X-files and Fatima Saints

There two news items are on opposite sides of the spectrum, one was widely speculated and the other is a bit unexpected.

Fatima: As we’ve all sort of guessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the children of Fatima who died a long time ago will be Canonized by Pope Francis when he visits Fatima on May 13. I still sort of feel like we should all be expecting Lucia will be Beatified before the year is over as well, perhaps on October 13?

X-Files: On the other side of things Fox has decided to bring back Mulder and Scully for another ten episodes. The show which last aired the six episode “Event series” in early 2016 will air during the 2017-18 television season. Fans are clamoring for them to bring back the old team of writers with the likes of Vince Gilligan, want William to show up at some point, some redemption for characters and for Chris Carter not to write an episode. We will have to wait and see what all they can bring together but hopefully the 10 episode season will get the right balance of episode types.

The Forsaken Merman

I was looking at poems about Easter and sure there were a bunch that were classic and about the Resurrection but then there was this one. It seemed to be on every list that I looked at. This poem is by Matthew Arnold, the so called third greatest Victorian poet behind Tennyson and Browning. In college I took a Victorian poetry class and this was the poem that we read from Arnold and it is fairly long.

The Forsaken Merman by Matthew Arnold

Come, dear children, let us away;
Down and away below!
Now my brothers call from the bay,
Now the great winds shoreward blow,
Now the salt tides seaward flow;
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray.
Children dear, let us away!
This way, this way!
Call her once before you go—
Call once yet!
In a voice that she will know:
“Margaret! Margaret!”
Children’s voices should be dear
(Call once more) to a mother’s ear;
Children’s voices, wild with pain—
Surely she will come again!
Call her once and come away;
This way, this way!
“Mother dear, we cannot stay!
The wild white horses foam and fret.”
Margaret! Margaret!
Come, dear children, come away down;
Call no more!
One last look at the white-wall’d town
And the little grey church on the windy shore,
Then come down!
She will not come though you call all day;
Come away, come away!
Children dear, was it yesterday
We heard the sweet bells over the bay?
In the caverns where we lay,
Through the surf and through the swell,
The far-off sound of a silver bell?
Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep,
Where the winds are all asleep;
Where the spent lights quiver and gleam,
Where the salt weed sways in the stream,
Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round,
Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground;
Where the sea-snakes coil and twine,
Dry their mail and bask in the brine;
Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with unshut eye,
Round the world for ever and aye?
When did music come this way?
Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, was it yesterday
(Call yet once) that she went away?
Once she sate with you and me,
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,
And the youngest sate on her knee.
She comb’d its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.
She sigh’d, she look’d up through the clear green sea;
She said: “I must go, to my kinsfolk pray
In the little grey church on the shore to-day.
‘T will be Easter-time in the world—ah me!
And I lose my poor soul, Merman! here with thee.”
I said: “Go up, dear heart, through the waves;
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves!”
She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.
Children dear, was it yesterday?
Children dear, were we long alone?
“The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan;
Long prayers,” I said, “in the world they say;
Come!” I said; and we rose through the surf in the bay.
We went up the beach, by the sandy down
Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall’d town;
Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still,
To the little grey church on the windy hill.
From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers,
But we stood without in the cold blowing airs.
We climb’d on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,
And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes.
She sate by the pillar; we saw her clear:
“Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here!
Dear heart,” I said, “we are long alone;
The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.”
But, ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were seal’d to the holy book!
Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more!
Come away, come down, call no more!
Down, down, down!
Down to the depths of the sea!
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings: “O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy!
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well;
For the wheel where I spun,
And the blessed light of the sun!”
And so she sings her fill,
Singing most joyfully,
Till the spindle drops from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,
And over the sand at the sea;
And her eyes are set in a stare;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye,
And a heart sorrow-laden,
A long, long sigh;
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden
And the gleam of her golden hair.
Come away, away children
Come children, come down!
The hoarse wind blows coldly;
Lights shine in the town.
She will start from her slumber
When gusts shake the door;
She will hear the winds howling,
Will hear the waves roar.
We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing: “Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she!
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea.”
But, children, at midnight,
When soft the winds blow,
When clear falls the moonlight,
When spring-tides are low;
When sweet airs come seaward
From heaths starr’d with broom,
And high rocks throw mildly
On the blanch’d sands a gloom;
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze, from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town;
At the church on the hill-side—
And then come back down.
Singing: “There dwells a loved one,
But cruel is she!
She left lonely for ever
The kings of the sea.”

4/16 Massacre: A decade later

This past weekend we remembered the tenth year since the tragedy at Virginia Tech. It was a horrific day across the State of Virginia that day and in the weeks that followed. We were all Virginia Tech. One of the most remarkable things that happened this weekend was that the Yankees payed their respects on Sunday as did the Nationals, with a moment of silence before their games. There were small remembrances around the country but has anything really been done to make schools a safer place or get guns out of peoples homes. The answer to that is an emphatic no. There has actually be an increase in shootings at schools, gun manufacturing has doubled and we currently have a Secretary of Education in favor of guns in school for the oft chance of grizzly bear.

It was a horrible event and sure we all mourned for a couple weeks or a month and forgot about it,  just like we Americans always do. I mean just look at the Sandy Hook shooting you’d have thought if something was going to be done it would have happened after this but nothing came of it.  No real change has happened sure Campus Security has been increased where everyone now has their own alert program that sends out a blast via text and email about what’s happening on or around campus. Yes, this is a good thing but when will we ever take the time and ask ourselves do we really need more guns than people in our country. However, it doesn’t look like anything will be coming in Gun Control over the next 4 years at the national level.

Divine Mercy Novena

In case you’ve forgotten this is the fifth day in the Novena and the intention is for the souls of Those who have separated themselves from the Church. The novena is a way to prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday, it begins on Good Friday and goes until the Second Sunday of Easter. If you haven’t started to novena it doesn’t matter just pray the chaplet for the rest of the week or at least take some time and pray a chaplet of two before Sunday. The Chaplet is from the writing of St. Faustina Kowalska, as it comes from the visions and conversations with Jesus, who made specific promises regarding the recitation of the prayers.

The prayers are as followed and there are a lot of optional prayers. You pray the Chaplet on a regular Rosary and like all prayers begin with the Sign of the Cross.

It can begins with an optional opening prayer “You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.” This can be followed by another optional prayer which may also be used to begin the chaplet, this prayer is repeated three times “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!”

Here is where I begin:
On the three beads you pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Apostle’s Creed.
After this on all the “big beads” typically Our Fathers you pray “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” and on the “small beads” the Hail Mary’s you pray “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”. This is prayed as you go around the Rosary. When you reach the end on the medallion in the middle you pray “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world” three times.
This can be followed by another optional prayer “Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”

After this you get back to the sign of the cross and it’s over. At the end I also add “Jesus, I trust in You” I picked this up from a Polish friend who reintroduced the chaplet to me in college I had done it a couple times way back in middle school. That is the chaplet, it is easier to pray and takes less time than praying a Rosary.

 

Bright Week

This week in the Eastern Church is known as Bright Week. It’s a continuation of the celebration of the Resurrection and according to the Quinsext Council (Council in Trullo), that one between the third Constantinople and second Nicean, “for a whole week the faithful in the holy churches should continually be repeating psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, rejoicing and celebrating Christ, and attending to the reading of the Divine Scriptures and delighting in the Holy Mysteries. For in this way shall we be exalted with Christ; raised up together with Him. For this reason on the aforesaid days that by no means there be any horse races or any other public spectacle”

The week itself liturgically is considered like a single day. Bright Week ends on Thomas Sunday when the story of the apostle Thomas is read. Now this in itself is a rather interesting idea that Easter last more than one day it is just the beginning of a larger season of the liturgical year. In most of the Western world Easter is celebrated and then quickly forgotten about, sure in some places Easter Monday is a big to do as well, with like the Easter Egg Roll at the White House, Dyngus Day or Wet Monday. However this is a more commonly low key event and secular. Sure a week later we arrive on Divine Mercy Sunday but Easter is 50 days long not only seven Sundays. So if we could do little more to celebrate the season that would be great, crack open some of the Post-Resurrection Gospel stories and reflect on them in these next 49 or so days.

Good Friday

Doctor of the Church Gregory of Narek has a wonderful prayer reflection on Good Friday.

Prayer 77
Speaking with God from the Depths of the HeartA
Since today is a blessed day,
when morning came twice dividing day into
equal parts,
when the passing creatures of the earth
were transformed into a different and heavenly immutable beings,
when the high were laid low and the
humble raised up,
making this the most awesome day of Lent, Holy Friday,
when it is fitting for me to write
this prayer voicing joy mixed with terror, therefore
I think it appropriate to speak now of
the suffering you endured for me, God of all.

B
You stood, with my nature, before a tribunal of
your creatures, and did not speak, giver of speech.
You did not utter a word, creator of tongues.
You did not release your voice, shaker of the world.
You did not make a sound, trumpet of majesty.
You did not answer back with accounts of
your good deeds.
You did not silence them with their wrongs.
You did not deliver your betrayer to death.
You did not struggle when bound.
You did not squirm when whipped.
You did not fight back when spat upon.
You did not resist when beaten.
You did not take affront when mocked.
You did not frown when ridiculed.

They stripped you of your cloak, as from a weakling,
and dressed you like a condemned prisoner.
If my Lord had not been forced twice to drink vinegar and gall, he would not have been able to cleanse me of the accumulated bile of our forefathers.
He tasted heartbreak and did not waver.
They dragged him violently and brought him
back disrespectfully.
They condemned him, humiliated him by flogging
before a motley crowd.
They knelt before him in ridicule
and put a crown of disdain upon his head.

C
They gave you no rest, Life-giver,
even forcing you to bear the instrument of your death.
You accepted with forbearance.
You received it with sweetness.
You bore it with patience.
You submitted to the wooden cross of grief,
like one condemned.
Like a lily of the field, you shouldered the
weapon of life,
so that your throne in my body might be protected
against the terrors of the night
turning the last judgment into a joyful banquet.
They led him out like a sacrificial lamb.
They hung him like Isaac’s ram whose horns were caught in the thicket.
They spread him on the table of the cross like a sacrifice.
They nailed him like a common criminal.

They persecuted you, like an outlaw, treating
you in your serenity, like a bandit,
you in your majesty, like a miserable wretch,
you who are adored by cherubim,
like a despised man,
you who are the definition of life, like one
deserving of a slaughter,
you, the author of the Gospels, like one
who blasphemed the Law,
you, the Lord and the fulfillment of the prophets,
like one who cut the Scriptures,
you, the radiance of glory and the image of
the mystery of the Father, beyond mortal
understanding, as if you are the adversary
of the will of him who bore you,
you who are blessed, like someone banished,
you who came to release the bonds of the Law,
like a heretic,
you, the consuming fire, like a
condemned prisoner,
you who inspire awe in heaven and earth,
like one deserving punishment,
you, covered in unapproachable light, like
some earthly quarry

D
O, sweet Lord,
forbearing doer of good, merciful and compassionate,
Lord of all, who for the sake of infirm and unruly
servants like me submitted to everything willingly
according to your plan
together with your perfectly human body,
submitted even to the sleepy tomb of the sepulchre,
who lack nothing of divine perfection, being identical with
God who is beyond human understanding,
yet bore human indignity with patience beyond words,
you rose with your body, alive and of your own power,
In exalted light, with undiminished humanity
and flawless divinity.
You are blessed for your glory
praised for your compassion,
and always exalted for your mercy,
forever and ever.
Amen.

Perelandra

The second book in the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis. This book picks up several years after the last book (Out of the Silent Planet) ends and tells of the adventure that Edwin Ransom had when he went to Perlandra (Venus). It begins with how the first book ends with Lewis coming for a visit Ransom. The first two chapters are getting Ransom ready to go to Venus in his white coffin shaped vessel as well as what happened after he returned to Earth a year later. The rest of the book is Ransom recounting to Lewis and Humphrey what took place on Venus.

Once again it is wonderful to read of how Venus was seen in the past. Perlandra is a large ocean of a world that is dotted with rafts of vegetation like where most life on Venus lives. There is another place “Fixed Land” a regular island but it is a forbidden place to stay. Perlandra’s sky is golden and opaque it is dim during the day and you can’t see the stars at night. When Ransom arrives he splashes down into the large ocean and sort of can’t do anything although eventually he get onto a raft of vegetation. Then the story can begin. Ransom first meets a dragon-like creature who and it follows him around a couple of days or so later Ransom sees someone on another island waving. Eventually the rafts get closer and they can talk and Ransom meets the Queen of the planet. The Queen tells Ransom things about Maleldil (Jesus) and we learn that she and the King are the only inhabitants of this world.

One day while Ransom and the Queen are on Fixed Land the see a craft crash into the ocean of the planet and who is inside but Dr. Weston, if you remember him from the last book he was one of the antagonist, but here he is inhabited by the bent one. Weston tries to get the Queen to sleep on Fixed Land. It’s the Adam and Eve story told on Venus but this time it’s going to work out for the best at least that is the hope of the Oyarsa of Mars. According to the cosmology in the field of Arbor the inner planet are the newer ones and as you go out further the planets get older.

This book was a surprisingly great read for the season of Lent as it deal with a struggle with the devil. If you read the first book this one continues the story but it’s not like you need to read the first book to understand what all is going on. Once again it isn’t that overly religious and deals with the idea that the legends and myths of our world are things from other worlds and/or the past. It is a rather short read like the first book and now I’ve got to read the final book in the series.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margret Atwood’s classic work of speculative fiction The Handmaid’s Tale is soon to be a Hulu series and readers are lining up in droves to read the book before the series begins. According to The Huffington Post libraries across the country are struggling to keep up with the waitlist. The NYPL has currently 546 holds on 96 copies of The Handmaid’s Tale and the same is true across the country in Chicago of the 160 copies all but two physical copies have been checked out in and even the e-book has similar waits. This is like the phenomenon when 1984 was the must read book as day by day these dystopian societies depicted in the book seem all to real.

Margret Atwood has said recently that the book is more relevant than ever today. As it seems like a religious fundamentalist society, led by the government, takes away women’s autonomy — and their rights to their own bodies. Sure with all the anti abortion laws going on the books across the nation. The New Yorker has an interesting profile on Atwood. I read The Handmaid’s Tale in high school  about 3 lustra ago and it’s been one of those that I’d like to re-read for some time as I never finished the epilogue. If you haven’t read the book it is a good book, not sure if the movie or television adaptations are any good.

Catholic Epistles Part 3: Letters of John and Jude

This is the final group of general letters, the past weeks we looked at James and Peter.  John wrote three letters and Jude only wrote one. John’s third letter is the shortest book in the entire Bible followed by John’s second letter and Jude is the fifth shortest. So this will be a quick one.

The Letters of John might have been written by the Evangelist or at least one of his followers and it is widely believed that the second and third letters were written by a different hand than the first letter. The first letter begins with roughly the same language that we hear from the Gospel word, light in the darkness, new commandment, love, children of God and other. It’s like a distillation of the Gospel. The first letter seems to be the most general of the Johannine letters. As we turn to the other letters they are both directed to individuals John’s second letter is to a specific region and the third letter to some guy named Gaius. The second letter warns against false teachers and stresses truth and love. The third letter begins by praising Gaius for his actions in imitating good and John says that he will be coming soon. The community that John writes too is fractured as there are too many people saying what is truth. Just like that saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” as we have heard from other letters there are others preaching about Jesus and this has caused some fracturing in the community.

The Letter of Jude is a chapter long and Jude is the brother of James. Once again this stuff sounds sort of familiar as Peter’s second letter covers this same idea. Jude warns about false teachers who lead people to sin and mockers who dismiss the idea of Christ’s return. It gives the general idea that we are called to fight for our faith with love and mercy. This book is interesting as it references the Book of Enoch a book which is only used by the Orthodox Tewahedo community in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

If you have some spare time take some time and open the Bible to read. It doesn’t even have to be the upcoming readings for the week or anything like that. Pick whatever sound nice to you and read it.

Barnfloor and Winepress

As we begin this Holy Week. I hope that everyone can take some time from all our busy lives and reflect on the events of this week. Sure some people like to do the whole Triduum (Holy Thursday/ Good Friday/ Easter Vigil/ Easter Sunday) other pick and choose one or more of those events some just do Easter. However you want to get ready to celebrate I felt that this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a nice reflection for this week leading up to the main event.

Barnfloor and Winepress

“And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? ” 2 Kings VI: 27

Thou that on sin’s wages starvest,
Behold we have the joy in harvest:
For us was gather’d the first fruits,
For us was lifted from the roots,
Sheaved in cruel bands, bruised sore,
Scourged upon the threshing-floor;
Where the upper mill-stone roof’d His head,
At morn we found the heavenly Bread,
And, on a thousand altars laid,
Christ our Sacrifice is made!

Thou whose dry plot for moisture gapes,
We shout with them that tread the grapes:
For us the Vine was fenced with thorn,
Five ways the precious branches torn;
Terrible fruit was on the tree
In the acre of Gethsemane;
For us by Calvary’s distress
The wine was racked from the press;
Now in our altar-vessels stored
Is the sweet Vintage of our Lord.

In Joseph’s garden they threw by
The riv’n Vine, leafless, lifeless, dry:
On Easter morn the Tree was forth,
In forty days reach’d heaven from earth;
Soon the whole world is overspread;
Ye weary, come into the shade.

The field where He has planted us
Shall shake her fruit as Libanus,
When He has sheaved us in His sheaf,
When He has made us bear his leaf. –
We scarcely call that banquet food,
But even our Saviour’s and our blood,
We are so grafted on His wood.