More from the Mailbox

17 09 2008

A continuation of a previous conversation:

Of course the liturgy of the Byzantine Church is infinitely better than the Latin Church. Why do you think I had anything to do with it? Just because I “liked it” or that it made me “feel closer to God!” There are many reasons for why it is better.

The Latin Church has always been rather primitive. It tends far more towards the “mystical” and direct “feeling” approach because it is so far behind the eight ball when it comes to brains. They (Latins) never really got into the big theological debates of the first 7 councils. They have always promoted a Jesus-centric, (not even Christo-centric) spirituality. They have never really come to terms with the role of the Mother of God. All the major liturgical feasts of the BVM were imported from the East and the Reformation never had a clue what it was all about. Of course you could start on the Holy Spirit and the ease with which they stuck the Filioque in the Creed and screwed up the order of the sacraments of Initiation.

I went to the local Jesuit Church the other day as it was the anniversary of my Mother’s death. Sometimes that Church commemorates members of my family (that day they didn’t.) Anyway it was a Vietnamese priest in a very small “Lady Chapel” with a congregation of 20 with a cumulative age of 2,000 years. Anyway, it was clear form the way that the priest was “carrying on” that he thought that the Mass was a “re-enactment” of the Last Supper. He was playing the role of Jesus and we the apostles. This Latin tradition goes way back. Why did they change the bread to look more like mazza? Why could they get on for so long with out an epiklesis. It’s because their liturgy has only 2 dimensions, past (may be Jesus) and present (may be the re-enactment and sacrifice to the Father). The eschatological dimension is very weak (I’m being charitable).

The Spirit, is the “active principle” who carries the liturgy forward and brings it into the perfection of the kingdom. It is only in the light of the future life that the liturgy makes sense. Therefore it is “mysterious” because we do not know what the future life will be like, all we know is that it will be “like” the liturgy.

This may be why the question of the “real presence” were never very big in the East. The present status of the “bread” is determined not only by past (what Jesus said) or present (what the bread “is”) but more importantly how the whole thing is a foretaste of reality. Reality for us is mysterious -hidden and covered. Only when reality finally breaks through into our world will the Eucharist and the liturgical life not be “mysterious”.

It’s the “open window” of the physicality of the Byzantine Liturgy that makes its so much superior for us to the Latin liturgy. It is the product of a sophisticated, intellectual world – a world that had inherited the Greek language from the classical world, as well as all the permutations that Greek philosophy had undergone. And the Byzantine world knew this perfectly well. It was all judged in the light of the Gospel but certainly not rejected.

The Latin Church is the result of a Church struggling with the collapse of a political entity who had had a “borrowed” culture. It has battle for its physical and intellectual existence from its earliest days. When persecution ended the first thing the Church did was to abandon the West and move East. The Eastern Emperor often paid off the barbarians to go and sack the West and leave the East in peace. I think you can get a feel for what is going on by looking at the Latin translation of the Bible. It is so cloth-eared and country bumpkin. And they love it. Look what happened with Pius XII’s attempt to clean up the psalms. Everyone hated it.

Anyway never fear Mr V. Eternity is long and one day the Latin Church will feel at home in its own shoes. Just look how “un-scriptural” the Church became after the Reformation. The Bible was something for the Protestants! Bouyer somewhere says an interesting thing…It was the classical revival that did for the Bible in the West. Classical mythology and values became the currency of literature. People could tell you who “Shining Athena” was but had no idea who Ruth was!

Anyway the Church is struggling to “re-capture” the Bible…Will it work? I don’t know. It hasn’t worked so far…


There are lots of things in here that I don’t agree with, but they deserve to be brought up anyway. I will address them later. It is interesting to note that the man who wrote this is an Eastern Catholic.

On Ecclesiastical Allegiances

23 08 2008


(Wherein I reveal whose side I am really on)

I have read many recent posts on other pages on the Internet about conversion, ecclesiastical factionalism, and general religious in-fighting. Reading my own blog, I could really ask myself, “what does all of this qualify as”. Truth be told, I am writing and thinking more and more explicitly about Catholic topics. This goes against my past admonition to myself and others not to write about theology, for theology is something we should not take lightly. While I hope to keep some sobriety when it comes to discussing religious topics, I have also come to the conclusion recently that, even if I am not the most qualified person in the world to discuss some theological topics, all the same I am certainly more qualified than some people who seem to make a living and a reputation off of it. That being said, I am still well aware that I am a “nobody” when it comes to all of this, but my experiences and readings into these topics have, in the language of the streets, “earned me stripes”. The work has certainly been put in, and I do no one a service by pretending otherwise.
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Missing the Low Mass

3 08 2008

Or: Saving 1962 Catholicism from the Cult of the Experts

I once read something on the New Liturgical Movement blog (a blog that I no longer link to because I am trying to get passed the cult of ecclesiastical porn) that really bothered me. [Danger- long footnote: Anti-Staretz once told me the story of an Anglo-Catholic monastery in England back when their church was more tolerant of them. It is said that another Anglo-Catholic went to hang out with the monks, but noticed they didn’t do Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. “Oh Father,” complained the visitor to one of the monks, “if only you did Benediction. It would in my heart make me feel so good.” The monk replied, “Fornication would make you feel even better, but we don’t do that either”.] The phrase was “saving the 1962 Mass from 1962”. I thought to myself at first, “But of course! Who wants to go back to the speed Masses, the St. Jude Novenas, the nuns who could melt you into a puddle with just one cold and rutheless gaze?!”

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De Vita Stellarum

26 05 2008

If the former view, which Thomas allows to be compatible by the Platonists and many Fathers, and which Thomas allows to be compatible with Christian dogma, is correct, then the stars have intellectual souls and living bodies made entirely of very subtle spirit (which is perhaps why the Sun is called spirit in Ecclesiastes), with which they can sense and communicate… [Cardinal Cajetan] thinks that the animation of the stars is the official opinion of the church and should not be doubted. For in the Preface of the Mass one sings: “Deum laudant Angeli, adorant Potestates: Coeli, Coelorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim &c. incessabili voce proclamant”, and this shows that the Church holds that not only the orders of angels, but the heavens themselves, and the Virtues of the heavens, praise God, as animate bodies and souls; which is also implied by God’s words in Job: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”.

-D.P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella

In other words, “Catholic traditionalism”, often very reactionary in things like the theory of evolution, still has a ways to go in terms of being completely “traditional”. While many would fight tooth and nail to save the traditional Latin text of the Preface of the Mass, few will actually believe what it says or pay any attention to its contents. In other words, most Roman Catholic traditionalists have a motive for their views other than “Tradition” itself. I suppose that is why I don’t really consider myself a Catholic traditionalist anymore. It isn’t really about rubrics, doctrines, or even ideas anymore. It is about how we see the world. And everyone, from the sedevacantist to the Call to Action militant, agrees when it comes to that; they are swimming in the modern, mechanistic, and anti-metaphysical way of seeing the world. Most of the controversy is just quibbling over the details. The modern paradigm, in the end, is just functional atheism. It matters little what pious talk we sprinkle over it.

Christus Sol Invictus

25 04 2008

On Time, Orientation, Liturgical Rationalism, and the Traditionalist Movement

The lotus also demonstrates the workings of Sympathy. Its petals are closed before the appearance of the sun’s rays, but it gradually opens them as the sun begins to rise, unfolding them as it reaches its zenith and curling them up again as it descends. What then is the difference between the human manner of hymning the sun, by opening and closing the mouth and lips, and that of the lotus by opening and closing its petals? For those are its lips and that is its natural hymn.

-Proclus Diadochus, On the Hieratic Art
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My Theory of Everything – Part II

21 04 2008

God is Merciful, but He’s Not Nice

The biggest theological cottage industry the Catholic Church has right now is the “culture of life”. It is such a big industry since it is an easy-sell and in and of itself a very worthy cause. After all, a culture that cannot stop killing its own children in the womb and has no idea what sexual intercourse is really for is in big trouble, and the Church is doing a great service to mankind for pointing this out. From all of this rhetoric, however, one can assume that the greatest sins man can commit all go against human life, and that is simply not the case. If we are living is such “dark ages”, if God is punishing us for something, it may not be for the heinous crimes of abortion and euthanasia. Indeed, it is possible that we are being punished for a much more terrible crime of which these are just a symptom.
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My Theory of Everything…

18 04 2008

Well not everything…

I think that the crisis in the Church has nothing to do with modernity, Vatican II, the traditional Latin Mass, or anything of that sort, at least directly.

I think it has to do with sacreligious Communions. If, as the Apostle writes, bad Communions can be eating one’s own judgment, maybe a lot of bad Communions result in the harming of the health of the Church. Maybe we are eating our own punishment. And this may be the result of all the movements, from St. Pius X onward, to encourage frequent Communion, which is a good in itself, but has since made Holy Communion into a communal ritual without any implications of holiness in many places.  

Just a theory. Feel free to weigh in.

Sancta sanctis.

The Distorted Mirror

10 04 2008

Some Clarifying Notes

Yesterday’s post wasn’t one of my better ones, nor do I think that I was very clear in what I was saying, so hopefully here I can clarify what I was saying:

1. The nakedness I refer to is man without God.  Unlike in the ancient world, there now exists the idea of the division between philosophy and theology. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (of all people) openly mused about abolishing the division between philosophy and theology years in Roman Catholic seminary training. I think he had a real sense that philosophy standing on itself would only lead to more confusion. Man without God is an abyss as a philosophical question. We have wanted to strip man of the Divine, and that leads to nothingness.

2. The modern Roman Catholic order in many ways co-operates with this process. In its theology of the “People of God”, it aims to project an image of God by putting a mirror to contemporary society in order to worship it. As Chenu would say, this would be an example of the Gospel incarnating itself in our contemporary society, complete with felt banners, drumsets, and psychobabble/Oprah-speak. But no society can ever worship itself consciously. This is what Mass versus populum ultimately becomes. It is an idolatry that not even the most darkened ancients could have conceived.

3. If I could find the solutions to these problems, I wouldn’t be writing this stupid blog, would I? But I walk into a church now and I am no longer enchanted by it. When I was in the religious life, I was enchanted by the traditional liturgies, both Eastern and Western. I was enchanted by the posadas in Mexico, young Mexican immigrant  men crawling towards the Crucifix in Hollister, the Stations of the Cross in Buenos Aires, the All-Night Vigils in Russian Churches, and the Coptic vigils in the Mojave Desert. Maybe it is just play-acting. Maybe we are deluding ourselves. Maybe it is a form of idolatry. But it is the only religion that I can give any credibilty to. It is a religion that is uncommon, disruptive and somewhat scary. That is because the Gospel is a scary thing. The Incarnation is a scary thing. It is not pleasant and it is not nice for a God to be incarnated, die on the Cross, and rise from the dead. And if we have a religion and liturgy that is pleasant and pasturized, then we are NOT communicating what Et Verbum caro factum est  really means.  That is a tension that I have sensed in my own life growing up Catholic in this country. And I feel that our church is still going down the wrong road.

We are stuck in a hall of mirrors where we think that modern man, devoid of imagination, tradition, and a real sense of the Divine, is the only thing that exists.


9 04 2008

In one important respect Descartes was breaking new ground. By comparing the workings of the brain with that of complex hyrdraulic machines, he was regarding the most technologically advanced artefacts of his day as templates for understanding the brain. This is a tradition that persists today; when we refer to computers and computational operations as models of how the brain acquires, processes, and stores information, for example. So while Descartes was hopelessly wrong in detail, he was adopting a modern style of reasoning.

-Michael O’Shea, The Brain: A Very Short Introduction
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Against the Vulgar Tongues

3 04 2008


From here one can suppose that by overcoming the functionalist controls of Marxism, poetry will recover the the humanist depths of language and will open up by its semantics a means of recovery, restoration and creation as many lyric poets dreamed them in the foundational centuries of the semantics of objective realities and the founding logos.

Against the functionalist controls of dialectical materialism, this lyric restoration will strive to re-open the sacred fountains (sanctos recludere fontes) of Greek and Latin semantics, of Germanic and Romance semantics, to then recuperate the sleeping roots of their origins, which in some way inhabit those robust and unamendable signifying totalities. It will produce a re-reading of Renaissance and ancient texts, for example, and it will re-initiate wonder in the face of Homer or Petrarch. This one can see as well even in the venerable science of classic philology, weighed down from being an industrial resource that crushes the old gods, the powerful live-giving spirits.

Carlos A. Disandro

(More on this figure here.)

Recently, I have been hanging out in a certain Internet forum, and one character in this forum had below his moniker the following quote from John XXIII:

 The language of the Church must be not only universal but immutable. If in fact the Truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to certain or several human languages, subject, as they are, to change, and none of them having greater authority than any other, then such a variety would ensue that the sense of these truths would be neither sufficiently clear nor sufficiently precise for all. -Veterum Sapientiæ, 1962.  

It is a common argument nowadays that a sacred language would never fly with modern man, that if the Catholic Church went back to having all Latin services tomorrow, people would leave in droves. People want to understand what is being said in services, people benefit from learning the “Word of God” etc. This may be true, but it is a rather curious assumption, since the now largest religion in the world, Islam, uses Koranic Arabic in its instruction and prayer from Morrocco to the southern Philipines, from mosques in sub-Saharan Africa to store front meeting places in the ghettos of Oakland. Venacularization may not be the best growth strategy if we look at the example of our main competitor.

Perhaps we are being scourged for thinking that we understand too much. Maybe we are being scourged because we remake the Word of God in our own modern linguistic and hermeneutical image and likeness. Perhaps we are guilty of modern semantic idolatry.

So pace Serge, it is about Latin, at least in the West.