Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Brief Guide to Holy Week

As you know, we are well into Holy Week, the holiest time in the Christian calendar. Here is a rough, brief guide to some notable things that are often associated with each day. It is not anywhere in the vicinity of being rigorous or comprehensive.

Palm Sunday

Jesus enters Jerusalem to the shouting and acclamation of many people, who lay palms before him and publically laud him as the Davidic King.

It is the beginning of the end, for the Triumphal Entry initiates the Passion, and sets into motion a chain of events that inexorably lead to betrayal and darkness. There is celebration, but it is the empty celebration of those who will scatter at the sign of trouble; there is joy and truth, but the joy is laced with irony and the truth is not understood.

Great Monday

Palm Sunday began with a false conception of kingship. As Holy Week progresses we begin to understand the true nature of the King of Kings, and the true of nature of His Kingdom. Holy Monday is often associated with the barrenness of the fig tree (Mt 21:18-20).

Great Tuesday

Holy Tuesday is associated with Jesus' exhortations to wise preparation and vigilance (Mt. 25:1-13; Mt. 25:14-30). Something comes this way, a parousia, a glorious appearing. He tries to tell us. We do not understand. But we watch and pray.

Great Wednesday

Holy Wednesday is often associated with repentance (Mt. 26:6-13). Christ's feet are anointed by a repentant woman.

On one tradition on Wednesday evening there is a service of holy unction: the people are blessed with a small anointing of oil, representing the gracious anointing of the Spirit.

But there are darker things afoot. Judas plans a betrayal.

Maundy Thursday

Great and Holy Thursday is associated with four events. The first two occur in the upper room with his disciples. In the first, Jesus washes his disciples' feet -- taking on the role of a servant.

The second event is the Last Supper. It is unclear from the Gospel accounts whether this supper was the Passover. The Synoptics strongly suggest it, but they aren't always careful about chronology. John arguably is, and he explicitly distinguishes it from the Judean Passover. My understanding is that Galileans sometimes celebrated Passover on a different day (e.g., the day before or the day after) the Judean one, so it's possible they are both right. Or, which is also possible, there might be some point we don't know.

Regardless, the Last Supper is the Christian Passover. It is the meal before the cross of blood that will lead the angel of judgment to pass over our houses. It is the conception of the Church, which will be quickened at Pentecost.

Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

A high standard: to love each other as Christ loves. This is why the day is often called 'Maundy Thursday'. 'Maundy' comes from 'mandatum', commandment.

After the Last Supper the Agony in the Garden begins. Jesus withdraws to pray, and we come to the next two events.

The third event is the prayer noted by John, often called the Marvelous or High Priestly Prayer.

The fourth event is the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, in which Judas betrays him with a kiss of friendship.

At evening Easter Triduum begins, ending on Sunday evening. The prayers of the Christian year begin to reach their highest tide.

[For an excellent Catholic discussion, see Fr. Neuhaus's comment on Holy Thursday at the First Things blog.]

Good Friday

On Holy Friday Christ dies. Because of this, it is traditional to have no communion on this day; it is common for churches to be decorated in black, taking on the semblance of mourning.

Christ treads the Via Dolorosa from Pilate's Hall to the Golgotha; his route is ritually rehearsed through the Stations of the Cross. The fourteen stations most commonly used today are as follows:

1. The Condemnation. Brought to trial before Pilate, Jesus is condemned to death.

2. The Taking of the Cross. The bar of the cross is laid upon his back.

3. The First Fall. He stumbles under the weight of it.

4. Jesus and His Mother. Along the way to his death Jesus comes face to face with His mother.

5. Simon of Cyrene. A man from the crowd is forced to help carry the cross.

6. The Veronica. A woman uses a cloth to wipe Jesus' face, which is now covered with blood and sweat. By tradition she is called Bernice (or in the West) Veronica, and she is said to be one of the women Jesus had healed (Mt. 9:20-22).

7. The Second Fall. He stumbles again.

8. The Women of Jerusalem. The women of Jerusalem weep for Him as he passes.

9. The Third Fall. He stumbles yet again.

10. The Removal of the Garments. He is stripped of his clothes.

11. The Fixing to the Cross. He is nailed to the cross.

12. The Death of Christ. Seven sayings are associated with the death of Christ, the Seven Last Words of Christ:

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
I thirst. (John 19:28)
Father into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)
It is finished! (John 19:30)

When Christ's side is pierced, water and blood flows out: baptism.

13. The Deposition. He is taken from the cross.

14. The Tomb. He is laid in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea.

Of these fourteen stations, the first, the second, the fifth, the eighth, the tenth, the eleventh, the twelfth, the thirteenth, and the fourteenth have some explicit mention in Scripture.

One common way of observing Good Friday is to hold a Service of Shadows. As the service proceeds, the lights are gradually extinguished. The service ends in darkness. The disciples are scattered.

Holy Saturday

The dolorous week comes to a peaceful Sabbath rest; but it is the rest of suffering, and the peace of a tomb. Traditionally there is no communion, only the pause of eternity. There is an old tradition, only sporadically followed today, in which no food is taken at all for the forty hours prior to Sunday's sunrise.

Holy Saturday is the liturgical embodiment of the affirmation that Christ descended into hell, i.e., hades, sheol.

After sundown Easter Vigil begins. The world watches and waits as promise begins to unfold.

Easter Sunday

He is risen. Easter Vigil, in an old tradition still popular today, opens up into a sunrise service and meal, at which the great fast, both of the Triduum and of Lent, is broken. Easter shows the taking of the greatest evil -- the Crucifixion of God's Anointed -- and the turning of it into the greatest good -- new life for all who answer the call. To indicate this some churches have begun to display a Flowering Cross: a cross, symbol of torment and death, is put up on Good Friday that, on Easter Sunday, is decorated to overflowing with flowers.

There is also an old tradition in which there is a special baptismal service at the end of the Easter service. For as the Feast of Feasts, Easter is the day, beyond any other day, of new beginning, new hope, new life.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Evening Note for Tuesday, April 11th

I read with interest a recent verbum ipsum post on an argument by Andrew Fiala for 'pacifism in practice', based on just war theory. As Lee summarizes the argument:

Fiala argues that, in practice, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a citizen to know whether the ad bellum and in bello criteria of just war theory are met by any particular war. Therefore, the prudent thing to do is to "err on the side of peace" and oppose all (or nearly all) wars.

The problem with this approach, as I see it, is that the criteria of just war theory weren't formulated to guide the judgment of citizens, but the judgment of statesmen -- princes, originally, although a lot can remain the same, mutatis mutandis. Citizens, even in a democratic society, even in liberal government, are a different matter entirely. When the United States goes to war, for instance, citizens (as such) have nothing to do, one way or another, with the matter. We do not go to war by plebescite, we do not wage war by vote. We have delegated representatives whom we have explicitly given the power to decide such matters; what is more, the whole point of delegating to representatives is to have people who, unlike the rest of us, can explicitly and fully devote themselves to the examination of reasons for doing this rather than that. So the only real question is whether the just war criteria would require statesmen to oppose all (or nearly all) wars. And the answer, I think, is fairly clearly that they require that there be a presumption that peaceful solutions are better than ones involving war, and that statesmen follow prudence (that most statesmanlike of virtues) in being very cautious and wary about anything remotely resembling war. But the reason it requires this is just that the standards to which just war theory holds statesmen are very, very high. The epistemological reason suggested by Fiala is not a serious factor, I think. It's easy to see why someone might think it would be. As Lee says,"Since war is a 'capital case,' shouldn't we be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt before throwing our support behind it?" And that, I think, is very true. But the question is really, 'What constitutes reasonable doubt?'. And in the older forms of just war theory, which are discussions about virtue (personal justice), the only standard of reasonable doubt for the statesman is something like this: "Did you, in your best-formed and inmost conscience, do whatever you could prudently do to avoid war without unnecessarily endangering the lives of the innocent and the people in your care or engaging in injustice yourself?" And in the later forms, such as we begin to find in the Spanish scholastics, which begin to focus at greater length on matters pertaining to the law of nations (legal justice), the standard would be something like this: "Did you take all the steps that can reasonably be demanded according to law (positive, natural, and revealed), so that you had legal grounds for your actions?" These are extremely difficult questions; and woe to the statesman who answers them glibly or easily. But this aspect of just war theory -- the primary aspect -- is about the statesman (his soul and his legal grounds).

Of course, just war theory is relevant to citizens as well as statesman, but not as directly. Citizens simply have a power of review (through moral suasion, assembly, petition, and election), and insofar as this power comes into play, citizens will need to include the question of whether their statesmen are acting unjustly in their evaluation. But this will proceed in exactly the same way any evaluation of injustice in politics will proceed: citizens who are prudent and just do not make such evaluations assuming that they are in exactly the same position as their statesmen -- if they ever could reasonably assume that, it would be a sign that their statesmen were utterly, radically incompetent, and needed to be removed anyway. Rather, what they do is to demand answers to questions that will help them to determine, to the limits they can, whether there is adequate reason (under the circumstance) for thinking that the statesmen can be given the benefit of the doubt. We don't ever ask anything more than this exercise of political prudence on the part of the citizen. Yes, it's true, most citizens don't know all the relevant legal ins-and-outs, or all the facts; and it's certainly true that the no private citizen knows the inner soul of a statesman. But if we were to start requiring such a level of knowledge for citizens to exercise their review favorable to the statesman, government would fall apart, since citizens would have to presume almost everything the statesman does to be unjust -- few if any citizens are in a position to know whether all the laws and actions of their statesmen meet the criteria of legal justice, and perhaps none at all are in a position to know with certainty whether their statesmen are really just of character (and not, for instance, merely apparently so). But no one could reasonably require that.

I think Fiala brings up a more serious point in a passage quoted by Lee:

I admit that my position hinges on a certain amount of distrust of those in power. This distrust is rational, however, in light of a long history that shows a tendency toward manipulation and abuse of power by those in power. In liberal states--which, since Locke, have been understood as fiduciary institutions--citizens have a right and a duty to raise skeptical objections to ensure their trust is not abused. This is especially true with regard to actions as momentous as war.

I think this is a much better argument; it is one that turns on the principles of liberal theory rather than the principles of just war theory. All just war theory tells us is that there are certain conditions under which a statesman can be just in the actions of war, and that there may arise certain conditions under which the statesman would be unjust in not engaging in these actions, because he would then be violating his obligations to his people. If you want to know how citizens should be involved in all this, you turn not to just war theory, which is one element of a theory of justice, but to theory of government.

Links of Note
* Galactica Season Three at "Jimmy Akin" -- predictions for the upcoming season; most of them very plausible. I agree with a commenter, though, that the Sharons should be distinguished by their love interests -- which, after all, are their most distinguishing features.
* Biblical hype at "The Elfin Ethicist" pours proper scorn on some recent claims by journalists on the religion beat.
* Hostile Media Effects at "Mixing Memory" discusses the complicated puzzles of perceived media bias.

Currently Reading
Balzac, Droll Stories
Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Soderberg, Finishing Technology
Tolstoy, Resurrection

Monday, April 10, 2006

Women Writers Meme

Instructions: Bold the ones you've read. Italicize the ones you have wanted/might like to read. ??Place question marks by any titles/authors you've never heard of?? Put an asterisk if you've read something else by the same author.

* Alcott, Louisa May–Little Women
* Allende, Isabel–The House of Spirits
* Angelou, Maya–I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
* Atwood, Margaret–Cat's Eye
* Austen, Jane–Emma
Bambara, Toni Cade–Salt Eaters ??
Barnes, Djuna–Nightwood ??
* de Beauvoir, Simone–The Second Sex
* Blume, Judy–Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
* Burnett, Frances–The Secret Garden
* Bronte, Charlotte–Jane Eyre
* Bronte, Emily–Wuthering Heights
* Buck, Pearl S.–The Good Earth
Byatt, A.S.–Possession ??
Cather, Willa–My Antonia
Chopin, Kate–The Awakening ??
* Christie, Agatha–Murder on the Orient Express
Cisneros, Sandra–The House on Mango Street ??
Clinton, Hillary Rodham–Living History
Cooper, Anna Julia–A Voice From the South ??
Danticat, Edwidge–Breath, Eyes, Memory ??
Davis, Angela–Women, Culture, and Politics ??
Desai, Anita–Clear Light of Day ??
Dickinson, Emily–Collected Poems
Duncan, Lois–I Know What You Did Last Summer
DuMaurier, Daphne–Rebecca
* Eliot, George–Middlemarch
Emecheta, Buchi–Second Class Citizen ??
Erdrich, Louise–Tracks ??
Esquivel, Laura–Like Water for Chocolate
Flagg, Fannie–Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
* Friedan, Betty–The Feminine Mystique
Frank, Anne–Diary of a Young Girl
* Gilman, Charlotte Perkins–The Yellow Wallpaper
Gordimer, Nadine–July's People ??
Grafton, Sue–S is for Silence
Hamilton, Edith–Mythology
Highsmith, Patricia–The Talented Mr. Ripley
hooks, bell–Bone Black
Hurston, Zora Neale–Dust Tracks on the Road ??
Jacobs, Harriet–Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl ??
Jackson, Helen Hunt–Ramona
* Jackson, Shirley–The Haunting of Hill House
Jong, Erica–Fear of Flying ??
* Keene, Carolyn–The Nancy Drew Mysteries (any of them)
Kidd, Sue Monk–The Secret Life of Bees
Kincaid, Jamaica–Lucy ??
Kingsolver, Barbara–The Poisonwood Bible
Kingston, Maxine Hong–The Woman Warrior ??
Larsen, Nella–Passing ??
* L'Engle, Madeleine–A Wrinkle in Time
* Le Guin, Ursula K.–The Left Hand of Darkness
Lee, Harper–To Kill a Mockingbird
Lessing, Doris–The Golden Notebook
Lively, Penelope–Moon Tiger ??
Lorde, Audre–The Cancer Journals
* Martin, Ann M.–The Babysitters Club Series (any of them)
McCullers, Carson–The Member of the Wedding ??
McMillan, Terry–Disappearing Acts ??
Markandaya, Kamala–Nectar in a Sieve ??
Marshall, Paule–Brown Girl, Brownstones ??
Mitchell, Margaret–Gone with the Wind
* Montgomery, Lucy–Anne of Green Gables
Morgan, Joan–When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost ??
Morrison, Toni–Song of Solomon
Murasaki, Lady Shikibu–The Tale of Genji
Munro, Alice–Lives of Girls and Women ??
* Murdoch, Iris–Severed Head
Naylor, Gloria–Mama Day ??
Niffenegger, Audrey–The Time Traveller's Wife ??
Oates, Joyce Carol–We Were the Mulvaneys ??
* O'Connor, Flannery–A Good Man is Hard to Find
Piercy, Marge–Woman on the Edge of Time ??
Picoult, Jodi–My Sister's Keeper ??
Plath, Sylvia–The Bell Jar
* Porter, Katharine Anne–Ship of Fools
Proulx, E. Annie–The Shipping News
* Rand, Ayn–The Fountainhead
Ray, Rachel–365: No Repeats ??
Rhys, Jean–Wide Sargasso Sea
Robinson, Marilynne–Housekeeping ??
Rocha, Sharon–For Lac ??
Sebold, Alice–The Lovely Bones ??
Shelley, Mary–Frankenstein
Smith, Betty–A Tree Grows in Brooklyn ??
Smith, Zadie–White Teeth ??
Spark, Muriel–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ??
Spyri, Johanna–Heidi
Strout, Elizabeth–Amy and Isabelle ??
Steel, Danielle–The House
Tan, Amy–The Joy Luck Club
Tannen, Deborah–You're Wearing That ??
Ulrich, Laurel–A Midwife's Tale ??
Urquhart, Jane–Away ??
* Walker, Alice–The Temple of My Familiar
Welty, Eudora–One Writer's Beginnings
Wharton, Edith–Age of Innocence
* Wilder, Laura Ingalls–Little House in the Big Woods
* Wollstonecraft, Mary–A Vindication of the Rights of Women
* Woolf, Virginia–A Room of One's Own

Although some quibble is in order for 'Carolyn Keene' -- Keene is a corporate pseudonym used by a number of a hired ghostwriters; there are actually many authors of the Nancy Drew series, some of whom were women, some of whom were not. Apparently there are lot of women authors I don't recognize at all; but I've apparently read more than one of most of the women authors I have read.

(HT: The Little Professor)


Reading Soderberg's Finishing Technology, I was struck by the beauty of this passage, which I think is susceptible of a rich metaphorical application (to ethics, construction of philosophical arguments, research, etc.):

The final finish of a given surface is a most important step in the total procedure of fabricating a product, yet too little emphasis is placd upon this important step. Often the finish is considered a secondary operation. Many fabricators believe that some materials need no finish to protect them from the elements of nature. This may be true for a short period of time, but all too often these surfaces deteriorate rapidly after prolonged exposure. The appearance of some materials cannot be enhanced by surface finishing because of the natural beauty of the material. These unprotected surfaces often lose their beauty through abrasion or contact with the elements. Thus, with few exceptions, all finishes serve to protect or decorate, or both. Consideration should be given to the finish during the design and fabrication of every product.
[Soderberg, Finishing Technology. 3rd edition (McKnight & McKnight: 1969) p. 3]

We Ourselves Belong to It

It is general supposed that a thief, a murderer, a spy, a prostitute, acknowledging his profession to be bad, must be ashamed of it. But hte very opposite happens. People, who by fate and by their own sins--by error--are put in a certain condition, however irregular it may be, form such a view of life in general that their position appears to them good and respectable. In order to support such a view, people instinctively cling to that circle in which the conception which they have formed of life and of their place in it is accepted. We are surprised to find this in the case of thieves bragging of their agility, prostitutes of their debauch, murderers of their cruelty. But we are surprised only because the circle, the atmosphere, of these people is limited, and, chiefly, because we live outside that circle; but does not the same thing take place in the case of rich men bragging of their wealth, that is, of robbery, of generals bragging of their victories, that is, of murder, and of rulers bragging of their power, that is, of violence? We do not see in these people a corrupted conception of life, of good and evil, in order to justify their position, because the circle of people with such corrupt conceptions is larger, and we ourselves belong to it.

Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection,Wiener and Reeve, trs. Heritage Press (New York: 1963) 136.

Philosopher's Carnival 28

"The University of Nowhere" hosts the 28th Philosopher's Carnival.