Sunday, December 31, 2006


From Rocco, an interesting link:

"IslamOnline.Net" announced the results of a reader poll for the 2006 Most Influential Person of the Year. Guess who won?

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Clearing the Dust

There's a lot of talk going on all over the blogosphere about the legitimacy of Saddam's execution, and the Church's teaching on capital punishment.

I don't wish to personally weigh in on this matter. I will say this much:
1) I regard the Church's current teaching to be a development and clarification of the consistent tradition of the Church; however,
2) The expression of the current doctrine is somewhat obscure, and at least very different in tone when compared to the historical positions, esp. before Trent.

So, I think this is one of the most confusing issues that we deal with as Catholics, and within which there are many legitimate opinions to be held until a firmer/clearer teaching in laid out.

For anyone interested in seeing the current issue in (what is, I think) the clearest available way, please see Against the Grain. Good stuff, as always.

My final thought: may God have mercy on his soul, and have mercy on us all. It is a crazy world, and I don't envy those who have these decisions placed on those shoulders. As Catholics, though, we must remember that authority comes from God, and our states' leaders have the right to make decisions about these matters. We should pray for them.

The Need for Epiphany

Before leaving school for Christmas break, a friend of mine and I had a bit of a debate over one of the liturgical prayers of Advent. The prayer speaks of our preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. He wondered if it was a good word choice, since really the Incarnation "happens" at the Annunciation. For me, I felt it was a good prayer, because both feasts commemorate the event (we genuflect during the creed on both days), and if Christmas doesn't focus on the Incarnation, what mystery does it celebrate? Celebrating even the actual birth of Christ is only of value because it recalls to us the wonderful truth that God's Word has been made Man.

But it got me thinking. It's really about Epiphany.

In the West, we don't give the Feast of the Epiphany quite the focus our Eastern brethren appropriate to it. But all these events in the human life of Christ are, it seems, equally valuable for our contemplation: We shudder at the mystery that God becomes Incarnate in the Virgin's womb; we celebrate with joy when He is born a man in the lowly circumstances of a Bethlehem stable; we wonder with awe when the rulers of earth bow down to this Baby and lay their crowns and kingdoms at His feet.

It's safe to pray for the grace to celebrate the Incarnation as we approach Christmas, because it's about recognition. There's something made manifest in Bethlehem that has yet lain hidden. We see with our eyes the terrible fact: this is a babe like any other, yet so different. The full impact of God's humility in becoming like us is obvious now in a new way. Yes, God was conceived in Mary's womb - but He might have been born crowned with gold. He might have come forth a mighty warrior, or speaking judgement rather than the prattle of infancy. But this is not the case. He comes forth meek and lowly, wanting milk from the breast, needing warmth and protection and the other necessities of early life - especially love. He comes forth needing and wanting: like us in all ways but sin. His humility means that there are gifts of ours that He, who made all that is, can genuinely want. It gives all our gifts value and makes our human efforts efficacious. Already in the manger at Bethlehem is a preview of the Sacramental dispensation and the manifestation of the Cross: where suffering will be made redemptive, human means will (with grace) be made capable to achieve superhuman ends, and God's kingdom will come to reign on earth.

So, have we recognized Him?

Epiphany now approaches. Unfortunately, it will likely pass with the same nonchalance in the West as it does every year. But, it doesn't need to be that way.

We have celebrated the Incarnation. We rejoice at Christ's birth among us as the Christmas season continues. He has come into our midst, and we have prayed that His coming may bring true and lasting peace.

Meanwhile, violence has continued in Iraq, sanctions have fomented the Iranian nuclear crisis, talk about an increased troop level has politicians sharply divided, and Saddam Hussein has been sent to his death. It hardly seems like a peaceful world.

In all of it, we must ask ourselves: have we truly recognized Him? Have we meant the words we've prayed? Have we truly believed, when we prayed for world peace, that it is an attainable goal - or is it merely the idealism of the Church playing the fool in the world? Has our giving and receiving of gifts truly helped us to appreciate the gift we have in Christ?

His coming makes a real difference. It certainly makes a difference for the three kings who come from the East. They kneel before Him and return to their lands changed men: Saints, according to our tradition. Even enemies are changed: Herod, for example. But are we different? Has His coming meant all that much to us? Or has it meant anything less than the world to us?

Epiphany is kind of a final chance to recognize Him. The year is still young, our planners and ledgers still full with blank pages upon which we will write our future. Will our resolutions be changed by what we have seen manifest in Bethlehem? Will we lay our plans and hopes and dreams before His feet, and submit our own dominions to His kingdom reigning down?

May we all truly have an epiphany this Christmas season. May Simeon's canticle be our own. May we truly recognize His presence in our lives. Throughout the coming year, may He reign in our hearts, in our homes, and in our world. And may His blessings be always upon us.