Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sermon for the Vigil of the Nativity
Year C  ~  December 24, 2015

Holy Trinity & St. Anskar

She brought forth her firstborn Son
… and laid Him in a manger… 

+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity
Jesus said that we have to become like little children to enter the Kingdom.  This was in the context of the disciples’ competing with one another, jostling for position. The child in this example was a figure of humility, and the observation is so easily made into sentimental claptrap that it is tempting to ignore it. Still, maybe there is something exemplary about childlike consciousness, in addition to humility.
Children like animals. They seem naturally drawn to them. Could this be significant? Is it a vestige of some kind of species memory? The Ada-mic solidarity with all creation? Innocent of sinful separation from our fellow-creatures?  Or does it have to do with the confluence of consciousness we considered last Sunday? Are children somehow more open to shared consciousness with animals? Could that possibly be part of what it means to become “as a little child?”

Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Let us notice, however, the difference between being child-like and being child-ish, and in due terror of nauseating sentimentality, and the risk of trivializing Christmas, let us consider the advice of St. Francis of Assisi to preachers on Christmas Eve: just shut up and listen to the Baby Jesus crying in His manger. And St. Francis introduced the cult of the Nativity to Italy 800 years ago, and popularized the manger scene.
    The manger. Let’s think about that. All the Gospel says is that our Lady wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. The Gospel doesn’t tell us where this manger was – stable, shed or cave – it hardly matters. It is enough for us to know that wherever it was, it was the place where animals were kept.
Much is conventionally made about the inhospitality of the wicked world, typified by the booked-up Bethlehem hotel. But as far as we can tell, such accommodation would not have been a suitable place to give birth: no private rooms, just an open floor, crowded with unsavory characters and hopelessly unsanitary. The solitude of the barn would have been preferable. Later on, the One born there would indeed associate, with the likes of the people in the inn, but He was born not among them but out behind, among animals. Animals – more humble even than the shepherds or little children. So to be born among them was ultimate humility. Even so, the newborn Godman was probably better off there than in the inn.
Joseph was there, and of course His All-Holy Mother, but no one else – except the animals. They are not even mentioned; we can only infer their presence from the word, manger – their feeding trough. But let us not dismiss these so-called “subhuman” creatures as insignificant details in the scene, beings of no importance, without consciousness. We simply do not know, what they know. We are related to them – we are certainly closer to them than we are to God –  the Infinite Word Who lies in their manger. Some of them are very close indeed. There is an old display called “Foster mothers of the Human Race,” which identifies  the main breeds of dairy cows at the State Fair. The animals assisted th4e Holy Family.
One way the barn was preferable to the inn was the warmth of their body-heat. Following St. Francis – who addressed animals as brothers and sisters –   I like to think that the cows and horses and oxen and donkeys had some inkling of the importance of what was happening – before humans knew, other than Mary and Joseph. Could they sense that this New Human was for them, too? Did they rejoice in their own way, and move a little closer to shelter Him, to protect the New Adam?
Why not? Despite the risks of sentimentality, the notion is really not so childish, is it? Solidarity with the rest of creation, the recognition of the independent dignity and value of all creatures, the intuition that salvation extends to non-human creatures, may be child-like, but it is not childish, and without it we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of Him Who, as on this Most Holy Night, lies in a manger, warmed by animals, because – providentially perhaps –  there is no room for Him in the inn.
Christ s Born!

Come Let us Adore Him!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Year C  ~  December 20, 2015

Holy Trinity & St. Anskar

    Purify our conscience.                 

+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity

Purify our conscience. What is our conscience? My conscience. I understand. Your conscience and my conscience, but what is OUR conscience? Purify our conscience. This is a strange request. Strange because we usually think of our conscience as something individual – something we each possess separately from one another. The ability to tell right from wrong. One’s conscience makes one human. But today we refer to our conscience, not our consciences, and it won’t do to say that this is just a kind of poetic license to make the phrase flow better. We also pray that we may be a mansion, not several, separate mansions. No: we have to take this more seriously, and I intend to make a GREAT DEAL of this collective use of conscience, Our conscience. Purify our conscience.
First of all, there is an argument to be made from the contrasting fact that often we do pray in common for ourselves in our individual capacities: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, for example, in the Collect for Purity at the beginning of every Mass. It’s plural there: Not cleanse our heart, but cleanse our hearts. So purify our conscience instead of purify our consciences is trying deliberately to get at something, I think. What is it? What could our conscience refer to?
I think it undoubtedly refers to the fact that salvation is corporate and communal, not individual. Salvation is liberation from the prison of individuality, and entry into the lar-ger life of the Divine Community.  Our conscience in that sense refers to the life we share together with one another and with God. Our conscience, perhaps, is the shared awareness of that life. The scholastics defined conscience as a faculty – an organ of understanding – by which we know God and God knows us. Meister Eckhart expressed it in his famous mystical paradox: the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.
This eye may be what Meister Eckhart’s scholastic contemporaries called the human conscience. The word itself, after all, means co-knowing or knowing-with. Perhaps, like me, you have not heard the whole quotation:

If my eye is to discern color, it must itself be free from all color. The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God's eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.

One knowledge – con-science. And one love. For conscience is also where we love God and one another, for to know God is to love God and to love God is to know God. When we enter that closet, however, we are not alone with God in our co-knowing We enter not into a solitary closet, but into a much larger vessel, crammed full of angels and saints and just men and women made perfect, and creatures of love and reason beyond imagining. My conscience is not mine alone, but ours. Our conscience.
The word is related to consciousness. The roots are identical. Maybe Conscience is the highest level of consciousness. The medieval scholastics thought so. They discerned levels of consciousness: the lower faculty (rationality – the ability to see that 2 + 2 = 4 ) and the higher faculty of understanding (intellect – the ability to “read between” or “read into” the meaning of unseen reality). The modern world forgot this distinction, and reduced intellect to a synonym for rationality. The intellect, in the medieval sense, is the ability to enter into the conscience, where we see God and God sees us.
The point of using the singular – our conscience – is to note that this highest human faculty is something larger, in which we participate, not something which we possess as separate individuals. I propose that it is analogous to Jung’s collective unconscious, except that it is not unconscious, but rather a higher awareness, a collective consciousness, into which we enter together, as we advance in the spiritual life. Perhaps our conscience, is a level at which our individual consciousness flows together with the consciousness of others and encounters God.
I am tempted to offer spooky-sounding examples of the kind that fascinate the superstitious and infuriate the materialistic: twins feeling each other’s sensations, spouses knowing when the other is in trouble, and so on. Science cannot explain it yet, and so tends to ignore or ridicule it; superstition, which is ego in its indecent attempt to explain more than it really can, interprets it magically. (Magic is the ape of science.)  But who can sincerely deny the phenomenon? We are intuitive, we are telepathic, we are clairvoyant. Our consciousness does seem to flow together, and the shared consciousness is startlingly acute in some great saints, recognized by the Church. Moreover, the Gospel explicitly attributes it to Jesus in the stories of His calling of Nathaniel and His deliberate delay upon learning of the mortal illness of His friend, Lazarus. We usually think of Jesus’ abilities as pertaining to His Divinity but I suggest that they are faculties of His perfect humanity, human consciousness at its highest level.         
So, when we pray that God may purify our conscience, perhaps we refer to this higher confluence of consciousness. Why does it need purification? If my eye is to discern color, it must itself be free from all color.  If we are to see together clearly, we must be free of illusion and disfiguration and distortion – free of ego, which our tradition calls flesh. For that, we need God’s grace to purify our conscience.
The Bl. Virgin Mary – La Purissima –  is the type and model of this purified conscience, after Mass we will invoke her aid under various ecstatic appellations among them Seat of Wisdom and Mirror of Justice, which refer to consciousness and conscience.  Furthermore, our Lady represents the place of meeting between God and creation Tower of Ivory, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant. She represents creation made ready to receive God. She is creation, aware of itself, conscious and perfectly purified by God’s grace to be a mansion fit for Himself. Let me note here again, the Collect speaks of a single mansion – not that we become several mansions for His dwelling, but that our purified conscience become one mansion. This is a figure of the Church, which the Bl. Virgin Mary also typifies.
The purification of our conscience prepares a mansion for God to dwell in. Echoing the ancient Fathers, Meister Eckhart also observed that every Christian who receives God’s Word participates in Mary’s birthgiving. Our conscience is our ability to share in receiving God, and bringing forth God’s Son in the world. As Eckhart  said,

We are all meant to be mothers of God...for God is always needing to be born.


God brings forth His Son in you, whether you like it or not, whether you sleep or wake; God works His own will.

O higher than the cherubim,
incomparably more glorious
than the seraphim,
who without spot bore God the Word,
true Mother of God we glorify you.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent
Year C  ~  December 13, 2015

Holy Trinity & St. Anskar

…we are sorely hindered by our sins
Rejoice greatly and again I say: Rejoice!

+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity

Today’s propers present us with a paradox. How can we rejoice when we are sorely hindered by our sins? Our sins are Pharaoh’s army, about to massacre us at the Red Sea, and there is no one to blame but ourselves. How are we supposed to rejoice? Let’s see if we can find some instruction in the paradox. How timely that it should appear the day after the Paris climate conference. Unless that succeeds, we’re pretty-much doomed – sunk – some of us literally sunk, like the poor Pacific Islanders. Whether the announced agreement is a success is a matter of controversy. Some say it’s a good start, others say it’s close, but inadequate – rather like when the lottery comes up with the number next to your own – very close, but you still lose. Indeed, we are sorely hindered by our sins.
It is clear that sin is the root of the problem – our separation from one another, our inveterate insistence on advancing our own interests as opposed to the common good. “Me and Mine” as opposed to “Us and Ours”, Nowhere is this more clear than in our treatment of the poor – both in our own neighborhood and globally. How relevant the advice of the Forerunner to those he called a brood of vipers on how to prepare for the Messiah:

Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.

Note what he did NOT say: “obey the commandments, purify yourselves, avoid individual transgression, forsake your carnal appetites”. No. None of that will help. The way we can prepare for the coming Doom is to share anything we have that is extra. THAT is the indispensable change of consciousness – repentance – that may fit us to rejoice in the Day of His Coming: the actual acknowledgment that we are not separate but that we are in this together, and to act accordingly in facing global warming.
Rational people of good will can no longer deny the looming calamity.  Do we have the will to forsake our sin? Maybe, but the jury is out. Alarmingly, the rich nations at Paris were less than entirely willing to "…share with anyone who has none..." And His winnowing fork is in His hand.
So how are we supposed to rejoice? This is the paradox of Advent. It is not a matter of optimism or pessimism, which are worldly temperaments, but of hope. We rejoice in hope, which is substantially the same as faith and love. We give up all traces of fatuous optimism that imagines we can overcome our sin on our own, that we can escape Pharaoh’s army by our own efforts. We do have to make those efforts – just as the Children of Israel had to leave and go out to the Sea – but even if we did everything we could it would not be enough. Even if all the countries met their carbon-reduction goals, it would not be enough. We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. Our only hope is that God will Stir up [His] power, and with great might come among us.
Our faith – our trust – is that God will do so. That is the meaning of hope and the only cause of rejoicing. Our deliverance may not look anything like the future imagined by worldly optimism or pessimism. Things, may very well get unimaginably worse. This is what my old theology professor probably meant by saying “it is always darkest just before it gets pitch black”: the natural cycles of dark and dawn are not going to get us out of this one. Our only hope is in the love of God, Who reigns even in what seems pitch-black to us, Who has promised through the mouth of the Holy Prophet to

remove disaster from [us], so that [we] will not bear reproach for it.

That is the Paschal Mystery: we are like the Children of Israel on the shore of the Red Sea, caught by Pharaoh’s armies. I think our present global cataclysm can be compared to their hopeless situation, except that the army that enslaves and destroys us is our own global sin and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
So, the Forerunner advises us, as he told the Brood of Vipers at the Jordan, to bear fruits worthy of repentance. Have we really changed our minds about the way we are headed? Then let us put our money where our mouth is. Let us in the so-called developed world give everything extra to those who have not. Even if we do so, there is no guarantee that it will be enough. The Advent paradox is that we are not to worry about that.

The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Rejoicing is not divorced from supplication. We will follow this advice of Paul to the Philippians after Communion today using the supplication provided by the Prayerbook for times of war and calamity. We do so in hope that God will speedily help and deliver us, that the Sea will open for us to pass over on dry land. Our hope is not optimism, but faith in God Who acts in history. This is the season, after all, in which we expect a Virgin to give birth, and the One she brings forth to take away the sin of the world. So that we may

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice… And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent
Year C  ~  December 6, 2015

Holy Trinity & St. Anskar

The Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.  

+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity
Advent is the time of the apparent victory of darkness – the victory is only apparent because the Light shines in it and darkness cannot overcome it. That is the rôle of the prophets. The messengers of God, as the Collect calls them. The calendar at this time of the year is crow-ded with them.
We used to say that the gifts of prophecy ended after the Incarnation. The Messiah had come and God’s promise was fulfilled. After John the Baptist, the Holy Forerunner of God, we needed no further delivery of that promise from God’s messengers. In that sense, there are no new prophets. But that is only half right, and it is no longer our position. The Episcopal Church officially calls Martin Luther King, Jr a prophet.
God’s messengers continue to appear, to wake us and to defy the forces of darkness that appear to be winning. We now usually call them martyrs and confessors – martyrs if their defiance costs them their lives, as in the case of Dr. King and the Bl. Oscar Romero, confessors if it did not, as in the case of the Servant of God, Dorothy Day, whom we commemorate this week, and a new one whom we ought to.
Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds of Knoxville, Tenn., was a noncommissioned officer who participated in the landing of U.S. forces in Europe. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, according to Israel's Holocaust memorial center, Yad Vashem. Edmonds was held at a Nazi POW camp, where he was the highest-ranking American soldier. When the Germans demanded that all the Jewish POWs in the camp identify themselves, Edmonds ordered all the U.S. soldiers to step forward — about a thousand of them. When the German camp commander saw all the inmates reporting, he said, "They cannot all be Jews!" according to an eyewitness.
"We are all Jews," Edmonds replied. The Nazi officer became enraged. "He turned blood-red, pulled his Luger out, and said, 'I'll give you one more chance. Have the Jewish men step forward or I will shoot you on the spot.' " The Righteous Edmonds replied “According to the Geneva Convention, we only have to give our name, rank and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.” The Commandant turned around and left the scene.
One of the Jewish POWs, NCO Paul Stern, told Yad Vashem, "Although 70 years have passed, I can still hear the words he said to the German camp commander." 
We are all Jews.
Roddie Edmonds is now called  Righteous Among the Nations, the most exalted human recognition short of Beatification, in my opinion. As it happens, Yad Vashem made its announcement last week on the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Four Northamerican Church women in El Salvador, December 2.  The holocaust memorial happens to be very near the place where  Zechariah addressed his son as the Forerunner of the Light to enlighten the Gentiles. The main building is surrounded by a tree-lined path called Derech Tzade-kim, the Road of the Just. Now it has a new tree – perhaps one of the last – in honor of the American soldier, a Southerner in a segregated army, who said “We are all Jews.”

The Lord knows the way of the righteous, and the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent
Year C  ~  November 29, 2015

Holy Trinity & St. Anskar

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life…  
+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity
NOW in the time of THIS mortal life. Not after We die, not at the end of time, but NOW –  in time – in THIS time, the TIME OF THIS MORTAL LIFE.  Anglicanism’s greatest liturgical scholar, the Benedictine monk, Dom Gregory Dix called the liturgy the “sanctification of time.” For pagans, time is the enemy. Time wears us down and wears us out. In the end, time kills us. To be a creature of time is to be mortal.
Christ makes time holy. Liturgy sanctifies time. That is the Work of the People. Before our mortal eyes, time is shot through with Life, the inevitable darkness bathed in light, even NOW in the TIME OF THIS MORTAL LIFE. Therefore, one post-communion prayer says We have beheld your Resurrection, O Christ our God, We have seen the true Light.
Now, in the time of this mortal life, we cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light and the time of this mortal life becomes the Last Day, the Day of the Light Immortal.  The works of darkness we pray for grace to cast off are not so much our own squalid little individual failures but the gloom that seems to surround us and infect us collectively, the gloom that can penetrate our consciousness unto the despair that tells us darkness is the ultimate reality and death is the end. God gives us grace to put that off now and put on instead the “armor of light.”
This is a curious phrase, though, because we think of armor as a protective covering – a garment we put on to shield us from wounding assault.  A “chink in our armor” is the last thing we want – a flaw that will prove out undoing. But I think the metaphor should be reversed. We need not so much to keep the darkness out as to let the Light in! That is what our religion –epitomized by the Holy Eucharist – is supposed to do – not to shut out but to let in. To let the Light into our own hearts, to be sure, but also – and more importantly – to let the Light into the world. Liturgical worship is an opening for transfiguring Light. THAT is the sanctification of time, THAT is what the Eucharist does.

There are implications on every level of reality: the disarmament – to be sure –  of our own armored individual egos, but also the real subversion of the reign of darkness in political relationships, and the glorious illumination of the cosmos unto ages of ages.
Leonard Cohen, the great religious poet of our time, put it this way:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. 

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sermon for the Solemnity of Christ the King
The Last Sunday after Pentecost B  ~  November 22, 2015
Holy Trinity & St. Anskar
King is what you call me.
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.

+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity,
Pilate goes on to ask “What is truth.” A very modern question, isn’t it? In our world in which everything is relative – including the most obvious of facts, our own perception. Reality is not as it seems. And yet, in a wonderful way this very relativity can open the way to the Truth to which the Godman testifies.
The Collect says the nations of the world are “divided and enslaved by sin” which is a redundancy, because sin is the very condition of division and enslavement itself. To say that we are divided by sin is like saying “I will be killed by mortality.” It is just two ways of saying the same thing. Sin is our sense of division and everything we do as a result. It is a failure to apprehend the Truth of Jesus’ testimony. To be freed is to be brought togetherrestored, in the Collect’s words, to a life of communion as opposed to the death of division. That is what it means by the gracious rule of Christ the King.
Here is another paradox, since rule by a king is pretty much the opposite of freedom. I you are brought under somebody’s rule, you are their subject, and insofar as you are somebody else’s subject, you are not free. Yet the gracious rule of Christ the King is the definition of real freedom. To serve you is perfect freedom, as our morning collect has it. Division is slavery; Communion is freedom and we call it the Kingdom of God.
Christianity – and other ancient religious traditions – teach that Communion is actual reality – the Truth in our Lord’s expression. Sin is our preference for division, based on the illusion of separation. There is US and there is THEM and we will love the people like us, and kill – or dominate – the others. But the truth we thus deny is that we all share a single life, a life of interconnected being. Pilate has no clue about that. He is an imperialist, which means that he sees the world as a collection of separate nations or ethnic groups, which his own nation, Rome, gets to rule and exploit. The first Cæsar (as every first-term Latin student knows) advised conquerors to divide in order to rule (divide ut regnes.) The subject nations oppose that rule. They would rather go their own way – separately – or do the dominating themselves. That is what is behind Pilate’s skeptical question, which follows immediately on the passage we just heard: What is Truth? That’s just a way of saying that each nation has its own idea of what’s right; truth is relative and the strongest will get its way. History will be written by the victors. The truth is what Rome says it is.
Force is one way to achieve unity; division into local ethnic groups is another. When imperial force abates, there comes ethnic cleansing and genocide. The Feast of Christ the King celebrates the dissolution of empire and nation alike. XP RX celebrates God’s way – love – that frees us from both imperial dominion and national separation. Pilate, the imperialist, called Jesus King of the Jews and so wrote in his own hand in three languages. Jesus points out that king –  the only word that Pilate understands – does not name His authority. Still, our Collect uses the Apocalyptic title, King of kings and Lord of lords. These are not just superlatives; they are negations. King means someone with absolute authority – the Sovereign, the lawgiver who is himself above the law. The King of kings implies a lawgiver above such sovereigns, a King who effectively destroys the sovereignty of all kings, making them His subjects. So a King of kings actually negates kingship – “King is your word…my Kingdom is not the kind you mean.”
Nor is XP RX a worldly emperor – a new Cæsar, subjugating local kings by force. XP RX is neither a super-king nor a local ethnic champion of a particular people. He is the Witness to the Truth – and the Truth itself – the Ultimate Reality that underlies all being: Love. Awareness of this Reality is the Holy Spirit, elsewhere  called Buddhahood, being awake. Reality is not division but relationship, now sometimes called inter-being. Relativity (not to be confused with relativism) means that we are all inter-related. Insofar as we are at all, we are part of one another, we participate in one another, we are united, we are one. That is the Truth, the Logos, the Word, the Dharma, the Kingdom that is not of this world, the Kingdom of God and of His Christ. And He shall reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 25
Proper 28 B  ~  November 15, 2015
Holy Trinity & St. Anskar
Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.
+In the Name of God, the Holy and Undivided Trinity, 

If you look at the back of the dollar bill, you will see the Great Seal of the United States, whose reverse includes a truncated pyramid topped with an all-seeing eye. The pyramid represents the New World Order, of which the motto speaks, and the Eye is God’s, overseeing our building of the just society on earth, under the other motto: approves our undertakings. While it is debatable whether these features were drawn from Freemasonry, in the not-so-secret lore of that society, the pyramid stands for the Temple of Solomon. The Temple, in turn, represents human society. It is truncated because it is unfinished. Our calling is to finish it – or at least to continue its construction under the All-seeing Eye of Providence, according to the rational principles represented by the architect’s instruments, the square and compass. Such was the optimistic outlook of our Founding Fathers: God is the Great Architect, and we are in the process of fulfilling His plan. He approves our undertaking.
    Today, we hear from the Gospel less encouraging words about the Temple, still under construction when Jesus said that it would not be completed, but destroyed – not a stone left on stone. By the way, if you google the Western Wall, you can see the stones to which our Lord referred. They are enormous. The wall is the first few courses of the foundation of the Temple rebuilt by Herod the Great, like many successful tyrants, one of history’s great builders. The Temple of Herod was bigger than anything else in the Roman Empire, aside from the pyramids of Giza.  To say that it would be completely torn down was outrageous.
    In another visit, our Lord seemed to identify His own Body with the Temple: destroy this Temple and in three days I will rebuild it. That saying has been one of the sources of the notion that Christianity replaces Judaism. Christ’s Body replaces the Temple. Vatican II repudiated this doctrine, and St. John Paul II acted out the repudiation by praying at the Western Wall, touching the very stones that Jesus said would be thrown down. Well, they were thrown down when the Romans destroyed the Temple in A.D. 70, but that doesn’t mean that Judaism was superseded. Christ as the Living Temple – destroyed and then rebuilt in three days – is the extension of the Covenant to all flesh, not its replacement.
    In the apocalyptic passage that follows today’s Gospel, Jesus refers again to the Temple. Don’t worry too much about rumors of wars and natural disasters, but when the Abomination of Desolation is set up where it ought not to be, then look out! This Abomination – or sacrilege – refers to the intention of the Emperor Caligula to erect his statue in the Temple. He was killed by his own personal guard before he could do so, but the meaning is clear: human power seeks to supplant divine. Although built for divine glory, the Temple itself can be defiled and turned against God. Then it will be destroyed.
    So what about completing the Temple, as the Masons suggest? What about a new world order of which Providence approves? Better be careful! I think that’s one lesson from today’s Gospel – even the grandest building in the Empire, which they are still working to finish, will soon be thrown down. If the Temple stands for just society on earth, the unfinished pyramid can mean either that it is under construction or that it is being demolished. However reasonable they may seem to us, we had better not confuse our plans and projects, with the Kingdom of God. They might instead turn out to be the Tower of Babel. Unless this Temple really does stand for ever-increasing justice in human society,

Not one stone will be left … upon another; all will be thrown down.



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