Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Spectral Tale: The Ghost of Von Balthasar

Today is the Vigil of All Saints traditionally, although the Byzantines celebrate All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost and the Roman rite was stripped of its vigil by Pius XII. It is also "Reformation Day," which makes the phantom of fallacies past's visit all the more appropriate.

Yesterday I walked through the local cathedral during my lunch hour and was awkwardly approached by a man who, had I not known better, would easily pass as Santa Claus from the film Miracle on 34th Street. He wore a large onyx crucifix around his neck and carried himself with a light demeanor. "A reflection on the faith by... uh, Cardinal Von Balthasar," he said. No sooner had I stopped to hear him than he had thrust a pamphlet into my chest and exited by the south door. The pamphlet went into my pocket for some non-devotional reading.

The only other work I have read of Hans Urs von Balthasar is his Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? in excerpts. It reeked of heresy on every page, not necessarily because of its conclusion, but its arrival at that point. Unlike the Alexandrian school of universalism, Balthasar's theology is so far removed from the Apostolic Fathers, the Patristic Doctors, the mystics, the Latin Schoolmen, and the Palamites that had I not known he was nominated for the red hat I would have presumed him to be a Calvinist. Every time I read him, off put by his teaching, I forget his writings' content. This layman's pamphlet, an excerpt from Balthasar's Prayer, reminded me to forget him again.

Here are some passages with my own commentary. To the best of my ability I am keeping the author's words in context.
"Thus, as in all contemplation of sin, there is a dialectic to be maintained in the contemplation of hell. We see it in the Son's being forsaken by God in his descent into the darkness of Hades. In the Son who bears, not his own sins, but mine, I glimpse into the terrible severity of the Father's judgment—for who but the Son really knows what it means to be forsaken by the Father?"
This is blasphemy. It is heresy and it is blasphemy.

In three sentences this Swiss writer has divided the Godhead and made the Second Person of the Trinity into the object of God the Father's wrath. The unity of the Godhead was the focus of the first and second Councils of the Church, and it also occupied the minds and time of the great Greek and Latin Doctors of the Church. Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian, in Hellenic fashion, began with the three divine persons  and arrived at one unity, one essence called the Trinity, avoiding tritheism. In comparison, Augustine of Hippo's neo-Platonic perspective began with the one Godhead and saw the threefold personhood as the expression of God's completeness, avoiding modalism. In every sense the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was maintained and elevated as an essential part of the faith, for Christ did say "I and the Father are one" in John 10:30.

Now Hans Urs von Balthasar has divided the Father and the Son into "God" and the "Son." This language was used by the pre-Nicene Fathers as a continuation of the Jewish practice of calling the Father "God," but von Balthasar's intention seems manifestly different. The two divine persons Who share the One divine nature are divided so that the Father may "forsake" the Son, abandon him and effectively make him the object of the wrath that should be due to us. Moreover, the question "who but the Son really knows what it means to be forsaken by the Father?" should be answered with the question "who but the Son would know least what separation from the Father is?" Adam and Eve knew best, as they enjoyed an unfettered original intimacy with God devoid of the distractions of a sinful and fallen nature that cloud even those of us who hew to the Sacraments. God the Son is God before all times, begotten before time. He is part of the Beatific Vision, as St. Cyprian taught in writing "How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God." To divide the two by means one forsaking the other is an act of thought so rash not even the most vociferous Arians contemplated it.

The paragraph continues:
"All the sinner can do, contemplating the judgment pronounced upon his own sin, is simply to be there while his case is heard, to be there just as he is, the sinner who wasn't there when he was needed, who betrayed the Lord like Judas and denied him like Peter and fled like the others; he simply has to be there, involved in guilt at all points through his sinfulness, and so is bound to consent to the Judge's sentence and the Victim's cry of abandonment: Yes, that is the truth, that is what I have deserved."
Balthasar elucidates his teaching later:
"The very faith and which go to make this contemplation also submit to the Father's judgment. Naturally, faith and love expect from the Father nothing but what is good; they themselves are graces flowing from the completed redemption and resurrection. But their expectation of everything that is good actually includes saying Yes to their own just condemnation. God would be right to condemn them. He was right to forsake the Son who was carrying my sin, who embodied my sin.... Yet at the same time, if my faith and love are alive and genuine, I simply cannot accept my personal condemnation from the mouth of God, for the Son, Love himself, has borne it on my behalf."
In short, Christ embodied sin, so the Father forsook Him. The sinner deserves hell, but because of the sinner's "faith and love," he rejects damnation because the sin-embodying Christ has already been abandoned and condemned by the Father on our behalf.

At some level this teaching relates loosely to the early-medieval idea that our debt was so great only Christ could pay it and satisfy the Father's demand of payment. Yet, to my knowledge, the proto-Scholastics never went as far as to describe Christ as an embodiment of sin, rejected by the Father. When one reads medieval hymnody, especially Aquinas's Corpus Christi hymns, one sees no trace of the cardinal's God.

Then we sink to the depths of Balthasar's teaching:
"where a living faith and a living love are introduced to the depths of the cross, where we too experience the extinction of the resurrection light and are plunged, like Christ, into darkness. Nor is this a 'suffering with Christ,' i.e. in the company of Christ: truth requires that we suffer this divorced from him, just as Peter 'goes out' to weep in solitude his bitter tears; it does not occur to him to regard his tears as part of the Lord's redemptive suffering.... It is clear, then, that hell is to be contemplated strictly as a matter which concerns me alone."
Immediately, one thinks of Matthew 16:24, wherein Jesus says "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Similarly, one thinks of John 15:5, "without me, you can do nothing." Christ's suffering makes our own suffering bearable, and even an opportunity for holiness, should we offer our sufferings and pain, our disappointments and trials to him, if we unite ourselves to the Cross. The fact that the death on the Cross was a sacrifice should illuminate our minds. A sacrifice, colloquially understood, is an act of self-emptying. In the Bible a sacrifice is a gift offered by a priest to the appeasement and praise of God, which the people would then consume; it was offered to God and yet benefited the people. Christ's death on the Cross mattered precisely because it made suffering the bridge to God, not isolation from Him. We partake of Jesus' sacrifice and suffering in Holy Communion, to our benefit. Christ in turn bids us to take up our crosses and follow Him. And are we to bear our crosses alone? We can, but in doing so, we will "do nothing."

And hell is a matter than concerns me alone? Christ's death redeemed the sins of the world and His resurrection constituted a new creation that we can join by Baptism (reading the blessing prayers for the font from the Holy Saturday liturgy). We are either in the new creation or the old, not self-determined creatures capable of enduring suffering or escaping the abyss on our own accord.

Finally, we come to the crux of the passage:
"From the standpoint of living faith, I cannot fundamentally believe in anyone's damnation but my own; as far as my neighbor is concerned, the light of resurrection can never be so obscured that I would be allowed or obliged to stop hoping for him."
The first half of the sentence seemingly plays on the aphorism "We are saved together, but damned alone." The second half of the sentence, however, reveals the author's true intentions this whole time. In short, the resurrection's albescent rays shine so brilliantly on others that only I, in my sinfulness, could be damned—although I am not, because Christ was in my place. Personal guilt is replaced by divine wrath. Personal damnation is replaced by Christ's suffering. And yet, Christ's aiding strength is foregone for loneliness and feigned abandonment, in imitation of Christ's rejection by the Father, almost proximate to severance from the Godhead.

Is this not a perverse Calvinism? God hates sin, and so it is projected onto Christ, Who becomes an object of the Father's disdain so I do not? Where is Christ's love and obedience unto death? Where is the unity of the Trinity? Where is personal culpability for sin?

Take your Balthasar books and observe Reformation Day by turning them into jack-o'-lanterns.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Popularizing the Faith, One List at a Time

I recently happened upon a strange online article entitled, "5 Saints Who Had Terrifying Visions of Hell." From the title, I thought it might be a sober reflection on the final end of the damned, perhaps in the form of a sermon. Instead, I discovered it to be a Buzzfeed-style list with excerpts from holy mystics focusing almost entirely on grotesque imagery.

Being already in a morbid state of mind, thanks to the impending holiday, I decided to investigate this website further. Called "ChurchPOP," it is run by a fellow named Brantly Millegan, who (as his personal website informs us) has an MA in Theology and is working on a PhD in Theology from CUA.

I am pleased to see that Mgr. Millegan defends the Catholic's right to criticize the reigning pope, but I suppose that means Michael Voris will not be inviting him onto his Daily Whirligig show. I find myself feeling slightly envious about the extent of his writing portfolio, everything from the seemingly-Feeneyite ("3 Need-to-Know Dogmas You Never Hear About") to the near-occasion-of-Weigel ("Serious Catholics Are Evangelical").

Now, Mr. Grump will never be invited to write for Aleteia or Catholic Sistas, but maybe Mgr. Millegan would see fit to publish a ChurchPOP version of my Josephology series: "7 Reasons Why St. Joseph Was an Old Fuddy-Duddy" (Reason 1: Ecumenism with the East is still a thing!).

One quote from the "5 Saints" article stood out to me, though. This was from Teresa of Avila, describing the hellish pains of certain heretics, and it seems particularly relevant in light of tomorrow's celebration of Reformation Day:
It was that vision that filled me with the very great distress which I feel at the sight of so many lost souls, especially of the Lutherans – for they were once members of the Church by baptism – and also gave me the most vehement desires for the salvation of souls; for certainly I believe that, to save even one from those overwhelming torments, I would most willingly endure many deaths.
St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

"By God's grace, I know Satan very well."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Post Synod: Where Is It?

Popularly, a great many sensible people were hoping that the "neo-con" crowd would drop the Ultramontane mantle after witnessing an assault on Sacramental orthopraxis by the Pope and come around to a level headed view of the papacy's powers. Thus far, nothing of the sort has happened. Mr Voris warns the Tradistanis that assaulting the Roman Ordinary will backfire in the media. One could argue that, in a rare instance, Voris is advocating prudence. By contrast, one of Robert Barron's acolytes is suggesting that those concerned about the outcome of the Synod on the Family of not "just bad tea-reading on the Synod", but of "heresy".

I intended to write a post about what Tradistanis could learn from neo-cons' and the less-worrisome mindset many of them have, particularly the various canonry chapters and Oratorians, but the last few weeks have disincentivized the venture. This blog does not waste too much attention on Roman politics, which we cannot directly control and which are better analyzed elsewhere, but the writer of this blog does not keep his head in the sands of the Mediterranean. Perhaps the neo-con crowd could put down Sr. Faustina's diaries for a minutes and peruse the state of the Church, which is in a far greater state of need than the cause of the chaplet.

Give this a reread.

The Resting Place of Sts. Simon and Jude

The relics of Sts. Simon and Jude are buried in St. Peter's Basilica, in the Left Transept beneath the Altar of St. Joseph. They were moved here from the old Basilica in 1605 by P. Paul V.

The new artwork over the altar was commissioned by P. John XXIII. A 1961 painting of St. Joseph by the Cubo-Futurist Achille Funi was converted into the full-size mosaic installed in 1963. Prior to that, the altar had been decorated with a mosaic copy of Guido Reni's "Crucifixion of St. Peter" since 1822. This itself had replaced a 1630 painting of Sts. Simon and Jude by Agostino Ciampelli.

The two Apostles are now reduced to mosaic ovals on either side of the altar. While the new artwork is generally considered to be a failure, there is some pleasure in seeing Joseph installed over two of his sons.

The saints' porphyry sarcophagus, taken from the mausoleum of Santa Costanza in 1606.
The apostolic relics have presumably resided in Rome since the early centuries of the Church, having been translated from Syria as fellow-martyrs, and their bones commingled within their tomb. St. Jude is usually depicted with an axe or sword, and St. Simon with a saw—the instruments of their deaths.

Their entry in the Golden Legend is quite detailed.

For more about the liturgical and devotional celebrations of Sts. Simon and Jude, see His Traddiness' short post on the matter.

Monday, October 26, 2015

State of Apologetics II: The Answer, and More Questions

Earlier this month I asked a serious question and received just two responses, a believer's reply and a polemicist's reply. No one offered a secularist's reply. What does it matter?

The world continues to change and so the nature of disbelief continues to change. Those who advocate for the faith in the realm of public ideas, now a self-acclaimed professional class known as the "apologists," are supposedly the ones who explain the Catholic faith in words understandable to those who hear and who present the faith to those who might believe. What is now called "apologetics" could at any point in the past have been called evangelical writings, proselytism, catechesis or just "preaching the gospel." The Truth cannot change, but the means of its presentation can and must (I believe some bishops held a get-together 50 years ago to discuss this very topic).

These requirements expose the modern apologist class for its many defects in presentation and suitability for catechesis. Somewhere else on this blog, my co-writer quipped that modern apologists are "good at arguing people into the Church, but not so good at keeping them in the Church." Indeed, some, who will remain nameless, look at the lapsing of converts as a problem that belongs to someone else when in fact it belongs in no small part to them. Why?

"Apologetics" lags no fewer than three centuries behind the times. Current apologetics are geared entirely towards right brain religion, the religion of pure thinkers and lawyers, rhetoricians and quibblers. Aside from Luther and Cranmer, a notable number of the Reformers were lawyers. The formalized theology that emerged in the Latin Church to counter the Reformation vacillated between Jesuit casuistry and the parochial scholasticism of St. Alfonsus Maria de' Liguori, himself a lawyer. Targeted Protestants were and are offered the choice between accepting the Catholic proposition or retaining the Reformist proposition. One can believe it, but one need only think it.

Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi and Dwight Longenecker highlight a generation of apologists who converted from clerical Protestant lives to the Catholic faith, in no small part, by reading their way into the faith, by reading the Fathers, Newman and the rest. Their arguments about the three main Protestant scandals—the Eucharist, the Papacy and the Virgin—are sensible and tailored by personal experience. And they are quite ineffective to the great majority of the irreligious.

The Constantinian Church spent most of its breath on Christological controversies, working out ways of expressing just Who Jesus is and how God can be three without being more than one. Augustine, the Cappadocian Fathers and the first few Councils dealt with this difficulty more or less effectively, although the associated politicking damaged the unity of Christendom to an extent that has still not been repaired. Still, no bishop at the Council of Ephesus was decrying the Neronian persecutions.

Modern disbelief is no longer Protestant disbelief. No exegesis on Matthew 16:18 is going to convert an agnostic with a live-in girlfriend to the papacy. Most people will not even spend the time to read full books, aside from the odd cultural phenomenon like Harry Potter. Their conversion must be a left brain conversion, or at least a left brain encounter that could effect a right brain conversion. At the Church's hands are several liturgical traditions, young enthusiasts and lay associations that could become the next evangelical force in the Church if only the apologist class would allow it. How many converted because they finally read Augustine's doctrine of justification with patience? Some. How many converted because they walked into a Sunday Mass—for any reason, curiosity, the music, anything? A great many more.

The modern pagan lacks the Roman Imperial pagan's instinct for virtue and pride in rhetorical skill. Our pagan want pleasure, a good laugh, some nice clothes and a girl. He wants enjoyable experiences, not deep thoughts. As a believer, he may think deep thoughts some day, but he will only think about God if he meets God first, and that is where the polemical slant of the apologists fails.

Society is passing post-modernism. Catholic Answers has not even reached the Enlightenment.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pius XII: True Reform?

Our post on Byran Houghton generated some passing discussion on the liturgical reforms of Pius XII and the curious tendency of some traditionalists not only to accept their legality, but to embrace the Pacellian wisdom, glorifying the Black Nobleman's work as "true reform." Bryan Houghton, Michael Davies, Brunero Gherardini and countless others accepted part or all of Pius XII's liturgical novelties—particularly Holy Week. While most of the emerging traditionalist movement used pre-Pius XII (not necessarily "pre-1955"), a strange Gallican tendency preferred early Paul VI and eventually settled on 1962. The Fraternity of St. Pius X's preference for 1962 compelled its descendants in the FSSP, ICRSS, IBP, monastic communities and "indult" Masses to follow suit. The general consensus is that something was wrong with the liturgy before Pius XII and something had to be changed, but not everything; Pius XII changed just enough, Paul VI changed too much. Why?

Sadly, the reasoning is likely laced in the politics of the time. Pius XII, the first pope of the media age, filled every seminarian and priest's newspaper and television, always wearing the tiara and uttering the pontifical blessing from his lips. Papa Pacelli embodied the outward immutability of the baroque Church, if, of course, one ignores what he actually did. Pope John's Council and Pope Paul's New Mass, as Michael Davies entitled both of those phenomena, broke the baroque statue of the Church and left those reared in the eccentric obedience of the time grasping for a means of understanding what had just happened. They latched on to Pius XII as a contrast to the changes of Paul VI, true change versus false change, true renewal versus false renewal.

On closer inspection, these aspirations are quite facile. Giovanni Battista Montini, not Siri of Genoa, was Pius XII's protege and handpicked successor (one does not get rid of a priest with an under-secretary job by making him archbishop of the prior pope's see and instantly papabile). The same people who accomplished Paul VI's reforms also accomplished Pius XII's and were in fact hired by Pius XII (he personally found Bugnini). At a time when the pope was too sick to hold a consistory or meet with bishops, he was well enough to get regular reports on the progress of liturgical changes. All this will be familiar to regular readers, but to newer ones this may be a surprise.

There stands another possibility, however, that early proponents of the post-War Liturgical Movement, disappointed with the Pauline liturgy, projected their hopes onto the liturgy of Papa Pacelli. Louis Bouyer, whose arrant disillusionment with the reform would startled modern day conservatives, recounts that in the 1940s, before it was legal he celebrated the Holy Saturday Vesperal Mass after nightfall. The Paschal vigil Mass obsessed liturgists, who, far from acknowledging that its daytime celebration was a pastoral accommodation, saw the morning or noontime vigil as a great corruption, a departure from the ancient practice. They welcomed Pius XII's experimental vigil in 1951, and the next one in 1952, and the third one in 1955 (four Masses for one day in four years!). In reality, the "vigil," as it existed as a distinct ceremony from the all-night Paschal celebration of the first millennium, never took place at night; its creation separated it from the Resurrectional liturgy and put them both in the daytime. However, those who wanted to return to the ancient praxis as best they knew it may have seen in Pius XII's Holy Saturday a nod toward the primitive practice devoid of Paul VI's textual deviations.

Rather than asking "What is true reform?" Catholics would better use their time by asking "What is true tradition?"

Saturday, October 24, 2015

St. Raphael, Protector of Holy Marriage

(Jan Steen)
Today’s feast is that of St. Raphael, “one of the seven who stand before the Lord” (Tob. 12). His name means “God has healed”; in the book of Tobit he heals the elder Tobias of his blindness, and also heals the marriage of the younger Tobias and Sara of its demonic infestation. The purification of their marriage prompts Tobias to pray at length with his new bride:
Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: “Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and to morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.” 
So they both arose, and prayed earnestly both together that health might be given them. And Tobias said: “Lord God of our father, may the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains, and the rivers, and all thy creatures that are in them, bless thee. Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth, and gavest him Eve for a helper. And now, Lord, thou knowest, that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever.” 
Sara also said: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, and let us grow old both together in health.” (Tob. 8)
These three nights of abstaining from lawful pleasures stems from the earlier advice of the angel:
“Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.

“But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away.

“But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs.

“And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you.

“And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.” (Tob. 6)
St. Raphael reminds Tobias that end of marriage is posterity, not the indulgence of lust. Those who approach the Sacrament with a desire for luxury are allowing the devil into their midst.

The parents of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus dedicated the first year of their marriage to God by abstinence, in the hopes of bearing holy children. It was a common custom in the recent past for newly-married Catholic couples to abstain on their first night (called “St. Joseph’s Night”), in remembrance of the advice given to Holy Tobias. This practice is even alluded to in the first novel of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, with the description of Gervase and Hermione Crouchback’s honeymoon.

But the book of Tobit is not all about diminishing the pleasures of life. The return of Tobias to his father’s house with a new wife in tow is seasoned with this charming description:
Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. (Tob. 11)

(Peter Rittig)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bryan Houghton: Mitre & Crook

Fr. Bryan Houghton wrote Mitre and Crook early in his retirement, which he took after the promulgation of the Pauline Mass in 1969 and which he spent in Viviers, celebrating some iteration of the vetus ordo "privately" for a hundred people there gathered. A soldier before conversion, he was a writer in retirement. His most notable book, Mitre and Crook, is among the few available in English, although Una Voce has excerpts of his Pretre rejeté available in our tongue. Selected for the episcopacy, Houghton found he had no place left in the hierarchy after he refused to affirm the supposed orthodoxy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He initially held Marcel Lefebvre in high regard until well inculcated sense of obedience told him the French missionary bishop was out to destroy the Church. He died quite pessimistic, but steadfast in faith, writing, "Here I am, a priest rejected, unusable even as a curate or convent chaplain, utterly good for nothing."

His Mitre and Crook imagines a fictitious Bishop Forester who, tired of the new way of doing things, decides to turn back the liturgical clock and to found a seminary to ordain priests trained the old way. He gains five seminarians, who he defends in this epistolary novel against his ambitious Canon and a zealously modern papal legate. Houghton's pastoral sensibilities shine through in this work, so I have included some of the more poignant passage below:
“It is extraordinary, you know, how images, metaphors, colour our judgments. I am by no means certain that Christians ought to be “outward-and forward-looking.” I even wonder if you really are. It seems to me that we cannot help being downward-and upward-looking: downward into the abyss of our own void and upward into the abyss of the Absolute Being. Herein lies the difference between the new horizontal and anthropocentric outlook as against the old vertical and theocentric religion. The one is precisely an outlook and the other precisely a religion: they have nothing in common. Moreover, I need scarcely remind you that, no matter how “forward-looking” one may be, one still has to look forward to death. What a wonderful and splendid thing death is: the punishment for sin turned by an omnipotent hand into the means of being grasped by God! I wish priests would preach more about death. Perhaps they do not believe in it any more? They used to say “black Masses” a bit too often, perhaps; now, of course, they say none at all. You who are an expert on the Council documents, did Vatican II abolish death along with Friday fish? It would doubtless be in Gaudium et Spes: I have never read it as I use it as a remedy against insomnia.” to Philip Goodman, Bishop of Hull
“How strange! What you hurl at me as an insult I receive as a compliment: “you are a traditionalist at heart.”…. It is absolutely untrue to say that I am a bundle of sensations. In the first place I am a bundle of traditions. It is by my traditions that I judge the sensations of experience. Without them no sensation would have significance. The traditions form the warp and experience the woof of that wonderful tapestry we call the human person. If an experience can be absorbed by my traditions, then it is woven into the tissue of my personality. If not, it is rejected….[You] are as much a traditionalist as I.” to Stephen O’Keary, Bishop of Devizes
“How can anyone dare stamp on other people’s sentiments? Who has given them permission? ‘The hankering after the Old Mass is pure sentimentality.’ Of course it is, and that is precisely why it is sacrosanct.” 
“Edmund they could understand: it was a Bishop’s job to talk about God and Jesus, Heaven and Hell. That is what he appeared to be doing. Moreover, he represented two ideas still dear to the British heart: tradition and fair play for the underdog. His supporters consequently were not only traditionalists, nor even the bulk of the Catholic laity, but the Great British Public.” 
“Anyway, it is typical of Divine Providence. So that no human should take to himself the glory, what God has initiated through a saint He will bring to fruition through a crook.” Bishop Cocksedge (Forester's nominal adversary and secretly chosen successor) 

Some Thoughts on this Optional Memorial of John Paul the Second

Listen to those spring birds chirp!

Karol Wojtyła was the pope reigning at the time of my conversion to the Faith, the pope who appointed terrifying bishops to major episcopal sees and encouraged all manner of liturgical horrors in his own presence. For everyone my age and younger, he was the only pope they had ever known, until his death in 2005. Utterly naïve about the state of the world, and gracious to everyone except those standing up for justice and truth, he entered the next life with the taste of the Koran on his lips.

Today is his feast, of sorts, on the Novus Ordo kalendar. Let me suggest celebrating it with a fast. At the very least, we ought to do some penance for the poor soul of Marco Gusmini.

A reading from the book of Redemptoris Missio:
If we look at today's world, we are struck by many negative factors that can lead to pessimism. But this feeling is unjustified: we have faith in God our Father and Lord, in his goodness and mercy. As the third millennium of the redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs. In fact, both in the non-Christian world and in the traditionally Christian world, people are gradually drawing closer to gospel ideals and values, a development which the Church seeks to encourage. Today in fact there is a new consensus among peoples about these values: the rejection of violence and war; respect for the human person and for human rights; the desire for freedom, justice and brotherhood; the surmounting of different forms of racism and nationalism; the affirmation of the dignity and role of women.
Responsorial Psalm:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Josephology Conclusion: Of Joseph There is Eventually Enough

While more could be said about the dumbfounded old carpenter from Nazareth, one begins to worry about beating a dead horse. In spite of the insistence upon the new Josephite devotionalism by theologians, doctors, founders of prelatures, and Roman bishops, his cult has never gained much purchase among the Church Universal. Like pushy salesmen with an excess stock of defective products, the faithful simply aren’t buying what they’re selling.

Start digging!
The most frustrating aspect of Josephite devotion is how ahistorical and untraditional it is. For all of their complaints about apocryphal depictions of Old St. Joseph in the Patristic era, the fabulous biography of New St. Joseph is more obviously apocryphal than the Proto-Gospel of James or the History of Joseph the Carpenter. Created by the idle speculations of late Medieval theologians, and gaining purchase only when the Latin Church was becoming defensive about skeptical Protestant attacks, New St. Joseph serves as a warning of what can happen when “friendly fire”-style iconoclasm takes place.

Devotees to New St. Joseph point to the need for good examples of Christian manliness, especially in respect to family life. True as that may be, it is no excuse to concoct new fables when the story of this saint’s life has already been handed down in our Tradition. The virtus of Old St. Joseph is hardly unmanly, in spite of the occasional mockery by his storytellers. Insisting that Joseph alone can fill our modern lack results in the demotion of great saints like John the Baptist, and tends towards an ignorance of the lives of many other saints who could also serve as examples. It is dangerous to put all of our devotional eggs in a single basket, especially one so poorly woven.

The principle of devotional and doctrinal development is too quickly abused by Josephite devotees, because the development of the Cult of New St. Joseph is entirely inorganic. Mgr. Thompson claims that this cult sprung up under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “‘The Spirit breatheth where He will’.... Something analogous may be observed in the wonderful movement and development of devotion to St. Joseph during the last centuries.... Truly the growth is now like that of tropical vegetation in its rapidity” (Life and Glories, 460-1). It might rather be that the internal iconoclasm of the Tridentine era resulted in vacuums that begged to be filled, and they were hastily filled with whatever plaster was sitting ready at hand.

In a lecture recently published on One Peter Five, the artist Daniel Mitsui made some very potent observations about the recovery of ancient traditions:
Catholic tradition is based on real memories of real events. Something either is part of that tradition or it is not, just as something either is part of a body or is not. If it is part of that tradition, this is evident in the law of worship and the agreement of the Church Fathers; these are the epistemic bridges between the age of the eyewitnesses and our own.... 
By looking to liturgical and patristic sources, a religious artist can draw a more complete picture, he can dig deeper, than by looking to magisterial documents only. He may unearth something wonderful. Discovering a tradition that has been lost is thrilling; it is like knocking the dirt from a buried piece of lumber and finding that it can yet raise the dead.
That is the point of these short essays on the Virgin’s Betrothed: the thrill of discovering and recovering a lost tradition, and perhaps even building upon it in some small way. Old St. Joseph is more alive and potent than New St. Joseph, a mere upstart pretender to the real saint’s humble throne. Old St. Joseph was neither sanctified in his mother’s womb nor strictly celibate, but he was indeed singled out among many as being worthy to guard the Second Eve from the serpents of her accusers and of Herod. He was not assumed bodily into Heaven, but he preceded his spouse into that blessed realm, and eagerly awaited the glory her own Assumption would bestow upon him and all the saints.

One might suggest that now is not the time to be undermining devotion to New St. Joseph, and by extension to the Holy Family. I think actually that affirming his first (valid and licit) marriage, complete with a houseful of children, is the perfect way to promote family life while a Synod on the Family is in progress. He even shows us the only good way for a second marriage to be procured: with some reluctance and only after the first spouse is dead.

Let us unearth our house-selling statues. Let us be rid of the iconography of earthly trinities and family playtime. Let us paint those brown beards grey. Old St. Joseph is ready to intercede on our behalf, ready to pick any cherries that Our Lady requests of him. He was humble—let him retain a humble yet persistent place in our hearts.

Pray for us!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Louis Bouyer: About A Council

The first ten chapters of Louis Bouyer's Memoirs are characteristic of Franco-Germanic charm, or at least what we imagine it to be. Then Bouyer was exposed to the Theology department at Notre Dame and to Fr. Danielou in European settings. And then came the Council. His chapter on Vatican II and the subsequent section on friendship are eye opening reads given to us by someone who knew the characters of "the Council", its preparatory commission and the liturgical reform on a personal level. Rather than dilate upon these topics, I give some favorite memories from Bouyer below:

"The worst of it was that the same Pizzardo would remain, for an entire generation, at the head of a Roman congregation that was supposed to run all ecclesiastical studies. As a colleague once said: had the KGB undertaken to undermine the Catholic Church from within, it could hardly have picked a better man!"

"As soon as I had come into the Catholic Church, and even before that, it had been easy for me to notice that as far as the Catholic pioneers of ecumenism were concerned....., and also as far as its most tenacious enemies were concerned, such as, at the time, the future Cardinals Bea, Journet, or Paul Philippe, simply being a convert disqualified one from being involved in these issues. For the former, this stemmed from the idea of ecumenism, creeping at the time, triumphant today, that Eric Mascall has quite accurately dubbed 'Alice in Wonderland Ecumenism:' 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes!' In other words: it is out of the question that anything should change on either side, the important thing being to agree that one may behave or believe as he pleases...."

"In the best-case scenario, that of a truly ecumenical council in the traditional meaning of the term, i.e. actually representative of an undivided Christendom, the most that divine assistance can ensure for the Apostles' successors is the absence of any possible error in the doctrinal definitions such assemblies venture to produce. But, short of this extreme case, any dosage of approximation, insufficiency, or simple superficiality are expected from even so sacrosanct an assembly."

"Under different circumstances, [the liturgical reform commission] might have accomplished excellent work. Unfortunately, on the one hand, a deadly error in judgment placed the official leadership of this committee in the hands of a man who, though generous and brave, was not very knowledgeable: Cardinal Lercaro. He was utterly incapable of resisting the maneuvers of the mealy-mouthed scoundrel that the Neapolitan Vincentian, Bugnini, a man as bereft of culture as he was of basic honesty, soon revealed himself to be."

"The idea was to obviate the Holland-born fashion of Eucharists being improvised in complete ignorance of the liturgical tradition going back to Christian origins."

"But what can I say, at a time when the talk was of simplifying the liturgy and of bringing it back to primitive models, about this actus poenitentialis inspired by Father Jungmann (an excellent historian of the Roman Missal—but who, in his entire life, had never celebrated a Solemn Mass!)? The worst of it was an impossible offertory, in a Catholic Action, sentimental 'workerist' style, the handiwork of Father Cellier, who with tailor-made arguments manipulated the despicable Bugnini in such a way that his production went through despite nearly unanimous opposition...." Bouyer goes on to tell that he found the Sanctus, or something like it, in an early text, which justified its continuing existence to the archaeologists who wanted to expunge it! He does admit that the Pauline Mass has the added benefit of older prefaces and disused Lenten collects, but laments that they were mangled to soften their message.

On the kalendar in Paul VI's Missal: "Because these three hotheads obstinately refused to change anything in their work and because the pope wanted to finish quickly to avoid letting the chaos get out of hand, their project, however insane, was accepted!"

On pp.224-225 of the new English translation, Bouyer goes on to tell of how Bugnini and his handlers would expurgate the psalms and the liturgy for the dead by telling them that the pope wanted these changes and meanwhile tell Paul VI that the committee unanimously wanted these same changes he personally opposed, guilty the committee into obedience and Montini into despair: "In such cases, he didn't hesitate to say: 'But the Pope wills it!' After that, of course, there was no question of discussing the matter any further."

On Paul VI:

"Along with his exquisite tact, there was in this pontiff a mean streak that very few people seem to have suspected."

"I shall say that finding myself here at the end of the race renew the sympathy I had to Paul VI. He, too, was perpetually more attracted to the Benedictine tradition than to any other.... 'When all is said and done, the two of us are just failed Benedictines'!" "

"At any rate, since I am not in too bad a position to speak of him, I shall only say that just as John XXIII was far from being the revolutionary he has so often been described as, his successor has never at all been the frightened reactionary some have stupidly invented. As a matter of fact, he was the true liberal. He succeeded an undeniable though intelligent conservative, but could not allow a proper freedom to degenerate into pure (or rather impure!) license."

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Josephology: Final Liturgical Aside

Robert Campin's Nativity c. 1420
"What and what manner of man the blessed Joseph was, we may gather from that title wherewith, albeit only as a deputy, God deemed him fit to be honoured he was both called, and supposed to be the Father of God. We may gather it from his very name, which, being interpreted, signifieth Increase. Remember likewise that great Patriarch who was sold into Egypt, and know that the Husband of Mary not only received his name, but inherited his purity, and was likened to him in innocence and in grace.
"If then, that Joseph that was sold by his brethren through envy, and was brought down to Egypt, was a type of Christ sold by a disciple, and handed over to the Gentiles, the other Joseph flying from the envy of Herod carried Christ into Egypt. That first Joseph kept loyal to his master, and would not carnally know his master's wife; that second Joseph knew that the Lady, the Mother of his Lord, was a virgin, and he himself remained faithfully virgin toward her. To that first Joseph it was given to know dark things in interpreting of dreams; to the second Joseph it was given in sleep to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
"The first Joseph laid by bread, not for himself, but for all people; the second Joseph received into his keeping that Living Bread Which came down from heaven, not for him only, but for the whole world. We cannot doubt but that that Joseph was good and faithful to whom was espoused the Mother of the Saviour. Yea, I say, he was a faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord appointed to be the comfort of His own Mother, the keeper of His own Body, and the only and trusty helper in the Eternal Counsels."

Second nocturne of Mattins for the feast of St. Joseph (March 19),
taken from the second sermon on Luke ch. 1 of St. Bernard of Clairveaux. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Josephology Part 15: A Proposed Hagiography

(Poussay Gospel Book)
Joseph of Nazareth matters because he was a great saint. As the Virgin’s Betrothed, and as one who lived at least a couple of decades in the immediate presence of the Incarnate Word, it is implausible that Joseph did not finally die as a holy and contemplative man. Since St. Joseph has been named Patron of the Universal Church, and since recent popes have called for a greater devotion to Joseph, let me propose a hagiographical alternative to the more common Josephite ways of thinking about his life.

The Life of Joseph

Born into the lineage of David, but one of a large and poor clan, Joseph’s royal heritage offered him little but a memory of Israel’s lost greatness. (I offer no solution here to the question of whether the lineages listed by Sts. Matthew and Luke are Joseph’s or Mary’s; even the Fathers could not decide on that.) He was a man of humble means, and had to work as a carpenter and builder for a living. His artisanship may not have been magnificent, but it was sturdy and solid.

He married at the normal age for a Jew of the time, and fathered a reasonably-sized family. He was a pious man, keeping all the Hebrew holy days, praying the psalms, and studying the Law as much as his state in life allowed. He was a just man, not known for dealing poorly with his neighbors or his patrons. His wife—possibly named Melcha, Escha, or Salome—died only after bearing him sons and daughters, maybe even after they had grown and married, themselves.

As he grew older and watched his family increase, he anticipated a venerable old age. As the Proverbs say, “Youth has strong arms to boast of, old age white hairs for a crown.” His sons gradually took over the family trade, with Joseph a frequent presence as mentor and occasional worker. He taught his sons how to deal justly in their business and in their family life.

And then one day he was called to Jerusalem with his unmarried kinsmen for some confused purpose. Suddenly the priest began casting lots, Joseph’s staff miraculously produced a dove, and he found himself as the caretaker of a young Temple virgin.

Much to his chagrin and to the chuckles of his kinsmen, he brought the girl and her companions home to Nazareth. He left her there while he went to oversee a building project, and returned to find her pregnant with a strange story about an angelic visitation. Perhaps he had heard rumor of the angel who came to visit the priest Zachary concerning his own aged wife’s miraculous pregnancy. He did not wish to think poorly of the girl, but still found her story hard to believe, and began weighing his options. Before he could decide on a quiet divorce, the angel appeared to him in a dream and told him that the Child was of God.

Suddenly he began living in a whirlwind of activity with which he could scarcely keep pace. He had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from there to Egypt, and finally back to Nazareth. During those travels he witnessed numerous miracles of all kinds, and met men from many nations and walks of life. By the time he returned home with his young wife and her toddling Son, he had seen wonders beyond those shown to the greatest of prophets.

Then, there were the quiet years in which he returned to his life of work and prayer, perhaps still mentoring his sons and his grandsons in their carpentry. The Incarnate Word came along to the family carpentry shop and was the cause of some wonder to the rest of the clan—this strange young Boy who had vanished with Old Joseph for a few years into the south amid stories of Herodian terrors. Perhaps one day James Bar-Joseph was indeed healed from a viper’s attack by the Christ Child while working amongst the builders.

The enigmatic episode at the Boy’s twelfth Passover reminded Joseph that Jesus was destined for a messianic role, and perhaps he wondered if he would live to see its fruition. As Jesus matured into manhood, Joseph grew ill and felt death approaching. Confessing his sins to the Man all others believed to be his son, and begging the forgiveness of the wife whom he had doubted, he was given the grace to pass out of this life in the presence of the New Adam and the New Eve, the first-fruits of their spiritual union. His soul was carried by the Archangel Michael, guardian of Israel, to the limbus patrum.

Such was the life of old St. Joseph.

Symbolism & Typology

Joseph was in a sense the last patriarch—that most Hebrew of roles—and symbolized the bridge between the Old Covenant and the New. He lived almost uniquely through two eras, and served as a patriarch in the old sense (by the fathering of children) and in the new (by celibate spiritual fatherhood). He was both a sinner and a just man; even the just man falls seven times only to rise again.

The dream of the ancient Joseph might also be seen as a prophecy of the latter Joseph’s role: “In this dream of mine it seemed to me that the sun and the moon and eleven stars did reverence to me” (Gen. 37). The cosmic parallels to the Woman Clothed with the Sun are hard to ignore: “A woman that wore the sun for her mantle, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars about her head” (Apoc. 12). One also wonders about her wings—“there were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the desert”—and whether the assistance of St. Joseph during the Flight into Egypt might not here be figured.

As Israel of old confused his son Joseph by blessing the older Manasses with his left hand and the younger Ephraim with his right, so did the youngest “son” of the new Joseph exceed the elder brethren in blessing: “But this younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall grow into nations” (Gen. 48).

Just as Joshua (Jesus) of old escorted the bones of Joseph into Shechem of the Promised Land, so did the new Joshua escort the soul of his foster-father into Paradise along with the long train of blessed souls at the Ascension.

Iconographically, Joseph is most properly depicted with a pair of doves or a flowering staff rather than a carpentry square. Usually he is shown with Mary and the Christ Child, but physically distanced from her to symbolize their chaste relationship. Common themes are the Nativity, the Presentation, the Dream, and the Flight into Egypt.

Next time, we finally conclude our series on St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, dreamer of dreams, pray for us!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Teresa, One of the Wise Virgins

“I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions. If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness.” (Interior Castle)

From her Chapter Hymn Verse:

God’s messenger, Teresa,
Thou leav’st thy father's home
To bring mankind to Jesus
Or gain sweet martyrdom.

But milder death awaits thee,
And fonder pains are thine,
God’s blessed angel wounds thee
With fire of love divine.

Sweet virgin, love’s pure victim,
So fire our souls with love,
And lead thy trusting people
Safe to the realms above.

Give glory to the Father,
The Spirit and the Son,
One Trinity, one Godhead,
While endless ages run.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

State of Apologetis Part I: Preliminary Question

source: EWTN Books
Let's hope they don't want money for this.
Modern apologetics are quite stuck in 1991 and I would like to spend a few posts on why. First, let's start with a preliminary, and very serious, question for readers:
How do we know God exists and why
do we even care?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

He Has His Own Gloria

Doubling at readings.
"You finally converted, John?"

"Yes, so to speak, but it was so annoying. He has his own Gloria and I hate it."

That morning Mr. Grump attended his first sung Mass in a considerable time and was maladjusted to the tremorous experience of not kneeling for 45 continuous minutes.

"No he doesn't," interjected Mr. Grump's little lady. "He just starts the Gloria and sits, and then we sing it with him. Don't we?"

"No," Grump grumpily disabused her. "No, he starts our Gloria and our Creed, but then we sung it while he recites his own and then he sits down while we sing. It's stupid and I hate it. It's one Mass; there should be one song of praise and one profession of faith."

Thus Mr. Grump grouchily discharged his mind concerning the great matter of liturgical "doubling," a squabbling point of many reformers and traditionalist Romans in the last hundred years. Doubling is not a uniquely Roman corruption of a pristine liturgy which unified past congregations in audible acts of latria. Doubling is done in the Byzantine rite, especially after the Creed: the priest in most of Byzantine Christianity will recite the Cherubikon while the choir sings it; he will recite the text after the preface dialogue until "singing, proclaiming, shouting the hymn of victory...." to begin the Holy, Holy, Holy, which he in turn also recites so he can say the anaphora until "Take, eat....", which is done aloud. In the old Mass—not 1962, except for the ICRSS and courageous diocesan types—there are many acts of doubling. At solemn Mass the priest and deacon follow the epistle from the Missal while the subdeacon sings it; the priest and subdeacon read the Gospel pericope during the Gradual, during which the deacon receives the Evangelium and makes his preparations; and of course the priest reads antiphons throughout the Mass.

The reading of antiphons by the priest, much like the recitation of the Cherubikon in the Greek rite, has never bothered me. The celebrant is engaged in other acts during the Introit, Offertory, and Communion verses, so he "catches up" on them. The Dominican and Norman rites also have a similar provision in the first half of Mass for the readings and gradual from the sedilia, as the priest and subdeacon are preparing the gifts throughout the Mass of the Catechumens. I have also never been bothered by the reading of lessons by the priest in the Roman rite. At first one is tempted to say it is an intrusion of the Low Mass ceremonies into the Solemn Mass, but this is not quite the whole story. The presumed setting of the Roman Mass is Papal or Pontifical Mass, during which the bishop officiates from his throne. At Masses celebrated without a bishop, the priest is not necessarily presumed to sit; indeed, prior to 1960 the rubrics for Mass assumed a low Mass, and high Mass was a matter of tradition. Without sitting, the priest is left at the altar with little to do other than follow the text printed in front of him.

The Gloria and Credo are another matter entirely. The act of the priest reciting the text on his own and sitting has nothing to do with the received liturgical praxis, nothing to do the tradition of the rite, and nothing to do with architecture. It has everything to do with polyphonic music. The priest traditionally sang these texts with the congregation and other ministers, but polyphonic Masses precluded singing, so the priest said his part and had a seat. The scarcity of sung Masses in the Counter-Reformation and abandonment of the Office inculcated the idea that polyphony was the normal when the abnormal Solemn Mass was celebrated. There is no real reason for this to continue in Masses where Mass is chanted. I knew one Polish priest, ordained by Archbishop Wojtyla in Krakow and no lover of the reformed Mass, who sometimes sat for these parts and sometimes remained at the altar to sing with the people.

The only hard line advocates of doubling in the Roman tradition are sedevacantists along the lines of Fr. Anthony Cekada and bishop Dolan, who view the removal of some doubling in the 1960 rubrics as a creeping tendency towards the Pauline liturgy.

At least the priest doesn't have his own Mass!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reading Louis Bouyer: Newman's Son or Cousin Once Removed? Orthodox Ecumenism?

Some time ago I ordered the recent English translation of Louis Bouyer's memoirs, which have received several positive reviews from Catholic writers of traditional and mainstream bends. The back cover has several short commendations from the non-FSSPX luminaries of post-1988 traditionalism: Msgr. Fabian Bruskewitz, Dr. Uwe Michael Lang, Scott "Alcuin" Reid, Tracey Rowland and Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, who also penned the forward. Everyone who endorses the book wants to make Bouyer their own in a quest to question Vatican II, the liturgical reform and the related changes. Having read half his Memoirs today, I see little ammunition for them, although I am not yet at the chapter on "the Council." Thus far Bouyer is less a son of Ottaviani and more a son of John Henry Newman, or at least a close cousin.

Bouyer's conversion parallels Newman's very closely, a fact Bouyer never shies from from broadcasting to the reader, but it is very true. Their conversions were similar, although not identical. Both entered the Church beginning with a genuine, youthful love of the Gospel in its simplicity. Bouyer emphasizes early that he never conscientiously disbelieved the Church's teachings, he just happened to be born into a protestant family. His studies of the Church Fathers, especially of the Alexandrian Fathers who inspired Newman, and of St. Thomas Aquinas nurtured a healthy diet of continuous doctrine and dogma from ancient days until the middle ages. He read the Greek Fathers, too, and, as was the fashion until quite recently, spent time with several men of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Robert Taft once wrote that the "Western romance with the East" ended in the 1980s). Through praying the Roman Office and spending a great deal of time with Benedictines and Oratorians, he was received into the Catholic Church a few months after the Second World War began.

Unless one is an Anglo-Catholic, one has difficulty reading of the cast of characters in Newman's conversion with any excitement; modern followers of Dr. Pusey are confined to St. Giles Street in Oxford. On the contrary, Bouyer's more experiential conversion involved the who's who of early 20th century ecumenism, which, for good or ill, influenced the direction of the Church in the 1950s and 1960s. He met or knew Beauduin, Lealine, Conger, Brilioth, Ramsey, Gillet and many others before his conversion. Newman's conversion involved substantial reading and a bit of travel Bouyer's was uniquely reliant on travel and popular interaction, which placed him into the center of the rapids when the waves of change rushed into the Church.

This work has some memorable phrases and probably deserves a review on its own later. Here is a quotation about the spirit of conformity that arose within the Latin Church, speaking specifically about a fellow priest:
"The more I became familiar with this new milieu, the more I was struck by the fact that its best elements in the generation before mine, such as Father Brillet, seem never to have recovered from the brutal repression of modernism. Sheltered under a half-skin-deep, half-sincere conformism akin to a kind of family loyalty, they had concocted their own little religion within Catholicism...."
On a friend:
"I cannot complain since this excellent man paid me a very decent salary for the thankless task [of editing his book]. The poor man was saddled with a wife who must have been very beautiful once, but whose stupidity, alas, had never waned."
Of a peculiar interest to me was chapter four, "Initiation". It was not an initiation into the formal Catholic Church, but an initiation into Christian prayer life through the influence of Orthodox ecumenists around him. Bouyer met Fr. Lev Gillet, who surreptitiously received him into the Orthodox fold while still a Lutheran seminarian and on his way to ordination in the Lutheran church. Gillet was himself a Benedictine monk who left for Ukrainian Greek Catholicism, received ordination from the Ukrainian patriarch, and then was received into the Orthodox fold without renouncing a bit of his prior establishments; he happily received Bouyer secretly without asking him to change anything about his life. An episcopus vagans who was unable to rejoin the Catholic Church after marriage found his way into Orthodoxy and created "Occidental Orthodoxy" in France and named his church St. Genevieve. The Moscow patriarch got word of this and, rightly in Bouyer's mind, excommunicated the bishop. Fr. Gillet took over the effort of Western Orthodoxy, despite having written a book on the Jesus Prayer under the nom de plume "A Monk of the Eastern Church." Despite his Orthodoxy, Gillet calls Francis of Assisi, Bernard of Clairveaux, and many other Latin Churchmen saints. Kallistos Ware, in the introduction to my version, recounts Gillet's "reception" into the Orthodox fold without having to make a profession of faith and seems quite at peace with the method. I doubt many Orthodox would be at peace with this reception; I myself am not. 

To readers with more knowledgeable Orthodox connections: do the Orthodox have an ecumaniacal problem, or did they in the 20th century? If so, is it prevalent or restricted to the English and French Orthodox diaspora? Can it be traced to certain individuals or is it, like Latin ecumenism at the same time, a gradual acceptance of elements of the world at large?

To digress from the digression, read the Memoirs. Bouyer's was an eager and genuinely Christian soul with a love of Christ and a yearning to live with His truth, something we should all aspire to want.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Her First Divine Liturgy: Very Colloquial

In the tenth century, emissaries of St. Vladimir wandered into the Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople and were raptured into religious ecstasy at the sight of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Those pagans converted to Greek Christianity and even ensured its survival after the fall of Constantinople and its surrounding empire in 1453. The Prince's men recounted, "We knew not whether we were on earth or in heaven." So, readers, you can understand my interest in the reaction of a dear friend, nominally an Armenian Christian, to her first Divine Liturgy.

I took my friend to another Church of Holy Wisdom three Sundays ago for the usual obligation to sanctify the day of the Lord. Having grown up in one of Russia's puppet states, she speaks fluent Russian and understood the Divine Liturgy, even in its Ukrainian elements, perfectly. After the Liturgy, after lunch, and after some socializing, I asked her, "So, what did you think?" Her answer could not have had less to do with those of the Prince's pioneers. She replied, "It's very.... colloquial."

At some level she is right. The Byzantine rite is the most self-referential rite in the Church, the Pauline liturgy excluded. The Greek work leitourgia betrays that the ecclesiastical liturgy has a source origin in public works of service, the creation of monuments, and other things for popular benefit at the cost of the state. Constantinople's liturgy remained a work by the empire's Church for the benefit of the empire's people. The litanies and diaconal exclamations of the Greek liturgy were originally public prayers led by men in administrative roles while the priests performed duties germane to the Sacraments. It would only be natural that the assembled congregation have an element of self-reference. Indeed, these elements survived the monastic and hesychast makeover the Divine Liturgy received in the 11th-15th centuries.

This is not a fault of the Greek liturgy, just a fact. The city of Rome retained a spiritual identity longer after the political cohesion behind the Western empire evanesced. The Latin liturgy, not unlike the various far Eastern and north African rites, became applied on too wide a scale to be owned by any one culture or polity. Such was not the case of the Greek rite. Greek Christians held their state for twelve centuries. 

The Great Doxology in the third Greek tone, a personal favorite.

This supposed self-reference does draw attention to the mystical development of the Greek and Latin liturgies. My friend's only prior exposure to traditional rites of Christian worship are the old Latin Mass on a few occasions and the Armenian liturgy for weddings, funerals and Christmas. She said of the Divine Liturgy, "You just don't feel like your in the presence of God, watching Him as He is, like at the Latin Mass." My initial reaction to the Greek tradition could not have been more agnostic to her own. I walked into a Melkite parish during Orthros while the deacons and choir sang the Evlogitaria and became immediately aware of the Holy One's presence. This does underscore the different ways in which the Divine Liturgy and Roman tradition gained their grandeur. The Greek liturgy always had an extroverted element, to which the akathist hymns, public incensations, litanies, and processions give witness. The Roman tradition had litanies and processions in a far quieter way; the Roman emphasis was originally on the texts, almost always taken explicitly from Holy Writ or the saints' writings. The Greek liturgy gradually gained a more mystical element as the Palestinian monks of Constantinople imported their simple psalter and their hymnody, supplemented two centuries later by the hesychasts' antiphons. Rome moved from a communal (understood in the sense that the people of Rome were a community who often gathered in churches, not to be conflated with modern concepts of religious communitarianism) to a mystical setting with hardly any innovations to the texts. Elements unique to the city of Rome acquiesced to local variations when the Roman rite traveled throughout Europe and found eccentric, elaborate, divine expressions in the cathedrals of the Latin Church. The Greek liturgy retained the ritual and changed the text, the Roman liturgy kept the text and altered the ritual. 

In either case, I will not recycle that familiar "two lung" phrase of a previous Roman ordinary, but will instead leave the reflection that the Greek and Roman liturgies really should be seen as complimentary. The Roman rite presumes the presence of God, the Greek underscores it. The Roman rite basks in the truths of Christ, whereas the Greek rite explicitly states them three times a piece.

Pray for my friend, that she may see the light!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Vision of St. Bruno

(José de Ribera, more or less)

Happy feast of the founder of the Carthusian Order! O Bonitas!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dionysius the Areopagite on the Angels

(Eugène Delacroix)
Today is the feast of the Guardian Angels, placed on the general Roman kalendar in 1608 by P. Paul V, having been previously celebrated as a local feast in many places for some time.

From The Celestial Hierarchy, ch. ix:

There remains for us the reverent contemplation of that sacred Order which completes the Angelic Hierarchies, and is composed of the Divine Principalities, Archangels and Angels.

The choir of the holy Archangels is joined with the Angels because it belongs to the interpreting Order, receiving in its turn the illuminations from the First Powers, and beneficently announcing these revelations to the Angels; and by means of the Angels it shows them forth to us in the measure of the mystical receptivity of each one who is inspired by the divine illumination. For the Angels, as we have said, fill up and complete the lowest choir of all the Hierarchies of the Celestial Intelligences since they are the last of the Celestial Beings possessing the angelic nature. And they, indeed, are more properly named Angels by us than are those of a higher rank because their choir is more directly in contact with manifested and mundane things.

The Word of God has given our hierarchy into the care of Angels, for Michael is called Lord of the people of Judah, and other Angels are assigned to other peoples. For the Most High established the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the Angels of God.

If someone should ask why the Hebrews alone were guided to the divine illuminations, we should answer that the turning away of the nations to false gods ought not to be attributed to the direct guidance of Angels, but to their own refusal of the true path which leads to God, and the falling away through self-love and perversity, and similarly, the worship of things which they regarded as divine.

For there is one Sovereign and Providence of all, and we must never suppose that God was leader of the Jews by chance, nor that certain Angels, either independently, or with equal rank, or in opposition to one another, ruled over the other nations; but this teaching must be received according to the following holy intention, not as meaning that God had shared the sovereignty of mankind with other gods, or with Angels, and had been chosen by chance as ruler and leader of Israel, but as showing that although one all-powerful Providence of the Most High consigned the whole of mankind to the care of their own Angels for their preservation, yet the Israelites, almost alone of them all, turned to the knowledge and light of the true God.

Therefore the Word of God, when relating how Israel devoted himself to the worship of the true God, says, “He became the Lord’s portion.” Moreover it shows that he too, equally with other nations, was given into the charge of one of the holy Angels, in order that he might know through him the one Principle of all things. For it says that Michael was the leader of the Jews, clearly showing that there is one Providence established superessentially above all the invisible and visible powers, and that all the Angels who preside over the different nations lift up to that Providence, as to their own Principle, as far as is in their power, those who willingly follow them.

(Benjamin West)