Thursday, August 04, 2011

Scattered thoughts

In Magnificat this month, we find Ave mundi spes Maria, a hymn in which we learn, inter alia, that sin is shit. The hymn uses the very word!:

Sed nos tua sancta prece
Mundans a peccati fæce
Collocet in lucis domo.
Amen dicat omnis homo!

(in James Monti's unrhymed translation:

But by your holy supplication,
cleansing us from the dregs of sin,
may he place us in a habitation of light.
Let every man say Amen!)

"Dregs," indeed! "Fæces" is, well, feces. Fascinating. Didn't think you could use such language in a hymn to the Virgin Mary!


Drinking coffee at 4.30 am. Was awake, earlier, from something like 12 to 1.30. Was agitated most of the time, and felt like I wanted to hit someone really hard. I prayed -- desperately! -- which often doesn't "work," but shortly after praying my desperate prayer, I found myself peacefully in bed reading my 1991 New American Bible. Read the very bad translation of the Psalms, and some better passages of the New Testament (the Magnificat and Benedictus in Luke 1 are fairly well-rendered!). And of course, I read Wisdom chapter seven, which is my "icon." And the peace, after the agitation, was most welcome.

I also looked at the Magnificat booklet for August, where I discovered Ave mundi spes Maria.


Today is the feast of St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars. I knew a hospital chaplain who would affectionately refer to the unscholarly Curé as "the dumb priest," as he had difficulty with his studies, and might be a kind of patron for those who lack academic facility. You don't need to be book-smart to be a saint! And I read elsewhere that St John was subject to the most violent demonic pesterings. The devil would shake his bed!

Well, no need for the devil to go to such drastic measures with me. A bit of pique or a bit of fatigue or a bit of allurement for the eye, and I'm basically a goner. Thank Heaven that we have a Savior whose very name means "God saves"!




This Sunday we'll be getting the reading from Kings about Elijah listening for the voice of God, and not hearing it in the earthquake, the hurricane, the thunder, the wildfire, but rather in "a still, small voice." As the NAB renders it, "a tiny whispering sound." (Someone has to tell me how a "whispering sound" differs from a "whisper.")

But this ties in to what Heather King's been saying lately. God is non-violent! Of course, he will occasionally use (in C S Lewis's phrase) "a megaphone to rouse a sleeping world." But oftener than not, his persuasion is gentler. Quieter. Subtler.

It's said that the former communist Whittaker Chambers was instantly a believer in God when one night he got lost in the convolutions of his sleeping daughter's ear. That was his "road to Damascus": the beauty of his daughter's ear, as she slept.


Unrelated.  A fragment of a poem that I always liked:

The might of one fair face sublimes my love
For it hath weaned my heart from low desires:
Nor death I heed, nor purgatorial fires.
Thy beauty, antepast of joys above,
Instructs me in the bliss that saints approve.
For O, how sweet, how wonderful must be,
The God who made so good a thing as thee,
So fair an image of the heavenly Dove!

(attributed to Michelangelo)