Copernicus and Newton both deny the Aristotelian theory of two kinds of natural motion, but they do so in opposite ways. Aristotle had argued that there are two kinds of natural motion. There is one kind for the corruptible things below the sphere of the moon namely in a straight line (up or down), and another for the supposedly incorruptible bodies above the moon (in a circle). The difference makes some sense because corruptible things have a beginning and an end (like a straight line), and incorruptible things don’t (like a circle).
Copernicus denies the distinction, and claims that there is only one kind of natural motion: circular motion. Straight line motion is only a corrective that happens when something has been removed from its proper place. Thus Revolutions, I,8:
A simple body possesses a simple movement—this is first verified in the case of circular movement—as long as the simple body remain in its unity in its natural place. In this place, in fact, its movement is none other than the circular, which remains entirely in itself, as though at rest. Rectilinear movement, however, is added to those bodies which journey away from their natural place or are shoved out of it or are outside it somehow… Therefore rectilinear movement belongs only to bodies which are not in the right condition and are not perfectly conformed to their nature when they are separated from their whole and abandon its unity. Furthermore, bodies which are moved upward or downward do not possess a simple, uniform, and regular movement—even without taking into account circular movement… Therefore, since circular movement belongs to wholes and rectilinear to parts, we can say that the circular movement stands with the rectilinear, as does animal with sick.
He thus elevates the earth, as it were, to the status of a heavenly body.
Newton thinks the symmetrical opposite: motion is as it were “natural” when it is in a straight line. Curved motion comes about by the composition of straight motions. He thus brings the heavenly bodies down to the level of terrestrial things. Thus Principia III,4: the moon is a thrown rock.
Modern astronomy thus begins by elevating the terrestrial (Copernicus), but reaches its classical form by degrading the celestial (Newton).
In the latest newsletter of The Lamp, Matthew Walther points out that this year marks three hundred years since the publication of Robinson Crusoe. He promises us an essay ‘on alienation and the common good’ in Defoe’s masterpiece in next week’s newsletter. I certainly look forward to reading that. A few years ago I wrote an essay on the soul in the novel, in which I argued that Robinson Crusoe expresses some typical features of ‘modernity’—including a split between the interior and subjective (in which religion is placed), and the exterior or objective (which becomes the domain of technology).
Five of my confrères in Heiligenkreuz made their solemn profession of vows on Thursday.
The ceremony for solemn vows is one of the most beautiful of all ceremonies. Splendid, but also very simple, following the form laid down by St Benedict in the Rule. After the gospel the candidates prostrate themselves before the Abbot, who asks: Quid pétitis? They respond Misericórdiam Dei et Ordinis. The abbot then tells them to arise and preaches a sermon, sitting on the faldstool with the candidates standing in front of him. Then comes the feudal homagium, in which the candidates lay their hands in the abbot’s and promise him and his successors obedience according to the Rule of St Benedict “usque ad mortem.” Then every one kneels down and the Veni Creator Spiritus is sung. Then come the actual vows, which the candidates read out from a parchment that they have written by hand:
I Frater N., layman (or: Priest), promise my stability, the conversion of my morals, and obedience according to the Rule of St. Benedict, Abbot and the Constitutions of the Austrian Congregation, in the presence of God and of His saints whose relics are kept here, in this place which is called Heiligenkreuz, constructed in honor of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the presence of the Lord Abbot Maximilian and all those standing around.
They then sign the vow charts on the altar. The charts remain on the altar and are offered to God together with the gifts of the Mass. After signing the vows they sing ‘Súscipe me, Dómine, secúndum elóquium tuum et vívam; † et non confúndas me ab exspectatióne mea’ (Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live: and let me not be confounded in my hope) three times. They then kneel down in front of each and every monk in the community, saying Ora pro me, Pater, to which the monks reply Dóminus custódiat intróitum tuum et éxitum tuum. While this is going on cantors sing the Miserere. Then the newly professed monks are then blessed with an extraordinary three part prayer, addressed to each of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in turn. They are then clothed in the cowl and the Mass proceeds.
Mass lasts a long time. Afterwards there are refreshments.
Hegel’s admiration for Aristotle is well known, and he is often (though rather misleadingly) said to have revived serious philosophical consideration of potency and act. But there is at least one important matter on which Hegel sides with Plato against Aristotle.
In his Lectures on Natural Philosophy, Duane Berquist points out that Plato and Aristotle disagree on their answer to the following: ‘Does truth require that the way we know be the way things are?’ Plato answers ‘yes’ to this question. And therefore, since he notices that our knowledge of mathematicals (for example) is unchanging and separate from matter, he concludes that there are subsisting forms in reality, unchanging and separate from matter. Aristotle, on the other hand, answers ‘no’ to the question: he argues that the mind knows things in abstraction from matter, so that we can have unchangeable and universal knowledge of things that are in reality changeable and particular.
Hegel, like Plato, implicitly answers ‘yes’ to the question; he things that truth requires that the way we know be the same as the way things are. And since he notices that our knowledge begins with a vague and confused notion of being, and that it becomes more definite and distinct through a dialectical process of negation and negation-of-negation, he comes to the absurd view that reality itself begins with vague, potential, and unconscious being (rather than with God as pure act and perfect thought), and that being comes to itself through a dialectical history. As I have noted before, this leads Hegel into an error equivalent to that of David of Dinant.
After three years as vice-rector of the Leopoldinum Seminary, and a year as rector in Siegenfeld, my Lord Abbot has decided to propose me as parish priest in Gaaden. Cardinal Schönborn, following the Lord Abbot’s proposal, has appointed me to begin in Gaaden at the beginning of September. I will be leaving the Leopoldinum and Siegenfeld, but will still be lecturing in moral theology at the theological college (Hochschule) in Heiligenkreuz.
Gaaden has about 1,600 souls, and is about 5 kilometers from Heiligenkreuz, to which it has belonged since 1376. The beautiful parish Church is dedicated to St. James as patron of pilgrims, as it is on one of the traditional pilgrimage routes from Vienna to Mariazell. It has baroque altars. There is a parish hall called “Haus Sankt Jakob,” which was once a school. And next to the House St. Jakob is a very nice rectory, which is already making me feel like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. The parish also has chapels-of-ease in Untergaaden and Sparbach.
Please say a prayer for me, reader, as I prepare to take up my new duties.
Today is the Feast of St. Henry II, the Exuberant, Holy Roman Emperor. At Mass this morning I used a chalice pall with his image. Sancte Henrice, ora pro nobis! St. Henry’s wife was also a saint: Cunigunde of Luxembourg. They are powerful intercessors for all married persons. It is said that Cunigunde was falsely accused of committing adultery, and so she demanded a trial by ordeal. She walked over red-hot plough-shares without harm, thus vindicating her innocence.
In my monastery, Stift Heiligenkreuz, we have annual requiem Masses for our principal benefactors. Today was the requiem for King Emeric of Hungary, who gave us Kaisersteinbruch in West-Hungary in 1202 or 1203. Kaisersteinbruch was an important support of the monastery till 1912, when we sold it to the Imperial and Royal War Ministry. We used the proceeds to buy forests in Styria, which still support the monastery today. King Emeric’s gift has thus played an important role in enabling us to live the monastic life, and it is a fitting sign of gratitude that we have been offering the Holy Sacrifice for him annually for the past 815 years.
The Lamp will be a magazine in the old-fashioned sense, witty, urbane, not pompous or shrill, full of serious reporting, insightful opinions, squibs, oblique parodies, bagatelles, and arts coverage that draws attention to those things that are true, good, and beautiful whether they belong formally to the Church or not, not a throwaway click-driven venture in chasing worthless trends or drumming up outrage… At The Lamp we will take marching orders from neither the discredited ideologies of the progressive left or the libertarian-conservative right nor from the neoliberal consensus of atomization, spoliation, rootlessness, and mindless entertainment into which both are rapidly being subsumed, but rather from the immutable teaching of the Church. We are not nostalgists harkening after a mythical “moment before” when it was supposedly possible to reconcile the Church to the world.
The burning of the roof of the cathedral in Paris made me want to go up and explore the inside of the roof of my abbey Church again. I hadn’t been up there in years. Like Notre Dame, our Abbey too has the original medieval wooden roof construction intact. It also has a small spire over the sanctuary, and a large tower next to the church. I went into both of them today.
Here is a video of today’s trip:
And here is a tour that I gave a guest some years ago:
The Prefect of the Papal Household, His Excellency Archbishop Georg Gänswein, was here in Heiligenkreuz today. He ordained three of my confrères and one Augustinian Canon Regular. Archbishop Gänswein brought us greetings from Pope Francis. He said that when he told Pope Francis where he was going, the Holy Father remarked “Ah, Heiligenkreuz. I have heard of it.”
His Excellency Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen, was here as well. He used to be the Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, where my confrère Pater Ælred, ordained today, was one of his novices many years ago.