{    Cnytr   }

{Wednesday, May 27, 2009  }


Please pray for my photographer Byzantine seminarian friend Yevgen (above). He is in Ukraine until this end of this week. Earlier I got an email from him asking for my prayers, as his father is unwell and needs heart surgery, which is scheduled for today. Yesterday he (and his family?) were at the hospital donating blood, presumably for said surgery.

I don't have details of what's going on, but would appreciate if you keep him, his father and his family in your prayers.

Thank you.

One of Yevgen's photos of a Byzantine diaconate ordination
posted by Lauren, 11:02 AM | link | 0 comments

.:{Kind of Lame, Yet Kind of Clever}:.

I'd be happier if there was more biretta involved.

P.s. So where do I get the iConfess app for my iTouch?

HT: Orbis Catholicus
posted by Lauren, 10:53 AM | link | 1 comments

.:{Does this strike anyone else ...}:.

Does this (an advert on a Telegraph article I was reading this morning) strike anyone else as slightly ironic and remind one of this?


It has also often struck me, in the same vein, that there ought to be a sort of Audobon's Field Guide to Religious Habits in Rome.

Then we might be able to have an episode of Cnytr about How To Recognize Different Types of Religious Habits From Quite a Long Way Away.





posted by Lauren, 10:35 AM | link | 0 comments

.:{And speaking of Joseph of Arimathea...}:.

HT: LOLSaints
posted by Lauren, 10:00 AM | link | 0 comments

.:{Psalm 137}:.

Speaking of nationalistic hymns, I'm sure we're all familiar with Psalm 137 (sans the last two verses because we live in post-Vatican II times):

By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat and wept,
remembering Zion;
on the poplars that grew there
we hung up our harps.

For it was there that they asked us,
our captors, for songs,
our oppressors, for joy.
"Sing to us," they said,
"one of Zion's songs."

O how could we sing
the song of the Lord
on alien soil?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not,
if I prize not Jerusalem
above all my joys!

This has itself been adapted and set musically again and again and again. It has been hymned by the Russians, the Ukrainians, it's been sung bluegrass style, gospel spiritual (which I sang in middle school but cannot find on youtube), and it has been covered by Sinead O'Connor and Don McClean, the latter's setting featuring on the hit tv show Mad Men.

However, in doing a search for the song featured in the post below, also called "Jerusalem", I found the following:

Yes. You are seeing a Hasidic Jew singing Reggae.

His name is Matisyahu, or Mathew Paul Miller. Originally born in PA, he settled in NY (for a time in a highly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn) and now lives in White Plains. Although he sings mostly in English, he sprinkles his lyrics with Hebrew and Yiddish words.

While Jerusalem (Out of Darkness Comes Light) isn't a direct adaption of Psalm 137 (Matisyahu instead makes it about the modern plight of the Jews, referencing even the Holocaust), the refrain harkens back to it.

Matisyahu: both awesome and hilarious. You can't make this stuff up.
posted by Lauren, 8:39 AM | link | 0 comments

.:{Patriotic Hymnody}:.

Surrounding Glastonbury Abbey near Bedford in England are apocryphal tales of Joseph of Arimathea and Christ establishing a wattle-and-daub church, of Joseph thrusting his spear into the ground whereupon the Glastonbury thorn grew up, and of a place in which he buried the Holy Grail, whereupon a spring flowed forth.

(ahem Please note I say these tales are apocryphal only because I think the true resting place of the Holy Grail is somewhere in Spain.)

And why? Because why wouldn't Christ take time out of his busy schedule to bring Christianity, personally, to God's own country, that is, England?

However, the aforementioned legend in ancient Glastonbury was also the inspiration for Blake's famous poem And did those feet in ancient times, originally the preface to his pandering Milton: a Poem. The poem reads thus:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen !

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills ?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills ?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:
Bring me my Chariot of fire !

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

On its own, the poem is alright. Granted, I have a bias against the English Romantics and I think their best portrayal is in Blackadder the Third (here, round abouts 4:33; "Quiet, woman! Can't you see we're dying?"). However, when set to music in 1916, and in the dark days of World War I it became a sort of God-and-St-George patriotic Anglican hymn, seen and heard in this slightly effusive Youtube video:

I find the composition much improved when set to music, and I find historical context adds quite a lot. When this hymn becomes the aforementioned patriotic hurrah, it's actually quite moving.

I was thinking of this mostly through a combination of the Monty Python mattress sketch and the fact that this past weekend was Memorial day, and filled with our own American patriotic songs. None so fascinating, I submit, as the above. But for good reason.

A friend of mine pointed out, rightly I think, that our best patriotic song is America. It is both beautiful and poetic and not too weird. He also pointed out the Battle Hymn of the Republic which contains just the sort of problems that Mark Shea often points out, and leads to confusions like John Brown's Body, John Brown himself being a ... questionable figure, glorified by the abolitionists whilst painting over the problems he brings up rather than addressing them, as the 19th century was very wont to do.

But our lack of uniquely American and mostly non-weird patriotic hymnody (please note the tune for "My Country 'Tis of Thee" is actually the tune for "God Save the King") is not really our fault. It simply comes from being one of the newest kids on the block, and "growing up", if you will, in a modern and sometimes post-Enlightenment era. We didn't have the deeply religious time of the Middle Ages, our country didn't have a Renaissance, and thus we lack some cultural richness (but also many problems, Deo gratias) that comes with age.

America is a truly unique place -- the worldwide melting pot (at least in theory) makes us a sort of culturally new thing, which, being a confluence of many things, isn't any one new thing. I believe this sometimes makes us cultural schizophrenics. I think, unfortunately, we're past the days of heroic patriotic hymnody (+thank God we're past the days of Blake, the Romantics and the Transcendentals), but we're learning a new kind of patriotism, whether for good or ill I am not yet able to say, and what that post-Nationalistic patriotism looks like I could tell you less (I am unfortunately more backwards-looking than forward-thinking on such issues, and must often look over my shoulder before I could guess at what's ahead).

In the meantime, though we've not the pretty hymns to say it, we ought to remember this whole week the men and women who died defending this country in the line of duty, and to thank them wholeheartedly.
posted by Lauren, 8:15 AM | link | 0 comments

{Tuesday, May 26, 2009  }

.:{St. Simeon the Stylite}:.

Not too long ago, I posted an article about 6 Saints Who Can Kick Your Arse. Unsurprisingly and awesomely, St. Simeon Stylite was among them. This past Sunday in the Gregorian calendar of the Eastern Catholic Church, we commemorated St. Simeon Stylite along with the fathers of Nicea. St. Simeon must not be allowed to pass without comment, as he is Tough, Good For You and Awesome, much like the dangerously delicious bacon gun.

[Note: halfway through this post, I realized this Sunday's commemoration was of St. Stimeon the (New) Stylite, the Younger, not the St. Simeon Stylite Original Flavor, commemorated by the Orthodox on September 1st and by the Latins on January 5th. Confusingly, the Melkites celebrate the Younger Simeon on May 24th, although supposedly the Elder and the Younger are a century apart. I suspect this may be a case of historical mistaken identity and am forging ahead regardless.]

I first encountered this saint in high school, mentioned as a sort of a joke by my Latin teacher, really, because he's both hilarious and awesome. I believe the article says it best when it says,

At first he tried to shun the luxuries of mid 5th century life by shutting himself in a little ramshackle Unabomber-style hut for three years, where he figured not eating or drinking anything at all for the entire period of Lent would be a good idea. After the hut proved too expansive and extravagant for him, Symeon packed up his loincloth and moved to a crevice in a rock in the desert. [...] Realizing the rock was still too awesome a place to spend his life, Symeon raised a stone pillar with a little platform on top, climbed up and sat there. He went through a couple of these pillars before he settled on one over 50 feet high where he stayed ... for 36 years.

What the WHAT?

You would think that with a bio like that, volumes could be written about the man's zeal and holiness and ... probably many other strange ascetical practices. Instead, my favorite Catholic saints site says lamely,

Son of a poor shepherd, and worked as a shepherd as a child. A would-be monk at age 13, he was turned away from monasteries because his severe self-imposed penances. Tired of the gossip and arguments from fellow religious, he lived as a hermit on top of a column, occasionally preaching to those who gathered to watch and pray with him, and starting a movement of pillar living among Eastern hermits.

If one were to read that without knowing any background information, wouldn't the phrase he lived as a hermit on top of a column make one do a mental double-take? He lived ... WHERE? How ... how does that even work? Can he get down? Where does he ... you know ... (to which, I'm not sure if this image is supposed to answer that unasked question, but it might).

Even the very sober Catholic Encyclopedia expresses some bland surprise at his particular asceticism:

If it were not that our information, in the case of the first St. Simeon and some of his imitators, is based upon very reliable first-hand evidence, we should be disposed to relegate much of what history records to the domain of fable.

In fact, the way it continues, however dry, is, I think, still pretty hilarious:

Simeon the Elder, was born about 388 at Sisan, near the northern border of Syria. After beginning life as a shepherd boy, he entered a monastery before the age of sixteen, and from the first gave himself up to the practice of an austerity so extreme and to all appearance so extravagant, that his brethren judged him, perhaps not unwisely, to be unsuited to any form of community life [ROFL ~L]. Being forced to quit them he shut himself up for three years in a hut at Tell-Neschin, where for the first time he passed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking. This afterwards became his regular practice, and he combined it with the mortification of standing continually upright so long as his limbs would sustain him.

Among the twenty-seven liturgical books used by the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholics, the book of the commemoration of the saints (the Menaion) has this to say about the great saint:

Holy Father Simeon was the first to take up this particular form of ascesis: that of standing day and night on a pillar in unceasing prayer. His parents were common folk and he fled from them when he was 18 to become a monk. He fasted at times for 40 days. He grew in holiness and wisdom with great gifts of discernment, healing and prophecy. It is said that he started to stand on the pillar, because it was the only way for him to be alone in prayer with God, because of all the people that were constantly coming to him. His pillar was at first about ten feet tall, then twenty, then 35 feet; finally over 60 feet tall. On his pillar, he did warfare with the demons, overcoming them through his prayers. All classes of people came to his pillar. He healed many sick by his prayers. He gave comfort and instruction to some. Others he denounced for their heresies. The Empress Eudocia was brought back to Orthodoxy from the Eutychian heresy by one such rebuke. Twice, his mother, St. Martha, came to see him, but he would not come down from his pillar to greet her; saying: "Don't disturb me now, Mother dear, if we are to be worthy to meet in the next world." St. Simeon lived for 70 years and reposed in the Lord on September 1, 459. St. Martha is commemorated on July 4th.

Additionally, it has two hymns for the saint. I'm sure whoever wrote them MUST have had a (very pious) sense of humour:

Apolytikion (First Tone):

Thou becamest a pillar of patience and didst emulate the Forefathers, O righteous one:
Job in his sufferings, Joseph in temptations, and the life of the bodiless while in the body,
O Symeon, our righteous Father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion (Second Tone):

Thou soughtest the heights, though parted not from things below;
thy pillar became a chariot of fire for thee.
Thou becamest thereby a true companion of the angelic host;
and together with them, O Saint, thou ceaselessly prayest Christ God for us all.

"Pillar of patience"? "Seeking the heights"? Hahahahahaha! Come, now!

A professor of mine once told me that when his children were younger, they would invent hagiography, mostly centering on medieval ascetics, i.e. the story of St. Awesomesauce the Gaul who repented a sinful life, became a monk and ate half a bean every other month whilst wearing chains and wrestling with demons and is once reported to have cured the left ankle of St. Flutius, only to have his penance restored to him at a later time. However Evagrius Ponticus' mention of St. Simeon (here, but ignore the snarky intro) comes dangerously close to the made-up hagiography.

St. Simeon Stylite: so awesome he can't be for real, but he is.

Pray for us, St. Simeon Stylite, and teach us your zeal for asceticism!

Icon of St. Simeon Stylite; the church below references the church that was later built in his honor; the snake is the worldly temptations he left below, and I believe the the oyster and pearl is a reference to heavenly riches, but I am not at all sure
posted by Lauren, 3:05 PM | link | 3 comments

.:{Assention to the Ascension}:.

from a 13th century Syriac bible; Al-Za'faran Monastery(?), Turkey(?)

Within one week, I will have celebrated the Ascension not once (the Gregorian calendar: Thursday), not twice (the made-up mobility of the feast: Sunday), but three times (the Julian calendar: Thursday).

And it's a good thing, too. I believe I finally "get" the feast of the Ascension. Oh there are a number of reasons, I understand intellectually, for the Ascension. Why exactly the fanfare, however? What does it all mean, aside from the obvious? (i.e. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father until he comes in glory, if he did not go he could not send the Holy Spirit, etc...)

Now you can tell me the same things again and again, but until I hear it in a Language I Understand (which usually involves capital letters of Significant Words), the puzzle pieces don't exactly click into place. I understand but I don't get it.

It was until Sunday, when I was messing around with Relevant Radio on my computer in a vain attempt to find where and when Fr. Thomas Loya's Light of the East would come on, that I heard another priest speaking of the Ascension. Same old same old until I heard,

...[the Ascension] is the parallel feast to the Nativity.

Suddenly the Truth Bombs went off in my head and I Understood.

In Eastern Catholicism, the concept of theosis is emphasized -- that is, becoming more and more clearly the image of God, to be divinized (but not to become God in his essence -- obviously that's impossible and heterodox), to be partakers in divine nature. Athanasius is often quoted:

As, then, if a man should wish to see God, Who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, he may know and apprehend Him from His works: so let him who fails to see Christ with his understanding, at least apprehend Him by the works of His body, and test whether they be human works or God's works. And if they be human, let him scoff; but if they are not human, but of God, let him recognise it, and not laugh at what is no matter for scoffing; but rather let him marvel that by so ordinary a means things divine have been manifested to us, and that by death immortality has reached to all, and that by the Word becoming man, the universal Providence has been known, and its Giver and Artificer the very Word of God. For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impossible and incorruptible and very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility.
(54 De Incarnatione)

God becomes man so that man might become God. That's just how it all works. Clearly to pay Adam's debt, as Athanasius explains earlier in that same work, it must be paid in an infinite manner -- but no one is infinite but God. At the same time, only man could pay it, since he was the offender. Thus, God becomes man for the purposes of paying Adam's debt, opening to us the closed gates of paradise and saving mankind.

But how does the Ascension fit in there, exactly? How does that include man becoming God?

Now we turn to Gregory Nazianzen:

If any assert that He has now put off His holy flesh, and that His Godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that He is now with His body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of His Coming. For where is His body now, if not with Him Who assumed it? For it is not laid by in the sun, according to the babble of the Manichæans, that it should be honoured by a dishonour; nor was it poured forth into the air and dissolved, as is the nature of a voice or the flow of an odour, or the course of a lightning flash that never stands. Where in that case were His being handled after theResurrection, or His being seen hereafter by them that pierced Him, for Godhead is in its nature invisible. Nay; He will come with His body— so I have learned— such as He was seen by His Disciples in the Mount, or as he showed Himself for a moment, when his Godhead overpowered the carnality. And as we say this to disarm suspicion, so we write the other to correct the novel teaching. If anyone assert that His flesh came down from heaven, and is not from hence, nor of us though above us, let him be anathema. [...] For that which He has not assumed He has not healed.
(To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius. (Ep. CI.))

I've even heard that last quote as that which He has not assumed, He has not redeemed.

And so it clicks. God comes down from heaven in the Incarnation, becoming man to pay Adam's debt for which he must suffer, die and rise. To fully redeem us, his risen body ascends to the right hand of the Father in glory. In the first, Christ took on our humanity; in the latter, Christ took our humanity with him. There is that fish hook I posted about earlier. It is the fullness of our redemption.

To speak poorly in semi-Platonic/Universal terms (it's been a while, correct me if I'm wrong), any human individual is a particular instance of Humanity, a species yet belonging to/participating in the genus. By the instance of one man who is Christ who is God coming and dying and rising, it is not simply once instantiation of God-man or simply God or simply one man who Ascends, it is Man, it is Humanity, contained in Christ who is both fully God and fully Man. The Genus is itself redeemed.

And now it makes sense to me.

posted by Lauren, 12:04 PM | link | 0 comments

{Saturday, May 23, 2009  }

.:{Cake or Death ... with Legos}:.

posted by Lauren, 8:58 PM | link | 0 comments

{Thursday, May 21, 2009  }

.:{Happy Ascension Thursday!}:.

O sweetest Jesus, who, without leaving the bosom of the Father, hast, as a man, dwelt among the earth-born, to-day art thou ascended in glory from the Mount of Olives, and graciously hast borne on high our fallen nature, and hast sat down with the Father. For which cause the Bodiless Powers of heaven, amazed at the marvel, were affrighted with dread, and seized with trembling, they magnified thy love toward mankind. With them also, we earth-born, glorifying thy condescension toward us, and thine Ascension from us, pray, saying: Do thou, who, at thine Ascension, didst fill with joy unutterable thy disciples and the Birth-giver of God who bare thee, vouchsafe unto us, thine elect, joy also, through their prayers, because of thy great mercy.
posted by Lauren, 3:57 PM | link | 0 comments

{Monday, May 18, 2009  }

.:{Briefly on the Christ Icon and the Akathist to Sweetest Jesus}:.

Well ... after the dose below of what I sometimes like to call Hooah Catholicism, perhaps we ought to cleanse our palate a bit, and remind us of the sweeter aspects of our faith which we should love so diligently as to be as hard core as St. Simon Stylite, et ceteri.

A newer icon of Christ

Notice how an icon engages you. The icon of Christ looks out at you from the background of blessedness, looking at you in a way that is impossible to avoid. You must engage or ignore the image. And if we engage the icon, one's mind and heart is lifted in prayer and one's mind in contemplation, noticing Christ's hand raised in blessing and expressing the three-persons-one-God and two-natures of Christ. But even the fact that we can see Christ present in the icon reminds us of Christ's kenosis or self-emptying (of which our beloved Fulton Sheen speaks, and can be seen in four parts here, here, here and here), and as icons are Incarnational, we are reminded of our salvation, and also of how Christ is the perfect image (eikon) of the Father.

Icons are addressed in Liturgy. When in the Great Litany of the Divine Liturgy, the Deacon says, "...especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary," he bows to the icon of Mary on the iconostasis as he addresses her; when he says "...to Christ our God", he bows to the icon of Christ. Sometimes, he does both:

Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, [bow to the icon of Mary] with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God. [bow to the icon of Christ]

When the iconostasis is quite complete and wall-like (as in St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC) as opposed to a more humble and transparent iconostasis, this sometimes has the effect on Roman Catholics of Why is this deacon talking to a wall? Yet the effect is the same as Dominicans singing their nightly Salve, Regina to the priory's Marian statue, the only difference being that icons are the canonized art form of the Eastern Catholic churches. Whilst the Latin rite tends to have art that is more representational and three-dimensional (especially as much of it comes from "baptized" pagan art forms more prevalent in the West than in the East), the East has a more symbolic, two-dimensional and theological art form.

Furthermore, icons represent the timelessness of certain events, much in the same way that Fra Angelico often depicts saints of his time period in biblical events, such as at the Presentation, or at the Annunciation. In both of these images, he has St. Peter Martyr (aka St. Peter of Verona) present and praying, witnessing these events. Obviously he could not have been historically present, nor would Fra Angelico posit that the two were at all contemporaneous. Rather the effect is that these events, while occurring in time, are Eternal as their reality is Eternal. As the "Only Begotton" hymn of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom says, O Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, Who, being immortal, deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the Holy Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, and became man without change. Since these events are timeless, the saints in their blessedness are somehow present at these events, which Fra Angelico captures in his paintings, and which those looking upon the face of an icon recall.

From the Markov Monastery, an image of the Icon of our Lady as used during the Akathistos hymn...

... or as I like to think of it, an icon of an icon!

The icon, then, takes a prominent place during the Akathistos hymn. As you'll recall, I attended the great Akathis to the Mother of God on Akathistos Saturday (the Saturday after the Annunciation), blogged here. This evening I will be attending and praying the Akathist to our Sweetest Jesus. This was the first Akathist hymn I ever encountered in person (as opposed to the Great Akathist which I discovered via the Great Internets), and I posted clumsily on the topic when I stumbled across it during the Orientale Lumen IX conference.

For your spiritual edification, I am posting a small bit of it below. Enjoy.

Kontakion 10

Wishing to save the world, O Dayspring of the Orient, You came to the dark Occident of our nature and humbled Yourself even to death. Therefore, Your Name is exalted above every name, and from all created beings of Heaven and earth, You hear:

Eikos 10

Make Your holy Angels a rampart for us, O Christ, Father of the age to come, and cleanse us from every stain, as You cleansed the ten lepers; and heal us, as Your healed the covetous soul of Zacchaeus the publican, that we may cry to You with compunction and say:

Jesus, Treasure unfailing.
Jesus, Wealth inexpendable.
Jesus, Food most substantial.
Jesus, Drink inexhaustible.
Jesus, Raiment of the poor.
Jesus, Defender of widows.
Jesus, Protector of orphans.
Jesus, Champion of those in hardships.
Jesus, Companion of those who journey.
Jesus, Pilot of voyagers.
Jesus, Calm Haven of the tempest-tossed.
Jesus, raise me who am fallen.

Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.
Kontakion 11

A most contrite hymn do I, the unworthy one, offer You, and like the Canaanite woman, I cry to You: O Jesus, have mercy on me! For not a daughter, but a flesh have I which is violently possessed by the passions and troubled with anger. Grant healing to me, who cries aloud to You:

posted by Lauren, 5:00 PM | link | 0 comments

.:{6 Saints Who Could Kick Your Arse}:.

I enjoy this very much, mostly because St. Simon/Simeon the Stylite is pretty foundational when it comes to hard core Catholicism. I've lately enjoyed visiting Orthodox churches which have icons of him (and other stylites!) painted on their walls.

I'm also quite pleased that Vikings and kings have made it onto the list. Back in the days when men were men and the pagans were scared. I've written occasionally about militant Catholicism. This article is probably an excellent example.

Think Lent is tough? Think one meal and two collations is hard? Aww, poor thing, you don't watch TV on Fridays? Read about St. Simon Stylite and then go crying to your spiritual director.

Here's what the article has to say about St. Simon (um, pardon the colloquial):

Unlike those first guys up there who kind of stumbled into sainthood and badassery due to extreme circumstances, Symeon chose both willingly.

The man had a real hate-on for the pussified way all the rest of us live and decided he couldn't take it any more. At first he tried to shun the luxuries of mid 5th century life by shutting himself in a little ramshackle Unabomber-style hut for three years, where he figured not eating or drinking anything at all for the entire period of Lent would be a good idea.

After the hut proved too expansive and extravagant for him, Symeon packed up his loincloth and moved to a crevice in a rock in the desert. In a space about 20 yards in diameter, he set up shop but soon learned that when you decide to live your life as a religious sideshow, you're going to attract attention. Soon pilgrims arrived to watch him presumably just sitting on his rock. They asked him for advice and prayers and probably threw peanuts and tried to get him to do tricks.

Realizing the rock was still too awesome a place to spend his life, Symeon raised a stone pillar with a little platform on top, climbed up and sat there. He went through a couple of these pillars before he settled on one over 50 feet high where he stayed ... for 36 years. [...sometimes I seriously wish I could do that. ~LB]

He continued to get visitors and for a while each day, a ladder was used so people could come up and chat with him while those below waited their turn and tried to avoid getting pooped on from 50 feet up. [A topic of much discussion between friends, Latin teacher and self when said saint was discovered in high school. Ha. Hahaha. ~LB]

If you're still not clear on the badassery involved here, keep in mind this was all taking place in Syria, where summer temperatures can get over 100 and in winter dip below 50, which is probably just slightly more awful when you're on a stone pillar 50 feet off the ground.

And without much further ado: 6 Saints Who Could Kick Your Arse. HT: Curt Jester via Twitter/Facebook.
[Warning: some offensive language. If you can tolerate it, it's hilarious. But be ye warned and let not the innocent be corrupted.]

Update: Okay it's usually my policy with my blog, unlike with my random Google newsreader mass-emailings, to actually read more than two paragraphs of the article before I post it. That being said, I still stand behind at least St. Ignatius and St. Simon Stylite as paragons of badass Catholicism. King Louis and some others ... um, want a more sympathetic portrayal. Frankly I think Louis was a poor choice (one could have chosen PETER MARTYR who died writing the CREDO in his OWN HEAD-BLOOD), and there are arguments to be made for St. Olaf et ceteri. I might have added some more caveats or explanation before posting this originally. But as usual, this blog stands behind the policy of quod scripsi, scripsi.

Also, the article still gets some approval, at it contains the following:

Yes, that's a cross holding a freaking battle axe in each hand. Take that, other religions.

We all win, really.
posted by Lauren, 4:49 PM | link | 1 comments

{Wednesday, May 13, 2009  }

.:{Random Image Found on Internet + Apophatic Theology}:.

I realize I need to post more. The past week and a half has, I suppose, been rather busy, so I haven't thought very much of Interesting Things, nor have I posted when I have thought of Interesting Things. Mea culpa, I shall try to do better in the future.

In the meantime, a pithy thing to hold you over until I reflect on the differences between the habit of the Carthusian and the Dominican-sans-cappa, or on Eastern vrs. Western monasticism, look a this cool thing I found on the internets today!

Whoa! Just think of THAT! You go onto the mountain to pray and suddenly it's GOD IN THE TETRAGRAMMATON.

However, as I read The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, I came across a point on Apophatic Theology a.k.a. the via negativa -- that is, God is so unlike anything we can think of that the closest we can come to him is in an ecstatic (Greek: ex-stasis, to stand outside of oneself, usually [theologically anyway] in love) rejection of our normal modes of speaking of God because primarily it is impossible for us to comprehend God in his essence [in this life], and because God's nature is incomprehensible to us, and also because we don't have concepts of what those concepts are (i.e. being sinful and limited human creatures, we have no idea what true goodness is, so a positive assertion is either useless or untrue; St. Thomas Aquinas wrote against this topic, addressed by Pseudo-Dionysius on De Divinibus nominibus, and is right in his context and understanding, however apophatic theology has a right place as well).

Pseudo-Dionysius draws the parallel between this and Moses, [which paraphrase I'm borrowing from elsewhere since I haven't the time to look up the quote at the moment]: Using as his example the account of Moses' ascent up Mount Sinai in the Hebrew scriptures, Dionysius says that after Moses ascends through the sensible and intelligible contemplation of God, he then enters the darkness above the mountain's peak. The darkness is located above the mountain, and Moses enters it after his contemplation of God in the various forms of theology.

Lossky points out that this image was also used by Philo of Alexandria as an image of ecstasy, and adds:

St. Gregory of Nyssa devotes a special treatise to the Life of Moses, in which the assent of Mount Sinai towards the darkness of incomprehensibility represents the way of contemplation, superior to Moses' first meeting with God when he appeared to him in the burning bush. Then Moses saw God in light; now he enters the darkness, leaving behind him all that can be seen or known [...] for God makes His dwelling there where our understanding and our concepts can gain no admittance. Our spiritual ascent does but reveal to us [...] the absolute incomprehensibility of divine nature. Filled with an ever-increasing desire the soul grows without ceasing, goes forth from itself, reaches out beyond itself, and, in so doing, is filled with yet greater longing. Thus the ascent becomes infinite, and the desire insatiable. This is the love of the bride the the Song of Songs: she stretches out her hands towards the lock, she seeks Him who cannot be grasped, she calls Him to whom she cannot attain ... she attains Him in the perception that the union is endless, the ascent without limit.

Therefore, that random image I randomly found one day randomly on the internet is actually quite deep and intense... an image of PRAYER and CONTEMPLATION!

I think I just blew my own mind.
posted by Lauren, 9:50 AM | link | 1 comments

{Tuesday, May 05, 2009  }

.:{Into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ my God, I commit my spirit.}:.

Prayer of Saint John Damascene, which is to be said while pointing at thy bed

O Master, Lover of mankind, is this bed to be my coffin, or wilt Thou enlighten my wretched soul with another day? Behold, the coffin lieth before me; behold, death confronteth me. I fear, O Lord, Thy judgment and the endless torments, yet I cease not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, and Thy most pure Mother, and all the Heavenly Hosts, and my Holy Guardian Angel. I know, O Lord, that I am unworthy of Thy love for mankind, but am worthy of every condemnation and torment. But, O Lord, whether I will it or not, save me. For to save a righteous man is no great thing, and to have mercy on the pure is nothing wonderful, for they are worthy of Thy mercy. But on me a sinner, show the wonder of Thy mercy; in this reveal Thy love for mankind, lest my wickedness prevail over Thine ineffable goodness and merciful kindness; and order my life as Thou wilt.

And when about to lie down in bed, say this:

Enlighten mine eyes, O Christ God, lest at any time I sleep unto death, lest at any time mine enemy say: I have prevailed against him.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Be my soul's helper, O God, for I pass through the midst of many snares; deliver me out of them and save me, O Good One, for Thou art the Lover of mankind.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The most glorious Mother of God, more holy than the holy angels, let us hymn unceasingly with our hearts and mouths, confessing her to be the Theotokos, for truly she gaveth birth to God incarnate for us, and prayeth unceasingly for our souls.

Then kiss thy Cross, and make the sign of the Cross from the head to the foot of the bed, and likewise from side to side, while saying:

The Prayer to the Precious Cross

Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Him flee from before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Rejoice, most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was crucified on thee, Who went down to hades and trampled on the power of the devil, and gave us thee, His precious Cross, for the driving away of every adversary. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me together with the holy Lady Virgin Theotokos, and with all the saints, unto the ages. Amen.

posted by Lauren, 10:32 PM | link | 3 comments

.:{Epiclesis Image}:.

Not my favorite image of the set, but still miles ahead of the current iconoclastic (clip) art of the revised breviary.

Kindly do not deprive our souls of the visual beauty inherent in the liturgical tradition of the church! Ours is a generation that cries more than ever for the true, the beautiful and the good. Deus lo vult.
posted by Lauren, 3:23 PM | link | 0 comments

.:{No wimpy crucifixion for 1957}:.

And there's King David a the foot of the cross -- something more common in medieval imagery.
posted by Lauren, 3:20 PM | link | 1 comments

.:{More 1957 Goodness}:.

I love the strength of this image. I also love the red/black contrast, especially in a liturgical (" ") setting -- the comparison between the rubricized Christ and the rubrics of Say the Black, Do the Red fame arises naturally. Although Satan himself looks powerful and formidable with armor, freaky bat-wings and a laurel crown, Christ himself has conquered and tramples death by death.
posted by Lauren, 3:17 PM | link | 0 comments

.:{What else is the internet for if not for stealing other peoples' thoughts?}:.

A seminarian friend of mine on facebook recently posted this and a few other images from a 1957 breviary. One of the comments was, "Sweet, Mariology in a graphic form: Not shining with a glory of her own, but reflecting that of Christ."

posted by Lauren, 3:15 PM | link | 2 comments