Monthly Archives: December 2009
The thatch on the roof was as golden,
Though dusty the straw was and old,
The wind had a peal as of trumpets,
Though blowing and barren and cold,
The mother’s hair was a glory
Though loosened and torn,
For under the eaves in the gloaming
A child was born.
Have a myriad children been quickened,
Have a myriad children grown old,
Grown gross and unloved and embittered,
Grown cunning and savage and cold?
God abides in a terrible patience,
And again for the child that was squandered
A child is born.
What know we of aeons behind us,
Dim dynasties lost long ago,
Huge empires, like dreams unremembered,
Huge cities for ages laid low?
This at least—that with blight and with blessing,
With flower and with thorn,
Love was there, and his cry was among them,
“A child is born.”
Though the darkness be noisy with systems,
Dark fancies that fret and disprove,
Still the plumes stir around us, above us
The wings of the shadow of love:
Oh! Princes and priests, have ye seen it
Grow pale through your scorn;
Huge dawns sleep before us, deep changes,
A child is born.
And the rafters of toil still are gilded
With the dawn of the stars of the heart,
And the wise men draw near in the twilight,
Who are weary of learning and art,
And the face of the tyrant is darkened,
His spirit is torn,
For a new king is enthroned; yea, the sternest,
A child is born.
And the mother still joys for the whispered
First stir of unspeakable things,
Still feels that high moment unfurling
Red glory of Gabriel’s wings.
Still the babe of an hour is a master
Whom angels adorn,
Emmanuel, prophet, anointed,
A child is born.
And thou, that art still in thy cradle,
The sun being crown for thy brow,
Make answer, our flesh, make an answer,
Say, whence art thou come—who art thou?
Art thou come back on earth for our teaching
To train or to warn—?
Hush—how may we know?—knowing only
A child is born.
G. K. Chesterton
Here is the text of Pope Benedict’s Christmas Eve Homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters! “A child is born for us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly “God with us”. No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). For you the Saviour is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds. It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?
The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David’s being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.
Little Drummer Boy is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time and I surprisingly stumbled across the Celtic Woman version of this song. Celtic Woman is an all-female musical ensemble which I came across on YouTube earlier this year and they are delightfully good!
This version of the popular Christmas song has Gregorian chant in it, I’m not sure who scored this, but it works very well with Celtic Woman’s version of Little Drummer Boy.
Here is the original music by the Harry Simeone Chorale:
And finally here is the Vienna Boys Choir rendition of this song:
My favorite line of the song is “then He smiled at me“.
Gets me every time.
Long live Christ the King!
Have a blessed Christmas.
Something for a Christmas Eve. Hark the Herald Angels Sing combined with Renaissance Masters praising in paint Madonna and Child.
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
As an Illinois Republican I have little love for the Daley clan of Chicago. However, I have always respected their political acumen. William Daley, Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s campaign chairman in 2000, where he was much too effective for my comfort in what should have been a big Republican year, and brother of Richie the Lesser, current Mayor for Life of the Windy City, has an interesting column today in the Washington Post:
But now they face a grim political fate. On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, “true” Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.
The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.
Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year’s off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents — many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.
Witness the drumbeat of ominous poll results. Obama’s approval rating has fallen below 49 percent overall and is even lower — 41 percent — among independents. On the question of which party is best suited to manage the economy, there has been a 30-point swing toward Republicans since November 2008, according to Ipsos. Gallup’s generic congressional ballot shows Republicans leading Democrats. There is not a hint of silver lining in these numbers. They are the quantitative expression of the swing bloc of American politics slipping away.
And, of course, witness the loss of Rep. Griffith and his fellow moderate Democrats who will retire. They are perhaps the truest canaries in the coal mine.
Despite this raft of bad news, Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness. The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats’ salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan. (end of column)
“17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor 15:17-19)
It seems to me that marriage and family are probably the area in which different sub-cultures of our country have diverged most radically. Reading this New York Times feature about the author’s attempts to improve her marriage is in some ways a more alien experience than reading an anthropological study of some distant tribe. The instinct behind the exercise is laudable:
The idea of trying to improve our union came to me one night in bed. I’ve never really believed that you just marry one day at the altar or before a justice of the peace. I believe that you become married — truly married — slowly, over time, through all the road-rage incidents and precolonoscopy enemas, all the small and large moments that you never expected to happen and certainly didn’t plan to endure. But then you do: you endure. And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse. My marriage was good, utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why. I wanted not to accept this. Dan, too, had worked tirelessly — some might say obsessively — at skill acquisition. Over the nine years of our marriage, he taught himself to be a master carpenter and a master chef. He was now reading Soviet-era weight-training manuals in order to transform his 41-year-old body into that of a Marine. Yet he shared the seemingly widespread aversion to the very idea of marriage improvement. Why such passivity? What did we all fear?
Now what would Christmas be without a Mao ornament on the White House tree? Call me provincial, but somehow an ornament of a Communist dictator responsible for the deaths of approximately 60 million Chinese strikes me as a tad out of place.
Perhaps it was donated by an admirer of Mao in the Obama administration? Maybe Anita Dunn, the former White House Communications Director?
If an image of Mao must be on the White House Christmas Tree, I would suggest this one:
In the above video we have George Bailey, brilliantly played by Jimmy Stewart, attempting to stem a bank run during the Great Depression. Just in time for Christmas the indispensable Iowahawk updates this story. We join Senator George Bailey attempting to explain his support for ObamaCare to his angry constituents:
It’s A Wonderful Bill
(with deep apologies to Frank Capra)
Scene 14: Christmas Eve, inside Bedford Falls Town Hall. Senator George Bailey confronts an angry mob of constituents protesting his vote on the new health care bill.
Come on Bailey, you can’t hide forever! Let us in!
Yeah, what is this mandatory insurance nonsense? Stop cowering behind that podium George! We want answers!
crowd erupts into shouting
Now now now, everybody calm down, see? If you’ll, well, see, just let me explain…
You should’ve explained these death panels before we elected you! Let’s get ’em!
WOMAN #2 (shaking pitchfork)
Hey, pipe down youse mugs, let the man talk. It’ll be 15 minutes before the tar is hot enough to pour. Out with it Bailey!
Well well, thank you for that Pete. Now folks, see, you just gotta understand how Washington works. Remember how you, you sent me there to bring back free things to Bedford Falls, like free heath care and jobs and that new George S. Bailey retractable midnight basketball court for the high school gym?
Hey Bailey, do know how many kids drowned at the prom last year from that stupid thing?
Well, now now now, Clem, sure a few kids drowned. But look at all the jobs it created down at the Potter Retractable Basketball Floor factory. And that’s my point. Now, see, down in Washington there’s a whole Senate full of regular guys like you and you, and me, and we represent thousands of places just like Bedford Falls. And all of those places want their own jobs and healthcare and retractable basketball courts. And it turns out all of this costs money, so we have to get, well, revenues…
You mean taxes?
Well, yeah, Helen, if that’s how you want to put it. See, we put all those revenues in a, a, a, big pile there in Washington, and then we start making deals and such, to make sure we can all bring some home. Sometimes we run out, and have to make up for it with other fees…
You mean taxes? Why don’t you get it from Old Man Potter?
Yeah! Get it from Potter!
Now, now, I hate old man Potter just as much as the rest of you. Maybe more. He lives in that cold old mansion up there on Beacon Hill, while you’re getting laid off and trying to make ends meet. It just isn’t right, and that’s why I organized the big ACORN march against him last year. But I’m telling you, even if we confiscated every penny he has, we couldn’t pay for your free universal health care. That’s why we have to charge you for some of it, and make sure you don’t use too much. But don’t worry, I sent my top trade representative Uncle Billy over to China to get a payday loan for the rest.
Go over to Iowahawk here to read the whole hilarious thing.
In a recent post to Vox Nova, Michael Iafrate (aka. “The Catholic Anarchist”) offers a welcome reminder concerning Pope Benedict’s admonishment to the Brazilian bishops of “more or less visible consequences, of rebellion, division, dissent, offense, anarchy are still being felt, creating amidst your diocesan communities great pain and a grave loss of living strength”, stemming from “he non-critical import, made by some theologians, of theses and methodologies originating from Marxism.” To which Michael replies:
No where in this document, nor in either of the Vatican’s other two documents on liberation theology, does the Church condemn liberation theology as a whole. Nor does the Church even condemn all of the ideas of Marxism. John Paul II in fact used Marx very clearly in his encyclical Laborem Exercens. Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Marxian themes can see Marx’s influence on John Paul II. Paul VI affirmed the compatibility of some forms of socialism with Catholicism and used Marxian terminology in his encyclical Populorum Progressio. In fact, by warning against “a-critical” uses of Marxism, the Church implies that critical use of Marxism is in fact acceptable, and this is what most liberation theologians in fact do. Indeed this is what official Catholic social teaching has done since the Second Vatican Council.
Once again, this is not a condemnation of liberation theology. It is merely a warning against certain tendencies. The only way one would know this, though, is to know the history of the disputes and to know the Vatican’s two previous texts on liberation theology neither of which condemn liberation theology in toto.
Finally, it is important to consider not only this message to the Brazilian bishops, but a message to the same bishops delivered by the Venerable John Paul II who insisted that liberation theology is “both useful and necessary.”
Michael is certainly right that the Church has never condemned liberation theology in toto. (Nor has it condemned capitalism or capital punishment or sexual relations in toto, howbeit that is the impression one often receives reading the rantings of the fringe left and/or right, or even many presentations within the mainstream press which abandon, for the sake of a catchy headline or a cheap soundbyte, the carefully-nuanced position of the Catholic Church.
At any rate, as Michael wisely suggests, on the matter of “liberation theology” the remedy here would be a close study of the texts. For our readers’ benefit, a compilation of texts by Pope John Paul II himself.
It seems like one thing that nearly anyone on any side of the political spectrum should be able to agree on is that Senator Nelson extracting a provision for the federal government to foot the entire unfunded liability for Medicaid in the state of Nebraska (and for no other state) in perpetuity as the cost of his agreeing to support the current Senate health care bill compromise is reprehensible in the extreme.
One would like to think that such decisions would be made, in a Republic, based on a senator’s understanding of whether a bill was actually good for the country as a whole — not based on bribery. Senator Nelson should be ashamed of himself, and so should the Senate leadership which agreed to provide such a buy-off.
At times looking at an example of someone getting an idea wrong is actually the most helpful thing in formulating a better understanding of the topic. That’s how I felt, some while back, when I ran into this post descriptively entitled, “Love Never Ends, So How Could A Just Society Bring An End To Charity?” which argues:
I have heard it said by many people that if the government provides for the needs of society through its social services, there will no longer be any need for charity. Yet, we are called to charity, and therefore, we must not allow governments to interfere in our acts of charity. There is something very mixed up with this notion. It is perverting the very nature of charity, twisting it in a way to make sure there will be people who are suffering, so that they can be the objects of our good will. We are being told we cannot wish for a more just society because if such a society exists, charity will vanish.
But this cannot be the case, can it?
What exactly is the aim of charity but love? Love can be manifest in many ways; when someone is in dire straights, love seeks to help them out of it. But that is not all love seeks for them. Indeed, does a husband or wife love their family less after they have provided for their family’s needs? Certainly not! If we would not look at our family relationship in this way, why do we look at the world in this fashion?
Charity is caritas, love; to act in charity is to follow the dictates of love. Charity seeks for the betterment of others; in doing so, it recognizes that the most immediate need should be taken care of first (food, shelter, clothing, health, quality of life, etc). If these are taken care of, this does not diminish the need for charity: it provides room for greater forms of charity, for greater forms of love.
Now, I don’t think that, “Where will that leave charity,” is a universally good answer to suggestions of instituting social services. In a society which is already weak and uncohesive, there’s clearly a need for some minimal level of social services. The legitimate question to be argued between political factions is what the appropriate extent and form of social services should be — not whether there should be any at all. (If you’re unsure of this, ask yourself if you’d really support closing government homeless shelters and food assistance, abolishing unemployment, or eliminating the federal deposit insurance that assures that if your bank runs into problems your saving account doesn’t vanish over night. The sight of people literally dying in the street was not uncommon 150 years ago in many parts of what is now the developed world, and the fact that we’ve largely eliminated that — though social programs as well as through charity — is certainly not a bad thing.)
By a vote of 60-40 early this morning in the Senate, the Democrats, with not a Republican vote, voted to cede power to the Republicans in 2010. The Democrats thought they were voting to invoke cloture on the ObamaCare bill, but the consequences of the passage of this bill, assuming that it passes the House, will likely be to transform a bad year for the Democrats next year into an epoch shaping defeat. As Jay Cost brilliantly notes here at RealClearPolitics:
“Make no mistake. This bill is so unpopular because it has all the characteristics that most Americans find so noxious about Washington.
It stinks of politics. Why is there such a rush to pass this bill now? It’s because the President of the United States recognizes that it is hurting his numbers, and he wants it off the agenda. It might not be ready to be passed. In fact, it’s obviously not ready! Yet that doesn’t matter. The President wants this out of the way by his State of the Union Address. This is nakedly self-interested political calculation by the President – nothing more and nothing less.
Hattip to Ace of Spades. I have to refresh my credentials as Chief Geek on this blog and so I post this blooper compilation video from the original Star Trek series. Much to my disappointment they did not include some of Shatner’s more histrionic Captain Kirk speeches, but what they chose isn’t bad.
The fourth and final part of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ delivered by John Henry Cardinal Newman before his conversion during Advent in 1835. Part I is here, part II is here and Part III is here.
In this last sermon Newman speaks of the persecution that will attend the reign of the anti-Christ. In Newman’s day, living memory could recall the savage persecution that the Church endured dring the initial years of the French Revolution. In our time, we have the blood-stained last century when millions of Christians were martyred for their faith. It is all too easy to suspect that those terrible persecutions were trial runs for the persecution of the Anti-Christ. The last century brought to reality these words of Newman: “Let us then apprehend and realize the idea, thus clearly brought before us, that, sheltered as the Church has been from persecution for 1500 years, yet a persecution awaits it, before the end, fierce and more perilous than any which occurred at its first rise.” Certainly all prior persecutions pale before what Christians experienced in the Terrible Twentieth.
This is an interesting passage from Newman’s sermon: “Again, another anxious sign at the present time is what appears in the approaching destruction of the Mahometan power. This too may outlive our day; still it tends visibly to annihilation, and as it crumbles, perchance the sands of the world’s life are running out.” I assume that Newman was thinking of the decline of the Ottoman Empire of his day, the sick man of Europe. Freed from this adversary, perhaps Europe would unite behind one man, reform or revive the Roman Empire, and bring about the conditions for the Anti-Christ. Small wonder that Hitler was frequently deemed the Anti-Christ during his lifetime. Of course Hitler was not the Anti-Christ, but perhaps merely one of myriads of anti-Christs who have arisen and fallen in the centuries since the coming of Christ, or perhaps he is a precursor of the Anti-Christ.