Thursday, August 15, 2019

Mary Lives!

Wishing everyone a happy and holy and joyful Feast of the Dormition and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Mary helps us in everything. She goes before us in glory, soul and body, already now into the fullness of the New Creation. Her splendor is the beginning of the complete realization of God's loving plan for the world.

Today we remember the Woman who is full of God, and whose "yes" to God has become the acceptance of each one of us as her child.  Each one of us is loved by a real Mother, with a real nurturing tenderness, affirmation, and patience that touches our every day - even if we don't realize it.

We pray that the Mother of God might be gratefully acknowledged, honored, and relied upon by every human person, because in the solicitude of her intimate maternal love she embraces each one.

We pray especially that all baptized Christians will recognize that she is their Mother, and allow her - within the mystery of the workings of the Holy Spirit - to help them attain the fullness of Christian faith and life.

Those of us who live in the Americas ought to become more familiar with the very special gift Mary has given us in the middle of this continent, a gift that "mediates" (in some way) the "presence" of her glorified humanity.

We have seen many pictures of the mysterious cactus cloth cloak worn 500 years ago by an indigenous Mexican man. He was a simple, ordinary man. If it were not for this cloak, history never would have noticed Cuauhtlatoatzin, the man called "Singing Eagle" among his own people, who took the names "Juan Diego" at his baptism. He lived an obscure, humble life until that morning of the Winter Solstice - December 12, 1531 - when she found him on a hillside and gave him a sign of herself, impressed upon his cloak. It endures, undiminished, to this very day.

Look at one of the pictures of the image on Juan Diego's garment. There she is...not a myth, not a "mother-goddess," not a scientifically unusual painting by some anonymous brilliant artist, but the wonderful miraculous icon of the Woman who lives in all her humanity, and carries us through all our days.

She is the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God - the true mother of the God who came to dwell among us, to share our humanity, to save us and transform us. She is the Woman who crushes the ancient serpent under her feet, Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe. She who is alive in every way communicates her tender love to us, especially to all of us who "dwell on this land." She brings healing.

Mary is the New Eve.  The New Paradise.  The beginning of the New Creation. The young girl from Nazareth who said Yes to God.  She is the Mother of Mercy.

She is our mother. And we are the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, children of God, destined to share His glory forever.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Saint Maximilian Kolbe: The Inner Conflict

"The real conflict is an inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?" (Maximilian Kolbe, writing shortly before his arrest in 1941 - he died in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941).

Monday, August 12, 2019

We Are Already a New Creation in Christ

The journey of faith makes you a new creature, who has "the dignity, the certainty of your destiny and the capacity to operate in a new and more human way."

This new humanity means "a different experience of the sentiment of yourself, a different perception of things, a different emotion of the presence of others, a different impetus and density in relationships, a different gusto in the troubled dynamic of work, an outcome that was inconceivable, unimaginable before" (Luigi Giussani).

According to Luigi Giussani (who is essentially reminding us - with certain emphatic notes - of the teaching of the New Testament), our belonging to Jesus Christ transforms us in a way that already begins in this present life. We change in a way that impacts our experience of reality and ourselves, while not ceasing to be mysterious. We are changed in the depths of ourselves and in our engagement of reality, especially in the realm of interpersonal relations with others and with God.

In our "journey of faith," in this life, we glimpse "signs" of God's power working in our lives, and such indications can bring consolation and encouragement. But in this life - as classical Christian spirituality has always said - we are not meant to seek the consolations of God but the God of consolations, He who is the Source of all that renews and transforms us. 

These signs are not meant to cause us to "pause in life" (so to speak) and attempt to "capture" the transfiguring power of God in some sort of analysis that we could then "possess" (conceptually or imaginatively) as the source of our confidence. God's plan for us remains a mystery always beyond us. We journey toward Him, and He who is Mystery carries us in this journey, He who in Jesus reveals Himself as the Mystery of Love drawn ineffably "close" to us.

We are a "new creation" in Christ, even in this life, not because we adhere to our conception, our own securely mastered definition and self-referential criteria for measuring "new creaturehood." We are a new creation because, in the living and journeying of all of life - everything we go through, everything we feel, everything we suffer - we adhere to Him, we trust in Him, we love Him who has first loved us.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Christina Grimmie: "Why Gain the World...?"

Three years, two months. Christina Grimmie, thank you for not losing yourself. Shine on, bright beautiful star!⭐♫  

Friday, August 9, 2019

Ground Zero August Ninth

Ground Zero August Ninth

by John Janaro

It was a single bright blazing 
luminous moment,
a brief foamy shiny speck of wave 
cresting on the giant ocean of time.

We did not mean to turn our heads, 
but the spark grabbed our gaze.
Our eyes fixed against the sky's edge.

And there was a flash on the horizon,
not like the sun's first hint of daily dawn, 
mild and sweet and seldom noticed.
No, there was a flash—full, furious,
splendid strange
a convergence of ten thousand suns.
The force fell on our skulls and stole our feet,
and we flew.

As eyes, ears, bodies spun through the air,
the clouds roared 
and white hot light swallowed the earth.

There was no time to dither or complain, 
to flee or to be afraid.
Everything disappeared; everything changed.

Everything, and yet...
there is a strange space of passage, still, 
inside this flashing moment.

For who calculates the division of an instant; 
who can fathom the depth of its duration?

Who knows how to measure the distance 
between the beginning of the end
and the end of the end?
What we know is that the moment has come, 
the time is at hand.

A moment of time burns us away
as fire rages in the wind.

~August 9, 2019

Thursday, August 8, 2019

An Important Reminder From Saint Dominic

With his feast celebrated on August 8, the example and witness of the great medieval beggar, Dominic de Guzman, provide valuable instruction for us, all the more so when we dedicate our energies to the most worthy and noble of causes.

Dominic speaks here (in the text accompanying the image on the left) about preaching the Gospel, and his words pertain to the apostolic work of conversion. Here above all fruits grow out of humility, poverty, and love for God and our neighbor. 

But I think Dominic's words also speak to the spirit in which we must take up whatever just cause we are called to pursue, or whatever form of political or social advocacy.

Humility has different external forms. In certain circumstances, it requires vigorous and tenacious action for truth and justice and equity. Moreover, self defense and protection of others may require the use of material force, but never with violence in our hearts against the other person(s) as such.

Make no mistake: "whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword." Let us therefore always seek, by God's grace, to be men and women who build peace in the midst of our brothers and sisters, and who love God with confidence in His goodness.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Hong Kong: The Revolution IS Being Televised

Photo by May James / Hong Kong Free Press
‘The Revolution is being televised’ ...on YouTube and Twitter. 

As a “China-watcher” for some years, I am seeing something kinda new and significant in this Hong Kong “Summer of Protest.” 

Unlike the soul-stirring (and ultimately suppressed) student-led “Umbrella Movement” of 2014, there is no visible leadership here. In some places, 'conventional nonviolence' has given way to strategies inspired by Kung Fu philosophy, with guerrilla style disruptive tactics, savvy coordination via the internet, and surveillance-resistant anonymity, all of which enables current groups of demonstrators to have a remarkable degree of elusiveness and mobility. There have been some accusations of protester violence; but the obvious problem is police thuggery. Meanwhile, obsequious local public officials continue to dance to Beijing's tune.

Protesters have been taking to the streets on weekends since the beginning of June, when local legislation was proposed that would allow mainland China to extradite criminal suspects from the semi-autonomous former British colony. The legislation has been "suspended" (but not revoked), and protest demands have expanded to include the perennially controversial overall aspects of the current "One-Country-Two-Systems" arrangement.

This is a dangerous situation.

One thing seems clear regarding Hong Kong politics in the past decade: the kids are not buying it. They don't want their future to be some kind of new Soviet Union "with-Chinese-characteristics." The kids are taking enormous risks, dressed in black and wearing face masks, using 2019 technology in the spirit, bravery, restraint, and cleverness of classic Chinese martial arts heroes. Their opponent is a behemoth, but the kids ought not to be underestimated. Indeed, multitudes from every sector of Hong Kong society are calling for justice and respect for their human dignity. 

I don’t know how it will all play out, but if Beijing sends in the People's Liberation Army they will not find these protesters planted like sitting ducks to be shot down. They may instead be up against the ghost of Bruce Lee (with an encrypted cell phone). 

What will China do then? This is a dangerous situation, indeed. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


TRANSFIGURATION: Jesus Christ is the center of the universe and of history. On Mount Tabor, He reveals His glory as the light. Later, on the cross, He will reveal His glory as unconquerable love.

"O Christ our God, at the time of your Transfiguration on the Mount, You showed your disciples as much of your glory as they could hold. Through the prayers of the Mother of God, let your eternal light shine also upon us sinners. O Giver of Light, glory to You!"

~Troparion, Feast of the Transfiguration, 
Byzantine Liturgy

Monday, August 5, 2019

An Encounter with Him as a Living Person...

These words are from seven years ago, on August 5, 2012. The design I put together today. Jesus is the same: yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Hebrews 13:8).

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Reflections on Music and Musical Artists (Part 1)

Frequently on this blog, I write about musicians, performers, songwriters, composers, and various styles of music. In this post, however, I want to begin a series of reflections on what music is and what musicians are doing when they "make" music. 

These reflections will be general, ad-hoc, and variable. They are the thoughts of someone who is both a philosopher and a musician (as well as something of an "arts critic" and an avid listener who enjoys music). This means that my reflections will approach the topic from a variety of perspectives. In doing this, I am trying to advance my own ongoing efforts to further refine and integrate many different considerations, impressions, and experiences of music as a fundamental facet of life.

I love how music shapes sound into a “language” that connects people because it expresses in a concrete way the many facets of the human experience, especially the mysterious longing for transcendence that “cannot help” leaving its mark on every authentic artistic endeavor. 

I listen to lots of kinds of music, seeking to discover the urge for beauty that gives it life. Often it is a search for “gold in the mud,” because music frequently reaches us within a context that harnesses it (and tries to use its affective power) to serve complex purposes - including distracting entertainment spectacles, ideological agendas, and emotional manipulation. 

The “language” of music is true in that universal, undifferentiated, multidimensional sense that pertains to the intuition of beauty. But music can be presented within a context that twists its diverse nuances into the service of lies: propaganda, political or social revolution, or superficiality posing as depth (which is essential to powering the engine of consumerism).

Still, there remains the ineradicable human need for beauty, even in its most primitive or elemental forms. Sound has a vast spectrum and an enormous "plasticity," yet the crafting of sounds insists on their being "gathered together" in some manner of resonance. 

The artist makes music by incorporating sounds into his or her own quest for the resonance of audible reality, for its "coming together" (in various forms) as an artifact within the universe of being. Every artist endeavors to make beautiful artifacts that "contain" and communicate something of the trajectory of the universe toward integration, and of the interior personal struggle toward an enduring fulfillment.

The resonance of music expresses, in so many different ways, the drama of the cry of the human heart for something "beyond," something greater - for a fulfillment corresponding to the whole expansion of freedom, for beauty. 

I think we can hear an echo of this cry in the work of any musician who is trying to be a real artist, though it may be partially obscured, muted, or buried under the imperfections and conflicting preoccupations that may accompany their work. 

We can discover these audible echoes of the heart even in some contemporary music artists who are rather caught up in the excesses of their enlarged ego, which - under a gigantic (but also fickle and fleeting) spotlight - craves attention, celebrity, ongoing relevance and - of course - lots and lots of money.

Real artists today are seekers of beauty amidst the turbulence in which they so often find themselves in this epoch. In every age there have been poseurs and charlatans who invade the world of creative expression. And today they are (like everything else in our time) bigger and noisier than ever. It’s not always easy to identify the real musical artists or to recognize the sounds of their searching. I hope God’s grace and my years of experience have begun to give me the wisdom to listen well (and perhaps help others to listen, and to make their own music). be continued...

Saturday, August 3, 2019

"Deepening the Sense of the Mystery"

"Christ does not resolve the drama of the 'I,' eliminating human desire, but, rather, exalting it, deepening the sense of the mystery. What kind of solution would be one that ended up flattening desire or suppressing it? .

"Instead, those who acknowledge Christ see their humanity brought beyond all imagination. For this reason, the deepening in us of the sense of mystery is the sign of His presence" 
(Fr. Julian Carron).

Friday, August 2, 2019

Summer Days

I have spent a lot of time indoors this Summer, because of the heat and humidity. But I get out, and have taken a few pictures.

We have had house shaking, power breaking afternoon thunderstorms.

...and some lovely, cooler, clear weather, like the day Eileen and I went to Wolf Trap (I still have to write more on that wonderful evening of music).

We have a few summer flowers, like this Asian immigrant, the hibiscus ("rose of Sharon") that blooms throughout the summer in this area.

...and the sun still sets pretty late in the evening.