Saturday, June 13, 2015

Old English Wisdom

Those of you on Twitter may like the Old English Wisdom feed, which tweets Anglo-Saxon proverbs, precepts, and advice:

It is run by the same person who runs the excellent A Clerk of Oxford blog.

Poem a Day XIII

The Lap-Donkey

True talent is not formed by force;
sheer will is not the path of grace.
A foolish man will rush the course
and end up flat upon his face.
An ass saw a lapdog favored well;
he his master wished to please.
"What is the secret of its spell,
that He will stroke and pet and tease?
This pup does nothing save to sit
and sing with yips as easy-pie;
so I will do the same as it
and get my favor by and by."
And so the clumsy donkey fool
jumped on his master's lap with haste
and brayed and sprayed with donkey drool;
it was not to his master's taste.
So hear the moral, heed its point,
for we all try to be all things
and bend good sense all out of joint,
like a donkey in your lap who sings.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sui Juris Churches XX: The Chaldean Catholic Church

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Chaldean

Primary Liturgical Language: Syriac (Christian Aramaic)

Juridical Status: Patriarchal

Approximate Population: Somewhere in the vicinity of 500,000. Due to the situation in Iraq, it is difficult to be more precise.

Brief History: Two major 'superpowers' were entangled in the early days of Christianity: the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. The refusal of a large number of Persian Christians to accept the Council of Ephesus led to a slow splitting of Christians in the Persian Empire, from the those in the Roman Empire. The Persian Empire eventually became Muslim, and eventually the Ottoman Empire arose, but the Church of the East continued. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, however, it underwent a highly contentious internal argument. The problem arose in the fifteenth century, when the Catholicos of the Church of the East, Shemʿon IV Basidi, made the Catholicate hereditary: it was to be passed on from uncle to nephew. The dangers of this are obvious; it was difficult to guarantee that there would be any successor at all, and it subjected the position to all the problems of any ordinary blood sucession system. Mixing dynastic politics with ecclesiastical politics has never been a recipe for stability (as the history of the Church of the East has shown in spades). A sufficiently strong and popular Catholicos could certainly handle such problems, but the system was not particularly designed to guarantee strong and popular Catholicoi. Things came to a head in the reign of Shemʿon VII Ishoʿyahb, who managed to infuriate pretty much everybody; in 1552 the Church of the East underwent its most serious schism ever.

The rebel bishops elected Yohannan Sulaqa as their new Catholicos. There was a problem, however: while there were a lot of bishops in the rebellion, there were no metropolitan bishops. He could not be consecrated without one. Thus a fateful step was taken: Yohannan Sulaqa and a delegation approached Franciscan missionaries and asked for a letter of introduction to Pope Julius III. The Pope seems to have been rather startled at the hereditary succession of Catholicoi, and Sulaqa was willing to make a profession of faith. Thus in 1553 Sulaqa became Shimun VIII, and recognized by the Pope as patriarch of Mosul and Assyria, although he quickly came to be known as Patriarch of the Chaldeans (probably following the usage of the Council of Florence); all of his section of the Church of the East entered into communion with Rome. His reign was relatively short, however, because the Ottoman government tended not to like religious groups in the Ottoman Empire seeking Western backing. He was arrested in 1555 and apparently tortured and executed.

This line of the Chaldean Patriarchate lasted until 1600, when Shimun IX Dinkha decided to reintroduce the principle of hereditary succession again. This was absolutely unacceptable to Rome, and the Shimun line continued, no longer Catholic. It in fact became the patriarchal line of what is now known as the Assyrian Church of the East, and only ended in 1975. There were thus two Churches of the East at this point, the older one whose patriarchal line is usually called the Eliya line, and the one that had arisen from the schism of 1552, governed by the Shimun line of patriarchs.

However, in the seventeenth century the bishop of Amid, whose name was Yousip, entered into communion with Rome. Amid was in communion with the Eliya line, and the patriarch at that time was less than amused. He went personally to Amid and had Yousip imprisoned. Yousip was able to raise the money to pay a ransom and was freed; he fled to Rome, but he returned a few years later, and the Ottoman government eventually recognized him as independent. In 1681 Rome recognized him with the somewhat obscure title of 'Patriarch of the Chaldean Nation Deprived of Its Patriarch'. The resulting church was small and kept in line by the Ottoman government by the tried-and-true Islamic method of preventing religious groups from expanding: very heavy taxation.

In the 1770, Rome began corresponding with the Church of the East lines that were not in communion with it. The result was that Eliya XII Denkha, whose see was in Alqosh, made a Catholic profession of faith in 1771. Eliya XII Denkha, however, had created a problem that could not immediately be resolved. The Eliya line was hereditary, and his nephew Ishoʿyahb was originally designated his heir; however, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Eliya XII chose to switch heirs, and made his nephew Yohannan Hormizd successor. Both nephews had made a profession of Catholic faith. Ishoʿyahb became Eliya XIII, without initial opposition from Yohannan, but as soon as he was recognized by the Ottoman government, he broke communion with Rome. The bishops who still wanted to be Catholic gathered and elected another to be Patriarch; but he refused. So they fell back on Yohannan, who had been active in opposing his cousin. Thus Yohannan VIII Hormizd was elected Patriarch in 1780, and his supporters managed to get him recognition from the Ottoman government.

Rome faced a significant puzzle. It was absolutely opposed to hereditary succession, and recognizing Yohannan could be seen as condoning it. There was also the complication that there was already a Chaldean line in communion with Rome, and how the two would relate was an uncertain question. On the other hand, the attractions of another Chaldean line in communion with Rome were obvious and considerable. It seriously considered refusing recognition, but in the end Rome did what it usually does when faced with complicated political problems: it temporized. It recognized Yohannan as archbishop of Mosul and named him administrator for the Chaldean patriarchate. Thus not Patriarch, but not completely a non-Patriarch, either. Like much of Rome's temporizing, this would cause some serious headaches down the road, but it may also have given enough time for the Chaldean communion with Rome to be consolidated.

Problems began to arise between Yohannan Hormizd and Rome. In 1796, a group of Malabar Christians arrived asking for a bishop, something that they usually received from the Church of the East; Hormizd attempted to get the go-ahead from Rome, but could not get a reply since Rome was at that point under occupation by the French. So he went ahead and did it; word got back to Rome, and Rome demanded that he account for it. His explanation was accepted, and the possibility of naming him patriarch came up again, but opponents of Yohannan managed to raise questions about his orthodoxy, leading Rome to delay again. In the meantime, his cousin died, leaving Yohannan the sole heir of the Eliya line.

Over the next several years, Hormizd would end up opposing various projects on which Rome looked with favor, to such an extent that in 1812 Rome suspended him. Yohannan vehemently opposed the suspension, leading to constant struggle among Chaldean Catholics, which did not endear him any further in the eyes of Rome. However, Rome in the meantime continued to investigate, and in 1826, he was absolved he was absolved of any wrongdoing; Rome, however, wanted him to retire. The ever-active Yohannan was not the retiring kind, and he absolutely refused. However, he had managed to develop certain allies, and in 1830, Rome made him Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. Yohannan was 74 years old.

There was, remember, another Chaldean line. Joseph IV Timotheus Lazar Hindi had been Patriarch of the Chaldean Nation Deprived of Its Patriarch beginning in 1757. He was worn down by it, and resigned in 1780, appointing his nephew, Augustine Hindi. Needless to say, Rome was less than pleased with this action, and Lazar Hindi decided to withdraw his resignation. He would eventually have to flee the Ottoman authorities because of tax debts -- remember, the Ottoman authorities were taxing the Amid Chaldeans very heavily. This was in the 1790s, and Rome decided to appoint Yohannan administrator of that line of Chaldeans, as well. Lazar Hindi vehemently objected, as did many of the Amid Chaldeans, so Rome rescinded the appointment, and Augustine Hindi in 1802 was appointed administrator for that Chaldean group, a few years after the death of Lazar Hindi. During Yohannan's suspension, Augustine Hindi was appointed apostolic delegate for the entire Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans. In 1804, Augustine Hindi began calling himself the Patriarch, and was widely recognized as Patriarch. This was never officially given, but it may well have been the case that Augustine thought it had. In any case, it had the effect of uniting the Chaldean lines in communion with Rome under a popular leader, which is what Rome clearly had been hoping for all along, and may be a reason why Rome never protested the action.

Augustine died in 1827, so when Rome finally (and by every indication reluctantly) named Hormizd Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, it was a united Chaldean church; Alqosh and Amid Chaldeans were both part of it, the Eliya and Josephite lines both terminated in it, and the only Chaldean branch outside was that schismatic Shimun line.

As Yohannan's death clearly approached, Rome took steps to make sure that the hereditary principle of succession would not rise again; in particular, it named on its own authority who would be Yohannan's successor: Nicholas Zayʿa. It ended up being an error; the Chaldean metropolitan bishops were irritated at not having even been consulted, and the only thing that prevented them from electing their own patriarch was that they could not come to agreement on who it should be. Zayʿa ended up being able to do very little effectively, and he resigned in 1846.

His successor, Joseph Audo, had been one of the most active opponents of both Hormizd and Zayʿa, and he would clash with Rome even more intensely at times than Hormizd had; he was, however, strong enough to put things in order in the Chaldean Catholic Church, and under his hand it flourished. Audo also attended the First Vatican Council, where he was one of the major figures in the party opposed to definition of papal infallibility, and, after the Council, he was the very last Eastern patriarch to accept it. All of his actions irritated Pius IX so much that Pius IX devoted an entire encyclical to criticizing him. But he would never actually push Rome to the furthest limit, and seems to have been respected by the Roman Curia, albeit sometimes grudgingly.

The twentieth century would bring stormy times for Chaldean Catholics. Significant parts of the Church were swept away in the aftermath of World War I in what has often been called the Assyrian Genocide. In 1933 many Chaldean Catholics would die in the Simele Massacre in Iraq, and persecutions continued to pop at various intervals. The American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, however, would end up being perhaps the greatest disaster for the church. Chaldean Catholics became visible and easy targets for Muslim extremist groups, and they have been more recently hunted down in the expansion of ISIS. Chaldean Christians had been the primary inhabitants of the Nineveh Plains around Mosul for literally over a millenium; many of them have been forced to flee for their lives and the lives of their families. Chaldean Catholics are a significant portion of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have had to flee Iraq in the past twelve years. And the clergy in Iraq face daily risks. Their bishops and priests have often been kidnapped for ransom or murdered. The Chaldean Catholic Church is in a state of extraordinary crisis. How things will turn out, no one can say.

Notable Monuments: Church of Mary Mother of Sorrows in Baghdad, Iraq.

Notable Saints: The Chaldean Catholic Church has a number of Persian saints on its calendar from the Church of the East calendar, such as St. Shim’un Bar Sabba’e, St. Qardagh, St. Sultan Mahdokt, St. Pithyon, and St. Jacob the Mutilated. In addition, there is a large crowd of martyrs, some of whom might at some point be beatified or canonized and placed on the general calendar.

Notable Religious Institutes: Antonian Order of Saint Ormizda of the Chaldeans; Congregation of the Chaldean Daughters of Mary Immaculate.

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: The Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans; nine archeparchies in Iraq (5), Iran (3), and Turkey (1); eleven eparchies around the world, including in Lebanon, Canada, the United States, and Oceania; and two patriarchal territories. (Sphere of influence always extends beyond the official jurisdiction due to members of the church living outside of any official jurisdiction of the church. As the Chaldean Catholic diaspora has been expanding at a prodigious rate, this is likely to become even more true of Chaldean Catholics in the future.)

Online Sources and Resources:

Poem a Day XII

West Wind

The West Wind travels with speed,
calm and unhurried by need,
stirring pedestrian reed,
and yet itself is unmoved.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

Christopher Lee died last Sunday at the age of 93. He did extensive work for Royal Air Force Intelligence in World War II, helped track down Nazi war criminals at the end of the war, and then got into acting. It was a tough market, so he mostly only got bit parts until he broke through in Hammer horror films. He became most famous for playing Dracula, although he often did not like it. He was the first choice of Ian Fleming (to whom he was related) for playing Dr. No, but didn't get that part; he did, however, get to play a Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun. He was getting tired of only being offered horror roles, however, so he decamped for America in 1977.

He is most famous recently, of course, for playing Saruman. Apparently he was a Tolkien fan; he was the only person in the production of the Lord of the Rings movies to have ever met Tolkien personally, and he claimed that he read The Lord of the Rings every year. He had wanted to play Gandalf, but, alas, his age was a problem, and so he took the role of Saruman, which involved less action and horseback-riding. But he was often like that; he voiced King Haggard in the animated version of The Last Unicorn and apparently showed up on the first day with the book in hand, having underlined all the speaking parts of King Haggard that he was going to insist should make it into the movie.

He also had a reasonably successful heavy metal music career late in life. The following, I think, captures some of his best work in this regard:

Rhapsody of Fire, with Christopher Lee, "The Magic of the Wizard's Dream",

Angels are calling
From divine lost crystal realms,
Riding from heaven
For the magic of the wizard's dream.

Thursday Vice: Odium

The Latin word odium is usually translated as 'hatred', but there is no exact English word corresponding to what Aquinas means when he talks about the vice of odium (2-2.34). It could be called 'hatred', but it is not a matter simply of disliking someone. Odium is disposition arising from both envy and wrath, so understanding what it is requires taking into account the essential features of each. And envy and wrath are both terrible vices, because they both, in different ways, treat good as evil; so you know from that alone that their progeny will be a terrible thing.

Since both wrath and envy treat the good of another as bad, there has to be some notion under which they can do so -- it is not possible to treat something one recognizes as good, simply speaking, as if it were evil. The notion under which wrath (ira) views the good of another is as a provocation due to its inconvenience for oneself. Excessive anger, on its own, is a vice, but it is not the vice of wrath; wrath is a tendency to attack the good in others, or the good of others, as if the good itself were a provocation, because their good is difficult for you in some way. Our proper attitude when someone has something good, or does something good, or receives something good, should be gladness at the good. But sometimes another person's good is not easy for us to be glad about; perhaps it takes away the possibility of getting what we were hoping to get, or introduces new problems for us. When we fail to handle this kind of situation properly, we are in danger of developing the vice of wrath: it is drive for vindication not against evil but against good.

Envy (invidia) is even more insidious. It is the vice in which the good of another is seen as a bad thing because it is not yours. In almost authors who discuss it, it is almost universally considered among the worse possible vices one can have. Its actions are spiteful and destructive, and generally the destruction is mutual: envious people will even harm themselves if it would prevent someone else from getting good or enjoying it.

Both wrath and envy are capital vices (the acts of these vices we often call the seven deadly sins). Capital vices are not necessarily the worse sins, although envy and wrath are quite serious on their own. Gluttony, for instance, is a relatively minor vice just considered in itself. But what makes a vice a capital vice, a chief vice, is that it is rarely on its own. Vices that are not corrected breed other vices, and capital vices are vices that are in just the right places in our personalities to breed lots of other vices. Thus wrath and envy, although quite serious on their own, are capital vices because the actions they motivate lead to the development of many other vices. The vice of odium or hatred grows naturally out of both, but especially from envy, whose connection to hatred Aquinas is getting from things Gregory the Great says in the Moralia. Wrath disposes us to odium, but it can never directly spill over into it, because wrath is limited by its very nature: it is a drive for vindication, and thus by its nature has to limit itself to the notion of 'righting a wrong', where the wrong is, in this case, a good. Odium does not limit itself; it gets this from envy, of which it is the ultimate daughter vice. Envy tends toward the spiteful, the malicious, the petty, the destructive; odium is what you get when these things actually develop in full.

Odium is thus a terrible vice. It is not a capital vice, however, because it does not particularly tend to breed vices. The reason for this, however, emphasizes how terrible it is: odium doesn't breed other vices because it is an end-of-the-line vice, a vice you get when the monstrous vice of envy has already become especially monstrous.

It is important in all of this to remember that vices and sins are not the same. Sins are actions; vices are stable dispositions of character, when sins become second nature. The vice of odium is not particularly easy to develop; but you can engage in the sins of hatred associated with odium even without having the vice -- indulging such sins is one way to get the vice associated with them.

Every vice opposes some virtue in some way, because vices are corruptions of things of which virtues are excellences. The virtue odium opposes, according to Aquinas, is charity. Now, charity is an immensely powerful virtue capable of many different acts (of which the primary are love, joy, peace, and mercy). Odium is the vice opposed to charity insofar as it is exercised in its most proper act, namely, love, and therefore has the same structure as the love that proceeds from charity. Charity is expressed most directly in love of God and love neighbor, so odium is expressed in odium Dei and odium proximi -- as they are usually translated, hatred of God and hatred of neighbor.

Odium Dei is a somewhat tricky idea. God is Goodness Itself, and considered precisely as such cannot be hated. But God can be hated under certain ideas in which God can be presented as bad. Aquinas gives two examples: God as prohibitor of sins and God as inflicter of penalties (peccatorum prohibitor et poenarum inflictor). This is not a mere matter of disliking a prohibition or punishment; it carries over to the source of the prohibition and punishment. Odium Dei is the worst sin. All sins can be treated as being aversions to God as Goodness Itself; but odium Dei is the most pure form of this kind of aversion.

Odium proximi is likewise not just any kind of dislike of someone. It is very far from disliking someone because of their faults. It involves instead hatred of their nature and grace (natura et gratia), both of which are good in themselves. As Aquinas notes, goods that our neighbor has received from God cannot really and truly conflict with our own good, so we should love the good of another. Sins against other human beings can be judged either in terms of the disorder involved in the sinner or in terms of the harm against others involved in the act. Seen in this light, there are sins much worse than odium proximi in terms of harm caused -- murder, for instance -- because, while odium might result in external action, its action never has to be more than internal, and internal sins harm others least. However, the disorder involved in odium is so great that no other sin against our neighbor can be as bad -- no matter how harmful an action is, it can derive from odium. With regard to sins of neighbor, Aquinas says, odium proximi est ultimum in progressu peccati: hatred of neighbor is the furthest point in the development of sin.

Poem a Day XI

St. Barnabas

On Cyprus shores did Barnabas
set down his knee to pray.
Perhaps his mind in memory
went back to mother's touch;
her loving calling of his name,
'Joseph', through the still air.
Or perhaps of a newer name,
giving comfort and hope,
a son of the true Paraclete.
Perhaps it was of Paul,
perhaps of Sergius Paulus,
or of a life's circle,
ending where it had once begun.
But on Cyprus shores Barnabas
set down his knee to pray.

On Cyprus shores did Barnabas
beneath carob-tree kneel,
in his hand a script of good news
by publican written.
In Rome and Alexandria,
In Milan, in Cyprus,
in Antioch, Pamphylia,
in Lycaonia,
throughout all of Pisidia,
the word spoke with his voice.
All human words will fail and fade,
to silence someday fall;
one Word alone endures always
to bring comfort and hope.
Thus on Cyprus shores Barnabas
beneath carob-tree knelt.

On Cyprus shores did Barnabas
kneel down to pray and die.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Moral Grandeur of Humility

We are finite, and the object of morality is infinite (the essence of being). We have, therefore, continually to strive hard to overcome our limitation by reaching out to the infinite. Now, this effort of a finite being to measure itself with the infinite, is extremely irksome; because it entails, as it were, a disruption of itself, breaking down in a certain way the limits within which created beings are inclosed. And since these limits are natural to it, the result is that it loves them, and is naturally loth to pass beyond them, from a feeling that by thus allowing itself to fall into, and be absorbed by, the infinite, its individuality would be lost, and in a manner annihilated. Hence the moral grandeur of the act of Christian HUMILITY, or the continual annihilation of oneself before the Infinite Being.

Bl. Antonio Rosmini, Theodicy, Volume 2, p. 216. I'm not completely certain, but I suspect a bit of Bérulle in the background, directly or indirectly; Oratorian spirituality placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of anéantissement or annihilatio before God; if so, Malebranche is possibly the channel for it, since Malebranche, of course, is an Oratorian, and Rosmini is quite familiar with his work.

Rosmini also goes on to make an interesting connection to Indian philosophy, quoting the Manava-dharma-sastra (Laws of Manu), saying that it tries to ontologize this basic moral idea; while he thinks, of course, that this is an error, he says that it is also "a truth in disguise".

Poem a Day X

Lovers of the Sunset

They who love the sunset are all lovers true and right;
the only gold they treasure is the gold of dying light
as the sun dips down its head like a bull for sacrifice.
Yea, who can love more purely than who loves the light that dies?

The children of the sunrise burst with splendor in the dawn;
they have no fear or trembling when the battle-lines are drawn.
But the lovers of the sunset fight with all, for never-again.
Yea, who can fight more truly than who fights for glory slain?

The brothers of the noon will always make their joyful vows,
the mothers of the midnight in their shadows dream and drowse,
but the lovers of the sunset dance on sure and splendid feet.
Yea, who can dance more truly than who knows the light is sweet?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Analects, Books VII-X

Book VII

Book VII continues with the method of profiles, but focuses more on Confucius himself. As always, the profile is built up by several different means, rather than only one. In this way we get a rounded view of the kind of teacher he was.

(1) What Master Kong did. At several points we get merely a brief statement of how Master Kong organized his life. He was relaxed during his leisure time (7.4); restrained in eating when around mourners (7.9); careful not to mix mourning and singing (7.10). He took care in matters involving fasting, war, and illness (7.13). He used the standard pronunciation rather than his own dialect in ritual and related contexts (7.18). He did not talk about "prodigies, force, disorders, or spirits" (7.21), but he took as the subjects of his teaching "culture, conduct, loyalty, and good faith" (7.25). He expressed his approach even in matters like fishing and archery (7.27) or singing (7.32). In all things he acted moderately (7.38).

(2) What Master Kong said of himself. He characterizes his approach as one of admiration of antiquity (7.1; 7.20). This is an attitude of perpetual discovery and teaching, and thus not one that can grow dull (7.2; 7.22; cp. 7.28); it is also an attitude of perpetual self-improvement (7.3). He will teach anyone, however poor (7.7; cp. 7.24, 7.29) and for himself, money is not itself especially important (7.12; 7.16). He expects his students, however, to use what he says as a starting-point for their own thought rather than simply stopping at his own words (7.8). He himself does not pretend to have reached the goal he seeks (7.17; 7.33; 7.34).

In addition, we get general comments that perhaps can be taken as reflecting on him as a teacher, perhaps as clarifying his goals (7.6; 7.26; 7.30; 7.37).

My favorite part of this book, though, is the story of the Minister of Crime of Chen (7.31). Asked by the Minister whether the Duke of Zhao understood appropriate action or rites (li), he affirms that he does, but later, talking to one of his students, remarks in his usual way about an obvious violation of the rites by the Duke of Zhao in the matter of marriage, saying that if he understood the rites, everyone does. However, word gets back, and Confucius wryly remarks, "I am fortunate. If I have faults, other people are certain to be aware of them."


Much of Book VIII seems to be concerned with the high standards of public service. It takes an appropriate balance and moderation (8.2, 8.10, 8.16), requires eliminating arrogance from oneself (8.11), and a focus on the Way (8.13). If we do not fill a given office, it is not our task to plan what it should do (8.14). The ancients provide proper role models in this task (8.1, 8.18, 8.19, 8.20, 8.21).

Book IX

We return to the profile of Confucius.

(1) What Master Kong did. He rarely spoke of profit, fate, or ren (9.1). He avoided presumption, over-certainty, inflexibility, and arrogance (9.4). He always showed respect to those in mourning, those engaging in proper ceremony, and the blind (9.10).

(2) What Master Kong said of himself. He fulfilled his ritual obligations by regard for the spirit of the rite (9.3). He is not one of the genuinely noble because his circumstances have not given him focus (9.6) and his many accomplishments are the result of not having been tried in office (9.7). He has, essentially, failed in his work (9.9). The reason for this seems to be expressed in the tale of the jade box (9.13): you should put your talents to work, but one can only wait for the appropriate opportunity to do so. One continues the work anyway, because that is what is in one's power (cp. 9.19), but sometimes, as with the early death of Confucius's best student, Hui, things simply intervene before you can complete it (9.21). He does not have true understanding, but if a question is raised, he does whatever he can to think it through (9.8).

A particularly interesting passage (9.24) perhaps perfectly sums up the scholar's path as presented in The Analects. It is not enough to concur with exemplary sayings, which anyone can do; one must use them in self-improvement. It is not enough to be pleased with benefits, which anyone can do; one must ask what they are being given for. This is essential to being someone who can genuinely learn.

Book X

Book X has a greater obvious coherence than most of the other sections of the work. Itfocuses heavily on acting in accordance with the rites. We get a detailed description of how Confucius approached various ritual situations (10.1-10.4), then an extended description of the noble man's approach to rites in general (10.5-10.6), before returning to smaller comments on how Confucius approached various ritual situations (10.7-10.19). (The final sayings in the book, 10.20-10.21, are garbled and nobody knows exactly what the original was supposed to say.)

There are several notable points. Master Kong was more concerned for people than for horses, despite the expense of the latter (10.11; cp. 10.16), and he was careful to act appropriately toward a ruler (10.12-10.14). When participating in temple rites, he asked questions so that he might understand everything (10.15).

to be continued

Grace Purifies Sin

Today is the Feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church. I thought that the following was a remarkable passage (from his Hymns on Virginity, no. 46), worth some serious reflection:

Liberty persuaded Adam to scorn his honor
when he wished to become god while he was a creature.
Grace purifies sin.
God came, made himself man to save humanity from perdition.
Behold the Son who purified the sin of the servant
and made him divine as he desired.

[Quoted in Seely Joseph Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology, Revised Edition, CUA Press (Washington, DC: 2014) 77-78.]

Poem a Day IX


No moment blessed by joy can ever wholly die,
for joy is of love, and love does not cry
except tears of joy; it is sun against night,
and flows across heaven, splendid in flight,
with flurry of glory and grace in its rush.
As dawn with its warmth resounds in the hush,
as brightness with brilliance falls like the rain,
the world is made new, and fertile with grain:
so, too, in joy's spring do not expect snow,
nor fury of tempest in storms that will blow,
but newness, and greenness, a verdure of youth,
that stands, as unconquered as unending truth.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Sui Juris Churches XIX: The Syriac Catholic Church

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Antiochene

Primary Liturgical Language: Syriac (Christian Aramaic)

Juridical Status: Patriarchal

Approximate Population (to Nearest 10,000): 160,000

Brief History: A broadly pro-Rome party had existed in the Syrian Orthodox Church since the Crusades; in the seventeenth century a significant number began entering communion with Rome, in part due to the influence of Jesuit and Carmelite missionaries and in part due to the influence of the Maronites. In 1656 they decided to elect their own Patriarch, Andrew Akijan. Akijan himself, interestingly, seems to have been somewhat ambivalent about his election, and worried about whether the rites used by the Syrian Orthodox were acceptable; he was also bothered by the fact that he only had the faculties for the Maronite rite. He also seems to have been bothered by the sheer amount of opposition he faced. Rome supplied the authority to use a rite different from that of the Maronites, but it could not resolve the opposition. Akijan fled to Lebanon and was only reluctantly persuaded to return. However, his doing so led to a slow increase in the number of bishops and priests received into communion with Rome.

On its own this might not have done much, but in 1662, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate fell vacant, and the Synod elected Akijan as Patriarch in Aleppo. Even the Ottoman government, always wary of Western influence among churches in its territory, recognized him as such. Ironically, Rome had already opposed any such maneuver and was slower to give its own recognition; it only did so because the things was already accomplished and there was little to be done about it. Likewise, the anti-union party could do very little about the matter; Akijan was backed by both the Ottomans and the French, so active opposition, while it occasionally occurred, was politically perilous.

Akijan died, however, in 1677, and after his death Abdul Masih was elected, in part with support of the pro-Catholic party. However, Abdul Masih broke communion with Rome immediately, and thus the pro-Catholic party elected Gregory Peter Shahbaddin, his nephew. The Ottomans played each side against the other as it suited them politically; Shahbaddin was deposed and then re-installed several times. A few months after he was recognized for the fifth time by the Turks, Shahbaddin and quite a few others in the Catholic party were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. Shahbaddin died in prison in 1702; the exact circumstances are not clear, but it is commonly thought that he was poisoned. The bishops elected a new Patriarch, who was confirmed by Rome, but he refused the title. The church continued, but without a Patriarch until the 1780s.

In 1781, several bishops of the pro-Catholic party got together to elect a Patriarch, and they chose Michael Jarweh. Jarweh was closely tied with the Melkites, and had attempted to convince both of his predecessors to unite with Rome. This had resulted in an imprisonment and then a series of flights to escape his opponents. Rome eventually confirmed this in 1783, and the Syriac Catholic Church again had a Patriarch. This did not go well in Aleppo, though, and Jarweh had to flee to Lebanon, where, helped by Maronites, he eventually located his See at the monastery of Al-Sharfah.

Times would not be easy. The French government had done an extraordinary amount to alleviate the persecution of Catholics in the Ottoman Empire, but this all came to an end with the French Revolution, and persecution picked up again in a massive way. In the 1830s, however, Ottoman government found itself in a weak position, and the French began pressing the cause of Catholics again. Rome was able to negotiate the official recognition of the Armenian Catholics. The advantages were mutual: official recognition would alleviate the persecution, and it would also mean that Catholics in Ottoman territory would no longer be attending Latin churches, a constant worry for the Ottomans, who constantly attempted to reduce foreign influence on those residing in their territory. Other Catholics pressed for similar recognition, and the Syriac Catholic Church received it in 1843. This made it possible for the Patriarchal See to shift to Mardin.

The church began to grow and expand. But dark days were around the corner. After World War I, the Turks began a massive persecution of Christians through their territory. The most brutal of these persecutions is what is usually known as the Armenian Genocide, but the Armenians were not the only group to be targeted; Christians of all kinds were attacked, and while the Syriac Catholic Church did not undergo quite the decimation that the Armenian Catholic Church did, it was a brutal time. The Patriarchal See was moved to Beirut. It has since been slowly growing.

Notable Saints: There are a number of victims of the Assyrian Genocide, like Blessed Flavianus Michael Malki, who have a good chance of being raised to the universal calendar.

Notable Monuments: The Cathedral of Our Lady of Annunciation in Beirut; the Monastery of Al-Sharfeh (or Al-Charfet); the church of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome.

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: The Patriarchal See in Beirut; two metropolitan archeparchies in Syria; four archeparchies in Syria and Iraq; three eparchies in Lebanon, Egypt, and North America; an apostolic exarchate in Venezuela; three patriarchal exarchates and a patriarchal territory. (Sphere of influence always extends beyond the official jurisdiction due to members of the church living outside of any official jurisdiction of the church.)

Online Sources and Resources:

Poem a Day VIII


The moon is maddening with its light --
O moon, I beg you, madden me! --
and casting shadows through the night

upon the cresting sands of shore,
now battered by the rumbling roar
of night, that tumbles like the sea.

In shadows, dark as depth of cave,
I'll dwell as though at hearth and home,
and dip my fingers in the foam
which moonlight sends upon the wave!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Fortnightly Book, June 7

After Eco, I want something a little less involved and faster-paced, so I am going with something by Gaston Leroux. Leroux's two most famous works are The Mystery of the Yellow Room, the most famous locked-room mystery novel of all time, and The Phantom of the Opera. The second will be the next fortnightly book.

Le Fantôme de l'Opéra was originally serialized in 1909 and 1910; it is based on both the history and legend of the actual Paris Opera House, although, of course, with plenty of literary license thrown in. Its popularity was quite extensive, but it became world famous with the 1925 production of the silent movie, The Phantom of the Opera. Multiple other adaptations followed, of varying quality. In 1986, of course, we got the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Looking around, it looks like there were two classic radio adaptations, from Lux Radio Theater and CBS Mystery Theater, so I might compare them if I have the time.

Poem a Day VII

Cold and Empty Rooms

I walked through cold and empty rooms.
The dust was in the air, and sunlight chill
at times would pierce with ray the stuffy gloom
and slide across the floor to touch the wall,
as all the little flecks like drunkards wheeled,
like dancing debutantes at silent ball.

My footsteps echoed, muffled, in the calm;
I walked through cold and empty rooms.
I felt like ancient monk in fast and alm
preparing prayer in the vesper gloam
each breath writ in the air like chanted neume
that rises from the pilgrim seeking home.

Through endless rooms I wandered, dreading doom,
as cold took up my breath like sudden smoke.
I walked through cold and empty rooms,
through endless doors, as though some heavy yoke
were on my shoulders, as though disaster loomed.
To give my heart some strength I softly spoke.

"See how these quiet rooms, this endless maze,
with boundless silence waits in tranquil sloom
and does not count the years, or months, or days,
as if I could for lifetimes through it roam."
I walked through cold and empty rooms;
they did not hear, nor care for what I'd say.

As cemetery sounds seem fraught with sense,
as heavy seems the air once stained with crime,
I felt a weight invisible, immense:
The footfall soft seemed like some drum of doom,
the ruthless, steady metronome of time:
I walked through cold and empty rooms.