Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ash Wednesday: Biblical interpretation of the ashes and cross on the forehead from Genesis to Apocalypse

Today is Ash Wednesday. On this day the priest mixes with water the ashes from the burnt palms blessed last year, and says the following prayer:
O God, who desire not the death of sinners, but their conversion, mercifully hear our prayers and in your kindness be pleased to bless + these ashes, which we intend to receive upon our heads, that we, who acknowledge we are but ashes and shall return to dust, may, through a steadfast observance of Lent, gain pardon for sins and newness of life after the likeness of your Risen Son. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (Liturgies)
There is another form, but the one quoted appears older.  It's corresponding prayer said by the priest as he traces the sign of the cross on our foreheads has the familiar form:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Liturgies)
We notice that there are two important elements in the sign: (1) the ashes on the forehead and (2) the cross on the forehead.   Let's discuss these one by one.

1. Ashes on the Forehead

The ashes remind us of dust.  In the Book of Genesis, we read that God created us out of dust:
Then the LORD God formed the man* out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.d (Gen 2:7)
But because of man's disobedience, God removed the preternatural gift of immortality from man, and man became subject to the Law of Entropy: man shall soon die and its tissues break down into its component molecules and become part of soil. As God told Adam:
By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.i (Gen 3:19)
 In the Book of Genesis we also read the story of Abraham on how he pleaded with God on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:
Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes!h 28 What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there....But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it.i 33 The LORD departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home. (Gen 18:26-33)
So we notice that to treat oneself as dust and ashes before God is a sign of humility and repentance--a recognition that without God, we are nothing but dust and ashes, as we recall in the story of Adam and Eve. Since the forehead is closest to the brain, then putting ashes on the forehead means that we must remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

What happened to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who did not repent? God reduced the cities into dust and ashes:
And the LORD rained down sulfur upon Sodom and Gomorrah, fire from the LORD out of heaven.h 25 He overthrew* those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil.i (Gen 19:24-25)
What happened to the people of Nineveh who repented? God spared the city because their king proclaimed a fast and sat in ashes:
Jonah began his journey through the city, and when he had gone only a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” 5 the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small,* put on sackcloth.a 6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh:* “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. 8 Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. 9 * Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”b 10 When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out. (Jon 3:4-10)
It is interesting to note that ISIS destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah turned it into a heap of dust. And then they drove the Christians into exodus out of Iraq. If will go as ISIS envisioned, Babylon the Great shall rise once again as an Islamic State and persecute the Jews in Israel and the Christians of Rome.  And then the End will come.

2. Cross on the Forehead

The cross on the forehead is mentioned at least thrice in the Bible.

In the book of Job, we read about Job's signature, which he represented by a cross sign on his head like a diadem or crown, while Job laments his misfortunes and asks God for an explanation for his suffering:
Oh, that I had one to hear my case: here is my signature:* let the Almighty answer me! Let my accuser write out his indictment!i 36 Surely, I should wear it on my shoulder* or put it on me like a diadem; 37 Of all my steps I should give him an account; like a prince* I should present myself before him. (Jb 31:35-37)
In the book of Ezekiel, we read about the Tau or X that God asked his angelic scribe to mark the people who lament over the abominations in the city, in order to spare them from being slaughtered during the judgment of Jerusalem:
The LORD said to him:* Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it. 5 To the others he said in my hearing: Pass through the city after him and strike! Do not let your eyes spare; do not take pity. 6 Old and young, male and female, women and children—wipe them out! But do not touch anyone marked with the X. Begin at my sanctuary. So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.d 7 Defile the temple, he said to them, fill its courts with the slain. Then go out and strike in the city. (Ez 9:3-7)
Finally, in the book of Revelation, we read about the mark on the forehead of those who are of the Beast and those of Christ:
Then I looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion,* and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.a (Rev 14:1
I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image nor had accepted its mark* on their foreheads or hands. (Rev 20:4
The sign of Christ is the sign of the cross, so that the ashes on our forehead is the sign of Christ, a shorthand for the Trinitarian Name: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The sign of the cross on our foreheads already mark as targets for the Islamic State, in the same way as ISIS marked the houses of Christians with the sign of "nun" for the Nazarene. The aim of ISIS is  not religious dialogue but the ultimate destruction of Rome, the seat of Catholic Christianity:
If al-Qaeda wanted to revive slavery, it never said so. And why would it? Silence on slavery probably reflected strategic thinking, with public sympathies in mind: when the Islamic State began enslaving people, even some of its supporters balked. Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.” (Graeme Wood, Atlantic)
But Christ reminds us:
If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.n 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.o 20 Remember the word I spoke to you,* ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.p (Jn 15:18-20)
We must be prepared for suffering and martyrdom, as the the example of the 21 Egyptian martyrs beheaded by ISIS shows us, because Christ also suffered and died on the cross.  But Christ assures us:
In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. (Jn 16:33)
C. Summary and Conclusions

The ashes on our foreheads remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return, as God told Adam.  To treat ourselves as dust and ashes before the Lord as Abraham did is a sign of humility and repentance--a recognition that without God, we won't have life. Sodom and Gomorrah rejected God by following the sin of Sodomy, and God destroyed the cities with fire and turned these into dust and ashes.  We may also end up in the same way if we follow the present homosexual agenda that legitimizes the homosexual lifestyle and imposes same-sex marriage on the world.  May the city of Nineveh provide us an example of repentance.  As their king wore sack cloth and sat in ashes, may the ashes on our foreheads remind us to repent of our sins in the Sacrament of Confession in order to prepare for the Lenten Season.

The crosses on our foreheads, on the other hand, reminds us of Job's signature on his forehead which he wore as a sign of his complaint before God on why a just man like him have to undergo suffering--a question which God did not answer directly, except to show his Wisdom--a question which Christ also did not answer directly, except to suffer like Job in Calvary. The sign of the cross is the sign of salvation from the wrath of God in the vision of Ezekiel, for in this sign is the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  The sign of the cross is the mark of Christians and by this sign we shall conquer the world, not by the force of arms such as those of ISIS, but by the force of weakness and martyrdom.  As St. Paul said:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.k...For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,n 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,o 24 but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:18-25)
Ash Wednesday (Basic)
Ash Wednesday (Basic)
Ashes to Fire Year C Devotional: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost
Ashes to Fire Year C Devotional: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost
Entropy and the Second Law: Interpretation and Misss-Interpretations
Entropy and the Second Law: Interpretation and Misss-Interpretations
Key Facts for the Location of Sodom Student Edition: Navigating the Maze of Arguments
Key Facts for the Location of Sodom Student Edition: Navigating the Maze of Arguments
Photo: Iraq (Babylonia). Nineveh,Tomb of Jonah
Photo: Iraq (Babylonia). Nineveh,Tomb of Jonah
A Requiem for Job (from the Biblical Book of Job)
A Requiem for Job (from the Biblical Book of Job)
Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East
Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East
The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth
The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth
The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution
The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution
History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium
History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fan fiction: Little Prince meets his rose again

LITTLE PRINCE: Good morning, Rose!

ROSE: Oh, you're back!  I thought I won't see you again.

LITTLE PRINCE: I thought so, too. How are the caterpillars?

ROSE: One of them turned into a butterfly.  He thanked me for caring for him while he was still in the cocoon.  He became like a child to me.  But he's gone now.  He told me that he heard that Earth has many flowers and he wish to go there, too.  Have you seen the flowers on Earth?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes.

ROSE: Are they pretty?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes.

ROSE: Are they beautiful?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes.  Actually, there are many flowers on Earth. There are many roses--a whole field of roses in fact.  They are all very pretty.  They are all very lovely.

ROSE: So why did you still come back?

LITTLE PRINCE: I don't know. [Pause] Did the tiger come?

ROSE: No.

LITTLE PRINCE: I did not see a tiger on earth.  Maybe because no one tamed tigers on Earth.

ROSE: What is tame?

LITTLE PRINCE: To tame someone is to establish ties. That's what the fox told me.

ROSE: So you need a string to tie yourself to someone?

LITTLE PRINCE: Umm, yes.  Actually, I brought a ribbon.

ROSE: You establish ties through a ribbon?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes.  Here, let me tie a little knot over your stem.

ROSE: The white ribbon looks lovely!  Am I not lovely?

LITTLE PRINCE: Of course, you are lovely.

ROSE: Why did you give me the ribbon?

LITTLE PRINCE: To establish ties. There are many roses on earth--all lovely and beautiful.  But there is only one rose that I that I have watered, only one rose that I have put under the glass globe, only one rose that I have sheltered behind the screen, only one rose that I have killed for her the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies), only one rose I have listened to--even when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. There is only one rose in my life and that is you.

ROSE: Even if there are many other roses in the world?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes, because you are my only rose.

ROSE: Even if my petals fall one by one?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes, because you are my beloved rose.

ROSE: Even if I am not anymore as fragrant as before?

LITTLE PRINCE: Yes, because you are my rose.

ROSE: I am sleepy.

LITTLE PRINCE: Here, sleep on my lap.

ROSE: I snore.

LITTLE PRINCE: I know.

ROSE: Good night!

LITTLE PRINCE: Good night, too!  Tomorrow is a new day.

The Little Prince 70th Anniversary Gift Set (Book/CD/Downloadable Audio)
The Little Prince 70th Anniversary Gift Set (Book/CD/Downloadable Audio)
The Tale of the Rose: The Passion That Inspired The Little Prince
The Tale of the Rose: The Passion That Inspired The Little Prince
Little Prince w Fox Soft Toy
Little Prince w Fox Soft Toy
Hope for the Flowers
Hope for the Flowers
LE PETIT PRINCE LOVE POP-UP CARD - Rose
LE PETIT PRINCE LOVE POP-UP CARD - Rose

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

4 ways to show Mahal na Kita this Valentine's Day: Meditations on the J Dorama meme

Japanese Drama Tagalog Meme: Expensive profit as mahal na kita (I now love you)
Feb 1, 2015

I chanced upon a meme by the Japanese Drama Tagalog Meme which describes the following conversation between a young man and a young woman:
Man: Ano sa Tagalog and "profit"?
Woman: Kita.
Man: Eh, ang "expensive profit"?
Woman: Mahal na kita. (I love you.)
Man: Mahal din kita. (I love you, too.)
Mahal na Kita is an interesting phrase. Let's ponder on this phrase at different levels:

1. Operating Expense Ratio

According to Investopedia:
The operating expense ratio is calculated by dividing a property's operating expense by its gross operating income. Investors using the ratio can further compare each type of expense, such as utilities, insurance, taxes and maintenance, to the gross operating income, as well as the sum of all expenses to the gross operating income.
In other words, \begin{equation} OER = \frac{Expense}{Income}. \end{equation} Since Income - Expenses = Profit, then Income (1 - OER) = Profit.  If your OER = 1, then your profit is zero. If your OER = 0.4, then your profit is 60 % of your income.

This Valentine's day, you may wish to determine your OER before making a splurge to impress your date.  Let's say your income is Php $10,000$ per month and you spent Php 1,000 for that good dinner in a restaurant. Your OER then would be 1,000/10,000 = 0.10 = 10 %; you still have 90 % of your income left after the date. But if your income is Php 100,000 per month, then an expense of Php 1,000 this Valentine's Day would give an OER of 1,000/100,000=0.01 = 1 %. That is, you still have $99\%$ of your income intact; you can afford to treat her again.

2. Parable of the Lost Coin

The Tagalog word "kita" also means "to see" while "mahal" can also means "to love" or "to give value"--something like "My Precious", as Gollum would say. So "Mahal na Kita" is "To see something that you value."  A good example of this is the Parable of the Lost Coin:
“Or what woman having ten coins* and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ (Lk 15:8-9)
This parable may be interpreted to describe how God rejoices in the conversion of one sinner.  But this Valentine's day, we can interpret this as follows: a man can have many possessions--house, car, job, etc--but if he lost the woman that he loves, he would continue to search for her and rejoice when he finally finds her.  As the song Maybe This Time goes:
Two old sweethearts who fell apart
Somewhere long ago
How are they to know
Someday they'd meet again
And have a need for more
Than reminiscin'

Maybe this time
It'll be loving they'll find
Maybe now they can be more
Than just friends
She's back in his life
And it feels so right
Maybe this time, love won't end

3. Pearl of Great Price

 In the parable of the fine pearl, we read:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. (Mt 13:45-46)
This parable is interpreted to describe how a man searches for God. He goes from one religion or faith system to another hoping to find God or at least something that would make sense of life and suffering.  He went to Buddhism, Hinduism, Communism, Paganism, and Atheism.  He went to Protestantism and its many sects.  He went to the Orthodox Church and the Jews. But to no avail. Then he met Christ through His Church.  He learned about God and his Angels and Saints.  He read the Catechism. He read the encyclicals of popes.  He read the history of the Church. He read the lives of the saints. So this is what the Catholic Faith teaches! he says to himself.  And he gives up his search and had himself baptized in the Catholic Church.

Mahal na kita may also be interpreted within the framework of the parable of the fine pearl: Mahal na kita is something you found after a long, arduous search that do not only rejoice in seeing it, but gives up everything in order to acquire it.  And for young men and women, this is experienced in marriage.  A woman usually gives up her surname and acquires that of a man. For some, such as Chinese girls, they have to give up their familial relationships in order to marry a non-Chinese man, e.g. they receive no share in the inheritance. And for others, they may also have to give up their religion as well, e.g. Daniel Padilla (Catholic) and Kathryn Bernardo.

4. Beatific Vision

Finally, Mahal na Kita may be related to beatific vision, since Kita is related to seeing and Mahal is something worthy of beauty and love.

In the ordinary sense, beatific vision is to be lovestruck: a lovely lady passes by and your heart stopped: she's the most beautiful woman that you have ever seen and you wish to be with her forever. As the song Pretty Woman goes:
Pretty woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet
Pretty woman
I don't believe you, you're not the truth
No one could look as good as you
Mercy
But in the theological sense, beatific vision is to see God, which is the reward of saints:
1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision": How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.604 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
God is more beautiful than the pretty woman who walked down the street.  God is the Person--or rather, thee Persons--whom you would love to meet, because, as St. Augustine says, our hearts are restless unless they rest in God. You must believe in God, for God is the Truth Who neither deceives or intends to deceive. No one could look as good as God because God is infinitely beautiful and good.  And this brings us to the Greek ideal: the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  (Oh, by the way, one of God's attribute is Mercy.)

Conclusions

Mahal na kita can mean four things this Valentine's day: a high operating expense, a finding of the lost, a pearl of great price, or a beatific vision.  That is, love can be an expensive date, a reconciliation to an estranged loved one, a giving up of everything, or just vision of beauty.  Loving God is the perfection of love: it is not only an expensive date, but you have to give up everything in the process of being reconciled to him, in order to have a chance to see Him as He is someday.  God can fill our heart's desire, because God is True, God is Good, and God is beautiful.


Nodame Cantabile / Concerto Love Award Winning Japanese Tv Drama with English Sub NTSC All Region (3 dvds in Digipak Boxset) Based on Hit Comic Book
Nodame Cantabile / Concerto Love Award Winning Japanese Tv Drama with English Sub NTSC All Region (3 dvds in Digipak Boxset) Based on Hit Comic Book
The Dorama Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese TV Drama Since 1953
The Dorama Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese TV Drama Since 1953
The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition) (Collins Business Essentials)
The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition) (Collins Business Essentials)
Dinner Date Etiquette for a Gentleman: 145 Other Rewarding Opportunities
Dinner Date Etiquette for a Gentleman: 145 Other Rewarding Opportunities
Maybe This Time DVD (International Edition)
Maybe This Time DVD (International Edition)
2009 Bonham's & Butterfields Natural History Exotic Gemstone Jewelry Giant Clam Giant Pearl 40 ounce gold nugget - Auction Catalog 6 December 2009 Sale 17535
2009 Bonham's & Butterfields Natural History Exotic Gemstone Jewelry Giant Clam Giant Pearl 40 ounce gold nugget - Auction Catalog 6 December 2009 Sale 17535
She's Dating A Gangster
She's Dating A Gangster
Pretty Woman (15th Anniversary Special Edition)
Pretty Woman (15th Anniversary Special Edition)
St. Albert the Great's Theory of the Beatific Vision
St. Albert the Great's Theory of the Beatific Vision