Friday, January 1, 2010

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: Yeah, It's Kind of a Big Deal

Today is the 43rd World Day of Peace. Although some rather tightly-wound individuals may not agree, I think most people feel that peace is nice, and that we should have more of it. I also think that, although being nice is nice: Sometimes niceness alone isn't enough. (see "About the Just War Doctrine" (June 7, 2009))

Aside from observing that it would be nice if everybody would decide to be nice, that's all I've got to say about the 43rd WDoP.

Today is also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Which doesn't mean that Catholics worship Mary and think God is less than Mary because He's her child. But, if that's what you really feel, deeply and sincerely: that's what you feel.

I am, though, going to write a little about Jesus. And, while I'm at it, Mary.

Before I do, though, a link to something from the Holy See (if you're an American, odds are you call it "the Vatican."):

January 1, 2010: Yet Another Holy Day of Obligation

I can see how people get the idea that Catholics are ground under the heel of a whole bunch of rules and stuff like that. Look how often "obligation" shows up when we talk. A holy day of obligation is "a day when Catholics must attend Mass and refrain from servile work, and Episcopalians must take Communion" (Princeton's WordNet).
Catholics! We've Even Got Rules About the Rules
I'm Catholic, so for me and my house today was a day when we went to Mass and refrained from servile work. Or, rather, my oldest daughter and I went to Mass. The rest were too sick: and yes, we're also obligated to maintain our health, and not infect others; so sometimes we're obligated to skip an obligation. I don't say that being Catholic is easy: just that it's a really good idea.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a page that might answer some questions about holy days of obligation in America:
If you don't live in the same country that I do, your bishops will have determined what's scheduled when in your area, under the direction and authority of Rome.

Catholicism isn't a 'roll your own' religion, where people pick and choose what they feel like believing and what they don't: but there's a fair degree of leeway for local customs and culture. Some of my ancestors, for example, liked to drag trees inside around this time of year - but that's another topic.

Where Was I? Right: Mary, Mother of God

"Just who is this Jesus person, and who does he think he is?"

Short answer? God. And he made it stick. Which is another topic.

One thing about my lord: He is not a person to politely refrain from making definite statements. Like the time he was in the temple area in Jerusalem:

"Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.' "
(John 8:58)

A bit earlier, in that burning bush incident, there was this:

"God replied, 'I am who am.' Then he added, 'This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.' "
(Exodus 3:14)

And yes, I know: that's in English. The words of Jesus were recorded in another language. So was the whole Moses-God dialog. There are some interesting footnotes discussing that sort of thing, like footnote 24 for John 8 and footnote 6 for Exodus 3.

When Jesus said (as translated into English) "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM" - I'm inclined to think that what he really meant to say was "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM."

Looks to me as if Jesus was trying to say that he was around before Abraham, and that he and God were - well, comparable.

I don't think it's all that much of a stretch, from this and other points, to think that Jesus is God.

And, Mary is the mother of Jesus. So, "Mary, Mother of God" is - given the earlier assumptions - a fairly reasonable title.

God Couldn't Possibly be Human/A Man Couldn't Possibly be God?

It's possible to break heresies down into a few categories. A pair that keep cropping up are Gnosticism and Arianism - the idea that, respectively, God couldn't possibly be a mere human; and that a human couldn't possibly be divine. Better minds than mine have explained what the Church believes, and why: and this post is getting a bit long as it is, so I'm moving along (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 465, for starters) (There's a pretty good article on Arianism on the website)

I don't understand how God the infinite, eternal, all-present, could become one of us - or how one of us could be "...eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father...." But I'm okay with the idea that God is smarter than I am, and knows more, too.

That's Jesus: the God-man. "One in being with the Father" as the Nicene Creed puts it.

I've told my kids that one way to look at it is that "he's human, on his mother's side." But yeah: Jesus is God, one person in the Trinity - and no, Christians aren't polytheists, which is yet another topic.

"Do Whatever He Tells You."

Back to Mary.

Yeah, we Catholics make a pretty big fuss over her. It's "veneration," not "worship:" and I was impressed with Mary long before I started learning what the Catholic Church was really about. It took guts, accepting the assignment Gabriel delivered. (Luke 1:26-38)

I don't see a problem with paying attention to Mary, because her message to us is what she told the servants at that wedding: " 'Do whatever he tells you.' " (John 2:5)

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.