Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kak trevòga, tak do Bòga

I have a question:

In the book Comrade Don Camillo, near the very end of the story, Don Camillo hears these words:
Kak trevòga, tak do Bòga
which are later translated as:
In dire extremity, man remembers his God.
I would like to know whether that is Russian or another language, and if that translation is satisfactory - if there is a literal one I would also like to know that.

Thanks very much...

A Short Note

I have been very busy, and so I have gotten behind in posting the "Joe" novel or anything else. I managed to get the next chapter out, number 44, which has this curious, and rather incomplete illustration: That chapter was not easy to write, and it most likely will not be easy to read... but I do like it, not only because it presages coming events in the story, but because of what it reveals.

But speaking of revealing, I ought to get busy on an Advent posting. It all depends on how much I can get done today on the other business at hand.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

GKC on Thanksgiving

As you may have guessed, I am like Tolkien's Smaug, and sleep upon a treasure-trove of the works of G. K. Chesterton, some seven million words (at last count) of strange insights and hilarity and goodness. It seems to this simple dragon, however, that GKC ought to have statues raised to him (and his dear wife, Frances, of course) just because of the profound words he has given us about the most important work we can do as humans - thank God. (The word appears over 700 times, which means some fomr of "thanks" appears about every 10,000 words.)

Just consider these....

...the proper form of thanks to it is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:268]

I do not, in my private capacity, believe that a baby gets his best physical food by sucking his thumb; nor that a man gets his best moral food by sucking his soul, and denying its dependence on God or other good things. I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
[GKC A Short History of England]

If we were Pagans, we should be content with nothing less than worship of Beauty. We shouldn't be content with photographs of Film Stars. If we were Pagans there would be a Temple of Venus at Hollywood. If we were Pagans, there would be a Temple of Bacchus; probably in Milwaukee. Even the financiers had a god in those days. There would be a Temple of Mercury, who was the god of commerce, at the end of Wall Street. I admit that, by a curious coincidence, he was also the god of theft. Perhaps that is why he is generally presented to us as the Flying Mercury. But anyhow, the point is that Paganism could make things; it could make festivals and festive days; it could make an alternative to Christmas, if it were still alive. But the modern Pagans cannot. The modern Pagans are merely atheists; who worship nothing and therefore create nothing. They could not, for instance, even make a substitute for Thanksgiving Day. For half of them are pessimists who say they have nothing to be thankful for; and the other half are atheists who have nobody to thank.
[text of a broadcast Dec 25 1931, printed in Chesterton Continued by John Sullivan]


I cannot count the pebbles in the brook.
Well bath He spoken: 'Swear not by thy head,
Thou knowest not the hairs,' though He, we read,
Writes that wild number in His own strange book.

I cannot count the sands or search the seas,
Death cometh, and I leave so much untrod.
Grant my immortal aureole, O my God,
And I will name the leaves upon the trees.

In heaven I shall stand on gold and glass,
Still brooding earth's arithmetic to spell;
Or see the fading of the fires of hell
Ere I have thanked my God for all the grass.
But the important thing is not to explain thanksgiving, but to give thanks - and specifically to God. If I stumble over the expression here, so did GKC, because it is so incredibly deep in his being, as he tried to explain, even when he himself was struggling to make sense of everything:
I hung on to the remains of religion by one thin thread of thanks. I thanked whatever gods might be, not like Swinburne, because no life lived for ever, but because any life lived at all; not, like Henley for my unconquerable soul (for I have never been so optimistic about my own soul as all that) but for my own soul and my own body, even if they could be conquered. This way of looking at things, with a sort of mystical minimum of gratitude, was of course, to some extent assisted by those few of the fashionable writers who were not pessimists; especially by Walt Whitman, by Browning and by Stevenson; Browning's "God must be glad one loves his world so much", or Stevenson's "belief in the ultimate decency of things". But I do not think it is too much to say that I took it in a way of my own; even if it was a way I could not see clearly or make very clear. What I meant, whether or no I managed to say it, was this; that no man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy. ... in point of fact, it was by following
this thin thread of a fancy about thankfulness, as slight as any of those dandelion clocks that are blown upon the breeze like thistledown, that I did arrive eventually at an opinion which is more than an opinion. Perhaps the one and only opinion that is really more than an opinion. ... the first thing the casual critic will say is "What nonsense all this is; do you mean that a poet cannot be thankful for grass and wild flowers without connecting it with theology; let alone your theology?" To which I answer, "Yes; I mean he cannot do it without connecting it with theology, unless he can do it without connecting it with thought. If he can manage to be thankful when there is nobody to be thankful to, and no good intentions to be thankful for, then he is simply taking refuge in being thoughtless in order to avoid being thankless."
[GKC Autobiography CW16:97,323, 325]
Let us conclude this short study, then, with some thought on this most fundamental question, as GKC himself wrote it:
The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:258]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hoping For Good Gifts

Today we complete our brief study of the Golden Sequence, the hymn Veni, Sancte Spiritus. The final verse has truly the nature of a cadence, a solemn and grand conclusion, made all the more effective when it appears on Pentecost by the addition of "Amen. Alleluia" (since that day is still effectively within Paschaltide!) But let us see it then discuss it:
Da tuis fidelibus,
In te confidentibus
Sacrum septenarium.
Da virutis meritum,
Da salutis exitum,
Da perenne gaudium.

Give to Thy faithful
confiding in Thee
Thy sevenfold gifts.
Give them the reward of virtue,
Give them the death of safety (a happy death)
Give them eternal joy. [Fr. Britt's translation]
Ah, sacrum septenarium - the Sacred Seven. What "seven" is this? But hark there is a chime from another part of the realm of words.... Yes, and instructive, too. Any of us who have ever peered into anything Latin from the Church which deals with our country will have seen words like these, maybe with different endings depending on how they are used:
Americae Septentrionalis Foederatae
which might be roughly rendered as
America of the Covenant of the Seven
Huh? Seven What?

Ah, yes. This is perhaps one of the most poetic and elegant words, about which I wonder whether any American poets have ever tried to apply.
The seven stars! The word septentrionalis does mean "north" but by alluding to the seven "north" stars of the Dipper. So, even though the precise sense of the Seven in our hymn refers to the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit - Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord - there is also a resonance which ought to make us attentive to directions, and to our own country. The stars, after all, are not ours in America, or even in the northern hemisphere - they belong to all, and are useful to all - so are these Gifts, which are given to each of us, are truly ours to use, and yet are no more "owned" than a star is owned. Even when we fail, or squander our Gifts - as when we close our eyes and ignore the stars - we only hurt ourselves, and wander, lost in our blindness. We cannot hurt the stars.

Then there is the curious "fide" doublet: the Faithful who confide. Do we ever realize that the common dog name "Fido" means "I trust"? Do we also know that this "trust" is really synonymous with "faith" - that when we say "I believe" (as in the Creed) or even in the secular sense "In God We Trust" we are saying that we have put firm reliance on these credal articles or on this God? We take them as the dog takes his master - humbly, unquestioningly, without doubt, without fear, without hesitation.

Let us therefore trust in the Holy Spirit. He is the only one in Whom we can trust, in Whom we can have true hope. If we ask Him, He will surely come, and bring us His Sacred Seven gifts...

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Thanksgiving Tale

As part of my on-going efforts to enlarge and extend the collection of fiction for the readers of the known universe, over on my story blogg I have posted A Thanksgiving Tale, a short story taken from my forthcoming collection, The Minutes of Eta Alpha Omicron. Stay tuned for more.

Hope for What We Really Need

When we are desperate - that is, somehow feeling HOPEless (Latin spe = hope) - we are most likely in need of something. With the great greed so rampant and so flaunted these days, it is hard to imagine that there are people who are lacking material resources, but there are some, and not only in the areas which most of us know as "poor". Material needs, or lacks, can make life difficult for us in this world - but it is the immaterial needs or lacks which can life difficult for us in the next. Oddly, it is the so-called "wealthy" people who seem to lack the most. But even those of us who do not live under the staggering burden of being millionaires have these sorts of wants. It is worse when we are not even aware of them... Sooner or later, we may come to realize our poverty, and then we cry in desperation. We need help, support, assistance!

Yes - we need what my mother calls "invisible means of support". We need the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not a magician or a fairy godmother to give us wishes in order to supply simple physical or earthly sorts of need. No, He supplies something far more amazing, and far more valuable. He supplies our real needs which no human - indeed no group of humans - could ever be wealthy enough to supply.

In the next verse of Veni Sancte Spiritus we find listed six very particular requests to our dear Comforter, the Giver of Gifts, Himself, the Gift of God. Each appears, in the most startling way, as a command which we speak (sing) to God - but remember we are desperate, and He who hears the cry of the poor knows we are begging:
Lava quo est sordidum,
Riga quod est aridum,
Sana quod est saucium,
Flecte quod est rigidum,
Fove quod est frigidum,
Rege quod est devium.

Cleanse what is base,
Bedew what is parched,
Heal what is wounded,
Bend what is rigid,
Warm what is chilled,
Guide what is astray. [Britt's translation]
In Fr. Britt's The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal he gives additional details on the mystic sense of each of these verbs, which will clue us in, that we do not think of the Holy Spirit as a janitor, irrigator, medic, or so forth:

Lava: wash, by Baptism and Penance
Riga: bedew with Thy grace
Sana: heal what is wounded by sin
Flecte: bend the stubborn will
Fove: warm our cold hearts
Rege: guide sinners

It would be fun to poke into some of the Latin roots here, and see the richness of these mere verbal gifts - but not just now. All I wish to consider is the first entry for the verb foveo, which speaks of a bird warming her eggs - she does this because of the new life which they contain. (Ever notice that the Federal Government asserts that life begins at conception - in the case of the eggs of some endangered species? Curious.)

For all our representation of Him as the dove, the Holy Spirit is not a mother bird, for all that He designed all the birds, and knows all about them, not only by plan but individually. It may sound like the lyrics of a rock song, but He doesn't care for the birds as He cares for us! After all, He knows all too well what Jesus told His followers: "Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows." [Lk 12:7] He knows precisely the number of hairs, and every imaginable detail of our physical life - then how much more will He tend to our needs - which are beyond any power of earth to grant!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hope in the Blessed Light, the Filler of Hearts

In our struggle against Evil - against that which is empty, broken and dark - we have nothing of our own to use. Nothing at all. By ourselves we are utterly hopeless.

But we are not alone. We have an assistant, a counsellor, a helper - an intimate and sweet Guest, Who is always with us. (Unless God forbid, we chase Him away, or refuse Him entry.) He will fill us up with what we need - with Himself.

But this may sound a bit abstract (but it's quite real and practical) or impersonal (but no two human lovers can begin to approach the intimacy) - so let us use an analogy.

When an air force jet is on a long mission, it may happen that it needs fuel. There are amazing arrangements which enable the pilot to refuel in midair. But it takes arrangement. The tanker plane must have enough fuel, it has to rendezvous with the plane needing the fill-up, which also has to have the precise kind of gear enabling it to accept a fill-up from that tanker. Then a trick of flying is required of both pilots, a maneuver kind of like threading the needle, which links the two while the fuel is pumped from the tanker into the plane that needs the fuel. It takes training, planning, and engineering.

The Holy Spirit doesn't have to fuss with such things to fill us. We're all prepared, being made in His own image and likeness - He who is Love, and we who are made precisely for receiving Love... and we sure are empty... But this aeronautical image (though interesting) is very poor. Let us turn to the Golden Sequence (which we are exploring through Father Britt's The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal) and hear it said better:
O lux beatissima,
Reple cordis intima,
Tuorum fidelium.
Sine tuo numine,
Nihil est in homine,
Nihil est innoxium.

O most blessed Light,
fill Thou the inmost recesses of the hearts
of Thy faithful!
Without Thy divine assistance,
There is nothing in man,
Nothing harmless. [Britt's translation]
We are empty - really empty. Not even fumes. And all the things of nature - from stars to rocks, plants and animals - yes, even other humans - even our own selves - all these are dangerous. All these are noxious - harmful to us. The Latin noceo = "I harm", from which we get words like noxious and innocent and innocuous. Note here the use of homine, which is the ablative of homo = "Man" - that's "Man the race", as in the biological species homo sapiens, and not "man, the male" which in Latin is vir.

But I am going backwards. Consider the first part of this verse. We call the Holy Spirit lux = "light". We should recall that four of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the intellect: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel. It is said that our greatest fear is the fear of the unknown, and this is why we have all others, in particular the fear of death. The unknown is anything which is darkness to us, whether this darkness be physical or intellectual. But the Holy Spirit does not simply give us light - He is Light! And light is the chief means of communication in the universe: stars, indeed, whole galaxies at unthinkable distances are revealing themselves to us by their own light. And God also reveals Himself by His own Light, Who is the Holy Spirit. (This is perhaps a hint as to the meaning of "conceived by the Holy Spirit", and why Jesus says the Father would send the Spirit "in My name" [Jn 14:26].)

But now we find a puzzle. If this light is about the intellect, why does it fill the heart? We had that in the first verse a few days back, but let us go further. Now it is interesting to see this word intima here. Histologists and anatomists will know that our veins and arteries usually consist of three layers, going from the outside inward towards the "lumen" or actual blood channel of the vessel:

1. The tunica adventitia, which is connective tissue and also blood vessels. (See below for more on this.)

2. The tunica media, of smooth muscle fibers. (These muscles permit very fine control over the circulation; they are not under conscious control.)

3. The tunica intima, which is the "inner epithelium" (really the "inner skin" of the vessel) and, if the vessel is an artery, some additional tissues.

So we are clearly talking about something deep inside - so much so, that we can say it is our "inner skin"... the inner skin of our hearts. This void, so often filled with ourselves (what is more useless than that!) we beg that the Holy Spirit fill. No, actually, it is "refill" and it is not a beg - it is an imperative.

How dare we command God?

No - He knows we are begging. We speak in our emptiness. We once had the fullness of His light and strength and love - we cast it out to make room for ourselves.

We need Him to come and refill us. But unlike the jets, He does not fly off afterwards. He stays... for He is hospes, our guest.

Come, Holy Spirit!


A comment, off the main topic: yes, we must not forget that the blood vessels themselves need to be nourished by blood. The inmost layers are near enough to the lumen to receive their supply directly, but except in the very small vessels, the blood vessels themselves need to have smaller vessels to bring them nourishment! These are called vasa vasorum - the "vessels of vessels". One many recall that the Pope is called the "servus servorum Dei - the servant of the servants of God... and from this we remember that, by Subsidiarity, the hierarchy of the Church works upside down - for as Jesus told us He came "not to be served, but to serve" [Mt 20:28]. It is a lesson in mystical histology: as blood vessels also need blood vessels, so priests need priests.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Hope is in the Best of Consolers

Today is Tuesday, the 18th of November - roughly a dozen days until we begin our Advent. Our life, as we know, is a struggle, a battle against Dark Powers, who seek to divert us from our Purpose. We must invoke the assistance of the Good Angels, who vastly outnumber our foes - and, since we are weak and cold and full of indifference, and we sit in the shadows of death, we must call upon the One Consoler and Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Who brings light, and warmth, and strength, and love.

Let us then continue our study of True Hope with the next verse of the "Golden Sequence", the Veni, Sancte Spiritus, with the assistance of Father Britt's The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal.

Consolator optime,
Dulcis hospes animae
Dulce refrigerium.
In labore requies,
In aestu temperies,
In fletu solatium.

Thou best consoler,
Sweet guest of the soul,
Sweet coolness:
In labor, rest,
In heat, refreshment,
In tears, solace. [Britt's translation]
Well, again we find curious words which might occupy us for some time. The mystic word hospes, which means both "guest" and "host", from which our "hospital" and "hotel" and "hospitality" come from, I must defer to a future post.

Far easier to speak on, though perhaps far lengthier, is the word optime = "best".

Mathematicians speak about "linear" and other forms of mathematical optimization - these are interesting puzzles of numbers where one seeks the "extremes" according to certain particular relations like "less than" or "greater than". They come up in various real-world problems, and there are well-known ways of solving such things. But there is a richer analogy in the use of the term "optimization" in computing. There, it means the various methods of changing a given program such that the revision keeps the identical computation but - and this is the important point - the revised form is faster than the original. Again, there are well-known ways of doing such things, as strange as this may sound to an outsider. and they are not magical: they are merely applications of "equivalences" based on mathematics, just as one can speed up addition by multiplying:

Quick, what's 7+7+7+7+7+7+7? Seven sevens? That's forty-nine.

You see? Or, one can speed up multiplication by exponentiation:

Quick, what's 10*10*10*10*10*10? That's six tens, or ten-to-the-sixth, which is a million. (Yes, this is the way to logarithms...)

Wow. And just as there are more such tricks in math, there are such tricks in the optimization of computer codes - but one must know the most intimate truths of the program, actually of the programming language - the truths at the very base of its existence, if one is to proceed to make such changes and yet preserve the reality of the program.

And that is what the Holy Spirit does. He knows us in a most intimate way, since He made us, and we are made in His image. He alone can "optimize" us, make us better, and yet not change who we are. Yes, there are also forms of optimization which discard useless code - He does that too - under His guidance we will be "pruned" (see John 15:2) of the useless and impractical.

And note He operates as a Consoler - as One Who remedies our difficulties. He is the guest of the soul - He comes into us in the most intimate, and most fundamental way possible - which must be if such grand improvements are to occur.

You will also note He is "at work" to do this: He is not a Linus-blanket, or a feel-good pill. The deep tech term used in ontology about God is "act" - God is pure act without "potency"... I do not mean to abuse the terms or play a word game - but just as an optimizer (whether software or a computer scientist) must work to improve the program, the Holy Spirit works to improve us... if we let Him do it, and don't get in His way.

We see another interesting word here - refrigerium. Yes, it reminds us of "refrigerator" - the "cooler" where we keep food against deterioration, or drinks to make them refreshing. No, we are not talking about entropy or ways of air conditioning or food preservation here... but let us go further. He is called "sweet" - which may be a bit misleading, since the Holy Spirit is definitely not candy. Chesterton has this to say about dulce:
In English the word "sweet" has been rendered hopelessly sticky by the accident of the word "sweets." But in any case it suggests something much more intense and even pungent in sweetness like the tabloids of saccharine that are of concentrated sugar. It is at once too strong and too weak a word. It has not the same savour as the same word in the Latin languages, which often means no more than the word "gentle" as it was used of "a perfect gentle knight."
[GKC The Thing CW3:285]
It might be better understood as "gracious" or even perhaps "gentle" - think perhaps of a very strong, husky, he-man linebacker type of man - who happens to be a pediatrician, and is gentle - is sweet - with children, yes even with infants. Sweet Refrigerator indeed.

And next we see listed just three of our many woes in our fallen lives - and how the Holy Spirit gives the precise remedy:

We must labor [Gen 3:19] and the Holy Spirit brings us rest. [cf Hebrews 3 and 4]

We spend our lives in heat (which can represent the continual temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil) and the Holy Spirit brings us refreshment - a cooling drink does not remove us from the summer sun, but it imparts a change in our own temperature, and a diversion which enables us to proceed to our duties despite the external warmth.

We weep in this "valley of tears" - as Jesus did at the death of a friend [Jn 11:35] or over the infidelity of His people [Jn 19:41] - the Holy Spirit soothes and relieves - when all others have abandoned us, He remains: "Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? and if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee." [Is 49:15]

So when our work is difficult, when we are in the heat of temptation, when we find our tears flowing at the woes of our world - then we must beg the Holy Spirit for His great gifts - for the greatest gift - Himself [see Jn 14:16] - that He may "optimize" us and remedy our woes.

Come, O Holy Spirit, Come!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

announcing: Subsidiarity

Although it is not March 2 (see here for why that date is important), I have chosen to publish the introductory portion of my new book on Subsidiarity today.

So you can go to if you wish to have an introduction to this most important, powerful, and effective design tool and management method - the one authentic guide to government or business or society of any kind.

Please note: So far, that blogg only contains the introduction. There's more to come.

And if you happen work for a certain kind of company (I won't mention any names here, but someone may recognize that satellite dish!) please pay very close attention. You will now have one more opportunity to learn something you should have learned before. It's not too late. You do NOT have to stick with your 1980s style of software! This stuff uses a design technique that's lots older:
I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.
[GKC, Heretics CW1:46]
Wow - a way of getting something done - and it's efficient, too!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Defence: Hope in the Holy Spirit

Well, actually, it's not a "new" defence at all, it's nearly 2000 years old. The martyrs used it in ancient Roma. Benedict and Scholastica used it. Basil and Gregory used it. Francis and Dominic and Ignatius used it. Aquinas and Bernard and Bonaventure and Bellarmine used it. Doctors like Teresa and Therese used it. Even Chesterton used it. It's the gift we were given, first on Pentecost Sunday in Jerusalem in those who received the flames in that upper room, but even to us individually, though far less spectacularly.

What gift? The Gift. The Holy Spirit.

What do we face at present? Darkness. Weakness. Doubt. Fear. Hate. Does this sound like the evil villain in some fantasy: the galactic bad guy, or the wicked witch in a fairy tale? Oh, no, it's all too real. We have an enemy, a Fallen and evil Spirit, who was tossed out of heaven, and hasn't ceased to prowl about the world with his minions, seeking souls to wreck.

Have no fear!

The Holy Spirit brings light, brings strength, brings love - and certainty and fortitude and the great power called Wisdom... He is no mere wand-wielding wise old man in a robe, or a fairy-godmother who makes coaches out of pumpkins - He's most real, and most close - He is also called the Paraclete, the Greek tech-legal term which means consoler, comforter, the advocate, the defending councillor Who pleads for us.

One of the best books I have about Him is The Sanctifier by Archbishop Martinez. But maybe you don't have time for that, even though it is not a very large book, and it has nice byte-size chapters. Then let us take up something a bit easier to carry - the hymns for Pentecost, and explore them a little. I will use Father Britt's The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal to start with, and link in whatever else seems suitable. We'll start with Veni, Sancte Spiritus, and see how it goes, bearing in mind that Advent is not all that far off. How suitable it is to ponder the Holy Spirit in preparation will perhaps come to light as we proceed.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus - probably by Pope Innocent III (1161-1216); there are about 40 transslations. This is the liturgical "Sequence" for Pentecost and its octave, and was called "The Golden Sequence" in medieval times. "In the opinion of critics it is justly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry." [Britt 160]

1. Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
Et emitte coelitus
Lucis tuae radium.
Veni pater pauperum,
Veni dator munerum,
Veni lumen cordium.

Come Holy Spirit,
and send forth from heaven
the ray of Thy light.
Come, Father of the poor,
Come, giver of gifts,
Come, light of hearts. [Britt's translation]
Radium! Now, as a scientist, my heart leaps at the sheer coincidence of a Latin word with an English word, even though far distant is the relation between them. But it may be the hook on which I, like Chesterton, hang my comments.

What is the Latin word radium? A staff or rod. (Yes, so the wizard's wand also appears here! More on this another time; see GKC if you need a starting point.) Yes, more specifically, it is the SPOKE OF A WHEEL. There is a famous inside joke among Chestertonians, taken from GKC's The Ball and the Cross, concerning an apparent lunatic who delights in a certain thing because "it sticks out". Ah HA! That's exactly what a ray is - it is something that sticks out from its source, whether it be the hub of a wheel, a beam (another word for a rod!) of light, or something else - even a radio signal, which radiates from an antenna!

Ah - then what is the English "radium"? A dangerous metal, highly radioactive - as it decays, it constantly sends forth "rays" which are actually alpha particles (helium nuclei). It glows in the dark, which was a constant delight to the Curies, who worked for years to purify a tiny amount (about a milligram) from literal TONS of waste ores. Talk about a pearl of great price! But the Holy Spirit emits far more powerful rays, and they are not damaging, but healing.

But that's not the only tech word here. Emitte is from ex+mitto = "send forth, send out". Radium is an "alpha emitter" - the various radioactive elements are classed according to what they emit when they decay. But an emitter is also one of the three "legs" of a transistor, corresponding vaguely to the old "cathode" of vacuum tubes, which emitted electrons. Huh? Does anyone even know what a transistor is any more? I have seen power amps for rock musicians which have them, so they are still around even in this age of integrated circuit "chips", which may contain thousands or millions of transistors. A transistor is the most common "active" component of these "chips": it performs amplification of signals and other related functions. A clever arrangement of two transistors makes possible the elementary form of computer memory called a flip-flop, which is the "bit" - it retains its state as either "ON" or "OFF", which we usually write as "1" or "0". One translation of Luke 2:51 reads "Mary kept all these things in memory". I wonder: because she was the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, was she an emitter too?

But let us hear a little more from Father Britt:
The introductory and thrice repeated Veni in the first stanza is expressive of the intense longing of a wold-buffeted, sin-harried soul for the advent of the "best consoler".
[emphasis added]
I told you there was a connection to Advent - don't you also hear that "Veni veni Emmanuel" here - "O come O come Emmanuel"? It's the same Latin verb.
Pater pauperum = "father of the poor": refers to the "poor in spirit" [Mt 5:3] who may either be destitute of the goods of this world, or detached from them, "as having nothing, and possessing all things" (2Cor 6:10)
Dator munerum = "giver of gifts": The Holy Spirit is the dispenser of the countless gifts or graces which Christ has merited for us.

What was it that urged the writer of the "E.T." story to give him a "heart-light"? Was it the frequent use of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on fire with love for poor sinful Man? Was it the line from the Litany of the Sacred Heart:
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Or was it, perhaps, this verse?

Why is the heart in need of light? Because of the darkness of the Fall. One might wonder why it is not the brain or mind which needs the light, when the heart is only the pump which sends life to the brain - but we are not going into anatomy or even mystical histology today. No, I will put it more bluntly. Once you've been in love, you will have no doubt about this image. It's not the brain - nor is it (shall we say) some lower organ, but the heart which steers, pulls, directs - it's the heart which flames.

So - what must we do if the fire goes out? If the heart is cold, dark, empty?

Then we must call for the Advocate: Veni. Come.

And He will, Who is far more powerful than radium. And He give us poor children His mighty gifts.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Play For An Unnamed School

Please finish your food and drink before reading!

I was waiting to post this for a time when we all need a good laugh. Here you go!
--Dr. Thursday

PS: Yes, I wrote it many years ago, while I was actually attending an "unnamed school". Hee hee. No resemblance to any known person is intended - it cannot be helped. It may not count as fiction, but it sure counts as humour.

Play for an unnamed school
by an unnamed student.

Scene one. A quasi-Greek architectural ruin. In the background we see several buildings, no two of which are designed the same. All are obviously college academic buildings. Gathered in front of the ruins are a large crowd of young men and women. They are singing.

Student Chorus: Back to the bursar, back to the bursar,
take a test, take a test,
fill out the health clearance form,
Register for classes, file another form,
Back to the bursar, back to the bursar...

(Enter the procession of the faculty, in full academic regalia.)

Faculty Chorus: We are the faculty, faculty, faculty.
We are the faculty, faculty, faculty.
We are the faculty, faculty, faculty,
because you don't know as much as we.

Provost: Yes, yes, let's have a big hand for me!
I've got more than one honorary degree.
My standards high all must uphold,
With learned works, and lectures cold.
My publications bookshelves fill,
And hence we'll raise the students' bill.

Faculty Chorus: We are the faculty, etc.

Students Chorus: Back to the bursar, back to the bursar,
take a test, take a test,
fill out the health clearance form,
Register for classes, file another form,
Back to the bursar, back to the bursar...
Office hours canceled, office hours canceled,
Can't get a terminal, can't get a terminal,
Books were backordered, books were backordered.
Homework is due, homework is due.
Library closed early, library closed early,
Back to the bursar, back to the bursar.

Dean of Students: Who are all those people down there?

Assistant Dean of Students #1: Those are the students,
Assistant Dean of Students #2: Those are the students,
Assistant Dean of Students #3: Those are the students,
Assistant Dean of Students #4: Those are the students,
All Assistant Deans: of our u-nee-ver-si-tee!

Dean of Students: I don't understand. What is a student?
Assistant Dean of Students #1: Those are the future,
Assistant Dean of Students #2: Those are the bankrolls,
Assistant Dean of Students #3: Those are the troublemakers,
Assistant Dean of Students #4: Those are the faculty's problem.
All Assistant Deans: at our u-nee-ver-si-tee!

Dean of Students: Why are they here? What do they want?
Assistant Dean of Students #1: They're here for knowledge,
Assistant Dean of Students #2: They're here to learn a lot,
Assistant Dean of Students #3: They're here to find themselves,
Assistant Dean of Students #4: They're here to have a good time,
All Assistant Deans: Or, that's what we tell them.

Dean of Students: What do you mean knowledge? Why do they care?
Assistant Dean of Students #1: Because it is here,
Assistant Dean of Students #2: Because they will learn a lot,
Assistant Dean of Students #3: Because they want to be employed,
Assistant Dean of Students #4: But they don't really care,
All Assistant Deans: Or, that's what they tell us.

Dean of Students: How can you stand it? Why should we put up with them?
(pauses, music stops.)
(frankly, speaks) Tell me. What do they do for us?

(music begins again subito)

Assistant Dean of Students #1: They must pay tuition,
Assistant Dean of Students #2: They must pay tuition,
Assistant Dean of Students #3: They must pay tuition,
Assistant Dean of Students #4: They must pay tuition,
All Assistant Deans: (shouted) Or else no degree!
(music stops abruptly.)

(All faculty gasp. The President is coming! As he enters, those not tenured bow. The tenured faculty merely nod, maintaining their superior academic pose. Evil Empire theme, under.)

Dean: (says something formal, preferably in Latin, most likely bad in grammar and pronuncuiation.) Hic est Magister Max Minus!

President: (to "Pop goes the weasel") (sings)

I love to pat myself on the back
I do it every day.
We had another grant come in
So this is what I say:

Tuition's going to go up again,
Get money where I find it.
I need to buy a brand new car,
And someone to drive it.

Our labs have found a novel device,
Makes circuits out of clay.
A research breakthrough is announced.
More companies will pay!

Tuition's going to go up again,
My lecture in Tahiti
Will make our school more widely known,
How is that greedy?

Provost: (clears throat, embarrassed at having to interrupt) Excuse me sir, but we have a problem.

President: (speaks) Ah, hrmmm. Problem? Why should there be a problem? (glances from side to side) I'm the president after all. (Pauses.) Maybe you should see the Bursar. (smiles, very satisfied.)

Provost: No sir. (bows) You see, ah, well, (very obsequiously) ah, we've found that, ah, one of our professors, well, ah, how can I put this to you gently?

President: Yes, a professor? Oh, that's right. They don't have to pay tuition, do they? (Frowns.) Not yet anyhow. Maybe we can consider this for next year's budget. Hm...

Provost: Sorry sir, but it is not a pecuniary issue.

President: Why are you bothering me with something trivial, then? Handle it yourself. Or have one of the deans take care of it. We have enough deans, don't we?

Provost: Yes, but they're of limited utility in this instance. You'll have to deal with it yourself. You see, we found that one of the professors was actually teaching.

(Entire tenured faculty gasps.)

President: (bewildered) Ah, well, I always thought that's what they did. I mean, after all, I'm not going in those labs full of acids. And capacitors. Who knows what I'd catch? And then there's always the off chance that I might bump into a student. Ewwww! With a tee-shirt. Or jeans with holes in them.

Provost: But sir, I don't think you realize how research works. We can't be bothered with, ah, academic issues here. (The tenured faculty nod in agreement. Some of the younger professors look around uneasily, but say nothing.)

President: I'm confused. (He doesn't look it, however.) If we're not teaching, why do we keep all those students around? Hmm?

Provost: Sir, remember? (Pleadingly) The bursar? The fat checks at the beginning of the semester? In a word, TUITION?

President: (turns, shocked) Since the professor has been caught teaching students, we should let it appear that the students decide his fate. Send him to the Plenary Student/Faculty Judicial Adjuratory Council.

(to be continued...)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dealing with Terrible Poison

Yes - we, like Cato and his Carthago delenda est - we face the same poisonous pagan terror. A terror at which even the ancient pagans of Rome were horrified: "...the worshippers of Moloch were not gross or primitive. They were members of a mature and polished civilisation, abounding in refinements and luxuries; they were probably far more civilised than the Romans. And Moloch was not a myth; or at any rate his meal was not a myth. These highly civilised people really met together to invoke the blessing of heaven on their empire by throwing hundreds of their infants into a large furnace. We can only realise the combination by imagining a number of Manchester merchants with chimneypot hats and mutton-chop whiskers, going to church every Sunday at eleven o'clock to see a baby roasted alive. ... People would understand better the popular fury against the witches, if they remembered that the malice most commonly attributed to them was preventing the birth of children." [GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:277, 254]

Therefore we ought to resort to a prayer of St. Benedict, who had to deal with such poisons:

Vade retro Satana!
Nunquam suade mihi vana!
Sunt mala quae libas,
Ipse venena bibas.

Go back, Satan!
Never tempt me with vain things!
You are pouring evils -
Drink them yourself.

(from the famous medal of St. Benedict)

St. Michael, defend us!