Rhyme nor Reason

Our beloved late Holy Father’s bones are resting immediately adjacent to St. Peter’s bones for Rome’s “White Night” tonight…

Comedy of Errors

…Yesterday evening “As You Like It” trafficked a nearby stage… Did William Shakespeare coin the phrase, “neither rhyme nor reason?”

No. He did, however, popularize it immensely in “The Comedy of Errors.” Poor Dromio laments his master’s severity:

Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?

End of story? No, because the Bard used the phrase again in “As You Like It:”

ROSALIND
But are you so much in love as your rhymes speak?

ORLANDO
Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much.

Notice something?

In this second instance, the famous phrase does not have the same meaning.

Generally we use “neither rhyme nor reason” to connote the utter absence of intelligibility. For instance, “His so-called strategy for clustering his parishes proceeded with neither rhyme nor reason! Now everyone regards him as a loose cannon.”

Dromio employed the phrase to sound this note of chaotic arbitrariness.

But Orlando uses the phrase in a completely different way. The phrase “neither rhyme nor reason” stands not for a threshold of intelligibility BELOW WHICH something has fallen; rather, it indicates the meager limit of human words’ power to communicate, ABOVE WHICH extends an immeasurable realm of intelligible truth and light.

Fascinating.

Pray for Us

My Anglophilia does not extend very far beyond the lingo itself, the Bard, and Graham Greene. And, of course, when people get married my thoughts run immediately to the futility of the thing.

That said, there IS a very exciting event taking place on the other side of the pond…

My Lord and my God.

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The Apostles saw Christ, and they believed in Christ. They saw a man; they believed in a human God.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This is what St. Peter said to the Lord Jesus. And this is what the 263rd Successor of St. Peter said to the Lord Jesus on October 22, 1978, when Karol Wojtyla began his 26 ½-year ministry as Pope John Paul II. In his first homily, at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope John Paul said:

On this day and in this place these same words must again be uttered and listened to: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all.

Is the Lord a merciful God? He never committed Himself to keeping a saint on the papal throne. He just promised that there would always be a pope. But the Lord gave us Pope John Paul II.

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Makes “O Brother,

Where Art Thou” look pedestrian by comparison; genuinely Homeric; funny in every paragraph: The Great Typo Hunt.

I could not put it down. I am in love with Jeff Deck.

The only problem: Split infinitives on practically every page! Really?

The Queen’s English, paragraph 238, FOREVER!!

May we learn wisely to use the language. Latin helped her speakers to articulate themselves artfully. We Anglophones prudently choose to guard slavishly Latin’s precision.

Priests are being murdered in Mexico again, like they were during the Terrible Triangle persecution.

May all the dead rest in peace. The times recall the novel which moved Pope Paul VI to say to its author: “Mr. Greene, some parts of your book are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that.”

Here are my favorite passages from The Power and the Glory.

He was a man who was supposed to save souls. It had seemed quite simple, once, preaching at Benediction, organizing the guilds, having coffee with the elderly ladies behind barred windows, blessing new houses with a little incense, wearing black gloves…It was as easy as saving money: now it was a mystery. He was aware of his own desperate inadequacy.

Laurence Olivier as the Whisky Priest

He said after a moment’s hesitation, very distinctly: “I am a priest.”

It was like the end: there was no need to hope any longer. The ten years’ hunt was over at last. There was silence all round him. This place was very like the world: overcrowded with lust and crime and unhappy love: it stank to heaven; but he realized that after all it was possible to find peace there, when you knew for certain that the time was short.

Henry Fonda as the Whisky Priest

When he woke up it was dawn. He woke with a huge feeling of hope which suddenly and completely left him at the first sight of the prison yard. It was the morning of his death. He crouched on the floor with the empty brandy-flask in his hand trying to remember an Act of Contrition. “O God, I am sorry and beg pardon for all my sins…crucified…worthy of Thy dreadful punishments.” He was confused, his mind was on other things: it was not the good death for which one always prayed. He caught sight of his own shadow on the cell wall; it had a look of surprise and grotesque unimportance. What a fool he had been to think that he was strong enough to stay when others fled. What an impossible fellow I am, he thought, and how useless. I have done nothing for anybody. I might just as well have never lived. His parents were dead–soon he wouldn’t even be a memory-–perhaps after all he wasn’t really Hell-worthy. Tears poured down his face; he was not at the moment afraid of damnation–even the fear of pain was in the back­ground. He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing done at all. It seemed to him, at that moment, that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted–to be a saint.

Pilate’s Conversion?

Pontius Pilate sat as judge in Sanhedrin v. Jesus of Nazareth. As we know, the trial proceeded as a travesty of justice.

Pontius Pilate

Why did the judge fail so miserably in his duty to pursue the truth? At one point, we heard the defendant say that He had come to bear witness to the truth. Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?”

When Pilate brought the prisoner out, he said, “I find no guilt in him.” But Pilate did not declare Christ innocent.

Pilate knew that he was up against a case that he did not and could not understand. But there was one thing Pilate took for granted: Jesus of Nazareth must be guilty of something.

Pilate had seen too much of the world to be so naïve as to think that there was such a thing as an innocent man.

“This crazy prophet made these priests mad. Maybe he didn’t do everything they say he did. But he must have done something. I won’t be able to get to the bottom of this, so why bother trying? Let them all rot in their self-righteous hypocrisy.”

Whenever Pilate became aware that his prisoner had risen from the dead—whenever the Roman procurator beheld the true innocence of this man—whether it was while Pilate was still on earth or when he went to meet the truth after breathing his last—whenever it was, Pilate surely had to endure the agony of seeing just how wrong he was.

Maybe that agony became Pilate’s everlasting torment. But, on the other hand, maybe seeing the perfectly innocent man, standing in vigor and strength—maybe the sight of the risen Christ kindled a spark of joy somewhere deep in the heart of the cynical, worldly judge.

Maybe even Pontius Pilate, after doing penance for all his sins against the truth—maybe even Pilate could share in the joy of the whole human race, the new hope of the world: Innocence is possible. There is such a thing as the truth.

Not only that: innocence and truth have a strength which conquers deceit, cynicism, cruelty—even death itself.

Dominion

First of all: CAAAAAPPSSSS!!!

Secondly: I have the privilege of initiating two lovely young lasses (who have attained the age of reason) into the Holy Church tonight. Here is a homily for them and for the gathered faithful…

In the beginning, God gave us—human beings—dominion over “the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all wild animals.” He gave us dominion. Dominion.

In other words, the Lord anointed mankind as lords and ladies. He took a diadem bejeweled with mysterious heavenly pearls, and He crowned our heads, making us royalty of the earth. We reign over everything made of atoms. We alone—of all the creatures God formed from the primordial clay—we alone commune with the angels and God Himself, through our intellectual and moral life.

God put us in an enclosed garden: us, God, happiness, and everything we need. The enclosure protected us from disorder and confusion; it gave us a home with a beautiful roof: God. God was the horizon of the garden, and we never had to leave; we never had to fight traffic or labor at unpleasant business. God made us royalty in a palace.

This is not a fantasy. The earth hardened in the meantime; we got born in strife, besmirched with confusion, irreligion, and a great deal of selfish nonsense. We can’t manage to master ourselves, much less reign supreme.

But the dominion for which we were made is no fantasy. The royal throne endures.

Let us look at the amazing picture: Christ walked the earth a penniless man. He ate what was set in front of Him; He slept wherever the door of hospitality opened. He feared no one. He lived in the truth. He prayed. He smiled with the joy of God. Unarmed, with bare feet and a gentle voice, He reigned over the world.

He lived the spiritual life. The crown of holiness from above sat on His brow from birth to death. He made His pilgrim way on the same hard earth as we do, but He lived in the enclosed garden of a pure soul, a clear conscience, and an unswerving dedication to His destiny, a destiny of undying glory.

Jesus the Christ. Jesus the anointed. Anointed with the Holy Spirit. Consecrated in life, unbreakable life; consecrated in true dominion.

He wore His crown to the Cross. He reigned while they mocked Him and excoriated Him; He reigned while His lifeblood flowed out. Satan had no power over Him. What the Lord had said about the suffering of His dear friend Lazarus applied to His own apparent defeat: “This sickness is not to end in death. It is for the glory of God.”

Jasmine. Lillian. Wake up. The time has come to bathe and anoint your brows. The time has come to set the Christian crown on your foreheads. God is giving you the spiritual life. God is giving you dominion over everything that is made out of atoms. God is anointing you as princesses of His own royal house. Believe, girls. Believe.

And so I ask you, do you reject Satan…etc.

Stillness and Words

Holy Saturday, quiet world. Also a birthday to remember.

The Stillness of the World Before Bach

There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor Partita,
but what kind of a world?
A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.
Isolated churches
where the soprano-line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes,
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s silence before Bach.

-By Lars Gustafsson

Indeed. Bach rocks.

But what I cannot imagine is the stillness of the world before Shakespeare. How did we speak? How did we feel? Too windswept to imagine. Thank God for small favors: we were born P.S., post-Shakespeare.

Happy birthday, William, Bard, old friend.

On Good Friday…

…something ended. Something else began.

God became man to gather His scattered people. The Creator became a shepherd of men, a pastor. He summoned the wandering sheep by the sweet, true sound of His voice.

The sheep heard the call and came to Him. He taught them His unique heavenly doctrine.

“Your Father provides for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, who neither sew nor reap nor toil or spin. You are worth more than many sparrows… Forgive seventy times seven times… There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come… If someone strikes you on the left cheek, offer him the right cheek as well…”

The sheep heard His words and took note. But they did not understand.

As late as Holy Thursday night, the lambs who had walked closest to the divine pastor still had no idea what valley they were about to walk through.

“Lord, why do you reveal yourself to us and not to the world? Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Lord, show us the Father, then we will be satisfied. Lord, even though I have to die with you, I will not deny you!”

Deep into the night, Christ spoke to them about the Blessed Trinity and the Holy Spirit. They listened and took note, but they did not understand.

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Simple Enough

We pray that in this eucharist we may find the fullness of love and life.

This is part of the prayer with which the Mass of Holy Thursday begins. We pray that we will find the fullness of love and life.

Whether or not we find the fullness of love and life seems to depend solely on a simple act of faith.

God transcends every possible thought; He unfolds Himself to us as an inexhaustible mystery. And yet He proposes to us this evening something so exquisitely simple that it stops us short.

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The Truth is a Confusing Thing

Did Blessed Pope Pius IX weave a crown of thorns and send it to Jefferson Davis’ post-war prison cell as a gesture of sympathy?

–Keeping the anniversary of Virginia’s secession by caressing the Davis’ wartime home with my eyes, I eagerly anticipated the sight of the relic.

To my chagrin, I learned that the crown had only been temporarily displayed in Richmond. The crown resides permanently in New Orleans.

Not only that: A thoroughly well-educated young man told me that Mrs. Varina Davis wove the crown, not the Pope.

Buzzkill. (I did lay eyes on the Holy Father’s 1863 letter to East Clay Street!)

My opinion: The arguments for Varina’s having woven the crown do not convince. Could have been the Pope…

…For our meditation: the Pontifical prayer for the consecration of the Holy Chrism, used to anoint in Holy Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders…

God our maker, source of all growth in holiness, accept the joyful thanks and praise we offer in the name of your Church. In the beginning, at your command, the earth produced fruit-bearing trees.

From the fruit of the olive tree you have provided us with oil for holy chrism. The prophet David sang of the life and joy that the oil would bring us in the sacraments of your love.

After the avenging flood, the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch announced your gift of peace. This was a sign of a greater gift to come. Now the waters of baptism wash away the sins of men, and by the anointing with olive oil you make us radiant with your joy.

At your command, Aaron was washed with water, and your servant Moses, his brother, anointed him priest. This too foreshadowed greater things to come. After your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, asked John for baptism in the waters of Jordan, you sent the Spirit upon him in the form of a dove and by the witness of your own voice you declared him to be your only, well-beloved Son. In this you clearly fulfilled the prophecy of David, that Christ would be anointed with the oil of gladness beyond his fellow men.

And so, Father, we ask you to bless + this oil you have created. Fill it with the power of your Holy Spirit through Christ your Son. It is from him that chrism takes its name and with chrism you have anointed for yourself priests and kings, prophets and martyrs.