Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Divine Grammar

Now that I have been "noticed" I feel a certain liberating permission to blog on. I feel almost like my Lutheran days, blogging boldly! All right, Ogden, let's not let this get to our head, shall we?

In my "managed posts" section I have had a saved draft for ages called "Divine Grammar." This was something that occurred to me during the readings of the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time. Specifically, a much feared reading from Ephesians.

Well, I don't fear it, and instead ...

Well, I don't fear it, and instead I am going to proclaim what I think has been centrally missed during all the fretting. The Disputations Inspiration is prodding me to finish and post this, late though it is.

Now, by this point you're wondering what I am talking about, don't you? I am talking about the "wives be subordinate to your husbands" verses, Ephesians 5:21-32

The main charge against this passage, and what tends to embarrass our High, Enlightened sensibilities (the same sensibilities that have given a green light to abortion and the "contraceptive mentality", mind you) is that it appears to be unequal at best, misogynistic at worst.

My argument? It is neither. My argument is that since these Grand Statements have two different subjects, in the Divine Grammar, the "verbs" must be different, so that there is just agreement between the verb and the subject, just as in Human Grammar. The different subjects may have different verbs, but the action being asked of them is the same. They are both asked to imitate Christ.

Consider ... Since the Apostle began with the wife, I will begin with her. She is being asked to imitate Christ's fathomless Love, by emptying herself before her husband, as Christ did. Why? So that she can save her husband, as Christ saved Humanity. Consider Philippians:

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Total self-denial for the salvation of others. It is what Christ did for us, and it is what wives are called to do for their husbands.

But the husband too is asked to do the same thing. He is asked to love the wife as Christ loves the Church. And how did Christ love the Church? By suffering even death on a cross for the salvation of her members. How can the husband do so? By patient sacrifice out of love, working for her salvation.

Both, therefore, are being asked to do the same thing: save each others souls. But women and men are different, masculine and feminine in the Divine Grammar. Thus, in order to make the Divine Sentences "work" the subjects and verbs must agree, although the end is precisely the same. Husbands and wives must sacrifice in self-denial for the salvation of their spouses.

So this is why the "short form" make me cringe. We have become squeamish about the "wives be subordinate" part. We ought to rather proclaim it proudly, sloughing off this cowardice. There is something to fear in this? How can there be? When seen properly, it can only be celebrated.

This also reminds me to do a piece that has been running around in my head about "close readings" and why they are so desperately needed in regards to the Holy Scripture.

I will let the Apostle have the last word, "Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Trying to Out-Do Disputations

One of the blogs I enjoy reading is Disputations, where the blogger-author gives (among other things) his reflections and thoughts on Scripture as they appear in the Mass readings (or what have you).

His views and ideas are always provocative. I find I learn a very great deal simply reading them, although I do not necessarily always agree. Usually it's little words or grammatical points that attract his attention, and almost always from the NAB translation.

To that end, one thing struck me ...

To that end, one thing struck me in the reading from James today. James 5:4 in the NAB reads as follows:

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

(Emphasis mine)

You see what's being modified here, don't you? The wages themselves are crying aloud. The RSV agrees with this:
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

As does the New Vulgate (all emphases in the following quotes will be mine):

Ecce merces operariorum, qui messuerunt regiones vestras, quae fraudata est a vobis, clamat, et clamores eorum, qui messuerunt, in aures Domini Sabaoth introierunt.

And the old:

ecce merces operariorum qui messuerunt regiones vestras qui fraudatus est a vobis clamat et clamor ipsorum in aures Domini Sabaoth introiit

(I could do a whole blog post just on the differences between the old and the new in just this verse, but I won't ... not tonight. You'll notice the RSV more closely follows the Latin. If I need to convince people that this is in the Greek, too, I can quote that as well:
ἰδοὺ ὁ μισθὸς τῶν ἐργατῶν τῶν ἀμησάντων τὰς χώρας ὑμῶν ὁ ἀφυστερημένος ἀφ' ὑμῶν κράζει, καὶ αἱ βοαὶ τῶν θερισάντων εἰς τὰ ὦτα Κυρίου Σαβαὼθ εἰσελήλυθαν:

Now that is out of the way ... What does it mean? The wages themselves are crying out ... This reminds of the sins that cry out to Heaven. I couldn't remember the last one of the top of my head. For shame, Ogden! So, I looked it up in the Catechism, and lo and behold ...
1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are "sins that cry to heaven": the blood of Abel, the sin of the Sodomites, the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan, injustice to the wage earner.

(Emphasis mine)

And there's even a footnote, "Cf. Deut 24:14-15; Jas 5:4.." (The emphasis is mine.)

So, this passage, and the Church, appear to be telling us that the sin itself had a kind of triggered response. If you engage in practice X the sin itself will "cry out" to God in a voice only He can hear.

But is it being figurative? Is it being literal? I suppose in a very real sense, it's both. The Living God in His Foresight, has known these sins would take place (and when, and how often, and by whom, etc) throughout all Eternity. Consequently, He has also known they would Offend his Infinite Justice. And in that sense, that knowledge in the mind of the Sublime is the actual "crying out." Because these deeds so offend against His Will that they are like the proverbial fingernails on chalkboard. Although He never fails to take note of anything, these things He takes note of in a very special way.

Just as this strange construction took me by surprise, I believe the Apostle intends the same thing for the "wealthy" whom he is castigating. Just as the implications awe and terrify me, I believe the Apostle intends the same reaction on the part of those whom he warns.

In any case, I welcome any thoughts on this anyone might have, and I hope to have done some justice to the methodology of the aforementioned blog.

UPDATE: As you can see from the links section below, the "aforementioned blog" has taken note of my little post. I am pleased as punch, but more importantly I learned something new from his take. I like the image. It puts me in a mind to say that if we could see excess wealth with the same perspective the Sublime has, we would be like those who could see their own lungs tainted by tobacco smoke. But by the same token, would they who have grown addicted to wealth, even if they could see it for the danger it is, give it up?