An Infinite Thing

Your desire is an infinite thing.

Were it not, no virtue would have value or life.

For I who am infinite God

want you to serve me with what is infinite,

and you have nothing infinite

except your soul’s love and desire.

Eternal Truth to St. Catherine of Sienna

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Watching the Watchmen Wobble

It is surely a profound relief to many an American breadwinner, whose workmates may happen to number a hundred or more, to learn that the highest court in the land will not countenance the attempts of a distant agency, charged with maintaining workplace safety, to force his employer to treat him as a guinea pig in a global pharmacological experiment.

At the same time, it may baffle the thoughtful citizen to observe the same esteemed tribunal, in a separate but similar case, ready to confer its blessing on another band of bureaucrats, who insist that healthcare professionals, trained in the science and art of healing, are incompetent to judge what substances ought to be injected into their own bodies.

Neither decision is final, as each concerns how to settle the status quo while lower courts try the merits of the respective cases. Yet the standard employed in these cases requires the court to project likely winners, and their reasoning is bound to shape the legal landscape in the months and years to come.

How then can we account for these discrepant judgments?

Although both cases affect personal rights, the litigants (a federation of businesses, and numerous states) challenge the mandates mostly in terms of who has the authority to govern in such matters. Hence, the court focuses on whether the powers the American people have delegated to our elected representatives are legitimately employed, or rather usurped, in these particular diktats.

In NFIB v. OSHA, the court asks whether Congress, in delegating matters of occupational safety to the agency in question, meant for its regulatory power to extend to matters of general public health, or “safety” measures affecting the lives of workers long after they have left the workplace.

Despite the bloviating of three dissenters—one of whom believes that 100,000 children are currently on respirators; another of whom estimates that roughly 200% of Americans are currently afflicted with a disease it is now so fashionable to dread—six justices were sane enough to see their way to drawing the obvious, and negative, conclusion.

So far, so good.

Then we come to Biden v. Missouri. Here, two justices, who in the prior case demanded proof of Congress’s clear intent to empower OSHA in such weighty matters, meekly concede that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are so empowered, not because Congress ever said so, but simply because their governing agency (Health and Human Services) sports such an impressive title, and has a track record of exceeding its statutory powers, and getting away with it.

As Justice Thomas demonstrates in his dissent, the purpose of CMS is to administer a pair of welfare programs, and the only “health and safety” powers genuinely granted them by Congress amount to nothing more than ensuring that facilities receiving federal monies are the real deal. To this end, the HHS Secretary is permitted to publish reasonable standards, such as the employment of minimally qualified staff, attention to proper hygiene, effective pest control, and the like.

Any attention to vaccines on the part of CMS has always been a stretch. But even so, these feds have never done more than ensure that employees of an approved provider have access to favored injections on a voluntary basis.

We must be genuinely grateful for NFIB, which rescues a great many Americans from serious oppression. For those disposed to take it as a sign that the court is prepared to rein in Sleepy Joe’s reign of terror, however, Justice Gorsuch’s dissent in Biden is a bucket of cold water.

As he rightly notes, the Biden court clearly signals that it can be persuaded to reward unelected technocrats with more power, the bolder and more intransigent they have previously been in asserting powers they do not have.

For Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh, the tough talk in NFIB appears to be a smokescreen for their surrender, in Biden, to administrative despotism.

It is comforting to see that Justice Barrett, at least, stands firm in joining both Biden dissents. As for Roberts, he was already a lost cause. Unless someone helps Kavanaugh find his backbone, however, any comfort freedom loving citizens take this January may turn ice cold before the heat of summer has given way to the autumnal breezes of election season.

It is better to have a court that protects our freedoms sometimes, than never. Yet judges that flip one way here, and flop another there, cannot be relied upon to establish a legal framework in which a meaningful truce between factions is practically possible.

In brief, there is no reason to think that NFIB, coupled with Biden, will persuade the enemies of liberty to abandon their wicked designs against our constitutional republic. To the contrary, they will take these decisions as encouragement to redouble their efforts at deception, intimidation, and corruption.

What then can we do when our constitutional watchmen are wobbling? I can suggest nothing better than the resolution to make 2022 a year in which each and every American demonstrates greater civic fortitude than he has hitherto been wont to do.

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Out of Season

Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.

2 Timothy 4:2

To be out of season, in these days of darkness, means among other things to get on the wrong side of YouTube.

What that takes, in the present moment, is to speak the truth about the global assault on human rights now being waged under false pretenses of public health.

Fr. Daniel Nolan, as a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, already finds his life’s vocation (and hence his path to eternal salvation) under attack by the present occupant of St. Peter’s Chair.

Though his ministry is centered on the “pre-conciliar” (that is, the perennial) form of the Roman Rite, however, his recent sermon pointedly relies upon conciliar and post-conciliar texts, to expose the flagrant self-contradictions in the stance taken by so many of his fellow pastors.

His message is brief but weighty, and worth pondering in full:

May his words pierce hearts that have been hardened by relentless propaganda, and awaken a world slumbering toward its moral demise.

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Hail, Master!

Years ago, the immortal David Warren admitted to the guilty pleasure of enjoying the Christmas Mass of Jakub Jan Ryba (1765 – 1815), amidst the austerities of Lent.

The occasion serves to illustrate the true value of asceticism, the purpose of which is not so much to have us forego what is good, as to teach us to make room for what is better.

Whilst he was clearing his library of vainly acquired discs, replete with the grandiose monstrosities of ascendant modernity, Warren bumped into the post-baroque Czech masterpiece, and could not help listening all the way through.

“Ryba’s Kyrie sounds like a Gloria. The Gloria sounds like a Gloria. The Gradual sounds like a Gloria. The Credo, Offertorium, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnes Dei, — all sound like Glorias. And there is a recessional attached, a final choral exposition, which sounds very much like a Gloria.”

Not the most Lenten fare, to be sure. But within these twelve days of Christmas, just the thing to remind us that even the darkest of nights may herald the brightest of dawns.

If Dear Reader is unfamiliar with the “Mass” (really more of a cantata)—or even if he is blessedly acquainted with it—he may take special pleasure in observing its performance by these hearty souls, in an apparently unheated cathedral:

The text, along with further information about Ryba and his works, can be found in the notes to the Naxos edition (a truly superb recording).

“A characteristic feature of [this Mass] is the bright mood of joy and the feeling of happiness radiating from every note.”

May that joy radiate from every note we play in this New Year!

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Where Honor is Due

Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen,
Let honor to thee, O God, be sung;
Dir sei Lob und Dank bereit.
For thee, let praise and thanks be prepared!
Dich erhebet alle Welt,
All the world exalts thee,
Weil dir unser Wohl gefällt,
Because our welfare is pleasing to thee;
Weil anheut
Because today,
Unser aller Wunsch gelungen,
All our wishes have been achieved;
Weil uns dein Segen so herrlich erfreut.
Because thy blessing delights us so gloriously!

As we greet a New Year already promising to plunge us into new depths of division and despair, the fifth part of J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio reminds us where to turn if we wish to regain the blessings that are slipping through our fingers.

It is never too late to abandon our idols, and acknowledge the one true source of all that is good.

In his honor is our salvation!

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The Snare is Broken!

Through the Mystery of the Word made flesh, new radiance from thy glory has so shone on the eye of the soul that the recognition of our God made visible draws us to love what is invisible.

Roman Missal

Even as the elements of the world conspire to bring it down, the heart is lifted high by a feast whose capacity to inspire joy far outshines the celebrations of sunnier seasons.

Though Dear Reader needs no evidence in support of this commonsense claim, each item that could be adduced in demonstration is a delight in itself, and sharing such gifts is essential to keeping Christmas as it is meant to be kept.

In that spirit, I would draw attention to one of the many musical works that, over the centuries, have added their magical airs to the splendor of the season: Alessandro Scarlatti’s Christmas Cantata:

Despite the genius of this composer, proper translations of his texts are hard to come by, and my command of the Italian tongue is woefully missing in action. In consequence, I can only surmise that the work is a meditation on the surprising manner in which an ineffable God has spoken to us in a language more profoundly human than that of fallen man.

He who can do all things is born in utter poverty. He who moves the spheres shines forth in the eyes of a little babe, born of a humble virgin. He exposes himself to icy winds, to rescue us from the heat of our sinful passions. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, to free us from the chains of our vices. He comes out of nowhere, so that we may gaze upon him in the cradle. The uncreated Author of life mixes his breath with that of men and beasts. The inglorious lot of shepherds is forever elevated by the revelation that God himself has become a Lamb.

This performance by the English Concert nicely captures the work’s marvelous majesty.

Scarlatti reminds us that, by the birth of Christ, “Our soul has been delivered as a sparrow out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are delivered” (Ps. 123:7).

If only each of us would find it in himself to learn this lesson from Christmas, and remember it each day, the fowlers of this world would be out of their dreadful business, for keeps.

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Christmas Cheer

And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:5

Traditionally, Christmas is a season of warmth and light. Even as the northern hemisphere reaches its darkest days, and the arctic blasts of January approach, the world sparkles with tinsel and smiles, and ubiquitous signs of universal good cheer.

At least, so it was in my youth, and so it has remained for the most part, though with each passing year the grinchly spirits of our cultural overlords manage to chip away at what their miserly hearts can only regard as a two thousand year old humbug.

Though sentimentalism is a sin, in the matter of keeping Christmas, I am entirely on the side of Dickens and Andy Williams. So long as we remember the “reason for the season,” it is a divine cup whose inebriating influence is a proof of overflowing grace.

As with any blessing, however, our appreciation for the gift of Christmas is deepened, and our possession of that gift better secured from spiritual theft, when we pause to contemplate the Giver and his intentions.

On that first Christmas, the shepherds were bathed in the “brightness of God” and beheld an angel of the Lord, who brought them “good tidings of great joy.” It was their privilege to hear the choirs of heaven praising the glory of God, and announcing a Savior who would bring “peace on earth” (Lk. 2:8-14).

Let the reader note, however, that the text attributes this message, joyous as it is, to “a multitude of the heavenly army.” It is, in fact, a song of war, and the Savior it hails, precious infant though he may yet be, has come to earth for no other reason than to make war.

On earth, Christ brings peace “to men of good will.” The earth, however, has long been under the sway of men notably lacking in that quality. From inns that simply had no room for their Redeemer, to the slaughter of Innocents born in proximity to their Savior, to the betrayal and execution of the Prince of Peace by his own subjects, the joy our Messiah offers his disciples has been accompanied by the sword of strife and suffering.

Nor did this conflict end with the death and resurrection of our King. “At Nicomedia,” the Roman Martyrology tells us, “many thousand martyrs . . . had assembled for divine service on our Lord’s Nativity.”

“When Emperor Diocletian ordered the doors of the church to be closed, fire to be kindled here and there, a vessel with incense to be put before the entrance, and a man to cry out that those who wished to escape from the fire should come out and burn incense to Jupiter, all with one voice answered that they preferred to die for Christ.”

“They were consumed in the fire, and thus merited to be born in heaven on the day on which Christ vouchsafed to be born on earth for the salvation of the world.”

The blessings of Christmas cheer are among the many fruits of a culture that, over the centuries, learned to pay homage to a Babe who is the bringer of Light. The Kingdom of Light over which he reigns, however, is “not of this world” (Jn. 18:36).

In this world, therefore, the “children of light” are never perfectly welcome (Lk. 16:8). What influence they have gained in two millennia has been purchased at the price of Christ’s blood, and that of the benevolently militant members of his mystical body, many of whom imitated their Head by choosing martyrdom over submission to earthly kingdoms of darkness.

Today our world is once more governed by those who, instead of wishing us a Merry Christmas, prefer to threaten us with a “winter of death.”

In charitable defiance, let us bid them good cheer anyhow, and lead by example. But let us not forget that true joy is found in taking our place in the ranks of an army whose mission here is a spiritual combat, whose glorious victory is guaranteed to those who stay true to their peaceful Prince.

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The Savior Comes!

Tomorrow shall the iniquity of the earth be abolished: and the Savior of the world shall reign over us.

O God, who dost gladden us by the yearly expectation of our redemption, grant that we, who now joyfully receive thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may also without fear behold him coming as our Judge!

Roman Missal

A Merry Christmas to all!

Do not Be Deceived

Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, popularly known as the most skeptical member of the Lord’s inner circle.

The more I reflect on the nature and fruit of his incredulity, the more it seems to me that Thomas’s hesitancy, and subsequent surrender, contain profound lessons on the nature of genuine faith.

Protestants and Papolaters alike miss the point, each in their own way. The first posit that our Lord has somehow contrived to save us through a pile of parchment or pressed pulp; the second that he has pinned our souls to the backs of a succession of men every bit as fallible as ourselves.

The truth, as contained in Scripture, and proclaimed by Holy Mother Church on this joyous festival, is quite distinct from such ham handed heresies.

Our citizenship among the saints, St. Paul instructs the Ephesians, is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: in whom all the building, being framed together, grows up into a holy temple of the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-21).

Since Scripture is bequeathed to us by the Apostles, it is most certainly an essential part of the frame of the temple of our faith, but hardly the whole of it.

On the other hand, any attempt to tinker with the architecture of faith must be seen to adhere, with sacred snugness, to the frame erected upon the foundation, whose corner stone is Christ. For our Lord did not authorize anyone to build outside that foundation, or demolish what his saints would loyally erect upon it over the centuries.

St. Thomas was absent when the Lord appeared, in secret, to his fellow apostles. Before giving credence to their report, he insisted upon tangible evidence of the faith for which his testimony was to be a major portion of the foundation from generation to generations.

Thomas no doubt recalled the words of his Lord, that “there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect” (Mt. 24:24). He did not want to be among those so fooled, or to be complicit in spreading folly among his fellow men.

Beholding the risen Christ for himself, Thomas was left with no doubt of his resurrection, or his divinity: “Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God” (Jn. 20:28).

The foundations St. Thomas laid for our faith he knew to be sound. Let us not hesitate, like him, to seek proof that the things others would attribute to faith truly rest on the one any only corner stone, capable of sustaining an edifice that saves.

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A Saintly Machiavel

Psychologically speaking, July of 2020 was several eons ago. This blog, born of my feeble attempts to make sense of a crumbling social order, had not yet been conceived.

In the course of those feeble efforts, however, one memorable moment was my first encounter with the writings of Angelo Codevilla, whose The Covid Coup was (and remains) the most penetrating account of how and why our global elites are intent on systematically deceiving us about matters pertaining to the transmission and treatment of a certain novel virus.

As we learn from the testimony of his students and friends, mourning his recent death and painting a variegated picture of his life, Codevilla was a man destined for rule. In his scholarship and numerous writings, he unfolded the nature of statecraft; and from combatting radicals in student government, to exposing the ineptitude of American presidents, generals, and intelligence agencies, he demonstrated the propensity to practice what he preached.

The philosopher with whom his soulmates most frequently compare Codevilla is Machiavelli, whose Prince he translated for Yale University Press. With Machiavelli, he shared an awareness of the centrality of power in politics as it is actually practiced.

The lesson applies to more than panic-inducing pathogens. “One must realize,” he wisely notes, “that the ruling class’s campaigns regarding public health, global warming, race, the rights of women, homosexuals, micro-aggressions, the Palestinians, etc. etc. have far less to do with any of these matters than with seizing ever more power for itself.”

Recognizing this is the first step toward knowing how to organize an opposing campaign. But why take the trouble, and the risk, of doing so?

According to Machiavelli himself, the pursuit of power is paramount because, beyond the satisfaction of pressing desires, there is nothing but a hostile void. Though we might be jealous of our masters, we have no grounds for condemning their methods, if they succeed.

Not so for Codevilla, who, though a student of Machiavelli, was himself a Thomist.

As one of his students reports, towards the end of their first conversation, the professor scolded him for failing to recognize that an all-wise, all-powerful, and all-good Creator must be worshipped on a regular basis. When asked where to go to achieve such an end, Codevilla replied: “There are churches where men are worshiped and churches where God is worshiped. Go to the latter.”

In composing his most recent exposé of our overlord’s latest tactics, Codevilla stresses that “no human power can manufacture true and false, right and wrong, any more than we can make ourselves, and that, therefore, we are obliged to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

It is no coincidence, he concludes, that an idolized and idolatrous Anthony Fauci “guided governors to permit people to congregate by the hundreds at Walmart and Costco, but to forbid them to do so in churches.”

Among the many devastations wrought by the present coup, Codevilla seems most pained to note that “this generation of church leaders . . chose to be complicit with tinpot Caesars. Hence, as Americans face the bitter fact that we have been hurt worse than for nought, the churches have largely disqualified themselves as arbiters of truth.”

At the time—months prior to the dumpster fire that was the 2020 election—I remember being both impressed, and disconcerted, by Codevilla’s lucid explanation of how “Trump let himself be scared into sheltering politically under what he supposed would be the protective professional wings of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC.”

“Once Trump let go of the truth, he ceded control and entered a political blind alley.” Yet another case of our elected representatives’ routine betrayals of America’s “country class,” and effectual surrender to the ruthless machinations of our ruling class.

But Codevilla’s point is not to lament the malignity of our fortunes. Like Machiavelli, he believes that virtue can overcome enemies, though by virtue he means habits rooted in the worship of our Creator, and fidelity to an order that is outside of our making.

Even as we search for truth, and adhere to it ourselves, Codevilla calls upon us to get busy “discrediting [the COVID Coup lies and pretenses] and the reputations of those who made them.”

The only saintly response to an unholy war of falsehood and terror must be an even more forceful counterassault, wielding the weapons of truth and holy hope.

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