This Christmas, as we celebrate the Vigil Mass, let us think of the most important question of our age. “What is the basic difference between right and wrong?” The Catholic tradition begins with the most important. Shema/hear Israel/those who struggle with God, God is Almighty; God is One. Love God with all your hearts, with all of your animate being, and with all of your measure.” How do we love God? What do we give someone who already has everything, literally? First, we guard and keep, Genesis 2, his garden. Second, we guard and keep what God made in his image, each other.
Then we find two strains of moral tradition in the Judeo-Christian tradition. American tradition, up until a third of a century ago, plus three years, and Catholic/Christian moral tradition agreed on these latter two strains. Catholic moral tradition finds the first strain in Deuteronomy 30:11-19. This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it… I have set before you, life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life!”
This finds echoes in what had been our Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The first tradition focuses upon life, Life lived to its fullest for all people, with liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, where that pursuit presupposes a reasonable chance of success.
In his “I Have a Dream Speech, when Martin Luther King JR. spoke of the “Fierce Urgency of Now,” he also spoke of a check a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” He goes on to speak of how America has defaulted on that check. The sad commentary is that our last election was about that same check. We still default on that check. If we want to know what the issues were in ’63, all we have to do is ask what they are now. M.L.K. J.R. could give the same speech today, not change a word, except changing the beginning to “Seven Score and Thirteen Years ago,” and all the words would ring as true today as they did when Brother Martin gave his speech.
A rabbi once pointed the meaning of Deuteronomy 30:19 out to me. Using Catholic moral tradition/Natural Law Theory, he pointed out that all life is in a process of becoming. Aristotle also spoke of this. St. Augustine followed Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron of our parish, followed St. Augustine. All life is life in potential. “Choose Life,” “Boker Chaim,” therefore means promoting the potential in all human beings, and animals for that matter. That means ending abortion, yes, but it also means promoting the potentiality of life for the mother, and the father as he works in the factory, on the farm or in an office. It means helping all people to be all that they can be. That includes African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists.
This brings us to the third thread of what had been a third of a century and a few years ago, American moral tradition, and what has always been Catholic moral tradition. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…
The key word is “Welfare.” Another word for this is the common journey. Seafarers are on the common journey from port to port.
I remember being in a Catholic Bible study at Little Flower Church when someone asked me what we would call ourselves when we became, “My Delight.” I could not answer that question that day, but I will now.
“No more shall people call you “Forsaken/Eight zoo Bah,” or your land “Desolate/Shem Ma Mah,” but you shall be called “My Delight/Calf see Bo,” and your land “Espoused/ Baalah.” For the NAME delights/Calf eights see in you and he makes your land his spouse/Baal. As a young man Baal/chooses a young lady/Bitola, your Builder/Ben/son marries/Baal you. As the joy of the bride and the groom, so shall your God rejoice in you.”
The key word in this passage is “Baal.” Unlike English, Hebrew has several words for marriage. One of these is Baal. New Advent describes Baal as he who “gives “bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink” (Hosea 2:7); he is the male principle of life and reproduction in nature, and such is sometimes honored by acts of the foulest sensuality.”
The Hebrew for Hosea reads, “I will not have compassion upon her children; for they are children of harlotry. Their mother played the harlot; she that conceived them hath done shamefully; for she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, which give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.”
This is the Baal form of marriage. The bridegroom is the great provider for the bride, and for it, there is the spousal duty. The prophets condemned worship/finding worth in the Baalim because this finding worth in this idol meant telling the world there another provider other than God. Today that provider is Mercury, Mars, and Moneto Juno, or the markets, military, and money. This finding worth meant identifying with, becoming one with/adultery with, this trinity.
“When his mother Mary was Kiddushin to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a Tzaddik, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” One can only divorce someone after they are married.
According to Torah law, marriage is a two-step process. The first stage is “Kiddushin,” and the second step is “Nassau.” The two-stage marriage is expressive of the uniqueness of a Judeo/Christian marriage. Marriage is more than two people who choose to share their lives with each other; it is the fusion of two souls, or to be more precise, two halves of one soul, which was severed in two before being catapulted from its heavenly abode into the bodies of a man and woman.
It is interesting that the rabbis ruled that Kiddusin must last one year. Counselors now strongly suggest that engagement lasts at least a year. As a result, Church teaching strongly recommends engagement to last at least one year.
During Kiddushin the couple is married, except they cannot physically express their union. So in the absence of tangible connection, their soulful connection binds the two . Only after the connection of the souls has manifested itself during Kiddushin, laying the foundation for soulful marriage, can the couple proceed with Nassau, the physical aspect of their relationship.
Catholic tradition relates to this as S.P.I.C.E. Spiritually sharing of life between bride and groom through praying together and meditation. It included Physical closeness with plenty of hugs, kisses, holding hands, snuggling, and such. It also included Intellectual stimulations, the need to bounce ideas off one another. It included the need to be Communicative/Creative, and to Express feelings, desires, and joke together.
Mezonot: To provide food and support for his wife “according to his wealth.” Clothing: To ensure that his wife has suitable clothes; this includes household items, bed linen, and dwelling place. Refu’ah: To pay his wife’s medical expenses, should she become ill. Burial: To cover his wife’s burial expenses. Should he predecease her, that she be provided for from his estate and be enabled to continue to reside in the marital home after his death as long as she remains a widow. To have her children by him inherit her ketubah, in addition to what they inherit along with others.
The Husband’s Entitlements from His Wife
Her handiwork: the wife is obliged to perform those household duties that are normally carried out for the family and the home (e.g., laundry, cooking, cleaning, nursing babies, etc.); in addition, any income that the wife earns from her labors belongs to the husband. Found objects: items that the wife finds belong to her husband. Usufruct: the income from the wife’s assets belongs to her husband. Inheritance: the husband inherits his wife.
In addition, Nassau adds as the duties of the husband to his spouse, Familial relations: To have sexual relations with her on a regular basis. The husband does not have that right from his spouse. She has that right from him. None of these rights include the right to abuse his/or her spouse in any way. Therefore, society does not have the right to abuse its citizens, or its guests, in any way.
The groom/God’s job is to provide for his spouse, the Bride of Christ. In exchange, the bride cares for his house and all who are in her home.How do we love God, as required in Shema? We respect his property, and in particular what God made in his image.
Judaism and Christianity state that man is a social animal, forever part of a family, a natio-. We promote not just justice, but concord, a musical term. We are one with the cosmos. Our harmonies intertwine in the great divine dance with God in perichoresis, a Greek term with foundations in Kiddushin. The general welfare is like general seafaring. It is a common faring/journey of all of us to God, nothing less.
That is why our common seating area in the church is the nave/Latin for a ship. That is why the sacristy is raised. On ships, the quarterdeck is the forecastle, upraised section behind the body of the nave, the ship. The earliest churches were built to look like ships. It reminds us of our common faring, our journey to toward God.
“The theme of Our Blessed Virgin Mary’s wedding is to surround. A veil surrounded our Blessed Virgin. She encircled her groom/Joseph. The chupah surrounded them both. The ring, too,was perfectly round. The circle represented the encompassing light that frames their reality, and ours; the supra-natural, manifestations of divine light. For two individuals to become one flesh is to violate all the laws of ego and identity, to overcome the basic existential rule that one and one makes two. Marriage thus requires the activation of the encompassing powers of all those involved.” “All those involved,” means everyone at the wedding. The wedding involves the whole community. That is why in our Catholic tradition, private weddings are not permitted. Then it means, God, Bride, and Groom.
The act of betrothal is kiddushin — sanctification — signifying the uniqueness of marriage where God Himself dwells in the home and the relationship is elevated to a new level of holiness. The transcendent divine dimension symbolized by the sacristy permeates every moment of their lives from this moment on.
The wedding band symbolizes The Transcendent Light’s permeation of the couple’s marriage. It is the permeation of the Transcendent life through all of our lives, as individuals and as a community. It is realizing we are each a majority of the whole, and we are each a minority of one. We are all sailors trying to sail from conception to the grave, and ultimately to God in one piece. The ring is round, signifying the encompassing light.
Marriage, therefore, has metaphysical and very physical aspects. Marriage has the concealed, the divine light, and the revealed, how we live out our lives. The metaphysical aspect is the spiritual bonding . The physical aspect in Kiddushin marriage is not making children. It is running the house. It is doing the dishes, washing the clothes, watching after each other, cooking, cleaning, and in general, caring for the house, the planet.
We are the bride of Christ. Mary is Kiddushin to Joseph. Our Gospel and our first reading speak strongly to the essence of Judeo-Christian morality. Morality is more than making sure that I get mine. It is not promoting life where life is basic sustenance and no more. Morality is about more than providing for the general welfare. It is seeing ourselves in a marriage, parts of the Bride of Christ. The wedding is more than Bride/Groom, and God. It involves the whole community in love. Jesus comes through Kiddushin, not Nassau.
Jesus comes through S.P.I.C.E., not our physical wants and desires. Remember, the shepherds found Jesus in Beth Lechem/the House of Bread, in the land of Judah/Eucharist, laying in a feeding trough. He was not found in a place of opulence and pleasure. Jesus has something to say about that when he speaks of the people going out to see John the Baptist.
Basis right and wrong is therefore tied to S.P.I.C.E. and not justice where justice is giving every man his undefined due. Augustine and Cicero will correct Aristotle by relating that due to music.
St. Augustine, quoting Cicero in his Republic, tells us of the idea society, “As among the different sounds which proceed from lyres, flutes, and the human voice, there must be maintained a certain harmony which a cultivated ear cannot endure to hear disturbed or jarring. This may be elicited in full and absolute concord by the modulation even of voices very unlike one another. Where reason is allowed to modulate the diverse elements of the state, there is obtained a perfect concord from the upper, lower, and middle classes as from various sounds; and what musicians call harmony in singing, is concord in matters of state. This is the strictest bond and best security of any republic, and which by no ingenuity can be retained where justice has become extinct… The people he defines as being not every assemblage or mob, but an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of law, and by a community of interests. Then he shows the use of definition in debate; and from definitions of his own he gathers that a republic, or good of the people, then exists only when it is well and justly governed.”
“We the people of the United States of American, in order to form a more perfect union…” I pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the Republic…” The people he defines as being not every assemblage or mob, but an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of law and by a community of interests… a republic, or good of the people, then exists only when it is well and justly governed.”
This concord corresponds to the Transcendent Light of the Jewish marriage. Augustine ties justice with music. The reason the Jewish count of the Ten Commandments differs from ours is that Augustine tied the Ten Commandments with the strings of the lyre. For a society to be just, the Transcendent Light of God, which Shekinah/dwells in each of us, Deuteronomy 30:11 must serve as a model of human behavior.
Our word, “Nation,” and our word, “Nativity,” have the same Latin root. A nation is a group of people who are born together of the same mother, by birth, by the location of birth, or by shared national heritage. A nation is a group of people who participate in this concord, this light. They provide for the common welfare of all. This means they make sure all people have Life/life lived to its fullest, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The correct definition of basic good and evil is that good means promoting life and participating in this divine light, this concord, this promotion of the general welfare or common journey of all people toward God. It means seeing ourselves in a marriage with every person we meet. It is seeing ourselves in our neighbor and acting to promote the potentiality of life in each person we see. This means a strong social welfare net, strong education, focusing not on the so-called three “R”s, but upon music and art, so we can make contact with that Transcendent Light. It means providing an education that promotes culture, and the class for which the Kennedy’s were so famous. It means helping all people to feel that divine light, that concord God gives us all. Evil is everything else.
Of course, we have recently elected a President who is in his third marriage. He cheated on his first wife by dating his second one. He cheated on his second one by dating his third. While married to his third he bragged about affairs with others. His wife was a model, who posed for magazines very similar to Playboy. Each of the first three people this man put forward as prospective members of his cabinet are in their third marriages.This man’s first choice for working on Global Warming is someone who professes not to believe in Global Warming. He is a person who relishes in not having class.
Through this, he shows he does not understand what marriage is, and by extension, what a people or a republic is. He brags about using nuclear weapons and violence as a natural recourse to solving problems. He supports all people having access to the means to violence/guns and the death penalty. He supports abusing our guests in this land, even if those guests are in our prisons for transgressions. These are all violations of this concord, this transcendent light. These are all violations of both of the latter two threads of basic right and wrong, promoting the general welfare and promoting the potentiality of life. Why did we vote for this man?