ChristianityRichly

Welcome to Christianity Richly

In Christianity on February 5, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Psalm 63:5 “My soul will be filled as if by rich food” (Jerusalem Bible).

Christianity Richly chronicles the ongoing conversion of a Catholic Christian drawn to the Faith by its truth, goodness, and beauty. That said, “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing,” wrote Saint John Paul II (The Mission of the Redeemer). May non-Catholics and even unbelievers always find that attitude here.

If you are not a Christian or are not sure, see my story. Your life and mine all have a stories to tell, don’t they? My reasons for Christian faith are creating love, caring intervention, and God’s constant presence with us in Christ.

If you are a Christian curious about the Catholic Church, see the About link at the top of this page, under the headline “Christianity Richly.”  About explains the reasons for the blog. See the links certainty, history, unity, authority, liturgy, community, and sacramentality.

Comments on posts are always welcomed, but if you are planning to add your thoughts, then please read On Posting Comments.

All original content on this blog is Copyright ©2009-2020 Christianity Richly.  All rights reserved.  Posts may be linked or quotations of limited length reproduced with attribution to Christianity Richly. Questions and requests for more extensive reproduction may be sent to the author at this address: christianityrichly [at] gmail [dot] com.

What’s In A Name?

In Christianity on June 30, 2020 at 4:30 pm

What’s in a name?

Sometimes a name is all we know about biblical characters. They speak just a few words or are only known by their mention in Sacred Scripture.

Elishama
By some estimates at least 2,000 names are recorded in the Bible, many mentioned only once. Elishama is a good example.

He is the scribe or court secretary in Jeremiah 36:12. He likely would be remembered for no more than that, except in the 1970s, a bulla was discovered in an antiquities shop with the inscription, “Elishama, servant of the king.”

A bulla is a small lump of clay impressed with the seal of an official (source of the contemporary term, “Papal bull”). The original location of Elishama’s bulla and the others found with it suggest this seal was indeed the “signature” used to authenticate documents that declared the king’s intent.

Melchizedek
A far more important figure who does not speak is Melchizedek. See Genesis 14:18, where he appears unexpectedly to bless Abram and is called “a priest of the God most high.”

His importance, however, extends far beyond this encounter with Abram because Melchizedek is an Old Testament “type” or pointer to Jesus Christ:

This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.Hebrews 6:19-20

Yet Melchizedek in the Bible is silent.

Joseph
The most important silent figure in Scripture is St. Joseph, foster father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He doesn’t speak a word, yet there is much to be learned from his silence — for Joseph’s Word is Jesus.¹

Jesus learned from St. Joseph … obedience to God. …People who knew Joseph, when they saw the Lord, somehow saw St. Joseph in the ways of Christ.  His way of speaking, his gestures, his customs, his tenacity at work, were a reflection of what he had seen and learned from Joseph. “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (see Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3)

We cannot allow ourselves to read scripture so casually that Joseph becomes impersonal and sterile. He is not simply a bit player who takes Mary into his home, flees to Egypt with Jesus and Mary when warned, and returns home when an angel tells him of Herod’s death.

Joseph always did what the Lord asked him to do. This is deeply admirable — a person who humbly, simply, silently, follows God even into the unknown. Silent obedience that stems from trust; trust that is born of faith; faith that bears fruit in love.

The Blessed Virgin Mary
Mary, while not entirely silent in Sacred Scripture, speaks only four times: Luke 1:26-38, Luke 1:46-56, Luke 2:41-52, and in John 2:1-11. Yet her name must be mentioned here because many Christian denominations see Mary almost abstractly, an instrument in the salvation drama; a means of Christ’s birth.

By redeeming Mary before her birth and keeping her from sin throughout her life, we could even say that Mary’s name is God’s seal, the “bulla” and signature of His intent to redeem the world from sin through her Son, Jesus Christ. As the woman in Revelation 12:1-6, clothed with the sun and giving birth to a male Child who will rule all nations, her name and her role are rightfully revered (though never worshipped, as some would assert).

What’s in a Name?
An Old Testament picture of Christ; a New Testament man of silence; a humble woman of few words — and Jesus Himself, for as God said to Joseph about Mary: “She will bear a son and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Like Joseph and Mary, may we

… let ourselves be led by God, doing His Will with simplicity and without protest, with confidence and without questioning, knowing that the Lord has a plan.

And may we look to their Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Name is the only “name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” ²

 

 

¹ Here I gratefully draw on thoughts of Fr. Sergio Muñoz Fita of St. Anne Roman Catholic Parish, Gilbert, AZ. All indented quotations about St. Joseph are from an email to his parish dated June 25, 2020, “Fiat Voluntas Tua: Saint Joseph, the Righteous Man Who Always Did as the Lord Wanted.”

² Acts 4:12.

Wonder

In Christianity on June 26, 2020 at 6:59 pm

Wonder. We lack a sense of wonder.

Christianity Richly has, from the beginning, sought to answer the question, “Why should the Christian life be at all interesting to us? Why should we come to Christ?”

Because Christianity Is Rich
The answer, of course, is because Christianity is rich. It invites us to a gathering that features fine food and wine, good friendships, conversation about the topics that matter, and unparalleled support in times of need. More important but less obvious, it provides answers about our place in the universe and answers our deep-seated need for redemption and reconciliation.

If the words “support in times of need” suggest Christianity is just another self-help group, don’t pigeonhole it that way. When self is a part of the crisis we confront daily, then the idea of “self help” is an oxymoron, something that contradicts itself.

Nor are “banquet” or “feast” the right words to describe Christianity, even though both are true.  The richness of following Christ goes beyond the immediate pleasures suggested by banquet or feast, and responds to the deepest longings of our hearts.

What Does All of This Mean?
This way of thinking was suggested in a book by Andrew Louth titled, Discerning the Mystery.¹ The book caused me to remember a time when I was a child, lying on the grass at night, and looking at the dark sky and glorious stars. “What’s out there?” “Why am I here?” “What does this all mean?”

Do we still ask ourselves these questions today? Or are we so distracted by glittering rides at the carnival, that we simply become a cog in the cosmos — often an unwitting cog, no matter how proud we have become of our apparent capacity for self-determination?

If we look at the magnificent, complex, individual lives around us, eternally intertwined with others, how can not wonder and rejoice? Louth describes this as “wonder at the mystery of being.” This mystery presents, yet also holds us before, the ultimate mystery: God.² This “mystery questions us, demands of us a response, challenges us to decide what we are to do, what we are to make of our lives.”

It is because man is made by God in His image and likeness that he is ultimately mysterious and can never be understood as he really is in terms that prescind from [leave out of consideration] the mystery of personhood.

Wonder, But Don’t Despair
Don’t understand yourself some days? Most of us don’t. Come to the feast. Enter the conversation, realizing it is not simply a matter of us putting questions to God. The Samaritan woman at the well did that (John 4:4-26). But as we confront the wonder of our own personhood and the mystery of God, He also will question us — not in a hostile way, but in a way that turns-on a light; enables us to penetrate some of the darkness in our world and understand the otherwise inexplicable disappointments we feel at our own failures and the failures of others.

Wonder can shake us. It often disturbs us.

But . . . does the true sense of wonder really lie in uprooting the mind and plunging it into doubt? [The Samaritan woman could have ended up that way, if she had broken off the conversation too early.] Doesn’t it really lie in making it possible and indeed necessary to strike yet deeper roots?³

“Fides quærens intellectum,” St. Augustine wrote. Faith seeking understanding. Come. Be part of the conversation. Be one of those of whom it can be said,

They feast on the rich food of Your house; from Your delightful stream you give them to drink. For with You are the springs of life, and in Your light we see light. Psalm 36:9-10, Isaiah 55:1, John 4:14

 

¹ Andrew Louth, Discerning The Mystery (Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Clarendon Press, 2003). You will find Louth’s book on Amazon, but it would be better to go to AbeBooks.com, where you can select the seller you prefer.

² This statement and the paragraphs that follow draw on Louth’s chapter, “Living the Mystery,” especially pages 143-147.

³ Josef Pieper, Leisure (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2009), p. 131. Quoted by Louth, p143.