Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

“I sing of the United States, diverse yet altogether, with roots back millennia to Israel, Rome, and Albion.”

The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders For Our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation in addition to the general Catholic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability adapted to a lay context. The Riders strive to promote a conversational culture, proclaiming Christ crucified, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort.  Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas. My booklist, which is in a way deep in history (each Rider, during their novitiate, settles on at most 24 books of primary importance), is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • Vergil’s Aeneid; Sarah Ruden translation
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Summa Theologica; St Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Twenty One Plays;  William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Poetry and Prose; by Robert Frost
  • Mansfield Park: by Jane Austen
  • The Golden Bowl; Henry James
  • Howard’s End; by E. M. Forster
  • Novels 1942-1954; William Faulkner
  • Christology; Francesca Aran Murphy
  • Various Writings; by Blaise Pascal
  • Dreams of El Dorado; H. W. Brands
  • History & Eschatology; N.T. Wright
  • The Old Testament; Bergsma & Pitre
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged

The Appalachian Riders For Our Lady have a particular interest in the season of Ascensiontide, which we consider nearly as important as Advent and Lent.  My particular interest is: That ecclesial bodies with very different ecclesiology seem to have very similar Christology.  Emphasis on “seem”. 

wasatch

Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar

Christian Perspectives

The foundation of everything is Christ Jesus, and him crucified. However, beyond the personal aspects of that, what are the implications for our social relationships?

I want to commend the Catholic perspective to you. Of course, that raises several questions:

  • Is it reasonable to speak of THE Catholic perspective?
  • Is my characterization of this perspective warranted?
  • Can one also speak of THE Protestant perspective, especially given the range of protestant ecclesial bodies?

I propose that the protestant perspective is that the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the individual or, at most, the congregation. On the other hand, I commend the Catholic perspective: the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the universal Church, the Bride of Christ, extended in spacetime and militantly subsisting in the Catholic Church whose chief steward is the bishop of Rome. Besides addressing those preliminary questions, I intend to commend the Catholic perspective in three aspects:

  • better able to cope with adversity
  • more resources for spiritual formation
  • closer alignment with the scriptural canon

All these points are controversial; however, I intend not to argue for them but rather to chew on them.  The difference between a primarily individual perspective and a primarily ecclesial perspective also has a significant political component since the State desires no competitor to its hegemony (see, for example, Alan Jacobs biography of The Book of Common Prayer which documents how this worked out in England) and hence is inclined to favor an individual perspective which it can divide and conquer.

I’m also assuming that the more alive an entity, the more applicable the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In addition, whenever possible I’d like to phrase matters sociologically rather than soteriologically. A major advantage of a perspective more social than individual is that one can “check one’s answers”– the boredom of, for example, discussion about end-time scenarios or sectarian doctrine being that one can not check one’s theory in one’s day to day life and interactions with others as one can, on the other hand, regarding ethics and how to live in community.

On a personal level, I think the core of the Protestant error centers on the attempt to place faith above love (see Luther’s commentary on Galatians) contra Saint Paul and the Catholic tradition.

The noted Evangelical scholar Mark Noll, in the book ‘Is the Reformation Over’, argues that Catholic and Protestant disagreements really come down to different understandings of the nature of the Church.  I don’t disagree; however, I very much disagree with the view that “well, maybe so but that’s not important to me..it’s my personal relationship with God that is important.”  The nature of the Church is essentially intertwined with the work of the Holy Spirit, as is reflected in the Nicene creed.  God is able to sustain what was initially established (..I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) and it is wrong-headed to try to start over on one’s own.

Technology is very important and clearly the most important technology is language. The people who know the most about language are not the philosophers but the poets, broadly defined.

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” (Richard Feynman)

“If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.” (John von Neumann)

“Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (William Faulkner)

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like “religion”, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

Cultural Roots

Israel

Rome

  • Vergil’s Aeneid; Sarah Ruden translation
  • The Confessions; Saint Augustine
  • Summa Theologica; St Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Various Writings; by Blaise Pascal
  • Christology; Francesca Aran Murphy

Albion

  • Twenty One Plays;  William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Poetry and Prose; Robert Frost
  • Mansfield Park: Jane Austen
  • The Golden Bowl; Henry James
  • Howard’s End; by E. M. Forster
  • Novels 1942-1954; William Faulkner
  • Dreams of El Dorado; H. W. Brands
  • History & Eschatology; N.T. Wright
Posted in Church, Currents | Tagged | 2 Comments

Cambridge School Shakespeare

The Cambridge School Shakespeare series is useful for teaching and performing Shakespeare:

“An active approach to classroom Shakespeare enables students to inhabit Shakespeare’s imaginative world in accessible and creative ways. Students are encouraged to share Shakespeare’s love of language, interest in character and sense of theatre. Substantially revised and extended in full colour, classroom activities are thematically organised in distinctive ‘Stagecraft’, ‘Write about it’, ‘Language in the play’, ‘Characters’ and ‘Themes’ features. Extended glossaries are aligned with the play text for easy reference. Expanded endnotes include extensive essay-writing guidance for ‘Twelfth Night’ and Shakespeare. Includes rich, exciting colour photos of performances of ‘Twelfth Night’ from around the world.”

I have copies for several of my favorite plays:

  • Midsummer Nights Dream
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Twelfth Night
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear

 

Other Resources:

  •    Twelfth Night – movie directed by Trevor Nunn, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley, Nigel Hawthorne, Imogen Stubbs
  •    How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, by Ken Ludwig. “I’ve been teaching Shakespeare to my children since they were six years old. I’m a bit of a Shakespeare fanatic, and it occurred to me when my daughter was in first grade that if there was any skill — any single area of learning and culture — that I could impart to her while we were both healthy and happy and able to share things together in a calm, focused, pre-teen way, then Shakespeare was it.”

With Shakespeare, memorizing is the key to everything.

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows.”

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Several Faulkner Novels

The Library of America has five volumes of Faulkner’s works. The two I have in my booklist are:

Novels 1930–1935, containing As I Lay DyingSanctuaryLight in AugustPylon

Novels 1942–1954, containing Go Down, MosesIntruder in the DustRequiem for a NunA Fable

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Feast Day: St Stephen the Martyr

A sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe

The armour of love

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.
  Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
  Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
  And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
  Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exults, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
  Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
  My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
℟. Yesterday the Lord was born on earth, that Stephen might be born in heaven;* he entered into the world, that Stephen might enter into heaven.
℣. Yesterday our king came forth from the virgin’s womb, clothed in a garment of flesh;* he entered into the world, that Stephen might enter into heaven.
See also Msgr. Charles Pope’s meditation on the Bloody Octave of Christmas.
Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Morality and Politics

Dennis Prager wrote the following:

The editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, Mark Galli, wrote an editorial calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

In my view, this editorial only serves to confirm one of the sadder realizations of my life: that religious conviction guarantees neither moral clarity nor common sense.

The gist of the editorial—and of most religious and conservative opposition to President Trump—is that any good the president has done is dwarfed by his character defects.

This is an amoral view that says more about Galli than it does about the president. He and the people who share his opinion are making the following statement: No matter how much good this president does, it is less important than his character flaws.

Why is this wrong?

First, because it devalues policies that benefit millions of people.

And second, because it is a simplistic view of character.

I do not know how to assess a person’s character—including my own—outside of how one’s actions affect others. Since I agree with almost all of President Trump’s actions as president and believe they have positively affected millions of people, I have to conclude that as president, Trump thus far has been a man of particularly good character.

Of course, if you think his policies have harmed millions of people, you will assess his character negatively. But that is not what NeverTrump conservatives or Christians such as the Christianity Today editor-in-chief argue. They argue that his policies have indeed helped America (and even the world), but this fact is far less significant than his character.

In the words of Galli: “[I]t’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.”

This rhetorical sleight of hand reflects poorly on Galli’s intellectual and moral honesty.

Galli and every other Christian and conservative opponent of the president believe their concerns are moral, and that the president’s Christian and other conservative supporters are political.

This is simply wrong.

I and every other supporter of the president I know support him for moral reasons, not to win a “political poker game.” Galli’s view is purely self-serving; he’s saying, “We Christian and other conservative opponents of the president think in moral terms, while Christian and other conservative supporters of the president think in political terms.”

So, permit me to inform Galli and all the other people who consider themselves conservative and/or Christian that our support for the president is entirely moral.

To us, putting pressure on the Iranian regime—one of the most evil and dangerous regimes on Earth—by getting out of the Iran nuclear deal made by former President Barack Obama is a moral issue. Even New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who loathes Trump, has written how important the president’s rejection of the Obama-Iran agreement has been.

To us, enabling millions of black Americans to find work—resulting in the lowest black unemployment rate ever recorded—is a moral issue.

To us, more Americans than ever being employed and almost 4 million Americans freed from reliance on food stamps is a moral issue.

To us, appointing more conservative judges than any president in history—over the same period of time—is a moral issue. That whether the courts, including the Supreme Court, are dominated by the Left or by conservatives is dismissed by Galli as “political poker” makes one question not only Galli’s moral thinking but also his moral theology.

To us, moving the American embassy to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem—something promised by almost every presidential candidate—is a moral issue, not to mention profoundly courageous. And courage is a moral virtue.

To us, increasing the U.S. military budget—after the severe cuts of the previous eight years—is a moral issue. As conservatives see it, the American military is the world’s greatest guarantor of world peace.

Yet, none of these things matter to Galli and other misguided Christians and conservatives. What matters more to them is Trump’s occasional crude language and intemperate tweets, what he said about women in a private conversation and his having committed adultery.

Regarding adultery, that sin is for spouses and God to judge. There is no connection between marital sexual fidelity and moral leadership. I wish there were. And as regards the “Access Hollywood” tape, every religious person, indeed every thinking person, should understand that there is no connection between what people say privately and their ability to be a moral leader. That’s why I wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal 20 years ago defending Hillary Clinton when she was charged with having privately expressed anti-Semitic sentiments.

That the editor of Christianity Today thinks the president’s personal flaws, whatever they might be, are more important than all the good he has done for conservatives, for Christians, for Jews, for blacks, and for America tells us a lot . . . about Galli and the decline of Christian moral thought.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Victor Davis Hanson on Spygate, Impeachment, and Undoing the Progressive Agenda

Here’s a useful, wide ranging, hour long interview with Victor Davis Hanson

 

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Dying and the Virtues

In the useful book “Dying and the Virtues”,  Matthew Levering writes:

Underscoring the significance of dying, the Orthodox philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev comments that “a system of ethics which does not make death its central problem has no value and is lacking in depth and earnestness.”  Similarly, Socrates observed that “true philosophers make dying their profession, and … to them of all men death is least alarming.”  Even if this is an exaggeration, as Samuel Johnson insists it is in his novel Rasselas, it remains the case that virtue ethics takes shape around the human journey which culminates in dying.  In a book on the art of dying, the virtue ethicist Christopher Vogt focuses “on three virtues that are essential for a contemporary development of the Christian art of dying well: patience, compassion, and hope.”  Among the many virtues of dying, I will explore the following nine:  love, hope, faith, penitence, gratitude, solidarity, humility, surrender, and courage.

. . .

In the present book, I examine nine virtues of dying, but I explore these virtues by taking up numerous other topics.  These topics are carefully chosen to display some of the most importand sources for Christian understanding of death: the book of Job, Ezekiel 20, the dying of Jesus Christ, the dying of the first martyr (Stephen), Hebrews 11, Gregory of Nyssa’s account of the dying of his sistem Macrina, the tradition of ars moriendi (Robert Bellarmine, Francis de Sales, Jean-Pierre de Caussade), the consolations of philosophy (Josef Pieper), the divine mercy (Faustina Kowalska), the sacrament of anointing of the sick, liberation theology’s emphasis on solidarity with those who are suffering, biblical eschatology, and contemporary medical perspectives — in addition to the fear of annihilation expressed so frequently in elite culture today, and to the New Age spirituality that is popular in less intellectual circles.  My book is therefore a work on the border of virtue ethics and other theological, exegetical, and cultural domains, as required by the effort to retrieve and engage Christian resources on dying.  Balthasar notes that those “who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev 14:4) are botyh those who follow him from life into death and those who follow him from death into life….under the law of living and dying for others (for all).  We need to be among those who follow Jesus in this way, because the life of the Lamb — of possessing in order to give away — is the only true and meaningful mode of living, just as it is the only true and meaningful mode of dying.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

The Hundredfold

In the introduction to his poem The Hundredfold, Anthony Esolen writes:

I am a battered old soldier on bad knees, who knows that the hill must be charged and who knows of one or two ways it might be done. He takes up the torn standard of the cross and hobbles up the first reaches of that height, crying out instructions that he himself has not the strength to fulfill, teaching more by audacity and exposure than by success, willing to look like a fool, to be shot down in the first volleys, but knowing that unless he or someone like him does this, the hill will remain always in the fist of the enemy.

Here’s a review of Dr. Esolen’s poem, by Beth Impson.

I’ve been waiting for this poem/book for a while. Whenever I read Tony’s essays I wonder “He’s advocating for something, but when will he write it rather than write about it?”. Now I don’t have to wait.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment