Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A respond for All Saints': Laudem dicite Deo (John Sheppard (c1515-1558))

From the YouTube page:
The English Tudor period composer John Sheppard's "Laudem dicite Deo" was composed as a respond to be given at First Vespers on All Saints' Day

Text: Latin

Laudem dicite Deo nostro omnes sancti eius,
et qui timetis Deum, pusilli et magni:
quoniam regnavit Dominus Deus noster omnipotens.
Gaudeamus et exsultemus et demus gloriam ei.
Genus electum, gens sancta, populus acquisitionis,
memores memorum laudate Deum.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.

English Translation

Speak praise to our God, all you who are his saints,
and all who fear God, both small and great:
for our Lord God almighty is king.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory.
O chosen race, O holy nation, O you people who are his,
be mindful of God and praise him.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

The text comes from Revelation 19 and 1 Peter 2:9.

The first part of the respond, Laudem dicite Deo nostro omnes sancti eius, et qui timetis Deum, pusilli et magni: quoniam regnavit Dominus Deus noster omnipotens. Gaudeamus et exsultemus et demus gloriam ei, existed as an antiphon used on All Saints' Day in various places (and in the Antiphonale Sarisburiense); see the Cantus database for a listing of some of these. Here's an image of the chant score there - from, it says, Augsburg in around 1580:

This is coded "V2" at that site; I'm assuming this is 2nd Vespers - but I've found this antiphon used at Lauds and Matins as well, in other sources.

I'm interested in learning more about what Sheppard was up to in writing this as a Vespers "respond." It's incredibly beautiful - Sheppard is quite amazing, in my opinion! - but would like to understand how it was used; responsories are sometimes used today as processionals.  He lived, of course, during the time of the English Reformation and the writing of the first Book of Common Prayer.

There's quite a bit more about Sheppard here at this Hyperion Records page.  His works, apparently, had been lost for a long time, and there's not much known about him even now, except that he was "appointed informator choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1543, and that he was a Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal in the 1550s."  The article also notes that "With the exception of a handful of works for the Anglican church, Sheppard’s surviving output consists entirely of Latin music for the Sarum rite: Masses, responds and hymns."

I will try to find out more about this piece.  Meantime, enjoy it for All Saints' Day - in my view, one of the greatest feasts of the year.

Here's The All Saints Day Office.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"The Dead Have Something to Tell You"

In the Times today:
The Dead Have Something to Tell You

ONCE, we commemorated the dead, left out offerings to feed them and lamps to guide them home. These days, Halloween has drifted far from its roots in pagan and Catholic festivals, and the spirits we appease are no longer those of the dead: needy ghosts have been replaced by costumed children demanding treats.

Over the last century, as Europeans and North Americans began sequestering the dying and dead away from everyday life, our society has been pushing death to the margins. We tune in to television shows about serial killers, but real bodies are hidden from view, edited out of news coverage, secreted behind hospital curtains. The result, as Michael Lesy wrote in his 1987 book “The Forbidden Zone,” is that when death does occur, “it reverberates like a handclap in an empty auditorium.”

It wasn’t always this way. Death once occurred at home, with friends and family gathered around. Local women were responsible for washing the body and sewing the shroud. People sometimes slept in the same room as corpses, because there was nowhere else to go. In the Middle Ages, cemeteries often acted as the public square: you didn’t just walk on the graves, you ate, drank, traded and sometimes even sang and danced on top of them.

You can see this familiarity with death in the ways people have historically treated famous dead bodies. Alexander the Great’s mummy was one of the most revered objects in the ancient world, and a stop at his tomb provided a political boost to Roman emperors (Augustus supposedly went as far as kissing the corpse, though it’s said he knocked off Alexander’s nose in the process). Soon afterward, early Christians began building the first churches over the tombs of martyrs, and venerating their body parts — fingers and toes, tongues and eyeballs — as miracle-producing sacred relics. A letter from around A.D. 156 describes the bones of St. Polycarp as “more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold.”

The veneration of relics is a well-known religious practice, but the tradition also influenced the treatment of secular saints like Galileo and Descartes, whose bones were seen as symbols of their genius. When Galileo was exhumed in 1737 in Florence, Italy, for transfer to a more lavish tomb, several fingers, a tooth and a vertebra were plucked from his skeleton to be kept as relics. When Descartes was exhumed in Sweden in 1666 for reburial in France, a guard stole his skull, and the French ambassador pocketed his right index finger. During the French Revolution, a conservator reported that he’d carved some of Descartes’ bones into rings, which he distributed to “friends of the good philosophy.”

The idea of turning the dead into jewelry wouldn’t have seemed strange to the Victorians, who often wore rings, lockets and other adornments made from the hair of dead loved ones. The Romantics were particularly serious about these things, and Mary Shelley went so far as to keep Percy Shelley’s heart — plucked from his beachfront funeral pyre — in her desk drawer until she died. In her defense, keeping a heart as a relic wasn’t entirely uncommon: Voltaire’s heart is still kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, while Chopin’s is preserved in alcohol at Warsaw’s Church of the Holy Cross.

Hearts and hair weren’t the only bodily remnants once kept around the house. After the author and statesman Thomas More was beheaded in 1535, his devoted daughter Margaret rescued his boiled-and-tarred head from its pike on London Bridge, preserved it with spices, and later asked to be buried with it in her arms. And the widow of the writer and adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh kept his embalmed head in a case after he was executed in 1618.

Today these stories strike us as macabre; they display an intimacy with death that seems downright unhealthy. But taken as signs of their times, it’s possible that they actually show a healthier relationship with death than the one we have now. Despite the (frequently commendable) advances that have removed death as a constant presence in our lives, it remains inevitable, and many of us are ill prepared when it comes.

The erasure of death also allows us to imagine that our mortal trivialities and anxieties are permanent, while a consistent awareness of death — for those who can stomach it — can help us live in the here and now, and teach us to treasure what we already have. In fact, a study by University of Missouri researchers released this spring found that contemplating mortality can encourage altruism and helpfulness, among other positive traits.

This idea probably would have seemed stranger half a century ago than it does now. While death is still largely absent from our lives, we’re starting to be a little more comfortable talking about it. Since the mid-1950s, a growing body of academic literature has sprung up around death, dying and grief. Cultural products that deal with corpses — everything from Mary Roach’s best-selling book “Stiff” to the Internet video series “Ask a Mortician” — are becoming more popular. “Death cafes,” in which people come together over tea and cake to discuss mortality, have begun in Britain and are spreading to the United States, alongside other death-themed conferences and festivals (yes, festivals).

Of particular note, the hospice movement has taken death back from an exclusively medical setting, and more Americans are now dying at home, frequently among their families. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 percent of Americans aged 85 and older died at home in 2007, compared to 12 percent in 1989.)

It’s never easy to confront mortality, but perhaps this year, while distributing the candy and admiring the costumes of the neighborhood kids, it’s worth returning to some of the origins of Halloween by sparing a thought for those who have gone before. As our ancestors knew, it’s possible that being reminded of their deaths will add meaning to our lives.

The author of the forthcoming book “Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses.”

William Harris: "Holy is the True Light"

As All Saints' Day approaches....

Holy is the True Light,
and passing wonderful,
lending radiance to them that endured
in the heat of the conflict.
From Christ they inherit
a home of unfading splendour,
wherein they rejoice with gladness evermore.

Words from the Salisbury Diurnal by G.H. Palmer

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Anthony Griffith on the Fool’s Fortune"

Mockingbird put up this stunning piece yesterday. There's nothing, really, for me to add or comment on; the video says all there is to say.
The comedian has been around a while. And comedians are always most funny because they are probing something true, and often painfully so. Shakespeare’s fools operated on this paradox very well, most notably in Lear. Jan Kott, a Shakespeare scholar, says this of the general role of the Shakespearean jester or fool:
He has no illusions and does not seek consolation in the existence of natural or supernatural order, which provides for the punishment of evil and the reward of good… But the Fool does not desert his ridiculous, degraded king, and accompanies him on his way to madness. The Fool knows that the only true madness is to recognize this world as rational.
Anthony Griffith is no exception to this rule, as you will see in this confessional, true-to-the-bone “success story.” A comedian who had “arrived,” Griffith made it to the benchmark of success, Carson’s The Tonight Show, and simultaneously received his laurels with ashes, as he got news of his young daughter’s cancer returning. He describes a moment in time completely bifurcated: the realization of personal ambition, and the utter shrouding of that realization with the present season of suffering. (Have we talked about suffering very much recently?) It is made all the more powerful because his life’s work is premised on packaging life into a humorously “tidy sitcom.”

He speaks of the blame-shifting that occurs in suffering, that when it always must be someone’s fault, you often think of what you’ve done to cause it; and then there’s the Denzel Washington voice within to “buck up” and see the world as it is. It is not a voice of compassion, but one of stark reality–which could be gracious in that it faces what is real, rather than what is wished or planned. All said, Griffith is here deconstructing the myth of the progress, dream-and-achieve narrative more than he is providing a qualifying ‘out’ for suffering. Suffering, while being an avenue for hope, is still suffering. The Moth presents “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.” Viewers beware: if you cannot be seen crying at work, wait until you get home (ht JD).

"What Moderation Means"

Brooks, in today.
Over the past month, Mitt Romney has aggressively appealed to moderate voters. President Obama, for some reason, hasn’t. But, in what he thought was an off-the-record interview with The Des Moines Register, Obama laid out a pretty moderate agenda for his second term.

It occurred to me that this might be a good time to describe what being a moderate means.

First, let me describe what moderation is not. It is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Only people who know nothing about moderation think it means that.

Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea. Instead, she has a deep reverence for the way people live in her country and the animating principle behind that way of life. In America, moderates revere the fact that we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream — committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.

This animating principle doesn’t mean that all Americans think alike. It means that we have a tradition of conflict. Over the centuries, we have engaged in a series of long arguments around how to promote the American dream — arguments that pit equality against achievement, centralization against decentralization, order and community against liberty and individualism.

The moderate doesn’t try to solve those arguments. There are no ultimate solutions. The moderate tries to preserve the tradition of conflict, keeping the opposing sides balanced. She understands that most public issues involve trade-offs. In most great arguments, there are two partially true points of view, which sit in tension. The moderate tries to maintain a rough proportion between them, to keep her country along its historic trajectory.

Americans have prospered over the centuries because we’ve kept a rough balance between things like individual opportunity and social cohesion, local rights and federal power. At any moment, new historical circumstances, like industrialization or globalization, might upset the balance. But the political system gradually finds a new equilibrium.

The moderate creates her policy agenda by looking to her specific circumstances and seeing which things are being driven out of proportion at the current moment. This idea — that you base your agenda on your specific situation — may seem obvious, but immoderate people often know what their solutions are before they define the problems.

For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.

The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order.

Today, we face our own set of imbalances. Inequality is clearly out of whack. The information age, family breakdown and globalization have widened income gaps. Government spending and government debt are also out of whack. The aging population and runaway health care costs have pushed budgets to the breaking point. There’s also been a hardening of the economic arteries, slowing growth.

The moderate sees three big needs that are in tension with one another: inequality, debt and low growth. She’s probably going to have a pretty eclectic mix of policies: some policies from the Democratic column to reduce inequality, some policies from the Republican column to reduce debt.

Just as the founding fathers tried a mixed form of government, moderates like pluralistic agendas, mixing and matching from columns A, B and C. They try to create harmonious blends of policies that don’t, at first glance, go together.

Being moderate does not mean being tepid. It will likely take some pretty energetic policies to reduce inequality or control debt. The best moderates can smash partisan categories and be hard-charging in two directions simultaneously.

Moderation is also a distinct ethical disposition. Just as the moderate suspects imbalance in the country, so she suspects it in herself. She distrusts passionate intensity and bold simplicity and admires self-restraint, intellectual openness and equipoise.

There are many moderates in this country, but they have done a terrible job of organizing themselves, building institutions or even organizing around common causes. There are some good history books that describe political moderation, like “A Virtue for Courageous Minds” by Aurelian Craiutu, a political scientist at Indiana University. But there are few good manifestoes.

Therefore, there’s a lot of ignorance about what it means to be moderate. If politicians are going to try to pander to the moderate mind-set, they should do it right. I hope this column has helped.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bach: Mass in B minor, BWV232

The whole thing.   If you have an hour or so, why not spend it listening to the most wonderfully thrilling piece of music you'll ever hear?

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 † 1750)

Work: Mass in B minor, for soloist, chorus, orchestra & continuo, BWV232

01. Coro: Kyrie eleison
02. Aria (Duetto): Christe eleison
03. Coro: Kyrie eleison
04. Coro: Gloria in excelsis Deo
05. Coro: Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
06. Aria: Laudamus te
07. Coro: Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam
08. Aria (Duetto): Domine Deus, Rex coelestis
09. Coro: Qui tollis peccata mundi
10. Aria: Qui sedes ad dextram Patris, miserere nobis.
11. Aria: Quoniam tu solus sanctus
12. Coro: Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris, Amen.
13. Coro: Credo in unum Deum
14. Coro: Patrem omnipotentem
15. Aria (Duetto) Et in unum Dominum
16. Coro: Et incarnatus est
17. Coro: Crucifixus etiam pro nobis
18. Coro: Et resurrexit tertia die
19. Aria: Et in spiritum sanctum dominum
20. Coro: Confiteor tibi
21. Coro: Et exspecto
22. Coro: Sanctus
23. Coro: Osanna in excelsis I
24. Aria: Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
25. Coro: Osanna in excelsis II
26. Aria: Agnus Dei
27. Coro: Dona nobis pacem

The Feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian

That's today - and here's a Henry V soliloquy, at, in their honor:

Henry V, Act V, Scene III [What's he that wishes so?]

by William Shakespeare

King Henry to Westmoreland

What's he that wishes so? 
My cousin Westmoreland? No my fair cousin: 
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow 
To do our country loss; and if to live, 
The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, 
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; 
It yearns me not if men my garments wear; 
Such outward things dwell not in my desires: 
But if it be a sin to covet honor,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England: 
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honor 
As one man more, methinks, would share from me 
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, 
That he which hath no stomach to this fight, 
Let him depart; his passport shall be made 
And crowns for convoy put into his purse: 
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us. 
This day is called the feast of Crispian: 
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age, 
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors, 
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:' 
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. 
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.' 
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, 
But he'll remember with advantages 
What feats he did that day: then shall our names, 
Familiar in his mouth as household words 
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, 
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, 
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd. 
This story shall the good man teach his son; 
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, 
From this day to the ending of the world, 
But we in it shall be remember'd; 
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, 
This day shall gentle his condition: 
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Wikipedia has this to say about these not-very-well-known saints:
Saints Crispin and Crispinian are the French Christian patron saints of cobblers, tanners, and leather workers. Born to a noble Roman family in the 3rd century AD, Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twin brothers, fled persecution for their faith, ending up in Soissons, where they preached Christianity to the Gauls and made shoes by night.

Their success attracted the ire of Rictus Varus, the governor of Belgic Gaul, who had them tortured and thrown into the river with millstones round their necks. Though they survived, they were beheaded by the emperor c. 286.

An alternative account gives them as sons of a noble Romano-Briton family whose father had been killed having incurred the displeasure of the Roman emperor living at Canterbury. As they were approaching maturity their mother sent them to London to seek apprenticeship and to avoid coming to the attention of their father's killer. Travelling there, the brothers came across a shoe-maker's workshop in Faversham and decided to travel no further but to remain in Faversham where there is a plaque commemorating their association with the town. They are also commemorated in the name of the ancient pub "Crispin and Crispianus" in Strood. This account fails to explain how the brothers came to be martyred.

Saint Crispin is often associated with the Battle of Agincourt as the battle was fought on Saint Crispin's day.
And here's Aert van den Bossche's "The Martyrdom of SS Crispin and Crispinian"; Bossche lived from about 1490-1505.

Sing Sanctorum meritis, Aeterna Christi Munera, and Rex gloriose martyrum today:

From Hymn-melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books, "On the Feast of several Martyrs (or Confessors)":
1st Ev. & M. Sanctorum meritis
   At 1st Ev. ... ... ... 51
   At Matt. ... ... ... . 52
   At 1st Ev. & Matt. ad libitum ... ... ... 53
   On Simple Feasts of the lowest class throughout the year (1 Ev. & M.)............ 54
[Matt. (York) Eterna Christi munera Et (Martyrs only) 61]

Lauds & 2nd Ev. Rex gloriose martyrum
   At L. (except in Xmas & Paschal-tides) ... 25
   At 2nd Ev. (& L. when no 2nd Ev.) ... 49 '
   During Xmas-tide ( L. & 2nd Ev.) ... 27
   On Simple Feasts of the lowest class throughout the year (L.) ... ... ... 6 or 55

So, at first Evensong (the Vespers on the eve of the feast), we could sing Sanctorum meritis, which is given at Cyberhymnal as "The Triumph of the Saints." LLPB sings it as "The Noble Deeds of Saints (MP3)." Here are the words from the former (translated by J.M. Neale), which are definitely close enough to the latter:
The triumphs of the saints,
The toils they bravely bore,
The love that never faints,
Their glory evermore—
For these the Church today
Pours forth her joyous lay;
What victors wear so rich a bay?

This clinging world of ill
Them and their works abhorred;
Its withering flowers still
They spurned with one accord;
They knew them short lived all,
How soon they fade and fall,
And followed, Jesu, at Thy call.

What tongue may here declare,
Fancy or thought descry,
The joys Thou dost prepare
For these Thy saints on high?
Empurpled in the flood
Of their victorious blood,
They won the laurel from their God.

O Lord most high, we pray,
Stretch forth Thy mighty arm
To put our sins away
And shelter us from harm;
O give Thy servants peace;
From guilt and pain release;
Our praise to Thee shall never cease.

That's a nice tune; it's #51 from Hymn melodies:

Or (if we were singing Mattins in York, or wanted a different hymn to sing at Lauds or 2nd Evensong), we'd go with "The Eternal Gifts of Christ the King" (mp3), about which I've posted several times; in Latin, this hymn is Aeterna Christi Munera. I've linked to the St. David's Compline Choir version of this before; here it is again, using a different tune (MP3), and here are the Oremus words, translation J.M. Neale:
The eternal gifts of Christ the King,
the apostles' glory, let us sing,
and all, with hearts of gladness, raise
due hymns of thankful love and praise.

For they the Church's princes are,
triumphant leaders in the war,
in heavenly courts a warrior band,
true lights to lighten every land.

Theirs is the steadfast faith of saints,
and hope that never yields nor faints;
and love of Christ in perfect glow
that lays the prince of this world low.

In them the Father's glory shone,
in them the will of God the Son,
in them exults the Holy Ghost,
through them rejoice the heavenly host.

To thee, Redeemer, now we cry,
that thou wouldst join to them on high
thy servants, who this grace implore,
for ever and for evermore.

Here's the chant score:

Finally, for both Lauds (Morning Prayer) and 2nd Evensong (the Vespers of the feast day itself), we'd sing Rex gloriose martyrum, to two different tunes. This is sung as "O Glorious King of Martyr Hosts (MP3)" by LLPB. The hymn is 6th Century originally; here are the English words, from Oremus:
O glorious King of martyr hosts,
thou crown that each confessor boasts,
who leadest to celestial day
the saints who cast earth's joys away.

Thine ear in mercy, Savior, lend,
while unto thee our prayers ascend;
and as we count their triumphs won,
forgive the sins that we have done.

Martyrs in thee their triumphs gain,
confessors grace from thee obtain;
we sinners humbly seek to thee,
from sins offense to set us free.

All laud to God the Father be,
all praise, eternal Son, to thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God the holy Paraclete.

And here is the chant score; it's #49 above:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"The Power of Quiet" and "The Power of Introverts"

"The Power of Quiet" comes from RSA Shorts:

Here's the same individual - Susan Cain - on "The Power of Introverts" at TED:

HT Brain Pickings.

This is from the YouTube page of the first video, and sums up a bit of what's being said there (the video's only a couple of minutes long):

The world is full of noise and those that are the loudest are the ones we tend to follow but what about the quiet ones?

Author Susan Cain shines a spotlight on introverts and reveals how over time our society has come to look to extroverts as leaders. Not suggesting that one is better than the other, Susan argues that the world needs an equal space between introverts and extroverts; that an innovative, creative world wouldn't be the same without the two coming together.

In the first video, Cain notes that while people who are loudest, most assertive, and/or most gregarious and the "best talkers" get the most attention - and that people tend to follow their ideas - there is "zero" correlation between "being the best talker" and "having the best ideas."

She says that in the "shift from an agricultural economy to a corporate one," we started to admire people who could be "magnetic and charismatic - because these were the qualities that seemed to matter."

This is actually quite interesting - and explains why (as she mentioned) something like "character" is no longer much valued for itself. Which means that things like "developing character" have little meaning to people. It explains why (for instance) the "7 Deadly Sins" are no longer part of the culture.

I was just looking at something called "A Diurnal for the Changes and Chances of this Mortal Life" at Google Books (I was originally searching for the "Salisbury Diurnal," which unfortunately is not free). It was published in 1885. It's a book of quotes for every day of the year - many in the "character-building" mode. The introduction says that it's "not a devotional book" - but the dedication page offers a verse piece called "Benedictus qui venit in nomine domine" - which starts out "In the name and peace of God I enter this new day." January 4th is a partial quote from 1 Corinthains 13: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind ... is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil ... beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

There are quotes from "Bishop Thirlwall" and "Dr. Pusey," as well as from George Herbert and "E. B. Browning." "Inspirational" books likes this - books that attempted to form people according to religious (and other) ideas and propositions - were once quite common. What's sort of interesting about that, too, is that the culture once assumed something I don't think it does any longer: that people needed forming - that we didn't come by certain things naturally - and that there were tried and tested ways of doing this.

There was a parallel in the secular world, too: Civics. Discussion of "Citizenship," and what that meant and how it was accomplished, were part of the school curriculum; I don't think this is true any longer. I'm certain many of these ideas came from ancient Roman and Greek discussions of the topic - i.e., "Philosophy."

It's interesting, too, what A.A. says about "character building" (my bolding):
Certainly no alcoholic, and surely no member of A.A., wants to deprecate material achievement. Nor do we enter into debate with the many who still so passionately cling to the belief that to satisfy our basic natural desires is the main object of life. But we are sure that no class of people in the world ever made a worse mess of trying to live by this formula than alcoholics. For thousands of years we have been demanding more than our share of security, prestige, and romance. When we seemed to be succeeding, we drank to dream still greater dreams. When we were frustrated, even in part, we drank for oblivion. Never was there enough of what we thought we wanted.

In all these strivings, so many of them well-intentioned, our crippling handicap had been our lack of humility. We had lacked the perspective to see that character-building and spiritual values had to come first, and that material satisfactions were not the purpose of living. Quite characteristically, we had gone all out in confusing the ends with the means. Instead of regarding the satisfaction of our material desires as the means by which we could live and function as human beings, we had taken these satisfactions to be the final end and aim of life.

True, most of us thought good character was desirable, but obviously good character was something one needed to get on with the business of being self-satisfied. With a proper display of honesty and morality, we'd stand a better chance of getting what we really wanted. But whenever we had to choose between character and comfort, the character-building was lost in the dust of our chase after what we thought was happiness. Seldom did we look at character-building as something desirable in itself, something we would like to strive for whether our instinctual needs were met or not. We never thought of making honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God the daily basis of living.
A.A., of course, was born in 1935 - when the U.S. was still an "agricultural" economy.  (I do think there's more to the issue than this, though; I think it has a lot to do with wealth, also.  When far more people were far less wealthy, there was far more incentive to "form" oneself in a way that was acceptable to others.  People who have money don't have to worry about this as much. And there are other things involved as well.)

So here we have some interesting ideas:  "agricultural economies" and "corporate economies" validate and emphasize different personality traits - and the culture itself changes on this basis. Entirely different modi operandi (!), habits, customs, and even beliefs will develop depending on what the culture - via its economy - prizes. "Character-building," for itself, is no longer regarded as important - and perhaps it's not even understood as a concept. Wealth may be a big part of all this as well.

But if it's true that "character-building [is] something desirable in itself, something we would like to strive for whether our instinctual needs were met or not" - well, doesn't that mean our wealthy, corporate, "extrovert" society needs outside help? Is "character-building" (i.e., "honesty, tolerance, and true love of man and God") optional, or necessary?

It is interesting, too, that the secular world seems at the moment to be doing better at "tolerance" than the church is - and that the church is the only institution left in society that even pretends to have anything to do with "forming" people formally, in ways meant to help them flourish. I would say, though, that the secular emphasis on "tolerance" comes directly out of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s - itself heavily influenced by the church.

Clearly, the church is basically a conservative institution; it prizes its own ideas and conclusions out of, perhaps, a worry that changing any one thing will deform the institution itself, for the worse. Or, simply because it believes that time-tested is best. In any case: perhaps a bit of mutual help - some cross-pollination of values - here might be in order?

I wonder, too:  a program of "formation" has to be organized along its own philosophical lines; it's got to be holistic in some way, and pointed to some end.  It's got to be integrated.  So is the piecemeal "formation" we're seeing now - which, as far as I can see, consists of what happens at work, what one's family and friends think and say, politics, and the "culture war" - with perhaps a bit of the "confessional culture" thrown in (but which doesn't seem to mean that people are getting any really good grip on what's going on with themselves, although I think it does help a bit along these lines) - going to be effective in any particular way?  Or is it just going to lead - as it seems to be leading - to dis-integration and reactionism?

"Read the Catechism: Day 13" vs. "Article XIX"

Today's reading from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Part1:The Profession of Faith (26 - 1065)
Section1:"I Believe" — "We Believe" (26 - 184)
Chapter2:God Comes to Meet Man (50 - 141)
Article2:The Transmission of Divine Revelation (74 - 100)


The dogmas of the faith
88     The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.

89     There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.

90     The mutual connections between dogmas, and their coherence, can be found in the whole of the Revelation of the mystery of Christ. "In Catholic doctrine there exists an order or hierarchy of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith."

The supernatural sense of faith
91     All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and guides them into all truth.

92     "The whole body of the faithful... cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."

93     "By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (Magisterium),... receives... the faith, once for all delivered to the saints... The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life."

Growth in understanding the faith
94     Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church:
  • "through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts"; it is in particular "theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth".
  • "from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which [believers] experience", the sacred Scriptures "grow with the one who reads them."
  • "from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".
95     "It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."
Article XIX:
Of the Church

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

De Ecclesia

Ecclesia Christi visibilis est coetus fidelium, in quo verbum Dei purum praedicatur et sacramenta, quoad ea quae necessario exiguntur, iuxta Christi institutum recte administrantur. Sicut erravit Ecclesia Hierosolymitana, Alexandrina, et Antiochena: ita et erravit Ecclesia Romana, non solum quoad agenda et caeremoniarum ritus, verum in his etiam quae credenda sunt.


(Well, it's another example of why we need our own good, deep Catechism - why we need to explain ourselves in a different way.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

‪"Never Weather-Beaten Sail‬"

‪Stile Antico offers a really lovely rendition of this Thomas Campion piece from the 16th Century; it's a great sad and beautiful song - perfect for October and November.  And it's church music, or not, as you wish; see the interesting note about  "the wealth of Tudor and Jacobean sacred music written for domestic devotion, rather than for church worship" below.  It's not an easy song to sing this well, either.

Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore.
Never tired pilgrim's limbs affected slumber more,
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast:
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest.

Ever blooming are the joys of Heaven's high Paradise.
Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes:
Glory there the sun outshines whose beams the blessed only see:
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to thee!

From the YouTube page:
Stile Antico (joined by Fretwork) explores a long-neglected repertory -- the wealth of Tudor and Jacobean sacred music written for domestic devotion, rather than for church worship. Culled from collections intended for use in private homes, these pieces by Tomkins, Campion, Byrd, Tallis, Dowland, Gibbons and others, offer a unique insight into the turbulent religious climate of the time and the thriving musical culture at its heart.

"An ensemble of breathtaking freshness, vitality and balance" (The New York Times)

I like this "modern" version, played by "three musicians from Salzburg," too (although I miss the wonderful harmonies of the original).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Elder Paisios: 'A Christian Must Not Be Fanatical'"

Again from Mystagogy:

By Elder Paisios the Athonite

A Christian must not be fanatical; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm.

I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the secular people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: “During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady.” But the way that he said it, crushed her. “Look”, I said to him, “you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also.”

Let’s not stone our fellow-man in a so-called “Christian manner.” The person who – in the presence of others – checks someone for having sinned (or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person), is not moved by the Spirit of God; he is moved by another spirit.

The way of the Church is love; it differs from the way of the legalists. The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be.

I have observed a peculiar kind of logic in certain pious people. Their piety is a good thing, and their predisposition for good is also a good thing; however, a certain spiritual discernment and amplitude is required so that their piety is not accompanied by narrow-mindedness or strong-headedness. Someone who is truly in a spiritual state must possess and exemplify spiritual discernment; otherwise he will forever remain attached to the “letter of the Law”, and the letter of the Law can be quite deadly.

A truly humble person never behaves like a teacher; he will listen, and, whenever his opinion is requested, he responds humbly. In other words, he replies like a student. He who believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.

A person that begins to do something with a good intention and eventually reaches an extreme point, lacks true discernment. His actions exemplify a latent type of egotism that is hidden beneath this behavior; he is unaware of it, because he does not know himself that well, which is why he goes to extremes.

This is like the Icon-worshippers and the Icon-fighters. Extreme was the one, and extreme was the other!

The former reached the point of scraping the icon of Christ to throw the dust into the Holy Chalice, so that Holy Communion could become better; the others again burned the icons and threw them away.

This is why the Church was forced to put the icons high and, when the persecution passed, they brought them low, so that we could venerate them and honor the person depicted.

From Spiritual Awakening (Vol. 2).

"Read the Catechism: Day 10"

Today's reading:
Part1:The Profession of Faith (26 - 1065)
Section1:"I Believe" — "We Believe" (26 - 184)
Chapter2:God Comes to Meet Man (50 - 141)
Article1:The Revelation of God (51 - 73)

68     By love, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. He has thus provided the definitive, superabundant answer to the questions that man asks himself about the meaning and purpose of his life.

69     God has revealed himself to man by gradually communicating his own mystery in deeds and in words.

70     Beyond the witness to himself that God gives in created things, he manifested himself to our first parents, spoke to them and, after the fall, promised them salvation (cf. Gen 3:15) and offered them his covenant.

71     God made an everlasting covenant with Noah and with all living beings (cf. Gen 9:16). It will remain in force as long as the world lasts.

72     God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants. By the covenant God formed his people and revealed his law to them through Moses. Through the prophets, he prepared them to accept the salvation destined for all humanity.
73     God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant for ever. The Son is his Father's definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him.

Friday, October 19, 2012

James Wood: "The Book of Common Prayer"

In the New Yorker, for the 350th Anniversary of the 1662.  It begins this way:
Suppose you find yourself, in the late afternoon, in one of the English cathedral towns—Durham, say, or York, or Salisbury, or Wells, or Norwich—or in one of the great university cities, like Oxford or Cambridge. The shadows are thickening, and you are mysteriously drawn to the enormous, ancient stone structure at the center of the city. You walk inside, and find that a service is just beginning. Through the stained glass, the violet light outside is turning to black. Inside, candles are lit; the flickering flames dance and rest, dance and rest. A precentor chants, “O Lord, open thou our lips.” A choir breaks into song: “And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” The precentor continues, “O God, make speed to save us.” And the choir replies, musically, “O Lord, make haste to help us.”

The visitor has stumbled upon a service, Evensong, whose roots stretch back at least to the tenth century, and whose liturgy has been in almost continuous use since 1549, the date of the first Book of Common Prayer, which was revised in 1552, and lightly amended in 1662, three hundred and fifty years ago. The Book of Common Prayer was the first compendium of worship in English. The words—many of them, at least—were written by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury between 1533 and 1556. Cranmer did not cut his text from whole cloth: in the ecumenical spirit that characterizes the Book of Common Prayer, he went to the Latin liturgy that the English Catholic Church had used for centuries. In particular, he turned to a book known as the Sarum Missal, which priests at Salisbury Cathedral had long used to conduct services. It contained a calendar of festivals, along with prayers and readings for those festivals; and it held orders of service for Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the Mass.


[T]he acute poetry, balanced sonorities, heavy order, and direct intimacy of Cranmer’s prose have achieved permanence, and many of his phrases and sentences are as famous as lines from Shakespeare or the King James Bible. People who have never read the Book of Common Prayer know the phrase “moveable feast,” or “vile body,” or the solemn warning of the marriage service: “If either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it.” The same is true of the vows the couple speak to each other: “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.” The words of the burial service have become proverbial:
In the midst of life, we are in death. . . . Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy. . . . Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body.

The Prayer Book was a handbook of worship for a people, not for a priesthood, and its job was to replace and improve the ancient collective rites of worship that bound people together in the English Catholic Church. The marriage service, for instance, was a medieval liturgy that long predated the final form it found in the Book of Common Prayer. It availed Cranmer nothing to invent a liturgy that threw out that history and erected a verbal screen or altar between the priest and his congregation. Cranmer’s prayers use ordinary phrases and familiar Biblical similes. Here is the General Confession, the collective prayer that opens the service of Morning Prayer:
Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.
There is a Protestant severity to the avowal that “there is no health in us.” But penitence can be reached only by walking down a familiar path, lined with straightforward words: we are “lost sheep” because we have “left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” Likewise, Evening Prayer is a comforting service, not just because it closes the day and lights a candle at the threshold of evening but also because the Book of Common Prayer sends the congregation home with two consoling collects, intoned by the presiding priest, which glow like verbal candles amid the shadows. The last collect goes like this:
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
To read, or hear, these words is to be taken back to a sixteenth- and seventeenth-century world of risk and daily peril, a place of death and sickness and warfare—a world in which Michel de Montaigne, for instance, lost five of his six children in infancy. The Book of Common Prayer contains a section with special prayers “For Rain,” “For fair Weather,” for protection against “Dearth and Famine,” for salvation from “War and Tumults,” and from “Plague or Sickness.” This plea is present in the penultimate collect of Evensong, too:
O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that both our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee we being defended from the fear of our enemies may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
A grand sonority (with the characteristic Cranmerian triad of “all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works”) gives way to a heartfelt request: please defend us from enemies, so that we may “pass our time in rest and quietness.” It’s interesting to compare the original Latin of this old prayer, which appeared in the Sarum Missal: “Tempora sint tua protectione tranquilla” can be roughly translated as “May our time under thy protection be tranquil.” In a fourteenth-century English primer, it was translated into English, and the prayer was now that “our times be peaceable.” But Cranmer has made the plea smaller and closer at hand. In the Book of Common Prayer, the language seems not to refer to the epoch (our time) but to something more local (my days); and tranquillity and peace have become the comfier “rest and quietness.” 


Above all, the Book of Common Prayer offered Cranmer’s language as a kind of binding agent, a rhetoric both lofty and local. The new English liturgy was quickly taken up by church composers. William Byrd (1540-1623), who became the organist of the Chapel Royal, composed anthems for Cranmer’s prayers and collects. His “Great Service,” probably written at the end of the sixteenth century, and still sung regularly today in British cathedrals and college chapels, set music to the English versions of the Te Deum and Benedictus (Morning Prayer) and the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Evening Prayer). A little more than a hundred years later, Henry Purcell, also an organist of the Chapel Royal, took Cranmer’s beautiful words from the service for the Burial of the Dead and set them to music for the funeral of Queen Mary II, in 1695: “Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live. . . . In the midst of life we are in death.” (Parts of Cranmer’s burial service also found its way into the libretto of Handel’s “Messiah.”)

Cranmer’s language endures in English literature and popular culture, from Neville Chamberlain’s use of the phrase “Peace in our time,” on his return from his ill-fated meeting with Hitler, to David Bowie’s song “Ashes to Ashes.” It is the source of phrases like “miserable sinners” and “the face of the enemy” (from the prayer to be said by sailors before a fight at sea). Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments”) clearly borrows from the Prayer Book’s marriage service. Samuel Johnson told James Boswell that he knew of “no good prayers but those in the Book of Common Prayer,” and Cranmer’s rhythms can be found in Johnson’s prose, and in Jane Austen’s very Johnsonian prose. There is a rhythmic link between Cranmer’s fondness for triplets (“all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works”) and Austen’s: Lady Catherine de Bourgh “sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold them into harmony and plenty.” Austen, like the Brontë sisters, was the daughter of an Anglican parson, so she grew up with the Prayer Book’s cadences.

More at the link.  HT Mockingbird.