Sunday, December 31, 2006

Today, on this last day of 2006 A.D., I would like to pause and reflect upon those lessons which I have learned, hoping beyond hope that my follies and foibles, as well as my successes and jubilations, will serve the common good of my three to four readers as we move forward into a new year.

I suppose I should begin by saying that each year I learn a little more about why everyone celebrates the beginning of each New Year. I have always had an a priori distaste for the celebrations which appeared to me as wholly bacchanalian revelry in which people desired to lose themselves in the end of a year in order to embrace the "new opportunities" of the upcoming year. While this dismal caricature of New Year's celebrations doubtlessly exists, I have, only with the slowest of wits, come to appreciate those celebrations which surround the unfurling of the new year. Because of my often self-deprecating nature, I have often avoided the social situations which are concomitant with New Year's Eve. Of course, I have found myself all the more miserable for being like this and therefore use that misery as the lens through which I try to understand my own misunderstandings and misguided steps. (It is often through misery that we come upon the boundaries of our being, forcing us to reevaluate our positions in light of our destroyed self-perceptions.) The joy that was missing in the past has been experienced fully these past three years as I have spent my time with friends, celebrating what has been and what will be. The very presence of our beloved friends and family serves as a guiding sail by which we steer our courses through the turbulent waters of the future. The celebration of New Year's Eve thus becomes a microcosm of what I call "conservative-progressivism" in the spirit of the beloved G.K. Chesterton of what the somewhat more pugnacious Bill O'Reilly would call "liberal-traditionalism." We look backward to the previous experiences that we have had among our beloved, strengthening those bonds of love which have united us in the past year and provide the source material for the activity of the coming new year, the base for all activity henceforth.

Now, since many people my age like to indeed make New Year's Eve into nothing more than a drinking party, I will at least express my resolute rejection of any celebration of this holiday which seeks to lose oneself in order to leave behind the old and usher in the new. I have more respect for Qoheleth as he says, "There is nothing new under the sun" than I have for the modern man who says "There is nothing under the sun which I desire to remember." Such is an act of un-violent suicide that does no justice to our hopes for a new year but instead promotes a culture in which life is abhorred and nihilism runs rampant, leaving humanity as nothing more than an amalgamation of walking corpses, shambling through the pathways of each day trying to scrape a living off the rocks of broken dreams and forgotten pasts. Where we lose the microcosmic nature of New Year's Eve, we lose our humanity, for we deny ourselves the sight of true progress, which embraces the past, particularly in the love which we have for one another, for it is only by that love that we shall progress through the ages and only through, with, and in Love that we will become a truly united humanity.

Now that I have been a wind-bag, let me go off on my original topic: Those lessons which I have learned this year, 2006 A.D, in descending order of importance and not in chronological order.

First and foremost, I am slowly learning that long-learned, often-ignored lesson about the relationship between busyness and holiness, namely that everyone else is right when they assure me that busyness and holiness are not directly proportional but are often indirectly proportional. I am the type of person who likes to keep busy beyond measure because the silence often unnerves me, leaving me in a zone of discomfort which seems to be wholly undesirable instead of thoroughly purgative and uplifting (which it truly is). I am learning how to be busy and be human, how to strive for true activity which does not avoid the glorious humanity which I have but instead brings me more into contact with myself so that I may truly devote myself to God and others and not devote a shell of a who I am. I have learned that keeping busy for its own sake is a road which leads straight to the cold, lonely recesses of Hell, a road which cuts one off from others, dehumanizing them by abrogating the dialogical bonds which make us most human. To a great degree, I learned this by the difficult road, that same well-worn way by which I learn almost all the important lessons of life. I look back to my senior year of college and see many good memories but also see many chances that were abandoned because I didn’t myself slow down, didn’t allow Matthew Kenneth Minerd to step forth onto the stage with his heart wide open, ready to accept the world and be embraced or rejected by it. Instead, I became my own island of busyness and lost the chance to truly enjoy my last year of school while also maintaining a responsible schedule, something which I have only done once in my life during a blissful two years known as my Sophomore and Junior years of college. Alas, the lesson to take from this is that I must not allow being busy to be my aim in and of itself but always focus myself on the more arduous and fulfilling task of loving God and the world to the fullest, even though such love opens my heart up to the most supreme of pains as well as the most sublime of joys.

The other major lesson that I learned this year was that the world may not end at the hands of an Axis of Evil in the coming months. For a while, I was quite afraid of this occurrence and truly did not think I would live to see the beginning of 2008, or if I did live to see it that I would not know that it was happening because of supreme isolation and communication fall out in the wake of a massive nuclear war. Instead of worrying each day about the fall of the West from the outside, I have instead decided to concern myself with the ways that I, Matthew Kenneth Minerd can defend the West from the inside against those who despise our own glorious heritage that has brought forth this splendid nation and into which the savior of the world was born. However, I have also learned that this must be a task of humility and that I must always remain a tool in the hands of the Truth which guides the paths of all humanity through this life. Instead of trying to come up with my own ideas of how I can chivalrously save Western civilization, I must always remain a Collaborator in the Truth and an Apostle of Love, never separating these two roles but seeing them as a dynamic duo by means of which disparate human activities are united by the power of Love in the face of Truth, a unity which requires the work of many, the dialogical interchange of ideas and, more importantly, being.

The final, least important, lesson of this past year was the fact that my vote doesn’t count, not because of its numerical insignificance as much as the fact that the American electorate only has the babbling of partisan politicians to guide them through the storm of elections. This was the first time I have ever voted for a candidate instead of against another, and I was sadly disappointed in the fact that so many people bought into the diversionary tactics used by Mr. Robert Casey. Now, let me first of all say that I don’t doubt that Mr. Casey is a good man, at least as good as a politician can be given the fact that the government will only suck your soul out unless you have an iron-clad lock box around it. I don’t doubt that he truly has a vision to help America and do not at all desire (nor intend) to lob partisan labels at the man. However, I was thoroughly disappointed not at his attack ads (which are so common place that we must be disappointed in all politicians for them) but instead at his ads which spoke in a positive sense about his platform on the issues. It was nothing more than wispy desires for better lives for seniors and children, more successful education for children, and other such things that are embraced by all human beings, even our long-ago progenitors with clubs and a burning amazement for fire (no pun intended!). What truly disappointed me about this one ad received in the mail was greater than any other attack ad seen this year, for it was an insult to Mr. Santorum on a deep level, inferring that he was against such fundamentally human and Christian platforms. I was dismayed that so many people would vote for someone who played such a partisan card that tried to make a direct correlation between being a Republican and being a monster who wants the death of old people and schools to be built out of mud taken from the gravesites of the aforementioned dead old people. Now I don’t think that the Casey campaign fully meant to vilify Mr. Santorum to that degree but do indeed believe with a firm conviction that he was playing into the partisan standard that makes the Democratic Party “for the little man” and the Republican Party “for big business,” a standard that is useless if people would only think, for the entire government is partially in the pocket of big business, Democrat and Republican alike. I am a registered Democrat who is an independent thinker, Catholic first, Minerd/Szepesi second, and then an American, relegating any party affiliation merely to a functional level of primary/local elections giving not a single damn about the D or the R so much as T and L, Truth and Love. So what is the point of this last rant for 2006? Namely, it is that I do not know what it was that people found in Bob Casey that was so delightful that it merited the overturning of a tried-and-tested senator, a senator who has indeed made mistakes but who is also willing to speak with conviction and not with smoke an mirrors. He at least had a listing of fifty “controversial” viewpoints instead of a small list of feel-good platitudes. Do I think that people were stupid for doing this? Of course not, for they may have had more information that I did on Mr. Casey. However, I know from personal experience (and am disappointed) that many people voted against Mr. Santorum because he is Republican and that they thought he was nothing more than a war-mongering, grandma-hating person who likes to catch fish in bottle tops and wear them as jewelry while shoving cigarettes into their mouths in order to increase second hand smoke in schools when he visits them to burn them down with the same smoke-producing cigarettes. Well… that may be a bit over the top, but nonetheless, I would like to see partisanship end on both ends. I have just used this as an example because Mr. Santorum has a clear vision on many things and remains open to the other side more than people give him credit for, particularly insofar as he publicly stated that he thinks that the Republican party is weak on social programs to lift the poor up. Even though his policies on this might be a bit different than some on the other side would want, he is indeed united with them in the ideology itself, something very important and often-unheard of today.

Well, my friend, thank you for making it thus far through another raving of this coding Catholic. I hope to have an expanded reader base in 2007, although nothing so surprising is certain. The one hopeful fact is that my readership base is so small that it wouldn’t take much to increase it. ;-) In all seriousness, though, thanks for sticking to this blog even when it was not updated with much frequency. This coming year I hope to give some mind to more frequent updates, even if they are but small insights into other works of mine while I am swamped with busyness.

By God bless you and all your beloved as we begin 2007 A.D., and may the Love and Joy of our Father be yours forever.

- Matthew Kenneth Minerd, The Coding Catholic

Thursday, December 28, 2006

From the annals, I have pulled another old poem, nearly as old as the last posting to this wonderful blog. This one is a bit dearer to my heart, for it's meter feels a bit tighter and is also on a theme more theological. For better or for worse, you may read on. Enjoy... I hope!

Hope For Awe

Above the earth, beneath the sky,
man walked without a care.
There was no thought that he would vie
with hunger or despair.

The moon, the sun, the shining light
of heaven's night and morn,
impressed on him an image bright
of hope and joy new born.

All things were new unto his eyes
and thus filled to the brim,
he let his intellect arise
to name the world for Him.

It was his place, divinely said,
to use his mind as such.
Yet in this gift his mind was led
to higher thoughts untouched.

Thinking this gift was made for lust,
for arrogance unfurled,
man thought that he was more than just
a steward of the world.

And thus was served the great death-pill
to man through such hubris.
He soon began to think his will
to hold God's divineness.

Alas, O man, your prideful will
has enslaved all mankind
to sin, to sweat, to have our fill
of death's icy cold bind.

And yet this fault does little stop
the Great Creator's plan.
Such acts cannot traverse the top
of His good will to man.

Out of this darkness from the sin
of fallen man did come
a better Word, both God and kin
conquering sin's death-numb.

By words and deeds did Death enter
through man's own prideful lot,
yet in reply to death's letter
a Word salvation brought.

O man, rejoice for in this Word,
mankind, free from death's claw,
sees all the sights, hears all you heard,
and once again has awe.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Briefly stated, I found this poem among the annals upon a thumb-drive of mine. It is by far not a work that I am overly proud of but is alright. I believe that it is the first poem that I wrote in college after not writing for years.

Enjoy or not at your discretion! I will post another relatively soon. It is another old one that is a bit more religious in tone.

A Scholar’s Change
Erudite, the young man sat alone by the dim fire.
He pensively considered how he came unto this mire.

Philosophy, mathematics too, and also chemistry,
these things and more he sought under his lonely thinking tree.

All of his days he spent as such, from youthful confidence
and now he saw that all he knew was not worth a coin-pence.

His life had been a story of such arrogance and pride,
he thought he'd stand upon his own and in no one confide.

His students thought he was gleeful, with energy in class,
but to those whom he was closest, a smile would seldom pass.

And so was he, in doubt of mind when unto him did come
what seemed to be the very form of beauty in its sum.

Out in the field, he saw such grace and allure that he rose
to watch her sing and dance without a hint of worldly woes.

He went outside and spoke with her, the maiden pure and fair,
for curious he was to know why she was singing there.

And so she looked into his eyes and told him simply this:
"Some people live only to spread both bliss and sweet goodness."

Yet when she peered into those deep and utmost lonely eyes,
his heart was locked in wonderment and from the depths did rise.

He saw his life, his work complete, his praises sung by all,
yet at his grave stood only those who shouldered his small pall.

Yet while he gazed at her deeply, he saw another sight
that gave him hope that there may be a brighter source of light.

He saw that he could live beyond his book-filled fantasies,
that life could mean more than musing on grave realities.

And she, in looking, saw the face of someone trying much
to be patient and kind although it was so out of touch.

For long they walked that summer day and deep into the wood
they ambled speaking and singing of all things fair and good.

And so it happened that this man who thought he was alone
came home each day to hear her sing and talk of all they'd done.

At length they wed and many saw the vows be taken then,
and joy there was in all the guests who came to visit them.

The scholar's work was lessened some and yet he saw much more
that all work done must strive to help mankind with spirits poor.

While there were troubles, there was joy and life sprung forth with glee,
and all gathered around them oft their happiness to see.

And so the two together trod down life's long troubled path,
helping the stumbling of the other, calming thoughtless wrath.

And in the end, when their souls went to God the creator,
these two lovers were remembered for more than knowing lore.

Indeed a man, with book in hand, may find a maiden fair
and have more joy with love in life than in his book-filled lair.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Well, we are nearly upon the eve of Christmas 2006, so I shall return to the blogosphere to give a small reflection for my non-existent readership. (Oh yes, I am aware that this is my fault. I need to establish an aggressive blog promotion plan and update policy for 2007. I suppose there are consultants out there for that somewhere...) Anyway, I think it would be very appropriate to reflect today on the meaning of Christmas and what it means to appropriate the "spirit of Christmas" throughout all of the year, as Chuck Dickens suggests in his classic A Christmas Carol.
We begin with a question of prime importance: "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" I believe that this question has only two possible answers. You will have to excuse what you may perceive to be irreverence. I do not believe my thoughts on this to be such but instead to be brutally truthful. Without any additional circumlocution, the following are the two possible answers to the question, "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?":
1) A radical Jew who, in addition to being a "nice guy" was a complete lunatic who thought he was God. He preached a good message, but things have been a bit weird for 2000 years because he had this latent schizophrenia.
2) Emmanuel, God-With-Us, the Incarnate Word which undergirds all creation, is its source, and final destination, its Omega Point. He is the Kingdom of God among us.

Christianity chooses the latter and builds itself upon Faith in this choice. Now, we must seriously ask ourselves, in both cases, is there reason to celebrate Christmas, or is such celebration only relegated to the latter case?

I believe that it is possible in both cases to celebrate the birth, but do not think that it would be celebrated if the consensus were for the former case. If you consider all the great moral teachers, national figures, and social liberators in history, none has garnered such support for birthday celebration as Jesus the Christ. I therefore posit with 100% confidence that it is only in light of those who hold on to the latter belief that anyone else can celebrate Christ under presupposition number one. The continued belief is only possible when Christ’s divinity is believed to be reality. Otherwise, humanity will wax and wane, kind of like it does with President's Day, or the ever-so-popular Flag Day. In both those cases, the holiday is barely celebrated because there is a degree of "eh, so what" that goes through everyone's mind. Indeed, poor Lincoln or The Stars and Strips cannot make people accept gifts like Santa sweaters and fruitcakes year after year with a smile (albeit a sometimes forced smile). It takes a holiday that has something to do with Truth, Love, Beauty, and Goodness to make us endure things year after year of our own volition. (Aside: We are forgetting that the 4th of July is about the Truth and are therefore destroying that noble American holiday. Alas and Alack, this is not the place for such reflections. Let us continue without further adieu!)

Now, with this in mind, we realize that the ontological status of Jesus is the primary motivating fact for the continued celebration of His birth. Why is it important that God became man, and therefore, why is His birth upon earth to be celebrated? The answer: The Cross and the Resurrection. Alright, let's step through this one, though, before we start sounding like atonement-only theologians and take all the beauty out of the Cross. (I have a deep-set dislike for those who would portray the cross as the action of a pissed off God who wanted to have someone to "smash" for the sins of the world.)

What is the Cross but self-sacrifice to God for the sake of humanity? Christ goes readily to the Cross, embracing it as his action. He flinches, indeed asks for it to be taken away from him. However, in the end, this fear of the suffering to come is that which truly allows humanity to be submitted to God fully, through all reservations and fears. It is Christ who says, "remove this chalice from me; but not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14.36). To walk the fearful way of the Cross without losing faith is to unite oneself to God, to trust, and hence -- in union -- to Love, for Love is unity, it is (in the words of Aristotle) "a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Therefore, the Cross is nothing more than the story of Jesus' love for the Father, a love which raises humanity up, recapitulates Creation by means of humanity. The source of Love, God, comes to Creation to lift the vehicle of Love, humanity, to it's true end, union -- not only by means of love but with Love itself. The vehicle is given the gift of becoming that which it carries.

It is this union which allows for the Resurrection. The Cross is meaningless without the Resurrection, for the Resurrection is the affirmation of the power of Love. "He is risen" (cf. Mark 16.6) and "The Father has raised Him" (Cf. Galations 1.1). The two phrases refer to the same ontological and relational truth, namely that it is by means of the reciprocally shared love between the Father and the Son that the Resurrection is possible. Christ's love for the Father allows him to rise and it is the eternal Father's love which sustains and “holds” the Son through even death. Therefore, the Resurrection is nothing more than the historical event which proves that Love is stronger than death, that love overcomes all, even the physical cessation of life. The Cross and the Resurrection are inseparable events, dependent upon and drawing their strength from the power of Love.
Now, have we just hopped aboard Matt's ADD expressway or are we coming to the crux of the matter (no pun intended!)? Let us draw the story together. The very life of Christ is animated by His Cross and Resurrection, for that is self-giving love which ultimately unites humanity to God. Through our loving union with Him, we can become brothers of the Son. (Ultimately, this is why the Eucharist, as understood in Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox/Lutheran circles is of absolute importance, for it is true ontological union. Indeed, the only proof that is needed for the Eucharist is the answer to this question: If God is Love, would he not allow for direct union with that Incarnate Love that sustains humanity even through death? Nonetheless, this is a different subject for another day. We will perhaps treat it in another entry!)
Alright, so the life of Christ draws its commission and driving force from the power of His Love which is fully actualized on the Cross and proven by the Resurrection. Well, that's great and is something that should rightfully be celebrated. However, why is it the birth that must be celebrated and not just the Cross/Resurrection? Well, for this, we must back up 9 months before Christmas to the Annunciation and conception of Christ. We could bicker about the historical significance of the virginal-birth narratives. However, no matter what your tenor, if you believe proposition number two above, then you must believe the following without reserve. The act of God's incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth is not the product of human choice but is instead fully the act of God. Jesus is indeed the only human being to choose His own birth at the "fullness of time" (Cf. Galatians 4.4-7) and does so in order to bring the fullness of Love to humanity.

Therefore, today we celebrate Love which chooses its own genesis, knowing the pain and suffering concomitant with its birth and life. On this Christmas we celebrate the warmness of God's embrace as He chose to walk among us and die to Himself so that our humanity may be divinized. That is the warm-and-fuzzy message of Christmas. However, that is not the commission given to believers on Christmas, for the embrace of God is something not taken easily without Love which requires death to self.

While it may at first seem somewhat depressing, we must see the commission of Christmas not in the manger but in the confluent event of Manger-Cross-Resurrection, the entire life of Jesus. The Nativity teaches us that it is right and proper to be apostles of Love, and that means that each day must be seen as a choice for the genesis of love. Each day is a nativity in so far as we choose to appropriate for our own lives the spirit of the Cross, of chosen self-death to others and, ultimately to the Father through Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Love. Therefore, Christmas is the open invocation to make Love our own, but Love is not an easy affair. It is humble enough to lay in a manger, selfless enough to have no place of rest, zealous enough to wander upon the roads of ancient Palestine, so untiring that it ceaselessly heals the sick and feeds the poor, and submissive to the point of Crucifixion. Love demands all; it requires that no barrier be left, no stone unconverted in our hearts, no possible wound be prevented on account of fear.
Now, this is somewhat of a somber look at the Love which Christmas requires of each of us. My goodness, it is quite daunting to think of this warm holiday which is so cheerful while looking toward the Crucifixion. Indeed, one may want me to stop and leave that for Good Friday, for that seems to be the proper place for thoughts about the Crucifixion. However, such Love as Christmas requires can only end with resurrection and ultimately the Resurrection. Every cross has its resurrection, every pain is answered by the realization that we are held in Love more tightly, that we no longer are our own but are instead united in the very motion of all Creation: singularly united Being which finds its point of coalescence in our Alpha and Omega, Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate, the humble Babe of Bethlehem.

My friend, I thank you for your time and for all you do for the world. May the graces of the Christmas Season set your heart on fire with Love for God, humanity, and all of Creation. God chose to become man so that humanity could be raised to the Godhead through the Love of the Cross. May that Love be yours now and forever, and may we venture together into 2007, united in Love.

God bless you and all of yours. Enjoy your Christmas!
- Matthew Kenneth Minerd
December 24, 2006