Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lent XVIII

We should also note that when Lazarus was lying dead, he asks the woman for the assent of faith on his behalf, as it were, so that this type may have force in the churches as well. What I mean is this: when a newborn infant is brought either to receive the chrism of the catechumenate or the [chrism] at the consummation of holy baptism, the one who brings the child says "amen" on its behalf. And for those who are going to be baptized because they are seized by extreme sickness, certain people make the renunciation [of Satan] and declare attachment [to Christ], lending their own voice, as it were, out of love to those assailed by sickness.

[St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Volume 2, Maxwell & Elowsky, trs. IVP Academic (Downers Grove, IL: 2015) p. 88. He is commenting on John 11:25-27.]

Monday, March 25, 2019

Incarnation's Feast

Today, of course, is the Feast of the Annunciation.

The Feast of the Announcement to Mary

The Angel went to Nazareth, Alleluia:
"Peace, O Mary, maiden given great grace,
blessed are you among women, greatly favored!
Have no fear! Your God is gracious to you,
and you shall conceive a Son whose name is Jesus."

Mary was with wonder filled: "I am but a girl,
a maiden; how can I bear a son?"
"Mary, the Holy Spirit overshadows you,
with divine might is descending on you,
You shall bear God's Son. With God all is possible."

Then did the holy Virgin say, "Let it be so,
for I am the handmaiden of the Lord!"
O Mary, receiving peace from God, you give peace;
you restored Eve's children to their true place;
in you the Word was made flesh to dwell among us.

O Lord, we do not understand and are amazed;
we are blinded by Your eternal flame.
The incense of our prayer alone can we give;
we hide behind its smoke in Your presence,
for great is the might that comes upon Your altar!

Lent XVII

The necessity of baptism is so great that if anyone were to die without reception of Baptism, or at least desire for it, he could by no means enter heaven. Because infants are liable to danger of this sort, and can easily die, but still do not have capacities to desire Baptism, therefore it is necessary to baptize them as soon as possible. And although they do not understand that which they receive, nevertheless, the Church supplies that which it responds and pledges for them by means of the godparents, which suffices. Just as by Adam we have all fallen into sin and disfavor with God when we still did not know it, so also it is enough for God if, through Baptism and the Church, we are freed from sin and received in its grace even if we do not yet notice.

[St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctrina Christiana: The Timeless Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine, Grant, tr., Mediatrix Press (2016) pp. 159-160.]

Bellarmine's language, "Baptism, or at least desire for it," follows that of the Council of Trent (Session 6, Chapter 4) about translation to the state of grace: "this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God".

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Three New Poem Drafts

In Flight

Rippled like the wind-blown snow,
Clouds in blanket-hills below
Capture gleams that moonbeams cast
After plane-wings that have passed;

Wisps of ghostly shadows float,
Catching like a broken note
Shapes that wayward winds have wrought,
Subtly there, then subtly not,

As we in flight now leap and span
Mountains, lakes, and towns of man.

Transfiguration

On high the cloud is shining gold
where Tabor's hill is rising, bold;
our Lord our God has glories shown
and all his realm to us made known.

I see the light stream through His face
who lived and died to give us grace;
in vestment pure and glowing white,
he gives his truth to faith and sight.

The law prepared that we might wait
and know the one to change our fate;
the prophets hoped and showed the way
that we might find our Lord this day.

Lord, I, a fool, am bowed in heart;
I do not know my place or part,
but, if you will, my heart is yours
through every age where love endures.

Though less than nill I have to give,
my Lord, take all my life to live,
take all my death, for you to die,
and grant this light to see you by.

Introspection

Let holy fate fall where it falls:
My flaw is clear; I hope, I lose,
I fall for easy ruse. I know
the dawn, its light, that, slow,
upon the brightning road will flow, and tread
across the deepening red;
my hope is real; my hope is small.

The heart is made of all its woe.
I know this hurt, its slow, tight mesh,
the cold of steel on flesh,
the jostle thick with thresh and toss,
the awful ache of loss.
I know -- yet I do not recall.
Let holy fate fall where it falls.

In Both Let's Do Our Best

Lent
by George Herbert


Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos'd of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev'ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos'd of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.

Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodness of the deed.
Neither ought other men's abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It's true, we cannot reach Christ's forti'eth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet we are bid, 'Be holy ev'n as he, '
In both let's do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand, and more:
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev'ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Lent XVI

Now He is baptized not as Himself requiring purification but as making my purification His own, that He may break the heads of the dragons on the water, that He may wash away sin and bury all the old Adam in water, that He may sanctify the Baptist, that He may fulfil the Law, that He may reveal the mystery of the Trinity, that He may become the type and ensample to us of baptism. But we, too, are baptized in the perfect baptism of our Lord, the baptism by water and the Spirit.

[St. John Damascene, An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter 9.]

Friday, March 22, 2019

Lent XV

Great is the Baptism that lies before you: a ransom to captives; a remission of offenses; a death of sin; a new-birth of the soul; a garment of light; a holy indissoluble seal; a chariot to heaven; the delight of Paradise; a welcome into the kingdom; the gift of adoption! But there is a serpent by the wayside watching those who pass by: beware lest he bite you with unbelief. He sees so many receiving salvation, and is seeking whom he may devour. You are coming in unto the Father of Spirits, but you are going past that serpent. How then may you pass him? Have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; that even if he bite, he may not hurt you. Have faith in-dwelling, stedfast hope, a strong sandal, that you may pass the enemy, and enter the presence of your Lord. Prepare your own heart for reception of doctrine, for fellowship in holy mysteries. Pray more frequently, that God may make you worthy of the heavenly and immortal mysteries.

[St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Prologue. He is addressing catechumens, of course, who are preparing for baptism.]

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Ink Traces of Newspapers

The unlettered of ancient times read from the book of nature. Or rather, he was from the book itself, he was the book itself of creation. The lettered of ancient times was a person of the book(s) and was himself one or more books. The modern person is a newspaper, and not only one newspaper, but our miserable modern memory is like so many miserable, worn-out newspapers on which, without changing the paper, have been printed every day the newspaper of the day. And we are no more than this frightful staleness of letters.

Our ancestors were blank paper and the linen itself from which the paper is made. The lettered were books. We moderns, we are no more than the ink traces of newspapers.

[Charles Péguy, Notes on Bergson and Descartes, Ward, tr., Cascade Books (Eugene, OR: 2019) p. 79.]

I doubt he would be impressed by the Internet Age.

Lent XIV

What is Baptism?

It is the first and most necessary Sacrament of the new Law, by which we are enrolled among the heirs of eternal life, because once it is conferred in water, by which we are spiritually reborn, and gain a full remission of sins, we are adopted into the sons of God.

[St. Peter Canisius, A Small Catechism for Catholics, Grant, tr. Mediatrix Press (2014) p. 58.]

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Honest Men, Like Others

We can only think of Plato and Aristotle in grand academic robes. They were honest men, like others, laughing with their friends, and, when they diverted themselves with writing their Laws and the Politics, they did it as an amusement. That part of their life was the least philosophic and the least serious; the most philosophic was to live simply and quietly.

[Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Arcturus Publishing (London: 2018), p. 114 (#331).]

Lent XIII

In hierarchical actions we must consider the agents, the recipients and the actions. The agents are the ministers of the Church; and to these the sacrament of order belongs. The recipients are those who approach the sacraments: and these are brought into being by Matrimony. The actions are "cleansing," "enlightening," and "perfecting." Mere cleansing, however, cannot be a sacrament of the New Law, which confers grace: yet it belongs to certain sacramentals, i.e. catechism and exorcism. But cleansing coupled with enlightening, according to Dionysius, belongs to Baptism; and, for him who falls back into sin, they belong secondarily to Penance and Extreme Unction. And perfecting, as regards power, which is, as it were, a formal perfection, belongs to Confirmation: while, as regards the attainment of the end, it belongs to the Eucharist.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III.65.1 ad 3. The references are to the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Illumination (Enlightening) is, of course, the Eastern name for Baptism. The Dionysian doesn't consider the list of seven, but this is a clever way to fit all seven into what he does say about the sacraments.]