From Xyklon B to Machetes: Our Lady in the Age of Genocide

I wrote this a couple of years ago. Since I was too busy to write anything yesterday, I’ve decided to post it again today. It’s in serious need of updating in light  of recent events, (which I may do on Monday) but I think it’s still worth a look, as it is. 

Genocide was the 20th Century’s iconic crime. It was, for much of the world, a 100-year bloodbath.

Murderous governments used killers armed with everything from Xyklon B to machetes to wage war against civilians with the aim of wiping entire tribes and populations of people from the earth. It began with the Armenian Genocide and kept on rolling through to the Sudan. Other eras were guilty of genocidal war. But when it came to efficiency and numbers, nobody did it better than the genocidal warriors of the 20th Century.

Our hope, as we left the old century behind, was that we had somehow contrived to leave these impulses for organized murder behind us. We thought they belonged in the forgotten junk drawer of that era, beside the vacuum tubes and eight track tapes. Unfortunately, genocide trailed us into the 21st Century and is already making a real name for itself here.

Not so long ago, within living memory, we stood beside the mass graves and crematoriums of the Third Reich and vowed “never again.” But, as my grandmother used to tell me, “Never say never.”

Genocide led us on a blood-drenched march through the last half of the 20th Century. In 50 short years of history, it drug us from the Nazi death camps to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, through the slaughter in Rwanda, and on to the Sudan.
 Today, it is the Christians who are being targeted for extermination.

Each day brings a new and horrific story of Christians murdered because they are Christians in many places around globe, but particularly the Middle East and parts of Africa. Deacon Greg Kandra, over at The Deacon’s Bench, posted Monday on the plight of Christians in Syria.

In his post, Can Syria’s Christians Survive? Deacon Greg quotes a Wall Street Journal article that says in part:

“… Syria’s Christian communities are being severely tested by the uprising that has racked the country for more than a year. They think back to 636, when the Christian Byzantine emperor Heraclius saw his army defeated by Muslim forces south of present-day Damascus. “Peace be with you Syria. What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies,” he lamented before fleeing north to Antioch. In the 8th century, a famed Damascus church was razed to make way for the Umayyad Mosque—today one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Not a few Christians in modern-day Syria worry that the current crisis could end the same way for them if Bashar al-Assad and his regime are defeated by the rebel insurgency … ” Read more here:  Can Syria’s Christians Survive?

This is especially poignant today, on the Feast of the Assumption, since this feast honors Mary, Our Lord’s mother. Our Lady spent her last years in what is modern day Turkey. Her last home is believed to have been high on a hillside not far from the city of Ephesus.

When I visited this site last year, I was impressed by the long lines of believers who had traveled from all over the world to stand in the cool shade of this hillside. It was equally striking to see Muslims and Christians in line together, waiting their turn to enter the tiny rooms of the reconstructed ruin of Our Lady’s home.

You can touch the stones that formed the lower portion of her original house, hear the breeze riffling through the trees, and drink from a spring that may have supplied her water. It’s easy to imagine how peaceful this home would have been for her, especially after visiting the stone metropolis of Ephesus not far away. Her empty grave must lie a short distance from this place. She was assumed into heaven from here.

I wanted to attend mass at this spot, but we got there too late in the day. What I did instead was break the “no entry” rule posted beside the ropes surrounding the little outdoor chapel and take a seat in one of the chairs. I wanted to be alone, to feel the Presence in that place and to pray. The guard eyed me quietly and then respectfully backed away, his rifle hanging limp at his side.

When I had told one of my Muslim companions that I wanted to be alone to pray, he said, “Pray for me too,” and I did.

It was easy here, in this quiet bubble of grace next to the long lines of pilgrims chattering in their many languages, to believe that we could put it all aside. We could give up the things that divide us and remember the things that make us one.

We are all born of woman. We will all die. We are children of the same One God Who loves us the way any parent loves his children.

That should be enough. It should be more than enough to make us think long and hard about this nasty habit we have of killing one another.

What are we going to say when we stand before God and try to explain ourselves?

It was unfathomable to me, sitting in that holy place, that there are people so demented and lost that they honestly believe that God will reward them for the wanton killing of His children. But I know that such people exist. I’ve witnessed first-hand the carnage that terrorists cause.

If there is one message in this Feast of the Assumption, it’s that we not only have One Father; we have One Mother, as well.

I saw Muslims and Christians, standing in line together to honor her. A hardened Turkish guard respectfully backed away to let me pray my Christian prayers. From The Deacon’s Bench, to the bleached stones of Ephesus and on uphill to the riffling breezes of her last home, Our Lady does what mothers always do.

She makes us family.

Mary truly is the Mother of God. Jesus gave her to humanity when He told the Apostle John, “This is your mother.” She is mother to us all, Muslim and Christian alike.

I think her love is the bridge that will one day bring us together.

The Reason for the Season

This is the second day of Christmas, which is not too late to reflect once again on the Reason for the season.

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Immaculate Conception: The Door Opening

The Immaculate Conception is the door opening on our salvation.

It is God the Father, preparing the way for the birth of God the Son by first preparing a holy mother for Him.

The idea that God chose to enter the world as a helpless baby, born to a young girl and her carpenter husband in a backwater province of a conquered nation goes against everything we know and believe about what makes a person important.

We live in a world where might makes right and the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules. This disregard for the little people of the world was even more pronounced in that long-ago day when Our Lady was conceived. This tiny spark of humanity, who was destined to become the bearer of the hope of all humankind, was, if possible, even less important to the worldly world than her baby son would be at His beginning.

She was, after all, a girl in a world that to this day regards little girls as less than worthless. She was that half of humanity which was often exposed at birth and left to rot. Even today in large swaths of what we call civilization, baby girls are aborted because they are girls, and if they are born, killed shortly afterwards. Girls in these cultures often get less food, little education and almost no support in their development as people. They are subjected to brutalities ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriages, rape and battering.

And yet, God chose, with every possibility possible at His disposal, to come into our world through the motherhood of a young woman. God entrusted Himself to a mother from His conception to His eventual death on the cross. It was a woman who gave Him life and who nurtured, shaped and reared Him into young manhood. This does not take anything away from Joseph’s contribution. Fathers are just as important as mothers. But today we are considering the one person who was with Jesus from conception to grave, and who then was there at Pentecost when the Church was born.

Mary is the mother of us all, the essential human contribution to the undoing of the curse of the Fall. She was prophesied at the Fall and she will be there at the real end when Jesus comes again.

And it began with her conception, when God re-created the lost innocence of Eden in a new Eve who would give birth to the salvific Child to undo our transgressions. This great re-wind started then, in her Immaculate Conception. It was the long-awaited door opening. This feast day is our chance to go back and re-learn what has been given to us by a young girl who, conceived without sin as the original Eve had been, did not falter in her mission as that earlier Eve did, but remained sinless until her own death.

God gave us Mary, and Mary, through her obedience and faith, gave us His son.

She is not, as some traditions try to treat her, a mindless incubator we bring out for Christmas pageants and then forget the rest of the year. Our Lady is woven into the story of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Everything that is wholly human about Our Lord comes from and through her. She gave us her Son, first at His birth and then later at Calvary; and He in turn, gave us His mother.

The Immaculate Conception is a door opening on the end of hopelessness and death. It is a cell-sized point of light shining in the darkness of our own devices. Mary, Our Mother, began the way we all did, as a single cell made in the image and likeness of God.

Christ’s humanity is her humanity. Her dignity is our dignity. She is our mother for the ages.

Litany of Our Lady

This litany is a wonderful way to pray today on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Mary and Following Jesus: There are No Limits

JesusandMary

I have been progressing through the 33 day preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.

I am well over half way through it, and it has tested my faith every step of the way. I do not mean that it has made me question my belief in God. It has not put my belief in Jesus or the teachings of the Church to the test. Far from it.

What it has tested is the limits of my willingness to live my life based on that belief. Just how far will I go in following Jesus? A book I reviewed today, Fight, also tested those limits.

That seems to be the season I am in. On the one hand, the prayers and meditations of Total Consecration have pushed me to consider just what I will yield to another person, even the person of the Mother of God. How much can I trust anyone, even her? Specifically, how much of my relationship to God, to Jesus, will I yield to her rather than doing it all myself?

Fight challenged me with the question of how far I would follow Him, how completely would I do what He asks, even when I really don’t want to.

It’s really all one question and Jesus asked it best: Do you love me more than these?

His mother answered that question in the affirmative every time in every way. When the Archangel Gabriel asked her to assent to what was death-dealing anathema for girls of that era — unwed pregnancy — she said yes. When Simeon told her how it would end, she said yes. At the wedding at Cana, when she sent her child forward into His ministry which they both knew would culminate at Calvary, she said yes. When she prayed with the Apostles for the birth of the Church before Pentecost, she said yes.

Mary, like Jesus, had to be resurrected and taken into heaven as part of the divine plan. He gave her to us from the cross, and once again, she said yes.

She had to be lifted up because we need her there. The Immaculate Conception of Mary was the door opening on our salvation. She was then and she is now an outstretched arm, pointing to Him.

“Do whatever He tells you,” she instructed the wine stewards.

She says the same thing to us.

Because, as I am discovering and wrestling with, when she is your guide, there are no limits to following Him.

Illegal Immigrants, Puppet Kings, Mass Murder and Peace Wrapped in Thorns

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents.

It commemorates the terrible slaughter of little boys under two years of age by King Herod. Herod was trying to kill the newborn King of the Jews, the Messiah, because he mistakenly thought that this baby king would one day try to overtake his throne.

Herod was a puppet king, put in place by the Romans to hold things together in what was a little corner of their empire. But even though Israel was small, it held an important place along the trade routes linking Egypt and Rome. Egypt at that time was the breadbasket of the world.

So, uprisings and troubles in this area could not be ignored. They had to be put down.

Much of the history of the New Testament, including the eventual crucifixion of Our Lord, turns on this fact.

Herod was a placeholder. His purpose in the Roman scheme of things was to keep the order in that tiny kingdom of his. He was charged with keeping things calm, collecting taxes and making sure that the trade routes stayed open. If he needed to kill people to accomplish this, he was free to do so.

Herod sat on a wobbly throne. He was subject to the Romans above and threatened by the religious zealots and restless populace below. Since he had Jewish inclinations of his own, he understood the power of the prophesied Messiah on the popular imagination. People were waiting for a warrior king who would free Israel and restore it to glory. Tales of the Maccabean revolts still resonated. It all seemed possible to a puppet king.

When three men from the East dropped by, asking directions to the new born king, that gave what was probably Herod’s always-ready paranoia a new target. Somewhere out there in the little town of Bethlehem his future nemesis was growing up.

After the men who were searching for the baby failed to return to Herod and tell him where this child was, Herod moved to a simpler, more expedient method of eliminating the risk. He ordered the murder of every baby boy under the age of two.

Jesus was wholly human as well as wholly God. Like us, he was born to die. But not then. His time was years in the future. So, God sent an angel to Jesus’ step-father in a dream to tell him to take Mary and the baby Jesus away from there.

I’ve always found it significant that the angel did not come to Mary. Joseph was the protector of that little family. The angel came to him.

And, like good fathers everywhere, he accepted the responsibility of taking care of his family.

Joseph took his wife and baby into exile in Egypt where they stayed for what sounds like a few years. The little boy Jesus and His mother and father learned what it means to be strangers in a strange land. They were refugees, illegal immigrants, alone in a land that did not share their heritage or their faith.

This is a sad tale, a hard beginning to the life that would change the world forever. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were a family facing hardship, hard times, and a struggle for survival just like families have always faced these things: Together.

“My peace I give you,” Jesus would later say. “Peace of Christ,” we say to one another. “The peace that passes all understanding,” Paul described it to us.

Peace.

But like everything thing else about this story, this peace comes wrapped in a crown of thorns.

She’s My Mother So Be Careful What You Say About Her

Monday was my anniversary.

My mother had a turn for the worse yesterday.

My doc did some “work” on Gimpy the Foot a week ago today.

I have to submit all the titles I want for the legislation I want to introduce by Friday.

I moved to a different residence and things are a mess and I can’t do nuthin’ because of Gimpy.

I’m teaching a class at a local university.

 

There are benefits to being so busy and out of it.One of them is that I miss a lot of the trendy, anti-Christian trash that’s floating around. I for sure missed the news that some guy has written a book attacking Our Lady.

I’m glad I got to not know about this for a while. To mis-quote Sara Teasdale, “for every sweet, singing hour of peace count many an hour of strife well lost.” In my situation, I think that’s Sara, saying that ignorance can be bliss.

Fortunately, the inimitable Mark Shea, who blogs at Catholic and Enjoying It, was aware and taking action. He’s written a great discussion about this book, which begins “My autopsy of Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, this Christmas’ assault on the gospel from our now utterly predictable Manufacturers of Culture.”

I’m glad Mark saw it first. He’s better at this sort of thing than I am, and it sounds as if this particular book deserves evisceration at the hands of the best.

Mark’s comments here on Patheos, which are titled Not My Mother, say:

My autopsy of Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, this Christmas’ assault on the gospel from our now utterly predictable Manufacturers of Culture.  Just a little taste:

In terms of content, the book is a by-the-numbers hatchet job written in sensitive, spare, and poetic diction for the delectation of UK and New York Chattering Classes and dipped in a bath of relentless, willful sadness and bitterness. The basic premise is that it has been 20 years since the crucifixion, and Mary is one pissed-off hag, sounding for all the world like a nun in iron grey, short-cropped hair and sensible shoes who has seized the microphone in a We Are Church group process breakout session and is now on the third hour of an extended free association monologue, grousing bitterly about the patriarchy.

(Read more here.)

 

 

Immaculate Conception: The Door Opening

The Immaculate Conception is the door opening on our salvation.

It is God the Father, preparing the way for the birth of God the Son by first preparing a holy mother for Him.

The idea that God chose to enter the world as a helpless baby, born to a young girl and her carpenter husband in a backwater province of a conquered nation goes against everything we know and believe about what makes a person important.

We live in a world where might makes right and the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules. This disregard for the little people of the world was even more pronounced in that long-ago day when Our Lady was conceived. This tiny spark of humanity, who was destined to become the bearer of the hope of all humankind, was, if possible, even less important to the worldly world than her baby son would be at His beginning.

She was, after all, a girl in a world that to this day regards little girls as less than worthless. She was that half of humanity which was often exposed at birth and left to rot. Even today in large swaths of what we call civilization, baby girls are aborted because they are girls, and if they are born, killed shortly afterwards. Girls in these cultures often get less food, little education and almost no support in their development as people. They are subjected to brutalities ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriages, rape and battering.

And yet, God chose, with every possibility possible at His disposal, to come into our world through the motherhood of a young woman. God entrusted Himself to a mother from His conception to His eventual death on the cross. It was a woman who gave Him life and who nurtured, shaped and reared Him into young manhood. This does not take anything away from Joseph’s contribution. Fathers are just as important as mothers. But today we are considering the one person who was with Jesus from conception to grave, and who then was there at Pentecost when the Church was born.

Mary is the mother of us all, the essential human contribution to the undoing of the curse of the Fall. She was prophesied at the Fall and she will be there at the real end when Jesus comes again.

And it began with her conception, when God re-created the lost innocence of Eden in a new Eve who would give birth to the salvific Child to undo our transgressions. This great re-wind started then, in her Immaculate Conception. It was the long-awaited door opening. This feast day is our chance to go back and re-learn what has been given to us by a young girl who, conceived without sin as the original Eve had been, did not falter in her mission as that earlier Eve did, but remained sinless until her own death.

God gave us Mary, and Mary, through her obedience and faith, gave us His son.

She is not, as some traditions try to treat her, a mindless incubator we bring out for Christmas pageants and then forget the rest of the year. Our Lady is woven into the story of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Everything that is wholly human about Our Lord comes from and through her. She gave us her Son, first at His birth and then later at Calvary; and He in turn, gave us His mother.

The Immaculate Conception is a door opening on the end of hopelessness and death. It is a cell-sized point of light shining in the darkness of our own devices. Mary, Our Mother, began the way we all did, as a single cell made in the image and likeness of God.

Christ’s humanity is her humanity. Her dignity is our dignity. She is our mother for the ages.

Foot of the Cross

Mary and Jesus

Peter Wiebe’s blog, Threshold of Heaven, takes readers to the foot of the cross.

Peter lost his precious little boy, Jesse, to cancer a year ago. Threshold of Heaven is a tribute to Jesse and a searingly honest account of the hardest grief any person can know; the loss of a child.

Peter’s posts make me think of Our Lady. She had to watch her child die, too. St Simeon told her when Jesus was only a few days old, “A sword shall pierce your soul.” And it did.

Yet, the Archangel Gabriel called Mary blessed.

This isn’t an award. It’s an acknowledgement of a beautiful, brave little boy and his loving and brave Dad.

Thank you Peter, for your generosity in sharing your love for Jesse with us.


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