The only way to win is not to play

8 05 2019

The idea of reviving the office of female deacon or deaconess has been raised by the current Vatican. Though I have traditionalist leanings, I don’t have a strong opinion on this. To cite Slavoj Zizek, I would say that I would prefer not to, but I don’t think the traditional camp has much of a leg to stand on at this point. Deaconesses are documented to have been in existence in the early Church, and across various ritual churches, their duties and privileges varied widely. Apparently in the Armenian Orthodox Church, there were female deacons all the way up to the middle of the 20th century and beyond. Above is a recently ordained Armenian female deacon. What would the Vatican or conservative Catholics say about this deacon? What if the Armenian Catholics, who share the same rites but are communion with the Vatican, decide to ordain their own female deacons again? Could she serve in St. Peter’s Basilica during Mass, as clergy in other rites sometimes tend to do? I would say this is not a question of “if”, but “when”. Read the rest of this entry »

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On the cycle of the yugas

3 05 2019

A reader pointed out two essays in First Things by Russian author, Eugene Vodolazkin, more or less on the themes of time and historical truth. For the most part, these essays suffer from the tendency of literary scholars to divide the world into a series of just-so stories: observations from limited sources that seem to flawlessly explain the long arc of history. So needless to say, I don’t agree with much in these articles. But I do want to draw from them two themes to discuss here, namely, the repetitive nature of past narratives, as well as the progressive concept of time. Read the rest of this entry »





Notes on liturgical maximalism

30 04 2019

Just some unconnected thoughts I’ve had recently.

As you may know, I was connected to the Society of St. Pius X for a number of years in my youth. This experience was quite formative to me. My experience of the traditional liturgy was thus somewhat minimalistic and combative. Back in the late 1990’s, you were lucky to find the old Latin Mass anywhere. It was either relegated to the basement, to a time that was equivalent to the basement, or it could be found in little chapels or in groups that were considered “schismatic”. In the SSPX in particular, it was made clear to us that the liturgy was just the tip of the iceberg. Ecumenism, religious liberty, the New Theology, really it was opposing these things that brought me into the traditionalist sphere in the first place, at least initially. Later I would become much softer on these issues (wishy-washy?) but I never forgot that all of this was connected. The modernists also grew up in and celebrated the traditional liturgy for years before they got to change it. The traditional liturgy was thus never a panacea for me. Read the rest of this entry »





On the Triduum

18 04 2019

Sometimes I feel more cursed than blessed having had a thoroughly Catholic youth. As I have stated previously, the strongest memory I have of Good Friday is our grandmother reminding us to fast or God would strike us dead (something like that), and showing up to church one Good Friday and seeing an ambulance in front. “He probably didn’t fast,” I thought to myself then. Read the rest of this entry »





The alternative Catholic future

15 04 2019

I read a review in Harper’s Magazine of a new book on Thomas Merton and his personal foibles. Having resisted the urge so far to read Merton, I will probably not read this biographical expose either. On the other hand, this article was of interest to me in that it also describes the trends at the time within the Catholic milieu. From Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Evelyn Waugh to a nascent Liturgical Movement, there was a genuine optimism of message within the general pessimism toward materialist modernity. Catholics could be in the world but not of it, and the world would still listen. Merton’s own Seven Storey Mountain was a cultural phenomenon that influenced everyone from devout Catholics to the beatniks. Only with Vatican II and the 1960’s did the script definitively flip: in opening to the world, the Church showed that it feared it, or rather, that it feared being ignored by it. In the meanwhile, the world began to ignore the Church (except for chances to slander it). It continues to ignore it to this day. Read the rest of this entry »





On the Divine Office

10 04 2019

I have followed sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada’s writings for almost two decades now, and I am quite fond of his approach to theological and liturgical questions. I am most appreciative of his mischievous humor as well when he is polemicizing. A recent piece of his from some years back praising St. Pius X’s reform of the Divine Office (known in the current Church as the “Liturgy of Hours”) was brought to my attention. He brings up the main issue of the pre-Pius X office not reciting all 150 Psalms a week as well as its length and complexity. Cekada thus thinks the reform was a good idea and not without historical precedent. Archimandrite Robert Taft, for example, produced an exceptional book on the Divine Office indicating that its reform had been an issue for centuries prior to St. Pius X. Read the rest of this entry »





On conversion: I’m against it

4 04 2019

I am flighty in my ideas, I admit. Since my mid-20’s, I’ve basically had a live and let live approach. “If it works for you, that’s okay I guess.” Maybe this is caused by my (very) liberal education, my West Coast upbringing, and my coming of age in the era of multiculturalism. There was one instance (I can’t give details of course) when I was drinking wine with a Catholic friend who was thinking of converting to Islam (he did). I volunteered to drive him to the mosque and witness it (that didn’t pan out for reasons I don’t remember). It was surreal, but it takes all kinds to make a world. Read the rest of this entry »





Chasing the Incarnation

1 04 2019

A haunting image that has been etched into my mind manifested itself to me in a Russian Orthodox church during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Annunciation. At a certain point during Matins (I won’t bore you with the context too much), the bearded priest stood before the icon of the Annunciation and chanted one of those old leftover ancient Slavonic chants with censer in hand. I am not sure why this made such an impression on me: it was a good hour into the service, and I know little Old Slavonic (I can sort of muddle my way through understanding what is going on.) The priest wore a sky blue phelonion gilded in gold, the robust baritone voice echoed through the church, and the melismatic chant reached back into time and grabbed from it some hidden reality that gleamed like the clouds at dusk… Read the rest of this entry »





Sympathy for the liberal devil

15 03 2019

I should state again that I am sympathetic to theological liberalism of all stripes. Part of this is due to my good personal relationships with people with progressive religious worldviews. They are generally nicer people (using my “Would I invite this person to a backyard barbecue?” standard). Even though my own ideological preferences often dip into the reactionary, and my ritual preferences definitely so, my inclination to exclude people using these criteria dwindles more and more as time passes. Read the rest of this entry »





On fasting

12 03 2019

I heard a homily recently at a Roman Catholic church I do not frequent wherein the priest was talking about fasting. He stated that what you eat doesn’t really matter, as in giving up chocolate or meat or whatever. Rather, he said it was simpler if you just eat half of what you normally eat, perhaps by using a smaller plate. Having experience in other traditions with strict limitations on the types of food one can eat while fasting, I found this attitude intensely problematic. The typical Eastern Christian fast is one from most animal products, and the term “carnival,” the period before Lent in the Western Church, means “saying farewell to meat.” Is this simply impractical in our age when meat is often less expensive than (good) plant-based products? Read the rest of this entry »