Monday, December 29, 2014

Meet the LIMO


I honor the state's emperor (once they were called "presidents"), sure, but my true allegiance can only be to my Lord Christ, who saved me by His merits and bitter suffering and death ... and who continues to preserve me for all eternity.  Still, something of use can be learned from politicians and their rabid political party followers.

There is, for example, the salvifically drenched in red (blood), baptized and Evangelical Catholic, or true Lutheran (to adjectively say "confessional," as in reference to the Book of Concord, would be redundant); and then there is the LIMO ... the Lutheran in Mind Only.  Generally they are given to compromise, like the enfeebled, blue-nosed crypto-Calvinists who certainly resorted to mind, of a sorts.  Even the serpent had a mind, one nuanced and advanced above that of all the beasts of the field.  Including even that of a Seminary professor or two.

A dominating subspecies of the LIMO is the "stretch" LIMO, who 1) stretches the meaning of justification, so that the crucifying work of God needs to be augmented by the works of men ... without saying how much we are to sweat out our dynes of energy, which makes me anxious and cranky; or who 2) stretches out the Christly iconic nature of the Holy Office of the Apostolic Ministry, to include Eve's daughters, school-teachers and the un-ordained business-suited; or who 3) freely abandon or mutilate the Mass's sacramental eating and drinking, so that supposedly we poor sinners have to stretch out to attain an audience with a spatially-localized Christ, by soaring to heaven through means of our praise-band propelled emotions.

Your (unworthy) servant (and diagnostician),
Herr Doktor

Pine for Your Two Front Teeth ... But All I Want for Christmass is HIS Body and Blood.


The instructional folder of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran (Detroit), entitled "The Church Year: Advent," has recently fallen into your (unworthy) servant's hands, and the double-sided, triptych production is to be both cherished and commended.  The catechetical device discusses the history of the Adventide reverencing, the three-fold coming of Christ which the true Lutheran celebrates at this occasion, and its liturgical nuances and hymnology.  Conspicuously, it employs the term Christmass throughout, to make reference to that great Festival of the Nativity of our Lord which is observed on December 25.   I like this.  I hope this trend catches on and spreads, epidemically in fact.  The term allows us poor Christians ... we retain fallen flesh ...  to separate more easily from the cheap and seductive "eat, drink and go bankrupt" superficialities of the world at large, which will seek any reason to party and seek rest from its anxieties through numbing excess.

More deeply than this, though, the term "Christmass" focuses our attention, firstly, on Lord Christ; and secondly, on His loving, last-word-and-testamental provision of the Means by which His Presence is made known to us not only in the past, or in the Age to come, but among us today.  You see, the Lord visits His people today, in both Word AND Sacrament of the Liturgy of His Church.  In the Eucharist, we of His Body receive and maintain an intimate attachment with Him, in sanctified forms we humans can eat and drink.

But this has not always been faithfully professed by Lutherans of the past.  Only some 30 years ago, for example, a Children's Program published by the "conservative" Northwestern Publishing House had the Lord's little lambs give discourse on the acronym C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, with a short devotional message based on each letter.  The spelling lesson went no further than the first six letters, however.  This interruption was not because of a fear that the treat-bagged oranges and peanuts were going stale;  but rather because ... so it was piously recited ...  "Christ is all we need."

Of course, one can safely presume that within a few short hours of the resounding declaration of this creed, both the preaching kiddies and the receptive adults were enthusiastically ripping the tissue from their begged-for gifts.  Even their church's brown-bagged health-foods would not be enough booty for them.  You see, stolid Lutherans can be a hilarious as well as a "peculiar people", as humorist Garrison Keillor would firmly prove to no little profit, a mere two decades or so later.

It's true, though.  Christ is all we need.  That is why we fear, love and adore Him, and put our bodies where our mouths are by showing this love by obeying His Word.  His clear instructions are to DO that which the Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions refer to as the "breaking of bread"/the Mass/the Lord's Supper so that we come to remember and treasure His Passion which freed us from bondage to sin, Death and the Devil.   And to eat and drink His very Present Body and Blood, for the remission of sins.  By following and cherishing our Lord's "This do," we imitate what the growing ancient Church did at least every week, according to the Book of Acts; and we imitate what our Lutheran forefathers boasted, without sense of irony or facial "wink-wink," that they did with greater fervor, intensity and reverence than did the papal party.  Because the Mass clearly propounds the blessed Incarnation [2; p. 168] and just as surely, the comforting belief that our bodies, "when they share in the Eucharist ... are no longer subject to corruption but possess the hope of the Resurrection [2; p. 169]."   And finally, because the Mass, of course, teaches the real coming and presence  of our dear Lord in our Divine Service, now.  Today. 

Christmass without the Mass is Christ no mas, is a Christ "no more" ... to use the translated, 1980 surrender language of welter-weight boxer Roberto Duran against "Sugar" Ray Leonard [3].   At least, not a Christ the true member of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, including the patristic father Irenaeus [2; pp. 168, 169], would recognize. 

Apparently the WELS youths of the 80's learned their programmed scripts all too well.  Dynamically, as Freud once argued, the child is father to the man.   Now the synod's grown-up pastors, once upon a time professing little kiddies but now learned moderators of and contributors to the Institute of Worship & Outreach [1], are counseling the churches of their "conservative" denomination to drop the Mass from the congregational celebration of Christmas(s), as an evangelistic maneuver.  Apparently, the IWO concludes, Christmas(s) ... and Easter and even the High Church Festival of Mother's Day) ... are  big draws for the restless seeker; and the exclusivist nature of the Mass ... which gift does carry pastoral responsibility and a divine judgment if eaten without adult comprehension and faith ... carries a certain risk of shaming and angering the outsider.  Not to mention the "counselor" himself being fingered by the enraged 21st century skeptic, as being artlessly intolerant or at least cluelessly delusional.  This happened to the Lord Jesus Himself, as recorded in John 6 when He challenged His listeners with some very uncomfortable truths about Himself.  At that time, even a lot of perturbed "disciples" fled from His holy presence; and not all the blame can be placed on the Christ's failure to organize a rockin' praise-band to embellish His weekly synagogue visits and a lesson or two from Isaiah.

The personal fears of appearing foolish or a stumbling-block aside, the logic of the IWO does NOT follow the teachings and uncompromising practice of our Lord (including that teaching found in Mt 28; cf.  "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"), or the behavior of the early Church ... which grew and turned the world upside down by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by a resort to the cleverly devised "bait-and-switch" tactics of man, to better snare the uninformed inside the nave.

Moreover, if the Mass were an encumbrance to the evangelical proclamation, and if "Christ [localized physically to heaven] is all we need" were true according its rank protestant understandings ("A sermon's enough!"), then why bother with the Lord's Supper on Father's Day (evidently something of a second-class liturgical holy-day, in WELS-think and Hallmark Card surveys, compared to that of Mother's own) ... or on any Sunday for that matter?

Maybe that logical step is to be left for the third or fourth generation, to follow the fathers' advice sowed in the 1980's.  

Citations:
[1]  J. Schroeder  "Worship and Outreach:  A Lutheran Paradigm,"  The Institute of Worship & Outreach; posted 7 September 2011   http://www.worshipandoutreach.org/paper/60/worship-and-outreach-lutheran-paradigm
[2]  M. Chemnitz "The Lord's Supper (De coena Domini)," Part X.G: The resurrection and salvation of the flesh are demonstrated by our participation in the Lord's Supper; Concordia Publishing House (St. Louis), 1979.  Translation from the Latin by J.A.O. Preus   
[3]  Leonard-Duran Championship Fight II http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard%E2%80%93Dur%C3%A1n_II
 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Questions for Troubled Ladies and Their Husbands


At Facebook, the gifted Lutheran essayist and poet Chad Bird observes that the first recorded words of God directed at man on the spot, in Genesis and Luke's Gospel, share a distinctive similarity.  They are both in the form of questions ("Where art thou?" and "How is it that ye sought Me?," respectively).  They are hauntingly demanding, unsettling, and with a pinch of disappointment thrown in the mix.  What's this all about?

God is all knowing, and fills heaven and earth.  The first question, addressed to Adam and Eve, is not the whine of a befuddled old man or a buffoonish Zeus.  And, it has nothing do with precise latitude or longitude.  In my clinical opinion, this is a brilliant probe of creaturely man's spirit and mind; the perfect opener for a knock-down, brutally honest 50-minute session on the couch.  It is an invitation to bare all (pun fully intended) and sequentially participate in the first quasi-Private Confessions of all time.  But you know the script:

V "Where are you?"
R:   "Here's where we're at, LORD.  Our situation is desperate.  We are poor miserable sinners.  We thought we could freely abandon You, and do without You.  We spurned the "DO THIS" food You commanded for our blessing, and much preferred instead our own thoughts and wisdom as to procedure and matter.  Truth be told, our transference feeling is one of total sympathy with the evil Serpent, and a totally murderous hatred towards You.  In fact, we'd hoist You on a tree if opportunity presented itself.  But we're weak and scared.  We need help, therefore; we need You.  For we deserve nothing but annihilation and death.  Have mercy on us, Three times over."

Of course, while the fate of Creation itself hung in the balance ... remember(with Jonah) wicked Nineveh's sparing, upon its donning of sackcloth and ashes ... NO such confession was forthcoming.  That's the tragic history.  While the couple was frightened and embarrassed as to their shocking vulnerability and dependency, there was no despairing remorse or a spoken recognition of their -- not God! -- being absolutely lost.   God resolutely sought the truth from them; but what He received was excuses from Eve, and a slap in the face from Adam.  The great name-giver of every living creature of God,  was tongue-tied and resistant when it came to identifying his own depravity.  "Somebody else is to blame, certainly not me."   This creed continues to be a universal scream of our age; and perhaps accounts for the scandalous decline and conscious avoidance of Private Confession, although our Book of Concord stoutly insists "Oh, yes, yes; among the Lutherans, we do keep and treasure such." Our own dogmas judge us, as a people.

The little Lord Jesus ... steadily growing in wisdom, strength, and favor with both God and man ... challenges His parents in a way quite similar to that in which He probed our first parents.  Jesus' parents had been caught in a spot, too, losing sight of God and faith-based expectations of His behavior.  "Examine yourselves," He confronts the Best Parents the world has seen.  "You who tabernacled Me in the womb, doing My Father's business:  "Why did you not expect to find Me safely tabernacled in My loving Father's House, doing His business?"  Significantly, Luke records no satisfactory response for the lapse in understanding and indeed,  I maintain, of faith.    They had frantically sought Him among kin and acquaintances, and spent three additional days of agony and fear of Jesus' death in the vicinity of Jerusalem ... a rehearsal for the Passion to come.  But they sought in anything and everything but the established, earthly abode of His Father.  See, the Scriptures are razor-sharp in exposing the failings and frustrations of the heroes and heroines of our merciful God.   They are not less heroes in God's sight, through Christ His Son, for all that.

"Oh come all ye unfaithful" ... to worship and bless our Incarnate Lord, as Chad Bird brilliantly phrases it.  So true! The Lord is a compassionate physician to the ill, not the self-satisfied self-deluded.  Bird is dangerous, and if he keeps this up, could potentially put the entire psychiatric community out of business.  But I digress.     

I have nothing but the deepest respect and love for our Lady St. Mary, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God.  Again, in this episode of the 12-year old Jesus' life, we have dear Mary giving us an example to ever ponder and keep in our hearts what her God-man Son says, and does.  To me, this memory from Dr. Luke also underscores why I love and treasure her so.  She too was fully and really human, no plaster-cast Santa, but a human subject to the same fears and frettings associated with a perceived loss.  But she also possesses a heart's attention which  fixates once again, solidly, on Jesus ... her self-professed Savior.  My attention is more scattered, and unlike hers, outrageously cowardly among men.  But He is my Savior, too, and for this grandness, tonight, I rejoice with her my Lady; dear St. Joseph; all my brethren; and all the hosts of Heaven.  Gloria in Excelsis!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Farewell, Salutation.


Of course, the Salutation of the Church's Divine Service is a high point of many stirringly enriching moments, pulsating and surging with meaning and ... dare I say it ... thrillingly tense drama, too (peruse the picture above; I'll explain below).  It's something grand, something which the riff-raff cacophony of the "praise-band" simply can't match.   The Salutation (which in this posting, is understood to include the laitical Response) shouldn't be treated lightly, or carelessly eliminated from the liturgical flow so as to de-emphasize the tender relationship existing between shepherd and flock.

According to the 1908 "An Explanation of the Common Service"[1; pages 30, 50, 66], the Salutation:

1.  is prayer invoking a Divine blessing, voiced sequentially between the pastor and his congregation, on behalf of the other.
2.  is a shared acknowledgement of God's serving and saving Presence, in the "now" setting of the Divine Service.
3.  was employed by the Medieval Church to "introduce every main part of the Service."  In other words, the Salutation for centuries has ordered the Divine Service, and usefully directs the attention to critical moments of intercession, blessing, grace, and joyful thanksgiving.

According to the Rev. Fr. Burnell Eckardt  [2; pp. 34-35], the Salutation:

1.  is an adaptation of the risen Christ's blessing of peace, lovingly addressed to His crest-fallen followers, cowering in their fearfully "secured" room; and faithfully messaged again by today's ordained ambassador of Christ.  Says Fr. Eckardt, the "pastor is repeating the pattern set by Christ Himself."
2.  is a preparatory maneuver for the heart's hearing of God's Word.  Fr. Eckardt has noted that in the ceremony of the Mass, "these are the first words (the pastor) speaks to the people as pastor."    This is because the Common Service's "Service of Preparation," which includes the General Confession, is in a liturgically technical sense not part of the Mass proper.
3. includes the laity's fervent prayer (i.e., "and with thy spirit") that the Holy Ghost will rest on the pastor, as a ritely and rightly-established bearer of the Spirit's own Holy Office.  This concrete Office entails solemn, serious and significant responsibility; and as Fr. Eckardt stresses in his book, it is a responsibility for which great divine "grace is required."  We add:  Those who think not, and prefer instead to entertain the poor laity with their clever jokes, or conduct sports-polls in the nave, should recall the toasted fate of the nonchalant duo Nadab and Abihu.  As St. Paul solemnly reminds the Corinthians and us, the very angels of God take interest in our chosen behavior, in the course of worshiping their Master.  One presumes they have long memories.

According to Professor Luther Reed [3; pages 262-263], the Salutation:

1.  is "a form of greeting" capturing the reality of the Hebrew expression Emmanuel ("God with us").  God is here, now, in the Mass.  Does your mind and body's behavior attend to and reflect this remarkable Truth?
2.  takes origin from several Old and New Testament pronouncements (e.g., Ruth 2:4;  Jdg 6:12; Lk 1;28; and, perhaps (sic), the Pauline benedictions (e.g., 2 Th 3:16; 2 Tm 4:22; etc.).
3.  has from the earliest times been constituted "as a significant responsive introduction to new and different parts of the Service."  In other words, the Salutation acts, then and NOW, as a marker of place, phase and progression in the course of God's Service to us.  It reminds us poor laymen:  "Watch!  Be alert!  Is your lamp of faith and wisdom filled, for what lies ahead?"
4.  is, in an extremely powerful sense, a holy and liturgical "endorsement" of the pastor to converse with God, and to indeed speak and act on behalf of the Almighty, to the benefit of the gathered believers.  It is a recollection of the congregational call, and the ecclesial ordination, of the presiding shepherd-servant.  Here, Prof. Reed quotes the French theologian Fernand Cabrol (1906) to splendid effect:  "The people answer 'And with thy spirit' as though commissioning him (the priest) to speak for all."

This ... this is powerful stuff.  The Salutation surely recalls the events occurring at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where at the rightfully quaking Israelites ... caught in the stupendous and over-powering presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy of their fathers ... pleaded with Moses the man, specifically and personally, to entreat the Tri-Personable Transcendent for them (Ex 20:18-21).  Yes, the Israelite Sinai of Law has now become the Lutheran Altar of Grace and Salvation.  Hallelujah!  But God Himself is no less Holy than when He chose to meet with Moses, millennia ago.  God does not change.  He still uses properly chosen and vested ambassadors of Christ.  Christ, the Incarnate LORD ... "like unto [Moses]," but immeasurably greater ... urges His sheep:  "Unto these My men, you shall hearken."   Pray for these My men, all ye saints.   Pray that the Spirit will descend on and enliven their spirits, so as to speak (and administer) the Truth which leads to salvation.  Pray, pray without ceasing.

And this we do, in the Salutation.

By the way, the beautiful distinction ... and responsibilities ... inherent in the orthodox Salutation is utterly lost with the Romish conciliar-inspired travesty of a Responsory i.e., "and also with you."  It's polite enough.  But a more complete leveling of shepherd and flock cannot be conceived by human gray matter, although experience teaches it's best not to under-estimate the fallen neuron's ability for conceiving additional mischief.   Through language and cognitive changes of our times, the Salutation has become less of a renewing, or recollection of Godly commissioning and ordination, than a time-consuming and potentially disposable exchange of pleasantries.  This is no small threat.   Be aware that doing the wave in the nave/"auditorium" is far more in tune with the prevailing religious sensitivities of America's true place of worship (the Super Bowl).  As evidence supporting the contentions here, consider this sorry circumstance existing among the "conservative" Lutherans.

In 1941's The Lutheran Hymnal, the Salutation occurs in three places within the "Order of the Holy Communion" (p. 15ff).  Firstly, at the Collect of the Day (an extraordinary encounter of God and all His people, where the pastor gathers the prayers of congregation, the entire orthodox Church, and indeed the orthodox Church of all time ... and  relates it to the theme of the liturgical week).  Secondly, at the Preface to the Eucharistic Mass, which precedes the pastor's handling and distributing the very Body and Blood of our Lord.  Lastly, its third occurrence  is found at near the post-Communion Benedicamus and Benediction, in which the human ambassador of Christ calls again on the Trinitarian God.  This, to entreat the LORD to lovingly and protectively send His people off to engage an oft-hostile world, in the abiding Presence and countenance of their Savior.  These are three liturgical encounters of great blessing, and great promise.  They truly merit the introductory convocation of hearts, embedded in the liturgy's Salutation.

Indeed, in some gatherings of the saints, like that routinely found at Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church (Detroit), the Ordo used allows for even more Salutations to be expressed, as occurs prior to the reading of the Scriptural Lessons of the day, and at the Post-Communion Collect.     

Inside the pages of the WELS' Christian Worship (1993), in contrast, its self-described "version" of the Common Service has stripped the Salutation from the closing Benediction.   Moreover, within the synod-endorsed alternative to its "Common Service" (viz., the "Service of Word and Sacrament," p. 26), the empowering Salutation has been stripped away from the Prayer of the Day (i.e., principle Collect),  and thence diverted to the commencing Service of Preparation, at the very start of things.  Here, the WELS' neighborly Greeting (sic) is exchanged between pastor and laity, coming at the expense of the august and abandoned Invocation of the TLH (and the ancient Western Rite, more generally, and even the WELS' idiosyncratic version of it, self-designated as "The Common Service").

Since the WELS is in the first stages of formulating a new hymnal for itself, there is no little cause for concern about a further vanishing of the Salutation, among a segment of the Lutheran community (with an established penchant for innovative red-lining of catechism, no less than  hymnal).

But it remains a mystery of group-psychology theorizing as to why the Salutation is treated in such loose fashion by Lutherans.  Maybe there is need, by a small minority, to be regarded as ever-trendy in the busy-busy world around.  Perhaps Dr. Adler was a right; there is a strong drive to flex a threatened self-identity's muscles, in order to seem assertive and to appear competent.  And yes, the WELS too often was type-cast in the role of little brother, for years, in that Synodical Conference which produced TLH.  Now on its own, it's rustling the head-feathers; or arching the back; or wielding the shovel and throwing the stuff found in the sandbox, among the other kids.   It's making a statement, an independent one, although the quality of the sandbox's material can at times raise the eyebrows and the nose.  

Or maybe ... given the high sacred meaning of the Salutation as perceived by Lutherans over one hundred years ago, and Eckhardt and Reed ...  a public exposure of the WELS' limited grasp and appreciation of the concrete Office of Holy Ministry and God's Service (Gottesdienst)  only becomes something inevitable and sorely evident, in its worship pages. "Lex oralis etc.." Verily, though, the endangered status of the Salutation in the Mass is NOT arising from synodical impatience with repetition or inefficiency.  After all, Christian Worship has chosen to introduce periodic refrains into the very midst of the Psalms it provides to be chanted.  Then again, with these intrusive "improvements" to God's Word, comes a simultaneous paring down of the absolute number of David's songs and too often of verse, found in the pews' same bound volumes.

So then, who can fathom these things?  Sometimes the blot of a Rorschach exercise remains only a blot.


Citations

[1]  F.E. Cooper et al. (1906) "An Exploration of the Common Service," United Lutheran Publications House, Philadelphia PA; Reprint: Emmauel Press (2006), Grand Rapids MI  www.emmanuelpress.us

[2]  B.F. Eckardt Jr. (text: 1998-2005) "Why? A Layman's Guide to the Liturgy," Repristination Press, Malone TX

[3]  L.D. Reed (1947)  "The Lutheran Liturgy," Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia PA    




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mysteries of G-d ... (Part 2)


In a stirring conclusion to a letter which was published about 30 years ago [1], Rev. Richard Wurmbrand  of Torrance CA asserted the following:  "The Jewish people believed from the beginning the one God to be a Trinity. ... It is the Christian Church and not what is called Judaism now, which perpetrates the last religious truth.  Jesus is God."

The assertion is grounded on the revealed Word of God, of course, and certain interpretations of the four letter name of God (YHWH), which Rev. Wurmbrand claimed were "held and transmitted orally since time immemorial."  We cannot hold to "mystical" interpretations as being inspired or canonical, to be sure; but they are interesting, indeed useful, when and where they are stringently normed against the standard of God's Word, and are presented in that light.   Rev. Wurmbrand wrote, "When Jesus commanded to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, He appealed to an article of faith generally admitted in Israel.  So also the prophets before Him.  They did not have to explain themselves.  The teaching about the Trinity belonged to the primordial revelation, before the writing of the first book of the Bible."  Thus, St. Ambrose spoke rightly when he commented on Genesis 18, which details the mysterious appearance of three visitors to Abraham.  But the three were One, who spoke to the patriarch.  St. Ambrose observed:  "Abraham saw three.  He adored One."  Rev. Wurmbrand notes that Abraham "was not astonished to see the One as three."  Indeed.

1.  On Genesis 1

In its very beginning, Genesis reads in the old Hebrew tongue this way: "Be-Reshit bara Elohim et h-shamaim ve-et ha-aretz."   According to Wurmbrand, ancient Hebrews preferred letters as convenient "stand-ins" for numerals.  Thus "be[th]," the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, represents "2;" from time to time it can mean "through," as well as "in" ... which has Christian creedal implications.  The word Reshit , of singular tense, is a term referring to divine "Principle, or "Wisdom" according to some rabbinical commentaries.

Of no little interest to the Christian is its prefix "2."  In olden days, Psalms and entire books were known by the first few passages of their communication; we see this custom retained, in such liturgical devices as the "Gloria  Patri," the "Kyrie," and the "Gloria in Excelsis," as well as the Latin identifiers of the Psalms themselves (cf. The Lutheran Hymnal , p. 123-157).  Be-Reshit is the opening expression of the Bible.  And so it happens, fittingly, that the very Word (or Wisdom) sallies forth and introduces the entirety of God's Word.   Christ, the Incarnate Word, is indeed the first fruits of all that is good; the one thing needful, upon which Mary of Bethany fixed her rapt attention!  The Christian's Holy Bible could be named "Christ (of Two Natures)," as accurately as the 117the Psalm is known as Laudate Dominum.

In this regard, Wurmbrand rightly argued that Be-Reshit captured the "high mystery" enclosed in the name Jehovah, as did certain rabbinical commentators; and that a much preferred and literal English rendering of Gen 1:1 would be along the lines of  "Through the Divine Wisdom, which has two natures, the Godhead (of composite Persons) created the heavens and the earth."  Thus proclaimed, the verse not only elaborates the truth of the Trinity, through the use of the plural form of God (Elohim), but also testifies to the two Persons of our Lord (one hidden ... His Divinity; and the other, revealed ... revealed in the Garden, that the promised Messiah would come in the flesh, the Seed of a Woman as promised to Eve).  How glorious!

 2.  The Name of God
According to Rev. Wurmbrand, some "primordial" Jewish sources perceived the name of YHWH in this way:  "Y" is the Generating Principle, which gives birth to all; the "H" is "Word."  The latter is repeated at the end of the Name, to emphasize emphatically that the Word possesses two natures.  "W" denotes "waw," symbolizing the Hebrew conjunctive expression for  "and."  It is produced, or "proceeds" from the "Y" (Father) and the "H" (Son); or at least so some circles of ancient Hebrew maintained.   The "W" (in text, and in Being) acts functionally to bind together; it corresponds to the Holy Ghost, Whose divine attributes include concord and loving connection.

I can't resist the puckish observation that this YHWH interpretation seems to settle comfortably on the Western side of the great "Filioque" Controversy, but holding to the Latin Rite as I do, I'll admit to some entrenched biases.

3.  The Shema of Israel

In Deuteronomy 6:4, "One" was expressed in the Hebraic language as echad, and NOT iachid.  The difference is of monumental importance. The ancient Hebrews clearly recognized the difference between a single something of "composed" unity, and that of an "absolute" unity.  The atom of physical chemistry (and Democrites) is one, but more precisely an echad made up of elementary particles (protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.).  The Muslim of yesteryear and today sees his god as being an absolute unity, or iachid.  Not so the Christian, nor the patriarchal Jew of old.  In Genesis, two humans (male and female) were made to be one flesh ... an echad.  Likewise, the day of Gen 1:4 is a composed unity of  evening and morning ... one day, an echad.  As Rev. Wurmbrand noted,  God is One, but He too is linguistically designated in His Word as an echad ... thus putting a lie to all so-called world "religions," which preach for wisdom the delusional guesses and hapless approximations of mankind.

The great Shema ... according to Rev. Wurmbrand ... is best portrayed and accurately rendered this way:  "Listen Israel: YHWH Eloheinu are YHWH of composed Unity."  There are no accidents to be found in God's Word.   God's Name is repeated three times.  Echad is used in the ancient texts to evoke the One, and I'm afraid that Maimonides, a physician-scholar-theologian, did the Jewish people no eternal service by favoring the translational rendering of iachid, as a Muslim would.

An obvious and immediate implication is that Islam's Allah is not the revealed God of the Old Testament.  Politicians who think and claim that they are, do so for the base purpose of pandering for votes and achieving a false, earthly national unity (echad).  But they, and sadly some Christian voices, are wrong, in terms of basic doctrine and philological analysis, and need to heed the serious warning of Ps 2:10-12.    JESUS IS GOD.  To assert that God is an iachid, is to deny our Rock and our Redeemer, and to deny our Father as well.  The Father was Father of Jesus Christ, before time and we human beings were on the scene!

Another implication is that high-priest Caiaphas did not reject the concept of the Son of God ("H"), or the Angel of the Lord, who was acknowledged and worshiped as God repeatedly in the Old Testament.  Instead, his furor and his showy robe-ripping was prompted by a refusal to see the smitten and bound Jesus from Galilee, "a respecter of no man," as being the kind of Son of God he desired ... and imagined.  St. Isaiah, centuries before, knew better.

Citation
[1] R. Wurmbrand : The Kabbala, the Trinity, and the Two Natures of Christ; The Christian News, 16 May, 1983; p. 13      

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lutheran Theotokos: The Way We Were


Perhaps a few comments are in order,  concerning the profound archeological discovery put on display above.

1.  Both the Holy Child and His blessed Virgin Mother grace the cover of this hardcover book (218 pages, including four 4-colored maps, pronunciation guide and a glossary).  It contains 50 Old Testament and 50 New Testament accounts.  One reasonable guess for the selection of the cover's illustration is that the book is purported to be "practical for extra-school purposes, such as Sunday school and home instructions, summer schools, Saturday schools, and the like," i.e., edifying for the education of youth.  "Extra-school?" you say; "Why, that sounds just like the mouthings of a primly parochial intra-school[marm] sister, one wearing a wimple and flailing her wrist with an ominously attached ruler!"  Indeed,  the text is truly meaty, like the cover portrait, and not infantilized or driven to entertaining.  The Virgin is not portrayed as some veiled cucumber, clutching  a diapered Oscar the Grouch to her breast; while the Bible Stories narratives are secured entirely from an authorized translation of Holy Writ.  And a pertinent and reinforcing Scriptural passage from elsewhere in the Bible, and a short phrase or two from a catechism, accompany the holy text so as to "convey points of the story."  

2.  Our Lady, cloaked in white and blue, views her audience fixedly but with great calm and solemn serenity.  Most noticeably, her forefinger is extended and gesticulates towards her Child, Lord and Savior ... and insistently directs our attention to Him, and not to herself.  The emphasis of the cover is pointedly Christological, not zoological.

3.  The cover motif means that, for the children to whom this book is purposed, the thoughts of Child and Mary, and the wonder of God-in-the-flesh, are not simply relegated to a crèche at Christmass (the spelling is fully intentional).

4.  If you guessed that the authorized version referred to above is the Vulgate or the Douay, you would be wrong.  If you guessed that the catechism referred to above flaunts a Vatican imprimatur, you would be wrong.  But this being 2014 A+D, and given the power of protestant inroads over the years, we understand your confusion.  You probably also guess that Professor Pieper was subject to too many Lewy body inclusions of frontal lobe neurons, when he declared in his Christian Dogmatics that Semper virgo is the default orthodox position, of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.  You would be dead wrong.



Surprise.  The publisher of the book is not Ignatius Press.  Here we have  the frontispiece of that book with the cover just discussed previously.  Unfortunately, no human editor or even a copyright is identified therein; although given the textual content of the book, the Author responsible for its bulk can be confidently identified as God.  I cannot hazard the date of publication, although this book has undergone four printings.  The text is the unvarnished Authorized Version.  The short catechetical reminders are lifted directly from the pages of Luther's Small Catechism.

In the copy in my possession, there is a penciled inscription on the inside front cover reading "Miss Tekla Loeber," which is the maiden name of my mother-in-law.  Mrs. Otte is a direct descendant of Rev. Fr. G. H. Loeber, one of the young pastors who came to Missouri with the Saxon immigration.  She is well over 95 years of age.   This suggests that the book is quite old, arising from a different time, and perhaps from a different spirit.


This startling archeological find will likely carbon-date to 2003 (p <0.001).  It has a hardcover format (which makes it very old, indeed) and consists of all of 64 pages.   It contains, we are assured by its St. Louis book-purveyor, thirty-five "well-known" Bible stories (18 Old Testament and 17 New Testament) by (sic)  Leena Lane.  The animals on the cover look warm, extroverted, docile and fuzzy, but appear unpaired to my trained physiologist's eye, at least to a first approximation, so the absence of an Ark is understandable.  Mary -- a spunky woman prefigured by yet another Ark (i.e., one containing life-giving manna; a budding-growth surging from a barren rod; and the Word breaking forth from rock, unhewn by man's hands) -- is not seen though; true too, of any manger.   But that comet in the sky sure looks like it could pass for David's Star, and maybe this is an artistic interpretation of Bethlehem by night, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  With a few delightful additions, of course.  These are to meet the 21st century's insistence that the instillation of fear and love of God,  in the hearts of His Kingdom's children, requires froth and whimsy.  So that the kids might predictably chant (responsively), to their Bible and their Babar alike:  "Good night moon!  Pack it in pachyderm!"


This is Russian artist Vassily Polenov's remarkable rendition of home-town school life in Nazareth, entitled "Was Filled with Wisdom."  Here the little Lord Jesus, by Whom all things were made,  is studiously attending to His Father's business (and growing in knowledge about Himself, the Word) ... even if there are no warm, extroverted, docile and fuzzy animals on the cover.

It's Official: The Home-Land of Cranmer's "Book of Common Prayer" Is Pagan

 
 
The results of the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study were recently published in the very august, peer-reviewed British Journal of Psychiatry; and they suggest that if Mr. Stanley were hunting for the tirelessly devout missionary Dr. David Livingstone today, he could do far worse than to begin his search at Trafalgar Square, rather than the vicinity of the Congo River.

The NPMS is noteworthy for being the first general population survey in England to include questions which probe an individual's religious and spiritual beliefs.  The survey's data (collected between October 2006 and December 2007) were weighed to account for potential selection and non-response biases, and are considered to be reliably representative of the English household population, age 16 years and older.  The following definitions were employed by the investigators, to establish categories of interest:  "By religion, we mean the actual practice of a faith, e.g., going to a temple, mosque, church or synagogue.  Some people do not follow a religion but do have spiritual beliefs or experiences.  Some people make sense of there lives without any religious or spiritual beliefs.  Would you say you have a religious or spiritual understanding of your life?"   If participants adhered to a specific religion, they were asked to name it.  If religious or spiritual, they were presented with two separate, self-assessment sliding scales to measure the intensity of claimed belief and the importance of its practice.  Those who identified themselves as "religious" were also asked to quantify the frequency of attendance at "services, prayer meetings, and places of worship."

As the authors of the report state, the data indicate that the expression of the Christian faith in the country of Wilberforce, Auden, Eliot, Waugh, Tolkien and Charles "Chinese" Gordon is unquestionably a "minority activity."   While 53% of the participants lay claim to at least a nominal religious affiliation (86% of these were Christian), only about one-third (35%) of the entire sample had a "religious understanding of life."   The remaining sixty-five percent were non-religious.  Those who considered themselves "spiritual" in orientation, but spurning religious rites and practices, constituted 19% of merrie auld England.  The largest group -- indeed nearly half of the sample in toto (46%) -- saw no practical value to religion or spirituality whatsoever.

Of  interest, the "purely spiritual" were more inclined to suffer from eating disorders (including anorexia nervosa and bulimia), anxiety disorders and neuroticism, than the religious.   People with no religious or spiritual understanding were least likely, of the three groups, to be taking psychotropic medication; with the most likely of the groups, being the ethereal anti-Incarnational "spiritual." This tendency correlates to an extent with the relative prevalence of mental disorder, among the groups. Speaking of which, the likelihood of mental disorder in the "non-religious and non-spiritual," was statistically no different from that of the "religious," for the most part.  The one exception was uncovered in the area of substance abuse; here, the incidence of seeking solace in bottle or syringe is considerably more common in those rejecting religion.  In the latter, "Hate the Prozac, love the Smithwick's" seems to be a dominating motivation.  But again, the "spiritual" attitude significantly correlated the strongest with a history of any (ilicit) drug exposure, and drug dependency as well.  So "I would that ye be hot or cold, rather than lukewarm" finds a validation in the mental ward.  Psychoticism was consistently less prevalent among the religious than in the other two categories, but the trend did not attain a statistical significance.   No inter-group differences existed with respect to clinical depression.

This last result is unexpected, I think, but the authors offer a passing speculation that the increasingly entrenched and worsening "minority status" of the religious, inside England, may be weakening the "social support" fabric's ability to counteract despair.   There are some indications ... these are cursorily reviewed in the NPMS paper ... that within the United States, at this moment, a different outcome prevails.  The USA is generally thought to be more "God-oriented" than the UK; but let the English experience stand as a warning.  As Luther noted, the nourishing Gospel rains can migrate, as God wills and as people reject, and should not be taken for granted.

Citation

M. King et al. :  Religion, spiritually and mental health: results from a national study of English households.  B J Psych 202:68-73, 2013

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Never Without Water


Tertullian writes [2],

"Christ was never without water.  He Himself was baptized with water; when invited to a marriage He inaugurates the exercise of His power with water; when talking He invites the thirsty to partake of His own everlasting water; when teaching about charity He approves among the works of love the offering of a cup of water to a neighbor; He refreshes his strength at a well-side;  He walks on water; He crosses it at will; He uses water to do an act of service to His disciples.  This witness to Baptism continues right up to the Passion.  When He is handed over to the cross, water plays a part (witness Pilate's hands); and when He is pierced, water gushes out from His side (witness the soldier's spear) ..."

The Holy Ghost was never without water, either, as God is One-in-Three, and in Lord Jesus the fullness of the Godhead dwells.   In the beginning of our coming to be, the Word informs us,  "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen 1:2).   The Holy Ghost did so again, in the beginning of a ministry which sought after our coming Home, when the Face of the Father was baptized and the Transcendent Deep uttered "Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I AM well pleased"  (Lk 3:22).

You see, with the hovering of the Holy Ghost on the water, and especially on the Water of Life, the Father of that Water too can never be far away.   Under theses circumstances, the Father cannot help but "intrude" and predictably glory in, and immediately brag about, His beloved Son ...  whether calling Him "Light" (Gen 1:3), or calling Him "well-pleasing," or calling Him "Good" (Gen 1:4).

This is the nature of the Trinity, and the faithful Jew of yore knew this in his heart.  The worshipful Abraham was not shocked, befuddled or perplexed by the Presence of God, standing before him as Tri-unity.

Christ the God-man is never apart from water. It cannot be otherwise.  Water is a means by which God, again and again, chooses to relate to humanity.  This is the nature of the Incarnation.  For while man is derived from the stuff of the earth, he is also no less than 60% water by weight [1].

Citations

1.  VR Lingappa & K Farey, Physiological Medicine, p. 459, McGraw-Hill Co., Inc., New York (NY), 2000
2.  RL Wilkins, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, p. 40-41, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 2003

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Open Wide ... (Part 4)

   
Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
I planted, -- they have torn me  --  and bleed;
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
                                           ~  Lord Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

"It is not clear what methods modern psychiatry has for dealing with real guilt."
                                           ~ Dr. O. Hobart Mowrer, "The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion"


The reader will recall the argument of Mowrer, a past president of the American Psychological Association (1954), that disorders of anxiety and mood arise from unacknowledged moral failings, which injure others and estrange the self's relationships to such.  The aim of psychotherapy, in his view, was to release or free the patient's conscience (Mowrer, p. 27), by facilitating an unbounded acceptance and admission of a heretofore publicly hidden (if not actively repressed) responsibility for the interpersonal rupture.  The anticipated result would be a gratifying, indeed grace-full, relief of the conscience and peace for the mind.   Interestingly, Mowrer was openly not adverse to the use of the word "sin," to describe the process of injury to either man or God (Mowrer, p. 48).   But he firmly rejected the insistence of Freud's disciples that a punitively harsh "super-ego"  ... a supposed derivative "structure" of the mind, introjected from and shaped by the external mandates of the (frequently) harsh parent and irrational society  ... was the root cause of neurosis and its crippling sense of a "false" or unnecessary guilt.  He also rejected any conclusion that this particular "structural" artifice somehow had to be made less rigid and less confining, in deference to the instinctual drives of survival which seek sexual and aggressive satisfaction.

Mowrer maintained that the prevailing Freudian stance (of his time) "in essence, holds that anxiety comes from evil wishes, from acts the individual would commit if he dared (Mowrer, p. 26)."  Today's insurance-favored cognitive-behavioral (CBT) and rational-emotive (RET) therapies, with their shared emphasis on problematic "core beliefs" and "automatic thoughts," are in reality not too far afield from classical psychodynamic theory, although being further dressed up with the finery of Stoic philosophy.   Mowrer's alternative scheme was that anxiety emerges from acts which the patient has committed, but wishes he had not.  Mowrer's proposal was a "guilt theory" of anxiety, rather than an "impulse theory."

Mowrer saw potential danger lurking in the Freudian metapsychology, in that impulses could be excused and condoned  in association with a loosening or even dismissal of group standards, especially in times where societal bonds come to weaken in their force.   Blame for the internal misery of the neurotic (or even the psychopath) could conveniently be externalized and the finger-pointing shifted.   Now, the patient could be seen as an innocent and helpless victim ... not of his own sin (if any such thing were recognized), but of the "sins of the fathers"  and patriarchal foofram.  Ann Russell's "Psychiatric Folksong," cited too by Mowrer (p. 49), prophetically sums up an entire age (one extending to our own) deliciously well:

At three I had a feeling of 
Ambivalence toward my brothers,
And so it follows naturally
I poisoned all my lovers.
But now I'm happy; I have learned
The lesson this has taught;
That everything I do that's wrong
Is someone else's fault.

It is left as an exercise for the good reader, to supply the appropriate "Selah."

As one might expect from the title of his book, Mowrer does not let the Church, especially its protestant manifestations, off the hook.  He theorized that the ministry to the Thessalonian creature composed of body, mind and spirit (1 Th 5:23) has been progressively enfeebled, by a "cheap grace" which de-emphasizes or completely avoids lancing the abscesses of anxiogenic sin (through specific and personalized confession of a named iniquity).

Examination of Roman Catholic and Evangelical Catholic practice in this regard (the Jesuits are on notice that the latter term refers to, well, to us ... the adherents of Augustana), and the benefits of such practice, will be reserved for a future post.  For now, we turn the eye on a still relevant case once formally presented years ago by Dr. Anton Theophilus Boisen, a hospital chaplain and clinical psychologist sympathetic to Mowrer's postulates, with whom he corresponded from time to time.               

Case summary (paraphrased and expanded from Boisen, 1958):
A thirty-eight year old man presented to the hospital in a severely agitated condition.  He maintained that he had committed "the unpardonable sin," and that "something was going to happen" to his wife and children.  He accordingly was exasperatingly adamant in his refusal to let them out of his sight.  He was certain that a world war was imminent, and when asked as to what role he was to play, if any, in this calamity, he replied with a fervent if not-so-cryptic conviction that "A little child will lead them."

What had triggered this paranoid and delusionally grandiose state of anxiety?     

The patient's record of  life, to this point,  was that of a well-meaning and conspicuously affable individual who had been sexually promiscuous both before and after marriage.  What seemed to trouble him most was an affair with a woman some ten years his senior.  She had undergone two abortions, which he had urged on her.  She had recently died of carcinoma, for which he also believed he held direct responsibility, in some way.  His emotional distress had taken root shortly after his lover's death.

The first disabling symptom to emerge was a resort to heavy drinking, which culminated in a loss of employment.   Following this setback, he somehow successfully managed to abstain from alcohol, but had unfortunately become increasingly depressed.  Now he began to agonize that his fraternal society, the Odd Fellows, was relentlessly "out to get him" because he had violated the lodge's solemn oath of civilitude.   This persecutory obsession became increasingly entrenched over the succeeding months; and eventually he sought a permit to carry a handgun, in order to thwart the murderous intent of his foes.   Finally, in great despair and panic, he felt compelled to confess to his wife his history of sexual transgressions.  This he did.

She responded with a generous and forgiving charity, but this did not alleviate his agitated fretting about her fate ...and the world's ... which things he was personally shouldering to extremis.  As mentioned earlier, he agreed to seek professional care and was admitted to an in-patient psychiatric facility.  His initial hospital course was noteworthy for the continuing marked intensity of anxiety, signs of de-realization, and a "deeply aroused religiosity."  By the end of approximately 2 months, however, he had achieved what physicians considered to be "an excellent recovery."   Dr. Boisen reported that there had been no comparable symptomatic relapse in the thirty years which followed this crisis; indeed, the gentleman was described as being "at present a successful contractor  and his family is happy and prosperous."

Observations of Boisen:
Boisen sees the "little child" of the patient's narrative as being "obviously" self-referential; the patient alone has provoked an inner war by his behavior, one with devastating and global consequences for his very constitution.  Boisen makes a further aside that his troubled patient's lover was "clearly a mother substitute."

A good deal of somewhat puzzled attention is paid to the post-confessional agitation of the patient, the intensity of which necessitated a locked-ward confinement.   Why was he not calmed and emotionally "cured" by a sharing of his transgression, with a remarkably sympathetic and forgiving ear?  Boisen argues (cited by Mowrer, p. 99) that the confession surely "brought about a certain socialization" to the patient.  But this restoration of healthy relationship and community was predicated on the discarding of "pretense and hypocrisy and put the suffer in position to be accepted for what he really was."  This is no easy task to achieve, this degree of psychological nudity; and it's one requiring a considerable store of psychic energy, mused Boisen. Such exhausting emotional turbulence, once stirred, could hardly be expected to subside immediately (especially in an everyday-setting) and required specialized care to tame.         

Observations of Mowrer:
Mowrer finds Boisen's analysis to be "eminently reasonable."  We won't belabor this point, to which we agree in good part.   Mowrer's genius goes on to insist that the hospitalization, however, was ... and this is startling in its implications ... "dynamically necessitated by the confession (Mowrer, p. 99) ."   He suggests that most human beings who have been ensnared in situations like that of Boisen's patient, feel uneasy with their emotional ledgers until "every last farthing is paid;" or rather, as Mowrer puts it, he or she has "taken her medicine and paid for ... past misdeeds."  This is on the order of common sense.  In legal circles of the Left Kingdom, the confessed murderer is not patted on the head, praised for taking a bold step in front of a jury of his peers, and released.  Instead, he serves his time and pays his debt to society (however that is determined), which may entail the surrendering of his life.   Mowrer makes an arresting aside, to the effect that we may not be perceiving the real function of the psychiatric ward ... that it may serve as a kind of expiation!

Comments of this writer:
1.  Some of Dr. Boisen's take is a necessary, professional bow to the Freudian interpretations dominating the '30's.   The patient's "little child" remark is less the disclosure of a lost waif, seeking a mommy of Oedipal fantasy ... a mommy only ten years his senior, by the way ... than a marker of someone likely familiar with conventional religious standards of the Law.  The "unpardonable sin" thing is not the verbiage of the typical worldling.   We are not provided much detail about the patient's childhood development, or his religious affiliation, which is unfortunate.  Perhaps the patient in crisis readily sees his promiscuity as infantile and ultimately unsatisfying and aimless and "leading to destruction"; or perhaps he does have a mother-fixation.  Who knows.  The apparent absence of any resort to clerical intervention, by what seems to be a religiously-versed fellow, is interesting; and, dare I say it, tragic.  It may have been a simple narrative omission on Boisen's part; but based on Boisen's vocational interests and his intense attitude, this possibility is not convincing.

2.   The insights of Dr. Mowrer are intriguing, and may help explain the repetitive pilfering of Dr. Meehl's adolescent girl (see part 3 of this series).  It seems she was not held to any significant restitution for her acts, certainly nothing comparable to that of, say, the forgiven tax collector Zaccheus.   The fascinating history of formal penance within the early Church has been examined by Lutheran theologian Werner Elert, in his Eucharistic studies.  While not consistent with the fresh breeze of Gospel forgiveness from the hands of God the merciful, penitential ritual appeared to have served a necessary juridical function, at a time when barbarian inroads had devastated civic authority, especially in the West of the fourth and fifth centuries (and beyond).  In the somewhat more secure East, it was deemed as a safeguard to the holiness of the communal Sacrament, culling away the "less sincere" and stubbornly impenitent from the altar; as being usefully instructive as to the seriousness of sin; and as "concern for inner healing (Heilung);" cf. for example Elert, p. 99.   This, in a sense, brings us full circle to Mowrer's cure ... if not for achieving the forgiveness of sins, and the attaining of life and salvation ... then for alleviating the agony of a "real guilt" neurosis.

3.  Whatever the merits of conceiving the "psych-ward" as means of penance, it is curious that both Boisen and Mowrer (no strangers, less enemies, to religion) address only the patient's "horizontal-axis" of confessional reconciliation; and that, with his wife alone.  The patient's anxious feelings engendered by the realities of two aborted children, and a deceased lover, are not in any way explicitly assuaged, unless such burdens were addressed and ameliorated in the course of a lengthy hospital stay. We are not directly informed about this, and in any event, those no longer living were not themselves witnesses to the patient's change of heart and subsequent recovery.  But the feelings of the patient  along these lines were certainly searing enough, to the point of a conviction that he was responsible for a carcinoma.  The "vertical-axis" of a confessional reconciliation with God would be of prime importance here, one thinks; one cannot help but recall the Davidic testimony of Ps 51:4  "Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment."  Given this abiding truth, the role of God's ordained representative, and his absolving role, is difficult to ignore.  But it was, in Mowrer's recapitulation of events.

4.  These days, in modern America,  a two-month or more stay in a psychiatric facility is exceedingly uncommon, even in instances of diagnosed psychotic anxio-depression.  I'm not convinced that this can be completely ascribed to the wonders and efficacy of contemporary medicines; economic pressures to "move things along" are that strong.  But this situation makes a return to that sacramental practice which the Lutheran fathers claimed was routine and not in any way abandoned by their parishes (AC XXV.1-5), all the more to be encouraged among us, in full service to the troubled neighbor.
               
Citations
Boisen A.T. :  Religious experience and psychological conflict.  Amer Psychol 13:568-570, 1958
Elert W. (trans. by N.E. Nagle) : "Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries," Chap. 8 (Church Discipline and the Lord's Supper), Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis (MO), 1966; paperback
Mowrer O.H. : "The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion," D. van Nostrand Co., Inc.,  Princeton (NJ), 1961; paperback

Nota bene:  The painting above illustrates the great 19th century French neuropsychiatrist Charcot at work, demonstrating to young physicians a clinical example of "conversion disorder."   As the DSM-IV emphasizes, the existence of the presenting motor or sensory deficits of the disorder invariably do not conform to known anatomical pathways or physiological functions.  But malingering is not an issue, here; the unfortunate sufferer is not "faking it." Traditionally, in psychiatry, the somatic symptoms were ascribed to a symbolic resolution of unconscious psychologic conflicts, often of a sexual character, and which solution served to keep the conflict out of awareness.

Next:  Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, yes! But can the Sacrament of Absolution ("Private Confession") secondarily influence mental health in a positive way? --   Roman Catholic conniptions, and Lutheran lassitude cloud things.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Breathless ...( Part 2)

 
The Holy Meal at Emmaus, as dramatically interpreted by Caravaggio. If Herr Doktor is correct, the transcriptionist of this extraordinary event -- Dr. Luke, alone -- is also raising 'is 'ANDS!
 

In Part One of this discussion, I suggested that the stylistic use of the conjunction "AND," by the blessed Evangels, might serve to conveniently communicate an intensified state of excitement or anxiety.  For example, "AND's" are very prominent in the Authorized English Translation of Mark's Gospel. the shortest of the four Gospels.  This is in keeping, perhaps, with the circumstances of its composition.  Tradition holds that it was dictated to St. Mark by St. Peter.  St. Peter is portrayed by all accounts as frequently impulsive in his extroverted leading role amongst his fellow compatriots, and living life through his emotions in a truly moved, hurly-burly, and quite open fashion.  Through the literary resort to a high incidence of AND's, this "Petrine personality" bleeds through the Gospel pages.  The Gospel is dignified and salutary, yet possesses a vaguely "rushed" and condensed quality.  It is a "breathlessly" conveyed narrative, its sentences tumbling over one another and skipping about like lambs, although not incoherently so.  Could its earthly instrument be facing an imminent demise of some sort?  Conceivably, I think, but the chosen instrument also wishes to stubbornly pronounce all the main facts about Christ's life to his amanuensis; to get it done as completely as possible, come what may ... be the end fire, saw, suffocation, or sword ...  or cross. 
 
As noted previously, "AND's" also are prominent in Luke's highly literate text, if comparatively less so than in Mark's.   Luke's mastery of the Greek language, in terms of variety and complexity, exceeds that of the other three Gospel evangelists, consistent with the presumed idiosyncracies and status of its author.
 
In the description of the Emmaus "incident" ... unique to Luke ... the use of "AND's" increases beyond what is normally encountered in the whole of the "beloved physician's" account.  The Emmaus history, involving a journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus and thence back to Jerusalem (in a rush), encompasses 23 Scriptural verses (Lk 24:13-35; AV); in these, some 22 "AND's" are located.   Most interestingly, the frequency of  Luke's "AND's" increases  (if slightly) in the mouth(s) of the two travelers.  Their description of the events and aftermath of Jesus' crucifixion ... unwittingly reported to the risen Master Himself ... spans six passages (Lk 24: 19-24).  No fewer than six "AND's" grace these verses.  Recall that chapter 24, in its entirety, consists of 49 verses, harboring 43 "AND's."

It would seem, from his literary devices, that Luke is quite taken with and personally touched by the Emmaus episode (which memorably serves to make Jesus known to His disciples "through the breaking of bread," in v. 35) ... but certainly no more moved than those who actually participated in the encounter, in their flesh and with their senses, i.e., Cleopas and his unnamed companion (could it have been Luke, himself?).  The "AND's," I say, are a natural and uncontainable expression, of the joy and peace which is associated with seeing God's salvation.
 

Peter's Denial, by C.H. Bloch (Denmark)
 
"AND's" are notably conspicuous in the descriptions of Peter's Denial, which is recounted in all four Gospels.  This event is certainly imbued with suspenseful and affective power, a stirring story of a great but very human man's boasts of his unwavering fidelity, his subsequent crushing fall, and his grieving repentance.  Obviously it gripped and had special meaning for the early Church ... subject as it was to intense persecutory and dogmatic challenges from without and within.  One might well expect Peter's pulse to have leapt no little amount, too, as he recounted the heart-wrenching story to Mark ... perhaps more so, than any other individual relating the Passion story in all its remembered (and inspired) details.  This is born out with examination of the Scriptures, and with the speculative assumption that the frequency of "AND's" may truly speak on behalf of, as Poe might put it, a "tell-tale heart :"
 
St. Matthew's account (Mt 26:58, 69-75) ... 8 verses, 6 "AND's"  
St. Mark's account (Mk 14:66-72) ... 7 verses, 11 "AND's" 
St. Luke's account (Lk 22:54-62) ... 9 verses, 11 "AND's"
St. John's account (Jn 18:15-18, 25-27) ... 7 verses, 4 "AND's"
 
The difference between Luke's and Mark's respective frequencies may ... very speculatively, mind you ... reflect the difference between a skilled physician's empathic response to a remorseful and nerve-wracking crisis to which he has been allowed to share, vicariously; and that of a hardy and forthright fellow who's actually lived through that ego-shattering experience.   Who's to say?
 
There are no great theological truths to be distilled from this completed little exercise, to be sure.  None. But perhaps it will help to emphasize that the Lord's evangelists are no mere plaster-cast saints, but were and are living men of body, mind and yes, soul ... men who gave their all for Christ. 



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Breathless ... (Part 1)

St. Peter Dictating the Gospel to St. Mark.  Part of the Ivories of the So-Called Grado Chair,
c. 440-670 A+D.  Collection of the Albert and Victoria Museum, London
  
A state of mood is often betrayed less by the words expressed, than the manner in which such symbols are communicated.  Sometimes otherwise quiescent body parts speak more eloquently than the tongue, lips and vocal cords, as to the mind's shipwreck.  The facial blush, the bouncing legs, the averted glance, the wringing hands, the furrowed brow, the clenched fists, the hunched posture ... all these have a story to relate.  The tell-tale and tell-all body, when suffering, is not easily put off or cloaked by its spoken assurances of "normalcy."

This is not to say that speech cannot reveal, or betray, the psyche through its own nimble mannerisms.  St. Peter once resorted to violently unseemly protestations, in a chilly Judean courtyard at springtime, presumably so as to better emphasize a much-prized point of personal "innocence."  More likely, the audience to such effort concluded from its fervor, that Peter's accusatory little maiden was zeroing in on a sore spot, with deadly accuracy.

But it's true.  Folks under stress, or under threat, or who are reliving highly invested and meaningful moments of their lives, tend to speak more loudly, more rapidly and in a noticeably more "pressured" kind of cadence.  It's difficult for the listener to get a word in edgewise.  Remember those sentence diagrams from grammar school, long ago?  Yes, all right, all right -- I agree that they bore an uncanny resemblance to the primitive predecessor to Pat Sajak and Vanna White's syndicated spinner-game (i.e., "hangman") -- but that's really not the point here, dear reader.  On the occasions under discussion, we assert that sentence structure often becomes increasingly interminable and clumsy yet tightly linked, like conjunctively colliding express trains.

Can such a pattern be seen in the inspired Gospels, perhaps reflecting the personality quirks and individual circumstances of those holy men who were the instruments by which the Holy Ghost brought us to our Savior?  I believe a compelling argument can be made that such pattern exists.

Consider St. Peter, as portrayed to his very core, in Scripture.  This fellow is a bundle of impetuously extroverted energy, a chap who wears his emotions quite on his sleeves.

One moment he's stepping over a boat's gunwales to walk towards Christ (during a wild tempest, no less), another moment he's throwing himself over the a boat to boldly swim towards a risen Christ ... and then, soon enough,  he's having a shattering crisis of confidence, when Christ the Victor asks him if he loves his Lord (true enough, it was repetitiously asked three times, which could be unsettling for anyone).  So one moment Peter intensely avers that this love exists; and the very next, when provided with intimations of an upcoming crucifixion with his name fastened on it, he frets that a colleague of  his will get off easy.  One moment Peter declares Christ to be the Son of God, the expected Messiah; the next, he is interrupting the Messiah to inform Him that the eternal plan of salvation is hare-brained.   One moment Peter tells Jesus to forego washing his feet, because it scandalizes him; but seconds upon being informed that the one rejecting the Messiah, as Servant, has no part of His Body, Peter demands something of a carwash for his.  Shortly thereafter, Peter loses his head, so as to cut off another's ear and ...

Pay attention now.  And Peter turns tail and runs off.   And he discovers remnant backbone surviving.  And having done so, he slinks back to the high-priest's courtyard.  And he is thence faced down by a servant girl's challenge.  And others challenge him too. And Peter denies any acquaintance with the Man being tried; and a cock crows repeatedly at his blustering.  And Peter encounters the eyes of his Master.  And he remembers his earlier boasts.  And he is staggered.  And he goes out and weeps.  And Peter does so bitterly.

The Church Fathers are fairly unanimous in vouching that St. Peter dictated the contents of Mark's Gospel to the younger man who eventually, sources say, became bishop of Alexandria and a martyr for Christ.  Perhaps the once boastful Peter felt unworthy to have his name closely attached to an account of the Lord's life, just as he felt unworthy at death's door to assume the posture of His "lifted-up" God.   Poignantly, no doubt,  Mark himself could closely empathize with several of Peter's recollections.  He may have himself run away from Jesus at Gethsemane, for instance.  Certainly, we know that he ran away from Ss. Paul and Barnabus, during the course of some missionary rigors.   But by the grace of God, he eventually became a very valued companion of both the blessed and martyrs-to-be Peter and Paul, near the time of their deaths.  In any event, perhaps the emotional Peter, under the death-sentence of the psychopathic Nero, was mightily pressed for time as he told his account to Mark and sought to get the saving Word out.  This is of course speculative.

But we note this.  The Gospel of St. Mark is comparatively short, punchy, and possesses a breathless quality, one of racing excitement and a rugged, "let's-get-down-to-business" wonder which is distinctly and quantitatively different from the scholarly and detailed approach of Luke, and the rapturously transcendent, contemplative theology of John.

Consider, as evidence, the heart-rending and exceedingly joyous Passion and Resurrection accounts belonging to the respective Gospels, as found in the English-language New Authorized Version (Deuel Enterprises, Inc.,  Gary SD, copyright 1998).  In my reckoning, the accounts begin with the departure from the Upper Room and continue through the first Resurrection Sunday.   Some verses have more than one sentence.

St. Matthew's narrative (chap. 26:36 to 28:15) contains 121 verses.  An "AND" begins a sentence (or an independent clause) on 66 occasions.

St. Luke's narrative (chap. 22:39 to 24:49) contains138 verses.   An "AND" begins a sentence (or an independent clause) on 118 occasions.   The doctor's use of "ANDS" accelerates significantly, as he narrates the Emmaus encounter with the Risen (and communing) Lord Jesus.  In Luke 24:19-24, there are 6 verses, and no less than 6 conspicuous "ANDS" flower them.  Excitement (and burning hearts) abound. 

St. John's narrative (chap. 18 through 20, inclusive) contains 112 verses.  St. John is writing many years after the events he relates to us.  Although he personally experiences the wrenching turmoil associated with exile, he is believed to have died a "natural" death.   An "AND" begins a sentence (or an independent clause) on 40 occasions.  The use is more, shall we say, measured and stately in John's text, if still prominent in display nonetheless.

And in the narrative usually ascribed to Mark?  His topical account, to my estimation, ranges from chap. 14:27 to 16:13.   There are 106 verses, shorter than that of any of the three other Evangelists, in absolute terms, to be sure ... but a provocatively good number indeed, given the overall relative bulk of his Gospel.  In those 106 verses, no less than 99 qualifying "ANDS" are encountered.  That's a bunch.

This situation has a dictating, inspired St. Peter all over it, from the vantage point of circumstances, temperament, and that opinionated information obtained and studiously sifted by the early Church.

Next (Deo volente) in Breathless ... (Part 2):   A closer look at the Gospels' description of Peter's Denial lends further support to the hypothesis.

         

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Open Wide ... (Part 3)

Our Lord's Hands Heal Blindness of All Kinds

In this latest post, a clinical case study first discussed in Dr. Meehl's CPH publication [1] is revisited.  A few comments by this writer are herewith appended; these are in close sympathy with Dr. Mowrer's own earlier estimations [2].

"A young woman confessed that she had broken the Seventh Commandment by pilfering ribbons and socks from a dime store.  She was obviously contrite about the transgression, and the pastor assured her of God's understanding and gracious forgiveness.  In a few weeks she was back in the study to confess that she had stolen again, this time a few cents from her mother's purse.  Again absolution was pronounced.  When, not too many days after this, the girl again came to tears, the pastor began looking more deeply.  Professional help was called in to assist the girl.  Serious deficiencies in her home life were uncovered.   It became apparent that she had unexpressed misgivings whether God had actually forgiven her after her previous confessions.   While she had repented of the sin that she knew, she recognized her inability to straighten herself out; this created internal doubts about her confession.  As these feelings were brought out and she began to understand them, the urge to steal waned -- and the absolution was accepted and believed." [1]

 Observations:

1.  The commentary "Professional help was called in to assist the girl" is particularly telling, as to the existing disheveled state of clerical authority (and confidence) these days ... although that blip about a "dime store," admittedly points to a long-standing chronicity.  Mowrer dryly remarks that if the hypothesis that "moral issues are nuclear to every neurosis" is valid (and he thinks it is), then the real professionals in such matters are, most assuredly, the ordained clergy; and that the general flow of mental health referrals should be more in the direction of secular clinician to the pastor, than in the reverse [2].

2.  A major discovery in the therapy, it seems to me, is the girl's strong conviction of a personal helplessness in arriving at a solution to her personal failings.  That belief is presented, in the case study, as less something formally catechized into her (although that likely happened, but was at best superficially grasped), than a subliminally stabbing "awareness" of a damning concupiscence.   Of note here: Dr. Mowrer, although having a short flirtation with Presbyterianism at one point in his life, was never able to accept the reality of original sin, which he reasoned to be a threat to a full assumption of personal responsibility for misdeeds.   One could speculate that its rejection may have contributed to the ultimate and tragic unhappiness of Dr. Mowrer, himself, in significant part.

3.   This case is exceptional in that, generally speaking, most secular psychotherapy will readily accept that benefits are derivative from following  the Davidic plea "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults" (Ps 19:12) ... but with certain reservations.  It will be treated as a poetical truism, since the unconscious is not hotly disputed, given recent findings in experimental neuroscience.  Secrets indeed there are, most will agree.  However, the capitalization of the "T" will be pooh-poohed; and the existence of "faults" will be summarily dismissed.  Thence, to be substituted for with the "ego defenses," things not necessarily evil in themselves, but rather stuff to be burnished and scrubbed up a bit so as to help the "client" move along.

If this all sounds suspiciously like "car wash psychology" to you, dear reader, then you aren't far from the human-centered kingdom of Carl Rogers.  Which is not that distant from King Friday's tuneful trolley, derived from the cardigan-bedecked Mr. Fred Rogers' brain.    "Oh, it's a wonderful day in the neighborhood, a wonderful day in the neighborhood ... won't you be my analysand?"

Maybe I don't have that quite right.

Sure sounds catchy, though.  Frankly, I (and my wallet) wish I had thought of this, years ago.  But I digress.

4.  Although penance is certainly not overly-emphasized in Lutheran theology and practice (because of a strong reaction to certain medieval abuses and exaggerated cheapenings, some of which continue to this day by the church of Rome), perhaps one might justifiably wonder whether the outcome of the case study could have been hastened through means of appropriate restitution.  "Make dish-washing plans to restore Mom's coppers," or "Sweep the floors of the dime-store dutifully, for a month" ... these things could have provided a measure of healing to the mind and soul.  And they are not foreign to the Christian conscience, in the least:  witness the cheery and Lord-blessed recompensatory act of Zaccheus (Lk 19).

Not so curious, perhaps, is the fact that the name of the great little man means "pure, i.e., he was made just in the presence of God," according to Cruden's Complete Concordance, copyright 1968, p. 803.  And so are we all, very literally, in participating in the rite of Absolution.

Citations:

1.  PE Meehl et al. (1958)   What Then Is Man?, Concordia Publishing House (St. Louis MO), p. 284
2.  OH Mowrer (1961)  The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, D. Van Nostrand Co. (Princeton NJ), p. 197

Next (D.V.):   Dr. Anton Boisen shares an illuminating case from his files.