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, October 23, 2014

The Etrog and the Immaculate Heart in the Zohar: A Hebrew Catholic Reflection

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 Zohar 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).

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Synod and Homosexual Inclination: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

On facebook earlier today I made this comment in a discussion about the Synod on the Family and the "Relatio post disceptationem".

There are too many second guessing the Pope and Bishops- let them get on with it - it is important they thrash out these things together for the greater good of souls. Let us not get so locked into our own prejudices and approaches that we can't sit back and consider a different pastoral approach which is more merciful and fruitful for souls. We must embrace and love the sinner while hating sin. Of course people with a homosexual inclination brings gifts and talents to the Church due to the unique nature of the Cross they bear. The CCC doesn't say that the person is intrinsically disordered or gravely depraved but that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Acts such as sodomy are intrinsically disordered whether one is homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual in inclination or whether it is practiced in a same sex manner or a heterosexual manner. We are all sinners in need of mercy and let us be with those who seek to lift and bear the burdens of others rather than being like those Pharisees who won't lift a finger but burden the broken with ever more legalistic interpretations of the laws and rules.
Many are concerned at the language of some of the Bishops who are saying that we should accept and value the gifts and talents of people with a homosexual attraction or inclination. However some have got upset because the Italian word translated value should be translated as evaluating.

 In 2011 on a blog post about Andre Raffalovich I wrote about this issue.

Marc-Andre Raffalovich advocated a Catholic spirituality of channeling same -sex or homoerotic desires into sublimation through divine intimacy with the Messiah Jesus. He saw that there were two major kinds of homosexuals -a higher or elevated kind who had a high sense of art and beauty and those who were lower and were absorbed in the lustful homosexual activities. It would seem this was based on a Jewish understanding of the animal and divine souls in men.  These lower homosexuals or inverts live out acts only according to their animal or base nature of man whereas those who united themselves to divine beauty through the power of the Cross and the dark night of sublimation (bitul and mesirut nefesh) could attain to that part of man that connects with the Divine. One could then have intimate and life-long spiritual and mystical friendships with those of the same-sex as advocated by St Aelred. 
Raffalovich considered that those of the higher type of homosexual to be the ones who made the best priests followed by heterosexuals who were also able to embrace celibacy. The lower type of homosexual he considered unsuited and dangerous to religious life. His life-long friend John Gray a former lover of Oscar Wilde was to become a Dominican priest supported by Raffalovich. Raffalovich himself became a Dominican Tertiary taking the name of Sebastian in honour of St Sebastian. 

In Raffalovich's understanding of homosexuality I perceive his Jewish sources in Hasidic Judaism united with Catholic mysticism. Uniting Raffalovich's insights with those of John Paul II's theology of the Body and the teachings of Hasidic Judaism can lead to a new understanding of the homosexual and his potential for holiness and becoming a living icon of the crucified Messiah and a great Tzadik who can enter into the suffering of others in a deep way and make tikun (reparation) for them.
Hasidic Jewish teachings warn of the dangers of p'gam ha brit (spilling the seed/masturbation) which feeds the animal soul (or inclination)of the homosexual (this also applies to the heterosexual) whereas the divine element is fed by reflecting on beauty in nature, religion, music and the arts. Masturbation and lustful thoughts distort ones spirituality and leads to loneliness and an obsession with the self.

Priests and religious are called to focus on the perfect male who is the God-Man and when they shift their focus from divine intimacy with him, it may lead to them focusing on the closest thing to the manliness they find in Christ- young, handsome men. Instead of using their sexuality as a way to give selflessly to God and others they fall into the power of the evil inclination and hurt themselves, others and God.

The man or woman caught in the lower form need only to start to desire the higher ways and God will respond and send them help if they remain open and avail themselves of the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration. It is not the case of denying who they are but of embracing it and using it for a higher purpose.

Raffalovich and Gray may have started out as physical lovers before Raffolovich's conversion to Catholicism (but this is not clear)but after his conversion they grew into a deep, celibate and spiritual friendship that lasted their entire life by sublimating their homoerotic desires to a higher purpose rooted in the Cross of the Messiah.

In the case of Marc Andre Raffalovich, John Gray and Oscar Wilde (as well as Lord Alfred Douglas) who all embraced Catholicism we have wonderful models of hope for those struggling in this area of their lives. Oscar Wilde seems to give hope for those caught up in the lower form who then embrace a desire to be transformed by the Messiah. 
If the acts are intrinsically disordered then the homosexual inclination to desire to do such acts itself is objectively disordered . However we have to understand what the term disordered means in the Catholic understanding of natural law. It is that inner law based on man's reasoning ability that can discern right and wrong.“The natural law, present in the heart of each man, and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men.”(CCC 1956) 

However we should be more careful with our language. It is natural and ordered to have a desire or inclination to be loved and be intimate both spiritually, emotionally and physically with people of both sexes. All human beings have sexual desires. How one expresses these desires and inclination can lead to depraved and disordered acts. Heterosexual inclination and desires that lead to acts of lust and the using of the other are disordered. Homosexual inclination and desires that lead to acts of lust and using the other selfishly are also disordered.

King David is an example of this. He fell in love with Princess Michal and he married her and consummated that love in a right ordered expression of physical sexual union that is only appropriate in marriage. He also fell in love with her brother Jonathan (in a different way) and was very intimate with him both emotionally and physically. David and Jonathan even made a 'covenant' of love between them. Where David went wrong was in his disordered lust of wanting more than one wife or woman to be intimate with which disordered his relationship with Michal and led to his murder of Uriah due to his lust for Bathsheba.

Jesus and John the Beloved were spiritually, emotionally and physically intimate and all priests are called to a virginal and celibate same-sex spiritual and mystical desire, attraction and intimacy with Jesus the perfect Man no matter what one's sexual inclination is/ was. It is important not to limit the healing power of Jesus in redirecting all our disordered desires to wholeness and holiness. In fact all of us are called as Christians to virginal nuptial unions of intimacy with Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the saints as well as with each other. 

Thus a person who has a homosexual or same sex attraction should order it towards the higher way of beauty, truth and love. They will have to allow God to give them self control in regards to their own sex but will have more freedom from certain struggles in developing virginal nuptial unions with the opposite sex. Heterosexually inclined people will have to surrender and let God give them self control and discipline in regards to the opposite sex and they will have more freedom from certain struggles in developing virginal nuptial union with their own sex. Those with a bisexual inclination will have to doubly surrendered as one can imagine. However it is not only sexual disorderliness we should be concerned about but also spiritual and emotional disordered acts that misuses ourselves or others in a selfish and utilitarian manner.

Many of us are so hardened by the moral and culture wars of our time that it is hard not to retreat to a siege mentality and ignore the wounds and hurts of others that we wound by our combative words and almost demonic misuse of Scripture, Tradition, magisterial teachings and canon law to accuse our brothers and sisters who are struggling. Pope Francis wants the Church to be a loving and caring field hospital for wounded sinners in which the Divine Mercy flows without man-made limits. He wants the Church through the Bishops to develop merciful and healing pastoral approaches that embrace rather than reject our fellow wounded sinners. As Catholics we believe in the theological development of doctrine- always going deeper and being open to the reality that we have only begun to understand. 

Much is promised to those who through God's grace surrender their fallen disordered will to the Divine Will and overcome and conqueror their disordered desires and inclinations. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a sparkling (white) stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." [Rev 2:17]. Blessed John of Ruysbroeck writes: " By this sparkling stone we mean Our Lord Jesus Christ...Now to him that overcomes and transcends all things, this sparkling stone is given; and with it he receives light, truth and life." This is the mystical Eucharistic Host as Divine Life revealed at its most hidden and deepest depths as the Bread of the Divine Will (Hidden Manna). As we gaze into this mirror or icon like mystical Host, we behold ourselves transformed as God created us to be in Eternity as 'other Christs' or 'Living Hosts'. All disorder is gone and we are able to receive our true name in God's heart as a bride receives her bridegroom. We in a mystical sense become enthroned with Jesus in the Monstrance through our sublimation of our disordered passions through the Cross as vessels of reparation and sanctification for our wounded brothers and sisters. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne..."[Rev.3:21] "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new...I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." [Rev.21:5-7)

I, for one, will try to be open to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church through the Pope and Bishops and will be more than happy to adhere joyfully to the authentic Magisterium's final discernment. I will also try to respect the views on all sides of the Bishops' discussion as given sincerely and for the love of souls. Of course I draw the line at those interpretations that do not hold to the infallible teachings of the Church but wish to replace them with something else. Those I will oppose with prayer and spiritual warfare in my holy hours of Eucharistic Adoration united with Our Lady and St Joseph, redoing all in Divine Will for the Glory of God and the salvation and sanctification of souls. 
I will also meditate and reflect on the wisdom of Pope Francis:

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

 “The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds.”

 “So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the Church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.”

 "One who accompanies others has to realize that each person’s situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without. The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37). Someone good at such accompaniment does not give in to frustrations or fears. He or she invites others to let themselves be healed, to take up their mat, embrace the cross, leave all behind and go forth ever anew to proclaim the Gospel. Our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow." 

And my favourite one: 

"Formation is a work of art not a police action. We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are forming little monsters. And then these little monsters mould the People of God. This really gives me goose bumps... Just think of the religious that have hearts as sour as vinegar: they are not made for the People. In the end we must not form administrators and managers but fathers, brothers, traveling companions"

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Little Eucharistic Brothers and APA New Website

Brother John-Joseph of the Immaculate Womb and Brother Gilbert Joseph of the Divine Presence at Joseph's Place in Queensland

Brother John-Joseph of The Immaculate Womb has been working hard on developing the new website for the Apostles of Perpetual Adoration and the Little Eucharistic Brothers of Divine Will. If you want to learn more on this apostolate do click on the link above. Click on this link to see the parish newsletter welcoming them to Tasmania earlier this year.

Brother John-Joseph, Father Doug Harris and Br Gilbert at St Bernadette's Glendalough in Perth Western Australia