"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Music Tuesday: “Hosanna to the Son of David” by Christopher Walker

In commemoration of Palm Sunday this past Sunday, I want to post this lovely hymn.  It’s a favorite of mine and this version might be the best.  I don’t know much about Christopher Walker but I came across his music and was impressed.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lines I Wished I’d Written: “The Fairy Godmother Philosophy” by G. K. Chesterton

I’ve been reading G. K. Chesterton’s remarkable developmental memoir, Orthodoxy.  I call it a developmental memoir because it is a sort of blend between a coming of age and spiritual memoirs.  The purpose of the book, as Chesterton says in the preface, is “to attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian Faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it.”  Since the book’s discourse is expository in nature—with perhaps a dash of argument—it stands manifestly self-explanatory, so there isn’t much literary analysis for me to present.  The only analysis I could comment on is in the ideas, and one can find lots of commentary on that.  I don’t see what my thoughts could add.  Be it suffice that from what I have read, I am in total agreement.  Chesterton is what I would call a natural, small “c” conservative, and by that I mean irrespective of political positions.  A natural conservative, in my perception, is a person who has an inherent inclination toward seeing the past and established societal conditions as natural and just, and the traditional culture as normative. 

For this “Lines I Wished I’d Written” post, I take three paragraphs from his fourth chapter, “The Ethics of Elfland.”  Here he develops his boyhood understanding of the world as being charged with magic, a wonder that “became [his] sentiment towards the whole world.”

The first quote touches on the “instinct” of childhood “astonishment.

This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales--because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him. This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water. I have said that this is wholly reasonable and even agnostic. And, indeed, on this point I am all for the higher agnosticism; its better name is Ignorance. We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstacy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.

All quotes taken from Literature Network’s entry of Orthodoxyhttp://www.online-literature.com/chesterton/orthodoxy/ 

In the second quoted paragraph Chesterton takes the child’s sense of astonishment and brands it a philosophy.

For this reason (we may call it the fairy godmother philosophy) I never could join the young men of my time in feeling what they called the general sentiment of revolt. I should have resisted, let us hope, any rules that were evil, and with these and their definition I shall deal in another chapter. But I did not feel disposed to resist any rule merely because it was mysterious. Estates are sometimes held by foolish forms, the breaking of a stick or the payment of a peppercorn: I was willing to hold the huge estate of earth and heaven by any such feudal fantasy. It could not well be wilder than the fact that I was allowed to hold it at all. At this stage I give only one ethical instance to show my meaning. I could never mix in the common murmur of that rising generation against monogamy, because no restriction on sex seemed so odd and unexpected as sex itself. To be allowed, like Endymion, to make love to the moon and then to complain that Jupiter kept his own moons in a harem seemed to me (bred on fairy tales like Endymion's) a vulgar anti-climax. Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once. Polygamy is a lack of the realization of sex; it is like a man plucking five pears in mere absence of mind. The aesthetes touched the last insane limits of language in their eulogy on lovely things. The thistledown made them weep; a burnished beetle brought them to their knees. Yet their emotion never impressed me for an instant, for this reason, that it never occurred to them to pay for their pleasure in any sort of symbolic sacrifice. Men (I felt) might fast forty days for the sake of hearing a blackbird sing. Men might go through fire to find a cowslip. Yet these lovers of beauty could not even keep sober for the blackbird. They would not go through common Christian marriage by way of recompense to the cowslip. Surely one might pay for extraordinary joy in ordinary morals. Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde.

And finally in the third quoted paragraph Chesterton takes that personal philosophic position and projects it toward the universal.

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.

That image of a child kicking his legs rhythmically as a metaphor for God is rhetorical brilliance!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Faith Filled Friday: “Redemption” by Johnny Cash

This is the perfect Lenten song.  From the first time I heard this song and no matter how many times I’ve heard it, it still overwhelms me.  This is Johnny Cash at his finest and most authentic.  This song just hits you right in the gut.

I have to post the lyrics as well.


From the hands it came down
 From the side it came down
 From the feet it came down
 And ran to the ground
 Between heaven and hell
 A teardrop fell
 In the deep crimson dew
 The tree of life grew

And the blood gave life
 To the branches of the tree
 And the blood was the price
 That set captives free
 And the numbers that came
 Through the fire and the flood
 Clung to the tree
 And were redeemed by the blood

From the tree streamed a light
 That started the fight
 'Round the tree grew a vine
 On whose fruit I could dine
 My old friend Lucifer came
 Fought to keep me in chains
 But I saw through the tricks
 Of six-sixty-six

And the blood gave life
 To the branches of the tree
 And the blood was the price
 That set captives free
 And the numbers that came
 Through the fire and the flood
 Clung to the tree
 And were redeemed by the blood

From his hands it came down
 From his side it came down
 From his feet it came down
 And ran to the ground
 And a small inner voice
 Said "You do have a choice."
 The vine engrafted me
 And I clung to the tree

And the blood gave life
 To the branches of the tree
 And the blood was the price
 That set captives free
 And with the numbers that came
 Through the fire and the flood
 I clung to the tree
 And were redeemed by the blood

From his hands it came down
 From his side it came down
 From the feet it came down
 And ran to the ground

"Redemption" is track #11 on the album American Recordings. It was written by Shakur, Tupac Amaru / Rouse, Ricky. Read more: Johnny Cash - Redemption Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Wow, I foundd it hard to believe Tupac Shakur gets a songwriting credit on this, but there it is.  It’s a great song. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Literature in News: Catholics In England Gather to Pray for Richard III

Well, this isn’t quite literary news per se, but when I think of Richard III, I don’t necessarily think of the historical king, but the character in Shakespeare’s play titled after him.  First the news.  As you may have read, the remains of King Richard III were recently discovered and confirmed in 2012, and so a proper burial is now in order.  From the Catholic News Agency

In preparation for the reinternment of the remains of Richard III, a 15th century English king whose body was only recently rediscovered, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has offered Compline and a Requiem Mass for the late monarch.

“This evening we fulfil a profound and essential Christian duty: that of praying for the dead, for the repose of their eternal souls,” Cardinal Nichols preached during a March 23 Requiem Mass said at Holy Cross Priory in Leicester.

“The prayer we offer for him this evening is the best prayer there is: the offering of the Holy Mass, the prayer of Jesus himself, made complete in the oblation of his body and blood on the altar of the cross, present here for us on this altar.”

Richard III was born in 1452, and reigned over England from 1483-1485, when he died in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York; he was succeeded by Henry VII, founder of the House of Tudor.

His corpse was buried without pomp, and subsequently lost. It was found in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester, 30 miles south of Nottingham, on the site of Greyfriars, a Franciscan friary dissolved during the English Reformation.

Richard III’s reign obviously predates the Protestant Reformation, and so is a Catholic.  I’m not sure if it’s obligatory, but his remains should have some sort of Catholic blessing as a religious closure.  Again from the CNA article:

His body has been kept at the University of Leicester, and was processed to Leicester Cathedral, an Anglican church, on Sunday.

That evening, Cardinal Nichols led a Compline service at the cathedral, during which Richard's coffin was sprinkled with holy water, and incensed.

“This sprinkling with holy water is a reminder that King Richard, at the beginning of his life, was baptised,” the cardinal reflected. “He was thereby called to live as a follower of Jesus Christ.”

“The deepest intentions of Richard have always been hard to fathom. Yet that is often true for many of us. Within the depth of his heart, amidst all his fears and ambitions, there surely lay a strong desire to provide his people with stability and improvement.”
Cardinal Nichols noted Richard's achievements, including a development of the presumption of innocence, the concept of blind justice, the practice of granting bail, and translating laws into the vernacular, while adding that “nevertheless his reign was marked by unrest and the fatal seepage of loyalty and support.”

“All of this reminds us, if we need reminding, that baptism does not guarantee holiness of life or saintliness of nature. But it gives a fundamental and enduring shape to a journey through life, in all its struggles and failures.”

He recalled Richard as a man of prayer and “anxious devotion,” who composed a surviving prayer and established chapels.

“We pray that, being brought into the presence of that Divine majesty, Richard may be embraced by God’s merciful love, there to await the final resurrection of all things in the fullness of time.”

When the Cardinal said that “ the deepest intentions of Richard have always been hard to fathom,” he is referring to the nature of Richard III’s character.  Richard has come down in history as an evil Machiavellian who killed people on his way to the crown.  I’m no historian here, especially of English medieval history, but whether Richard was as truly evil as history remembers him seems to be in dispute.  Richard III ultimately lost in a power struggle which resulted in a civil war, and, since the winners in history tend to write the history, of course every possible negative was placed on Richard.  But even more significantly I think Shakespeare fossilized our perception of Richard III when he took history’s view and developed a most enticing character, a character not only malicious, but enjoyably malicious because you can see the working logic of his malice in his brain, if you will.  It’s a great play because the evil Richard III comes alive to the audience.  The perceptions we moderns have of Richard III has been formed by the play.

I’m not going to quote character developments in the play, but I do want to quote that last scene, since it is tinged with religious reverence for the dead.  It’s Act V, Scene V, and the Battle of Bosworth is coming to an end, and the two antagonists, Richard III and Richmond, who will become king with the victory, meet.  It is also worthy to note that in the previous scene Richard could have run off in the face of defeat but decides to fight to the end.  

SCENE V. Another part of the field.

Alarum. Enter KING RICHARD III and RICHMOND; they fight. KING RICHARD III is slain. Retreat and flourish. Re-enter RICHMOND, DERBY bearing the crown, with divers other Lords

God and your arms be praised, victorious friends,
The day is ours, the bloody dog is dead.

Courageous Richmond, well hast thou acquit thee.
Lo, here, this long-usurped royalty
From the dead temples of this bloody wretch
Have I pluck'd off, to grace thy brows withal:
Wear it, enjoy it, and make much of it.

Great God of heaven, say Amen to all!
But, tell me, is young George Stanley living?

He is, my lord, and safe in Leicester town;
Whither, if it please you, we may now withdraw us.

What men of name are slain on either side?

John Duke of Norfolk, Walter Lord Ferrers,
Sir Robert Brakenbury, and Sir William Brandon.

Inter their bodies as becomes their births:
Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled
That in submission will return to us:
And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament,
We will unite the white rose and the red:
Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
That long have frown'd upon their enmity!
What traitor hears me, and says not amen?
England hath long been mad, and scarr'd herself;
The brother blindly shed the brother's blood,
The father rashly slaughter'd his own son,
The son, compell'd, been butcher to the sire:
All this divided York and Lancaster,
Divided in their dire division,
O, now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God's fair ordinance conjoin together!
And let their heirs, God, if thy will be so.
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!
Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again,
And make poor England weep in streams of blood!
Let them not live to taste this land's increase
That would with treason wound this fair land's peace!
Now civil wounds are stopp'd, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say amen!


Look how Catholic those lines are, especially “ta’en the sacrament.”  Of course Shakespeare has the excuse of setting a play in pre-Reformation England, and so for verisimilitude has the excuse to incorporate Catholic language, but he didn’t have to.  One of these days I will pull all the evidence together to show Shakespeare was a Catholic, but until then you’ll have to take my word.  

And so, my prayers for Richard III.  May he have embraced Christ in the end and asked for forgiveness of his sins.  Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Poetry: “Baseball Canto” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Today is poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s birthday.  I was surprised to see he’s 96 years old today.  Boy he’s lived a long life.  I remember reading a poem of his called “Endless Life” where he describes the feeling his life has been going on forever, and that must have been written some thirty years ago.  He really has been living endlessly!  I don’t consider him a great poet, but I have to admit he’s a secret pleasure of mine.  Like most of the Beat poets, he can be fun to read without taking the themes seriously, which I guess does a disservice to them since they want to be taken seriously.  I would classify Ferlinghetti as San Francisco radical, which is pretty radical.  But Ferlinghetti isn’t usually caustic; he goes down softer.

And to honor his birthday and the upcoming baseball season, which is about ten days from starting—I can’t wait!!—I’m going to post this Ferlinghetti poem on baseball.  I don’t know when this was written, but Juan Marichal, Tito Fuentes, and Willie Mays played together for the San Francisco Giants in the late 60s and early 70s. 

Baseball Canto
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor's voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits and little
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a blarney bartender,
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.
But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun and takes
off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleechers go mad with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
"Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!"
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don't come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he's escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he's beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleechers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits paydirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

But it don't stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorio libre of Baseball.

Yes, even here he mixes some sort of radical politics, but what the heck.  The radical lines and phrases make me laugh.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Personal Note: Computer Problem Update

I told you about my computer problems, and how an apparent update forced a password option, which I didn’t set, and so then I couldn’t get into my computer, and I was going to lose all my saved data since there is no way around the password and all that was left to do was reconfigure the computer.  I also mentioned that HP sent me some discs that might be able to go around the password to retrieve my data.  Well, my IT guy at work offered to help me with that, but when he got into my hard drive, it was already blank.  It had gotten wiped out apparently from when the HP technician had me go through a bunch of steps. 

So I lost it all.  My work IT person was gracious to reload the Windows operating system and my Microsoft Office.  Now I’ve got to reset up everything else.

What I lost were my blog posts from the turn of the calendar year and ones that I was working on.  I had a few that I put a lot of work into but had not posted yet. 

This reminds me of an experience I had going through an airport a few months ago.  I took a knapsack with me as my carryon bag, and to my dismay I had inadvertently left a Leatherman tool inside after I had checked my bag and it went off through the x-ray.  One of these.

Actually this was on the return leg of the trip, and somehow it had passed—can you imagine? Makes you wonder about security—on the outbound leg.  I tried to get a hold of my checked bag, which was impossible, and then after much frustration and feeling my blood pressure rise (the agents, except for one, were not all that accommodating or considerate) I decided to check my carry on.  I had that Leatherman for ages and it had a nice case too.  I felt an attachment to it, so I decided it was worth the $25 to check the bag.  But then the agent tells me it’s $35 to check a second bag, and that’s when I felt a release of peace come over me.  I turned and told the unhelpful agent, “Oh screw it,” and then I turned to the helpful agent and tossed it to him and said, “It’s yours.  Enjoy it.”  I then picked up my carryons and left. 

A point was reached where it wasn’t worth the frustration and it was best to pass on the material possession.  Even though I had an attachment to that possession, I just passed it on with the hope that God intended better things to come of it for someone else. 

So as to my lost data, I’ll try to reconstruct what I can if I have the time, otherwise, may God have better plans.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Faith Filled Friday: Glory Be

I just love this prayer.  So simple.

Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen

Stacy Trasancos, who writes a wonderful blog on science and her Catholic faith (She has a PhD in chemistry and a Master's in theology.), referred to the Glory Be when she was contemplating the stars.  Here are the first two paragraphs.

The other night, I was frustrated with my critics, frustrated with my children, and frustrated with my disobedient German shepherds who take my donning of a coat to mean the dawning of a walk, even near midnight.  I was grateful to be pulled outside though. The sky was clear beyond bits of late snow, one of those spirity nights when the winds of impending Spring wipe away the clouds, and the starlight casts shadows. “My God,” I prayed, “the stars are so bright!
When you understand something about matter at the atomic level, both starlight and snowflakes can induce that embarrassing human act called sudden-unabashed-weeping. Those dots of light are actually massive spheres of plasma, some of them billions of years old, radiating energy when hydrogen nuclei fuse to become helium and helium becomes heavier elements. The light I saw traveled for years to reach my eyes. And the snowflakes? Each one’s beauty is scripted by the union of chaos and determinism, unique in its trajectory through other matter and changes in temperature and pressure, but patterned at consistent angles by the polarity and bond of every water molecule. They melted on my face, never to be seen. Under such an interactive firmament, it’s hard to feel unappreciated. Goodness, I felt downright glorious.
 Who says faith and science are compatible?  How wrong they are.  You should read the entire post, here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Personal Note: Computer Problems Again

Agghhh.  That nice new computer I bought around Christmas is in shock.  Here's what happened.  Saturday night an HP (It's a Hewlett-Packard computer) update popped up and I accepted and I don't know what else it made me do.  Then on Sunday, my password to get in didn't work.  I tried everything.  First I called HP and they told me it was a Microsoft issue.  So I called Microsoft and and after going through a few things determined it was not a Microsoft password issue but a "local" password issue.  Apparently one's Microsoft software and one's local hard drive have separate passwords.  I never set up a local HP password.  Microsoft could do nothing and had me go back to HP

Long story short, HP technician said there was nothing to do but wipe the computer clean, and since I had not backed up anything yet (it was a new computer after all, and I had just bought a back up drive but had not used it yet) I was going to lose everything I had saved.  OK, I blew a fit and my Italian temper got away from me.  Then the technician said that there was a chance - only a chance -  that a certain method might be able to save my data.  They sent me a bunch of CDs and DVDs that are supposed to recover.  Now I just got those yesterday and have been afraid to try it myself.  People at work have gone both ways.  Some agreed with me that it's unlikely that there is no way to get around a password failure.  The computer technician seemed to think that it was impossible if I had not set up an administrator account.

So here I am and afraid to try the remedy.  I have a hunch that technician from HP was just trying to appease me.  I'm going to bring the computer into work for someone to look at it.  I'm a computer ignoramus as evident by this mess.  I might just go to a computer store for help and see what it will cost for them to try to retrieve my info.

Now if worst case scenario happens and I lose my stored data, it won't be the end of the world.  I've only had the computer short of three months, but I had worked a number of my literary analysis that were getting close to being posted.  I put some work into that but I had not put any pictures or valuable information.  Still it sucks.

And get this.  My old computer that was dying and was the reason for buying the new one is working great.  Problem was that I had reached its memory limit - limit is less than they tell you - and when I deleted some super high memory files it started running better than new.

I hate computers.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Word of the Day: Joy

I’ve been reading Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives and came across this fascinating little passage on the word rejoice.  It certainly would have been fitting if I had posted this during the Christmas season, but I read this recently and it’s fresh in my mind.  The Holy Father is discussing the Annunciation to our Blessed mother.

A striking feature of the angel’s greeting is that he does not address is that he does not address Mary with the usual Hebrew salutation shalom—peace be with you—but with the greeting formula chaîre, which we might translate with the word “Hail,” as in the Church’s Marian prayer, pieced together from the words of the annunciation narrative (cf. Lk 1:28-42).  Yet at this point it is only right to draw out the true meaning of the word chaîre: rejoice!  This exclamation from the angel—we could say—marks the true beginning of the New Testament.   (p. 26)

[Quotes are from Image edition, 2012]

So it when Gabriel comes to the Virgin, he isn’t just greeting her with “Hail Mary,” he is greeting her with “Rejoice Mary.”

The word reappears during the Holy Night on the lips of the angel who says to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy” (Lk 2:10).  It appears again—in John’s Gospel—at the encounter with the risen Lord: “The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (20:20).  Jesus’ farewell discourses in Saint John’s Gospel present a theology of joy, which as it were illuminates the depth of the word.  “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22). (p. 26-27)

Gladness in the John 20:20 quote is synonymous with joyous.  Here then is the conflation of several Biblical events to the word “joy.”  This observation is quite significant.

Joy appears in these texts as the particular gift of the Holy Spirit, the true gift of the Redeemer.  So a chord is sounded with the angel’s salutation which then resounds throughout the life of the Church.  Its content is also present in the fundamental word that serves to designate the entire Christian message: Gospel—good news.  (p. 27)

Pope Benedict wrote this in German, so something might not have been completely conveyed in the translation.  Gospel or “good news” is sometimes translated as “glad tidings,” which can therefore be translated as “joyous tidings.”  So then at the heart of Christian faith is joy.  This is what the Holy Father means above by “the theology of joy.”

And that is so true.  What separates my life from the moment I fell in love with my faith—not just embraced it, but fell in love with it—is the joy that I feel afterward.  I’m not even sure I know how to describe it other than to say it’s joy, but a joy beyond common joy, a supernatural joy.  I’ve tried to describe this to atheists or even just routine, non-devout Christians.  They understand it because it’s a foreign feeling to them.  It’s not like the joy that I get from following baseball.  I do get joy from that, but it’s not the same as the joy from Christ.  That’s divine joy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Music Tuesday: Bob Dylan Appreciation

Several weeks ago Bob Dylan was honored as person of the year by a charitable music organization called MusiCares.  But it was his acceptance speech that had everyone riveted and mesmerized.  From the Billboard article,Bob Dylan Dazzles MusiCares Gala With Bold Speech”: 

Dylan, who often shies away from speaking during his concerts, took the stage at the Los Angeles Convention Center late Friday night after President Carter introduced him with praise that his words "are more precise... and permanent than anything said by a president of the United States."

Onstage, Dylan was in the mood to pay homage. "Right from the start, my songs were divisive," he said, going on to name those who supported him early on: the songwriter Doc Pomus, label owner Sam Philips, Buck Owens and Kris Kristofferson. He also mentioned those who'd been in the opposite corner: Ahmet Ertegun, Leiber and Stoller, Merle Haggard and "the critics" who fault his singing style but, according to Dylan, give a pass to Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and Dr. John.

It was a speech that Dylan traced his musical heritage and honored his predecessors that influenced him. 

Dylan traced the roots of some of his better-known songs to numerous traditional folk songs, noting that his work blossomed from his spending so much time playing the traditional works. "John Henry" begat "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway" led to "Highway 61 Revisited." "Roll the Cotton Down" birthed "Maggie's Farm." "The Times They Are A Changin'" is an extension of what Dylan referred as the "come all ye" songs such as "Floyd Collins." From "Deep Elm Blues," a traditional song recorded by blues artists in the 1930s, sprang "Tangled Up in Blue."

"There's nothing secret about it," Dylan said.

Mostly, Dylan wanted to make a singular point about music and great songwriting, whether he was referencing the work of gospel legends the Blackwood Brothers, folk legend Roscoe Holcomb or bluesman Charley Patton. "Voices are not to measured by how pretty they are,"  Dylan said, quoting Sam Cooke. "They're to be measured by whether they're telling the truth."

Dylan’s speech was supposed to have lasted 35 minutes and while I can find a few clips of it on youtube, apparently the whole speech wasn’t posted.  At least not yet.  However, the transcript f the speech is posted and it really was a breath taking speech.  I urge anyone interested to read here.  Here’s a section I found fascinating.

I'm glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn't get here by themselves. It's been a long road and it's taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, I think of as mystery plays, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they're on the fringes now. And they sound like they've been traveling on hard ground.

And further down he elaborates:

I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs. And I played them, and I met other people that played them, back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that's fair game, that everything belongs to everyone. For three or four years all I listened to were folk standards. I went to sleep singing folk songs. I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals. And I met other singers along the way who did the same thing and we just learned songs from each other. I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I'd heard it just once.

If you sang "John Henry" as many times as me -- "John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain't nothin' but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I'll die with that hammer in my hand."If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you'd have written "How many roads must a man walk down?" too.

And he goes on like that tracing early folk and country and western music and connecting them to his songs.  It’s absolutely fascinating.  I’m not going to give any further examples, so if you have any interest in Dylan’s music or the history of American music, it’s amust read.

While for the most part Dylan showered gratitude in his speech, but every so often he took shots at his critics who claim he can’t sing and can’t play music.  Now let me add here that while fior the most part I like Bob Dylan’s music, I too have been critical of his virtuosity. His guitar playing is simple and basic, his vocals are crude, and his harmonica playing is the pits.  There are those that claim his songs are poetry, and I bristle at that.  His lyrics, if you remove them from the music, do not rise to poetry.  Sorry he is not a poet.  But he is a great song writer.  No one can take that away, and I want to highlight a few of my favorite Dylan songs as an appreciation of the man and his music.

For me “Mr. Tambourine Man” is the prototypical Bob Dylan song.

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
 Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
 Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

“Lay Lady Lay” is such a romantic song, and not exactly what you think of when you think of a Bob Dylan song.

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bedLay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bedWhatever colors you have in your mindI'll show them to you and you'll see them shine.
 Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean And you're the best thing that he's ever seen.

And let’s not forget that Bob Dylan had a religious conversion and had a number of religious songs.  “Gotta Serve Sombody” is  probably his best religious song.

You may be an ambassador to England or FranceYou may like to gamble, you might like to danceYou may be the heavyweight champion of the worldYou may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
 But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You're gonna have to serve somebody, It may be the devil or it may be the Lord  But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

And I’ll end with a song with a nice touching song, “Girl from the North Country.”  I'll post the entire lyrics of this one.

If you're traveling the north country fairWhere the winds hit heavy on the borderlineRemember me to one who lives thereFor she once was a true love of mine.
 If you go when the snowflakes storm When the rivers freeze and summer ends Please see if she has a coat so warm To keep her from the howlin' winds.
 Please see if her hair hangs long If it rolls and flows all down her breast Please see for me if her hair's hanging long For that's the way I remember her best.
 I'm a-wonderin' if she remembers me at all Many times I've often prayed In the darkness of my night In the brightness of my day.
 So if you're travelin' the north country fair Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline Remember me to one who lives there She once was the true love of mine.