Friday, August 28, 2015

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife - Another Nail in the Coffin?

Seems so.

The more technical discussion can be found here. Bernhard's critique is devastating.

24 hours after Karen King dropped this amid a media circus, scholars were lined up to take a look at it and very early on identified the probability of a modern forgery, largely based off of the botched syntax. This latest development appears as King is making last ditch efforts to salvage the text - this time releasing the original translation provided to her by the owner (who she still refuses to provide many concrete details on).

Not to beat a dead horse, but previous to this Karen King had the reputation of avoiding the circus associated with contemporary Gnostic studies. She occasionally made a few revisionist claims and appeared to argue that Gnosticism was more mainstream in ancient Christianity than most historians would accept, but she stayed away from the circus. 

For whatever reason, she couldn't stay away from this suspect papyrus. One can only speculate why, and it would perhaps not be fair to do so. 

King's reputation has taken a pounding because of this one. I don't see where she can go from here to save what remains of her reputation. Furthermore, it is difficult to understand why she is so wedded to this scrap and why she appears unable to pull herself back from the mess and disengage.

A New Resource for the Office of Readings (Modern Latin Office)

Special thanks to Michael Demers for pointing this out.

Solesmes has published the complete Benedictine Office of Readings for the Monastic Liturgy of the Hours in a  six volume Latin-French edition.

According to Mr. Demers, this set is on a two year cycle - a feature long promised in the Roman edition but, so far as I know, only present in one of the Spanish editions. Accordingly, Mr. Demers has adopted this set for his personal recitation of the readings.

I would be interested in seeing a full review of this set.

The modern Latin liturgy isn't going away and it is the dominant liturgy in the West. There are times I am reminded that one may make more of an impression and yield greater influence if one readily implements the mainstream options available. Micheal's blog is appropriately devoted to the modern Latin liturgy (Mass and Office). He treats the Pauline liturgy as we Westerners ought to treat liturgy in general - as something received and formative of the person (lex orandi and all). I fear that I for one often lose sight of this; sadly, liturgical criticism, though a valid intellectual exercise, has never been known to do much for the soul.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Effort to Publish the Pre-1955 Missale Romanum.

It was not so long ago that the availability of the old liturgical books (those prior to the editions of 1970) was fairly scarce, limited to second hand copies and the occasional facsimile editions of varying quality.

Fifteen years ago, this was very much the state of things.

Things have changed. Recent history has seen a number of newly typeset editions of the 1960/1962 books hit the market. There are undoubtedly many factors to this, among them being the presence of a need in the market waiting to be filled - both the SSPX and the FSSP are carrying on with their work after all. Yet, it was only in recent history that prospects for such publication efforts were closer to fantasy than reality.

The will to perpetuate a liturgical observance that, for all of the legitimate scholarly critiques which can be made, for the most part continues with the traditional Latin observance (within the Roman Church) was the ultimate impetus behind the eventual publication of new editions of pre-Vatican II books. Which is why I hope that the same Will may eventually lead the efforts to republish the Missale Romanum of 1955 to success.

You can find more details about the project at the webpage of the publisher. There are several images of a proof of concept copy they have completed. Now, the long effort to shore up a minimum number of orders before sending this mammoth volume off to the printers.

It looks like it will be an amazing volume when completed.

This will be a long haul project - no doubt about it.

The publisher has the courage of their convictions, but my suggestion would be to tone down some of the rhetoric, maybe temper the message just a bit. Again, there are legitimate scholarly critiques one can make regarding the 1962 books. The publisher unfortunately sidesteps that discussion in favor of boasting of the "purity" of the pre-1955 Missal and not-so subtle allegations regarding the Holy Week reform and subsequent reforms put in place - vintage polemics here. When the two largest bodies using the old liturgy have found little to object about the books of 1962, well, practically speaking, you're immediately alienating the bulk of your target audience there. The percentage that will militantly adhere to the pre-1955 Missal is relatively inconsequential - if this publisher is ever going to get the project off the ground, it needs to change its messaging.

Practically speaking, we are not at the moment where the conversation can be broadened to examine the potential application of the books in use prior to the Holy Week reforms of Pius XII. The larger issue of preserving the Western liturgical tradition has not been settled. As such, there is little room for the finer points of the debate.

There are, however, legitimate reasons to reexamine the liturgical changes of the early to mid twentieth century and investigate the possibility of re-instituting the earlier editions of the Missale Romanum for actual use. The insertion of polemics and veiled references to a conspiracy do nothing to bolster the case. In point of fact, they marginalize the older editions further into the fringe.

We'll see how this project goes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The 1945 Saint Andrew Missal - An Old Favorite

The 1945 Saint Andrew Missal, published by St. Bonaventure Publications.

I haven't seen one of these in years. I purchased one back in the Seattle days - when I was still a novice with the old Latin liturgy. At that time, I hadn't the slightest clue about the Holy Week changes and the precursor reforms that would eventually climax in the Novos Ordo Missae of Paul VI.

This book is one of the most accessible means by which to gain some familiarity with the Missale Romanum before the idea of liturgical reform was seriously acted upon, an open window into the pre-modern Latin liturgy.

I have very fond memories of this title. Sadly, I'm not entirely sure what became of it - in storage, lost or misplaced are all viable theories. For a time, however, it was a go-to favorite.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

So you want a married Jesus???

I was struggling to find a title for this post.

The Evangelical Textual Criticism blog has a nice round up of where things stand related to the once infamous  and now largely forgotten Coptic fragment that purports to demonstrate evidence that belief in a married Jesus circulated among some early Christian groups.

Admittedly, part of me wants to point out that they kinda-sorta swiped the title of the post from one I published in January 2013...then I read my blog address and realize the irony of the whole situation.

It still seems, all things considered, Karen King let herself be deluded by the prospect of a major discovery and landing the associated print and television features. She has and will continue to fight for the authenticity of the fragment - her reputation depends on it. As it is, she has devoted too much time to this fragment and any hope of salvaging her reputation rides on successfully moving beyond it.


Unity or Coexistence?

The Orthosphere ponders if Traditional Christian sects can coexist peacefully. The author basis his question on the idea that "eventually" Islam and modernism will run out of steam and Traditional Christian churches will no longer have the common interests that currently force them into cooperation and coexistence.

There are points at which one may fault the author.

One can argue that modernism hasn't been an issue since mid-twentieth century and we are in the grip of post-modernity, a nearly apocalyptic (in the Mad Max sense of the term) intellectual wasteland in which even modernism's tepid context based appreciation of religion, culture, and tradition have been displaced by an unrelenting impulse to level everything irrelevant arbitrary constructs. In this respect, one encounters the ultimate weakness of the Traditionalist movement; as whole, many of its adherence are fighting an intellectual war that they not only lost many years ago, but has since been displaced by much larger conflagration.

Islam is another matter. Assuming that there will be any decline in Islam defies common sense. Islam is growing and shows no signs of abating. Its growth is not only through birthrates, but in its appeal among members of Western societies who are looking for a stable spiritual tradition. Granted, the appeal in the West is often towards more mystical Islamic sects, but growth is growth and it comes by way of the self inflicted wounds on the Western tradition.

The author also fails to recognize the major impetus behind the move towards ecumenism. The experience of the first World War raised serious questions Christianity had to reckon with. Among them, how is it acceptable for people who ostensibly worship the same God and hold many of the same core traditions to participate in a conflict that invariably involves killing one another? Granted, this had occurred many times in Christian history. The early 20th century, however, benefited from the influence of modernity in that there was an intellectual environment that encouraged contextualization and the conviction that one is not necessarily bound to the conventions of a previous era. Modernism, like most philosophical systems before it, at least offered one item for assimilation by Christianity - the appreciation of historical context and the reasonable limits of said context on the present.

Any argument that ecumenism exists solely on account of the existence of "enemies" is somewhat short sighted.  The more poignant question is what will be the conclusion of ecumenism, unity or coexistence?

Parties that push for unity are often ingenious to the "problem of unity." Unity, invariably, has winners and losers. So far as ecclesiology goes, unity requires someone (Rome, Orthodoxy, or Protestantism) renounce its ecclesiology in favor of another's. This is a conclusion that is impossible to avoid. Ultimately, someone is going to give up their ecclesiology and the stakes are high no matter how you approach it. Even if the ultimate ecclesiology born by unity is factually correct, it requires major religious re-engineering on at least two sides (one side, overall, would have minimum adjustments to make).

Coexistence, meanwhile, leaves ecclesiology, and hence doctrinal and structural reform, untouched. True, coexistence almost certainly eliminates the possibility of inter communion. Yet, it also acknowledges the historical development of Christianity and upholds the corresponding distinctions among the notable Christian confessions, avoiding the consequence of homogenization. In some respects, coexistence is the most honest option. It avoids applying anyone's "one true church" theory across the ecclesiastical spectrum. Coexistence may also be thought to be more "moral" in so far as it avoids the probable disruption caused by the religious re-engineering needed to acclimate to ecclesiological change.

Is it possible that coexistence itself could fail? This would largely be a societal matter. Where a given confession has a dominant social influence or official status, it is probable that coexistence will fail - at least this is the example we have from Christian history. However, such official designations are relatively rare among societies whose inhabitants are in the majority Christian, contemporary Russia perhaps being an exception.

Barring a societal collapse and the emergence of conditions in which only institutional religion can sustain rudimentary social, political, and economic needs, it seems unlikely conditions unfavorable to coexistence will take hold in the west. As such, the basic impetus to know one's neighbor exercises definitive influence among various Christian confessions with hope of maintaining healthy social relationships.

In other words, only the most pathological of antisocial tendencies would make one think one can contemplate the end of coexistence as a possibility.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cardinal Sarah on Ad Orientem - A Case of Reading a Little Too Much Into Things.

Adoremus Bulletin has published the English translation of Cardinal Sarah's The Silent Action of the Heart.

The "coverage" it has garnered thus far (what little of it there is) has focused on a brief section which mentions ad orientem worship. The relevant sections are as follows:

Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, it is in full conformity with the conciliar Constitution—indeed, it is entirely fitting—for everyone, priest and congregation, to turn together to the East during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations, and the Eucharistic prayer, in order to express the desire to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This practice could well be established in cathedrals, where liturgical life must be exemplary (cf. §41).

Of course it is understood that there are other parts of the Mass in which the priest, acting in persona Christi Capitis, enters into nuptial dialogue with the assembly. But this face-to-face has no other purpose than to lead to a tete-à-tete with God, which, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will become a heart-to-heart. The Council thus proposes additional means to favor participation: “acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons and songs, as well as…actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes” (§30).
The usual suspects are making much of this, without paying much attention to the actual context.

As the title of the article should imply, the mention of ad orientem worship is part of a much larger discussion. The title should tip the reader off. Cardinal Sarah is returning to a topic Ratzinger felt needed addressing: the proper understanding of participatio actousa. Namely, he attempts to wade through mire of participatio actousa as constant business in the liturgical setting in favor of contemplative participation. The liturgy, if it is to accomplish anything, must effect contemplation. In the context of this discussion, Sarah addresses two of the endemic problems in contemporary Western liturgical praxis: the assumption that there is a need to be busy at the liturgy and there is a need for the priest to function as a host or entertainer. The later can be addressed if the priest defers to the points in the rubrics which suggest that he should be facing in the same direction as the people, that is, towards the altar. This does not mean a return to ad orientem; Sarah continues by noting the rubrics in the Missale Romanum which presume the priest is facing the people and implies they should be followed as such.

The article is, overall, sound post-Vatican II Roman liturgics.

It does not, in any way, favor the return to ad orientem. Rather, Sarah's point is much more germane to the discussion of the Latin liturgy in the contemporary period. Sarah, argues in favor of the priest losing his personality to the rubrics of the Missale Romanum, and the people to get over a deeply ingrained aversion to silence and contemplation. Perhaps better phrased, the people are to lose their personalities to the rubrics as well, the modern Roman liturgy having its own ritual flow.

Ultimately, he reads more like one of his predecessors, Cardinal Arinze, in so far as Arinze was of the opinion that the problem was not the reform of the Roman liturgy, but its reception. This is a position I have argued elsewhere on this blog. The reform of the Roman liturgy is here to stay. However, beginning with Pius X's revision of the breviary, a sentiment developed which saw the liturgy as something to be continually re-codified, toyed with, and ultimately remodeled whenever it was deemed expedient. The Missale Romanum of Paul VI was therefore received as a continuation of this process. Given that the Pauline liturgy is the dominant liturgy of the Roman Church, it must no longer be received as such, but as a Received Liturgy. That is, as a liturgy that exists by its nature apart from the community, to which the community is called to find conformity with and execute with fidelity, and for which it constitutes the highest expression of identity and communion. In other words, the law of prayer must be reestablished in the Roman Church, and the dominant liturgy must must fulfill that role.

The article is not, by any stretch, authoritative, in so far as it does not contain any legislative mandate. In the current climate especially, it will noted by the predictable crowds,, and ignored by liturgical school of thought that has seen a revival during the current pontificate. Regardless, it is worth a read. Will it start a culture change? That depends if Cardinal Sarah walks out on the balcony of St. Peters.

In Assumptione Beatae Mariae Virginis - Gaudium mundi.

Gaudium mundi, nova stell caeli,
procreans solem, pariens parentem,
da manum lapsis, fer opem caducis,
     virgo Maria.

Te Deo factam liquet esse scalam
qua temens summa petit Altus ima;
nos ad excelsi remeare caeli
      culmina dona.

Te beatorum chorus angelorum,
te prophetarum et apostolorum 
ordo praelatam sibi cernit unam
      post Deitatem.

Laus sit excelsae Triadi perennis,
quae tibi, Virgo, tribuit cornonam,
atque regnam statuitque nostram
      provida matrem. Amen.

---- Hymnus, Ad I Vesperas, Liturgia Horarum.

Gaudium mundi is, all things considered, one of my favorite hymns for the Dormition/Assumption. Every time I recite this hymn, I recall those days during the waning years of John Paul II's pontificate when there was a sense of discovery upon finally accessing the Latin editions of the modern Roman liturgy. The books were absurdly scarce at that time, perhaps because we were in between new typical editions of both the Missale Romanum and Liturgia Horarum.

Gaudium mundi was, for whatever reason, a text I latched onto. At this time the greater trend was to argue that the Roman Church needed a faithful translation of the vernacular to set things right and inculcate a sense of the supernatural. My position was in the extreme minority. I maintained that the path forward consists not in vernacular translation, but in rediscovery and total reapplication of Latin in the liturgy to the exclusion of the vernacular. This argument resisted on the principle that the Latin text contain a substantial amount of connotation and subtle illusion that even literal one-to-one translation fails to adequately convey the intention of the text.

Flash forward almost twenty years and the accounting of the English translation of the Latin liturgy has somewhat proven my position. From the first ICEL draft to the abhorrent offense against proper English syntax published in 2011, there has failed to be an adequate translation of the revised liturgical books.

Gaudium mundi is enough to remind me that, all things considered, the Liturgia Horarum does in fact have a leg up on its predecessor. The denigration of the Roman liturgy (particularly the hours) is a five centuries old problem. Urban VIII's dissolution of the traditional corpus of Latin hymns demonstrates that even in the pre-modern period the highest authorities of the Roman Church were quite willing to denigrate Tradition in the name of innovation - based upon one man's whim. If the reform of the Roman liturgy did on thing right, if the Liturgia Horarum can say is has one rather big notch in its favor, it is the restoration (more or less) of the corpus of ancient Latin hymns and the abolition of the baroque, neo-classical monstrosities imposed by Urban VIII. Not withstanding the structural criticisms one can levy against it, the Liturgia Horarum reestablished some liturgical normalcy to the celebration of the hours.

Spend some time with Gaudium mundi. Whatever your ecclesiastical affiliation, this hymn is well worth your time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Dormition of Mary, the Papacy, and Unity

A quick read from the Pray Tell blog on the Dormition-Assumption in both the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

The changes in the Roman Mass of the Assumption are of a magnitude scarcely noticed in typical Western liturgical circles, including those of a more academic bent. If there is any objectivity in the matter, Pius XII's liturgical changes will come under more scrutiny, at least at a scholarly level. Indeed, it is the inability to critically examine the liturgical changes of Pius XII that discredits much of the Traditionalist movement (in my eyes).

Back to our point, the significance of Pius XII's changes to the Assumption liturgy are hardly considered when discussing 20th century liturgical reforms. Whereas the encyclical promulgating the dogma of the Assumption showed some restrained in dogmatizing the particular Western tradition of the Assumption, in which Mary escapes bodily death and enters into heaven, the alteration of Mass texts pivots firmly to the West.

Assumption, however, has never meant exclusively the escape from bodily death. The Orthodox Church knows the feast as both Dormition and Assumption, depending upon how close a church was to Western Europe. In both cases, the falling asleep of Mary is commemorated. In the West, the Assumption was interpreted as both the falling asleep and preservation from bodily death. This said, three points ought to be noted,

1) The oldest tradition of the Assumption in the West commemorates the falling asleep of Mary, in continuity with the East.

2) The most reliable historical research confirms that the tradition of Mary's preservation from bodily death likely began in Gnostic circles in the West and was later appropriated by the mainline Church for pastoral reasons. (see Shoemaker's The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption, 1st ed.)

3) The oldest texts describe Mary's death and then bodily assumption into paradise.

Pius XII's reform of the Mass of the Assumption broke with a genuinely universal tradition between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, in favor of a peculiarly Western interpretation of dubious theological merit and historical precedence.

In all of the movement to institute a comprehensive liturgical reform culminating in the Missale Romanum of Paul VI, restoring something more akin to the original Mass and its original prayers was never considered. This leads us to consider two interesting paradoxes.

For Traditionalists, the reform of the Assumption Mass immediately challenges their interests in preserving Tradition, in so far as it reveals their stated aims are subject to the papacy. This raises a host of ecclesiological questions the Traditionalist movement in the Roman Church has been unwilling or unable to answer.

For Progressives who see the Pauline liturgy as being more ecumenical, they are left  having to reconcile how many of the final liturgical changes eliminated universal Traditions and express a peculiarly Western, and specifically Roman, understanding. The Assumption Mass is a case in point. For ecumenical as the Novus Ordo is made out to be, it is, in many respects, anti-ecumenism in so far as much of the ancient liturgical expression was jettisoned in favor of aligning liturgical prayer with later defined doctrine.

My sincere plea is that anyone genuinely concerned with liturgy, liturgical reform, and ecumenism begin asking some of these difficult questions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ad Experimentum Lectionaries

Much as I find it interesting, and much as it recalls those heydays in the late 90s and early 2000s when such discussion was taboo and awash with the stain of witchcraft (for rebellion is the sin of witchcraft, to borrow a line from the book of Samuel, I believe), the analysis of the deliberations and decisions of the Concilium is hardly necessary.

Practically speaking, the revision of the lectionary is a done deal. It is not going to change. Was the process somewhat obscure to external observers? Absolutely. Is Bugnini's account of the reform drowning in inaccuracy and some self-agrandizing hagiography? Decidedly. But Rome is not moving back on the liturgical reform. The possibility of that has passed. Too much institutional weight was put behind it, too few people care about the older liturgy, and the areas of the world where Catholicism is booming haven't expressed much of an interest in re-instituting it.

The question anyone critiquing the liturgical reform needs to seriously consider is to what end are their efforts aimed? Rome isn't ready to consider abandoning the Pauline liturgy nor will it.

Benedictine Daily Prayer

It should be noted that the second edition of Benedictine Daily Prayer (Liturgical Press), the successor to the famous short breviaries, including nearly legendary one-volume English translation of the Liturgia Horarum (sadly suppressed by the US bishops), is almost upon us.

I have some experience using the first edition. There were a few things among the readings that raised an eyebrow here and there, but this was more than mitigated by the translation employed for the readings and psalms, and certainly nullified by the presence of the ancient monastic hymns.

Apart from being a successor to the famous short breviaries, Benedictine Daily Prayer seems to have had the two fold goal of 1) re-introducing the monastic office to a wider audience, and 2) addressing some of the structural problems with the modern breviary in the Roman Church.

The first edition succeeded in many ways. In retrospect, the first edition should have been released during the height of the chant craze in the 90s. There was such a general interest in spirituality, especially monastic spirituality, that it would have been extremely beneficial. Nevertheless, it is here and, overall, the first edition was a successful entryway into monastic liturgy. 

The second edition responds to several formatting concerns that were raised overtime. The website provides the following list of changes:
  • A more user-friendly layout
  • A new organization for the Office of Vigils, structured on a two-week cycle
  • Daily Offices also arranged on a two-week cycle
  • Patristic readings for each Sunday
  • Concluding prayers for the daily and seasonal offices
  • Slightly taller format
I will be extremely interested to see what translation of the collects this edition uses. The editors could use just about any version they desired. One would imagine they would opt for a via media.

Important Resource for Light on the Early Church

This book looks to drop August 19th, 2015.

I had the "pleasure" of working on some of these texts during my graduate studies. Since then, I've come to recommend anyone who can get access to the texts do so.

This edition promises to provide the original text accompanied by fresh English translations.

So, what is the significance?

Simply put, these texts flesh out the actual context of the early Church until approximately the fifth century.

While it is easy enough to disembody early Christianity and spiritualize what the early Church must have been like, this collection adds a concrete quality to the early Church. In a world full of ecclesiastical conceptions born from the narrow witness of the New Testament and Patristics, in which it has been possible to create an almost dualist ecclesiology, the Oxyrhynchus provides "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would say. This is your glimpse into the life on the ground of the early Church, particularly as it was in Egypt.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Schuyler Quentel NASB and Caxton NLT (Photo Comparison)

Schuyler has released a few new images comparing the Quentel NASB with the Caxton NLT.

The Caxton NLT is smaller than the Qunetel NASB.

There is change in the opacity - 45 gsm vs. 36 gsm.
Take a good look on the right. This is the opacity you'll see in the second edition of the Quentel NASB.

The Caxton NLT looks smaller, perhaps more portable for those who felt the Quentel NASB was abit much to travel with. Check out the bible reviews around the web - it looks like the Caxton NLT hits the sweet spot so far as dimensions are concerned.

As always, I am heavily biased in favor of single column formatting.

It looks like Schuyler made sure to line match the text. We'll see how it all works when the second edition of the Quentel NASB is published. The "gut feeling" had by a number of people that the 45 gsm of the Quentel NASB first edition was a one-off deal seems to be accurate.

Truth be told, this blog has experienced a surge in traffic in the summer months (our normal "quiet" period), a lot of which is due the Caxton NLT. There seems to be a significant amount of interest out there for this particular bible. Schuyler has either identified a serious gap waiting to be filled, or its reputation as a publisher has really risen above the rest of the pack. Both are possible.

The fact is, Schuyler's bibles really are THAT good, to the point where one can't help but rave about them. The majority of bibles are either printed with poor production standards in China. There are a few that are printed domestically, but the number of short cuts produces a rather poor product. We've even seen a decline among the publishers with a traditionally strong reputation in the area. I won't name anyone in particular, but "the list" includes even some top-tier publishers.

It seems the progress of outsourcing in the last twenty or so years has left us with a limited group of publishers who still know how to make books and publish according to those standards. Schuyler is one of a very limited group. I'll go so far as to say, without naming any names, there is one top tier publisher Schuyler easily eclipses.

They also have class. Straight up class. Like their bibles, I haven't seen one cheap advertisement, marketing campaign, or info-awareness attempt out of Schuyler. Schuyler knows what to do and how to do it; they're pretty confident that if you take a closer look, then you'll arrive at a similar conclusion.

The Caxton NLT drops in late September. The second edition of the NASB is due late October 2015.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The life of Cecil the lion... As interpreted through Ambrose of Milan's De Nabuthae

In his De Nabuthae, Ambrose of Milan aims his sharpened rhetoric at the wealthy Romans of his time who, in the midst of socio-economic collapse, were waging a massive land grab and defrauding campaign against the poor. Principally, the wealthy were guilty of denying the common nature or humanity between themselves and the poor, segregating themselves as some sort of homo superior. (Cf., De Nabuthae 1.2; 3.11-3.12) Rather than sharing the excesses of their wealth and provide sheltering for their companions by nature, the perverted sense of justice or caritas among the wealthy compelled them to construct dwellings for their animals, while at the same time defrauding the poor of theirs. (3.12)

With the above in mind, consider the following,

One lion died in Africa and every suburban trendy in the US and Europe is protesting in moral outrage and demanding justice for Cecil. The media has taken moral posturing and targeted its ire at the hunter.

And yet conservatively 5,500 children die of starvation in Africa every day. Where is the mass corporate media's moral posturing and indignation? Where is the moral outrage among the suburban trendies in the West? Forget that, where is the fashionable hash tag or fb meme to plaster all over your social media accounts?

Priorities say a lot about a culture and the direction it is heading. Ambrose of Milan may have been one of the earliest observers of all too real phenomenon: when the elites of a society accord animals the same rights that properly belong to people, it is only a matter of time until people have no rights. The obsession with animal rights is often used as cloak to disguise utter indifference if not blazon cruelty towards another human being's condition.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pre-1955 Missale Romanum and Liturgical Perception

The attempt to publish a pre-1955 Missale Romanum seems to have hit a massive wall, if the publisher's website is any indication. The publisher moved from a pre-order policy to a commitment to order policy, but the crowds just aren't biting on this one.

The sedevacantism of the group behind the project is partly to blame. For those of a Western liturgical persuasion, sedevacantism can be an exciting place - the closest thing you'll get to the phenomenon of independent Protestant churches with a Latin liturgy. It can also isolate you pretty quick.

More probably, however, is that the demarcations of the traditional Latin liturgy have been defined along the lines of Missale Romanum of 1962.  Probably by the sheer force of Lefebvre's group having established its liturgical identity around said missal, it is almost impossible to introduce another addition into the the discussion and certainly impractical to try publishing one. Rightly or wrongly, the Missale Romanum of 1962 IS the traditional Latin liturgy - it has no other real competition.

There are, of course, criticisms that have been made about the Roman Missal of 1962. How substantial these criticisms are versus how academic depends largely on one's persuasion. Yet, any criticism is highly theoretical in light of the complete absence of viable publishing options for the pre-1962 books. Without the publication and presence of usable copies of the older editions (pre-Holy Week reform, pre-Signum Magnum, etc.) any discussion of using them is strictly in theory.

The greater mass of people interested in the traditional Latin liturgy either have no knowledge of the older books, or no desire for them. Practically speaking, not many will notice much of a difference. It makes it hard to make sustainability case of the pre-1955 missal. The interest in said missal seems to border on the lines of eclectic...if not esoteric. For anyone with a historical perspective on the old liturgy, this is a lamentable state of affairs.

There are limited avenues here and there. While there are some legitimate criticisms of it, Antioch's Western Rite follows the rubrics of the 1950 Missale Romanum. This said, be forewarned: you'll have to stomach a descending epiclesis and the number of Western Rite parishes using it is limited (most work off of the Book of Common Prayer).

Arguing for a substantial difference between 1962 and a previous year is a hard sell. Perceptively, the differences appear negligible and it is debatable if the changes between 1962 and the previous editions sufficiently alters the experience of the old Latin liturgy to effect the sense that one has experienced something else. This is crucial. Experiential knowledge holds significant sway. I have thoroughly experienced the Missal of 1962. Whatever academic critiques I may have, said Missal has created and cultivated my conceptualization of the old Latin liturgy.

Any attempt to enlarge the scope of the phrase "traditional liturgy" or "Latin Mass" faces the challenge of demonstrating that there are sufficient enough difference to demand the inclusion of early editions of the Roman Missal. When put to the test, most of the arguments appear to be somewhat ethereal - of crucial relevance to liturgy aficionados but hardly able to be transmitted as something of concrete urgency.

Should the discussion include earlier editions of the Missale Romanum? Absolutely, but don't be surprised if the earlier editions (much like the other Latin liturgies) remain the interest of a limited few with little prospect for actual implementation. So far as concerns implement the traditional Latin liturgy, that debate has largely been settled. The Missal Romanum of 1962 is the dominant usage and therein lay the challenge. The next venture has to be in area of defining the variety of uses of the old Latin (in this case, Roman) liturgy, thereby removing the obsession with liturgy by regulation.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Schuyler Caxton NLT - Photos - and the first glimpses of the second edition of the Quentel ESV.

Schuyler continues to pull back the curtain on the soon-to-be latest edition to its line up, the Caxton NLT.

Today, Schuyler released several new images of the Caxton NLT. Take a gander:

This is only a portion of the photos Schuyler released. 

Web traffic related to this volume is increasing as we get closer to the September release. As such, I am inclined to "believe the hype" when it comes to this volume. There is a lot of interest out there, and for good reason. This is the way a Bible (or breviary for that matter) should be bound. 

Schuyler has a strong portfolio of offerings for your consideration. You can find more at their website. 

The Quentel ESV needs no introduction among Bible buyers. Schuyler has released a preview image of the dark purple and tan goatskins.

The dark purple was, all told, an unexpected choice, but the pictures seem to indicate Schuyler is pulling it off. 

Anyone knowledgeable of the 20th century heyday of liturgical publishing should be reminded of those years when editions of the breviary and missal could be found in multiple leather editions. It is hard not to nod in approval at Schuyler's efforts. 

Very few publishers know what the A-game really is. Schuyler not only knows the A-game, it may well be writing the rules going forward. Believe the hype.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Problem with Benny - to the right of Benedict's papacy.

An extremely interesting write up by Damian Thompson on the evolution or devolution of Roman Catholicism in social media.

For those who were there one way or another at ground zero, Thompson's brief history is equal parts nostalgia inducing and sobering.

Conservative Roman Catholics really lit the fire with social media. I recall in those years prior to Benedict's pontificate the number of well seated liberal theologians who openly mocked such "popular publications" and dismissed such efforts. Two years later they grew defensive around the notion, eventually noting the popularity and ability to influence perception but still refusing to give it much credence. By the time Benedict's papacy came to a close, the liberal wing, after almost a decade of being beaten and bruised online, finally realized how to work on the same level.

The rise of Roman Catholic blogdom coincided with Benedict's papacy and was accompanied by a triumphalism (in virtue or his election) that quickly devolved into petty, scathing vindictiveness at anyone who did not toe the same ideological line. As Thompson notes, "things became nasty."

Pray Tell, the social media hub of Liturgical Press, wonders how it was that Benedict's papacy attracted supporters "far to the right" of Josef Ratzinger.

Pray Tell, to the editor's credit, actually gets the question right. The conservative/Traditionalist blogosphere made a habit of cherry picking Ratzinger's writings and speeches to suite an ideological agenda. The most famous being every avoidance of Ratzinger's assesment that liturgical reform was needed and that, "apart from a few minor criticisms" he was "very thankful" for the Missale Romanum of Paul VI. Ratzinger, like his predecessor, saw himself as fully confirming of Vatican II and resolutely determined to ensure the Council would be implemented and its legacy solidified.

To ask why or how such interests to the right of Ratzinger could ever attach themselves to his papacy so resolutely, however, betrays a genuine disconnect from the reality of the Roman Church, the situation on the ground, after the Second Vatican Council. In a period of demographic decline (and the collapse of the Roman Church in Europe) Ratzinger seemed to be the only member of the hierarchy willing to hold post-Vatican II Catholicism up to the sunlight test.

Ratzinger openly acknowledged the theological ambiguity, while fashionable as a pastoral practice in a multicultural context, had served to denigrate the perception of the legitimacy of the Christian faith. For those whose discontent stemmed from liturgical matters, Ratzinger seemed to provide a source of empathy. Ratzinger was able to mention the Tridentine liturgy without dismissing it as irrelevant and fully acknowledging some its better traits. Furthermore, he offered a sober assessment that the wholesale abandonment of the "Latin Tradition," in terms of both language and chant, was not necessarily the most well thought out decision.

In reaction to the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Church, whether due to a mistaken interpretation of the Council's intention and decrees or due to an accurate assessment of both, pivoted to left in many large pockets. Benedict's papacy, in virtue of his own willingness to offer criticism of some dominant trends in Roman Catholicism, was the event through which certain tensions related to the direction set out after the Council finally came to the surface.

Suddenly, it became a safe environment to ask questions critical of the Council and, more importantly, the hierarchy responsible for its implementation. One did not have acquiesce to the post-Vatican II euphoria. One could have a more detached, if not critical, perspective. Unfortunately, certain parties, lay and cleric alike, were not content with the change in atmosphere. "Things got nasty," and what were once reasonable avenues for constructive, if not avant-garde, discussion were now spitting venom and, in liturgical circles, preoccupied with the most juvenile of things.

Without playing a game of "who-did-what-first," it is only fair to say that it would be a matter of time before an equal and opposite reaction rose to the surface. Enter the pontificate of Francis.

At the height of the devolution of discourse, I reached out to a rather well known priest and blogger who, in between photo sets of sumptuous meals and drinks he was able to enjoy a continent away thanks to the timely donations of his readers, was fixated with pillorying certain groups of nuns and certain parts of secular society. I highlighted a particular instance and noting the subtle hypocrisy of his vindictiveness and noted that he would, eventually, get an institutional church as intolerant as his most colorful written explosions, but by that time it would be out for people like himself. He promptly blocked my IP address. Six years later, I think I've been proven correct.

When the pendulum is finally set in motion, it seems like it never stops. The pendulum always swings. The only thing that can stop it is another force capable of arresting its motion and forcing stasis. While the pendulum swings, such an event is unpredictable and unlikely for all practical purposes.

Eventually the current swing to the opposite ideological direction will prove the catalyst for a response strong enough to pull things back. In truth, it may have already started. Thompson notes that last October in Rome demonstrated that the same social media awareness and presence was capable of derailing what by all accounts was a carefully constructed synod and pre-drafted interim report. Rather than wait for history to be written and react to it, the more rightward leaning interests sought to divert history midstream. The real test will come this October when decisions will be made.

The legacy of Benedict's papacy is, for the near future, tied to the interests that latched onto his papacy and the currents that came to the fore during his presidency in the Roman Church.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Holman Christian Standard Study Bible - Genuine Cowhide - Review

I am always interested in new vernacular editions of the sacred text. Truth be told, new translations really are sort of hit or miss. 

Translations based off of the tradition set by the KJV have been relatively reliable and steady in terms of success. The translations that broke away from the more normative model have struggled to get out of being labeled "niche` translation." 

The most successful have been the NLT and the NJB. The NLT successfully struck the current to provide a translation that successfully complemented contemporary English. The NJB road on the success of its scholarly pedigree and reputation of being a literary bible.  Otherwise, new translations have had had a tough time breaking out. The Holman Christian Standard Bible is another attempt to provide a new alternative to the dominant English translations.

Like the ESV, the HCSB emerged roughly in the late 90s and early 2000s. Whereas the ESV stayed in the general trajectory of translations derived from the KJV and provided an alternative to the NRSV, the HCSB embarked on the trajectory of a new translation. The most significant contribution it makes to the current crop of translations is in following the lead of the NJB by incorporating the divine name. The use of the name Yahweh is not as exhaustive as the NJB - the HCSB limits it to approximately 800 times - but it is only other translation that has this distinction.

As a translation, the HCSB varies between dynamic equivalency and literal translation. The editors attempt to spin this as a third way, optimal equivalency. Someone with a background in the original languages may ping Holman Publishers as guilty of trying a marketing ploy. "Optimal equivalence" comes across more as an attempt at creating a "buzz word" and the approach is nowhere near being novel - one can argue the NJB already took the approach of moving between literal and dynamic as was best deemed to communicate the meaning of the original text.

The translation is fairly agreeable. There are not too many translation fails it not much that would be flagged as horribly eclectic. This said, there some occassional eyebrow raisers. Case in point is the translation of Psalm 25:1 as "Lord I turn to You." The translation notes, which are minimal, provides the more literal translation of the Hebrew. The tendency to paraphrase Psalm 25 is becoming more pronounced in contemporary translations. The NJB and NET both opt for an interpretive reading and the HCSB seems to follow suite. The interpretive rendering does not seem entirely justified and based more on letting scholarly exegesis dictate the English translation than an analysis of the original text. It is less than an ideal translation and one hopes a future edition opts for a more conventional reading.

The format of the studying takes some getting used to if one is more familiar with the NJB or NRSV study editions. The NJB and NRSV are focused on providing vernacular editions with a robust reference tool and critical apparatus by way of exhaustive textual notes providing either literal translations or alternative readings. This is especially true for the New Jerusalem Bible. 

For its part, the HCSB keeps the alternative readings sparse and the literal translations to a minimum. Plainly, nothing to make the reader familiar with the critical apparatus in his or her BHS or LXX smile with approval. Rather the HSCB Study Bible goes headlong into providing color illustrations, interpretive commentary, and Hebrew/Greek word study tools as aides for the Biblical Text. The Hebrew/Greek word study tools are an interesting idea. Unfortunately the execution takes away from the reading experience and prove somewhat distracting.

Greek word study tool. A good idea gone wrong? It looks more like a college text book than well developed study bible.
Hebrew word study tool and accompanying color illustration. This page is busy, busy, busy!

Formatting issues aside, the physical construction of the HCSB is noteworthy. Now, you won't find yourself chucking any of your Cambridge editions in disgust, nor will you find an A level premium bible. You will, however, find a study bible that out does most everything available in the mass market (as opposed to the premium market) and provides you with a bang for your buck

The genuine cowhide is quite good. Holman did well here.

Reinforced pages - a necessity when the book starts to pick up some heft to it.

Nothing says "spine" like...well, the spine.Note the raised hubs.
Sewn binding - a plus. The ribbons could use some work though.

Overall, there are a lot of good things going on the pages of the HCSB Study Bible, however they need to go through some maturation to really have much of an impact.

The Hebrew and Greek word study tools are a plus. However, the formatting leaves one feeling like one has read a text book rather than a Bible. Additionally, the tools would be of greater use to persons embarking upon Greek or Hebrew study if each entry had both the original characters and the transliterated characters.

Using the divine name is a good first step, but the is scarcely any real justification to use it in 800 instances and leave the rest translated by the conventional "Lord." Furthermore, there seems little reason to leave the other divine names in the biblical text subject to conventional translation. El Shaddai, for instance, merits inclusion as the ancient deity behind the eventual rise of Israelite religion.

Overall, this is a fair first effort. With some continued work, the HCSB may be one to watch.

Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with this review copy. The review copy was provided with no expectation other than an honest review.