Novel Openings

Dante’s Comedy:

Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself in a dark wilderness,

for I had wandered from the straight and true.

Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

James’ The Golden Bowl:

The Prince had always liked his London, when it had come to him; he was one of the Modern Romans who find by the Thames a more convincing image of the truth ancient state than any they had left by the Tiber.

Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited:

When I reached ‘C’ Company lines, which were at the top of the hill, I paused and looked back at the camp, just coming into full view below me through the grey mist of early morning.

Dickinson’s #466

I dwell in Possibility – a fairer House than Prose

Frost’s The Silken Tent

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when a sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

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Preparing for Lent

Below are the first few pages from Alexander Schememann’s book: Great Lent: Journey to Pasca.

Preparation for Lent

  1. THE DESIRE (Sunday of Zacchaeus)

Long before the actual beginning of Lent, the Church announces its approach and invites us to enter into the period of pre-lenten preparation. It is a characteristic feature of the Orthodox liturgical tradition that every major feast or season–Easter, Christmas, Lent, etc–is announced and ‘prepared’ in advance. Why? Because of the deep psychological insight by the Church into human nature. Knowing our lack of concentration and the frightening ‘worldliness’ of our life, the Church knows our inability to change rapidly, to go abruptly from one spiritual or mental state into another. Thus, long before the actual effort of Lent is to begin, the Church calls our attention to its seriousness and invites us to meditate on its significance. Before we can practice Lent we are given its meaning. This preparation includes fire consecutive Sundays preceding Lent, each one of the–through its particular Gospel lesson–dedicated to some fundamental aspect of repentance.

The very first announcement of Lent is made the Sunday on which the Gospel lesson about Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10) is read. It is the story of a man who is too short to see Jesus but who desired so much to see Him that he climbed up a tree. Jesus responded to his desire and went to his house. Thus the theme of this first announcement is desire. One might even say the man is desire, and this fundamental psychological truth about human nature is acknowledged by the Gospel: ‘Where your treasure is,’ says Christ, ‘there shall your heart be.’ A strong desire overcomes the natural limitations of man; when he passionately desires something he does things of which ‘normally’ he is incapable. Being ‘short’, he overcomes and transcends himself. The only question, therefore, is whether we desire the right things, whether the power of desire in us is aimed at the right goal, or whether–in the words of the existentialist atheist Jean Paul Sartre–man is a ‘useless passion.’

Zacchaeus desired the ‘right thing’; he wanted to see and approach christ. He is the first symbol of repentance, for repentance begins as the rediscovery of the deep nature of all desire: the desire for God and His righteousness, for the true life. Zacchaeus is ‘short’ — petty, sinful, and limited — yet his desire overcomes all this. It ‘forces’ Christ’s attention; it brings Christ to his home. Such, then, is the first announcement, the first invitation: ours is to desire that which is deepest and truest in ourselves, to acknowledge the thirst and hunger for the Absolute which is in us whether we know it or not, and which, when we deviate from it and turn our desires away, makes us indeed a ‘useless passion.’ And if we desire deeply enough, strongly enough, Christ will respond.

2. HUMILITY (Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee)

The next Sunday is called the ‘Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.’ On the eve of this day, on Saturday at Vespers, the liturgical book of the lenten season — the Triodion — make sits first appearance and texts from it are added to the usual hymns and prayers of the weekly Resurrection service. They develop the next major aspect of repentance: humility.

The Gospel lesson (Lk 18:10-14) pictures a man who is always pleased with himself and who thinks that he complies with all the requirements of religion. He is self-assured and proud of himself. In reality, however, he has falsified the meaning of religion. He has reduced it to external observations and he measures his piety by the amount of money he contributes to the temple. As for the Publican, he humbles himself and his humility justifies him before God. If there is a moral quality almost completely disregarded and even denied today, it is indeed humility. The culture in which we live constantly instills in us the sense of pride, of self-glorification, and of self-righteousness. It is built on the assumption that man can achieve anything by himself and it even pictures God as the One who all the time ‘gives credit’ for man’s achievements and good deeds. Humility–be it individual or corporate, ethnic or national–is viewed as a sign of weakness, as something unbecoming a real man. Even our churches–are they not imbued with that same spirit of the Pharisee? De we not want our every contribution, every ‘good dead,’ all that we do ‘for the Church’ to be acknowledged, praised, publicized?

But what of humility? The answer to this question may seem a paradoxical one for it is rooted in a strange affirmation: God Himself is humble!

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Walking the Dogs

It is lovely, here in the Sierra – walking the dogs in the middle of the night. The air is still, the sky is clear, with the moon more than half. When I say that I get up and walk my pups in the middle of the night, folks respond as if that were some sort of burden. Rather, it is a calm joy and a good time for a short walk or just to sit and look at the hills and night sky as I ponder. Even if the weather were less pleasant – cold, windy, and wet – I would still enjoy getting out at night. Think of it as an old guy’s very luxurious camping.

My pups: Mr Darcy – a Scottish terrier, and Scout – a Labrador/Pointer, are outside dogs and are only crated at night and then not for more than six hours at a stretch. Mostly they are free to roam; however, not the entire 10 acre property but just the half acre oval bounded by an InvisibleFence. And when we are out for a walk or hike, I rarely have them on-leash. Leashes are for city dogs and city folks.

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Whether Charity is Friendship

From St Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (Second Part of the Second Part, Question 23, Article 1)

Whether charity is friendship?

Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not friendship. For nothing is so appropriate to friendship as to dwell with one’s friend, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 5). Now charity is of man towards God and the angels, “whose dwelling [Douay: ‘conversation’] is not with men” (Dan. 2:11). Therefore charity is not friendship.

Objection 2: Further, there is no friendship without return of love (Ethic. viii, 2). But charity extends even to one’s enemies, according to Mat. 5:44: “Love your enemies.” Therefore charity is not friendship.

Objection 3: Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 3) there are three kinds of friendship, directed respectively towards the delightful, the useful, or the virtuous. Now charity is not the friendship for the useful or delightful; for Jerome says in his letter to Paulinus which is to be found at the beginning of the Bible: “True friendship cemented by Christ, is where men are drawn together, not by household interests, not by mere bodily presence, not by crafty and cajoling flattery, but by the fear of God, and the study of the Divine Scriptures.” No more is it friendship for the virtuous, since by charity we love even sinners, whereas friendship based on the virtuous is only for virtuous men (Ethic. viii). Therefore charity is not friendship.

On the contrary, It is written (Jn. 15:15): “I will not now call you servants . . . but My friends.” Now this was said to them by reason of nothing else than charity. Therefore charity is friendship.

I answer that, According to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 2,3) not every love has the character of friendship, but that love which is together with benevolence, when, to wit, we love someone so as to wish good to him. If, however, we do not wish good to what we love, but wish its good for ourselves, (thus we are said to love wine, or a horse, or the like), it is love not of friendship, but of a kind of concupiscence. For it would be absurd to speak of having friendship for wine or for a horse.

Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication.

Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written (1 Cor. 1:9): “God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son.” The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God.

Reply to Objection 1: Man’s life is twofold. There is his outward life in respect of his sensitive and corporeal nature: and with regard to this life there is no communication or fellowship between us and God or the angels. The other is man’s spiritual life in respect of his mind, and with regard to this life there is fellowship between us and both God and the angels, imperfectly indeed in this present state of life, wherefore it is written (Phil. 3:20): “Our conversation is in heaven.” But this “conversation” will be perfected in heaven, when “His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face” (Apoc. 22:3,4). Therefore charity is imperfect here, but will be perfected in heaven.

Reply to Objection 2: Friendship extends to a person in two ways: first in respect of himself, and in this way friendship never extends but to one’s friends: secondly, it extends to someone in respect of another, as, when a man has friendship for a certain person, for his sake he loves all belonging to him, be they children, servants, or connected with him in any way. Indeed so much do we love our friends, that for their sake we love all who belong to them, even if they hurt or hate us; so that, in this way, the friendship of charity extends even to our enemies, whom we love out of charity in relation to God, to Whom the friendship of charity is chiefly directed.

Reply to Objection 3: The friendship that is based on the virtuous is directed to none but a virtuous man as the principal person, but for his sake we love those who belong to him, even though they be not virtuous: in this way charity, which above all is friendship based on the virtuous, extends to sinners, whom, out of charity, we love for God’s sake.

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The Glen at Maude’s Tavern

The hills of Appalachia are wrinkled deep in time. Some places there, as the saying goes, you can’t get to from here. At least, if the here were televised America. And if not….

There are three large structures in the Glen at Maude’s Tavern: the chapel, the abbey, and of course, the tavern. As to which is oldest, well, that has been the heart of many a heated argument by the bar at Maude’s Tavern – especially since nobody around here puts much value in being new. The tavern looks the newest, what with Joe Turner coming down from Northern Virginia back in the 70s to renovate it; however, his taking Sue Wesley as his wife, ‘as part of the renovation’ he’s fond of joking since she grew up at the tavern, and her roots being Cherokee ‘as are the mountains! Sue says’ give grounds for the tavern being oldest.

Certainly, none of the groups have been very particular about keeping written records and much is hard to make out in the fog of time. The chapel folks, the people of the Mt Zion Freewill Sanctified Baptist Chapel, going back to Scots settlers (refugees from the losing side of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar in the 3rd English Civil War), are what most folks associate with old-time Appalachian mountain culture. And then the abbey Riders, the Abbey of the Appalachian Riders for Our Lady, with their immediate roots in what some think a humorous convolution of Francis Asbury inspired Methodist circuit-riding with Francis Assisi inspired devotion to renewal of the Catholic Church, trace their roots all the way back to the first century after Our Lord’s rising from the dead. So, depending on one’s view of what counts as evidence and as connection, the abbey and the chapel and the tavern each have grounds for claiming to be the true foundation of the Glen.

Myself, Tom White, I’m a lapsed Unitarian, coming from a family of lapsed Unitarians. My mom lapsed from Unitarianism into Methodism and I continued the lapse all the way back into the Catholic Church (and into the Riders, in spite of or perhaps, because of their limiting brothers to two dozen books).

And, though I keep forgetting, since this might be read by someone outside the Glen, I really need to start with that, since it holds them all – the tavern, the abbey and the chapel. What with its geography, which kept it free from the reach of television’s invasion and of thoroughfares from elsewhere in the United States, it is in many ways a world of its own, a sociological laboratory of sorts, one might say. Any reader will, I trust, appreciate my reticence regarding the specific location and features of the Glen, in order to preserve its privacy. The crucial fact, both geographical and geological, is that it is fairly well isolated from the rest of the country. In fact, my descriptions of land and environment will often be of similar, though larger, regions far to the west: the Uinta Basin in Utah and the Flathead and Pend d’Oreille regions in Montana and Idaho.

The first white men to set eyes on the Uinta Basin and Uinta Mountains were members of the small Spanish expedition from Santa Fe headed by Fray Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Fray Francisco Atanasio Dominguez. The expedition crossed into Utah and the Uinta Basin several miles northeast of present day Jensen [see the chapter ‘Las Llagas – San Andres’ in The Dominguez-Escalante Journal, University of Utah Press]. These explorers opened the Uinta Basin and the eastern portion of the Great Basin to Spanish, and later Mexican, American, and British fur-trappers and traders.

The Uinta Basin drew little interest during the initial phase of settlement of the Great Basin. Early in the 1860s Brigham Young did order a small expedition to the Uinta Basin to determine the suitability for locating settlements there. Upon the expedition’s return, the Deseret News reported that the expedition had found little there and that the basin was a “vast contiguity of waste…valueless excepting for nomadic purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and to hold the world together.”

To hold the world together – that is the purpose of the less traveled places of which I speak.

Chief Sitting Bull

At least two Paleo-Indian cultural sites (12,000-8,500 BC) have been located in the Uinta Basin. These people were primarily hunters of the mammoth, bison, and other big game. During the Archaic period (8,500-2,500 BC), the basin was occupied by Plateau Archaic People who were gatherers as well as hunters. More recently, people identified with the Fremont Culture have occupied the Uinta Basin. The Fremont Culture parallels in time and development the better known Anasazi Culture. People of the Fremont Culture lived in semi-subterranean shelters (kivas) and were dependent primarily upon corn agriculture and hunting of smaller game and fishing.

During the ethno-historical period (A.D. 1300 to present), the Uinta Basin has been occupied by a band of Utes. The basin was also occasionally visited by the Northern and Northwestern Shoshones (hence the picture of Chief Sitting Bull).

And then, there’s Father Pierre Jean De Smet and the tribes of what’s now Washington, Idaho,  and Montana; however, that will have to wait for another posting. I just wanted to introduce all the main characters and set the stage before getting back to Maude’s Tavern.

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20220104 Journal

During his viral podcast with Joe Rogan after he was banned by Twitter, Malone explained how the global population was being manipulated into remaining in a constant state of hysterical anxiety via mass formation psychosis.

“What the heck happened to Germany in the 20s and 30s? Very intelligent, highly educated population, and they went barking mad. And how did that happen?” asked Malone.

“The answer is mass formation psychosis.”

“When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other and has free-floating anxiety in a sense that things don’t make sense, we can’t understand it, and then their attention gets focused by a leader or series of events on one small point just like hypnosis, they literally become hypnotized and can be led anywhere,” he added.

“And one of the aspects of that phenomenon is that the people that they identify as their leaders, the ones typically that come in and say you have this pain and I can solve it for you. I and I alone,” Malone further explained, “Then they will follow that person. It doesn’t matter whether they lied to them or whatever. The data is irrelevant.”

“We had all those conditions. If you remember back before 2019 everyone was complaining, the world doesn’t make sense and we are all isolated from each other.”

“Then this thing happened, and everyone focused on it,” stated Malone, noting, “That is how mass formation psychosis happens and that is what has happened here.”

Malone’s summary of how health authorities seized on the unifying threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and exaggerated its thread to create mass hysteria is backed up by leaked details of how the UK government manipulated its population during the early days of the pandemic.

As first revealed by author and journalist Laura Dodsworth, scientists in the UK working as advisors for the government admitted using what they now admit to be “unethical” and “totalitarian” methods of instilling fear in the population in order to control behaviour during the pandemic.

The London Telegraph reported the comments made by Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B), a sub-committee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) the government’s chief scientific advisory group.

The report quotes a briefing from March 2020, as the first lockdown was decreed, that stated the government should drastically increase “the perceived level of personal threat” that the virus poses because “a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened”.

One scientist with the SPI-B admits that “In March [2020] the Government was very worried about compliance and they thought people wouldn’t want to be locked down. There were discussions about fear being needed to encourage compliance, and decisions were made about how to ramp up the fear.”

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20211220 Journal

I pray for my family: for my children, grandchildren, and siblings – that they flourish. And for my parents, that they come to enjoy eternal life in Christ.

‘But your parents have died?’

Yes, but God is the creator of the cosmos, outside of our spacetime world, and so it is perfectly reasonable to continue to pray for my dad, for example, as I continue to ‘honor your mother and your father’.

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20211217 Journal

My favorite Bob Dylan gospel album is the 1997 ‘Time Out of Mind’.

Looking toward Christmas, our celebration of our Lord’s incarnation (Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:5-7), here’s a honky-tonk gospel Christmas carol:

Gon’ walk down that dirt road, ’til someone lets me ride

Gon’ walk down that dirt road, ’til someone lets me ride

If I can’t find my baby, I’m gonna run away and hide

I been pacing around the room hoping maybe she’d come back

Pacing ’round the room hoping maybe she’d come back

Well, I been praying for salvation laying ’round in a one-room country shack

Gon’ walk down that dirt road until my eyes begin to bleed

Gon’ walk down that dirt road until my eyes begin to bleed

’Til there’s nothing left to see, ’til the chains have been shattered and I’ve been freed

I been lookin’ at my shadow, I been watching the colors up above

Lookin’ at my shadow, watching the colors up above

Rolling through the rain and hail, looking for the sunny side of love

Gon’ walk on down that dirt road ’til I’m right beside the sun

Gon’ walk on down until I’m right beside the sun

I’m gonna have to put up a barrier to keep myself away from everyone

Dirt Road Blues, Bob Dylan 1997

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20211216 Journal

A quote from David McWhirter’s “Desire and Love in Henry James: A Study of the Late Novels”, page 4:

Many of James’ contemporaries – one thinks especially of Hardy, Conrad, and Meredith – share his sense that the enactment of love is a problem in a world stripped of the religious and social orthodoxies which had anchored the moral realism of their Victorian predecessors. The happy marriages which typically conclude Victorian novels assert the value of love in a universe that is morally coherent and meaningfully ordered. But modern love, cut off from any transcendent or even transpersonal structures of authority is no longer sure how to affirm itself.

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20211215 Journal

In weather advisories around here (Placerville, Diamond Springs, Camino) one finds for example:

Sacramento – CA, US, National Weather Service. Affected Area: Motherlode

Regarding what the National Weather Service designates by that ‘Motherlode’ area, Motherlode has zoneid CAZ067:   https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?zoneid=CAZ067

As far a towns go, think of it as a certain elevation range in the Sierra Foothills, with 3 main cities from north to south being Grass Valley, Placerville, and Sonora. ‘Motherlode Country’ is also referred to as ‘Gold Country’ and here is a useful Wikipedia article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Country

The Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Motherlode has:


Mother Lode Countrygold rush belt, stretching through the Sierra Nevada foothills in central California, U.S. About 150 miles (240 km) long but only a few miles wide, it extended north and northwest from the vicinity of Mariposa through Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador, El Dorado, Placer, and Nevada counties. The California Gold Rush was sparked by James Marshall’s discovery in 1848 of placer gold in the tailrace of Sutter’s Mill near Coloma (commemorated by the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park). The term Mother Lode evolved from the miners’ concept of one main quartz vein with subsidiary offshoot veins. The scenic country is dotted with scores of old mining camps and ghost towns bearing relics of their past. Some, including Amador City, Auburn, Chinese Camp, Columbia, Donnieville, Grass Valley, Jackson, Nevada City, Placerville, San Andreas, Sonora, and Trudeau, have been designated state historic landmarks. Gold rush fever and these rip-roaring, wide-open mining towns inspired many famous adventure tales by Bret Harte and Mark Twain. Exhaustion of the main gold streaks, a changing market, and a government-enforced price structure slowed down the California gold boom by the end of the 19th century, and in the 1930s operations came to a virtual halt. Increases in the international price of gold in the late 1970s stimulated scattered efforts to mine it commercially, but most of the region’s new settlers came in search of land rather than gold.

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20211214 Journal

Our first snow on Thorson Ridge. At just under 3000 feet elevation, our weather here in the Sierra foothills is more like Camino than Pleasant Valley just south.

Snow prompts me to think of renewal and new birth, appropriate for this Advent season. New beginnings can start any day; however, they must be quickly acted upon while things are fresh and clean.

En una noche obscura
Con ansiasen amores inflamada o dichosa uentura
sali sin ser notada
Estando ya mi casa sosegada

Once in the dark of night
when love burned bright with yearning,
I arose (0 windfall of delight!)
and how I left none knows — dead to the world my house in deep repose;

(from “The Poems of St John of the Cross” original Spanish Texts and English Translations by John Frederick Nims, 3rd Edition 1995; University of Chicago Press)

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Memorandum On the Immaculate Conception

(This was written by St John Newman, “This Memorandum is given as written off by the Cardinal for Mr. R. I. Wilberforce, formerly Archdeacon Wilberforce, to aid him in meeting the objections urged by some Protestant friends against the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.”)

1. It is so difficult for me to enter into the feelings of a person who understands the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and yet objects to it, that I am diffident about attempting to speak on the subject. I was accused of holding it, in one of the first books I wrote, twenty years ago. On the other hand, this very fact may be an argument against an objector—for why should it not have been difficult to me at that time, if there were a real difficulty in receiving it?

2. Does not the objector consider that Eve was created, or born, without original sin? Why does not this shock him? Would he have been inclined to worship Eve in that first estate of hers? Why, then, Mary?

3. Does he not believe that St. John Baptist had the grace of God—i.e., was regenerated, even before his birth? What do we believe of Mary, but that grace was given her at a still earlier period? All we say is, that grace was given her from the first moment of her existence.

4. We do not say that she did not owe her salvation to the death of her Son. Just the contrary, we say that she, of all mere children of Adam, is in the truest sense the fruit and the purchase of His Passion. He has done for her more than for anyone else. To others He gives grace and regeneration at a point in their earthly existence; to her, from the very beginning.

5. We do not make her nature different from others. Though, as St. Austin says, we do not like to name her in the same breath with mention of sin, yet, certainly she would have been a frail being, like Eve, without the grace of God. A more abundant gift of grace made her what she was from the first. It was not her nature which secured her perseverance, but the excess of grace which hindered Nature acting as Nature ever will act. There is no difference in kind between her and us, though an inconceivable difference of degree. She and we are both simply saved by the grace of Christ.

Thus, sincerely speaking, I really do not see what the difficulty is, and should like it set down distinctly in words. I will add that the above statement is no private statement of my own. I never heard of any Catholic who ever had any other view. I never heard of any other put forth by anyone.

II

Next, Was it a primitive doctrine? No one can add to revelation. That was given once for all;—but as time goes on, what was given once for all is understood more and more clearly. The greatest Fathers and Saints in this sense have been in error, that, since the matter of which they spoke had not been sifted, and the Church had not spoken, they did not in their expressions do justice to their own real meaningE.g. (1), the Athanasian Creed says that the Son is “immensus” (in the Protestant version, “incomprehensible”). Bishop Bull, though defending the ante-Nicene Fathers, says that it is a marvel that “nearly all of them have the appearance of being ignorant of the invisibility and immensity of the Son of God.” Do I for a moment think they were ignorant? No, but that they spoke inconsistently, because they were opposing other errors, and did not observe what they said. When the heretic Arius arose, and they saw the use which was made of their admissions, the Fathers retracted them.

(2) The great Fathers of the fourth century seem, most of them, to consider our Lord in His human nature ignorant, and to have grown in knowledge, as St. Luke seems to say. This doctrine was anathematized by the Church in the next century, when the Monophysites arose.

(3) In like manner, there are Fathers who seem to deny original sin, eternal punishment, &c.

(4) Further, the famous symbol “Consubstantial,” as applied to the Son, which is in the Nicene Creed, was condemned by a great Council of Antioch, with Saints in it, seventy years before. Why? Because that Council meant something else by the word.

Now, as to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, it was implied in early times, and never denied. In the Middle Ages it was denied by St. Thomas and by St. Bernard, but they took the phrase in a different sense from that in which the Church now takes it. They understood it with reference to our Lady’s mother, and thought it contradicted the text, “In sin hath my mother conceived me”—whereas we do not speak of the Immaculate Conception except as relating to Mary; and the other doctrine (which St. Thomas and St. Bernard did oppose) is really heretical.

III

As to primitive notion about our Blessed Lady, really, the frequent contrast of Mary with Eve seems very strong indeed. It is found in St. Justin, St. Irenæus, and Tertullian, three of the earliest Fathers, and in three distinct continents—Gaul, Africa, and Syria. For instance, “the knot formed by Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; that what the Virgin Eve tied through unbelief that the Virgin Mary unties through faith.” Again, “The Virgin Mary becomes the Advocate (Paraclete) of the Virgin Eve, that as mankind has been bound to death through a Virgin, through a Virgin it may be saved, the balance being preserved, a Virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience” (St. Irenæus, Hæer. v. 19). Again, “As Eve, becoming disobedient, became the cause of death to herself and to all mankind, so Mary, too, bearing the predestined Man, and yet a Virgin, being obedient, became the CAUSE OF SALVATION both to herself and to all mankind.” Again, “Eve being a Virgin, and incorrupt, bore disobedience and death, but Mary the Virgin, receiving faith and joy, when Gabriel the Angel evangelised her, answered, ‘Be it unto me,'” &c. Again, “What Eve failed in believing, Mary by believing hath blotted out.”

1. Now, can we refuse to see that, according to these Fathers, who are earliest of the early, Mary was a typical woman like Eve, that both were endued with special gifts of grace, and that Mary succeeded where Eve failed?

2. Moreover, what light they cast upon St. Alfonso’s doctrine, of which a talk is sometimes made, of the two ladders. You see according to these most early Fathers, Mary undoes what Eve had done; mankind is saved through a Virgin; the obedience of Mary becomes the cause of salvation to all mankind. Moreover, the distinct way in which Mary does this is pointed out when she is called by the early Fathers an Advocate. The word is used of our Lord and the Holy Ghost—of our Lord, as interceding for us in His own Person; of the Holy Ghost, as interceding in the Saints. This is the white way, as our Lord’s own special way is the red way, viz. of atoning Sacrifice.

3. Further still, what light these passages cast on two texts of Scripture. Our reading is, “She shall bruise thy head.” Now, this fact alone of our reading, “She shall bruise,” has some weight, for why should not, perhaps, our reading be the right one? But take the comparison of Scripture with Scripture, and see how the whole hangs together as we interpret it. A war between a woman and the serpent is spoken of in Genesis. Who is the serpent? Scripture nowhere says till the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse. There at last, for the first time, the “Serpent” is interpreted to mean the Evil Spirit. Now, how is he introduced? Why, by the vision again of a Woman, his enemy—and just as, in the first vision in Genesis, the Woman has a “seed,” so here a “Child.” Can we help saying, then, that the Woman is Mary in the third of Genesis? And if so, and our reading is right, the first prophecy ever given contrasts the Second Woman with the First—Mary with Eve, just as St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian do.

4. Moreover, see the direct bearing of this upon the Immaculate Conception. There was war between the woman and the Serpent. This is most emphatically fulfilled if she had nothing to do with sin—for, so far as any one sins, he has an alliance with the Evil One. {85}

IV

Now I wish it observed why I thus adduce the Fathers and Scripture. Not to prove the doctrine, but to rid it of any such monstrous improbability as would make a person scruple to accept it when the Church declares it. A Protestant is apt to say: “Oh, I really never, never can accept such a doctrine from the hands of the Church, and I had a thousand thousand times rather determine that the Church spoke falsely, than that so terrible a doctrine was true.” Now, my good man, WHY? Do not go off in such a wonderful agitation, like a horse shying at he does not know what. Consider what I have said. Is it, after all, certainly irrational? is it certainly against Scripture? is it certainly against the primitive Fathers? is it certainly idolatrous? I cannot help smiling as I put the questions. Rather, may not something be said for it from reason, from piety, from antiquity, from the inspired text? You may see no reason at all to believe the voice of the Church; you may not yet have attained to faith in it—but what on earth this doctrine has to do with shaking your faith in her, if you have faith, or in sending you to the right-about if you are beginning to think she may be from God, is more than my mind can comprehend. Many, many doctrines are far harder than the Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of Original Sin is indefinitely harder. Mary just has not this difficulty. It is no difficulty to believe that a soul is united to the flesh without original sin; the great mystery is that any, that millions on millions, are born with it. Our teaching about Mary has just one difficulty less than our teaching about the state of mankind generally.

I say it distinctly—there may be many excuses at the last day, good and bad, for not being Catholics; one I cannot conceive: “O Lord, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was so derogatory to Thy grace, so inconsistent with Thy Passion, so at variance with Thy word in Genesis and the Apocalypse, so unlike the teaching of Thy first Saints and Martyrs, as to give me a right to reject it at all risks, and Thy Church for teaching it. It is a doctrine as to which my private judgment is fully justified in opposing the Church’s judgment. And this is my plea for living and dying a Protestant.”

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Bamboozled

It is hard to avoid being bamboozled by the tyranny of the here and now. Especially nowadays given television propaganda. Two contemporary voices to whom I’ve found it useful to listen are Dylan and Solzhenitsyn.

  • Dylan’s Visions of Sin; Christopher Ricks
  • The Solzhenitsyn Reader: 1947-2005

By the way, those two books, and Sarah Rudin’s translation of Vergil’s Aeneid are the syllabus for the 10th grade component of my three year literature course at Maude’s Tavern.

The 11th grade syllabus is: Dante’s Comedy (Esolen’s edition), Jane Austen, and Frost.

The 12th grade syllabus is: Shakespeare, Donne, and James.

While this course can prepare for college, I encourage instead working in one of the skilled trades, nursing, etc. and proceeding with marriage and children.

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Against Studied Ambiguity

A religious entity should be as clear as possible about its beliefs. In particular, it should spurn studied ambiguity. Moreover, the Christian tradition professes not the wise getting to God, to the source of all truth, but rather that God got to us. In Christ, God came to us, incarnate. Of course, folks differ in maturity, commitment, ability, and existential engagement and what can be said has to take that into account, recognizing with humility the great Mystery of reality. See, for example, Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Still.

As Einstein said about physical science, things should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler! There is a certain type of studied ambiguity that seems to me particularly deceptive and abhorrent. Suppose a group of folks think A is the case whereas another group thinks B is the case where at most one of A or B can really be true. To be firmly committed to A but to intentionally use words that hid that or even suggest that B might be true is an attack on the existence of Truth itself.

To give one substantial example, while the Orthodox may validly suggest that the Catholic Church is too explicit regarding the mystery of the Eucharist, it seems to me that the Anglican tradition has a studied ambiguity which is politically motivated. The traditional Lutheran, Orthodox, or Catholic doctrines, while different of course, all honor Truth in a way that is not done within the Anglican tradition.

Closer to my home, it seems that Pope Francis is sometimes intentionally ambiguous for political reasons. Better when he is clear even if he is clearly wrong.

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Official Language

Aside from liturgical matters, what is the official language of the Catholic Church now? The Church needs an official language unless it is to go the way of the Orthodox. While the Catholic Church could have, in theory, more than one ‘official’ language for its documents, that will not work out over time.

If the official language is not Latin, then what? I don’t think it would wind up being any of the Romance languages; rather it would end up being English.

What will the next edition of Heinrich Denzinger’s “Compendium of Creeds, Definitions, and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals” look like?

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Education Should Aim at God

Daniel Drain has an excellent article on Church Life Journal entitled ‘Education Should Aim at God, Not the Job Market‘. I think it could well be expanded into a book, elaborating its current three sections with three more (4 Extended Renaissance: Aquinas, Dante, Luther, Shakespeare; 5 Prosaic Pragmatism: Sun Tzu, Confucius; and 6: Christ Crucified).

If, as Plato suggested, poets are not allowed in the republic, then I think we end up with the prosaic pragmatism of Sun Tzu and Confucius rather than the Church for which Christ died.

After the first two sections on Greek culture, Drain concludes section 3 with:

Responding to the present state of affairs, Benedict XVI sketches a few requirements for an “authentic education.” First, “that closeness and trust that are born of love.”[67] The obedience required to truly receive an education is thus best understood as a participation in a love that draws one forward into fullness. Second, an authentic education will be aimed at uncovering and knowing more deeply what is true. It will not ignore the authentic questions born of the human heart. It would be a failure to educate if that desire for knowledge were not acknowledge, fostered, and deepened. But this seeking requires also that we might suffer for it. Which carries an important corollary: the truth is worthy of our suffering. Benedict’s conclusion ties together freedom and discipline.The task of education consists also of finding the right balance between freedom and discipline. Freedom’s primary meaning is not that you are free from some external threat. Freedom, in the first place, is made for truth. You are free for the sake of coming to know and love what is true and good and beautiful. Thus freedom and discipline go hand in hand – there is an order to coming to know things. There is a hierarchy of discovery. G.K. Chesterton says this piquantly in his book Orthodoxy: “Art is limitation: the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.”[68]

Understood in these terms as a certain unity of love, freedom, and discipline, education is not primarily a program to be exacted, or a problematic requiring calculation. It is instead a basic human activity. At its heart, education is contemplative, endeavoring to affirm the meaning of reality in its integrity, priori of any technological or mechanistic planning with respect to its potential “usefulness.” When rightly ordered, education as contemplation organically manifests as action, bearing its fruit in integrated human beings who bear no patience for a body-soul dualism, or its concomitant separation of love from knowledge, freedom from discipline. The task of coming to know things is of a piece with the Christian task of profound love for that which God loves. The formation of one’s soul, an ordering of one’s desires, and a deepening of one’s love: education is a life-form before it is a program.

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The Novels of Willa Cather

If someone is unfamiliar with the novels of Willa Cather, AS Byatt has written an interesting article about them, titled American Pastorial, of which I quote the last part:

In her 50s Cather published three novels which are often called tragedies – A Lost Lady (1923), The Professor’s House (1925) and My Mortal Enemy (1926). Both A Lost Lady and The Professor’s House are tragic in the sense that they present the slow process described in the Book of Ecclesiastes:

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them … when the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.

Both novels present a vision of the youth and strength of the early European explorers and settlers of north America as a kind of primeval Eden, full of light and life, which has fallen away into vulgarity, real estate, ugly urban life. The decay of the pioneering vision of the land goes with the ageing of the central characters. In A Lost Lady the young male narrator idealises Marian Forrester, the beautiful and generous wife of a railway pioneer who loses his fortune compensating his shareholders in a market crash. She degenerates, taking lovers, drinking, becoming shoddy and shabby, and even becomes the mistress of the snake in the garden, the evil Ivy Peters, who is first seen putting out the eyes of a woodpecker for fun. Desire fails, both in narrator and his beloved, and is replaced by world-weariness.

I sometimes think The Professor’s House is Cather’s masterpiece. It is almost perfectly constructed, peculiarly moving, and completely original. It is the story of Godfrey St Peter, a successful professor whose great work has been a history of “Spanish Adventurers in North America”. The adventurers are related to the railway pioneers in A Lost Lady – Cather herself compares both to the crusaders, brave men with a vision. In an early essay (1896) on “The Kingdom of Art” the young Cather had compared the daring artist also to the crusaders, who suffered and died in the burning deserts, and found no paradise – “only death and the truth”. St Peter is happily married, with two daughters. He lives near the shore of Lake Michigan. The novel is the tale of his experience of the failure of desire. There are two “houses” – a brand-new one, purchased with the prize-money he won for his masterpiece, into which he is expected to move, and the old house, where he persists in working in his old study, which doubles as a sewing-room, and is inhabited by two dressmakers’ “forms” – one made of “a dead opaque, lumpy solidity, like chunks of putty or tightly packed sawdust”, one in wire, with no legs, no viscera, and a bosom like a bird-cage. They are household gods, turned to lifeless yet threatening idols.

At this point I must emphasise the other side of Cather, the teller of tales about great journeys, hard endeavours, single-mindedness. She can describe domestic comforts, the minutiae of pots, pans, food, so as to make them glittering and strange, as though seen for the first time. She wrote perceptively about Katherine Mansfield and her great gift for showing the simultaneous beauty and terror of group life, domestic life. She studies French domestic subtleties, tended by women, or by priests, in alien American landscapes, hot New Mexico, cold Quebec. She believes passionately in civilisation, as Virgil saw it, as the Dutch painters recorded it in their domestic interiors. In the essay on Mansfield she describes human relationships as “the tragic necessity of human life; they can never be wholly satisfactory, every ego is half the time greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them”.

The professor has sought them, and is now pulling away from them.

The triumph of the novel is the story inserted into it. “Tom Outland’s Story” is the tale of a brilliant young man, who later became the professor’s student, made a scientific discovery of a gas that left him rich, and died in the first world war, before he could marry St Peters’s daughter, to whom he left his patents.

In the inserted story he explores a mesa in New Mexico, working as a cattle driver. The golden silence of New Mexico, the thin air of the heights, the riding and work, are the equivalent in this novel of the grey seas glimpsed through the window in a Dutch painting. In it Outland discovers “a little city of stone, asleep”. “I knew at once that I had come upon the city of some extinct civilisation, hidden away in this inaccessible mesa for centuries, preserved in the dry air and almost perpetual sunlight like a fly in amber.”

Cather said she wanted to juxtapose the stone city, the “fresh air that blew off the Blue Mesa” with “Professor St Peter’s house, rather over-crowded and stuffy with new things; American proprieties, clothes furs, petty ambitions, quivering jealousies”. The young man, Outland, on the uninhabited mesa feels pure energy. “Nothing tired me. Up there, alone, a close neighbour to the sun, I seemed to get the solar energy in some direct way.” Cather describes the sun, the rock, the jars made by the vanished people, the mysterious body of a woman, violently killed, so that each detail is unforgettable. Then she returns us to St Peter, in danger of dying from escaping house-gas on his lumpy sofa, thinking grimly of Longfellow’s translation of an Anglo-Saxon poem about a third kind of house.

For thee a house was built
Ere thou wast born;
For thee a mould was made
Ere thou of woman camest.

He is reminded by his sagging sofa of “the sham upholstery that is put in coffins”.

“Just the equivocal American way of dealing with serious facts, he reflected. Why pretend that it is possible to soften that last hard bed.” He thinks he would rather be alone in the grave than with his wife – whom he loves. “He thought of eternal solitude with gratefulness, as a release from every obligation, from every form of effort. It was the Truth.”

No one has written better about the pull of solitude. Most novels are about human relations. This one is about the desire to be released from them. Nietzsche thought a “strong pessimism” was what human beings needed. It is paradoxically invigorating.

My Mortal Enemy is a real tragedy, constructed out of a real romance – the story of a rich and determined young woman, who ran away with a penniless lover, seen through the eyes of a much younger woman narrator. This story too is of the failing of desire – a failing so complete that the “heroine” comes to refer to her loving and patient husband as “my mortal enemy”. The word mortal here is of course, completely double. A mortal enemy is a determined destroyer. A mortal enemy is simply a mortal man. The book is brief, and at first I liked it less than some of the apparently stranger and more complicated ones. But the writer in me thinks about it now almost more than about any other. In it Cather has completely achieved her aim of telling by showing, and showing by making an arrested, mysterious image. Nellie Birdseye, the narrator is a good observer of things and expressions, pleasant and unpleasant, about the not-entirely romantic Myra. Each brief, glancing episode is a perfect revelation of something new and unexpected. It is still and violent. Not one word is wasted or redundant. It is distant and at the same time unbearably moving. The writer knows completely the tale she is telling, its beginning and its end.

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Trump: Existential Threat as Civic Promise

by L.Q. Cincinnatus

Both Joe Biden and President Trump agree on one thing: the Trump presidency is “an existential threat” to the American ruling class.

The difference is that Trump sees the elites as a threat to the populace, and Biden regards the populace as a threat to the elites. The distinction could not be any more vivid.

It’s clear to most of us that this one man — Donald J. Trump — is a lightning rod. He has channeled incredible political energy to reveal the stomach-churning rot and corruption at the heart of our most trusted public institutions. He has galvanized vast numbers of middle American voters, who have been fed up with the shenanigans inside the Beltway since the LBJ/Nixon era. Moreover, he has electrified the Left, revealing them to be unwitting supporters of the essential, ugly truth that the classic “liberal” dream has become exactly the crazed, socialist plan we were all warned was at its core. The Left hasn’t taken their fight to “red” America; rather it has launched its salvos against the Progressive enclaves, (Portland, Seattle, New York) places that haven’t seen fiscal or social sanity for generations.

And this paradox—that an Ed Koch-style, pragmatic, liberal, Democrat turned Republican can be represented as a misogynistic, hard Right Nazi—provides the fuel that makes the Establishment and the Left explode with such bright intensity.

continue at Letters from a Flyover Country

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2020 Election

THOMAS KLINGENSTEIN: My name is Tom Klingenstein. I am the chair of the board of the Claremont Institute which is a conservative think tank, managing partner of a New York investment firm and playwright.

I wish to make three points. First, Trump is the perfect man for these times, not all times, perhaps not most times, but these times. Second, Republicans are not doing a good job explaining the stakes in this election. They must explain, and this is my third point, that the Democratic Party, which has been taken by its radical wing, is leading a revolution. This makes the coming election the most important one since the election of 1860. Let’s begin there.

Unlike most elections, this one is much more than a contest over particular policies—like health care or taxes. Rather, like the election of 1860, this election is a contest between two competing regimes, or ways of life. Two ways of life that cannot exist peacefully together.

One way of life, I’ll call it “the traditional American way of life,” is based on individual rights, the rule of law, and a shared understanding of the common good. This way of life values hard work, self-reliance, volunteerism, patriotism, and so on.

In this way of life there are no hyphenated Americans. We are all just Americans. Colorblindness is our aspiration.

The other way of life I call multiculturalism. Others call it “identity politics” or “cultural Marxism” or “Intersectionality”.

The multicultural movement, which has taken over the Democratic party, is a revolutionary movement. I do not mean a metaphorical revolution. It is not like a revolution; it is a revolution, an attempt to overthrow the American Founding as President Trump said in his excellent Mt. Rushmore speech. Republicans should say the same thing. Republicans everywhere, at every level, and at every opportunity.

Multiculturalism conceives of society, not as a community of individuals with equal rights but as a collection of cultural identity groups—defined by race, ethnicity, gender, and so forth. According to the multiculturalists, all these identity groups are oppressed by white males.

Their goal is to have each identity group proportionally represented in all institutions of American society. As should be immediately clear, achieving this proportional representation requires a never-ending redistribution of wealth and power from some groups—and not just from whites—to other groups. Such a massive redistribution can only be achieved by a tyrannical government and like in all tyrannies, one where dissenters are silenced.

In order to achieve this proportional representation, the Democrats require not just endless affirmative action but genuine socialism, open borders, unrestricted trade, seizing guns, sanctuary cities, and much more.

The Black Lives Matter/Democrats understand (which Republicans seem not to), that if they are to achieve this policy agenda they must get Americans to change their values, their principles, and the way they understand themselves.

They must get us to believe that national borders and colorblindness are racist; that we are not one culture but many; that the most important thing in our history—the thing around which all else pivots—is slavery. More broadly, the multiculturalists must get us to believe that we are unworthy—not just that we have sinned (which of course we have)—but that we are irredeemably sinful, or, in the language of today, “systemically racist.” And sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and all the other “ists” and phobias. Simply put, multiculturalism must get us to believe we are bad

This suggests one way to frame the coming election: as a contest between a man, Trump, who believes America is good and a man, Biden, who is controlled by a movement that believes America is bad. I do not think it is any more complicated than that. . . .

Continued at: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/10/13/claremont_institute_chairman_thomas_klingenstein_trump_2020_a_man_vs_a_movement.html

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Theo-Drama: The Action

From the preface to Hans Urs von Balthazar’s THEO-DRAMA, THEOLOGICAL DRAMATIC THEORY, VOLUME IV, THE ACTION

We have prepared at considerable length for the “action” that is the subject of this volume. First, in the Prelegomena, we prepared the way for our use of dramatic categories in the understanding of revelation (“theology”).  The next task was to introduce the dramatis personae themselves. But here we discovered a tension: on the one hand, the creature is manifestly free before God (volume 2) and, on the other hand, this very freedom is a freedom “in Christ” –and, it is only “in Christ” that theological persons can exist at all (volume 3). This tension is so explosive that it was bound to burst into flame in the conflagration of the action; accordingly, we begin this volume “under the sign of the Apocalypse”.

The Book of Revelation make sit quite clear that the action set in train by human freedom is not overridden or trivialized by the all-encompassing action of the “Lamb as though it had been slain”. What we have here is not the kind of apokatastasis that subsumes the Christian’s wrestling with God and God’s wrestling with him in an overall philosophical perspective (in the manner of Plotinus or Hegel), according to which the world proceeds from the divine and subsequently returns to it. No; for we are faced with a titanic rejection on man’s part: he resists being embraced by this very mystery of the Cross. This anti-Christian aversion is something new; it has only existed since the coming of Christ: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin.”  It is only when heaven is wide open that hell too yawns at our feet. So this examination of the action will not not unveil what is ultimate; but, where the action is transparent, it will give us an intimation, a shadowy awareness of that ultimate reality. The final drama has not yet taken place.

 

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