Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints…

While passing through Holy Week and Easter, on Low Sunday our family had another passage: the death of my wife’s mother, Ruby Foister.  The photo/video presentation the funeral home put together is below.

The other arrangements are here.

“Saint” is a good term for my mother-in-law. The Scripture quotation in the title–taken from Psalm 116:15–is often used at funerals, but fairly recently I discovered that the conventional interpretation of same is wrong.

The interpretative skunk in this case is N.T. Wright.  Traditionally our ministers interpret “precious” as “dear to heart,” i.e., the Lord welcomes his saints home.  But Wright, in The Resurrection of the Son of God, points out that “precious” means “expensive”, which means that God regards the departure of his saints from the earth as a loss.  This is more in line with the concept of the afterlife as it was presented in the Old Testament; it is also more in line with the way Our Lord reacted to Lazarus’ death (John 11:35) or with the fact that he brought Lazarus back from the dead at all.

In any case we covet your prayers at this time.

Messing With a Celtic Agenda Isn't a Good Idea

From time to time I’ve made many disparaging remarks about the Scots-Irish, some of whom I count as ancestors.  These range from their inauspicious (but prophetic) arrival in this land to discussing Grady McWhiney’s research, which I find priceless.

I think that understanding this ethnic group is crucial to understanding these United States more than any other group of people who have made their way here, and that includes the people who were here already.  Their idea of life and society has grievous weaknesses that have become all too clear in the world we find ourselves in, but it has its strengths too: its emphasis on personal freedom, the sanctity of property rights, their strong faith in God which has compensated for much of trashiness that runs through the culture, and their willingness to fight, which is a liability in times of peace but invaluable in times of war.  To a large extent the left’s agenda these days consists in negating the Scots-Irish heritage altogether, and that’s the source of most of the conflict in our political life.  I’m surprised that (Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding) the left hasn’t used McWhiney’s hypothesis–which was put to its highest and best expression in Thomas Sowell’s Black Rednecks and White Liberals–against their perennial opponents, but to admit that one ethnic group has the grievous problems the Scots-Irish do would imply that others might too, which would wreck the whole artificial construct that the left has put together on race and identity.

Having lived among these people, if I had to pick one illustration of their idea it would be a little story from Contes Dramatiques, which my pied noir French teacher back in Palm Beach used to try to teach us brats the language of Pascal and Bossuet.  It comes from Brittany, another interesting offshoot of the Celtic British Isles (or really the Romano-Celtic British Isles).  During the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, Brittany was settled from Britain and, as Peter Salway dryly noted in Roman Britain, the resulting “Bretons were to become such a thorn in the flesh of central authority in medieval and modern France”.

The tale concerns five dwarves without much to do.  So they occupied themselves by dancing under the moonlight, singing their song:

Lundi, mardi, mercredi;
Lundi, mardi, mercredi.

Which, of course, simply means “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday”.  It wasn’t much of a song but they were happy with it.

A hunchback named Pierre came along and realised their song wasn’t complete.  So he proposed the following song to upgrade it:

Lundi, mardi, mercredi;
Jeudi, et puis vendredi.

(Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday;
Thursday, and then Friday.)

The dwarves were happy; it rhymed and not only that went with the tune they already had.  So they pressed the hunchback to name his price, and the hunchback asked that his back be straightened out.  The dwarves obliged and the hunchback was no more, his back was straight.

The dwarves continued with their new, improved song until another hunchback named Jean came along.  He too pointed out to them their song wasn’t complete; so he tried to get them to sing the following:

Lundi, mardi, mercredi,
Jeudi, et puis vendredi,
Samedi, et puis dimanche.

(Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, and then Friday,
Saturday, and then Sunday.)

Jean thought he had completed their song, but all he succeeded in doing was to make the dwarves angry.  The new line didn’t rhyme and messed up the music as well.  So they gave Jean another hunch to his back and sent him back to his wife.

The lesson of this tale is this: with the Celts, you can be right all you want and your idea make sense, but unless it fits their existing agenda as they see it, you’ll end up with a big mess on your hands!

The Necessity of the Resurrection

From St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 3, a. 53, q. 1:

It behooved Christ to rise again, for five reasons.

  1. First of all; for the commendation of Divine Justice, to which it belongs to exalt them who humble themselves for God’s sake, according to Luke 1:52: “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.” Consequently, because Christ humbled Himself even to the death of the Cross, from love and obedience to God, it behooved Him to be uplifted by God to a glorious resurrection; hence it is said in His Person (Psalm 138:2): “Thou hast known,” i.e. approved, “my sitting down,” i.e. My humiliation and Passion, “and my rising up,” i.e. My glorification in the resurrection; as the gloss expounds.
  2. Secondly, for our instruction in the faith, since our belief in Christ’s Godhead is confirmed by His rising again, because, according to 2 Corinthians 13:4, “although He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God.” And therefore it is written (1 Corinthians 15:14): “If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and our [Vulgate: ‘your’] faith is also vain”: and (Psalm 29:10): “What profit is there in my blood?” that is, in the shedding of My blood, “while I go down,” as by various degrees of evils, “into corruption?” As though He were to answer: “None. ‘For if I do not at once rise again but My body be corrupted, I shall preach to no one, I shall gain no one,'” as the gloss expounds.
  3. Thirdly, for the raising of our hope, since through seeing Christ, who is our head, rise again, we hope that we likewise shall rise again. Hence it is written (1 Corinthians 15:12): “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?” And (Job 19:25-27): “I know,” that is with certainty of faith, “that my Redeemer,” i.e. Christ, “liveth,” having risen from the dead; “and” therefore “in the last day I shall rise out of the earth . . . this my hope is laid up in my bosom.”
  4. Fourthly, to set in order the lives of the faithful: according to Romans 6:4: “As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life”: and further on; “Christ rising from the dead dieth now no more; so do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive to God.”
  5. Fifthly, in order to complete the work of our salvation: because, just as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that He might deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to advance us towards good things; according to Romans 4:25: “He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”

Holy Saturday: The Two Reactions to Proclamation

Holy Saturday is one of those holidays that for most seems to be only a gap.  We see the re-enactments of Christ’s passion on Good Friday and the celebrations of his resurrection on Easter.  But what happened between the two?

What took place is what used to be called the “harrowing of hell”, i.e., when Christ came though the underworld (with, implicitly, the repentant thief in tow) and brought out all of those who had looked forward to his coming.  It’s a topic that brings out a lot of Biblical discussion, but that’s the bottom line.

But the ones who looked forward to his coming weren’t the only one’s Our Lord interacted with.  As St. John of Damascus (The Orthodox Faith, III, 29) tells us:

The soul when it was deified descended into Hades, for, just as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) rose for those upon the earth, so likewise He might bring light to those who sit under the earth in darkness and shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2): for just as He brought the message of peace to those upon the earth, and of release to the prisoners, and of sight to the blind , and became to those who believed the Author of everlasting salvation and to those who did not believe a reproach of their unbelief (1 Peter 3:19), so He might become the same to those in Hades : That every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth. Philippians 2:10 And thus after He had freed those who had been bound for ages, straightway He rose again from the dead, showing us the way of resurrection.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we say “on earth as it is in heaven”, but this is an example of how the other place reflects earthly realities.  While Jesus was on the earth, some accepted his teaching, some rejected it vehemently.  When he passed through hell, it was the same thing: some had looked forward to him and accepted his teaching, others that didn’t had rejected him.  Needless to say, what they thought about what he said was entirely different.

It’s the same today: some accept him, some reject him.  In this life, however, we can choose; in the next one, we cannot.  Holy Saturday, the “gap” that it is for many, is a good time to make the choice one way or another.

To start making that choice, click here

Why Christ's Passion was the Best Way: A Good Friday Reflection

From Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, 3 q.46 a. 3:

Among means to an end, the more suitable is that whereby the various concurring means employed are themselves helpful to such end. But in this that man was delivered by Christ’s Passion, many other things besides deliverance from sin came together for man’s salvation.

  1. In the first place, man knows thereby how much God loves him, and is thereby stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation; hence the Apostle says (Romans 5:8): “God commendeth His charity towards us; for when as yet we were sinners . . . Christ died for us.”
  2. Secondly, because thereby He set us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice, and the other virtues displayed in the Passion, which are requisite for man’s salvation. Hence it is written (1 Peter 2:21): “Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.”
  3. Thirdly, because Christ by His Passion not only delivered man from sin, but also merited justifying grace for him and the glory of bliss, as shall be shown later (48, 1; 49, 1, 5).
  4. Fourthly, because by this man is all the more bound to refrain from sin, according to 1 Corinthians 6:20: “You are bought with a great price: glorify and bear God in your body.”
  5. Fifthly, because it redounded to man’s greater dignity, that as man was overcome and deceived by the devil, so also it should be a man that should overthrow the devil; and as man deserved death, so a man by dying should vanquish death.

Hence it is written (1 Corinthians 15:57): “Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was accordingly more fitting that we should be delivered by Christ’s Passion than simply by God’s good-will.

Les compagnons de Paul: Jésus va revenir est-tu prêt?

(KO 091113) 1973?

The best way to describe this album’s style is “eclectic.”  But that’s not in a contemporary sense–even for the time it came out–but in a traditional sense.  “The Companions of Paul” (the group’s name in English) draw from a variety of folk styles, including French folk music (an ancestor of zydeco), bluegrass and traditional American Gospel (before the polyester suit types got into the act), which in turn have ancestry in British folk music.  The result is an interesting album that would be even better if the vocals were a step up in quality from what they are.

And I doubt seriously that those who accompanied the Apostle played a banjo.

The songs:

  1. Il a les pieds tout blancs
  2. Pardone leur
  3. Déception Blues
  4. Ne pense pas
  5. Le Seigneur souffre
  6. Si seulement
  7. Remord
  8. Le Seigneur patiente
  9. Ne te moque pas
  10. Supporte le
  11. L’Étincelle

Getting With the Program: The Lesson of the Brandon Eich Fiasco

When I was growing up, one of my father’s favourite expressions to get my brother and I to not stray from the path he set before us was to demand that we “get with the program”.  The flip side to that was that, if we did get with the program, life would be good.

That authoritarian presentation of life didn’t always sit well with us.  Part of the problem was that we were in the wrong country to make it work.  Had I emigrated to a place where “the program” was more uniformly enforced, life probably would have had a more familiar feel to it.  But this used to be the place where people could make choices in an open society for the kind of life they wanted to live.  That’s not really the case any more; we have a more corporatist mentality where anything that stands in the way of whatever goal is fashionable at the moment is cast aside.

These days the most fashionable goal is same-sex civil marriage.  Although the immediate stated objective is “equality” there are many other goals wrapped up in it, and I won’t take time to go through these.  But now it’s the litmus test of a person being “beautiful and good” as the Greeks used to put it.

The latest high-visibility failure of this litmus test is the aborted attempt for Brandon Eich, who invented Javascript, to become Mozilla’s regular CEO.  After 11 days and a howl of protest from LGBT activists inside and outside of Mozilla, he stepped down from that vaunted position.  That took place because he had the bad taste to donate USD1,000 to the support of Proposition 8, which (temporarily) nullified same-sex civil marriage in California.  Not willing to fully repent of this in the style that the Chinese used to expect during the Cultural Revolution, he left after his support collapsed.

Before I go on, I’d like to make two passing observations:

  1. As a web site maintainer and one who reads his statistics, I think that the Mozilla browser deal is on the downhill run.  Good as they are (and I’ve certainly used them for many years) and as successful as they have been against IE, they’re being overtaken by Chrome, both in PC’s and on mobile devices, where they really haven’t gotten off the ground.  Mozilla needed to hire based on merit if they needed to survive; Eich’s fall is a major step backward in that regard.
  2. I felt long ago that Proposition 8 was ill-advised, and believe that the abolition of civil marriage is what’s needed in our society.  I don’t support same-sex civil marriage because I don’t support the extension of a franchise I’m trying to get rid of.  But since civil marriage is the necessary prerequisite of same-sex civil marriage, that leads to the next question: if Eich (or anyone else) opposes civil marriage altogether, will they be subjected to the same animus that we saw in this case?  I think we’ll find out soon enough, but in the meanwhile…

What happened to Eich is reminiscent of what happened during the “Red scare” days of the 1950’s.  And I don’t throw that around casually.  In the 1930’s both communism and fascism had their fans–and well placed ones at that–in the United States.  Fascism’s fans took it in the chops during World War II, when we were actually at war with these people.  Communism’s turn came afterwards.  People who thought they were in a mainstream found out otherwise.  What changed was the country.  The left’s teeth were set on edge by the McCarthy Era, but now that the shoe is on the other foot: things which were legitimate before (like supporting legal ballot initiatives) are now beyond the pale.

There are some in the LGBT community–Andrew Sullivan is probably the best known–who realise the nature of what has happened and are appalled by it.  But there are others who take the Vince Lombardi approach to life and politics: winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.  It’s “get with the program” time for these people; a really free country, with the benefits that come with it, means nothing to them.  But perhaps they should (but probably won’t) stop and consider a couple of things.

The first is that, while Eich’s experience threatens people’s ability to get and keep employment, the growth of the entitlement system makes obtaining and retaining employment less necessary than before.  Today we have a government which is open in making it possible not have to work to get health insurance, which has allowed the disability program to expand to unprecedented levels, and which inflates employment figures by allowing many people to drop out of the workforce without a care of getting them back.  Such a reality, which is facing those who are supposed to be entering into the workforce now, probably wouldn’t have affected a person such as Eich, but I would have taken it into consideration in my choices, and many others are doubtless of like style of mind.

Moving on, in hiring into the competitive environment we have now, we have, as Chairman Mao used to say, “put politics in command”.  The LGBT community would like to humour us with the idea that promoting their equality promotes merit, but putting litmus tests like this front and centre will attract political and ideological hacks.  To draw a historical example, V.I. Lenin had no problem retaining the services of Alexei Brusilov, the Tsar’s best commander in World War I, to fight the Russian Civil War.  Why?  Because he wanted to win.  But such a sophisticated mentality is beyond the crazies of our time.

The Russian history analogy brings up another point: the LGBT community would do well to put its foot soldiers somewhere else than behind their Twitter accounts.  For example, given Putin’s policy re that community, there should be “gay brigades” fighting him in Crimea, just like the leftists who fought against Franco in Spain.  There should be like forces in the Middle East against those who hang homosexuals from hydraulic cranes.  If you’re going to deal harshly with domestic enemies, you need to consider your foreign ones.  But our current Occupant is pursuing another hippie dream of putting flowers in gun barrels, which will negate much of the “progress” going on.

Personally I’d like to see Eich cut a deal with the Chinese.  They don’t care about such things; they went through their era of “putting politics in command” and like Lenin want to win.  The two revolutions of the 1960’s—the social-sexual and the computer—were antithetical then and can be so again, depending upon who pulls the strings.  Mozilla was the single strongest single open source alternative to the corporatist monolith on the Internet, but I guess that freedom is going to have to come from somewhere else.

Groupe Naissance: Entre tes mains

(Jef 335.111) 1974?

A very nice French Christian folk album.  To my mind it isn’t quite up to this (from the same label, though), but it isn’t bad either.

  1. Les Chalands
  2. Vivre Ave Toi
  3. Comme une Terre Desséchée
  4. Amitié
  5. Langueur
  6. La Feuille Morte
  7. Oh! Oh! Seigneur
  8. Ce N’est Pas Étrange
  9. Quand J’ai vu les Mains
  10. Ma Vie est Entre tes Mains
  11. Miroir
  12. A Bientôt!