Monday, July 23, 2012

Mara's Musings - Honey: The Kingly Preservative

Note: We are blessed to have many friends and family members who share our fascination with Catholic traditions and their application in the domestic church. Here is the first of (hopefully) many posts from one of them, our lovely sister Mara. Check back for more of "Mara's Musings" on Mondays!

Recently, we were speaking with Mara, who is particularly fond of the honeybee, and were impressed by her ambition to someday become a beekeeper.  Honey and bees are fundamental symbols within Christianity and paganism.  Honey represents both the sweetness of life and its preservation.  The bee is the diligent warrior-worker who strives to bring sweetness into the world through community. We were excited to hear Mara talk so passionately about the subject matter and asked if she could share some of her thoughts about honey, bees, and their place in the domestic church on Forgotten Altars. 

A drop of honey catches more flies than a barrel of vinegar. ~ Old Proverb   
Honey is older than human civilization. It has been used through the centuries for ritual as well as practical purposes. For example, if you seal and store honey it will last forever because it is a natural preservative, which is why it was used to embalm dead bodies. The kings of Sparta were embalmed in honey, and Alexander the Great was laid in a golden coffin filled with white honey. Honey was also used in Egyptian coffins as well to prevent bacterial growth. It's not only fit for kings; honey has been used as a folk remedy for ages to lower a fever, ward off snake bites, relieve aches and pains and get rid of hay fever. 
Bee's Buried with Childeric

“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because it labors, but because it labors for others”  ~St. John Chrysostom     

There are many more things I could tell you about honey, and there is a wealth of information out there if you want to learn more about how to make or use it. But how does this relate to the domestic church? The most important thing for us as Catholics is the symbolism of the worker bee. The worker bees are a symbol of the religious men and women in the church. Like the worker bees we need to work unceasingly for our hive (the church), obeying our superiors and, most importantly, our Queen. We, like the bee, would scatter without our Queen. We need to be like the warrior bee as well by defending our hive, even if it means dying in the process.         

He who deals with honey will sometimes be licking his fingers. ~ Old Proverb    

That being said, part of being Catholic is also enjoying the good fruit of the earth. While doing my research I happened to run into a scripture cake. Scripture cakes date back to the colonial days. It is a riddle cake to test the cook's familiarity with the Bible. The cook is not given the list of ingredients, but has to look them up based on corresponding Scripture passages. As an example, in Samuel 14:29 it says “See how my eyes have become bright, because I tasted a little of this honey.” By reading this passage the cook knows to add honey in the amount designated in the recipe. This is a great family activity - and the results are delicious!

Scripture Cake
(Don't cheat! Look up the ingredients before you read the instructions below:)

 4 1/2 cups – 1 Kings 4:22                              
1/2 teaspoon – Leviticus 2:13
2 tablespoons- Amos 4:5                              
1/2 teaspoon- Chronicles 9:9                   
1/2 cup- Judges 5:25                              
1 1/3 cups- 1 Samuel 14:29                         
6- Jeremiah 17:11                                        
2 tablespoons- Judges 4:19
2 cups- Nahum 3:12                                      
1 1/2 cups-Numbers 17:8                          
2 cups- 1 Samuel 30:12   

Now proceed with the recipe...

 Sift together the flour, salt ,baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon each of
of cinnamon, mace, cloves, allspice, and ginger. Set aside.

Beat the butter until creamy. Stir in the honey. Then beat in the eggs,
one at a time. Add the milk. Mix well. Stir in the flour mixture.

Chop the figs. Toss them with 1 tablespoon of flour until they are
lightly coated all over. Add the figs, almonds, and raisins to the batter. Stir well.
Butter a 10 inch round pan with removable sides. Dust it with flour. Pour in the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about 2 hours. Cool completely and enjoy.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Tolkien on the Eucharist

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste -or foretaste- of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.

The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children - from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn - open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand - after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come."

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, July 6, 2012

Octopus vs. Chicken: Which is More Catholic?

Much to my wife's dismay, I have always wanted a pet octopus.  In her eyes, the octopus is slimy, alien and generally creepy. To me, they are fascinating animals with unusual intelligence and distinct playfulness.  One of my favorite octopus qualities is their ferocity.  They have, for instance, been filmed taking out sharks (see clip below).  Simultaneously they have a distinct sense of humor.  Sometimes, because baby octopuses are so difficult to identify, you are "unlucky" enough to get a blue ring octopus, which has one of the most lethal venoms in the world.  Fantastic!  So for years I have been daydreaming about having an octopus.  Should I name him Houdini (they are infamous escape artists - one reportedly made it all the way down the driveway to the mailbox before expiring) or Odysseus (the octopus was the tricky hero's totem)?

The simple truth, though, is that as the King Papa (the official title bestowed upon me by my three year old) I have to make careful decisions.  All projects of the kingdom are limited by at least two precious resources: time and money.  Given these unfortunate limitations, I have no doubt that it is my distinct responsibility to pursue those projects that most distinctly contribute to the Catholic kingdom and domestic church we are building.

No problem.  Based off of what I have discussed above, is not the octopus a most Catholic beast?  Besides the fact that all animals are Catholic, the octopus possesses come of the most important Catholic characteristics.

Still, I have to admit, perhaps my wife is right. I cannot help, even in the throes of my octopus research, to think that the chicken is an even more Catholic beast.  Firstly, the chicken is also fierce.  That seems like a fundamental contradiction but it is true. You know it if you've ever had one.

The Venomous Blue Ringed Octopus

More importantly however, having chickens and investing your time and money in this direction establishes a gift-structure within the familial domain.  As the family gives the chickens food, shelter and loving care, the chicken offers eggs, meat and the experience of this mutual generosity.  It is important, I think, to focus our energy, time and resources towards projects of parallel domestic wealth.  It isn't the case that you won't learn anything from the octopus.  I grew up in a home with salt water tanks, snakes, turtles, hedgehogs, parrots, etc.  You will learn something.  But frequently, these more exotic interests (all of which are also time-consuming and frequently expensive) simply do not offer the singular sort of benefit suggested above.  These sorts of pets end up being individualistically oriented and a bit more like science projects than enriching relations.

I tend to jump near obsessively into projects, but time has to be spent carefully in the Domestic Kingdom.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

HHS Mandate, The Fourth of July - A Time of Opportunity

I cannot tell you how excited I am about the position that Catholics are being put in today... most clearly by the HHS Mandate, but also by a near endless myriad of other issues that grow more fanged and poisonous with each passing month.

The time has finally come when Catholics may begin to realize that their increasing difficulties in today's culture are not, nor have they been, in a set of issues.  Our difficulty is on the level of ideology, of philosophical foundation.  We have been blissfully unconscious of this inconvenient fact.  But now it is foisted upon us.  Increasingly, as our culture, systems and government become more and more centralized (something which is certainly not antithetical to Catholicism in and of itself), we are forced to recognize that Catholic culture is in essential discord with this current central American identity and character.  We find ourselves being placed in a constructed, ironclad system to which we can only be acid.

Burning of St. Augustine's Church in the 1844 Philadelphia Bible Riots
Certainly the Founding Fathers would not see this as a strange turn of events.  As Samuel Adams said in 1768 "I did verily believe, as I do still, that much more is to be dreaded from the growth of popery in America, than from the Stamp Act, or any other acts destructive of civil rights."  Certainly Adams was not unique in holding this attitude and this is no doubt why Catholics were banned from voting in many of the colonies.  These were honest days.

But truly, has anything changed beyond the veil?

As John Locke teaches, and as the System we find ourselves in will no doubt begin more and more to assert, Catholics can never be trusted politically by a centralized secular nation.  Why?  Because we have outside (centralized) loyalties.

1.)  We are loyal to the Pope

2.)  We are loyal to Reality (which we posit we can know- a claim in and of itself revolutionary in today's society).

The government, the founding fathers, radical liberals are not wrong to see us as potentially dangerous.  They are quite correct.  Catholicism cannot, by essence of its nature, subscribe to Social Contract theories because, ironically, these inevitably lead to the de-sacralization of the human person, not to mention human culture.

So on this Fourth of July, 2012, I only want to say thank-you.  I would like to thank Almighty Providence for allowing centuries of persecution to begin to show themselves for what they are.  I would like to thank the government for being bold enough to persecute Catholics more honestly.

On this Fourth of July, 2012, I can only kneel down and be thankful for Catholicism.  Vivat Papa!

Long Live the Pope - A Traditional Hymn
Long live the Pope his praises sound again and yet again
His rule is over space and time his throne the hearts of men
All hail the Shepherd King of Rome the theme of loving song
Let all the earth his glory sing and heav'n the strain prolong.
Let all the earth his glory sing and heav'n the strain prolong.

Beleaguered by the foes of earth beset by hosts of hell.
He guards the loyal flock of Christ a watchful sentinel
And yet amid the din and strife the clash of mace and sword
He bears alone the shepherd staff this champion of the Lord.
He bears alone the shepherd staff this champion of the Lord.