Sunday, June 30, 2013

"The foundation of the apostles and prophets...."

I liked today's collect very much:
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I've loved the "chief cornerstone" image for forever - and nowadays I always think of  Derek's long-ago (and truly wonderful) article on the New Jerusalem, when there's talk about "the foundation of apostles and prophets."  The Revelation passage he quotes there (Rev.  21:9–22:5) has recently come up in my reading, too - although I can't find it in the Office or the Eucharist Lectionary for this time of year, so I'm not quite sure where.

I did think about it, though, this past week when writing about the hymns for S. Mary Magdalene, and wondering whether or not Angularis  Fundamentum (i.e., "the chief cornerstone") has anything to do with them. 

I wondered why the collect was here, though; why "apostles and prophets" in the middle of summertime/Ordinary Time?  Hatchett's Commentary on the Prayer Book provides the answer:

This collect, composed for the 1549 Prayer Book, was formerly associated with the feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude.  It is based upon Ephesians 2:20-22 and 4:3.  The 1662 Prayer Book, following the precedent of the Scottish Book of 1637, substituted "Church" for "congregation" because of the Puritan connotation of "congregation."  In the present revision "chief cornerstone" replaces "head cornerstone."  Because of its reference to the apostles the collect was deliberately placed on the Sunday closests to the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

And so there's another resonance - and another way the tides of the Great Church Year ebb and flow, stories and words and ideas in waves lapping on the shore of the conscious and subconscious mind. 

Also interesting today was the correspondence between the Elijah/Elisha story in II Kings:
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.

Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan." But he said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you." Elisha said, "Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit." He responded, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not." As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, "Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
And the story from the Gospel of Luke: 
 Luke 9:51-62
When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Central to both is the idea of being "taken up"  - and then there's the strange use of the image of fire.   And of course the Old Testament reading had to be a prophetical story, tying in nicely with the collect, too!

(Of course, in the other, non-continuous, track, the Old Testament reading (1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21) is even more resonant with the Gospel story:
1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21

The LORD said to Elijah, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place."

So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." Then Elijah said to him, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?" He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.)

What's really interesting is that I notice these kinds of correspondences much more often these days - and am continually amazed at what a rich and deep and fascinating structure Christianity offers.    There seem to be no end to the resonances - and again it's so interesting that all of this arises out of historical events, and comes to us as revelation.

On days like this I wonder how anybody could possibly not find this stuff fascinating - and then I remember that I was such a person not that long ago.  I heard maybe 20% of what was going on - I did like the music a lot, and heard most of that - and thought of the Bible as "an old dusty book" (I'm quoting myself there) - or else as The Enemy.

I had no sense that underneath it all there existed this remarkable structure - that there was so much going on, and such an interesting conversation happening between the writers of these texts (and the people who thought about them later, and those who put the liturgy together - and then the people who wrote the music to talk about it, too).

I mean:  you don't really have to be religious to be impressed with all this.  Think of the man-hours and be amazed....

(I still have a million questions about the readings, too.  Why didn't the Samaritans receive Jesus because he had set his face to Jerusalem?   Why is it a "hard thing" to wish for a double share of Elijah's spirit?  What's with the chariot of fire - if Elijah is going to be taken up in a whirlwind instead?

Well, that's all for next time, I guess....)

On the Feast of S. Mary Magdalene (July 22)

From Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum Service-books:
On the Feast of S. Mary Magdalene (July 22) :
1st Evensong:   Collaudemus Magdalene ... ... ... 45
Mattins Estimavit hortolanum ... ... ... 67
Lauds & 2nd Ev.:   Maria, noli flere ... ... ... 45
Once again, I have written on this feast day previously (also here, where you can listen to an Orthodox Communion hymn for this feast), but with this post I am looking to complete my Sarum hymn listings specifically.

Melody #45 is the same tune used for Urbs Beata Ierusalem and Angulare Fundamentum, sung On the Feast of the Dedication of a Church; Oremus hymnal online has a midi of the plainsong.   It's a pretty and distinctive tune.

This melody is also used on several other "Proper of Saints'" days:  at Visitation, on "The Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross" (on May 3 - and not the same holiday as the September 14 "Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross"), and on the Feast of "S. Vincent M."    That's an interesting group of days!   I'm going to try to learn more about this; I wonder especially if this melody has been over the centuries closely associated with Urbs Beata Ierusalem and Angulare Fundamentum - and whether or not those hymns (and thus this melody) had special resonance in the minds of Christians.   Obviously, UBI and AF are hymns that call to mind the church itself; you find them in the "Church" section of the 1982 hymnal under their current incarnations, "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem" and "Christ is made the sure foundation."   I've heard the latter hymn in particular used at ordinations and at other special occasional ecclesial celebrations; they are definitely associated in my mind with the church itself.  So I'm wondering how all that relates to the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene; I'm going to see what I can find out.

There are two versions of  "Blessed City, Heavenly Salem" in the 1982 Hymnal, and one of them - Hymn #519 - uses the original plainchant melody.

Melody #67 is the same one used for Tibi, Christe, Splendor Patris on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels:

Here's G. Vianini's version of Tibi, Christe, Splendor Patris, sung to this melody:

These seem to be obscure hymns, and it was quite difficult to find out much about them.  Then the 1902 book, Description and History of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Munster Square, London came to the rescue.  The book contains English translations of two of the hymns: Collaudemus Magdalene and Maria, noli flere - as well as a few others.  I'm including all five hymns from the book here, just for the interest value; Collaudemus Magdalene and Maria, noli flere are #s III and IV below.  I find the text of Maria, noli flere to be especially beautiful; the mystical "Gardener of the thirsty mind" image is astonishing!


Now let the Church in earth and heav'n
To Christ upraise her melody:
By sev'nfold grace from devils sev'n
A captive soul is now set free.

Full oft she sinned of whom we tell,
Mary, the sister of Lazarus;
Who, from the very jaws of hell,
Repentant life hath shewn to us.

To Christ the Healer see her go,
With precious ointment for her Lord:
The Good Physician speaks, and lo!
He heals her sickness by His Word.

O unction from a broken heart!
O rivers from those laden eyes'!
Such choosing of love's better part
Brings pardon with a glad surprise.

This loving Saint was first to see
The Victor, rising from His rest:
The earliest joy was hers to be
Who loved Him most, who loved the best.

Now God in mercy grant to us,
In life's incessant storms and cares,
That all the Saints most glorious
May aid us sinners with their prayers.

To God Alone be glory giv'n,
For sev'n-fold pow'r and glad release:
To souls of men, from sin forgiv'n,
He gives new life and joy and peace.

(S. Odo of Cluny, 11th Century-)


Dawning was the first of days,
When from death our Hope and Praise,
Son of God rose gloriously; 
Trampling down the infernal King,
Power of darkness vanquishing,
Forth He came 'victoriously.

When the risen Lord was seen,
Blessed Mary Magdalen
Was the herald whom He chose,
News of promised joy to bring
To His brethren sorrowing
O'er their Master's dying throes.

O thrice blessed eyes that first,
(When the chains of death were ourst,
Sin destroy'd and Satan quell'd),
Christ, the King of all, beheld.
This was she who was of old
Lost in sin so manifold,
But at Jesus' feet obtain'd
Grace to pardon all that stain'd.

Mutely suing, grief renewing,
Lo! she proveth how she loveth
Christ supremely, by her tears;
When adoring and imploring,
He regardeth and rewardeth,
Stilling self-accusing fears.

Mary sweetest! as is meetest,
For thy holy deeds and lowly,
Thee we hail as "Ocean Star ";
Name thou bearest which thou sharest
With that other blessed Mother
Who in rank outshines thee far.

One a queenly title gaineth,
One, a sinner, grace obtaineth;
Each upon the Church's night
Heralded returning light.
One the Gate whereby Salvation
Dawn'd amain on all creation;
The other world-wide bliss restored
And blazon'd forth the risen Lord.

Magdalen! our praises heeding,
Aid our vows by interceding,
O befriend us and commend us
At the throne of Christ above!
That the Fount of Expiation
Who effaced her degradation,
Reconcilement from defilement
May vouchsafe us in His love.

(Sarum Gradual, 11th Century.)


Sing we now the praise of Mary,
All her tears, her joy, her love;
High in laud we raise our voices,
While our hearts in concert move;
So the nightingale descanteth
Sweetly to the plaintive dove.

Nought the number of the feasters,
Seeking Jesus, did she fear;
She her Master's feet anointed,
Wash'd them with the falling tear,
Wiped them with her tresses, gaining
Pardon through her love sincere.

Lo, the cleans'd doth wash the Cleanser,
Stream to Fountain floweth fain;
Balm that from the flower distilleth,
Fragrance sheds on flower again;
And the dew from earth ascendeth
To the heav'n that gave the rain.

Spikenard in the alabaster
Is her offering pure and rare;
She, in pouring of the ointment,
Doth a mystic sign declare;
Sick, anointeth her Physician,
To receive His healing care.

Gazed the Lord with special favour
Down on Mary tenderly;
Much she loves; her sins, though many,
Have forgiveness full and free;
On the Resurrection-morning
She shall Jesus' herald be.

Glory be to God, and honour,
Who, true Paschal Sacrifice,
Lamb in death, in strife a Lion,
Did the third day Victor rise,
And the spoils of death, as trophies,
Bare triumphant to the skies.

(Sarum Breviary, 14fh Century.)


Weep not, Mary, weep no longer,
Nor another seek to find:
Here indeed the Gardener standeth,
Gardener of the thirsty mind.
In the spirit's inner garden
Seek that Gardener ever kind.

Whence thy grief and lamentation?
Lift, faint soul, thy heart on high,
Seek not memory's consolation,
Jesus Whom thou lov'st is nigh;
Dost thou seek the Lord? thou hast Him,
Though unseen by human eye.

Whence thy sorrow, whence thy weeping?
True the joy thou hast within;
Undiscerned abides within thee
Balm to heal the wounds of sin;
'Tis within, why, vainly roving,
Seek disease's medicine?

'Tis no wonder if thy Master
Pass thy knowledge while He sows;
For His seed, the word eternal,
Unto fulness in thee grows;
"Mary," saith He—thou, " Rabboni,"—
And the soul her Saviour knows.

Thou didst wash the feet of Jesus,
Thee the Fount of grace did lave;
May we, by that dew's refreshment,
Which to thee remission gave,
Share His glory, Whom thou sawest,
Risen a Victor from the grave.

(Sarum Breviary, 14th Century.)


When blessed Mary wip'd her Saviour's feet,
(Whose precepts she had trampled on before)
And wore them for a jewel on her head,
Shewing His steps should be the street,
Wherein she henceforth evermore
With pensive humbleness would live and tread:

She being stain'd herself, why did she strive
To make Him clean, Who could not be defil'd;
Why kept she not her tears for her own faults,
And not His feet? Though we could dive
In tears like seas, our sins are pil'd
Deeper than they, in words, and works, and thoughts.

Dear soul, she knew Who did vouchsafe and deign
To bear her filth; and that her sins did dash
Ev'n God Himself: wherefore she was not loth,
As she had brought wherewith to stain,
So to bring in wherewith to wash:
And yet in washing one, she washed both.
                              (George Herbert, 1633)

I was also able to find the Mattins hymn, Estimavit Hortolanum, in the book Medieval Hymns and Sequences; it's another Magdalene hymn based on the Gardener motif.  Here's the full entry; sing it to melody #67, as prescribed above:

Aestimabit Hortolanum

The very elegant hymn, Pange lingua Magdalenae, of English origin, is in the Sarum Breviary divided into three, for Vespers, Matins, and Lauds. I translated it for the Hymnal Noted; but it was thought too complex for popular use. The Lauds hymn was accidentally kept: the other translations lost. It is in the Clewer edition of the Day Hours.

As the Gardener, Him addressing,
  Well and rightly she believ'd:
He, the Sower, gave His blessing
  To the seed her heart receiv'd:
Not at first His Form confessing,
  Soon His Voice her soul perceiv'd.

She beheld, as yet not knowing
  In the mystical disguise, 
Christ, That in her breast was sowing
  Deep and heavenly mysteries:
Till His Voice, her name bestowing,
Bade her hear and recognize.

 She to Jesus, Jesus weepeth,
  Of her Lord removed complains;
Jesus in her breast she keepeth;
  Jesus seeks, yet still retains:
He That soweth, He That reapeth
  All her heart, unknown remains.

Why, kind Jesu, why thus hiding,
 When Thyself Thou would'st reveal?
Why, in Mary's breast abiding,
  From her love Thyself conceal?
Why, True Light, in her residing,
  Can she not Its radiance feel?

Oh, how strangely Thou eludest
  Souls that on Thee have believ'd!
But eluding, ne'er deludest,
  Nor deceiv'st, nor art deceiv'd;
But including, still excludest;
  Fully known, yet not perceiv'd.

Laud to Thee and praise for ever,
   Life, Hope, Light of every soul!
Through Thy merits may we never
  Be inscribed in Death's dark roll,
But with Mary's true endeavour
  All our sins, like her, condole! Amen. 

The foundation stone of St. Mary Magdalene Munster Square was laid in 1849; the church's founder was influenced by the Oxford Movement of the 19th Century.

Here are a few images from their Gallery page:

Below I've included a big chunk of the book's "History of the Church" chapter; I wanted to see how and why Mary Magdalene was chosen as the name for the parish, but so far haven't discovered this.
Absence of a Church in any district is certain to ensure the deterioration of the neighbourhood at no very distant date. On the other hand, the provision of a dignified Church in any locality greatly improves the surrounding vicinity. This statement is borne out in a remarkable degree in the history of St. Mary Magdalene's.

When London, in Georgian days, gradually extended its borders and spread further afield, Osnaburgh Street and Munster Square with the surrounding property, were built (c.1810) in a substantial style. Osnaburgh Street, and others near by, were provided with stables to each house, and it appears that the inhabitants at first were people of means and some position. Like all newly built-on districts, it retained, too, some of its rural surroundings for a considerable period. The country was not nearly so far away then as now, and the village pound and village pond of St. Pancras were still on the sites of Holy Trinity Church and Portland Road Station, even within the memory of people still alive. But no Church accommodation of any description was provided for many years, and the area with all these additional rows of houses continued part of the gigantic parish of St. Pancras. It is evident that it was, moreover, recognised, even in those apathetic days, that the parish had outgrown the accommodation of the original little Church of St. Pancras, since, in 1819, the then Duke of York laid the foundation stone of the new Church, as we know it now, which was consecrated in 1822.

In 1818 Dr. Blomfield had been appointed Bishop of London, and he devoted himself very largely to increasing the number of Churches in his Diocese. With this object he founded the Metropolis Church Scheme, which had for its object the building of Churches in London, where the Church accommodation was ridiculously small in proportion to the ever-increasing population.

Christ Church, Albany Street, was the first Church built by this scheme, and was finished in 1837. It was to Christ Church that Mr. Stuart used every Sunday to go for his eight o'clock Communion, when staying with his father in Harley Street during the Oxford vacations, and whenever he went there he always dropped a piece of gold into the box, " For the Building of the New Church," which subsequently formed the nucleus of the fund for purchasing the site of St. Mary Magdalene's.

After completing his studies at Eton, and at Baliol College and New Inn Hall, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Dr. Pusey, he took his degree, and in about 1845 he was ordained, Mr. Wardell of Winlaton, in the Diocese of Durham, giving him a title. He next became an assistant-priest to Mr. Powell, of Cirencester, and afterwards he volunteered to assist Mr. Edward Munro in carrying on the College, which he had founded for the higher education of boys of the lower middle-class.

He then joined Mr. Dodsworth's staff at Christ Church, Albany Street, and while there he conceived the idea of devoting himself and his fortune to what eventually became his life's work, at St. Mary Magdalene's. It is said that he offered the Bishop of London to found a Church and to serve it in such part of London as had the most evil reputation, and the Bishop indicated the then York Square neighbourhood. He may possibly have also been influenced in his choice by Dr. Pusey, who was well acquainted with its terrible condition.

For all the forty or so years since the houses had been built, no Church had yet been erected within sight, and the neighbourhood had deteriorated rapidly. The proximity of the barracks, situated at the back of Cumberland Terrace, had also tended to lower the tone of the inhabitants. The result was that no respectable people would take a house in York Square, on account of the stigma attached to any one dwelling there.

It is typical of the man that Mr. Stuart not only sold his estate to pay the entire cost of the Church, and for its endowment, but he himself took a house in the notorious square itself as his own residence.

The site of the Church was originally occupied by a coach factory, and the site having been provided, as before indicated, by the congregation of Christ Church, the foundation stone was laid on July ioth, 1849, by Mr. Baron Alderson, an old friend of Mr. Stuart's.

The Holy Eucharist was celebrated in Christ Church, and the service was fully choral, five choirs combining to give effect to its performance, viz., those of St. Andrew's, Wells Street, Margaret Chapel, a selection from St. Mark's College, the boys of the Chapel Royal, St. James', and the regular cboir of Christ Church. They were conducted by the Rev. T. Helmore, whose Psalter (Noted) was used for the Psalms, which were chanted antiphonally by priest and choir. The Rev. John Keble preached the sermon. . After the Service, a procession was formed to proceed to the site, consisting of about seventy surpliced Priests and a surpliced Choir of eighty, followed by the greater part of the congregation. The service of the laying of the stone included two sets of Versicles—commencing respectively, "O how amiable are Thy dwellings," and "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious," the 8410 and 127th Psalms, sung to grand old Gregorian tunes, and prayers, including one for consecration of the stone. The stone was then formally laid, and an anthem followed. The blessing, pronounced by Mr. Dodsworth, concluded the ceremony. The procession then returned to Christ Church in the same order, and a banquet subsequently took place the same day.

The building of the Church, however, occupied a longer time than had originally been expected on account of difficulties with the foundations, but in three years the first part of the Church was ready for consecration, and on April 22nd, 1852, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene was consecrated by Bishop Blomfield, and the following, in the handwriting of Mr. Stuart, is the earliest entry from the Parish Book :—

"The Right Rev. Lord Bishop of London consecrated the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on this day. Messrs. Holland and Charrington, parishioners of the new District Parish, with the Rev. Edw. Stuart, Perpetual Curate, presented the petition for consecration.

"The Prayers were said by the Rev. E. Stuart; the Lessons were read by the Rev. M. Shaw, and Rev. W. F. Powell, of Cirencester. The Epistle was read by the Rev. W. F. Burrows, and Holy Communion was administered by the Bishop, assisted by the Rev. E. Stuart, Rev. W. F. Burrows, and Rev. J. W. Molyneux, Assistant Curate of St. Mary Magdalene's, to 300 communicants.

"The Sermon was preached by the Bishop of London, and the offertory, amounting to ^190, was set aside for the building of Schools in the new District.

"In the evening there was Service at seven o'clock, after which a Sermon was preached by the Rev. F. D. Maurice, Professor of King's College."

It may be mentioned in passing that the anomalous title of "Perpetual Curate," which was shared with the incumbent of Christ Church, Albany Street, and many other comparatively recently erected churches, and new districts, was altered to that of Vicar by the passing, in i860, of the Marquis of Blandford's Act.

Thus began the actual history of the Church, the Jubilee of which we have been spared to keep this year (1902). How far reaching may be the results of the single-hearted labours of Mr. Stuart and those others who have ministered and laboured at St. Mary Magdalene's, no man can tell. It is sufficient for us to know that the whole moral tone of the Parish was visibly improved even before Mr. Stuart's death, and the improvement has continued ever since.

The lines on which Mr. Stuart worked to attain this end and in which he has been followed by his successors, were to make the word Thorough the motto of the Church, and this single word best sums up his own life and teaching, as well as the Church and the services.

And he was not afraid to adopt such practices of the Roman branch of the Catholic Church as were fit and edifying, leaving them the "monopoly," as he was wont to write, of compulsory confession, of compulsory celibacy, of miraculous images, and of prayers in Latin. He also strongly championed the voluntary use of private confession in both his teaching and writings. He always insisted, however, on having the congregation with him before he added to the ceremonial or otherwise altered the services. For this purpose he preached on Vestments, Incense, or whatever it. might be, before introducing them, besides writing pamphlets and leaflets with the same object. He also compiled a Hymn-book at a time when the paraphrased versions of the Psalms were almost the only metrical songs used in Churches. Several of these hymns are now -included in the new Hymn-books now in use in the Church. He made the Services and Music bright, congregational, and hearty. One of the customs he borrowed from abroad was that of Open-air Processions, on the greater festivals, in addition to those in the Church. In these he introduced girls in white, with different coloured scarves, as well as the regular choir with the banners of the Church. He admitted that such processions were then (1873) unusual, but hoped that would not be the case much longer. He further justified the proceedings in a tract he published at the time by appealing to common sense and to Biblical tradition, as well as similar efforts of dissenters and others.

At Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Whitsun, he always circulated leaflets, the specimens of which, with the extracts from his other writings on pages 48 to 50 will suffice to show the type of the man, and the direct clearness of his teaching.

In his social work he was as conspicuous as a pioneer as in the services. The Christmas dinners and presents, treats to the children of the schools, their parents, and poor people generally, have always been one of the traditions of the parish. For many years, too, he held annual summer excursions to Rye House, charging the participants one shilling each all round towards their share of the day's expenses, people in better positions being invited to increase their contribution. As far back as 1855 he formulated the rules for St. Mary Magdalene's Club, which was most successful, and in which—as in all the work connected with the Church—he took a great personal interest, and towards the success of which he devoted several hours of his own spare time each week. This social side languished somewhat at the time of his death, but was revived by Mr. Ponsonby, and is now succeeded

hoping that a good Vicarage house would be handed over to his successors free of debt. The corner stone was laid on the morrow of St. Mary Magdalene's Day, 1895, and the house was first occupied in 1896.

Mr. Hitchcock's health was not very good, and after a voyage to the Cape had not done all the good that was expected, it became necessary for him to resign. The Rev. W. H. Jervois, who had been assistant priest for five years at St. Giles's, Reading (Mr. Ponsonby's original parish), and twelve years at St. Matthew's, Westminster, was appointed Vicar in 1896, by the Bishop (Temple) of London, to whom the patronage had fallen by the original settlement.

During the past six years the schools have been enlarged, the new Institute has been opened, the congregation has become more parochial, and thus the Church has started on the second half-century of her work.

The Church's work, whether in general or in any individual parish, must be one of faith, always certain of her divine commission and the divine promises, always looking upward, always confident, always content to leave results in the hands of God. The time will come when the densely populated area bounded by Euston Road, Hampstead Road, and Drummond Street will be annexed to the parish, bringing with it a large increase of responsibility and an imperative call for fresh effort; it is therefore necessary from a purely human point of view to put forth our best energies now on behalf of the present population to bring home to them the Catholic Faith, and so to make them "workers together with God," at least by their example of Christian living.

There are many things still wanting to complete the Church, particulars of which will be found elsewhere, but these notes will indicate what has, by the grace of God, been accomplished in the past, and assuredly we mayitook forward to like blessings in the time to come.

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Confession: It puts you straight with everyone"

From Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, from 2011, at the USCCB Blog
Penance, aka confession, is the sacrament of the forgiveness of sin. You can’t beat it for convenience. It’s available practically whenever. Tell a priest you want to go to confession and you’ll get his attention. One bishop I know was cornered on an airplane. Another passenger figured out what was going on and asked if he could confess too. It must have been an interesting game of musical seats. An interesting question for priests might be: Where was the strangest place you ever administered the sacrament of penance? The answers I’ve gathered include “in a sports bar, at a graduation party” and “on the golf course, walking up the fairway.”

Confession has benefits. Here are ten:

1. Confidentiality guaranteed. There’s nothing like confessing your sins to someone guaranteed not to tell anyone else. Sometimes you need to talk in absolute confidence. Even under subpoena, a priest can’t tell anyone what’s said to him in confession. He can’t even hint at it. Now that’s confidentiality.

2. Housekeeping for the soul. It feels good to be able to start a clean life all over again. Like going into a sparkling living room in your home, it’s nice when clutter is removed – even if it’s your own.

3. A balm for the desire for revenge. When you have been forgiven you can forgive others. If the perfect Jesus forgives me, who am I to want to avenge the slights in my life. Think: “Why did they promote him over me?’ or “Mom played favorites!”

4. Low cost therapy. It’s free, which makes it cheaper than a psychiatrist for dealing with guilt.

5. Forced time to think. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. To examine our lives and acknowledge failings marks the first step of making things right with God, others and ourselves. Life can be more worth living when you ponder the meaning of your own life.

6. Contribution toward world peace. Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, said that the imbalances in the world that lead to war and tensions “are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man.” Peace of soul leads to peace of heart leads to peace beyond oneself.

7. A better neighborhood. Confession leaves you feling good about yourself, thereby cutting back the inclination to road rage and aggressive shopping cart driving. With the grace of the sacrament you’re energized to, as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more.”

8. Realistic self-perception. Confession helps overcome arrogance when you have to admit you’re as much of a sinner as anyone else. It helps build tolerance for others’ perceived shortcomings.

9. One more benefit of being Catholic. There are lots of benefits, including a sense of community, liturgical rites to help us encounter God in prayer, and the wonderful sense of humanity exemplified in the saints, from Mary, the loving Mother of God, to Augustine, the exasperating son of Monica. The sacrament that leads us to inner peace is among the greatest boons.

10. Closeness to God. Confession helps you realize that you have a close connection to God and receive his grace through the sacraments. What can be better than knowing God’s on your team, or, to be less arrogant about it, that you are on God’s. 

(cf Step 5, "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.":
When your mission is carefully explained, and it is seen by the recipient of your confidence how helpful he can really be, the conversation will start easily and will soon become eager. Before long, your listener may well tell a story or two about himself which will place you even more at ease. Provided you hold back nothing, your sense of relief will mount from minute to minute. The dammed-up emotions of years break out of their confinement, and miraculously vanish as soon as they are exposed. As the pain subsides, a healing tranquillity takes its place. And when humility and serenity are so combined, something else of great moment is apt to occur. Many an A.A., once agnostic or atheistic, tells us that it was during this stage of Step Five that he first actually felt the presence of God. And even those who had faith already often become conscious of God as they never were before.

This feeling of being at one with God and man, this emerging from isolation through the open and honest sharing of our terrible burden of guilt, brings us to a resting place where we may prepare ourselves for the following Steps toward a full and meaningful sobriety.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"What Careerist Americans Can Learn From Ike, Dorothy Day and Jimmy Buffett"

That's an article by Conor Friedersdorf in The AtlanticI'd like to try to find out more about the Ike story; the Biblical citation is from Proverbs.  It's interesting to see what people with completely secular viewpoints have to say about this topic; Friedersdorf is a libertarian, and a fan of Ayn Rand's fiction - or at least he was, when an adolescent.

So it's interesting to note that what he's really lamenting here is the spiritual emptiness of the culture - and, I think also, a lack of  knowledge about, and a means for effecting, the process of "the conquering of one's own soul."
Sketching Dwight Eisenhower's upbringing in Abilene, Kansas, historian Stephen Ambrose related an anecdote about the future president's moral education. Though well-loved by everyone in town for his good-natured curiosity, "Little Ike had a terrible temper," Ambrose wrote. "Anger would possess him, take complete control, make him oblivious to anything else. The adrenalin rushed through his body, raising the hair on the back of his neck, turning his face a bright beet-red." One Halloween, kept in from trick-or-treating while his older siblings sought candy, "anger overwhelmed him. He rushed outside and began pounding the trunk of an apple tree with his bare fists. He sobbed and pounded until his fists were a raw bleeding mass of torn flesh."

Up in his bedroom, Ike cried into his pillow for an hour. His mother entered the room. And then she paraphrased a Bible verse that he'd forever look back on as his most valuable childhood lesson:
He who conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city.
The paraphrased quote, repeated during a meandering Wednesday conversation between David Brooks and Arianna Huffington, comes as close as any one statement can to distilling what the ideologically not-quite-opposites both regard as a flaw in the American psyche: we overvalue professional success, measured in money and power, and undervalue introspection and the life well-lived*. "There's a moment for striving and achieving," Huffington said, but also a time for serving others, or for simply being -- cognizant that most earthly problems are revealed as inconsequential when we step back and ponder them in the grand scheme of the universe.

Brooks cited Dorothy Day as a role model in that respect. "She had this incredible career creating the Catholic Social Worker, then a bunch of soup kitchens for homeless people, a bunch of hospitals. She'd built this tremendous empire doing good," he said. "But one of the precious moments comes at the end of her life. She's a brilliant writer. She's been writing her whole life. She's giving an interview. And she says, 'I thought at the end of my life that I would write a memoir. So I sat down and I wrote at the top of the page, A Memoir. But I didn't feel like writing much. I'd sit down and start thinking about God, and how glad I was that he'd been on my mind. And I decided not to do it.' For such a great writer and an ambitious person, it was a moment when she decided not to write, not to create. Just to enjoy what she had. And it's a nice moment of surrender at the end of a life, when the ambitious side of her kneels down to the spiritual side, and she has that moment of tranquility. It's a beautiful end to a tremendous life."

As I listened to this exchange, I suddenly recalled a piece that went around the blogosphere back in 2011, when David Roberts, who also believes Americans focus too much on money and power, came up with a very different solution: rather than intense periods of achievement followed by introspection, why not just insist on a significant degree of chill in your life at all times?

He called it the medium chill:
    "Medium chill" has become something of a slogan for my wife and me....We now have a smallish house in a nondescript working class Seattle neighborhood with no sidewalks. We have one car, a battered old minivan with a large dent on one side where you have to bang it with your hip to make the door shut. Our boys go to public schools. Our jobs pay enough to support our lifestyle, mostly anyway. If we wanted, we could both do the "next thing" on our respective career paths. She could move to a bigger company. I could freelance more, angle to write for a bigger publications, write a book, hire a publicist, whatever. We could try to make more money. Then we could fix the water pressure in our shower, redo the back patio, get a second car, or hell, buy a bigger house closer in to town. Maybe get the kids in private schools.

    All that stuff people with more money than us do.

    But ... meh.

    It's not that we don't think about those things. The water pressure thing drives me batty. Fact is, we just don't want to work that hard! We already work harder than we feel like working. We enjoy having time to lay around in the living room with the kids, reading. We like to watch a little TV after the kids are in bed. We like going to the park and visits with friends and low-key vacations and generally relaxing. Going further down our respective career paths would likely mean more work, greater responsibilities, higher stress, and less time to lay around the living room with the kids.

    So why do it?

    There will always be a More and Better just beyond our reach, no matter how high we climb. We could always have a little more money and a few more choices. But as we see it, we don't need to work harder to get more money to have more choices because we already made our choice. We chose our family and our friends and our place. Like any life ours comes with trade-offs, but on balance it's a good life, we've already got it, and we're damn well going to enjoy it. That's the best thing about the medium chill: unlike the big chill, you already have it.

    It's available today, at affordable prices!
There's a bit more to the article at the link.

I will talk more about this in another post, I think; I think I haven't quite realized how many people are caught in "careerism," and how damaged (it seems) they may be feeling about it.  This fits right in with some of the really interesting things Caelius has been saying lately, too, about the problem of "significance"....

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Compline for the Eve of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

From the St. Mark's Seattle Compline Choir, here's an mp3 of Compline for the Eve of St. John the Baptist.  Here's the order of the music:
The Office of Compline for June 23, 2013

5th Sunday after Pentecost
Eve of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24)

Conductor: Jason Anderson
Reader: Tyler Morse
Cantor: Richard Greene

ORISON: “The great forerunner of the morn” (tune: The Truth From Above, English melody, harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams [1872 - 1958])

PSALM: 85: 7 – 13 (Jason Allen Anderson)

HYMN: “Comfort, comfort ye my people ” (tune: Psalm 42 – Genevan Psalter, composed or harmonized by Louis Bourgeois [ca. 1510 - 1560])

NUNC DIMITTIS: (setting by Lodovico Grossi da Viadana [ca. 1560 - 1627]; Tone VII)

ANTHEM: “Benedictus” from Missa Sine Nomine (John Taverner [c. 1490 - 1545])

Subscribe to their podcast here.

"The Best Year Ever for Gay Rights in America"

From The Atlantic, on today's landmark SCOTUS rulings.  Thinking over the past 40 years, it's quite an amazing thing, really.
Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to reinstate California's Proposition 8. As a result, gay marriage will be legal in America's most populous state, and gay couples legally married in their states will enjoy federal benefits such as joint tax filing and inheritance rights.

The decisions -- greeted by a jubilant crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington -- cap off an epic year of progress for gay-marriage advocates. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states, more than double the number from just a year ago. Thirty percent of Americans now live in a state where gay couples can legally marry, and nearly half live in a state that recognizes gay relationships in some form, be it marriage or civil union.

"Our country's movement on this issue has been nothing short of breathtaking," said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky of the center-left think tank Third Way, who compiled these statistics. "The country has come to realize that we should not stand in the way of couples who want to make that commitment [of marriage], and today's decisions ensure that our laws reflect that principle."

Public opinion has moved quickly, with slim majorities in most national polls now saying gay marriage should be legal. Last May, President Obama embraced the issue, becoming the first American president to favor gay marriage -- and, with his reelection, the first to campaign successfully on a pro-gay-marriage platform. In November, four states voted in favor of gay marriage -- the first-ever wins for gay marriage at the ballot box. Previously, more than 30 states had voted to ban gay marriage. Recognizing the tide of public sentiment, politicians from both parties have also changed their positions on the issue in recent months.
Advocates believe the shifting public tide and the court ruling are not unrelated -- that the Court would not impose something the country didn't seem ready to accept. And while the decision is a boon for gay rights, it was not as sweeping as it could have been. Whether out of caution or legal reasoning, the Court did not take the radical step of making gay marriage legal nationwide, as it theoretically could have done.

But it's stunning to realize how far gay marriage has come in such a short time. When the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, a Democratic president and 85 senators supported it, and there was not a single state where gays could be legally married. Even in 2008, when Californians approved Prop 8, gay marriage was only legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut, imposed by judicial fiat in both states; not a single legislature or referendum had approved it.

What a difference a few years makes. "It seems it is only a matter of time," Erickson Hatalsky writes, "before all committed couples can make the lifetime promise of marriage, and receive full state and federal recognition of that relationship."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New York Polyphony: "If ye love me"

NYP sings Thomas Tallis in Länna kyrka in Bergshamra, Sweden; gorgeous. 
"New York Polyphony will release 'Times go by Turns' Summer 2013, the highly anticipated follow-up to their acclaimed BIS Records debut 'endBeginning'."

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may 'bide with you forever;  E'en the spirit of truth.  (John 14:15-17)

"To want nothing in return...."

Here's another lovely passage from the 1960s-era A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous; my bold.
It is also apparent by now, I hope, that A.A.'s program of action is not the rushing to and fro so often envisioned by the newcomer, nor even the unflagging carrying of the message to other alcoholics. Instead, its action is concentrated for the most part on the inner man, involving his deepest sensibilities and values. Only three Steps - the Fifth, Ninth, and Twelfth - involve other people. The other nine concern themselves with the interior life of the alcoholic. Yet in their observance the ultimate result is to turn the alcoholic inside out - from himself to others.

An oft-quoted sentence from the book Alcoholics Anonymous is: "Self-centeredness ... is the root of our troubles." And one of the earliest evidences of the basic change in the personality of the recovering alcoholic is the slow, hesitant, frightened, but persistent offering of himself to others. Alcoholics are numbered among the great "gimmes" of the world. "Gimme a break ... Gimme a chance .. Gimme time ... Gimme understanding ... Gimme love." In A.A., these self-same "gimmes" come to be numbered among the great givers, and lo, some of them even learn to want nothing in return.

Confession and grace

More from A Member's-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous (my bolding):
It may also appear to some of you that in the Fourth and Fifth of its Twelve Steps, A.A. might very well be accused of talking out of both sides of its mouth at once. If you will recall, these Steps are:
“4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
Here, it would appear, is an organization that on the one hand claims there is no moral culpability involved in the disease of alcoholism, and on the other suggests to its members that recovery entails a searching and fearless accounting of this culpability to God and to another human being. I personally feel that this apparent paradox results from the empirical knowledge gained by the founders of A.A. I believe they found, as we all have since, that no matter what you tell the newcomer about the disease of alcoholism, he still feels guilty. He cannot blind himself to the moral consequences of his drinking: the blight he has visited upon those around him and the shame and degradation he has inflicted on himself. This load of conventional guilt – and I use the word “conventional” advisedly – as well as the alcoholic’s stubborn and perverse wish to cling to it, is the oldest of his “old ideas.” It is the oldest because it started first, and in most cases it will be the last to go. But go it must if the alcoholic’s attitude toward himself and hence the world around him is to undergo any basic change. That’s why I believe the founders of A.A. learned in their own experimentation that the alcoholic must be given a conventional means of unloading this burden of conventional guilt. Hence the Fourth and Fifth Steps.

Monday, June 24, 2013

"The splendor burning at the heart of things...."

This comes from Edward Feser's blog:, and a post in which he's continuing his (now 10-part!) series on Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos.  Here he's again reviewing reviews (by "Plantinga and Moreland"); these are people who agree with at least some of Nagel's conclusions in the book - and are "coming at the book from a theistic direction."  Here are some introductory paragraphs:
Plantinga writes:

As for life, God himself is living, and in one way or another has created the biological life to be found on Earth… As for the diversity of life: God has brought that about, whether through a guided process of evolution or in some other way.  As for consciousness, again theism has no problem: according to theism the fundamental and basic reality is God, who is conscious...

And so forth.  Moreland’s approach is more detailed (since he is writing for an academic journal) but very similar.  He speaks of making a “cumulative case for God” on the basis of the same “evidence” that Nagel tries to explain in non-theistic terms, and says that “the theistic argument can be understood as an inference to the best explanation.”  Continuing in this vein he writes:

[T]he alleged limits of appealing to theistic intentions are, in fact, what characterize an appeal to any unobservable, theoretical entity (for example, a quark) -- we attribute to that entity what and only what is needed to explain the data.  This alleged limitation is also characteristic of personal explanation.  We attribute to a person those and only those intentions needed to explain his behavior.  Moreover, in the case of God, we have other factors -- for example, religious experience, revelation, other arguments in natural theology -- that allow us to fill out God’s intentions for bringing our cosmos and us into existence.  (p. 432)
Then Feser goes on to say (my bolding here):
Now the way all this strikes me, and I think the way it would strike any atheist reader, is as follows.  There are, Plantinga and Moreland seem to be arguing, several phenomena which might at least in principle be given a non-theistic explanation but for which theism is in fact a better explanation.  And “theism” is understood as a hypothesis postulating an unobservable theoretical entity which instantiates such properties as the property of being a person, the property of being alive, the property of being conscious, etc.  But it instantiates them in a way that is different from the way that natural things do, making it a member of the class of “supernatural beings.”  But it is not just any old member of this class, but the “premier” member.  The way this is supposed to explain the evidence in question is as follows.  Since God, like us, instantiates properties like being alive and being conscious, he could plausibly be what imparted those properties to us if he had the intention of doing so.  That he did have such intentions is something Christian revelation and the like tells us.  And so on.
Now I am not certain that Plantinga and Moreland would accept this summary without qualification.  Perhaps there are aspects of it that they would rephrase.  And obviously they would add a great deal in the way of argumentation for theism so construed.  But as I say, this is what strikes me as a natural reading, and how I think it would strike the typical atheist reader.  And with all due respect to Plantinga and Moreland, I have to say that if this is what I thought theism and the “case” for theism really amounted to, I wouldn’t find theism any more philosophically interesting or challenging than Nagel and his critics do.  (Indeed, it pretty much is what I thought theism amounted to in my atheist days.)
The main reason is not so much that I think Plantinga and Moreland fail to show that the existence of God, so understood, is sufficiently probable, though their remarks do smack of a “god of the gaps” approach.  The main reason is that God so understood is in my view not terribly philosophically interesting, and in particular not terribly God-like.  Certainly the approach just sketched has nothing to do with the way Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas, and classical theists more generally have historically approached these issues.   For the classical theist, God is not “a person” or “a being” -- not because he is impersonal or lacking in being, but because he is not “an” anything.  He is not an instance of any kind.  He is not in any genus.  He does not merely participate in or “have” mind, life, existence, or anything else, the way we do.  In that sense he doesn’t “have properties.”  Indeed, he has no parts of any sort, but is absolutely simple.  If he were not, then he would be just one more piece of furniture in the universe among all the others, requiring an explanation of his own -- an explanation of why he instantiates the properties he does.  Even if he instantiated them in every possible world, if he were a substance distinct from his properties, or had an essence or nature distinct from his existence, he would not have the absolute metaphysical ultimacythat, for classical theism, is definitive of God and that only what is absolutely simple can have.  For the classical theist, God is unparticipated being or subsistent being itself, unparticipatedgoodness or goodness itself, and whatever else we can attribute to him can be attributed only in an unparticipated sense rather than as the instantiation of a property.
Furthermore, the main arguments for God’s existence in the classical theist tradition are not mere “arguments to the best explanation” or “cumulative case” arguments, and the reasons have to do precisely with what God is for classical theism.  The Aristotelian approach to arguing for God’s existence holds that whatever is a mixture of potentiality and actuality -- and thus less than fully actual, and needing actualization -- can in principle be explained only by reference to that which is, already as it were, pure actuality and thus need not and could not have been actualized by anything else.  The Neoplatonic approach holds that whatever is in any way composite -- and thus in need of some principle to account for the combination of its parts -- can in principle be explained only by reference to what is absolutely simple and thus need not and could not have any parts needing combination.  The Thomistic approach holds that anything whose essence is distinct from its existence -- and which thus could have failed to exist and requires something to impart existence to it -- can in principle be explained only by reference to that which just is existence itself, and thus need not and could not have had existence imparted to it.
God is, in short, precisely that in which everything else participates for its actuality or being.  To say that what is pure actuality or being itself is not the only possible explanation for the existence of other things but is still “the best explanation,” for which we might make a “cumulative case,” is a bit like saying of a certain triangle that its instantiating triangularity-as-such is not the only possible explanation for why it is a triangle, but is still the “best explanation,” for which we can make a “cumulative case.”  This gets the nature of both the explanans and the explanandum just fundamentally wrong.  The relationship between a particular triangle and triangularity-as-such is not a contingent one, and not something we know of via empirical hypothesis formation and the weighing of probabilities.  And neither is the relationship between the world and God -- between that which has participated existence and that which just is subsistent or unparticipated being -- of that sort.

James Alison says the same sort of thing:
And this, of course, is part of the genius of monotheistic Judaism: the realisation that “one God” is much more like “no god at all” than like “one of the gods”. In other words that atheism, which is untrue, offers a much less inadequate picture of God than theism, which is true. For monotheistic Judaism, as for monotheistic Catholicism, which I take to be universal Judaism, the principal temptation is not atheism, but idolatry.

The reason I'm writing about this is that current God-language has for a long time seemed inadequate to me.  It's very easy, for instance, for me to say that "I often don't believe in God - but I always believe that Christ is the Son of God";  this seems absolutely sensible to me, and not at all contradictory.  But of course it is contradictory!  And I think the ideas above are where that contradiction comes from and ultimately gets resolved.

The hard thing, of course, is that people don't (and can't) really think about God this way - as "much more like no god at all than like one of the gods"; this idea simply doesn't come naturally to mind.   Who would, on their own, decide that God is "absolutely simple" and "much more like nothing at all" - and, further:  who can easily make any sense of these ideas once they're expressed?

So:  there's a gap between ideas about God that make philosophical sense and how ordinary people need to think about God.   This problem, it seems to me, explains current attitudes towards religion better than anything else.   And I think this is going to continue to be a problem going forward - especially for Christianity - a universal monotheistic faith.   Christianity means to appeal to all people; in this way it's not like Judaism - basically an inherited religion, and so one that doesn't depend on converts.  It's not like Hinduism, which is a regional faith.  It's not like Buddhism, which doesn't speak of "God" natively at all.  (Christianity is, in fact, most like Islam.)

This kind of faith seems irrational to people who don't have any fluency in the "more like no god at all than like one of the gods" idea; that's perfectly normal, since this isn't a natural way to think.  It has to be talked about and worked through - or else, discovered through contemplation, as so many mystics have discovered via apophatic theology(Remember, too:  A.A. doesn't ask anybody to believe in God - but in "a power greater than ourselves."   This is an excellent example of an entree into the spiritual life by avoiding the problem of "how to think of God" entirely.  My "power greater than ourselves" was simply "the life force" at first; one day I looked out the window and saw a tree and realized that whatever created it was certainly "a power greater than myself.")

Here's a great quote from Heinrich Heine - one that explains, I think, why many people find Christianity emotionally and psychologically accessible.  It's why I can believe in Christ as the Son of God, even when I have problems believing in God; again note that the Crucifixion is at the heart of it:
"So all day long until the sun went down
they spent in feasting, and the measured feast
matched well their hearts' desire.
So did the flawless harp held by Apollo
and heavenly songs in choiring antiphon
that all the Muses sang. [Heine is quoting the The Iliad here.]

"Then suddenly a pale, bloodstained Jew came panting in, with a crown of thorns on his head and a great wooden cross over his shoulder; and he threw the cross on to the gods' high table, so that the golden goblets trembled, and the gods fell silent and turned pale, and became paler and paler, till at last they entirely dissolved into mist.

"... Anyone who sees his god suffering finds it easier to endure his own pain. The merry gods of the past, who felt no pain, did not know either how poor tortured human beings feel, and a poor person in desperation could have no real confidence in them. They were holiday gods; people danced around them merrily, and could only thank them. For this reason they never received whole-hearted love. To receive whole-hearted love one must suffer. Compassion is the last sacrament of love; it may be love itself. Therefore of all the gods who ever lived, Christ is the god who has been loved the most."

John Orens supplies some other answers in his wonderful article “The Anglo Catholic Vision” [PDF] (my bold):
The question we ought to be asking is “What does the world need?” And the startling answer is that the world needs us in that commonness which bespeaks divinity. This is why God has preserved our little Anglo-Catholic family through tempest and storm. In the secret places of their hearts, modern men and women are seeking themselves. They sense, although they cannot believe it, that they have enduring value, that there is more to themselves than their employers, their accountants, their government, or even their families can possibly know. What the world craves is the assurance that there is “a splendor burning in the heart of things.” 32 Naked dogma cannot supply this need, nor can empty ritual. Only the Catholic vision will suffice. But if the world is to find that vision it must be found in us, clothed in living thought and embodied in holy lives.

How then do we nurture this dream of flesh and spirit? How do we share it with the Church and with the world? Here I find myself almost at a loss for words. The answer to these questions can come only from profound meditation, common prayer, and from fearlessly and carefully listening to one another and to the world outside our doors. What I can offer are suggestions—signposts if you will—for our journey into the future. The first is that we must be willing to entertain troubling questions even about our most sacred beliefs. History, philosophy, psychology, above all the daily business of being human, call into doubt the goodness of God, the immortality of the soul, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If, like some of our conservative brethren, we try to exorcise these doubts, we will exorcise every honest man and woman out of the Church. And, as we have already seen, if we do not win back the mind of the age, we will never gain its heart. We must make it clear that orthodox Christianity is not a closed system which must be swallowed whole or rejected altogether. Rather, it is a matrix within which doubt and uncertainty can be expressed and even sanctified. Indeed, to question God can be a holy vocation. It is sometimes frightening to confront the unbelief of others, if only because it forces us to face our own. But there is reassurance in the knowledge that there would be no orthodoxy, perhaps not even the Church, if the Christians of the patristic age had not wrestled with the doubts of pagans and heretics.33

("The splendor burning at the heart of things" is from Evelyn Underhill's poem Corpus Christi, says the footnote.)

There are some of the same ideas I noticed on that website for the local Catholic organization (see "The art of living, as taught by Christ"):  that the point is to invite people to a discussion of faith in God, and to accept and talk about doubts.  ("Listening to others and acceptance of doubt" has also been a meme in the Episcopal Church over the past decade, I should note.  The problem has been a serious lack of effort at discussion of what "orthodox Christianity" itself actually consists of.  Instead, "doubts and questions" were thought of as the point of the exercise - and in some places, they even became a watered-down theology in themselves.  Episcopalians continue to fall back on "liturgy" as if it were an idea in itself; it's not.  Liturgy is a means, not an end.)

I think it's very to-the-point that "If we do not win back the mind of the age, we will never gain its heart."    Christianity is dealing with some of the most crucially important aspects of the human predicament:  the meaning and purpose of existence, the fact of suffering, how people can best live.  To me it's of central importance to understand these things ourselves - and then to be able to communicate these things to the mind, heart, and soul of the world.

I have to say that I think Pope Francis by himself is going to have a tremendously positive effect on the way the world views the Christian faith.  I have a very strong hope for this, anyway....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"The purgative way"

Here's an excerpt from Habits of Devotion: Catholic Religious Practice in Twentieth-Century America. There are four chapters in this book, covering Prayer, Marian Devotion, Confession, and the Eucharist; this excerpt is from the chapter titled "In the Court of Conscience: American Catholics and Confession 1900-1975," by James O'Toole.  I added the bolding.
For many, the familiar phrases of sermons they had heard on the subject [of Confession] rang true, and they described in glowing terms the sense of relief and joy that followed a visit to the confessional.  Dorothy Day - not, to be sure, an "ordinary Catholic" in any sense of the term, but a woman who, by her own account, had had some considerable experience with sin - remembered affectionately the "warm, dimly lit vastness" of the church as she waited her turn and the welcoming, "patient" attitude of her confessor.  Another mid-twentieth-century penitent said that he genuinely enjoyed going to confession because he found it an "individualized" procedure, in which the priest was "less interested in the guilt of the penitent than he is in helping the latter to avoid sin in the future."  Still another enthused over priests who "give you the impression that they have all the time in the world, that the only thing that matters is for you to  ... unburden your heart."  A woman who mentioned that there was a long line waiting behind her got a soothing response.  "At this precise moment," the kindly priest replied, "you are the only person in this church who matters."  Experiences of this sort could have a powerful emotional impact.   A character in a 1950 short story about a long-delayed confession left the box so moved by the feeling of "complete forgiveness and gentleness" that "his throat was choked and he felt close to tears."

The anonymity of the transaction appealed to most penitents and enhanced its potency.  In fact, parishioners probably worried more than they had to about the possibility of being recognized in the confessional.  Individual traits were masked by the darkness and by the whispering tones in which the sacrament was usually conducted.  Even more effective in obscuring the identity of penitents was the sheer number of confessions priests heard.  A confessor could not possibly remember particular people, a diocesan liturgical commission newsletter pointed out in 1966, "when he is faced with one hundred or more confessions" at once.  "you don't have much capacity for remembering the sins of any individual," another priest said frankly; "all the stories blur together" and all the voices "are like the one great voice of humanity."  A lay woman from Louisiana in the 1970s found all this "a great comfort," since she knew that she could say anything without fear of embarrassment.  A woman in Maine agreed:  "I feel shy and uncomfortable discussing my faults face to face with a fellow human being," she said, even a priest, and the darkness of the confessional was thus very welcome.  The clergy were no less glad to be spared having to see their penitents.  "It is much easier to avoid embarrassment in dealing with people outside of confession," said Gerald Kelly in his advice to "good" confessors, "when we have no confessional knowledge of them."

The salutary impact of confession may also have derived in part from the very fact that it was a difficult and serious business.  "Confession gives you that little rush," one appreciative lay man said, "that bit of fear that keeps you on your toes."  Fear had its uses, and many found in the sacrament echoes of familiar devotional themes.  The "purgative way" in the American Catholic spirituality, which Joseph Chinnici has described, stressed the benefits of doing things that were difficult, and many thought confession worthwhile for just that reason.  The priest who had encouraged the men of his parish to "do the manly thing" by going to confession was tailoring his message particularly for them, but priests often stressed the value of "heroic virtue" of penitents of any gender or age.  "Get the habit of doing things because they are hard," a counselor to teenagers said in 1949; "it will be difficult at first, but they will become easy as time goes on." .... The language of jails and trials proved remarkably resilient, and this reinforced both the sense of dread a penitent might feel before entering the box and the feeling of relief on leaving it.  The force of such imagery might even be missed if an individual abandoned the sacrament.  The narrator of John R. Power's Last Catholic in America gave up going to confession, but he was nonetheless wistful whenever he recalled the last time he had done so:  "I was never again to feel ... the exhilaration of rising from the spiritually dead.  Never again to be free from sin, free from sin, free from sin."

Perhaps because of its inherent difficulties, confession served as a badge of honor for American Catholics, one that stood out in sharp relief from non-Catholic alternatives.  In particular, it offered a striking contrast to Protestant and other "peace of mind" movements in the middle of the twentieth century.  For years, Catholic writers continued to trumpet remarks by Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1927 that Protestants should consider reviving a form of confession, not as a sacrament but rather as a system of counseling in which "the confession of sin and spiritual misery is met with sympathetic and intelligent treatment."  Catholics had no need of such a revival, since they were sure they already had it a purer and better form.  Other writers pressed the same point.  Without mentioning Norman Vincent Peale by name, the Paulist John Sheerin took on the best-selling author in 1951 and scoffed at those who thought that they could find a "rosy way of the Cross." Peale's techniques for self-realization and harmony with the divine were "religious in tone," Sheerin said dismissively, "but how soft and namby-pamby."  Others agreed that there was no getting around the "brutal and humbling" fact of human nature that confession underlined:  sometimes, it was necessary simply to admit "I have sinned" and to take the consequences.  Confession was "not a pleasing prospect; but then, the sacraments are not devices for making us pleasing to ourselves.  They make us pleasing to God."

The Feast of SS. Peter & Paul (June 29)

From Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum Service-books:
On the Feast of SS. Peter & Paul, (June 29) & during the 8ve (when the Service is of the Feast) :

    Ev. & Matt:   Áurea luce
    On the day (E. & M.) & on the 8ve day (E.) ... ... ... ... 46
    Within the 8ve (E. & M.) & on the 8ve day (M.) ... ... ... ... 47

I have written about this hymn (and this feast) already, but that was before I'd found Hymn melodies for the whole year;  that post refers instead to the Roman Breviary, and contains a discussion of two other hymns as well.    (It's worth reading, too, this separate post about Felix per omnes festum mundi cardines, "sung at First Vespers of SS. Peter and Paul according to the use of the Church of York.")  Here I'm attempting to complete the Sarum hymn listings for the whole church year - and add links on my Resources page! - so I'll do it "by the book," and just use what I've found in Hymn melodies.
Here are the chant scores; the tunes are the same ones used for the hymn Annue Christe "on Feasts of Apostles and Evangelists throughout the year" - including St. John Evangelist on December 27.  Peter and Paul, though - as you can see - are special cases and have their own hymn for this joint celebration.

This rendition of Áurea luce, from Giovanni Vianini, is sung to tune #46 above; it's a beautiful melody and a terrific text:

Here is the Latin and English text, taken from a page at CPDL.  The translation for verses 4 and 5 are not included on that page, so I took those verses from Early Christian Hymns, written in 1908 (I believe)  by one D.J. Donohoe:
1. Aurea luce et decore roseo,
Lux lucis, omne perfudisti saeculum:
decorans caelos inclito martyrio.
Hac sacra die, quae dat reis veniam.

2. Janitor caeli, doctor orbis pariter,
Judices saecli, vera mundi lumina:
Per crucem alter, alter ense triumphans,
Vitae senatum laureati possident.

3. O felix Roma, quae tantorum principum
es purpurata pretioso sanguine,
non laude tua, sed ipsorum meritis
excellis omnem mundi pulchritudinem.

4. Jam, bone Pastor Petre, clemens accipe
Vota precantum, et peccati vincula
Resolve, tibi potestate tradita,
Qua cunctis cœlum verbo claudis, aperis.

5. Doctor egregie, Paule, mores instrue,
Et mente polum nos transferre satage:
Donec perfectum largiatur plenus,
Evacuato quod ex parte gerimus.

6. Olivae binae pietatis unicae,
fide devotos, spe robustos maxime,
fonte repletos caritatis geminae
post mortem carnis impetrate vivere.

7. Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria,
honor, potestas atque iubilatio,
in unitate, cui manet imperium
ex tunc et modo per aeterna saecula


1. O light of dawn, O rosy glow,
O Light from Light, all ages show
Your beauty, and the martyrs fame,
That gain us pardon from our blame.

2. The heavens' porter, and earth’s sage,
The world’s bright lights who judge the age.
One wins by cross, and one by sword,
And life on high is their reward.

3. These are your princes, happy Rome!
Their precious blood clothes you, their home.
We praise not you, but praise their worth,
Beyond all beauty of the earth.

4. Kind Shepherd, Peter, unto thee was given
The keys to close and ope the gates of heaven;
Strike from our souls the galling chain of crime,
And gain the grace for which our hearts have striven.

5. O learned Paul, inspire us from above
With all the graces of the Heavenly Dove;
Bring us the faith to see the truth of God,
And brighten earth with the sweet reign of love.

6. One love, one faith, twin olive trees,
One great strong hope filled both of these.
Full fonts, in your matched charity,
Pray that we may in heaven be.

7. Give glory to the Trinity
And honor to the Unity,
And joy and pow’r, for their reign stays
Today and through all endless days.

It's a wonderful hymn, isn't it?   It's "been attributed" to Elpis, the wife of Boethius; I'm gathering, though, as I Google, that there may be some question as to whether a) she was actually his wife, and b) she ever existed and wrote this hymn (and a couple of others)!   However, I'll give you what I've found about her in Early Christian Hymns:
Wife of the illustrious Roman writer and statesman, Boetius, Elpis was born, perhaps not later than 475, of a noble Sicilian family. In 500, when King Theodoric came to Rome he made Boetius master of the palace. He was chosen consul three times, and his two sons, by Elpis, were made consuls in their nonage, in 523.

Her husband was cruelly put to death by the barbarian king in 525, and his estates confiscated; but these were restored to Elpis, who survived Boetius, by the king's daughter Amalasunta, on the death of Theodoric, which took place soon after the martyrdom of Boetius. It is not known when the death of Elpis occurred.

Elpis was noted as a lady of great learning, wit and beauty.

The following hymn is divided, and adapted for three several hymns in the Roman Breviary, one for January 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, the other two for June 29, the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

"Elpis," I find it interesting to note, is the mythological Greek personifcation of "hope" -the single thing left inside Pandora's Box after all the evils of the world had escaped.

Unfortunately, I still haven't found an audio file of melody #47; still working on it.  Meanwhile, here are all kinds of chant propers for today at MMDB.

According to this Catholic News Agency article, the celebration of Peter and Paul together is ancient:
As early as the year 258, there is evidence of an already lengthy tradition of celebrating the solemnities of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the same day. Together, the two saints are the founders of the See of Rome, through their preaching, ministry and martyrdom there.
The article also notes that:
In a sermon in the year 395, St. Augustine of Hippo said of Sts. Peter and Paul: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles' blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.”

The Orthodox call them "The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul"; here are Troparions and Kontakions for their joint feast:
Troparion — Tone 4

First-enthroned of the apostles, / teachers of the universe: / Entreat the Master of all / to grant peace to the world, / and to our souls great mercy!

Kontakion — Tone 2

O Lord, You have taken up to eternal rest / and to the enjoyment of Your blessings / the two divinely-inspired preachers, the leaders of the Apostles, / for You have accepted their labors and deaths as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, / for You alone know what lies in the hearts of men.

Kontakion — Tone 2

Today Christ the Rock glorifies with highest honor / The rock of Faith and leader of the Apostles, / Together with Paul and the company of the twelve, / Whose memory we celebrate with eagerness of faith, / Giving glory to the one who gave glory to them!

Below are couple of icons and a painting that put Peter and Paul together; they had quite a few dust-ups, by all Biblical accounts, so it's interesting to think how they'd feel about being celebrated on the same day, together!

This one says:  "English: SS. APOSTLES PETER AND PAUL 13th Century From the Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, Belozersk":

This one's even older:  "Icon of Sts. Peter and Paul from Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, circa 1050":

In comparison, this one is almost brand new - from the 17th Century and Guido Reni:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Laudate dominum: O Praise Ye the Lord! (Parry)

Charles Hubert H. Parry: O Praise ye the Lord!

The YouTube page says this is from "the National Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate The Diamond Jubilee Of Her Majesty The Queen, St Paul's Cathedral, Tuesday 5th June 2012."  It's interesting to me that so many in that congregration know this hymn!

They had this one at St. Thomas yesterday, too.  It's a splendid tune - one of the first hymns I fell in love with - and these are the splendid words that go with it, from Psalm 149:
O praise ye the Lord! praise Him in the height;
Rejoice in His Word, ye angels of light;
Ye heavens, adore Him by Whom ye were made,
And worship before Him in brightness arrayed.

O praise ye the Lord! Praise Him upon earth,
In tuneful accord, ye sons of new birth;
Praise Him Who hath brought you His grace from above,
Praise Him Who hath taught you to sing of His love.

O praise ye the Lord! All things that give sound;
Each jubilant chord re-echo around;
Loud organs, His glory forth tell in deep tone,
And sweet harp, the story of what He hath done.

O praise ye the Lord! Thanksgiving and song
To Him be outpoured all ages along!
For love in creation, for Heaven restored,
For grace of salvation, O praise ye the Lord!