Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hubert van Zeller, OSB (1904-84)
Letters to a Soul (Templegate, 1976, 122 pp.)

From Letter 24:

A family is starving in the desert and the mother dies. The baby is crying out for its mother's milk. The father can explain that there is no milk to be had but the baby goes on crying for milk. The father may give the baby a tin of petrol to drink or a flask of brandy, but this won't help because if there is no milk the baby will die. All of us are thirsty for love. We are not going to be saved by petrol or brandy because what we need is milk. People can tell us until they are black in the face that all we want is liquid of some sort, liquid of any sort, and we won't be thirsty any more. Up to a point they are right: momentarily the thirst is met. But unless the thirst is met with the liquid which it is meant to have it will be worse off than it was before, worse off than if there were nothing at all. To make the story even more depressing I might add that for the father to tell the baby that its thirst was purely imaginary, that it mustn't make such a fuss, that what it really needed was a good sleep would only complicate the matter. The baby, quite rightly, would go on crying. Now sit down for five minutes and think of what the world does to meet the need for love. No wonder we all cry too much.

And from Letter 34:

[ ... ] you ask about Lent. Today being Ash Wednesday, and the mails being what they are, you will not get what follows until halfway through the penitential season. Lent has been so played down by the church -- unfortunately as I think -- that one has to invent all sorts of substituting horrors of one's own. The mistake is to think that the list of things 'given up for Lent' is the important part. Any fool can be hungry. And there are other good reasons apart from Lent to give up smoking and drinking. My advice would be to look to the positive rather than to the negative aspect of Lent: more prayer, more reading, the stations of the cross, the rosary said slowly ... rather than putting a ban on television or newspapers. This may strike you as very old-fashioned but this year I am taking the 'seven words from the cross' and seeing how they can be worked into both my own life and the contemporary scene. Look them up: three of our Lord's last recorded sayings are about others and four are about himself. [ ... ]

Personally I always find it easier to make suggestions about prayer than about penance. Penance can be taken up in a spirit which has little or nothing to do with love, and unless penance is prayerful as well as penitential -- that is to say orientated towards Christ's passion and not merely punitive -- I doubt if our Lent can mean much. That's why I recommend the consideration of our Lord's words from the cross. All seven of them are about love.

Additional selections from the writings of Fr van Zeller.
Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields;
And, shrunk into their beds, the flowery race
Their sunny robes resign. E'en what remained
Of stronger fruits falls from the naked tree;
And woods, fields, gardens, orchards all around,
The desolated prospect thrills the soul.

-- James Thomson (1700-48)
Paul Evdokimov
From his book Woman and the Salvation of the World (St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1994), pp. 223-5, passim

To woman belongs the task of correcting the masculine zeal that blunders so frequently, deeper and deeper, into a profanation of the mysteries, to the detriment of the spiritual values.

:: :: ::

In the Kontakion of the Annunciation, the Virgin is called the "victorious leader of triumphant hosts" -- not as a woman warrior but as one who is, by nature, deadly to demons and invincible by her triumphant purity. She has the power to bruise the head of the serpent, but not by her deeds (the domain of the masculine). It is through her very being that "in her invincible power, she keeps us free from every peril."

:: :: ::

The fact that a woman gave birth to God shows the power of every woman, when she is indeed a "new creation," to bring forth God in devastated souls.

:: :: ::

Salvation will come only from holiness; but in the conditions of actual life, sanctity is more at home to woman. The Virgin "treasured up all these things in her heart" (Lk 2:51); every woman holds an innate intimacy, almost a complicity, with the tradition, with the continuity of life. In God, existence coincides with essence. In holiness, a woman is more apt to come close to this relationship of essence and existence through the power of humility, since "humility is the art of finding oneself exactly at one's place." In contrast to all egalitarianism and all demands, this is the most natural resplendence of her charismatic state. This is the ministry of the Paraclete, the grace of consolation and of joy, which presupposes a feminine being as a mother for whom each being is a child. The world will be saved by Beauty -- not just any beauty, but that of the Holy Spirit, that of the woman "robed with the sun."
Super Bowl questions

Why does "Plaxico" rhyme with "Mexico"?

And why does "Adalius" have only three syllables?
She is an angel. She is a goddess. And she's waiting for you in the bathroom.

-- Dr. Niles Crane on an episode of Frasier

Friday, February 01, 2008

Sister Wendy on Prayer
page 116

I have heard people praising "simple faith." What they are referring to is an almost rote reception of mass and the sacraments based on pitifully slight knowledge of the teaching of our Blessed Lord. What they are really describing is ignorant faith, lazy faith [...]


I find this passage extremely disagreeable. And given Sister Wendy's erroneous description of transubstantiation, it is she who might be credibly accused of a "pitifully slight knowledge of the teaching of our Blessed Lord."
Sister Wendy on Prayer
page 50

Rote prayer is not prayer at all.

Your comments are invited.
Sister Wendy on Prayer
page 71

Even for Catholics, the Eucharist is something mysterious. It is both sacrifice and celebration, a spiritual reenactment of the Last Supper. Medieval theologians made up a word for what happens and called it "transubstantiation." This means that materially, physically, the bread and wine are still there, but in actuality the essence of them has been changed into the true living body of Christ.


Materially, physically, substantially, the bread and wine are no longer there. The substance changes. The accidents (appearances) remain the same.

And "spiritual reenactment" is, I think, not the proper term.

There are other objections to Sister Wendy's book: her views on original sin (p. 101), on homosexuality (p. 117), on the gender of the pronouns we use for God in Christian revelation (p. 77), are at sometimes subtle, sometimes glaring variance with the magisterium of the Church.

Will probably post one more excerpt (p. 116), in which she derides "simple faith," the faith that thinks with the Church.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sister Wendy on Prayer

Charming. Pleasant. Heretical.

More, perhaps, later.