Saturday, July 30, 2022

Doctor of Homilies

 Today is the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church. One of my favorite passages in his sermons, on Lent and Easter:

When a prudent captain casts off from the coast, when he enters the deep to journey across the sea, he puts aside his concerns for his home, his country, his wife, his children;and he is so totally consumed in mind, body, and emotion with the tasks of sailing that he is able to overcome the perilous waves and, victorious over danger, enter the quarters of a profitable port. So we too, my brothers, having set out along the route of abstinence, on the sea of fasting, on the journey of Lent, let us cast the ship of our body off from the coast of the world, let us renounce our concerns for our earthly country, let us fully unfurl the sails of our mind on the mast of the cross; let us secure the safe passage of our vessel with the ropes of the virtues, with the oars of wisdom, with the rudders of discipline; and having set forth from the land let us gaze upon the sky so that by the guidance of the signs of heaven along the clear and narrow paths of our hidden journey we might hold our course unobstructed. 

 And so with Christ as our pilot and the Holy Spirit providing the wind, when the foam of the pleasures has been overcome, the waves of the vices have been conquered, the storms of misdeeds weathered, the rocks of sin evaded, and when we have steered clear of the vessels of all the offenses, then let us enter the port of Easter, life's reward, the joys of the resurrection. 

[Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, Volume 2, William Palardy, tr. Catholic University of America (Washington, DC: 2004), Sermon 8, section 1.]

Friday, July 29, 2022

The Springs of Error

 The dead abstract notions of the intellect, the dialectical disputes of the reason, the purely subjective and one-sided apprehension of objects by a deluded fancy, and the absolute will, are the four sources of human error. Considered apart from the aberrations of passion, special faults of character, and prejudices of education, as well as the false notions and wrong judgments to which the latter give rise— these four are the springs from which flows all the error of the soul which makes itself the center of the terrestrial reality, and which, springing out of this soil, is nourished and propagated by it. To what, then, are we to look to dispel these manifold delusions but to a closer and more intimate union of the soul with God as the source of life and truth? 

 Friedrich von Schlegel, The Philosophy of Life, Morrison, tr., p. 107.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Face Not Seen, the Voice Not Heard

 Somewhere or Other
by Christina Rossetti 

 Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
Made answer to my word. 

 Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night. 

 Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just the last leaves of the dying year
Fallen on a turf grown green.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Vast, Defiant, and Even Destructive Things

 He is a terrible creature, the unicorn; and though he seems to live rather vaguely in Africa, I could never be surprised if he came walking up one of the four white roads that lead to Beaconsfield; the monster whiter than the roads, and his horn higher than the church spire. For all these mystical animals were imagined as enormously big as well as incalculably fierce and free. The stamping of the awful unicorn would shake the endless deserts in which it dwelt; and the wings of the vast griffin went over one's head in heaven with the thunder of a thousand cherubim. And yet the fact remains that if you had asked a medieval man what the unicorn was supposed to mean, he would have replied "chastity". 

 When we have understood that fact we shall understand a great many other things, but above all the civilisation out of which we come. Christianity did not conceive Christian virtues as tame, timid, and respectable things. It did conceive of these virtues as vast, defiant, and even destructive things, scorning the yoke of this world, dwelling in the desert, and seeking their meat from God.

G. K. Chesterton, "Monsters and the Middle Ages", The Common Man.

Hobbes and Descartes on Deception (Re-Post)

This is a re-post from 2014

Descartes gives the principle 'God is not a deceiver' an important role in his argument for the existence of bodies. Thomas Hobbes in the Third Objections replied: 

The standard view is that doctors are not at fault if they deceive their patients for their health's sake, and that fathers are not at fault if they deceive their children for their own good. For the crime of deception consists not in the falsity of what is said but in the harm done by the deceiver. M. Descartes should thus consider the proposition 'God can in no case deceive us' and see whether it is universally true. For if it is not universally true, the conclusion 'Therefore corporeal things exist' does not follow. (AT VII, 195; CSM II, 136) 

 Descartes dismisses this: 

 My conclusion does not require that we can in no case be deceived (indeed, I have readily admitted that we are often deceived). All that it requires is that we are not deceived in cases where our going wrong would suggest an intention to deceive on the part of God; for it is self-contradictory that God should have such an intention. Once more my opponent's reasoning is invalid. (AT VII, 195; CSM II, 136-137)

 One reason this exchange is interesting is that we seem to see the influence of the difference between Protestant and Catholic moral philosophy and theology here. Hobbes in talking about the "standard view" is in fact talking about what was the standard view in Protestant jurisprudence, as we find it in people like Grotius, who formulates the wrongness of deception in terms of a right to truth that one may or may not have depending on the circumstances. Descartes, on the other hand, is taking a more Catholic approach, in which defective intention is the central idea in discussions of deception.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The World His Country, and His God His Guide

 Dover Cliffs
by William Lisle Bowles

 On these white cliffs, that calm above the flood
Uprear their shadowing heads, and at their feet
Hear not the surge that has for ages beat,
How many a lonely wanderer has stood!
And, whilst the lifted murmur met his ear,
And o'er the distant billows the still eve
Sailed slow, has thought of all his heart must leave
To-morrow; of the friends he loved most dear;
Of social scenes, from which he wept to part!
Oh! if, like me, he knew how fruitless all
The thoughts that would full fain the past recall,
Soon would he quell the risings of his heart,
And brave the wild winds and unhearing tide—
The World his country, and his God his guide.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Logres VII

Book I continued

 Chapter 18

After some time in thought, King Uther Pendragon called together his barons and advisors, and said, "These things threaten to harm us all in ways that cannot be repaired, and I am very sorry for the death of Gorlois, who was a man admirable in many ways. What can possibly be done to make amends?"

Then Sir Ulfius said in secret to the other barons, "The king is surely right that hostility must be put behind us and that we must do what can be done to restore friendship with the Lady of Trevena and all of the duke's friends. This is my advice, and if there is any who can think of better, let him not be silent. To wait for peace is folly; it must be made. Let a message be sent to all the friends of the duke and his lady, and let the king go himself to Tintagel. Let him proffer peace and great amends for the death of the duke. If they accept it, all is well; if they reject it, it is they and not the king who have rejected it."

Then all were agreed on this course of action, and they came as a group to the king and offered this counsel, which the king accepted. The king therefore sent letters to all of the kith and kin of Gorlois and Igraine who had been involved in the recent war, inviting them with promise of safe passage to Cardoel, so that all faults might be amended and all complaints addressed.

Shortly thereafter Merlin visited the king, and when the king told him of his plans, said to him, "Who has given you this counsel?"

"It comes from all of my barons," said the king.

"It was agreed upon by all of your barons, no doubt," said Merlin, "but it is clearly the advice of Sir Ulfius. He is a knight both wise and true, and this counsel is both wise and true." Then the child spoke for some time alone with Sir Ulfius and returned. "Do not forget your promise to give me your firstborn son," he said to the king. "You will not see me until he is born. Until then be guided by Sir Ulfius, who knows well how to obtain the peace you wish."

Then Merlin took leave of the king and returned to Blaise, telling him all that happened. Blaise wrote it all in his book, but when they came to events at Tintagel, he laid aside his pen for a moment and remonstrated with the child. "How can this be seemly and right?" he said.

"It is a matter of timing," said Merlin. "The years of preparation are few, and therefore it is necessary to take what opportunities may be had for achieving the right end."

"The right end is to do what is right before God," said Blaise. "It is not your task to make the world go right but to do your duty and let God determine all else."

"My duty is to delay the coming of Antichrist," said Merlin.

"Your duty is to be a good man," said Blaise. "Wise you are, but you are a man and not God. It is God who will delay the Antichrist, or not, as divine wisdom sees fit."

"But I am destined to be an instrument by which this is done, and all else must give way to what will prevent the Antichrist from arising in this age."

"Only devils look only to the consequences and not to the deed done," replied Blaise sternly.

The child was silent a long time after this. Then he said, "Write this in the book."

Chapter 19

The king's messengers soon came to Tintagel, where they found the duchess and the friends of the duke and of the duchess, who in turn all took counsel over it. They saw well enough that they could not defend much further against the wrath of the king, but they were wary of the kind of peace that might be offered. So the Duchess Igraine agreed to ask further what might be the terms, and if they were acceptable, to accept them. Agreement was made between the duchess and the messengers that the duchess and her friends would come to Cardoel on the quinzieme, where they would have full right to make such complaint and ask such remedy as they deemed appropriate.

On the quinzieme, all being gathered together at Cardoel, the king asked the duchess, through a messenger, what amends she deemed appropriate to restore friendship. To this, however, Duchess Igraine replied, "I have not come to ask amends but to see what your intention is toward me and those around me."

At this, the king sent Sir Ulfius himself to the duchess and her advisers. Sir Ulfius said to them, "The king wishes to make amends. If you have no specific amends that you wish, will you be willing to abide by the amends that I will choose?"

The duchess and her advisers took counsel. Then Sir Brastias said, "I do not believe that either the king or Sir Ulfius will act with dishonor in this matter," and on his recommendation they agreed to Sir Ulfius's proposal.

To this Sir Ulfius replied, "I will then give you my advice, and if you have nothing wiser to offer, it shall become an agreement between us. You know well that the duke died in battle, although the king did not intend his death, and that the lady, who is one of the best ladies in the world, has young children and is with child, and that her lands are in disarray after the recent battles. It is right, therefore, that the king shall restore the duke's lands to the lady and to his parents. You know as well that the king has no wife. If you will accept my advise, let him marry the lady, extending his protection to her and to her children, and making her true Queen of Logres. Let him find good marriages for her daughters, and let her select such knights as she deems appropriate, whether from the Round Table or otherwise, whether from her friends or the friends of the king, to be Queen's Knights sworn for her protection. And let all the knights of the Round Table swear to protect the children, whether of the queen or of the king, from harm against their enemies."

Then Sir Brastias said, "It seems to me that this is a generous proposal. Peace is necessary, and it would be difficult to find a better path to it."

And Duchess Igraine said, "If the king will really honor this proposal, I will agree to it."

Then a great gathering was held. Sir Ulfius rehearsed the terms of the agreement, and asked of all gathered, "Does this agreement seem fitting to you?" And they all said that it did. Then Sir Ulfius turned to the king and said, "Will you abide by the terms of this agreement as recognized and ordained by these worthy lords?"

The king replied, "If the duchess and her friends are content with it, I shall certainly uphold it."

Then Sir Ulfius turned to the duchess and said, "Will you accept this peace offered by the king?"

And Duchess Igraine said, "As the king is so gracious and true, I will accept it wholly."

Afterward, the king said to Sir Ulfius, "Tell me, was this proposal crafted by Merlin?"

But Sir Ulfius said, "No, my lord. He told me to determine the best proposal I could by my own judgment, and only charged me to two things: that the proposal should be generous to the lady and that care should be taken to provide for and protect all her children."

Then the day was set, and King Uther Pendragon and Duchess Igraine processed to the church door. There on the porch before Bishop Fastidius, Uther gave to Igraine a ring of gold and a shield piled with gold and silver as symbol of her whole dowry, and said to her, "I take you as my wife," while she replied, "I take you as my husband." She was then crowned queen and all there went to Mass. Afterward, Bishop Fastidius gave the new man and wife a blessing before the crowd, and the feast began.

Marriages were arranged for all the daughters of Gorlois and Igraine. The eldest, Morgause, who was already of marriageable age, was married to King Lot of Orkney and Leudonia, also known as Lothian, who had been an ally of the king against the Saxons and of the duke against the king and who was a half-brother on his mother's side of both King Urien of Rheged and a half-brother on his father's side of Saint Teneu. From this marriage came in years to come Sir Gawain, Sir Agravain, Sir Gaheris, Sir Gareth. She would also bear, out of wedlock, Sir Mordred. 

The second daughter, Elaine, was promised to King Budic of Nentres and Garlot in Brittany, who had previously been wed to Arianrhod, the sister of Saint Teilo, and had had by that previous marriage five children, Saint Ismael of Menevia, Saint Oudoceus, Saint Tyfei, Saint Gwen Teirbron, and Sir Hoel the Great. Saint Gwen Teirbron, that is, the Three-Breasted, would later marry Saint Fragan, the Prince of Dumnonia, and would bear him Saint Wethenoc, Saint Jacut, Saint Winwallus, and Saint Creirvia; afterward she married Sir Aeneas the Breton and would bear him Saint Cadfan. Elaine and Budic would themselves have Sir Galeschin and Elaine the Younger. 

The third and youngest daughter of Igraine was named Morgan. She was even when just walking a lively and vivacious child, and was promised to King Urien of Rheged. As she grew to show forth brilliance of mind, being able to remember perfectly anything she heard even once and to devise schemes beyond the cunning of most men, in later days she became known as Morgan the Fay. Later, after her marriage to Urien, she bore to him Sir Ywaine. 

All of these daughters of Igraine in later days wielded great power, being supported by the knights of Uther's Round Table, but greatest of them all was Morgan the Fay.