Monday, March 31, 2014

Mozart-Requiem 05. SEQUENTIA: Rex tremendae majestatis

Another clip from Mozart's requiem, to help get in a properly penitential state of mind . .

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival (30 March 2014)

     Another week past, another Sunday Snippets, a sort of Catholic Carnival in which a few of us blogsters share our posts for the week while we sit around the fire roasting marshmallows and singing cowboy songs.  Well, except for the marshmallows, and the cowboy songs.  And the fire.  Oh, but there is a question of the week, which this week is "Who is your favorite Catholic author?"  To which the answer is "J.R.R. Tolkien", so now the rest of you don't need to bother.
     By the way, the main gathering place for us snippeteers is This That and the Other Thing, where our hostess RAnn is passing out the marshmallows.  Click HERE to see what my compadres have been writing.

     Meanwhile, we've had another busy week here at Principium et Finis:

Monday - A meditation on the Annunciation, which I managed yet again to post on the feast day itself, inspired by a beautiful stained glass window in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine. [link]

Tuesday - A (figurative) call to arms in defense of Truth and truths.  Saddle up! [link]

Wednesday - There are those who claim that it's cruel to bring children into a world where they might be abused or unwanted. Guess what we say to that here at Principium et Finis! [link]

Thursday - Thought I'd try out the "Throwback Thursday" thing.  What was going on with those Greek verbs by the Sea of Galilee? [link]

Friday - The latest installment of my series of posts on the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning Prayer [link]

- Also, another spine-tingling selection from J.S. Bach's Lenten masterpiece, St. Matthew's Passion [link]


Friday, March 28, 2014

J. S. Bach - Matthaus Passion - Erbarme dich

Another spine-tingling selection from J.S. Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.

Lauds: First Step In Our Daily Journey

     In my latest discussion on the Liturgy of the Hours I’ll take a look at Morning Prayer, traditionally known as Lauds.  While one may pray the Office  Readings first, Lauds is specifically designed to start us on our daily journey.
     First, a few words on the structure of this office.   If it’s the first office of the day start with the Invitatory; otherwise, as in the other offices, we start with “Lord open my lips/and my mouth will proclaim your praise” followed by a “Glory be . . . “.   This is followed by the psalmody where, unlike the Office of Readings, we find two psalms with an Old Testament canticle of comparable length in between.  All three are followed the “Glory Be”, and are bracketed by antiphons.  The particular reading and antiphons follow a four-week cycle, and there may also be other antiphons for particular times, such as Holy Week or Easter.
     Next comes a brief scripture reading, normally only a couple of verses.  These vary more widely by the season (there are different readings for Advent, Christmas Season, Lent, Easter) and, often by particular Holy Days.  This is followed by a three-part responsory, which also varies according to the liturgical calendar.  Today, for example, Friday of the Third Week of Lent, the responsory is:

            God Himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
                        - God Himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
            From those who would trap me with lying words.
                        -And from the hunter’s snare.
            Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
                        - God Himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.

     The Canticle of Zechariah, or the Benedictus, always follows the responsory.  This Gospel Canticle is the song of praise proclaimed by Zechariah after his voice has been returned to him at the naming of his son, John the Baptist. It is also preceded and followed by antiphons determined by the liturgical calendar.
     The office ends with a series of intercessions and a closing prayer which, yet again, accord with the season or Holy Day.
     I have always appreciated the way in which this office “orients” me at the beginning of the day.  Any morning prayer or offering can be expected to direct our attention to our relationship with our creator, and Lauds certainly does that.  Moreover, the canticles are passages that we might not ordinarily see: the Canticle of Hannah, for instance,(1 Samuel 2:1-10), a precursor to Mary’s Magnificat; a canticle from the prophet Habakkuk, chapter 3, that includes the evocative line “decay invades my bones”; or the triumphant song chanted by the Hebrews after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1):

            I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant,
            Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea . . . .

This last is reputed to be one of the oldest (at least in its present form) passages in the Bible.
     But the office of Morning Prayer does more than that.  It does not just orient us as individuals to God: It orients us to the whole scope of Salvation history.  For instance, every Friday the penitential Psalm 51 opens the office:

            Have mercy on me God, in your kindness.
            In your compassion blot out my offense.
            O wash me more and more from my guilt
            And cleanse me from my sin.

This prayer and others in the Office remind us of the fact that on Friday we focus in a special way on Christ’s suffering for our salvation.  
     We also start our day with a specific celebration of the liturgical season, or a particular solemnity or saint’s day, which has a much greater impact than if we should happen to remember it (or not) at some point during the course of the day.  The overall effect is that it brings us out of ourselves and unites us in prayer to the entire Church, which is saying the same prayer throughout the world, and which lives the same faith throughout time.  What better way to greet the new day?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Feed My Sheep (Throwback Thursday Edition)

I’m just catching on to this “Throwback Thursday” thing.  I haven’t been blogging very long (only a few months), but I still have stuff far down the list that I published when nobody but my children and two or three other people (literally!) were reading this blog.  This one contains a little bit of Greek verbiage, but don’t worry, it’s not a linguistic analysis.  Take a look, and we can deal the fallout on “Feedback Friday”.

“Feed My Sheep”

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.”    JN 21:15-17

     You’re probably familiar with the beautiful passage from John’s Gospel above.  As he sits with the risen Christ at a charcoal fire on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Peter has the opportunity to redeem himself for what he did the last time we saw him at a charcoal fire. On that occasion he denied Jesus three times: here Jesus invites Peter three times to tell Him, face to face, that he loves Him.
    The first time I read this passage in the original Greek I was intrigued by the fact, which is not reflected in English translations, that two different words for “love” are used.  The first two times Jesus asks, “do you love me?” he say agapais, and when Peter answers  “I love you” he says philo.  Now, knowing that, among Christians, the verb agapao came to mean all-embracing divine love, whereas philo referred to ordinary human affection, I thought I had stumbled onto Something Big.  It seems that many others have had the same idea, because I soon learned that there has been quite a lot written on this topic (who knew?).  Scripture scholars warn us, however, not to make too much of the different verbs.  It appears that at the time John wrote his Gospel the two verbs were used more or less interchangeably, although philo was much more common.  John, the scholars tell us, was probably doing no more than making his language more interesting by avoiding redundancy.
     I’m not one to pick a fight with the experts on their own turf; on the other hand, we know that John is a careful and subtle writer, and if he were that concerned with varying his vocabulary the prologue to his Gospel would read rather differently.  In any case, even if we can’t find a Big Linguistic-Theological Significance here, it seems to me that John is nonetheless showing us something.  Here’s what he have in the passage: Jesus asks “do you love me?” using one verb (agapais), Peter replies that he does using what appears to be a synonym (philo); then they repeat, each using the same separate verbs they used before; finally, as Peter grows visibly distressed by Jesus repeating the question (but knowing all too well why he’s repeating it), the Lord asks a third time . . . only this time He uses Peter’s word, as if to say, “All right, Peter, but do you love me?”.   
     I think we can see in this a reflection of how Grace works in our life.  Christ comes to Peter, who does not at first recognize Him; after Peter realizes with whom he’s talking, Christ invites him to express his love, and in so doing repudiate his earlier sin; Peter is willing, but can’t quite bring himself to use the same word that Jesus uses, instead replying with a (possibly more humble) synonym; after the same thing happens the second time, Jesus finally moves a little closer, andwhen He asks him the third time he echoes Peter’s own word back to him.  And every time Peter proclaims his love, Christ calls on him to share that love with others (“feed my sheep”).  Just so, God is always the initiator, inviting us to share His grace; He often comes to us in a tangible form (the Incarnation, the Eucharist, his ordained ministers acting In Persona Christi); He calls on us to act out the love we proclaim (audible confession, acts of mercy, evangelization). And He’s always willing to move a little closer, if it will bring us closer to Him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Abortion Myth # 9

 MYTH: “It is cruel to bring children into the world when they will be unwanted and abused.  Every child should be a wanted child.”

There is no logical or moral argument for killing an unborn child to save him or her from potential abuse; there are actually quite a few fallacies in the statement above:

-          What is truly cruel, and always wrong, is to take an innocent human life.  Killing is the most extreme form of abuse.

-           We are all “brought into the world” when our life begins, at conception; it’s too late to prevent it well before the earliest abortions.

-          It is also wrong to place a value on someone’s life because of how much another person, even their mother, wants them.

-          Accordingly, it is no more “compassionate” to kill an unborn child than it is a two year old, or for that matter, a ten year old. If a parent truly doesn’t “want” their child, the child can be put up for adoption because . . .

-          Every child is “wanted” by somebody: there are over a million families waiting to adopt at any given time.  There are lists of families who will gladly adopt babies with any sort of medical condition and from any ethnic background.

-          “Everyone agrees that children should be wanted . . . When it comes to the unborn, the pro-choice position is captured in a different slogan: ‘Every unwanted child a dead child.’” (Randy Alcorn, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments)

-          Countries that legalize abortion report sharp increases in child abuse.  In the first ten years after the legalization of abortion in America, child abuse increased over 500%.  (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Report, National Study on Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting, the American Humane Association, 1981 & 1991; 1977 Analysis of Child Abuse and Neglect Research, Us Dept. of H.E.W., 1978)
-          Moreover, it makes no sense to destroy someone now because of a lesser hurt that may never happen, or whose actual impact is impossible to predict.

-          Many people experience abuse or other forms of deprivation in childhood and still have happy and successful lives.  The above statement implies that only comfortable lives are worth living.

-          Do a Google search of “famous people not aborted” or a similar phrase and you will find lists of well-known people who were born into neglect, deprivation or abuse, such that many people would have considered it more prudent to abort them.  On these lists you will find names such as Beethoven, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jazz singer Ethel Waters, Steve Jobs, even, oddly enough, pro-abortion stalwarts such as Cher and Barack Obama.  Was it “cruel” to allow these people to live?


Essential Pro-Life Resources:

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments (link)  

The Elliot Institute (link)  

National Right To Life Committee (link) 

Care-Net (link)

The Nurturing Network (link)

To See The Entire Abortion Myths Series Click HERE

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Mission In The Current Crisis

     “The truth will set you free”, says the Lord (John 8:32).   As religious practice and belief decline, moral decay and with it simple human misery are on the rise.  As fewer people know the truth, therefore, fewer are free.  We need a "two track" approach in the current crisis: we must, as always, proclaim the Gospel and "be prepared to give reasons for the faith that is in" us (see 1 Peter 3:15).  But we also need to address some of the smaller, but still vitally important, truths that are falling by the wayside. The Father of Lies has a large and growing army, even if most of his foot soldiers don’t realize whose standard they are following (see here), and not only does he feel strong enough today to spread his falsehoods far and wide, he is confidently assaulting the very idea of Truth itself (and not without some success).   His most dedicated cadres (devoted abortion promoters, hardened leftists, jihadists, moral relativists) do not seem terribly interested in dispassionate, reasoned argument, and can only be convinced by a real Conversion, which only God can provide.  
     There are a large number of people in the middle, however, perhaps a majority, whose hearts and minds can still be swayed by the right information and the proper example.  And unless more people come to embrace God's plan for living, the misery in our society will only get worse. I see this as a major purpose of this blog and others like it: to share whatever facts or arguments we come across that might reveal the Truth to the multitudes who hear mostly the lies of the Deceiver poured out by the news and entertainment industry, the universities and school systems, and many (most?) politicians.  That’s what I try to do with my “Abortion Myths” posts, and many others.  Freedom from sin, after all, is the ultimate freedom.
     That is, course, why those who push an anti-God agenda on Earth so often feel the need to quash the voices of those who disagree with them (here), because people set free by The Truth (see John 14:6) aren’t interested in what the social engineers are selling. You can read about the most recent in a very long string of examples here.  A 16 year old girl and her older sister were conducting a pro-life protest at the University of California at Santa Barbara.  As they were engaging a group of students in discussion a professor approached who tried to intimidate the protestors and the students with her credentials, and when that didn’t work she tried to drown out the protestors by talking over them and leading the students in a chant; when that also didn’t work she seized the teen’s sign and made off with it.  When the grown-up professor pushed the girl several times in her efforts to retain the purloined sign, the young pro-lifer had the presence of mind to capture the events on her cell phone while her sister called the police..  If you think the professor was ashamed at being exposed as a speech-censoring, teen-bullying, intolerant bigot, think again:  according to the story linked above, “In the report filed by campus police, she claimed she had a ‘moral right’ to act in the manner she did.”
     The professor above is not an anomaly: she is the very embodiment of the “tolerant”, “openminded” left (while Christianity belongs to neither left nor right, the most virulent attacks on Christian belief today are coming from the left). 
Tolerance on display at Wisconsin State Capitol
In the last few years you might have seen similarly abusive behavior on the part of countless advocates of various “progressive” causes . . . or maybe not, if you get your information from the mainstream media: they tend to find stories of this kind not newsworthy.  The information is readily available from other sources, however; Michelle Malkin has written a whole book about it [here], and incidents have continued to multiply.  Since then we’ve seen gay marriage supporters trying to ruin careers and shut down businesses [here], leftist public sector unionists invading the Wisconsin state capitol [here], liberal Common Cause protesters calling for the lynching of African American  Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas [here], and on and on.
     In spite of, or rather because of, the established media’s refusal to cover the misdeeds of their ideological soulmates, the bulk of the population remains unaware of the true attitudes and behavior of the activists on the cultural and political left.  Like the professor above, they believe that they have a “moral right” to engage in behavior most Americans would consider intolerant, abusive, and even tyrannical.  But you don’t have to take my word for it: you can read it in their own words.  Michael Farris, President of the Home School Legal Defense Association has documented a number of apparently respectable law school professors expressing their views on tolerance, free expression, the role of the state (full article here).  Here’s a sample, from Catherine Ross of George Washington Law School:

In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for difference should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children.

This, by the way, was not loose talk around the faculty lounge: she published it in an article in the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal (ironic name, don’t you think?).  And it’s not merely homeschoolers she’s gunning for:

If a parent subscribes to an absolutist belief system premised on the notion that it was handed down by a creator, that it (like the Ten Commandments) is etched in stone and that all other systems are wrong, the essential lessons of a civic education (i.e., tolerance and mutual respect) often seem deeply challenging and suspect. If the core principle in a parent’s belief system is that there is only one immutable truth that cannot be questioned, many educational topics will be off limits. Such “private truths” have no place in the public arena, including the public schools.

In other words, anyone who believes in the God of the Bible and of historic Christianity “has no place in the public arena.”  Farris quotes another professor, Kimberly Yuracko of Northwestern University, who is even more explicit in an article in the California Law Review (notice yet again that this is a completely premeditated, thoroughly peer-reviewed public pronouncement).  Yuracko says:

. . . parental control over children’s basic education flows from the state (rather than vice versa). States delegate power over children’s basic education to parents, and the delegation itself is necessarily subject to constitutional constraints.

Wow.  The states delegate decision making power over children to the parents?  It’s harder to imagine a balder expression of a totalitarian worldview.  And take note: the specific occasion here may be homeschooling, but the activist social engineers take the same approach to any institution or belief system that they believe stands in the way of achieving their “tolerant” utopia.  That’s why they direct so much of their fire at the Church and at the Traditional Family.
     I find the behavior and ideas expressed above to be outrageous.  I believe that most Americans (and most other people, for that matter) would also find them outrageous, and would be amazed at how widespread they are.  They will not find out about these things from the mainstream media outlets, as we have seen.  Remarking on the lessons learned from totalitarian governments in the mid twentieth century, Henri de Lubac said: "It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man."  Unfortunately, there is a relatively small but tirelessly committed cadre working non-stop to try it one more time.  If we who know better do not speak up, who will?