A Catholic Jew Pontificates

I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pope Francis and Unity in the Spirit


Alessandra Nucci wrote in regards to Pope Francis attitude to other Christian groups:"... it must be said here that “sheep-stealing” is not Pope Francis’ purpose. The late Bishop Tony Palmer was careful to point this out: “Pope Francis pulled me up on more than one occasion when I used the expression ‘coming home to the Catholic Church.’ He said, ‘Don’t use this term.’ He told me, ‘No one is coming home. You are journeying towards us and we are journeying towards you and we will meet in the middle. We will meet on the road as we seek each other.’” This is confirmed by Pope Francis’ remarks in Evangelii Gaudium: “We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicions or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face” for it is not just a matter of being informed but of reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us.”...".

When one is a new Catholic one often thinks of their formal entry into the structures of the Catholic Church as a coming home. We have heard the terms "Rome sweet home" and "the Journey home". We often see this entry as a break with our past allegiances. However once I had been a Catholic for some time I realised my whole faith journey should be appreciated and valued and that the journey is not to Rome as our Home but our home is in heaven and in the kingdom of God. Rome may be part of that journey for some of us that join the Latin or Roman rite of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Faith and Church are not limited to its physical or earthly structures- it is the mystical body of the Messiah. Jesus made Peter the first Pope or Rock of the Church long before he went to Rome. At first he was the Jerusalem Pope and then the Antioch Pope and then the Roman Pope. If a future Pope should decide to remove the Papacy elsewhere then that would be within his papal power. 


Just as Pope Francis wants us to see our relations with other Christian groups as a meeting on our journey so we should see our relations with Judaism. Father Arthur Klyber a famous Hebrew Catholic priest of orthodox Jewish background taught that orthodox Jews who believe in the Messiah are already with us on the journey. The Russian Orthodox priest Father Lev Gillet says that we are in communion with Judaism through our shared belief in the coming and mission of the Messiah. 

I believe that the Holy Spirit has been guiding the mystical and spiritual traditions of both Christians and Jews so that one day in the eschatological future we will see the ingrafting as taught by Paul in Romans 11. Each tradition will enrich the other for the glory of God in the Kingdom of the Divine Will. Pope Francis' concept of meeting or encounter is similar to that proposed by the French Jewish philosopher Levinas which has its roots in the Scriptural concept of "face to face" encounter. As I have written elsewhere:

"...Levinas would seem to provide a dance –like post –modernist way of philosophising that leads one back to the biblical and ethical priority of loving kindness and mercy, which is important for all believers- Jews and Christians. His concepts can also be used in a Hebrew Catholic theology as part of a philosophical choreography for encountering the truths of faith that is relevant to the post-Shoah and post-modernist generations. Those who are locked into a systematic, vertical, argumentative and modernist mindset will become lost and dizzy in the twirls and leaps of this mystical and Levinasian approach....".
Maybe this would explain the reaction to Pope Francis of those Catholics of a more structured and rigid mindset. They fear becoming lost and confused in the twirls and leaps of the teachings and actions of Pope Francis. I for one look forward to the adventure of Pope Francis' mystical Tango that will lead us to enriching encounters with others and the Other (God).

see

The Mystical Dance: A Rendezvous of Levinas, Jewish Mysticism and Genesis 1 from a Hebrew Catholic Perspective

Reflection on Levinas, Stein and the Shoah

Messiah, Levinas and Mitzvot: A Reflection on Three Readings

 

 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Titulus Crucis and the Divine Name



The 'Titulus Crucis' is the inscription placed on the Cross of Jesus in Hebrew, Greek and Latin saying Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. It has caused some controversy in that the paleographic evidence would date it to the 1st-4th century but it was carbon dated to the 10th century. Also it has the Greek and Latin running in reverse from right to left like the Hebrew. Other historical evidence seems to say that the original 'titulus crucis' was divided in two. The Greek and Latin on one piece was taken to Rome and the Hebrew on a second remained in Jerusalem.
 

Wikipedia states: "... In 1997, the German author and historian Michael Hesemann performed investigation of the relic. Hesemann presented the inscription of the title to seven experts on Hebrew, Greek and Latin palaeography: Dr. Gabriel Barkay of the Israel Antiquity Authority, Prof. Dr. Hanan Eshel, Prof. Dr. Ester Eshel and Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University Jerusalem, Prof. Dr. Israel Roll and Prof. Dr. Ben Isaac of the University of Tel Aviv and Prof. Carsten Peter Thiede of Paderborn/Germany and the University of Beer Sheva, Israel. According to Hesemann, none of the consulted experts found any indication of a mediaeval or late antique forgery. They all dated it in the timeframe between the 1st and the 3-4thcentury AD, with a majority of experts preferring and none of them excluding the 1st century. Hesemann concluded that it is very well possible that the Titulus Crucis is indeed the authentic relic...".

I believe the solution is very obvious. The titulus crucis venerated today is not the original titulus crucis but a faithful copy done in Carolingian times. The inscriber had access to faithful tracings of the two divided parts of the original titulus crucis. However when he made a faithful copy he reversed the tracing of the Greek and Latin while the Hebrew one he didn't. The inscriber obviously wasn't literate in any of the three languages but just copied faithfully what he saw on to the piece of almond wood.
 

Of course I could be wrong as carbon dating is notoriously unreliable and it could be the original and the inscriber was a Jew who knew the Hebrew but was copying the Greek and Latin from a written text and inscribing it in the direction he as a Hebrew writer was used to.
 


What is very interesting is that the Hebrew phrase was written in a way that it revealed the Divine Name YHVH. Yeshua Hanazareti V'melech Hayehudim is Jesus the Nazarene and King of the Jews. INRI is the abbreviation of the Latin and INBI of the Greek. This would explain why the High Priest wanted the inscription changed as it was a common Jewish practice to hide authorship or a message in a Hebrew phrase by reading the first Hebrew letter. The late Rav Kaduri did this with his famous letter revealing the name of the Messiah as Yehoshua by the Hebrew phrase Yarim Ha’Am Veyokhiakh Shedvaro Vetorato Omdim meaning "He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid".

.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christopher Dawson, Pope Benedict and Erotic Life


Eros (son of Aphrodite) and Psyche by Marta Dahlig

 Recently I have discovered the writings of the great Catholic historian Christopher Dawson. He writes about the spiritual and mystical Catholic as a man of eroticism, desire and passion like St Francis of Assisi and St Augustine. True erotic love is generous, warm hearted and giving rather than the self-absorbed parsimonious and economic cold "charity" of the bourgeois. However Dawson's warning is for all of us who have that hidden closed Pharisee or Bourgeois within us. He proclaims: "...The question of the bourgeois involves a real issue which Christians cannot afford to shirk. For it is difficult to deny that there is a fundamental disharmony between bourgeois and Christian civilization and between the mind of the bourgeois and the mind of Christ. But first let us admit that it is no use hunting for the bourgeois. For we are all more or less bourgeois and our civilization is bourgeois from top to bottom. Hence there can be no question of treating the bourgeois in the orthodox communist fashion as a gang of antisocial reptiles who can be exterminated summarily by the revolutionary proletariat; for in order to "liquidate" the bourgeoisie modern society would have to "liquidate" itself...". 


Dawson champions a Christian ethos that is creative, free, passionate and mystically erotic: "...Seen from this point of view, it is obvious that the Christian ethos is essentially antibourgeois, since it is an ethos of love. This is particularly obvious in the case of St. Francis and the mediaeval mystics, who appropriated to their use the phraseology of mediaeval erotic poetry and used the antibourgeois concepts of the chivalrous class-consciousness, such as "adel," "noble," and "gentile," in order to define the spiritual character of the true mystic..." 

Pope Benedict XVI wrote is his encyclical on love about eros and agape love as ascending and descending love. He quotes from his predecessor Pope Gregory the Great in regards to Jacob's ladder, Paul's ascent and descent to the Third Heaven and Moses' entry in and out of the Tabernacle as referring to this ascent and descent. He understands eros as the love that searches for God in mystical ascent and after this mystical love-making one descends to share that love with others. This whole process produces the agape love described in the Bible. The Pope associates the Greek agape with the Hebrew ahavah. He refers us to the Song of Songs. 

Pope Benedict also associates eros with the spousal love and union between Adam and Eve which would link eros with the Hebrew word daat (to know). Pope Benedict refers to God's passionate love for man. God is not the cold machine-like passionless First mover of Greek philosophy. He is the God referred to by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as the most moved Mover- the God of the Biblical prophets. Pope Benedict writes: "...The one God in whom Israel believes, on the other hand, loves with a personal love. His love, moreover, is an elective love: among all the nations he chooses Israel and loves her—but he does so precisely with a view to healing the whole human race. God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape..."

Benedict XVI would seem to agree with Rabbi Heschel. He writes: "...The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel, described God's passion for his people using boldly erotic images. God's relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution. Here we find a specific reference—as we have seen—to the fertility cults and their abuse of eros, but also a description of the relationship of fidelity between Israel and her God. The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel consists, at the deepest level, in the fact that he gives her the Torah, thereby opening Israel's eyes to man's true nature and showing her the path leading to true humanism..." 

Pope Benedict then gives this a eucharistic dimension. He writes: "... Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn 6:31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man's real food—what truly nourishes him as man—is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us—as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental “mysticism”, grounded in God's condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lifts us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish...".

Pope Benedict goes on to say: "...The transition which he makes from the Law and the Prophets to the twofold commandment of love of God and of neighbour, and his grounding the whole life of faith on this central precept, is not simply a matter of morality—something that could exist apart from and alongside faith in Christ and its sacramental re-actualization. Faith, worship and ethos are interwoven as a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God's agape. Here the usual contraposition between worship and ethics simply falls apart. “Worship” itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn...". In another document he writes about this interwoven unity in regards to the Torah: "...For, to be sure, one cannot simply separate out universally valid moral principles and transitory ritual and legal norms without destroying the Torah itself, which is something integral, which owes its existence to God's address to Israel. The idea that, on the one hand, there are pure morals which are reasonable and universal, and on the other that there are rites that are conditioned by time and ultimately dispensable mistakes entirely the inner structure of the five books of Moses. "The Decalogue" as the core of the work of the law shows clearly enough that the worship of God is completely indivisible from morals, cult and ethos...". Pope Francis seems to be making the same point that we can't just focus on a few moral issues without reference and integration of the whole rich tapestry of Catholic Faith and teaching.

Dawson writes about this erotic type as open and the spiritual bourgeois as closed. "...But it is no less clear in the case of the Gospel itself. The spirit of the Gospel is eminently that of the "open" type which gives, asking nothing in return, and spends itself for others. It is essentially hostile to the spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence and above all to the spirit of religious self-seeking and self-satisfaction. For what is the Pharisee but a spiritual bourgeois, a typically "closed" nature, a man who applies the principle of calculation and gain not to economics but to religion itself, a hoarder of merits, who reckons his accounts with heaven as though God was his banker? It is against this "closed," self-sufficient moralist ethic that the fiercest denunciations of the Gospels are directed. Even the sinner who possesses a seed of generosity, a faculty of self-surrender, and an openess of spirit is nearer to the kingdom of heaven than the "righteous" Pharisee; for the soul that is closed to love is closed to grace...".

Pope Francis is fully in tune and accord with Dawson and Pope Benedict against these middle class and 'respectable' bourgeois who are morally and ethically obsessed in the manner of the 'closed' Pharisees of Jesus own time. These insights of course would be even greatly enhanced when read in light of Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body". These spiritual bourgeois shudder at the very mention of the words eros and erotic and cling to a disembodied spirituality that has more in common with Gnosticism rather than true Catholic erotic mysticism rooted in the human experience. It would seem Greek Philosophy (the preserve of an intellectual elite) separated itself from the passionate humanity of the Greek mythic characters (beloved and meaningful to the ordinary person). The Church took both and saw in them the hidden seeds or sparks of the Gospel which were then adapted and transformed in order to more fully understand and enculturate the Gospel into the Romano-Greek societies. 
Wings of Love by Stephen Pearson

In sense the Logos (the bridegroom) and Sophia (the bride) can be perceived in seed form in the Greek mythic characters of Eros and Aphrodite.  In Jewish thought this is Tiferet as the Blessed Holy One of Israel seeking and uniting (cleaving) with Kneset Yisrael (Shekhinah/ Matronita). The erotic life according to Pope Benedict is this seeking and searching for the lover associated with the ascending eros (the male) and the attaining or receiving of eros (the female) and returning in order to share this love is the fullness of agape.This is the love feast of virginal nuptial unions in the Kingdom of the Divine Will. Pope Francis said just this week : "The Lord never says that the Kingdom of God is a show. It’s a party (festa or feast)! But it is different. And a party is beautiful, of course. A big party. And Heaven will be a party...“The Kingdom of God is not far from us. It’s close! This is one of its features: It’s close to us every day.”" This kingdom is violent or wild (see Matthew 11:12) just as C.S. Lewis states that Aslan is not a tame but a wild Lion and Pope Francis told the Youth at the World Youth Day in Brazil to go home and make a mess (a wild party) in their dioceses even if the Bishops and priests resist. The Jewish mystical tradition links mystically the wild beasts of Genesis 1 with the heavenly " four living creatures or beasts (chayot)". You can imagine my delight when I did an internet quiz on "What Yiddish word describes your personality?" and my result was 'Vilda Chaya' (wild beast). Wild beasts in nature live totally in accord with God's Will for them and thus are also a symbol of those who live in Divine Will.

 The servant of God Luisa Piccarreta stresses the concept of first desiring and having knowledge ( in Hebrew daat) of the Divine Will before one comes to fully live or dwell in Divine Will which is linked to feasting in Divine Will. The linking of daat (an experiential knowing) with eros demonstrates that this desiring and knowing of Divine Will is not some cold intellectual knowledge of religious facts and teaching but a journey into the true and beautiful passionate erotic life of the religious mystic in personal and intimate communion with the Divine Lover with whom we commune in our "Hours of the Passion". This is the agony and ecstasy of the joyful embracing of the Cross of the Messiah on the Via Dolorosa of our times.

Christopher Dawson sums up the call to today's young generation of Catholics. He states: "...There is always a temptation for religion to ally itself with the existing order, and if we today ally ourselves with the bourgeois because the enemies of the bourgeois are often also the enemies of the Church, we shall be repeating the mistake that the Gallican prelates made in the time of Louis XVIII. The Christian Church is the organ of the spirit, the predestined channel through which the salvific energy of divine love flows out and transforms humanity. But it depends on the Christians of a particular generation, both individually and corporately, whether this source of spiritual energy is brought into contact with the life of humanity and the needs of contemporary society. We can hoard our treasure, we can bury our talent in the ground like the man in the parable who thought that his master was an austere man and who feared to take risks. Or, on the other hand, we can choose the difficult and hazardous way of creative spiritual activity, which is the way of the saints..."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Nisan 16 and the Wave (Tenufa) and Heave (Terumah) Offerings

 Lifted Offering of the New Covenant

In other posts (see below) I have given my reasons why I believe that the crucifixion of Good Friday occurred on Nisan 16 the second day of Passover which is also the day of the Sheaf or Wave offering and the beginning of the Omer counting by the Pharisee reckoning. Other writers have felt that this Wave offering occurred on Resurrection Sunday linking it with Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15:23 about the Messiah being the first fruits of the dead.

I have given this some thought but I don't think the reference by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:23 is necessarily referring to the Wave (Tenufa) offering but to the Terumah (lifted) offering. They are both first fruits offerings (korbanot). Also the scriptural passage about the Wave offering seems to me to be more fitting for the day of the crucifixion when the perfect Lamb of God is offered just like the perfect lamb offered with the Wave offering.  


"And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, 'When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf (omer) of the first (reshit) of your harvest (katzir) to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD.' (Lev. 23:9-12)"

Terumah as a lifted offering links in my mind more to the Messiah being lifted up in the Resurrection though of course it would also allude to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross and to his lifting up of the bread and wine at the last supper. The mystery of this lifted (terumah) offering is also discussed in Bahir 102 and103 in connection to the Tzadik who is the foundation of the world. In a sense the tenufa (wave) offering is a kind of terumah (lifted first fruits) offering. The Wave offering is lifted up and waved from left to right or right to left thus forming a cross. The left and right movement could allude to the arms of the Messiah on the Cross so the Wave offerings symbolism is more appropriate to the crucifixion whereas the Terumah (heave/ lifted) offering is lifted up and down thus more a symbol of resurrection and the elevation of the bread and wine in the Mass. Hidden in the text of Genesis 1 is the terumah offering counting 26 five times beginning with the tav of bereshit (in the beginning). The mystical understanding of this reshit with terumah is written in Nachmanides commentary linking it with the mystery of the Mother. 

The Ramban (Nachmanides) states: "...For the merit aquired by... three things has the world been created: for the merit of challah (Dough), for the merit of Tithes and for the merit of the first fruits (bikkurim)...Reshit surely signifies the Dough-offering, as it is said, 'The first of your dough' [Numbers 15:20]. Reshit surely signifies the Tithes, as it is said, 'the first of thy grain' [Deut.18;4]. Reshit surely signifies the first-fruits, as it is said, 'the first-friuts of thy land' [Exodus 23:19]..." "...Now Israel, which is called reshit as mentioned above, is the "Kneset Yisrael", which is compared in the Song of Songs to a bride and whom Scripture in turn calls daughter, sister and mother. The Rabbis have already expressed this in a homiletic interpretation of the verse, 'Upon the crown wherewith his mother has crowned Him [Song of Songs 3:11]', and in other places." Similarly, the verse concerning Moses, 'And he chose a first part for himself' [Deut. 33;21], which they interpret to mean that Moses our teacher comtemplated through a Isparklarya (lucid speculum/ clear crystal mirror or looking glass), and he saw that which is reshit (the first) for himself, and therefore merited the Torah. Thus all the Midrashim above have one meaning...."

In Genesis 1:3 we also see the name Miriam hidden in the text beginning with the final mem of the first mayim in Genesis counting 26 four times. And further down in Genesis 1 we see the same pattern with the name Yeshua.There are three ‘wells’ in the Hebrew Text of Genesis 1 formed by counting 4 x 26 or 5 x 26 for TeRUMaH. YHVH has four letters and YHVH is 26 in Jewish gematria. The five letters of TeRUMaH alludes to the tradition that a letter is missing from the Divine Name. The first subtext well begins with the last letter ‘tav’ of Bereshit (In the Beginning) the first word of Genesis 1 – it spells out TeRUMaH (tav, resh, vav, mem, heh). The second subtext well begins with the last word of Gen1:2 hamayim (the waters) from the last letter ‘mem’- it spells out MiRYaM (mem, resh, yod, mem). The third subtext well begins in the word Elohim in Gen 1: 17 beginning with the ‘yod’ – it spells out YeShUA (yod, shin, vav, ayin). Of course the Zohar and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov allude to this Mother in the context of the Olah (Burnt) Offering as an ascending (olah) fire (aish) offering connected to the mystery of the Isha (woman) of Genesis 3:15.
Our Lady as the Woman (Isha) of Fire (Aish) and Burning Bush

This mystery of Terumah is also connected to Parashat Terumah in Exodus 25 in which the furnishing of the Tabernacle are discussed.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: [2] Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring firstfruits to me: of every man that offereth of his own accord, you shall take them. [3] And these are the things you must take: gold, and silver, and brass, [4] Violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine linen, and goats' hair, [5] And rams' skins dyed red, and violet skins, and setim wood [6] Oil to make lights: spices for ointment, and for sweetsmelling incense: [7] Onyx stones, and precious stones to adorn the ephod and the rational (breastplate). [8] And they shall make me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in the midst of them: [9] According to all the likeness of the tabernacle which I will shew thee, and of all the vessels for the service thereof: and thus you shall make it: [10] Frame an ark of setim wood, the length whereof shall be of two cubits and a half: the breadth, a cubit and a half: the height, likewise, a cubit and a half.[11] And thou shalt overlay it with the purest gold within and without: and over it thou shalt make a golden crown round about.
This passage is full of hidden mystical significances regarding the Incarnation and Life, death and Resurrection of the Messiah that manifests in the mystery of the Eucharist as the flesh (basar) of the Messiah who is the Divine Word that tabernacles with men. The events of the Passover Week, Last Supper, Passion and Crucifixion and Resurrection are all one Terumah offering that today we access in every celebration of the Eucharist as a first fruits of the World and Kingdom that is Coming both when the Divine Will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven (the spiritual Resurrection or Life from the dead mentioned in Romans 11, Ezekiel 37 and Philippians 3:11) and in the final consummation and fulfilment of the Kingdom after the Final Coming, Judgment and Resurrection at the third and final end of time.

The Bahir speaks of those who offer the lifted offering as the tzaddikim (righteous saints) which alludes to the hands of the priests lifting the offering in order to bless and consecrate and the hearts of the lay faithful joining the priests in the offering. This alludes to the Catholic priest lifting up the Eucharistic species in the Mass and in Benediction in union with the heart intentions of the people. This also alludes to the first fruits of celibate male priests mentioned in Revelation 4 who participate in the first fruits resurrection by martyrdom who reign as priests with the Messiah from Heaven through the Eucharistic reign of the Divine Will done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Some writers would hold that Jesus followed the Saducee and Essene reckoning of the counting of the Omer but this would contradict Matthew 23 where Jesus states that the Scribes and Pharisees sit in the Chair or Seat of Moses. Also the dating of these events according to Rebbe Nachman and Breslov would confirm this. Today in a sense the Wave offering and Terumah lifted is combined as one in the lifting up and waving the lulav and etrog on sukkot and in the Catholic Church when the priest lifts the Monstrance (golden vessel for holding the Eucharistic Host) and blesses the people with a cross like movement with the Sacrament. The lulav symbolises the male Messiah and the etrog the heart, womb and breast of the Messiah's mother just as the monstrance symbolises Our Lady and the Sacrament (Eucharisted bread in the Monstrance) is the Messiah's real presence.

see

Is the 16th of Nisan the Date of the Crucifixion? 

 

Special Sabbath within Passover

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Pope Francis and Evolution


Recent comments by Pope Francis on the nature of evolution at a scientific meeting have been blown out of all proportion by both Creationists and Evolutionists. In fact he didn't say anything new at all. The Catholic Church leaves the scientific discussion of  how the Universe was formed in a material sense to scientists and thus the individual Catholic believer can follow what most convinces them within certain limits that impinge on Catholic doctrine.

Pope Francis reaffirmed that theories of the physical evolution of man and other living creatures and the Big Bang theory are not opposed to the Catholic teaching on creation. A Catholic may believe in them in good faith. The Pope said: "Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve." Pope Francis does condemn scientific ideas that hold that this process is chaotic in its source. The Pope said: "The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos that owes its origin to something else, but it derives directly from a supreme principle that creates out of love." Equally a Catholic may be unconvinced with the theory of Darwinian evolution as the path nature has taken. Pope Francis may personally believe in Darwinian evolution (I have no idea what he personally believes) as Popes are products of their times and education but that doesn't mean all Catholics must accept these theories. The Popes of early times believed in the ideas of Aristotelian science of their day.

I personally don't believe in Darwinian evolution but I do believe that everything was formed under God's guidance from original material matter that God created out of nothing. In Hebrew there is a different between bara (created out of nothing) and yetzer (formed from pre-existing matter). The Biblical account speaks of man and living creatures being formed (yetzer) from pre-existing matter (dust of the earth). How this was formed could have been by an evolutionary process over large amounts of time if God willed it. I respect that devout Catholics can hold that view but I don't.

 I do believe in a form of the Big Bang theory but I don't think the present dating of it is necessarily correct. I believe the Creation of the Earth with Life occurred less than 10,000 years ago. God created the Heavens (Universe) first in preparation for earth and man. The Pope said: "The 'Big Bang', that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God, on the contrary it requires it." I also believe the older geological idea that the earth's geological formation was formed by Catastrophes to be correct. I have many reasons why I think as I do that is not appropriate to discuss in this blog entry. I also believe a new generation is rising that questions the ideas of the present atheistic Darwinian evolutionary scientific and academic establishment. Neither do I expect the Church to declare any one scientific theory to be correct as knowledge in the sciences should remain open to further dispute, discussion and research.

Professor Kenyon writes:  

"Macroevolutionary theory is still the reigning doctrine in academia and among intellectuals generally. For a large majority of Catholic and non-Catholic scientists it is the only defensible view of origins.  Yet over the last fifty years signs of the growth of a formidable challenge to macroevolution have been steadily growing.  The number of scientists who dissent from neo-Darwinism in the U.S.A., Europe, Australia and around the world is steadily growing and many hundreds have made their views publicly known. Why is this process occurring?  Part of the reason is that recent scientific advances in molecular biology, genetics, sedimentology, information theory and other fields have cast doubt on some of the major tenets of Darwinism. Another part of the reason is that the sweeping claims of macroevolutionists have run far beyond securely documented evidence.  Their large and unwarranted extrapolations (e.g., in the leap from microevolution to macroevolution) make them unique among natural scientists.  The intellectual rigor that works to diminish unwarranted extrapolation from empirical data remains intact in most other scientific disciplines..."

Professor Maciej Giertych gives on interesting talk on genetics.
see Forbidden Science. 

To the Jew First: Catholic Evangelisation


Recently a non-Catholic Jewish believer in Jesus asked me about the Catholic approach to Jewish evangelism in the context of the new evangelisation. Evangelisation and new Evangelisation are two different things in Catholic thought. The new evangelisation primarily is directed to fallen away Catholics and nations to re-evangelise them with the Good News of Jesus who wishes to encounter them in an intimate and personal manner in the Eucharist. Evangelisation is an ongoing process and begins with the proclamation in teaching and action of the Good News to unevangelised people (non-Christians). This evangelisation can take place in two manners active and passive. What manner is appropriate differs on the calling or vocation of the person or group and the discernment of the Church. Some today believe that all evangelisation including the new evangelisation by the Catholic Church should be Eucharistic evangelisation. There is a mystical link between the Hebrew words "biser/ besora" (good news or tidings/ gospel) and "basar" (flesh) which share the same Hebrew letters BSR (beit, shin, resh). The Gospel we preach is "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life within you" and "The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us". Thus the Incarnational mystery is intertwined with the Eucharistic mystery of the life, passion, death and resurrection of the Messiah.

In all regards for Catholics proselytism is wrong which is an aggressive, manipulative hard sell approach that doesn't respect the free will and integrity of the other and often targets vulnerable people. Catholics have been guilty of this at times both in the past and the present and we are in need of constant repentance and renewal which is part of the new evangelisation. All Catholics are called to evangelise- firstly themselves and then others. Among Hebrew Catholics there are those that favour active and passive forms of evangelisation towards Jews and those like the founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics Father Elias Friedman who thought that active evangelisation towards Jews was inappropriate at this stage of salvation history. He encouraged Hebrew Catholics to focus on building their own Hebrew Catholic community that would be a light that attracts which is a form of passive evangelisation. In no way should Jews as a group be targeted for active missionary evangelisation and conversion. I would agree with him. 

Some Catholics and even Hebrew Catholics unfortunately see a Hebrew Catholic movement as a means to missionise Jews rather than a gathering place in the Church for those Catholics of Jewish background or ancestry to live out their dual vocations as Jew and Catholic in a supportive community. An over- emphasis of some Catholics on apologetics at the expense of spirituality and intimate and mystical  Eucharistic encounter can lead to a desire to see evangelisation as a convincing of others of the Catholic Faith as an intellectual and ideological matter. Of course apologetics has a place but an over-emphasis can create more division and misunderstanding with others. Recently Pope Francis reached out to our Pentecostal brothers and sisters in a simple video message of brotherly love via the Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer which did more for breaking down barriers than all the apolegetical arguments of many years.

The Jewish people are considered unique by Catholics in that Judaism is not seen as a separate non-Christian religion but is the roots and mother of the Catholic (universal) faith. In fact rather than evangelisation to Jews we see Judaism and its teachings and wisdom as part of our evangelisation of all peoples. We look to our Jewish roots in order to renew and see afresh the mysteries of our faith. A book helping Catholics to reevangelise themselves is Brant Pitre's "Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist".
Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: 

 "...We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.
Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.

God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism..."

To the Jews first and then to the Gentiles was Paul's pastoral approach. It has been interpreted differently at different times. Today we have had 2,000 years of Jewish and Gentile Christian interaction and the horrors of the Shoah that has to be taken into account. At Paul's time there was a fully Jewish centre or heart to the Church in which Jews could be evangelised to- in which they could be fully Jewish and fully Catholic. Unfortunately with the demise of the Jewish Church after the 4th century a pastoral policy began of assimilation of Jews in the Church to the now Gentile ruled Church and its customs. 

Since the Shoah and Vatican II the Church has started to move in fresh directions and now Catholics of Jewish ancestry have a lot more freedom to observe their Jewish way but the rest of the Catholics may need to be educated more about it. Unfortunately the assimilationist model is still popular with many Catholics. There are different theological understandings on these and many other questions in which Catholics are free to disagree until the Magisterium speaks in a definitive way.  Today the concept of "to the Jew first" is expressed by the Church treasuring its Jewish inheritance and the importance it places on its dialogue with Judaism and its leaders. The Church now teaches definitively that the Old Covenant has never been revoked- all true Catholics have to accept that teaching. What that teaching means is where Catholics have different understandings and opinions that will be thrashed out over time and the magisterium may give further definitive teaching on it over time as well. 

Pope Benedict XVI taught that the New and Eucharistic Covenant is the prolongation of the Sinai covenant, which has never been revoked, but is renewed by the New Covenant. Pope Benedict also mentions that this Sinai covenant's outward legal and cultic order is strictly for Israel not for the Gentiles. Thus he is saying that God has never revoked this covenant for Jews. However Sinai's renewal in the New Covenant does allow the Gentiles to share in the inner light of this covenant and Israel's inheritance through the mystery of the Cross. The New Testament reveals that the first Jewish Catholics continued to observe the Jewish outward legal and cultic order but with a New Covenant understanding or light of messianic perception. Cardinal Burke refers to this as "in the light of Christ" in his interview with the Association of Hebrew Catholics.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Etrog and the Immaculate Heart in the Zohar



I was in the Succah of some Orthodox Jewish friends last week and we performed the Jewish ritual of waving the four species for Sukkot- the Jewish festival of Tabernacles. They had a diagram showing how the different species symbolised different parts of the body. The lemon or citron is called a etrog or esrog and is considered feminine and represents the heart and also the breast due to its shape.  During the ritual one holds the etrog in a manner which reminds one of those pictures of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart in which Jesus and Mary hold their heart in their right hand.


However for me as a Catholic Jew I perceived the etrog as symbolising the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady rather than the Sacred Heart of Yeshua to fit with its feminine meaning in Judaism. Of course in a sense all our hearts and souls can be seen as feminine. One of the most beautiful of literary icons is Jesus describing his loving heart as a Mother Hen gathering its chicks under its wings. These wings invoke the imagery of the wings of the Shekhinah (female Presence). In fact there is a mosaic icon of this literary icon at the Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) Church on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.


 In the past I have written much on the opening line of the Zohar referring to the Song of Songs 2:2 about the Mystical Rose (Shoshanah) among the thorns. Imagine my delight in reflecting on Zohar 3: 38a which also mentions this verse about the mystical Rose in a mystical commentary on Leviticus 9:11 "It happened on the eighth day".  In the preceding section Rabbi Eleazar asks "Who is the eighth day?" and as the text unfolds it reveals that the eighth day is Binah (Understanding or female Wisdom the Celestial or Upper Mother) who fills and encompasses the lower 7 Sefirot (attributes or emanations or energies) which are linked to the seven days of creation and the seven days of priestly ordination. Binah is the 8th Sefirot when counting from below to above. The seventh Sefirot when counting from Binah to below is Shekhinah/ Malkhut the lower Mother.  The Upper Mother (Maiden) fills the Lower Mother (Maiden) and together they are Kneset Yisrael (The Lady of Israel who is the Community or Assembly of Israel). This Lady of Israel is also Mother of the Ecclesia (Church/ Kehilla). Lady and Mother referring to the Celestial Upper Mother Binah and Israel and Ecclesia referring to the lower earthly Mother Shekhinah. Of course the Upper Mother can also be referred to as the Upper Shekhinah. This alludes to the mystery of Our Lady and Luisa in the Kingdom of the Divine Will.


The idea of the rose lily among the thorns represents the concept of the Immaculate Conception and Heart. This Immaculate Heart is represented by the Etrog. 

 וְעַל דָּא שְׁבָחָא דְּקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא דִּמְשַׁבַּח לָהּ לִכ"י, כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה דְּאִיהִי בֵּין הַחוֹחִים, דְּאִיהִי מְעַלְּיָא וְסַלְּקָא עַל כֹּלָּא. כַּךְ כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין שְׁאָר אוּכְלוּסִין, בְּגִין דְּהִיא סַלְּקָא וּמִתְעַטְּרָא עַל כֹּלָּא. וְדָא שׁוֹשַׁנָה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים, וְאֶתְרוֹג בֵּין הַחוֹחִים, לְאַחֲזָאָה שְׁבָחָא דִּכ"י, עַל כֹּלָּא.   "Thus, the praise offered by the Blessed Holy One to the Lady of Israel: Like a rose among the thorns - which is the finest, transcending all- so is the Lady of Israel among all of the legions, for She ascends and is crowned over all. Surely a rose among the thorns and an etrog among thorns, showing the praise of the Lady of Israel above all." (Zohar Shmini 3:37b-38a) 

The etrog or lemon is a bitter-sweet fruit which represents the bitter sorrows and joyful sweetness of the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Miriam (Bitter sea).

It is important to remember that the mystical interpretation of Scripture has 70 faces and we could look at this passage from the Zohar from different alternative perspectives. For example we could read this passage from a Marian perspective and see the Upper Mother representing the Holy Spirit and the lower mother Our Lady or the Upper Mother seen as Our Lady's role in the Celestial realm and the lower Mother as Our Lady's earthly mission. A Trinitarian reading could see the Essence or Ousia (Atzmut) of God as the Upper Mother and the Holy Spirit as the lower Mother. Or we can see the Upper Mother as Our Lady and the lower as Luisa or Nukvah (parztuf called Female), or the Upper Mother as Our Lady and the lower mother as the Church or Israel.We see this further on from our passage in the Zohar where the mysterious boy called Yeisa gives a number of alternative mystical interpretations of Scripture verses from the Creation account in Genesis1. 

Of course there are certain limitations in reading mystical interpretations which differ for the Orthodox Jew and the Catholic. The Catholic interprets Scripture and other writings in the light that the Messiah has come as the God-Man Jesus in the incarnation and limits ones interpretations within the framework of the infallible teachings of the Church on faith and morals. The orthodox Jew interprets them within the accepted consensus of the Rabbinic authorities teachings. 

It can be very spiritually dangerous for a person that is not submitted to the practical disciplines and moral teachings of their faith to delve into the mystical realm. We see this in the case of the Gnostics and Sabbateans who end up departing from the laws of God and open themselves up to the Other Side (Sitra Ahra) and sexual immorality. Instead of the true Mother they serve the demonic substitute and mockery of the feminine called Lilith.  This section of Zorah warns us of this in regards to the fate of Nadab and Abihu the priestly sons of Aaron who were not espoused to the Shekhinah in their service and they instead evoked alien fire (esh zara) which the Zohar reads as alien woman (ishah zara) of Proverbs 2:16 as the Lilith demoness.

Many Christians find Leviticus rather hard going and boring to read. However if one studies it from a mystical perspective as taught in the Zohar then they would have a much richer and thrilling experience of the text. However I am one of those strange people who have always enjoyed Leviticus on the literal historical level even before I learnt how to read it at the mystical level. But then I have always loved the genealogies in the Bible too and find them fascinating. Ah there is sure to be something for everyone as the Scriptures (Torah) are alive and the living fire of the mystical and Divine Heart (Oral Torah).