Deus Caritas Est: Part Two

As we have had the past two weeks it is time to explore Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical. In case you forgot it focuses on Love. Last week I went through the Introduction, now we are going to get into Part One of the Encyclical, this section is titles The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History.

To begin it tackles the basic fact that we begin with a simple problem with the word “love” as it has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings. Benedict dives into it with the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, there is another storge (familiar love) but this is rarely used in ancient texts so it’s not talked about, pointing out that the Greek Old Testament used eros only twice while in the New Testament it is mostly found as agape, which Benedict points out is infrequently used in Greek, and John loved using philia.

This turns philosophical by quoting Nietzche “Christianity gave Eros poison to drink; he did not die of it, certainly, but degenerated to Vice” Benedict goes and looks at how eros was seen in the pre-Christian world. He points to the Greeks who “considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication…process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness”, Virgil is know for his “Omnia vincit amor et nos cedamus amori” (Love conquers all let us, too, yield to love), and there were many fertility cults along with “sacred prostitution” of sorts in temples. So eros was celebrated as divine power, as fellowship with the Divine, but it oddly lacked the human. This is what the Old Testament was arguing about you need body and soul to experience eros and not a degradation but a maturity of the body. Sure the Church in the past has been opposed to the body, just look at St. Paul’s writing and his body (sarx)/spirit (pneuma) debate, and it still sort of exists today. Benedict takes this here and goes into the commodification of love/ sex as that is what most people look at it now as a thing you can buy and sell, just look at the internet and see the extant of the porn that can be found, for sale and for free. We now considers our bodies and sexuality as the purely material part of ourselves, to be used and exploited at will.

Benedict changes course here and goes into the Old Testament looking at the Song of Songs/Solomon/Canticles. Sure we don’t hear from this book very often but it’s a book of love songs. Benedict notes that in Hebrew there are two words used for love dodim (love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching) and ahabà (I give/love) this was translated by the Greeks as agape. Love is now a concern for someone else. This gets a bit out there offering different ways to look at the words  eros, is used to indicate “worldly” love or “ascending” love or possessive love and agape, being used to indicate love grounded in and shaped by faith, or “descending” love or oblative love. The Pope gives a great thing here and says that these two types of love can never be completely separated, as anyone who wants to get love must want to give love. This can be seen in the story of Jacob’s ladder where love can be seen as an inseparable connection between ascending and descending love, between eros which seeks God and agape which passes on the gift received. It is nicely summed up in this passage “Fundamentally, “love” is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or other dimension may emerge more clearly. Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love.”

We dive back into the Bible and The Shema. Looking at the Bible we can see God loves, and his love can be called eros, but at the same time it is also agape. This turns to Jesus eventually as he is the combination of eros and agape. The Eucharistic feast is a prime example “This is my Body”…”This is my blood” we have been given so much and in this feast we all become one.  Let us remember The Great Commandment to love one another for Love can be “commanded” because it has first been given.

As The Beatles said “And in the end/The love you take/Is equal to the love you make.”


Carrying of the Cross

The fourth sorrowful mystery is Carrying the Cross it can be found in all the Gospels (Matthew 27:31–33, Mark 15:20–22, Luke 23:26–32 and John 19:16–18), but only John specifically mentions a cross and all but John mention Simon the Cyrene, who helped carry the cross. In a couple of weeks we will hear this story at Church several time. Jesus takes the cross, although there is some disagreement as to if it was a whole cross as we see in art or rather just the crossbar as many modern scholars believe. Jesus takes the cross and then we have the whole Stations of the Cross, more on that later.

The fruit of this mystery is Patience. This is something that we all could use a lot more of in the world today. All to often do we need/want everything to be done immediately. Society has trained us to want everything done as quick as possible but we need to take some time. Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and we should continue to ask for patience in our lives.


Trois couleurs : Blanc (1994)

Blanc is the second of the well regarded Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieślowski. The first one is Blue based on Liberty (liberté), this one is White and based on Equality (egalité), and the next one Red is based on Fraternity (fraternité). Roger Ebert calls it an “anti-comedy between the anti-tragedy (Blue) and the anti-romance (Red)”, which seems to be the best description of the film that I can find. Spoilers to follow.

This time around the main character is a shy man Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), an immigrant from Poland. We meet him before going into a divorce hearing and despite his limited knowledge of French he learns that, his wife, Dominique (Julie Delpy), doesn’t love him and that the reason for the divorce is that the marriage hasn’t been consummated. Humiliated by his wife Karol has lost everything but a 2 franc coin. He is left to busk in the Métro de Paris where another Pole, Mikołaj (Janusz Gajos). recognizes a song Karol is playing on his comb harmonica and they become friends. Mikolaj offers Karol a job to kill someone. They make their way back to Poland with Karol smuggled in a suitcase. Now back in Poland Karol become a wealthy man and decides to humiliate his ex-wife to get back at her for all that she did to drive him from Paris.


The Shema

Yesterday, I tossed out the Shema while talking about Deus Caritas Est and just went on offering no real explanation or anything on it. The Shema is a prayer in the Jewish faith that is a daily declaration of faith.  It is called the Shema because it begins Shema Yisrael or Hear, O Israel. This is prayed when “you lie down and rise up” so at night and in the morning. It is also prayed before going to bed, although that is usually just the first part. If you don’t understand Hebrew you can say it in your vernacular but make sure to carefully articulate and enunciate the words with no interruptions during the prayer. .


It consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.

To pray you cover your eyes with your right hand for the first verse.
Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad
Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
the next line is whispered (as it is not in the Torah at all)
Baruch sheim k’vod malchuto l’olam vaed.
Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever

Then it is time for the Vahavta which finished up the first section.  This begins “You Shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.”  It also reminds us to remember the commandments and to pass them on to our children.  It moves on the V’haya im shamoa which comes from Deuteronomy 11. This section focuses on rewards and punishment for keeping the commandments. It also sort of repeats the first section but in the second person plural.  Then we finally get to the third section the Vayomer which comes from Numbers 15. This section is about redemption.

Perhaps one day I will have a post about the different types of prayer in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths.


Deus Caritas Est Part One

This week we begin going through Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical this begins a look at the theological virtue of Charity. The Encyclical is broken into two parts along with an introduction and conclusion.

It begins with an Introduction where we are given a nice overview of what to expect. Benedict start with quoting from the first letter of John 4:16 “So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Then Benedict suggests that the first part is sort of a summary of Christian Life. He then breaks it down and analyzes it even more pointing out that being Christian isn’t the result of an idea or choice but of an encounter. This idea, the centrality of Love, retains the core of the Jewish faith embodied in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 it’s know as the Shema (Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:) which Jesus names as one of the Greatest Commandments along with “Love your neighbor as yourself” from Leviticus 19:18.  Noting that since God loves us, it “is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.”

Benedict says that this topic in important today since the name of God has been associated with vengeance, as well as hate and violence. Benedict wants to “speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.” This is what the Encyclical is about. The first part with be more speculative focusing on the theological and philosophical dealing with the different meaning of the word love in Greek. While the second part will be concrete it’s the what can I do about it part. Benedict notes that this subject is vast and this one Encyclical isn’t  going to cover it all but this is the basics.


Crowning with Thorns

In this third week of Lent we look at the third sorrowful mystery the Crowning with Thorns. This was another event surrounding the Passion narrative. It can be found in three of the Gospels Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:17 and John 19:2-5. The soldiers who just scourged Jesus made a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head mocking him as the King of the Jews. The fruit of the mystery is Contempt of the world (moral courage).  This is a bit with the Intimation of Christ as you look at it, the world continually wants us to ignore anything that cares about religion or really anything but the things of the world. Let’s all take some time to reflect on what role religion plays in our lives, do we make time for it more than an hour on Sunday. It’s sort of like the show Living Biblically based on the book A Year of Living Biblically, sure there are lots of rules in the Bible but it’s like how all to often we tend to be more focused on our electronic devices than on other people and diminishing the experience of going to such events. To put it in other terms it’s like going to a sporting event and not watching the game in front of you but worrying about the outcome of the Battle of the Ironclads (Monitor vs Merrimack) and who benefited the most from the results of the Battle.


Oscars recap

Alright, there were some big surprises notably Jordan Peele winning Best Original Screenplay and Shape of Water taking home Best Picture. These weren’t seismic changes as both had previously won awards in their respective categories at other awards shows. So out of the big awards that I guessed those 13 from Saturday I got nine right. Missing those Best Documentary and Foreign Language films aren’t that big of a surprise as I had not seen any of the films. There were some cool moments in general one Bil Keane’s son Glen (Billy in Family Circus) picked up an Oscar for Dear Basketball with Kobe Bryant. Dunkirk picked up most of the technical awards (Sound(editing and mixing), make up and editing). Phantom Thread picked up the award that we all though it was going to get Costume Design. Blade Runner 2049 won Cinematography and Visual Effects.

I really liked how they took moments to honor the military and the average movie fan during the show as well.


90th Academy Awards Predictions

Alright, on Sunday the 90th Oscar Ceremony will take place in LA so here are my predictions although it seems that there are so many front runners having won the other awards this year.

Best Picture:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Best Actor: Garry Oldman as Churchill in Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell as Officer Jason Dixon in Three Billboards
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney as LaVona Golden in I, Tonya
Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory for Call Me by Your Name
Best Original Screenplay: Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards
Best Animated (Disney/Pixar) Film: It’s Coco this year.
Best Score: Alexandre Desplat for Shape of Water

As for the tougher ones
Best Song: Hope it’s that song from Coco
Best Foreign Language film: This is one of those shots in the dark The Insult? from Lebanon
Best Documentary: Another shot in the dark Faces Places

Those technical awards and short film awards well those are categories that most people don’t really care about so


Deus Caritas Est

We’ve finally made it to Pope Benedict XVI. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding this Pope but there have been lots of documents that have come out over the years that are pretty unique as well.  This is the first of Encyclical from Benedict XVI as well as the first of three that focus on the theological virtues Deus caritas est (about love), Spe salvi (about hope), and Lumen fidei (about faith). Lumen Fidei was written by both Benedict and Francis. As one should know the title come from the first line of encyclical God is love. It comes from the first letter of John (4:16) “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” As we have learned about in John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris  suffering is linked to love.  So we looked at the suffering now it’s on to love. Sure most of the time during Lent we tend to focus on the negatives, like when we give something up but Lent is more than just this it is about trying to become a better person in general as well. Over the next couple of weeks I will be going through this Encyclical. It was written by Benedict with some direction from uncompleted writings left by John Paul II. This was signed on Christmas Day back in 2005 and came out in January of 2006. It will be an interesting look during this season of Lent

Part One
Part Two


Scourging at the Pillar

The second sorrowful mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar or the Flagellation of Christ, when Pilate had Jesus tied to a column and beaten. It can be found in found in every gospel but Luke, however Luke does have a similar event with the High Priest’s guards beating and mocking Jesus.  The fruit of this mystery is Mortification which leans from the purity nature of it.  The Scourging is one of the popular aspects of Christ life in art. It has been featured in Western art since around the 9th century. This has moved on to film and literature as well notably in A Clockwork Orange when our main droog Alex sees himself as the solider beating Jesus it is also a difficult scene to watch in Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.  It is featured in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar as well in the song Trial before Pilate where Jesus gets 39 lashes.  Once again it is a powerful song and we need to reflect on the nature of this where are we in this scene with Jesus or the ones beating him up. This is what we need to reflect upon this week.