Tuesday, December 27, 2011
But this sibyl, whether she is the Erythræan, or, as some rather believe, the Cumæan, in her whole poem, of which this is a very small portion, not only has nothing that can relate to the worship of the false or feigned gods, but rather speaks against them and their worshippers in such a way that we might even think she ought to be reckoned among those who belong to the city of God.... 

 City of God, Book XVIII: Chapter 23, St. Augustine of Hippo

Last week, the snow had at long last fallen on Warszawa, an event that all of us living here had blessed. The very existence of the snowflake--that marvellous miracle of a thing both compacted in a solid state yet expanded in mass--is a sign of the wild generosity of God's indefatigable love. As man grows colder and more steeped in sin, the grace He lets fall on us does not contract into itself, but explodes in the kind of wild abandon that only the maddest love stoops to.

Earlier this month however, indeed all through dusky Advent, we have been blessed with rain. Many have been the eventides when we could lift up our faces to the chill, falling mist and cry out in ecstasy: 'Rorate cæli desuper, et nubes pluant justum!' And that blessed damp put me in mind of a certain prophetess who, though not in the books of Holy Writ, is counted blessed by Tradition:

 Judgment shall moisten the earth with the sweat of its standard,
 Ever enduring, behold the King shall come through the ages,
    Sent to be here in the flesh, and Judge at the last of the world...

Did he who penned the blessed hymn draw inspiration from the prophecy of the Erythræan Sybil? How uncanny is both their mention of the dew, which lay so long of the grass this month, before silvering into frost.

When blessed Simeon took the Christ Child in his arms, he lifted up his face and cried: 

Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared in the sight of every people: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. Luke II: 29-32

There are so many ways to read, 'in the sight of every people', but when one contemplates the Gentile forerunners of the Messiah, one cannot help but think that here the priest was at least in part acknowledging the universal preparation the world had received for the coming of its Saviour.

Such a catholic expectation in the world is for many proof of this anticipation's validity. Yet, the objection of the naysayer assails this bastion as it does all others. The gauntlet hurled here is that the universal wish recorded of so many peoples was merely one of wishful thinking. The Messiah was just the name given by Hebrews to a man who would draw humanity from the miserable depths into which it had fallen, and the certainty that he would be in part a god was a necessary conjecture for the remedy of such a sad state. Concerning the details so eerily resembling the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ, this pat dismissal is often proferred:

The Christ idea is older than the story of Jesus, and the latter was edited and re-edited until it incorporated all the features of the former and so met the requirements of the age. 

Virgil's Prophecy on the Saviour's Birth, Chapter I: The Christ-Ideal and the Golden Age, Paul Carus  (32)

Now such an assertion carries the burden of proof, but the creativity of modern historians does not often never restrict its assertions to those based on positive evidence when it may opine scenarios that confirm the bias of the thinker. As to believers, it is not the inclination of a lover to merely ignore accusations hurled against the beloved, but to eviscerate them. And a true member of Christ's Church is--first and last--His lover.

The first kink in Carus's armour in particular is his inconsistency. On the one hand, he says that the true story of Christ (to which he is somehow privy) has been schewed. Yet, earlier in his work, he not only objected to Christian appropriation of pagan Messianic prophecies, but Judaic ones as well with the claim: 'The Christian interpretation has been superimposed and does violence to the message.' (ibid., 1) Which has been altered then? The prophecy or the fulfillment? On the one hand, the scholar finds the Gospel revelations of Christ's life compelling enough to uphold the catholic Messiah's mantle, and on the other hand he doesn't. 

However, the above point is merely a barb slung against this work in particular, and not the larger argument. Any skeptic may choose one position (violence has been done to the prophecies in applying the Gospels) or the other (violence has been done to the Gospels in applying them to the prophecies) and remain internally consistent.

Carus's first real argument is that rampant warring and weak economies were spread far enough over the ancient world to create a universal longing for a strong leader to save mankind from himself. No inspiration from the Holy Spirit would be required to instill such a wish in the hearts of man. Certain aspects of this Saviour, e.g., that he be divine in some way or even subjected to adversity follow reasonably enough from that. Thus, these aspects of Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, the Sybil's prophecy, or the many fore-tellings of the Old Testament are not sufficient to convince one of their credibility or even to link them to the tale of Jesus Christ.

A fellow student of mine once said in school that if he were to prophesy and give as a token to the people the following sign for his veracity: 'Tomorrow the sun shall rise!' then even the most gullible zealot would lift an eyebrow. For a cult to spring from the seed of prophecy, there must be some sign to indicate that it has been fulfilled. For a cult to achieve the immense success accorded to the might Roman Catholic Church, this sign or signs must have been above reproach in the eyes of many--fierce and dynamic and able to possess the hearts of the fierce and dynamic.

Yet, Carus (and many with him) contest that the Faith which brought forth all the martyrs, crusaders, poets, thinkers, and artists who have etched the mark of Christ into the face of the world forever, need not have come from a very earth-shattering force. This Church was going to happen at that particular phase in history, and it need not have been a Christian one:

Christianity, or a religion such as Christianity, would have originated even if Jesus had never existed...in all essentials, in doctrine as well as in moral ideas, we would have had the same religion. (27)

The ability of a modern to thinker to form such bold projections is staggering. By what rational means could anyone justify saying that the church founded by a Buddha or a 'Brahman Avatar' or a madman from Mecca would be exactly the same in its identity, even down to its moral code? Where is the positive proof of this? Alas, Carus has shown himself again to be rather creative, but not exactly reasonable.

So having erected chimerical, alternate Vaticans alongside the real one, using nothing but the sand of conjecture and imagination, Carus proceeds to dismiss the evidence he does have: human nature and the testimony of the first Christians.

He posits that Jesus of Nazareth was honoured with the laurels of the Christ, where emperors and warriors failed miserably, because he appealed to the sick in His poor life and death, as well as to fanatics like Saul of Tarsus. Human nature would take issue with the first point. The downtrodden do not habitually idolize their fellow downtrodden members simply for sharing their lot. They  either pity them or take advantage of them. Nor do the oppressed do not fall in line with revolutionaries until they are desperate, and if their revolution fails, with the leaders hung ignominiously on gibbets, the effect would be disillusionment, not encouragement.

It would be surprising then that a man who merely comforted the sick and the weak with words should become the leader of the religion 'of women and slaves' unless He had worked miracles amongst them, had indeed cured the blind, sick and, lame brought unto Him. Do Carus, et al., submit that this is a later appendage to the Gospels? How on earth could Jesus Christ have gained enough prominence to be considered for the Messianic role without these signs?

As to the manipulation of zealots who seized upon Christ's story, the moderns here must here accuse them of being deliberately disingenuous. Carus attempts to dismiss without defaming St. Paul in saying that he was honestly self-deluded:

Paul's converion consisted simply in the idea that came upon him like a flash of lightning, that all of his conceptions of Christ could be applied to Jesus, that the majesty of his divine nature was well set forth in his deepest humiliation, his death on the cross... (25)

Carus is ungenerous to St. Luke, in completely dismissing not only the miracle of St. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, but also the evangelist's account of St. Paul's beliefs and characters before his conversion, namely that he had persecuted the faithful, and had even held the coats of St. Stephen's murderers.

Secondly, Carus does great injustice to St. Paul's own account of how he came to believe and to the rationality of every Christian alive. While we have come to adore and even to be sentimental about the kenosis of the Christ--His low birth and dolorous passion--we have not forgotten that it is a paradox:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 
(I Corinthians I: 23-25)

In the sweet, loving depictions of the Nativity, devoted Christians do not forget the difficulties of Our Lady in trying to keep Jesus clean and comfortable in a barn, or the humiliation of St. Joseph in that he could not find a decent place to stay for the two precious ones in his charge. It must have been disconcerting, too, when a band of rough men, perhaps reaking a bit of sheep and spirits, came hammering on the stable door wanting to see the precious Babe.

Compare this with the infant that Virgil himself had in mind, or the emperor that former Magi worshipped. Even Buddha was an earthly prince, and if he was harried, his dignity was never violated. No, in purely human eyes, the life of Jesus Christ, King of the Jews, was as a much a joke as the inscription on the cross.

Then why has Christ conquered in death? And why, even in the tide of materialism and competing idols, does Christmas reign as the most prominent feast of the year? To understand this, one must see not with carnal eyes, but with the eyes of the spirit, like those of the far-sighted Erythræan.

It must be obvious to the faithful that the Virgin had such vision, as she revealed to Venerable Mary of Agreda. In the latter's transcription, The Mystical City of God, Our Lady, on entering the cave of Bethlehem, at once perceived that the hard stones on which she would deliver the Christ reflected the hearts of the city's inhabitants that had not opened to her and St. Joseph, and that the greater the deprivation of this moment, the more glorious favours it would procure throughout the history of mankind. Already our intercessor, she set about cleansing the stable to make it as ready for Our Lord as she could. St. Joseph immediately followed her example.

Later, he took his rest at the entrance of the stable, having gained at last spiritual consolation in the face of their worldly discomfort, while for the Virgin, the veil of this world was brushed aside and she beheld Divinity. Grasping the Incarnation with an understanding beyond our own comprehension, she gave birth with no violence done to her body or virginity. She beheld the first transfiguration of the Lord, and great were the affectionate sentiments that passed betwixt herself and her infant Son, many formerly echoed in the Canticle of Canticles by Solomon. With this intense love, Hope at last came into the world.

Because man is free, because he walks by Faith and not by sight, there will always be room for doubt. The limbs of every skeptical argument may be hacked off, but the trunk shall always remain, ready to generate more. While on this feast we exult in the univeral anticipation of the Messiah, and it but waxes our admiration for the wisdom of God in His predestination of events, this will not silence those who do not wish to believe. Ultimately, the only certainty shall be for those who do not merely hear the prophets' words, but gaze at the horizon to which they gesture. No one shall realized the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of the Erythræan's words, until they see Christ through her eyes.

   ...O God, the believing and faithless alike shall behold You
   Uplifted with saints, when at last the ages are ended...


Thursday, December 8, 2011
A Sororal Warning to Fellow Thomists: This rather anecdotal post delves into matters almost entirely consisting of poetic knowledge, relying on intuition and immediate appeals to common sense often bereft of syllogisms. May produce eye-rolling and groans in many Aristotelians.

This essay was born in September, where so many times in that month, I saw Father Krzysztof mount the steps to the altar in his samite fiddleback, embroidered with a lush depiction of the Immaculate Conception in swirling robes of white and blue. The Scriptural verses which speak of her and the hymns dedicated to her had resounded throughout St. Clement Church, as the congregation admired the intercessor for both the weak and the strong. And even as she intercedes for us, does she not also soften many who claim to hate God? And can we of the West ever deny that devotion to her moulded the chivalry to which the best of its people yet cling? 

However, has that chivalry (whether cultivated in men or expected by women) occasionally gone too far in elevating women in general for the sake of the Virgin Mother? So far that even men of good will have given up the practice? In the rather insipid (but otherwise inoffensive) hymn, 'Gentle Woman,' there is a verse which is apt to make any member of the male 'species' roll his eyes:

Blessed are you among women 
Blessed in turn all women too  

'So estrogen can make you holy?' one priest wrote on his blog concerning that very line. While I agree with him concerning the puffed-up, anti-masculine sentiment the song implies, I winced at his language. Was he reducing womanhood to the hormones and chemicals that govern the characteristics of what it is physically to be female? Whether it is fitting for men to speak of their manhood in such a way is a matter that men must settle, but civilized instinct indicates that just as the reproductive organs of a woman are veiled within her flesh, so should her womanhood be veiled in discourse.

However, the flesh is fallen, and is it not wrong to put a sinful creature on a pedestal? For whether purer than man or not, she is fallen, and eaten up with her peculiar tendencies towards vice. Perhaps attendance at church is mostly made up of women, but when women take control of the liturgy, does it not often give way to hysteria, irreverence, or even spiritual prostitution? Priestesses have always been either possessed virgins or temple harlots, and they had one unifying principle: they were vessels for either gods or demons, not promoters of morality or ethics. More importantly, they were not 'givers of sacred things' as the sacerdotal title would imply. The postmodern, ahistorical attempt to revive paganism only confirms that notion.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore, it would seem that no human being in a yet unbeatified state is to be venerated.

Sed Contra, the Gospels do not encourage us to judge. Christian tradition is to esteem one's self as the lowest of the low, which is really the only logical thing to do, for true self-knowledge will always give us cause for improvement. A traditional Catholic justly possesses the lowest opinion of the practice of taking Holy Communion in the hand, but he may not regard the Catholic who even carelessly drops the Host as less virtuous than he. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta says that one learns humility through humiliation. Elevating others at one's own expense can be a very good practice for cultivating that virtue.

Even Aristotle, who could not have foreseen the paradoxical and supernatural demands of Christian ethics, observed that a man possessed of one vice, must sometimes adopt the practice of the opposite vice in order to rescue himself from his own disposition. Alcoholics must become teatotallers, and those who have too severly abused their sexuality may have to practice celibacy for the duration of their lives. Praxis often entails actions not directly following from our rational code in order to produce the proper balance in the soul. 

Does this argument then justify idealizing the 'fair sex'? Either physically or spiritually? Alas, now one must delve into the mucky world of experience and instances.

I was six years old when watching a film where the heroine was said to be able 'to tread on cobwebs without breaking them.' I was ten years old when I began reading books in which the fair maidens almost universally could laugh 'like a silvery peal of music.' 'Really?' I wondered in genuine puzzlement, 'and I thought one was doing well not to sound like a braying ass when laughing heartily.' At fourteen, I came across a novel where the lady had sweet breath even after eating fish. It was not difficult to find similar hyperbolæ regarding their lovely and irresistible characters. By the time one is a teenager though, such metaphors and descriptions are a bit ridiculuous.

One's feelings towards glorifying the feminine, as in the examples cited above, do serve to steer a girl down the path of either the lady or the feminist, and a boy, down that of the gentleman or just simply, the male. 

I turned abruptly about face from the path of feminism at age thirteen for two reasons: the horrific moral evils the movement promotes, (e.g. abortion) and the fact that the major tenet of feminism is that women ought not to be expected to behave better than men. Females would no longer be martyrs in the home, and they would certainly not provide men with the example of spiritual submission, as St. Paul instructed them to. A wife to act as her husband's gentle counsellor? His conscience? No, indeed! 

I will feel equality has arrived when we can elect to office women who are as incompetent as some of the men who are already there. _Maureen Reagan

Only the modern era could produce a movement that would proudly espouse practical and moral evils as the fruits of its labours. No, a woman often does better in the role of Pontius Pilate's wife than that of Pilate himself.

Not to throw an ad hominem spear in the direction of feminists, but it seems all too often that they never learned to gently laugh at some of those poetic exagerrations mentioned above or to appreciate their sisters to whom these sayings were applied. Bitterness that one has not been worshipped as those women were worshipped is not good ground for any kind of ideology. There is a much better route to take.

Charles Dickens noted that there is a moral beauty which 'only exists in woman': that she is capable of loving in another that which she herself has never possessed. Women who dote on their lovelier, more talented, or more virtuous friends and sisters are examples of this. That affectionate, selfless virtue contra the vice of misogynistic, female envy are the two forces that form the feminine dichotomy between those who love the old notions of exalted womanhood and those who hate it.

And what of men who refuse to put women on a pedestal? As with feminists, there is occasionally an element of anger, though it might just as often arise from indifference. 

Concerning anger, it is not seemly in a man to growl on hearing a woman being praised, and anyone bearing witness to this rancour would immediately assume one of two causes: disappointment in love or overbearing women in his family. Neither of these are worthy things on which to base one's conduct.

As to indifference in men? That is another thing, especially concerning Eros, when one accepts the tenet that only what is truly known is truly loved. Ergo, 'love is blind' is patently false. A lady professor of mine once made the case that Shakespeare's sonnet, 130, in which he rather degrades the form and demeanour of his mistress, was a beautiful expression of realistic love. 

Yet, there was not one female or male in the class bereft of an arched eyebrow. While indeed it would be folly for the Bard to have painted 'roses damask'd' in his lover's cheeks when there were none, the subjectivity of love should have moved him to like her face as it was. Have not men who had always loved sapphire eyes turned their preference to emerald orbs on falling in love with a green-eyed woman?

Leaving aside romance however, perhaps indifference is more justified on the rational scale? After all, one cannot and should not be as devoted to all people as one is to one's spouse. Why should a man rise from his chair, because a skirted creature entered the room or kiss a hand because the owner is female? Why should he curb his language or speak more delicately just because a woman is in earshot? Why is she due any of his particular homage simply because she is the daughter of that first one who was made from a rib?

The answer is that (as science has even proven and continues to prove) the differences between men and women are indeed as psychically entrenched as they are physically. Placing the two genders in the natural world, without the artificial constructions of the postmodern order, woman is still a remarkable thing. She may not be as strong as man, but she is built to endure more, both in stamina of labour and in pain. She is eminently practical and useful, and in beayty, she is the climax of the symphony of Creation. Woman is the last thing God made, and He made her from the best of matter--the flesh and bone of a rational creature. 

Moving the argument again into the civilized realm where her beauty initially inspires poetry of the giddiest (and perhaps silliest) order, woman must also take up the more mundane duties of the home: 

It takes a woman all powdered and pink 
To joyously clean out the drain in the sink 
And it takes an angel with long golden lashes 
And soft dresden fingers 
For dumping the ashes... (Hello Dolly)

There is another paradox in woman that while she may inspire abstract ideals, she is often more fond of what is concrete. At least until some modernist gets a hold of her, women are more realistic than men:

Women are the only realists; their whole object in life is to pit their realism against the extravagant, excessive, and occasionally drunken idealism of men. _G. K. Chesterton

To inspire idealism and to ground the world in realism. What better alloy could there be in the metal of any creature?

It is in such an attitude as Chesterton's, romantic rationality, that allows one to see things in truth. To see something 'in truth' is farther than the seeming 'reality' of how it is and nearer than the chimeric ideal of how it ought to be. Balancing on the slender thread of this paradox allows one to pass over the offenses of a coarse, shrewish woman and treat every female as if she were a lady--to see Dulcinea in even the coarsest concierge. 

When a man moulds his thoughts and acts in this way, he works for the defeat of extreme feminism. For he renders unto women the appreciation they are not allowed to seek. The trials and sufferings of womanhood can only find their glory in silence. Whereas men are allowed to exalt in their victories, and society pays public homage to their entrance into manhood, a girl who takes up the burdens of womanhood must discreetly pass over the details. The male sex must take the female rite of passage for granted. If it does not, the postmodern era has shown us that women who are indignant enough will degrade themselves and their sisters by dragging womanliness and all its secrets into the public eye.

Such is the necessity of chivalry in man. In woman, it cultivates the attitude that will not only lead her towards striving for sainthood, but to secure the same for the men about her. When she says, 'I must act in this way, because it is the proper sphere of my sex. I must do this humble thing, because it is not a man's province. I must bear this suffering quietly because of Eve's curse. I must bend, because I am woman, and the Lord has asked this of me,' she steps on the head of the serpent that lured our first mother from her throne.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I sing of a maiden
     That is makeles;
King of all kings
     To her Son she ches.

He came all so still
     Where His mother was,
As dew in April
     That falleth on the grass.

He came all so still
     To His Mother's bower,
As dew in April
     That falleth on the flower.

He came all so still
     There His mother lay,
As dew in April
     That falleth on the spray.

Mother and maiden
     Was never none but she;
Well may such a lady
     Goddes mother be.

(06). Mediaeval Baebes - I Sing Of A Maiden

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Monday, November 28, 2011
And when the king came back out of the garden set with trees, and entered into the place of the banquet, he found Aman was fallen upon the bed on which Esther lay, and he said: He will force the queen also in my presence, in my own house. The word was not yet gone out of the king's mouth, and immediately they covered his face. And Harbona, one of the eunuchs that stood waiting on the king, said: Behold the gibbet which he hath prepared for Mardochai...And the king said to him: Hang him upon it. So Aman was hanged on the gibbet...and the king's wrath ceased. (Esther VII: 8-10)

Queen Esther observed in prayer, before she went before her lord, king, and husband's face, that the threat against the Jews had been visited upon them as punishment for sin. Great then had been her personal mortification before she undertook to save her people. Likewise, she demanded fasting and weeping from them, before she ventured to beg Artaxerxes to spare the lives of the Israelites.

Father Augustyn Kordecki, and later King Jan Kazimierz, made the same observation concerning the Swedish 'Deluge' (1655-1660), the former ascribing that chastisement to the sins of Poland's people, and the latter to the crimes of her rulers. His majesty spoke these words after he had crowned the Virgin as his nation's queen:

As I see, to the great sorrow of my soul, that all the adversities which have fallen upon my Kingdom in the last seven years—the epidemics, the wars, and other misfortunes—were sent by the Supreme Judge as a punishment for the groans and the oppression suffered by the peasants, I promise and vow, after the conquest of peace, in union with all the states, to use all means to free my people from all unjust burdens and oppressions. Grant, Oh most loving Queen and Lady, that I obtain the grace of Thy Son to do all that I propose, and which Thou hast inspired me! (Memoirs of the Siege of Częstochowa, Augustyn Kordecki, C. S. P., translated by Plinio Correa de Oliveira)

This noble resolution was most wisely entrusted to Our Lady's keeping. After all, it had been the miraculous survival of her shrine that had turned the tide of the war in Poland's favour. 

Yet, while the great men living through this fiery era beat their breasts for their own sins and prepared to save their fatherland with mortification and repentence, the enemy were unwittingly blunting their own swords by committing iniquities themselves. Like Nabuchodonozor's warrior, Holofernes of the Book of Judith, General Burchard Müller, might have fared better in his campaign against the Catholics of Poland if he had had his own Achior to warn him thusly: 

Wheresoever they went in without bow and arrow, and without shield and sword, their God fought for them and overcame. And there was no one that triumphed over this people, but when they departed from the worship of the Lord their God. But as often as beside their own God, they worshipped any other, they were given to spoil, and to the sword, and to reproach. And as often as they were penitent for having revolted from the worship of their God, the God of heaven gave them power to resist. (Judith V: 16-19)

Alas for him, the general's religious sect had ousted that book from Holy Scripture, so he could not profit from its wisdom.  Making the same mistake as General Holofernes, he sallied forth in contempt of the Church still revered in Poland, even referring to the shrine he wished to capture as a 'henhouse.' History would soon turn him into another proof that God is not mocked, and only a fool spits on His beloved.

Still, no one could call him unreasonable for expecting the surrender of a single, Polish fortress (and a monastic one at that) when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had already buckled under the Swedish invasion. And did he not go about the siege with the greatest of human wisdom? Did he not send Polish, Catholic aristocrats and even old friends to treat with those stubborn Paulines? Did he not offer them the hope of preserving their monastery if they would yield? Did he not cajole them not once, but eleven times? One of these emissaries even begged Father Kordecki to give in by threatening the defenders of Jasna Góra with damnation: 

...the aim of a religious order is to abstain from temporal matters. What do you have to do with the turbulence of war, you whose rules call you to solitude and silence. Ponder it well, lest the arms which you brandish instead of your Rosaries, carry you to perdition…. (ibid.)

Yet, though the Polish king was a refugee in Silesia, the nobles had surrendered to the invaders, and all tactical and technical prospects of defending the Bright Mountain were bleak, Father Kordecki was driven by one fierce determination--no one who despised Our Lady would stain her sanctuary with his impious feet.

His staunch defiance cannot be justified or condemned in the light of human reason. The probability of clemency on the part of the Swedes would have been a matter for diviners, not logicians. Though defeat was certain, stalling for time in the face of capitulating to an unendurable peace possessed its own wordly wisdom. In the end, surrender is always a gamble, and choosing one side of a coin is not mad.

Can the priest be condemned on religious grounds then? Was the nobleman correct in admonishing him against taking such an active stance on what must in the end be a secular affair--the identity of one's sovereign?

There can be no doubt that fire for one's homeland and the principles of natural pride consumed many of the hearts defending Jasna Góra's walls. But the motto carved above so many portals in Polska is Bóg, Honor, i Ojczyzna. When some of the monks complained against Father Augustyn that it was for God's providence to determine the fate of kings and sovereigns, he did not dispute this fact, but made a new argument:

“…what Faith is ours,” he bellowed, “what love, what gratitude to God Who is so generous to us—that such small damage to our earthly comforts is able to turn us away from the guard and protection of the chest containing the celestial treasures of the eternal King? Let us consider that it is far more prudent for us to defend the integrity of the House of God, the Holy Faith and at the same time our own liberties, than for us to lose all and, in addition, to go into exile and eternal slavery.” (ibid.)

There would be no trust given to the devil, nor a chance for him to commit defamation. This resolve, united with hopeful reports of the king, does much to justify the Pauline's reason, but the feeling remains that there was also something--rather someone--else, who would not allow him to give in. As with Ozias, the Israelite ruler of Bethulia, this someone was very likely a woman.

When Holofernes lay siege to the above-mentioned city, the inhabitants (like those sheltered in the monastery) did not religiously apostatize as they became parched with thirst. Separating their earthly state from their eternal duties, they argued for capitulation on different grounds:

For it is better, that being captives we should live and bless the Lord, than that we should die, and be a reproach to all flesh, after we have seen our wives and our infants die before our eyes. We call to witness this day heaven and earth, and the God of our fathers, who taketh vengeance upon us according to our sins, conjuring you to deliver now the city into the hand of the army of Holofernes, that our end may be short by the edge of the sword, which is made longer by the drought of thirst...

and their ruler, Ozias, was prepared to give in:

 Ozias rising up all in tears, said: Be of good courage, my brethren, and let us wait these five days for mercy from the Lord. For perhaps he will put a stop to his indignation, and will give glory to his own name. But if after five days be past there come no aid, we will do the things which you leave spoken.
(Judith VII 16-17, 23-25)

In the modern world, with its restive field of free choice, we so often forget what our individual duties are or if we have any at all. What is explicitly holy or evil is taught to us and inscribed on our hearts, but the things we owe to God and the world as ourselves is a thing we hardly ever stop to consider. Living life according to the universal virtues, it does not often occur to the modern thinker that what is allowed for him, may not be permitted another man or that the reverse may be true.

Hence, while such a resolution as Ozias's is not objectively impious, and a Christian state of today may even be permittied it, it was wrong. The matter was apparent for the noblewoman Judith:

And who are you that tempt the Lord? This is not a word that may draw down mercy, but rather that may stir up wrath, and enkindle indignation.You have set a time for the mercy of the Lord, and you have appointed him a day, according to your pleasure...And therefore let us humble our souls before him, and continuing in an humble spirit, in his service: Let us ask the Lord with tears, that according to his will so he would shew his mercy to us: that as our heart is troubled by their pride, so also we may glorify in our humility. (Judith VIII 11-13, 16-17)

Perhaps the Pauline priest was not reading Judith in his time of great trial, but he responded to a traitorous, Polish lord that came to urge his surrender with the same fire as that great lady:

“On account of former benefits which Your Excellency has conceded to this sanctuary, your life has been spared various times during this siege; but lower thy head, do not abuse the patience of God!” (ibid.)

Yes, lower thy head lest a hand mightier than Judith's sever it as she severed that of Holofernes's. It was not until after the siege, and from the mouth of enemy witnesses, that the Virgin's gallant knights learnt she had been with them all the time:

"What witch is this that is to be found in your cloister of Czestohowa, who covered with a blue mantle sallies from the cloister and walks along the walls, resting from time to time on the bastions – and whose sight makes our people drop with terror, so much so that, when she appears, we have to turn our faces to the ground and protect our eyes?" (ibid.)

However, the Poles had soldiered on by faith and not by sight. That vision which terrified the Swedes had not consoled their earthly eyes. Persevering with the sacraments without fail, honouring Our Lord without fear, and praying without ceasing had been their preservation and sweetness of spirit. In the end, it prevailed in Heaven and on earth.


“Contemplate, oh Poland of posterity, what a great benefit was conferred upon Thee by the Mother of God, whose devotion thy Apostle and martyr Saint Albert, Archbishop of Gniezno, so zealously propagated together with the Roman Catholic Faith! Follow then the holy example of thy forefathers, for, if you guard your devotion to Mary, propagate it zealously, and defend it generously, you will attract even greater mercies and become terrible to the followers of hell! Let Christendom look and admire how courageously our Queen of Heaven and earth protects Her kingdom, and how efficaciously She sends aid to Her subjects, deprived of all human help! May the angel of the armies of the Lord, guardian of Poland, deign to move the heavenly militias to pay homage together with us to the supreme majesty of God for such great benefits and may He, with His powerful hand, disperse all the enemies who ally themselves in order to eradicate from Poland devotion to the Queen of Angels!”
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Pan, why do you stop, 
and why do you stare? 
How was I to know you were standing there? 
I am come to the side of one who fell, 
Not in pomp of solemn combat, 
But murdered meanly like a rat, 
And what I sang, was but his fate to tell. 

In sooth, ‘twas you gave me the fright, 
I had thought myself alone this darkling night. 
I fear not the suffering souls, 
Who have lost all means to harm, 
Who would not e’en want the demon’s charm, 
And I hold not in the power of ghouls. 

Yet, you look askance at my soft, votive light, 
And eye sidelong this flimsy dress of white. 
As if the candle and the shift, 
Were signs of something odious. 
But endurance of cold may be pious, 
And blessed lights do misty darkness lift.

You now have placed your left foot back, 
Setting off rearward down the track. 
I'd not mind your staying, if rounding a string of beads. 
Yet, I ’m more with him below; 
Our minds contemplate what He’d bestow. 
And for soul’s perfection, my soul, like his, bleeds. 

Ach, look, you stand there still! 
Motionless too long will catch you a chill. 
Perhaps I shall, too, with my arms all bare, 
Or mayhaps you think, I feel not, 
Being parted from this fleshly, mortal lot. 
Against that thought, I’ll not urge you to declare. 

Still let this not stop the prayer on your tongue. 
One day, this communion, which you do shun,
Shall be yours wholly,
When of and with fleshless, suffering shades,
We shall love prayer and penance, the aids,
Given freely by the living and the holy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

There are many precious devotions and special traditions which the faithful have been deprived of in our ecumenical age. Some measure of this expropriation on the part of Church leaders is understandable. One appeals to an intellectual through philosophy, to a hedonist through his abhorrence of suffering, and to a Protestant through Holy Scripture, and solely that. It is indisputable that in argument, one may only appeal to authority recognized by both parties. In the case of a dispute between a Catholic and a Protestant, it is also obvious that the Catholic may not cite the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible, as the Protestant will not heed evidence from those verses.

Long years of such disputation with our separated brethren have taught Catholics how to trim their arguments, avoiding theological feats and historical observations in favour of Biblical battles, chapter for chapter and verse for verse. However, the unfortunate effect of being so long an apologist is that it may make one more apologetic. We must not forget all the wonderful treasures of our Faith that we may enjoy when not evangelizing, one amongst them being the apocrypha which is allowed by the Church and endorsed by the saints.

Such an example of this is the 'Story of St. Joseph the Carpenter.' The protective, gentle shadow, (whose
generosity and compassion causes him to stand above so many saints mentioned in the Gospels) is not often spoken of, yet those who knew Jesus through His first thirty years knew him as the Son of the carpenter. St. Joseph is the patron of departing souls, and there are many of the faithful who pity him that he could not taste Heaven immediately after his death, but had to wait for the fruition of Good Friday. I always imagined St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph as the first two souls that Christ wrenched out of Limbo when He harrowed Hell. Death must have been terrifying for that just man so keenly aware of his transgressions in an age that as yet existed without Sacraments. The apocryphal tale mentioned above relates how an angel revealed to St. Joseph the nearness of his death. Below was the prayer on his lips:

O God! Author of all consolation, God of all compassion, and Lord of the whole human race; God of my soul, body, and spirit; with supplications I reverence you, O Lord and my God. If now my days are ended, and the time draws near when I must leave this world, send me, I beseech You, the great Michael, the prince of Your holy angels: let him remain with me, that my wretched soul may depart from this afflicted body without trouble, without terror and impatience. For great fear and intense sadness take hold of all bodies on the day of their death, whether it be man or woman, beast wild or tame, or whatever creeps on the ground or flies in the air. At the last all creatures under heaven in whom is the breath of life are struck with horror, and their souls depart from their bodies with strong fear and great depression. Now therefore, O Lord and my God, let Your holy
angel be present with his help to my soul and body, until they shall be dissevered from each other. And let not the face of the angel, appointed my guardian from the day of my birth, be turned away from me; but may he be the companion of my journey even until he bring me to You: let his countenance be pleasant and gladsome to me, and let him accompany me in peace. And let not demons of frightful aspect come near me in the way in which I am to go, until I come to You in bliss. And let not the doorkeepers hinder my soul from entering paradise. And do not uncover my sins, and expose me to condemnation before Your terrible tribunal. Let not the lions rush in upon me; nor let the waves of the sea of fire overwhelm my soul— for this must every soul pass through — before I have seen the glory of Your Godhead. O God, most righteous Judge, who in justice and equity wilt judge mankind, and wilt render unto each one according to his works, O Lord and my God, I beseech You, be present to me in Your compassion, and enlighten my path that I may come to You; for You are a fountain overflowing with all good things, and with glory for evermore. Amen.

'Remember the four last things, my son, and you will not sin forever.' The very marrow of my bones melts in fear at my own impending expiration, when I contemplate the terror this great saint felt when his sickness strengthened unto imminent death:

What shall I do when I arrive at that place where I must stand before the most righteous Judge, and when He shall call me to account for the works which I have heaped up in my youth? Woe to every man dying in his sins! Assuredly that same dreadful hour, which came upon my father Jacob, when his soul was flying forth from his body, is now, behold, near at hand for me. Oh! How wretched I am this day, and worthy of lamentation! But God alone is the disposer of my soul and
body; He also will deal with them after His own good pleasure.

Hearing this lament, the young Christ, perhaps eighteen or nineteen according to this legend, took compassion on His foster father and went to comfort him. It was then that He saw:

...Death ready approaching, and all Gehenna with him, closely attended by his army and his satellites; and their clothes, their faces, and their mouths poured forth flames. And when My father Joseph saw them coming straight to him, his eyes dissolved in tears, and at the same time he groaned after a strange manner. Accordingly, when I saw the vehemence of his sighs, I drove back Death and all the host of servants which accompanied him. And I called upon My good Father, saying:

Father of all mercy, eye which see, and ear which hear, hearken to my prayers and supplications in behalf of the old man Joseph; and send Michael, the prince of Your angels, and Gabriel, the herald of light, and all the light of Your angels, and let their whole array walk with the soul of My father Joseph, until they shall have
conducted it to You. This is the hour in which My father has need of compassion. And I say unto you, that all the saints, yea, as many men as are born in the world, whether they be just or whether they be perverse, must of necessity taste of death.

And thus did St. Joseph, perhaps, receive a special conduct on his death. So, as we hover between the feasts, All Saints and All Souls, let us recall one who keenly shared the lot of both. And humbly, let us ask for his guardianship at the hour of our own death, counting on his paternal empathy and compassion.

Sancte Joseph, Patróne moriéntium, ora pro nobis.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
For every entity in existence, there are four causes which make the thing to be what it is. A material cause: the bronze of the statue, the water and fat in the milk spilled on the floor, the carbon and water of man. A formal cause: the shape of Michelangelo's Moses, the location of the spilled liquid, and the chemical ratios of a human being. An efficient cause: the agent behind all these things; sculptor, toddler, and parents. A final cause: the reason for the existence of anything; the desire for beauty, the impulse to test his momma, and the unique calling of the individual person.

What then is the final end of that energy in man (unconnected with, and occasionally contrary to, his instinct to survive) which is his desire for heroism and adventure? Can we deny that it exists? When we replace our time cards or rosters in their slots at work, or prepare the food procured so easily for our meals, are we not haunted by the taunt: 'You are not living the life that is in you.' What greatness is there in making a meal for one's self, working to sustain one's self, exercising to maintain one's self, or even reading to illumine one's self? If only we could break that self, shed the old man, and burst into the flame of something greater. To be a valkyrie hunting for the souls of the brave from mountain steppes, a wise, cunning siren plumbing the sea's depths, or a wild sidhe, one with the trees offered to God by earth. Be it union with man, wisdom, or creation, we desire our mettle to be tested. For one resplendent moment, we wish to be the silver in the crucible and to emerge as a lustrous star.

Is this not something one should outgrow though? Is not its presence in an adult the sign of perpetual childhood or arrested adolescence? Is the mere existence of this hunger a justification for indulging it?

'The Philosopher's' school of ethics, Aristotelian vitalism, demands that a thing must be able to fulfill the end for which it was intended. If it cannot perform that for the sake of which it exists, then it is defunct in its very being. Its essence would be negative in and of itself, and such a possibility is untenable for a rational person. A thing, in so far as it exists, is good. For if not, then reality is not necessarily good, and the rules lying at the root of all motions may very well be bad ones. Truth is no longer to be embraced without reservation, and nothing is left to trust. There is no God--at least not one defining Himself as Being--to cling to, and in the end no effective resource at all.

Accepting such a premise would invalidate the search for truth itself, as it may be a contrary or undesirable thing. If that is the right course, then the essay should end here, for argument in general has been overthrown. Yet, for the sake of this particular argument, let us proceed from the thesis that creation is rational and ordered. It would follow that all human passions are--at their root--something good. The tongue's inclination for the sweet and salty should lead us to eating vitamin-rich fruits and meats that are plump with iron and protein. That a man may instead choose candy bars and crisps does not invalidate this. He has merely selected excess rather than striving for the Golden Mean, and so has twisted his natural and good inclination. Only that which is good is corruptible.

In the case of hunger for the epic, the virtuous mean is more mercurial, because it as yet unnamed. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues for its mere existence more by the process of elimination than by synthesis:

We blame both the ambitious man as loving honour more than is right and from wrong sources, and the unambitious man as not willing to be honoured even for noble reasons. But sometimes we praise the ambitious man as being manly and a lover of what is noble, and the unambitious man as being moderate and self-controlled, as we said in our first treatment of the subject. Evidently, since 'fond of such and such an object' has more than one meaning, we do not assign the term 'ambition' or 'love of honour' always to the same thing, but when we praise the quality we think of the man who loves honour more than most people, and when we blame it we think of him who loves it more than is right. The mean being without a name, the extremes seem to dispute for its place as though that were vacant by default. But where there is excess and defect, there is also an intermediate. (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book IV, Chapter IV) 

But what is the mean to be found in the desire to excel? To wring out of one's being the best in the cause of the noblest? Alas, one hardly need worry about participating excessively in heroism. Lack of opportunity in day to day life usually cripples the impulse. As George Eliot observed, we cannot, as the child St. Teresa of Avila discovered, set forth from our homes to immediately pursue a glorious martyrdom.

How did the seraphic woman strive to such heights then?

...Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order. (George Eliot, Middlemarch; Prelude)

Yet, here Eliot introduces a new aspect of the argument: that a varying degree in which the heroic impulse appears in individuals (i.e. 'Theresa's passionate, ideal nature' could not abide the mediocre). Human experience would confirm this, as every man has known individuals with more or less skill or energy. The question here concerns opportunity. Can it be the factor which determines the greatness of a life? 

Mary Anne Evans opines that it could:

That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago, was certainly not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion....(ibid.)

Experience would appear to confirm this, as well, but for two flaws in the writer's argument. First: that these failures were in fact spiritual giants, and second: their failures were not their fault. In the light of Aristotelian thought, both of these premises cannot be right. A truly strong and stalwart giant can only blame himself for being defeated in combat, barring outright treachery. If he was completely overwhelmed by his opponent, it must have been because relative to this fighter, he was not a giant at all. One must be deficient in either ability or execution to fail or subject to deliberate malice. A man with talent who employs it well will succeed in some way. Cream rises.

Yet, what of the rest of us? We who are most certainly not giants, but to some extent possess this vital spark? Surely we are at the mercy of the chances fate presents?

If one considers Eliot's two failed heroes, her champions of this argument, one is still compelled to answer no. Concerning Tertius Lydgate, he is plagued by an animus too strong for him to confront without breaking his heart, for he is thwarted in everyway and at last subjugated by a wife so selfish and soulless that she hardly seems real. Deaf to the desires of any human heart but her own, she certainly succeeds in crushing her husband's great medical ambition. The culprit here however is something darker than the randomness of fate, which Eliot had proposed. It is the combination of sensual stupidity on the one hand and wretched cupidity on the other.

As to Dorothea Brooke, one cannot be too sure how pure her intentions truly are. Her sister Cecilia, who is not (as Eliot tries very hard to convince the reader), so sensible as her sister, somehow truthfully points out to her elder sibling in many instances that Dorothea could never achieve the greatness she wanted, because she always 'wanted things that wouldn't do.' 

First, she marries a pitiful, small man. It would seem the reader is meant to pity her, though her husband, et al., had given her plenty of warning of what he expected from marriage. In her personal dissatisfaction, she brutally wounds his ego, which prompts a drastic decline in his equilibrium (though admittedly she later strives to atone for her errors). Second, after his death, she desires to build a self-sustaining colony on her estate as her great project. Does this rather not indicate a desire to remake the world in her own image, though on a miniature scale? She seems more a creature that needs guidance and curbing. Ending the novel as the wife of a poor, honest politician really seemed the best thing for her, and no one other than the most militant feminist would shed any tears over her fate.

Still, one may hear a multitude of souls protesting against this dismissal of hardships and circumstances and the effect they have on greatness of soul. My own voice is in that chorus, and it cries: 'You do not know how hampered I am! I wake in the morning with the desire to scale mountains, elude an enemy, write a ballad, save a damsel, or to have a child, but my state in life does not allow for greatness!'

There is the rub. As this virtue hinges upon the sphere of action, there seems to be little one can do to cultivate the proper disposition necessary to attain it. Confusion, distraction, and necessity challenge this urge as they do not challenge our striving for temperance, justice, prudence, or fortitude. Combine those enemies with human weakness and though we begin 'the delightful day' determined to be strong and no more to yield to wrong, we often end the day as hopeless and remorseful as Alfred Housman in his poem, XVI (from More Poems).

Self-reproach and discontent with one's lot however are the best impediments to starting anew and working to be better. The only way to stop this downward pattern is to take one's self more lightly. I shall fall short, because I am nothing. It is not good, nor is it worthy when I do not bring my potency to fruition, but I should not make so much over my failures. The Catholic Church provides the best comfort in this matter, for she teaches that elsewhere, in a moment outside time, all our pettiness was made up for in that Moment when Heaven was wedded with earth. The heroism we would have performed, our noble destiny specifically, has indeed been performed, and lives in eternity.

And yet, the story of salvation still manages to achieve what no fairytale or novel ever could. The glory projects beyond the happy ending. Like Armand St. Just after he had betrayed the Scarlet Pimpernel, we find that not only has our sin been forgiven, our mistake rectified, and a grander thing resulting from it, but that we have not even been suspended from participation in the economy of salvation: 

...whereof I Paul, am made a minister, who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church (Colossians 1:24)

How is this possible? Like so many of the truths concerning God, this is a rich paradox and ultimately a mystery. We only know that God has commanded us to labour with Him, and that in some way it follows that we who are not remain indispensable to He who Is:

God needs you. The Creator actually needs the creature. The only independent Being in existence needs you whose very essence and existence spells dependence; and He needs you so that He may exist on earth. Omnipotence, then, is calling to impotence so that He may exercise His power. The Infinite leans on you who are finite so that the Eternal may have expression in time. (Father M. Raymond, O.C.S.O., You, Chapter II: You are on whom Almight God needs)

It would be appropriate, after having gone through life waving a pathetic, cardboard sword, to (realizing how ridiculously puerile it is) lay it down before a true lord. Yet, what a strange thing it would be for the lord to pick it up, and taking a true sword, dub the kneeling child before him. What a lightning bolt it is to realize that the sword we finally ceded has given way to a knightly crucifix in our once grubby hands!

A priest once humbly wrote to Leon Bloy, requesting prayers. Apparently they would be needed, because the consecrated man 'did not possess the soul of a saint.' The philosopher wrote back an electrifying reply:

You say, 'I do not have the soul of a saint.'...Well, then, I answer you with certainty that I have the soul of saint; that my fearful bourgeouis of a landlord, my baker, my butcher, my grocer, all of whom may be horrible scoundrels, have the souls of saints, having all been called, as fully as you or I...to eternal life, and having been bought at the same price...(ibid, Chapter IV: You are one who breathes by God's Spirit)

Indeed, mediocrity would not be so despised, if all were not called to greatness. Some of us may be heroes in that more evident, worldly sense, but even then it is due to the same Source who makes all saints to be as they are. And while the hero and heroine are to be praised, it is only saints that merit veneration:‎

'I am not good, and I never shall be now. Perhaps I might be a heroine still, but I shall never be a good woman, I know.' 

'Do you think it easier to be a heroine?' 

'Yes, as far as one knows of heroines from history. I'm capable of a great jerk, an effort, and then a relaxation - but steady every-day goodness is beyond me. I must be a moral kangaroo!' (Mrs. Gaskell, Wives and Daughters, Chapter XIX: Cynthia's Arrival)

Sanctus, magnus sanctus, cito sanctus! Amen. 
'I wish to be a saint, a great saint, and quickly a saint!' There is our great commission, and there lies the cleft in the stone, through which we may pass into the realm of great deeds. Perhaps we have fallen from Pegasus, but we have risen with Christ. The adventure has begun; now one must strive not to let the enemy close his eyes to that truth.

Yet, as one strives to become this every-day hero, it must be kept in mind that in a world mostly peopled by the selfish and the evildoers, sensible failure is likely to be the reward for that heroism.

...and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter, with murder on a garbage heap

...go because only in this way you will be admitted to the company of cold skulls,
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh, Hektor, Roland,
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes.

Be faithful. Go.
(Zbigniew Herbert, The Envoy of Mr. Cogito)

At the last, let the catechism of the Roman Missal tell us how and where to go:

Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life:

God to glorify, 
Jesus to imitate,
The Angels and Saints to invoke,
A soul to save,
A body to mortify,
Sins to expiate,
Virtues to acquire,
Hell to avoid,
Heaven to gain,
Eternity to prepare for,
Time to profit by,
Neighbours to edify,
The world to despise,
Devils to combat,
Passions to subdue,
Death perhaps to suffer,
Judgement to undergo.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011

 When the grey film obscured my eyes,
And convention blurred my native sight,
He scraped away the scales,
And showed anew the hues of light.
Such has been Gerard for me;
He rang anew the bells.

When romance began to shrink, 
And beauty was found only in the fair, 
She flickered the worldy veil, 
And I saw glory in the mundane and bare. 
Such has been Lucy Maud for me; 
She stored russets in urns vermeil. 

When I lost the heart of great deeds,
And consigned the heroic days to dust,
He set to fire my wooden heart,
And in the return of honour I now trust.
Such has been Lord Alfred for me;
He spurred man from idle ports to start.

When light ideals shot up too quick, too high, 
And I forgot the needs supplied by earth, 
She tapped me at my flimsy trunk, 
Think on love and lucre without dearth, 
Such has been Jane for me; 
She who wed manners with spunk. 

When I was in darkness wandering,
And doubted the fruits of th’ Ecclesial tree,
They shook the branches with bright annals,
And scandal’s sword no more cut me.
Such have been the Banims for me;
They etched the light in the form of Gaels.

When I thought of life too simply, 
And forgot the twofold end of striving, 
He unfurled sage Solomon’s scroll, 
And cried, though much is good, not all is thriving. 
Such has been the Shropshire Lad for me; 
He who lived by the bell’s solemn toll. 

So often has my soul been lifted up, 
By the words from your own vital spark, 
Yet how my spirit sinks when I do read 
That on life’s sea, yours was a battered barque.
Yet, your souls, though elsewhere, still are, 
And for love of ye, I may yet bleed. 

Do ye dwell with the blessed, my darlings? 
Then smile at my gesture and laugh like a saint. 
Or are ye twined with purgatorial flame? 
Then let me render up, without constraint, 
My voluntary pains for ye, my tears, 
To get ye hence, to your gift’s fount, to your true Aim. 

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Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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