The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Letting the Laws Sleep

From Pierre Hadot's book, The Inner Citadel

"....the formula 'to let the laws sleep' was a proverbial expression, meaning that, in case of serious crises, we must resign ourselves to silencing our moral principles." (p. 13)

"When Apollonius died before Marcus became emperor, the latter was deeply grieved, and wept abundantly. The courtiers reproached Marcus for his demonstration of affection, probably because they considered his philosophical pretensions to be a joke, and wanted to show him that he was being unfaithful to his own principles. However, the emperor Antoninus Pius said to them: 'Let him be a man. Neither philosophy nor the Empire can uproot affections.'" (p. 15)

Since the rise of absolutist ideologies, we moderns (or post-moderns) have become more and more inflexible about our supposed "principles". Any breech of logic or behavior is taken advantage of and used in polemics against others. True, this is merely part of fallen human nature. We, however, through psychoanalysis and other modern tools, have exalted it to an art.

As I have cited, the knowledge of our own weaknesses is the starting point of true wisdom. We are human beings first, not pawns in ideological or theological games. You have to be a human being before you can be a saint or a sage, and I don't think people understand that anymore.

This is all a question of balance, of course. But we are indeed in a time of crisis, and will have to let the laws sleep more and more.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Ontological, Spiritual, Liturgical

"Each man attends to his sacrifice according to what he is, not according to what he is not; therefore the sacrifice should not surpass the proper measure of the one who performs the worship." -Iamblichus, De Mysteriis

I stopped attending daily Mass as a teenager when our priest wanted us to start making a circle around the altar during the service. For me, this just didn't seem right. I did not have any knowledge of ancient Christian worship, but something in me just clicked and said: "This doesn't seem very reverent." To this day, I wince whenever I go to Catholic service and see the sanctuary (if there is still such a thing) bombarded with people casually moving about.

If we can put our finger on one of the major problems with Christian liturgy and practice today, it is the abandoning of the concept of hierarchy. With the new "People of God" theology so in vogue with many theologians, the "priesthood of the faithful" has become the juggernaut that has revolutionized everything in Christian life from how we worship to how we think about creation. To say that someone is more ontologically fit to do something is the greatest heresy of all: witness the on-going debates on women's "ordination" (if such a thing is even possible). Even among traditional Christians now , it can seem that all of the bows, hand-kissing, genuflections, and other acts of reverence are quaint gestures from a backward era that still for some reason give us a sense of comfort. In other words, they are nice, but have no real meaning anymore. If that is indeed the case, then we would do best to abandon them as soon as possible.

I tend to think that it is the mysterious figure known as St. Dionysius the Areopagite who is greatly responsible for the traditional Christian concept of liturgy. This is interesting, since he was obviously not St. Paul's interlocutor in the Book of Acts, but more likely a fifth century convert from the Neoplatonism of Proclus, and Proclus was influenced greatly by Iamblichus. In Dionysius' universe, all lower things are moved by higher things: this is the principle behind his great book on the celestial hierarchies from which Christendom gets much of its beliefs on angels. Even in the angelic choirs, higher spheres (the Cherubim and Seraphim) move the lower angelic choirs, but always through mediation. That is, they move even the lowest spheres by moving the spheres directly below them, never directly.

In Dionysius' work on the ecclesiatical hierarchies, the same principle is found. The bishop is he who is in the highest state of union with God, and moves the priests who are in a state of illumination. Through the priest, the deacon, who is on the path to purification, moves the people in prayer. (This is still seen very much in the Byzantine liturgy, where the deacon actively leads the people in the litanies.) In other words, for Dionysius, these grades of ecclesiastical offices were not just functions that could be performed by anyone, but rather grades of initiation into the life of God. It was the responsibility of the higher grades to move the grades immediately below them into greater union with the Trinity.

Of course, we know that history has not always proven this to be the case. As one Romanian priest once said, "Hell must be a very colorful place with all of those mitres moving about." This is very much an ideal of how the Church should work, but it is nevertheless an ideal for which we must continue to strive. I being an ordinary Christian gives me a very important function in the worship of the liturgical assembly, but it also means that there are things that I cannot do. In the fundamentals, we are all equal in our prayers, but as to who offers the sacrifice, who is leading us to God from the altar, that is not me. I need the priest there, and he alone is allowed to do some things, to say some prayers, and to him is due a great deal of reverence because of this. To paraphrase Iamblichus again, there is something profoundly self-emptying in this, but it is only through the recognition of this fact that I can ascend spiritually.

I think the best figure of this in the Western Church is during the Solemn Roman High Mass, where the priest, deacon, and subdeacon stand in a line facing the altar. When the priest moves, they all move in unison, in a line, and on different descending grades of the altar. The faithful in a sense move as well in their hearts when this occurs. When I first saw this, then I understood why I refused to swarm the altar as a teenager. My business is down here, watching and praying.

(to be continued....)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Keep this in mind....

"The starting point of philosophy is our consciousness of our weakness and our incapacity with regard to necessary things."

-from the Discourses of Epictetus

If people accepted this principle substituting the word "philosophy" for "theology", half of the so-called "Christian" blogs and chatrooms would shut down tommorrow.

"With regard to those who are different from him [by principles of their life], [the philosopher, or we can substitute would-be-theologian] will be patient, gentle, delicate, and forgiving, as he would toward someone in a state of ignorance, who missed the mark when it came to the most important things. He will not be harsh to anyone, for he will have perfectly understood Plato's words: 'Every soul is deprived of the truth against its will.'"

-also from Epictetus

God give me the grace to behave in this manner!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Inner Citadel

A book by Pierre Hadot on the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

No short review would do justice to this book, particularily by a novice in the history of philosophy like myself. If you want to know what this book is really about, please read it. I will merely touch on some themes here.

Hadot touches mainly on how these writings of Marcus Aurelius embody Stoic beliefs and practice. One of the main goals of Hadot's scholarly career is to take philosophy back to its roots as a way of life and spiritual exercise, and not just a vain exercise in dialectics. Indeed, the first philosophers belonged to schools very similiar to Christian religious houses, and philosophizing entailed following a strict canonical tradition already laid out by the school. Philosophy was not about creating an eloquent and elegant new discourse, but rather a pursuit of wisdom that leads to hapiness.

The Stoa are one of the more famous groups, somewhat noted for their lack of emotion. This was not the case. For the Stoa, cosmology governed their ethics: the universe was governed by reason, and man's goal was to assent to that reason, no matter what apparent evils it might allow. In a real sense, for the Stoic, the only real evil is moral evil, that is, the evil that one chooses to do. The realm of reason and free choice could not be touched by any apparent cosmic disorder: man is free to choose, and in that lies his dignity.

Marcus Aurelius wrote these meditations in order to remind him day to day the path of thought he had chosen as philosopher-emporer. Why, however, should a 21st century Christian study his mode of thought?

We should say that Stoicism is not compatible with Christianity in many respects. For one thing, we reject the Stoic cosmology of the eternal return and the absolute necessity of cosmic reason. This moment that you are passing through now, reading this blog on a glowing screen, in the Christian system is unique and infinitely important; God has willed it from all eternity, and it will never be repeated. It is caused by the love of a Personal Being who could have meant it not to be so. For the Stoic, this moment will repeat itself an infinite number of times due to the intransigent rule of the Fire of Reason.

Dostoyevsky posed an interesting wager: what if the eternal beatitude of all could be obtained at the sacrifice of one child suffering an agonizing death? Would it be worth it? For the Stoic, it would; it would be the law of cosmic fate. But this is not the God who will wipe the tears from every face. In the face of Hellenic resignation to the Fates, we can only defiantly pose our Hebraic roots that have given us the sentiments of the Psalms and the compassion of the Gospels. The Stoic system flirts with the inhuman; our philosophy is of the Logos who became human and took on our weakness.

So what use is this book, then? A good dose of reason and responsiblity can't hurt post-modern man, and Marcus Aurelius packs quite a dose. Also, seeing how the ancients did not see philosophy and learning as something in itself, but something that served a higher purpose is also an important lesson. In spite of my criticisms of their system, these ancient thinkers were still grounded in a healthy relationship between learning, tradition. and spiritual exercise. We, even though we think we have the truth, have a dysfunctional relationship with how we understand and wield that truth. And that makes this book well worth reading.

In the next few weeks, I will post some gems from this book that I think are well worth commenting on.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sex and Scandal

I've finally finished Pierre Hadot's book, The Inner Citadel, on which I will comment in another post. Here, however, is a very pertinent quote for the contemporary cultural situation in which we are living:

"It would, moreover, be interesting to psychologize some historical psychologists; I believe we could discover in them two tendencies. One is iconoclastic: it takes pleasure in attacking such figures as Plotinus or Marcus Aurelius, for example, who are naively respected by right-thinking people. The other is reductionist: it considers that all elevation of the soul or of thought, all moral heroism, and all grandiose views of the universe can only be morbid or abnormal. Everything has to be explained by sex or drugs." (p.257)

Hadot says this in regards to scholars accusing Marcus Aurelius of being a heroine addict, but we can see a parallel in the whole Da Vinci Code fad going on right now, which is also tied in with a revived obsession with Gnosticism.

The modern enemy of Christianity of course cannot accept that Christ is the Son of God, so they attack Him by saying that He had carnal relations, and was thus just a regular human being. When truth is thrown out the window, the only thing left is the tantalizing idea that sex governs everything, and even the most revered person in history had to succumb to it. This is also the best way to justify any form of moral licentiousness. And in a hyper-capitalistic atmosphere, sex sells, even if it makes poor scholarship.

As for Gnosticism and the idea that the Christian Church has been hiding the truth, this is proof how much the Protestant ethic is ingrained into contemporary discourse. Yes, our Faith is based on the historical facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God, but the primary witness and vessel of that Truth is the Church Herself, not a bunch of dead papyrus scrolls.

Christianity is an ecclesiatical phenomenon; the Church is not just a convenient addition to it. Many would-be neo-Gnostics would like to think that Jesus really taught a doctrine of "personal enlightenment", that Jesus wanted to help us with a better twelve-step program. (This is also not far from "evangelical" Christianity.) Thus, no Church is needed or even intended. But the truth is that Christ came that we might have life, and life in abundance. And this implies the sacramental system, fellowship, and communion with our brother in the Mystical Body. These aspiring heretics would like to make Christianity "about me", and that is NOT what it's about. Christianity is the union of persons and indeed the whole cosmos with God in the Church. And this is a very self-emptying thing.

The proposed Gnostic system is truly a very sad way of thinking.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Music- Sacred, Profane, and Just Plain Tacky

"They transform into entertainment that which has been created for no other purpose than to produce in the Christian soul a holy and salutary sadness."

Can you guess where this quote is from? A Roman Catholic traditionalist propaganda sheet? A traditional Anglican polemical essay? Actually, we have to go back a few centuries and go to another continent. This was one of the complaints of ecclesiastical authorities in France against Marc-Antoine Charpentier's settings of the lessons for Tenebrae of Maundy Thursday. This, of course, was in the seventeenth century.

If you know well enough the history of ecclesiastical music, you will know that sacred and secular styles were not so differentiated in the past. Monteverdi could use one piece of music in an opera, and then turn around and use it in his setting of Vespers. An aria from a sacred motet in Mozart is no different than an aria sung in a theatre house. So why do we, as liturgical reactionaries, react so harshly to secular styles entering the church: drumsets, bass guitars and all? Only an elite corps of snobs (yours truly included) would find Charpentier's Tenebrae Lessons enthralling and scandalous now (most people it would just put to sleep). So are we going to have as much egg on our face as those Jansenist clergy in France who considered this piece scandalous?

We should thus ask about the question of style: are all epochs of music created equal? Yesterday's Elvis may indeed becomes today's Bach; forms once considered offensive become the orthodoxy of tommorrow. We could argue then that all ages are created equal, and it is just a matter of time until we adjust to prolonged guitar and drum solos in our churches.

Then again, we could do another exercise. Say we took a contemporary classic.... say NWA's Straight Outta Compton, and did a setting for the Vienna Boys Choir:

Conductor (in a heavy Austrian accent): You are now about to witness the power of street knowledge.

....and a boy treble proceeds with an angelic solo with unforgettable lyrics like:

When I'm called off, I got a sawed off
Squeeze the trigger, and bodies are hauled off
You too, boy, if ya f@#* with me
The police are gonna hafta come and get me....

Or maybe we can do Jimmy Hendrix's Purple Haze for string quartet. (Wait a minute, that was done by the Kronos Quartet.)

Yes, it could be argued that we are just reactionaries and snobs. It can also be argued that maybe we live in a musical landscape where an African drum circle is a step up in the hierachy. Maybe all musical ages are equal: maybe Perotin would be just as scandalized at a Mozart Mass as we are in a rock and roll Mass. But to paraphrase Orwell, all ages are equal, but some ages are more equal than others.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On Reality- Virtual and Otherwise

"An ugly man, if he is alive, is more beautiful than a man represented in a statue, however beautiful he may be."
-Plotinus, The Enneads, from Treatise 38

Your humble blogger makes money the old fashion way: he works a dead-end job for it. More specifically, I am a cashier at a Chevron station in a tourist resort close to Hollister. Like all disturbed people, I can get disgruntled at my job, particularly when people act like jerks. One of my main pet peeves is customers who talk on cell phones when they are paying at the front counter. They don't say "Hi" to you, sometimes they don't even look at you, and you are lucky if you get a "thank you" at the end of it all. For me, that is not just incredibly rude, but also very disturbing.

Yes, maybe they are talking to their sick mother on the other end or closing a business deal that will give them enough income to be able to send their kids to college. I just find it incredibly disordered that a little electronic voice from such a small device can cause them to ignore the human being in front of them, made in the image and likeness of God.

I talk about a lot of exalted subjects on this blog: philosophy, theology, history, politics, but if there is not the foundation of just being a human being, it is all in vain. And part of being a human being is giving attention to those you don't particularity care for but cross your path day in and day out. If you cannot look someone in the eye and just say, "Hello", then what is the point of anything at all? There is nothing more important than what is going on in the room you are in, and no one more important to you now than the person standing in front of you. If we can just escape into a screen, a little sound box, or any other gadget, then all that I have said means nothing at all.

I like blogging. It gives me a chance to put down things into written words, so I can read them, contemplate them, and correct them when I see that they are wrong. But my blogging is the fruit of my life of prayer, my life living with my family, reading books, and being a cashier at a Chevron. I do not participate in incestuous blogger wars, and I barely go on the Internet other than to write for this blog and a few other sites. Life is out there, so go live it.

And please, say "hello" to a cashier today, even if he or she has an ugly mug like yours truly. And turn your cell phone off before you do it. It will be greatly appreciated.

Monday, May 15, 2006

On the Divine Splendor

Most of the time, I will not comment on a book until I am done reading it. When a quote like this jumps up at me, though, I have no choice but to share it.

The quote is from Pierre Hadot's The Inner Citadel, which is a masterful explication of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. When explaining the intricacies of Stoic philosophy, however, he resorts to making a parallel with the philosophy of Blaise Pascal. Here is the quote from Pascal's Pensees:

"One little thought could not be made to arise from all bodies taken together, for this is impossible and they are of different orders. One single movement of true charity could not be derived from all bodies and all spirits; for that is impossible. It is of another order, and is supernatural."

Hadot goes on to comment:

In Pascal, this idea is intended to allow us to understand that Jesus Christ has neither the splendor of physical grandeur, nor that of intellectual genius. There is nothing more simple than He, and yet more hidden. His grandeur is of another order. (p. 124)

We would do well to note this in our overly rationalized, overly quantified intellectual age. There is no way to measure the Divine Order. God chooses not to manifest Himself on this field, but rather on the field of charity. The Cross is the greatest revelation of God's power, not the wonders of the cosmos or the everyday functioning of the smallest atom.

In this sense, we can see that the whole "intelligent design" argument might be missing the point. Again, His grandeur is of another order.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rerum Pius Tenax Vigor....

Or What is Wrong With This Picture?

All of us want to be something that we are not. And sometimes we want to be something we once were. I have always admired the Society of St. Pius X, even to this day. I so wish that I can be so sure of what I believe that I can be just as nasty as they are to those who disagree with them (at least rhetorically). True, I was like that once, but very briefly (I wasn't tough enough, I guess). I saw that things are not so black and white, I saw that maybe God does write straight with crooked lines. Just as, however, we can admire someone very small and very drunk audaciously picking a bar fight with a large biker, so I admire the SSPX for entering into doctrinal issues where they put their historical foot in their theological mouth.

"Theology by knee-jerk"..... no wait, just thinking by knee-jerk. Such is the article that I perused of the complementary copy of the Angelus Magazine that they sent me (I ordered one of their nice calendars). Unfortunately, only part of it is available on-line. They covered all of the bases in this one: a virtual defense of slavery, a defense of the medieval social order, condemnation of liberalism, etc. What really caught my eye, however, was one particular quote. The setting is the deposed ex-president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, in prison receiving a photograph from Pope Pius IX :

During President Davis's imprisonment following the defeat of the Confederacy, Pope Pius IX sent a picture of himself to him with the handwritten inscription: "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (emphasis mine)

-from the June 2005 edition of the Angelus Magazine, p. 34

Wow! John Paul II, eat your heart out! The Vicar of Christ becomes Christ's usurper. Not just the guide of the Church, but God himself, the source of all solace and comfort!

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on Pio Nono. He is, after all, lying incorrupt in Rome in the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls. Compared to this identification of the Sovereign Pontiff with Christ Himself, however, what is changing the Mass, calling ecumenical councils to alter the face of the Church, and defining doctrine infallibly for all time? Just some things you do before breakfast!

And if the Pope is indeed so on parallel with Christ, why not say any Mass that he pleases, even if he asks you to consecrate a chocolate chip cookie using the words of a Beastie Boys' song?

Indeed, life can be very ironic sometimes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

On Polemical Contretemps

It has come to my attention that a number of people are using this blog to fuel there own sense of emotional and doctrinal superiority. I have no problem with it, as long as it is backed up by rational theological arguments. Look, I know I am confused and messed up, I don't need any of you to tell me about it. Maybe I should give up on blogging until I find all of the answers, then I can share them all with you. Maybe I should stop airing out my dirty laundry here....

The whole point of this blog, however, is the opposite. If you think you have the answer, boast in it and feel you can rhetorically pummel me for refusing to see it, maybe you should think again.

In antiquity, there were only two types of intellectuals: the sages and everyone else. The sage was always in the state of intellectual and emotional bliss. He was married to wisdom and had become one flesh with her. But these were very rare and extraordinary people. The rest, including those called "philosophers" or lovers of wisdom, had to settle for seeking her wherever they could find her, but never quite catching her. Even the great Socrates considered himself the latter; he indeed knew that he knew nothing, while everyone else thought the contrary. For him, however, at least it was a start.

I spend a lot of time on many of these posts, especially the more theological and philosophical ones. I am sometimes disappointed that there is not more input on them. If you want to say, "Arturo, you are off your rocker because St. Basil the Great said....." you will get my attention and I will think about it. If you say, "Arturo, you are a disturbed young man who is going to burn in hell," all you are going to get me to do is pray for you and have pity on you that that is the best you can do to move your suffering brother toward the truth.

So if you are coming on this blog to vent, you are wasting your time. Indeed, this blog has become an occasion of sin for you and you would do better to visit the nastiest porn site instead of this humble attempt to search for truth and beauty in Christ.

For those who I have offended, I am sorry. Please pray for me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

De Ecclesia

[To the question] "Where can I find the true Church?" [the English reformers] gave a more mundane answer. Assurance with regard to the Church was to be found neither in the biblical idealism of the Puritans nor in the conservative traditionalism of the Catholics. The gospel did not come with fail-safe guarantees. The Church always exists under grace, and while truth and purity were not to be taken lightly, their full achievement was still awaited and in the meantime could only be perceived in faith. No form of discipline or safeguards on doctrine could replace that perception.

-from "The Doctrine of the Church" by Philip H.E. Thomas in The Study of Anglicanism

Monday, May 08, 2006

Music For The Sun King

A CD full of great music by Jean-Baptiste Lully at a very affordable price. Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

And We All Fall Down....

Soul - Theurgy - Liturgy

"Descended from royal blood of the priest-kings of Emesa.... Iamblichus possessed a unique perspective to reinterpret Plato's esteem for those races who maintained an unbroken contact with the gods. In Iamblichus' estimation the responsibility of Platonists to value and explore this contact had recently been ignored and Plato's cosmological principles overlooked due to an excessive rationalism. This rationalism exalted the powers of the mind while diminishing the prestige of the traditional cults of the gods that, in Iamblichus' view, were the basis for all genuine culture and wisdom."

-From Gregory Shaw's Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, p. 4

This is the best summary of our meditation on Iamblichus as it has proceeded so far. Iamblichus was fighting to preserve the pagan order from enemies within: the "modernists" of his time. What, we shall now ask, was the philosophical basis for his apologia? He was far from a knee-jerk reactionary, and his defense of the traditional cult would return to principals that were at the heart of the philosophy of Plato and start at the very root of the issue: the soul.

What will follow will not do justice to the argument that Shaw presents, but it will give the reader of this a rough idea of the issues involved. We must begin a little before the emergence of our beloved Syrian philosopher and return to the meditations of the thinker Plotinus on how the soul is constituted. For Plotinus, there is part of the human soul that is unfallen:

"And if one may be so bold as to express one's own conviction against the common opinion of others, even our soul has not sunk entirely, but there is always something of it in the Intelligible World." -from the Enneads, cited on p. 64.

Plotinus was not always consistent in this, but the problem he was trying to solve was that of the soul's suffering and the experience of evil. In doing so, however, Plotinus and his disciple Porphyry (Iamblichus' opponent in the debate), began a process of divorcing mankind's profound being from the cosmic order. Embodiment and matter itself were under the threat of becoming an afterthought in mankind's search for union with the One. The soul would become in this system a "floating ego" that could achieve union with the Divine by itself through contemplation. Iamblichus and other Platonists after him would see this view not only as almost Gnostic (matter is evil) but unorthodox according to the Platonic system.

Restoring a more balanced view of the relationship of the embodied soul with matter, Iamblichus expounded a system in which the cosmic order was key in the soul's ascent back to the One. The soul in Iamblichus is totally fallen, totally embodied, but this was not an inherent evil, but rather made the soul the mediator between the physical and spiritual realms. This dichotomy was not the result of a primeval cosmic catastrophe, but rather the will of the good Demiurge. The soul, however, had to "climb up" the cosmic ladder using theurgy, a recapitulation of cosmic principles by "remembering" them even in the most unconscious of things:

"Intellectual understanding, " Iamblichus writes, "does not connect theurgists with divine beings, for what would prevent those who philosophize theoretically from having theurgic union with the Gods? But this is not true; rather it is the perfect accomplishment of ineffable acts religiously performed and beyond all understanding, and it is the power of ineffable symbols comprehended by the Gods alone that establishes theurgical union... It is not awakened by our thinking." -De Mysteriis

In a sense, it is the soul knowing its place at the lowest level of the intellectual cosmos and thus using material symbols given it by the Gods that allows it to ascend to the One. Shaw writes, shadowing the Christian concept of kenosis:

"Iamblichus maintained that only when the human soul fully accepted the unflattering reality of its rank [as totally fallen into a material body], would it spontaneously be drawn to the gods." -p. 112

How does this effect our own situation in a postmodern, anti-traditionalist, anti-ritualistic world? First, I would like to compare how similar Plotinus' and Porphyry's view might be to that of one of the founder's of modern thought: Rene Descartes. Jacques Maritain, in his excellent book, Three Reformers, accuses Descartes of trying to ascribe angelic attributes to human cognition, thus leaping over matter in order to attain pure, disembodied knowledge. In a way, this has been the hubris of modern man even when it comes to theology: certainty must be achieved by trying to leap over sensual experience, deemed as being too unstable and fleeting. Man must cut out all mediators and search ever for direct mathematical certainty about reality, even when it comes to the mysterious, transcendent God. Truth is thus deemed as something to be possessed and manipulated as one's personal possession. Mystery is thus forbidden, symbols anathematized, and traditions of the ancients deemed superstitions from an unenlightened past. Porphyry is very much alive today.

This is the foundation of the Bugninis', Dom Bottes' and other would be reformers of liturgy, not the "neo-Patristic ressourcement". Liturgy for them is a necessary evil, but one that can be cleaned up a bit by cutting out vague phrases, repetitions, and all other ceremonies that no longer "make sense". Clarity, simplicity and "participation" are thus the desirable goals, even if this participation is rationalistic, banal, and overly simplified. The Word of God is something that the people "must get", not a mystery into which they must enter. The liturgical synaxis for them must be like a convoking of Congress or a PTA meeting. Something here, however, has been tragically lost....

(to be continued)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mmm, mmmm, good!!!

On "Cafeteria" Catholicism

"On the other hand, everything must be done to prevent an emigration of the progressivists, however uncomfortable their continued presence in the Church will prove to be for the faithful.... I ask the bishops: Is the hearer of a [heretical] homily dispensed from Mass? May he, ought he perhaps leave this liturgy?

But such an approach is out of the question for the Catholica... [it] would have the effect once more of hurling the remnant back into lifeless, cheerless integralisms."

-Hans Urs Von Balthasar, The Moment of Christian Witness, Ignatius Press, p. 153

No wonder good ol' Hans is the darling of the Catholic right! He took the words right out of their mouths! What do you do about modernism in the Church? Should the faithful refuse to swallow the gruel of heresy and sacrilege? Of course they should! After all, the Church is not a cafeteria! If they don't like it, they can burn in Hell! (Wait a minute, Von Balthasar says hell is empty.....)

In any event, that is the absurdity of the position. It sounds morally superior to say that someone like me is picking and choosing, while millions everyday suffer a martyrdom of having to suffer a church that no longer nourishes them. I would retort however, that there is a difference between martyrdom and spiritual suicide.

Also, what an absurdity it is to try and impose a totalitarian system of belief in a completely subjectivist liturgical and spiritual milieux. Does not such an approach turn Catholicism into a purely rationalist set of beliefs that constitutes a checklist of what needs to be assented to? And as long as you conform to this checklist, you can worship however you want, pray however you want, and express your faith however you want? What happened to the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, in all of this? Can you really be an orthodox Catholic in a charismatic service, with drums beating and electric guitars screeching? Or have these people missed the point?

If what I have just said makes me a "cafeteria Catholic", then I will pass on the peas and go stand in line for the tapioca pudding (mmmm, pudding.....)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lancelot Andrewes

I am reading Marianne Dorman's Lancelot Andrewes: A Perennial Preacher Of The Post-reformation English Church. I am pleasantly suprised to realize how utterly boring this book is!!! That is, how much Andrewes simply believed and taught what the Fathers of the Church taught, albeit with elegant prose and poetic twists.

How comforting to be learing absolutely nothing from this book! If this is Protestantism, I'll take it!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

From My Mailbox

An interesting answer from a sedevacantist on why Roman Catholic traditionalists should reject the Pius XII's order of Holy Week:

Is Rejecting the Pius XII Liturgical Reforms "Illegal"?

(I post this as a lover of all things eccentric, not because I think the sedevacantists are right. Also, I post it as a lover of good taste, and the pre-Pius XII Holy Week was a lot more beautiful and traditional.)

Monday, May 01, 2006


I was going to post something interesting today, but I decided not to. As the son of immigrants, a grandson of immigrants, a neighbor of immigrants, and a friend of many immigrants (both legal and "illegal"- what a monstrous term!), I am just as affected as them by all of the immigrant bashing. So if you enjoy this blog and still persist in thinking that the "brown horde" coming from the south is the enemy, be aware that I am a card-carrying member of the Horde.

So I won't post anything today...... Alright, maybe just one thing:

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!
El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

De pie cantar, que vamos a triunfar,
avanzan ya banderas de unidad
y tú vendrás marchando junto a mi
y así verás tu canto y tu bandera
al florecer. La luz de un rojo amanecer
anuncia ya la vida que vendrá,
De pie marchar, que el pueblo va a triunfar;
será mejor la vida que vendrá,
A conquistar nuestra felicidad
y en su clamor mil voces de combate se alzaran;
dirán canción de libertad.
Con decisión la patria vencerá.
Y ahora el pueblo que se alza en la lucha
con voz de gigante gritando; adelante!

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!
El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!