Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Scott and Julie are invited to an Edward Lear costume party. Julie dresses up as an old man with a beard. Scott dresses up as an owl. And they danced by the light of the moon.

In Episode 321 of A Good Story is Hard to Find, Scott and I discuss a mystery with many layers: The Feast by Margaret Kennedy.

The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings by John Bergsma

As the new Church year begins on Sunday, I'm rerunning this review of a commentary series that has stood me in very good stead for three years now. I just love these. We're going into Year B, if you are wondering which to get.

In The Word of the Lord series, biblical scholar Dr. John Bergsma provides commentary on each Sunday's selection of readings. Whether you are a homilist seeking insight into the meaning of difficult scriptural passages or a Catholic desiring a deepened understanding of the readings you hear at Mass, The Word of the Lord series is an invaluable guide.

This series delights me by focusing on the readings from a deep connection to scripture that isn't held specifically to the excerpts that the liturgy is using. Bergsma's background as a Biblical scholar comes to the fore in identifying unifying motifs and intriguing connections that you don't see a lot of the time. I splurged on it and it is truly wonderful for anyone who loves Bible study and the Sunday Mass liturgy.

The Solemnities and Feasts book (red cover) supplements Bergsma's commentaries on the Sunday readings for years A, B, and C. There are a number of important days that aren't regular Sunday Mass days — such as Christmas or Ash Wednesday! Nonetheless we gain a lot from having commentary on the readings. This book fills that need.

Nonchaloir (Repose)

Repose, John Singer Sargent
I love this for that fabulous dress. As always.

The National Gallery of Art has some interesting information including this tidbit.
The woman in Repose is Sargent's niece, Rose–Marie Ormond. In keeping with his newfound preference for informal figure studies, Sargent did not create a traditional portrait; rather, he depicted Rose–Marie as a languid, anonymous figure absorbed in poetic reverie. The reclining woman, casually posed in an atmosphere of elegiac calm and consummate luxury, seems the epitome of nonchalance—the painting's original title. Sargent seems to have been documenting the end of an era, for the lingering aura of fin–de–siècle gentility and elegant indulgence conveyed in Repose would soon be shattered by massive political and social upheaval in the early 20th century.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Worth a Thousand Words: Looking Glass Rock

Looking Glass Rock
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
Isn't this splendid? Be sure to click through on the link so you can see it full size.

Valerie says:
Rising to 3,969 feet, Looking Glass Rock is comprised of exposed Whiteside granite that was formed approximately 390 million years ago. Geologists refer to it as a "pluton," a big ball of granitic rock that would have become a volcano had it not cooled before it reached the earth's surface. The name "Looking Glass" is derived from its appearance when rainwater freezes on its surface and reflects the sun like a mirror.
I can only imagine how breathtaking it would be to see that view in person, with all the surrounding sounds and scents and the breeze on your skin.

A Fine Fount of Admonition

This was not the first time that Mr. Bulstrode had begun by admonishing Mr. Vincy, and had ended by seeing a very unsatisfactory reflection of himself in the coarse unflattering mirror which that manufacturer's mind presented to the subtler lights and shadows of fellow-men; and perhaps his experience ought to have warned him how the scene would end. But a full-fed fountain will be generous with its waters even in the rain, when they are worse than useless; and a fine fount of admonition is apt to be equally irrepressible.
George Eliot, Middlemarch
It's easy to think of Middlemarch as all serious but there are little bits of humor scattered throughout.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Solemnity of Christ the King

It's the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year — so are we ready for Christ the King?

Here's a repost which I always enjoy reading every year. I hope you do too!

As the visions during the night continued,
I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14
Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, secularism was rising, and many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ's authority and existence, as well as the Church's power to continue Christ's authority. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed. In fact, it is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but instead have worsened.
I was surprised when I looked through my archives and didn't see any comments about the Solemnity of Christ the King. Perhaps that is because I haven't really appreciated it much until over the past year. That is partly because one can only absorb so much at a time and although I converted in 2000, that is not really such a long time ago.

It also signals an internal conversion, which we all undergo in one way or another for our entire lives. I recently caught myself saying, "His majesty" and meaning God. That made me happy for two reasons, the first of which was because I never understood how St. Teresa of Avila could be somewhat sassy to God and still call him "His majesty" ... and now I did understand that much more.

The second because I feel much more that I am a daughter of the king. That would anyone happy, wouldn't it? To discover that they come from royalty, albeit a royalty that reigns in order to render humble service. Certainly I feel I have a bit better understanding of my place in the scheme of things overall and my gradually deepening relationship with my king who rules through love.

The above image of Christ the King comes from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. I was captivated when I discovered it. The strength and confidence of this image of Christ fills me with joy. For a discussion of the symbolism included, read Msgr. Charles Pope's piece Awesome or Awful? Here's a sample:
... let’s look a little closer at Christ’s face (at Left). Look closely at his eyes. Notice that the one on the right (from our perspective) is more rounded and serene than the one on the left that is narrower and piercing. Notice also that the right eyebrow is more arched and peaceful and the one on the left angled and downward in a severe look. Now take your hand and cover the left side of the face and see that he is more serene and then cover the right side of the face and see that he is severe. This is very common in Eastern Iconography which likes to present both the Justice and Mercy of God on the face of Christ. It is subtle but it is meant to be otherwise we’d have a weird looking face. On the Day of Judgement there will be mercy seen by those who have shown mercy and severe justice to those who have been severe (Mat 5:7; Mat 7:2; James 2:13) for Justice and mercy are alike with him (cf Sirach 5:7). Looking into his eyes I am reminded of the stunning text from Hebrews which says of Christ: No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Heb 4:13)
This solemnity is also the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday begins Advent and the new liturgical year for the Church. That means gospel readings on Sunday will generally be from the Gospel of Mark.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Ginkgo Trees in Hyanggyo

 Ginkgo Trees in Hyanggyo

I recently discovered there is a tall and lovely Ginko tree one block over from us. I'd always admired the never-failing golden foliage in the fall but never stopped to examine the leaves. When I drove my mother by to see it, her attention to detail (especially where plants are involved) allowed her to identify it within a minute. I was astonished. I always thought of Ginko trees as being something exclusively Chinese, or more generally Asian. Perhaps they had a few in California? But now the sheer exotic nature of this tree makes it even lovelier to me.

No Room to Swing a Cat

Mrs. Crupp had indignantly assured him that there wasn't room to swing a cat there; but, as Mr. Dick justly observed to me, sitting down on the foot of the bed, nursing his leg, "You know, Trotwood, I don't want to swing a cat. I never do swing a cat. Therefore, what does that signify to ME!"
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Dickens has some of the most amusing characters and dialogue of anyone. Not an original observation, of course, but he continually cracks me up.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Carmen Navale - Think of Christ and echo him

With sweat and blood and Blackwood pine
We laid her keel and faired her lines
Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring

With her keel tight-caulked she swims right well
Let torrents fall and wild gusts swell
Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring

The tempests howl, the storms dismay
But manly strength can win the day
Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring

For clouds and squalls will soon pass on
And victory lies with work well done
Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring

Hold fast! Survive! And all is well
You've suffered worse, He'll calm this swell
Heave, lads, and let the echoes ring

Satan acts to tire the brain
And by temptation souls are slain
Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him

With fixed resolve we scorn the foe
With virtues armed we pray and row
Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him

The king of virtues vowed a prize
For him who wins, for him who tries
Think, lads, of Christ and echo Him

Mashup of 2 translations: Tony Krogh, Anglandicus
I discovered this prayer in The Path of Celtic Prayer by Calvin Miller. However, the book didn't have the whole thing, as I discovered when I went looking for a version to copy into this post. This is going into my quote journal.

For those who don't know Columbanus was an early Irish missionary who traveled through Europe with his brother monks, evangelizing on the way. He viewed life as a pilgrimage and wrote this song which reflects that idea so well. I can see it in my mind's eye, the boat of men singing a call and response maybe, the crashing waves, the serious struggle accompanied by the joy of triumph making it upstream.
Journeying up the Rhine in 610, Columbanus and his disciples supposedly chanted his famous ‘boat song’. One can almost hear the Irish monks dig their oars into the Rhine’s formidable current as they struggle upstream. The poem compares the surging storm waters with the trials and struggles of the Christian life. Columbanus sees the tempests and storms of life overcome by the one who is in Christ. He frequently used the analogy of storms at sea as a picture for hardship and trials.

Columbanus embarking, by an unknown artist

Wild Turkeys

A flock of wild tom turkeys

 These fellows are safe from me. We're strictly consumers of domesticated turkeys. But I like seeing them in the wild.

In Thankfulness on This Day

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914

 Have a blessed day with your families as we enjoy the many riches God has bestowed on us. I truly have so much to be thankful for, much more than I could list here, which fall under the broad categories of God, Catholic Church, family, country, and friends (because that corny stuff is also the real stuff of life).

Here is something I have posted every Thanksgiving. I like seeing what Abraham Lincoln had in mind for the holiday (before I go dive into that turkey, pie, and football). I'll be off the computer until Monday.

So without further ado, I present to you ...

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Baking the Bread

Baking the Bread, Anders Zorn, 1889
See this? That's me today.

Ok, not literally. Thank goodness I've got an enclosed oven for one thing. But I'm cook, cook, cookin' the day away preparing the Thanksgiving feast. Pies, side dishes, rolls. So much cooking, with something new this year. My son-in-law is going to deep fry the turkey. I am extremely interested to see how it turns out.

Rose and I have done this together enough times that it is like a ballet as we skirt each other cooking, remembering timing and tips to each other, and listen to very American music — per Rose, this means bluegrass. I like bluegrass fine but I also like to put some jazz in there. And Aaron Copeland, George Gershwin, and (most lately) William Grant Still whose first symphony (titled "Afro American Symphony") combines the feel of both Copeland and Gershwin to be very all-American.

Talk about a fun way to get Thanksgiving dinner ready.

Thanksgiving Jokes

A little something to get us ready for the big day. These are corny but they make me laugh every time.
Why can’t you take a turkey to church?
Because they use such FOWL language!

What kind of key can’t open any doors?
A turkey.

What always comes at the end of Thanksgiving?
The G

Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
The outside

Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chicken's day off

What are the feathers on a turkey's wings called?
Turkey feathers

What's the best dance to do on Thanksgiving?
The turkey trot

Can a turkey jump higher than the Empire State Building?
Yes - a building can't jump at all

What do you get when you cross a turkey with an octopus?
Enough drumsticks for Thanksgiving

How can you make a turkey float?
You need 2 scoops of ice cream, some root beer, and a turkey

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Turkey - the Word of the Week

 I've mentioned Word & Song before — here's my review. I was so surprised by what Anthony Esolen said about turkeys being in a Shakespeare play 20 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock that I wanted to share this part. Read it all here.

... there’s our Word of the Week, turkey, in a play [Twelfth Night] that was written almost twenty years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth, and before they celebrated a late-autumn Thanksgiving with great roasted turkeys! Is it the same bird? Where did it come from? Why is it called a turkey?

As best we can figure, it was the same bird or close to it, brought into Europe and Asia by Spanish traders. It quickly became a favorite — after all, you’d much prefer a big fat turkey to a skinny goose or stork. But it got to England by a circuitous route: from India, where the Spanish took it, and Madagascar, and thence to the country called Turkey, after the people, the Turks, who ruled there. The Turks themselves called the bird hindi, meaning that it came from India, and that’s also why in French it was called poulet d’Inde, Indian chicken — giving us modern French dindon. In Italy, they call it tacchino, probably imitating a tak-tak-tak gobble. If you think that’s odd, in Persia you may call it either korus e-hendi, Indian chicken, or booghalamoon — again, for the gobble. In any case, if you were living in London in Shakespeare’s time, you might well have the popular turkey as your Christmas feast.

So when the Pilgrims came to Massachusetts, imagine their surprise when they saw wild turkeys galumphing about, fattened on local walnuts and beech nuts and hazels and apples! They’d have known from experience what to do with those birds. We’ve got flocks of them where we live now, in New Hampshire, and one winter’s day they gathered, about two dozen, around a crabapple tree in the neighbor’s yard, craning their necks and hopping from the ground to snatch the fruits, yes, hopping, because they were too heavy for the branches, especially the toms.

Memorial — Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary, Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

If you were to ask me how the Most Holy Virgin spent the time of Her youth, I would answer that that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, Her constant guardian. — St. Jerome

The quote above is found on tons of Eastern Orthodox sites, all within the same homily that has been copied from place to place — and with no attribution for St. Jerome's quote. So it is probably too apt to be something St. Jerome actually said. However, it does reflect my feelings about knowing details about the Virgin Mary's childhood which I discovered "everyone knows" after I became Catholic. The tale of her miraculous birth, "presentation" to the Temple, and similar details come from a 2nd century apocryphal book which has been rejected by the Church, The Protoevangelium of James.

Today's feast is associated with an event from the Protoevangelium that Mary's parents brought her as a child they brought her to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. Later versions say that Mary was taken to the Temple to live at around the age of three to fulfill a vow. 

Did that happen? Who knows? Despite  that, there is a good reason to care about this feast day.

St. Luke is notably diligent in examining all the sources that can offer personal information concerning the people he describes. In the case of Mary's childhood, however, he omits any mention of specific facts. Our Lady most probably never mentioned anything about her earliest years, since there would be very little in them of extraordinary interest ...

The feast we celebrate today does not have its origin in the Gospel, but in ancient tradition. The Church, however, does not accept the fictitious narrative that supposes Our Lady to have lived in the Temple under a vow of virginity from the time she was a young maiden. But the essential basis of today's feast is firm — the personal oblation that the Blessed Mother made to the Lord during her early youth. She was moved by the Holy Spirit to consecrate her life to God, who filled her with grace from the first moment of her conception. Mary's complete dedication was efficacious, and continued to grow as her life went on. Her example moves us not to withhold anything in our own life of dedication to the Lord. ...

Our Lady was moved by a special grace of the Holy Spirit to commit her entire life to God. Perhaps she made the decision just as she reached the age of reason, a mile-stone in any life and a moment that must have been particularly significant for a person as full of grace as Mary was. Maybe the Blessed Virgin naever mae a formal declaration of her commitment to God, but was simply accustomed from the beginning of her life to living her dedication in a natural way. ...

Today is a good opportunity — as every day is — to renew our own dedication  to the Lord in the midst of our daily duties, in the specific situation in which God has placed us.

Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Special Feasts: July-December