Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's been a quiet day. I was going to try to tape the 59th NHK Red and White Song Battle, but the VCR appears to be dying. It chewed up one tape, and almost chewed up another. I stayed at my parents' home to watch about an hour of it before leaving. I think I might be able to watch the rest of it somehow. Nakama Yukie is one of the hosts for the show. Hamasaki Ayumi was the first pop singer to perform. I try to watch the yearly concert show (which is always on New Year's Eve) more for the enka than the JPop. I saw Godai Natsuko sing--I am hoping that Nagayama Yoko will also be present. Most of the JPop singers do not sing very well. But I was struck by the fact that there is nothing like it on American television any more. Jessica and Nick tried to do a variety show, but that didn't last long. There's no family-friendly music show on network TV. Is there no audience for it? Do Americans have a low appreciation of good music, relying instead upon their IPods and MP3 players for entertainment? If it were the case that such televised spectacles (and it is a spectacle, with all of the dancers and performers on the stage) were replaced by local forms of entertainment and popular participation in music, that would be progress and the loss of such shows would not be missed too much. But that is not what has happened here in the United States. Another indication of the decline in quality of American television and/or the American TV-viewing audience? (Too bad Hee Haw ended before I learned to appreciate country and bluegrass.)

There's a Japanese girl group called Pabo. I wonder if they know what the word means in Korean. (It's associated with Hello Project.)

I was watching Nakama Yukie's expressions, and her face and eyes are very expressive. She doesn't really do the annoying kawaii mannerisms and girly voice that many of the younger women (girls) have cultivated. But she is feminine. I'm just wondering if she wouldn't be annoying in her own way, with the constant changes in facial expressions. Perhaps that is done only as a part of her stage presence and announcing. (Although Japanese pop stars and performers are a bit better than American ones in the way they carry themselves in public and speak, eventually they put me in a bad mood. It's not really their fault, even if they represent both the good and bad of pop culture. Unless they are being really shallow and artificial when they talk.)

She wore a kimono at the start of the show, and then changed into a white dress.

Which reminds me, Kerry M. is in town and singing with the St. Ann Choir. Her voice is prominent and her singing skillful. I don't know if she is Catholic. I don't think I'll be able to attend First Vespers for the Solemnity of the Mother of God tonight (at 8 P.M.). Instead, I should be leaving shortly to meet with my sisters and their families for dinner. Is there rush hour traffic today?

official website: NHK紅白歌合戦
59th NHK Kohaku lineups - Vox
Pictures of Yukie Nakama - Stardock Alpha
Yukie Nakama - Japanese Idol
Barbara's Enka Site - Yoko Nagayama
Ayumi Hamasaki > Divine AYU
official site for Hee Haw

And then there's Lawrence Welk.
JB Funky's Lawrence Welk Page
Stars Of The Lawrence Welk Show
NLM: Rumour Watch: New Maestro of the Sistine Chapel for Lent?

The comments contain an interesting discussion of the English cathedral sound, the NAC, and Msgr Bartolucci.

See also Il Tempo Interviews Msgr. Guido Marini.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Patrick Deneen notes in his "The Future of Conservatism":

For many older conservatives especially, formed out of the great and admirable battle against communism during the Cold War, certain alien orthodoxies were introduced that were incompatible with the deepest stores and sources of conservatism. Conservatism became identified with a defense of classical liberalism, with libertarian and libertine economics, with an expansionist Wilsonian foreign policy; in response to the rise of “multi-culturalism” it articulated a defense of Enlightenment universalism (rather than a true defense of multiculturalism); to defend the role of religion in the public sphere it began speaking in the language of utilitarianism, pointing to the usefulness of religion for a liberal democratic order; to argue against Roe vs. Wade it adopted the language of RIGHTS, a theory that originated in a theory of self-ownership. Can there be any wonder that conservatism seems all but routed today, given how readily it curried favor by accommodating itself to the very corrosive modern orthodoxies of what it originally arose to combat?
Let us accept for the moment that rights can be introduced into law without an underpinning theory of self-ownership. Who were the most influential exponents of this particular account of rights?

Rights are a limit on certain positive laws, but law is prior to rights (both natural law, and some positive laws). How do we explain how this understanding of rights (which I believe accompanied most medieval theories of rights) was displaced in the United States by the belief that rights are prior to all positive law?

The problem isn't that conservatives have adopted rights language when they shouldn't have, because it is completely antithetical to their belifs. Rather, their opponents cannot be convinced of the humanity of the fetus, or of the rationale behind the prohibition against abortion. Appealing to the rights of the unborn is not enough; one must also address the erroneous foundation of rights (a radical notion of individual sovereignty) upon which their opponents base their objections (right to privacy, right over one's body, etc.).

There is also the erroneous liberal assumption concerning human reason, which is that truth can be discovered by anyone, so long as they are 'rational,' however this is defined (following certain rules). Therefore, if someone remains unconvinced by an argument, the fault lies with the argument, not with the subject. It discounts the role that appetite can play in swaying reason. Does this mean that anyone who disagrees with traditional morality has a bad will? No, but their disagreement should not be taken as a sign that the arguments presented in favor of traditional morality are not sound or 'reasonable.'
Someone posted this over at Soompi. WSJ: As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S. Apparently he's been saying this out loud for more than a month: Igor Panarin : US Will Break Into Six Parts (Russian Professor) and Russia Today: Features : Professor Igor Panarin: When America fell to pieces and Telegraph: US will collapse and break up, Russian analyst predicts. Did I see this posted at Energy Bulletin a while back? Or maybe it was LRC.

Economic collapse, the United States breaking up into 6 parts (this does sound familiar), and civil war. I think the professor is too pessimistic, and may have some bias, but we'll see what 2009 brings.

Related links:
Igor Panarin

Matthew Kelly

Last Sunday while I was at STA I found that someone had left a copy of Rediscovering Catholicism, by Matthew Kelly, on one of the back tables. I assume it was free for the taking, but I did not do so. I did take a look at it to see if it was the same Matthew Kelly who claimed to receive private revelations from God the Father more than 15 years ago. There certainly is a physical resemblance, and both were born in Australia. Research on the internet indicates that he is the one and the same.

A quick glance at the book's contents didn't reveal any obvious problems. It does appear to be a treatment of the message of Christianity and Catholic spirituality intended for a popular audience. (Regarding his private revelations, I remember 6 or 7 years ago reading something that listed various errors in the messages and thus claimed the revelations were false. There may be a copy of his book still at home somewhere, but I don't plan on looking into the matter in the near future.) If the basic and most important pastoral lesson that the Vatican II Council Fathers wanted to get across was the universal call to holiness (Lumen Gentium V), it was because many of the faithful were ignorant then of their vocation, and many are ignorant today. Hence there is a need for workers in the vineyard, those who can teach the Faith and explain how what we Catholics often take for granted, the sacramental system, bishops, and other gifts from Christ, lead to happiness [and salvation]. Books can be useful aids but they cannot replace human teachers.

Perhaps it can be said that with respect to the renewal of evangelization and catechesis, it is not a question of how to make Christianity 'new' or 'fresh' but of how to prepare others for the Gospel message so that they can see that the answer to their existential crises is Jesus Christ.

Is it justified to be suspicious of someone who feels called to preach the Gospel, but not in an already established role as a cleric or a religious who has been authorized to preach? (Was there not a problem with some lay people taking it upon themselves to preach during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? Is my impression that many of them were associated with various [heretical] movements correct?) The laity do participate in the teaching mission of the Church, receiving authority from the bishop to act as catechists and so on. But it must be emphasized that they, and even religious who have been authorized to preach, are subject to some Church authority--if not to the local bishop then to the Roman Pontiff.

I would have to look at the book more carefully to decide if it would be worth recommending, but even if it is solidly orthodox, it doesn't seem to be the kind of book I would add to the library.

Apparently you can request a free copy of the book here. (You just need to pay for shipping.)

Photos: Patriarch Bartholomew I on Christmas

Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I leads a Christmas mass at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, led hundreds of worshippers at a crowded Christmas service to celebrate the feast of Nativity. Many were pilgrims from neighboring Greece. (AP/Murad Sezer)

Greek Orthodox ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (L) blesses believers during a Christmas mass in Aya Yorgi (St. George) church at Fener Greek orthodox patriarchate in Istanbul December 25, 2008. (Reuters)

Greek Orthodox ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (L) blesses believers during a Christmas mass in Aya Yorgi (St. George) church at Fener Greek orthodox patriarchate in Istanbul December 25, 2008. (Reuters)

Craziness from Kate Hudson

Kate Hudson on life and love

Is that how you feel about Chris now, that you still love him? “When I met Chris it was like nothing else. I had no question that I was going to have a kid with him. Every rule went out the window. We were telling each other we loved each other by the fourth day and I moved in within a week. I had no question that we were going to get married.”

Even though she’d already said she didn’t believe in monogamy? She shrugs. “I just had no question about him, and I still don’t. He’s a permanent fixture in my life, but I believe our love changed its form, it shifted. I don’t think we were meant to be married, but I think we were meant to have a child, and we have this amazing little boy together and therefore we’ll be together our entire lives. Whoever he ends up with, whoever I end up with, we’ll always be together.”

"Craziness" = advocating life without boundaries and reason.

She's in Bride Wars, and is one of the movie's producers. If the movie is trash, what does that say about her judgment as a producer?

Times: Hugh Jackman on Australia, marriage and religion

Wodehouse's short story, "Providence and the Butler," has been found and published in the Sunday Times Magazine. Plus: Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by PG Wodehouse. It was online? But apparently the link is dead, or it's been removed.

Other links:
Thinking About Wendell Berry's "In Distrust of Movements" by Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Radar

via EB
Sandro Magister, "Veni Creator Spiritus." For an Ecology of Man
And of man created male and female. In his pre-Christmas address to the Roman
curia, Benedict XVI contests the ideology of "gender." And he strikes a blow in
defense of the most contested of the encyclicals, "Humanae Vitae"
Links to the address can be found in this post.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Nakama Yukie is on the cover of the winter issue of one of the kimono magazines. (I can't remember the title, it's the thicker one, if anyone knows what I'm talking about.)

(仲間由紀恵)Nakama Yukie in 2008.10 Lotte キシリトールガム「天気予報篇」 CM 15s

皆藤愛子<with仲間由紀恵> 天気予報篇(08)メイキン

皆藤愛子<with仲間由紀恵> 天気予報篇(08)メイキングⅠJ☆flv

Daihatsu Move - 2008 (cm) - 3

S-map x S-map 2008.11.17 (1/4)




nakama yukie tetsuko's room(1/3)
nakama yukie tetsuko's room(2/3)
nakama yukie tetsuko's room(3/3)

nakama yukie osareizm(1/3)
nakama yukie osareizm(2/3)
nakama yukie osareizm(3/3)

nakama yukie we music(1/2)

nakama yukie we muisic(2/2)

[HD] [JAPAN TVCM 30sec] Shiseido - Tsubaki - RED ver

[HQ] [JAPAN TVCM 30sec] Shiseido - Tsubaki white ver.

Tokiwa Takako is in a new period drama. If I can find a clip of it, I'll post it.
VFR: In a personality contest between Sarah Palin and Caroline Kennedy, Palin wins.

The conservative suspicion of those who aspire to be politicians (much less leaders) is justified once again.
It would appear that the homily as a lesson on the scriptural readings given during the liturgy is not new, but a restoration of something old. (Is the restoration of this 'ancient' ideal of the homily actually given in the documents of Vatican II? I think it might be, but I'll have to check.) It may seem new to some since the Council of Trent (iirc) gave a set (cycle, actually) of topics to priests to preach on, and the link between the lesson and the scriptural reading could be very tenuous. Still, there is something to be said for the Tridentine practice today, when the laity is so poorly catechized. Does having a three-year cycle of readings make it even more difficult to combine the homily with a systematic presentation of lessons?
Dr. Laura took a question from a caller, who is Catholic but married a Southern Baptist woman. His wife did convert. His children visits his father-in-law every Summer, and he has been explaining his beliefs to them, particularly about salvation, asking about whether they have been "saved" or not. Can we work some apologetics into our catechesis for children? Respect for the teaching authority of the Church, and the importance of Tradition? As well as emphasizing the special position of the Apostles? Using the example of parents teaching their children, can we not thereby talk about a source of our belief, namely Apostolic Tradition and succession?
James Howard Kunstler's Forecast for 2009. (Archived at EB.)

Let's see how accurate he is this time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Today I had a pair of AA batteries in my pants pocket--I don't know if the body heat started a reaction, or if they were shorted by being in contact with two pairs of keys (forming some sort of circuit?) They became so hot that I could not hold them for long, and dropped them on the grass. They continued to give off heat, so I was worried they might explode--I looked for some surface which would cool them down. The reaction did stop, after I isolated the two batteries in cool areas. Apparently about half of the charge had been discharged. I would like to know what the cause is so I can prevent this from happening again...
My sister the MD gave me a small vaccuum cleaner. Her family had already given one to the grandparents on each side of the family, and I had been thinking that such a tool would be handy for my room. Well, after she had heard about the state o fthe room and the ant problem she had decided to get me one as well, so I plan on using it this week. Thanks to everyone for all of their Christmas presents!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

BCatholic reminds us of this website: Companion of Jesus
Missed this the other day--Hayley Westenra Christmas Carols - Chestnuts Roasting, Silent Night, Away in a Manger
Twitch: Ip Man Review

Friday, December 26, 2008

Theodore Dalrymple, The Quivering Upper Lip

What, exactly, were the qualities that my mother had so admired? Above all, there was the people’s manner. The British seemed to her self-contained, self-controlled, law-abiding yet tolerant of others no matter how eccentric, and with a deeply ironic view of life that encouraged them to laugh at themselves and to appreciate their own unimportance in the scheme of things. If Horace Walpole was right—that the world is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel—the English were the most thoughtful people in the world. They were polite and considerate, not pushy or boastful; the self-confident took care not to humiliate the shy or timid; and even the most accomplished was aware that his achievements were a drop in the ocean of possibility, and might have been much greater if he had tried harder or been more talented.
The Skeptical Doctor: June 2005 Speech: Our Culture, What's Left of It

Jay P. Corrin, Developing the Distributist Program

Developing the Distributist Program: Part One
Developing the Distributist Program: Part Two
Developing the Distributist Program: Part Three
Developing the Distributist Program: Part Four

Stratford Caldecott, After the Disaster: Back to the Family and Localism

A reminder: the debate between Thomas Storck and Michael Novak on economics will be on April 9, 2009 at Nassau Community College.

flier here
The Society for Distributism
Professor Joseph Varacalli -- Inside the Belly of the Beast
G.K. Chesterton The Distributist

The ChesterBelloc Mandate will be posting an interview with Mr. Storck soon.
A.J. Penty, The Obstacle of Industrialism
Wonder Girls - Tell Me + Nobody @ Open Concert 081207

The ajumas are enjoying themselves... heh.

Wonder Girls & Tae Yeon - If Everyone Was An Angel @ Open Concert 081207


The opening for the concert(? -- the second video) reminds me of '80s Japanese and Korean pop idol singers--deliberately cultivated girly innocence on stage. I suppose it goes with the song.
via NLM: Photos of the Liturgy of Saint James the Apostle and Brother of Our Lord being celebrated at the Ruthenian Greek-Catholic Cathedral of Presov, Slovakia

More Links:
CHURCH FATHERS: Divine Liturgy of St. James
The Divine Liturgy - OrthodoxSource
The Divine Liturgy of St. James
Antiochene Rite - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eparchies: Antiochene Rite
The Shape of the Liturgy - Google Books
Twitch: Some Thoughts On GHOST IN THE SHELL 2.0

The Pope's Christmas Message to the Curia

Can be found at Pertinacious Papist and Smasher Lagru. Also at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer Blog, LifeSiteNews, and the website for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Hayley Westenra Christmas Carols - Mary Did You Know? Gabriel's Message, O Holy Night

Martina Mcbride-O Holy Night

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Benedict XVI's Christmas Message

Benedict XVI's Christmas Message

"I Once More Joyfully Proclaim Christ's Birth"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 ( Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Christmas message, which he delivered from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica today at noon.

* * *

"The grace of God our Saviour has appeared to all" (Tit 2:11, Vulg.)

Dear brothers and sisters, in the words of the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ's Birth. Today "the grace of God our Saviour" has truly "appeared to all"!

It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today. The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is no longer hidden. It "appeared", it was manifested in the flesh, it showed its face. Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it? A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In him the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: "God saves".

The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born. Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history. Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a scene which we can admire here too, in this Square, as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.

The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the face of the "God who saves", did not show himself only for a certain few, but for everyone. Although it is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem few persons encountered him, still he came for all: Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone. Supernatural grace, by God's will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or her own "yes", like Mary, so that his or her heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine light. It was Mary and Joseph, who that night welcomed the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20). A small community, in other words, which made haste to adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the Church and all people of good will. Today too those who await him, who seek him in their lives, encounter the God who out of love became our brother – all those who turn their hearts to him, who yearn to see his face and to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom. Jesus himself would say this in his preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness' sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see in Jesus the face of God and then set out again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by the joy of his love.

Brothers and sisters, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope – the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God's saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace.

May the many people who continue to dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Lk 1:79) come to know the power of God's saving grace! May the divine Light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians. May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East. May it bring forth rich fruit from the efforts of all those who, rather than resigning themselves to the twisted logic of conflict and violence, prefer instead the path of dialogue and negotiation as the means of resolving tensions within each country and finding just and lasting solutions to the conflicts troubling the region. This light, which brings transformation and renewal, is besought by the people of Zimbabwe, in Africa, trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening, as well as the men and women of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the war-torn region of Kivu, Darfur, in Sudan, and Somalia, whose interminable sufferings are the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace. This light is awaited especially by the children living in those countries, and the children of all countries experiencing troubles, so that their future can once more be filled with hope.

Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, "the grace of God our Saviour has appeared" (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son of the Virgin Mary: "God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven". Let us adore him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not be afraid, "I am God, and there is no other" (Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace.

Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope's Christmas Eve Homily

Pope's Christmas Eve Homily

"God Dwells on High, Yet He Stoops Down to Us!"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?" This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms (113 [112], 5ff.), praising God's grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us! God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him. The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who "is seated on high", looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God's looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God's looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me. The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: "He raises the poor from the dust." In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me to rise from depths towards the heights. "God stoops down". This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God's stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down: he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity's neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable. In the Old Testament the Temple was considered almost as God's footstool; the sacred ark was the place in which he was mysteriously present in the midst of men and women. Above the temple, hidden, stood the cloud of God's glory. Now it stands above the stable. God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet a cloud of glory!

How, indeed, could his love for humanity, his solicitude for us, have appeared greater and more pure? The cloud of hiddenness, the cloud of the poverty of a child totally in need of love, is at the same time the cloud of glory. For nothing can be more sublime, nothing greater than the love which thus stoops down, descends, becomes dependent. The glory of the true God becomes visible when the eyes of our hearts are opened before the stable of Bethlehem.

Saint Luke's account of the Christmas story, which we have just heard in the Gospel, tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large: to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they were "keeping watch". This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus's message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden: the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord's coming, and to be prepared. Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly "watchful" people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a "watchful" people.

Saint Luke tells us, moreover, that the shepherds themselves were "surrounded" by the glory of God, by the cloud of light. They found themselves caught up in the glory that shone around them. Enveloped by the holy cloud, they heard the angels' song of praise: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to people of his good will". And who are these people of his good will if not the poor, the watchful, the expectant, those who hope in God's goodness and seek him, looking to him from afar?

The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment -- the Fathers say -- the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation's silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands: he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God's new and further way of making himself known -- say the Fathers -- a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth". We might say that, following the structure of Hebrew poetry, the two halves of this double verse say essentially the same thing, but from a different perspective. God's glory is in the highest heavens, but his high state is now found in the stable: what was lowly has now become sublime. God's glory is on the earth, it is the glory of humility and love. And even more: the glory of God is peace. Wherever he is, there is peace. He is present wherever human beings do not attempt, apart from him, and even violently, to turn earth into heaven. He is with those of watchful hearts; with the humble and those who meet him at the level of his own "height", the height of humility and love. To these people he gives his peace, so that through them, peace can enter this world.

The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God -- from the time of Adam -- saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now, this God who has become a child says to us: you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.

With these thoughts, we draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem -- to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul. The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.

And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem, let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.

In Psalm 96 [95], Israel, and the Church, praises God's grandeur manifested in creation. All creatures are called to join in this song of praise, and so the Psalm also contains the invitation: "Let all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes" (v. 12ff.). The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy and also as a task. The coming of God to Bethlehem took place in silence. Only the shepherds keeping watch were, for a moment, surrounded by the light-filled radiance of his presence and could listen to something of that new song, born of the wonder and joy of the angels at God's coming. This silent coming of God's glory continues throughout the centuries. Wherever there is faith, wherever his word is proclaimed and heard, there God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his Body; he makes them his Body. God "comes". And in this way our hearts are awakened. The new song of the angels becomes the song of all those who, throughout the centuries, sing ever anew of God's coming as a child -- and rejoice deep in their hearts. And the trees of the wood go out to him and exult. The tree in Saint Peter's Square speaks of him, it wants to reflect his splendour and to say: Yes, he has come, and the trees of the wood acclaim him. The trees in the cities and in our homes should be something more than a festive custom: they point to the One who is the reason for our joy -- the God who for our sake became a child. In the end, this song of praise, at the deepest level, speaks of him who is the very tree of new-found life. Through faith in him we receive life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist he gives himself to us; he gives us a life that reaches into eternity. At this hour we join in creation's song of praise, and our praise is at the same time a prayer: Yes, Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory. And grant peace on earth. Make us men and women of your peace. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

I introduced Sarge to Wonder Girls (wiki):
Nobody MV

Wonder Girls - Nobody 5-in-1 (Remix ver.) @ 23rd Golden Disk Awards 081210

Wonder Girls - Nobody Live HQ 081005

MBC Campus Song Festival - Wonder Girls special stage,081004

Wonder Girls - M.Net Wide Interview 081126 Part 1/3 (en)

Wonder Girls - M.Net Wide Interview 081126 Part 2/3 (en)

Wonder Girls - M.Net Wide Interview 081126 Part 3/3 (en)

10 years ago we had Finkl, Baby Vox, SES... now it's Wonder Girls and Girls Generation (and some other less popular groups). I think girl (and boy) groups will be around on the KPop scene for a little bit longer.
Thomas Fleming, Oresteia V: The Eumenides–Background
As far as I can tell, the only two radio stations playing Christmas songs (all day long, and without commercials as well) are the Country music stations. What does that say about the Bay Area?

Merry Christmas!

Jyrki Pouta:

Source of the following:

Brian "Nikolai" Tsai

Bill Adamantidis:

Lasha Kintsurashvili:

Another @ The Festival Icons of the Orthodox Tradition. Lu Bro. A Russian icon.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Almost as Good as Being "Natural"

From Female First (via Mish):
Beauty Buzz: Go Nude!

Monday (22nd) 15:00

With winter winding down and spring fast approaching, we though we'd share with you some beauty news which is set to take next year by storm. Yes, that's right it's time to bare all and go nude.

No, we don't mean stripping in public and converting to naturism or anything like that! This sort of 'nude' requires you stripping back your beauty regime and going back to basics.

For starters, give your nails a rest from all the heavy colouring that they've gone through this party season and strip them bare. Nude nail varnishes are set to be huge, so treat yourself to a manicure and invest in a sheer coating.
Comment on this Article

Next, concentrate on taking your make-up routine back a few steps, so that you're not layering on foundation and powder on each day, in addition to the heavy eye and lip make-up.

In winter, we naturally layer up for comfort and warmth, but around March time the weather starts to brighten up, thus signaling the need for a make-up overhaul.

Invest in a tinted moisturiser for the spring and summer months, instead of a foundation and switch your heavy black mascara for either clear or brown.

Lastly, instead of sticky lip gloss bag yourself a fruity lip balm or Vaseline, which will keep your lips healthy and moisturised without looking too overdone.

Your eyebrows will also be a victim of this beauty overhaul, as big brows are set to be very in fashion next year, so ditch the heavy tweezing and instead model your brows on someone like Jennifer Connolly or Rachel Weisz.

Our final nude suggestion for the New Year is to do something so radical and unheard of that you may need to sit down and take deep breaths. That's right, it's time to ditch the fake tan.

Now, as scary as it may seem, next year will see us ditching the St Tropez and embracing the pale look, as was sported on the catwalks this year. So apart from us saving bucket loads of money, it will officially be 'in' to be pale this spring...don't say we didn't warn you!
Adapting for the sake of frugality isn't the same as modesty, but maybe it will change how people conceive of beauty, though I think older women will continue to try to compete with younger women, and look youthful.
The Regionalist: Carolina Is For Pig-Lovers, by Bill Kauffman

Mr. Kauffman reviews a book about N. Carolina BBQ.

North Carolina Barbecue
North Carolina Barbecue Society
North Carolina Pork BBQ Recipes
Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Recipe : : Food Network
Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce - Allrecipes
NC Travel: North Carolina Barbecue
NC Barbecue Musings
Western North Carolina Barbeque Festival Maggie Valley
Column: Is North Carolina's BBQ controversy settled?
Western North Carolina Barbecue Slaw
Opting out of China's rat race by Chris Hogg, BBC News (via EB)

GL, The Barn Raising

The barn raising
Gene Logsdon,
"... what followed in the wake of the tornado during the next three weeks was just as awesome as the wind itself. In that time — three weeks — the forest devastation was sawed into lumber and transformed into four big new barns. No massive effort of bulldozers, cranes, semi-trucks, or the National Guard was involved. The surrounding Amish community rolled up its sleeves, hitched up its horses and did it all. Nor were the barns the quick-fix modern structures of sheet metal hung on posts stuck in the ground. They were massive three-story affairs of post-and-beam framing, held together with hundreds of hand-hewn mortises and tenons."

I saw the first Gundam movie on Monday, and Char's Counterattack last night. The animation quality of the latter has held up ok; the first one is rather dated--I believe it did feature recycled footage from the TV series. While some of the physics shown in the movie may have been wrong, I did find the action sequences entertaining. I can see why Amuro and Char have been fan favorites, but I found the adolescents Quess and Hathaway rather annoying. As for the death of various characters--I read somewhere (I think it might have been a discussion of BSG) that deaths are important for good drama. Maybe I'm getting a bit more sensitive with age, and that is the reaction one would want to elicit in trying to present an anti-war message. But I did find at least two of the deaths needless, not because 'war is futile,' but because the deaths would have been avoided if certain characters had more sense.

As for the ending, with the enhanced psychic abilities of the Newtypes bolstering the power of the Nu Gundam to prevent the piece of Axis from colliding with Earth... since I don't believe in psychic abilities I found it rather dumb, even if these abilities are the next stage of human evolution in the Gundam universe and emphasize the importance of having humanity, benevolence, etc.

Char's counter attack gundam 0093 commercial preview
John Médaille, The Health Care System and the Guilds

What would make the guilds more effective? A 'centralized' economy or decentralized local economies?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fr. Rutler, Unprepared for spiritual battle (via Pertinacious Papist)
The Pacific Collegium Choir sings for St. Margaret Mary's in Oakland. (They will be at the High Mass on Christmas Eve--carols at 11:30 P.M., Mass at 12.) Interesting.

The Miraculous Staircase

Info about the staircase. History of the Loretto Chapel. It's a pity that it is no longer a Catholic building, but a private museum. We'll find out on the Last Day who was responsible for its construction.

Has someone, a civil engineer or physicist, done a study of the forces/tensions affecting the staircase and how they are relieved/dissipated?

Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - Loretto Chapel (via Stephen Hand)

English translation of Charter 08

Apparently some have recently gotten a warning that the translation I provided in this post may be attempting to infect computers with malicious software. (I haven't checked it today--if this is the case, who is responsible? The site owners? Hackers? The Chinese government?)

There's another translation here.
Please pray for the health of KK and her son. Thank you!
Karen De Coster, Consumer Kids and Their Plastic Lives
A 4-part series from Michael Sheuer at Asia Times:
Part 1: Syria: Terror's made-to-order milieu
Part 2: Lebanon: Last stop on a jihad highway

Today's entry: MUJAHIDEEN BLEED-THROUGH, Part 3 -- Jordan: Al-Qaeda clouds a precarious future
Zenit: Pontiff Calls for "Ecology of Man"
Warns Against New Theories of "Gender"

I haven't seen a copy of the Holy Father's Christmas Message to the Curia (not sure if this is where it would be posted), but here are some links to posts by Fr. Z on it:
NCRep’s John Allen on the Pope’s annual address to the Curia
Benedict XVI’s Christmas address to the Roman Curia
Chuck Spinney, The New York Times Flames Out in Defense Dogfight
CSM: A surge of Special Forces for Afghanistan likely

(The headline for the same article on ATT/Yahoo: Green Beret deployment to Afghanistan sparks controversy)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dr. Fleming: Oresteia IV: Athenian Democracy

A fascinating account of the early tribal society of Attica, and its change into Athenian democracy.

The Unity of the Virtues

Is it possible for the virtue of justice to be undermined through the acquisition of other vices? St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the virtues are united--one must have all in order to have any single one. So to have a vice would seem to entail that one cannot have any virtue (or at least to a perfect degree, even at the 'natural' or 'imperfect' level, since all are dependent upon right reason, and vice is the undermining of right reason?).

It also seems to be that the devil works against love of God, and to keep us in the state of mortal sin once we are in it. Does this carry over to the hatred of others? If we lose charity, we cannot have the supernatural love of neighbor. But would the devil also work to destroy any natural love of neighbor that we might have? Should the legislator take into consideration the existence of 'spiritual combat' and its consequences? Or look exclusively at human factors?

If the virtues are one, then it seems that there is some basis for legislating against some "private vices," even if they apparently harm no one else but us. First, we do not belong to ourselves, but to the community, and so I would think that anything that would prevent us from fulfilling our duties towards the community could be prohibited. And secondly, if we can be lead to even greater vices, such as injustice, by having intemperance of some sort, then the ruler would have reason to promote temperance, for the sake of justice. Also, the ruler could prohibit influences or material goods that encourage or facilitate vice. (For example, while solitary sins against chastity by males should not proscribed, since it seems that it is difficult for the majority to avoid them, things that would foster the development of this bad habit [i.e. vice] could be banned.)
Heroes webisode--

I don't watch the series; I think will eventually be cancelled, though I don't know if it is getting 'good enough' ratings or not. What do you think of the clip, Sarge?
Fatih Birol interview on Youtube for the film "PetroApocalypse Now?"
Andrew Evans, Aceditor Ltd
The Doctor Who's Who: Every previous Time Lord will appear in Christmas special

New G.I. Posters

source (includes a poster of the Baroness, which I didn't post)

How many vets were involved in the creation of the comic book? The whole thing seems a bit silly now--I can't remember the codename for the "Ranger specialist." There was also "Grunt"--you can guess what his specialty was. (The cartoon was much worse than the comic book, in terms of realism.) But I was reminded of the upcoming live-action movie by someone's desire to go to Ranger school and eventually try out for CAG. Think you're good enough to be a Joe? Heh.
I think Snake Eyes was the most popular character--a commando & a ninja, wearing a cool outfit.
Duke looks like another pretty boy trying hard to look tough. More pictures from the movie here.
Apparently the comic book is getting a reboot.
Twitch: John Woo’s RED CLIFF 2 Trailers O’Plenty
The Reasons Why Marriage is Inherently Heterosexual, by Patrick Lee


On the Angelus

On the Angelus

"Allows Us to Relive the Decisive Moment When God Knocked at Mary's Heart"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2008 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday's Gospel presents to us once again the account of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the mystery to which we return every day in reciting the Angelus. This prayer allows us to relive the decisive moment when God knocked at Mary's heart and, having received her "yes," began to take flesh in her and from her. The collect prayer of today's Mass is the same prayer that is recited at the end of the Angelus: "Lord, fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man, so lead through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection." With the feast of Christmas just a few days away, we are invited to fix our gaze upon the ineffable mystery that Mary carried for nine months in her virginal womb: the mystery of God who becomes man. This is the first hinge of Redemption. The second is Jesus' death and resurrection, and these two inseparable hinges manifest a single divine plan: to save humanity and its history, assuming it to the very end by completely taking on all the evil that oppresses it.

Beyond the historical dimension of this mystery of salvation, there is a cosmic dimension: Christ is the sun of grace who, with his light, "transfigures and inflames the universe with expectation" (Liturgy). The time of the Christmas feast is linked with the winter solstice, when the days of the northern hemisphere begin to get longer again. In this connection, perhaps not many people know that St. Peter's Square is a meridian: the great obelisk, in fact, casts its shadow upon a line that runs along the pavement toward the fountain below this window, and in these days the shadow is the longest of the year. This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking the times of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited in the morning, at noon and in the evening. The meridian, which in the past served for helping one to know " true noon," was the standard for clocks.

The fact that the winter solstice occurs precisely today, Dec. 21, at this exact hour, gives me the opportunity to greet all those who are participating in various ways in the events of the International Year of Astronomy, 2009, marking the 4th centenary of Galileo Galilee's first observations with his telescope. There have been practitioners of this science among my predecessors of venerable memory, such as Sylvester II, who taught it, Gregory XIII, to whom we owe our calendar, and St. Pius X, who knew how to build solar clocks. If the heavens, according to the beautiful words of the psalmist, " narrate the glory of God" (Psalm 19 [18], 2), even the laws of nature, which in the course of centuries many men and women of science have helped us to understand better, are a great stimulus to contemplating the works of the Lord with gratitude.

Let us return now to contemplating of Mary and Jesus, who await the birth of Jesus, and learn from them the secret of recollection for tasting the joy of Christmas. Let us prepare to welcome with faith the Redeemer who comes to be with us, the Word of God's love for humanity of every age.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the crowds in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

I am happy to greet the [49] new priests of the Legionaries of Christ, who received ordination at the hands of Cardinal Angelo Sodano yesterday at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Dear friends, may the love of Christ that moved St. Paul in his mission always animate your ministry. I bless you and your loved ones from my heart!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In Italian, he said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. In today's liturgy, we recall how the Virgin Mary was invited by the Angel to conceive the one in whom the fullness of divinity would dwell: Jesus, the " Son of the Most High". As we prepare to celebrate his birth, let us not be afraid to say " Yes" to the Lord, so that we may join Our Lady in singing his goodness forever. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Went up to Oakland this morning for a visit with Bro. B... afterwards I picked up my mom and we headed to SF to visit KK, who delivered early this morning. My nephew is a premie, he wasn't expected until next month, but he and his mother are doing fine. Of course, he's small! Light brown hair... I'm not sure what color eyes he has. He is probably waiting for the opportunity to try his mom's food. haha.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Patrick Deneen on John Dewey and Allan Bloom: Bloomin' Dewey

Friday, December 19, 2008

NLM: Rorate, and the Genius of the Chant Tradition

So many good things about this video...
Tom Piatak, What Good Is Wall Street?

Zenit: Father Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent Meditation

Father Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent Meditation

"When the Fullness of Time Had Come God Sent His Son Born of a Woman"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2008 ( Here is the Advent homily Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, delivered today in the Vatican in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia.

This is the third and last Advent sermons the preacher wrote on the theme "'When the Fullness of Time Had Come, God Sent his Son, Born of a Woman: Going With St. Paul to Meet the Christ Who Comes."

* * *

1. Paul and the Dogma of the Incarnation

Once again we will present the passage from St. Paul that we intend to reflect on.

"I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God" (Galatians 4, 4-7).

We hear this passage often during the Christmas season, beginning with First Vespers for the solemnity of Christmas. We will first of all speak about the theological implications of this text. It is the place in which we come closest, in the Pauline corpus, to the idea of preexistence and incarnation. The idea of "sending" ("God sent [exapesteilen] his Son") is placed parallel to the sending of the Spirit, which is spoken of two verses later and hearkens back to that which is said in the Old Testament about God's sending of Wisdom and the Holy Spirit out into the world (Wisdom 9:10, 17). These combinations indicate that here we are not dealing with a sending "from the earth," as in the case of the prophets, but "from heaven."

The idea of Christ's preexistence is implicit in the Pauline texts, which speak of Christ's role in the creation of the world (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-16), and when Paul says that the rock that followed the people in the desert was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). The idea of the incarnation is, in turn, suggested in the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-7: "Being in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave."

Despite these passages, it must be admitted that in Paul preexistence and incarnation are truths that are still germinating; they have not yet been fully formulated. The reason for this is that the center of interest and the starting point of everything for St. Paul is the paschal mystery, that is, the work, more than the person of the Savior. This is in contrast to St. John, for whom the starting point and the epicenter of attention is precisely the Son's preexistence and incarnation.

We have here two different "ways" or routes in the discovery of who Jesus Christ is. One, that of Paul, begins from humanity to reach divinity, from the flesh to reach the Spirit, from the history of Christ to arrive at the preexistence of Christ. The other, that of John, follows the inverse path: It begins from the Word's divinity to arrive at affirming his humanity, from his existence in eternity to descend to his existence in time. Paul's approach makes the resurrection the hinge of the two phases, and John's sees the passage as turning on the incarnation.

These two approaches consolidated in the epoch that followed and gave rise to two models or archetypes and finally to two Christological schools: the Antiochene school influenced by Paul and the Alexandrian school influenced by John. Neither group was aware of choosing between Paul and John; each takes itself to include both. That is undoubtedly true; but it is a fact that the two influences are visible and distinguishable, like two rivers that merge together but are nevertheless identifiable by the different color of their waters.

This difference is reflected, for example, in the different way in which the two schools interpret Christ's kenosis in Philippians 2. From the 2nd and 3rd centuries, even down to modern exegesis, two different readings can be delineated. According to the Alexandrian school the initial subject of the hymn is the Son of God preexistent in the form of God. In this case the kenosis, or "pouring out," would consist in the incarnation, in becoming man. According to the Antiochene school, the sole subject of the hymn, from beginning to end, is the historical Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. In this case the kenosis would consist in the abasement inherent in his becoming a slave, in submitting himself to the passion and death.

The difference between the two schools is not that some follow Paul and others John, but that some interpret John in the light Paul and others Paul in the light of John. The difference is the framework or background perspective that is adopted for illustrating the mystery of Christ. It can be said that the main lines of the Church's dogma and theology have formed in the confrontation of these two schools, which continue to have an impact today.

2. Born of a Woman

The relative silence about the incarnation in Paul leads to an almost complete silence about Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word. The incisive "born of a woman" ("factum sub muliere") of our text is the most explicit reference to Mary in the Pauline corpus. It is equivalent to the other expression: "from the seed of David according to the flesh" – "factum ex semine David secundum carnem" (Romans 1:3).

However bare, this claim of the Apostle is quite important. It was one of the essential propositions in the struggle against gnostic Docetism from the 2nd century onward. It says, in fact, that Jesus is not a heavenly apparition; because he is born of a woman, he is fully inserted into humanity and history, "like men in all things" (Philippians 2:7). "Why do we say that Christ is a man," Tertullian writes, "if not because he is born of Mary who is a human creature?"[1] On second thought, "born of a woman" better expresses the true humanity of Christ than the title "son of man." In a literal sense, Jesus is not the son of man, not having a man for a father, but he is truly the "son of woman."

The Pauline text was also at the center of the debate over the title "Mother of God" ("theotokos") in the subsequent Christological disputes, and this explains why the Galatians text is the second reading in the liturgy for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God on Jan. 1.

There is one detail that should be noted. If Paul would have said: "born of Mary," he would have been merely mentioning a biographical fact; but in saying "born of a woman," he gives universal and immense import to his statement. And the woman herself, every woman, is elevated in Mary to an incredible height. Mary is here the woman par excellence.

3. "What Does it Matter to Me that Christ was Born of Mary?"

We meditate on the Pauline text with Christmas fast approaching and in the spirit of "lectio divina." So, we cannot tarry to long over the exegetical data, but after having contemplated the theological truth contained in the text, we must draw guidance for our spiritual life from it, highlighting the "for me" character of the word of God.

A line of Origen -- taken up by St. Augustine, St. Bernard, Luther and others -- says: "What does it matter to me that Christ was once given birth by Mary in Bethlehem, if faith is not also born in my soul?"[2] Mary's divine maternity is realized on two levels: on a physical level and a spiritual level. Mary is the Mother of God not only because she carried him in her womb physically but also because she first conceived him in her heart, with faith. Of course, we cannot imitate Mary in the first sense, giving birth to Christ again, but we can imitate her in the second sense, in the sense of her faith. Jesus was the first to apply this title of "Mother of Christ" to the Church when he said: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice" (Luke 8:21; cf. Mark 3:31 f.; Matthew 12:49).

In the tradition, this truth was applied in two complementary ways, one pastoral and the other spiritual. In the one case we see this maternity realized in the Church taken as a whole inasmuch as she is "universal sacrament of salvation"; in the other we see it realized in each individual person or soul who believes.

Blessed Isaac of Stella, a medieval theologian, made a kind of synthesis of all these elements. In a famous homily that we read last Saturday in the Liturgy of the Hours, he writes: "Mary and the Church are one mother and more than one, one virgin and more than one ...Therefore in the divinely inspired Scripture what is said, what is said universally of the Church, Virgin and Mother, is also said individually of Mary; and what is said in a special way of Mary is understood in a general sense of the Virgin Mother Church ... In the end, every faithful soul is the spouse of the Word of God, mother, daughter and sister of Christ. Each faithful soul is understood in its own sense to be virgin and fruitful."[3]

The Second Vatican Council positions itself in the first perspective when it says: "The Church ... becomes herself a mother. By her preaching she brings forth to a new and immortal life the sons who are born to her in baptism, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God."[4]

We will focus on the personal application to each soul: "Every soul who believes," writes St. Ambrose, "conceives and gives birth to the Word of God ... if one alone is Mother of Christ according to the flesh, all souls, according to the faith, give birth to Christ when they accept the word of God."[5] An Eastern Father echoes St. Ambrose: Christ is always mystically born in the soul, taking flesh in those who are saved and making a virgin mother of the soul that gives him birth."[6]

Just how one concretely becomes mother of Jesus he himself indicates in the Gospel: hearing the word and putting it into practice (cf. Luke 8:21; Mark 3:31 f.; Matthew 12:49). To understand this, let us again think about how Mary became mother: conceiving him and giving birth to him. In Scripture we see these two moments emphasized: "Behold the Virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son," it says in Isaiah; and the angel tells Mary: "You will conceive and give birth to a Son."

There are two incomplete maternities or two types of interruptions of maternity: the one is the old and well known interruption that takes place in a miscarriage or an abortion. These occur when a life is conceived but there is no birth because in the meantime, either on account of natural causes (in the case of a miscarriage) or because of human sin (in the case of an abortion), the child dies. Until a short time ago, these were the only forms of incomplete maternity. Today there is an opposite form of incomplete maternity, which consists in a woman giving birth to a child that she did not conceive. This occurs with children who are conceived in a test tube and then inserted in a woman's womb and in the case of wombs "borrowed" to host, perhaps for money, human lives conceived elsewhere. In this case, the child to whom the woman gives birth, does not come from her, is not conceived "first in the heart and then in the body."

Unfortunately, these two sad types of incomplete maternity also exist in the spiritual realm. Those who hear the word without putting it into practice, those who have one spiritual abortion after another, making plans for conversion that they systematically abandon when they get halfway down the road, conceive Jesus but do not give birth to him. They are impatient observers of the word, they look at their face in a mirror and then go away forgetting what they looked like (cf. James 1:23). In sum, they are those who have faith but no works.

But there are also those who, on the contrary, give birth to Christ without having conceived him. They do many works, even good ones, that do not come from the heart, from love of God and right intention, but rather from habit, hypocrisy, the pursuit of their own glory and their own interests, or simply from the gratification of doing them. In sum, they are those who have works but no faith.

St. Francis of Assisi summarizes, in a positive way, what constitutes true maternity in regard to Christ: "We are mothers of Christ," he says, "when we carry him in our heart and in our body by divine love and with a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through holy works, which should shine forth as an example for others. ... How holy and dear, pleasant, humble, peaceful, lovable and desirable above all things it is to have such a brother and such a son, our Lord Jesus Christ!"[7] The saint is telling us that we conceive Christ when we love him with a sincere heart and with rectitude of conscience, and we give birth to him when we accomplish holy deeds that manifest him to the world.

4. The Two Feasts of the Child Jesus

St. Bonaventure, a disciple and spiritual son of the "Poverello" of Assisi, took up and developed this idea in an opuscule entitled "The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus." In the introduction to the book, he recounts how one day, while in retreat on Mount Verna, he recalled that the holy Fathers say that the soul devoted to God, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High, can conceive the blessed Word and only-begotten Son of the Father, give birth to him, give him his name, seek and adore him with the Magi and, finally, happily present him to God the Father in his temple.[8] Of these five moments or feasts of the Child Jesus that can be re-lived by the soul, we are above all interested in the first two: the conception and birth. For St. Bonaventure, the soul conceives Jesus when, dissatisfied with the life he is living, prompted by holy inspirations and inflamed by holy ardor, he resolutely tears himself away from his old habits and defects, is in a way made spiritually fertile by the grace of the Holy Spirit and conceives the project of a new life. Christ has been conceived!

Once conceived, the blessed Son of God will be born in the heart so long as this soul, after having made a right discernment, asked for appropriate advice and called upon God for help, puts his holy plan immediately into practice and begins to realize that which had been ripening in him but which he had always put off for fear of being incapable of succeeding in it.

But we must insist on one thing: This project of a new life must translate itself, without delay, into something concrete, into a change, possibly even external and visible, in our life and in our habits. If the plan is not put into action, Jesus is conceived, but he is not born. It will become one of the many spiritual abortions. The "second feast" of the Child Jesus, which is Christmas, will never be celebrated. It will be one of the many postponements which are the main reason why so few become saints.

If you decide to change your lifestyle and enter into the category of the poor and humble, who, like Mary, only seek the grace of God, without worrying about pleasing men, then, St. Bonaventure writes, you must arm yourself with courage, because you will need it. You will face two kinds of temptations. First, from the more carnal sorts among those with whom you associate, who will say to you: "What your taking on is too hard; you'll never do it, you lack the strength, it will be bad for your health; these kinds of things don't suit your position in society, you'll compromise your good name and your dignity in your work."

This obstacle overcome, other people will turn up who are thought to be pious, and perhaps even are pious, but who do not really believe in the power of God and his Spirit. They will tell you that if you start to live this way -- giving so much time to prayer, avoiding gossip and idle chatter, doing works of charity -- you will soon be thought a saint, a person of devotion, a spiritual person, and since you know well that you are not yet any of those things, you will end up deceiving people and being a hypocrite, drawing the reproof of God, who knows our heart.

We must respond to all these temptations with faith. "The hand of God is not too short to save!" (Isaiah 59:1) and, almost getting impatient with ourselves, exclaiming, like Augustine on the eve of his conversion: "If these men and women have done it, why can't I?" -- "Si isti et istae, cur non ego?"[9]

5. Mary Said Yes

The example of the Mother of God suggests to bring this new drive to our spiritual life, to truly conceive and give birth to Jesus in us this Christmas. Mary says a decisive and total Yes to God. Great stress is put on Mary's "fiat," on Mary as "the Virgin of the 'fiat'." But Mary did not speak Latin and so did not say "fiat"; nor did she speak Greek and so did not say "genoito," which is the word we find at that point in Luke's Greek text.

If it is legitimate to go back, with a pious reflection, to the "ipsissima vox," to the exact word that came from Mary's mouth -- or at least to the word that would be found at this point in the Judaic source that Luke used -- this must have been the word "amen." Amen, a Hebrew word whose root means solidity, certainty -- was used in the liturgy as a response of faith to God's word. Every time that, at the end of certain Psalms in the Vulgate we once read "fiat, fiat," now in the new version, translated from the original text, we read: "Amen, amen." This is also the case for the Greek word: in the Septuagint, at the end of the same Psalms, where we read "genoito, genoito," the original Hebrew has "Amen, amen!"

The "amen" recognizes that the word that has been spoken is firm, stable, valid and binding. Its exact translation, when it is a response to the word of God, is: "This is how it is and this is how it shall be." It indicates both faith and obedience; it recognizes that what God says is true and submits to it. It is saying "yes" to God. This is the meaning it has when it is spoken by Jesus: "Yes, amen, Father, because this was your good pleasure" (cf. Matthew 11:26). Jesus is, indeed, Amen personified: "Thus, he is the Amen" (Revelation 3:14), and it is through him, St. Paul adds, that every "amen" pronounced on earth ascends to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).

In almost all human languages the word that express consent is a monosyllable -- sì, ja, yes, oui, da -- one of the shortest words in the language but that with which both bride and groom and consecrated persons decide their lives forever. In the rite for religious profession and priestly ordination there is also a moment in which yes is said.

There is a nuance in Mary's Amen that is important to note. In modern languages we use verbs in the indicative mood to refer to something that has happened or will happen, and in the conditional mood to refer to something that could happen under certain conditions, etc. Greek has a particular mood called the optative mood. It is a mood that is used to express a certain desire or impatience for a particular thing to happen. The word used by Luke, "genoito," is in this mood!

St. Paul says that "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7) and Mary says her "yes" to God with joy. Let us ask her to obtain for us the grace to say a joyous and renewed Yes to God and so conceive and give birth to his Son Jesus Christ this Christmas.

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[1] Tertullian, "De carne Christi," 5,6 (CC, 2, p. 881).
[2] Origen, "Commentary on the Gospel of Luke," 22, 3 (SCh, 87, p. 302).

[3] Isaac of Stella, "Sermones," 51 (PL 194, 1863 f.).
[4] "Lumen Gentium," 64.

[5] St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii Secundum Lucam," II, 26 (CSEL 32, 4, p.55).
[6] St. Maximus the Confessor, "Commentary on the Our Father," (PG 90, 889).

[7] St. Francis of Assisi, "Lettera ai fedeli," 1 (Fonti Francescane, n. 178).
[8] St. Bonaventura, "The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus," prologue (ed. Quaracchi 1949, pp. 207 ff.).

[9] St. Augustine, "Confessions," VIII, 8, 19.