Ecce Rex Tuus: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Christmas Sermon

For those of us who owe our theological sanity to marching through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae and Disputed Question on Truth, his Christmas sermon, which encapsulates his method in a very nice form.  Merry Christmas!

The Aquinas Institute would like to give our subscribers and supporters a Christmas gift: Aquinas’s Christmas sermon Ecce Rex Tuus in a fresh translation from the Leonine text by Madison Michieli. To see the Latin text in a parallel column and critical footnotes in the English, visit our online text viewer. Feel free to share.…

via Ecce Rex Tuus—a gift from the Aquinas Institute — Aquinas Institute

Sounds of Christmas Past: Robert Shaw's Joy to the World

The first Christmas album I ever owned–and I still have it–is the Robert Shaw Chorale’s Joy to the World, released on RCA Camden in 1958.  Recorded right after World War II, it has two distinctives: it’s entirely a capella and all the carols are traditional and sacred.

“Jeffnham” has done something completely different: he’s recorded the entire album while playing on his 1967 Magnavox console.  (We had one of those, too.)  It’s one of those things that could be a dud but it comes off very nicely; he did a great job miking the console and he’s brought back the experience of listening to albums on units like this.  Enjoy and be blessed!

Steeleye Span: Gaudete

It’s just a tad late in the Advent calendar, but just in time for Christmas: “Gaudete,” sung a capella by the British folk/rock group Steeleye Span.

Getting British rockers (even folk types like Steeleye Span) to sing in Latin was no mean trick, but they did it, and this video furnishes the lyrics.

Guaranteed to freak your church out if you can replicate it.

David Meece: My Father's Chair

At this time of year I usually think of my mother, who passed at this time of year.  But I heard this gem on Jradio Rewind this AM, had to share:

Why did Gondor not move the Palantir at Minas Ithil before it was captured? or, what Tech People Wonder About When Not Thinking About Tech

Check out this interesting thread at Stack Exchange, one of the premier sites for programmers of all kinds.   There are at least 2,400 other questions on Tolkien topics, and you can check them out, too.

The Wesleyan Advent Hymn the Wesleyan Pentecostals Don't Sing

It’s the classic hymn for the Second Sunday in Advent: “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,” done in good Anglo-Catholic style here:

The lyrics were written by Charles Wesley in 1758; more than one tune has been affixed to them, this is my favourite.  It’s about the Second Coming, which is really what Advent is all about: Jesus Christ came once, he will come again.  A better known song with the same theme is “Joy to the World” but it’s been lost in the Christmas carols.

It’s a magnificent hymn, so why don’t those who claim the Wesleyan (albeit John) name sing it?  Probably the same reason they adopted Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology: because the Baptists didn’t do it that way!

I am sure, however, that our contemporary ministers of music can adapt this to their style and instrumentation.  Why?  Because the old High Church types and the smoke machine people have one thing in common: they both like it loud.

Does Anyone Really Believe This Current System is Permanent?

One of side “benefits” of being in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere is to get to know “Anglicans Unscripted,” the video interview series hosted by Kevin Kallsen, with frequent contribution by fellow Palm Beacher George Conger.  In a recent episode with Kallsen and the Queen’s former chaplain Gavin Ashenden, they discussed a float in Justin Welby’s parade of inept gaffes, namely his statement during a meeting with the Patriarch in Moscow that he lacked freedom to speak out on issues back in the UK.  In the course of discussing this Kallsen makes this observation:

What Kallsen is saying is that, in Russia, the church understands that kings and governments come and go and the church remains.  In the West, however, the church feels that it has to get with the program so that “society” and “culture” will allow the church the right to exist.  I also suspect that, even with the much shorter history of Christianity in China, the Chinese take the same attitude, which explains why Christian churches in China experience the growth they do even in the face of government and party hostility.

For an American to come to this realisation, let alone verbalise it, is amazing, although I’ve found the debate level in the Anglican/Episcopal world to be at a higher level than many other places in Christianity.  Americans take a notoriously short view of history, which more than anything else makes them inherently provincial.  The really sad truth is that, with more than fifty years of “liberation,” world travel and the fire hose of news that the internet affords, they still have the idea that this system of things will not basically change, which only reinforces the baneful provinciality.

That attitude is the one thing that actually unites both sides of our political scene in this country.   In spite of noises such as the abolition of the Electoral College or the institution of a parliamentary system on one side or amendments against abortion or same-sex civil marriage on the other, both sides see their destiny fulfilled in the current system with the current structure.  That’s a major reason both sides carry on as vociferously as they do; they look on success in politics as an existential necessity.

But countries come and countries go, and the way they’re governed goes with it.  Americans are out of touch with reality when they reflexively oppose any kind of secession (including Catalonia, Scotland, and the best one, Calexit.)  Christians in particular should understand that regimes and systems change (just compare those we have now to those in the Scriptures should make that clear) and that the church needs to fulfil the mission Our Lord put it on the earth to accomplish.  One reason why American Christians are having a hard time understanding (let alone supporting) Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” is that the original Benedict Option was made necessary by the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, an event which is entirely outside the experience of Americans.  (It’s hard to get Americans to understand what the collapse of the other superpower was really like, which is why we have so much foolish prattle about the Russians.)

It’s time for our ministers to earn their keep and set forth the idea that the church needs to really “be the church” (and not just in the way it worships either) and not constantly beholden to a system which is USD20 trillion in debt.  The results of that realisation may not be easy to carry out in this life, but doing so beats the blowback to what we’re doing now on the other side.

If You're Goal is to Eliminate the Bad People in Power, What Happens When You Succeed?

An interesting observation from Jonathan Haidt about what college students are being indoctrinated in these days:

But what do we do now? Many students are given just one lens—power. Here’s your lens, kid. Look at everything through this lens. Everything is about power. Every situation is analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult. It’s a fundamentalist religion. It’s a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety and intellectual impotence. . . .

And it’s a loser’s game, too: if the bad people are in power oppressing the good ones, and you manage to eject them and get into power, and power is all you’ve ever focused on, you’ll spend all of your time trying to stay there, and in doing so you’ll oppress others, and then you’ve become a bad person ripe for ejection by others…

It’s like the end of The Prisoner episode “It’s Your Funeral:” after #6 foils an attempt by the incoming #2 to assassinate the outgoing #2, he tells the incoming one that he hopes that, when the day comes, his masters have something equally suitable planned for him.

So do we.

Not Much on Taking Advice: Pentecostals and Anglicanism

Growing up–especially when we lived on Lookout Mountain, something of a fantasy land in itself–I always enjoyed the Disney movies and records I could take in or had.  One of those that’s stuck with me is the song “Very Good Advice” from Alice in Wonderland. The clip from the movie is below:

Today is the Feast of Christ the King where, in addition to celebrating Our Lord’s coming return, we put a wrap on one liturgical year and prepare for the beginning of another with the First Sunday in Advent.  Considering the liturgical year brings me to a topic that, I think, needs to be discussed: the growing interest that some Pentecostals have in Anglicanism and other liturgical/apostolic churches, and specifically my adventure (or lack of it) in this process.

This website has been around for over two decades and I’ve been on social media (first Facebook, then Twitter) for almost half that time.  Much of what’s driven that has been my participation in the “Anglican Revolt,” so much of what’s here is aimed in that direction.  It’s almost innate for me to discuss Anglican/Episcopalian and Roman Catholic things because I was raised in one and spent much of my early adult life in another; my intellectual formation (and first entry into the Charismatic/Pentecostal world) came largely from my years as a Roman Catholic.  And I’ve gotten into some interesting dialogues with my Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox visitors, some positive, some not as much.

Engaging my Pentecostal friends in a dialogue has been another matter altogether.  With a few exceptions, the general response from that direction has been silence.  In the meanwhile I see them posting things such as nice Anglican churches, interest in liturgy and even evidence that they sneak into an Episcopal Church from time to time.  After my father’s experience in trying to get through the shoals of the Bahamas without a native guide, I thought that they might like one as well, with perhaps some “good advice.”  But by and large they have not, preferring to risk hitting the reef and going to the bottom.

There are a couple of things that need to be said at this point.

The first is that I’d be the first one to admit that there are many problems with Pentecostal/Charismatic churches these days.   Coming from a tradition of spontaneity and Spirit-led worship,  worship in many of these churches is a well-programmed floor show.  There’s too much emphasis on income generation and system maintenance, which (unBiblical though it is)  is a lot easier to carry out in the demographic of, say, the Episcopal Church than it is with most Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.  And, of course, there’s always the political element, although in this country both sides of the debate have too many of their eggs in the political basket.

The second is that, relative to those of us who are products of liturgical/apostolic churches, people who are raised in a Pentecostal church are products of an alternative universe.  That means that they often don’t “get” what they’re looking at, or how might be used to improve their own situation.  For example, I have yet to see a cogent explanation from any Pentecostal about what a “sacrament” is, or what it’s supposed to do, or why they’re important, or how sacramental theology differs substantially from what we’ve been regaled with up until now.  And potential cognitive dissonance extends to other topics.  For example, with Advent coming up, how do you plan to turn the Christmas season into an Advent one after years of Dickensenian conditioning?   How do we do Lent when many of our congregations have already run off and done the Daniel Diet in January?  Will we ever ditch Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology?  Or how do we incorporate the move of the Spirit into liturgical worship?  (Having experienced this myself, I really thought that people would be interested in it, but silly me…)  Instead of tackling these questions head-on, what I see these days is Pentecostal thinkers papering over the problems with post-modern fudge (which, sad to say, is too much like Anglican fudge, with potentially the same result.)

Unlike some people, I don’t have any problem investigating “how the other half lives.”  In some respects that’s what I’ve done here for a long time.  What bothers me is that others that do aren’t interested in the experience and observations of those who have trod the path, even if they had started from another place and took the path in a different direction.

And that leads me to something that bothers me even more: that these investigations, for some at least, are a part of moving up.  Pentecostal churches have two things that most of American Christianity only dreams of: the preferential option of the poor and ethnic diversity.  Nevertheless, in spite of rhetoric to the contrary, it seems that some who trod the Anglican/Episcopal road want to end up in a place which, really, has neither, because their own life situation no longer matches the state of their church.  And that, of course, will draw them into the struggles which have convulsed the Anglican/Episcopal world for the last half century.  Which side will they choose?  I am fearful, if for no other reason than that they will project their own problems with their own past into the conflict.

But, as I said at the start, many eschew the native guide.  Like Alice, they peer into the Gothic cathedrals and churches “through the looking glass” not realising what they’re really peering into is a palantir.  Those of us who have slogged through the battles with the likes of KJS and now Justin Welby know what’s coming but theological Siegfrieds know no fear at their peril.  They and their churches will end up pointless and they will, like Alice in the video at the start of this post, will end up crying in the dark, wishing they had taken some good advice.

In Thanksgiving, the Hymn From Colossians

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by giving thanks in a Scriptural way, and it’s set to music here:

The entire album is here.  The scripture it’s taken from is here.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!