Thursday, October 03, 2019

Does psalm 149:3 justify dancing at Mass?

I've long wondered if the translation of the psalms is in some measure responsible for the strange notion that dancers have a place in Mass. Since Mass is the representation of the Sacrifice on Calvary, I just can not get wrapped around the idea that being present at the foot of the cross, with Jesus hanging there for my sins and those of the whole world, that it would be fitting and proper to have a troupe of dancers...

Let my just cite one (of several) occurrences in the psalter, and compare the translation of verse 3 as presented in the New American Bible, the Douay Rheims, and the underlying Vulgate.

NAB - Let them praise his name in dance, make music with tambourine and lyre.

Douay Rheims - Let them praise his name in choir: let them sing to him with the timbrel and the psaltery.

Vulgate - laudent nomen eius in choro in tympano et cithara cantent ei

So, full disclosure; I am not a Latinist, but rather one who wishes to understand what God through the agency of the scripture, the product of a human author through the agency of the Holy Spirit has to say to me.  Unfortunately, I do not know the original language, and there are translators between me and the original inspired text. Hence, I may be receiving, in places, the bias of the translator rather than the inspired word of God.

I do know enough to know that the Council of Trent has declared the Latin Vulgate to be inerrant (as opposed to inspired) in matters faith and morals, and the sure guide to resolve differences of opinion.  I only mention this, because the word in question, "choro", comes to us in the Latin Vulgate, and the translators have variously brought that forward into English, as either "dance" or "choir", both of which are found as translations in Latin/English dictionaries in common use over the last two centuries. Then again, there is a certain bias in the order different dictionaries present translations, the order not necessarily reflecting common usage.

What I'd like to suggest, is based on a look at St Augustine's commentary on the Psalms. Now admittedly, what we see today is a translation of the his original work, but what is compelling is that the translation clearly indicates he understood the meaning in terms of a choir of singers, not a troupe of dancers.  Try to shoe-horn "dance" into what follows, and it becomes nonsensical.

St Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms
  • 4. “Let them praise His Name in chorus” Psalm 149:3. What means “chorus”? Many know what a “chorus” is: nay, as we are speaking in a town, almost all know. A “chorus” is the union of singers. If we sing “in chorus,” let us sing in concord. If any one's voice is out of harmony in a chorus of singers, it offends the ear, and throwes the chorus into confusion. If the voice of one echoing discordantly troubles the harmony of them who sing, how does the discord of heresy throw into confusion the harmony of them who praise. The whole world is now the chorus of Christ. The chorus of Christ sounds harmoniously from east to west. “Let them sing a psalm unto Him with timbrel and psaltery.” Wherefore takes he to him the “timbrel and psaltery”? That not the voice alone may praise, but the works too. When timbrel and psaltery are taken, the hands harmonize with the voice. So too do thou, whenever you sing, “Halleluia,” deal forth your bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger: then does not only your voice sound, but your hand sounds in harmony with it, for your deeds agree with your words. You have taken to you an instrument, and your fingers agree with your tongue. Nor must we keep back the mystical meaning of the “timbrel and psaltery.” On the timbrel leather is stretched, on the psaltery gut is stretched; on either instrument the flesh is crucified. How well did he “sing a psalm on timbrel and psaltery,” who said, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world”? Galatians 6:14 This psaltery or timbrel He wishes you to take up, who loves a new song, who teaches you, saying to you, “Whosoever wills to be My disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 Let him not set down his psaltery, let him not set down his timbrel, let him stretch himself out on the wood, and be dried from the lust of the flesh. The more the strings are stretched, the more sharply do they sound. The Apostle Paul then, in order that his psaltery might sound sharply, what said he? “Stretching forth unto those things which are before,” etc. Philippians 3:13 He stretched himself: Christ touched him; and the sweetness of truth sounded.

So even if we were to stipulate that the better translation is "dance", it remains a term that in English  is much broader in meaning than the literal translation from classical Latin, which is a very limited subset of "dance" as understood in modern English, where it covers everything from a 1940s Broadway musical "chorus line" and a "square dance" all the way to a "pole dance".  Since some parishes have devolved to the point of homo-erotic dances at Mass more akin to the last listed, it is my regret that the word was not simply transliterated (and left as "chorus") rather than be written as "dance", as it was in the Douay Rheims.

So dear Holy Father, if there is any schism, do consider that it is not a thing defined in political terms within the Church as she stands, but is rather between the Church Triumphant (and Suffering) and a significant part of those who are the Church Militant. And with a hat tip to canonist Ed Peters, no, this is not a schism per canon law, but one of the heart, as indeed I think the Holy Father (not one for canon law) sees it.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dr Seuss Goes to War

We all love Dr Seuss for his wonderful children's' books, such as The Cat in the Hat. What most don't know is that he was a pro-war political cartoonist prior to the entry of the United States into WWII.

What many also don't know, is that the Catholic Priests, Fr Coughlin ("The Radio Priest") and Msgr Ryan did much to, in the public eye, equate the term "Social Justice" with Socialism. Lest you think Nazi Germany was anything but National Socialism, check out the following 1942 Dr Seuss cartoon:

This is from the book "Dr Seuss Goes to War (1999). Lots more interesting cartoons there!

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Book: From Luther to Hitler

Fulton Sheen's book "Philosophies at War" had a footnote to a book called "From Luther to Hitler" (1941). I recently ran across my copy, and was excited to find that the book is available to read online! The author was Professor William Montgomery McGovern, whom some have proposed was the original type for Indian Jones. His exploits, interesting in their own right, pale when one looks at the philosophical trail he travels, from the thought of Martin Luther to the philosophical underpinnings of Nazi and Fascist ideology. I might add, also found deeply entrenched in our decadent western culture today.

So, to save you spending $187 to purchase a used original copy, or the $40 Indian reprint, here's the link to read it online:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

[The following is an article I'm reprinting from Rorate Caeli that I think is worthy of consideration]

Influential Editorial declares Francis Pontificate a "failure": Hope for an end to Hyper-Papalism

The very recent publication of the editorial by R.R. Reno, the editor of First Things, declaring the pontificate of Pope Francis a “failure” ("A Failing Papacy", Feb. 2019 issue), is both newsworthy and more importantly the beginning, we hope, of an intellectual examination of the present papacy that will result in an honest assessment of the present papacy and, one further hopes, a call for an end to the hyper-papalism of the past years—perhaps even over a century--, and a theological reassessment, based on the Tradition of the Church, of the nature and role of the papacy.

That the editor of First Things, which became for some years, in my personal assessment, an organ for the Neo-Conservative agenda, has written this editorial may not catch the attention of the New York Times, but certainly is significant among those Catholics who understand the Tradition of the Church and who have been and are greatly disturbed by the failure of this pontificate to articulate clearly and unambiguously the Catholic Faith in a time of political and cultural mass confusion.

Reno must be thanked for his courage and his clarity with regard to the current situation in the Church. Reno now understands that this papacy is not only not consonant with St John Paul II’s real attempt, grounded in the Tradition of the Church, to re-anchor the Catholic Faith in the person of Jesus Christ and the dogma of the Church after the threatened collapse of Church teaching and liturgical praxis after the Second Vatican Council. This papacy, with its lack of fidelity to the Tradition and its cheap and outdated appeals to Modern Man ironically at a time when Modernity no longer exists except in the Roman Curia who are still living in 1965, has lost touch with those Post-Modern men and women, especially youth, who are searching for what is real and true in the detritus of Modernity.

Not only has this pontiff and his coterie not articulated the Catholic faith both to faithful Catholics and to the disbelieving and hostile world, they also seem determined to accommodate the Catholic faith to the contemporary zeitgeist and all in the name of –mirablie dictu—mercy. And this mercy without the Cross of Jesus Christ. The very idea of a Savior of the world becomes not necessary when the very understanding of sin, central to Christianity, is emptied out by an anti-intellectualism and sentimentality that both deny the intellectual/doctrinal history of the Church and posit, in the words of one of the Pope’s more out spoken members of the inner circle, Fr. Thomas Rosica, a version of the Church that is presided over by a pope who is free from the demands of the Christian faith. This Canadian priest tells us that Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants, because he is “free from disordered attachments. Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.”

This disordered lunacy could be an entertaining segment on a comedy show. But that such a statement does not cause Cardinals and Bishops to rise up and condemn such an unCatholic and unChristian statement is evidence both of the state of the Catholic hierarchy and of the intellectual level of those in charge of the Church (at least in charge in this world.) This is why we must hope that Reno’s editorial is the beginning of an intelligent and honest assessment of this papacy that espouses an agenda that certainly does not have Christ and His Cross at its center, and in fact, goes out of its way not to speak words like Savior, Redemption, the Way, the Truth and the Life, that refuses to speak about the difficulty of leading a moral life based on the teachings of Christ and His Church, and an agenda that refuses to preach and teach the radical nature of the Incarnation that changes human history forever and in one specific way –the Cross and Resurrection--that demands the attention of every man and woman in this world, demanding a decision that is ratified in eternity.
Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla