Potpourri For Epiphany


It's not until Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you live, but I'll be in silence on retreat then, so here goes:

  • The role call of martyrs for 2006. (And by martyrs I mean missionaries killed for their faith, not people who kill others by killing themselves.) 24 we know by name --one less than 2005.
  • More on the plight of Iraqi Christians. Can't argue with this:
    it is unrealistic to expect to expect U.S. policymakers to design overall policy around the suffering of Iraqi Christians. However, argues Jacobson, "America has a moral obligation to help people who have come under jihadist attack because of their association with the U.S."
  • Find L'osservatore Romano's photos of Midnight Mass here (that's where I got the shot of the blessing of the creche --nice and smoky, the way I like it).
  • You can find the week's Angelus & Audience at Zenit, but I'm going to pass over them today to get right to...

B16's meditation on time for New Year's Eve. The Church, of course, considers it the Eve of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Pope's reflections spring from the intersection of those two celebrations.

In the last hours of every solar year we participate in some worldly "rites" which in the contemporary context are mainly marked by amusement and often lived as an evasion from reality, as it were, to exorcise the negative aspects and propitiate improbable good luck. How different the attitude of the Christian Community must be!
The Church is called to live these hours, making the Virgin Mary's sentiments her own. With her, the Church is invited to keep her gaze fixed on the Infant Jesus, the new Sun rising on the horizon of humanity and, comforted by his light, to take care to present to him "the joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 1).

I never know whether to be amused or saddened at the fact that people who stand outside Christianity think it's a dour faith. Solemn, yes. Serious, yes. But see? While the unbeliever gets drunk to drown out the sorrow of the previous year and brace himself for the worst, the believer looks forward with hope. This brings the pope to a discussion of how we understand "time" --qualitiatively or quantitatively:

On the one hand, the solar cycle with its rhythms; on the other, what St Paul called the "fullness of time" (cf. Gal 4: 4), that is, the culminating moment of the history of the universe and of the human race when the Son of God was born in the world.

Two more little ideas I liked. On the fullness of time:
He did not fill time by pouring himself into it from on high, but "from within", making himself a tiny seed to lead humanity to its full maturation. God's style required a long period of preparation to reach from Abraham to Jesus Christ, and after the Messiah's coming, history did not end but continued its course, apparently the same but in reality visited by God and oriented to the Lord's second and definitive Coming at the end of time.
And that leads to a discussion of the significance of Mary:

We might say that Mary's Motherhood is a real symbol and sacrament of all this, an event at the same time human and divine.
In the passage from the Letter to the Galatians that we have just heard, St Paul said: "God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4: 4). Origen commented: "Note well that he did not say "born by means of a woman' but "born of a woman.....'"
This acute observation of the great exegete and ecclesiastical writer is important: in fact, if the Son of God had been born only "by means of" a woman, he would not truly have taken on our humanity, something which instead he did by taking flesh "of" Mary. Mary's motherhood, therefore, is true and fully human.

On the feast itself, his homily continued this theme at first, and then concluded with a prayer for peace in the Middle East, including a citation from his own message for world peace day (the same day). An interesting choice of emphasis I thought:

people must recognize that these rights are not only based on human agreements but "on man's very nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God" (Message, n. 13).
Indeed, were the constitutive elements of human dignity entrusted to changeable human opinions, even solemnly proclaimed human rights would end by being weakened and variously interpreted.

"Consequently, it is important for international agencies not to lose sight of the natural foundation of human rights. This would enable them to avoid the risk, unfortunately ever-present, of sliding towards a merely positivistic interpretation of those rights" (ibid.).

Sounds like a call for UN reform to be based on the principles of natural law. And the actual message for World Peace Day confirms this --it's a meditation on natural law as what JPG called "the grammar of dialogue." There's too much there to comment meaningfully on here, but you should RTWT and study it. Let's just say it's no trite plea for everyone to be nice, and he issues a challenge to everyone --not just the "international community."
And finally, happy feast day to members of the Legion of Christ & Regnum Christi on the anniversary of their foundation. Make it Mexican tonight.