quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Modern intelligence

"You've got to understand one of the tricks of the modern mind, a tendency that most people obey without noticing it. In the village or suburb outside there's an inn with the sign of St. George and the Dragon. Now suppose I went about telling everybody that this was only a corruption of King George and the Dragoon. Scores of people would believe it, without any inquiry, from a vague feeling that it's probable because it's prosaic. It turns something romantic and legendary into something recent and ordinary. And that somehow makes it sound rational, though it is unsupported by reason. Of course some people would have the sense to remember having seen St. George in old Italian pictures and French romances, but a good many wouldn't think about it at all. They would just swallow the skepticism because it was skepticism. Modern intelligence won't accept anything on authority. But it will accept anything without authority."

- G.K. Chesterton ("The Bottom of the Well")

Friday, April 23, 2010

St. George, Martyr - icons, paintings, statues

St. George was martyred by the emperor Diocletian about A.D. 304.
(painting by Paolo Veronese)

The legend of St. George slaying the dragon is depicted in icons, paintings and statues throughout the world.

15th c. icon from Novgorod

painting by Gustave Moreau

Orthodox icon of Bulgaria



Sunday, April 18, 2010

Taking a look back at St. Isidore of Seville

St. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636)

The Feast of St. Isidore of Seville falls on April 4. This year the feast was naturally eclipsed by the Feast of the Resurrection. Isidore is considered the last of the ancient Christian philosophers and the last Latin father of the Church. He was involved in the conversion of the Arian Visigoth kings to Catholicism. As a bishop he presided over the Fourth Council of Toledo (633). He wrote the 20 volume Etymologiae, (or Origines), an encyclopedia which is the first known to be compiled in the Middle Ages and which was used throughout that time period and well into the Renaissance. Isidore's influence began in the 7th c. and reached into the early 16th c. In 1722 he was named a Doctor of the Church. More recently he has been designated patron saint of the Internet in the Catholic Church.

Liturgically, especially in terms of the liturgies of the Latin West, including that of the Hispano-Mozarabic Rite, Isidore's writing is significant for his record of liturgical origins in De Ecclesiasticis Officiis. Recently an English translation has been made available as No. 61 in the Ancient Christian Writers series.

Isidore writes brief descriptions of the parts of the Mass and of various liturgical feasts and liturgical practices. In Chapter XVI he writes of The Nicene Symbol:

"The Symbol, which is proclaimed by the people at the time of sacrifice, was promulgated by the 318 holy fathers gathered at the synod of Nicaea. This rule of the true faith excels in mysteries of such great doctrine that it speaks about every part of the faith, and there is almost no heresy to which it does not respond through individual words or statements. It tramples on all the errors of impiety and blasphemies of faithlessness, and because of this it is proclaimed by the people in all the churches with equal confession." (41)

Monday, April 12, 2010

In due time, another look at Holy Week

Holy Week is still reverberating and this is a good thing. The solemnities of the Last Supper, the Passion and the Resurrection are richly demonstrated in the Masses of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday and those on Easter Day.

The Paschal Vigil, or Easter Vigil, is indeed the richest of the liturgies with the blessing of the new fire, procession and exsultet, blessing of the baptismal water, litany, reading of the Prophecies, and culmination in the Easter Mass. There is plenty to soak in and time is not a consideration.

An hidden treasure of Holy Week is the reading of the Gospel Passion Narratives at the Daily Mass. Here again time is set aside.

It may not be a bad thing that much of the treasures of Holy Week are hidden to much of the world as this is a good time for growth to take place, like with the Parable of the Sower, "other [seed] fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit." And, again in the words of Jesus, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." This growth is not always visible to the eye, nor should it always be. Although they come to us in due time, eternal things are not based on time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Heights and Depths of Easter

Today's church attendance was predictably lower. This is not unique to any congregation, it simply seems to be a post-Easter tradition. With the services of Holy Week culminating in the Easter celebration it is natural that many might afterwards seek "a break."

In my position, and although being a bit more tired than other times of the year, I do not mind coming back to church on the Sunday after Easter, especially on its Octave. The Lessons are as powerful on Quasi Modo Géniti as they are on Easter Day. The Spirit gives life to the dead bones in the desert. The Epistle speaks of faith that conquers the world. The Gospel speaks of Thomas' unbelief becoming faith and His confession of Christ. Jesus breathes His Spirit on the disciples and they are given power to forgive and retain sins. The singing of Easter hymns continues.

In a way this Sunday is indeed "Low." It could also be called the "Sunday of the Faithful," that is for the few who are looking to the resurrection of the body with their feet still on the ground. We think of the hidden glory of Christ on the cross and of His Church on earth. When contrasting the attendance of Easter Day with that of today, the thought comes to mind of an embarrassed Christianity. That is, on Easter Day we basked in the glory with family and friends and now we do not want to overdo it by coming back to church too soon.

This year I could not help but reflect further on the importance of this Sunday being the Octave of Easter and the impact of the lessons. Today's attendance no longer mattered. In fact, the lower attendance almost heightened the impact of the day such that I no longer see any difference in the importance of today as compared with that of Easter Day. That there were fewer in church became as meaningful as the full church on the previous Sunday. Both are Sundays and, as such, both are a proclamation of the Lord's death and then His resurrection in the flesh. This day is just as important and joyous as Easter since it is the continuance of the faith in its daily realities. It is no longer a matter of the more on Easter Day and the fewer on Low Sunday but a matter of the ongoing work of the risen Christ and His Church. The lesson hits homes, he conquers the world that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

During Holy Week we heard of Joseph of Arimathea who sought the Kingdom of God. Immediately after it was recorded by the Evangelist that Joseph sought the Kingdom of God we learn from Scripture that he begged Pilate for the body of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Behind the stories

Prior to Holy Week some of the leading national papers of the secular press were all up in arms about the ills of the Catholic Church and included attempts to connect Pope Benedict with certain cases of abuse. A case in Milwaukee came to national attention but we soon learned, at least locally, that the article was written without any consultation of a judge who was involved in the case.

Careful readers see that there is more at play here than what is being made available to the public by the press. In defense of Pope Benedict there have come out many articles, blog posts, etc. that have uncovered the weakness of the attempted cases against him. For example, here is a Lutheran defense of Pope Benedict that provides some much needed history. Undoubtedly, there are cases of abuse that need to be dealt with. However, the focus of the secular press' sights before the most important week of the church year raises other questions.

Red flags went up when these stories started coming out just before Holy Week. This is like the magazine cover stories that come out around Christmas raising questions about various Christian doctrines about Jesus. Unfortunately, these type of "news" stories are too predictable, especially around important dates on the church calendar.

As a Lutheran, I am no stranger to "anti-Catholicism," having dabbled in it a bit myself over the years. I hope I am wiser now. This is indeed "anti-Catholicism" and, knowing what we know about Pope Benedict XVI and his teaching, these journalistic stretches may also be considered "anti-Christian."