“I am delighted”, the words of a woman quoted recently in the New York Times

The word “delight” needs no definition: it is in itself golden, effervescent, luminous and beautiful. The contemplation of beauty, as John Hadfield observed in the Introduction to his Book of Delights (one of the six glorious anthologies he published in the mid-1950s), affords “some evidence in support of Henry Vaughan’s belief that Heaven lies about us—not only in our infancy, but through all the seven ages of man.”

Three centuries after Vaughan, and far from Wales, Louis Armstrong made the same affirmation:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

Such delight is not only golden, luminous and beautiful, but it can also be ecstatic and immensely powerful. Thus, almost one hundred years ago, at the ending of the horror and unimaginable slaughter of World War One, Siegfried Sassoon (who had served as an infantry officer on the Western Front) wrote from his heart:

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.

What comparable ecstasy can have occasioned the delight of the woman quoted in the New York Times – or, indeed, of the rapturous joy that is so evident here?

Perhaps it was the awareness that it is right and just, in the words of the Gerald Bullett(1893-1958) to –

Be still, my soul. Consider
The flowers and the stars.
Among these sleeping fragrances,
Sleep now your cares.
That which the universe
Lacks room to enclose
Lives in the folded petals
Of this dark rose.

Maybe it was the gracious recognition of the fact that, as Henry Vaughan understood, all of life is circumscribed by Heaven. Maybe it was a sharing in Louis Armstrong’s joy in hearing babies crying and watching them grow.

Abortcelebdublin

But no. The occasion was, in fact, the outcome of the referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland – where the slaughter, dismemberment and rejection of unborn human beings, their creation being the work of the Lord and Giver of Life, Almighty God who is the giver of all that is good, the uncouth refusal of the generous gifts of God, will be “legalized”.

It is hard to imagine how such a thing could be — for a sentient, sensitive and intelligent person — any kind of occasion for such evidently ecstatic delight. How can it be anything other than demonic, evil, the choosing of death rather than life, of darkness rather than light. And how can our civilization, already terrified by its demograhic prospects and by the implications thereof, regard suicide as a reasonable highway into the future?

We know, and we are daily made more aware of the fact, that we live in perillous times, that governments are out of control, that huge and remote bureaucracies have ominous power over us and over our culture, that family life is targeted for destruction, that the culture of death is in mortal combat with the Gospel of Life.

The situation is so grave that we cannot now be content with merely seeking such palliatives as an end to overreaching government, transparency in public affairs, the ensuring of a determined oppostion to the baleful effects of liberalism and secularism. We can be engaged in nothing less than an epic campaign for the recovery and restoration of Christendom, even if that were to take centuries to accomplish. Of course, the task is of Herculean proportions: but how can those of us who pray daily Adveniat Regnum Tuum be content with any less lofty goal? And if we are too few, too weak, too simple, too spiritually compromised to undertake this challenge, then who should do so? And if not now, then when?

Christ is our King; and it follows, inevitably, that our urgent concerns will be with fatherhood and family, with courtesy and chivalry. It will strive and pray for the unity of all Christians as Christ wills. It will consider the relationship between liberty and equality, not evading the challenge that this may present to all the received notions about “democracy”. It will study the social teachings of the Holy See from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum to the present day. It will ponder Pope Saint John Paul II’s statement that its foundation “rests on the threefold cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity”. It will remember that the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany said that (Western civilization) was built on three hills: the Acropolis, which gave the values of freedom, philosophy and democracy; the Capitol, which represented Roman legal concepts and social order; and Golgotha …” (quoted by Metropolitan Hilarion, at a symposium held in London on Sept 22, 2017, on the Christian Future of Europe).

Let us set out now under the banner of Theodosius. The Roman Emperor was born in Spain in or around 346 AD and died in Milan on January 17, 395. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Theodosius is one of the sovereigns by universal consent called Great. He stamped out the last vestiges of paganism, put an end to the Arian heresy in the empire, pacified the Goths, left a famous example of penitence for a crime, and reigned as a just and mighty Catholic emperor.”

We must begin again; and so the Christian Labarum will triumph once more over the banner of the ancient , but now horribly revivified, gods.

 

 

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The end of guns

gun_control

The Wall Street Journal leading Opinion article on Feb 27 deplored what it called “Our Childish Gun Debate”. And Gerald F. Seib’s Capital Journal article in the same issue provided some striking examples of just how infantile it is. Let me add something that may be a little less childish. It concerns Teleology.

The phrase “the end of guns” is capable of several meanings. It could mean some kind of abolition of guns. It could refer to the physical extremities of an object.

But it could also refer to that object’s telos – its intrinsic purpose and goal, the ultimate and irreducible explanation for its existence. Teleology or finality is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose or goal. It is derived from two Greek words: telos (end, goal, purpose) and logos (reason, explanation).

Thus: the telos of a fork is to stab a sausage so that one may eat it; the telos of a screwdriver is to drive screws; the telos of an automobile it to gets its driver from one place to another; the telos of a beer-bottle is to carry a beverage; the telos of a pen is to write a poem, a letter, a novel.

Each of these objects could be capable, if misused deliberately or otherwise, of inflicting injury or even killing. This, however, is not their telos, the reason for which they exist.

But the telos of guns is solely to maim, damage, wound, kill. No one, in their right mind, would use a gun in order to pick up a sausage, write a novel, open that beer bottle, or write to a loved-one.

So there is my very small contribution to the current debate.

 

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God said, “Let there be light”

According to reports today in the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent,  astronomers have detected a signal from the first stars as they appeared and illuminated the universe, in observations that have been hailed as “revolutionary”.

The faint radio signals suggest the universe was lifted out of total darkness 180m years after the big bang in a momentous transition known as the cosmic dawn.

let-there-be-light

Take a look at the first chapter of Genesis. The first two verses describe the initial chaos and darkness. And then, in verse three: “God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that light was good…..”

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“We said we’d never look back”

So sang Jane and Tmothy, after their graduation, in the delightful, whimsical musical Salad Days, that opened just around the time of my own graduation at Cambridge University in 1958. But occasionally something comes up that does indeed make us look back. The Master of my college, Selwyn, was the great Owen Chadwick (who was most kind to me personally). Charles Moore, writing in the London Spectator, February 10, 2018, referred to him and to his distinguished brother Henry:

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The Reverend Dr Sir Owen Chadwick, Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, Master of Selwyn College

 “One of the pleasures of being a Catholic convert from Anglicanism is that I feel much warmer towards the Church of England than when I was in it. Last week, I went to a truly endearing Anglican ceremony in Westminster Abbey. After evensong, there was a short service to unveil a plaque in memory of the Chadwick brothers, Owen and Henry. Both were clergymen, both were Regius professors (Owen at Cambridge, Henry at Cambridge and Oxford). Both were tipped to be Archbishops, but preferred the life of the mind. They are the first brothers to be thus linked in an Abbey monument since John and Charles Wesley. Professor Eamon Duffy—who is, as his name hints, Catholic—gave a brilliant tribute to the two. He told how Henry, the mastermind of ARCIC — the Anglican/Roman Catholic conversations which did so much to break down theological barriers, collapsed at a conference in Venice. He woke up in hospital to find himself surrounded by ARCIC colleagues. ‘I see I am not in Heaven,’ he murmured. The inscription on the plaque describes the brothers simply as ‘Priests and Scholars’. The Chadwicks were almost the last embodiment of that combination, in its distinctively Anglican form of sweetness and light.”

 I commend those words to the brethren of the Ordinariate, and to all now-Catholics who continue to look with thanksgiving to their raising in the Anglican heritage.

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” … Our souls washed in his Most precious Blood … “

With the ravages of the current ‘flu season, old questions have been raised again about the health issues that may be attendant upon the sharing of the common Chalice. Those brought up in the Anglican tradition – within which the faithful have had daily access to the Chalice for almost five hundred years – may well have useful insights and experience to offer in this matter.

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My father was an Anglican priest, ordained to the priesthood in 1928; and he celebrated the Anglican Eucharist virtually daily until his retirement after thirty-seven years of ministry. I myself was ordained an Anglican priest in 1961; and I also offered the Mass almost every day  – first as an Anglican and then, blessedly, as a Roman Catholic priest (but with absolutely no difference in physical practice) — until my own retirement more than fifty years later. I have neither the records, nor the mathematical ability, to calculate all this. But I think it means that my father and I ascended the Altar of God for a total of twenty-five thousand times over the years. And we did so in a wide variety of social circumstances: in a desperately poor industrial parish during the Great Depression, in military service, in a suburban parish during the deprivations of England’s post-war years and recovery, in a country town, … and so on, in the United Kingdom, in the USA.

At each altar the practice was the same. The members of the congregation received from the common Chalice – and, after they had done so, the celebrant consumed every remaining drop from the Chalice and finally drank the water with which he had purified it.

Were there any significant risk involved in the eucharistic practices of the Anglican church for so many centuries it would seem likely that the evidence would reflect an increased risk for Anglican priests, who have been performing the ablutions for centuries. In fact the opposite is true. Nor do priests appear to have been regularly stricken with any communicable disease that could be traced to the chalice in all that time. In fact, if there were any such risk, it would seem likely that insurance actuarial tables would reflect an increased risk for Anglican priests. In fact the opposite is true.

The Los Angeles Times covered this issue in 2005, noting that microbiologist Anne LaGrange Loving  had studied the issue and found that exposure to germs during communion is actually quite low.  “People who sip from the Communion cup don’t get sick more often than anyone else,” Loving reported. “It isn’t any riskier than standing in line at the movies.”  She argued that wiping the chalice helps stop the spread of disease. And the silver and gold used to make chalices purportedly don’t harbor disease either: they inhibit it – as, indeed, also does the required used of canonically approved wine (of between 5% and 18% alcoholic content).

The matter has received substantial study over the years; and, as far as I can ascertain, no episode of disease attributable to the common cup has ever been reported in the literature. Thus for the average communicant it would seem that the risk of drinking from the common cup is probably less than the risk of air-borne infection in using a common building. No significant differences have been found in the rates of illness among Christians who receive Holy Communion, Christians who attend church but do not receive the sacraments, and people who do not attend Christian services.

I am not qualified to judge the scientific evidence that is available – but I have to say that I am profoundly impressed by it unanimity.

Much more important for us, however, than the scientific witness is the Truth – the spiritual truth and reality. “What,” famously asked Pontius Pilate, “is truth?”  Queen Elizabeth I, echoing Aquinas, once said, of the Elements of the Blessed Sacrament: ‘Twas God the Word that spake it … and what the Word did make it, that I believe, and take it .’

What the Word said was: “… this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant … Do this in memory of me.” He did not say, “This is to remind you of my Blood.” He said: “This IS my Blood …” And he did not command us to “do this” in memory of him, but only outside the ‘flu season.

Henri Daniel-Rops once wrote:

Truly do I believe that this Blood now offered in the Chalice

Is your own, once given to the Father;

It is truly the same as that which spurted under the scourge,

Most truly the Blood that flows for ever from Your wounds.

Consider these words carefully, indeed the mysterium fidei. Do we believe? Or do we say: Yes, but the contents of that Chalice could be the agents of disease and death?

And as we consider, we might remember the words of St Thomas Aquinas:

Fountain of goodness, Jesus, Lord and God,

cleanse us, unclean, with thy most cleansing Blood.

Or this, by William Bright:

By this food, so aweful and so sweet,

deliver us from every touch of ill.

Or this, by Edmund Morgan:

O risen Christ, today alive,

amid your Church abiding,

who now your Blood and Body give,

new life and strength providing.

The Catholic truth is that: “The Lord Jesus, who is a strong tower to all who put their trust in him … make you know that the only Name [not the Mayo Clinic, not Linus Pauling] under heaven given for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

 

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20 + C + M + B + 18

On the Feast of the Epiphany, there is a custom for families to gathers to ask God’s blessing on their home and on those who live in or visit the home. In so doing, we are inviting Jesus to be a guest in our home and a part of all aspects of our life in the home.

One tradition is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance the following letters and symbols:
20 + C + M + B + 18

The letters C, M, B are the initials of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar – and they are also abbreviations of  the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The Year of Grace, Anno Domini, is indicated by the numerals.

Here’s a suggested format for the blessing:

All make the Sign of the Cross.

The head of the household:  “Peace be to this house and to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Reader: When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

The Word of the Lord.

ALL: Thanks be to God

Using chalk, write on the lintel above the main entrance door, or some suitable place nearby:

20 + C + M + B + 18

All say together: Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who live here and all who visit. May we be blessed with health, kindness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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Elevating Thoughts for the New Year

As the elevator driver would say (when we had such people), life is full of ups and downs.

The sun sets at the end of the day, and rises at the beginning of the next. The thankfulness for what has been (and, perhaps, some regrets about lost opportunities) descend with the dusk – to be replaced at dawn with the golden optimism of a new start as the sun ascends in glory.

 

New-Year-Ball-Drop-Clipart-08

Why, then, does New York mark the dawn of a New Year of Grace dropping of a ball? Should it not, instead, be the raising a brilliant and radiant orb — its luminosity challenging, as it were, the still shadows of the unknown future with perennial and irrepressible hope?

Well, while you are pondering this profound question, here’s a conundrum for your consideration:

If you happened – admittedly an unlikely circumstance – to be eating a salad in an elevator, what would be the most eminently suitable dressings? Miss Otis vinaigrettes, surely?

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