Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa

Past Posts of Note
Substantative, in chronological order
The Sunday obligation and illness: question, research & my answer

Denial of personhood: Dei Filius & Terri Schiavo

On Modesty 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Differing with Dulles 1 & 2 on pro-abort politicians

Mad About Manuals 1 & 2

Absinthe recherches early, required reading, 2, 3, 4.

First time at an abortuary

The Maundy

TPOTC impact & analysis and more

Contraception reflections 1, 2

Meiwes, propheta, übermensch

Headship Loggerheads 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Matrix: Revolutions

Matrix: Reloaded
1, 2 & 3

Terrorist Attack Preparations, and follow-ups 1 & 2 & 3


Casuistry of Drinking

Review of Auto Focus

Parish Review 1

The Power of Shame

Biblical Hermeneutics

Ayoob on Guns

Against the Ordination of Women

Two Cents on Braveheart


Thematic Meditations

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The Knights of Columbus have their own series of catechetical tracts which might be nice for sacerdotal blog readers to put in their parishes, or for laity to have on hand for apologetical purposes. Best of all, you can print them yourself, too, since they are all available in PDF.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/30/2004 09:38:00 AM | link

Even in the domain of their own peculiar aesthetic accidentals, it seems certain Masonic organizations have nothing on the Church.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/28/2004 06:40:00 AM | link

They even have their own Tower of Babel over there in Babylon. Could it be the inspiration for Bruegel's classic painting? Google thinks so .

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/27/2004 10:36:00 AM | link

Puer natus in Bethlehem
(Northern European, 16th cent.)

Puer natus in Bethlehem / Unde gaudet Jerusalem / Alleluia

Assumsit carnem hominis / Verbum patris altissimi / Alleluia

Per Gabrielis nuncium / Virgo concepit filium / Alleluia

De matre natus virgine / sine virili semine / Alleluia

Sine serpentis vulnere / de nostro venit sanguine /Alleluia

In carne nobis similis / Peccato sed dissimilis /Alleluia

Tanquam sponsus de thalamo / Processit matris utero /Alleluia

Hic iacet in praesepio / Qui regnat sine termino /Alleluia

Cognovit bos & asinus / Quod puer erat Dominus /Alleluia

Et angelus pastoribus / Revelat quis sit Dominus /Alleluia

Magi de longe veniunt / Aurum, thus, myrrham offerunt /Alleluia

Intrantes domum invicem / Natum salutam hominem /Alleluia

In hoc natalis gaudio / Benedicamus Domino /Alleluia

Laudetur sancta Trinitas / Deo dicamus gratias /Alleluia

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/25/2004 01:01:00 AM | link

Leave we all this worldly mirth / And follow we this joyful birth


As nice as a joyous celebration of Christmas can be, for many years now, I cannot help but feel -- usually in the midst of wine and gifts and food some hours after Mass -- a profound lonliness in the midst of good company and the irresistable urge to go and be alone and to comtemplate in my heart His inexpressible mercy and His unfathomable plan of redemption.

When heaven is wedded to earth, how can a soul appreciate that nuptial mystery in a throng? Pious festivity redounds reflection; reflection draws one out into solitude, for solitude is the condition of intimacy. Thus -- at a dinner, sing carols, wherever -- one finds oneself suddenly lonely, for the Beloved cannot fully be There in the way He wants to be.

This Christmas, my old familiar loneliness found unexpected companionship in this moving 14th century hymn which I had never heard before, yet I think both its words and its setting echo the sentiment I'm attempting to articulate.

Why not listen to it this Christmastide and see if you don't feel the same?

And if you haven't yet read the beautiful story behind its composition, take a moment. It is track 20 from the aforementioned CD, and one of several good arguments to buy it. Every time I listen to this piece, I am enraptured, and say, Ecce tu pulcher es...et decorus. When you feel like coming down from the clouds, remind yourself that this was composed about a decade before the liturgical wreckovation broke loose on Western liturgy.

The lyrics are below. The Waddell version does not include the sixth verse. The fifth verse echoes a sentiment of the Akathist Hymn, which also captures (less eloquently) how the proper attitude towards Christmas concludes in mystical ascent over boisterousness. As the Akathist Hymn expresses it: "Seeing a strange childbirth / Let us estrange ourselves from the world, transporting our minds to heaven. / To this end the Most High God appeared on earth a lowly man / that He might draw to the heights all those who cry to Him, "Alleluia!"


(Anonymous, 14th cent.)

1. There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu;

2. For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in little space;
Res miranda.

3. By that rose we may well see
That he is God in persons three,
Pares forma.

4. The angels sang, the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis deo:

5. Leave we all this worldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth;

6. Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/24/2004 04:02:00 AM | link

Tridentine Latin Rite Missal Project. A private initiative of some seminarians who love the Tridentine Rite and wish to see the indult extended broadly in their lifetimes. They are working towards a free, complete Missal online.

(I came across its listing for the feast of St. Anne while Googling for the full text of "Diffusa est gratia.")

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/24/2004 02:39:00 AM | link

Treasures Old and New: Nine Centuries of Cistercian Music

by the Scholars of Cambrai

This wonderful collection of Cistercian chant, sacred polyphony and other music was compiled in celebration of the nonacentennial of the foundation of Citeaux (1098). Twenty tracks comprise the CD. The sampling begins with chant from Molesme (the abbey from which was founded Citeaux) and concludes with four 20th century pieces. The complete track listing and purchase info is available via Spencer Abbey.

The collection highlights the development within the Cistercian tradition. Perhaps the academic origin of the collection explains the helpful liner notes by Gail Gillispie which further highlight the subtly progressive aspects of each piece. (The notes indicate that the collection was first performed at the 33rd International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan.)

The 14th century pieces are simple and beautiful. Their adornments remain austere. For example, the prosa of track 1 repeats the musical line just used to sing the entire verse in a melismatic expansion of its final syllable, in a call-and-return style.

The selections from Johannes Nucius (1556-1620) include a moving setting of Vulgate Psalm 113 ("In exitu Israel"), wherein late chant and baroque elements are fused to achieve a sublime effect. Polyphony alternates with plainchant -- two verses in chant, two more polyphonically. This arrangement juxtaposes the unadorned beauty of the plainchant with often more plaintive or daring polyphonic lines. The wavelike alteration of richness and simplicity draws the listener in and releases him every four lines. I find it even more relaxing than, say, some settings of Palestrina where the ear is sometimes overwhelmed in following the complexities of each verse. If you are praying these psalms meditatively, it is much easier to keep your place in settings so styled. Moreover, the Scholars could not pass up a bit of playful musical self-reference in the way they gloss "in guttere suo" in verse 15 with such verve. ("Simulacra gentium...os habent et non loquentur...non clamabunt in gutture suo.")

The 17th century Christmas settings (part of the reason I bought the CD) spring from the German Abbey of Heiligenkreuz. They are baroque in style, with instrumentation. They alternate Latin lines with their translation into Hochdeutsch, a further foray into later stylistic and linguistic traditions.

Track 16 contains a piece of secular music which was not composed by a Cistercian, but rather has one as its subject. The aria Dio s'offende (sung in Italian) comes from Giovanni Pergolesi's Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione di San Gugliemlmo d'Aquitania. The liner notes explain that in this opera, an angel and a devil battle for the soul of the William of Aquitane, who has lapsed into heresy. St. Bernard of Clairvaux assists the angel. The aria is Bernard's reproach to the sleeping William wherein Bernard expresses his indignation that anyone so laden with sin can be so heedless of his impending ruin. Delightful, even if I don't fully comprehend Italian. Perhaps Cacciaguida can translate it for us.

Because the collection ranges into the twentieth century, I began to worry that the modern pieces which conclude the disc would be a waste of space in comparison to what precedes them. Not so. Track 18, "The Praise of Sorrow," is a typically dissonant, taxing, modern composition, but worth a listen or two. Its heaviness on the ear is perhaps justified insofar as the piece was written for Triduum and concludes "Behold the wood of the Cross..." I would not call its five minutes an aural via dolorosa, but it might be compared to doing the stations around one's parish church on your knees.

The final track, however, is a stunning accomplishment of contemporary art. The text of "Rosa Mystica" was given this setting by a scholar of Cistercian music and liturgy, M. Chrysogonus Waddell. Waddell was called by God to enter Gethsemane Abbey in 1950, in the midst of his collegiate studies in composition. He left behind his studies and career, and composed this beautiful piece as a gift to Our Lady in thanksgiving for his vocation. In addition to being a lovely setting of this Marian hymn, the composer's "farewell to the world" and thanksgiving appear musically in the concluding "gaudeamus...transeamus." A fitting gift, of high quality, and emblazoned with a personal touch. It makes one pine for what could be in contemporary church music!

My criticisms are slight. The choir is mixed. Perhaps some of you prefer a same-sex choir for compositions which presume them. Since the (otherwise excellent) liner notes provide no text for various pieces, I quickly noticed that the enunciation of the women was substantially less than that of the men, making it difficult to discern their lines when I did not already know them.

I was surprised when ripping the CD to MP3 (=the first thing I do when I buy a CD and like it), that the engineer (Joel Conrad) only used about one third of the dynamic range available to him. ALL tracks needed substantial normalization. This increases the background noise a little, which was already slightly audible on the CD itself. Thus the original mastering could have been done better.

All in all, Treasures Old and New: Nine Centuries of Cistercian Music was a delightful find at a local bookstore. If you like Western Chant and early polyphony -- and especially if you find your self wondering about Cistercian contributions to sacred liturgy -- go and buy yourself a copy of this disc.

There is a companion volume entitled 1098 which I see on the Spencer Abbey website, but I do not own it. This work was also composed for the nonacentennial of Citeaux, and consists exclusively of Cistercian chant performed by Cistercians. If someone else has 1098 please drop me a line and share your thoughts on it.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/23/2004 04:01:00 AM | link

Alexander the Great asked for comments on his latest foray into the greatest debate in theological history.

I agree with the comments already on his blog that the shamrock analogy is at best a marginally acceptable device for catechizing children, and should otherwise be abandoned immediately.

First, re: distinguishing the Persons "teleologically." Don't both Orthodox and Catholic theologians agree that the Persons cannot be distinguished by virtue of their actions in salvation history? I thought this was the case for two reasons:

a) God is Trinity before He creates, or more accurately, independent of creation. His Trinity therefore cannot be defined with respect to creatures. While the "economic" Trinity gives us some insight into God, strictly speaking it cannot be the basis of the distinction of Persons.

b) One consequence of the Nicene definition that the Persons are consubstantialiter / mia ousia is that they all, strictly speaking, have the same activity. Unity of substance entails unity of operation, following Aristotle, but more importantly, following a bunch of pre-schism Fathers who combatted the subordinationism implied by the appropriation of distinct operations to certain Persons and not others. I assumed, in fact, that the Orthodox, following the Cappadocians, were even more guarded than Western Catholics about using the "economic" Trinity as a basis for Trinitarian argument because of this.

Second, I think Alexander's real quarrel is with St. Augustine, rather than St. Patrick. In his De Trinitate, Augustine confesses that he cannot understand any positive meaning behind the distintion between "Person" and "Substance" and so he begins to approach the Trinity through the venue of Relations -- not a total novelty, since this seems to have had its precedent in Eastern theologians (e.g., Gregory of Nazianzen and his use of schesis in Oration 29) -- but something which becomes the standard method of approach in the West, and throws weight onto the importance of how we describe the relations in a way which did not obtain when Nicea I and Constantinople I did their dogmatic work.

The problem, IMHO, begins because Augustine himself tinkers with two different ways of using the idea of relations to distinguish the Persons -- one theory in Book 9, another in Book 10 -- and they each have distinct issues that must be dealt with. (It is also important for later theologians to remember, which several do not, that Augustine dismisses both theoretical attempts as unsatisfactory at the end of De Trinitate.)

Before I step into a vast forest of debate I'm going to stop. Last month, I wrote a long paper on Western Trinitarian theology and I'll either end up trying to summarize it briefly (=long, exhausting; likely unsuccessful right now) or committing too many theological sins of ommission.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/23/2004 03:44:00 AM | link

Movie rec and Netflix accolade

The TV was up against the ropes. In the battle for whether we should have one at all, I was winning, with the sole remaining objections being:

1) From the wife: We need something to watch in case there is an emergency (appealing to my safety side). My response: we buy one of those little battery-powered portables at Radio Shack and keep it in the closet for emergencies.

2) From the mother-in-law: "When your wife is up in the middle of the night feeding and rocking the baby, she'll need something to do." (Of course, this is hard to answer. "She can do whatever women did before television" isn't a very knowledgable or convincing answer!)

Then came Netflix

I initally balked when Zorak suggested we try it. $19/mo seemed like a waste of money to me. I don't normally trifle over that small a sum. The question was whether we would actually use it. Last month, she signed up, and rented a bunch of baby-related films.

I have to admit, it's pretty awesome. VERY convenient, and an enormous selection of materials. As with most things, the internet provides more information, greater selection, and saves you the nasty schlepp to the Blockbuster during business hours. Zorak set up a queue of movies she'd like to see that is about 100 titles long. She even pointed out to me that I could rent some PBS specials and Hitler channel shows I had wanted to see, but had missed. And the Indie film selection is pretty impressive (see below).

How does it work? Every time she's done with one DVD, we just mail it back in the postage-paid envelope an another comes in a couple days. Their deal: You keep three with you, as long as you want. Whenever you are finished with one, mail it back and they send you the next you've requested on your queue. All for a flat fee of $19/mo. Keep the movies as long as you want; watch as many in a month as you want. Not bad. A couple of late fees at Blockbuster, and you're even. Likewise, watch six videos a month, and you're even. Now, six is a lot for us, but the selection & convenience justify the modest sum.

Last evening, Eve -- long-time Netflix advocate -- brought us over a movie of her own chosing while I fixed her ailing DVD player. She had ferreted it out of the Netflix recommendations. The Last Supper (1995).

The premise? A group of frustrated, idealistic liberal graduate students (who never seem to do any grad work), have a "guest" over for dinner every Sunday. In their bourgeoning dissatisfaction with the ineffectiveness of their liberalism, they decide to engage in a fun bit of praxis after a nasty run-in with an unexpectedly bigoted guest -- they start poisoning conservatives, one by one, at the dinner table. Judgment by the group takes place in the form of dinner-time conversation and whether to offer the guest the fatal flagon of wine.

Mao trades places with Merlot as this liberal death squad raises the stakes in their willingness to bump off various guest, until finally the group reaches a crisis point.

The plot was very enjoyable; there was considerable aesthetic unity to the whole work(albeit at times a little heavy-handed with the tomatoes which represent bloodlust); the dialogue had fun moments but could have been a little deeper, and there were some fun cameos and casting decisions.

All in all, a great film I wouldn't have found but for Netflix. So I recommend that you try them both when you have some time to watch films.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/23/2004 02:55:00 AM | link

One reader asks what must be on the minds of many (I suppose -- you never call, you never write...):

"Is your recent blog silence intended to be permenant? I'm sure my advisor would appreciate the quicker pace of my research if all the blogs I read were to shut down. Will I have to fill that void with alcohol so he doesn't notice?"

In the words of the Monty Python sketch: It's just a flesh wound! I'll be back soon. I wish I could say the same for Zorak's blog, but that might take some convincing.

I cleared some major PhD hurdles last month, and I've had several weeks of backlogged grading & professorial commitments to deal with since then, in addition to taking care of a pregnant wife who had a nasty bout with kidney stones. (She's OK now, and the baby is fine.)

Re: alcohol and blogvoids: Voids can be dangerous. Nature abhors a vacuum, so always keep a bottle handy!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 12/10/2004 09:43:00 PM | link


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