Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Prayer for When I *Can't* Pray

Here is a prayer I wrote while I was in college.  It was one of those times when I couldn't sift through all the various friends, preachers and other influences that surrounded me with different and conflicted urgings on how to think, how to relate to the Almighty, and what I should or should not pray:

Oh God, my Creator, I humbly ask you for the privilege of knowing you according to the way that you alone choose for me to know you.

And I ask you to keep me from hardening my heart to the ways that you alone choose, and help me to discern your most perfect will, so that in knowing the will of the One who created me I may have true peace and a better knowledge of my true self. Amen.
Friday, December 24, 2010

There's Something About Mary

I have spent over 20 years among American Catholics as a convert from fundamentalist/pentecostal protestantism.

In that time I have listened to many, many people say the prayers of the rosary when they have little knowledge and even less inclination to investigate the meaning and significance of the words--

Blessed are you among women!”

In my personal experience, asking a “cradle Catholic” in Alabama to explain these words will yield results such as:

That means that she is God's favorite woman.” “It means that she is more beautiful and pure than all other women.” “It means that God will give her more blessings (rewards) than anyone else.”

Quite frankly, though these answers are applicable to Catholic teachings about the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, in my opinion they do more to explain the words addressed to her immediately prior: “FULL OF GRACE.”

I never see or hear anyone looking in the Bible for examples to better illustrate what it means to be BLESSED AMONG WOMEN. And what a pity, because I found two (2):

Jael, the wife of Heber, crushing the head of Sisera, the enemy of God. (Judges 4:21)

In the Book of Judges, the Israelites were going in to battle against the Canaanites, and the general leading the Canaanite army was a man named Sisera.  The prophetess Deborah had promised the Israelite commander (whose name was Barack, FWIW) that the Israelites would prevail, but that their enemy would be delivered into the hands of a woman.  As the battle progressed and the Israelites were winning, Sisera ran away from the battle and came to the tent of Heber the Kenite asking to hide there.  Heber wasn't home, but his wife Jael let him come inside.  She gave him curdled milk to drink which caused him to fall into a deep sleep.  Then she took a tent peg and with a hammer she drove it straight though his temple into the ground. 

When the Israelites learned how their enemy was killed, and who killed him, the prophetess Deborah sang:

Blessed among women be Jael,
blessed among tent-dwelling women.
Judges 5:24

She hammered Sisera, crushed his head;
she smashed, stove in his temple.
Judges 5:26

And the second example is to be found in the deuterocanonical works:

Judith, the widow of Manasseh, striking the head of Holofernes, the enemy of God. (Judith 13:8)

In the Book of Judith, the Israelites are being attacked by Holfernes, the general of the Assyrian King Nebuchadnezzar.  Judith, a widow of stunning physical beauty negotiates with Holofernes alleging that she will come to his bedchambers and share the secrets of the Israelites with him.  He accepts her offer, earnestly desiring to get her into his bed, and she gives him so much wine to drink that he falls unconscious.  Then Judith takes Holofernes' own sword and hacks off his head in a bloody mess.

When the Israelites learn how their enemy was killed, and who killed him, their leader Uziah prophesied and said:

"Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies." (Judith 13:18).

And this brings us back to Mary the Virgin, who is not only BLESSED AMONG WOMEN but is also traditionally associated with quite a bit of head-crushing  as regards the enemy of God, namely Satan.

Mary the Virgin, Mother of Jesus Christ, crushing the head of Satan, the enemy of God. (Genesis 3:15)

Mary is given credit for crushing the head of the serpent as a result of a prophesy to the serpent as Adam and Eve are ejected from the Garden of Eden after the first instance of sin entered mankind.

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."  (Genesis 3:15).

The consensus is quite clear that the actual "head-crushing" to be done in this prophecy is that Jesus Christ, the promised offspring of the promised woman, will defeat Satan through his cross and resurrection.  But to be fair to Mary (the undisputed mother of the promised "offspring"), the Lord clearly has informed Satan that he's got a fight on his hands (enmity) and that his fight will be BOTH with the promised woman and her son.  Since she shares in the fight wherein her son Jesus heroically and divinely prevails, she shares in the victory.

The head of Satan, the enemy of God, has been CRUSHED!  Blessed among women is Mary the Virgin!

Tonight we (are supposed to) celebrate that prophesied birth of the Messiah, born to the Promised Woman. 

I pray that Jesus and his Virgin Mother will get a bit more attention than the (secular version of) Santa Claus!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The American Catholic Girl's Guide to Getting Married!