Friday, August 29, 2008

The Eucharist: A Seven-Week Bulletin Series

The second assignment for the Synoptic Gospels course was a seven-week bulletin series on some topic. I chose the Eucharist. This one is more "pastoral," and in my mind, doesn't reflect the kind of work that I would expect in a scripture class. It would be fine if it were an instructional methods course, but it strikes me as a little unacademic. However, I got an acceptable grade on it, and I do think it would work as a bulletin series.

The Eucharist: The Basics


Nearly every hour of every day all over the world (except on Good Friday), Catholics take part in a “thanksgiving” ritual that draws us all together into the One Body of Christ. Most of us refer to this ritual as “Holy Communion” or as “the Blessed Sacrament.” More formally, we use the traditional word Eucharist, which comes from a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving” (eucharistia).[1] Most of you have already begun receiving this sacrament, which is available to baptized members of the Church.


The Church has long associated Eucharist with the Passover of the Jews. Scripture itself makes several references and allusions to the Passover in its own text and in the various symbols throughout the story of Jesus’ last day before his arrest. In our liturgy, we will sometimes hear of the Paschal Sacrifice, which again is a reference to the Pesach or Passover of the Jews.[2] Whereas the Passover of the Jews commemorates the passing over of the Hebrew first born in Exodus 12 and the Hebrews’ flight from Egypt, the Eucharist commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the sacrifice that gives us freedom from the slavery of sin. The Eucharist also represents a new covenant, one that replaces the old covenant established between God and the people of Israel through Moses in Exodus 28:8. This new covenant Jesus established with us, His Church, during the Last Supper.


Over the next few weeks, we will look at the Eucharist from several perspectives. Using the text from the three synoptic gospel accounts, we will explore the meaning of the Eucharist to us as faithful Catholics to gain a deeper appreciation for this grace-giving gift.


The Eucharist in the Gospels


The Sacrament of the Eucharist is established in the Last Supper accounts of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We call these three gospels the synoptic gospels because they are “seen together.”[3] The accounts are very similar, most likely because they all come from a single account, probably Mark 14:22–25:


And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Matthew makes a few modifications to clarify that the blood of the covenant is poured out “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Luke changes the order in which events happen, but the most important variation is that he adds words that are very familiar to us from our liturgy: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).


In Mark’s account, we get just the facts. Both Matthew and Luke elaborate. This elaboration is one of the reasons scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark came first, because we have a tendency to try to explain things and flesh them out rather than subtract details and make them less clear. Mark is the most basic account, and Matthew and Luke add to it. Whether this reasoning is historically accurate, we can’t know for certain, but this is a standard way that scripture scholars look at text to see what came first. They assume that the shorter readings and those that are more difficult are the earlier readings. If you’ve ever written a book report or an essay, you can probably verify some truth in this view. As you revise, the clumsy or difficult parts of your essay get a little more detailed and clearer.


As mentioned in last week’s column, the Eucharist establishes a new covenant with God’s new people, the Church. As covenants go, the words are important. When we look next week at the Eucharist in Liturgy, we’ll explore just how the scriptural passages relate to the Liturgy.


The Eucharist in Liturgy


At a very important point in our liturgy, the priest says a blessing over the gifts of bread and wine on the altar that have been presented for the congregation. This moment is called the institution narrative, and it contains the consecration. The words sound very familiar to the gospel accounts we’ve discussed. While the Eucharistic prayers vary in length and in content, the institution narrative stays very close to the story of the Last Supper from the synoptic gospels,[4] but the narrative elaborates on that event to make clear the close relationship between these acts and Jesus ultimate suffering, death, and resurrection.


The consecration itself is fixed and always repeated in the same form, if the consecration is to be valid. First, the priest lifts the host and says,



Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be given up for you.[5]

He genuflects, and then he continues the narrative. Then, lifting the chalice of wine, he says,


Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.[6]

You can see similarities in the words of consecration to all three synoptic gospels, and each gospel clearly leaves its impression on the liturgical text. With these words of consecration, the priest transforms the materials of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, as noted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the consecration is more than just a transformation of the bread and wine:


In the celebration of Mass, during the Eucharistic Prayer, not only does Christ become present, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the forms of bread and wine, but Christ's saving action, His passion, death and resurrection are once again enacted and offered to the Father by Christ Himself in the person of the priest, and by all present.[7]

During the Eucharistic Prayer, Christ in the person of the priest offers Himself again to the Father and to us. Rather than a new sacrificing of Christ, however, the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the original sacrifice. Next week, we’ll look at the historical reality of the event that instituted the Eucharist—the Last Supper.


The Eucharist as a Historical Event


We can talk about the Eucharist as part of a story in three different books (the synoptic gospels), or as something that happens in our liturgy (the consecration), but it is also based on a historical event: a Passover meal that Jesus held with several of his followers just prior to his arrest. Strictly speaking, sacred scripture is not history[8]—that is, when we read the accounts of Jesus’ life, we should remember that the intent is not to teach us about history but to guide us to salvation.[9] Scripture tells us the story of who Jesus is, not just what happened where and when. However, scripture sometimes contains historical details that support its accuracy and tell us something about the world during the time of Jesus.


In modern Jerusalem, many tours of the Old City stop at a location on Mt. Zion known as the Cenacle, the upper room where Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper,[10] very close to the traditional Tomb of David. The original structure of the room no longer exists, but the location has been maintained from early Christian testimony. The Gospels of Mark and Luke note a small detail that helps to confirm this place as the location of the Last Supper. In both gospels, Jesus sends several of his disciples to find a man carrying water (Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10) who will lead them to the upper room: “And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready” (Mark 14:15). This detail is important for a few reasons. First, Jews considered carrying water to be women’s work. It would have been unusual at the time for a man to be doing this task. However, the Cenacle was believed to have been in a guest house in the Essene quarter of Jerusalem.[11] Essenes were a group of Jews who lived a sort of early monastic life.[12] They were all male, so naturally tasks that would have been performed by women in regular Jewish society would be taken up by men in a largely male religious group. So a seemingly insignificant detail in scripture can often reveal much more than you might expect.


Next week, we’ll look at the Eucharist as a communal meal shared by Christ’s new family, the Church.


The Eucharist as a Communal Meal


The Eucharist is not just a memorial ritual that helps us to recall Jesus’ sacrifice. It’s also a way that we as members of the Body of Christ come together as one. We come together in several ways. First, we come together in the act here and now, in the event as we each line up and walk forward to receive the Eucharist and also as we gather in this building for this very purpose. We also come together as we profess a common belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist—that in some unique way, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. This belief is no small thing. In chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, verses 48 through 56, the author reports that many of Jesus’ followers couldn’t handle this message. To them, Jesus’ words were simply disgusting.


There’s good reason for the reaction of his disciples. Food, for Jews, was serious business. Leviticus 11 outlines numerous laws on what kinds of foods can be eaten and how they can be prepared. However, even among Jewish sects of the time, dietary restrictions were used as a means of identifying different sects of Jews—those who were part of the group and those who were not.[13] These rules dictated what you could eat and with whom you could eat it.


Jesus constantly challenged the Jewish authorities (primarily the Pharisees) on these points because they excluded the poor and outcast, the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:6, 15:24). His own ministry was one of inclusiveness, often exemplified in the sharing of food (for example, eating with tax collectors in Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5; and the multiplication of loaves and fish in all four gospels). The Eucharist, too, is a sign of inclusion, of being part of the group represented by the word we commonly use for it—communion. However, just as Jewish purity laws dictated the conditions for communal meals for Jews, so the Church requires certain conditions to be fulfilled. First, a person must be joined to the Church through baptism and, for adults joining the Church, confirmation. In addition, participants must be free from mortal sin. As Jesus responded to the Pharisees, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19), so part of being worthy for the communal celebration is to have the correct inner disposition—a right relationship with Jesus and the Church.


The Eucharist as a Sacrament


Sacraments are physical means or visible rituals established by Jesus that transmit grace to us by the Holy Spirit, or as the Catholic Encyclopedia describes, “Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification.”[14] Most if not all of us have received the Sacrament of Baptism, which uses the physical means of sprinkling or immersion in water. The Eucharist is also a sacrament that uses the physical materials of bread and wine and the institution or consecration based on the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. One of the differences between many non-Catholic Christians and Catholics is the emphasis we place on these outward signs. For Catholics, outward signs are important indicators of another reality that takes place internally. In this emphasis, we are not alone. Jesus frequently used outward signs as a means to bring about an inward change, as when he used spittle to restore a blind man’s sight in Mark 8:22–26 or anytime he laid his hands on those whom he healed.


In the case of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are transformed into the grace­giving Body and Blood of Christ. Grace is a supernatural gift from God that sanctifies us and helps us to become more like Christ. One of the reasons why receiving this sacrament is so important is that it gives us the spiritual food we need to resist temptation and to lead holy lives. While all of the sacraments are important in the life of the Church, the Eucharist is unique in that we are drawn physically and spiritually into a grace-giving relationship with Christ as He commanded us in all four gospels. Receiving the Eucharist also cleanses us of venial or minor sins and helps us to resist mortal sin.[15]


Jesus tells His disciples in John 6:53 that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood or they will have no life in them. However, Paul warns the Corinthians not to receive this sacrament unworthily—that is, in a state of mortal sin (1 Corinthians 11:27). Fortunately, when we do fail and fall into mortal sin, Christ gave us another sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that He can make our relationship with Him right again. The two sacraments together allow us to partake fully in the sacramental life of the Church.


The Eucharist as Sacrifice


In the first week of this series, I mentioned the term Paschal Sacrifice, which we often hear in relation to the Eucharist. In the Old Testament, sacrifices were the means by which the People of Israel atoned for their sins. The Paschal Sacrifice was the yearly sacrifice of an unblemished lamb that took place during Passover prior[16] to the Seder meal (the primary Passover meal outlined in Exodus).[17]


For Christians, Jesus replaces and perfects the Paschal Sacrifice by offering Himself in atonement for our sins (Matthew 26:28). About this sacrifice the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,


After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel's redemption at the first Passover.[18]

These words from John 1:29 are part of our Eucharistic celebration as well following the breaking of the bread just prior to communion. In the Book of Revelation, repeated references are made to the lamb. Christ in the Eucharist becomes the spotless, unblemished, sacrificial lamb by His own free choice to free us from sin and death. As the Holy Father recently spoke,


The Eucharist—the centre of our Christian being—is founded on Jesus’ sacrifice for us; it is born from the suffering of love which culminated in the Cross.[19]


Christ’s love for us is ever evident to us in the Eucharist. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Such a great love Christ had for us that he died even for those who persecuted Him and put Him to death. Today, He calls us to our own sacrifice, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34–40).



Works Cited and Referenced


Adler, Cyrus and Dembitz, Lewis M. “Seder.” JewishEncycolpedia.com. 2002. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=427&letter=S>. 14 July 2008


Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1995.


Feeley-Harnick, Gillian. The Lord's Table: Eucharist and Passover in Early Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1981.


Just S.J., Felix. “Eucharistic Prayers I-IV.” 26 May 2008. Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. <http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/EP1-4.htm>. 14 July 2008.


Lauterbach, Jacob Zallel. “Passover Sacrifice.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2002. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=99&letter=P>. 14 July 2008.


Mills, William. “Lecture 2: Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels.” Synoptic Gospels. Holy Apostles College and Seminary. 2007. <http://fishersnet.blackboard.com/ webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab=courses&url=%2Fbin%2Fcommon%2Fcourse.pl%3Fcourse_id%3D_20230_1>. 10 July 2008.


Pohle, Joseph. “The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05584a.htm>. 14 July 2008.


Pohle, Joseph. “Eucharist.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05572c.htm>. 9 July 2008.


“Q&A with Bargil Pixner.” CenturyOne Foundation. 2003. <http://www.centuryone.org/pixner-q-a.html>. 13 July 2008.


Rich, Tracey R. “Pesach.” Judaism 101. 2005. <http://www.jewfaq.org/holidaya.htm>. 12 July 2008.


“The Cenacle.” Bibarch. 2 February 2007. <http://www.bibarch.com/
ArchaeologicalSites/Cenacle.htm>. 13 July 2008.


XVI, Benedict. “Celebration of First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for the Opening of the Pauline Year: Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI.” Vatican: the Holy See. 28 June 2008. <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/ benedict_xvi/homilies/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20080628_vespri_en.html>. 11 July 2008.






[1] “Eucharist,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05572c.htm> 10 July 2008.


[2] Tracey R. Rich, “Pesach,” Judaism 101, 2005, <http://www.jewfaq.org/holidaya.htm> 12 July 2008.


[3] Fr. William Mills, “Lecture 2: Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels,” Synoptic Gospels, Holy Apostles College and Seminary 2007, <http://fishersnet.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/
frameset.jsp?tab=courses&url=%2Fbin%2Fcommon%2Fcourse.pl%3Fcourse_id%3D_20230_1> , 10 July 2008.


[4] Felix Just, S.J., “Eucharistic Prayers I–IV,” Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology, 26 May 2008, <http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/EP1-4.htm> 14 July 2008.


[5] Ibid, <http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/EP1-4.htm>.


[6] Ibid, <http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/EP1-4.htm>.


[7] “The Eucharistic Prayer,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, <http://www.usccb.org/
liturgy/girm/bul6.shtml> 14 July 2008.


[8] Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, 30 September 1943, <http://www.papalencyclicals.net/
Pius12/P12DIVIN.HTM> 13 July 13, 2008.


[9] Leo XIII, “Providentissimus Deus,” 18 November 1893, <http://www.papalencyclicals.net/
Leo13/l13provi.htm> 13 July 13, 2008.


[10] “The Cenacle,” Bibarch, 2 February 2007, <http://www.bibarch.com/ArchaeologicalSites/
Cenacle.htm> 13 July 2008.


[11] “Q&A with Bargil Pixner,” CenturyOne Foundation, 2003, <http://www.centuryone.org/pixner-q-a.html> 13 July 2008.


[12] “History of Monasticism,” Historyworld,16 June 2008, <http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/
PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab88> 13 July 2008.


[13] Gillian Feeley-Harnick, The Lord’s Table: Eucharist and Passover in Early Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1981) pp. 91–96.


[14] Daniel Kennedy, “Sacraments,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912) <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm>, 12 July 2008.


[15] Joseph Pohle, “The Blessed Eucharist as a Sacrament,” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5, (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909) <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05584a.htm> 14 Jul. 2008.


[16] Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, “Passover Sacrifice,” JewishEncyclopedia.com, 2002, <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=99&letter=P> 14 July 2008.


[17] Cyrus Adler and Lewis M. Dembitz, “Seder,” JewishEncyclopedia.com, 2002, <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=427&letter=S> 14 July 2008.

[18] Catechism of the Catholic Church, (New York : Doubleday, 1995) 175.


[19] Benedict XVI, “Celebration of First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for the Opening of the Pauline Year: Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” Vatican: the Holy See, 28 June 2008, <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20080628_vespri_en.html>, 11 July 2008.

Three Homilies

For the latest scripture course on the Synoptic Gospels, we were required to write our assignments in a way that was accessible to a wide audience (or as our instructor called it, in a "pastoral" style). I didn't quite attain that tone with the first assignment but still fared well enough. I'm still not sure I think this approach is appropriate for a graduate level course, but it's behind me now.

We were required to select one or more passages (or pericopes) and write three brief homilies. I chose Matthew 16:13–20.

For the latest scripture course on the Synoptic Gospels, we were required to write our assignments in a way that was accessible to a wide audience (or as our instructor called it, in a "pastoral" style). I didn't quite attain that tone with the first assignment but still fared well enough. I'm still not sure I think this approach is appropriate for a graduate level course, but it's behind me now.

We were required to select one or more passages (or pericopes) and write three brief homilies. I chose Matthew 16:13–20.

The Church of Christ


The gospel reading today comes from Matthew 16:13–20 (RSV). In this section of the gospel, Jesus asks His disciples who people say that He is. The apostles give Him a variety of responses—Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. Then He asks the disciples directly, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Whether Peter fully understands what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, we will set aside for now, because our real interest today is in Jesus’ words to Peter:



“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:17–18, emphasis mine)

This passage is particularly relevant to us as Catholics because it is commonly used to support the authority of the papacy or the See of Peter. The Catechism of the Catholic Church cites this passage in sections 552 and 553 as the basis for ecclesial authority: “Christ, the ‘living Stone,’ thus assures His Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death.” Given the importance of this passage to the doctrine of the faith, we must understand its full implications. Today, we will focus on a word that is largely misunderstood today, the word “church,” particularly as it is used in the context of this passage: “I will build my church.” We will come back to why the words “my church” are important, but first let us explore some of the language used here so we can better appreciate Matthew’s meaning.


The word “church” that we find in our English version of scripture is a loose translation of the Greek term ekklesia, which means “assembly.”[1] You may have heard two related terms—ecclesial or ecclesiastic—which refer to Church-related matters. The English word “church” comes to us through west Germanic from a Greek word (κϋριακύν) meaning “the house of the Lord,”[2] which might explain why we sometimes confuse the place of worship for the people who worship there. Nonetheless, the word properly refers to the people assembling rather than the place. Without the building, we still have the Church. So while our English term has obscured the reality of the original Greek term ekklesia, the spirit of scripture is still with us.


The word, ekklesia, appears throughout the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which is the scripture that most Diaspora Jews used at the time Jesus lived. The word ekklesia is also used in Acts; in the letters of Paul, James, and John; and in the Revelation to John. So the word ekklesia has a long-standing history of use in scripture prior to and following its use in Matthew, and it reinforces the relationship between the Jewish-Gentile Church and the People of Israel.[3]


Out of all the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the term ekklesia occurs only in Matthew in chapters 16 and 18. This omission has been remarked upon by numerous scholars. The common consensus seems to be that the author of Matthew wrote this gospel to address some specific dilemma facing a local church, most likely the church of Antioch,[4] and to clarify the relationship between the followers of Christ and the Jewish tradition from which Christ and the original Christians came.[5] The people of the church of Antioch were trying to understand why they came from the same scriptural roots as the synagogue down the street but did not worship with them. The author of Matthew made intentional connections back to the ancient tradition of the Hebrews, using words that came right out of the text of the Old Testament.


What makes Matthew 16:18 unique is that Jesus is not talking about a local church. Jesus is talking about His church,[6] the Church of Christ—not just a local congregation. Jesus’ Church is the whole Church, and it belongs to Him. Matthew relates that this is an assembly belonging to Jesus, called out by Him, for Him. This church exists both in Jewish tradition but also as a reality established by Christ. We are the assembly called by Christ, established on the rock of Peter against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail.


As modern people, and particularly as modern U.S. citizens, we like to think that our opinions and preferences take precedence over everything else, and that sensibility often extends to how we think the Church should operate. More than one so-called Catholic organization touts slogans such as “We are Church” as if somehow our participation were the very thing that gives the Church legitimacy. Such thinking is a misunderstanding of the term sensus fidei or “sense of the faith.” Many of us act as if the Church should operate as a democracy, with “truth” conforming to the will of the majority. The Holy Father has commented numerous times on this culture of relativism—this sense that there are no absolute truths and that every belief is up for negotiation. Part of that culture is this insistence that all “truths” somehow match our culture’s expectations. But that is not the nature of Truth, and that is not what it means to be a part of Christ’s Church. We did not select Him, but rather He selected us (John 15:16–19). As those who are called to the assembly,[7] we must fully accept that to which we are called.


If we are truly to be Christ’s Church, it must be on His terms, not our own. We must reconcile ourselves to Christ and not expect all things to be reconciled in a way that we expect. We must submit and obey and accept that Christ’s Way may not look like our way. Accepting the Truth of Christ and embracing the Church cannot be done by degrees. Our baptism into the ekklesia, the assembly, means an acceptance of the call—a complete immersion[8] in and submission to Christ and His Church.


The Keys of the Kingdom


Our Christian culture has a common image, shared by many Catholics and non-Catholics alike: St. Peter standing at the gates of Heaven with the “book of life,” allowing those whose names are in the book to pass and sending those whose names do not appear in the book off to the Netherworld. It is a common context for jokes and even somewhat of a euphemism for death itself—meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates. This image comes to us in part because of this passage from today’s reading in Matthew 16:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:17–19, emphasis mine)

St. Peter is the one with the keys. Who else would be watching the gates of heaven but the guy holding the keys? However, the passage isn’t really addressing the gates of heaven but something right here on earth. That something is the visible Church, the means by which we attain salvation in Christ.


While keys are useful for locking and unlocking doors and gates, they can also represent something, namely authority. In fact, Matthew’s words here are intended to evoke a memory for those familiar with scripture, in particular, a passage from Isaiah 22:

In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:20–23)

In this passage, the Lord God raises Eliakim to be steward for King Hezekiah over the house of David. The name “Eliakim,” by the way, means “God of raising” in Hebrew,[9] so the name of the person raised here reflects the action taking place. This meaningful use of names in scripture is very common, and you can often find greater meaning to a passage and to the relationships among books in the Bible by searching out the meanings of the names.


God raised Eliakim to the position of steward. Being a steward was a big responsibility because one was expected to make decisions on the king’s behalf. Needless to say, if the steward did not make decisions that conformed to the king’s wishes, the steward did not live long. The steward’s authority had to be exercised with care toward the wishes of the king and not solely according to his own whim.


The similarities between Matthew 16:19 and Isaiah 22:22 are
striking: the key to the house of Judah versus the key to the kingdom of heaven; and the authority to open and shut versus the authority to bind and loose. What we see in Matthew 16:18–19 is that Christ is bestowing the authority of stewardship on Peter.[10] He gives to Peter alone the keys and then the power to bind and loose—a power He later extends to the other apostles in Matthew 18:18.


Let’s consider what kind of authority is conferred in stewardship. Someone who is a steward has no power or authority on his own. He exercises power in someone else’s name. Peter holds the keys to bind and loose and can use that authority, but the keys he holds do not belong to him. The authority of Peter is not of absolute power but of leadership in someone else’s place, namely in the place of Christ. Peter (and the bishops who later became bishops of Rome) held the keys for Christ. This fact does not mean that the authority was false but that it resided in Peter only in trust. The true authority belonged to Christ.


What, then, do the words “bind” and “loose” mean in this passage? Peter’s stewardship, like the stewardship of Eliakim, is over a house, in this case, “the house of the Lord,” the Church. Inherent in the allusion to Isaiah are the responsibilities of opening and shutting doors to keep people in or out. However, the authority also includes the binding and loosing of sins, as Christ clarifies in Matthew 18:17–18: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Section 553 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies what this authority includes:



The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.” The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church.

Peter’s authority is over the whole of the Church, and this authority is shared with the other apostles, just as the governance of the Church involves not only the Pope, but the bishops of the local churches as well. Peter’s role is unique, as the keys are given specifically into his hands, but the exercise of that authority falls not only to Peter but to all the bishops down through the ages. The stewardship of Peter represents a headship and centralization of authority—the “visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”[11] Peter and the bishops who followed in his place are a visible sign of communion, albeit a communion that is at the time imperfect and broken, but one to which we as Catholics owe our loyalty and obedience. Let us as faithful Catholics accept that authority, embrace that tradition, and pray that the communion it represents will someday be complete again.


Does Peter Truly Hear?


I have found over the years that I have come to sound much wiser than I actually am, and I attribute that perception to one trait I’ve developed: I keep my mouth shut more often than in the past. A quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln noted this sentiment: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”[12] I’m a walking example of this principle. Simon Peter in the gospels also fits the description. He is impetuous and passionate, and he often seems a bit foolish. He sounds a whole lot like me.


That’s one of the reasons I love him so much. I love the image of him in John 21:7 putting on his clothes before jumping into the water to meet Jesus on the shore. I also love the story of him with James and John at the Transfiguration. While Matthew and Luke let Peter off the hook in their accounts of the Transfiguration, Mark doesn’t let him escape so easily. While Peter is fumbling for words about how to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, “[A] cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!’ (Mark 9:7, emphasis mine). The irony here is in what Mark does not say. Peter’s real name is Simon, which comes from the Hebrew name, Simeon or Shimon (שמעון), which means “hearing.”[13] Simon Peter, the rock who has heard, has to be reminded to listen.


Perhaps the ultimate irony, and some evidence of God’s great sense of humor, is that Jesus chose to make this man Peter the foundation of His Church. In Matthew 16, Simon Peter indicates correctly that Jesus is the Christ, to which Jesus replies:



“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17–19)

This is Simon Bar-Jona, the son of Jona who hears. If we are not paying attention, we might miss the fact that not more than a few minutes later, Peter attempts to tell Jesus how things will be (Matthew 16:22)—that Jesus will not suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and that He will not be killed and raised. And Jesus, moments after blessing Peter and predicting that He will build His Church upon the rock, rebukes Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God but on men.” (Matthew 16:23). This gaffe is not the only misunderstanding or failing of Peter either. Before the gospel of Matthew is over, Peter denies he even knows Jesus (Matt. 26:69-75).


Some rock. If this man is the foundation for the Catholic doctrine of infallibility, we’re in trouble, right? However, Jesus called him Peter—the Rock. He said He would build His Church on this rock, and that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). So is Jesus mistaken? Is Jesus lying? How can we see this fallible man Simon and accept him as the rock on which Christ’s Church is built? These are reasonable questions, so we have to look to the real meaning behind Jesus’ promise and His words to Peter.


First, Jesus notes the source of the truth that Peter speaks in verse 17. We can see other places in scripture where Peter falls back on his own flawed understanding and either says or does something foolish: when Peter relies on his own concept of the Christ in Matthew 16:23, the passage cited above; when Peter claims he will never betray Jesus even to death in Matthew 26:33; even after Pentecost when Peter distances himself from the gentiles in Galatians 3:11. However, when Peter listens to Christ and allows the Holy Spirit to work through him, he speaks the truth. For example, in Acts 2:2–4 following the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter speaks out forcefully and truthfully to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the next chapter, Peter says to the lame man in the temple, “I have no silver or gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6). While Peter relies on what he has been given by Christ, he sees and hears the truth and passes it on. When he relies on his own understanding, he fails.


Second, Jesus does not promise Peter that he will not fail. He promises that the Church will not fail. At the end of Matthew, Jesus sends the apostles forth in the Great Commission and says, “[L]o, I am with you always to the close of the age” (28:20). In John 14:26, Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said.” The Church, Christ’s assembly, prevails because of Christ’s continual presence with it and because of the constant teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit.


Third, Jesus indicates that Peter binds and looses on earth what is already true in eternity. In the original Greek of Matthew, the verb tenses in Jesus’ words reveal something interesting. He says to Peter:


[W]hatever you should have bound upon the earth, it shall have been bound in the heavens; and whatever you should have untied upon the earth, it shall have been untied in the heavens. (Matt. 16:19, emphasis mine)[14]

He verb tenses tell us here that whatever Peter does in binding and loosing, it shall already have been done in the heavens. What Peter does, what he hands on, is already the truth, not some new truth that Peter has invented. To invoke the allegory of the steward and the house from Isaiah 22:22, Peter’s role is only to safeguard what already exists in the house. He can bind and loose, can open and shut. He cannot make up his own truth. The truth is Christ’s and Christ’s alone.


Simon Peter, the rock who has heard, gets it right when he hands on what has been given to him, and he fails when he relies on his own understanding without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is no personal faculty of his but a Divine trust to which he and all his episcopal brethren humble themselves. The charism that the Holy Father shares with the college of bishops depends on this Divine guidance and only confirms and preserves in doctrine what is already the Truth.




Works Cited and Referenced


“Abraham Lincoln Quotes.” BrainyQuote, 2008. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/
quotes/a/abrahamlin109276.html>. 18 June 2008.


The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance. Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006.


The Apostolic Bible: the New Testament. Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006.


Brown, Raymond E., and John P. Meier. Antioch & Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity. New York: Paulist Press, 1983.


Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1995.


The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. 2 vols.


The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.


Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. Revised. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.


Strong, James. “A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible.” In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, 53. Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986.




[1] εκκλησίαν, The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance,, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 110.

[2]“Church,” The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 411.


[3] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, Revised ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 192.


[4] Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier, Antioch & Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity, (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 57–72.


[5] Johnson, 191.


[6] Brown and Meier, 66.

[7]εκκκαλέω,” The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 110. Also, “ecclesia,” The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 830.


[8]Βαπτισμός,” The Apostolic Bible: Lexical Concordance, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 52.


[9] James Strong, “A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible.” In Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986), 15.


[10] Brown and Meier, 64.


[11] Austin Flannery, ed., Lumen Gentium, Vatican Council II: the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, (Northport, New York: Costello Publishing, 2004), 376.


[12] “Abraham Lincoln Quotes,” BrainyQuote, 2008, <http://www.brainyquote.com/ quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin109276.html>, 18 June 2008.


[13] James Strong, “A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Hebrew Bible.” In Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1986), 157.


[14] The Apostolic Bible: the New Testament, (Newport: Apostolic Press, 2006), 26.

Couldn't Be Happier

McCain has chosen Sarah Palin as his VP Running Mate.



Thomas Peters has some links, and of course, the McCain campaign has the announcement right here.

Aside from her excellent conservative credentials, Palin has a reputation as someone who takes on corruption in her own party.

She's an Idaho native (born in Sandpoint) and attended U of I during the same time I was there. I don't recall crossing paths with her, but I know a few people who were probably in the same program with her.

100 Books Meme

I've been watching this one make the rounds and finally decided to dive in. My literary education was slanted toward modern and postmodern lit. I really need to go back to the classics.

Bold--read it.
Highlighted--want to.
Nuttin'--don't care.
Dripping with blood--you give it to me, I'll burn it instead.

1.Pride
and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane
Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry
Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering
Heights --Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty
Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials -
Phillip Pullman (Normally I don't like to burn books unless I've read them.)
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (I've read others, but not this one.)
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. (Not-so) Complete Works of Shakespeare (About half of them actually)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife -
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll –
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
37. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres –
.38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell
41.
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (Read
it, then wanted to burn it)
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel
Garcia Marquez
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardystyle='color:black'>
47. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
51. Dune - Frank Herbert
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia
Marquez
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
67. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
68. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker
72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
74. Ulysses - James Joyce
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
77. Germinal - Emile Zola
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace
Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
86. Charlotte's Web - EB White
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (well, portions of it)
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy
Toole
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (once again, portions of it)
99. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
100.The Outsiders

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Off to Akko

Or Acre, take your pick. Akko is more accurate, historically. You can read more about it here.

One of the cool things about Acre is that it's one of those places covered by so many of the archaeology shows. You get to see what the digs looked like when they filmed the show and see how far they've gotten. In the case of Acre, that could be a significant difference. While the city has been continuously inhabited since around 1500 BC, parts of Acre had not been discovered until as recently as the Israeli War of Independence (for example, the Hospitaller quarter, which had been completely covered by a Saracen palace).

I'm a sucker for anything related to the old military orders of the Church, so say Hospitaller or Templar and I'm right there. And, yes, if I were offered a membership to the Order of Malta, I'd go for it!

Anyway, vain dreams aside, I should cut to the chase and show you Acre.

Acre doesn't look like an archeological ruin for two reasons. First, much of it was completely buried. Second, what pieces were missing are being refashioned. So what you see, as opposed to the ruins in Caesarea, looks much more intact.



Now I'm pretty much a dolt when it comes to architectural style, but the Gothic element is pretty hard to miss with the vaulted arches in the Hospitaller quarter.



Oh, but wait, that's one of the newer finds. Here's one that's been set up as a display for some time.



Not all of the history here was medieval or ancient. In fact, the British used this location as a prison camp and hung numerous Israeli Jews during the time prior to the Israeli War of Independence. Aopparently the majority of the prisoners were Arab.



During an escape attempt (perhaps the escape of the 255 in 1947, the buried structures were discovered. The Israelis are still in the process of excavating the entire site.

So imagine you have a citadel that contains factions that aren't so friendly with each other. (Those Venetians seemed to stir up way to much trouble, from my reading. Maybe Dale can enlighten us on that account.) And you also have to move a lot of human... uh... byproduct out of the center of the town. How do you make the most effective use of the space?



You create tunnels through which tourists can tromp 500 years in the future!

I'm not sure why, but this was the only underground location where I found mold in any of the places I visited. I really don't want to think about that very hard.

After we emerged from this tunnel, we went into what I think was the templar fortress.



Since the templars had so many rivalries, they naturally needed their own means of getting around. Here's the templar tunnel at one of its intersections.



Finally, we also got a clear shot of the port, which for the most part is completely submerged.



I'm sorry to say that I did not get a good shot of the Tower of Flies. You can read about this spot here.

I didn't capture any images of the stop at Rosh Hanikra. Really the only thing that interested me about this stop was that we were practically underneath the Lebanese border. For some reason, I'm just not as wired to appreciate natural wonders as much as man-made follies. However, I did get a shot of this IDF coast guard unit way off in the distance.



Finally, we loaded up the bus and moved to Beverlee...

I think I'm getting a bit punchy tonight. I don't even like the Beverly Hillbillies.

Anyhoo, we started our return trip and stopped for a moment in Haifa. Please keep in mind that this was a target for Hizbollah shelling during the last conflict two years ago. It's a city where Jews and Arabs live together. It's the most important location for the Bahai faith. It's a college town. It's probably one of the most beautiful Israeli cities I saw (outside of West Jerusalem). Within Israel, Jews and Arabs seem to be able to live peaceably and prosperously. The antagonism seems to come from without rather than within.

Anyway, I tried to get a good shot of the Bahai gardens and the view from atop Mt. Carmel. Again, I'm not a photographer, so please forgive my inexpert touch.





By this time, I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep on the bus. Israel is a fascinating place. If you have the opportunity to take it slow, please do. At the same time, if your on pilgrammage for the only time in your life, grab as much as you can.

USCCB Unloads on Pelosi

And good for them. Kudos as well to Absps. Chaput and Wuerl. The American Papist has all the links, so we don't have to hunt them down.

But leave it to the resident Patristics expert, Mike Aquilina, to really expose the falsehood for what it is.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Caesarea

My final day in Israel was spent on a tour of Caesarea, Acre (Akko), Haifa, and Rosh Hanikra, which is just shy of the border with Lebanon. Both of my tours I booked through Coral Tours. I recommend them wholeheartedly if you ever get an opportunity to go to Israel.

Most of the agencies seem to cooperate to get people to the right locations. We took both Coral and Egged buses to get to central locations. As long as you are with a licensed tour guide, you can expect a safe tour.

That said, the first time I traveled to Israel, my tour was arranged by a corporate sponsor. In that instance, the guide worked for an Israeli tourist depot. In addition to taking us to Yad Vashem and all of the sites, he also took us to a guaranteed shop—one where we could make purchases with no VAT (a pretty stiff tax) and one where they wouldn't try to sell "antiquities" to you. This guarantee is probably more necessary in the Old City than elsewhere.

So, the trip to Caeserea started at 7:15 AM—as do all of the tours from Tel Aviv. Expect to start at 6:30 if you're staying in Jerusalem. After a long trip (long, relatively speaking, after one loads up on coffee and water), we arrived at Caeserea.



This shot is from the entrance toward the theater. Propped up in front of the theater ruins are remnants of ancient statuary:



Our guide informed us that the entrance or exit of the theater is called a vomitorium. We've heard different etymologies on that account, but it does make sense that one takes in and spews out from the same orifice.

I apologize half-heartedly for that image.



You might notice a very modern stage set up to the right. This theater is regularly being used for concerts. We were also told that theaters, which were semicircular, were for dramatic displays while amphitheaters were for gladiatorial displays.

BTW, I find that sometimes the tour guides fudge the historical details a bit because they know they face mixed audiences. This is common in the Old City, where they don't know if they have Jews, Catholic/Orthodox, or Evangelical Christians in their groups.

The guide pointed out several of the interesting archealogical finds (capitals, columns, ossuaries) with various symbols on them (Pagan, Jewish, and Christian).





Here's a photo from the south end of the hippodrome (the horse/chariot track).



Caeserea Maritima was built by Herod the Great as a Roman city, and it was the seat of many Roman procurators, including Pontius Pilate. This inscription actually confirms that this city was the seat of Pontius Pilate:



By the way, this would also where Paul would appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:1-27).

The crusaders also made use of the ruins and built up fortifications around them:



Caeserea Maritima is just north of a lot of the more modern Israeli cities such as Netanya and Herzliya. One of the stories I like about the founding of Herzliya (named after Theodore Herzl) is how the early settlers planted eucalyptus trees in the marshy land to reclaim it.

While one might dispute the methods sometimes employed by the Israeli government (and I certainly do), you can't dispute the brilliance the Israelis display at turning a barren land into one burgeoning with trees and produce. I still pray for them to learn to constrain in compassion, as I also ask for the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians to respect legitimate authority and to reject violence as an answer. I have much compassion for the people of Gaza and the West Bank who suffer economically, but I hold both Israel and the Palestinian *Authority* equally resonsible for their plight.

That's it for this post. I don't want to devolve into polemic.

Join the Club?

Please do!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Photos of Galilee

I made a point of traveling to Galilee on this trip to Israel since I didn't go the first time. The Old City is fascinating because of its mystique. Galilee is fascinating because it's the setting for so much of scripture (particularly NT). Unfortunately, we didn't stop at every notable location. I wanted to get shots of Meggido (Armageddon), but we just passed and waved. We also passed by Migdal (Magdala) without a photo op. However, we did get to see some of of the most important sites.

Our first stop was Nazareth. The tour guide noted that people are often disappointed when they see Nazareth because it looks nothing like they expect. After all, it's a modern city.



The population is predominantly Arab, about 69% Muslim and 31% Christian. Another city close by, Nazareth Illit, is predominantly Jewish. You see a lot of this in Israel, an Arab town next to a Jewish town. Some are mixed (such as Jaffa and Haifa), but by and large, that is the exception rather than the rule.

The Basilica of the Annunication is built on top of the first century ruins of Nazareth. At that time, the population was probably no more than 200 people.



The exterior courtyard is decorated with mosaics of all kinds, one for each country, depicting the Madonna and child. There are some stunningly beautiful ones inside as well. I took a picture of the Polish mosaic for Fr. Mariusz, our new parochial vicar.



The grotto on the first floor of the basilica is where tradition says that Gabriel appeared to Mary. There was a group of Dominican priests celebrating Mass and chanting beautifully. My shot of the grotto didn't come out as well as I would've liked. I only wish I could have gotten closer.



The main chapel is upstairs. The walls there also had mosaics, but the main altar was perhaps the most impressive thing there.



We then went up the street to the Church of St. Joseph, purportedly built on the location of St. Joseph's workshop. Something many people don't realize is that Joseph was probably not a carpenter. Israel doesn't really have a lot of trees (or at least didn't at the during the first century). However, there's plenty of stone. Most of the buildings are made of stone of some kind. The Greek word for Joseph's occupation was τέκτων (tekton) which meant craftsman. Anyway, here's the mosaic floor of a Byzantine baptismal pool built on this location.



By the way, if you want to see some really good photos of these locations, check out Bible Walks. Their work is much better than mine.

After a quick look around Nazareth, we went back to the bus. If you are tempted to load up on souvenirs in the Old City when you make your pilgrimage, don't. The prices are outrageous. You'll fare much better if you wait until you go to Galilee. I was able to buy six icons for $25 US. In the Old City, one would've cost over $10.

We headed northeast toward Capernaum and Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee/Tiberius or Lake Genesaret). On the way, we passed Mt. Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration.



Let me tell you, speaking as someone who lives in a hot, semi-arrid climate, Galilee is hot, and in Capernaum, humid. We scrambled for every bit of shade we could find as we walked from point to point.

Most of the Capernaum archaeological site is owned by the Catholic Church. This location was a large city of 5000 in the first century. There is an octogonal church built over the home of St. Peter (and over a 5th century church).



As with many traditional sites, the floor in the center of the church is glass so people can see the first-century ruins.



The place I really wanted to see while I was here was the synagogue, primarily because Jesus taught there on more than one occasion. The current ruin is actually built on top of the one that would've been in place at the time of Christ. Quite cool, nonetheless.



To the east of the Catholic Church's compound is a Greek Orthodox church. I found out later that one of my tutors at Holy Apostles knows the priest at this church and likes to go there to swim in the lake.



Finally, I wanted a photo of the shore of Lake Kinneret. Israel is currently experiencing severe water shortages. All of their water comes from Mt. Hermon in Syria and flows down to Kinnerett. As you can see, the level has dropped very low.



Then it was off to the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha. This is also the traditional location for the sighting of Jesus prior to the ascension in John 21.

I was sort of captivated by this fountain in the narthex of the church.



I've already posted a photo of the fishes and loaves mosaic. Just above that, underneath the altar is the rock upon which Jesus was to have multiplied the loaves.



This church is built upon the ruins of two others. It's also just down the hill from the Church of the Mount of Beatitudes, the traditional location for, what else, the preaching of the Beatitudes. We didn't walk up to that church, probably because of its relatively late construction. The octogonal shape of many of these churches is supposedly representative of the eight blessings (and I suppose alternatively the eight curses).

Our last stop was at the river Jordan at a site most likely close to where St. John the Baptist ministered. We watched as a group of Russian Orthodox pilgrims immersed themselves (after singing a lovely hymn). I was pleased to see that they didn't do the rebaptism thing, as they believe (as we do) that we only need "one baptism for the forgiveness of sin."



This tour was well worth the time and expense. I look forward to a day when I can get around to these places and spend more time, but for now, the tours will do.

By the way, if you follow some of the shows on the History channel, you can expect to run into some of the documentary hosts that you see on those shows. On my first visit, I walked right behind the Naked Archaeologist himself, Simcha Jacobivici. I was disappointed when he got involved in the whole Tomb of Jesus thing, but I still like his show. This time, as I was walking by a dig next to the south wall of the Old City, and I saw one of the regular experts on many of these shows. In any case, it's a fascinating place to go.

At the end of the week, I took another tour of Caeserea, Acre, and Haifa. Those photos are coming soon.

USD Stands Up for the Doctrine of the Faith

Thomas Peters has the story. You can sign a petition supporting USD's position here at Ora et Labora.

Pictures from Jerusalem

Now that my scripture class is over, I have some time to post my latest photos from Israel. I have to confess (not that it isn't bleedin' obvious) that I'm not much of a photographer. My apologies to Patrick and Nancy (real photographers) for the poor quality images.

Anyhoo, without any further ado...

Here's a photo from inside St. Peter's Church in Jaffa. I think I mentioned last time that Jaffa is an ancient port city (around 4000 years old, purportedly founded by Japeth, son of Noah). The church was quite warm and humid. Unlike the liturgy I attended in Bethlehem (which was in Arabic and fairly traditional), Mass was said in English and had a fairly charismatic feel to it. Most of the congregants appeared to be Filipino. The Arab Catholics received the Eucharist on the tongue and did not hold hands during the Our Father (but rather assumed the Orans position). The Mass at St. Peter's was quite a bit like one here in the States at one of the more charismatic parishes.



You might also remember that Peter healed the seamstress Tabitha in Jaffa and had the vision of the clean and unclean animals (Acts 9 and 10).

I took a bus into Jerusalem, then a taxi from the bus terminal. I have to recommend, if you ever go to Jerusalem, that go with a tour. A one-day tour runs about $68 dollars and you see everything (including Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial). Since I came from Tel Aviv, I paid 182 NIS for taxis and the bus rides (roughly the same as the tour with a whole lot more walking). The bus from Tel Aviv is cheaper than taxi fare to the Old City. The benefit of going on your own is that you can stop wherever you like. I wouldn't recommend taking the busses within Jerusalem, but that might just be my overdeveloped sense of caution.

My driver to the Old City wasn't very accommodating. I should have told him to use the meter, but I negotiated instead. I'm not very good at doing that. Then he took me only so far as the turnpike above the Damascus gate. I had to walk quite a distance through the largely Arabic East Jerusalem to get to Gethsemane, which was closed until 2:30. (I was too tired and sweaty by 2:30 to walk back.)

Just down the hill from the Church of All Nations (which is next to Gethsemane) is the Valley of Kidron and the site of Hezekiah's tomb, which is also conveniently next to the tomb of Zechariah.



These are just a hop, skip, and jump from the Pillar of Absalom.



Further toward the south end of the valley is the City of David at one end of the tunnel of Hezekiah is the Pool of Siloam (John 9).



As I was walking to get to the Cenacle (the upper room), another taxi driver passed by and stopped. He remembered me from January. Pretty uncanny, that. However, I didn't think needed a ride.

Didn't think, but probably did. I got a bit lost at this point and wound up an a little dirt path that kept getting higher and higher above the street. Finally, some helpful locals got me back on track. Another fellow took me on a brief tour of a few lesser known sites on Mt. Zion. I also had a brief chat with a couple of Dominicans in the Dormition Abbey.

Ever wonder what Gehenna looks like? Well, here's the Hinnom Vallley of modern day:



During the first century, people used to burn their garbage there, and dead criminals and animal carcasses were usually tossed there as well (hence the reason why the fire was never quenched and the worms never died).

I was able to get into the Greek part of the Basilica this time. Here's the iconostasis.



And I had to get a picture of this beautiful Pantokrator.



The Edicule (the location of Christ's tomb) stands right outside of the Greek area. This time, I did take the time to wait in line and enter. Unfortunately, they don't allow photos inside the Edicule. Here's one from last January.



The next day, I took a guide tour to Galilee, which is north of Jerusalem some distance. Photos from that trip are coming in another post.