February 19, 2005

The Christology of the Saints

I wrote a piece yesterday in which I tried to get at this point--quite awkwardly. I did not publish it (as you may see). However, I stumbled on this during my perambulations through St. Blogs and it says perfectly what I had in mind. Thank you Mr. Blosser.

A quotation from Cardnial Ratzinger

Real advances in Christology, therefore, can never come merely as a result of the theology of the schools, and that includes the modern theology as we find it in critical exegesis, in the history of doctrine and in an anthropology oriented toward the human sciences, etc. All this is important, as important as schools are. But it is insufficient. It must be complemented by the theology of the saints, which is theology from experience. All real progress in theological understanding has its origin in the eye of love and in its faculty of beholding.

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February 18, 2005

Quoting Disputations

An interesting thought. We each and we all need to atone for the sins of each and all of us. It could even be taken further, by suggesting that those of us willing to atone must do so for those who are unwilling. Christ is owed a spotless Church; which of His priests (and remember: if you're baptized, you're a priest) will make the offering to Him in reparation for the scandal's grave disfigurement of His Church?

What an excellent notion. Perhaps I shall start my own small part today. Thanks for the suggestion.

Full Post Here

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Our Knowledge of God and His Knowledge of Himself

from Ascent to Love
Sr. Ruth Burrows

Acquired knowledge is satisfying because it is our own, a possession. Inevitably it gives--albeit unconsciously-- a sense of power, control. We know where we are, what we are about; we have a sense of 'being able to do it'; in other words there is the implicit assumption that we can make our own way to God. It is only a case of going on like this, everything nicely under control, and we shall get more and more spiritual, know more and more about God, wax holy! This is illusion. Once again this cannot be appreciated no matter how much we may know it theoretically. Theoretical knowledge in its turn becomes just another piece of spiritual acumen until God 'touches' us; then our illusion begins painfully to crumble and we find ourselves with nothing. The new knowledge actuated in the depths of our being, uncurling as the tenderest of young plants, is not detected. This is not a possession, it cannot of its nature be appreciated or enjoyed as a personal attribute. Incipient though it be it has effects, and one of these is to take some of the gild off our 'God.' As the 'God' is really ourselves, our ego is wounded in its most vulnerable area. It is one thing to be asked to renounce our ego in dealing with other people and things, we come to appreciate that this is only commonsense; but surely our prayer, our pursuit of God, is unselfishness itself? Are we not trying to renounce ourselves, do good in order to please God? Well, we are about to be tested in that! Are our reactions prompted by the desire to please God or to have a spiritual life, become a spiritual person? In other words is our tenacious egotism operating in what is the most supremely satisfying sphere of all?

Wow! What a breathtaking indictment! And how true for many of us. Sometimes my desire for "secret knowledge" for "understanding the things of God" overwhelms any sense of why I would want to do this. Isn't the point of knowing God and sharing in His life supposed to be to please Him rather than to please myself? Gratifying this desire in one sense "undoes" the good of all the spiritual practices. And it will be ultimately unsatisfying. Our only goal in approaching God in any way is to be pleasing to Him. God is well pleased in those who approach Him in humble prayer and ask of Him the things needed in each day.

How poorly I do to take this finest gift and desire to make it my own for my own purposes. My purpose in approaching God must be His purpose for me. My goal must be His desire, not my own. Just as I delight in Samuel offering me some small card or written note that tells how much he loves and admires me, so God delights in a single Our Father said in complete love and desire to please. Let us take an example from our children and offer God our humblest but most sincere thanksgiving and praise. When I offer Him any thought out of sheer love of Him and desire to please Him, I am far better off than trying to scale mountains for the sake of gratifying my own curiousity and ego.

Our end--to please God in all that we do, to walk simply and to offer God our most truthful, most abiding, most loving, most sincere self. We offer to Him all that we are in the desire to please Him, not to get something from Him, but simply because our delight is in Him and living in harmony with Him. Forget the austerities, forget the forbidding language, forget all the contrivances that we formulate and that only get in the way. God wants us to want to please Him and to be with Him not for self-aggrandizement, but for Him alone.

In short, send your love letter today--delight and glory in pleasing the God who loves you "as the apple of His eye."

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Listening--"Missing. . ."

Listening to John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, a remarkable Ives-like remembrance of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. There are formless voids like those proposed by Ives in The Unanswered Questions, Reich-like paraphrases, particularly recalling the remarkable completely vocal tape-loop minimalist pieces using phrases from interviews. There are Ligeti-like choral voicings, often indistinguishable in what they are saying. Overall, a haunting piece--remarkable.

"I see buildings. . . water. . . buildings. . . water . . . "

All moving upward through grief to rebirth.

I can't say much for the transmigration of souls (nor for the whippoorwills that wait to snatch them away. But the piece of music is interesting and worthy of your attention.

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February 17, 2005

Urgent Prayer Request

Please pray for a little boy named O.,
2 1/2 years old. ...He fell yesterday and needed
stiches- somewhere during the ER visit he went into shock, his heart
stopped, and he was revived, but rushed to a second hospital, and then air
lifted by chopper to the UPenn hospital in Philly. I have few details,
except that he is fighting for his life.... As of 5pm yesterday they were unsure of his chances of survival...

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Guaranteed to Increase Evelyn Waugh's Popularity

Particularly among the ladies. I laughed out loud when I first read this because of the non sequitur and needlessness of the final line. I think misogynist is the word one might use, except that Mr. Waugh didn't particularly LIKE anyone. So he was an equal-opportunity disdainer. Note the source.

from Msgr. Ronald Knox
Evelyn Waugh

At the time there was a limited but eager public for these puzzles. Fashion has turned from them, as from acrostics. When they come back into fashion, Ronald's stories, because of their austerity, may seem less dated than those of his more romantic and dramatic rivals. None was more ingenious than he, more scrupulous in the provision of clues, more logically complete in his solutions. Very few women have ever enjoyed them.

Add to that the fact that Mr. Knox's mysteries are, quite simply, not enjoyable. There isn't so much as a thread of personality on which to hand a hope of a real story--you get in essence the outline of a mystery with the skeleton fully exposed. Mr. Waugh's prediction is sadly unrealistic. And his venom gratuitous. Nevertheless, I think it was the shock of juxtaposition that forced a guffaw out of me. And then gave me pause, because I certainly fall into the class of those who cannot read Mr. Knox's mysteries with any pleasure at all. If I'm to read fiction by clergy, I'll hold with Robert Hugh Benson's wonderful novels. You want to read some good stuff try The Necromancers or Lord of the World.

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February 16, 2005

Prayer in a Time of Distress

There has been a great deal of disturbing news in my personal life of late. Add to that the ongoing travesty just "one city over," and I fall back on one of the most beautiful of hymns--sung at the end of each of the hours in the Carmelite tradition. May Our Lady open our eyes to the splendors of Jesus Crucified and Risen.

Salve Regina, mater misericordiae: vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.

O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria. Amen.

V. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.

R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

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Shakespeare Does Psalm 8

To honor Ms. Schiavo and the Terri Schiavo blogburst:*

from "Hamlet" Act II scene 2
William Shakespeare

I have of late--but wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

"The beauty of the world--the paragon of animals." How horribly appropriate in the savagery surrounding this innocent woman and those who wish her dead--that these two should be juxtaposed. For people can indeed be the paragon of animals in both the positive, and in this case the negative sense. How much more an animal must one be to stoop to the slaughter of those least able to defend themselves. May God have mercy on them and deliver Terri from their "tender" care.

I am with you in spirit (those in Tampa) though I didn't hear about the gatherings until too late to manage a day off. My prayers are with those who gather in her defense.

*A note of clarification from Hyscience--Visit hyscience blog and search for Terri Schiavo Blogburst to find the script to add to your blog, etc. E-mail hyscience at scienceblog@3oaks.com once you have it added or if you have any questions. It's time to burst the blogosphere for Terri! Ultimate goal? Getting her out of the hands of those trying to murder her and back on the road to her recovery in the care of her parents/siblings/etc. and those who love and want to help her.

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February 15, 2005

Our Crosses

Too often we chafe under our crosses--we want to change them, to make them more conformable to ourselves and to the image of ourselves that we would like to reify. But it is a serious mistake to try to our crosses to fit our warped and distorted figures. Rather, we should change ourselves to fit the cross God has given us. We are strange, misshapen creatures, warped and distorted. The crosses we bear are to shape us to our place of service in the body of Christ.--when we resist them and seek to change them we are, in essence, saying that our appointed place is not to our liking.

We can think of our crosses as orthopedic devices. We may think that we're amblilng along just fine, but in truth we lurch forward in fits and starts, and stumble and fall on a regular basis. The cross is a set of braces, it supports us, shapes us, and allows us to walk upright--not to halt and to lurch. As with the application of any braces there is some pain--sometimes there is considrable pain. But the end result is that we are better able to walk or move, or chew.

As we become conformed to the cross of the day we take on the image of Him who bore our sins on the Cross of Eternity. We bear His Holy Image to all who look upon us on our own crosses. And we achieve a wholeness that cannot be won outside of our battle to conform to the crosses God has given us. As Mr. Gibson showed us memorably in the film, we must not merely endure the cross, we must accept it, embrace it, and make it our own. This is God's shaping of us--sometimes painful, but always with an eye to the eternal destiny that has been wrought for each of us in Him.

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February 14, 2005

A Farewell to Mortons

You may already have seen this, but it is worth another look--Ben Stein's farewell to Morton's.

(While you're at it, have a look at The Problem in Our Lives Is Powerlessness--the Solution Is Also Powerlessness. Another wonderful column. Were they not under copyright, I'd copy them out and keep them here forever. As it is, I have only the links, and I hope they last a while. A soupçon:

6. My greatest power comes from my surrender to God's will every moment of every day.

7. Fear is the common human condition. The only solution that lasts is faith in God.

8. What happens to me is not terribly important.

9. I cannot control other people, and when I try, it leads to disaster.

10. Acceptance of God's will is my only option today. It is not a choice but a necessity. )

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The World, The Flesh, and The Devil

Poor reflections on yesterday's readings.

The temptation--the three basic forms of separation from God--the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The flesh is the first temptation and the one to which nature most naturally inclines people. Food is a good thing, it is a necessary thing, but it is neither the best thing nor the one thing necessary. Satan tempts Jesus to use His legitimate power in an illegitimate way. Why change stones to bread to satisfy mere appetite? Bread can be bought or made -- the use of Divine power is squandering for the sake of a trifle.

The Devil is the initiator of all temptation--but this second of temptations is, in fact, the essence of temptation. "Throw yourself down" is a temptation that presents no real good or award whatsoever. It is the invitation to pride and doubt. Should Jesus undertake the action, he acts in pride. Should henot undertake it, then He might begin to think about the situation and wonder about the efficacy of God's power. No legitimate good can come from this action. It seeks merely to test or prove what is already known--God cares for all His people.

The world is the last of the three--Jesus is shown the grand splendor of creation and offered dominion over it if only He will renounce His father. Now, why would this present even the slightest temptation to Christ? He is already master of all creation. Everything belongs to Him, how can He be tempted by it? The temptation is presented for us as a completion of the instruction that might be had from the episode in the Life of the Savior, but it is also presented to show us how poorly Satan understands the nature of God. He seeks to drive a wedge between father and Son as though they are separate entities. But they are not. They are separate persons sharing one will. Thus, we are instructed that right knowledge is an important part of recognizing who and what we are and Who and What Jesus Christ is.

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One I Had Not Seen by Richard Crashaw

Once again, your indulgence I beg and direct your eyes to the apologies of the previous post. Ditto.

Hymn in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Adoro te
Richard Crashaw

WITH all the powres my poor Heart hath
Of humble love & loyall Faith,
Thus lowe (my hidden life!) I bow to thee
Whom too much love hath bow'd more low for me.
Down down, proud sense! Discourses dy!
Keep close, my soul's inquiring ey!
Nor touch nor tast must look for more
But each sitt still in his own Dore.

Your ports are all superfluous here,
Save That which lets in faith, the eare.
Faith is my skill. Faith can beleive
As fast as love new lawes can give.
Faith is my force. Faith strength affords
To keep pace with those powrfull words.
And words more sure, more sweet, then they,
Love could not think, truth could not say.

O let thy wretch find that releife
Thou didst afford the faithfull theife.
Plead for me, love! Alleage & show
That faith has farther, here, to goe,
And lesse to lean on. Because than
Though hidd as GOD, wounds writt thee man.
Thomas might touch; None but might see
At least the suffring side of thee;
And that too was thy self which thee did cover,
But here ev'n That 's hid too which hides the other.

Sweet, consider then, that I
Though allow'd nor hand nor eye
To reach at thy lov'd Face; nor can
Tast thee GOD, or touch thee MAN,
Both yet beleive; And wittnesse thee
My LORD too & my GOD, as lowd as He.

Help, lord, my Faith, my Hope increase;
And fill my portion in thy peace.
Give love for life; nor let my dayes
Grow, but in new powres to thy name & praise.

O dear memoriall of that Death
Which lives still, & allowes us breath!
Rich, Royall food! Bountyfull BREAD!
Whose use denyes us to the dead;
Whose vitall gust alone can give
The same leave both to eat & live;
Live ever Bread of loves, & be
My life, my soul, my surer selfe to mee.

O soft self-wounding Pelican!
Whose brest weepes Balm for wounded man.
Ah this way bend thy benign floud
To'a bleeding Heart that gaspes for blood:
That blood, whose least drops soveraign be
To wash my worlds of sins from me.
Come love! Come LORD! & that long day
For which I languish, come away;
When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
And drink the unseal'd sourse of thee,
When Glory's sun faith's shades shall chase,
And for thy veil give me thy FACE.

A M E N.

As this is the year of the Eucharist, whatever feeble strains we can add to praise, we ought to do so. And so I offer this--not my own, but too easily lost and not again found.

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Another Poem

I'm sorry for yet another, but I came upon it in searching through some other things and wanted to be able to find it again. The best way is to place it here and I will be able to see it in the commonplace book or among the poets. Please pardon my self-indulgence.

Robert Gilbert Welsh

from The Little Book of Modern Verse (1917)
ed. Jessie Rittnehouse
(available from Bartleby, linked above)

THE ANGELS in high places
Who minister to us,
Reflect God’s smile,—their faces
Are luminous;
Save one, whose face is hidden,
(The Prophet saith),
The unwelcome, the unbidden,
Azrael, Angel of Death.
And yet that veilèd face, I know
Is lit with pitying eyes,
Like those faint stars, the first to glow
Through cloudy winter skies.

That they may never tire,
Angels, by God’s decree,
Bear wings of snow and fire,—
Passion and purity;
Save one, all unavailing,
(The Prophet saith),
His wings are gray and trailing,
Azrael, Angel of Death.
And yet the souls that Azrael brings
Across the dark and cold,
Look up beneath those folded wings,
And find them lined with gold.

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A Poem in Honor of this Month

February is often honored as African-American History month. So I offer this poem.

The Feet of Judas
George Marion McClellan

CHRIST washed the feet of Judas!
The dark and evil passions of his soul,
His secret plot, and sordidness complete,
His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole,
And still in love he stooped and washed his feet.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him,
His bargain with the priest, and more than this,
In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim,
Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And so ineffable his love ’twas meet,
That pity fill his great forgiving heart,
And tenderly to wash the traitor’s feet,
Who in his Lord had basely sold his part.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And thus a girded servant, self-abased,
Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven
Was ever too great to wholly be effaced,
And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven.

And so if we have ever felt the wrong
Of Trampled rights, of caste, it matters not,
What e’er the soul has felt or suffered long,
Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot:
Christ washed the feet of Judas.

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St John of the Cross on Satan

from The Spiritual Canticle
John of the Cross

quoted in In Conversation with God
Francis Fernandez

No human power can be compared to his; only God's power can vanquish him and only God's light can unmask the snares that he lays. The soul that would overcome the ower of the devil will not be able to do so without prayer, nor will it recongise his deceitful traps without the aid of mortification and humility.

The traps of the devil cannot be seen by those who are looking in the mirror. A great many people walk around with a Rube Goldberg apparatus attached to them--a fishing pole at the seat of the pant that dangles a mirror in front of them. Walking about in this way will lead only to falling into a pit--and oh what pits there are to find.

The worst part of all of this is that there are certain kinds of people who, once they have fallen into a pit, choose to make it home, decorate it and invite others in, thinking there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way they are living.

The season of Lent is a time to look at the minefield of pits we may have previously inhabited and to resolve, by the grace of God never to dwell there again. It is a time to realize that we cannot even tell the good from the bad, even though we know it for a certainty in our heads. It is a time for humble adoration and extended prayer to ask God to make right what we have made oh, so wrong. It is a time to break the mirror and to begin to move ahead fully aware of what lay in our path. And this may only be done with God's grace, His help, and our continued and grace-perfected obedience to His law.

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