Of the Evangelist and Eagles

snake-eagleToday’s apostle was the patron of one of the parishes I once served. It seems like a tough time for a patronal feast in an ordinary parish; the bustle of Christmas Eve and Day is past and many people in liturgical ministry are just breathing a sigh of relief. More so in a university parish where almost all the young people are gone. Plus many residents in transit to visit extended families. So John stays just a name for a lot of Catholics.

The eagle is associated with John the evangelist. I was unaware that a whole subset of those predators are called “snake eagles.” Interesting, eh? Americans are used to seeing birds bald and golden scanning from above for rodents, rabbits and other small mammals. Grabbing snakes: that’s Virgin Mary material.

In astronomy, one of our summer constellations is interpreted as an eagle. There’s a commonality in this across many Eurasian cultures. Hindu’s eagle is the figure Garuda. For the Greeks, it was Zeus’s pet eagle, the one who snatched the boy Ganymede, one of the god’s many infatuations. Arabic observers named the brightest star from the phrase al-nasr al-tair, the flying eagle. More on the 12th-brightest star here.

A personal musical favorite is this setting adapting the first words of the first letter of John, from what I think of as the apex of Gregory Norbet’s Weston Priory period (1977-78). From the Bible:

We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life—
this life was revealed,
and we have seen it and testify to it,
and declare to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was revealed to us—
we declare to you what we have seen and heard
so that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4)

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Amoris Laetitia 268: Consequences

amoris laetitia memeLet’s look at the value of correction as an incentive, which will take us from this section through #270. Some advice when children stray:

268. It is also essential to help children and adolescents to realize that misbehavior has consequences. They need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people’s shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused. Some punishments – those for aggressive, antisocial conduct – can partially serve this purpose. It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others. As the educational process bears fruit in the growth of personal freedom, children come to appreciate that it was good to grow up in a family and even to put up with the demands that every process of formation makes.

Being able to admit a mistake and ask forgiveness: my wife and I have found that being able to demonstrate that to one another and to our daughter has been the most helpful step we could take in that regard. We did not raise a perfect child, but we do still live with a young woman who can admit when she is wrong and ask for pardon.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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A Science Fiction High Castle

man-in-the-high-castleLast year I wrote favorably about the pilot episode of the small screen adaptation of Philip Dick’s The Man In The High Castle. I’m a few episodes into season two now. My verdict is still favorable.

But this is one creepy viewing experience. My wife and I often binge-watch online-available series. But I’ve never liked Nazi viewing, and I can stomach only one episode at a time. About every third day.

Check one of the promotional images, left. The Greater Nazi Reich is victorious in 1960’s New York, and notice the architecture soaring above the twin Empire State and Chrysler buildings. German technology has given the victors the atomic bomb, supersonic passenger jets, and monorails. Across all Africa and the former eastern United States, there’s a eugenics program supreme. Ashes of dead people blow in the Plains winds. Even children of high-ranking fascists are not ineligible from euthanasia. Young women of approved ethnicity are herded into dorms to breed a new generation of brainwashed American youth.

The best characters (their stories as well as the actors) are central figures in Nazi New York and Japanese San Francisco. These are not cardboard back hats, but not entirely unsympathetic people caught between personal values (or lack thereof), loyalty to family or state, and the movement of a world pitched to a superpower encounter that isn’t likely to be played cold.

I always check science fiction for its treatment of religion. The Nazis were pagans, so Christianity and Judaism have gone underground in this treatment. One of the Japanese leads leans into the mystical tradition of I-Ching. That was key to the original novel. Ethics do feature here, among some characters. Is virtue enough? Or does it depend, as one character cites, on full stomachs?

The promoted “lead” actors are competent, but the title character is, so far, just a little off the wall. No matter; this tv series is all about an alternate history that gives significant glimpses into real life. Strongly recommended, but at your own risk.



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Open Thread On Christian Varieties

Dick Martin took exception to a deleted comment and an edited comment. Recently, he offered this comment on an Amoris Laetitia post:

This is twice my replies have been deleted. Shows you’re against some one who has a different view of the truth of Christianity.

It is more logical to deduce that when one’s posts are deleted, one opposes the ideas presented. Not the person herself or himself. I had intended to repost the off-topic comment to a new thread, as is my usual practice. I plead a busy week.

One or two of my readers have asked that I ban two or three of my more contentious readers from commenting. But I remain skeptical of that practice. I’ve advised people who want to go off topic on things like Christian differences to do one of two things: wait for an open thread, or request a separate post via email or a comment box. I don’t feel the obligation to offer an open thread very often. That leaves the direct contact option. My email is in the sidebar, and I’m even easier to find online. I find personal contact to be … more personal, if not more Christian.

Mr Martin is more than welcome to contact me via the comment boxes here, or by private e-mail. He also has the option of starting his own website and promoting his side of the “truth” rather than only replaying particular differences in other people’s spaces.

Sometimes differences between Christians have nothing to do with theology, religion, or even Jesus.


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Amoris Laetitia 267: Cultivating Freedom

amoris laetitia memeWe conclude these five paragraphs on moral formation with a brief reflection on freedom:

267. Freedom is something magnificent, yet it can also be dissipated and lost. Moral education has to do with cultivating freedom through ideas, incentives, practical applications, stimuli, rewards, examples, models, symbols, reflections, encouragement, dialogue and a constant rethinking of our way of doing things; all these can help develop those stable interior principles that lead us spontaneously to do good. Virtue is a conviction that has become a steadfast inner principle of operation. The virtuous life thus builds, strengthens and shapes freedom, lest we become slaves of dehumanizing and antisocial inclinations. For human dignity itself demands that each of us “act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within”.(Gaudium et Spes, 17)

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Christmas Tree Cluster


Blessings to all readers, friends, companions on this holy feast.

Stars, keep the watch when night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim
Shining beyond the frosty weather
Bright as sun and moon together. (Eleanor Farjeon)

Image credit.

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Amoris Laetitia 266: Developing Good Habits

amoris laetitia memeI can see how this paragraph might be bothersome to some of the Holy Father’s critics, and to those who have reached some sort of limit where their expression of good manners and courtesy are concerned.

266. Good habits need to be developed. Even childhood habits can help to translate important interiorized values into sound and steady ways of acting. A person may be sociable and open to others, but if over a long period of time he has not been trained by his elders to say “Please”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry”, his good interior disposition will not easily come to the fore. The strengthening of the will and the repetition of specific actions are the building blocks of moral conduct; without the conscious, free and valued repetition of certain patterns of good behavior, moral education does not take place. Mere desire, or an attraction to a certain value, is not enough to instill a virtue in the absence of those properly motivated acts.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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