Friday, October 29, 2010

Bach - Motet ''Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf'' BWV 226

Catechism of the Day

The Creed

as the head of the family should teach it in all simplicity to his household

The First Article: Of Creation

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures;
that he has given me my body and soul,
eyes, ears, and all my members,
my reason and all my senses,
and still preserves them;
also clothing and shoes,
meat and drink,
house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle,
and all my goods;
that He richly and daily provides me
with all that I need to support this body and life,
that He defends me against all danger,
and guards and protects me from all evil;

and all this purely out of fatherly,
divine goodness and mercy,
without any merit or worthiness in me;
for all which it is my duty to thank and praise,
to serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.

Symbolum Apostolicum

quomodo paterfamilias id suae familiae simplicissime tradere debeat

Primus Articulus: De Creatione

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem,
Creatorem caeli et terrae.

Quae est huius articuli sententia?

Credo, quod Deus creaverit me, una cum omnibus creaturis,
quod corpus et animam,
oculos, aures et omnia membra,
rationem et omnes sensus mihi dederit
et adhuc sustentet;
ad haec, quod vestes et calceos,
cibum ac potum,
domum, uxorem, liberos, agros, iumenta
et omnia bona,
cum omnibus vitae necessariis,
copiose et quotidie largiatur,
me contra omnia pericula protegat
et ab omnibus malis liberet et custodiat;

et haec omnia ex mera sua paterna
ac divina bonitate et misericordia,
sine ullis meis meritis aut ulla dignitate;
pro quibus omnibus illi gratias agere, pleno ore laudem tribuere,
inservire, obsequi merito debeo.
Hoc certissime verum est.

back to the catechism

Readers of this blog perhaps noticed that I had the Small Catechism of Luther on my mind back around late summer.  That was, I think, mainly because I was thinking of the upcoming Sunday School season, for which I was planning and had high hopes.  There has been a lot going on here in September and October, both at St. Stephen's parish and in my own personal life, such as adjusting to my new job, etc.  One thing that has not been happening, however, is Sunday School.  It went nowhere.  That's the way it goes sometimes in a parish with a small active membership.  I still have great optimism for doing things with children and youth in our parish.  But it won't be this fall. 

Nevertheless, it seems good to get back into the Catechism here anyway.  I think I left off with the Decalogue.  So we shall continue thence.

A Little More O'Connor

"You shouldn't call yourself The Misfit because I know you're a good man at heart.  I can just look at you and tell."
..."I pre-chate that, lady," The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the butt of his gun.

St. Louis Blues (Lil Rev)

The blues and Lutheranism somehow just seem to go together. I could explain this truism in any number of ways, but tonight I wish simply to use it as an occasion to post this video. For although William Handy surely did not spend much time with the Lutheran Church on his mind when he composed this song in the early twentieth century, nevertheless I find it strangely a propos, as the both confessionally and musically inclined Matthew Harrison settles into the weighty work of his new job.  Of the countless versions and incarnations of "St. Louis Blues", the version to which I keep returning is the one by Milwaukee's own multitalented Lil Rev, played on the mezzo soprano ukulele.  It is a soulful bluesy tune, played on a "happy" instrument, like only Rev can do it. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In the Words of Flannery O'Connor

The sound of the calliope coming through the window kept her awake and she remembered that she hadn't said her prayers and got up and knelt down and began them.  She took a running start and went through to the other side of the Apostle's Creed and then hung by her chin on the side of the bed, empty-minded.  Her prayers, when she remembered to say them, were usually perfunctory but sometimes when she had done something wrong or heard music or lost something, or sometimes for no reason at all, she would be moved to fervor and would think of Christ on the long journey to Calvary, crushed three times under the rough cross.  Her mind would stay on this a while and then get empty and when something roused her, she would find that she was thinking of a different thing entirely, of some dog or some girl or something she was going to do some day.  Tonight, remembering Wendell and Cory, she was filled with thanksgiving and almost weeping with delight, she said, "Lord, Lord, thank You that I'm not in the Church of God, thank You Lord, thank You!" and got back in bed and kept repeating it until she went to sleep.  (the Child, in A Temple of the Holy Ghost)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Johnny 99, two versions

Aside from being a fan of much of Bruce Springsteen's music, I find that I also enjoy the ways in which he takes a given song, and changes it from night to night.  He'll play it one way one night, or one year, and reinvent, or reinterpret it, on another occasion.  As an example, here are two versions of Johnny 99, a song from the great 1982 album, Nebraska.

The first is how he played the song on the Born in the USA tour.  This particular video is from a show toward the end of the tour, in Paris, 1985.  It is a good one for those unfamiliar with the song, because the lyrics are pretty clear, and it is closer to the album version than is the second version.  Basically just Bruce, his harmonica, and the guitar work of Nils Lofgren.

This second version is a good example of how Bruce can give a song a new sound, yet one that is somehow true to the original.  You get a lot more instruments, and a more celebratory feel, which may seem strange for a song about a guy who kills a man and then gets a 99 year prison sentence, but this is Springsteen we're talking about.  This video is from a concert in Hyde Park, London, in 2009.  It shows that the years have not slowed Bruce, or the band.  In fact, I think they are musically better than ever, though of course Danny Federici, and his organ, are missed.  It also shows Bruce's tendency to be a ham on stage, and his ability to get the crowd going.

Monday, October 18, 2010

other 'solas'

The idea of an additional 'sola' beyond the famous Lutheran ones, namely, one from the Psalms brought up by Fr. William Weedon at his blog, got me thinking of other 'solas,' just for the fun of it.  So I would like to bring up three instances of 'sola' which are sung in one of the great hymns of the liturgy, namely, the Greater Doxology, also called the Gloria in Excelsis, which is part of the Ordinary of the Mass.  The pertinent portion is as follows:

Tu solus sanctus,
Tu solus Dominus,
Tu solus Altissimus.

First, note that this string of three 'solas' is really one sola, "Tu solus" (Thou only).  And it is addressed to one Divine Person, the Son, for the song continues, "Iesu Christe" (by the way, this brings up one flaw in the TLH version of this hymn, namely, the name of Jesus is left out of that part-it simply reads, "O Christ").  So we have a string of 'solas' which form a trinity in unity and a unity in trinity, centering on the Person of Christ, like the Kyrie eleison.  The Triune God is holy.  Only He is holy.  Only He, the Triune God, is the Lord.  Only He is the Most High.  And our access to Him, our knowledge of Him, is only through the Person of the Son.  Christ is the manifestation of the fullness of the Godhead.  For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.  I am reminded of the beautiful words of Nicolaus Selnecker in his preface to Chemnitz' The Two Natures in Christ:

What is excepted which does not take place in the man Christ?  For where should we seek and find the Godhead, if not in Christ the man, if not in His assumed and glorified human nature?  Where would we lay hold on God the Father, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit if not in the flesh of Christ our brother, who is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones?  Where does the fullness of the Godhead reside and dwell if not in the flesh of Christ or in His body and indeed not in part only but fully (pasa), or with all the fullness (pan pleroma)?

And so we address our doxological confession of God's holiness, lordship, and that He is the Highest, specifically to Jesus Christ, and in doing so, are making trinitarian claims.

Now consider how the hymn continues:

Iesu Christe,
cum Sancto Spiritu,
in gloria Dei Patris.  Amen.

Here the christocentric nature and explicitly trinitarian expression of the hymn culminates and becomes unmistakable.  The Church addresses her praise to Jesus Christ, her holy Bridegroom and Redeemer, and at the same time the Church's praise is a confession that Christ is with the Holy Ghost, and in the glory of God the Father.  The Gloria in Excelsis is a hymn of praise, it is a doxology; and yet it is also a rich confession of the only true God, in which we worship the Trinity in Person and the Unity in Substance, of Majesty coequal.

At a symposium in Fort Wayne Lowell Green once critiqued the simple-minded sloganeering, which passes for theology, that often results from the superficial use of the famous 'solas' of Lutheranism.  For while there is great truth in the solas, we must not take them literalistically.  Faith, for example, is never alone, etc.  This is a useful reminder, indeed, for all of the solas, even the ones I have discussed here.  For, as Luther so brilliantly said at the Marburg Colloquy, "God is above all mathematics."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Believing the Church or Believing in the Church

Here is the question.  Which of these two is better as an English translation of the Nicene Creed?
And I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.


And I believe One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

First, clearly even just this small portion of the Credo brings up other questions, which are beyond the topic of the present discussion, such as the use of "I" instead of "we," the use of "Catholic" instead of "Christian," etc.  Suffice to say that one can tell my position on these questions by the way I chose to publish the pertinent words here.

My argument is that translators get it wrong when they leave out the "in."

Now, to be clear, I do believe that the statement without the "in" is true.  The Church teaches the Truth, and it is the high calling and privilege of the Christian, the child of the Church, to believe that Truth. And so Christians do believe the Church.  My argument, then, is in no way an argument against dogma, or an argument against the authority of the Church. Rather, it's goal is clarity about what is being confessed in the Creed as it is recited in the Mass each week.

Our liturgy is Western, and therefore we should understand that our vernacular liturgy is based upon, a translation of, the Latin.  Even if our church came out of a German speaking church, and in its turn has given birth to other vernacular liturgies.  Both our English liturgy and any liturgical translation our church helps bring about (whether it be a Spanish version of LSB, or a native African liturgy, or whatever) should keep in mind, as an important principle in liturgical translation, that the Latin, even if it be several steps removed from a church's tradition, should be consulted.  To give one hypothetical scenario, I think it is misguided to translate a German liturgy directly into English, as though German were the basis of the liturgy.  Rather, an Anglicizing of the liturgy should involve a fresh effort to render the Latin into the new language.  The result of such an approach in some cases might even be a better translation of the Latin than the previous language was.  But I digress.

And since we are of the Latin tradition, the Latin version of the Nicene Creed is a vitally important resource.  At this point, however, I suggest that a little knowledge can be used to go down the wrong road.  For the Latin can be cited, out of context, to get one answer, which I think is improper.  The Latin is as follows:

Et Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam, et Apostolicam Ecclesiam.

There is no "in" in that line of the Creed, one might be tempted to observe.  There isn't a "believe" there either.  If one were to give a literalist translation, as you might find, eg., in some of the old hand missals, which were meant to aid the parishioner who did not know Latin, then you might see something like this:

And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  (as in the Father Lasance Missal)

Yet a literalist translation is not really a translation, but a cop out.  Translating is an art which I would define as bringing something from one language and making it breathe properly in another. 

Both the "credo" and the "in" are economically covered elsewhere in the Creed.  But beyond that, this problem can be illuminated by making reference to the Greek.  The Greek text of the Nicene Creed is improperly used to give us an English version of the Creed that defies the tradition of the Latin Creed, such as the "We believe" so popular in some sectors.  Nevertheless, it is helpful, I suggest, to consult the Greek in this case.  I haven't learned how to type Greek, so I will give a phonetic rendering with Latin letters:

Eis mian, hagian, katholiken, kai apostoliken ekklesian.

Interestingly, a literalistic translation of the Greek here would mean we would have neither an "And" nor "believe."  As I say, such would be literalistic and simple minded.  On the other hand, the Greek shows us clearly that there is an important preposition at the top of this clause, "eis."  Some writers argue that this word is more correctly translated "into" or "unto" than merely "in."  That is fine, but ignores that in some cases "eis" is perfectly capable of being translated "in."  Certainly to leave it out altogether is unfair to the true sense of the Creed.

I openly describe myself as a traditionalist, yet that in no way means a blind loyalty to an English order of liturgy of a certain vintage frozen in time.  I dare say that I disagree with the translation given in both The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 and Service Book and Hymnal of 1958.  As much as I love the classic Book of Common Prayer, especially in its 1662 edition, I must say that its version of the Nicene Creed is even more off the track, since it even lacks the confession that the Church is "holy."

The Church, including the fact that she is One, and Holy, and Catholic, and Apostolic, is an article of faith.  It is not empirically evident.  It is plain and clear to the eyes of faith, yet the faithful Christian is also precisely the one who is often tempted to see the Church in other terms.  So this is a valuable and comforting reminder in the Creed about the nature of the Church.  We might say the same, I hasten to add, of the true nature of the holiness of the member of the Church.  Just as we confess our sinfulness, so we also confess our holiness in Christ, and the true unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the Bride of Christ, the Church.

high school English class

"The high-school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present. He will teach literature, not social studies or little lessons in democracy or the customs of many lands. And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed."  (Flannery O'Connor)

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Oates Volume, & Other Books

It hardly seems newsworthy that Joyce Carol Oates has published another book.  Yet it is, because her books are invariably worth reading-at least the ones I have read.  So I post this note here in great part just to remind myself that I must read her new collection of short stories, Sourland, as soon as I can get my hands on it.

What am I reading right now?  Mainly two books,
1. a recent biography of Flannery O'Connor,
2. and a delectable volume upon which I cannot comment until it is public news.

Springsteen the Songwriter

An interesting article on Springsteen, in light of a new documentary coming out on the making of the underrated "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album.  And one more, for good measure.

Despite the partisan nature of his involvement in politics in recent years, and despite the fact that his particular music does not suit everyone, I do not hesitate to promote the art of Bruce Springsteen at my blog.  For his importance to the American music scene; for the wealth, variety, and thoughtfulness of his material; and for the obvious passion with which he infuses his work, he is someone worth knowing.

And one of the "dark" periods of his career, in the sense of being all too unknown, is the late seventies, the time of his album, "Darkness on the Edge of Town."  Therefore, the soon to be released documentary and book on that time is most welcome.  Look for "The Promise" on HBO, and the complete package with DVDs in stores.

resources for celebrating the liturgical year in the home

The Church Year is celebrated with the Mass, the Divine Office, and with certain traditional devotions.  At the same time, the many and various ways in which the grace of God in Christ is taught, celebrated, and distributed to God's people in the course of the Liturgical Year ought to be so celebrated in our lives that we integrate them into our home life.  Contrary to the thinking of some in the Wisconsin Synod, you cannot make yourself a pastor, and have your own house church, with your own eucharist.  However, there is something very healthy and spiritually nurturing in the long folk tradition of the home reflecting what happens in church, by means of customs which help us mark the rhythms of the Liturgical Year's various fasts and feasts.   We can do this in terms of both food and activities, and learning to integrate them into our prayer life, and vice-versa.

One of the little ways Ruth and I bring the Church Year into the home is to have an annual Saint Nicholas' Day party.  I have come to see what perhaps many of you have long known, namely, that there is a plenitude of internet resources to aid the Christian family in making the Church Year come alive in the home.  So I would like to highlight and recommend a few web sites.  A couple of these I got directly from the New Liturgical Movement blog, and I thank and tip my aging beret to the bloggers there.

Family Food for Feast and Feria is a blog that focuses on recipes and food, and looks quite interesting.

At some point a number of years ago, I was wondering around a used bookshop-I don't remember if it was before I left Milwaukee or when I got to Ft. Wayne-and I discovered Maria Augusta Trapp's Around the Year with the Trapp Family.  It has provided my family with insights and ideas that we have found useful.  The book is now out of print, but you can find its content at the web site of EWTN, the TV network begun by Mother Angelica.  Excerpts from the book have also been posted in more attractive blog form at the appropriately named blog, Around the Year With the Trapp Family

At the blog, O Night Divine, you will find some interesting things on Advent and Christmas, though it is written from the perspective of the modern Roman Rite.  Also, if you look at the right side of that blog, and scroll down, you will see links to other web resources helpful for the Christmas season.

Finally, I'd like to recommend the blog, Catholic Cuisine

Explore and enjoy.