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, December 12, 2007

Just because I have a lot of time on my hands...


The genesis of this blog comes out of my commenting on the traditionalist Angelqueen forum. Once I realized that I wasn't really a classical traditionalist, and once my Internet perusing became more and more limited, I stopped hanging out at this bastion of reactionary thinking. Recently, however, with a slow-down in posting on many of the blogs I actually take the time to read, I began to go back to my old vice of posting on Angelqueen. And things haven't changed much around there.

Traditionalists really piss me off. They go on and on about the degeneration of culture and learning as it parallels the degeneration of Western liturgical consciousness, and yet they often end up as exemplars of the very things they condemn. Many clamor on and on about Latin, and couldn't even decline "puella, puellae" to save their lives. Many complain about the music of the Mass, but most couldn't tell you the difference between Palestrina and Monteverdi, and if they could sing a decent "Et cum spiritu tuo", that congregation might as well be the Vienna Boys' Choir. I guess this has a lot to do with the "Fox News / South Park conservatives"; that is, conservatives who are rude, brutish, and have absolutely no class. (I used to love watching William F. Buckley growing up when he was on late night on PBS. Those were real conservatives that you could respect because of their stodginess.) These conservatives are just as much the product of postmodern liberalism as the "politically correct" ideologues they condemn.

This time around, that which incited my ire was the dismissive attitude these cyber-trads had towards traditional Aztec dances done in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The only response of these posters was that this must obviously be an example of modernist enculturation, or at least be of very poor taste. And of course, it was assumed that these dances were done as a result of the "liturgical dance" craze. Never mind that these dances have been performed for centuries in villages in honor of the Virgin, and this tradition goes back longer than the existence of this country.

The people on this forum are significant examples of an unfortunate double standard. They can deck their houses with Christmas trees and Advent wreaths, even though these are clearly remnants of "devil-worshipping" pagan rituals, while they can ridicule devout dances performed for the Brown Virgin, saying that they are remnants of a culture that practiced human sacrifice. (And here they fail to mention that our own religion in based on human sacrifice, or rather, One Human's sacrifice, and that this practice also existed in pagan Europe.) The only difference is that of race; the pagan rituals of the Teutonic countries are acceptable because these were civilized peoples, while Mexicans will always be savages. And of course, they also fail to realize that "good old fashion American values" are a result of all of the "civilized" countries in Europe falling into heresy. Mexico, last time I checked, may have had problems with Masonic governments, but never with heresy.

This same mentality is also behind the "it's cute to be a brute" approach to scholarship and history. The fact that the people in the Valley of Mexico at the time of the conquest practiced human sacrifice meant that the ends justified the means in bringing this practice to an end. Many scholars now say that the Valley of Mexico had ten million inhabitants when Cortes arrived in 1519. By the end of the century, the population was a mere two million. Eighty percent of the inhabitants of that region was wiped out due to disease, enslavement, or outright slaughter. The capital of the empire, once larger than any European city, was reduced to rubble. But all of this was alright since the survivors converted to Catholicism!

And it is not as if the Spaniards didn't know what they were doing at the time. Even Fray Bartolome de las Casas expressed that the indigenous peoples should be evangelized by friars who preached the Word without coercion rather than by an invading force. Many argued about the morality of the invasions, and many were doubtful that any justification could be given. In the end, the practical interests of the Spanish won out, and the indigenous peoples were conquered with the reassuring thought in the back of the conquistadores' minds that their subjects may not be humans at all.

In our interlocutors' version of history, however, a concession to any type of moral ambiguity in this situation is an example of muddle-headed "political correctness". The Spaniards are the "good guys" no matter what they did, and the indigenous peoples were the "bad guys" because they had the misfortune of not having had the Gospel preached to them yet and of not being comfortable with the idea of being enslaved. But even when the indigenous people converted to Catholicism and used dances that were performed in a false religion in order to now honor the true God, they were still in the wrong, even if in some cases their ancestors have now been Catholic longer than those of these traditionalists.

I am certainly not naive about the history behind these events. Mesoamerica before the arrival of the Spaniards was no Shangri-la, and this conquest was a war, even if an unjustified one. And whatever happened happened and we cannot change it. This conquest by bad Catholics produced some of the best Catholics on earth. But God does not smile on the means by which this was done. It is quite shocking to me how those who consider themselves the most Catholic can persecute people who have been loyal children of the Roman Church for half of a millennium now. By watching Lou Dobbs and promoting anti-immigrant hysteria they are more in bed with white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism than the liberal liturgical reformers who promote "liturgical dancing".

For me, it is profoundly hypocritical for Catholics in this country, traditionalist or not, to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe and at the same time mock the dignity of Mexicans on both sides of the border by regarding them as some sort of uncivilzied "brown horde". They may be a brown horde, but they are a devout horde. And last time I checked being civilized doesn't necessarily save your soul, but being Catholic certainly helps. Especially if you are a Catholic and devoted to the Most Holy Mother of God, which are traits that the Mexican people have always shown.

20 Comments:

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Footnote: By this post, I am not saying that you can't benefit from the traditional Mass without being a cultural snob. If you are going to make it a "life or death" cause, however, I find it rather quaint that people who attend the old liturgy without understanding it somehow feel that they are superior to "ordinary Catholics". It seems a bit like the Old Believer schism in Russia: it mythologizes things that it doesn't understand and idealizes things that are the result of accidents of history.

If you are going to make the old Latin Mass your "thing" and you don't know a lick of Latin, what are you really advocating? Not wanting to understand what's going on in church? Mystification for mystification's sake? On the other hand, if you prefer to go to this liturgy, understand its drawbacks as well as its benefits, and do not think less of people for going to the Pauline liturgy, then you have a healthy attitude towards the old liturgy (in my opinion).

Most of the people on Angelqueen are of the former school of thought, not the later.

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger Rob said...

I had to stop being a wanna-be traditionalist some time ago, though I do love the old liturgy and wouldn't shed a tear if the Novus Ordo died in its sleep.

What got me in trouble was my attitude about illegal immigration. Trads were always being "super-American" and saying "boot the brown b@$t@^ds out". My response was, "Bring on the real Catholics!" I felt like white culture, trad or not, was essentially killing itself and should be replaced.

Of course, I have a dog in this fight. My wife is Honduran and I have one brother-in-law who got into this country the old-fashioned way (little known roads in the desert) and another brother-in-law in the human trafficking business in Guatemala.

I would much rather have the old Aztec dances than the "Spanish mass" which white Catholics seem to pat themselves on the back for providing.

I have been to solemn, Pauline masses in Mexico, Spain and Honduras. Watchig them, one would think the "Spirit of Vatican II" had never happened. At no point was it necessary to bring out a guy with a cowboy hat, a handkerchief around the neck, and a guitar, yet that seems to strike everyone as "authentic" up here.

And, of course, nothing is worse than the dreaded "Mariachi mass". Ugh.

 
At 5:07 PM, Blogger FrGregACCA said...

Amen, Arturo!

Part of the problem, I think, is the fact that, by way of Ireland, Jansenism had a profound effect on Roman Catholicism in the United States; this Jansenism survives in American traditionalist circles.

 
At 7:27 PM, Anonymous tu primo said...

Oye guey,

FINALLY a good post for your paisas.

I went to Mass today at a "Mexican" Catholic Church.
The music was bad. There were 100 people on the altar. The rubrics were not properly followed. Men and women in Aztec garb. Guitars and even xelephones.
I normally prefer the Tridentine Mass and do think Palestrina is great (my Latin is OK, hic, hoc, but I do understand and there is the Missal)
But I almost cried--the Church was PACKED, the people were clearly devoted, what looked to the white eye as gangbangers (young Mexican men with the Arturo hairstyle without the baldness tatoos etc)
older women, families, working men in what looked like mechanic uniforms with grease stains
IT WAS STANDING ROOM ONLY
There was a long sign of Peace
The sermon was done walking around and not a pulpit (very good orthodox sermon)
THOUSANDS OF ROSES (literally) were placed at the statue of the Blessed Mother
it was beautiful
it made me want to cry
The faith and devotion is palpable
you can fill it

 
At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Tradition, just keep the Traditionalists out of it

 
At 8:06 PM, Blogger FrGregACCA said...

After that last, I gotta quote J. Pelikan: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living."

 
At 5:53 AM, Blogger Archistrategos said...

I love the term 'cyber-trads'. I think that perfectly captures the ethos of the traditionalist mentality, at least the hyper convoluted version so popular in the internet... As my aunt used to say everyday of her life, 'They're all just a bunch of amateurs'.

 
At 6:03 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Glory be to Our Lady of Guadalupe! As Christ deigned to empty Himself and become man, so she incarnated into the Mexican tongue and heart, much to the discomfiture of Spanish noble-types; both she and Her Lord saw the image of God within the "rabble" worth saving. Thank you for this post. Please add more such content about la fida católica en la cultura mexicana.

 
At 6:12 AM, Blogger the Cogitator said...

Aye carumba, it is an apt error for this post (confusing "high" Latin with "vulgar" Spanish), but that it is: by la fida católica I meant to write el fe católica.

 
At 6:55 AM, Anonymous H-SH-M said...

One devout Mexican maid who tried and loves Jesus and his Blessed Mother is more holy than 100 hypocritical cybertrads.

The first will be last and the last will be first.

Blessed are the poor
Blessed are the meek

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Queen of the Americas, the dancing in her honor is beautiful and has been going on with the costums of the indigenous people since Her appearance--they are sincere and pleasing to G-D

 
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