And so, as usual, I shall continue to ponder the imponderable: in this case, the lections of the Mozarabic Lent.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Read this entire piece (hyperlinked for your convenience), by Fr. Robert Hart. A brief excerpt follows.
An Episcopal priest named Kimberly Jackson, of the Diocese of Atlanta, read a prayer to begin their version of communion: "Spirit of Life, we thank you for disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires as we prepare this feast of delight: draw us out of hidden places and centers of conformity to feel your laughter and live in your pleasure."
That contrasts quite sharply with the Book of Common Prayer tradition, in which everything is intended to conform wholly to Scripture, and the standard for prayer is the one that Jesus taught, which includes the Church's petition to the Father, "Thy will be done." The new liturgical phrase, "disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires," sounds much more like the slogan of an early twentieth-century pagan cult, The Law of Thelema, created by a magician named Aleister Crowley. To each member of the cult it is taught, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."
As others in this world may have noticed, to be an American means to have unreasonable expectations and implausible goals, as these are woven inextricably into our national DNA. Here's a good one:
... making love in a confessional with a prostitute dressed in a prelate’s liturgical robes reciting Baudelaire while ten electronic organs reproduce The Well-Tempered Clavier, played by Scriabin.
Friday, February 19, 2016
What our new masters have planned for the rest of us:
The rise of artificial intelligence, automation and robots should not be seen as a threat to our livelihoods, according to some of the world’s most influential leaders assembled in Davos this week. Rather, they urge an attitude of hope when it comes to the imminent onset of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I can hardly wait!
From Mr. Kalb:
But what of the local culture? The Pope “also invite[s] the immigrants to recognize the duty to honor the countries which receive them and to respect the laws, culture, and traditions of the people who have welcomed them.” So it appears the net effect is to be a world without boundaries of any kind, in which each is equally present to all others and each respects and honors the particularities of all.
By calling for such a thing the Pope is saying nothing new but simply repeating with his usual intellectual and moral fervor the view all official moral teachers hold today. What he and other moral teachers leave unexplained, however, is how the particularities that are to be honored will be able to exist as anything but individual idiosycrasies in a world utterly without boundaries in which no culture is authoritative because each is equally present and equally honored.
The short answer is that they won’t. A culture is a particular complex of habits, understandings and loyalties that are normative although mostly unstated among a particular group of people. As such, it requires boundaries. A culture can exist as a culture only among a group of people who have grown into it together and feel that among themselves they can take it for granted. Such conditions cannot exist in a group that feels obligated to be utterly and continuously open to numerous new arrivals, avoiding even latent discrimination, and called to honor them in all their otherness.
A hand-me-down gown
Of rags and silks, a costume
Fit for one who sits and cries
For all tomorrow's parties
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
From Inscrutable Being:
Though this dream was never realised, the ancient ideal of the college holds a strong appeal in today's ever-shifting world where intellectual breathing room, peaceful engagement with meaningful study, and space for genuine devotion are ever pressed to the margin of life. Particularly in the realm of theological education, the quest for truth and its exercise in the context of the ordinary and the routine has been supplanted by perpetual motion. Activities, exercises, placements, and work-experience have supplanted the slow, methodical, engaged manner which is the ideal both of the monastery and the academy ...
The model of the college, posited on the small scale at Wellingborough, seems a thoroughly excellent way of remedying the defects of hyperactivity and lack of perspective detailed above ... The structure of learning must harmonise with what is learned ...
It must be said that much of what is proposed here rubs against the grain of contemporary society; it is neither inclusive nor non-judgmental, at least not as those much-abused terms are commonly understood. Yet it must be recognised that, just as to include all is to relativise, to lack judgment is to open oneself to sloth and arrogance. Each of us knows in our hearts that not all of mankind's efforts are equally representative of the best to which the race can attain, nor are those strivings after perfect truth, beauty, and goodness, weak though they be, all of the same attainment. If any human activity is to be a gain rather than a loss, it must discriminate; it must judge between the good and the bad, the inferior, the mediocre, and the best.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
John Schwenkler at First Things:
Unlike a factory, farm, or typical white-collar business, the work of a university is not in any kind of production—of discoveries, degrees, or books and articles. That a university typically does produce these things is incidental to its true work, which is the pursuit and attainment of truth, goodness, and beauty through intellectual exchange and the expressive power of art. It is in the life and labor of faculty and students that these things are pursued and attained. This life is a useless life: if adherence to it sometimes leads us to wealth or power, that is only because wealth and power sometimes come to those who are good and know the truth. But still this life is valuable not because of this eventuality, but because truth, beauty, and goodness themselves are valuable—we desire these things simply for what they are, not because of what they do for us, or we with them.
If this is what a university is, then it makes some sense to say that the faculty and students are it, are not just those who work at and attend it. Unlike a business in which employees exist to make profits for bosses and shareholders, and customers contribute money or goods in exchange for what they produce, in a university the administration is there to facilitate the communal activity of the faculty and students. Faculty and students can fail in their roles, but these failures and successes are determined in relation to the measures of beauty, goodness, and truth, not the profit motive or the duty of loyalty to any higher-ups. Thus donors and trustees do not “own” the university, nor do administrators “run” it, any more than the blessing of King, Pope, Prince, or Prelate was the measure of the communal activity of the scholastic guilds in medieval Paris or Bologna.
If this is what a university is, then we see why the governance of a university must be shared governance; why the dismissal of faculty, which of course will be demanded in any number of cases, should respect due process and rest on consultation with the dismissed professor’s colleagues; why students, once accepted to the university, should not be dismissed unless they are demonstrably failing to contribute to the activities that define it.
If this is what a university is, then we see why the loyalty owed by faculty is a loyalty to their students, and to the things they and their students seek together to attain. It is thus a loyalty to the university that they are rather than one defined by the policies of those above them.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
From The Ohio Anglican:
Frances Jane Crosby (March 24 1820 – February 12 1915) usually known as Fanny Crosby, was an American lyricist best known for her Protestant Christian hymns. A lifelong Methodist, she was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8,000 despite being blind since infancy. Also known for her preaching and speaking, during her lifetime Fanny Crosby was one of the best known women in the United States.
The descendant of a famous Puritan family and, yes, related directly to Bing (his father married a Roman Catholic, however). The blog entry (above) claims no hymns in the (lousy) Hymnal 1982, but I have no way of verifying that (because I only have the venerable Hymnal 1940).
Although a bit old-fashioned, these lyrics can be re-interpreted in a more modern way. I used to look down on this sort of music: I was wrong (it wasn't the first time and it won't be the last).
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Saturday, February 6, 2016
The Whig canon and the neo-Harringtonians, John Milton, James Harrington and Sidney, Trenchard, Gordon and Bolingbroke, together with the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance masters of the tradition as far as Montesquieu, formed the authoritative literature of this culture; and its values and concepts were those with which we have grown familiar: a civic and patriot ideal in which the personality was founded in property, perfected in citizenship but perpetually threatened by corruption; government figuring paradoxically as the principal source of corruption and operating through such means as patronage, faction, standing armies (opposed to the ideal of the militia); established churches (opposed to the Puritan and deist modes of American religion); and the promotion of a monied interest—though the formulation of this last concept was somewhat hindered by the keen desire for readily available paper credit common in colonies of settlement.
American republicanism was centered on limiting corruption and greed. Virtue was of the utmost importance for citizens and representatives. Revolutionaries took a lesson from ancient Rome, they knew it was necessary to avoid the luxury that had destroyed the Empire. A virtuous citizen was one who ignored monetary compensation and made a commitment to resist and eradicate corruption. The Republic was sacred; therefore, it is necessary to serve the state in a truly representative way, ignoring self-interest and individual will. Republicanism required the service of those who were willing to give up their own interests for a common good.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
"... for no other cause, yet for this; that posterity may know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream ..."
I feel it is my civic duty to introduce the world to one of the most powerful and yet deeply stupid individuals in higher education today. It is his announced goal to reduce everything excellent and fine to miserable shit. He is winning, along with the assistance of Bill Gates & Friends™. Ugh.
From Pierre Manent:
The Reformation signified the “nationalization” of the universal Church, and from that time on the nation, not the Church, was the community par excellence in Europe. The Church contributed less and less to determining Europe’s political and spiritual configuration: Witness Benedict XV’s admirable and vain efforts early in the twentieth century to moderate nationalist frenzies. From a Christian point of view, nations can seem like idols formed by pride. It was thus not by chance that the first and decisive impulses for the “European project” came from Catholic statesmen. For many Europeans today, the initiative of Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, and Alcide De Gasperi was not only a courageous and judicious political choice but also a sort of collective conversion from the immemorial political order of power to a new order of disinterested cooperation.
However tempting may be the “grand narrative” that justifies the European project “and the ongoing project of global unification” it rests upon a one-sided reading of European history and on a biased estimation of that properly European political form known as the nation, a bias that suggests it is not so easy as one would wish to rise above one’s political passions. Furthermore, it requires a superficial understanding of what the constitution of an effectively universal human association requires. Injustice with respect to the nation and incomprehension of human universals reinforce each other ...
The contribution of the nation-state to moral life also should be underlined. I am not thinking here of the education, through national language and literature, that preserves its legitimacy with difficulty today in the face of the worldwide circulation of information that knows only generic human beings. I am thinking rather of this: There is no more powerful source of moral development for everyone than concern for the common good, or the res publica.
It is not a question of generalizing norms of conduct, which could only produce a mechanical and mutilated morality, but rather of looking beyond ourselves in order to take account of the community that is greater than each one of us which we form together. The education and the deployment of the human virtues require the participation in a unified action before the members of which we feel ourselves responsible. For this action we incur both praise and blame. If we lose that participation, we will have nothing left to orient ourselves by but a general idea of humanity, which cannot draw us away from the passivity of private life.
It will certainly be objected that the eclipse of nation-states will overcome particularism and thereby provide us with a truly universal perspective that takes into account not only the circumscribed group but all human beings. This is not only the most widespread and popular illusion in Europe and the West; it is also the illusion by means of which powerful forces mean to tear us away from the active concern for the common good that in its political aspect is called friendship and in its religious aspect is called charity ...
The question, therefore, is whether we can live humanely without things in common or with having in common only the rules of the game that bind specialized institutions that do not need to be political and that function better when they are less political. We cannot. Human life involves relations more important than the exchange of goods and services. Human life encompasses relations of justice, which cannot be subsumed under the “rules of the game.”
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Included in a commitment to Christianity is a commitment to a specific cultural incarnation of that reality. That, of course, means history and literature but in the most basal sense it means language. My language is English, no getting around that. It is my Mother Tongue, composed of the phonemes first encountered sonorously in the womb.
However, our 'fund' of language is greatly reduced: thanks to the standardized product repeated everywhere in media, our vocabulary, supplemented by the complete disappearance of foreign language learning, is sharply limited.
I would have thought the following was suitable for 8th-graders. It is marked for 11th-graders. I would have thought the only word that required explication was that 'professors' here means 'those who profess' and not 'the occupants of university chairs'. But if you go to the pedagogical website (with Java script turned on), you can see all that they believe cries out for further explanation. The following twelve sentences are not examples of plain and sober English prose, they are instead exemplars of text-complexity.
Excerpt from “A Model of Christian Charity”
 Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck and to provide for our posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.  For this end we must be knit together in this work as one man.  We must entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the supply of others’ necessities.  We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality.  We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.  So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.  The Lord will be our God and delight in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth than formerly we have been acquainted with.  We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “the Lord make it like that of New England.”  For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and by-word throughout the world.  We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake.  We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.
This strongly suggests that reading from the Authorized Version would actually now require a second reading in contemporary idiom, one that effectively translated not only the words but the concepts, as well. But, after all, these are all vain and empty conceptions: there is little chance of anything positive emerging from any proposed future course of action. For the moderns, religion is simply 'no-go' for the basic reason that it suggests "control and sometimes curtail your sexual activity." Say what? Shut-up!
It has taken more than a century but, finally, some RCs have 'cottoned on' to the fact that the Roman Pontiff himself is the gravest danger to, and the most potent enemy of, catholic tradition. Ta da.
So what are they to do? Fall back to the old -- mostly discredited -- Anglican position, apparently.
Rorate Caeli: ... What pressures, such as the washing of women’s feet on Maundy Thursday after the example of Francis, will burden the parish priest even more than he is burdened today?
H.E. Schneider: A typical Catholic parish priest should know well the perennial sense of the Catholic faith, the perennial sense as well of the laws of the Catholic liturgy and, knowing this, he should have an interior sureness and firmness. He should always remember the Catholic principle of discernment: “Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus”, i.e. “What has been always, everywhere and from all” believed and practiced.
The categories “always, everywhere, all” are not to be understood in an arithmetical, but in a moral sense. A concrete criterion for discernment is this: “Does this change in a doctrinal affirmation, in a pastoral or in a liturgical practice constitute a rupture with the centuries-old, or even with the millennial past? And does this innovation really make the faith shine clearer and brighter? Does this liturgical innovation bring to us closer the sanctity of God, or manifest deeper and more beautiful the Divine mysteries? Does this disciplinary innovation really increase a greater zeal for the holiness of life?”
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Iowans may epitomize middle America, but their caucus last night kicked an oddly European election into high gear. Two mass movements that have long been mainstays of European elections, one socialist and one nationalist, emerged overnight in revulsion to the Clinton and Bush dynasts decreed by the party elites.
Socialism and nationalism typically gain popularity when society's trusted leaders fail to grapple with challenge and change.
From Patrick Deneen:
My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture ...
Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West ...
We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”
Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).
In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.
Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments. Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.
Above all, the one overarching lesson that students receive is the true end of education: the only essential knowledge is that know ourselves to be radically autonomous selves within a comprehensive global system with a common commitment to mutual indifference. Our commitment to mutual indifference is what binds us together as a global people. Any remnant of a common culture would interfere with this prime directive: a common culture would imply that we share something thicker, an inheritance that we did not create, and a set of commitments that imply limits and particular devotions ...
Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.
Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man.
'What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?' thus asks the last man, and he blinks.
Monday, February 1, 2016
Believe it or not, there are a few ...
But this happy simplicity of her faith [the One sacrifice] was destroyed when the restless speculations of men and the development of human devices began to give what almost amounted to independent atoning efficacy to the Christian commemorative sacrifice. Having carried, as we have seen, the Real Presence out of the act of reception, they deemed that they had on the altar the very Body and Blood of Christ; then they came to regard it as their office to offer them to God; then they considered that in so doing they offered Christ to His Father, which at once gave a meritorious, atoning or propitiatory efficacy to their sacrifices. It is a righteous protestation against these errors, made in the interest of truth,—but, as so constantly happens, going too far in the opposite direction,—which has caused the whole doctrine of the Christian commemorative sacrifice to be regarded with such suspicion and distrust, not to say hostility, that it has altogether fallen out of our ordinary teaching. Nor, indeed, can it be safely restored until it is put upon its true and primitive footing and cleared from all those corruptions and superstitions which have drawn down upon themselves the strong expressions of our Church, “blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits” (Article XXXI) …
This is the tenor of all the Ancient Liturgies, the sacrifice precedes consecration: and rightly so; for, as we have seen, consecration had only reference to reception, which followed immediately upon it. The sacrifice was a commemoration, and therefore necessarily symbolical, therefore an oblation of symbols or types of the great Sacrifice, not an oblation of the substance of that Sacrifice itself. And this is in accordance with the whole analogy of the two covenants. In the ancient dispensation, all sacrifices prefigured the offering of Christ yet to come; in the Gospel, the Eucharistic sacrifice postfigures the offering of Christ which has come. The ancient sacrifices were symbols, gross and heavy with bloodshedding, of the Lamb of God: the Gospel oblations are symbols, but bloodless and more spiritual,—so to speak, more refined,—symbols of the Lamb of God; but symbols still, and therefore always other than that which they symbolized: as Augustine says,— “The Flesh and Blood of this Sacrifice was promised before the Advent of Christ by means of victims bearing resemblances to them; in the passion of Christ, it (the 'flesh and blood,' or human nature) was rendered by the very Truth Himself; since the ascension of Christ it is set forth by means of the Sacrament of commemoration.” And again: “This visible Sacrifice is the Sacrament of an invisible Sacrifice; that is to say, it is a sacred sign.” And again: “That which is called sacrifice by all is a sign of the true Sacrifice.” So again: “In that Sacrifice of yours (i.e., in the Eucharist) there is a thanksgiving and a commemoration of the flesh of Christ, which he offered for us.” Eusebius says: “Christ, after all things done, making a most acceptable oblation, offered to His Father a wondrous sacrifice and slaughtered victim for the salvation of us all, and left to us also a memorial to be offered continuously to God instead of a sacrifice.” So St. Clement or the author of the Apost. Constit.: “Offer ye the Antitype of the royal body of Christ.”
This plain action of the Church, as exhibited in her liturgies, became confused in the Roman liturgy by innovations which were introduced into it. That liturgy retains the ancient, true, and catholic oblation—“Hanc igitur oblationem quaesumus ut placatus accipias”—then follows an invocation very similar to the consecrating invocation of the Eastern Churches; then follows the recital of institution (in this liturgy only placed after invocation), which Rome declares to be the formula of consecration. And after that a second oblation is interpolated in this form, “We offer to Thy Majesty out of Thine own donations and gifts a pure sacrifice, an immaculate sacrifice, the holy bread of eternal life, and the cup of everlasting salvation”—not even now making a direct oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ—but still of the elements as they are bread and wine, God's “donations and gifts” to man. But by placing an oblation after consecration, which everywhere else came before it, Rome opened the door to the uncatholic error, that the Body and Blood of Christ were offered to God. That this second oblation was an interpolation, is proved by the fact that it is not to be found in the Milan rite, which, at some early period, branched off from the Roman. In fact, as Palmer states, on reviewing the several liturgies of Christendom, “None contain a verbal oblation of Christ's Body and Blood. This is not found in the Roman Liturgy, nor is it a form that has at any time been used in the Christian Church.” This is of very great importance, for it proves that the dogma of offering the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice is an invention or development later than even the latest alterations of the liturgies [165-167].