Thursday, July 31
"Behold our refutation of the error. It is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves. If then anyone there be who, boastfully taking pride in his supposed wisdom, wishes to challenge what we have written, let him not do it in some corner nor before children who are powerless to decide on such difficult matters. Let him reply openly if he dare. He shall find me there confronting him, and not only my negligible self, but many another whose study is truth. We shall do battle with his errors or bring a cure to his ignorance." - St. Thomas Aquinas, as quoted in his biography by Chesterton
Begun in 1278, completed a hundred years later, and modified in the counter-Reformation, Santa Maria Novella is a masterpiece of Florentine Gothic, the artistic style most famously employed at the city's Duomo. One of two major Dominican churches in Florence, the other being the now-deconsecrated San Marco, Santa Maria Novella is a gem, containing dozens of paintings from the great Masters of Florence. The nave, lined with side altars, gives way to the stunning high altar, pictured above. Lit by stain glass, this high altar conceals the impressive Dominican choir, and the side chapels are similarly spectacular. Some of the greatest artistic treasure in this complex, however, can be found in the Dominican convent (which is not easy to access - unlike Santa Sabina, I was unable to see this one). The convent contains, among other works, Buoniauto's The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant and the more famous Triumph of the Catholic Doctrine. Basically, this church is well worth visiting for anyone planning to spend time in Florence. For the Dominican spirits among us, it has the advantages over San Marco of still being consecrated and of better having hours, despite its lack of San Marco's famous Fra Angelico paintings. The church is a little bit "off the beaten path," though it is near the train station (many tourists skip it on the way to the cathedral and museums in the center of town); that said, it fronts its own square and is easy enough to find. Santa Maria Novella was my favorite of the 65 churches I visited in Italy on tour with the Liturgical Choir, and so inspired me that I rank it alongside Notre Dame de Montreal as my favorite, period.
1. It's short (5 1/2 pages, give or take)
2. It has Cardinal Ratzinger's signature (so you know it's got to be good)
3. That great one-two punch of Natural Law and right reason
4. Annoy the dissenters
5. Arm yourself with the Truth
The highlight of your vacation to Disney World is running into about a dozen Franciscan Sisters on the line for a film about Canada. This nice group of Sisters belonged to the Sisters of Saint Elizabeth (website not available at the moment) from Parsippany, New Jersey, and were wearing white habits with black veils that looked positively Dominican (another reason for the field guide, or, alternatively, for Franciscan Sisters to adopt a more distinctive summer habit). The movie about Canada was itself very good, featuring a 360 degree view of a procession in my beloved Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal, but the opportunity to watch it with these Sisters was priceless.
First there was Trogdor the Burninator .......but are you ready for John Paul the Evangelizer? (Warning: Song Parody Ahead)
John Paul is a man.........he is a holy man...........yeah he is just a great man,
But he is still JOHN PAUL!!!!!!!!!!! JOHN PAUL!!!!!!!!!!!
Evangelizing the Protestants,
Evangelizing the Muslims,
Evangelizing the schismatics and the liberal churches!, liberal churches!
And John Paul comes in the Springtime!
Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.....
......and Mass featured a beautiful postcommunion: "Lord, may the sacrifice of thanksgiving which we have offered on the feast of Saint Ignatius lead us to the eternal praise of your glory. Grant this through Christ our Lord." This antiphon reminded me of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, but it also got me to thinking about the Jesuits, especially in light of the current, much-maligned (though it's always been much-maligned) state of the Order. With it being Saint Ignatius' feast day, however, and keeping in mind the Kierkegaardian (and just plain Christian) spirit of presuming and seeking the good, I'd like to start an open blog about what's right with the Jesuits today. From a personal perspective, I'd like to offer the example of Fr. Brian Daley, S.J., a professor in the ND theology department. The good Father exudes personal holiness, and consistently offers solid, fascinating classes. I, along with Andy, was privileged last semester to take his class, "Mary in the Christian Tradition," for which I wrote the paper about von Speyr that was posted here in my absence. Fr. Daley is also kind enough to sometimes say our Saturday morning Mass, at which he pays great attention to detail and preaches quite erudite sermons. To sum it up: a good man, a good priest, a good Jesuit.
Wednesday, July 30
I emerged unscathed in our recent, well, scathing by Nihil Obstat. Credit goes to English teacher, newspaper moderator, and recent CHS yearbook dedicatee Bro. Stephen Balletta, S.M., for teaching me to always look at every little detail of my writing. I've been truly blessed to have worked with the Marianist Province of Meribah, a now-rare corp of about 40 teaching Brothers who administer both Chaminade and Kellenberg Memorial high schools. Great men, great schools.............if you live on Long Island, your kids will be in good hands with these Brothers. If not, well, consider moving here - that is, if you don't mind the highest property taxes in the country and being stuck on an island where the only way out is through the congested highways of New York City...........
When I go on vacation, it is usually my custon to attend a Tridentine Mass simply because I more or less know what to expect. In Orlando, however, this was not as easy to come by, and I was also interested in checking out the Shrine, which I had previously seen from the highway. Interestingly enough, the shrine is designed basically along the Santa Sabina design which I talked about last week, although with a LOT more spotlights (my view of non-candlelight in churches is rather dim (pun inteneded)). The church featured some fairly traditional stained-glass and very nice paintings of the Stations of the Cross, as well as some sculpture (esp. the crucificix) that I wasn't too high on. As far as the ministry of the church goes, it's dedicated entirely to tourists, and thus has a sort of five-minute "pitch" at the beginning of Mass, sort of distracting but I do credit them for separating it from the homily. The Sunday liturgy was aesthetically above average, as the music selection will show, but not on Basilica of the Sacred Heart level - still better than most random churches I've visited on vacation. But the main attraction of this church is not the Sunday liturgy but the full weekday slate (which I could not attend due to being underage to drive a rental car): two Masses, seven hours of confessions(per day!), Adoration. The gift shop, which is also widely criticized for being almost as large as the church, is well-stocked with statuary and a very good bookstore. I was also very impressed by the homily the priest gave, in which he talked about growing in personal holiness through the Eucharist (and, as Mark Shea has recently pointed out, "loaves and fishes Sunday" can elicit some pretty bad homilies). So basically, I think this place gets a bad rap - the architecture is well-achieved if not perfect at the moment, and they take their ministry seriously - if you're in the Orlando area, give it a try.
Mass: Sunday, July 27
Opening Hymn: We Gather Together
Gloria: Mass of Creation, Haugen
Offertory Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Picardy)
Sanctus/Memorial Acclamation/Amen: Mass of Creation, Haugen
Agnus Dei: Unknown - Contemporary
Communion Hymn: One Bread, One Body
Closing Hymn: To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King
.............Of Town? Nah. Of the world? Nope.......maybe someday. In any case, I've returned from Orlando after a nice, relaxing reading-filled vacation. I'll have several posts coming at you soon both with regards to my experience in Orlando and other things that have come to mind. I hope everyone has enjoyed the von Speyr review - feel free to offer any observations, criticisms, etc. as I prepare to read Adrienne's other work on Mary, The Handmaid of the Lord and continue to look at her groundbreaking Mariology.
Great Churches of the World: La Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
The old court chapel of King St. Louis has lost some measure of its former sacramental glory. Its altar has vanished, while the relics of the Passion it housed have since been removed to the cathedral of Notre Dame only a few paces away. Aesthetically, however, it still manifests the glory of God even as it stands imprisoned in a blatantly secular setting. The great Gothic spike of its spire rises high over the Mansard roofs and ironwork gates of the French ministry of Justice like the stripped mast of a wrecked ship. It is stranded there on the Ile-de-Cite, waiting for the tide of the Seine, a relic of the old royal palace on that site.
The high, angular upper chapel seems almost like an envelope of translucent scarlet and blue suspended between a sacred skeleton of pillars. The stained-glass colors the air to a glorious indigo gloom, transparent darkness, the ultimate fulfillment of the Divine Darkness and Divine Light that St. Dionysius spoke of in his mystical theology and Abbot Suger strove to incarnate in the church of St. Denis at the start of the Gothic epoch. The rainbowed light glances off polychromed vaults shot with gilding, marked with the diapered fleur-de-lys of France and Mary, a field of flowers transformed into a starry night. It gives us one tantalizing glimpse into the real Gothic world, a world of light and color and beauty and gold glittering amid a luminous noontime twilight, not the grimy, blackened universe of horror films and the novels of Horace Walpole. For once, the work of restorers did not destroy but truly gave new life to the antique oratory.
It’s still a remnant, not a living church, deconsecrated and altar-less, but through Divine Providence, it is a glorious remnant. It is a testament to the genius of the Gothic mind and the holiness of the crusader-king Louis the Ninth that even in its diminished state it remains a sublime hymn to the radiant essence of the Godhead.
The rite of Canonical Humiliation, a particularly arcane Preconciliar ritual, as celebrated by
Father Crilly and Bishop Len Brennan, but mostly just Crilly
The Roman Pontifical that was in force until the 1960s included such exotic and fascinating rites as the bestowal of the Cross on Crusaders, the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, and the canonical degradation of wayward bishops. This last one is demonstrated in the picture above with the gracious assistance of Fr. Ted Crilley of Craggy Island, Ireland. (I'm kidding, and just watch that crazy TV show, it takes too long to explain). Anyway, this new Archivum Liturgicum has all sorts of fun stuff like that presented in a high-quality format, and is a weirdly charming mix of English, Latin and Italian, very Catholic. It also has the Martyrology, the old Roman Ritual and all that good stuff. Now only if I knew Latin.
Don't try this at home.
File this one under 'B' for backfire.
In a search for paintings of the Coronation of Mary, I ran into one of those Protestant sites with the usual claims about Catholics. This particular site, ironically, actually ended up to edifying me. It includes quotes from Church Documents, accounts of apparitions, Marian prayers, beautiful artwork, and quotes from JPII. Aside from the introduction and a few comments, which are the usual propaganda, I couldn't have put together a better page myself. I guess it just goes to show how people see whatever they're looking for.
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Part VIII
According to Balthasar, “few writers today are able to arouse a sense of standing before the unfathomable greatness of God as well as Adrienne von Speyr” (8). Mary in the Redemption is a perfect example of this. Von Speyr takes up some of the most difficult theological ideas possible, places them within a mystical framework and explains them. She then goes on to posit them in such new and inspiring ways that it is hard for the reader not to sit in awe. It should seem as no coincidence based on this work that her friend Balthasar named one of his major theological projects the “Theo-Drama.” Von Speyr herself, in her life and in her theological reflections, truly makes theology into a drama. It becomes exciting and dramatic to read, to reflect on, to write about, and, most importantly, to pray with and about. There is little more that one can ask from any Catholic theology, and von Speyr’s Mariology exemplifies it to the fullest extent possible.
St. Leopold Mandic, Apostle of Confession (1866-1942)
Happy St. Leopold's and...uh, St. Peter Chrysologus's Day...again
Well, I think I slipped up liturgically and accidentally advanced St. Peter the Golden-Worded ahead in the calendar. I did the same thing with the Norwegian king St. Olaf the Fat, incidentally, about which see below. Serves me right for blogging in a hurry. So today's their big day. A happy and blessed feast day to all preachers and all inhabitants of Ravenna (buona festa!) and anyone in Oslo who's reading this (imagine I just said something polite in Norwegian). And while you're at it, check out one of the homilies that made St. Peter famous. Today is also the feast of the Italo-Croatian Capuchin St. Leopold Mandic, who was about four-and-a-half feet tall (perhaps breaking the record set by St. John the Dwarf in the fifth century, aka "Grumpy") and who was famous for his great love of the sacrament of Confession. Read this bio of him, with words taken from Paul VI's beatification homily. Under the terms of beatification then in force, he was a real speed case: people then didn't get their process opened until after 50 years after his death, but he was beatified in under thirty. Pretty cool, considering it sometimes takes hundreds of years. We also commemorate today Saint Abdon, a Persian martyr who, with his brother St. Senan, is patron of barrel-makers. Today is also the feast of Blessed Manes de Guzman, who was St. Dominic's big brother, the son of Felix de Guzman and Blessed Joan of Aza. He was one of the sixteen original Dominicans, and that, to use a hagiographic term, is totally sweet. Today is also the feast of St. Julitta or Juliette, who was martyred with various tortures, "all horridly painful" with her baby St. Cyriacus during one of the early persecutions. Though some calendars say she's commemorated on June 16 or July 15). That and she seems to have a web ring dedicated to her. A very small one, mind you. And, by the way, in the Eastern churches, at least according to one of their competing calendars, this is the feast of St. Timon the Martyr.
Tuesday, July 29
The Miraculous Mass of St. Gregory, Adrian Isenbrandt (1510-1550)
"All the Bells on Earth did Ring":
Random Thoughts on the Canon, Seamless Characters, Sanctus Bells and the Words of Institution
My parish recently acquired a set of altar bells as part of the continuing campaign to renovate the sanctuary. While the changes have become something of a bone of contention, on the whole I'm pleased with the result. Plus, we've got our bells, and they are a welcome addition to the liturgy. Though I think I'm the only person here who knows how to ring them properly, three discrete rings, not just one long jumbled ringringringringring. But I digress. In some places, the Sanctus bells haven't been rung for forty years. However, I grew up hearing them at school masses. Frankly, they were about the only traditional thing about the liturgies at my grade-school, with strummy guitar hymns that always started out with the same cords from collections entitled Hi God. And servers wearing hideous brown albs that made them look like mini-me Junipero Serras. And an invisible tabernacle, which was quite nice if you could find it (had a cool Pelican on the front), though that was the trouble. Oh, I tell a lie: we had a fully-functional Church Lady with standard scary painted-on eyebrows who probably still thought it was 1940.
Some claim that the bells were abolished as some nebulous postconciliar reform; the current Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (150) states that such decisions should be left up to local custom, as it probably should be. Though, interestingly enough, if one reads the words carefully, it seems to suggest that ringing the bells before the elevation is absolutely mandatory. I seem to recall that the Sanctus Bell was never explicitly mentioned in the rubrics of the old Missal, and was never in fact adopted for use at Rome. Laws concerning its use seem to have been laid down as late as one hundred years ago, though it has a much longer history. Customs concerning its use varied widely, being rung in most places at the Sanctus and at the two elevations, while in other places it was also rung at the Domine non sum dignus, during Communion or at the Fraction, something I remember having seen myself.
Oh, by the way, Sanctus Belle would make a really cool screen-name for a Catholic Nerdette. You can use that, ladies, just remember who told ya. But anyway…
Some people claim the bells are simply unnecessary in this day and age. I've never liked that argument, since you could say the same thing about candles or high pulpits in an age of electric light and microphones. I admit that's a weak counter-argument, and perhaps a more in-depth view of the origin of the Sanctus bell is in order. The Sanctus bell, also known as the Sacring or Altar Bell, came into wide use in the thirteenth century, though gongs may have been used at earlier periods for similar purposes. It would signal ringers in the church tower to sound their own bells so that all outside might meditate on the mystery taking place. A beautiful idea. There were other reasons, given the size of large churches, the silent canon, or the singing of the Sanctus and Benedictus over the prayers at the altar. The faithful, who did not communicate as often as they ought, instead sought a substitute in adoring the elevated Host, and thus the bell served to underline this sacred event. One of the most interesting articles on this subject was actually written by a Lutheran, and I suggest you read it.
The bell wasn't just it, though. All sorts of crazy things grew up to emphasize the elevations, including one parish in pre-Dissolution England where mechanical angels slid down the reredos to surround the elevated Host! These oddities, or the move away from frequent reception of Communion still doesn’t mean that the elevation or adoration of the Host was a block to people’s devotional lives.
Still, we don't do the canon silently anymore, not in most parishes, anyway, so what good is ringing the Sanctus bell?
My point, and I do have one, is this. First, I think the attempts to remove the ringing at the elevations in the name of "restoring" the mass is misguided. Ritual is, to some extent, about redundancy, because redundancy is understandable. Removing something "unnecessary" can be dangerous. Restoration is one thing, but scrubbing a painting within an inch of its life is another. It's vandalism. Take the church of San Marco at Venice. A beautiful sight, built up over the ages, and take out one column and the whole loses something. The Mass, like San Marco, is the creation and re-creation of ages of devotion, carefully added on to but never radically changed. To "restore" it to any particular era, whether Tridentine, Medieval or Primitive Christian, misunderstands the organic way liturgy has formed.
The bell is one of those things. It still has a meaning, and in fact some who try to dispose of it have their own reasons to erase that meaning. Never pull a fence down without looking to see what’s on the other side. It is fashionable today to claim that the whole Eucharistic Prayer, as opposed to just the Words of Institution spoken by the priest in Persona Christi, are necessary to confect the Sacrament. This brings in the congregation, naturally, and makes them "necessary," somehow alleging they’re needed to transubstantiate the host. Even the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (now, be nice, readers: they have "sitten on the chair of Moses," even if from time to time they slouch) seems to echo this rather dubious idea, responding to a query with the words: "[T]he Eucharistic Prayer [is] the one 'great prayer' of priest and people. [T]he entire Eucharistic Prayer […] is consecratory. [T]o foster an appreciation of this seamless character of the Eucharistic Prayer, the ringing of bells is optional."
While there existed some doubt in the past of when the actual Transubstantiation was complete the presence of the laity was never a requirement, while the doctrine, as developed and defined by the Magisterium, says very clearly the opposite: St. Thomas writes, "The form of this Sacrament is the very words of Christ…these words spoken by the priest in the person of Christ brings into being this Sacrament. The minister of this Sacrament is the priest; and no one else can consecrate this matter into the Body of Christ."
This "seamless character" argument misunderstands, in addition to the Mass, also the nature of the laity and the priesthood. The laity has its own office, as Vatican II reminds us, but this won’t be reached by clericalizing it. The mass isn’t about us, and it isn’t about the priest, either, so why try and get in a power-struggle with him?
The bells mark that high point of the liturgy, words that Christ Himself said and is saying as the priest pronounces them. Like all forms of good ritual, it is natural, it makes perfect sense: it says, hey, look over here, a miracle is happening!
We may not have the silent Canon, or even the Sanctus sung over the priest's prayers, but no matter how loudly we hear those words (even if they're microphoned into our ears at top volume), we're only human, with hundreds of distractions at our beck and call. We can always use another reminder that we're watching the supreme miracle unfold before us.
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Parts VI & VII
Perhaps the heart of Mary in the Redemption comes in the chapter entitled “The Marian Aspect of Salvation History.” Here von Speyr puts all of the Old Testament under a Marian spotlight and finds much to see. She begins by asserting the superiority of Mary and her Son: “Christ is not just Adam regained: he is God. Mary is not just the reintegration of Eve: she is the Mother of God.” Thus, through the redemption, Christ and Mary in a sense transfigure the humanity that has come before them, but which has manifested their coming in prefigurations. She calls the Old Testament prefigurations of Mary “hyphens between fallen creation and redemption,” but states of Mary that “she herself is the actual hyphen; she helps to establish a harmony” (64). These prefigurations, or types of Mary, prefigure her “in their being,” as opposed to those of Christ, which can only do so “in their knowledge and prophecy” (67). Thus, Mary is the concrete reality that puts into flesh and blood the spiritual reality that had existed for so long in that knowledge and prophecy. Von Speyr puts it best by stating that “Mary is that which is concrete and remains so throughout the whole of history;” her existence, which give birth to the ultimate unity of body and spirit, is the ultimate defeat of dualism and what von Speyr calls “an artificial disembodiment” from which the Church suffers (69-70). This concreteness of Mary is fully realized in her Son, the Word made flesh, who even in his resurrected state is true flesh and blood.
Mission and office are important concepts for the theology of Balthasar, and one can see the influence of von Speyr on these ideas in Mary in the Redemption. In the aforementioned unity between Mary and Christ is a complete unity of mission, so much so that “Her mission is included in his to such an extent that he would sever his very self were to he sever himself from the Mother’s mission.” This might seem like a strange idea at first, since it would strike one that Christ’s mission comes first, but “she is sent with him because she first bore his mission. At the Cross, she then discloses what he first disclosed to her on the Mount of Olives: the possibility for the faithful to suffer with the Son.” Thus, von Speyr comes back to the co-redemption as the ultimate mission of Mary and through her, all mankind. This ties in very importantly, though somewhat paradoxically, with the concept of office. For von Speyr, “Christ’s office is like the unchanging link between Divinity and humanity. It is like a form into which he is poured” (99). Office thus becomes primarily a matter within the Godhead between Christ and the Father. This is transmitted to man through the office of priesthood, but Mary does not take on office, she rather transmits the office of Christ to earth: this is her only activity with regard to office. As von Speyr puts it: “Grounded in the manner in which she has carried it is the fact that women have no office in the Church, or actually no further office. Mary exhausted the officiality that was possible for women” (103). For a modern feminist, these could be easily seen as fighting words, but seen in its context, it is really a complement to the Eucharist: “the one is a never-ending gift of self until the end of the world, whereas the other is an irrevocable handing over accomplished once for all” (104). Thus, Mary, as handmaid, receives the office of Christ at the Annunciation, but hands it back at the Cross. Hers is thus an ideal submission, made not to a dominating force, but out of her own free will and through an acknowledgement of her state in life.
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, from a painting by Velazquez
Happy St. Martha's Day!
Well, today, we've got an interesting assortment of hagiographic notes. Most importantly, for those of us who are busybodies such as myself, it's St. Martha of Bethany's feast day, well known for being the more energetic half of Martha and Mary. Of course, Mary chose the better half, but sometimes it's good to be Martha as well, and there's a little bit of both in all of us. Martha was busy for a long time after she had her famous encounter with Christ, so busy legend has it she ended up in the South of France where she worked quite a few miracles and subdued a dragon or two. We also celebrate St. Peter Chrysologus, the golden-worded bishop of Ravenna, who was named a Doctor of the Church ("the Doctor of Homilies") for his "simple, practical and clear" sermons. Pastors! Pray to this guy! Today is also the feast day of St. Lupus of Troyes, who in art is depicted with a diamond falling from heaven as he celebrates Mass, as well as St. Olaf (alias Olaf the Fat or Olaf the Thick: this guy must have been called some awful names in fourth grade). St. Olaf, as King of Norway, converted his subjects to the Faith, and while unpopular in his time, many miracles were attributed to him after his death in battle at Sticklestad in 1031 (for which reason he is sometimes, perhaps inaccurately, called a martyr). His body was also found to be incorrupt, and was enshrined in 1075 at Trondheim until the Lutherans removed it and allegedly reburied it in the sixteenth century. Today, in addition to these four, is the feast of one of my favorite Popes, Blessed Urban II, who, with Blessed Peter the Hermit, roused the First Crusade with the cry of "Deus lo vult!" at the field of Clermont in 1095.
Monday, July 28
..........in the NY Times national edition today about the liturgical travails of Fr. John Perricone at his new assignment at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in the Archdiocese of Newark. I have watched Fr. Perricone's EWTN series about the Mass, and attended in person both a Good Friday service and an Evening of Recollection conducted by Fr. Perricone, and enjoyed his style. The article goes through the changes he has made (ad orientem Mass, silent Canon, no Eucharistic Ministers, no distribution of chalice, etc.) and parish complaints about them. I am not myself an advocate of all these changes (esp. the silent Canon), but I was most interested by a sign a protester was carrying saying that Fr. Perricone was banned from ministry in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Birminingham, Alabama. I am wondering if this is true, and if so, why? I invite anyone to comment on all these issues, following the proprietary rules Andy has previously set forth.
The Blessing of the Ankles at Bologna, from a painting by Archangelo Spumoni, 1623
THE LIFE, HOLY PASSION AND MIRACLES OF SAINT FLUTIUS OF BOLOGNA,
BISHOP, MARTYR AND PATRON SAINT OF THE LEFT ANKLE,
AND HIS REVELATION OF THE MOST HOLY WHAPPING
abridged from chapter clxxxiii (lacking in some later editions) of the
Legenda Aurea Sanctorem of the Blessed Jacobus de Voragine
of the Order of Preachers, Bishop of Genoa, 1275
You want the full story on our name? You asked for it, you got it:
The name Flutius is derived from fluere or fluxus, to flow, and Dyaus, the name given by the pagan Greeks to their supreme god. Or, according to the blessed Isidore, it derives from flabeolum, meaning a flageolet and tinus, a shrub, or fluito, which means relaxation or laziness. Saint Flutius was a flowing font of divine grace to the heathens, a musical instrument for a shrub, the Burning Bush, and relaxing through his final rest in heaven.
Flutius was born in Bologna, then called Bononia, and shone with all the virtues from his youth. His Life was written in the fifth century by the holy monk Theodore Pyro, of Mipos. He was made bishop of his hometown at an early age by the blessed Pope Felix, though he feared for his life, complaining that the “pagan Bononia is a name only fit for the speakers of half-truths and inanities.” It was in this fashion that the name Bologna became associated with falsities and iniquity, just as the blessed Flutius’s successor, Escatorian, called the beliefs of the heretics known as Montanists “a veritable Bologna of stupidity” in his Epistola contra Tertullianus. Thus Escatorian.
Flutius, however, was privileged to receive a vision of an angel, who said, as we read in the Vita, “Do not fret yourself to death, for you have found favor with God, who will aid you in all your works, and make Bologna to a fair and Christian city, though this shall only happen after you have been sacrificed for the love of Holy Church and spread out like the sliced meat of the midday meal on a taverna counter.” Moved by this prophesy, he set out with haste to build up his small diocese, and wrought many miracles in that place. Thus Theodore.
One day as he rose from prayer, he found a young man before him with a deformed ankle, the left one, greatly disturbed. He was a virtuous pagan called Vigius, the son of the high priest of Apollo in the city, though he said he had been told in a dream to seek out a holy man named Flutius. He was overjoyed to discover this indeed was the saint’s name, and the Bishop, moved by the young man’s trust in God, prayed and healed the young man’s ankle and forthwith baptized him with the name of Bonus, for it had been a great good that had been wrought there in the name of Christ.
There thus was a two-fold good that was wrought by the healing of the ankle, namely, a natural good, for the child was healed, and a supernatural good, through the man’s disavowal of his idolatrous past. As the blessed Theodore wrote: “The profane good of Vigius, already great despite his errors, was doubled and added to by the sacred good of the blessed Flutius.” And Isidore, in his Etymologies, said of this miracle that through Bonus’s change we now understand his name to mean something very good that has been added onto the whole of another, lesser good. Up until very recently, it was common to cry out the name of the holy convert as a blessing in the city of Bologna, but in recent years the custom has passed into obscurity
Now, it came to pass that the high priest discovered his son’s treachery through his forsaking of the idols of his temple, and he was greatly angered and ordered his son thrown into prison. Also, many rumors spread through Bononia that the man Flutius was a great and powerful magician or wonderworker, and many with crippled or hurt ankles came for his blessing. The high priest, finding his beautiful temple empty and eager that this should be stopped, soon spoke to the learned surgeon and apothecary Antonius, who was a wise man who had come from Rome with a special knowledge about how to cure the feet, and thus was surnamed Podiatristes.
The priest discovered, then, that Podiastristes the town foot-surgeon had lost many under his care to the wonders of Flutius, and Antonius, hearing that the cause of all his misery was Flutius, cried aloud and rained curses on him, vowing by his gods that he would see him dead. So the high priest of Apollo and the apothecary began to plot and soon Antonius called on his brother, the Prefect of Bologna, who was called Titus and wielded great influence throughout the province.
Soon, the prefect and the perfidious healer followed the trail of healed ankles to the house of Flutius, where he found the holy bishop celebrating the Mass and dragged him away from the altar, it is said by many who are wise in these matters, at the words of the Canon. It is for this reason that on the feast of the blessed bishop a silence of some time is maintained after the recitation of the saints names at the Mass, omitting the catalogue of the martyrs after the pronunciation of the names of the holy pontiffs Sixtus and Clement.
Now, the pagans dragged him to a dark dungeon in the Prefect’s palace, and beat and struck the holy man around his ankles until they left him for dead. And then a great light filled the cell, and the jailers could see nothing but Flutius, whose face shown like a gilded mask. For the blessed bishop, looking up in his pain, did see before him Our Blessed Lord at the stairway in Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem, cruelly being dragged up the steps by the wicked soldiers. And Christ’s left ankle did whap against the third step, and the blessed bishop saw blood flow from it, and the Lord turned to him and said, “I have suffered great pain in this, My most blessed and sorrowful whapping, just as you shall suffer on the morrow for My sake. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
And Flutius cried up to the Lord, “I thank You, O Divine Lord for this sufferance, that my tortures might be blessed in You.” In Rome, this most dolorous event of the Holy Whapping of the Left Ankle of Our Lord is marked by a bronze cross that the most holy and pious Pontiff Gregory had fixed to the third step, in accordance with the blessed martyr’s vision in the year of Our Lord 606. And in Jerusalem, the Emperor Justinian, about this time, placed a church on this site dedicated to Saint Nino of Rota and gave it over to the care of the priests of the Armenians, who venerate the most dolorous whapping at this site.
Now, this whapping, which the blessed Bonaventure writes of in his Meditation on the Five and a Half Wounds, is rightly called a semi-stigmatum, the fifth-and-a-half wound, for it was neither made by a piercing nor a scourging, as Our Lord’s holy scars on hands, feet and sides or the lashings on His back. And we might understand from this that the pain of the bishop’s tortures, for all his hardships, was but one half of one fifth of the pain Our Divine Savior suffered for us. For Flutius suffered in his ankles, but Our Lord suffered in every part of his body.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, when the priest and the Prefect Titus had heard of this marvel, fearing that Flutius, with some sorcery, might free himself from his bonds, they dispatched the Prefect’s brother, the wicked surgeon Antonius. Now, Antonius’s task was to win him over by flattery, for pain had proven fruitless. Flutius persevered in prayer and fasting when the surgeon came in, saying to him: “Now, listen to me, Flutius. You have great power and great wisdom. Together we might rule the domain of ankles as priest and doctor. I shall let you go free, and we shall become healers together, if you tell me your secret and sacrifice to the gods of the city.” And Flutius said to him, “You lie. You would have me killed once you learned my secret, and I will never turn my back, or my ankle, on Our Lord, for with a great power does come a great responsibility.”
The Prefect’s response to this was to have Bonus beheaded, and to keep Flutius for five days without food or drink. He saw, however, that Flutius remained strong, and his ankles unhurt, so he ordered him to be executed so that he might be made an example to the people that healing ankles without the permission of the Emperor was not tolerated. So, the next day, he was martyred, his ankles cut off and his body burned, but as the flames reached higher and higher, he cried out in the most blissful ecstasy, “Verily I say unto you, this day I shall sit at the left ankle of my Lord in Heaven!” Many were inspired to convert due to this holy exclamation. And then he expired, in the odor of sanctity. St. Flutius suffered in the reign of Diocletian, in the year 304, on the day of February 29, for it was a leap-year.
Now, many miracles were wrought in his name shortly thereafter. The ashes of Flutius were recovered by the holy bishop Escatorian, who discovered among them that his ankles had remained incorrupt, and many wondered at this. Soon, many visited his shrine and were healed of their foot and ankle-deformities, leaving behind their orthopedic sandals, canes and crutches, which were hung over the tomb of the blessed saint. In the year of Our Lord 542, the bishop of Bononia, sixth from Flutius, called Muratorius, commemorated this event by blessing the ankles of the Imperial Exarch Julian with incense, for he was stricken greatly with pain in his feet on the leap-feast of the saint. And the Exarch was cured forthwith. This custom continued for many years, with many cures, until the year 700, when the barbarian chief Gallo, a pagan who was also afflicted with great hurt in his ankles, asked for the blessing. Unfortunately, Gallo, as was the custom of the northerners, wore trousers, and proved unable, like the Exarch, to hitch up his toga, and thus his leggings caught fire. Thinking it was but part of the ceremony, he did not flinch, and was cured, asking for baptism several days later. During the ceremony, the bishop accidentally drove the stake of his crosier through the chief’s foot, and he did not flinch again, but started wondering exactly what he had gotten into. However, with the actual pouring of water, he was healed miraculously again, took the name Hieronymous, and became a great defender of the faith. Nevertheless, from that day forward, the blessing was carried out with holy water, lest any more suffer for the sake of such a noble martyr. And to this day, all in Bologna rejoice to see the many cures and wonders worked in his name.
by Horatio Bolton Nelson (1823-1913). To the tune of By All Your Saints Still Striving; adapted from a late mediaeval gradual chant found in a manuscript at San Domenico's church, Bologna.
We praise you now, Saint Flutius,
You came from Bologna.
You healed the kid's left ankle
When he implored ya.
And now you dwell in heaven:
With Peter and the Boys,
And Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
Who brings all good kids toys.
Must...not...laugh... Okay, at what point did you figure out we were just pulling your ankle on this one? Yeah, yeah, the Shrine of the Holy Whapping is the result of an extended running joke we tried out on some of our friends back in spring of this year. Dan and Andy came up with the meat of the story, and then I put in the business about the Armenians and some other fun stuff, while Emily, naturally, encouraged us in our lunacy. They actually believed a whole lot of the story...well, a little bit. Hey, it's no weirder than St. Dog-head, is it? But I guess ancient Roman deli meats, the weird etymologies, the origin of the word Bologna for nonsense, or the references to Star Wars, Spiderman , and Perfect Strangers probably tipped you off. Hope you enjoyed it. Expect more tales from the Flutius parallel universe in the near future...
Sunday, July 27
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Part V
Discussing "How Mary Mediates" in the next chapter, von Speyr also makes some extremely important points about Mary’s womanhood and her role as a channel of grace. "Eve," says von Speyr, "would have had the task of mediating to Adam something of God’s trinitarian life." She was "created in order to reveal to Adam something of God’s love and life" (41). Adam and Eve were thus to reveal to each other grace, which von Speyr describes as "what God keeps in store for men, but also what men request from God." The sin of Eve destroys this mediation, but it "remained in God and was now free for Mary" (42). Thus, Mary, the new Eve, but also the first, is prepared from that time to renew the mediation of grace that was forsaken by Adam and Eve. This image of mediation from the beginning of time also puts forth a new perspective on Mary’s femininity. Woman was created in the first place as an equal of man, to mediate grace for man and to in turn receive grace from him. Mary, as the perfect woman, by her "amen" or "fiat" to Gabriel, opens up these long-dormant channels of grace and begins to mediate them once again. "Eve became for Adam the mediatrix of all sins," and thus, as von Speyr perfectly sums it up, "It is only in Mary that what should actually have been mediated becomes visible" (44-45). This is a groundbreaking approach both to the theology of grace and to anthropology, placing within the grasp of all people the theological role of mediation that is most perfectly realized in the person of Mary.
Saturday, July 26
I was hoping to write a post today on what makes blessed items different from non-blessed items. But I have a sociology paper to write for next week, so I don't have the time. INSTEAD, I was thinking that OUR READERS could write this post for me :) Please post your thoughts on the following, the more involved the better! I think it would be interesting to have a few "forum discussion posts;" let's see how well this works.
Now, of course we know the basic definition of blessed sacramentals: "special prayers, actions, or objects, the use of which obtains spiritual benefits through the prayers of the Church to God."
But what I'm looking for is more of a reaction to this given, or a way to view this definition in a wider context. Sort of like, "what does it mean, really?" How can we expand on this understanding of "blessings" to better grasp what it means?
Ex. What practical difference does the praying of the Rosary on blessed beads have from the use of non-blessed beads? What makes blessed or non-blessed beads different? What has the Church's blessing done to them, and how can this action be understood in a wider context?
Rosary beads are just an example and commenters needn't restrict themselves to the example.
I have my own thoughts on this, which I'll post in the comment box eventually.
Two provisos: (1) The discussion should ever strive to be in union with the mind of the Church. (2) No posts which incorrectly and rashly cry "heretic!" will be tolerated. They will either be deleted or answered with another Tridentine decree. I catechized myself on those decrees; I will do it if necesary ;)
Please -- share your thoughts!
One day, Dan and Andy were in their dorm room when Dan complained, as he had been doing for a while, about an ankle he had somehow struck in such a way that it hurt intensely for quite a prolonged period of time. During this particular bout of pain, however, it was decided that Dan should seek out heavenly help from the patron saint of left ankles, whoever that might be. Whoever indeed -- an ensuing journey of epic proportion revealed ancient scheming plots, mystical visions, saintly charity, a martyr's faith, and a fascinating story of one St. Flutius of Bologna... the key to our site's rather unique name. More to follow.
... we now have included a picture of the Armenian Shrine of the Holy Whapping as our blog title!
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Part IV
"Hierusalem," says the LXX translation of Psalm 121, "quae aedificatur ut civitas cuius participatio in ipsum." In other words, Jerusalem is built as a city that shares, or is at unity, in itself. For von Speyr, "Mary," in the same way, "is completely one with herself" (27). Thus begins von Speyr's beautiful chapter on "Mary's Unity in Christ's Unity." This is another major theological theme of Mary in the Redemption. In this chapter, by stressing the complete humanity and the balance of Mary's personality, von Speyr helps to tone down the intimidating and almost divinizing image of Mary that crept into Catholic theology and especially devotion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Mary "possesses an open naturalness, a self-ease and happy-go-lucky nature, which knows no scruples and is not constrained by any self-preoccupation in its readiness for all good things in the surrounding world" (27). This imagery is novel and healthy for a Catholic perception of Mary: while she certainly is the Queen of Heaven, the Ark of the Covenant, and all the other titles bestowed on her by the Church, Mary is also humble and unassuming. "Being the handmaid was a goal in itself for the Mother," according to von Speyr, but "for the Son, however . . . the Queen was the goal, and so his handmaid must make her most palpable act of obedience by letting herself be made his Queen" (71-72). In this image, though destined to be queen, Mary on earth is not a governess or headmistress wagging her finger at the Child Jesus (and thus at us) and keeping him in line, but rather a true, balanced ideal, not an unapproachable one. She thus becomes, appropriately, the kind of girl that any man (certainly this one) would love to marry, an important image since the Church, as the Bride of Christ, is always trying to become more like Mary.
Friday, July 25
Infanta Juana la Loca with the funeral cortege of her dead husband,
the Archduke Philip, from a painting by Pradilla, 1877
Una locura musical
CD Review: Music for Joan the Mad: Spain, 1479-1555. La Nef.
Whenever you listen to something by the offbeat Quebecois early-music/performance-art group La Nef, you're guaranteed something...well, something interesting, to say the least. This is the only recording I've heard by them but I understand they've done albums on everything from the Holy Grail, which sounds fascinating, to a rather tenuous reconstruction of the music of the Cathar heretics, an idea which frankly repulses me. Music for Joan the Mad is, I believe, the scoring for a stage-show they perform about the title character, Juana la Loca, an unfortunate child of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel. Strictly speaking, very little of the music has to do with her, but rather attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the era, with sections on the expulsion of the Jews, the fall of Granada, and the New World. It's fun in parts, but I think neither successful nor really accurate.
The CD starts out with some rather fanciful renditions of the now-fashionable Sephardic Jewish "cantos del exilio," which are vigorous, exotic and enjoyable to listen too, though, from a musicological perspective tend towards unwarranted and over-theatrical Moorishness. It's very difficult to say what they sounded like in Juana's time, especially since they were not, in most cases, written down until the nineteenth century by ethnographers studying the exiled Jews of Turkey. After this section, there's surprisingly little of interest. There's a sprightly song, Levanta Pascual, about the fall of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs, which seems very appropriate to listen to today on the feast of Spain's great Santiago. That's about it.
On the whole, though, the CD seems to dominated by monologues in Spanish from their stage-play or unremarkable paraliturgical-sounding pieces such as Dios te salve Maria (i.e., the Hail Mary in Spanish) and O Gloriosa Domina, which don't seem to be period settings at all. Even more strange is the final track which consists of a recited exortation in Spanish for the noble knights of Spain to bring the Cross to the New World, which is immediately followed by an obviously modern setting of the song (not one of the masses by that name, sadly) L'Homme Arme advising us to fear this Armed Man, which in turn morphs into a very menacing and weirdly truncated Credo that ends with passus et sepultus est. On the whole, this transposition sounds almost anti-Catholic upon reflection. This particularly annoyed me because the packaging on the CD made it seem as if it would be much more "authentic" than it was.
I'd say Music for Joan the Mad was worth checking out of the library (what I did), and if you like some fun "exotic" Sephardic-inspired tunes, go crazy and, hey, buy it. Track no. 6 is particularly fun to drive to if you have a CD player in your car: makes you feel like you're chasing someone through a souk in Istanbul (which, of course, has nothing to do with Spain). However, it's really not, strictly speaking, the real deal when it comes to early music, and if you're going to go pop anyway and want something with a bit of history, I'd sooner go for Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention. There's certainly no really interesting early Church music to hold your interest, none of the melancholic sadness of Victoria or Guerrero which is the key to the Spanish soul, or even the Sephardic soul which ultimately springs from it. If you want something a bit more accurate and with more value-for-money, go for one of Jordi Savall's better (and cheaper) CDs such as Music from Jewish and Christian Spain or Music for the Spanish Kings. But with Joan, don't expect either accuracy or much else interesting after the first seven or so tracks.
"It's poignant to face icons in settings 'so far from their homes,' ... This is like being introduced to orphans whose lives have been shattered."
With all they've been through, it's amazing so many of these treasures of the Russian Church have survived. Thank God for the Church as the protectress of culture.
18th Century Spanish Colonial Painting
Saint James the Greater, a Jesuit and...uh...Dog-Face
A happy and blessed Feast of St. James the Greater to all of St. Blog's! You can read all about the Pilgrimage to Santiago here. Bl. Rudolph Aquaviva is commemorated as well today, one of the Jesuit Martyrs of Cuncolim hacked to death outside Goa, India, in 1583. In addition to those two, today is also the feast of St. Christopher, who, contrary to popular belief, was not decanonized in 1969, but restricted to local calendars. Admitted, some of the Mediaeval legends about him were pretty wild. Like that, and I am not making this up here, people, he was one of a race of giants with dog's heads, and thus surnamed Cynecephalos, or dog-head by the Greeks. (If you think that's weird, lemme tell you about the bizarre and fortunately-extinct folk cultus of "St." Guinefort, who seems to have been a greyhound. But perhaps some other time). Still, the core of his story, that of the Christ-bearer, Christo-Phoros still has a great deal of resonance, and I think, reality to it. So keep him on your dashboard, people!
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Part III
The pre-redemption, for von Speyr, is intrinsically linked to the co-redemption of Mary; indeed, “The idea of ‘co-redemption’ is ‘older’ than that of pre-redemption: the latter is a consequence of the former, a means to an end” (19). Thus, “Mary is in fact not the second but the first Eve; she is the one who did not fall and who sees how the second Eve does fall.” This permutation of classical Catholic theology into a new yet orthodox framework is characteristic of the “new theology” in which von Speyr and von Balthasar worked, and in few places does it work more brilliantly than this one. Through this idea, and the image of Mary as “the piece of marble that was there from the start,” von Speyr gives new and inspired meaning to human existence by positing Mary an ideal set forth from God by the beginning of time, and it gives fresh life to the idea of Mary as “new Eve” that has always been the backbone and starting point of Mariology.
The idea of Mary’s co-redemption with Christ is for many in the Church a theological sticking point. Indeed, although many wish for it to be defined as a dogma, this has not been done and it does not appear that it will happen any time soon. Yet for Adrienne von Speyr, the co-redemption is seen as almost obvious, and flows through Mary in the Redemption as if part and parcel of belief. The co-redemption, as previously stated, was for von Speyr the reason for the pre-redemption: “The Son,” she says, “however, will demand what he has given her from eternity” (25). Thus, Mary, in return for pre-redemption by Christ, becomes one with the sufferings of Christ, though because of her deep unity with Christ, her sufferings are no less his than the point of the lance. In this sense, the tears flowing from Mary’s face at the Cross are intrinsically linked with the blood and water flowing from the side of Christ: all is one in the unity between Mother and Son that existed from the beginning of time, was made flesh in the Incarnation, and is now made perfect in the redemptive act of Christ on the Cross.
"So You're the Infamous Simon Templar": A Hagiographic Note (Not Really)
I don't know if any of you are aficionados of sixties spy TV shows, but the other night we finished watching a set of A&E DVDs of The Saint. It was based on some books by Leslie Charteris from back in the '30s, I think. It's about midway on the Serious-Silly Mod Spy Three-Way Continuum between the Rule Britannia wackiness of The Avengers, the manic self-referential absurdism of Get Smart and the Graham Greene grimyness of Secret Agent (sing it with me now, you know you wanna: "Seeee-cret AAy-gent MAN! Seee-cret Ay-GENT mannnn..."). On the theme-music scale, it's also kinda nifty, though it could really use some Johnny Rivers…and then there was that unfortunate season when they changed the opening credits to make it sound almost like Christmas music.
Now, don't go and confuse it with the 1997 remake, an abomination staring Val Mr. "Excitement" Kilmer as the (amoral and rather dull) hero. Gag me with una cuchara. The sole highlight of this one was being able to look at Elisabeth Shue in the process, and even then that wasn't nearly enough to rescue this wrecked Volvo P1800 of a film. I say, look: rather than listen: nobody would want to hear the technobabble she spouted in her woefully-miscast and unintentionally funny role. She played a dippy Oxfordian nuclear physicist (!) with a geeky librarian-chic wardrobe that included the quintessential Catholic Girl Nerd's garment, The Jumper. Sadly, she wasn't a Catholic, or a Nerd, just a ditz. Nor was plaid involved, for those of you who read Envoy. On top of this, the producers managed, against all odds, to shove in some utterly out-of-left-field anti-Catholicism into the first five minutes of the film. That’s gotta set some sort of Hollywood record.
The original show is, however, a hoot. The plot and motivation's a bit thin: rich, goodhearted, sharp-dressing Simon "The Saint" Templar (Roger Moore, pre-007) jet-sets into international intrigue, beating up bad guys and saving damsels in distress against a melange of stock footage of exotic locales and charmingly obvious sound-stages. The production values were fairly high for the late 1960s, but still, I think I’ve seen the same underground cellar stage used for episodes set in South America, Venice and Loch Ness (!). Though it’s fun. Simon is, when you get down to it, a modern knight-errant (hence his last name, and his first, which puts one in mind of the valiant Simon de Montfort). The show is surprisingly chaste for a sixties production where Our Hero necked with the Damsel of the Week fairly regularly. While probably tres hep in its time, it seems weirdly wholesome today. And I welcome that.
Admittedly, high art it ain't, though it has its moments of James Bond coolness, and the fact we never really learn who Templar is, why he likes saving these people all the time, and especially where the heck he gets his moolah to finance all this only adds to the mystique. Or maybe it's just laziness. Heck, you decide.
Thursday, July 24
(a plain, ordinary reflection from the resident Carmelite-at-heart)
I realize this is a random rant. The timing is not quite right -- nearly the 17th Week of Ordinary Time. Really, this rant would work better the when ordinary time kicks back up after the Easter season.
That is because every year, with the conclusion of the Easter Season, every single American liturgical publishing company (subject for another post entirely..) spends a week or two trying to convince everyone that even though it's "ordinary time," the time is not ordinary! Rejoice! Jubilee! All the time! We call it ordinary, they remind us every year, because of an arcane Latin translation; in fact, every Sunday -- every day! -- is completely extraordinary.
That bit about the translation may be. But, honestly, what is so horribly wrong with being ordinary? Why can't this just be an ordinary Sunday? Everyone is going to treat it as such; so let's just be honest. Next Sunday is the 17th Sunday in completely ordinary, everyday time. Nothing grandly different about that Sunday than most Sundays before or since.
Wanna guess the next time you'll see that printed in your bulletin?
OK. Yeah. So why does this matter?
Let's start off by asking... "What is ordinary, really?" And it seems to me that "the ordinary" is the way God intended most things to be most of the time. I don't think anyone will really disagree. And if that's the case, what does it imply when a nation cannot STAND the ordinary?
Perhaps it implies a lack of trust or recognition of the Goodness of God. If we truly believe that God is Good, and that God loves us, does it not make sense that the most beautiful expression of His creation is the ordinary -- that if He is Good, that He saved the best for the way most things are, most of the time?
Consider the "ordinary means" of Sanctification: the Sacraments -- dios mio! could the Divine have fashioned a more good, more beautiful way of interacting with Fallen Humanity? Or consider the prayer life of the saints. If St. Simion Stock were reading this blog right now (bless me), woud he comment that his most intense prayer experience was his vision of Our Lady handing him the scapular? I rather doubt it -- if Our Lady directly appeared to any of us, let alone with a mandate to spread a devotion world wide, I think we'd be far too shaken and stirred to be excessively contemplative (ever notice how every apparition begins with the assurance, 'Fear not'?). I suspect holy Simion would say his most intimate prayer was during those years he had a morning walk around the monastery hills, or nightly visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Something quite... ordinary. Because the ordinary is the way that God intends for us to realize His presence.
Wait.. am I implying that Your Parish Liturgy Publications & Co often doesn't entirely grasp the point of the Mass? Am I suggesting that they really don't know what a goodly percentage of Catholics come to Mass for? Am I saying that these companies can often lack a sense of the Sacred and a grasp of the Presence of God?
I'll never tell ;)
- Andy (..Rooney?)
I demand that you become saints, and great saints.
--St. Maximilian Kolbe
Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics states that that the highest commendation belongs to those who do virtuous actions that they take pleasure in doing. However, one might claim to the contrary, with Kant, that commendation should go to those who do virtuous actions that are otherwise painful. Aristotle would respond that the person who takes joy in virtue has progressed farther morally than the person who merely endures painful virtue.
Rather than simply enjoying enjoyable virtuous things, a fully virtuous man, habituated through practice, as the Philosopher suggests, would take pleasure in a conventionally painful act such as blessing "those who curse you," for he would be properly attuned by his training (Luke v, 27). As Aristotle explains, "he who stands his ground against things that are terrible and delights in this…is brave, while the man who is pained is a coward" (Ethics 32). The man who is pained by his actions has not yet completed his ethical training. You have to keep working at it. It is common sense that acts done with pleasure and joy have a greater perfection of action than painful acts: we don’t praise the half-finished above the whole or complete. Why should we shower more praise on a man who finds duty joyless? Instead, we should reserve it for those who have taken virtue into their souls and do all actions with the hidden joy which virtue should possesses.
Aristotle's system works. The practice of virtue leads to the just man doing all virtuous actions, no matter how repugnant on the surface they seem, with joy, and in turn that leads to eudaimonia, a good, virtuous and productive life. I find his system to be in agreement with the Catholic morality that I profess; there exists the practical proof of Aristotle's system. When one can take pleasure in virtue, the most remarkable things can happen. I have a number of theoretical justifications in this matter, but none are more potent than the ones the Philosopher has already given us. We must not "take refuge in theory," as he reminds us (35). The greatest reason for my agreement lies instead in practical examples of such a morality--the lives of the saints.
In particular, St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) comes to mind. Kolbe sought virtue in a manner similar to Aristotle's; the perfection of his life and, above all, his death are proof that this method, in which joyous action is the highest form of virtue, works to give one a life—and death—of what the Philosopher called eudaimonia, sometimes translated as "happiness." Kolbe was once asked how to live a blessed life, a question not unlike Aristotle’s own problem of how to find eudaimonia. Kolbe responded by writing "v=V" on the chalkboard. The v indicated your will, while V indicated God's. In his death we find the ultimate proof of this. A good man, after all, has "a death worthy of his life" (19). Kolbe was condemned to Auschwitz during the German occupation of Poland. On 30 July 1941, the commandant ordered ten men executed in retribution for an attempted escape. Kolbe, as many of us know, asked to take one man's place in the starvation bunker.
This ultimate virtuous action was accompanied with astonishing and almost unnerving joy. A janitor stated that St. Maximilian led the others in the bunker singing hymns. The janitor added, "They were often so deep in prayer that they did not…hear that inspecting S.S. men [coming]." Kolbe survived the bunker and was put to death on 14 August 1941 by lethal injection. The fact that even one solitary soul can do such a monolithically virtuous action with such serenity is proof of the truth of Aristotle’s ethical idea of joyous virtue. It would have been impossible to do that if he had been a man merely enduring his duty. We may say that the difference between the man who does virtue but takes pain in it and the man who finds joy in virtue is the difference between the merely good man and the saint.
And in the end, as Leon Bloy once remarked, "the only tragedy is not to be a saint."
Architecture Learning From Nature,
from Marc-Antoine Laugier's Essaie sur l’Architecture, 1753
Towards an Incarnational Architecture, Part IV:
The Redemption of Creation
What does it mean that Christ redeemed all creation? We have seen already that it was indeed very good at its onset, but what does it mean to say that creation fell and was redeemed, and why was it redeemed along with humanity? Adrienne von Speyr tells us that the world was created in Christ and for Christ, and therefore, it was right that it should be redeemed in and by him Him. In Christ, "all things hold together," said St. Paul (Colossians 1:17), a statement which has peculiar resonance today if one is familiar with the realm of subatomic particles and nuclear physics, where virtually nothing seems to hold together on its own. Von Speyr, in her commentary on Colossians, continues, remarking that before all time, the Father "modeled His world after Him [Christ], since the Son's breadth, His divine essence, is before all things…and the fruitfulness that is enfolded in the world [now, after the Resurrection] is that of continuance in the Son" (Der Kolosserbrief, 33).
Now, even more than in the day when Bezalel built the Tabernacle and adorned it with images of God's creation, we can find pleasure, inspiration and sursumactivity in the world. Before the fall she bore some "trace of the Trinity," as St. Augustine put it (also found in Summa, I.xciii.6), and now, with the eyes of the redeemed Christ we may be able to see that all is indeed "very good." My friend Andy put it thus: after the Original Sin this [creation's sursumactivity] was not possible as God intended, and perhaps in a sense Creation was rendered somewhat impotent--by considering it, man could not drawn deeper into God's friendship, because without Christ man couldn't be drawn deeper into God's friendship, period. With the death and resurrection of Our Lord, we can once again be lifted up towards God--and so Creation was once again able to fulfill its supernaturally-oriented purpose. I can't think of a better way to put it.
All creation, now redeemed, either consciously or unconsciously does whatever it is meant to do for the love of God: "O ye fire and heat, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever. O ye ice and cold, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever," runs the song of the three holy children in the book of Daniel. We consciously strive for salvation because of the love and grace of God. Likewise, microbes swim across microscope slides unconsiously for the love of God. Acorns grow into mighty oaks for the love of God. God is the unmoved mover, and it's not for nothing that the Aristotelian cosmologists of the Middle Ages thought it was for the love of God that the crystalline planetary spheres were able to move. Perhaps that is not true in a strictly physical sense, but it remains just as metaphysically valid today.
The redeemed human body nonetheless remains the summit of creation and the supreme source of architectural perfection. I discussed this in my first post, and I think I would like to return to that in the next installment of my commentary on Incarnational Architecture, particularly the relational nature of the masculine and feminine human body and its relevance to the Trinitarian mystery.
Coming next week, si Dieu le volt....
Part V: The Communio Personalis of the Trinity and Architecture
I unearthed this link today. It's pretty darn hilarious, and serves, in it's own way, as a good reminder to keep things relevant when we're talking to others about the Faith. Enjoy!
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Part II
Mary in the Redemption begins with a short discussion of Mary’s role as “handmaid of the Lord,” but then moves on to discuss the classic theological concept of the pre-redemption – that is, Mary’s having been redeemed by Christ’s suffering before its chronological occurrence. Speaking “in ecstasy,” von Speyr states that, “Mary is from the beginning a gift made by the Father and the Holy Spirit to the Son, almost as if the Mother, in her instrumentality, signified a form of pre-gift or deposit.” In effect, this “gift of Mary” functions as assurance to the Son of the “suitableness of the path upon which he has struck” (17). Thus, from the beginning, Mary’s existence is prepared by God for the accomplishment of the Incarnation. This gift within the Trinity thus becomes the model for all other gifts. Though von Speyr does not mention it herself, the obvious implication of this idea is that this gift is reciprocated by Christ in the great eschatological dowry coming from his marriage to the Church, of which Mary is the type and “mirror,” to use the image of Raniero Cantalamessa (in his book Mary:Mirror of the Church).
Happy St. Boris's Day! And St. Gleb, and St. Christina, and the other St. Christina...
O Passion-bearers and fulfillers of the Gospel of Christ, chaste Boris and guileless Gleb: you did not oppose the attacks of the enemy, your brother, when he killed your bodies but could not touch your souls. Let him therefore mourn while you rejoice with the Angels standing before the Holy Trinity. Pray that those who honor your memory may find grace with God and that all orthodox people may be saved.
--Troparion, Tone II, Byzantine Rite
Well, today is a big day when it comes to saints. Today is the feast of St. Boris and St. Gleb, the two martyred sons of St. Vladimir of Kiev, who happens to be an ancestor of mine. (Long geneological story, that, since there isn't any Russian in my recent family tree, but I've found if you go back far enough you can prove descent from virtually anyone. For example, most people of western European extraction, including me as well, seem to be descended from Bl. Charlemage, though he had all those wives to help: not all at the same time, of course. But I digress.) They are better known in the West by their baptismal names of St. Romanus and St. David. Their feast day in the East is 2 or 15 May depending on whether you're with the old calendar or the new. They were killed by their evil uncle Svaytopolk who was jealous of their inheritance and wished to seize power. Sometimes they are not strictly-speaking considered martyrs but instead Passion-Bearers, a uniquely Russian idea which is rather like our understanding of St. Maximilian as the martyr of charity. A passion-bearer was a member of the faithful who bore his violent death with holiness and dignity. Today is also the feast of about a dozen St. Christinas. Well, three of them. There's the martyrs St. Christina of Tyre and St. Christina of Bolsena. (They may have been the same person due to the hand-written nature of early hagiographic records, which sometimes split saints, glob them together or even effect the occasional typographical sex-change. But anyway.) And there's my all-time fave, St. (or Bl.) Christina the Astonishing, who graces the upper corner of our website today. St. Christina was pretty darn astonishing, with her habit of levitating and her highly sensitive nose, which, it is said, could smell sin on people. She didn't care much for garlic, either. On this day, also, in 1936, at Guadalajara in Spain, Bl. Maria Angeles of St. Joseph, OCD, was shot in the street by Communist thugs. She is considered one of the three protomartyrs of the Spanish Civil War.
Wednesday, July 23
Tomorrow morning, Jeff Cavins is going to have a guest on his "Morning Air" radio show talking about Catholic blogging! You can listen to the show on the net from 7-9am CST; the encore will be on at 6pm CST.
Iconography in Solomon's Temple according to Helme and Corbett's Reconstruction
Towards an Incarnational Architecture, Part III:
The Goodness of Creation: Solomon's Temple and the Nature of Nature
I was amazed and humbled by the beauty and depth of the responses to the latest installment of Towards an Incarnational Architecture. In fact, I didn't expect I had anything else to write, but you surprised me, and I surprised myself. In many ways, your comments tied together my various thoughts in the first and second parts. In particular, I was struck by the notion of the redeemed holiness of creation as well as of the body.
Incarnational architecture images both Man, whose body is the summit of creation, and Creation itself, which is, in its totality, "very good," as Genesis tells us. "For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided; and hence the whole universe together participates [in] the divine goodness more perfectly, and represents it better than any single creature" (Summa, I.xlvii.1). He says also: “for the universe would not perfect if only one grade of goodness were found in things (Summa, I.xlvii.2) spoke of my fondness for the Dominican spirit, and perhaps seemed more surprised than I should have when I found my mind turning to il Poverello, but here we can see the gaunt, bony Seraph of Assisi embrace the solid, stony Doctor Angelicus.
At present, I am working on a watercolor painting of Solomon's Temple, actually. Elizabeth's excited comment, citing Exodus xv, "Let's have temples that are microcosms of the entire creation. God wants it this way […] beauty, symbols! Pomegranates, trees, flowering staffs, gold, purple, precious gems," comes with great resonance for me. Through a misreading of the Decalogue and the sorts of images one finds in Protestant Bibles, we tend to think the Israelites used no images whatsoever in their worship of God, as if they were Semitic Puritains. You couldn't be more far from the truth, as Elizabeth reminded me. Most reconstructions of the Temple (or even the earlier Tent of the Presence from Exodus, which Elizabeth was talking about) support the fact that Solomon's Temple, the perfect archetype of a Church in its God-given measurements, also bore a complex iconography painted on its walls and sculpted in its shape that took in the different goods of Creation.
While God was not depicted in human form (for God did not yet have a human face), the Temple, to all accounts, was as splendidly decorated as a Babylonian ziggurat. Its walls bore scarlet tile-work angels against indigo backgrounds, winged lions and winged bulls, vegetal patterns, palm trees, colorful abstract designs, and huge seraphim in gilded wood and bronze, standing guard over the Holy of Holies within and the great gatehouse without. One reconstruction even has the swirling glory-cloud of God, what the Hebrews called the Shekhinah (identified by some as the Holy Spirit) painted over the great portal.
So we can see it is appropriate that the great architects of history have often sat at the feet of Nature and studied her. Nature is solemn, but nature is also joyous: "a little, dancing sister," as Chesterton called her in his biography of St. Francis. What we learn in her God-given forms covers the gamut of human emotion. Thus, a solemn Classical temple, with its echoes of Alberti's mythic Primitive Hut, or a joyful rococo church with its seaweed sweeps of rocaille and asymmetrical plasterwork, or the splendid temple of Solomon, or its desert Tabernacle predecessor with its pomegranates and cherubim, can draw their different and various inspiration from creation.
Part IV: Architecture and the Redemption of Creation and Part V: The Communio Personalis of the Trinity and Architecture (thanks, Nicole!)
We just reached 1,000 hits! Thanks so much to everyone reading our blog and especcially to everyone who has linked us. We never imagined we'd hit 1,000 in less than a week! Keep on reading for more Catholic orthodoxy, news from ND, and of course, a healthy dose of sheer lunacy!
"...the translucent darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret..."
--St. Dionysius the Araeopagite (attr.)
I promise this is the last time I'll link to the Old Oligarch today rather than write something constructive, but the old feller has written a weird, fascinating and thought-provoking post on the glories of nocturnal life. While I tend to be religious about my sleep and don't stay up too late compared to my fellow college-students--I have never pulled an all nighter--I do have to admit there is something somewhat aesthetically striking about nighttime and darkness, not as a symbol of evil but as a veil to the Divine Light, which is "unapproachable" according to one of the Eucharistic prayers. God made the night, after all, just as He made the day. The tiny flame of the Easter Candle is far more beautiful in a darkened church than in a floodlit ultra-modern sanctuary. The mystical theology attributed to St. Dionysius even spoke, perhaps audaciously, of a "Divine Darkness" which was a Light that transcended even light. During the Mediaeval period, veils were drawn over the sanctuary during the Consecration, and today the Eastern Churches still use the iconostasis. Christ is the Sun of Justice, and you can't look directly at the Sun, lest we forget our humility. Let us not forget that sometimes we can find Him too in the dark night, whether the night of Bethlehem or the pre-dawn morning of the Resurrection.
Mary in the Redemption by Adrienne von Speyr:
Mary from the Perspective of a Twentieth-Century Mystic -- Part I
The Church throughout her history has kept up both a great mystical tradition and a great theological tradition. These two traditions constantly interweave, and their combination as what is called “mystical theology” has produced such great saints as Dionysius, author of the original Mystical Theology, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila. The twentieth century likewise produced a wealth of mystical theology: indeed, some would say that its final pope (and the first of the twenty-first century) is himself a mystical theologian. Among the giants of twentieth-century mystical theology was Adrienne von Speyr, a friend of Hans Urs von Balthasar (who was also her transcriber) who received the stigmata among visions of the Passion of Christ and other scenes from Scripture (indeed, many of her chapters are described as occurring “while in ecstasy”). She has previously discussed Mary in a book entitled Handmaid of the Lord, and now another work of hers on Mary, Mary in the Redemption, is available in English from Ignatius Press.
The theological reflections of Mary in the Redemption, as Balthasar states in the introduction, “probe the ultimate profundities of Mariology” (7). The book is arranged into short chapters that flow into one another, but it centers around questions involving Mary’s role in the redemptive act of Christ, especially her “pre-redemption” by Christ and her “co-redemption” along with her Son. In this review, I will investigate these and other main arguments of von Speyr, in order to ultimately come to a better appreciation of what she is attempting to accomplish with Mary in the Redemption.
As someone who, as a kid, used to go down to the rifle range with Dad and plug some targets (badly, I remember), it's kinda cool to recall that this saintly Passionist was quite a good shot with a pistol. Like the Old Oligarch reminds us today on his inimitable site. Someone else to add to Fr. Bryce's list of behind-kicking saints like axe-wielder St. Boniface, or St. John Bosco, who once used a primitive karate chop to fend off attackers. Or my fave girl Joanie on the Pony, St. Joan: she once chased some female, ahem, "camp followers" out of her army, whapping them with the flat of her sword, which broke in the process. Like Dave Barry says, I'm not making this up. My only fear now is whether St. Gabriel's story means that something sleazy ol' Voltaire said was right. You know, "God is not on the side of the big battalions but the one with the best shots." On the other hand, even a blind hog can find an acorn sometimes, as we say down here in the still-very-rural panhandle of Florida. Heh heh.
Old O's post also reminds me of my fondness for obscure patronal saints, as some are petitioning for St. Gabriel to be patron of handgunners, while he also mentions St. Fiacre as patron of certain diseases I can't talk about on a Family Website. St. Fiacre, also, is patron of taxi drivers, incidentally. There's all sorts of weird and wonderful patronages out there, from St. Martin de Porres, patron of Peruvian Television, to Our Lady of Grace, who looks out for motorcyclists, St. Arnold, patron of beer, and my dear friend St. Dymphna, the protectress of lunatics such as myself. Emily, Andy, and anyone out there in St. Blogs, can you think of some other fun patronages few people know about?
For the next week, I will be traveling to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World and will thus be "out of the loop." However, Emily has graciously agreed to post, in segments, my review of Adrienne von Speyr's Mary in the Redemption. Feel free to e-mail me or comment, and I will respond upon my return. To my fellow Shrine members, happy blogging, and to everyone else, happy reading! Pray to the patron of left ankles that I might avoid whapping mine!