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.