Saturday, December 31
Friday, December 30
"I Might Become Protestant"
A thought which has passed through my mind only once or twice in my life. But let me explain: I think you'll be sympathetic.
I was recently in a city quite dear to me in which my favorite clerical institute has a significant presence (the fastest-growing institute in the States: 8 locations now!). Their parish was but a 10 minute walk from my hotel, so when I had an afternoon free, well, of course I knew how to spend it.
I looked up from my pew, by now it was about 2:30pm, only to see that a young priest (really, what did you expect?) was lighting candles and arranging a chair in the center of the sanctuary.* He came over to me and said that there would be a quick ceremony, but said that I could certainly stay to watch.
Never before had I seen a "Reception of a Convert into the Church" according to the 1962 liturgical books. If you get the chance: Go.
A woman, young (really, what did you expect?), emerged from the confessional. She was joined in the front pew by three family members, and I sat a few pews back on the opposite side of the aisle. We five were soon outnumbered: a very biretta'd choir soon emerged from the sacristy, and the 4 of them took up their respective (uber-nice) choir stalls. Next, two servers preceeded the aforementioned young priest, now vested in decent cope, to kneel before the altar. Note that the cope was purple.
Father Celebrant intoned the Veni Creator, and my afternoon was blest with a very fine live rendition of a very fine piece of liturgical praise. The song ended, the celebrant was led to a chair, which had been placed before the altar in the middle of the sanctuary. After some brief remarks in English, the candidate went from her pew and knelt before Father Celebrant.
She began by reading the creed. And then, well, I'd never read the full 1962 formula for reception of a convert before. She proceeded to renounce, in many and very specific terms, her protestant heritage; this long statement was crowned with a sacred pledge to accept the Sacred Council of Trent.
Satisfied with the statement, Father Celebrant began a silent Paternoster. An absolution of reception was pronounced, all stood up, and processed to vestibule of the church.
For my part, I left through the side door and walked back to my hotel, pondering my gratitude for this unplanned participation in the liturgy of the Church, pondering how cheesy the RCIA rites leading up to Easter Vigil had always seemed in my parish back home; pondering my hopes that the young woman would discover Christ, the joy of her youth, in ever deeper ways, and pondering--a bit more facetiously--how, man, I wonder what I would have to do to go through the same thing, myself.
*I must confess, this did not surprise me: though there was no reason to think that any service would be held in the church early on a weekday afternoon, still I knew I would see something cool when I left. These premonitions occasaionally happen to me. A few years ago, I was going to visit a city to see an art museum; and I had the thought, "I should bring my good rosary, so that when I see the Archbishop, he can bless it." I had no reason to think I would see the archbishop, but through an interesting turn of events, he did infact bless it before the day was over.
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2005 (Zenit).- Benedict XVI will publish his first encyclical in January, according to Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.For a second there, I thought it was about how God loves ad orientem Masses. *sigh* Oh, well.
Navarro Valls told the Italian news agencies ANSA and Apcom that the document, entitled "Deus Caritas East" ("God Is Love"), was signed by the Pope on Christmas Day.
Thursday, December 29
By which I mean, "What makes things POD cool?" Why is it so easy to like cassocks, incense, side altars, etc.? More to the point, how to these matter to the center of our religion and of our lives, Christ: are they relevant, or, like Calvin critiqued, are they a distraction?
Because the concept of "POD" is so instinctual, I'm not going to attempt a systematic answer. But please accept more of a reflection.
A while ago, I wrote: "Catholics have an inherant love for all customs obscure and funny-looking." And actually, more thought went into that than may have appeared.
Christianity claims to be one body, set apart and sanctified by the work and teaching of Christ, given to all men of all times and places, descendant from the Apostles and following their example in continuing to reach out to the world. To wit: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
"POD" things, at least the ones which are awesome because they are "obscure" and "funny-looking," express particularly, I think, the holiness and catholicity of the Church, and even hint at its apostolicity.
Our obscure traditions are obscured, usually, by the passage of time and the remoteness of the culture(s) from which they originated. Anyone who has studied the history of the old Mass knows that it is a jumble of symbols dating from many different times and many different places; as is, for that matter, clerical vestry. This very obscureness necesarily shows forth the catholicity of the Church: seeing a medieval custom continued today demands the recognition that the Church was present in the Middle Ages and, in continuity, is present today. Seeing a Gaulic or Greek or Italian symbol demands the recongition that the Church was present in that place, and now, across cultures and continents, is present here. The living obscurities of the Church witness to her character as universal, universal to all people and through all time.
Our customs hint at the Apostolic because it is that vital connection to the Apostles from which the entire edifice of the Church's credibility is drawn: we know what we know, we preach what we preach, and we do what we do because it was taught us by the Apostles, and kept by us in unbroken observance. How can one really believe the historical message of a historical figure can be preserved any other way? And by testifying to her presence in all ensuing ages, our obscure customs remind us of that link to the Apostles.
The funny-lookingness of our customs is important in expressing the mark of a Church set apart. The Church is not your life as usual; the Church cannot be your life as usual, because Christ came specifically to radically destroy your life as usual. We do not fit easily into ordinary catagories, and we cannot blend in with the surrounding landscape. In fact, the more we do "blend in," the less relevant the Church becomes: when the more the Church looks like the rest of society, when banality reigns within her, she shares that contempt which fallen society has for itself. Of course: the way in which we live our graced lives is the central, the core, and the salvific expression of our radical otherness, our set-apart-ness, that is to say, our holiness--for holiness is simply being set apart for God alone. But that reality is also expressed materially: we don't dress like you. We don't sing like you. We don't build like you. The Church is different, we refuse to blend into the world, and therefore we demand your attention--we demand that you consider the call of Christ to be set apart from the ordinary, fallen world in holiness of life.
It is easy to dismiss ceremony and custom as "superfluous," "frivolous," or unrelated to the Word born in a manger long ago. Then again, it is usually easier to be Cavlinist, removing things from tension (like grace-freewill or ceremony-authenticity or symbol-Christ) and opting for one extreme or the other. Free will can be tricky, but the Catholic does not, for that reason, throw it out, as Calvin acknowledges he does for the very reason of its trickiness. Talk of ceremony or symbol can become superficial, but the Catholic does not therefore dismiss it superficial: the Catholic insists on seeing its proper (not its extreme) role.
Quite the contrary, and exactly because of the incarnational principle which is the center of gravity in Christianity, these spiritual realities of catholicity and holiness demand physical manifestation. This manifestation is true, for truth is simply an expression which corresponds to reality. This manifestation is charitable, because it is a clear and easy (if simplistic) manner of evangelization: our weirdness compells the outsider to look for explanation, to be drawn in. And this manifestation, because it corresponds to the incarnational principle, is part and parcel with the Catholic vision and the Catholic instinct.
It's hardly peripheral.
The intent of my post is not, of course, to challenge that the notion of Church as Mother or as Bride of Christ, or the effectiveness or either title. But they do provide a framework for an observation I would like to make.
Amongst committed Catholics, an observer might note two general trends. Some very committed Catholics tend to hold things against "the Church" quite readily (usually, they mean the bishops, because this phrase is thrown around rather like "the Man"). The Church is to blame for this, the Church is accountable for that, the Church must answer for this. Certainly, they love the Church: usually, they have grown up very much "in the bosom of the Church," in a culture heavily marked by the influence of Church institutions, like schools and such. Yet there is a simultaneous familiariy and a sort of contempt which accompanies that familiarity.
There are also, amongst committed Catholics, those who are much less likely to criticize "the Church" corporately. Even where they might have the exact same complaints, these complaints might be directed at "the bishops" or perhaps not levied at any particular individuals, but also not "the Church." Consequently, the idea of holding the whole Church (from Justin the Martyr to Edith Stein) demanding an account for the actions of a few individuals--even bishops!-- "from the Church" doesn't particularly make sense. An observation of their usage of "the Church" tends, simultaneously, to be more broad: perhaps not trumpeting "we are the church!", but still speaking of "the Church" in a way that suggests the reaction of all the faithful through all time to the call of Chirst, or at least that community which directly inherits the Apostolic tradition in succession and teaching.
The first group of committed Catholics tends to have grown up, as I said, "in the bosom of the Church," and for that reason, I posit, tend to be older (since the Catholic ghetto was so largely deconstructed after Vatican II), or from areas of the Church where those institutions are somehow continued to exert a strong influence (older dioceses). Interestingly also, they tend to somewhat resent those institutions. The second group tends to be those who --even if they were born Catholics-- were not brought up in such an exclusively institutionally Catholic enclave; hence, I posit, they tend to be younger Catholics, to be converts, or to be those who are from younger dioceses where such a strong institutional presence has not been constructed.
I say this rather in reaction to something I read. In describing a new youth program at a local church, one 60-ish parishioner was saying, "This new program will be very good for the youth, it will let them do their own thing; it's too late for us, but not for them." Now, I can tell you that this concern which the 60-ish parishioner exhibited is (in my area) rather strictly confined to those who group up before the Council: they had a very thorough, but very strict, education in invariably Catholic schools, from kindergarten to college. In this context, his concern for the creativity of the youth rather makes sense. Since the Council, however, in this area, religious education has more or less ceased to exist; no one goes to Catholic schools, only a few to Catholic colleges. Creativity isn't particularly on the minds of the youth; one of my classmates in the program, who was not particularly religious, lamented that we didn't learn anything for all the activities we did.
I'm not sure what this really means, vis-a-vis the desirability of creating "Catholic ghettos." But it does seem to me that those who grow up in them, as I've remarked before, very often
(1) Seem to view the Church as "the system"
(2) Seem to place themselves outside or marginal to "the system"
(3) In their outlook, tend to resent "the system."
Whereas, those who have made more counter-cultural decisions to embrace their faith
(1) Seem to view the Church as a historic community
(2) Seem to more easily associate themselves with that living community (if not to insist that they ARE that community)
(3) In their outlook, tend to have a more tender care for that community
So while I'm not sure what this all exactly means, it helps me to make this observation. It reminds me that, in trying to understand the approach different people take towards the Church, they very often have different conceptions of the Church, which are very much a cultural thing.
Wednesday, December 28
It's difficult for me to tell if Rocco sounds more bitter or offensive in this post* or this post. So, what's up with that?
Somebody give this kid some money, because I can't deal with his mood anymore.
* He also succombs to a suprising error, facilely grouping the universal Church into trans-continental parties of "conservative" and "liberal" camps, itself a surprising move for those who know the Vatican or the global Church--particularly the global south. Anyone can fall for the "USA/Europe = the World" paradigm, I suppose.
We're listed under ... what?
Maybe we should make that our new motto.
Today is, of course, Childermas, the feast of the Holy Innocents. It's also the equivalent of April Fool's Day in Hispanic culture. Whether this is somehow a fossilized remnant of some of the topsy-turvy choirboy hijinks (such as the boy bishop and the raucous and sometimes sacrilegious celebrations that surrounded the surreal Festum Asinorum or Feast of Donkeys) associated in the mediaeval period with the stretch between Christmas and the New Year, I can't say. But the custom's still there. Once you've pulled your prank, you're supposed to cry, "inocente! inocente!" to recall the feast day, and to perhaps suggest a different sort of innocence--the gullibility of the poor soul you've just had your fun with!
More Happy Church Architecture
This is a model of the schematic design proposed by the firm of HDB/Cram & Ferguson, the successor to Gothic revivalist extraordinaire Ralph Adams Cram, for a new church for St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Hampshire, Illinois. When completed in 2008, it will be one of the first truly monumental church projects (1000 seats) of the incipient revival (along with Clear Creek Monastery and the TAC chapel), and the first one to be Gothic. This is the same firm, incidentally, behind the lovely new 200-seat parish church of Our Lady of Walsingham down in Texas. While I have not had the chance to work in-depth in the Gothic manner, I certainly love the verticality of Gothic churches and find HDB/Cram & Ferguson's contributions to the renewal of Christian architecture very heartening. More please!
The Camauro Returns: Round II
Tuesday, December 27
Wine on St. John's Day
Today is the feast of the Beloved Disciple, St. John the Apostle. It is apt that we find St. John, as one of Christ's most devoted friends, close to Christ's birthday in the calendar; and this feast (which he originally shared with St. James the Greater) is attested from ancient times at Rome. A mysterious feast of St. John's "departure," or "assumption" à la Enoch, is found in the Menology of Constantinople on 26th September, and the old Roman Calendar also contained a commemoration of St. John's near-martyrdom at the Latin Gate of Rome on 6 May.
St. John, in addition to a panoply of patronages including such diverse professions as bookbinders and art dealers and the town of Taos, New Mexico, is closely associated with protection against poison because of an old tale that he exorcized a poisoned chalice, from which the potion rose and departed in the form of a serpent. This attribute, which some authors say is a fairly late addition to the saint's depiction in art, may also relate to the Last Supper.
In any case, the Church in Her wisdom and Her delighful sense of fun, has traditionally encouraged the blessing of wine on St. John's feast day. It's funny I should be writing this, as I'm only beginning to accustom myself yet to the way alcohol tastes (it still seems a bit bitter to me, though white wine is a little easier on my palate, and there's a few other beverages I've enjoyed here and there); nevertheless this Christmas I've found a few libations that I find most pleasing to the tongue, such as the Spanish dessert sherry Viña 25, a favorite of my late grandfather back during his Cuban days, which is very good and rather on the sweet side, and also Chaucer's Mead from someplace called Bargetto Winery in California, which my father recently ran across while shopping for Christmas dinner. I don't know the first thing about wine--a flaw in my Catholic cultural education, I know, but I'm working on it. I'm not an expert, so if the stuff tastes awful, don't blame me. I don't think it will, though.
But anyway, the Church in Her wisdom has an elaborate blessing for the occasion, appropriately enough for a libation so tied into human culture and also into the central act of the Christian mystery. Traditionally, it's been done after the Last Gospel on St. John's Day:
First, Psalm 22 is recited:
The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing. / He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up on the water of refreshment. / He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for His own name's sake. / For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me. / Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me. / Thou hast prepared a table before me, against them that afflict me. / Thou hast anointed my head with oil: and my chalice which inebriateth me, how goodly is it! / And Thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. / And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto the length of days.The psalm is followed by the Our Father and a series of versicles. Then the priest says three prayers:
O holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who didst wish that Thy Son, co-eternal and consubstantial with Thee, should come down from heaven and be born in the fullness of time of the most holy Virgin Mary in order to seek the lost and wandering sheep and carry in back on His shoulders to the fold, and also that He might heal the wounds of him who fell among robbers, pouring in oil and wine; bless and sanctify this wine which Thou hast made from the vine for man's drink, and grant that all those who drink or partake of it in this sacred solemnity may obtain health of body and soul, and if they be on a journey they may be comforted through Thy grace and that their journey may be completed successfully. Though the same Christ our Lord. Amen.Now, I'm unsure whether there's an equivalent ritual in the new Book of Blessings which would substitute for this, but we're allowed to use the old ceremonies when no newer option has been set forth. Perhaps an abridgement of the last three prayers might work. Anyway, grab a bottle, grab your parish priest, and get your wine blessed. If you can't do that, there's also a toast for the day, described in the 1955 book The Twelve Days of Christmas by Elsa Chaney:
Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy apostles the branches, and Thou didst wish to make a good vineyard out of all those who love Thee, bless this wine and pour into it the power of Thy benediction, so that all who drink or partake of it, by the intercession of Thy beloved disciple, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, may be freed of every disease and pestilential attack and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.
O God, Thou didst create bread for the food of mankind and wine for its drink so that bread might strengthen the body and wine rejoice the heart of men; Thou didst also grant to Thy beloved disciple, Saint John, the grace of being able to drink the poisoned cup without harm and also of raising from the dead those killed by poison, grant to all who drink this wine the attainment of spiritual joy and everlasting life. Though our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The wine is poured into a glass by the father, who drinks and passes it first to the mother, and then around the table to children and guests, in commemoration of the disciple of love. A greeting showing that it is love that binds the family together goes round with the cup: "Drink to the love of St. John, the Apostle." "And where love is, there is God," responds the next member of the family, taking the cup and drinking.Sounds like a fine tradition. For more information, see Catholicculture.org and the original text of the blessing at Catholic Forum. Have a blessed, safe and holy St. John's day!
Monday, December 26
By the way, does anyone have any idea what that odd gallery is off to one side? I thought it might be an organ loft but that's very clearly back with the choir. Anyway, it looks to have the potential to be a harmonious extension of the old interior.
Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
“Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou knowst it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
Thou and I wilt see him dine, when we bearst them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.
“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread thou in them boldly,
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.
Sunday, December 25
From Today's Urbi et Orbi:
Read the rest here.
Urbi et Orbi
Saturday, December 24
Have a Merry Avoiding-the-Excesses-of-Capitalism Christmas!
Gloria in Profundis
There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.
Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all--
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?
For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.
Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.
(Thanks to Caitlyn of Spera in Deo for pointing this out to me).
Friday, December 23
O Emmanuel, our King and lawgiver, expected by the nations, and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.
Thursday, December 22
Having Some More Fun At the Expense of Dan Brown
Gandalf! What are you doing here? And why do you look strangely like George Costanza's dad?
Not only is Silas a top-secret Opus Dei assassin, but his hand can magically turn into a crucifix!
Gotta hide this bad dyejob somehow.
What the world looks like to a Priory of Sion member hopped up on ecstasy.
Soooo glad there's a big spotlight there.
Tom Hanks discovers the entire Gnostic gospels written on a grain of rice.
Who knew that a secret passageway connected the set of National Treasure with the Louvre?
Uh oh, Audrey. Umberto Eco's got us cornered and he wants his novel back.
Hitting the proverbial nail on the head...
"C.S. Lewis once discussed the problem in terms I here paraphrase: During Mass I can exercise either a critical or a devotional faculty, and the two are mutually exclusive. If my critical faculty is alert, it interferes with worshiping God, and has to be 'lulled to sleep' as it were. The eucharistic rite, when enacted properly, is precisely the instrument by which this faculty can be quieted and the devotional faculty engaged. However, this is dependent upon the expectation of participation in the Church's liturgy, not Fr. So-and-so's adaptation of it. For if I have reason to believe that the celebrant will depart from the text or the rubrics, my critical faculty is switched on whether I want it to be or not, because the celebrant's departures may be tendentious or heretical or imbecile or all three. And even if the celebrant's changes turn out to be within the bounds of orthodoxy and good taste, I still would have been forced, against my will, to engage in an activity of criticism rather than of worship. I will have been cheated of a Mass. "Precisely.
Entire article here.
O King of the nations, and their desired One; the cornerstone, you who make both one: come, and save man, whom you formed out of dust.
And the Madness Begins
You Can't Do That With Trousers
And now, some appropriate music for the occasion:
Donald, Where's Your Trousers?
I just got down from the Isle of Skye
I'm no very big and I'm awful shy
The lassies shout as I go by,
"Donald, where's your trousers?"
Let the winds blow high,
Let the winds blow low,
Down the street in my kilt I go:
All the lassies cry, "hello,
Donald, where's your trousers?"
To wear the kilt is my delight,
It isn't wrong, I know it's right.
The highlanders would get afright
If they saw me in trousers.
Well I caught a cold and me nose was raw
I had no handkerchief at all
So I hiked up my kilt and I gave it a blow,
Now you can't do that with trousers!
Glengarry tip: alert reader Joe J.
Christmas isn't the only thing I've been waiting for this Advent...
(Thanks to Tim for noticing.)
Nothing encourages An Almost Fanatical Devotion to the Pope even like a good hat.* And even better than the Pope wearing the Coveted Camauro, is the fact that everyone (except the usual sticks-in-the-mud) loves it.
The Telegraph's headline proclaims that the camauro "delights crowds."
They also report:
"The Pope was told it was cold outside and he said he had just the thing.
"He came out holding the hat and said he would wear it. He even joked that it made him look like Father Christmas."I really want to see the inside of whatever room he went into to get it.
That's fun. And really, religion should be fun. What would Teresa of Avila say?
"God and a camauro is better than God alone."
OK, she said it about chocolate, but...
*Except for, like, the Gospel. But, whatever.
"Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society," said the opinion of the seven-to-two majority, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
Unless, of course, those doors lead into the Canadian Supreme Court chambers, and that "consensual conduct" is the writing of majority court opinions. That particular act actually seems to jeopardize society pretty acutely.
Wednesday, December 21
O East, splendor of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and illumine those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Wheat and Tares
Consider this in anticipation of the Dappled Things photo post on the subject.
Papal Fashion Update
The camauro is back! Admitted, it's...a little funny-looking, but it's cool to think that such an antique headgear is back in use. (What else, besides the office, would Blessed John XXIII and Julius II il Terribile have in common, otherwise?) I just hope people don't start calling it the Papal Santa Hat. I'm holding out for the possibility of the camauro and the fur-trimmed mozetta together... Yes, I am such a geek. Chalk it up to the fun incarnational side of the Faith.
Zuchetto tip: Zadok and alert reader Tim F.
Tuesday, December 20
O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: who opens and no one closes; who closes, and no one opens: come, and bring the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.
Catholic Encyclopedia on the O Antiphons
An Afternoon Well Spent
Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
PG. 140 minutes.
Beaucorp spoilers ahead. You Have Been Warned.
I’ve scoured the film literature, the press releases, and anything else I could get my hands on, but I was quite disconcerted to discover there is no evidence whatsoever that the new Chronicles of Narnia movie actually had any representatives from the Faun and Dryad Anti-Defamation League (FDADL) on-set during production. No doubt the exploitation lawsuits (Nikabrik, Nikabrik and Ginarrbrik, Attorneys at Law) from young dwarves and elderly talking beavers will start rolling in.
Seriously, folks, the first thing I want to say about the new Narnia movie was that it was truly an afternoon well spent. While I'm not sure how Lewis would react to twenty-first century Hollywood, such a convivial soul as he would have certainly valued such an afternoon of good clean fun. Let's bear that in mind before we subject film Narnia to the death of a thousand reviewer cuts.
Now, putting on my critic’s hat, the picture is still a rosy one. Reviews have remarked on the film’s overall merit but tend to zero in instead on the film’s problems: Lucy’s purportedly inexplicable hug for the Professor, over-argumentative siblings, an over-powerful White Witch, a wimpy Peter, the infamous ice-flow sequence… I’d read about them all, but even going into the film knowing what to look for, these flaws are awfully hard to spot, if they’re there at all.
There’s the bigger question, though: is it as good as the private Narnia we’ve all got inside our heads? If it isn’t, director Andrew Adamson has gotten about as darn close as we could ever hope. While he has not literally re-created Pauline Baynes’s illustrations in 3-D, he has provided an equally compelling and remarkably faithful interpretation of Lewis’s world, while at the same time tailoring it to the potentialities and strengths of the big screen.
Adamson has used his special effects liberally but not imprudently. The film, by its nature, is awash with CGI, but it hardly feels so. Aslan, the centaurs, the fauns and the whole mythological menagerie of Narnia do not look like technological marvels—they look like very real creatures captured quite naturally on camera. We are also spared the grubby steel-grey sequences now tres hip in Hollywood—everything is as bright and beautiful as a medieval miniature and joyous to behold.
The script preserves most of the best lines from the book, adds a one or two good ones, a few serviceable ones, but nothing remotely bad. Most importantly, the script is on par with the visuals, avoiding one of the problems of the film version Lord of the Rings. While still possessing Tolkien’s wit, it was also filled with too many gnomic utterances, people silently staring off into the distance, and Aragorn screaming. (I still enjoyed seeing them, but you folks have to admit Aragorn does angst a lot.)
We spend a leisurely stretch towards the beginning (if the term leisurely can be applied to a Luftwaffe air raid) establishing the world where the children come from, the gritty, grubby and frightening world of war-torn Britain. The realism of this sequence throws us off-balance, and makes us expect more than the usual kitschy fantasy. It also reminds us the Pevensie kids have faced fear before, even if they are from Finchley. (All extra-canonical, but good additions all the same).
Professor Kirke (Jim Broadbent) is a bit player, but a good one. (His hairdo is a little bit crazy, though the book does mention him having a whole mess of very odd facial hair). The whole theater laughed when we heard the immortal question, "What do they teach them at these schools?" Initially, I was concerned that he seemed a little too credulous—at least for an audience who doesn’t know the Wardrobe’s backstory—of Lucy’s tale, but a brilliant little postscript interspersed between the credits serves to neatly balance that out and hint at the events of the Magician’s Nephew.
The Pevensie children are perfectly cast. They actually look like kids, unlike so many TV “teens.” Lucy (Georgie Henley) is the absolute standout, and inhabits her role brilliantly. She is lovable without being schmaltzy, solemn when need be, and always valiant, as she would come to be known. Both she and Susan remain distinctly feminine while nonetheless exuding a spirit of adventure and strength. Edmund (Skandar Keynes) is well-played, a little nasty, a little confused, a little bit pitiable, and ultimately repentant. The backstory provided for his treachery gives his actions texture and believability, but also makes no attempt to exonerate or downplay what he has done.
Susan (Anna Popplewell) may seem argumentative and overly sarcastic, though this seems in keeping with her absence in The Last Battle. In spite of this, her relationship with Lucy is both touching and humorous, and the two of them carry one of the film’s most moving sequences as they weep over the dead body of Aslan on the stone table.
Peter (William Moseley), however, is mildly disappointing. As battle begins, he takes on his regal role with the magnificence he would become famous for, but up to that point he is more reluctant than I would expect, more reluctant than the book would have it. In all fairness, this has more to do with his strength as a big brother protecting his family than his weakness as a future king. His performance is one of the film’s few major liabilities. Even so, he’s decent and will doubtlessly grow into the role as Prince Caspian rolls round.
On that note, much has been made about the Pevensies’ lack of English manners and sibling bickering throughout the film. They do argue a bit, maybe more than in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I recently re-read Prince Caspian and found that the four Pevensies were almost as contentious there as they were here. Set against the backdrop of the film, it’s not that big of a problem, though.
Lucy's performance was definitely the best in the film. The White Witch, Mr. Tumnus, and Aslan definitely qualify as a three-way tie for second place. The White Witch (Tilda Swinton) scared the crud out of me. Tilda is brilliantly cast: physically, she is beautiful in a way that is both faintly unnerving and not quite normal. She doesn’t look quite human; there is something preternatural about her. Tilda fits the book’s characterization while bringing in something fresh and icily interesting to a role that might have become a scenery-chewing exercise à la Cruella de Vil in the hands of a lesser actress. What is more important, I think, is that Tilda’s Witch is so believably nice when we first come across her, rather than just creepy. This makes the remainder of her performance even more alarming, reminding us that the glamour of evil can be remarkably persuasive under the right—or perhaps wrong—circumstances.
Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy) was also a delight. Now here’s a fellow who could have stepped straight out of a Pauline Baynes ink drawing. He exudes a gentle warmth and amiability and by the end of the movie he’s even had a chance to be a mite bit heroic. Incidentally, they say James McAvoy and Georgie Henley got to be quite good friends on set, and the big-brother, little-sister chemistry definitely shows up on screen.
As regards Aslan, all your fears of a silly animated Disney Lion should be set aside now. Someone described the joint performance as looking like “a lion inhabited by an archbishop,” but that misses the point. He exudes, not ecclesial hierarchy, but a certain natural majesty. You couldn’t have wished for a more noble Beast. I’m not sure what else to say about the CGI lion with Liam Neeson’s voice, but there was something a little eerie about watching the performance. I had just come from Mass that morning and watching Aslan’s via Dolorosa to the Stone Table put the morning’s events in a rather startling light. Lewis’s Lion was the result of a thought-experiment which put Christ in animal form: and the way Aslan appears on screen is remarkably convincing: majestic as a Pantocrator but yet strangely lovable, in the best sense. But scarcely cuddly or safe. He is, as Mr. Tumnus reminds us, not a tame Lion.
There are a few curious tweaks here and there: they’re worth mentioning, but they hardly spoil the overall picture. The White Witch’s death could have been a bit more dramatic, while the scene where Aslan liberates the statues from the Witch’s palace is surprisingly condensed. More significantly, the dialogue explaining the Deep Magic is handled slightly differently from the book. Some have complained it sounds a little too much like The Force from Star Wars, but there’s one line in the whole film that would suggest that, and you’d only think so if you really sat down and picked it apart. Furthermore, Aslan’s (non-textual, but still appropriate) exclamation that He was there “when the Deep Magic was written!” definitely makes clear who’s in charge here. Admitted, the White Witch doesn’t seem as freaked out by Aslan as in the books, and perhaps that is a little unfortunate, but some of the hysterics Lewis describes might have translated poorly onto screen. A few nervous twitches here and there might not have been a bad addition, but it’s not worth worrying about.
(Admitted, the denoument of the Infamous Ice Flow Scene is a little silly--if only because of hypothermia--but it's over with quick enough, and easily excused. The shots of the waterfall thawing were kinda cool, though.)
The rest of Narnia’s creatures are remarkably well-realized. It’s hard to talk about film Narnia without referring to the Peter Jackson movie trilogy. There are a few obvious nods to it scattered throughout the film, which doesn't bother me that much. One needn’t reinvent the wheel too many times. Lewis’s books are masterpieces of economically elegant and charming narrative, just as Tolkien’s are epic in their grandeur. Lewis’s mind worked differently from Tolkien's; his creation of Narnia was more impressionistic than Tolkien’s near-obsessive charting of centuries of history. Adamson has to fill numerous visual gaps which Lewis never needed to consider, because a book and a movie work differently.
He has done a fine job. The Beavers are remarkably convincing and make a cute couple. Dawn French and Ray Winston occasionally verge on burlesque with their cockney accents, but all-in-all they’re really quite charming. (And while I’d been concerned Mrs. Beaver was a bit too mothering in the face of danger, it’s all there in the book—in fact, she even tried to pack the sewing machine when they’re about to make a run for it). In fact, I can just about forgive Dawn French for her turn in The Vicar of Dibley after seeing this. Adamson sails dangerously close to Tolkienizing Narnia by fitting out his centaurs and fauns with an arsenal full of breastplates, helmets and lances—Lewis is silent on the subject outside of the Pevensie armory—but this is the most welcome, and least distracting, of his innovations. Unlike the tediously grubby weaponry which dominates Jackson’s vision of Tolkien, like everything else in Narnia there is very real romance and chivalry amid the equally real carnage of the battlefield.
There are numerous intruiguing little touches, like the reservist female centaurs (like female carabinieri, I’d not known they existed) with their bows and arrows, or Tumnus’s bookshelf with the now-infamous text Is Man a Myth? depicted with the bibliophilic elegance of a Victorian zoological text. He also goes a bit beyond the bounds of normal fantasy iconography by tossing us a few visual curve-balls: the White Witch’s art-deco chariot, a wonderful Cair Paravel equal parts Medicean Florence and Minas Tirith with a bit of Portuguese belle-epoque garden folly in there somewhere; and the home of Mr. Tumnus, with a little bit of Jugendstil here and there to make life interesting. Unlike Jackson’s films, where some have complained that evil got all the coolest weaponry and visuals, while the White Witch may be glamorous in the way wickedness usually is, Aslan’s forces are ultimately far more beautiful and terrible to behold.
(The dryads were a little odd, though. The one visual I would have changed was the whole flower-petal thing. I always figured they looked, well, a bit more human. But I'm being pedantic.)
And then there is the landscape. I was recently chatting with Lizzy from Alle Psalite (incidentally, the deputy head of the Faun and Dryad Anti-Defamation League’s Gonzaga branch), and she was struck by the largeness of the Narnian landscape, grander and more sweeping than she had imagined it. This may have more to do with the small-screen BBC adaptations we grew up with—beloved, yes, but lower-budget for sure. Admitted, we all know Narnia is but one-fourth the size of the smallest Calormene province, but Adamson was wise to pump up the scenery so gloriously to fill the big screen. It reminds us that in addition to being a tale of four children, it is a tale of four children who become kings and heroes and do quite a few things that would only seem possible in the sharp, fresh, invigorating air of Narnia.
Another reason to be happy is we have at last a family film which shows heroism and moral choices with the appropriate gravity, and will have something to please even the most divergent gaggle of parents and kids—knights in armor, talking animals, valiant young ladies in long flowing dresses, God, sacrifice, mercy, redemption, forgiveness and love. And a refreshing absence of burps, farting, sight gags, scatological comedy, and teens who look about 26.
Go see Narnia. That’s all I can say. Go see it, sit back, enjoy, and go back to a fine supper of sardines, buttered toast, and tea. Maybe you'll even run into a faun on the way home.
Monday, December 19
A Smiley with a Biretta!
Thanks to Fr. John for leaving this in our comments box.
And let's not forget the classic pontifical smiley:
But now, I'd like to introduce ... the Eastern patriarch smiley:
(feel free to tweak this, I made it up just now)
O Root of Jesse, you who stand as a sign of the people, at whom the kings quiet their mouths, and whom the Gentiles shall entreat: come to deliver us, and do not delay.
Via Zadok, there are good mp3s of the antiphons at the NAC's site.
An Australian priets alludes to a question I've had for a while: Where do people get a discipline, or a hair shirt, anyway? I'm picturing a trenchcoat on Via Seminario after dusk.
I guess that isn't really news.
Sunday, December 18
Just got back from Narnia. I'll save my more detailed critique for later, but up front I'll say we all had a jolly good time, and it was definitely an afternoon well spent! I look forward to seeing Prince Caspian. Though I may start having nightmares about Tilda Swinton in the mean time. Anyone who has the ability to freak me out like that is seriously talented.
Also, no centaurs were harmed in the making of this film.
December 18: O Adonai
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gave him the law on Sinai: come to redeem us by your outstretched arm.
Also, see Fr. John Zuhlsdorf's site for more information on the O Antiphons, including the chant.
Saturday, December 17
The Countdown begins..
O Wisdom, which comes forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to another, ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come to teach us the way of prudence!
Our Lady, Queen of the English Martyrs
Pictures available here. Click to enlarge. Picture copyright Matthew Alderman.
This fall, our studio project for the School of Architecture was to design a 500-700-seat parish church for a site at 1500 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, a lot currently occupied by the 1997 Old St. Mary's Church, a ministry of the Paulist Fathers originally founded in 1833. Old St. Mary's was begun shortly before the housing boom in the area led to a massive upsurge in gentrification. Land prices have shot up and a large number of urban professionals and young families have begun to make their home there. As a consequence, any church placed on the site has a golden opportunity to evangelize.
What We Replaced
Old St. Mary's is a standard example of the typical contemporary quasi-Corbusian parish church. While possessing some figural sculpture, it is unabashedly modern, if one defines modern as doing pretty much the same thing as everyone else has done for the past fifty years. Seating is fan-shaped and slightly sloped, and the Eucharist is reserved in a glass cubicle which opens into the church and to a large narthex/gatherine area where there appeared, quite inexplicably, to be a wetbar of some sort. The complex has an unremarkable skyline, low to the ground in an area where dozens of skyscrapers will rise in the next decade.
In all fairness, the complex has some redeeming features, like a courtyard which is surprisingly quiet despite the high traffic noise out on the pavement. In general, the project attempts to hold some portion of the street frontage, if perhaps in a somewhat uninspiring manner, with the exception of the unsightly parking-lot next door.
The Design Brief
Our mission was to design a church for the site which would fit into the urban environment and also provide a true experience of the Domus Dei to a thriving neighborhood. We were encouraged to read The Spirit of the Liturgy by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger and to study numerous ancient prototypes of church architecture, stressing the issues of symbolic eastward orientation, iconography, liturgical considerations and also the importance of popular piety in a parish environment. If we wished, we could invite a new religious order in or even have a different rite of we liked. Each one of us were to design a different solution to the problem, same site and roughly the same programatic requirements. I chose to establish an Anglican Use parish in Chicago for the Catholic Pastoral Provision because of the increasing likelyhood of various breakaway Anglican groups joining with Rome in the near future.
Design Issues: Style
English Catholicism, and the Anglican Use in the United States, has long been associated with Gothic architecture. With the exception of the Brompton Oratory and some of the more extreme members of the high-church wing in Anglicanism, there have been few attempts to introduce continental Baroque into England and English-speaking culture. However, in light that I had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of an enthusiast of the Baroque, Professor Thomas Gordon Smith, and considered myself more competent in that style, I decided to take up the project of starting with the uniquely English Baroque idiom of Sir Christopher Wren and re-imagining it as a Catholic style.
In my research, I discovered England's church architecture and continental Baroque had intersected several times before. The (sometimes quirky) high-church revival of James I and Charles I had used baroque for their choir-screens and altarpieces almost as much as Christopher Wren's preaching-hall City Churches. Some Catholics, come the restoration of the hierarchy in 1840, had argued for following Tridentine models rather than the Sarum Gothic of Pugin and his followers. I learned more about the "Back to Baroque" movement in the Church of England, which I had already known a little about already. While ridiculed in many of the works I had read, I discovered others had more sympathetic views of this exotic ecclesiastical outlier and its most prominent designer, the talented (though agnostic) church furnisher Martin Travers. I found some beauty, and I found some kitsch, and I separated the wheat from the chaff.
While there was room in the world for both Gothic and baroque, I decided to go for Baroque in this context. Our Lady, Queen of the English Martyrs would be in the grand tradition of the immigrant parishes of St. John Cantius and St. Mary of the Angels, examples of a mingled European-Midwestern architectural heritage largely unknown in the city churches of Gothic New York and elsewhere. But I thought it essential to make it a distinctly English expression of Catholic Baroque. This had been done before in Chicago, too, when the great builder Cardinal Mundelein had adapted New England Georgian architecture--distinctly American--to the Catholic liturgy at the seminary that now bears his name. Wren would help, and so would Travers--though it struck me the best way to go about was to imagine what their work would have looked like had they themselves been Catholic. How would English craftsmen have adapted Baroque to their rood-beams and altarpieces, their choirstalls and organ-cases? The result would be a unique mingling of English and Italian forms, showing both the parish's unique Anglican identity and also its loyalty to Rome. The project was, in part, an attempt to prove the relevance and compatibility of Catholicism's Roman heritage to reunited Anglican custom--and to English-speaking American Catholicism in general.
Design Issues: The Urban Landscape
Churches are almost inevitably overshadowed by city skyscrapers these days. While not a high-rise neighborhood, South Michigan Avenue was well on its way to becoming one. Any church placed there had to stand up proud and straight and be recognizable against the titans that surrounded it. I considered Sant' Agnese in Rome, which occupies a similarly awkward block, hemmed in on two sides by palaces and shops, the lofty tower-churches of Guarini, and also the strange American tradition of the skyscraper church that one finds represented in the Methodist Temple in Chicago and Riverside Church in New York.
While the idea of filling up the belfry with office space was unthinkable, the idea of height--of domes and spires, and big blocky ones at that, appeared crucial to me. A lofty dome and spire presented itself as the solution. But like the centralized Sant' Agnese, the dome had to be close to the street in order to be read as part of the facade. Hence, I decided a cruciform Greek cross plan which would give the dome the appropriate prominence as an urban landmark. This would also ensure greater readability in the church's volumes and allow monumentality and a properly liturgical, deep chancel in a site where the length of the church nave was greatly constrained by the shallow depth of the site.
Design Issues: Liturgy and Iconography
Following English custom, I placed an antiphonal choir between the crossing and the high altar, placed against a reredos as customary in the Anglican Use. The choir allowed a certain sacred distance to be placed between congregation and celebrant and making up for the lack of procession possible in a centralized plan. A rood-beam (the only Baroque one I know of ever to be proposed) marks the dividing line between chancel and nave. Seating for 450-500 was possible in the nave and transepts, though the deep chancel did not allow sidelines as perfect as I would have preferred. Side-altars, shrines and two confessionals adorned the transepts and aisles, ample enough also for the traditional singing of the Litany in Procession before high Mass.
An elaborate chronological iconographic program was proposed. Beginning in the narthex and baptistery, early English saints and martyrs were depicted, showing the country's early fealty to the faith, while over the confessionals were placed statues of SS. Gregory and Augustine of Canterbury, showing the ties between Roman authority, the power to bind and loose, and the missionary beginnings of English Catholicism. The transept altar of the Lord's Death, with images derived from medieval devotional images of the Mass of St. Gregory, was also adorned with depictions of the martyrs of the Henrican and Elizabethan persecutions. Over the high altar was an image of the Virgin in martyrial scarlet and royal gold, holding the Christ Child who bears the nails and thorns of His own death, linking the sacrifice of Calvary with the martyrdoms of Thomas More and John Fisher, whose figures stand on either side of the altarpiece. The theme of sacrifice is continued by the Throne of Grace Trinity at the top of the reredos.
The altarpiece, as the site of the Eucharist, also symbolically represents the reunion of the Anglican Use with Rome, and the papal keys are shown on a bracket holding up the crucified Christ. The insignias of the archdiocese of Chicago and the Pastoral provision are depicted on the predella. The themes of reunion and of Marian devotion continue in the Lady Chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham--the greatest shrine of pre-Reformation England and today focus of English Catholic devotion and ecumenism, and the female martyr Margaret Clitheroe. The Lady Chapel was designed to serve also as a daily Mass and Adoration chapel with three confessionals and access from an outdoor parking-lot when the remainder of the church is locked.
Design Issues: The Parish
A covered from one of the transepts to the Parish Hall and the school above allow access in winter, while parents can drop off their kids at the front lobby safely under the eye of the front desk secretary. While not included in the final presentation due to time constraints, the 5-story school block is able to serve K-8 (2 classes of 30 per grade), and has a rooftop playground, underground gym, library and cafeteria. On the ground floor are housed the parish offices. On the right side of the church is the smaller Rectory block with room for several clergy and guest apartments and common rooms, as well as a small office for housekeeping staff. A proposal to include two large apartments for married convert Anglican clergy was scrapped due to the impracticality of such an option.
Our Lady, Queen of the English Martyrs is, by its nature, something of a fantasy project and its budget would be beyond the scope of a normal parish. The Greek cross plan is, in the end, more suited to oratories than parishes, and I would in retrospect have preferred more seating. This is, however, a very appropriate project to explore in an acacemic environment. Someone has to begin to push the envelope if we are to revive the craft traditions that modernism has almost completely stamped out. Such a paper project allows the exploration of important design issues, such as the question of how to handle a city church in today's environment. If faced with a real project, I might have handled it somewhat differently, but many of the lessons I have learned as a consequence of this design would nontheless be of great merit to me. It has been an immensely enjoyable semester, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to undertake such a project to the glory of God and His Church, for the promotion of reunion and ecumenism, to learn from my mistakes, and for the opportunity to sharpen my own skills a little bit more.
Many thanks to all who helped me along in this exercise: to Professor Smith, my studio critic; to Michael Djorjevitch, Joel Pidel and Matt Enquist for architectural critiques and moral support; to my parents for input on my presentation and for being there; to the Shrine's Emily for helping me sort out the nitty-gritty of the acoustics, the school, and the parish offices; to Lucy of Lux Fidelis for additional help with the parish plant layout and for being a good studio buddy; the Shrine's Dan for dropping in for Lucy's and my reviews; and to Jane of Catholics, Musicians, Students, for helping me out with the particulars of how to lay out a workable antiphonal choir.
I'm going to be travelling to deepest Mahony-Land (Los Angeles) after the New Year. I intend, among other things, to go see the Yellow Armadillo for myself and decide what I think about it. I know it will be ugly, but I intend to find out for myself the extent of the ugliness and maybe if there's a few good things to see (St. Vibiana's tomb, that Spanish reredos randomly placed at the end of a side-aisle, the coffee shop) amid the Moneo nuttiness.
Anyway, I'm curious to know if there are any good examples of church design in the City of Angels; I hear St. Vincent's is a superb example of Spanish Baroque revival, for example. If any of my readers can think of some other must-see examples of church architecture in the area, or any convents, monasteries or seminaries worth visiting in preparation for my upcoming thesis design project, drop me a line or put a comment in below. Also, if you know of any liturgically good parishes (or even ones where they don't risk spilling Our Lord by pouring the Precious Blood out of a glass flagon, sigh), by all means let me know.
A really lovely shot of St. Peter's at dawn with the new piazza Christmas tree in the foreground.
Benedict, looking very papal.
A female Carabinere (they exist, huh...I'm pretty sure I've never seen one before. I'd always assumed the principal duty of the carabineri was to chauvinistically whistle at passing women), receiving Communion on the tongue at a Vatican mass for Italy's armed forces.
Benedict, again, looking happy.
And Benedict on what is definitely a dais and a throne. The backdrop itself is rather modern-looking, but I have to admit that it's a real throne with lots of steps. Another thing to smile about.
Friday, December 16
I am contemplating adopting a new item on my "To-Do Before Death" list.
Ever since I succeeded in meeting the Pope and a stigmatist, the list has been a little bland. Well, no more:
I'm sure you've all heard of Renaissance Fair(e)s: usually, they consist of rather mossy individuals with a penchant for the old, for pagentry, maybe even Latin. Does anyone else see it? The perfect storm: an audiance for Tridentine glory! Given that Latin Mass orders usually end up preaching to the very converted, it would be a unique venue for real evangelization, IMHO.
Thursday, December 15
One of the Pictures of the Year
I still have difficulty reading John 21 after the death of the pope which that passage described to a T (tee?).
One of the things which I remember most about the funeral, besides John 21, was the wind. The cardinals were blown everywhere, and it struck a chord: our rock had passed away. They looked as forlorn as we felt.
I knew I disliked the Euro for a reason...
Yet another confirmation of my theory that cuteness is at the root of all evil.
Wednesday, December 14
Random Outburst of Fraternal Papal Devotion
Beleaguered by the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord!
I have a theory that hard-core splinter groups (whether Latin Mass schistmatics or loopy Protestant extremists) tend towards conspiracy theories and general fear of the world because they have no one fighting the good fight for them in the larger world. That doesn't excuse us from bringing Christ to our own mileu, but it is comforting.
Especially when that someone has gotten so good at looking Papal!
If only teachers could marry! If only women could be teachers!
It's two, two, two altars in one!
I was in search of 'double effect' on Catholic Encyclopedia, when I ran across this hitherto unheard-of POD-ness:
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Double AltarHas anyone else heard of this before? I don't know what I think of it, and I'm sure they're not used (much) anymore, but the thought of liturgists everywhere having aneurysms over this is enough to make me smile, even while writing my ethics paper...
An altar having a double front constructed in such a manner that Mass may be celebrated on both sides of it at the same time. They are frequently found in churches of religious communities in which the choir is behind the altar so that whilst one priest is celebrating the Holy Sacrifice for the community in choir, another may celebrate for the laity assembled in the church.
Tuesday, December 13
Absolutely Nobody Expects the Californian Inquisition
Amy has the story.
My question, though, is why they picked on this one priest? He doesn't sound all that unique.
Monday, December 12
Catholics Make the Best Hats
That is so awesome.
Saturday, December 10
A Sri Lankan has been picked to help lead the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Rocco is right: that's a big deal.
I'm not shocked, but I am interested. Ratzinger listened to every bishop in the world at some point in time, and they all remark how well he did it. Everyone knows that non-Western bishops (particularly in India) have wanted to inculturate the Mass more thoroughly, and I think everyone knew they had a point: the West deserves a Mass with captures it's history (like our common Roman inheritance), and likewise other civilizations (Indian, Chinese, "Africa" if you can lump that into a single entity) deserve a Mass which captures their cultural inheritence. It's silly to have Latin as the normative language for Mass in China, because they have nothing to do with a Roman inheritence; rather, like the eastern half of the Roman Empire, they deserve their own liturgy.
Now, for good reasons I've been cool towards the actual implimentation of inculturation, because usually people think that means stuff like Mariachi bands. Inculturation shouldn't be a random selection of quasi-kitch elements of secular life, but rather the thought-out expression of the Eucharistic Mystery through symbols which, in a given culture, strive to symbolize what the Mass is. Royal imagery, solemn civil ceremony, architectural traditions with sacred roots (like the Roman Basilica, in our case) should be the source of inculturation.
This is a far cry from banalizing the Mass with elements from daily culture (however exotic). And, because Benedict loves the Latin inheritance so much, there is no need to worry that "inculturation" will be a means for liturgists to undermine our own Western tradition, where it resonates with the underlying culture (i.e., "The West").
I'll be excited to see what they produce, if in fact this is the reasoning behind the selection.
Friday, December 9
Is this a bad idea?
In principle, I oppose bumperstickers. I like my things to be neat, clean, and more or less as originally intended. For the same reason, I opposed face paint as a child and tatoos yet today.
But those euro stickers aren't too obtrusive, and I really like Mary. Given that a severe lack of sleep has really impeded my sense of judgement, however, (I shudder to think how thoroughly addicted to caffine I am right now, but I made it through the day on 3 hours' sleep without feeling tired), I thought I should submit the idea to public forum.
Thursday, December 8
FYI, today is a Holy Day of Obligation
Art, That of Suffering, and Evangelical Joy
This article, by an Evangelical who's had a really, really difficult year, has been making the rounds in St. Blog's, and pretty much everyone has had some take on it.
To take a different twist, I think it reflects half of my problem with evangelical art:
Evangelicals must rely on more than cheerful tunes, easy answers, and happy smiles. We must dig deeply into the church's treasures to find what it is like to worship God, not because of our circumstances, but in spite of them.
Now, of course, disclaimer---this is a generalization, plenty of other Christians fall into the same situation, not all Evangelicals do, etc. etc.
But it does point out a strength Catholicism rightly has: frankly, that life sucks, and somehow God is behind it all. Life's also great. But it also sucks.
So, while Kinkade et al. have a clear sense of joy, the genre as a whole can lack pietas:
Best. Painting. Ever?
There are other things at work which I think contribute to my distaste for most all of the evangelical painting I've seen. But, I'm not an expert in sociology or art theory, nor an Evangelical, and so welcome critique and comment from any feeling they have something to offer.
Papal Vesture update
Oh, and while you're out and about today, get off your tuchus and get your Plenary Indulgence! (See Drew's post below).
Camauro tip: Zadok.
BettNet links to this story, about university groups in Texas which, to promote atheism, are letting people trade in Holy Scriptures for pornography.
Obviously, as long as this is the Bible, it is offensive and the universities will do nothing. It makes me wish I was in Texas, because I would use the opportunity to test out my theory that Islam is the only institutionally-protected religion in United States: my bet is that they'd be shut down before someone could trade in a second copy of the Koran.
Wednesday, December 7
Ecce: the new Vatican Euros minted in honor of Benedict and World Youth Day Cologne.
None of you know how much I want these. Or would, if they didn't go for $500.
Mark Shea hightlights a phrase from this review of Narnia:
"Believing cut Lewis off from writing well about belief."If THAT'S not true, I don't know what is.
Praise God! The author is on the brink of conversion. All he has to do is realize that having sex cuts a lot of people off from writing well about sexual ethics.
Pope Benedict has issued a plenary indulgence for the Immaculate Conception in order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
I think the only person who will enjoy commemorating Vatican II with a special indulgence more than I is the Holy Father himself.
The decree explains that "when [the Pope] renders public homage of praise to Mary Immaculate, [he] has the heartfelt desire that the entire Church should join with him, so that all the faithful, united in the name of the common Mother, become ever stronger in the faith, adhere with greater devotion to Christ, and love their brothers with more fervent charity."
What should I do?
- Participate in a sacred function in honor of the Virgin*
- The Usual Conditions (as follow):
--- Sacramental Confession
--- Eucharistic Communion
--- Prayer for the intentions of the Pope
--- Removal of attachment to sin.
*Other conditions may apply. See the link above.
Tuesday, December 6
Pope Calls for More Efforts in Liturgical Music
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appealed for greater attention to sacred liturgical music, in a message sent to the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
In his brief message to Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Pope greeted the participants in a day of study organized today by that Vatican dicastery on the topic "Sacred Music: A Liturgical and Pastoral Challenge."
The congress was responding to Pope John Paul II's desire, expressed in a 2003 chirograph, in which he called the dicastery to intensify its efforts in the field of sacred liturgical music.
"Echoing the call of my beloved predecessor, I would like to encourage those who cultivate sacred music to continue this journey," said Benedict XVI said.
In particular, the Holy Father suggested that the Vatican congregation reflect "on the relationship between music and liturgy, while remaining attentive to practical applications and experimentation, and maintaining constant understanding and collaboration with national episcopal conferences."
When opening the congress, Cardinal Arinze explained: "Sacred music must be in accord with the grandeur of the liturgical act that celebrates the mysteries of Christ; it must be characterized by a sense of prayer, beauty and dignity."
Vatican Radio quoted him saying: "In no way must it give way to shallowness, superficiality or theatricality."
Monday, December 5
Although I feel no need to get on the "diss Sullivan" bandwagon, he demonstates that he has absolutely no knowledge of what some seminaries were like in the 1980's with this quote:
"But part of what may have contributed to disturbing sub-cultures in clerical contexts is the kind of closet and secrecy that expresses itself in camp and irony. Take the secrecy away and you can clear the air."
Yeah. If any of you know well a priest (or ex-priest) trained at that time, ask them how closeted the actively gay subculture was. Yeah.
Sunday, December 4
K-W passes along this Do-It-Yourself Impressive Theological Constructs.
Choose any 4-digit number and use the chart to create one of 10,000 potential theological sentences!
Example: "1557" translates to "A formal analysis will quickly show that the homoletic problem calls into question undue reliance on derivative materials."
Saturday, December 3
BBC reports that a youth group at a church in Nuremburg has produced a calendar in which students recreated scenes from the Bible, well, au natural.
One girl, who posed as the prostitute Rahab, explained, "We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people."
I guess that is what happens when reading the Bible becomes a virtue onto itself, and not a means unto our Final End. As if knowing there is some prostitute name Rahab, and sinning, is somehow salvific?
Said stellar pastor Bernd Grasser, "It's just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the bible."
Dirty. Old. Man.
"Anyway, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude."
No... but I did read something about committing adultery with the eye, and tearing out eyes that cause you to sin. Pornagraphy and Christianity are polar opposites. Why is that surprising? They are the two opposite interpretations of "This is my body, given up for you."
Perhaps most offensive, it was photographed in their gothic church building.
They take our churches, and this is how they use them?