Saturday, August 22, 2020

Sing without ceasing

The Assembly of Angels (16th cent),
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
"the reason Isaiah [in the 8th century BC] and John [in the 1st century AD] give a similar report is that the seraphim had been singing the [Sanctus or Trisagion] without interruption over the eight hundred years that intervened between the time of Isaiah and St. John."

     Robert Louis Wilken, "With angels and archangels," Pro ecclesia 10, no. 4 (Fall 2001):  462 (460-474).  "For St. John says that the heavenly chorus sang 'holy, holy, holy,' unceasingly."

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

"Those who touch the dead body of Christ . . . touch the Word of life and hold in their hands the flesh of God, who is substantially and personally present in the dead cadaver of Christ."

"all that befalls Jesus Christ is rightly attributed only to the person of the Word, who is the personal subject of all the human actions and sufferings [and 'all divine and human properties'] of Christ.
     . . . And "this is the case also on Holy Saturday, when the body and soul of Christ are separated by death.  The human body of Christ undergoes death in the crucifixion, and the animating principle of the body is sundered from the body.  His cadaver is then buried in the tomb.  Here, however, the person of the Word continues to subsist personally in his cadaver.  The body of Christ remains hypostatically united to the Word even after death.  Those who touch the dead body of Christ, then, do indeed touch the Word of life and hold in their hands the flesh of God, who is substantially and personally present in the dead cadaver of Christ.  Meanwhile, the Word also continues to subsist in his spiritual soul separated from his body.  This human soul is the soul of the Word.  And in this immaterial soul, the Word illumines the whole cosmos of human souls who have died prior to the time of Christ (enlightening them in various ways, as we have seen).  It follows from all this that the Word is luminous personally in and through his death, both in his cadaveric body and in his separated soul.  In both he teaches us about the personal identity of God the Son and Word who has come into the world to illumine our human condition.  In these mysteries we perceive his solidarity with the human race, since God freely adopted our human nature for our sake and in the service of our salvation.  In that sense, God the Son’s personal solidarity with us even in human death is indicative of a deeper divine will that he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit and in which he is utterly one with [(i.e. not separated from)] them.  God the Trinity willed that the Son should take flesh and die for our salvation, advancing even into the experience of death and hell, as a means to demonstrate the power of God to make use of death in his own human life in order to undo the power of death over the human race as a collective whole.
     ". . . the divine goodness and love of God are perfect and are therefore not subject to the possibility of any form of internal theological drama.  They cannot develop or become more perfectly enriched, as if God could grow in goodness or love as an effect of his dramatic struggle with creaturely evil, suffering, death, or hell.  Nevertheless, God can reveal to us in particularly intensive ways his own goodness and intrinsically immutable love through the drama of his own human suffering, death, and descent into hell.  It is through these mysteries not that God changes, but that the unchanging love of God is made most manifest to us precisely in God’s all-powerful victory over the powers of death, moral evil, and hell.  It is the victory of Christ, his triumphant, luminous entry into hell on Holy Saturday, that manifests most to us his love for the human race.  He has the capacity as God in his goodness and love to make use even of the worst that angelic and human evil can do, to draw forth a yet greater and infinitely superior good:  the good of our participation in his divine life, in the world of the resurrection.  It is not, then, the passivity, misery, or spiritual loss of Christ alone that indicates his true solidarity with us out of love.  Rather, as the universal tradition of the ancient fathers underscores in both west and east:  Christ’s true solidarity with us on Holy Saturday is most deeply expressed by the use of his genuine divine authority in the service of his victory over evil.  This is an authority borne in love, but also one that originates from Christ’s legitimate power as God.  On Holy Saturday, Christ shows us his true solidarity with us not only as man but also as God, by conquering death, hell, and the devil with the power of love."

     Thomas Joseph White, O.P., contra Hans Urs von Balthasar and others, The incarnate Lord:  a Thomistic study in Christology (Washington, DC:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2015), 419-420 (“Did Christ descend into hell?”), small caps mine.  Cf. this one.

Monday, August 17, 2020

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup"

יְֽהוָ֗ה מְנָת־חֶלְקִ֥י וְכֹוסִ֑י

     Ps 16:5a RSV.  So far as I can tell, מְנָת, at least, is (with the exception of Jer 13:25) overwhelmingly edible in context.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Bolshevik bourgeoisie

     "In between their epic labors at the great construction site of socialism, residents of the House of Government 'were settling into their new apartments and setting up house in familiar ways,' unable to transcend the 'hen-and-rooster problems' of marriage and domestic life.  Many of them expressed unease at sinking into the traditional bonds of kinship and procreation.  'I am afraid I might turn into a bourgeois,' worried the writer Alexsandr Serafimovich (Apt. 82) to a friend.  'In order to resist such a transformation, I have been spitting into all the corners and onto the floor, blowing my nose, and lying in bed with my shoes on and hair uncombed.  It seems to be helping.'
     "But it wasn't.  No one really knew what a communist family should be, or how to transform relations between parents and children, or how to harness erotic attachments to the requirements of revolution.  Bolsheviks were known to give their children names such as 'Vladlen' (Vladimir Lenin), 'Mezhenda' (International Women's Day), and 'Vsemir' (worldwide revolution).  But naming was easy compared to living.  The Soviet state went to great lengths to inculcate revolutionary values in schools and workplaces, but not at home.  It never devised resonant rituals to mark birth, marriage, and death.  The party ideologist Aron Solts (Apt. 393) claimed that 'the family of a Communist must be a prototype of a small Communist cell . . . , a collectivity of comrades in which one lives in the family the same way as outside the family.'
     "In that case, why bother with familes at all?  Neither Solts nor anyone else had a convincing answer.  Sects, Slezkine notes, 'are about brotherhood (and, as an afterthought, sisterhood), not about parents and children.  This is why most end-of-the-world scenarios promise "all these things" within one generation. . . , and all millenarian sects, in their militant phase, attempt to reform marriage or abolish it altogether (by decreeing celibacy or promiscuity).'
     "Unable or unwilling to abolish the family, Bolsheviks proved incapable of reproducing themselves [qua Bolsheviks].  For Slezkine, this is cause for celebrating the resilience of family ties under the onslaught of Stalin's social engineering.  It's worth asking, though, why the same Bolsheviks who willingly deported or exterminated millions of class enemies as remnants of capitalism balked at similarly radical measures against the bourgeois institution of the family.  Could it be that they, especially the men among them, realized that by doing so they stood to lose much more than their chains?
     "Whatever the case, the children they raised in the House of Government became loyal Soviet citizens but not millenarians.  Their deepest ties were to their parents (many of whom, as Slezkine shows with novelistic detail, were seized from their apartments and shot during the Great Terror) and to Pushkin and Tolstoy—not to Marx and Lenin.  Instead of devouring its children, he concludes, the Russian Revolution was devoured by the children of the revolutionaries.  As Tolstoy's friend Nikolai Strakhov wrote about the character Bazarov, the proto-Bolshevik at the heart of Turgenev's Fathers and Sons (another work about the family), 'The love affair takes place against his iron will; life, which he had thought he would rule, catches him in its huge wave.'"

     Benjamin Nathans, "Bolshevism's new believers," a review of The house of government:  a saga of the Russian Revolution, by Yuri Slezkine, The New York review of books 64, no. 18 (November 23, 2017):  21 (18-21).