Monday, December 28, 2015

For the Holy Innocents

This is another perhaps-unusual pairing, perhaps yet more unusual in this blog's context... These voices, though, singing these words...

"Covering", as it is called, Leonard Cohen... strangely similar accompaniment, too.

(As the Humbug and Milo both learned, one can swim through the whole ocean of Knowledge and walk out dry.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

And that's all.

Most of the rest of this blog is brag and bluster,
but, really:

Merry Christmas!

and that's enough.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dates of Things

The Julian Calendar, the longest-lasting civil influence of a troublesome Imperator-General, was a marked improvement over the previous system, under which an intercalary month would be, on occasion, specifially declared by fiat, the Republic Officer in charge being titled Pontifex Maximus. As the last such Pontifex Maximus, Gaius Julius had grown tired of the corrupting pressure on a PM who might be bought off with a cut of profits from bills due in the new year, and of the antinomian tendency stirred up by an official State Calendar which was blatantly four months out of sync with the Sun. The switch to prescribed Leap-Years, intercalating but a single day at any time (doubling the ante-diem sextius Calendas Martiis), was stroke in favour of Republican Liberty, Rule of Law, and Sensible Scheduling.

It was, I repeat, a marked improvement. And it was just good enough to get into trouble.

How good? The Julian cycle was a bit less than one day too long every Hundred years. That is: it was just long enough to start going measurably wrong, on average, just as soon as everyone who was used to the start of it was dead. If the error had been just a bit greater, corrections could have been made much sooner. Had the error (by some Astronomical fortuity) been smaller, well, so much the better!

But it was what it was, which has some curious consequences for the Catholic Church, and our current Calendar of Feasts, movable and otherwise.

Much is made, as it happens, of the apparent confluence of Christmas (25th December) and Satyrnalia (Winter Solstice (though no-one really announces Satyrnalia anymore...)). I'm sure we're all quite bored with that. The point, however, is: it was part of the business of an early post-Milvian Council to confirm the schedules for celebrating both Christmas and Easter, and there is an important difference between these schedules: Christmas is fixed to a Solar Date, and Easter is fixed to a Sunday around a Lunisolar Date. The curious circumstance between the scheduling decisions is that: In the First Year of Our Lord, the Winter Solstice fell about 25th of December, the vernal equinox about the 25th of March; and by the time of the relevant Coucil, Julian's Error had stretched the calendar about three or four days late, the actual equinox and solstice falling therefore about three or four days earlier than on paper. And so the interesting decision was: to confirm the Solar Date of Christmas, now out of sync with Solstice and Satyrs, and to adopt the Present equinox date of 21st March, for the calculation of Easter.

That is, while Easter was already a Movable Feast and its motion could be re-regulated to the Sun without causing any hassle, the Calendar Date of Christmas was considered Too Important to adjust it to the Solstice as well.

This indicates (quite stongly, I think) that the Date of Christmas was a Very Old and Important Tradition indeed, having its roots in a period well before there was any risk of paganising syncretism in the Church, or schemes to capture the hearts of specifically-roman pagans with a great feast to cover their own... um... friskier... feast.

There are other external indications towards this quite reasonable supposition that Our Lord really was born on Christmas Day, but I do so enjoy an internal logic argument about Things.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


For Thursday and Friday. They are Different.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Internet is a Weird Place

... full of weird people who don't have to practise sociable reservation... somewhat like the Industrial English Countryside.

Do you know there are people who are seriously worried that an Artificial General Intelligence will eventually be constructed and will, that it will "escape into the internet", and then enslave/kill/plow through us all. There are books written about this worry.

I think this worry is hilarious. Machines do not need to be intelligent to enslave/kill/plow through us all. And they do not need the internet to do this. It is sufficient that people using the machines be themselves thoughtless. I have enough problems with machines that are insensible and without guile. Did you know that most "trading" on the stock market is done by computers? It happens so quickly and so voluminously they laid a straighter, shorter fiber optic connection over Telegraph Plateau between New York and England, to save microseconds off transatlantic trading time; this was considered a Good Investment. And because part of the fun of this trading game is anticipating when the Other Firms' Computers are going to initiate their "trade"s (then you can maybe undercut them! or other things!) that Insanely Fancy Maths is used to complicate these timing patterns and confuse the other computers. Billions of Imaginary Dollars, and the trade commodities supposedly backing them, are already thoroughly at the mercy of several competing artificial untelligences; and it doesn't always work out well for us.

And do you remember a huge power outage in 2003? It cut off electrical power to 55 million people for several days. That was a machine (The Grid) that went just a little bit wrong.

Dear Master Gray,

I think I should warn you against imagining suffering people. It is unkind of you to imagine people, and then make them suffer in your imagination! Please desist!

At least, it is at least as unkind as making a machine that you arbitrarily construe as modeling (and hence doing) rational thought and sensation, and observing it, as you construe, to be modeling (and hence doing) suffering. In fact, I suggest your imagination of suffering people is probably crueller! Because I'm sure you can imagine all the more realistically the suffering of a realistic person, all the more out of proportion to their imagined deeds or imagined natures than might reasonably be modeled in an electronic machine. Why, no, I don't insist on electronics. You can do the modelling on paper, or in patterned braids of thread, if that suits your fancy. Except, of course, because of the suffering of the paper-modeled thing, you shouldn't model it at all. That would be cruel.

the ironist

Friday, November 6, 2015

"By short or long"

Well, it turns out the rumours were false. His Holiness seems not to hold an MSc in Chemistry.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course.

For what little it is worth, there is nothing wrong with the hope that sinners eventually return to communion. In fact, it would be wrong to hope otherwise. The only qualification on that principle is: said sinners must repent before they can return. And in those very strange but very real cases where public communion would be a public skandal, the repentence itself naturally ought to be made (reasonably) public.

That, surely, isn't an alien principle. And, very likely, many will find it a long path indeed. Long and straight. And narrow.

When I believed the Chemistry rumour, I had hope for the Pontiff that he might still be susceptible to the power of precision. Like titration curves and Ecumenical councils. Now that I understand he isn't an accredited chemist, I may be less frustrated by imprecision in his person (if not in his office)... and we'll save ourselves some ado.

Obviously, I don't know what was in His Holiness' head when he allowed those words reported as his; he may have something very different in mind indeed. But the "headline quote", as it were, admits an orthodox interpretation, and we can (and should!) pray that His Holiness come around to believing it himself.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

If I may say...

There are two issues w.r.t. Regional Bishops Conferences that perturb me (for which, on reflection, I am grateful that they haven't been more important in the past). First is the implied by-default subordination of... Ordinaries... to Sæcular order. Which is, quite simply, up-side-down. Or maybe "sideways", in the "it all went sideways" sense. Second: what do we do when the borders move? Because: It happens. It has happened in Germany and in the Balkans, in Living Memory. It might be happening in the Ukraine. It is almost certainly happening all over the Middle East (where, all things said, there are more important worries for the Local Ordinaries). There are still people who want it to happen in plenty more places. The Church, however, really ought to look more æternal than principalities.

So. There. That's my denarius' worth on the matter.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What are Commandments 5-10?

Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou Shalt not Steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor's (twice)

There is difference of opinion on whether occides should be rendered "kill" or "murder"; if we insist on the superficial reading of the later judgments, it's easier to accord "murder" with "shall die the death [by stoning]", until some folk try to insist that all direct killing of men is murder (and indeed some do)... But, you know, the last six commandments are all neatly summarized by the first one: Thou shalt not kill. They are even better summarized and overleapt by the Second Greatest: love thy neighbor as thyself.

Of course, while having a shorter, simpler summary of the whole system is a powerful tool, the mathematician's art also relies on finding more (as it may seem) from less, and so it is a good exercise to work towards the later commandments from the earlier, rather than from the Great Two.

To begin the argument, note that custom subdivides the "not covet" into two commandments (in various ways): thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; thou shalt not covet his goods (poetically elaborated). This is in exact parallel with the two commandments: thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal. The verb used is precise: to "covet" is not merely to behold as desireable, but to approve or wish knowledge of the person, possession of the thing. It is an act of the will already contrary to the earlier commandments.

"False witness against", again, is much more precise than "lying"; particularly as preface to the many crimes for which a death sentence may be allowed, false witness against a neighbor may be manslaughter and it may be murder, by perversion of justice.

Theft itself and adultery itself tend towards murder in many ways; King David, for instance, committed murder to enable his adultery (and this sort of thing is why adultery is, to the best of my knowledge, still a capital crime in the US Armed Forces Uniform Code and its analogues in other armies). Theft itself can directly harm another; theft in the desert (sandy, snow, or urban) can certainly end in a man's death. And so can adultery (cf. American Heart Association on "Broken Heart Syndrome").

I think that's enough sketch to show that "murder not" is sufficient to cover the human side of the Decalogue. Which ought to be a humbling thought: "murder not", on its own, sounds like a very timid admonition, doesn't it? Lacklustre, even. If we weren't such durned fallen passionate creatures, it should have gone without saying! And yet, it's actually hard to get everyone today to quite agree on it. Ah, but murder today is mostly veiled in mystery and hieratic language, the tendency of all perverted religious impulses...

Christ's Second Cardinal Law is both harder and more vivifying: LOVE thy neighbor as thyself. His own proper commandment even more: "Love one another as I have loved you".

Monday, October 5, 2015

Wells of Prophecy

There's something of a trick to recognizing a prophecy fulfilled. Uncle Gilbert described (in The Napoleon of Notting Hill, I believe) a joke played by the young, upon the old, at their ascending in turn to venerable age... the game of Cheat the Prophet, which consists of attending carefully to all predictions of their future, and then carefully doing nothing of the sort. And the comical opening of The Napoleon was that so many strange changes were predicted under Edward VII (or whom you will) that the only cheat available was to change practically nothing in the next generation.

But, of course, that's not the usual sense of "Prophecy". Genuine Prophecy and mere Prediction are different games, and So. The game of Cheat the Theological Prophet can be played by either tact: the simple one of doing nothing of the sort, OR the surprising one of doing exactly that, simply because it was written in a Prophecy.

For instance, between the Imperium of Augustus and that of Hadrian, there were at least two Men to arise in the province of Palestine, said to descend from David son of Jesse, said to be annointed, who raised or rose against the wrath of Rome. The later one had an abler army, but was eventually beseiged and executed with a band of loyal followers. The earlier one was abandoned by his friends and crucified about 786 AUC, and then conquered Rome about three hundred years later.

At most one was not, whether unwittingly or fully conscious, trying to Cheat the Prophets: to fit his life to those parts of the written prophecies that his contemporaries recognized and he could reasonably pull off. The trouble with things that can actually be done and are predicted is that, if they are written, anyone can then go ahead and do them. It were as if someone had published a password long ago that later on many publicly said they would use.

So, properly recognizing a prophecy fulfilled is going to be more like engaging in prophecy ourselves; because a genuine prophecy shouldn't be a published password, but more like a hash or checksum, one has to carefully compare against prophecy those events of moment and currents of mood that overtake him through life.

Which brings me to Wells. Herbert George, that is. Wells wrote in The Time Machine of vision in which it seems two species of human exist together in a strange relationship: one lives mostly below ground and keeps various important machinery working, while the other lives mostly in gardens and arcades maintained by the various important machinery — and are occasionally food for the first species. And he named these two creatures Moloch and Hevel. No... Sorry. Morlock and Eloi. actually, no, I'm not sure what Wells had in mind behind the name "Eloi"; I hope it wasn't "LHM", which is to say, a Hashem; but one can't be sure, on the internet... Let us say it again: Wells envisioned a future in which a life of vain ease is apparently supported by the cult of Death.

Now, it's more than possible H.G. thought he was writing a critique of contemporary affairs — much as Dickens criticised workhouses and the Chancery Courts and other Georgian attrocities; and some have certainly thought he was talking about class matters. That's all very well for Wells the writer, but Wells the prophet (indulge me) has something profounder in the words. Because, the surprising pattern-match is that Moloch and Hevel are, more than in Wells' time, today's demons.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What was Beowulf's Sword?

... would he perhaps wield an Vlfberht?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Applied Poetics

There has been a trend, recently, in public singing of the Canadian National Anthem, to alternate between the Two Official Languages so as not to be jumping into the middle of a sentence: for a long time, the break was "From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee./[...] Et ta valeur..."; not to mention the logical interruption and the dull flavour of the middle English/final French couplets, this older switch also had the curious effect of completely secularizing the Anthem as sung. More recently however, one has usually heard
O Canada, our home and native land
True patriot love in all thy sons command
Car ton bras portait l'épée, il sait porter la Croix
Ton histoire est un époppée des plus brilliants exploits
God, keep our land glorious and free
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
Altogether, it's got more "Canada" than the older form, appeal to the Divine and commemoration of the Cross as the Cross borne by the faithful (which weren't together in either language separately). Altogether, I might heartily approve of the change, especially if those who sing it also mean it.

I pray it does us some good, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"I will harden the heart of Pharaoh..."

I have contended elsewhere that the title text need not imply any extraordinary action on God's part, and it is sufficient for the narrative that God allow Pharaoh's heart to harden itself.

At the same time, being an individual of some stubbornness and occasional truculence, I know so closely how it's quite possible that what hardened Pharaoh's heart was the knowledge of goodness (and, again, there is Malachi). Can you imagine a voice speaking truth in Pharaoh's heart: "You have let them start out, and that will be to the good; but are you still reluctant? See how futile your beast gods have proved! and how weak and sickly their service has made your children, your firstborn! Will you not turn to me and join your worship with my people's?" et.c. For: Pharaoh has a choice to make: to forsake the gods that proved false, or to try still to serve them. The choice was foretold, but that does not mean it was made for him or without him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


This afternoon, blogger told me
European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies.

You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog and that it is displayed.

Permit me to register some confusion: I am not in any way a resident or citizen of the European Union, I do not receive or transmit funds with anyone "in" the EU, and I don't run a proxy server located within an ISP hosted in the EU either. What the EU may have to do with me, I can't imagine. If you are in the EU and visiting this website in the ordinary way, caveat utor.

That said, You are probably reading this using a web-browser pointed at some website. Probably, that website is hosted on a server owned and operated by Google. I can't control who plagiarizes my text, so I can't guarantee that, but I don't own any webservers. Google's, or the borowers', web servers may ask your browser to record or report on particular cookies — I can't say for sure, but even if they do, I definitely won't ever see those, and it is up to them to abide with whatever laws actually apply to them.

Furthermore, if your browser actually runs ECMAScript — "javascript", informally —
  • there may be cookies stored on your computer by MathJax, for the purpose of remembering how you might have fine-tuned MathJax's rendering of maths on this page (if you're seeing it on this page),
  • and there may be a cookie stored on your computer by sitemeter, perhaps noting the IP address that told sitemeter it was visiting, perhaps when the same browser visited before, and perhaps what link got you here. Some of that information I might see; I definitely don't see all of it. None of it is information that Google can't obtain by closer means and never show me. I have discontinued my use of sitemeter; your browser may still have those cookies in it, untill you ask your browser to forget everything. I don't know who else can see those cookies
  • If you mail a post-card overseas, the franking on the stamps will contain information about where it came from and how it got to its addressee.

As someone has said “There Is No Privacy in the Web, unless you are tunneling your own unpublished encrypted protocol through a steganographied unpublished onion router. And even then.

“I cannot guarantee the safety or security of any data transmitted via the servers hosting this blog or its elsewhere-hosted components, or protect them from global adversaries, closed circuit video cameras, or strangers reading over your shoulder.”

Here is a Reasonable Referrence.

Friday, July 24, 2015

All ye heights of Heav'n adore

It says "a mere 2.5 Million light-years away"; this means that light has echoed between us roughly fifty times since Tyranosaurus Rex last stalked ... whatever it was they were after (they were found in layers of rock officially characterized in Crete, rather than those in the Jura), though we've only gone 'round our orbit of our own galaxy a bit more than one turn. For comparision, we record echoes between Earth and Pluto in about nine hours. The Andromeda galaxy spans a wider part of our sky than the moon does (unless you're on the Moon...) and is visible from most of both hemispheres, but it appears much fainter in the spectrum we humans see. It seems to be getting closer to us, too!

Most of the very-round spots in this picture are individual stars of the Milky Way, a thousand times closer to us than Andromeda; the fuzzier blobs include mini satelite galaxies orbiting Andromeda and huger galaxies much further away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dipping into the book of Job

6 Now on a certain day when the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present among them. 7 And the Lord said to him: Whence comest thou? And he answered and said: I have gone round about the earth, and walked through it. 8 And the Lord said to him: Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright man, and fearing God, and avoiding evil? 9 And Satan answering, said: Doth Job fear God in vain? 10 Hast not thou made a fence for him, and his house, and all his substance round about, blessed the works of his hands, and his possession hath increased on the earth ? 11 But stretch forth thy hand a little, and touch all that he hath, and see if he blesseth thee not to thy face. 12 Then the Lord said to Satan: Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand: only put not forth thy hand upon his person. And Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

The conversation presented in Job between God and Satan is sometimes described as God "making a bet" with the fallen angel: God speaks, as it seems, only well of Job, and Satan speaks only to cast doubt on Job's character. Here, however, is the Thing: God knows Job and Satan perfectly, and Satan knows God and Job (and himself) only imperfectly. Given that God knows Satan perfectly, what is the purpose of His asking: "Hast thou considered my servant Job ... ?"? Here in the beginning of the book, as when the whirlwind blows in Hus, God asks questions to cause an effect. So here, at the beginning, let us consider this question carefully:
You have walked round about the earth and walked through it, so you know my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a simple and upright man, et.c.; but say now: what do you think of him?
and the answer Satan gives — he must twist it, but he cannot deceive God — Satan says: "outwardly he may seem all right, but how can he show what he's made of if he has never endured trial?" Satan puts the answer upside-down, of course, accusing God of molly-coddling this "simple and upright man" — as if any inner failings Job might have and their hidden-ness are the result of some fault or unfair dealing on God's part.

Some folks, of course, decide they agree with Satan's insinuation on this point. If that were the intent of the Author, then we should probably excise the book; some folks, as it happens, find a middle ground of believing that the Author intends otherwise, but nonetheless is too realist for his own good, and that the text ends up arguing against the Author more than for. Myself, I rather think something else is going on.

Let us consider Job ("have you considered Job?"): he is wealthy, which suggests he has some practical capability; and he certainly acts in public "simple and upright" and avoids evil, and he even offers sacrifice on his children's behalf just in case they have sinned. Is he a good man? Well Aristotle and [Batman Begins'] Rachel Dawes would suggest "it's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you" ... (who am I lifting this parallel from? I read it in a blog quite recently... sources would be credited! I'm a sloppy and reluctant thief!) or, less poetically as that other film imagined C. S. Lewis would paraphrase the Poetics, "plot is character". Unto his neighbours, Job is a good man. So far so good. Here's a harder question: is he God's friend? Is he fit for heaven? Or, put it another way: why does Job avoid evil? It is good to avoid evil, but even a good thing can be done for poor motives! And why does he offer sacrifice against his children's potential sins? It might be that he truly loves them and sincerely petitions God's forgiveness and grace for them; but it is also possible that Job does these works superstitiously, from scrupulosity, rather than for love.

And, even if we agree with Aristotle and Ms Dawes, let us not imagine that what one speaks in his heart is part of who and not what one does: an act of the inner will is no less an act than is walking.

Well, if Plot is Character, Job endures material hardships, looses his family, and sins not, then is subject to sickness in his body and sins not, and then falls prey to Good Intentions... note that God speaks to Job direct, but Satan does not: rather, Job's friends come and speak with him a while. And then does Job cry out and curse the day he was born.

It would be foolish, vicious, to say that all sufferings are earned. It would even be foolish to say that Job's sufferings are earned, or that his weakness caused his wife and children to die. It would be misunderstanding the book even to think that all suffer for the same reasons in the same way as Job — the same is not even true of all who suffer in this book. The book, Job, is not about why sufferings come. It seems rather about how there are worse things than pain.

And it also contains a promise, that God does not wish us to ultimately end in pain.

Monday, July 20, 2015

"In the Name of..."

This is more in the category of "not perspicuous".

I think it must have been the feast of the Holy Name, which admittedly was some time ago... Father's homily on the occasion began with the observation: It is a condemned superstition to hold or teach that the phonetic sounds "/ˈdʒiːzəs/" or "/ˈjeː.sus/" or the letters themselves j-e-s-u-s or even the spoken phrase "In J—s' name" have supernatural power. Counterbalance the superstition's idea with the scripture "Not all who cry 'Lord, Lord' will be saved", for instance.

And Father went on to explain that "ask in His name" means the person asking has to be, in a suitable way, in His name, and the asking itself (down to the object of petition) has to be fitting to be in His name. Perhaps a less-supernatural parallel is in order?

It is well and easily within the scope of ordinary human power to approach a stranger's door, knock, and demand entrance "in the name of the King" (or "in the name of the Law" in such places where Kings have been outthrown). But that doesn't mean the approach, knocking, or demanding actually are done in the King's name, or according to the demands of civil law. On the contrary, it is quite easy to run around doing so and causing trouble and bringing trouble on oneself. (heck, it can be trouble even when done rightly!)

The promise, then, "Whatever you ask in my name...", is something more precise and also more alarming than what the superstition understands: on the one hand (more precise), to ask in His name we must abide ourselves, somehow, in His name; and (more alarming) either the promise is empty (in which case, alack and anathema) or The Father wants to give us this abiding.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Trying to get at the Intended Audience

The First Five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, are traditionally held to have been composed by the same person, and specifically to have been written by Moses, but whether the prophet himself put style to scroll is not my interest today. Rather, since what theologians traditionally call the "literal" meaning of scripture is what the Author first intended his audience to understand, it might help to have also some idea of who the intended audience is and how they understood things.

Particularly, I want to get at the point that, even if written by Moses the Prophet in Exodus, the books of Moses are not principally written for the specific Children of Israel who followed him out of Egypt. According to Exodus, a great many of these died in the Desert, before the books could logically have been finished. Rather, the earliest reasonable intended audience for the Books of Moses (which we might almost call the Books of the Desert) would be those Children of Israel who followed Joshua without Moses out of the Desert over the river Jordan. To them, in particular, the literalistic history would be as fresh in oral teaching as anyone thought important enough to recall, but the theological meaning of it would need to be revealed.

And that is why we are not primarily interested in the question of how literalistic'ly the events of Exodus are described (how much poetically and how much prose) (or whether they happened at all — for in some way they surely did happen) because This Is Not Why These Books Were Written, and it is not why they were written because historians are not who they were written for. Neither is it why, once having been written, they come to be Canon. One can form similar considerations of the Flood, vs. "older" instances of the Flood trope, e.g. Gilgamesh — yes, other people wrote about such things, and real floods have happened, but that is not why it is scripture.

The reason the books were written, and the reason they are Canon, is to proclaim — to reveal — that God's Chosen people got lost among the pagans, and yet in the fullness of time He called them out of their exile; that in coming out of exile, they would have trusted to their own wisdom and so became lost in the Desert, and yet God taught them how (this is the Law) to get through the Desert, and still more, fed and watered them more than mere justice; that when they were opposed beyond their strength, still He protected them, so long as they kept to his commands. So much is certainly true in plain history, but more: the same is true in every ordinary human soul.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Contradiction? Or Contrast?

Someone else pointed this out to me — some other 'blogger, and I forget who, it was a "long" time ago, but anyways...

The Lord looks different to folk of different dispositions. Lege (Malachi 4):
1 For behold the day shall come kindled as a furnace: and all the proud, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts, it shall not leave them root, nor branch. 2 But unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd.

Again, just to rearrange things, See: "the day shall come", and "the Sun [...] shall arise"; they are "kindled as a furnace" and "health in his wings", respectively; in one and the same movement the "proud ...", they "shall be stubble", and "you that fear my name", they "shall leap like calves of the herd".

Friday, June 26, 2015

My dear foreign Justices (who have chosen an Alien god),

"Do you mean," asked Syme, "that there is really as much connection between crime and the modern intellect as all that?"

"You are not sufficiently democratic," answered the policeman, "but you were right when you said just now that our ordinary treatment of the poor criminal was a pretty brutal business. I tell you I am sometimes sick of my trade when I see how perpetually it means merely a war upon the ignorant and the desperate. But this new movement of ours is a very different affair. We deny the snobbish English assumption that the uneducated are the dangerous criminals. We remember the Roman Emperors. We remember the great poisoning princes of the Renaissance. We say that the dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man; they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a greater fulness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people's."
The Man who was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton

And so, be ye welcomed among the "philosophers":
[...] But the petitioners, far from seeking to de-value marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities [...]

A mathematician, of all sorts

Monday, June 15, 2015

What makes an Old-Testament Hero?

As I've said before (and will doubtless repeat), Father Abraham is a Very Odd Fellow. Naught to do with being so obedient of Offer Isaac for a holocaust, but his relations with Sarah. Either he is being awfully crafty and knows in a supernatural way that she won't be in any actual danger, or he is being rather shrewd and careless with her.

If I were the suspicious- and bible-is-history-in-code sort of person, I might wonder if the poor dear Mother of Isaac were infected with something to which she was outwardly asymptomatic but otherwise virulent and communicable — the reason given for her barenness is considerable age, but at the same time it is implied that her appearance captures the eye of at least two local kings (including the current Pharaoh). The reason given for Abraham's dissembling w.r.t their state-in-life is that he fears for his life, should this or that royal figure behold and desire Sarah's beauty --- on which point, do remember the story of that other towering figure of David, his friend Uriah, and his wife Bathsheba. But twice, the result of Abraham and Sarah dissembling on their state is: the court of this or that King is soon stricken with some uncomfortable plague! I don't actually entertain the suspicious-minded reading as a likely subtext, but that there is some subtext to the repeated story seems more than likely.

So, what is it that makes Abraham a Hero, in the Old Testament? To be sure, it is clear that, when God instructs him, Abraham does. I don't know why God is content to hold the Protection of the Bond in His own capable hands rather than telling Abraham to do his sponsorial duty and actually protect his other-in-one-flesh. It is very strange to me, and Abraham's character certainly seems to imply he would obey --- for he does obey in other much-more-uncomfortable things; but there it is. But above this obedience, and over Abraham's gift of recognizing God (when, at the same meeting, Sarah seems not to), is a genuine interest in Justice. That is: Abraham does make so bold as to dispute with God whether it is right to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, if it should chance there be many righteous people living there. And I certainly think there was more in it than not wanting his earlier rescue expedition to go wasted. While you and I might disagree whether Abraham was (at the start of his story) a very good husband or father, it is more than possible that he was the most upright man between Babylon and Egypt.

I've not thought much about Isaac, but Jacob... sneaky Jacob, Jacob "the Usurper"... On the one hand, he was a combative fellow, one-to-one; on the other hand, he was alternately shrewd and cagey about his neighbors (and his cousins). But the symbolic key, I think, is that famous image: Jacob wrestles with the Angel.

And again I will skip over Joseph and the Pharaohs who knew him; but I will remark that, apart from his making-excuses and his hesitation, it is Moses who asks of God "If they should say to me 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" The rest is clearly fear and trembling (not in themselves bad, but sometimes misplaced), but this... underneath it is a genuine and fascinating Question, which many another might never have thought of, or bothered to ask.

This Bible, this scripture, is not an easy book to read or understand; in particular it is full of tension, and I rather think that that's something of the point. God expects us to wrestle with it, to wrestle in our own consciences against our disordered inclinations, and to ask of God why, and whether, and how.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

On Bakeries

Bakeries just might have an interesting pedagogical tool at their disposal, in that bakers are interested in successful substitutions and unsuccessful substitutions.

For instance, a baker might substitute a small volume of liquid oil for a greater volume of solid fat; mayonaise for fresh eggs, on occasion; different choices of leaven, depending on the desired effect.

And furthermore, a baker knows that certain substitutions won't work. Using starch instead of soda, for instance, won't work. Using vinegar instead of oil won't work. An egg won't replace cocoa.

And, what's even more niftier, the baker can demonstrate these unsuccessful substitutions, in short order, in much less time than it takes (for instance) to hatch and raise an adopted child.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Today’s new arXivals in math.AT suggest to me that it’s very possible someone else will finish or obsolete my primary project before I do.

At least, the kind of results they are claiming are very${}^2$ similar to the kind of results I’m looking for, if not the particular conjectures I was trying to decide along the way.

What to do, what to do…

Monday, June 1, 2015

Last week's ad Communionem, gussied-up by (Catholic) James MacMillan

It's loud, and the accoustics of the place "favour" the soprano end of the spectrum. The building was built by and for the use of the protestant established church of Norway. Some things just don't like to die.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Musings on the Law

The first words recorded in the Bible as spoken to Man, "be fruitful and multiply", are sometimes called a commandment, but this is misleading. They are a blessing. For some, there is a greater blessing prepared in this world already, but this does not diminish the first blessing.

It is said, sometimes, that there are "613 Commandments" (or some such number) in the Old Testament. Some of them are famous, such as
____ the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: ____ the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.
It's a bit wordy, and includes command, revelation, and warning. It is a command, in that it outlines a necessary principle of human life in general: we owe our very being (reflected in deliverance out of Egypt) to the foundation of all being, who exists-by-nature; and so primacy of worship belongs to the same Creator, not to be supplanted in our devotion by any creature (though we may be glad of them for their instrumentality in our present life, or delight in them as rejoicing the senses, so far as that is good), and especially not any of our creatures — "graven images".

Another expression in the imperative follows soon after those famous ten,
And if thou make an altar of stone unto me, thou shalt not build it of hewn stones: for if thou lift up a tool upon it, it shall be defiled.
We might call this a command, but it certainly isn't a principle of human life in general. Firstly, it is already a conditional sentence, opening with "if". Secondly, it seems to come with an explanation, if one whose poetry remains obscure to me. (It occurs to me that, today, dedicated altars in Catholic churches all incorporate hewn stone reliquaries; hewing them is the most practical means of keeping a chalice level.) I've a sneaking suspicion that the intent is to keep not only hand-made idols away from worship, but to separate even the crafts of image-making from worship, for the moment, though I'd rather have a clear explanation...

These are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy a Hebrew servant...
the translation chosen here is "judgment", and the whole of what follows is of quite a different class of Law than the Decalogue; it outlines what might today be called jurisprudence and sentencing guidelines. Like the liturgical law "if thou make an altar..." it is a series of conditionals. And every judgment is invoked only with particular manifest evidence.

The condition in the very first judgement raises an interesting question! Who, at the contextual moment, owns a Hebrew servant and might sell? If there are any in the present company, those servants will be free in the Seventh year. That is, this chapter opens, not with the sanctioning of slavery, but with a recipe for delivering captive Hebrews out of Pagan servitude! The ransomed Hebrew indeed owes his life and eventual freedom to whoever paid his ransom, and the law emphasizes this — though, note that it doesn't say anything against early release of a ransomed servant.

I think it is a mistake to suppose that God intended the sentences of Sinai to be understood by Moses as his last word to the People of Israel on the subject; and therefore neither did He intend Israel to think the Law was finished. The modern tendency to find this Law unbearably harsh ("If a man curse his father or his mother"... but what is meant by "cursing"?) I think speaks of a tacit assumption that this Law was given in a vacuum — that because Israel are currently sitting in the Desert they have no proper law or legal habits, and that they also have no problems that the Law is needed for to solve. But on the contrary there is a ... joke? ... about laws: if there is somewhere a statute explicitly forbiding, say, the blindfolding of a Cow on the Highway, and a specified fine for it, one must suppose that at least two people have at some point blindfolded cows on highways.

Or, let me put it this way: according to tradition, the Sinai legal Maxim "an eye for an eye" was written by the same human hand as Lamech's lament, "Sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for Cain: but for Lamech seventy times sevenfold;" (and, of course, we Christians all remember how many times to forgive our brother?). The Law given at Sinai may well be (and, I suggest, should be read as) the very first iteration of legal restraint in Israel's history. Do ransom captive Israelites, and retain their debt in servitude, but no more than six years. Yes, in the Desert you are wandering and cannot hold prisoners but must chastise crime, nonetheless don't get fancy or messy with execution— I do shudder to think it, but today probably the "cleanest" execution available is "firing squad", and... well, that's what stoning-or-arrows were, (c.f. "David and Goliath") and it was supposed to be done quickly. Anyways, read this way, supposing a progression from seventy-times-sevenfold vengeance to strictly equal vengeance... it's not that this, in itself, has to culminate with the Sermon on the Mount, but that once you get there, it is a most fitting conclusion.

But neither is this the end of thinking about this Law, these "judgments".

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Since we're in the general mode of "hunt the snark and kill it",

Whatever the scribes' intentions, there has been a tiny noise (a "ping", perhaps? or a twig snapping?) that in Gaudium et Spes the Two Greatest Commandments are quoted as one single commandment of two prongs, and that since that time in various Documents of lesser weight, similar citations even-less-careful are made (for instance, omitting the Greatest); I'm quite sure this, in itself, is Not A Big Problem — firstly because there is no indication that the scribe intended to propose error as such, secondly because there is as yet no indication that anyone wishing to teach error in this matter either uses or refers to (or even reads) G et S, and lastly because to absolutely fix this it would suffice to publish an updated version of G et S using a plural, with an annotation on the earlier version. This is also, incidentally, why modern official texts are littered with footnotes: so the reader can go back and check what's up with whatever --- also one of the many indications that I'm not an official of any sort.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

the "Lying Spirit"

... or, "who you gonna believe?"

Here is the core of the text in question, and one possible reading of it, up until Micheas breaks the spell. The end of the story is that Achab is told plainly that he will be overthrown in battle, Achab goes forth to battle, and there is overthrown.

Enter Micheas, enter nunzio
13 And the messenger, that went to call Micheas, spoke to him, saying: Behold the words of the prophets with one mouth declare good things to the king: let thy word therefore be like to theirs, and speak that which is good. 14 But Micheas said to him: As the Lord liveth, whatsoever the Lord shall say to me, that will I speak.
Exeunt, et introibunt ad regem
15 So he came to the king, and the king said to him: Micheas, shall we go to Ramoth Galaad to battle, or shall we forbear? He answered him: Go up, and prosper, and the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hands.
... and who told him to say that? Was it the Lord? Assuredly not, for recall: "the messenger [] spoke to him : '[] let thy word be like to theirs...'"; perhaps Micheas is speaking sardonically, perhaps he is so far nonplussed at being consulted over the King's own advisors, when he certainly already knows that the King likes him not; we don't know, but the King does not believe him. If Micheas is lying, he's not very good at it!
16 But the king said to him: I adjure thee again and again, that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord. 17 And he said: I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, like sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said: These have no master: let every man of them return to his house in peace.
Only now has Micheas begun to speak in prophetic register. Achab repeats his hesitation --- the one from before I started quoting --- before Micheas continues in parable
18 (Then the king of Israel said to Josaphat: Did I not tell thee, that he prophesieth no good to me, but always evil?) 19 And [Micheas] added and said: Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord:
I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the army of heaven standing by him on the right hand and on the left: 20 And the Lord said: Who shall deceive Achab king of Israel, that he may go up, and fall at Ramoth Galaad? And one spoke words of this manner, and another otherwise. 21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said: I will deceive him. And the Lord said to him: By what means? 22 And he said: I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said: Thou shalt deceive him, and shalt prevail: go forth, and do so.
The whole picture of celestial intrigue is what God told Micheas to relate, which is how you can tell that it's not a superficially-literal narrative. To whom is Micheas speaking? To Achab. Who has deceived Achab? Achab himself. For now he has heard his "prophets" speak encouragement, and Micheas speak of his downfall, and warn him that his "prophets" have spoken lies, yet which does he choose to heed? If the tale Micheas tells of the lying spirit before the Lord is superficially true, if the literal meaning of this scripture is a celestial conspiracy against Achab, then what can be the purpose of the Lord's own prophet revealing it before the trap is closed? Rather, it is a parable, imploring Achab to humility, warning that he has surrounded himself by liars and sycophants, that if he go up to Ramoth Galaad it is the Lord Himself will defeat him.

And Achab goes up to Ramoth, not because he has been deceived by any extraordinary act of God, but because God has told him the truth and Achab has despised it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Literal" meaning

for we handed on to you what we also received...

That is, I'm not making this up: the "literal" meaning of scripture, the most basic and oldest true sense isn't identically the first meaning that would spring to your mind or mine, but the one the insipired author had in mind. That is, it helps to know the author and something of their character. For instance, the author of Exodus is pretty-universally held to be the same human person as the author of Genesis (and of Genesis 1-3 in particular). Anyways, the literal meaning of such a passage in Exodus as
And when [Moses] was in his journey, in the inn, the Lord met him, and would have killed him
need not be that the Lord sought to kill Moses. Could the Lord seek to kill Moses and fail? And it certainly doesn't mean there was a Prancing Pony by Barliman Butterbur in Northwest Sinai. The literal meaning of the next,
Immediately Sephora took a very sharp stone, and circumcised the foreskin of her son, and touched his feet and said: A bloody spouse art thou to me. And [the Lord] let [Moses] go after she had said "A bloody spouse art thou to me", because of the circumcision.
need not be that the Lord absolutely requires the mutilation of all the man-children of Abraham, whether of root stock or grafted on. Indeed the First Council (of Jerusalem) clarified that what are called the works of the Old Law (from circumcision through Temple Sacrifice) do not bind the Body of Christ, and indeed may not be fitting for all its members, even those works that are still gramatical.

Whatever the literal meaning, here is a plain narative actually present in the sequence: while Moses had accepted his vocation at least so far as returning towards Egypt (and so putting himself in danger's way), yet he had not formed such an interior faith as he would choose to join his own children to the children of Israel; and yet, somehow, his wife the stranger had sufficient faith to supply what was wanting in Moses, and, most amazing, this did satisfy the Lord. We can later consider (i.e., I won't just now) the relative necessity of circumcision itself, whether it is an essential part of this text or if it only means inclusion in Israel, and all that. It would be sufficient, however, to understand the text, that the Lord required of Moses that he raise his own children as Israelites, and Moses (or Sephora) understood that this must include their circumcision.

(We might well wonder by what grace Sephora was able to "immediately [find] a very sharp stone", which must have been a very sharp stone indeed, though inns are supposed to be well-supplied houses...)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Did The Lord Lie to Abraham?

This is no longer the first of a possible series of reflections provoked by a blogger friend's blogged expressions of concern on the goodness of acts imputed to God in the text of the Old Testament. The previous was "not Perspicuous". Like that, this is not (of course! --- indeed no more than the Imagined Dialogue) a definitive answer, because I certainly haven't got any definitive answers, nor authority to define. But our friend's questions, how they are provoking! (In a good way)

One of the strangest episodes in a very strange book begins:
After [Isaac was born, and Ishmael with Hagar sent away, and a truce made with Abimelech], God tempted Abraham ...
If we are to read with faith, believing that this God of Abraham is the God, creator of all things and times, omniscient and eternal, we cannot plainly read "tempting" as testing, not in the sense of trying it out to see what happens as if God didn't know what happens; God doesn't change his mind about Abraham after the trial that follows, but He may very well change Abraham's mind about things. So, to this strange test:
“Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision: and there thou shalt offer him for a holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee.”
“Only-begotten”, eh? strange expression, to name the younger of two men of the same father. I think St. Paul had something to say about these two...

The nitpicker in me also wants (though I cannot trust this wish) to take the Rheims translators as particularly inspired, when they interpolate the adverb "for", which is ambiguous in the Latin they took for their source.

There are a few more miniature pictures along the way — the servants are dismissed, the boy is loaded with wood for burning, and "where is the lamb?" ... "God will provide". The resolution comes:
And [the Angel of the Lord] said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake.
Well, look at that: the Angel of the Lord doth seem to contradict me, though I think actually not1. Again: "Lay not thy hand upon the boy... [thou] hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake."

So, I'm going to use some words now meant to appeal to the theological sense of any well-catechized Catholic: Abraham has worked a sign which, being accepted by God does accomplish what it signifies. The prescribed form and matter being brought together, it could remain, in Earthly terms, a sign without any lasting visible change; nonetheless, God did both accept the whole sacrifice, and returned Isaac into his father's care.

However, the question: did God lie to Abraham, or deceive him? First: did God ask of Abraham anything He didn't want? It would seem that Abraham believed, until the Angel told him different, that what God asked indeed included the physical sacrifice of Isaac's body; but, as God is plainly content with a sacramental and unbloody sacrifice, we must conclude that God indeed never wished it. Then the question must be refined: did God intend Abraham's misapprehension? Putting it another way, could Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac be accomplished without Abraham thinking he would have to kill the boy? I think of parents today who do make bloodless sacrifice of their children, for instance when a child enters religious life... it is far from being a perfect parallel, I do realize, but worth attention. And another thing: the otherwise-very-odd Abraham (whatever is he doing with his wife and the local princes?), drawn out of Babylon into Philistine lands, just might himself have learned something that had locally been forgotten.

But at the very least, I do think we can read the text without supposing God to have worked any deception, though He does seem to have let the truth take some time to develop in his servant's mind.

1: As long as we are on the subject of "now", I want to mention two things: the English is written, "now I know" in the present tense, the Latin is "nunc cognovi" — or, a tad more literally, "now I have known". It doesn't say that God ever didn't know, but the event, the choice made which was known DID have a definite time, and God's knowing it is definitely in relation to that moment of choice, so if there was ever a time when it would be sensible for God to say "now I know", it is at that time. I have some other related thoughts about imagined time-travellers and the justice of one A. H. (styling himself "fuhrer") surviving as long as he did... for another time perhaps.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Bible Text is Not Perspicuous

"If there be ten just men, I will not do it", the Lord said to Abraham.

I don't want to put into the Bible what is not and has not been there, but merely as a mathematician who likes to play strange games, I want to point out that God said to Samuel,
Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys,
and the tale continues
And Saul smote Amalec from Hevila, until thou comest to Sur, which is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of Amalec alive: but all the common people he slew with the edge of the sword. And Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the flocks of sheep and of the herds, and the garments and the rams, and all that was beautiful, and would not destroy them: but every thing that was vile and good for nothing, that they destroyed.
It does not say that they found chidren or infants to put to death. They found "common people" and a King, flocks of sheep and beautiful plunder. It does not say they found any children or infants.

I like to say such things, sometimes, as "all my natural sisters live in Antarctica", or "all my pet octopodes can fly". They're perfectly true, as well, though I wouldn't advise voyaging to Antarctica in search of my natural sisters. It is entirely consistent with the sparsity of the text that all the children and infants of Amalek were indeed slaughtered, and that all of them were innocent at least as preceding the age of reason, and that no innocents were slaughtered. I haven't much gusto for even so prosaic a reading, and you would think that someone in Saul's army might notice a complete lack of children (had there been such lack) and mentioned it, such that it might have come down into the scripture; mentioned, unless, of course, it was part of a pattern they took for granted.

And a complete lack of children within Amalek is indeed consistent with particular violences they were reputed for: sterile thrills, practices that would widely proliferate sterilizing disease, and sacrifice of infants themselves.

I don't want to say that this is what actually happened, but I do want to point out that, if we are to read Deuteronomy through Kings N as an account of actual military campaigns, this is an important possible circumstance to consider.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I stumbled, by chance, on the Radio, into Evensong. I understand the broadcast was from an Anglican church, but most of the readings were as described in the current Roman books. In any case, there was an extra lesson (read in French, but that should not frustrate us!) from Exodus (Ex 28), and it included these verses I'd never before noted:
31 And thou shalt make the tunick of the ephod all of violet, 32 In the midst whereof above shall be a hole for the head, and a border round about it woven, as is wont to be made in the outmost parts of garments, that it may not easily be broken.
And what this directly called to mind were these words from St. John's Gospel:
[...] Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24 They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be [...]
John himself points to prophecy of this moment; I'd like to think that he's also pointing out that Jesus walked to Golgotha actually vested as a priest.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Causes of concern

It occured to me about the time that silly movie just impending and the ads for it cluttered up between the segments of Doctor Who (which is also silly, but differently) — That the name of the hazardous game consisted of two words, one French, one German, both meaning "yes".

For sure, invoking you-cannot-even-say-what to whatever end is a hazardous game fool's rush, but to build into the very name of the game ab-initio acquiescence — to agree to say "no" only to saying "no" — is, shall we say, cause for grave concern. It is agreeing, at the start of play, that you have already lost.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dignus est Agnus

Our New Fire fizzled out before they could light the Paschal Candle from it.

The choir twice didn't get the Ferial Tone (at the Exsultet and blessing the Font... while the organist is ... enthusiastic ... about ... helping us along ... and making sure we have enough time to sing all the notes)

But what more than makes up for all that?


... am I being a bit silly? But it's still Easter!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

to Avoid Excessive Latinity

... or, don't be you too Norman.

A dear dear friend of mine who has been through a lot (and I won't tell you any more than this) was once frequently worn down by the maxim "Patience is a virtue". Like all propositions that happen to be true, it isn't at all a helpful thing to say unless one properly understands the proper meaning of all the words in it and their interconnections. Worse, some phrases become so culturally bound that they work, in conversation, like single words ("for all intents and purposes", anyone?). A triage nurse might have fun announcing "Patient has a vert hue", and it might be true, and it might be what the doctor hears, but that's not the true expression "Patience is a virtue".

Now, the hapless proponent of the virtue of patience may well have meant: "if you'll wait quiet a while longer, perhaps I'll praise you later on", because "patience" has come usually to mean "enduring delay", and "virtue" that which is praiseworthy. But that also is not the true meaning of "Patience is a virtue". For the True Meaning, we must translate the Latin into "plain brittish".

Suffering is Strength.

Ok, you will counter that "suffer", from latin "su(per)fero", or "bear up", is still Latin. Thing is, we don't read it as Latin anymore.

Next, you might complain "That's backwards. Suffering needs strength; you can't 'suffer' the way you mean if you aren't already strong". Well, yes and no; but the formation of strength requires exercise: you have to try first what you aren't good at before you get good at it. Then doing it well is proof of strength.

And, here's the odd bit. Doing it well need not mean "quit yer belly-achin'". It does mean "Despair not". It does not mean that the pain goes away, or becomes "bearable". It does mean you are lovable. And a good and loving neighbor will suffer with you, and so exercise his patience, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Confusions of the Supreme Court nothwithstanding

1 Whereas "Canada is founded on principles recognizing the supremacy of God and the rule of law"

2 Whereas the provision of aid in suicide is aiding and abetting an act of murder, and recognized as such in Canadian law

3 Whereas a promise to provide aid in suicide is equally conspiracy to murder

4 Whereas Canadian law nonetheless further recognizes that a suicide, as victim of a murder, is more in need of living aid than of criminal prosecution

5 Whereas the logical procession from principles to consequences is not a fault in Law, but one of the underlying principles of the rule of law,

6 Whereas the act or conspiracy of a free person, capable or otherwise, is not alienated of its free character by anticipated sufferings

A Therefore it is already, unambiguously, and constitutionally illegal for all, whether licensed as a medical agent or not, to provide aid in the suicide of a disabled individual, or to promise aid in the suicide of a person either currently disabled or anticipating future disability.

B Furthermore, there is no conflict with the constitution in this conclusion, as security from both murder and conspiracy to murder are both founded on the Charter provision: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person [...] except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

C In Particular, the exception "in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice" has always intended the proportioned and proportionate acts, of the state or civilians, necessary to protect themselves against an active menace; it is a perversion and contradiction to the constitution to deny (6) to reconstruct the lawful protection of another's life as compelling an earlier suicide, or depriving anyone of "Life, liberty and security of the person".

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A... silent song?

I am, at the moment, chewing on the half-verse, from today's ever-strange Gospel reading,
... ecce, nubes lucida obumbravit eos.
because it feels so strange.

Thoughts and reflections welcome.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Don't Publish your Passwords

I'm not going to quote the noncanonical and say "we do not know who else may be watching!" — well, ok, with wireless communications and laptops and all that, there are many people we don't know specifically, but — there is one class of nefarious souls we do know is always watching, and that's the Demonic.

Put not your faith in Shiboleths. Do not speak, thinking to no-one, the Devil's way into your heart. But neither despair!

[Eph 6] 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. 13 Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice ...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Playing nero et rubrum

I don't know why I'm playing this game, but ... anyways, a dear dear friend, out of deep troublement in heart, asked me my reactions to these ... could we call them leaked quotes? Anyways, these so-far uncorroborable and heavily snipped words, attributed by Zenit to be attributed by mostly-unnamed people to our Holy Father the inimitable Franciscus I PP... I can't tell, I can't guess how reliable the attribution is, I can't actually tell what the questions were all about to which (as is alluded) he was responding. Anyways, I did that, and then though "oh, I just wrote a 'blog post. Why not post it?"

... However, some excerpts of the Pope's discourse were released thanks in part to several priests who spoke to the press following the meeting. [there is no official transcript. fun.] Some even managed to record [in what medium?] the Pope's words. In addition to several phrases reported by a few Italian news agencies this morning, the 78 year old Pontiff touched upon the theme, for example, on the "traditional rite" with which Benedict XVI granted to celebrate Mass. Through the Motu Propio Summorum Pontificum, published in 2007, the now Pope Emeritus allowed the possibility of celebrating the Mass according the liturgical books edited by John XXIII in 1962, notwithstanding that the "ordinary" form of celebration in the Catholic Church would always remain that established by Paul VI in 1970. [modulo: the ordinary form has been revised since then and will always be subject to the pope's authority to revise again; otherwise, nothing new there]

Pope Francis explained that this gesture by his predecessor, "a man of communion", was meant to offer "a courageous hand to Lefebvrians and traditionalists", as well as to those who wished to celebrate the Mass according to the ancient rites. [His Holiness is free to opine on His Holiness' motives and intentions; whether the former does any good service in voicing opinion...] The so-called "Tridentine" Mass – the Pope said – is an "extraordinary form of the Roman Rite", one that was approved following the Second Vatican Council. Thus, it is not deemed a distinct rite, but rather a "different form of the same right". [infra solis nihil novum]

However, the Pope noted that there are priests and bishops who speak of a "reform of the reform." [I think we can expect Bergoglio to suffer some misapprehension on what this means. He may hear the words but he doesn't necessarily hear what one is meaning to say; I'm sure different people mean different things by it anyways. For another e.g., when he talks of "capitalism", he doesn't mean "free market"] Some of them are "saints" and speak "in good faith." But this [the idea? speaking of it? which?? the article obscures] "is mistaken", the Holy Father said. He then referred to the case of some bishops who accepted "traditionalist" seminarians who were kicked out of other dioceses, without finding out information on them, because "they presented themselves very well, very devout." They were then ordained, but these were later revealed to have "psychological and moral problems." [This sounds like a good example of "don't publish your passwords". If a person has an inordinate attachment to the idea that he is called to priesthood, and knows that being a traditionalist is a password to some bishop's good will, then we can expect that bishop to be duped some of the time. It isn't even suggested that there is a connection between apparent disorder and a true love of tradition.]
excerpted ZENIT, which for some reason I feel compelled to acknowledge for purposes of copyright law.

I also feel compelled to ask what the reliability/slant/interest of zenit is (of which many had heard, but few knew where it lay...)? So far as I know, they are a "news agency", so that it is their business to produce news, whether there is any to hand or not.

But in any case, God Bless our Pope and preserve him from error.