Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adventures II

This shop is famous for its glazes; the α-ω above is in the architectural sample display room, and they proudly display pictures of other devotional works they have done. At the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in The District, is a crypt chapel roofed by Gustavino vaults1 constructed of this shop's tile.

Second visit (I wrote a little about the first a couple years back); this time with my whole family, to celebrate a cousin's wedding.

But, in short, Detroit is a nifty city, containing plenty of stuff well worth your praying for its preservation, not to mention the people living there.

1: Gustavino vaulting is assembled (unusual for masonry arches) unsuspended and without scaffolding. Instead it is constructed of units interlocking (a similar idea to Bruneleschi's dome) and self-supporting from the base up — something like the way igloos are built.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Type and Fulfilment

Today recall we when all first heard the Gospel in their own tongues.

It is an important point that this was in fact a miracle. In particular, there were different tongues and they were none of them universally intelligible. And that means it's well worth while to review the event from which several mutually unintelligible tongues have been spoken.
5 Descendit autem Dominus ut videret civitatem et turrem quam aedificabant filii Adam 6 et dixit “Ecce, unus est populus, et unum labium. Omnibus coeperuntque hoc facere, nec desistent a cogitationibus suis donec eas opere conpleant. 7 “Venite igitur, descendamus et confundamus ibi linguam eorum, ut non audiat unusquisque vocem proximi sui.” 8 Atque ita divisit eos Dominus ex illo loco in universas terras, et cessaverunt aedificare civitatem.
I have remarked before that the sin of Babel was not trying to reach Heaven, but to ecclipse God within it and over Creation. No good could come to men who sought to do this, and so the Lord God most mercifully prevented them, and set up a sign for a time to come.

What has happened, from Holy Week through Easter unto the Ascension, and finally made manifest, cum complerentur dies Pentecostes, is not the effacement of the curse of Babel, but its transformation into something still more wonderful. They who spoke different languages because Man sought to ecclipse the Divine, they have been enlightened by a Man Divine, and heard the Good News each in their own language; those who did not know the way to Heaven and thought to reach it with baked slime bricks (as was Adam formed of the slime of the Earth), they have been shown the Way to Heaven, and the keys to it are kept by Simon the Rock; and as God descended over Babel to prevent their perdition in vain follies, again God descended upon the Disciples who were gathered together with Mary, appearing as tongues of fire — the fire of Charity, fire to kindle the Light of the World, fire to bake firm the bricks of which the Church is built!

Happy and Holy Pentecost, everybody!

Saturday, May 14, 2016


In 1963, Barbara Wright and her fellow schoolmaster Ian... stepped into a rough imitation of a Police Telephone Box.

Before that, in 1956 or there-abouts, three of the Pevensies with their cousin Eustace and his one-time school mate Jill (and a host of others) ran up into Aslan's Country to find there ... Narnia again, only...

Before that (so I am informed from beyond the grave by Fr R. J. Neuhaus)
The Catholic Church, as Chesterton observed, is ever so much larger from the inside than from the outside.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Real Controversy that Needs Addressing

So, the commission given to Consilium II Vaticani, the "Pastoral Council", was to express in new words but eodem sensu eademque sententia What the Church has Always Taught. That might make it sound like a huge exercise in homiletics (which... wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...); but I think it was actually a sincere attempt to address sideways a real controversy, which we still have not yet shaken.

Now, just as to what that controversy was, and why Pope St. John might have thought sideways was the best ways to address the trouble... It is probably a child of modernism, but I don't know if it has itself a name yet. Whatever we shall call it, with a mix of just enough science-speak to get oneself into trouble, enough metaphysical scepticism to muddle one's thinking, enough historical scepticism to miss huge blocks of genuine history, ... the upshot of whatever unnamed heresy we mean is: to doubt tradition itself as a reliable guide to God's Will as expressed in the founding of His Church. That is, it is a protestantizing heresy, though it is not itself protestantism. It is a scepticalizing heresy, though it is not itself scepticism. It might be an "I know better than thou" heresy...

Anyways, that's the trouble: to doubt Tradition as Revelation; and I think I shall call this heresy Textualism. What modern philosophy, following the model of al Ghazali and then everyone who said he was too lenient on the Philosophers, there has arisen in various places a technique of reading words, chains of words with well-established historical meanings which any... honest high-school student... can grasp; the moderns have found ways of reading them and construing whatever meaning they please. (The "Living Constitution" faction of the Supreme Court do not even defer to texts, so let us never-mind them. Textualism is distinct from "Sola scriptura" in that it gives no special preference to sacred scripture either of reverence or disdain.)

There are, for instance, surprisingly many... phrases... not to say “sentences”... that, in their English forms, anyway, both orthodox Catholics and modern Muslims might casually assert; but we and they would not agree about them, for they would not mean the same thing (this is why I hesitate to say “sentences”). For instance, submission to the Divine Will is indeed a good and holy thing. Submission, on the other hand, to we cannot tell what, but they still call it God, well, it seems to have terrifying, inhuman corollaries — not often, perhaps, but often enough.

So, Textualism, the adherence to texts as primary over (or completely without) the traditions that have preserved the texts with their sound interpretations, lending itself to the scientists' instinct via “I can see the text, I cannot see its author entrusting it to his children”...; and again, lending itself to Sir Humphrey's dictum “Theology is a device for allowing agnostics to stay within the [Anglican] Church”. This is, I think, the heresy-as-such, that St. John apprehended, and decided to fight. After all, it's one thing for those outside the Church to oppose whatever they think the Church teaches, whether they understand her teaching or not — the Church has enemies, has always had, and always shall have; but to subvert the words the Church uses to unmean her teaching, and thus prevent Catholics as-such from understanding their Faith, that is diabolical.

And I think, (following the Hermeneutic of Surprise) that St. John's aim was two-fold: On the one hand to not capitulate: Church teaching means what it always has meant; on the other hand: to bolster the ancient meaning with an independent reference text. Whether that is what the Council acheived, ... I haven't read enough of it to say. I do know that even in this, there were many who fought against it. It may also be that St. John hoped that the new text might appeal to the opponents of the ancient content of Tradition; I am doubtful of whether it would, for one determined to not believe will find any excuse for not believing. But St. John did not ask his Council to define any new heresies and exclude them from Tradition. St. John did not ask his Council to uphold Tradition-itself as a principle of revelation, except insfoar as it is described as such already, and re-expressed now in new words.

It might have been a reasonable attempt! It might well have been a brave trial! To express one thing in two ways... that is a great part of the work of Mathematicians (we call them “equations”), and when we manage it, this really advances the understanding of both ways of speaking. But, again speaking as a Mathematician: it is a difficult task, even when there is no metaphysics, no ontology with which one must accord. And again: one who is determined against understanding will not be helped in this way.

As for the more direct approach, the never-pronounced “anathema sit”, as to why it was not sought, ... I cannot guess. I do not know why sideways was thought better. Neither am I sure that it was better (it's hard to tell, from History, what would have happened if it didn't). I do think that, eventually, someone shall have to try the direct approach. Happily, tradition is not dead!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Hermeneutic of I-can't-believe-you're-asking-that-question.

Here's an idea: if some text, construed as an answer to some given question, is ambiguous, maybe its actual purpose is not to address that question. Maybe that text is about something else altogether.

A cleric (with whom I have a silent disagreement on some points of recent-but-irrelevant history re Leo XIII his authority, but on the whole he's a fun and sharp fellow) has more than once remarked, of the Hymn to Charity in Paul's second (first surviving) letter to the church in Corinth: Paul iterates, Charity is such, and by insinuation you Corinth have not been such.

And so, with these notions in mind, why does Sacrosanctum Consilium have to say that Latin is the liturgical language for the Latin Church? Why does SC have to assert that "Gregorian Chant shall have pride of place" in the Latin liturgy? Were these things in doubt before? How grave a doubt? Is it then too difficult to believe that the fix revolt was in before Pope St. John had thought to convoke his bishops and re-affirm All that the Church Teaches?

But, in short, I think this idea of reasonably-inferred context might prove very fruitful in looking at all manner of official texts.

Monday, May 2, 2016

On the conditions of birth

I was born ignorant.
I was born inarticulate.
I was born inattentive.
I was born impatient.
I was born forgetful.
I was born without any great virtue.
I was born hungry.
I was born nearly blind.
I was born small.
I was born weak.
I was born prone to chills.
I was born without philosophy.
I was born without mathematics.
I was born without deportment.
I was born without politeness.
I was born all oblivious of being born.

None of these things would I want to remain forever.
I was born human; I was born a boy; what else of it matters?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I know it's not the Season...

I don't quite understand how, without meeting him, this young composer is among my facebook contacts. (He surely does not read this... rambling... ) Anyways, we all need something sublime now and then; and this surely ought to help with that!