This blog is an attempt to provide interesting and worthwhile Catholic Adult Education materials, either texts or podcasts I have produced myself, or links to other good resources.
I am doing this for several reasons. One is to act as a means of distributing to interested people recordings I have already made. Another is to advocate for Adult Catechesis within the Catholic Community, which I believe is sorely neglected in most parishes, despite the priority it is given in official Catholic documents on Catechesis.
Daniel 7-12 is very different from Daniel 1-6 and 13-14. First of all, it is written in Hebrew whereas the rest is in Greek. (This raises an interesting issue in Protestant Bibles, where only the Hebrew sections are regarded as canonical.) It is written in an apocalyptic style, which includes a lot of obscure symbolic language. it’s teaching is that the pagan nations have risen in vain against God, and while at first they seem victorious, each will be in turn overthrown, and in the end God and his kingdom will triumph. The prophet calls his hearers to right conduct, to trust in divine control over events, and to be certain that in the end God will triumph.
The Picture above is an illustration of the vision of the Fourth Beast in Daniel Chapter 7. The picture below is a modern interpretation of it, when modern nations are seen as fulfilling what Daniel had to say. This is a contentious and stupid form of interpretation. Daniel was not interested in the events of the 21st century!
Daniel has given us several expressions in every day use, to describe someone as having ‘feet of clay’ comes from the vision of the Beast above, and last week we heard the incident about the ‘writing on the wall’.
For Christians Daniel has a value as a prophecy of the Messiah, especially the “Son of Man” in 7:13. Danile also forsees the resurrection, in 12:2-3, a text often used at funerals.
Daniel is an unusual book in the Old Testament for several reasons. It is classed among the Prophets, but it is more properly an example of Apocalyptic literature. This is a type of literature popular between the second century BC and the first century AD, produced by Jews and later Christians facing severe persecution. It shares many features of prophetic writing, calling it’s hearers to faith in God and to a righteous life. It looks forward to the coming of “The Day of The Lord” and the end of history, when God will come in judgement, vindicate the innocent and punish the wicked. The Book of Revelation is also an apocalyptic work, and so also are passages in the Gospels.
Daniel is also unusual in that it is written partly in Aramaic (chapters 1-7) and the rest in Greek. The section we looked at today includes some sections of “didactic fiction” teaching people how to behave, in particular, how to be faithful and trust in God under pagan persecution. These stories include the three young men in the fiery furnace (above), the unmasking of the fraud of the idol Bel, Daniel’s disposal of the Dragon (a crocodile, pictured below), and the vindication of the innocent Susanna.
First, an outline of kingship in Israel. Kingship was an ambiguous experience, because God was the true king of Israel, and it was an act of infidelity to ask for a human king. However, God acceded to the wishes of the people and gave them a series of kings, some who were good, and some who were a disaster. However, God also gave a promise for a king to come in the future, the Messiah, who would renew God’s people and God’s covenant in a special way. As Christians we see this fulfilled in Jesus.
Second, a brief outline of the lives and teaching of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
The final chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation is called “Spirit-Filled Evangelizers” and that is what he is calling Catholics to be. He calls us to be “Fearlessly open to the Holy Spirit” and “full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction!” He warns us against ignoring the necessity of prayer and spirituality, and on the other hand offering “a privatized and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity, to say nothing of the demands of the Incarnation.”
He stresses the need to grow in love of Jesus, and to make this love known before all else. He asks us to trust in the Risen Christ, and the action of the Holy Spirit. Finally he commends to us “Mary, Mother of Evangelization” as the image and icon of the Church bringing Christ into the world.
The final question for us is, “what do we do now?”!
Today we looked at several critical ideas and experiences in the Old Testament experience.
The foundational experience of God for Israel was the Exodus, God’s liberation of his people from slavery in Egypt, and making with them a covenant based upon this revelation of God, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 20:2). With the making of the covenant came the giving of the Law (The Ten Commandments, and many more, on Mount Sinai), the right way of worship, and the gift of the land of Israel.
This story is told in the Book of Exodus, and expanded and commented upon in various ways in Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges. All these fundamental elements – Exodus, Covenant, Law, Worship, Land – are the basic material of most of the Old Testament story.
The Book of Judith has an unusual character. It is written in Greek, so it is not regarded as canonical by Protestants, but is part of the Deutero-Canonical literature. It was written in the early 2nd or late 1st century BC, though set centuries earlier during the period of the Assyrian Empire.
The Assyrian general Holofernes sets out to punish the Jewish people for not assisting the Assyrians in their war against the Medes. He besieges Jerusalem, and just after the people are ready to surrender the pious widow Judith offers to save the nation, under God’s direction. She dresses in her finest clothes, goes to meet Holofernes for three successive nights, and on the third night kills. him, at which point his army flees.
The story has echoes of the Exodus story, and is a popular tale to tell during Passover. However, many Jewish and Christian commentators have had problems with the story because of its scandalous elements.
On Sunday March 16th at 4:00 members of the St. Thomas More, Chapel Hill parish Schola Cantorum will be presenting the “St. Matthew Passion” as composed by our very own Roger Petrich. Built on the 400 year old tradition of chanting the Holy Week Gospels, this unaccompanied setting of Matthew 26:14 –27:66 tells the story from the moment the betrayal is arranged, through the Last Supper, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion and burial. This
is a “Sacred Concert” to which all are invited, including non-Catholic friends! Lenten music by Graun, Goss, and Michael Haydn will also be included. Program will be about one hour duration, and is free.
This is the first session of six in the series “A Catholic Understanding of Scripture: Old Testament Survey” from the Doorways to Formation in the Faith series from the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. We are using the book “Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction” by Lawrence Boadt. It is somewhere between ambitious and impossible to get an overview of the entire Old Testament in six sessions. I mention in my commentary that it reminds me of a play I saw about a year ago of the Complete Works of Shakespeare in one evening. It was very fast-paced, superficial and amusing, and perhaps that is the best we can do here!
Rather than attempt to dash through an impossible amount of material, I have tried to do two things: to draw attention to some of the fundamentals of the outlook of the Old Testament, and its thinking, theology and culture, and to look at some classic and better known texts as illustrative examples of that thinking.
The principal ideas today are God’s creation of the world, and the the position of human beings in the world as God’s creatures, and the idea of Covenant. We looked in some detail at a section from the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum (Dei Verbum Old Testament), stressing the ideas of “Divine Pedagogy”, God’s gradual unfolding of revelation about himself, in ways which were real and true, but in some cases temporary or fragmentary, and also the statement from St. Augustine that “The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New”.
The afternoon and evening sessions are notably different, following the questions and observations of the students.
Dr. Chris Clemens is a parishioner of St. Thomas More, Chapel Hill, NC, and is a professor of astrophysics and Chairman of the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of North Carolina. Chris has for many years studied Catholic philosophy and theology, and the relationship between the Catholic faith and the pursuit of science over many centuries. He is ably qualified to address the relationship between the Catholic Faith and Science, understanding the methods and outlooks of both partners to the discussion.
The Pastor of our parish, Fr. Scott McCue, invited Chris to speak on this topic, and here are both the sound recording and Chris’ PowerPoint presentation, so for once we offer both sound and vision!
The recording begins with a prayer led by Fr. Scott, an introduction by Jim Hynes, Chris Clemens’ presentation and then some time for questions and discussion.
2 Maccabees is very different from 1 Maccabees, even though it tells much the same story. The author states (2:23) that his work is an abridgment of a longer five volume work by a person called Jason of Cyrene. However, this work is lost. It was written in Greek, so not included in the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The style includes marvelous and exaggerated accounts of events, appearances of angelic beings to fight for the Jews against their enemies, and stories which glorify God’s holy martyrs. (6:18-7:42; 14:37-46). Most notably, this includes the first explicit belief in the Old Testament in the resurrection of the body. Note also in 12:38-46 a belief in the efficacy of prayers for the dead, a disputed doctrine at the time of the Reformation.
Thanks to Lucia Stadter for the suggestion of the picture above, ‘Heliodorus driven from the Temple’ by Raphael in the Vatican Palace, an incident recorded in 2 Maccabees 3:7-40