Monday, November 28, 2005

Advent Lessons & Carols

StreetProphets has a good article here on the meaning of Advent and begins a discussion on the Christian practice of Advent amongst a liberally spiritual community of bloggers and social acitivists.

Below is an edited version of the Catholic readings for today offered here for reflection on the journery.

Reading I:
They shall beat their swords into plowsharesand their spears into pruning hooks;One nation shall not raise the sword against another,nor shall they train for war again.
Psalm:
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friendsI will say, “Peace be within you!"Because of the house of the LORD, our God,I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Gospel:

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;only say the word and my servant will be healed.For I too am a man subject to authority,with soldiers subject to me.And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacobat the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

I missed Ramadan this year. A time for focused, daily prayer. I feel in the mood and in synch with the church body to pray daily again.

The season of Advent, the faithful journey to the Christmas Birth, began this past Sunday. The week prior was the Feast of Christ the King, which is the last week in Ordinary Time. One week from Christmas, we celebrate the New Year on the Roman Calendar.

Add to that the "October Surprise" of various overlapping of religious traditions, the closeness of Chanukah and Christmas this calendar year and Passover and Holy Thursday in 2006 and you get the sense that Liturgical Calendars can and do have a real, visceral presence and importance in the lives of the faithful.

And I have been amused at the wealth of creativity our pastors have placed in their sermons during this advent season to heighten such effects. But I am also perplexed why those I have heard don't choose the simplest imagery of all for the Season.

The yearning patience, dilligence, and faith it takes to gestate, carry and labor a child to term.

Advent Lessons & Carols: Be laboring the obvious.
A Great Miracle Happened Here!



Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rosa Parks: RIP

Washington Prepares To Pay Rosa Parks Rare Tribute at Capitol [WPOST]
"The nation's capital began preparations yesterday for a historic weekend, when civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks will become one of only 30 Americans ever honored with the pomp and ritual of a Capitol Rotunda viewing."

Rosa Parks, mother of the civil rights movement in the U.S., died Monday Oct. 24, 2005 at the age of 92. In 1955 she made headlines for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man in defiance of segration laws then in force.

City buses are reportedly leaving the front seat open in tribute to her.

People Get Ready!
Rosa, your ride is free.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Monika Hellwig dies Sep. 30, 2005.

Hellwig, noted theologian and author, dies after suffering stroke
(CNS NEWS BRIEFS Sep-30-2005)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Noted theologian and author Monika Hellwig died at Washington Hospital Center Sept. 30 after suffering a severe stroke. She was 74 years old. She had just recently retired as president and executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Hellwig taught theology for more than 30 years at Georgetown University before taking up the ACCU post. Just days before her death she had taken up a new position as a research fellow at the university's Woodstock Theological Center. A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, she received numerous honors and awards for her work, including more than 30 honorary degrees.

A Woodstock Forum held at Georgetown University just this past Monday marking the 30th Anniversary of the Forum, listed her as the moderator for "Re-envisioning the Papacy", a panel presentation which looked at the papal invitation of Ut Unum Sint and the Johanine call "that all may be one."
May you join with Pope JPII at the banquet that has been prepared and look kindly on us as we endeavor to continue in the ministry of God's invitation to gather us in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Frere's Funeral Ecumenically Inclusive

At His Funeral, Brother Roger Has an Ecumenical Dream Fulfilled - [New York Times]
Petra Simmert, a schoolteacher from southern Germany, came with her husband and two children. She is Protestant, he Catholic; one child is Catholic, the other Protestant. "We're an ecumenical family," she said, with a laugh. Watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II on television, they saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, give communion to Brother Roger, even though he was not Catholic. "That struck us," she said.
In his closing homily on World Youth Day, Pope Benedict lovingly spoke of the Eucharist, the source and summit of the church. For Catholics, this is the Year of the Eucharist. While there are many devotions associated with this foundational sacrament and many actions which have proven politically divisive, Pope Benedict, other ecumenical religious leaders, and progressive writers, have continued to cmphasize the Gospel call of non-violence and the all embracing abundance and transformation of God's love. Triumph over sin and death.
May we be worthy of such remembrances on our eternal day.

More:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Frere Roger, Taize Founder, slain

Brother Roger, 90, Dies; Ecumenical Leader [New York Times]:
"With his group of monks - including Lutheran, Anglican, Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox members - he sought to create greater unity among Christian churches, but his focus above all was to awaken spirituality among the young people in Europe who were growing up "
I have to believe that there are songs on heaven and earth that console us and welcome Brother Roger's soul to his eternal home. Taize will continue to be an important pathway for many people of many faiths to enter into the Holy Presence stirring from deep within us and amidst our practicing community.

The Gift remains.
  • The BBC is taking comments after their article here.
  • Information on his deranged killer here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

He Would've Wanted Everyone to Eat [New York Times]:

"People judged your worth by how well you made rice. If your rice wasn't proper, my God."
My grandmother, when she was alive, often repeated the words: "Eat, drink, and be merry" as a supplemental grace before meals. Often she'd have the guts to include "...for tomorrow we die." More often, she'd simplify her savory psalms as "Eat and Eat!" And in our Filipino household, it was something we did with an overactive devotion.

I'm married to a Jewish woman now and as I read this NYT's article speaking of the different repasts that accompany funerals and mourners' celebrations, I recall all the food that was lavished on us earlier this year when we buried our son, Joshua Emet.

Sometimes, you just eat your heart out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Some Words History Has Waited For

Fiqh Council of North America Issues a Fatwa Against Terror::

"The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.
Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not
martyrs. "


BBC NEWS-UK Northern Ireland IRA says armed campaign is over

"The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann (the IRA) has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4 p.m. this afternoon. All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means."

Tribe Platypus on TIKKUN'S call for Spiritual Progressives

From Tribe Platypus:
God is in our midst, once again. And while I am confident of the value religion has for politics of either side, I am even more certain that chaining it to politics runs the real risk of making religion itself "godless" in its orientation.
Rabbi Michael Lerner of TIKKUN joins others in the observation of how religious conservatives and the far right have managed to create an alliance over the years despite voting against their own interests. An uphill battle also seems to loom in which spiritual progressives on the Left need to not only reclaim religious values from within a largely skeptical or secularist movement, but must also press for a similar alliance for the sake of survival.

See related articles:

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

POLITICS-US: Response to Jim Lobe on London Bombings

POLITICS-US: Familiar Debate Resumes in Wake of London Bombings
Response by Jay Cuasay
We can continue to argue the premise of whether or not the correct (or a correct) response to terrorist attacks is “to take the fight to the enemy.” At that basic level, the two sides drawn debate whether to prosecute terrorist acts as a crime or to wage a war on terrorism. Sides have been taken, for whatever the ultimate outcome might be. Personally, I tend to side more with prosecuting terrorist acts as crimes. Despite that position, I strongly resist the characterizations made by Karl Rove and other spinsters for right wing ideology that want to paint that position as “offering therapy and understanding” to such terrorists. I actually agree with Pres. Bush’s language that says we will use all our options to combat terrorists (by which I took this to mean not just military actions).

On a deeper level, Lobe wants to highlight a different set of issues: Do terrorists hate who we are (i.e. the freedom that we stand for) or what we do (i.e. military occupation and capitalistic imperialism)? He also highlights international relations areas in which terrorism threatens progress: Israel-Palestine, the G8 Summit, EU-3 nuclear talks with Iran, for example.

Overall, it seems staunch conservatives want to argue that we must continue to fight the war on terror. To not do so is either “appeasement” which capitulates to “Islamofascist” who will interpret this as a sign of weakness and increase their attacks or it is a na├»ve “distraction” that the free world cannot afford to make. At this point, I also have to note that terms such as “Islamofascist” come off sounding like think tank jargon, which to be fair, does have its place. But perhaps too, it should be kept in its place.

I have neither the actual age nor the worldly history to back up this statement, but sometimes I feel like the U.S. is trying to make up for arriving late to world affairs. Dragged reluctantly into World Wars, which tended to be a more European affair or at least a war we fought “over there” to make the world safe for democracy, we now approach the world stage as if we understand what a global war is like. September 11th is our chance to rewrite the history of the Poland invasion, for example. It is our chance to stop a creeping evil empire.

The trouble is, for the most part, all of the first world countries have benefited and lived some semblance of peace time prosperity stemming from the Post-WWII period. Yes, there have been other conflicts, and indeed other wars. But nobody is particularly excited about gearing up for an all out offensive, non-stop, World War III. Nobody, especially Europe with its memories of World War, wants to live that way again.

We are not prepared or willing to be 100% vigilant and living under a militarization of whatever semblance of peace time we have. We do not want to live like we are Israelis (or Palestinians), and while the angst and perception of credible threat remains, we are still for the most part comfortable with our “distractions” of SUVs, reality-TV, Hollywood affairs, and celebrity scandal. We are also plagued by chronic issues of crime, poor education, environmental, and living standards, to name a few. And in that light, winning the war on this credible, great evil of a threat, does not seem to be the panacea.

Instead, I look at the British response to the latest bombings and note that rather than up the ante of wartime aggression, rather than pledge more boots on the ground to “bring the fight to the enemy”, more sabre rattling, more militaristic talk, they have continued to do what civilized people do. Bury their dead, repair their damages, and bring in the civil servants (as well as military intelligence) to route out suspects and investigate the situation. London is trying to get back to the business of being London and it is doing so without having to emote a display of Rambo-like testosterone.

So in conclusion, Lobe’s article tends to highlight what America (and in particular what staunch conservatives) think about the war on terror and what should be the world’s response to these events. But on the face of it, I do not see the world reaction to be following suit. Instead, I see investigations continuing, suspects being named, people restoring the balance of their lives—all without having to ratchet up the terror threat or ring the war alarm. Perhaps this is because this “war on terror” is looking less like a credible plan on the ground and our military presence in the endeavor is looking more like a misspent occupation of our time.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Embryonic stem cell research

Comment by Jay Cuasay

I think it would be helpful if both sides of the debate agreed on some common language so that we do not simply talk past each other to reiterate our own steadfast positions. We would all be on the same page if we viewed the fertilized egg outside of the womb as potential human life (if implanted) and something certain to die/disintegrate (outside of the womb).

I would find the opposition more convincing if it did not try to associate stem cell research with the issue of abortion, where it views abortion as the taking of innocent, human, life. It should argue instead that it is opposed to the active intervention such research causes (outside of the womb), which advantageous though it may be, is inappropriate at such a time. Their slogan and sentiment seems to be: “Let them die in peace (outside the womb).”

Supporters might note that we would take a dying person's cellular materials for beneficial use if it was under the right conditions and not if it denied proper "human" dignity to the event. A similar ethical protocol could be enacted. A similar one is already in place to handle the discarding of such materials. And it should be noted that where science may appear too clinical to completely handle the enormity of this event, we have other psychological, theological, and spiritual means for understanding and processing these events, as well. Why not develop a way that gives a larger “humanity” and dignity to such an event? Their slogan could be: “Don’t just let us die, help us help someone else.”

Personally, the opposition to stem cell research in its heart may come from a right place morally. But it poorly stretches the skin of simplistic rhetoric to inadequately cover a vast body of issues. We need to be more complex and serious about the totality of this life and death event rather than playing chicken with it.

President Bush's initial decision to allow for stem cell research on existing stem cell lines was great politicking, but it makes no sense. It works in the sense that it is in effect, but it also lets the genie out. Other countries not bound by such self-contradictory laws will move forward and produce their own findings. We will still need to reconcile such activities and findings with our own clinical and moral inactivity. To handle this with our full human capacities, we ought to let theologians, scientists, et. al. have their say. And they should use the BIGGER words they have because the politician's vocabulary and thinking on this isn't effective and it isn't an answer.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Response to Thomas Cahill's NY Times Piece on JPII

“The Price of Infallibility”
Thomas Cahill NY Times OP-ED Contributor, April 5, 2005
Response By Jay Cuasay

[Abstract of Cahill’s piece is available at : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20A17FF345B0C768CDDAD0894DD404482]

I thought the best written piece, or at least the most comprehensive (though repetitive) piece was the NY Times obituary printed on Sunday by Robert D. McFadden prior to Thomas Cahill’s Op-Ed. Most other pieces try to present a generally even tone concerning the late Pope John Paul II's progressive and regressive contributions. Cahill's obviously opts for the latter more.

I can't say that I agree 100% with Cahill’s assessment because I feel the need to put some clarifications onto the discussion. The big plus for JPII's papacy is that it breathed new life into the catholic church, post-Vatican II to present the religion as a world religion with moral force that had something to say to the modern world. In a word, it was still relevant. At the same time, post-JPII, we live in a world where the largest increases in catholics are in so called "developing countries", priests are in shortage, and Islam is on the ascendancy. Rather than evaluate that like a job performance review for the pope, I look at it from the point of view of what are its implications for the catholic church in order to maintain its global moral force and its perceived global mission?

This to me, like Cahill is an issue of ecclesiology. What do we mean by church and how ought it to be managed? To me, this has broken up into the categories of discipleship and mission. But not everyone thinks in those terms on a day to day basis. In terms of ecclesiology, perhaps a helpful image is to say the church is a communion of communities (koinonia not just ekklesia). And thus, while I agree a strong centralized papacy with a rigid hierarchical structure is counter to this, we have to be careful about the structural solutions we put forth and the source of their motivations.

Another term that we don't think of in day to day terms is MINISTRY. The pope is "the first bishop among equals." But perhaps a more helpful way of thinking about it is to see the pope as exercising the ministry of unity. Thus issues of ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, reaching out to youth, placing catholicism globally in a modern pluralistic context all become a different matter, a matter of ministry, not simply authority or authoritarianism.

Many of Cahill's concerns tend to accord with dissent in the AMERICAN catholic church experience, particularly over sexuality. These same issues have a very different meaning, and ministerial response--for example reproductive choice for women, even poor women in the U.S. and reproductive choice as it pertains to the spread of AIDS in Africa. The former often appearing as a case of championing "moral values" or freedom to choose. In the other, it's mortally about basic subsistence and survival.

Any way, to the extent the papacy is in need of reform, I suggest reading Ut Unum Sint [http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0221/_INDEX.HTM], JPII's 1995 document based on the Johanine passage "That all may be one". This is the document that perhaps would best present his thoughts on the papacy itself, especially paragraphs #88 and following. You will see a careful, ministerial and spiritual deliberation over the issues of church mission, papacy as office of unity, pope as one of a college of bishops, and the need to exercise functions of koinonia in that light.

Finally, note in #96, the pope writes: "This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me (Jn 17:21)?"

Again, this is not the language of every day, and indeed Karol Wojtyla continues the dialogue with the communion of saints. But for us here, church leaders, theologians, disciples with the spirit active in our midst, we need to be clear on how we are church as we exercise our respective ministries.

Peace.
Jay

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Fr. Frank Pavone's Thoughts for this Past Week

Comment By Jay Cuasay

[Fr. Frank Pavone publishes a weekly column “My Thoughts about this past week” on Catholic Exchange. The following is a response to his April 4, 2005 column published April 6, 2005 by Catholic Exchange. Full text available at http://catholicexchange.com/vm/index.asp?vm_id=72&art_id=28088].

"United in faith" I do not see that grieving Schiavo's "murder" and "mourning JPII's passing" are of the same category. However, a parallel that I have NOT seen written about that ties the same respect for life and human dignity espoused by JPII and is deserving of scrutiny and criticism is the lack of accountability and initial move to secrecy that surrounded the priest sex abuse scandal, for which the church (and the pope in particular) were rightly excoriated, and the utter *lack* of similar interest and resolve to investigate, monitor and call into account flagrant human rights violations legitimized by the U.S. military structure and condoned by the present administration.

If the pictures from Abu Ghraib or the tortures and violations attested to elsewhere had instead been depictions of priest's simply "performing their duties" how would that have played out? How should the faithful and supporters of a "Culture of Life" have responded, especially for a war much of the world and the pope himself disagreed with? How do we legitimize such acts and give soldiers, the military, the commander in chief, such a free pass and allow this administration to so freely share "pro-life" language?

Will we with equal vigor, faith, and conviction, laud similar praises for such examples or seek instead proper judgment and accountability?

Jay Cuasay/CIA
Communications Interfaith Activism

Friday, March 25, 2005

Easter Interfaith: Jews and Christians

I also believe in Open Doors
By Jay Cuasay
(A Reply to Sue Rusell’s "Singing the Passion" available at http://www.killingthebuddha.com/dogma/singingpassion.htm)

Sue Russell, writes about her experience of singing with a Christian choir, as a Jew, during the Easter Season and her impressions of the Gospel of John. Jay Cuasay responds with a look at the Gospel composition and audience of John’s and Matthew’s Gospels, liturgy from a inter-religious perspective, and a common orientation to the one God for Jews and Christians in post-Temple times.

As a fellow musician who sings in many different liturgical circumstances, I can sympathise with the author for the personal and spiritual flexibility it requires to enter into Christian liturgical music as a Jew, especially around Easter settings. Perhaps some historical considerations might also be helpful, noting that each Gospel was composed at a certain time under certain historical realities. The best source for quickly framing both the Gospel of John and Matthew, in my opinion, is to consult Raymond Brown's Intro to the New Testament.

Simply put, it's often easier to categorize Matthew's Gospel as more palatable toward Jews than John's. Matthew's Gospel is composed much earlier and generally speaking wants to take the theme that Jesus is the "New Moses". Thus it tries its best to show parallels between earlier Hebrew Scriptures and the salvation history of the Jews and the larger more universal salvation through The Way. The main audience for Matthew's gospel are still Jews meeting in synagogues and a number of gentiles (still in the minority) who have come to be interested in the God of the Jews through the stories they are hearing about Jesus as told by his Jewish disciples. Thus, it is a Jewish story told by Jews, imbued with Jewish religious language and understandable (at least in syntax) to Jews.

John's Gospel is written after the destruction of the Temple. It is written at a time when gentiles to the Jewish sect have greatly increased and there is increasing acrimony between this minority sect (with its increasing number of gentiles) and the majority of Jews. John's Gospel also has a very radical departure from previous Hebrew scripture in the sense that it is almost a re-writing, or recasting of the entire framework. Note its prologue: "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God." This isn't Jesus as the "New Moses" or even simply "the New Adam". This is Genesis itself "fulfilled" or amplified. This is part of God's plan for creation from the very beginning.

Another perspective worth looking at is how it is possible that Christians (who admittedly) read/misread the offending passages in the past, today go to great pains to explain how such passages are now interpreted in light of Christian Jewish relations (inaugurated by WCC post-holocaust, and in Catholicism put forth in the document Nostra Aetate during Vatican II in 1965, and its subsequent work). Simply put, "his blood be on us and our children" has been taken universally to mean on all of humanity's implication in sin and our universal need to be redeemed by God. As for the role, historically, that Jews played in the crucifixion, it has been my understanding that blasphemy (a religious charge) was punishable by death, but capital punishment was not a sentence that any Jew could legally carry out. In any case, Jesus was handed over to Roman authorities as an agitator and executed by the power of Rome during Passover, when any threat of civil dissidence would be viciously crushed. This was after all Jerusalem--a backwater gulag of the Roman Empire.

The final point I'd like to make returns again to comparative sympathy for a Jewish person experiencing Christian language and taking it personally. One might ask, knowing how uneasy such words can potential be, why not go at great lengths to change them? Simply put, because the words reside in the Gospel language itself...not as a deep indelible accusation, but simply as the inspired word we have come to accept as canonical. As a Catholic, I could make the same simplistic request, noting that Jewish services might attract more people and not seem so self-involved or xenophobic if the services stopped referring to the Chosen People and the People Israel in such an exclusivist way. But I know better that much of the God who speaks in Hebrew Scripture is directed to the Jewish People in an intimate way that would be incorrect to change.

However, what I think both Jews and Christians share is not just open door policies to our houses of worship or open ears to our liturgical songs. We much more importantly share a relationship with the one God in a world where there is no longer a singular place for which to worship that God. In this post-Temple world, it is no longer a case of which religion will triumph and build the everlasting place, but rather the manners in which we find ourselves in relationship to the one God. Clearly Jews and Christians are related to God differently, even as we are God's children. Nevertheless, for some of us it brings us in contact with each other. For others we remain amongst our own. But because of history, we cannot pretend that we are not in the same world in very different times than before.
Bon Pasca
Happy Easter

Jay Cuasay is a graduate of Washington Theological Union in Washington DC. He received a Masters in Pastoral Studies. He wrote "Dabru Emet and Christianity in Jewish Terms: Third Epoch Judaism and Post Vatican II Ecumenical Reception" which examined recent Jewish responses to Nostra Aetate and the significance of Jewish Christian interfaith marriages. He is married to a Jewish woman. They named their firstborn Joshua Emet.