Monthly Archives: December 2006

Oz (and Kiwi) Lang Syne

For all of us who quite liked the bits of Australian 80’s music that trickled over here to the States, Tim Blair presents possibly the best thread ever for New Year’s Eve. Yes, those of us who are stuck sick at home can now have nostalgia for some kind of alternate existence, as you throw yourself a Down Under dance party on YouTube….

Btw, don’t forget that Sarah Jane Adventures premieres tonight (tomorrow) over in the UK! (Time to go share a few bits.)

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Yet Another Fannish Moral Dilemma

Capcom has a videogame out called Okami. (O with a macron over it, actually.) In this game, in which all the scenes are rendered as if a Japanese inkbrush painting, you play the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu, as she wanders the earth in the form of a white wolf.

Now, I know a lot of people out there are asking themselves, “Could a Christian morally play this game, which obviously is based on pagan mythology?”

But personally, what I’m asking is how a Shinto worshipper — of which Japan is full! — could  possibly play this game. I mean, how could you play a goddess whom you believed to be a real being, highly interested in Japan and thus you?

We live in a very odd time. Very.

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Whitaker’s Words

Btw, I don’t want anybody to think I’m suddenly oh-so-great at Latin. (Especially since my grasp of certain conjugations is so darned weak.) There’s a wonderful free program out there, in several incarnations and platforms, called Whitaker’s Words. It doesn’t translate everything for you; but it does look up each word’s definition, number, gender, case, tense, etc. It must have been really tedious to enter the whole Latin dictionary and the whole paradigm for each word, but dang! is it useful. So thank you, William Whitaker.

Here’s a handy online version of Whitaker’s Words. You can also download a program for yourself here.

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Sermon IV, De sacrosancto corporis Domini sacramento by St. Albert the Great

This sermon has a lot of wonderful sensual images. I’m particularly fond of the Holy Spirit as a perfume-maker, of the faithful rushing to church when they smell the wonderful ointments on Jesus’ robes, and of the heat of the Spirit’s fire in the Church producing thermals on which the angels circle.

4th Sermon:
Of the third [thing] noted about sacrifice — to wit, the excellence of our sacrifice.

“Come, eat of my bread”, etc. and “Your motives”, etc., as in the first sermon. Likewise, the other themes as above, or similar. It was already told above of two [of the points] noted about sacrifice; now I am speaking about the third. Therefore, the third thing to be noted is the excellence of our sacrifice, that is, of the Body of Christ, which surpasses the sacrifices of the Law for three reasons, to wit:

I. In honor,
II. In dignity,
III. In power.

From the reason that [its] honor [lasts] as long as Time, [its] worth as long as God, [its] power as long as the effect of His goodness.

Our sacrifice excels the rest for the reason of honor, which will be proved from three things: from its outward appearance, its virginal origin, and its spiritual sweetness.

First, the honor of which sacrifice will be proved from its exterior appearance, because under no other characteristic could it be so clean, so beautiful, so honorable to have been served as under the appearance of bread and wine. For those many inconveniences do not attend it which would have attended those bloody sacrifices of the Law. Proverbs 17:1 — “Better a dry morsel with joy, than a house full of victims with strife.” The dry morsel is our sacrifice under the appearance of bread and its honor. Zachariah 9:17 — “For what is his good thing and what is his beautiful thing, but the grain of the chosen ones, and wine springing forth virgins?”

Second, it will be proved worthy of his honor that is corrupt in no way, but gets its origin from the virginal flower. Ecclesiastes 24:23 — “My flowers are the fruit of honor and of the honorable,” as if it says: My flowers of modesty and virginity are turned into the fruit of most noble and honorable offspring. Augustine*: “The nobility of the mother is from the divinity of the offspring and the nobility of the offspring is from the virginity of the mother.” Canticles 3:11 — “Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see King Solomon in the diadem with which his mother crowned him.” Gloss**: “Go forth from the ignorance of infidelity, and see King Christ in the diadem — that is, in the flesh — with which his mother, to wit, Mary, crowned Him. That is, she honored Him in this, that she is a virgin, not spoiled in appearance as other women, soiled with original sin.”
* Sermo 195. Migne, S. l. tom. 38, col. 1018.
** Interlinearis et ordinaria.

Third, the honor of our sacrifice will be proved from its spiritual sweetness, which all Christians draw from it. So then says Tullius, “It is honorable that his strength draws and wins us over”, as to wit, the virtuous thing, O truly greatest of its kind, which abounds in sweetness of kindness. And the thing of its kind is the sacrifice of the Body of the Lord. Ecclesiasticus 49:1 — “The remembrance of Josiah is like the composition of a sweet smell made by the art of a perfumer. His remembrance shall be sweet as honey in every mouth.” The remembrance of Josiah is the remembrance of the Savior, or of the sacrifice of the altar. Here the composition of the Holy Spirit is made out of His own expensive materials, His Divinity and humanity, and from the most pleasant honor and kindness — the odor which draws to itself the faithful ones of the Church. Canticles 1:2 [Songs 1:3] — “Your name is as oil poured out; therefore, young maidens have loved you. Draw me; we will run after you, to the odor of your ointments.” Therefore all who truly believe will frequently and fervently rush to the Church, in hope of grace and devotion, to this sacrifice which will be seen and prayed.

*** Cf. de Offic. 1. L. c. 17.

The second reason our sacrifice excels the rest is in dignity, which will be proved from the three most precious things out of which it is reckoned, to wit: out of Christ’s most pure Body, most just Soul, and most high Godhood. These three are represented in the paschal lamb, which will truly be in our sacrifice. Exodus 12:9 — “You shall eat the lamb’s head with its feet and entrails.” The lamb’s head signifies Christ’s Divinity, the entrails the soul, the feet the flesh. Wisdom 8:19 — “And I was an ingenious boy”, that is, the Son of God full of wisdom, “and had received a good soul”, that is, I come “to a body undefiled.” Behold, in Christ is God, soul, and body. Because of this we say three things: “Hail, Savior of the world, Word of the Father, true Victim, living Flesh, Deity entire, true man,” to wit, from flesh and soul.

Because of so much excellence of dignity, the sacrifice has triple prerogatives above the rest: it is accepted by God according to Himself, it is reverenced by Angels, it is adored by humans. The first is because of the just Soul, the second because of the clean Flesh, and the third because of the most high Godhood.

Of the first, Malachi 3:4 — “And the sacrifice of Judah… shall please the Lord”, that is, Christ, the just one of kings, of whom in Psalm 107:9 [108:8] — “Judah is my king.” Zachariah 9:9 — “And behold, your King will come to you, the Just One and Savior.” The sacrifice of Judah, therefore, pleases the Lord, because God the Father approves the offering of the Body of Christ, in which, to wit, He humbles Himself most greatly, even unto death — obeying the Father, and triumphing over the Devil, and redeeming the human race. Ecclesiasticus 35:9 — “The sacrifice of the just is acceptable….” “….and is an odor of sweetness in the regard of the Most High.”

Of the second, Matthew 24:28 — “Wherever the body shall be, there the eagles shall be gathered together also”, that is, the holy Angels. Pope Leo: “Around the Body of Christ are the eagles, which circle over us on the wing, on the Spirit.”* — clearly the holy Angels, lovers of the world’s clean spirits, doing homage to the Body of Christ in the world, and protecting the Faithful who are present. Gregory: “Who can have doubt of the Faithful, in the hour of whose sacrifice the heavens are opened? Choirs of angels draw near to that mystery of Christ; the highest join in with the lowest.”**

* In Decr. Grat. III. Dist. II. c. 38. Verba sunt. S. Ambrosii in
Expos. Evang. sec. Luc. c. 17, 37. Migne, S. l. tom. 15. col. 1782.

** In Decr. Grat. III. Dist. II. c. 73. S. Greg. Dial. lib. IV. c. 58.
Migne S. l. tom. 77. col. 425.

Of the third, Psalm 98:5 [99:5] — “Adore His footstool, for it is holy.” It is said in Isaiah 66:1 that the earth is God’s footstool; and it signifies the flesh of Christ, which is originally of earth. This is adored by us, because it is holy, because it is united to God. Augustine: “It is known that because the earth is in Christ, that is, the flesh, that it is adored without impiety, because the Word of God accepted it. Who adores it, then, does not gaze at earth; but better than that, he adores what is His footstool.”

*** Enarr. in Ps. 98. n. 9. (sed non ad verbum). Migne, S. l. tom. 37.
col. 1264.

Also Augustine: “The heretics say, ‘How is it, insofar as you do not deny that the flesh of something is not the creature, at the same time you adore flesh together with His Divinity, and devote yourself to it no less than to the Divinity?’ I respond, ‘On the contrary. In Christ, humanity is perfected. Therefore, I adore the Lord’s flesh, because it has been taken up to Divinity, and is united in Divinity’s unity. If you separate human from God, I will neither believe nor serve them. Would one not treat with reverence the purple or the diadem of the king if one found them lying on the ground? Truly, the king has clothed himself with them; one incurs danger of death if one scorns what should be honored with the king. So also in Christ the Lord, humanity is not lonely or naked, but united with Divinity — to wit, the one Son of God, true God and true man. If one scorns what should be honored, one will die eternally.”*

* Sermo 246. al. 58. de verb. Dom. in fine. Migne, S. l. tom. 38.
col. 1078.

Pope Alexander: “No better sacrifice can be, than the Body and Blood of Christ, and as this oblation is more powerful than the rest, so it has better claim to be honored and must be venerated.”** Therefore, because it is inestimably better than the rest because it is united with God, it ought to be most adored, and the children of Christians are to be taught to adore it reverently.

** Decr. Grat. P. III. Dist. II. c. 9. Ep. l. ad omn. orthod. c. 9. Migne,
S. l. tom. 130. col. 34.

The third reason our sacrifice excels the rest is in power, that is, through the effect of its goodness. It does triple good deeds in triple conditions of the Faithful: to wit, in this world, in Purgatory, in Heaven. In the first condition, it loosens daily sins; in the second, it lightens the burden of penalties; in the third, it produces great joy. Therefore, it is likewise that the holy sacrificial offering of the priest is broken into three pieces, so that the power of the sacrifice of the Body of the Lord is represented to foreshadow what it has the power to do in the triple conditions of the Faithful.

Leviticus 5:15 — “The soul which shall sin through mistake… shall offer for his offence a spotless ram”, that is, Christ, says the gloss.*** From which the Church sings, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”

*** Interlinearia.

Gregory: “The Lord gives us this sacrament of salvation, so that, because we sin daily and we already cannot die, we would pursue the remission of sins through this sacrament of His Body.”*

* In Decr. Grat. P. III. Dist. II. c. 73. Ap. Alcuinum in lib. de divin.
offic. cap. de celebr. Missae, qui S. Gregor. citat. Migne. S. l. tom. 101.
col. 1270. Alii haec verba addicunt S. Augustino.

Of the second, Leviticus 17:11 — “I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation of the soul.” And therefore the flesh and blood of Christ is rightly offered by the Church for the souls of the dead, so as to release those who are bound there, for their leftover penance, from the penalties of Purgatory.

Augustine: “There is no doubt that the prayers and alms and sacrifice of Holy Church are useful to ease the souls of the dead, so that God should be urged to mercy on them from what they deserved for their sins in this world.”**

** Sermo 172. n. 2. Migne, S. l. tom. 38. col. 936.

Of the third, Leviticus 10:14 — “The breast also, that is offered… you shall eat in a most clean place, thou and thy sons and thy daughters with thee.” The breast, that is, exactly the best and sweetest part of the animal, signifies the sweetness of the Body of Christ, insofar as it is eaten in a most clean place — that is, insofar as it delights the blessed, who most have joy and rejoice in this sacrifice of the remembrance of their redemption, from the sight of our salvation and from admiration of the Divine goodness. Or surely, the breast is eaten in a most clean place — because the sweetness of the Body of the Lord, which here is grazed upon in a veil and in the Sacrament, is enjoyed by the blessed in heaven in plain sight.

Revelation 2:17 — “I will give the victors the hidden manna.” Further along, the gloss says***: “I Myself, who am the Living Bread which came down from heaven, and who was hidden in manna.” Which manna, even if it remains hidden now, will be shown then, remaining the reason for every flavor’s delight.

*** Interlinearis.

Hence, the Post-Communion prayer says: “May the Sacraments accomplish in us, Lord, what they contain, so that what we now take on to all appearances, we may put on in the reality of things”, that is, may we see the Body of Christ in plain sight and enjoy Him fully, according to that well-known [passage], John 14:21 — “Who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and show Myself to him.” And in this vision of the Lord, all our enjoyment of good things will be full. Psalm 15:11 [16:11] — “You shall fill me with joy with your countenance”, and (Psalm 16:15 [17:15]) — “I shall be satisfied when your glory shall appear.” Amen

+ Postcommunio in Dom. 17. post Pent.

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First Things Considered as a Helix of Semi-Pretentious Trolls

Usually, I enjoy reading First Things, whether or not I agree with their writers.

Today, they have decided to utilize typical troll methods. First they set out the bait; then they went back under their bridge, listening for the trip-trap of tiny hooves. Today’s troll: “Is any science fiction literature?” in the variant: “Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe produced literature. Now, does any science fiction stand near them?”

Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe all wrote some genre fiction, including some science fiction and fantasy. So, clearly, some science fiction stands very near them.

Now, if Mr. Bottum (yes, his real name) on First Things really wants to talk about other great literary works of science fiction by other great writers, he will have to restate the question in a civil way. (Being careful, by the bye, not to diss the sainted More and his Utopia, whom I would have expected a religious journal to have mentioned with respect for his contribution to the field.) He might also do the non-lazy thing, which is to read one of the vast numbers of articles and books written to inform you of the identities of great literary works which are also great science fiction, instead of trying to torque his readers into doing all the work for him.

But I particularly appreciate how a supposedly Christian writer is doing his busybody best to set back evangelization among science fiction fandom yet again. His ill-considered little post will be remembered decades after he’s dead and gone, as yet more proof that Christians are necessarily hostile to science fiction. What a gift for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Now, stay tuned to see if the troll does the next logical thing — removing the literary credentials of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Dorothy L. Sayers for writing genre fiction — or if cowardice and his better angels stay his hand.

Sigh. It was a better Net when enlightened despot-admins could ban bandwidth-wasting troublemakers like this. Gharlane, thou shouldst be flaming at this hour.


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Gerald Ford, RIP

I was very young when Gerald Ford took office. But I remember him well. He was the first thing I remember seeing on the national news that wasn’t an astronaut, and he wasn’t someone worrying like the old president. He was solid, trustworthy, normal, and obviously nice. Everybody mocked him, but he didn’t seem to care; he just went on doing his job and being nice. And when the 1976 elections came around, my six-year-old self was incredulous that anyone could possibly want to vote for Jimmy Carter.

I still remember the first time I opened an Allan Drury novel and met Harley Hudson, the Senator from Michigan who became president almost by accident, and proved tougher than anybody expected. I now know that Michigan was a coincidence, and that Hudson was originally a fictionalized Harry Truman. But back then, I just felt astonishment, and then gratitude. Somebody else out there appreciated President Ford.

I’ve learned a few things over the years about Ford’s presidency that went over my head when I was a kid. I know why some on both sides opposed the pardon. But I think Ford was right. Watergate had dragged on too long, and the country needed to make an end of it, so it could get back to work and heal its wounds. None of his critics can say what their plans would have done. What he did, worked.

When I heard this morning that Gerald Ford had passed away, I’m not ashamed to tell you that I cried. He was a good president and a good man. Maybe he could have done better; maybe he could have started the Reagan Revolution earlier, or fought Roe vs. Wade, or done a zillion other things. Heck, he could have gone to Ohio State instead.

But what he did, worked. He muddled through, and so did America.

May God be good to him.

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Psychomachia — Modesty vs. Lust

Next on the grassy field appeared Modesty;
The virgin shines in lovely armor.
The Sodomite Lust is advancing,
whose ancestors warred with torches —
and a burning pineknot dipped in spruce tar
and sulphur, she thrusts in the maid’s eyes.
Modesty grabs for the flaming light,
and Lust tries to choke her with smoke.
But Modesty, the fearless virgin,
tosses a rock with her right hand
at the dire she-wolf’s red-hot weapon.
Thrown down, the pine torch goes out.
Then the whore’s bared neck’s bored through
with a shortsword. She vomits
hot steaming clots of infected blood;
exhaling her rotted breath,
she pollutes the neighboring air.

“She’s done,” exclaims the queen victrix,
“This will be your end, supreme one.
You’ll be flat on your face forever,
not daring to spit deadly flames
at God’s servants, men or maids.
Only Christ’s lamp kindles chaste souls.
Harasser of humans, think you can recover
doused powers, or grab breath to warm you?

“After the Assyrian bedroom?
Holofernes’ neck was chopped;
the drunk’s desire washed out in his blood.
Sharp Judith scorns the jewels and pillows
of the wife-betraying warlord
and quenches sinful frenzies with a sword.
The woman is carrying back
from the foe, a notorious trophy.
Go with unshaking hand,
bold heavensent defender!”

Maybe the strong matron’s companions
up till now were fighting
under the shadow of the Law,
Still, our times she shapes. In truth,
strength flows into earthly bodies;
the head of the great is cut off
by the weak, powerless servants.

“And after divine command already
gave an untouched virgin childbirth,
is it possible anything’s left
still to be done to you?
After the virgin birth — by which
the former origin of the human body
deserts nature, and the High Power
brings forth new flesh,
and the unmarried wife even
conceives God the Christ —
mortal man from his mother,
but divine from his Father.
Even now, from that which conceives Him,
everyone’s flesh is divine,
and takes the character of co-heirs
of God, by league of alliance.

“Of course, the Word made flesh doesn’t lose
being what it has been,
while the Word glues on experience of the flesh —
His majesty not diminishing through it,
but drawing the poor ones up to be nobler.
What He has always been remains so,
while He’s beginning to be what He’s not been.
We, who were not, are what we weren’t already;
we will be made wealthy, born into better.
He carries me back to myself,
remaining Himself. Nor does God lessen
what’s His by what’s ours; instead what is His
becomes our own; and He has carried us
up to Heaven with the gifts He granted us.

“Gifts like this — that you lie conquered,
filthy Lust, nor, after Mary,
are able to break through what’s right, what’s our duty.

“You deathroad guide, you gate of ruin,
staining the body and plunging the soul
into Tartarus! Take your gloomy head,
still cursed with cold, down to the Abyss!
Die, brotheldweller! Beg to the manes!
Be shut in Avernus, and dumped to the deeps
of the shadows of night.
May fiery streams pull you under,
may black and brimstone streams
whirl you round through resounding whirlpools —
and already, Greater one of furies,
you may not tempt Christ-worshippers,
for their cleansed bodies
will be guarded for the King.”

She said this, and glad Lust was killed dead,
Modesty washed in the Jordan’s waves
the corrupted shortsword sticky with ichor’s
red dew, and the wound-spotted shining iron.
So the victorious victrix purified the point
in the teaching river, destroying by baptism
what’d been blemished by the foe’s jugular;
nor yet was contented to sheathe the cleansed shortsword
back in its scabbard, lest rust under cover
occupy rough spots she had washed off
and eat off its sheen. In a Catholic temple
of the divine spring, she consecrated it
where it coruscates with light eternal.

This is a translation from Prudentius’ “Psychomachia”. You can read the previous part — Faith vs. OldGodsWorship — back here. (Given that the poem’s preface is almost a hundred lines summarizing all of salvation history, I think I’ll be leaving that for last.)

And yes, it does say “catholico in templo”! I don’t make this stuff up! 🙂

Pudicitia isn’t quite Chastity or Purity. It’s actually modesty, shamefacedness, maybe even shyness. So Modesty Blaise was following venerable precedent. 🙂

Notice the clear connection of Modesty’s weaponry to Judith’s, and of treating the body with respect to Jesus’ incarnation making flesh a holy thing. So this turned out to be very suitable for Christmastime.

Big huge illustrated “Psychomachia” page from Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. Note that Modesty’s obviously flameproof!

Over at St. Gall, the Psychomachia is in Cod. Sang 135, starting at p. 384. There are pictures of Fides rassling with Cultura Veterus Deorum on pp. 388-389. Pudicitia chucks rocks at Libido on p. 391.

I’ll try to translate Patience next week.


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