in which experiences as real only that which exists within oneself while the phenomena of the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are only experienced from a viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one.  The opposite pole of narcissism is objectivity … the faculty to see other people and things as they are … to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and wants.

Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving

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Narcissism.  We know it as selfishness and it is quite abundant.  Human beings are quite selfish.  We find it in families, professional associations, the entertainment industry, the media and other lines of work that have a public face.  It runs rampant in politics, in professional associations like Bar Associations and among the coveted and esteemed associations like the judiciary and the tenured faculty.

Selfishness is the root cause of corruption.  In selfishness others are mere objects or obstacles to one’s exclusive satisfactions.  Many people are imprisoned in this narcissism and they make others miserable.  There is no love or friendship with the narcissistic lot.  To them others are objects to be used or destroyed.

What is one to do?  For a calm and pleasant life – be very selective with whom you mix and mingle.  Maintain an objective point of view.  Be realistic.  See the world and others as they are not as you wish them to be.

Yes, there are good people who genuinely care about living a humble and kind life and thus treat others with the upmost dignity and concern.  Those people ought to be your circle of friends.  The others are to be kept at arm’s length or avoided altogether.  Narcissists, you see, are quite destructive to self and others.

When you think about it, do you not see the value of quiet, solitude, a small group of good friends, the value of a monastic disposition, life in God’s great space and beauty, the place of Christ in the life of a Christian?

Be realistic.  See what is.  Avoid unreal expectations or self-deception.  Things are what they tell you they are.  Acknowledging reality is the cornerstone of a life of peace, friendship, meaning, contentment, happiness, relative ease and love.  We live in a fallen world among many who are centered on self and self only.  Consider yourself so advised.

Shalom.

Liberalism moves … toward radical individualism and the corruption of standards that the movement entails.  By destroying traditional social habits of the peopleby dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constitutes, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified … Liberalism can prepare its way for … the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.

Robert H. Bork, Sloughing Toward Gomorrah; Modern Liberalism and American Decline

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Bork makes the case that modern liberalism (as distinguished from classical or traditionalism) is destroying America.  It is an impressive case.  Yet, I see few in politics (but for some conservatives) who make this case.  And, I see few in politics who represent traditional or classical liberals and offer thoughtful opposition to modern liberalism.

Likewise, I see few clerics, few in the media, in academia or the law who offer a critique of modern liberalism and school us as to the damage it has done and is doing.

Recently I watched a documentary that purported to explain the political mess in Washington whereby collaboration and congeniality among liberals and conservatives has ceased. The documentary blamed the paralysis on Americans who held traditional values and ignored the ruckus caused by proponents of modern liberalism.  It ignored the fact that for every action there is a reaction.  Such blindness does not help.

In looking briefly at Bork’s criticism of modern liberalism one might see what the documentary misses:

  • corruption of standards: think FBI and the Justice Department as each has been revealed to us
  • destroying traditional social habits of the people: think the destruction of the family, the dispatch of religion from the public square, abortion, infanticide and the hyper-sexualization of culture
  • dissolving the natural collective consciousness into individual constitutes: think identity politics
  • licensing the opinions of the most foolish: think cable news, TV networks, major metropolitan newspapers, and attention given the views of “entertainment” celebrities
  • substituting instruction for education: think Leftist ideology and the indoctrination centers that primary and secondary schools and colleges have become
  • encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom: think late-night and midday television “pundits”
  •  the upstart rather than the qualified: think Ocasio-Cortez and her cohort
  • artificial, mechanized or brutalized control: think of national health care, the Green New Deal, Venezuela and the attack on the U.S. Constitution.

Sloughing to Gomorrah indeed.

Shalom.

 

 

 

In our time we should emphasize what unites rather than what divides.

Pope John XXIII

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These are the words of Pope John XXIII on his death-bed.  I cite them today because they fit so well the circumstances we face now.

There is great division in this land.  It seems as if people desire that we be divided, fragmented, at odds with one another … divided and separated from God and faith, self and one another.  Today hostility is heightened and friendship diminished.

This brings me to my long-term concern with how one lives one’s faith in a secular culture – now that one is apt to be estranged from spiritual existence in a culture that manifests so much discontent, anger and self-destruction.

My own course has been an attempt to understand both God and culture.  To look at our history as a nation and Western Civilization, to see the challenges we face, review our failures and our successes, look closely at our psychological health and development and our nature as spiritual beings.

It follows that my reading encompasses history, philosophy, psychology, theology, mythology, literature and the like.  But my inquiry has also experienced and thought about monastics and their ability to live faith and grow spiritually and as healthy humans notwithstanding the shape of the world over many centuries.

What I have come to understand is this: (1) if you wish to live your faith and do so deeply, you need to know how a culture can deter you from faith and your spiritual development, and (2) in seeking to live your faith in a secularized culture, you would be wise to learn from the monastic experience for it has over many years allowed men and women to grow spiritually and in contentment through their separation from the culture at-large, their silence, solitude, study and simple life style.

I might add that if you wish to assist others in finding faith in secular culture it becomes necessary to identify those things in culture which make a healthy spiritual existence quite difficult and those things which incline to foreclose one’s spiritual development and ultimate peace and contentment that daily living of one’s faith allows.

In short, what I am saying is this – to live faith in secular culture – you do well to take an informed assessment of the culture, become familiar with the nature of monastic existence and make use of its framework so you might exist within a secular culture while living fully in your faith.  Yes, in this you will be living at an arm’s length or more from the present culture as it is endlessly extended to you in a mass communication and the highly visualized and extensively noisy storm of images and words.

In practical terms it is wise to adopt a monastic disposition in an intrusive secularized culture. 

Shalom.

Postscript – In the 1950’s we held the Communists in check when they invaded Korea, would we do less in facing them in our own country?

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