Tag: 2018 December Group Writing

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Many thanks to the members who stepped up in a month full of holiday travel and events, answering the challenge to write on the theme of veneration. Bookmark this one and peruse the uniformly excellent posts if you missed some. There are lots of dates available in January Group Writing: Renovation. Follow the link to […]

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Venerating the Mother of God: Stabat Mater speciosa

 

The serendipity of a saint search led me to the story of Jacopone da Todi. That led to two poems, and onward to musical settings. This exploration led to reflections on Mary, the Mother of God.

A saint’s story.

Jacopone da Todi was a successful Italian lawyer in the northern part of Italy. He was worldly, and his wife was pious. One day, she went to a public tournament to help her husband’s career. The stands collapsed, crushing spectators, and da Todi was suddenly a widower. He blamed himself, renounced his secular life, and became a Franciscan.

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“As soon as a man comes to life,” wrote Martin Heidegger, “he is at once old enough to die.” That’s not exactly a new insight, but it does have the virtue of clarity, which wasn’t Heidegger’s long suit. Being and Time is so incoherent that it makes Hegel look breezy in comparison. Still, statements like Heidegger’s do […]

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The Khmer Holy Trinity: the Mother, the Father, and Lord Shiva

 

“Venerate the Gods in your home before the one in the vatt (Buddhist monastery).” — Khmer Proverb

Buddhism is the state religion of Cambodia, where 96% of the population consider themselves practitioners of Theravada Buddhism. But when it comes to veneration, the mother and father always come first; veneration of the Buddha is relegated to the very back of the line. To us, our mother and father are what we refer to as the Gods in our home.

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Remember when portrait art, music, and literature scaled the heights of human achievement, most often with the purpose of offering a representation of those aspects of  the culture that should be held in the highest regard by all? Well, if you attended school after any coursework in Western Civilization was viewed as heresy and expunged […]

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Icon, Part 5: The Nativity of Christ

 

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath given rise to the light of knowledge in the world; for they that worshipped the stars did learn therefrom to worship Thee, O Sun of Justice, and to know that from the east of the Highest Thou didst come. O Lord, glory to Thee. Apolytikion of the Nativity of Christ 

The Orthodox icon of the Nativity is jarring to our western eyes. We are accustomed to seeing Joseph and Mary in a warm-looking and very clean wooden barn, each about the same age, kneeling before a wooden manger that has a glowing Christ-child within, while angels shout triumphant above, shepherds approach, and the Magi, newly arrived, kneel with their gifts while the star that guided them shines brightly above the entire scene. Look closely at this scene, though, and things seem off. There is no warm and clean wooden barn, but a jagged mountain with a dark yawning cave. The Christ-Child is within, but He’s wrapped up in bandages? And is the manger really a stone box that looks more like a coffin? Mary is laying out on a blanket, dominating the scene, while Joseph (an older Joseph) is down the mountain looking forlorn while a very strange and sinister figure talks at him. What is happening here? This is not the quiet and happy Nativity we know and cherish in our candle-light caroling, nor is it the Stille Nacht we envisage while the snow quietly falls.

For us, Christmas comes not only just past the darkest night of the year, as winter bears down ever more upon us, but also at the end of the year, at a time when we are busy making resolutions, travel plans, loading up on presents, and gathering with family. It is a time where many of us are granted rests from work, a vacation in the midst of everything. We can kick up our feet in front of the fire, pour some egg nog, watch Christmas TV specials, and relax through the New Year, which we’re going to cap off with another party. But look closely at this icon instead. Mary looks exhausted, Joseph is worried, and the layered scenes have an underlying urgency to them.  Clearly, the Nativity of Christ is here depicted not as an end goal, but (to borrow from Winston Churchill) the end of the beginning, a portentous marking of things yet to come.

Venerating Dead Politicians

 

Have the American people venerated certain dead presidents? If so, what has happened to that veneration? From our coins, to our classroom walls, to the stories we tell, have we seen a sort of secular iconography, challenged by political iconoclasts?

Dennis Prager has long held that America has a unique value system, which he styles “The American Trinity.” The American Trinity is on our coins: “E Pluribus Unum,” “In God We Trust,” Liberty.” Looking at our four most common coins, we also see four presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR.

Perhaps you remember portraits of Washington and Lincoln hanging in grade school classrooms. If you are Generation X or older, you likely learned generally positive things about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR. Go back far enough, and you may have seen portraits of FDR hanging in homes and public spaces, where people identified him as on the working man’s side.

Ave Maria: Venerating the Brave Virgin, and her Consent

 

Warning: Including some crass humor in the description of a Great Christian Mystery is intended to drive home just how extraordinary a woman Mary must have been, as well as the extraordinary — indeed quite odd — nature of the mystery involved.

Ave Maria, gratia plena… Hail Mary, full of grace… These words, whether set to the sumptuous music of Biebl’s much-beloved one-hit wonder, sung to another tune, or simply spoken, will ring out through many a church today, the last Sunday of Advent, the last caravanserai parishioners pause at before reaching Bethlehem itself, and the Word Made Flesh.

Icon, Part 4: Veneration and the Incarnation

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d. He was in the beginning with G-d. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, [1] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

Thus far we have examined the first three festal icons of the Orthodox liturgical year, and in them see some of the conventions necessary to understand and interpret them (conventions such as the avoidance of over-realism, use of symbolism, a flattening of time and overlapping of events). The next Great Feast is, of course, the Nativity of Christ (Christmas), but in the interlude, I thought it time to address the icons themselves, their reason for being, why they are venerated, and what veneration even means in their context. And to do that, we should start with the prototype and, in its way, the most important icon of all, that of Jesus Christ Himself, and of one particular form — The Icon Not Made By Hands. All of Orthodox iconography is in vain if it does not point to Christ, and it is from Christ that all iconography stems.

As the Gospel of John says in its opening, “And the Word become flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory…” This is that fundamental claim of Christians, that G-d Himself took on actual and real human form — The Incarnation (which we observe as Christmas). Throughout all of prior history, G-d forbade any attempt to depict Him because you cannot depict the ineffable. Yet He came and took on human form (real flesh and blood), which we depict all the time, so this form we can depict. (I’m greatly oversimplifying this argument, however. It took 800 years, a lot of misuse of Christian imagery, two iconoclasms, and finally the 7th Ecumenical Council to sort this out.)

Member Post

 

Do you hear what I hear? Time to deck the halls and make things merry and bright. I speak, of course, of our monthly Group Writing theme: “Veneration.” There are still several days open on the sign up sheet. We’ve had posts on architecture, music, and persons worth venerating. Who is worthy of veneration? Who […]

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Good writers are hard to find. Let us celebrate and venerate our favorite writers today. Who are you reading? What do they write? Are they still alive? I suppose my two favorite authors are H. Beam Piper and Jo Rowling. I can go back and reread anything they wrote over and over again. Preview Open

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Saint Nicholas or Nick? Veneration and Popularization

 

Several years ago, I was walking through a Southwest Airlines concourse to my gate, when I saw a tall, thin Saint Nicholas deplaning. It was Christmas Eve, so I was not surprised. Continuing towards my gate, I spied a traditionally padded Santa Claus, coming off another flight. “Of course,” I realized, “you should expect to see Saint Nick in the Southwest Airlines concourse.”

As different as the two characters in the airport appeared, how much greater is the gap between the Nicholas, whose Saint’s Day is 6 December, and the jolly old Saint Nick, whose arrival coincides with and even crowds out the Christ Child or Christkindl? What does the persistence of the former and popularity of the latter say about veneration? ‘Tis the season to reflect on Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus, without going full Newsweek.

https://www.stnicholascenter.org/media/images/f/face-new.jpgSaint Nicholas

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I’m making a list and checking it twice. We have the 8 days of Hanukkah covered. One of the 12 days of Christmas is taken. 6 days are unclaimed in the Advent season. Lots of opportunities to gift your fellow Ricochetti. I speak, of course, of our monthly Group Writing theme: “Veneration.” All you need do […]

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Veneration at Pearl Harbor

 

77 years ago, today, December 7, 1941, America was formally at peace, while much of the world was in flames. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor, when the skies filled with Japanese attack aircraft and a peaceful day exploded into war. The strike was aimed at the old heart of the U.S. Pacific fleet, the battleships floating at anchor in Pearl Harbor.

Before dawn on 7 December 1941, the American strategic center of gravity in the Pacific reposed in the seven battleships then moored along “Battleship Row”, the six pairs of interrupted quays located along Ford Island’s eastern side. Quay F-2, the southernmost, which usually hosted an aircraft carrier, was empty. Northeastward, Battle Force flagship California was next, moored at F-3. Then came two pairs, moored side by side: Maryland with Oklahoma outboard, and Tennessee with West Virginia outboard. Astern of Tennessee lay Arizona, which had the repair ship Vestal alongside. Last in line was USS Nevada, by herself at quay F-8. These seven battleships, ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-five years, represented all but two of those available to the Pacific Fleet. The Fleet flagship, Pennsylvania, was also in Pearl Harbor, drydocked at the nearby Navy Yard. The ninth, USS Colorado, was undergoing overhaul on the west coast.

Veneration and Vulnerability: Suicide in the Midst of Prosperity

 

Man does not live by bread alone. As bread was being earned at a record clip, and more people got off the dole, more people in their prime years cut their own lives short. Reflecting back on the U.S. military’s Herculean effort to end suicide in the service, an unwon battle, I am painfully aware there is no clear solution, no magic pill or words. And. I wonder if our changing societal habits and beliefs make vulnerable people more vulnerable.

2017 brought unbroken good economic news, and not just for stockholders. President Trump repeated at every occasion the good news for everyone, including demographic groups who had been lagging in employment. Wages started to rise. And in the midst of all this, the suicide rate increased to a 50-year peak.

[I]t’s deaths in younger age groups — particularly middle-aged people — that have had the largest impact on calculations of life expectancy, experts said.

Heroic Virtue: The Venerable Cardinal Wyszyński

 

Stefan Wyszyński.jpgCardinal Stephan Wyszyński, often called the “Primate of the Millennium” led the Polish Catholic Church for more than thirty years, and along with it, survived some of its most challenging times.

He was born in Zuzela, a tiny village bordering on the Bug River (a funny name, but a waterway with immense significance as a dividing line, in the cultural, religious, political, and military senses) on August 3, 1901. Like much of Poland, the area was ping-ponged around from Russia to whatever version of Poland was in effect at the time, and as a result of the instability, even families like Wyszyński’s which could claim some minor upper-class or noble status, were penurious and lived hard lives. His mother died when he was nine, and he spent the next decade or so in school and then seminary, and was ordained on August 3, 1924, his twenty-third birthday.

He continued his studies and earned a reputation among his fellows as a dedicated and thoughtful priest. So dedicated and thoughtful that he had to leave his living in Włocławek when the Second World War broke out, as he’d come to the attention of the Nazis, who viewed him as a likely candidate for leader of a resistance movement, and as someone who had rather more influence than they liked with the local population.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Lots of opportunities to lift our eyes and spirits. I speak, of course, of our monthly Group Writing theme: “Veneration.” All you need do is write a short essay to start the conversation. Perhaps you could ask a question or two to get the conversation flowing? Hey, […]

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Veneration 20181203: Reviving a Dead Religion

 

Imagine, if you will, that a battle had gone differently on October 10, 732 in France. The Battle of Tours not only stopped the Islamic conquest of Europe from Africa and up the Iberian Peninsula, but started the reversal which would culminate in 1492 with the Iberian Peninsula united into two Christian kingdoms with the Muslims (and the Jews) eventually cast out or forced to convert. What would have happened had the Muslims won? The battle took place at least half the way into the heart of France. Had the Muslims been successful there, things would have been dark for European Christendom. It’s possible that Byzantium could have faced a two-front war within a few hundred years. Byzantium might have fallen earlier, leaving only Islam in Europe with Paganism on the Northern fringes in areas that were not yet Christianized. Over time, those areas, too, might be brought into Islam.

Now, imagine further that a thousand years after the thorough conquest, a thousand years after the last Christians and Jews had converted to Islam, that someone wanted to revive the old religion. Perhaps Islam was starting to fall under its own weight. The only problem is that nobody had wanted to be seen as trying to preserve the old religion against Islam, so very little was left. All that scholars had found about Christianity was one fairly well-preserved version of the Book of Psalms, and then some attestations throughout time that didn’t really get into exactly how the whole religion worked and was practiced. Certainly, it lacked the cosmogony and theology components. Further, there had been three scholars writing about “the old ways” a couple of hundred years after the fall of Christianity, but the true scholars of the old languages, history, and archaeology were pretty sure that their writings were very tainted with their Islamic religion, plus they were probably misunderstanding things from spotty oral history that had passed down for two hundred years by the time the stories reached them.