Monday, September 29, 2008

Michael and the Angelic Host

Guido Reni. Michael the Archangel. 1636. Santa Maria della Concezione. Rome.

There is a fascination with angels in the populace, sometimes it veers from the silly to the disturbing. In the early middle ages (745) the last greek pope, Zacharias, counseled against spiritual explorations beyond the acceptable. Saint Paul also cautioned. The western church restricted latria to three particular angels — Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, whom are mentioned in canonical Scripture.

Knowing this, I was surprised to see, painted on the ceiling vault of Our Lady of Lourdes, Cleveland, four archangels. Besides, the three we recognise to-day, there was Uriel. Now, the eastern church [byzantine and orthodox] recognise all the angels, on 8 November, with the Synaxis*of the Archangel Michael and the Angelic Host. Uriel is mentioned in the non-canonical (H)enoch and 4 Esdras.

In the pre-1969 calendar, Gabriel had 24 March (as the angel of the Annunciation†), Michael had 8 May and 29 September and Raphael had 24 October. To-day they have to-day. Now, many christians are unfamiliar with Raphael. His name means “God has healed”. He identifies himself in Tobias xii. 14-15:

And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son’s wife from the devil.
For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.

Also in other places, he is assumed to be, the angel of healing.

Gabriel announces to Zaccharias the forecoming birth of his son, John [the Baptist]. Gabriel is also assumed to be the horn blowing angel of the Apocalypse. The function of the angel is as a messenger, from God to man. It can be said, as a point of conjecture, that these bodiless spirits are only angels, when they are exercising that office specifically. And they may be fearsome or awesome in appearance, for they seem to start their conversations and messages, “Fear not”. Saint Paul names nine orders of angels.

Each one of us has a guardian angel, perhaps more. As Jesus tells us:
See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew xviii. 10.
He is our special friend, whether we realise it or not.

Now, Michael is well known. He is the warrior prince of the heavenly host, our particular champion. The greeks refer to him as Archistrategos. He has appeared in apparitions, famously to Jeanne d’Arc. In 1888, after a vision, Leo XIII composed the first of his prayers to Saint Michael‡:
Saint Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle;
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
By the power of God, thrust into hell
Satan and all evil spirits
Who wander through the world
For the ruin of souls. Amen.
And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels:
And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. — Apocalypse xii.7-9.
Many reproductions use Reni’s painting as a basis, sometimes a balance is clearly held in Michael’s left hand. In statues, often, Satan is in the form of the dragon. The Ukrainians have Michael armed with a trident. It is his trident that appears on their flag. A common devotional item has, the Leonine prayer, with a picture of the triumphant Michael, defeating Satan.
*Synaxis = collecta = assembly, gathering, reunion ~ synagogue, congregation. There is also the Synaxis of the Holy Seventy (Disciples), the Synaxis of the Theotokos and of Joseph the spouse and guardian of the Virgin, the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel.
† And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. — Luke i. 28.
‡In a very mangled and jumbled movie, Gangs of New York, Scorcese put every major character of 19th century New York City into the same generation. At the beginning of that generation he quotes, in an improper context, this prayer, several decades before its existence.
Some years before PBS broadcast a musical Christmas pastoral, La pastorela (1991) with Linda Ronstadt as Saint Michael. It was the superior film.
nota bene: Diego Velázquez painted a Portrait of Innocent X, c. 1650. Does his face look like Satan
’s in Reni’s painting? Maffeo Barberini was Pope Urban VIII (1623-44), his brother, Antonio Cardinal Barberini O.F.M.Cap., commissioned the Reni painting. Giovanni Battista Pamphilj was Pope Innocent X (1644-55). Roman politics had often centered on familial, baronial rivalries. This politics entered the church often. The Barberini and Pamphilj families vied in the 17th century, and Reni’s brush was available. Reni needed a large income.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Linus succeeded Peter

Linus is not a very common name. There was the scientist, Pauling; and there is the Bible quoting, comic strip character of Charles Schultz, Linus van Pelt. But, Linus is a christian name. Saint Linus was pope.*

When recounting history, especially as milestone markers, the first is heralded. But, naturally, if the first is not the last, things go on. The second comes, even if less noticed. Cristóbal Colón captained one ship, in a fleet of three; the Pinzon brothers helmed the other two. Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, he did not go alone; Buzz Aldrin kept him company. There were not many other lunar voyageurs, it is not a land worth going; now, Amerca continues to be a destination.

The first bishop of Rome, and pope of the church universal, was Peter the fisherman from Galilee. He was there twenty five years, from a.D. 42† on. Peter knew his immediate successors, and designated them: Linus, Cletus and Clement. To-day’s writers have little to say of these men, but certainly they walked the earth, lived and acted.

Linus came from Volterra in Tuscany, from an aristocratic family. Somehow, Linus found Jesus through Peter. He spread the faith in Besançon, in Gaul, as bishop, but aroused the ire of pagans and returned to Rome. He knew both Peter and Paul. Paul mentions him, at the end of his second letter to Timothy‡, during his final imprisonment.

For some twelve years he held the office of Peter. Peter had Linus preside in Rome, when he [Peter] went to Jerusalem. The early church was operating. The foreign fisherman was martyred in his see, the provincial senator also, and so the others into the fourth century. The day was 23 September, after a miracle had offended pagan Rome, Linus was decapitated.
*co-incidentally, there is a cartoon character, named Cletus in
the Simpsons.
But he [Peter] beckoning to them with his hand to hold their peace, told how the Lord had brought him out of prison, and he said: Tell these things to James, and to the brethren. And going out, he went into another place [Rome]. — Acts xii. 17. The church that is in Babylon [Rome], elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark. — I Peter v. 13.
Make haste to come before winter. Eubulus and Pudens [Peter’s landlord], and Linus and Claudia [Linus mother], and all the brethren, salute thee. — II Timothy iv. 21.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saint Matthew conversed with an angel

We can speak of, at least, four distinct Caravaggio portrayals of Saint Matthew, tax collector, apostle, evangelist, and martyr. Why was Caravaggio so willing to paint Matty? Perhaps, the most compelling is, The Calling of Saint Matthew, where Jesus comes to the custom house. Jesus wants Matthew, he points to him, and our boy, Matthew, points to himself, as if asking, “Me?”. (see:Sister Simone Campbell ) And, of course, the answer was, “Yes, You!” The light appears from the right, where it appears to come from a window in situ. Peter and Jesus are wearing classical robes, Matthew and his cronies, costume of the times. Clearly, Jesus is calling all of us, NOW. Another was the martyrdom, but two were as the Gospel writer, practically, taking dictation from an angel. In one, the angel is counting a point from his finger, while Matthew has one foot on the ground, and a knee on a bench, while he pens a book. These were all commissioned for the same church in Rome, Saint Louis the French.

This was to replace an earlier version, that was rejected. That version was destroyed during the unpleasantries in Berlin, in 1945. Black and white photographs show a grounded angel, guiding the hand of a sturdy laboring man seated. Matthew’s legs look clumsy and awkward.

José de Ribera, Lo Spagnoletto, has a handsome, older Matthew holding a book. As young man, de Ribera, met Caravaggio and became a tenebrosi. He painted the saint as a distinguished doctor and professor.The coloring and the chiaroscuro are like Caravaggio, but without tension.
The sweetest and most heart warming portrait, is by the Bolognese, Guido Reni. Reni, too learned from Caravaggio, but also from many others, and enjoyed a lighter palette. A beautiful, childlike angel, counts a point off to an attentive, elderly, handsome Matthew. The gaze of the saint is that of a grandfather at a grandchild. Such warmth and tenderness, in a baroque painting, is seldom found. The drawing and the color are wonderful. Copies of this should grace classrooms the world over.

Guido Reni. L'Evangelista Matteo e l'Angelo. 1630s-1640. Vatican.
We have four genuine Gospels. Matthew being the earliest and oldest, and originally in Aramaic (sometimes called Hebrew).* This has been the catholic orthodox view, while heterodox views deny both those attributes, and more. Matthew is the longest of the four, and the most troublesome to heretics, in that it bolsters the one, holy, catholic church, and refutes many private
teachings, that want precedence over authority and orthodoxy. He is the son of Alpheus/Cleopas (hellenisations of a Hebrew name Chalphi) brother to the apostle, Saint James the Less, and to Simeon and Joses. His mother is Mary, one of the women at the cross. Alpheus being a brother to Joseph. Matthew (Mattija) is also called Levi.

Each of the four evangelists have a corresponding iconic figure: Mathew : man, Mark : lion, Luke : ox, John : eagle. This comes from remarks in Ezekiel and the Apocalypse.
*Certainly before the Roman sack of Jerusalem in a.D. 70, perhaps around the time of the Herodian persecution, a.D. 42.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


An old man was on his last day of life. He called to see his remaining friends and family. He had been very close, yet very competitive with the first brother born after himself. He beckons him close. He speaks very softly in a hush, “You’re it ”, taps him on the chest, and falls back to visit the next world.

It is a strange concept. He has ordained the surviving brother, ‘it’, for the remainder of his days. He, himself, can not be tagged in response, a sort of checkmate.

We, as children are introduced to games. Who can know baseball a priori? The rules and the object of the game has to be learned. Some games are very simple. A race sees who can cover a particular distance in the shortest time. Some games tally points. American and canadian football award different values to different sorts of achievement, and the value of those quantities have changed over time; while real football records each tally as one.

Now, to designate some one as ‘it’, is practically metaphysical. First a child has to wonder what ‘it’ is. His first understanding suggests that ‘it’ is not good, for why do others run away to avoid being ‘it’. Once becoming ‘it’, the immediate goal is to transfer this quality to someone else, so that one can be free of the onus. And who has given ‘that person’ the authority to name someone, in this way, in the first place? He is not Adam.

There is something psychologically disordered in this activity. Not as physically sadistic as dodgeball can be, but mean, none-the-less. It is a game of alienation and ostracism.

So what is ‘it’? Well, it is used a certain way: as a substitute [not the real thing], as something indefinite [lacking form or substance], neuter [lacks gender]. It is inferior. No wonder, some children diligently avoid being ‘it’. ‘It’ is a third person, singular pronoun of neuter gender. It is a neutered ‘he’.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Diagramming the Preamble

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Reed-Kellogg parsing drawings analyze, and give graphic, configurations of sentence structure in a logical demonstration of grammar. The base ground is the subject and predicate, a third is the object, which does not have to be expressed, beyond that, many other portions of speech can be tacked on; but they can all be pictorially related. This is done for understanding, there is an intelligence, a logic of construction that gives order. The words ‘in order to’ are a subordinating conjunction, which then allows for several infinitival clauses, which list the programme of purpose (the direct object) of the project (Constitution).

To-day is the anniversary of the establishment of the grounding document of the government of the United States. The seventeenth of September 1787, it was signed. It is currently in danger. Our government has been usurped by individuals, whom have, betrayed their oaths to defend it. Their non-democratic party has ruled without it. The american people, as a whole, are ignorant and complacent about this illegal, operative status quo. It should be a primary concern of the electorate. This non-democratic party, the so called Republicans, should be forced to acknowledge the Constitution. The electorate should disqualify them from consideration at the polls, until they make admission and amends. The Democracy should govern the democracy.

The preamble to the Constitution defines its purpose and scope. It is the law of the land and patriots uphold it. Fascist tyrants and lackeys of the moneyed interests have subverted it. WE the People need to return to our roots.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dante Alighieri

... love and tend the noble poet whom We do not hesitate to call the most eloquent singer of the Christian idea.
— Pope Benedict XV, In Praeclara Summorum 1921

D(ur)ante Alighieri*1265, †1321 was the creator of literary italian. He is the italian poet, perhaps he is the poet. His poetic rendering, of heaven and hell, is understood to be a culmination of mediæval thought on the cosmos. This poem was the fruit of his exile. He was involved in the political life of Florence in Tuscany and belonged to a losing faction. His exile and death penalty was rescinded recently (June 2008) by the city’s council 19 - 5.

On this night, Dante entered to his eternal reward. His erudition and breadth of learning suggest he was a schoolman, but his academic route is lost to us. The comedy was written during his twenty years in Ravenna. The plot of the poem, as in the Odyssey, is going home, but the main character is the poet himself. He meets with the souls of the dead, some whom he knew, many notables of history. His enemies ended up in hell. He descends through the many levels of hell, and sees the torments and tormentors of the lost souls. He then travels to purgatory, where souls are being cleansed and have hope. Finally he visits heaven, and finds joy and radiance, the closer he gets to God, the greater the good.

Roberto Benigni, the actor that will be remembered in America for walkimg on top of seats to get to the Oscar stage, is a Danteïst scholar. His television programme, Tutto Dante, of lectures and recitations on the Divine Comedy was highly viewed. His live performances fill large venues. Can anyone in the US believe, that, a middle aged man, reciting the poetry of seven centuries ago, could outsell a teen idol whom dances to lip-synced music? Our gnomish buffoon, turned scholar, rhapsodises on the fifth canto of the Inferno, the story of the adulterous lust of Paolo and Francesca. The complete comedy is one hundred cantos.

In recent years, Dante’s skull has been graphed and imaged, so as, to recreate his appearance. A very, few years ago, the bones of Count Ugolino have been examined. In the poem, Ugolino is portrayed as being a man who ate the flesh of his fellow, imprisoned relatives. The surviving evidence casts doubt on that tale. So many passages are of continuing interest, especially the infernal descriptions.

In the infernal canto xxviii, we find the moslem heresiarch, split from chin to fundament. If this were to be written, two centuries on, Dante could have the protestant heresiarch, whom so much was consumed with fundamental concerns, join him in the same condition. There, is a church, in Bologna, that has the scene painted, obscurely, on the ceiling. This church has received bomb threats. Dante still invites strong feelings.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

I Canto I, 1-3

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.

All hope abandon, ye who enter in.

I Canto III, 9

E quella a me: «Nessun maggior dolore

che ricordarsi del tempo felice

ne la miseria; e ciò sa ’l tuo dottore.

And she to me: “There is no greater sorrow

Than to be mindful of the happy time

In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.

I Canto V, 121-123

E’n la sua volontade è nostra pace.

And in His will is our peace.

III Canto III, 85

L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stelle.

The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.

III Canto XXXIII, 145 (final line)

Longfellow translation

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vice of a Female Dunderhead

Palin has the essential vapidness of Quayle and bush jr, but with a greater facility of speech, more akin to Ronnie the actor, and little or no interest in facts or truth. A, proud, standard bearer of the Republican party mythology and falsity. She plays well to small town, main street America, to the George Babbitts and Elmer Gantrys. In the short run, at least, she has rallied her party with enthusiasm. Time will tell, whether before voting day, it will be apparent to the electorate, whether the diabolically, clever gambit will be parried by recognition, or stealthily succeed. The vice-presidental, candidate selection has usually meant nothing to the vote. In this very short time, McCain seems bound fast with rope to Palin. It has been an effective, and quick defining and branding. A virtual unknown has been given a glamorous stand.

The image of McCain as a politician is a fraudulent portrayal. He is not a maverick. The
“straight talk express” is a wheelbarrow heaped with foul bovine, and equine, manure; but fast, early and repeated lies often defeat truth, in the minds of men.

If it is true, that, party bosses scotched McCain’s favorites and pals Lieberman and Ridge, and he fended off being saddled with Romney, then this substitute is a tour-de-force. Picking a female will not turn Democratic Hillary Clinton voters to McCain, it may turn silly, female partisans, but then male partisans will cancel some of that effect. The abortion and “family values” voters have been satisfied.

Subsidiarity is the catholic principle in society and government, which, has the simplest unit possible to handle an activity. If something can be done within a family, then the family ought to do do, and not be subject to a larger unit. If something can be done by a smaller, local governmental unit, then it ought to be done by that simpler unit. That is the idea behind the Xth amendment. It is also part of the European Union. Pope Leo XIII wrote about this in Rerum Novarum, in 1891. It is the modern cornerstone of Catholic social, and governmental, thought.

Subsidiarity encourages community activity and organising, that which, Palin sarcastically ridiculed. The Republicans lie about small government. Subsidiarity and community organising promotes smaller government, as well as a check against the monied powers. Ah, that is why the Republicans attack community organising. Small government, libertarian type Republicans, who will actually be true, to principle, is insignificant. It is just the spider teasing the fly.

If the press has played with Wright and Pfleger to attack Obama, and the Catholic press to attack Biden (over abortion), then it should be able to look at the nuttiness of Palin’s religious background. So far, she has been well shielded. The corporate press has not scrutinised her much, though last night, NBC did softly report some of her untruths. Palin is a joke, funnier than Monty Python. Unfortunately, Mencken may have been right in his sarcastic, cynical pessimism. In the United States, why must the idiot, and the liar have the advantage?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Flowers of the Forest

On the ninth of September of 1513, was the day when the protestant, so called, reformation won Scotland. The event did not happen in Scotland, neither lollardy or Luther were involved; it was the Battle of Flodden Field, near Branxton, England. It was a critical moment, that, changed the future, in ways that one could not see at the time.

The King of the Scots, James IV Stewart, invaded Northumberland, England, while, the future heresiarch, Henry VIII was at war, against France, on the continent. The english were led by Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey. It was the largest confrontation between the two nations. It was a wet and windy day, that had men battle in mud, so muddy, that many men unshod themselves, so as to have some control of mobility. The scot army was reduced by desertions, but still greater. Scot heavy cannon and pike, were outdone by the english light cannon, bill and longbowmen and better command.

Jamie had position, Jamie had numbers, Jamie had bravery. Jamie had two hours. The engagement began at 4 in the afternoon, it stopped with the fall of darkness. It was not seen until day broke, the extent of the english victory.

Jamie was dead, his son Alexander, the Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Lord Chancellor was dead, many men of high social rank were dead, ten thousand scots were dead; seven times greater than the english dead. The scots remembered the event with the song and tune, The Flowers of the Forest.*
I’ve heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o’ day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
“The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede† away”.

Dool and wae for the order sent oor lads tae the Border!
The English for ance, by guile wan the day,
The Flooers o the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The pride o oor land lie cauld in the clay.

Ive heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o’ day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
“The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away”.
So many scots were dead, that the nation could not hold against the Tudors and heresy, when they challenged during the next generation. English gold bought the Douglas family and other nobles. The next Jamie was king at 17 months, and a prisoner, as a child, to his Douglas stepfather. Henry invaded and Solway Moss was another scottish defeat, James V Stewart died soon after that battle in 1542. His daughter, Mary Stuart, was Queen of Scots at six days of age. Edinburgh was burned in1544. John Knox was supported by the english. Cardinal Beaton was murdered in 1546. The english, had at this point, made Scotland a protestant client state.
“It came wi a lass, itll gang wi a lass.” — James V
*Jean Elliot’s mid-eighteenth century version. The tune is a mediæval pentatonic modal tune.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What have we seen in Minnesota?

Fascist stormtroopers patrolling the outside, while fascist adherents rant inside, but the fascist-in-chief is ignored during their worship and bacchanal. Are these fascists schizophrenic? They still believe in their scripted fascism, even when their leader (führer) has kept to the script and is known to be a failure. Einstein, and sometimes Franklin, is famously, though incorrectly, quoted in giving a definition of insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”*

Inside, they say the war is keeping America free, while police thugs trample the first amendment outside. When, anywhere in this land, one tries to publicly witness to peace, thereby, being against war; they are surely verbally abused by taunting, war approving, nationalists. These self-defined ‘patriots’, will tell them to leave America and go to France, or see if they could protest in China, or the middle east. The state and many americans do not respect the first amendment, they fear it.

Why is it that Republicans hate the Constitution, except for the second amendment? The demonstrators, and journalists and spectators, outside, believe in the Constitution, but did not, even, consider to attempt to exercise their second amendment rights. If even one did, they would have been slaughtered.

The armed stormtroopers, ah ... police, raided a rented hall, the friday before, with a secret warrant. The only violation they found was a fire code item. The US does, now, practice pre-emption. It is part of bush junior’s regimen. During the week of the convention, at least 800 were arrested. In that number, there were several photographers and journalists. Such individuals are of danger to the authorities and were dealt with accordingly.
*Rita Mae Brown, Sudden Death, 1983.
noto bene: the photographer, Matt Rourke, of the photograph above, was one of the arrested.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Remember their last candidate

To-day, Labor Day, is being besmirched by those, whom wish, to take away all rights from labor. That party is the institutional fascist party. That party, which, has usurped government and proved treacherous to the Constitution. That party of miserable failures, and filthy lucre. That party of chimpy bush, that roved John McCain in 2000.

Now, for seven and a half years, McCain has toadied to junior. He has become John McBush. He has lived longer than the three score and ten allotted for a, full, active life. He may soon be of the second infancy, and senility, that Ronnie the actor experienced. He may have sold his soul in the craving desire for the presidency.

Certainly, the Republican party slime and distortion machine, that had him targeted, now, is being used on his behalf. They must be judged on their actions, not on their words and promises. His party has stolen government, and has been wretched in, almost, every way. For these sorts of reasons, they have disqualified themselves for consideration to represent and rule. The first operating logical criterion in catholic ethics, is that, the means never justify the ends!