Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Easter Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics (he was the brother of Karl Rahner). In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, Fr . Hugo explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is 'the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:
The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. 

Fire, light, water--all these symbols come together at the Easter vigil in a very beautiful way. That is why from now until Pentecost the Easter candle will continue to burn during every celebration of Mass.
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf

Sunday, March 06, 2016

In defense of the older son

At Mass this Sunday we had the parable of the prodigal son, and I suddenly felt a lot of compassion and empathy for the older son. He always seems to get a raw deal from preachers. He takes the blame because he got angry that his father welcomed the younger son with a great feast. The older son makes a great scapegoat because he seems self-righteous, angry, and self-centered.

When he says to his father, "You never gave me even so much as a kid goat..." I felt bad for him because it's not that he cared about a goat, but he was asking for the love of his father. And for whatever reason, he didn't feel the father's love. He couldn't receive it, so he felt unloved.
The father seems to have been very loving toward both his sons--or was he? Maybe he took the older son's devotion and hard work for granted. The older son was dutiful, responsible, knew how to manage the estate, and did all the hidden dirty work. If he felt angry that his spendthrift brother had run away with his share of the inheritance and squandered it all, I don't blame him. I would feel angry too.
The irony though is that in their own ways, each son was acting like a hired hand and not a son. The younger son was irresponsible with his sense of entitlement: "Give me what's coming to me! It's mine and I want it now!" When he came to his senses he said "I will tell my father to treat me like one of the hired hands."
But the older son had in effect been acting like a hired hand, thinking that he had to earn his father's love by being dutiful and responsible. He even said to his father, "For years I have slaved for you..."
Jesus starts the parable by saying, "A man had two sons..." And while the prodigal gets most of the attention, in reality the message of the older son is just as important. Both were sons. Their sonship was a reality. The younger escaped sonship by being irresponsible, while the older escaped it by being overly responsible. The father did love both of them, shown by his going out to the older son when he was upset and inviting him in to the feast.
In the end, being a son (or a daughter) is not so much about responsibility but about love. If the younger son realized that, he wouldn't have insulted his father by demanding his inheritance even before the father was dead. If the older son realized that, he wouldn't have thought that he could have his father's love only by being dutiful and responsible.
So it is in our own relationship with God. When we realize God's love for us, we won't even want to sin because we won't want to do anything to run away from that love. And we will not think that God loves us because of the good we do, but that we can do good because God loves us first. To God we are not hired hands, but beloved sons and daughters.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Mary at Cana

Last night I went to a talk at Boston College about the wedding at Cana. I had thought it was going to be about how Jewish wedding customs might help us understand better what was going on in the dialogue between Jesus and Mary. It turned out to be something different and I felt somewhat disappointed. But it did get me thinking more about Cana and what it reveals about Jesus and Mary. It's a very rich topic and it's provoked a lot of discussion because of the seemingly harsh response that Jesus gives to Mary.
Why did Jesus call Mary "woman"? The speaker said that there's no precedent for that in any of the ancient literature; it's quite unique. While she thought it shows a certain rudeness on Jesus' part, I don't think that is the case. Actually the word is very evocative and can be seen in relation to two other biblical accounts.

One is the text in Genesis where God forms Eve out of the open side of Adam, from his rib. He exclaims, "This one will be called 'woman'..." The other text is from John's Gospel. Just before Jesus dies on the cross, he entrusts the beloved disciple to Mary by saying, "Woman, here is your son." (Jn 19:26).

Jesus dies right after that, and then the soldier pierces Jesus' side, and blood and water flow out. That blood and water is highly symbolic; the Fathers of the Church endlessly reflected on how it represents the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist. They also reflected on Mary being there and how Jesus was entrusting to her a special role in the Church.
The parallel between Eve and Mary goes back to the second century. Eve, "the mother of all the living," (Genesis) is compared to Mary, the woman standing beneath the cross who is not only Jesus' mother but now becomes the mother of all disciples, represented by the beloved disciple. Just as Eve was formed from Adam's side, Mary's new role is formed in her by the grace flowing from the side of Jesus as he hangs on the cross, as shown in the blood and water.

So what does this have to do with Cana? At the wedding Jesus miraculously changes water into an abundance of wine. The symbolism of wine is also very rich and was used by the prophets to look forward to the messianic age:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
       will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
        juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
       the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations.
He will destroy death forever.   (Isaiah 25:6-8)

 The wine that Jesus provides at the wedding feast at Cana looks forward to "his hour," which in John's Gospel is the hour of his passion, death, and resurrection, the hour of his glory, when Jesus will "destroy death forever." By calling Mary "woman," Jesus is hinting at the new role that Mary will take on. She becomes the new "mother of all the living" through the spiritual motherhood she exercises in the Church.

There's a lot more that could be said about this but for now these are just a few thoughts.

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