The Sacraments are Prior to Everything Else in Mundane Life

Liturgical innovation – e.g., priestesses – is metaphysically obtuse. It presupposes that the sacraments are merely human artifacts, when in fact – the Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world – they are logically prior to the creation. We are not the masters of the sacraments, any more than we are the masters of the oceans or the skies. Our office is not to deform them, but to reckon and grapple with them, as objective aspects of Reality.

If Reality is Real, then the sacraments in respect thereto, as given ideally, are nowise subject to correction. They are, rather, handed down from on high. There is then nothing we might do about them, or want to do about them, other than to admit them wholly to our lives. Do they want correction? That then is to be had only in their admission to our lives.

Not us, first, but the rite, and of course the obedience in it signified.

What the hell is a ritual for, after all, if in the last analysis it is just meaningless? If a ritual is meaningful, then it must just force us to its formal purposes. In what other way might we be interested to participate in it?

Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Maximality Test

This skeleton key helps us think about God, by telling us whether or not we are thinking about God in the first place, or about some lesser thing. The test presupposes that God, properly so called, can only be that being than whom there can be no other who is more worthy of worship: that he is the maximal being, the ultimate being. In helping us think about God, the Maximality Test shapes and directs, informs, orders and corrects our worship, our responses to our world, and thus our culture.

To run the Test on a particular notion about God is fairly simple: one merely asks whether another notion of God would make him nobler, greater, more perfect, or better, along any dimension of excellence, than the notion under test.

To take an extreme and so easy answer: which would be greater, along any dimension of excellence: a divine being who requires the sacrifice of millions of children, or a divine being who requires no such thing? The question answers itself. Take it a step further: along any dimension of excellence, which would be greater: a divine being who does not require the sacrifice of children, or a divine being who abhors it? Again, simple. In each of these examples, it is easy to see which notion indicates a thing unworthy of worship.

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The Lamb Risen from the Foundation of the World

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 13:8

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium, et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt. … Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato; passus et sepultus est, et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, et ascendit in cælum, sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things are made. … he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of AD 381

The Lamb is begotten of the Father before all worlds. Then from the foundation of our world is he slain – and, as a necessary forecondition of that sacrifice, is he first incarnate from the foundation of the world (for, what is not already mortal cannot be slain) – and so risen to the right hand of the Father from the foundation of the world. The whole story of Jesus happens from the foundation of the world.

Well, but then that means that Pilate too does what he does in that story from the foundation of the world, no? So do Mary, Joseph, the Apostles, the Romans and Jews, aye and the mosquito resting for a moment on the bark of a sequoia in California in AD 33 as Jesus slept in his tomb.

It *all* happens from the foundation of the world. Everything. Including this moment of your life. Thus must be so; for, worlds are integrities. They cohere. You can’t change a jot of a world without getting a different world than you had before you effected the change. Subtract Jesus from the history of the cosmos and you’d have a different cosmos than the one we have. Ditto for that mosquito, and for the sequoia. And for that itch you felt a moment ago. To constitute a world, it must all agree and hang together perfectly, from one end to the other – not just in space, but in time. Not one item of the thing is dispensable; not one sparrow, not one hair of your head. Everything matters; everything counts; the whole of it depends wholly upon each bit of it.

The whole of the history of our cosmos then happens from the foundation thereof.

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God Weighs In re Virtue Signalling

The virtue of virtue is humility; for, all the virtues derive from a prior proper recollection of the true order of things, in which God is foremost of all. Overweening pride then – such as we indulge whenever we worry about our selves, or their reputations, or form our acts first in respect thereto – is the vice of vice.

As to the ostention of virtue, then:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:1-4

Humility is social chastity. Humility lies not in a recusal from the assertion of the truth as one sees it, but rather in a refusal to preen.

Also this: alms that cost you nothing are not alms in the first place.

Can Atheism Be Carried Into Practice?

I was listening this afternoon as I drove along to a broadcast on EWTN in which the presenter, Al Kresta, was talking to EWTN host and Catholic psychologist Ray Guarendi about the 3 years he suffered horribly from clinical depression in the early 80’s. His episode of acute depression – for which he was twice hospitalized – was triggered in him by an encounter with a book by an atheist, entitled The Illusion of Immortality. Reading it in preparation for writing a book of his own, Kresta was suddenly overtaken by profound despair. He reflected that the reason the text – which regurgitated arguments he had long before encountered and defeated to his own satisfaction – had such an impact upon him was that the author seemed like a good guy who was simply sincere about his atheism, in a way that most atheists are not.

As Kresta spoke, his offhand phrase “the horror of the atheist notion of reality” hit me really hard. I began almost to weep at the image of that notion, carried through (in the imagination only) to reality – treated, i.e., as if it were really true (as if that could even happen). This feeling, of horrified tears at being perched for the first time in my life at the edge of a precipice that verged upon an abyss of pain without bottom, persisted throughout the conversation between Kresta and Guarendi. I could feel a boundless ontological void opening beneath me, unlike any I had ever suspected.

It was the horrible vacuum in which nothing can have any meaning, purpose, or point, and nothing is therefore worth anything; in which, i.e., nothing can be about anything, or for anything; in which nothing is any good.

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Beauty is Salutary, Ugliness Noxious

My wife and I are enjoying a short vacation with my in-laws in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is a lovely place, rendered sublime along the western edge of the valley by the unearthly majesty of the Grand Tetons. The Tetons seem to the eye of this experienced outdoorsman one of those sublime landscapes in which natural beauty is so intense as to verge on numinous sanctity (other such places I have sojourned: Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula in Iceland). Such places command awe, and foster an inward hush.

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Superstition & Subscendence: An Essay in Honor of Tom Bertonneau

Bear with me here. I hardly know where I am going with this, although I feel I have caught the spoor of something Tom would find delightful – that he would join with me joyfully in this new hunt. I’m confused because all I have is that spoor, and my spirits are in a hurry and a muddle due to his too soon death. I miss my friend of many years – of too few! I am not yet sure how to do with the world that, henceforth, shall miss him.

Tom has been a valued colleague since we first encountered each other. We corresponded often – not often enough, alas – about our hopes and worries in respect to our work, much of it coordinate here. We sometimes asked each other for editorial advice upon that work. I could rely on Tom for sound counsel. I hardly know how I shall manage without his sagacity.

But I must. I bid you all help me in that project, in which we may hope we can all together proceed for many more years to come. That would be a fitting legacy of his penetrant honest cheerful mind.

I propose that this essay be an early installment in something like a festschrift for Tom. Let us all try to limn what it was that he taught us. Perhaps we might make a book out of it. Or maybe just something on the scale of an issue of Amazing Stories, circa 1935: the sort of thing that was an important source of grist for the mill of his wits. That would please him, perhaps above all things we might do to honor him.

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Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Idolatry

This key is simple to explain, but I have found it opens lots of doors; it explains lots of things. Idolatry is the worship of something less than the Most High; of something other than God. Simple, no?

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On the Intention of the Poet

Does he want to injure, or heal? Is he base, or noble? Would he transgress and so ruin his patrimony, or elaborate and so glorify it?

It is in practice pretty easy to tell, no? It is not after all so hard to parse this, or therefore to decide which side deserves your lot. Go then; decide. Which poet shall you heed?

There is in the final analysis nothing else that is in your power. Everything else, from the morning coffee to the changing of the diaper to the valor of the battlefield is a faint echo – a mighty, magnificent, immensely important echo – of this basic decision.

Is it about you, you worm? Or is it about something more? If it is about something more, then: is it about the Ultimate, or is it about something damnably less?

Let’s on with it then, brothers. Into the fray. Deus vult!

 

An Exchange with My Master Lawrence Auster About the Fall & Our Predicament

Back in 2011, a little more than a year before he died, my dear friend and master Lawrence wrote to me privily, and I responded likewise. Looking for something else altogether in my Journal of that year, I came across our exchange. I now share it with you, confident of his evangelical approval thereof, as an apologetic exercise of potential benefit to readers who might have known us, both – or, who have never heard of either of us. Lawrence wrote:

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