Litany on Yom KIppur

From a different tradition, so powerful and moving, posted by the poet Charles Bernstein:

As we near the close of our High Holy Day services for
5776, in these last hours of the Day of Atonement, Yom
Kippur, let us say the litanies of confession, oshamnu:

We are filled with guilt, we have been in
bad faith, we have transgressed
against others and we have mouthed
lies. We have tolerated evil and prodded
our hands to violence; we have been
presumptuous, broken trusts, caused hatred
and resentment, framed falsehood;
We have counseled in self-interest, we have
failed in promise, we have scoffed
the powerless, minded the powerful, and blasphemed
against hope; we have rebelled too
little against injustice, we have been
selfish and arrogant, we have oppressed;
We have done badly, we have
corrupted ourselves and committed abominations;
we have gone astray and have led astray;

We have turned aside from our collective
good and it has availed us not at all.

But you are right in
all that has become us,
you have acted truthfully
but we have wrought
despair. What shall we say
before you, who dwell
within, and what shall we
recount to you, who abide
in the heavenly and know
all things, hidden and
not hidden?

May it be our will to forgive and be
forgiven, may we grant, and be granted,
remission for all our transgressions.


This is the 18th section of “A Person Is Not an Entity Symbolic but the Divine Incarnate” from The Sophist (1987). (The Hebrew year has been updated.) The poem is a revisioning (and reversing) of the Yom Kippur prayer of confession (also spelled “Ashamnu”).
In Hebrew, each of the 24 confessions begins with a different letter of the alphabet (with the last letter repeated).

Disruptive prophet in our time

From Mark Binelli’s Rolling Stone article on Pope Francis ahead of the visit to America

Boehner’s enthusiasm might have slightly dampened had the pope been able to enter the U.S. the way he’d originally hoped — via Mexico, crossing the border as a show of solidarity with immigrants. The idea was ultimately nixed because of logistical and scheduling difficulties. But the fact that it was floated at all is yet another illustration of Pope Francis’ brilliant understanding of his own power as a disrupter. During the two and a half years of his papacy, the unscripted, often radical words and actions of the pope have thrilled believers and nonbelievers alike, on a scale no contemporary religious leader other than the Dalai Lama has approached. “People who’ve thought of the church as the incarnation of evil at worst or the Easter Bunny with real estate at best have been telling me, ‘I love your pope!’ ” says Michael Sean Winters, a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter. And yet many conservative American Catholics — in particular, politicians — have found themselves unmoored by Pope Francis’ profound tonal shift.



The Eucharist as source of love

Reading Pope Benedict VXI’s address on The Eucharist and Love from September 2005:

Continuing with the reflection on the Eucharistic mystery, heart of Christian life, today I would like to emphasize the bond between the Eucharist and charity. Love — “agape” in Greek, “caritas” in Latin — does not mean first of all a charitable act or sentiment, but the spiritual gift, the love of God that the Holy Spirit infuses in the human heart and that leads in turn to giving oneself to God himself and to one’s neighbor.

The whole of Jesus’ earthly existence, from his conception until his death on the cross, was an act of love, to the point that we can summarize our faith in these words: “Jesus, caritas” — Jesus, love. In the Last Supper, knowing that his hour had come, the divine Master gave his disciples the supreme example of love, washing their feet, and entrusted to them his precious legacy, the Eucharist, in which the whole paschal mystery is centered, as the venerated Pope John Paul II wrote in the encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.” Take and eat, all of you, because this is my Body,” “Take and drink all of you, because this is the cup of my Blood.”

Jesus’ words in the cenacle anticipated his death and manifested the consciousness with which he faced it, transforming it into a gift of himself, in the act of love that gives itself totally. In the Eucharist, the Lord gives himself to us with his body, with his soul and with his divinity, and we become one with him and among ourselves.

Our response to his love therefore must be concrete, and must be expressed in a genuine conversion to love, in forgiveness, in reciprocal acceptance and in attention for the needs of all. Many and varied are the forms of service that we can offer our neighbor in everyday life, if we pay a little attention. The Eucharist becomes in this way the source of the spiritual energy that renews our life every day and, in this way, renews the love of Christ to the world.

Living death

Rereading the novels in translation of Francois Mauriac as the last winter rains splash down around the valley — very green in places and with almond and quince blossom in some orchards, aloes still flaming on the mountainside.

From Thérèse Desqueyroux

“What an odd creature you are, Bernard, with your constant fear of death! Do you never have a feeling, as I do, of utter futility? No? Doesn’t it occur to you that the sort of life people like us lead is remarkably like death?”


The statue of a ‘pleurant‘ who would weep for eternity at the graveside of a loved one



That the face of the earth might be renewed

Bill McKibben writing on The Pope and the Planet in the NYRB on the radical nature of what Pope Francis is calling for as ‘care for our common home’: Thinking of my home in Zimbabwe as I read this as well as the devastating pollution of  the Angolan coastline defaced by  international oil rigs:



But the pope is just as radical, given current reality, when he insists on beauty over ugliness. When he demands the protection from development of “those common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes which increase our sense of belonging, of rootedness, of ‘feeling at home’ within a city which includes us and brings us together,” he is not just celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted—he’s wading into, for instance, the still-simmering Turkish revolt that began with plans to tear down Istanbul’s Gezi Park and replace it with a mall and luxury apartments.

He also insists on giving “priority to public transportation” over private cars. This was the precise phrase used by Jaime Lerner, the visionary mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, when a generation ago he launched the world’s best transit system. His vision of Bus Rapid Transit is now spreading around the world, and it works best precisely where it most inconveniences autos, by insisting on dedicated bus lanes and the like. It makes getting around as easy for the poor as for the rich; every BRT lane is a concrete demonstration of what the Latin American liberation theologians, scorned and hounded by previous popes, once called “the preferential option for the poor.”

The pope is at his most rigorous when he insists that we must prefer the common good to individual advancement, for of course the world we currently inhabit really began with Ronald Reagan’s and Margaret Thatcher’s insistence on the opposite. (It was Thatcher who said, memorably, that “there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families,” and that’s that.) In particular, the pope insists that “intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.”

Think of the limitations that really believing that would place on our current activities. And think too what it would mean if we kept not only “the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting.” We literally would have to stop doing much of what we’re currently doing; with poor people living on the margins firmly in mind, and weighing the interests of dozens of future generations, would someone like to write a brief favoring, say, this summer’s expansion by Shell (with permission from President Obama) of oil drilling into the newly melted waters of the Arctic? Again the only applicable word is “radical.”



Manica land

Feast of St Augustine of Hippo

This quotation that struck me so when I first read the Confessions:



“Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.”