O Tree of Glory

The Christmas Tree is a type of the Cross, which itself is a type of the axis mundi: the pole or ladder or rainbow bridge that in ancient cosmology coordinates, communicates and maintains all worlds, and worlds of worlds, from the deepest pit of Hel through Middle Earth, Valhalla and Asgard to the Seventh Heaven. Evergreen, and adorned with the blood red berries of the evergreen holly, it is a type too of the Burning Bush, which in turn is a type of the Menorah or Tree of Lights in the Temple in Jerusalem, and in the sanctuaries of churches throughout the New Jerusalem (look carefully: where there are no menorahs standing at either side of the altar, there are generally six candles upon it, flanking the central light of the Cross, as the six seraphim of the menorah flank the central light of their Angelic King)(the stone of the Altar Throne and the wood of the Tree above it are alike media of sacrifice, and thus types of each other; thus martyrs may rest sometimes in trees, sometimes in altars). It burns always but is never consumed or extinguished. The ever burning lights of the Tree are those of the menorah: angels, whose fire is the fuel of all becoming. The star at its top is their King, and a type of the Star of Bethlehem.

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Who is the Angel of America? Who is His Vicar on Earth?

A culture does not subsist in virtue of its members, or of their mere vicinity. Nor does it subsist in any formal specification of its systematic relations – laws, customs, language, technics, rites, and so forth – or of the propositions about reality upon which those formalities are founded, and from which they derive. Nor even does it subsist in the agglomeration of its people and the body of formal specifications of their systematic coordination thrown somehow together.

This, in just the way that I do not subsist in virtue of my cells, or of the formal specification of their systematic coordination. Rather, my cells and their formal coordination subsist qua mine in virtue of me.

The regnant occasion of my body, and of my life, is just me. I am the angel of my body’s life. I am the concrete real in whom the formal specification of its systematic coordination first subsists so as to be strangely attractive to my otherwise wayward cells and organs and subsidiary control systems. The relations constituting the system of me are very like those of feudal vassalage. My subsidiaries are loyal to me for the sake of their love for me, and mine for them.

So likewise a nation subsists, not in its people or in its laws or in the system of propositions in virtue of which those laws make any sense, but rather in the concrete angel who is its regnant occasion, to whom its components are all strangely attracted, and by whom they are all domesticated to his house, ordered and coordinated.

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Unclean Food

I teach at a large, public university in the Bible belt. It has a reputation for conservatism, and there are said to be many Christians among its students. As a public institution it is, however, rigidly secular in its outward appearance and official pronouncements, so this is one place where it is not beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

We do have a thirteen-foot menorah on the principal public plaza, though; which was raised last night with the assistance of the President (a Mormon), and is presumably slated to remain in place for the duration of Hanukkah. As I was in the neighborhood, I strolled through the plaza this morning, to see the menorah, and to see any other symbols that might have been raised to mark the holiday season.

There weren’t any. Continue reading

O Felix Culpa

A.morphous, the Orthosphere’s cantankerous (and useful) Chief Antagonist, and a stout atheist, recently argued that if man had not Fallen, corrupting our nature, Christ would never have redeemed us, and there would be no such thing as Christianity.

It’s absolutely true, and there is no Christian who would deny it. If we had not Fallen, we would not need redemption, nor for that matter would we need religion.

But then, a.morphous also said that, “… it is the serpent that made us fully human.” This is not quite right. True, the lure Lucifer proffered made us the sort of human we are today; but that sort is less than fully human. It is Christ who makes us again fully human, and more.

It is in that “more” that we find the justification for our gratitude for the Fall.

Gratitude? Yes, indeed; for, as Orthospherean Dr. Bill then pointed out to a.morphous, his point is standard Christian doctrine: at the Easter Vigil in Roman, Lutheran and Anglican churches, a deacon sings in the ancient Exsultet:

O certe necessárium Adæ peccatum … O felix culpa …

O truly necessary sin of Adam … O happy fault …

Standard doctrine this may be, but it is somewhat shocking nonetheless. How could the tragedy of the Fall be an occasion of happiness, rather than grief? What is much more, how could it have been necessary?

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The Secular Utility of the Cloistered Contemplative

What are monks good for, anyway? Why do we allocate scarce resources to their activities of prayer, liturgy, and the odd bit of gardening, or apiculture, or brewing?

We could ask the same question about priests, and about church buildings. Sure, they do lots of good and valuable work – teaching, nursing, and so forth – but their strictly religious activities would seem to be a complete waste.

But not so. People do better – are braver, more resilient, and happier in the face of life’s ineliminable vicissitudes both small and great – when they can see that their personal struggles signify in the larger struggle of good with evil for the redemption of the whole world. They do better when they can see how their small efforts to be good contribute weal to the side of the angels in the Wars of Heaven. If earthly life is throughly pointed toward some utterly transcendent and wonderful Good, then it can all be worthwhile. Otherwise, it just can’t, and is utterly vain and meaningless, so that despair is the  only apposite response to life’s utter futility.

As for people, so for their families, their enterprises of all sorts, their tribes and nations. If these are formed by a shared understanding of their important roles in the wider struggle of God with his enemies, they are more likely to prosper and prevail. Otherwise, they are more likely to dwindle and fail. The demographic collapse of our merely secular society – more and more obviously nihilist – shows how irreligion plays out.

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The Ultimate Integration

God is Omega in that all things achieve their final integration in him, and by him – not just at the eschaton, but always. It is by virtue of this integration that creaturely events are in the first place coordinated so as to form any coherent world. Thus the integration of the Omega is the forecondition of Creation. That’s why Omega is coterminous with Alpha.

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Creatura : Creator :: Map : Territory

According to the invaluable Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word “map” is derived from:

… Medieval Latin mappa mundi “map of the world;” first element from Latin mappa “napkin, cloth” (on which maps were drawn), “tablecloth, signal-cloth, flag,” said by Quintilian to be of Punic [i.e., Tyrian] origin (compare Talmudic Hebrew mappa, contraction of Mishnaic menaphah “a fluttering banner, streaming cloth”) + Latin mundi “of the world,” from mundus “universe, world” (see mundane).

Now this is interesting, because while the Old Testament refers to the firmament of the cosmos with the word raqiaà, meaning literally “extent” – apparently a merely abstract geometrical idea – it is described variously in scripture as like a crystalline tent or canopy (Isaiah 40:22, Ezekiel 1:22), or a scroll (Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14). I.e., an expanse of fabric such as are used as a substrate for maps.

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Keepers of Our Elder Brothers

Is it fair to characterize the Jews of today as the elder brothers of the Christians, as recent Papal dicta would suggest? The question arose in the commentary on Bonald’s recent post on Judeo-Islamic universalism. I hadn’t ever considered it one way or another, but the comments got me wondering. I still don’t think that the answer matters much (although I may of course be missing something), but as so often happens once one begins to think a little about a little thing, one discovers all sorts of connections.

What follows began as a quick comment in that thread, which grew in the writing as unsuspected and fruitful associations revealed themselves. It came to me first as a single sentence, almost the moment I asked myself the question, “Are the Jews our elder brothers, after all?” It had always seemed to me that they are – which was why I had never thought about it.

The answer: “Yes, certainly: the Jews are elder brothers to us, just as the elder brothers of Joseph were to him.”

Now, when it first bubbled up to the surface, this statement seemed to come out of nowhere, completely unsupported. It rang true, but for reasons I could not begin to see. So I began to ruminate upon it, in the process gradually discovering why the thought had arrived.

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The Name of the Word

In the comments on my post about the epithet Jesus so often used to refer to himself, Son of Man, some readers expressed surprise and concern at the notion to which I there referred in passing that God the Son, YHWH, was to be distinguished from God the Father, El Elyon, God Most High, Deus in excelsis. I noted that their difference is not of being, but of person: thus a reference to any Person of God would be a reference to God.

Readers worried nonetheless that the differentiation might be an innovation of recent liberal scholars of the Bible – of, that is to say, latter-day Gnostics – or even of mine. It is not. On the contrary, it has been with us from the very beginning, not just of the Church, but of Israel.

By coincidence, I last night came across a passage from one of the Fathers of the Church, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, that substantiates this claim. In explaining why the early Church differentiated between YHWH and El Elyon, and providing the Scriptural basis for the notion, he shows that it was considered orthodox by the bishops of the first centuries of the Church.

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