Saturday, July 14th, 2012
14 July 2012
About three-quarters of the way through Chris Roberson’s Further: Beyond The Threshold I got the distinct impression I was reading a pilot episode for a Star Trek copycat: a starship with a crew of very unlike people thrown together to see what happens in the mix. Mind you, the Trek formula is excellent, and Mr Roberson did a fine job setting this up, giving us the captain’s backstory in bits and pieces, and assembling a diverse and interesting crew.
The only problem is that this novel starts out with a totally different science fiction formula, also well-trod: a man from the past lands in a distant future. So we get to explore the worlds of wonder through the eyes of a more relatable protagonist. Isaac Asimov did it in Pebble in the Sky. And Mr Roberson does it well here. Just about as talky as Mr Asimov, but with more wonder and physics. How a twenty-second century explorer gets to helm a 15th millennium ship is the biggest suspension of disbelief in the book. But it works because Mr Roberson does such an excellent job with characterization, the reader wants it to work.
The good news: this is an enjoyable read. Especially if you want a nice dish of sorbetto after a heavy plate of pasta.
The bad news: Amazon’s venture into science fiction publishing (47North) has done Chris Roberson wrong. The editing is poor. The cover is unimaginative compared to the future described on the pages. But they sure want you to know the author is a “New York Times bestselling author” and is praised by another “New York Times bestselling author.” Really?
There’s a howler of an error on the back cover which proclaims:
“Welcome to the Thirty-Fourth Century.”
Nope. Sorry. Asleep at the wheel on this one. Protagonist RJ Stone experienced deep space hibernation for twelve-thousand years. That’s 120 centuries. Add that to his Earth departure in the late 2100′s, and we’re talking the 142nd century, give or take.
Call me a nitpicker if you wish, but if you’re going to appeal to sf fiction fans, you’re going to have to fix those errors. There are other mistakes in the book, small ones I concede, that a good editor would have spotted. Seriously, if I didn’t have a day job, I’d email 47North and tell them to hire me as an editor. Heaven knows they need one if they’re serious about publishing original fiction. Real editors read real books. They don’t rely on spell-check. And they don’t mistake 12,000 for 1,200.
Chris Roberson is a very talented writer with lots of ideas. My own sense from this book, and from his short fiction I’ve read is that he’s a bit undisciplined and loose with his craft. He could be much better. The final third of the book, essentially an adventure for Captain Stone and his crew, is a pedestrian encounter with religious fanatics who, in their last war, killed about a billion people. The horror of that isn’t well developed enough, and as bad guys, the Iron Mass comes off more like cartoons. There is no real menace from these creeps. Captain Stone and his crew triumph with some difficulty, but overall, it’s a pretty easy victory. The dead are restored to life by putting their memories into new bodies. That’s a problem when loss isn’t permanent and real.
Maybe that’s why the fish-out-of-water portion works so much better. RJ Stone sleeps for 12,000 years and you know he’s irrevocably lost friends, family, culture, crew, and his ill-fated mission. That’s poignant and thoughtful. Space-and-shooting adventures, not so much.
14 July 2012
The opening prayer cites, “Lord, bless this church …” and so today’s sections 20-22 address in text the Blessing of the Altar. But also a little bit more.
20. Then the bishop goes to bless the altar. Meanwhile the following antiphon is sung.
May the children of the Church be like olive branches around the table of the Lord (alleluia).
Another appropriate song may be sung.
My sense is that the rite here is a little frayed. The bishop moves to the altar: this is certainly an important “procession” or movement. But even without a psalm (the suggested 128th) it seems like a lot to add. After inviting the people to pray, the blessing is a good bit shorter than what we saw in II, 62 or IV, 48:
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
who accepted the sacrifice of Christ,
offered on the altar of the cross
for the salvation of the world.
Now with a Father’s love,
you call upon your people to celebrate his memory
by coming to gether at his table.
May this altar,
which we have built for your holy mysteries,
be the center of our praise and thanksgiving.
May it be the table
at which we break the bread which gives us life
and drink the cup which makes us one.
May it be the fountain
of the unfailing waters of salvation.
Here may we draw close to Christ,
the living stone,
and, in him, grow into a holy temple.
Here may our lives of holiness
become a pleasing sacrifice to your glory.
R. Blessed be God for ever.
When one looks carefully at these prayers, one understands the preference for stonework in an altar. A stone altar functions as that source of the fountain of life. A temporary, movable table just doesn’t have the gravitas.
Number 21 concludes with the rubric for the bishop to incense the altar, then be incensed at the chair. Following that, “ministers … incense the people and the main body of the church.”
Number 22 indicates that if the altar will be dedicated (IV, 48) the Creed is said, but the general intercessions are not, following RDCA IV, 43-58.
But if the altar is to be neither blessed nor consecrated (for example, because an altar already blessed or dedicated has been transferred to the new church), after the general intercessions the Mass proceeds as in no. 23 below.
Thoughts or comments on any of this?
14 July 2012
Posted by catholicsensibility under Ministry Leave a Comment
Over the years, I’ve frequently tussled with conservative/traditionalist Catholics about the response to Vatican II. Almost always, I encounter the hell-in-a-handbasket stance, that’s it’s all been downhill since Vatican II. But the polling, at least here in the States, doesn’t support that. In fact, the only time in the last forty years that Catholic confidence surpassed Protestant was the year the last of MR1 was implemented.
If you trust the same people who suggest the drop in accepting the real presence, they might tell you it’s all because of John Paul II bishops and more recently, the cover-up of sex abuse by bishops. The graph of the years 1973-1991:
Gallup took a break in the 90′s, then returned to tracking Catholic/Protestant confidence at what was for us Catholics, a very low point indeed:
Anybody remember what happened for Catholics in 2007?
How do you think St Blog’s would view confidence in the institution? Above or below 46%?
14 July 2012
I had to go back to see what Sacrosanctum concilium said about “popular religious song” to get to the bottom of what John Paul II was trying to tell us, referring to this term. I confess I still don’t get it. Here’s section 11:
11. The last century, with the renewal introduced by the Second Vatican Council, witnessed a special development in popular religious song, about which Sacrosanctum Concilium says: “Religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may be heard…”[SC 118]. This singing is particularly suited to the participation of the faithful, not only for devotional practices “in conformity with the norms and requirements of the rubrics”[SC 118], but also with the Liturgy itself. Popular singing, in fact, constitutes “a bond of unity and a joyful expression of the community at prayer, fosters the proclamation of the one faith and imparts to large liturgical assemblies an incomparable and recollected solemnity”[John Paul II, Address to the International Congress on Sacred Music (27 January 2001), n. 4].
And here’s the very brief section from SC:
118. Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.
When I hear the term “popular religious song,” I’m not sure I equate that with liturgical singing. “Popular” might mean well-liked, as in the cool kids at school. “Popular” might also express a quality of music that is not classical, “serious,” of jazz, or folk, or other genres that are out of favor with the corporate elites and the fans of their figurehead pop stars.
It strikes me that SC was driving less at “popular” by either of these two definitions, and more a quality of liturgical singing that is “by the people.” In that, I’d say that John Paul’s observations:
- bond of unity
- joyful prayer
- proclamation of faith
- incomparable solemnity
are all spot on for what good liturgical music, sung by the people, accomplishes.
14 July 2012
I linked to Commonweal a few weeks ago about Padre Alejandro Solalinde’s true life battle for religious freedom. Unlike American prelates, many Christians around the world are facing far more serious threats. Also unlike some prelates, this particular Christian seems to have his priorities straight on the sacramental roots of his calling:
I’m a missionary, not because I’m a priest … because I’m baptized.
This is an evangelical mindset in which we could all use immersion. And not just in times and places of authentic persecution. But every day.