Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Cassian: Discipline in Prayer"

Derek posted something at haligweorc last week that astounded me.  It's so beautifully simple, and brings together, via prayer, some of what I see as the most central ideas in the life of faith:  "conscious contact with God"; living "a day at a time" - and at the same time in expectation of something greater; the dynamic process of "preparation"; simplicity; having and living a "primary purpose."  Other things, too, I think, which I'm having trouble articulating at the moment.

Here's his post; he's talking about his current Prayer Book Spirituality project:
In doing some research for the next section, I ran again across this passage which was marked with double lines, underlines, and a star in the margin in my copy of the Conferences and which must be shared:
For whoever is in the habit of praying only at the hour when the knees are bent prays very little. But whoever is distracted by any sort of wandering of heart, even on bended knee, never prays. And therefore we have to be outside the hour of prayer what we want to be when we are praying. For the mind at the time of its prayer is necessarily formed by what went on previously, and when it is praying it is either raised to the heavens or brought low to the earth by the thoughts on which it was dwelling before it prayed. (John Cassian, Conferences 10.14.2)

What's really stunning to me is that I've never heard of this before!   I mean, there are dozens of contemplative prayer disciplines and techniques (or, as Keating calls Centering Prayer, methods) - some of which are quite elaborate.  Yet this, from John Cassian - and the 4th century - seems somehow never to have made that list.  Perhaps it's just too simple.

This idea takes a person's day-to-day life and in one simple idea sweeps it up into the life of prayer and aspiration - all by means of simply recalling the process itself to itself.  It is, really, I believe, the way to "prayer without ceasing."

Sebastián de Vivanco: Magnificat Quarti toni

Here's a beautiful Magnificat; the chant verses are sung to Gregorian Tone 4.  Beginning sometime in the 15th Century, composers began writing this kind of chant/polyphony alternatim, in which all the odd verses are sung to either chant or polyphony - and then the even verses take the other style.   These were often based on the ordinary of the mass, but here, obviously, the text comes from the Vespers Canticle (part of the Ordinary of the Divine Office).

Sebastián de Vivanco was born in Avila, Spain, in 1551, and died in Salamanca in 1622. The performance is by the Orchestra of the Renaissance led by Richard Cheetham.  

Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae:
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.

Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: et sanctum nomen eius.
Et misericordia eius a progenie in progenies, timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in bracchio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.

Esurientes implevit bonis: et divites dimissit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini eius in saecula.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arms: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remebering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel.
As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.
Glory be to the father, and to the son, and to the holy spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"Heed the new age of anxiety rather than bemoaning it"

By Darian Leader in The Guardian.   This is very important, I think, in both what it says about our society and how its cultural/social/economic values affect us - and what it says about our own ability to understand the problem and to act to fix it.  

I think it's a problem of atomization; we do not have any overarching value system or philosophy of living in place.  We don't understand what human beings are and are for - and we don't even understand why that understanding matters.   We are moving along in time, "fixing" whatever problems arise on an ad hoc basis, making the whole thing up as we go along.

Big problem, that.   We need a philosophy of the human being - which is of course exactly and precisely what religion provides; is anybody surprised that we're blowing it big-time when we attempt to operate without a general understanding of the human psyche, soul, and emotions, and how we can best live?     We're not even trying to create something like this; we're living in an era of scientism - and it certainly seems science is completely oblivious to this problem.
If the postwar age of anxiety was supposed to have ended 30 or 40 years ago, a swath of media articles now suggest a dramatic comeback. A new and widely reported study claims a massive increase in anxiety disorders in the UK, with an estimated 8.2 million sufferers compared to 2.3 million in 2007. The pressures of modern life, we are told, must play a large part here, with job stress aggravating the difficulties of urban populations.

The focus on socio-economic conditions is surely a good thing. In the 1980s, Thatcherism encouraged a redrafting of work-related problems as psychological ones. As each person became a unit of economic competition, it wasn't the market's fault if they didn't get a job but their own. Injustice in the marketplace was glossed over as individual failure.

Hundreds of books and articles have questioned this without gaining media exposure, so why the visibility of the new research? I was puzzled to find not a single sentence in the report linking the supposed increase in anxiety to social causes. In fact, there was no explanation at all, and the headline-grabbing prevalence rate for the UK was estimated from Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Here, we find a perfect expression of the new mental hygiene movement. Anxiety is grouped together with dementia, stroke and neuromuscular conditions as a "brain disorder", and the authors urge an approach that uses "comparable methodologies for both mental and neurological illness". Disorders are listed in terms of their cost to the economy rather than to individual lives, families and communities.

The monetary equation explains the press the report received. In this accountancy of distress, anxiety disorders are reckoned to cost around £10bn a year, with about a half of this due to lost productivity and early retirement.

The subtext to human suffering here is of course the economy. Getting people back to work is what matters, with intervention aimed at excising unwanted symptoms that get in the way of maximum productivity. Rather than seeing such symptoms as signs that something is wrong at a more fundamental level, they are read as local disturbances that cutting edge drugs will get rid of.

Aside from the absurdity of seeing anxiety as a brain disorder, the logic here is circular. It may be the very equation of human worth with economic productivity that frames the problem. As human beings are increasingly identified with units of energy in the marketplace, is it so surprising that they fall ill, refusing the values of productivity and efficiency that society imposes on them?

The pressures and expectations of the market weigh heavily on everyone. The erosion of long-term stability in employment means that people are expected to throw themselves into any job they find. Every minor task or training exercise must be met with absolute enthusiasm, as if motivation were something that could be turned on or off at will.

Such behaviour is impossible to sustain, and exacts its toll: depressive feelings, physical and emotional exhaustion at the expenditure of energy on projects we care little about. Motivation loses its roots in our childhood interests and ideals, and becomes something external to us. Hence the oscillation between hyper-motivation and depletion characteristic of the contemporary worker.

Anxiety can play a similar role. At its most basic level, anxiety is the sensation that something is demanded of one. An exam at school or a work deadline can generate this feeling, as can a fruitless visit to a jobcentre. There is the pervasive sense of an expectation or impending judgment. The fact that human beings have become what Nina Power calls "walking CVs" can only exacerbate such problems. We are obliged to list and magnify our abilities to meet the impossible demands of the marketplace. Added to this is the ever increasing pressure to conform to a norm of physical and mental health.

The imperative to remove anxiety may do more harm than good. Freud noticed the protective function of anxiety as an indication of danger. He distinguished it from shock, the encounter with a violence or sexuality that we had not been prepared for. The first question to ask is less "How can we get rid of anxiety?" than "What function does anxiety have?" Take the example of childhood phobias. Clinicians know that the protracted phobias that occur between the ages of three and six are usually best left untreated. They show that the child is reorganising their world, creating new limits and boundaries through the animal or place they are afraid of. When this is done, the phobia will disappear. The child has transformed anxiety into fear. Fear is always fear of something, but anxiety involves a more nameless dread, as writers like Gogol and Maupassant have often reminded us. The causal diagnostic approach lumps fear and anxiety together, yet if someone has succeeded in becoming afraid of something it means that they have been able to treat their anxiety.

This inflects the question of the socio-economic framework of anxiety. If the competitive field of employment can intensify the feeling of demands and expectations, when we explore individual cases we find that something more is at stake. It may take time to discover, but there is always a specific figure beyond the demand – a boss, a partner, a bureaucrat. There is the acute sense that they want something from us but we don't know how they see us. This makes it more difficult to respond.

This is perhaps anxiety at its purest. Lacan compared it to being confronted with a giant praying mantis while wearing a mask – a mask the wearer can't see. We have no way of knowing if the mask makes us look like prey. If we knew we could take evasive action, but not knowing leaves us paralysed. This is illustrated beautifully in the Pixar movie Brave. To escape the spiralling demands of her mother, a girl uses magic to turn her into a bear. She must then change her back, yet every time she encounters the bear she has no way of knowing whether the bear sees her as a beloved daughter or merely a piece of meat to be devoured.These processes are unconscious, but anxiety won't be. We feel it but cannot grasp its cause. This opacity is exploited by offering the label of "anxiety disorder" and explained in terms of brain circuitry.

Careful listening and dialogue can help the person gain an understanding of their situation, but there can never be any guarantee that anxiety won't come back – less invasively perhaps and less destructively, but occupying nonetheless a crucial place in human life.

Anxiety is the sign that we have temporarily lost the persona and reference points we count on in daily life. Suddenly we are alone and in danger. In this sense, anxiety never lies. Before rushing to get rid of it, we must reflect on what it is there to do and what it would mean to live without it. Rather than bemoaning a new age of anxiety, we need to examine more closely the anxieties of our age.

I'll quote again from John Orens' 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.”  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. 

"Only the Catholic vision will suffice," it says.  That's for us, as religious people - and we can bring that understanding to the public square and offer it, free of charge (and without condition, please), to the whole world.

"Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?"

At "catholicity and covenant" today:

Considerable attention is being given to Francis' address to the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, it being regarded as setting out the institutional agenda for his pontificate.  For catholicity and covenant, however, more striking was his address to the Brazilian RC episcopate.  What we see in this address is how Francis understands the missionary Church - of what it means to be a Church with the ability to warm hearts, to authentically bear to the world the grace and love of the Crucified and Risen One. Below are some extracts from the address.

The subtitles are based on the language Francis employed.  

The Grammar of Mystery  

A Church which makes room for God’s mystery; a Church which harbours that mystery in such a way that it can entice people, attract them. Only the beauty of God can attract. God’s way is through enticement, allure. God lets himself be brought home. He awakens in us a desire to keep him and his life in our homes, in our hearts. He reawakens in us a desire to call our neighbours in order to make known his beauty. Mission is born precisely from this divine allure, by this amazement born of encounter.

Icon of Emmaus  

We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning ...

Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church which accompanies them on their journey; a Church able to make sense of the “night” contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a Church which realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture.

I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts? A Church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles… Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?  

Slow Church

We see a desperate need for calmness, I would even say slowness. Is the Church still able to move slowly: to take the time to listen, to have the patience to mend and reassemble? Or is the Church herself caught up in the frantic pursuit of efficiency? Dear brothers, let us recover the calm to be able to walk at the same pace as our pilgrims, keeping alongside them, remaining close to them, enabling them to speak of the disappointments present in their hearts and to let us address them.

Church as womb of mercy  

Concerning pastoral conversion, I would like to recall that “pastoral care” is nothing other than the exercise of the Church’s motherhood. She gives birth, suckles, gives growth, corrects, nourishes and leads by the hand … So we need a Church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy. Without mercy we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of a world of “wounded” persons in need of understanding, forgiveness, love.

(The painting is Daniel Bonnell's The Road to Emmaus #2, 2003.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Rebel pope urges Catholics to shake up dioceses"

From Huffington Post, HT Pray Tell.  My bold; I'm really liking this guy so far (although certainly the HP headline is a bit over the top).  To my mind, there's nothing more exciting than somebody who understands and believes that human beings have both physical needs and a "hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy" - and who aims to seriously address both - while at the same time acting on the idea that the church itself has to be a place of repentance (AKA "perpetual change and growth").

When the church can consistently apply its own principles of metanoia to itself - well, at that point we'll really have something.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Pope Francis showed his rebel side Thursday, urging young Catholics to shake up the church and make a "mess" in their dioceses by going out into the streets to spread the faith. It's a message he put into practice by visiting one of Rio's most violent slums and opening the church's World Youth Day on a rain-soaked Copacabana Beach.

Francis was elected pope on a mandate to reform the church, and in four short months he has started doing just that: He has broken long-held Vatican rules on everything from where he lays his head at night to how saints are made. He has cast off his security detail to get close to his flock, and his first international foray as pope has shown the faithful appreciate the gesture.

Dubbed the "slum pope" for his work with the poor, Francis received a rapturous welcome in the Varginha shantytown, part of a slum area of northern Rio so violent it's known as the Gaza Strip. The 76-year-old Argentine seemed entirely at home, wading into cheering crowds, kissing people young and old and telling them the Catholic Church is on their side.

"No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!" Francis told a crowd of thousands who braved a cold rain and stood in a muddy soccer field to welcome him. "No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself."

It was a message aimed at reversing the decline in the numbers of Catholics in most of Latin America, with many poor worshippers leaving the church for Pentecostal and evangelical congregations. Those churches have taken up a huge presence in favelas, or shantytowns such as Varginha, attracting souls with nuts-and-bolts advice on how to improve their lives.

The Varginha visit was one of the highlights of Francis' weeklong trip to Brazil, his first as pope and one seemingly tailor-made for the first pontiff from the Americas.

The surprise, though, came during his encounter with Argentine pilgrims, scheduled at the last minute in yet another sign of how this spontaneous pope is shaking up the Vatican's staid and often stuffy protocol.

He told the thousands of youngsters, with an estimated 30,000 Argentines registered, to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a "mess," saying a church that doesn't go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.

"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"

Apparently realizing the radicalness of his message, he apologized in advance to the bishops at home.

Later Thursday, he traveled in his open-sided car through a huge crowd in the pouring rain to a welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach. It was his first official event with the hundreds of thousands of young people who have flocked to Rio for World Youth Day. Vatican officials estimated the crowd at 1 million.

Cheering pilgrims from 175 nations lined the beachfront drive to catch a glimpse of the pontiff, with many jogging along with the vehicle behind police barricades. The car stopped several times for Francis to kiss babies – and take a long sip of his beloved mate, the traditional Argentine tea served in a gourd with a straw, which was handed up to him by someone in the crowd.

After he arrived at the beach-front stage, though, the crowd along the streets melted away, driven home by the pouring rain that brought out vendors selling the plastic ponchos that have adorned cardinals and pilgrims alike during this unseasonably cold, wet week.

In an indication of the havoc wreaked by four days of steady showers, organizers made an almost unheard-of change in the festival's agenda, moving the Saturday vigil and climactic Sunday Mass to Copacabana Beach from a rural area 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the city center. The terrain of the area, Guaratiba, had turned into a vast field of mud, making the overnight camping plans of pilgrims untenable.

The news was welcome to John White, a 57-year-old chaperone from the Albany, New York, diocese who attended the past five World Youth Days and complained that organization in Rio was lacking.

"I'm super relieved. That place is a mud pit and I was concerned about the kid's health and that they might catch hypothermia," he said. "That's great news. I just wish the organizers would have told us."

Francis' visit to the Varginha slum followed in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who visited two such favelas during a 1980 trip to Brazil, and Mother Teresa, who visited Varginha itself in 1972. Her Missionaries of Charity order has kept a presence in the shantytown ever since.

Like Mother Teresa, Francis brought his own personal history to the visit: As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio frequently preached in the poverty-wracked slums of his native city, putting into action his belief that the Catholic Church must go to the farthest peripheries to preach and not sit back and wait for the most marginalized to come to Sunday Mass.

Francis' open-air car was mobbed on a few occasions as he headed into Varginha's heavily policed, shack-lined streets, but he never seemed in danger. He was showered with gifts as he walked down one of the slum's main drags without an umbrella to shield him from the rain. A well-wisher gave him a paper lei to hang around his neck and he held up another offering – a scarf from his favorite soccer team, Buenos Aires' San Lorenzo.

"Events like this, with the pope and all the local media, get everyone so excited," said Antonieta de Souza Costa, a 56-year-old vendor and resident of Varginha. "I think this visit is going to bring people back to the Catholic Church."

Addressing Varginha's residents, Francis acknowledged that young people in particular have a sensitivity toward injustice.

"You are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good," Francis told the crowd. "To you and all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished."

It was a clear reference to the violent protests that paralyzed parts of the country in recent weeks as Brazilians furious over rampant corruption and inefficiency within the country's political class took to the streets.

Francis blasted what he said was a "culture of selfishness and individualism" that permeates society today, demanding that those with money and power share their wealth and resources to fight hunger and poverty.

"It is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry – this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy," he said.

 I'm very much hoping he won't deeply disappoint me by going anti-gay....

Friday, July 26, 2013

Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston)

This is a Google book I'm surprised I've never run across before.  Its full title is Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive:  Translated and Arranged from the Sarum Book and Supplemented from Gallican and Monastic Uses. Printed for the Society of S. Margaret, Boston, U.S. (Google eBook)

So, it's the St. Margaret Breviary, really - here's a link to the order's website - and apparently comes right from the Sarum Breviary (although with some differences, I'd imagine).  This edition is from 1885.

[EDIT:  Michael, in the comments, notes that there's a separate book for Matins as well (which is oddly labeled "Catholic Church"!).  Also that the books are:
....*mostly* Sarum - at least in the Psalter and the Office of the Season. He does make use of some of the tridentine alterations, such as in the system of Mattins lessons. The Proper and Common of the Saints, however, is much more highly [neo?-]Gallican. He takes pains which later folks like G. H. Palmer do not to avoid any direct invocation of the saints. 
Thanks, Michael.]

The book's got a hyperlinked Table of Contents, and it seems to be complete, with the Psalter for the days of the week for all the offices, the Chapter for each office, the Collects, the Antiphons, and everything for all the Feast Days, both major and minor.  No music, though.

A good find!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Alleluia: Angelus domini

This comes, apparently, from the "Antiphonary tonary missal of St. Benigne" (also called "Antiphonarium Codex Montpellier" or "Tonary of Saint-Bénigne of Dijon"), H159.  I don't know who the singers here are,  but it's certainly lovely.

Here's a screen cap of the page in the manuscript (link below) from which this music comes; it's found in the section Alleluia Tetrarda Plagalis.  (Tetrarda Plagalis means something like "Fourth Tone, Second Type"; there were apparently 8 different kinds of melodies - i.e., "tones" - but divided into four 4 groups of two.  This I believe came out of the Byzantine system called oktoechos.)

Although as far as I can tell it doesn't say in the manuscript - it's organized by tone, rather than feast - this is obviously for use on Easter or during Eastertide.  The texts come from Matthew 28 and John 18:
Angelus enim[autem] Domini descendit de coelo, et accedens revolvit lapidem, et super eum sedit. 

Respondens autem angelus dixit mulieribus: Quem quaeritis? Illae autem dixerunt: Jesum Nazarenum.

An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and rolled back the stone, and sat on it. 

And he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

This manuscript is known as "Codex H. 159 de la Bibliothèque de l'École de médecine de Montpellier."  IMSPL has what it calls a Preface, Directories (monochrome); this looks to be an add-on analysis and Table-of-Contents to the manuscript itself, here as a 4.5MB PDF.  It also offers the Complete Codex (color scans), in a 20MB PDF; both of these are courtesy of the Boston Public Library, it says.   If I'm reading this correctly, I'm gathering that this was part of the Solesmes chant research project during the 19th Century; Dom Andre Mocquereau was editor of the Preface.  Clearly I need to look more closely at that project, and to learn more about it.

Quite amazing, actually, to be able to casually download these things from a thousand years ago and look them over at home.

Wikipedia has an extensive entry on the Antiphonary of St. Benigne, too; I'm gathering that this means H 159 is rather important among chant manuscripts.   Here are some quotes from that article:
The Antiphonary tonary missal of St. Benigne (also called Antiphonarium Codex Montpellier or Tonary of Saint-Bénigne of Dijon) was supposed to be written in the last years of the 10th century, when the Abbot William of Volpiano at St. Benignus of Dijon reformed the liturgy of several monasteries in Burgundy. The chant manuscript records mainly Western plainchant of the Roman-Frankish proper mass and part of the chant sung during the matins ("Gregorian chant"), but unlike the common form of the Gradual and of the Antiphonary, William organized his manuscript according to the chant genre (antiphons with psalmody, alleluia verses, graduals, offertories, and proses for the missal part), and theses sections were subdivided into eight parts according to the octoechos. This disposition followed the order of a tonary, but William of Volpiano wrote not only the incipits of the classified chant, he wrote the whole chant text with the music in central French neumes which were still written in campo aperto, and added a second alphabetic notation of his own invention for the melodic structure of the codified chant.


This particular type of a fully notated tonary only appeared in Burgundy and Normandy. It can be regarded as a characteristic document of a certain school founded by William of Volpiano, who was reforming abbot at St. Benignus of Dijon since 989. In 1001 he followed a request by Duke Richard II and became first abbot at the Abbey of Fécamp which was another reforming centre of monasticism in Normandy.

Here's a bit more about this manuscript itself:
The Tonary of Saint-Bénigne of Dijon is organized in a very rare form of a fully notated tonary, which serves like a fully notated music manuscript for mass (gradual) and office chant (antiphonary).[8]

The first division of the chant book is between the book's gradual (fol. 13r-155v) and an antiphonary fragment (fol. 156r-162v) which has the Matins for Palm Sunday, St. Blasius and St. Hylarius in the conventional liturgical order, but with tonal rubrics.[9] The last leaf was added from another book to use the blank versoside for additions on the last pages written by other hands, chant notated in adiastematic neumes but without alphabetic notation and even diastematic neumes with alphabetic notation (fol. 160r-163r).[10]

The gradual itself with proper mass chant is divided into six parts: The first are antiphons (introiti and communions) (fol. 13r-53r). The next three parts are chant genres which precedes lessons: alleluia verses for gospel readings (fol. 53v-69r), the benedictiones (hymnus trium puerorum) for prophetic readings (fol. 75r-76v), and the graduels for epistel readings (fol. 77r-98v). The last two parts are an offertorial (fol. 99r-151r) and a tractus collection (fol. 69r-74v; 151v-155v), dedicated to the genre which replace the alleluia verses during fasten time for all kinds of scriptural readings.[11]

The third level of division are the eight parts according to the oktoechos in the order of autentus protus, plagi proti, autentus deuterus etc. In the first part, every tonal section has all introits according to the liturgical year cycle and then all communions according to the liturgical order. The whole disposition is not new, but it is identical with tonaries from different regions of the Cluniac Monastic Association. The only difference is that every chant is not represented by an incipit, it is fully notated in neumes and in alphabetic notation as well, so that even cantors who do not know the chant can memorize it with this tonary together with its tonus.

And this seems to be a page taken from the manuscript.   Here's a description:
As an example might serve the Introitus "Repleatur os meum" used as a refrain for psalm 70 during the procession into the church, at the beginning of the morning mass on Saturday before Pentecost. The introit was written in the first part of the antiphons and is quite at the beginning of the deuterus section (written as heading on each page), hence an introit in the 3rd tone or "autentus deuterus":

Here's another image from the manuscript.  Fortunately there's no information at that page about it, so I'm attempting to decipher the writing to try to figure out where it came from; that's part of the fun, after all.  (The first section definitely starts out with Puer natus est - so we're almost certainly looking at something for around Christmastime; the second starts with Adorate deum; that's currently the incipit of the Introit for the third Sunday after the Ephiphany.  Those are some initial tantalizing clues to work from!)

I'm noticing some other very interesting links at the IMSLP page.  I'll definitely be back with some stuff about those - particularly if I can find some audio or video recordings of some of the music!

In the meantime.....

It seems the church no longer has faith in the long-term formative nature of the liturgy, but wishes to provide people some sort of "immediate" experience that will impress them and keep them interested. 

I don't deny those kinds of experiences can be very helpful; I had a powerful spiritual experience early on myself, and it absolutely kept me coming when probably nothing else would or could have.  It gave me a feeling of being "called."  Perhaps this was essential for me, because of the whole gay thing; I doubt I'd have had the patience or forbearance to put up with the church and all its nonsense otherwise.

Of course, that particular issue does not apply to most people.  But, it does demonstrate, I think, that the church needs to provide people with a reason to continue attending while the slow, methodical work of  "formation" goes on.

The word is that English Cathedrals are seeing a pronounced uptick in attendance these days.  This is probably happening for two reasons:  a) the great music and beautiful liturgy, and b) the anonymity they provide.  When I first came around, I preferred going to large churches so I could come and go as I wished, without getting involved in any way.  And of course I loved going to churches with good music; I'm lucky to live in an area where it's easy to find those.  This is a terrific entree to the life of faith - the best of the ways it can reach other people.

The Cathedral thing isn't going to happen in the U.S., though.   We don't have such embedded traditions - and unfortunately, in my experience American Cathedrals are worse than parish churches when it comes to hokey liturgical "innovation."   And Americans don't tend to go to church for the sake of  "the beauty of holiness" anyway; church is much more about "getting saved" in the Evangelical sense - or else a political and/or cultural affiliation or social obligation.  There are other reasons, too, of course - many people do come because they hold to the faith, even if they come for some of the other reasons as well! - but "beauty" isn't generally one of them.  In addition, Americans are impatient, and tend to key on the loudest and latest thing; there's not much appreciation for anything old or understated.

And the liturgy is archaic, let's face it; that's part of the attraction.   (And this, to me, is the amusing thing when churchpeople argue against, for instance, ad orientem.  As if "facing the people" during the consecration of the bread and wine were any less strange and archaic for those outside the church!)

In any case:  the stranger the better, I say.  Do something impressively odd and beautiful, and you'll get people's attention.  It happened for me, just this way, in fact; when I first saw a priest genuflect in front of the altar at the Consecration, I was deeply struck - and impressed - by the reverence of it.  When, at another parish, I first saw the Asperges (the sprinkling of the congregation with holy water at the start of the service), I was literally struck dumb!  I actually couldn't speak; I was choked up by the strange beauty of it all - and I've considered myself Anglo-Catholic ever since. When at a third parish, I saw the Easter Vigil procession - the deacon who processed with the Paschal candle and sang:  "The Light of Christ" (on Sunday morning, BTW, in broad daylight!) - I decided on the spot I would be confirmed in the Episcopal Church.

It pays to remember that people simply aren't used to seeing things like this - and they are striking.  Liturgical actions speak volumes, via often very simple gestures.  Think of military formality, for instance; the military has its own liturgical ceremonies which absolutely do communicate essential ideas.  Here's an example:

Somebody once argued that in fact liturgical churches were always going to have problems attracting at least some people outside the church, because the liturgy was not created for newcomers.   The argument was that evangelicals (generically-speaking) would attract new people, and liturgical churches would eventually get those new people once they'd been evangelical for awhile, but were looking for something deeper.  This makes sense to me.  It means that the full, formal liturgy is for the already-initiated; you don't mess with it because then it can't help these already-initiated people , and in the end nobody's gotten any benefit at all.

But American evangelicals are not convincing many people these days - they've ruined their own reputations with political affiliations and irrationality - which makes a problem down the line for us, if you hold to the above theory.

To me it seems clear to me that the Episcopal Church is going to have to stop perseverating on, and endlessly arguing about, the liturgy and ways to tinker with it - just do it, as they say - and start finding ways to talk about, and teach, the faith itself, and to show people what it's for.

My recommendation?  Use the Book of Common Prayer faithfully - and follow the rubrics - for Sunday services; use "Rite III" at other times, if that makes sense.   Have a dancing, jumping-around, rock mass at night, if that seems like a good thing in your neighborhood; I don't think it would be that difficult to do via the regular liturgy, even!    Or sing Compline on Sunday nights; they do it very successfully in Seattle, getting 500 people - mostly kids - every week.  Start discussion groups for people outside the faith, and teach the faith itself.   Not via the Creed as a standalone - but what the content of the Creed actually means for peoples' lives.  Talk about the human condition - use the world's literature as a text, as it can show us obvious things about ourselves we've simply decided not to see - and about our problems in living; and show how Christian faith responds to these problems.   (As an alternative, just use the world's newspapers - although the problem there is that most of us will not be able to see what they actually tell us about ourselves.)

The Bible is full of absolutely crazy stories; revel in them!  Talk about the nutty characters of the Old Testament, and discuss the almost completely alien-to-us society they lived in, and the wild ideas they had.   Take those stories and have people write midrash extensions of them; play with the literature, and don't be afraid of it.

It has taken me ten years to become liturgically literate, and to be able to derive its benefits on a regular basis.  And I'm very interested in, and dedicated to, the spiritual life - and I had that powerful spiritual experience that kept me coming.  You can try to induce something like that via cool things like chant and incense - not a bad idea at all, I say! - or you can try to talk to peoples' minds and hearts.  Different people are going to be interested in different things.  To me it seems Episcopalians don't really know how to talk about faith, or to convince people why it's a good thing.  Perhaps this is because they do focus so much on liturgy, and just aren't aware of or conversant about what it's meant to do and what it does.

I should also add:  my powerful spiritual experience happened completely outside church; it happened while I was reading and thinking about the faith itself, although with the help of some visual aids.  This tells me that the content of the faith is actually quite important, and that it will help Episcopalians if we can become very conversant in it.

But seriously:  don't continue to mess with the only means of long-term formation we have.  Keep to the liturgy faithfully for your already-initiated, and give other people something that will get and keep them interested in the meantime.   (Hint:  it's not simplistic moralism of any kind.)  Music, spiritual practices, activities and learning for kids (i.e. choir schools, which offer free training and education you can't find elsewhere), deep study of the Bible and other texts, other kinds of literature, art, movies, ideas, history, psychology, service to others, "practical mysticism" and pragmatic practices - use all of these other things to attract, intrigue, and delight people, and to explain how faith can actually work in their lives to help them and make life better for them and for their families.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How it's done

Another of Caelius' posts made me think about what makes the difference between a thriving parish and the ones that are sick or dying out.   The parish I attend now is a thriving one; in fact, it's one of the few I'm aware of in my diocese that is healthy and growing.

Here are some of my thoughts about why that has happened:
  • Worship and faith.  There are 4 masses on Sunday (3 in the summer) - one being a 6 p.m. "Last Chance" mass. There is at least one prayer service every day, and I think on two days of the week a mass, too. Not very many come to these, usually - but the services are offered nonetheless, every day. The rector is a woman, and Anglo-Catholic in approach; most of the parishioners are pretty middle-of-the-road, though. There's a crucifix on the wall, but no other obvious signs of Anglo-Catholicism; they use no incense (except perhaps on special occasions - but I've never seen it).   (Oh, wait:  they do ring bells during the Consecration.)  Feast days for the upcoming week are listed in the weekly announcements bulletin that comes with the service bulletin. 

    The music director offers a great variety of hymns from the 1982 Hymnal, and occasionally hymns from other sources.  Hymns are briskly paced; this, I think, is actually more important than anybody would think.   The litany is sung on Advent 1 and Lent 1, and the late service is Rite 1 on the first Sunday of each month.  The congregation sings all the ordinary parts of the mass except the Creed; we sing the Pascha Nostrum instead of the Gloria during Easter, to Anglican Chant, and other seasonal anthems and canticles at other times of the year; we sing the Psalm except in summer when it's said.  (There are only two readings and the Psalm each week; the third is printed in the bulletin.)    The choir sings a great variety of music of all kinds, from all over the world. 

    I look very much forward to going every week, because I can count on a respectfully done and intelligent liturgy that I know well and don't have to feel afraid of.  I can absolutely rely on its detoxifying effects - and I feel, when I don't go, that I've missed something important.

  • Care for members and others:  Many families belong, and there are many kids;  many or most of the kids are part of the very strong choir program. The parish does a lot of service in the neighborhood and around the diocese and beyond; they give service a very important place in their hierarchy of values, and are involved in many long-term projects. 

    For instance, they are helping a parish destroyed by last year's hurricane with rebuilding, and donate Prayer Books, etc.  This parish gets prayed for every Sunday.  They also raise money for some of the poorer churches in the area. The kids of the parish worked to raise money to buy a service dog for a young boy, also a member, who had a degenerative disease; he died eventually, though, before they could give him the dog - and they mourned deeply for him.   That's probably one of the most important things they'll ever have done in their lives; this kind of direct, personal care is even more important, I think, than almost any other kind of service.   Prayers for special days in the lives of members always come  from the Prayer Book; we pray once a month for those celebrating wedding anniversaries - and I believe I saw the beautiful Prayer #45, "For Families," used on Mother's Day. 

    There's an independent nonprofit counseling center on the grounds, originally founded by members of the parish.  While it's independent, its presence produces a feeling of confidence that there are people close by you could go to for help if you needed it.   I used to go to this parish for the Office and for things like Stations of the Cross, and the clergy remembered and welcomed me warmly when I started coming on Sundays, too.

  • Stability.  The rector has been there for almost 20 years; I think this makes a huge difference.  It might be the single most important factor, actually, given her un-selfconscious Anglo-Catholic approach; there are also strong lay leaders who do a great deal of service (and officiate at the Daily Offices).  All of this is a great example of consistency, constancy, grounding in prayer, and dedication.  Consistent, dependable worship services every day of each week, and leaders who continue to be willing to spend their energy on all this, every week, for two decades:  that's an impressive legacy these days.   I believe the average tenure of a priest now is less than 6 years, and continues to shrink.  

    The rector always seems to hire young curates, usually somebody recently ordained; this means that the rector must preside at every mass, for at least six months - but she continues this practice faithfully.  They get very good training.  The music director, too, has been there for a couple of decades; she has her own choral ensemble outside the parish which is well known and highly regarded in the local area.  

    What has made the difference here is that the rector - and I think the music director, too - have actually dedicated the greater part of their work lives (and thus their hearts) to this parish.  They have built up something meant to last; they are, unfortunately, a vanished breed - but they are the ones who've made this parish what it is.  It's this kind of long-term dedication and constancy that matters.
  • Energy.  It may be quite difficult to combine this kind of long-view investment in stability with energy and freshness and openness to new ideas, but they are able to do it.  This seems to me the absolute best of Anglicanism, actually.

  • Egos checked at the door.   Every service is done by the book (the 1979 BCP, that is); rubrics are followed.  This demonstrates that the rector is able to keep her own ego in check, and can obey rules.  It also helps the congregation to memorize the service so we can actually pray, and not have to be looking down at the bulletin all the time.  The music director uses settings everybody knows for the service music.  Nobody makes any attempt to be special, cute, or to put an individual spin on any part of the liturgy.    Nobody's there for the sake of attracting attention to themselves, or to power-drive their own agendas over everybody else.  (You might be surprised how hard this is to come by!)

    The fact that the rector is able to low-key her Anglo-Catholicism, for the sake of her parishioners' worship style, yet still live by, and teach and preach it - well, that's another example of the ability to "check one's ego at the door." And, BTW: it also demonstrates that Anglo-Catholicism is not actually mostly about birettas.

  • Helping kids.   The choirs are very important to the kids and the parents, it's clear.  There are also scholarships for seniors going to college; choir trips to RSCM events during the summer; pilgrimages (they just went to a New Mexico monastery) and mission trips; summer Bible school; movie nights; Compline for Kids; pizza nights.  The music program is very central, though - and brings kids from other neighborhoods in, too, and other choirs, and other people who like to sing.  What's important about this is the same thing we always talk about:  healthy, grounded, dependable faith is a slow process.  People aren't going to get it immediately; after all, it took me 10 years to really feel at home with almost everything in the liturgy.  So have people sing, while they're waiting and learning!  Give them something valuable while you're teaching them something even more valuable.

I really don't think it's more complicated than that - but of course, that's a lot.  This church is growing and healthy; they are actually spending money building, rather than digging into their endowment.   All this, in a college town in the Northeast.

There is a lot going on, thanks to a dedicated, energetic, extremely hard-working, faithful rector who doesn't think it's all about her, and works at helping people find a stable, rich, beneficial  faith - something that's clearly at the very center of her own life.

The Episcopal Church really doesn't have to die, you know.

"We Believe In The God Who Arrives"

Caelius has a nice one up today at Monastery of the Remarkable English Martyrs. I especially like the thing about surprise:
I found this observation from Fr. Charles OFM Cap. to pair well with the passage from William James quoted by A Thinking Reed
A merely human religiosity can see prayer as an addressing of ourselves to a deity somewhere up in the sky, either literally or in some rarefied sky more palatable to persons imbued with modern science. [...] From the call of Abraham to the Resurrection appearances, Christian faith speaks of a God who arrives, who is adventitious. He is not a supreme being who must be pulled down from the sky or a cthonic power that must be conjured up from the netherworld. Rather, he is a Presence discovered, sometimes as a surprise, as with Abraham and the three men, or simply recognized precisely when he calls us by name, as with the Risen Lord and Mary Magdalene. Prayer and adoration, then, as the postures that make us disciples of Jesus Christ, are acts of hospitality, of graciously receiving the Presence of God as he arrives in the particular circumstances of our days.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Lizards rewind the evolutionary clock but end up the same every time"

Interesting, from Ars Technica:
There’s no doubt that we’ve come a long way in our understanding of evolution since Darwin's time. However, there's still a lot we don’t understand about the processes of natural selection, adaptation, and speciation. One question in particular still looms over the field: how predictable is evolution?

On one side, biologists such as Stephen Gould have long argued that evolution is “utterly unpredictable and quite unrepeatable” due to all sorts of historical accidents and perturbations. "Wind back the tape of life," he wrote, and "the chance becomes vanishingly small" that evolution would proceed in precisely the same way, creating the same set of species. However, in recent years, more and more research has suggested that evolution may actually be quite predictable. New research in the journal Science strengthens this argument by identifying a group of islands where Gould's tape has been wound back multiple times, and evolution has created a near-carbon copy almost every time.

The Greater Antilles are chock full of small lizards called anoles; there are anoles that specialize on twigs, on grasses, and on various parts of trees. Lizards on each island exploit these same niches, and across the entire island chain, anoles that use a particular niche look nearly identical. Grass specialists in Cuba are dead-ringers for those in Jamaica, and anoles that specialize on tree trunks in Puerto Rico could be mistaken for those in Hispaniola or Cuba. The kicker is that each of these islands was colonized separately by just one species of anole. In the forty million years since then, anoles on each island have independently adapted in near-identical ways, right down to the shapes of their tails and the stripes on their sides.

Using various modeling techniques, a group of researchers have shown that this is not a lucky coincidence; instead, evolution may be surprisingly deterministic.

The scientists measured various attributes of 100 lizard species across the Greater Antilles, including measurements of their body size, tail length, limb length, and how many sticky toe-pads they have. After plugging these values into two different models—a Bayesian model and a four-dimensional principal components analysis—the results were clear: species on each island were more similar to those on other islands than would be expected by chance.

But has the whole radiation really repeated itself on each island? To tackle this question, the researchers modeled the “adaptive landscape” of each island, or the various configurations of traits that determine each species’ fitness. They found that there were specific combinations of traits that increased the anoles’ fitness, called “adaptive peaks,” and that anoles on each island tend to converge on these peaks. In these very similar habitats, there are a limited number of configurations that spell success for anoles, producing repeated sets of near-identical lizards.

Over the last 40 million years, there have been ample opportunities for lizards on the four islands to take different evolutionary paths: genetic drift, species invasions, and small climatic differences could have caused divergence. But despite these historical fluctuations, the anoles of the Greater Antilles have evolved in near-parallel ways provided they were occupying the same niche, suggesting that evolution may be more robust to these perturbations than Gould (and others) expected.

(This isn't to say that all the anole species were identical. On the larger islands, Cuba and Hispañola, there are some distinctive habitats that anole species have occupied that aren't shared by the other islands. Those habitats drove distinctive adaptations.)

This work is a remarkable example of convergent evolution on a very grand scale and is a pretty compelling evidence that in at least some cases, evolution can be remarkably deterministic. The Greater Antillean anoles are likely not an isolated case; the authors suggest that the diversification of African cichlids may offer similar evidence of evolution’s predictability. While random genetic mutations may be the fodder for natural selection over the long run, some aspects of evolution may not be very random after all.

HT Nick.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hymns for the Feast of S. Anne, Mother of the B. V. Mary (July 26)

From Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum Service-books:
On the Feast of S. Anne, Mother of the B. V. Mary  (July 26):
Mattins:   In Anne puerperio ... ... ... ... 63
Lauds:   Felix Anna pre aliis ... ... ... ... 63
2nd Evensong:   Ave! mater Anna ... ... ... ... 64

Here are the chant scores for #63 and #64 from Hymn Melodies:

These melodies are both used for other Marian feasts:  you'll hear one or both at Conception (January 8); Purification (Feb. 2); Assumption (August 15); and Nativity (September 8).  Tune #63 is also used for O Nata Lux on Transfiguration.

It's hard to find even the words for these St. Anne hymns, though - let alone the music. So I'll offer audio files of the melodies as used for other hymns.

Here's an mp3 of the cantor from LLPB singing melody #63 above; the hymn text is "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky" (the English version of Quem terra, pontus, ethera posted at Oremus Hymnal).  That hymn is sung at Matins of Assumption.

Hymn melody #64, used for Ave! Mater Anna, is well-known as the tune for Ave Maris Stella, sung on the September 8 Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (as well as at other times; the video below has labeled it for Easter). 

Here's a (very faint) recording of the same hymn, sung by the Benedictines of Brazil.

It's a nice sort of doublet, having the same hymn tune used for both mother and daughter, and having the same opening structure.  Ave! Mater Anna calls naturally to mind Ave Maris Stella.  

I'm wondering if this was precisely done by design in Sarum - if the hymn was altered for just this reason, I mean - in part because Giovanni Vianini sings what I assume is more or less this same hymn as Gaude, Mater Anna.   He sings it to a different melody, though:

Here are the Latin words he's using (more or less); they come from Hymni inediti:  Liturgische Hymnen des Mittelalters aus Handschriften und Wiegendrucken (tr:  "Hymni Inediti: liturgical hymns of the Middle Ages from manuscripts and incunabula") at Google books:
Gaude, mater Anna,
gaude mater sancta,
cum sis Dei facta
genetrix avia.

Plaude tali natae
virgini Mariae;
eius genitore
Ioachim congaude

in hac nostra terra
primo benedicta,
quae fuit in Eva
quondam maledicta.

Ergo sume laudes
quas damus ovantes;
nos ab omni sorde
tua prece terge.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto
honor, tribus unus.

Loose English translation, with the help of Google Translate:

Rejoice, mother Anne,
Rejoice holy mother,
God made you
mother and grandmother.

Applaud such a daughter
Mary the Virgin;
Her father Joachim
Also rejoices

in this our country,
She is blessed first,
Which was in Eve
once cursed.

So receive our praise
which we exultant give;
save us from all stain
by your prayer.

Praise be to God the Father,
All praise to Christ and honor,
And to the Holy Spirit
honor, to the Three-in-One.

There are quite a few hymns for St. Anne at that Google book, but this is the only one that's included on the above Sarum list - and unfortunately at the moment I can't find the words, even in Latin, for either  In Anne puerperio or  Felix Anna pre aliis.  I believe the former translates as "While Anne in childbirth...." and the latter as "Happy Anna, before all others...."  I've looked for hymns that might be related to those ideas, but so far have come up with nothing.  Very obscure, these!

But, as always:  if I find anything, I'll certainly come back to post it.  There are some very nice lyrics to some of the hymns in the book; check them out.

Keep in mind, about St. St. Anne, that:
Saint Anne (also known as Ann or Anna, from Hebrew Hannah חַנָּה, meaning "favor" or "grace") of David's house and line, was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus Christ, according to Christian and Islamic tradition. Mary's mother is not named in the canonical gospels, nor in the Qur'an. Anne's name and that of her husband Joachim come only from New Testament apocrypha, of which the Protoevangelium of James (written perhaps around 150) seems to be the earliest that mentions them.

And also:
The story bears a similarity to that of the birth of Samuel, whose mother Hannah had also been childless. Although Anne receives little attention in the Western church prior to the late 12th century, dedications to Anne in the Eastern church occur as early as the 6th century.  In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Eastern Catholic Churches, she is revered as Hanna. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Hanna, is ascribed the title Forbear of God, and both the Birth of Mary and the Dedication of Mary to the Temple are celebrated as two of the Twelve Great Feasts. The Dormition of Hanna is also a minor feast in the Eastern Church. In Protestant tradition it is held that Martin Luther chose to enter religious life as a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk after crying out to St. Anne.

Clearly, Mary had a mother and father - and perhaps they were named Anne and Joachim.   It's certainly OK with me that they're included in the calendar, even if they're not included in the Scriptures by name; as Jesus' Grandma and Grandpa, they remind us in a lovely incarnational way about grandparents everywhere.  I can't think of anything better, myself.

Current calendars, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, include Joachim for this day as well;  the 1979 BCP calls this the Feast of the Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But the Sarum calendar, it seems, celebrated Anne by herself.

Here are the current readings and the collect for the day, from Satucket:
Psalm 132:11-19
Genesis 17:1-8

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 

Luke 1:26-33

Collect (contemporary language):

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.

Meanwhile, here's Bach's Fugue in E-flat (BWV 552) - the "St. Anne fugue." This site says that:
Those of us in the English-speaking world have dubbed it “St. Anne” after a popular English hymn of Bach’s day (usually set with the text “Oh God Our Help in Ages Past”). “St. Anne” is the name of a church in the Soho section of London, where the hymn was written. It’s not known if Bach had actually heard this tune, or if the similarity to his opening fugue subject is purely coincidental.

There are some nice icons and other works of the mother of the Mother of God!   This one is a detail, labeled "Faras Saint Anne"; Wikipedia says it's now in the National Museum of Warsaw, but originally Coptic, from the 8th century, and tempera on plaster:

Here's a Greek one that Wikipedia labeles as "Angelos Akotanos - Saint Anne with the Virgin," from the 15th Century:

Here's a nice one, labeled "German, 15th century. Anne holds Mary and Christ."  It seems to be a plaster representation located in the Limburg Cathedral.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Men on the Threshold"

David Brooks' latest.  To me it seems obvious that technology is the primary reason for the problem he discusses here, which is the decline in the numbers of men in the labor force.   In the old days, men worked in factories and as builders; much of that work is now automated.   Farming, fishing, logging, etc.;  this kind of work is simply gone now, mostly due to technological changes. 

The discussion of the John Wayne Western leaves me cold, but I do resonate with his mention of "male dignity," - and I do agree the current situation is a disaster.
 As every discerning person knows, “The Searchers” is the greatest movie ever made. It is loosely based on the real story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was abducted from her East Texas home in 1836 when she was 9 years old by Comanche raiders, who then raised her and kept her for 24 years.

John Ford’s 1956 movie focuses not on the abducted girl but on her uncle and adopted brother, who, in that telling, spend seven years tracking her and her abductors down.

The center of the movie is Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne. He is as morally ambiguous a figure as movies can produce, at once brave, loyal, caring and honest, but also vengeful, hateful, dangerous and tainted by racism. As Glenn Frankel notes in “The Searchers,” his recent book on the movie, Edwards spends much of the film in pursuit of an old-fashioned honor killing. At least at first, he doesn’t want to rescue his niece; he wants to find her and kill her to enforce his brand of racial and sexual purity.

Classics can be interpreted in different ways. These days, “The Searchers” can be profitably seen as a story about men who are caught on the wrong side of a historical transition.

The movie’s West was a wild, lawless place, requiring a certain sort of person to tame it. As the University of Virginia literary critic Paul Cantor has pointed out, that person had prepolitical virtues, a willingness to seek revenge, to mete out justice on his own. That kind of person, the hero of most westerns, is hard, confrontational, raw and tough to control.

But, as this sort of classic western hero tames the West, he makes himself obsolete. Once the western towns have been pacified, there’s no need for his capacity for violence, nor his righteous fury.

As Cantor notes, “The Searchers” is about this moment of transition. Civilization is coming. New sorts of people are bringing education, refinement, marriage and institutionalized justice. Crimes are no longer to be punished by the righteous gunfighter but by law.

Ethan Edwards made this world possible, but he is unfit to live in it. At the end of the movie, after seven years of effort, he brings the abducted young woman home. The girl is ushered inside, but, in one of the iconic images in Hollywood history, Edwards can’t cross the threshold. Because he is tainted by violence, he can’t be part of domestic joy he made possible. He is framed by the doorway and eventually walks away.

That image of the man outside the doorway is germane today, in a different and even more tragic manner. Over the past few decades, millions of men have been caught on the wrong side of a historic transition, unable to cross the threshold into the new economy.

Their plight is captured in the labor statistics. Male labor force participation has been in steady decline for generations. In addition, as Floyd Norris noted in The Times on Saturday, all the private sector jobs lost by women during the Great Recession have been recaptured, but men still have a long way to go.

In 1954, 96 percent of American men between 25 and 54 years old worked. Today, 80 percent do. One-fifth of men in their prime working ages are out of the labor force.

As Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute has put it, “The situation here is basically a disaster, a crisis far worse than most commentators and policy makers seem to recognize, and with no clear prospects for appreciable improvement over the near-term horizon.”

The definitive explanation for this catastrophe has yet to be written. Some of the problem clearly has to do with changes in family structure. Work by David Autor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that men raised in fatherless homes, without as many immediate masculine role models, do worse in the labor force. Some of the problem probably has to do with a mismatch between boy culture and school culture, especially in the early years.

But, surely, there has been some ineffable shift in the definition of dignity. Many men were raised with a certain image of male dignity, which emphasized autonomy, reticence, ruggedness, invulnerability and the competitive virtues. Now, thanks to a communications economy, they find themselves in a world that values expressiveness, interpersonal ease, vulnerability and the cooperative virtues.

Surely, part of the situation is that many men simply do not want to put themselves in positions they find humiliating. A high school student doesn’t want to persist in a school where he feels looked down on. A guy in his 50s doesn’t want to find work in a place where he’ll be told what to do by savvy young things.

There are millions of men on the threshold. They can see through the doorway to what’s inside. But they’re unable or unwilling to come across.

This, though, makes a lot of sense to me - and to my way of thinking certainly ought to be promoted.   I don't know who Mike Rowe is, but here's what he says:
Consider the reality of today’s job market. We have a massive skills gap. Even with record unemployment, millions of skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high, and the majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. Plus, they owe a trillion dollars in student loans. A trillion! And still, we push a four-year college degree as the best way for the most people to find a successful career?

Here's a little video about "the worst advice ever," given in the 1970s:

Again:  I'm pretty ignorant in economics, but I'm very glad to see this website and the movement towards promoting skilled labor; I hope it starts to make a difference.

"Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Brings Lasting Benefits through Self-Knowledge"

From the APA website; it's an article from 2010.  My bolding below:
WASHINGTON—Psychodynamic psychotherapy is effective for a wide range of mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, panic and stress-related physical ailments, and the benefits of the therapy grow after treatment has ended, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the psychological roots of emotional suffering. Its hallmarks are self-reflection and self-examination, and the use of the relationship between therapist and patient as a window into problematic relationship patterns in the patient’s life. Its goal is not only to alleviate the most obvious symptoms but to help people lead healthier lives.

“The American public has been told that only newer, symptom-focused treatments like cognitive behavior therapy or medication have scientific support,” said study author Jonathan Shedler, PhD, of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. “The actual scientific evidence shows that psychodynamic therapy is highly effective. The benefits are at least as large as those of other psychotherapies, and they last.”
To reach these conclusions, Shedler reviewed eight meta-analyses comprising 160 studies of psychodynamic therapy, plus nine meta-analyses of other psychological treatments and antidepressant medications. Shedler focused on effect size, which measures the amount of change produced by each treatment. An effect size of 0.80 is considered a large effect in psychological and medical research. One major meta-analysis of psychodynamic therapy included 1,431 patients with a range of mental health problems and found an effect size of 0.97 for overall symptom improvement (the therapy was typically once per week and lasted less than a year). The effect size increased by 50 percent, to 1.51, when patients were re-evaluated nine or more months after therapy ended. The effect size for the most widely used antidepressant medications is a more modest 0.31. The findings are published in the February issue of American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association.

The eight meta-analyses, representing the best available scientific evidence on psychodynamic therapy, all showed substantial treatment benefits, according to Shedler. Effect sizes were impressive even for personality disorders—deeply ingrained maladaptive traits that are notoriously difficult to treat, he said. “The consistent trend toward larger effect sizes at follow-up suggests that psychodynamic psychotherapy sets in motion psychological processes that lead to ongoing change, even after therapy has ended,” Shedler said. “In contrast, the benefits of other ‘empirically supported’ therapies tend to diminish over time for the most common conditions, like depression and generalized anxiety.”

“Pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies have a financial incentive to promote the view that mental suffering can be reduced to lists of symptoms, and that treatment means managing those symptoms and little else. For some specific psychiatric conditions, this makes sense,” he added. “But more often, emotional suffering is woven into the fabric of the person’s life and rooted in relationship patterns, inner contradictions and emotional blind spots. This is what psychodynamic therapy is designed to address.”

Shedler acknowledged that there are many more studies of other psychological treatments (other than psychodynamic), and that the developers of other therapies took the lead in recognizing the importance of rigorous scientific evaluation. “Accountability is crucial,” said Shedler. “But now that research is putting psychodynamic therapy to the test, we are not seeing evidence that the newer therapies are more effective.”

Shedler also noted that existing research does not adequately capture the benefits that psychodynamic therapy aims to achieve. “It is easy to measure change in acute symptoms, harder to measure deeper personality changes. But it can be done.”

The research also suggests that when other psychotherapies are effective, it may be because they include unacknowledged psychodynamic elements. “When you look past therapy ‘brand names’ and look at what the effective therapists are actually doing, it turns out they are doing what psychodynamic therapists have always done—facilitating self-exploration, examining emotional blind spots, understanding relationship patterns.” Four studies of therapy for depression used actual recordings of therapy sessions to study what therapists said and did that was effective or ineffective. The more the therapists acted like psychodynamic therapists, the better the outcome, Shedler said. “This was true regardless of the kind of therapy the therapists believed they were providing.”

Article: “The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,” Jonathan K. Shedler, PhD, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine; American Psychologist, Vol. 65. No.2.

The important thing there, to my mind, is that the benefits are lasting.  Also important is the simple recognition that "emotional suffering is woven into the fabric of the person’s life and rooted in relationship patterns, inner contradictions and emotional blind spots."

This is not, of course, to say that individuals can't benefit from both psychodynamic psychotherapy and, say, antidepressant medication.    Many people, including me, have found this to be a very beneficial combination.  Lasting change, however, seems to me to be the most important aspect of any kind of therapy, and the one thing likely to lead to the attainment of finding a way to live in serenity - without which the entire endeavor seems pointless.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Fasting and freedom: Returning to the meaning of Ramadan"

At ABC Religion & Ethics; my bolding.   Fasting, prayer and meditation, self-examination, and other ancient practices aren't just "things to do."  They've been used (and passed down) for important reasons.  These things have a purpose for people who wish to become more aware of their own spiritual natures and thus of their relationship with God; of their own actions and behaviors; and of the nature of the greater world in which they live.  They are time-tested means to help develop peoples' spiritual (and communal) lives.   As A.A. points out (about self-examination and confession) they have been "validated in every century, and [characterize] the lives of all spiritually centered and truly religious people."
The month of Ramadan has begun, Muslims have entering into one of the finest and most beautiful schools of life. The fasting month is a school of faith, spirituality, awareness, giving, solidarity, justice, dignity and unity. Nothing less. It is the month when introspection among Muslims should be deepest; the month of their greatest contribution to humanity.

The month of Ramadan is the world's most widespread fast and yet its teachings are minimised, neglected and even betrayed (through literal application of rules that overlooks their ultimate objective). Small wonder, then, that we should return to the subject and as the fasting month returns each year, we too must repeat, rehearse and deepen further our understanding of what Ramadan teaches us of this school of divine nearness, of humanity and dignity.

The fast is each individual's quest for the divine - it asks of each of us to look beyond self. Ramadan is, in its essence, a month of humanist spirituality. During the fasting days, we are called upon to abstain from eating, drinking and responding to our instincts, to help us turn inward, to our heart and the meaning of our lives. To fast means to experience sincerity, to observe our shortcomings, contradictions and failings - no longer to attempt to hide or to lie and instead to focus our efforts on the search for ourselves and for the meaning and priorities of our lives.

Beyond food, fasting requires us to examine ourselves, to recognise our limits humbly and to reform ourselves ambitiously. It is a month of renewal, of critically summing up our lives, our needs, our forgetfulness and our hopes. We must take time for ourselves, to look after ourselves, to meditate, to contemplate, simply to reflect and to love.

Seen in this light, the month of Ramadan is the best possible expression of anti-consumerism: to be and not to have, to free ourselves of the dependencies that our consumption-based societies not only stimulate but magnify. In calling upon us to master our instincts, the fast calls into question the modern notion of freedom. What does it mean to be free? How are we to find our way to a deeper freedom and move beyond what we crave? The true fast is at odds with appearances.

The tradition of fasting was prescribed, the Qur'an tells us, for all religious traditions before Islam. It is a practice we share with all spiritualities and religions and as such it bears the mark of the human family, the human fraternity. To fast is to participate in the history of these religions, a history that possesses a meaning that has its own demands upon us and that is shaped by destinies and by ultimate goals.

Islam places it in the meaning of tawhid, the recognised and acknowledged "Oneness of God" that opens onto human diversity by virtue of how it is experienced and lived. The same holds true among Muslims. The time frame and the rhythm of those who fast are similar; the cultures of fast ending, of meals and of the night are diverse. In other words, there is unity in meaning, diversity in practice. The month of Ramadan carries with it this fundamental teaching and reminds Muslims, whether Sunni or Shi'ite, irrespective of which school they follow, that they share the same religion and that they must learn to know - and to respect - one another.

This month is a month of dignity, for "Revelation" reminds us that a human being is a creature of nobility and dignity: "We have bestowed dignity of the children of Adam [all humankind]." Only for them, in full conscience, is fasting prescribed; only they are called upon to rise to its lofty goal.

Human beings must undertake the fast in a spirit of seeking nearness to the unique - in a spirit of equality and nobility among their fellows, women and men alike, and in solidarity with the downtrodden. The core of life thus rediscovered is this: to return to our hearts, to reform ourselves in the light of what is essential and to celebrate life in solidarity; to experience deprivation as desired; to reject poverty as imposed and degrading. Our task is one of self-mastery - we must lift ourselves up, sever our ties, become free and independent, above superficial needs, and concern ourselves with the true, down-to-earth needs of the poor and the needy.

The month of Ramadan is thus a place of exile from illusion and fashion and a pilgrimage deep into one's self, into meaning, into others. To be free of ourselves and at the same time to serve all those imprisoned by poverty, injustice or ignorance. Muslims spend thirty days in the company of this month of light. If only they could open even wider their eyes, their hearts and their being to receive the light and offer it in the form of the greatest gift of their spiritual tradition to their sisters and brothers.

Muslims are called to exercise self-control and to give, to meditate and to weep, to pray and to love. Truly to fast is to pray; to pray is to love.

A.A. says, too, about meditation and prayer, that "The actual experience of meditation and prayer across the centuries is, of course, immense. The world's libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers."

It also points out that "Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food, or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed support. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of God's reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere of His grace. To an amazing extent the facts of A.A. Life confirm this ageless truth."

Sometimes it's just necessary to point to the pragmatic, experiential aspect of religion:  to why we do these things, not just to the how.   And that religion is a set of practices that have a valid basis in reality - practices that have been used for millennia, developed by human beings for specific reasons, and "validated throughout every century."