Looking Up At Two Crosses

Did you know there are two crosses in Earth’s sky? This image from Astronomy Picture of the Day today captures both of them. But you have to get as far south as Hawaii.

We talked about one of the crosses years ago.

As for the other, it’s one of the smallest constellations in the sky. It’s a very compact four stars. It’s interesting to read about how southern hemisphere non-Christian cultures viewed this asterism so differently: opossum, anchor, triggerfish, two trees, two giraffes, a swarm of bees, and even a duck. That last one makes an interesting comparison to the animal associated with the Northern Cross: a swan, Cygnus.

Wikipedia published this long-exposure image, above. The dark patch is an unlit dust cloud–the Coal Sack. Native Brazilians from Mato Grosso State saw the dark nebula as a beehive and the broght stars the swarm emerging from it. That’s an interesting piece of mythology that’s actually scientifically possible. Bright new stars do emerge from nebulas. The stars of the constellation Crux are in the foreground–between Earth and the Coal Sack.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the skies whenever you can this Holy Week. Look for one of the two crosses above.

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Dies Domini 20: Witnessing to the Resurrection

Pope John Paul II relies heavily on the witness of the Gospels to flesh out his examination of the Resurrection. Naturally:

20. According to the common witness of the Gospels, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead took place on “the first day after the Sabbath” (Mk 16:2,9; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1). On the same day, the Risen Lord appeared to the two disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) and to the eleven Apostles gathered together (cf. Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19). A week later — as the Gospel of John recounts (cf. 20:26) — the disciples were gathered together once again, when Jesus appeared to them and made himself known to Thomas by showing him the signs of his Passion. The day of Pentecost — the first day of the eighth week after the Jewish Passover (cf. Acts 2:1), when the promise made by Jesus to the Apostles after the Resurrection was fulfilled by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4-5) — also fell on a Sunday. This was the day of the first proclamation and the first baptisms: Peter announced to the assembled crowd that Christ was risen and “those who received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). This was the epiphany of the Church, revealed as the people into which are gathered in unity, beyond all their differences, the scattered children of God.

The Resurrection was key to the early proclamation of Christ, and so the Resurrection-Sunday is ancient, early, and very much part of the initial Christian vector to observe the Creator’s Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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EG 139: A Mother’s Conversation

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, speaks now of “A mother’s conversation.”

Evangelizing itself–autoevangelization? No matter what you call it, Pope Francis asks up front how this notion should affect the Church’s preachers.

139. We said that the people of God, by the constant inner working of the Holy Spirit, is constantly evangelizing itself. What are the implications of this principle for preachers?

Mother to child, not mother to infant:

It reminds us that the Church is a mother, and that she preaches in the same way that a mother speaks to her child, knowing that the child trusts that what she is teaching is for his or her benefit, for children know that they are loved. Moreover, a good mother can recognize everything that God is bringing about in her children, she listens to their concerns and learns from them.

Two important qualities I see in this relationship are love and dialogue. The Church has care and regard for its members. The notion of dialogue, as Pope Francis gives here, is important. “Listening to concerns” does not imply, as some pharisees or elder siblings might present, agreement. Listening to people involves hearing and perceiving the words. And more: hearing and perceiving the meanings and the motivations behind the words. Mothers–and fathers too–are called to be listeners, but discerning listeners.

The spirit of love which reigns in a family guides both mother and child in their conversations; therein they teach and learn, experience correction and grow in appreciation of what is good. Something similar happens in a homily. The same Spirit who inspired the Gospels and who acts in the Church also inspires the preacher to hear the faith of the God’s people and to find the right way to preach at each Eucharist. Christian preaching thus finds in the heart of people and their culture a source of living water, which helps the preacher to know what must be said and how to say it. Just as all of us like to be spoken to in our mother tongue, so too in the faith we like to be spoken to in our “mother culture,” our native language (cf. 2 Macc 7:21, 27), and our heart is better disposed to listen. This language is a kind of music which inspires encouragement, strength and enthusiasm.

Question for clergy: How do you listen to “the heart of people” in your faith community?

Question for the larger Church: How do we speak in “mother culture” so as to draw people better disposed to listen to Christ’s message?

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USCCB In Liturgy Damage Control

The CARA priest survey on MR3 has hit the Catholic News Service, at least in a small news bit today. The executive director for liturgy at the USCCB was in damage control mode. Msgr Richard Hilgartner concedes “divided opinion” among his brother priests. But he also acknowledges the bishops have no plans to revisit the matter.

(H)e cautioned that the survey leaves many unanswered questions. For instance, he said, it’s impossible to tell from the data released whether respondents object to the more formal style of the translation overall or to specific words chosen. He also raised questions about whether the number of responses represent a meaningful sample of sentiment about the translation.

Let’s take those two points in turn. The problem isn’t “formal” style so much as a problem with intelligibility and a lack of artistry in the English texts, especially the collects. Vocabulary isn’t a serious issue, despite what one or two bishops have said. The Lord’s Prayer, for example, uses a formal style. And we all know what it means. Numerous liturgists, language scholars, and priests have raised specific problems with specific prayers. It’s time for the USCCB to listen.

MR3 apologists were also questioning the sample size at PrayTell the other day or two. Here’s  how statistics work with the sample size used. There is a 95% chance that the 52-42 disapproval is within 4.6 percent of the actual ratio among active Roman Catholic priests in the US. It might be 48-46, a slim majority. It could be 56-38, which in political terms is a landslide. Is it likely that a majority of priests favors MR3 and CARA got it wrong? That’s possible. But it’s about as likely as a two-to one or greater ratio of priests disliking it.

If I were a bishop, I might ask my diocesan clergy what they really, really thought of the translation. And what action I might take, if any.

What the CARA survey has exposed is a deep rift among priests. That might be a generation gap. That might be a liturgist/non-liturgist gap. That might mean an action/contemplation gap. But there’s a gap. What are the bishops going to do about it?

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Cosmos Episode 4: Telescope as Time Machine

I’m falling behind in regular viewing of the Cosmos reboot with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. My wife and I viewed the 4th episode earlier tonight. Telescope as time machine: very true and accurate premise, but not everybody thinks in this way.

Early in the episode Dr Tyson demolishes the Young Creation scenario. Of course, God, in all his power, could have given the speed of light a big push from what is apparently 13.4 billion years ago. But that would mean the Almighty is a teaser, and deceives our eyes with what is around us. Earth could have been made some thousands of years ago, but the rest of the universe is 13-point-some billion years old. That’s what our eyes and minds tell us.

Animation was minimal in this episode, but it was actually a good unfolding of the father-son relationship of the Herschels. Some have criticized the sentimentality of some aspects of this series. but I think putting a human face on these scientists, even if it is something of a dramatization, helps the viewer see them as real people.

Also I liked the focus on the greats of science of the past few centuries: Newton, Herschel, Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein. The “chain” of images appearing on successive study walls was effective.

The depiction and description of the black hole was well done. I could have done without the speculative universes within universes. It would have been a dramatic touch to just disappear at the event horizon, and move from there. But it was pretty … eye catching.

So far, I though this was the best episode in the series. Any other viewers wishing to weigh in?

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Dies Domini 19: The Weekly Easter

If Sunday is the day of the Lord, it is also the day of Christ. Dies Christi, the topic of Chapter II, extends from this section to number 30. Subtitle: The Day of the Risen Lord and of the Gift of the Holy Spirit. So John Paul II draws Pentecost into his thinking.

Resurrection first, a very old tradition:

19. “We celebrate Sunday because of the venerable Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we do so not only at Easter but also at each turning of the week”: so wrote Pope Innocent I at the beginning of the fifth century,(Ep. ad Decentium XXV, 4, 7: PL 20, 555) testifying to an already well established practice which had evolved from the early years after the Lord’s Resurrection. Saint Basil speaks of “holy Sunday, honoured by the Lord’s Resurrection, the first fruits of all the other days”;(Homiliae in Hexaemeron II, 8: SC 26, 184) and Saint Augustine calls Sunday “a sacrament of Easter”.(Cf. In Io. Ev. Tractatus XX, 20, 2: CCL 36, 203; Epist. 55, 2: CSEL 34, 170-171)

Sunday is a tradition shared between East and West:

The intimate bond between Sunday and the Resurrection of the Lord is strongly emphasized by all the Churches of East and West. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches in particular, every Sunday is the anastàsimos hemèra, the day of Resurrection,(The reference to the Resurrection is especially clear in Russian, which calls Sunday simply “Resurrection” (Voskresenie).) and this is why it stands at the heart of all worship.

If Creation began the reflection on Sunday, then as Christian we must ponder the Resurrection to give it its full modern meaning, at least to Christians:

In the light of this constant and universal tradition, it is clear that, although the Lord’s Day is rooted in the very work of creation and even more in the mystery of the biblical “rest” of God, it is nonetheless to the Resurrection of Christ that we must look in order to understand fully the Lord’s Day. This is what the Christian Sunday does, leading the faithful each week to ponder and live the event of Easter, true source of the world’s salvation.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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Riot Aftermath

The university has cancelled the school’s festival. Some revelry continues. As our associate pastor was leaving the building shortly after this past midnight, an unconscious student was discovered in a closet. Unable to awaken the person, police were called and the person taken away.

The root of the problem is the abuse of alcohol. The event was cancelled, but the sale, consumption, and over-consumption of alcohol remains as it was.

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