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Good Friday

Doctor of the Church Gregory of Narek has a wonderful prayer reflection on Good Friday.

Prayer 77
Speaking with God from the Depths of the HeartA
Since today is a blessed day,
when morning came twice dividing day into
equal parts,
when the passing creatures of the earth
were transformed into a different and heavenly immutable beings,
when the high were laid low and the
humble raised up,
making this the most awesome day of Lent, Holy Friday,
when it is fitting for me to write
this prayer voicing joy mixed with terror, therefore
I think it appropriate to speak now of
the suffering you endured for me, God of all.

B
You stood, with my nature, before a tribunal of
your creatures, and did not speak, giver of speech.
You did not utter a word, creator of tongues.
You did not release your voice, shaker of the world.
You did not make a sound, trumpet of majesty.
You did not answer back with accounts of
your good deeds.
You did not silence them with their wrongs.
You did not deliver your betrayer to death.
You did not struggle when bound.
You did not squirm when whipped.
You did not fight back when spat upon.
You did not resist when beaten.
You did not take affront when mocked.
You did not frown when ridiculed.

They stripped you of your cloak, as from a weakling,
and dressed you like a condemned prisoner.
If my Lord had not been forced twice to drink vinegar and gall, he would not have been able to cleanse me of the accumulated bile of our forefathers.
He tasted heartbreak and did not waver.
They dragged him violently and brought him
back disrespectfully.
They condemned him, humiliated him by flogging
before a motley crowd.
They knelt before him in ridicule
and put a crown of disdain upon his head.

C
They gave you no rest, Life-giver,
even forcing you to bear the instrument of your death.
You accepted with forbearance.
You received it with sweetness.
You bore it with patience.
You submitted to the wooden cross of grief,
like one condemned.
Like a lily of the field, you shouldered the
weapon of life,
so that your throne in my body might be protected
against the terrors of the night
turning the last judgment into a joyful banquet.
They led him out like a sacrificial lamb.
They hung him like Isaac’s ram whose horns were caught in the thicket.
They spread him on the table of the cross like a sacrifice.
They nailed him like a common criminal.

They persecuted you, like an outlaw, treating
you in your serenity, like a bandit,
you in your majesty, like a miserable wretch,
you who are adored by cherubim,
like a despised man,
you who are the definition of life, like one
deserving of a slaughter,
you, the author of the Gospels, like one
who blasphemed the Law,
you, the Lord and the fulfillment of the prophets,
like one who cut the Scriptures,
you, the radiance of glory and the image of
the mystery of the Father, beyond mortal
understanding, as if you are the adversary
of the will of him who bore you,
you who are blessed, like someone banished,
you who came to release the bonds of the Law,
like a heretic,
you, the consuming fire, like a
condemned prisoner,
you who inspire awe in heaven and earth,
like one deserving punishment,
you, covered in unapproachable light, like
some earthly quarry

D
O, sweet Lord,
forbearing doer of good, merciful and compassionate,
Lord of all, who for the sake of infirm and unruly
servants like me submitted to everything willingly
according to your plan
together with your perfectly human body,
submitted even to the sleepy tomb of the sepulchre,
who lack nothing of divine perfection, being identical with
God who is beyond human understanding,
yet bore human indignity with patience beyond words,
you rose with your body, alive and of your own power,
In exalted light, with undiminished humanity
and flawless divinity.
You are blessed for your glory
praised for your compassion,
and always exalted for your mercy,
forever and ever.
Amen.

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Perelandra

The second book in the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. This book picks up several years after the last book (Out of the Silent Planet) ends and tells of the adventure that Edwin Ransom had when he went to Perlandra (Venus). It begins with how the first book ends with Lewis coming for a visit Ransom. The first two chapters are getting Ransom ready to go to Venus in his white coffin shaped vessel as well as what happened after he returned to Earth a year later. The rest of the book is Ransom recounting to Lewis and Humphrey what took place on Venus.

Once again it is wonderful to read of how Venus was seen in the past. Perlandra is a large ocean of a world that is dotted with rafts of vegetation like where most life on Venus lives. There is another place “Fixed Land” a regular island but it is a forbidden place to stay. Perlandra’s sky is golden and opaque it is dim during the day and you can’t see the stars at night. When Ransom arrives he splashes down into the large ocean and sort of can’t do anything although eventually he get onto a raft of vegetation. Then the story can begin. Ransom first meets a dragon-like creature who and it follows him around a couple of days or so later Ransom sees someone on another island waving. Eventually the rafts get closer and they can talk and Ransom meets the Queen of the planet. The Queen tells Ransom things about Maleldil (Jesus) and we learn that she and the King are the only inhabitants of this world.

One day while Ransom and the Queen are on Fixed Land the see a craft crash into the ocean of the planet and who is inside but Dr. Weston, if you remember him from the last book he was one of the antagonist, but here he is inhabited by the bent one. Weston tries to get the Queen to sleep on Fixed Land. It’s the Adam and Eve story told on Venus but this time it’s going to work out for the best at least that is the hope of the Oyarsa of Mars. According to the cosmology in the field of Arbor the inner planet are the newer ones and as you go out further the planets get older.

This book was a surprisingly great read for the season of Lent as it deal with a struggle with the devil. If you read the first book this one continues the story but it’s not like you need to read the first book to understand what all is going on. Once again it isn’t that overly religious and deals with the idea that the legends and myths of our world are things from other worlds and/or the past. It is a rather short read like the first book and now I’ve got to read the final book in the series.

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The Handmaid’s Tale

Margret Atwood’s classic work of speculative fiction The Handmaid’s Tale is soon to be a Hulu series and readers are lining up in droves to read the book before the series begins. According to The Huffington Post libraries across the country are struggling to keep up with the waitlist. The NYPL has currently 546 holds on 96 copies of The Handmaid’s Tale and the same is true across the country in Chicago of the 160 copies all but two physical copies have been checked out in and even the e-book has similar waits. This is like the phenomenon when 1984 was the must read book as day by day these dystopian societies depicted in the book seem all to real.

Margret Atwood has said recently that the book is more relevant than ever today. As it seems like a religious fundamentalist society, led by the government, takes away women’s autonomy — and their rights to their own bodies. Sure with all the anti abortion laws going on the books across the nation. The New Yorker has an interesting profile on Atwood. I read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school  about 3 lustra ago and it’s been one of those that I’d like to re-read for some time as I never finished the epilogue. If you haven’t read the book it is a good book, not sure if the movie or television adaptations are any good.

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Catholic Epistles Part 3: Letters of John and Jude

This is the final group of general letters, the past weeks we looked at James and Peter.  John wrote three letters and Jude only wrote one. John’s third letter is the shortest book in the entire Bible followed by John’s second letter and Jude is the fifth shortest. So this will be a quick one.

The Letters of John might have been written by the Evangelist or at least one of his followers and it is widely believed that the second and third letters were written by a different hand than the first letter. The first letter begins with roughly the same language that we hear from the Gospel word, light in the darkness, new commandment, love, children of God and other. It’s like a distillation of the Gospel. The first letter seems to be the most general of the Johannine letters. As we turn to the other letters they are both directed to individuals John’s second letter is to a specific region and the third letter to some guy named Gaius. The second letter warns against false teachers and stresses truth and love. The third letter begins by praising Gaius for his actions in imitating good and John says that he will be coming soon. The community that John writes too is fractured as there are too many people saying what is truth. Just like that saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” as we have heard from other letters there are others preaching about Jesus and this has caused some fracturing in the community.

The Letter of Jude is a chapter long and Jude is the brother of James. Once again this stuff sounds sort of familiar as Peter’s second letter covers this same idea. Jude warns about false teachers who lead people to sin and mockers who dismiss the idea of Christ’s return. It gives the general idea that we are called to fight for our faith with love and mercy. This book is interesting as it references the Book of Enoch a book which is only used by the Orthodox Tewahedo community in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

If you have some spare time take some time and open the Bible to read. It doesn’t even have to be the upcoming readings for the week or anything like that. Pick whatever sound nice to you and read it.

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Barnfloor and Winepress

As we begin this Holy Week. I hope that everyone can take some time from all our busy lives and reflect on the events of this week. Sure some people like to do the whole Triduum (Holy Thursday/ Good Friday/ Easter Vigil/ Easter Sunday) other pick and choose one or more of those events some just do Easter. However you want to get ready to celebrate I felt that this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a nice reflection for this week leading up to the main event.

Barnfloor and Winepress

“And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? ” 2 Kings VI: 27

Thou that on sin’s wages starvest,
Behold we have the joy in harvest:
For us was gather’d the first fruits,
For us was lifted from the roots,
Sheaved in cruel bands, bruised sore,
Scourged upon the threshing-floor;
Where the upper mill-stone roof’d His head,
At morn we found the heavenly Bread,
And, on a thousand altars laid,
Christ our Sacrifice is made!

Thou whose dry plot for moisture gapes,
We shout with them that tread the grapes:
For us the Vine was fenced with thorn,
Five ways the precious branches torn;
Terrible fruit was on the tree
In the acre of Gethsemane;
For us by Calvary’s distress
The wine was racked from the press;
Now in our altar-vessels stored
Is the sweet Vintage of our Lord.

In Joseph’s garden they threw by
The riv’n Vine, leafless, lifeless, dry:
On Easter morn the Tree was forth,
In forty days reach’d heaven from earth;
Soon the whole world is overspread;
Ye weary, come into the shade.

The field where He has planted us
Shall shake her fruit as Libanus,
When He has sheaved us in His sheaf,
When He has made us bear his leaf. –
We scarcely call that banquet food,
But even our Saviour’s and our blood,
We are so grafted on His wood.

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Five Came Back (2017)

The latest documentary Five Came Back on Netflix focuses on five directors who went to and fought in World War II and came back from it alive. This documentary was interesting as when it comes to World War II we some 70 years out all know the broad strokes of it, there Hitler takes power, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Holocaust, Bombings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Sure HBO’s two brilliant miniseries focusing on the Army (Band of Brothers) and the Marines (The Pacific) telling the stories of the two theaters of war and there are a bunch of great films on World War II but this documentary tells an interesting story of the people who went to war and how it changed them.

Five Came Back focuses on John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens all of whom are directors who joined the War effort Ford joined the Navy while Wyler, Huston, Capra and Stevens all were members of the Army Signal Corp. All of them were involved in filming World War II. The documentary features famous directors all talking about one individual Steven Spielberg talks about Wyler, Francis Ford Coppola talks about Huston, Guillermo del Toro talks about Capra, Paul Greengrass talks about Ford, and Lawrence Kasdan talks about Stevens. In the first hour we hear about how they made names for themselves before the war, the second hours is about their time at war and the third hours from D-Day to after the war and what became of them afterwards. If you are a fan of film history this is a very interesting film to watch.

One of the coolest things that I’ve discovered after watching is that you can watch the films that they made during WWII which were talked about in the documentary on Netflix as they have a handful available to watch. If you have some time I would recommend that everyone watch this.

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Netflix Ratings

According to Netflix they are replacing the star rating system with a thumbs up/down model. This is a good idea as it makes it a whole lot easier in a general sense, instead of debating if it was a 3 star or 4 star movie you just have to decide if you liked it or not. I was one of those people hoping that Netflix would add like half star ratings to pinpoint exactually how I felt about a film. Yet a thumbs up or down seems like a much simpler solution.Netflix is saying that this will lead to better predictions about what shows/movie would be of interest to you. It sounds better as I hardly ever watched what Netflix recommends that I could like based on the show/movie. It’s a nice move but it’s taken them long enough to figure out a better way to rate things.

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Football news

There are a couple stories around about the NFL. The biggest one is that the Raiders are moving to Vegas in 2019 or whenever their new stadium is built. If you call this a story congratulations, “asshat owner moves team to get new stadium”  is not a great story but it seems like the way the NFL works now as the Rams and Chargers also wanted new stadiums before the left for LA.  Keep an eye open Jacksonville fans as you may be the next to move.  If only they let the Raiders move back to LA and not the Chargers it would have made for a lot  less headaches.

Another story is that Tony Romo, the former Dallas QB has retired and will be replacing Phil Simms in the CBS booth. Now Former Dallas QB will be the top guys on both FOX and CBS, unfortunately NBC and ESPN do not have former Dallas QB as color commentators. If we could only get rid of Joe Buck.

The third story is that Amazon will be streaming Thursday Night Football this upcoming season. Amazon payed $50 million for the right to stream these games, which will also be broadcast on the NFL Network, CBS and NBC. Amazon will have this as an “exclusive” to Prime subscribers. Hopefully at some point Thursday night game turn out to be good as the previous couple of years they have been lacking especially with those monochromatic Color Rush uniforms, if it were like a throwback uniform instead I believe that more people would enjoy the games.

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Catholic Epistles Part 2: Letters of Peter

Last week we looked at the first General or catholic letter from James. Now we turn to Peter who wrote two letters. Well these most likely were not written by Peter directly either by a secretary or more likely a disciple of Peter writing in his name after Peter died. The whole authorship debate is pretty crazy and don’t really want to get into it. The first letter was most likely written after the letters of Paul were a thing, the second letter might have been the last book written for the Bible as it references other letters as scripture and it uses the Letter of Jude. A rough dating of the letters are between 70-90 for the first while the second ranges between 80-130 or so.

As for the content of the letters they vary widely between the two. In the first letter it is addressed to the exiles of the dispersion, and pin points the location of the people to Asia Minor. The letter begins by talking up the Christian people as they are “God’s own people” it goes on to echo the words of the Lord from Exodus “Be holy because I am Holy” and the idea of girding the loins of your mind, now this is like getting your mind from the gutter.  The general idea is that the Christians are special people but Peter tells them to behave themselves amongst the gentiles (pagans). This simply is be both a good Christian and a good citizen. The topic changes and Peter talks about the harassment of the Christians by their pagan neighbors, sure but Peter reminds them that it is only through suffering that glory can come, and he was there at the death of Jesus. Sure more suffering could come but then the glory will be better. One interesting point in this letter is that it talks about Christ after he died proclaimed to spirits in prison, some early theologian see this are a reference to the descent into the dead/Hell where Jesus preached the Gospel to those in Limbo.

The second letter is addressed to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with our in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It begins by saying that followers should “become partakers in the divine nature” and that there are things that can supplement our faith with virtues and virtues with knowledge and knowledge with self control and self control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. It goes on to condemn false teachers and that the second coming isn’t going to be coming tomorrow for to the eyes of the Lord a thousand year are but a day. This waiting also is a time for repentance  therefore all Christians “Peter” suggests should look to scripture and his last letter. Christians need to live in holiness and gird the loins of ones mind.

It is interesting to read these early writings of the Church as see that some topics are still what we are struggling with. The whole be a good Christian but also be a good citizen is where many people face problems today as they are more concerned with being a good citizen no matter how it makes them look as a “Christian” just look at what’s been going on in Washington do we consider any one there is acting “Christianly” to one another the Democrats and Republican have been at each other for years slowly becoming more entrenched in their own ideologies and refusing anything else.

Next week we will be looking at the three letters of John as well as Jude’s letter.

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Baseball Opening Day Predictions

As the new Baseball season begins it is time for some really early predictions about this upcoming season.

Forget the formalities as most people are picking roughly the same teams to make the playoffs as last year. In the American League two teams Boston and Cleveland are highly favored to win their divisions.  Then we have the AL West which is a bit tighter the Astros are favored but there are a couple spoilers sitting there in the Rangers and the surprising Mariners.  Those might be the wild card teams as well but I’d put in the Blue Jays since they been in the playoffs the past two years. The story is the same in the National League with the Cubs, Nationals, Dodgers, Giants making the playoffs with perhaps the Mets or the Cardinals scoring the wild cards.

Now all these guys are the usual suspects and surely there will be some surprise team that makes itself known or injuries will hurt some team. It’s the time of possibilities it seems like all the predictions out there for the season have it ending exactly like last year with the Cubs and Indians meeting in the World Series but you have to go back to 1978 for the last time that the World Series was a rematch of the previous World Series.  This however seems very unlikely.