Music at Mass 01 14 2108

Robert Hugh Benson’s book Lord of the World has been praised and recommended by both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. In the story, set in some future Britain in which a Humanitarianism indistinguishable from modern Progressivism rules with an ever-tightening grip, an Oliver Brand, a junior member of Parliament, is to give a speech in Trafalgar Square to a vast crowd that includes his mother and his wife Mable. Before his speech, the crowd is lead in a hymn.

In the following passage, his mother, a simple woman and still a Christian, is faced with the meaning of the hymn:

The hymn was one composed ten years before, and all England was familiar with it. Old Mrs. Bland lifted the printed paper mechanically to her eyes, and saw the words that she knew so well:

The Lord that dwells in earth and sea.” …

She glanced down the verses, that from the Humanitarian point of view had been composed with both skill and ardour. They had a religious ring; the unintelligent Christian could sing them without a qualm; yet their sense was plain enough—the old human creed that man was all. Even Christ’s, words themselves were quoted. The kingdom of God, it was said, lay within the human heart, and the greatest of all graces was Charity.

She glanced at Mabel, and saw that the girl was singing with all her might, with her eyes fixed on her husband’s dark figure a hundred yards away, and her soul pouring through them. So the mother, too, began to move her lips in chorus with that vast volume of sound.

This sprang to mind as we – excluding me – sang the following entrance song:

Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak,
and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek
to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness
and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found
in water, wine and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground
where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that frees us.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

And so on. He Who Shall Not Be Named other than to mention it’s Marty Haugen tosses together a word salad of nice biblical-sounding phrases and, as part of his ongoing efforts (largely commendable in themselves) to reinvent the Lutheran hymn, sets those words to a fairly straight-forward and singable tune.

What here would give Fr. Benson pause? Weeeell…

  • The house doesn’t exist?

One might imagine – hope and dream, even – that those attending Mass at a Catholic church might share the vision that the Catholic Church is the House of God and the Body of Christ, and that we cooperate with God in building it up through humility and sacrifice. Or something like that. Let’s just say that this hymn (unlike others, thankfully) doesn’t actually go into the bulldozing of existing structures to prepare the ground for us and our new building project. It assumes that’s already happened – an understandable position – and starts right in with us building a new ‘house’ no doubt way better than the old one.

  • Note the ‘we’ are building a house remarkably free of God’s help and influence.

“Built of hopes and dreams and visions” – Whose? Do we care if such hopes, etc., comport with God’s will? Well, if we’ve more or less unconsciously absorbed Hegel-flavored modernism, we don’t, or rather, the question has no meaning. See, once God entered capital ‘h’ History, His only valid expression is His Spirit’s unfolding in that History – meaning, of course, whatever the enlightened people on the Right Side of History think. It’s not reasonable – the law of non-contradiction does not apply – and it is by definition certainly not traditional – history is becoming, in the sense of becoming something different that renders the past irrelivant.

The the hopes, etc., of the proper set of hopefuls of course, ARE the Will of God. No need to trouble one’s head any further about that. Who constitutes the correct set of hopefuls is also not a question allowed – the detail that not all people share the same hopes, dreams and visions is something it is assumed the Spirit will unfold out of the way, if it is even considered at all.

The idea that pride is the first sin and humility the gateway to all virtue are more concepts the Spirit has clearly folded away.

  • We do not bring forth both old and new – just new, thankyouverymuch.

In the same way, “all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.”  Paul’s epistles, while full of admonitions to keep God’s commands and stick to the teachings of Jesus, seem strangely lacking in the dreaming God’s reign anew department. For example.

“We claim the faith of Jesus.” Note the direction of the action here. What ever happened to pure, unmerited grace? Neither Luther not Calvin would be pleased. Catholics, while recognizing the small but sacred role played by that great good gift of our free will, nonetheless never imagine faith as something to be claimed, as if it were our due or some primitive wilderness.

  • We must embrace the symbols while subtly rejecting the reality they are symbols of.

“Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace” and “love is found
in water, wine and wheat”. No mention of the Cross as the *means* of our redemption from sin by Jesus’ obedience to the Father – talk about harshing our mellow! – nor of God’s real presence in that wine and wheat.  Nope, we define those realities away by redirecting our attention to superficialities.

Just as in Benson’s “The Lord that dwells in earth and sea” uses imagery and phrases meant to evoke traditional understanding while at the same time subverting that understanding, Haugen drops phrases like “rock of faith and vault of grace”, “where peace and justice meet” and even “as we share in Christ the feast that frees us” in order to invoke sentiment and cash in on unspoken associations while at the same time undermining everything those associations and sentiments were built on.

Don’t sing this song. Ever. But double don’t sing this song at Mass.

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Personal Interlude

I’ll be 60 in 2 months. This is cause for self-indulgent navel-gazing self-reflection. Also, I’m feeling a bit better, let’s see if I can write anything.

The only things in my life I’m unequivocally happy about are my marriage and our children. Work? Nah. Grim necessity that is made worthwhile by the just mentioned wife and kids.  I’m a stone expert in certain arcane corners of equipment finance. Not a great conversation starter. I dread answering the question: what do you do for a living? I tend to say ‘sell software’ because it’s true, although not really the heart of the story – which no one wants to hear anyway.

Got a boatload of hobbies that have evolved over time. Love to make things out of wood – our house is full of bookcase, tables, shelves, and boxes I’ve made.

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e.g., this triple bunk bed for the younger daughter’s room. Put in rails after this picture. 

For the last few years, it’s been bricks:

The woodworking I’ve been doing since I was 5. The first thing I remember trying to build was a boat, out of scraps of paneling left over from redoing the garage. Remember cutting a piece into a gothic arch sort of shape, and trying to attach sides with finish nails – yikes! Didn’t get real far, but kept at if for a good while, as my handsaw chops were, I imagine, only slightly better than your typical 5 year old. Realized it would never work because I could never get the seams closed enough to hold water. I remember sitting in it and pretending, though.

My proudest childhood achievement was a total remake of a 4′ x 8′ playhouse my older brothers had built earlier, when I was 11:

  • Added a 2nd floor, which required reinforcing the ceiling/roof;
  • Repurposed a ladder from a bunk bed into a super-cool retractable ladder hinged to a board that fit into the ceiling – the whole thing was balance by a series of pulleys, nylon cord and a coffee can full of rocks, so that when you lifted it, it just rose right up into the ceiling;
  • Added a door and windows that could be closed.
  • Added some railing around the top floor so kids wouldn’t fall 60″ to their deaths.

Ended up converting the playhouse into a workspace for balsa wood models, of which I made maybe 3-4.

Also, at age 5, my mother let me plant some pansies in a little spot by the front porch. I was fascinated by them, watched them grow. I have no green thumb, but do love growing things. Put in an orchard this past spring:

I’ve tried and mostly failed to grow stuff over the years, in the sense that, for example, the few tomatoes I’ve grown are very expensive even if I value my time at next to zero. I can’t even grow zucchini. But I keep trying.

Back to my wasted youth. Then we moved. At age 12, started working for my dad on Saturdays and eventually summers at his sheet metal fabrication shop, sweeping floors and cleaning up the scrap metal. Eventually learned to do most activities except welding (a failure I regret to this day) and set up of the fabricators and presses. (I was pretty good with a blowtorch – 35+ years ago!)

Dad had a heart attack at 59 that nearly killed him, and turned him from a high-energy maniac into a more plodding and easily-tired maniac. His doctor told him he had to sell the business. Neither of my older brothers was interested in working with my dad, I was all of 18 at the time – and so, after a 15 year run, Astro-Fab was sold, and my parents and youngest brother moved to Newport Beach.

Skipping over the boring basketball/drama/choir combo that occupied my time in highschool (and made me the oddest of ducks even before you factor in my reading habits – V-II docs, Plato and Asimov’s non-fiction, for example. Fit right in!), we get to a possibly odd little fact: I grew up in a blue-collar household, where achievement meant making something you could see. There was no value placed on what might be called intellectual achievements.

This bias toward stuff you can, as Ted Nugent says, bite and away from less concrete achievements I absorbed with my mother’s milk. It just is. College was, in some sense, baffling to me: unlike high school, which was filled with students who could have hardly cared less (or were careful to project that image) about intellectual stuff, here were all these people my age who, for example, kept papers they’d written! Like the written word was some sort of achievement to be proud of!

I could not imagine. Intellectually, I get it, but even now there’s a part of me that whispers: writing is not work, it’s not worth anything. (This same voice tells me in the same way that I, likewise, am not worth anything. Package deal.)

I try to battle on. When I decided to write music (left out the part about taking piano at age 15 – bless them, the folks were cool with it), I developed a beautiful music script, even going so far as to get some calligraphy tools to make sure it was pretty. This, despite my handwriting being all but completely illegible. See, I think I needed to make it pretty to look at in order for me to think it was worth anything. Or something – all I know is that, when I wrote music, I compulsively wrote it out again at least once, to get the spacing right and clean it up. Pretty sure I spent as much or more time writing it out as I did composing the music in the first place.

Had one musical triumph: got a composition teacher in Santa Fe when I was maybe 23 who also directed the Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble. After a few lessons, she told me the Ensemble would perform a piece if I wrote one for them.

Wow. So I threw myself into writing something, decided to go ultra traditional and set the Kyrie. The first part was very much inspired by traditional polyphony; she told me to make the Christe part contrasting – which I overdid, a little harmonically adventurous, let’s say. Anyway, it was OK – I spent hours writing out a beautiful copy, even got a calligrapher friend to do a cover page – and they sang it, people paid to go to that concert, even got reviewed (favorably – the reviewer compared my piece to Victoria – I blush!) .

And – can I find that review? Can I find that recording? I can lay my hands on the music, I think, because I made a bunch of copies for the Ensemble – in a accordian folder somewhere.

Was I thrilled? Did I go on to be a composer, at least as a hobby? No, and pretty much no. Have a small pile of pieces, almost all incomplete, almost all 35+ years old. They molder.

Around this time I decided I actually enjoyed writing. This is pre word processor, and I don’t know how to type (this self-indulgent dump is brought to you by fast hunt & peck). Don’t know why I liked it. But here we are: half a dozen years, 1200+ blog posts and a million words later. Got piles of mostly unfinished stories and parts of maybe 3 novels accumulated over the last 30 years doing the electronic equivalent of moldering.

So: can I spend the years left to me overcoming a lifetime of failure to follow through and complete intellectual things, and get some stuff finished?

Stay tuned.

And pardon me for the self-indulgent nonsense.

 

Happy New Year & Epiphany Update

First off, please pray for the repose of the soul of Mike Flynn’s father and for comfort his family and all who love him.

Been feeling weird. My wife offered ‘Painless Migraine’ as an amateur diagnosis of whatever it is that has slowed my brain to molasses. Description seems about right – dizzy, a little nauseated, can feel all the little biological mechanisms working that keep you from falling over and convert binocular vision into a seamless 3-D representation of the world. I’m an observer of some of the base biological underpinnings of my own human consciousness. A little unnerving.

Be that as it may, kicking off 2018 in a bit of a fog. Weirdly (seems weird to me, anyway) while writing and even reading are difficult, playing the piano is OK up to a point. So, when I’m up and about, tend to wander over to the ivories and tickle away. Gonna have some Bach and Beethoven down if this keeps up.

Twitter, as a low-attention-span medium, has risen to the top of my low attention over the last week. Odd snippets of thought.

Once you’ve thought of Keanu Reeves as Gilligan in the gritty reboot, there’s no going back.

Then, a thought over 3 tweets about how Hegel’s baleful influence manifests in the current mishegas:

1 Just had a thought: if being exists transiently in a world of becoming (Hegel) vs becoming existing in a world of being (Aristotle, Thomas), then it is meaningless to speak of defending a culture. There is no eternal good, true & beautiful for a culture to reflect. All is grass.

2 We who think the good, true & beautiful can be present in a culture, however imperfectly, might think the culture war is a battle over what culture we’ll have, when it’s really over whether there will be a culture at all.

3 With no external referent, culture can only be the arena within which the will to power plays out. Battle is over whether we get to have any culture at all, or are merely pawns in somebody’s power trip. (Twitter is a poor place for this sort of ramble!)

And…. That’s about as deep and coherent as I’ve managed. You know, same old.

Distant kids save one have returned to distance. The one, younger daughter, will be with us for another week until heading back to frigid New Hampshire and Thomas More College.

I miss them already.

Vacation was hardly. Had plans to write a bunch, finish some stories, but with 30+ relations in town for grandmother Brilliant’s 80th and a couple events happening at our house, ended up prepping and cooking for days at a stretch. Then, this lingering ‘I don’t feel exactly right’ thing made writing pretty much impossible.

So, hoping things pull together. I could use some prayers about my job and other issues I need to address. Stress level is high.

But, hey, Happy, Holy & Blessed Epiphany! It is a beautiful and moving time, when the veil is near and sheer.

 

Redwoods & Moss – Year End Getaway

Elim Grove is a B&B in Cazadero, a tiny town along Austin Creek among the redwoods, ferns, and moss about 6 miles from the Russian River and the coastal town of Jenner. 

My wife and I come back here whenever we can get away because it feels like another world even though it’s only 2 hours from the Moore Compound/House of Lost Play.

There are a couple of 1,000 year old redwoods on the property that the loggers somehow missed, but even the second growth pups are huge – it’s been maybe 75-100 years since the redwoods were logged in this area, they’ve had time to grow back. 

The only day we could get away this year was yesterday, and Mark, the innkeeper, had one cabin with exactly that night free – otherwise, booked up in either temporal direction. 

It was lovely:

Ancient redwoods out front

Moss-covered bridge over Austin Creek

Not uncommon in tourist areas to find a small church building with a larger outdoor arrangement – the crowds come when the weather is nice anyway, so you don’t need to heat a big building when the weather turns colder.

Had a lovely time. Now doing the California yuppie tourist thing and stopping at boutique bakery and cheese shop to pay ridiculous prices for some snacks. They are very yummy, though. 

Happy St Sylvester Day and Feast of Fools! Still 6 days of Christmas to go! 

Merry Christmas! 

May God bless you and yours with good cheer and peace on this holy day! 

Preparing a feast for 35-odd people (insert obligatory in laws joke here) and, having been on my feet for pretty much 3 days straight of shopping, prepping and cooking (40 lbs of pork butt and about 60-70 ciabatta rolls for pulled pork sandwiches, among other things), taking a break before rallying once more into the breach. 

Something like that. 

So, midnight mass, then Home to put the pork in the oven and bake the last couple batches of rolls, and in bed by 3:00. My beloved, who is part vampire or at least can get by on remarkably small amounts of sleep, maybe came to bed later – I wouldn’t know, as I was out cold and she was already up by the time I woke. 

We made coffee and tea, and the 8 of us – 4 kids, g-ma, aunt Clare in from Baltimore, my wife and I – gathered round the table to see what we got in our stockings.

My beloved commanded that I take pictures. She wasn’t any more specific. 

A rag I grabbed to wipe up some coffee I’d spilt on my laptop and shirt. It’s kind of like shorthand for all of Dickens
A close up of the water picture immediately in front of me. What may at first appear to be a lack of focus is, instead, an ironic existential cry of terminal ennui. That’s my story.
Still life with butter knives.

Some people are so hard to please.

Leet Leet Skilz: The Parish Ale

Mentioned last post that I’d whiled away a little too much time clicking links and doing the whole ‘hmmm – that looks interesting’ thing while digging a bit into the history of ‘quiet enjoyment’. The internet is like having a drug dealer in your home – as a child, I’d have to go to a physical library to waste this kind of time, wandering through the stacks, pulling books that looked interesting, sitting on the floor skimming them until my legs fell asleep.

Now? That kind of high is just a click away! WEEEEEE!

Ahem. Anyway, quiet enjoyment lead to courts leet, which it turns out were a flavor of courts baron, or manorial courts, which lead to parish ale. No, really. A ‘leet’ seems to be an area that comprised the lands governed by a baron, so that a court leet was a manorial court for that area. English law, growing from feudal, ecclesiastical and tribal roots, as well as a heavy dose of Danish and Norman influence, had a variety of courts with equally varied jurisdictions. Courts leet generally handled criminal cases up to a certain level of seriousness, with the most serious cases kicked up to aristocratic or royal courts. There was also a sense of group responsibility in the subgroups within the leet. Hundreds and tithes would be responsible for the duties and crimes of those within them. Like all things feudal, layers and layers of relationships, duties and rights.

There’s some relationship between a parish and a leet, but it’s not clear exactly how that worked, unless the lord in the manor house had an area of rule that happened to correspond to a single parish – easy to imagine that being the case at least some of the time, but I don’t know.

File:Teniers Elder Village Feast.jpg
Village Feast by David Teniers the Elder circa 1640.   Panel Accademia Carrara, Bergamo     Source: http://gallery.euroweb.hu/html/t/teniers/jan1/index.html Paineted a century or so after the Middle Ages are supposed to have ended. Like the barrels – we will conclusively assume they are ale barrels for the purposes of this post.  

Among the layers of relationships, rights and responsibilities (hey – a feudal 3 R’s! Wouldn’t it be nice if our current comparatively trivial 3 R’s took place within those medieval ones? Might even work better…) was a responsibility for upkeep of the parish church. One way this was handled was with parish ale. The word ‘ale’ when tacked onto the end of another word tended to mean party or feast, as ale is of the class of substances known to bring joy, and a readiness to party, to a man’s heart.

A parish ale was a generally annual feast or party celebrated with ale, as a fundraiser for the parish. Food, music, dancing held in the parish yard or a nearby barn. Money was charged for the ale, at least, with the proceeds going to church maintenance and the poor box. All in all, a charming example of local people taking care of local issues in the most Catholic way possible – duty, charity, and a party all rolled into one!

The oracle Wikipedia has this to say:

These parish festivals were of much ecclesiastical and social importance in medieval England. The chief purpose of the church-ale (which was originally instituted to honour the church saint) and the clerk-ale, was to facilitate the collection of parish dues and to make a profit for the church from the sale of ale by the church wardens.[3] These profits kept the parish church in repair, or were distributed as alms to the poor.

The churches must owe, as we all do know,
For when they be drooping and ready to fall,
By a Whitsun or Church-ale up again they shall go
And owe their repairing to a pot of good ale

— “Exaltation of Ale”, by Francis Beaumont[3]

In the gallery of the tower arch of St Agnes, Cawston in Norfolk is inscribed:

God speed the plough
And give us good ale enow …
Be merry and glade,
With good ale was this work made.[4]

On the beam of a screen in the church of Thorpe-le-SokenEssex, is the following inscription in raised blackletter on a scroll held by two angels: “This cost is the bachelers made by ales thesn be ther med.” The date is about 1480.

The parish ale being local, fun, and traditional, the English Reformation was of course opposed to them. Over time, they were restricted and largely faded away, but a few persist to this day.

No other reason for this post than that I found the idea of the parish ale delightful.

Inspector of Nuisances

Taking deep breath. Just coming up for air after a plunge down the rabbit hole discovered by googling “quiet enjoyment”.  English common law, “hundreds”

Image result for Inspector of Nuisances
An inspector of nuisances. Nice beard! 

and Wapentake, frankpledge, court leet, and, among a dozen more fascinating tidbits, the inspector of nuisances.

The issue that triggered my research is this: the idea that people have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their lives. English common law recognized that right, breaking it into two parts: common, where some activity or failure to act impairs the ability of the people in general to quietly enjoy their lives in public, and private, where some private persons are deprived of the quiet enjoyment of something, such as leased property, to which they have specific, privately contracted rights.

Thus, the office of Inspector of Nuisances. Somebody has got to check out claims that, for example, somebody is making too much of a racket in the commons or that the neighbors are burning trash upwind.

Inspectors of nuisances eventually became public health inspectors, charged with dealing with sewage and slums and trash. Wonder if this delightfully named office could be resurrected and repurposed to deal with the messes people make when they dump their personal garbage on the intellectual and moral landscape?

Image result for inspector of nuisances
Evidently, problems with cat ladies can be a nuisance, and go way back. The guy on the left looks like a bobby, so I’m guessing guy on the right is the Inspector of Nuisances. 

That the modern intellectual and moral landscape more and more is a dump and open sewer only becomes an issue for our newly-commissioned Inspector of Nuisances if it infringes on our quiet enjoyment. While it is still conceivable that a private person might simply ignore what goes on in public, never opening a browser or newspaper or turning on a TV, the situation is such that that they’d need to shield their eyes whenever out and about. If one were generous and dedicated enough, that might work, for now.

But, we are told, politics is everything. Part of the dumpster fire we’d be attempting to ignore is the claim that we can’t ignore it, that there’s no such thing as a private life. Thus, even if we were determined to not let the garbage into our private lives, there are demonstrably those unwilling to let us do so, that even our claim to have a private life is wrong and must be crushed.

Examples: Private businesses are now subject to the rules of modern intolerance; social media are increasingly censored for politically unacceptable speech; schools are used (as designed) for inculcation of the latest, most modern ideas, and attempts to free our kids from this outrage are treated as practically treason, which, under the rules of the champions of  education, they are.

(This gets back to the problem of toleration discussed briefly in the last post – a ‘consensus’ that includes the idea that the state always knows better than the parents cannot tolerate dissention, while the old pseudo-convention could. The Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters agreed that, while parents have the ultimate duty and consequent right to educate their own children, the state also has a duty and right to see to it that those children are educated. I fear it is not in the nature of things for the state to settle for having shared rights whenever it could have sole rights.)

If my business, my conversations and my decisions on how to educate my children are not private, the sphere of ‘private’ has shrunk drastically.

Chesterton repeatedly makes the point that the only place one can truly be free is with family and friends. In public, you are only free to conform. Even protests are conventional. By trying to make all things political, victims of post-modern ideas insist on public and private (because those are the same thing!) acceptance of those ideas. The very idea of quiet enjoyment, where what I do is my own business for my own pleasure but only on the condition that I honor the same rights in others, is an outrage, and in any event cannot be tolerated – it is a threat to the whole post-modern house of cards.