Fun Stuff

I never knew my Great Grandmother Frances Picard. She was originally an O’Grady. They had a deep spirituality and she converted to the Catholic Church later in her life. (By the way, this was all new to me since I never knew – in my childhood – that I had several lines of Catholic ancestors.) 

My Great grandmother is bottom right

They were literate people back in those days. Detroit was in it’s glory days (oh, how it has fallen). The culture still believed in God; they still had a sense of honor, morality and natural law – all honoring Nature’s God.

During some cleaning and organizing we dug through dusty old books gathered from family archives and attics. I am the family archivist now working on genealogies and digitizing old photos.

We came across a tattered and brittle piece of paper, yellowed with age. It was buried in the binding of an old book. On it was the handwritten script of those who learned great penmanship – before we lost it after the keyboard was invented. On that page and in the lines of poetry I can step back in time and meet my ancestors and get a whiff of the world as it was – better times in many ways.

Here are a few lines from a poem she loved entitled Prelude to the Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell. I read it aloud to my wife Janet and we were for a moment whisked away. Notice especially stanzas 9 and 10. What is free when everything else has a cost?

Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us;
The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,
We bargain for the graves we lie in;
At the devil’s booth are all things sold,
Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;
For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we buy with a whole soul’s tasking
‘Tis heaven alone that is given away
‘Tis only God may be had for the asking;
No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.

{ 1 comment }

Meaning of Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

by Steve Ray on June 11, 2015

A non-Christian friend found two paintings at an art show and asked me, “What in the world are these? They seem to have pagan elements. What do they have to do with Jesus and Mary?”

Here is my explanation. If you readers have anything to add, please post it in the Comments below. Thanks.

Thanks. Beautiful images. Full of biblical representation — NOT pagan influences. They are devotional images to remind Catholics of the sorrows of Jesus and Mary and the resultant purification, joy and new life that come from them.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Hearts represent love and life as the center of our being. Jesus’ heart beats with the fire of love (at the top of the heart) which was demonstrated at the cross. The fire also represents the purifying fire of God by which he purifies men. It exudes the transformative power of divine love.

The crown of thorns brought suffering which was endured for the love of man to redeem him — to bear man’s pain in his own heart. The cut in the heart is that made by the lance that was thrust through his heart when he was on the cross.

The blood dripping represents the new life secured through his death (life came through dead). The Blood of Jesus also cleanses us, washes us from sin. The result is the heart of man (below surrounded by flowers) is given new life. The flowers represent a garden of delights, new life, freshness. The Garden of Eden which brought about death by sin is now replaced by the Garden of Heaven which brings new life because of holiness and the work of Christ.

Adam and Eve experienced death at the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden; The New Adam (Jesus) brings about life at the Tree of Death (the cross) in another garden (John 19:41). This cross is at the top of the heart. Heaven and the glory of God is represented by the clouds and the blazing sun or heavenly light from God behind the hearts.

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Heart of Mary:
This one is similar to the Sacred Heart. The roses surrounding Mary’s heart represent her sinlessness and purity, sweetness and new life. The seven swords piercing the top of the heart represents the “Seven Sorrows of Mary,” (“Mater Dolorosa”).

The first of her sorrows was the Prophecy of Simeon that a sword would pierce her soul because of her son’s death (Luke 2:35), 2) their flight into Egypt, 3) the loss of Jesus in the Temple; 4) the fourth sorrow is Mary watching Jesus carry the cross, 5) the crucifixion imagining a mother watching her son die this way; 6) receiving his limp, cold body after the crucifixion, 7) the body of her son buried in the tomb.

When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple as a baby the prophet Simeon said that the life and death of Jesus would be like a sword that would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). The lower heart, the one of Mary surrounded by roses, shows a cut in it which is symbolic of her sorrows. But her sorrows have brought us new life and pure hearts represented by the garden of roses below.

The Mystic Rose:
The mystic rose, symbolizes Mary’s mystical participation in the Holy Trinity as Heaven’s Rose or Mystical Rose. In medieval times the mystic rose symbol was drawn with four petals on a stain glass background or on a multi-colored background like a popular quilt pattern which is still stitched today.

Conclusion:
It is a very popular and insightful devotion to Jesus and his mother — the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Every aspect is taken from the Bible and nicely illustrated in the pictures you sent. You have a nice few items there :-)

{ 11 comments }

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology.

Toilets.jpgFor example, Paul writes that he considers all things as refuse that he might gain Christ (Phil 4:8).  We lose the impact of his graphic language. Paul wrote in Greek and in Greek the word refuse means human waste or crap. In Paul’s day it might have been the equivalent of the “sh–” word forbidden in proper communication. Paul used crude language, and it was very graphic for the original readers. Our English translations are very “proper”.

(Picture: Steve sitting on old stone Roman toilets in Philippi, filming in “Paul, Contending for the Faith“)

As a Pharisee, Paul tried to earn his righteousness by his self-righteous efforts and pride. But now that he has learned of faith in Christ and salvation by grace along, he considers his old efforts and self-righteousness to be nothing but crap. English Bibles santize this wording for us :-)

Let’s look at another crude example.  In Galatians 5:12 Paul reacts to the Jewish converts who tried to make the Gentiles get circumcised.  They said the pagans must be circumcised and obey all the 613 laws of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1).  The heretics made Paul so mad that he says he wished the false teachers would not just cut off the foreskin of the penis but slip and cut the whole thing off.  Ouch!

Flint Knife.jpgEverywhere else this Greek word is used in the New Testament, it is translated “cut it off” but in this passage most prim and proper English translations render the word as “mutilate themselves” though a few say “castrate themselves” or “go all the way and emasculate themselves.”  Paul didn’t mince his words, nor hide his anger and frustration.

(Picture: Ancient flint knife, the kind used for circumcisions in biblical times)

One of my favorite gold nuggets that I discovered in the New Testament is a Greek word used only twice in the whole New Testament. This word relates to God’s two creations.  By reading the English Bible you would never know these two different passages use the same Greek word. But you would never know it from reading the English. When you dig deep you find gold!

What are these two creations of God?  The first is obviously the physical world created “in the beginning.”  The second creation is the Church, into which we are ‘born again” through baptism, a new creation. Both creations were “born” out of water with the Spirit of God hovering over the water (Gen 1:2; Mk 1:9-110, John 3:1-5).

Ready? Well here are the two verses; I have italicized the English words that have the Greek word in common:

First, the physical creation: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).

Second, the spiritual creation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Was I right? Would you have known that the underlying Greek word in both verses is poiema? It is the Greek word from which we get our English word poem. In Romans 1:20, five English words are used to translate one Greek word: poiema which refers to the physical created universe.  The word workmanship is what you are, what the Church is. The poem of the Church includes you.

So, God has “written” two poems: the physical world and the Church.  God is a poet, He is an artist, and his two great works of art reveal much about Him as an artist. You can learn a lot from looking at the paintings of an artist or by reading the pages of a poet.  Just as any poet can be understood by reading his work, so God can be understood to some degree by reading his poetry.

Solar System.jpgGo out at night and look at the sky –  ponder the masterpiece of God’s creation. Look at the symmetry and beauty of a flower, the power and creatures of the oceans, the majesty of mountains and thunderstorms. Then look at the Church around the world as she redeems sinners. Think of the billions of people that have accepted her embrace and been born into a heavenly family, a culture of love and blessings. Two marvelous, breath-taking creations.

Any you? You are part of God’s two creations, you are written into his poetry and painted on his canvas.  He treasures you.  You are not a random mass of molecules that happened to appear on lonely planet earth spinning meaninglessly around the sun. No, you are part of God’s glorious poetry that angels admire and God cherishes. Be proud, be thankful!  Live worthy of your place in God’s heart.

So, the New Testament is rich in its vocabulary. It is richer than the English language reveals. Like Paul says, anyone that tries to please God by their meager human efforts has nothing but crap to show for it, unworthy of the kingdom of God. Anyone who says we must be circumcised to be a Christian opposes God’s plan of free grace. Paul wanted them to castrate themselves.

Actually the New Testament is rich in imagery and figures of speech.  You are blessed to be freely made part of God’s two creations. You are beautiful. The Word of God says so!

{ 15 comments }

Reading the Bible

May 28, 2015

A Little Poem about Bible Context I supposed I knew my Bible, Reading piecemeal, hit or miss, Now a bit of John or Matthew, Now a snatch of Genesis, Certain chapters of Isaiah, Certain Psalms (the twenty-third), Twelfth of Romans, first of Proverbs — Yes, I thought I knew the Word! But I found that [...]

Read the full article →

Technical Problems for First Christians

May 26, 2015

Yes, the first Christians had a difficult time with the technical transition – from scrolls to books. You will certainly appreciate the need for the first “tech guys.” Enjoy! I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Read the full article →

Cartoon on Protestantism and the Bible

May 21, 2015

When I look back on my experience I find this cartoon has a ring of truth. There were many verses of the Bible that I either didn’t realize existed (though that may seem strange) or that we just ignored. We virtually cut them out of the Bible in the sense that we ignored or reasoned [...]

Read the full article →

A Limerick for a Questioning Grandson – Did Jesus Really Exist?

May 21, 2015

My grandson Josh asked, “Did Jesus really live? Maybe he didn’t and it was just a good story someone made up.” So I sat down and wrote him this limerick and gave him a stack of books from my library. The topic has not come up again since. Was there really a man named Jesus? [...]

Read the full article →

How Big was Noah’s Ark

May 11, 2015

It was a big boat at a time when big boats did not exist. It was a feat of genius ingenuity. You can read the instructions for building in Genesis 6:14-22. We are also told that the ark is a picture of the Church and salvation. In the ark Noah passed through the waters which [...]

Read the full article →

Riddle of a Mystery – Where’s Judas?

May 10, 2015

We saw this painting in Jerusalem today. “Ah ha,” said my wife, “can you find Judas the Betrayer?” Also, what is the source of the light?  

Read the full article →

SUNDAY IS COMING! A New Kind of Church!

April 17, 2015

Aren’t we all tired of old liturgies from the first centuries? Shouldn’t we update our church services? The time has come to compete with Hollywood and the new generation! Announcing!  Here is the NEW model of church — for the new generation who’s tired of the same old, same old, same old…. This Sunday, join [...]

Read the full article →

New Convert Holds His Ground with a Street Preacher

April 15, 2015

I was so delighted to receive this e-mail that I had to share it with everyone! Hi Steve, Just had to share this…I was visiting San Antonio this weekend and as I walked around the riverwalk section of town, a gentleman approached me with a gospel tract. When he asked, “Are you sure you are [...]

Read the full article →

“Ecumenical” Bible Studies

April 14, 2015

Without a teaching authority or the tradition of the historic Church, this cartoon shows what many Bible studies are really like. I remember Bible Studies that started out with “What does this passage mean to you?”  To keep from arguing or fighting, many just avoid difficult passages. There are many studies that exclude Catholic ideas [...]

Read the full article →

History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

April 13, 2015

Fascinating moving map. Click the image below to see biblical and modern history of the volatile Middle East.

Read the full article →

Steve Ray’s Conversion Story up on “Why I’m Catholic”

April 10, 2015

 This is a great website with conversion stories from every religious tradition imaginable to Catholic. The Why I’m Catholic website should be passed around to family and friends. It is very well done, beautifully laid out and full of great stories. Our story was posted this week. You can read it HERE.  

Read the full article →

First Days in Portugal

April 9, 2015

The first video is me on a hiking tour along the waterfront of Lisbon. I look at a lot of the people, places and things as I go through this beautiful city. I end up at the Monastery of St. Jerome. Built in the 1500s it is now under the control of the government and [...]

Read the full article →

How to Answer Someone who says “I am a Non-Denominational”

April 9, 2015

This was very clever. A friend posted it on my site. “When someone tells me they are non-denominational — I tell them I am pre-denominational.” For those who don’t get it:  pre-denomination means “before the Protestant Reformation (read: Rebellion).” The Protestants gave birth to the multiplying denominations. Before them there was the pre-denomination — the [...]

Read the full article →