Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Mantle Passes

2 Kings 2: 1-15 —

“And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elias into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elias [Elijah] and Eliseus [Elisha] were going from Galgal. And Elias said to Eliseus: “Stay thou here, because the Lord hath sent me as far as Bethel.” And Eliseus said to him: “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”

And when they were come down to Bethel, the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel, came forth to Eliseus, and said to him: “Dost thou know that this day the Lord will take away thy master from thee?” And he answered: “I also know it: hold your peace.”

And Elias said to Eliseus: “Stay here, because the Lord hath sent me to Jericho.” And he said: “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”

And when they were come to Jericho, the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho, came to Eliseus, and said to him: “Dost thou know that this day the Lord will take away thy master from thee?” And he said: “I also know it: hold your peace.”

And Elias said to him: “Stay here, because the Lord hath sent me as far as the Jordan.” And he said: “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” And they two went on together, and fifty men of the sons of the prophets followed them, and stood in sight at a distance: but they two stood by the Jordan.

And Elias took his mantle and folded it together, and struck the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they both passed over on dry ground. And when they were gone over, Elias said to Eliseus: “Ask what thou wilt have me to do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” And Eliseus said: “I beseech thee that in me may be thy double spirit.” And he answered: “Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless if thou see me when I am taken from thee, thou shalt have what thou hast asked: but if thou see me not, thou shalt not have it.”

And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elias went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

And Eliseus saw him, and cried: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the driver thereof.” And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own garments, and rent them in two pieces.

And he took up the mantle of Elias, that fell from him: and going back, he stood upon the bank of the Jordan, and he struck the waters with the mantle of Elias, that had fallen from him, and they were not divided. And he said: “Where is now the God of Elias?” And he struck the waters, and they were divided, hither and thither, and Eliseus passed over.

And the sons of the prophets at Jericho, who were over against him, seeing it said: “The spirit of Elias hath rested upon Eliseus.” And coming to meet him, they worshipped him, falling to the ground….

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Watching the Pope’s Last Audience

It was very sad for me, but the atmosphere in St. Peter’s Square was obviously one of more joy and encouragement and love than sorrow.  You just can’t help cheering on a pope who decides to head into the arena of intense prayer, especially in times like these when people really feel the need of intense intercession. As he said today, he’s not going back to private life. A life of prayer for others is a public life. And he was serious in asking all of us for our prayers.

I miss him already.

Also, the tie-in between Colossians and the Pope talking about his relationship with all of us was very telling. Seldom does an intellectual, introverted guy like Benedict speak solely in the language of personal experience and feeling. He was so full of joy and yet obviously so worn.

But the greatest joy was to hear him talk about his closeness with the Lord during his pontificate (and yeah, I think we should interpret his words about feeling the Lord’s presence every day as being not a platitude, but precise reporting, because he’s not the theologian who would handwave this stuff) and about his faith that the Church is the Lord’s fishing boat, and the Lord is always the one looking after it.

That doesn’t mean that we’re guaranteed that the next pope will be wonderful and perfect; but it does mean that the boat will keep on going, doing the Lord’s work, whether or not the next pope is great, mediocre, or bad. (Though obviously it’s good for the cardinals to try to get a good or great pope.) We have supernatural backup. Wind and waves will come, but the Lord will come also. We may worry that He’s asleep, but He’s still the Master of wind and wave.


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Skellig Michael

A video where a couple of crazy kids visit Skellig Michael.

And here’s the story of their visit, in three parts. And yes, it’s impressive that the young lady made it that far, as you can’t have that scary of rock steps anywhere else, outside of Machu Picchu.


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The Skellig Lists

Or, a good reason not to stay single in the old days in Ireland.

A Skellig List from 1951.

Skellig Lists from a book on Irish songs.

The hilarious thing is that most people visiting the Skelligs nowadays don’t realize that it was ever associated with a fun/fictional pilgrimage for singles, so you get stuff like Tibetan monks going on pilgrimage to the Skelligs with no clue how funny that is.

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The Marital Elephant in the Corner

I apparently missed some attempted explanations of Carnival on the Logos blog for Logos software.

Folks, Lent and Advent are penitential periods. At many times during Church history, couples were instructed to pray together at night instead of getting nuptial. And thus, no nuptials, either. Advent and Lent marriages imply that you’re not getting any or that you are determined not to be penitent, which is why Father doesn’t want anybody at the parish asking for such a thing. (Especially since it would really put a dent in the proper celebration of your wedding feast.)

Carnival was the time for fun, and for getting married in a hurry before Lent starts — if you were too scared to get married back in the summer, like a sane person.

June marriages not only went along with Roman and Jewish custom, but also conveniently were well before Lent and Advent.

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“Not-None Norms”

“Normas Nonnullas”, the new motu proprio amending the Conclave election rules, translates as “Some Norms” or “A Few Norms.”

But yeah, “nonnulla” literally means “not none.”

I love Latin.

And here’s that new bit of the oath for attendees where they swear not to wi any fi:

promitto et iuro me nullo modo in Conclavi usurum esse instrumentis quibuslibet ad vocem transmittendam vel recipiendam aut ad imagines exprimendas quovis modo aptis de iis quae tempore electionis fiunt intra fines Civitatis Vaticanae….”

“I promise and swear to refrain from using any equipment capable in any way of the transmission or reception of sound, or of recording images of things done during election time within Vatican City limits….”

The oath ends with the ringing phrase “Sic me Deus adiuvet, et haec sancta Dei Evangelia quae manu mea tango.”

“So help me God, and these holy Gospels of God which I touch with my hand.”


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Women Crusaders: “Quod Super His” by Pope Innocent III

Even in my SCA days, the only women crusaders (mulieribus crucesignatis) I ever had heard of were the womenfolk of the king of Jerusalem’s family, and Queen Eleanor’s party Amazons.

But Pope Innocent III wrote to the Bishop of Canterbury a letter known as “Quod super his,” which says that women could go to the Holy Land with their fighting husbands if they wanted, or lead bands of trained warriors at their own expense.

There seems to be a lot of talk about this letter on the internet, but not so much in the way of actual transcripts. Sigh. But anyway, it’s in Patrologia Latina 216, 1261-2.

“But concerning the women, we believe this ought to be heeded — that those who will not stay back may follow their men who are going. Surely the rest (except those perchance who are rich, who may lead warriors at their own expense) may redeem the [Crusading] vow they have vowed by having diligently influenced others to help the Holy Land, each according to their own means.”


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Most Popes Weren’t Italians!

Sudden realization, over in a thread at Fr. Z’s —

Even though people say, “Most of the popes have been Italian,” Italy wasn’t a political entity for most of the popes. They were from the Papal States, or from some independent Italian city-state or duchy or kingdom, or from a city attached to the Holy Roman Empire but located geographically in Italy. Or they were from the Roman Empire.

So most of the Popes haven’t been Italian at all. They’ve been from their own countries inside Italy.

UPDATE: 74 from the Roman Empire; 2 from Odoacer’s Kingdom of Italy; 9 from the Ostrogoth Kingdom; 9 from the Frankish/Carolingian Holy Roman Empire; 38 from the later Holy Roman Empire; 58 from the Papal States; 3 from the Crescentian Patriciate of Rome; 1 from Benevento; 1 from Capua; 1 from the Kingdom of Sicily; 1 from the city-state of Treviso; 1 from the Kingdom of Arelat; 6 from the Kingdom of Naples; 6 from the Republic of Venice; 4 from the Republic of Genoa; 2 from the Republic of Siena; 2 from the Republic of Florence; 1 from the Duchy of Florence; 4 from the Duchy of Milan; 3 from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany; 2 from the Kingdom of Italy; and only 3 from the Republic of Italy.

So yeah, not a lot of Italians in there. Papal Statesians are much more prevalent.

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Best Lenten Meal

Pineapple and anchovy pizza. Yum.

(Yeah, it’s for people who like anchovies and don’t find ham quite salty enough to contrast with pineapple in that sweet and savory way. And that’s me.)

Needless to say, this isn’t the sort of pizza you usually order in company. Alas.

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Perpetua’s Diary, Illustrated

Ss. Perpetua and Felicity’s feastday is coming up in the first full week of March, so you might want to read this illustrated version of Perpetua’s account of her own captivity, and her friends’ account of her death in the arena. The translation is an old public domain one, but the illustrations bring it to life.

In a different style more suited to kids, there’s also an animated story of St. Perpetua and her companions available from the same website.

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Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages

This is the sort of book that I’d really really like to get my hands on. Unfortunately, it’s a bit expensive (40 bucks even in paperback), so I’ll have to look around to find a copy in a university library around here.

It seems to figure that a lot of favorite medieval amulet-texts including Jesus, and a lot of healing sayings that essentially sound like pseudoepigrapha, are modelled on the devotion to the Letter of Abgar from the pilgrimage town of Edessa. There also seems to be quite a bit of interaction with private revelations, etc.

The sad thing is that a lot of these things would be common prayers and devotions one century, and would be denounced by the next. Of course, sometimes devotions really do go bad or overpopularity makes people go gaga for them. But there also seem to be a lot of cases where people come in and assume that simple people doing what they were taught must be up to something occult or heretical.

(And to be fair, some people who are big on devotions have real psychological problems, which tended to be something you could easily observe when people were allowed to practice devotions freely in churches. Nowadays these folks tend to have been chased onto the Internet, which probably allows me to underestimate how spooky priests can find the crazy people to be. But pastorally, I don’t really see how driving away all devotions out of fear of a few crazy people is any kind of solution. It’s probably better that  crazy people should have something they can safely do in church with other people, and thus get some contact with other people as equals before God.)

There’s also a good amount of openly occult practices chronicled in the book. They pretty much were as depressing and stupid in the Middle Ages as they are today. And as David Drake showed in his Isles fantasy series, the voces magicae and the characteres still are pretty creepy as well as stupid.

There’s also the ars notoria, an example of bone laziness combined with wishful thinking. Real medieval students of the ars memoria drew pictures and diagrams (mentally or actually) as a focus for memorization and mental organization, while constantly going over their studies. Lazy medieval students of the ars notoria tried staring at pictures and diagrams (notae) which promised to magically teach you the liberal arts while not having to think about your studies, with the help of some prayers to angels and God at designated times. This was just as efficacious as sleeping on your schoolbooks (without tiring yourself out with study first), but I suppose it sold well to the gullible.

Another factor was interest in Hebrew as the ur-language taught by God, and hence intrinsically magical — which apparently led to Christian people buying Hebrew books and then cutting bits out for use as amulets. Greek was also exotic and inspired, even a little better than the sacred liturgical language of the learned, Latin. The Arabic language was seen as similarly exotic but not similarly powerful.


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Where the Blonde Jesus Thing Came From

From a thing that showed up in the very late Middle Ages, called the “Letter of Lentulus,” which was presented as being a report from a Roman official (with a known historical name) to Tiberius, about the appearance and habits of Jesus.  The letter was taken as eyewitness testimony by many, and the letter in some versions described Jesus’ hair and beard as “fair” and his face as “the color of wheat.” (Although other versions described His hair and beard as “the color of a ripe hazelnut”, ie, those things on the Nutella jar that are light brown and not at all fair. They also described His complexion as “reddish,” which had the symbolic meaning of someone optimistic, energetic — and honest enough to be able to blush.) So it wasn’t racism, so much as popular scholarship and Biblical fanfic (aka “pseudoepigrapha”), that led to blonde Jesuses.

The appearance of blonde or white-haired Jesuses in previous Christian art had always represented the Jesus of the Book of Revelation, Apocalyptic Jesus, Whose hair represents Him as ancient and eternal, or transfigured in light, and Who is dressed for His office as the eternal High Priest. Also, scary and impressive. Either way, His Divinity becoming as visible as His Humanity, rather than how He looked in His life normally on earth.

Most Western art follows the tradition of a bearded, dark Jesus because that’s how the Mandylion of Edessa looked. Ditto the Shroud of Turin and the byssus veil thing. Pictures and relics should generally outweigh literary descriptions; but the Lentulus letter was popular in Germany, a fur piece over the mountains from the Shroud and the byssus veil.


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Now That’s a Hoard!

Counting Roman buried treasure: things archeologists do.

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield/Barenaked Ladies/Wexford Gleeks glee club

Sorry to be behind the times again, Canadian people, but here’s the song “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)”, performed on the ISS by Hadfield and in Canada by the rock guy and the glee clubbers.

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