Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Notes and Links

* Ethiopian church forests (ht)

* Lodi Nauta, “Magis sit Platonicus quam Aristotelicus”: Interpretations of Boethius’s Platonism in the Consolatio Philosophiae From the Twelfth to the Seventeenth Century (PDF)
Julia Ching, The Problem of Evil and a Possible Dialogue Between Christianity and Neo-Confucianism (PDF)

* Beth Haile has a nice post on natural law reasoning and its relation to moral theology.

* The Basilica of Sagrada Familia has had its first arson fire. Most major churches do, eventually, although usually people aren't lighting them on fire while there are still people inside. No one was harmed, but the damage, while quite localized, seems to be fairly extensive: everything in the sacristy was destroyed, and smoke damage is everywhere; they may also have to rip out significant portions of the building's electrical system.

The Basilica and Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, of course is Antoni Gaudi's (still as yet unfinished) masterpiece, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and perhaps the single greatest example of Catalan Modernist architecture.

* Some Good Friday meditations worth reading (I'll put up any more that I find later):

Good Friday: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
(Brett Sakeld at "Vox Nova")
Thoughts for the Day (Joseph Komonchak at "dotCommonweal")
The Sublime Joys of Atonement (unagidon at "dotCommonweal")
Casualty Call: Reflections on Good Friday (Joe Carter at "First Thoughts")
Christ and Him Crucified (Peter Leithart at "On the Square")
Why the World Needs Good Friday (Jennifer Fulwiler)

Reflections on Good Friday (Peter Wehner)
Re: Reflections on Good Friday (D. G. Myers)

* This was part of a meditation by Sister Joan Chittister on Lent:

Lent is not an event. It is not something that happens to us. It is at most a microcosm of what turns out to be a lifelong journey to the center of the self.

The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves in a way that's conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well. It is not a "penitential season." It is a growing season. It requires us to determine what is worth dying for in our own lives and what it may be necessary for us to become if we really want to live.

Lent certainly is a growing season, but since Lent is also an event, something that happens to us, and a penitential season, and since the actual purpose of Lent is, and has always been, to prepare us for Easter so that we may be prepared to be confronted with the Risen Christ, I think this sums up why it is difficult to take Chittister seriously even when she says things with which one agrees.

It also shows up a problem that seems to be common among Catholics today: the tendency to try to play down things that seem negative even when they are required for the coherence of things that are played up. Lent's very nature as a growing season depends on the fact that it is a penitential season: everything in it is designed to encourage repentance and self-discipline. And its being a growing season depends also on the fact that it simply is not about ourselves at all.

One finds this problem everywhere, it seems. Catholics like preaching social justice and hope to the poor, and like the idea of 'prophetic witness', but over and over again you find people who do this without seeing that every major example of prophetic witness we have preaches the importance of repentance. They'll quote liberation theology without noting liberation theology's most important insight: if the God of the oppressed is really the God of all, preaching hope for the oppressed by its very nature involves preaching judgment for the oppressor. God looks out for the poor, and is their hope; but there is no hope for the one who tramples the poor except to repent. If we do not teach the need to repent, we teach not social justice but a mockery of it, and are not prophets but usurpers of the name.

I've mentioned before that I like James Cone; I found very interesting this 2007 interview with Bill Moyers (ht), discussing the relationship between the Cross and the lynching tree; it is Cone's argument at its best.

I recommend you contrast Cone's argument here with Jamie Manson's truly awful post at the National Catholic Reporter in which she insists that not only did Jesus not die for the sins of the world, it was really the fault of the Jews, and only the Jews (maybe also a couple of Romans), who exhibited "intolerance, jealousy, resentment, hatred, and, most of all, fear." To be sure, she doesn't mention Jews by name, just "religious leaders," but it's extraordinarily disturbing to find someone in this day and age reviving what has over the ages been an antisemitic trope, presenting Jewish leaders as archetypal villains and the symbols of all oppressors (as if they themselves were not among the oppressed at the time!), and not only doing that but presenting this as a replacement for Catholic theology of the atonement. And why? Because we (modern-day Gentiles) might feel guilty when faced with a Christ who dies for us because that implies that we are not innocent. Contrast her post with CCC 597, which says, "Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept 'the ignorance' of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders." And the Catechism goes on, rightly, in the very next section, to repudiate the very line of thought Manson puts forward. (And, of course, goes on a bit later to insist on the atoning work of Christ, because contrary to Manson's suggestion, it's still taught, and taught as a non-negotiable part of Catholic doctrine.) I am willing to admit that Manson just might be so naive as not to know that she is echoing generations of antisemites; but, if so, it is a dangerous naivete.

Cone's discussion is about true justice and Manson's about false innocence. That is the distance between the Cross as theological liberation from sin and injustice and a theology that strives to be a liberation from the weight of the Cross. It is an infinite distance.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Betrayal, Command, Betrayal

After receiving the morsel of bread, Judas went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will see me, and just as I told the Judeans, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

“A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you are not now able to follow, but you will follow later.”

Peter asked, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you: The rooster will not crow before you have thrice disowned me."

(John 13:30-38)

The Synthese Problem

The philosophosphere has recently erupted into a major, and somewhat heated, controversy over Synthese, and in particular the special edition I mentioned here back in December. The subject was intelligent design theory, and the Guest Editors were Glenn Branch and James Fetzer. It came out first in a temporary online version (the one I linked to) and then a print edition. However, when the print edition came out, there was a disclaimer from the Editors-in-Chief saying that the edition did not meet the "usual academic standards of politeness and respect in phrasing." This was a surprise to the contributors and, apparently, to the Guest Editors, who set about giving their version of the events that led to it. It raises some serious questions that do need to be answered, but when I saw it the first time, I knew there was trouble brewing. With the exception of the fact that most academic philosophers are male, there is no creature on the face of the planet that more closely conforms to standard stereotypes of the melodramatic prima donna than a standard academic philosopher. Fortunately, I've been pleasantly at the behavior of the main parties involved -- for the most part -- but there really was trouble brewing. Part of the problem is that the Editors-in-Chief for Synthese, Johan van Benthem, Vincent F. Hendricks, and John Symons, all have excellent reputations, as philosophers, as editors and (as far as I have ever heard) as people. Part of it is that their disclaimer was very vague (as is their further statement), neither suggesting that all the papers were problematic nor saying which papers were. Also, contrary to some of the statements, some of the papers were problematic for the very reasons stated by the Editors-in-Chief. Most of the attention has focused on Forrest's paper on Beckwith, because that's where the Guest Editors have raised the issues of professional ethics. However, given that the Editors-in-Chief still insist on saying that several of the papers involved were the problem, it seems clear that this was not the only one they had in view. At the time the online edition came out, I thought Forrest's paper rather badly argued, but I actually thought Pennock's paper was much worse. And certainly Pennock's paper occasionally descended into a problematic tone; unless you're willing to call Larry Laudan to his face a "squinting philosopher" who makes "histrionic and ill-considered arguments" and "ridiculous" errors that border on "dangerous," you really don't have grounds to say that a professional tone was maintained throughout all the papers in the journal.

In any case, here are some things for those who are interested in catching up.

Branch & Fetzer's account of the problem. Some of it is unfortunately vague, but having been briefly in touch with Branch on the matter, I'm convinced that Branch, at least, is approaching the question soberly, so the questions about conduct that were raised at least deserve some kind of answer. (I only know Fetzer through some of his work, and have never corresponded or interacted with him in any way.)

A boycott was proposed, and John Wilkins is keeping the status page for it. It has quite a few informative links.

I won't be joining the boycott -- I think academic boycotts are usually misguided, in any case, for reasons I won't go into here; but it would be an empty gesture for me in particular, in any case, since Synthese is not a journal I would generally consider for publishing the work I do (they do philosophy of science, I do early modern philosophy), and even if I did, my output is so small-scale and involves so much nitpicking before things are ready that it would be extremely unlikely that I would have anything to publish there in the timeframe of a reasonable and effective boycott, anyway. But for an alternative view, John Wilkins gives his view of the matter, and it certainly is true that the questions of professional ethics raised by the matter are important.

The editors of Synthese have issued a statement. Unfortunately, it's mostly just an expanded form of the disclaimer, and so will satisfy no one. The big issues are matters of professional ethics; if the problem was simply miscommunication, they should have taken the time to clarify. I find it interesting that they suggest that the problem was "internal resolution" failed; this is probably where they would have done better to be more specific. Conceivably there are some who are just interested in taking sides, but as Wilkins notes in the post linked above, the real worry many people are having is over the claim that the disclaimer was due to external pressure, and this needs at least to be addressed, or there will be no end to the matter.

For my part I find it mostly perplexing; I sympathize with most of the contributors, and don't think the Guest Editors are making anything up; however, I think the evidence that the Editors-in-Chief did anything wrong from the professional ethics angle is at present pretty weak -- certainly nothing yet that couldn't be explained by unfortunate miscommunication. But I also wish the Editors-in-Chief were a bit more forthcoming about the matter, rather than trying out the aloofness strategy (which will backfire, I am afraid).

The Perpetual Question

LZ Granderson gets it exactly right:

And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the "Ashley", the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergartners if they didn't think people would buy it.

If they didn't think parents would buy it, which raises the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Brother Mortal

From 'Inscription for the tomb of my old dog Shargs'
by Thomas Ignatius Maria Forster

Beneath these trees I've buried my old dog.
Who, nine years by my side was wont to jog.
With him I loved the weary day to spend,
My brother mortal and my only friend.
But now his tongue is mute, his bones are old,
His nerves are quiet and his blood is cold.
Yet warmer still, though cold, than those who find
A pride to boast themselves of human kind.
Nor emptier I find his hollow head,
Now laid, as whilome, on his master's bed,
Than stupid man's who takes such fruitless pains
To make me think his skull possessed of brains :
For Shargs was Nature's dearest sweetest child,
His ways were simple and his temper mild,
His faithful heart alone knew no deceit ;
And, when his tongue his master's hand would greet,
No squint suspicion filled the cautious mind,
Such as one feels when greeted by mankind.
That venom lurks behind each fond embrace
While hypocrite is written in the face !
But, my dear dog, endow'd with simple grace,
Carried his heart upon his honest face;
With friendship, not by sordid lucre gained,
His faith unpurchas'd and his love uufeign'd,
He, unlike man, who courts where he can pick,
Lick'd where belov'd, not lov'd where he could lick;
And prov'd himself, to life's remotest end,
My only trusty and confiding friend.
But now he's gone and all his pranks are o'er;
And Poski plays where Shargs had play'd before.
God wot how soon a third may take his place,
And grace the kennel he was wont to grace;
How soon may Zampa wag his merry tail
O'er their twin graves; for dogs, like men, are frail,
At least in body, though they're firm in mind
As in these records trac'd by love we find.
Like waves at sea, or flowers in the mead,
Man follows man, and dogs to dogs succeed.
Where'er the mind can rove, or body range,
The universe is one wide ceaseless change:
Nor where we come from, nor yet where we go,
Have the Gods giv'n to prying man to know.
Nature for each fond dog from Jove had stole
Some special grace to animate his soul,
To SHARGS alone were higher titles given,
Which Justice registers to day in heaven.

Forster is an interesting character. He was an early nineteenth-century scientific jack of all trades, very well known at the time for his work. Today he is most famous for the fact that he invented the word 'phrenology' (of which he was a practitioner), although you can also sometimes find traces of Forster's botanical work here and there. Forster believed that all animals had immortal souls, and because of this he was famously kind to any animal he met; he was a strong advocate of vegetarianism, a major opponent of vivisection, and one of the earliest unequivocal advocates for animal rights. He insists very firmly that animals should be included in the scope of the Golden Rule, and that we should do to them as we would have them do to us. One of his interesting arguments is that because many animals are influenced by education we have a responsibility to educate them so that they are morally better rather than worse. He also wrote and published a eulogy for Shargs; so when I tell you the man really and truly loved his dog as a brother and friend, you will believe me, and not take it to be some idle figure of speech. You can read the full poem here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cartesian Recycling

And just as in tearing down an old house, one usually saves the wreckage for use in building a new one, similarly, in destroying all those opinions of mine that I judged to be poorly founded, I made various observations and acquired many experiences that have since served me in establishing more certain opinions.

Descartes, Discourse on Method (AT VI, 29), Cress, tr.

This point is often overlooked in criticisms of Descartes. He makes it again in the Replies to the Seventh Objections, in his elaborate parable of the architect: the fact that you tear down a building doesn't mean you can't keep around materials from it to re-use in a better building. And it's a key part of what Descartes is doing; it can't be ignored.

ADDED LATER: Here's the relevant section from the Seventh Replies (AT VII, 539-540); 'he' is the "jobbing bricklayer" in Descartes's story who, jealous of the architect and not entirely bright, is constantly mocking the architect for supposed inconsistencies:

In scene three, he represents the architect as showing him the stone or rock at the bottom of the trench -- the rock on which he intends that his entire building shall rest. But he picks up the rock with a sneer. 'This is excellent, my distinguished friend: you have found your Archimedean point, and without doubt you can now move the world if you so wish. Look: the whole earth is already shaking. But since, I gather, you are cutting everything back to the bone, so that your method may include only what fits and is coherent and necessary, may I ask why you keep this stone? Did you not order us to throw out the stones with the sand? But perhaps it slipped in by accident....' And later on, when the architect sees some rough stones, which had been thrown out of the trench with the sand, and collects them so that he can use them in the building, his opponent makes a joke of this.

Descartes is here loosing all cannons against his opponent, Fr. Pierre Bourdin, SJ, who wrote a mocking series of criticisms of Descartes in a comic dialogue; the jobbing bricklayer echoes Bourdin's criticisms. Descartes was very angered by Bourdin's objections; if you can't tell from his scorn, you can tell from the fact that he wrote a letter of protest to Bourdin's superior, the Provincial of France. That Bourdin was a Jesuit made the matter worse; one of Descartes's lifelong projects was to persuade the Jesuits to teach Cartesian philosophy. Descartes was so angered by the objections that he considered not responding to them, but because Bourdin's criticism might be taken as representing the attitude of the Society of Jesus itself, Descartes felt he had no choice. Bourdin's criticisms are actually not very far from criticisms that are commonly made of Descartes, so it's really a pity that so few people read the Seventh Objections and Replies. Regardless, you'll note an indirect reflection of the importance of recycling of ideas for Cartesian method in the mockery of the passage above.


This post is not for those who don't like controversial subjects. I was interested in reading this over at "In All Things," at America magazine:

The object of the Magisterium, exercised by the Pope and his bishops (with guidance from Vatican dicasteries such as the CDF), is to settle arguments over doctrine that might otherwise plunge a billion Catholics into endless energy-sapping disputes and parties. It's the task of the teaching authorities, and theirs alone, to determine who is in and who is out. Once they have declared someone to be dissenting from church teaching, then to call that person is a dissenter is a statement of fact; but if they haven't, no Catholic can assume the right to do so.

While I sympathize with Austen Ivereigh's problem with people being eager to label people who diagree with them as heretics, dissenters, or worse, I don't think this is the right response, simply because this is not a plausible account of the Magisterium. Despite the continual use of the Latin word in capitalized form, the Magisterium is just the Church itself insofar as it teaches authoritatively: and teaching, not settling disputes, is its object. Indeed, many of the more important exercises of teaching authority have been cases where the Magisterium explicitly refused to settle the debate, and simply told the parties in question that neither had the right to pretend that it was settled: the Molinists and Thomists (or Banezians, as we often call them today) being one obvious case. Moreover, the primary responsibility for resolving disputes -- nipping them in the bud before they "plunge a billion Catholics into endless energy-sapping disputes and parties" -- really belongs to the people disputing. The Magisterium only gets involved with disputes when the people involved have fallen down on their intellectual and moral responsibilities. Waiting around for the Magisterium to step in and resolve things, besides being extraordinarily passive, is itself more likely to guarantee the proliferation of energy-sapping disputes than anything, because it guarantees that nothing will be resolved until the bishops actually do step in authoritatively: it is a recipe for cold war, not for peace, a policy that will lead to people constantly sniping at each other when they think they can get away with it, and each side taking the fact that the Magisterium hasn't resolved the matter definitely as evidence that it need not worry about whether the other side's accusations have a grain of truth. In short, while I can see why someone would think that this would further the peace, what it would actually do in practice -- what it actually does when put into practice -- is merely change the tone of the dispute from aggressive to passive aggressive.

The real problems arise from two factors: (1) people with an agenda latch on to any rhetorical advantage they can get, regardless of how loosely it fits; and (2) some people, once they have labeled something, simply refuse to let it go, and nothing will convince them. With regard to (1), we get the people who are always on a heresy hunt. After the Syllabus of Errors there was an increasing trend of people trying to pin their opponents with the label 'Modernist' on even the slightest pretext; a trend that grew worse and worse until Benedict XV started putting on the brakes. Such people we always have with us, unfortunately. On (2), the Jansenists, mentioned in Ivereigh's post, are an interesting case in point, given how much criticism bishops have taken for criticizing theologians recently. Jansenism, despite the trouble it got into, was not a particularly odious set of errors, contrary to modern-day popular belief; the distance between them and their Molinist opponents were not originally so great as it was when the dispute came to an end, and the more serious periods of dispute were often due more to politics than anything else. But Jansenism did get a very bad reputation in part because Jansenists refused to be corrected, so that the crackdown on Jansenism eventually became very severe. Why? Because, while they insisted that they were completely faithful to the Magisterium, every time it issued anything correcting them, they simply reinterpreted the correction (sometimes quite ingeniously) so that it just didn't apply to them. The first time or two one could treat charitably; after all, nothing in Catholic doctrine implies that the Church is infallibly clear, and nothing implies that bishops always have their facts right. But it became very clear that this was the result of just a refusal to consider the possibility that they might be wrong; and it was arguably this, more than the particulars of their theology (which, after all, primarily only erred by taking some things said by Augustine a little too strictly), that lead to the harsh rebukes Jansenists later began to receive. The worst cases, of course, come from those who fit into camps (1) and (2) both.

Magisterium is not a complicated concept; it really just is a matter of learning and teaching, and only if this is understood can Catholics really have a reasonable approach to the Magisterium. The proper student is not the one who keeps insisting that no one knows the answer until the teacher has given it (those are the students teachers usually want to shake); the proper student is the one who uses her God-given brain to figure out the answer, always being open to the fact that the teacher might point out her mistakes at some point. The correlative to teaching is not passive obedience but study. If people really think something is heretical, dissenting, or just plain wrong, they should say so -- they should just usually say it as fellow students. It's no different in this respect from the natural magisterium of reason, to borrow a phrase from Rosmini. Saying that something is heretical, for instance, is just saying that it is irrational once one assumes the principles of faith; to that extent it's not fundamentally different. If you think something is irrational or wrong, as a student of reason you should feel perfectly free to say so, and defend your reasoning to this conclusion; you don't have to wait for the absolutely conclusive demonstration. But when you lack the demonstration, you should also not pretend to have it, and should be willing to discover that you simply missed something important; and you should never, ever insist unequivocally that something is irrational or wrong without proper study. In other words, you should distinguish between times when there's a very good case to be made that the position really is wrong or unreasonable, and times when you just think the questions need to be raised.

In connected news, Cardinal Wuerl and the Committee on Doctrine has issued a statement (PDF) on the Committee on Doctrine's recent criticism of Elizabeth Johnson's The Quest for the Living God, which discusses the concept of Magisterium. It makes an interesting juxtaposition to Ivereigh's post, because while Ivereigh's post essentially puts all the responsibility on the bishops, many of the criticisms the Committee on Doctrine received imply that the responsibility should be taken away or sharply restricted. Wuerl deals with some of the least reasonable arguments against the bishops' actions (the ones along the lines of 'How dare they do this at all'), although it doesn't defend the content of the report on Johnson in any way. Of course, the people who won't be convinced still won't be convinced that the bishops should have anything to do with the matter; it's interesting to consider many of the comments in this thread and think about what they would actually mean in terms of the teaching of the Church. In my own opinion most of the comments are proof that Glubglubglub is not merely the language of theologians; they are essentially proposals either for incoherence or for episcopal abdication of responsibility. The fact of the matter is that it is simply Catholic doctrine that bishops have the right to criticize theologians, and that everyone else has the responsibility to take such criticisms seriously by looking into ways in which the bishops might have a point. If you think the criticism imprudent or incorrect in some way (both of which do happen), you are perfectly free to say so, and to say why, and to try to convince the bishops of this point. But it just makes a hash of Catholic thought to suggest that they don't have the right in the first place to make any criticisms they honestly see fit to make, or that theologians have some special privileges in the Church that don't derive entirely from their actual value in elucidating Catholic thought. The bishops should certainly try to get everything right; but there's nothing demanding that they have to cross every t and dot every i: if they come across something they think could confuse the faithful, they have a responsibility to say so. They say that people once made fun of Nestorius by chanting "Strictly speaking, strictly speaking," whenever he went by, because that's how he'd answer any criticism of his views. Even if they don't get everything right "strictly speaking," even if they misread, the fact that they can misread in the first place, the fact that their interpretation is off, should give theologians genuinely interested in teaching Catholic thought at least enough pause for them to ask what they need to clarify so that they won't be misunderstood. The fundamental characteristic of the Magisterium is that it teaches, and the fundamental characteristic of individual bishops insofar as they participate in the Magisterium is the same: so a person's fundamental response to those participating in it should be to learn, even if learning leads in a different direction than the bishops themselves expect. Again, the correlative for teaching is study; study is the way one learns when taught. Even when the particular teacher in question is wrong in some way! Especially if you think the teacher is wrong in some way!

But it really does seem like Catholics fall into two groups; those who want the teacher to do everything and thus will not study; and those who want the teacher only to say things they already know and agree with, and thus will not study. Neither group is being a good student; indeed, both groups are simply refusing to be students at all. This is not healthy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Crown of Thorns and Shameful Tree

Monday in Holy Week
by Christina Rossetti

"The Voice of my Beloved."

Once I ached for thy dear sake:
Wilt thou cause Me now to ache?
Once I bled for thee in pain:
Wilt thou rend My Heart again?
Crown of thorns and shameful tree,
Bitter death I bore for thee,
Bore My Cross to carry thee,
And wilt thou have nought of Me?

Some One Person at Least

One of Hume's most striking passages (from Treatise 2.2.5, paragraph 10):

In all creatures, that prey not upon others, and are not agitated with violent passions, there appears a remarkable desire of company, which associates them together, without any advantages they can ever propose to reap from their union. This is still more conspicuous in man, as being the creature of the universe, who has the most ardent desire of society, and is fitted for it by the most advantages. We can form no wish, which has not a reference to society. A perfect solitude is, perhaps, the greatest punishment we can suffer. Every pleasure languishes when enjoy'd a-part from company, and every pain becomes more cruel and intolerable. Whatever other passions we may be actuated by; pride, ambition, avarice, curiosity, revenge or lust; the soul or animating principle of them all is sympathy; nor wou'd they have any force, were we to abstract entirely from the thoughts and sentiments of others. Let all the powers and elements of nature conspire to serve and obey one man: Let the sun rise and set at his command: The sea and rivers roll as he pleases, and the earth furnish spontaneously whatever may be useful or agreeable to him: He will still be miserable, till you give him some one person at least, with whom he may share his happiness, and whose esteem and friendship he may enjoy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Like Heaven's Star-Sprinkled Floor

Palm Sunday
by John Keble

Ye whose hearts are beating high
With the pulse of Poesy,
Heirs of more than royal race,
Fram’d by Heaven’s peculiar grace,
God’s own work to do on earth,
(If the word be not too bold,)
Giving virtue a new birth,
And a life that ne’er grows old—
Sovereign masters of all hearts!
Know ye, who hath set your parts?
He who gave you breath to sing,
By whose strength ye sweep the string,
He hath chosen you, to lead
His Hosannas here below;—
Mount, and claim your glorious meed;
Linger not with sin and woe.

But if ye should hold your peace,
Deem not that the song would cease—
Angels round his glory-throne,
Stars, His guiding hand that own,
Flowers, that grow beneath our feet,
Stones in earth’s dark womb that rest,
High and low in choir shall meet,
Ere His Name shall be unblest.

Lord, by every minstrel tongue
Be thy praise so duly sung,
That thine angels’ harps may ne’er
Fail to find fit echoing here:
We the while, of meaner birth,
Who in that divinest spell
Dare not hope to join on earth,
Give us grace to listen well.

But should thankless silence seal
Lips, that might half Heaven reveal,
Should bards in idol-hymns profane
The sacred soul-enthralling strain,
(As in this bad world below
Nobles things find vilest using,)
Then, thy power and mercy shew,
In vile things noble breath infusing;

Then waken into sound divine
The very pavement of thy shrine,
Till we, like Heaven’s star-sprinkled floor,
Faintly give back what we adore.
Childlike though the voices be,
And untunable the parts,
Thou wilt own the minstrelsy,
If it flow from childlike hearts.

Red Moon

There is a truly gorgeous incarnadine moon out tonight over Austin, just short of full. The wind has also picked up very heavily today, which I find amusing because of the old folk rhyme,

Pale moon rains, red moon blows,
white moon neither rains nor snows.

This site gives the major reasons why a moon sometimes turns red.

Trust on, Love on, and Pray

Palm Sunday
by Christina Rossetti

"He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

I lift mine eyes, and see
Thee, tender Lord, in pain upon the tree,
Athirst for my sake and athirst for me.

"Yea, look upon Me there,
Compassed with thorns and bleeding everywhere,
For thy sake bearing all, and glad to bear."

I lift my heart to pray:
Thou Who didst love me all that darkened day,
Wilt Thou not love me to the end alway?

"Yea, thee My wandering sheep,
Yea, thee My scarlet sinner slow to weep,
Come to Me, I will love thee and will keep."

Yet am I racked with fear:
Behold the unending outer darkness drear,
Behold the gulf unbridgeable and near!

"Nay, fix thy heart, thine eyes,
Thy hope upon My boundless sacrifice:
Will I lose lightly one so dear-bought prize?"

Ah, Lord; it is not Thou,
Thou that wilt fail; yet woe is me, for how
Shall I endure who half am failing now?

"Nay, weld thy resolute will
To Mine: glance not aside for good or ill:
I love thee; trust Me still and love Me still."

Yet Thou Thyself hast said,
When Thou shalt sift the living from the dead
Some must depart shamed and uncomforted.

"Judge not before that day:
Trust Me with all thy heart, even tho' I slay:
Trust Me in love, trust on, love on, and pray."


Colt of an Ass

I am nothing great or special,
but through Zion's dusty gates
I bear the burden of the Lord.
They sing their vain Hosannas,
their cloaks spread on the earth;
they wave the palms with triumph.

None attend to me or know me,
but they would do better if they did:
for though this crowd may shout,
in all this people, this chanting mass,
I alone serve the one they praise.