When I was a rookie police officer, my training officer and I went on a domestic disturbance call. There were many such calls over the years, but I’ll never forget this one. We got there and could hear a man and woman shouting at each other in the house. My training officer pounded on the door. The door was jerked open from within, and things got suddenly real quiet. We walked in the house.
Now, I have to tell you why things got so quiet. I’m not a big dude. I’m barely 5’9” and weigh maybe a buck seventy. Back then, I was lighter, probably around 160 lbs. My training officer, however, was another story. About 6’4” and weighed about 250 and it was all muscle. He was a big guy and looked very intimidating.
We walk in the house and my TO picked up the TV remote. He turned the channel and said, “Ya’ll be quiet; Andy’s on.” And so, we watched a few minutes of the Andy Griffith show. I had no idea what was going on but knew that this was NOT how they taught us to handle domestics at the academy. At a commercial break, my TO looked at both them and said, “Ya’ll don’t be ugly.” He got their names and we walked out.
Ya’ll don’t be ugly.
It’s a southern thing.
I tell that story to start this conversation about ugliness. If you pay attention at all to what is happening in the world, you can see quite clearly the ugliness of the world around us. There is so much hate, so much vitriol, so much tension. Rage seems to just ooze out of everyone. Our public figures (especially our President) just seem to be angry all the time about everything. The fact that we even have conversations about abortion and war and mass shootings and suicide and drug overdoses (and the list could go on) should illustrate to us how ugly and bitter and destructive the world is.
This is a real struggle for me right now. I see the ugliness of the world. I see the destructive and satanic agenda being pushed, especially on our children, and I am anxious and angry and feel the proverbial walls closing in. The fact that people either seem oblivious to this or don’t seem to care and just keep kicking the can down the road is unfathomable to me. Going along to get along and keeping quiet while the world descends into hell is unacceptable.
But here’s where it really strikes home for me. I was recently reading a book review of a compilation of sayings from St. Silouan, a Russian ascetic. One of the sayings jumped off the page at me.
“Of a truth I say, speaking before God whom my soul knoweth: in the spirit I know the Most Pure Virgin. I never beheld her, but the Holy Spirit allowed me to know her and her love for us. Had it not been for her compassion I should have perished long ago; but she was minded to come to me and show me, that I might not sin. This is what she said: ‘I find your ways ugly to look upon.’ And her words, soft, quiet and gentle, wrought upon my soul. More than forty years have passed since then but my soul can never forget those sweet words, and I know not what return to make for such love towards my sinful self, nor how to give thanks to the good and forbearing Mother of the Lord.”
“I find your ways ugly to look upon.”
I cannot stop hearing it in my soul. “I find your ways ugly to look upon.” Can you feel how that quiet whisper crashes into your heart? Oh, how this convicts me! How far I have fallen from the ways of our Saviour. How far I have fallen from the ways of His Blessed Mother. How far I have fallen from the ways of the saints.
I read Holy Scripture and the things that our Lord Jesus said and did, the things that His Apostles said and did, the words of the Fathers and the saints and I am ashamed. I am ashamed of myself. Far too often, my ways are ugly to look upon. My selfishness, pettiness, anger, greediness, and worldliness are so very ugly. So very sinful. Wretched man that I am. I live such a silly and frivolous life. My heart is too easily distracted by silly things that have no eternal value. I think we’re all like this at times. We read the lives of our Lord, His Apostles, the Fathers and the Saints and we should be struck by the differences in ourselves and them. There was an intensity and focus and sobriety about them that we are sorely lacking. Or maybe it’s just me.
Pray for me, brothers and sisters. Pray for yourselves. Let us fall on our faces and repent of our ugly ways. Turn off the TV, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. Turn away from the world. Turn again to the staggering beauty of our crucified Lord. Turn again to the purity and piety of the ascetical life of the Church. Turn again to prayer and the life of the Christian. Partake of the Liturgy and the Body and Blood of our Lord as often as possible.
May God forgive us for the ugliness of our lives and hearts. May He grant us His beauty and peace as we turn again, over and over, to Him.
What’s with all this stuff about Mary?
I remember thinking that a lot as my journey into the historic Church deepened. This was several years into the journey and I was beginning to hit some walls. Ecclesiastical structure (the episcopate) had fallen pretty quickly. I mean, any serious reading of the 1 Timothy text in the Greek and the subsequent structure of the early Church just destroys any objection to the episcopal structure of the Church.
But I hit this snag with the Marian dogmas. I look back on it now and can’t really pinpoint why I was so uncomfortable with this, why I fought it so much. I honestly believe it had to do with several things. I had, as I’ve mentioned, been raised in a Protestant home. But it wasn’t just that I was raised Protestant. I was raised in a Protestant home that taught that the Catholic Church was literally evil and idolatrous. I mean, I remember at one point being told that the Pope was probably the Anti-Christ. It’s kind of sad to me now that I look back on it.
So I think that had a lot to do with it. But it was also, in my mind, illogical. I know that makes me sound really arrogant and, to be honest, I really was. I guess I thought that if it didn’t make sense to me, then it must not be right. Can I be brutally honest with you right now?
I suspect you have the same problem. I suspect we all have the same problem. We won’t say it out loud but, in practice, we act as though, if it doesn’t “make sense” to us, then it must not be true…or at very least is suspect. We moderns are pretty narcissistic and really lack humility. But that’s another post for another time.
So I think for me it was all the background noise of the Catholic Church being evil and my own hubris.
But, back to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Let’s define the Marian dogmas really briefly. I want to emphasize that this is very brief. I can’t really do justice to these in a limited space like a single blog post. So, very quickly, the Marian dogmas are:
A second thing to note on this objection is the Hebraic understanding of “brothers and sisters.” The Hebrew understanding of family was quite different than our own western understanding. We hear family and most of us think “nuclear family.” In other words, we only think of family and use the terminology of brother and sister for our immediate family. The Hebrew understanding was a bit different and included other relatives. In fact, from what I understand, the same word for “brother” in Hebrew was also used to mean cousin etc. So you can see how that language is imprecise.
A final answer to this objection is another Hebrew understanding. It was the duty of Jewish children to care for their aging parents. In the case of the Blessed Virgin, it would have been the responsibility of the eldest son to care for his mother after the death of the father. So, in this case, Joseph had presumably died (almost all scholars agree on this) and now Jesus, at His crucifixion, was also dying. He had to pass on care of His mother to someone in the family, a brother or sister. But there was no one there to pass that care on to and so Jesus passed that on to the Apostle John. You may say, “Yes but the Bible says that Jesus’ brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him being the Messiah.” While that is true, it would not have removed their covenantal duties under Jewish law to care for their mother, had she been their mother.
I would also note that there is biblical precedence for this type of occurrence. In the Old Testament we have both Enoch and the prophet Elijah who are assumed into heaven. On a logical note, I ask you this. If we know the locations of the tombs of certain saints and even of the Saviour and we venerate those sites, don’t you think that we would know where the Blessed Virgin was buried? Don’t you think we would have some type of church building or statue built there?
It took me a long time to wrap my head around this. In fact, I’ll be honest. It was literally only yesterday that God opened my heart to see some things in Holy Scripture that sealed this for me. I had accepted this as a historic teaching of the Church and was willing to submit to it. But yesterday something happened that I can only describe to you and let you decide.
I was driving home from work last night, listening to a podcast on my drive. It was a conversation between Dr. Scott Hahn and another guy (Lawrence Feingold I think) about what they called the “integration” of the Old Testament and New Testament. In other words, you cannot understand the New Testament apart from the Old, nor the Old Testament without the New. In other words, what St. Augustine said. If you don’t know what that is, read my last post. As I was listening to this conversation, it was like a light switch flipped in my heart and I said out loud, “And Adam named the woman Eve because she was the mother of all the living, just as Mary is the mother of all those who have new life in Christ.”
So when we read the OT, we must understand that many things that we see there are prefigurements, foreshadowing, whispers of what is to come in the NT when the Messiah is revealed. In light of reading Holy Scripture this way, we see some things (and the Church has seen some things) about the Blessed Virgin.
The new Garden where the faithful find perfect peace with their Creator.
The new Eve, the mother of all those who live by faith as the Church.
The new Ark of salvation who carries those who have faith in God through the floods of this world to the new world of God’s new creation.
The new Tabernacle where God dwells.
The new Sarah who carries in her womb the true and better Israel.
The new Rachel who weeps for her children in their pain.
The new Ark of the Covenant who bears the Word of God.
The new Hannah who rejoices in her miraculous conception.
The image of the Church who says to God, “Be it done unto me…”
The mother of all the faithful at the foot of the Cross when our Lord says, “Behold your Mother.”
The Queen Mother of heaven crowned with the stars of heaven who gives birth to the Messiah.
The one who gives birth to the seed of Eve who will and has crushed the serpent’s head!
(Credit to Ben Harris for this litany)
Can you see it? Can you see the scope and beauty of what God has done in becoming flesh and choosing His vessel? Can you see her as God has given?
Behold thy Mother, Church!
Behold the one who, in her flesh, has born the incarnate Word of God, who now calls you brother and sister!
Behold thy Mother, through the Son, who is given from the Father in the unity of the Spirit before all time!
Behold and worship Christ the Lord!