31 December 2007

Commemoration of St. Sylvester I, Pope and Confessor

Under the pontificate of this holy Pope - St. Sylvester (314-335) - the Church, after three hundred years of persecution, begins to enjoy liberty, and spreads in the Roman Empire; and the Council of Nicaea (325) establishes against the heretic Arius the doctrine of the Divinity of the Savior.

The last day of 2007 has been a pleasant one for us, as I hope for all of you as well. Maria allowed us to sleep in until almost 8:30! Lisa managed to do a little grocery shopping. We were able to do some reading - Lisa is reading a thick volume of short stories by G. K. Chesterton, and I Etienne Gilson's History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. About an hour from now (8:00 PM) we will be at the Kartause taking in Dickens's Christmas Carol performed by some of the young folk of the ITI community. We'll follow that up with some merry making, but I'm not sure if we'll be able to keep Maria up until midnight (I'm even less sure that we'll want to). Rumor has it there are even going to be some fireworks in the downtown Gaming area, so maybe we'll be able to watch those out of our living room window.

Just a quick note for those interested in the intellectual side of our life as well as the pictures of Maria. We added a link to a blog called Rorate Coeli on the sidebar under "Our Favorite Sites." It's one we've come to enjoy reading, and right now they are spotlighting Pope Pius XI's encyclical on ecumensim, Mortalium animos (Epiphany, 1928) as we approach the 80th anniversary of its promulgation. This, together with Pope Leo XIII's 1896 encyclical Satis cognitum, is essential reading for the Catholic Church's teaching on ecumensim.

Lisa is getting quite talented at pouring beer. Our favorite here is called Berg König (Mountain King). Pictured below are fine examples of a "Blooming Head" and "Belgian Lace."

Blooming Head

Belgian Lace

30 December 2007

Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity

The sacred Liturgy, in revealing to us the supernatural Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ, which affects our souls more especially at this time of Christmas, makes the Divinity under the aspect of Fatherhood resplendent in our eyes.

Yesterday we hopped on the 8:00 train out of here and arrived in Vienna just before 11:00. It was bitter, bitter cold. Colder than here in Gaming where the mountains shield us from the wind a little bit more. We walked first to the Naschmarkt, to browse the enourmous outdoor market with exotic foods and spices. We ate lunch there and found a traditional Austrian jacket that I liked at the flea market which sets up on Saturdays in conjunction with the Naschmarkt.

After that, though, we headed straight for the Hofburg Palace to get in out of the cold. We decided on the imperial treasury museum, which houses the finest collection of jewels on the continent. It was quite simply amazing, and we aren't the biggest fans of museums, generally preferring to see artwork in its proper home in churches.

The highlight was the Imperial Insigns dating from the 11th to 14th century, including the Imperial Crown, the Holy Lance, the Imperial Orb, and a partical of the True Cross. When I say particle, by the way, I mean something like a foot long with a nail hole in it. The Crown is 8 sided to symbolize the 8 gates of the heavenly Jerusalem; the front side holds 12 enormous jewels signifying the 12 Apostles; and on two of the panels are pictures of Kings David and Solomon. The whole is topped by a jewelled Cross signifying the heavenly source of the king's authority. The Holy Lance is so called because of its connection with the Roman Centurion, St. Longinus, who pierced the side of Christ on the Cross. It was carried in battle by the Holy Roman Emperors in the Middle Ages and was sometimes believed to confer invincibility on its wielder.

29 December 2007

St. Thomas of Canterbury, Bishop and Martyr

St. Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is the martyr of the liberties of the Church, in the XIIth century. Henry II, king of England, wished him to sanction customs contrary to the liberties of the Church. St. Thomas knew that to make this divine society subservient to the secular power would be to violate her very constitution, and therefore as Bishop he would willingly suffer death in defense of the Church of Christ. He was slain in his cathedral by the king's soldiers on December 29, 1170.

We spent the day in Vienna, had a great time (although a little bit of a cold time), and are quite exhausted - so we'll tell you all about it tomorrow. For today, enjoy one of the rhymes from Maria's favorite book.

T is also a martyr, Saint Thomas I mean,
The bravest Archbishop that ever was seen.
Saint Thomas was Primate of England, and fought
For the rights of the Church which the King set at naught;
So they quarrelled, these two, for a very long time,
Until Henry the Second comitted this crime:-
He threatened Saint Thomas's death, or at least
He said, "Who will get rid of this pestilent priest?"
FitzUrse and De Morville and Richard Le Breton
And William De Tracey, who heard the King threaten,
Rode off to the Abbey of Christ Church in Kent
And slew the good priest the King called "pestilent,"
On the last day but two in the month of December-
A date which all Englishmen used to remember,
Till Harry the Eighth, who had made himself Pope,
Broke Saint Thomas's statues in Mitre and Cope;
Yet still, where at Lambeth his empty niche stands,
Thames bargemen salute him with reverent hands.
(An Alphabet of Saints by Robert Hugh Benson).

28 December 2007

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Childermas)

It is because Herod believed the words of the Magi and of the high priests whom he consulted that he sees a rival in the Infant of Bethlehem and with jealousy pursues the Child, born King of the Jews. It is this God-King that the Innocents by dying confess. Their passion is the exaltation of Christ.

We learned an interesting fact from a cool site called Fish Eaters (thanks to Papou for telling us about this site). The II class feasts that follow Christmas each have something to teach us about martyrdom. St. Stephen is the first and greatest example of one who is a martyr both in will and in deed, St. John is the greatest example of one who is a martyr in will but not in deed, and the Holy Innocents are the greatest example of martyrs in deed but not in will. In other words, St. Stephen voluntarily accepted martyrdom and was killed, St. John accepted martyrdom but was not killed (not for lack of effort on the part of his persecutors!), and the Holy Innocents were killed without their voluntary acceptance of the martyrdom.

We also learned from the same source that a Catholic custom for keeping the Feast of the Holy Innocents is to eat something with a red sauce (like ice cream with raspberry sauce) in order to commemorate their innocent blood shed for Christ. Today, remember to pray for all those infants, born or unborn, who have died before being baptized.

Thank you to Dan Hilker for the Riesling from Luxemburg! It was excellent.

Today's Vespers hymn is truly beautiful:

Flowers of Martyrdom, all hail! * Smitten by the tyrant foe * On life's threshold, as the gale * Strews the roses ere they blow.

First to bleed for Christ, sweet Lambs! * What a simple death ye died! * Sporting with your wreaths and palms, * At the very altar side.

Honor, glory, virtue, merit * Be to Thee, O Virgin's Son! * With the Father, and the Spirit * While eternal ages run. Amen.

V. Under the throne of God, all the Saints cry:
R. Avenge our blood, O our God.

27 December 2007

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

St. John is the virgin Apostle, crowned with the halo of those who knew how to conquer their flesh; for this reason, he became "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Thanks to his angelic purity, he imbibed that wholesome wisdom of which the Epistle of the Mass speaks and which has given to him the halo of the Doctors. Finally he received the halo of the Martyrs, since he barely escaped a violent death. It is to St. John, who wrote a Gospel, three Epistles and the Apocalypse, that we owe the most beautiful pages on the Divinty of the Word made flesh, and it is for this reason that the virgin Apostle is symbolized by the eagle. His name is mentioned with the other Apostles' names in the Canon of the Mass. St. John the Evangelist departed this life at Ephesus (†101).

Happy Name Day to John!

26 December 2007

Saint Athanasius, Defender of the Faith

I finished another book yesterday, this one a Christmas present entitled Saint Athanasius, Defender of the Faith: A Life from the 4th Century for the Church of Today by the late Michael Davies. It's really more of a pamphlet than a book at only 84 pages. The booklet is little more than a very short biography of the life of St. Athanasius; it's interest lies in the parallel that the author suggests, although he does not argue for it, between St. Athanasius in the crisis of the 4th century and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in the crisis of the late 20th century: "The saint and the archbishop both acted outside the normal hierarchical structures in order to uphold what they maintained was authentic Catholic tradition, both were supported by a remnant of the faithful laity, both were repudiated by almost all their fellow bishops, and both underwent the agony of being excommunicated by the pope of their day."

I have to admit to being mostly ignorant of the circumstances that led up to the late archbishop's episcopal consecrations and subsequent excommunication in 1988. I find the parallels to St. Athanasius intriguing though; perhaps the whole situation with the Society of St. Pius X merits further study and consideration in this light.

St. Stephen, First Martyr

Stephen, one of the seven deacons chosen by the Apostles amongst the most pious and holy disciples to help them, received from them mission to organize the meals where the poor were fed in common. St. Stephen was reknowned for his virtues and worked such great wonders and signs among the people that the Jews from five different synagogues became alarmed and summoned him before the Sanhedrin. The Jews stoned this holy deacon, who invoked our Lord, saying: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" († 36). His name is inscribed in the Canon of the Mass.

Last night we had Christmas dinner with little Eli and his parents (the German/Siberian couple couldn't make it at the last minute). Here are a couple of pictures of the two little elves (we've also added a few more photos to our Christmas album).

25 December 2007

The Nativity of Our Lord

During the season of Advent we longed for the coming of Christ. In Christmastide we experience the joy of His coming into the world. The Church is full of the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. Jesus as God, begotten of the substance of the Father before all ages and born of the substance of His Mother in the world, is given to us. "And His name shall be called the Angel of Great Council."

By the union of our souls with Jesus born to human life, we are born to the divine life. "As many as received Him He gave them power to be made Sons of God" (St. John).

In the birth of Jesus we learn to know God as His Father: "All things are delivered to Me by My Father. And no one knoweth the Son but the Father: Neither doth anyone know the Father but the Son and He to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him" (St. Matthew).

During Christmastide, the liturgy shows us the Messias as the Son of God, clothed with humanity, glorified by the humble surprised shepherds, and adored by the Magi from the East. Let us fall down before the Child and bless God, for the birth of Jesus is the beginning of our Redemption through grace to the supernatural life.

For Christmas, the old custom of celebrating its feast at midnight has been kept, for it was at this hour that Mary in her spotless virginity gave to the world its Savior. In the midst of darkness, the Light was born. Therefore the Church celebrates Christmas on December 25, the time of the year when the days begin to lengthen. The custom of having three Masses originated in Jerusalem. A Mass was said in Bethlehem at a very early hour in the morning. Later a second Mass was celebrated in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. About midday a third Mass was celebrated. Each of the three Masses has its identifying characteristics. The Midnight Mass celebrates particularly the birth of Jesus, the Mass at dawn commemorates the adoration of the shepherds, the daytime Mass celebrates the eternal generation of the Word and the dignity of the Son of God.

Whereas Advent is the season of "absence of Jesus," Christmastide is a season of great joy in our possession of the Savior. Eight days after Christmas the Church celebrates the Circumcision of Jesus. On January 6, she commemorates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi (Epiphany), and Christmastide closes eight days later.

Last night right as we went to bed, John and I were pleasantly surprised to hear a brass "band" playing Christmas carols. We had no idea where it was coming from, until we looked up and saw a group of people on the porch of the house up the hill right behind our flat with their instruments. I'm sure most of Gaming heard them, but we were lucky enough to get a "front row seat."

This morning we woke up early to have cinnamon rolls (a tradition in my family) and open presents. Of course we took plenty of pictures. Maria had a blast, and John and I found that Christmas is much more fun now that we can watch Maria's excitement! She had no idea what to do at first when we handed her the presents, and then no idea why she was getting all these new toys, but she didn't seem to mind!

At 10 we attended Divine Liturgy, which was in Romanian, because many of the Romanian students here have family visisting. After Liturgy the few families who are still here had a small "Agape" meal. This evening we are going to have dinner with a family from India, and a couple of whom the wife is from Germany and the husband is from Siberia.

24 December 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!

This afternoon at 3:00 we attended Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. This is very similar to the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom which is offered here regularly; the difference is that the silent prayers of the priest are different and longer in the Liturgy of St. Basil.

Unfortunately, the timing of this made us miss something rather exciting. At 3:30 men rode into Gaming on horseback carrying a flame lit in Bethlehem! They lit a special candle in the parish church and then went on their way. So, when we arrived home I walked to the church with a candle and now we have a Christmas candle with a flame from Bethlehem. You can see it in the picure on the sidebar: it's the white candle in the midst of the wreath.

After dinner we read the proclamation of Christ's birth from the martyrology (traditionally done at Midnight, but we didn't want to keep Maria up too late):

~The year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created heaven and earth, five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine:
~From the deluge, the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven:
~From the birth of Abraham, the year two thousand and fifteen:
~From Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt, the year one thousand five hundred and ten:
~From David's being anointed king, the year one thousand and thirty-two:
~In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel:
~In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad:
~From the building of the city of Rome, the year seven hundred and fifty-two:
~In the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus:
~The whole world being in peace:
~In the sixth age of the world: Jesus Christ, the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months since his conception having passed, (here genuflect) In Bethlehem
of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary, being made Man: THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH!

Then we turned on the lights of the tree to Maria's great delight. We heard one of her new words quite a few times: "Pretty!" In the second picture her gaze is directed more toward the gifts than to the tree.

Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord

INTROIT (Ex. 16:6,7; Ps. 23:1)
This day you shall know that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning you shall see His glory. (Psalm) The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof: the world and all they that dwell therein. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. This day you shall know that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning you shall see His glory.

O God, Who dost gladden us by the yearly expectation of our redemption, grant that we, who now joyfully receive Thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may also without fear behold Him coming as our Judge, even the same Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

EPISTLE (Rom. 1:1-6)
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of David according to the flesh, and the Son of God according to the spirit of sanctification.

GRADUAL (Ex. 16:6,7; Ps. 79:2,3)
This day you shall know that the Lord will come and save us: and in the morning you shall see His glory. Give ear, O Thou that rulest Israel: Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep, Thou that sittest upon the Cherubims, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasses.

GOSPEL (Mt. 1:18-21)
The Angel appeared to Joseph and announced to him that Mary his wife should bring forth a Son, conceived by the Holy Ghost.

OFFERTORY (Ps. 23:7)
Lift up your gates, O ye princes: and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, and the King of glory shall enter in.

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that as we anticipate the adorable birthday of Thy Son, so we may joyfully receive His eternal gifts: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

COMMUNION (Is. 40:5)
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed: and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.

We beseech Thee, O Lord, grant us fresh courage, as we celebrate the birthday of Thine only-begotten Son: Whose heavenly mystery is our food and drink. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

23 December 2007

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Law Giver, the desire of the nations and the Savior thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God (Is. 7:14; 33:22).

It was rather hasty of me to assume that I would finish no more books before the end of the year. I seem to have grossly underestimated the hours available in the day when one has neither job nor classes with which to concern oneself. So, today I finished up another book left undone during the semester: Aristotle's Politics.

The contrast between Aristotle's politics and that which today passes for politics is enormous. For Aristotle, the main task of the politician is precisely to "legislate morality", whereas this is now taken to be the worst crime a politician can commit. A summary of Aristotle's political thinking would look something like this: The goal of human life is happiness; happiness is action in accordance with virtue; the purpose of the city is to help men to achieve happiness; therefore, the city is to enact laws that encourage virtue and punish vice.

Ah, well. Politics has never been my cup of tea. As far as political arrangements go, because the cultivation of virtue is the end (goal) of the city, virtuous men have the best claim to rule (paper topic: see sidebar), and therefore the best regime will be either a kingship or an aristocracy depending only on whether there is one or a few virtuous men (it not being possible to find complete virtue in a multitude).

Practical thinker that he is, though, Aristotle does not stop here. Knowing full well that the best regime is beyond the capacity of most cities, he also teaches which form of regime of those attainable by most cities is best. This is that in which the middle class is strong - something of a halfway house between democracy and oligarchy. In democracies the poor rule to their own advantage which is contrary to the interests of the wealthy; and in oligarchies the wealthy rule to their own advantage which is contrary to the interests of the poor. Now correct regimes (unlike these deviant ones, to whose ranks should be added tyranny) rule for the common advantage, but this presupposes virtue on the part of the rulers. If this is unattainable, the best regime is that in which the middle class is strong and rules to its own advantage. This corresponds most closely to the common advantage because the interests of the middle class coincide sometimes with the wealthy and sometimes with the poor.

22 December 2007

O King of the Nations (Ember Saturday)

O King of the Gentiles and the desire thereof, Thou cornerstone that makest both one, come and deliver mankind, whom Thou didst form out of clay (Agg. 2:8; Eph. 2:14, 20).

This evening I finished reading St. Augustine's City of God. Most of it was assigned reading for my ecclesiology class, but we had skipped over a number of chapters in order to get through the whole work in one semester. So, yesterday and today I went back through and read the remaining chapters.

I imagine this will be the last entry of the year on my Reading List, in which I've kept track of all the titles that I've read this year (at the suggestion of a certain Floridian brother-in-law). The work is far too wide ranging to allow for an adequate summary. Some of the highlights, though, are his discussion of evil as a privation of good in the context of the fall of the demons, in which he also teaches that the will's creation from nothing is that which gives it the possibility of sinning; his discussion of sacrifice as consisting not in destruction per se, but in love and self-gift (paper topic: see sidebar). His extensive discussions of Roman history and religious practises are also interesting, as is the attention he gives to the biblical geneologies in describing the historical development of the City of God.

21 December 2007

St. Thomas, Apostle

St. Thomas doubted the Lord's Resurrection... but invited by our Lord to place his fingers into the Holy Wounds he passed suddenly from incredulity to ardent faith, exclaiming: "My Lord and my God!" He became one of the greatest Apostolic missionaries and died in India in the first century.

This is one of Maria's favorite activities of late. She clambers up into one of her strollers (with a little help) and sits there rather contentedly. Today she arranged a habit for herself out of a towel and her winter hat (no set up!). She is rather silly.

Yesterday, by the way, I closed out the semester at 11:00 in the morning (exam on the prophets). Last night we had a great time eating dinner with most of the ITI students before everybody scatters for Christmas break. Two of the students made a boatload of pasta, some salad, and a few other things (red wine, of course).

We were also given a statue of our Lady of Mariazell to have in our care over the Christmas break. Maria loves giving kisses to mother Mary and baby Jesus!

O Day-Spring (Ember Friday)

O Day-Spring, Brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps. 106:10).

[Ember Days] are intended, too, to consecrate to God the various seasons in nature, and to prepare by penance those who are about to be ordained. Ordinations generally take place on the Ember Days. The faithful ought to pray on these days for good priests. The Ember Days were until c. 1960 fastdays of obligation.

20 December 2007

Essays: Fall 2007

3 October 2007
The Triumph of the Love of God over the Sin of His People in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
Prophets, STM 311.

10 October 2007
The Benefit of Philosopher-Kings according to Socrates in Plato's Republic
Ancient Political Theory, STM 214.

21 November 2007
Love and Self-Gift: Sacrifice in St. Augustine's City of God
City of God, STM 313.
Published in Antiphon 11.2 (2007): 78-85.

26 November 2007
Aristotle on Politics: The Inclusive Rule of the Virtuous
Ancient Political Theory, STM 214.

7 December 2007
Form and Matter in Aristotle's Physics
Principles of Nature, STM 113.

17 December 2007
The Redemptive Suffering of Christ in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger
Synoptic Gospels, STM 211.

O Key of David

O Key of David, and Scepter of the house of Israel, that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: come and bring the prisoner forth from the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death (Is. 22:22; Apoc. 3:7; Lk. 1:79).

Christmas Comes Early

Today we received a wonderful present from the school: a washing machine!!! We found out that we were supposed to have had one from the beginning, but through various miscommunications we didn't get one until now, and have been doing all our laundry in the tub. As fun as that is, the novelty wears off pretty quickly, and I was more than happy to accept this gift!

Below is a picture of Maria in her stroller. She loves to push all her stuffed animals around the flat, and sometimes she just likes to sit in it and do nothing at all!

19 December 2007

O Root of Jesse (Ember Wednesday)

O Root of Jesse, Which standest for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, Whom the Gentiles shall beseech: come and deliver us, and tarry not (Is. 11:10).

On the Wednesday of Ember week in Advent, the Mystery of the Annunciation is commemorated by many Churches. The Mass is sung early in the morning. That Mass is sometimes called the Golden Mass, Rorate Mass, or Messias Mass. On that occassion the Church is illuminated, as a token that the world was still in darkness when the Light of the world appeared. The Mass is called the Golden Mass possibly because in the Middle Ages the whole of the Mass or at least the initial letters were written in gold, or on account of the golden magnificence of the solemnity, or more probably on account of the special, great, "golden" grace which, at that time, is obtained by the numerous prayers. It is called Rorate Mass after the first words of the introit of the Mass: Rorate Coeli; and Messias Mass because the Church, like our Lady, expresses on that day her longing for the arrival of the Messias.

The sun is out at last and it is beautiful outside. After my exam this morning we went for a nice walk to the Kartause and back. The views from inside the courtyard were wonderful.

18 December 2007

O Adonai

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us (Ex. 3:2; 20:1).

Shhh. Don't tell Daddy, I'm stowing away in his backpack!

17 December 2007

O Wisdom

O Wisdom, Which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence (Ecclus. 24:5; Wis. 8:1).

We recently found an exquisite hymn that we never knew existed which was/is used during the Octave leading up to Christmas (17-24 Dec). It is called Stabat Mater speciosa and is sung to the same melody as its Lenten counterpart Stabat Mater dolorosa.

From Treasury of Latin Prayers: "Stabat Mater speciosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time and one of the tenderest. It is based upon the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus. The hymn originated in the 13th century and has been attributed to Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306). There is a mirror image to this hymn, Stabat Mater dolorosa, which echoes the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the crucifixion and death of Jesus."

16 December 2007

GAUDETE in Domino semper

On this day the Church urges us to gladness in the middle of this time of expectation and penance. The coming of Jesus approaches more and more. St. John, the holy precursor, announces to the Jews the coming of the Savior. "The Savior," he says to them, "lives already among us, though unknown. He will soon appear openly." Now is the time for fervent prayers and for imploring Jesus to remain with us by His mercy. Let us prepare the way for Him by repentance and penance and by a worthy reception of the Sacraments. All of the prayers of this Mass are filled with what the Church wishes our souls to possess at the approach of the Savior.

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in everything by prayer let your petitions be made known to God. (Psalm) Lord, Thou hast blest Thy land: Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. Gloria Patri. Gaudete...

Today we upheld my family's tradition of decorating the Christmas tree on Gaudete Sunday. I attempted to also follow the tradition of dipping chocolates, and they turned out very tasty, but not nearly as pretty as my mom's. Maria sure was excited about eating them though!

15 December 2007

Soteriology and some Cute Pictures

Well, it's not due until Monday at noon but I more or less finished my last paper this afternoon. Comments, critiques are especially welcome before Monday! The Redemptive Suffering of Christ in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger.

After dinner while Lisa was cleaning up in the living room and I in the kitchen, Maria suddenly emerged from the hall wearing my winter attire. She is getting rather clever it seems, but perhaps not so much as she thinks (see the last picture!)

They'll never notice the missing chocolate pretzel...

14 December 2007

Advent Music

I just wrote something in one of the comment boxes and then thought it would fun to put up for all to see. We had a fun idea to help maintain a proper Advent mood of preparation and penitence mingled with joy and hope in our flat. We designed a playlist on Windows Media Player that plays the first 12 tracks of Handel's Messiah, the words of which are taken from the O.T. prophesies of the coming Redeemer.

1. Overture
2. Comfort Ye My People (Isaiah 40:1-3)
3. Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (Isaiah 40:4)
4. And the Glory of the Lord (Isaiah 40:5)
5. Thus Saith the Lord (Haggai 2:6,7)
6. But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming? (Malachi 3:2)
7. And He Shall Purify (Malachi 3:3)
8. Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive (Isaiah 7:14)
9. O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion (Isaiah 40:9)
10. For, Behold, a Darkness Shall Cover the Earth (Isaiah 60:2,3)
11. The People that Walked in Darkness (Isaiah 9:2)
12. For Unto Us a Child Is Born (Isaiah 9:6)

After this the playlist continues with other traditional Advent chants and hymns including:

On Jordan's Banks
Rorate coeli (see sidebar)
Verbum supernum
Angelus ad virginem
Vox clara
Veni, Redemptor gentium
Creator alme siderum
Alma Redemptoris Mater
Veni, veni Emmanuel

It would be fun to hear what anyone else is doing for Advent!

13 December 2007

St. Lucy, Virgin, Martyr

Born at Syracuse in Sicily of noble parents, St. Lucy gave herself to Jesus and chose death rather than lose the incorruptible treasure of her virginity, in 303. Her name occurs in the Canon of the Mass.

Today we ran into Dan Hilker! He came over for dinner and we had some delicious hamburgers with pseudo-American buns. It was really great to see him; he'll be here for a couple more days before heading off to Roma.

Anselmian Pontifications

Speaking of Christ's vicarious atonement...

There seem to be at least five principal Old Testament texts to be considered. There are two great Jewish liturgical feasts that are particularly important: The Day of Atonement, and The Passover. Then there are two detailed prophesies of the crucifixion: Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 (this latter being connected to Christ's prayer from the Cross). Finally there is the theme of the cup of God's wrath throughout the prophets which must be considered in relation to Christ's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Let this cup pass from me..." Have I missed any really important texts here?

Then there are the ways in which Christ's passion effects our salvtion, which Aquinas numbers as four: Christ makes satisfaction inasmuch as the positive value of his self gift outwieghs and thus counterbalances the negative value of all men's sins. Christ offers a sacrifice to God, the proper effect of which is to appease God's wrath (this makes nonsense out of the typically Protestant notion that God's wrath was vented upon Christ). Christ's death redeemed us inasmuch as his death paid the price of our punishment (N.B. this means that he paid a price so that punishment be not meted out, not that he accepted the punishment). And Christ's death effected our salvtion by way of merit (often overlooked it seems) inasmuch as Christ is rewarded head and members for his infinitely meritorious work.

Then there is Ratzinger's idea that I am working with right now, Christ suffers through our sin in order to heal it from the inside. Ack! It's 2:11 AM; Deus miserere me!

12 December 2007

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin appeared on one of the hills of the Guadalupe range, to Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian. Our Lady told him to build a chapel in her honor on the place of her apparition, and left him with a picture of herself impressed upon his mantle, and caused a miraculous spring to arise, in the waters of which many people were cured. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in the New World.

O Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God, who as Our Lady of Guadalupe didst aid in the conversion of Mexico from paganism in a most miraculous way, we now beseech thee to bring about in these our times the early conversion of our modern world from its present neo-paganism to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of thy Divine Son Jesus Christ, starting in the Americas and extending throughout the entire world, so that soon there may be truly "one fold and one shepherd," with all governments recognizing the reign of thy Son, Jesus Christ the King.

This we ask of the Eternal Father through Jesus Christ His Son our Lord and by thy powerful intercession - all for the salvation of souls, the triumph of the Church, and peace in the world. Amen.

11 December 2007

St. Damasus, Pope, Confessor

St. Damasus became pope in 366, after the persecutions were over. He condemned Arianism, commanded St. Jerome to translate the Holy Scriptures into Latin, and composed inscriptions for the sepulchres of the Roman martyrs. He died in 384.

Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000 Year History

So, I'm reading a really great book about the history of the Catholic Church from Christ to John Paul II. Covering that much ground in only 512 pages it moves quickly, but it's good for Catholics to know the real history of, for example, the Greek schism, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish conquest of Mexico, etc. For a long time I was personally ashamed of things like the 4th Crusade, but no longer! This is a great antidote to the modern history books that present the Catholic Church as always having been in the wrong. A Church that never went right, according to Chesterton, would be even more incredible than one that never went wrong! Yet, that's precisely how even many Catholics view the history of the Church. I highly recommend it.

10 December 2007

Commemoration of St. Melchiades, Pope, Martyr

St. Melchiades died peacefully, after undergoing great suffering in the persecution of Maximian, in 314.

Last week of classes; less and less sleep; more and more coffee; halfway through the last paper: The Cross of Christ in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger; Right now I'm working on Christ's descent into hell (not to suffer the punishment of hell mind you - a Protestant heresy!); it's been a fun one so far, although Ratzinger's take on the atonement in Introduction to Christianity is a curious one to say the least.

09 December 2007

Second Sunday of Advent

Numerous allusions appear in the Liturgy of this day to Jerusalem and her people. Let us be filled with sentiments of hope and of joy, for the coming of Jesus is near. Let us prepare the way in our hearts for the Messias, our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Today was another busy day. After Divine Liturgy we had brunch at the Waldstein's home, which is on top of one of the nearby mountains - what a spectacular view from their living room windows! Maria had time for only a short nap before we were off again to a party to celebrate the Immaculate Conception and the 60th anniversary of the consecration to Christ of one of the professors here. None other than St. Nicholas (a.k.a. Brother Basil of the Benedictine monastery in Nursia) made a reappearance to present some gifts to the honoree. Needless to say, Maria was delighted, although you can hardly tell so engaged is she in chewing on a gummy bear.

08 December 2007

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"I will put enmity between thee and the woman." In these words the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was announced to our first parents. It was to be the reversal of the friendship with the serpent contracted by Eve, when she listened to his voice and fell under his power. The second Eve was never to be under the power of the devil; the enmity between them was to admit of no possible exception. This involved the grace of being conceived immaculate. Mary's Immaculate Conception was the foundation of all her graces. The absence of any stain or spot of sin distinguished her from all the rest of mankind. It distinguished her from the holiest of the saints, since they, one and all, were sinners. Her perfect sinlessness was the source of all her glory and all her majesty; it was this which opened the door to the unlimited graces that she received from God; it was this that qualified her for her divine maternity, and raised her to the throne as Queen of heaven. "O Queen, conceived without original sin, pray for us, who have recourse to thee."

07 December 2007

St. Ambrose, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church

This Bishop of Milan was one of the four great doctors of the Western Church. As an orator he opposed the heretics, as a writer he enshrined Latin literature with his sacred hymns. He died in 397.

Tonight we met with our "Teams of our Lady" group. "Teams of our Lady," or simply "Teams," is a program where couples get together to pray and support one another. Our group has been somewhat, shall we say, awkward, because no one really knows what's going on, except that we have an outline that we are supposed to follow, for instance, when we should eat and for how long, what we should talk about and for how long...and the priest who leads the group has somewhat of a hard time with English...

Anyways, tonight Fr. Francis was busy, and our Team Leaders had a sick child, and two couples were in Vienna, so there were only three couples there, and it was quite informal. But it was lovely, we got to know Viera and Juraj from Slovakia, and Marlene (John's German teacher) and her husband Slava from Siberia were also there.

Oh, by the way, John turned in his next to last paper, a short one called Form and Matter in Aristotle's Physics. It was a hasty piece of work and he's not very proud of it, but you're welcome to read it and comment as always. It will also be linked on the sidebar with his other essays from this semester. Only one more paper to go!

Clear Creek Benedictine Monastery

We found this great little video on New Liturgical Movement. Enjoy!

06 December 2007

Lecture on the Eastern Schism

Tonight the ITI hosted a lecture by Prof. Christoph Suttner, one of the world's leading historians of the Greek churches. Although it will force me to make gross simplifications of all he had to say, I'm going to keep this very short. Bascially, he said that the Orthodox are neither schismatics nor heretics.

1. There is no schism because Vatican II said that wherever the Eucharist is celebrated there is a true particular church. If they are true particular churches then they are in the one Church of Christ, hence no schism.

2. Furthermore, if they are true churches, and the church is infallible, then they can't be heretics, and you are a heretic if you say they are.

To the first I reply: Nonsense. Although Vatican II does recognize Orthodox churches as true particular churches, the whole point is that their union is imperfect inasmuch as they refuse submission to the Roman Pontiff. To the extent that they are true churches they are already Catholic; to the extent that they refuse obedience to Rome they are in schism.

To the second I reply: Hogwash. Infallibility certainly does not apply to particular churches. On this account even the Arians wouldn't be heretics. The only real leg that he had left to stand on after a few pointed questions is the fact that the Orthodox church hasn't really taught anything ever since the Council of Florence (1439) where they agreed to the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Spirit's procession from the Son, the legitimacy of unleavened bread in the Eucharist, the existence of Purgatory, and the primacy of the Pope. This is the last official Orthodox teaching because the emperor (Caesaropapism was always a problem in the East) was eliminated in 1453 when Constantinople was taken by the Turk. Well and good, but if the denial of a dogmatically defined doctrine of the Church (such as the Filioque clause or the Immaculate Conception) doesn't make for heresy nothing does.

Update: A certain Boniface mentioned in the comments box the pertinence of the papal bull Unam Sanctam (1302); See also the bull Cantate Domino of Pope Eugene IV (1441). Interestingly enough, Unam Sanctam came up in the questions period and the Prof. had never heard of it! When informed of its contents, he replied that it was not infallible! If this is not an ex cathedra statement I don't know what is: "We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." Now, we can discuss interpretation if you like, but this is a dogma of the Catholic Church (de fide).

Maria meets St. Nicholas

Today the lucky children at the Kartause received a visit from St. Nicholas himself! He was accompanied by an attendent and his Guardian Angel - the one all in black :)

After the children sang St. Nicholas Advent songs and answered his questions all about his life, they were able to get their pictures taken with him, as well as receive bags of candy! Maria had quite a lot of chocolate today! You can see from the picture below there are many children at the ITI, and this is not all of them! Maria is the one all the way to the right being held by a girl in red.

Unfortunately, the picture I took of Maria receiving her candy from St. Nicholas only shows her arm.

St. Nicholas, Bishop, Confessor

The Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor is one of the most popular oriental saints. The spiritual and temporal needs of his flock were the first object of his pastoral care. This worker of miracles died in 342; his body was eventually enshrined at Bari in Italy.

As you can see from the pictures below, St. Nicholas visited Maria last night! She woke up this morning surprised, but very happy, to find her shoes filled with chocolate euros! We had Divine Liturgy today at noon, together with Steubenville, to celebrate the Feast Day.

05 December 2007

Commemoration of St. Sabbas, Abbot

St. Sabbas organized monastic communities in Palestine and was famous for his virtues and austerities. He died in 531.

Above is the local blacksmith at work in his shop in the Kartause courtyard for the Adventmarkt. Below is Maria exiting tonight's concert through the medieval doorway of Kartause Maria Thron.

Licht aus dem Osten

Chorkonzert mit Musik der Ostkirche
Mit dem byzantinischen Chor des Seligen Woldymyr Pryjma
5. Dezember 2007, 17:15 Uhr
In der Kirche der Kartause Gaming

"Das Licht aus dem Osten hat die Gesamtkirche erleuchtet, seitdem über uns 'ein aus der Höhe aufstrahlendes Licht' (Lk 1,78), Jesus Christus, unser Herr, erschienen ist, den alle Christen als Erlöser des Menschen und Hoffnung der Welt anrufen." - Papst Johannes Paul II, Orientale Lumen

Above is the Byzantine chapel in which we regularly attend the Divine Liturgy. This evening the Byzantine rite choir offered a concert in the main Kartause chapel as part of the ongoing Adventmarkt taking place in the Kartause courtyard. Below is a picture of our Eastern priests, and some other men, singing liturgical chants.

04 December 2007

St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church

The holy Bishop of Ravenna was one of the most eloquent preachers of the Church (Chrysologus means "golden speech"). He died at Imola in 450.

Now that Maria has learned how to say "please" we're going to start working on table manners...

03 December 2007

St. Francis Xavier, Confessor

One of the first companions of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, one of the greatest missionaries of all time, preached the Gospel in India and in Japan. He converted innumerable pagans and died in 1552 on his way to China.

During lunch this afternoon Maria experimented with a new recipe: spaghetti soaked in apple juice! She has also learned how to say "no" to her parents - now the fun really begins. She is still cute though, except when she's saying "no, no, no, no..." ad infinitum. She seems to have a bit of a fever right now, too. It's been a tough couple of days for the poor little schnitzel.

02 December 2007

First Sunday of Advent

This first Sunday of Advent or the fourth before Christmas, is the first day of the Liturgical Year. The Mass prepares us this day for the double coming (adventus) of mercy and justice. That is way St. Paul tells us, in the Epistle, to cast off sin in order that, being ready for the coming of Christ as our Savior, we may also be ready for His coming as our Judge, of which we learn in the Gospel. Let us prepare ourselves, by pious aspirations and by the reformation of our lives, for this twofold coming. Jesus our Lord will reward those who yearn for Him and await Him: "Those who trust in Him shall not be confounded."

This morning after Divine Liturgy we had brunch at the home of the Sinitsin's who have a little girl, Amalia, just a few months younger than Maria. Amalia's mother Marlene is the German teacher and we are hoping that we will pick up some more German. Below is a picture of the Adventmarkt in the Kartause before it opened this morning.

Also, I uploaded a couple of new photo albums that you can view. One is pictures of Thankgiving and the other is pictures of Maria from November. In general you can always find my photo albums linked on the sidebar (mostly pictures of Maria); John's albums are linked there too (mostly pictures of our travels).

Happy Advent!

The liturgical texts used during the four weeks of the season of Advent remind the faithful of the "absence of Christ." Therefore, the Collects of Advent do not end with, "Through our Lord Jesus Christ," as during the rest of the year. In the spirit of penance and prayer we await the Mediator, the God-Man, preparing for His coming in the flesh, and also for His second coming as our Judge. The Masses for Advent strike a note of preparation and repentance mingled with joy and hope; hence, although the penitential violet is worn and the Gloria is omitted, the joyous Alleluia is retained. The readings from the Old Testament contained in the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion of the Masses, taken mostly from the prophecies of Isaias and the Psalms, give eloquent expression to the longing of all nations for a Redeemer. We are impressed by repeated and urgent appeals to the Messias: "Come, delay no longer." The lessons from St. Paul urge us to dispose ourselves fittingly for His coming. The Gospels describe the terrors of the Last Judgement, foretell the second coming, and tell of the preaching of St. John the Baptist "to prepare the way of the Lord."

In Advent, the Greek Church celebrates particularly the ancestors of our Lord - all the Patriarchs and Prophets of the Old Testament, but especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Latin Church also mentions them often in this period. In the Breviary, many texts are taken from Isaias (Introit of the Second Sunday, Communion of the Third Sunday).

The idea of Advent is "Prepare you for the coming of Christ." Therefore the very appeals of the Patriarchs and Prophets are put in our mouths in Advent. Prepare for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, who comes to prepare us for His secong coming as Judge.

When the oracles of the Prophets were fulfilled and the Jews awaited the Messias, John the Baptist left the desert and came to the vicinity of the Jordan, bringing a baptism of penance to prepare souls for the coming of Christ. The world took him to be the Messias, but he replied with the words of Isaias: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord."

During Advent we make straight for Christ the way to our souls - and behold, our Lord will come at Christmas.

01 December 2007

Adventmarkt in der Kartause Gaming

Yesterday the annual Adventmarkt began in the Kartause. It will run until 9 December. The courtyard of the Kartause is filled with booths selling candles, cheese, smoked meats, hot sandwiches, and hot drinks. The rooms inside the Kartause are filled with Christmas articles. This evening Krampus will be out. He is the counter-part of Santa Clause, and while Santa gives presents to the good children, he beats the bad children. In Advent he (there will actually be many people dressed up as him) runs around chasing children to scare them into being good. I will not put a picture of them on the blog, as they are very ugly. If you must see a picture, type Krampus into Google images and you will get a good idea of what he looks like. Needless to say, we will not be taking Maria to the Kartause tonight, they have no mercy, even on the very little children.

The Adventmarkt is known for having the best Christmas trees around. We got there early to have our pick, as they go very quickly. It's kinda small, but it was easy to get home, and is the perfect size to put on a "bench" right in front of the windowsill. Tomorrow we will begin to decorate it, and we will slowly put more decorations on it in anticipation of Christmas.

While most of the festivities are taking place in the Kartause, we are lucky enough to have a Glühwein booth right outside in the courtyard in front of our flat. In the evenings people gather in the courtyard, and last night a brass quartet was playing Christmas songs throughout the evening.

Glühwein is mulled wine, and in the winter you can get it just about anywhere. Here is the recipe I use to make it:

1 bottle cheap wine (red or white)
1 stick cinnamon
6 whole cloves
2 lemon slices
2-4 Tbs. sugar (adjust to taste, more with dry wine, less with sweet wine)
Cardamon pod (optional)

Combine all ingredients in saucepan and heat over low heat for 1/2 - 1 hour. Do not boil. Taste and add more sugar if it needs it. Strain and serve. You may add a shot of brandy, rum or schnapps if desired.

Spe Salvi (an excerpt)


38. The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through "com-passion" is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another's suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the "other" who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, "consolation", expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the "yes" to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my "I", in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.

39. To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves - these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself. Yet once again the question arises: are we capable of this? Is the other important enough to warrant my becoming, on his account, a person who suffers? Does truth matter to me enough to make suffering worthwhile? Is the promise of love so great that it justifies the gift of myself? In the history of humanity, it was the Christian faith that had the particular merit of bringing forth within man a new and deeper capacity for these kinds of suffering that are decisive for his humanity. The Christian faith has shown us that truth, justice and love are not simply ideals, but enormously weighty realities. It has shown us that God - Truth and Love in person - desired to suffer for us and with us. Bernard of Clairvaux coined the marvellous expression: Impassibilis est Deus, sed non incompassibilis [Sermones in Cant., Sermo 26, 5: PL 183, 906.] - God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way - in flesh and blood - as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus's Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love - and so the star of hope rises. Certainly, in our many different sufferings and trials we always need the lesser and greater hopes too - a kind visit, the healing of internal and external wounds, a favourable resolution of a crisis, and so on. In our lesser trials these kinds of hope may even be sufficient. But in truly great trials, where I must make a definitive decision to place the truth before my own welfare, career and possessions, I need the certitude of that true, great hope of which we have spoken here. For this too we need witnesses - martyrs - who have given themselves totally, so as to show us the way - day after day. We need them if we are to prefer goodness to comfort, even in the little choices we face each day - knowing that this is how we live life to the full. Let us say it once again: the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity. Yet this capacity to suffer depends on the type and extent of the hope that we bear within us and build upon. The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope.