December 25, 2011

"Let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

"Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart."

35 comments:

Marc said...

A wonderful example of the Roman Pontiff's brilliance as a homilist, the homily at Midnight Mass; the full text is here, http://bit.ly/uciIjj .

So the expression 'to get off one's high horse' has analogues in the other European languages?

Joan said...

Merry Christmas, all!

The Crack Emcee said...

Oh, forget that old fuddy duddy:

Jesus Would Approve (It's A Birthday PARTY! Right?)

edutcher said...

An excellent point.

The spiritual meaning of Christmas (as well as it's fun) is often lost in the rush to satisfy all the temporal externals, rather than the simple joy of those close.

The Crack Emcee said...

Oh, forget that old fuddy duddy:

Jesus Would Approve (It's A Birthday PARTY! Right?)


Hey, dude, don't knock the Pope, but, yeah, He would understand.

Meade said...

Hi Joan! Merry Christmas to you and all my fellow readers of Althouse.

Levi Starks said...

Mother Theresa?

rhhardin said...

Material grasped xmas.

Bender said...

A beautiful homily, but, as usual, the MSM focuses on a line or two ("Pope . . . decries commercialization"), misses the point, and again tries to push the meme that Pope Benedict is weak and frail.

For the nonbeliever, the Pope explains --

God Himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. Heb 1:1). But now something new has happened: He has appeared. He has revealed Himself. He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which He dwells. He Himself has come into our midst.

This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is He merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of Him on the basis of mere words. He has “appeared.”

But now we ask: how has He appeared? Who is He in reality?

The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: “the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed” (Tit 3:4). For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God Himself might not be good either, that He too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real “epiphany,” the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness. Today too, people who are no longer able to recognize God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world.

“The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed”: this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas. . . . God has appeared – as a child. It is in this guise that He pits Himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace.

--Pope Benedict XVI, Midnight Mass, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord 2011 (complete text)

Bender said...

And, in typical fashion, this Professor Pope gives uses history in almost poetic terms to teach a lesson in true wisdom, the lesson of the need for humility.

Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus’ Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway, five and a half metres high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half metres has remained.

The intention was probably to provide the church with better protection from attack, but above all to prevent people from entering God’s house on horseback. Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus’ birth has to bend down.

It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis – the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions – the God who conceals Himself in the humility of a newborn baby.

In this spirit, let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals Himself to the simple of heart.

bagoh20 said...

I guess some people need to simplify their hearts? I'm gonna need instructions or a video or something. I'm lost here.

Bill said...

"LOL" at the moron in the Vatican today--talking about not focusing so much on the pageantry of Christmas while he stands there with his ruby-encrusted gold sceptre and unveils a 62 foot tall nativity scene.

Religion is stupid and silly. Besides, Jesus wasn't born remotely close to December 25th. You're all celebrating a pagan holiday. The irony is hilarious.

rhhardin said...

The reason they name pontiffs after bridges rather than tunnels is that he'd be cuniculus maximus, which also means supreme rabbit.

ricpic said...

I guess some people need to simplify their hearts? I'm gonna need instructions...

No instructions required. You'll get older. You won't be able to keep up. Presto: instant simplification.

ricpic said...

You're such a clever fool, Bill.

traditionalguy said...

God's disguises include a helpless baby, a simple carpenter, a beaten and stripped dying man hung on a cross.

It seems that when God comes to us He does not want to over awe us or buy us. The first time Jesus does not come as a rich man,a noble born man, a High Priest, or conquering general and absolute ruler.

But the Pope also had a chant of Psalm 110 given made during the service. The second visitation described by Psalm 110 says that Jesus will make up for lost time then.

Michael Haz said...

"At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors' rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord..." he said.

In the linked article on Reuters, those words appear one column to the right and two inches below the news photo of a woman being stripped and beaten by Egyptian soldiers.

karlpoppersghost said...

""Let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped.""

Sorry but when a guy who leads a church filled with "Jerry Sanduskys" uses metaphors like that all I can think of is this quote attributed to Jesus...

" Matthew 18:6 - But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

BT said...

God the anti-theists are such a bore.

Whatever Works said...

If I may return to the "material" for just a moment -- I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas (from someone who, to his detriment, did not know of Althouse or her Amazon affiliations). So I suppose in a month I'll be subscribing to Amazon Prime. I don't suppose there's a way to credit that to your blog too so you get some kickback from it, is there?

Patrick said...

The basic tenet of Christianity is love. And rather a divine love at that. The more evolved among us have set the example to follow. Where critical eyes voice displeasure is only to the degree that they lack and stumble in their own lives, until someone helps them out. Doesn't have to be a God just has to be a wise kindness.

Despite any human weaknesses exhibited in human management of divine thoughts, one must give it its due for bearing the torch over time and through ignorance and strife.

Almost Ali said...

Someone needs to pick up where Christopher Hitchens left off. Otherwise this religion stuff could get out of hand.

bagoh20 said...

I am asking this in good faith. How do Catholics deal with the obvious opposite natures of Jesus Christ's life and the Church's. It seems to me they could not be more different. Men in expensive robes and jewels in excessively and overtly materialistic edifices worshiping a man in sandals and rags, and claiming him as their guide.

How does that work? I'm sure there is a well worn explanation by now, and I'd like to hear it.

traditionalguy said...

Bagoh20...I agree with your observation.

I suspect that is also why the Popes like to talk up St Francis as if they are actually in agreement with your and St Francis's opinion of their life style.

The much preyed for Kingdom of Heaven come on earth as it is in Heaven would imply streets paved with Gold over in Vatican City.

But the new Las Vegas Casinos have them all beat as to lavish opulence.

bagoh20 said...

"But the new Las Vegas Casinos have them all beat as to lavish opulence."

I've seen quite a bit of praying in the casinos. Maybe it is the gold fixtures after all.

EMD said...

Hypocrisy is human, not divine.

phx said...
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phx said...
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Bender said...

Do you all know what the annual budget for the Vatican is? How much revenue it takes in and how much it spends in all this "opulence"?

About $400 million. Four hundred million dollars. For the entire year.

That is about one-third the budget of my local county (Arlington, Virginia).

The various antiquities that the Vatican possesses are not "owned" by it so much as the Vatican holds them in trust for all of mankind, and it actually costs the Vatican money to keep and maintain them.

Michael Haz said...

I am asking this in good faith. How do Catholics deal with the obvious opposite natures of Jesus Christ's life and the Church's. It seems to me they could not be more different. Men in expensive robes and jewels in excessively and overtly materialistic edifices worshiping a man in sandals and rags, and claiming him as their guide.

How does that work? I'm sure there is a well worn explanation by now, and I'd like to hear it.


I accept your words in good faith. The answers to your questions are not going to be found on a secular blog.

May I suggest several places to ask your question?

The first is to contact the bishop's office in the diocese area in which you live. Every bishop has on his staff very, bright, well-educated people who would be helpful in finding answers to your question. You could also contact Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the NYC diocese via his website. Dolan is a wonderfully warm, funny and gregarious man.

Or you could ask ask Fr. John Zuhlsdorf via his blog, here.

Or ask Fr. Martin Fox, the (too) infrequent commenter on this blog at his website here.

Best wishes!

Fr Martin Fox said...

BagOh:

A fair question.

An essay would be better structured than what follows, but I've got a few minutes left on Panera's free wifi dime today...

1) Some of the wealth of the Church is ill gotten, that's hard to deny. But it's also hard to prevent. Any organization involving humans will involve their personal sin.

2) Most of the wealth the Church has accumulated over the centuries has either been given away or looted, or else is available to all. To my mind, this helps balance the scales of point one, but God will judge.

3) The tangible, visible wealth of the Church is a fractional part of all that the Church has accumulated and distributed over the centuries. Where do they come from? To state the obvious: some is solicited; but much is not.

4) Is it really wrong for the worship of God to include buildings and furnishings? Is it really wrong for them to have quality and beauty? When you see any one item, you can ask, how much did that cost? But then ask, when was it purchased? Or was it donated? How many years has it been used?

5) My two parishes are not wealthy, except in the sense that almost all Americans are "wealthy" by world standards. We don't spend much year-by-year on fixtures and things, and the buildings we use are each 150 years old. Over the years we have acquired some nice things.

And, yes, I have gold vestments, but not spun gold, but gold-colored cloth. The gold of the vestments, and the other elegant things used for special occasions, aren't about me, but about the occasion.

6) When I arrived at this parish, the priest who was here, who stayed on as associate pastor, expressed surprise one day when I began getting some wine glasses out of the cabinet in the dining room. I had invited someone over for dinner and I was setting the table.

"You can't use those!" He exclaimed. I was puzzled; were they his? No, he explained they were (name changed) Sara Brown's!

Who was Sara Brown?

"She died; and left those to the parish."

So...why can't I use them? (This really happened.)

They might get broken or something, came the mumbled response.

"Well, Father, there's a new sheriff in town," I said with a smile; and I used Sara's glasses, and I got out the nice plates and the silver. And, yes, over the years some of those glasses did get broken. But what value would have been served never to use them?

Perhaps Sara should never have donated them--then the parish wouldn't have had those nice things. Those nice things the parish purchased--perhaps should not have been. But to what end?

What should Sara have done with her nice things? Perhaps she, too, should have foresworn them?

Where did our Lord ever forbid the creation and use of beautiful things?

7) A parish can end up being the terminal station for such things (and also a lot of junk) because people don't know what else to do with them. Maybe they don't have children; or maybe they want to avoid a fight amongst them. We get a lot of stuff we didn't ask for. A lot of valuable stuff can get donated, then sold, and the proceeds used for various things.

And that's a parish; now take it to the level of the diocese, the cathedral, the Vatican...and it's the same, just writ larger.

Parishes, dioceses etc. keep a certain amount of assets for the same reason anyone would--for some security. Perhaps they shouldn't. But again, while our Lord warned against the reliance on such things, he didn't prohibit it.

Many of the cautious decisions I make as a pastor isn't to protect myself from liability--I have little--but to protect the parish's assets.

That's enough for now; food for thought...

Fr Martin Fox said...

Oh, two other points I meant to make, if Panera doesn't cut me off...

1) Much more wealth has been invested in serving others than resides in the bling you see on or around the bishop or the pope.

2) Along the way, the money spent on the churches and furnishings is also money spent on artwork and artisanry. Real people created those baubles, and their treasures are gifts to the world.

Michelangelo's Pieta, for example.

Would it be better if it didn't exist?

Kirk Parker said...

Fr. Martin,

Not to swell your head or anything, but Michael Haz is certainly right about the too-infrequent part! Thanks for a very worthwhile use of Panera's bandwidth.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Ah, well thanks!

I reflected on this question the past couple of hours--I visited an exhibit of Norman Rockwell's works, in nearby Dayton Ohio (you can go see my essay on it if you click my name or something).

I mention Rockwell to make this point: an awful lot of artwork over the millenia has been commissioned by wealthy patrons. A lot of that came from the Church; a lot of it came from politicians and power-brokers, seeking to preserve their reputation, buy public favor, purge their sins, and/or do good. Regardless of motives, the artists got work--and, most importantly, we have their work--because of the mixed motives of those patrons.

In various ages--before and since the Age of Faith--this artwork has been commissioned by--and in the service of--non-religious purposes. Is that better?

Would it be better had Michelangelo devoted his talents to the glory of the Medicis, than to God and his saving actions?

The treasures of the Church are largely treasures the entire world enjoys. Via the printing press, the camera and the Internet, all this becomes available virtually worldwide.

Some cramped souls ("weaned on a pickle" in the famous description of Calvin Coolidge) have demanded all the Church's treasures be sold and the proceeds given to the poor. (Bible quiz: which character in the Bible actually proposed such a thing?)

OK, let us suppose this were to happen. What, then, would become of the Pieta, the exhibits of the Vatican Museum, and the churches?

Who cares to predict they would be more accessible to the world than they are now?

How much of it would (a) be hidden away from public view, or, (b), eventually lost either through inattention, or deliberate destruction? Imagine how much gold might be obtained by melting down all that bling? (It's happened before.)

So the question is, would the world be a better place if all that sumptuous stuff had never been created? Why?

Fr Martin Fox said...

BagOh...

I actually don't have "well worn" answers, and I have more thoughts than this, however...this thread seems near-death. Let me know if you're still interested.

Michael Haz said...

Thanks, Fr. Martin!

And I do hope we read more from you here, although little sweat is raised by simply clicking over to your blog...