Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wootton on the 15th-century (i.e. post-1492) reevaluation of the theory of "'the terraqueous globe'"

"In the nineteenth century it was claimed, in all seriousness, that Columbus's contemporaries thought the world was flat and expected him to sail over the edge.  This story is balderdash.  But the fact that everyone (or at least every properly educated person) thought that you could in principle sail around the world (and in 1519-22 Magellan did just that) does not mean that they thought it was round."

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 111.  Wootton outlines the five available theories (111-117), of which only the fifth ("held by Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253), Andalo di Negro (1260-1334), Themo Judaei (mid fourteenth century) and Marsilius of Inghen (1340-96)") corresponds to the "the modern conception" of "'the terraqueous globe'" (117).  Yet "this last belief found no support in the fifteenth century", and was only rehabilitated in the wake of the Columbian discovery of 1492.  The first of the five, that of Sacrobosco (c. 1195-c. 1256), is represented by the illustration, taken from p. 119 of a 1585 printing of Christophorus Clavius' In sphaeram Ioannis de Sacro Bosco commentarius (Wootton reproduces this from the 2nd edition of 1581), where it is rejected (124).
     For an earlier critique of Wootton on this (who, however, seems to rise to it here), go here.

Mere nostalgia for the Good as "the root of despair"

"It is the desire for Good that evil little by little destroys in us, but it is prevented from destroying with it the nostalgia for that Good of which we are no longer capable.  On the contrary it nourishes it and cultivates it, for it is already the root of despair—of that despair which alone is capable of completing our destruction by snatching us from God."

     Georges Bernanos, "Brother Martin," trans. Erwin W. Geissman, Cross currents 2, no. 4 (Summer 1952):  7 (1-9).  All of this appeared originally in Esprit 19, no. 10 =no. 183 (Octobre 1951):  (433-435).

"one reforms nothing in the Church by ordinary means."

Pharisaic "Indignation has never redeemed anyone, but it has probably lost many souls.  All the simoniacal bacchanals of sixteenth century Rome would not have been of great profit for the devil if they had not succeeded in the unique coup of hurling Luther into despair and, along with this dauntless monk, two-thirds of unhappy Christendom.  Luther and his followers despaired of the Church, and it is a curious fact that one who despairs of the Church runs the risk of sooner or later despairing of mankind.  From this point of view Protestantism appears to me like a compromise with despair. . . .
     "A moment ago I wrote that the scandal of Renaissance Rome hurled Luther into despair.  No doubt that is true only in part.  For a monk of his time that sort of danse macabre [(presumably the scandal)] had nothing about it to disconcert either reason or conscience, and the awaited inevitable end found itself inscribed in stone upon the portals of cathedrals.  The people of the Church would have willingly tolerated his joining his voice to so many other more illustrious or more saintly voices which never ceased to denounce these disorders.  The unhappiness of Martin Luther was to aspire to reform. . . . [Now] It is . . . a fact of experience that one reforms nothing in the Church by ordinary means.  Whoever pretends to reform the Church by these means, by the very means through which one reforms a temporal society, not only fails in his undertaking, but infallibly ends by finding himself outside the Church.  I say that he finds himself outside the Church before anyone takes the trouble of excluding him.  I say that he excludes himself by a sort of tragic fatality.  He renounces the Church's spirit, he renounces her dogmas, he becomes her enemy almost without his own knowledge, and if he tries to return each step only separates him the more.  It seems as if his very good will itself is accursed.  This, I repeat, is a fact of experience that everyone can verify for himself if he will only take the trouble of studying the lives of heresiarchs great and small.  One reforms the Church only by suffering for her.  One reforms the visible Church only by suffering for the invisible Church.  One reforms the vices of the Church only by being prodigal of the example of her most heroic virtues.  It is possible that St. Francis Assisi was not less revolted than Luther by the debauchery and by the simony of prelates.  It is even certain that he suffered more cruelly because of them, for his nature was very different from that of the monk of Weimar.  But he did not challenge the iniquity, he did not try to confront it with himself.  He hurled himself into poverty, plunged into it as deeply as he could, along with his followers, as into the source of all purity.  Instead of trying to snatch from the Church her ill-gained goods, he overwhelmed her with invisible treasures, and under the gentle hand of this mendicant the heap of gold and luxury began to blossom like an April hedge. . . .
     "The Church has need not of reformers, but of saints.  Martin was the reformer born.  There are reformers whose tragic destiny seems explicable to us, Lamennais for example. . . . He was made for despair. . . . He filled himself to the brim with despair.  But Luther, Martin Luther, he was rather made for joy. . . .  Ah well, this strong man held out no longer than the other.  He too became infatuated with himself.  We have seen him take the bit in his teeth, like a drayhorse which has set its huge hoof in a wasp's nest.  He took off kicking clumsily with his four hooves, belly to the ground.  And when he came to a haltnot out of weariness certainly, but to see where he was, to recover his breath, to smell out his woundsthe old Church was already far behind him, at an immense distance, incalculable, separated from him by all of eternity, and heah, rage, stupefaction, heart-rending misfortune."

     Georges Bernanos, "Brother Martin," trans. Erwin W. Geissman, Cross currents 2, no. 4 (Summer 1952):  5-7 (1-9).  All of this appeared originally in Esprit 19, no. 10 =no. 183 (Octobre 1951):  (433-445).  "in common medical parlance, the words 'acute crisis' soon evoke another word, 'fever'.  But pharisaism is a suppuration without fever, a cold and painless abscess" (4).
     But as for Luther himself, "I believe that there is here rather something to make us dream on the mysterious designs of the all-powerful mercy towards this strange man.  I prefer to try to understand something of the scenes of a drama whose true 
dénouement will always remain unknown to us in this world and perhaps also in the next.  Who can tell, indeed, where the gentle pity of God will hid those He has snatched from Hell by some irresistible stratagem, to the eternal confusion of the just and the wise" (5).

Suffering at the hands of the Church

"Something rather more than the courage of optimists is necessary to suffer through [(par, by or at the hands of)] the Church at a time when appearances lead men to believe that the Church is not with those who suffer."

     Albert Béguin, introductory note to Georges Bernanos, "Brother Martin," trans. Erwin W. Geissman, Cross currents 2, no. 4 (Summer 1952):  2 (1-9).  All of this appeared originally in Esprit 19, no. 10 =no. 183 (Octobre 1951):  434 (433-445).
     As for the phrase "to suffer through the Church", Béguin got that through Bernanos from "a young Dominican slain at Verdun, Father Clérissac":  "'To suffer for the Church is nothing; it is necessary to suffer through her'" (4:  "Cela n’est rien de souffrir pour l’Eglise, il faut avoir souffert par Elle", It is nothing to suffer for the Church; it is neccessary to have suffered at her hands (437)).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'If our bodies are temples, we should not fear to fill them with smoke."

New Liturgical Movement
     Matthew Schmitz, response to Curt R. Craton in "Blowing smoke," "Letters," First things no. 267 (November 2016):  14 (13-14).  "Now, incense is not tobacco, and I consider smoking a beautiful indulgence but an ugly habit.  Still, . . ."  (What is more, smoking does not do to a temple what it does to a body.)

Gotta serve somebody

"you have delivered us into the hand of our [(ἡμῶν)] enemies, because [(ἀνθ᾽)] we honored their [(αὐτῶν)] gods.  You are righteous, O Lord!"

     Esther C:17-18 (Old Greek) =4:17n, NETS, italics mine.  C:17-18 (21) (Alpha) =4.17n, NETS:  "you delivered us into the hands of our enemies if we honored their gods.  You are righteous, O Lord!"  14:6-7, RSV:  "thou hast given us into the hands of our enemies, because we glorified their gods."  (The NETS follows the Göttingen edition, which see for "if".)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Vive le Christ Roi!

"Some French Catholics saw Hitler as a bulwark against atheist Bolshevism:  The last line of defense as the Red Army advanced on the bunker beneath the Chancellery in Berlin was manned by Frenchmen from the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen SS, who rose from their trenches to meet the Russian tanks with the cry of 'Long live Christ the King!'"

     Piers Paul Read, "What the novelist knows," First things no. 267 (November 2016):  36 (33-38).  I have not independently verified this claim.

"So, brethren, let us long, because we are to be filled."

Ary Scheffer,
St. Augustine and his mother
St. Monica
The Louvre, Paris.
"The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing [(sanctum desiderium)].  What you long for [(desideras)], as yet you do not see; but longing [(desiderando)] makes in you the room that shall be filled, when that which you are to see shall come.  When you would fill a purse, knowing how large a present it is to hold, you stretch wide [(extendis)] its cloth or leather:  knowing how much you are to put in it, and seeing that the purse is small, you extend [(extendit)] it to make more room.  So by withholding the vision God extends [(extendit)] the longing, through longing he makes the soul extend [(extendit)], by extending [(extendendo)] it he makes room in it.  So, brethren, let us long, because we are to be filled. . . . Let us stretch ourselves out [(extendamus)] towards him, that when he comes he may fill us full."

     St. Augustine, In epistulam Johannis ad Parthos tractatus decem 4.6 (407), trans. Burnaby (LCC 8, 290), underscoring mine.  Also WSA III.13; FC 92; NPNF 7.  Latin:  SC 75, 230, 232.  Also NBA 24/2; ed. Reale (1994); PL 35, cols. 2008-2009.
     This comes out in the Liturgy of the hours (Office of Readings for the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time?) as
The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied. 
Suppose you are going to fill some holder or container, and you know you will be given a large amount. Then you set about stretching your sack or wineskin or whatever it is. Why? Because you know the quantity you will have to put in it and your eyes tell you there is not enough room. By stretching it, therefore, you increase the capacity of the sack, and this is how God deals with us. Simply by making us wait he increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us. 
So, my brethren, let us continue to desire, for we shall be filled.