Eucharistic Theology in the Liturgy

Writing this to expand on my response to a thoughtful comment by Edward Isaacs on my over-the-top criticisms of a piece of liturgical music in the last post.  The relevant portion of Mr. Isaac’s comment:

Can’t say I fully understand some of your complaints about liturgical songs like this one. Maybe it’s my age—I’m twenty-three in a week…

As far as I have been taught about the doctrine of the Real Presence, it’s precisely the fact that the signs of bread and wine are present that gives us the assurance that the Real Presence is there. Signification and analogy are important themes in Aquinas, too. So I’m not able to see why a song like this is “bad,” theologically speaking.

I mean, if there’s been a sort of overarching tendency in the post-Vatican II era to re-evaluate the Mass in exclusively “horizontal” rather than “vertical” terms, then I think that’s a bad thing. But surely you can’t really pin the blame for that on specific songs failing to be sufficiently “vertical” in every verse. It’s not as if the “horizontal” dimension of Christian worship is not a real part of Christianity, or that it doesn’t have its place in the Mass.

The particular song being criticized: See Us, Lord, About Your Altar. The focus of the criticism is verse 3:

Once were seen the blood and water:
Now are seen but bread and wine;
Once in human form he suffered,
Now his form is but a sign.

A commenter over at the Musica Sacra forum puts it succinctly (here): “This text is oddly confusing and can be taken several ways. It surely does seem to introduce confusion. I mean, you could regard it as saying that the bread and wine are mere visible signs of the real presence. But is that right? It’s always bugged me.”

While it is certainly possible to take the text to be making a completely orthodox point about accidents versus substance, it’s also possible to take this to mean that the Eucharist Itself is ‘but’ a sign.

So, are we splitting hairs? It may be that J Greally, SJ, to whom this text is attributed, was a fine old school Jesuit who dabbled in poetry and penned this work with nothing but the most orthodox intentions. In which case we doubt not his sincerity, but rather his skill as a poet and a reader of poetry. However, as I’ve pointed out on this blog many times over the last few years, modern publishers of catholic liturgical songs show a strong and unmistakable bias toward songs that DO NOT clearly convey orthodox theology, preferring everything from the incoherent to the out and out heretical, so long as the proper PC idols get their incense.

The very thing that concerns me here, the confusing way the theology has been expressed, has been shown, I believe, to be a *plus* in the eyes of the OCP, for example.  In other words, that it could be taken to mean what many of our Protestant brethren mean is not, in their eyes, a bad thing, but a good thing.

It is a bad thing. Continue reading “Eucharistic Theology in the Liturgy”

Weekend Up-Rounding/Music at Mass Lite

1. Had the volunteers from the local Birthright over for a thank-you pancake breakfast yesterday, sponsored by the board. Made syrups from the abundant fresh fruit we have out here in California this time of year:

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Really, really tasty, IIDSSMS.

It was good. The volunteers do good work.

2. See Us, Lord, About Your Next New Car! Stop driving that old junker, dripping with accretions and ossified manualisms! Let us put you into a brand new 2014 model. Act now, and we’ll throw in the PC upgrade package for a nominal charge…

Oops, I mean, See Us, Lord, About Your Altar. Not at all the same thing! Well, maybe a little:

See us, Lord about your altar,
Though so many we are one;
Many souls by love united
In the heart of Christ, your Son.

Hear our prayers, O loving Father,
Hear in them your Son our Lord;
Hear him speak our love and worship
As we sing with one accord.

Once were seen the blood and water:
Now are seen but bread and wine;
Once in human form he suffered,
Now his form is but a sign.

And so on. I thoroughly expected this to have been written by one of our separated brethren, trying to water down the Real Presence to acceptably Protestant levels. The author was a “J Greally, SJ” – so, right again! But, unexpected, Fr. Greally evidently lived well before the 1960s, even writing “See Us, Lord, About Thine Altar” without being purposely retro or feeling forced to get old school in order to fit the metrical corner he wrote himself into.  Of course, OCP ‘corrected’ that failure to get on the right side of history.

A little Googling around turned up this discussion of this song. The tune, by Elgar, a real composer, is pretty good; the text is all kinds of confusing. It’s an evidently early example of sneaking in bad theology by means of simple incoherence, and flattening prayer from its supernatural cruciform shape – reaching up, and reaching out – into just reaching out.

But, who knows? At the very least, there are much better texts.  Too bad the nice tune is wasted here.

3. The latest home improvement project is coming along. Here are a group of teenager doing some layout on the triple decker bunk bed we’re making:


The fair haired beauty is my daughter, the raven-haired beauty her friend, and the handsome young man who appears to be preparing to knife them is my son.

We’re at the tedious assembly and paint stage. Should have it mostly put together today (I hope – it’s hot out there…)

4. Pride parade today in SF – wall-to-wall media coverage. From the pics, which one should peruse with the St. Michael Prayer on one’s lips, the crowd looks about the same order of magnitude as the West Coast Walk for Life.  One could hardly get more press; the other is all but invisible.

Two thoughts: a child exposed to the out-of-control sexual expressions typified by the parade in any other venue would be a victim of child abuse (and, yes, one year I accidentally saw the parade in person on my way to the movies; the pictures in the press tend to be way on the milder side). Second, the divisions within the movement – why, for example, it’s now called the Pride Parade rather than the Gay Pride Parade – have within them the seeds of the movement’s destruction. They manufacture unity by trumping up and demonizing the enemy: the Catholic Church and other fuddy-duddies stuck on the wrong side of history, pretty much. On what basis do you try to mix and match such divergent groups that, really, have nothing much in common other than a need to have us all admire the beauty of their particular lust being played out for all to see?

I’ve long said that the gay rights movement is being used by the more power-hungry and less scrupulous(!) as a means to an end: those dreaming of power* have no real allegiance to gay rights, but love to use it as a stick to beat up their real enemies – those who, as a matter of principle, oppose their power grabs. Once that’s out of the way, the gay rights true believers better hope they don’t run afoul of the designs of their new masters, whose only love is power, and whose only virtues are Callicles’s.

* The Oracle: “What do all men with power want? More power.”

5. On a lighter note: Nah, can’t think of a lighter note at the moment. Gotta go out and play with the glue, sandpaper and paint. Trying to make something beautiful and useful is good for the soul.

Arrested by Orestes

Orestes A. Brownson (1803-1876)Brownson, that is. Been reading The American Republic: Constitution, Tendencies, and Destiny, in which Brownson, writing right after the Civil War, tries to get his arms around what it means for a nation to constitute a government. He says many amazing things, and, as is true of profound thinkers, says things that remain true today. At the same time, he’s constructing an apologetic for Lincoln, who, in the face of Southern claims of the right to secede, argued that the nation preceded the Constitution – that arguments over government could not be used to destroy the fundamental unity of the nation that constituted that government.

Further, Brownson sort of apologizes at the beginning of the book for not making it scholarly – not identifying all his sources nor following academic rigor in laying out his arguments. While this certainly makes the book more readable, it also obscures somewhat the influence of Fichte and Hegel, which, while not mentioned by name (yet – I’m a little less than halfway through) seem to lurk behind many of the ideas and assumptions.

A couple snippets: first, for those of us afflicted with materialists, Brownson offers pithy observations:

IV. A still more recent class of philosophers, if philosophers they may be called, reject the origin of government in the people individually or collectively. Satisfied that it has never been instituted by a voluntary and deliberate act of the people, and confounding government as a fact with government as authority, maintain that government is a spontaneous development of nature. Nature develops it as the liver secretes bile, as the bee constructs her cell, or the beaver builds his dam. Nature, working by her own laws and inherent energy, develops society, and society develops government. That is all the secret. Questions as to the origin of government or its rights, beyond the simple positive fact, belong to the theological or metaphysical stage of the development of nature, but are left behind when the race has passed beyond that stage, and has reached the epoch of positive science, in which all, except the positive fact, is held to be unreal and non-existent. Government, like every thing else in the universe, is simply a positive development of nature. Science explains the laws and conditions of the development, but disdains to ask for its origin or ground in any order that transcends the changes of the world of space and time.

These philosophers profess to eschew all theory, and yet they only oppose theory to theory. The assertion that reality for the human mind is restricted to the positive facts of the sensible order, is purely theoretic, and is any thing but a positive fact. Principles are as really objects of science as facts, and it is only in the light of principles that facts themselves are intelligible. If the human mind had no science of reality that transcends the sensible order, or the positive fact, it could have no science at all. As things exist only in their principles or causes, so can they be known only in their principles and causes; for things can be known only as they are, or as they really exist. The science that pretends to deduce principles from particular facts, or to rise from the fact by way of reasoning to an order that transcends facts, and in which facts have their origin, is undoubtedly chimerical, and as against that the positivists are unquestionably right. But to maintain that man has no intelligence of any thing beyond the fact, no intuition or intellectual apprehension of its principle or cause, is equally chimerical. The human mind cannot have all science, but it has real science as far as it goes, and real science is the knowledge of things as they are, not as they are not. Sensible facts are not intelligible by themselves, because they do not exist by themselves; and if the human mind could not penetrate beyond the individual fact, beyond the mimetic to the methexic, or transcendental principle, copied or imitated by the individual fact, it could never know the fact itself. The error of modern philosophers, or philosopherlings, is in supposing the principle is deduced or inferred from the fact, and in denying that the human mind has direct and immediate intuition of it.

And, as to ‘nation-building’:

The constitution of the state is not a theory, nor is it drawn up and established in accordance with any preconceived theory. What is theoretic in a constitution is unreal. The constitutions conceived by philosophers in their closets are constitutions only of Utopia or Dreamland. This world is not governed by abstractions, for abstractions are nullities. Only the concrete is real, and only the real or actual has vitality or force. The French people adopted constitution after constitution of the most approved pattern, and amid bonfires, beating of drums, sound of trumpets, roar of musketry, and thunder of artillery, swore, no doubt, sincerely as well as enthusiastically, to observe them, but all to no effect; for they had no authority for the nation, no hold on its affections, and formed no element of its life. The English are great constitution-mongers–for other nations. They fancy that a constitution fashioned after their own will fit any nation that can be persuaded, wheedled, or bullied into trying it on; but, unhappily, all that have tried it on have found it only an embarrassment or encumbrance. The doctor might as well attempt to give an individual a new constitution, or the constitution of another man, as the statesman to give a nation any other constitution than that which it has, and with which it is born.

I wonder what Brownson would have made of post-war Japan? Probably note that, while the form of government was superficially American, day to day power was and is exercised by the 9 great families, just as it was before the war – in other words, the nation as it is itself constituted produces as a government an hereditary aristocracy, whatever formal arrangement the legally-constituted government may take.

Will finish this up and do a review. Within my lifetime, one hopes.

A Confluence of Moral Decisions

Vintage Trolley car 512 and 511 may be heading to St. Louis as part of a new heritage streetcar project.
Now imagine that you’re stone certain that, if the trolley were to hit the one guy, it would become airborne, and you notice a bus full of schoolchildren approaching a red light – if the light stays red, then the bus will be right where the trolley would come crashing down. AND you’re a traffic engineer as well as a math savant, so you know there’s exactly a 51% chance the bus will be in the wrong spot if you launch the trolley instead of just killing the 5 guys – one whom has just this morning told you that he’d discovered a cure for cancer, but had yet to get a chance to write it all down….

The despicable Trolley Problem has popped up again in odd corners of the internet, if, indeed, it ever goes away. It is despicable because it aims at a particular set of conclusions while posing as an open-ended thought experiment. Such a nested set of unlikelihoods has no more bearing on reality than a hypothetical that began: suppose I could flap my arms and fly to the moon. All sorts of interesting things might fall out of ruminating on such a supposition. Only problem is, I can’t flap my arms and fly to the moon. The trolley problem is just such a hypothetical, dressed up to seem less fantastic and so seduce the unsophisticated.

Let’s rephrase and generalize a little: Suppose a sadistic. all-knowing, all-powerful psychopath makes every attempt to put you in a position whereby any choice, including the choice not to chose, has horrible results. Now, take this situation as foundational and extrapolate to an entire internally consistent morality from it. What you have is exactly what a Marxist or Pragmatist (insofar as they are morally distinct) would consider moral: that you figure out whatever you think is the best end, and do whatever you think might result in that end, tough luck about the means. In its milder forms, you decide that lying is not intrinsically evil, since you may need to lie to protect a basement full of Jews from the National Socialists. Therefore, every time a situation arises where telling the truth might be awkward or telling a lie might be advantageous, you’ve set the stage for one of those ‘high and lonely destiny’ moments in which you excuse yourself for being a deceitful, lying bastard.

In its more robust manifestations, you think only of your end – a Worker’s Paradise, or getting the Right People into power, or defusing the Ticking Time Bomb, and you lie and cheat your a** off to make it happen – and call it heroism. Even to the point where the acts of a Walter Duranty and waterboarders seem understandable and even tragically sympathetic, vaguely heroic, even.

(Aside: I’ve heard stories – grain of salt alert! – about how the kids at Alinsky’s  meetings would sometimes challenge him when he promoted all manner of dishonesty and deceit in the name getting things done, and that he would say that allegiance to the truth was a weakness that made you a tool of the enemy, and you needed to be strong enough to do what needed to be done to achieve the ends. I’ve wondered if there was ever a kids together enough to ask him when he was going to stop lying to them, as it was clear from his own statements that he was just saying to them whatever it took to achieve his ends. And, bigger picture, when the Revolution was over, when would those in charge start telling the truth? In other words, when, if ever, can the people expect to be anything other than means to an end? And why should we trust your answer in any event?)

Years ago, my late son Andrew, when I sketched this ‘dilemma’ out to him once (when it had its ugly head raised by a deadly earnest New York Times essayist) simply said: ‘I’d set the lever in the middle to try to derail the trolley and yell at the people on the tracks like crazy.” In other words, violate the premises – do not accept the increasingly insane restrictions and conditions set by the ‘thought experiment’. If I can magically KNOW that the trolley cannot be derailed, then how come I can’t magically fly at the speed of light, board the trolley and put on the brakes?

The overriding aspect of  fantasy in this setup is that I can be certain about some things that in reality rarely if ever admit of much certainty at all, while arbitrarily uncertain about others. This weird certainty is a defining characteristic of modern ‘thought’, and challenging is is typically the point at which the name calling and character assassination begins. Marxists are stone certain that the Worker’s Paradise will magically arise once all the capitalists have been murdered and all property abolished. They KNOW this with every fiber of their beings. Those of us entertaining doubts simple have false consciousness, or are bad actors. Or we’re sexually repressed. Or racists. Or whatever insult is stickiest at the moment.

The Big Inside Joke, or Slow on the Uptake: Part 2 – Nature and Nurture Continued

My mother read for pleasure. She had a nice collection of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, as well as a subscription to the magazine. I read them all, too – I recall many movie plots from having read the condensed versions of the novels back in the 1970s. Some of my siblings read a little for pleasure, most don’t. My little brothers read the sports pages. One of my older brothers has read quite a bit of Marxist literature, which I wouldn’t call reading for pleasure, but who knows.

YertleMy favorite books as a little kid were Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories and this giant dictionary. The appeal of Yertle the Turtle is timeless; the dictionary had a whole section in the front on the solar system. Not only was Pluto a planet back then, but there were pictures, and tables on rotational period and year and mean distance and – wow! Just all kinds of stuff! I couldn’t remember the names of my innumerable cousins, for example, but I could tell you that Venus takes 225 days to go around the sun.*

I got in trouble in 2nd grade for pointing out to my classmates that Lost in Space made no sense – everything was too far apart in space for them to get to a new place every week. My peers were not interested – a trend that has continued unabated, if not waxing more pronounced, over time.

This reveals a trait that got me chased out of the living room by my siblings more than once: I couldn’t watch TV without calling out ridiculous plot elements, especially when they had to do with science. Imagine a 9 year old calling out “That could never happen!” and then proceeding to explain the flaws in the physics to an actively disinterested audience of siblings.  My distaste for TV goes way back, and is evidently mutual.

At least a first, I wasn’t being the pedantic smart Alec I have since often become. It really bothered me that people would say things that weren’t true. As a kid, I figured grownups knew better than that, that there was something wrong if they didn’t get what seemed like basic stuff right – and wouldn’t everybody want to know the right answer?

Star Trek was perfect for my 8 year-old self, and, in a happy confluence, totally captured my oldest brother’s imagination as well. He would grab the TV (a huge wooden box, as they all were back then – he was a strong young man) and move it from the well-lit living room into a middle bedroom where the curtains could be drawn and a theater-like darkness imposed. He’d pop up a ton of popcorn, and we all – like, 6 or 7 kids – would pile in onto the bunk beds and floor to watch. We’d ooh and aah at every cheesy special effect, and ponder deeply every moral dilemma.

It was great. I was very happy that the writers bothered to explain things, even if their explanations tended to be kind of weak.** You could travel between the stars because you had warp drive, and could go faster than light! Alien species were alien because they evolved on other planets (even if all they evolved were latex ridges). Transporters were (and are) kind of silly, but I gave them a pass – everything else was too cool. Hey, I was 8.

Everything else on TV fell short of Star Trek. My intelligence was insulted by all the sitcoms, and, besides, I had learned to preemptively chase myself out of the room anyway. I doubt I ever caught a full episode of Bewitched or I Dream of Genie or the Beverly Hillbillies, although I do seem to inexplicably remember a couple episodes of Gilligan’s Island.  I know the characters, sort of, and the major recurring plot elements. (Will Gilligan ever get off that island? Will the neighbors ever prove Samantha is a witch? Will that greedy banker manage to keep the Clampetts as customers? Gripping drama, no doubt.) The Addams Family and Rocky and Bullwinkle were good (puns and goofiness, you know), and I could sit through other cartoons. I seemed to be the only one who noticed that Fred Flintstone’s character changed dramatically from episode to episode – sometimes, he was a hopeless klutz, other times, he could do extraordinary things like quarterback a football team; he was the star quarry man one time, and a borderline gonna-get-fired goof-off the next. I think, even back then, I knew that was cheating, and found it repellent.

As I got older, I was also trying to piece together how people were supposed to act. It seems I’m just interested in other things and tended to be absent-minded about people. What constituted a proper reaction in a more complex interpersonal situation didn’t seem obvious to me as a child – not that I would have been clear enough to put it that way. So, that became part of what would bug me about TV as well – when characters over or under reacted, I was bugged when it didn’t match whatever theory I’d concocted. ***

Here’s the thing: from the earliest ages I can remember, I was an outsider doing my own thing, with only intermittent and fragile connections to whatever everybody else was doing. I wasn’t good at anything anybody else in the neighborhood cared about, and the things I cared about, while not discouraged, didn’t get much positive feedback, either. I lived in my own head, which was a rich enough environment that I didn’t cause any trouble – I wasn’t surly or difficult, I didn’t skip school (just the homework), I didn’t make demands on my mom and dad (Mom’s default answer to any question was ‘no’ – this was so ingrained that we just never asked for stuff. She got over it, more or less, once dad’s business took off. By that time, all but the last 3 of us were out of the house – my older siblings never got to know the mom who would actually OK their plans  once in a while.)

So, back to thinking and writing and reading. I never thought about it much, but it was pretty clear that the world of ideas had little if any intersection with the rest of the world – the real world, as it were. In the real world, men made things out of steel, and showed up on time and didn’t whine. They didn’t have time for all that frou-frou intellectual stuff. School was necessary so that you could get a good job where you wouldn’t have to work yourself to death like dad was doing. The good life (and it was good!) was getting to take a one week vacation to the mountains or the beach once a year.

How I ever decided to go to St. John’s College and study Great Books coming out of that world, I’ll never know, but it probably saved my life and soul, even with the decadent college life I was utterly unprepared for.

* The best friend of my 10 years older sister, who was pretty and nice, would often take a minute when she came over to ask me what I was interested in – I’d tell her, and she’d be very impressed, and make me feel special. I am grateful to her for that to this day.

** The scene in Galaxy Quest where Tech Sergeant Chen manages to say “And we might be able to get there if we reconfigure the solar matrix in parallel for endothermic propulsion” cracks me up every time.

*** I got a minor comeuppance when I walked through the room while my older sister was watching a soap opera. I watched long enough to catch that week’s utterly irrational betrayal, and opined: “That could never happen! Real people aren’t that stupid!” My sister very seriously said: “Oh, yes they are.” How right she proved to be!


Stephen Jay Gould, or the Effects of Bad Ideas

A pendentive or spandrel or something – from a Czech church! See, it all fits together as long as you never leave this blog.

I’ve read a bunch of Dawkins (the evolutionary biology stuff, not his attempts at intellectual self-immolation), and some E.O. Wilson, and of course Darwin and other writers on evolutionary biology, especially back when Scientific American was still worth reading. The one guy I could never get into was Gould. His ideas, when he wasn’t just laying out common stuff, were shapeless and frankly weird. Spandrels? Huh? Even his big deal, Punctuated Equilibrium, seems to be addressing a ‘problem’ that really isn’t a problem unless you make it one. First off, what is ‘equilibrium’ evolutionarily speaking? It’s even less definable than whatever Gould meant by spandrels or pendentives or whatever. That during some periods millions of years ago, the tiny fraction of living creatures that happen to leave fossils left fossils that don’t appear to change much over the course of significant amounts of time, from which we generalize that nothing much was changing? That’s equilibrium? And from that we conclude that structural forms (not appearance or behavior, few clues of which are left as fossils) did not change much if at all, until some event ‘punctuates’ the stasis? Not going into it in depth here, but, as Dawkins points out, this, insofar as it is true, is merely a minor gloss on evolutionary theory.

Whenever I did read something from Gould, I was left with a general ‘huh?’ feeling – as if what he thought he was saying was much more profound and interesting than what he actually said. So, years ago, when I read somewhere that Gould was not held in high regard as a scientist by other evolutionary biologists, that fit the picture I already had of him.

So, yesterday, over at Chaos Manor, Jerry Pournelle mentions in passing:

Few graduates of any school at any level in the United States have been taught about Stalin and Lysenko. Many are till taught that the Marxist Stephen Jay Gould was a competent scientist, not a Marxist transmission belt of the Party line. Few have been taught how Marxism and Communist theory dominated American universities during some of the Cold War.

I had not heard this before.  Dr. Pournelle is speaking here about the Marxist need for human nature to not exist, so that the Unfolding of History ™ is not constrained in its creation of  the New Soviet Man to people the Worker’s Paradise. Such a position would be awkward, to say the least, for an evolutionary biologist to maintain, as what they study is, fundamentally, the *nature* of living things as it has been formed by natural selection.  Giraffe necks, bird migrations, mating behaviors, etc. – all result from impersonal selection pressures applied by a mindless universe to inheritable differences in existing forms.*  Humans are animals and a part of nature – therefore, when evolutionary biologists turn their eyes toward people, they are inescapably trying to understand human nature as created by natural selection. There’s no real getting around that.

But, if human nature is nothing but a social construct, then you create a new human nature merely by constructing a new society. But the major premise here is demonstrably false: human nature at its core shows no signs of being a social construct, and every sign of being an inheritable set of core behaviors and physical adaptations. Human nature says that, no matter what society we are in, we won’t be able to breath water or flap our arms and fly to the moon. The only messy parts – and they’re only messy because it serves the purposes of academics and revolutionaries to make them messy – are exactly where the universals of human nature end and the particulars of that nature as expressed within a subject culture begin.

Here, I want to draw attention to one particular bad side-effect (or perhaps essential and central feature) of thinking like a Marxist. Marx found Hegel’s rejection of logic and embrace of philosophy by direct apprehension of the whole intoxicating: once you don’t need to make sense (no logic) and you either get it or you don’t (direct apprehension) well, the speculative world is your oyster!

One drawback is that you can’t do science this way, a fact even Hegel recognized when he allowed that logic is still useful for scientists and other little people. But it should be clear that science has, therefore, nothing to say in the Big Picture that those with properly enlightened consciousness have directly grasped. Conflict is always decided in favor of the historical dialectic.

Thus, the bad habits of thought produce Lysenko and Gould. Such life-long habits are hard to set aside even when you might want to make sense. And that is what I think I was getting out of Gould years ago – that he was not constrained by having to make sense, and so could not even do it consistently when he wanted to.

* Of course, it’s much more subtle than this one-sentence summary. And, of course, metaphysics kicks in to address the question of how it is that matter should have such interesting characteristics for natural selection to act upon in the first place.

Music at Mass Review: Corpus Christi, 2014

Today, got a chance to attend two Masses:

The 8:00 was  at a lovely local parish that I attend once in a while, with a cute church building that almost survived the inevitable remodel with its dignity intact – big, back-lit risen Christ where a crucifix belongs, and the tabernacle moved to a (at least, prominent) side altar. But, not too bad, all in all – nice stained glass and fixtures in an old-school cruciform timber-vaulted building. Most important, they have wonderful priests from all around – 5 continents have been represented over the last few years – and a reverent congregation.

Corpus Christi – big feast, with a very pointed message, and tons of brilliant music written for it. So, here’s the lineup:

Entrance: I Am the Bread of Life.

Style and technique wise, not my cup of tea. I especially dislike how, in every verse, the music changes to match the text, even though the text is manhandled (or, given the recent PC tune-up, perhaps ‘person-handled’ would be more appropriate). So, we lack the skill to paraphrase the text so that it fits a given melodic structure, but we’re not afraid to do a little brain surgery on it when we can’t even get it to fit even an new melody?  We’ve been singing this song since I was in high school, yet the congregation still mumbles through every verse other than the first verse, because each verse is, effectively, its own melody – and who can remember all that?

But: the text is straight outta John:6 – can’t ask for much more, liturgically or theologically. This tune has attained the status as a foot-stomping classic – a commentary itself. So: OK.

For the offertory: Here at This Table.

Based on this text, what nominally Christian sect would find this objectionable?

Come and be filled here at this table.
Food for all who hunger
and drink for all who thirst.
Drink of his love, wine of salvation.
You shall live forever in Jesus Christ the Lord.

1. You who labor for justice,
you who labor for peace,
you who steady the plow
in the field of the Lord,

2. You with lives full of pain,
you who sorrow and weep,
you, beloved of Christ,
come to him, come to him!

3. Children of ev’ry color
in ev’ry land,
you are his own,
he gathers you gently.
Don’t you grow weary,
for when you run,
you run with the Lord!

4. You, the aged among us,
holy, faithful and wise,
may the wisdom you share
form our lives and our world!

5. Let each woman and man
learn from the stranger;
we’re not so diff’rent
and so much unites us.
For we are one,
blest with the Spirit
and the power of love!

Any connection to the Real Presence is avoided, but the song does hit almost all the major design requirements of modern hymns:

1. We, not God, are the primary focus of the song. Never once do we direct our singing toward the Savior Who makes all the nice sentiments expressed anything other than pablum;

2. Justice and peace as our work. If God would just get out of the way and let us do it.

3. We’re not racists.

4. We’re not ageist.

5. We’re not sexist.

6. We’re multicultural.

Points for being somewhat more subtle at hammering home that It’s All About Us and burying church teaching under a fetid pile of warm fuzzies than many songs in this genre. We sang verses 1, 2, and 4 – 3 and 5 have a different tune entirely.

Communion: The Supper of the Lord.

This song, while having nothing much to recommend it as a piece of music, does, however, present completely orthodox theology on the True Presence:

Precious body, precious blood,
Here in bread and wine;
Here the Lord prepares the feast divine.
Bread of love is broken now,
Cup of life is poured;
Come, share the supper of the Lord.
Verse 1
This is the bread of God
Coming down from heav’n
Giving life to us, to all the world.
Verse 2
“I am the living spring
Of eternal life
You that drink from me
Shall not thirst again.”
Verse 3
“I am the bread of heav’n
giving life to you;
you that eat this bread
shall never die.”
Verse 4
“All those who feed on me
have their life in me,
as I have my life
in the living God.”
Verse 5
All praise to You, O Christ,
present in this feast,
in this bread we share
in one life, one Lord.

It’s no O Salutaris Hostia, but I don’t feel the need to take a shower, theologically speaking, afterwords. 

Finally, we ended with Sing of the Lord’s Goodness, a song whose major claim to fame is that it is in 5/4 time. So, 2 out of 4 get the theological seal of approval; one was lame, and one was random. So, about what one would expect these days. The Mass was beautiful, reverent and efficacious.

Then, caught a second Mass, an Ordinary Form Mass as it should, according to V-II, ordinarily be done: in Latin. It went a little like this:



Music was similarly reverent and to the point. So. yea, it was good.

Have a happy, holy and blessed feast day!

The Big Inside Joke, or Slow on the Uptake: Part 1 – Nature and Nurture

Here’s a multi-part post, through which I am trying to understand something via the process of making myself put it into words. Maybe it will be interesting to somebody other than me, I don’t know. So, consider your pardon begged.

For the last 40 years, it seems I’ve been slowly figuring out the huge inside joke of our culture and indeed our world. I’m just slow on the uptake. I find myself making statements as if I’ve discovered something, when in fact I’ve (*finally!*) gotten the joke that is the Modern World.

We’ll get around to the particulars in a post or two.  Here’s some family history to set the stage.

Claremore, OK street scene
Downtown Claremore OK.

I’m the 7th child out of 9 born to a somewhat Methodist farm boy born and raised in Oklahoma and a Catholic Czech (Moravian) girl raised in rural East Texas among the children of Czech immigrants. Grandpa Ira Moore had a huge spread in Claremore, partly assembled through his marriage to Etta Walker, who, being 1/16 Cherokee, got Indian land grant acreage. Their farm stretched up towards Oologah, where it ended and the Rodgers’ spread began.

Dad was in the trailing half of the 14 kids in his family. He was 12 when the market crashed and the Great Depression started. (Here I piece together a story from a variety of sources and run through my unintentional filters, so if any of my siblings read this, pardon any inaccuracies. I’m telling this the best I can with no ill intent.) He experienced the life of a moderately prosperous farmer, then the poverty of losing the farm. He spent time during the winters of his teenage years digging coal to make a few bucks for the family. His father, perhaps broken by all this, got violent with his mom. Finally, dad intervened, effectively throwing his dad out to protect his mom. It’s that scene from City Slickers in real life – the best and worst day of his life, no doubt. So, another one of those horrible Depression era stories.

Belvidere Mansion, Claremore, Oklahoma
Belvidere Mansion, Claremore, Oklahoma. Members of the Moore family ended up owning this building during its ‘converted to apartments’ stage. I visited it in 1976. In 1991, it was bought by the Rogers County Historical Society and has been completely restored. Wish I could see it now.

But Grandpa did pull a few strings to help get my dad into the CCC, around 1935, when he would have been 18. He traveled around the west, and, because he had some office skills (as a result of taking classes at what would now be called a community college – anything to get out of farming!), he kept books and typed letters for the Corps. Eventually, after his stint in the CCC, he ended up at Big Bear Lake, California, where his brother helped out at a riding stable.

Big Bear Lake is a reservoir built in 1912 by the orange growers down in the San Bernardino Valley, but it quickly became a resort area – it’s a beautiful pine forest valley with this beautiful alpine lake only a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles. Any given weekend these days, there might be 100,000 people there – about 20 times the current permanent population. There were about 500 permanent residents back in the late 1930s.

My mom’s dad, Adolph Polansky, married Mary Magdalene Margaret* Popec sometime around 1910 in East Texas near Temple. They were part of an extensive Czech community that had formed in East Texas starting before the Civil War (man, those marketing brochures must have been *killer*). Mary Magdalene Margaret Polansky was the third of seven children and the oldest of three girls.

A 1930s era diner (from California, not Texas) – the sort of thing Grandpa Polansky might have built. Mom said he did build one shaped like a teapot, where she even had a job for a while

Unlike almost all the relatives, Adolph was not a farmer – he was a metal worker. His work, part of which was building those charming diners that were all the rage back then, took him away from home a lot. I got the impression that my mom spent a lot of time staying with her farmer relatives as a child, while her dad was off working someplace. I remember her mentioning that sometimes they’d not see him for weeks on end, then get a letter saying ‘come to such and such town’ where he’d have found a place. And so they’d pack up and move.

As the first generation of thoroughly Americanized Czechs, my mom’s generation tended strongly to move away from the hard Depression era life on Texas farms. Thus – and I don’t know the exact story – she found a job and a place to live in Big Bear Lake with a couple who ran the local camera shop. She watched the counter or the kids. Continue reading “The Big Inside Joke, or Slow on the Uptake: Part 1 – Nature and Nurture”

Graduation Season: Final Review

1. Thankfully, the U of O ‘non-traditional’ graduation for the biology graduates was goofy only in completely traditional ways, so I remained thoroughly domesticated during the show. Each graduate walked up to the mike and stated their name and hometown, and then a presenter read from a card upon which the graduates wrote the future plans. The only worrisome/striking bit was how many graduates had plans like ‘travel the world’ – after getting an elite, taxpayer-subsidized education from mom & dad, the best plan they can come up with is ‘see the world’ – no doubt on daddy’s dime. There was also a correlation between getting honors and having concrete plans.

My beautiful, talented niece is a cum laude phi beta kappa graduate in biology with an emphasis in neuroscience. Not too shabby, just wished they taught more philosophy of science to kids like her. Then again, what would they teach and who would teach it if they did?

2. The library still has carved into its brick facade 20′ off the ground “and the truth shall make you free”. I’m guessing nobody knows that’s from the Gospel of John, otherwise they’d have to carve something from Sappho over it, or something. But hey, I’ll take it. (Working on an iPad for the first time. Have a picture on my iPhone, and can’t figure out how to add it to this post through WordPress’s app. Modern technology has failed me!)

3. Mass at St. Mary’s in Eugene was lovely, and filled with an encouraging number of young families. The pastor is a multi-step convert, and, as a married Episcopalian minister, was ordained a Catholic priest with his wife’s permission. He gave an insightful homily on the Trinity.

They had a Father’s Day pancake breakfast, which we took advantage of. The pastor came by to say hi – a very personable man.

4. John C Wright’s latest, where he pitches in and makes actual formal arguments for materialism for his opponents, who can’t seem to make them, or any other arguments, themselves. You know what? They’re pretty good arguments. Now they need to be put into the Question format. I nominate the OFlionn.

5. Off to Crater Lake and on down to Crescent City tomorrow. Oregon is breautiful, but far, far too grey for this SoCal boy.