“My Father Is the Farmer”

In John 15:1, Jesus says, “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Farmer” (georgos).

“Georgos” literally means “land/earth” + “worker”, and thus “farmer.” It’s where we get the name George.

It’s usually translated as “vineworker” or “vinedresser” when it shows up in a vineyard context, especially since the Septuagint used it that way; but it really is just the generic word for “farmer.”

So yes, Jesus is in the construction trades like His Dad, and He’s a shepherd like His Dad; but the Father is a farmer too. So it’s not surprising, maybe, that Mary Magdalene would confuse Jesus with the gardener!

UPDATE: John 15:2 uses another surprising expression. It doesn’t warn us literally that branches not bearing fruit (me pheron carpon) will be cut off; it says that the Father “takes it away” (airei auto) in the sense of “picks up, pulls off, plucks, removes”; but also, that the Father “cleans up,” (kathairei) every branch that bears fruit, in the sense of “prunes.” And then Jesus adds, “Y’all are already clean (katharoi), by the Word that I have spoken to y’all.”

There’s a lot of “clean” and “pure” in John’s Gospel…. (As seen in my previous post.)

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Priest and Servant II: Sacrificial Victim

If you keep up with Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, etc., you know that the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint don’t say, “Sacrifice this animal,” but “Do this to the animal” or “Do this animal.” So when Jesus said, “Do this in memory of Me,” He was saying, “Offer this sacrifice.”

So… in the Holy Thursday reading, we have John quoting Jesus as saying, “Do y’all know what I have done to y’all?… I have given y’all a pattern, so that as I did to y’all, y’all should also do.” (John 13:12, 15)

[Btw, the verse does NOT say, “to each other.” It just says they should do it. Argh, translators adding things!]

The word for pattern, “hypodeigma,” is the same word that is used for God’s patterns of the Temple furniture and layout and vestments, which He showed Moses on Mount Sinai. So yes, we are at a greater version of the heavenly banquet with God and the elders of Israel, and it’s not just an upper room but the heavenly mountain.

Also, when the Apostles (except Judas) are described as already washed and therefore “clean” (John 13:10), the word that is actually used is “katharos” and “katharoi.”

That means “pure,” really. It is used in the Septuagint to mean “clean” in the clean/unclean ritual sense, or to talk about “clean beasts” that are suitable for sacrifice. But it’s also used for “pure” gold as a material.

Anyhow… my point is that Jesus is serving the Apostles while making them priests, as I talked about in my last post. But also Jesus is preparing to “do” Himself, and for them to help “do” Him in a continual re-presentation of His perfect once-for-all sacrifice.

But by “doing” something to them, it implies that they are also being made into little Christs who will also be sacrificial victims. Jesus is implying that a servant who wants to be like Himself will sacrifice his time and effort, and maybe even his life, to serve others.

Also, it seems to me that it’s setting the Apostles up to turn other people into priests, and servants, and living sacrifices. It’s a process being instituted.

And then Jesus says something interesting. He says that a servant/slave (doulos) is not greater than the master/lord (kyriou), nor an emissary/apostle (apostolos) greater than the one that sent him. (cf. John 13:16) So yup, that’s pretty pointed! I don’t know why it’s not usually translated “apostle,” since every other use gets translated as “apostle.”

Before moving onto the actual Supper, He says, “If y’all know these things, blessed are y’all — if y’all do them.” (John 13:17)

Yeah, that’s not stern at all….

UPDATE: Going back to the “pattern,” it’s worth pointing out that all of us Christians have bodies that are temples where the Holy Spirit dwells, and where the Son and the Father dwell. So this is one of the heavenly patterns for how to build and furnish our individual temples.

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Priest and Servant

As we saw last night, Holy Thursday is about the institution of the Eucharist and the New Covenant; but right before then, it’s about the institution of the priesthood, and the obligation for the new priestly people, Christians, to act as servants toward each other.

Jesus takes off His himation, or cloak, which leaves Him in His long seamless robe; and then He ties a towel around Himself as a belt.

And what did the Jewish priests wear at the Temple? A long seamless linen robe down to the ankles, and a belt or sash tied around the robe.

But the way Jesus was doing it (ie, with the towel) seems to have been how servants did the footwashing for guests. So it was a sort of visual pun.

Leviticus 8:6 – “Moses had Aaron and his sons come forward, and he washed them. He put the linen robe on Aaron and fastened the belt around him.” (This is when Aaron and his sons are made priests of the Lord.)

Exodus 40:30-32 – “He placed the basin between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing; and from it, Moses, Aaron, and his sons washed their hands and their feet. They washed whenever they entered the Tent of Meeting or approached the altar, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

You get another priestly thing when Jesus warns Peter that unless he is washed, “You do not have a portion with Me.” (John 13:8) The Levites and priests of Israel were the only tribe that did not have a portion of the land; their portion and inheritance was God Himself.

(Oh, and here’s something funny. Peter didn’t just say, “Lord, you will _never_ wash my feet.” He said, “You will not wash my feet eis ton aiona,” which literally means, “to the age,” and is a translation of some kind of Hebrew expression about “olam.” It’s something like “ever in my life,” “in this age,” or even “forever.” So it’s a pretty exaggerated or emotional way to talk. Jesus says it because He’s God and He can, but Peter saying it is silly.)

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A Trivial Observation about Snail Battles

In the Ormsby Psalter (which is in the Bodleian, and digitized online), folio 109r has a snail battle directly opposite a rather snail-shaped letter Q.

(The illustration program seems to be: a grapevine, marking Psalm 79/80; a battle of a goatman with sword and shield vs. a lion/unicorn woman, with a pot and spoon; a dog with a hood looking backward, and a startled pig face on his butt, also looking backward (and thus pointing out the location of the psalm commentary about “Lord, turn us around, and show us Your face, and we shall be saved”).

(Then there’s a musical party scene in the letter E, illustrating Psalm 80/81, “Take up a psalm and give it the tympanum (playing bells with a hammer in the picture)… with the harp… blow the trumpet….” There is the Q in “Quia preceptum,” and then, on the other margin, there’s a snail. A human man is dropping sword and shield and running from the snail, which seems to go along with “Iudicium Deo Iacob.”)

(At the bottom, “his back” is right above a picture of two half-naked men wrestling, thus showing their backs, along with a donkey-man referee with a naked butt and legs at “burdens.” Presumably because donkeys carry burdens.The word “Divertit” is right next to a picture of some kind of bird, of the kind named tits; and it has its neck at a weird upside down angle to represent divertit’s meaning, “to turn away.”)

So yeah, it’s more entertaining than chapter headings, and might have helped with memorization of the book’s layout or contents.

I don’t know what’s up with the acorns, and the dragon vs. leopard dragon thing.

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St. Digory?

Well…no. Not that you’d notice.

But actually this is probably a Breton name, had some English popularity, and became a popular Cornish first name for centuries. Today, it’s mostly known from C.S. Lewis’ character, Digory Kirke, and from Dowland’s tune, “Captain Digorie Piper His Galliard.” Cedric and Amos Diggory from the Harry Potter books were named after Lewis’ character, and Diggory Island is a real place in Cornwall on the sea coast. There’s also a Thomas Hardy character named Digory Venn, which makes sense because Hardy’s books are set in the south of England, close to Cornwall.

(Btw, Digorie Piper was from Launceston, Cornwall, and Dowland might just have met him at some point. But Piper became a pirate, and was executed in 1586. The galliard wasn’t published until 1604, and it’s a sad one.)

The name “Digory” comes from a medieval romance in the style of a Breton lai, called “Sir Degare,” “Syr Degore,” or “Degarre.” If the “teg/deg” particle were from Breton, it would mean something like “excellent one,” and would be a name in the same family as the Welsh “Tegau/Tegan.” But there’s also the Breton word “digor,” which means “open” or “opened.” That seems more likely. Some claim the name is “D’Esgare.” But the French version of the story says that his name is “D’Egarre,” and means “the lost one.”

Sir Digory was the son of a human princess and a fairy knight, who either raped her, abducted her, or seduced her while she was lost in the woods. Either way, he left her with only one-half of a broken fairy sword to know him by. Scared to keep the resulting baby, his mother dropped the kid off at a holy hermit’s doorstep, along with gold, a letter, and magic gloves that will only fit his mother’s hand.

The hermit got his sister to raise the baby, then educated the child when he got old enough. Then Digory set out to find his family, killed a dragon with a wooden club and saved an earl, was knighted by him and given a horse and armor, and then headed back to Brittany, to fight for the hand of the princess you couldn’t marry unless you beat the king of Brittany in combat. He won, he got married — and it turned out to be his mom.

Luckily his mom recognized the gloves, and Bad Stuff was averted. His mom decides that it’s probably time to ‘fess up to her dad about the teen pregnancy. Digory spares everyone embarrassment and heads out to find his fairy dad, and his mom gives him the broken sword to know his dad by. (Unless it’s a version where the mom left the sword for the baby, along with the gloves.)

So first Digory meets a mysterious lady in a hidden castle in the woods, falls in love with her, is put to sleep magically, and then gets rebuked for not waking up fast enough. The castle is under attack by a wicked knight who wants to marry the lady, and he has just slain all her dead father’s knights. So Digory fights the bad suitor, wins, and is offered the lady’s hand. He says he can’t stay but will be back within a year to collect.

Digory goes off. He runs into a fairy knight, who challenges him to a fight. (In many versions, they fight, equal each other, are both unhorsed, start to fight on foot, and then they pause and talk.) Digory shows the fairy knight the broken sword, and the knight acknowledges Digory as his son, producing the point of the sword as proof. They ride back to Digory’s mom, and the fairy knight marries her. Then they ride to the mysterious lady’s castle, and she marries Digory. Everybody lives happily ever after.

The puzzling part is that we don’t know why the rape, abduction, and/or seduction, and why the fairy knight didn’t just marry the girl in the first place. He doesn’t seem to be cursed, evil, or anything like that. He’s not portrayed as a bad guy. And why does Digory’s mom have magical gloves? Are these like the gloves or cloaks that only fit an honest woman, or what? This is one of those stories that seems to be missing a lot of context. (Not to mention the incest/misunderstood relationships, the Rustam/CuChulainn son as challenger thing, etc.) Clearly the idea is that things need fixing, but why did they go wrong?

In the longer versions, the problem is that the King of Brittany, Digory’s grandfather, is so protective of his teenage daughter that he himself duels all her suitors, and keeps defeating them. So I guess you’d have to be okay with killing your father-in-law in order to woo his daughter. The other problem is that the princess looks too much like her dead mother, and is only allowed to leave the castle to visit her mother’s grave in the woods. The princess’ maidens fall asleep under an enchanted chestnut tree near the grave, and the princess wanders into the woods to seek help or escape. And that’s when the fairy knight grabs her.

So yeah, some kind of curse or taboo, for sure. Very similar to other stories like “Tam Lin,” where the girl doesn’t seem willing or unwilling, and the knight prophesies that she’ll have a fated son, and so on. So whatever is wrong that’s binding the girl, there’s also something wrong with the guy that’s binding him. Why is the sword broken, for instance? And a sword is a Frankish marriage gift or betrothal gift, so what does a broken sword mean? And why is “Degore” sometimes included in lists of Arthur’s knights?

But anyway, this is not anything that most people would know about, so it doesn’t really affect the name of Digory today.

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St. Talia?

Talia is an interesting name, because it’s never been a super-popular or super-obscure name. It’s just there.

There is a St. Talia, a female martyr celebrated in Ethiopia on November 11. It’s not clear whether or not this is a different version of a name like “Tatiana,” or not.

“Talia” or “Taliya” is a fairly popular Jewish name, meaning “dew of God.” It refers to various things, but mostly to Micah 5:7, which says that Israel’s remnant dispersed among the nations will be like dew from God, or like rainshowers on the grass, waiting for no man to get moving, and prowling among them like a lion. So it’s an interesting name, because it sounds sweet and peaceful but really isn’t!

There’s also the name “Thalia” or “Thaleia,” which is Greek for “blooming, growing green, flourishing,” and is the name of the Muse of comedy and of pastoral poetry. It was also the name of a Grace, a Nereid, and a Nymph. So yup, there are lots of Christian Thalias too. Thalie is currently a very popular Christian name in France, since the 1990’s, even though it used to be very rare.

In France, girls named Thalie celebrate their nameday on July 27, the day of St. Nathalie, better known as St. Natalia of Cordova. Natalia Sabigotho was half-Moor, half-Visigoth, back in the early days of Spain’s Islamic conquest. She and her husband Aurelius (who was half-Moor, half-Hispanic Roman) were secret apostates from Islam, who knew that they might someday have to become martyrs. After their two kids were old enough, they sent the kids to safety and began living like monks. After seeing a Christian trader flogged to death, they bravely proclaimed their faith too, and were martyred together on July 27, 852.

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“The Word Is Hard.”

The other day, I was listening to a talk about the Bread of Life Discourse (aka “All that stuff in John 6”), and suddenly I wondered what the Greek was for “This is a hard saying.” (Sometimes you also see it translated as “This is a hard teaching.” It’s John 6:61/6:60.)

Ha! It was a good thing to check!

What the grumbling listeners said was, “Skleros estin ho logos.”

Which literally means… “The Word is hard.”

“Skleros” is something dried out and stiff, hence also hard, stubborn, unyielding, harsh.

And yup, Jesus the Word was particularly unyielding and stubborn about every single point in the Discourse.

The Word is hard. Sweet like manna, tender like a lamb, but harsh too. He’s not going to back down from telling you to gnaw on His Body and drink His Blood. His Flesh is real food, and His Blood is real drink. Come to the marriage feast of the Lamb.

UPDATE: In case you were wondering, St. Jerome has it as “Durus est hic sermo.” One of the Old Latin translations of “the Word of God” was “Sermo Dei” instead of “Verbum Dei.” So Jerome was riffing off the Greek here. The idea that “sermo” primarily means “saying” or “teaching” or “sermon” is a later understanding of the connotations, although it does go along with secondary meanings of “logos.”

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The Greek Words for Good and Bad

If you take a classical/koine Greek class, the first words you learn for “good” and “bad” are “kalos” and “kakos,” which also mean something like “beautiful” and “sh*tty.”

The Septuagint decided to translate certain kinds of good and bad things with two different Greek words: “agathos” and “poneros.” These also mean something like “admirable, excellent, suited to the purpose, fertile for agriculture” and “toilsome, painful.”

“Agathos” is good as in the seed falling on good ground, in a good heart. “Poneros” is bad, as in a bad decision for bad reasons, that makes life worse for you in the long run. “Agathos” is also used to express righteousness. In Greek literature, someone who is “agathos” is noble in character, the opposite of someone who is “kakos.”

There are some other Greek words for good and bad, but “agathos” comes up in today’s second reading at Mass in the OF, 1 Peter 3:18-22. We’re not actually asking God for a “clear” or “clean” conscience, but for a good, righteous conscience that bugs us and keeps us out of trouble.

(We also have the word “makrothymia,” which doesn’t mean “longsuffering” or “patience” the way we use it, even though that’s how it’s translated this week. “Thymia” is passion, temper, spiritedness, the way a bold warrior acts. It comes from “thymos,” which also means spiritedness, and usually a sort of righteous anger. “Makrothymia” is the quality of biding a long time before deploying the thymia and making havoc. “Slow to anger” is more to the point than “longsuffering.” In the Septuagint, Isaiah 57:15 has God promising to give makrothymia to the lowly of soul/mind (“oligopsychois”), where the Hebrew promises to “revive” the spirit of those with a humble spirit. So having makrothymia is a dynamic quality, promising action.)

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What the Heck? (Kenda Edition)

You may be aware that Discovery put up a new streaming service, and subscribers can stream zillions of different seasons of different shows.

But here’s the weird bit. Even though other services from Discovery, like Discovery ID for cable subscribers, allow people to choose and watch episodes, the new Discovery+ service has random streaming… of only eleven shows, which I gather they are legally unavailable to offer “on demand” on the new streaming service, because Hulu has the on-demand option.

So yup, Discovery+ has a Homicide Hunter streaming channel, but you don’t get any info or choice about what episodes run. It’s a really weird way to run things. They’ve got one streaming channel for both Chopped and Flipped together, so good luck if you’re in the mood for food when they’re showing houses. Property Brothers, House Hunters, and a bunch of others have their own channels.

So if people are interested in subscribing to this new thing, make sure you know which shows you won’t have any power to control.

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Blessed Benedict Daswa: Debunker of Witchcraft, Martyr

Here’s a story that’s sad and beautiful. It happened in Mbahe, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Mbahe is a village close to Kruger National Park, a place familiar to those of us who watch WildEarth.

On January 25, 1990, there was a bad thunderstorm, and lightning struck several thatched huts, burning them to the ground. The village council held a meeting, and the elders decided that the lightning strikes (and those previously suffered during a storm in November) had been caused by witchcraft. Therefore, they would collect a special tax from everyone in the village to pay for a witchfinder (“sangoma”).

At this point, the village council’s secretary arrived, who was also the principal of Nweli Primary School, and he objected. Strongly.

Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa (born in 1946 in Mbahe) was a man of the Lemba people, and of the Bakali clan. The Lemba followed Jewish practices and ate kosher, but also believed in blaming witches for all disasters. His family was happy and hospitable, with lots of kids. His chores included watching his dad’s small herd of cattle. While attending Mbahe Primary School, he lived with his uncle, Ralson Ramudzuli Matshili, who was the principal and lived in town. Matshili was Catholic. Daswa admired Catholicism and his uncle’s Catholic friends, and began to take catechism classes. He was baptized at the age of 17, in 1963, at Malavuwe village; and his catechist, Benedict Shadrack Risimati, was his sponsor.

Then his father died young from an accident, and so he worked and supported his siblings until they were grown up. (Although his mom also started a business, brewing traditional beer!) He got a job in Sibasa with a Christian employer — but then, his new boss told him that he’d have to stop being Catholic and join his boss’ church. Daswa quit, and started looking for another job.

He moved away, worked his way through college, and became a teacher, graduating in 1973. He married in 1974 with Shadi Eveline Monyai, and they had seven kids at the time of his death. (She died in 2008, but she lived through all this, poor lady.) He was considered unusual for a man, particularly one of high status, because he helped with “women’s work.” He cooked and did laundry at the river. He particularly insisted on doing the hard work of carrying water from the river, and the finicky work of ironing his own shirts!

He worked as both a secular teacher at Nweli School and a religious catechist, eventually helping build Nweli Church (aka the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary). The pilgrimage booklet says that all the decorative stones were transported from the Mutshundudi River in the back of Daswa’s pickup truck, back in 1984. His wife testified that he’d told her that he didn’t feel like he could build them a house and move into it, until the Lord’s house had been finished.

He became a byword for honesty and determination. In 1977, he had become his school’s principal. (Nweli was a village right next to Mbahe, with Shangaan tribespeople, many of whom were Catholic. His catechist was a Shangaan man from Nweli.) He was the first to arrive and the last to leave, and he kept everything organized. People knew that if kids didn’t show up for school, he’d come looking for them; and he persuaded parents to let their girls finish school instead of marrying them off first. Both as a subordinate and as the guy in charge, he encouraged working together and helping each other. He loved sports, teaching and playing field hockey, volleyball, and soccer, and starting the local Mbahe Eleven Computers soccer team.

But he was also stubborn in another way. When his amateur soccer teammates decided to use “muti” (medicine, magic) to try to defeat other teams, he ended up leaving the team and starting his own rival team: the Mbahe Freedom Rebels. He also strongly discouraged witchcraft beliefs, as well as the burning and killing of suspected witches.

So yeah… it’s probable that the elders were trying to make their decision before Daswa got there, if you ask me.

When Daswa heard about the witchfinder plan, he patiently explained that lightning was a natural phenomenon, and rejected witches as an explanation. He explained the science. His argument was overridden. He then announced that he wasn’t paying any 5 rand fee, because as a Catholic, he was forbidden to mess with any of this magical stuff. Naturally the elders weren’t thrilled to be told that hiring a sangoma was also dealing with magic!

A lot of grumbling ensued about his lack of public-spiritedness, and his lack of support for traditional folkways like burning witches. He was a stumbling block, keeping them from dealing with the witches. Maybe he was a witch!

And so, on February 2, 1990, his neighbors and former students conspired to ambush his car and kill him, right next to the soccer field, in the traditional method of a witch hunt. Returning home, he found his road blocked by a fallen tree. When he honked to get help from villagers, a mob of men swarmed out of the roadside bushes and started to stone him. He ran to a shebeen selling beer, but his mother’s business colleague told him to get out. He ran to a nearby woman’s house and hid, but the mob threatened her life and she told them where he was. Members of the mob dragged Daswa out of the house. One of them assured him that he’d be okay, and one point the mob kept a guy with a knobkerrie, a traditional war weapon, from hitting Daswa. But as he prayed, “God, into Your hands receive my spirit,” apparently some of the mob got set off and started beating him up more. In the confusion, the knobkerrie guy came up behind Daswa and clubbed him over the head. That’s what killed him. He was 43.

At which point, the mob boiled some water and poured it into his ears and nose, to make sure he was really dead.

After the mob left, the woman got in touch with one of Daswa’s brothers, who sat with the body until it could be removed to Daswa’s house. He received a Catholic funeral at Nweli Church, and the priests wore red vestments because they knew he was a martyr. In the wake of his death, his mother converted to Catholicism as well. (She’d been going to Mass with the family for years.) Later in 1990, his wife Eveline gave birth to a posthumous child, Ndifhedzo Benedicta Daswa.

The parishioners of Nweli Church went to his grave every year on the Sunday closest to All Saints’ Day, asking for his prayers.

Feeling strongly about this whole incident and taking notice of the local private devotion to him, the diocese of Tzaneen submitted his cause to Rome in 2008. His martyrdom status was accepted quickly, in 2013, and he was beatified in 2015. Thirty thousand people attended his beatification in Tshitanini. His parish has his body in a vault, and they are working on building a shrine. (In Tshitanini, because the local tribe made the land available.)

To avoid conflicting with the Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas, and hence not giving him his due (especially given that it’s a Marian feast and he was from a Marian parish), Bl. Benedict Daswa’s local feastday is celebrated on February 1. He’s a good feastday neighbor to our St. Brigit! He was a layman, a father, a good son, a student, a true educator, and a martyr for Truth Himself. He is called an “Apostle of Life,” because he worked to lead people to a fuller life, without enslavement to the occult and ritual murder. He also makes a good intercessor for South Africa, which is having plenty of problems.

Blessed Benedict Daswa, in this time of craziness and unreason, pray for us!

Pilgrimage tour booklet about Bl. Benedict Daswa. PDF. Lots of interesting info, like his mom being a brewster!

Testimony and memories of him by his eldest daughter, Helen. She worked in the UK, and ended up telling her dad’s story to a co-worker. The guy couldn’t get it. “Why didn’t he just pay the five rand?” Argggh.

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Mary Among the Evangelists

Last night I started reading an interesting book called The Definitiive Guide for Solving Biblical Questions about Mary: Mary Among the Evangelists, by the Rev. Dr. Christiaan Kappes and William Albrecht.

This is a great book for my current interests, because it deals particularly with Gospel information about Jesus, His mom, His foster-father, and the whole situation with His disciples and His extended family. It turns out that the literary structures used by the Evangelists, and the parallel verses and Greek usages in the Septuagint, provide a lot of additional story that is “left out” in most English translations.

Some of it is even present in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, but still gets ignored, or translated in a non-transparent way. For example, in the story of Jephthah and his daughter, the text doesn’t say “she was a virgin” as it is often translated. The Hebrew says, “she did not know man,” and then the Greek uses “ouk egno andra,” which is the same thing but in the aorist tense. So even though it’s an unusual Hebrew phrase, it does show up in the Bible elsewhere. Even without being native Hebrew or Aramaic speakers, we are supposed to be thinking about Jephthah’s daughter… especially since in the Greek and Hebrew both, Jephthah’s daughter tells her dad, “Let this thing be done to me according to your word.”

Okay, according to your “rhema” in Luke and according to your “logon” in our Septuagint, and according to your “dabar” in Hebrew; but using synonyms is still saying the same thing — especially since Mary’s doing some wordplay, using the same “rhema” that Gabriel just used.

It’s kind of a witty thing for Mary to say, especially to cap the words of an angel — but it comes with a heavy implication that she’s scared as heck. I mean, Jephthah’s daughter was assenting to being killed. And then what does Mary do? She goes up to the hills for a few months and spends time with another woman before coming back home, just like Jephthah’s daughter went to the mountain with her friends for a couple months before reporting home to become a human sacrifice. I mean, yes, Luke is also using Ark of the Covenant language, but the rest of the implications are freaking dark. So the Magnificat is even more amazing in context — Mary is not mourning herself, but is praising God.

The other interesting bit is that, when Gabriel says “rhema,” the primary meaning is “word, thing said,” but the extended sense is “things that happen, factual occurrences.” So he does simultaneously say, “For all things are possible with God” and “For every word will be possible with God.”

So of course, Gabriel is saying “What I’ve just said to you, which comes straight from God, will come true.” But he’s also talking to a girl, who by all tradition and implication of what she just said, is a vowed virgin. Her vow is also a “rhema,” just as Jephthah’s vow was a “logon.” So Gabriel is telling Mary that her spoken vow will not be disregarded; again, God shows His lovingkindness and courtesy. “For with God, every word is not impossible.”

The Bible is deep stuff. You can’t say that too often.

PS – This also makes Jephthah’s daughter the exact female parallel to Abraham’s son Isaac, by making Mary the New Jephthah’s Daughter against Jesus being the New Isaac. She is the ewe lamb who does her part, even though her Son is the True Lamb of God. This time it’s the daughter who is spared and the Son Who dies. Last time, the women mourned Jephthah’s daughter every year; this time, Mary is “blessed among women” and “all generations shall call me blessed.”

Another interesting bit is that Jewish tradition is adamant that Jephthah should have tried harder to get out of his vow, by asking around, and by determining that it was not fitting to sacrifice a human, willing or not. (The Book of Judges is all about people doing “what seemed right in their eyes,” and mostly doing sinful things because of it.) God doesn’t want us to be stubborn and keep bad vows, or abet others in toxic pigheadedness. So if God says through Gabriel that Mary’s vow is good, and that her parents and Joseph letting her keep it was good, that means that Mary as antitype improves on Jephthah’s daughter as type. She offered herself up in a fitting way, which is part of why it was fitting for God to take her up on it, and offer her an even more important depth of offering.

(There’s also a minority interpretation that Jephthah’s daughter remained alive and was sent to serve God at the Tabernacle, having been vowed a virgin by her dad instead of by herself. Which would also be relevant to Mary.)

Either way, Mary is obedient and responsive to God… but she’s also got that dark Jewish sense of humor. Obediently snarky.

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Apponius on Christ’s Burial

“The Church — that is, the crowd of the faithful — has found liberty in His teaching; life in His death; undisturbed quietness in His burial; and rest in His hard labors — by which deeds He has rid them of the demons’ scourges, every day.

[At the Holy Sepulchre] “…the conjoining of the Son of God and the Church was celebrated… there the Church was rewarded by finding with Him the delectable sleep of His Passion, and the eternal joy of His wakefulness….”

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The Magnificat Says Mary Knew

I’ve been studying the Greek 101 course on The Great Courses, off and on. (Not very diligently. Basically, whenever I’ve got enough brainpower.)

Not long after the bit where you realize you can understand the first five lines of the Iliad, the second episode about dactylic hexameter includes a portion of Luke’s Gospel, where Gabriel speaks to the Virgin Mary. And yesterday, thinking about it, I noticed something that connects to the Magnificat.

St. Gabriel says about the son that Mary is being asked to bear, “He will be great.” (Literally, “Houtos estai megas,” He will be big/great/important.)

Some people say that Mary couldn’t have known Who her son was. But St. Elizabeth knew right away. The Spirit of the Lord came upon her, and she cried out in a loud voice (“krauge megale“) that Mary was “the mother of my Lord.”

Well, obviously the Holy Spirit had done a lot more quality time with Mary, by overshadowing her, and God Himself was right there inside! Prophecy might occur!

So what does Mary say about her unborn son?

Megalynei he psyche mou ton Kyrion.” (Literally, My soul makes the Lord big, or My soul displays/proclaims that the Lord is big. “Megalynei” has the extended sense of “extols.”)

Mary is clearly alluding to her promised son being the Lord Himself! And then she underlines it, saying as a pregnant woman:

“Hoti epoiesen moi megala ho Dynatos.” (The Mighty One has done big things to/at me.) Like in her womb. Getting big.

But wait, there’s more! In Luke 1:58, after Mary had gone home and Elizabeth had given birth, the neighbors and relatives of Elizabeth heard that: “…hoti emegalynen Kyrios to eleos autou met autes, kai synechairon aute.” (“….that the Lord was magnifying His Mercy with her, and they rejoiced with her.” And notice Gabriel’s greeting being echoed with “chaire.”) So literally, the double meaning was that the Lord had been staying at her house, working on getting big!

Probably this is old news to a lot of you, but I’ve never heard it pointed out before. (And this allusion pattern is probably why some scholars are super-anxious to deny Mary’s composition of the Magnificat — because it shows that she understood what was going on, and was a Bible-contemplating poet as well as a prophetess.)

It would make sense for Luke to back up Mary’s allusions with at least one of his own, because that would show his audience that he also understood what was going on. It also rounds out the story, by alluding to elements of the Annunciation at the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and name.

This will probably be a better-sounding Marian argument if you say “great” instead of “big.”

UPDATE: The Greek word “megas” is used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew “gadol,” great (or big!). The Greek word “dynatos” is used to translate Hebrew “gibbor,” which can mean “mighty,” “the Mighty One” (as in Zephaniah 3:17), or “warrior.”

SECOND UPDATE: The sacred extension of the “extols” meaning is “make the Lord’s Name big, by letting other people know His deeds and power.” And it shows up a lot.

Megalynei references at Bill Mounce’s website.

Acts 10:46 — “For they were hearing them speaking in tongues, and exalting [megalynonton] God.”

Acts 19:17 — “And the Name of the Lord Jesus was exalted [emegalyneto].”

Phil. 1:20 — “Christ will be exalted [megalynthesetai] in my body, whether by life or by death.” (See, being Christian does imply identifying with Mary….)

The word also shows up in the Septuagint. One of the most important ones is in Sirach 43:35 — ‘Who shall see [God] and describe Him as He is? Who shall magnify [megalynei] Him as He is, from the beginning?’

Well, apparently Mary will see God, and will magnify Him. So there’s an answer to Ben Sira’s question, heh….

Another super-important LXX reference is 2 Sam. 7:18-29. Mary’s Magnificat refers a ton to the prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah; and legend identified her own previously barren mom, Anna/Hannah, as also identifying strongly with Hannah. But Mary was of the House of David, so it’s not surprising that she would also identify strongly with David, since her entire situation was a fulfillment of what the Lord had promised David through the prophet Nathan — that God would be father to the Son of David, that David’s House and kingdom would endure forever, and his throne would endure forever. So Mary refers to David’s thankful response to God, and Elizabeth also calls back to this speech (although obviously 2 Sam. 6:9 and Hannah’s song even more). David calls himself the Lord’s servantman [“doulo” – Hebrew “ebed”] and Mary calls herself His servantwoman or handmaid [“doula”], so the parallel is strong. (And obviously this is the usual OT way to talk directly to God, so it’s not surprising.)

“And David went in, and sat before the Lord, and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me thus far? But yet this has seemed little in Your sight, O Lord God… For Your Word’s sake, and according to Your own heart You have done all these great things [megalosynen], so that You would make it known to Your servant. Therefore You are magnified [megalynai], O Lord God, because there is none like to You. 

“And what nation is there upon earth like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself… and to do for them great things [megalosynen] and awe-inspiring things upon the earth, before the face of Your people…

“And now, O Lord God, raise up for ever the Word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house: and do as You have spoken, so that Your Name may be magnified [megalytheie] for ever… Because You, O Lord of hosts, O God of Israel, have revealed this to the ear of Your servant, saying, ‘I will build You a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You. 

“And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words shall be true, for You have spoken these good things to Your servant… and with Your blessing let Your servant’s House be blessed for ever.”

(Oh, and btw, the Hebrew for “great things” in this passage is “hagedullah,” from “gadol,” and “be magnified” is “weyigdal,” also from “gadol.”)

I love finding all these deep things, just sitting there in plain sight. I guess people think more about Hannah’s Song and the Magnificat because it’s apt for a woman, but there’s a ton of stuff pointing out that David’s response is sort of a bookend to Hannah’s Song. So why wouldn’t Mary refer to them both?

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St. Marisol?

This is a common Spanish name that doesn’t get much pop culture explanation. It’s really “Maria Soledad,” a name honoring the “Virgen de la Soledad,” the “Virgin of Solitude” or “of Loneliness.” This is a title for Mary as she was on Holy Saturday, mourning her Son. One of the interesting Spanish features is that they show Mary wearing a rosary with a prominent cross, so that the rosary draws attention to her long-empty belly. She is alone.

(Our Lady of Sorrows is the more common title in non-Hispanic countries. That’s where the name “Dolores” comes from.)

There’s a lot of devotion to Mary under the title of “Soledad,” especially in France and Spain, and in Mexico. It was associated closely with the women of the royal families, who often survived their sons and husbands. In Madrid, there’s also a miraculous painting on cloth of this version of Our Lady, “la Virgen de la Paloma.”

The Paloma Virgin is a neighborhood miracle. In 1787, some kids found the discarded painting (which is a little smaller than a paperback book) and started tossing it around. One of the neighbor ladies on Paloma St., Isabela Tintero, was scandalized and confiscated the little painting. She took it home, cleaned it, got it framed, and put it on her front door. Then she started using it as her prayer station for saying the Rosary, and other neighbors did too.

And then people’s prayers started getting granted.

Word of the miracles got around, and the little side street got flooded with people praying. Mrs. Tintero gave up her house to be an unofficial chapel for the painting, but they still couldn’t fit everyone into the house. The locals built a real chapel. They founded a big festival on August 15, along with the Feast of the Assumption. There was a famous operetta/zarzuela using the festival as a backdrop. And so on. She is the patron saint of Madrid’s firefighters as well.

But it’s not all funsies, being a shrine. The parish suffered five martyrdoms during the Spanish Civil War, which are currently part of a new sainthood cause. All the martyrs were killed for being part of Catholic Action, a club for supporting Catholic identity and teaching, or the Asociacion Catolica de Propagandistas, an apologetics and teaching club. There were two priests: the Servants of God Fr. Jose Bermudez Tome and Fr. Andres Rodriguez Perdiguero; and three lay members of Catholic Action: Marcelino Panizo Celorio, Marcelino Panizo Rodriguez, and Fernando Estevanez Teran.

Yesterday, tragically, there was some kind of explosion at an adjoining Caritas home for elderly people and for visiting priests, on ground owned by the parish. Four people were killed: two still-unidentified passersby in the street, a 35 year old parishioner named David Santos who leaves behind a wife and four kids, and a 36 year old priest, Fr. Ruben Perez Ayala, the parochial vicar, who had only been ordained for a year. Debris hit the roof of the church and the back courtyard, but it’s otherwise okay. None of the old people were killed. They think it was a gas explosion. Please pray for all the dead and for their families.

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