Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Chuck Berry, "Rock and Roll Music".

Wise Cyril

Today is the memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church. From his Catechetical Lectures (Lecture 2.1-2):

A fearful thing is sin, and the sorest disease of the soul is transgression, secretly cutting its sinews, and becoming also the cause of eternal fire; an evil of a man's own choosing, an offspring of the will. For that we sin of our own free will the Prophet says plainly in a certain place: Yet I planted you a fruitful vine, wholly true: how are you turned to bitterness, (and become) the strange vine? The planting was good, the fruit coming from the will is evil; and therefore the planter is blameless, but the vine shall be burnt with fire since it was planted for good, and bore fruit unto evil of its own will. For God, according to the Preacher, made man upright, and they have themselves sought out many inventions. For we are His workmanship, says the Apostle, created unto good works, which God afore prepared, that we should walk in them. So then the Creator, being good, created for good works; but the creature turned of its own free will to wickedness. Sin then is, as we have said, a fearful evil, but not incurable; fearful for him who clings to it, but easy of cure for him who by repentance puts it from him. For suppose that a man is holding fire in his hand; as long as he holds fast the live coal he is sure to be burned, but should he put away the coal, he would have cast away the flame also with it. If however any one thinks that he is not being burned when sinning, to him the Scripture says, Shall a man wrap up fire in his bosom, and not burn his clothes? For sin burns the sinews of the soul....

...But some one will say, What can sin be? Is it a living thing? Is it an angel? Is it a demon? What is this which works within us? It is not an enemy, O man, that assails you from without, but an evil shoot growing up out of yourself.

Lent XVI

Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death. (James 1:15)

'Temptation is carried out in three ways, by suggestion, by delight, by consent,' by the suggestion of the enemy, or by the delight, or even by the consent of our frailty. But if even at the enemy's suggestion we are unwilling to take delight in or to consent to sin, temptation itself carries us on to the victory by which we may deserve to win the crown of life.

[St. Bede, Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Hurst, tr., Cistercian Publications (Kalamazoo: 1985). p. 15. The quotation is from Gregory the Great's Homilies on the Gospels 1.16.1.]

Friday, March 17, 2017

Inspiring the Love of Reading

Wherein Gerdil shows himself to have a better understanding of how children learn than many do:

It is a charming speculation to pretend to lead children through the whole course of their studies by always amusing them. The most necessary studies require hard work and self-denial. We may partially mitigate the coercive quality of study, but we cannot entirely remove it, and still hope to make solid progress. And therefore it is not by means of these kinds of studies that we will inspire children with a love for reading. But we will succeed with reading that is amusing and instructive, so long as we take care not to propose it as part of their studies, -- for the very word will ruin everything, -- but rather as a reward for applying themselves to their studies.

[H. S. Gerdil, The Anti-Emile, Frank, tr. St. Augustine's Press (South Bend, IN: 2011) p. 111.]

Lent XV

Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free...." (John 8:31-32)

Three things are required to be a disciple. The first is understanding, to grasp the words of the teacher: "Are you also still without understanding?" (Mt 15:16). But it is only Christ who can open the ears of the understanding: "Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures" (Lk 24:45); "The Lord opened my ears" (Is 50:5).

Secondly, a disciple needs to assent, so as to believe the doctrine of his teacher, for "The disciple is not above his teacher" (Lk 6:40), and thus he should not contradict him: "do not speak against the truth in any way" (Sir 4:30). And Isaiah continues in the same verse, "I do not resist."

Thirdly, a disciple needs to be stable, in order to persevere. As we read above: "From this time on, many of his disciples turned back, and no longer walked with him" (6:67); and Isaiah adds: "I did not turn back" (Is 50:5).

But it is a greater thing to know the truth, since this is the end of the disciple.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapters 6-12, Larcher, tr., CUA Press (Washington DC: 2010), p.124.]

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Evening Note for Thursday, March 16

Thought for the Evening: Of Just Protest

Both in class discussions with students, and in various other situations outside of class, I've noticed a tendency not to think very critically about political protests. This occurs on two different levels -- one, there is a sort of cargo-cultism about protesting, in which people go through the motions without any real understanding of what they are doing; and two, there is a tendency not to recognize that protesting is the kind of thing that must be done according to ethical standards, beyond (what is often the only significant ethical issue to be considered) distinguishing between protest and riot. The first I set aside here, although I think it ends up being a severe problem; it will come up in passing in discussing the second, which I think is the more serious one.

There are a number of reasons why the ethical standards for protesting are actually fairly high, but the most essential of these arises from the nature of a protest in and of itself. A protest is by its very nature:

(a) a complaint, which must meet the kind of standard of reasonableness a complaint must meet; and
(b) a rebuke, and thus something that can be a punishment, which must meet standards of justice;

and therefore must meet ethical standards relevant to both.

Reasonable complaint requires moral standing to complain, which involves at least the following basic elements:

(1) A reasonable candidate for an injustice has been identified.
(2) The real cause of the injustice, to the extent possible, has been identified.
(3) The injustice must actually admit of an identifiable remedy.
(4) These three components must be properly integrated in the complaint, so that the protest is addressing the real cause of the injustice in such a way as to contribute to reaching the remedy.

(1) is sometimes the most vehemently debated, but it's arguably a fairly easy standard to reach, in part because even made-up reasons to protest (like those used by dictatorial regimes) may sometimes be only made-up in specifics. Generic injustices are easy to find. (2) is often an issue; one saw this with the Chik-fil-a protests a few years back, which were utterly ineffective because they were done without any understanding of how franchises work, so that the targets were all wrong. But I think this tends to be most commonly a problem with spontaneous protests in particular. I think the most common weakness with protests generally is with (3) and (4) -- one might think that this is a fairly obvious thing, but it is remarkable how often you can flummox people simply by asking them either "What, specifically, can and should be done to solve the problem?" or "What, specifically, is this protest supposed to do to help the problem get solved?" This ties in, I think, with the cargo-cultism I previously noted: people treat protests as if the point of them were to have a protest, when in reality protests are social means for achieving practical ends. And the position that people most often fall back to in answering the second question, that the protest is to "raise awareness", is a useless one -- protests are extraordinarily poor means for raising any kind of awareness at all. Raising awareness is what you do in order to get people to pay attention to your protest, and to pay attention to it in the right way; protesting in order to raise awareness is starting at the back end. The effectiveness of a protest depends on how aware people already are of the actual issues; a protest on its own cannot be interpreted properly without an already existing context in place; and raising awareness, on its own, doesn't actually do much, since such awareness, if not focused by something, is temporary and results in no practical action. If you are protesting only to raise awareness, you are wasting time that could be better spent on means that would actually address the problem.

Besides moral standing, there are additional conditions required for a rebuke to be fully just. For instance, it must be necessary -- that is, less drastic measures have been tried -- and it must be proportional to the problem -- overkill turns a rebuke into an unjust punishment. The protest must be legible, i.e., it must be set up in such a way that people can figure out why it's happening in the first place. And one must do it in such a way as is appropriate to common good -- that is, the way one does it must be focused on rendering benefit to everyone, even those against whom one is protesting. This is, I think, the most difficult of the standards to meet, and it is often not met; movements that have done unusually well at meeting it, like Gandhi in India, or many of the protests of the Civil Rights Movement, did not find it easy, and did as well as they did only because they put a lot of time and effort into trying.

People tend to assume, I think, that you've done your duty if you've avoided rioting, but finding out how to uphold the common good while protesting is not a trivial problem to solve. People also tend to assume that if your goals are just enough, you are done; but here, as everywhere else in ethics, your means must be appropriate and just. Both of these assumptions are very dangerous, ethically speaking, and seem to be tied to a tendency (which sometimes seems to be on the rise) to give oneself a free pass to attack your fellow citizens and human beings when you feel like it, without any consideration for them as citizens and human beings.

There are, in any case, various complications that arise that I haven't gone into here-- protests are often planned, but sometimes arise spontaneously in the face of egregious injustices, and the former arguably involves a rather stricter set of standards than the latter, for instance -- but the above all arise from general principles. You can't be a just person in any endeavor and not consider some analogue of these. There is no end run around them.

Various Links of Note

* John Irons translates the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, A Leaf from Heaven.

* Richard Marshall interviews Roman Altshuler on time and action.

* I recently gave a link to a translation of part of St. Francis Borgia's litany through the topics of Aquinas's Summa; for those who are interested, here is the full thing in Latin, all twenty-two dual-columned pages of it.

* Joseph Trabbic defends Plato's Republic.

Currently Reading

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to be King
Christ - Our Pascha: Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers
Hyacinthe Sigismond Gerdil, The Anti-Emile
Michael Flynn, In the Country of the Blind

Music on My Mind

Peter Hollens ft. Tim Foust, "The Sound of Silence".

Lent XIV

And he said to man: Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil, is understanding. (Job 28:27)

So, then, since The fear of the Lord itself is wisdom and to withdraw from evil, understanding, it follows that just men who fear God and withdraw from evil have wisdom and understanding, which are preferred to all the earthly goods which evil men possess. And so it is manifest that the rationale of divine providence is upheld in the fact that spiritual goods are given to the just as the better goods, whereas temporal goods are given to the evil as precarious goods.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, The Literal Exposition on Job, Damico, tr. Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA: 1989) p. 339.]

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me. (John 6:45)

He comes in three ways: through a knowledge of the truth; through the affection of love; and through imitative action. And in each day it is necessary that one hear and learn. The one who comes through a knowledge of the truth must hear, when God speaks within: "I will hear what the Lord God will speak within me" (Psalm 84:9); and he must learn, through affection, as was said. The one who comes through love and desire -- "If any one thirsts, let him come to me and drink" (below 7:37) -- must hear the word of the Father and grasp it, in order to learn and be moved in his affections. For that person learns the word who grasps it according to the meaning of the speaker But the Word of the Father breathes forth love....One comes to Christ through imitative action, according to: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (Mt 11:28). And whoever learns even in this way comes to Christ: for as the conclusion is to things knowable, so is action to things performable.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Chapters 6-12, Larcher & Weisheipl, trs. CUA Press (Washington, D.C.: 2010) p. 37.]

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three Poem Re-Drafts

The Speed of Thought

The speed of thought, they say, is swift,
but this, I think, is mostly false.
As giving only ends in gift,
so thinking only ends in all.
Through epochs, eons, ages slow,
unfinished yet our thought has been,
an ice-sea glacier's icy flow;
and unforeseen is thinking's end,
for every mind by love begot
has moved but centimeter's pace --
and incomplete is every thought,
remaindered to some future days.
The circles filled with stars are vast,
their orbits slowly turn in place;
and over ages thought must last
and time itself in circles chase.
And when completed is our run,
we leave our thinking incomplete,
a task continued, never done,
like turtles racing swifter feet.

Rust and Fire

One in kind are rust and fire.

Ruin is combustion slow;
flaming quickly is desire.

Flame will have the brighter glow,
spread the fiercer, fairer light;
wood must rust with aching speed,
give but transient delight.

Death is from consuming need,
craving turns to cinder each,
eating deep down through the heart,
universal in its reach,
dark, corrosive, part by part.

Decadence with more control
will corrosion spread abroad;
iron burns in part and whole
from air and malice of the gods.

Decay is merely slow desire:
one in kind are rust and fire.

Discourse of St. Symeon

Who stands upon the ocean-shore
and looks out to horizon's end
may in its vastness somewhat share
though still be bound upon the sand;
such see in truth the boundless sea
and yet the sea extends beyond;
unbounded sea they truly saw
and yet their seeing had a bound.
Yet, not content that they but see,
are others who will splash and wade,
and what shall we of these folk say
who feel the waves roll strong and wet?
They too the endless ocean share
and thus are conscious and made full,
far more than any on the shore,
of fullness, depth, and overflow.
But will not those who wade out lose
their vision as the water weaves
a wall through which their eyes see less
of anything but wave on wave?
And to the one who simply swims
all but the ocean then will fade;
to such a soul the world then seems
to be but currents that enfold.
And so it is with glory bright!
And thus and so will be the lot
of those who by God's grace are brought
to God Himself, the Sea of Light.

Lent XII

There was a man in the land of Hus, whose name was Job, and that man was simple and upright, and fearing God, and avoiding evil. (Job 1:1)

To fear God is never to pass over any good thing, that ought to be done. Whence it is said by Solomon, Whoso fears God, neglects nothing [Eccl. 7, 18, (Vulg.) 19.]; but because there are some, who practise some good actions, yet in such wise that they are by no means withheld from certain evil practices; after he is said to have been one that feared God, it is still rightly reported of him that he also eschewed evil; for it is written, Depart from evil, and do good [Ps. 37, 27]; for indeed those good actions are not acceptable to God, which are stained in His sight by the admixture of evil deeds; and hence it is said by Solomon, He who offendeth in one point, spoileth many good deeds [Eccl. 9, 18]. Hence James bears witness, saying, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. [James 2, 10] Hence Paul saith, A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump [1 Cor. 5, 6]. So then that it might be shewn us how spotless the blessed Job stood forth in his good actions, it is wisely done that we have it pointed out how far he was removed from evil deeds.

[St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, Book I.]

Monday, March 13, 2017

Conscientious Objection and Ethical Relativism

Julian Savulescu and Udo Schuklenk argue that the right of conscientious objection is based on ethical relativism:

Ethical relativism is the view that the truth of ethical statements - such as abortion is wrong - is dependent on, or relative to, the culture, group or individual making the statement. Ethics is relative to groups, cultures or times.

But ethical relativism is practically ethical nihilism. If one accepted ethical relativism, the holocaust was, from the Nazi's perspective, right. It is just that today we have a different set of values from the Nazis. As the Nazi example demonstrates, we have reason to be profoundly uncomfortable with ethical relativism, even though it is often considered the politically correct thing to be an ethical relativist.

Part of the force behind respecting conscientious objection is a common commitment to ethical relativism: if that is what someone believes, then they are right to believe it, and that alone makes it a kind of truth.

This is not even coherent, much less accurate; it's at a level of absurdity that reminds me of Savulescu's silly 'conceptual analysis' of coercion. There is nothing in this line of argument that needs to be taken seriously.

(1) The whole point of conscientious objection is that the state does not have moral authority over certain matters and thus in those matters cannot coerce citizens; it requires by its very nature that there be moral principles more fundamental than statute or custom. Conscientious objectors are not conformists going along with "groups, cultures or times"; and they are appealing to principles that they believe they themselves don't have the right to violate. There is nothing remotely relativist about this.

Nor does acceptance of a right of conscientious objection commit one to a claim that the conscientious objector is right to believe as he or she does; it merely commits one to a claim that one is wrong to force them against their will in this context. This is a repeated failure throughout S&S's paper: they fail to recognize that a major question is what the state (and a fortiori institutions and organizations less than the state) has the right to require when the state is held to moral standards in the treatment of people in its jurisdiction.

And, in fact, it is not difficult to find recognition that ethical relativism is very unlikely to be consistent with any kind of conscientious objection. Do Schuklenk and Savulescu not read any of the doctors elaborating their views on the subject, and have they never noticed how often opposition to moral relativism comes up? It is commonplace that if conscientious objection were based on a commitment to moral relativism it would be an "anemic" concept. (That's not strong enough, in fact, since it would thereby involve no right, but the point is that it is generally recognized that moral relativism does not have the features required for the kind of appeal to conscience that conscientious objectors need.)

Even someone like Alberto Giubilini, whom they cite for their claim, is not arguing that it is a general commitment that is "part of the force behind respecting conscientious objection". Giubilini's argument in "The Paradox of Conscientious Objection and the Anemic Concept of Conscience" is that moral relativism would give a way around a particular objection to conscientious objection that he thinks is especially cogent and for which its defenders have no particularly cogent response; he is quite clear that this is an alternative that he is proposing as better than what actual supporters of conscientious objection in fact argue. What is more, the conception of moral relativism he brings in is a different kind of relativism than what Savulescu and Schuklenk are proposing. (Indeed, it has to be a different kind if it is to perform the task Giubilini thinks it can.) Their failure to grasp this is truly baffling.

(2) The appeal to the evil of the Nazis in this context is enough to exasperate the most patient of people. One of the evils of the Nazis was precisely their intolerance of rights of conscience, and everyone who is not an idiot knows this. And thus one of the evils of the Nazi regime was its treatment of conscientious objectors, the 'underminers of morale'; conscientious objectors in Nazi Germany were shoved off, like Ernst Friedrich, to asylums or prisons, or, like August Dickmann, to concentration camps and firing squads, or, like Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter, to the chopping block. It is precisely this -- and similar cases, like Communist treatment of conscientious objectors as enemies of the state -- that has led in the past half-century or so to human rights organizations vehemently supporting the right to conscientious objection in military matters as a human right. There is no sort of ethical relativism in that field. And the question of whether there is a right of conscientious objection in medical matters is simply a question of how far the right to conscientious objection extends beyond the military field. Thus, for instance, supporters of the right to conscientious objection will point out that doctors are not conscripted, and they are not under military-style obligations, and they are not being called up to serve in a national emergency, and yet the state seems to be arrogating a right to treat them as if they are; that is to say, on an analogy between military service and the medical profession, there is even less of a ground for the state to claim it has the authority to demand service, and yet we recognize that authority as less than absolute in the stronger case, so a fortiori we should recognize it in the medical case. There are many varying arguments of the kind, but the point is that recognizing the moral foundation of the one requires recognizing at least the possibility of an analogous moral foundation for the other.

(3) Refusal to recognize any rights of conscience, besides eliminating a major protection against precisely such atrocities as those of the Nazi regime, punishes people for acting as moral agents; if any rights of conscience stand on moral grounds, some right of conscientious objection, even if very limited, is thereby established (since one cannot be defending rights of conscience if no one has any right to refuse due to objection of conscience at all), and it becomes merely a question of what those limits are. Refusal to recognize any right to conscientious objection would be an insistence on penalizing people for trying to act on moral judgments according to rights of conscience; if any right to conscientious objection stands on moral grounds, then the question simply becomes whether those moral grounds suffice for the medical case, as well. Thus questions of ethical relativism are not remotely in view in the grounding of the right of conscientious objection itself; the only way they could come in is if one held that it was needed to handle an objection that could not otherwise be handled (as Giubilini does; his argument, I think, is wrong, but it is at least not sloppy and absurd as the argument of Schuklenk and Savulescu is, which appears to have arisen by mangling Giubilini's argument out of all recognition). But ethical relativism would also gut every one of these steps. (Hence the broad recognition that it would make conscientious objection 'anemic'.)

One of the failings of the argument throughout the paper is that Savulescu and Schuklenk repeatedly fail to recognize that conscientious objection is not opposed to professional ethics but a form of it. The conscientious objector may oppose a law, or may oppose a guideline by an organization, but the whole point of conscientious objection in such cases is that the morality of acting in a profession is not a mere matter of what a law or a guideline says but of more fundamental moral principles. Insofar as we are talking about a profession in particular, conscientious objectors, qua conscientious, are not putting themselves forward as inconsistent with their profession but as opposing something they regard as inconsistent with the objective moral principles governing that profession. Bringing in ethical relativism in the way they do establishes very clearly that they do not have the slightest understanding of what is actually involved in real conscientious objection.

Time Like a Sullen School-Boy Stands

The Wizard's Pupil
by Dorothy Sayers

* It was written with red and black ink, and much of it he could not understand; but he put his finger on a line and spelled it through. At once the room was darkened, and the house trembled.

Time like a sullen school-boy stands
Beside the Wizard's knee,
The book of life between his hands,
And spells out painfully
The crabbed Christ-cross row,
The Alpha and the O.

His grimy fingers slowly trace
Each odd, repellent sign
In a dull fear to lose the place;
His voice, with listless whine,
Drawls through the scheduled hour
The syllables of power.

While Zeta is so like to Xi
Small thought has he to spare
For what the screed may signify,
(The Wizard in His chair
Smiles, knowing ere He look
All that is in the book).

But sometimes ill and sometimes well,
Reluctant and perplexed,
He gropes and stammers through the spell
From one sound to the next;
And when the last is read
God's Word wakes the dead.

This is from a collection of poems Sayers published in 1918 when she was about twenty-one (it was her second book of poems, and, indeed, her second book at all). She had graduated with honors from Somerville College in Oxford at this point, but had not yet received her MA -- because Oxford University did not allow women to matriculate and receive formal degrees until 1920.

Lent XI

Blessed are ye that hunger now: for you shall be filled. (Luke 6:21)

In Matthew, however, again He says; "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled:" but here He simply says, that "those that hunger shall be filled." We say, therefore, that it is a great and noble thing to hunger and thirst after righteousness: that is, habitually to take part in earnest endeavours after piety:----for such is the meaning of righteousness:----as if it were our meat and drink. And inasmuch as we ought to give to this passage also a meaning, in accordance with the foregoing explanations, we say again as follows: The Saviour pronounced those blessed who love a voluntary poverty, to enable them honourably, and without distraction, to practise the apostolic course of life. For it is in plain keeping with the having neither gold nor silver in their purses, nor two coats, to endure also very great hardness in their way of life, and scarcely obtain food for their need. But this is a burdensome thing for those who are suffering poverty and persecutions, and therefore He That knoweth hearts, very suitably does not permit us to be dispirited because of the results of poverty: for He says, that those who hunger now for their piety's sake towards Him shall be filled: that is, they shall enjoy the intellectual and spiritual blessings that are in store.

[St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke]

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fortnightly Book, March 12

It was assumed by many pious persons who approved the project that my object in writing The Man Born to be King was "to do good"--and indeed the same assumption was also made by impious persons who feared lest it might "do good" in the Christian sense, as well as by pious but disapproving persons who thought it could only do harm. But that was in fact not my object at all, though it was quite properly the object of those who commissioned the plays in the first place. My object was to tell that story to the best of my ability, within the medium at my disposal--in short, to make as good a work of art as I could. For a work of art that is not good and true in art is not good or true in any other respect, and is useless for any purpose whatsoever--even for edification--because it is a lie, and the devil is the father of all such.

In 1940, the Religious Broadcasting division of the BBC wrote Dorothy Sayers asking if she would be willing to write a series of radio plays on the life of Christ; she had written a nativity play for them a couple of years before that had been well received. Sayers agreed on three conditions: (1) Christ must be represented as a character; (2) the style must be realistic; and (3) the language must be modern. The BBC agreed, and that is quite to its credit as an act of courage, for all three conditions were highly controversial. Representing the Lord in a drama as a character was something that was just not done (indeed, at the time it was still illegal to do it on a physical stage in a theater); the realistic style was often seen as somewhat impious; and the general expectation was that the language for religious drama should be, or at least be based on, that of the King James Version. And Sayers's twelve plays in the cycle were, in fact, repeatedly criticized on all three grounds, and could not have possibly survived any of the three criticisms if they had not been radio plays -- radio plays need not have an immediate physical audience, and only work by voice, so there wasn't actually anyone playacting Jesus, except in the way a good preacher, for instance, might read His actual words from the pulpit, and the language could be pitched both as easier to understand on the radio and as translations directly from the Greek (which Sayers typically did), which might also be done by a preacher in the pulpit, as needed, even if they were not particularly common. But it still made people quite uncomfortable.

The original twelve plays in The Man Born to be King were distributed over nearly an entire year -- from December 1941 to October 1942, with the plays airing about four weeks apart. Because of this, the plays had to be dual-functioned, being hour-long episodes in a series but also able to be heard as stand-alone plays. This meant some rearranging and editing in order to fit the requirements of the medium, and also required a unity of theme and a single plot. The theme was handled by the contrast between temporal and spiritual kingdom, but the second was handled in an ingenious way: the plot is the story of Judas Iscariot, an intelligent man seeking a Kingdom worthy of his hopes and dreams, and his relation to the Man Born to be King. The portrayal of Judas was another element that was highly criticized in the plays -- people angrily wrote in that he was presented as noble, acting on worthy motives. But that, of course, was the point.

Trumpet of Theology

Today in Byzantine Catholic calendars is the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas. From one of the Ukrainian Catholic hymns in his honor:

What hymns of praise shall we sing in honour of the holy bishop?
He is the trumpet of theology,
the herald of the fire of grace, the honoured vessel of the Spirit,
the unshaken pillar of the Church, the great joy of the inhabited earth,
the river of wisdom, the candlestick of the light,
the shining star that makes glorious the whole creation.

From a sermon by St. Gregory on the Second Sunday of Lent:

Since the kingdom of God is at hand and within us and will soon arrive, let us make ourselves worthy of it by works of repentance. Let us exercise force on ourselves, driving away evil prejudices and habits. For the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12). We should emulate the patience, humility and faith of our God-bearing Fathers. "Whose faith follow," it says, "considering the end of their manner of life" (Heb. 13:7). Let us mortify those parts of us which belong to the earth: fornication, impurity, evil passion and covetousness, especially during these holy days of the fast.

[St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies, Veniamin, tr., Mount Thabor Publishing (Waymart, PA: 2009), pp. 65-66.]