Friday, January 23, 2009

Dov'è il Vaticano?

On YouTube!

Domini est terra

(Four versions of Psalm 24, verse one)

King James Version : The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

1928 Book of Common Prayer : The earth is the LORD's, and all that therein is; the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein.

Revised English Bible : To the LORD belong the earth and everything in it, the world and all its inhabitants.

New American Bible : The earth is the LORD's and all it holds, the world and those who live there.

My preference here is for the KJV. I usually read the 1928 BCP version of the Psalms with the most delight, but here the Authorized Version has the slight edge. The Revised English Bible, while I do read it occasionally, and prefer it generally to the New American Bible, here seems lackluster.

Awe, holy fear, and the unmistakable

consciousness of one's own inadequacies: a profound awareness that one is in the presence of a revelation of the Majesty and Mystery of Almighty God -- these sensations occur most often on the Number 15 bus. (I don't think I exaggerate.) But they were also present, untainted by any inconvenient emotion, when, one Sunday morning several Novembers ago, I poked my head into the Divine Liturgy at an Orthodox (OCA) church in the Boston area.

I was conscious of not being properly dressed, for one thing; the Orthodox still believe very much in wearing their Sunday best to church, and my blue jeans and windbreaker didn't seem to cut it. But I was enraptured by the chant, magnetized by the icons, overwhelmed by the solemnity.

What was I doing there? I stayed for about two or three minutes -- left, in part, because I thought I was being stared at, due to my casual attire, but also there was the very real experience of Non sum dignus* ...

That sensation of Non sum dignus -- combined with the joy of witnessing unforgettable Beauty -- herein lies the connection between the two apparently otherwise unconnected phenomena (the beauty of women seen on the bus, and the beauty of the ancient liturgy).

:: :: :: :: ::

Speaking of women: I think it is apt that Scripture in some places personifies wisdom as a woman (but here I am perhaps derailing my train of thought?). For many years, I would picture one particular woman when I read these verses:

"She is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness. [...] She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation. Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail" (Wisdom 7: 26, 29-30, Revised English Bible with Apocrypha).

Also: "I am the mother of fair love, and fear, and knowledge, and holy hope" (Ecclesiasticus 24:18, King James Version with Apocrypha).

Perhaps more later on this subject, if I can unscatter my brain.

*Non sum dignus = "I am not worthy"

This weekend's Marianne Moore

[...] gusto thrives on freedom, and freedom in art, as in life, is the result of a discipline imposed by ourselves. Moreover, any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.

from The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore, p. 426

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Two phrases that troubled me

in the President's inaugural speech: the one about discarding "worn-out dogmas" and the one about "remaking America."

I'm a fan of what others might deem worn-out dogmas. I liked Calvin Coolidge's line about not hesitating to be as reactionary as the multiplication table when the situation requires.

As for remaking America, I don't know how seriously to take that. Ronald Reagan would quote Thomas Paine to the effect that "we have it in our power to begin the world anew" or something like that -- to which George Will replied in a column, "Anywhere, at any time, that is nonsense." Elsewhere, Will wrote, "Quick changes are the business of bad men."

Peggy Noonan was on the Today show yesterday, saying that she thought the inaugural speech was (she used the word nearly a dozen times) "moderate." I thought it was unmistakably progressive, but not dangerous -- apart from those two phrases. "Remaking America" could be one of those standard flourishes like 41's "new breeze blowing" or 42's "in the midst of winter [...] we force the spring" -- a fresh start, a clean slate, etc. But combine "remaking America" with the disdain for "worn-out dogmas," and I worry. A little.

Postscript : Exact words:

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saint Faustina Kowalska

Everything I look at speaks to me of God's mercy.

(via Magnificat, January 2009, p. 296)

The inaugural poem

Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander.

My opinion (as seen in one of the comboxes below): not bad at all. Apart from that line about "a widening pool of light," which I thought a tad new-agey ... and apart from the title ... I found it refreshingly free of bombast.

Monday, January 19, 2009

By what criterion ...

can this possibly be considered a poem?

An anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, my grandmother went to her rest in the hope of rising again; please join me in praying for the happy repose of her soul.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

improvisational sequence

Sun over snowfield
feeble blot of whitish ink
leaking through gray cloud

Cantankerous crow
complains of the cold
with a colder cry

Wine gladdens the heart
bread strengthens the sinews and
oil makes the face shine

Woman with eyes like
stars in the midnight sky
where have you gone

Trudge through snow
toward the Sunday sacrifice
beatific day

Slumdog Millionaire
and the other much-praised films
don't think I'll see them

O tremendous dream
of ecstatic atonement
you've disturbed my peace

Noise of fretful mind
much concerned with that and this
will you never cease

Miss Marianne Moore
sapient Presbyterian
Brooklyn Confucius

when my life is spent
how stern will Your mercy be
how sweet Your justice