I thought I would share yet another thread of texts from the iYeshiva, i.e. three friends of mine and I engaging in free-form theological texting exchanges that go on sporadically throughout the week — myself (me), two women (W1, W2) and a priest (Father). It’s an easy copy and paste post during this hectic week.
We have thousands of these texts from however long we have been doing this. This forum has, in a singular way, helped stretch my theological imagination in remarkable ways. What a gift! Below is a sampling from last week — 3 days. Lots of unfinished thoughts, abbreviated ideas, effusions with sudden zigs and zags. And I left out all of the interspersed quips, jokes and emojis. Hope it offers at least one spark of insight to each reader!
But if you find yourself reading our texts and saying this, that’s perfectly understandable:
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Father: This came to me while preaching on Joseph the Worker this morning: Christ didn’t learn the work of sacrifice apart from all the daily sacrifices Joseph made in his secular work. Joseph’s value of sacrifice through work is evident in the work we see in the cross. So too the sacrifices of the laity in secular work coheres with the work and sacrifice of the mass. The two halves of creation are united, heaven with earth. Saint Joseph the Worker, pray for us!
W1: What a brilliant and “real” insight and connection, [Father]. The essence of who we are and can be is exemplified in our Fathers
W2: It begins a line of thought on Joseph; it’s making me think. Joseph also is one in a line of people. Boaz was a kinsman redeemer, giving life to the line of Ruth’s dead husband and Naomi’s son, two women with essentially nothing. He cares for the widows. Joseph cares also for those who are not his, and in doing so, becomes the “father” of God, entrusted with the most treasured thing.
W1: Oh my gosh, [W2]; mind blowing. I will think about this all day.
Father: Whoa!! What a brilliantly inspired association of scripture! [W2], your gift with sacred scripture, weaving old with new, bringing different voices into a narrative conversation is a rare thing to behold. Yesterday’s gospel encapsulates your mission!!
Me: [Father]–love your meditation on this inner coherence of labor and sacrifice. And [W2], your master weaving from the sacred scriptures. Father, your meditation….The emergence of a fresh theology of the Mass that speaks to people’s *real time* experience in its richest forms is what I see as a major key in the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical reform that emphasized “participation.” Leaving behind those very superficial understandings of liturgical participation that followed the Council and moving into one that embraces a “total life” vantage, I think, will be revolutionary in the spiritual life of the lay faithful. Participation in liturgy is life, daily life, harnessed and brought to pinpoint focus at Mass, Pope JP2 says marriage is a ‘con-celebrated’ liturgical act. Baptism and confirmation make every move, every breath liturgical. laos-ergon, people-work; Theandric [God-man] mystery boiling over in every action carried out in faith, hope and charity. The lay apostolate: modernity’s “naked public square” is to be inhabited, through the lay faithful, by the naked godforsaken Christ who wishes to habitate every remaining dominion of hell, without remainder.
W2: Wow. I stepped away for a moment, and came back to super encouragement. Thank you all. It takes a village so to speak, the thought of one inspires the thoughts of another. I love our little village. Tom, will read and reread both your and [Father]’s text. Both so rich. I love that reality of Christ habitating every remaining dominion of hell, without remainder. Just fantastic. Thank you much [W1]!
Father: Amen!! Yes! The lay faithful transform the hollowed out public square by offering their work, their lives as sacrifices to the King. This is vital! The thoughts came to me as I was thinking about Joseph, looking at the wood of the cross in our sacristy, thinking about his life as carpenter, Christ choosing the cross to carry and offer himself for the world, the intermingling of work and sacrifice. I also believe that this vision of the lay apostolate, Tom, is mission critical for those finding no value, no charity expressed in their work. We must rethink the cosmic role of secular work.
Me: Stinking vgyhhdrdssdjkjedv. Blowing me up!
W2: So one of the newer fantasy series out there features a young woman. She is gifted with magic, it is intuitive, untrained, and certainly not what they do in the “scholarly realm” or what the experts like. But when the world comes undone, she is able to walk where the scholars cannot, and with her simple dress and country manners, and gentle spirit, she heals the corruption of evil, where it would never be open or visible to those of higher means. It is magic done in the fashion of what would be ordinary, in the style of a poor village girl. In the woods, along the paths, where animals and plants have been corrupted, broken, she wanders. But where these destitute would hide from the scholar, they come out to her, because those woods are hers, and they recognize her as one of the local people. Because of that, she is able to heal this part of the world. This to me is the laity.
Me: Just finished listening to a 90 minute lecture that reshaped every category I had of the ways that science and faith can mutually enlighten the other. Streaming ideas: extraordinary history of evolutionary biology, the “emergence of the divine image” in hominids 75,000-120,000 years ago lead to what biologists consider an evolutionary anomaly, a species fitted to nothing in particular and so, oddly, absolutely adaptable to everything; this sudden emergence created a fundamentally volatile unstable tension between animal nature and rationality as each jostles for supremacy; the “garden of eden” gifts of preternatural grace were meant to aid in the integration of these furious opposites but were immediately rejected by original man; salvation history itself is a type of continued evolutionary process that culminates in the emergence of the final man, Christ the new Adam, the real Man, as Pilate (“behold the Man”) proclaimed him; it was in this Final Man’s image that Adam was made. Like the Immaculate Conception, the incarnate Christ (re)creates before He becomes Man. In the first creation, biological life (bios) was the necessary foundation out of love which could emerge. No life, no love. While Christ, honoring the supremacy of love over bios-life on the cross, makes love the foundation of eternal life (zoe), destroying death and with it the cycle of violence that characterized the natural progress of biological life in the first creation (survival of fittest, etc), inverting the first order, swords into plowshares, and bringing it to perfection in the resurrection – which is the final “leap” in evolution, a leap which only a radical gift of grace (incarnation of God) could effect. This is why martyrdom is the seed of the church, the supreme act of love-over-life which re-founds life on love, in which we finally become human. Divinized=hominized and vice versa. Etc. etc. etc.
Father: Pardon me but holy mackerel that’s freaking great!! Pleeeez share podcast with me. Martyrdom: love over live.
Me: Fr. Austriaco coined this remarkable term “preteradaptive,” Which refers to a number of adaptations that happened very suddenly among hominids and that defy all empirical explanatory categories, as they do not adapt hominids to anything in the environment. So his point is that these adaptations capacitate hominids for something absolutely singular in nature — participation in the divine life. The extraordinary amount of evidence for this explosion of new capacities among hominids is just mind-numbing -Especially the development of the capacity for speech (Purcell’s Big Bang to Big Mystery’s a fun read on this)
Father: Speaking of incarnate words, this was what I preached on this past Sunday. I spoke about how first century Jews would have imagined themselves as actors in the story of sacred scripture. To imagine oneself contemporary w/ Moses, Elijah, Ruth. I then transitioned to the Austrian farmer, Franz Jagerstatter, whose correspondences w/ his wife reveal one who lived in the sacred story of salvation by way of their profound engagement in parish life and the feasts of the church. Franz at age 36 would be imprisoned and executed by the Nazis for refusing to enlist in the military. His heart must’ve been burning when Christ opened up the scriptures for him. May we become incarnate words like Franz and those disciples on their way to emmaus.
Father: Apologize for the length of this text but I must share this excerpt from a book I’m reading in Genesis. There’s probably a plethora of holes in Brodie’s hermeneutics but his vision of Genesis and scripture is inspiring. He reads scripture as unveiling a dialogical reality that must be engaged, not ultimately analyzed or figured out. He reads Genesis as three sets of dramas that interplay with each other, each drama contains multiple little dramas. Each story has two mirrors that face each other that he argues is evident in Hebrew poetry. He says, “One mirror gives a single image; but two facing mirrors give processions of images, resonating energy and depth.”
He argues that Genesis is a unitary book that spirals in its development from Creation to Joseph. Joseph restores God’s cosmos. A lot of Divine-Human interchanging going on. Anyhow, here’s a thought that floored me: “amid the confusion of history, religion brings reality into a certain order. Genesis is history, but history set in extraordinary order. The perspective of modern rationalism is single, linear. Reality is weighed and measured. But reality is more complex, and so is the mind. Even for physics, reality is elusive to the linear minded rationalist. Genesis had no idea of modern physics, but at some level it knew that reality is not solid but the mind and heart and soul need breathing space. God is not solid, not a wooden idol, but can be viewed and experience from diverse perspectives.”
All of this has me ablaze with this thought of our lives that become incarnate words as we find our existence interplaying with sacred scripture. The Word is living and dynamic, hence BXVI who argued that the lives of the saints are the primary interpreters of scripture. Or at least I think that’s what he said.
W2: This is beautiful, [Father]. It somehow reminds me of Passover. Until the celebration of passover is owned by the individual (through celebration) there is no community with the chosen people (IF you don’t celebrate passover, you are cut off). Similarly, at the end of it all, “we overcome by the blood of the lamb AND the word of our testimony.” Our communal and individual stories, how the word becomes a prism for our own lives, lives that we give in contribution to the overall experience of God, is essential. Thank you for sharing this. the thoughts will continue today I’m sure!
Yes, and that vivid, liturgical sense ancient Jews had of their participation with, contemporary with Moses and the Hebrew slaves.
W1: This is why there is no real word for history in Hebrew. Scripture, the Presence of God is always present, history is not past but part of the now and the future. Sacred Scripture is a part of the living testimony of both individuals and community. They are dependent upon one another. The 2 images facing each other remind me of the Prologue of John, of the Son “alongside ” the Father.
Father: Wow! [W1]. Yes! Scripture is Sacramental. Scripture is Presence! Living and true! Abraham Heschel pointed that out to me in the same way as what you’ve read has taken hold of you, the same way that [W2]’s and Tom’s observations and reflections same me, in a good way, to my marrow!
Father: I’ll stop here for now but Brodie makes the case that when read in this way scripture induces in the close reader a comparative mode of thinking that brings comprehension to the reality of the whole and it’s parts. That made me think of yesterday’s insight by Tom on how primary objective order opens up the richness of relativity or the parts. The two must be held in relation!
W2: Beautiful point [W1]. It makes me now want to spend the rest of the day reflecting upon what “remembering’ really means. I am that I am. The call and response. Holy, Holy, Holy, back and forth. This is all really cool. deep calls out to deep
Father: Brilliant! Glory to glory, light to light…
W2: Okay [W1], your thoughts are exploding here. The act of remembering, brings the past to present. The smells, the songs, that instantaneously bring shrink “history” and make it all present. The same present that will reach into the future and make the future present as well. A gift to all of humanity, that for those instances of remembering, we all our experience is present. Remember the Lord your God, your story, your “history” is no longer past, but now. and that is why we choose NOT to remember the typos, as by not remembering them, we can eliminate their very existence.
W1: Wish I had voice to text. I believe Anamnesis [remembrance] is a Jewish concept.
Father: It is Jewish. God’s Son undergoes it himself and takes it universal.
Me: Amazing insight into Genesis and history and memory and the Trinitarian structure of everything. That space between face to face is fraught with infinitely rich meaning; the space where ‘presence’ emerges. A bubbling over of thoughts from yesterday’s quote [Father] shared … Face to face mirrors opening up infinite depth, dimensionality, meaning; meta-ethics of interfacing (Emmanuel Levinas!); Genesis 2:22; Exodus 33:11; Hebrews 1:1ff; John 1:1 ‘pros theon’ as [W1] said; or whoa Mark 10:21; eikon/imago is the face, but mirror was shattered, progressively restored in interfacing covenant mirrors … remembrance is of the face. Patti and I went to dinner the other night in the French Quarter and this remarkable arrangement of mirrors was right next to us. But if I had read your quote and thought on this first I would’ve imagined it an analog for the evening of time Patti and I set apart to spend together remembering our covenant, and so His covenant, while feasting face-to-face late into the night. Thank you for all of this…