Tag Archives: The Bible

Coming Attractions


I missed my flight, and it was my fault.  I am not going to tell you where I was coming from, because I don’t want you trying to find where I wound up. I could tell you not to try, but I know you would not listen. A year from now I’d read about some American tourists  (I’m staring at you) who got in trouble looking for Shang Ri La, like in that sorry De Caprio movie.

Well, back to the story, The lovely young lady at the ticket desk explained in passable English that they could get me home to America, but that I would have to take a round about way to get there, with several intermediate stops in small, unfamiliar (to me that is) airports. I agreed and boarded the plane, and gingerly negotiated the stairs to the cabin after having made friends with the little bar in the passenger lounge.

The first leg of the flight was long and boring, and the stewardess introduced me to a few more friends from her food and beverage cart. We had to stay on the plane at the first stop, as a few souls got on and off. I was in a solitary seat by a window, and was in solitary confinement for all intents and purposes, not knowing the languages of any of my fellow passengers. I made a few more friends on the second leg, and realized I was dozing off as we began our descent into the next step. Well, they’ll wake me if they need to, I thought.

But they didn’t. I woke to humming sound, one that seemed to be approaching me. When I opened my eyes I saw a man in a blue work uniform running a vacuum. He turned it off when he saw me looking at him. I asked him where everyone was, but he did not speak English, and pointed to the jet way. I was not feeling that well, and a little panicked that I might have missed a change in my connection. I squeezed by him, patting my pockets as I went to make sure I did not leave behind my phone, tickets or wallet.

When I got into the terminal, I went straight to the ticket desk.  My sole piece of luggage was right next to it. The kind young man explained in fluent English that there was a mechanical problem with the flight, and that it would not leave till tomorrow morning. The small city had several nearby hotels, and the other passengers had already dispersed to them. He gave me directions and wished me a good night.

The hotel was a few blocks away, and I decided to walk. The little city was exceptionally picturesque, but I can’t really describe it to you, and I never thought to snap any pictures. I was still a little boozy, and not sure I followed the directions correctly. I arrived at the hotel,  or at least, a hotel. A beautiful young woman at the desk checked me in, but told me it would be a few hours before my room was ready. She suggested a few restaurants and cultural sights to keep me busy. I thanked her and walked back out into a sunny, blue sky afternoon.

On my way to a restaurant I came across a grand looking museum, a combination of Beaux Arts and some other style I could not place. It was open, and I ducked in, not quite catching the name on the door. I realized it was an art museum once I stepped into the grand foyer. A tour group of elderly people was gathered around a guide, and I learned that they were just about to enter an exhibit. Miracle of miracles, it was a group of American and English tourists, and I decided to stow away with the group. I grabbed a program and held it in from of my face, trying to blend in as best I could near the back. The sign over the exhibit entrance said: The Fullness of Time.

We made our way into the first gallery, and the guide described the very large painting on the main wall:

“This is The Repentance of Judas, which was jointly painted by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci during their early, collaborative period.”

I did a double take.  While I was no art historian, I knew Michelangelo and Da Vinci hated each other, and could not imagine that they had ever worked together. Was this some kind of alternative art show?

“Michelangelo modeled himself for Judas, and Leonardo painted himself as Peter” the guide droned on. The painting was of the Last Supper, in particular the scene where Christ was washing feet of the Apostles. Jesus was as stripped to the waist, and kneeling on the floor. Judas was on the floor too, crouched down, and his arms about Jesus’ waist. His faced was buried in Jesus’ abdomen, and you could only see the back of the head.

“The bowl of water has been tipped over, and has soaked Judas’ robe, perhaps suggesting a second baptism,” the guide continued. The expression on Jesus face was ineffable joy.

After a few minutes, the guide led us over to the next painting on the opposite wall.

“Here we have The Prayer in the Garden. This was painted by Donatello. It shows the Lord,  Peter, James and John seated in a square, each holding the hand of the person  on each side of them,” the guide stated.   The four men looked completely at peace, and there was a faint smile about Jesus’ mouth.

It got stranger after that. The next one was called The Honor Guard, by Titian, and showed a group of Roman soldiers and Temple guards escorting Jesus and the Apostles from the Garden of Gethsemane. I looked about, waiting for someone to laugh, ask a question or object. Were they just too polite?

The group moved on from room to room. I’ll only describe two more of the sequence of paintings. The most memorable the guide called, The Coronation in the Temple. It depicts Jesus in Herod’s Temple, standing outside the Holy of Holies. The Temple Veil billows out around him, as if a strong wind from within the Holy of Holies has issued from it. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin kneel before him.

The last was the The Two Crowns, allegedly by Rembrandt. It showed Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas, at the Antonia Fortress, kneeling before Jesus. Their laurel and gold crowns are at his feet. Roman soldiers salute Christ with raised palm leaves.

I could take no more of this, and raised my hand.

“Yes?” the guide asked.

“All right, I was a late addition to the tour, but what exactly is going on here.  None of these events actually happened in the Bible. And Michelangelo and Da Vinci certainly never painted a picture together.   I’m no stranger to experimental art, but you cannot completely make things up. These other tourists may not get whatever joke you are playing here.”

“They are not tourists. This is their new home. But I think you may be a tourist. And perhaps with the wrong tour at that.” He walked towards me.


He stood before me, and looked into my eyes.

“You have been misplaced, haven’t you?” He looked over my shoulder, as if summoning someone.

“Just where am I then?” I asked.

The guide smiled, talking slowly and clearly, as if I was a child, “You are where the fullness of time meets all things new. But it is not your time yet. See you later,” he said, tilting his head ever so slightly, and I fell asleep.

When I woke, I was back on the plane, descending for my final connection before home. Everyone about me acted as if things were normal, and no one mentioned an extended layover at the last stop. I even asked the stewardess about the mechanical failure, but she did not understand me.

As we landed and taxied, I talked myself into accepting that I had experienced a bizarre dream.  As I rose from my seat to deplane, I went through my ritual of patting my pockets, making sure I had lost nothing. I felt something in my shirt pocket I did not recognize, and pulled out a piece of paper. It was a museum ticket, a little rectangle of heavy, pure white, paper, on which was written, “The Fullness of Time.”







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Seven Nights of Man


At the time that had been allowed to them, a council of the great and wise gathered, arriving from far and wide on their black chargers. They ascended the ancient tower that had been built over the centuries by those who they neither honored nor remembered. Seven men in ash grey robes sat at a table and looked out over the world, contemplating their power and its limits. After an indeterminate period, one spoke.

“Are we not like gods?” the mightiest asked.

“We are,” the others replied.

“Then let us make our own creation,” he said.

“But what of the original? We are a fly in amber,” the least of them asked.

“We must destroy the old to create the new,” the leader mused. “We will work backwards.”

“And we will work at night by our own light.”

They chanted:

By our own light,

We work at night.


The First Night

During the first night, that very night, they delivered a dream to man.

You are free. You do not need to remember the Sabbath or keep it holy. Do as you will.

And the people accepted the dream, and did not remember the Sabbath. They worked hard, and built much.

But they had no rest.

The people cried out in their sleep from weariness, and they seven took up a soothing chant to keep them asleep.

By our own light,

We work at night.

And you will have no rest.


The Second Night

On the second night the great ones enjoyed a feeling of satisfaction as they admired what had been built.

What now?, they asked the strongest.

He spoke: “Woman, the pinnacle of creation. Let us remake her in man’s image. Her desire will be as ours and we will have harmony.”

“Agreed, let us remake her in man’s image,” they replied.

And so they put Woman into a deep sleep during the second night.

They knelt and crouched around her. The leader opened her side, and pulled piece after piece from her, all her differences, and laid them on the ground.

Where is the rib?” the others asked, looking down at the bloody mess.

“I cannot find it. But she has been changed,” the leader replied.

They closed her up and woke her.

“Sister! You are like us now. Come away from your hearth and the well. Join us in our councils.”

And the woman joined them, donning a grey robe.

But they had no help. Because no water was drawn, they had no wine. The weakest of them took ill and died from thirst in the night.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” the Woman asked, looking down at him. “You are not,” they replied.

They took his body and threw it down from the tower, and the dogs feasted on his flesh.

The people cried out in the dream from their thirst and cold.

The council began a new chant:

By our own light,

We work at night.

You will have no rest.

You will have no help


The Third Night

Before the third night, they convened again. Their leader spoke, “Man holds himself above all other living things of the world. Let us heal this wound by abolishing this division. Let man know that he is just another animal.”

And so they sent a dream to man, that he was just another animal. And the people believed and began to take on the form of beasts like pigs, hyenas and wolves, and even more fantastic creatures such as satyrs, nymphs, and trolls.

Many moaned in fear in their dreams, but the council spoke soothingly to them, reminding them that they were just animals, and to do what felt natural. And so they did, and beasts walked the earth on two legs and preyed on each other to satisfy their appetites. But they had no joy, and the dreaming people cried in sadness.

A new chant came down from the tower.

By our own light,

We work at night.

You will have no rest.

You will have no help

You will have no joy.


The Fourth Night

At the dusk of the fourth night, the leader looked up at the night sky from the top of the tower, taking in the setting sun, the rising moon and the emerging stars.

“Man looks up he sees a marvelous tapestry that he is a part of. This rootedness make him inflexible. We must teach him that this is an illusion, and that he must never ask why there is something instead of nothing. It just is.”

And so they sent man a dream that robbed him of the rhythm of time and a feeling of place in the universe. The sun, moon and stars were there by chance, and no hand held the tiller of the universe.

And they had no hope. The great ones chanted anew, almost cruelly that night.

By our own light,

We work at night.

You will have no rest.

You will have no help

You will have no joy.

You will have no hope.


The Fifth Night

At the beginning of the fifth night, the council surveyed the lands that surrounded the tower. Over many years man had brought the land under this dominion, and made it fruitful.

The leader spoke: “Let us build a wall between man and the land. He ruins and degrades it. At the same time, its beauty distracts him from our designs. His  toil makes him hardy and contrary to our purpose.

And so they built a wall between the land and man in the dream. Man never lingered in the wild places and wondered at the whisper on the wind or the faces in the clouds. He never toiled to bring forth a harvest from the land, and forget how to gather in the harvest in his home.

And so he bore no fruit. And the people cried out in their dream as their lives became dull and empty.

The council chanted long that night until the people slept once more.

By our own light,

We work at night.

You will have no rest.

You will have no help

You will have no joy.

You will have no hope.

You will bear no fruit.


The Sixth Night

The sixth night arrived, and the leader of the council was uneasy. He sensed the others chafed under his rule. But was he not a god, and the greatest among them? So secure in his power was he that he spoke the fatal words before they were even written on the wall.

“Why must the sky be above and the waters below? This hierarchy frustrates our plans and deprives man of his potential. Let us send man a dream to banish all law and distinction. When the last firmament has fallen we will build our new utopia.”

The rest of the council agreed, and they sent men a dream of chaos.

And they had no peace.

The people cried out in their sleep, and began to stir in fright.

The leader waited, but no chant began.

“Well, begin!” he commanded.

There is no order anymore brother, we do not take orders from you. We will make our own chant.”

“I am the greatest!” he roared.

No, you are alone,” they replied. They dragged him down and killed him with their own hands. Then they threw his bloody body from the tower into the rocks below.

The great ones offered no soothing chant that night. They could not agree on one, and squabbled among themselves, sometimes even coming to blows. The people grew restless in their sleep, and began to thrash about. A new chant came unbidden from their lips.

We have no rest

We have no help

We have no joy

We have no hope

We bear no fruit

We have no peace

Where is the light?


The Seventh Night

The last night had arrived. The moon rose, and the great ones howled at it. Clouds blocked the moon, and the remaining starlight marooned them in a grey and dreary nightscape.  One of them would stir from time to time as if to speak, but said nothing.

One, it was hard to tell them apart now, finally spoke with great effort: “Is it not better this way?  I can no longer see our brother’s blood on our robes. Nor can I see his body on the rocks below.”

Another said: “Without the light to see by, man will need us even more. How can one tell blood from water in the dark? The chant is all they will know.”

They agreed, and prepared a dream to banish the light forever. The began to work. It was hard, as their riot of thought struggled to form the new and final dream, but finally a terrible vortex began to swirl around them.

At that moment, a strong voice broke in, coming from everywhere it seemed. It spoke to the great ones and sleepers alike.

“These seven nights have all been a dream. It is not good, true or beautiful. Therefore it is not real. And it is time to wake, once and for all. LET THERE BE LIGHT!

The people woke from their dream and sang a very different song from the chant that had troubled their sleep. It cannot be truly conveyed in words, but and they best I can write is this:

By your holy light,

There is no more night.

We may rest from our labors

We have help for every need

We have joy overflowing

Our every hope is fulfilled

The fruit has ripened and the harvest has been gathered

We have peace forevermore 







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The Arc of the Universe Bends Towards Christ

Arc Two

Lately I have taken more notice of the expression “the arc of history.” I had been half-aware of this saying or versions of it for some time, but only closely examined it in the last few days.

The quote we are familiar with is: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends towards justice.” This particular form was coined by Martin Luther King in the context of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. Now it seems to have been borrowed for whatever the issue of the day is.

But I wonder, is this arc of justice supposed to be ascending or descending?

The original source for this expression was the 19th century American minister Theodore Parker.  The first recorded version follows:

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.

Parker was speaking of justice in terms of punishment or retribution, not reconciliation or goodness. The people who use this quote now think in terms of the correct end to a particular question or debate, or, more generally, the perfect “end state” of human society.

The popular use and application of this quote is incorrect. The arc of the moral universe, or better yet, of history, bends toward Christ.

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.

John 12:32

And it is a short arc, not long.  No farther than from John and Mary on Golgotha, the infant Church, to Christ up on the Cross.  Christ of course is justice, but even more so mercy. The perfect blend.

And what is man’s justice?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

I would prefer to be on the ascending arc toward the font of mercy. I do not want the justice of man that we seem to promise, with a hint of menace, to those we disagree with on the issue of the day. I hope no one using this expression would want justice if they truly knew what they were asking for.






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Book Review: The Resurrection by Fabrice Hadjadj

Here I will review/summarize a new book by Fabrice Hadjadj, titled The Resurrection: Experience Life in the Risen Christ. It is a series of commentaries about the Resurrection. Each chapter begins with a quote or quotes from scripture, and Mr. Hadjadj offers some reflections that can be applied to every day life.


First, some background for Mr. Hadjadj. After reading this book I experienced a new regret: I cannot speak French (nor any of the other languages of the Continent his works appear in).  This is his first book to be translated into English.

Mr. Hadjadj is a father and husband, philosopher and teacher. He is of Jewish, Tunisian background, and converted to Roman Catholicism after a long tenure as an atheist.

According to a website about Algerian Jewish culture, the surname Hadjadj apparently can mean “one who argues with God.” A good name for a philosopher.

I am somewhat disappointed this book hasn’t received more attention. It came out in May of this year, and I have found a handful of reviews on the web.   If you google his name you can find a few interviews that have been translated into English.  Artur Rosman has offered some commentary on his books at his Patheos blog.  While he is a famous figure in France, he is virtually unknown in America.

I want to do my part to increase his profile in the Anglosphere, thus this review. I am a layperson with no training in philosophy or theology, so there may be a lot of mistakes. However, you might never catch me at them as you do not need to be a philosopher or theologian to enjoy this book. His audience is the general public. You will find references to Miss Marple, the Superbowl, Disney’s Frozen, etc. throughout. Generally, I found Mr. Hadjadj’s book to be charming, witty, and a pleasure to read.

Now, onto the contents:


Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia writes the intro and calls this a “a brilliant little book” and compliments Hadjadj for his “extraordinary reflections” on scripture. He also calls him “… one of the finest Catholic minds in decades.” I include these comments to show that the book has been reviewed by the Church, and there is nothing problematic in it from this Archbishop’s perspective.

Chapter 1  Your Money or Your Life

Matthew 28:11-15 is the source of reflection. In those verses, the soldiers that had been guarding the tomb are paid by the priests of the Temple to spread the lie that the Apostles stole Jesus’ body.

I had always thought of Jesus commentary on money as a warning against excessive love or pursuit of it. All things in moderation, right?  However, Hadjadj examines how even the ordinary, every day use of money may be problematic at times. Hadjadj explains that money’s three functions as “measure of value,” “store of value” and “medium of exchange” can imitate and supplant the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity if we are not very careful.

Chapter 2  The Myrrh-Bearing Women

The subject verses are Mark 16:1-8. Here, three women arrive at Jesus’ tomb to anoint him and instead find it empty.

Doing one’s duty in the face of despair can lead to great things. The Resurrection was not dependent on Mary Magdalene and the other women going to the tomb. We can imagine an alternative history in which, out of despair or fear, the women stayed home and cried their eyes out.  Jesus would have then appeared in a different circumstance to, perhaps, a different group of people. But it seems that something good would have been lost.

This chapter touches on several topics and questions. One, how we have lost touch with death. We don’t care for and bury the dead like our ancestors. Two, why did Jesus appear to women first, given that their testimony would be subject to doubt? Three, reasons some should be scared by the Resurrection.

Chapter 3   The Head Cloth in Its Place

John 20:1-8 is reflected on. This is John’s version of the discovery of the empty tomb, which includes Peter and his footrace.

The key phrase of this chapter is “After You,” a reference to John letting Peter enter the tomb first, despite outracing him. Hadjadj then applies it to the Lord himself. The Resurrection is the ultimate “After you.” His disappearance from the Tomb makes room for us and the rest of creation. He is invisible but totally present. He carries us along in his wake as he breaks the waves of time and space.

Chapter 4   Go Down and See If I’m There

The verses under discussion are John’s description of the encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in John 20:11-18.

Hadjadj explores the mystery of Mary’s initial non-recognition of Jesus, and his command to her not to touch him.  The suggested solution is that the body of Christ is to be found in your neighbor, no matter how annoying he or she may be. You must go forth as part of being a Christian.

Chapter 5   Do You Have Something to Eat?

Hadjadj provides three different verses that mention Jesus eating after the Resurrection, and asks, why does the Risen One eat? In short, to do poetry. To expand, eating is democratic, universal, and reminds us of our dependence.

Chapter 6  In Accordance with the Scriptures

The subject verses are from Luke, in which Jesus comments on Scripture. Hadjadj explores the importance of scripture in understanding the Resurrection.  In reading the Bible, we should strive for a personal understanding that can be lived in our own life, and not a pedantic interpretation.

Chapter 7  Out of Breath: Saying Good Day and Forgive Me

The subject verses are John, 20:19-23, where Jesus appears to the Apostles and breathed the Holy Spirit on them.

Hadjadj contrasts the Resurrection of Christ with the sci-fi reanimation of a corpse. There must be joy in living for us to want to return to it.

He discusses how the Lord’s words are Shalom, or “Peace be With You”, which in our times has become “Good Day.” Saying “Good Day” every day and meaning it is the great reset button, a forgiveness of the prior days slights and sins. Forgiveness is even more key in the family context, where we are particularly vulnerable and exposed to the truth of our sins.

I am going to include a long excerpt here, because my descriptions cannot do justice to what a fine writer and thinker he is:

If I make some affectionate gesture toward her, my dear and tender wife can’t keep from getting everything off her chest. In order to become completely receptive to my affection, she has to dump out on me all the grievances weighing on her soul. This is a legitimate way of proceeding, and a sign of great confidence. For her it is a matter of accepting my bouquet of flowers by pouring out onto my head a whole cartload of trash – my own trash, I admit – and for me it is a matter of continuing to hold out those flowers even though they are no longer that fresh and my desire to offer them is completely gone.

A “no-fault” divorce culture never requires us to learn or practice the forgiveness required for the ordinary heroism of married life.

In short, the woman of my life has to become the death of me before she can become the woman of my resurrection.  I therefore have to forgive this woman who torments me by asking me for her forgiveness. To communicate with her not just through our facades but also through our cellars, our pits, our dungeons. Nevertheless our faithfulness in these little trials is what enables us to withstand the big ones.

This is offered without the slightest bitterness on Hadjadj’s part, and I am sure he would say the reflection would be equally applicable if the sexes were reversed.

Chapter 8   Place Your Hand in My Side

The subject verses are the description of Thomas’ doubts and recantation in John 20:24-29.

I said in my Amazon review that this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Hadjadj dives in and provides a very intriguing analysis of Thomas’ character and conduct, based on all the instances in which Thomas is quoted or described in the Gospels.

Why was he not with the Apostles when Jesus appeared to them? Hadjadj posits that Thomas was a hothead, and perhaps the bravest Apostle in terms of taking physical risks. Rather than hiding from the Jewish and Roman authorities, he was parading around in public as if daring them to kill  him too.  He wanted to be crucified, and is perhaps suffering from survivor’s guilt.

Thomas cannot wrap his head around a cross and glory combined. The Resurrection threatens to make light of what has gone before. Hence he objects to the good news. Hadjadj compares him to that gloomy friend always going on about the suffering in the world.

Jesus takes Thomas up on his bet, and appears and breathes the Holy Spirit on him. Hadjadj claims that Thomas’ response (“My Lord and My God”) is the first time in scripture that an Apostle referred to Jesus as “My God” as opposed to “Messiah” or “Son of God.”  I wonder if this sort of makes Thomas the first recorded witness to the Trinity. He has received the Spirit, and now perceives both the Son and the Father as one.

The lesson here is that we should honestly approach our doubts. We should be hot or cold, but not play the part of a firm believer if we are lukewarm. Our very doubts expose our hunger for the whole Truth, one that can transfigure “all the wounds of history.”

Chapter 9  Back to Fishing

The lead verses are John 21:1-8, which describes Jesus’ appearance while the Apostles are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias.

Hadjadj asks a question about this verse I never considered. Why are the Apostles off fishing again after they have received the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t they be preaching somewhere? He acknowledges traditional interpretations, but offers a novel one.

This goes to the question of why so many Apostles, including the inner three (Peter, John and James), were fishermen. Why not shepherds, or hunters, or farmers? It was no accident he suggests.

Chapter 10   Papal Indignity

The lead verses are John 21:15-22, which includes Jesus’ three-fold question to Peter, and the final “Follow Me!” command.

Hadjadj explores why Jesus seems so hard on Peter, or perhaps, why the Gospel writers felt necessary to document his failings more than the other Apostles. Peter’s repeated failures and rebukes opened him to true humility. He would no longer trust on his own strength, and thus would build the foundation of a new Church on the Lord’s strength.

Hadjadj relates that the world would be so fortunate if we all had the same insight that Peter was dragged to acknowledge: we are not worthy. Or as he says it, that we have “concave worthiness.” The more we acknowledge we are empty, the better we can receive.

Chapter 11  To All Creation

Hadjadj opens with Mark 15:15-18, which is Jesus’ commandment to go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He takes the word “creation” literally, and emphasizes the cosmic nature of this, something that cannot always be reduced to a purely human to human interaction.

Hadjadj humorously relates the advantage of seeing your fellow man as a “creature” and not specifically a human being:

… if you tell yourself that this someone is a creature, just like a pig or worm, then you are obliged to recognize that, for a worm or pig, he is nevertheless a fantastic pig or an absolutely fabulous earthworm.

The point being that in returning the focus to the literal command, “all creation”, we can move away from our sometimes particular disappointment with our fellow man, and see Jesus in everything.

In the reference to preaching to the world, he reminds us not to neglect our own family and ourselves. Our own hearts are “wilder than the Amazon jungle.” And “since the earth is round, the remotest end of the world is right here.”

Chapter 12   Laying One’s Head on the Chopping Block

The martyrdom of St. Stephen at Acts 7:55-60 is the inspiration for this chapter.

Hadjadj notes that true martyrdom comes from a zest for life, not a death wish. And that the true martyr has no other power but prayer. And that they will accept martyrdom because they love so much, they even love their persecutors. “After you,” Hadjadj says again.


In his epilogue Hadjadj offers an apology of sorts for his style, which some may find too lighthearted. He hopes that while he have been “whimsical” he doesn’t believe he has been “frivolous.” He says “Times have changed,” and new approaches are required.  I will share a very Chesterton like paradox of his that expresses this point:

And while the engineer designs a superman, God creates man and woman. This is why the Church today is waging countless battles on unexpected fronts: inspired by the Spirit, she glorifies the flesh; as the depository of the supernatural, she becomes the guardian of nature; calling people to be holy, she defends sex. And this is why it is no longer enough to say, as in the past:  “God became man so that man might become God.” It must also be added that God was made man so that man might remain human, and so that in being divinized he might still be even more human.


Well, this has been a very long review and summary of the book. I hope you found it useful if you are considering a purchase.

Finally, thanks to the publisher Magnificat for making this available in English. I hope we see more translations of Mr. Hadjadj’s books in the future.

6/22 update: One correction. I did learn that Hadjadj has authored one other book that is available in English. It is about the Ghent Altarpiece, and was published by Magnificat in 2015.








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So Near, So Far

For your discernment:

One concept I struggled with over the years is the distinction between “nearness of appearance” vs. “nearness of approach” in our journey to the Lord. I have read a number of descriptions of the idea, but I had trouble putting it all together.  I found the use of images helpful in wrapping my head around this, and am sharing it with anyone who might read this who has had the same struggle.

Let’s consider the image below, a photograph of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil:


This picture is from some distance away, and the statue appears rather small, almost human sized. You could even hold up your hand and block the image entirely.   Jesus Christ does not look that different from me when viewed this way, especially for someone indifferent or lukewarm to their faith. This is what I will refer to as nearness of appearance.

But this is an illusion of course.  But in a way it is a good illusion, as it doesn’t scare us away.  Jesus has cloaked his majesty in flesh to make himself accessible to us.

And now the soul responds, and begins its journey. You have to drop a lot of baggage to get through the rough terrain in the picture. No heavy clothing, suitcases, big egos, etc.

And after some time, you get closer. The people who get really close, which we call saints, have described the experience in their writings.  Consider the next image, which is true nearness of approach:


Photograph By Mike Vondran, some rights reserved.

Whoah … He’s a lot bigger up close. The closer one gets, saint or not, the more apparent the “ever greater” nature of Jesus and the Father through him becomes. We are nearer, but ever more aware that we are not like the Son or the Father. We are not God.  If you put your nose right up against the statue, all you would see is a wall of stone. Instead of covering the image with your hand, His hand covers you.

And so the experience of Moses comes to mind:

But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

Exodus 33:20-23.

The little statue you could cover your hand with in the first photo is now the Lord that can cover you with his hand. And when I think about the “dark nights of the soul” described by some mystics, I wonder if it may be the shadow of the Lord, protecting them from a glory they could not see and live.

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School for Saints


“Well, what would you like to talk about?” Dr. Daniels asked.

“Doc, it’s this dream I’ve been having. Or dreams you might say,” the patient responded.

He continued. “I’ve been out of school many years, but I keep having these two dreams. Sometimes separate, sometimes together.”

“Go on.”

“I am in college, and it’s the end of the semester. I realize final exams are soon, but that I’ve missed all the classes for one of the courses. Or sometimes I have gone to class, but I haven’t done any of the reading and am not prepared for the test.”

“My other dream, also takes place at school, I am in class, but, well, I am naked, or just wearing underwear. Sometimes the dream will have both elements, a real double whammy.” He stopped, and looked at the doctor. “I feel great anxiety during these dreams, even though I’ve been out of school a long time.”

“And you want me to interpret these dreams?” Dr. Daniels said.


“Let me propose the following. Our distant ancestors did not have these same dreams, as few had any formal education. But they may have had ones like them. Perhaps they dreamed of harvest time, but that they had forgotten to plant the crops. Perhaps they dreamed it was winter, but their barn or root cellar was empty. Maybe they had forgotten to watch the weather signs, and had not taken in the harvest.”

“Dreams have a natural function related to the workings of our mind. But God also uses them to communicate with us. We cannot bear direct communication in our current state, so he uses symbols, metaphors, etc. to get our attention.”

Dr. Daniels paused here, and looked out the window for a few moments.

“Life is a school, and the most important lesson we must learn is that we are not God. Every good thing we have or accomplish is due to God’s generosity. But in this age, we have embraced the illusion of self-sufficiency, progress, and merit. Life is a test that we all fail, but our failure is set aside and forgiven by God. This dream is a reminder to the present generations of this truth.”

“You are naked because you will stand naked before God when you die. All the lies, rationalizations, and self-justifications will be stripped from you, and you will see the objective reality of your sin and need for redemption. Again, this is a dream pattern that has been tailored to the self-deluded generations of today.”

“Perhaps you could see the missed classes as a symbol of missed Sunday services, or missed opportunities to pray. The lack of study as neglected scripture reading and participation in the sacraments.”

The patient had sat and listened intently. He spoke, “Doc, I think that’s it. That theory fits me to a ‘T’. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. I’ve been having the same dreams for years. I’m relieved to find I’m not the only one, and perhaps not mad after all. But if I am right, the experiment we can perform is clear, and perhaps the frequency or severity of the dreams will change. But perhaps not. It may be a periodic reminder you must simply endure.”










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The Candidate


He’s a terror that one-

Turns water into wine,

Turns wine into blood-

What on earth does he turn blood into?

Christopher Derrick, New Oxford Review, October 1981

Q: Now sir, have you now or ever been a member of the creationist party?

A: Excuse me?

Q: Its a question anyone running for higher office should expect. Do you believe in evolution?

A: I don’t understand the relevance.

Q: The public is being asked to choose between two men. Your opponent may be a bit of a rabble rouser, but he is always good for a line.  The public wants transparency, not an enigma.

A: If you insist.  I do believe in evolution.

Q: Doesn’t it conflict with your beliefs?

A: Not at all, my Lord is the High Priest of Evolution.

Q: Uh … what?

A:  Man in his finitude, has always sought to limit God’s Alpha and Omega. In trying to cheat what we thought was the Omega of death, we instead lost the Alpha of divine grace. One poisoned apple instead of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Q: I am not sure where this answer is going… but apple growers are a powerful constituency in this state. Sheep farmers, not so much.

A: God bless you.  This pattern of setting limits has continued through the ages. In the historic era, Bishop Ussher set the Alpha at around 4000 BC. More recent wise men set the Omega at the end of the second millennium.

Q: I am not asking about religious history, I’m asking about the evolution of human beings from apes. Did you ever hear of the missing link? The Scopes Monkey Trial?

A: The life of Jesus, the Second Adam, included the entire scope of God’s plan for our evolution: conception, birth, childhood, maturity, the chrysalis of death, and the Resurrection. He is both the true measure of man and the missing link in humanity’s salvation history.

Q: True measure? Do you think you know what is true? Can you find your way to the 21st century with your response?

A: In man’s contemporary logic of evolution, he once again tries to seize the reigns. The Alpha never quite begins, banished first to the primordial past of this planet. Then to stew of amino acids among the comets. Even further to the Big Bang, and perhaps a prior universe as part of a never-ending cycle of collapsing and expanding universes.

The Omega never quite arrives either, as we endlessly change as technology permits in pursuit of a post-human ideal.  We might even hop from planet to planet until, like the Ouroboros, the tail of the Omega swallows the head of the Alpha in the collapse and expansion of a new universe.

Q: Your a what? If I heard you correctly, you seem to concede that evolution is ongoing. That’s rather progressive for someone like you.

A: My Lord, the one true progressive, said that at the appointed time, in the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed. Its the final, eternal evolution. I and those like me seek this eternal, but not the eternal return.

Q: Speaking of returns, they will soon be arriving. Few think you will win.

A: Let me share a secret with you, its all that matters. Lean close.

Q: Indeed! A peck on the cheek may be ok where you come from, but not in this day and age…

Q: Well, this interview appears to be over, as the candidate has left the studio. Some say he never should have run. While he has many admirable qualities, the conventional wisdom is that his refusal to play the game of politics will ultimately doom his candidacy. Its almost as if he doesn’t care if he wins.  Stay up with me all night as we watch the returns …..




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This is for that one person somewhere out there who is like me. You are bored with theology, bad at philosophy, and while you love to read, you know you will never write the Great American Novel.

If you have stumbled on this, you may have also been wrestling with the Prince of Serendip most of your life.  Over the last few months I have finally given up on my staring contest with Him, and signed my surrender document on his heavenly Missouri a few weeks ago.

One thing I do know is that my faith is best engaged through my imagination.  I started telling myself stories about the Prince as part of coming to terms with him, his terms, and I found I grew to love him.  I like writing these little imaginings, or faith exercises you might call them, and I feel I should share them. So I will post what I have written so far, and will keep sharing them till the well runs dry.

This certainly is not an exercise in theology, philosophy or literature. I have no talent for that. And if anything conflicts with what you believe, please ignore it. If it offends, then spare a moment to pray for me, a sinner.  Hoping you find something you like, but maybe didn’t know you were looking for.

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