Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pater Noster Prayed By Pope Pius XII

When the Gods Were Silent (Exodus 9 - 10)

PRAYER BEFORE STUDYING SCRIPTURE: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth.

Chapters Nine and Ten narrate the fifth through ninth plagues on Egypt.

Fifth Plague: The Plague on Livestock

Now God sends a deadly sickness to infect the cattle of the Egyptians. Only the Egyptian cattle die, the Hebrew herds in the land of Goshen are unaffected.

Professor Davis says “Such a plague would have had grave economic consequences in the land of Egypt. Oxen were depended on for heavy labor in agriculture. Camels, asses and horses were used largely for transportation. Cattle not only provided milk but were very much an integral part of worship in the land of Egypt. . . “ (John J. Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p.121).

Professor Davis’ thesis is that each of the plagues represents the judgment of the True God on the gods of the Egyptians:

“The religious implications of this plague are most interesting and instructive. A large number of bulls and cows were considered sacred in Egypt. In the central area of the Delta, four provinces chose as their emblems various types of bulls and cows. . . . The Apis bull was considered the sacred animal of the god Ptah . . . (Davis, p. 121

“Another deity whose worship would have been affected by the impact of this plague was Hathor, the goddess of love, beauty and joy represented by the cow. . . . This goddess is often depicted as a cow suckling the king, giving him divine nourishment. In upper Egypt the goddess appears as a woman with the head of a cow. . . . Another deity associated with the effects of the plague would be Mnevis, a sacred bull venerated at Heliopolis and associated with the god Ra.” (Davis, p. 122 - 123).

But again Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he will not let the people go.

Sixth Plague: Boils

Now the Lord has Moses and Aaron spread ashes everywhere. “And it shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 9: 9). Again Pharaoh calls for the Egyptian priests or as the Bible calls them “magicians.” But the priests of Egypt are infected by boils and can do nothing “And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians.” (Exodus 9: 11).

“This plague, like the previous ones, most assuredly had theological implications for the Egyptians. While it did not bring death, it was serious and painful enough to cause many to seek relief from many of the Egyptian deities charged with the responsibility of healing.” (Davis, p. 124.).

Seventh Plague: Burning Hail

This is one of my favorite plagues on Egypt. In Cecil B. DeMille’s movie The Ten Commandments the burning hail was achieved by throwing popcorn down on Yul Brenner and then adding the fire in the shot photographically later. (Yes there was a way to do special effects before CGI!).

The Navarre Bible Commentary says that “In the Bible a storm accompanied by hail, thunder and lightning is a sign that God is making himself manifest . . .; this theophany is meant to show that there is none greater than God (vv. 14-16). St. Paul refers to this passage of Exodus (cf. Rom. 9:17), pointing out that the pharaoh himself had an important role in God’s designs: his blindness made God’s power and wisdom plainer to see.” (The Navarre Bible: The Pentateuch, p. 280).

Now Pharaoh is actually scared. “Then Pharaoh sent, and called Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Entreat the LORD; for there has been enough of this thunder and hail; I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”(Exodus 9: 27-28).

Again Moses upholds his side of the bargain and prays and asks God to lift the plague. Again Pharaoh reneges on his promise. “But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken through Moses.”(Exodus 9: 34-25).

Again Professor Davis expounds on the theological implications of the plague: “What would the worshipers of Nut have thought when they looked skyward not to see the blessings of the sun and warmth, but the tragedy of storm and violence. Nut was the sky goddess. It was from her domain that this tragedy originated. One reflects upon the responsibilities of both Isis and Seth who also had responsibilities related to agricultural crops. The black and burned fields of flax were a silent testimony to the impotence and incapability of wooden and stone deities. They indeed had ears but did not hear. The destruction of the crop of flax is also significant since it was flax which provided the linen for the garments of the priests throughout the land of Egypt.” (Davis, p. 128).

Eighth Plague: Locusts

Professor Davis gives us a good description of the devastation which can be caused by a swarm of locusts: “Locust plagues were very much feared in ancient Egypt, so much so that the peasants were in the habit of praying to a locust god.” (Davis, p. 128).

“A locust is capable of eating its own weight daily. One square mile of a swarm will normally contain from 100,000,000 to 200,000,000 of the creatures. . . .Swarms covering more than 400 square miles have been recorded. Even with modern technology the locust is still a serious problem. Massive numbers of them still breed and move with devastation over parts of South Africa.” (Davis, p. 129 -130).

Now Pharaoh wants to bargain. He will let the men go and sacrifice to the Lord but the Hebrew women and children must remain behind as insurance to guarantee their return. Again Moses rejects any compromise.

Ninth Plague: Darkness

The Book of Wisdom interprets the plague of darkness as a sign of the terrible abandonment of man by God. (Wisdom 17:1 - 18:4). “For their enemies deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness, those who had kept thy sons imprisoned, through whom the imperishable light of the law was to be given to the world.” (Wisdom 18: 4).

According to Professor Davis, the plague of darkness struck at the heart of the Egyptian pantheon: “In the light of Egyptian theology and practice, this plague was very significant. To a large degree it struck at the very heart of Egyptian worship and humbled one of Egypt’s greatest gods. The sun god Ra was considered one of the great blessings in the land of Egypt. His faithfulness in providing the warmth and light of sun day after day without fail caused them to express great joy over the faithfulness of this deity.” (Davis p. 133 - 134).

Again, Pharaoh wants to make a deal. The women and children can go but the Hebrew herds and flocks have to stay. Again, Moses says no deal. Now Pharaoh throws Moses out and tells him that he never wants to see him again. The stage is now set for the final and most devastating of the ten plagues.

PRAYER AFTER STUDYING SCRIPTURE: O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Yul Brenner & Ann Baxter as Pharaoh and his Queen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, Georgia

I try to visit the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia about once every six months.

Life With the Norbertines

Lord, Remember Me

O my Jesus, raised upon the cross between earth and sky, like the good thief at Thy side, let me say to Thee, Lord, remember me.

Why the World Hates the Church

"The Church learned from Jesus Christ the truth the world hates. The world has never accepted the lesson of penance, the world never will; and this, really, my dear children, is the reason, practically the entire reason, of the opposition of the world to Christ and His Church. The Lord speaks of a strait and narrow way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and no matter where we look, on all sides, we see a cross. My dear children, remember we are sinners and we are the children of sinners and in sin did our mothers beget us."

Servant of God Father Thomas Augustine Judge

The Definition of Sacred Tradition

Great post from Mark Shea at National Catholic Register explaining the definition of "Sacred Tradition."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dissident Groups Inside and Outside the Church

Father Z has a great post about dissident groups both inside and outside the Church who seek to undermine the Church's teachings.

Austrailian Human Rights Commission Recognizes 23 Genders

Did you think that God created human beings male and female? What a closed minded bigot you are!

The Austrailian Human Rights Commission is prepared to extend civil rights recognition to twenty three (23) different genders. The twenty three genders include, in addition to male and female, "transgender, trans, transsexual, intersex, androgynous, agender, cross dresser, drag king, drag queen, genderfluid, genderqueer, inter gender, neutrosis, pansexual, pan-gendered, third gender, third sex, sistergirl and brotherboy."

And all you closed minded bigots who actually believe the moral teachings of that hate organization, the Roman Catholic Church, think that there are only two genders! Read the full story here.

Doomed Christians

Great Post from Matt and Pat Archbold at National Catholic Register.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Malaysian Government to Stamp Warning on Bibles

The Malaysian Government is planning to stamp a warning on all Bibles that it is to be read by Christians only. Full story here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Crucifix

Elizabeth Esther shares a profound meditation on the meaning of the Crucifix.

The Finger of God (Exodus 8)

PRAYER BEFORE STUDYING SCRIPTURE: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth.

Chapter 8 deals with the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats and the plague of flies.

The Plague of Frogs

The presence of frogs in Egypt was not unusual. Professor Davis notes that amulets have been discovered bearing pictures of frogs and the frog, because of its association with the rising and falling of the Nile, was considered a sacred animal:

“The common presence of the frog to the Egyptians was not something loathsome or to be abhorred. The frog, to a large degree, represented fruitfulness, blessing and the assurance of a harvest. This concept came about as a result of the flooding of the Nile which continued through mid-September. By the middle of December the Nile had once again returned to its normal channel. The receding water, however, left many pools and ponds over the countryside which were quickly inhabited by frogs whose chorus was often heard on balmy Egyptian evenings. To the farmers this sound was music indeed because it indicated that the gods who controlled the Nile and made the land fertile had completed their work. . . . These associations caused the Egyptians to deify the frog and make the theophany of the goddess Heqt a frog. . . . She was the symbol of resurrection and the emblem of fertility. . . . The frog was one of a number of sacred animals that might not be intentionally killed, and even their involuntary slaughter was often punished with death.” (John J. Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus, page. 107 - 108).

So the problem was not the presence of frogs but their great number. If frogs were everywhere, in houses, in beds, and in food storage areas, and they couldn’t be killed because they were sacred, this would be a very bad problem. Again, Pharaoh calls for the Egyptian magicians and they are able by their “secret arts” to duplicate the miracle. However, realizing that this slave god has real power, Pharaoh now entertains the idea of letting the Hebrews go and worship their God. Pharaoh promises to let the people go and asks Moses and Aaron to pray and ask God to remove the plague of frogs. Moses wants Pharaoh to name the time when the plague will end so that everyone will know that it is the power of the Lord. In answer to Moses’ prayer all the frogs on the land die. With the problem taken care of, Pharaoh now goes back on his word and refuses to let the people go.

As some interesting trivia, the film historian’s commentary on the DVD for Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments notes that DeMille filmed the plague of frogs but after watching the dailies thought that it looked too comical and cut it from the film.

The Plague of Gnats

"Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.” And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and struck the dust of the earth, and there came gnats on man and beast; all the dust of the earth became gnats throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 8: 16-17).

Professor Davis says of the plague of gnats: “It is not clear against what specific deities this particular plague was directed.” (Davis, p. 111). Davis opines that since the Egyptian priesthood had to keep ritual purity in order to practice their rites, having gnats everywhere would render them ritually impure thereby keeping them from performing religious rituals. Professor Davis also says that the word which is translated into English as “gnats,” may well mean mosquitoes. If they were mosquitoes, this would be a real scourge. Swarms of gnats are a nuisance, swarms of biting mosquitoes covering every man and beast would be a real plague.

Pharaoh again calls the Egyptian priests and for the first time they cannot match the miracle. “The magicians tried by their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” (Exodus 8: 18-19). But despite the admission of his priests that the Hebrew God has more power than them, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them; as the LORD had said.” (Exodus 8: 19).

The Plague of Flies

Being Catholic and Progressive and Hip, The Navarre Bible Commentary says that the plague of flies may be a variation and a retelling of the previous plague of gnats rather than a separate plague. Being a Fundamentalist Evangelical, Professor Davis takes the Bible at its word that there was a separate plague of flies following the plague of gnats.

“The blood sucking gadfly or dogfly was something to abhorred and may in part have been responsible for the great deal of blindness in the land.

It might also be noted that the Inchneuman fly, which deposits its eggs on other living things upon which its larvae can feed was regarded as the manifestation of the god Uatchit. Perhaps other insects were likewise revered; if so, this plague takes on new dimensions.”
(Davis, page 114).

Pharaoh is now ready to compromise. He will let the people go so long as they don’t go too far. In other words, Pharaoh is saying to Moses, I’ll let you go perform your rituals but you’re still our slaves and we want you back. Moses responds that they need to get far away from the Egyptians because the Egyptians find the Hebrew sacrifices abominable. Professor Davis says that this probably refers to the sacrifice of animals, such as sheep, which were sacred to the Egyptian gods. (Davis, p. 116-117). Moses says that God has ordered him to take the Israelites three days journey into the desert and he cannot vary the terms of God’s command in order to compromise with Pharaoh. Perhaps the lesson here for us is that we cannot compromise with the world on issues like abortion and the sanctity of traditional marriage where God’s commands and the teachings of the Church are clear and unambiguous. Like Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives, we must fear God more than Pharaoh. As Saint Peter told the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).

In any event, Pharaoh promises to let the people go if the plague is lifted. Again Moses keeps his part of the bargain and prays that God will lift the plague, and again Pharaoh goes back on his word with his “hard heart.”

PRAYER AFTER STUDYING SCRIPTURE: O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

COMING SOON: When the Gods Were Silent: Exodus 9 - 10.

Return to Greeneland

The Bad Catholic discusses Graham Greene's 1935 novel England Made Me at The Eclectic Reader.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Solemnity of the Annunication

Pour Your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by His cross and passion be brought to the glory of His resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Episcopal Priest Gives Up Christianity for Lent

Until he was stopped by his Bishop, an Episcopal Priest decided to worship as a Muslim for Lent. Really. You can't make this stuff up. Full story from Christianity Today.

PETA Demands Species Inclusive Bible

Under the heading of "You can't make this stuff up," PETA, "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," which favors giving animals the same rights as humans and banning the eating of meat, is demanding a "species inclusive" version of the Bible which does not objectify animals. Really. This is not a joke. Read the full story from CNN.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The River of Blood (Exodus Chapter 7)

Continuing with our study of the Book of Exodus, Chapter Seven begins the plagues on Egypt. The plagues do increasing damage as they go on. They start off as nuisances and end in a devastating event which affects every family in Egypt.

In verse 7, scripture says that Moses was eighty years old and Aaron was eighty three. The Navarre Bible Commentary, being Catholic and progressive and hip, says that the ages given for Moses and Aaron are probably more symbolic than real. Professor Davis, being a Conservative Evangelical Protestant, takes the ages given for Moses and Aaron absolutely literally. It is certainly possible that God may have graced Moses and Aaron with vigorous strength deep into their old age. It is also possible that the Biblical 80 may mean 50. We don’t know. But one way or another, Moses and Aaron were old guys. Old guys rule!

First, to show God’s power, Aaron casts down his rod which becomes a serpent. Pharaoh calls his magicians who also turn a rod into a snake, but Aaron’s snake eats the snake charmers’ snake. The Navarre Bible Commentary says that magical rites and snake charmers were held in high regard in Egypt. I can’t help thinking that we seem to have a lot of snake charmers and magicians around nowadays. The Church Fathers saw Aaron’s rod as a pre-figuring of the cross of Christ, since from its wood comes the “power and wisdom of God.” Jewish tradition named two of Pharaoh’s magicians Jannes and Jambres. Saint Paul quotes this tradition in his second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:8).

In any event, since the Egyptian priests can do the same stuff Moses and Aaron do, Pharaoh is not impressed. How can the Egyptian priests do the same stuff the prophets of the true God do? Once again, Professor Davis, being a fundamentalist, has a fundamentalist answer: Satan and evil spirits can mimic the miracles of God.

Next, God commands Moses to have Aaron stick his rod into the Nile which causes all the water in Egypt to be turned into blood. Pharaoh again calls his priests who are able to mimic the miracle through what the Bible calls “their secret arts.” Both commentaries which I am using go on at some length about whether it was really blood or just excessive deposits of mud which killed the fish and caused a stench and caused the water to be undrinkable. Professor Davis is worth quoting in full:

There are really only three possible ways of approaching the phenomenon of the ten plagues as recorded in the Book of Exodus. One is to dismiss all of the literature of Exodus as being purely fanciful myth and having no foundation in reality whatsoever. . . . A second viewpoint would be that these were merely natural occurrences that were given theological interpretation by Moses. It is generally conceded by liberal-critical scholars who have adopted this viewpoint that the plagues were perhaps more intense than normal, but that there was nothing miraculous about their appearance or disappearance. . . . The third approach to the plagues is that these were separate miracles.” (John J. Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p. 94).

Professor Davis then begins an extensive discussion of the fact that the plagues represent the God of Israel’s judgment on the gods of Egypt. Since Pharaoh was considered in a literal sense to be one of the gods, when Pharaoh cannot protect the people of Egypt this shows God’s judgment on the entire Egyptian religion.

The Egyptians were just about the most polytheistic people known from the ancient world. Even to this day we are not completely sure of the total number of gods which they worshipped. . . . Almost all living creatures, whatever their habitat, and even inanimate objects became the embodiment of some deity. The Egyptians considered sacred the lion, the ox, the ram, the wolf, the dog, the cat, the ibis, the vulture, the falcon, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cobra, the dolphin, different varieties of fish, trees, and small animals including the frog, scarab, locust and other insects. In addition to these there were anthropomorphic gods; that is, men in the prime of life such a Amun, Atum, or Osiris. (Davis, p. 94-95).

The Nile itself was considered holy. In a very real sense, the Nile River was the source of life for ancient Egypt. If the Nile stopped rising and stopped having fresh water, Egypt was doomed. Professor Davis discusses that Egyptian theology revolved around the waters of the Nile:

It was appropriate that the first of the plagues should be directed against the Nile River itself, the very lifeline of Egypt and the center of many of its religious ideas. The Nile was considered sacred by the Egyptians. Many of their gods were associated either directly or indirectly with this river and its productivity. . . .One of the greatest gods revered in Egypt was the god Osiris who was the god of the underworld. The Egyptians believed that the river Nile was his bloodstream. In the light of this latter expression, it is appropriate indeed that the Lord should turn the Nile to blood! (Davis, p. 102).

In verse 25 we read that the plague of blood lasted for seven days. Remember, in scripture, seven is the mystical number of completion. Professor Davis sums up the plague of the River of Blood very eloquently:

The first plague brought upon Egypt eloquently revealed the power of God and the impotence of Egyptian deities. For the Egyptian who sought water for his cattle and for himself, it would have meant an exercise in deep frustration and despair. For the very religious Egyptian who faithfully sought the guidance and protection of the various deities associated with the Nile it must have raised serious questions about the unqualified powers of such deities. To the Israelites who witnessed this event, it was a reminder of the awesome power of the God who had chosen them and had blessed them. To us who are alive today the witness the idolatry of this present generation, this miracle is a reminder of the tremendous power of a God who will not only bring blessing upon those who are faithful to Him, but will, with equal power, bring judgment and humiliation upon those who lift up their hand in rebellion.
(Davis, p. 103 - 104).

COMING SOON: The Finger of God (Exodus 8).

Priests: Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Unless you've been living under a rock, by now you know that the Catholic blogosphere is ablaze with the news that EWTN regular Father John Corapi has been suspended from his ministry pending an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

It appears that the bishops have now gone to the 180 degree opposite extreme from brushing this stuff under the rug and are now going to presume that the accused priest is guilty. To the mind of this old criminal defense lawyer and prosecutor this is just as bad.

I am personally aware of a situation where a priest was suspended and had to sit around in limbo and wait for the Bishop's decision for months on end. His career and reputation were just about ruined. And, just like the Father Corapi situation, the allegations involved an adult and, even if true, did not constitute a criminal offense.

So, it appears, if you don't like a priest, all you have to do is to claim that he tried to sleep with you. Hopefully, there are not many people who are vindictive enough to tell such a lie, but we must be aware that the Devil is very active even within the sacred precincts of the Church.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Call of Moses (Exodus 3 - 6)

The next unit of our Lenten Bible Study of the Book of Exodus covers Chapters 3 through 6.

At the beginning of Chapter 3, we find Moses before God’s holy mountain attending to the sheep of his father in law, Jethro. As Moses first leads a flock of sheep to the Holy Mountain, so he will return leading the flock of God’s people. Thus, his exile as a shepherd of Midian is a preparation for the ultimate task which God has for him.

When Moses sees a bush which burns but is not consumed, he decides to go aside and see this great sight. According to the Navarre Bible Commentary, fire is often a feature of theophanies because it is the best symbol to convey the presence of things spiritual and divine. Some Christian writers have seen the burning bush as a symbol of the Church which endures and is not consumed despite many persecutions and trials.

God tells Moses to take off his shoes because he is standing on holy ground. Some Christian writers have seen in the act of taking off the shoes the idea that no one can gain access to God without first shedding every earthly attachment. The text says, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” We should have a healthy fear of God. Sacred Scripture says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If we Catholics really believe what we say we believe about the Blessed Sacrament, we should have a healthy fear and respect of the Lord every time we enter the Church. We genuflect and reverence the tabernacle not just to be carrying out the motions but out of respect that we are standing on Holy Ground. For surely, every time we enter a Catholic Church we are standing on Holy Ground the same as Moses was.

When God commissions Moses to go and free the people and lead them to the Holy Mountain, Moses objects and says that he can’t do it. How many times has God called to us, that we have said “I can’t do it.” However, if a task is God’s divine will for us, He will always equip us. How many times have unlikely people been equipped for great tasks. Who would have commissioned the playboy Francesco Bernadone who wanted to give away every thing he owned and live like a beggar, or the little Albanian nun Mother Teresa who wanted to help the poor and sick? For that matter, who would have called the hapless fisherman Peter to be the leader of a movement?

The Divine Name is then revealed to Moses. We need to stop trying to pronounce the Divine Name. Hopefully, when the new English liturgy comes in we will stop singing banal hippy mass songs like “Yahweh, I know You are Near.” If the New Jerusalem Bible is read in public, we need to pronounce the Divine Name as “Adonai” or “LORD.” This too, is part of the respect and fear of God that we should have. For the ancient people, to be able to name a thing or a person was to have control over it. To attempt to pronounce the Divine Name is to attempt to domesticate God. We can’t do it and we should stop trying. “Yahweh” being written all over everything in Catholic hymnals and literature is a symptom of the liberal theology of the nineteen seventies which is about as outdated now as lava lamps, mood rings and shag carpets.

God reveals his Divine Name as I AM THAT I AM. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “The divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it expresses God as what he is - infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the ‘hidden God’ (Is 45:15), his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.” (CCC 206).

God tells Moses that the journey of the children of Israel to the Holy Mountain from Egypt will take three days. Like every other number in scripture, the number of days in the journey is not without significance. Three, the number of the Holy Trinity, is a number which symbolizes divine action.

In Chapter 4, we have the puzzling episode where Moses falls violently ill and his wife Zipporah circumcises their son, touches the bloody foreskin to her husband’s genitals and says ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” (Exodus 4:24-26). What does this mean? Nobody knows. According to the Navarre Bible, the Church Fathers tended to comment on this passage allegorically, saying that Moses blessed his wife and children by means of this rite, to give them a share in the fruits of his salvific mission.

Verses 29 through 34 tell how Moses and Aaron gathered together the elders of the people of Israel and explained their mission to them. “And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped.” God’s plan for deliverance can be put into action only if men are ready to believe in it.

In Chapter 5 Moses has his first audience with Pharaoh. It doesn’t go well. Pharaoh says that he doesn’t know the god of the Hebrews and he will not let the people go. Oh, and by the way, you slaves can go and get your own straw to make bricks with and you better not let production go down. For following the commands of God, the children of Israel will be punished and suffer at the hands of “the world.” This will always be so. Those whom God chooses undergo all kinds of trials but we should put our trust in God alone.

Pharaoh would not have been completely ignorant of the God of Israel. To Pharaoh, who is considered a living god, the God of Israel is the god of an insignificant tribe of slaves. Pharaoh’s statement “I do not know the LORD” doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know about the Hebrew God but that he does not recognize that such a god really exists or has authority over him. Just like Pharaoh “the world” today doesn’t know the LORD and doesn’t care what his commandments are. The secular world has its own agenda and secular cultural elites like the media and Hollywood just can’t understand or comprehend religion or religious people. To them, the Christian Church is a backward relic of ages past which should soon pass into oblivion. Just like the children of Israel, we today can expect much opposition and persecution from the pharaohs of modern western culture.

COMING SOON: Exodus Chapter 7, The River of Blood.

Saint Patrick

Monday, March 14, 2011

Moses and the Gods of Egypt

As spiritual reading for Lent this year, I am undertaking a study of the Book of Exodus. My tools for this undertaking are Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus by John J. Davis and the text of the Revised Standard Version and commentary from the Navarre Bible.

Chapter 1 of Professor Davis’ text serves as the introduction to the study and deals with the dating of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and the historicity of the Biblical text in general. Chapter 2, which is titled “A Dilemma and a Deliverer” covers Exodus Chapters 1 and 2.

The commentary in the Navarre Bible tells that the ancient Church Fathers considered the situation of the individual human person to be comparable to the that of ancient Israel enslaved in Egypt. Just like the children of Israel were enslaved and oppressed in Egypt and were in need of a deliverer, we have been enslaved and oppressed by sin and are also in need of a deliverer. In general, Israel can be viewed as the Church and Moses is a type of Christ who will deliver us from slavery to the promised land.

Without a doubt, the heros of Exodus Chapter One are the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who disobeyed the order of Pharaoh to kill newborn Hebrew boys:

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. (Exodus 1: 15-17).

There is a lot to meditate on here. I wonder, when it really comes down to it and it really counts, if I would fear God more than Pharaoh? I said this to a friend of mine who said “You had better.” I can’t help but think about medical professionals who have lost jobs and may face the loss of professional licenses because they refuse to take part in abortions, or pharmacists who face termination or professional discipline for refusing to dispense contraceptives. I have never faced arrest and prison time for protesting at an abortion clinic. I’ve never had to face a situation like many Christians were faced with when they hid Jews from the Nazis. If my livelihood or my very life were at stake to do the right thing, would I? In Flannery O’Connor’s story “The Temple of the Holy Ghost” the little girl who is the main character thinks to herself that she might could be a martyr if they killed her quick. The question is could you be a martyr if you knew that they were going to kill you slow? I pray that if the time ever comes, (and I fervently pray that this cup can pass me by), that God will grant me the courage to fear God more than Pharaoh.

In Chapter 2 Moses, the Prince of Egypt, is cast out and flees to the house of the priest of Midian. The daughters of priest of Midian are seven in number. In scripture, seven is the mystical number of perfection.* Therefore, we can infer that there is spiritual perfection in this priest and his family which Moses is content to settle with and marry into. In exile in the land of Midian, Moses is being prepared by God for his great task. This should teach us that we should always be patient and wait on the Lord, who, if we allow Him to, will always mold us to His holy will. Amen.

* ”In the Bible the number seven had a sacred character, symbolizing in some way the perfection of God.” The Navarre Bible Commentary note on Leviticus 23-44.

Our Lady of Japan

Pray for the People of Japan

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

College Life in the Post-Christian World

What's the most important decision that college students have to make? Who to sleep with, of course! Rutgers University has announced that they will now allow opposite sex couples to live together in Dorms and that men and women will share bathrooms. Read the full story here.

All of this is apparently so that gay couples can live together without guilt. Huh? Shouldn't college students be concentrating on doing their schoolwork? Didn't enough sex, gay and straight, go on in the old days when men and women were strictly segregated and sex of all kinds on campus was discouraged? As a middle aged white male Neanderthal, I just don't get it.

I can't help but think that this will be devastating to young women. The reason it will be devastating is because young men are generally testosterone driven pigs who will now expect to be able to immediately move in with the girlfriend. Call me old fashioned and sexist, but isn't this kind of policy going to pressure more kids into pre-marital sex? Who are they going to hire as Resident Advisors, Hugh Hefner and Lady Gaga?

This kind of policy is the result of thinking which says that every young adult MUST be having sex. Like Flannery O'Connor famously said about the Yaddo artists colony, "If you aren't sleeping with the opposite sex, then it's assumed that you must be sleeping with your own." Apparently, it's now necessary to encourage our children to engage in irresponsible sexual activity.

Middle Aged White Male Neanderthal