Monday, December 31, 2012

Nowell Sing We Clear: New Year’s Eve “Rag Dance”

Many of the traditional carols associated with the Christmas season are not specifically for Christmas itself, but are meant to welcome in the New Year. This 1990 performance by Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis and John Roberts) in Altamont, New York, recreates a custom brought by the Acadians, on their way down the Mississippi River to Louisiana, to such towns as Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, and Ste Genevieve, Missouri, both not far from Saint Louis. The “rag dance” is a traditional New Year's Eve "visiting custom." Dancers dress in costumes decorated with rags, and neighbors join in as they progress from house to house.

I know what you really want to ask: “Pray tell us, O Mighty Black-Hatted One, what are your plans for the most hungover occasion of the year?”

Ah, dear minions, I have your answer: Not much.

Now that the family summit meeting described herein has been completed, the evening will be spent at the movies. Fortunately, very little driving will be involved. (Sal and I usually hit "The Salsa Room," where I'm into Latin on the dance floor, and it's less than half a mile from my place.) I went to see "Les Miserables" last night, and finally understand why my ancestors left France in the 1840s. Tonight it's either "Lincoln" or "The Hobbit." As I am convinced that the former has taken some liberties with history (most likely the result of more than thirty years as a "southerner"), it will probably be ...

Which reminds me; for those who need it, Saint Bibiana is the patroness of hangovers.
 

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2012: Should auld acquaintance be forgot ...

It is the usual order of things to see this day, the last of the calendar year, as a time to reflect on the twelve months that have passed. There are things to remember on the part of this writer, things that have been left unsaid up to now, for want of the time to record them. This latest Year of the Apocalypse has seen the world given another respite, until someone, somewhere, gives us another reason to be unduly concerned. This world, and the things of it, will pass away at the time of God's choosing. Until then, we remember the year that we have had, with some assistance from this video brought to our attention by Slate.com.

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Howard Andrew “Andy” Williams born in the little town of Wall Lake, Iowa (Population 819, as of the 2010 Census), began as the youngest of the four "Williams Brothers" on Midwestern radio. From WHO in Des Moines, they moved on to "the nation's station," WLW in Cincinnati, where the family lived briefly before moving on to LA. The brothers broke up the act in 1953, but Andy went on to become a popular recording artist, and host of the TV variety show bearing his name. The song most associated with him is Johnny Mercer's “Moon River” from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, which he first sang at the 1962 Oscars. The song won an Oscar, but although it became his signature number, it was never a chart hit for him. (This video includes the lyrics in Spanish. Don't ask me why.)

The Alexander family was a regular viewer of his variety show in the early 1970s, with Andy playing the straight man, a la Bob Newhart, surrounded by assorted characters claiming him to be too "weird." To hear him sing it now, reminds the listener of traveling the long, lonesome road to eternity, with only the path for company.

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Ralph “RJ” Vilardo, Sr, a longtime resident of Milford, Ohio, passed away in late November at the age of 82. He was found in his car that morning, pulled over by the side of the road, apparently tired from driving late at night. That he passed away in a car was actually deemed well-suited to him, were it not for the absence of his devoted wife, the former Mary Sue Craver. His many successful years in the automotive sales industry -- “the dealer with the heart, in the heart of Milford” -- Ralph became a "pillar of the community" and still reported to work in his eighties.

His oldest daughter Susan is a longtime friend and former school classmate of ten years, going as far back as kindergarten at Milford South Elementary. I remember her telling a story of her father's experiences serving in Korea, how one of his buddies threw himself on a grenade to save the lives of the others, including Ralph. He was surely more than grateful for the chance he had to live his life, building his own business and leading the way with numerous fundraisers for worthy causes. His legacy of giving back to the world was passed on to his children. Ralph Jr was once mayor of Milford, and is a successful businessman in his own right. Johnny has devoted his life to community service through the local Fire Department. Susan has worked for years with special-needs children. Those are just three examples that come to mind.

About a year before his demise, he and I spoke for a bit about his memories of Dad as a "straight shooter." There is more to tell about that tomorrow.

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And speaking of which ...

My return to Ohio has amounted to a "working vacation," as the four of us met at the house where we grew up earlier today, to discuss the disposition of family belongings. While the details cannot be disclosed at this time, we do have a buyer for the house. My own part of the process of closing out one long chapter of this abode has begun in earnest, of going through fifty-five years of family records and other memorabilia. One item of particular interest came to my attention.

Saint Susanna Rectory
500 Reading Road
Mason, Ohio

January 8, 1955

Master David Lawrence Alexander
875 Helmsdale Road
Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Davie,

Before this letter arrives, you will have been welcomed many times. I wish to add my voice to the chorus of welcome however.

You're beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever. You've got a big job to do, and that is to save your immortal soul that the Good God has given you. Dad and mother will help you in that, and will consider it their most important duty and privilege, which of course, it is.

But God will likely expect more then usual from you. You see, you have very good stuff in you, and that makes His investment pretty heavy and serious. So you'll have to do more than most others because of your rich endowment.

But despite the fact that you mommie and pop are pretty high class folks, even they have their shortcomings. Take dad for instance. Somehow or other, dads have a way of wishing their sons were big guys before they are. And so they treat them kinda rough some times. If he gets to throwing you up in the air and catching you, just to make you rough, you better explain to him that you do not approve. The first way to do that is to cry real loud. Sometimes that does the trick; but not always. Then you have to use stronger measures. For instance, sometime when he has a nice clean shirt on, and he gets a bit rough, just throw up on that nice clean shirt. That, Davie, will do it! If even that doesn't cure him, I guess you'll have to write me for further suggestions.

And now, Davie, if there is any time that I can help you to straighten out either dad or mom, just drop me a line, and I'll be glad to do what I can for you. And be sure to give them my best regards, and congratulations too on your safe arrival.

Faithfully yours,

[Father] Charles J Murphy

In the coming months, this venue will be an opportunity to discover (or, in the case of yours truly, RE-discover) memories from over half a century; photographs, letters, commendations (well, maybe there are a few), a college prep school entrance exam where yours truly finished in the top third -- superior marks in English and Advanced Mathematics; not too shabby -- and other long-forgotten episodes in the Alexander family history.

Wanna bet you can't wait?
 

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Christ-Mass: Day 7 (St Sylvester)

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming ...”

Allowing for corruptions evolving the text as described earlier, the "seven swans a-swimming" completes the first seven days being represented by birds, in honor of the seven sacraments. The song is just more than half over, and we can already see that someone obviously put a great deal of thought into it.

Today is the Feast of Saint Sylvester, who was Pope from January 31, 314, until his death on this day in 335. He was the first bishop of Rome to refer to himself as "Pope," or more specifically, "Father (Papa)." His reign would have occurred during that of Emperor Constantine (see image above right), as well as the First Council of Nicea in 325, which composed the Nicene Creed proclaimed at Mass on Sunday. (Sylvester did not attend this council, but sent a legation.) He is also one of the ten longest-reigning popes in history.

In present-day Germany, this day of New Year's Eve is known as "Silvester." Other countries know the day better by the saints name as well (such as "la Saint-Sylvestre" in France.)

Now. if we could just figure out what birds and sacraments have in common.
 

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christ-Mass: Day 6 (Sunday Within Octave)

“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-laying ...”

Geese were among the first birds to be domesticated. As our ancestors made the transformation from hunting and gathering to settling and farming, they found they could keep a supply of them penned up, and with sufficient breeding, to supply eggs and meat for a period of time. Thus did geese emerge as a common barnyard fowl in England.

Katy Sirls is an English professor at Dixie College in St George, Utah, where she teaches English classes at Dixie College. After completing her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing, with an emphasis on fiction, she published one of her academic essays.

After several months overseas, Stacia is ecstatic to return home for Christmas. It’s been too long since she’s seen her boyfriend, Luke and she longs to be in his arms again. She even has a seductive and sexy “present” planned for their first night together.

With arrangements to celebrate the holidays with Luke’s family, Stacia soon discovers her plans are going to be quite difficult to carry out. Her first night back is spent getting to know his beloved pet geese. It seems as though their night of passion will have to wait—until, that is, she discovers Luke has plans of his own.

Stacia soon finds herself following the mysterious trail of presents Luke has left her: Christmas-wrapped goose eggs, each one with a clue that will lead her to the next... and, ultimately, to a night she’ll never forget!

Today not only falls within the Twelve Days, but within the Eight, thus it is the "Sunday Within Octave of Christmas" in the traditional Roman calendar, where the Gospel account is that of Mary and Joseph encountering the Prophet Simeon and the Prophetess Anna in the Temple where the Santo Niño has been presented. In the reformed Roman calendar, today is the Feast of the Holy Family, having been moved from the Sunday after the Epiphany in the calendar reform of 1969. Don't ask me why.

Be that as it may, the celebration of the Nativity continues.
 

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christ-Mass: Day 5 (St Thomas of Canterbury)

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gold rings ...”

The fifth day's gift of gold rings (or "golden rings" in some versions) refers not to gold jewelry, but to a characteristic of the ring-necked pheasant. This becomes significant later. Day after tomorrow. You'll have to wait for that.

But you don't have to wait for today's feast, which in the western Church is that of St Thomas à Becket, also known as Thomas of Canterbury, where he was Archbishop at the time of his death. Born around 1162, he became the confidant and High Chancellor of King Henry II of England. Then the King got the idea for Thomas, already an archdeacon, to be consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. This did not have the effect for which the King had hoped. Eventually, Thomas was embroiled in conflict with Henry over the rights and privileges of the Church, and was assassinated by the King's followers in Canterbury Cathedral, on this day in 1170. He was canonized less than four years later by Pope Alexander III.

This story became the subject of a stage play, and eventually the great 1964 film, Becket, starring Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry. It won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and received eleven other nominations, including Best Actor (Burton and O'Toole).

Following an extensive restoration process, the original 1964 film was made available in limited theatrical re-release in 2007. It is currently available on DVD. More information is available at the website: becketthemovie.com.

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It is a little-known fact that today, the Western church also celebrates the feast of an Old Testament figure, none other than King David. In the West, we rarely address Old Testament people as "Saint So-and-so," although it is quite common in the East. ("Saint Elias," for example, is a popular name for Eastern Catholic and Orthodox parishes, otherwise rendered as "Elijah.") As to "Saint David," both Shawn Tribe and Father Z provide commentary.
 

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Childermas Revisited

Okay, we're back. Here is what happened on this day after 1954 (a "Marian Year" by the way):

On this day in 1973, Alexander Solzhenitsyn published "Gulag Archipelago," an expose of the Soviet prison system.

On this day in 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American test-tube baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

On this day in 1982, Nevell Johnson Jr, a black man, was mortally wounded by a police officer in a Miami video arcade, setting off three days of race-related disturbances that left another man dead.

On this day in 1989, Alexander Dubcek, the former Czechoslovak Communist leader who was deposed in a Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968, was named president of the country's parliament.

On this day in 1999, Clayton Moore, television's "Lone Ranger," died in West Hills, Calif., at age 85.

On this day in 2004, in New York City, activist and author Susan Sontag died at age 71, and actor Jerry Orbach died at age 69.

On this day in 2005, former top Enron Corporation accountant Richard Causey pleaded guilty to securities fraud, and agreed to help pursue convictions against Enron founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

On this day in 2008, the Detroit Lions completed an 0-16 season, the NFL's worst ever, with a 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

On this day in 2009, 43 people died in a suicide bombing in Karachi, Pakistan, where Shia Muslims were observing the Day of Ashura.

On this day in 2010, Popular protests began in Algeria against the government, as part of the so-called "Arab Spring."

There was a time when having a birthday between Christmas and the New Year was something of a curse. I used to say my parents sent me a card every year out of guilt. Contrast that with this year, when I received forty birthday greetings from Facebook, same as last year. And when I arrived at Pat's house in West Chester, the siblings (and one of the nephews) were all there.

Mom didn't send me a card either, but there's a perfectly good explanation. More on that later.

(IMAGE: A rare photo of the Salus Populi Romani, crowned by Pius XII in 1953. The crown inscription reads: "Pius XII PM Deiparae Reginae Kal MCMLIV A Mar." Pope Pius XII to the Queen Mother of God, Marian Year 1954. After the renovation, the crown was deleted and is now in the museum of the sacristy of Saint Peter. The picture today in Rome exists therefore only without the crown.)
 

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Christ-Mass: Day 4 (Childermas)

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds ...”

Actually, they would have been referred to as "colly birds," meaning a form of blackbird. This is one of a number of lines that had become corrupted over the centuries. But enough about the song. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the infant males under the age of two in Bethlehem that King Herod had put to death -- tradition has put the number at 14,000 -- in the hopes of doing away with the newborn King, which he saw as a threat to his power (Matthew 2:16-18).

Obviously he didn't know the half of it.

In Spainish-speaking countries (including, uh, Spain), as well as former colonies such as the Philippines, this is traditionally a day given to playing practical jokes, much like April Fools' Day elsewhere. The pranks are known as "inocentadas" and their victims are called "inocentes," or alternatively, the pranksters are the "inocentes." Don't ask me why.

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This day is significant for a number of other reasons ...

On this day in 1065, Westminster Abbey was consecrated.

On this day in 1768, Taksin the Great was crowned king of the newly established Thonburi Kingdom in the new capital at Thonburi, present-day Thailand.

On this day in 1832, John Calhoun became the first Vice President of the USA to resign.

On this day in 1836, at the Old Gum Tree near present-day Adelaide, Royal Navy Rear–Admiral John Hindmarsh read a proclamation establishing the British province of South Australia.

On this day in 1846, Iowa became the 29th of our United States.

On this day in 1856, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States (1913-21), was born.

On this day in 1869, William Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio, obtained a patent for chewing gum.

On this day in 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge, spanning the Firth of Tay in Scotland between Dundee and the Wormit, collapsed during a violent storm while a train was passing over it, killing all on board.

On this day in 1905, Earl "Fatha" Hines, the father of modern jazz piano, was born, as was the forerunner of the NCAA, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States.

On this day in 1922, Stan Lee, the great American comic book writer, was born.

On this day in 1937, Composer Maurice Ravel died in Paris.

On this day in 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.

On this day in 1948, The Douglas DC-3 airliner NC16002, en route from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida, disappeared in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle.

On this day in 1954, actor Denzel Washington, professional wrestler Lanny Poffo, and magazine editor and morning news anchor Gayle King, were born.

... and so was I.

Closer to the present, the Alexander clan is getting together at Pat's house tonight for a family reunion. As long as we're all there, there might well be occasion to remember whatever it was, that happened at a maternity hospital in Cleveland fifty-eight years ago.

(VIDEO: The Coventry Carol, anonymous, 15th or 16th century, performed by Collegium Vocale Gent, conducted by Peter Dijkstra, from the Begijnhofkerk, Sint-Truiden, Flanders, Belgium. IMAGE: The author, January 1955, in Cleveland, Ohio, from the Alexander Family Album. H/T to Patricia Alexander Drybala.)
 

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christ-Mass: Day 3 (St John’s Day)

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens ...”

“The disciple whom Jesus loved” (“ο μαθητης ον ηγαπα ο Ιησους”) was, for a time, banished under Emperor Domition to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. This was before returning to Ephesus to live to a ripe old age. While John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death (living to be nearly one hundred years old, according to tradition), it was not for want of his enemies trying. Upon an attempt to kill John by poisoning his wine, the evil substance miraculously took the form of a serpent, as it dissipated from his cup.

Today, families can celebrate the Feast of Saint John by drinking to the health of each other, based on a German tradition known as Johannissegen. Fisheaters has a recipe for mulled wine that is customary to the occasion. Before the evening meal begins, the head of the house recites the blessing over the wine, as recorded in the Rituale Romanum:

Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy Apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction so that every one who drinks or takes of it, may through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, be freed from every disease or attack of illness and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. (Amen.)

He then lifts his glass toward the next person (or touches the rim of his glass to theirs), saying, “I drink you the love of Saint John.” The receiver says in response, “I thank you for the love of Saint John.” The second person turns to the third, and the process is repeated all around the table. That's the long form. The short form is where all present clink their glasses together saying, “Drink the love of Saint John.” This is especially handy for young children who cannot wait to chow down.

To each his own.
 

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christ-Mass: Day 2 (Boxing Day)

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves ...”

I love to show this video of the á capella group Straight No Chaser singing their own unique version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Today still feels a little like Christmas, only more stores are open, bustling continued consumer spending in spite of everything. Those nice ladies I met who were working at Macy's on Christmas Eve are sure to do well this year, and that just warms my heart.

I know, some people may think that's a concession to the over-commercialization of the holiday, but hey, we're talking about Macy's here!

Today is “Boxing Day” in Canada, the UK, and other nations of the Commonwealth. Traditionally, Christmas Day was when the master of the house would give presents to his family. On the following day, he would arrange for leftovers from his great feast to be given to his domestic staff, in boxes that they could take home. Eventually, it became customary to box other gifts as well.

This is the new music video of a new song by Blink 182 entitled, you guessed it, “Boxing Day” -- or, to be exact, the "official music cover video" by another band, Razor Notes. To hear them tell it, “This time it's not a pop punk version, it's more like the original Blink's ‘Boxing Day’ their first song released as an Indipendent [sic] band.”

Whatever works, huh, guys?

Meanwhile, the Irish celebrate this as a national holiday, too, only as Saint Stephen's Day. And so it goes ...
 

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Other Twelve

I thought it would be a quiet day today. I didn't know the half of it.

Tonight, I was invited by the wife of Sal's brother-in-law to their house for a Christmas party and gift exchange. She sets a really great table, her husband is a really decent guy, and the daughters are ... well, sorry guys, they're all taken, and it's your loss. My loss came on the way out there, when three warning lights on my car went on. I just had this thing serviced a few days ago, and I was gonna leave town tomorrow. But, better safe than sorry, and I turned back.

It's a quiet night at Chez Alexandre, and a time to reminisce. Contemplating the song about the twelve days of Christmas took me back a few years -- thirty-two, to be exact, to the days I was still hanging out with folk-singer types. Imagine the melody to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" applied to this little number:

The state of Yugoslavia is a coun-te-ry
with only one political party.

The state of Yugoslavia is a country,
with two alphabets,
but only one political party.

And now, we skip to the last verse.

The state of Yugoslavia is a country,
with twelve trillion American dollars,
eleven surviving dissidents,
ten party chairmen,
nine fighter bombers,
eight billion pigeons,
seven million peasants,
six republics,
five slavic (and) ethnic national identities ...

four languages,
three religions,
two alphabets,
but only one political party.

The song is reported to be "from Rita Ferrara who got it from Susie Mathieu, 1985, DC." I first heard it in December of 1980, at a bar in Capitol Hill called Gallagher’s, from a young lady who sang it for us there at the table. To this day, in my pensive moments, I wonder where some of those people are. I hope their Christmas is a merry one.

(H/T to The Mudcat Cafe for the Digital Tradition.)
 

Christ-Mass: Day 1 (Nativity)

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

The period known as Christmastide begins with the Feast of the Nativity itself; specifically, with the evening of that first day, through the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany. And so the first day of Christmas is December 25-26, and the season ends with Twelfth Night on January 5-6. By tomorrow, you will stop hearing Christmas music on some radio stations, but at Chez Alexandre, whether here or on the road, as well as here at mwbh, the Christmas season is just beginning.

Most of us are familiar with the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and the significance of the symbolism therein. But for those who do not...

Twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

Ten Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

Nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

Seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and/or the seven sacraments

Six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

Five Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

Four Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.

Three French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.

Two Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Christ on Earth being crucified upon a tree.

True Love refers to God, who sent his only son to us.

[NOTA BENE: The use of this song was a "secret catechism" for children, employed by Catholics persecuted in post-Reformation England, is a matter of some conjecture, as pointed out in this article from Snopes.com.]

Now then (and this should be a treat for those of you new to us), the return of a venerable mwbh tradition ...

Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the aforementioned items have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas." The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased.

Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments with PNC Wealth Management, is back once again to discuss this year's CPI, including a brief history, the impact of the economy on this year's results, and how the PNC CPI can be used in the classroom. The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2012 Christmas Price Index is $25,431.18 (up 4.8 percent from $24,263.18 last year). Learn the details, including which items went up in cost, and which went down, by visiting www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com to see the full interactive media extravaganza.

And now, don't you have anything better to do on a day like this? Your friends as well as your "friends" are waiting on Facebook and Pinterest. Go forth and spread joy!
 

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christ-Mass: The Vigil

“The Huron Carol” (aka “Jesous Ahatonhia” or “Jesus He Is Born”) is Canada's oldest Christmas song, written in 1643 by Saint Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit missionary living amidst the Huron nation in what is now Canada. Written in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people, its melody is based on a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). This translation is by Father H Kierans, and is sung by Heather Dale.

'Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wondering hunters heard the hymn.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
En-wrapped His beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless Infant there
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free
O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and Heav'n
Is born today for you
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.

Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria.


The Jesuit missionary was captured by the Iroquois in an inter-tribal war in 1649, and was awarded the crown of martyrdom by way of torture. He is included (along with Saint Isaac Jogues and six others) among the "North American Martyrs" in the Roman Calendar of Saints.
 

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Christmas at Stanbrook in 1904

[This story originally appeared here in 2007, courtesy of “Rooster Cogburn.” According to our online statistics, it is one of the most sought-after items we have published here in our ten-plus years. It is presented here every two or three years, and so is presented here now, especially for readers new to this venue. -- DLA]

A beautiful Christmas story:
taken from the Downside Review, January 1990,
by Mary Hazel Hastings


(Mrs Hastings was born near Battleford in Canada in 1897. Her mother, Mabel Hutchison, had emigrated to Canada a few years earlier. She became a Catholic, and married Charles Daunais, a French Canadian farmer in Saskatchewan. After his death she returned to England with her little daughter, and a few years later asked to be received into the Benedictine community of Stanbrook [transcriber's note: the prototype for Rumer Godden's Brede Abbey]. At that time there was a tiny school within the enclosure and it was agreed that her daughter should also live at Stanbrook as a schoolgirl. She entered the school in the summer of 1904 at the age of six. Her mother joined the community a few months later, receiving the name of Paula. Dame Paula Daunais died in 1961 in her 57th year in the Benedictine habit. Mrs Hastings here recalls her first Christmas at Stanbrook in 1904.)

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The tower of Stanbrook Abbey houses a peal of eight bells that are rung from a gallery immediately above Lady Abbess's throne called the Tribune. When my first Christmas at school came round it was decided, as I was only seven, that it would be enough for me to sit through Midnight Mass itself in the church, where my short legs swung uncomfortably from the school bench. But to leave me all alone down in the dormitory while everyone else went to Matins would be unthinkable, so I found myself preparing to do the exciting climb up to the Tribune, where I was to sit in warmth and comfort while the nuns sang the grand and very lengthy Christmas Matins.

Sister Martina lit her 'bougie' from a gas jet in the cloister and guided me through the narrow door and up the twisting stone stairs: her other arm was occupied with a stone hot water bottle, a pillow and a couple of blankets. 'Now be careful, Miss Hazel, keep close to the wall and do not stumble.' They were deep steps and the light from the 'bougie' was dim and flickering, but we reached the narrow landing safely and Sister Martina opened the Tribune door. The bell-ringer was there already and was preparing to ring the first toll. I climbed onto a kneeling-chair and stood on tip-toe looking over the top of the stone balustrade. In the church below all the gas lamps were burning and the flames of the candles in the brass candlesticks above the consecration crosses danced as one by one they were lit by one of the sacristans. Round the crosses there were wreaths of yew and ivy with bright clusters of holly berries and, far away, beyond the great wrought-iron grille the Sanctuary was a mass of flowers and lights. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Suddenly the bells began to ring and I nearly fell off the chair. I had never before been so close to them. When the great bell at the bottom of the scale boomed the whole tribune seemed to shake.

Sister Martina had been preparing my chair and now it was ready for me, a pillow behind me and another chair for my feet. I was tucked in like a caterpillar in its cocoon with the hot water bottle at my feet, but if I turned my head I could watch the bell-ringer as the changes were played on the eight bells. The ropes danced in and out of their places on the wooden frame, clicking like castanets. When Sister Martina opened the tribune door to go down and join the procession the noise was so great that I had to put my fingers in my ears. As she went out an old sister came in and knelt behind me. I was glad that I was not going to be all alone up there. The second toll was low and slow, just the thud of the great bell again and again making the tribune and my chair and me tremble with each boom. Then came the third toll and the bells went up this time from the big booming bell to the small high one--not quickly and gaily like the first toll but slowly and solemnly--and then suddenly the organ began and the bells stopped and as I leant forward I could see, through the holes in the balustrade, the procession coming into the church. First came two nuns and then two of the girls in the school--one carrying Lady Abbess's silver crozier and the other the big book of the Office. Behind them, slowly and with great dignity walked Lady Abbess. They all turned to the altar and genuflected together and then they turned again and I watched them as they walked down the church, till they disappeared under the tribune. The nuns followed, two by two, genuflected to the altar, then up the church and bowed to Lady Abbess before turning apart and going to their stalls, one on each side--and last of all came my mother, now a novice, in her new white veil.

When we went into church I always went in right at the end of the procession, when all the nuns were already in their places, and it looked very different from my tribune chair. When the nuns and the girls and the lay sisters were all assembled, standing facing the altar, Lady Abbess knocked with a little silver ivory knocker and everyone knelt for a moment, she knocked again and Matins began. The sound too was quite different from what it was when I sat in the school bench. It floated up all around me. I sat back and enjoyed it, very warm and cosy in my blankets, with my feet on the stone bottle (that had once been full of ginger beer) and presently my eyes closed. I woke up to see Sister Martina bending down with her finger on her lips. She unfolded the blankets, picked up the water bottle and I followed her on tip-toe through the narrow door and down the steep twisting steps with her 'bougie' twinkling in the darkness ahead. When we got down and out into the cloister she spread a blanket on a stone window-seat and made me sit there. She unpinned my crushed veil and put on a clean one and then, even more quietly on tip-toe, we went together by the side way to the church door. It meant going very close to Lady Abbess's throne. Only a curtain was between her and us, and it felt like a very exciting game of hide-and-seek. I must not let her hear me or see me. I held my breath, and tightly clutching Sister Martina's hand I got 'home' without being caught, right to the bottom of the church inside the great doors, and she slipped me quietly into my place. One of the school benches was in front of the organ and I always sat up at the top end--next to Clare Kenyon who was the biggest girl in the school. She had to lift me up on to the bench. When she got me there she was allowed to leave me perched in the corner of the high-backed bench, while everyone else stood up and bowed down and then sat down again, as they did over and over and over again. On Sundays, when there was a sermon, I slipped out of the bench and round to the back of where the organ blower sat. There were two steps that led up to the back row and she kept a fascinating box of cards for me to look at--old coloured prints of Biblical stories--Judith holding Holofernes's head by the hair; beautiful Ruth with an armful of corn and handsome Booz smiling benignly at her; David creeping into Saul's tent and dozens of others that I can still remember, so that at that period sermons were things to look forward to and enjoy. But at Midnight Mass there was no sermon, just lots of singing and clouds of incense that made me sleepy. It went on for a long time but at last it was over; even Lauds was over and the organ played as we went out at the end of the procession.

Down we went throught the cold 'tin tunnel' and the two long cloisters, through the dark, ghostly chapter-room and into the school. Sister Winifred was there already, preparing a great jug of hot cocoa. Mother Christina had come down with us and together we went into the 'second classroom' and put the Infant Jesus onto his bed of hay. We then sang a carol: 'Dear Little One, how sweet Thou art, Thine eyes how bright they shine'. It was always that one after Midnight Mass. I thought our Infant Jesus the most beautiful one imaginable but his eyes did not shine; they looked as if he had just been crying and I wondered why. After the carol, cocoa and bed. We were up for Mass at dawn, 7 o'clock, and then there was still the solemn Mass at 9 with Terce and Sext. After our Christmas dinner we went up to the dormitory and lay on our beds but I think we never slept. We listened to the nuns who trooped down to look at our Christmas presents spread out on the long table in the second classroom.

The bells had rung out magnificently into the Christmas night, and for Mass and Vespers next day, rung by the best bell-ringers in the monastery, probably the blind Dame Gabriel and Dame Febronia; but two days later, at ten minutes to three, there was a strange and fumbling peal of six to ring in the Feast of Holy Innocents. The School had taken over. I doubt if any Stanbrook girl ever allowed her parents to drag her home for Christmas. It would have meant missing Holy Innocents and no Christmas trees and dinners and parties could come up to that. For one full day we were treated as a Community visiting the monastery. Our elected Abbess, wearing her Pectoral Cross, sat in church on the right of the Stanbrook Abbess; they came into choir together. The Holy Innocent Abbess gave the knock with Lady Abbess's ivory hammer to end the silent prayer. She took the Office, intoning the first Antiphon, singing the prayer of the day and the Venite Exultemus at Matins. At my first Feast of Holy Innocents I was a novice: Phyllis, my companion-novice and I, being much too small to manage a stall, sat on the steps of Lady Abbess's throne. Every girl had a favourite nun and long before the feast you srewed up courage to ask your nun to lend you one of her veils and her second habit, if she was at all your size: you arranged if possible to sit next to her in choir and you got her to come and dress you before the First Vespers. Names had been chosen long before, and every friend and old girl and relative was bullied into writing to us, addressing us by our religious names. I went through a considerable litany during the nine years that I was a Holy Innocent. Inevitably it was Eustochium (my mother's religious name being Paula) for one year or possibly two; then there was the martyr period when I had read "Fabiola" and was Dame Sebastiana and the following year Pancratia. It was in 1910, I think, that having been to Buckfast Abbey during the holidays I was Dame Anscara after its Abbot, Dame Anscar Vonier. We had our allotted offices--portress and printer, cellarer and dispenser and infirmarian and bell-ringer, and we went off with our Stanbrook counterpart to 'help' her with her work. Dame Rosalie was a great favourite and there was always competition for the privilege of assisting her in the messy job of making 'bougies'--string coated with wax that the nuns kept coiled up in their pockets and used for lighting candles and lamps. What made it all so enjoyable was that we were taken seriously--as though we were truly a visiting community. There were always too extra priests for the Christmas week and the Innocents chose one to be their Chaplain. He gave his community a Conference in the large parlour, and the year that I was Abbess my chaplain decided that as the Abbess gave her nuns penances during their 'Chapter' he would give me one, and I was told to put the Vespers hymn of the feast into English verse. The literary gem that was produced has not survived. What has instead are these happy memories of my childhood in a Stanbrook of long ago.
 

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Novena for Christ-Mass: Postlude

It is the morn
Of Christmas
   Eve,
Scrambled eggs
   I cook.

Advent's
   Sunday,
Fourth and last
Most fasting
   now forsook.

The birds outside
Are singing carols
Pitched soprano-high.

Above the frost
Below the blue,
Their midnight moment nigh.

Then beasts will speak
In whispers low,
When Emmanuel did come,

How they could talk
And pray an hour ...
While man was struck quite dumb.

-- Hilary “Long-Skirts” Flannery

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When I was a boy growing up in Ohio, the town where I lived would put up decorations along the main drag, like every other town. They all said "Seasons Greetings." Not "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." It wouldn't have occurred to me that Christmas was being downplayed. Not in a town settled in 1787 by Methodists, who still pretty much ran the place nearly two centuries later, and not in a town where Santa Claus rode a fire truck through the streets of town on the Sunday before Christmas, handing out bags of treats to all the children.

But times have changed, or at least we think they have. In a nation where people are free to worship as they choose, an increasing number come to our shores who choose to worship as non-Christians. It comes as no surprise that Christmas has a different meaning to them, if any at all. A couple of years ago, there was a face-off of holiday billboards on each end of the Lincoln Tunnel into New York City, with an atheist billboard on the New Jersey side and a Catholic billboard on the New York side. They interviewed some clown who ostensibly was speaking on behalf of "Reason": "Christians don't own the season."

What does that mean, to "own" a time of the year? There is sufficient evidence over two millennia, that this time of year has been associated almost exclusively with the Christian holiday known as Christmas, which certainly didn't get its name from an atheist. Come to think of it, why WOULD an atheist want to own the season? It's a lot of semantic trickery, really, and for all the noise people like this make, there was little public outcry, in the form of not giving gifts on or about the 25th of this month.

Which means the atheists threw their money away on something that will change nothing. The season is not the season of Reason, and there is a reason.

While the actual birth date of Christ remains a matter of debate among scholars and historians alike, the season itself, from time immemorial, and among people who had yet to hear the Gospel, has been associated with the passing from darkness to light, inasmuch as there was celebration at or near the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Over two millennia, Mother Church has taken that which was good in itself from many cultures, and has elevated such customs to convey the message of Christ. And so we have Christmas trees out of Germany, decorated with lights and ornaments, and lighted star-shaped lanterns in the Ukraine, carried on poles to light the way for singing carols.

As Christmas celebrates the coming of the Prince of Peace, so peace has often reigned on this occasion in the midst of war. An example from modern history would be the Christmas Truce of 1914, when British and German soldiers, on the night before Christmas, declared a spontaneous truce and met one another in No Man's Land, singing carols, exchanging coffee and cigarettes, sharing family photos, and even playing a game of soccer. It was not the only such occasion, and commanders from both sides made attempts to prevent it. And yet, there were men from both sides who befriended one another, even after "the war to end all wars."

The Faith upon which the Incarnation is built, and the Church founded by Him to spread that message, have always been under siege, and the blood of Her martyrs has been the seed-bed of an ever-growing harvest. Witness the occurrence in November of last year, at a shopping mall food court in Ontario, in Excruciatingly-Politically-Correct Canada. This wouldn't happen for Eid-ah-Adha, the Islamic "festival of sacrifice," or for Ras as-Sana al-Hijreya, the Islamic New Year. No one will pull a stunt like this for a fabricated (and, unbeknownst to many, anti-Christian) holiday like Kwanzaa. And as this is written, NORAD is not monitoring the skies for Hanukkah Harry.

The threat to Christmas has been greatly exaggerated, O ye of little faith!

To be Christian, or more specifically, to be Catholic, is to believe that our Savior, the God-Made-Man, took the form of a slave, triumphed over Death, and sits at the right hand of God the Father. He, and He alone, is King. At the end of the day, at the end of Time itself, every nation shall yield, every knee shall bend down, and every tongue shall proclaim, that Jesus Christ is LORD! All the billboards in the world to the contrary will not change that.

And so ...

As this is published, this writer is packing for the trip to Ohio on the day after Christmas. But first, one final tribute, as preparations are also underway to celebrate the "Christ-Mass" at the Church of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, where yours truly is First Master of Ceremonies for a Solemn High Mass at the stroke of twelve. “Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virginae!” “Rejoice! Christ is born of Mary the Virgin.”

Now, quit your damn bellyaching and crack open that eggnog already!

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A special thanks to Alphabet Photography of Niagara Falls, Ontario, for thumbing their noses at the Human Rights Commission and orchestrating a "hate crime" disguised as a flash mob, eh? Special thanks to Robert Cooper and Chorus Niagara, The Welland Seaway Mall, and Fagan Media Group.
 

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Discovering Judge Bork

Robert Heron Bork died last Wednesday morning at the age of 85, of complications from heart disease. Judge Bork was one of the preeminent jurists of our time, holding to the interpretation of the Constitution according to the intent of those who wrote it, on the presupposition that they actually meant what they wrote at the time. One might expect no less of anyone with a measure of integrity, to say what they mean, and to mean what they say, even in our time.

There have been many tributes written to honor the man. There will be more in the days ahead. This may well be among the least of them, in the mere shadow of those who knew him better. Be that as it may ...

In 1973, when President Nixon ordered the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation, the Attorney General resigned after refusing to carry out the order, followed by the Deputy Attorney General. This left Bork, then Solicitor General, in the position of Acting Attorney General, and who proceed to follow through on the order, in what became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.” In 1987, when President Reagan nominated Bork to the United States Supreme Court, the Democrats in Congress launched into a severity of scrutiny into his legal opinions, and assaults on his personal character, unprecedented for a President's selection to the High Court. His nomination was defeated by a record margin. A new term was introduced to the political vocabulary, as such character assassination in the public realm was thereafter known as being “borked.” And yet, his role as an architect of the "originalist" school of constitutional law inspired peers and protegés alike, and in concert with his grace and tenacity under fire, he won a new generation of admirers.

VIDEO: A tribute to Judge Bork produced by The Federalist Society in April of 2011.

I never really knew the judge, but I did know his second wife, the former Mary Ellen Pohl. (His first wife, the former Claire Davidson, died of cancer in 1980.) Mary Ellen is an accomplished teacher and lecturer on issues concerning the Gospel of Life in her own right, and I was a student in a Theology of the Body class she conducted in 2004. A pleasant and most graceful woman, she was the perfect complement for the irascible former Marine. In over thirty years of living in Washington, I wasn't always at ease in a room full of public figures, which can be a liability on occasion in the Nation's capital. I had only met him once, at a lecture about seven or eight years ago. As I was introduced to the judge by his wife, I said the first stupid thing that came to my head: “It's nice to meet you, sir. I've heard so much about you.” He looked up at me out of the corner of his eye with suspicion and growled: “WHERE???” I was a bit taken aback: “Well, um, I read the papers and, um, I may have come across your name once … or twice.” Thankfully, Mary Ellen was the wiser of us, and gently nudged him to move on.

The story came back to me yesterday, as a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for his repose, at the Church of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. In attendance were six members of the United States Supreme Court, several prominent members of Congress, and numerous political pundits, syndicated columnists, former law clerks, family, friends, and admirers. After he was laid to rest with military honors, and a volley fired by his fellow Marines, a repast was held at the Bork residence.

Shortly after my arrival, a distinguished gentleman confined to a walker required assistance getting a cup of tea, and so I obliged him. Upon sitting at the table with several other gentlemen, all of whom knew the judge quite well, it came into conversation that this gentleman was a professor at Ave Maria University. My interest was piqued.

“So, what do you teach, sir?”

    “Whatever I damn well please.”

“Well, then, what is it that damn well pleases you these days?”

    “Catholic social doctrine.”

PHOTO: Courtesy of Rev Vincent Fitzpatrick, retired prolife anarchist, now a priest of the Diocese of Fargo.

Then followed a discussion of this subject, on to the so-called "Catholic vote" among Latinos, and then to the Theology of the Body. After about fifteen minutes, someone comes along and introduces him by name to someone else. I had been engaging none other than Michael Novak, the eminent Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat, with whose work I had been familiar for many years. And so, with the professor and other distinguished gentlemen, we sipped martinis and spoke of our encounters with the judge. It came as no surprise, then, that they were sufficiently amused with my own first encounter.

There were so many others in attendance to remember the passing of an old friend, men and women who may or may not have been public figures, but who were nonetheless accomplished, and whose stories held my rapt attention. I was at the residence for over an hour, and it went by all too quickly.

When I would see him at St John's with Mary Ellen, you could tell he was fading. There were occasions in the final years when he actually gave interviews, even then refusing to mince words when it came to certain parties by name, but these were welcome respites from the continued failure of his health. His devoted wife cared for him at home for the last several years. Knowing of how my own mother spent half her married life caring for my father, a man slowing wasting away with multiple sclerosis, I knew that no man could be loved more by any woman than Mary Ellen loved Robert. “Behind every great man ...”

There are times when we only get to know a man by the company he keeps. And so, I left that house knowing, not only the measure of the man, but what it was to be in such good company. This is how I will remember the man I barely knew. Whatever injustices were meted out to Robert Bork in this life, his case proceeds forthwith to the Highest Court, and the most Just Judge.

May justice and mercy prevail in Robert's favor, and he may enter into Eternal Life.

Amen.
 

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Advent IV: Love

Reading
1 Corinthians 4:1-2


Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. R. Thanks be to God.

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us pray ...

Prayer

O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.
 

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Novena for Christ-Mass: O Emmanuel

Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
    O come, o come, Emmanuel,
Captivum solve Israel!
    And ransom captive Israel,
Qui gemit in exsilio,
    That mourns in lonely exile here,
Privatus Dei Filio.
    Until the Son of God appear.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z

(Won't be long now ...)
 

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Rex Gentium

Veni, Veni, Rex gentium,
    O come, Desire of nations, bind,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
    In one the hearts of all mankind;
Ut salvas tuos famulos
    Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
Peccati sibi conscios.
    And be Thyself our King of peace.


Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4)

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z
 

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Friday, December 21, 2012

FAMW: Dominicans Gone Bananas!

It was a December night on the mean streets of Chinatown here in the Nation's capital. A group of Dominican Friars were hanging out on a street corner (way past Compline, one can only imagine), singing polyphonic motets and just asking for trouble. It came soon enough, in the form of a pack of Dancing Bananas. Things could have gotten ugly, and yet, 'tis the season of goodwill, as is evident for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

(H/T to Kathleen Pluth of Chant Cafe.)
 

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Obligatory “ITEOTWAWKI” Message

(In the lexicon of social media, the aforementioned acronym means “It's The End Of The World As We Know It.” So, now that we're all on the same page ...)

If the world were to end just as this is published, at nine in the morning on the North American east coast, it would probably have already happened in most of the world. In the Philippines, for example, it is now ten in the evening. At the International Date Line, it is two o'clock the following morning. Conversely, had it begun at the International Date Line, it would have been seven o'clock on the East Coast -- the previous morning. Maybe I would have received one last text message from Sal, a fond farewell from the other side of the planet. Maybe my correspondents from Quezon City would have sent something other than “Lahat ay magiging maayos” (“All will be well”) earlier today. So then, we're in the clear -- for the moment.

The prospect of the world ending, and doing so unpleasantly, has been a pop culture obsession for over a decade now, from apocalyptic aftermath to zombie invasion. As to the calendar running out of days, C G P Grey has given us a perfectly good explanation as to why even the present-day Mayans concede to their ancestors having made no such prediction. And even if they had, we know better, don't we?

Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,

and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left.

Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.

Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into.

Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.


(Matthew 24:36-44)

As we contemplate this scene in our final video, from the ending of the 2011 film Melancholia, consider how the Catholic tradition marks three o'clock in the afternoon as "the hour of mercy." It is then that I will go off to a quiet place away from the office, to pray all fifteen decades of the Rosary.

We all know there are only fifteen, don't we?
 

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Novena for Christ-Mass: O Oriens

Veni, Veni, O Oriens!
    O come, Thou Dayspring,
        come and cheer,
Solare nos adveniens,
    Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Noctis depelle nebulas,
    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.
    And death's dark shadows put to flight.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z
 

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Clavis David

Veni, Clavis Davidica,
    O come, thou Key of David, come,
Regna reclude caelica,
    And open wide our heavenly home;
Fac iter tutum superum,
    Make safe the way that leads on high,
Et claude vias inferum.
    And close the path to misery.


Isaiah had prophesied, “I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z
 

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Advent 3 Meditation

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature. For this season of Advent, this is the third in a series of meditations produced by Bob Carlton. The Incarnation was preceded by the "fiat" of Mary. Scripture and tradition tell of the promises made to her concerning her Son, and the warnings of how “... a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)

This video features the song “Mary” by Patty Griffin.
 

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Novena for Christ-Mass: O Radix Jesse

Veni, O Jesse virgula,
    O come, thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
    From every foe deliver them.
De specu tuos tartari
    That trust thy mighty power to save,
Educ et antro barathri.
    And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.


Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z
 

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dear Technorati ...

I believe the code you are looking for is:

UNPFS623XK2R

Now, can we please get on with it?
 

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Novena for Christ-Mass: O Adonai

Veni, Veni Adonai!
    O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Qui populo in Sinai
    Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
Legem dedisti vertice,
    In ancient times didst give the law
In Majestate gloriae.
    In cloud and majesty, and awe.


Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z
 

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Monday, December 17, 2012

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Christmas Novena Edition)

The connection between Jesse Jackson Jr, dwarfs, and pornography. Michigan union thugs beating a Fox News Contributor. Harry Belafonte on behalf of liberty and justice for all. This and more (if a little later than usual, given our special programming this time of year) from the folks at Pajamas Media.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth -- and beyond ...

"Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?" Is the universe just a computer simulation? (Wow, just like in The Matrix!) Somebody out there is contemplating the Big Questions? (MIT Technology Review)

Could porcupine quills help us design the next generation of hypodermic needles? The National Academy of Sciences may have the answer. (Smithsonian.com)

A pig weighing nearly 300 pounds was discovered in the back of a wrecked car in Youngstown, Ohio. (Youngstown Vindicator)

"Watch out boy, she'll chew you up." Hall & Oates wrote "Maneater" in 1982. Thirty years later comes a report that Oates is accused of biting Hall in the face. (WEWS-TV)

Finally, if you're wondering what's happened to our alphabet over the last few hundred years, you've probably noticed how it seems that something is missing. Weep no more, as all shall be revealed! (Mental Floss via New Advent)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.
 

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Novena for Christ-Mass: O Sapientia

Veni, O Sapientia,
    O come, O Wisdom from on high,
Quae hic disponis omnia,
    who orders all things mightily,
Veni, viam prudentiae
    to us the path of knowledge show,
Ut doceas et gloriae.
    and teach us in her ways to go.



Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

“O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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(Commentary for this series of the “O Antiphons” is authored by Father William Saunders, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. Copyright 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald. Used without permission or shame.)

Z <-- This is the link to one of a series of commentaries on the O Antiphons, by Father John Zuhlsdorf. They will appear at the end of every installment in this series.
 

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