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Showing posts from January, 2018

Mystagogy: The Rod, the Root, and the Flower pt IV

Part three of my reflections on Coventry Patmore's short religious thoughts in The Rod, The Root, and the Flower [Part IPart II and Part III]

From Magna Moralia: IV - 'Merit', as the word is used in Scripture and by the Church, means rather capacity than right. Faith 'merits' because, without faith, there can obviously be no capacity. Christ took upon Himself the flesh and human nature of the Blessed Virgin, 'through whom we have deserved' (or been made able) 'to receive the Author of Life.' Emptiness of self is the supreme merit of the Soul because it is the first condition of her capacity for God. 'My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.' The Soul's boast and merit, as it were her vanity, is the God-seducing charm of her conscious nothingness. She becomes through her
Mere emptiness of self, the female twin
Of Fullness, sucking all God's glory in. The Secret of obtaining and maintainin…

Mystagogy: The Rod, the Root, and the Flower pt III

'There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.' [Isaiah 11:1]

'My covenant shall be in your flesh.' [Genesis 13:17]

Part three of my reflections on Coventry Patmore's short religious thoughts in The Rod, The Root, and the Flower [Part I and Part II]

From "Homo"
VIII - Creation is nothing but a concerted piece, consisting of representative repetitions and variations of and harmonious commentaries upon the simple theme, God, who is defined by St. Thomas as an Act—the Act of love, the 'embrace' of the First and Second Persons, and their unity is the thence proceeding Spirit of Life, 'Creator Spiritus', the Life and Joy of all things. In this divine contrapuntal music, plagues, the sack of cities, and hell itself (according to St. Augustine) are but discords necessary to emphasize, exalt, and illustrate the harmony. If Beethoven and Back are but senseless noise to the untrained ears of the …

Mystagogy: The Rod, The Root, and the Flower, pt II

Faith is the light of the flame of love.
Continuing my scattered commentary (pt 1 here) on parts from Patmore Coventry's The Rod, the Root, and the Flower. The quote above is from the final section of the book, "Aphorisms and Extracts" added posthumously by Patmore's son. Another of these Extracts sums up well the theme of Coventry's theme:
God, in whose image we were made,
Let me not be afraid
To trace Thy likeness in what best we are. And this nicely sums up what Stratford Caldecott noticed as Prelude thoughts to the Theology of the Body:
God has declared to his His mystic rapture in His Marriage with Humanity in twice saying, 'Hic est Filius meus dilectus in quo bene complacui'. [This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased] He expressly and repeatedly calls this marriage, and pronounces the marriage of Man and Woman to be its symbol. This is the burning heart of the Universe. A few more from the first section, "Aurea Dicta"
CX - The grea…

Mystagogy Reading: The Rod, the Root, and the Flower by Coventry Patmore, Pt I

The Rod, the Root, and the Flower by Coventry Patmore is a collection of aphorisms expounding the culmination of Patmore's spiritual thought. Patmore is a poet of the the late nineteenth century, a member of the Christian Romantics, poets who found the Romantic movement in and of itself, too bereft of religion, intellect and philosophy, but found inspiration in the Romantics' rejection of the Rationalist philosophy, and their return to allegory, symbolism, and medieval imagery. Patmore was considered a mystic and was popular in his day though that waned after his conversion to Catholocism, which still made someone something of a persona non grata in England.

Stratford Caldecott in "Why We Need Coventry Patmore" (Communio 2014) notes that Patmore's writing is a poetic expression of St John Paul II's Theology of the Body almost a hundred years older than the Pope's groundbreaking exegesis of faith and sexuality. And in Patmore's diligent exploration and…

The Spiritual Autobiography of a Love: A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (1977, Harper & Row) is a memoir of the author Sheldon "Van" Vanauken and his true love Jean "Davy" Davis but is self-described by the author as "the spiritual autobiography of a love rather than the lovers." The book has two essential parts, the first "pagan" and the second after the couple's conversion to Christianity while at Oxford up until tragedy befalls their relationship and its aftermath. It also chronicles the couple's friendship with C.S. Lewis including several letters that include outstanding spiritual advice.

In what Van calls the pagan beginnings of their relationship, Van and Davy, agnostics devoted to beauty and truth, meet and from their first date discover their connection, in a moment Van describes using C.S. Lewis's words defining Friendship: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself ..." From there, their love grows to heights and depths that I recognized a…

Tolkien on "The Secret Fire"

The Secret Fire of Middle-earth

"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."

—Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring

"Therefore Ilúvatar gave to their vision Being, and set it amid the Void, and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World; and it was called Eä."
—Valaquenta,The Silmarillion.

The following is quoted from Tolkien and the Silmarillion, by Clyde S. Kilby [via here]

Responding to a letter from Father Robert Murray suggesting Tolkien’s story impressed him as entirely about grace, Tolkien wrote: “I know exactly what you mean by the order of grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded. The Lord of the Rings is of course…

St Basil and the Daughter of Heradius: from the Golden Legend

The story of Bishop Basil (whose feast, along with his friend Gregory, we celebrate today), the daughter of Heradius, the Devil and the Slave from The Golden Legend, (compiled by Bl. Jacobus de Voragine) is so good ... the multilevel, perfidious plan of the Devil; the insight of demonic influence upon our passions; magic as the illusion of the devil that the magician is the one in control; the promise of the power of God's mercy to overcome Sin and Death's oppressive influence on the spirit, as well as our own sins; an exorcism as the demons torment the subject to despair; climatic battle of wills between the saint and the devil, and the day saved by the Sacrament of Reconciliation! A highly respected man named Heradius had an only daughter whom he intended to consecrate to the Lord, but the devil, foe of the human race, got wind of this and inflamed one of Heradius’s slaves with love for the girl. The man, knowing that as a slave he could not possible win the embraces of so …