Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Attack on Peace?

For many years now the Pope has practiced the custom of releasing a dove as a symbol of peace on certain days of the year, usually in the wake of some tide of violence. This weekend the Holy Father released a dove from his window of the Vatican Palace to commemorate the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust, a time which he himself must recall vividly.

Pope releases a dove to commemorate the Holocaust
source: Daily Mail
This day the small ceremony was given a twist of irony when seconds after the Pontiff released the dove, the bird was attacked by one of those nasty little winged swine known as a seagulls. Seagulls, which are most commonly found searching for french fries in the parking lot of the local McDonald's, no matter how far inland you are, make a nice analogy to modern culture for us: the fat, nasty materialist molesting peace with great violence.

The dove flees the Apostolic Palace for its life!
source: Daily Mail

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pray for the March for Life


Every year half a million people march through the Mall of Washington DC and to the United States Supreme Court in commemoration of Roe v. Wade, a mad decision by nine lawyers vested in black which concocted "privacy" rights and then extending those to the mother in such a way that she has a private "right" to decide whether or not to bring a child to term (i.e. kill it or let it live). 55 million children are not alive in this country today because of this decision, and many more globally. There will also be numerous local demonstrations. Pray for the safety and efficacy of the demonstrators today, as they protest the greatest evil of our day, perhaps of any day.

There is no other way to construe this, even in sympathy for lonely, single women without means: what rests in a mother's womb is a person. I have known three people in my life who were supposed to be aborted, and no locution will change my mind on this matter. My friends ought not be alive under this system, yet they are. When someone is prevented from having life we have a certain legal term which we apply and which I need not name. When did my friends become human beings?—if they were not in the womb? Is the product of sexual intercourse between a human male and a human female not also human?

Perhaps we can find some measure of consolation in the reformed life of Bernard Nathanson, who performed 75,000-100,000 abortions, founded NARAL, and, by his own admission, was a "mass murderer." During one abortion he saw for the first time an ultrasound which illustrated in real time what he was doing to the fetus. He noticed something unexpected, the fetus was aware of his presence and fought back from his cold instruments. Nathanson gave up performing abortions and became, along with Nellie Gray, the most vociferous advocate of life in 20th century America. A decade after his change of life the Church received him in baptism performed by Cardinal O'Connor. His priest, Fr. McCloskey, said Nathanson “practiced the faith, he frequented the sacraments, and spoke about his Catholicism unabashedly."

One of Nathanson's more enduring contributions was this video, The Silent Scream, which continues to be viewed heavily today.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Liturgy to Theology: A Short Case for Patriarchal Christianity

The Ambrosian rite of Mass, a Latin liturgy dating to ancient times and
which is independent of the Roman rite.
source: New Liturgical Movement
When I first read Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy I was struck by St Hippolytus's description of the primitive liturgical rites (a description which unfortunately gave rise to a curious new Eucharistic prayer in the new Roman Mass) as well as Dix's own description of the Liturgy of Addai and Mari, which contains no words of institution ("this is my body" and "this is my blood") and has a very passive epiclesis compared to the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. This torn down the temple veil and gave my the first insight into a different way of thinking, one where theology derives from liturgy, as it was in Rome until the time of Trent, rather than the other way around.

The liturgy, properly done, originates in an Apostolic church and reflects the prayer life and faith of that community. In the ancient Roman rite many of the collects reflected a grim outlook on life, an emphasis on the temporal punishments for sin and the need for repentance and forgiveness. Similarly, the congregational parts of the old Roman rite are in many ways a continuation of how Romans would behave either in the presence of the emperor or in large public assemblies. In short, the Romans prayed as Romans, the Byzantines as Byzantines, the Armenians as Armenians, the Irish as Irish and so forth.

Liturgical prayer unfolds the mystery of God before the eyes of those who pray and illuminates those mysteries according to their understanding. The Eucharistic rites and the Office should then be a tremendous source of reflection, rumination, meditation, and theology. The psalm antiphons in the old Roman office are themselves an occasion for prayer, particularly the antiphons for the octave of Christmas.

The Addai and Mari rite, scourge of Scholastics
source: St. Mary's Cathedral, Kochi
Once I shared with an aspiring Dominican friar this observation. The example of liturgy as something revealed which I adduced was the aforementioned rite of Addai and Mari, which breaks with the standing tradition East and West by not having an institution narrative. Similarly, many ancient recordings of the Eucharist neglect the narrative, although these accounts may be very general descriptions rather than actual texts. My friend went into a Thomistic fit! The theology of St Thomas Aquinas, mainstream for centuries but formally canonized at the Council of Trent, holds that consecration occurs at the words "this is my body" and "this is my blood." How could a Eucharist be valid otherwise? The reality of the matter is that this rite is valid whether particular theological traditions hold it to be or not; the Church has said it is valid; the constant use of this rite since the third century gives it precedent over particular theological analyses. Even in Part III, Question 78 of his Summa St Thomas acknowledges that his analysis is based on the Roman form of consecration, implying some limits to what he says. Adopting a Romanesque theology from the Middle Ages and applying it to a third century Assyrian rite is quite absurd!

In short, let us receive our liturgical traditions and faith from our God-fearing fathers with reverence and not tinker with them so that they may be to conform to a particular model. Should we do such a thing, we may be left with very little of value.

A good example of a "received" bit of liturgy is this "collect" from the old Mass of the Assumption of Our Lady:
Forgive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the sins of thy servants: that we who by our own deeds are unable to please thee, may be saved by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord.

This prayer is subtle and meek. Compare it to this dogmatic, heavily-laden prayer written in 1950 after Pope Pius XII used Papal Infallibility to define the Assumption of Mary:
Almighty, everlasting God, Who took up, body and soul, the immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Your Son, into heavenly glory, grant, we beseech You, that, always devoting ourselves to heavenly things, we may be found worthy to share in her glory.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pro-Marriage Demonstrators in France Number 1 Million, Press Take Little Notice

According to numerous press sources a demonstration in France in favor of marriage and against Francois Hollande's proposal for marriage "equality," as though a marriage is not an equal undertaking, numbered in the several hundreds of thousands and, according to some sources, over a million! Needless to say, America's mad media have taken no notice.

There are a lot of them! Source: CNN
One poll I read yesterday indicated over 50% of French person favored gay "marriage," but an identical percentage opposed adoption of children by homosexual couples. Many of the signs at the protest were a variation of something like "1 man + 1 woman = child." Here we see a integral element to the marriage debate sorely missing in the United States and United Kingdom: children! Perhaps the first daughter of the Church has retained common sense in some pockets after all!

In the English speaking world we have often framed the marriage debate over whether or not it is traditional to have one man and one woman unions, whether nature intended it to be that way or whether people who hold such tenets are just fuddy-duddy antiquarians who cannot adapt. Children change the matter.

It cannot be contested that one man and one woman are the procreators, the people who make children, and by virtue of that, the family, happen. No matter what strange devices are derived by vulgar imaginations, one fellows will never, ever conceive a child within the realm of the natural. Why? God made it that way, of course, but this reasonable explanation will not do for many these days. Consider this: the child takes his or her cues for future gender-behavior from his or her parents. A boy will learn who to behave, or not behave, from his father and learn what traits to seek in a woman from his mother. The mother also nurtures the boy while the father teaches him how to do things unique to being a man. Gay couples simply cannot do this, o at least not well, and certainly not without confusing children.

Come on people, think about it!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My New Missal

A friend recently gave me a copy of a Missale Romanum which was published in 1913, after St Pius X's bull Divino Afflatu, reforming the breviary and the calendar for the Mass. Although the bull is published in the front, after Quo Primum and all the usual documents, this missal has none of the mandates changes, as the reformed missal was not published until 1920, according to Rubricarius of the St Lawrence Press blog. So, the feast of St. Thomas Becket had commemorations of four octaves rather than just one! The ancient, unreformed Holy Week is also published herein.

This is clearly an altar missal that would have been used on the more important feasts of the year. The gilding is in excellent condition, as is the paper. One of the locks on the side is in working order, while the other must be replaced.

The Canon of the Mass. The artwork is quite detailed. One can feel the ink-print when touching the images and print.

The opening pages.

The backside of the missal. The leather should be clean and some of the gilding ought to be re-finished, but it is in working condition. This book was built to last for a very long time.

The texts for the first Mass of Christmas day. Note the lovely woodblock-printed images above the more important feasts.

"Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum," the opening words of the Easter Sunday Mass: "I have risen, and I am still with you." I am 6'2", have very large hands, and can mostly encompass an NFL sized football with my fingers; this should give you an idea as to how large this missal is. Also, the paper quality is outstanding, something missing in today's liturgical books. The pages for the Ordo Missae and Canon Missae are so thick that one can see the weaving pattern.

Happy Feast of the Holy Family—which is not in this book! Perhaps I should wish you a happy octave day of Epiphany!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Theophany of the Lord

Holy Water blessed for keeping and consumption after Divine Liturgy of the holy Theophany

Yesterday was the feast of the Epiphany, meaning “manifestation,” in the Latin rite and of the Theophany, or “manifestation of God,” in the Byzantine rite. These two celebrations of the manifestation of God to man are closely related, although the latter moves my soul more than my mind.

Epiphany recalls the visit of the Magi, a group of Eastern astrologers, to Christ some measure of time following His birth. God made known to these pagan divines that the Messiah and King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem and that they should come to worship and adore Him. No child himself is worthy of adoration, especially to a pagan. These men were therefore given a unique insight and message that this Child would be God made Flesh. And so the Epiphany is the first time God manifested Himself to Gentiles, or non-Jews. This Child’s salvation would be propitiatory and catholic, not confined to residents of the Eastern-most bank of the Mediterranean.

Theophany, the manifestation of God, evokes a close effect, but is complimented with a deeper insight into the nature of God Himself, for this day is the first day on which the Holy Trinity manifested Himself to all mankind. The Gospel of the feast recounts the baptism of the Lord by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17). The Troparion of the feast illuminates the cause of our joy:
“At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was revealed, for the Father’s voice bore witness to You by calling you His beloved Son, and the Spirit in the form of a dove, confirmed the truth of these words. O Christ God Who has appeared to us and enlightened the world, glory to you!”
We are given hints in the private revelation of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin Mary before the Nativity. The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear the Son of God and that this conception would occur by the work of the Holy Ghost, meaning the Holy Ghost, if He could incarnate God, must share in the Nature of God, but this revelation was to our Lady, not to all mankind. Theophany was for all mankind.

Christ presents Himself as the perfectly obedient Son to the Father, and the Holy Ghost descends in the form of a God during Jesus’s baptism at the hands of a reluctant St. John. The descent of the Spirit during this pouring of water is a further manifestation in addition, or in compliment, to the Triune Godhead. Christ, by being baptized in water, sanctified water and indicated that this baptism of water and the Holy Ghost would have a grace-giving and salvific effect.

Water, which preserved God’s people in so many ways in the Old Testament, continues to protect. Water sparged the evil of the world during the Great Flood. Water drowned those Egyptians pursuing the Hebrew people into the Red Sea. Water, flowing from struck rock, maintained those meandering under the aegis of Moses for four decades in the desert. But this is different, and even better. This water does not protect us or cleanse us from earthly enemies, but from the Enemy, from the Devil and from Sin. Therefore, in Christ’s baptism, He sanctifies the waters of the earth, fulfills a promise intimated in the old covenant, and shows us what we must do to obtain salvation.

When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous peopleJudea made his sanctuary, Israel his dominionThe sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned backThe mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of the flockWhat ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou didst flee: and thou, O Jordan, that thou wast turned back?Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye hills, like lambs of the flock?At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of JacobWho turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of watersNot to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give gloryFor thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?
—Psalm 113 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Vigil of the Epiphany of Our Lord

From the Second Sermon on the Epiphany by St. Leo the Great:
Dearly beloved brethren, rejoice in the Lord; again I say, rejoice. But a few days are past since the solemnity of Christ's Birth, and now the glorious light of His Manifestation is breaking upon us. On that day the Virgin brought Him forth, and on this the world knew Him. The Word made Flesh was pleased to reveal Himself by degrees to those for whom He had come. When Jesus was born He was manifested indeed to the believing, but hidden from His enemies. Already indeed the heavens declared the glory of God, and their sound went out into all lands, when the Herald Angels appeared to tell to the shepherds the glad tidings of a Saviour's Birth; and now the guiding star leadeth the wise men to worship Him, that from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, the Birth of the true King may be known abroad; that through those wise men the kingdoms of the east might learn the great truth, and the Roman empire remain no more in darkness.
The very cruelty of Herod, when he strove to crush at His birth this King Whom he alone feared, was made a blind means to carry out this dispensation of mercy. While the tyrant with horrid guilt sought to slay the little Child he did not know, amid an indiscriminate slaughter of innocents, his infamous act served to spread wider abroad the heaven-told news of the Birth of the Lord. Thus were these glad tidings loudly proclaimed, both by the novelty of their story, and the iniquity of their enemies. Then was the Saviour borne into Egypt, that nation, of a long time hardened in idolatry, might by the mysterious virtue which went out of Him, even when His presence was unknown, be prepared for the saving light so soon to dawn on them, and might receive the Truth as a wanderer even before they had banished falsehood.
Dearly beloved brethren, we recognise in the wise men who came to worship Christ, the first-fruits of that dispensation to the Gentiles wherein we also are called and enlightened. Let us then keep this Feast with grateful hearts, in thanksgiving for our blessed hope, whereof it doth commemorate the dawn. From that worship paid to the new-born Christ is to be dated the entry of us Gentiles upon our heirship of God and co-heirship with Christ. Since that joyful day the Scriptures which testify of Christ have lain open for us as well as for the Jews. Yea, their blindness rejected that Truth, Which, since that day, hath shed Its bright beams upon all nations. Let all observance, then, be paid to this most sacred day, whereon the Author of our salvation was made manifest, and as the wise men fell down and worshipped Him in the manger, so let us fall down and worship Him enthroned Almighty in heaven. As they also opened their treasures and presented unto Him mystic and symbolic gifts, so let us strive to open our hearts to Him, and offer Him from thence some worthy offering.