Monday, December 27, 2021

Nunblogger is taking a break (for now)

Me with the Good Book 
during our virtual concert.  
It has been wonderful sharing the daily Word of God with you! Already I am getting the holy cards out to the first responders who made the request. It's not too late to get your holy card for reading the Bible with me over the past year: just send your mailing address in an email to thenunblogger   (at gmail.com). 

After the blogging marathon of the past year, you won't continue to get daily dispatches from me. I made a number of commitments to teach our postulants and to give a few talks in the area (one of them is in preparation for Lent!), plus I have a book in the works, so I need to focus on those. That means that for next few months, I will only post on a random basis: when something important happens in the life of the Church, for example, or I have big news or a significant insight to share. The mail service I use will only email you if the blog has been updated, so if you get a message from NunBlog, it will be oven-fresh.

If you really liked getting regularly scheduled messages and do not already subscribe to The Angelus Project, that is another one of my initiatives. It is a weekly post with an artistic depiction of the Annunciation for praying the Angelus with art. (During the Easter season, I substitute a Coronation scene for the praying of the Regina Coeli.) Subscribe at calltoprayer.blogspot.com (be sure to activate the subscription confirmation message; check your spam folder if you don't find it in your email).

Please keep me (and my sisters!) in your prayers as you continue to walk with the Word of God in your daily life! You are in my prayers in a very special way!

Blessed and happy New Year in Jesus to you and yours!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

You've read the Bible! Now what?

Don't forget send your complete mailing address to  thenunblogger   (@  gmail)  to get your "official" holy card of the Pauline Year of the Bible for having read the Bible from cover to cover!

Now that you've spent a year reading the Bible (you may have a few more chapters to catch up on what with Christmas and all), you've probably created a new pattern or ritual for yourself. Bible reading is now part of your life. 

How are you going to keep this up?

    You deserve     
a holy card!   

There are any number of ways to keep reading the Bible, but it doesn't have to be from cover to cover all the time. You could use the "Bible in a Year Podcast" that was launched at the beginning of 2021 by Ascension Press and reached over a million downloads within months (probably shocking the marketing world). You can either read the selected texts or listen to Fr Schmitz' reading them aloud and commenting on them. (He covers the whole Bible, but not in order.) 

You might decide to read the Bible with the Church by following the daily Mass readings or focus your daily reading on the Gospels for the entire year, reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in a repeated cycle throughout 2022; maybe the the Letters of St Paul the following year (not that I am partial or anything). Perhaps you'd rather join a Bible study in a parish or online, or read the Bible in prayer with a small group.

Another way to keep the Word of God in your life on a daily basis might be to pray one or more of the Hours of the Divine Office. In the Liturgy of the Hours the Scripture becomes an actual prayerbook, providing us with inspired words to offer God. I think of it as a kind of scaffolding for my personal prayer, and as a lifeline for times when I don't know how to pray or what to pray about. To pray the Liturgy of the Hours on the web, I recommend DivineOffice.org (for the US) and Universalis.com. There are also a number of Catholic prayer apps that include the Liturgy of the Hours or prayers based on the major Hours.

The main thing is that you have not let God's Word remain on the bookshelf or gathering dust on a table. You have picked it up and read it in a consistent and persevering way. You have wrestled with its challenging images and ancient expressions. You have brought your questions about it to God. "The most important and essential feature of Sacred Scripture is prayer," wrote Bl James Alberione. Prayer allows God to speak to us through his Word: it makes the Bible a living Word!

Let the conversation continue! God is looking forward to it!

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Finish Reading the Bible with Me!

Today we complete our year-long project of reading the Bible from cover to cover! But first, let us pray: 

Lord Jesus, you have come!

You have come to us through nature to reveal the Father.

You have come to us in prophecy that prepared the way for the Incarnation.

You have come to us in history and lived among us for thirty-three short years.

You have come to us in the sacred words of the Gospel that make your presence new every time they are proclaimed to us.

You have come to us in the Eucharist, where you remain to be with us.

You have come to us in our neighbor in need.

You have come to us in our neighbor's kindness.

You have come to us in the lives of your greatest imitators, the saints.

And you will come to us.

You will come to us one by one at our death.

You will come to all of us who have ever lived at the great day of the Wedding Feast.

For this you were born!

For this we were born!

 Your holy card 
awaits!
Oh, Lord: Complete what you have done for us!

Amen!


Send  thenunblogger  an email  (@ gmail)  with your name and mailing address so you can get a holy card in commemoration of having read the whole Bible during this Pauline Family Year of the Bible!

Today's chapters are Revelation 21-22 and Psalm 150! 

What perfect words we read on Christmas Day! The Angel could have announced it to the shepherds in the Bethlehem field: "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race" (Rev 21:3). God has always been Emmanuel, God with us. It is we who have not been with God. But the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus accomplished something new (21:5): In our reading today, the "new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride for her husband," is coming "down from Heaven from God" (21:2). It is all the work of God and the gift of God.

All the things St Paul said about marriage as a great mystery of Christ and the Church become real here: the most perfect union of the most perfect human spouses in the history of humanity was only a child's pencil sketch of the communion with God that human beings were created for. St Paul's image of the Church "built as a Temple upon the foundation of the Apostles" (see Eph 2:20-22) is also reflected here, even thought there is no Temple in the city; no "place" where God is, because there is no "place" where God isn't. God is all in all.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.” Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water (Rev 22:17).

Psalm 150 is the closing doxology of the final "book" of the Psalter, and the closing doxology of the Psalter itself. The cymbal crash it calls for is entirely appropriate.

Finish reading Revelation here and finish the Psalter here.

Here's a musical setting of Psalm 150 that I really like. No vocals, sadly, so you can listen to it while you read the Psalm. It's done with pipe organ, but you can add your own cymbal crash!



Friday, December 24, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!


Today's chapters are Revelation 18-20.

In the prophetic depiction of the fall of "Rome/Babylon" (the epitome of the enemies of God's people), a lament is raised not so much over anything good about the Empire, as it is for lusts that can no longer be satisfied because of advantages the Roman Empire's power used to provide. (The deadly sins serve each other in this lament.) Recall that for St Paul (Ephesians 5:5) sexual immorality and greed were forms of idolatry. Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are closely linked.

As we move forward in today's reading, we are getting to the scene of the Final Judgment. And here again, we encounter one of those highly misunderstood passages of Revelation. Every era of history seems to have its own spin on the "thousand years" of 20:2-4. This tendency to take this literally as a millennium of earthly history and to build a theology around it even has its own name: millenarianism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this in the section about the Last Judgment (CCC 675-677). These paragraphs are also a fine commentary on today's chapters:

Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

The canticles we have heard and will continue to find as the Book of Revelation reaches its finale are almost the sung version of Paul's theology as we found it in Ephesians (1:20-2:6 and 3:8-12). 

The fact that a section of 19:9 is used at a key moment in every Mass should make us take notice: Who are those "blessed ones"? What is the "wedding feast of the Lamb" for which "the Bride has made herself ready"? By now we should know: the Bride us us, the wedding feast is Heaven, but it is also the Mass. We are entering the Book of Revelation, the ranks of the angels and martyrs and saints and the throne of the Lamb, and we partake of the feast itself, every time we go to Mass. No matter what is happening on earth, the Book of Revelation shows us what is really going on: The battle has already been won, and the Lamb is victorious.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!


Today's chapters are Revelation 15-17.

John prepares us for the seven last plagues with a kind of double overture: In the first movement, the martyrs (with their new harps!) offer a canticle of praise that is now part of the Liturgy of the Hours. It ends with, "Your righteous acts have been revealed." That is the signal for angels in priestly vestments to come out with the seven last plagues: But there is something mysterious here. The bowls they are given by the "living creatures" are filled with God's "wrath" or "fury," but when the angels are given the bowls, the smoke of God's glory fills the whole space to the point of stopping all further action. That sounds like what we read at the dedication of the original Temple of Solomon (2 Chron 7:1) and Isaiah's vision of the Lord (Is 6:3-5). 

The recounting of the plagues, which recall the plagues of Egypt, has a kind of refrain: "but they did not repent." These are not vindictive tortures: Even at this point, the bowls of plague seem to be medicinal! By 16:13 we see a kind of purging that reveals the root of the disease. Several authors have called this the "unholy trinity" of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (which can be understood as Satan, empire, and idolatry of any kind). They all work together, and are all within the domain of the demonic. 

As for Armageddon:
The fact that they are said to gather at the place called Armageddon is more a statement about the outcome...than it is about the location. Armageddon is....a place of decisive battles [.... It is] where the idolaters Jezebel met her death.... So the place where Jezebel met her end is a sign of the coming of the end of Rome and its false worship.
Armageddon is not a place, it is a promise: first, that Rome and all its idolatry will fall; and second, that the army of God will certainly win the final battle against evil.
James Papandrea
The Wedding of the Lamb, page 106
The prophecies of Chapter 17 have most obviously been fulfilled in their literal and immediate sense. The city of Rome, built upon seven hills (17:9), fell into decrepitude, abandoned even by the Emperors; Byzantium replaced old Rome, but could not sustain the entire imperial enterprise, especially where Germanic tribes had begun to settle. And that's without looking at Northern Africa, where Augustine of Hippo was meditating on what was happening and writing about it in The City of God.

Chapter 17 is a prophecy of the fall of Rome, but not only. While we can dismiss as simply silly (or desperate) all attempts to identify the "whore of Babylon" with the Catholic Church,  Dr Michael Gorman observes that the warnings of Revelation are not limited to the Imperial Rome of the Caesars. They apply to any "empire" in league with the "dragon" and "false prophets" purveying illusions of comfort, prosperity, and "cheap grace." In this case, our interpretation of "empire" should not be limited to civil governments: The same demonic power can be at work in the activity of drug cartels or even massive corporations whose dominance of world markets allows them to ignore slave-labor conditions and hideous human rights violations. The Book of Revelation tells us: God will not be mocked. 

Start reading here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!


Today's chapters are Revelation 12-14.

We begin with a very familiar image: a "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev 12:1). Our Lady? We certainly have many images of Mary based on this description. But remember from reading earlier books of the Bible that Mary herself is a "type" or prophetic foreshadowing of the Church. There are many things about the Woman of Revelation that can lead us to interpret the image as representing Israel, Mary, and the Church. (Only Israel and Mary actually brought forth, in history, the male child "destined to rule all the nations": a fact we will celebrate liturgically on December 25!)

This chapter also gives us the powerful image of St Michael as the warrior angel (from a tradition that goes back to Daniel 12). Jude (Jude 8) had already demonstrated that Michael's victory is not in military achievement, but in humility, something before which "the ancient serpent" is helpless. 

In our reading today we also come across several numerical references that John expects us to understand. Most of us have a sense that 666 is...not good. 6, being one less than completion (7), is highly imperfect. Nero's name "adds up" to 666 in Greek or Hebrew, but not in Latin!

Other numbers in today's reading and in the rest of the book are less well-known but come down to variables of three and a half (which is itself half of 7): 3½ days, 42 months; 1260 days; "a time, and times, and half a time” (1+2+½= 3½). This represents a limited timeframe within God's providence, and ready to spring forth into something new (the ½ is already an anticipation). It also reflects the "year and two years and half a year" in Daniel's prophecy of a king (Antiochus Epiphanes) who will "speak against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High" (Dan 7:24-26).
 
After the warning about the beast's number and image, John redirects our attention to "Mount Zion" and the Lamb. We don't have to ask if the 144,000 people mentioned here are less than or more than or different from those indicated in Chapter 7: John is not delivering census results, but a vision! They are "unblemished" like the perfect animals brought to the Temple for sacrifice; they are the "first fruits": the representative beginning of redeemed humanity (cf. Papandrea, The Wedding of the Lamb, pages 103-104). These are the myriads of people whose pure faith in Jesus kept them from selling out to the many deceptions of the "beast" in their society (or in ours). The important thing for us, the readers, is "to be in that number when the saints go marching in!"

Start reading here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!


Today's chapters are Revelation 9-11.

At the end of Chapter 8, a flying eagle had called out a threefold "Woe!" to the inhabitants of earth. Three angels are about to release three waves of "woes" by means of trumpet blast. These are wave after wave of any people's worst nightmare, but John adds details that ensure we recognize the demonic nature of the "locusts" and "cavalry" in the first two. Remember from our Old Testament readings that not only were locusts one of the plagues of Egypt, but it was a commonplace to compare invading armies to locusts and vice-versa: See Joel 1:6 and especially 2: 2-9; Rev 9:3-10 seems to reflect both of them.

Do you recognize the prophetic act of "eating the scroll"? We read something very similar in Ezekiel 3. The act of measuring the Temple also hearkens back to Ezekiel (Chapter 40) when the prophet, in exile, was shown a vision of God's Temple, but a glorious Temple too big to even fit in Jerusalem! In many ways, John of Patmos is the New Testament Ezekiel: a prophet in exile, writing down both messages and exotic visions for a sorely tried people who long for the Holy City and for God's Temple.

Note that the "second woe" concludes in 11:14, but John advises that the third is yet to come at least for his readers (as Dr. Papandrea points out, their future can still be our past). After the conclusion of the second woe, all heaven breaks forth in a doxology.

Start reading here.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!


Today's chapters are Revelation 6-8.

Here, finally, we encounter the famous "four horsemen of the Apocalypse" in their original setting! Remember, we are still in Heaven: The Lamb (slain but alive) is the only one capable of opening the seals of the book or scroll, for he has already triumphed (5:5). Even though the breaking of the first six seals seems to unleash nothing but unmitigated disaster upon the earth, it is all within the context of the Lamb's already-won victory. As the martyrs beneath the altar were told: It is just necessary to wait a bit longer to actually see things fulfilled.
Mosaic based on Rev 7:9, commissioned
by Bl. James Alberione. 

A sense of that divine providence can be seen in Chapter 7, where the four angels stand at the ready at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds. ("Four" symbolizing "all of them.") Just as we saw in Ezekiel, God is going to have his chosen ones sealed (as you were in Baptism and Confirmation), and there are hundreds of thousands of them (thousands being symbolic of "vast numbers"). It is now that we get the immense vision illustrated in mosaic (from the crypt-level chapel of the Queen of Apostles Basilica) of 
a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches...
All the singing stops when the seventh seal is broken. Heaven falls silent for a time before a series of plagues are unleashed on the earth, recalling the plagues Moses unleashed on Egypt. 

Start reading here.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!

Today's chapters are Revelation 3-5 and (because it is Sunday) Psalm 149.

After the messages to the seven churches (wealthy Laodicea gets a severe warning!) comes the first of the visions from Heaven itself. It is typical of the Book of Revelation to keep switching scenes like this, so pay attention to clues (like the one in 4:1 about the "open door") that something new is going on. John's vision of Heaven's royal throne-room with the "living creatures" and the "crystal sea" takes us back to Ezekiel, but now completed by the presence of the Lamb: the Lamb who is also "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah"; the Lamb who is alive, but also slain; the Lamb before whom the elders and the living creatures fall down in worship and countless angels sing. And the prayer of praise that is offered to the Lamb is the selfsame prayer of praise that is offered to the One who is seated on the throne.

All of this is going on inside the open door.

Today is the last Sunday of our Bible reading marathon, and we are at the second-to-last Psalm, one which goes very well with the last verses of our reading for today with all of the heavenly court singing the "high praises of God" and the Lamb! Whereas Psalm 148 had called on the various "choirs" of creation to praise God, Psalm 149 now gives that honor exclusively to the people of Israel. They praise God for vindicating them definitively over all those who threatened their very existence. Although the Psalm uses military imagery, its overall message seems to be that praise is more powerful than even the "two-edged sword." 

Start reading Revelation here and Psalm 149 here.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We are about to finish our year-long project, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Come, Lord Jesus! 
Come to me
as I read these divinely inspired writings.
Come and enlighten me so that I receive from them the nourishment I need to be your faithful witness in the world today.
Come to people who are seeking you, and to those whom I may meet on my daily round.
Come to those who see the Word lived by those who do not even know your name.
Come to those who hear the Word proclaimed, but see it contradicted by those who speak it.
And when the last day dawns, come to take us all to be with you!
Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus!

Today's chapters are Jude and Revelation 1-2.

We are delving into apocalyptic territory today, after a final pastoral admonition from Jude (who uses a bit of apocalyptic language himself). Because the Letter of Jude ("brother of James") reflects Jewish writings that are not recognized as Scripture, the letter itself was considered suspect by some in the early Church, but it was always included in the official lists of New Testament books, and had in St Jerome an especially vigorous advocate. Jude appeals to Old Testament stories and teachings, and to the non-canonical story of Enoch, to support his pastoral exhortation: Beware of false teachers! Their doctrines lead to sexual immorality and put your souls at risk! (Jude also highlights the meekness of St Michael, and gives us one of the invocations we pray in the St Michael prayer.)

And so we come to the most mysterious book in (probably) the whole Bible: the Book of Revelation. (Many people may be scratching their heads over the name, wondering what is being "revealed" in such a mysterious book.) Despite all the images and the many creative attempts to de-code the book, Revelation is not written in secret code! (Disappointing, but true.) 

Maybe we would do better to read these final 22 chapters of the Bible the way the first recipients of John's mysterious message did: as people of faith, receiving a Word of faith, encouraging them to live by faith even when everything around them seemed to be saying that all was lost and that their faith had deceived them.  Jesus himself is presented as "the faithful and true Witness" (1:5; 3:14) to such as these: people who may have been on the verge of giving up and giving in. John shows them Jesus as Daniel's  Son of Man risen from the dead and walking among the lampstands: their lampstands, with the quivering flames of their faith, and speaking to them! 

The Book of Revelation opens on a Sunday, the day when the recipients would be gathered for worship. Worship will mark the entirety of the book: Pay attention when doors and windows to Heaven open up and we get a look inside! What is going on in Heaven in Revelation continues to happen all the time, even now. The book is not so much concerned with "foretelling" future events like the end of the world (although there are some things "still to come"), as with revealing (unveiling; apocalyptein) reality, especially the reality of Jesus' victory over every possible evil. This can encourage us all to stand firm, no matter what threatens us!

The messages to the "seven churches" (the "angel" is the local bishop) read a bit like the last two Epistles we read. For the most part these are short exhortations to faithfulness, including a pointed warning about the particular temptation facing the local community. There are two exceptions: The Churches of Philadelphia and the Church of Smyrna receive no reproach or call to repentance. With regard to Smyrna, it is hard to resist the possibility that the local bishop there was none other than Polycarp, disciple of John the Evangelist and future martyr, whose death in Smyrna at age 86 was one of the first martyrdoms ever recorded by eyewitnesses.

Read Jude here and start the Book of Revelation here.