Sunday, February 29, 2004

I was pretty much right about The Passion.

At least in regards to effective and final cause of the Crucifixion.

I was strangely unmoved by Jim Cavaziel's portrayal of Jesus. He was more of a cipher, a blank receptacle for suffering, than a full character, let alone the Incarnate Word and source of all love.

It's not a bad film, but it's not a great one, and it's not one worthy of its subject matter. Sorry, Mel.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet XIV:

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day" -
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry, -
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

I recall discussing this poem in AP British Literature. The other students thought it was a euphemism for "beauty's only skin deep." I knew it was deeper than that, that real love cannot respond to the question "Why do you love me?" except with the answer "I love you." I remember wanting to love in the way Browning described, even before I thought it might be possible.

It is Lent and I am feeling honest.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Saint Peter Chrysologus (5th Century)- Sermon on the Lenten Fast

Consider the fast of Lent, which the whole Church takes up tomorrow with solemn devotion. Now, that number forty is something so sacred from antiquity, and it is found to be so mystical, that by some unbreakable law it is written as a number which is always used to accomplish divine objects and to explain important affairs of God.

For forty days and nights rain was poured out to purify the earth. This happened that the world might rejoice over its second birth by such a baptism, and that the earth, which previously was producing men born for death, might produce them now as men reborn unto life.

Notice, brethren, how important that number forty is. Then, it opened up the heavens for the cleansing of the earth; now, through the font of baptism, it opens the world for the renewal of the nations. Rightly do we run through the fast of forty days to arrive at the font of baptism and salvation.

The rain of manna fed the Jewish people for forty years in the desert. It took away the toil of human labor, and by its pleasant dew offered and spread out heavenly produce for the hungry.

Moses himself was so purified and freed from his body by a fast of forty days that his whole self took on a glorious appearance of divinity. From this he learned that the sustenance of life does not fail those who live in God’s sight and with Him.

Therefore, all of this is the reason why the Lord, Author from all eternity of the symbolic mystery hidden in this number, kept His own fast within that number of forty days of fast, that Truth itself might bring to fulfillment these deeds and beginnings which He had already outlined in the case of these servants; that He might strengthen what was tender, complete what was begun, and strengthen by His example what He had set us by commands.

Let the fast be one properly measured. And, as we received from tradition, let it be observed for the discipline of both the body and the soul.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Nobody Laugh, Dammit

You're The Dictionary!

by Merriam-Webster

You're one of those know-it-all types, with an amazing amount of
knowledge at your command. People really enjoy spending time with you in very short
spurts, but hanging out with you for a long time tends to bore them. When folks
really need an authority to refer to, however, you're the one they seek. You're an
exceptional speller and very well organized.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I Can't Resist

I was doing research online to compose cheers for this week's Papal Bulls game, and I stumbled on this proof that Lutherans, too, can have a sense of humor about old conflicts. I thought it was hilarious.

My inner child is ten years old today

My inner child is ten years old!

The adult world is pretty irrelevant to me. Whether
I'm off on my bicycle (or pony) exploring, lost
in a good book, or giggling with my best
friend, I live in a world apart, one full of
adventure and wonder and other stuff adults
don't understand.

How Old is Your Inner Child?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Only Thing I'll Say About The Passion Without Having Seen It

I'm going to start by assuming none of you have been living under a rock recently. The controversy over Mel Gibson's upcoming The Passion appears to center on the issue of how culpable the Jewish people are portrayed in the execution of Christ. Now, Bill Cork has a number of criticisms along the lines of assigning them excessive blame, particularly relative to Pilate and the Romans. The counterargument is that it's obvious in the movie that the Jews didn't kill Jesus, for the sins of humanity were the cause of the Crucifixion. For example, I received via e-mail Paul Harvey's account of seeing the film and then participating in a discussion:

The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released. "Why is this film considered by some to be "anti-Semitic?" Frankly, having now experienced (you do not"view" this film) "the Passion" it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded "After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn't." He continued "It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus" I agree.

I think it's possible both the critics and admirers are right on this count. But language causes terrible confusion, because so many meanings are ascribed to the word "cause". Aristotle had the better idea of examining each event for four different types of causes: the formal cause, the efficient cause, the material cause and the final cause. You can look up more information on these causes, but the primary distinction here is between the final cause and the efficient cause. The final cause of something is its purpose: the final cause of a house being built is to be the home of certain people, the final cause of a painting is to be viewed and admired. The efficient cause is the active agent: the builders are the efficient cause of the house, the painter is the efficient cause of the painting.

So, what are the defenders and detractors saying? Apparently, a viewer with a moderate exposure to Christian exegesis is likely to be supremely moved, to understand that their own sins are the final cause of the Crucifixion, that Jesus died for and because of them. In what I think is a powerful symbolic touch I heard about, this point is literally made with a hammer: Mel appears once in the movie, and then only his hands, driving the nails into Christ's palms.

However, the movie apparently ascribes the efficient cause to three things alone: the will of Christ to accept his Passion, the influence of Satan, and the malicious Jewish people. From accounts I've heard, Pilate and the Romans are portrayed as basically good people forced into a bad situation by a mob. This, if it's the case, is inexcusable, both on the basis of historical-critical analysis, and on the basis of the Gospels themselves. In secular accounts of Pilate's rule over Judea, he was a brutal tyrant who crushed anything he saw as threatening Roman domination of the area, not a soul-searching philosopher. If anything, Pilate's "What is truth?" is no honest question, but a joke, akin to the mockery of sending Jesus to the Seat of Judgment with a crown of thorns and a purple (kingly) robe.

The inhabitants of Jerusalem at the time, both Jews and Romans, shared culpability. To be responsible, this ought to be clear in the film. It also should be made clear that it was the inhabitants of Jerusalem at that time, and that it is ridiculous to accuse a race of deicide. The crowd's statement in the Gospel of Matthew, "His blood be upon us and upon our children" (which was dropped from the script so as not to confront the issue), can and should be made a clear unconscious prophecy of the sufferings in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem, killing that generation and their children. It was that "proleptic parousia" that Matthew took as the meaning, according to mainstream scholarship (consider the importance of Mt 23:37-24:28), and not an indictment of the Jews.

So, I'm aware that I've written way too much, and now I'm quite late for class. But I'll have more to say after I've seen the movie (next weekend). Just for summary of what I take from the debate: criticism centers on a flawed depiction of the efficient cause of the Crucifixion, defense rests on a solid devotional portrayal of its final cause. I think it's quite possible that both are correct.

P.S. So today saw the arrival of the CDs I ordered, Layla by Derek and the Dominos and The Bends by Radiohead. Listening to them was sort of disappointing, though: I'm no longer in the mood for the blues, or for existential angst. You know.

Monday, February 16, 2004

At the Calvert House Undergraduate Dinners, we like to begin each week with a prayer, usually a beautiful ancient one. We've so far used pieces from Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Augustine, and Saint Ignatius of Antioch. I thought it would be nice to start putting these up (every week if I can manage).

Today's prayer was from Christ The Educator, by Clement of Alexandria (best known as the tutor of early Christian apologist Origen).

Now, if there is, as Scripture says, but 'one teacher, in heaven,' then, surely all who are on earth can with good reason be called disciples. The plain truth is that what is perfect belongs to the Lord, who is ever teaching, while the role of child and little one belongs to us, who are ever learning.

And in writing to the Ephesians, [Paul] expresses clearly just what we are saying: "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the deep knowledge of God, to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.

"And this He has done that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine devised in the wickedness of man, in craftiness, according to the wiles of error. Rather we are to practice the truth in love, and to grow up in all things in Him."

He says these things to build up the body of Christ, 'who is the Head,' and [humanity] because He alone is perfect in goodness. If we, the children, protect ourselves from the winds that blow us off our course... we are made perfect by accepting Christ as our Head and becoming ourselves the Church.

P.S. Yes, there's other stuff happening in my life. And no, I ought not to write about it. Life is downright wondrous sometimes.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Cardinal Sin of Blogging... blogging about this blog itself. Still, I must point out that my attempts at reasonable anonymity have recently been foiled. This site now comes up on a search for my actual name (as well as a few other searches). Well, if you Googled me, you found me. It's only polite to say hello in the comments to this post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

How To Donate $62 To The University Of Chicago

Step 1: Panic over a paper. Choose a topic that requires you to get books from Regenstein Library 24-Hour Reserve.

Step 2: Write the paper. Forget about the books.

Step 3: Two days, later, walk out of class, gasp and start running to the Shoreland to get the books.

Step 4: Find out that the late fine is a dollar. Per book. Per hour.

Step 5: When your heart catches up with the rest of you, get out your checkbook...

Current Music: The Tourist, Radiohead; Lord of the Rings: Movement I - Gandalf, Johann de Meij
Current Mood: Burnt out, but at least patient
And n = 3.

Monday, February 09, 2004


1. If you have a 7-10 page paper due, say, Monday at 5 PM, don't wait until Sunday.

2. If you do wait till Sunday, don't pick the topic requiring additional reading.

3. If you violate 1 and 2, at least write part of the actual paper before Monday morning.

4. If all else fails (and it did), listen to Beethoven as you write. Somehow it worked out.

5. Broomball is really fun.

6. Making up cheers for a Catholic broomball team is really fun as well.

Gimme an A! A!
Gimme a M! M!
Gimme a D! D!
Gimme a G! G!
What's that stand for?
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

Bonus Example:
Yeah our team has got momentum-
Et antiquum documentum!

Double Bonus Example:
OK, the score is one to holy and apostolic!

Current Task: Nothing!
Current Mood: Better all the time

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Beauty Most Sublime

Today, I went to a symposium on "The Theological Aftermath of Vatican II", with Avery Cardinal Dulles, sponsored by the University of Chicago's Lumen Christi Institute. It was an absolutely fascinating discussion of the current state of Catholic theologians and misinterpretations of critical Vatican II documents. I was particularly impressed by Father Robert Barron's response, in which he suggested that much anthropocentric theology could be rescued from subjectivism with a emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in human experience. When I have time, I'm going to go read a book or two by him. The real experience, though, was the concluding Mass at Rockefeller Chapel.

The minutes after we (the choir) finished practicing, but before the Mass began, were a reflection on sublime beauty. It occurred to me that an enclosed cathedral is somehow more "spacious" than the outdoor sky (maybe because we can see the continuity of a majestic arch up to the ceiling, rather than a blank gulf over the heads of the trees), and then the organ began to play the central melodic section from Holst's Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. I'd found the song lovely through headphones, but there's something about the live experience, hearing it echo off of the stone walls as the young women in the choir chant along from memory, that almost moved me to tears there and then.

It was a fantastic Mass, celebrated by Avery Cardinal Dulles, concelebrated by Francis Cardinal George and two other bishops, with all of the beautiful little trappings (save for a Catholic chapel with a tabernacle), and a good Medici dinner afterwards. All in all, a very worthwhile day.

Current Task: Not writing my European Civilization paper (life imitates art)
Current Mood: Wildly swinging

P.S. I seriously need a haircut; however, I must say I like the silhouette cast by my wooly head these days. OK, that was absolutely random.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Life Is Currently Not Good.

And this has nothing to do with academics.

Current Mood: Ask me again in an hour
Current Mode: Sublimation
Current Location: Crerar Library
Current Task: Writing the stupid paper
Current Frustration: Don't have the article I'm supposed to be writing about
Current Time: 24:09:31 after it was really due
Current Mode: PANIC

P.S. At least the midterm in Functional Analysis went OK.

UPDATE: Skipped two classes, turned in a decent paper at 3:00 today. Midterm tomorrow, then three day weekend to regroup.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

...that could ease you and cool you and cease the pain / of your pointless and useless knowledge...

Thursday, Feb. 5:
Functional Analysis Problem Set
Functional Analysis Midterm

Friday, Feb. 6:
Human Heredity 5-Page Paper
Human Heredity Midterm
Commutative Algebra Problem Set

Monday, Feb. 9:
European Civilization 5-Page Paper

Thursday, Feb. 12:
Functional Analysis Problem Set
Mathematical Logic 2 Midterm

Friday, Feb. 13:
Commutative Algebra Problem Set
Commutative Algebra Midterm


UPDATE: Human Heredity paper was not due on Friday. It was due today. Crap.

FURTHER UPDATE: That was a 7-10 page European Civilization paper. I read the assignment wrong.