Monday, August 22, 2016

It's that day again!

Well, look at that: the calendar count is again a two-bit semiprime. That's two years in a row.

I wonder how often that happens...

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Samaritan et.c.

Our Lord does indeed say "Love your enemies"; and there is, of course, a resonance of the same in the Good Samaritan.

But in the context of the question
Who is my neighbour?
the particular answer given is a bit stranger even than that.

The further context behind the question, that being the Second Great Law: Love thy neighbour as thyself, puts what might be a judicial edge to it: who is my neighbour whom I am bound to love, and who is he I may hate?

I suggest that Jesus' answer, followed by the exhortation Go thou and do [as that Samaritan], means that the question is wrong. Jesus does indeed point out how (by the lawyer's own admission) one may be bound in Law to love an enemy, but more than that: Jesus is telling this Lawyer How To Find His Living Soul In The Law: make yourself a neighbour, and (a) you will have fulfilled the law, and (b) the Law Itself will find you lovable.

Who doesn't want to be loved?

Who, then, should not want to be lovable?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

St. Paul and Capille

Since the Pater Zeddissime is syndicating bits of one Fr. Scanlon OFM.Cap., on the subject of ladyfolk and liturgy and Ecclesiology, I thought I'd put in some 2mils on the topic of head-coverings...

It's perhaps becoming cliché that, in Liturgy, beautiful and distracting things are to be veiled. The chalice and patten, before they are put to work, the Tabernacle, the ministers themselves in their Sunday finery under chasuble/dalmatic/tunic... One priest at a wedding I went to affirmed that even the words we use are veiled in Latin and Chant --- not so that we might forget that they are there or what they mean, but to protect both us and them.

And something of this principle is already clear in the exegesis Paul himself gives for his direction on head coverings (and the particular difference between men and women in this wise):
15 But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.
which follows immediately after
14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him?
(I should perhaps mention here that,... I do have long hair, and also am a "gent", or so I hope, but if you think what I do to my hair is nourishing, you've another think coming)

That is, a woman should tend her hair and keep it beautiful; and a man should not (not so much); and because a woman's hair should be beautiful the same should be covered for liturgy (and also there shall be Revolution). A man's hair, on the other hand, should not be distracting.

There are, of course, a couple of interesting points about hair in the Old Testament. On the one hand, Samson (poor fellow) was told never to cut his hair nor let blade touch his head. I kinda don't think we're supposed to take Samson as a good person (not untill, perhaps, the very end)... anyways, his hair shows forth his humiliation when it is eventually shorn off. On the other hand, Absalom... of him it is said
25 But in all Israel there was not a man so comely, and so exceedingly beautiful as Absalom: from the sole of the foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he polled his hair (now he was polled once a year, because his hair was burdensome to him) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred sicles, according to the common weight.
not just a looker but eager to quantify it... and which may be how he was finally caught after his last rebellion; the Vulgate says that in the oak he was caught by his caput while his mule kept going; but others interpret this as being caught by his considerable hair! Like... stranger things do happen in the bible, but it's still hard to imagine Absalom being caught by the head not by his hair, and surviving long enough to then be murdered by the general he's been fighting all the while.

But there is one more point about St. Paul and hair and glory et.c. ... St. Paul was the first Tonsured. That is, he was forcibly shaven by some unruly folk, in Damascus I think, so as to humiliate him (and very likely there was blood shed, too); but being a humorous lot, the church inverted this sign and proceeded in time to tonsure all its clergy, certainly in solidarity with Paul, but also as yet another sign of our awaiting and being prepared for martyrdom (though, of course, not trying to provoke it either).

We don't tonsure quite so much these days anymore, and similarly don't so much insist on capped womenfolk. Perhaps hair doesn't distract us so much anymore? But in any case, the two customs go together.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

An old classic.

And the goode wyf answerde that she coude speke no frenshe. And the merchaũt was angry. for he also coude speke no frenshe, but wolde have hadde egges; and she understode hym not
Circa 1490. Lower third of the image in this charming page. (I still wonder: why French?)

I'm pretty sure it was somewhere around St Pod's that I first heard this tale; it is a fun one!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Most Human Languages are not Associative.

(which I have also mentioned in the book of faces, today)

That is, semantics depends strongly on syntax, and especially on implicit bracketing.

Consider the two sentences, one of which will sound odd (almost as if it wasn't spoken in English!) and one of which will sound insane.

1) Because of this [wrong understanding], (most (sacramental marriages)) are (null).
2) Because of this [wrong understanding] most (sacramental marriages are null).

Note that most people can't reliably articulate or discern comma. Note that appart from parenthesis, the same words are present in both sentences. Try to find the main verb in the second sentence: it is actually absent; "sacramental marriages [ ] null" is a noun (an interrupted noun) in the second sentence.

What the first sentence suggests is that almost all the world is living a lie—and heaps of people have (reasonably-enough) asked things like "how would we know?". What the second sentence suggests is that there's a strong trend among those tribunals that find nullity. And... you know what, of course that's perfectly reasonable. And certainly the Pope, of all people, ought to know it.

Sentence 2, the one translated from what the Holy Father said in his Q-and-A, doesn't look like English because it wasn't spoken in English by an English speaker. To be sure it has been translated badly, perhaps because the translator thought he'd heard sentence 1. To be sure, His Holiness could have mentioned "tribunal" and "finding" and all that, (not to mention how a marriage cannot be null if it is sacramental, because if it is null, then also it is nothing else), ... but that's no reason to work your parsing of him (in translation!) on the assumption that he's off his rocker or any such.

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", not "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen".

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Officers? or Gentlemen?

[Spoilers!] (image source)
Col. Marchpole's department was so secret that it communicated only with the War Cabinet and the chiefs of staff. Col. Marchpole kept his information until it was asked for. To date that had not occured, and he rejoiced under neglect. Premature examination of his files might ruin his private, undefined Plan. Somewhere in the ultimate curlicues of his mind, there was a Plan. Given time, given enough confidential material, he would succeed in knittng the entire quarrelsome world into a single net of conspiracy, in which there were no antagonists, merely millions of men working, unknown to one another, for the same end; and there would be no more war.1
This is what I think of when Soros Inan remarks that "national borders are the obstacle" as if that were a bad thing, and not actually the very purpose of national borders. Whether he is disingenuous or has quite lost all his faculties, I am not competent to judge; thank Heaven.

1) Officers and Gentlemen, by Evelyn Waugh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What IS ... mercy?

“The Girl who was Saturday” relayed
An additional thought from my father-in-law (a theologian who's given some time to this issue): Perhaps we are to understand the unbaptized infants who reach heaven (if they do--and I certainly hope they do) as signals of God's MERCY as opposed to of his JUSTICE or his covenant.
To the extent that mercy and justice are different (even "opposed") things, I suppose this must be right. (Indeed, I have at times voiced a thought that it were more befitting humility to implore God's mercy than His justice).

We are as it happens, in the middle of a Year of Mercy, and so I think it perhaps good to consider what mercy really is (and justice).

We have a tendency to think of law and judgment when "justice" is mentioned, but I'd like to share an aspect of justice (and justification) that I learned from French: justice is about harmony. That is, when a violin student misses his notes (violins have no frets, remember!) or when his strings are out of tune, if the lessons are conducted in French, the teacher may well admonish the student to "justifier ses cordes" (strings), or to "justifier ses accords" (chords, harmonies). Justification, like typographic justification, is about modifying tension (in strings, or between lettertype) to acheive harmony.

Now, some strings do become untuneable: when a string is overstretched more in one place than others, it no longer vibrates in a true tone — it looses harmony even with itself. Some strings outright break without much warning. These strings a violinist must throw away. But there are other ways for strings to loose their tuning: there is slackness, there is accretion of weight of dust and oil and rosin... and justice can in those cases be restored by purging the string of its burdens. Strings can also go funny when their instrument (like our fallen world) shifts under abuse or accident, and justice is then restored by caring for the instrument, more than the strings.

Now, in many ways, people are not like strings (and in many ways people are not like programs); whether we finally break or irreversibly distort our natures, or allow ourselves to be cleaned and tuned to perfection in the venturus saeculi, is somehow within our own choosing.

But we cannot call this stew finished without some salt, without returning to the moral questions, to law and judgment. To attempt an answer to the title question, mercy is at the very least justice due to an injured person. And so a criminal (a sinner like me) may rightly be due some mercy when he becomes in spirit a victim of his own crime; but to do that, to own his misery as it were (help me at it O Lord!) he must repent, he must repudiate his former crime as wrong in itself. Contrariwise, to ultimately hold onto that which put discord between one and God is also to be out of harmony with oneself, to be unjustifiable.