Saturday, January 11, 2014

Waugh on relics false and true

     “‘What happened to the cross?’ asked Helena.
     “‘Oh they threw those away, all three of them.  They had to, you know, by law.’
     “‘Where did they put them?  Do you remember?’
     “‘I want that cross.’
     “‘Yes, come to think of it I expect there’ll be quite a demand for anything to do with the Galilean now that he’s suddenly become so popular and respectable.’
     “‘Could you show me where it is?’
     “‘I reckon so.’
     “‘I am rich.  Tell me your price.’
     “‘I wouldn’t take anything from you, lady, for a little service like that.  I shall get paid all right, in time.  You have to take a long view in my business.  How I see it, this new religion of the Galilean may be in for quite a run.  A religion starts, no one knows how.  Soon you get holy men and holy places springing up everywhere, old shrines change their names, there’s apparitions and pilgrimages.  There’ll be ladies wanting other things besides the cross.  All one wants is to get the thing started properly.  One wants a few genuine relics in thoroughly respectable hands.  Then everyone else will follow.  There won’t be enough genuine stuff to meet the demand.  That will be my turn.  I shall get paid.  I wouldn’t take anything from you now, lady.  Glad to see you have the cross.  It won’t cost you a thing.’
     “Helena listened and in her mind saw, clear as all else on that brilliant timeless morning, what was in store.  She saw the sanctuaries of Christendom become a fair ground, stalls hung with beads and medals, substances yet unknown pressed into sacred emblems; heard a chatter of haggling in tongues yet unspoken.  She saw the treasuries of the Church filled with forgeries and impostures.  She saw Christians fighting and stealing to get possession of trash.  She saw all this, considered it and said:  ‘It’s a stiff price’; and then:  ‘Show me the cross.’”

     Dialogue between Helena and "The Wandering Jew"ish (xii) "business man" (chap. 9) who, in the "dream that she knew was of God" (244), directed her to the location of the True Cross.  Evelyn Waugh, Helena:  a novel, chap. 12, Ellen's Invention ((London:  Chapman & Hall, 1950), pp. 249-251).

     “Helena’s many prayers received unequal answers.  Constantine was at long last baptized and died in the expectation of an immediate, triumphal entry to Paradise.  Britain for a time became Christian, and 136 parish churches, a great part of them in the old lands of the Trinovantes, were dedicated to Helena.  The Holy Places have been alternately honoured and desecrated, lost and won, bought and bargained for, throughout the centuries.
     “But the wood has endured.  In splinters and shavings, gorgeously encased, it has travelled the world over and found a joyous welcome among every race.
     “For it states a fact.
     “Hounds are checked, hunting wild.  A horn calls clear through the covert.  Helena casts them back on the scent.
     “Above all the babble of her age and ours, she makes one blunt assertion.  And there alone lies Hope.”

     Evelyn Waugh, Helena:  a novel, chap. 12, Ellen's Invention ((London:  Chapman & Hall, 1950), pp. 249-251 and 264).  The penultimate sentence of the novel I would read as follows:  Hounds on the trail of sacred history, but "hunting wild" in such a way as to service the hucksterism so often associated with the traffic in false relics, are put back onto the trail of the historicity of the faith by the dogged childlikeness of St. Helena, who asked (e.g. of the Gnostic Marcias) the simple "'child's question'" (130) "'When and where did all this happen?  And how do you know?'" (128).  The English word "invention" derives, of course, from the Latin "inventio", which derives from "invenire", "to come upon, find, meet with, discover" but also (as with the the Englishwoman "prominent for her hostility to the Church") also "invent, make up":
"It is reported (and I, for one, believe it) that some few years ago a lady prominent for her hostility to the Church returned from a visit to Palestine in a state of exaltation.  'I got the real low-down at last,' she told her friends.  'The whole story of the crucifixion was made up by a British woman named Ellen.  Why, the guide showed me the very place where it happened.  Even the priests admit it.  They call their chapel 'the Invention of the Cross'" (Preface, p. ix).

“‘a solid chunk of wood . . . to have their silly heads knocked against.’”

     “‘And some of them don’t seem to believe anything at all,’ said Helena.  ‘It’s all a game of words.’
     “‘I know,’ said [Pope] Sylvester, ‘I know.’
     “And then Helena said something which seemed to have no relevance.  ‘Where is the cross, anyway?’ she asked.
     “‘What cross, my dear?’
     “‘The only one.  The real one.’
     “‘I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone knows.  I don’t think anyone has ever asked before.’
     “‘It must be somewhere.  Wood doesn’t just melt like snow.  It’s not three hundred years old.  The temples here are full of beams and paneling twice that age.  It stands to reason God would take more care of the cross than of them.’
     “‘Nothing “stands to reason” with God.  If He had wanted us to have it, no doubt He would have given it to us.  But He hasn’t chosen to.  He gives us enough.’
     “‘But how do you know He doesn’t want us to have itthe cross, I mean?  I bet He’s just waiting for one of us to go and find itjust at this moment when it’s most needed.  Just at this moment when everyone is forgetting it and chattering about the hypostatic union, there’s a solid chunk of wood waiting for them to have their silly heads knocked against.  I’m going off to find it,’ said Helena.”

     Evelyn Waugh, Helena:  a novel, chap. 9, Recessional ((London:  Chapman & Hall, 1950), pp. 208-209).  "'It's not three hundred years old'":

"'Tell me, Lactantius, this god of yours.  If I asked you when and where he could be seen, what would you say?'
     "'I should say that as a man he died two hundred and seventy-eight years ago in the town now called Aelia Capitolina in Palestine.'
     "'Well, that's a straight answer anyway.  How do you know?'
     "'We have the accounts written by witnesses.  Besides that there is the living memory of the Church'" (chap. 6, pp. 130-131, in response to the answers "'beyond time and space'" given to the "'child's question'" ("'When and where did all this happen?  And how do you know?'") by her former tutor, the Gnostic Marcias (pp. 128-130)).

Friday, January 10, 2014

“‘For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.’”

     But by Twelfth Night she rallied and on the eve set out by litter along the five rough miles to the shrine of the Nativity.  There was no throng of pilgrims.  Macarius and his people kept Epiphany in their own church.  Only the little community of Bethlehem greeted her and led her to the room they had prepared.  She rested there dozing until an hour before dawn when they called her and led her out under the stars, then down into the stable-cave, where they made a place for her on the women’s side of the small, packed congregation.
     The low vault was full of lamps and the air close and still.  Silver bells announced the coming of three vested, bearded monks, who like the kings of old now prostrated themselves before the altar.  So the long liturgy began.
     Helena knew little Greek and her thoughts were not in the words nor anywhere in the immediate scene.  She forgot even her quest and was dead to everything except the swaddled child long ago and those three royal sages who had come from so far to adore him.
     ‘This is my day,’ she thought, ‘and these are my kind.’
     Perhaps she apprehended that her fame, like theirs, would live in one historic act of devotion; that she too had emerged from a kind of οὐτοπία or nameless realm and would vanish like them in the sinking nursery fire-light among the picture-books and the day’s toys.
     ‘Like me,’ she said to them, ‘you were late in coming.  The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle.  They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way.  For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed amid the disconcerted stars.
     ‘How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot!  How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!
     ‘You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you.  What did you do?  You stopped to call on King Herod.  Deadly exchange of compliments in which began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!
     ‘Yet you came and were not turned away.  You too found room before the manger.  Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love.  In that new order of charity that had just come to life, there was room for you, too.  You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.
     “‘You are my especial patrons,’ said Helena, ‘and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.
     “‘Dear cousins, pray for me,’ said Helena, ‘and for my poor overloaded son.  May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw.  Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly.  And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.
     “‘For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate.  Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.’

     Evelyn Waugh, Helena:  a novel, chap.11, Epiphany ((London:  Chapman & Hall, 1950), pp. 237-240).

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Verbum Domini.
Deo gratias.

     Surprisingly, this, taken together, is a recent innovation.  "Verbum Domini" considered as the acclamation/versicle component of an acclamation/versicle-and-response to the reading of Scripture, dates from the 1970 (1969) Missale Romanum of Paul VI.  (Or, since I'm not seeing it either here or here, should I say only the third typical (i.e. 2002) edition of that?)
     "Deo gratias", "an ancient Roman acclamation of approval" "used not only after readings but also after the dismissal and even, in some cases, after announcements" (Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American prayer book (New York:  The Seabury Press, 1981), 327), was "in use by the eighth century" and assigned to "the Server" in the Missale Romanum of 1962 (and Low
but not High?Mass before that), but "Verbum Dei" (> "Verbum Domini"?) was "suggested by Pope Paul VI" (Paul Bradshaw, Gordon Giles, and Simon Kershaw, in A companion to Common worship, ed. Paul Bradshaw, vol. 1 =Alcuin Club Collections 78 (London:  SPCK, 2001), 115).
See also Paul V. Marshall, Prayer book parallels:  the public services of the Church arranged for comparative study, Anglican liturgy in America 1 (New York:  The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1989), 326-327, for its absence from the Anglican rite in America before 1979.  Presumably it is therefore also absent at some point not long before The United Methodist book of worship of 1992 (see e.g. p. 23), the Presbyterian Book of common worship of 1993 (see e.g. p. 61), and so forth (though I haven't checked).
     Cf. pp. 510-511 of the third typical (2002) edition of the Missale Romanum:  
10. Deinde lector ad ambonem pergit, et legit primam lectionem, quam omnes sedentes auscultant. Ad finem lectionis significandam, lector acclamat: Verbum Dómini. Omnes respondent: Deo grátias.
11. Psalmista, seu cantor, psalmum cantat vel dicit, populo responsum proferente.
12. Postea, si habenda sit secunda lectio, lector eam ex ambone legit, ut supra. Ad finem lectionis significandam, lector acclamat: Verbum Dómini. Omnes respondent: Deo grátias.
     Though the revised translation of the Mass imposed from Advent of 2011 is often closer to the original Latin than the one it replaced, this (along with the inconsistent retention of "Cup" instead of "Chalice" at the anamnetic acclamation of the people "Quotiescumque manducamus panem hunc et calicem bibimus" (cf. 1 Cor 11:26), which appears in English as "When we eat this Bread drink this Cup")) is one of those points at which it is not close.  For "Verbum Domini" is translated "The Word of the Lord" after the first two readings, but "The Gospel of the Lord" after the Gospel.  Yet the Latin supports only the former.
     My thanks to Seattle Pacific Seminary student Cory Baker for posing the question.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

All metaphysical thinking is done "from within and at the interior of a founding tradition, of an initial given, of a revelation."

"the very difficulty one experiences in tying [(rattacher)] Saint Thomas to a[ny given] philosophical school is in fact the sign that the unity of his thought is assembled [(se noue, tied up)] elsewhere, higher up:  on the properly theological plane.  It was the exigencies proper to the understanding of the Word of God that led Saint Thomasas already Denysto transform the philosophical systems available to him [(préexistants)] and above all to innovate [(à créer du neuf)] in an attempt to express the metaphysics immanent to the datum revealed."

     Serge-Thomas Bonino, "Influence du Pseudo-Denys sur la conception thomiste de l'«esse»," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 94, no. 3 (1993):  272 (269-274).
All metaphysical thinking is done "from within and at the interior of a founding tradition, of an initial given, of a revelation.  Not that the tradition as such delivers a philosophy ready-made, immune to the vicissitudes of history, but [that] it is pregnant with an irrepressible [(fontale)] intelligibility that, however, it is fitting to re-enunciate in the mode proper to rational thought" (273). 

plenitudo esse > plenitudo essendi

"The Christian correction of Neoplatonism by Denys is therefore inseparable from [the] new and original ontology to which it gave rise:  being [(l'être)] is not a minimal perfection, simple existence, the [mere] fact of not being nothing, but . . . an intensive perfection that encompasses in a virtual fashion [(virtuellement)] all the other perfections."

     Serge-Thomas Bonino, "Influence du Pseudo-Denys sur la conception thomiste de l'«esse»," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 94, no. 3 (1993):  271 (269-274).
"if the causality of the God of Denys is [by contrast with that of the First Principle of Neoplatonism] universal and immediate, this is because being (which, he tells us, is the first effect of God, the first participation) in some way includes and encompasses in its own perfection all the other perfections, which, be they [for example] life or thought, are only aspects, modes, or manifestations of the perfection of being.  To live is one form of being, to think, another... By causing being, God causes at the same time all the other perfections, beginning with the causal virtue of the principles.  'It is because the principles of all beings [themselves] all participate in being that they exist and play their role as principles.  And if you prefer to call life itself the principle of the living of all living things, . . . you will discover that these participations, considered in an absolute fashion, participate first themselves in Being [(l'Être)], before being principles according to this or that mode, and that it is by their participation in Being that they exist and are participated [in]'" (270-271).
Cf., for example, ST I-II.18.1.Resp.:  "God alone has the whole plenitude of His Being [(plenitudinem . . . esse)] in a certain unity: whereas every other thing has its proper fulness of being [(plenitudinem essendi)] in a certain multiplicity."