Bewitch the Mind and Ensnare the Senses

We read chapter books aloud as a family before bed. This has been part of our bedtime routine for a few years now. We’ve read things like Winnie the Pooh, The Secret Garden, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Father’s Dragon, and now, much to my delight, we’ve commenced on the epic adventure of Harry Potter. We just introduced Severus Snape (so of course I had to show them the video Puppet Pals and now my house is filled with people chanting, “Ron, Ron, Ron Weeeeeasley!”). Snape’s opening lecture is so good. His language is so vivid. I almost pulled out the YouTube clip of Alan Rickman’s performance to show them, it’s spot on.

“I can teach you to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory and even put a stopper on death.”

Severus Snape, Sorcerer’s Stone

While we don’t live in the world of Harry Potter, our senses can be bewitched and ensnared even without potions or potions masters. This happened to me at the start of quarantine.

I had gone out to our workshop where we have an old spare refrigerator. I keep extra milk out there, thaw meat, etc. I went to get the last gallon of milk, promising myself that as soon as I got back inside I would hit submit on the grocery order. On the way inside I noticed the date on the milk.

Sell by: 2 days ago.

Ugh!! No!! I couldn’t believe it. How could I have let that happen? Now we had no milk and in our town, the grocery pick ups at that time were days of waiting before your scheduled time.

Maybe it isn’t too bad, I told myself. Let’s see if it passes the sniff test. Maybe we can squeak a day or two out of this before it has to go. Once inside, I opened it up and hesitantly smelled. Bad.

One last hope. The taste test. I was highly doubtful, but it was a whole gallon of milk. I couldn’t dump it without exhausting all my options. So I poured the smallest glass and with a grimace, took a sip.

Shocked face, it was FINE! I couldn’t believe it. My eyes said it was past due, which informed my nose it was clearly done for. I’m so happy I tried one more sense before giving up.

This made me think of the Eucharist. Here we have simple bread and wine. Our eyes tell us it’s normal bread, our nose smells the aroma of wine. Even here our taste confirms what our eyes, nose and touch tell us. But wait, there’s one more sense. What do we hear? We hear Jesus’ words:

This is my Body, which will be given for you, do this in memory of me.

This cup is the new covenant in my Blood, which will be shed for you.

Luke 22:19-20

Our eyes are deceived. Our taste, touch and smell leave us wanting. Our ears hear the truth and our soul responds. The incredible gift of the Jesus in this Sacrament of Sacraments is beyond our physical senses.

As things slowly begin to open back up we will be privileged to once again receive this miracle. I hope and pray we enter even more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist. It is both the source and summit of our Catholic faith. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a prayer about the mystery of the Eucharist which we still sing today. Below are the words to his famous Adoro te devote which speak so much more eloquently than I ever could about Jesus’ true presence in the Eucharist.


1. Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

2. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

3. On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

4. I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

5. O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

6. Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

7. Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight.
Amen.

And He Humbled Himself

A few years ago I started a book writing project. I have about 3/4 of it written, but haven’t touched it for some time. I began it around the time when I started making the Advent and Lenten Lectio Divina Journals. I was feeling passionate about helping people encounter Scripture in easy and meaningful ways. I was also incorporating some simple Bible verse memorization in our homeschool day.

I decided to try to write something about a foundational piece of Scripture and attempt to incorporate all these ideas. It has Lectio Divina, some Scripture exegesis (the fancy word for exploration, analysis, and interpretation of Scripture), activities to help memorize the passage, space for reflection and follow-up discussion questions. The passage I chose was the Christ Hymn from Philippians 2:5-11.

While I don’t know if I’ll ever have this manuscript in a publishable state, I have been thinking about it lately and am dusting it off a little bit. Today is Good Friday, the day of days. Jesus, true God and true Man, offers Himself as the perfect and ultimate sacrifice so that we, His beloved creation, could once again be one with God. This passage beautifully sums up the mystery of Christ. I thought I’d offer my thoughts and research on the first verse, Philippians 2:8 here with you all (* indicate the citations listed at the bottom). I’d love to hear what you think, if you find it insightful or would be interested in hearing more.

We are living in a unique time in history. I hope that during this Great Lent (as some have been calling it) you have learned more about yourself and your relationship with God. As we look forward to Sunday, let’s remember that no matter what chaos rains down around us, we are an Easter people. Darkness and death, though deep and dark indeed, cannot shut out the light of Christ.


and he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross

Philippians 2:8

We will start, with a brief study of words. Paul opens this verse by focusing us on the word, “humbled” which he interestingly uses as a verb. This is the same Greek word, tapeinoó, Paul uses in the verses prior to the hymn (Phil 2:3-4). Here is the key which unlocks the first 4 verses of this hymn. Briefly, let’s recall what it means for Paul to be humble:

  1. Do nothing out of selfishness or a desire to further your own status
  2. Regard others as more important than yourself
  3. Do not look out for your own interests first
  4. Put the needs of others before your own

Paul explained to the Philippi community what humility is in theory, but here he illustrates in no uncertain terms exactly what humility is in flesh and blood. Humility is Jesus, who did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, even though He was well within His right to demand it (1). Jesus emptied Himself (2), taking the form of a servant, the lowliest of the low (3). He became obedient (4) even to the point of death. Here we have on full display what it means to be humble. It is to be like Christ.*

Pope Benedict XVI compares Jesus to Adam when he states, 

Through the Cross of Christ man is redeemed and Adam’s experience is reversed. Adam, created in the image and likeness of God, claimed to be like God through his own effort, to put himself in God’s place and in this way lost the original dignity that had been given to him. Jesus, instead, was “in the form of God” but humbled himself, immersed himself in the human condition, in total faithfulness to the Father, in order to redeem the Adam who is in us and restore to man the dignity he had lost. The [Church] Fathers emphasize that he made himself obedient, restoring to human nature, through his own humanity and obedience, what had been lost through Adam’s disobedience.

Pope Benedict XVI. General Audience: Wednesday 27. https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120627.html

Origin, one of the Church Fathers, reflects on this verse in one of his Commentary on the Gospel of John: Pt 379. He states that Jesus’ obedience, even to death, was part of God’s gathering the whole world and all its inherent brokenness due to sin back under His authority.** Paul is expressing the mysterious reality that God descended into His creation. This hymn can be broken into two distinct sections: the descent (Phil 2:6-8) and the ascent(Phil 2:7-11). Here we reach the depths of the descent. St. Augustine pondered these crucial words in this way: “He ’emptied Himself,’ He ‘humbled himself.’ Though He was God, He appeared as man. He was despised as He walked on earth, He who made the heaven. He was despised as though a mere man, as though of no power. Yea, not despised only, but slain moreover.”***

The downward movement of Christ is reflected deeply upon by Henri Nouwen in his book The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. He challenges us to see the downward way the way of Christ. Humanity, in all our brokenness, needed a savior. How beautiful, how mysterious, that our God chose to enter into that brokenness, to descend down into its very core death itself, in order that we might be redeemed. Nouwen tells us, “The great mystery upon which our faith rests is that the One who is in no way like us, who cannot be compared with us, nor enter into competition with us, has come among us and taken on our mortal flesh.”**** Note the echoes of Paul’s definition of humility. Jesus doesn’t come to compete with us but serve us. He is God, powerful and mighty, yet he enters into creation as a tiny, helpless baby. 

And then to top it all off, Jesus dies. There can be no greater descent than this. Jesus, our Savior, is obedient to the Father, and offers Himself as ransom for us all. 

The spotless lamb, the blameless victim. The one true God who kneels at our feet, wishing to wash them clean allows Himself to be raised up on a cross for our salvation. Pope John Paul II quotes St. Ambrose at length, with words of such power and beauty I couldn’t hope to do them justice by paraphrasing. 

“Christ, hung on the tree of the Cross… was pierced by the lance, whereby blood and water flowed out, sweeter than any ointment, from the victim acceptable to God, spreading throughout the world the perfume of sanctification…. Thus, Jesus, pierced, spread the perfume of the forgiveness of sins and of redemption. Indeed, in becoming man from the Word which he was, he was very limited and became poor, though he was rich, so as to make us rich through his poverty (cf. II Cor 8: 9). He was powerful, yet he showed himself as deprived, so much so that Herod scorned and derided him; he could have shaken the earth, yet he remained attached to that tree; he closed the heavens in a grip of darkness, setting the world on the cross, but he had been put on the Cross; he bowed his head, yet the Word sprung forth; he was annihilated, nevertheless he filled everything. God descended, man ascended; the Word became flesh so that flesh could revindicate for itself the throne of the Word at God’s right hand; he was completely wounded, and yet from him the ointment flowed. He seemed unknown, yet God recognized him”

St. Ambrose. III, 8, Saemo IX, Milan-Rome 1987, pp. 131, 133 as quoted by Pope John Paul II. General Audience: Wednesday 19 November 2003. Vatican. https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/audiences/2003/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_20031119.html

* Brant Pitre. Philippians 2. YouTube.

** Origin. Commentary on the Gospel of John: Pt 379. Kenosis: Christ “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7). http://kenosis.info/ANF-10A.html.

*** St. Augustine. Sermons on Selected Lessons, Sermon 42: Pt 2. Kenosis: Christ “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7).  http://kenosis.info/NPN1-06E.htm

**** Henri Nouwen. The Selfless Way of Christ: Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life. (Maryknoll, Orbis Books. 2007). 38.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Who is My Neighbor? – Catholicmom.com

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus concretely defines who our neighbor is. Our neighbor is whoever needs our help, regardless of situation, status, skin color, or belief. Even more broadly, our neighbor is the Other, anyone who is outside of ourselves. Jesus’ ultimate example, which we are preparing to immerse ourselves in during this Lenten season, is His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Jesus’ sacrifice for us illuminates the essence of true love: willing the good of the other.

In these times of both intense closeness and intense separation due to COVID-19, I believe it would be helpful to pause and marvel at what we are achieving as a society.

Continue reading at Catholicmom.com