Scribbles, &c.

Going to the Dead

Having pruned my Twitter list back to what I consider the bare essentials (namely: friends, other hams, a few religion writers, and local groups/organizations/entities), I’ve been rediscovering the joy of RSS feeds. I was a hardcore Google Reader user until its unfortunate demise, then switched to Feedly. At some point I stopped using it, but my account was still there, so I purged and rebuilt all the feeds and now check it about twice a day for news updates and all the goings-on. It was a nice surprise that most of my favorite sites still offer RSS feeds, though it occasionally took a little bit of right-click+view-source to find them. Only two sites remain - Garden & Gun and The Nashville Scene but I haven’t given up yet.

We had a perfectly lovely Easter weekend, and managed to make all of the liturgies of the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. I was privileged to sponsor a young woman who was confirmed and received her first Holy Communion. It was wonderful to see such a large cohort, both candidates and catechumens, received into the Church. Being involved with RCIA has been a blessing these past few months such that I’ve decided to pursue catechetical certification in our diocese. There’s an option for online learning that would fit well with my schedule and I’m pretty sure I could complete it well under the three allotted years.

I picked up Mysterium Paschale again over the weekend to revisit von Balthasar’s exploration of Holy Saturday.

The more eloquently the Gospels describe the passion of the living Jesus, his death and burial, the more striking is their entirely understandable silence when it comes to the time in between his placing in the grave and the event of the Resurrection. We are grateful to them for this. Death calls for this silence, not only by reason of the mourning of the survivors but, even more, because of what we know of the dwelling and condition of the dead. When we ascribe to the dead forms of activity that are new and yet prolong those of earth, we are not simply expressing our perplexity. We are also defending ourselves against a stronger conviction which tells us that death is not a partial event. It is a happening which affects the whole person, though not necessarily to the point of obliterating the human subject altogether. It is a situation which signifies in the first place the abandonment of all spontaneous activity and so a passivity, a state in which, perhaps, the vital activity now brought to its end is mysteriously summed up.

It is in death, as the introduction to this book points out, that we find Christ’s most radical solidarity with us. Even so, it feels like Holy Saturday almost gets lost in the shuffle. One moment we’re celebrating the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday. The next night we’re revisiting His Passion and venerating the wood of the cross. Saturday comes and all eyes look to the west and the setting sun which marks the beginning of the Easter Vigil. We might pause on Saturday morning to feel the stillness of the earth in the pause between pauses. Everything holds its breath waiting for death itself to start working backwards, as Aslan explained to the children.

On the strength of Alan Jacobs' recommendation, I’m adding Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West to the book pile. He mentioned it again recently in a blog post, too.

Finally, a random nit: I wish authors would provide translations of foreign-language quotes in the footnotes. But, comes the response, the intended audience of this book will certainly be fluent in patristic Greek. But since the author already knows what it means, why not throw a crib into the notes? And if not the author, then perhaps the editor? Google Translate isn’t bad most of the time but I’m damned if I even get the gist of an eis hadou katiēi, sunkatelthe, gnōthi kai ta ekeise tou Christou mystēria, which is auto-translated as “if he walks in a bowl, he is conscious, knowing, and consuming the mysteries of Christ.”

“If he walks in a bowl” has me scratching my head a bit for sure.