Easter Morning with Claudio Casciolini

Part One and Two of Easter Sunday morning Mass. (unfortunately, the live feed was interrupted after the second reading and so the sequence -Victimae Paschali as well as the Gospel were cut)

With fond remembrance for my old organ and piano teacher Jerry Philips who arranged the three-part setting of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei by Claudio Casciolini. This arrangement is perfect for a small choir.

Part two picks up next! Some of the musical high lights include the rest of the “Casciolini Mass,” my current favorite and easy Regina Coeli by Juan Garcia de Salazar, the Regina Coeli Jubila that can be found in the revered Pius X Hymnal, and the ancient chant “O Filii et Filiae

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Feasting on Holy Thursday!

We always have a big feast on Holy Thursday. I suppose this is one of the clever tactics that my family has developed over the years in order to cope with–  and build up resources for the imminent fasting on Good Friday. After all Good Friday is the second of the only two official fast days of the year!

I suppose I should include a disclaimer here, to the effect that, as we are Catholics, we do in fact believe that the traditional Seder supper has been fulfilled and supplanted by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. And that the Seder meal, in fact, is a foreshadowing of the Mass. And so I freely admit that when the veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom, the Mosaic ceremonial law was then pretty much abrogated and therefore ceremonies such as the Seder meal are also part of that abrogation.

I am not certain if I have made a sufficient apology, but the fact is, we just love Matzo and horseradish!

So here is what we did. We started off with the Mustard Greens from our local Heinen’s Supermarket which is famous for its fresh produce and meats!


My daughter Christine made the Haroset. A foundational food indeed!


Seldom do we eat hard-boiled eggs at dinner, but we all agreed we should do this more often, especially with the creamy horseradish.


I always enjoy seeing the matzo alone on the plate at the beginning. Another foundational food.


Of course, Lamb makes the meal especially something to look forward to after a lengthy Lent.


Sparkly grape juice for the kids.


Unfortunately, I will have to wait for Saturday to finish this left-over chunk of lamb.


Finally, (thanks to my daughter Mary!) the coconut covered lamb cake representing The Lamb that was slain on the cross!


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Mass of The Lord’s Supper 9 April 2020

Although there was no Mandatum tonight (i.e. washing of feet ceremony) nor Eucharistic procession in which the blessed sacrament is reposed in a separate tabernacle, we still managed to get the Ubi Caritas sung at around 33:57.

Holy Thursday is just not complete unless Ubi Caritas is sung!

(The video starts at around 6 minutes)

Other treats included the O Esca Viatorum (a fairly popular setting) at 50:48.

For the ordinary of the Mass we sang the Missa Sancti Phillipi Nerensis by Massachusetts composer Paul Jernberg (“The Mass of Saint Philip Neri”)

Happy Holy Thursday!

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Today, Sing “Ubi Caritas!”

Today, Holy Thursday, is the day for singing the ancient chant Ubi Caritas!

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

Which I translate freely,

Where charity and love are, there is God. The love of Christ has gathered us into one. Let us exult, and let us take delight in Him. Let us fear and let us love the living God. Let us love out of a sincere heart.

This of course is only the first verse. But it is beautiful! And totally appropriate for today’s feast!

Apparently this chant was composed sometime between the fourth century and the twelfth century. Now how is that for historical precision?

Image result for ubi caritas

According to one, Mr. Aaron Green,

What began as a Gregorian chant that some music scholars believe originated before the formation of the Catholic Mass, “Ubi Caritas” (“Where Charity Is”) has evolved into many iterations and compositions. The actual origin of the chant is unknown and ambiguous, although musicologists and researchers believe it was written between 300 and 1100 CE

I am not sure what Mr. Green means by “before the formation of the Catholic Mass,” given that Our Lord formed and instituted the “Catholic Mass” on the Thursday before he died.

Image result for last supper

In Sacrosanctum Concilium we read,

47. At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity [36], a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us [37].

Nonetheless, when I open my Liber Usualis (“The Usual Book” which contains all the normative and usual Gregorian chant that anyone would ever need- except of course in unusual times and circumstances!)

Image result for liber usualis

I find Ubi Caritas, on page 664, as the last antiphon offered to be sung during the washing of the feet ritual. There appear to be at least nine (yes, count’em, nine!) different antiphons that can be sung during this ceremony.

Now it seems ambiguous to me (are we really supposed to sing them all?), but the instructions in my Liber says,

After the Gospel, whilst the Priest performs the ceremony of the washing of the feet, the following chants are sung.

I have always admired the choir that can sing all nine antiphons before the priest washes twelve feet. Perhaps this is an indication of how much time the priest should spend washing each foot. Or, speaking as a choirmaster with nine antiphons and psalm versicles to sing, maybe there should be mandatory policy that requires washing both feet! With twenty-four feet to be washed, I think we could squeeze in all those antiphons and maybe even repeat a couple.

Image result for catholic feet washing

Who composed the prayer? Who composed the music? When precisely was it composed?

Although Ubi Caritas is certainly among the most beautiful hymns in the chant repertoire, this side of heaven we will never know the answers.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

Posted in beauty, Easter, Feasts, Sacred Music, Sacrosanctum Consilium, The Mass, The Passion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tenebrae 8 April 2020

Heading into the Triduum – this Tenebrae Service provides a lovely Spiritual warm-up for Holy Thursday. I am thankful for the help that my wife and children provided in singing the various psalms and motets.

Among the motets sung (as responsories) were Palstrina’s Vide Domine, his O Bone Jesu, Richard Farrant’s Lord For Thy Tender Mercy’s Sake, and the Victoria Popule Meus. (I am going to lay the blame for the lack of a tenor squarely on the shoulders of the COVID 19 Panic.) I still thought they all came off pretty well as three-part motets.

(Those of you who are big fans of the “Strepitus” – you are in for a treat at around 53:30 or thereabouts)

It is helpful to use the handout – in order to hear the words of the psalms and the Lamentations of Jeremiah a little better.


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A Sacrifice Too Far: There is a Sacrifice that Gives Meaning to All Sacrifice

Triumphal entry into Jerusalem - Wikipedia

On Palm Sunday the entire Passion of Our Lord is famously read at Mass throughout the world. But today, in the midst of the present crisis it is sure to strike Catholics everywhere with new poignancy – especially when Our Lord before he dies, utters the words of the psalmist,

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

After such a glorious entrance into Jerusalem with the children of the Hebrews crying “Hosanna” and “Benedictus qui venit in nomini Domini,” the sudden change in the atmosphere and mood of the Palm Sunday liturgy is always striking. But this year it is admittedly a little melancholic, even from the beginning, because there is no one in the church to even wave the palms.

What our palm branches really mean – Catholic Philly

It is wrong to deny the faithful the opportunity to assist at Mass which is the sacrifice that gives meaning to every sacrifice.

This point is eminently manifest in the beautiful homily for today – Palm Sunday, 5 April 2020 – that a priest (and friend of this blog) has graciously given us permission to reprint here.

Here begins his Homily:

Watch and pray so that you do not enter into temptation.

These words of Jesus to St. Peter in the garden of Gethsemane should stand for us as the watchwords for this crisis into which we have now entered. We must be very clear about this: the pandemic is not just a public health crisis, but has brought to light and intensified the underlying spiritual crisis of humanity in today’s world; the pandemic has brought to light and intensified the crisis of man without God, man who has turned his back on God.

During this time of the pandemic, the use of the word ‘sacrifice’ has become quite common. Everyone is being asked to make sacrifices. Catholics are even being asked to sacrifice attending Mass. For my part, I have been wondering if anyone even knows what they are talking about.

I never read the famous philosopher of selfishness, Ayn Rand, but I recall reading something about her affirming that no human being is worth any ‘sacrifice’. She seems to have seen ‘sacrifice’ as something degrading. Perhaps, as is often the case with falsehoods, she was half right.

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I could put the matter this way. It would truly be degrading to sacrifice to another human being (like Caesar for instance), but it is not degrading to sacrifice for another human being. To sacrifice for someone is an act of love.

The real problem we have today is that people speak all the time about sacrificing for someone, but they never speak about sacrificing to anyone or anything. Is that because Ayn Rand was right, or because we have been missing something, something essential, namely that even the sacrifice for someone derives its merit from the sacrifice to someone, but it has to be to the right sacrifice, to the right someone. What and who?

Why Did God Reject the Sacrifice of Cain? – Shameless Popery

Well, if we consider that Catholics are being asked to sacrifice Mass attendance we might start getting to the root of the problem. Catholics are being asked to sacrifice the Sacrifice, the one true Sacrifice, the only Sacrifice that gives meaning and value to all other sacrifices; Catholics are being asked to sacrifice the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Really? Can the Mass really be that important? Isn’t the essential thing now fighting the pandemic by staying home, staying safe, and supporting the doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers on the front lines?

Don’t get me wrong, the healthcare workers, the truck drivers, the grocery workers, and the others working at ‘essential’ jobs, are indeed important and are putting themselves at risk.

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We need to support them and show them our gratitude. Nevertheless, perhaps we are failing to provide them with the most essential support of all.

Now, as we follow the Passion Narrative of Palm Sunday we might consider what an outsider would think about the whole affair. Indeed, there are outsiders present in the Passion Narrative: Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers. Actually, Pontius Pilate seems to a bit bored and annoyed by this religious conflict among the barbaric and fanatical Jews. He would rather wash his hands of the affair, wishing it would just go away. The Roman soldiers are bored too, but they think they can at least have a bit of fun. In their fun they show how important they think Jesus is as they put a crown of thorns on his head and proclaim,

Hail, King of the Jews!

It seems that today’s outsiders, the civil authorities, attribute as much importance to the Mass in the fight against the pandemic as Pilate attributed to Jesus Christ.

So, is the Sacrifice of the Mass really so important when it seems we are called upon to make much more urgent sacrifices, like staying at home, for the sake of “flattening the curve”?

As I said, falsehoods often contain an element of the truth. The Aztecs engaged in brutal human sacrifice. They believed that the continuation of the world was dependent on ripping out the hearts of choice human beings and offering them in sacrifice to the god of the sun. Their horrific belief that the sun god needed to sustain his life, and therefore the life of the world, by feeding on human blood is false. Nevertheless, buried in the midst of the falsehood is the truth that the survival of human society is somehow dependent upon sacrifice, but it has to be the right sacrifice.

Aztec human sacrifice was a bloody, fascinating mess — Quartz

God does not need our sacrifices, but we are dependent upon God and our relationship with God is dependent upon right sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, in the temple of Jerusalem, besides all the votive sacrifices and prescribed sacrifice for special feasts, there was also the perpetual sacrifice, morning and evening. (cf. Nu 28:3-8) In 586 BC the temple was destroyed. What a catastrophe! The destruction of the Temple and the end of the perpetual sacrifice meant the death of the people.

File:By the Waters of Babylon Arthur Hacker.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Nevertheless, the people somehow held together in exile in Babylon and were restored to life again after the exile, when the temple was rebuilt and the perpetual sacrifice was once again offered.

Yet, from that time of exile there came a prophecy of another future destruction. He shall abolish sacrifice and oblation. (Dan 9:27) Later there is reference to a terrible time, a period of about 3 ½ years, that begins when the daily sacrifice is abolished. (Dan 12:11) A terrible prophecy to the mind of the ancient Jew; a prophecy of the end of the world. The same period of 3 ½ years is found again in the Book of Revelation as the expression for the time of the final persecution, the persecution of the Antichrist.

It happened. The Greek King, Antiochus Epiphanes of the Seleucid dynasty, based in present-day Syria, was a figure of the Antichrist. He abolished the sacrifice and profaned the temple in 145 BC. For three years there was no sacrifice until Judas Maccabeus delivered the temple mount, purified the temple and restored the sacrifice. Once again, the sacrifice continued until the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

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Nevertheless, some 40 years prior the temple worship had been emptied of its meaning. In the reading of the Lord’s Passion according to St. Matthew this Palm Sunday we hear a statement every bit as disturbing to Jewish ears as the abolition of the sacrifice:

Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And, behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.

Jesus’ death effectively brought an end to the temple worship, even if it continued for another 40 years as an empty shell.

Indeed, the Protestants, basing themselves principally on certain passages in the Letter to the Hebrews (cf. Heb 7:26-28; 9:25-28) think that Jesus’ sacrifice brought an end to all offering of sacrifice. For this reason, from their beginning (1517 AD), they have all attacked the whole idea of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This was really the beginning of the secularization of Christianity. This historical process of secularization has led us to the point in which today all religion is viewed as a purely private matter; consequently, from that point of view, there could be nothing wrong with canceling Masses for the good of the public health.

What the Protestants have missed, however, is found in the Passion Narrative of Palm Sunday. At the Last Supper, Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” This is sacrificial language and even though this took place in the intimacy of the Last Supper, where Jesus was alone with the twelve Apostles, the very mention of “the covenant” speaks of a public reality.

Valentin de Boulogne | Last Supper | The Met

St. Luke gives us important additional information, Jesus’ command to the Apostles, Do this in memory of me. (Lk 22:19) In other words, the same sacrifice that Jesus offered once for all on the Cross, he entrusted to his Apostles to be offered always new in his Church, his Kingdom. This is the public worship of the kingdom of God. That is part of the meaning, at least, of the words that Jesus adds after the offering of the cup: I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.

Jesus died once for all, but according to the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, he is our great high priest according to the order of Melchizedek who is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives always to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)

Sacrifice, in its first and true meaning, which has been forgotten, is the supreme act of the worship of God. When it comes from the heart it is also the supreme act of love of God. The sacrificial worship offered to God, the pleasing sacrifice, is what gives value to all the little sacrifices performed for the benefit of others. Jesus on the Cross offered the one perfect sacrifice that truly pleases God and wins for us the forgiveness of sins and the abundance of grace and divine life.

The Trinity: Peering into Jesus' Relationship in God - Ascension ...

Sacrifice is the supreme act of the worship of God, but it is above all an act of public worship. We, the public, the people of God, must take part. In that sense, and in that sense only, the sacrifice of the Cross was not sufficient. In that sense the sacrifice of the Cross needs to be offered always anew in every time and place, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi: From the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; and everywhere they bring sacrifices to my name, and a pure offering; for great is my name among the nations, says the Lord God of hosts. (Mal 1:11) Through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes the sacrifice of the Church, our sacrifice, the sacrifice of the new and eternal covenant.

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The destruction of the temple means the end of sacrifice and the end of the people. The rebuilding of the temple means the renewal of sacrifice and the resurrection of the people. So, Jesus, after driving the moneychangers from the temple in Jerusalem declared: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. (Jn 2:19) The evangelist comments: He was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. (Jn 2:21-22)

The temple of Jesus’ body was destroyed on the Cross, but Jesus ‘rebuilt’ it through his resurrection and continues to ‘build it’ in his mystical Body, the Church. In this temple of his Body, the Holy Sacrifice is continually offered anew.

The Council of Trent taught:

[Jesus] our God and Lord, though He was about to offer Himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless … that He might leave, to His own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world, and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit … He offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and … He delivered (His own body and blood) to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer (them); even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught.(Council of Trent, Session XXII, On the Sacrifice of the Mass, Ch. I)


In this divine sacrifice which is performed in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in a bloodless manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross … the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits indeed of which oblation, of that bloody one, to wit, are most plentifully received through this bloodless one; so far is this latter from derogating in any way from that former. (Council of Trent, Session XXII, On the Sacrifice of the Mass, Ch. II)

The well-being of the human world, the well-being of human society, the well-being of human life, as well as our eternal salvation depends upon God. Our connection with God depends on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That is why, in accord with the prophecy of Daniel, the abolition of the sacrifice has always been seen as a sign of the reign of the Antichrist and the coming judgment.

Well, the sacrifice as such has not been abolished, but its public character has been suppressed because the faithful are forbidden to take part.

During this Holy Week, we may well want to cry out with the Psalmist: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Yet, as we do so, we want to remember that Jesus himself took these words of the Psalm upon his own lips as he hung upon the Cross.

The abandonment is only apparent as the Psalmist continues – and Jesus knew full well – I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: ‘You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel.

So also in the 54th chapter of the prophet Isaiah, following upon the most vivid prophecy of Christ’s suffering and death (cf. 52:13-53:12), which we will hear on Good Friday, we read:

For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness, I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer.

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Passion Sunday (Fifth Sunday of Lent)

One unforeseen perk of being a parish music director is the ability to participate at Holy Mass during this strange period. I am grateful to my wife and daughters for providing the beautiful chant. In the future, I am hoping to have them sing even more of the chant, but it is tough to expect anyone to learn all the propers every week in addition to the ordinary.

My favorite parts are:

  • the Introit (“Judica Me Deus”) through the Kyrie – from 0:00 – 6:53
  • the Attende Domine at 31:24 (always a beautiful Lenten chant)
  •  the Sanctus at 36:16 – 37:19 (taken from Missa XVII for Sundays in Lent). And then the Benedictus at 39:43-40:15
  • Agnus Dei at 43:45-45:04
  • The Communion “Hoc Corpus” at 45:54-47:19
  • And finally the lovely Marian Hymn of the Lenten season “Ave Regina Coelorum” at 51:37

I think the ladies observed just the right cadence in their chant.  Prayerful, lovely and sacred!


And for all of our friends who are accustomed to the Novus Ordo, I think this is a special treat.

Even though it is not the preferable Graduale – I think the ladies did a nice job with the Responsorial Psalm at 4:00-7:13. The main ingredient of sacred music, in my view, is that it has to sound sacred and prayerful.  My suggestion is that choirs pretend they are singing Gregorian chant even when singing an OCP psalm written by Owen Alstott.

Who is there that does not love Theodore Dubois’ “Adoramus Te Christe” (at 19:22-20:51) even when sung without a tenor?

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A Confusion about the Common Good

In the not too distant future, I am hoping that someone much brighter than I will perform the heavy philosophical lifting that it will take to state precisely what is wrong with the current approach that our Church is taking to the present crisis.

This is precisely the time for a philosopher (perhaps even a Theologian!) to spring into action. It is high time for the philosopher to crawl back down the tunnel from the realm of pure light and make yet another attempt to draw the rest of us out of the cave.

Plato's Cave - danieldeanschuler.com

As we wait for that supreme act of condescension perhaps we can make a few guesses as to what the philosopher might say to us in this moment of crisis.

But first let us acknowledge the apparent goodwill of those who are in leadership positions, political leaders, bishops, clergy, and everyone that has been forced to make decisions or obey others in an attempt to protect health and life.

Second, let us also acknowledge the heroism of all those people who acting in the service of others at risk to themselves (particularly doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, and civil servants of all kinds) work tirelessly to protect us. It’s easy for the rest of us who sit safely in the comfort of our own homes, and who may be more or less distant from the actual real suffering to downplay or minimize the gravity of the causes that have impelled the nearly universal suspension of our daily activities – even the public worship of God.

Nonetheless, something seems to be amiss aside from the pestilence itself. We suddenly find ourselves confronted with laws, rules and regulations of all kinds, which taken together have had the startling effect of stripping entire nations of freedoms to conduct regular business, work, gather, attend worship services, obtain marriage licenses, have funerals, and in extreme cases…to even take a morning jog!

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On the one hand, the ground for these stringent laws is clear (i.e the protection of human life). On the other hand, something seems vaguely out of order. But what is it? Isn’t the protection of human health the highest good, the summum bonum? Are not all laws ultimately grounded in life?

At first glance, the answer would seem to be yes. In shutting down all non-essential businesses, the governor of New York declared,

“I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do,” Cuomo told reporters at the state Capitol. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

Now if this same governor had given the same argument to curtail any business in New York that cooperated in the destruction of unborn human life, then perhaps we might argue in his defense. (Oddly, one great benefit of the Coronavirus is that the New York legislature has suspended its own activity for the current session making it impossible to make further progress on such life-promoting legislation as the so-called “death with dignity” bill. Every cloud has a silver lining).

Nonetheless, leaving aside the governor’s own curious inconsistencies, his reasoning for suspending the ordinary lives of New Yorkers is very compelling. And it is even more compelling when we consider that the draconian laws to which we have all yielded might very well save many lives – maybe even our own life or the lives of those we love.

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But again, this reasoning seems to be premised on the basis that laws which significantly curtail fundamental human activities are justified if they are ordered to the preservation of human life. It is difficult to find any reason to disagree with this premiss.

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Interestingly, however, the classic definition of law, so influential in the western world does not make a specific appeal to human life as the highest good. St. Thomas Aquinas famously articulated that definition in his treatise on law saying,

the definition of law …is nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.

St. Thomas, like no other, enunciates the essence of law clearly and perfectly because he defines law in terms of all of its causes. Formally, law is an ordinance of reason. It is promulgated in either written or spoken words. A law is made by “him who has care of the community.” And the final cause, the purpose, the that for the sake of which all law is directed is the common good. His definition could not be more perfect and in following Aristotle’s doctrine of causes we are assured that his definition is grounded in nature itself.

Isn’t it interesting that the definition of law does not read,

an ordinance of reason for the protection of human life etc?

One might think that it would have.

Instead, we are confronted with the notion of the “common good” as the basis and purpose upon which all laws must be grounded if they are to have legitimacy.

Now, as fate would have it, we just happen to live in an epoch when nothing could be more misunderstood than this very term (i.e. common good). What the common good is appears to have arrived at its nadir in our collective understanding- and precisely at a moment when a correct understanding is most needed.

That’s unfortunate, because if all law is ordered to the common good, and no one appears to understand the common good, then we do have more than a small problem.

We will not belabor the point, but I suppose it might be worth saying that the notion of the common good is a rather difficult one to understand. It is of such importance to civilized society that Our Lord established a Church to be its guardian. In times past when we could rightly expect our legislators and those to whom we entrust the care of the community to have been educated in perennial philosophy, the obligation of knowing what the common good with any precision was not incumbent upon the common citizen.

With an increasingly secular society and the continual erosion of liberal education, we could at least trust that the Church itself would be an effective safeguard and teacher of the common good. In this way, the Church is not only the guardian of souls, and the dispenser of Christ’s sacraments, but is also the protectress of civil society, for she is the guardian of the common good.

St. Michael the Archangel - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online

And what is the common good? First, let us say what it is not.

The common good is not what is advantageous to the most. It is not in the words of one Dominican,

some utilitarian calculus of the “greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Nor is it some this-worldly Utopian social scheme.

I think it is safe to say that we are habituated to thinking that the common good consists in the greatest material welfare for as many people as possible. By material welfare, we think mostly of the goods of the body- things like health, beauty and wealth. We also, of course, think of mere human existence. It’s rather difficult to enjoy any good if one is not alive.

Economic Welfare - Economics Help

But as good as all these things are, as laudable a goal as it is to attempt a universal distribution of wealth and healthcare and the means for obtaining a higher standard of living, we nonetheless are greatly mistaken in saying that this amounts to achieving the common good. In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church we find,

The common good does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains “common”, because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it…

The common good is something that is shared and attained in a community. Rather than a private good like health or beauty, or government stimulus checks, a common good is something at which a community aims as a community. As a choir director, I always think of the transcendent beauty of sacred music that can only be attained when a choir is working together perfectly- voices are well coordinated in sufficient numbers so as to give rise to a beauty in which each partakes but is shared by all without any diminishment.

The Lyceum | The Schola Cantorum

Every community appears to have a common good to which it is directed. We can think of the good that is pursued by any organization, business, or community as a common good. In his excellent lecture on the common good, Professor John Goyette exemplifies this well, saying,

The soldiers in an army all work together for the sake of victory. Or the sailors on a ship all work together to bring the ship safely to port. Or to use an example closer to home, children are a common good of the family. In these examples we have a single end that is pursued and enjoyed by many.

Top 10 most intense battles in US history - Americas Military ...

Rather than the private good of each individual, the first notion that we should have of the common good is that it is something that in being shared is not diminished. The common good does not grow less by being distributed.

Clearly then, the common good cannot be a material thing like wealth, houses or money. All these things do suffer diminution when they are shared.

But there are common goods and then…there is The Common Good. St. Thomas explains,

[Aristotle] says that the city is a perfect community; and this he proves from this, since every association among all men is ordered to something necessary for life, that community will be perfect which is ordered to this, that man have sufficiently whatever is necessary for life. Such a community is the city [civitas]. For it is of the nature of the city that in it should be found everything sufficient for human life … that men not only live but that they live well insofar as by the laws of the city human life is ordered to the virtues.

Commenting on this passage Professor Goyette says,

The perfect human community, then, is self-sufficient not only because it allows men to flourish materially, but, more importantly, because it makes the good life possible by ordering men toward the life of virtue…Aquinas faithfully represents and endorses Aristotle’s view that man by nature is a political animal, that he reaches his natural perfection by participating in the civitas.

Thus we might say that if we consider man only in virtue of what he is by nature the civitas, the state, the “Polis” is the common good. And this common good is achieved and shared only when its citizens live virtuous lives.

polis | Definition & Facts | Britannica

But we are not mere creatures of nature. We are also creatures of grace, and therefore we strive to attain a common good which is not a mere common good of this or that earthly community but is rather The Common Good of the universe.

Debate intensifies over speed of expanding universe | Science | AAAS

It should now be clear that the common good is nothing more, nothing less than God Himself. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the single goal of every creature and of every human act and endeavor. God is the reason for everything, the reason for our very lives, our health, our business, our civil body politic, our everything! He is the Good in which we all desire to share, and when we become partakers of Him, He does not grow less. On the contrary, when we partake of Him, it is we that increase.

Now, what is the end of this consideration?

Very simply it is this. As we consider the stringent measures that any society must adopt in directing its citizens to the common good, as we ponder the actions and laws that a society needs to undertake and enact especially during times of crisis, we must always measure those actions, those laws, by the common good.

In other words, every measure must be taken so as to ensure, protect and promote the Common Good. But as we have noted human life, or human health, itself is not the common good. There is something greater than these, namely God. And it is the goal of human life to partake in the worship and glorification of God. This is the whole goal of every society: to worship God as the common good. And the highest expression of this activity in which we can participate is to worship God at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Now suppose an army was going into battle and the general made an announcement such as,

“Whatever you soldiers do for the next indeterminate amount of time, make certain that none of you fight as an army. You may all work individually but there shall be no coordinated activity so as to obtain victory”

Or suppose a choir director said,

“OK people, I don’t know how long this may last, but we will not be singing as a group anymore. We will not sing so as to obtain the transcendent beauty that is only achievable by working together. “

In other words, it would appear that while every community or organization might establish rules and laws that are ordered to promoting the attainment of the specific good for which this or that organization exists, there is something radically wrong when an organization makes a law that forbids the very reason, the raison d’etre for its existence.

Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an ...

Posted in America, Aquinas, Common Good, liberal education, Modernists, philosophy, Socrates, The Mass | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

A Dialogue Concerning Large Discourse

Today we shall content ourselves with purely intellectual discourse.

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OX: Why?

Lion: Because you and I, my dear Ox, both possess the ability for large discourse! And as we all know, reaching way back to the vestiges and remnants of learning from our bygone philosophical days,

“every ability desires its own act.”

Ox: Ahhhh….Every ability desires its own act… I like that! Are you the first one to say that? And with such eloquent brevity!

Lion: Probably not. I must be merely parroting somebody else as has been my life-long habit.

Lion: The nice thing about parroting the wisdom of others is that, after a fair amount of time has passed, and after one has engaged in enough consistent parroting, one is apt to forget that all of one’s borrowed wisdom is borrowed.

Ox: Yes, how true! To be perfectly honest, I sometimes actually feel quite intelligent!

Lion: But let us return to the purely intellectual discourse that we intend to have – and by now, dear Ox, you are probably wondering what “the ability for large discourse” is?

Ox: Yes I most certainly am! and I am not only wondering what the ability for large discourse is, I am also wondering who, besides you, says we have such an ability?

Lion: Good questions! And here is the answer to the second.

Ox: Who says?

Lion: Yes. Who says?

Ox: Who says?

Lion: Shakespeare says!

Ox: Shakespeare says?

Lion: Yes, Shakespeare says.

Ox: But Shakespeare is a poet. He is not a philosopher. Why would he say something like that?

Lion: Ahhh….my dear Ox, you have unwittingly put your finger…um…eh…your hoof right on an important point.

Ox: What point is that?

Lion: the point that although Shakespeare despite being a poet was, in fact, the greatest English philosopher.

Ox: What? The greatest English Philosopher!? You have got to be kidding me, Lion!

Lion: No I am not. Shakespeare was the greatest English philosopher.

Ox: That’s ridiculous. You already said he was a poet.

Lion: Well, let us say that Shakespeare as a poet surpassed and excelled every English philosopher.

Ox: Do you really mean to say that Shakespeare, the supreme poet, philosophically surpassed?:

  • Francis and Roger Bacon,
  • Jeremy Bentham
  • Thomas Hobbes

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  • John Locke,
  • John Stuart Mill,

John Stuart Mill by London Stereoscopic Company, c1870.jpg

  • Stephen Mumford
  • Karl Popper,
  • Bertrand Russell
  • Adam Smith,

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  • Alfred North Whitehead,

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  • William of Ockham
  • and….Ludwig Wittgenstein?

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Just to name a few off the top of my head. Are you really saying Shakespeare exceeded all of these philosophically?

Lion: Yes I am

Ox: Outrageous!

Lion: Nonetheless I still hold it!

Ox: How can you assert such a silly thing so confidently?

Lion: Because I once heard a very wise person say it. And so now I say it all the time.

Ox: Oh right… you have already admitted to being a parrot.

Lion: That’s right at least I am able to pick up on what another, wiser than I, says. For even the great poet Hesiod says,

Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another’s wisdom, is a useless wight.

And so I advise you, my dear Ox, four-footed creature that you are, not to make fun of me for merely repeating the wisdom of others.

Ox: Well get on with your point. One is not wise to argue with a parrot! What does Shakespeare say about the ability for large discourse?

Lion: Yes indeed, that is the question! I shall tell you- and you will be delighted that what Shakespeare says about this godlike ability – he says speaking through the mouth of none other than that incomparable brooder, Hamlet!

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What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused.

Lion: I have emboldened the appropriate words for you to see the more easily.

And so the point is settled.  You and I have a god-like ability for large discourse; we have an ability for looking before and after.

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We have something called reason, and Hamlet has done nothing other than to tell us precisely what this thing is; he has, against all odds, defined the distinctively human thing that distinguishes man from the beasts.

And by golly, let’s not let this ability fust in us unused! Let’s go ahead and engage in some of that large discourse right now!

Ox: But wait a minute. Why should we engage in large discourse. And what does “fust” mean?

Lion: We shall do so with no apology! We shall not attempt to persuade anyone of the usefulness of the enterprise! We shall not, like the poets, make an attempt to sweeten our discourse with honeyed speech! There will be no effort to lure you, dear Ox, into the discussion; no catchy lead-in, no clever rhetorical hook, so to speak.

I think we are all above that now, don’t you?

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Ox: I don’t seem to have any choice in the matter.

Lion: If a thing is interesting in itself then we may just let the thing speak for itself. Let us not engage in the silly enterprise of trying to coax one another to see that something is interesting if it is already interesting. How childish!

Ox: Childish indeed.

Lion: And further, if a person cannot engage in large discourse, looking before and after, from time to time without making apologies, then what’s the use?

Every other creature gets to do what it was made to do without defending itself. Take a mountain for instance. Do you hear it making apologies for what it does???

No, you don’t. The last thing you would ever expect to hear from a mountain is an apology of any kind!

Ox: Wait just a minute Lion. Mountains don’t do anything. Of course, mountains don’t make long apologies for what they do, because mountains don’t do anything. They just sit there!”

Lion: You are quite mistaken!

Ox: Mistaken?

Lion: Yes, you could not be more mistaken. Even though Mountains appear to be just sitting there (which is, in fact, doing something, that’s what I am doing right now, for example!) you should be aware that mountains are really doing a great deal more than just sitting there. Obviously, you did not read the delightful article entitled Jean Henri Fabre and the Purpose of Mountains. Shame on you!

Ox: Fabre wrote an essay about the purpose of mountains and what they do?

Lion: yes he most certainly did. Fabre was not only interested in insects. His was a mind that desired to know all things!

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Ox: Better to stick to one subject and specialize! More money in that!

Lion: Ox! That is a shameful thing to say especially in view of what the great Anaxagoras said about the mind! Really- you should not encourage specialization! As if the world needs more specialists! Pshaw!

Ox. Anaxagoras? What did he say?

Lion: well, among other things he said,

“Other things have a part of everything, but mind is unlimited and self-ruling and is mixed with nothing, but is itself alone by itself….”

Anaxagoras was the great philosopher of mind. Aristotle had special praise for him.

Ox: That’s kind of interesting.

Lion: Yes it is. It is ENORMOUSLY interesting! Well, if you would like to know more about that you should read the delightful little essay on Anaxagoras and Liberal Education. But I think you are beginning to stray from the point Ox. Let’s get on with it. Let’s begin our large discourse! And what could be more appropriate than to engage in large discourse about the very word large!

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Ox: Are you seriously proposing that we are going to have a large discourse about the word large?

Lion: Yes I am.

Ox: Large discourse about large?

Lion: yes. Large discourse about large!

Ox: Well let’s see what you can do. I will set my timer.

Lion: Would it surprise you to know that Hamlet’s use of the word “large” (in the passage above) can be understood in at least six different ways?!?

Ox: Six different ways! That would be very surprising.

Lion: With your permission, I shall make an enunciation of at least six senses of the word large. But please stop me if you get tired.

Ox: Don’t worry, I can sleep on my legs and with my eyes open.

Lion: I suppose that is the ordinary case with most animals – especially of the rational sort, don’t you agree?

Ox: Are you suggesting that most men are sleeping even if they are standing up with their eyes open?

Lion: That is precisely what I am suggesting.

Ox: why on earth would you say such a thing?

Lion: Because that is precisely what the great Heraclitus said! He is after all the central thinker in human history. He is the father of the progress of the human mind!

Ox: I don’t follow you but what exactly did he say?

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Lion: Well for starters he said,

The waking have one world in common, whereas each sleeper turns away to a private world of his own.

and then he said

We should let ourselves be guided by what is common to all. Yet, although the Logos is common to all, most men live as if each of them had a private intelligence of his own.

I think that is tantamount to saying “Most men live sleeping.” I think St. Paul thought so as well!

Ox: Oh, there you go again parroting others!

Lion: Well, at least I’m upfront about it. I think some animals are a little more sneaky.

Ox: Please continue enunciating the senses of large which you promised. I will restart the clock.

Lion: I will enunciate them as briefly as I can. Paradoxically, a brief discourse may also be a large discourse.

Ox: Get on with it Lion. Don’t get distracted.

Lion: Very well Ox. Since you are evidently in a hurry I will oblige. But I would advise you against going to quickly. For as Friar Lawrence said to Romeo…

Ox: STOP Lion!!! And get on with the brief enunciation. Spare us your Friar Lawrence routine. We have already heard enough of Friar Lawrence!

Lion: Okay, Okay….

Ox: well then proceed.

Lion: I will, I just need to collect my thoughts and take a breath

Ox: Well, I suppose that’s only natural.

Lion: yes, I would say nature requires a sort of cadence in our discourse. I never trusted those who speak too quickly and glibly.

Ox: Lion…

Lion: Okay then without further delay let us proceed. We shall enunciate these ways briefly and perhaps we shall find an occasion to speak about them at greater length as the muse instructs.

Ox: One can only hope!

Lion: But before we distinguish the six ways, in which Hamlet intended us to understand the word large, in his marvelous definition of reason, I think it would be fitting if you and I took a moment to revel in the fact that six senses of the word large is a rather large number when it comes to the senses of a word, and we should clap “our hands” at the very fact that in distinguishing these senses we are engaging in large discourse already!

Ox: You clap you paws and I will clap my cloven hooves!

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Lion: Ok here we go. When Hamlet says that reason is the ability for large discourse, here is what we should understand.

Large discourse can be large in the sense that it is about the large.

So, for example,, suppose I say something like the whole is greater than the part. Is it not obvious to everyone that I have made a very large statement (i.e. universal statement)? Just think about that for a while.

Ox: Okay, I will grant that one sense of large is the sense in which a universal statement is a large statement. Proceed.

Lion: How many kinds of wholes can you distinguish? And guess what…every kind of whole is greater than its own part. We could go on for ever trading examples of the truth of this large statement.

Ox: Let’s not go on forever just now.

Lion: That would be fun. Maybe fodder for a future post! I can’t wait.

Ox: Fine. proceed

Lion: What about this? What if I make a statement about a very large (or important) thing? What if I say something about the largest thing there is, namely, God? Nothing is bigger than God.

Ox: True. Nothing is bigger than God

Lion: Consequently when I say something true about God,  I am therefore making a very large statement. Right?

Ox: Right

Lion: I think so! Similarly, we might engage in reasonable discourse about other large things. Like the purpose of life, the soul, angels, the state, virtue…and may I even say reason itself? In other words “large discourse” is not small talk!

Ox: You know what, I’m getting kind of sleepy.

Lion: Now, let’s see, is there a third way that our ability for large discourse can be large? What about in its limits? Just as every line has two endpoints so does our reason.

Our reason has a beginning, a very large one. You see ordinarily when we set forth a proposition, like “I know boys, and I can tell you that boys can be a load of trouble!”

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That statement is no small thing. That statement is probably based on a very wide experience of boys (i.e. an induction from a large experience). A very large experience.

Ox: I though lines were infinite…at least that is what I learned in school.

Lion: ridiculous

Ox: What is the fourth sense of large?

Lion: Well, the fourth sense can be seen from the other endpoint of our reason. When we consider a large truth we might understand very many things that fall under this truth, so to speak (i.e. we understand many applications or deductions from one truth). So for example when God considers Himself he understands ALL THINGS!

Ox: Wow!

Lion: Now here is a fifth way that our ability for large discourse can be large. have you ever read a lengthy blog post?

Ox: To be honest, I never have. I hate lengthy blog posts!

Lion: Well, sometimes things take time and those who persevere are rewarded!

Ox: Yes, but more often than not they are not rewarded and what then?

Lion: Sometimes a line of reasoning is like one of those longer propositions in the Elements of Euclid. Goes on for pages! Nonetheless anytime someone makes an argument that takes a long time, I think that qualifies as large discourse.

Ox: Or an intolerable discourse!

Lion: I am talking about a discourse that is large in that there are many steps, a large number of steps. And if you are fortunate, the discourse might be all the more so when it is bound together with continuous syllogisms and witty jokes!

Ox: Or very unfortunate if the reverse is the case!

Lion: Finally, my dear Ox, the ability for large discourse can be large in the sense that reason is able to make connections between things that are very far apart.

Ox: What do you mean?

Lion: I mean that sometimes reason is able to traverse enormous distances. Imagine uttering a statement like “God is my rock!”

Lion: Now who on earth, but someone with reason, would ever think of seeing a connection between God Himself,  the almighty, omniscient, all-loving Being, and a rock!?!

To make such a connection requires covering a very large distance…an infinitely large distance!

Ox: Very well. I will grant that the discourse of reason may be large in at least six ways.

Lion: You betcha Ox! Reason, is the ability for large discourse.

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Posted in enlightenment, Heraclitus, Hesiod, liberal education, Shakespeare, socratic dialogue, truth for its own sake, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Sadness and Anxiety With William Byrd

No better way to purge anxiety and sadness than through the music of Byrd!


Tristitia et anxietas occupaverunt interiora mea.
Mœstum factum est cor meum in dolore, et contenebrati sunt oculi mei.
Væ mihi, quia peccavi.
Sed tu, Domine, qui non derelinquis sperantes in te,
consolare et adjuva me propter nomen sanctum tuum, et miserere mei.

Sadness and anxiety have occupied my interior.
My heart is made sad in suffering, my eyes have become darkened.
Woe is me, because I have sinned.
But thou, O Lord, who dost not abandon those hoping in you.
comfort and help me on account of your holy name, and have mercy on me.

Posted in beauty, Music, passions, William Byrd | Tagged , , | Leave a comment