Saturday, May 31, 2008

What nonsense!

Via the Telegraph:
Children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years, the head of Britain's top private schools organisation has predicted.
Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said "Matrix-style" technology would render traditional lessons obsolete.
He told the Times Educational Supplement: "It's a very short route from wireless technology to actually getting the electrical connections in your brain to absorb that knowledge."
Mr Parry, a former Rear Admiral, spent three years determining the future strategic context for the military in a senior role at the Ministry of Defence.
He is now preparing the ISC's 1,300 private schools, which collectively teach half a million children, for a high-tech future.
He told the TES that the Keanu Reeves thriller may not look like science fiction in 30 years' time.
"Within 30 years, sitting down and learning something will be a thing of the past," Mr Parry said.
"I think people will be able to directly access, Matrix-style, all the vocabulary you need for a foreign language, leaving you just to clear up the grammar."
Statements like this were made in the early days of computing and robotics. When the calculational potential of strings of ones and zeroes was discovered and then implemented electronically, it was presumed that the brain:computer analogy was very strong, and it was only a matter of time before computers could think themselves or that humans could think in a manner assisted very directly by machines. Mr Parry's assertion is slightly different - he seems to think that wireless technology can enable the fast and permanent transfer of information from the computer to the brain. However, he doesn't seem to appreciate how different human knowing is from the storage of information on a computer. Setting aside the philosophical question of the human soul and its role in human knowing, I think his presumption that somehow foreign language vocabulary could be transferred from computer to brain, in such a way that it links up with the student's knowledge of his native language (or alternatively with the student's knowledge of the world around him) is nonsensical. Additionally, why he thinks that this might be possible, but that grammar would not be portable in this manner suggests that he knows very little about languages, computers and brains.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Varia...

Via the Telegraph:
A homeless woman has been arrested after living undetected for almost a year in a tiny cupboard in a man's house in Japan.
The woman, identified as 58-year-old Tatsuko Horikawa, was found by police searching the home of the man, who believed he lived alone in Fukuoka.
The resident of the house, who has not been named, became suspicious that he was the victim of repeat burglaries after he noticed food was going missing from his refrigerator.
The man decided to install security cameras linked to his mobile phone and on Wednesday caught images of a woman walking around the house while he was out.
Believing he had detected the burglar, the man contacted police and, after an exhaustive search of the property, officers found the woman hiding in the top of a built-in cupboard designed to store bedding and mattresses.
Behind the sliding door, she had laid out a thin futon and had several plastic drinks bottles, police said. There was just enough room for her to lay down, they added.
Gosh!
And the Shroud of Turin is going on display...
The Turin Shroud is to go on public display for the first time in a decade, the Vatican has announced, coinciding with a new set of tests on its age.
The Vatican keeps the 14ft by 4ft piece of linen, believed by some to be the death shroud of Jesus, in an aluminium case built by an Italian aerospace company to shut out all light, air and humidity.
The case is filled with Argon gas in order to prevent bacteria from eating the material.
However, the success of the exhibition of Padre Pio’s remains in Puglia has convinced the Vatican to bring forward the next public showing of the shroud from 2025 to the year after next.
The linen has only been put on display five times in the last century and the last time it was exhibited, in 2000, over half a million visitors arrived in Turin in two months.
The exhibition will coincide with a new set of scientific tests on the Shroud in order to verify its age. Professor Christopher Ramsey, the head of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator unit, first dated the Shroud to between 1260 and 1390 in tests conducted 20 years ago.
Even though the Shroud is kept in Turin Cathedral, I understand that it is owned by the Holy See rather than the Archdiocese of Turin, so this time, it seems as though the newspaper is not wrong in attributing everything to 'The Vatican'.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Extraordinary Twin Reunion

Via the Telegraph:
Spanish twins who were separated at birth due to a hospital mix-up have met by chance 28 years later.
The two Spanish women, who have yet to reveal their identities, were born in a hospital in Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, where one of them was switched by mistake with the baby of another family.
(snip)
Sebastian Socorro, the lawyer for the separated twin, told the Cadena Ser radio station that the encounter was thanks to a friend of one of the women.
"It happened by chance," he said. "The friend was working in a shopping centre. The other twin came in one day to buy clothes. The sales assistant tried to greet her with a kiss thinking that she was her friend, but the customer refused.
"The surprised sales assistant then called her friend who assured her that she had not been in to the shop."
When the other twin came back to the shop a few days later, a meeting was arranged between the two sisters.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

300 BC Cup

I love found artifact stories - and this one is exceptional:
The grandson of a rag and bone man who acquired a small metal cup is in line for a windfall after discovering it is a pure gold vessel dating back to the third or fourth century BC.
The piece could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The 5½ in cup, believed to be from the Achaemenid empire, has two female faces looking in opposite directions, their foreheads decorated with a snake motif.
Experts were baffled by the piece, but laboratory analysis of the gold put it in the third or fourth century BC. The Achaemenid empire was based around Persia, but at its height stretched from Iran to Libya. It was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330BC.
There's a picture on the Telegraph's website.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Today's Gospel

Mark 10: 17-27
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, 'Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.' And he said to him, 'Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days'. Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, 'There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, 'My children,' he said to them 'how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' They were more astonished than ever. 'In that case' they said to one another 'who can be saved?' Jesus gazed at them. 'For men' he said 'it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.'
One could write an awful lot about that gospel, but what strikes me as especially suggestive is that when Jesus examines this man on the commandments, he leaves out those commandments which have to do with God directly. When one considers the fact that at the root of the commandments is the first commandment which prohibits idolatry and the worship of any one or any thing apart from the One God of Israel, this omission is very thought-provoking, especially when put alongside Christ's question, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
Perhaps Christ realised that despite the seeming virtue of this man, that virtue was hollow at heart because he didn't 'do God'. Combine that with the instruction to the Apostles concerning how to enter heaven (It is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God), and you have a decent starting point if you want to explore the relationship between the Pauline doctrine of grace and the synoptic Gospels, to say nothing of the question of the relationship between theology and morality.

Update on CoE Conversion Row

The Telegraph reports that things have gone surreal:
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, accused the Church of failing in its duty to "welcome people of other faiths" ahead of a motion at July's General Synod in York urging a strategy for evangelising Muslims.
However, his comments were condemned by senior figures within the Church. The Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the former Bishop of Hulme and the newly appointed Bishop of Urban Life and Faith, said: "Both the Bishop of Rochester's reported comments and the synod private members' motion show no sensitivity to the need for good inter-faith relations. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are learning to respect one another's paths to God and to live in harmony. This demand for the evangelisation of people of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities."
A Church of England spokesman added: "We have a mission-focused Christian presence in every community, including those where there are a large number of Muslims. That engagement is based on the provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion."
Has the European Convention on Human Rights superseded Matthew 28:19?

I don't have time to read these...

But the Times points to this interesting series of short essays on the topic Does science make belief in God obsolete?  Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P answers with an interesting No, and Yes:
No, as a matter of reason and truth. The knowledge we have gained through modern science makes belief in an Intelligence behind the cosmos more reasonable than ever.
 Yes, as a matter of mood, sensibility, and sentiment. Not science itself but a reductive "scientific mentality" that often accompanies it, along with the power, control, comfort, and convenience provided by modern technology, has helped to push the concept of God into the hazy twilight of agnosticism.

I don't recall precisely where, but I think that Newman justly worried that about the effect that science would have on people's imagination.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It has always been thus...


It seems there was a Laodicean presence in Rome this weekend, and it sometimes seems that pretty much all serious Catholics (if I might use that term...) know someone in Rome.  With modern means of communication, this is not surprising.  What's interesting is that if you look at the closing of St Paul's Letter to the Romans, you read the following:
I commend our sister Phoebe to you; she has devoted her services to the church at Cenchrae. Make her welcome in the Lord as saints should, and help her in any business where she needs your help; she has been a good friend to many, myself among them. 
My greetings to Prisca and Aquila, who have worked at my side in the service of Christ Jesus, and put their heads on the block to save my life; not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles have reason to be grateful to them. My greetings, also, to the congregation which meets at their house; to my dear Epaenetus, the first offering Asia made to Christ, and to Mary, who has spent so much labour on you. My greetings to Andronicus and Junias, kinsmen and fellow-prisoners of mine, who have won repute among the apostles that were in Christ's service before me. My greetings to Amplias, whom I love so well in the Lord; to Urbanus, who helped our work in Christ's cause, and to my dear Stachys; to Apelles, a man tried in Christ's service; and those of Aristobulus' household; to my kinsman Herodion, and to such of Narcissus' household as belong to the Lord. My greetings to Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who have worked for the Lord so well; and dear Persis, too; she has been long in the Lord's service. My greetings to Rufus, a chosen servant of the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me; to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them; to Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympias, and all the saints who are of their company. Greet one another with the kiss of saints; all the churches of Christ send you their greeting.
 Even though he didn't found the Church in Rome, and had not yet visited it, St Paul had a friend (Phoebe) who was traveling to Rome and was willing to bring his letter with her, where she would find a whole slew of people who already knew Paul. Just shows that in some ways, things haven't changed at all.

Convert Muslims says Bishop

The UK's Daily Mail reports on one of the Church of England's more sensible bishops reminding his colleagues of the obvious:
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said Church leaders had rightly shown sensitivity towards Muslims as part of efforts to welcome minority faiths.
But he said: ‘I think it may have gone too far and what we need now is to recover our nerve.’
Dr Nazir-Ali, who faced death threats earlier this year after saying that some parts of the country had become ‘no-go areas’ for non-Muslims, said that it was important for faiths to talk to one another without diluting their core beliefs.
‘Our nation is rooted in the Christian faith, and that is the basis for welcoming people of other faiths,’ he said. ‘You cannot have an honest conversation on the basis of fudge.’
Quite! And that really is how evangelization must be done. Speak honestly and respectfully to those of other religions, but without obscuring the basics of our own faith. To do otherwise is dishonest. Why would we not want to let people know about Christ? Keeping silent about Him suggests to others that we don't really care about Him.

The Pakistani-born bishop, who in 2002 was tipped to become Archbishop of Canterbury before Dr Rowan Williams took over from Dr George Carey, was echoing concerns that many Church leaders are abandoning attempts to spread Christianity among Muslims out of fear of a backlash.

Members of the Church’s ‘parliament’ have now forced the highly sensitive issue on to the agenda of this summer’s General Synod – despite the efforts of liberal bishops to warn them off.

A private members’ motion calling on the bishops to clarify their strategy has gathered so many signatures of support from Synod members that it has leapt over others in the queue for the July meeting in York.

Synod member Paul Eddy, who tabled the motion, said that the active recruitment of non-believers and adherents of other faiths had always been a Biblical injunction on Christians, commanded by Christ himself.But he claimed that many bishops were downplaying the missionary role of the Church and official documents often glossed over the requirement to convert Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or followers of other religions.He warned that the central role of Christianity in Britain was being eroded, and by ‘allowing the rise of another religion in our country, all that Britain stands for is up for grabs’.  

Friday, May 23, 2008

Lovely...

Via the AP:
A man holds a plastic figure depicting Pope Benedict XVI at the 97th German Katholikentag, or Catholic Church assembly, in Osnabrueck, northern Germany, on Friday, May 23, 2008. The figures are meant to be fixed in the car. The traditional gathering of German Catholics that takes place every two years in different cities is expected to attract some 34,000 people.
(AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Kontakion of St Romanus

There are many more here:
Lo, our King, meek and gentle, seated upon an ass
With haste hurries to suffer and to cut suffering --
The Word upon the dumb, willing it that rational beings be redeemed.
And it was possible to behold the One on the back of the ass
Who is on the shoulders of the Cherubim,
The One Who once translated Elijah in a fiery chariot,
The One Who is poor of His own will, but rich in His nature,
The One Who is voluntarily weak, yet granting power
To all of those who cry out to Him: "Thou art the blessed One Who comes to call up Adam."

I guess I'm not as smart as the Pope...

... in today's Wednesday audience (held indoors due to the unseasonable rain), the Holy Father spoke about St Romanus the Melodist. I must confess, I'd never heard of this guy before.
Anyway, what does Wikipedia have to say about him?
Romanos (or Romanus), also known as Saint Romanos the Melodist or Roman the Hymnographer, was one of the greatest of Greek hymnographers, called "the Pindar of rhythmic poetry". He flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the "Golden Age" of Byzantine hymnography.
The main source of information about the life of Romanos comes from the Menaion for October. Beyond this, his name is mentioned by only two other ancient sources. One in the eighth-century poet St. Germanos, and once in the Souda (s. v. anaklomenon), where he is called "Romanos the melodist". From this scanty evidence we learn that he was born to a Jewish family in either Emesa (modern-day Homs) or Damascus in Syria. He was baptized as a young boy (though whether or not his parents also converted is uncertain). Having moved to Berytus (Beirut), he was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection there.
He later moved to Constantinople during the reign of the emperor Anastasius—on the question whether Anastasius I (491-518) or Anastasius II (713-716) is meant, the renowed byzantinologist, Prof. Karl Krumbacher favours the earlier date.[1] There he served as sacristan in the "Great Church" (Hagia Sophia), residing to the end of his life at the Monastery of Kyros, where he was buried along with his disciple St. Ananias.
There's also the wonderful account of how he started off:
According to legend, Romanus was not at first considered to be either a talented reader or singer. He was, however, loved by the Patriarch of Constantinople because of his great humility. Once, around the year 518, while serving in the Church of the Panagia at Blachernae, during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, he was assigned to read the kathisma verses from the Psalter. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. Some of the lesser clergy ridiculed Romanus for this, and being humilitated he sat down in one of the choir stalls. Overcome by weariness and sorrow, he soon fell asleep. As he slept, the Theotokos (Mother of God) appeared to him with a scroll in her hand. She commanded him to eat the scroll, and as soon as he did so, he awoke. He immediately received a blessing from the Patriarch, mounted the ambo (pulpit), and chanted extemporaneously his famous Kontakion of the Nativity, "Today the Virgin gives birth to Him Who is above all being…." The emperor, the patriarch, the clergy, and the entire congregation were amazed at both the profound theology of the hymn and Romanos' clear, sonorous voice as he sang. According to tradition, this was the very first kontakion ever sung. The Greek word "kontakion" (κοντάκιον) refers to the shaft on which a scroll is wound, hence the significance of the Theotokos' command for him to swallow a scroll, indicating that his compositions were by divine inspiration.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quite...

Via the Telegraph, concerning the abominations made legal in the UK's Embryology Bill:
Mr Leigh grew serious again, contended that "we cannot and should not be spliced together with the animal kingdom", and ended with the pitiful words given by Mary Shelley to Frankenstein's monster: "I the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on."

To our delight, Sir Gerald Kaufman (Lab, Manchester Gorton) joined Mr Leigh in warning the House it was on a slippery slope.

"If you permit the creation of a hybrid embryo now what will you permit next time?" he asked.

But Dawn Primarolo, a health minister, was soon putting the case for "a pragmatic solution" and the vote went the Government's way, in favour of hybrid embryos.

One could not help being reminded of Dean Inge's remark about the Gadarene swine: "No doubt they thought the going was good for the first half of the way."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Brideshead Redisovered?

Via the Telegraph:
The inspiration for Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited is detailed in a new book showing how closely the author based his fictional characters on a family with whom he spent long periods in the 1930s.
It shows how the character of the flamboyant, teddy bear-owning aristocrat Sebastian Flyte was inspired by an Oxford contemporary with whom Waugh was infatuated and who, like his fictional counterpart, was a tortured alcoholic who died young.
Both 1981's acclaimed television adaptation of the novel, and a Hollywood film due out this year use Castle Howard, the extravagant North Yorkshire country pile, as the setting for Brideshead, the stately home of the Flyte family.
But the real inspiration, according to the work by Jane Mulvagh, was provided by Madresfield, a moated house in the Malvern Hills, in Worcestershire.
For almost 1,000 years, the property has been the home of the Lygons, the family of the Earls Beauchamp. In her history of the building and its owners – Madresfield, The Real Brideshead – Mrs Mulvagh has spoken to the family, including some of those who knew Waugh, studied his letters to them and explored the property.
The article goes on to outline some of the similarities between the characters in Brideshead Revisited and the members of the Lygon family.

Trinity Sunday

Andrea del Sarto's Disputation on the Holy Trinity. The saints shown are Sts Augustine, Laurence, Peter Martyr, Francis, Mary Magdalen and Sebastian.

From the conclusion of St Augustine's De Trinitate:
O Lord our God, we believe in You, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. For the Truth would not say, Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, unless You were a Trinity. Nor would you, O Lord God, bid us to be baptized in the name of Him who is not the Lord God. Nor would the divine voice have said, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God, unless You were so a Trinity as to be one Lord God. And if You, O God, were Yourself the Father, and were Yourself the Son, Your Word Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit your gift, we should not read in the book of truth, God sent His Son; nor would You, O Only-begotten, say of the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name; and, Whom I will send to you from the Father. Directing my purpose by this rule of faith, so far as I have been able, so far as You have made me to be able, I have sought You, and have desired to see with my understanding what I believed; and I have argued and labored much. O Lord my God, my one hope, hearken to me, lest through weariness I be unwilling to seek You, but that I may always ardently seek Your face. Do Thou give strength to seek, who has made me find You, and has given the hope of finding You more and more. My strength and my infirmity are in Your sight: preserve the one, and heal the other. My knowledge and my ignorance are in Your sight; where You have opened to me, receive me as I enter; where You have closed, open to me as I knock. May I remember You, understand You, love You. Increase these things in me, until You renew me wholly. I know it is written, In the multitude of speech, you shall not escape sin. But O that I might speak only in preaching Your word, and in praising You! Not only should I so flee from sin, but I should earn good desert, however much I so spoke. For a man blessed of You would not enjoin a sin upon his own true son in the faith, to whom he wrote, Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season. Are we to say that he has not spoken much, who was not silent about Your word, O Lord, not only in season, but out of season? But therefore it was not much, because it was only what was necessary. Set me free, O God, from that multitude of speech which I suffer inwardly in my soul, wretched as it is in Your sight, and flying for refuge to Your mercy; for I am not silent in thoughts, even when silent in words. And if, indeed, I thought of nothing save what pleased You, certainly I would not ask You to set me free from such multitude of speech. But many are my thoughts, such as You know, thoughts of man, since they are vain. Grant to me not to consent to them; and if ever they delight me, nevertheless to condemn them, and not to dwell in them, as though I slumbered. Nor let them so prevail in me, as that anything in my acts should proceed from them; but at least let my opinions, let my conscience, be safe from them, under Your protection. When the wise man spoke of You in his book, which is now called by the special name of Ecclesiasticus, We speak, he said, much, and yet come short; and in sum of words, He is all. When, therefore, we shall have come to You, these very many things that we speak, and yet come short, will cease; and You, as One, wilt remain all in all. And we shall say one thing without end, in praising You in One, ourselves also made one in You. O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Love it for the filth?

Via the Telegraph:
Claudio Velardi, 53, took the job of luring tourists to Italy's dirtiest and most criminal city at a time when Neapolitans are rioting over the mountains of rubbish lying in the streets.
The crisis, which arose after the city's dumps became full and collections halted, continues to worsen.
Last week, piles of rubbish reappeared on the streets of the city and the European Commission threatened to take court action against Naples for failing to resolve the matter.
The images of burning rubbish, together with the city's crime problems, have led to a steep drop in tourism, with some hotels reporting a 30 per cent fall in bookings.
Mr Velardi, a public relations expert, has outlined a strategy to sell the city without gloss.
"Naples has never been a clean city," he said. "It has always been a hotbed of viral diseases, of hepatitis. I am better off than many Neapolitans, but even I have a bad liver because I had hepatitis as a child."
Mr Velardi said tourists should love Naples for the unexpected pleasure of finding beauty and filth crammed together.

He added: "If I go to Rio de Janeiro, I know there are favelas (slums). This city is also chaotic, but is beautiful and characterful.
"We have no intention of turning Naples into Frankfurt. What is more, the hoteliers say that no one complains about Naples when they come to leave the city. It provides happy memories.
The unexpected pleasure of finding beauty and filth crammed together?

Women - Know Your Limits!

Seraphic offers advice for women who wonder why they are still single.
Seems as though the Brits figured the answer to that one decades ago:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oxymoron?

Section heading from a theology book that I'm consulting:
The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity: Details
Eh? ;)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost at the Pantheon

Fr Z has a better camera than I do, so I'll link to his shots of Pentecost at the Pantheon rather than post my own.

Interestingly, Mass this morning was celebrated by a Syriac Catholic Bishop who works at the Vatican. He wore his own rite's (pretty nifty looking) vestments despite celebrating according to the Roman Rite.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost Icon and a Question...

This is the traditional Eastern Icon of Pentecost. A theologian of my acquaintance gets annoyed by depictions which show the Mother of God in this context. Why? Not because he doubts her presence, but rather because he sees it as a duplication of symbols. Our Lady represents the whole Church, as do the Apostles gathered together. Thus, showing the Apostles with Our Lady would present two different and distinct symbols of the Church.
The guy at the bottom of the icon represents the whole world which is about to receive the teaching of the Twelve Apostles.

A Question
The second verse of the Pentecost Sequence goes as follows:
Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.
I've never quite understood why the Holy Spirit is called the Father of the Poor. That would seem to be a more fitting title for God the Father. Anyone got any ideas?

I note that in some very early Christian texts, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to in paternal terms. For obvious reasons, that particular usage didn't persevere for long.
(For example, see the Epistle to Diognetes which says of Christ: Having then in the former time demonstrated the inability of our nature to obtain life, and having now revealed a Saviour able to save even creatures which have no ability, He willed that for both reasons we should believe in His goodness and should regard Him as nurse, father, teacher, counsellor, physician, mind, light, honour, glory, strength and life without concerning ourselves about clothes and food. )

Friday, May 09, 2008

On the nature of the Gospels and Christian Art...

This just popped into my head, and I'm wondering whether there's any value in the insight that Christian art should take its cues from the manner in which Christ is remembered in the Church.

The fullness of Divine Revelation is a concrete individual man - Jesus of Nazareth. He is the concrete universal, true God and true man, disclosing the truth about about God and about man.

Therefore:

Since God's revelation to us literally 'took flesh', Christian art should not, as a rule, tend towards the abstract.

How is Christ's life made known to us?

Through the Scriptures, and in particular the Gospels, which we understand through the lens of tradition.
Despite being historically truthful, the Gospels are not footnoted biographies which meet the standards of modern historiography. Christ did not appear in a time and place which permitted him to be captured on film. Consequently, there are many details concerning 'how things actually happened' which we are not told. We do not even know what Christ looked like, what his voice sounded like, etc, etc...

Therefore, the Gospel accounts of the doings of Christ do not impose historical details on the mind of the believer. Listening to an account of the Last Supper, for example, the details of how the Jews of the 1st Century decorated their rooms and arranged their tables are not imposed on the mind's eye of the believer. Whilst our understanding of the Gospel is certainly deepened by historical research, the true meaning of the Gospel accounts can just as easily be grasped by the ordinary believer who has no idea what the blind man of Jerico might have historically worn. His imagining a beggar of his own time, or some vaguely undefined time in the past does not fundamentally compromise his grasp of the meaning of the miraculous healing.

Consequently, Christian art should not feel bound by hyper-realism or an obsession with historical accuracy.

Eh?

I've heard of little kids who like to dress up and play at being a priest. However, I've never seen anything like this before. What mom doesn't want her son looking like the Supreme Pontiff on his baptism day?

HV 40

The 40th Anniversary of Humane Vitae is coming up and I've been asked to put up a link to this conference in Oakland CA. It will be preceded by a banquet at which the distinguished Catholic philosopher and novelist Prof Ralph McInery will be speaking. The speakers at the conference itself will include Archbishop Raymond Burke and Professor Janet Smith. Sounds good!

Clerics and seminarians will also be interested in the website of Humane Vitae priests and might want to sign up for their mailing list.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Interesting... Pentecost Indoors...

From the Bolletino:
L’11 maggio 2008, Domenica di Pentecoste, alle ore 10, il Santo Padre Benedetto XVI celebrerà nella Basilica Vaticana la Santa Messa della Solennità.
Alla Celebrazione sono invitati i fedeli della diocesi di Roma e i pellegrini presenti in città.
It seems as though this year's Pentecost Sunday Mass will be celebrated by the Holy Father inside St Peter's rather than in the Square as has been done in previous years.
I'm not one of those people who think that the Holy Father should never celebrate Mass in St Peter's Square, but I do think that it is fitting that St Peter's itself be used more often for Papal Masses.

FSSP Parish in Rome

Via The New Liturgical Movement:
It is with great joy that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter announces the opening of a personal parish in the Diocese of Rome. The decree of erection of the parish, which is dated Easter day of 2008, states that in conformity with art. 10 of Summorum Pontificum, “and after having received the proposal of the Cardinal Vicar, the Holy Father has established that in the central sector of the Diocese of Rome, in the 1st District, and in a fitting place of worship, namely, the Church of Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini . . . should be erected a personal parish, in order to guarantee proper pastoral care for the entire community of Traditionalist faithful residing in the same Diocese.

The Fraternity of St. Peter is deeply grateful to the Holy Father and his Vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to be entrusted with this parish in the See of Peter. Of the many dioceses where it serves, this is the tenth apostolate which has been erected as a full personal parish, and the first in Europe. It is hoped that this particular parish will serve not only the local parishioners, but that it will also provide a fine example of the beauty and solemnity of the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite to the many pilgrims and students in Rome. Rev. Joseph Kramer, FSSP, has been appointed as the first pastor of the parish Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini, Rector of the venerable Archconfraternity of the same name, and Rector of the church.

The installation of Fr. Kramer as pastor, and official opening Mass of the parish will take place on June 8, 2008. The Fraternity of St. Peter asks for your prayers in carrying out these new duties towards the faithful, and the Diocese of Rome.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sanity, blessed sanity...

Amy Welborn has an excellent and thought-provoking post based on her stumbling across a 1960 book written by one of the leading members of the American Liturgical Movement. She does a nice job of identifying the aims of the movement, as well as picking out the strengths and weaknesses of their approach.
My favourite bit (it made me laugh out loud):
So you’ve got two factors working here - connect the laity more consciously to Christ in the Eucharist - and take a look at the structure of the Mass from various perspectives.

Notice the absence of Freemasons.
Needless to say, with hindsight about the less desirable fruits of the liturgical reform Amy can ask the obvious question:
The book ultimately left me with a feeling of “What were they thinking?” Easy for me to say, again, with the convenience of hindsight.

I mean…think of it this way. How could anyone think that taking an ancient form of the Mass and totally reforming it in a matter of less than a decade would not turn out to be problematic? Reinhold refers to it as a “thorough reconstruction.” How could they not see that taking what Catholics had been taught was the “Mass of the Ages” and that in some way represented truths about their faith, not just in the content, but in the fact of its antiquity and universality and what those qualities expressed about the antiquity, solidity and universality of the faith itself…and then saying, “Oh, here’s a new one..” - how could they not see that as disruptive and a recipe for confusion?
Read the whole thing, and you'll find it shot through with Amy's characteristic sanity.

Personally, I think the Church needs to engage with a number of issues. The question of a liturgical spirituality amongst the priests and the faithful needs to be tacked - the best way of avoiding the excesses (coming from both ends of the left/right spectrum) of archeologist, activism, hyper-traditionalism (Angry-Trad Syndrome), rubricism, anti-rubrisicm, etc... etc... is the nurturing of an authentic liturgical spirituality. Such a spirituality respects the liturgy and is formed by the liturgy, but is not blind to the social aspect of worship and the reciprocal relationship between the liturgy and the broader life of the Church.

Secondly, we have Marini's account of how Bugnini et al 'won' the post-conciliar battle concerning the liturgical reform. We also have a number of strong critiques of the resultant liturgy. The missing part of the equation is an analysis of how the 'traditionalists' (for want of a better word) lost the battle against Bugnini. Objectively speaking, because they lost, we know that there was some political or intellectual or spiritual flaw in the case which they advanced or in the manner in which they pressed their case. An appreciation of the weaknesses and tactical failures which helped determine the course of events is essential if a New Liturgical Movement is to be built on a solid foundation.

Concluding Postscript
Some of the Comment Box 'discussion' in some of the liturgy websites is driving me freaking crazy. Even sympathetic readers grow tired when certain points are raised again and again and again, often on only the slimmest of pretexts. Additionally, some of the intemperate language used about the Second Vatican Council, various Popes and bishops rarely does little more than alienate people. Even legitimate criticism loses its weight when it's clothed in the garments of hysteria, outrage or just plain grumpiness.

1 Cor 1:23

Some trouble at the Wailing Wall:
The leaders of Ireland's four main Christian Churches have accepted an apology from the Israeli government after a Jewish settler prevented them from praying for peace at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Holocaust Memorial Day.
The enraged settler blocked the way to Judaism's holy place because three of the men, including Cardinal Sean Brady, were wearing crucifixes which he took exception to as a symbol of Christ's death by Jews.
One wonders whether that last sentence is an accurate reflection of the settler's views, or journalistic speculation.
This incident took place after an Israeli security guard agreed that the Irish church leaders, who are on a five-day peace mission to the Holy Land, could wear their crosses going through the checkpoint.
The local Lutheran Bishop, Munib Younan, who was accompanying Cardinal Brady; the Church of Ireland Primate, Alan Harper; the Presbyterian Moderator, John Findlay and Methodist President Roy Cooper, said that an angry settler threatened to stop them.
To avoid a confrontation that would have had serious diplomatic repercussions, the churchmen did not proceed with their visit.
It should be noted that the officials at the Wailing Wall seemingly weren't the ones causing hassle - however, given the general atmosphere in Jerusalem, it's understandable the things would get quite tense when this settler raised his objection.
After seven or eight minutes of consultations in Hebrew between the Israeli guard and Bishop Younan, Cardinal Brady decided that the Irish delegation would have to move on to keep an appointment at the Israeli ministry for foreign affairs.
Last night a spokesman for the Irish church leaders was at pains to explain that they had not been turned away, and that the incident was "a storm in a tea-cup".
Cardinal Brady revealed that after visiting the famous Al-Aqsa mosque they had decided to pay an unscheduled visit to the Western Wall and had not had the opportunity to coordinate the visit with the Israeli authorities.
"We encountered some difficulty in gaining access to the wall and the difficulty arose over our wearing crosses.
A security guard promised to bring some senior officers to resolve the matter," the Cardinal said. "But we were under constraints of time to be at another meeting scheduled in the ministry for foreign affairs."
The Cardinal said that later on during a visit to the ministry for social affairs, minister Isaac Hertzog, whose grandfather, Yitzhak Hertzog, was the first Grand Chief Rabbi of Ireland graciously conveyed an apology, which was accepted.

The Widow... Well worth a read...


Anyway, I've finished reading Seraphic's latest The Widow of Saint-Pierre, and enjoyed it thoroughly. The Widow is, of course, the relict of The Tragical Tale of Aelianus of England, but Seraphic brings on an engaging crew of new characters to populate the Island of Saint-Pierre. What's it about? Romance, opera, seaplanes and policemen. It's a touch more serious (in the good sense of the word) than her first novella (which you need not have read to enjoy this book), but that doesn't mean it's any less funny. If you enjoy Seraphic's insights and her prose, then you're going to enjoy this book. It's a rattling good tale.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rome's New Mayor...

The Telegraph reports on the first Right-wing Mayor in Rome since the War:
Gianni Alemanno, 50, a firebrand neo-fascist and the first Right-wing mayor of the city since the Second World War, vowed to make Rome "secure" as he was sworn into office after his election at the weekend.
(snip)
The new mayor said that his first action would be to begin "immediate expulsions" of the 20,000 immigrants in the city with criminal records.
"We cannot welcome them without discipline," he said. "We will chase out the delinquents. There are 85 abusive nomad camps to destroy."
He added that he would visit the widower of Giovanna Reggiani, a 47-year-old woman who was beaten, raped and killed by a Romanian immigrant who lived at a such a camp last November. "I want to promise him that what happened to his wife would never happen again," he said.
Walter Veltroni, his Left-wing predecessor, was widely criticised for paying more attention to ancient monuments and film festivals than to problems with the city's infrastructure and security.
(snip)
Mr Alemanno has promised to tear down a £12 million museum around the Ara Pacis, an altar to the Emperor Augustus.
The sleek modernist building, designed by US architect Richard Meier, took more than a decade to build but was immediately labelled by one critic as resembling a "pizzeria".
Knowing the way things are run here in Italy, I can confidently predict that the expulsions will be minimal or non-existent, and the museum at the Ara Pacis will not be demolished.