Monthly Archives: June 2008

Servers, Girls, and “The Last Shall Be First”

This just came to mind over at Father Z’s, where they’ve been having (among other things) a discussion of girl servers.

I was all for girls serving back when I was a girl; but mostly from the standpoint that since boys were so lazy about doing it that girls might as well get in, and that since it was legally possible and had precedents, it could very well be done. But the one time I had a chance to do it, it felt very odd and wasn’t something I really wanted to repeat. It looks odd, too, up in the sanctuary. Not revolting or wrong, but just not right. As if someone has missed the point.

So I periodically put some thought into this subject. The thing that comes to mind is that the Church has traditionally had a hierarchical structure in which, literally, the last shall be first and the one in charge is the one who is the servant of all the rest. To wash feet was degrading and yucky — hard work and detail work. It was the kind of job that, in the ancient world, was usually given to slaves or women. The only well-off people who usually did it for themselves were Jewish priests preparing to go into the Holy Place. For Jesus to wash the feet of his Twelve was to prepare them to go into His sanctuary — to attend the first Mass _in_ that sanctuary, and thus assist not as members of the people but as priests and bishops.

There were some deaconesses appointed at need to enter women’s quarters without scandal, but the usual deacons — servants — of the Church were men. Men to fetch and carry, men to do menial everyday work that would be assigned in a household to slaves or women. Responsible, important work, yes. But also purposefully menial, and purposefully given largely to men.

In another interesting move, vestments are largely adaptations of archaic men’s clothes. Part of what makes them archaic is that, outside of church, their elements would largely be interpreted by modern eyes as being women’s clothing. Again and again, these elements are maintained in vestments long after they have started to seem “girly” on non-clerical men. Why do they not seem girly? Perhaps because of this role reversal. Long robes and lace and big necklaces continued to seem manly, on men doing work that would anywhere else have seemed like work for parlormaids.

The sanctuary — the area immediately around the altar — spends a good part of Mass as the dwelling of God. In the court of Heaven, the rules are different than in the world. So it’s exalted to fetch and carry, and men dress in a different way. It does have a certain logic to it, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, women were largely the philanthropists of the early Church, giving money and space to hold Mass, praying, making vows, and doing all sorts of things — things which were not menial. Lady Bountiful does not fetch and carry. In the rest of the ancient world, women could only have taken the role of Martha in most religions, and it took a rich persuasive woman to be allowed to listen to a philosopher’s lectures. In the Christian world, women were actually encouraged to listen and rest!

So now we come to servers, who stand in for adult men training up to be priests, and do what they’d do. And what they do is menial work, the work of slaves and women. They act as human bookstands, human censers of perfume, human candlesticks and tables. They fetch and carry and stand still without drawing attention. Boys who enter into this world are doing something vastly against their usual natural inclinations. Girls who enter into this world are spending a whole lot of time being submissive and attentive to the wishes of an older man.

So it should be obvious that it’s feminist for boys to serve as acolytes and more feminist for girls not to do so.

Now, I fully acknowledge that it’s not just fetching and carrying, and putting religious significance on an act makes it a lot less servile. But. It’s not a matter of positions of power, either. To be a priest or a deacon is to be at everyone’s beck and call at all hours. To be a server is much the same, but with more limited hours and numbers of persons to serve.

Women already do way too much of this stuff. It’s always tempting to take on more of the stuff we’re good at, or that society encourages us to do; and to serve is not all that far a stretch. So it’s not wrong to be a server and girls can do a good job; but it’s not right, either. It’s counter-productive to this “reversal of gender roles” principle, and thus to part of the intended purpose of serving. Girls should be encouraged to sit back in the pew, prop their Lady Bountiful feet up on the kneeler, and watch the boys scurry about instead of doing it themselves.

And if you think America is so egalitarian that reversals of gender roles are no longer needed —

Do it for the poor Muslim women and those of other oppressive religions; for all the female sex slaves hidden in our society and procured from around the world; and for all the many other oppressed ladies in our world today. They could really use some role reversal, and they aren’t all that few.

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Irish Catholic Heaven Sounds Like Riverdance

Also from “Tidings of Doomsday”, a sermon in Middle Irish translated by Whitley Stokes:

But the Saints and the Righteous, who have fulfilled the commands of the Lord and his teaching, will be called to glory, to honour, to veneration, into the eternal Life on God’s right hand, for ever and ever, to wit, the folk of gentleness and tenderness, of charity and of mercy, and of every fair deed besides, a folk of virginity and penitence, and widows faithful for God’s sake.

Then shall there be a great noise and mighty sound of the pure souls stepping on the right hand of their King and their Lord in the heavenly Kingdom, in ranks of the King of heaven and earth and hell. A place wherein is the Light that excels every light, every splendour, without interruption, without darkness. Life eternal without death: clamour of joy without sorrow: health without sickness: youth without old age: peace without quarrel: rest without adversity: freedom without labour, without fatigue, without need of food or raiment or sleep: holiness without age, without decay: radiant unity of angels:

delights of paradise: feasting without interruption among nine ranks of angels and of holy folks of heaven and holy assemblies of the most noble King, and among holy, spiritual hues of heaven and brightness of sun in a kingdom high, noble, admirable, lovable, just, adorned, great, smooth, honeyed, free, restful, radiant: in plains of heaven, in delightful stations, in golden chairs, in glassen beds, in silvern stations wherein everyone shall be placed according to his own honour and right and welldoing.

But indescribable are the amplitude and width of the heavenly kingdom. For the bird that is swiftest of flight upon earth, for him the journey of the kingdom would not end though he flew from the world’s beginning until the end thereof.

Vast, then, are this fruitfulness and the light, the loveableness and the stability of that City: its rest and its sweetness, its security, its preciousness, its smoothness, its dazzlingness, its purity, its lovesomeness, its whiteness, its melodiousness, its holiness, its bright purity, its beauty, its mildness, its height, its splendour, its dignity, its venerableness, its plenteous peace, its plenteous unity. Yea, not fit is any creature to set forth the hundredth part of the description of the goodness of that City, but still it is better to relate this little of them than to be in silence.

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Gentle Nature-Loving Medieval Celtic Spirituality Goes to Hell

From “Tidings of Doomsday”, a sermon in Middle Irish, translated by Whitley Stokes. (It’s a nice one, with lots of Jesus’ talk about those who found Him hungry and gave Him food, etc. In this case, you found Him in need of a guesthouse. Or they found Him in captivity, and they got tidings of Him and loosed Him. Heh! None of this visiting hours stuff for the Irish!)

Anyway, in this Irish writer’s scheme, this is what Hell is like:

Then will be shut the sinners’ three locks, to wit, shutting of Hell for ever on them, and shutting of their eyes on the world to which they gave love, and shutting of the heavenly kingdom on them.

Thereafter they will sit a merciless seat on glowing coals of great fire before the king of evil in the glen of tortures, wherein they shall have heavy punishments, to wit, death without life: dark fire: life woeful, sad, foul, unclean: a place wherein shall be many dogs, keen, greedy, gluttonous, broad-eared, longclawed, sharppawed, beside them. And toads, keen, rough, destroying one another. And adders poisonous, very swift, around the Devil’s city. And lions fierce, rending. And many in their dark mass and in their dark light. A place wherein shall be birds hideous, taloned, fearful, made of iron. And stinking lochs, stormy, cold, hellish. Fires dark, ever burning. Red flags under feet. Swords maiming. Cats scratching and furrowing. Fiends torturing. Wounds without healing. Flame without quenching. Gag on tongues. Strangling on throats. Vexing on heads. Yelling and gagging on voices. Fettering on soles. A place wherein beside every evil shall be the Monster, conspicuous, awful, manyheaded, with crowds of red glowing coals. Somewhat of his description, to wit: a hundred necks upon him and a hundred heads on each neck, and five hundred teeth in each head. A hundred hands upon him, and a hundred palms on each hand, and a hundred nails on every palm.

A place wherein existence is without lovingness, without friendship, in thirst, in hunger, in great cold, in great heat, in want of every good thing and in fulness of every evil thing, in union with the disunion of the fiends and the household of Hell.

Then will be there woe and lamentation, wail and crying, groan and scream of every mouth, and a curse without resting from the sinners on their abbot — to wit, on the Devil, for he it is that puts them in endurance of punishment for every evil they did through his temptation; and a curse, too, from him on monks about him — to wit, on the sinners, since the greater is his own punishment for every evil they did through his seduction of them, inciting every evil.

Awful, in sooth, and hideous is that prison which the Lord has made for the Devil with his fiends, to wit, Hell. Low, now, and deep is its place. For though a millstone were cast into Hell’s mouth, not sooner than at the end of a thousand years would it reach the bottom. The soul’s journey, now, after coming from the body, is for a space of thirty years from top to bottom thereof, as is the opinion of certain persons.

Strong is that prison’s surrounding: it is full of fear, dread, danger, lamentation. Dark, black, hideous is its open mouth. It is a rock for chastening every soul that is tortured. It is a flame for burning. It is a scourge for smiting. It is an edge for maiming. It is a night for blinding. It is a fog for smothering. It is a cross for torturing. It is a sword for vengeance. It is an awful weapon for slaying and for cutting. It is a howling of tortures. It is a crowd of punishments. It is a drowning, it is a plaguing. It is a breaking: it is a bruising, it is a pollution, it is an exhaustion, it is a consuming, it is a hacking, it is a burning, it is a swallowing: it is high, it is low, it is very cold: it is very hot, it is narrow, it is wide: great is the stench of the steam of its stewing flesh.


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A Medieval Irish Catholic Homilist on the Resurrection of Babies and the Unborn

From “The Tidings of the Resurrection”, translated by Whitley Stokes.

It is asked, now, will there be a resurrection for human abortives…? The answer to that is, that beyond there will certainly be a resurrection into life for all who have had death here after life. If, then, the abortives had death after life, even in their mother’s womb, it is certain that they will have a resurrection beyond, and that they will have life (again) after that death. If, then, there is thus no doubt of the resurrection of abortives, much less is there doubt of the resurrection of infants….

…‘All men’, quoth the apostle, ‘will arise out of death in the likeness of the age and form of Christ.’ …Whatsoever, then, is wanting of completeness in their body to abortives and to little infants… which have not their lawful size and are defective in certain corporeal members, the Lord will supply beyond in the Resurrection, so that naught shall be lacking to them of the full propriety of their form or of their proper nature. For that is a thing which they possess in themselves, according to the invisible and hidden law of their nature, though they have not possessed it according to material nor according to bodily size… as Job affirms when prophesying in his book and saying that all men will arise in their proper bodies.

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A French King Arthur Show!

Kaamelot. It’s a historical well-informed show about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

From France.

Composed solely of comedy skits.

Spottily subtitled on You Tube, and found via Shrine of the Holy Whapping, which posted a link to a hysterical skit about harmonic intervals in music.

And no, it’s not just funny for music geeks. King Arthur singing harmony is not only accurate to the medieval romances (oh, yeah, most of those were French!), but also intrinsically funny.

Btw, the Kaamelot spelling is sort of a joke on placenames in Brittany, I think.


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Infomercials Are Out of Hand.

They’re running an infomercial for a Kiyoseki curling iron — on the Cincinnati public TV station.

If this is just Time Warner, it’s either a big mistake or crooked.

If it’s the public TV station, it’s super-crooked.

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Apparently the Japanese Like Some Bits of the US Military Too Much.

There’s this weird Marine Corps minifad in Japan right now. Apparently it started with a very popular language learning manga called Magical Marine Pixel Maritan, in which a magical Marine princess girl promises to teach you how to swear like a Marine.*

No, I am not kidding.

Well, this apparently was not enough, so somebody opened a Marine cosplay cafe. For the uninitiated, a cosplay cafe is a theme cafe with overpriced food, where the (attractive female) waitstaff dresses up in “cute” or “sexy” costumes which fit the theme. Most waitresses in these cafes apparently specialize in being nice to the (male) customers in the hope of getting large tips, and of getting them to stay longer and spend more money.

But in this cafe, the waitresses are drill sergeants.

I blame JAG.

* Foreign nationals are indeed allowed to serve in the Marines, so being a magical princess from fantasyland does not disqualify her from enlistment.

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