Friday, May 31, 2013

"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost...."

Again from A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous:

One of A.A.'s early differences - the idea that alcoholism is a disease - is now no longer unique. While discussion of the exact nature of this disease and its possible cure may well go on forever, no reasonably intelligent person seems any longer to quarrel with this conclusion. However, the impact of the alcoholic's discovery of this fact from the lips of another alcoholic remains undiminished. To alcoholics swamped with guilt and shame, the words "I found I had a disease, and I found a way to arrest it" constitute immediate absolution for many, and for others at least a ray of hope that they might one day earn absolution.

It seems to me that what happens to an alcoholic on his first encounter with A.A. is that he realizes he has been invited to share in the experience of recovery. And the key word in that sentence is the word "share." Whether he responds to it immediately or ever is not at that moment important. What is important is that the invitation has been extended and remains, and that he has been invited to share as an equal and not as a mendicant. No matter what his initial reaction, even the sickest alcoholic is hard put to deny to himself that he has been offered understanding, equality, and an already-proved way out. And he is made to feel that he is, in fact, entitled to all this; indeed, he has already earned it, simply because he is an alcoholic.

In church terms:  change that last phrase to "....simply because he is a sinner" - and I think you've maybe got something.....

Step 5: "Why do we need to bring anyone else into this?"

From Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, here's part of Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.   My bolding.
More realism and therefore more honesty about ourselves are the great gains we make under the influence of Step Five. As we took inventory, we began to suspect how much trouble self-delusion had been causing us. This had brought a disturbing reflection. If all our lives we had more or less fooled ourselves, how could we now be so sure that we weren't still self-deceived? How could we be certain that we had made a true catalog of our defects and had really admitted them, even to ourselves? Because we were still bothered by fear, self-pity, and hurt feelings, it was probable we couldn't appraise ourselves fairly at all. Too much guilt and remorse might cause us to dramatize and exaggerate our shortcomings. Or anger and hurt pride might be the smoke screen under which we were hiding some of our defects while we blamed others for them. Possibly, too, we were still handicapped by many liabilities, great and small, we never knew we had.

Hence it was most evident that a solitary self-appraisal, and the admission of our defects based upon that alone, wouldn't be nearly enough. We'd have to have outside help if we were surely to know and admit the truth about ourselves--the help of God and another human being. Only by discussing ourselves, holding back nothing, only by being willing to take advice and accept direction could we set foot on the road to straight thinking, solid honesty, and genuine humility.

Yet many of us still hung back. We said, "Why can't `God as we understand Him' tell us where we are astray? If the Creator gave us our lives in the first place, then He must know in every detail where we have since gone wrong. Why don't we make our admissions to Him directly? Why do we need to bring anyone else into this?"

At this stage, the difficulties of trying to deal rightly with God by ourselves are twofold. Though we may at first be startled to realize that God knows all about us, we are apt to get used to that quite quickly. Somehow, being alone with God doesn't seem as embarrassing as facing up to another person. Until we actually sit down and talk aloud about what we have so long hidden, our willingness to clean house is still largely theoretical. When we are honest with another person, it confirms that we have been honest with ourselves and with God.

The second difficulty is this: what comes to us alone may be garbled by our own rationalization and wishful thinking. The benefit of talking to another person is that we can get his direct comment and counsel on our situation, and there can be no doubt in our minds what that advice is. Going it alone in spiritual matters is dangerous. How many times have we heard well-intentioned people claim the guidance of God when it was all too plain that they were sorely mistaken. Lacking both practice and humility, they had deluded themselves and were able to justify the most arrant nonsense on the ground that this was what God had told them. It is worth noting that people of very high spiritual development almost always insist on checking with friends or spiritual advisers the guidance they feel they have received from God. Surely, then, a novice ought not lay himself open to the chance of making foolish, perhaps tragic, blunders in this fashion. While the comment or advice of others may be by no means infallible, it is likely to be far more specific than any direct guidance we may receive while we are still so inexperienced in establishing contact with a Power greater than ourselves.

Our next problem will be to discover the person in whom we are to confide. Here we ought to take much care, remembering that prudence is a virtue which carries a high rating. Perhaps we shall need to share with this person facts about ourselves which no others ought to know. We shall want to speak with someone who is experienced, who not only has stayed dry but has been able to surmount other serious difficulties. Difficulties, perhaps, like our own. This person may turn out to be one's sponsor, but not necessarily so. If you have developed a high confidence in him, and his temperament and problems are close to your own, then such a choice will be good. Besides, your sponsor already has the advantage of knowing something about your case.

Perhaps, though, your relation to him is such that you -would care to reveal only a part of your story. If this is the situation, by all means do so, for you ought to make a beginning as soon as you can. It may turn out, however, that you'll choose someone else for the more difficult and deeper revelations. This individual may be entirely outside of A.A.--for example, your clergyman or your doctor. For some of us, a complete stranger may prove the best bet.

Perhaps the single thing I value most about sobriety was the feeling of finally having some release from the death-grip of self-delusion and fantasy I'd been living in previously, every minute of every day of my life.  Even though this release for me was gradual - it took years - and is always incomplete, the relief of even having a bit of it was, as they say, indescribable.

Remember what Sr. Heléna Marie, CHS said about the religious life, in her "What the Religious Life Is and Is Not" (again, my bolding)?
It is not a place to hide from others nor from yourself. Whatever you have found difficult in others in the past, you will find difficult here. Every character flaw that drove you crazy in others before you entered will drive you crazy here, too, except that here you are living twenty-four hours a day with those who have them! Nor will you be able to hide from whatever in yourself you would rather not face. The formation process in community will naturally bring out those aspects of yourself which might prefer to remain hidden. Your shadow will become apparent to you (as it has probably always been apparent to others), and you will have to face it, accept it, and eventually own it as a creative part of yourself. As Brother Clark Berge, SSF, says: "The religious life is no way to hide from problems. If you try to hide, they will find you out."

To my mind, the key phrase here is this one:  "Your shadow will become apparent to you (as it has probably always been apparent to others), and you will have to face it, accept it, and eventually own it as a creative part of yourself." 

And that's the beautiful thing, really; you can finally see what has been hidden for so long - but hidden only to you!   It's odd, isn't it, that the most important things about ourselves are hidden and opaque to our own eyes and understanding?  That we cannot see most of the things that make us who we are - and therefore don't have some of the most vital information we need in order to live?   

And that this is absolutely normal, and in fact an inescapable fact of living - since we literally have no memory of most of our most formative years of life?    So that, in fact, we need others - honest others - to help us understand ourselves; we need the people who can already see our shadow, and who'll tell us frankly of what it consists.  And we need courage to help us face these things, and accept what we find - which will mean the destruction of our own mostly delusional self-image.

We need other people to help us cut through the massive delusions we have about ourselves.  And, in fact, we need a way to live - because our own way is almost always based upon a total fantasy.

The really exciting thing is the last clause:   "you will have to face it, accept it, and eventually own it as a creative part of yourself."    This reminds me of something I read at Mockingbird once, from Dr. Frank Lake - a quote from Clinical Theology, his "textbook for pastoral counselors":

The nature of the help God gives through His Church is to make what cannot be removed, creatively bearable. Paul’s thorn of weakness in the flesh remained. Resting in the power of God, he could glory in his infirmity. It is natural, and it is, I think, spiritually desirable, that we should at first strive and pray, as Paul did, to have our weakness and negativities removed. But the utmost of personal effort and of professional skill may disappoint our hopes in this direction.

What then? There are no lectures in the medical course to inform the doctor of the paradoxical movement of the spirit which can turn decisively away from the evidently vain hope of a cure, to a courageous bearing, and more, to a creative using of the pain and loss that cannot be cured. There is a strength which is made perfect in weakness. Without the prior weakness this particular endowment of strength could never be experienced. Medical practice must extend itself to prevent the outward man from perishing. Pastoral practice, recognising a certain inevitability of failure in this entirely laudable object, extends itself to ensure that the inward man is concurrently renewed from day to day.

The natural man in us tends to reject the paradox that mental pain and spiritual joy can exist together in us, without diminishing either the agony of the one or the glory of the other. The whole personality may be afflicted by a sense of weakness, emptiness, and pointlessness, without diminishing in the least our spiritual power and effectiveness. This is possible because Christ is alive to re-enact the mystery of his suffering and glory in us. So far as our own subjective feelings are concerned, any inner-directed questioning of our basic human state may produce the same dismal answer as before; the cupboard is bare. While we regard our humanity as a container which ought to have something good in it when we look inside, we miss the whole point of the paradox. We are not meant to be self-contained, but channels of the life and energies of God Himself. From this point of view our wisdom is to let the bottom be knocked out of our humanity, which will ruin it as a container at the same time it turns it into a satisfactory channel….

We must expect that the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of life within the Body of Christ will force out the alien elements of despair, distrust, anxiety, rage, envy, lust, and the like, which are each man’s deposits from the intolerable passivities of infancy, to declare themselves before they are cast out.

This is another very interesting explanation for the fact that the A.A. experience (and also, it seems, the Christian one!) is "open-ended" - that is to say, that "the house A.A. helps a man build is different for each occupant."    Naturally, each of our "thorns in the flesh" will be different, because none of us has exactly the same life experience.

Thus, the "owning it as a creative part of yourself" must therefore be a completely unique process and path for each person.  In fact this, to me, is a reality almost completely unplumbed and unexplored - as far as I know - in both psychology and in Christianity; I think this might be a terrific place to spend some time and attention.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Via Akenside Press:
John Macquarrie on the doctrine of angels: it "directs our minds to the vastness and richness of creation."
The concept of the angelic stands for the unity and order of the whole creation in the service of Being; not merely at the level of cosmic process, but at the level of conscious and free cooperation. God has 'ordained and constituted the services of angels and men in a wonderful order' (BCP Collect). Man is sometimes afflicted with a sense of loneliness on his little planet, the only 'existent' upon earth, perhaps just an accident in the cosmos. But if the Christian doctrine of creation is true, then man is no accident, and presumably he is not alone. He must be one of countless races of beings on which the Creator has conferred being, and some of these races must, like man himself, have risen to consciousness and freedom whereby they can gladly cooperate with God. Some must have moved further in the hierarchy of beings, so that they constitute higher orders of creaturely beings. The doctrine of the angels opens our eyes to this vast, unimaginable cooperative striving and service, as all things seek to be like God and to attain fullness of being in him. One may recall here the story of Elisha's servant whose courage was renewed by a vision of supporting angels.
This incident is particularly relevant for understanding the significance of the angels in a contemporary formulation of the doctrine of creation. The doctrine of the angels directs our minds to the vastness and richness of the creation, and every advance of science opens up still more distant horizons. Any merely humanistic creed that makes man the measure of all things or regards him as the sole author of values is narrow and parochial. The panorama of creation must be far more breathtaking than we can guess in our corner of the cosmos, for there must be many higher orders of beings whose service is joined with ours under God.

(from Principles of Christian Theology, X.40.xi-xii)


By Michelle Dohm in EveryONE, at PLOS: "Sharing was Caring for Ancient Humans and Their Prehistoric Pups":
While the tale of how man’s best friend came to be (i.e., domestication) is still slowly unfolding, a recently published study in PLOS ONE may provide a little context—or justification?—for dog lovers everywhere. It turns out that even thousands of years ago, humans loved to share food with, play with, and dress up their furry friends.
In the study titled “Burying Dogs in Ancient Cis-Baikal, Siberia: Temporal Trends and Relationships with Human Diet and Subsistence Practices,” biologists, anthropologists, and archaeologists joined forces to investigate the nature of the ancient human-dog relationship by analyzing previously excavated canid remains worldwide, with a large portion of specimens in modern-day Eastern Siberia, Russia. The authors performed genetic analysis and skull comparisons to establish that the canid specimens were most likely dogs, not wolves, which was an unsurprising but important distinction when investigating the human-canine bond. The canid skulls from the Cis-Baikal region most closely resembled large Siberian huskies, or sled dogs. Radiocarbon dating from previous studies also provided information regarding the dates of death and other contextual information at the burial sites.

The researchers found that the dogs buried in Siberia, many during the Early Neolithic period 7,000-8,000 years ago, were only found at burial sites shared with foraging humans. Dogs were found buried in resting positions, or immediately next to humans at these sites, and their graves often included various items or tools seemingly meant for the dogs. One dog in particular was adorned with a red deer tooth necklace around its neck and deer remnants by its side, and another was buried with what appears to be a pebble or toy in its mouth.

By analyzing the carbon and nitrogen in human and dog specimens in this region, the researchers were able to determine similarities in human and dog diets, both of which were rich in fish. This finding may be somewhat surprising because one might assume that dogs helped humans hunt terrestrial game, and would consequently be less likely found among humans that ate primarily fish.

The authors speculate that dogs were considered spiritually similar to humans, and were therefore buried at the same time in the same graves. The nature of the burials and the similarities in diet also point toward an intimate and personal relationship, both emotional and social, between humans and their dogs—one that involved sharing food and giving dogs the same burial rites as the humans they lived among. Ancient dogs weren’t just work animals or hunters, the authors suggest, but important companion animals and friends as well.

Citation: Losey RJ, Garvie-Lok S, Leonard JA, Katzenberg MA, Germonpré M, et al. (2013) Burying Dogs in Ancient Cis-Baikal, Siberia: Temporal Trends and Relationships with Human Diet and Subsistence Practices. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63740. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063740

Image Credits: Losey RJ, Garvie-Lok S, Leonard JA, Katzenberg MA, Germonpré M, et al. (2013) Burying Dogs in Ancient Cis-Baikal, Siberia: Temporal Trends and Relationships with Human Diet and Subsistence Practices. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63740. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063740

Siberian husky photo by Pixel Spit

This spring that has no age....


Variation on a Theme
W. S. Merwin
Thank you my life long afternoon
late in this spring that has no age
my window above the river
for the woman you led me to
when it was time at last the words
coming to me out of mid-air
that carried me through the clear day
and come even now to find me
for old friends and echoes of them
those mistakes only I could make
homesickness that guides the plovers
from somewhere they had loved before
they knew they loved it to somewhere
they had loved before they saw it
thank you good body hand and eye
and the places and moments known
only to me revisiting
once more complete just as they are
and the morning stars I have seen
and the dogs who are guiding me

"The Paradox of Mental Health: Over-Treatment and Under-Recognition"

At PLOS Medicine:
Citation: The PLOS Medicine Editors (2013) The Paradox of Mental Health: Over-Treatment and Under-Recognition. PLoS Med 10(5): e1001456. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001456

Published: May 28, 2013
Among all the conditions in the world of health, mental health occupies a unique and paradoxical place.

On the one hand is over-treatment and over-medicalization of mental health issues, often fueled by a pharmaceutical industry interested in the broadening of the boundaries of “illness” and in the creation of more and wider diagnostic categories and thus markets for “selling sickness.” On the other hand exists profound under-recognition of the suffering and breadth of mental health issues affecting millions of people across geographies, which is a global problem.

As a journal, PLOS Medicine has covered both sides of the mental health “coin,” and we continue to make mental health in general a priority area. We recognize that the whole of the field of mental health research is relatively underdeveloped, and that a particular scarcity of clinical trials exists from outside high-income settings and for non-drug interventions. As a result, we also support efforts to improve capacity in mental health research whilst committing to the publication of the state of the art in research and commentary [1],[2].

Over-treatment, especially when it results from “disease mongering,” is a persistent and troubling issue. The harms of over-treatment arise from situations where normal life experiences (such as menopause, shyness, grief, etc.) are deemed illnesses [3] or when diseases are “created” from mild problems and symptoms (such as restless legs syndrome or female sexual dysfunction) [4],[5]. In both situations, people become patients, and their problems are deemed to need medical treatment when they may not need it or could be harmed by it, or when nonmedical options are available. Over-diagnosis and over-treatment have been shown for a range of human conditions [3], but this phenomenon as it relates to mental health is particularly powerful [6]. For example, the widespread over-diagnosis of conditions such as bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), especially among children, is now being documented—the US Centers for Disease Control recently estimated that 6.4 million children aged 4 to 17 had received an ADHD diagnosis at some point in their lives (amounting to 11% of all US children)—a 41% increase in the last decade that has been met with alarm and concern by many doctors and parents [7]. Two thirds of these children are said to be on medication for the condition. Recent Canadian data [8] reaffirm the concerns with excessive labeling of normal child behavior as pathological. Over-diagnosis in mental health risks unnecessary tests and treatment, the stigma associated with being labeled mentally ill, and the considerable costs of testing, treatment, and wasting resources that could be better utilized elsewhere [3],[5].

The recent DSM-5 process is a lightning rod for these concerns: this month's update of the psychiatric diagnostic manual has been widely criticized for continuing the tradition of broadening diagnostic categories and adding new conditions that redefine more people as having mental illness and in need of pharmaceutical treatment [9],[10]. That decisions about DSM-5 categories are made by experts with financial ties to the industry that benefits most from a widened patient population [11],[12], is particularly worrying.

In perhaps the most dedicated venue for discussions of this topic, the Selling Sickness conferences (, which PLOS Medicine has been instrumental in shaping, have brought together academic researchers, medical reformers, consumer advocates, and health journalists with shared interests in examining the problem of disease mongering and developing strategies and coalitions for change. The inaugural conference in 2006 coincided with our launch of the PLOS Medicine Disease Mongering Collection ( that to this day remains astonishingly relevant. In February 2013 we participated again, this time in a roundtable on the role of the medical media where we outlined our responsibility as editors to avoid the spin in published articles and the journal's press releases that can fuel hype about new disease categories and treatment [13]; we also highlighted another important role of journals in fighting disease mongering: to require that all clinical trials be registered and data be reported and shared, so that the full picture of the benefits and harms of tested interventions can be seen (see, for example, The conference's Call to Action petition (​nt/) is available for readers to view and sign. Later in 2013, two comrade conferences, PharmedOut ( and Avoiding Overdiagnosis (, will continue the conversation about both the extent and the prevention of over-diagnosis, and will undoubtedly provide new insights into the problems associated with over-treatment of mental health.

Equally important, however, is the vast under-recognition of mental health conditions, especially in the developing world. This neglect has occurred at multiple levels including at the national level, where many countries have failed to establish adequate mental health policy. At the level of global health agendas, mental health was essentially ignored in the Millennium Development Goal program and failed to elevate to prominence at the recent United Nations special assembly on non-communicable disease.

As many others have noted [14][16], this neglect makes little sense: more than 13% of the global burden of disease is attributable to neuropsychiatric disorders, and over 70% of this burden lies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Almost a quarter of the world's disability burden is now attributable to mental and behavioral disorders (including depression, anxiety, Alzheimer disease, and schizophrenia) [17]. And yet mental health has failed thus far to receive the political priority and international funding commensurate with its global toll [14]. There are signs this tide is shifting, and several prominent groups and organizations are working to raise the profile of global mental health. PLOS Medicine has provided a forum for that effort over the last few years, publishing packages of care for mental health disorders in LMICs [18] and an ongoing series on mental health interventions in practice [2]. And this week we conclude a five-part series that sets out an agenda for integrating mental health care into primary care, maternal health, non-communicable disease, and HIV interventions in the developing world [19]. All of these analyses were done by researchers free of financial links to manufacturers with a stake in expanded markets, thus providing the necessary independent opinion.

In addition, we've recently published high-quality research on a range of topics within mental health that contributes to improved clinical practice, policy, and action. This includes definitive evidence on the long-term health consequences of sexual abuse [20] and trafficking [21], a genome-wide analysis establishing the limited ability of genetic data to predict antidepressant response [22], and a meta-analysis reporting the relative benefits and harms of adjunctive antipsychotic medications in depression [23]. These studies add to a growing evidence base, and signal a growing recognition of the importance of mental health.

Still, our understanding of all aspects of mental health is relatively underdeveloped. As others have acknowledged [3],[24], the research base for over-diagnosis and harm from over-treatment remains limited, and so the new initiatives and calls for action are welcomed. So too is growing recognition and research on genuine mental health issues and the best ways to address and prevent mental health problems, especially in terms of policy and human rights action and in a global context. To the extent that these two areas (over-treatment on one hand, under-recognition on the other hand) represent the paradox of mental health, where's the balance point? We don't have all the answers, but as a journal we reaffirm our commitment to publishing rigorous, insightful research and commentary on the breadth of issues around global mental health, and we welcome continued debate on the challenges this paradox represents. The largest challenge may be to recognize and prioritize mental health globally—with the requisite political visibility, funding, research, and attention—without reducing it to an object for disease mongering, pathologizing, and harmful over-treatment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Anne Sofie von Otter sings "Marietta's song"

Achingly beautiful:

"Glück, das mir verblieb" from Die tote Stadt (E. W. Korngold)
Recorded live at the Théâtre Musical De Paris - Châtelet, 2000
Here are the lyrics, in German and English:
Glück, das mir verblieb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Abend sinkt im Hag
bist mir Licht und Tag.
Bange pochet Herz an Herz
Hoffnung schwingt sich himmelwärts.

Wie wahr, ein traurig Lied.
Das Lied vom treuen Lieb,
das sterben muss.
Ich kenne das Lied.
Ich hört es oft in jungen,
in schöneren Tagen.
Es hat noch eine Strophe --
weiß ich sie noch?

Naht auch Sorge trüb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Neig dein blaß Gesicht
Sterben trennt uns nicht.
Mußt du einmal von mir gehn,
glaub, es gibt ein Auferstehn.

Happiness that has stayed with me,
move up close beside me, my true love.
In the grove evening is waning,
yet you are my light and day.
One heart beats uneasily against the other,
[while] hope soars heavenward.

How true, a mournful song.
The song of the true love
bound to die.
I know this song.
I often heard it sung
in happier days of yore.
There is yet another stanza -
have I still got it in mind?

Though dismal sorrow is drawing nigh,
move up close beside me, my true love.
Turn your wan face to me
death will not part us.
When the hour of death comes one day,
believe that you will rise again.

"Glück das mir verblieb" (German for My happiness that remained) is an aria from the opera Die tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. It is written for aspinto soprano. The aria appears in act 1, approx. 25 minutes into the opera.

The 'dead city' in question is Bruges, identified in the opera with Marie, the dead wife of Paul. At the start of act 1, Paul confides in a friend the extraordinary news that he has seen Marie, or her double, in the town and that he has invited her to the house. She arrives, and Paul addresses her as Marie, but she corrects him: she is Marietta, a dancer from Lille. He is enchanted by her, especially when she accepts his request for a song, "Glück das mir verblieb". The lyric tells of the joy of love, but there is a sadness in it also because its theme is the transitoriness of life. Their voices combine in the verse which extols the power of love to remain constant in a fleeting world.[1]

HT RSM, who continually points to the most exquisite music.

(Perhaps German was originally a sung language....?)

The theology of the cross vs. the theology of glory

 From "Introductory Matters," the first chapter in Gerhard O. Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518:
Crux sola est nostra theologia.

The cross is in the first instance God's attack on human sin. Of course in the second instance, and finally, it is also salvation from sin. But we miss the bite of it if we do not see that first off it is an attack on sin. Strange attack - to suffer and die at our hands! God's "alien work," Luther called it. As an attack it reveals that the real seat of sin is not in the flesh but in our spiritual aspirations, in our "theology of glory." The point is that what happens in the crossl is completely contradictory to our usual religious thinking. St. Paul knew this. In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 he said,
The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Therefore the theology of the cross is an offensive theology. The offense consists in the fact that unlike other theologies it attacks what we usually consider the best in our religion. As we shall see, theologians of the cross do not worry so much about what is obviously bad in our religion, our bad works, as they do about the pretention that comes with our good works. So the theology of the cross can only be spoken of truthfully in contrast to all other types of theology. To express this, Luther made a fundamental distinction between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory. A theology of the cross does not, therefore, present itself as one option among many. In fact, in spite of what seems to be an endless variety of religions and theologies, it would be safe to say from this perspective that there are at the bottom only two types of theology, glory theology and cross theology. "The theology of glory" is a catchall for virtually all theologies and religions. The cross sets itself apart from and over against all of these.

1. The word "cross" here and in the entire treatise that follows is, of course, shorthand for the entire narrative of the crucified and risen Jesus. As such it includes the OT preparation (many of the foundational passages for the theology of the cross come from the OT!), the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and his exaltation. It is important to include resurrection and exaltation because there is considerable confusion abroad about their place in a theology of the cross. It is often claimed, for instance, that a theology of glory is a theology of resurrection while a theology of the cross is "only" concerned with crucifixion. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, a theology of the cross is impossible without resurrection. It is impossible to plumb the depths of the crucifixion without the resurrection.

To me, it's  really, really unfortunate that this description is so focused on what looks to my eyes to be a Reformation-era squabble for religious insiders!  I so resonate with the basic concept of "the theology of the cross" that  it's incredibly disappointing that the discussion immediately turns to "religion" and its alleged failings (until Luther, of course).    Wouldn't it be better to offer a theology that can address the human condition by itself, without any conditions?   You apparently have to be religious first, before any of this has any relevance to you - and what good is that, really?

I suppose Paul really was speaking to the religious impulse in Corinthians above - but doesn't Forde's interpretation say, basically, that that religious impulse itself is entirely impaired?    I mean, if  "God made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Him" - well, why would God give us a completely disordered religious instinct to begin with?  Is this some kind of bizarre endurance test?

Why not just say, instead, that our instincts for survival overwhelm our religious instinct - and that the job of religion is to correct that problem?  Or that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" - and it takes a long time (and a lot of suffering) to understand that?  Or that the koan of the crucifixion - "God's alien work" (a great phrase!) - stops us in our tracks and attacks our superego at a basic level (as all koans are meant to do)?

All that is to say that while I find "the theology of the cross" to be dead on accurate (so to speak) - I'm not so sure I'm crazy about how the Reformers I've read approach the topic.  I love the central idea - but there's something in Reformation theology that does not sit well with me.  I'm not quite sure yet what it is.

Still reading, though!

On Being a Theologian of the Cross

From the Preface to Gerhard O. Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518:
A theologian of the cross, Luther says, looks at all things through suffering and the cross. It is also certainly true that in Christ God enters into our suffering and death. But in a theology of the cross it is soon apparent that we cannot ignore the fact that suffering comes about because we are at odds with God and are trying to rush headlong into some sort of cozy identification with him. God and his Christ, Luther will be concerned to point out, are the operators in the matter, not the ones operated upon (thesis 27, Heidelberg Disputation). In the gospel of John, Jesus is concerned to point out that no one takes his life from him but that he lays it down of his own accord (John 10:18). In the end, Jesus suffers and dies because nobody identified with him. The people cried, "Crucify him!" One of his disciples betrayed him, another denied him, the rest forsook him and fled. He died alone, forsaken even by God.

Now we in turn suffer the absolute and unconditional working of God upon us. It is a suffering because as old beings we cannot abide such working. We are rendered passive by the divine activity. "Passive," it should be remembered here, comes from the same root as "passion," which is, of course, "to suffer." And so we look on the world anew in the light of Christ's Passion, "through suffering and the cross" (thesis 20), as ones who suffer the sovereign working of God. A sentimentalized theology gives the impression that God in Christ comes to join us in our battle against some unknown enemy, is victimized, and suffers just like us. Like the daughters of Jerusalem we sympathize with him. A true theology of the cross places radical question marks over against sentimentality of that sort. "Weep not for me," Jesus said, "but for yourselves and for your children."

"New York Polyphony: Early music. Modern sensibility"

Here's a new NYP video - nice! It includes one of the entries from their recent Remix project. That's the Church of St. Mary the Virgin there, at the end.

From the YouTube page:
Praised for a "rich, natural sound that's larger and more complex than the sum of its parts," (National Public Radio) NEW YORK POLYPHONY is regarded as one of the finest vocal chamber ensembles in the world. The four men "sing with intelligence, subtlety and consummate artistry," (Richmond Times-Dispatch) applying a distinctly modern touch to repertoire that ranges from austere medieval melodies to cutting-edge contemporary compositions.

Video produced by Marchmen Media

Song credit:
Victimae paschali laudes (VPL Cubist Remix)
New York Polyphony/ David Minnick
Devices & Desires
© 2013 Polyphonic Productions

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Open-church night spreads" in Austria

From The Tablet:
In Austria more than a third of a million people flocked to a spectacular array of late evening events staged on Friday night in hundreds of churches across the country.

Co-ordinators of the Long Night of the Churches said some 330,000 people attended 3,250 free events such as concerts, debates and lighting displays that took place in some 739 churches that are all part of the Ecumenical Council of Churches.

Since the first Long Night of the Churches was held in Vienna nine years ago it has been adopted by the Czech Republic - where 1,300 churches were involved this year - and in Slovakia, Hungary, South Tirol and Estonia.

The Long Night of the Churches was a "many-faceted door-opener to Christianity", Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said in his welcome to the participants in the Czech Republic this year.

Above: Austrian tightrope walker Christian Waldner makes his way along a wire above the roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral at the start of the Long Night of the Churches. The wire was fixed between the cathedral's south towers about 200 feet off the ground. Photo: CNS/Leonhard Foeger, Reuters

Sunday, May 26, 2013

For Trinity Sunday: Te Deum

Sung by Schola Bellarmina:

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.

Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

We praise thee, O God :
    we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
    the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
    the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim :
    continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
    Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
    of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
    doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
    thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
    thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
    whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people :
    and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
    as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
    let me never be confounded.
(English translation from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Here are the steps we took....

Again from  A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous:
In A.A., the reporting is clear and unmistakeable.  "Here are the steps we took," say those who have gone before.  The newcomer finally sees that he, too, must take these Steps before he is entitled to report on them.  And in an atmosphere where the constant subject is "What I did" and "What I think," no neurotic can long resist the temptation to get in on the action.  In an organization whose members are always secretly convinced that they are unique, no neurotic is long going to be contented with a report of what others are doing.  Whether by accident or design or supernatural guidance, the Twelve Steps are so framed and presented that the alcoholic can either ignore them completely, take them cafeteria-style, or embrace them wholeheartedly.  In any case, he can report only on what he has done.  Till he does, he knows that he is more a guest of A.A. than a member, and this is a situation that is finally intolerable to the alcoholic.  He must take at least some of the Steps, or go away.  In my opinion, this is the answer to finally rubs off on the waiting, inactive, often hostile A.A. member, and also the answer as to why it happens.

It's always a fascinating and wonderful thing, to me, when peoples' own flaws and character defects are the very things that ultimately break down their resistance and allow them the possibility of recovery....

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lands we did not dream existed....

From A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous - a brilliant little 1960s-era (approximately) pamphlet.   (Warning:  contains no inclusive language.)
The house that A.A. helps a man build for himself is different for each occupant, because each occupant is his own architect.  For many, A.A. is a kind of going home - a return, like the Prodigal Son's, to the house and the faith of his fathers.  To others, it is a never-ending journey into lands they did not dream existed.  It does not matter into which group one falls.   What is really important is that A.A. has more than demonstrated that the house it builds can accommodate the rebel as well as the conformist, the radical as well as the conservative, the agnostic as well as the believer.  The absence of formalized dogma, the lack of rules and commandments, the nonspecific nature of its definitions, and the flexibility of its framework - all the things we have thus far considered contribute to this incredible and happy end.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Learning about Gregorian Chant, from Solesmes

From the YouTube page:
Do you want to learn more about Gregorian chant? This highly pedagogical presentation by a monk of Solesmes, Dom Daniel Saulnier, is read by Sarah Moule and gives the amateur listener basic notions about the chant, its history, musical forms and genres, with a generous selection of examples culled from Solesmes recordings.

This seems to be the order of program on the video; I haven't watched it through yet.
History of Gregorian chant
1 Gloria With ringing of the bells
2 Gloria Ambrosian
3 Antiphon In mandatis & Psalm 111
4 Psalm Psalm 110
5 Psalm Psalm 111
6 Introit Nos autem
7 Gradual Concupivi
8 Alleluia Pascha nostrum
9 Offertory Lætentur
10 Communion Pascha nostrum
11 Kyrie III
12 Gloria IX
13 Sanctus XVIII
14 Agnus XVIII
15 Antiphon Dixit Dominus & Ps 109
16 Antiphon Si offers & Magnificat
17 Response Credo
18 Hymn Lucis creator
19 Hymn Salve festa dies

HT Chant Cafe.

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Pope Francis Puts The Poor Front And Center"

Pope Francis blesses a child Sunday after the
Holy Mass at St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican.
Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
Over the past week, Pope Francis has launched a crescendo of attacks on the global financial system and what he calls a "cult of money" that does not help the poor.

The 2-month-old papacy of Francis — the Argentina-born Jorge Bergoglio — is shaping up as a papacy focused on the world's downtrodden. And in sharp contrast with the two preceding papacies, this one even contains echoes of the Latin American liberation theology movement that John Paul II and Benedict XVI had repressed.

The new pope's popularity is growing day by day. When Francis appears in St. Peter's Square, the crowd shouts his name in every imaginable language. Women hold out their babies to be kissed; everyone wants to touch him.

Vatican security guards are at a loss as Pope Francis gets off his popemobile to shake hands, to hug and to be hugged.

"Bergoglio wants to be the priest that everybody wants to have in his parish, as confessor, as spiritual director," says church historian Alberto Melloni. "And what we have seen in these few weeks is the start of a pastoral papacy."

Deeply Concerned By Inequity

Francis has shed some of the most pompous symbols of papal power. The ornate Renaissance vestments, the golden crucifix and red shoes dear to Benedict have been put away.

And Francis has shunned the papal apartment. He still lives in a communal setting in a Vatican residence where he delivers daily homilies at early morning Mass.

Benedict's focus on theology has given way to more concrete issues, like poverty, Francis' main concern.

Vatican analyst Massimo Franco says Francis is "a true global pope," adding that, contrary to his predecessors, whose worldviews were shaped by 20th century European history, Francis is steeped in the global issues of today and of the future.

"His focus on slums — megacity slums — and his experience as archbishop of Buenos Aires is very telling because naturally he is focusing on the poor of great cities," Franco says. "That is a non-state actor [who is] going to be a very powerful one in the next dozen of years."
Francis has long been deeply concerned by what he calls the negative aspects of globalization.

On May 1 — International Workers' Day — the pope referred directly to the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 people. He expressed anger at their $50 monthly wages.

"This is slave labor," he said.

"And I think of so many people who are jobless, often due to a purely bottom-line view of society, which seeks selfish profit without regard for social justice," he continued.

On Saturday, the pope zeroed in on the financial system.

"If investments and banks plunge, this is a tragedy," he said. "But if families are hurting" — he added ironically — "this is nothing."

Emphasis On Social Justice

Such statements echo liberation theology, an activist Catholic movement that was very present in Latin American slums, or favelas, in the 1960s and '70s, and which was sharply disciplined by John Paul II and his theological watchdog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict — for its Marxist overtones.

Church historian Melloni says there were various schools of thought in liberation theology, and the Argentine cardinal embraced the least political.

"For Bergoglio, social justice is not a sort of service of the church, an external relations department oriented to those who are victims of injustice," says Melloni. "But it is part of the very essence of the church."

One of the pope's first acts was to unblock the beatification process of murdered El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero, a martyr in Latin America. The process had languished under the two previous popes, allegedly because they considered Romero too close to liberation theology.

Leonardo Boff, a prominent liberation theologian silenced by John Paul, hails the Argentine pope as the harbinger of a new spring for the global church.

Vatican analysts are watching to see whether the change in this papacy's style will be followed by a change in substance.

Francis inherited a church filled with problems and scandals, from the decline in the number of priests to clerical sex abuse scandals and corruption within the Vatican. One of his first actions has been widely welcomed: the appointment of a commission of cardinals — all but one from outside the Vatican — who will assist him in governing the church.

This is seen as the first implementation of the principle of collegiality — first put forth in the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago — that called for greater representation of the Catholic faithful in church governance.

Loneliness and Suicide

From Ross Douthat, in
 OVER the last decade, the United States has become a less violent country in every way save one. As Americans commit fewer and fewer crimes against other people’s lives and property, they have become more likely to inflict fatal violence on themselves.

In the 1990s, the suicide rate dipped with the crime rate. But since 2000, it has risen, and jumped particularly sharply among the middle-aged. The suicide rate for Americans 35 to 54 increased nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2010; for men in their 50s, it rose nearly 50 percent. More Americans now die of suicide than in car accidents, and gun suicides are almost twice as common as gun homicides.

This trend is striking without necessarily being surprising. As the University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox pointed out recently, there’s a strong link between suicide and weakened social ties: people — and especially men — become more likely to kill themselves “when they get disconnected from society’s core institutions (e.g., marriage, religion) or when their economic prospects take a dive (e.g., unemployment).”

That’s exactly what we’ve seen happen lately among the middle-aged male population, whose suicide rates have climbed the fastest: a retreat from family obligations, from civic and religious participation, and from full-time paying work.

The hard question facing 21st-century America is whether this retreat from community can reverse itself, or whether an aging society dealing with structural unemployment and declining birth and marriage rates is simply destined to leave more people disconnected, anxious and alone.

Right now, the pessimistic scenario seems more plausible. In an essay for The New Republic about the consequences of loneliness for public health, Judith Shulevitz reports that one in three Americans over 45 identifies as chronically lonely, up from just one in five a decade ago. “With baby boomers reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 a day,” she notes, “the number of lonely Americans will surely spike.”

There are public and private ways to manage this loneliness epidemic — through social workers, therapists, even pets. And the Internet, of course, promises endless forms of virtual community to replace or supplement the real.

But all of these alternatives seem destined to leave certain basic human yearnings unaddressed.

For many people, the strongest forms of community are still the traditional ones — the kind forged by shared genes, shared memory, shared geography. And neither Facebook nor a life coach nor a well-meaning bureaucracy is likely to compensate for these forms’ attenuation and decline.

This point is illustrated, richly, in one of the best books of the spring, Rod Dreher’s memoir, “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming,” an account of his sister’s death from cancer at the age of 42. A journalist and author, Dreher had left their small Louisiana hometown behind decades before and never imagined coming back. But watching how the rural community rallied around his sister in her crisis, and how being rooted in a specific place carried her family through its drawn-out agony, inspired him to reconsider, and return.

What makes “The Little Way” such an illuminating book, though, is that it doesn’t just uncritically celebrate the form of community that its author rediscovered in his hometown. It also explains why he left in the first place: because being a bookish kid made him a target for bullying, because his relationship with his father was oppressive, because he wasn’t as comfortable as his sister in a world of traditions, obligations, rules. Because community can imprison as well as sustain, and sometimes it needs to be escaped in order to be appreciated.

In today’s society, that escape is easier than ever before. And that’s a great gift to many people: if you don’t have much in common with your relatives and neighbors, if you’re gay or a genius (or both), if you’re simply restless and footloose, the world can feel much less lonely than it would have in the past. Our society is often kinder to differences and eccentricities than past eras, and our economy rewards extraordinary talent more richly than ever before.

The problem is that as it’s grown easier to be remarkable and unusual, it’s arguably grown harder to be ordinary. To be the kind of person who doesn’t want to write his own life script, or invent her own idiosyncratic career path. To enjoy the stability and comfort of inherited obligations and expectations, rather than constantly having to strike out on your own. To follow a “little way” rather than a path of great ambition. To be more like Ruthie Leming than her brother.

Too often, and probably increasingly, not enough Americans will have what the Lemings had — a place that knew them intimately, a community to lean on, a strong network in a time of trial.

And absent such blessings, it’s all too understandable that some people enduring suffering and loneliness would end up looking not for help or support, but for a way to end it all.

Choir Books, at the Biblioteca Nacional de España

Here's something interesting from a page at the National Library of Spain (Spanish language page here); a Chantblog reader just pointed it out to me:
Choir books

The collection of choir books belonging to the Biblioteca Nacional de España, which originated in large from the ecclesiastical confiscations of the 19th century, comprises almost one hundred liturgical books which came from a number of ecclesiastical centres and are now held in our library.

These lectern books provide key testimony to the tradition of Gregorian chant in Spain. It is very different from any other cathedral or monasterial a collection as its features are heterogeneous, both in terms of origin and format. This collection contains a wide codicological and melodic representation of the copious production of choir books over the centuries, which is of great interest both to musicologists and Gregorian experts and for philologists and scholars of ancient Spanish books.

All of this reveals the need to develop the current database to provide a solution and service to the various essential issues regarding cataloguing and research. On the one hand, it will enable the Library to achieve a more detailed level of bibliographic description, in accordance with the peculiarities of this repertoire. And on the other, this systematisation and standardisation of all the aspects of the lectern books (missals, graduals, antiphonal books, etc.) should become a benchmark for the Spanish-speaking world and any institution with this singular kind of bibliographic collection.

There are two links on the page:  one that gives Access to the database; the other links to The music and musicology collection.  I believe that "the ecclesiastical confiscations of the 19th century" is a reference to this event described at Wikipedia:
The Ecclesiastical Confiscations of MendizabalSpanishDesamortización Eclesiástica de Mendizábal, more often referred to simply as La Desamortización, encompasses a set of decrees from 1835–1837 that resulted in the expropriation, and privatisation, of monastic properties in Spain.

The legislation was promulgated by Juan Álvarez Mendizábal, who was briefly prime minister under Queen Isabel II of Spain. The aims of the legislation were varied. Some of its impulses were fostered by the anticlerical liberal factions engaged in a civil war with Carlist and other reactionary forces. The government wished to use the land to encourage the enterprises of small-land owning bourgeoisie, since much of the land was underused by languishing monastic orders. The government, which did not compensate the church for the properties, saw this as a source of income. Finally, wealthy noble and other families took advantage of the legislation to increase their holdings.

Ultimately, the desamortización led to the vacating of most of the ancient monasteries in Spain, which had been occupied by the various convent orders for centuries. Some of the expropriations were reversed in subsequent decades, as happened at Santo Domingo de Silos, but these re-establishments were relatively few. Some of the secularised monasteries are in a reasonably good state of preservation, for example theValldemossa Charterhouse, others are ruined, such as San Pedro de Arlanza.

Shades of Henry VIII; I didn't know about this.

The database, though, is very interesting.  Things are happening!

Nineteen Sixty-four: Hypothesis Confirmed: "Knowledgeable Doubters" are Rare

Nineteen Sixty-four: Hypothesis Confirmed: "Knowledgeable Doubters" are Rare:
Back in 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a survey that concluded, “More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ.” At the time, I cautioned about interpreting the meaning of these results by noting that knowledge may not always represent belief (...also pointing out that even 59% of Protestants state a belief in Transubstantiation). I argued that, "Strangely enough, many Catholics believe what their Church teaches without realizing that their Church teaches it." Some commenting online scoffed at the idea that this could actually be the case.

At the time the data did not exist to test this notion. Now it does in the newly released landmark study American Catholics in Transition by William V. D'Antonio, Michele Dillon, and Mary L. Gautier (i.e., the famous senior research associate at CARA). This is the 5th book in this series of research that began in 1987.

In comparison to the Pew study, D'Antonio et al. find that half of self-identified adult Catholics (50%) are unaware that the Catholic Church teaches the following about the bread and wine used for Communion: "the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ." However, 63% of adult Catholics, regardless of what they think the Church teaches, believe that "at the Consecration during a Catholic Mass, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ."

As shown below, this creates four groups. The largest are "knowledgeable believers," representing 46% of adult Catholics, who are aware of the Church's teachings about the Real Presence and say they believe these to be true. Additionally, there is another 17% who believe in the Real Presence but who are unaware that this represents a Church teaching. These are the "unknowing believers."

The second largest group is the "unknowing unbelievers" who do not believe in the Real Presence (i.e., they believe the bread and wine are only symbols) and do not know that this represents a teaching of the Church. There is something hopeful about this group, which represents a third of adult Catholics (33%). Even though they currently do not believe the Church's teaching, they may come to believe it if they knew and understood it better. Knowledge and belief of this may even bring more of them to a Catholic parish on Sundays.

What is rare, representing only 4% of adult Catholics, is someone who knows about the Church's teachings regarding the Real Presence and who states they do not believe this teaching to be true. These are the "knowledgeable doubters" (...note that this study uses the same methods of CARA Catholic Polls, e.g., anonymity, self-administered response without an interviewer, which limit social desirability bias).

What I have noted above is just one tidbit from American Catholics in Transition, which is an extraordinary piece of research.

There are often many anecdotes (or survey results based on small Catholic samples) thrown around about what is going on among Catholics from parish life to politics. This book provides some data that confirms and denies many of these anecdotes. It spends a good deal of time disentangling generational and gender differences. The latter providing some of the biggest surprises and concerns.

I am thankful to the authors for taking the time to test one of my ideas ( helps when a co-author sits a few steps away!). I think there is some reassurance in their conclusion about the data above: "Among all Catholics who know what the Church teaches about the Real Presence, fewer than 1 in 10 (9 percent) say that they do not believe the doctrine." Now we know that lack of belief in the Real Presence is more a problem of religious education than of doubt.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Dufay)

Here's a wonderful recording of Guilliaume Dufay's (ca. 1400-1474) setting of the exquisite Pentecost Sequence hymn,  Veni, Sancte Spiritus.  It's sung here, I believe, by La Capella Reial de Catalunya; M. Figueras, M.C.Kiehr (sopranos); K. Wessel (contre-ténor):

The original hymn is one of the most beautiful in the entire Gregorian repertoire, especially in its text (Latin and English below the video):

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum,
veni, lumen cordium.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.

Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From the clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure;
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die,
Give us life with thee on high,
Give us joys that never end.


TPL says this about the hymn:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, known as the Golden Sequence, is the sequence for the Mass for Pentecost. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. Its beauty and depth have been praised by many. The hymn has been attributed to three different authors, King Robert II the Pious of France (970-1031), Pope Innocent III (1161-1216), and Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury, of which the last is most likely the author.

O ignis Spiritus Paracliti (Hildegard von Bingen)

For Pentecost, "O fire of the Spirit, the Comforter," by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179); this is among my favorite texts.   The original Latin, with an English translation, is below the video.  

O ignis spiritus paracliti,
vita vite omnis creature,
sanctus es vivificando formas.

Sanctus es unguendo
periculose fractos,
sanctus es tergendo
fetida vulnera.

O spiraculum sanctitatis,
o ignis caritatis,
o dulcis gustus in pectoribus
et infusio cordium
in bono odore virtutum.

O fons purissime,
in quo consideratur
quod Deus alienos colligit
et perditos requirit.

O lorica vite
et spes compaginis membrorum omnium
et o cingulum honestatis:
salva beatos.

Custodi eos qui carcerati sunt
ab inimico,
et solve ligatos
quos divina vis salvare vult.

O iter fortissimum
quo penetravit omnia
in altissimis et in terrenis
et in omnibus abyssis
tu omnes componis et colligis.

De te nubes fluunt, ether volat,
lapides humorem habent,
aque rivulos educunt,
et terra viriditatem sudat.

Tu etiam semper educis doctos
per inspirationem sapiente

Unde laus tibi sit,
qui es sonus laudis
et gaudium vite,
spes et honor fortissimus
dans premia lucis.

O fire of the Spirit, the Comforter,
Life of the life of all creation,
Holy are you, giving life to the Forms.

Holy are you, anointing
The dangerously broken;
Holy are you, cleansing
The fetid wounds.

O breath of sanctity,
O fire of charity,
O sweet savor in the breast
And balm flooding hearts
With the fragrance of virtues.

O limpid fountain,
In which it is seen
How God gathers the strays
And seeks out the lost:

O breastplate of life
And hope of the bodily frame,
O sword-belt of honor:
Save the blessed!

Guard those imprisoned
By the foe,
Free those in fetters
Whom divine force wishes to save.

O mighty course
That penetrated all,
In the heights, upon the earth,
And in all abysses:
You bind and gather all people together.

From you clouds overflow, winds take wing,
Stones store up moisture,
Waters well forth in streams --
And earth swells with living green.

You are ever teaching the learned,
Made joyful by the breath
Of Wisdom.

Praise then be yours!
You are the song of praise,
The delight of life,
A hope and a potent of honor,
Granting rewards of light.

 Note: The English version is adapted from Barbara Newman's literal English translation, in Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, 2nd ed. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), 151.



Step 4, for all sorts and conditions....

Since I have come to believe that what separates alcoholics and the rest of the human family are differences only in degree and not in kind, I think A.A.'s 12 Steps have something to offer everybody.   One of the reasons I think this is a good thing is that in my own experience, A.A. spirituality - in groups that have a high regard for, and whose members attempt to work through, the Steps, that is -  is actually better than much or most of what you find in the church.   Clearly, there's something in the Steps themselves at work here; at this point I'm trying to break this all down and understand it.   Because if it works in A.A.:  why shouldn't it work for the church, too?  They're both in the same business, after all.

I've been struck recently by the fact that A.A. tries, in the Steps, to address every sort and condition of person; it has to do this, because every alcoholic is in danger for his or her life.  So A.A. needed to be able to find a way to communicate with all the people it wanted to help.  And I'm realizing that it does this in a couple of ways.

First:  it concerns itself centrally with the basic human condition:  with human life as it's really lived on earth, through the lens of the human psyche and emotions.   A.A. speaks, and in a deep way, to thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences that are common to all human beings.  As an example, here is the opening section of Step 4 (PDF), "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" (my bolding):
Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn't be complete human beings. If men and women didn't exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn't reproduce, the earth wouldn't be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires--for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship--are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God-given.

Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man's natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles. Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.

Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are. We want to find exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach.

Second, A.A. directly addresses particular personality traits and characteristics.  Most often, this information comes out of the empirical experience of the first A.A. members; the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was first published in 1952, 20 or so years after the founding of A.A. and the publication of the original tract/book Alcoholics Anonymous.  That means that a)  the founders had enough sobriety by that time to be able to think and write clearly (!), and b) there was a load of actual data that could be incorporated into Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Here's the next part of Step 4 (PDF); it demonstrates the second technique in action:
Alcoholics especially should be able to see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking. We have drunk to drown feelings of fear, frustration, and depression. We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk again to make more passions possible. We have drunk for vain glory--that we might the more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power. This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon. Instincts on rampage balk at investigation. The minute we make a serious attempt to probe them, we are liable to suffer severe reactions.

If temperamentally we are on the depressive side, we are apt to be swamped with guilt and self-loathing. We wallow in this messy bog, often getting a misshapen and painful pleasure out of it. As we morbidly pursue this melancholy activity, we may sink to such a point of despair that nothing but oblivion looks possible as a solution. Here, of course, we have lost all perspective, and therefore all genuine humility. For this is pride in reverse. This is not a moral inventory at all; it is the very process by which the depressive has so often been led to the bottle and extinction.

If, however, our natural disposition is inclined to self righteousness or grandiosity, our reaction will be just the opposite. We will be offended at A.A.'s suggested inventory. No doubt we shall point with pride to the good lives we thought we led before the bottle cut us down. We shall claim that our serious character defects, if we think we have any at all, have been caused chiefly by excessive drinking. This being so, we think it logically follows that sobriety-- first, last, and all the time--is the only thing we need to work for. We believe that our one-time good characters will be revived the moment we quit alcohol. If we were pretty nice people all along, except for our drinking, what need is there for a moral inventory now that we are sober?

We also clutch at another wonderful excuse for avoiding an inventory. Our present anxieties and troubles, we cry, are caused by the behavior of other people--people who really need a moral inventory. We firmly believe that if only they'd treat us better, we'd be all right. Therefore we think our indignation is justified and reasonable--that our resentments are the "right kind." We aren't the guilty ones. They are!

At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue. They can do this, for they are the carriers of A.A.'s tested experience with Step Four. They comfort the melancholy one by first showing him that his case is not strange or different, that his character defects are probably not more numerous or worse than those of anyone else in A.A. This the sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and easily, and without exhibitionism, about his own defects, past and present. This calm, yet realistic, stocktaking is immensely reassuring. The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities. This tends to clear away morbidity and encourage balance. As soon as he begins to be more objective, the newcomer can fearlessly, rather than fearfully, look at his own defects.

The sponsors of those who feel they need no inventory are confronted with quite another problem. This is because people who are driven by pride of self unconsciously blind themselves to their liabilities. These newcomers scarcely need comforting. The problem is to help them discover a chink in the walls their ego has built, through which the light of reason can shine.

First off, they can be told that the majority of A.A. members have suffered severely from self-justification during their drinking days. For most of us, self-justification was the maker of excuses; excuses, of course, for drinking, and for all kinds of crazy and damaging conduct. We had made the invention of alibis a fine art. We had to drink because times were hard or times were good. We had to drink because at home we were smothered with love or got none at all. We had to drink because at work we were great successes or dismal failures. We had to drink because our nation had won a war or lost a peace. And so it went, ad infinitum.

We thought "conditions" drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct these conditions and found that we couldn't to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were.

Importantly, later in Step 4, it's noted that:
Of course the depressive and the power-driver are personality extremes, types with which A.A. and the whole world abound. Often these personalities are just as sharply defined as the examples given. But just as often some of us will fit more or less into both classifications. Human beings are never quite alike, so each of us, when making an inventory, will need to determine what his individual character defects are. Having found the shoes that fit, he ought to step into them and walk with new confidence that he is at last on the right track.  

I believe that the Episcopal Church has, during its struggle to leave behind antiquated notions about women, and to allow gay people a place in the faith, consciously or unconsciously stopped trying to speak to the whole world with an eye towards healing and redemption for all.  It was such a tough battle that people needed to rest for a time.  This makes perfect sense, actually; most of the religious world is still very anti-gay - and  we all do owe the "liberal mainlines" a debt of gratitude here.  In this light, it's completely unremarkable that politics, "mission," and "activism" have taken over - and the "art of living, as taught by Christ" left behind.

There are a couple of problems with that, though.  First of all:  it gives those who hold antiquated notions about women - and those who want to keep gay people out of the church - it gives their ideas a power they oughtn't have!   If you're not speaking to "redemption and healing" - well, those ideas are going to become hardened into political opinions (as they already have been).     Second, it leaves us in the same place, with politics as our primary operating principle, rather than the healthful love of God and neighbor.

It may be hard to re-learn the language of speaking to the whole world.   I can actually understand a reluctance to do this, after the ravages of the culture wars in TEC over the past couple of decades; I feel that reluctance, myself.  But it will be easier to do as time goes by, because the world is changing; as we all know by now, anti-gay attitudes, for instance, are far, far less prevalent among the young, at least in our corner of the world.   (I'm not sure about elsewhere, actually; that might be interesting to look at.)  "Antiquated notions about women" are, likewise, dropping away - although of course, prejudices of all kinds will always exist.  We are all prone to them.  The only way to deal with that, though - as far as I can see - is through healing and redemption, one person at a time.

The really wonderful thing, in fact, is that A.A. can speak to, and can work, for all the sorts and conditions described here - for the "power-driver" and the "depressive" alike.   You might not think the 4th Step would be a good idea for people "swamped with guilt and self-loathing"; you might think this is absolutely the wrong approach for such folks.  I thought that, at first.  We were both wrong about that, though!

The 4th Step is about getting an accurate look at ourselves.  It's about getting beyond the "misshapen and painful pleasure" of beating ourselves up - or our overt "self-righteousness and grandiosity" - and about taking our rightful place as "one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society."  And the way to do that is to cease fixating on ourselves - whether through "power-driving" or "depression," which are merely two sides of the same self-absorbed coin.  And the way to do that, it turns out, is to cease judging our neighbor in any way whatsoever, by looking instead at  our own faults and flaws (i.e., "working out our own salvation in fear and trembling")That way of life, ironically, helps us turn outwards, to God, where we can find healing - and then to our fellow human beings.

And since Christianity, of its very nature, attempts to speak to the whole world, it can do the same thing.  Let me again quote Sr. Heléna Marie, CHS, from her "What the Religious Life Is and Is Not" (again, my bolding):
It is not a place to hide from others nor from yourself. Whatever you have found difficult in others in the past, you will find difficult here. Every character flaw that drove you crazy in others before you entered will drive you crazy here, too, except that here you are living twenty-four hours a day with those who have them! Nor will you be able to hide from whatever in yourself you would rather not face. The formation process in community will naturally bring out those aspects of yourself which might prefer to remain hidden. Your shadow will become apparent to you (as it has probably always been apparent to others), and you will have to face it, accept it, and eventually own it as a creative part of yourself. As Brother Clark Berge, SSF, says: "The religious life is no way to hide from problems. If you try to hide, they will find you out."
Here's another way of putting that, BTW:
Almighty God, to You all hearts are open, all desires known, and from You no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.