Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lost Octaves Series: Corpus Christi & Musings

A correspondent wrote to me confessing a slight faintness with the gravity of Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, that Christ is not merely present in a spiritual sense after Anglo-Catholic fashion, but is really present in His Flesh on the altar:
Verbum caro, panem verumverbo carnem efficit:fitque sanguis Christi merum,et si sensus deficit,ad firmandum cor sincerumsola fides sufficit. 
The choice of the word "flesh" comes to us from Holy Writ, not handmedown concepts of oblation inherited from Roman paganism or Judaic sacrifice. "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood," Our Lord teaches, "you shall not have life within you" (John 6:54). A spiritual presence straddles a fine boundary between mystical and symbolic. A fleshly presence accepts a spiritual presence while adding a more immediate one to it. The Eucharist must be a physical and spiritual reality precisely because the Church is both a physical and spiritual reality, as a remarkably long and un-monitored comment box on EENS demonstrates. The Church is not bound by the sharing of the Eucharist among its numbered members, but in Christ absorbing the faithful into Himself by giving His flesh over to them ut unum sint. St. John Chrysostom says as much during Mattins for Saturday within the octave:
"Dearly beloved brethren, it behoveth us to learn the miracle of the Mysteries what the Gift is, and why It was given, and what is the use thereof. "We, being many, are one body," saith [the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. x. 17, and again] "We are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones." Eph. v. 30.Only the initiated will now understand what I say. That this union may take place, not by love only, but verily and indeed, we ought to mingle our own with His Flesh. And this is done by eating that Food Which He hath given unto us, being fain to manifest that exceeding great love which He beareth to us-ward. To this end He hath mingled Himself with us, and infused His Body into our bodies, that we may be one together, like as the limbs of a man and his head are all of one body. Such union do they long for that love much."
The Archbishop of Constantinople continues in Monday's Mattins:
"In this mysterious Sacrament Christ doth mingle Himself with all and each of His faithful ones. They are His children, and He nurseth them Himself, and giveth them not over unto another, herein again assuring us that the Flesh He hath taken unto Himself is ours. We then, who have been deemed meet to be treated with such love and such honour, let us be wakeful See ye not how eagerly the sucklings seize on the breasts, how readily they fix their mouths on the paps Let us, with like eagerness, draw nigh to that Table, and suck at that spiritual Cup. Yea, let us prize that gracious Food as the suckling doth its mother's breast, and hold it the great woe of life to be cut off from that Banquet. Here there are set before us no works of man's power He That worked at that Last Supper, the Same worketh the same here still. As for us Priests, we hold the place of His ministers, but He Which halloweth and changeth is He. Hither let there draw nigh no Judas, nor covetous one this is no Table for him. But he which is Christ's disciple, let him come for the Lord saith "I will keep the Passover with My disciples," Matth. xxvi. 18. This is that Passover Table, and it is all Christ's what is wrought there is not some of it Christ's work, and some of it man's work, but it is all His work and not another's." 
The eagerness of the faithful to "suck at that spiritual Cup" is obscured on our reformed 20th century rites. With very few exceptions anyone who attended a Latin rite parish today experienced an "external solemnity" of Corpus Christi Thursday Sunday. This is unfortunate and a consequence of the reduction of octaves under Pius XII and the availability of celebrating major feasts in place of the Sunday Mass. In the traditional Roman rite today would have been the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Sunday within the octave, complete with white vestments, commemorations at Mass and the office, and the preface of the Incarnation during the Mass. The gospel passage comes from Luke chapter 14, in which Our Lord makes a parable of a rich man who holds a banquet only to find that all the invited guests have made their polite excuses. The rich man then tells his servants to go into the streets and invite everyone they can find to the banquet. The Sacrament of the Lord, the glue of the Church, is open to all who do not reject it. The Jewish people were granted the revelation of God to man ("Salvation is from the Jews" John 4:22) and the unique place of being His "people" in the world; in declining Christ, to Whom the fullness of revelation was offered in Christ, the faith was then opened to the entirety of the world. The Temple sacrifices besought the forgiveness of the sins of the Jewish people and bound them under God's command. The Memoriale mortis Domini actually accomplishes the forgiveness of sins within the Church and binds the Church visibly under the Son of Man's own flesh.

Sunday Gospel as an antiphon

The feast of Corpus Christi is quintessentially Roman in its texts, direct yet with heuristic, subtle wordplay from St. Thomas Aquinas. The fleshly presence of Christ in the Eucharist finds itself expressed in many texts and actions throughout Eastern and Western liturgical history; long before monstrances the Sacrament was carried in a pyx by the celebrant and heralded by boys dressed in sack cloth as "prophets" in the Sarum form of Palm Sunday. The Sacrament extends Christ's presence on earth without dividing Him. 

And yet there is an odd extension of Eucharistic piety that personifies the Sacrament to a level that the Church has never traditionally understood. There have been some pious additions in Eucharistic devotion in the Latin Church that frankly give not a few of us the "heebie jeebies." I recall one fine Sunday morning breaking the fast at Brown's on Woodstock after the 8AM Mass at the Oxford Oratory. A gathering of us discussed the long road ahead to getting the old liturgy a permanent foothold in the mainstream Church. One of our number commented that one difficulty was the odd focus on the Blessed Sacrament itself outside of the liturgy, which distracts from the fact that the liturgy exists to confect the Sacrament. "What, pray tell, do you mean?" I asked. "Well, Rad Trad," he dilated, "I recently ran into a friend on his way to the Oxford chaplaincy to pay a 'visit' to the Sacrament. All well and fine to me, but when I asked why he did not just pop into the Oratory or Blackfriars, nearer his college, he gave me a queer reply. Do you know what he said? 'He's lonely.' Well, of course He's 'lonely'! He's God! He's the Only One!" 

A blessed continued octave of the Body of the Lord to all!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Extra Ecclesiam

One of the Catholic doctrines most alien to a convert, but also the most urgent spur for conversion, is the long-disused extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. It is a cause for wonder, a mystery almost as deep as that of predestination. Fear of dying outside the Church, a society seemingly necessary for salvation, is one of the greatest motivators for leaving one’s non-Catholic life behind. The Church is the pearl of great price, the barque of Peter, the city of God, all worth more than any measly treasures that can be found outside its confines. Without the terrible suspicion that extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is true, many would never convert at all.

So what a shock it is to the convert who has sold all he has in order to obtain this pearl, to realize that few within Peter’s barque actually care about this doctrine. Even those who believe it are strangely apathetic in defending or promulgating it. The fewer who both believe and insist upon this doctrine are considered mad if not schismatic—Fr. Feeney’s disciples, sedevacantists, and a few others—which is greatly ironic if not humorous.

I am not here making any historical arguments for or against this doctrine, nor any argument concerning a particular method of interpretation. Rather, I am noting the existential crisis this necessarily causes in the soul of the convert. He has been told that he must do A (convert) in order to achieve positive consequence B (Heaven) and avoid the negative consequence C (Hell). While C is still possible after doing A, it is not avoidable without A. However, once A is complete, he is suddenly told that he might have achieved B without A, but now that A is done he can no longer achieve B if he repudiates A.

There’s a lie in here, somewhere, and the convert knows it. He knows he’s been lied to, but unsure at what point the lie occurs. Is it a lie that nobody outside the Church is saved? Is it a lie that the Catholic Church is the “Church” referred to in this doctrine? Is the lie that he could have remained blissfully ignorant of all things Catholic and floated into Heaven on his mere good intentions?

The answer, if one is given at all, is usually that “outside,” “Church,” and “no” are fuzzy concepts that admit to multiple interpretations. After listening to this half-baked sophistry for an hour or two, the convert inevitably asks the question: Did I need to convert to be saved? Heaven help him if he asks a Balthasarian. At least the Feeneyite will try to keep him Catholic.

The exclusivity of the Catholic doctrine is nearly unknown among Protestant denominations. Most of them will acknowledge the basic acceptability of other broadly Christian creedal communities, in spite of doctrinal and practical disagreements. Islam is one of the few world religions to also profess exclusivism, which is probably one of the reasons why they have opposed Catholicism so vociferously for centuries.

I am not suggesting that the proper interpretation of extra Ecclesiam is a simple or easy one, but it has to mean something, and the apologists drop the ball explaining the doctrine even while practically acting as though the interpretation ought to be strict. After all, they insist that everyone who is capable of understanding the teachings of the Church must investigate them and then strive to become her members. Their salvation, supposedly, depends on it. Which is why the apologists scurry into the cracks once they are queried about John Paul’s praise of other religions, Mother Theresa’s indifferentism towards the pagans under her care, and Cdl. Ratzinger’s assurance to a Lutheran that she could safely remain non-Catholic.

The terrifying attrition rate of Catholic converts should give us pause. Many converts feel that they have been lied to on their way in, and that the extra Ecclesiam doctrine is used as a bully stick to keep them from leaving. Nobody likes to feel trapped, and those who apostatize often do so out of a sense of desperation rather than boredom or malice.

As I’ve said before, a healthy dose of realism is necessary for those shepherding new converts into the One Fold. They need to be realistic about the failings of the Church today, and brutally honest towards those they are godfathering or sponsoring. The Church on Earth is the Church Militant, but militant not only towards the non-Catholic world and the Devil; the Catholic must also be on his guard against the many threats within the Church. It has always been this way, and if 1950s-triumphalism is responsible for any great evil it was the dulling of the wit towards internal threats.

(José Benlliure y Gil)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Ennui of Evangelicals

Being born and raised in the largest American religious group, I spent many years watching my fellow Evangelical Protestants go through cycles of wild extremist belief, desperate attempts at holding on to their previous emotional faith, and termination either in outright apostasy, or bored church-hopping.

There’s a kind of anti-rational fideism eating away at the foundations of Evangelicalism. In spite of the ability and willingness of young Evangelicals to engage in debates at excruciating length, their spirituality relies almost entire on emotionalism. They operate on the logical extension of Fr. Luther’s redefinition of the virtue of faith as trust rather than humble belief. If the individual “Christian” no longer feels trust in their Heavenly Father, it must indicate a loss of faith—or worse, indicate that he never possessed faith in the first place.

The interaction of Evangelicals with the larger, secular culture is laced with an urgent need to be perceived as relevant. They instinctively understand the paucity of their own internal culture, and gravitate towards any things that hold the slightest promise of filling their own voids. They obsess about Hollywood movies, C.S. Lewis (hardly an Evangelical, himself), glorified road trips with missionary pretenses, popular musical trends, and even Thomas Aquinas. Worse, they obsess about convincing themselves that sin doesn’t matter.

But of course sin matters. It’s the most terrible thing in creation. It’s a horrible nothingness that tears away the only parts of us capable of communion with God. The Evangelical-Protestant insistence that sin is “already forgiven” or “placed at the Cross” is impious nonsense, a legal fiction that inflames the existing cognitive dissonance of religionists who already believe that “real Christians” simply will not sin. Or at least not seriously. Just a little. Maybe. Probably. Maybe.

At their happiest, Evangelicals are zealously troublesome in flooding Catholic message boards, insisting that they flee the great Whore of Babylon. At their saddest, they leave the drywall interiors of their churches for the caffeinated opium dens of abortion-loving Starbucks.

St. Jude describes the mental state of Evangelicals thoughtful enough to be aware that something is wrong: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion; wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved.” The movement is so symbiotic with America that it can only exist in other countries that have been Americanized to some degree; and the more America is in turmoil, the more Evangelicals find themselves on the opposite sides of a similar divide.

They have no lasting poetry, no sculpture, no memorable novels, no architecture, no music that isn’t a cheap imitation or childish emoting. When an Evangelical wishes to learn how to integrate faith and the arts, he inevitably falls back on Catholic examples, and then spends hours explaining to his friends why reading Flannery O’Connor doesn’t necessarily make one a dirty papist.

So why does the Catholic Church seem hell-bent on imitating our Evangelical neighbors? Do we American Catholics really hate our pre-Vatican II urban ghetto culture so much that we are willing to trade it in for anything else? We are no longer preaching from the upper room in Jerusalem, proclaiming the New Covenant to all the world in every tongue with power and truth, as on that first Pentecost. We are more concerned with listening than telling.

At some point we despaired. We despaired of our own culture, our own ecclesiastical society, and our traditions. We didn’t despair in the darkest of times, after the Church had been rocked by a continual beating tide of scandals, but in good times of peace. We tired of promulgating the evangel throughout the world and our communities. Our own evangelical spirit grew cold, and once we stopped spreading it to the heathen and heretic, we stopped believing it, ourselves.

We are not even accused of being drunk on “new wine,” any longer. The American Catholic is desperate to be like his neighbor, to fit in and be accepted as just another flavor of so-called Christianity, to be both in and of the world. We are so alienated from our own roots that Flannery O’Connor is as obscure to the modern Catholic as to the Protestant.

The evangelical ennui is ours.

Summer, by Jules Breton

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Octave Musing: They Shall Be Created

"In times of difficulty the Holy Spirit raises up saints within the Church," Fr. Capreolus preached at Mass this Pentecost Sunday. The good priest touched on something that has been floating around the Catholic blogosphere recently, that the ancient Western understanding of the Holy Spirit has been obscured in since the mid-20th century by an unhealthy wave of Greek epicleptism.

The Roman liturgy, as it existed at the dawn of the 20th century, could be mistaken for an Arian rite if not for the Athanasius Creed at Prime, the Gloria Patri doxologies at the psalms, and the qui tecum vivit et regnat concluding orations. That is not to say the old Roman liturgy is in the least Arian, but it has every trace of being an ante-Nicene tradition that the Church enriched after the Christological clarifications of the first four councils. Unlike the explicitly didactic Greek rite, which preaches a small Trinitarian sermon at the sessional hymns and the troparia, the Latin rite rarely teaches about the nature of the Trinity, it simply directs the faithful in worship to God in the persons of the Trinity. I recall some time ago reading in an introduction to the writings of St. Gregory Nazianzen that the Byzantine Church saw the Trinity as three Divine persons Who, in virtue of the first commandment, must be one God, whereas the Latin Church saw one God Who, in virtue of the New Testament, must exist as three Divine persons. The Greek tradition narrates the active role of the Paraclete in every act of the Church, while the Latin tradition simply assumes it.

In the middle of the anaphora of the Greek liturgy the celebrant asks that the Father might "send down Your Holy Spirit and upon these gifts here offered," transforming them into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Roman Church quietly assumes that the Holy Spirit came down upon the Church once and is passed on by the laying of hands at exorcisms, Confirmation, absolution of sins, the conferral of Holy Order, and other blessings. The Holy Spirit need not descend upon the Church, He is already in it. St. Bernard writes in one reflection on the Song of Songs that the Holy Spirit ensures us of "truth of our interior life," guiding the faithful in the three so-called "theological" virtues (Song of Songs sermon 18). The Holy Spirit does not transubstantiate the gifts, He raises the priest to offer them to the Father, Who transforms them by his acceptance of them (Quam oblationem).

Perhaps the indwelling, as opposed to descending, Latin view of the Paraclete is why Roman Christians are more concerned than Easterners with having a pure Church at any given moment of history and why turbulent times are more difficult for them to endure (cf. Rorate Caeli every day). If the indwelling Spirit guides the Church "in all truth" then is the Church to be found in Pope Francis? Or in the "Novus Ordo"? Or in the Borgia era? The wise reply to those troubled hearts is the same Fr. Capreolus gave at Mass, that the Spirit lives in the Church, is passed on from age to age, and lifts up saints at the most dire of times. Perhaps the Church suffers today not from the lack of potentially great saints, but from bureaucratic obstruction of their work.

Regardless, the Lord sent forth His Holy Spirit fifty days after the Resurrection; henceforth, every generation of the Church has been created in the Spirit.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Miscellany

(source: Wikimedia)
Today is the feast of Robert Bellarmine, one of the brightest lights of the Counter-Reformation. His writings are utilized by trads these days, usually to champion geocentrism or to compile practical methods of deposing an heretical pope. He also wrote such devotional works as The Mind's Ascent to God, The Art of Dying Well, and The Seven Words on the Cross. Cdl. Bellarmine was not canonized until 1930, and his feast was moved to the day of his death in the 1969 revisions. Mr. Ryan Grant of Mediatrix Press has been translating and publishing St. Robert's works in English over the last few years.

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Today is also the anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin at Fatima in 1917. Mr. Grump is happy to encourage the study of the Second Eve's messages to the Portuguese children, but worries about the aspiration of certain priests and laymen to bottleneck every aspect of Catholic life and spirituality through the Fatima messages, miracles, and secrets. Her messages are timely, but were hardly meant to become a replacement for common sense and good cheer.

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(source: Wikimedia)
Recently Mr. Grump had the opportunity to dialogue, so to speak, with a devotee of the Brown Scapular. This particular young lady could hardly be described as a traditionalist, but was more defensive of the sacramental than most traddies. My attempts to argue that the Brown Scapular is a sign primarily of Carmelite devotion gained little purchase, as she also thought that every Catholic should love Carmelite spirituality. Further thoughts on the Scapular are still in development.

~ ~ ~

The attacks on Catholic traditionalists by neo-conservative pundits are increasing in regularity and viciousness. Apologist Dave Armstrong in particular is responding in kind to Hilary White's mockery of neo-con doublethink; Fr. Longenecker has been threatened with a lawsuit by Chris Ferrara for the vile suggestions he's been making; and the Patheos bloggers have been writing full of wrath, as if they know their time is short. The level of this dialogue (so to speak) and others like it is unfortunately very low and lacking in the emotional detachment needed for certain kinds of intellectual work. It is a curious aspect of human nature that the people most willing to dish out emotionally charged abuse are also the people least willing to accept it in humility and good humor.

~ ~

Speaking of good humor, Mr. Grump is rather enjoying the recent blog launch of the Tumblar House Lounge, which features original pieces as well as excerpts from the books of their published authors. Not everyone will agree with the theological peculiarities of the authors, but it is curious that the spiritual descendants of Fr. Feeney are often less gloomy than the rest of the traddy world.


Speaking of a lack of good humor, one cannot help but notice that proof of the Archdiocese of New York's supposed hit piece against Michael Voris does not appear to be forthcoming. Surely this means that the Church Militant apostolate is opening itself up to charges of libel and defamation. Perhaps this is nothing new for Mr. Voris's organization, but presenting the evidence would be useful for defending themselves against their critics. (And while Voris is airing his dirty laundry, surely he can come out of the toupee closet as a bald man. We assure the CM intern crew that this would not reflect poorly on Mr. Voris STB's masculinity.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Octave Day of the Ascension

Ceiling of St. Mark's in Venice.
"The Light of Christ enlightens everyone who comes into the world," the priest says betwixt the lessons during Presanctified Liturgy of Great Lent. The phrase is borrowed from the prologue of St. John, read at the end of the old Roman Mass on most days: "for He was the true light, which enlightens everyone who comes into the world."

The Mattins readings from the Octave of the Ascension continue the Johannine theme of Christ's illumination of every individual heart. A few days ago 1 John 4 was read at the first nocturne: "Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity." If one has not love, one has not received God, Who is in His essence Love. To love another is, according to Aquinas, to will the good of another. The social nature of the Godhead, the Three Divine Persons, necessitates that God is love and nothing else. God is infinitely simple in this. To receive God the faithful receive His love and must pass it on a Christ did. "He that abideth in charity abideth in God," concludes the lesson.

The following day's lesson, the second Johannine epistle, warns that those who do not receive God walk not in the commandments of God and are not to be received by the believer. The love and light of Christ are offered to everyone who enters the world, whether we see it explicitly or not. At the Mass for the feast all the candles in the church are traditionally lit from the Paschal candle, which is extinguished after the Gospel; in more liturgically correct Greek churches—ones not subject to the Dallas county fire marshal—all fires in the church for the next year are lit from the Paschal fire; the light of Christ, once visible in the human person of Christ, now lives on in the Church. St. Leo taught in his second sermon on the Ascension that "our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high."

The Ascension octave is not so much concerned with the fact that Christ has visibly gone away from the Church, but with what He has spiritually left behind in individuals and in the universal Church, which is fortified by the love of its communion. Lest we doubt, St. Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church:
"I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called, with all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity. Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. But to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ. Wherefore he saith: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men." (Mattins of the octave day)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hymnum Dicite Deo Nostro, Alleluia

"Praise and worship" need not amount to a ol' fashion Holy Ghost throwdown with a revivalist preacher at a Wednesday Bible Church service. The sung praise of God comes from Holy Writ itself, but before it was written it was sung. The canticles of the Scriptures and the psalter are not recorded events like most of the Bible, but actual hymns meant to be sung by posterity to the God Who revealed Himself to mankind.

Catholics owe the utmost respect to sacred music, both in its composition and its proper implementation. Music often saves a troubled parish, whereas the 1962 liturgy may not. The English Oratories, St. John Cantius in Chicago, and St. Mary's in Norwalk all have notable music programs which revived meddling parishes and imbued into the faithful an understanding of what is beyond our three dimensions and five senses.

Above all sacred music must be humble, and not pretend to be something it is not. The Roman Church nearly decided against polyphony during the Renaissance, when most composers—notably the Venetians—wrote to the same rhythmic patterns of contemporary dance music. Polyphony can be beautiful, however it is easily overdone and makes the wrong impression when sung underwhelmingly. Chant should be the normal music of the parish church: it is easily singable, possessive of a changing quality according to feast and season that is palatable to man's need for variety, does not require any special talent to sing respectfully, and is a music uniquely owned by the Church. Chant can be sung, screamed, hummed or stuttered by anyone; it began in the basilicas of the great metropolitan sees, adapted to medieval parishes, and crystallized under its daily use by monks whose talents reflected the full gamut of vocal ability. The conventional Roman Masses (I, IV, VIII, IX, XI, and XVIII) are all quite usable and no parish with a regular sung Mass should not be able to sing the seasonal chants; the Missa de Angelis every week is inexcusable. However, polyphony should still have a place in the musical life of the Church.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a performance of Rachmaninoff's setting of the All-Night Vigil in the Byzantine Office. A local chorale held the concert at a protestant church and provided transliterations of the Slavonic. I found myself singing Sviatey Bozhe, Sviatey Kripkey during the Great Doxology between instances of smoke irritating my eyes. At the Polyeoleos, or whatever the Slavs call it, several singers unconsciously began to sway from side to side as they sang Praise the name of the Lord, alleluia/Praise Him in the heights, alleluia. Chant is the normative music of the Church because it is singable. Polyphony should only replace chant when it can render the faithful speechless. Unless this writer finds himself in Moscow he is unlikely to hear this opus ever sung in its proper context, yet his second time hearing Rachmaninoff's Vigil in viva voce reminded him that polyphony must be humble enough to capture the nature of texts they vivify; polyphony cannot be reduced to ornamental fluctuations and descants.

There is even a place for very simple music. Who can speak ill of the little parish that draws 60 or 70 souls and, bereft of a proper music proper, sings the standard tones? This sort of music deserves more honor than the overreaching choir we have all heard, for it does not feign to be something it is not.

Music can be many things: a key to opening up more of the liturgy than just the Eucharist, an injection of life into a dire parish, or portal into the unseen element of what transpires in a church.
"What state can be more blessed than to imitate on earth the choirs of angels? to begin the day with prayer, and honor our Maker with hymns and songs? As the day brightens, to betake ourselves, with prayer attending on it throughout, to our labors, and to season our work with hymns, as food with salt? The consolation from hymns produces a state of soul that is cheerful and free of sorrow."—St. Basil the Great

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Podcast Episodes That Will Never Be Recorded

(Wikimedia Commons)
Episode 1

Audio problems abound. Of our three participants, only one bothers to buy and use a real microphone. The others are being recorded through Skype.

Topic of conversation: Why we are doing a podcast (dubbed The Radcast).

Episode 2

His Tradiness and Mr. Grump discuss Chartreuse for 15 minutes, then quibble about whether coffee can be good for an hour.

Promised guest for the next episode is a local priest who secretly celebrates the pre-1955 Roman Holy Week.

Episode 3

No special guest. His Tradiness and Mr. Ecclesiastical Vigilante discuss the merits of the Eastern rites for three hours.

Episode 4

A 20-minute update about why there has not been a podcast in over a month.

Episode 5

Steve Skojec is our special guest as Mr. Grump complains about Pope Francis. His Tradiness is nowhere to be found.

Episode 6

In a desperate attempt for new listeners, The Radcast discusses the newest popular movie, dissecting it for Catholic themes that don't actually exist. Mr. Grump complains about Steven Greydanus and his hack reviews.

Movie reviewed: The Ghostbusters (remake). Special guest: A traddy priest who is not an exorcist but preaches about occult errors at least once a month.

Episode 7

Michael Voris's wig is discussed—Church Militant described hilariously as "his beard." Mr. Voris STB's hypocrisy of attacking bishops but not the bishop of Rome also discussed.

Comment section overwhelmed by two CM interns demanding we retract any statements casting doubt on Mr. Voris's masculinity.

Episode 8

"The St. Joseph Episode," as it comes to be called. Mr. Grump rants solo about Josephite devotion and bad history for four hours.

Episode 9

The violent death of St. Gengulphus and the hilariously vulgar punishment of his killers is recounted. Some brief attempt is made to tie this in to contemporary controversies surrounding the family.

Also, the arts of compiling hagiography and medieval legendariums is considered.

Episode 10

Live commentary during an online video stream of Bp. Williamson's latest consecration, complete with drinking game. A great deal of well-made scotch is consumed during the sermon.

Episode 11

St. Corbinian's Bear calls in for half an hour, produces mostly unintelligible growls.

Episode 12

The hosts call the Catholic Answers Live radio show, purporting to be interested in their topic of the day: "Why Be Pro-Life"? Once on the air, they pretend to be drunk and belligerently demand Karl Keating to talk about Japan.

Episode 13

A 5-minute update explaining why there hasn't been a new episode for two months. Also, the final episode.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why Look Down, Men of Galilee?

"I may be allowed to say that the disciples' slowness to believe that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, was not so much their weakness as our strength. In consequence of their doubts, the fact of the Resurrection was demonstrated by many infallible proofs. These proofs we read and acknowledge. What then assureth our faith, if not their doubt? For my part, I put my trust in Thomas, who doubted long, much more than in Mary Magdalene, who believed at once. Through his doubting, he came actually to handle the holes of the Wounds, and thereby closed up any wound of doubt in our hearts." —St. Gregory the Great, 29th sermon on the Gospels

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tolkien Playing Hermes While Númenor Sinks

Hermes Trismegistus bestows his blessing upon thee!

It seems that the rather hysterical condemnation of Tolkien's fantasy world as implicitly, if not explicitly, Gnostic by a certain Fr. Ioannes Petrus is making the rounds again. (For His Traddiness's thoughts on the matter, see here and here.) The inimitable Mr. Joseph Pearce has stumbled across these talks and written some unnecessarily long essays in response at The Imaginative Conservative website (here and here). I do not know why he questions the consecration of Fr. Petrus, but I suppose Mr. Pearce is intent on discrediting the man before discrediting the man's argument.

Now, Mr. Grump is open to the argument that there is something in fantasy world-building that is at least formally Gnostic, but not that it is doctrinally so. There is nothing to suggest any hint of heresy in the works published by Tolkien. There might—might—be a hint of Manicheeism in his fantasized creation story (never published in his lifetime), where the dissonant music of the angelic Melkor is blended in with the holy harmony to make the physical world we know today. But no one can accuse Tolkien of any real dualism.

The photo above shows J.R.R. playing the part of Hermes in a school production of Aristophanes' The Peace. I wonder sometimes if he was simply so saddened by the state of the world and of the Church that he retreated into classical times, and then into a fictional history of his own making. The history invented in The Silmarillion is almost as dark and bleak as the history of the war-torn twentieth century, though, so I don't know how effective it could have been.

His thoughts on escapism:
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? (from On Fairy-Stories)
Modern esotericism, supposedly founded in ancient times by Hermes Trismegistus, is a form of escapism. It ruins the valid practice of finding symbolic meaning in words, colors, beasts, cosmic phenomena, and stations of life, by squeezing false doctrines out of them. On the surface the esotericist will affirm the commonly accepted doctrines, then suggest that there's more going on beneath the surface, and finally admit that he's pushing the tired old heresies of dualism and reincarnation. Ho hum, the perennial heresy strikes again.

John Tolkien was no heretic, but he was a deeply unhappy trad by the end of his days. I do not fault him much for his fantasy-world obsession, even though I would quickly get bored doing the same thing, myself. The real world is more interesting than any world I could subcreate, and probably less depressing than Middle-Earth.

I wonder if he would have served the Catholic world better by spending his last years writing against the disintegration of the Church, rather than polishing The Silmarillion and passive aggressively saying all the Mass responses in Latin when the vernacular was becoming the norm. It is rumored that Tolkien spoke at a few early English traditionalist meetings, but I have yet to see any tangible evidence. Imagine a series of essays against the Novus Ordo by the author of The Lord of the Rings. What a great boon that could have been to our generation, and how much harder it would have been for secular schlockmeisters like Peter Jackson to scrape the religious barnacles from his work!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Josephology Sidebard: Ss. Philip & James

I had entirely forgotten about Jerz the Werz day and even wore a red tie with a matching pocket square to the Divine Liturgy today. A Tradistani chorister, hiding from the novel feast at Byzantine services, reminded me. While reading the Mattins of the feast this morning I recalled that the hagiography of James the Greater fits in quite well with the traditional narrative of St. Joseph.

From the second nocturne:
"So great was James' holiness of life that men strove one with another to touch the hem of his garment. When he was ninety-six years old, and had most holily governed the Church of Jerusalem for thirty years, ever most constantly preaching Christ the Son of God, he laid down his life for the faith. He was first stoned, and afterward taken up on to a pinnacle of the Temple and cast down from thence. His legs were broken by the fall, and he was wellnigh dead, but he lifted up his hands towards heaven, and prayed to God for the salvation of his murderers, saying " Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do " As he said this, one that stood by smote him grievously upon the head with a fuller's club, and he resigned his spirit to God. He testified in the seventh year of Nero, and was buried hard by the Temple, in the place where he had fallen. He wrote one of the Seven Epistles which are called Catholic. "

Ss. Jim'n'Pip, pray for us!