It is important to define church in light of Exodus Part 1


The article, “These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” makes an interesting point about the Ten Commandments, as translated directly from the Hebrew. The Prologue to the Ten Commandments states:

Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.

The article then goes on to discuss the difference between customs, correct judicial precedents and how they relate to our lives. Another interesting question comes to mind; “How does this relate to ecclesiology? Does this relate to ecclesiology? After all, it was Jewish people on that mountain; the synagogue was not even around yet.

The first thing we notice is that Moses did not receive the Ten Commandments for himself. Nor did he receive them for himself and his offspring. He received them for all the Hebrew People. “Hebrew,” is Hebrew for homeless. It refers to all people who search for a homeland, a nation,  to be a people born together, by heritage if not by proximity of birth or blood. More specifically, it refers to the twelve tribes of Israel, those who struggle with God, who struggle to understand God.

Meadow in IsraelJudges 12 tells an interesting tale, the Shibboleth Incident. This story is important for understanding ecclesiology, and for that matter, understanding the correct pronunciation of Hebrew, because it relates how the tribe of Ephraim, as early as the judges, could be distinguished because they had no “SH” sound in their dialect. This means the tribes could distinguish themselves; they were different one from another. It also means there was not one correct pronunciation of Hebrew. Different tribes at different times had different correct ways to pronounce the terms.

What met at Mt. Sinai was not one tribe, but twelve. Cardinal Walter Kasper speaks of his perichoretic formula. This comes from χορεύω, which means to dance. Exodus 32:19 presents the penchant of the Jewish people for merriment and dance. On a more positive side, Karl Rahner speaks of the remnant, as in the remnant of the Jewish people who returned from Babylonian exile, the synagogue, which formed during the Babylonian exile, and the altar community.

As Americans, we need to think in terms of E Pluribus Unum. We might also think of a candle. Just as the flames of twelve candles dance around each other to form one large flame above the candles, the twelve tribes, who often fought one another, came to Mt. Sinai to form one large flame, one large community at Sinai. They never gave up being the twelve tribes; they never gave up being authentic about who they were, but still they joined together to become one large community, Israel.

Likewise, as Americans we are E Pluribus Unum; from the many, one. We never cease to be German, Jewish, Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic, Haitian, and more. We never cease being baby boomers, the WWII generation, or generation X. Still we are all Americans. Likewise, as Catholics, we join the grand dance as the altar community.

horse and carriage at south lake tahoeExodus 20-32 presents us with an imperfect community of twelve discernible ethnic groups with different customs and ways of speaking their words. Karl Rahner also speaks of the altar community, and at Mt. Sinai, with all of their difference, and with all of their faults, they still manage to say, if only for a moment, “All of this we will do.” Likewise, as Christians, we are not one community.

As a Christian community, “We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” Acts 2:9-11

In the twenty-first century, we are all German and Jew, Irish and Ango-Saxon, Polish and Russian, Hispanic and Native American. If we come to Mt. Sinai as anything else, we come to Mt. Sinai as inauthentic. We lived through World War II, as German and as Jew. We came through Vietnam as the soldier who served and as the student who served by protesting. We came through the Iraq wars as the soldiers who served, and as the students who protested.

We remember what it was like when the only means of electronic communication in the home were the radio and the telephone. We remember when TV was the next big thing. We remember when color TV was the next big thing. We remember when MTV was the next big thing. We remember when stereo was in, and the transistor.

We remember when computers small enough to do our math homework filled a room. We remember when they talked about a mouse meant that nasty thing in the trap in the kitchen. Some of us can remember none of these things. Some can remember only some. We are all of these people. We are all different, and we are all one.

We all dance around the altar community of Sinai. If we come to Sinai pretending to be those who remember, or do not remember these things, we come to Mt. Sinai inauthentic. We come to Mt. Sinai, just as we are, without one plea.

We come to Mt. Sinai, the shattered remnant of ex-slaves from the Deep South, from Egypt, from Ireland, from the wars of 19th century Europe, from 20th century Europe, from the poverty of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We come to the synagogue, or the syn-with, Ago, leading, leading together, coming together, to participate in the great dance, perichoreo, χορεύω of life in the spirit of God. We come with our ethnic heritage and our WWII heritage, our boomer heritage and generation X heritage. We come to God as Americans, and most important as human beings.

As we die with Christ, and rise with Christ, we encounter the reference we need to live the game of life


The article, “These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” makes an interesting point about the Ten Commandments, as translated directly from the Hebrew. The Prologue to the Ten Commandments states:

Lancaster_County_Amish_03Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.

Seder plate smallThe interesting thing about customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים is that they develop over time. By definition, they could not have come directly to Moses at Horeb. How does Torah say this? All the customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים, which came over time, came at Horeb. This is because, as the Jewish people relive their salvation at Passover, and we relive ours in the Eucharist, we relive the Passover, the Passion event, again, for the first time, each time.

“These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” makes the interesting case that customs, חֻקִּים, come from below. Judicial precedents, מִּשְׁפָּטִים, come from above.

“Called Together: An introduction to Ecclesiology” discusses a ‘60s dispute between Stanley Hauerwas and John Courtney Murray, S. J. We note how Hauerwas is a Mennonite. Those of us from Easter Pennsylvania note that the Mennonites are a group much like the Amish. They represent the emphasis on customs, חֻקִּים. They focus upon living their lives and letting their lives be examples to all people.

On October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five, at West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was the Amish norm practiced, even in this brazen case. The community did not establish rules for the grander community; it practiced them and in the process gave an example for the larger community to follow. This is the teaching of Stanley Hauerwas.

The Amish have a problem, the same problem of the Spartans of later ancient Greece. Very people desire to be Amish, and the National Geographic program, “Out of Order,” reveals the very real temptation to leave the community for the earthly temptations of life. Like the Spartans, Americans view the Amish as a quaint sect, and not the prime example for all to follow. This leaves us with John Courtney Murray, S. J. Murray speaks of three principles:

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The first principle is the distinction between the sacred and the secular orders of human life. The whole of man’s existence is not absorbed in his temporal and terrestrial existence. The power of government does not reach into this higher sacred order of human existence.

The second principle is the distinction between society and state. Historically, this distinction developed out of the medieval distinction between the ecclesia (christianitas) and the imperium.

The third principle is the distinction between the common good and public order. It follows from the distinction between society and state. The common good includes all the social goods, spiritual and moral as well as material, which man pursues here on earth in accord with the demands of his personal and social nature.

The pursuit of the common good devolves upon society as a whole, on all its members and on all its institutions, in accord with the principles of subsidiarity, legal justice, and distributive justice.

Public order includes three goods, which can and should be achieved by the power, which is proper to the state. The first is the public peace, which is the highest political good. The second is public morality, as determined by moral standards commonly accepted among the people. The third is justice, which secures for the people what is due to them.

UntitledOf course, how does one define what is due to any other person? The article, “Aristotle and the NFL point our way to distributive justice,” correctly points out how vague the concepts of distributive justice and what one is due really are. Further, what subsidiarity, means in practical terms is also a matter of dispute.

The Capitalist, the Communist, and the Anarchist all believe that subsidiarity means no government at all, at least as it relates to economics. For the socialist, “He who governs least, governs best,” “Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience” means government control of all. To argue for more control than is necessary, is to argue for waste. To argue for less is irresponsible. The problem with John Courtney Murray’s theory, and most Social Contract theory, is that it does not define “subsidiarity” in practical terms, or “The least.”

Judicial precedents, מִּשְׁפָּטִים, morality from above suffers precisely because it is not able to define its terms. What we need is what the Ten Commandments call for, a healthy mix of custom, חֻקִּים and judicial precedent, מִּשְׁפָּטִים, with a referent that helps to define the terms. The Ten Commandments define that reference.

“Remember, “I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.” When your son asks you, “What do these witnesses and customs and judicial precedents mean,” which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, “We were once servants of Pharaoh the oppressor in Egypt, the land of oppression, but the Personal Name brought us out of there with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house.

Remember what it was like to be there, and remember your rescue. That is the reference. That is the reference for both the customs, what comes from below, and that is the reference for the judicial precedents, what comes from above. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” This may not have the certainty of judicial precedent judges might like.

We realize that what we have is Picasso in our lives. We present our Picasso, knowing that others have Van Gogh in their lives. We show our Picasso and allow them to show their Van Gogh. We do not get into the first View of John Courtney Murray, presuming that our world view is the correct one. We believe that with faith; we do not know it as fact.

Myrtle point baseballSociety is much like a baseball game. We all know what the rules are, what constitutes a strike, a ball, a hit, or a run, but when we stop to apply the rules, we do just that; we stop. The game ends, at least for a moment. The goal is for the game to continue. For that, we need custom, חֻקִּים. We need to look to the Amish, with all of their quaintness, to see how they play the game.

As the article, “These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” points out, we very much need the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist. This is how we bring Mt. Sinai, and the cross into present time. As we relive our escape from Egypt and as we die with Christ, and rise with Christ, we encounter the reference we need to live the game of life, as individuals, and as a society.

We need both, to be the social ethic, the sample to others, and to teach the social ethic. We become the social ethic through what happens at Mass, reliving in present time the escape from Egypt and our escape, by dying with Christ and rising with him in the Eucharist.

New_Colossus_manuscript_LazarusNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As Americans and as people of the Judea-Christian faith, we remember what it was like to be oppressed, and we remember our rescue. We remember slavery in Egypt, the Great Potato Famine, the Great Revolutions of 1828 in Europe, the slavery of the Deep South, Jim Crow, the Trail of Tears of the Cherokee, the 1200 who died in Bangladesh over the course of the past year, and more. We then remember our rescue and when we see others suffering we do something.

Reliving all of this in present time, remembering who our rescuer is, Love itself, and then doing something is the essence of all morality and all there is to the great mystery of our faith. There really is no more. When we do this we become like Stanley Hauerwas and become church. We become the example with our customs all want to follow. As a society we participate in the great marketplace of ideas John Courtney Murray, talks about, showing our Picasso. We speak both with our actions and with our words.

We view justice and the role of government as St. Augustine did, City of God, Book II, Chapter 21, along with Cicero and Scipio, as an orchestra. We strive to create concord. We promote life for all people, pre-born, and post born, where life is life lived in the image of God,for all people. This is where judicial precedent comes into the formula. This is what we need to emphasis during our diocesan synod.

These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod


Some approaches to ecclesiology suffer from a clearly inadequate awareness of the Church as a mystery of communion, especially insofar as they have not sufficiently integrated the concept of communion with the concepts of People of God and of the Body of Christ, and have not given due importance to the relationship between the Church as communion and the Church as sacrament.[i]Lake Tahoe

Sometimes, however, the idea of a “communion of particular Churches” is presented in such a way as to weaken the concept of the unity of the Church at the visible and institutional level. Thus it is asserted that every particular Church is a subject complete in itself, and that the universal Church is the result of a reciprocal recognition on the part of the particular Churches. This ecclesiological unilateralism, which impoverishes not only the concept of the universal Church but also that of the particular Church, betrays an insufficient understanding of the concept of communion.[ii]

Bernard Lonergan writes:

With Einstein, Newton’s absolute time vanished, and there emerged as many standard times as there are inertial reference frames that are in relative motion.[1]

Our mural in Reno Nevada
Our mural in Reno Nevada

Deuteronomy 5 writes:

Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.

The interesting thing about customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים is that they develop over time. By definition, they could not have come directly to Moses at Horeb. How does Torah say this? All the customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים, which came over time, came at Horeb. This is because, as the Jewish people relive their salvation at Passover, and we relive ours in the Eucharist, we relive the Passover, the Passion event, again, for the first time, each time.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage Galillee

William Graham Sumner discusses customs in his book, “Folkways.” He tells us, “I also took up again the Latin word “mores” as the best I could find for my purpose. I mean by it the popular usages and traditions, when they include a judgment that they are conducive to societal welfare, and when they exert a coercion on the individual to conform to them, although they are not coordinated by any authority.”

Customs חֻקִּים come from below. “Social Theory and Social Structure” discusses the Robert Merton’s idea of manifest and latent functions. The latent functions come from below and are the mores which we often do not even think about. The manifest norms are the rules coming from external sources, employers, the Vatican, and the state. They are the laws of William Graham Sumner.

In society, the norms and folkways, the latent rules which rule our lives, do not always agree with the manifest rules. Employers often write rule books for their organizations only to find employees place these rule books on a shelf and do things the way they have always been done. In his article, “On the Church,” Cardinal Walter Kasper discusses this in reference to a discussion by then Cardinal Ratzinger, “On some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion.” By definition, correct judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים come from above.

Baron de Montequieu gave us the tripartite division of government, executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Moses and the Semitic people had something very similar. They had the executive branch, the king, and they had the judicial branch, the judges and the rabbis who interpreted the sacred writings in light of their times. They had no need of a legislative branch. All laws came from Moses at Sinai.

Cardinal Kasper correctly relates how he is in the middle of a great debate, not between the from the masses, but from the manifest and latent norms, between the folkways and the laws. If there is a debate between the norms and the laws, between how the masses interpret Sinai, and how the judges, the Vatican interprets Sinai, it means one or the other, or more than likely, both, is not properly influenced by the spirit of Sinai.

For judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים to be correct, they must spring from Mt. Sinai, which we relive in concrete form, for the first time, each time we celebrate the Eucharist. The customs חֻקִּים and the laws must spring from the same source. Leaders must come from the masses. Deuteronomy 17:14-17 explains the rules for picking leaders. It tells us the leadership must come from the masses.

Further, they must be like the masses, without much wealth. They must come from the same folk as the masses, so the share the same folkways.They must share the same near death experience as the masses. For Jews, that is Passover. For Christians, it is dying and rising with Christ.

For those who experience the Near Death Experience of Passover, receiving the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and the cross of Christ, no proof of the authenticity of the judicial precedents is necessary. For those who do not experience this Near Death Experience, no proof is sufficient.

Yes, we must have judges to make those correct judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים. Correct judicial precedents come from above. The Ten Commandments tell us that from the beginning, there are rules which guide our behavior, both from higher authority, correct judicial precedent, מִּשְׁפָּטִים and from below, חֻקִּים custom.

Einstein was Jewish and his understanding of time was Jewish. It is like a big wormhole that connects each time we celebrate Passover and Eucharist. It makes no sense to discuss if the universal church is prior to the particular churches. Through Passover and Eucharist, we leave time. When there is no time, there is no before and after.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage Mary's well Ein Kerem Jerusalem

Ontologically, the Church-mystery, the Church that is one and unique, precedes creation, and gives birth to the particular Churches as her daughters.[iii] From of old I was formed, at the first, before the earth. Proverbs 8:23. This is the claim Pope Benedict claims for Holy Mother Church; she is Wisdom incarnate. She is the formal cause of the world. She is apart from time.

Most of us misunderstand what is going on in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we depart from time and we relive the exodus from Egypt, again, for the first time, each time. That is why we have the incense, to remind us that we are at Mt. Sinai, in the 120 degree dry heat, on a volcano, again, for the first time. We are on the cross, with Jesus, hearing the taunts and the jeers of the crowd.

We die with him, and we rise with him. That means we have to be Jesus on the cross, suffering with him. That means we must understand who the Semitic Jesus is. Do we? Do we understand what it would mean to be a Semitic Jesus? Do we understand his time and his place?

The difference between corporeal and spiritual food lies in this, that the former is changed into the substance of the person nourished. It cannot avail for supporting life except it be partaken of. Spiritual food changes man into itself, according to that saying of Augustine (Confessions 7.  Third Part of the Summa Question 73 Article 3

I found myself to be far from You, in the region of dissimilarity: I am the food of strong men; grow, and you will feed upon me; nor will you convert me, like the food of your flesh, into you, but you shall be converted into me. Confessions, Book 7, Chapter 10

How can the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ transform us into himself if we neither know or care who he is? What are we transforming into? Are we transforming into the first century Semitic Rabbi who healed people without cost, who hung around tax collectors and deviants, who had a preference for the poor, who had a mother who recited the Magnificat condemning the rich to a rich relative, and who died rather than engage in violence?

Are the claims of a conservative Jesus who favored the rich and supported owning guns true? Would we be willing to sit next to Jesus, a long haired homeless man of Near Eastern/Palestinian origin, who spoke a strange language, at the bus station, on an airplane, on a bench at the mall or a local park?

Our Lady

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the model of ecclesial communion in faith, in charity and in union with Christ. “Eternally present in the mystery of Christ.” She is, in the midst of the Apostles, at the very heart of the Church at its birth and of the Church of all ages. Indeed, “the Church was congregated in the upper room with Mary, who was the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. We cannot therefore speak of the Church unless Mary, the mother of the Lord, is present there, with the Lord’s brethren.”[iv]

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  Sea of Galillee 2

Revelations 12:17 tells us, “The Sea Monster became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” As Catholics, we believe the child of Revelations 12:5 is Jesus, and therefore the woman is Our Blessed Virgin.

If we experience the time warp, the wormhole, the Passover, and the Passion of Christ, and rise with Christ, we do put on the new person, as St. Paul says, and this causes us to keep God’s commandments and in the process, bear witness to Jesus. No proof of the authenticity of magisterial pronouncements is required. If not, no proof is sufficient.

We are the bride of Christ. Jesus is the groom. I Corinthians 12:12-26 speaks of us being one body with many parts. Our Blessed Virgin is our mother. Galatians is right in telling us we are all one in Christ Jesus, Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. This being the case, we should all at least know each other’s names.

Do we notice the flowers and the candles, the dimmed room, and all the elements that make for a romantic dinner? This meeting is supposed to be personal and intimate. Is it? Do we know the Semitic Jesus, Our Blessed Virgin, a first century Jew? Do we know each other? Why is it that everyone loves a lover, but nobody loves the proper people who leave Mass on Sunday morning? If people love lovers and we are lovers of God and each other, should they not love us and want to be like us too?

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Quoting Galatians 3:28-9, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise,” Pope Benedict tells us that we are not strangers.

When we attend Mass, do we know the name of the person sitting next to us? When we go to coffee and donuts after Mass, do we know the name of the person we are sitting next to? Does Father come down to join us? Are we really strangers in the same room? These are the things we need to consider as we undergo the Reno Diocese Diocesan Synod.

[1] Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church On Some Aspects Of The Church Understood As Communion http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_28051992_communionis-notio_en.html

 [ii] ibib

[iii] ibib

[iv] ibib