Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I bow my body, my spirit, my very soul before you O Lord. The reigns of my heart I will make obedient to you, my Lord and my God. For without you, I am only dust and there is no life within me. I can only think of your Holy Spirit, O Lord. Make me obedient to your will, my Lord, no longer living for my self, but for you, my King and my God. Send down your Spirit upon me, Lord, and renew me. Touch and heal my battered soul. For only in You do I put my hope and in no other can I trust to save me. Create in me a pure heart O God, that I may live my life only for you. Forgive me Father for so many times that I have strayed; take from me a heart of stone and remove from me the thorns of iniquity. Place within me your heart, my Lord, and send down upon me the gifts of your Spirit, that I may bear fruit and give witness of your holy Name to all that cross my path. I worship you O Father. through the compassion of your Son, Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

David, a Man After God's Own Heart

​ My heart is a sea of tears, O my Lord and there is no ocean that can contain them. My soul weeps before you, my Lord and my spirit is bowed down low in your presence.Is there no relief for my sorrow and my pain, Father? I am your son and you have promised to love me during my whole life. But why do I feel so abandoned, Lord? From the early morning, even before the dawn, you hear my voice. To you I sing and chant psalms to you, yet you are silent and I do not hear your voice. O my Lord, why are you so quiet? Do you not hear the weeping of heart in the vast desert of my soul? But I offer all of this up to you, my Lord. With a grateful and loving heart I offer you my sacrifice of praise. A hymn of thanksgiving I bring unto your presence. Even though I am not worthy to lift up my eyes before you because of my many transgressions, and I am the least of all your children. But I trust in your mercy and love, Father. Have mercy on me,.the smallest of all your children. Through the grace and compassion of your dearly beloved son, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ with whom you are blessed, with the gift of the Holy Spirit the Life Giver who is of one essence with you, always now and forever and unto the ages of all ages. Amen. El mas pequeno de tus hijos, Juan David De Jesus 11/30/2011

Friday, December 19, 2008

Necessity of Prayer - Letter to My Son in Christ

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen. Ipna’il Habib, Mina, May the grace of God our Father, the peace of Jesus and the love of the Holy Spirit always be in your heart. I greet you Habibi with much love and a holy embrace asking the Lord to always guide your heart and your way. I felt your yearning heart when you told me that you have been weak in prayer; and I have pondered on this and asked the Lord to guide my words so that the Holy Spirit may instruct you in this matter. So I ask you to be patient with me as I try to express what my experience has been. I waited to write to you because I know that you are overwhelmed with school and that a long letter from me would just overwhelm you even more; but this is clearly a subject that we need to explore. So I hope and pray that you read it with attention.

There are many forms of prayer. There is liturgical prayer, the type of prayer that is structured and read aloud. This prayer is the prayer of the Holy Church with which we lift up our hearts and souls expressed with the beauty of our Saintly Fathers and Patriarchs and Prophets. With this prayer we pray together as a community, and even though we may be praying alone, we are still praying in the Communion of the Saints as One body of Christ. There is also prayer that expresses praise. There is prayer that offers petitions. There is prayer that intercedes. There is prayer that asks for forgiveness and offers contrition. There is prayer that is a form of meditation. And there is contemplation. All of these are prayer. And what we must realize is that prayer cannot be reduced to a feeling or an emotion. Sometimes we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during our prayer and it is so very sweet. But there will be times that we do not feel like praying and these are the times that we must work at prayer. For the enemy of the Lord does not want you to be close to God, thus trying to have his way. But do not be afraid Habibi, prayer comes from the heart and the will, and must be cultivated. Many of the Saints went through dry periods of prayer in which prayer was more work than consolation. Why do you think that our Fathers went off to the desert? They knew what they would encounter there. It was not going to be sweet consolation, but it was going to be doubt, temptation, and terrible fights with the enemy of God. Prayer is probably the greatest and hardest work of our father monks.

So why am I mentioning all of this? Just as I said before, so that you may not be afraid. God loves you so very much, Habibi! You are special in his eyes. If my heart longs to hear your voice every day, just imagine how much more our Father in heaven longs to hear your voice. Besides, you were called with a special calling, so I encourage you to walk in a manner worthy of that calling, trusting in the mercy of the Lord. Our prayer does not have to be a multiplication of words and lip service to the Lord. There are times when we will not find the words to pray. During these times, the Holy Spirit will pray within us, for the Lord knows every heart and knows our prayer even before words are uttered. The important thing is to be present to the Lord. Remember when the Lord called to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-10) when he was just a boy? Samuel’s response was simply, Here I am, Lord; speak, for you servant is listening. I think the Lord’s heart is overjoyed to get a simple text message from you as He would be to get a treatise. What would break his heart would be not to hear from you at all. Do you remember the song that you taught me to sing? The one where the little boy sings: “Every morning you will hear my voice, O Lord.” This is the prayer of our Father David! He told the Lord, Every day I will praise your Holy Name, seven times a day will I lift up my prayer to you. But the Holy Spirit admonishes us in scriptures to pray constantly! Prayer is not just words and talk. It is being present to the Lord and being constantly mindful of him. And it is listening to his holy heart.

So what do we do when we feel dry in prayer and do not feel like praying? Pray anyway! Soon consolation will return to you and the sweetness of the presence of the Holy Spirit will continue to fill you. Set aside the time to pray, especially in the mornings and in the evenings. Make it your firm resolve to be faithful in prayer, whether you feel like it or not. Sometimes a simple, meaningful and loving prostration before the Lord is enough. Sometimes we find ourselves pouring our hearts out to the Lord. And sometimes, we just do not have anything to say and must rely on liturgical and formal prayer. The key is to just pray! The Lord will visit you in his time.

Habibi, I really do not mean to overwhelm you with so many words and I tried to keep this message short as well as meaningful. Take heart and be not afraid. Trust the Lord to guide your path. Ponder on these words that I offer to you. I know that your time is short with school and all, and I am grateful that you have read these simple words of mine. As I have often reminded you that you are in my heart and in my constant prayers, I ask you to continue also to lift up your prayers for this unworthy soul of mine. I love you so much Ipna’il Habib, and as a father loves his son, so do I love you with a whole, pure, simple and sincere heart. God bless you always!

With a warm embrace and a holy kiss,

Your brother and father in Christ Jesus our Lord,


Juan David De Jesus

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Interpretation of the Gospel According to St. John


During most of my life I have read and meditated on the Holy Scriptures; and each time I would revisit the Scriptures, I would gain a new and different understanding and insight of its message. I have a special bond with John the Apostle and a certain affinity to his writings. It may be because in his gospel he describes himself as the apostle whom Jesus loved the most, but also because John displayed the most affection for Jesus out of all the rest of the apostles. John is always talking about love and truth; and because of this I chose, since a very young age, to know Jesus, through the heart and eyes of John. This became so prevalent within my life that my Godfather chose to give me the name John at my confirmation. I have read the gospel of St. John dozens of times. I even took a class in Classical Greek in which we read the gospel of St. John my first year of college where I learned to appreciate the idiosyncrasies and subtle shades of meanings of words within the gospel. Because I have read the gospel of John so many times and have meditated with diligence upon its message, I have the right and privilege to expound on the subject of interpreting this gospel within the framework of my own experience and the authority of the Holy Catholic Church. Because of this experience, I have learned and would like to share here the following ideas: Initial Impressions, Authorship of the Gospel of John, Contrasting John with the Synoptic Gospels, Divinity and Humanity of Christ, The Holy Trinity, Jesus the Word of God, Jesus the Bread of Life, Jesus the Light of the World, The Commandment to Love, John the Apostle, and Final Thoughts with Practical Applications. As documentation, I have included four pictures of my bible turned to various pages marked with my underlines and notes of the gospel of St John.

Initial Impressions

As I read through the gospel of St. John, I cannot help but to notice that it is so intrinsically different from the synoptic gospels; and I often have wondered what its principal purpose is. I found my answer when John says that this gospel was written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God. At what moment does the ancient Church realize the divinity of Christ? Years ago, as a young believer, I often struggled with such questions as: “If Jesus is the son of God, how can he be God at the same time?” Or still this question passed through my mind: “If Jesus is God, then is his mother Mary the mother of the human Jesus or is she the mother of God?” And “If she is the Mother of God, then how could she have been born after God who has always existed?” John recognizes the divinity of Christ from all eternity, His divine existence in the Godhead from all time. For me, this in turn sheds entirely new light on the works of Christ. Christ’s focus is thus much more than teaching us a catechism or teaching us to be more religious. By reading the writings of John about the life of Christ, I am inspired not only to have knowledge of Christ; rather, I am inspired to actually live a life of Christ. John has challenged me on many levels: philosophically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually; but most of all, he has inspired me to take virtues, such as love and humility, and take them out of the realm of some lofty ideal and put them into simple daily practices and expressions. For example, humility is not necessarily the possession of some lowly opinion of oneself, even to the point of it becoming false; rather, it is a healthy and wholesome realization of who we truly are in the eyes of God Almighty and the awesome responsibility set upon us for having that knowledge. When I was younger, I would play the piano. I loved classical piano music, and Beethoven was my favorite. Many would compliment me by saying that I was a good piano player. I would deny it and say that I was not. A better response probably would have been to say that I thank God for the inspiration and talent he has given me; and even though I have practiced much, it is only by His grace that I am able to play. In a like manner, love is not just some warm fuzzy feeling within us; rather, it requires us to put into deeds what our words would say. It is easy for me to greet my family and friends with an embrace and say often that I love them. But, it is even more difficult to take my last piece of bread and share it with someone else in need; this is true love. The interesting thing is that I can do this even with my enemies.
Another interesting point for me to discover is that John writes with literary excellence. He seems to be more than just another fisherman called to be a fisher of men . His words for me are those of a priest, a poet and a philosopher, those of a true prophet. Throughout the gospel of John, I noticed that John proclaims the truth about Jesus not only through his words, but also through his style of writing. John seems to be particularly fond of signs and symbols, meanings hidden within meanings, and contrasting opposites.

What attracts me most to John is that he is the disciple of love. Everything he says and does is for the love of Jesus. This is why I have sifted through the gospel of John and his other writings so many times. He always had a message of love. This is my own spirituality, to live a life of love of God and love of those around me. John was not afraid to express this, and he inspired me also not to be afraid of expressing love in my own spirituality.

Authorship of the Gospel of John

Who wrote the Gospel of John? I have read many opinions that the gospel of John may have been written by several people other than the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee. They cite the double ending of John and some discourses that seem to end and then continue through the next chapters. They also cite the fact that the writer is referred to as the Beloved Disciple, and some even refer to John the Presbyter.
John is considered to be the last gospel written, traditionally given a date between 90 A.D. and 100 A.D. Some modern scholars often suggest even a later date of 120 A.D. Many suppose that the Gospel of John may not have become widely known throughout all Christian communities until much later due to the fact that it was written to a smaller group within the Johannine community. I believe that this would explain the fact that Christian communities farther to the north in Asia, especially in Syria, did not initially include the writings of John in their canon. Initially, in my heart, I was disconcerted to find out that the authorship of John was disputed among scholars, Christian and non-Christian alike. My heart has always indicated to me that John the Apostle is the author of this Gospel. Yet, I have kept an open mind to know the truth; and the more I searched, the more I became convinced of my own conclusion, that John the Apostle is one with the Beloved Disciple and John the Presbyter. Many scholars site the fact that the Gospel of John is so intrinsically different from the Synoptic Gospels and that the nature of Jesus presented in John is so divergent from that presented in the Synoptic Gospels, that it is unlikely that the author could have been an eyewitness to the events. After comparing these differences and considering the fact that the Gospel of John was written so much later, I realized that John had so much more time to ponder the significance and meaning of the life of Jesus. This would obviously affect the subject matter and style of his writing as compared to the other Gospels. He would have been much more mature in mind and spirit after having grown in his faith. The other thing that I noticed is that John includes events that were not covered by the other gospels, and does not often repeat the events that were covered but assumes that the reader already has knowledge of these events, or at least has access to the other gospels. A good example of this is the omission of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and the omission of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

There have been other scholars that lived during the era of critical scholarship of the works of John that deny that John was the author of Gospel that bears his name and state that John was solely a work of synthesis of thesis-antithesis, synthesis between the thesis of Judeo-Christianity (represented by Peter) and the antithesis of Gentile Christianity (represented by Paul). These same scholars go as far as to cite in the Epistles of John, a synthesis with the opposing dualist forces of Gnosticism and thus assigning the date of 170 A.D. to the Gospel. When I compare the thoughts of these scholars with the fact that the first certain witness to Johannine theology among the Fathers of the Church is in Ignatius of Antioch, whose Letter to the Philippians is founded on John and contains allusions to John , this indicates to me that the Gospel of John was known in Antioch before the death of Ignatius in 107 A.D. Thus the scholars who assign the later date of 170 A.D. are possibly mistaken by assuming this later date, a date at which time it is unlikely that John would have been alive. Attempting to go as far back in history as I possibly can, I find that Eusebius, in his History of the Church affirms that John the Apostle was the author of the Gospel of John. And within the very text of the Gospel of John, the author explicitly mentions that the Gospel was written by the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, so it becomes important to identify who this disciple is. Some have gone as far as to say that this disciple is Lazarus because there are passages in the Gospel of John that specifically state that Jesus “loved” him. When I ponder upon this idea of Lazarus being the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, I conclude that it is not likely, because if this were so, then one of the most important apostles that are mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels would be completely missing from the Gospel of John, namely John himself. While searching through other sources, I discovered that the earliest testimony, as to the author of the Gospel of John, is that of Papias and is quoted by Eusebius in his History of the Church who declares that John the Apostle is unequivocally the author of the Gospel of John.
After the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran, many of the hymns seemed to have come from the Essene community. It is interesting to note that John the Baptist belonged to the Essene community; and John the Apostle was originally a disciple of John the Baptist before he began to follow Jesus. It follows that John the Apostle would have been influenced by the themes of the Essenes which contemplated ideas of light and darkness, good and evil, truth and falsehood. Every morning I attend a Maronite Catholic liturgy which is of Aramaic roots. I find it fascinating that the hymns and liturgical prayers have this poetic nature to it and emphasize the opposing antithesis of light and darkness just as the Essenes and the Gospel of John.
From a personal perspective, I must consider some of the scholars’ comments that John the Apostle was a fisherman and was probably unlearned. I would reply to this fact by saying that John the Apostle was also the youngest of all the Apostles. We have already established that the Gospel of John was the last of the four Gospels to be written, towards the end of the first century. This would have given John ample time during his life to develop his scholastic abilities. But even more importantly is the fact that the scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit; and God proclaims the Truth through the humblest of souls in order to confound those who consider themselves wise. My personal opinion is that John may have had an assistant who would write for him, thus incorporating John’s thoughts, but using his (the assistant’s) own literary style. I am convinced through the searching through Scriptures, as well as external sources, that the author of the Gospel of John is the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee and that he is one and the same as the “Beloved Disciple”. As far as the addendum is concerned starting with chapter 21, I would take into consideration that there were no word processors to edit chunks of words or to make insertions or deletions. Any additional thought might have been added at the end. This does not mean that it was written by a different person. It just suggests that there were additional thoughts on the matter (possibly at a later time). And since John is seldom mentioned by name, this is also an indication that John the Apostle and the Beloved Disciple are one and the same.

Contrasting John with the Synoptic Gospels

There is something that impressed me from the very first time I read the Gospel of John, that it is so intrinsically different from the other Gospels. When I read the first three Gospels, of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, I find that they are similar in many passages, they relate the same acts, and often in the same order. For this reason they are called the Synoptic Gospels which means that we can put these three gospels side by side to compare the three ways of telling the same act. There are so many similarities as well as divergences that I have found it difficult to explain all of them. The Gospel of John, on the other hand, displays its originality from the very first words; and does not coincide with the other Gospels except occasionally. In order to understand how the Gospel of John differs from the Synoptic Gospels, we must start with an examination of the Synoptic Gospels.
The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of all of the Gospels. Many times when I want to share my faith with others, I refer them to the Gospel of Mark because it is a “no nonsense” Gospel which is straight forward and to the point. Mark makes his presentation of Christ through the telling of the acts and sayings of Christ; and he does so through the eyes of Peter (Mark being a disciple of Peter). It is interesting to note that almost everything contained in the Gospel of Mark is contained in the other two Synoptic Gospels which leads me to believe that either the Gospel of Mark was written first, or, if not, all three of the Synoptic Gospels have the same source. Mark wrote his gospel in Greek having as an audience those who were Greek speaking and non-Jewish. In my view, the Gospel of Mark does not include any embellishments of events, nor does he necessarily put them in chronological order, rather he relates what he has learned from Peter, taking care not to leave out a single idea that he has heard. Mark does not make an effort as to literary composition rather to the simplicity of truth. This is why I believe it to be the gospel of choice for someone who has never read the gospels; it is short and to the point.

Matthew, on the other hand, collected the sayings of Jesus in Hebrew, and each one translated the Hebrew to the best of his capacity. His audience seems to be one that is a mixture of Jewish and Greek Christians, but probably mainly consists of Jews from Palestine that were converted to Christ. While reading through the epistles of Paul, I realized that there was often friction between the two groups. Matthew, probably being aware of this friction, would have written his Gospel wanting to show how those who were not Jewish were equal heirs to the inheritance of the kingdom of God. Matthew did so by way of quoting scriptures from the Old Testament and showing how it applied to the church of Christ and not just for the Jews. The Old Testament scriptures find its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ and the non-Jewish Christians should not worry if they are rejected by the Jewish people, because Christians will not lose their rights in the promises of Christ. Matthew expands his Gospel more so than Mark does by citing scripture from the Hebrew Bible to show that Christians are the true inheritors of the new covenant. Whereas Mark does not attempt to make any theological analysis other than that Jesus clearly manifested his divine power. Matthew on the other hand attempts to present a more detailed theological teaching. As I read through his gospel, I notice that Matthew favored alternating between the acts of Christ and the sayings of Christ. And is at difference with Mark, Matthew includes an introduction filled with images portraying some stories of the infancy of Jesus.

As far as coming to know the meaning of the Christmas story, Luke is my favorite on this one. He gives the most details as far as historical background including the Annunciation of the birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus along with other stories unique to the Gospel of Luke. As a matter of fact, Luke gives so much detail of the infancy of Jesus; I can only think that he must have interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Luke follows the example of Mark by focusing on a plan of relating the activities of Jesus in Galilee and his mission in Jerusalem before his passion. But between these two parts, he inserts the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem in which he presents the “sayings” of Jesus. Upon further examination I notice that Matthew also presents the “sayings” of Jesus, but throughout his entire Gospel. When comparing Luke with the other Synoptic Gospels, I discovered that he was probably writing for the non-Jewish Greeks, given that he omits much detail as far as the observances of Jewish religious law and customs, most of which the reader would not have understood.
It is so interesting to note that even though the Synoptic Gospels are so closely paralleled, they still all have their distinct flavor in their presentation of the acts and sayings of Jesus. Each one has his own theology, his own personal way of knowing Jesus, and his own expression. And it is in this profound vision that I can justify, through each one of the writers’ personal testimony, all of the differences that exist between them.

With all of this said, contrasting the Gospel of John with the Synoptic Gospels becomes a simpler task. The Gospel of John allows making out the fragments of an ancient text as simple as that of the Gospel of Mark. The actions of Jesus take up more space in the Gospel of John than does his teachings; and this fascinates me tremendously. John is more concerned about showing who Jesus is through his actions than his teachings, allowing those who follow him to learn by example. On a personal level, this is a more effective way of learning for me. And as it is said, actions speak louder than words.

The Gospel of John is written in Aramaic and was probably written for the Christian communities in Samaria. Based on this, John elaborates on the long discourses of Jesus in which he presents to us salvation: a transformation of man that renews all of creation. Throughout all of the Gospel of John, the manifestation of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit becomes evident in the intimate communion of God with man through the life of community and the sacraments of the Church.
While examining the Gospel of John and wanting to disclose how his Gospel is different from the others, I come across a verse near the end of the Gospel which states, “This has been written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” John states plainly and simply the purpose of his Gospel. This is important to me in order to understand why John is so different from the other writers. As I meditate on this verse, I come to the conclusion that John must have carried his writings with him during the course of his whole life and redacted and corrected the Gospel as his understanding of his personal experience of Jesus deepened, now resurrected and present in the Church. John presents important testimony that contains more verifiable details than the other Gospels. John does not just depend on his memory of the life of Jesus, rather as he internalizes his reflection and his experience; he develops and constructs the discourses of Jesus that are directed towards us. This is an important realization for me, because I do the same in my personal life. Memorization is less important to me that the actual internalization of knowledge or an experience. I prefer to understand how a formula is developed than to memorize the actual formula.

John presents his Gospel with the pure and hard truth. The purer and harder the truth, the more difficult it is to hear. As far as the truth is concerned, for John there is no compromise. An example of this is where Jesus says that whoever eats his body and drinks his blood will have everlasting life and He will raise him up on the last day. As I attempt to place myself in the shoes of those who heard this message, I wonder, myself, if I would have been one of those to turn away, for the words used are hard and radical. But these same words of truth become clearer and more apparent to those of us who are rooted in the faith of Christ and understand them in the context of the Holy Eucharist.

Upon exploring through my bible, I notice that the Gospel of John is divided into two distinct parts. In the first part, Jesus makes himself known by his Signs. In this part, the Signs of Christ and his discourses announce the work that he was about to realize in the world and the corresponding glory after he is ascended into heaven. This part is preceded by a Prologue. The second part is Jesus fulfilling his mission. This part begins by telling us that the hour of Jesus has come. By this John wants his readers to know that the time has come for all things that were announced, to be fulfilled. This part begins with farewell discourses of Jesus after the last Passover meal; and this part is then succeeded by a Conclusion section.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John complement each other and show us the true face of Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary. John includes the actions of Jesus before his baptism by John the Baptist, as the others do not; and he fills in the blanks and corrects misunderstandings that one may have had. Alternating the happenings in the life of Jesus with the exposition of his teachings, these Evangelists show us how Jesus, through his human behavior, manifested his divinity.

Divinity and Humanity of Christ

As I have mentioned before, and is worthy of elaboration, is that John proclaims that this gospel was written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus actually came to transform the world and to make us true sons and daughters of God. What this means to me is that we possess the dignity of being brothers and sisters of Christ and therefore must have that same hope and confidence in the Father’s mercy and love. This gospel expounds upon seven signs. On pondering upon this, I wonder why John chose to use this number. It does not seem to be by accident. This number brings to my mind what the church teaches about the number seven being a perfect number and that it is often used in things of God. I would also like to give the following interpretation. The Scriptures say that God created the heaven and earth in six days and on the seventh day he rested. The Jews honor the seventh day as the day of Sabbath, a day of rest. I have observed through my own experience and by living in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood that the Jewish people will not perform anything considered work after sundown on Friday evening until the next evening. They will not drive or even turn on the heat to keep warm. And yet, Jesus performs miracles on the Sabbath to the consternation of the Jews. Jesus answers them saying that his Father keeps working on the Sabbath. When I compare the fact that John discloses in his gospel seven miracles and that God the Father never stops working, not even on the Sabbath, then what Jesus is saying is that he has the same obligation as his Father. He never stops doing the work of his Father. And seven being a perfect number, indicates to me that Jesus will always be doing the work of his Father, even on the Sabbath, making perfect every word and deed. And even though John does not proclaim so with the same words as Mark does in his gospel, John does so with the actions and attitude of Jesus, that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. How have I applied this to my personal life? By observing the example of Christ in the gospel of John, I perceive that Jesus is not so much interested in religiosity as he is in doing the will of his Father. There are times when compassion takes precedence in my life over a religious rule. The gospel of John seeks the proclamation and fulfillment of the role of the Messiah through all of history in the telling of the miracles performed by Jesus.

The church tells us that John died in the year 95A.D. Therefore he had plenty of time to ponder, rethink, and reorganize his writing in this gospel. Before tackling the gospel of John, I chose to prepare myself through the reading of the First Letter of John. After careful investigation, I discovered that the First Letter of John is inseparable from the Gospel of John. It appears to be a type of introduction and prelude to the ideas presented in the gospel. By reading the First Letter of John beforehand, I was able to better comprehend the precepts presented by John in his gospel. John’s focus is that the way of Jesus is one of divinization. Jesus is one with his Father; we are one with Christ; therefore we are one with God. John in his first letter reiterates and enforces the idea that we have the Son of God who imparts the complete and entire truth. We walk in true love because we are in communion with God himself.

John himself makes us ask of ourselves if we are truly living and walking in the way of Christ. The Lord has united his divinity with our humanity and our mortality with his life, he has assumed what is ours, and given us what is his . This is what I would say is true divinization, becoming one with Christ Jesus, God incarnate.

The Holy Trinity

Having read the Gospel of John and meditated prayerfully, and rereading it and having internalized it, I have observed that there is a oneness among God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit; this is expressed in an intimate relationship with the community of believers. Pondering further upon this, I realize that we cannot just be Christians in our head and separate from one another; rather we must live the unity of Christ in our lives through the expression of love with one another. When Jesus comes to John the Baptist in order for John to baptize him, John the Baptist testifies that he saw the Spirit come down and rest upon Jesus as a dove from heaven. This is reported also in the other Gospels, but also with the voice of the Father saying “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” The other Gospels also go on to state that Jesus is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. This is an example of how the Holy Trinity, being the expression of the Oneness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, shares the fullness of itself with the believers through becoming one with each one of us. The Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and through Jesus Christ comes and dwells within us so that we might share in the fullness and oneness of God. And yet this is completely necessary for us to enter into the Kingdom of God, for unless we are completely transformed in the Spirit, how can we come to know the intimacy of God?

The oneness, unity and love of the Holy Trinity is manifested within us as followers of Christ through his promise that he will ask the Father to send his Spirit upon us to be with us forever. As I contemplate this and compare it to other passages of the Gospel of John where he says to the Father, may they be one as You and I are one , I realize that we are united with Christ and the Father by this same Spirit. John expresses the idea of the Holy Trinity when Jesus explains to his disciples that he must return to the Father in order that he may send the Holy Spirit; thus allowing us to understand that there is an indwelling of three Persons, each enveloping the other, yet each being separate, being united as one God. When I couple this idea with the humanity and divinity of Christ, I conclude that our union with the humanity of Christ brings us to the fullness of his divinity, just as the Son dwells within the Father and the Spirit. This is how Jesus can say that when he is taken up to heaven and the Father sends the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Jesus will not leave us orphans, but will be with us until the end of time. Jesus is in the Father, and we are in him and he is us. The unity and oneness that we attain with God is that same unity and oneness that is within the Holy Trinity. This for me is mindboggling; the immensity, the eternity and the infinity of such a loving bond are indescribable. How can we answer the calling of being Christ to others in the world? It is through this union with Christ that he permeates our very being and makes us one with him in the truest sense.

Jesus the Word of God

Upon reading the very first words of the Gospel of John, I am awestruck with mystery and wonder as I hear the proclamation that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. For me, this is one of the most powerful statements of all the Gospel of John. The first time I actually read it with attention; I was about twelve years old. This one verse overwhelmed me in that besides being so powerful, it tends to be confusing in the eyes of one without faith. Through this verse, any doubts that I may have had, concerning how the apostles regarded Jesus, are squelched. In this verse, John clearly proclaims Jesus as being a completely different person from the Father, and yet being one with the Father, is God. John does not just speak of God, nor does he speak of God’s covenant with his people. Rather he speaks of the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son. John identifies Christ as the Word of God. He says that the Word was “with” God and in the same breath says that the Word “was” God. Taking a step backwards and divesting my own heart of its faith, one could easily have doubts and confusion about what John is expressing. Is John trying to express a relationship so intimate with the Father, possessed by Jesus, that it overshadows any other possible relationship? Or is John saying that Jesus “is” God. Before my own baptism at twelve years old, I recall the priest calling God the Father, “Lord”; and then in the next sentence he called Jesus, “Lord”. This confused me as a young boy and with the humblest of hearts I raised my hand during his sermon and asked the priest why do you call the Father, “Lord”, and also Jesus, “Lord”? I do not remember his answer, but I do remember getting a good scolding when I got home. But as Jesus once said, we should suffer the little children because the kingdom of God is made up of these. Jesus must have seen a simple wisdom and straightforward truthfulness that children possess, coupled with a trust that most adults have long since lost. But even as this searching little heart was confused by such a great mystery, even the greatest of scholars are still confused. For what John is proclaiming is a unique oneness of Jesus with his Father in heaven. What is manifested here is an eternal love, one that creates life, one that through its immense generosity begets itself, from itself and in itself. This is why “love” is eternal and is the greatest of all virtues and prompts St. Paul the Apostle to proclaim that “love never fails”.

There is a beautiful song in Spanish written by Ricardo Arjona that is called, Jesús es Verbo, no Sustantivo; Jesus is Verb, not Noun. This brings to life in me a better understanding of Jesus being the “Word of God”. Here, belief and action are combined and become inseparable. One must live his life according to his faith in Jesus Christ. One cannot and must not carry his conviction in his head without putting into action from the heart the deeds that must follow. If we were to do so, we would be nothing more than hypocrites. We must be the very reflection of the Father’s heart just as Jesus is the very expression of the Father. So, then my confusion as a boy, subsides in recognizing that Jesus is the image and splendor of the Father. He is not just a part of God, He is not another God, and He has nothing of Himself; rather He is the very reflection of God. He is God.

As I searched for truth throughout my life, especially during my youth, I confronted many doctrines that were foreign to Catholic doctrine. Some would proclaim that Jesus was only a man, a great prophet; others would say that he was only God and had the “appearance” of man. I have always believed that Jesus is fully God and fully man; but how could I defend my belief? Since my youth, I have always read the scriptures. And John was always my favorite apostle and evangelist. His first words in the Gospel of John were sufficient for me. “The word was God. ” And “The word became flesh and dwelt among us. ” This is an irrefutable statement of truth for every Christian and firm defense against any heresy claiming anything else, that Jesus Christ is the Word of God; He is God; and He became man in the truest and fullest sense. The assertion of John that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us provides me with enough evidence that John is not just stressing the divinity of Christ; rather, also he is putting equal emphasis on the humanity of Christ. Christ is true God and true man.

It is imperative to recognize God himself within the person of Christ, and not to forget to interiorize his complete humanity, his acts, his gestures, and his manner of being man. It was interesting for me to discover, as I was reading the First Letter of John, before tackling the Gospel of John, that he says in the very first verse, “that which existed from the beginning which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have looked upon and our hands have touched regarding the Word that is Life.” John speaks of Christ being the Word of God, and being God himself. He also stresses that Christ came into the flesh. He makes the case of Christ being both God and man. This brings to my mind a song that I have often heard on the radio called: What if God were One of Us. It brings to heart the deep longing of mankind to touch God and to be one with him.

Jesus the Bread of Life

Jesus says, “I AM the Bread of Life, he who comes to me shall not hunger; he who believes in me shall not thirst, even if he dies, he shall live forever, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Ever since my youth, I have had the custom of going to daily mass and receiving communion. As I would approach the altar, I was always filled with such a great joy. I could not understand how so many people could possibly approach the Lord God of Hosts with such somber faces. As I received the very presence of the Lord, I could not contain my elation. I would run all the way home, jumping and leaping with excitement. This is because I knew that I carried Jesus within me. My body was no longer just an earthen vessel; it was now a tabernacle, an ark of the covenant, the temple of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite passages in the Gospel of John is, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” In the village where my family lives in Mexico, it is interesting to see when the wheat is planted, how it grows and how it is harvested. During the harvest, some grains of wheat are missed by the harvesters; and the ones left behind are for the hungry and the poor to glean. This is the way it is with Jesus being the bread of life. He gives life and sustenance to those who receive him. Another interesting point about wheat is that it must be crushed underneath the weight of a heavy stone in order to become bread for others. Then it is broken and blessed to be shared. This is what happened to Jesus. He was crushed and broken underneath the weight of taking on the sins of the world, then dying on a cross, only to be shared as the bread of life for all believers. This is why Jesus says at the last supper, “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘this is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me’”. Through receiving the Holy Eucharist we are made one with Christ; and outside of him there is no life. We must remain in Christ and he will remain in us; and the most effective way of doing this is through communion, receiving his body and blood. This is the only way to have life, and for man to fulfill his reason for being – that is becoming one with his Creator. This is life.

The passage of the grain of wheat falling to the ground, dying and producing much fruit has inspired within me a sense of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, giving of myself to the point of dying to self in order to serve others in Christ. For if one dies completely to self, surrendering his will completely to Christ, he is then free to live for Christ. And this is a painful process. Just as wheat is thrashed, it is not done so forever; for it must be crushed and ground to become bread for others. What a tremendous and wonderful thought to know that we too can share in the spiritual works of Christ by becoming bread for others through him; and that our sufferings are not for naught, rather as we are part of the mystical body of Christ and through him all things are brought to completion.

Jesus the Light of the World

John quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” As I meditate on this saying, I wonder why Jesus would use the image of light. Upon pondering this idea further, I realized that where there is light, there can be no darkness – conclusion: light dispels darkness. Nothing is hidden from light; all is exposed. In complete light, there is no shadow or deviation. Christ lights our hearts and our minds, dispelling the darkness in our lives. And what is this darkness? Darkness is where fear, anguish and despair dwell. And all of these are the effects of sin. I recall that as a child I was terrified of the dark. I could not be in a dark room by myself, but there was something very comforting in having the light on. In the dark I would see all kinds of monsters and strange creatures, but with the light on, all of these figures vanished. And with the darkness, my fear vanished. Jesus lights the way for us. He is the light. And through this light we recognize our relationship with each other. We are one with each other and as I ponder on this idea of light even further, I apply it to my own life and for me, the darkness is sin. Jesus gives me hope and increases my faith by changing my outlook and priorities within my own life and I am humbled to see myself as God sees me. Many of us have impressions of ourselves that are false and erroneous. But Jesus being the light, allows us to see ourselves as we truly are. Many times we condone the things that we do and are blind to the effects of sin in our lives. We are urged toward humility by confessing our sins with great confidence in the Lord that he may forgive our offenses by the sacrificial blood of his son.

Jesus shows us the path we are to follow. Once, I went to Palm Springs and went on the Aerial Tram and hiked through the San Jacinto mountain trails. After the daylight waned, I realized that even though the paths were there to guide me back to the mountain station, I was unable to see them. There were many paths that lead back to safety; I just could not see them. This is what happens when sin descends upon our lives. We lose our way and stumble in the darkness. Light dispels darkness, exposing our sins and we cannot hide from the light. What is also interesting is that those who are hiding in darkness ready to pounce on us are also exposed. This is why Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Walking in the truth is a way of life of living authentic Christian faith and our actions must match our conviction. This has nothing to do with our doctrine of faith but has everything to do with living out our faith; and the true test is the love of our fellow human being.

The Commandment to Love

Love is not just a state of mind but something that must be performed. The claim and demand for truth, and having truth, is synonymous to living the truth. John says in his first epistle that the proof of love is the laying down of our lives for our brothers. And then again in his gospel, Jesus proclaims that no man has a greater love than to give his life for his friends. This is the most direct connection between the message of Christ and the way of living that is required of us as Christians. This means no lip service, but action; because loving God is inseparable from loving our neighbor. Throughout my entire life I have been influenced by this commandment to love. For me this is the essence of the entire message of Christ. I recall as a young boy always finding homeless people in the streets and taking them home for dinner. As I would walk through the front door, hand in hand with the stranger, I would see my mother still preparing the meal and say to her, “Mommy, look who is going to stay with us!” I remember my mother politely smiling at the stranger and saying to him that he was welcome to stay for dinner; and then she would turn to me and continue by saying, “but he cannot spend the night.” Nonetheless, Jesus has called each of us to demonstrate a true and sincere love for each other. It is not just a love of the mind; rather it is a love that permeates our very being through a love of the heart and the soul. No wonder Peter and Paul in many of the epistles conclude their words with “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” These words exhort us to show our love with tenderness and affection, and not just with words or an aloof idea of attending to just physical needs. Jesus himself says that they will know you are my disciples by your love. This is our greatest evangelization, to allow the world to know Christ through the love that we bear, for love that is freely given wants to freely be received.

John does not speak of miracles rather he speaks of simple truth – that God is with us. John uses words to describe God such as Life, Eternal Life, Light, Love, and Truth. And then he uses these same words to describe Jesus. As I have grown in the Lord and have learned to walk closely with him, I have come to realize that the more I know Jesus, the more I fall in love with him. I strive to hear him whispering in the crevices of my heart and then I long to obey him through my submission and surrendering to his will in my life. Knowledge of God affects our love for one another because these two are inseparable. A concrete Christian life is more important than doctrine and this is why John does not insist on theological argument rather he demands simple truth.

John portrays Jesus as loving to the extreme . And this has been the motto in my own life. When I hear the narration of how Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, I am overwhelmed because of the knowledge that our God Almighty also humbled himself to the extreme. What a tremendous sign of purification and love. He washed his disciples’ feet, like a parent would, with tenderness and love, yet he purified them through this same action. And by the same token, he left them with an example showing them that they also must do the same. Jesus highlights this when he says, “a new commandment I give to you, love each other as I have loved you.” An interesting question that I often ask myself is why John does not narrate the Eucharist? He found it more important to include the washing of the feet. Jesus did not ask for confession at that moment, only humility of accepting the washing of the feet by Jesus. He teaches his apostles to take the first step in granting pardon and purification to those around them. The only law of Christ is love. And Jesus demonstrated with his entire life giving examples of love. True love according to God is one that frees our neighbor and admonishes him to develop completely the gifts that God has given him. Christ’s love respects the mystery of the other and helps him to become what God wants him to be and passing from death into life, resurrected in him.

John the Apostle

There is something wonderful about John, his love and his closeness to our Lord is very pronounced, even more so than the other apostles. In his gospel, he refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. He was the one to lean on the breast of Christ and he was the one to whom Christ entrusted his mother. He was the youngest of all the apostles and he was the last apostle to die. I have always been drawn to John and consider him the apostle of love. I see Jesus through the eyes of John. I have always been expressive in my affection for those around me and have not been afraid to proclaim my love for Jesus. And I can only hope that maybe someone may be inspired through the love that I bear for Christ. Jesus showed us how to love through his example, and John lived his life according to the example of Christ.
John in his writings makes a clear declaration of the divinity and humanity of Christ. And he makes a connection between Christian moral conduct and Christian doctrine. Right believing means right living. This is absolutely something practical that all of us can apply to our lives. In simple words, we have to walk the talk. What does it benefit man to be able to expound on the mystery of the Holy Trinity if we offend the same Holy Trinity by not living a Christian life? I often see people at mass sit at arm’s lengths from each other, never acknowledging the presence of the other. During the sign of peace where we are commanded by scriptures to greet one another with a holy kiss, often we are lucky if we barely receive a glance. And if we are offered a handshake, the eyes are, for the most part, somewhere else. My point is that fellowship with each other is very important. We are all part of the body of Christ and if our mission is to bring others to Christ, then we all bear the responsibility and obligation of showing the same love to others that Jesus showed to those around him. John’s gospel can be summed up in just a few words, believe in the name of Jesus and love one another. We must recognize that our relationship with God is measured by our relationship with others, because authentic and genuine love is proof that God dwells in us, as well as proof of our salvation. And our love of God means we have knowledge of God, for our purpose in this life is to know and love God. And to possess the Son of God is not the acceptance of a doctrine, but a person who lives and provides life.

As I read through the gospel of John, I notice that John likes to use symbols for Jesus such as life, light, water, bread, shepherd, vine, the way and truth. And when John tells of Jesus’ signs, he follows up with elaborate discourses. But what really strikes me is the dualism in John’s writings and the fact that John has no middle ground. I have experienced this in my own life, for me there were only the extremes and no middle ground. In school, I excelled or I failed, I was never just average. In my relationships with others, either I loved to the extreme or I did not love at all. In retrospect, my life has been affected exceedingly by John’s writings. Even in the last book of the bible attributed to John, the Apocalypse, John expresses through the words of Jesus, “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” This verse must have been pivotal in my personal life in forming my own dualistic philosophy.

Final Thoughts with Practical Applications

In conclusion and as a practical application of our faith, based on the precepts presented in John’s gospel, each one of us must recognize our dignity and responsibility as Christians, from the humblest to the most prominent. The poor in the sense that they must come together in Christian solidarity and strive for the Christian values left to us by Christ and to revolutionize the world, and the prominent and educated through ideology and influence to bring about change and social justice. This is a faith that is more than just lip service, but is faith in action in the true sense. John eloquently expressed in his gospel through example, the placing of more emphasis on the actions of Jesus than on his teachings. We too are called to follow this example by demonstrating our love for Jesus by showing our love for our neighbor. In the village where my family lives in Mexico, the people are simple, humble and poor. There was a time, in the not so distant past, in which we did not have lights, telephones, or even running water. Life seemed to be simple and pure. Nevertheless, there were some necessary conveniences that were lacking. My brother and I teamed up to confront the Mexican government offices with the request to install telephones and paved thruways. After years of requests, our small village now has these necessities and even more. We must not forget about our personal contributions of time and talent of actively participating in bringing about the kingdom of God, and not just donating to an organization to appease our conscience. Glorifying God is not constructing temples or singing glory to God. It is the giving up of our lives completely to him. We have to reflect him and be his image to others. I have always been one never to let go and to never give up, to give more than I could ever receive and to give my life and my all to a complete stranger, to live and to die and try to save every soul and never looking back and never letting go, wearing my heart on my sleeve so that others may live. We glorify God when we surpass the limits of selfishness and become completely docile and responsive to the Holy Spirit. Our spiritual life is to obey Jesus’ command of keeping his words. And by doing so anything we ask in the name of Christ will be granted to us. We must do the same as Christ, not by multiplying good works but by obedience even when our sacrifice seems to be done in vain.

We must produce fruits but Jesus does not indicate what those fruits are, but that they flow from the Holy Spirit and has a seal of its own. I have discovered that each person is unique and each one’s gifts are different. I do not have to strive to have the same gifts as others, because God has endowed me with my own special gifts. And even though I may not perceive them, I still possess them. So how do I utilize these gifts if I cannot recognize them? I utilize them by being uniquely me, being myself to the fullest in Christ.

Jesus says, in a little while longer, you will not see me. By this Jesus admonishes us that what is truly important is not that we feel his presence rather to persevere in his ways in order to arrive at faith that is fully and plainly developed. There have been times in my life where I have felt desolation and dryness in prayer, but then I recall the saints such as, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, and Mother Theresa, and I remember the spiritual trials that they experienced. And even so, they continued in their work and prayer life. At times we will have to pass through sufferings and sorrows but after a while consolation comes. Beware of those times we feel consolation and think ourselves better than those whom Christ has not apparently granted such favors. Soon we ourselves may fall and we pass through the night. I am often encouraged to hear the words of Christ saying, “Fear not for I have overcome the world.”

This is the truth, this is our faith. Faith has renewed our knowledge of God. We understand the love Jesus shows to the world and that there is no greater teacher than the cross. John affirms that having the son of God we have the total and complete truth, we walk in truth and in love and we are in communion with God himself. And lastly we are always to live in love and humility.


One thing that was emphasized in my mind this week after having read the section on ecology is that all of creation is wonderfully and mysteriously made. Everything is beautiful and has its distinct purpose. I realize how small we are next to the universe and how intricately unique we all are. Yet every aspect of our uniqueness contributes to the whole. The universe would not be the same if just one of us were missing. And yet, even the process of dying and death itself seem to contribute to the whole scheme of things. That circle of life that empowers all of creation to be reborn again and again; and inspires hope within every human being to new and renewed life. No wonder God says in the Holy Scriptures that the death of his loved ones is precious in his sight.

The fact that we are all unique and different forces us to an unrealized interdependence. We must come out of ourselves and reach for the other to communicate and understand. Upon doing this, we are touched by the other's uniqueness and differences at which time those qualities are shared. Everything that exists seems to affect everything around it. Whether it is something that has life or something that is inanimate, everything is interrelated. How interesting it is to see that St. Francis of Assisi called everything his brother and sister. He called the wolf his brother. He also called the sun his brother and he called the moon his sister. He perceived all of creation as being entwined and related.
In our personal relationships as well as everyone with whom we come into contact, we must show understanding. What I possess could help another and what another possesses could help me. Each one's perception and perspectives are unique because everyone's experience in life is different. When we are able to internalize someone else's perspectives we augment our own knowledge and understanding. Many times we are able to prepare ourselves for the encounters we find in life that have not yet crossed our path; yet through someone else's experience, we learn.
Often times, we hear the saying that tells us that we have to look out for number one. This implies that we have to think of ourselves first. This to me goes against the human spirit. Everything that is noble, kind and beautiful goes against putting ourselves first. Selfishness is a base instinct over which we have our intellect, reason and will. By these we become human and are separated from the rest of living things.

It is difficult to believe that we are at the end of our first class. The knowledge and growth we have obtained did not come on its own, rather through the wisdom and patience of our instructor and the unique diversity of our class. I have grown tremendously in these past few weeks. I have realized that I can do this. This is something I would not have been able to say years ago. Thanks!

Posted on Sunday, October 27, 2002 at 01:32AM by Juan David De Jesus

Essay on Balanced Budget in Keynesian Theory

According to Keynesian economics, what impact would a balanced budget amendment to the constitution requiring the federal government to balance its budget annually have on the economy?

In an ideal economy there is rapid growth of output per worker (productivity), low unemployment and low inflation. However, in the typical business cycle there is a fluctuation from expansion to peak, to recession, to trough and then to a growth trend again. Before I address the question, I need to clarify what a balanced budget means to me. This term can be looked upon through different lenses and perspectives. One lens may be to regulate government spending based on set tax revenue that is received. In other words: reduce government spending while in a deficit and refund government tax revenue surplus. Another perspective is to increase taxes while in a deficit and reduce taxes when in a surplus. The next perspective would be to use a combination of government spending and taxes to keep the budget balanced. I will briefly discuss one aspect of each scenario. Because the topic is broad, I will narrow my discussion to focus on the effects of when the economy is in a recession and the budget is in deficit.

I will begin by outlining the basics of Keynesian economics. Keynesian economics states that the aggregate supply curve is relatively horizontal in nature. It states that when the economy is operating at less than full employment, then as the GDP grows, prices and wages will stay the same. Keynesian theory also states that "demand creates its own supply (page 306)." Now, let's couple this with the first scenario of the government keeping a balanced budget. The first scenario suggested that if the government is in a deficit then government spending would be cut and vice versa. I would like to make a premise and an assumption here by theorizing that if demand creates its own supply, as Keynesian economics states, then the economy will never reach full employment. If the economy is in recession, Keynesian economics states that in order for a recovery, government policy must be employed. The government would thus have to spend to bring the economy out of recession. But what happens if the government has already spent over the budget? The balanced-budget policy would require the government to cut spending. This would go directly against Keynesian theory of government having to spend in order to recover from a recession. The idea of keeping a balanced-budget, in this case, would be counter-productive and would send the economy into a deeper recession. By cutting government spending, GDP would decrease by the government spending multiplier. Furthermore, as government cuts spending, unemployment would rise; there would be less personal disposable income and less tax revenue to the government and more cuts in government spending. This would turn into a terrible downward spiral.

Now, let's look at the next scenario of increasing taxes while in a deficit and the economy is in a recession. This, again, would prove to be counter-productive because if the government raises taxes, then there would be less personal disposable income. Less income translates to less consumption; the GDP would decrease, thus throwing the economy deeper into recession. The tax multiplier happens to be less than the government spending multiplier, thus the effect would not be as devastating as cutting government spending. However, there still would be a chain reaction; as GDP decreases there will be less tax revenue to the government. Less tax revenue would again put the budget into deficit and the government would be faced with raising taxes again or decreasing government spending. From here, you probably get the idea, a deadly spiral downward.

The last scenario of increasing government spending and taxes in the time of a recession and while the government is in deficit is the most interesting to me. Since the balanced budget multiplier is equal to 1, then it is possible for the government not to spend more than its tax revenue, while at the same time increase GDP. This, of course, would be over the long run and would take longer than government spending and operating in a deficit. The interesting fact is that a balanced-budget policy would require the government not operate in a surplus as well. Government spending would be limited and the GDP would be stifled.
My conclusion would be that a balanced-budget policy would not be productive to our economy. The government needs the flexibility to make effective decisions and be allowed to operate in a deficit when necessary in order to pull the economy out of a recession. A balanced-budget policy would be counter-productive to the health of our economy.

Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2003 at 01:46AM by Juan David De Jesus

Lasallian Technology for Humanity


This paper will apply conceptual material regarding the Lasallian tradition, as left by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle and explore its components to determine what technologies might be used in the development of a small village located in Central Mexico. The name of the village is Hacienda La Bolsa. Innovations that are being researched could help in the development and progress of this village. Included in this paper is a glimpse of the village's background, problems and viable solutions that could be employed. This paper will also demonstrate how the survival and development of this village depends upon its ability to have the availability of technology.


Hacienda La Bolsa is a small village nestled between two municipalities in the state of Guanajuato in Mexico. In order to fully understand the circumstances of Hacienda La Bolsa, one must consider the surrounding environment. Mexico is divided into 31 states and a Federal District (Mexico City). Guanajuato is located to the north of Mexico City and belongs to the region known as the Bajio. It begins about 150 miles (240km) northwest of Mexico City. Although set in the Sierra Madre highlands at an elevation of between 6,000 and 7,000 feet, the Bajio is not quite as high as Mexico City, so getting used to the altitude is easier. The area is known geologically as the Central Volcanic Highlands, but the Bajio region is commonly called the Historic Lowlands precisely because of its height in relation to the capital.
The state of Guanajuato is divided into 46 counties. Valle de Santiago (the 42nd), also known as the "country of seven fires" because of its seven volcanoes, has an area of 835 square km. This is located with Salamanca to the north, Jaral del Progreso to the east, Yuriria to the south, Puruandiro, Michoacan, to the southeast and Huarimao, Abasolo and Pueblo Nuevo to the west. Valle de Santiago is a town of 50,000 people. There are four banks (Banamex, Bancomer, Banca Serin and Banca Promex) and some money changers where traveler checks as well as cash can be exchanged. There are several hotels as well as public transportation. Hacienda La Bolsa is located 10 kilometers to the east of Valle de Santiago and 3 kilometers to the west of Jaral del Progreso.
The rainy season is from May to July. After which the whole landscape is golden and green. Construction is not affected because it does not rain hard. The temperature ranges from 20 to 40 Celsius degrees. May is the hottest month and January the coldest. The people who live in the outlying villages basically live out of their farms. These lands are very fertile; and the villagers will boast of their famous "giant" lettuces and tomatoes. They are so huge they actually look alien. The main crops are wheat, corn, sweet potato, peanuts, tomato, lentils, sugar cane, garbanzos, alfalfa and sorghum.
Some sites that one can visit near Hacienda La Bolsa are "La Alberca", one of the seven craters in the region. The crater is full of water. The whole region is said to be enchanted and entire fields of four-leaf clovers are commonplace. The whole region is dotted with colonial style Catholic churches and chapels. Guanajuato City is located 91 km to the north of Hacienda La Bolsa and takes two hours by bus to get there. This is a very cultural and colonial city. Guanajuato is the state where the Independence of Mexico took place. San Miguel de Allende is also a cultural town where many national and foreign artists and writers live. It is 100 km from Hacienda La Bosa. It takes two and a half hours by bus to get there. Morelia is also at a distance of two hours. This is a colonial city; the capital of the state of Michoacan. Most buildings in a colonial town were built during the Spanish colony, XVI century; therefore the architecture is very European looking.

Economic Viability

The sixth-largest state economy in Mexico, Guanajuato is strategically positioned for trade and investment. By the year 2000, Guanajuato exported close to $1 billion. The capital of the state of Guanajuato is Guanajuato City and the main cities are León, Irapuato, Celaya and Salamanca. The population of the state of Guanajuato is: 4,393,160 and is divided as follows:
· 72% in urban areas
· 68% under 30 years of age
· 51 persons per sq. mile
Guanajuato is the national leader in production of gold, shoes, leather goods, broccoli, potatoes, alfalfa, strawberries, garlic, onions, wheat and barley. It is also an important producer of oil, chemical, fertilizers, sweaters, knitwear, jeans, home appliances, handcrafts and auto parts. The footwear industry manufactures more than 170 million pairs of shoes per year.
NAFTA has triggered substantial trade and investment opportunities that have been beneficial for doing business in Guanajuato. Foreign Direct Investment has grown under NAFTA.
· In the period between 1994 and April 1997 the cumulative foreign direct investment was $18.3 million
· The state has investors from the United States, Spain, Canada, Germany and Italy
· There are over 200 foreign companies with capital invested in the state, including General Motors, Birds Eye, Campbell's and Colgate, among others
Guanajuato is attractive to foreign investment due to it's:
· Highway infrastructure with a total network length of 3,968 miles
· 586 medical units, general and specialized hospitals, and 18 private hospitals
· 13 industrial parks based mainly in the "Bajio industrial corridor"
· International airport with direct flights to and from major U.S. and Mexican cities
· Strong labor force of 1.1 million
· Literacy rate of 88%
· 44 research and development centers, ranking it number two among Mexican states.
According to Irvin B. Tucker in his book Survey of Economics he states that technology can cause a shift of the supply curve (p. 61). I will demonstrate how the lack of technology in Hacienda La Bolsa has put it at a serious disadvantage in regards to its neighboring municipalities and with the rest of the state.


Concentrating on Hacienda La Bolsa, there is very little or practically no technology. Life is simple and pure in this village, but the people are poor compared to the rest of the state of Guanajuato. To give examples, all that has to be done is ponder on the following realities of life in Hacienda La Bolsa. Homes are built of adobe or volcanic rock. Modern commodities are absent from this beautiful little village of about 1,200 inhabitants. There is no electricity. Lamps, candles and camp fires are a way of life there. Once the sun sets and with the exception of moonlight and starlight, the village is pitch black. The available potable water is drawn from shared wells. Washing and bathing is done in the nearby river which runs the whole course of the village. One can forget about the convenience and warmth of a hot shower. Outhouses built of bamboo and straw are conveniently located near the back of each home. The people in the village live off of the land. It is not unusual for families to have flocks of sheep or goats. To have a milk bearing cow is considered a luxury. There are no telephones. The pathways are not paved. Families are accustomed to sending their sons to "The North" to work and send money home for sustenance. Few paid jobs are available locally, hence more than one third of households temporarily migrant. Migrants are involved in a wide range of jobs from white-collar work in offices and teaching, to construction, soldiering and police work. Migrants are more likely to be male. One in five adult men is a migrant, compared to one woman in ten. The few female migrants are mainly engaged as domestic workers and paid low wages. Men have greater access to white-collar jobs and are better rewarded. Most migrants go to nearby cities or to Mexico City, but about one-fifth, again mainly men, have gone to North America. There they could make ten or more times the rates paid for farm labor back in the villages, although there are high costs in traveling there.
Most children are born at home and medical assistance is scarce. Children have to walk about 10 kilometers each way to get to school and the government only pays for education up through the 8th grade. Thus most people of the village never get the equivalent of a high school education. Detailed studies in four villages show that rural incomes are very unevenly distributed within communities, leaving half of households in poverty. During the last decade key factors affecting village economies have been international and national, rather than specific changes to farm policy. Most changes have been to the detriment of the communities studied, but peasant households have adapted and survived, at a price. If the worst fears about the consequences of economic liberalization have not been realized, neither have the hopes. Depressed markets for basic goods and services have limited the growth of the rural economy. Private investment and provision of services have not been stimulated. Mexico, despite its urbanization, industrialization and memberships of the OECD and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is a perfect example of one such case. Numerical estimates of poverty in Mexico vary considerably, depending largely on the level at which the poverty baseline is drawn. Even the most conservative figures give one fifth of the population of nearly 100M living in poverty; others would estimate at least one-third or more. Mexican poverty is concentrated in the countryside, where between 70 and 80 per cent of the poor live. More than 90 per cent of rural households live in poverty, and more than one third endure extreme poverty.
The incidence of poverty in Mexico shows that economic growth alone does not necessarily eradicate poverty. Indeed, if poverty cannot be substantially reduced in such middle-income countries, there is much less hope for poverty alleviation in lower income countries or even for those countries when their economies grow, and they urbanize and industrialize. Understanding the nature of poverty in Mexico thus not only has implications for Mexico itself, but also for other developing countries that aspire to the economic growth that Mexico has already achieved. For now, we will concentrate on Hacienda La Bolsa.
It has been demonstrated in Hacienda La Bolsa that a free market does not necessarily deliver social justice. If the distribution of incomes and assets that determines market power is skewed and unjust, (and Mexico's income distribution is notably unequal), then the market outcome cannot be socially optimal (unless government intervenes). The buying power of the rich few will dictate what is produced, rather than the needs of the many poor. Hacienda La Bolsa also lacks well-developed clusters.

The Lasallian Tradition as Solution

With the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus by works of faith, the object is to eliminate subhuman living conditions from Hacienda La Bolsa by building houses with the participation of persons from all walks of life. People from the community would support each other, especially those of the greatest need. As it is presently, the inhabitants of the village band together to assist each other in building their adobe houses. With the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, funds could be made available to purchase machinery in order to build homes more efficiently. Besides this, they would include the basic necessities we have come to enjoy here in the United States. The raw materials would be available in the region and clusters could be formed in order to accommodate this process. With technology, a home could be built with prefabricated components and finished within a fraction of the time. With the whole community working together, homes could be built for everyone within the village.
With the technology of farm machinery, instead of pure manual labor, there would be an increase in the production of crops. In order to initiate such a task, subsidies on agricultural inputs and farm loan interest rates must be implemented by the government and other public assistance and programs to agriculture should be increased. Costs of crop production have increased over the past years, although the impact was limited for many farmers given how little they used purchased inputs. Formal credit has to be extended to the village community.
Promoting cluster formation in developing economies means starting at the most basic level. Policymakers must first address the foundations: improving education and skill levels, building capacity in technology, opening access to capital markets, and improving institutions. Over time, additional investment in more cluster-specific assets is necessary. There has to be government involvement to subsidize fertilizer and seeds, and give access to formal credit. There would have to be an organization to provide technical assistance to the farmers.
Free education should be provided up through grade 12 in order to educate the population and technologies such as the internet and computers should be implemented. The village is in dire need of a library. Changes to the farming community responded to internal factors. Less male labor is available for farming. In one case the absence of men engaged in temporary migration or their involvement in non-farm jobs has led to the maize fields increasingly being worked by women. In the other, the effect of shortages of male labor for farming was reduced since some of the land had been converted from maize and chile peppers to cattle pasture with a lesser demand for labor. In at least three nearby communities, there were ecological problems: lowering of the groundwater table and the effect of heavy use of chemicals on irrigated vegetable plots, deforestation, soil erosion and loss of soil fertility, and attacks by pests in the tropical lowland communities. Given rising costs of inputs, the falling or stagnant prices for most crops (other than coffee) and lack of technical assistance, it is difficult for villagers to come up with a solution.
A successful program of rural electrification using renewable energy resources is being implemented in Mexico, as part of the National Solidarity Program, PRONASOL. More than 24,000 small photovoltaic systems have been installed, mostly for lighting individual buildings, as well as photovoltaic power systems for 100,000 rural telephones and about 800 rural health clinics. Seven village-size systems have also been installed, either wind-photovoltaic or wind-photovoltaic-diesel hybrid systems. Both supply and demand need to be considered to create a sustainable program. This system could be incorporated in Hacienda La Bolsa.


10 kilometers to the east of Valle de Santiago and 3 kilometers to the west of Jaral del Progreso, Hacienda La Bolsa of old tradition and history is full of tranquility, simplicity and heart and its inhabitants have remained faithful to tradition throughout the years. Nevertheless, in that simplicity, the beauty of its surroundings and the small treasures that are found within give the visitor a sense of times passed and the possibility of breathing air that on many occasions require the we remember that the smallest things are of immense greatness. By way of the Lasallian tradition, the community of villagers put their trust in Providence and helps one another in their greatest needs. Technology will assist them in augmenting the results of their efforts and contributions from outside sources will be consistent to that tradition. The poor must have access to education, and technology will enhance their ability to learn and put their knowledge to practical use.


Bateman, Snell P. (2002). Management competing in the new era (pp. 536-575). (5th edition). New York, McGraw-Hill.
Tucker, I. (2001). Survey of economics (p. 61). (3rd edition). Mason, Ohio, South-Western.
Wiggins, S. et al. (2002). Agricultural policy reform and rural livelihoods in Central Mexico. Journal of Development Studies, April 2002 v38 i4 p179(24)
Porter, M. (1998) Clusters and the new economics of competition.
Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1998 p77(1)
Raphael, L. (1985) Reflections on the lasallian tradition. St Mary's College of California. Moraga, CA
Boltvinik, J. (1998) Economia Global. Pauperizacion zedillista, La Jornada, Mexico DF, 11 Oct. 1998.
Calva Tellez, Jose Luis, 1997, 'Crisis agricola en Mexico: 1982-1996. Diagnostico y propuesta de solucion'. Reporte de Investigacion 38, CIESTAAM, Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo, Mexico.
Ellis, Frank, 2000, Rural Livelihoods and Diversity in Developing Countries, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Szekely, Miguel, 1998, The Economics of Poverty, Inequality and Wealth Accumulation in Mexico, Basingstoke: Macmillan; New York: St Martin's Press.
Wiggins, Steve, Keilbach, Nicola, Preibisch, Kerry, Proctor, Sharon, Rivera Herrejon, Gladys and Gregoria Rodriguez Munoz, 1999, Changing Livelihoods in Rural Mexico,, Final Report to the Department for International Development, The University of Reading, UK.
Renewable energy rural electrification: sustainability aspects of the Mexican program in practice. J.M. Huacuz; A.M. Martinez.
IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, Sept 1992 v7 n3 p426 (8)
Options for rural electrification in Mexico. Jorge Gutierrez Vera.

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Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2003 at 01:56AM by Juan David De Jesus

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Comparative Religion – Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity

I have the unique honor of being immersed in two apostolic Christian traditions: Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. During most of my life I have attended daily mass. Because I live and work in close proximity to a few parishes, I attend daily mass according to the available mass and liturgy schedule. The liturgical rites that I attend are Latin, Byzantine and Maronite, all distinct but equally beautiful liturgies. I have served as an acolyte since I was about twelve years old. I taught catechism to children preparing to receive the sacrament of First Communion and Confirmation as well as Baptism classes to parents and Godparents. Being of Hispanic culture, Catholic tradition has been an intimate part of my daily life. The part that is often difficult to explain to others is the fact that I am also an Orthodox Christian. I am an altar server and cantor during the Sunday liturgy at an Orthodox Church that is of the Ukrainian tradition. And on Saturdays I attend liturgy at a Coptic Orthodox Monastery in the desert. Because of this unique and diverse liturgical experience, I have the right and privilege to expound authoritatively on the subject of comparing and contrasting Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. Because of this experience, I have learned and would like to share here the following topics: First Impressions, Church Architecture, Liturgy, Contrasts in Essential Beliefs, and Analysis and Conclusion. As documentation, I have included three types of pictures, one serving as an acolyte in the Catholic liturgy, another serving as altar server and cantor in the Ukrainian-Russian Orthodox liturgy and still another at the altar in the Coptic Orthodox Monastery.

First Impressions

Catholicism is the largest branch of Christianity and many more people have had the opportunity of visiting a Catholic Church than they might have had visiting an Orthodox Christian Church. Growing up as a young boy, and after the death of my father, I can remember not going to church. My father was Catholic and my mother an Evangelical Christian. My mother would often coax me into attending church with her, but more often than not, I would stay home. I could remember walking down the street with my father and we would see nuns walking through the neighborhood. I noticed my father’s demeanor change as he would greet the nuns with a reverence such that I had never seen before. I heard him greet one of them and called her “mother”. Even though, I had never seen my father set foot in a church, this event had a profound effect on me. Even as a young boy, I then knew that there was something much more profound and infinite than mere people. Something that would inspire people to walk around in long flowing robes with their heads covered and bowed; and with hands positioned in a way that humility could not be such a silent virtue. This image stayed with me even many years after the death of my father, until one day, I was walking through the neighborhood – this time alone, unaccompanied by my father. Here we were, on a collision coarse – these people with long flowing robes, covered and bowed heads, and hands that were hidden someplace beneath their robes, I could only imagine, positioned in prayer. As we encountered each other, one of the nuns spoke to me. I felt my heart burst with reverence, but I could not understand altogether why. Even though she asked me where I was off to and spoke nothing to me of God, church or spiritual things, this encounter embarked me upon a journey that would last a lifetime. This experience affected me and suddenly I felt myself drawn to something much, much greater than I could ever express. A fire was lit within my heart that I could not exactly explain.

As a result of this, I felt a need to go to church. I would accompany my mother. There were a lot of uplifted hands, tears and smiles. And many of the older women, and sometimes men would start swaying back and forth to the music and suddenly jump up and down, screaming and shouting the name of Jesus. Even though I knew that this was a form of prayer and praise, it frightened me as a young boy. But yet I remembered the nuns who greeted me so serenely and had a profound aura of holiness. I finally made a decision to walk into a Catholic Church. There were many nuns, a community of sisters, all with long flowing robes, bowed and covered heads and hands that one could rarely see. There were many people, but everyone off in their separate pews. People rarely sat in close proximity to one another if it could be helped. Everyone was scattered. During the sign of peace, there were reverent bows of acknowledgements and greetings. But no one touched another. There was the smell of sweet incense that had the power of making that place a holy place. And everyone who walked in or out of the nave of the church would genuflect and kneel before what I knew to be the very presence of God. God is here, that was my realization…God is here in this holy place.

The effect those holy women had upon me, was tremendous. They were my first contact and discovery with my own spirituality. And so began my journey of hunger and thirst for the Lord God of Hosts, a thirst I knew could never be satisfied. That first experience of entering a Catholic Church changed my life and I realized that I was destined to experience a plethora of spiritual encounters, starting with my own baptism at twelve years old. Looking at this on a larger scale, I would theorize that the religious garments of the nuns and their demeanor have the power of evangelizing the world even without words. One is drawn towards seeking holiness upon seeing a nun dressed in her religious habit; and I would venture to say that if it had such a profound effect upon my life, then it is bound to have an affect on many others. If the call of the religious is to pray for and evangelize the world, then this simple act of humility of wearing a habit should be considered and its influence on others should not be underestimated. I recall St. Francis walking through the village with his brothers telling them that they were going to evangelize and spread the good news of Christ. When they returned home without ever speaking a word, his brothers asked him, “Were we not going to evangelize and spread the good news of Christ?” And St. Francis replied, “We just did.” I can see how this action correlates to the words of Jesus and the Apostles when they proclaim that “They will know you are Christians by your love.” I incorporated this into my own life after asking the Lord of Hosts, “What would you have me do?” The answer was, “Just Be. Love and Be.” I knew that the Lord would do the rest. Here I recall the rest of St. Francis’ exhortation, “Go out and preach the gospel…and use words if necessary”.

It is interesting that an Orthodox Christian Church has always been near my home, (as if by Divine intervention) and in very close proximity to the Catholic Church where I would attend mass. My first encounter with the Orthodox Christian Church was as a teenager when after having an argument with my mother, I went down the street to St. Helen & Constantine Greek Orthodox Church; I went to speak to a priest and recount to him my troubles. The first thing I noticed was that they dressed very differently than the Roman Catholic priests. He had a headdress that flowed all the way down his back, almost like a nun, and was dressed in a long, black, flowing robe. He listened to my troubles and then took me to a monastery and invited me to stay there if I wished. I stayed for a little while and then went back home. This was something different for me. Recalling going to confession often in the Catholic Church, my problems and sins were listened to attentively and then I was told to offer prayer to God in repentance. My confessions were always sincere. But the Greek Orthodox priest not only listened to my problem, rather actively intervened to assist me with arriving at a solution. This affected me in an enormous way, being a fatherless youngster seeking guidance.

I did not actually step foot inside an Orthodox Christian Church nave and experience the liturgy until many years later. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and I decided to drive around my old neighborhood where I spent a lot of my youth. There was a church on top of a hill nearby, but I could never figure out how to get there. Today was going to be the day. When I finally discovered the path to the Church, I noticed on the outside of the door the inscription that said, St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church, written in English and in Cyrillic. I walked in. It was like taking a journey from earth to heaven. Upon entering the church, I smelled the familiar smell of incense. But this was sweeter, a heavenly aroma. The priest and the cantors were in a mystifying dialogue of wonderful and beautiful chants. The people were standing at attention, making reverent and profound bows while making the sign of the cross…on many occasions, many of them, much, much more than I had ever seen a Catholic make. And they were making them differently than from what I was used to seeing. They held there fingers in a very pronounced position, the first three fingers grouped together and the smaller fingers resting in the palm of their hand. Being Catholic, the sign of the cross I observed the Orthodox make seemed backwards to me. They touched their right should before the left. The very movement of making the sign of the cross seemed so articulated that I knew that they were silently proclaiming something very important, loudly and clearly. The chanting and singing never stopped during the whole liturgy, a wonderful litany of beautiful harmonic tones. Every voice seemed to carry its own melody, yet every voice was harmony. And I was transported to some heavenly place where only angels would dare to tread. I was overwhelmed by this experience. I knew that I was on holy ground; and the tears began to flow during a wonderful chant of the Beatitudes.

As people would enter the nave of the church, they would make two prostrations before the altar and then kiss the cross and the icon of Jesus that was set on the table before the altar. They would then make a third prostration before the altar and then proceeded to light candles. There were candles and oil lamps all over the place, some hanging before icons, others on the altar, and still dozens that were lit by the faithful on either side of the sanctuary in the front. The whole interaction of the warm glow from the flame of the oil lamps, the sight of the colorful icons, the wonderful sweet smell of the incense, the bells and the beautiful chanted prayers all made me realize that all of a sudden, I was immersed in the presence of God, not just my soul, but my whole being including all of my senses. I was overwhelmed as prayer permeated throughout my soul. My responses were singing and tears. This is a holy place. And here I wanted to stay.

Communion was given from a chalice that contained both wine and fragments of bread. It was administered with a golden spoon to everyone that went to receive communion. The liturgy lasted for three hours. Afterwards, everyone went up to the altar to kiss the cross that was in the priest’s hand and to receive a piece of blessed bread before leaving the church. Many people greeted me, everyone with three kisses, one on one cheek, another on the other, and still a third again on the first cheek…men, women and children, they all gave me kisses. And the tears began to flow. No one had ever kissed me, not even my mother as a child. But here I received more kisses within a few minutes than I had ever received in a lifetime. I felt the warmth and love of Christ. I knew that Jesus was here. These people follow that command of the scriptures to greet one another with a holy kiss. Could this be what the ancient church was like? I already knew the answer. I decided to stay. I needed to know Jesus. I needed to know the Apostles and the Mother of our Lord more deeply. And they were here, in this place…all over the place.

After the liturgy, I went to the priest and asked him if he could hear my confession. He barely spoke English. He spoke Ukrainian, Russian and Church Slavonic but with a wonderful effort to communicate with me, he asked me if I was Catholic, (suspecting that I was not Ukrainian, let alone Orthodox). I told him yes, I am Catholic. He then made it a point to ask me if I was Roman Catholic. I proceeded to declare that I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He was impressed by my answer and told me to come the next day for Confession and to receive communion. I tried to decipher the reason why it was more important for him to know if I was Roman Catholic as opposed to being just Catholic. I would later discover the reason. But for now, I was in a holy place. Jesus was there. And here I wanted to stay. Since then, I have never left. It is important to me to say that this was not a conversion. It was an inclusion. I have never left. And I am Catholic; I am Orthodox.

A couple of years later, on a Friday afternoon, I ran into a friend of mine who works at a bank. I asked him what he was going to do in the evening. He told me that he was going to go to church. I knew he was Orthodox so I felt comfortable in asking him if I could accompany him to the prayer. We agreed to meet at the Church. I arrived that evening at St Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church. I knew that the Coptic Orthodox Church was a completely different branch of Orthodoxy. It is not part of the Eastern Orthodox Churches; rather, it is part of the Oriental Orthodox Church. It is the church founded by the Apostle Mark in Alexandria. This sparked a desire within me to come to know the ancient history of the church. How did everything start? And how are we all connected? I looked around for my friend; I have never found him even to this day. Nevertheless, I knew that I was on a continuing journey of discovery, a discovery of the mystical Body of Christ. At this church, I received a welcome only fit for a son who has returned home from a long journey. Many people, young and old, came up to me and greeted me with hugs and kisses…(more kisses). I told them that I was looking for my friend. After helping me look around for him and never finding him, they begged me to stay with them. This would be my first time inside a Coptic Orthodox Church. I knew that the Coptic Orthodox Church was the ancient church of Alexandria and celebrated a distinct liturgy from the Greeks. And somehow, this liturgy seemed to be more ancient than all of the other liturgies that I had experienced. This would prove to be enlightening and enriching for me, for I had the opportunity now to see for myself how the church must have developed throughout time and history, through different cultures and languages. Everyone spoke Arabic, but the liturgy was in Coptic. And everyone removed their shoes to pray, especially to receive communion. This reminded me of God’s command to Moses upon Mount Sinai to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground. And even today, these people of Egypt, of the Church of Alexandria, still heed the Lord’s command to remove thy sandals. I was impressed to see how fervent in prayer everyone was, especially the younger people, the ones who were in college. They could have been somewhere else on a Friday evening, but here they were…praying. I was so impressed to witness how much love everyone showed each other. And everyone called each other Habibi, which means beloved. Here, I felt loved. I knew Christ was here. And here I wanted to stay.

I was gradually coming to terms with the fact that the Lord of Hosts was guiding me to something wonderful, a unique task, a mission (so to speak). I have now become immersed in most of the ancient apostolic church traditions which includes the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Constantinople, the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Antioch, and the Church of Jerusalem. I have become aware and feel blessed because of my experiences and knowledge the Lord of Hosts has allowed me. Now I am compelled to share a bit of my story, to be a troubadour singing many verses of one song, the same song, proclaiming One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Church Architecture

Upon entering each of the churches, I immediately noticed a uniqueness and a distinctiveness about each. The exterior of a Roman Catholic Church almost inevitably has a large cross somewhere near the top. And many, if not most, have a bell tower. And most have an image of the Patron Saint of the church, somewhere outside of the church. This image is usually a sculpture according to Roman tradition. Immediately upon entering the church, just inside of the doors, are receptacles of Holy Water. As I enter and dip my fingers into the Holy Water and bless myself with the sign of the cross, I know that in some mystical, mysterious way, my sins are being purged…cleansed, to make me pure to stand in the presence of the Lord of Hosts. And how could this not be so, for this is the very water used in the baptismal font. Upon entering the church, I noticed that the most prominent part of the church was the altar. My attention was immediately drawn to the huge crucifix over the altar, of a suffering Jesus. This moved me with sorrow as I would meditate upon the image of seeing Jesus hanging from a cross. What a horrible death! The whole scene forced me to think that all of this was because of me, a miserable sinner…and because of all sinners, of whom I am the first. Immediately below the crucifix was the tabernacle where the Bread of Life is stored, the very Body and Presence of the Lord of Hosts! I realized that this must be why the church is called Holy; because, God is here. And here, I wanted to stay. I knew that my prayers are heard here. And even though I may not have had any words to pronounce, I knew that just being there was important. I looked upon the Lord of Hosts, and He looked back upon me. It became impossible for me to stay there, conscious of any sin, without falling low and shedding tears…many tears, tears of sorrow and tears repentance. I became a lover of the Blessed Sacrament.

The tabernacle sits prominently above and behind the altar table and has a candle nearby that is always lit. What a fitting throne for the Lord of Hosts! God is here, and here I wanted to stay. This is to whom all our attention is directed upon entering the church. And this is to whom we bend our bodies and souls as we genuflect and kneel before the very presence of the Lord of Hosts. In many churches, the tabernacle has been moved to a side altar or to one that is not even inside the sanctuary. What a mistake! Oh unhappy error to have moved the very presence of the Lord to some place where one’s attention and gaze is less likely to set. What then, makes this place holy if it is not the very presence and watchful eye of the Lord of Hosts?! The Catholic Church should reconsider this.

Within the altar area is the altar table which is long and covered with a white cloth and a candle on either side of the altar that are always lit during mass. As I have entered a great many Catholic churches, I have noticed that in most of the older churches, the pews are positioned so that there is an aisle down the middle of the church and another that goes horizontally near the middle. I noticed that this forms the shape of a cross. This reminds me that the cross is central to our worship and prayer. Along both sides of the walls of the church are the Stations of the Cross. And in the front on the sides of the altar is usually an image of Joseph and Mary on either side.

The appearance of an Orthodox Church is a little different. When I saw the outside of a Russian Orthodox Church for the first time, I was intrigued. There were five steeples, all with crosses on the top of what looked to me like onions (which I later learned that these steeples are actually in the form of flames coming from a lit candle, as prayer rises to heaven). The crosses are different also; they are a normal cross with an extra small bar above the vertical cross bar and another diagonal cross bar slanted downwards at the feet. These represent the sign near the top of the cross that Pontius Pilot put with the inscription “Jesus, the King of the Jews” and the bar below represents where the feet of Jesus rests. It is slanted because the thief that was crucified on the right side of Christ was promised paradise and the one on the left was not. Almost all Orthodox churches are facing towards the east, the direction towards which prayer is offered. Upon seeing this, I knew that this architecture could never have originated anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. It looked too foreign. But it did look to me like a place where people must be called to prayer at least five times a day, I thought. I felt a sense of mystery.

Upon entering the nave of the church, my fingers instinctively sought out the receptacles that held the Holy Water to bless myself with the sign of the cross. Low and behold, to my surprise, no Holy Water at the entrance. At that moment, I felt that I was unworthy to continue my journey inward. How could I enter into the presence of the Lord of Hosts without cleansing my heart at the very entrance?! My gaze immediately searched for the altar and the tabernacle to seek God’s forgiveness. The altar and the Holy of Holies were hidden behind a screen called the Iconostasis that rose about three quarters of the way to the ceiling. And on this screen were many icons on many levels. Jesus, Mary, Angels, Apostles, Patriarchs, and Saints, they all were they. All of them, proclaiming silently that this is a holy place. And at the center of the Iconostasis were the Royal Doors with a closed curtain that hid the presence of the Holy of Holies, the Lord of Hosts. I knew that even though I could not see the altar, that I was in a holy place, too holy for me to see the glory of the Lord of Hosts. I instinctively knelt. For even if I had wanted to remain standing upon entering such a holy place, my knees would not permit me to remain standing. And rightly so, I observed as people entered, they would make two prostrations before the altar that was hidden behind the Iconostasis. They proceeded to kiss the cross that was in the middle of the nave before an icon of Jesus, and after kissing the icon, they made a third prostration. I felt a sense of awe and within my heart of hearts; I knew that this was true worship. My mind drifted to a Catholic Church and wondered how so many people just wandered into the church with no greeting to our Lord of Hosts. They just came in and sat. This was a lesson for me. The holiness of the Lord must be proclaimed to Catholics too.

The nave and the sanctuary of the church were darkened; there was no artificial light, only lit oil lamps, all glowing with a gentle warmth. And there were many, many oil lamps lit, all over the place; many of them hanging from the ceiling, and others hanging before the icons. I felt a warmth in my heart as I experienced this. This holy space was conducive to prayer, especially inward prayer. There was something intensely mystical and wonderfully mysterious about being present here. I thought to myself, they know how to truly worship the Lord of Hosts and stand before His presence in awe and wonder. There was a deep sense of holiness in this place. Jesus is here. I wanted to stay.

There were also thin beeswax candles that were being carried and lit by the people and placed before icons as they made their reverent prostrations before the altar and the icons. I witnessed their devotion and finally found an expression of my own personal devotion to the Lord of Hosts, one of profound reverence and awe. As I continued my inspection of the church, I had almost failed to notice, but it became quite obvious to me moments later, that there were no pews! Everyone was standing at attention, making those profound bows and prostrations upon making the sign of the cross throughout the prayers. I realize now where I had experienced this feeling of awe and wonder beforehand. It was a similar feeling I felt when I encountered the nuns. Those holy women with heads covered and bowed, with hands that were hidden in prayer, were the very ones that had inspired my journey in the search for holiness. Now I see this same demeanor in the people here. I felt honored to the Lord of Hosts for allowing me to witness and be present in this holy space. He was teaching me how to be holy.

There were ornate handmade carpets all over the floor overlapping each other, the kind that look like that they would fly away if the Lord of Hosts were to beckon them. At intervals the priest would open the curtain of the sanctuary during his litanies and prayers. And there I saw, the Holy of Holies, the tabernacle that housed the very presence of the Lord, the Lamb of God. Within this tabernacle, sitting directly on the altar in its rightful prominent place, is not only the consecrated bread, rather the consecrated bread soaked in the consecrated wine…the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God slain for our sins.

There were no Stations of the Cross as in a Catholic Church and no statues to be found. But people would pray before the holy icons almost as Catholics pray before the Blessed Sacrament. In a way, I felt hurt because at moments it seemed that people spent more time before the holy icons than before the tabernacle of the Lord. As time past, I realized that for Orthodox Christians, praying before a holy icon was like praying before the very window of heaven itself. Besides, they have an aversion that Catholics pray before statues, graven images forbidden by the commandments. I think it is the same thing.

The appearance of the Coptic Orthodox Church is similar to that of the other Orthodox churches on the inside. The outside is quite different. The tops of many Coptic Orthodox Churches show some rounding features, especially where the cross is perched. There is a certain Middle Eastern flavor to its architecture. The cross is somewhat different. It is a cross with little bars crossing near the tips of each of the extremities that form the cross, making crosslets at the ends. Had it not been for the presence of the cross, I might have struggled to think that this was a place of Christian worship, because the architecture was so foreign to me. I had the same feeling upon seeing the architecture of the Russian Orthodox Church; had it not been for the crosses, those onion shaped steeples seemed so very foreign.

One day I ventured to discover the Desert Fathers. The Coptic Orthodox Church (The Church of Alexandria) is the father of monasticism. St. Antony Coptic Orthodox Monastery in the Mojave Desert, here in California, is the only Coptic Orthodox Monastery in all of North America. I had been to Catholic monasteries in the desert, near the foothills that didn’t seem like a desert at all, because of the communities built up near the monastery. But St. Antony Coptic Orthodox Monastery was really in the middle of the desert. I actually had to drive through the sand and got stuck in a sand dune before I could reach the monastery. Here I was, literally in the middle of nowhere, and no one near to hear my cry for help except the Lord of Hosts. I realized that this must be the reason why the Desert Fathers sought the desert, to encounter the Lord of Hosts face to face, one on one. Suddenly the Psalm of David came to life within me, “My help is in the Lord”, particularly because there was absolutely no one else around. I had an inspiration to take out the unneeded umbrella that I had placed in the car (for rain that rarely falls in the desert). I began to dig around the wheels of the car as I prayed fervently. It was hot and windy, and not a soul around as far as my eye could see, and one can forget about trying to use a cell phone out there, reception is nonexistent. Through a series of rocking the car back and forth using the accelerator, I finally was freed. But I could only move in reverse. And so I went, in reverse and around that sand dune. I discovered that the Lord of Hosts assisted me through a mutual effort of divine guidance and of work and prayer. Now I know why the monks seek the desert.

Upon reaching the monastery, I ventured inside. I had not removed my shoes upon entering. I was quickly reminded by the monks to remove my shoes. This is where I realized that a monastery is an especially holy place. In Coptic Orthodox Churches, one removes their shoes during prayer and receiving communion, but here, at the monastery, the shoes must be removed at all times within the nave and sanctuary. Instantly, I smelled the undying aroma of incense. But the smell was not sweet; it was more poignant, yet holy. Today if I were to enter a sanctuary with my eyes closed, I could tell you if we were in a Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, or Coptic Orthodox Church just from the smell of the incense.

Inside were the familiar scenes of icons and candles as in the Greek Orthodox Churches and other Eastern Orthodox Churches. But the faces of the saints were distinctively wider and rounder and the eyes wider and larger. On what the Coptic Orthodox call the wall of Symbols are the icons of traditional saints, such as, St. Basil, St Cyril, St. Michael the Archangel and St. George, along with Mary and Jesus. The walls are full of icons aligned in the fashion Catholics would normally have the Stations of the Cross. I noticed a pattern that emerges among the ancient, traditional and apostolic churches; the prominence of the altar elevated almost always one to three steps above the level of the rest of the church. I noticed the honor and love that is given to the saints and especially to the Mother of God, who the Orthodox call Theotokos, Greek for Birth-giver of God. The Coptic Orthodox church has something completely different, and not seen in any other apostolic church that I have seen. Hanging before the altar, in front of the curtain that shrouds the altar table with the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle of the Lord of Hosts, is an ostrich egg. This is a symbol of God’s ever-watchfulness over his children. An ostrich will not take its gaze off of an egg until it is hatched for fear that the egg will die if the ostrich is distracted. At first glance, an ostrich egg seemed out of place to me, especially one hanging before the altar. But after understanding the symbolism, I thought that there could be no other worthy expression of the Lord’s ever-watchfulness over His children.


Being Catholic, I attend Mass on a daily basis; and this is part of my prayer life. I have participated in many Catholic liturgical rites, the most prevalent being the Latin Rite taken from the Roman Canon. Many people are probably unaware that the Catholic Church consists of twenty-three different rites, all underneath the authority of the Pope. The Holy Father is Pope of all of the Catholic Church; he is Patriarch of the Latin (Roman) Rite; and he is Bishop of Rome. I am going to focus on the Roman Catholic Rite and present a rendering alongside the Orthodox Church. Being of Hispanic culture, I can say that the Roman Catholic liturgy can be molded and influenced by language, culture and local traditions. Serving as an acolyte at many parishes, in many locations as a young man, I have witnessed a variety of liturgical celebrations. I recall with the most fondness an epoch of my life when I would serve as an acolyte (altar boy) at every single mass, all of which were in Spanish. Preparing for the Mass entailed being in the sacristy about thirty minutes before mass started. I can remember when I was twelve years old; the parish priest gave me a book about the life of St. Tarcisius. He is the patron saint of acolytes. He was also twelve years old and died as a martyr defending the Holy Eucharist as he carried it to Christian prisoners aware to be mauled by lions in the Roman Coliseum. He was attacked by a mob of pagans on the way and refused to give up the Holy Eucharist to the mob; and he was beaten to death. His fidelity and courage inspired me. He became a model for me of loyalty and love for the Blessed Sacrament in the altar. Thus, as I served at the altar, I possessed a profound reverence and devotion for the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

As part of the preparation for the mass, I would get dressed in my acolyte cassock and surplus. Various prayers were posted on the wall of the sacristy to remind the acolytes to pray before each duty to be performed. One of my favorite tasks was to sound the bell in the bells tower. It was one of those huge bells with a long rope. As I pulled on the rope, I had to pull with my whole weight, and as the bell moved the rope would pull me up. I felt that I was putting my small grain of salt of evangelization by calling everyone to mass; for why should I need to speak at this moment when the great sounding of the bells possessed a louder voice. The bells could be heard throughout the whole neighborhood for miles. I am saddened that here in the United States, the church bells are rarely rung. If they were rung more often, people would be inspired to enter the church to pray. Churches should consider this point and ring the bells more often.

As mass preparation continued, I would prepare the chalice, the wine and the bread to be consecrated. These were placed on a table near the entrance of the church to be later presented by the people during the offertory. It is important for the people to participate in the mass by bringing forward the gifts. For these gifts had to come from the people, a generous offering given to the Lord. Every time I passed the Blessed Sacrament in the altar, I made sure that I genuflected with the utmost reverence that I could, because I knew that I was treading on holy ground. I would continue to light the two candles on each side of the altar. What an honor to serve at the altar of the Lord!

As mass was about to begin, there were usually four acolytes present, we then would position ourselves at the entrance of the church carrying the crucifix, candles and gospel book. The priest followed in tow. I usually was the cross bearer. I remember feeling such an honor carrying the cross of the Lord. I moved slowly and with determination as I processed down the aisle setting the pace for the rest and to the tune of the entrance song. I knew that I had to be pure of heart and mind as I served at the altar. For not only was I going to be a visible example, but I knew that being in such close proximity to the Lord of Hosts I would be consumed by fire if I had any conscious sin that I had not confessed. As we approached the altar, everyone in the procession genuflected in unison and proceeded to their places at the altar.

Every mass begins with the doxology of, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” The main components of the mass are: the Liturgy of the Word; the Liturgy of the Eucharist; and the Communion Rite. The Liturgy of the Word consists of readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles and then the Gospel. Everyone stands during the Gospel proclamation. The Roman Catholic Church includes readings from the Old Testament whereas the Eastern Orthodox generally does not, as we will see later on. I feel that I am more spiritually nourished hearing scriptures from the whole bible as opposed to just the New Testament. The Catholic Church puts meaning and perspective to the New Testament readings preceding them with history and prophecy of the Old Testament.

The highlight of the mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharistic which includes the Eucharistic Prayer. During this prayer everyone kneels as we contemplate the mystery that is about to transpire as our Lord Jesus shared the last supper with His disciples. For me this is the most important part of the mass. This is the part in which a miracle occurs. The invocation of the Holy Spirit precedes the Eucharistic Prayer, asking the Lord to bless the offerings so that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ordinary bread and wine become the very presence of Jesus Christ our Lord. After the consecration of the bread becoming Body, the priest genuflects as we all pause to worship the Body of Christ in the form of bread. Likewise, the priest takes the chalice in the same manner that Jesus took the cup; he blesses and consecrates the wine that is in the chalice so that it becomes the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The priest then genuflects again. At this moment of the consecration, I offer to the Lord all of my supplications and prayers. I especially remember those who have asked my prayers. For some mysterious reason, I feel that this is the point at which the Lord of Hosts receives my prayers as a sacrifice united with His suffering on the cross. I ask my guardian angel to swiftly present my prayers to the Lord at his holy altar in heaven. The Father receives the loving sacrifice of His Son, Jesus; and just maybe, my prayers will be carried to heaven with the sacrifice Jesus offers to His Father.

The next part of the mass is the Communion Rite. During this part of the mass, everyone who is disposed to receive Holy Communion comes forth to partake of this holy meal. As I witness the faithful file forth to receive communion, my heart leaps with almost uncontrollable joy. I often ponder, as I watch many receive Holy Communion, how is it possible that so many are so somber? We are going to receive the Lord! This is the moment in which the Lord of Hosts and I become one, the moment of receiving his precious body and blood. “This is the Bread of Life who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to His supper”, proclaims the priest. Why is our response so unfeeling? But my own joy supplants those who feel none. As each one receives Christ under the form of bread and wine, I am bursting with joy at every union. In the United States, it has become customary to receive the consecrated Communion Bread in the hand, but this is something unheard of in Latin American countries. The Catholic Church should also reconsider this point because none of the other ancient and apostolic churches do this. This could be a source of friction between the western and the eastern churches whose liturgy has basically been celebrated for centuries unchanged.

As the mass ends, the priest gives a blessing by making the sign of the cross over the faithful invoking the Holy Trinity; and the people are dismissed. I have observed that most people leave the church quickly, almost even before the priest has barely existed from the altar. And some stay, but very few, to continue private prayer. It is uncommon to see an agape meal afterwards as in most Orthodox Churches. The whole mass generally lasts about an hour in contrast to the Orthodox Church liturgy that lasts about three hours.

As the Roman Catholic Church mass comes from the Roman Missal, the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom; but uses the Liturgy of St. Basil during the Great Fast. Again, as an altar server and cantor in the Orthodox Church, I fulfill my duties of preparing for the liturgy. This is somewhat of a more labor intensive task than in the Roman Catholic Church. Many tasks are accomplished before the liturgy begins. As I approach the sanctuary of the altar, I come to the table that is in the nave before the Iconostasis and has a cross and the icon of Christ on it. I make the customary prostrations and kiss the cross and the icon. Being Catholic and having an intense devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, I also genuflect before the Royal Doors of the Iconostasis, behind which is hidden the Holy of Holies, the tabernacle of the Lord. This I do in private devotion for as not to scandalize my fellow parishioners who would see the gesture of genuflecting as a Roman gesture, foreign to Eastern cultures. As I approach the Iconostasis, there are two lesser doors at either end of the Iconostasis. These doors are for the altar servers to enter and exit. For no one is allowed to enter through the Royal Doors except a priest. And women are not allowed behind the Iconostasis…ever. I enter through the Deacon’s Door which is to the south of the Royal Doors. It is customary to enter through the south door and exit the altar by way of the north door. Remember that the altars of Orthodox Church are customarily facing east. Usually there is an icon of St. Stephen and St. Phillip on these doors, the first deacons of the Christian Church, St. Stephen being the first martyr. Sometimes there are icons of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel on these doors. Every time I pass through these doors, I have a sense that these holy angels are guardians to the presence of the Lord of Host. I gently place a kiss upon the icon as I enter; it is customary to kiss the icon on the door before entering the sanctuary of the altar. As I enter the altar area, I make three profound prostrations before the holy altar on which is the Holy of Holies (the Tabernacle), a cross and the Holy Book of the Gospel. These three are given equal devotion. The Lamb (the consecrated bread soaked in consecrated wine) is housed within the tabernacle. This is the Lord Himself, the Bread of Life. For the Lord Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Bread of Life”. And He also said, “This is my Body, This is my Blood”. Likewise, the Holy Gospel is honored with equal devotion, for it is said of Christ in the Gospel of St. John that Jesus is the Word of God, and the Word is God. And the life-giving cross of the Lord is placed beside the Gospel Book and is also honored with equal reverence. Within the sanctuary of the altar between the Royal Doors and the holy altar, no one can stand except for a priest. Therefore, my prayer is made from beside the altar table or from behind, but never in front. After this, it is time to get to work.

My first task is to dress myself in a black cassock. I light the altar candles and oil lamps. The altar table has a seven branch candelabra which are all lit. This reminds me of the Jewish menorah that is used is the Temple worship. I often wonder if it has any connection. I inevitably come to the conclusion that it does. The curtain, hiding the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant in the Jewish Temple, it all seems to have a correlation. There are also two candles or oil lamps at the ends of the altar that are also lit. During the lighting of the candles, if no one else is around, I chant a Hymn of Light to Christ. This I learned from the Maronite Catholics who have Aramaic origins. Lighting the candles and oil lamps are important because for the Orthodox, during prayer, there should always be a candle or oil lamp lit. After the altar candles are lit, I light the side altar lamps. This is where the priest will say the prayer of blessing over the bread and wine before they are consecrated at the main altar during the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer). This prayer of preparation, before the Divine Liturgy starts, is elaborate and lengthy; it usually begins one hour before the Divine Liturgy starts, in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church that blesses and offers the bread and wine during the mass before the Eucharistic Prayer. Upon observing the liturgy of almost all of the major ancient apostolic churches, the Roman Church is the only one that puts its offering and blessing of the bread and wine right before the Eucharistic Prayer as opposed to right before the Liturgy.

I then proceed to light the candles and oil lamps inside the nave of the church where the faithful stand during the liturgy. As I said before, there are a good many lamps to light before all of the icons and crosses. Afterwards, I begin chanting the Morning Prayers, during this part, there are very few, if no people present. Many times I feel my heart very heavy to think that such a beautiful tradition and prayer is not participated by more people. As a matter of fact, most people wander in after the Divine Liturgy has begun. The Roman Catholic Church has the Liturgy of the Hours; but it is sad to see that this prayer is rarely celebrated in church as a community of believers. As a matter of fact, I have only seen the Liturgy of the Hours prayed in monasteries. The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer and soul of the church and should be given a more central place as part of the daily worship of the community. After the Morning Prayers, I return to the sanctuary of the altar and prepare the censor and the incense that is to be used during the Divine Liturgy. I feel such an honor to be able to serve at the table of the Lord, and even to be behind the iconostasis where very few eyes have set upon and witness the prayers and supplications of the priest when the curtains are closed behind the Royal Doors.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgy begins with no procession. The bells are rung, the curtain hiding the altar is drawn, and the Royal Doors are opened. After censing the altar, the priest goes out into the nave with the censor and its sweet smelling incense and censes the icons and the people. He returns to the altar. And the Divine Liturgy always begins with the wonderful and beautiful proclamation and doxology sung by the priest, “Blessed be the kingdom, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, always now and ever and to the ages of ages, Amen.” Also in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, the priest prays facing the altar, towards the East. He only turns towards the parishioners to give the blessings with the sign of the cross.

The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is usually used, which is comprised of many chanted litanies. There are litanies for the living, litanies for the dead, litanies for the catechumens, litanies in preparation for the anaphora, litanies of thanksgiving…there seems to be an endless litany of litanies. But the important fact is that the transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist takes place during the entire liturgy and culminates in the invocation of the Holy Spirit after the anaphora; after which, profound prostrations of adoration are made. This is unlike the Roman Catholic Church in which adoration and genuflections are made after each pronouncement of bread becoming the Body of Christ and wine becoming the Blood of Christ, separately.

Communion is usually given only to those who have gone to confession that day or the night before during the Vigil. The consecrated bread is mingled in the chalice with the consecrated wine and given to the communicant with a golden spoon. After which they receive a piece of blessed bread and some blessed wine to break their fast. I can recall that we I was younger, the Roman Catholic Church also required that one take a drink of water before eating anything after communion. The Orthodox fast from twelve o’clock midnight before receiving communion; and the Catholics must fast for at least one hour before receiving communion. For me, the act of fasting before communion has aided me in appreciating the sacredness of receiving communion; and has assisted me in focusing in my prayer. As a matter of fact, one of the great treasures the Orthodox Church has given to me is the art of fasting. Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, during the ordinary part of the year. And they fast everyday during the Advent and Lent, abstaining from meat, meat products, dairy, olive oil and wine. Fasting has become part of my spiritual armor. Fasting, couple with prayer and almsgiving, has helped me to live a true Christian life. The Catholic Church has relaxed its rules on fasting. I think fasting should be given more attention by Catholics.

The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy begins with an elaborate inspection of the bread and wine to be offered for consecration. The priest chooses the most perfect loaf from a basket of baked breads. The Coptic Orthodox liturgy has many more readings than both the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Church, from both the Old and New Testaments. The chants are neither monotone nor harmonic, rather unison with many long tone variations with Middle-Eastern style. The ark of Holy of Holies sets on the altar table but does not contain the Blessed Sacrament; it, instead, has the holy gospel, a cross and the chalice that is used to distribute the consecrated wine used in communion. The liturgy lasts even longer than that of the Greek Orthodox liturgy and is based on the liturgies of St. Basil, St. Gregory or St. Cyril. Upon receiving communion, the communicants receive a piece of consecrated bread in their mouths placed by the priest. After everyone has been given the consecrated bread, the communicant then returns to receive a spoon full of consecrated wine from the chalice, also given by the priest. All of the consecrated bread and wine is consumed and none is left over to be reserved in the tabernacle as Catholic do. This is the most ancient Christian rite that I witnessed; and it is mesmerizing. The beauty and reverence overwhelms me. As I compare the liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox, I analyze and discover the history and development of, not only the liturgy, but of theology and tradition. My observation did answer in my heart a basic question though. I always wondered which method of making the sign of the cross was more ancient, the Roman Catholic or the Greek Orthodox. After witnessing the Coptic Orthodox make the sign of the cross as Roman Catholics do, my question was answered.

Contrasts in Essential Beliefs

The more ancient schism within the Holy Catholic Church occurred during the council of Chalcedon, when there was a misunderstanding between the Oriental Orthodox Church and the rest of Christendom which was the united church of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The Oriental Orthodox Churches include the Coptic Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, and the Syrian Orthodox, along with others who are in communion with these churches. My belief is that schism was caused by a conspiracy of the Roman Emperor to curtail the hierarchical authority of the Egyptian Patriarch of Alexandria, where, at that time, was the center of catechetical theology. The emperor thus exiled the Patriarch and as a consequence the Patriarch was not present at the Council of Chalcedon. The important point that I want to make is the Christological theology that the Coptic Orthodox Church was expressing in opposition to the development at the Council of Chalcedon. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Coptic Orthodox Church is monophysite, believing that Christ has only one nature, which is divine. This is a misconception and misinterpretation on the part of both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, which are dyophysite, believing that Christ has two natures, divine and human. The Coptic Orthodox Church, as a matter of fact consider monophysism a heresy; they believe that Jesus has one nature that is both fully divine and fully human. The Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians express this same concept as having two natures, full divinity and full humanity. I think the argument is silly. It is not an argument over belief, rather an argument over words, meaning the same thing. The Roman Catholics express belief in the confines of catechetical documents. The eastern churches express belief and dogma also within the liturgy and prayers. The Coptic Orthodox Church has a unique method of theological teaching that is not only found within the liturgy and prayers, but also through the hymns; they call this hymnology. The prayers and hymns are rich in imagery and have a unique poetic flare. The following is a prayer within their liturgy and hymns: "We magnify you O Mother of the True Light and we glorify you O saint and Mother of God (Theotokos) for you have borne unto us the Savior of the world.” This prayer also precedes the Nicene Creed as an introduction and was written by St. Cyril of Alexandria. If the Coptic Orthodox were truly monophysites in the understanding of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, then the Coptic Orthodox would not be able to express Mary a being Theotokos, the Mother of God. This is so obvious to a simple heart. This is why I wonder if the schism was caused more so by politics, culture and linguistics rather than a divergence of beliefs. The Maronites, who are fully Catholic, (and in union with the Pope of Rome), share the same system of belief, pertaining to the nature of Christ, as the Coptic Orthodox. They express this is one of their hymns used during the liturgy saying, “You have united O Lord, Your divinity with our humanity, and our humanity with your divinity.”

The schism that would follow centuries later is a more difficult and maybe even more devastating schism, called the Great Schism. This is an alienation of the Eastern and Western Churches and was a culmination of difficulties in politics, culture, geography and language. I assert that the culminating factor was the idea of the primacy of the Pope asserted by the Roman Catholic Church. This is a sensitive discussion even until this day where in many Orthodox Churches, to be Orthodox means to be anti-pope and anti-Rome. Discussions of divergences in belief did not even surface until well after the Great Schism in 1054. I would like to mention here that having extensive knowledge on this subject, the excommunication and papal bull that was laid on the altar of the Church of the Holy Wisdom excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople was not even valid because the Pope had died several months before, so the authority of the legates was not even valid. I would surmise that the document was devised out of personal pride and anger. The Patriarch of Constantinople responded by anathematizing the delegates. One should notice that at no point was the whole Church on either side excommunicated; this why I insist that the Church is One and Holy, and that the division is artificial.

Focusing now on divergences in belief, one main thorn in the side of Orthodox Christians is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church added the filioque clause to the Nicene Creed. This is the clause that states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Orthodox Church maintains the creed in its original text stating that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. In discussions with friends and parishioners who are Orthodox, I have come to know that the whole argument of the Orthodox Church is that the Roman Catholic Church had no right to add the clause without convening a Church Council; for it was in the setting of a Church Council that the Creed was formed, even though the statement may be true. Only later did the Orthodox find potential theological differences in the statement. From having experienced both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, I have noticed that the filioque clause was actually inserted by the Spanish king, and not by the Pope. This was in an attempt to defend the Church against the heresy of Arianism (the heresy stating that Christ was only human and not divine). The Orthodox responded to Arianism in a similar way by including in the text of the liturgy, the prayer response: “To Christ our God, and save us.” Both East and West responded to defend the Church against heresy, but came up with distinct approaches.

Other doctrinal developments by the Roman Catholic Church that are foreign to Orthodox Christians are the doctrines of Purgatory and the Immaculate Conception. Even though the Orthodox Church does not have these doctrines, I have witnessed, again through the prayers and liturgy of the Orthodox Church that they have similar beliefs expressed differently. For example, even though the doctrine of Purgatory is foreign to them, the Orthodox Church has elaborate prayers for the dead. They pray to God that the dead may be in a place of comfort and rest. Even though there are many sophisticated discussions on Purgatory, the Roman Catholic Church only asserts that it exists, and that we can pray for the dead. Keeping it to the very basics, the two churches are stating the same thing. Also, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not part of the Orthodox Church, and is extensively debated between the two churches. But through my own experience, I have again witnessed through the Orthodox liturgy that the Orthodox express a very similar, if not the same, truth. There is a prayer within the Orthodox liturgy that says, “It is right, in truth, to glorify you, the Birth-Giver of God, the Ever-Blessed, wholly immaculate, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim. You who without defilement did bare God the Word, true Birth-Giver of God, we magnify You.” Again, I assert that the real issue at hand here is the authority of the Pope that is denied by the Orthodox Christians.

Analysis and Conclusion

I must admit that at times my heart has felt torn. But not because of any confusion of my own; rather I have witnessed the utter confusion and misunderstanding of those from both Churches. The friction that exists between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is actually more political, cultural, linguistic and geographical than theological. Our basic beliefs are essentially the same. Our expressions and traditions which are mainly cultural are expressed differently and define a beautiful uniqueness in both churches. Even though the Orthodox Church denies the primacy of the Pope, its own hierarchical structure contains many fractures and divisions. A unifying factor is essential. Even the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople lacks the authority and unifying potential of bringing the sister Orthodox Churches closer together. My fervent prayer of seeing the unification of the two Churches is constant. I would like to share some insights that I have gained. I feel that for unification to take place, the authority of the Pope must be addressed. The Eastern Churches are very zealous in maintaining their identity and orthodox tradition. One of the principal causes that lead up to the Great Schism was the fact that the Catholic West used unleavened bread for communion and the Orthodox East used unleavened bread. When the West attempted to impose upon the East its own customs and traditions, the East spoke up. They accused the West of being Judaistic. My heart tells me that the issue of Papal authority must be handled with love and patience. I would suggest that Papal authority not be imposed, merely because it is Roman. Unity has to be sought because we all believe that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist. And we all should recall the words of Jesus as He prayed to His Father, “Father, may they be one as You and I are One.” Unity should be sought because we are apostolic and were handed down the one true faith as it was given to the Apostles by Jesus. Unity should be sought because the Holy Spirit states in scripture, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” 1 Corinthians 10, 16-17. I would propose that in order to attain unity, the Pope should be chosen from all of the Apostolic Churches, not just from the Church of Rome. The Pope should be a light and guiding inspiration for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, not just the Church of Rome. For this to take place, Rome should relinquish its primacy and give it to Peter. Peter was in Jerusalem and Antioch before he traveled to Rome. Peter was also the first Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch. They maintain an unbroken lineage since Peter just as the Church of Rome does.

It is also interesting to see that many Protestant and Evangelical Christians are being drawn to the Orthodox Church. I have seen many conversions. I sit and wonder, what is it that draws them to the Orthodox Church as opposed to the Catholic Church. On pondering, I come to the conclusion that many seek to know their Christian roots and long to be in tune with ancient Church history. They seem to be able to attain this within the Orthodox Church without being part of, what they would call Babylon.

Another analysis that I would like to offer is the distinct spirituality of each Church. I have read many of the writings of the church doctors. I think the Roman Catholic Church is more likely to be influence by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Anthony of Padua, St Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross than it is by St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. Ephraim, St. Gregory, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom and St. Cyril of Jerusalem as the Orthodox are. The Roman Catholic Church seeks truth through faith and reason by way of formulas, doctrines and definitions. The Eastern Orthodox Church meditates on its mysteries. Truth cannot be explained fully as it can be experienced. The experience of prayer is also quite different. Through my experience, I have witnessed many forms of prayer through my Catholic experience as well as my Orthodox experience. Various forms of prayer within my Catholic perspective have been meditation, petition, intersession, praise, adoration and contemplation. I have experienced that the use of the Rosary has been a very effective tool in my prayer life as a Catholic. It has assisted me in achieving many levels of the aforementioned types of prayer; and has kept me close to our Blessed Mother. As an aside, this is another difference I have experienced in comparing the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Catholics will call Mary: “Our Mother”. And Orthodox will, for the most part, only call Mary, “the Mother of God”. It lacks the personal relationship that Catholics hold with Mary, even though they invoke her name much more than Catholics do during their liturgy. The spirituality of prayer for the Orthodox Christian is a little different. Prayer is usually sung or chanted and with a candle lit. The mystery of communication with the Lord of Hosts is pondered. The Orthodox have a prayer that is called the Prayer of the Heart or commonly known as the Jesus Prayer. They have what, to a Catholic, would look like a rosary. It is a knotted rope with a cross at the end. This is used to pray constantly the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Eastern Orthodoxy is shrouded in mysticism. The Jesus Prayer is not just a prayer, but a method of prayer, of uniting our hearts, minds and souls to Jesus. The prayer is recited seeking to focus the rhythms of the body with that of the spirit. One becomes present to the beating of the heart and the rhythm of breathing and combines this with the Jesus Prayer. The experience I have had praying the Jesus Prayer has been mystical. My whole life has changed, having the Name of Jesus always on my lips and beating to my heart with every breath.

The journey, upon which the Lord of Hosts has embarked me, has been a true blessing for me. I have experienced the truth of the Catholic Church, the beautiful mysticism of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the incredible love, humility and true praise through the Coptic Orthodox Church. I cannot help but to proclaim with John Paul II, that “the church must learn to breathe with both lungs”. I wish everyone could experience what I have experienced. I can now only say that my calling has been to plant seeds, seeds of unity and seeds of love and reconciliation. For we cannot leave this task just to popes and patriarchs; but must take an active part of love, humility and sharing, in seeking unity. In closing, I would like to share with you a beautiful song, sang during communion in the Catholic Church. Within its scriptural words, it expresses the very heart and soul of my desire for Christian unity. May the Lord bless and keep you and may His holy Name always be praised.

Greet one anther with a holy kiss, it may change someone’s life, and maybe even your own. In the love of Christ, and through the prayers of His Most Pure Mother,

Juan David De Jesus

One Bread, One Body

One bread, one body,
one Lord of all,
one cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many,
throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

Text: Based on 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; 12:4, 12–13, 20; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 4:4–6; The Didache 9. Text and music © 1978, John B. Foley, S.J. and OCP. All rights reserved.