Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Hail to Saint George!

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Today, the Church of both the East and the West remembers Saint George, a Roman soldier from Lydda, in Palestine. Legends tell of his fighting a dragon, but there is more truth to his receiving the crown of martyrdom on this day in the year 303.

He is the patron saint of over twenty countries, and more than two dozen cities. He is also the patron of Scouting, and many Christians in the movement from around the world, both old and young, will have “Saint George Banquets” on this feast.

Today is especially celebrated in England, one of those countries for which he is patron. This video clip shows the Ewell Saint Mary's Morris Dancers performing at the Leadenhall Market in London.

As you will see, a good time was had by all.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Easter Monday Edition)

Here's wishing you a Happy Easter, Passover, Earth Day, Patriots' Day, Take Your Kid To Work Day, Record Store Day and If You Feel Like A Room Without A Roof Day! Somewhere in all of that there MUST have been some actual news ... and Uncle Jay is finally, after yet another long and unscheduled hiatus, here to explain it!

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

A lost child was found recently who was hiding in plain sight. You have to wonder what took them so long. [WOWT-TV]

Another sports celebrity has made the courageous decision to confess to their sexual orientation. Either that or she just needs the attention. Or something. [The Daily Currant]

A boy from Santa Clara, California, got a real bargain for a flight to Hawai'i, and he didn't even have to fly coach. [Reuters]

Do Americans ever wonder what the rest of the world finds a bit odd about them? Probably not, because everybody wants to come live in America, not the other way around. Be that as it may ... [Tickld]

Finally, if satellite photography can determine that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7), then it was only a matter of time before that which has eluded the Scots for centuries was finally found. Probably. [Independent Journal Review]

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


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.

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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.

From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we would be admonished to be quieter than usual. It marks the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom dating a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the riverfront, on up to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the Civil War, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace, while climbing the steps to its entrance. The tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.

Today begins the Sacred Triduum. It is quiet here at Chez Alexandre, with preparations to be made, errands to be run, and ... more writing.

For a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.

This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...

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Holy Week: Waiting in the Wings

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended, * That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended? * By foes derided, by Thine own rejected, * O most afflicted.

Holy Week at the parish of Saint John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia, is an awesome thing, where the “reform of the reform” in liturgical life is the rule, not the exception. Even if the "ordinary form" is used, the altar is "versus orientem" for the three days. The priest, his attendants, and the faithful, all turn towards the Lord in the same direction, as the traditional Latin and English vernacular co-exist peacefully.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee? * Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee. * ’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee! * I crucified Thee.

The Sacred Triduum is preceded by the service of Tenebrae on Wednesday evening. Two hundred people join the clergy, seminarians, and altar servers in witnessing the dimming of the lights, to await the Light of the World in the three days that follow. Imagine the sight of dozens of altar servers processing in, two by two. It begins with the crucifer and candle-bearers, followed by the very young, appearing quite cherubic in their surplices and black cassocks.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; * The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered; * For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth, * God intercedeth.

The older servers follow in their maroon cassocks and pleated surplices. Then come the seminarians and deacons of the parish. Finally, the master of ceremonies leads the parish priests, as the procession of nearly one hundred clerics and laics converge upon the Holy of Holies. It is from there that the time of darkness and lamentation begins, followed by the hearing of confessions.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation, * Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life’s oblation; * Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion, * For my salvation.

Tomorrow night is the “Cena Domini” or Mass of the Lord's Supper. The original meal shared by the disciples, the sacrificial offering that took place in the twenty-four hours that followed, all will be re-presented in the sight of Christ's faithful. The pastor will remove his outer priestly vestments, put on an apron, and wash the feet of twelve young altar servers. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” For one night of the year, the priest will serve the least of those young lads who serve him at the altar of God.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee, * I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee, * Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving, * Not my deserving.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Random Thoughts Beneath Calvary

The weather has heralded the coming of spring in this part of North America, but tomorrowtonight the temperature dips near freezing. For most of the Triduum, the high temperature will be in the 50s (or low- to mid-teens Celsius). Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, there are a few stories in the works. Our analysis of a certain catechism class gone wild in Charlotte, North Carolina, is in preparation, and we'd just as soon tell you right now, the one single, solitary point that everyone else is missing. There are other stories in the works as well, stories that need to be told. They sit there, waiting for that final polish, but ...

To be honest, this writer has better things to do.

We tell ourselves that this is not our world, of how, in the words of C S Lewis: “This world that seems to us so substantial is no more than the shadowlands. Real life has not begun yet.” We say we believe that, but do we?

When I was a sacristan at a parish in Georgetown, there were preparations to be made before the Easter Vigil, just like every other parish in the world. Early that evening, people would show up at the door asking why the 5:30 Mass wasn't starting as usual. How could I tell them that there was nothing “usual” about that night? They had the presence of mind to fulfill their Sunday obligation. But that was all it was, an obligation, one more thing to cross off the list before going on to something else.

I take the days off on Holy Thursday and Good Friday every year, not because I'm better than anyone else, but precisely because I'm not. I need to stop and pay attention. I don't pay enough as it is.

Walk with me, dear reader. God is still in charge of His heaven. There are steps to walk on this earth, before the Son rises again.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Holy Week Edition)

Google has a product it's testing known as Google Glass, which is a set of really expensive eyeglasses that allow you to continually see information out of the corner of your eye, such as the time, the temperature, your heart rate, how the stock market is doing, and so on. Just roll this clip, and watch a bunch of geeks show you how the device will make you into a total chick magnet. Or something.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

A movie theater in Exeter, United Kingdom, had to scrap a showing of the biblical epic "Noah" starring Russell Crowe, due to flooding caused by an ice machine gone wild. And you thought the whole story was made up. [Time]

Health adovacates, as well as a few microbreweries and their distributors, would caution you about the big-@$$ corporate brands that are bad for you. That's the good news. The bad news is, they include Guinness. This is not good. [Banoosh]

Speaking of getting back on the hard stuff, a couple of Greek-Americans (or a couple who wishes they were) developed a soft drink that tastes like ouzo. Makes you wanna go line dancing in the streets of Rochester, doesn't it? [WHAM-TV]

Finally, and on a more somber note, you've been asking yourself what really happened out at that cattle ranch in Nevada, and why, here it is in a nutshell. [Townhall]

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That's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, our usual routine here at man with black hat will be put aside beginning this Wednesday, as we commemorate the holiest week of the Christian year. Follow us on our journey to Calvary. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.