Saturday, September 23, 2017

Not for excessive iteration, but...

... the Canonist has some worth-while things to say about the (canonical, theological... ) uses of the word "Received".

If I may, I think St. John the Evangelist also has a useful word or two, in the "Last" Gospel.

In propria venit, et sui eum not receperunt

... To His own He came, and His own received Him not.

(I think that's enough, don't you?)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Far be it from me...

There is, in certain circles you may have intersected, a trope of asserting something along the lines of
that “active” there is supposed to reflect Sacrosanctum Concilium’s word “actuosa”, which is better rendered as the deeper “actual”.
You may have read these words somewhere else recently, perhaps set in Red? ... Anyways. There is a small problem, however, if you own/have borrowed/stolen/know how to find a "Lewis and Short":
actŭōsus , a, um, adj. actus,

I.full of activity, very active (with the access. idea of zeal, subjective impulse; diff. from industrius, which refers more to the means by which an object is attained, Doed. Syn. 1, 123): “virtus actuosa (est), et deus vester nihil agens expers virtutis (est),” Cic. N. D. 1, 40; so id. Or. 36, 125; Sen. Ep. 39.—Hence, acc. to Fest. s. v. actus, p. 15, subst., an actor or dancer.—Adv.: actŭōse , in a lively manner, with activity, Cic. de Or. 3, 26, 102.

A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1879.
So. You see the difficulty. There's nothing about distinguishing between "superficial/profound" in there. There's nothing about genuine or feigned. It's almost as if "active" is exactly the right translation from the Latin to our English.

Nonetheless, there is a substantive criticism to be made where the intersecting circles do criticize, and I should like to add my voice to it, BUT USING A BAD ARGUMENT WON'T HELP and repeating carelessly "the word 'actuosa' is better translated 'actual' than 'active'" is a BAD ARGUMENT for two reasons: 1) it misses the point and 2) it suggests an insupportable translation. I've remarked before that we need grammar to translate properly, and not merely words.

"Actuosa" is an adjective. Adjectives are like verbs in that they are attached (grammatically) to (grammatical) nouns. There is therefore a question: what is the noun to which "actuosa" is attached? In the disputed text, that is obviously "participatio". So, then, the distinction should not be between whether "participatio actuosa" is "actual" or "active", but where the activity of the "active participation" is. To put it differently again, within the very same entry we have an adjective and an adverb: It's as though Lewis+Short imagine that the Council Fathers had a choice between "participatio actuosa" and "participans actuose".

In "participans actuose" what becomes actuosus is the participant — and that's the caricature against which the "actually..." counter was tried. For indeed when all are actuosi, all is Babel and Negotio; but we seek Requiem: "Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur... requiescant a laboribus suis". In "participatio actuosa" it is the participatio ipsa that is actuosa. Yes, it's easy to imagine the conjunction of both, participans participatio actuosa actuose as it were, but it is hardly necessary. It's perfectly consonant with the idea of "participatio actuosa" that the part one takes (parte quem cipit) is active, lively, full of activity, within the participant. That attending to the Mass (whatever that looks like from the outside) might, as it were, bring life into the soul. HMMM!

Monday, September 4, 2017

scattered thoughts on how the best words go very wrong cut off from tradition

Peace is a good thing, obviously; and the best peace to have is that of Heaven; to attain it is a struggle, a constant battle, a striving against devils, against powers and principalities; and the only sure way to attain it is to surrender to the Divine Will...

Any good Catholic can agree with all of that, but will insist that it is badly incomplete.

Our Peace hath a name: it is Jesus Christ.

Our Struggle is within our very souls, so that we can then love our Neighbour in Truth and Right.

Our Surrender is to take up our Crosses and to die to ourselves (which, among other ways, we do whenever we make a good confession).

Friday, September 1, 2017

Form and formation

A little while ago, in studying for us the "εφφαθα" Miracle, Father cited St. Thomas' proposition that even those of us disabled of some sense, of sight or hearing or reason... still possess an inclination towards those senses, being part of Human Nature; and this was Father's lead-in to another particular inclination integral to Human Nature against which, that very day, there were in our City a number of parades marching under the banner "Bar-y of disordered colours and metals" and the motto "Hubris!"... Oh, how dull. That's not why I'm writing today.

There is a marvellous illustration of St Thomas' contention in the discovery, within neuroscience, of plasticity: it's possible (though probably not a good idea) to inhibit the development of the parts of the brain closest to the sense of sound — in fact, an effective way is to produce a defective ear — ; and then a funny thing happens when wires are connected between ordinary (probably tiny) microphones and some other part of the brain: that part of the brain being tickled in a way that behaves like "sound" will then reconnect itself to behave more like an auditory centre. And that's the basic idea behind cochlear implants.

However, this doesn't mean that, in the ordinary course of things, a cochlear-implant patient develops perfect hearing: plasticity is limited by age, and it seems to get used-up. In a similar way, people can have perfectly well-formed retinas but congenital cataracts; now-a-days such cataracts can be corrected before a child learns to walk (this happened to a ... er... step-cousin... of mine... !) but before we grew so daring, adults given late correction of early cataracts learned to see in greater resolution, but ordinarily couldn't intuit perspective. Seeing and understanding the space we inhabit indeed belongs to our Human Form, but we usually need to be informed by that space early in life. Just as a rhyming point of amusement, I can tell you with certainty that I have trouble seeing the roundness of circles. If you show me a circle as perfect as can be, if it is large enough (which isn't too large), my brain will insist that the shape is being more tightly curved in four corners, top and bottom, left and right; maybe I've been looking at rectangles for too long? (Me! a geometer...)

Anyways, I bring it up — the limits of ordinary plasticity — to highlight just how complete is the Miracle of the εφφαθα: this man was born and lived a long time with sticking tongue and blocked ears, and in the very minute that his ears are opened and his tongue loosed, he is able to speak what he has never heard before, using muscles that have never been trained; and to understanding what he cannot have learned by hearing. Verily, vino torcularia redundabant!

Thursday, August 31, 2017


I've found over my few years that I've known quite a few people whose first language was something Slavic. However, I've never learned much of any particular slavic language, and it's starting to feel a bit embarassing. There's "Lord have mercy", "Господы помелуй", and maybe I could count camels (верблюды!) in the desert (пуштыне), up to about five (what fun, O Swann!). Oh, and I once was asked to learn and sing that choral interpolation on top of Tchaikovsky's 1812, "Spare, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance:" "спаси, господы, люди твоя, и благословы достояне твое..."

Anyways, gradually more and more embarassing. Modern Cyrillic script, though, is still a bit weird (to say nothing of the older script actually developed by ... S. Cyril...). So I've decided to work via Polish, and recently bookmarked a table of ancient words and added "Gdasnk 1881" to my Xiphos collection and started on the Ewangelia według św. Jana, because it is probably my favourite writing in any language, and... oh, my goodness!

One could go on (someone already has?) for several dissertations, I'd bet, on the network of words around [SVI]; for instance, Polish has "światłość" (Lat: lux) and "świadectwo" (Lat: "in testimonium") and "świat" (Lat: "[hunc] mundum"... I think because it's what we can see? ... ) and "święty" (Lat: "sanctus"... ok, I pulled this one out of Isaiah, another favourite).

And then there was A colloquial paper about slavic roots (and loan-words) in languages we usually don't think of as slavic at all; that paper suggests that the very Latin "videre" (and hence view, vision...) hail from the same [SVI] family by elision of the initial "s"... which shows up in Polish as "widzieć" (to see), independently of Latin (says the colloquial paper). I'm rather thinking that "Sanctus" is another, or better, of these. (Within Latin, it's hard to connect with its Greek counterpart, "ἅγιος"... does anyone know of any other pairs of words connected by a [nc] ←→ [γ]? There is the pair (septem ←→ ἑπτὰ) for matching an "s" with an aspirated vowel... and then is one of them older???)

There are also some neat jokes one can play: a small egg, in Polish, is "jajko" which sounds "yolky"; the Word that made every thing was "Słowo" which you might like to think has something in common with "λογος"; or "żona" with "γυνή"; or "kora" with "écorce" (French for "rind" or "bark"... no idea where English "bark" comes from...). One must respect the fierce "zwierz".

And now this note is getting długi and my head is feeling tłusty. Time to go back to mathematics, I think.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

... another one of these? how the world wags...

"for, but a year ago, he was 34, and in another year hence (God willing...)"

a mixture of gravity and waggery, shall we say.

I hope you all are well!

en l'union des prières

PS. I'm actually away from the Internet... Did the Sun wink at you? Did it come back again after?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Cantemus Domino gloriose enim magnificatus est

Dear readerfolk, gentles all,

Sometimes a word pops out at you; this evening, rehearsing the Communio for Sunday, that word was "redundabunt".
Here is the verse in full:
Honora Domino de tua substantia et de primitiis frugum tuarum
ut impleantur horea tua saturitate, et vino torcularia redundabunt

Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with thy firstfruits,
that filled may your barns be to bursting, and with wine thy winepresses ...
Well. It is a word not entirely unused in English, but the only example that I can recall is from "Tollers"'s subcreative imagination re. the unique kind of freedom given to Men by The One Creator:
"These too shall find in time that all that they do redounds at the end only to the glory of my work."
It has a majestic sound to it, that's for sure (and the sound of the right word was very important to him), but there's ... well, it's just a bit unfortunate... it's hard to get a sense, from how it sounds in that majestic declaration, what it sounded like to the Latins. For one thing, we're not used, in English, to that shape of the "re-" prefix; one has to cast about recenter Conciliar Decrees to find "Unitatis Redintegratio", which is certainly not about dintegration. But once you've got a handle on that, you'll see quite easily that the word's root is "Unda". Apart from "redound", I can't quite think of another English descendent of that word which is quite free of a Technical or "foreign" tincture. It's unfortunate, because this is one of those special moments that the Latin word feels perfectly right for what it means, even to my English mouth and ears...

Find a quiet place, perhaps by the sea, sit thee comfortably with closèd eyes, and breathe in slowly; pause; and relaxing let out thy breath again. Leaving-off that conscious direction of the flesh, give thanks to God for all these good things.

I've come across two versions of the "Ave Verum" text, and one of them lacks this "unda" word, using instead "aqua" ... (there's also some variability to the ordering around "fluxit"). So "unda" is sort-of about water; however, its later descendents are mostly about waves, "undulating" in English and "ondes" in French. That suggests that "unda" isn't so much about water as a substance, but about how it moves: it is a water that rises and falls, a flood that waves. "Unda fluxit"... and you might just think of a conversation over Jacob's well in the Samaritan country, and of living waters. "Unda" just might be the Swell of the Ocean. And "redunda" might just be about the clash of surf upon the rocks.

So, it's almost as if the Communion Verse promises that, if we honour God rightly, freely making sacred to Him the first of our harvests, in his blessing our winepresses will be as flowing waves of wine, so filled that it won't be clear if the wine is pouring out of the press or flooding back in. (... which, if you think on it, sort-of happened one day at Cana.)

God's generosity can be, frankly, somewhat terrifying, don't you think?

But, oh! what fun!

cantor-culus minimus...