Post Mortem

From John Medaille:

Ronald Reagan was half-right when he said, “The Hispanics are conservative, they just don’t know it.” The Hispanics are indeed deeply conservative, with a conservatism deeply rooted in strong family and communal values; they just refuse to recognize the Republicans’ Corporate Capitalism as “conservative.” In this, they know the Republicans better than the Republicans know themselves.

He then goes on:

The Republicans have joined themselves to a corporate oligarchy that can never be conservative. The Fox Corporation may tout “family values” on its news channels, but it does everything it can to destroy them on its entertainment channels. The message is clear: values are good only to the point where they might interfere with profits; then they are to be abandoned, since profit is the final good. The irony is lost on Republicans but apparent to everyone else.

The second half of Medaille’s article is on the dumbing down of pro-life and is also very good. The article can be found here.

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Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

My thinking always goes in the direction of the Eucharist on Thanksgiving day because the Greek word eucharistia is translated “thanksgiving” in English.

Alexander Schmemann once wrote, talking about the sacraments in general, not the Eucharist in particular, that we do not ask God to make things to be something they are not, but to become what they truly are.

This Thanksgiving, may your meal become what eating was truly meant to be, a communion, an event in common in which the people participate in one another through the grace (charis — the root word for eucharistia, or thanksgiving) of food and conversation.

Recommended Lecture on a Contemporary Symphonic Piece

I heard a most remarkable lecture today by Cecilia Sun entitled, “Arvo Pärt’s ‘Credo’: Composition in a Time of Crisis.” It is part of the Saint Katherine College Forum lecture series, originally presented Oct. 15, 2012. Pärt’s ‘Credo’ is neither music I would understand nor care for without a lot of explanation. Dr. Sun offers a wonderful and accessible explanation in this lecture.

The composition for orchestra and chorus is a mash-up of J.S. Bach’s arguably most famous prelude the Prelude No. 1 in C-Major set against both twelve tone row, and a bit of musical indeterminacy. All of this is the setting for a text based on both the Nicene Creed and Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel. Pärt says the piece expresses a battle between good and evil and the manner that Love ultimately wins out over evil.

Without Dr. Sun’s careful exegesis of the music, complete with many examples, I would have had neither the patience nor the expertise to figure out what was going on in this remarkable clash of traditional and avant-garde music.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, love is a deeply painful experience and victory is humbling. (And here I don’t mean in the sense of, “I am humbled to stand in front of this huge, adoring crowd in order to receive this $1000 prize.”, rather I mean it in the sense of achieving victory at the moment of death on a cross, the crowds jeering, and disciples disbelieving.) It is this ambiguous and enigmatic character of the victory of love that Pärt captured. Near the end of lecture Dr. Sun played the last few minutes of the piece and the beauty of its sorrow brought tears to my eyes.

If anyone is interested in listening to the lecture it can be found at Ancient Faith Radio.

And, by the way, on the Saint Katherine College Forum page, along with some interesting lectures on poetry and science is another study of a famous musical piece: The Musical Sources of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, by Dr. Vladimir Morosan.

I’m Not Sure Whether This Is A Post About Wrath or Pressuppositions

I am reminded how difficult it is to change one’s presuppositions, in this case, about divine wrath. Back in 2009 Thomas Hopko offered a three part podcast on the wrath of God (found here, here, and here, both in podcast and transcript form). It turned my thinking about the subject around. In short, he observes that in the overwhelming majority of cases divine wrath is aimed at his own people. He concludes that divine wrath is not a species of judgment; it is rather a species of love.

Parents are properly angry with their children when they run out into the street, play with fire, or other dangerous things. This anger grows out of love: the parent’s desire for the child to be safe and hope that they grow into mature adulthood. It is not the sort of anger that causes the parent to consider throwing the child out of the family, it is rather an anger that causes the parent to do the difficult thing (discipline) in order to draw the child back into a proper family relationship.

Similarly, God’s wrath is pointed, not at the world, but at his own children, at people of faith, who willfully turn their back on the truth they know and follow their own devices. The goal of wrath is not to judge humans in general, but rather to draw children back children to God in particular. Of course divine wrath is more complex than just this, but it is the necessary starting point when the topic is viewed from the perspective of incarnation and cross.

When I first heard this three years ago it turned my thinking upside down. As I was rereading the Old Testament I discovered just how right Hopko was. I had the whole wrath of God thing completely backwards.

Then I stopped thinking about it. But a couple of weeks ago I heard the three podcasts on divine wrath again and realized that I had pretty much slipped back into the old way of thinking (that is divine wrath as a species of vengeance rather than a species of love). Old presuppositions die hard. After you think you put them away they manage to come creeping out again.

The Humility of the Holy Spirit

The following is from Archimandrite Sophrony’s book, His Life Is Mine.

The Holy Spirit comes when we are receptive. He does not compel. He approaches so meekly that we may not even notice. If we would know the Holy Spirit we need to examine ourselves in the light of the Gospel teaching, to detect any other presence which may prevent the Holy Spirit from entering into our souls. We must not wait for God to force Himself on us without our consent. God respects and does not constrain man. It is amazing how God humbles Himself before us. H loves us with a tender love, not haughtily, not with condescension. And when we open our hearts to Him we are overwhelmed by the conviction that He is indeed our Father. The soul then worships in love. (p. 49)