Sunday, February 28, 2016

Names and THE Name

(From USCCB, used w/o permission.)

Depending on whether or not folks are going through RCIA, we could be hearing either Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; and Luke 13:1-9 — or Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; and John 4:5-42 during Mass today.

The first set is the usual Year A readings for the third Sunday of Lent, the other are the set for today's Year A Scrutinies. Scrutinies are part of RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, a reboot of ancient procedures for processing adults into the Church.

Today's RCIA goes back to 1972, "as part of the liturgical renewal mandated by Vatican II."1 Before that we'd been using a Rite of Baptism introduced in 1614: which was just baptism.

I suppose some folks are upset that we changed something that'd been around since the year Pocahontas married John Rolfe and the Siege of Osaka began. Tokugawa Ieyasu became the next shogun, and yes: there are worse things than American presidential elections. My opinion.

By the way — if this post seems a bit more scattershot than usual, you're quite right.

I've been beset by a swarm of minor frustrations, or been unusually poor at managing my time — more likely a mix of both, plus getting downwind of the butterfly effect on steroids.

Butterflies on steroids?

That's a mental image that'll stick with me, and I'm not going to get distracted by gonane, cyclohexane rings, cyclopentane structures, bicycles, and entomologyetymology, yes, and I'll get back to that.

Still with me?

Okay — Make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy your flight.


I'm not upset that we're not trying to revive the 'good old days' of 1972, 1962, or 1614.

But I realize that ecumenical councils like the Second Vatican Council, First Vatican Council, and Council of Trent, deal with global issues; and that we no longer live in the 20th, or 16th, century.

I'll grant that the First and Second Vatican Councils happened pretty close together: 1870 and 1962–1965.

Instead of wringing my hands how fast the world's changing, I'll point out that the First Council of Niceaea, First Council of Constantinople and Council of Ephesus, convened in 325, 381, and 431. The seventh ecumenical council happened in 787, back in Nicaea.

What's more remarkable, I think, are gaps when these councils didn't meet, like 870 to 1123 and 1563 to 1870.

This world keeps changing, so I see the Church making occasional adjustments in how we present the deposit of faith as routine. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1, 24, 84-87, 172-175, 302, 1511-1513, 1200-1206)

Where was I? Exodus, Niceaea, Pocahontas. Right.

"What am I to Tell Them?"

There's a lot going on in Exodus 3:1-15: sandals and holy ground, being afraid to look at God, and diffidence over getting orders directly from the top.2

It's also when we learned God's name, or title. One of them, that is:
"...'But,' said Moses to God, 'when I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' if they ask me, 'What is his name?' what am I to tell them?'

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

"God spoke further to Moses, 'Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. 'This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations...."
(Exodus 3:13-15)
I've talked about what happened centuries, maybe a millennium, later. (October 18, 2015; April 5, 2015)
"24 Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.'

"So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area."
(John 8:58-59)
Getting back to that interview with I AM; also names, language, and culture.

John, Jesus, and Me

Names mean things, or did at some point. Some examples —

Brian, my given name, harks back to Irish and Breton languages. It may come from an Old Celtic word for "hill" or "high place," and by extension mean "high" or "noble." I'm named after Brian Boru, High King of Ireland about a millennium back.

That's not what we'd mean these days by 'king of Ireland,' and I'm not going to get distracted by the Battle of Clontarf. My surname, Gill, means gully or ravine; or, if it's the word incorporated in Gilchrist, servant or slave. "Noble Gully/Slave?" There are worse names, I suppose.

Some names, like the Latin-derived Victor, still mean something in my native language. Others, like Benjamin, don't: and predate Western civilization's current iteration.

David is my language's version of דָּוִד, "beloved." An Ethiopian version is Dawit, and that's another topic.

John/Giovanni/Juan/Johann/Jens/Ieuan/Seán/Ivan/Janez/ יוֹחָנָן (Yôḥānān)/יְהוֹחָנָן (Yəhôḥānān) — means "YHWH has been gracious." That explains Gabriel's message for Zachariah in Luke 1:13. I've talked about Gideon, Gabriel, Mary, and guts before. (December 21, 2014)

Several decades back, I heard "Jesus Loves Me" sung by a Chinese child: discovering that our Lord's name in her language is Yasu — which is closer, I think, to the original ישוע (Yeshua) than my Germanic language's "Jesus."

I like English, but will admit that it's not the most euphonious language on the planet.

Anyway, Yeshua was a common alternative to יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Joshua) when Gabriel had that interview with Mary.

I've read that "YHWH Saves/[is] Salvation/[is] a Saving-Cry" are not-unreasonable translations: and am inclined to see 'all of the above' as accurate. The denotative distinctions aren't all that disparate — alliteration happens — I suspect "God Saves" isn't far from the mark.

So, what about Ehyeh Ašer Ehyeh and Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, "I am who am" and "I AM" in my translation of Exodus 3:14?

"...Tell the Israelites..."

First off, my hat is most respectfully off to the millennia-old custom of avoiding uttering the Names of God. My own beliefs don't require it: and I'll find out soon enough if that's a problem.

I've talked about particular judgment, sin, and long-term planning, before. I hope that, at the end of all things, folks who wear tefillin get special commendation for following instructions to the letter, and that's yet another topic. (November 1, 2015; August 12, 2015; March 8, 2015)

Next, let's remember that Exodus 3:14 recalls something that happened — most likely after the Late Bronze Age Collapse and before Philip II of Macedon hired Aristotle as Alexander III of Macedon's tutor.

Back then, folks in Sumer and other Mesopotamian regions had an extensive roster of gods: like Anu/An, "Lord of the Constellations, Spirits and Demons;" and Ereshkigal, ruler of Irkalla, the underworld.

Today, several millennia later, we've gotten into the habit of using phonetic approximations of ancient names: and tend, I think, to forget that the names meant something, like "Victor" does today.

Someone who understood Sumerian, but hadn't heard of Anu, wouldn't have had trouble guessing what Anu's sphere of influence was. "An" means "sky" in Sumerian.

Ereshkigal, , means "queen of the great earth:" which isn't far from "queen of the underworld."

I suspect Moses understood at least some implications of "I am who am" and "I AM:" even if he hadn't realized that God is God and everyone else isn't.

I think it's likely that Moses would realize that the God of Abraham ruled: not just the sky, or our world, or some other subset of reality. God, I AM, rules — existence, reality, everything.

We're still, I think, getting used to that idea.
"For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods, the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes;

"who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him.

"So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt."
(Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

"Great is the LORD and worthy of high praise; God's grandeur is beyond understanding.

"One generation praises your deeds to the next and proclaims your mighty works.

"They speak of the splendor of your majestic glory, tell of your wonderful deeds.

"They speak of your fearsome power and attest to your great deeds.

"They publish the renown of your abounding goodness and joyfully sing of your justice.

"The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love.

"The LORD is good to all, compassionate to every creature."
(Psalms 145:3-9)

"1 In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets;

"in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,

"who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

"as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs."
(Hebrews 1:1-4)

(From NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); ESA/Hubble Collaboration; used w/o permission.)

There's more, lots more, including what our Lord said about tower at Siloam, and that's yet again another topic:

1 RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) background:
"...The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), retrieved from biblical and patristic sources and adapted for use by the Catholic Church in 1972, offers possibilities for an agreed expression of our theological understanding and practice. The RCIA was introduced into the Catholic Church as part of the liturgical renewal mandated by Vatican II. It resulted from a revision of the rite of baptism in light of studies of liturgical history drawn from scriptural and patristic texts, especially that of the early centuries. As its name implies, this rite is for the full initiation of a person into the church. The previously existing Rite of Baptism, that came into effect in 1614 as a rite of baptism only, was an abbreviated version of the ancient rite for the initiation of adults and had been used for the most part in the modified form suitable for the baptism of infants. The Rite of the Baptism of Infants, introduced in 1969 to answer the need of a rite suited to infants, follows the practice of the previous rite in being for baptism alone, rather than one of full initiation. The limited scope of this Rite brings into prominence, by way of contrast, the comprehensive nature of the RCIA...."

"...The renewed Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, drawn from the tradition of the ancient church, is intended to guide the person as 'a new creature, an adopted [child] of God, who has become a partaker of the divine nature, member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit' (CCC 1265). Baptismal experience helps a person to grow in faith, hope and love towards God, to live under the prompting of the Holy Spirit and to mature in holiness. Adults also receive the sacrament of confirmation during their initiation, that is, 'the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost' (CCC 1302). This increases the grace of baptism such that their sense of divine filiation or adoption is deepened, their union with Christ is more firm, the gifts of the Holy Spirit increase, the bond with the church is more perfect, and by the special strength of the Holy Spirit they are enabled to witness to Christ by word and action (cf. CCC 1303). Reception of the eucharist in 'first communion' is a sharing in the sacrament of intimate union with Christ that 'preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at baptism". As "the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death' (CCC 1392), the eucharist grants the necessary nourishment for continued growth in Christian life."
("On Becoming a Christian: Insights from Scripture and the Patristic Writings with Some Contemporary Reflections," 48, 162, Report of the Fifth Phase of the International Dialogue Between Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders and the Catholic Church (1998-2006))
RCIA and scrutinies:
"...What are the 'scrutinies?' The RCIA describes them as 'rites for self - searching and repentance and above all a spiritual purpose. The scrutinies are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong and good.For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.' (#141)..."
(Bulletin Article 1 | The Season of Lent, USCCB (2012))
More from the UCCB:
2 Apparently some historians figure Moses didn't really exist. One of the arguments is that whoever was Pharaoh at the time didn't have scribes and masons memorialize the plagues and subsequent fiery cloud incident. (Exodus 13:21-14:31)

I'm not terribly surprised at the lack of Egyptian documentation. This was pharaonic Egypt, not America after the Freedom of Information Act passed.

It's hard to imaging a pharaoh being eager to record how his decisions resulted in Egyptians going through a sequence of disasters, topping the debacle off by losing a valuable labor force and an elite military unit.

I've talked about Sacred Scripture, culture, and assumptions, before: but not, oddly enough, George Washington's cherry tree:


Brigid said...

Extra word: "off to the millennia-old of custom of avoiding"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Oops! Fixed! Thanks, Brigid!

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