Sunday, May 17, 2015

Happy Solemnity of the Ascension (sort of)!

Thursday was the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. But in most of the United States it is celebrated today. Ever wonder who gets to decide if it moves? No, it's not the bishop. It's actually the archbishop, so that an entire ecclesiastical province, composed of an archdiocese and its suffragan (i.e. affiliated/subordinate) dioceses have the same practice. So here in the Diocese of Richmond, we follow the practice chosen by the archbishop of Baltimore. In the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, and Omaha, the Ascension is celebrated on Thursday; everywhere else it is moved to the following Sunday.

Curious which ecclesiastical province you're in? Take a look! (Note that this map shows the archdiocese of each province in a slightly different color from the rest of the province. If that confuses, you, try this map instead.)

In the course of digging up the map above, I stumbled upon the historical map below, c. 1912, back when there were only fourteen provinces. You can see that the number of diocese and provinces has proliferated considerably in the past century, to thirty two Latin provinces in the continental US.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Davidic Origins of "The Last Shall Be First"

Jesus was a rabbi.  We sometimes forget the very Jewish nature of his ministry and teaching.  I was recently struck by this reality while reading the Book of Samuel. When David and his band were away, Amalekites raided the city of Ziklag, carrying off the wives and children of David and many of his men. David set off with 600 men in pursuit of the Amalekites, but along the way 200 men tired and were left behind, while the other 400 continued the pursuit. When David and his men finally came upon the Amalekites they rescued their family members and captured a large quantity of plunder.

When David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him, whom he had left behind at the Wadi Besor, they came out to meet David and the men with him. As David approached, he greeted them. But all the greedy and worthless among those who had accompanied David said, “Since they did not accompany us, we will not give them anything from the plunder, except for each man’s wife and children.” But David said:

“You must not do this, my brothers, after what the LORD has given us. The LORD has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiders that came against us. Who could agree with this proposal of yours? Rather, the share of the one who goes down to battle shall be the same as that of the one who remains with the baggage—they share alike.” And from that day forward he made this a law and a custom in Israel, as it still is today. (1 Samuel 30:21-25)

Thus, when Jesus told the parable of the vineyard workers, all of whom were paid the same wage irrespective of how long they worked, he was not introducing a new teaching.  Rather, he was reminding them of the long-standing Davidic practice.

Nor was this the first time that Jesus invoked David's example.  In Matthew 12 he compared his own disciples to David and his band, who ate of the sacred show bread reserved to the priests.  With these examples in mind, it is perhaps all the more fitting that in Matthew 21, the very chapter after the parable of the vineyard workers, the crowds acclaimed Jesus as the "Son of David."  Here was one who revived the forgotten teachings of Israel, who called the people to rededicate themselves to the holiness of God's covenant.