A friend of mine recently recounted her visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and of her captivating encounter with an medieval carving representing the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with her cousin Elizabeth.
It’s a fascinating article:
This sculpture represents a joyous encounter between two holy women, who are connected through their gestures. The Virgin Mary tenderly places her hand on the shoulder of her cousin Elizabeth, who raises her arm to her breast to declare, “Who am I, that the mother of the Lord should visit me?” (Luke 1:43). Soon after Mary learned of her miraculous conception of Jesus, she traveled to see Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child, the future John the Baptist. Carved in walnut, the figures are each inset with crystal-covered cavities, which may have originally held images of their infants. Created for a female audience, this is one of many splendid works of art from the Dominican convent of St. Katherinenthal. The original paint and gilding are almost completely preserved.
Albeit brief, the interviews are well worth the listen as well, regarding the symbolism in the carvings. “For the medieval audience, the two rock crystals are the most important element of the image.”
Christendom… it produced many beautiful things, many beautiful lives. It’s well worth a return.
The title of this post in all honesty has little to do with the content, other than that the contents are vaguely connected. It is, in all reality, a music post which left me feeling a little ignorant, and yet a bit more educated. After all, life is all about learning, living, loving, friends, charity, and listening to great music.
Two friends from seminary recently visited and we spent a night out on the town, and one of my friends, we’ll call him “Fr. Mark”, wanted to hang out in a courtyard sipping a Sazerac. (Being the designated driver back up to Abita Springs, I had an evening of club sodas and tea.)
But what better place than the Napoleon House? It was legendary in music school, as they had a collection of classical music (back then it was actually vinyl records,) and often will (or at least would back in the day, I’m really never there these days,) play requests. It’s said to have been built as a house for Napoleon himself to live in, should he have escaped from Elba – an event which, for better or for worse, never came to pass.
So anyway, before I drag on too long here, while we’re there sipping and chatting out in the courtyard, a tune came on that I recognized but for the life of me could not name. (Nor could my two friends… we’ll call the other one “Fr. Ed.”) And it was familiar enough that it drove me nuts all the way back home. I knew it was from an opera, and it was the one about the poor girl up in the attic dying of tuberculosis, or some other horror.
It was an orchestral version of a famous aria, the kind of aria you hear a zillion times; the kind which every opera enthusiast and singer knows by heart, knows their favorite singer thereof, probably has the libretto for, and of which has multiple favorite recordings.
I’ll apologize right now to any opera enthusiasts, one of which I am clearly not.
But about 20 minutes away from Abita Springs it finally came to me… Quando m’en vo’ …From the Opera La Boheme. Or at least I think it is, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
So! That led to finding this recording, which is beautiful of course, and is currently the first one to pop up on a YouTube search for Quando m’en vo’. And isn’t Anna absolutely beautiful?
Alongside it is also a recording of same, via the famed, long deceased Maria Callas, also well worth a listen:
And, since every website tracks our every move these days, alongside of that – YouTube, obviously knowing my current penchant for listening to Gregorian Chant and evidently knowing that I’ve searched high and low for the best and least expensive steam mops around, featured one of my favorite chants — the Dies Irae, from the Requiem Mass. (YouTube is oddly ignorant of the many Titanic Documentaries and sinking videos which I’ve watched in the last month or so. But that’s another story for another time.)
The Dies Irae is allowed once again, in the use of the Tridentine Mass, it was forbidden for years. Evidently the idea of God’s wrath and judgment is to much for the modern world to handle.
That being explained, here is a version of the Dies Irae. There are no doubt better versions of it out there, but for anyone learning chant or wanting to know more about it, this is good as it allows you to follow along with the chant notations. It’s a sort of modern, yet ancient, “follow the bouncing ball” type thing:
You know, every now and again I have to check into the site and get some updates done. So, while we’re at it… Here are a few updates.
I. I’ve been working out and dieting diligently, and have gained about 15 pounds. Someone before the 6PM Mass this even even patted my belly and asked if I was OK. Evidently I have to rethink this, but I know when it started.
And it started with this buttermilk biscuit recipe. I know, what’s a few biscuits, right? Over few days, right? And weekends tend to be a bit carby.
But, I’ve been doing deadlifts, squats, presses of various types, and a lot of the exercises I learned when I was rehabbing my shoulders. So, thanks for your concern… yes I’ve gained a few pounds but overall feel healthy. It’s difficult being me, I’ll admit; but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Time to cut back. Obviously.
II. A lot of people have been asking about the confusion in the Church these days. I stress remaining faithful, reading the Catechism, praying. And pondering upon the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. really, if those are not evident in our lives, we’re doing something wrong.
This confusion has reached yet another new peak when Pope Francis mentioned forming a commission to study the possibility of female Deacons. Obviously this would entail female ordination; and if women are going to be ordained then why not just ordain them to be Priests?
To go back in time a bit, A Parishioner approached me last year about a workshop held by the Archdiocese, where the presenter even suggested that the Church was looking closely at the pronouncement by St. John Paul II as to the fact that woman cannot be ordained as Priests: the Church has no authority to do so. Was his language legal? Is his pronouncement binding? His thought was that it could easily be overturned. And several Priests in the Archdiocese are claiming, enthusiastically, that Pope Francis will be ordaining women.
No secrets here… all public knowledge. But it’s confusing to many of the faithful, including Priests.
III. I’ve been praying, on and off, the older Liturgy of the Hours. To make things a bit easier, as learning a new Breviary is confusing at best, I went to divinum officium and printed out the office for the day, hole punched it, and put it in binder so I could pray the hours throughout the day. The binder was 65 pages long. And it took hours. And I said a private traditional Mass, which I do believe is absolutely beautiful. While it sounds like a lot, it’s helped me in understanding my work, and life, as a Priest better. Long story, which I’ll get to in another post.
IV. I realize I don’t post much here. So if you only check in once a year, that’s fine with me. And every now and again when I post some photography thing I get notices that a number of people have unfollowed me. What? I’m human, I’m overweight, I spend time in prayer and contemplation upon the sacred mysteries, I do what I can for the salvation of souls, and I have a few “hobbies” I really enjoy, one of which is photography.
Or at least it was until I decided it was too expensive to pursue at any great length any more. Still my gear will last awhile. I won’t be buying any sexy new cameras, but who needs ’em? If I can’t take great photos with the cameras I have, then there’s no hope.
To compare it to music, I can’t begin to talk about the number of (pardon my language) crappy pianos and poorly maintained organs I’ve had to play over the years, to good effect. You have to work with what you have. I’m simplifying my life, don’t have much, and prefer that what I actually do have to be of some quality.
That extends to my 11 year old car which many parishioners urge me to get rid of for some shiny new model a Pastor should be driving about.
But I LOVE my ancient Crown Vic, and hope to get another good 40K miles out of it before I even consider buying a new car. Yes, it needs a washing a polishing, a bit of sprucing up. Yes, it’s like a pair of comfortable old loafers which one might wear around the house. Yes, it’s a good fit, and it’s reliable.
In fact, I’ve gotten into it at least a dozen times and driven across the country with no hassles whatsoever. One of my favorite views out of the passenger window was the Empire State building as I drove up to Boston, after a stay in DC, the year after Katrina.
And yes, I like being surrounded by 20 feet of car
V. Many older retirees have been talking to me for some time about the fact that “something bad is going to happen soon”. No one knows what. But things aren’t looking too good.
And more recently, young students and many young adults have been coming to me with the same concerns. They look at what’s going in in the world and say… What is going on in the world? Nothing is solid, everything is in flux, and there is a lot of confusion about.
Confusion is not of Jesus Christ, or of the Holy Spirit, although coming to understand GOD as He truly exists can be confusing at times. However, He gives us certainty in life. He gives us objective reality, and tells us things as they are in the spiritual realm, and that what we do in the physical realm directly relates to our lives in the spiritual realm, and vice versa. To quote St. Augustine: “Catholics are bound to dissent from those who think differently, and prove a burdensome nuisance to them.” -St. Augustine, City 19.17
VI. And speaking of confusion… what is up with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI? God love him. I certainly love him, as one might love a very distant father figure of spiritual import. He was a peritus (advisor of sorts,) at Vatican II, wore a coat and tie instead of clerics, and was at the height of progressive thought. He was a moderating influence on St.John Paul II… and what I’ve found out is that his moderation was towards the liberal/progressive side, influencing John Paul II from being hard handed against progressives, only appointing conservatives as Bishops, etc, and appointing a number of progressive bishops as well, to keep things “alive” in the Church.
This comes from info within the walls, and indeed within the halls of the Vatican “Palace”, which no doubt pales in comparison with the multi-million dollar Casa Santa Marta currently used as the residence of the Holy Father.
I pray that he is enjoying his “retirement”, practicing the piano and walking with his cat. But, it’s confusing to many. I pray he knows that, and that he’s doing well.
VII. Thank you all, for your continued support and friendship. I pray for everyone in my Parish boundaries, and everyone who follows me on any the of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, or my sporadic website/blog/whatever, … daily. (I pray for my family too, in case you’re all wondering…) In the not too distant future, I will start offering Masses for all of you as well.
PS: Special thanks to God for a prayers answered: one via the son of a very special Facebook friend, doctor, married, marathoner, … had a few (serious) health issues which cleared up. But at the same time he was ill, he was into decorating cakes. I appreciated that I was I was into exactly the same thing. While I took it as a call to prayer for him, I also appreciated that I was not alone in such a seemingly strange craft, at the time.