++++++++++++++++++++God's timing is not our timing, but He is never late.++++++++++++++++++++

Layers - in the knowledge of God and the path to holiness

Learning about God is like unwrapping a head of lettuce, pealing back one leaf at a time. Always there is another leaf below. We will eventually reach the center of the head of lettuce; but we will never unwrap everthing there is to know about God.

The path to holiness is like pealing an onion. God shows us what is sinful and convicts us that we have sinned. No matter how sweet the onion, there are always tears in the peeling. No matter how sweet the grace of repentence, there are always the pain of letting go of the sin. As the peeling of the onion reveals another layer, so God shows us what we lack in holiness, drawing us ever closer to "be(ing) perfect even just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

What I Believe

Why I am and always will be a Catholic. "So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. Tthe living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." John 6:53-58 The words and actions of man cannot sanctify. Only the priest, empowered by his ordination, can invoke the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into Jesus so we can receive Him - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity into our bodies and souls. This is the core of the Catholic Church; without this there is no purpose or meaning to the Catholic Church. There are other ways to holiness, to grow in grace; there is no better way than union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Visitation Catholic Church

Visitation Catholic Church

Thursday, October 31, 2013

From Jewish Passover to Christian Eucharist: The Story of the Todah, byTim Gray

Scholars have often wondered how the practice of Christian Eucharist could have arisen from the Lord’s Supper, which occurred in the context of the Jewish Passover. Since Passover occurs only once a year, how is it that the Christians got the notion that they could celebrate Jesus’ sacrificial meal weekly, if not daily?

The Last Supper
Gustave Dore

The answer is found in the ancient Israelite sacrifice called the todah.
While most people have heard of Old Testament sacrifices such as the holocaust offering or burnt offering, those who have heard of the todah sacrifice are as rare as lotto winners. Today's ignorance concerning the todah, however, should not imply that it was unimportant to the Jews. Far from it. The todah was one of the most significant sacrifices of the Jews.
Indeed, an old Rabbinic teaching says: "In the coming Messianic age all sacrifices will cease, but the thank offering [todah] will never cease."(1) What is it about this sacrifice that makes it stand alone in such a way that it would outlast all other sacrifices after the redemption of the Messiah?
A todah sacrifice would be offered by someone whose life had been delivered from great peril, such as disease or the sword. The redeemed person would show his gratitude to God by gathering his closest friends and family for a todah sacrificial meal. The lamb would be sacrificed in the Temple and the bread for the meal would be consecrated the moment the lamb was sacrificed. The bread and meat, along with wine, would constitute the elements of the sacred todah meal, which would be accompanied by prayers and songs of thanksgiving, such as Psalm 116.
What does the word "todah" mean? It is Hebrew for "thanksgiving," although it also connotes a confession of praise in addition to gratitude. For example, Leah gave thanks to God when she bore her fourth son, and so she named him yehudah — or Judah — which is the verbal form of todah — to give thanks.
There are many examples in the Old Testament of people offering todah — thanks — to God. Jonah, while in the belly of the whale, vows to offer up a todah sacrifice in the Temple if he is delivered (cf. Jon. 2:3-10). King Hezekiah offers up a todah hymn upon recovering from a life-threatening illness (cf. Is. 38). However, the best example of todah sacrifice and song is found in the life of King David.
Temple Liturgy
After David had defeated the last Canaanite stronghold, he decided to bring the ark of the covenant up to Jerusalem. The bringing of the ark to Jerusalem was the occasion of a great national todah festival. The sacrifices were "peace offerings," and the todah was the most important and common peace offering. All the elements of the todah were present. For example, David offered bread and wine along with the meat of the sacrifices (1 Chron. 16:3). Most importantly, David had the Levites lead the people in todah hymns, that is, psalms of thanksgiving (1 Chron. 16:8-36).
At this pivotal point in Israel's story, David not only changes the location of the ark, but he also transforms Israel's liturgy. At the todah celebration that brought the ark into Jerusalem, David gave the Levites a new mandate — their primary job was to "invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord" (1 Chron. 16:4). The Hebrew word for "invoke" is zakar, which literally means to remember — the noun form signifying "memorial" (zikkaron). One of the most important purposes of a todah meal was to remember the saving deeds of the Lord. Indeed, this is one of the functions of the todah psalms: to recount the mighty deeds of God (cf. Ps. 22:28).
We are also informed that "on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving [todah] be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brethren" (1 Chron. 16:7). The Levites were to give thanks and praise to God "continually" (1 Chron. 16:37, 40). This perpetual adoration was to characterize the Temple liturgy as a todah liturgy — a liturgy of thanksgiving.(2)
The Psalter made up the heart of the hymns and prayers of the Temple liturgy. In light of David's appointing the Levites to give perpetual thanks, we can see why "the thank offering constituted the cultic basis for the main bulk of the Psalms."(3) The todah psalms have a twofold structure. First, although they may begin with thanks and praise, the first half of the song is largely a lament, where the psalmist recounts how his life was in peril. Then the psalmist recounts how God graciously heard his plea and brought about deliverance from death. Thus the second part of the song, or at least its conclusion, is usually taken up with giving thanks and praise to God.(4) So the movement of the todah psalms is from plight to praise — a movement that reflects Israel's movement from enslavement to exodus — while also looking forward to the paschal mystery of Our Lord.
Todah and Jesus
The importance of the todah as a backdrop for Jesus and the Last Supper comes into sharp focus when we realize that in Jesus' day the Greek word that would best translate the Hebrew todah was eucharistia, which also means "thanksgiving." From the earliest Christian sources we learn that the celebration of the Lord's meal, or what we call the Mass, was known by Christians as the Eucharist. After all, at the Last Supper Jesus took the bread and wine and gave "thanks" (eucharistia) over them (Luke 22:19).
The German biblical scholar Hartmut Gese claimed that the todah stands behind what Jesus did at the Last Supper. He goes so far as to argue that Jesus' giving thanks over the bread and wine came in the context of a todah sacrifice rather than a Passover meal. However, no other Scripture scholars have followed Gese's theory about the todah backdrop of Jesus' meal, because the evidence for the Passover in the Gospel narratives is overwhelming.
Here is where I would like to make an adjustment to Gese's theory. I think he is right to see the todah backdrop, but wrong to deny the larger Passover context. The solution to the seeming dilemma is actually quite easy. The Last Supper celebrated in the upper room is both a Passover and a todah meal. The Passover has all the same elements found in the todah: bread, wine, and sacrifice of a lamb, along with hymns and prayers. Indeed, the Hallel psalms (113-118), that were sung during the Passover meal were all todah psalms! The Exodus narrative itself has the basic contours of a todah hymn, with Israel in distress and lament calling out to the Lord (cf. Ex. 2:23-25), while the Lord in turn hears their cry and delivers them (cf. Ex. 6:5-7). The Passover has both the form and content of the todah, because it is a concrete example of a todah sacrifice.
Philo, a first-century Jew, describes the Passover as a festival of thanksgiving: "And this festival is instituted in remembrance of, and as giving thanks [eucharistia] for, their great migration which they made from Egypt."(5) Philo focuses here on two key reasons for the Passover: remembrance and thanksgiving (cf. Ex. 12:14, 13:3). Here again we must note how the Passover fits into the todah genre, for remembrance was one of the primary purposes of the todah. The Passover is Israel's corporate todah meal.
When Jesus takes the bread, breaks it, and declares thanksgiving (eucharistia), He is performing the key function of both the todah and Passover — giving thanks for deliverance. But here Jesus is not simply looking back at Israel's history of salvation, but forward to His death and Resurrection. In other words, Jesus is giving thanks to the Father for His love and for the new life to be granted in the Resurrection. Note that Jesus' words over the bread, His thanksgiving, is what the Christian tradition has focused upon — so that they could call every re-enactment of the Last Supper "Eucharist."
In the Eucharist, Christians give thanks for God's deliverance and remember how Jesus brought about the new exodus with His death and Resurrection. For Jesus had told them, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). This act of remembrance is what the todah is all about — recalling in gratitude God's saving deeds. This leads us to one of the key fruits of a todah — or Eucharistic — spirituality: A deep sense of thankfulness leads to worship. Worship flows from gratitude; cut off from gratitude the will to worship withers.
The todah teaches us to trust God with a grateful heart. By "remembering" Jesus' gift of Himself upon the Cross our love for God is rekindled. Such "remembrance," which is the purpose of todah, leads to deeper trust. As the psalmist says, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Ps. 20:7). (6)
1.     Taken from the Pesiqta as quoted in Hartmut Gese, Essays On Biblical Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1981), 133.
2.     The prayers for the morning and evening sacrifice were characterized by the todah thanksgiving (1 Chron. 16:40-41). See also Allan Bouley's discussion of how the prayers at the morning and evening sacrifices included thanksgiving formulas in From Freedom to Formula: the Evolution of the Eucharistic Prayer from Oral Improvisation to Written Texts (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1981), 7-13.
3.     Gese, 131.
4.     Some examples from the multitude of todah psalms are Psalms 16, 18, 21, 32, 65, 100, 107, 116, 124, 136.
5.     Philo, The Special Laws, II, 145. The Works of Philo, trans. by C.D. Young (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 582.
6.     I use here the KJV translation of Psalm 20:7, which is closer to the Hebrew in my judgment.
Tim Gray. "From Jewish Passover to Christian Eucharist: The Story of the Todah." Lay Witness (Nov/Dec. 2002).
This article is reprinted with permission from Lay Witness magazine. Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.

Scripture scholar Tim Gray is a member of CUF's board of directors. His book Sacraments in Scripture may be ordered by calling Emmaus Road Publishing toll-free at (800) 398-5470. CUF members receive a 10% discount.
Copyright © 2002 LayWitness

Nine Ways the Eucharist Is Hidden in the Old Testament, by Stephen Beale

Nine Ways the Eucharist Is Hidden in the Old Testament

by Stephen Beale on October 29, 2013 

John Henry Newman once compared Scripture to an inexhaustibly rich wilderness—never failing to reward the faithful explorer with thrilling new discoveries yet always beyond his ability to master it completely:
It cannot, as it were, be mapped, or its contents cataloged; but after all our diligence, to the end of our lives and to the end of the Church, it must be an unexplored and unsubdued land, with heights and valleys, forests and streams, on the right and left of our path and close about us, full of concealed wonders and choice treasures. (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 71).
The Eucharist is among those ‘concealed wonders and choice treasures’ in the Old Testament. At first, with the obvious exception of the manna heaven that rained down on the Israelites, it seems that there is little in the Old Testament that foreshadows the extraordinary new reality that is the Eucharist. But Newman invites us to venture deep into the hidden valleys and the secret gardens of the Old Testament. When we do, it turns out the Eucharist is everywhere—from the Pentateuch to the prophets.

1. The forbidden fruit. The forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden seems like the last place one would see a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. But medieval commentators saw the Eucharist as the “antidote to the poisonous effects of the apple,” according to Ann Astell, in Eating Beauty. Just as eating of the forbidden fruit was a sin of pride, avarice, gluttony, or disobedience, so the Eucharist was seen as inculcating the corresponding opposite virtues: humility, poverty, abstinence, and obedience, according to Astell. The parallel goes even deeper: in eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve brought death into the world while those who partake in the Eucharist are promised eternal life.

2. Fruit of the Tree of Life.  The connections between Eden and the Eucharist are reinforced in the last book of the Bible. First a reminder: there were actually two types of trees in Eden. The one that gets most of the attention is the tree of knowledge of good and evil—it is the fruit of this tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat. But, when the pair are banished, a second tree is mentioned: “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). In Revelation, John indicates that, through Christ, we will be able to eat of the fruit of this second tree. In Revelation 2:7, John writes, “To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God.” Ten verses later we read: “To the victor I shall give some of the hidden manna”—a clear reference to the Eucharist. (I’m particularly indebted to Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo for this reading. For more about the Eucharist and the Garden of Eden, read his article at the Institute of Catholic Culture.)

3. The blood of Abel. This is another one that seems an odd type for the Eucharist. But Scripture links the blood of Christ with Abel. In Genesis 4:8, after Cain has slain his brother, God speak to him, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” In Hebrews 12:24, St. Paul draws a connection with Christ, calling Jesus “the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” St. Gregory the Great elaborates on this, “The blood of Jesus calls out more eloquently than Abel’s, for the blood of Abel asked for the death of Cain, the fratricide, while the blood of the Lord has asked for, and obtained, life for his persecutors.” When we receive the Eucharist, St. Gregory adds, we too must cry out and proclaim our faith in Jesus. “The cry of the Lord finds a hiding place in us if our lips fail to speak of this, though our hearts believe in it,” he concludes.

4. Sacrifice of Melchizedek. In Genesis 14, after Abraham rescues Lot and his relatives who had been seized in an invasion of Sodom, a most strange figure bursts into the scene: Melchizedek, the king of Salem comes out to greet him. We are told in Genesis that he was a priest of “God Most High”—long before the institutional priesthood of Israel was established. And, ages before the gospel was brought to the Gentiles, Melchizedek had somehow come to know God. Later in Scripture we read that he was “without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God” (Hebrews 7:3). Melchizedek is thus portrayed in Scripture as one who foreshadowed Christ, Himself true king and perfect priest. The parallels go even further: in Genesis 14:18 Melchizedek offers a sacrifice of “bread and wine,”—a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, according to the Haydock Bible Commentary.

. The todah. As Catholics we know that the Passover was the primary Old Testament sacrifice that is the backdrop for the Eucharist. But another important one was the todah, a sacrifice offered in ancient Israel after a person had been saved from a life-threatening situation. Here’s how one writer describes the sacrifice: “The lamb would be sacrificed in the Temple and the bread for the meal would be consecrated the moment the lamb was sacrificed. The bread and meat, along with wine, would constitute the elements of the sacred todah meal, which would be accompanied by prayers and songs of thanksgiving. …” Does this not immediately call to mind the Eucharist? In Hebrew, todah means thanksgiving, which is exactly the literal translation of the Greek word eucharista. Indeed, both are sacrifices of thanksgiving for salvation.

6. Elijah in the desert. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah flees from Jezebel into the wilderness. After wandering for a day, he sinks down by a lone tree and begs God to let him die. Instead, he is sent an angel who brings a “hearth cake and a jug of water.” But this was not normal food—it was enough to sustain him on a 40-day journey to Mt. Horeb where he had a profound encounter with God in the “whistling of a gentle air.” Catholic interpreters have long seen this super food given to Elijah as a type of the Eucharist. (Sources include: Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio and the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.)

7. Bread of the Presence. In ancient Israel, the Bread of the Presence was set out on a golden table in the tabernacle as “a memorial of the oblation of the Lord” (Leviticus 24:7). The bread was to be before the presence of God continually, was perfumed with frankincense, and accompanied by constantly burning lampstands. New bread was put out every Sabbath and only those who had recently abstained from sexual relations—normally priests—could eat it. When the table that held the bread was carried out of the tabernacle, it was veiled. In fact, when the tabernacle was moved, all the vessels in it were carefully wrapped. Those transporting the vessels were to not directly touch these vessels, lest they die (Exodus 25, Leviticus 24, Numbers 4, and 1 Samuel 21). Does not this all sound quite familiar? Indeed, it’s harder to imagine a more obvious precedent for the devotion and reverence with which Catholics of today treat the Eucharist.

8. Isaiah’s coal. Once we arrive in the prophetic books, we encounter some truly extraordinary and provocative types of the Eucharist. First, in Isaiah 7, the prophet envisions God sitting on a throne, flanked by the seraphim angels. “And one of the seraphims flew to me, and in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: Behold this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin shall be cleansed” (Isaiah 7:6-7). In Church liturgies, particularly in the Orthodox tradition, the fiery coal prefigures the Eucharist. The Liturgy of St. James describes Communion as “receiving the fiery coal” and, in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the priest says, “Lo, this has touched your lips and has taken away your iniquity,” according to one Orthodox writer. The parallels couldn’t be clearer: like the fiery coal, the Eucharist comes to us from the altar and cleanses us of sins (specifically venial sins, but it also fortifies us against mortal ones).

9. Ezekiel’s scroll. Another extraordinary foreshadowing of the Eucharist is in Ezekiel 2. Like Isaiah, the prophet has a vision of God and the Spirit of the Lord enters him. Then, in verse 8, he hears these words, “open thy mouth, and eat what I give thee.” “And I looked, and behold, a hand was sent to me, wherein was a book rolled up: and he spread it before me, and it was written within and without: and there were written in it lamentations, and canticles, and woe.” In the next chapter he describes his eating of this book: “And I did eat it: and it was sweet as honey in my mouth” (verse 3). Catholic interpreters over the centuries have seen this sweet scroll that was eaten as another sign of the Eucharist (the most recent example is Scott Hahn’s new book, Consuming the Word). The episode illustrates well what we experience in the two liturgies of the Mass. In the first, we consume the Word, in the readings of Scripture and the homily that is preached on them. Then, in the second liturgy, we consume the Eucharist, which, as the Body of Christ, is the Word made flesh.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Respect Life Month

You may have seen crosses on church lawns or people standing in a group praying.  October is designated as Respect Life Month by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Respect Life Month recognizes life in all its glory and in all its forms, providing opportunities to embrace the whole cycle of life with which humanity has been blessed, from conception to natural death.

Visitation Catholic Church, Elmhurst, IL

Lord God, We thank you for our salvation in Jesus Christ. We thank you for the call he gives us -– not a call to sit in a corner cowering in fear over our enemies, mystified about how to overcome the Culture of Death, despondent because of our sins or worried about the perceived strength of our opponents. Rather, it is a call to stand victorious in the light of the Resurrection and to proclaim to the Culture of Death: “You have been conquered! You have no place here, no power to defeat the forces of truth and goodness!”
Yes, Lord, we stand in that light and we are filled with joy –- not a superficial joy that rises and falls with the ebb and flow of circumstances beyond our control, but with the profound joy that only you can give and that nobody can take away. In the strength of that joy, may we your people continue to proclaim your truth and share your grace not only within the walls of our Churches, but in the halls of government, in the voting booth, in the media, and in every inch of the public square.
Lord, in our work for you, may we find you in our efforts to change the world, may we ourselves be changed. In our struggle to build a Culture of Life, may we find life eternal. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From bulletin of Queen of Angels Catholic Church, Chicago)