Stravinsky’s Symphony of the Psalms

16 10 2009

An Evening with Robert Louis Wilken

15 10 2009


AG and I went to a talk at Notre Dame Seminary here in New Orleans given by the noted Christian scholar, Robert Louis Wilken. A former Lutheran pastor and a convert to the Catholic Faith in 1994, Dr. Wilken this night gave a talk entitled, “Reading St. Augustine in the 21st Century”. Dr. Wilken, as many will know, is an expert in early Christian thought, having written and edited such books as Remembering the Christian Past and On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ. He is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia as well as having taught at many notable universities around the world. He is also a New Orleans native, having grown up in the lower Ninth Ward, and gave a biographical prelude to his talk on how good it was to be back in his hometown. There was a good turnout for the event on a rainy Friday night, and the talk itself was followed by a lively and equally interesting Q & A session.

Dr. Wilken decided in his limited time to tackle perhaps the most prolific and influential of ancient writers, St. Augustine of Hippo. Wilken had to start out surveying the vast expanse of Augustine’s thought and writings, not to mention his equally impressive legacy on Western thought. He began with some rather broad yet profound themes that Augustine touched upon in his writings: time, memory, the self, and the soul. In these, what is most important is the “inner life” of man; it is the “most important part of being human”. In Augustine, above any other thinker in antiquity, we have a “turn towards the self”. In no other author then or now can we get a deeper sense of the “inner life” as it journeys towards the truth. For Augustine, reflection and the turn towards the self were a “step on the way back to God”. His task was to explore the infinitely vast universe within, of which the outer universe is but a mere shadow, and there find God.
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On the tetrad

14 10 2009


If number is the form of all things, and the terms up to the tetrad are the roots and the elements, as it were, of number, then these terms would contain the aforementioned properties and the manifestations of the four mathematical sciences- the monad of arithmetic, the dyad of music, the triad of geometry and the tetrad of astronomy, just as in the text entitled On the Gods Pythagoras distinguishes them as follows: “Four are the foundations of wisdom- arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy- ordered 1,2,3,4.” And Cleinias of Tarentum says, “These things when at rest gave rise to arithmetic and geometry, and when moving to harmony and astronomy.”

-from The Theology of Arithmetic attributed to Iamblichus

Oración de la ruda

13 10 2009

rue 2

image credit

Ruda bendita, poderosa Ruda milagrosa que en el Monte del Calvario, por las lágrimas de Magdalena derramaste, lágrimas por mí tráeme, rendido a mi querido NN. Me hago este baño, dadme suerte y la persona que yo quiero, que sienta amor y desesperación por mí y que sus ojos y sus pensamientos se fijen solamente en mí. Por las gotas de sangre que derramó el Rey de Reyes, te pido derrames en mi, dinero y atenciones de mis semejantes, especialmente de (mencione el nombre de la persona). Tráeme prosperidad al momento de bañarme con este preparado, es para que derrames sobre mi prosperidad y suerte. Así pido, Ruda Bendita, que des buenos y bastantes negocios, que entre felicidad y dicha en mi cuerpo y alma. Amen.

Beautiful Rue, powerful miraculous Rue, that on Mount Calvary shed tears for the tears of Magdalene, bring my beloved NN. subdued before me. I take this bath, grant me luck and the person who I want, that he may feel love and desperation for me and his eyes and thoughts may be focused on me alone. For the drops of blood that the King of Kings shed I ask that you shed on me money and the attention of my peers, especially of NN. Bring me prosperity at the moment of bathing myself in this water. It is so that you can pour on me prosperity and luck. Thus I ask, Blessed Rue, that you grant good and plentiful business, that happiness and joy enter into my body and soul. Amen.

Archbishop Weakland – the “after-article”

12 10 2009


In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is my latest article for Inside Catholic that is a review of Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s autobiography, A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church. As expected, this article has led to a minor “feeding frenzy” over there of “conservative” Catholics venting their ire against the fallen liberal prelate. One criticism of my article is that I did not take seriously enough the sexual dimension of Archbishop Weakland’s downfall, which for many commenters was the main driving force behind his progressive agenda. I wouldn’t want to get into it here, but I will only reiterate what I said in my one comment over there: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We have the scandal of Fr. Maciel, who was apparently JPII’s best buddy, and then we have the traditionalists like Fr. Timothy Svea who fell into worse sins and crimes. What about that master of ceremonies of the current Papal court who got picked up by police in the red light district in Rome? I once knew an SSPX priest, Fr. Benedict Vander Putten, who I thought was on fire with the love of God. Turns out he was on fire for the love of underaged girls. Need I go on?

So here too I will steer clear of the “Fox News” culture of accusation and titillation and just argue the issues I set out to discuss in the essay. I think at times that I might have been too hard on the Archbishop, that maybe I have been guilty of the closed-mindedness that I accuse him of. But probing my own reading of the book, I really can’t say that the man has an ounce of real contrition for what he has done. As AG put it to me, the whole book could be summarized as, “yeah, I know I messed up on this one thing… but I am still a good person who did a lot of great things. And I could have done greater things if that darn John Paul II hadn’t persecuted me so much…” I did not get a sense from Weakland that the Church existed as something bigger than the walls of his head. It’s his ideas or the highway; the only reason he is staying Catholic is because he has a strong institutional tie to the Church. It’s all he really knows.
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Just to show that all Philip Glass doesn’t sound the same…

9 10 2009

A collaborative work done in part with the African artist, Foday Musa Suso

Here is some more from Suso:

The immeasurable space in the spirit

8 10 2009

The end of the Robert Wilson / Philip Glass “opera”, Einstein on the Beach

Man is an earthly star enveloped in a cloud, but a star is a heavenly man….

Therefore leaving behind the narrow confines of this shadow, return to yourself; for thus you will return to spaciousness. Remember that there is an immeasurable space in the spirit, but in the body one could say infinite constriction. This indeed you can see from the fact that numbers, which are akin to the nature of spirit, increase without limit but do not diminish; whereas there is a limit to the expression of the physical, to its contraction there is no limit.

-Marsilio Ficino, found in Meditations on the Soul

The lodestone in Hoodoo conjuring

7 10 2009


As a supplement to last week’s post, I present more information on the lodestone as it was used in African-American conjuring, by the scholar Catherine Yronwode

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Liturgy anecdotes from the Internet

6 10 2009


The first from Bishop Terrence Fulham’s column:

With regard to the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the monks of St. Peter’s Abbey in Solesmes, France, so long charged with composing Gregorian melodies for new liturgical feasts flat-out refused to do so for the rest of the Pius XII Pontificate so much did they (like myself) despise that feast. It was John XXIII who ordered the music written and they complied, but it has to be the most cacophonous load of rubbish you ever did hear. The monks had the final word, (or should I say notes ?) on that feast. I’m sure the conventual Mass that day was never sung in Solesmes ! I can only remember singing that Mass once in the seminary schola and one of the Alleluia verses is absolutely hideous – completely discordant and unsingable corresponding to no other piece in the Gregorian repertoire of which I am aware and I’m not surprised either !

Surprisingly, by comparison, the Introit for the feast of St. Pius X also introduced in 1955 for its first celebration in 1956 is absolutely beautiful. Even monks can send coded messages and in music !
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Enchanted Protestantism – III

5 10 2009

Signs, wonders, and the twilight of “doctrinal” Protestantism

People of late have thought me some sort of waivering Catholic who is too friendly with the Protestants. I think half the stuff that I post here would be more than enough to prove that this is a ridiculous. I do have a number of Protestant fans, a couple of whom I know personally. You could even call them, “friends”. They tend to be of the “magisterial Protestant” type, people who take their Luther and Calvin very seriously. I have been told by some that they appreciate my honesty, saying that all of the other Catholics that they encounter are not nearly as honest as I am about what Catholicism is really like. And if Catholicism is merely conceived as a “completion” of a person’s Protestantism, no matter how “Scriptural” they may think it ultimately is, then I think that he is barking up the wrong tree. You can no more get a religion out of a book than you can build a DVD player using the consumer instructional manual. To think as a human being is to think in a context, and not even Muslims treat the Koran the same way that modern Protestants think of the Bible; as some sort of key to an individualistic, bourgeois religion.
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