Thursday, December 31, 2020

"Vex Not His Ghost!"

Midnight Mass for the Dying Year
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Yes, the Year is growing old,
And his eye is pale and bleared!
Death, with frosty hand and cold,
Plucks the old man by the beard,
Sorely, sorely!

The leaves are falling, falling,
Solemnly and slow;
Caw! caw! the rooks are calling,
It is a sound of woe,
A sound of woe!

Through woods and mountain passes
The winds, like anthems, roll;
They are chanting solemn masses,
Singing, “Pray for this poor soul,
Pray, pray!”

And the hooded clouds, like friars,
Tell their beads in drops of rain,
And patter their doleful prayers;
But their prayers are all in vain,
All in vain!

There he stands in the foul weather,
The foolish, fond Old Year,
Crowned with wild flowers and with heather,
Like weak, despised Lear,
A king, a king!

Then comes the summer-like day,
Bids the old man rejoice!
His joy! his last! Oh, the old man gray
Loveth that ever-soft voice,
Gentle and low.

To the crimson woods he saith,
To the voice gentle and low
Of the soft air, like a daughter's breath,
“Pray do not mock me so!
Do not laugh at me!”

And now the sweet day is dead;
Cold in his arms it lies;
No stain from its breath is spread
Over the glassy skies,
No mist or stain!

Then, too, the Old Year dieth,
And the forests utter a moan,
Like the voice of one who crieth
In the wilderness alone,
“Vex not his ghost!”

Then comes, with an awful roar,
Gathering and sounding on,
The storm-wind from Labrador,
The wind Euroclydon,
The storm-wind!

Howl! howl! and from the forest
Sweep the red leaves away!
Would, the sins that thou abhorrest,
O soul! could thus decay,
And be swept away!

For there shall come a mightier blast,
There shall be a darker day ;
And the stars, from heaven down-cast
Like red leaves be swept away!

Kyrie, eleyson!
Christe, eleyson!

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Third Kind of Martyr (Re-Post)

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs. A re-post from 2013.

The holy days immediately after Christmas are a curious mix. We start with St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr, the first specifically and explicitly Christian martyr, and whose martyrdom is a sort of template for other martyrdoms. We then move to St. John the Evangelist, who is according to tradition the only apostle who wasn't martyred (he was exiled, not killed). And today we meet the Holy Innocents, who are the martyrs least like anything we expect martyrs to be.

The mix did not escape our predecessors. Aquinas mentions somewhere a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux arguing that there were three kinds of martyrdom: martyrdom in will but not in physical death, as with St. John; martyrdom in will and in physical death, as with St. Stephen; and martyrdom in physical death but not in will, as with the Holy Innocents.

Genuine martyrdom is an act of witness; but to be the sort of martyrdom celebrated by the Church it must be an act of God. As typically understood, this is by the way of the infused virtue of fortitude, which is to say, inspired fortitude, whose most encompassing act is witness in violent death. In St. Stephen we see this full complete sense of martyrdom: God acts as principal agent of the witness, Stephen through inspired fortitude is the instrumental agent of witness, and the act is able, in context, to be a complete act of witness in violent death. The relation of this to St. John is easy to see: God still acts as principal agent of John's witness, John through inspired fortitude is still instrumental agent of the witness, but as it happens the fortitude is only ever expressed in acts less than full martyrdom.

With the Holy Innocents, on the other hand, we seem to have a somewhat different situation. Nothing absolute prevents an infant from receiving inspired fortitude, but this is in a sense incidental to the question, since an infant is not in a position to be an instrumental agent through such an infused virtue but only, at best, an instrumental patient. Thus God is principal agent of the witness of the Holy Innocents, and the act of witness in violent death is complete, but the Holy Innocents are not agents of witness in the way Stephen and John are. Yet they are no less martyrs and saints. One importance of the Holy Innocents is that they show that the witness of martyrdom, if genuine, must be very much an act of God. (The medieval theology of the Holy Innocents ends up being more complicated than this makes it sound, because, of course, the Holy Innocents were Jewish boys who were circumcised. Circumcision already made them signs of Christ and is the anticipatory sign of baptism into Christ. Thus their witness to Christ is an expression of the covenant between God and Israel that is fulfilled in Christ. Thus they were already going to be saints -- but because of their deaths they participate in the victory of martyrs as well and merit the veneration of the Church. Contrary to what some mis-attribute to medieval theologians, they weren't bothered by the fact that unbaptized children could be saints in heaven, since this was actually easily accommodated, but puzzled by the sense in which they were martyrs. Yet they were also clear that not only are they martyrs, they are an important kind of martyr, as well; all martyrs in some sense die in the place of Christ, for instance, but the Holy Innocents are the only martyrs who literally died in the place of Christ.)

Pusey has a famous sermon, entitled, "God's glories in infants set forth in the Holy Innocents," in which he notes that one of the clear lessons of the feast is the dignity of children: even an infant may be a saint of God, a witness to truth, and a temple of the Holy Spirit; and we are not just called to life everlasting, but born to the call. And this dignity does not depend on their being able to engage in great projects or elaborate choices; it does not depend on their autonomy or their consciousness of their place in this world or their ability to attribute to their own existence some basic value; it does not depend on sophisticated cognitive capabilities or having identifiable interests. Their deaths are not merely of moral interest; their deaths are things to make a man tremble; their deaths show that their lives are infinitely precious. It is in the greatest of human deaths that we see the full greatness of human life; and in Christian terms, the greatest of human deaths is martyrdom, the victory that is most victorious, and infants can have it. Some infant boys who had no idea what was going on were martyred once; and thereby they showed that their lives were capable of being, in witness, the expression of the greatest goods in the world. The Feast of Holy Innocents is a feast that says a lot.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Resistance of Ideas

I have previously noted that when Hume rejects the notion that we get the idea of causation from our sense of resistance, he gives the following as part of his reason for doing so:

But, first, we attribute power to a vast number of objects, where we never can suppose this resistance or exertion of force to take place; to the Supreme Being, who never meets with any resistance; to the mind in its command over its ideas and limbs, in common thinking and motion, where the effect follows immediately upon the will, without any exertion or summoning up of force; to inanimate matter, which is not capable of this sentiment.

And I noted that this fails to do adequate justice to what can be concluded by analogy, and also that the case of the Supreme Being, given Hume's own account of our idea of God, really stands or falls with the case of the mind's command over its ideas. There is an additional problem with the latter that is also worth noting.

Malebranche, in the Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion, has an interesting passage in which he does precisely what Hume says in the above passage that we do not do, namely, attribute resistance to the case of the mind's command over its ideas:

But do you think your ideas do not resist you? Find me then two unequal diameters in a circle, or three equal ones in an ellipse. Find me the square root of eight and the cube root of nine. Make it just to do unto others what is unacceptable to ourselves; or, to take an example more suited to you, make two feet of intelligible extension equal no more than one. Certainly the nature of this extension cannot countenance that. It resists your mind. (DMR 1.8, Jolley-Scott p. 14)

He claims, in fact, that the primary difference between the floor resisting the foot and ideas resisting the mind's attempt to force them is that perception of the former is obscure and perception of the latter is clear.

Hume, I think, has very limited room with which to reject a position like this, because in order to head off a different kind of argument that the idea of causation derives from our experience of the mind's command over its own ideas, he explicitly emphasizes that we find that "The command of the mind over itself is limited, as well as its command over the body". How is this limitation of command experienced? The resistance of our ideas to our mind's manipulation of them seems a plausible answer. In the same way, if you are trying to move your arm but are finding it paralyzed, it seems that this could also be experienced as a kind of resistance. Even where it is not impossible to force our mind to think a certain way, or to move our body a certain way, you can still have some kind of resistance; it would be simply false to say that people don't think you ever have to "summon up force" in such cases.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Feast of Stephen

The Irish Rovers, "Good King Wenceslas".

Friday, December 25, 2020


Mediaeval Baebes, "Gaudete". Nobody knows the origin of this Christmas carol, but it was probably composed in the sixteenth century; the first physical version is in the Piae Cantiones, published in 1582 by Jacobus Finno. Given the latter, it is also probably Finnish/Swedish in origin (Finland at that time being part of the Kingdom of Sweden), although this is not absolutely certain -- the Latin songs in that collection are from all over Eastern Europe. (The Piae Cantiones gives us a number of important religious songs in English; probably the most famous Christmas one is John Mason Neale's translation of one of the songs into "Good Christian Men, Rejoice".) The most famous version of "Gaudete" in recent times is that of Steeleye Span, which did very well on the charts in 1973 and is (I think) still the most successful all-Latin song ever to chart in the English-speaking world.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Music on My Mind

Peter Hollens, with The Hound + The Fox, "Away in a Manger". This song has an interesting history. It shows up suddenly in the 1880s, attributed to Martin Luther, and sometimes given the title, "Luther's Cradle Song". There is, however, no such song in Luther's corpus; there's not even an extant German version of the song before well into the twentieth century. Probably what happened was an imaginative attribution -- i.e., the poet wrote a lullaby perhaps in the persona of Luther, or, having written it, thought it sounded well read as if from Luther, but the attribution in the title was taken literally by others -- but nobody knows. It's almost certainly American in origin, though, making it perhaps the most popular carol of American origin in the world.

La Terre Est Libre, et le Ciel Est Ouvert

In 1843, the little parish church in Roquemaure, France, installed a new organ, and the priest wanted to do something special to celebrate. So he asked Roquemare's most famous literary figure, Placide Cappeau, to write up something Christmas-y to mark the occasion. Cappeau was probably even then an anti-clerical socialist and almost certainly an atheist, but he agreed to write something appropriate. And since he was an excellent poet, we got "Cantique de Noël". Cappeau himself liked it so much that he eventually got a friend of his, Adolphe Charles Adam, to set it to music.

Andrea Bocelli, "Minuit, chrétiens".

Cantique de Noël
by Placide Cappeau

Minuit, chrétiens, c'est l'heure solennelle,
Où l'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'à nous
Pour effacer la tache originelle
Et de Son Père arrêter le courroux.
Le monde entier tressaille d'espérance
En cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.

Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance.
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur!

De notre foi que la lumière ardente
Nous guide tous au berceau de l'Enfant,
Comme autrefois une étoile brillante
Y conduisit les chefs de l'Orient.
Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche:
Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur,

A votre orgueil, c'est de là que Dieu prêche.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.
Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur.

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave:
La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert.
Il voit un frère où n'était qu'un esclave,
L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer.
Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance,
C'est pour nous tous qu'il naît, qu'il souffre et meurt.

Peuple debout! Chante ta délivrance,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur,
Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur!

Perhaps the most sung version, however, is the English translation by John Sullivan Dwight, published in 1855 and increasingly popular during the American Civil War. Given that Dwight was a Unitarian minister, it's perhaps not an accident of translation that Dwight uses 'Saviour' for Capeau's 'l'Homme Dieu'.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Jonathan Antoine, "O Holy Night".

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

And All the Stars Looked Down

A Christmas Carol
by G. K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Second Apostle to Germany

December 21 is the commemoration of St. Pieter Kanis, better known as Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church. A re-post from 2017:


Today is the feast of St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church. From a seventeenth-century translation of one of his catechisms (as slightly modernized by myself to make it easier to read):

What is the name and nature of the Cardinal Virtues?

Certain virtues are thus called Cardinal because they are as it were the fountains and hinges of all the rest, and as the door turns upon the hinges, so the whole course of honest life consists of them, and the whole frame of good works seems after a fashion to depend upon them. And they are accounted four in number: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude. Whereof it is thus written: She teaches Sobriety and Prudence and Justice and Virtue, than which things there is nothing in this life more profitable to men, where by Sobriety, Temperance, and Virtue, Fortitude, are not obscurely signified. And all of them are so commended unto us, that we may assuredly understand that by the eternal wisdom which is God they are properly bestowed, and are received and exercised with very great fruit of man's salvation. Which virtues are also called Officials, that is, appertaining to offices or duties, because from them, as Saint Ambrose has noted, spring the diverse kinds of offices; and are derived all manner of duties appertaining to the ordinary life of man, according to every man's vocation.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Wrapped in Silence

God, on the other hand, is absolutely and infinitely beyond all beings, including those that contain others and those that are themselves contained, and He is beyond their nature, apart from which they could not exist, by which I mean to say apart from time and the age beyond time, as well as place, by which the universe is limited, for God is absolutely unconditioned by any relation to anything whatsoever. It follows, then, that the one who has wisely understood how he ought to love God, seeing that God is beyond all reason, knowledge, and any kind of relation whatsoever (because He is beyond nature), will pass by all sensible and intelligible objects, as well as all time, age, and place without establishing any relation to them; and finally, after having, in a manner beyond nature, stripped himself of every activity conforming to sensation, reason, and intellect, he will attain, ineffably and unknowably, the divine delight, which is beyond reason and intellect, and he shall attain this in a mode and principle known to God who gives such grace, and to those who are worthy to receive it. Thus he no longer bears about with him anything natural or written, since all that he could possibly say or know has been completely transcended and wrapped in silence.

[St. Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, Volum I, Constas, ed. and tr. Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA: 2014) pp. 244-245.]

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Hunnestad Monument

Hunnestadsmonumentet skåne ole worm.jpg
[By Ole Worm (1588-1654) - Worm, Ole, Monumenta Danica (1643)., Public Domain, Link]

This week saw a very interesting historical re-discovery, part of one of the lost stones of the Hunnestad Monument in modern-day Sweden. We had already known of the existence of it, due to the great Danish polymath, Olaus Wormius, who included the above picture of it in his Monumenta Danica. The Hunnestad Monument had been one of the largest and most significant Scandinavian historical monuments, going back to the tenth century, but was destroyed in the 1780s in the modernization craze that ended up destroying many of the historical monuments that had survived the earlier protestantization craze. Some parts had been rediscovered since. The newly rediscovered part, which is part of DR 286, labeled number 6 in Worm's illustration, was found while digging a sewer line; it had survived because part of it was used in a bridge, with its carved portion protected from the weather.

Jackson Crawford has a good discussion here:

O Hours! More Worth than Gold

December Morning, 1782.
by Anna Seward

I love to rise ere gleams the tardy light,
Winter's pale dawn; and as warm fires illume
And cheerful tapers shine around the room,
Through misty windows bend thy musing sight,
Where round the dusky lawn, the mansions white,
With shutters clos'd, peer faintly through the gloom,
That slow recedes; while yon grey spires assume,
Rising from their dark pile, an added height
By indistinctness given. Then to decree
The grateful thoughts to God, ere they unfold
To Friendship or the Muse, or seek with glee
Wisdom's rich page: O hours! more worth than gold,
By whose blest use we lengthen life, and free
From drear decays of age, outlive the old!

Anna Seward, known in her own day as The Swan of Lichfield, is the greatest English poet writing in Romantic style whom almost nobody remembers. The above sonnet can be found in a 1795 letter from Seward to a Mrs. Ponsonby. (Although the title I've given it here is not from there but is that given in Frederic Rowton's 1854 anthology, The Female Poets of Great Britain.) The letter is worth reading on its own; it gives Seward's own conception of the sonnet, which she does through a ruthless but amusing take-down of an article on the sonnet in Chambers' Encyclopedia.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Dashed Off XXXIII

 This finishes the notebook that was completed in March 2019.

Every form of record has a typical deterioration rate in an environment.

"Monotheism is the true consolation of history." Cohen

Evolution could not happen the way it does if things did not have benefits beyond those selected for.

Intelligence increases the field of good fortune by increasing the ability to take advantage of opportunity; education does the same.

Descartes's Meditation Four is an argument that error depends on will, not intellect, but it does so for a reason other than an intrinsic defect of will itself.

A notebook is a trace of learning.

the Mencian four shoots as identifying universes of practical reasons (with the fifth for how they interrrelate)

"...I apprehend a proposition, when I apprehend its predicate." Newman

We do ethics that we may do metaphysics.

angelic hierarchy as capturing aspects of liturgy

God qua possible is the concrete locus of the principle of noncontradiction, God qua actual is the concrete locus of the principle of sufficient reason.
-- perhaps principle of causality rather than PSR
-- raises question about other modalities. Temporal & locative would be specified (downstream versions of principle of causality. The interesting one is deontic: presumably the first principle of practical reason.

Malebranche on revelation & the external world // Descartes on immortality (Rep 2nd Obj)

the extension argument for immortality (Descartes VII: 153): death depends wholly on division or shape-change; mind is not such as to be divided or change shape.

grounds of conscientious objection: as human, as member of a religion, as citizen, as professional

"He was born and was baptized that by His Passion He might cleanse the water." Ignatius (Eph 18:2)
-- this is a complete theology of the sacrament of baptism

Talk of source and target in metaphor always makes the process sound more directed than it usually is. (Aristotle's use of the vocabulary of proportions avoids this.)

reasonableness, rightness, endurance, moderation

How often in this world does human friendship consist in saying, in word or deed, "I do not know what to do, but I am here if you do!"

The world of pleasures and pains is small, and a mere tracing of the world; utilitarianism is the ethics of a small outline of a barely-seen world.

technical teleology --> technical theology (the Muse)

The living creatures of Revelation represent the fourfold face of judgment: the ingenuity of man, the fierceness of lion, the power of ox, the inescapability of eagle.

"Our view of the Lord's Supper must ever condition and rule in the end our view of Christ's person and the conception we form of the Church." Niven
"The life of the single Christian can be real and healthful only as it is born from the general life of the Church, and carried by it onward to the end."
"A purely invisible Church has been well denominated a contradiction in adjecto; since the very idea of a Church implies the manifestation of the religious life, as something social and common."
"Outward social worship, which implies, of course, forms for the purpose, is to be regarded as something essential to piety itself. A religion without externals, must ever be fantastic and false."

Christ in praying, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do", is classifying the relevant sins as shegagah (Num 15:25-26, 28).

blasphemy against the Holy Spirit & Num. 15:30-31

Liturgy figures the moral life, but it does so not directly but by figuring that which moral life itself figures.

"Prayer is longing." Cohen
"Truth for the individual becomes truthfulness."
"God is the God of truth, and man is to be come the man of truthfulness."
"The fear of God is always sustained by love."

daily bread & Pr 30:8

Consent regularly travels across parties. Sometimes this is due to background responsibilities, sometimes due to requirements of fairness, sometimes due to dependencies in the act, but consent to do X with regard to one person will often require consent to do Y with regard to another person. It is very difficult, in fact, to have hermetically sealed consents or consensual relationships not consenting to something broader than the relationship. (This is a reason why contract law gets so complicated.)

secularization as infrastructural undermining

Doctors do not have a duty to care of just any sort, but specifically to conscientious and appropriate care.

censoriousness as the great vice of the Media Age

forms of standard evangelism
(1) massed (conversion of central institutions)
(2) ordered (religious orders and societies, etc.)
(3) immersed (small-scale apologetic maneuvers)
(4) passive (being available, with people filtering themselves in)

"That a whole nation has a right to do whatever it pleases, cannot in any sense whatever be admitted as true." John Quincey Adams

It is necessary that all necessary beings necessarily have necessary features.

rhetorical persuasion and the thin end of the wedge

Conscientious objection, generally considered, is when a person operating in a matter for which they are responsible refuses to cooperate or comply with an action that they judge to be inconsistent with the ends of that responsibility.


Every appeal to conscience requires another specific reason bringing the matter within the purview of conscience.

dharma as performance of what is enjoined

The Nyaya syllogism is not a static thing but the transformation of a claim from proposed to established.
Unestablished: There is fire on the hill.
How to establish? Smoke.
In what way would it establish it? As in a kitchen.
We can apply this here: There is smoke in that way.
Established: So there is fire on the hill.
Notice that the Nyaya school is then right that if you stop the process after the third limb, you haven't actually established the proposition for anyone -- it hasn't been changed! (With just yourself, it can be understood that you could transform, but you don't need to convince yourself.)

the Church's right to doctrinal objection in response to law and custom

"The conduct of men is much more governed by their passions than by their interests; the whole history of mankind is one continued demonstration of this axiom." John Adams

pedagogy & Aristotle's Poetics: Good pedagogy has plot, character, spectacle, etc., although thought is most important & it is partly improvised.

The intentionality of choice is partly contrastive (this rather than that).

While language is a matter of convention, it is not purely a matter of convention, because it depends on precedent and anticipated usefulness to achieve its functions.

Wordbuilding is a kind of worldbuilding.

Robin Lakoff's politeness maxims
(1) Formality: Don't impose.
(2) Deference: Give options.
(3) Camaraderie: Show sympathy.

life as such vs. organic life

sacramental unction and transmortality

law and contract as deontic instruments

instrumental causes in deontic order --> secondary principal causes in deontic order --> first cause in deontic order

wholesomeness and natural sacredness

All decision-making is affected by internal luck (what we happen to recall, what mood we happen to have, etc.).

philosophy of science vs. philosophy of science scholarship

We identify holes by travel operations. If this is generally true, then something may be a hole with respect to one kind of travel and not to another. (Is a glass window a hole? To light, perhaps, but not to rain.)

John Quincy Adams meets Bentham: Diary of John Quincy Adams 4/29/1817

A thriving republic requires a nation filled with jacks of all trades.

"Errors in reasoning are lessons and warnings, not to give up reason, but to reason with greater caution." Newman

Correspondence & coherence theories of the truth converge at the limit.

Disquotation theories cannot handle figurative, and especially not ironic, cases of truth.

Stakeholder theory suffers from the fact that, unless you take everyone in possible causal connection to be a stakeholder; the stakeholding varies according to an immense number of variables.
Stakeholder theory flattens out what are fundamentally different, and often really noncommensurable, relationships.

Contribution of a claim, not truth, is the aim of assertion as such. (Truth is an aim of reason itself.)

The principles of medical principlism are really topoi.

Something is only error in the context of a broader system that shows that it falls short.

"...our most natural mode of reasoning is, not from propositions to propositions, but from things to things, from concrete to concrete, from wholes to whole." Newman

While Hempel claims that empathic insight provides no basis for systematic prediction, it's in fact harder to argue than he suggests: There is some reason to think it contributes regularly to at least semi-systematic (better than guess) prediction of certain kinds of phenomena. And all our systematic prediction presupposes refinement of semi-systematic sources.

Edward Coke: Common law is based on reason, but not natural reason as such; instead it is based on artificial reason, "gotten by long study, observation, and experience" in the context of courts.

juries as defenders of customary law
'reasonable person' standards as appeals to customary law
judges as drawing on customary law when appealing to local histories

possibility as the "embryo of being" (Peirce)

Demand in a market is partly negotiated.

the Catholic hallowing of the sensible world, the turning of the world into prayer, the religious elevation of empirical existence, the Sabbath of the universe

Hegel's characterization of the achievement of Protestantism essentially takes it to have replaced celibacy, poverty, and obedience with sex, acquisition, and slavishness to the state (Encyclopedia 552 / Philosophy of Mind).

With the Catholic religion, the state has no primacy except in a very narrow order.

Freedom is not complete until it reaches to the holy.

"...I cannot see why one should embark on the immensely difficult social practice of treating each person as important unless there is something intrinsically valuable about personality." George Grant

All creatures, by the very fact that they are creatures, have the right to seek their Creator.

Legal positivism is a sort of emergentism, holding that laws arise out of particular collections of nonlegal facts. Natural law theory, on the other hand, takes human laws always to depend on prior laws, until one reaches what is naturally law and then (ultimately, if the theorist takes it so far) First and Eternal Law.

Tikom, sikod binom.

religion and the family as the two natural limits of civil authority, without which it would have no natural limit; thus they are always the targets of the totalitarian-minded

wholeheartedness as the correlate of dignity

On Kant's account, cognition always has two aspects, receptivity and spontaneity.

"Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance." Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Little children try to possess things; if anything, they have to be taught that they do not possess everything.

When people reasonably reject epistemologies as implausible, it is always for reasons connected to implausible physics or metaphysics.

Horror grows from memory of fear, a sort of dark nostalgia.

memory of fear : horror :: memory of joy : ?

The concept of 'due process' by its nature posits a standard of process higher than the laws constituting the process itself; the process is only 'due' relative to that higher standard.

If logic is not normative, nothing prevents taking every argument, no matter how absurd, to have its own logic according to which it should be described as logical.

Philosophy is itself an effect whose first cause is first wisdom.

philosophy : motion :: divine wisdom : first mover

Dignity admits of more and less, and participates first dignity.

demonology as giving an account of the structure of moral temptation

"No one likes bad news, no one welcomes what condemns him; the world slanders the Truth in self-defence, because the Truth denounces the world." Newman
"No one sins without making some excuse to himself for sinning."

Christ came to earth humbly and also in glory.

Love enters the tomb before purity, to see the signs of holy resurrection, the first glimmering of salvation.

"Nothing but charity can enable you to live well or to die well." Newman

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Evening Note for Thursday, December 17

Thought for the Evening: The Epistle to the Domestic Church

As Aquinas notes in various places, the New Testament epistles provide a thorough ecclesiology, although sometimes indirectly. What of the epistle to Philemon? Aquinas holds that it sheds light on grace in the Church so far as it extends to individuals, and in particular to those who have temporal responsibility in this world. There is something to this, but I think there is another way to understand Philemon that allows us to be more specific, namely, as the epistle that concerns the domestic church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the notion of the 'domestic church' in 1655-1658 and 1666, noting the important role of households in the early Church, which it characterizes as "islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world" (1655) and "centers of living, radiant faith" (1656). It links the notion to that of the priesthood of the baptized (1657) and notes that one of the functions of the Christian family or household is to be, like the Church itself, open even to those who are alone in the world. 

This is pretty general, but there are other places where the concept is discussed more fully. One is Christ, Our Pascha, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic catechism. The UGCC places a significant role on the notion of domestic churches, because it has been a church under rather severe persecution and its families are often scattered around the world because of it, so the domestic church has in many ways been one of the major means of its survival. Unsurprisingly, then, its catechism discusses the domestic church at some length, with the most extensive discussion occurring from 654 to 667. The family has a vocation to be the domestic church (655), in which the members of the family 'liturgize' by combining service to God with service to others (654). The family as the domestic church is built around the sacrament of matrimony, just like the parish church is built around the sacrament of orders (655). It is "the primary cell of the Christian community" that involves evangelizing, praying, and witnessing by example (656). It also discusses, in terms of the Ukrainian tradition, different aspects of the domestic church as a liturgical unit, such as icons, parental blessing of children, family prayer, Scripture reading, participation in traditions associated with holy days, and of course, matrimony itself.

This perhaps suffices to indicate the importance of the idea; but it has been more practiced than theorized. We can, however, think of Philemon as an epistle that gives us more insight into this familial vocation to the domestic church, particularly what it contributes to the Church at large. The letter, from Paul and Timothy, is explicitly directed to Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, and kat' oikon sou ecclesia, the church at your household (v. 2). Paul then says he thanks God when he hears of their love and faith toward Jesus and their fellow Christians. He then identifies what I think we can see as the two primary functions of the domestic church: the sharing of faith (v. 6) and the refreshing of the hearts of Christians (v. 7). The latter is particularly interesting and important, because we find it elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians 16, we find Paul discussing the household of Stephanas, the first converts in Achaia, and notes that they have devoted themselves to the service of their fellow Christians (16:15), and rejoices that members of that household have come "for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours" (16:18). The word here is the same as in Philemon, so we have something that is definitely connected with the role of the household as domestic church: refreshing the hearts of the saints.

Philemon gives us a bit more of an understanding of how this refreshment. A slave in the household, Onesimus, had run away and become a Christian and helper of Paul; he is returning, but Paul charges that they receive Onesimus as a brother and as they would Paul himself, and to take this as a benefit they are giving Paul himself. He then sums this all up as refreshing his heart (v. 20), where the word, 'heart', means literally something like 'innards' or 'insides', and is often a figurative expression for mercy, pity, sympathy. By generously giving their familial hospitality, they, like the household of Stephanas in 1 Corinthians, can do something that brings repose to those who need to be acting out of mercy and pity -- namely, all of us -- and by their example giving a sort of restoration to that mercy and pity. It's an experience we've all had at some point, of being refreshed in our own good works by the good works of others, and this is, I suggest, one of the key functions of the domestic church: by a sort of familial hospitality and generosity, refreshing the mercy and good works of the whole Church.

In a Church without emphasis on the family, the household, we would expect a sort of drought; individuals cannot forever do good, cannot forever act mercifully, without refreshment. The lone person eventually goes dry, eventually begins breaking down from the exhaustion of it. And I would suggest we do see such droughts at times in the history of the Church; our own time is one, I think. On the other side, we find that a revival of the household as a Christian entity, even the mere attempt of families to rise up to their vocations as domestic churches, has immense benefits. The family can perhaps never remain wholly untouched by the world around, and inevitably assimilates things from it, not all good -- but as domestic church it begins the spiritual alchemy of slowly transfiguring these things into something nobler, a process that is slow and halting at times but that is nonetheless very real. And from it we get profound devotions, great leaders, and far more good than you might expect from even the most minor household routines.

And I think as well of the fact that so often, like the household of Stephanas, the 'church at the household' has been the platform for the Church when there was no other, and how it has often remained with extraordinary durability. Some of the successes of early modern missions to China came about when a number of Chinese families recognized that some of the ceremonies of the missionaries were clearly linked to their own family traditions, their ancestors having been converted centuries before and their family practices having preserved significant elements from that time. And, of course, there were the Japanese Christians, all of their priests murdered, subject to one of the most brutal persecutions in the history of the Church, but surviving, keeping the faith as best they could in their families, reciting the prayers even though they had become garbled and praying before a Buddhist shrine with a statue of the bodhisattva Kannon, holding a child, on some part of which they had made a mark to indicate that this was not Kannon but Maria and her Child, until one day, the country having opened up again, a priest tending a church for foreign traders stepped outside and found a number of curious but cautious Japanese gathered there, Christians in a country without Christianity, because they had heard a rumor that the priest's prayers and practices were like their own. During the persecutions of the Elizabethan era or the French Revolution or any number of others, it was the families that held the Church together, that protected the priests, that took in those who had suffered, and it was the families that slowly pulled everything back when the times allowed. It is not on its own the whole Church, but it is not an optional concession; it is an essential aspect of the life of the Church, enough that there was preserved in Scripture an entire Pauline letter devoted to it.

 Various Links of Interest

 * Ulatowski, Weijers & Sytsma, Corpus Methods in Philosophy

* Robert Schneider, Uncovering Ramanujan's "Lost" Notebook (PDF)

* Scott Moringiello, More Beauty Than Our Eyes Can Bear

* Dan Nixon, The body as mediator, discusses Merleau-Ponty 

* Pat Smith on the political vision of Wulfstan of York

* Taylor Ross, Against Religious Fellow-Traveling, on Simone Weil

* Stephen Palmquist, How Political Is the Kantian Church?

* Justin Tosi & Brandon Warmke, "Shame on you!", discusses moral grandstanding

Currently Reading

 Michael Flynn, Falling Stars
John Henry Newman, Loss and Gain

Music on My Mind

Miracle of Sound, "The Tale of Cú Chulainn". For a somewhat different run-down of the Hound's life, see the Overly Sarcastic Productions recounting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Microcosm and Macrocosm

And thus, the moralist has before him a most ample field for speculation ; and one, as I have said, quite distinct from the field of speculation of the mathematician, and the physicist, and the naturalist. He has a world within for his empire, which, all within him as it is, is not smaller than the world without, to the eye of reason. The microcosm, the little world of man, is really not less than the macrocosm, the great world of nature. The moralist said what every moral thinker will feel to be true, when he declared that, great as was the impression of sublimity when he turned his eyes to the starry concave without him, he saw a spectacle no less solemn and awful, when he looked at the sphere of consciousness within.

And beyond all doubt, these two worlds affect us in a different manner, and are to be studied according to different methods. The true method, in each course, must lead, as I conceive, to a system of Truths ; but the very nature of the Truth appears to differ in the one system and in the other.

William Whewell, Lectures on Systematic Morality, p. 48. The microcosm/macrocosm comparison  is traditional and goes back to Pythagoras. The moralist mentioned at the end of the first paragraph is Kant, of course.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Presence and Location

In "Experiencing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" by Cockayne, Efird, Haynes, Molto, Tamburro, Warman, and Ludwigs (whew!), they propose what they call an 'iconic' account of the real presence. As they put it, "On this understanding, Christ is derivatively, rather than fundamentally, located in the consecrated bread and wine, such that Christ is present to the believer through the consecrated bread and wine, thereby making available to the believer a second-person experience of Christ, where the consecrated bread and wine are the way in which she shares attention with him."

Contrasted with derivative location accounts, they hold are more common fundamental location accounts:

One way for Christ to be really present in the Eucharist is for him to be present in the consecrated bread and wine, and so be located in the consecrated bread and wine, and so be located at the place occupied by the consecrated bread and wine. This would then be a fundamental location account of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The most prominent such account is the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which, at the consecration, the substance of the bread and of the wine are transformed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, respectively.

One obvious problem here is that the doctrine of transubstantiation is not a fundamental location account, and the root of the problem is that analytic philosophers have a tendency to over-assimilate presence to location. (I've already noted this problem with respect to Kenny's discussion of real presence.) The idea of transubstantiation does not involve Christ taking on the accidents of bread and wine (that is a heresy called 'impanation'); rather, it implies that he manifests his presence through them, having replaced the substance of bread and wine. But among the accidents of bread and wine are those that localize it; Christ does not take these on, and therefore is not located where the accidents are. Given the distinction between fundamental location accounts and derivative location accounts that the authors use, transubstantiation is not a fundamental location account.

Consider Aquinas's discussion of this point (ST 3.76.5). He makes a distinction between presence by dimensive quantity and presence by substance. To be present by dimensive quantity requires that the thing present have a measure corresponding to the measure of the dimensive quantity of its boundary. This is literally not possible in the case of Christ's body and a little bit of Host on the altar. The dimensions of the Host are foreign dimensions, not proper dimensions, for Christ's body. Likewise, he'll go on to argue, Christ does not move when the Host moves, for the same reason.

The flow of thought in the above paragraph is quite clear: present in the consecrated elements and so located in them and so located at the place occupied by them. Neither of these and so's is as sure as it might seem. Presence is an action, broadly speaking; location is a measurement. They can come apart. We see this in things like video conferencing and phone calls, by means of which you are present somewhere that you are not located. An older example would be the presence of the soul in parts of the body. Your soul is present in your hand (otherwise it would not be a living hand); however, in a hylomorphic accounts, you wouldn't want to say that your soul is located at the place occupied by your hand. Forms, of which the soul is a special case, have no particular location. 'At your hand' is a location-measurement that, however loose and approximate, is wholly inadequate for measuring the presence of your soul. Any attempt to tie presence closely with location needs to be justified, not assumed.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Second Waypoint

 As I've repeatedly had to remind people -- and not just foreigners, who understandably might be importing their own assumptions about how elections work, but Americans who should know better -- the US presidential election is a multi-stage election; it does not happen all at once, but is divided out in such a way that all three levels of American government contribute. The people voted in fifty-one distinct elections (one for each state and the District of Columbia, each of which has different election laws) on Election Day, the first major waypoint. After Election Day, we've had roughly a month, during which audits, recounts, recanvasses, and litigations that need to be done to clarify the vote may be done. Today we reach the second waypoint, the meeting of the Electoral College, chosen according to a method established by the state legislature in light of the Election Day vote.

The Electoral College in Texas just a little bit ago cast its electoral votes; all 38 electoral votes for the State of Texas went to Trump for President and Pence for Vice President. That is in itself a notable thing. Texas was not happy with Trump as a candidate in 2016. Today's meeting went smoothly and quickly, with everything essential done in less than an hour and a half. The meeting in 2016 took forever, because despite the fact that it was a Republican slate, four of the Electors refused even to show up to vote, requiring that time be taken to replace them. And, of those who showed, two of them cast protest votes rather than vote for Trump. Whether Trump's consolidation in Texas has more to do with Trump himself or with the common conviction among Texan Republicans, about which they have become increasingly vocal in the past several years, that the Democratic establishment consists of insane totalitarians, is impossible to say from the vote itself. Either way, Trump this time around has received the solid backing of Texas, the Republican-voting state that had previously been most opposed to him.

We are not yet done with the election. Once all the meetings of the Electoral College take place today and the full Electoral College votes established, we enter the final stage. The formal certificates of vote will be sent to Congress and on January 6, the newly elected Congress in a joint session will formally count the Electoral College votes. Members of Congress can protest any of the votes, as long as the protest is provided in written form and signed by members of both houses,  When that happens, the two houses break for debate and vote; the objection is accepted only if both houses vote in favor of it. Objections are rarely made, and when made are rarely accepted, although it's not without precedent. We may well get a number of objections this time around -- Electoral College slates have to be determined in a manner determined by state legislatures, and in a few states, at least one house of the legislature has formally protested in some way that the election results were not certified (and thus the Electoral College slates not chosen) in a way consistent with state election law on some point or other, which is probably enough legal cover to get an objection support from one Republican Representative and one Republican Senator -- but getting bicameral support for an objection is as tall an order as it ever would be; and even if any were accepted, it would require alternative slates from several states to tip the Electoral College vote from Biden to Trump, which is a taller order still. In any case, the Electoral College vote as counted by Congress is the absolute word on who will be President and Vice President.

Given the Texas shift, and given that Hillary Clinton lost the most Electoral College votes to protest votes of any candidate in a century, it will be interesting if there are any protest votes at all this year. If there are, I'll put them up here.

 ADDED LATER: Journalists are maddeningly lax in their responsibilities to report on what needs reporting, but it looks like there were no protest votes. The electorate in 2016 considered the hand the parties dealt it a very bad hand; whether they are doing it happily or with gritted teeth, the electorate in 2020 is much more willing to go along with this year's deal. Or perhaps they've simply gotten over the shock of Trump campaign obnoxiousness and were relieved not to have the awfulness of Clinton campaign arrogance. I don't know; I have no deep insight into the overall tendency of the electorate. But it's a big shift back to some kind of normal.

Doctor Mysticus

 Today is the feast of St. Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, better known as St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church. From his work of mystical theology, The Dark Night of the Soul (Book I, Chapter II):

As these beginners feel themselves to be very fervent and diligent in spiritual things and devout exercises, from this prosperity (although it is true that holy things of their own nature cause humility) there often comes to them, through their imperfections, a certain kind of secret pride, whence they come to have some degree of satisfaction with their works and with themselves. And hence there comes to them likewise a certain desire, which is somewhat vain, and at times very vain, to speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, and sometimes even to teach such things rather than to learn them. They condemn others in their heart when they see that they have not the kind of devotion which they themselves desire; and sometimes they even say this in words, herein resembling the Pharisee, who boasted of himself, praising God for his own good works and despising the publican.

In these persons the devil often increases the fervour that they have and the desire to perform these and other works more frequently, so that their pride and presumption may grow greater. For the devil knows quite well that all these works and virtues which they perform are not only valueless to them, but even become vices in them. And such a degree of evil are some of these persons wont to reach that they would have none appear good save themselves; and thus, in deed and word, whenever the opportunity occurs, they condemn them and slander them, beholding the mote in their brother’s eye and not considering the beam which is in their own; they strain at another’s gnat and themselves swallow a camel.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Through Mystic Depths of Trackless Space

Coloured Double Stars
(December Thirteenth)
by John Holland

"It may be easier suggested in words, than conceived in imagination, what variety of illumination two suns—a red and a green, or a yellow and a blue one-must afford a planet circulating about either; and what charming contrasts and grateful vicissitudes—a red and a green day, for instance, alternating with a white one and with darkness—might arise from the presence or absence of one or other, or both above the horizon."-Herschel.

Hail, glorious triumph of the optic glass!
Revealing -- else unseen -- gem after gem
Ten thousand stars in night's dark diadem;
Some twin, or single, in rich tint surpass
Beryl, or amethyst, or chrysophras;
Resplendent clusters! such their lofty stem,
Unaided vision never clomb to them:
Reason in vain would grasp such mighty mass,
Of strange sidereal grandeur; Fancy, taught
By science, grows bewilder'd at the view;
For how, though heaven-plumed, can earthly thought,
Through mystic depths of trackless space, pursue
Each orb, which other, million miles outruns
A waste of worlds—a wilderness of suns!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Dashed Off XXXII

 religious cultural traditions vs. devotional traditions vs. Holy Tradition

Given the existence of God as ultimate, universal, and inexhaustible good, we may postulate immortality and freedom of will as conditions for seeking Him. Given immortality, we may postulate freedom of will as the ability to choose that is commensurate with it.

the womb as the natural catechumenate of life

Birth is something that must be prepared for, and thus in some sense begins well before we are born.

'Veridical perception' is a satisficing notion, not an optimizing notion. To see truly is to see well enough.

the mirandum as object of the intellect
the mirandum as that which is known to exceed what we know
truth becomes more valuable to us qua mirandum
being qua mirandum becomes that which, on being seen, we desire to know, that to which our mind attempts adequation

to relate to the world as from God
to relate to the world as a whole
to relate to what is in the world

the world as a postulate of practical reason

Without festival there is no leisure.

"secureness of sitting sheweth endless dwelling" Julian of Norwich

glorifying God in one's body (1 Corinthians 6:20)
apostereo in 1 Cor. 7:5 usu. means stealing or defrauding (cp 1 Cor 6:7, Mk 10:19)

the sacrifice that transfigures

Isosthenia can only be relative to a context.

Pyrrhonism presupposes an idea of truth.

Pascal's 'mutual annihilation' of skepticism and dogmatism is to make a path for what is outside the realms of both proof and doubt.

"Often things that are obscure and confused appear clear and distinct to men who are judging rashly." Leibniz

Evidence always underdetermines medical treatment in some way (manner, kind, or structure); the gap is bridged by extrapolation and analogy from experience, by guess, by patient preference, and by ethics.

the casuistry of medicine

Treatment in medicine primarily proceeds from an ethical principle, namely prudence.

paideia: learning the reasoning appropriate to the subject

conscientious objection on behalf of bodily integrity, on behalf of mental integrity, on behalf of social integrity, on behalf of higher allegiance

"Virtue seems the true basis of human dignity." Ronald Polansky

To die to the world is to gain the patience of the dead.

Kant on grace
(1) Conflict of the Faculties: grace as moral predisposition, unmerited and suggestive of divine source
(2) RBRA: grace as faculty available only through supernatural help
---- (a) independent of human agency (possible, but cannot be incorporated into practical maxim because it would be uncognizable)
---- (b) cooperative with human agency (must be accepted that good may be imputed)

development of doctrine and reduplicative guises of doctrines

Law of Nature formulation of categorical imperative : God :: End in Itself : Christ as Son of God :: Kingdom of Ends : Church

Kant as treating God and the best world merely as means (Lubkin)

Church as incipient (not *merely* possible) kingdom of ends, as incipient messianic community, as ethical commonwealth

Kant's entire critical period consists of discovering gaps in the critical philosophy and trying to fill them.

Morality must be possessed symbolically and by signs; but this creates the danger of using the symbolism and signs to get the appearance of morality without the substance of morality.

The judgment of taste is not entirely independent from the concept of perfection.

hell & the providence of fragile goods

science-infrastructure fiction vs science-furniture fiction

Replacing traditions with fads is not an improvement.

acquired justice to another
acquired justice to another on behalf of / with regard to God
infused justice
divine justice as that to which we are instrumental

Distributive justice is perverted when material good is given priority over moral good.

Sometimes we give to another because of his merit, sometimes because of benefits of which he is the source; sometimes we give to another that he might have the opportunity to benefit or to merit.

Male and female reproductive faculties are partial by nature; it is their union that reproduces.

the false consciousness of the world

Where the psychologist says 'happy', read 'diverted'.

therapy as the opium of the people

God as union of authority and truth

Note that in the wager in Infini rien, Pascal reminds the agnostic that he has *two* things to seek (the true *and the good*) and *two* things to avoid (error *and misery*) and *two* means to do it (reason *and will*). The agnostic had demanded nonbelief solely on the basis of the first of each pair.

Evidence only become evidence within a willingness to infer and inquire.

It's easy to focus on the proof in Socrates' discussion with the slave boy in the Meno. But the most important element is that the discussion was with an uneducated slave.

We talk of owning land, but in general the practice is to own estates in land.

politics & the art of finding acceptable remediable problems to stand in for irremediable ones

One does not need, prior to experience, to know what an experience will be like in order to make a rational decision about it; estimates, advice, practical requirements are all often sufficient, and we never in decision are considering only what experiences are like.

Zhong's Confucian principle of obligation: It is morally obligatory for agent A to Phi in context C iff a fully virtuous and relevantly informed person V would feel xiu-wu (disdain) for A's not Phi-ing in C.

"One action, or one conversation with a man, may convince us of his integrity and induce us to believe his testimony, though we have never, in a single instance, experienced his veracity." Richard Price
"The conscience of a man is the man; the reflecting principle is our supreme principle."

Arguments convince not by causing a feeling of being convinced but by connecting with other lines of thought.

To be a historian of philosophy is to be mistaken often.

(1) There is evil.
(2) Evil brings penalty in and with itself.
(3) Without contrition for evil there can be no release from continuing penalty linked to the evil itself.
(4) There is a death to contrition, at which it ends.
-- Obviously the major questions concern (4). But universalist arguments are not always sufficiently focused; the attacks are often wild and would hit (1), (2), or (3).

historical scholarship as using heuristic templates

sexual mores as one resistance of a population to sexually transmitted disease (analogy to vaccination)
--  (This is accepted in some form by pretty much everyone, including 'safe sex' advocates. The questions are about the mores.)

To accept on testimony is to accept from testimony that something ought to be considered or taken into account.

Moral deference is essential to politeness.

disjunctive attenuation responses to skepticism (X is put into doubt; therefore move to X-or-Y)

Galileo's sketches of the moon in Sidereus Nuncius are pictorial thought experiments -- i.e., they aren ot descriptions of observations but illustrations for a point in his argument.

Reasons for choice are not separate from the choice, but are incorporated into it in various ways.

"Hear your Father's instruction" in Scripture and "reject not your Mother's teachings" in the Tradition of the Church.

sexuality as self-symbol

Universalism causes problem for all the major allegories of baptism: the Flood, the Crossing of the Red Sea, the Crossing of Jordan after the wandering in the desert, etc. -- none of them have an equivalent to universalism.

Those who base their universalism on God as ultimate end often err on the nature of that end, taking 'ultimate' to indicate a destination down the road. But God is our ultimate end now, and always had been, through all our sin and wrongdoing.

juridical sainthood in the Kingdom of God

Every person is a realm of rights, and to be a person is to have a jurisdiction.

'Being virtuous to' is a more general moral regard than any which regards rights.

Much of learning consists of small steps.

Common good is more divine than private good.

"The power in charge of unifying common action through rules binding for all is what everyone calls authority." Simon
"Hierarchy results from the association of the principle of authority with that of autonomy."

the four kinds of legislative assemblies in the US Constitution: the People, the legislatures of States, the House, the Senate

"Teachable minds have the privilege of understanding that a provisional belief often is the best, or teh strictly indispensable, way to science." Simon

'Now' is a peculiar form of equality.

sacramental reconciliation as making satisfaction a compassion, a co-Passion, with Christ

"...the more surely you know yourself loved, the easier you will find it to love in return." Bernard

Newman's Principle: Our duty is not to abstain from the exercise of any function of our nature, but to do what is in itself right rightly.

"We cannot assent to a proposition without some intelligent apprehension of it; whereas we need not understand it at all to infer it." Newman

'Go to the ant, thou sluggard' as a principle of spirituality and religion
-- Note that ants don't work alone, even though each one usually just does its own task.

Marriage is often a discipline of learning to prefer a person to an idea.

extrinsic vs. intrinsic interest in a story

the events of the Life of Christ as the diagrams of sacramental theology

Reality exceeds what can be articulated in a definite form.

Newman's 'chronic vigour' and aptitude for devotion

The Kantian error of linking existence strictly to sensation is seen qua error most clearly in Cohen's RoR 1.15.

Cohen links Shekhinah with immutability (RoR 1.18)

substance as what makes causality possible

the divine energies as norms of the created world

Ps 51:13 -- divine presence // holy spirit
Lv 22:32 -- "I will be hallowed among the children of Israel."
Is 8:13 -- "Him shall ye sanctify."
Is 5:16 -- "God the Holy One is sanctified through righteousness."

Ex 12:49 as a type of the unity of the Church
(cp also Nm 15:15,16; Lv 24:22)

the needy (Dt 15:4) vs the poor (Dt 15:11)

Man taken individually has the liability of guilt; man taken plurally has the liability of debt; but in the Son of Man, Man taken totally has a suprlus of merit.

humanity taken as The Adam, humanity taken as genealogy, humanity taken as a community

Fallen man is a dis-integrated Adam.

exempla & the moral picturesque

The problem of hell consists mainly of comfortable people trying to find a metaphor for sin's awfulness and just deserts that cannot terrify, and failing in a wild flurry of handwaving.

(1) Professional ethics is rooted in conscientious performance within a profession.
(2) Conscientious performance within a profession is essential to the health of that profession.

Conscientiousness is a precondition for professionalism.

Conscientious objection within a profession is an exercise of professional judgment.

dispositional, structural, and final accounts of laws of nature
laws of nature as powers of the universe as such

Thursday, December 10, 2020


 Reading E. Randolph Richards's Paul and First-Century Letter Writing, I was introduced to the concept of philophronesis, which Richards attributes to Heikki Koskenniemi's studies of letter writing. The idea is that private correspondence tends to have at least one, sometimes more, of three purposes:

(1) philophronesis: the maintaining of friendly relations
(2) parousia: being present even when not physically so
(3) homilia: carrying on an ongoing conversation, each letter being one-half of a dialogue.

In effect, philophronesis in this context means the use of correspondence to establish, strengthen, or restore good personal relations.

'Philophronesis' is itself an interesting word; the Greek is often translated as 'showing kindness'. It's also the name of a rhetorical approach, known in Latin as 'benevolentia', in which you use gentle speech in order to pacify an angry interlocutor. We might perhaps gloss it as taking thought for friendship (or friendliness). 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Symbolical Destiny in a Symbolical World

As at present constituted, man feels that his state is pre-eminently symbolical : he sees in symbolism a necessary requirement for his earthly pursuits -- a substitute for those immediate powers of cognition which he has lost. And all this is true, independently of any use he may freely choose to make of symbols for the higher purposes of spiritual life.

Man, at the beginning, was placed on this earth as its firstborn son, in the midst of the telluric universe, or in other words, in the centre of a planetary world akin to and similar to his own. Now whatever may be the case, or whatever it may be allowable to think of any other of the starry spheres though in the invisible world of spirits all perhaps is more immediately full of and instinct with essence, and is not veiled in material emblems, this is not the case with this earth. Terrestrial nature, in all its organic productions and warring elements of life, is throughout symbolical. Man, therefore, viewed from this position of his earthly habitation, is surrounded by a symbolical world of sensuous emblems. And if we can, or rather, if we will, believe the grand intimation with which revelation opens, the first and highest destination of man is even symbolical—to be the Divine image.

Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophy of Life, Morrison, tr., p. 269

Two Poem Drafts

 Stranger in This World

God is found in a thousand clues,
lure and ruse,
hints preparing for bright good news.

The sea upon the rocks may crash and foam
but I am unencumbered by their rage,
and though I stood alone,
as the world may think alone,
with God's help I will conquer this age.

Every thought that does not follow its staff like foolish sheep,
every prayer that I make that it will never hear,
is a wall against the sea,
is a battle's victory;
though the wind may blow, the waters fall in sheets,
yet nothing shall I fear,
for nothing need I fear,
and I need never fall to dark defeat.

As moonlight falls around us
like a darker shade of pale,
a white found in the night
when the stars the heavens sail,
as breezes softly murmur beneath the vestments white
of a moon that ever wanders, but never falters with its light,
I think a little hope is merited;
In all that we have inherited,
the little things that matter
are the things that conquer most.

The sea upon the rocks may crash and foam,
but always am I safe at home,
for if I hold my homeland in my heart,
none can my own inside-myself from my possession part.

A pilgrim in the world,
a seashell on my staff,
at frowning faces of the world
I am free to laugh;
and if the storms that stir the world
rise against me in a gale,
yet, though I may be weak,
I know I will not fail;
there is a promise given
that withstands the gates of hell.

And you, yes, you, can have all the worldly things you sought,
for I will cast them all aside to see the face of God.

Parallel Reality

The stars may shine,
the moon may rise,
the breeze may blow,
the mist may curl,
in your eyes.

The deer are feeding in the wood,
you and I are sitting by the lake,
a cabin on the hill,
and all is good,
and day then dawns --

Beneath the tree
the breeze is cool;
I look up, the sky is blue;
the birds in chatter
flirt and play
and life is good.

The world is vast;
I know this well,
From mountain heights
the sight spreads out;
the clearest seer meets mist and thought,
and life is good.

The waves may rise and fall,
the lakebirds chirp and call;
I hear it, I see it, I feel it, and all --
all is good.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Evening Note for Tuesday, December 8

 Thought for the Evening: The Diorama and Lady Mary Shepherd

Louis Daguerre is most famous for his development of the daguerrotype process of photography, but he is responsible for other interesting innovations in the visual art, one of which is the diorama. (We use the word 'diorama' for a somewhat different kind of artwork than Daguerre's.) In 1821, he partnered with the painter, Charles Bouton, to create a new kind of theater, one that would strike audiences with wonder. You'd be in a room with two huge translucent canvases painted in highly realistic style, one an architectural scene and the other a natural landscape, each painted on both sides. The light was cleverly managed by a system of shutters to increase the realism (light shining through windows or leaves, for instance), and to create a 'second effect' as the light shifted and the audience could begin to see something of the painting on the other side shining through; this allowed you to create night and day versions, for instance.. Because the canvas had to remain stationary, the audience revolved around the screens. The Diorama theater opened in Paris, but during its brief popularity other Diorama theaters were opened in other cities, including London and Edinburgh.

Lady Mary Shepherd has a passage in Essays on the Perception of an External Universe discussing the illusion of external objects that can be created by putting colors in particular relations to each other. She uses the Diorama theater as an example of the effect:

If this proposition were not capable of proof by abstract reasoning, the exhibition of the Diorama now before the public (of a scene of natural size from nature, and another from art,) would be enough to prove that colouring is placed in proportion to the position of things among themselves; and such positions are as the capacities of distance, and the powers of motion in relation to us, as well as among themselves : The scene, independent of the understanding, is a scene of mental sensation; for when the mind is for a moment deluded, (of which I speak from experience, knowing that this extraordinary fac-simile of nature and art has the power of effecting a complete delusion,) and forgets the place in which it is--the relation of place being forgotten, the scenes are conceived of as real; i.e. the colouring is symptomatic as a quality of beings, which will fulfil the remainder of the qualities belonging to their definitions upon trial, and thus be equal to their whole definitions. But when we recollect where we are, the mind perceives these thoughts to be illusory, and the colouring is not then conceived to be a quality of such objects as will fulfil their whole definitions. (pp. 186-187)

R. Derek Wood has a nice article from 1993, The Diorama in Great Britain in the 1820s, in which he provides a handy summation of the Diorama scenes that were shown in Great Britain. He notes that the Lothian Road Diorama in Edinburgh was opened in December of 1827 and closed in 1839. However, given that the publication date for the Essays is 1827, she is probably not talking about the actual theater (which would have had ties to Daguerre himself). There was a special exhibition in Edinburgh in 1825, however, that had what seems to be a Scottish imitation of the Diorama that had already been shown in London; it was on display from January 11 to February 19. If we assume that Shepherd saw the Diorama in Edinburgh, this pins down quite precisely when she wrote the passage (note the claim that the exhibition is "now before the public"). It's perhaps not impossible that she had actually seen at some point the real Diorama in London, which opened in 1823, although that was a real Diorama theater and not an exhibition; but it is far more likely that she saw the Edinburgh one.

Shepherd conceives of the Diorama as a kind of analogue of dreaming; in dreaming we also forget the relation of place, but by habit we take the color-presentation to be a sort of sign of a real object; when we wake, we realize that the color-presentation was missing things like the relation of place, and thus recognize its illusory character. We see this played out as well in the Diorama, in which we seem to be transported to an actual place due to the realism of the paintings and the cleverness of the light effects, but then recollect ourselves as being in the theater.

Various Links of Interest

* Vatican City in LEGOs

* Gabriel Paletz, Deflating myths about Orson Welles

* Malcolm Keating on the Nyaya philosophy of debate 

* Taylor Patrick O'Neill, Self-Destruction and the Sin of Heresy

* Ed Feser, Augustine on divine illumination

* Damien Storey, What Is Eikasia? (PDF) discusses the least-discussed part of the Divided Line

* Mary Townsend, Little Women, Rebel Angels, discusses Simone de Beauvoir's enjoyment of Alcott's representation of Jo March.

* Richard Marshall interviews Martin Lin on Spinoza.  

* Glenn Geher, Politics in Academia: A Case Study.

 * Justin E. H. Smith, What Are the Humanities?

* Chad Denton, The Anguish of Academia

* Oliver Traldi, The Truth is Not Enough, discusses the purpose of universities

Currently Reading

Cat Hodge, Unstable Felicity
E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing
Michael Flynn, Falling Stars

Monday, December 07, 2020

Known to the Whole World as Among the Best of Men

 Today is the feast of St. Aurelius Ambrosius of Milan, Doctor of the Church. (The description in the title is Augustine's description of him from the Confessions, Book V.) From his De officiis (Book I, Chapter 10):

A man wishing to undergo a warlike training daily exercises himself with his weapons. As though ready for action he rehearses his part in the fight and stands forth just as if the enemy were in position before him. Or, with a view to acquiring skill and strength in throwing the javelin, he either puts his own arms to the proof, or avoids the blows of his foes, and escapes them by his watchful attention. The man that desires to navigate a ship on the sea, or to row, tries first on a river. They who wish to acquire an agreeable style of singing and a beautiful voice begin by bringing out their voice gradually by singing. And they who seek to win the crown of victory by strength of body and in a regular wrestling match, harden their limbs by daily practice in the wrestling school, foster their endurance, and accustom themselves to hard work. 
Nature herself teaches us this in the case of infants. For they first exercise themselves in the sounds of speech and so learn to speak. Thus these sounds of speech are a kind of practice, and a school for the voice. Let those then who want to learn to take heed in speaking not refuse what is according to nature, but let them use all watchful care; just as those who are on a watchtower keep on the alert by watching, and not by going to sleep. For everything is made more perfect and strong by exercises proper and suitable to itself.

Officia are the responsibilities or duties that arise from exercising virtues in an appropriate way in a reasonable role. As Ambrose notes, his De officiis is in some ways modeled on Cicero (who himself was writing in the genres of a work by a Stoic, Panaetius, that was incomplete in Cicero's day and is now lost), although (as he also notes), Cicero was writing for his physical son and the roles he would have in this life while Ambrose is writing for his spiritual sons, the clergy of his diocese in particular, and with a view not to this life but to the next. Cicero had divided his work into the honestum or decorum (the noble/right/decorous/seemly), the utile (the expedient/useful/helpful/advantageous), and the union of the two. Ambrose also continues to see officia as consisting of honesta, utilia, and their union, but he is not trying to synthesize Ciceronianism and Christianity; he is very emphatic about the significant differences that come when you have a higher end in view: Christian officia are not and cannot be exactly the same as non-Christian officia. He only accepts from Cicero what he can give some reason from Scripture for accepting, he regularly contrasts pagan and Christian exemplars, and he argues that the honestum and the utile ultimately converge in light of the Christian aim at Christlikeness.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

The Trumpet and the Song

Second Sunday in Advent
by Samuel John Stone

  Patience and comfort of the Scriptures. -- Rom. xv.4.

The time draws on : the dread sweet day is near :
So for Thy graces, Paraclete, we plead,
For powers of work and waiting, in our need,
Patience and Comfort -- grace to persevere,
And grace of sunshine amid doubt and fear.
O that these twain may tend us: this, to speed
On to devoted will and living deed
Our languid pulses; that, to soothe and cheer.
We need to hear Thy twofold music, Lord!
This, stirring nobler life within the breast,
That, softly singing of the final rest:
The clarion and the harp notes of Thy Word.
For souls that hear the trumpet and the song
Can be in striving still, in stillness strong.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Maximus the Confessor, The Life of the Virgin


Opening Passage:

I hear this, all you nations, and take heed, all you inhabitants of the earth (cf. Isa 34.1)! Come all believers and gather all lovers of God, kigns of the earth and all peoples, princes and all judges of the earth, boys and girls, the old with the young, every tongue and every soul, let us hymn, praise, and glorify the all-holy, immaculate, and most blessed Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,
the throne of the king more exalted than the cherubim and the seraphim,
the mother of Christ our God,
the city of God of which glorious things are spoken (cf. Ps 86.3),
chosen before the ages by the ineffable forethought of God,
the temple of the Holy Spirit,
the source of the living water,
the Paradise of the tree of life,
the growing vine from which drink of immortality was brought forth,
the river of the living water,
the ark that contained the uncontainable,
the urn of gold that received the manna of immortality (cf. Heb 9.4),
the unsown valley that sprouted forth the wheat of life,
the flower of virginity, full of the perfume of grace,
the lily of divine beauty,
the virgin and mother from whom was born the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,
the treasure house of our salvation that is more exalted than all the powers of heaven. (pp. 36-37)

Summary: The tale told in the Life is known in its general outline, but it's worthwhile to go through it step by step. Our sense of the life of the Virgin is partly from Scripture, partly from Christmas pageant, partly from our suppositions about what things must have been life, and many extrapolations, some reasonable and some just to make the story; the author of the Life, traditionally thought to be St. Maximus, is getting his account from prophecy (much more than we do), from the Gospels, from the traditions associated with the relics of the Virgin Mary, from comments by the Church Fathers (he explicitly notes he only uses apocryphal and legendary sources when he has some basis for doing so in the Fathers), and his extrapolations are sometimes different from ours, and sometimes just as reasonable or interesting. It is good, in any case, to see the same tale told a different way.

Mary is born to Joachim (of the tribe of Judah and house of David) and Anna (of the tribe of Levi), who were growing old and yet had no children (ch. 3). They prayed, and their prayer was answered, with Joachim hearing a voice in the Temple saying he would receive a child glorious not merely for them but for the whole world, and Anna being met by an angel who tells her, "God has heard your prayer and you will give birth to the cause of joy, and you will name her Mary, through whom the salvation of the entire world will come into being" (p. 39). So was Mary born, and when she was three years old, her parents "brought the Temple of God to the Temple" (p. 39), where she was dedicated to be one of the maidens who assisted the Temple, which was prophesied in Psalm 44 (ch. 7-9; it's Psalm 45 in most Western numberings). At the age of twelve, she had a foreshadowing of the Annunciation when she was praying in front of the doors of the Temple (ch. 14). A great light shone around, and she heard a voice from the sanctuary saying, "Mary, from you my Son will be born" (p. 46). Shortly after, she entered the next phase of her life; by custom, women were not allowed to be continually present in assisting at the Temple beyond this age. However, she was under a vow of virginity. Therefore, on the recommendation of her relative Zechariah, a priest who was husband to her cousin Elizabeth, she was betrothed to an elderly man of excellent reputation, Joseph, who could be trusted to protect her and not to take advantage of her (ch. 16). He was seventy, of good family and reputation, but poor in material possessions, being a carpenter famous for his selfless good works, and he took her to his residence in Nazareth (ch. 17). There she became teacher of his family, and their house was a house of prayer. 

Not long afterward, the angel announced the conception of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth. And in the sixth month after this, the archangel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth as she stood in morning prayer beside a fountain (ch. 19). He declared to her that she was favored, for the Lord was with her; that she was blessed among women; that she would conceive a Son and call him Jesus, to whom the Lord would give the throne of David, so that he would reign forever with a kingdom without end. She was greatly troubled by this, but not by the angel himself, although she did not "naively accept the message right away" (p. 52); rather she was worried that the message of the angel meant that her vow of virginity would be broken (ch. 23-24). But the angel reassured her that it would be accomplished not by her act but by the power of the Holy Spirit. She kept the angel's revelation to herself, and revealed the message to no one for a long time afterward. Instead, she went to the house of Elizabeth, "whom she imitated in virtuous deeds" (p. 57).When she reached Elizabeth's house and Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, Elizabeth's child, John the Baptist, prophet from the womb, leaped in greeting at the coming of the Mother of the Lord, and thus Elizabeth and John, mother and child, prophesied together of the blessedness of the Virgin (ch. 25). Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months, "because after the death of the holy Virgin's parents, she saw Elizabeth in the place of her mother" (p. 60).

When she returned to the house of Joseph, Joseph soon recognized her to be pregnant; "he could hardly bear it" and "he was filled with sadness" (p. 61). Being a just man, he came up with a plan to handle the scandalous matter in a way that would harm Mary least, but an angel appeared to him, and calmed his fears. In those days a census went forth from Caesar Augustus; this census is symbolic of a higher census, that of the kingdom of heaven (ch. 32). According to the census, people should register in their hometown; but while Joseph lived in Nazareth for purposes of work, he had been born in Bethlehem, where all his family lived. Because Bethlehem was crowded, the normal places to stay were unavailable, so they had to spend a night in a cave where animals were ordinarily kept. And there was born the Word of God, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (ch. 33). Elizabeth was in attendance. Angels brought shepherds to the cave. And Mary pondered in her heart all of the things that had happened to her. 

Magi came from the east following a star that had already been long guiding them, stopping and starting and descending as appropriate, thus showing that it was not an astronomical event but a rational being (ch. 36). They came from to Jerusalem to ask about the newborn king, a question that did not please Herod, who was already paranoid that his wife and his brother were scheming to take his throne. But the Magi soon enough came to Bethlehem to stand before the newborn infant and offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh "as to a king and God" (p. 69). The Magi returned to their own lands, being warned in a dream not to inform Herod of the child's location. The child was presented in the Temple according to the Jewish law, and there was recognized by the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna; Simeon warned her that her soul would be pierced as by a sword.

In the meantime, Herod intended to murder members of his family whom he thought a threat to his throne, and to do so without suffering the wrath of Rome, he had to make his way first to Rome in order to make his case before the emperor. When he returned, he strangled his sons, and, remembering the questions of the Magi again, began to reflect on a wider possible threat to his power. Almost two years had passed since the questions of the Magi, so he had slaughtered all children two years and younger. Because of this, Joseph, Mary, and the child fled into Egypt, only returning to Nazareth after about two more years (ch. 55). When Jesus was twelve, they went down to Jerusalem, where Jesus was separated from them; after days of searching, they found him in the Temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Then Jesus, in his first divinely inspired teaching, said to them, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (p. 89).

The ministry of Jesus began when Jesus was thirty years old, and his cousin John a little older. The latter was living the wilderness, preaching repentance and the baptism of repentance to the people, who were amazed at his asceticism. Jesus came to John to be baptized, despite John's recognition that he did not require it, and then Jesus went into the desert to be tempted. Afterward, he began to gather his disciples, first Andrew and John (the evangelist), who had been disciples of his cousin, and then others. And they all went to a wedding in Cana, which Mary also attended. When they ran out of wine, she made known the situation to her son, and although her son was modest and humble, he honored her and complied with her wishes, performing his first miracle by changing water into wine (ch. 68). Shortly afterward, he healed Peter's mother-in-law. The result of these and other early miracles was that more disciples began to gather around him, including women, and Mary would become the leader of these women and their ministry to Christ. "And she held authority: as the Lord did over the twelve disciples and then the seventy, so did the holy mother over the other women who accompanied him" (p.102). At the passover before his death, as Jesus showed the mysteries to the twelve disciples, he gave to his mother the care of the women who attended him, "and she encouraged them and was his surrogate in their labor and ministry" (p. 102). As Peter was chief among the disciples, Mary Magdalene was chief among the women who were guided by the Virgin.

Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples and seized by his authority, and unjustly condemned to crucifixion. All of the disciples abandoned him, some by fleeing outright, some by following but only 'at a distance', but the Virgin Mary alone remained with her son through all things (ch. 75), and indeed, she is the source of much of what we know about the Lord's passion (ch. 76). When she was forcibly separated, she nonetheless did not cease to try to find out what was happening. And so she was aware of all of the suffering of Jesus, which pierced her soul like a sword. And when he was nailed to the cross, she was at his feet, grieving. The disciple John, the evangelist, joined her, and in one of his final acts, he gave her to John to be his mother, and him to Mary to be her son, thus showing that we should care for our parents until death.

After the death of Jesus, Mary began immediately to organize the affair of his burial, finding an appropriate tomb, which belonged to Joseph of Arimathea; she asked him to use his influence to request of Pilate that the body be delivered to her. Then Joseph, a secret disciple of Jesus, was strengthened in courage by the words of Mary and helped her to retrieve the body and bury it, along with two other women named Mary who had joined the Virgin at the Cross, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. Jesus was laid in the tomb, but because of the Sabbath, the funereal preparations could not be completed. The tomb was then sealed by order of Pilate, and the two Marys went away, to return later with the perfumes needed to complete the preparations; but the Virgin Mary remained by the tomb, and thus saw the events surrounding the Resurrection of her son, a fact hinted at in prophecy but not explicitly stated by the evangelists, who were more concerned with confirming the event by other witnesses (ch. 92). St. John, taking seriously the trust Christ had given him on the cross, bought the Virgin a house in Jerusalem where they could both stay, and it was in this house that Jesus manifested himself to his disciples (ch. 93). Mary was with the disciples when Jesus ascended, and afterward, "the holy mother of Christ was the model and leader of every good activity for men and for women through the grace and support of her glorious king and son" (p. 121). She instructed the apostles in fasting and prayer, and on the fiftieth day, when the grace of the Holy Spirit fell like fire from heaven, she was there with them.

Mary sends the disciples out to preach, while remaining in Jerusalem herself, where she could pray at the tomb from which her son had risen. And as she had shared mentally in the Passion of her son, she shared mentally in the sufferings of the disciples preaching in his name (ch. 97), organizing prayer for them whenever they were thrown into prison or harmed. however, she was not wholly satisfied with this, particularly since John stayed with her, and she felt that she was holding him back. So she decided they would both go out into the world to preach, along with Mary Magdalene and the other women. As she was on the road, however, Jesus appeared to her in a vision and told her to return; John and the women should continue, but his mother was to remain for a while in Jerusalem "so that she would lead the believing people and direct the church in Jerusalem with James the brother of the Lord who was appointed as bishop there" (p.125). John went on with the women to Ephesus, where he and they preached the gospel, the women becoming co-apostles with him. And through all the sufferings of all of those going forth, the Virgin suffered with them and interceded for them with her son; at one point the enemies of the Church even tried to burn down her house, although it backfired on them and that put a quick end to that. And the apostles would return, when they could, to celebrate Easter each year with her.

The time came when the end of the Virgin's time on earth drew near, and the archangel Gabriel was sent to her again, giving a date palm branch as a symbol of victory over death, to let her know that she would brought into heaven, as predicted in Psalm 44 (ch. 103). (This was the same psalm that we saw in the Presentation, and not accidentally, because the Presentation foreshadowed her Dormition.) Rejoicing, she went to pray at the Mount of Olives, and as she prayed, all the trees bowed down before her, and when she returned St. John was brought by the Lord to her. She showed him and all the women the date palm branch, and they began to prepare for her falling asleep in the Lord. From every corner of the world, the apostles began to return to pay their respects, and she taught them how they should proceed and gave her blessing to them. Then Christ with his angels manifested before them, and as the angels sang songs of praise, the holy mother died a painless death, and Christ took her soul to heaven (ch. 110). The apostles prepared her body according to her instructions, with St. Peter as head of the apostles leading the funeral prayer, and they processed through the streets to lay her body in the grave. Some of the enemies of the Church attempted to cast down the bed on which her body was being carried, but when they did so, their hands were struck with terrible wounds. They begged for mercy, and Peter healed them, and there was no more disruption (ch. 114). Then they laid the Virgin's body in the tomb she had laid her son, and the tomb was sealed, and they visited the tomb for three days. But St. Thomas, who had the farthest to go, his mission being in India, arrived late; so they opened the tomb so he could see her one last time. But there was no body in the tomb (ch. 117).

The Virgin, being poor and devoting most of her resources to the poor, had only two garments. One she entrusted to a woman who had attended her, and it eventually came to the city of Constantinople in the reign of the Emperor Leo, through the devotion to the Virgin displayed by two noblemen, Galbius and Candidus (ch. 119-124). Thus we see that the Virgin continues her care for the Church.

One of the very notable things about this whole story is how extraordinarily active the Virgin Mary is; the tale presents her as a constant and very active presence. What is more, she is in the Life a very authoritative presence; she organizes a great deal of the ministry of Christ, and is the primary mover of the expansion of the Church, a still small point around which the entire Church revolves. She never pushes her way in, but she has a way about her that leads to her teaching, organizing, influencing others to do better and be better. And, of course, all of her earthly ministry is a sort of picture of the way the author thinks her heavenly ministry is; the tale has almost all of the components of modern Marian devotion, although not always linked in exactly the way they often are today.

Favorite Passage: From the Dormition:

Such a blessing and teaching she spoke to them according to her glory, and she explained to them the rites of anointing her with myrrh and her burial. And she extended her hands and began to give thanks to the Lord and said:

"I bless you, O king and only-begotten Son of the beginningless Father, true God of true God, who constented to become incarnate from me, your handmaid, through the incalculable, philanthropic good will of the Father and the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

"I bless you, the giver of every blessing, who spread forth light.

"I bless you, the source of very life of goodness and peace, who bestow on us knowledge of yourself and of your beginningless Father and of the co-beginningless and life-giving Holy Spirit.

"I bless you, who were ineffably pleased to dwell in my womb.

"I bless you, who so loved human nature that you endured crucifixion and death for our sake, and by your Resurrection you resurrected our nature from the depths of Hell, and led it up to heaven and glorified it with an incomprehensible glory.

"I bless you and glorify your words, which you have given us in truth, and I believe that all the things that you have said to me will be fulfilled." (pp. 133-134)

Recommendation: Recommended.

Maximus the Confessor, The Life of the Virgin, Stephen J. Shoemaker, tr., Yale UP (New Haven: 2012).