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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Paul Mauffray conducts Stravinsky

The first movement of the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto.

If you don't like Stravinsky, you are just sad.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More Modern Music

Last Saturday I went to Goat Hall Production's presentation of two "cabaret operas" in Oakland, at the small Oakland Metro Operahouse off of Jack London Square. I love this rather small and intimate venue since one does not feel dwarfed in viewing operas or concerts but one is very, very close (and sometimes in the midst) of all the action.

I am a terrible reviewer, as I repeatedly tell people. More often than not, when I pay to go to a concert, I am just really happy to be there. I suppose it goes back to my upbringing when my mother would always scold us by saying, "If you don't like what I put on the table, you can starve." I have never been good at aesthetic criticism, since I try to find a silver lining in everything. However, I will just say a few lines about the operas and post some useful links to the struggling composers so that they will have some very meagre exposure on this blog.

The first work was Mark Alburger's setting of J.M. Sygne's play, Playboy of the Western World. Sung by various soloists with piano accompaniment, the play follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a certain Christopher Mahon. The musical style was very eclectic, as the composer cites as influences, among others, "Dmitri Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 1; common practice minimalism; Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes; 12-bar blues; and beer barrel polkas." In spite of this musical collage, I thought the experience was still pleasant on the ears. Examples of his music can be found here.

The second work of the night was Steven Clark's Dionysius, that dealt with the bloody nature of mystery religions in Greece. The play "reimages" the Euripides play, The Bacchae, about the introduction of the cult of Dionysius into ancient Greek society. I won't go into many details about the plot, but let's just say it ends with human sacrifice. (Maybe a postmodern Sacre du Printemps, with a "morning after" scene.)

The music was partially pre-recorded on computer, with a live electric guitar player and percussionist. The composer also tried to incorporate the few musical themes that we have as remnants of what ancient Greek music may have sounded like. Some samples of his music can be found here.

If she is so inclined, the lovely and highly intelligent AG who accompanied me could give more extensive comments about the performance in the comment box.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


On the part of the King, Don Fernando, and of Doña Juana, his daughter, Queen of Castille and León, subduers of the barbarous nations, we their servants notify and make known to you, as best we can, that the Lord our God, Living and Eternal, created the Heaven and the Earth, and one man and one woman, of whom you and we, all the men of the world at the time, were and are descendants, and all those who came after and before us. But, on account of the multitude which has sprung from this man and woman in the five thousand years since the world was created, it was necessary that some men should go one way and some another, and that they should be divided into many kingdoms and provinces, for in one alone they could not be sustained.

Of all these nations God our Lord gave charge to one man, called St. Peter, that he should be Lord and Superior of all the men in the world, that all should obey him, and that he should be the head of the whole human race, wherever men should live, and under whatever law, sect, or belief they should be; and he gave him the world for his kingdom and jurisdiction.
And he commanded him to place his seat in Rome, as the spot most fitting to rule the world from; but also he permitted him to have his seat in any other part of the world, and to judge and govern all Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, and all other sects. This man was called Pope, as if to say, Admirable Great Father and Governor of men. The men who lived in that time obeyed that St. Peter, and took him for Lord, King, and Superior of the universe; so also they have regarded the others who after him have been elected to the pontificate, and so has it been continued even till now, and will continue till the end of the world.

One of these Pontiffs, who succeeded that St. Peter as Lord of the world, in the dignity and seat which I have before mentioned, made donation of these isles and Tierra-firme to the aforesaid King and Queen and to their successors, our lords, with all that there are in these territories, as is contained in certain writings which passed upon the subject as aforesaid, which you can see if you wish.

So their Highnesses are kings and lords of these islands and land of Tierra-firme by virtue of this donation: and some islands, and indeed almost all those to whom this has been notified, have received and served their Highnesses, as lords and kings, in the way that subjects ought to do, with good will, without any resistance, immediately, without delay, when they were informed of the aforesaid facts. And also they received and obeyed the priests whom their Highnesses sent to preach to them and to teach them our Holy Faith; and all these, of their own free will, without any reward or condition, have become Christians, and are so, and their Highnesses have joyfully and benignantly received them, and also have commanded them to be treated as their subjects and vassals; and you too are held and obliged to do the same. Wherefore, as best we can, we ask and require you that you consider what we have said to you, and that you take the time that shall be necessary to understand and deliberate upon it, and that you acknowledge the Church as the Ruler and Superior of the whole world, and the high priest called Pope, and in his name the King and Queen Doña Juana our lords, in his place, as superiors and lords and kings of these islands and this Tierra-firme by virtue of the said donation, and that you consent and give place that these religious fathers should declare and preach to you the aforesaid.

If you do so, you will do well, and that which you are obliged to do to their Highnesses, and we in their name shall receive you in all love and charity, and shall leave you, your wives, and your children, and your lands, free without servitude, that you may do with them and with yourselves freely that which you like and think best, and they shall not compel you to turn Christians, unless you yourselves, when informed of the truth, should wish to be converted to our Holy Catholic Faith, as almost all the inhabitants of the rest of the islands have done. And, besides this, their Highnesses award you many privileges and exemptions and will grant you many benefits.

But, if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us. And that we have said this to you and made this Requisition, we request the notary here present to give us his testimony in writing, and we ask the rest who are present that they should be witnesses of this Requisition."

See here for the original text in Spanish.

I used to think that John Paul II’s millennium apologies were unjustified. Why should anyone apologize for something he or she did not personally do? I suppose at the time they were done, I was still in my Lefebvrist, ultra-triumphalist phase, and this made me suspicious of anything the Papacy did. I guess reading the above, I understand what the last Pontiff was trying to get at.
The author was not the Pope himself, of course, but rather the Spanish jurist, Juan López de Palacios, who was the main apologist for the conquest of the Americas. The principal, of course, is the extreme ultra-montanism that governed Spanish Catholicism from very early. However, this idea was also based on the very real Treaty of Tordesillas, and more specifically the Papal document, Inter caetera, which pretended that the Pope had the power to divide the world in two halves among Spain and Portugal.

By these poorly reasoned documents, then, atrocities were often committed. The above document was often read by Spanish soldiers to indigenous tribes in the most pristine and correct Castilian, which more often than not the natives did not speak. What would take place next was often something along the lines of the following:

And the Spaniards, on the morning of the day they arrived at the town, stopped to breakfast in a riverbed that was dry but for a few shallow pools. This riverbed was full of whetstones, and all longed to sharpen their swords upon them.

Having reached the village after this picnic, the Spaniards decide to test whether their swords are as sharp as they seem. A Spaniard, in whom the devil is thought to have clothed himself, suddenly drew his sword. Then the whole hundred drew theirs and began to rip open the bellies, to cut open those lambs – men, women, and old folk, all of whom were seated, off guard and frightened, watching the mares and the Spaniards. And within two credos, not a man of all of them remains alive. The Spaniards enter the large house nearby, for this was happening at its door, and in the same way, with cuts and stabs, begin to kill as many as they found there, so that a stream of blood was running, as if a great number of cows perished.

-Fray Bartolomé de las Casas as cited by Tzvetan Todorov’s The Conquest of America (p. 141)

Even if De las Casas’ telling of a massacre was a freak occurrence, modern scholarship is now quite certain that either by disease, overwork, or bloodshed, millions perished at the hands of the Catholic Spaniards, all justified by the Requerimiento above.

Cuauhtemoc [the last emperor of the Aztecs] too died in a somewhat Christian manner: “The Spaniards hanged him from a silk-cotton tree,” but “a cross was placed in his hands”… (ibid, p.169).

And when most of the indigenous peoples were killed in many places, that is when the forced bloody diaspora of millions of Africans began, but that would be the subject of another post.

All blame cannot be put on the Catholic Church. If the Protestants in the north have a little less blood on their hands, it’s only because they didn’t get to these places first. Catholics are not crueler than Protestants.

So what is my point? That we should question the integrity and veracity of the Catholic Church? Far be it from me to do so. But we must always be aware that in our own approach to religious questions, there always lurks a sinful tendency to marginalize people as the “Other”.

Thankfully, this mostly takes place in the form of an argument where we regard the other person as someone to score points off of. The most extreme cases, however, are the ones above. And both cases are very far from real Christianity.

All our endeavors are not pure. Even when I speak to Protestants or people who are hostile to the Roman Catholic faith, I really have to keep in mind that it is not about winning or losing. It is not really even about convincing in one sense. It is above all a question of witnessing. And as we know, the word “martyr” derives from the Greek word, “to witness”. When we approach people who are not Christians or who disagree with us, we should have the attitude of martyrs, not soldiers or lawyers. Neither are we to have a team or a herd mentality where we separate ourselves from an amorphous "them". I don’t do these things as often as I should, but maybe I need to try harder.
That, I would venture, is what the last Pontiff was trying to apologize for, in simple terms. It is not for having the Truth, but for being unfaithful stewards of that Truth. When knocking on people's hearts, we must use fragile keys and not battering rams. This requires that we be ever vigilant, both over our mouths and our hearts.

Quick Follow-Up

The only reason the revelations of Mother Teresa's interior life may scandalize some American Christians is that they are completely detached from religion as a real way of life, which is to say that they are Protestants, either internally or also in name. Religion, more often than not, is about obligation, sacrifice, and duty, not about good feelings or "self-fufillment". Yes, it can seem that we are lying to ourselves sometimes, that we aren't "keeping it real" as we youngsters like to say. But sometimes the best thing to do is to shut-up and get on with God's business. And that can mean that we don't get fuzzy feelings inside, that we don't experience any material or "spiritual" gain in this life, and that we have to "keep up appearances". That's just life, in all of its manifestations. That is why our life within the Church is so important: it takes us out of ourselves and puts us into uncomfortable situations where we have to deal with the Other, either on a personal or intellectual level. And we aren't always right. And we aren't always "happy". But we trust in God and we go on. Day in and day out. Until we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, with the help of His grace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


"The Being of beings is represented fundamentally, in the sense of the ground, only as causa sui. This is the metaphysical concept of God... The cause as causa sui. This is the right name for the god of philosophy." In thinking "God" as causa sui, metaphysics gives itself a concept of "God" that at once marks the indisputable experience of him and his equally incontestable limitation; by thinking "God" as an efficiency so absolutely and universally foundational that it can be conceived only starting from the foundation, and hence finally as the withdrawl of the foundation into itself, metaphysics indeed constructs for itself an apprehension of the transcendence of God, but under the figure simply of efficency, of the cause, and of the foundation. Such an apprehension can claim legitimacy only on condition of also recognizing its limit. Heidegger draws out this limit very exactly: "Man can neither pray nor sacrifice to this God. Before the causa sui, man can neither fall to his knees in awe nor can he play music and dance before this god.

-Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being

Monday, August 27, 2007

Terry Riley

One of the godfathers of the minimalist avant-garde, Terry Riley is one of my favorite living composers. If you have Real Player in your computer, you can click here and see a ten minute segment on Terry Riley done some years back by the public television station, KQED. You can also visit his webpage.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On Belief

"I don't personally believe in a sky god."

Such a phrase should not shock a believer, especially in the ultra-liberal Berkeley. Truth be told, the person who said this, an admitted gray-haired recovering leftist who happened to be my professor at the time, used a quite neutral and non-hostile tone while saying it. It was not as if he were saying he wanted to find it in himself to believe, nor did he mean to have a negative attitude toward those who do believe. It was a mere admission of unbelief, and a framing of the question with a very secular understanding of what belief entails.

It's not his fault. Perhaps he was affected by the parodies of the Christian God that made him frame the question in this way. When he said something about a sky god, my thoughts immediately went to that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the cartoon cut-out God in the sky tells the frightened knights to quit their groveling. Is that what we believe? On a very real level, it is. Of course, God is everywhere and we know the nature of the physical cosmos far better than the ancients did. But when we pray such things as "Our Father, who art in Heaven", and "Queen of Heaven, rejoice!", we really mean that they are above, up there. Christ didn't just disappear from the earth, He ascended. So yes, we do believe in a "sky god".

The recent article on Mother Teresa that I posted on this blog made me do my own wondering about how I believe. Among the myriad of differences between myself and the saint of the gutters of Calcutta is that she was only tempted to atheism, while I succumbed to it. I was an atheist for almost four years of my life, so I do know what it is like to conceive of a universe without God. Does the world make more sense, does water taste wetter or fruit sweeter because I believe in God now? Does light strike things differently creating another hue? Is tragedy and loss any less tragic or unsettling? No.

I have not been in the dark night of a Mother Teresa, a St. Therese, or a Padre Pio. Even in my aborted attempt at the religious life, which came after my struggles with atheism, I never once doubted that God exists. At least for my own weak soul, there were times where it would have been reasonable to doubt. But maybe my faith was not strong enough in the first place for God to send me such a trial. Thanks be to Him for sparing me from it.

No, belief, as I have said, is not about comfortable, bubbly feelings about God and the works of His hands. It doesn't explain anything in a comprehensive manner. It's not something that shines light on everything it touches. It is, for me, a firm trust that God will come and that God is here. I am not very good at this, but that is how I get through the day. When faced with unbelievers, heretics, agnostics, etc., I do not have a sense that I have something powerful that they don't. Maybe that is my own flawed faith. I feel, rather, that I see things differently from them; I see things how they really are. And that is more a grave responsibility than a feeling of having life's cheat sheet. It can sometimes make life more unreasonable and more absurd, especially when you are at your lowest points. But it can also help you climb out of the gutter, if you merely trust in Him.

I have not been preaching the Gospel enough in my own daily life. But if I have some idea on how to do it, it is more that I want to give people a sense of God's presence in our everyday world. That will include in many cases actually preaching and arguing about Catholic doctrine with unbelievers. But it will normally come through a smile in adverse circumstances, being a good worker, helping others in small ways, and even just wearing a crucifix or a scapular. I guess in my own case, God is not primarily the sky god pulling the strings of everything (though He is that). He is a comforting presence, like someone looking over your shoulder, who will in the end lead us back home if we only let Him.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

For AG

Music for Buses - X

Take from me
These broken hands
And do not silence
The longing that pants
With the last orange rays,

The wind that dances
Through the leaves
Is merciless
With dark,

The days are cut
Shorter and shorter
With a knife.

Take from me
This blight
That blackens my heart
With stillness,

That covers eyes with
The gray sky-
Ceiling of white depth
Merging with fog.

Take these fractured lines
And do not break
The evening that feels
Its way through shadows;

Too many departures
Have passed through
The day,

Do not sleep-
Only dream this love
And stay.

-Arturo Vásquez

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dvorak's Dumky Trio

Or at least the third movement. I am not a great fan of Romanticist music, but Dvorak for me is a definite exception (along with some Brahms and Chopin).

Mother Teresa

If you thought she was a great saint before, you need to read this article and realize that sanctity like this only comes around once in hundreds of years.

Thanks to AG for pointing this article out to me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Old Catechisms

You need to learn to walk before you can run. You need to learn to spell before you can read. And when you are first learning to eat, you first need to be spoon-fed by your mother.

In the year 2000, when I dropped out of college and lived in a retreat center of the Society of St. Pius X, I was put in charge of educating five young children ages 7 and 8. I know, you're thinking, "This guy has no business teaching anyone anything!" You would be more than right, especially considering I was only 21 years old at the time! But I did do my best, even though I found out definitively after that experience that the teaching charism is one that I definitely don't have.

My favorite class, of course, was catechism. And this being the SSPX, we used nothing after the year 1965. The book I taught out of was St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism. With its cartoon-like pictures and its bare-bone approach to doctrine, it was a cinch to teach out of. It asks a question. It gives an answer. You memorize the answer, and that's it. And if my kids asked any more questions, I could give them a nonchalant, "Don't worry about it". (As my pre-school teacher mother could tell you, avoid using curt, sarcastic phrases around children since they will turn them against you with a dexterity of a person ten times their age.)

I would then often go back in my mind to my own youth where I gazed over old catechisms from times past. Growing up, my family didn't have the means to buy new books, but we did have some old ones lying around. I learned a lot of history and science from 1950's textbooks, which explains my present obsession with Latin and Neoplatonism: I like old things because I am used to them. Among these was an old catechism, though I do not remember which one it was. I do remember, however, learning the fascinating phrase, "the mystical body of Christ" from it. A lot of things from that beaten up old catechism really sunk into my head and stuck.

Going back to my botched teaching experience, one of my favorite books to idly peruse was My Catholic Faith. It was such a fun book since it taught you various truths of the Catholic faith with really neat illustrations. Some of the questions, especially about the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, had drawings that were something out of a film noire scene or a pulp fiction dime store novel. (Also on this, one of my favorite books is My Imitation of Christ, which is Thomas a Kempis' spiritual classic accompanied by similar drawings.) There is no better way to learn about the marks of the Church or preternatural gifts than to read about them in comic book form!

In spite of my rather confused spiritual and theological journey, I am of the firm opinion that if I had to teach people the Catholic Faith, I would use these books, not because I think they encompass all that you can know but rather because they have all that you really need to know. The teaching authority of the Church does not exist in order to tell us what it all means. I am almost as confused as anyone when I pop open a Bible. It is there, rather, to tell us what we can and cannot say about something. And that is why catechisms are so useful. Like my students, we can keep asking "why" after "why", but the depth of the mystery will never be exhausted. At the end of the day, that curt set of phrases is all we know, and we must cling to it like a child clings to his mother's skirt.

Many like the old catechisms since they think that everything that came after a certain year is no good: the result of a time of confusion that is now perishing away. That is no longer my attitude. Just as with the old Mass, I rejoice that these books are starting to be re-published and re-read. But they will not take the place of what has developed since the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps when I was a very young child, we reached the apex of experimentation and a sense that a new order was emerging to take the place of the old one. With Pope Benedict XVI's reign in particular, it is hoped that we will increasingly have what Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre called "the experiment of tradition". This will hopefully be the start of a new dialogue that has been occurring over and over again in the history of the Church between the old and the new, the necessary and the ideal, innovation and tradition.
"Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Christianity, the Inca, and Culture

Dr. Sabine Hyland wrote a book a few years back entitled, The Jesuit and the Incas, on one of the first mestizo clergy in Peru, Fr. Blas Valera. A son of one of the conquistadores and an Inca noblewoman, he was one of the first scholars to do a comparison of ancient Incan civilization with the European and classical world, and created a world view quite favorable to the conquered empire. Indeed, it was Fr. Valera's contention that Inca religion was quite close to Christianity, down to an almost Christian idea of an incarnate God named Viracocha, and an absolute creator god named Illa Tecce. Valera wanted the Spanish clergy to begin to use these names for the Christian God and Jesus Christ, but to no avail. In the end, Fr. Valera was framed on charges of fornication and imprisoned by the Jesuit order for four years. Scholars now believe that he was really imprisoned for syncretic heresy. Only through the intervention of some influential Jesuits was he finally freed and sent to Spain, where he died in a pirate assault on Cadiz in 1597.

Besides being a student of Latin American history and culture, the story of this Jesuit compels me for other theological reasons. It comes down to the now classical division in Christian thought between what belongs to the world and what belongs to the Gospel. For "world optimists", such as St. Clement of Alexandria and the Jesuits of the "Chinese rites" controversy, all cultural and intellectual forms can be preparations for the Gospel: there is a natural piety and intellectual striving that prepares the way for the Good News of Jesus Christ, and it too can be incorporated in the Christian life. For those more pessimistic about our fallen human state, from Tertullian to the Protestant Reformers, culture is more a hinderance to the pure Gospel rather than an aide. Not only does Athens have nothing to do with Jerusalem, but Jerusalem had nothing to do with any place else.

Since the latter view is rarely taken to the severe extremes of people like Ulrich Zwingli who didn't even allow hymns in his services or a Quaker prayer meeting, what usually occurs in the process of propagating the Gospel in some cases is an idealization of what the New Testament religion should resemble. In some places, like in those of the radical Reformation, it takes the form of a dull imagining of what the worship of the ancient synagogue and early Church must have looked like. In others, such as the Americas, relations of power also came into play. Christianity was taught to the conquered peoples, but as the Christianity of the conquerer. It came to the extreme in the times of Fr. Valera in Peru, when the Spanish conquerors insisted that the indigenous peoples use the Spanish word to refer to the Christian God ("Dios") rather than the Quechua word. In this and other ways, Christianity was imposed as a white man's religion for a white god.

Valera, taught Quechua by his mother, is one of the few voices who objected to this process. He insisted that Inca civilization was not barbaric, but rather had many of the same features of the foundational cultures of Greece and Rome in Europe. Quechua itself for Valera served the same role in the Inca Empire as Latin did in Europe; it was considered a complex lanuage of the court and scholars that united the vast Andean empire. The Jesuit priest also insisted that the Inca were fundamentally monotheistic in their religion and unlike their cousins in North America, they did not practice human sacrifice. Even such classical institutions of the West as monks and vestal virgins had their parallels in classical Incan culture. In this way, Fr. Valera felt that Christianity would come as naturally to the natives of Peru as it did to the pagans of Europe. Unfortuneatly, according to Hyland, this opinion branded Valera as a heretic and led to his years of incarceration.

Posthumously, of course, our mestizo Jesuit is the victor in terms of what has happened in history. Especially with the Second Vatican Council, inculturation is encouraged in many parts of the world that are newer to the Christian message. In many places, the cultures of the places where missionaries arrive are no longer denigrated, but respected. We can argue the merits of this point of view, but what does this have to do with us who who live in historically Christian societies?

I have unfortunately been involved in many milieu where there was only one acceptable idea of how the Gospel could be incarnate in society. With the Society of St. Pius X, the Gospel reached its perfect incarnation either in the High Middle Ages, or in France in the right-wing movements leading up to the suppression of the Action Francaise. With the Orthodox, the Christian imagination will always be stuck before the fall of Constantinople. Even in many mainline Catholic circles, culture can only advance by going backwards, either in music, literature, or the plastic arts. If there is a real crisis of Christian praxis in my opinion, however, it is the crisis of the Christian imagination. Christians must always attempt see the beauty of Christ in the world in which they live, not in a world that has long passed into memory.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Night

De la noche

En la amorosa noche me aflijo,
Le pido su secreto, mi secreto,
la interrogo en mi sangre largamente.
Ella no me responde
y hace como mi madre,
Que me cierra los ojos sin oírme.

-Jaime Sabines

On Night

In the loving night I pine,
I beg for her secret, my secret,
I ask her longwise in my blood.
She does not answer me
But acts like my mother
Who closes my eyes
Without having heard me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

On Abortion and Politics

From Fr. Maximos from Holy Resurrection Monastery:

Now once you properly define the goal of the pro-life movement, you suddenly discover a whole new range of possibilities open up beyond the narrow straightjacket of two-party politics. It may be, in fact, that the fixation with the law as the tool of choice in the battle for life has actually done us great harm. By buying into the party political system the pro-life movement has contributed to reducing something that goes to the heart of what it is to be human to being a mere political wedge issue. Yes, one party has an anti-abortion statement in its manifesto. It professes to seek out judges who will rule in favor of the unborn. But in the end, any victories won in this way are as shaky as the political plurality on which they are based. One election could sweep them all away.

The goal of a complete end to abortion will be won primarily by changing hearts, not laws. And this is also why I have dared to broach this subject on a blog dedicated to the Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical dialogue. The parallels are really rather striking. In both areas, the pro-life/pro-abortion dialectic as well as the Catholic-Orthodox quarrel, arguing and politicking seem to have led us as far as we can go. What is needed in both disputes is a renewed emphasis on ultimate goals and a recognition that these are achievable on by a change of heart, repentance. "Spiritual ecumenism" turns out to be the answer to more than one problem! (Read all of it here)

Coda Swan Lake Odile Ballet Alicia Alonso y Azari Plisetski

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back to Where We Started From

This divine beauty has generated love, that is, a desire for itself, in all things, Since if God attracts the World to Himself, and the World is attracted, there exists a certain continuous attraction (beginning from God, emanating to the World, and returning at last to God) which returns again, as if in a kind of circle, to the same place whence it issued. And so one and the same circle from God to the World and from the World to God is called by three names. Inasmuch as it begins in God and attracts to Him, it is called Beauty; inasmuch as emanating to the World it captivates it, it is called Love; inasmuch as returning to its author it joins His work to Him, it is called Pleasure. Love, therefore, beginning from Beauty, ends in Pleasure. This was expressed in that famous hymn of Hierotheus and Dionysius the Areopagite, where these theologians sang as follows: "Love is a good circle which always revolves from the Good to the Good." For Love is necessarily good since it is born from the Good and returns to the Good.

-Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love. Translated by S. Jayne

Friday, August 17, 2007

El Inmortal

I know those who do evil so that in future centuries it might become good, or because it was in the past... Framed in this way, all of our acts are just, but they are also indifferent. There are no intellectual or moral merits. Homer wrote the Odyssey; given an infinite amount of time, with infinite circumstances and changes, the impossibility lies in the Odyssey not being written at least once. No one is anybody, one immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am a god, I am a hero, I am a philosopher, I am a demon and the world, which is just a convoluted way of saying that I am nothing...

"When the end is near", wrote Cartaphilius, "images of remembrance are no more; only words are left". Words, mutilated and displaced words, the words of others, are the poor alms that the hours and centuries left.
These passages are from Jorge Luis Borges' short story, "The Immortal". The Argentine writer enjoyed playing with various ancient cosmologies, philosophies, and other esoteric subjects in his works. In this short story, he addresses the Stoic idea of the eternal return. A man in ancient Roman times drinks from the river of immortality and then can no longer die. This gives Borges an opportunity to reflect on what such an existence would be like. And in our fallen condition, living eternally would indeed be hell.

As many writers at this point have pointed out, the two most important things that Christ has given to us philosophically is an end to the vicious cycle of the eternal return and a personal identity. In the eternal return, as Borges insinuates, this precise moment of you reading this screen has occured and will occur an infinite number of times throughout eternity. Thus, you are not really you; you are merely one character who is playing your role and you will cease to do so and vanish into oblivion. Since Christ has given us the freedom to be sons of an eternal and almighty God, we truly become someone. We are no longer masks that will be burned up in the wheel of the cosmos, but persons. Real and unique persons.

As I have pointed out before, this is the great philosophical intuitive leap that the Christian must make when he first comes to believe. There is no way to tell in this universe that is ever expanding that we are the key to and center of everything. This little moving sack of water, flesh and bones, so delicate and fragile, is the image and likeness of the Creator of this vast cosmos. There is no way to be able to extrapolate this by mere physical observation. At some point in our hearts, when we look at the immense sky and the myriad of stars, the amazing and numerous varieties of life, and even the smallest sub-atomic particles (that we really can't see), something must click that makes us realize that we are the meaning of this order, chaos, beauty, and harmony.

The idea that we will live forever is truly an unfathomable depth for the human mind. We are eternal creatures. The universe in all its vastness and splendor will be incinerated and we will be the only ones in the physical cosmos that will dwell there, though changed. Certain theologians and thinkers have attempted to speculate on our state in patria, but all such speculations would only be looking through a glass darkly. But we must always have this in mind at all moments: we will live forever. And that life is beyond anything we can imagine here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

George Balanchine's Jewels

A Short Discourse on Method

We're only mouth. Who sings the distant heart
that dwells whole at the core of all things?
Its great pulse is parceled out among us
into tiny beatings. And its great pain
is, like its great jubilation, too much for us.
So, again and again, we tear ourselves loose
and are only mouth. But all at once
the great heartbeat secretly breaks in on us
so that we scream-,
and then are being, transformation, visage.

-Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Edward Snow)

Perhaps doctrine in the Church is not developing, but rather degenerating.

That is a bold statement that has to be qualified. For of course the Church is no less the Church now than it was in the past. Nor is it the case that the Holy Ghost is any less present. But the reason for His presence may be increasingly one of trying to preserve what we have, and not developing our understanding in a dialectical, ascending, and linear fashion.

The definition of dogma is only done in the face of challenges to the Christian truth. Usually, it is also accompanied with anathemas and even excommunications. These occasions are no more a cause for rejoicing than are criminal trials and police arrests in secular society. An effecient court system and an effective police force are things to be coveted in a large society, but they are not necessarily a cause for rejoicing.

I am not arguing that we are falling away from a primitive peace that the Church once had and at some point lost. Even during the time of the Apostles there was strife and discord among the Churches. Perhaps it was when Our Lord finally ascended into Heaven to stand at the right hand of the throne of God that our problems really began. We also forget the Our Lord did not say that the Church's understanding and fervor of Faith will increase with time. He said rather, "when I return, will I find faith on earth"?

There is also an issue of something that can be analogous to memory. How "fresh" does the Holy Ghost keep the Gospel message in our hearts, and how much of it is up to us and the elders who teach us? While things may not be getting any worse, they are probably not getting any better. The further we get from the type of society where the Gospel was first preached, complete with kings, kingdoms, bushels, and drachmas, the more faint, it could be argued, the message could be getting, at least on our end.

If the goal of the Faith, then is an ever increasing set of defintions and rules, then we are definitely improving. If the aim of the Magisterium is to make the Enchiridon Symbolorum of Denzinger-Schonmetzer ever longer, then we are definitely doing a good job. But that would be akin to saying that the best sign of progress in a society is the number of laws it produces. Laws are a symptom of problems, not prosperity. As in conservative political rhetoric, perhaps small Church government is really a sign of good Church governement.

There is thus for me very little cause for triumphalist optimism. If we are to glory, it is in the Cross of Christ, not in the strength of our forces and institutions. We must glory in the weakness of the Church and the mercy of God. That is why you will see very few doctrinal and theological disputes on this blog. There is room for that, and many sites that I have linked to do this, and I try to follow some of the more interesting controversies. My project, however, is not to solve these problems. It is to ask why we are arguing. That is the negative side.

On the positive side, I would like to show that there are things that I do glory in when it comes to the Church of Rome. I glory in little children receiving Holy Communion. I glory in old, shaky hands clutching rosaries. I glory in young couples kneeling in prayer in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother. For these are the day-to-day workings of the Holy Ghost in the Church, His day-to-day manifestations. What we often tend to argue about are only His very fleeting, occasional and necessary doctrinal appearances in Ecumenical Councils, Papal documents, and other events of that kind. If I felt that the former "mundane" appearances were more appreciated and understood, I wouldn't be writing this blog. I do, however, feel some necessity to do so.

I do not wish you, dear reader, to think that I am denigrating theology, argumentation, dogmatic definitions, or apolgetics. All of these things are very necessary, perhaps more necessary now than they were in the past. But these things are necessary evils, and necessary evils are still evils. I am indeed thankful that they exist, just as I am thankful that the police exist in order to prevent someone from breaking into my home and stealing my belongings. This is not, however, the primary cause of my joy.

Of all the people who read this blog, I can include such diverse groups as pagans, atheists, Calvinists, Lutherans, Orthodox, and various flavors of Roman Catholics. Some would argue that I am creating a space on the Internet for a bland, superficial irenicism that does not know what it believes. Perhaps there is something to that argument. However, the main idea that drives my writing is that in spite of our nature so wounded by original sin, in spite of our mortality, our darkened intellects, and malevolent wills, there is still a spark in all of us that longs for the eternal life that the Catholic Church imparts. It is this light, this longing to return to the Father's house, this desire for the true, the good, and the beautiful that I appeal to. It is this longing, I hope, that will do my arguing for me....

(to be continued)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In Assumptione Beatae Mariae Virginis

A la Asunción. -Pedro de Espinosa.

En turquesadas nubes y celajes
están en los alcázares impirios
con blancas hachas y con blancos cirios
del sacro Dios los soberanos pajes.

Humean de mil suertes y linajes
entre amaranto y plateados lirios
inciensos indios y pebetes sirios
sobre alfombras de lazos y follajes.

Por manto el Sol, la Luna por chapines,
llegó la Virgen a la impiria sala,
visita que esperaba el Cielo tanto.

Echáronse a sus pies los serafines,
cantáronle los ángeles la gala
y sentóla a su lado el Verbo santo.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"The Interior Life"

Rather than attempting to build Christianity upon the natural virtues of Inca religion in the Andes, the Jesuits in Juli had come to see Andean customs and beliefs as a serious hinderance to the faith of Christ. The sixteenth-century emphasis on the interior experience of Christianity, which created much higher standards for native converts than had existed in preceding centuries, meant that the Jesuit's disillusionment with the native potential for Christian evangelization would be experienced throughout the Peruvian church. Eventually, the conviction that they native peoples were not truly "Christian" would lead to episcopal campaigns in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to extirpate idolatry, as well as to modern notions that Andean peoples are "cryptopagans" even when they profess a belief in Christ.

-Sabine Hyland, The Jesuit and the Incas

What does it mean to be converted? Are we really converted now? Are we ever?

Reading this paragraph, I was really fascinated by some of the historical and theological themes briefly touched upon by Dr. Hyland. First of all, there is an implication that what we would consider as "inner assent" may be a very recent and even artificial phenomenon. Even the Spanish themselves at this time were undergoing the assimilation of the last wave of Jewish and Muslim converts, and there were many doubts as to whether they had really converted. How much "conversion" was good enough for the Spanish conquerors? Was it a level of conversion that, say, a Spanish peasant even had? Or was there a racist implication that non-white people could not possibly convert in their hearts?

Thus, we encounter what is perhaps one assumption behind the Reformation and Devotio Moderna: that there is a difference between simple belief and true Faith. There is an implication that the purity of one's Faith needs to tested, and all non-Christian "superstitions" need to be extracted. One of the most "superstitous" people I have ever known was my own grandmother, who probably prayed and believed things that would make most Protestant and reformed Roman Catholics recoil in horror. But she was one of the most Christian people I have ever met.

How was her prayer life? Her understanding of Catholic doctrine? Did she ever say or do anything that would have been against petit-bourgeois decorum? Probably. But when I read the Gospels, I see in my mind women just like my grandmother front in center during the Sermon on the Mount.

Deep belief and deep conversion are necessary. I am not arguing that. I am arguing that perhaps we really don't know what it is. Actions speak louder than words.

During the conquest of the Americas, Christianity as a whole failed a large number of people. Indigenous people were thought to be barbarians whose previous existence only merited being stamped out from memory. African slaves were brought over in the millions and in many places barely catechized, and up to very recently the churches themselves failed to challenge racist behaviors in how they treated most of their faithful.

On the other hand, many of these faithful truly learned the vocation of being a Christian: to be marginalized, derided, and rejected by those with power. In the process by which the "real" Christians had their victory march through history, it was perhaps many of the darker skinned peoples who were stepped on who won the true crown.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Mother Doesn't Even Read This Blog

Some More Housekeeping

To my vast, devoted, and loyal readership:

I have found myself in a bit of a creative crisis lately! Alas, I have decided, after much consideration, to put adds on my blog. Oh, how my heart aches at thinking that the beauty of the blogging art will be compromised by such an unsightly bow to consumerism. But such a great mind must have some sort of recompense, should it not?...

(Diva mode... off)

Seriously, people, just some housekeeping notes. First of all, I have finally fixed the problem of not being able to post Youtube videos on my blog. Yeah! As you can see, yesterday I posted two videos. I think it is good to have some audiovisual component to what is written here. (As AG likes to point out, MY initials are AV. Cool, huh?) I hope in the near future to start posting music and choreography that might be of interest, though I hope I can get help on this from someone in particular...

Secondly, I am starting to update links and to add some more. Would you consider linking to my page, if you haven't already? I realize that I will never get the traffic of more mainstream blogs who have normal people writing on them, but you never know who will start reading if people snake through various links to get to this obscure part of the Web. All links that you make will be reciprocated. If I haven't linked to you yet, but you have linked to me, I'll have a link up soon. (I am not good at this computer stuff.)

On ads: I don't like them, but people have pointed out to me that for all the time I spend on this blog, I am not getting much in return. And my student job shelving and managing books is not exactly a big moneymaker either. I am not above getting something material benefit out of this, although what I could get is probably just a pittance anyway. My tastes are far too eccentric to attract large numbers of people to this page, so I will have to take whatever I can get.

My favorite part of this blog is hearing from the people who read it. I know that I have a small flock of readers who range from militant atheists to traditionalists Roman Catholics and everything imaginable in between. That is the kind of show I want to run, and I don't want to change anything in order to make this more palatable for one group or another. If only one type of person was reading this blog, I would be utterly bored with it.

My mother, as the title states, does not even read this blog. (My mother doesn't even have a cellphone!) Although other people I deeply care about do read what I write here, that sort of puts things in perspective, doesn't it? This page is what it is. I appreciate and welcome all correspondence either through the comment box or at my e-mail at:

That's it. Thank you for reading. All five of you. You guys rock!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Follow Up to Friday's Post

Patricia Petibon sings an aria from Les Indes Galantes by Rameau

Cesária Evora

This woman has a voice that can melt butter from five miles away.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Truth Again and Other Matters

In a recent conversation with AG, I came up with an analogy that might aide in the clarification of certain ideas described in a recent post:

Say you are to be introduced to a person who you have never met. You will be given an extremely detailed description of how he looks, his mannerisms, and his personality. You will also be given all of his personal data: his age, his place of birth, his occupation... all the way to his favorite food and his pet's name.

You could be given volumes and volumes about this man. And it would be plausible to say that you somehow know him. But you have never met him. You don't know what his face looks like when he meets someone for the first time. You do not know what the verbal quirks in his speech sound like, the rhythm of his gait, the look in his eye when he is bored, etc. Unless you have met him, you know a lot of things about him, but you don't really know him.

And that is the difference between knowing the Truth and knowing facts. And this is arguably the difference between contemplation and the processing of data. The Truth is intuitive because it always entails a force greater than our reason that sheds light on what we think. Oftentimes, it is as if something from the outside triggers the Truth within us so that, to quote Plotinus, we find that which is outside becomes "congenial, concordant, a friend".

I have recently got myself in a bit of trouble on this question on the Reformed Catholicism site when I made some comments on the development of doctrine. To tell the truth, I don't want to "go there" right now since the only thing that I will stand by in my comments is that history is very loud in its silences, and to pretend to know the mind of those who came before you is very difficult. It could be argued that we are all trapped in postmodern hermeneutic prejudices that taint everything we analyze. This may have always been the case, but we are much more conscious of it now.

The issue I will touch upon is what I once addressed partially in this post, and it has to do with the analogy that I posed above. I have a real problem with any idea about the legitimacy of the Church that excludes the life of the Church itself in its considerations. That is, I am not really concerned with what rules, principles, historical facts, etc. constitute, define, formulate, etc. the Church. Perhaps it is my intellectual myopia at work, but I am much more concerned with what the Church looks like, how it acts and how it breaths. I am much more fascinated with the Church as a heaving organism vibrant with life. I suppose one must know the rules, principles, etc. to know the life of the Church, but it is arguable that both sides of this equation feed off of each other, just as the phrase "legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" is interchangeable in its two parts.

When I think of the Church, I always think of this South American procession that I witnessed as a seminarian where I literally witnessed a human wave of "here comes everybody": the poor, the rich, the saint, the sinner, the fervent, the bored, etc. etc. As in ancient Greek philosophies, I am more interested in contemplating the Church as the transfigured cosmos, as the confrontation or wrestling of sinful man with Almighty God. This, it seems to me, is far more marvelous in its scope than what often passes for theology, and it does indeed make the human mind feel its own smallness in the face of so great a mystery. This is not to belittle knowing "the facts" about the Church, but among the positive things that arose out of Vatican II, the idea that the Church is the "universal sacrament of salvation" means that the Church is larger than "just the facts".

And just as there is a difference between knowing information about someone and meeting him face to face, so it is that how the Church lives its life day to day must be incorporated into any apologetic of the Church. That is the difference between knowing and arguing things about the Church, and knowing the Church.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Les Indes galantes

This is my favorite opera by Jean-Philipe Rameau (1683 - 1764). You can find more information on it in the Wikipedia article.

My exposure to classical and avant-garde music has been very eclectic. After going from Bach to Bali and back again, I finally figured out that my golden age of music is 17th and 18th century France. Perhaps this period most matches one of my aesthetic and philosophical first principles, best summarized by Frederich Nietzsche:

Oh, those Greeks! They knew about living: for this, it is necessary to stop courageously at the surface, at the drapery, at the skin, to worship appearances, to believe in forms, sounds, and words, and the entire Olympus of appearances! Those Greeks were superficial- out of profundity!

-Frederich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

French baroque music for me is profound in its utterly decadent sense of superficialness. Who else could set the Lamentations of Jerimiah for the Office of Tenebrae to such achingly beautiful arrangements like this one? If you've listened to Delalande's De Profundis, you will also get this sense of terrestrial beauty that does not pretend to reach higher than it can go, but the heights it does reach are truly astounding.

Perhaps Lully will never reach the popularity of Bach or Mozart for a variety of reasons (not that Lully is obscure, but still...) Maybe it's because he and his contemporaries are so darn FRENCH (it helps in my case that I have a dash of French in my racial Mexican sopa). There is a sobriety in their aesthetically "superficial" drunkeness, one that is very much at home with being human, and loving human things (unlike Bach, for example, who always wishes to storm the heavens with fugues). If there is a music I can listen to all day long, it is theirs.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Anima Mundi

O Soul who animates these earthly shapes,
bestow their form, rejoice in harmony-
who are indeed yourself, true harmony
behold your contours, known to you alone
radiant though as yet you dwell in sleep,
oppressed, imprisoned in miry clay;
if with frail toungue you can utter your first origin,
speak out, that I may declare on paper
the value, out of musical modes.

Since I compose
reveal your inspiration,
your rich inebriation.
Should my song fail
to free you from your dungeon,
yet shall you still return
to beauty,
your first habitation,
where each true melody is freely born,
compared to which
our earth is but a shadow.

If truth was uttered by Pythagoras
in the sovereign intellect, Number was the prime idea,
when He fused his first idea with ice,
thus tempering his heat,
Number was foremost in his thought,
Desirous to form man content and just,
He grounded him in number,
from which He had created this great mass,
of stars, moon, and sun -
Number was to be his first example
granting the spirit wings to rise to the divine temple.

Since thus the soul is touched by Number's concord
as a well-tempered harp
utters divine and ardent ecstasy,
what were the soul to hear
the various sounds concert among themselves,
as spheres , now slow, now fast, which travel the heavens?...
(Giovanni Marenzi)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

For AG

The way that bright planet, the moon, exalted, full of purpose
all at once surmounts the peaks, filling in serenely
the outlined night: look: just so my voice
rises purely out of the mountains of nevermore.
And the places - awestruck- that you occupied and left
ache more clearly for you.

-Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Edward Snow

On Sight

If Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox or Miaphyte/MonosphyteOriental Christianity) is merely the older pagan philosophy you say--than why would you preclude esoteric teachings--the initiations you speak of go much deeper and are somewhat but poorly recreated without much understanding by masonic ritual.

Please respond.

Very briefly, the issue is not about esoteric teachings, deeper initiations, or anything else of that sort. The issue is how we perceive truth. Without getting bogged down in convoluted epistemological terminology, I would say that truth is not about the mental chewing and spitting out of certain propositions.

Truth is about sight. Understanding is about vision. Wisdom is about learning how to see, and see properly. That is what Neoplatonism says in a nutshell. Truth is intuitive, it is manifest and not proven. (St. Pavel Floresnsky)

The extent that the Orthodox understand this better is for me something that is not obvious. The Orthodox still live in the 21st century, and any anti-rational discourse at the heart of the theology of the last century could just be a knee jerk reaction to modern rationalism. It could just be escapism just as studying Far Eastern religions and philosophies is escapism. (Mind you, I say COULD BE...)

The solution is neither to turn inward in a self-enclosed scholasticism that only polemicists understand, nor is it to look past all of our problems for a Shingri-la in the east. The solution lies in seeing properly in the Western society in which we live, in the light of God. (image credit goes to C.E. Newland, the Painter's Eye, found on this site. Lots of good stuff, please visit).

Monday, August 06, 2007


This is the source of those metamorpheses, or transformations, so celebrated among the Hebrews and among the Pythagoreans; for even the esoteric theology of the Hebrews at times transforms the holy Enoch into the angel of divinity which is sometimes called "malakh-ha-shekinah" and at other times transforms other personages into divinities of other names; while the Pythagoreans transform men guilty of crimes into brutes or even, if we are to believe Empedocles, into plants...

Who then will not look with wonder upon man who, not without reason, in the sacred Mosaic and Christian writings, is designated by the term "all flesh" and sometimes by the term "every creature," because he molds, fashions and transforms himself into the likeness of all flesh and assumes the characteristic power of every form of life? This is why Evantes the Persian in his exposition of Chaldean theology, writes that man has no inborn and proper semblance, but many which are extraneous and adventitious: whence the Chaldean saying: "Enosh hu shinnujim vejammah tabhaoth haj"- "man is a living creature of varied, multiform, and ever-changing nature."

-from Oration on the Dignity of Man by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Random Notes on Music

Because I Am Just Trying to Make Amends...

In order to raise the tone of the musical discourse of the past couple of days, I will begin to post on some recordings of edifying music that I find to be mandatory listening. But first, some clarifications and confessions.

1. I don't always listen to edifying music, as my recent comments will testify. I also like musical junk-food, and most people will know my preferences in this regard. My love for classical music and other more sublime musical forms has been cultivated rather inconsistently but passionately since my youth. What I was raised on in the barrio was anything by sublime and edifying. (Unless you find Eazy-E edifying...)

I am not proud of these things, just as I am not proud of eating that extra Twinkie (just kidding, I don't like Twinkies). That's just what feels like home to me. Hey, I'm not perfect, and I try to keep it down to a minimum. (It's not like I get up everyday and start bumping 50 Cent into my ears right away.)

Some of it, in my opinion, can either be quite clever (like this), or quite poetic (like this). There has to be a redeeming quality in everything, right?

2. Otherwise, I like music that most would consider very highbrow. In fact, I just took my significant other on a date where we saw Johannes Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem. (Gosh, I am SO lucky to have found a girl who I can take to see a Requiem on a date.) I think that the lack of good music in this society is perhaps its greatest cultural crisis.

It's not that we have to give up all "junk music". It's just that we have to also have a good diet of soul-building music. And just as I think that people who hate all sugar and salty treats are crazy health-nuts who will probably be hit by a bus at the age of 55, so I think that people who hate all popular music are supremely ignorant about the nature of music. It is just a matter of moderation, as in all things. In medio stat virtus...

3. So in that spirit, I now present you with my all-time favorite musical recording: Handel's Carmelite Vespers of 1707. I first listened to this recording as a teenager, and from the first bars of his setting of the 109th Psalm ("Dixit Dominus Domino meo"), I am captivated by the musical drama, the devotion, and the splendid use of counterpoint.

It is surprising to me that one of the most profound works of Marian devotion in music was written as a mercenary work by a young Lutheran composer. But the texts are always treated with triumph and tenderness. And since I really don't like listening to liturgical music in recordings (which I always consider something akin to constructing a high altar in a Burger King), the operatic style of much of the work makes it a truly enjoyable piece of music with lots of vocal pyrotechnics and show-stoppers.

Bottom line: I love the Virgin. I love the Baroque. I love Handel. Listen to this recording. Resistance is futile.

Some Housekeeping

I have been flattered that one or two people have been posting comments on my blog. I don't edit comments, I don't usually erase comments, nor do I feel any particular impulse to do so. Just try to keep your comments clean, and if you are a sensitive reader, please be aware that any comments or links put in the comment boxes are entirely the property of their authors. Also, I like to have a little fun with this blog, so please do not take any light-hearted comments too seriously.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Something Worth Reflecting On

This is a good post from the wedgewords blog on the suburbs and Faith. It sort of reminds me of this post from the Go Sit in the Corner blog from a few months back. Happy reading!

Friday, August 03, 2007

De Maria Numquam Satis

Ay, Virgen, tal gracia en vos
y luz tam diuina y clara
que por Dios os adorara
si no conociera a Dios
-Pedro Rodriguez

(Oh, Virgin, so much grace is in thee
And light so divine and splendid
That thou wouldst be adored as God
If God were unknown)

It could be argued that the real problem with the cult of the saints is not with who we reverence but how we reverence. If we are hesitant to bend our necks to anyone out of an all-too-modern pride, then we will find reverencing human beings like ourselves quite difficult. But if you can't venerate a creature who is greater than you, I don't think you will be able to venerate the Creator very well. It is this sense of awe that is lacking. It is not that the human heart must be miserly with its sense of wonder and reverence. Its sense of wonder must constantly expand and branch forth into all things.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On Language

For Proclus, language is inherently theurgical, both because all forms of discourse are an extension of the divine names and because language reiterates the hierarchical nature of reality.

-Sara Rappe, Reading Neoplatonism p.192

Since I was a boy, I have always relished the power and beauty of language. As I like to tell AG, my favorite toy growing up was a torn-up dictionary. Sometimes I think that with all of this electronic media, we are continuing to lose an appreciation for the sacredness of language, spoken language especially.

As I stated in this post, perhaps the best remedy is to read things aloud, especially poetry. You should try it and see what happens.

The picture is a manuscript of the Argentine writer, Julio Cortazar.