I read Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence many years ago, when I was about 16 or 17 years old. At the time I thought it scandalous. I wonder if I would have a different impression reading it today. When my friend Ludovicus sent me the following review of Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the novel, it made think that my younger self’s judgement was probably sound. Continue reading
A brilliant reflection by Jeffrey Bond on Homer’s political wisdom.
The Symbolism of the Loom and the Mast
by Jeffrey Bond
Then, Glaucon, said I, when you meet encomiasts of Homer who tell us that this poet has been the educator of Hellas, and that for the conduct and refinement of human life he is worthy of our study and devotion, and that we should order our entire lives by the guidance of this poet, we must love and salute them as doing the best they can, and concede to them that Homer is the most poetic of poets and the first of tragedians, but we must know the truth, that we can admit no poetry into our city save only hymns to the gods and the praises of good men. For if you grant admission to the honeyed Muse in lyric or epic, pleasure and pain will be lords of your city instead of law and that which shall…
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After warm spring weather, the countryside here was confirming the words of the Easter processional “For indeed, after hellish sorrows, to the triumphing Christ: / grove with green and buds with flower, everywhere give laud.” (Namque triumphanti post tristia Tartara Christo / undique fronde nemus, gramina flore favent.) But now heavy snows have fallen, destroying flowers and breaking branches off flowering trees.
Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (New York: Sentinel, 2017).
One of the great sorrows that I encounter as a priest is the sorrow of parents whose children have abandoned the Faith. Their sorrow can be more bitter even than the sorrows of those parents who suffer the fata aspera of having to bury their children. To have given the gift of life, only to see that gift taken too soon, and to be able to give only the “unavailing gift” of funeral flowers, is a bitter fate indeed. But for those who have come to believe that true life is the eternal life of Christ, it is still more bitter to have brought a child to the waters of Baptism, hoping for that child to receive a share in the inheritance of infinite bliss, only to see that child trade the infinite…
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Though in many respects Bl. Pope Innocent XI was very different from our current Pope, yet in his approach to the trappings of ecclesiastical dignity one can see a certain similarity:
Benedetto Odescalchi was determined to continue as Pope the life he had led as a prelate and a Cardinal. He was retiring, devout, conscientious, strict, most liberal towards those in want, exceedingly parsimonious for himself. In this respect he went so far as to use the clothes and ornaments of his predecessors though they were too short for his lofty stature. For ten whole years he wore the same white cassock until it became quite threadbare, and only when a certain prince commented on the subject did he have the old garments replaced by new ones. By his orders his rooms were furnished with apostolic simplicity. In his study there was only a wooden table with a simple ivory crucifix, a few religious books, three old pictures of Saints, a wooden chair and an old, silk-covered chair for visitors of mark. Many an Abbot had to confess, to his shame, that he was more splendidly lodged than the Head of the Church. In order to set an example to the wealthy Prince-Bishops of Germany, the Pope gave orders for the greatest possible reduction of his stables. At the Quirinal, where after much hesitation he at last took up residence in May, 1677, he chose for himself the worst rooms, from which there was no view. The personnel of the ante-rooms was reduced to a minimum. As a Cardinal, he was wont to say, he had been rich, as Pope he wished to live in poverty. Accordingly he only allowed a few giulii to be spent on his table. On the occasion of the taking possession of the Lateran, on November 8th, 1676, he insisted on the avoidance of all display and expressly forbade the erection of the customary triumphal arches. At first he wished to carry out the ceremony without the participation of the College of Cardinals… (Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes, vol. XXXII, pp. 14-15)
In Austria, as in much of Central Europe (Poland, Slovakia, parts of Hungary and South-Eastern Germany…), there is a custom of carrying one of the hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday in a veiled monstrance in procession after the Good Friday Liturgy to a side altar decorated as a tomb, usually with an image of the shrouded body of the Lord surrounded by white flowers. The veiled monstrance remains at this “Holy Sepulcher” through the night of Good Friday and the morning of Holy Saturday. The custom is frowned upon by lovers of the sobriety of the Roman liturgy, but I think that it fits beautifully with the paradox of veiling and unveiling that dominates the whole of Passiontide. Nowhere is the holy, mighty, and immortal divinity of Christ so veiled as in His death. And yet this veiling is an ‘unveiling veiling’, to use Hans Urs von Balthasar’s term (enthüllende Verhüllung); nothing more reveals the deepest mystery of the Divine Love. The veiled monstrance is a triple veiling, which is at the same time a triple unveiling, revelation of the Divine Mystery. The eternal Word veils His Divine Nature in the Incarnation, when he takes on our Mortal nature, and yet this veiling in human flesh is at the same time the epiphany, the appearing of the invisible God in visible form. In His passion and death a second veil is, as it were, thrown over the veil of human nature, and yet His death is the greatest possible revelation of the glory of His Immortal Love. And in the Blessed Sacrament yet another veil is added: In cruce latebat sola Deitas, / At hic latet simul et Humanitas (On the Cross lay hidden but thy Deity, / Here is hidden also Thy Humanity). At yet the Blessed Sacrament, the greatest of the Lord’s miracles, is also the greatest revelation of His love for us sinners.
“The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24) These words, even applied though it is Judas to whom they are applied, are astonishingly harsh, and yet they are not only applicable to Judas. Jerome writes, “it is better not to be, than to be in evil.” And, as Guardini writes, this could apply to any of us:
Aren’t there many days in our lives on which we sell him, against our best knowledge, against our most sacred feeling, in spite of duty and love, for some vanity, or sensuality, or profit, or security, or some private hatred or vengeance? Are these more than thirty pieces of silver? We have little cause to speak of “the traitor”…
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