We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Bishop Lopes: A Pledged Troth. A pastoral letter on Amoris Laetitia.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cain and Abel; Martha and Mary.

Two Brothers

Cain's envy of his brother's sacrifice allowed murder to enter the world.
The Book of Genesis 4:2-12
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 
Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
Cain, the first-born of Adam and Eve. His name is derived, according to Genesis 4:1, from the root kanah, to possess, being given to him in consequence of the words of his mother at his birth: "I have possessed a man by the favour of the Lord".

Abel, from the Hebrew name הֶבֶל (Hevel) or הָבֶל (Havel) which meant "breath". In the Old Testament he is the second son of Adam and Eve, murdered out of envy by his brother Cain.

Two Sisters. The sisters of Lazarus.
The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 10:38-42
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary (of Bethany), who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
What do these two stories have in common? Rivalry. The outcome of the second story does not involve homicide, though Martha's complaint smacks of envy, a spiritually dangerous or even murderous intention.
rival (n.)
1570s, from Latin rivalis "a rival, adversary in love; neighbor," originally, "of the same brook," from rivus "brook". "One who is in pursuit of the same object as another." The sense evolution seems to be based on the competitiveness of neighbors: "one who uses the same stream," or "one on the opposite side of the stream". A secondary sense in Latin and sometimes in English was "associate, companion in duty," from the notion of "one having a common right or privilege with another."
The rivalry between two brothers resulted in murder entering into the world. By contrast, Martha's conflict with Mary provided the Lord the opportunity to reveal God's yearning for relationship with His children. That is, the Lord delights in our attention, our adoration of Him:
The Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio—mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence, ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.—Pope Benedict, Apostolic Journey to Cologne on the occasion of the XX World Youth Day. Homily, Marienfeld. Sunday, 21 August 2005.
When we adore God, we are united with Him through grace. God gives us the grace to be united with Him. If our soul is stained with mortal sin, the kiss we offer God is the kiss of Judas.

Envy is not jealousy. Envy does not merely covet what another person has. The envious person wants to deprive another of what he or she possesses. Abel enjoyed God's favour. Instead of being enraged and murdering his brother, Cain could have learned from his brother the meaning of true sacrifice and thus replicated a worthy sacrifice. However, Cain was consumed with envy. He, kanah, wanted to possess Abel's reward. So, he robbed his brother of his very life. Cain took away Abel's breath (havel/haval) thus preventing Abel from ever offering another fitting sacrifice.

Martha was bitter over what she thought was Mary's apparent lollygagging.
The name Martha comes from the verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter in Hebrew.
Mary. Maria, the Latin form of the New Testament Greek names Μαριαμ (Mariam) and Μαρια (Maria) - the spellings are interchangeable - which were from Hebrew מִרְיָם (Miryam). The meaning is not known for certain, however it was most likely originally an Egyptian name (cf. Moses' sister's name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love".
Martha's bitterness would be somewhat understandable if she was the dutiful sister to Mary Magdalene (Mary of Bethany), the former prostitute (cf. St. John 12:1-8). Martha's reaction is not unlike the reaction of the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son who was severely put out by the reception his younger brother received after squandering his inheritance.

Mary enjoyed Jesus' favour. Her rapt attention may likely be due to her gratitude for the mercy Jesus showed her. She, whose name probably means beloved and/or love, expressed her love for Jesus in silent attentiveness, of receptivity to His word enjoyed in a communion of hearts. Mary's gratitude, fuelled by the grace of God, gave her the focus to receive the words of the Word, Jesus.

Martha did not know that what she really wanted was the one thing she was distracting herself from, i.e., the Lord's life giving word. Martha was so busy doing that she was distracted from being present to the Lord. How similar are most Sunday Masses to Martha's preoccupation with doing? The participatio actuosa of the Mass, the actualized participation desired by the Council, is one of being, of receptivity, not busy-ness. Mary is the model of liturgical decorum, of the heart rightly prioritized in worship of the Lord.

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