Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt


19 November 2017

Homily for Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time A, November 12, 2017


Detail from the Rossano Gospel, 11th Century

Homily for Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time A, November 12, 2017
What is wisdom? What does it mean to be truly wise? These are the questions put before believers in today’s scripture selections. In an attempt to find a fresh approach and to put a new face on this timeless but ever timely topic, a scripture scholar Patricia Datchuk Sanchez decided to consult “the mouths of babes”.

She wrote: When I asked our fourteen-year-old son, “What does it mean to be wise?” He replied, “Knowing something.” When asked, “What is wisdom?”, his answer was, “knowing a lot of something.” To the same questions, our thirteen-year-old son replied similarly. Then, I asked if he thought there were a difference between being smart and being wise. After thinking for a few moments, he said, “A smart person knows a lot of facts but a wise person has knowledge that comes from experience.” When I put the questions to our eleven-year-old daughter, she offered the following: “Wisdom means knowing right from wrong. . . a wise person knows what is right and does it.” Finally, it was our nine-year-old son’s turn. He said simply, “A wise person is somebody who knows how to make the right choices.” When I asked him how a person gets wisdom, he replied, “I guess you have to ask God. . . did you need to know anything else, Mom?’” (Sanchez)

“[Wisdom] is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her…Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”

Wisdom is the overarching theme of our readings; readiness and patience are considered in light of wisdom. As we approach the end of the liturgical year we see that our readings speak of the end times. For the early Christians the return of the Christ was seen as something imminent. As years and then generations were passing by, Matthew and Paul and the other Christian authors of that time were encouraging the members of the early Church to endure their trials, to remain steadfast in their commitment to Christ, and to be ready for the return of the “Bridegroom.”

If we consider the parable in this light we see that Christ is the Bridegroom whose coming is delayed, the five wise maidens are those Christians who have remained steadfast and prepared, and the five foolish maidens are those Christians who have wavered in their commitment. We can see then why the wise maidens couldn’t give oil to the foolish maidens because the “oil” is the wisdom of God that must be sought for oneself.

Patience is the third element of the readings. We are longing for the Lord. “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God…my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water.” We are like children on a journey asking our parents: are we there yet? It is hard to remain patient; it is hard to maintain enthusiasm for something that seems so far beyond our reach. None of us can live our lives as if it was our last day. Spiritual wisdom offers a nuanced answer here: We can and we can’t!  On the one hand, the distractions, cares, and pressures of everyday life will invariably have their way with us and we will, in effect, fall asleep to what’s deeper and more important inside of life. But it’s for this reason that every major spiritual tradition has daily rituals designed precisely to wake us from spiritual sleep, akin an alarm clock waking us from physical sleep. (Foley)

It’s for this reason we need to begin each day with prayer. What happens if we don’t pray on a given morning is not that God is angry with us, but rather that we tend to miss the morning, spending the hours until noon trapped inside a certain dullness of heart. The same can be said about praying before meals. We don’t displease God by not first being grateful before eating, but we miss out on the richness of what we’re doing. Liturgical prayer and the Eucharist have the same intent, among their other intentions. They’re meant to, regularly, call us out of a certain sleep.”

“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."


04 December 2016

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent A, 4 December 2016




 


One of the popular symbols of this season is the Christmas tree. There are some who already have one standing in a prominent place at home. The year Louise and I became engaged one of the first things we did was to buy a piece of property near Oak Openings, and one of the first things we did on that property was to plant a row of Colorado Blue Spruce along the right of way of the road. Tiny seedlings we planted. We tended them; brought water from town to keep them safe from the hot dry weather of the following summer. After we built our house and moved in with our family we watched them grow a little taller each year careful not to mow them down until they were large enough to escape that fate.
Fir trees seem to take a long time to grow until at some point they seem to grow by leaps and bounds.  We didn’t realize it, but the trees were now at a more vulnerable stage, they were at the height and shape where they made perfect Christmas trees. When I left for work one dark frosty morning I didn’t notice the damage that had been done in the night, but as I returned home later in the light of day I was shocked and angry at what I saw. Two of the trees had been cut with only the bottom tier of branches remaining.
We had planted these trees to grace the land for years to come, and someone saw fit to cut them for a few days’ pleasure. We related this to a friend of ours who had a Christmas tree farm and he told us to leave the remaining branches. He said the branches will begin to grow upward. Amazingly they did, and in a few years you couldn’t tell what had happened. In a few short years we had seen a cycle of planting, tending, growth, destruction, hope and regrowth.
In scripture, the olive tree is often used as a symbol of Israel. In the first reading we read of a stump of a tree from which a shoot is growing. In particular this stump refers to the fallen line of the kings of Israel and the shoot is the heir of David, the Messiah, the Christ. Isaiah is encouraging the returning exiles to take hope in the Messiah-king who will have all the favor of God and whose reign will be one of justice and peace.
In the Gospel, John is crying out, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of “one crying out in the desert.” People are flocking to John for his baptism of repentance. They are anticipating the coming of the Messiah foretold by Isaiah.
“As herald of Jesus and the reign of God, John the Baptizer explained by word and example precisely how to prepare a welcome for Jesus. Those who came to hear him speak, in the Judean desert near the Jordan, were told, “[Repent]!” (vs. 2). Reform or repentance indicates that welcoming the reign of God requires a complete conversion. In Hebrew, the word for conversion, shubh, implies that a person has found himself/herself on a wrong path or going in a wrong direction and has made a complete about-face or turnaround in order to return to God. In Greek, the term for conversion is metanoia, which means an absolute change of mind and will.” (Sanchez).
John’s message was about justice, about social change. He challenged the people of Israel to get down to the root causes of problems, to uproot unfruitful trees. The changes that are called for in Advent are fundamental and far-reaching; they are structural. In this new church year, we are challenged to work for a better society, different from the one we now have.
The Christian message relies on the conversion of people which will in turn bring about these changes in society (Medellin Documents).
            How do we repent? How do we prepare the way of the Lord? We do this when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger and the unwanted child, care for the ill, and love our enemies.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray “thy kingdom come.” Then the presider says the prayer which ends “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” We then receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament, but it does not the end here for we must go and announce the gospel of the Lord and glorify him with our life.
Heavenly Father, fill our hearts with your love so we can help make your kingdom come.

22 March 2015

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent B, 22 March 2015




 

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.

This is the time of year that really starts to get us moving. After being cooped up for the winter we’re eager to get out doors and do things. All those little chores that were left under the snow are now catching our eyes and begging for our attention. Other signs of the season are appearing as well. Garden catalogues and seed displays at the stores are getting us to thinking about the warmer days ahead.
Sometimes in the excitement of the new season we get ahead of ourselves and make greater plans than we actually complete. I confess I have bought packets of seeds that have never been opened, and flats of plants that have dried up in the tray, or nursery stock that died because it was left in an out of the way corner of the yard. I allowed other activities or lost ambition or, dare I say, laziness wither those plans like the sun dried seedlings. I was unwilling to pick up the shovel to break the ground, and the rake to smooth the seed bed. I was unwilling to make the effort.
Sometimes Lent is like that. We make our vows to give up this or that, to do more of one thing or another and we get so far and then loose heart. We buy the seed packet and maybe tear it open but the seed never gets in the ground. We never see the flower or the fruit.
Jesus talks about a single grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying and then producing much fruit. Have you ever seen the head of a ripe stalk of wheat? Depending on the variety it can produce ten or twenty grains from the single grain that was planted. What abundance! But the grain had to be planted first. Fields of wheat do not spring up by themselves. It takes effort; it takes effort.
Jesus has been telling his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die to accomplish the will of the Father. In his death not only will he rise to new life but so will all of us who follow after him. Instead of a shovel or rake the tool Jesus had to use was the cross.
These were hard words for his disciples, not because they were not willing to die, but because they weren’t willing to die without a fight. They couldn’t bear the thought of the Messiah just laying down his life. This is why Jesus warns that those who would save their life will lose it but he who loses his life to this world will have eternal life. Eternal life comes when we surrender to the will of the Father, take up our cross and follow Jesus.
This is why these things we do during Lent matter. They help prepare us to take up the cross. They help us to die to ourselves so that that those little seeds we plant in our acts of self-denial will bear fruit in eternal life.
In our Eucharist we share in the abundant fruit that Christ has provided for us by his suffering, death, and resurrection.
Father in heaven,
the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross
that we might glory in new life.
Change our selfishness into self-giving.
Help us to embrace the cross you have given us,
that we may transform its pain
into the life and joy of Easter.

13 December 2014

Third Sunday of Advent

Readings of the Day

John said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”




















John the Baptist                                                                        Isaiah
Who are the prophets in our day pointing to the Lord?
We may be surprised to see who they are and what they are telling us. Are we drawn to them and their message. Or will we reject them as prophets have been rejected in the past?

07 December 2014

Second Sunday of Advent

Readings of the Day


“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”


Come, Lord Jesus.


29 November 2014

First Sunday of Advent

Readings of the Day


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”




















 While waiting for the return of Christ it would be helpful to remember that the followers of Christ are supposed to be doing the work of the Master while he is away.

05 November 2014

Of on a Tangent

Just so my blog doesn't die altogether I have spent a little time last night cleaning things up and updating some links. I will still lean toward Scripture and art but there will be a bit more social commentary.

I have been doing most of my posting on Facebook but I'm getting  a little tired of that. I want to be able to express myself more freely and "On the Cusp" is a better place for that. 

Election results have left me a bit disappointed. Though I don't agree with all the stands the Democrats take on life issues, I believe they have the greater good of the people at heart.

It will be interesting to see how much of a mandate the Republicans think they have.  Just because the stock market keeps going up doesn't mean the economy is getting better, especially for the poor and middle class.

11 January 2014

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Readings of the Day


James J. Tissot, The Baptism of Jesus (1886-96), watercolor.


After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
Matthew 3:and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

 Matthew 3:16-17

04 January 2014

Epiphany of the Lord

Readings of the Day



Detail from the rererdos in the Bishop's Chapel at our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Toledo, Ohio.


They saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

02 January 2014

Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

Readings of the Day

Icon of St. Basil the Great from the St. Sophia Cathedral of Kiev.

Basil was on his way to becoming a famous teacher when he decided to begin a religious life of gospel poverty. After studying various modes of religious life, he founded what was probably the first monastery in Asia Minor. He is to monks of the East what St. Benedict is to the West, and Basil's principles influence Eastern monasticism today.
He was ordained a priest, assisted the archbishop of Caesarea (now southeastern Turkey), and ultimately became archbishop himself, in spite of opposition from some of the bishops under him, probably because they foresaw coming reforms.
One of the most damaging heresies in the history of the Church, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was at its height. Emperor Valens persecuted orthodox believers, and put great pressure on Basil to remain silent and admit the heretics to communion. Basil remained firm, and Valens backed down. But trouble remained. When the great St. Athanasius (May 2) died, the mantle of defender of the faith against Arianism fell upon Basil. He strove mightily to unite and rally his fellow Catholics who were crushed by tyranny and torn by internal dissension. He was misunderstood, misrepresented, accused of heresy and ambition. Even appeals to the pope brought no response. “For my sins I seem to be unsuccessful in everything.”
He was tireless in pastoral care. He preached twice a day to huge crowds, built a hospital that was called a wonder of the world (as a youth he had organized famine relief and worked in a soup kitchen himself) and fought the prostitution business.
Basil was best known as an orator. Though not recognized greatly in his lifetime, his writings rightly place him among the great teachers of the Church. Seventy-two years after his death, the Council of Chalcedon described him as “the great Basil, minister of grace who has expounded the truth to the whole earth.”



Comment:

As the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Basil faced the same problems as modern Christians. Sainthood meant trying to preserve the spirit of Christ in such perplexing and painful problems as reform, organization, fighting for the poor, maintaining balance and peace in misunderstanding.

Quote:

St. Basil said: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

American Catholic.org


Icon of St. Gregory the Theologian, Fresco from Kariye Camii, Istanbul, Turkey

31 December 2013

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Readings of the Day

The Granduca Madonna, 1504, RAFFAELLO Sanzio, Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence


The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:16-21




Theotokos Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

28 December 2013

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings of the Day


The Rest on the Flight into Egypt,Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod had died, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
He rose, took the child and his mother,
and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea
in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go back there.
And because he had been warned in a dream,
he departed for the region of Galilee.
He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth,
so that what had been spoken through the prophets
might be fulfilled,
He shall be called a Nazorean.

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Reflection

The Holy Family knows the plight of poverty, public scorn, social injustice, and persecution. We see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph elevated and made noble in works of art, but that belies the hardships they suffered. The life of the Holy Family was no picnic. We should take heart when we suffer in our family life either within the family relationship itself or in the hardships families endure in the world at large.  Our lives are more bearable and more meaningful when we place the love of God in the heart of our family.


26 December 2013

Saint Stephen, first martyr

Readings of the Day


St Stephen the Martyr by Vincenzo Foppa, tempera on wood, 89 x 34 cm., XV Cent., The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:8































No information.

24 December 2013

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Readings of the Day



Detail from the rererdos in the Bishop's Chapel at our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Toledo, Ohio.



She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.

Luke 2:7b




Detail from the rererdos in the Bishop's Chapel at our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Toledo, Ohio.


Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:8-14


A blessed Christmas to all. 
Keep the true spirit of Christmas alive-
show your love and forgiveness to everyone.

01 December 2013

First Sunday of Advent

Readings of the Day


 They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

Isaiah 2:4

Swords Into Plowshares

The United Nations garden contains several sculptures and statues that have been donated by different countries. This one is called "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares" and was a gift from the then Soviet Union presented in 1959. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man's desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind. 




Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:42


We enter a season in which we celebrate the coming of the Lord mindful that he is everpresent and yet expecting his return. He is present in us, and we make him present to others. A great mystery indeed.









 I know some will disagree with this, but I post this because there are some who feel the "Season" and the "Holiday" are the property of Christians under the heading "Xmas" ( see the post from Irish Medieval History). The true Christian will keep the Spirit of Christmas in his/her heart and share it charitably with others respecting their right to celebrate the Season in their own manner.








 HAPPY XMAS – X is the abbreviation of the name Christ and has been in use since early Christian times. Many people nowadays are mistakenly of the opinion that the use of “Xmas” is a recent invention or a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas. The practice of using contractions for divine or sacred names (nomina sacrum) started sometime in the 1st Century AD although the exact date remains unknown.

'X' is an ancient abbreviation for the word 'Christ' which comes to us from ancient Greek and is written in the Greek alphabet ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (cristos) The first two letters are called Chi and Rho and were used to form one of the earliest Christograms, which is a monogram or combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. Known as the Chi-Rho it is traditionally used as a Christian symbol. The Christian Roman emperor Constantine I (b. 272AD) used it as a vexillum (military standard) which in turn was known then by the name Labarum.

Christ is not a surname/family name but a title meaning 'anointed'. The online etymological dictionary says “a title, treated as a proper name in Old English, but not regularly capitalized until 17c. Pronunciation with long -i- is result of Irish missionary work in England, 7c.-8c. The ch- form, regular since c.1500 in English, was rare before. Capitalization of the word begins 14c. but is not fixed until 17c. The 17c. mystical sect of the Familists edged it toward a verb with Christed "made one with Christ."

Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (Merriam-Webster, 1994) states that, through the centuries, words like Christian, Christianity, christened, and Christopher were also written as Xtian, Xtianity, Xstened, and Xpofer. More recently we have added to this list Xbox, X-ray, Windows XP etc. (This last sentence is a bit of divelment!)

Image: the Chi-Rho page from the the Book of Lindisfarne, an Irish monastic foundation (c. 634AD) on a tidal island off the north east coast of England also known just as Holy Island.

Note the distinctive long left leg on the Chi/X which is a style found also in the Book of Kells, Book of Durrow, St. Gallen Gospel Book, MacDurnan Gospels and maybe more. A further feature is that in Irish manuscripts it is not unusual to find the first three letters used in the monogram thus Chi-Rho-Iota.

Can you make out the text? Between the square brackets below is the text on the page.

In the Latin Vulgate the verse is "[Christi (XPI) autem generatio sic erat cum esset desponsata mater eius Maria Ioseph] antequam convenirent inventa est in utero habens de Spiritu Sancto."

[Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph], before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.


IRISH MEDIEVAL HISTORY