Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ominous Yellowstone

National Geographic reports that Yellowstone National Park (former super volcano) was jostled by a host of small earthquakes for a third straight day Monday, and scientists watched closely to see whether the more than 250 tremors were a sign of something bigger to come.

Swarms of small earthquakes happen frequently in Yellowstone, located in Wyoming in the western U.S., but it's very unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days, said Robert Smith, a professor of geophysics at the University of Utah.

"They're certainly not normal," Smith said. "We haven't had earthquakes in this energy or extent in many years."

Read all …

Truth of the Resurrection

Holy Cross Abbey - Berryville, Virginia

Experience of the risen Christ is something other than a meeting with a man from within our history, and it must certainly not be traced back to conversations at table and recollections that would have finally crystallized in the idea that he still lived and went about his business. Such an interpretation reduces what happened to the purely human level and robs it of its specific quality. The Resurrection narratives are something other and more than disguised liturgical scenes: they make visible the founding event on which all Christian liturgy rests. They testify to an approach that did not rise from the hearts of the disciples but came to them from outside, convinced them despite their doubts and made them certain that the Lord had truly risen. He who lay in the grave is no longer there; he--really he himself--lives. He who had been transposed into the other world of God showed himself powerful enough to make it palpably clear that he himself stood in their presence again, that in him the power of love had really proved itself stronger than the power of death.

Only by taking this just as seriously as what we said first does one remain faithful to the witness borne by the New Testament; only thus, too, is its seriousness in world history preserved. The comfortable attempt to spare oneself the belief in the mystery of God's mighty actions in this world and yet at the same time to have the satisfaction of remaining on the foundation of the biblical message leads nowhere; it measures up neither to the honesty of reason nor to the claims of faith. One cannot have both the Christian faith and "religion within the bounds of pure reason"; a choice is unavoidable. He who believes will see more and more clearly, it is true, how rational it is to have faith in the love that has conquered death.
- The Truth of the Resurrection - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger - Introduction to Christianity

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Christmas Hymn

Cairn - Holy Cross Abbey, Berryville, Virginia

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. - Lk 19,39-40

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

This child through David's city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
Though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
For stony hearts of men:
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
In praises of the child
By whose descent among us
The worlds are reconciled.

- Richard Wilbur

Friday, December 26, 2008

Angels - Messengers and Guardians

The Catholic Church teaches that we have guardian angels, even setting aside a day to honor them (October 2).

My personal favorite depiction is the one Pat Brady (and carried on by Don Wimmer) gave to Pasquale's guardian angel in the comic strip, Rose is Rose.

Above you see that Pasquale's guardian angel normally presents a facade similar to the appearance of Pasquale himself; until trouble presents itself. Then, the guardian angel assumes a masterful, powerful, awe-full persona.

Somehow I have come to picture the angels who announced good tidings of great joy to the shepherds, who surrounded the cave-stable that night in Bethlehem, to be the latter: the kind who would bring us mortals to our knees with their numinosity and glory.

Oh, and by the way: the strip above appeared on December 14, 2008: the feast day of St John of the Cross. And my birthday ... for future reference.

Christmas in Bethlehem

Spirit Daily puts us onto Christmas in Bethlehem. I'd go tomorrow if someone paid for my ticket.

Engelhard - Why I Love Christmas

Jack Engelhard, Jew, screenwriter (Indecent Proposal) and contributing editor at FamilySecurityMatters writes why he loves Christmas:

Up and down the street where I live, half the homes are lit up with Christmas trees, the other half with menorahs

. The days are good and the nights are silent. Most of the time we can’t tell the difference between Christians and Jews. We’re too busy being just plain old Americans.

You have Christmas. We have Chanukah. You have Easter. We have Passover. Does this separate us? No, this unites us, for together, this land is our land.

If this sounds corny, well it is.

However, I am offended. Across this nation, in cities, towns, villages and school districts, Christians are being told that they cannot celebrate Christmas openly. Here, there and everywhere, Christians are being sent into hiding if they want to sing carols, display nativity scenes, herald the Ten Commandments, or praise Jesus. Even Santa is not kosher.

I am Jewish, and Jesus is not my God…so why am I so offended at what I take to be an agenda of persecution against Christians?

Read all of Why I Love Christmas: A Jewish Perspective.

Born Primitive Sacred, Baptized Christian

Robert Spencer reports:

"As the Prophet Muhammad said, everybody is born Muslim, and their parents convert them to Judaism, to Christianity, or to Zoroastrianism." So says Egyptian cleric Wagdi Ghneim.

And, yes, Muhammad really did say that: "No child is born but has the Islamic Faith, but its parents turn it into a Jew or a Christian" (Bukhari, volume 8, book 77, number 597).

This notion, that everyone is born Muslim, is a foundation of Islamic supremacism. Members of all other faiths are simply renegades from the truth faith of Islam, and must be made to feel their status as rebels by being denied equality of rights -- as Sharia mandates for Jews, Christians, and others.

Read all of Spencer's article here.

On the face of things, this goes contrary to the hypothesis of tabula rasa - the notion that humans are devoid of cultural influence at birth and beyond - "blank slates" upon which we can "write" with good intentions and education, a myth dearly loved and held by naive progressives even today. But as René Girard has demonstrated in his exhaustive study of culture, the good Islamic cleric is in a sense correct: every human being on this side of the Fall of Adam and Eve are inexorably entwined in the primitive sacred, which is what the Scimitar of Islam, without putting too fine a point on it, is.

In a real sense, it is the responsibility of every Christian father and mother, indeed, to raise their children up and out of whatever expression of the primitive sacred is locally exuded from the satanic spirit of the age: the Scimitar, neo-paganism, atheism, nihilism, etc.

And every Christian parent knows how difficult this is. The primitive sacred feels so "natural" because in our state of fallenness, hurt wants retaliation, anger retribution, shame redress, anguish a whipping boy, tumult a scapegoat. The primitive sacred knows nothing of grace and forgiveness, and the freedom that only the Gospel can give.

For a concise look at the primitive sacred origins of human culture, please refer to these three installments that look at the characteristics of paganism from the perspective of mimetic theory, anthropology, and psychology (René Girard and Jeffrey Burke Satinover).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

The Nativity (1597) - Federico Baroccio

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Benedict XVI - Christmas

Dear brothers and sisters:

Precisely today, we begin the days of Advent that immediately prepare us for the nativity of the Lord: We are in the Christmas novena, which in many Christian communities is celebrated with liturgies rich in biblical texts, all oriented toward nourishing hope for the birth of the Savior. The entire Church, in effect, turns its gaze of faith toward this approaching feast, readying itself, like each year, to unite to the joyful song of the angels, who in the heart of the night will announce to the shepherds the extraordinary event of the birth of the Redeemer, inviting them to draw close to the cave of Bethlehem. There lies Emanuel, the Creator made creature, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a poor manger (cf. Luke 2:13-14).

Because of the environment that characterizes it, Christmas is a universal feast. Even those who do not profess to be believers, in fact, can perceive in this annual Christian celebration something extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that speaks to the heart ...

Read all of the Holy Father's Christmas Reflection here.

Coventry Carol

[ht: Jill Fallon @ Business of Life]

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.
O sisters too, How may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling,
For whom we do sing,
By by, lully lullay?
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.
Herod, the King, In his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might,
In his own sight,
All young children to slay.
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.
That woe is me, Poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By by, lully lullay!

Constantine's Pillars - Bethelehem

That's right, by Constantine

The Christian faith was beget of the same Lord Who gave and established His Church upon Saint Peter. It is an historic faith. G. K. Chesterton gives an incomparable description of the historic nature of the Catholic Church in his entering the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. From his New Jerusalem:
As familiarity turns the darkness to twilight, and the twilight to a grey daylight, the first impression is that of two rows of towering pillars. They are of a dark red marble; and they are crowned with the acanthus in the manner of the Corinthian school. They were carved and set up at the command of Constantine; and beyond them, at the other end of the church beside the altar, is the dark stairway that descends under the canopies of rock to the stable where Christ was born.

Of all the things I have seen the most convincing, and as it were crushing, were these red columns of Constantine. In explanation of the sentiment there are a thousand things that want saying and cannot be said. Never have I felt so vividly the great fact of our history; that the Christian religion is like a huge bridge across a boundless sea, which alone connects us with the men who made the world, and yet utterly vanished from the world.

[ ... ]

Not in vain had Constantine come clad in purple to look down into that dark cave at his feet; nor did the star mislead him when it seemed to end in the entrails of the earth. The men who followed him passed on, as it were, through the low and vaulted tunnel of the Dark Ages; but they had found the way, and the only way, out of that world of death, and their journey ended in the land of the living. They came out into a world more wonderful than the eyes of men have looked on before or after; they heard the hammers of hundreds of happy craftsmen working for once according to their own will, and saw St. Francis walking with his halo a cloud of birds.

How Scrooge Saved Christmas

Rich Lowry gives a moving account of how Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol revitalized "Merry Christmas!" in merrie olde England after Cromwell and the Puritan Parliament eschewed all Yuletide blessings of the Old Faith. Ostensibly Dickens was anti-Catholic; but, as Chesterton unfolds the mystery in his biography, surreptitiously, like many remnants who love truth, beauty, and goodness in England even today, he was cut from the cloth of the Old Faith himself.
When the story of A Christmas Carol came to Charles Dickens, “he wept over it, laughed, and then wept again,” writes Les Standiford, author of the winsome new book The Man Who Invented Christmas . With “a strange mastery it seized him,” a friend said of the yarn. Dickens wrote the book in six weeks in 1843 and believed in it so deeply that he undertook all the financial risk himself of publishing it.

And so Tiny Tim, Scrooge, and “Bah! Humbug!” became an irreducible part of our Christmas. Dickens didn’t “invent” the holiday, as Standiford’s overreaching title says, but he revitalized it as the family-centric occasion for fellowship and generosity that we know today.
Read all of Rich Lowry's A Dickensian Christmas - How Scrooge Saved Christmas.

UPDATE: Read here from the Boston Globe Michael Kenney's Dickens's enduring gift to Christmases future.

Off-track Train Denounces Pope's Observation

LifeSiteNews gets the tenor of backlash toward the Holy Father for speaking truth about homosexuality and Natural Law just right here.

UPDATE: Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester, shows the difference between what the MSM spewed out regarding the Holy Father's statement and his actual words here.

Linus Knows the Score

[ht: Da Mihi Animas]

Canine Christmas List

Don't forget your pooch this Christmas! [ht: Happy Catholic]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sussex Carol

One of my all-time favorite songs of Christmas is the Sussex Carol. I first heard it as a boy on an LP that my parent brought home: the 1968 Goodyear Christmas Album with Anthony Newley soloing. Enjoy.

God in the Cave

A new link of note at Chronicles, The Blue Boar, is publishing excerpts from Chesterton's Everlasting Man entitled, The God in the Cave. Here are Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. Excellent for contemplation of the miracle of the Nativity and Incarnation of Our Lord.

By the way, if you weren't aware of it, shepherds in those days were the social equivalent to, say, bikers today.

Picture in your mind you standing and looking in the window of the nursery at your child when leather-clad, Fu Manchu-mustachioed, really BIG guys come up and start telling you that angels told them about the birth of your son. They are crying with happiness and they pump your hand with joy, hardly taking their eyes off your son for a moment.

That, gentle reader, is what Joseph experienced that holy night.

BXVI & Chartreuse Moose Studies

The International Herald Tribune reports:

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

The Church "should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration.

"The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

The Catholic Church teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are. It opposes gay marriage and, in October, a leading Vatican official called homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound."

The pope said humanity needed to "listen to the language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as "a destruction of God's work."

Monday, December 22, 2008

BXVI and the Scimitar

Pajamas Media does an interesting job of summarizing the Holy Father's approach to the Scimitar. [ht: Mark Shea]

1. Benedict doesn’t see much scope for a ‘theological’ debate between Christianity and Islam, which is of interest to only a specialist few. Instead, the Pope sees the real debate taking place at a cultural/civilizational level in which the subject of sharia will be a key item.

2. The debate is inevitable, because Islam at its roots is profoundly different from Christianity. Those who wish to bury the differences under relativism and a glib multiculturalism will fail.

3. Islam’s desire for supremacy is not directed primarily at Christianity, rather it is directed at any competitor.

4. The Pope believes that fighting terrorism means working with Muslims. It can’t be purged from from the outside; it has to be tackled from the inside from the inside. “Terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel [a word that he repeats 3 times] choice which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil coexistence. If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace. The task is difficult but not impossible and the believer can accomplish this.”

5. Benedict is also aware of what I would call the third man in the room; both traditional Christianity and Islam are also in competition with secular materialism. The structure of the debate implies that just as secular materialism can make alliances with radical Islam against Christianity, there is scope for alliance with religious Muslims against secular materialism. “It has been said that we must not speak of God in the European constitution, because we must not offend Muslims and the faithful of other religions. The opposite is true: what offends Muslims and the faithful of other religions is not talking about God or our Christian roots, but rather the disdain for God and the sacred, that separates us from other cultures and does not create the opportunity for encounter, but expresses the arrogance of diminished, reduced reason, which provokes fundamentalist reactions.”

Read all …

Christmas in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- From a distance, it looks like an apparition: a huge multi-colored hot-air balloon floating in the Baghdad sky, bearing a large poster of Jesus Christ. Below it, an Iraqi flag.

Welcome to the first-ever public Christmas celebration in Baghdad, held Saturday and sponsored by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Once thought to be infiltrated by death squads, the Ministry now is trying to root out sectarian violence -- as well as improve its P.R. image.

The event takes place in a public park in eastern Baghdad, ringed with security checkpoints. Interior Ministry forces deployed on surrounding rooftops peer down at the scene: a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and tinsel; a red-costumed Santa Claus waving to the crowd, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders; a red-and-black-uniformed military band playing stirring martial music, not Christmas carols.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq's many ethnic and religious groups -- Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite -- hold their hands aloft and sing "We are building Iraq!" Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute. Watch the celebration in Baghdad »

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. "All Iraqis are Christian today!" he says ...
Read all of Baghdad celebrates first public Christmas amid hope, memories.

Caldecott - The Truly Radical

Stratford Caldecott writes at Godspy,
Today’s real radicals are not socialists who believe in big government stepping in to control everything in their name. Nor are they capitalists who still believe that economic competition alone, unregulated, will work in the interest of the common good. The real radicals want to turn everything upside down and base it around the family and the local community – on cooperation rather than competition, with government merely protecting the conditions under which small community can flourish.
Read all of After the Disaster: Back to the Family and Localism.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rossetti - PRB

Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

More Hope from the Holy Land

Georgia Levy, with sabra sister, Mika

From The Jerusalem Post, young George Levy, 13, relates how tough it was at first to move from Manchester, England to Israel. But now,
"I feel much safer here," says Georgia of her life in Ra'anana. "In Manchester I couldn't go out alone anywhere, but here I and my friends go out and walk around the town until late and we're not worried at all."
Read all …

Hope from the Holy Land

JERUSALEM, DEC. 19, 2008 ( Even though it may appear that there are more problems than solutions in the world today, the leaders of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem are reminding the faithful that Jesus is a light that "never goes out."

Thirteen patriarchs and heads of Christian Churches stated this in a message for Christmas in which they also urged their flocks to transform faith in the light of Christ into action.

Patriarch Fouad Twal, the archbishop of Jerusalem, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, and Patriarch Theophilos III of the Greek Orthodox Church were among the signers. Representatives of the Armenian, Coptic, Syrian and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches also signed the message, as did leaders of the Maronite, Greek Melkite, Anglican, Lutheran, Syrian Catholic and Armenian Catholic Churches.

"As we prepare to celebrate Christmas there seems to be even more, darkness, conflict and despair in the world around us. That means for us, as Christians, we must think even more carefully and deeply about Jesus -- the baby born in Bethlehem's stable," the leaders said.

Despite the "absence of light" that people perceive, they reminded the faithful that "Jesus is a light in the dark which never goes out, a burning light which takes the terror from the night and moreover, a light on which we should fix our eyes not least when the clouds appear to be gathering around us."
Read all of Jesus Our Light in Dark Times.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Boar's Head Feast & Carol

Ever wonder about the origins of the Boar's Head Feast, particularly around Christmas? Wikipedia says,
This pageant is rooted in ancient times when the boar was sovereign of the forest. A ferocious beast and menace to humans it was hunted as a public enemy. At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served. Roasted boar was a staple of medieval banquets. As Christian beliefs overtook pagan customs in Europe, the presentation of a boar's head at Christmas came to symbolize the triumph of the Christ Child over sin.
Here are the words to the Boar's Head Carol, first published in 1521, Queens College, Oxford:
The boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bays and rosemary
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (so many as are in the feast)

CHORUS: Caput apri defero, Reddens laudes domino
(the boar's head I bring, giving praises to God)

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedecked with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honor of the King of bliss
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio: (in the Queen's hall)

Warren and Curry

Patrick Archbold at CMR shows a clip of Ann Curry's interview with Evangelical pastor, Rick Warren. The operative response is Warren's succinct, apt answer regarding homosexuality. The money shot is Curry's eye-flutter after Warren's answer. I like Curry, but Warren cornered her in a true Jesus-trips-the-Pharisees-at-their-own-game moment.

What one needs to ask as a follow-up to Warren's reply is this: How do you know right from wrong? What is the epistemological origin for your certainty regarding faith and morals?

That is the thread that would lead our separated brothers and sisters, perhaps, back to Catholic truth vouchsafed by the Magisterium. Perhaps.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Between Two Advents

Monsignor James P. Moroney's poignant homily, We all ache for God, and we wait… [ht: The Anchoress]

Fly In My Coffee

How to understand Israeli-Palestinian/Scimitar politics in a parumpumpum joke: [ht:IBA]

What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup?

The Italian - throws the cup, breaks it, and walks away in a fit of rage.

The German - carefully washes the copy, sterilizes it and makes a new cup of coffee.

The Frenchman - takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee.

The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee.

The Russian - Drinks the coffee with the fly, since it was extra with no charge.

The Israeli - sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, drinks tea and uses the extra money to invent a device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian/Scimitarist - blames the Israeli for the fly falling in his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN, takes a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of coffee, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, the Chinese, the German and the Russian are all trying to explain to the Israeli that he should give away his cup of tea to the Palestinian.

The End of Reading?

Christine Rosen at The New Atlantis writes,
Johns Hopkins University historian David A. Bell described the often arduous process of reading a scholarly book in digital rather than print format: “I scroll back and forth, search for keywords, and interrupt myself even more often than usual to refill my coffee cup, check my e-mail, check the news, rearrange files in my desk drawer. Eventually I get through the book, and am glad to have done so. But a week later I find it remarkably hard to remember what I have read.”

As he tried to train himself to screen-read—and mastering such reading does require new skills—Bell made an important observation, one often overlooked in the debate over digital texts: the computer screen was not intended to replace the book. Screen reading allows you to read in a “strategic, targeted manner,” searching for particular pieces of information, he notes. And although this style of reading is admittedly empowering, Bell cautions, “You are the master, not some dead author. And that is precisely where the greatest dangers lie, because when reading, you should not be the master”; you should be the student. “Surrendering to the organizing logic of a book is, after all, the way one learns,” he observes.

How strategic and targeted are we when we read on the screen? In a commissioned report published by the British Library in January 2008 (the cover of which features a rather alarming picture of a young boy with a maniacal expression staring at a screen image of Darth Vader), researchers found that everyone, teachers and students alike, “exhibits a bouncing/flicking behavior, which sees them searching horizontally rather than vertically....Users are promiscuous, diverse, and volatile.” As for the kind of reading the study participants were doing online, it was qualitatively different from traditional literacy. “It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense, indeed there are signs that new forms of ‛reading’ are emerging as users ‛power browse’ horizontally through titles, contents pages, and abstracts going for quick wins.” As the report’s authors concluded, with a baffling ingenuousness, “It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”

[ ... ]

If reading has a history, it might also have an end. It is far too soon to tell when that end might come, and how the shift from print literacy to digital literacy will transform the “reading brain” and the culture that has so long supported it. Echoes will linger, as they do today from the distant past: audio books are merely a more individualistic and technologically sophisticated version of the old practice of reading aloud. But we are coming to see the book as a hindrance, a retrograde technology that doesn’t suit the times. Its inanimacy now renders it less compelling than the eye-catching screen. It doesn’t actively do anything for us. In our eagerness to upgrade or replace the book, we try to make reading easier, more convenient, more entertaining—forgetting that reading is also supposed to encourage us to challenge ourselves and to search for deeper meaning.

Read all of Rosen's People of the Screen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Old Saint Nick

Father Christmas - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

As I posted back on his actual feast day, Benjamin Britten did the world a thing of beauty in memorializing the events in the life of Saint Nicholas of Myra in his moving Saint Nicolas Cantata. And I noticed that Tim Jones posted on Chesterton's views of Saint Nick at Old World Swine, while young Andrew Cusack did also on the saint's day.

This, in my way of thinking, allows me the license to capture and republish both of their illustrations (above).

If you get an opportunity, do listen to Britten's gift of love for Saint Nicholas.

The Whole Building

Not asleep at the switch. Fox News reports that Feds Seize New York Office Building Tied to Iranian Government.
The move by officials at the Treasury and Justice Departments is designed to stop the flow of funds they say are used to help Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons.

The office tower, located on New York's famed Fifth Avenue, was built by an Iranian non-profit group in the 1970s. Over the years the ownership of the building has evolved into what federal officials say is an attempt to hide the stake held by an Iranian state-owned bank.

The government alleges that Assa Corp., the building's owner, is a shell company for Bank Melli, which is accused of facilitating the movement of nuclear materials for the Iranian government. Officials contend that Bank Melli was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of Assa Corp. and its management of the Fifth Avenue building, which generated rental income that was sent back to Iran.
Won't someone cry "Scimitar-aphobia"???

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Original Sin - Dogma

Adam and Eve (The Fall of Man) - Albrecht Durer
From Sandro Magister,
ROMA, December 11, 2008 – Three times in eight days, Benedict XVI has insisted on a dogma that has almost disappeared from ordinary preaching, and is rejected by the neomodernist theologians: the dogma of original sin.

He did this on Monday, December 8, at the Angelus for the feast of the Immaculate Conception; on the previous Wednesday, December 3, at the weekly audience with thousands of faithful and pilgrims; and again at the general audience on Wednesday, December 10.

At the Angelus for the Immaculate Conception, pope Joseph Ratzinger said:

"The mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which we solemnly celebrate today, reminds us of two fundamental truths of our faith: original sin first of all, and then the victory over this by the grace of Christ, a victory that shines in a sublime manner in Mary Most Holy.
Read all …

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wilders - Clear Sighted

The Baron provides a transcript of the speech by Geert Wilders in Jerusalem. Wilders says of Israel, "Israel is simply receiving the blows that are meant for all of us." In the same way, Wilders is receiving the scorn for speaking truth about the Scimitar meant for all of us.

Gaudete Sunday +

On this Gaudete Sunday, to remind us of what we aim for this Advent,
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete

Tempus ad est gratiae hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Ezekelis porta clausa per transitor
Unde lux est orta salus invenitor

Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete

Ergo nostra contio psallat jam in lustro
Benedicat domino salus regi nostro

Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine gaudete

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Near-Gaudete Sunday Reminder

And now, for something completely different, just in case the news and deluge of pop culture is messing witcha, and you need some reminding of what we're aiming toward during Advent: Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band sing Shepherds Arise here:

Shepherds arise, be not afraid, with hasty steps prepare
To David's city, sin on earth,
With our blest Infant-with our blest Infant there,
With our blest Infant there, with our blest Infant there.
Sing, sing, all earth, sing, sing, all earth eternal praises sing
To our Redeemer, to our Redeemer and our heavenly King.

[ht: The Iconoclast]

And Who Can Blame Them

Robert Spencer reports that the Dancing girls of Lahore on strike against Talibanization.

Gary Sinise - Ace

A cool actor, in my book, just got cooler. Turns out that Gary Sinise is a Catholic convert. [ht: Mark Shea]

And besides supporting the troops, he's a big time supporter of Catholic Education, and has begun an organization called Operation Iraqi Children.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

London Shall Have Christmas

No Grinch around London town. Indeed new mayor (Alexander) Boris (de Pfeffel Johnson) saved Christmas this year. Bravo, your Lordship High Mayor! [ht: Cat at Brits at Their Best]

Belafonte - Mary's Boy Child

Purists be darned. Enjoy Harry Belafonte in Mary’s Boy Child whilst you prepare for Christmas (we're close to Gaudete Sunday, after all).

The Waiting Game

From New Oxford Review, a timely, timeless reflection, Advent's Pregnant Silence - A Season of Grace, a Season of Thieves by Fr. James Schmitmeyer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Naming - Middle Earth Style

According to a cool Middle Earth name-generator site, I, Athos, am Ferdinand Baker from The Far Downs. What's yours? [ht: Old World Swine, TJ]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

St Edmund's Retreat

Courtesy of Mark Gordon's Suicide of the West, an invitation to make a retreat at Saint Edmund's just off the coast of Mystic, CT. I was blessed to spend a week there at a seminar given by Gil Bailie on Dante's Divine Comedy. A foretaste of Heaven.

St. Edmund's Retreat - Enders Island - Mystic, CT from Enders Island on Vimeo.

Monday, December 8, 2008

La Thangue

The Return of the Reapers (1886) - Henry Herbert La Thangue

Britain - Increasingly Intolerant of Faith

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, as he prepares to retire, declares that Britain is 'unfriendly' for religious people. Although often nipped at by snooty journalists, he claims that Catholicism has borne the brunt of "liberal hostility" in its battles to fight for values it considers to be "fundamental pillars of a rightly ordered society".

"The vocal minority who argue that religion has no role in modern British society portray Catholic teaching on the family as prejudiced and intolerant to those pursuing alternatives," he says.

In particular, the cardinal highlights the Church's opposition to liberal laws on abortion and homosexuality, its defence of faith schools and its support for marriage.

He led the Church's unsuccessful attempt to block the controversial embryo Bill, which allows for saviour siblings and babies to be born without fathers.

The campaign raised questions over the role of religion in influencing public policy, but the cardinal argues that moves to silence the faith communities must be resisted.

"There is a current dislike of absolutes in any area of human activity, including morality," he says.

M. Pera - Hope for Europe

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2008 ( Philosopher and writer Marcello Pera says Europe must call itself Christian because it's exactly what can bring the continent together.

Pera, an Italian senator, presented his latest book, "Perché Dobbiamo Dirci Cristiani" (Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians), in Rome on Thursday. More than 300 people were present at the event.

In the book's introduction Pera writes: "My position is that of an atheist and a liberal who asks Christianity about the reason for hope." Benedict XVI, in a letter to Pera, said that the book is "of fundamental importance at this hour in Europe and the world."
Read all of An Atheist Looks to Christianity for Hope.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

2 Advent - A Message for Young Men

A message for young men on the second Sunday of Advent from Thomas Woods' How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization:
Today, all too many younger people have heard the Church's teaching on human intimacy only in caricature, and given the culture within which they live, cannot begin to understand why the Church proposes it. Faithful to the mission she has fulfilled for two millenia, however, the Church still holds out a moral alternative to young people immersed in a culture that relentlessly teaches them to pursue immediate gratification. The Church recalls the great men of Christendom - like Charlemagne, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Francis Xavier, to name a few - and holds them up as models for how true men live. Its message?

Essentially this: You can aspire to be one of these men - a builder of civilization, a great genius, a servant of God and men, or a heroic missionary - or you can be a self-absorbed nobody fixated on gratifying your appetites. Our society does everything in its power to ensure that you wind up on the latter path. Be your own person. Rise above the herd, declare your independence from a culture that thinks so little of you, and proclaim that you intend to live not as a beast but as a man.

5-Points for Dealing with the Scimitar

The multicultural, politically correct chant of "No to Islamophobia" is, in my opinion, spearheaded largely by two groups. The first group is the somewhat conscious representatives of the Scimitar that know just enough to use the victim card to their advantage. The second group is comprised of westerners who sense that by invoking islamophobia they will successfully curtail repercussions for the 9,000 violent acts done in the name of Islam since 9/11.

The former is, thus, using the hue and cry of "No to Islamophobia" as a way to advance the Scimitar in the West. The latter is using it as a rather lame way of appeasement until they can figure something out that won't hurt political careerism. (A third group of westerners merely see any one who sees a threat by the Scimitar as a blockheaded, redneck anti-immigration stance by backward right-wingers. These iPod street-dancing, messenger-bag carriers get their knowledge of history and current events off Starbucks cups or from their stylists.)

Robert Spencer lays it out well here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

St. Nicholas of Myra - December 6

This is the feast day of Saint Nicholas of Myra. Although details of the saint's life are sketchy, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) put to his own compositions the legendary events surrounding him in a series of Nine Scenes in his Saint Nicolas Cantata.

I was privileged to play in the First Violin section of a staging of the cantata at DePauw University, Advent, 1976, the year Britten died. It was one of those moments in my life during which the Holy Spirit broke through the egoism to reveal to me a reality of truth, beauty, and goodness beyond my meager life's boundaries. I am still thankful to Dr. Frank Jacobs for producing it there at DePauw.

Today, I can, blessedly, still play a recording of that live performance. I highly recommend you find a copy of it - many fine recordings are out there.

Steyn - Then Do Something About It

Mark Steyn reports that practitioners of the Scimitar are feeling vulnerable after the murderous Mumbai terrorism.

Yeah, well, their inability to empathize with kafir - the primary targets of the terrorists - is a prime indicator of the degree to which the Scimitar is still part and parcel with the primitive sacred.

Will Smith for President

Newsmax reports on actor Will Smith's respect for the human longing for God, and says, For me, I'm certain about my relationship with the model of perfection of human life that's laid out with the life of Jesus Christ. (Scroll down in article)

Friday, December 5, 2008


"A Castle was in Sight, Built Close by the Sea" (1920) - Thomas Mackenzie
Illustration fr. Arthur and His Knights by Christine Chaundler. London: Nisbet and Co. Ltd.

Christians Scapegoated Bishop Says

Riot Survivors

The popular understanding of the term "scapegoat" is evidence of the work of the Gospel in history. So it isn't a surprise to hear a bishop use it in Nigeria.
Christians in Jos are ‘scapegoats’, says bishop. [ht: Dhimmiwatch]
Bishop Kwashi described the weekend’s violence as “a wake-up call to state and federal authorities . . . to ensure that truth is told, truth is maintained, and justice done.” He said on Tuesday, “It’s our usual call and I’m tired of making it.
To international media, he made the plea: “Please, if you have evid ence of anywhere where Chris tians have sparked off a riot or done anything wrong, please be honest in telling it. But if not, stand up for justice.
“We want the support of the Church worldwide to understand that we have never initiated crimes against the Muslim people.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Uh Huh, Right

Don't believe your eyes or intuition. The Scimitar is just for cutting up produce, as a mirror, or for other peaceable pastimes, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Overcome Evil with Good

Benedict XVI affirmed the good news about Original Sin. The Christian explanation of evil and original sin is a happy proclamation, since it affirms that life and living is good.

The Holy Father explains - if you read far enough - that evil is neither equal and opposite to the good of being, nor simply a part of a mindless, arbitrary evolutionary model of the universe. Rather,
"Evil comes from a subordinate source. With his light, God is stronger and, because of this, evil can be overcome. Therefore, the creature, man, is curable; […] man is not only curable, he is in fact cured. God has introduced healing. He entered in person into history. To the permanent source of evil he has opposed a source of pure good. Christ crucified and risen, the new Adam."
This, if you will remember, is why Our Lord not only proclaimed the good news of God's Kingdom, but also healed and cured in the days of His flesh. The fallen world is not as God intended creation. If we are to be one-with His mission, pledging fealty and partaking in a quest of Marian chivalry, we must stay close to Him; do as He did and does.

Do not fight the fire of evil with its own fire. Fight it with the waters of our Baptism; put on the armor of God; and sing merrily with our good companions who dine with us on Panis angelicus. Deo gratias.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Waterhouse - PRB

Flora (1890) - John William Waterhouse

That's My Bishop!

( - Bishop Paul Loverde of the Roman Catholic diocese of Arlington, Va., said last week that if the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) should become law and a Catholic hospital in his diocese is forced to provide abortions, he would refuse to let the hospital comply, but he would also not close the institution.
Though there are no Catholic hospitals in his diocese, the bishop nevertheless was defiant: “I would say, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to close the hospital, you’re going to arrest me, go right ahead. You’ll have to drag me out, go right ahead. I’m not closing this hospital, we will not perform abortions, and you can go take a flying leap.’ ”

One Christian Meeting Another

ROME, DEC. 1, 2008 ( The high-profile baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam at the Easter Vigil ceremony presided over last year by Benedict XVI has a story behind it. According to Allam himself, his conversion journey was possible because of great Christian witnesses.
"This journey," he recalled, "began apparently by chance, [but] in truth was providential. Since age four, I had the chance to attend Italian Catholic schools in Egypt. I was first a student of the Comboni religious missionaries, and later, starting with fifth grade, of the Salesians.

"I thus received an education that transmitted to me healthy values and I appreciated the beauty, truth, goodness and rationality of the Christian faith," in which "the person is not a means, but a starting point and an arriving point."

"Thanks to Christianity," he said, "I understood that truth is the other side of liberty: They are an indissoluble binomial. The phrase, 'The truth will make you free' is a principle that you young people should always keep in mind, especially today when, scorning the truth, freedom is relinquished."

The journalist continued: "My conversion was possible thanks to the presence of great witnesses of faith, first of all, His Holiness Benedict XVI. One who is not convinced of his own faith -- often it's because he has not found in it believable witnesses of this great gift.

"The second indissoluble binomial in Christianity is without a doubt that of faith and reason. This second element is capable of giving substance to our humanity, the sacredness of life, respect for human dignity and the freedom of religious choice."

The journalist affirmed that the Holy Father's 2006 speech in Regensburg -- which caused uproar within the Muslim community -- was for him a reason to reflect.

Allam said: "An event, before my conversion, made me think more than other events: the Pope's discourse in Regensburg. On that occasion, citing the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, he affirmed something that the Muslims themselves have never denied: that Islam spreads the faith above all with the sword."

He added: "There is a greater and more subliminal danger than the terrorism of 'cut-throats.' It is the terrorism of the 'cut-tongues,' that is, the fear of affirming and divulging our faith and our civilization, and it brings us to auto-censorship and to deny our values, putting everything and the contrary to everything on the same plane: We think of the Shariah applied even in England ...
Read all …

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bipolar Scimitar

Moshe, orphaned son of Rabbi & Rebbetzen Gavriel Holtzberg (via Pam Geller)

I post this via The Curt Jester not to provoke to mimetic rivalry, but to offer those fellow travelers on this garden planet who are interested in Marian chivalry and prayer knighthood grist for our 3:00 a.m. vigils: He is asking where his father is, and crying for his mother.

The problem is, of course, that the Scimitar is bipolar with scriptures that its adherents do not see in terms of progressive revelation. They can justify actions that are one-with the primitive sacred in bloodthirstiness in the words and actions of their Prophet.

And until the Holy Spirit - the Third Person of the Moly Holy Trinity - breaks through into enough hearts and souls of Scimitar religionists to reject this bloodthirsty "holy warrior" ethos, the world will continue to be a dangerous place - particularly for Jews and Christians.

Pray for us, Saint Francis. You had dealings with the Scimitar. We need your prayers again, and how.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Madox Brown - PRB

Chaucer at the Court of Edward III (1846-51) - Ford Madox Brown

Last Self-Help Administration

From the fine essay on Walker Percy by Michael A. Mikolajeczak, "A home that is hope": Lost cove, Tennessee:
(In his book, Lost in the Cosmos,) (t)he choice that Percy puts before the reader at the end of Space Odyssey II is one of the clearest and most decisive of the book: the utopianism of Aristarchus Jones, which is merely self-help raised to a societal degree, or the Incarnational vision of Abbot Liebowitz. However, it is critical that there be no illusion about the difference between the two. It is not a matter of science versus faith (interestingly, it is Liebowitz who plans to restore science by reviving the University of Notre Dame around a remnant of Jewish scientists). Both options rest on faith: one on the belief that humanity possesses sufficient experience, accurate understanding of human nature, and steadiness of purpose to maintain a vision through several generations; the other on the preposterous notion that God created the world and humanity, that humanity fell off from God, that God sent his Son to reclaim humanity, that the Son, being both God and man, founded a church, appointed as its first head a likeable but pusillanimous person, like himself a Jew, the most fallible of his friends, gave him and his successors the power to loose and to bind, required of his followers that they eat his body and drink his blood in order to have life in them, his body and blood, vowed to protect this institution until the end of time (253).
Now, having read this excerpt from Mikolajeczak, which of the two above - the utopianism of Aristarchus Jones, on the one hand, or the Incarnational vision of Abbot Liebowitz - best approximates the incoming president-elect's project of Change for America? Hmm?

I agree with you. Therefore, the new Label here at Chronicles of Atlantis for all-things-Big-O shall henceforth be: Last Self-Help Administration. Selah.


Jill Fallon at Business of Life seconds my motion on R. R. Reno's "We Need Roots" and the music of Show of Hands AND Mes Aieux (My Ancestors) - one of our favorite Distributist music videos.


Choose This Day

Jeffery T. Kuhner spells it out in no uncertain terms. For my fellow Girardians, we see one of the twin pincers of the primitive sacred: the neo-pagan with its current Gnostic coloration (the other pincer being the Scimitar). Please read the article in full.

The Vatican is the last line of defense against the new Dark Age ... No self-respecting, principled Catholic can or should support murder - regardless of who occupies the White House.

The Bipolar Scimitar

Alan Caruba at Family Security Matters observes,
The 21st century is now challenged by the 7th century and, everywhere, it finds itself bewildered by what appears to be appalling and senseless killing.

It makes perfect sense, however, to those who believe they are practicing Islam as commanded by Muhammad and the Koran. The Koran heaps scorn on both Judaism and Christianity despite incorporating aspects of both faiths that preceded Islam, claiming that Muhammad received the Koran from the archangel Gabriel and is the last of the prophets. This is a thin veneer to suggest the legitimacy of Islam.

Western and other nations put themselves at peril when they seek accommodation with Islam and it is an irony that 9/11 marked a moment in time when many Muslims began to question their faith, often leaving it either openly or secretly.

An “insult” to Muhammad carries with it a death sentence. Perceived insults can result in riots and attacks as occurred when Danish cartoonists drew unflattering pictures of Muhammad. Apostasy, the act of converting to another religion is a death sentence for Muslims. Adultery, homosexuality, alcohol, and a long list of other “offenses” can get you killed.

It is an irony, too, that Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and others find themselves the victims of Islamofascism because Islam does not separate the state from the religion.

The final irony is that the United States of America has elected as its next President, Barack Hussein Obama, born to a Muslim father, adopted by a Muslim step-father while living in Indonesia, and amerced in Islam in his formative years.

Mumbai now becomes another page in the history of Islam’s war on the world when its two major sects, Sunni and Shia, are not making war on one another...
Read all of The ‘Religion of Peace’ Strikes Again.