Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Renewing Your Youth Like an Eagles

I'm in bird watching mode these days, since spring migration yields many interesting species in my yard, in the wood, and along the waterways here in Pennsylvania. It's also nesting time for many birds. On a recent walk I spotted a bald eagle's nest along the Allegheny River.

So when I read  Psalm 103 this morning (Office of Readings), my eyes lingered on verse 5 and I recalled an old post I'd written about that several years ago. Here's a rerun of that.

Reading Psalm 103 during Office of Readings today, I remembered this 2011 post wherein I satisfied my curiosity about the eagle verse. Have you ever wondered why it's an eagle's youth that is renewed, as opposed to that of, say, a chickadee?   I finally looked it up and here's the result:


Psalm 103 comprises the psalter for today's (Wednesday, week IV) Office of Readings.In verse 5, after listing some of God's blessings--forgives guilt, heals your ills, redeems you, crowns you with love and compassion, fills your life with good things--the psalmist adds, renewing your youth like an eagle's.

Every time I read this line, I first give the little happy sigh with which I respond to beautiful  biblical nature imagery, a mini Hallmark poster of the image flashing in my brain.

Then I stop and say, Wait!...  what?

 Because I can't figure out what's so special about an eagle's youth.
Not his strength, power, beauty, far sight, but his youth.

My first guess--could it be there was a phoenix-type myth going on about eagles that the psalmist had picked up on?

I did a search and found that many people share my question. An interesting "biblical birdwatching" site gave a lengthy description of how many times a bald eagle molts until he acheives the mature, white-head-and-tail plumage at 5 years of age. The evangelical writer considered this molting a kind of renewal. Not bad, but 1. this would teach a lesson about the desirability of Maturity, the wisdom of old age, not about youth. and 2. the bald eagle is a North American bird.

Luckily, I remembered that the Fathers of the Church have commented at length on just about every verse of scripture. Good old New Advent has St. Augustine's comments. Augustine claims that an eagle's beak tip never stops growing, and that after many years have gone by, it curves down and around the lower mandible such that the eagle would be unable to eat.  He grows weak from hunger, and then, in desperation, bashes the end of his beak off against a rock. Once again able to eat, his strength, vigor, and plumage are renewed, and he is once more like a young eagle. Augustine concludes:

 ...the eagle is not restored unto immortality, but we are unto eternal life; but the similitude is derived from hence, that the rock takes away from us what hinders us. Presume not therefore on your strength: the firmness of the rock rubs off your old age: for that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 In Christ our youth shall be restored like that of the eagle....

My own knowledge of birds tell me that eagles don't really need to break off their beaks. I have seen crows and pet parrots rub their beaks against hard material.  And I've known pet parakeets to need a beak trim when they haven't had something hard to chew on. Probably eagles wear their beaks down by tearing at the bones of their prey.   But as St. Thomas points out, an analogy does not have to be true to be a good analogy.

So it looks like Christ, our rock, rubs off or breaks off our weary, aged sinfulness, and restores to us the youth of our baptismal purity. Enabling us to soar to heaven. On eagles wings  the wings of eagles.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From the Catholic Hipster

I always love to share someone else's published enthusiasm for the Liturgy of the Hours. So when Alert Reader Rachael Murphy told me about this article by Tommy Tighe, I had to drop everything and let you know about it at once. Here's the beginning:

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St. Paul makes a recommendation that at first glance seems flat out impossible: “pray without ceasing.”
When I hear that, my first reaction is something akin to, “He can’t be serious, right?”
I react that way, despite the fact that I pretty much check my social media feeds without ceasing, snack without ceasing, and complain without ceasing. For some reason, those come pretty easy to me. 

Praying without ceasing though? Not so much!

There’s just too much to do! I’m working full-time, spending most of my time away from work corralling three kids into our minivan and around town, and I’ve got WAY too many shows to stream on Netflix after the kids finally fall asleep. 

I feel pretty lucky to cram a single Hail Mary into the midst of all that, but “pray without ceasing?” I can’t even imagine!

A few years ago, however, I made a Lenten goal that changed my entire way of viewing St. Paul’s directive...
By the way, this author, who styles himself "The Catholic Hipster", has a book out with the same title. I read and reviewed it  on Catholic Digest when it came out a year or so ago. It's a fun book.