Epiphany (1)

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.

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Epiphany (1)

Foliage of Inspiration

Holy Scripture [is] an ‘an immeasurable forest of prophecy.’ This forest is nowhere bare: everywhere there is the same dense foliage of inspiration, and from all the tree-tops of it there rustles the one word, “Christ.”

Frederick van der Meer, Augustine the Bishop

Foliage of Inspiration

Christmastide (8): The Circumcision

Today is the Octave-Day of the Nativity, eight days since our Lord’s Birth, and in fulfillment of the ancient law, our Lord as a son of Abraham submitted himself to the Rite of Circumcision.

The 1962 Roman Missal reads:

In the Old Law, by the rite of Circumcision, every male Jew became a member and shared in the privileges and blessings of the chosen people of God. A Jew who failed to be initiated by the ceremony was excluded. Our Lord was Son of God by nature, and absolutely sinless, and therefore did not need adoption into the membership of God’s children. Yet, He submitted to the law. The Church also honours on this day the holy Name of Jesus, given to the Divine Child at the Circumcision, and the Divine Maternity of Our Lady.

Dom Prosper Guéranger adds:

Our new-born King and Saviour is eight days old to-day; the Star that guides the Magi is advancing towards Bethlehem, and five days hence will be standing over the Stable where our Jesus is being nursed by his Mother. To-day the Son of Man is to be circumcised; this first sacrifice of his innocent Flesh must honour the eighth day of his mortal life. To-day also a Name is to be given him: the name will be Jesus, and it means Saviour. So that mysteries abound on this day: let us not pass one of them over, but honour them with all possible devotion and love.

Moreover, the Gospel in the Extraordinary Form announces:

At that time, after eight days were accomplished that the Child should be circumcised: His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before he was conceived in the womb.

For Unto is a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given.

Deo gratias.

Christmastide (8): The Circumcision

Churchillian Drift

A student a few years ago asked me, after I fired off a gobbet for his immediate and eternal edification, “Mr. McCants, do you ever quote anything besides the Bible and Shakespeare?” To which I responded, “Greg, what else is there?”

Churchill is often in that pantheon of quotable wits. My Greek History students certainly know one of his quips: Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English; and then I would let the clever learn Latin as an honor and Greek as a treat. I have found this quote myself from, among other places, my favorite book on Churchill, An Informal Study of Greatness, by Robert Lewis Tayor.

There is a short piece in The Wall Street Journal about Lord Churchill and how much of his “quotes” do not belong to the late Prime Minister (Lee Pollock, “Don’t Quote Churchill on That,” The Wall Street Journal, 27 Dec 2017):

Churchill produced more than 15 million words during his lifetime, making him a fertile source for commentators of all stripes. Buried in that mountain of copy is something for everyone. But with these repeated citations has come “Churchillian drift”—the never-ending circulation of Churchillisms that sound right but are, in fact, wrong.

As an armchair Churchillian, who often quotes him, there is an important lesson here—who we quote, what we quote, and the source of the quote.

The short article unearths a number of popular quips attributed to Churchill but aren’t actually his, for example, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” The sentiment is no doubt useful and a right nice phrase, clear and precise, which one wants in a pithy, memorable verse.

What this often leads to, however, is the clever for the use of the context. I regularly quote the Holy Scripture, and I often try to site at least the book (e.g., “St. Mark’s Gospel”) and the chapter. I don’t do this only to add heft to the quote but to give the story and the situatedness of the quote (“Sermon on the Mount,” “Farewell Discourses,” “Henry’s Speech before the Battle of Agincourt,” etc.)

In this age of memes and shallow work, this issue has become legion. As the article’s author notes,

The internet aggravates Churchillian drift—and also, presumably, the comparable drift for quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and others. The accuracy of almost any line or anecdote is easily verifiable online, but erroneous words have such a head start and travel so fast that the truth indeed is still putting on its pants.

The point is to do the deep work of reading and meditating on the texts oneself and not to rely on the wiki authors who float or let drift these pithy but unverified turns of phrase into our common conversation.

Should Churchill admirers care about Churchillian drift? Yes, but perhaps only to a point. People thirsting for leadership embrace inspiring figures from the past. Invoking the Great Man deserves encouragement, sometimes even at the price of a qualifying “attributed to.”

Even if it’s our own translation of the author’s sentiments—and in dealing with other languages, a translation is the best we can do—it’s important to work their wisdom into our own words.

Churchillian Drift

The Martyrs: The Holy Innocents

Today, on this Fourth day of Christmastide, we hail the New-Born Savior as the Lord, the King of Martyrs [Dominus, Rex Martyrum], as we greet at the Crib of Christ the Holy Innocents.

As the 1962 Missal introduces:

It was because Herod believed the words of the Magi and of the High Priest whom he consulted that he sees as a rival in the Infant of Bethlehem and with jealousy pursues the Child, born King of the Jews. It is this God-King that the Holy Innocents by dying confess. Their passion is the exaltation of Christ. [211]

Dom. Prosper Guéranger adds:

Herod intended to include the Son of God amongst the murdered Babes of Bethlehem. The Daughters of Rachel wept over their little ones, and the land streamed with blood; the Tyrant’s policy can do no more: it cannot reach Jesus, and its whole plot ends in recruiting an immense army of Martyrs for heaven. These Children were not capable of knowing what an honor it was for them to be made victims for the sake of the Saviour of the world; but the very first instant had gone through this world without knowing it, and now that they know it, they possess an infinitely better. God showed here the riches of his mercy: he asks them but a momentary suffering, and that over, they wake up in Abraham’s Bosom: no further trial awaits them, they are in spotless innocence, and the glory due to a soldier who died to save the life of his prince belongs eternally to them. [Guéranger 278]

For out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings, O God, Thou hast perfected praise, because of Thine enemies [Ps 8. 3] the Introit rings.

May we ask always for the prayers of these most blameless Martyrs.

The Martyrs: The Holy Innocents

The Apostles: St. John

Today feast honors St. John the Apostle, the Beloved, the Evangelist, the Revelator. He greets us at the crib of Christ on this third day of Christmas, just after St. Stephen the Protomartyr and just before the Holy Innocents.

Dom Guéranger:

Nearest to Jesus’ Crib, after Stephen, stands John, the Apostle and Evangelist. It was only right that the first place should be assigned to him, who so loved his God that he shed his blood in his service; for, as this God Himself declares, greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends, [Jn xv. 13] and Martyrdom has ever been counted by the Church as the greatest act of love, and as having, consequently, the power of remitting sins, like a second Baptism. But next to the sacrifice of Blood, the noblest, the bravest sacrifice, and that which most wins the heart of Him Who is the Spouse of souls, is the sacrifice of Virginity. Now just as St. Stephen is looked upon as the type of Martyrs, St. John is honoured as the Prince of Virgins. Martyrdom won for Stephen the Crown and palm; Virginity merited for John most singular prerogatives, which, while they show how dear to God is holy Chastity, put this Disciple among those who by their dignity and influence are above the rest of men.

The verses we sing of the Revelator are no less:

R: Right worthy of honour is the blessed Apostle John, who leaned on the Lord’s bosom at the Last Supper. To him did Christ upon the Cross commit His mother, virgin to virgin.

V: The Lord chose him as virgin, and loved him more than all the rest. To him did Christ upon the Cross commit His mother, virgin to virgin.

The apostle’s virginity elevated him in the Lord’s eyes, as the highest form of love, not unlike the Lord and His Virgin Mother.

The love St. John preached in his letters elevates the very notion of love:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [1 Jn iv. 7-10]

Finally, St. Jerome tells the story’s of the aged Apostle:

The Blessed Evangelist John lived at Ephesus down to an extreme old age, and, at length, when he was with difficulty carried to the Church, and was not able to exhort the congregation at length, he was used simply to say at each meeting, “My little children, love one another.” At last the disciples and brethren were weary with hearing these words continually, and asked him, “Master wherefore sayest thou this only?” Whereto he replied to them, worthy of John, “It is the commandment of the Lord, and if this only be done, it is enough.”

The Apostles: St. John

Christmastide (6): These Forty Days

Dom. Prosper Guéranger, on the History of Christmas:

We apply the name Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seems able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels [Lk ii. 10] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. (1)

It is a regular feature of American Christmas practices to begin the celebration of “Christmas” right after Thanksgiving and conclude ‘the holiday’ right after the 25th, as New Years Eve and New Years Day have their own gaiety (wholly separate from Christmas), and already the commercial machine is moving us towards Valentine’s Day. The lights and holly will come down, our trees will be discarded by the roadside, and the Twelve Days of Christmas will be nothing more than a carol sung before Christmas — to say nothing of Christmas days leading us to the Epiphany, when we welcome the Magi to the Bethlehem crib. How strange were these travelers from the East to arrival and find St. Joseph, the Virgin, and the Christ child no longer in Bethlehem and none to adore and lavish those most costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Moreover, the current Church calendar will already switch over to the green vestments of Ordinary Time as early as January 9, only one day subsequent the Baptism of the Lord.

I wish we could resist these restless, impulsive actions and stay in Bethlehem a while longer, nestled betwixt the oxen who knows its master and the donkey who know its master’s manger [Isa I. 3], and contemplate with the Virgin Mary the mystery of her Son’s Nativity.

Christmastide (6): These Forty Days