Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Year Saints

Happy Leap Day to all. We've still got about three hours left (on the West coast; on the East coast, it's already March), and I wanted to take this opportunity to honor some of those saints whose commemorations fall on this day. From today's Roman Martyrology:
At Rome, the birthday of the holy martyrs Macarius, Rufinus, Justus, and Theophilus.

At Alexandria, the passion of the Saints Caerealis, Pupulus, Caius, and Serapion.

In the same city, in the reign of Emperor Valerian, the commemoration of the holy priests, deacons, and many others. When a most deadly epidemic was raging, they willingly met their death by ministering to the sick. The religious sentiment of the pious faithful has generally venerated them as martyrs.

At Rome, St. Hilary, pope and confessor.

In the territory of Lyons, in the Jura Mountains, the death of St. Romanus, abbot, who first had led the life of a hermit there. His reputation for virtues and miracles brought under his guidance many monks.

At Papia, the transfer, ordered by the Lombard King Luitprand, of the body of St. Augustine, bishop, away from the island of Sardinia.

And elsewhere in divers places, many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.

R. Thanks be to God.
The Byzantine Rite honors St. John Cassian ("Cassian the Roman") on this day. From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese:
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The image of God, was faithfully preserved in you, O Father. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By Your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh for it passes, rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal. Wherefore, O Holy John Cassian, your soul rejoices with the angels.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Thy words breathe forth the sweetness of heavenly cassia, dispelling the foul odour of passion and pleasures; but with the sweet fragrance of thy discretion and temperance, they make known the spiritual ascents in the Spirit, leading men on high, O righteous Father John Cassian, divinely-sent guide of monks.

This Saint was born about the year 350, and was, according to some, from Rome, according to others, from Dacia Pontica (Dobrogea in present-day Romania)...[He] became a monk in Bethlehem with his friend and fellow-ascetic, Germanus of Dacia Pontica, whose memory is also celebrated today. Hearing the fame of the great Fathers of Scete, they went to Egypt about the year 390; their meetings with the famous monks of Scete are recorded in Saint John's Conferences. In the year 403 they went to Constantinople, where Cassian was ordained deacon by Saint John Chrysostom; after the exile of Saint Chrysostom, Saints Cassian and Germanus went to Rome with letters to Pope Innocent I in defence of the exiled Archbishop of Constantinople. There Saint Cassian was ordained priest, after which he went to Marseilles, where he established the famous monastery of Saint Victor. He reposed in peace about the year 433.

...Saint John Climacus also praises him highly in section 105 of Step 4 of the Ladder of Divine Ascent, on Obedience.
His writings, so commended in the Rule of St. Benedict, were later incorporated into the Philokalia. Here are links to his Conferences and Institutes. Finally, here is a post I did long ago on the Desert Fathers' testimony (in his Conferences) on the importance of the opening versicle in most canonical hours of Western Rite worship: "O God, make speed to save me/O Lord, make haste to help me."

May they all pray for us!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. (RIP) on Contemporary Liturgical Language

Famed conservative intellectual, columnist, spokesman, and debater William F. Buckley Jr. passed away this morning at the age of 82. Best known for his incisive and erudite political commentary and his felicitous use of the English language, Mr. Buckley also penned an "autobiography of faith," Nearer My God, in which he noted his devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass and lamented the Second Vatican Council's "daffy innovations." In both his capacity as a faithful Christian and as a linguaphile, he had much to say during the heyday of liturgical renovation and relevance. Herewith is an excerpt from one of his commentaries on the compulsion to "improve" upon venerable English translations. All self-appointed liturgists and translators would do well to heed his commentary:

This morning, the Church of England has issued its re-wording of the Lord's Prayer. Now, the head of the Church of England, at least titularly, is the Queen of England. She continues to be addressed with all the euphuistic pomposity of Plantagenet prose, but now they are modernizing the form of address appropriate to God. One continues to refer to the Queen as Your Majesty, and as "Ma'am," but for God, "Thee" and "Thou" are—out. The Lord's head has been placed on the Jacobinical block. He is not quite yet addressed as Comrade, or even Big Brother: but He is definitely made to feel at home in the modern world.

It now goes not, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name"—but "Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name." Granted, they have left the capital letter in "Your," which must have been done after grave debate in the relevant councils. But clearly it was felt that "Thy" was simply—too much. Who does He think He is? The Queen of England?

It goes on, "Your will be done on earth as in Heaven." One wonders what has been gained by that formulation over the traditional formulation, which read, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." There is transparent here something on the order of a Parkinsonian imperative: A venerable passage will be reworded by a rewording commission insofar as a commission to reword possesses the authority to do so.

...[S]ome would go so far as to say that it is most unlikely that [the Lord's will] is being done by the Royal Commission on the Vulgarization of the Book of Common Prayer when they take such a sentence as "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" back from the alchemists who worked for the Lord and for King James, and beat it into the leaden substitute which they have now promulgated.

One wishes that were all, but there is no sin of omission for which we might be grateful. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" has been changed to, "Do not bring us to the time of trial, but deliver us from evil." Why? For the sake of clarity? (That is the usual answer.) I know, because every sense in my body informs me, and every misinclination of my mind, what is temptation, from which we seek deliverance. But "the time of trial"? That sounds like the Supreme Court is in session...

Perhaps it was ordained that the Anglicans, like their brothers the Catholics, should suffer. It is a time for weeping, and a time for rage. Do not go gently into the night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. That would be the advice of this outsider to my brothers in the Anglican Church. They must rage against those who bring upon Christianity not only indifference, but contempt.

(From "His New Prayer," originally published on November 17, 1977. Reproduced in William F. Buckley Jr. A Hymnal: The Controversial Arts. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978), pp. 287-289.)

Update: This seems worthwhile, too:
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you...The Lord is with who! Thee to you, Buster, I found myself thinking during the retreat when I first learned that it is a part of the current edification to strip the Lord, His Mother, and the saints of the honorific with which the simple Quakers even now address their children and their servants.

...[T]he new liturgy is the triumph, yea the resurrection, of the Philistines.
(Quoted from "The End of the Latin Mass," originally published on November 10, 1967. Reproduced in William F. Buckley Jr. The Jeweler's Eye: A Book of Irresistible Political Reflections. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1968), p. 293.)

William F. Buckley Jr., Requiescat in Pace. You will be are missed.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

A Hierarchical Word on End-Times Fanatics

I've discussed widespread, misplaced obsession with eschatology a bit on this blog in the past. But these words from Met. JOHN succinctly encapsulate the inner dynamic of many obsessed with "the end times" (and not just in Protestantism):
The real meaning of the English word "Gospel" is good news, but one can find those who are more attracted to the Bad News Gospel. You can find religious circles more interested in the anti-Christ than in Christ, more interested in the number 666 than the Holy Trinity. This is a fear-driven, bad news orientation. Where such a mentality thrives, the Christian contribution to society is meager. Where faith, hope and love flourish, transformation occurs. Faith changes life. If life doesn't change, clearly there is no faith. St. John Chrysostom, preaching to perhaps 400 people in Antioch, told them, "If all of you were Christians, there would be no more pagans in the world." If you want to understand how Christianity spread so rapidly in the early centuries, it was because Christians were Christian...This is our tragedy because more than ever the world needs the light of Christ, the genuine light.
Incidentally, if the Metropolitan's last name sounds similar to a certain group of comedic brothers, that's with reason: both John and James Belushi are Albanian Orthodox.

(Hat tip: Pious Fabrications)

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