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A lover of the liberal arts, especially antiquity in its diverse forms, I am nonetheless wholly devoted to, utterly transformed by divine revelation. I seek to know the thought of the past, articulate my deepest longings aroused by the wise, and understand the uneasy relationship between reason and revelation; all for the sake of proper action and contemplation, both now and in the future.

5.24.2018

The Holy Eucharist III

Christ is the center of history and the cross is at the center of Christ. This is another way of saying that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the primordial center of all things, for the Mass is that same consecration, breaking and immolation of His Passion, made manifest in all times and in all places. It was present in the Old Testament by means of shadows and figures; in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God, the Passover lambs slaughtered in Egypt foretold the reuniting of divine and human; Christ's death and resurrection accomplished that within history - i.e. time and space - and that sacrificial Act brought the Church into being, as blood and water flowed from the side of a dying god; symbolizing the union of divine and human (in a way, the Church, like Her Bridegroom, is a hypostatic union), it is in this way the Eucharist makes the Church. It literally brings Her into existence. 

Thus the Eucharist is primordial: it is in the beginning, it is the Covenant, it is nuptial, one-flesh union. It is the center of a Christian metaphysics, wherein the true is free because the true is covenant. It is both history, for we can point to a temporo-spatial point where it 'began', and it is mystery, for it transcends the very limits of the time and space that would seem to be its boundaries. It is an icon of divine revelation, but unlike an icon it is without limit. Now, in the age of the sacramental,  history and mystery become one, and they become one through the Eucharist.

More specifically, they become one through consecration: the hallowing, breaking, offering, and immolating of a pure and holy Victim; present also is the union of past, present, and future, for Christ as Antitype of the Old Law hearkens back to it, and His broken and immolated Body and Blood, offered to the Father in praise and thanksgiving, are really, truly, substantially, and sacramentally present under the appearance of bread and wine - vere, realiter, substantialiter, et sacramentaliter - in our present, which itself prefigures and foreshadows the Wedding Feast of the Lamb Who was slain at the consummation of all things. And all this occurs in consecration. By breaking the bread, Christ was offering Himself to be broken; the bread, consumed as food, is really His love and obedience to the Father. And because the Eucharist is now the ordering principle of reality, already accomplished but not yet complete, the same is true of us who celebrate the Eucharist, whether our Eucharistic role is clerical or lay. We, corporately (i.e. bodily) members of the Bride, share a transfiguring union with Christ our Head - what He is, fully human and truly divine, we also become, and this through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which takes from us our false nature and restores us to His image and likeness.

History, mystery, past, present, future, Apocalypse - all unite and are one in a still, small voice, when a priest holds a small host and whispers, "This is My Body, broken for you."

5.22.2018

The Holy Eucharist II

Like the Word of God, the Eucharist is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it is the prayer of prayers, the sacrifice of sacrifices, the highest action the Church can render; on the other hand, it is the very action that brings the Church into being, and so is prior to Her. The Church draws Her life and source from the Eucharist, for She was born from the side of Christ at His Paschal Sacrifice; as blood and water flowed from a dying god giving life to His people, so too divinity and humanity have been reconciled and reunited in Him. Thus He is the Head and His Body is one. By means of sacrifice, human will has once again adhered to the divine will - from the Garden of Eden-turned-death, to the Garden of Gethsemane-made-life, that drama is both the mystery of Christ's Body the Church, and Christ's Mystical Body sacrificed and made lifegiving food for us. 

All this is chiefly drawn from, mediated by, and seen through the Church's ancient tradition and manner of worship. In the ancient Roman anaphora, the mystery of faith, the mystery of the Church, and the mystery of the Eucharist are interwoven, mutually illuminating, and wholly ordered to the praise and glory of the Holy Trinity. The rite is structured, bearing the stamp of austere Roman law, but it is the structure of an ecstatic act of worship. The mystery of faith is the simple affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth died and rose again from the dead, and will come again; but it is transfigured in long paean of communion sacrifice, the anamnesis of the Roman Canon. 

This structure shows the identity and dignity of the Christian, for it reveals the will of God - Him loving us in eternity and in time. The first part of the Canon makes repeated reference to the sacrifice of praise, which refers both to the Act of Christ on the cross, making the Church to be, and the action of the priest, re-presenting that same sacrifice for the praise and glory of His Name, culminating in the sacred banquet, feeding on the Holy Eucharist Itself.

These two motion are constantly informing each other through the Canon, like two voices in polyphonic music, but there is a third voice - a transfigured mystery of faith. The first was the simple affirmation of the life and death of Christ; the second, a hymn to the Holy Trinity: "Per Ipsum..." The act of faith, through which the Body of Christ is professed and the Mystical Body of Christ worshiped, adored, and consumed, leads us to the interweaving, ever-holy life of the Holy Trinity - the life of perfect communion. From these three elements - faith, Church, Eucharist , each with their own structure and logic, we can see the movement of man from death in sin to life in God All-Holy, for the praise and glory of His name.

5.18.2018

The Holy Eucharist I

Most properly, 'the Eucharist' refers to two realities: 1) the ritual representation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, the one eternal Act that brings the Church into being; 2) the Sacred Species, offered to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, and distributed to the faithful as the medicine of immortality. The Church confesses this to be the Flesh and Blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. Put in contemporary terms, the Order of Mass is a ritual, sacrificial offering in an unbloody manner, and the Blessed Sacrament is the Sacrament of Sacraments. The Eucharist is a sacrifice for it is the very same sacrifice of the Cross, and it is a sacrament because it accomplishes what it signifies - the triumph of the Son of God over sin and death, and His Flesh and Blood, fruit of that sacrifice, nourishing His Bride the Church and leading Her to participate in divine life.

When created, man fell almost instantly into rebellion, twisting his will against the will of the Father. Man was profaned, and from the instant of the Fall recognized his fallenness and need to return to God. This was tried first on man's own initiative: sacrifice, a setting-apart, a making-holy, that God eventually hallowed and required from His People. From the beginning (Abel) it was a bloody sacrifice, slaughtering a helpless and therefore innocent animal, burning some of its flesh and consuming the rest. An intuition that through sacrifice, man could return to God.

At first carnal, physical, and unspiritual (e.g. the guardianship of the Mosaic Law), in the Psalms and Prophets arose the conviction that the true sacrifice to God was a humble and contrite heart - i.e. a sacrifice on the order of the spirit, which is to say the order of reality. God is spirit, so union and reunion with Him must be on the order of spirit, but man is also carnal, so that reunion must be carnal as well. This tension could not be resolved within the limits of the Old Covenant.

Only in the Word-made-Flesh does the solution appear. As fully, integrally man, Christ unifies His flesh, His mind, His will to God; and as truly God, He gives those united by faith to Him a share of His own divinity, so that each believer can renounce evil and Satan, being conformed to Christ through the renewal of the mind.

This was accomplished, fittingly, through sacrifice. Adam severed his will from God, and death was the result. Christ united His will to the Father as far as it was possible for a man to do - unto and through suffering and torturous death. Through this act, humanity is restored and made holy again before the Lord. 

The Sacrifice of Christ, as the antitype or fulfillment of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, fittingly included a ritual meal - as seen at the Last Supper. Building on principles of hospitality, so important to the ancient world, a shared meal was the source and summit of human connection, human communion. But in the case of Christ, the communion is between man and God, so it was fitting that the means of the sacrifice - the Body and Blood of the Lord - should become the source of the communion meal, symbolized, figured by bread and wine, and being really, truly, substantially, and sacramentally present under those signs.

Thus the Eucharist is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Not a different sacrifice, or a parallel sacrifice, or a new sacrifice, but the same act re-presented again for us; and the Eucharist is a sacrament, a mystery; for the power of God accomplishes through the words and actions of His bishops and priests what those words and actions signify - our redemption in Christ, culminating in Holy Communion with God and one another.

5.24.2017

Nature. Grace. Integrity.

Our thirst for knowledge begins in the wonders of the natural world. But divine revelation is an unveiling, a piercing light into unhiddenness. In the beginning, the world ended. Nature turned against itself, a turn into corruption. A twisted spirituality, a warped intelligence, a rupture of disharmony defiled and shattered what was whole. Now, when we look at what we call nature - that which, seemingly of its own accord, happens for the most part - it cannot be seen in light of what it was. Our experience of the world is rooted in the world, and the world is fallen. Crashed. The Way reunites what was disparate, and being conformed in faith to the Word made flesh brings us back to divine life, takes from us our false nature, and restores to us our true image and likeness. The dark, narrow, and dangerous way of faith is a recovery of nature: harmony within our interior life, between man and woman, and even harmony with creation itself.

Because of where we begin, we cannot say what we were, for we are unable to transcend our origin. Space, time, matter, spirit - all these are part of the Fall. We cannot say they have been untainted by it, for all creation groans, and suffers the pains of childbirth. Once I was whole. Now I am broken. Our origin is obscure, hidden even to ourselves. The promise of faith and the experience of life illumined by the Resurrection of the New Covenant shows us what the divine life looks like - the conquest of our false nature, and the recovery of integrity - but even then it does not unveil our beginning, except through a glass darkly. Our experience is mediated by its fallen condition, so the only way to transcend that condition to experience the radically, utterly new. It is to taste the divine power, partake in the divine nature. Since God is love, love is that very teacher of the new experience. Love: a furious, molten, coursing spiritual passion, a consuming fire, the burning heat of which is the flourishing of others. It is an interior austerity that blossoms fecundity. It is a renunciation freeing us to possess what is truly real. The way of love leads to the cross, for we are baptized into His death, but the cross is the holiness of God encountering the power of darkness and death. The Resurrection is the fruit of that encounter. Death is written into the heart of nature, and through the Resurrection, death becomes undone. The life of love reveals that death is a lie and the power of the paschal mystery unveils its weakness.

5.17.2017

Hannibal and Modern Architecture

There is something about modern architecture that draws me, almost irresistibly. In a way, I love it, but I love it against my better judgment. It's the sharp contrasts, the clear lines, the juxtaposition of things that shouldn't be - harsh, unfinished concrete next to dark, highly polished hardwood, black steel I-beams naked and exposed. Hannibal uses such architecture to unsettle and disorient, and the result is strangely entrancing, almost hypnotic, superbly pairing with its rich, luxurious photography. I hesitate to call it beautiful, but I cannot not call it desirable. It pulls at me and often I think it shouldn't. My friend H loves it, and though I feel I should voice disagreement, it's hard for me to do otherwise than agree.

Hannibal's office is particularly stunning. It is a whirlwind of contraries: comfort, austerity, safety, danger, sameness, contrast. It is a place where people are comfortable revealing the deepest, darkest, most intimate details of their inner life, but the room itself screams submerged violence. Looking at it makes me simultaneously comfortable and unsettled. It is an open floor plan, everything out and exposed, but it hides what it truly is; a lair of evil. Hannibal's kitchen, on the other hand, is simply what you'd expect; perfect and immaculately clean. It reveals nothing, unlike his office, which is where his real work is done. 

Will Graham's lecture hall at Quantico is different. The atmosphere there is harsher, unforgiving, but oddly reassuring, the way a bunker promises to protect you from danger. Google tells me the style is called 'neo-brutalist' or something like that, and I have no idea if there is actually a lecture hall at Quantico like that or if NBC just made it up (though in a way, it's better if they did; an artistic distortion of reality that reveals its inner nature, the way Eastern icons do with people). There is a tension in the air, rooted in the style of the room, that just wildly pulls at me. 

I'm not sure if that style is suitable for religious architecture or not, or if it could ever the equal of such sublimity as the Palatine Chapel, or the quiet, subdued beauties at St. Birinius on the Thames. But if someone could make something of it, it would be the Carthusians or the Cistercians.

Perhaps my love of modernist architecture is a disordered expression of my desire for monastic architecture. The Carthusian monastery in Vermont is very similar, in many ways, to that FBI lecture hall, using unfinished blocks of stone the size of Stonehenge's next to highly polished wood. The natural next to the unnatural, the comfortable next to the uncomfortable. The cells, on the other hand, having interiors made of wood exclusively, felt absolutely comfortable. Something about finished wood is reassuring in a room. Similarly, Cistercian architecture, while apparently simple, is extremely subtle and complex in the ways it deals with light, particularly the light of the sun. Contrast that with finely polished wood and you've got everything I love in Hannibal's architecture and none of the unsettling aspects. Stark, austere, and attractive.

Should architecture be simultaneously entrancing, even intoxicating, and unsettling, disorienting, at the same time? I don't know. It's the sort of feeling I get with modern art and atonal music (especially Scriabin's piano sonatas) as well. There is a sort of pleasure in understanding what is before my eyes, but it's not a pleasure I'm sure should be indulged, much less cultivated. 

2.15.2017

Cultural Marxism and Identity Politics

Everyone today intuitively understands a key element of Marx because his core of class struggle has for some reason migrated in translation to every sector of public discourse and popular culture. It is not his views on money and the economy. No one is motivated to enter the streets protesting on behalf of the proletariat against the bourgeois - in part because the American proletariat is now the Chinese, Indian, or Mexican industrial worker, and because in a few decades those jobs will be automated anyway. Even the Occupy Wall Street movement did not protest the bourgeois, only the extremely wealthy; and that movement was so disparate it lost focus and soon fizzled out. Instead, the critical insight of Marx remains: there are those with power, those without, and the two sides are at war with each other. In Marx, this leads to the revolution of the proletariat; today, the 'proletariat' (feminist, Black Lives Matter activist, LGBTQ, etc.) pays lip service to legal equality, but seems to desire some modern analogue to the proletariat revolution.

Power and oppression are the only things that are real. There is no common ground, no possibility for reconciliation. Martin Luther King is dated and naive here. The rich oppress the poor, whites oppress blacks, men oppress women: because they are strong and the minorities are weak; the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must, and this is how resentment and revolution are born. This pattern of strong vs weak and the conflict this engender may be extrapolated to every set of human relations in political discourse: man and woman, white and black and brown, heterosexual and homosexual, religious and non-religious, and so on to infinity. Find any marginalized and marginalizing class, and you can replicate the pattern yourself. This explains the animus against the so-called white privilege, against the Catholic Church, the backlash against religious freedom cases, etc. All of them have in common a historically oppressing (or judged to have been such by today's standards) agent and a historically oppressed minority class.

Thus there are only two groups: the oppressed and the oppressor. In the United States, historically the oppressing class was white males (slavery was not banned till after the Civil War, women did not vote till the 20th century, etc); thus, one can and must resist the oppressing class; this is right and good. On the other hand, those of the oppressing class must make reparation, feel guilty for the actions of their fathers, and acknowledge their societally privileged status, which necessarily undercuts any argument they might make. Were they to systematically criticize an oppressed class (gay, black, women, etc) it would be opprobrious homophobia, sexism, racism, etc., but the reverse is not true. Blacks can hate whites, but it is not racist, because blacks are seen to be an oppressed class in this country. Similarly women can hate men, but it is not sexist because of patriarchy, or homosexuals et al can hate heterosexuals because heteronormativity is still dominant. When the oppressed is at a disadvantaged position of power (which seems to mean being a minority in terms of population), anything goes. It might be prejudiced, but not sexist, racist, etc. because the one class holds the social, political, and economic power while the other class does not. 

Similarly, since some classes (LGBTQ, for instance) are more oppressed than others, this affects the expressed opinions of these classes; the weight of a black man's opinion will be different than a Latino lesbian, which is different than a blind bisexual, etc. One's category is a victim class, and the value of one's opinion is determined by the value of one's identity, particularly as it has been historically oppressed or not. This forms a hierarchy or pyramid, which varies in detail but not in overall structure; whether minority races face more discrimination than women is a subject for debate, but that these classes have been oppressed by cisgendered white males is not. All such oppressed classes have this in common, that they face discrimination perpetrated by cisgendered white males, and this is what fuels disputes in popular political discourse.

If this be the case, the prospects for different groups subordinating themselves to and working for the common good together are dismal indeed. Instead, one's political opponents must be seen as personal enemies devoid of anything good or noble, such that if their group flourish, your own must decline, and vice versa. Thus what might seem to bind different groups under a common cause, like the traditional American ideals of personal liberty and responsibility as enshrined in the Declaration, is now used as a weapon against those with whom you disagree. The dominant strain of politics is not the recognition that what we hold in common is far more significant than what divides us, but a set of rival groups, each fighting the other for dominance, none of which will give ground or seek common cause.

1.18.2017

Silence and Amoris Laetitia

Some say that for God it is sufficient that one accepts His will in one's heart and soul, even if one's actions do not correspond to this. In this manner they think themselves able to sin while maintaining the integrity of the principle of faith and fear of God. In this way, it is absolutely the same as if one attempted to maintain the principle of chastity while violating the holiness and integrity of the matrimonial bond.
~Tertullian, De Poenitentia, 5.10