Monthly Archives: August 2009

Constant Vigilance!

Saw something scary today. A friend at work needed extra money, so she applied for one of those mystery shopper jobs.

Trouble was, it turned out to be one of those fraudulent mystery shopper jobs — the ones that send you a fake check, and want you to wire money to “test” their customer service.

She thought it was amusing that the check in her envelope claimed to be from Miamisburg, Ohio, but that it was allegedly coming from Kroger in Canada by the postage and other stuff. Why? That’s the only reason she showed me her envelope introducing her to her new “job”.

By the mercy of God or the hard work of her guardian angel, I remembered one of those true crime shows I often watch, and was able to find a description of the current version of the scam on Snopes that was detailed enough to convince my friend. Since the scammer pretended to be working for Kroger, she is also going to alert Kroger that this is going out in their name.

These people prey on people needing money, and leave them holding the bag for thousands of dollars. They are scum. Some are caught, but not enough. Be on your guard.


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“And on earth, peace to people of goodwill.”

In other Rites, there are tons of really long hymns of praise integral to the structure of the Ordinary of the Mass. In the Latin Rite, this and the Sanctus are about all we got. So it’s kinda important to get right, even if we don’t use it at all Masses in all times of the Church year.

Nobody’s quite sure just how old the Gloria is. They’re pretty sure it goes back to the third century (that’s the 200’s) and some think it goes back to the first (that’s the 00’s). It’s not all from the Bible, and was apparently written by a private person for devotional reasons. Fortescue in the Catholic Encyclopedia calls this sort of thing from back then the “psalmi idiotici” — which doesn’t come from idiotic, but from “idio-“, self, like “idiosyncrasy” — the personal psalms, if you will. Originally it was in Greek, according to Fortescue, which makes sense since Greek was the common language of the Empire. So… a joyful ancient devotional hymn from the earliest days of Christianity under persecution, like the cheerful “Phos Hilaron”.

Anyway, it was first introduced into Mass at Christmas, and later got put into Masses for big feasts only. But gradually it got into more common use. We still don’t say it during Lent, most weekdays, etc., because it’s still a hymn of special joy.

The new English translation of the Gloria is obviously superior to the old, because it doesn’t rearrange the poetry or leave out entire lines. If you ever felt that the Gloria in English is kinda disorganized — well, it was.

The first part of the Gloria is kind of a swirl of glory, sorta like the cloud in the temple. There’s a reason the other name for the Gloria is the Angelic Hymn: we are clearly greeting the Messiah and singing with the angels, who of course are right there in church with us, whether we see them or not. (There’s a reason artists sculpt and paint angels all over the place in old churches, and it’s not just because wings are purty.)

It all starts with a direct quote from the angels singing over Bethlehem:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.

This comes straight from the Latin Vulgate (or one of its versions, anyway):

“Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra, pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis.”

Interestingly, this poetic structure mimics the Greek very closely. If you’ll suffer my bad transcription of’s useful Chain Link transliteration of the Greek, you’ll see this:

“Doxa en hupsistos Theos
kai epi ge, eirene en anthropos eudokia.”

That’s “ge” as in “geo” or “Gaia”. “DOXa” and “euDOKia” are sorta-kinda related words, so there’s a lot a lot of paralleling and shared sounds there. (Anyway, see what St. Jerome did there? Just like the Greek. Not pulled out of his butt.)

It’s a nice sort of inverted parallel, and it was never anything grammatically necessary in Latin, Greek, Aramaic or any other language the angels might have sung in. It was done for beauty’s sake, on purpose, not as an accident of language; so any language that can keep it, probably should.

Here’s how it works. “Glory to God” and “peace to men of goodwill” stand on the outside, and the locations are on the inside of the phrase. Isn’t that nice? * Like this:

Glory to God
in the highest,
and on earth
peace to people of good will.

The older way of doing this at a sung Mass was for the priest basically to intone (chant) the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” part, and then to have the choir (representing the people) to sing/chant everything from “Et in terra pax” onward. Kind of a nice answer format, as if the angels announce and the people of Earth reply with a hymn of their own. (But of course it is pretty standard in all chant and a lot of Catholic prayer for somebody to start things off with the first phrase, and everybody to chime in afterward.)

Then we get into elaborations, with a nice parallel structure. The Latin sure sounds cool:

Laudamus te, benedicimus te,
Adoramus te, glorificamus te,

It’s interesting, because you could say this in the opposite order, like the Te Deum does. But somehow, “Te laudamus, te benedicimus, te adoramus, te glorificamus” just doesn’t have the right roll to it, so the poet made a good choice. (Also, it hisses a lot, which is the bane of all choir directors and songwriters. Probably back then, too.)

Anyway, back to the new translation:

We praise you, we bless you,
we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,

You see what I mean about swirling? Here we are, at the end of the first part, back at the word “glory” again along with “glorify”. This is a feature, not a bug.

This is where the lack of catechesis, and bad English translation, on this hymn really starts to bite, though. It seems that we’re covering different kinds of prayer: praise, blessing, adoration. But what exactly is it, to glorify God? Are we summing up the others? Or are we talking about living so as to give God glory in our works? Or what? I’m not up on this. *

What is clear is that, at the end of the first part of the Gloria, we come to a phrase that’s a double-entendre. It usually was forbidden to speak of the secret, sacred things in front of catechumens and unbelievers, but here we are: “We give you thanks for your great glory.”

“We give you thanks” does mean thanks, yes, which is one of our duties to God in prayer. But it’s also talking about giving thanks as in _the_ Thanks-giving, the Eucharist. So — we celebrate the Eucharist “for your great glory.” And since, in a minute, we’ll be addressing the Son, this is a natural lead-in to the second part of the Gloria, as well as summing up all prayer and adoration to God in the Mass.

* “Isn’t that nice?” — Like angel’s wings. 🙂

* “I’m not up on this” — (No, that doesn’t mean I’m moaning that I can’t understaaand all this haaard stuff so taaake it awaaaay. It means I want somebody to teach me, instead of burying me head downward in the dark like an onion, for all my 39 years as a Catholic! Quit shirking, American church!)

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I am in a state of admiration and envy, thanks to this parody.

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Sudden Obvious Realization #564

The Mass recapitulates, reexperiences, all of Christ’s life and thus church history.

I suddenly realized that – DUH! The Gloria is Christmas! We’re singing with the angels (in the new translation at least) — “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of goodwill”! It’s CHRISTMAS!

The start of Mass is the Annunciation. That time when the priest says, the Lord be with you — he’s talking Emmanuel. It’s like Gabriel and Mary all in one!

The Gloria is Christmas, the Liturgy of the Word is the public life of Christ, the Creed is Peter and the rest believing. Then everything from the Offertory on is the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. (Well, that part I did know.) Then after Communion, the Lord sends us on our way with the Great Commission. When the Real Presence is no longer present within us, it’s Ascension. And the whole time we look toward the East, if we do, we’re looking toward the Second Coming.

We covered the Mass at least two different years in religion class or CCD. Why didn’t anybody tell me? Why didn’t I realize? It was so blindingly obvious!!!

(Now watch. Somebody in the comments will cite something I’ve read, or should have read, that says exactly this thing; and then I will feel stupid. Stupid-er.)


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Sor Juana to Fr. Kino, S.J.

Padre Eusebio Francisco Chini (aka Kino) was a well-known Jesuit missionary in California and the Southwest, whose advocacy for the Indians and founding of the cattle industry have led some to call him the first cowboy of the American West.

But, like pretty much all Jesuits back then, he was also supposed to make scientific observations on earthquakes and astronomical events, and send them to his superiors, along with all his other reports. Apparently, he at one point observed a comet, and wrote about it.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the renowned Mexican poet and Hieronymite sister, wrote a sonnet to him on this occasion. Which I have just found today, in the many wonderful facsimile editions of her stuff available online.

From Inundación castálida de la única poetisa, musa décima, Soror Juana Inés de la Cruz… : que en varios metros, idiomas, y estilos, fertiliza varios assumptos; con elegantes, sutiles, claros, ingeniosos, útiles versos : para enseñanza, recreo, y admiración.

Sonnet. Applauds the Astronomical science of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J., of the Company of Jesus, who wrote of the Comet that appeared in the year ’80, and absolved it of the Ominous.

Aunque es clara del Cielo la luz pura,
clara la Luna, y claras las estrellas,
y claras las efimeras centellas,
que el ayre eléva, y el incendio apura;

Aunque es el rayo claro, cuya dura
produccion, cuesta al viento mil querellas,
y el relámpago, que hizo de sus huellas
medrosa luz en la tiniebla obscura;

Todo el conocimiento torpe humano
se estuvo obscuro, sin que las mortales
plumas pudiessen ser, con buelo ufano,

Icaros de discursos racionales;
hasta que al tuyo, Eusebio soberano,
les dió luz á las luzes celestiales.

Here’s my translation. It cheats quite a bit with the measure and scansion, alas for my lack of cleverness.

Still bright, the pure light from the sky,
Bright is the moon, and bright the stars,
And bright, th’ephemeral flashes are
That lift the air; their fires purify.

Still bright the ray — so arduously made,
It cost the wind a thousand times to wince,
And bright the lightning, that from its footprints
Made shrinking coward light in the dark cloud shade.

All lumb’ring human knowledge’s light
Made itself dark, without which mortals might
have all had feathers, with a joyful flight,
The Icaruses of discourse rational;
until, sovereign Eusebio, the light
you gave to all the lights celestial.

The downside of this is that while Fr. Kino, a math professor before he was a missionary, made extremely accurate observations, and didn’t claim that comets were the result of earthly eruptions as some did at the time, he still said that comets presaged great disasters. So “absolving the ominous” is not exactly meaning what I thought it would, unless Sor Juana didn’t read that part of his book.

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Annoying Thing #6482

When you go looking for some super-abstruse medieval book of Marian theology, the only people inclined to quote it are:

-Sites warning Protestants against Eeeevul mariolatry, even if the way they warn them happens to theologically undermine Jesus and basic Christian theology.

-Sites demanding that Catholics ordain women, both because the medieval Marian theologian praised Mary in terms they like, and because he or she praised Mary in terms they don’t like.

I will balance this with Cool Thing about the Internet #18976:

If you go looking for a medieval manuscript or Renaissance incunabulum, you’re quite likely to find pictures of it which are readable and useful, and without ever leaving your house. Thank you, National Diet Library of Japan! (That’s their Library of Congress.)

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Medieval Complexion Colors and Humors Theory

I was searching for something else entirely, and found this in a book on Fra Angelico by Georges Didi-Huberman.

He goes through a whole bunch of earlier medieval text sources about Mary to explain stuff that Fra Angelico does with color, albeit in much greater detail and beauty than mere text could manage. Logically enough, it seems that when your medievals got to talking about “complexio”, the complexion — they really meant the blending together of your humors which influenced your personality, and was then reflected in your skin.

So the classic Indo-European poetic love of describing people as being white and red becomes a matter in Mary (and the Strong Woman) of a graceful combination of the phlegmatic and sanguinary temperaments, which were associated with water and air, white and red. The amusing bit is that the medievals, especially Albert, were quick to remind people that the Song of Songs suggested that Mary was on the dark side (“I am black/tanned but beautiful”), and hence that her complexio included black, the melancholic temperament associated with black bile and earth. But since Mary was the “virgin earth” out of which the New Adam was formed, this was a good thing. (There was some sort of discussion of the symbolism of eye color in medieval painting also, but then the limited preview of the book ended.)

I love finding out this kind of stuff. It may not be useful for our faith today (although very useful for art historians and readers), but it does show that if you have theories about how the world works, you might as well follow them out into all sorts of areas of thought and see what kind of cool stuff you can come up with.

Also, this Didi-Huberman guy has written an awful lot of art history/symbolism books, including stuff on St. George and the Dragon, and a lot of it seems to have been translated into English. You might want to check him out. That Fra Angelico book sure seemed interesting and well-researched, just from the little glimpse I had of it.

Just for fun and entertainment purposes — given the information in this post, and using your own knowledge of Marian tradition, who wants to write up a Marian exegesis of the fairy tale “Snow White”? 🙂

(Btw, I’m pretty sure that Tolkien was not above similar joking, what with that horrible pun ending the Akallabeth. So yeah, I’m pretty sure that one use of “snow-white” in the Elbereth song was not just poetry, but also a learned joke.)

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