Saturday, February 22, 2003

Schmemann

In this world Christ was rejected. He was the perfect expression of life as God intended it. The fragmentary life of the world was gathered into his life; He was the heart beat of the world and the world killed him. But in that murder the world itself died. It lost its last chance to become the paradise God created it to be. We can go on developing new and better material things. We can build a more humane society which may even keep us from annihilating each other. But when Christ, the true life of the world was rejected, it was the beginning of the end. That rejection had a finality about it : He was crucified for good. As Pascal said : "Christ is in agony until the end of the world."

Christianity often appears, however, to preach that if men will try hard enough to live Christian lives, the crucifixion can somehow be reversed. This is because Christianity has forgotten itself, forgotten that always it must first of all stand at the cross. Not that this world cannot be improved. One of our goals is certainly to work for peace, justice, freedom. But while it can be improved, it can never become the place that God intended it to be. Christianity does not condemn the world. The world has condemned itself when on Calvary it condemned the One who was its true self : "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (Jn 1:10). If we think seriously -- about the real meaning, the real scope of these words -- we know that as Christians and insofar as we are Christians we are, first of all, witnesses of that end; end of all natural joy; end of all satisfaction of man with the world and with himself; end, indeed, of life itself as a reasonable and reasonably organized "pursuit of happiness." Christians did not have to wait for the modern proponents of existentialist anxiety, despair and absurdity to be aware of all this. And although in the course of their long history Christians have much too often forgotten the meaning of the cross, and enjoyed life as if "nothing had happened," although each one of us too often takes "time off" -- we know that in the world in which Christ died, "natural life" has been brought to its end.

And yet ...


[to be continued ...]

Alexander Schmemann, Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Herder and Herder, 1965), pp. 25-26.

Subsequent editions of this book have been published under the title For the Life of the World.
Evdokimov

Eve is called "mother of all the living," but the author of Genesis who, in his prophetic clear-sightedness assigned this name, envisioned infinitely more than a mere biological continuation, more than a "seal of grace promised," more than the prospect that from such a race, would arise "the queen arrayed in gold of Ophir" (Ps 45:10). Our biological conformity to the life of our species reflects our spiritual conformity to eternal life. The second Eve was proclaimed "God-bearer" (Theotokos) by the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus, 431). The one who gives birth to the Eternal God, the one who gives human life to the Ever-Living One, is herself immortalized. It is in this magnificent sense that Eve is called Life (Gen 3:20). Now we can understand why it is the woman who received the message of salvation. The message of the Annunciation is addressed to a woman; the risen Christ appears first to a woman, and it is "the woman robed with the sun" (Rev 12:1) who represents the New Jerusalem. Scripture exalts woman as the religious element of human nature. Woman is the mouth of humanity through with the humble "Be it done unto me" (fiat) of the servant of God replied to the creative fiat ("Let it be done") of the heavenly Father. Woman is this free "Amen" of all humanity which, in the work of the Incarnation, becomes the indispensable human foundation.

Paul Evdokimov, Woman and the Salvation of the World : A Christian Anthropology on the Charisms of Women, trans. A. P. Gythiel (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1994), pp. 155-6.
Go shawty, it's your birthday ...

Twenty-eighth birthday, to be precise.

But will David Letterman dance on her furniture?

Her middle name is Blythe.


:: :: :: :: ::

And in other entertainment news

I was wondering when (or if) this would happen. There is a striking resemblance!
The Old Oligarch

visits my favorite theme-park ... Morrisseyland !!

Time for a St Blog's Confidential III : Why does a significantly large percentage of the sans blague parishioners have a fascination with the Smiths? Something tells me Irondale would not approve!


And you're always busy ... really busy ...
Serious, deep, philosophical/theological ruminations

perhaps later today. Borrowed, as might be deemed fitting, from minds wiser and souls more prayerful than mine own.
Today's quizzes

First, the arcane literary quiz :

What did Marianne Moore describe as "a kind of horticultural verbal blight threatening firmness to the core"?


Or, if you prefer, a common thread quiz :

1. Vaughn
2. Mayer
3. Broadus
4. McGriff


Answers by e-mail preferred.

Note also that the first quiz has nothing whatsoever to do with the second.
Heaney

Old ploughsocks gorge the subsoil of each sense
And I am quickened with a redolence
Of the fundamental dark unblown rose.
Wait then ... Breasting the mist, in sowers' aprons,
My ghosts come striding into their spring stations.
The dream grain whirls like freakish Easter snows.


Seamus Heaney, "Glanmore Sonnets," 1, lines 9-14. From Field Work (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979), p. 33
Cinematic quotation of note

"I could have been rich and stupid! I would've been good at it!"

-- Charisse Slocumb (Jada Pinkett Smith) in Kingdom Come
Fascinating article

by Kathryn Jean Lopez in the December 2002 crisis on the retrievability of lapsed Catholics. And why they lapsed in the first place. Spotted the link at Eve's.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Cantalamessa

As in Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., preacher to the papal household. From yesterday's Magnificat meditation :


The greatest thing in the world is, therefore, not a just suffering but an "unjust suffering," as it is called in Peter's first Letter (1 Pt 2:19). It is so great and precious because it is the only type of suffering that is close to God's way of suffering, Only God, if he suffers, does so unjustly, as one who is innocent. All men, when they suffer, must say, like the good thief on the cross, "We are suffering justly." Only of Jesus can it be said absolutely, as the good thief said : "This man has done no wrong" (Lk 23:41).

from Magnificat, Feb. 2003, p. 296

:: :: :: :: ::

All men must say 'We are suffering justly' even when the suffering is unjust?

I see his point, acknowledge its veracity, or at least its consonance with Christian tradition -- nonetheless, I recoil. I run for the hills. I ask myself, What did I get myself into with this Christianity?

That's because I'm still very much the Bad Thief, who I often think has gotten the bummest of bum raps.

Who wouldn't, in his position, want to be freed from the agony? And what of this fellow who has been called Savior -- whom, precisely, has he saved? He's dying! Ignominiously, painfully, and will surely be forgotten. Whose agony can he relieve now? What pains can he assuage? How can you rescue anyone from the jaws of death when, despite your innocence, you're dying as the worst of criminals die?

Now, part of the foregoing is an attempt to see things from the bad thief's perspective, but one must admit that it is the perspective that comes most naturally, most of the time.

Unjust suffering is precious? One is tempted to list examples of unjust suffering and ask after each item of the litany : This is precious? The greatest thing in the world? And we are asked to assent to the notion that none of the unjustly suffering is "truly" innocent because none of them is God?


:: :: :: :: ::

Now, if Catholic priests decided to give homilies on a theme as dark, as grand, as mysterious, as urgent, as incomprehensible, as essential as this, I might be inclined to listen. Because this is Christianity. It's not about "doing community" or "being Eucharist" or "sharing your time, talent and treasure." It's about Incarnate Innocence dying on the cross and rising from the dead. It is about the illimitable, transcendent God vouchsafing to dwell with us : the immortal Word made mortal flesh.

And as we say the ICEL version of the Nicene Creed at the breakneck speed of an auctioneer on Vivarin, do we ever stop to think? Do we pray what we say? Do we worship what we profess to worship? And do we ever pause to ponder the dreadful implications, and the glorious implications ... or is being nice good enough?

What is Catholicism? Is it "all are welcome" or is it the mysterium paschale ??
Death on a Friday Afternoon
by Richard John Neuhaus : an excerpt from chapter 4, "Dereliction"


I do not think the twelve-year-old boy meant any disrespect, but I confess it took me off guard. This was many years ago when I was teaching a coonfirmation class at a black parish in Brooklyn where I was for many years the pastor. I was discussing how, in his dying for us, Jesus had lost everything. "I don't say it wasn't real bad," said Michael, "but he did what he wanted to do, didn't he?"

Of course Michael had never read Philip Rieff's brilliant analysis of American culture, The Therapeutic Society. But he had, willy-nilly, imbibed its message that in our kind of world everything is reduced to the psychological. Put so bluntly, it sounds blasphemous and, pressed persistently, it is blasphemous, but wasn't Jesus "doing his own thing"? So where is the sacrifice? So where is the abandonment? Is it not rather the case that the Sixth Word from the cross -- "It is finished" -- is a statement of what in pop psychology is called self-actualization?

Michael was no child prodigy. He simply breathed, as all of us do, the toxic cultural air of a disenchanted world in which the mark of sophistication is to reduce wonder to banality. Even more, the acids of intellectual urbanity turn sacrifice into delusion, generosity into greed, and love into self-aggrandizement. In academic circles, this is called "the hermeneutics of suspicion," meaning that things are interpreted to reveal that they are not in fact what they appear to be. At least things that seem to suggest the true, the beautiful and the good are not what they appear to be. They must be exposed and debunked if we are to get to "the truth of the matter." The false, the self-serving, the ugly and the evil, on the other hand, are permitted to stand as revealing "the real world."


Neuhaus, op. cit. (Basic Books, 2000), pp. 124-5
The KTC quiz ... uhm, the Common Thread quiz !!

Yesterday's answer : the four dates were the feast days of Sts Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Today's quiz

1. Thomas Jefferson
2. Woodrow Wilson
3. Sean Connery
4. Tip O'Neill
And now for something

completely different. The 100 greatest dance songs of all time, according to VH1.


1. "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor (1975)
2. "Don't Leave Me This Way" - Thelma Houston (1977)
3. "We Are Family" - Sister Sledge (1979)
4. "Vogue" - Madonna (1990)
5. "The Hustle" - Van McCoy (1975)
6. "Last Dance" - Donna Summer (1978)
7. "Y.M.C.A." - Village People (1979)
8. "The Twist " - Chubby Checker (1960)
9. "Gonna Make You Sweat" - C&C Music Factory (1991)
10. "Stayin' Alive" - Bee Gees (1978)
11. "Respect" - Aretha Franklin (1967)
12. "Get Down Tonight" - KC & the Sunshine Band (1975)
13. "Love's Theme" - Love Unlimited Orchestra (1974)
14. "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" - Sylvester (1979)
15. "It Takes Two" - Rob Base & DJ E Z Rock (1988)
16. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" - Michael Jackson (1979)
17. "Disco Inferno - the Trammps (1978)
18. "Dancing In The Street" - Martha & the Vandellas (1964)
19. "Shame" - Evelyn "Champagne" King (1978)
20. "Got To Be Real" - Cheryl Lynn (1979)
21. "That's The Way (I Like It)" - KC & the Sunshine Band (1975)
22. "Love Hangover" - Diana Ross (1976)
23. "Lady Marmalade" - Labelle (1975)
24. "Let The Music Play" - Shannon (1984)
25. "Mashed Potato Time" - Dee Dee Sharp (1962)
26. "Le Freak" - Chic (1978)
27. "Louie Louie" - the Kingsmen (1963)
28. "Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson (1983)
29. "Finally" - Cece Peniston (1992)
30. "Turn The Beat Around" - Vicki Sue Robinson (1976)
31. "Best Of My Love" - the Emotions (1977)
32. "You Should Be Dancing" - Bee Gees (1976)
33. "Upside Down" - Diana Ross (1980)
34. "Forget Me Nots" - Patrice Rushen (1982)
35. "It's Raining Men" - the Weather Girls (1983)
36. "Rhythm Is A Dancer" - Snap! (1993)
37. "Push It" - Salt-N-Pepa (1988)
38. "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" - McFadden & Whitehead (1979)
39. "Love Train" - the O'Jays (1973)
40. "Into The Groove" - Madonna (1985)
41. "Rock The Boat" - Hues Corporation (1974)
42. "Love Is The Message" - MFSB (1974)
43. "Celebration" - Kool & The Gang (1981)
44. "Good Times" - Chic (1979)
45. "More, More, More (Part 1)" - Andrea True Connection (1976)
46. "Boogie Oogie Oogie" - A Taste Of Honey (1978)
47. "Dance To The Music" - Sly & the Family Stone (1968)
48. "Cool Jerk" - the Capitols (1966)
49. "Shout" - the Isley Brothers (1959)
50. "Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)" - Soul 2 Soul (1989)
51. "Never Can Say Goodbye" - Gloria Gaynor (1975)
52. "Brick House" - the Commodores (1977)
53. "Ring My Bell" - Anita Ward (1979)
54. "Doctor Love" - First Choice (1977)
55. "The Loco Motion" - Little Eva (1962)
56. "Rock Your Baby" - George McCrae (1974)
57. "Cherchez La Femme" - Dr. Buzzard's Original "Savannah" Band (1977)
58. "All Night Long (All Night)" - Lionel Richie (1983)
59. "La Bamba" - Ritchie Valens (1959)
60. "Believe" - Cher (1999)
61. "Jump (For My Love)" - Pointer Sisters (1984)
62. "Shake Your Groove Thing" - Peaches & Herb (1979)
63. "Love To Love You Baby" - Donna Summer (1976)
64. "Funkytown" - Lipps Inc. (1980)
65. "Land Of 1,000 Dances" - Wilson Pickett (1966)
66. "1999" - Prince (1983)
67. "Flashdance" - Irene Cara (1983)
68. "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" - the S.O.S Band (1980)
69. "Shotgun" - Jr. Walker & The All Stars (1965)
70. "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine)" - James Brown (1970)
71. "Let's Dance" - David Bowie (1983)
72. "Fly Robin Fly" - Silver Convention (1975)
73. "Show Me Love" - Robin S (1993)
74. "My Prerogative" - Bobby Brown (1989)
75. "I Got You (I Feel Good)" - James Brown (1965)
76. "I Feel Love" - Donna Summer (1977)
77. "Ain't Nobody" - Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (1983)
78. "And The Beat Goes On" - the Whispers (1980)
79. "Heart Of Glass" - Blondie (1979)
80. "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" - Barry White (1975)
81. "Straight Up" - Paula Abdul (1989)
82. "Play That Funky Music" - Wild Cherry (1976)
83. "Got To Give It Up" - Marvin Gaye (1977)
84. "Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)" - Los Del Rio (1996)
85. "Keep On Truckin'" - Eddie Kendricks (1973)
86. "I Want To Dance With Somebody" - Whitney Houston (1987)
87. "TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)" - MFSB Featuring the Three Degrees (1974)
88. "U Can't Touch This" - M.C. Hammer (1990)
89. "MacArthur Park" - Donna Summer (1978)
90. "Heartbeat" - Tanya Gardner (1981)
91. "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" - Dead Or Alive (1985)
92. "Disco Lady" - Johnnie Taylor (1976)
93. "Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" - Sly & the Family Stone (1970)
94. "Flashlight" - Parliament (1978)
95. "ABC" - Jackson 5 (1970)
96. "What'd I Say" - Ray Charles (1959)
97. "Dancing Queen" - ABBA (1977)
98. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" - Rod Stewart (1979)
99. "Rock Lobster" - the B-52's (1980)
100. "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" - Will Smith (1998)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings

on Pagans, Liturgy & the Transcendent. Absolutely, positively required reading.

And deepliest heartfelt thanks to MCNS of Ad Orientem for having linked to it.

There may be more on this later. But is it getting to the point where some neo-pagans are more "High Church" than many Catholics?

I especially cherish Mr Price's thoughts for his praise of the Eastern Churches.


Added earlier today to Places Oft

The Holy See's English homepage and the index of the current pontiff's addresses to the weekly papal audiences.
I thought

about writing and blogging a Gertrude Stein parody but then I figured what the heck here's Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) herself unparodized

:: :: :: :: ::

Susie Asado

      Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
            Susie Asado.
      Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
            Susie Asado.
      Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
      A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
      When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.
      This is a please this is a please there are the saids to jelly.
      These are the wets these say the sets to leave a crown to Incy.
      Incy is short for Incubus.
      A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees. Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which shade and shove and render clean, render clean must.
            Drink pups.
      Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink has pins. It shows a nail.
      What is a nail. A nail is unison.
      Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Fluctuations

Am also thinking of linking a Derbyshire column on ethnic humor that'll get me killed, and to another Derb column on the next phase of the war that'll get me brought back to life so I can be killed again.

Almost certainly the latter -- valuable as much for what he says about the UK's Labour party & about the United Nations as for anything about the war.

I think I'll just spend the rest of the day telling you all what I'm going to post -- and not post a blessed jot or an unholy tittle of anything that I've promised !!! Ha!! Ha, ha !!!
Later?

Am thinking of posting one more Evdokimov paragraph and two paragraphs by Fr Neuhaus, if such an excerpt doesn't violate fair use. I'll have Mr Core and the Barrister defend me, if someone raises the issue ...

50 degrees in Boston. Lemonade!
dylan of morelast

Lives on the road
He lost his lady two months ago
Maybe he'll find her, maybe he won't
Oh, wonder, nooo

He sleeps in the back of his grey Cadillac, oh my honey
Blowing his mind on cheap grass and wine
Oh ain't it crazy baby, hey
Guess you could say hey, hey
This man has learned his lesson, oh hey
Now he's alone
He's got no woman and no home
For misery, oh, oh
Cherchez la femme


:: :: :: :: ::

My lack of musical knowledge? Ha !!

And again, I say : "Ha!!"

(For the blogger at Disordered Affections -- surely, the only person who will not be mystified by the foregoing !!)

And a note to KTC: The first line of "Cherchez La Femme" was (and is) "Tommy Mottola lives on the road ..."
His Holiness John Paul II

in a recent Wednesday audience, 5th February 2003, speaks on Psalm 117 (Vulgate 116) :

In a technological world menaced by an eclipse of the sacred, in a society that delights in a certain self-sufficiency, the witness of the person at prayer is like a ray of light in the darkness. Initially, it can only awaken curiosity; then it can induce the thoughtful person to wonder about the meaning of prayer, and, finally, it can give rise to the growing desire to have the experience. For this reason, prayer is never an isolated event, but tends to expand until it involves the whole world.
Psalm 73. Quam bonus Israel!

TRULY God is loving unto Israel: * even unto such as are of a clean heart.

2 Nevertheless, my feet were almost gone, * my treadings had well-nigh slipt.

3 And why? I was grieved at the wicked: * I do also see the ungodly in such prosperity.

4 For they are in no peril of death; * but are lusty and strong.

5 They come in no misfortune like other folk; * neither are they plagued like other men.

6 And this is the cause that they are so holden with pride, * and cruelty covereth them as a garment.

7 Their eyes swell with fatness, * and they do even what they lust.

8 They corrupt other, and speak of wicked blasphemy; * their talking is against the Most High.

9 For they stretch forth their mouth unto the heaven, * and their tongue goeth through the world.

10 Therefore fall the people unto them, * and thereout suck they no small advantage.

11 Tush, say they, how should God perceive it? * is there knowledge in the Most High?

12 Lo, these are the ungodly, * these prosper in the world, and these have riches in possession:

13 And I said, Then have I cleansed my heart in vain, * and washed my hands in innocency.

14 All the day long have I been punished, * and chastened every morning.

15 Yea, and I had almost said even as they; * but lo, then I should have condemned the generation of thy children.

16 Then thought I to understand this; * but it was too hard for me,

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God: * then understood I the end of these men;

18 Namely, how thou dost set them in slippery places, * and castest them down, and destroyest them.

19 O how suddenly do they consume, * perish, and come to a fearful end!

20 Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh; * so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, * and it went even through my reins.

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant, * even as it were a beast before thee.

23 Nevertheless, I am alway by thee; * for thou hast holden me by my right hand.

24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, * and after that receive me with glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? * and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth; * but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

27 For lo, they that forsake thee shall perish; * thou hast destroyed all them that are unfaithful unto thee.

28 But it is good for me to hold me fast by God, to put my trust in the Lord GOD, * and to speak of all thy works in the gates of the daughter of Sion.
Excerpts from Letter 3
of Letters to a Soul by Dom Hubert van Zeller, OSB


Since you say in your letter that you are feeling sorry for yourself while you are writing I suggest that, without putting it into words, you know the answer to your problem. 'I have given God so much more' is your complaint, 'than he has given me. I accepted the grace of conversion from sin and worldliness and all the old life, and what have I got in return? Nothing but loneliness, alienation, non-comprehension.' Well, if religion is essentially the life of faith, what did you expect? You see only what you have given to God, not what he has given to you. When you accepted the grace of conversion you didn't haggle. You didn't say 'I'll alter my way of life provided you make it worth my while. In return for the renunciations it is only fair to expect something back.' You cannot strike a bargain with God. 'Seek first the kingdom of God' and to seek first the privileges of belonging to that kingdom is to get the order wrong. If you are deprived of the 'consolations of religion' you should remember that it was religion and not consolation that was the object of your conversion. You have not chosen the good and rejected the bad because the good is beautiful and the bad is ugly; you do not pray because prayer attracted you and sin disgusted you; you have not given yourself to the service of God for what you can get out of it but for what you can give to it.

***

If you were to munch on a mouthful of honey you would taste both too much of it and not enough. To taste honey properly you have to put something underneath it -- something ordinary and solid and dull like a piece of bread or toast. The service of God, which is a day-to-day fidelity, is for the most part ordinary and dull. But it is more solid than the sweetness which it supports and sometimes enjoys. So the moral of all this is 'look after the bread and the honey can look after itself.' Religion is neither a means of providing satisfaction nor a poultice applied to an injury. It is yielding. It is reaping too, but this aspect is best left to God. Yielding is a matter of the will, of faith, of trust : these are the important things. Reaping is important too, but we are apt to mistake enjoyment for it.


H. van Zeller, op. cit. (Templegate, 1976), pp. 12-14.

Probably the last van Z excerpt for a while!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me
Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia on the Jesus Prayer


The Jesus Prayer is a prayer in words, but because the words are so simple, so few and unvarying, the Prayer reaches out beyond words into the living silence of the Eternal. It is a way of achieving, with God's assistance, the kind of non-discursive, non-iconic prayer in which we do not simply make statements to or about God, in which we do not just form pictures of Christ in our imagination, but are 'oned' with him in an all-embracing, unmediated encounter. Through the Invocation of the Name we feel his nearness with our spiritual sense, much as we feel the warmth with our bodily senses on entering a heated room. We know him, not through a series of successive images and concepts, but with the unified sensibility of the heart. So the Jesus Prayer concentrates us into the here and now, making us single-centered, one-pointed, drawing us from a multiplicity of thoughts to union with the one Christ. "Through the remembrance of Jesus Christ," says St Philotheus of Sinai, "gather together your scattered intellect" -- gather it together from the plurality of discursive thinking into the simplicity of love.

Via Daily Readings in Orthodox Spirituality, ed. P. Bouteneff (Templegate Publ., 1996), p. 54
Common thread quizzes

Yesterday's thread was correctly identified by Kathy the Carmelite :

Queen Latifah, Roger Ebert, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Leonard Maltin all have birthdays on the 18th of the month. March, June, September, December respectively.


Today's common thread quiz

i. April 25th
ii. September 21st
iii. October 18th
iv. December 27th

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Psalm 100. Jubilate Deo.

O BE joyful in the LORD, all ye lands: * serve the LORD with gladness, and come before his presence with a song.

2 Be ye sure that the LORD he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; * we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

3 O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; * be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name.

4 For the LORD is gracious, his mercy is everlasting; * and his truth endureth from generation to generation.
Aliquid obstat apud nihil
as first noted by Fructus Ventris


"This chap claims to a friend of Mark Shea, so the World Court will probably stay out of it."

So reads a 2/18 post by nihil, unrevised as of this hour ...
Alicia Keys
the Hell's Kitchen piano prodigy


keeps an online diary. An entry added about once a month.

The entry for October 20, 2002 (scroll down) is noteworthy for being both wise ... and somewhat "against the grain" ...

What is beauty? It is not immodesty. So says Alicia, and we agree.
Excerpt from Letter 2
of Letters to a Soul by Dom Hubert van Zeller, OSB


Lucifer did not know his place -- you would have thought the station of an archangel would have been good enough -- and his last recorded words were 'I will not serve'. Nor did Adam know his place but wanted a knowledge which was no business of his. It has been the same all the way down the line of failed vocation : Saul, Judas, Henry Tudor. None of them was content to stay in the second best place, so either rebelled or deserted -- or both. The saints accepted whatever place they were put in and did not question the providence of God. To fight our place in life is to fight life itself so, logically, to fight God. In one way or another everyone has to accept second best for himself. The happily married man takes second place to his family, the happily professed religious takes second place to his community. The artist, the writer, the composer, the actor : each has to sublimate himself in order to express himself. In gospel terms the seed has to die if it is to come to harvest, the man has to lose his life if he is to find it. Your objection to the second best shows how you have mistaken perfectionism for perfection.

H. van Zeller, op. cit. (Templegate Publishers, 1976), pp. 10-11.
Six exemplars
five among the living


At least two of the priests at my favorite chapel; Papa Lolek; Fr Groeschel; a nonagenarian nun of my acquaintance; and (I'm already calling him Venerable) Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

The list is loosely connected with the lists of unofficial or potential saints that others around St Blog's have been making. But all the living members of this list would strenuously resist the prematurity of any "canonization"; still, deeply prayerful souls who inspire and fortify by example.
Common thread

1. The Today Show has a weatherman named Willard Scott.
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air featured Willard Christopher Smith.
3. Massachusetts governor W. Mitt Romney suppresses the praenomen he shares with Messrs Scott & Smith.


Willard is the common thread! The only respondent to the quiz is, of course, the winner. Now, for Kathy & others, here's a much tougher one ...

1. Queen Latifah
2. Roger Ebert
3. Jada Pinkett Smith
4. Leonard Maltin


I'm expecting exactly nobody to get this one ...
The dark underbelly of St Blog's

Schismatics! Expatriates! Subversives! Deceivers! Silversmiths!

Alibis! Aliases! Anagrams!

An investigative report reveals the hidden truth ...
would it kill you

to play a little foghat every once in a while
Five favorite moments in rap history

1973 -- "Blinded by the Light" by Bruce Springsteen. A proto-rap, perhaps, but one more agile and skillful and literate and magnetizing than anything that's been done since.

1978 -- "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang. Released as a twelve-inch vinyl single.

1985, was it? -- WALK THIS WAY!!!!! (.....talk this way) : Run-DMC collides with Aerosmith.

1996 -- My first glimpse of the iconically luminous, ineffably splendid Lauryn Hill in the "Fu-gee-la" video. It's not a question of admiration, and certainly not of political compatibility; it's a matter of awe and wonder and ... being left speechless.

1997 -- "Stomp" by Kirk Franklin & God's Property featuring Cheryl "Salt" James. For the glorious incongruity. Especially evident when you juxtapose Salt's contribution to this spiritual track with the lyrics of "Shoop" ...
Cavils, complaints, annoyances, vexations, gripes

When bloggers fail to put LRR or some equivalent warning where registration is required to view the link. Not all of us have given our dental records to the great gray lady of New York.

Double-quotes within double-quotes.

Apostrophe after the final two digits of a year (bewildering! maddening! just saw it on TV) : The Blizzard of 78' ...

Not pronouncing "bruschetta" correctly. (Brew sketta !! Not brew shetta.)
Tuesday this-or-that? Which one Wednesday?

1. Black or white? Ha!

2. Plaid or stripes? Plaid, but pinstripes are permissible. Certainly no stripes as wide as those on the French or Italian flags!

3. Paperback or hardcover books? Oh, of course, paperback -- easier to carry; easier to handle. Hardcovers are for museums.

4. Color or B&W printer? Color.

5. Golden oldies or the newest tunes? I'm a golden oldie (a third of the way to 101) who views the newest tunes with skepticism at best, horror at worst. Never managed to untangle all those 90s bands, Sonic Oasis Nirvana Jam Pearl Hole Garden. Neo-soul, as it's been called, is a salutary antidote to the baser, louder, more violent things out there. But my radio's tuned to jazz, & I think my ineluctable preference in pop or rock is '60s to '80s. There are a few exceptions.

6. Ice cream: in a cone or a dish? Dish. Spoon. Rainbow jimmies.

7. Bath or shower? Shower.

8. Are you outgoing or shy? Always off the mark, whether the mood of the day is intro or extro. Either culpably laconic or nervously garrulous. Never just right. Never moderate.

9. Answer the phone when it rings, or screen calls? I've never regretted screening a call. I've often regretted picking up.

10. VCR or TiVO? Memory! Slideshow! Oil on canvas! Or, if you press me to choose, VCR.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

sometimes i rhyme slow

sometimes i rhyme quick
'03 doesn't measure up

Different methods of measuring.

In '78 they measured snow after it all settled.

Nowadays, they measure "ongoing" ...

If an inch falls in an hour over, let's say 12 hours, those 12 inches can settle to 8 or 10 ... In 1978 they went by the "settled" amount. Nowadays they calculate as it falls.

In other words, the total of 27.5 from yesterday's storm really didn't "surpass" the total of 27.1 from the storm of a quarter-century ago.

But still ... this wasn't a flurry !!
Excerpts from Letter 1
of Letters to a Soul by Dom Hubert van Zeller, OSB


You mention your discouragement and the sense of failure. You say you are trying to resist the obvious temptation to be discontented and bitter, and that everything you attempt only increases your feeling of inadequacy. But isn't this because you expected a certain kind of success and have not found it? Wouldn't it be better to accept your limitations and be content within them? It is an art in life to put up with being second best. I don't mean that we must make compromises with our weaknesses, but I do think that we have to admit we are mediocrities. To accept the role we have to play, even if it's a small part when we have the talent to play the more important and successful one, is not to invite failure or frustration. It is to submit to the condition of life that God has planned for us. Once we have made this submission -- which is not a lowering of an ideal but on the contrary, because it essentially involves humility, is a raising of the ideal of serving God in truth -- we are less disappointed at the evidence of our inadequacy. Accepting our mediocrity, while all the time trying to make the most of our opportunity, not only brings a certain peace but is what the parable of the talents is all about. So long as we don't bury the insignificant talent, and put the blame on God for its insignificance, we can go on trading with it as effectively as the more talented.

***

More and more as I get older I come to see the wisdom of St Francis de Sales where he says Là où Dieu nous a semés il faut savoir fleurir. But it takes a lot of learning. St Paul taught the same thing : 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am to be content therewith.' Don't you think contentment is about as much as we can hope for? I don't think we can expect happiness -- not as an abiding condition anyway -- so to be reasonably contented with what we have salvaged from the flotsam and jetsam of life is a good for which we should be grateful. All it needs is to trust in God's providence, and to work on the virtue of hope. The important thing is to believe that God has made you what you are, has put you in a particular century in which to do that work. Don't try to break out of the ring of God's providence. By accepting its boundaries, you arrive, paradoxically, at freedom. By banging your head against them you don't get rid of them and you only give yourself a headache.


H. van Zeller, op cit. (Templegate, 1976), pp. 7-9.
Paul Evdokimov

In the catacombs, the most frequent image is the figure of a woman in prayer, the Orans; she represents the one true attitude of the human soul. It is not enough to say prayers; one must become, be prayer, prayer incarnate. It is not enough to have moments of praise. All of life, each act, every gesture, even the smile of the human face, must become a hymn of adoration, an offering, a prayer. One should not offer what one has, but what one is. ... It translates the message of the Gospel : khaíre, "rejoice and be glad," "let everything that has breath praise the Lord." This is the astonishing lightening of the weight of the world, when man's own heaviness vanishes.

Via Daily Readings in Orthodox Spirituality, ed. P. Bouteneff (Templegate Publishers, 1996), p. 55. Originally appeared in The Sacrament of Love (SVS Press, 1985), pp. 61-63.
One is the loneliest number

that former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun will ever do ...

Or so she hopes.
I share this tendency

Over the years, wherever I've been on the political spectrum, right or left or middle, whatever I've thought about religion, etc., I've been driven by one intense and unswerving conviction :

I'm right. Everyone else is wrong.

And if only more people could be like me, the world would be a better place.

The blogger at Doxos, on the occasion of the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican, reflects on the pharisaical habit of self-attributed wisdom, virtue, certitude ... accusing himself primarily, but I smile as I recognize myself in what he writes.

With the note that DHR makes on prayer, it might delight him to hear an anecdote about the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, who, when asked about his prayer-life, described it thus : "I prayed this morning. I talked to God."

For how long?

"I talked to God for one minute. But it took me twenty-nine minutes to get there."
But we have to remember, though

that the really big problem is this oppressive Roman centralism & intransigent liturgical restorationism much deplored by Curly Reinhardt, Commieweasel, Noise of the Fretful, & all the other obstreperous twerps of tallerwince, not excluding ('twould appear) the freewheeling presbyter described here.

The other problem : There's just not enough doing community, being community, having community, eating community, drinking community, breathing community ... taking communnity into the whizzenzimmer, breaking the wind of community ...

Not exactly connected with the complaint at the other weblog, but I've always wondered : These priests who shove the word and the concept of "community" down our throats four hundred ninety-six times per homily -- who seem to think that the primary purpose of the dominical liturgy is social interaction -- what do they think we do the other hundred hours of the week that we're awake? Are we all stylites? Recluses? Cave-dwellers? Hermits? Do we not occasionally bump into other people? Isn't "community" something we always (too often!) have with us? Vocata at non vocata, communitas aderit?

Can't we have one hour or more each week where we take our attention away from each other, and direct it as one praying body toward the sweet Lord Jesus and the holy eucharistic Sacrifice?

Where's the transcendence? Where's the silence?

Incidentally, Bishop Seraphim Sigrist in his book Theology of Wonder has a wonderful meditation [chapter 7] on silence in the liturgy. I wish all Catholic priests could be compelled to read this chapter, & perhaps write it out ten times, or until they have it memorized.

Forgive the underoptimism, but I'm beginning to think that Papa Wojtyla's just about the only living Catholic who's getting things right.
Common thread quiz

We didn't get a blizzard of answers, or even of guesses. KTC wins -- the only entrant, & one who was clever enough to use a search engine -- which was only helpful because, well, great minds think alike.

1. Christmas in French is Noël ...
2. Lauryn Hill's middle name is Noel.
3. And the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life is NOEL.


And that's the common thread! Try this one (perhaps easier?) :

1. The Today Show
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
3. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney
We beat '78

in terms of total snowfall (27.5") and we may get 3 or 4 more inches later in the day. Right now we're in a lull. If you're in the Boston area, & you have a camera, take lots of pictures !!

And Mitt did the sweater thing !! (Translation : Our governor gave a press conference, in the manner of Michael Dukakis in 1978, in a sweater.)

But trust me, kids -- nothing can beat 1978. We've had some fun things since then, but nothing can beat the sensation of being eight and a half and seeing those two mammoth storms. Nothing can beat no school for nearly a month. All right, we've got a better president, and possibly a better governor now. But '78 was immortal, and this (despite the profusion of snow that surpassed its ancestor) comparatively placid.

Or am I getting old? Or used to it, having seen four of the five largest snowfalls in recorded Boston history?

The April one, six years ago, was fun. Rain turning to six inches of snow predicted -- 25 inches of snow received! Conversation overheard between two cops. "Did you shovel? "I'm gonna use the Italian shovel -- the sun." In April, that can work!

And January of '96 -- with its rapid succession of two (or was it three?) storms between 12 and 18 inches, where snow was piled in Post Office Square as high as, well, the post office!

Any storm where you can walk in the street, where the traffic is exclusively pedestrian, is fun. But nothing beats '78.
Just between me & my notebook

dreadfully jolly pontifications on poetry,
solemnly trivial jottings on politics :
nonsequiturs, apothegms & bits of stray dialogue ;
culture at its finest


"Perspicuous opacity." Phrase Miss Moore used to praise Gertrude Stein. I like opacity, perspicuous or (as is oftener the case) not.

Democrats are entertaining devils. Republicans do less damage.

It's England o'clock in London.

Can't avoid feeling as if I'm in the home stretch of a very long and tiring baseball season.

Bibliographies. Benedictines. Those awful, awesome Ashbery poems.

If everything had gone according to Hoyle we would've been in & out in half an hour, forty-five minutes tops.

Anything is possible if you don't put your mind to it.

Iambics can get too portentous. Or is that pretentious? A good prose poem keeps things comic. Except for tame James Tate who doesn't page my beeper or make me laugh.

We need more communists in poetry. More subscribers to treason chic. More anti-Mosaic black radicals, more lesbians and porcupines, more angry armadillos. A few more sarcastic minimalists wouldn't hurt. Several dozen ambassadors of the aleatoric. Promiscuous technicians of Sodom, scrupulous harlots from Gomorrah. Tongue-tied confessional charlatans with pierced blue brains. Snail-suckers, lint-spinners & lemon-biting rodhamites. Disreputable professors with marijuana beards (hammer 'staches and sickle sideburns) who know much better than the sweet Lord Jesus how to run the bloody universe. And they all should invade 1600 and jabber of peace. And blather of love. And yak about pretzels. And congratulate themselves on infinite understanding.

Me, I'll take George Ivan, muttering mystic dithyrambs about William Blake and the Eternals shining their light into the days of, what is it, glory and wonder? over the daughtersons of spiteful ephemera.

Everybody plays the fool, sometimes. But the cool fools know it. The vile ones think they're unfailingly wise & impeccably true.

"The truly beautiful, their bodies cannot lie." Where have you gone, Theodore Roethke? Our nation turns its thirsty soul, its irritated mind, its burning eyes, its parched exhausted heart, unto you ...

Language poets, beware! It's the Clement Clarke Moores that get remembered. Say something worth saying. And worth listening to. Ape a trend & you're up Schlitz Creek without an ampersand.

Cummings & Herrick. Fraternal twins, equal in merit, born centuries apart. (I don't care what the usually sagacious Mr H says on the subject.)

Monday, February 17, 2003

18 inches of snow

and several more inches to come through the night and tomorrow, which should put (can we say it?) The Blizzard of 20-oh-3 into the top five Boston snowstorms, behind Feb. 1978, Feb. 1969, April '97, and Jan. '78 ... maybe even ahead of the January storm (21.4") ...

We should easily beat NYC's 19 inches, and come rather close to Baltimore's 26.
At the Curt Jester

we learn of an affirmative-action bake sale. The Demmies weren't laughing.
Irish? Jewish? Scottish? English?

A recent Globe column takes a lighthearted look at the various ethnicities of Massachusetts junior senator John Forbes Kerry -- whose recuperation from recent surgery, we hope and pray, continues apace.
Sticking with Haloscan

... with apologies to the two friendly souls that posted comments on the briefly installed enetation !!


But one of the primary advantages of Haloscan is the ability to see all the most recent posts, regardless of where on the weblog they've been placed, and the ease with which one can delete incivil comments or ban incivil commentators.

Haloscan provides a page listing the IP numbers of banned commentators. Such a page comes in very handy, as I've discovered.

There's a fellow flitting around St Blog's who switch-hits between surnameless pseudonyms, and who has vexed at least three bloggers that I know of. On more than one occasion, the fellow was injudicious enough to leave an email address.

I will provide both pseudonyms, the email address, and the IP identification number(s) to any fellow blogger upon request.
What is the common thread?

1. Christmas
2. Lauryn Hill
3. Pro-life Episcopalians


Answer (necessarily!) by e-mail. Will post the correct answer within 48 hours of receiving the first "winning" response! We have a winner ... silver & bronze medals still available !!

Oh, yes : in the comment-box a while ago, I asked what Roberta Flack & Al Gore had in common. The answer is Lieberman. Al Gore's running mate in 2000 was Joe Lieberman. "Killing Me Softly ..." was first recorded by Lori Lieberman.
Love & diversity

What they have in common : You can't force love at gunpoint. Roger Clegg's must-must-MUST-must-read at NRO.

Warning : This column may be too rational, too sensible, too sane for some readers out there ... but I suspect those readers have long since stopped visiting ...

Or, to put it another way, diversity's benefits are like love: Love is wonderful, no one is against love, but it cannot be forced. Or like happiness: One is much more likely to reach it if one is not obsessing about finding it. Diversity achieved by bean-counting and quota-mongering is not only not any good, it is worse than colorblind nondiversity.

And to quote myself : Juxtaposition does not necessarily lead to communion.
The induplicable, irreplaceable, invaluable Peggy Noonan

has bought her duct tape and her 10-year-old single-malt Scotch, her asparagus and her crackers. She deflates a few urban legends, kicks the French in the escargots, and praises Dennis Miller for his rare fit of common sense in this, her latest at opinionjournal.com.
It's coming ...

The Snow-Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

    Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.
Popular baby names

Really fun search engine and charts of popular names from the Social Security Administration.
Just after 10.30

to 6.26 ... a nearly eight-hour sleep! Exceptional. Remarkable. Most welcome.
Five for the future

The blogger at And Then? gives us her list of favorite future saints!

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Marianne Moore
from The Complete Prose (Penguin, 1987), p. 435


I have a very special fondness for writing that is obscure, that does not quite succeed, because of the author's intuitive restraint. All that I can say is that one must be as clear as one's natural reticence allows one to be.
Two more guilty pleasures

"Hey Baby" by No Doubt f/ Bounty Killer

"Get the Party Started" by P!nk
from Approach to Prayer
by Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB (1904-84)


Whatever success there is in the work of restoration depends primarily not upon either penance or prayer but upon the grace of God. It is in Christ that we are restored, not in our own effort. But in order that Christ's merits may be drawn upon, there has to be an element of co-operation on the part of the soul. This co-operation is expressed in the twofold response of penance and prayer.

***

Peace is possible only when the warring elements have agreed to recognize certain rights. The soul can know peace only when the warring elements inside itself have agreed to surrender to God. Where there has been rebellion, the rebels must relearn the grammar of authority; they must begin again.

It is by faith that man works his way back. First by faith in Christ, who grants him adoption into the family of God; second by faith as exercised in prayer. Work, suffering, human relationships -- indeed the whole of life -- is the field of this faith.

***

A man's faith is consequently the measure of his prayer, and his prayer is the sign of his faith and love. Thus the level at which the soul lives is conditioned by the life of faith and the life of prayer.

Just as there can be no prayer where there is no faith, so there can be no supernatural conceptions of God without faith. By the light of reason a man may come to know something about God, but unless this knowledge is informed by the light of faith it will not help him to form a supernatural idea of God. It will not elicit an act of love.

Where the soul's conceptions of God, and of God's dealings with man, are of a material order, the soul's prayer will be of a material order. Where knowledge of Christ is superficial, prayer will be superficial.

Knowledge of Christ is something more than knowledge about Christ, and in order to know him in spirit and in truth the soul must learn to pray in spirit and in truth.

The soul that prays in spirit and in truth learns to live at the level of spirit and truth. The spiritual life is nothing else than this -- the soul allowing itself to be drawn by grace into the deeper knowledge and love of God, who is truth itself.


Van Zeller, op. cit. (Sheed & Ward, 1958), pp. 5-8, passim.
The Boston Sunday Globe

(specifically, religion editor Michael Paulson) gives us a largely sympathetic portrait of the Apostolic Administrator of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, Bishop Richard Gerard Lennon. The usual suspects get in their usual jibes, but those are brief and almost not worth mentioning. On the whole, a sanely written, fair, balanced, sometimes laudatory & laudable piece of writing.

The article takes note of Bishop Lennon's having conquered a stutter, but not having conquered "a notoriously unmelodic singing voice" -- one which in no wise impairs his love of music!

Link spotted first at the Catholic Blog for Lovers.
A pair of poetry links

A link to a poem called "Tenebrae" by Paul Celan (1920-70). Note : In English translation (from the German); translator unknown. Part of a website called "Art of Europe." Will have to examine; am considering linking to it in Places Oft.

And from the Academy of American Poets, an ebullient "interview" (conducted by e-mail) with American poet Heather McHugh (b. 1948). McHugh has translated the poetry of Celan into English. She confesses in this essay answer to an interviewer's question(s) to "logophiliacal obsessions," to an enchantment with the etymological, and to a distaste for the merely personal or the pretentiously political. I like much of what she says, and am not put off in the least by the antic punstering that would have been nearly impossible in a conventional interview. Note : the link to Part Two of the interview doesn't work.

Chapter

Autumn's revision, brothers, must be bold,
Hatred forsaken, avarice cast aside.

November is austerity's beginning,
Slaying of blisses, end of blithest dream.

All vex and blither, language that explores
Our grandest griefs, pretending to explain.

Transcribe belle mort, bête noire, invidium:
Our psalmody make plain, our lives make pure.

All words have meaning. Nature's fleeting words
In season, out of season, sermonize:

The Preacher's chasing after wind, Job's woes,
Bitterest balm of perishing and birth.

But have we eyes to see or ears to hear
The messages, the proofs, the pictures plain?

Truth of a time, of every saeculum,
Impinging on the sacred-sordid globe,

Invading groves of plastic, lakes of glass,
To change the page, alter the chronicle

Of hearts and spirits, merrily sad, all souls
Briskly evading their terrible greatest need.

2000