Friday, February 05, 2016


Russell Saltzman has an article at First Things on reading at Mass. There's nothing wrong with the advice given, but I confess that I am utterly ambivalent at it all.

I was a reader at Mass for several years; I stopped doing it because it was a task that can never please everyone and for which the communal support and preparation is always inadequate regardless of how one prepares as an individual reader. It is irrational to expect readers to work magic, but this is precisely the standard to which they are held. I did extremely well as a reader, but it has been heavenly not to have to do it.

The truth of the matter is that there is no special method for reading at Mass. The notion that having the right method or approach is the solution to everything is a modern temptation which should be resisted more often than it is. We like to hide the fact that there is no special method with an insider's jargon. We see this in the constant desire to want to talk about 'proclaiming the Word'. It's an accurate phrase; but there is a particular mentality that likes to pretend that it somehow conveys a special specialness, a spiritual quality, involved in the reading. But in reality 'proclamation' is just stating something in public in an official capacity, and when the GIRM says, "The lector is instituted to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture...", the original literally means no more than that the reader is appointed to say the readings out loud. The reader or lector just reads the text in public so that people can hear it. That's the whole task. There are some specific guidelines that are supposed to be met in doing so: e.g., the voice should be loud and clear, the tone should be appropriate to genre and occasion, and the characteristics of the local language and culture should be considered in the delivery. But these are all just specifications of the original point, which is to read it out loud so that people can hear it.

It's not a minor task, mind you. But that's all. This is, in fact, the great secret to most ministry in the Church: just do what actually and really needs to be done and stop trying to make it something special. Doing it in a 'spiritual' way is not your responsibility. The Spirit blows where He wills. You are only there to address a practical need to the best of your ability.*

One of the reasons for insisting on this fact is that the single most important goal for reading in Mass is that people actually be able to hear and follow the readings. Nothing, and I mean nothing, else is of any importance in comparison. There is a common tendency among people who mount up proscriptions and prescriptions for readers to give as their justification that it is the text of Scripture that matters, not the reader, so the reader should vanish. As Saltzman says:

It is the text—familiar though it may be—that must capture our attention, not the reader. The reader, so to speak, must stand aside. The lector’s job is to speak the text in such a way that it may catch us and thereby speak to us.

All well and good, and true enough. But this sort of claim somehow always comes with advice that is entirely about the lector, as if the lector were indeed the one who was capturing attention. And Saltzman's article, despite a certain sobriety that makes it better than much of the advice given lectors, is not an exception. After telling us that the text, not the reader, must capture our attention, he then keeps giving advice that is quite clearly about how the lector can capture attention and then (although this part is a bit murkier) draw it somehow to the text. This is not standing aside; it's playing middleman.

Readings can of course go wrong. It's worth keeping in mind that it's often not the fault of the reader, since the texts are not always easy to read aloud. And last-minute substitutions among readers are common in our highly mobile society. Training for lectors is often very limited, and when it is not, it is often very poor. And everyone's a critic, and lectors are easy targets. Sometimes people wander into ministries that they shouldn't be in, to be sure, but if you're regularly criticizing people in a ministry, you should be volunteering for it because you're apparently an expert. Although, of course, lectors do it themselves, as well. I once attended a meeting that was supposed to be for training and encouraging new readers, and the whole meeting devolved into an arbitrary list of pet peeves to avoid, none of which was suitable for the purpose. The only questions of much importance, though, are: Did you hear the Scripture? Could you follow what it said?


* It's worthwhile remembering this going into Lent, I think. The reason we fast is that we need discipline; the reason we give alms is that we need to help our neighbor; the reason we pray is that we need God. These are practical needs to which the penitential practices are practical responses. It's not our job to make them spiritually significant, or measure them out so that they involve experiences that are somehow just right, or to pursue some special kind of feeling in doing them. Our responsibility is to recognize the needs and act in a practical way in response to them.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Music on My Mind

Springfield Exit, "George Cunningham"

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Maronite Year XX

The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple falls about forty days after Christmas and throughout the Church is associated with light. It seems to be a minor feast among the Maronites, compared to the rather intensive and extensive liturgical celebrations of it one finds in the Latin and Byzantine churches through history, but it still has some measure of importance.

Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple
Romans 9:30-10:4; Luke 2:22-35

This light reveals to nations,
gives glory to Israel;
lawful service is fulfilled.

Christ fulfilled the holy law,
was consecrated to God;
He came with saving power.

Mary carried the Infant,
an offering unto God,
who receives all offerings.

The God who receives our gifts
was given a gift to God
that we might be raised to Him.

God became a newborn child,
and, entering the temple,
made us His holy Temple.

May your altar give mercy,
your holy Church give healing;
may we be a fit Temple.

Christ, High Priest and Lord of Priests,
receives the sacrifices;
O Lord, receive our prayers.

Monday, February 01, 2016

A Poem Draft

To Brigitte Darnay, A Scene for Her Birthday

The pouring silver rays, like rain,
from moon descend upon the lake,
where argent foams in ripples ride
and bathe a pebbled shore with life.

A hushing wind through treetop leaves
in sighing chorus hymns the scene.
On far horizon subtle light
begins to play across the sky.

The purple heavens shade to blue
as, like a paper set to flame,
a ruddy gold foretells the blaze
the sun will bring in splendid flight.

A flowered bough with splendor wakes:
a hundred butterflies take wing.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Links of Note, Noted with Notations

* The Tatooine Cycle: Star Wars Episode IV told in the style of a medieval Irish epic. The names are all as authentically medieval Irish as possible, and it has accompanying notes. The opening:

What was the reason for the Tragic Death of Cenn Obi and the Destruction of Da Thféider’s Hostel? Not difficult that.

There was once a great queen of Alt Da Rann and Leia was her name. War had sprung up between her people and those of Da Thféider. She sent messengers to ask for aid from the wildman, Cenn Obi. He lived in the wilderness far to the west. These were the messengers she sent: Síd Tríphe Óg, who knew all the languages of man and beast, and the dwarf, Artú.

* The place where Rei finds Luke Skywalker at the end of The Force Awakens is in the real world Skellig Michael Monastery in Ireland.

I think the Irish may be keeping a secret about their real origins.

* Grace Boey on Mary Astell

* Tolkien and Kullervo

* Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle argue that the professionalization of philosophy has been to its detriment: When Philosophy Lost Its Way.

* James Matthew Wilson, On the Overweening Pride of the Professorial Class

* Catarina Dutilh Novaes on Metaphors for Argumentation.

* Dana Casey discusses the difficulties and uncertainties of being an urban teacher.

* Unfortunate Metaphors for Teaching at "Math with Bad Drawings"

* How Dion DiMucci came up with the song, "Runaround Sue"

* Richard Chappell discusses the morality of having kids.

* Whit Stillman on his new movie Love and Friendship.

* Andrew Criddle looks at whether Origen can be used as evidence for a forty-day Lenten fast in the third century. (He concludes probably not, despite appearances.)

* Ayn Rand's use of sunflower seeds as a symbol of villainy.

* The Islamic State recently destroyed the oldest monastery in Iraq, Dair Mar Elia. It had been taking a beating in the past few decades; it was vandalized first by the Iraqi army and then by the American army in 2003 because its location made the area a good one for a military base (a US military chaplain, may God look well upon him for it, came upon the American troops engaging in the vandalism and kicked them out, and the US Army, to its credit, started funding for the restoration). But as it happened, its 1400-year existence was coming to an end, anyway. Even ancient monasteries die.

* The seventh row of the periodic table has finally officially been filled. That is, actual existence of some version of each of the elements in the row has been confirmed by synthesis in the laboratory. That brings us up to 118. On to Ununennium! Ununennium, i.e., hypothetical element 119, is a point in the table at which it begins to be difficult to know how to synthesize new elements in a confirmable way in the first place -- the half-life predictable from trends becomes predictably very small after 118, the confirmation requirements are beyond what our current means can guarantee, and the means for simplifying synthesis of heavier elements are becoming less and less useful.

* Richard Marshall interviews Tuomas Tahko on metaphysics.

* John Skalko, Scotus versus Aquinas on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (He takes Aquinas's side.)

* Eben Moglen, Legal Fictions and Common Law Legal Theory

* At one time I put out a bleg here for a short story I remember reading in Spanish about that turned on a psychopath's mishearing his girlfriend demand un ramo de hojas azules (a branch of blue petals) as un ramo de ojos azules (a branch of blue eyes). The narrator narrowly escapes because it turns out his eyes are not blue; after which he leaves town as soon as possible. It turns out the story is by Octavio Paz, El ramo azul.

* David Oderberg on bioethics.

* Simon McNamee, On the History and Use of 'Intuitions' in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

* David Grimes, On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs. A few of the assumptions don't seem perfectly realistic -- e.g., if you look at how real conspiracies get uncovered, it is never a matter of a single leak sufficing, although a single leak might lead to an investigation that would lead to increasing leaks. But it's an interesting approach.

* Duncan Richter, Philosophy and Poetry

* Catherine Legg and James Franklin, Perceiving Necessity. Hume would certainly take some of their cases to be matters of the relations of ideas -- but even that shows that relations of ideas actually have to cover quite a bit.

* Peter Hacker discusses the mind-body problem in philosophy. It's an hour long, but very, very nicely done:

* I've been thinking about what to do for Lent, and one possibility is something with the Divine Office. (I usually do the Office of Readings already.) So I've been looking around at different kinds of online resources for the Divine Office. Here are some interesting ones:

Divinum Officium: Roman Breviary, i.e., Tridentine/Extraordinary Form
Book of Hours: Book of Divine Worship, i.e., "Anglican Use"
Universalis: Liturgy of the Hours, i.e., Ordinary Form. In some ways this is better than the book version -- the English translation of the Liturgy of Hours that you can get in book form is considerably out of date by this point, but Universalis does their own translations from the most recent official version in Latin.
Divine Liturgy of the Hours
Liturgy of the Hours: Liturgy of the Hours -- it looks like this would be mostly useful as a reference; it's not very user-friendly, but unlike most sites, you can look up any day of the year quite easily. -- the Fanqitho or Prayer of the Faithful; this has Ramsho (Morning Prayer), Safro (Evening Prayer), and Sootoro (Night Prayer), all translated into English.

I haven't been able to find any Byzantine Divine Office versions online, which is a rather serious lack, given that the Byzantine Divine Office is fittingly byzantine.

ADDED LATER: Deacon Anton notes the following website for Byzantine Divine Service; it's a stripped down, basics-only version, but even a basics-only resource for Divine Service is going to be quite rich:

The Dynamic Horologion and Psalter

Maronite Year XIX

The last of the three Sundays of Commemoration is the Sunday of the Faithful Departed, the Maronite version of All Souls. It is primarily a day of hope, as again and again the prayers both of the Maronite Divine Office and of the Divine Liturgy emphasize the hope of the faithful who depart from our midst. But it also looks forward to the preparatory days to come with a note of warning: hope is based on repentance.

Sunday of the Faithful Departed
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Luke 16:19-31

Hope of the desperate, Savior of the fallen,
in hope of Your kindness we cry out for mercy,
knowing You do not desire the death of sinners,
but repentance and love;
sinners pardoned, the impure cleansed, penitent thieves,
these You bring within the gates of Your paradise,
promising life to those who drink Your holy blood
and eat of Your body.
From nothing You created us men and women,
from sin You restore those who have fallen aside,
from death You raise those who have been laid to their rest,
and thus we praise Your name.

Remember those who have placed their hope in Your grace,
who were washed by You, who were sealed by Your Spirit,
who have partaken of Your body and Your blood,
O Hope who never fails.
Our days are short, but blessed are those who die in You;
one day they will come into Your peaceful harbors,
following their Lord in holy resurrection,
rejoicing in glory,
as all things are made new in the Lamb's bright wedding,
and the feast of celebration lasts forever,
and all are dressed in the splendid robes of glory,
singing with smiling eyes.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

League Earth with Heaven

The Divine Law
by Sir Aubrey de Vere

The natural Law, howe'er remote, obscure
Of origin, lies patent to the eye
Of Reason; whence astute Philosophy
From shrewd induction points to issues sure:
The laws of men but for a time endure;
And vary, as their plastic frame we spy
Through shifting glasses of expediency—
The Laws of God, immaculately pure,
Unalterably firm, whose sanctions claim
Affinity with naught of Earth, these laws
Have their deep root in Faith, in Hope their aim,
In Mystery their birth, in Love their cause;
League Earth with Heaven; and, knowing how to bind
Angels with Power, have care for human kind.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dashed Off II

x is possible to y // x is at least some of y // x is part of y

analogical inference as a background for search; search as a background for proof

problem, end, means objectives, means executions, consolidation

rhetoric as the study of reasoning under external constraint -- time, audience predisposition, media limitations, uncertainties, need for practical action

the Mencius as a study of the existence, extension, and cultivation of common good

heart of compassion -- resisting suffering in others
heart of shame -- resisting being inferior rather than equal to others
heart of courtesy & modesty -- resisting any receiving or taking without merit or desert
heart of right & wrong -- resisting any doing of what is disapprovable

the Mencian account of the heart as a moral sense theory

"The things which are the simplest so long as they are undisputed invariably become the subtlest when once they are disputed." Chesterton

The cleverest proofs are those that open up ways for unclever people to solve problems correctly.

the problem of the novel: finding the pure case without losing the concrete expression

evidence as vectorial

the victory of rational sensibility as essential to the good life

affine geometry & logical quantifiers

Southwell's "Look Home" and mythopoeia

Edwards & Wilberforce on religious affections

Torah establishes and protects itself as a family tradition.

the public sphere as a religious structure

sacramental character as grounding an office of guardianship of Tradition

deus ex machina as plot vs. deus ex machina as spectacle

of any field of human life, to ask, "What will set this in good order?"
-> requires prior question, "What order is found here?"

undesigned coincidences as an argument against dissimulation and mistake

debugging & defective causes

quasi-final & quasi-material causes in mathematics -- these are, properly, formal, but they are formalities in some way analogous to ends or material (mappings, elements, etc.)
-> it is also the case that while math as such is formal, our mathematical work has genuine final and material causes.

possibility of memory as integral to consent

Experiments are instrumental causes.

conflicts of interest & testimonial evidence

sacramental character as form of witness

testimony : sign :: witness : image

just wage as essential to limiting government interventions and manipulations
The just wage is the wage in a just market as established by prudent contracts.

aligning incentives with virtuous activity as the major work of political governance

Rightly ordered loves require properly founded hopes.

preparing the public mind by familiarizing imaginations

priests as caretakers of signs
Reverential attitudes are expressed in signs and symbols.

apostolic succession as an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit

Human liberty always exists within a system of signs.

indicative vs. optative moods of worship

The Church Fathers sometimes teach by definite articulation and sometimes by general atmosphere.

Hume's passions as practical presumptions
pride & humility : the self
love & hatred : other people
joy & sorrow : the probable or certain
fear & hope : the uncertain
desire & aversion : good and bad
will : possibility of achievement

"The mind by an original instinct tends to unite itself with the good, and to avoid the evil, tho' they be conceived merely in idea, and be consider'd as to exist in any future period of time." Hume T

human understanding as like recollection of Beatific Vision, but actually anticipatory

Hume's account of direct passions is a structure of human action; indirect passions are a context of human action.

Societies achieve unity through salient acts of harmony.

The sacrament of matrimony is not something that takes place only in secret chambers of the soul but in public, before each other and the Church.

Esther as a type of the Church when favored by the state; Judith as type of the Church when dealing solely with foes
Ruth as a type of the Gentile Church

?: The scope of action of a material object is constrained by the tendency of its optimal transmission.

sexual perversions: through deceit, through violence, through indignity, through excess

Not to have reason is to be such as to be able to belong to another.

Aesthetics is normative in a different way from the way ethics is normative. It is common good that makes the difference. This is a principle of practical reason derived from the first: The beautiful is to be sought, done, and made; the ugly to be avoided. This is not an obligation but merely a principle guiding practical reasonableness. The reason it is not obligatory is precisely that it does not bring in the idea of common good or care for a community.

In the creation of Man God makes man and woman in His image and gives them dominion; he also makes them fit mates for each other and sets them to care for the garden, set apart for them, in which there is the tree of life. Because they sin, he exiles them from the garden and guards it with the angel that they may never return, but clothes them in mercy. In the re-creation, God creates man and woman in His image (Baptism) and gives them dominion (Confirmation). He makes them fit mates caring for the garden (Matrimony) and seals the garden, set apart for them, by angels (Orders; cp. Revelation); in this garden is found the tree of life (Eucharist). Because they sin, he provides a means to return (Reconciliation) and out of his mercy clothes them with glory (Unction).

sacrament applied to reason -> liturgical commonwealth & temporal power
sacrament in itself -> spiritual power

"Why is not the principle of generation atheistic, if that of development is?" Newman to J Walker 22 May 1868, on evolutionary theory

the convergence of analogies as a key to classification

Even nonsacramental marriages are consecrations; marriage is eminently a practice of setting-apart.

The form of a sacrament is meaning expressed in sensible sign, and the matter is sensible sign with meaning appropriate to form.

the Church itself as divine ordinance

Penalties and benefits bestowed by the masses are necessarily haphazard.

humor as structured by ethos, logos, & pathos

Absolutely to separate human learning from Christian doctrine is to show contempt for God's providential work in human society.

"What is an Axiom at one stage of our knowledge is often anything but an Axiom at an earlier stage." Charles Dodgson

In every sacrament we find God as principle, sign as expression, and grace as gift given from God through sign.

creation : apostles :: providence : bishops

Those who repent nothing grow never.

Minor ideas when held widely, with whatever diverse or varying commitment, have major effects on the course of society.

Tradition connects us both to the dead and to the unborn.

the intimate connection of play and beauty

Human beings experience nothing without experiencing it as involving tendencies.

the tendencies implicit even in Hume: galley effect, determination of mind to pass between causes & effects, propensity to unite experiences into one, etc.
-> Hume has no way to guarantee that they are purely in the mind, because of his complicated issues with perception/object distinction

the power, of promises kept, to ennoble

All argument is at least fragmentary story.

chesed : light; gevurah : division of waters; tiferet : water, land, plants; netzach : signs in heaven; hod : birds, sea-creatures; yesod : man; malkhut : sabbath

Indulgences indicate that we do not merely engage in penitential practice in isolated ways but as a community and on prior foundations.
indulgences as addressing the problem of how to maintain the faith of martyrs and confessors under conditions in which martyrdom and confessorship are unlikely
indulgences as a system of forensic justification, although not solely such
the merits of the saints as the medium by which the merits of Christ are applied
reflection on purgatory as itself penitential practice

sacramentalia and the poetics of expressing the sacramental sign

All of the old pre-Socratic conceptions of matter have counterparts in political philosophy.

Platonic recollection "as the awakening or resuscitation of the consciousness of the divine image in our souls" (Schlegel)

two primary functions of useful scholarship: collection of dispersed evidence, interesting solutions to particular problems

Christian power in the world as the power of the still, small voice

system, deduction, model, procedure
analogy, invention, symbol, story
conceptual unity, articulation, intuition, form of coherence
action, prudential assessment, plan, character

Pragmatic approaches have an inherently conservative aspect.

PSalm 78 and tradition

The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in part as witnessing to what is unifying, universal, sent from God, and holy.

private revelations as suggestive indications capable of being raised to probabilities by appropriate confirmations

The obedience of love finds new ways to obey.

Festivity enters prudential practice through gratitude and hope.

the Symposium as the philosophical counterpart of a satyr play

Xenophon does more than Plato to emphasize the importance of the memory of Socrates.

"nothing forced can ever be beautiful" (Xenophon)

filial piety toward the Church Fathers and the Apostles

Transforming society requires a good grasp of its teleologies.

The modern impulse is to take every fruitful good and reduce it to subjective satisfaction by rendering it sterile.

A marriage has its own sort of entelecheia.

the heart of society: comradeships of understanding and love

deus ex machina as a natural form of anagnorisis

Means and Ends

Examinations, no less than Lectures, are to be considered as means of Education. Since the proximate aim of Lecturers often is to prepare students for undergoing an examination, it is sometimes imagined that Lectures are means to Examinations as ends. But, in fact, Lectures and Examinations are alike means to a common end. The knowledge which, in such examinations as we have to speak of, the student brings out of his acquisitions, he is required to produce, in order that he may be induced to acquire it. Whatever honour or profit may be the prize of examinations, in a course of Education, the honour and the profit are not the ultimate objects of the system. They are instruments which have it for their purpose to make men give their attentions to those studies of which the educational course consists. In the student's individual purposes, it may be the object of study to obtain prizes; but in the purpose of the educational legislator, it is the object of prizes to promote study; and the prizes which he proposes, and the conditions to which he subjects them, are regulated by his views as to what the best course of study is.

William Whewell, Of a Liberal Education in General, pp. 132-133.