Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Death of Moses - And God's Idea Of Religion



This is Marc Chagall's etching with watercolor titled: The Death of Moses.  In Deuteronomy 32:51 God tells Moses that even after leading the Chosen People through the Sinai desert for forty years, Moses would not enter the promised land with them.

"Because you did not make my holiness clear to the Israelites." Yikes! It is said that the largest Christian denomination is Roman Catholics, and the second largest is fallen away Catholics. Have the priests failed to make God's holiness clear to the people?

We're told more in Deuteronomy chapter 34. God is called Yahweh.


Then leaving the Plains of Moab, Moses went up Mount Nebo...and Yahweh showed Moses the whole country: Gilead as far as Dan, the whole of Naphtali, the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, the whole country of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb and the region of the Valley of Jericho, city of palm trees...And Yahweh said to Moses, "This is the country which I promised on oath to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying: I shall give it to your descendents. I have allowed you to see it  for yourself, but you will not cross into it." There in the country of Moab, Moses servant of Yahweh died as God decreed...He buried him in the valley in the country of Moab...Since then, there has never been such a prophet in Israel as Moses, the man whom Yahweh knew face to face.

Apparently resigned to it all, in Chagall's etching, Moses appears to be getting ready for a good nights sleep. He has put down his wonder-working staff; his unveiled face still emitting rays of light.  Moses waves to God who seems to be pushing away the clouds, opening a path of light for his servant, who looks to God face to face.

But we notice too that it seems God personally buried Moses in the valley. I'd suggest God buried Moses in a secret place because God knows how idolatrous human beings are. God knew that if Moses' grave were known, we'd forget everything he taught us; we'd build a great shrine with a decorated tomb, summoning people from all around the world to make expensive pilgrimages to it, to buy souvenirs, to stay in the five star hotels, dining in the fine restaurants that spring up around shrines. No, God left Moses' body hidden in the wilderness. 

The God of the Jews and Christians isn't a shrine-god or real estate god.

"It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice." Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13

"My sacrifice O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, O God, will not despise." Psalm 51:17

True religion happens in the wilderness: the wilderness of my inner life. In the wilderness (desert) there is nothing to hold onto, no one to impress, nothing that will save me. I'm utterly vulnerable in the wilderness; face to face with my own unvarnished self. In the inner wilderness I have no cloak of prestige to wear, no masks, no facade. I stand alone before God, who sees me and loves me just as I am.

The only thing we find in the desert is sand. Moses' burial in the desert-sand teaches me: when I crouch down and write the story of my past, with all the wounds, the mistakes, the sins, the twists and turns that may have taken me faraway, when I leave and glance back over my shoulder, I notice the wind has blown it all away. God is like that. 

I want to accept this desert-y spiritual place and not run to some other kind of religion that distracts, 'saves' or is more comfortable and easier. Oh God, thank you for burying Moses in a secret place of sand and wind.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Monk's Gift



Here is a photograph of the back road leading up to the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, founded by French monks in 1848. One of the monks, who in Trappist fashion chooses to remain anonymous, has created this Litany of the Person, which we might care to use as a point of meditation. The litany's last line: This is who you are, stands in stark contrast with the many other messages we're exposed to, messages which propose to tell us who we are. Here's my silly first-world commercial identity.

You are:
driving the fastest, hottest vehicle
with the whitest teeth
an amazing figure
and great sex appeal
the most shiny hair
and fabulous skin
vitamined into ageless
sleeping soundly on the perfect mattress
and the shape-retaining pillow.
You are:
approved of by everyone
laughing constantly
everyone's idea of fun
media savvy
clothes to die for
and filthy rich.
You are:
on the way to the top
with a six (seven?) figure salary.
This is who you are.


Now to hear from the hidden monk whose insights as to who we are flow from knowing God in intimacy.


A Litany of the Person
image of God
born of God's breath
vessel of divine love
after his likeness
dwelling of God
capacity for the infinite
eternally known
chosen of God
home of infinite Majesty
abiding in the Son
called from eternity
life in the Lord
temple of the Holy Spirit
branch of Christ
receptacle of the Most High
wellspring of Living Water
heir of the kingdom
the glory of God
abode of the Trinity

God sings this litany
eternally in His Word.

This is who you are.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Intercessions ~ Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Autumn Grapes

Today is World Day of the Poor./ We ask a new heart for the world/ that no one would be without the things basic to human life/ and which the comfortable nations may take for granted./ That justice would increase on the earth./ We pray to the Lord.

The nation celebrates Thanksgiving Day this week./ We pray for the safety of holiday travelers,/ for those with whom we will share the day/ and for anyone who is alone/ or who feels little or no gratitude./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary/ when as a young girl she climbed and danced on the steps of the temple./ We ask for hearts that delight in God/ and find joy in serving Him./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who distort Christianity/ turning it into a religion of proofs,/ suspicion,/ harsh judgments and hatred for anyone perceived to be "other."/ May we possess the clean heart of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount./ We pray to the Lord.

Our country is being sensualized/ with long secreted cases of sex abuse now being revealed./ We pray for each human person to be recognized and honored as God's dear child,/ and that we may be freed from the sins of exploitation./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray gifts of healing and comfort for the sick,/ the wounded,/ and those who are terrified and traumatized./ For the conversion of prisoners/ and those who plan violence and death./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Breezes and Winds, Bless the Lord!



In the Book of Daniel chapter 3, there is (in Catholic bibles anyway) the account of the Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace. Daniel's friends are bound with chains and thrown into the fiery pit for having refused to fall down and worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden-god.

When the king shows up to be sure they're gone forever, he sees the youths very much alive. More wondrous still, a fourth figure is seen with them, perhaps an angel companion leading them in a canticle, praising the God of creation and beauty. 

The litany-like song invites every animate and inanimate thing to praise and extol God. "Bless" is the praise-word they use.

angels and powers
sun and moon and stars of the sky
fire and heat
winter and summer
drops of dew and flakes of snow
frost and cold
ice and sleet
shining light and enfolding dark
snow clouds and thunderbolts, all bless the Lord...


Have a look for yourself and be lifted up anytime, but especially on Sunday morning. But there was a windy day this autumn week that caused me to pull out my camera-phone to catch the twenty-three second scene in the little video above. This is the tall clump of zebra grass outside the chapel door. The variegated yellow-green leaves were bright, and the soft coppery fans on the long stems bent this way and then that way - and the sound of the wind and the stream nearby. It was all right there in front of me!


Glorify the Lord. O mountains and hills
and all that grows upon the earth,
O bless the Lord.

Glorify the Lord O springs of water, seas and streams,
breezes and winds,
O bless the Lord.

We can add aspects of our own lives to the canticle - inviting it all to the praise God as well:

Households and businesses,
factories and farms.
solar panels and wind turbines,
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, all bless the Lord.

Rockets and satellites,
electric cars and high speed rail,
air turned to water and movable houses, all bless the Lord.

Time zones, and telescopes,
microscopes and bio tech breakthroughs, 
CT Scans and GPS tracking, all bless the Lord.

Muslims and Jews,
Catholics and Orthodox,
Protestants and Mormons,
Hindus and Buddhists,
reconcilers and peacemakers, all bless the Lord.

We could spend the whole day, offering to God everything we have created out of our capacities and gifts. Bottom line: Enjoy God! Praise God in all things, everywhere and all times.