Thursday, June 30, 2005

Victory

The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?

No one in the world can change Truth.

What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.
--Saint Maximilian Kolbe in the last issue of the Knight, which earned him prisoner number 16670 at Auschwitz.

De-lovely

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed and drycleaners depressed? Laundry workers could decrease, eventually becoming depressed and depleted! Baseball players will be debased, organ donors will be delivered, software engineers will be detested and even musical composers will eventually decompose!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Death, In-laws, and Transformation By Love

You say you want to talk to me about death: my views about death are bright, brisk and entertaining. When Azrael takes a soul it may be to other and brighter worlds: like those whither you and I go together. The transformation called Death may be something as beautiful and dazzling as the transformation called Love. It may make the dead man 'happy', just as your mother knows that you are happy. But none the less it is a transformation, and sad sometimes for those left behind.
A mother whose child is dying can hardly believe that in the inscrutable Unknown there is anyone who can look to it as well as she. And if a mother cannot trust her child easily to God Almighty, shall I be so mean as to be angry because she cannot trust it easily to me? I tell you I have stood before your mother and felt like a thief. I know you are not going to part: neither physically, mentally, morally nor spiritually. But she sees a new element in your life, wholly from outside - is it not natural, given her temperament, that you should find her perturbed?
Oh, dearest, dearest Frances, let us always be very gentle to older people. Indeed, darling, it is not they who are the tyrants, but we. They may interrupt our building in the scaffolding stages: we turn their house upside down when it is their final home and rest. Your mother would certainly have worried if you had been engaged to the Archangel Michael (who, indeed, is bearing his disappointment very well): how much more when you are engaged to an aimless, tactless, reckless, unbrushed, strange-hatted, opinionated scarecrow who has suddenly walked into the vacant place. I could have prophesied her unrest: wait and she will calm down all right, dear. God comfort her: I dare not...

And here is the subject of this memoir sitting on a balcony above the sea. The time, evening. He is thinking of the whole bewildering record of which the foregoing is a brief outline: he sees how far he has gone wrong and how idle and wasteful and wicked he has often been: how miserably unfitted he is for what he is called upon to be. Let him now declare it and hereafter for ever hold his peace.But there are four lamps of thanksgiving always before him. The first is for his creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you. The second is that he has not, with all his faults, 'gone after strange women.' You cannot think how a man's self restraint is rewarded in this. The third is that he has tried to love everything alive: a dim preparation for loving you. And the fourth is--but no words can express that. Here ends my previous existence. Take it: it led me to you.


-GK Chesterton to his fiance, about 1890

http://www.dur.ac.uk/martin.ward/gkc/books/to-frances.html

Caravaggio 'Conversion of St. Paul'

Caravaggio, by name of Michelangelo Merisi, was an Italian painter whose revolutionary technique of tenebrism, or dramatic, selective illumination of form out of deep shadow, became a hallmark of Baroque painting. Scorning the traditional idealized interpretation of religious subjects, he took his models from the streets and painted them realistically. In 1600, Caravaggio signed a contract to paint two pictures for the Cerasi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo. The church has a special interest because of the works it contains by four of the finest artists ever to work in Rome: Raphael, Carracci, Caravaggio and Bernini.

Of the two pictures in the chapel the more remarkable is the representation of the moment of St Paul's conversion. According to the Acts of the Apostles, on the way to Damascus Saul the Pharisee (soon to be Paul the Apostle) fell to the ground when he heard the voice of Christ saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' and temporarily lost his sight. It was reasonable to assume that Saul had fallen from a horse.

Caravaggio is close to the Bible. The horse is there and, to hold him, a groom, but the drama is internalized within the mind of Saul. He lies on the ground stunned, his eyes closed as if dazzled by the brightness of God's light that streams down the white part of the skewbald horse, but that the light is heavenly is clear only to the believer, for Saul has no halo. In the spirit of the author of Acts, Caravaggio makes religious experience look natural.

Technically the picture has defects. The horse, based on Dürer, looks hemmed in, there is too much happening at the composition's base, too many feet cramped together, let alone Saul's splayed hands and discarded sword. Bellori's view that the scene is 'entirely without action' misses the point. Like a composer who values silence, Caravaggio respects stillness.

with gratitude to Web Gallery of Art http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/c/caravagg/05/29ceras.html

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Encountered While Traveling

RUDY "...So wrongly the world judges [red] heads, and even if one were to stand upon his, it would do no good. Prejudice is a brick wall, and those who run against it rebound with bloody heads. I have taken the wide world for my home, and the wide world is much closer than you think. From the thorn bush of bitter experience I have carved for myself a walking stick; I've put on my seven-league boats, waved my traveling cap quietly, and with one step I've entered the wide world."

LADY CYPRESSBURG: "How prodigally he uses 20 elevated words to express what one could say in a syllable! The person obviously has an aptitude for literature."

Johan Nestroy-'The Talisman'

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Friday, June 24, 2005

'Christ of St. John of the Cross'

Image: Salvador Dali

Stanzas concerning an ecstasy experienced in high contemplation.
St. John of the Cross
(Trans. from the Spanish)
I entered into unknowing,
and there I remained unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

1. I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

2. That perfect knowledge
was of peace and holiness
held at no remove
in profound solitude;
it was something so secret
that I was left stammering,
transcending all knowledge.

3. I was so 'whelmed,
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

4. He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

5. The higher he ascends
the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark
which lit up the night;
whoever knows this
remains always in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

6. This knowledge in unknowing
is so overwhelming
that wise men disputing
can never overthrow it,
for their knowledge does not reach
to the understanding of not
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

7. And this supreme knowledge
is so exalted
that no power of man or learning
can grasp it;
he who masters himself
will, with knowledge in
unknowing,
always be transcending.

8. And if you should want to hear:
this highest knowledge lies
in the loftiest sense
of the essence of God;
this is a work of his mercy,
to leave one without understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

http://www.carmelite.com/saints/john/works/p.htm

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mission

"We, the men and women of the third millennium, we too need you, Risen Lord! Stay with us now, and until the end of time. Grant that the material progress of peoples may never obscure the spiritual values which are the soul of their civilization. Sustain us, we pray, on our journey. In you do we believe, in you do we hope, for you alone have the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). Mane nobiscum, Domine! Alleluia!"
John Paul II
Ubi Et Orbi, Easter Sunday, 2005

Since I was in St Peter's square that day, I've been brought to reconsider exactly what effect spiritual values have on 'material progress', and what amazingly practical actions John Paul was calling for. If the Lord truly is with us, it will ultimatly affect the simplest things, like how we do our dishes and decorate our homes. If this site, eclectic and spontaneous as it will surely be, can provide resources for those who celebrate the spiritual which informs the material, can recognize that what we are searching to express in our arts, language, and actions is a reality greater than any of them, I believe it will be truly embracing the Third Millenium manifesto.

I also believe it will be quite impossible for it to be academic and serious! It is quite easy to say that I want to share here the joy that a specific instance of beauty brings me, and quite subjective as well. I do not expect you to agree with my specifics, but to at least to laugh with me, and hopefully to be stimulated to go on and find the practical applications for your own vocare.

My mission, then is not to provide the quest, the map, or the compass: that has already been done by much abler hands. My mission is to provide a bit of waybread for the journey.

God Speed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

'Nativity'

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down
G. K Chesterton

Image: Geroges de la Tour