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Posts Tagged ‘Flannery O’Connor’

The Epistle reading for the upcoming Sunday (Epiphany 2, 1/18/15, Year B) is 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 in which the Apostle Paul addressed the Church in Corinth regarding their sexual immorality by pointing out that their bodies are a Temple of the Holy Ghost.

Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” which I think is a great illustration of the Epistle reading.   The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up  two younger female cousins from their convent school, Mount St. Scholastica.. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly.  On the car ride, in the back seat, the two cousins  keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”.  When the daughter and her cousins are conversing about someone else, the Mother has finally had enough with this silliness coming from the back seat:         

                 “…she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this. What was really funny was the idea of Mr. Cheatam or Alonzo Myers beauing them around. That killed her.

            Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”

           The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua.  Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”

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In this antiphon the Church remembers Sinai.  The Lord is the Lawgiver.  Adonai is another name for the LORD.  Adonai is used about 340 times in the Old Testament and is usually translated as Lord.  Adonai was used in Israel as a substitute for the divine Name, Yahweh, the Tetragrammaton.  Adonai evokes the majesty of the one true God who gave His Law on Sinai and before that appeared in the burning bush to Moses.  When Adonai appeared to Moses it was with the promise of the divine Name:  I AM.  The great I AM would save His people Israel from slavery in Egypt.  He gave the Law to save us from ourselves, for without law we resort to brutality in word and deed.  The Old Adam needs God’s Law.

Flannery O’Connor was a novelist and short story writer and for what it’s worth, one of my favorite writers.  She lived a short life, because of lupus, and she was a devout Roman Catholic living in Milledgeville, Georgia, in the “Christ obsessed south”, as she put it.  After she published a novel, Wise Blood, it was reviewed in Time and  she wrote to a friend about the attention it was receiving: 

Although I am a Catholic writer, I don’t care to get labeled as such in the popular sense of it, as it is then assumed that you have some religious ax to grind.  However, since the review in Time, my mail has been full of attempts to save me from the Church…

This letter is dated 23 April 1960.  Not much has changed of the secularist society trying to save us from the Church or Christians from Christianity, or believers from the Bible, or the faithful from the Lord.  Curious isn’t it?  By so saving us,  then we won’t be narrow minded and mean spirited.  Granted that there are such in the Church, yet it was by God’s grace, that ‘narrow-minded and  mean spirited’ Christians developed schools and universities, hospitals and orphanages, cared for the dying, fed the hungry, did not abort their young, nor sought personal revenge.  They did so not to be saved but  because they were saved from their own idols.  Why did Christians so serve?  God’s Law showed them by His Law the way to go, and when in sin, the Way out:  He sent His Son to bear our sin and be our Savior.    

In a secularist post World War I Germany, which earlier in the century had developed a Biblical scholarship denying the Bible as God’s Word, it was ripe in it’s secularist liberalism for open mindedness.  It has to be remembered that the Nazis were both anti-Jewish and anti-Christian. The path to tyranny is a Church-less, Word-less, God-less, Law-less, Christ-less world. It’s in the novel Wise Blood that Hazel Motes becomes a street preacher proclaiming “the Church without Christ”.   Sadly timely. The soul is made to adore and without the Lord, will adore the idols of this world and the Leader can step into the temple of our souls and the soul becomes the haunt of the new Baals.  It is into the idolatrous world that the Lord came, born of the Virgin Mary, to save us from those trying to save us from the Lord…and for our would be ‘saviors’  as well.  And this is the reason the Church is called to pray and sing till the end of all days:

Oh, come, oh, come, our Lord of might,
Who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times gave holy law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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Introduction:  Our Bible class at the Mission is  studying in these Sundays after the Epiphany the Epistle Readings, which are all from  1 Corinthians.  The reading for this Sunday (2/23/14) is 1 Corinthians 3:10-23 in which the Apostle flat out wrote to them, You are a temple of the Holy Spirit which he identifies as their  bodies in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” which I think is  great illustration of the Scripture verses cited above.   The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up two two younger female cousins from the convent school, Mount St. Scholastica where the cousins are students. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly, all the while they keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”.  When the daughter and her cousins are now laughing at someone else, finally the Mother has enough with this silliness:         

                 “Her mother thought this was funny too but she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this. What was really funny was the idea of Mr. Cheatam or Alonzo Myers beauing them around. That killed her.

            Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”

           The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua.  Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”

 1)      In the New Testament, “present” is called by another name:  what is that name?

2)      Is the Apostle saying that being “temple of the Holy Ghost” is a gift?  If so, how?  Why?

3)    Anthropology is the study of man, human beings.  What is the Lord’s anthropology in 1 Corinthians and as dramatized in O’Connor’s short story above? What is our own view of man  and how does it compare with the Lord’s?

 Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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e5010-hammerofgod

The novel, The Hammer of God is about three distinct time periods in the life of a congregation in a small rural town in Sweden,  In the scene quoted below, Pr. Gosta Torvik, has been quite zealous for God’s Word…that is His Word of Law with a heavy dose of obedience and spiritual experience.  Torvik’s congregation can no longer have a rector, a chief pastor, so a neighboring one is chosen,  Pr. Olle Bengsten to come for as a visiting rector.  Pr. Bengsten, a confessional Lutheran, has noted that Pr. Torvik has become quite legalistic.in his espousal of  revivalism   He encourages Pr. Torvik to…

“Read the Bible, of course. “

“I read the Bible every day.”

“I believe that. But how do you read?”

“You mustn’t be so critical, Olle, of everything a poor fellow does. I try to read devotionally and for edification, so that I take to heart that which I feel is meant for me.”

“Feel, feel! That is just what is wrong. Don’t you believe the Bible is God’s Word just as truly, no matter how you may feel? Don’t you see, Brother, that this won’t do?…Because you make your feelings your barometer, you pass by the gospel and are held fast in the law. Look in your Bible and see if the passages you have especially marked are not just those that speak of what you shall do. But you have not given half the attention to that which tells what Christ has done through his atonement.”

With Pastor Torvik, reading the Bible according my feelings  that this or that verse is “meant for me”, it would leave out a whole lot of the Bible that is disagreeable to me, especially those parts in which salvation is sheer gift and so I am not in control.  The result of choosing how I feel about Scripture results in I am judge and jury over God’s Word for “us and our salvation”!  Pr. Bengsten correctly diagnoses “feelings as barometer” as being “held fast by the law”, that is the Law of God to save oneself and one’s congregation.  Feelings will result in one of two feelings:  spiritual pride, or Pharisaism, that we are obedient and holy by our works and so better than a ‘sinner’ (see  Luke 18:  9-14) or spiritual despair.  Feelings centers us on ourselves, not the Lord Who by His atonement made us His own when we were on our own.  

We live in an age of “feelings”.  As an experiment with yourself and others, count how many times  in a discussion, sentences begin with, “I feel…”.  Just count how many people speak about the emotional “uplift” their congregation gives them:  this is the stuff of “mega-congregations”. If faith is based upon my feelings then I am in for wild ride of “spiritual experiences” and I like it!  In the movie Wise Blood, based upon Flannery O’Connor’s novel of the same name, a character states, “I have a religion of my heart where Jesus is king”, as she tries to seduce Hazel Motes who has declared the “church of truth without Christ”.  In Robert Bellah’s sociological study of religion in America, Habits of the Heart, one of his interviewees is “Sheila” and she states that her spiritual belief is in herself, which Bellah dubbed, “Sheilaism”.  Faith is based upon God’s objective Word: Law and Gospel and this runs contrary to the post-Enlightenment, post-modern that man is the measure of all things. People won’t like it. Satan does not like the preaching of the crucified at all, just too much holy love, and he rages against it and the rage is all about us .  The one cure is Christ’s Cross and love of God in and through His Cross poured out for all who believe through the Holy Spirit. It is a radical cure and has been the only one available for 2,000 years and we need it more than ever.  We need the “for you” of His atoning Sacrifice preached, taught, prayed, sung and administered day by day into our ears and into our lives and into our world as salt and light (Matthew 5:13  Matthew 5:13-15) Like our Lord said to His apostles goes for us:  

 But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Luke 9 (emphasis my own)

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