19 April 2014

Holy Saturday

From Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings for Holy Saturday morning - from an unknown Fourth Century writer:
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

13 April 2014


I was quite disappointed when 2000 rolled around.  They called it the new millennium.  It wasn't, of course; the new millennium began on 1 January 2001.  I didn't waste time arguing, however.  Only the first day I went back to work - Wednesday 5 January, 2000 - I took the same old diesel 'bus; wore the same baggy clothing; worked in the same buildings of concrete and steel.  For those not born in 1942, my disappointment may be surprising.  They had not seen futuristic drawings of 2000, with people in skin-tight clothes, commuting by personal helicopter, working in sweeping-line skyscrapers.

Oh, OK, I wasn't really disappointed.  But it is true that for one born in the first half of the twentieth century, there was a magic about the idea of "the year 2000."

2000 did bring a big change to us, however.  Adele turned 18.  At 18 she could go job hunting with the dole (what Americans call unemployment insurance) as a backstop.

Close friends of ours, to whose children our children had been close, had moved to Wellington years before. Adele asked them if she could stay with them whilst she hunted for a job.  Great!  they said.  So she did.  It did not, in fact, take her long to find work as a barista - hard job, on your feet all day, punishing to the wrist and elbow joints - but a job.

It was, in a way, a major event in my and Susan's lives.  We had been married two years when Johnny was conceived.  From that point to September, 2000, our world had revolved around our children.  Now they were not with us any longer.

Not physically, at least.  I think your parenting never ends.  A few years later Adele was to return to live with us for a while.  But in a deeper way, we have, I know, continued to be of great importance in our children's lives - and I do not merely mean emotionally.  This will, I believe, continue all our lives - and, I am convinced, after our lives on earth have ended, when, please God! we will be in a position to intercede for them.

Nevertheless, things were very different now.  And there was a danger we faced, a danger that every couple faces when the last child leaves home.  I have seen it more than once.  The couple's complete focus and concentration has been on their children.  Now they are gone.  What do they do as a couple?.

Sometimes they drift apart.  I don't know that I ever consciously thought of this.  Nevertheless, I did something that was as though I had thought about it.

I go on retreat each year.  You are encouraged, on retreat, to make resolutions.  These may be like "New Year's Resolutions."  They may be fairly vague and general, and, if so, are likely to mean not very much in the way of action.  We are encouraged to make concrete resolutions.

On retreat in 2001, I prayed about this whole business of my relation to Susan.  I came home from retreat and told her that I wanted us to determine genuinely to seek to orient our lives to one another.  In particular, whenever one of us had an activity to do that was away from home, the other, if possible, would accompany him or her.  Susan, at that time, was involved in the Creative Memories scrapbooking activity, which took her into Auckland one evening a month.  All right, I would meet her there after work, and go home with her. I, on the other hand, had my orchestra activities.  Susan would attend all the concerts, some of the rehearsals.

And so forth.  We have done this since then.  I think it has been of great importance to us.

In 2002, however, we did something that was, on the surface, at least, not at all in harmony with this resolution.  We took separate vacations, and to virtually opposite sides of the world.

05 April 2014


Well, Supernumerary :-)

Susan came home from her Opus Dei retreat in August, 1999.  I seem to recall her being a little hesitant in telling me what was on her mind.  But she did.  She wanted to become a member of Opus Dei.

I should clarify here that there are (for lay persons) three types of Opus Dei membership:

Cooperators are not, strictly speaking, members of Opus Dei.  They are involved in some regular way with Opus Dei.  They need not be Catholics, or even Christians.  Typical cooperators go to Opus Dei retreats, pray for "The Work," perhaps contribute financially.  Susan and I were Cooperators.

Numeraries (and Numerary Assistants and Associates) are celibate.  Clearly this was not what Susan meant.

Supernumeraries - so-called, not because they are somehow superior, but because they are in addition to the numeraries - may be - often are - married.  They live the same sort of life as any other Catholic lay person - except that they have norms they are expected to follow, including certain patterns of daily prayer, attendance weekly at Opus Dei meetings, attendance at an annual week of theological education - and they have two bishops.

Most Catholics are under the authority of the bishop of their diocese.  His is the government of the diocese, and he is the primary pastor, in Christ, of Catholics in that diocese - lay persons, clergy, religious (i.e. nuns, monks, sisters and brothers in religious orders).

Opus Dei is run as a 'personal prelature.'  It is, so far, the only body in the Church that is so organised.

'Prelate' is just another name, in this context, for the bishop.  Opus Dei has its own bishop - currently Javier Echevarria.  The 'prelature' of the bishop of Auckland - Patrick Dunn - is the diocese of Auckland - extending from a little south of Pukekohe to North Cape.  His prelature is a certain area.

The prelature of Bishop Javier is the persons of Opus Dei.  That is why it is called a 'personal prelature.'

Susan wished to become a supernumerary of Opus Dei.  Her bishop would be Bishop Javier, except for matters directly relating to the diocese, in which case Bishop Pat would be her bishop.

It was not a difficult decision for us to make.  It was, I must say, a little scary.  It would (has :-)) involve extra expenditure of time and money.  Our lives would have to become, to an extent, organised more around Opus Dei.

I was delighted.  I knew it would be good for both of us.

I knew it would be good for me - for my relationship with Susan has, through our marriage, not always been characterised by the freedom that should have been its nature.  There have been times when I have felt that Susan did something because she thought she must simply follow me.

Which meant not only that she was not free; neither was I.  Both of us have, I think, been freed, not from one another, but for one another in this.

I am still only a Cooperator.  There are several reasons for this, but I have not felt any strong pressure to seek full membership.  We have both been deeply blessed and helped by our respective memberships.

Susan joined Opus Dei in, I think, October of 1999.  September of 2000 saw the flight of the last of our children from the nest.