Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year!

by Dorothy Parker

Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe. 

Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt. 

Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne. 

Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

Evening Notes Index 2022

 Evening Notes seems to be a format that works best when my schedule is quite regular; since this has been a chaotic and unpredictable year, it was unsurprisingly light on Evening Notes.

November 28: The Logical Argument from Evil and the Free Will Defense

October 22: Pseudoplots

April 5: Canons of Elegance

March 14: A Natural Law Theory of Human Rights

February 6: Postulates of Civil Theology

Evening Notes Index 2021
Evening Notes Index 2020
Evening Notes Index 2019
Evening Notes Index 2018
Evening Notes Index 2017b
Evening Notes Index 2017a

Benedict XVI (1927-2022)

 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died today, on the feast of Pope St. Silvester I. St. Silvester was the pope who confirmed and began the Western implementation of the First Council of Nicaea; Benedict XVI was a major figure in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, first as a reformer participating in the council as a peritus, then as an academic in the thick of the debate over its interpretation and application afterward, then as its primary enforcer under St. John Paul II, then as pope himself from 2005 to 2013. 

He was, I think, first and foremost an academic intellectual, a highly competent one, although lacking the brilliance of John Paul II, who was also in many ways first and foremost an academic intellectual. As a pope, I think he largely failed to do both what he needed to do and what he hoped to be able to do. I remember reading a story in which someone was talking to him when he was a pope about some possible reform or other, and the person talking to him said that as pope he could now implement it; and, according to the story, he shrugged sadly and said that in reality his authority as pope ended at the door. I don't know how apocryphal that story is, but it very much fits both his behavior as a pope and advice he is said to have given to Pope Francis about the need to cooperate with the cardinals. Perhaps 'failure' is too strong, since he did have some important successes; but he was a very, very weak pope. This is, it should be said, probably true of most popes. It is very hard to be pope. I always think of it as playing chess with the devil; it doesn't really matter how talented you are, how clever you are, or even how holy you are, you are mostly going to lose, and the times you win will not be the ones you most want to win. The truly great popes are those like St. Leo the Great, or St. Gregory the Great, or Benedict XIV, or Leo XIII, who even in such a losing game manage to provide a great and useful heritage to the Church. Benedict XVI was not one of the truly great popes. But he did well enough, and that's really all a pope is required to do: hold the office, restrain some things, encourage some things, pray. It is God and not man who decides the ultimate result of that.

He seems to have handled it very well, but he always seems to me to have had a sad life. Ratzinger was a quiet academic who liked quiet academic things and was hated for it all his life, his little academic quirks like enjoying participating in some of the history of the papal office, precisely because it was part of the history, being often interpreted in highly malicious ways. He was a competent bishop who was basically used by John Paul II to do unpleasant things like tell other bishops 'No', deflecting criticism away from John Paul II to Ratzinger; because of this, despite a quiet and irenic temperament, he became a symbol in some parts of the Church for everything they disliked. As pope he seems to have hoped that he could now put his life as an enforcer behind him, but his reputation was already set, and everything he did was interpreted in that light. On the other hand, much of this was because he was not hesitant to spend his life defending others in the ways he best knew how, and because he was willing to do his duty, and very few of us could really say the same.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Dashed Off XXXII

 "In politics, as in mechanics, the power which is to keep the engine going must be sought for *outside* the machinery; and if it is not forthcoming, or is insufficient to surmount the obstacles which may reasonably be expected, the contrivance will fail." John Stuart Mill
"One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests."
"A bureaucracy always tends to be come a pedantocracy."

Many things are permissible in particular cases that nonetheless set bad precedents for general patterns.

'Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil' as a key element of Christian political theology

Democratic succession always works by overthrow, and thus the key constitutional issue is how to make this peaceful and nondisruptive.

Free verse is, at least usually in practice, verse as-if-translated-literally-from-a-foreign-language.

The life that is most lovely
is a life that none can live.

the intrinsic pageantry of ghost stories

fiction as a moral early warning system

monument-presence, proclamation-presence, telepresence

All very ancient historical writings have allegorical elements.

solidarities of similiarity vs solidarities of convergence

(1) In the same eternal act God predestines Christ and us.
(2) In respect to that to which we are predestined (sonship), Christ's predestination is the exemplar of ours.
(3) In respect to the means to that end (grace), Christ's predestination is the exemplar of ours.

commemoration : liturgy :: Platonic reminiscence : knowledge

Christ is the source of all priesthood. Pagan priesthoods arise out of a human need for which He is the adequate satisfaction. The Jewish priesthood was the figure of Him. The Christian priest is His minister, working in the person of Christ.

"Those who heard the preaching of Peter received the effect of confirmation miraculously: but not the sacrament of confirmation." Aq (3.72.6 ad 3, on Acts 10:44-48) -- this is confirmation of desire
NB ad 1: "Just as none receive the effect of baptism without the desire of baptism, so none receive the effect of confirmation without the desire of confirmation. And man can have this even before receiving baptism."

One receives in confirmation a power of excelling oneself.

From the fact that baptism is an adoption into the household of God, it follows that there must be something like a sacrament of confirmation, in which a child of the household receives the power of speaking and acting on behalf of the household, not merely as a sort of indulgence, but in right and authority. For in every family there is a distinction between being in the family and holding something of the authority of the family, by which one oversees some of its essential affairs, even where (as they might in adoption) they might be received together.

"'A people' is not a logical category; no, it is a mythic category. To understand this we must approach it as we approach a mythic category." Pope Francis, Address to the International Theological Symposium on the Priesthood (17 Feb 2022)

Aquinas against ubiquity: SCG 4.49.5

The most serious problem with emergency powers provisions in constitutions is that they guarantee not only the bypassing of rights and laws but of customary safeguards against abuses.

The idea of other minds is implicit in the idea of our own mind.

A felicific calculus always runs into problems at very small and very large scales. (This is true as well of probabilistic approaches to evidence.)

All rights can be held either actively or passively.

Syllabus-making (e.g., choosing readings for a course, balancing assignments &c.) is a heavily aesthetic enterprise.

When we ask, "Is the future like the past?", part of the answer is, "What else could it possibly be like for us?"

All communication tends toward and converges on the true, the good, and the beautiful; the more true, the more good, the more beautiful, the more communicative it is.

Every formal argument is like a planar figure from which one extrapolates the volume of reasoning it represents.

j'adoube actions in friendly and romantic interactions, in which something is done that would otherwise not be allowed, with explicit noting of the violation, with the purpose of setting something right to facilitate the interaction or its excellence

States generally justify their freedom-destroying acts by painting their victims as threats to freedom.

direct experiential example, example of associated experience, example of experience used as symbolic representation of another experience

liminalization as hieratic/sacral act: separation, transition, transfigurative return

Every liminal boundary can metaphorically be seen as a point of death.

We have exited from God, both by creation and by fall, although we make our feeble efforts to give some small return. But with Israel, first, and then in an even greater way with the giving of Torah to Israel, God begins a massive return.

Lv 11:44 -- Sanctify yourself and be holy, for I am holy
Lv 21:8 -- I who sanctify you am holy
Lv 22:32 -- You shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel: I sanctify you.

Individual human reason is, by its nature, cooperative; on its own it is weak, for it is meant to be exercised in union with all human beings, a union we can only have very imperfectly in our fallen state.

remotion as the foundation of religious symbolism

God gives Scripture to the Church, but a gift by its nature continues in a secondary way to belong to the giver, insofar as it is a gift, and therefore must be treated accordingly.

mutual self-giving -> mutual gratitude
the dual gratitude of Christian marriage: to spouse and to God
-- this dual gratitude provides a template and framework for learning love of God and neighbor

In intellectual acts, the distinction between operation and production is not very sharp; intellectual doing and intellectual making share the same acts, and are distinguished by our focus.

Every great philosopher is already an implicit school; a philosopher is already a dialogue in one, and a great philosopher is many dialogues in one.

"Esse capax convenientiae." Gilbert Narcissae

Keeping in mind reverence to God, supposing no contradiction or inconsistency with Scripture, the grace God has given to the Church must be measured not by human expectation but by divine omnipotence.

Some sacraments require an act of the recipient for validity, namely a kind of self-presentation, which we see in matrimony and reconciliation, and others do not, such as baptism and confirmation.

In sacramental theology, one should not reject an ancient rite of wide custom on the basis of a scheme, and likewise must not in practice be a tutiorist about rites, demanding the safe view even where there is no defined law or direct spiritual danger.

"It is grounded from all eternity in God that no man cometh to the Father except through the Son, because the Spirit by whom the Father draw His children to Himself is also from all eternity the Spirit of the Son, because by His Spirit the Father does not call anyone except in His Son." Barth

Handing down is a kind of giving; what is received by tradition is received as gift.

three distinctions between Head & members: dignitas, gubernatio, influentia
three conformities between Head & members: natura, ordo, continuitas
-- this works in generalized form for hierarchy
-- gubernatio or direction has two aspects: principium and plenitudo of virtutes et sensus.

Every kind of causality that Christ's humanity has in our salvation is expressed in the sacraments, modulated for the particular ends of each sacrament. For the major sacraments have Christ's causality in their signs.

Every effect is a natural sign of its cause.

The liturgy is a cosignification performed by God and man, a duet of holy signs.

Regular exposure to the liturgy, to Scripture, to the sacraments and sacramentals, builds in us a safeguard against heresy by giving order to our imaginative association of sign with sign, so that we come to recognize when there is a discord among signs, raising our guard before we even consider the meaning. It is important to grasp, however, that the world leads us astray in an analogous fashion, which is why Christians must deliberately immerse themselves in orthodox signs and, at times, keep a distance from the message of the world.

cultures as built out of capacities of precedent, of juxtaposition, and of moral influence

Narration is the mother of explanation.

Bayesianism confuses partial assent and provisional assent.

Liturgy done well enlightens the understanding, pleases the imagination, moves the passions, and influences the will.

"Sublimity elevates, beauty charms, wit diverts.' Campbell

God gives to us that He might give with us.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Music on My Mind

Grace Lokwa, "Kumama Papa". 

This is a fairly recent hit by Congolese Gospel singer Grace Lokwa, but it seems to have exploded through the African Gospel scene; you can find covers and variations all over the place.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Klauthmos Kai Odyrmos Polys

 When they had retired, see! The messenger of the Lord is appearing in a dream to Ioseph, saying, When you have awakened, take up the childling and his mother and escape into Aigyptos, and be over there until I command, for Herodes seeks the childling to annihilate him.

And awakening, he took up the childling and his mother by night and retired into Aigyptos. And there he was until the death of Herodes, so that there might be completed the uttering spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt I have summoned my son.

Then Herodes, having seen that he was mocked by the Magians, was very enraged, and having sent out, murdered all the children that were in Bethleem and its whole area who were two years old and under, according to the time he had determined from the Magians. Thus was completed the uttering through the prophet Ieremian, saying, Noise in Rama was heard,  much weeping and wailing, Rachel weeping for her offspring, and she has no wish to be comforted, for they are not at all. 

When Herodes had died, see! The messenger of the Lord is appearing in a dream to Ioseph in Aigyptos, saying, When you have awakened, take up the childling and his mother and journey into the land of Israel, for they have died who have sought the life of the childling. 

And awakening, he took up the childling and his mother and entered into the land of Israel. Having heard that Archelaos is ruling over Ioudaia in place of his father Herodes, he feared to go there. Now, having been warned in a dream, he retired into the region of Galilaia and, having come, he settled in a city called Nazaret. So thus to be completed that uttering through the prophets, that a Nazoraios will be summoned.

[Matthew 2:13-23, my rough translation. There is some interesting use of the contrast between Jesus being in Egypt and the Innocents not being in Rama. There was, of course, a significant Jewish population in Egypt, especially around Alexandria; there was even a secondary Jewish Temple at Leontopolis, dating from the time of the Maccabean revolt. There are clear parallels between this passage and the passage in which the angel appears in a dream to Joseph to tell him not to put the Virgin away. As is well known, this section is also part of a set of passages that have a repeated structure of {happening}{prophetic saying that the happening completes}.]

Monday, December 26, 2022

A Glorious Band, the Chosen Few

 St Stephen's Day
by Reginald Heber 

 The Son of God goes forth to war,
 A kingly crown to gain;
 His blood-red banner streams afar;
 Who follows in his train?
 Who best can drink his cup of wo,
 Triumphant over pain,
 Who patient bears his cross below,
 He follows in his train. 

 The martyr first, whose eagle eye
 Could pierce beyond the grave;
 Who saw his Master in the sky,
 And called on him to save.
 Like Him, with pardon on his tongue
 In midst of mortal pain,
 He prayed for them that did the wrong.
 Who follows in his train? 

 A glorious band, the chosen few,
 On whom the spirit came;
 Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame.