The world lost one of its greatest champions of the beautiful this week.
The philosopher Roger Scruton worked to restore a sense of beauty that was lost in the 20th century’s love of the brutal and the shocking, the flat and the banal.
The real-world results of abandoning beauty are utterly dehumanizing. In his classic BBC documentary “Why Beauty Matters,” Scruton spoke about architecture’s responsibility for urban decay: “This building is boarded up because no one has a use for it. Nobody has a use for it because nobody wants to be in it. Nobody wants to be in it because the thing is so…ugly.” Ironically, the result of a utilitarian ideal in architecture is block after block of abandoned buildings.
Beauty is not naive. Devotion is not childish. Idealism is not an abandonment of the real. We are spiritual, and renewed, creatures of Beauty Himself, and our churches and the worship they are built for must foster a sense of hope in Him.
The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship has helpfully published the 2020 Liturgical Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States of America (PDF, free download) on their web site.
The Calendar contains Scripture readings for each observance, details about regional variations in holy days of obligation, and an appendix listing patronal days for Latin American countries and the corresponding celebrations that may be observed when they fall on ferial days.
Also mentioned is the new memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, which falls on Pentecost Monday; this year that will be June 1, temporarily displacing St. Justin Martyr.
In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on,
Poured out her song in perfect calm:
And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
And notes tremendous from her great engine
Thundered out on the Roman air.
Why would St. Cecilia construct an organ by the shore? We don’t think of that as a hospitable place for delicate instruments. But the earliest known pipe organ, the hydraulis, invented in the third century BC, ingeniously used water to maintain the pressure in its wind chest. This animation illustrates the mechanism:
and this reproduction instrument at Bath illustrates some of its potential for sound:
No wonder the Byzantine emperors used it in their court ceremonies. This German reconstruction sounds more refined:
In the old days, the first task of a young monk was mastering the Psalms. This meant memorization of all 150 Psalms.
If that sounds like a daunting task, it is nothing compared to what it would be like in our day. Which of the liturgical translations would be memorized?
Even worse would be any attempt to memorize hymns, the best of which have been altered by so many hands of varying capabilities that sometimes there is very little of the original left.
The memory is one of the greatest helps to the understanding. When faced with a theological question, it helps so much to bring various previously considered data to bear on the current issue. But the shifting sands of wordings and translations actively stifle memorization.
Theological helps like Scripture, hymnody, and antiphons are rarely store-able in the memory because they are inconsistently presented.
With Thanksgiving upon us, it is a good time to see what resources might be available to help us enter more deeply into the Catholic faith during the coming long winter evenings.
Some initiatives promoting Carmelite and Dominican spiritualities have appeared over the last few years. These two great traditions, the mystical and the systematic, are being retold for a new era, using social media.
The Washington Province Discalced Carmelites, through their printing house ICS Publications, have an ongoing discussion of the works of the Carmelite doctors, called Carmelcast, featuring young Carmelite friars.
In addition to topnotch commentary and news of events, Dominican Liturgy maintains hundreds of useful links on its sidebars.
Join St. Clement Parish in Ottawa for a Weekend of Sacred Music, November 22 – 23, 2019.
Featuring organist and chant director, David J. Hughes, the workshop begins at 7:30 pm on Friday, November 22 with Vespers, followed by an organ recital.
On Saturday, November 23, the parish will celebrate the Feast of St. Clement with a High Mass at 10:00 am, followed by a Chant Workshop beginning at 11:30 am. The workshop will culminate with 5:00 pm Vespers. Lunch is provided.
Pre-registration is required. Please call 613-281-3766 or email email@example.com to register. The registration cost of only $20/person includes lunch.
St. Clement Parish is located at 528 Old St. Patrick St., Ottawa.
Musicians looking for an educational event next February may like to consider a conference NPM is putting on February 10-12 in Washington, with Dr. Peter Latona, the director of music at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. The program includes four talks by Dr. Latona, two of them at the Basilica, and features the opportunity to observe a choir rehearsal on site. More information on the program, costs, and accommodations are in the event brochure.