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 »

Briefly on Meister Eckhart

4 03 2019

I listened recently to Charlotte Radler’s brief audio lecture, Living Without a Why: Meister Eckhart’s Mysticism as a refresher concerning his thought. I came away fairly lukewarm concerning Eckhart. When I was younger, Eckhart seemed interesting and a bit transgressive, especially in the circles I was in. I guess years of experience has made me impatient with his word games and exaggerations. Talk about some “oneness” beyond the Trinity or “the eye by which I see God is the same eye with which he sees me,” leaves me rather cold. For me, the austere negation and moving beyond all concepts just births nasty things like Hegel and the New Age (New Agers love Eckhart). Maybe that isn’t fair, but the burden of being understood lies with the author, not with the careless readers with agendas. Eckhart played fast and loose with much of his rhetoric, and Radler seems to concede that at times. Eckhart was prepared to submit to Holy Mother Church when he died during his heresy trial. I am not sure how useful his thought is now, considering our current intellectual atmosphere.

Catholicism is just Palo Mayombe with better aesthetics

25 02 2019

Another manifestation of Cuthbert’s power that also can be dated to the 1160s concerns a stag that a knight named Robert in the Scottish province of Lothian tried to capture. It sought refuge in the cemetery of a church dedicated to St. Cuthbert. The dogs chasing the animal were not able to get inside the graveyard, and the stag remained there in the sanctuary. A young man defied the power of Cuthbert and got into the precinct to attack the animal. The stag turned around and charged at a group of people watching. With its antlers it gored the evil man’s baby son, who subsequently died. ” Thus St. Cuthbert deservedly ordered that death be inflicted on the son of the man who chose to cheat his guest of his tranquility.”

The dogs then killed the stag, but no one dared to touch its carcass or eat of its flesh, which was left there to rot. Six months later, a craftsman defied the spot by trying to cut up the carcass. Even though it seemed to be dried out by then, blood shot forth and struck him in the forehead. Still, he dragged the animal to his home but was punished when blood began to ooze from the animal and fill the house, to such an extent that neighbors could see a river of red emerging from the building. “What should he do, where should he go, he was at a loss, for everywhere he sensed the danger of evil hanging over him?”

–from Brian Patrick McGuire’s Brother and Lover: Aelred of Rievaulx

A generation’s self-canonization

18 02 2019

A post on Twitter from last year was brought to my attention that shows a stained glass window with now defrocked Theodore McCarrick celebrating Mass with now St. John Paul II. I think this makes my point about last week’s post about speedy canonizations in general. Unless someone is St. Francis of Assisi there is no harm in waiting until everyone who knew the person is dead before even thinking of elevating the person to the altars. If the cultus is lasting it will outlast the one or two generations after the person’s demise. If not, it was just a flash in the pan.

All tradition is a product of the 19th century

15 02 2019

I recently learned of the impending canonization of John Henry Cardinal Newman, and honestly it makes me more suspect that canonization process has just become a popularity contest. In an institution with one billion people in it, you are bound to find someone attributing a miracle to anything from a dead 19th century cardinal to the face of Jesus appearing in a piece of toast. I am not sure I will ever consider John Paul II or John XXIII to be saints. Maybe they can be removed from the calendar one day or demoted to mythology just like St. Christopher or St. Philomena. In the case of the latter recent “saint”, that would be poetic justice. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Thomas a Kempis isn’t saint

8 02 2019

An interesting read. I’ve always wondered about that.

The Benedict Option

6 02 2019

I have mulled over doing a review of this book that I recently read, and I am still not sure I can do it justice. The difficulty that I am finding is addressing the complexity and nuance of Dreher’s description of the problem of the contemporary conservative Christian malaise. The book draws inspiration from the last line of Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s book, After Virtue, wherein he contrasts the violent revolutionary Trotsky to the humble quiet movement of the monastic founder, St. Benedict. Dreher visits monastic communities as well as quasi-monastic lay communities that are trying to live a devout traditional life in the midst of the maelstrom of change that is 21st century society. Dreher, both in this book and on his widely-read blog, continues to document the perceived persecution of conservative Christians (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) who refuse to go along with the liberal sexual politics of the modern era, among other changes. Read the rest of this entry »

4 minute Mass

30 01 2019

Looking up things for the last post, I came upon this video of the complete Mass of the schismatic church of Palmar de Troya. As you can see, it’s four minutes long. Read the rest of this entry »