Monday, March 26, 2012

Glory to God in the Highest Feast of the Annunciation

One of the few things I enjoy when I'm in the Big City is being able to attend daily Mass.  I usually go early, and the nuns and postulants are among the regulars, as well as several working, retired and possibly 1 or 2 homeless persons.  Today, the Feast of the Annunciation was celebrated, which means we said the Gloria and the Creed.  Now, on Sundays, many of us hold onto the missal so we have the new wording in front of us and our "autopilot" memorization of the old prayers is less likely to kick in.  Today, however, just as on the Feast of St. Joseph last Monday, I found myself scrambling for the right page in the missal.  I was not alone.  It was a bit humorous, really, to hear everyone start out strong at the beginning of the Gloria, then stumble, fumble with their missals, and join back in.  Perhaps another 10 years and we will have all the new wording programmed into our memories.

Today's readings struck me in regards to the interfaith debate about the "Virgin" birth.  I could not help but wonder why there should be any doubt, after careful study of the verses in Isaiah and Luke. 

Isaiah 7:14 - "...the virgin shall be with child and bear a son..."

Luke 1:26-38 - read the whole passage of the angel Gabriel's conversation with Mary.  In particular, verses 34-35:  "But Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?' And the angel said to her in reply, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'"  That does not sound to me like she is going to get pregnant in the usual way.  And why not?  Cannot the all powerful God, who can do all things, cause a virgin to conceive and bear His son?  If He can create the world out of nothing, create a man out of dust, He can surely do that.   

I thought maybe it might have to do with our different translations.  I looked in the King James version.  It says fairly the same thing as I have quoted here, from my New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition.  King James also uses the word "virgin" in the verse from Isaiah.  The Revised Standard Version uses the words "young woman" instead, but the passage from Luke reads much the same as the Catholic translation, including calling Mary a virgin.  

In light of this, I find it hard to believe that anyone could think otherwise, when the Bible clearly states that the "virgin" Mary was "overshadowed by the power of the Most High" in order to conceive Jesus.  Perhaps one day we will reconcile more of our differences and become more truly "one body in Christ".  I hope so.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Oregon's Best for Last - Mt. Hood, Pendleton and its' Woolen Mills

Mt. Hood from back of Timberline Lodge - still has snow in August.

Our last day in Portland, we took a day trip to Mount Hood, our destination, the Historic Timberline Lodge.  Constructed by the Works Progress Administration, during the years 1936-37, the lodge is a masterpiece of old-time craftsmanship.  I highly recommend the free tour of the lodge.  Our Forest Service volunteer guide cheerfully imparted volumes of historical information about the building, as well as pointing out many unique features.  All the rocks and lumber used in the building were procured locally and hand cut and milled on site.  That's not where it ends.  While the men were laboring to build the gargantuan structure at Timberline, the women were ensconced in barracks a few miles away, spinning, weaving and sewing all the textiles to be used in the lodge's rugs, draperies and upholstery.  Men were also handcrafting furniture, light fixtures and other decor for the lodge.  Textiles were made from locally produced flax and wool; rugs hooked from used cotton fabrics; iron railings and lamp fixtures were made from scrap iron.  Mosaics were fashioned from scrap glass and tile.  The creative talents and pride in workmanship of the builders and crafters are still in evidence.

Wall Mosaic in lobby of Timberline Lodge
On our way out of Oregon, we spent the night in Pendleton. The following morning was Sunday, and we attended Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church.  The service was memorable, in that it was one of the few I have ever attended outside of a Tridentine church, where the women nearly all wore chapel veils and modest dresses, the men mostly wore suits or trousers and button-down shirts, rather than sportswear.  There was liberal use of inscense, and all the music was chanted, as opposed to folksy performance.  The most touching part of the Mass came, appropriately, at communion time.  The Holy Eucharist was distributed, without exception, to those who came up and knelt at the communion rail, with the altar boy holding the paten under the Eucharist, as it was placed on the tongue.  My 8 year old son, having just received his First Holy Communion a few months before, was visibly taken aback, having never experienced this before.  The priest looked at me and I had to nod that yes, he can receive.  It was such a beautiful and sacred experience, that I wondered why it was ever necessary to change the way we receive Holy Communion.

After Mass, though I don't like to encourage businesses that stay open on Sundays, we went to the Pendleton Woolen Mills.  As we would not be back this way for who knows how long, it was now or never.  I got my first Pendleton from my mom when I was in high school.  The quality of workmanship is so fine that they last forever, so I could not pass up this opportunity to visit the factory in person.  We entered the gift shop, and though we could not take an actual tour of the mills, we were able to watch a video about the production of Pendleton's legendary woolen fabrics, and to browse their selection of fine clothing, accessories and yardage.   As much as I would have liked to have brought home a couple of bolts of fabric, the $40-$80 per yard price made me a happy window shopper instead.  From Pendleton it is just a few miles to Washington, but those adventures will take up an entire post of their own.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Transfiguring Power of Bleach

This morning was beautiful and 70 degrees, with no wind.  A welcome respite from the icy weather of the past week.  I even shed my long johns and winter socks for the day.  Not for long, another storm is due Wednesday. As I hung my clean laundry on the line to dry, the sunlight bounced off some of the whites, causing a glare to irritate my eyes.  As I was wishing I had thought to wear my sunglasses, I was reminded of yesterday's gospel reading - the Transfiguration.  "His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them." Mark 9:3.

This made me smile, as I reflected upon Our Lord, conversing with Moses and Elijah, with Peter, James and John speechless at His Divine Glory revealed.  If only it were so easy today, to climb the mountain and see Jesus revealed in all His glory.  Yet, there is a way.  Jesus, on the altar at Mass, by transfiguring the bread into His Body, comes to me at Holy Communion, that I may bask in His loveliness. All through the day, His glory manifests itself - in the startling blue of the Arizona sky, the hilarious antics of the new baby goats, the stunning night sky, sometimes so crowded with stars that I can barely make out the constellations.

I may frequently become discouraged.  My soul may frequently become soiled, but with the "laundering" of confession and receipt of the Holy Eucharist, once again, the garment of my soul can become dazzling white and I may just need my sunglasses...