Saturday, September 29, 2018

"Grant us, with Michael, still, O Lord | Against the prince of pride to fight"

Ghirlandaio (15th cent.)
"As often as anything very mighty is to be done, we see that Michael is sent, that by that very thing, and by his name [('Who-is-like-unto-God?')], we may remember that none is able to do as God doeth. Hence that old enemy whose pride hath puffed him up to be fain to be like unto God, even he who said, I will ascend unto heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will be like the Most High [(Is 14:13-14)], this old enemy, when at the end of the world he is about to perish in the last death, having no strength but his own, is shown unto us a-fighting with Michael the Archangel [(Rev 12:7)]".

     St. Gregory I, Homily 34.9 on the Gospels, trans. Divine Office.  CCSL 141, p. 307 =PL 76, col. 1251A.  The headline is from the 17th-century (?) hymn "Te splendor et virtus Patris":
Contra ducem superbiæ | Sequamur hunc nos principem 
Against the duke of pride | May we follow this prince
Trans. Hurst (Gregory the Great:  forty gospel homilies, Cistercian studies series 123 (Kalamazoo, MI:  Cistercian Publications, 1990), 287):
     As often as something requiring wonderful courage is to be done, Michael is said to be sent.  We are to understand from the very action and name [('Who is like God')] that no one can do what is possible to God.  The ancient enemy, who in his pride desired to be like God, said, I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of heaven I will set my throne on high; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.  At the end of the world, when he is left to his own strength, he is to be destroyed by a most dreadful punishment when he does battle with the archangel Michael.  So John tells us that war broke out with Michael the archangel, so that the one who proudly elevated himself to likeness to God may learn, after he has been destroyed by Michael, that no one can rise to likeness to God by pride.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cebes on the cloak, coat, or garment that survives the man

"that weaver had woven and worn out many such cloaks [(ἱμάτια)],  He perished after many of them, but before the last."

     Plato, Phaedo 87c, trans. G. M. A. Grube.  "the cloak [(ἱμάτιον)] the old [weaver] had woven himself and was wearing was still sound and had not perished" at his death (87bc).  Plato has Cebes directs this against the argument that "Since you see that when the man dies, the weaker part continues to exist, do you not think that the more lasting part must be preserved during that time?" (87a), but it's a striking observation regardless of the use to which it is here put.